Reflections About Alchemy and Laboratory Work (1918 - 1986)
(1918 - 1986)
(Translated by Seigfried O. Hansch & Seigfried G. Karsten)
I began my alchemistical work with great enthusiasm, following Heinrich Kunrath's words: 'Perseverando, orando, laborando'. I wrote on the first page of my lab notebook the words from the 'Introitus Apertus ad Occultum Regium Pelatium' by Eirenaeus Philalethes and recite every day before starting work the following words:
'God, who alone knows the goodness of the heart shall lead me the right way to the light, to honesty and make me an instrument if His work. May the Lord be with me, because I alone am not able to produce wonderful deeds.'
My prayers express emphatic admiration of the Lord's creation and preservation of every single individium, which therefore shall be subject to His divine power.
'Oh my God full of goodness, how wonderful are thy works. These wonders that appear before our eyes, you alone have brought about. I thank you, eternal Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth. Amen.'
During my work with a group of Swiss Alchemists at Embrach in 1972, I became acquainted with the Invocation of Paracelsus, which reads as follows:
'Oh Holy Ghost, inspire me and teach me what I alone am unable to do and what I am not aware of. Preserve my five senses, wherein Thou shall act, and shelter me with Thy heavenly peace, and lead me on the right path in dealing with God and my neighbours. Amen."
I decide immediately to change my daily invocation. That of Paracelsus shall represent the Spirit, that of Philalethes the Soul, and I myself shall be the Body of the new invocation. My modification of the above consists of saying seven senses and talents and not five senses and talents, as stated in the Paracelsus' original.
In the interesting book by Jacques Sadoul 'Le Tresor des Alchimistes', I found the invocation of Nicholas Flamel, which reads:
'Oh Almighty and Eternal God, Father of Light, Author of all good things and Giver of all perfect gifts, I implore you in your eternal compassion enlighten me with your eternal wisdom which surrounds Your Throne and which creates and preserves everything. Bless me with your sacred treasure and Your Lordly splendour from Your Throne in Heaven, to dwell and to act within me in order to master all heavenly and occult arts through inspiration, with knowledge and intelligence. Patronise my course of action in the noble art that I have consecrated myself, in search of the Stone of the Wise which is concealed from the world but which can at least be found by Your selected people, so that I may begin, continue, and successfully accomplish the Great Work that lies before me here on earth, and that I may ever in contentment rejoice therein. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, the heavenly stone,the Cornerstone of miracles out of all Eternity whoch commands and governs. Amen.'
I am absolutely certain that the power of the word which manifests through pronunciation of the invocation will help me to find the sought after quinta essentia in the four manifested elements. The spoken word is really a force. in the third verse of Genesis God is said to utter the famous phrase; 'Fiat Lux' - 'Let there Be Light'. In John's gospel it is written that Jesus after he wept over the death of Lazarus, called in a loud voice; 'Lazarus, come out!'
Before I report on my laboratory experiences permit me to express some thoughts for contemplation. We all know that animals as well as humans are equipped with a group instinct, the so-called group soul. This group soul can be unconsciously employed but by man can also become a conscious concentration or effort. This group soul is more or less predominant in all sport teams. It frequently occurs that one or other of the teams is reported to be in 'good form' at the moment. This means that the group soul, or the Eggregore, so-called by occultists, is well balanced and functioning successfully. It is this Eggregore which leads the team to achieve its best results. The achievements through such an Eggregore, or influence of higher intelligence, can consciously be greatly increased.
Forming an Eggregore is called team work in scientific circles. Every team should emphasise the development of an Eggregore; this will increase its achievements far more than the combined qualities of every single member will permit. For this reason everyone of us should voluntarily contribute to the formation of a Paracelsus Research Society Eggregore. This would be of great value for everyone individually and all of us collectively.
Our alchemistical work can be compared with a whole day, which consists of day and night. The day symbolises the manual visible laboratory work. During the day we work in the Green Alchemy with plants, trying to separate, to purify and to recombine. The real purpose of a day's work however is to be found in the exact repetition thereof during the night, performing analogously the separation, purification and the recombination within ourselves. Then the meaning of the famous phrase 'Man, Know Thyself', which at one time appeared in golden letters over the Temple of Delphi, will become a realisation. Without a true perception of himself, without a understanding of the work which lies ahead of him or of the functions of the body, man cannot act consciously and therefore behaves like an unconscious object, subject to the forces influencing him. This is why in all the ancient teachings the basic condition for walking the PATH was; 'Know Thyself'. Contemporary mentality recognises the purpose of this principle but only has a vague conception of its true meaning. Contemparary man, even the philosopher and the scientist, is usually not conscious of the fact that the axiom; 'Know Thyself', refers to the necessity to know one's different bodies and to study the laws which govern the structure and functions of the human organism. Swami Sri Juketwar Giri writes in his 'The Holy Science';
'As long as man identifies himself with his coarse body, he places himself on a much lower level than the fourfold URATOM and, therefore, is unable to grasp it. However, when he elevates himself to the same level, he will not only recognise this ATOM within and without himself, but will also be able to perceive all of creation in its visible and invisible form.'
These reflections and facts clearly show that it is not unimportant if one or the other part of the alchemistical work has been done. Everyone has to decide for themselves with which phase they prefer to begin, but a clear concept thereof is absolutely essential.
All of us who work in the Green Alchemy, should learn devotion and humility from the plants with which we work. Humility should be written with an especially big 'H' as we say in Italian, my mother tongue. Plants, with their healing potentials, are always available to us without ever getting a minimum of thanks from us. The healing powers of plants can be increased through the spoken word. It is up to our free will to consciously utilise them, not only for our body, but also for our soul and spirit. This, however, demands a familiarity with the signatures of the plants. The art of reading the signature of plants is similar to that of reading the book from which one hopes to learn the potencies of plants. Just as a pharmacist labels his vials with their contents, so nature also uses her hieroglyphs to label the forces contained within the plants.(Schlegel) It would be worthwhile and definitely very interesting to examine if this readiness occurs voluntarily in nature. It is certain that our normal power of perception is incapable of seeing or recognising such manifestations of consciuosness. We must always be aware of our duties and should not hide behind man-made moral laws to shun our responsibilities.
Now to the technical part.
When I pick plants as well as during the procedure of making the seven tinctures I always observe the planetary hour. The latter are produced by maceration; three weeks of pressing, filtering, calcining and mixing in the light-grey salt. Thus, the insoluble trace elements are preserved and the salts of the ashes can be dissolved in the tincture.
During maceration I made the first error by using a 190 proof alcohol. My tinctures thus became a pure alcohol extract which did not contain any of the water soluble parts of the plants. By using a 90 proof alcohol, both extractions can be made simultaneously.
In 1971, I produced the following tintures:
Monday - Linden flowers
Tuesday - peppermint
Wednesday - chamomile
Thursday - melissa
Friday - sage
Saturday - parsley
Sunday - rosemarin
This combination does not
correlate with the planetary assignments of the plants,
but I thought of balancing between the active and the passive.
In 1972 I made the following tinctures;
Monday - saxifrage
Tuesday - folia verbena oderata
Wednesday - dill
Thursday - green anise
Friday - virga aurea
Saturday - cow bells
Sunday - rosemarin
The circulation of rosemarin, fennel, anise, caraway and thyme caused some difficulties. As the temperature rose over 75 C., there was a strong ebullition of the salt in the erlenmeyer so that proper circulation was not possible. The use of a round flask, waterbath and boiling stones failed to help. Since I am not in possession of a vacuum device, I had to find another solution. Finally by constantly stirring the tincture with a magnetized stick, a perfect circulation was obtained. Basilius Valentine says that a perfect separation functions only by way of fermentation. This means that a perfect tincture can only be secured through such a process. Therfore, the production of a Human Tincture should be based on fermentation. Our president of the laboratory, Sepp Luthi, who discovered the Human Tincture, will report on its process and value in his lecture.
Only through proper circulation can this Human Tincture be potentiated and magnetized; this is
expressed as 7 X 7 X 7: 7 hours circulation, followed by 7 hours of rest, repeated 7 times, i.e.
starting Monday morning at 7 am. and ending Friday morning at 9 am. In the process of increasing
the potencies of plants, one should also consider the association of the bodily organs to day and
night. According to the Chinese clock of organs, the inner clock of man, the main functions of the
physical organs are spread out over a cycle of 24 hours. Some of the organs perform their main
functions during the day, others during, the night. For example, the kidneys, gall, lungs, liver, and
the circulatory system are ascribed to the night cycle, whereas the stomach, heart, bladder,
intestines, spleen, and pancreas are associated with the day. The body is most sensitive,
according to Sollbergh, at four o'clock in the morning and in the afternoon, at which times
digestion changes from assimilation to dissimulation and vice versa. Proper dosing, is as
important as the proper procedures to be followed in the production of an exact tincture. As
Schlegel points out:
'The more exactly a remedy of nature corresponds to its ascribed disease, the weaker the dose of the medication must be. Otherwise, positive damage could result, brought about by a non correspondence between disease and medication.'
If no curing results are evident after a certain length of time, it will indicate either an over or underdosing. Then another dosage must be tried. As a guiding principle, let me quote a homeopathic saying: 'Chronic ailments shall be cured with high potencies, acute ailments with low potencies.'
My practical experience, recommends calcination in three phases. During the first calcination the corporeal body will be burnt almost black, after which it should be ground in the mortar to a fine powder. The reason being to enlarge the surface in order to speed up the cleansing process, thus the fire can reach and eliminate the imputities more readily.
After the second calcination and grinding, the salt should be a light grey colour. This second grinding should be well attended in regard to the possibility of small carbon particles. The latter are undesirable when leaching the salt of salt. If carbon particles are present, then another calcination must be made. A homeopathic grinding usually takes four hours, but after calcination, 10 to 15 minutes should be sufficient for our grinding. After all the salt of salt has been extracted from the salt the third calcination can begin, which should produce the white salt. Here only one rule applies: Patience! My rosemarin salt has been calcining for more 300 hours and is still not white.
The collection of dew:
At Ascona I found the ideal area for collecting dew, the golf course with it pre-greens and greens. I have collected as much as five quarts within an hour without difficulties.
A piece of fine cotton cloth about four by four feet in size, an oval-shaped bowl, a sieve and a bottle for the dew. Collection of dew; I take the cloth in a wet condition from home, spread it out on the grass, then slowly pull and roll it up sqeezing it out over the bowl. The dew is poured through the sieve into the bottle. This procedure is then repeated. You will be surprised at the amount of dew that can be collected in a very short time. At home, the dew was filtered again and as quickly as possibly distilled. Pure dew can be gained by further distillation.
Production of the essential oil. I produced 25 ml. of essential oil from rosemarin in a simple manner without special equipment; an Erlinmeyer, 500 ml of water. 130 gms. of rosemarin needles, a bridge, a cooler, and a receiving flask. Let everything come to a strong boil for about 15 minutes until the flask contains 150ml of fluid. After four such processes, this produced 600ml fluid has to be distilled yielding about two to five ml of oil. This proceedure is very simple but results in a 70% loss of oil. Several hours of slow simmering until the required quantity of fluid has been accumulated would yield better results. The apparatus for determining the contents of essential oil is inexpensive, easy to handle and works well.
At the beginning of October, 1972 I spent my vacation on the Isle of Mallorca where I was surprised to see Rosmarin still in bloom, probably for the second time that year. I came home with 700gms. of half dried blossoms and needles which I crushed in the Tourmix. The apparatus was set up with 400ml of water and 120 gms. of needles:
1st run of 1&1/2 hrs of slow boiling resulted in 1.0 cm3 of oil
2nd run of 2&1/2 hrs of slow boiling resulted in 1.95 cm3 " "
3rd " " 4 hrs = 2.15 cm3
4th " " 3 hrs = 1.85 cm3
5th " " 3 hrs = 1.9 cm3
6th " " 4 hrs = 2.5 cm3
The oil obtained by this proceedure is fairly pure, however, it contains still some fluid from the separatory funnel. Further distillation yielded the pure oil. 700gms. needles secured 12 cm3 oil, i.e. 1.75%.
Fischers book on herbs mentions a result of of 1% to 2.5%. Therefore, this proceedure is to be recommended. Besides, the apparatus once begun works practically without having to attended.
Also of interest is the color difference of the various rosemarin oils. The Spanish plants produced a beautiful light yellow, and those from Ascona show a light green. This difference can presumably be explained by the degree of purity of the oil, but also by the exposure to different sun rays; the Spanish rosemarin also has a stronger aroma.
Utilizing the same proceedure I used about six pounds of fresh lavender blossoms to produce 15cm3 of a wonderful golden-yellow oil in ten runnings.
These processes averaged approximately three hours each. One runs yield was lost because the separatory funnel's stopcock was left open. A result of 1% from fresh plants is very good, since Fischer gives 0.8%.
From 250 gr. well ground calamus roots in the Tourmix, I procured 4.2 cm3 of a quite consistent light brown-orange oil in six runnings. Dry plants expand a good deal and can cause some undesirable surprises; dry plants should, therefore, first soak for at least three hours.
My result of 1.8% is nothing exceptional in comparison with Fischer's of 1.5 - 3.5%.
In January of 1973 I produced 5.3 cm3 of oil from 250gr. of crushed calamus roots, as available on the market with an average running time of ten hours. This corresponds to 2.25% and is a good average.
With the production of these three essential oils I intended to make three stones. The Rosemarin Stone would represent the Spirit, the Lavender Stone the Soul and the Calamus Stone the Body. These three stones symbolize for me the ideal plant stone.
In conclusion I would like to read a few thoughts, which I found in 'The Hermetic Tradition' by Julius Evola, which will be of interest to every alchemist providing him with food for contemplation. Evola writes,
'The hermetic art is actually a science of reality, wherein reintegration has not a moral but a very concrete meaning. it could almost be called a physical meaning in the sense that it might awaken para-normal abilities. Through the latter the possibility could arise for a transmutation on metal substances, when applied secondarily.
This from Jacob Bohme:
'There is no difference between eternal birth, reintegration, and the discovery of the Stone of the Wise.'
'We should be aware of and recognize exactly the spiritual influence which is manifested in the alchemistic tradition on the whole, when analyzing hermetic alchemical texts. Every text has to be considered as a spiritual fact in this way. A text, which is contained in another one, can be enlightening, improving, and developing, apart from its origin or chronology.'
In addition, it should be noted, that Frater Albertus always says: 'It is assumed that these texts were only written for Adepts and Initiates.'
The following is taken from a letter by the French alchemist Albert Poisson who died in 1893 at the age of 24 from exhaustion.
'... I am happy that I was able to guide you in this sense. All you have to do now is to select your path: the material way which ends with the transmutation of metal, the spiritual one which will provide you with the elixer of long life and magic power, or the divine path which leads by way of ecstasy to direct contemplation of the Highest. Choose your path. But be assured that when you have walked it a little the other two paths will be revealed by way of analogy. Know, my friend, that there are two main types of fire. One is the spiritual fire which is the life or Pneuma, the astral breath, the other is the vulgar fire which burns. Matter has to be alive. It must first be enlivened by the Archee before it can be reached by the vulgar fire. Only then is matter alive, only then can it be enclosed in the flask and be heated with the vulgar fire, very slowly at first.
Or in the words of Ouspensky;
The meaning of symbols can only be conveyed to man if he has already reached a certain understanding of them. This seems to be a paradox. However, the meaning of a symbol and the unveiling of its essence can really be conveyed to and grasped by that individual who already knows what such a symbol contains. Then such a symbol becomes a synthesis of his knowledge and serves him as an expression and transmittor of it just as it served the one who originated it. True knowledge can only be conveyed in the form of symbols. The latter hide the former like a veil which is transparent to those who are able to see and to perceive it.
It is interesting how the well known French alchemist Fulcanelli, defines the secret of alchemy;
There are special means to manipulate the material and the energy in order to produce something, which contemorary science defines as a power cener.This center of power influences the observer and places him into a privileged situation in the Universe. From this privileged point he can visualize many realities which are normally hidden from us through space, time, material and energy. This is what we call the great work.
The Stone is described by Fulcanelli as follows;
The Philosophers stone appears in the form of a crystallike substance. It is almost transparent, red in color, yellow after grinding, dense and easily melts, however, fix at any temperature and its qualities make it striking, glowing, penetrating, non - reducable and it cannot be calcined
Ouspensky made the folowing observations about alchemy;
'Alchemy views matter from the point of view of its functions, which determine its position in the universe, and also in the light of its relation to man and to the function of man.'
'An atom of a substance(as a simple or complex compound) refers to the smalllest quantity of such a substance which still retains its, chemical, cosmic, psychological and physical characteristics. The term atom has to be applied not only to the element, but also to all complex matter which is charged with certain functions in the universe or in human life. Under certain conditions the water of an atom can be seen with the naked eye.'
And, according to Chiaivari from his Alchemy;
'There is no difference between God and the world. They represent two aspects of the same nature; one is static, the other one is dynamic in its manifestation. Therefore, it is possible to reunite with with God through matter and to pursue the way of the Spirit embodied in matter. Christ said: 'I am the way, the truth and life' After all, alchemy strives to reveal the principles of life given to and shared with each creature by God.'
And Evola again;
'The language of most texts is ambiguous. On the one hand we can consider them as a chemistry sui generis which is partly absolutely real and which has greatly contributed to vulgar chemistry. On the other hand, we can view it as a language which provides the symbols of hermetic and alchemical knowledge with much fantasy. It is up to us to recognise these two meanings.'
I believe there exists also a hidden third meaning to be discovered as a synthesis of the other two.
Since an invocation should be said before the beginning of alchemistic work, a word of thanks shouls also be said at the end of such work for the privelege we had of engaging in true alchemy. This word of thanks symbolizes the true meaning of the cessation of work and actually completes one cycle. We should become more and more conscious of the fact that this represents an analogy of beginning and end, day and night, life and death, spirit and material. If we are able to realize this fully, then we no longer exist in the world of appearances but in the world of reality. It is in this sense that I wish to express my deepest thanks to God for the opportunity extended to me here to express these few ideas. I hope my alchemistical friends can find something useful in my words, and I heartily thank all of you for your attention and patience. Amen.