Department of History
University of California, Irvine
 Instructor:    Dr. Barbara J. Becker


Lecture 6.  Humanism



The first generations of Renaissance scholars called themselves 'humanists' rather than 'scientists':  they attacked the scholastic traditions of the mediaeval universities, not with a vision of what science might become in the future, but rather with their eyes fixed on a more remote past -- on the genuine ideas of antiquity.  Many Greek texts had been reaching Western Europe from Constantinople during the fifteenth century, and they stimulated a fashion for studying the classical philosophers in their original tongue.  Comparing the originals with the mediaeval Latin versions, the humanists felt as though they were reading the classics for the first time:  so they conceived a new mission -- to 'purify the springs of Hellas'.  As a result, the first attempts to overthrow mediaeval scholasticism did not aim at erecting some brand-new system of thought:  instead, they hoped to restore the original authority of the classical philosophers themselves.  The effect of this humanist movement was, on the whole, to turn men's attentions away from the study of science towards literature, poetry, drama, aesthetics, philology and history and, after a winter of a thousand years, the literary and imaginative studies we know as 'the humanities' flowered again in Renaissance Italy.  If one looks back through history for the origin of that division between Science and the Humanities, which still plagues us today, perhaps this is the point at which it should be located. 

--from The Architecture of Matter,
   by Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield, pp. 142-143.

Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464)

1401 -born Niklas Krebs, in Kues, Germany
1416 -entered University of Heidelberg
-studied mathematics, astronomy, Greek
1423 -began studies at Cologne
1448 -named cardinal
1450 -travelled widely as papal legate
  -wrote on many subjects:
  • church authority
  • theology
  • what can be known
    • Learned Ignorance (1440)
    • The Layman on Knowledge; ...on Mind; ...on Experiments with Weight Scales (1450)
  • mathematics
  • geography....

excerpts from
The Layman on Experiments Done with Weight-scales (1450)
by Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464)
trans. and annotated (1996) by Jasper Hopkins


...when the Orator praised weight-scales as scales of justice and as necessary instruments of the State, the Layman replied:  "Although in this world nothing can attain unto preciseness, nevertheless we know from experience that the verdicts of weight-scales are quite accurate and that, therefore, they are generally accepted.  But since with regard to objects that have different origins it is not possible for equal weights to be present in identically sized objects, please tell me whether or not anyone has [ever] written down the different experimental results pertaining to weights."

Orator:  I've neither read nor heard of [any such thing].

Layman:  O that just anyone would present us with this writing!  I would value it above many [other] written works....

Orator:  If you had a mind to do so, I think that [such a work] could be produced by no one better [than by you].

Layman:  Any willing individual could do so, since doing so is easy.  But I lack the available time.

Orator:  State the usefulness and the manner [of doing so].  I'll see whether I or someone else can do it.

Layman:  It seems to me that by reference to differences of weight we can more truly attain unto the hidden aspects of things and can know many things by means of more plausible surmises*....

[*The notion of 'knowing by means of surmises' is not a bizarre notion for Nicholas.  That which we ordinarily call knowledge Nicholas refers to as surmise, thereby indicating that it is not precise knowledge -- something possessed only by God.  Along with the rest of us, Nicholas sometimes speaks in the ordinary way because some "surmising" is the equivalent of what we ordinarily call "knowing".]

Weighing the Power of Stones

Orator:  Tell [me] whether it has occurred to you that the powers of stones can be weighed by some technique.

Layman:  I think that the power of a magnet could be weighed.  Suppose that on one side of a balance-scale a piece of iron were placed at equilibrium with a magnet on the other side and that then the magnet were removed but some other heavy object of equal weight were put in its place.  Suppose the magnet were held above the iron, so that the piece of iron on the balance-scale were moved upward toward the magnet and (since the iron is [thus] moved out of equality) the weight on the other side became heavier [than the weight of iron -- i.e., became heavier] until such time as the iron were to return to an equality [of weight] while the [poised] magnet continued to remain unmoved.  I think that by our taking away from the weight [on the side of the balance opposite the iron], the power of the magnet could be said to be proportionally weighed.*  Likewise, too, the power of a diamond could be ascertained from the fact that it is said to prevent a magnet from attracting iron.  And other powers of other stones [could be ascertained] in their own way....

[*"... proportionally weighed":  i.e., the strength of the magnet would be weighed by reference to the amount of weight that had to be removed from the depressed side of the balance in order to bring both sides into an equilibrium.]

Sorting out the Elements in Compound Materials

Orator:  ...how do we experience an element by means of a weight-scale?

Layman:  Suppose that after one hundred pounds of earth have been placed in a cask someone were to cull the one hundred pounds successively of herbs or of seeds that were strewn amidst that earth and that were previously weighed [together with that earth].  And suppose that [thereafter] he were to weigh the earth again.  He would find that the earth had diminished in weight only a little.  From this fact he would know that the collected herbs have weight mainly from water.*

[*Water is lighter than earth.  If herbs were mainly of earth, then after the removal of the herbs from the pile of earth, the pile would weigh even less than turns out to be the case.]

It follows that thickened waters in the earth have attracted earthenness and that by the activity of the sun the waters have condensed into an herb....  Elements are, in part, transformed one into another.  For example, in the case of a plate-of-glass placed in the snow, we experience that air on the glass is condensed into water, which we find as a fluid on the glass.  Similarly, we experience that a certain [kind of] water is turned into stones (just as water is turned into ice) and that a hardening, petrifying power is present in certain springs-[of-water], which harden into stone objects placed into them.  Likewise, there is said to be found a certain kind of water from Hungary that turns iron into copper because of the power-of-glazing that is in that water.  From a consideration of such powers it is evident that [the various] waters are not purely elemental things but are things composed of elements.  And it would be very delightful to know the weights of the various powers of all such waters, so that from the differences of weight in air and in oil we might make closer surmises about the powers.

Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499)

1433 -born in Florence, Italy; son of the physician to Cosimo de' Medici
1459 -became pupil of Neoplatonist philosopher, John Argyropoulos
1462 -Cosimo de' Medici established an Academy in Florence modeled after Plato's
-Marsilio asked to serve as its head
1466 -began life-long work of translating early Greek manuscripts into Latin
-ordained as a priest
-published his Latin translation of Plato from the original Greek
-forced to defend himself against accusations of magic and heresy
-translated De potestate et sapientia dei, a manuscript attributed to Hermes Trismegistus

excerpts from
"[Manuscript written by a]n unknown [author] concerning the Chymicall Art.  But Lucerna Salis affirms him to be Marcilius Ficinus, an Italian of the Dukedom of Florence or Tuscany, in the year 1518."

Chapter 1.
Of the generation of metals in the bowels of the earth.

The opinion and determination of all who philosophize rightly is the same:  that all metals are generated by the vapour of sulphur, and of argent vive [quicksilver, mercury].  Because when the fat of the earth being heated, finds the substance of water somewhat globulous, it -- as well by its natural virtue, as by the rays of the celestial bodies and the endeavor of heaven, as according to the purity or impurity of each -- consolidated it in the veins of the earth into those most beautiful bodies, gold, silver, copper, tin, iron, and lead.

Chapter 2.
Of Nature and art.

But there are ... two efficient causes, Nature and art.  Nature daily produces and generates new things.  But art by conception, making an impression of the similitudes of those things upon herself, does in an admirable manner prosecute the footsteps and delineations of Nature.  So that if the wit of man do not sometime assist in some things, it is evident that Nature herself had gone astray from her operation.  Or art sometimes does by the help of Nature, correct, supply and in a manner (especially in this magnificent discourse of mineral things) seems to exceed Nature....

Chapter 3.
...the philosophical art is laid down in a very few words.

...It is evident that all little trees, flowers and small herbs are produced from water and the union of a subtle earth.  And if you endeavor to produce a tree or an herb, you must not take earth or water, but rather that which is from them, as a scion or a seed, which being committed to the bosom of the earth, the parent of all things, and cherished with a nutriment of their own nature, and called forth by the darting of the solar light, do in due time break out into the superficies of the earth, into the species of a tree or an herb.  In like manner that divine art teaches how to take the seed out of the more perfect body; which being put into the philosophical earth prepared by art and continually decocted by a temperate heat into a white or red powder, is said to have converted the inferior bodies into the nature of the superior....

Chapter 11.
...solution is necessary, by which the generative spirit is brought out of the body.

...the philosophers demand why the bodies, that is, gold and silver are dissolved.  The answer:  That the pure may be separated from the impure.  For the body is for this reason dissolved, that the earth itself may be cleansed in the profundity.  Which Nature could not, because she operates simply [or singly].  And in that cleansing the impediments of the tincture is away, so that it may innumerably propagate its like....  [T]his propagation of its like ... is hindered by grosser matter, [therefore] we say that solution is necessary, by which gold may be made living, and ... be reduced into the first Nature, that is into the spirit of the water, and the vapour of the earth, that there may at length be had such a sulphur and a mercury with us, out of which metals are generated, in the womb of the earth.  But solution is perfected when you shall have separated the soul and the spirit of gold....  [P]hilosophers gold is the most temperate body, having equal parts of hot, cold, moist and dry.  Therefore it may with the more difficulty be corrupted and dissolved by reason of the equal agreement and proportion of the elements.  Therefore there must a disagreement be made among the elements by contrary elements:  and this discord makes a solution and mortification of the body....  But the elements of the body must be so separated, that the generative nature may remain in its flower and bud.  That if anyone should burn that flower, and separate the elements from one another, the generative sperm would be lost....  This is the truest consideration of the philosophers.  If any out of his own fancy consider otherwise, he is indeed a natural fool, and makes syllogisms against Nature.

Chapter 12.
Disputes of hidden things in the art, and about threefold separation.

...[T]here are three solutions in the physical work.  The first is of the crude body:  the second is of the physical earth:  the third we place in the Augmentation.  There are also in the solution these three hidden things:  the weight, the measure of time, and fire....  The philosophers also lay down three keys, solution, conjunction, and fixation.  Or if you profoundly understand them, three separations.  First there is made the separation of the soul from the body by the spirit.  Secondly the grimes themselves, which have shown themselves in the solution, are separated from the soul and spirit.  Lastly the spirit shall be separated from the soul and this happens in the fixation of Nature:  so that hereafter and here I shall have told you so great secrets, that it cannot be believed....

Chapter 13.
Treats of the praxis of the stone....

'Tis now time, O son of wisdom, to turn my pen to the practical part, where I would first warn everyone given to philosophy, that all kinds of salts, allums, and of many other and of foreign things are in vain, and bring with them nothing moment or efficacy.  Likewise that all common solutions and vulgar sublimations are adulterate works and belong nothing to the true and natural science of the philosophers.  Wherefore I judge those mountebanks are to be avoided who with their dealbations and rubifications have cheated almost all the world, in whom there is no vein of philosophy, which is warm, and who are rather to be esteemed false philosophers, since nothing is dearer to philosophers than the truth:  nothing more foul than falsehood and deceit.  Whereby it comes to pass that there are fewer philosophers, than you have perhaps believed.  Now let us descend to the praxis, which we will divide into two works.  In the first mention shall be made of the first solution, and of separation and distillation.  In the second we will treat of conjunction and fixation, where consideration will be had of the most secret augmentation, which you will find in no book in the world.  But here I have a mind to bring in the degrees of all the work wholly.  For first we compound, the compound we putrefy, the putrefied we dissolve, the dissolved we divide, the divided we cleanse, the cleansed we unite, and so the work is accomplished.  But to speak of these, each particularly, shall be our labour....

Chapter 14.
Disputes ... are resolved....

Behold the heat in the bowels of the earth, which Nature alone supplies:  where you seem as it were to perceive none; which being then excited by the sun's heat, does in the metal-breeding mountains by ascending and descending for many cubits coagulate everywhere the thicker water, and together with the fatness of the earth associates them into one body.  But since Nature does scarcely sometimes in five hundred years effect her operation, and so long an enjoyment of life is not granted us, nor we permitted to live beyond the elephant, or to the year of Plato, as they call it; the philosopher allows a greater degree to the fire, that he may in a shorter time emulate Nature as his guide....

The philosophers call their natural fire a bath, or their sun, or horse dung; which some make with wood, or any other matter; but we with coals, especially in a furnace fitted for this purpose.  The [philosopher's] stone is also to be made in a threefold earthen vessel, that there may a slower fire be had, very much like, I say, to the heat of a hen, while she sits on her eggs.  And with that heat the dragon, that is the earth of Gold, mortifies himself, when he gives elements and spirits out of himself....

Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541)


-born near Einsiedeln (1), Switzerland
-son of the local monastery physician, Wilhelm Bombast von Hohenheim
-taught by his father and the bishops of Lavant (2) and Freising (3)
-introduced to alchemy by the abbot of Sponheim (4)
-learned metallurgy working for Sigmund Fugger in Schwaz (5)
-studied in several major universities

1526 -joined guild of surgeons in Strasburg (6)
-named city physician of Basel (7)
-taught medicine at the university
   *lectured in German not Latin
   *attacked accepted medical theory (Hippocrates, Galen and Avicenna)
   *spoke out against greed of apothecaries
-fled Basel to Kolmar (8) and began a life of wandering, teaching, and writing

Nuremberg (9) and Amberg (10)

1531 St. Gall (11) and Innsbruck (12)
1534 Sterzing (13) and Meran (14)
1535 Augsberg (15)
1537 Vienna (16), Presberg (17), and Villach (18)
1541 -offered position by duke of Bavaria
1542 -died in Salzburg (19)
Paracelsus followed the doctrine of "two lights":
  • two ways to the truth:  nature and scripture:
    • Book of Scripture is revealed knowledge
    • God has also placed secrets in nature for the adept to find
  • these two routes lead to same end; are not contradictory
  • not a scholar; wrote in German, not Latin
He believed chemistry to be equal to all other philosophical subjects from antiquity
  • practiced iatrochemistry -- chemical medicine
He emphasized correspondence between macro- and microcosm:
  • individual reflects the universe in miniature
  • forces causing change in body are analogous to those operating in world at large
  • to understand cosmic forces, study astrology, not astronomy
  • no need to dissect -- study body as a whole
  • no need for books -- study nature directly

Illustration of the "zodiac man" from a 15th c copy of a 14th c medical text by English physician, John of Arderne (?1307-?1390)
Paracelsus was opposed to the notion of disease as systemic humoral imbalance:
  • disease is characterized by a natural (and usually localized) chemical dysfunction
  • God has made remedies for each disease in the world
  • minerals and metals lie hidden from our view; their silence indicates that these are the most potent of curative agents
He viewed the good healer as an artist or craftsman who:
  • learns by doing, not interpreting theory
  • meets patient's needs on an individual level
excerpts from
The Science and Nature of Alchemy, and What Opinion Should Be Formed Thereof.
attributed to Paracelsus (1493-1542)

Regulated by the Seven Rules or Fundamental Canons according to the seven commonly known Metals; and containing a Preface with certain Treatises and Appendices.

The Preface of Theophrastus Paracelsus to All Alchemists and Readers of This Book.

You who are skilled in Alchemy, and as many others as promise yourselves great riches or chiefly desire to make gold and silver, which Alchemy in different ways promises and teaches, equally, too, you who willingly undergo toil and vexations, and wish not to be feed from them, until you have attained your rewards, and the fulfillment of the promises made to you; experience teaches this every day, that out of thousands of you not even one accomplishes his desire.  Is this a failure of Nature or of Art?  I say no; but it is rather the fault of fate, or of the unskilfulness of the operator.

Since, therefore, the characters of the signs, of the stars and planets of heaven, together with the other names, inverted words, receipts, materials, and instruments are thoroughly well known to such as are acquainted with this art, it would be altogether superfluous to recur to these same subjects in the present book, although the use of such signs, names, and characters at the proper time is by no means without advantage.

But herein will be noticed another way of treating Alchemy different from the previous method, and deduced by Seven Canons from the seven fold series of the metals.  This, indeed, will not give scope for a pompous parade of words, but, nevertheless, in the consideration of those Canons everything which should be separated from Alchemy will be treated at sufficient length, and, moreover, many secrets of other things are herein contained.  Hence, too, result certain marvelous speculations and new operations which frequently differ from the writings and opinions of ancient operators and natural philosophers, but have been discovered and confirmed by full proof and experimentation.

Moreover, in this Art nothing is more true than this, though it be little known and gains small confidence.  All the fault and cause of difficulty in Alchemy, whereby very many persons are reduced to poverty, and others labour in vain, is wholly and solely lack of skill in the operator, and the defect or excess of materials, whether in quantity or quality, whence it ensues that, in the course of operation, things are wasted or reduced to nothing.  If the true process shall have been found, the substance itself while transmuting approaches daily more and more towards perfection.  The straight road is easy, but it is found by very few.

Sometimes it may happen that a speculative artist may, by his own eccentricity, think out for himself some new method in Alchemy, be the consequence anything or nothing, and again bring back something our of nothing.  Yet this proverb of the incredulous is not wholly false.  Destruction perfects that which is good; for the good cannot appear on account of that which conceals it.  The good is least good while it is thus concealed.  The concealment must be removed so that the good my be able freely to appear in its own brightness.  For example, the mountain, the sand, the earth or the stone in which a metal has grown is such a concealment.  Each one of the visible metals is a concealment of the other six metals.

By the element of fire all that is imperfect is destroyed and taken away, as, for instance, the five metals, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Saturn.  On the other hand, the perfect metals, Sol and Luna, are not consumed in that same fire.  They remain in the fire:  and at the same time, out of the other imperfect ones which are destroyed, they assume their own body and become visible to the eyes.  How, and by what method, this comes about can be gathered from the Seven Canons.  Hence it may be learnt what are the nature and property of each metal, what it effects with the other metals, and what are its powers in commixture with them.

But this should be noted in the very first place:  that these Seven Canons cannot be perfectly understood by every cursory reader at a first glance or a single reading.  An inferior intelligence does not easily perceive occult and abstruse subjects Each one of these Canons demands no slight discussion.  Many persons, puffed up with pride, fancy they can easily comprehend all which this book comprises.  Thus they set down its contents as useless and futile, thinking they have something far better of their own, and that therefore they can afford to despise what is here contained.

The Seven Canons of the Metals

The First Canon:  Concerning the Nature and Properties of Mercury

...By the mediation of Vulcan, or fire, any metal can be generated from Mercury.  At the same time, Mercury is imperfect as a metal:  it is semi-generated and wanting in coagulation, which is the end of all metals.  Up to the half-way point of their generation all metals are Mercury.  Gold, for example is Mercury; but it loses the Mercurial nature by coagulation, and although the properties of Mercury are present in it, they are dead, for their vitality is destroyed by coagulation...

The Second Canon:  Concerning the Nature and Properties of Jupiter

In that which is manifest (that is to say, the body of Jupiter) the other six corporeal metals are spiritually concealed, but one more deeply and more tenaciously than another.  Jupiter has nothing of a Quintessence in his composition, but is of the nature of the four elementaries.  On this account his liquefaction is brought about by the application of a moderate fire, and, in like manner, he is coagulated by moderate cold.  He has affinity with the liquefactions of all the other metals.  For the more like he is to some nature, the more easily he is united thereto by conjunction.  For the operation of those nearly allied is easier and more natural than of those which are remote....  The more remote, therefore, Jupiter is found to be from Mars and Venus, and the nearer Sol and Luna, the more "goldness" or "silveriness," if I may say so, it contains in his body, and the greater, stronger, more distinguished, and more true it is found than in some remote body....  This, therefore, is a point which you, as an Alchemist, must seriously debate with yourself, how you can relegate Jupiter to a remote and abstruse place, which Sol and Luna occupy, and how, in turn, you can summon Sol and Luna from remote positions to a near place, where Jupiter is corporeally posited; so that, in the same way, Sol and Luna may also be present there corporeally before your eyes.  For the transmutation of metals from imperfection to perfection there are several practical receipts.  Mix the one with the other.  Then again separate the one pure from the other.  This is nothing else but the process of permutation, set in order by perfect alchemical labour.  Note that Jupiter has much gold and not a little silver.  Let Saturn and Luna be imposed on him, and of the rest Luna will be augmented.


The Third Canon:  Concerning Mars and His Properties

The six occult metals have expelled the seventh from them, and have made it corporeal, leaving it little efficacy, and imposing on it great hardness and weight.  This being the case, they have shaken off all their own strength of coagulation and hardness, which they manifest in this other body.  On the contrary, they have retained in themselves their colour and liquefaction, together with their nobility.  It is very difficult and laborious for a prince or a king to be produced our of an unfit and common man.  But Mars acquires dominion with strong and pugnacious hand, and seizes on the position of king.  He should, however, be on his guard against snares, that he be not led captive suddenly and unexpectedly.  It must also be considered by what method Mars may be able to take the place of king, and Sol and Luna, with Saturn, hold the place of Mars.

The Fourth Canon:  Concerning Venus and Its Properties

The other six metals have rendered Venus an extrinsical body by means of all their colour and method of liquefaction.  It may be necessary, in order to understand this, that we should show, by some examples, how a manifest thing may be rendered occult, and an occult thing rendered materially manifest by means of fire.  Whatever is combustible can be naturally transmuted by fire from one form into another, namely, into lime, soot, ashes, glass, colours, stones, and earth.  This last can again be reduced to many new metallic bodies.  If a metal, too, be burnt, or rendered fragile by old rust, it can again acquire malleability by applications of fire.

The Fifth Canon:  Concerning the Nature and Properties of Saturn

Of his own nature Saturn speaks thus:  the other six have cast me our as their examiner.  They have thrust me forth from them and from a spiritual place.  They have also added a corruptible body as a place of abode, so that I may be what they neither are nor desire to become.  My six brothers are spiritual, and thence it ensues that so often as I am put in the fire they penetrate my body and, together with me, perish in the fire, Sol and Luna excepted...

The Sixth Canon:  Concerning Luna and the Properties Thereof

The endeavour to make Saturn or Mars out of Luna involves no lighter or easier work than to make Luna, with great gain, out of Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, or Saturn.  It is not useful to transmute what is perfect into what is imperfect, but the latter into the former.  Nevertheless, it is well to know what is the material of Luna, or whence it proceeds.  Who ever is not able to consider or find this out will neither be able to make Luna.  It will be asked, What is Luna?  It is among the seven metals which are spiritually concealed, itself the seventh, external, corporeal, and material.  For this seventh always contains the six metals spiritually hidden in itself.  And the six spiritual metals do not exist without one external and material metal.  So also no corporeal metal can have place or essence without those six spiritual ones.  The seven corporeal metals mix easily by means of liquefaction, but this mixture is not useful for making Sol or Luna.  For in that mixture each metal remains in its own nature, or fixed in the fire, or flies from it.  For example, mix, in any way you can, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Sol, and Luna.  It will not thence result that Sol and Luna will so change the other five that, by the agency of Sol and Luna, these will become Sol and Luna, For though all be liquefied into a single, mass, nevertheless each remains in its nature whatever it is.  This is the judgement which must be passed on corporeal mixture...

A question may arise:  If it be true that Luna and every metal derives its origin and is generated from the other six, what is then its property and its nature?  To this we reply:  From Saturn, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Sol, nothing no other metal than Luna could be made.  The cause is that each metal has two good virtues of the other six, of which altogether there are twelve.  These are the spirit of Luna, which thus in a few words may be made known.  Luna is composed of the six spiritual metals and their virtues, whereof each possesses two.  Altogether, therefore, twelve are thus posited in one corporeal metal ... Luna has from the planet Mercury ...  its liquidity and bright white colour.  So Luna has from Jupiter...  its white colour and its great firmness in fire.  Luna has from Mars ... its hardness and its clear sound.  Luna has from Venus ... its measure of coagulation and its malleability.  From Saturn ... its homogeneous body, with gravity.  From Sol ... its spotless purity and great constancy against the power of fire.  Such is the knowledge of the natural exaltation and of the course of the spirit and body of Luna, with its composite nature and wisdom briefly summarised....

The Seventh Canon:  Concerning the Nature of Sol and Its Properties

The seventh after the six spiritual metals is corporeally Sol, which in itself is nothing but pure fire.  What in out ward appearance is more beautiful, more brilliant, more clear and perceptible, a heavier, colder, or more homogeneous body to see?  And it is easy to perceive the cause of this, namely, that it contains in itself the congelations of the other six metals, out of which it is made externally into one most compact body.... The fire of Sol is of itself pure, not indeed alive, but hard, and so far shews the colour of sulphur in that yellow and red are mixed therein in due proportion.  The five cold metals are Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Luna, which assign to Sol their virtues; according to cold, the body itself; according to fire, colour; according to dryness, solidity; according to humidity, weight; and out of brightness, sound.  But that god is not burned in the element of terrestrial fire, nor is even corrupted, is effected by the firmness of Sol.  For one fire cannot burn another, or even consume it; but rather if fire be added to fire it is increased, and becomes more powerful in its operations.  The celestial fire which flows to us on the earth from the Sun is not such a fire as there is in heaven, neither is it like that which exists upon the earth, but that celestial fire with us is cold and congealed, and it is the body of the Sun.  Wherefore the Sun can no way be overcome by our fire.  This only happens, that it is liquefied, like snow or ice, by that same celestial Sun.  Fire, therefore, has not the power of burning fire, because the Sun is fire, which, dissolved in heaven, is coagulated with us.

The End of the Seven Canons

Certain Treatises and Appendices Arising out of the Seven Canons

What Is To Be Thought Concerning the Congelation of Mercury

To mortify or congeal Mercury, and afterwards seek to turn it into Luna, and to sublimate it with great labour, is labour in vain, since it involves a dissipation of Sol and Luna existing therein.  There is another method, far different and much more concise, whereby, with little waste of Mercury and less expenditure of toil, it is transmuted into Luna without congelation.  Any one can at pleasure learn this art in Alchemy, since it is so simple and easy; and by it, in a short time, he could make any quantity of silver and gold.  It is tedious to read long descriptions, and everybody wishes to be advised in straightforward words.  Do this, then; proceed as follows, and you will have man.  Wait awhile, I beg, while this process is described to you in a few words, and keep these words well digested, so that out of Saturn, Mercury, and Jupiter you may make Sol and Luna.  There is not, nor ever will be, any art so easy to find out and practise, and so effective in itself.  The method of making Sol and Luna by Alchemy is so prompt that there is no more need of books, or of elaborate instruction, than there would be if one wished to write about last year's snow.

Concerning the Receipts of Alchemy

What, then, shall we say about the receipts of Alchemy, and about the diversity of its vessels and instruments?  These are furnaces, glasses, jars, waters, oils, limes, sulphurs, salts, salt-petres, alums, vitriols, chrysocollae, copper-greens, atraments, auri-pigments, fel vitri, ceruse, red earth, thucia, wax, lutum sapientiae, pounded glass, verdigris, soot, crocus of Mars, soap, crystal, arsenic, antimony, minium, elixir, lazarium, gold-leaf, salt-nitre, sal ammoniac, calamine stone, magnesia, bolus armenus, and many other things.  Moreover, concerning preparations, putrefactions, digestions, probations, solutions, cementings, filtrations, reverberations, calcinations, graduations, rectifications, amalgamations, purgations, etc., with these alchemical books are crammed.  Then, again, concerning herbs, roots, seeds, woods, stones, animals worms, bone dust, snail shells, other shells, and pitch.  These and the like, where of there are work; since even if Sol and Luna could be made by them they rather hinder and delay than further one's purpose.  But it is not from these -- to say the truth -- that the Art of making Sol and Luna is to be learnt.  So, then, all these things should be passed by, because they have no effect with the five metals, so far as Sol and Luna are concerned.  Someone may ask, What, then, is this short and easy way, which involves no difficulty, and yet whereby Sol and Luna can be made?  Our answer is, this has been fully and openly explained in the Seven Canons.  It would be lost labour should one seek further to instruct one who does not understand these.  It would be impossible to convince such a person that these matters could be so easily understood, but in an occult rather than in an open sense.

The art is this:  After you have made heaven, or the sphere of Saturn, with its life to run over the earth, place it on all the planets, or such, one or more, as you wish, so that the portion of Luna may be the smallest.  Let all run, until heaven, or Saturn, has entirely disappeared.  Then all those planets will remain dead with their old corruptible bodies, having meanwhile obtained another new, perfect and incorruptible body.

That body is the spirit of heaven.  From it these planets again receive a body and life, and live as before.  Take this body from the life and the earth.  Keep it.  It is Sol and Luna.  Here you have the Art altogether, clear and entire.  If you do not yet understand it, or are not practised therein, it is well.  It is better that it should be kept concealed, and not made public.

Go to:
  • works of Paracelsus (1493-1541)
  • The Golem: Legends of the Ghetto of Prague (c. 1916) by Chayim Bloch (1881-1973)
  • The Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes (1597) by John Gerard (1545-1612)
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