The Alchemist's Handbook
(Manual for Practical Laboratory Alchemy)
First published in 1960 by The Paracelsus Research Society
Samuel Weiser, Inc. 1974, 1981
How are herbs related to the stars? Can such a thing be true? Scientists will shake their heads in disgust. "Nonsense. Superstition. Quack, they will answer. And why not? How could scientists accept the possibility of something when at the same time they did not consider it worthy of their efforts to investigate the subject? Or perhaps they might deem it beneath their dignity to "dabble with silly superstitions." The writer may seem rash in his judgment concerning the attitude science has shown toward this branch of research, but experience has revealed that there is a connection between herbs and the heavenly bodies that adorn the firmament. Science must disprove this, if it can. Observation has also revealed that certain countries are influenced by particular planets, as astrology has long declared. Again, certain plants are found only in certain places. As soon as these plants are transplanted into soil foreign to their nature, they lose all or some of their curative virtues.
In plant and mineral life, organic and inorganic minerals exist as separate groups. In this plant and mineral life, all growth gives evidence of an unseen but measurable change in proportion to its structure. What causes this growth? Inorganic minerals are taken up into plant life and changed into organic minerals. What brings this change about? Radium is able to cause a decay of tissues. Is it radium as substance or the unseen but measurable emanation from a mysterious force from within? Science asks us to believe that the structure of the radium atom is like a cosmos in miniature. A solar system in Microcosmos. A layman who is unable to verify scientific theories must either believe or not believe them. That one has accepted as natural law what science has propounded should not make it any more difficult to believe that the Macrocosmos has the same influence both on the surface as well as below the surface (tissue) of the earth. Is this so unreasonable? Does not the old hermetic axiom, "As above so below, as below so above," again have its counterpart here?
Perhaps science someday will take the time to investigate in these uncharted areas and experiment on a far broader base than has been the case so far. While it is true that some scientists have accomplished remarkable results working in these areas, they have been few and have been shunned by their colleagues. They attempted to venture into the unknown, the ridiculed spheres, and have been termed mystics, heretics, and stray sheep from the herd. All this they were, but had they not left the beaten path and ventured to explore in other directions, their labor never would have produced results of alchemical importance.
The following is a condensed tabulation of herbs listed according to the planetary influence which affects each of them, as claimed by ancient tradition. In order that this list be of benefit, each student must discover individually how true these planetary attributions are for these various herbs. It would seem that even a deeper study is necessary in order to discover the underlying causes of the different ways in which the medicinal virtues operate. Many, however, who have given some thought to this subject will find here a significant clue.
|angelica||ash tree||bay tree||burnet|
|St. John's wort||St. Peter's wort||sundew||tormentil|
|turnsole||heart-trefoil||vine viper's bugloss||walnut tree|
fleur de lys
(or water flag)
pellitory of Spain
|honeysuckle||lavender||lily of the valley||liquorice|
|parsley||parsnip||pellitory of the wall||sauce-alone (garlic cress)|
|wall rue (or white maiden-hair)||wild carrot||valerian|
|alehoof or ground ivy||alkanet||archangel bean||artichoke|
|bishop's weed||black or common alder tree||blites||bramble|
|dog mercury||dropwort||earth chestnuts||eringo|
|nep or catmint||orchis||parsley piert||parsnip|
|privet||queen of the meadows||ragwort||rye|
|dock||dog's grass||endive||fig tree|
|hart's tongue||house-leek||hyssop||lady's thistle|
|oak tree||roses||sage samphire||scurvy-grass|
|white beet||wild parsley|
|birds-foot||black hellebore||black thorn||blue bottle|
|buck's horn plantain||comfrey||corn||darnel|
|dodder||elm tree||fleawort||flux weed|
|medlar tree||melancholy thistle||mosses||mullein|
|nightshade||polypody of the oak||poplar tree||quince tree|
|red beet||Saracen's consound||sciatica-cress||service tree|
|shepherds purse||Solomon's seal||spleen-wort||tamarisk tree|
|thorough wax||tutsan||water-fern||willow herb|
|winter green||woad||yew tree|
In concluding this condensed table of herbs and corresponding Planetary influences, it will be interesting to add a few further observations. These can he corroborated by those who wish to do so and who may then arrive at their own personal conclusions.
Is there anyone capable of answering why the chickweed flowers are open and upright from nine in the morning until noon? However, if it rains they remain closed and after the rain they become pendent. The "Four-O-Clock' opens its flower at about four in the afternoon. The dandelion (a true sundial) opens at seven in the morning and closes at five in the afternoon. The pimpernel (the poor man's weatherglass) closes its tiny flowers long before it rains or night draws near. The purple sandworth flower expands only when the sun shines. If the trefoil contracts its leaves, thunder and heavy rains can be expected. Many similar examples could be cited. What causes such variance in behavior? All have their roots in the ground and draw their nourishment from the soil and the air. Yet their behavior is remarkably different. Is it so unreasonable to assume that they, as well as tiny atoms, are governed according to similar laws?
There is no point in going any further into this matter here as sufficient material can be found in the following pages to help in the assimilation of the spiritual essence for further transmutation.
However, a subject related to the planetary influences on plants and herbs does deserve attention. This involves the planetary influences on the various parts of the human body. The zodiac is represented as ruler of the body whose parts are distributed throughout the twelve houses. These, in turn, are ruled by certain planets. A connecting link, therefore, can easily be determined with a minimum of ingenuity by the spagyric student.
The following tabulation, according to Paracelsus, of organs of the body and the respective planets that rule them will be of assistance for further analysis:
The Sun rules the heart.
The Moon rules the brain.
Venus rules the veins.
Saturn rules the spleen.
Mercury rules the liver.1
Jupiter rules the lungs (chest).
Mars rules the gall.
Since the writings of this great sage, Paracelsus, are of such importance, it is almost essential that students of alchemical literature give his works very careful study.
Paracelsus is in agreement with previous teachers in regard to the fact that the stars influence all growing things. These growing things, then, correspond exactly to the number of influences and stars. But as some trees produce pears and other trees apples, so some stars yield rain, others snow, hail, etc. Thus, in this fashion what falls from heaven is generated.
Paracelsus speaks of the hot and cold nature of ailments and also of remedies falling under these two classifications.2 In such cases the homeopathic principle of "similia similibus curantur"-like cures like-can be employed. This principle perhaps can best he illustrated by taking a frozen egg and placing it in cold water. The frost will be drawn out by the cold and the egg will be wholesome again. Since like repels like in physical phenomena, the homeopathic approach of curing, say, arsenic poisoning, is to use the same substance, namely, arsenic. Thus, if a physiological dose of arsenic will bring about arsenic poisoning, the homeopathic practitioner will use this same substance, arsenic, in a most minute or highly triturated form to effect a cure. Here the high trituration causes the arsenic particles to become-so small that they can no longer be perceived. Because of the high trituration, the vibratory rate is greatly increased and achieves high potency in expelling the physiological dose of arsenic. Therefore, in homeopathy the identical substance is used to repel an illness which substance in a physiological dose caused the illness in the first place. Perhaps the phrase, "curative dose," is inadequate, but it is being used to convey the process. However, in using highly triturated homeopathic agents, one cannot really speak of a dose since the curative substance is so inconceivably small-1:100,000,000 and even smaller.3
Homeopathy is nearer to Alchemy than other therapies, but is still far from producing alchemical actions, inasmuch as it does not set free the quintessence which is so essential as a healing agent. Since Homeopathy, as taught by Hahnemann, is only a segment of Paracelsian therapeutics and is comparatively little used, what can one expect as to the acceptance of Herbal Alchemy?
Alchemically a cure is obtained by using the opposing forces of negative against positive. An ailment presents the negative aspect while curative agents represent positive forces. Manifestations occur where these opposite forces meet. The object of alchemical remedies is to supplement the lacking or deficient positive forces in the human body which represents the negative part in contradistinction to the positive vital life force (which in Sanskrit is called "prana").4 This vital life force, prana or quintessence can only be separated through Alchemy. It is this difference, the separation of the quintessence, that sets Alchemy on a higher level above all other systems of therapeutics.
If it is true, as has been claimed, that the heavenly bodies radiate an unseen power that has been observed to manifest differently among the various specimens of the herbal kingdom, only an investigation by sincere and unprejudiced students is needed to substantiate these observations.
1 Culpeper states that Jupiter rules the liver and Mercury the lungs.
2 Black pepper (piper niger), mustard (sinapis), nutmeg (nux moschata) for example, are medicaments of a hot nature. Those herbs of the mentha (mint) family are medicaments of a cold nature.
3 Prof. Liebig in his chemical letters said: "The smaller the particles of a prescribed medicine the less physical resistance they met in their diffusion in the tissue.',
4 Dr. Schuessler's system of biochemistry prescribes the 12 tissue remedies to build up the missing minerals in the blood. Homeopathy differs from biochemistry, the first curing like with like and biochemistry replenishing or building up lacking minerals in the blood. Both homeopathy and biochemistry have a closer relationship with alchemical therapeutics than the administering of physiological doses according to the allopathic system. However, even allopathic physicians are attenuating their doses now in what is known as serum therapy. This is only an indication of a further step by modern medicine to approach nearer to the only perfect natural system of healing which is to be found in Alchemy.
If any of Dr. Schuessler's tissue remedies, such as calcium, silica, potassium, etc. were to be separated into its three essentials (according to alchemical practice), namely, sulphur, salt, and mercury, and then coagulated again, it is not difficult to imagine the potential remedies that could be obtained in this fashion. Such remedies would truly replenish and build up the body due to the raised vibrations of these remedies. This holds true also of any of the homeopathic preparations, which is to say their basic substance before trituration with lactose (milksugar) or spirits of wine. However, neither system frees the quintessence, the most important matter in alchemical preparations.
1 Culpeper states that Jupiter rules the liver and Mercury the lungs.
Mysterious symbols have intrigued the mind of man from time immemorial. In every epoch, religion, magic and alchemy have abounded in the use of symbols. Meanings of diverse kinds and interpretations bordering on the hallucinatory and fantastic have been attributed to these strange signs. One can understand, then, if even today, such expressions as "signs of the devil," "marks of the devil," etc., can still be found among various peoples. In alchemy, nothing devilish or unholy is concealed behind these symbols. On the contrary, to those who are able to understand them, they possess an honorable and even a holy significance. This understanding has been considered too sacred and too valuable to be cast before the unworthy. Alchemists, and especially the Rosicrucian fraters, have used these sacred symbols amongst themselves in order to prevent alchemical, mystical, or occult secrets from falling into the hands of those who would misuse them. Rosicrucian adepts were known to have secret powers and methods to accomplish what seemed miraculous to others, as has been recorded for centuries. For example, the wonderful work (In German) of W. G. Surya, Der Stein der Weisen (The Stone of the Wise), presents an almost unbelievable but authentic record of these sages during past centuries. Even today, the very same symbols are employed by the alchemical brethren whenever necessary.
The occasion may arise for the alchemist-to-be, now reading these pages, when he may come in contact with books and manuscripts containing these alchemystical symbols. For this reason, the following pages present the important signs together with their Latin and English names. To some, such symbols are of little importance now, but they will prove of immense value when, at the least suspected time, a connecting link will present itself. Members of the age-old fraternity of Rosicrucians are still very actively engaged in alchemy as part of their occult. and mystical work. However, one must discrirninate between pseudo-Rosicrucians who may outwardly belong to one of several organizations making use of that name, and real adepts who comprise the inner core of the circle of the Order, which still exists throughout the Occident and the Orient. As previously stated, it would be useless to attempt to locate or even to contact this inner circle. It is true that Rosicrucian alchemical symbols have been published prior to their appearance here, and no doubt they will find their way into print again in the future. Such symbols are always of interest to students of occultism and mysticism. They are included in this little work only to help students arrive at a fundamental understanding of their basic meanings. For this reason, they are compiled in a condensed, yet comprehensive, way.
No claim is made that the symbols reproduced here are the only ones used in alchemy. Basilius Valentinus employed some of similar design plus others entirely of his own composition. Some alchemists devised their own sets of symbols when it became apparent that formerly used signs had fallen into the hands of charlatans, who only made use of them to defraud and deceive the public.
Regarding individual interpretation of alchemical symbols, it can only be said that an inner unfoldment will help the student alchemist to arrive at their correct meanings. The profound message they contain will never be fully explained in the printed word nor in the attempted translations of "schooled intellectuals."
The symbols as used by the Rosicrucian fraters are given here in such a way that interpretation is superfluous. They are presented in the same manner that a dictionary define certain words and phrases.