Neither human nor animal bodies can be multiplied or propagated without
decomposition; the grain and all vegetable seed, when cast into the ground,
must decay before it can spring up again; moreover, putrefaction imparts
life to many worms and other animalculae. The process of augmentation and
quickening is mostly performed in [the] earth, while it is caused by spiritual
seed through the other elements.
The farmer's wife knows that she cannot hope to obtain chickens except
through the decomposition of the egg. If bread is placed in honeys and
suffered to decay, ants are generated; worms are bred in the putrefying
bodies of men, horses, and other animals; maggots are also developed by
the decay of nuts, apples, and pears.
The same thing may be observed in regard to vegetable life. Nettles
and other weeds spring up where no such seed has ever been sown. This occurs
only by putrefaction. The reason is that the soil in such places is so
disposed, and, as it were, impregnated, that it produces these fruits,
which is a result of the properties of sidereal influence; consequently
the seed is spiritually produced in the earth, and putrefies in the earth,
and by the operation of the elements generates corporeal matter according
to the species of Nature.
Thus the stars and the elements may generate new spiritual, and,
ultimately, new vegetable seed, by means of putrefaction. But man cannot
create new seed; for it is not in his power to order the operation of the
elements and the essential influences of the stars. By natural conditions,
however, new plants are generated simply through putrefaction. This fact
is not noticed by the farmer, simply because it is a thing that he has
always been used to, and for which he is unable to find an explanation.
But you who should know more than the vulgar herd, must search into the
causes of things, and endeavor to understand how the process of generation
and resuscitation is accomplished by means of decomposition, and how all
life is produced out of decay.
Each element is in its turn decomposed and regenerated by that which
is contained in it. For you should know that every element contains the
three others. In air, for instance, there is fire, water, and earth. This
assertion may appear incredible, but it is nevertheless true. In like manner,
fire includes air, water, and earth, since otherwise it could generate
nothing. Water contains fire, air, and earth; for if it did not, there
could be no growth. At the same time, each element is distinct, though
each contains the others. All this is: found by distillation in the separation
of the elements.
In order to rationally prove this to you, who are investigating the
separation of Nature. and purpose to understand the division of the elements,
lest you should think my words inventions, and not true, I tell you that
if you distil earth, you will find that, first of all, there is an escape
of air, which, in its turn, always contains fire, as they are both of a
spiritual essence, and exercise an irresistible mutual attraction. In the
next place, there issues water from the earth, and the earth, in which
is the precious salt, remains by itself at the bottom of the vessel.
When water is distilled, air and fire issue from it, and the water
and material earth remain at the bottom. Again, when the invisible part
of elementary fire is extracted, you get water and earth by themselves.
Nor can any of the three other elements exist without air. It is air that
gives to earth its power of production, to fire its power of burning, to
water its power of generating fruit. Again, air can consume nothing, nor
dry up any moisture, without that natural heat which must be imparted to
it by fire. For everything that is hot and dry contains fire. From these
considerations we conclude that no element can exist without the others,
and that in the generation of all things there is a mingling of the four
He who states the contrary in no wise understands the secrets of
Nature, nor has he investigated the properties of the elements. For if
anything is to be generated by putrefaction, the process must be as follows:
The earth is first decomposed by the moisture which it contains; for without
moisture, or water, there can be no true decay; thereupon the decomposed
substance is kindled and quickened by the natural heat of fire: for without
natural heat no generation can take place. Again, if that which has received
the spark of life, is to be stirred up to motion and growth, it must be
acted upon by air. For without air, the quickened substance would be choked
and stifled in the germ. Hence it manifestly appears that no one element
can work effectually without the aid of the others, and that all must contribute
towards the generation of anything. Thus their quickening cooperation takes
the form of putrefaction, without which there can be neither generation,
life, nor growth.
That there can be no perfect generation or resuscitation without
the co-operation of the four elements, you may see from the fact that when
Adam had been formed by the Creator out of earth, there was no life in
him, until God breathed into him a living spirit. Then the earth was quickened
into motion. In the earth was the salt that is, the Body; the air that
was breathed into it was mercury or the Spirit, and this air imparted to
him a genuine and temperate heat, which was sulphur, or fire.
Then Adam moved and by his power of motion, shewed that there had
been infused into him a life-giving spirit. For as there is no fire without
air so neither is there any air without fire. Water was incorporated with
the earth Thus living man is an harmonious mixture of the four elements;
and Adam was generated out of earth, water, air, and fire, out of soul,
spirit, and body, out of mercury, sulphur, and salt.
In the same way, Eve, our common mother, was created; for her body
was built up and formed out of Adam's body - a fact which I wish you particularly
To return again to putrefaction, O seeker of the Magistery and devotee
of philosophy, know that, in like manner, no metallic seed can develop,
or multiply, unless the said seed, by itself alone, and without the introduction
of any foreign substance, be reduced to a perfect putrefaction.
The putrefaction of metallic seed must, like that of animal and vegetable
seed, take place through the co-operation of the four elements. I have
already explained that the elements themselves are not the seed. But it
ought by this time to be clear to you that the metallic seed which was
produced by the combined operation of heavenly, sidereal, and elementary
essences, and reduced into bodily form, must, in due course, be corrupted
and putrefied by means of the elements.
Observe that this seed contains a living volatile spirit. For when
it is distilled, there issues from it first a spirit, and then that which
is less volatile. But when by continued gentle heat, it is reduced to an
acid, the spirit is not so volatile as it was before. For in the distillation
of the acid the water issues first, and then the spirit. And though the
substance remains the same, its properties have become very different.
It is no longer wine, but has been transmuted by the putrefaction of gentle
heat into an acid.
That which is extracted with wine or its spirit, has widely different
properties and powers from that which is extracted with an acid. For if
the crystal of antimony be extracted with wine or the spirit of wine, it
causes vomiting and diarrhoea, because it is a poison, and its poisonous
quality is not destroyed by the wine. But if it be extracted with a good
distilled acid, it furnishes a beautiful extract of a rich colour. If the
acid be removed by means of the St. Mary's Bath, and the residuum of yellow
powder washed away, you obtain a sweet powder which causes no diarrhoea,
but is justly regarded as a marvellously beneficial medicine.
This excellent powder is dissolved in a moist place into a liquid
which is profitably employed as a painless agent in surgery.
Let me sum up in few words what I have to say. The substance is of
heavenly birth, its life is preserved by the stars, and nourished by the
four elements; then it must perish, and be putrefied; again, by the influence
of the stars, which works through the elements, it is restored to life,
and becomes once more a heavenly thing that has its habitation in the highest
region of the firmament. Then you will find that the heavenly has assumed
an earthly body, and that the earthly body has been reduced to a heavenly
Saturn, who is called the greatest of the planets, is the least useful
in our Magistery. Nevertheless, it is the chief Key of the whole Art, howbeit
set in the lowest and meanest place. Although by its swift flight it has
risen to the loftiest height, far above all other luminaries, its feathers
must be clipped, and itself brought down to the lowest place, from whence
it may once more be raised by putrefaction, and the quickening caused by
putrefaction, by which the black is changed to white, and the white to
red, until the glorious colour of the triumphant King has been attained.
Therefore, I say that though Saturn may seem the vilest thing
in the world, yet it has such power and effficacy that if its precious
essence, which is excessively cold, be reduced to a metallic body by being
deprived of its volatility, it becomes as corporeal as, but far more fixed
than, Saturn itself. This transmutation is begun, continued, and completed
with Mercury, sulphur, and salt. This will seem unintelligible to many,
and it certainly does make an extraordinary demand upon the mental faculties;
but that must be so because the substance is within the reach of everyone,
and there is no other way of keeping up the divinely ordained difference
between rich and poor.
In the preparation of Saturn there appears a great variety of different
colours; and you must expect to observe successively black, grey, white,
yellow, red, and all the different intermediate shades. In the same way,
the Matter of all the Sages passes through the several varieties of colour,
and may be said to change its appearance as often as a new gate of entrance
is opened to the fire.
The King shares his royal dignity with noble Venus, and appears in
splendid state, surrounded by all the dignitaries of his court. Before
him is borne a beautiful crimson banner, in which there is an embroidered
representation of Charity in green garments. Saturn is the prefect of the
royal household, and in front of him Astronomy bears a black standard,
with a representation of Faith in yellow and red garments.
Jupiter is the Grand Marshal, and is preceded by a banner of grey
colour, borne by Rhetoric, and adorned with a variegated representation
of Hope. Mars is at the head of military affairs, and executes his office
with a certain fiery ardour. Geometry carries before him a crimson banner,
on which you may behold Courage in a crimson cloak. Mercury holds the office
of Chancellor; Arithmetic is his standard bearer, and his standard is of
many colours; on it may be observed the figure of Temperance in a many
The Sun is Vice-Regent, and is preceded by Grammar, bearing a yellow
banner, on which Justice is represented in a golden robe Though Venus seems
to cast him into the shade by the gorgeous magnificence of her appearance,
he really possesses more power in the kingdom than she.
Before the Moon, Dialectic bears a shining silver banner, with the
figure of Prudence wrought into it in sky-blue, and because the husband
of the Moon is dead, he has transferred to her his task of resisting the
domination of Queen Venus. For among all these there is enmity, and they
are all striving to supplant each other. Indeed, the tendency of events
is to give the highest place to the most excellent and the most deserving.
For the present state of things is passing away, and a new world is about
to be created, and one Planet is devouring another spiritually, until only
the strongest survive.
Let me tell you allegorically that you must put into the heavenly
Balance the Ram, Bull, Cancer, Scorpion, and Goat. In the other scale of
the Balance you must place the Twins, the Archer, the Water-bearer, and
the Virgin. Then let the Lion jump into the Virgin's lap, which will cause
the other scale to kick the beam. Thereupon, let the signs of the Zodiac
enter into opposition to the Pleiads, and when all the colours of the world
have shewn themselves, let there be a conjunction and union between the
greatest and the smallest, and the smallest and the greatest.
If the whole world's nature
Were seen in one figure,
And nothing could be evolved by Art,
Nothing wonderful would be found in the Universe,
And Nature would have nothing to tell us.
For which let us laud and praise God.
In our Stone, as composed by me and by those who have long preceded
me, are contained all elements, all mineral and metallic forms, and all
the qualities and properties of the whole world. In it we find most powerful
natural heat, by which the icy body of Saturn is gently transmuted into
the best gold. It contains also a high degree of cold, which tempers the
fervent heat of Venus, and coagulates the mercury, which is thereby also
changed into the finest gold. All these properties slumber in the substance
of our Stone, and are developed, perfected, and matured by the gentle coction
of natural fire, until they have attained their highest perfection. If
the fruit of a tree be plucked before it is ripe, it is unfit for use;
and if the potter fail to harden his vessels in the fire, they cannot be
employed for any good purpose.
In the same way you must exercise considerable patience in preparing
our Elixir, if it is to become all that you wish it to become. No fruit
can grow from a flower that has been plucked before the time. He who is
in too great a hurry, can bring nothing to perfection, but is almost sure
to spoil that which he has in hand. Remember, then, that if our Stone be
not sufficiently matured, it will not be able to bring anything to maturity.
The substance is dissolved in a bath, and its parts reunited by putrefaction.
In ashes it blossoms. In the form of sand all its excessive moisture is
dried up. Maturity and fixity are obtained by living fire. The work does
not actually take place in the Bath of St. Mary, in horse- dung, in ashes,
or in sand, but the grades and regimen of the fire proceed after the degrees
which are represented by these The Stone is prepared in an empty furnace,
with a threefold line of circumvallation, in a tightly closed chamber.
It is subjected to continued coction, till all moisture and clouds
are driven off, and the King attains to indestructible fixedness, and is
no longer liable to any danger or injury, because he has become unconquerable.
Let me express my meaning in a somewhat different manner. When you have
dissolved your earth with your water, dry up the water with its own inward
fire. Then the air will breathe new life into the body, and you will have
that which can only be regarded as that Great Stone which in a spiritual
manner pervades human and metallic bodies, and is the universal and immaculate
Medicine, since it drives out that which is bad, and preserves that which
is good, and is the unfailing corrective of all imperfect or diseased substances.
This Tincture Is of a colour intermediate between red and purple, with
something of a granite hue, and its specific weight is very considerable.
Whoever gains possession of this Stone, should let his whole life
he an expression of his gratitude towards God in practical kindness towards
his suffering brethren, that after obtaining God's greatest earthly gift,
he may hereafter inherit eternal life. Praise be unto God everlastingly
for this His inestimable gift.
The eleventh Key to the Knowledge of the augmentation of our Stone,
I will put before you in the form of a parable.
There lived in the East a gilded knight, named Orpheus, who was possessed
of immense wealth, and had everything that heart can wish. He had taken
to wife his own sister, Euridice, who did not, however, bear him any children.
This he regarded as the punishment of his sin in having wedded his own
sister, and was instant in prayer to God both by day and by night, that
the curse might be taken from him.
One night, when he was buried in a deep sleep, there came to him
a certain winged messenger, named Phoebus, who touched his feet, which
were very hot, and said: " Thou noble knight, since thou hast wandered
through many cities and kingdoms, and suffered many things at sea, in battle,
and in the lists, the heavenly Father has bidden me make known to thee
the following means of obtaining thy prayer: Take blood from thy right
side, and from the left side of thy spouse.
For this blood is the heart's blood of your parents, and though it
may seem to be of two kinds, vet, in reality, it is only one. Mix the two
kinds of blood, and keep the mixture tightly enclosed in the globe of the
seven wise Masters There that which is generated will be nourished with
its own flesh and blood, and will complete its course of development when
the Moon has changed for the eighth time If thou repeat this process again
and again, thou shalt see children's children, and the offspring of thy
body shall fill the world."
When Phoebus had thus spoken, he winged his flight heavenward. In
the morning the knight arose and did the bidding of the celestial messenger,
and God gave to him and to his wife many children, who inherited their
father's glory, wealth, and knightly honours from generation to generation.
If you are wise, my son, you will find the interpretation of my parable.
If you do not understand it, ascribe the blame not to me, but to your own
ignorance. I may not express myself more explicitly; indeed, I have revealed
the matter in a more plain and straightforward manner than any of my predecessors.
1 have concealed nothing; and if you will but remove the veil of ignorance
from your eyes, you will behold that which many have sought and few found.
If an athlete know not the use of his sword, he might as well be
without it; and if another warrior that is skilled in the use of that weapon
come against him, the first is like to fare badly. For he that has knowledge
and experience on his side, must carry off the victory.
In the same way, he that possesses this tincture, by the grace of
Almighty God, and is unacquainted with its uses, might as well not have
it at all. Therefore this twelfth and last Key must serve to open up to
you the uses of this Stone. In dealing with this part of the Subject I
will drop my parabolic and figurative style, and plainly set forth all
that is to be known. When the Medicine and Stone of all the Sages has been
perfectly prepared out of the true virgin's milk, take one part of it to
three parts of the best gold purged and refined with antimony, the gold
being previously beaten into plates of the greatest possible thinness.
Put the whole into a smelting pot and subject it to the action of a gentle
fire for twelve hours, then let it be melted for three days and three nights
For without the ferment of gold no one can compose the Stone or develop
the tinging virtue. For the same is very subtle and penetrating if it be
fermented and joined with a ferment like unto itself: then the prepared
tincture has the power of entering into other bodies, and operating therein.
Take then one part of the prepared ferment for the tinging of a thousand
parts of molten metal, and then you will learn in all faith and truth that
it shall be changed into the only good and fixed gold. For one body takes
possession of the other; even if it be unlike to it, nevertheless, through
the strength and potency added to it, it is compelled to be assimilated
to the same, since like derives origin from like.
Whoever uses this as a medium shall find whither the vestibules of
the palace lead, and there is nothing comparable to the subtlety thereof.
He shall possess all in all, performing all things whatsoever which are
possible under the sun.
O principle of the prime principle, consider the end! O end of the
final end, consider the beginning! And be this medium commended unto your
faithful care, wherein also God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, shall
give unto you whatsoever you need both in soul and body.
Concerning the First Matter of the Philosophical Stone
Seek for that Stone which has no fleshly nature, but out of which
a volatile fire is extracted, whence also this stone is made, being composed
of white and red. It is a stone, and no stone; therein Nature alone operates.
A fountain flows from it. The fixed part submerges its father, absorbing
it, body and life, until the soul is returned to it. And the volatile mother
like to him, is produced in her own kingdom; and he by his virtue and power
receives greater strength. The volatile mother when prepared surpasses
the sun in summer. Thus the father by means of Vulcan was produced from
the spirit. Body, soul, and spirit exist in both, whence the whole matter
proceeds. It proceeds from one, and is one matter. Bind together the fixed
and the volatile; they are two, and three, and yet one only. If you do
not understand you will attain nothing. Adam was in a bath -- wherein Venus
found her like, which bath the aged Dragon had prepared when his strength
was deserting him. There is nothing, says the Philosopher, save a double
mercury; I say that no other matter has been named; blessed is he who understands
it. Seek therein, and be not weary; the result justifies the labour.
A short Appendix and clear Resumption of the foregoing Tract concerning
the Great Stone of the Ancient Sages
I, Basil Valentine, brother of the Benedictine Order, do testify
that I have written this little book, wherein, after the manner of the
Ancients, I have philosophically indicated how this most rare treasure
may be acquired, whereby the true Sages did prolong life unto its furthest
But, notwithstanding that my conscience doth bear me witness in the
sight of the Most High, before whom all concealed matters are laid bare,
that I have written no falsehood, but have so exposed the truth that understanding
men can require no further light (that which is laid down in the theoretical
part being borne out and confirmed by the practice of the Twelve Keys),
yet have I been impelled by various considerations to demonstrate by a
shorter way what I have written in the said treatise, and thus cast further
light thereon, whereby also the lover of the desired wisdom may obtain
an increased illumination for the fulfilment of his desire There are many
who will consider that I am speaking too openly, and will hold me answerable
for the wickedness that they think will follow, but let them rest assured
that it will be sufficiently difficult, notwithstanding, for any thick-headed
persons to find what they seek herein. At the same time the matter shall
be made clear to the elect. Hearken then, thou follower of truth, to these
my words, and so shalt thou find the true way !
Behold, I write nothing more than I am willing to hold by after my
death and resurrection! Do thou faithfully and simply lay to heart this
shorter way, as hereinafter exhibited, for my words are grounded in simplicity,
and my teaching is not confused by a labyrinth of language.
I have already indicated that all things are constituted of three
essences - namely, mercury, sulphur, and salt - and herein I have taught
what is true. But know that the Stone is composed out of one, two, three,
four, and five. Out of five - that is, the quintessence of its own substance.
Out of four, by which we must understand the four elements. Out of three,
and these are the three principles of all things. Out of two, for the mercurial
substance is twofold. Out of one, and this is the first essence of everything
which emanated from the primal fiat of creation. But many may by all these
discourses be rendered doubtful in mind as to what they must start with,
and as to the consequent theory. So I will, in the first place, speak very
briefly concerning Mercury, secondly concerning Sulphur, thirdly concerning
Salt; for these are the essence of the Matter of our Stone.
In the first place, you must know that no ordinary quicksilver is
useful, but our quicksilver is produced from the best metal by the spagyric
art, pure, subtle, clear, and glistening, like a spring, pellucid even
as crystal, free from all dross. Hence make water or combustible oil. For
Mercury was in the beginning water, and herein all the Sages agree with
my dictum and teaching In this oil of Mercury dissolve its own Mercury,
from which the water in question was made, and precipitate the Mercury
with its own oil.
Then we have a twofold mercurial substance; but you must know that
gold must first be dissolved in a certain water, as explained in my second
Key, after the purification described in the first Key, and must be reduced
into a subtle calx, as is mentioned in the fourth Key. Next, this calx
must be sublimated by the spirit of salt, again precipitated, and by reverberation
reduced into a subtle powder. Then its own sulphur can more easily enter
into its substance, and have great friendship with the same, for they have
a wondrous love towards each other. Thus you have two substances in one,
and it is called Mercury of the Sages, but is yet a single substance, which
is the first ferment.