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Five Preparations of the Philosopher’s Mercury

Transcribed by Robert Nelson.
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Five Preparations of the Philosopher’s Mercury

Sir George Ripley

I.  Take the green lion without dissolution in vinegar (as sometimes the custom is), put it in a large earthen retort, which can endure the fire, and distil the same way as you distil aqua fortis, putting a receiver under it, and luting the joints well, that it may not respire: --- then distil first with a gentle fire, till you see white fumes appear, then change the receiver, stopping it well, and distil first with a gentle fire, till you see white fumes appear, then change the receiver, stopping it well, and distil with a great fire so, as aqua fortis is distilled, thus continuing twenty-four hours, and if you continue the fire the space of eight days, you will see the receiver always full of white fumes, and so you will have the blood of the green lion, which we call secret water, and acetum acerrimum, by which all bodies are reduced to their first matter, and the body of man preserved from all infirmities. --- This is our fire, burning continually in one form within the glass vessel, and not without. Our dunghill, our aqua vitae, our balneo, our vindemia, our horse-belly, which effects wonderful things in the works of nature, and is the examen of all bodies dissolved, and not dissolved; and is a sharp water, carrying fire in its belly, as a fiery water, for otherwise it would not have the power of dissolving bodies into their first matter. Behold! This is our mercury, our sol and luna, which we use in our work. Then will you find in the bottom of the vessel faeces black as coals, which you must for the space of eight days calcine with a gentle fire, etc. --- Libro Accurt., p. 383.

II.  Take adrop, that is, the green lion, which we spoke of before, and dissolve it in distilled vinegar for the space of seven days, shaking well the vessel which the matter is in, three times daily, then empty the dissolved liquor, and distil through a filter three times from its faeces, till it be clear as chrystal, and evaporate the vinegar with a gentle fire, till it be thick as bird-lime, which you cannot stir by reason of its viscosity, and being cold, take it out of the vessel, and keep it; --- and again make more of it, and this do, till you have twelve pounds of this green lion or adrop reduced to the form of a gum, then you have the earth extracted from the earth. Then take a pound of that gum, and put it in a glass vessel of the bigness of a bottle, well luting the joints of the alembic with glue made of the white of eggs and filings well mixed together. --- Libro Accurt., p. 381.

Weidenfeld. --- This Receipt in the treatise of the philosophical adrop (which is in the sixth volume of Theat. Chem. and inscribed to an anonymous disciple of the great Guido de Monte, but differs not from the books of Ripley, namely, the present de Accurtationibus, and the Clavis Aurea Portae, the greatest part of which is ascribed to the famous Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury) is altogether the same as to the sense, though these words run better in the Translation, thus: Now take three pounds of the aforesaid gum, and putting on an alembic, lute the joints with luting made of ale, the white of an egg, and wheat-flour, page 552, Volume 6. Theat. Chem. Which is confirmed with the process or receipt of the Clavis Aurea Portae, where thus: Put three pounds of this milk (thickened or gummed) into a glass, page 257, Clavis aurea portae; and distil in a sand furnace, and let the sand be the thickness of two fingers under the vessel, or until the matter be covered: put a receiver to it, making at first a gentle fire, but not luting the receiver, till the phlegm be gone over, and this continue, till you see fumes appear in the receiver white as milk; then increasing the fire change the receiver, stopping it well, that it may not evaporate, and so continually augment the fire, and you will have an oil most red as blood, which is airy gold, the menstruum foetens, the philosophers sol, our tincture aqua ardens, the blood of the green lion, our unctuous humor, which is the last consolation of man’s body in this life, the philosophers’ mercury, aqua solutiva, which dissolves gold with the preservation of its species, and it hath a great many other names. And when first the white fumes appear, continue your fire twelve hours, in which space if the fire be strong, will all the oil be distilled, which keep well stopped to prevent respiring.

III.  Take of lead calcined or rubified, or the best minium, that is, mineral antimony, prepared, what quantity you please, yet with this consideration, that you must have so many quarts of distilled vinegar, as you have pounds of the aforesaid calcined lead; to this vinegar pour the aforesaid lead in a large earthen vessel well glazed, then for the space of three days stir the matter strongly with a wooden spatula six or seven times a day, cover it will from dust, and let it not be put to the fire by any means during all this time, after which separate all that is clear and crystalline by a filter into another vessel, then put it into a brass skillet to a gentle fire, that all the phlegmatic water may evaporate, till a very thick oil is left in the bottom of the vessel, which suffer to cool; which being done, the matter will become like gum, so as to be cut with a knife, hereof put four pounds into a glass cucurbit with an alembic, the joint being well luted with a paste made of the scales of iron, flour, and the whites of eggs well beaten together: --- put the vessel in a furnace of sand, and not in the ashes, and let the vessel be buried in the sand even to the middle of it, and let the sand be two fingers thick under the bottom of the vessel; --- then put a receiver to it, but not luted, till you have drawn out all the phlegmatic water with a most gentle fire, which matter throw away. When you see a white fume appear, then lute the receiver, which must be two feet long; which being drawn out, strengthen the fire as much as you can, and continue it till you have distilled all that can be extracted in twelve hours, and so will you have the blood of the red lion, most red as blood, which is our mercury, and our tincture now prepared, to be poured upon its ferment, that is, upon the calxes of most pure gold, etc. But if you would use it for the white work, you must distil your mercury three times with a slow fire, always reserving the faeces apart in every distillation, and then you will have you mercury most white as milk. And this is our virgin’s milk, whitened menstruum, and our argent vive philosophically exuberated; with which by circulation make an oil out of the calxes of luna, and proceed in all things, as you did with the red mercury upon the calxes of gold, and you will have a white elixir, which will convert any metal into perfect luna. --- But the golden oil ought to be perfected and tempered, and well united with artificial balsom, by the way of circulation, till out of them is made a most clear and resplendent golden liquor, which is the true aurum potabile, and elixir of life, more precious for mens’ bodies, than any other medicine of the world. --- Pupilla Alchimia, p. 303.

IV. Take the sharpest juice of grapes, and being distilled, dissolve into a clear crystalline water, the body being well calcined to a redness, which is by the philosophers called sericon; of which make a gum, which is like alum in taste, and is by Raymond called azoquean vitriol. Out of this gum with a slow fire is drawn first a weak water, which hath in its taste no sharpness, no more than spring-water; --- and when a white fume begins to appear, then change the receiver, and lute strongly, that it may no way expire; and so you will have your aqua ardens, aqua vitae, and a resolvative menstruum, which before was resolvable. This is the potential vapour, able to dissolve, putrify, and also purify bodies, divide the elements, and by its attractive virtue exalt its own earth into a wonderful salt; and they that think there is any other water, besides this which we speak of, are mistaken in this work; this water hath a most sharp taste, and partly also a stinking smell, and therefore is called stinking menstruum; and it being a very airy water, it therefore ought to be put upon its calxes in less than an hour after it is distilled or rectified; --- but when it is poured upon the aforesaid calxes, it begins to boil up, and then if the vessel be well stopped, it will not leave working, though no fire be administered to it from without, till it be dried up in the calx; --- wherefore you must apply no greater quantity of it than scarce cover the calxes; --- then proceed to the full completing of it, as in the work of the compounded water. And when the elixir is reduced to a purple colour, let it be dissolved in the same menstruum, being first rectified into a thin oil, upon which fix the spirit of our water by circulation, and then hath it the power of converting all bodies into most pure gold, and to heal all infirmities of man’s body, more than all the potions of Hippocrates and Galen, for this is the true aurum potabile, and no other, which is made of artificial gold elemented, turned about by the wheel of philosophy, etc. --- Medulla Phil. Chem., p. 170.

V. Take of sericon or antimony thirty pounds, out of which you will have twenty pounds or thereabouts of gum, if the vinegar be good; --- dissolve each pound of that sericon in two measures (a gallon) of vinegar twice distilled, and having stood a little while in digestion, stir the matter often every day, the oftener the better, with a clean stick, filter the liquor three times, throw away the faeces, to be taken away as superfluous, being no ingredient to the magistery, for it is the damned earth: Then evaporate the filtered liquors in balneo mariae with a temperate heat, and our sericon will be coagulated into a green gum, called our green lion, dry that gum well, yet with care, lest you burn the flowers, or destroy the greens of it; --- then take the said gum, put it in a strong glass retort well luted, and with a moderate fire distill a weak water to be cast away: --- But when first you perceive a white fume ascending, put to it a glass receiver large, and of sufficient capacity, whose mouth is exactly joined to the neck of the retort, which must be very well luted, lest any of the fume be lost or evaporate out of the receiver; --- then increase the fire by degrees, till a red fume ascends, and continue a stronger fire, till bloody drops come, or ascends, and continue a stronger fire, till bloody drops come, or no more fume appears; --- then abate the fire by degrees, and all being cold, take away the receiver, and forthwith stop it, that the spirits may not exhale, because this liquor is called our blessed liquor, to be kept in a glass vessel very close stoppered; then examine the neck of the retort, where you will find a white and hard ice, in the form of a congealed vapour, or mercury sublimate, which gather carefully, and keep, because it contains great secrets, of which lower: --- then take the faeces out of the retort, being black as soot, which are called our dragon, whereof calcine one pound, or more, if you please, in a potters, glass-makers, or philosophical furnace, into a white snowy calx, which keep pure by itself, it being called the basis and foundation of the work, Mars, our white fixed earth, or philosophers iron. Now take the residue of the faeces, or black dragon, and sift it on a marble, or any other stone, and at one of the ends light it with a live coal, and in the space of half an hour the fire will run all over the faeces, which it will calcine into a very glorious citrine colour; these citrine faeces dissolve with distilled vinegar, after the aforesaid manner, filter also three times as before, then evaporate the dissolution into a gum, and distil the menstruum, which is now called sanguis draconis, or dragon’s blood, and repeat this work in all things as before, till you have reduced all, or the greater part of the faeces into our natural or blessed liquor, all which liquors pour to the first liquor or menstruum, called the blood of the green lion; --- the liquor being thus mixed, putrify it in a glass vessel for the space of fourteen days; then proceed to the separation of the elements, because in this blessed liquor you have now all the fire of the stone, hidden before in the faeces; which secret has been hitherto kept wonderfully close by the philosophers. Now take all the menstruum being putrified, put it in a Venice glass of a fit size, put an alembic to it, and lute with linen rags dipped in the white of eggs; the receiver must be very spacious, to keep in the respiring spirit, and with a temperate heat separate the elements one from another, and the element of air, which is the oil (ardent spirit, containing a little white oil at the top) will first ascend; the first element being distilled, rectify it in another vessel fit for it, that is, distil seven times, till it burns a linen cloth, being dipped in it and kindled; then is it called our rectified aqua ardens, which keep very well stopped, for otherwise the most subtile spirit of it will vanish away. In the rectifications of the aqua ardens, the air will ascend in the form of a white oil, swimming upon the aqua ardens, and a citrine oil will remain, which is distilled with a stronger fire: mercury being sublimed, and reduced into powder dissolved per deliquium, upon iron plates in a cold place, pour a little of the aqua ardens to the liquor being filtered, and it will extract the mercury in the form of a green oil swimming atop, which separate and distill by a retort, and there will ascend first a water, and then a thick oil, which is the oil of mercury; --- then distil the flood or water of the stone into another receiver, the liquor will be whitish, which draw off in balneo with a moderate heat, till there remains in the bottom of the cucurbit a thick oily substance well stopped. Take notice, when first the liquor riseth white, another receiver must be put to, because that element is wholly distilled. Two or three drops of that black liquor being given in the spirit of wine, do cure any poison. Now to this black and liquid matter pour our aqua ardens, mix them well together, and let the mixture settle three hours, then decant, and filter the liquor, pour on new aqua ardens and repeat the operation three times, then distil again in balneo with a gentle heat, and this reiterate thrice, and it will come under the denomination of the rectified blood of man, which operators search for in the secrets of nature. Thus you have exalted the two elements, water, and air, to the virtue of a quintessence; keep this blood for occasion. Now to the black and liquid matter or earth, pour the flood or water of the stone, mix them well together, and distil the whole, till the earth remains very dry and black, which is the earth of the stone; keep the oil with the water for occasion. Reduce the black earth to a powder, to which pour the aforesaid man’s blood, digest three hours, then distil in ashes with a fire sufficiently strong, repeat this work three times, and it will be called the rectified water of life, and so have you exalted the three elements, namely, water, air, and fire, into the virtue of a quintessence; then calcine the earth being black and dry, in the bottom of the reverberatory, into a most white calx, with which mix the fiery water, and distil with strong fire as before; the remaining earth calcine again, and distil, and that seven times, or till the whole substance of the calx be passed thro’ the alembic, and then have you the rectified and truly spiritual water of life, and the four elements, exalted to the virtue of a quintessence: this water will dissolve all bodies, putrify and purge them. This is our mercury, our lunary, but whosoever thinks of any other water besides this, is ignorant and foolish, never attaining to the desired effects. --- Vade Mecum or Bosom-Book.

Ripley hath these following sayings, in his Book named Terra Terrae Philosoph., p. 319, where thus: When therefore you have extracted all the mercury out of the gum, know, that in this mercury are contained three liquors, whereof the first is a burning aqua vitae, which is extracted by a most temperate balneo. This water being kindled, flames immediately, as common aqua vitae, and is called our attractive mercury, which is made a crystalline earth, with all metallic calxes also, of which I will say no more, because in this operation we want it not. After that there follows another water thick and white as milk, in a small quantity, which is the sperm of our stone, sought by many men; for the sperm is the original of men and all living creatures; whereupon we do not undeservedly call it our mercury, because it is found in all things and all places; --- for without it no man whatsoever lives, and therefore it is said to be in every things. This liquor, which no you ought to esteem most dear, is that mercury, which we call vegetable, mineral and animal, our argent vive, and virgin’s milk, and our permanent water. With this mercurial water we wash away the original sin, and pollution of our earth, till it becomes white, as gum, soon flowing; --- but after the distillation of this aforesaid water, will appear an oil by a strong fire; with this oil we take a red gum, which is our tincture, and our sulphur vive, which is otherwise called the soul of Saturn, and living gold, our precious tincture, and our most beloved fold, of which never man spoke so plainly; God forgive me therefore, if I have any way offended him, being constrained to gratify your will.

Weidenfeld. --- Some great mystery of art is here discovered by Ripley, for the revealing of which he fears the displeasure of not only the adepts, but of God himself. Lully, and others, have indeed plainly enough declared to their disciples, though perhaps it may not appear to us being less instructed in the matter, what our green lion is, what common mercury more common to us than common argent vive, what the azoquean vitriol is, and the menstruum made thereof; but Ripley affirms that no man ever spoke so plainly of the present secret. The adepts have indeed in their practice described the use of philosophical wine without any veil of philosophy; and amongst them Raymond and Arnold, with some others, have attained to the knowledge of the same, but (to use Ripley’s expression in Medulla) how it might be obtained they said not. Wherefore they being silent, Ripley the first, and indeed the only man of all, declares to us, that the key of all the more secret chemy lies in the milk and blood of the green lion, that is, that the stinking menstruum (or the parts of it, mercury and sulphur, virgin’s milk, and the lion’s blood, white and red mercury) being fourteen days digested gently, is the white and red wine of Lully, and other adepts. Nor was he satisfied in declaring this freely to us, but adds strength and light to his words, in making a vegetable menstruum the rectified aqua vitae (described by Lully in Potestate Divitiarum, and by us in Numb. 31.) of the said stinking and corrosive menstruum, by which one only example he was pleased to teach us, that all vegetable menstruums may be made of the said stinking menstruum. Lully’s rectified aqua vitae is made by divers cohobations upon its own caput mortuum. We may if we please proceed by another way or method: distil the menstruum foetens, being fourteen days digested, and first will ascend the aqua ardens, then the phlegm, and in the bottom will remain a matter thick as melted pitch, which are the constitutive principles of all vegetable menstruums.

Further of the Philosophers Mercury.

There is a certain subtile fume, which does spring forth from its proper veins, dispersing and spreading itself abroad, the which thin fume if it be wisely gathered together again, and sprinkled upon its proper veins or matrix, it will make not only a certain fixation, of which thin fume, in a short space is made the true elixir, but also cleanses the impure metals or alchemic body.

This alchemic body is called leprous gold, wherein gold and silver, are in essence and power, but not in sight or appearance; in its profundity or depth, it is airous or spiritual gold, which none can obtain, unless the same body be first made clean and pure. The which impure body after mundification, is a thousand times better than are the bodies of common sol and luna, decocted by natural heat.

The first matter of this unclean alchemical body, is a viscous water, which is thickened in the bowels of the earth. And therefore of this impure body is made the great elixir of the red and white, whose name is adrop, or the philosophers’ lead. From the which Raymond commands an oil to be drawn; from the lead of the philosophers, saith he, let there be an oil drawn of a golden colour; if you can separate this oil from its phlegm, which is its waterishness, and wisely search out the secret thereof, you may in the space of thirty days perform the work of the philosophers’ stone. This oil does not only make the medicine penetrable, being amicable and conjoinable to all bodies or corporeal things, but it is also the hidden or secret fire of nature; which does so augment the excellencies of those bodies to whom it is so joined, that it makes them to exceed in infinite proportions of goodness and purity. So much so does appertain to the work of alchemy, which is only for the elixir of metals, is now sufficiently opened, which if you rightly understand, you will find that no great cost is required for the performance of this philosophic operation.

And this thin and subtil oil, being put into kemia its proper vessel, first sealed up, to putrify in the fire of the first degree, being moist, it becomes as black as liquid pitch. The fire may then have its action in the body, to corrupt it, the same body before opened. Therefore it grows first black, like melted pitch, because the heat working in this moist body, does first beget a blackness, which blackness is the first sign of corruption; and since the corruption of one thing is the generation of another; therefore the body corrupted, is generated a body neutral, which is certainly apt, declinable, and applicable unto every ferment whatsoever you please to apply it to. But the ferment must be altered together with the alchemic body; and the whole substance of our stone or elixir must partake of the nature of the quintessence, otherwise it will be of no effect.

And between the said sign of blackness and perfect whiteness, which will follow the said blackness, there will appear a green colour, and as many variable colours afterwards as the mind of man is able to conceive. When the present white colour shall begin to appear like the eyes of fishes, then may you know that Summer is near at hand, after which Autumn or Harvest will happily follow with ripe fruit, which is in the long looked-for redness; this is after the pale, ashy, and citrine colour. First the sun does perfectly descend by its due course, from its meridianal height and glory, through its gross and natural solution onto an imperfect pale, and ashy colour, shining in the occidental parts of the west, which is somewhat of a yellowish or brick dust colour; from whence it goes to the septentrional parts of the earth, being of a variable waterish blackness, of a dark, cloudy, alterable, putrefactive waterishness. Then it ascends up to the oriental parts, shining with a more perfect chrystalline, summerlike, and Paradisical white. Lastly, he ascends his fiery chariot, directing his course up again to his meridianal life, perfection and glory, there to rule and shine, in fire, brightness, splendor, and the highest perfection, even in the highest, most pure, and imperial whiteness.

When this aforesaid simple oil of the altered body, being in its vessel duly sealed, is by the fire thus disposed, what is there more than one simple thing, which nature has made to be generated of sulphur and mercury in the bowels of the earth? --- Thus it is evident, that our stone is nothing else but sol and luna, sulphur and mercury; male and female; heat and cold. And therefore, to be more short, when all the parts of our stone, are thus gathered together, it appears plainly enough, what is our mercury, our sulphur, our alchemic body, our ferment, our dissolvent, our green lion. And what our white fume, our two dragons, our fires, and our egg, in which is both the whiteness and the redness. As also what is man’s blood, our aqua vitae, our burning water, and what are many other things, which in this our art are metaphorically, or figuratively named to deceive the foolish and unwary.

Also there is a similitude of a Trinity shining in the body, soul and spirit. The body is the substance of the stone. The soul is the ferment which cannot be had, but from the most perfect body: and the spirit is that which raiseth up the natures from death and corruption to life, perfection and glory.

In sulphur, there is an earthiness for the body; in mercury, there is an aerialness for the spirit, and in them both a natural unctuosity for the soul or ferment; all which are inseparably united in their least parts for ever. From this fermental body the stone is formed, and without it, it cannot be made. It is the peculiar property of sol and luna, which property appertains to the stone itself, to give the form of gold and silver. --- And therefore the elixir, whether it be white or red, may be infinitely augmented with the fermental oil; if you do cast the same upon mercury, it shall transmute it into the elixir, which elixir must be cast afterwards upon the imperfect bodies. --- Moreover the said white elixir is augmented with mercurial water, and the red elixir with the mercurial oil; the which two, viz, the mercurial water and mercurial oil, can only be had of mercury dissolved of itself.

See what the Scripture saith; He stroke the stone, and water flowed out, and again he brought forth oil out of the flinty rock. We may note the whole composition of the elixir in these four verses following. “He stretched forth the Heavens as a curtain. The water stood above the mountains”. This is the water which does cover our matter, and performs the dissolution thereof, causing a cloudy ascension. “That does walk upon the wings of the wind”. This figures forth the sublimation of our stone. “Who makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire”. By this is shadowed forth the rectification, separation, and disposition of the elements. “Who has founded the earth upon its basis; so fixed, that it shall not be moved for ever”. Under which is described the fixation of the elements, and the perfection of the philosophic stone. --- Medulla Philosophia, 1476, dedicated to George Nevill, Archbishop of York.

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