Here follow the Twelve Keys of Basilius Valentinus, the Benedictine,
with which we may open the doors of the knowledge of the Most Ancient Stone
and unseal the Most Secret Fountain of Health.
Let my friend know that no impure or spotted things are useful for
our purpose. For there is nothing in their leprous nature capable of advancing
the interests of our Art There is much more likelihood of that which is
in itself good being spoiled by that which is impure. Everything that is
obtained from the mines has its value, unless, indeed, it is adulterated.
Adulteration, however, spoils its goodness and its efficacy.
As the physician purges and cleanses the inward parts of the body,
and removes all unhealthy matter by means of his medicines, so our metallic
substances must be purified and refined of all foreign matter, in order
to ensure the success of our task. Therefore, our Masters require a pure,
immaculate body, that is untainted with any foreign admixture, which admixture
is the leprosy of our metals.
Let the diadem of the King be of pure gold, and let the Queen that
is united to him in wedlock be chaste and immaculate.
If you would operate by means of our bodies, take a fierce grey wolf,
which, though on account of its name it be subject to the sway of warlike
Mars, is by birth the offspring of ancient Saturn, and is found in the
valleys and mountains of the world, where he roams about savage with hunger.
Cast to him the body of the King, and when he has devoured it, burn him
entirely to ashes in a great fire. By this process the King will be liberated;
and when it has been performed thrice the Lion has overcome the wolf, and
will find nothing more to devour in him. Thus our Body has been rendered
fit for the first stage of our work.
Know that this is the only right and legitimate way of purifying
our substance: for the Lion purifies himself with the blood of the wolf,
and the tincture of its blood agrees most wonderfully with the tincture
of the Lion, seeing that the two liquids are closely akin to each other.
When the Lion's hunger is appeased, his spirit becomes more powerful than
before, and his eyes glitter like the Sun. His internal essence is now
of inestimable value for the removing of all defects, and the healing of
all diseases. He is pursued by the ten lepers, who desire to drink his
blood; and all that are tormented with any kind of sickness are refreshed
with this blood.
For whoever drinks of this golden fountain, experiences a renovation
of his whole nature, a vanishing of all unhealthy matter, a fresh supply
of blood, a strengthening of the heart and of all the vitals, and a permanent
bracing of every limb. For it opens all the pores, and through them bears
away all that prevents the perfect health of the body, but allows all that
is beneficial to remain therein unmolested.
But let my friend be scrupulously careful to preserve the fountain
of life limpid and clear. If any strange water be mixed with it, it is
spoiled, and becomes positively injurious. If it still retain any of the
solvent which has been used for its dissolution, you must carefully purge
it off. For no corrosive can be of the least use for the prevention of
When a tree is found to bear sour and unwholesome fruit, its branches
must be cut off, and scions of better trees grafted upon it. The new branches
thereupon become organically united to the trunk; but though nourished
with its sap, they thence forward produce good and pleasant fruit.
The King travels through six regions in the heavenly firmament, and
in the seventh he fixes his abode. There the royal palace is adorned with
golden tapestry. If you understand my meaning, this Key will open the first
lock, and push back the first bolt; but if you do not, no spectacles or
natural eyesight will enable you to understand what follows. But Lucius
Papirius has instructed me not to say any more about this Key.
In the houses of the great are found various kinds of drink, of which
scarcely two are exactly like each other in odour, colour, or taste. For
they are prepared in a great variety of different ways. Nevertheless they
are all drunk, and each is designed for its own special use. When the Sun
gives out his rays, and sheds them abroad upon the clouds, it is commonly
said that he is attracting water, and if he do it frequently, and thereby
cause rain, it is called a fruitful year.
If it be intended to build a palace, the services of many different
craftsmen must be employed, and a great variety of materials is required.
Otherwise the palace would not be worthy the name. It is useless to use
wood where stone is necessary.
The daily ebb and flow of the sea, which are caused by the sympathetic
influence of heavenly bodies, impart great wealth and blessing to the earth.
For whenever the water comes rolling back, it brings a blessing with it.
A bride, when she is to be brought forth to be married, is gloriously
adorned in a great variety of precious garments, which, by enhancing her
beauty, render her pleasant in the eyes of the bridegroom. But the rites
of the bridal night she performs without any clothing but that which she
was arrayed withal at the moment of her birth.
In the same way our bridal pair, Apollo and Diana, are arrayed in
splendid attire, and their heads and bodies are washed with various kinds
of water, some strong, some weak, but not one of them exactly like another,
and each designed for its own special purpose. Know that when the moisture
of the earth ascends in the form of a vapour, it is condensed in the upper
regions, and precipitated to the earth by its own weight. Thus the earth
the moisture of which it had been deprived, and receives strength to put
forth buds and herbs. In the same way you must repeatedly distil the water
which you have extracted from the earth, and then again restore it to your
earth, as the water in the Strait of Euripus frequently leaves the shore,
and then covers it again until it arrives at a certain limit.
When thus the palace has been constructed by the hands of many craftsmen,
and the sea of glass has absolved its course, and filled the palace with
good things, it is ready for the King to enter, and take his seat upon
the throne. But you should notice that the King and his spouse must be
quite naked when they are joined together. They must be stripped of all
their glorious apparel, and must lie down together in the same state of
nakedness in which they were born, that their seed may not be spoiled by
being mixed with any foreign matter.
Let me tell you, in conclusion, that the bath in which the bridegroom
is placed, must consist of two hostile kinds of matter, that purge and
rectify each other by means of a continued struggle. For it is not good
for the Eagle to build her nest on the summit of the Alps, because her
young ones are thus in great danger of being frozen to death by the intense
cold that prevails there.
But if you add to the Eagle the icy Dragon that has long had its
habitation upon the rocks, and has crawled forth from the caverns of the
earth, and place both over the fire, it will elicit from the icy Dragon
a fiery spirit, which, by means of its great heat, will consume the wings
of the Eagle, and prepare a perspiring bath of so extraordinary a degree
of heat that the snow will melt upon the summit of the mountains, and become
a water, with which the invigorating mineral bath may be prepared, and
fortune, health, life, and strength restored to the King.
By means of water fire may be extinguished, and utterly quenched.
If much water be poured upon a little fire, the fire is overcome, and compelled
to yield up the victory to the water. In the same way our fiery sulphur
must be overcome by means of our prepared water. But, after the water has
vanished, the fiery life of our sulphurous vapour must triumph, and again
obtain the victory. But no such triumph can take place unless the King
imparts great strength and potency to his water and tinges it with his
own colour, that thereby he may be consumed and become invisible, and then
again recover his visible form, with a diminution of his simple essence,
and a development of his perfection.
A painter can set yellow upon white, and red or crimson upon yellow;
for, though all these colours are present, yet the latter prevails on account
of its greater intensity. When you have accomplished the same thing in
our Art, you have before your eyes the light of wisdom, which shines in
the darkness, although it does not burn. For our sulphur does not burn,
but nevertheless its brilliancy is seen far and near. Nor does it colour
anything until it has been prepared, and dyed with its own colour, which
it then imparts to all weak and imperfect metals. This sulphur, however,
cannot impart this colour until it have first by persevering labour been
prevailed upon to abjure its original colour.
For the weaker does not overcome the stronger, but has to yield the
victory to it. The gist of the whole matter lies in the fact that the small
and weak cannot aid that which is itself small and weak, and a combustible
substance cannot shield another substance from combustion. That which is
to protect another substance against combustion must itself be safe from
danger. The latter must be stronger than the former, that is to say, it
must itself be essentially incombustible. He, then, who would prepare the
incombustible sulphur of the Sages, must look for our sulphur in a substance
in which it is incombustible -- which can only be after its body has been
absorbed by the salt sea, and again rejected by it.
Then it must be so exalted as to shine more brightly than all the
stars of heaven, and in its essence it must have an abundance of blood,
like the Pelican, which wounds its own breast, and, without any diminution
of its strength, nourishes and rears up many young ones with its blood.
This Tincture is the Rose of our Masters, of purple hue, called also the
red blood of the Dragon, or the purple cloak many times folded with which
the Queen of Salvation is covered, and by which all metals are regenerated
Carefully preserve this splendid mantle, together with the astral
salt which is joined to this sulphur, and screens it from harm. Add to
it a sufficient quantity of the volatility of the bird; then the Cock will
swallow the Fox, and, having been drowned in the water, and quickened by
the fire, will in its turn be swallowed by the Fox.
All flesh that is derived from the earth, must be decomposed and
again reduced to earth; then the earthy salt produces a new generation
by celestial resuscitation. For where there was not first earth, there
can be no resurrection in our Magistery. For in earth is the balm of Nature,
and the salt of the Sages.
At the end of the world, the world shall be judged by fire, and all
those things that God has made of nothing shall by fire be reduced to ashes,
from which ashes the Phoenix is to produce her young. For in the ashes
slumbers a true and genuine tartaric substance, which, being dissolved,
will enable us to open the strongest bolt of the royal chamber.
After the conflagration, there shall be formed a new heaven and a
new earth, and the new man will be more noble in his glorified state than
he was before.
When the sand and ashes have been well matured and ripened with fire,
the glass-blower makes out of it glass, which remains hard and firm in
the fire, and in colour resembles a crystal stone. To the uninitiated this
is a great mystery, but not to the master whom long experience has familiarized
with the process.
Out of stones the master also prepares lime by burning which is very
useful for our work- But before they are prepared with fire, they are mere
stones. The stone must be matured and rendered fervent with fire, and then
it becomes so potent that few things are to be compared to the fiery spirit
By burning anything to ashes you may gain its salt. If in this dissolution
the sulphur and mercury be kept apart, and restored to its salt, you may
once more obtain that form which was destroyed by the process of combustion.
This assertion the wise of this world denounce as the greatest folly, and
count as a rebellion, saying that such a transformation would amount to
a new creation, and that God has denied such creative power to sinful man.
But the folly is all on their side. For they do not understand that our
Artist does not claim to create anything, but only to evolve new things
from the seed made ready to his hand by the Creator.
If you do not possess the ashes, you will be unable to obtain our
salt; and without our salt you will not be able to impart to our substance
a bodily form; for the coagulation of all things is produced by salt alone.
As salt is the great preserving principle that protects all things
from decay, so the Salt of our Magistery preserves metal from decomposition
and utter annihilation. If their Balm were to perish, and the Spirit to
leave the body, the body would be quite dead, and no longer available for
any good purpose. The metallic spirit would have departed, and would have
left its habitation empty, bare, and lifeless.
Observe also, thou who art a lover of this Art, that the salt that
is gained from ashes has great potency, and possesses many concealed virtues.
Nevertheless, the salt is unprofitable, until its inward substance has
been extracted. For the spirit alone gives strength and life. The body
by itself profits nothing. If you know how to find this spirit, you have
the Salt of the Sages, and the incombustible oil, concerning which many
things have been written before my time.
Although many philosophers
Have sought for me with eagerness,
Yet very few succeed at length
In finding out my secret virtue.
The quickening power of the earth produces all things that grow forth
from it, and he who says that the earth has no life makes a statement which
is flatly contradicted by the most ordinary facts. For what is dead cannot
produce life and growth, seeing that it is devoid of the quickening spirit.
This spirit is the life and soul that dwell in the earth, and are nourished
by heavenly and sidereal influences. For all herbs, trees, and roots, and
all metals and minerals, receive their growth and nutriment from the spirit
of the earth, which is the spirit of life. This spirit is itself fed by
the stars, and is thereby rendered capable of imparting nutriment to all
things that grow, and of nursing them as a mother does her child while
it is yet in the womb. The minerals are hidden in the womb of the earth,
and nourished by her with the spirit which she receives from above.
Thus the power of growth that I speak of is imparted not by the earth,
but by the life-giving spirit that is in it. If the earth were deserted
by this spirit, it would be dead, and no longer able to afford nourishment
to anything. For its sulphur or richness would lack the quickening spirit
without which there can be neither life nor growth.
Two contrary spirits can scarcely dwell together, nor do they easily
combine. For when a thunderbolt blazes amidst a tempest of rain, the two
spirits, out of which it is formed, fly from one another with a great shock
and noise, and circle in the air, so that no one can know or say whither
they go, unless the same has been ascertained by experience as to the mode
in which these spirits manifest.
Know then, gentle Reader, that life is the only true spirit, and
that that which the ignorant herd look upon as dead may be brought back
to permanent, visible, and spiritual life, if but the spirit be restored
to the body -- the spirit which is supported by heavenly nutriment, and
derived from heavenly, elementary, and earthly substances, which are also
called formless matter. Moreover, as iron has its magnet which draws it
with the invisible bonds of love, so our gold has its magnet, viz., the
first Matter of the great Stone. If you understand these my words, you
are richer and more blessed than the whole world.
Let me conclude this chapter with one more remark. When a man looks
into a mirror, he sees therein reflected an image of himself. If, however,
he try to touch it, he will find that it is not palpable, and that he has
laid his hand upon the mirror only. In the same way, the spirit which must
be evolved from this Matter is visible, but not palpable. This spirit is
the root of the life of our bodies, and the Mercury of the Philosophers,
from which is prepared the liquid water of our Art - the water which must
once more receive a material form, and be rectified by means of certain
purifying agents into the most perfect Medicine. For we begin with a firm
and palpable body, which subsequently becomes a volatile spirit, and a
golden water, without any conversion, from which our Sages derive their
principle of life. Ultimately we obtain the indestructible medicine of
human and metallic bodies, which is fitter to be known to angels than to
men, except such as seek it at God's hands in heartfelt prayer, and give
genuine proofs of their gratitude by service rendered to Him, and to their
Hereunto I may add, in conclusion, that one work is developed from
another. First, our Matter should be carefully purified, then dissolved,
destroyed, decomposed, and reduced to dust and ashes. Thereupon prepare
from it a volatile spirit, which is white as snow, and another volatile
spirit, which is red as blood. These two spirits contain a third, and are
yet but one spirit. Now these are the three spirits which preserve and
multiply life. Therefore unite them, give them the meat and drink that
Nature requires, and keep them in a warm chamber until the perfect birth
takes place. Then you will see and experience the virtue of the gift bestowed
upon you by God and Nature. Know, also, that hitherto my lips have not
revealed this secret to any one, and that God has endowed natural substances
with greater powers than most men are ready to believe. Upon my mouth God
has set a seal, that there might be scope for others after me to write
about the wonderful things of Nature, which by the foolish are looked upon
as unnatural. For they do not understand that all things are ultimately
traceable to supernatural causes, but nevertheless are, in this present
state of the world, subject to natural conditions.
The male without the female is looked upon as only half a body, nor
can the female without the male be regarded as more complete For neither
can bring forth fruit so long as it remains alone. But if the two be conjugally
united, there is a perfect body, and their seed is placed in a condition
in which it can yield increase.
If too much seed be cast into the field, the plants impede each other's
growth, and there can be no ripe fruit. But if, on the other hand, too
little be sown, weeds spring up and choke it.
If a merchant would keep a clear conscience, let him give just measure
to his neighbour. If his measure and weight be not short, he will receive
praise from the poor.
In too much water you may easily be drowned; too little water, on
the other hand, soon evaporates in the heat of the sun.
If, then, you would attain the longed-for goal, observe just measure
in mixing the liquid substance of the Sages, lest that which is too much
overpower that which is too little, and the generation be hindered. For
too much rain spoils the fruit, and too much drought stunts its growth.
Therefore, when Neptune has prepared his bath, measure out carefully the
exact quantity of permanent water needed, and let there be neither too
little nor too much.
The twofold fiery male must be fed with a snowy swan, and then they
must mutually slay each other and restore each other to life; and the air
of the imprisoned fiery male will occupy three of the four quarters of
the world, and make up three parts of the imprisoned fiery male, that the
death-song of the swans may be distinctly heard; then the swan roasted
will become food for the King, and the fiery King will be seized with great
love towards the Queen, and will take his fill of delight in embracing
her, until they both vanish and coalesce into one body.
It is commonly said that two can overpower one, especially if they
have sufficient room for putting forth their strength. Know also that there
must come a twofold wind, and a single wind, and that they must furiously
blow from the east and from the south. lf, when they cease to rage, the
air has become water, you may be confident that the spiritual will also
be transmuted into a bodily form, and that our number shall prevail through
the four seasons in the fourth part of the sky (after the seven planets
have exercised power), and that its course will be perfected by the test
of fire in the lowest chamber of our palace, when the two shall overpower
and consume the third.
For this part of our Magistery skill is needed, in order to divide
and compound the substances aright, so that the art may result in riches,
and the balance may not be falsified by unequal weights. The sky we speak
of is the sky of our Art, and there must be justly proportioned parts of
our air and earth, our true water and our palpable fire.
Natural heat preserves the life of man. If his body lose its natural
heat his life has come to an end.
A moderate degree of natural heat protects against the cold; an excess
of it destroys life. It is not necessary that the substance of the Sun
should touch the earth. The Sun can heat the earth by shedding thereon
its rays, which are intensified by reflection. This intermediate agency
is quite sufficient to do the work of the Sun, and to mature everything
by coction. The rays of the Sun are tempered with the air by passing through
it so as to operate by the medium of the air, as the air operates through
the medium of the fire.
Earth without water can produce nothing, nor can water quicken anything
into growth without earth; and as earth and water are mutually indispensable
in the production of fruit, so fire cannot operate without air, or air
without fire. For fire has no life without air; and without fire air possesses
neither heat nor dryness.
When its fruit is about to be matured, the vine stands in greater
need of the Sun's warmth than in the spring; and if the Sun shine brightly
in the autumn, the grapes will be better than if they had not felt his
In the winter the multitude suppose everything to be dead, because
the earth is bound in the chains of frost, so that nothing is allowed to
sprout forth. But as soon as the spring comes, and the cold is vanquished
by the power of the Sun, everything is restored to life, the trees and
herbs put forth buds, leaves, and blossoms, the hibernating animals creep
forth from their hiding places, the plants give out a sweet fragrance,
and are adorned with a great variety of many coloured flowers; and the
summer carries on the work of the spring, by changing its flowers into
Thus, year by year, the operations of the universe are performed,
until at length it shall be destroyed by its Creator, and all the dwellers
upon earth shall be restored by resurrection to a glorified life. Then
the operations of earthly nature shall cease, and the heavenly and eternal
dispensation shall take its place.
When the Sun in the winter pursues his course far away from us, he
cannot melt the deep snow. But in the summer he approaches nearer to us,
the quality of the air becomes more fiery, and the snow melts and is transmuted
by warmth into water. For that which is weak is always compelled to yield
to that which is strong.
The same moderate course must be adopted in the fiery regimen of
our Magistery. For it is all important that the liquid should not be dried
up too quickly, and that the earth of the Sages should not be melted and
dissolved too soon, otherwise your fishes would be changed into scorpions.
If you would perform our task rightly, take the spiritual water, in which
the spirit was from the beginning, and preserve it in a closely shut chamber.
For the heavenly city is about to be besieged by earthly foes.
You must, therefore, strongly fortify it with three impassable and
well-guarded walls, and let the one entrance be well protected. Then light
the lamp of wisdom and seek with it the gross thing that was lost, shewing
only such light as is needed. For you must know that the worms and reptiles
dwell in the cold and humid earth, while man has his proper habitation
upon the face of the earth; the bodies of angels, on the other hand, not
being alloyed with sin or impurity, are injured by no extreme either of
heat or cold. When man shall have been glorified, his body will become
like the angelic body in this respect. If we carefully cultivate the life
of our souls, we shall be sons and heirs of God, and shall be able to do
that which now seems impossible. But this can be effected only by the drying
up of all water, and the purging of heaven and earth and all men with fire
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