Volume VI: Number 3 Summer 1978


Harmonious Conception of the Light of Nature - The Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians of the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Why Alchemy? p.548
Dephlegmated Spirit of Wine p.557
Questions and Answers p.562


Why Alchemy?

Let us ask a few more questions: Why isn't the Alchemical Practice evident in the lives of those students who purport to practice this art? What secret ingredient, if any, is missing? And how is it to be applied? Where is one to find this thing that makes the Alchemical Practice possible? Is it to be found near at hand or far away? These and other questions are exemplary of a student's confusion in the maze called Alchemy.

First of all, one must clear up the bafflement that exists between the terms "spagyric" and "alchemy." For those who are not aware of the term "spagyric" it means "to separate the pure from the impure." On the face of it, many are already aware of this term and its meaning, but only in an impersonal way. Assuredly, some have made attempts to separate a tincture into its parts, the menstruum and that which it contains. This generalized practice of separating substances into degrees of purity is useful throughout the field of chemistry.

We are, however, purporting to go much further than this simplified generalization. All too many students cannot distinguish between that which is pure and the impure which hides It.

We have arrived at what may be called the seed crux which determines the success or failure in this our quest. This bestowed ability is, if we may use the term, the missing secret ingredient which determines our progress.

Unless the student is able to ascertain exactly what it is that is pure, how is he or she to know what is impure? It follows that simple observation, book reading, or instruction is not enough. All too many have had years of exposure to the three methods mentioned and are still not able to apply a clear, accurate judgment on this issue. We would propose that it is the inability to ascertain exactly what it is that is pure as a reason so many fail in their effort to commence a true beginning.

Here we can have a play on words by asking, "Have you been able to separate the truth from what is false?" The Hermetic Philosophers all agree on the importance of this singular point - of separating true from false. It is useless for us to begin an alchemical effort unless we are able to distinguish between these two. In the last analysis, the life of the student must reflect this ability of separation. Once the student can differentiate the one from the other, then he or she may set about the alchemical practice. There is, however, one fly in the ointment: one must be able to consistently choose the true in preference to the false.

We have now arrived at the point of personal involvement and must begin this effort of separation upon ourselves before it can be applied in an objective, alchemical way. This is a totally personal experience which is possible only by way of inspiration. It is upon this one point the Hermetical Philosophers are adamant. The truth or falseness of this statement, too, will become evident by spagyric application of a personal nature.

As an example of our discussion, we may use astrology. In these times, most are somewhat familiar with this practice. We pose the following question: If one were to apply the spagyric principle to astrology, which is the true procedure as opposed to the false? Can one tell if there a difference between all the methods as they have been presented from so many diverse sources? How is one to know the True Way when students are confronted by so many different ways?

When one is exposed to the truth, will he or she even recognize it as such? Even more to the point, will the one so exposed be able to accept it as such? It is for these reasons that we propose a serious personal search - a re-search - on the part of each one, to be conducted within their own house. If our lives fail to reflect an inspired scrutiny of all that which comes before us and instead the waters become more and more murky, we have some proof that we are not working spagyrically.

There are many books on the subject of alchemy, available in every so-called occult bookstore. A brief perusal of most of these editions quickly reveals that the authors are dealing with this subject from the mental aspect, not realizing there is a corresponding physical polarity. Is there one book covering the mental side that treats this subject from the spagyric point of view? Are instructions given as to how to proceed to a recognition of that which is useful? Are the guides given infallible?

We have asked some rather pointed questions to caution students and interested parties that there is something wrong with our inner spagyric application if what has been separated proves to be useless to us. Correct judgment is mostly impossible under the burden of so much diverse material; and, if we are to reorient our lives, we will have to know how and what to separate out.

In time, our true self will emerge - no longer burdened by the debris of every imaginable sort, accumulated from all corners of our personal experience with life. Many students run from one subject to another not realizing they are involuntarily increasing their burdens rather than removing them.

Some may find objection to our usage of good, bad, clean, evil, etc. However this may be, we are following the time-honored tradition that has been set forth by the Hermetic Philosophers of old. A quote from the Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of Paracelsus, Volume 1, Page 20, by A. E. Waite will serve our purpose. "The last age shall be illuminated clearly and compensated for all its losses by the gift of grace and the reward of The Spirit of Truth, in the meantime, Vice will not be able to suppress Good."

Nature is constantly in the process of spagyrically separating the useful from that which is not so. If this were not the case, then our first meal of the day would also be our last, as only that which is useful can be of service to our body. This is Why Alchemy will teach us discernment and we shall in time be able to reject evil for good, the impure for the pure.



Dephlegmated Spirit of Wine

I take this occasion to acquaint you with the way I employ to obtain dephlegmed spirit of wine; especially since the practice of the common way of frequent rectifications is (not to mention other inconveniences) wont to prove either exceeding tedious, or insufficient. Put then about an inch thick of tartar calcined to whiteness (for I find it not necessary to reduce it to a salt) and very dry, into the bottom of a tall and slender glass body, and pour on it as much spirit of wine, that has been but once rectified, as will, when they have been shaken together, swim above the tartar a finger's breadth (more or less in proportion to the tartar you put in) and then the head and receiver being carefully fastened on again, in a gentle heat draw off the spirit of wine, shifting if you please the receiver, when about half is come over, and if need be, rectifying once more all that you distil upon dry calx of tartar as before. Whether or no you may meet with this method in some chymical books, I know not: but it seems, that either it has not been clearly taught, or has been proposed by suspecting authors, or else among other processes, by being found in whose company it has been discredited. For the most ancient and experienced distillers I have met with, have either contented themselves to follow the common way of repeated rectifications, though thereby they lose much time, and much spirit of wine; or else have had recourse to peculiar vessels of such a height, as besides that they are neither easily nor cheaply to be procured, do not, as far as I have hitherto seen, excuse the need of reiterated rectifications. Whereas, when we considered, that the fixed salt of tartar readily imbibes aqueous bodies, and that yet it will not at all mix with pure spirit of wine, it was easy to conclude, that the phlegmatic part of the spirit of wine would be soaked up by the alcalizate salt, whereby the inflammable part would be freed from it. And accordingly when we proceeded after the manner above prescribed, we found, that the liquor, that was produced upon the first rectification from the salt, being fired in a warm silver-spoon, did not leave behind it one drop of phlegm, or so much as the least moisture upon the spoon; nay, and indeed did endure a severer examen, to which for curiosity's sake we thought fit to put it. And when the distillation was carefully made, we found by frequently (for trial-sake) shifting the receiver, that all the spirit that ascended was (to sense) equally pure, since that which came up last of all, even till the calx seemed to begin to grow dry, by beginning to cleave at the top, did bum all away, as well as that which came over first. And having for further trial taken out the calcined tartar, and distilled it with a good fire, it yielded us pretty store of a nauseous and strongly scented liquor, which seemed to be but phlegm, both to the taste, and by its not being at all inflammable, though carefully tried. The same calx of tartar being kept in some earthen vessel upon the fire till it be well dried, which will require a good heat, may be employed more than once in this operation. And it was not needlesly that we prescribed bodies tall and slender; for we found not the experiment to succeed in large and low ones, and much less in retorts, in which the phlegm is wont to rise together with the spirit; yet we found, that provided the distillation were made with a sufficiently mild heat, a glass, though very broad, and but moderately high, would serve the turn so far, as that the first half that ascended (the other being very weak) proved a spirit, that in a silver-spoon would burn perfectly all away. And because white calx of tartar is sometimes not so easy to be procured, we will add, that we have for trial-sake sometimes substituted quicklime, or salt of pot-ashes (made by a single solution, filtration, and coagulation) with no bad success, especially in case of removing the receiver before the ascension of the last part of the liquor, though even that itself has sometimes from quick-lime come up inflammable enough. And therefore this alcohol of wine we peculiarly call the alcalizate spirit of wine; and the rather, because spiritus vini tartarizatus, which perhaps may be thought the properest name for it, is employed by eminent chymical writers to signify a different thing. And a practicable way of making such an alcalized and pure spirit of wine we thought not unfit to teach you here once for all, in regard the menstruum is so highly useful, not only for tinctures, extracts, and many other chymical operations, but in the making of divers philosophical experiments, and particularly some of those, which you may meet with in our writings. And an eminently ingenious person (but to me a stranger) chancing to get sight of this essay, was pleased to give me thanks for this last part of it; because, though he had very often made use of salt of tartar to improve spirit of wine, yet he did it before, not to dephlegm the weaker liquor, but to acuate the strong with the alcali: which though I deny not to be a thing feasible, yet (as I told him) unless it be skilfully attempted, the highly rectified liquor, that is poured on, will rather leave some of its most spiritous parts behind, than carry up so fixed a salt.1

If it were proposed to free weak spirit of wine, or aqua vitae, from a great part of its phlegm, the generality of distillers would think it not to be effected but by the help of fire and a furnace, an alembick, or some other distillatory vessels; and yet, without the help of any of an these instruments, I have sometimes taken pleasure to dephlegm brandy (as they call weak spirits of wine of the first distillation) only by putting it into salt of tartar. For considering the faculty this alkalizate body has to attract (as men commonly speak) or imbibe the aqueous particles that swim in the air, and resolve itself, with them into that liquor that the chymists call oil of tartar per deliquium, there seemed sufficient reason to expect, that the same salt, being put very dry into phlegmatick spirit of wine, would embody with the phlegmatick parts, with which, if it were not over-charged, it would probably keep them separate from the more spirituous liquor; since such oil of tartar as I have just now mentioned, and dephlegmed spirit of wine, will swim upon one another without mixing; and accordingly, I have sometimes taken pleasure, by putting a sufficient proportion of dry salt of tartar into brandy, and leaving it there for some time (for the experiment will, to be completed, require some while) to make some separation of a great part of the phlegm, which by degrees dissolving the salt, will reduce again part of it into a liquor that will keep its surface distinct from that of its supernatant spirit, and if confounded therewith, by the shaking of the glass, would speedily part from it, and regain its own station; and if you would have a separation of the phlegm begin to appear quickly, you may compass what you intend, by tying up a convenient quantity of dry salt of tartar in a dry rag of linen cloth, and immersing it a little while in the brandy, and then lifting it up a little above the liquor; for the phlegmatick parts being copiously imbibed in the salt, which will be thereby resolved into a ponderous liquor, will in drops (whose descent will be distinguishable enough, if the glass be held against the light) fall to the bottom of the spirit of wine. And lest you should suspect, that this descent comes not from their weight, but from the force they acquire in falling through the air, you may keep the rag immersed beneath the surface of the liquor, and yet may perceive the efflux and subsidence of the lixivium. we have been speaking of.2

These instances bring into my mind another chymical experiment, that I have seen made by the same gentleman, which was, that by putting into weak spirit of wine a sufficient quantity of salt of tartar, he quickly dephlegmed the spirit without distillation, or so much as heat. And this will the better illustrate the Cartesian explication, because it is manifest, by the change that will be made of the most part of salt of tartar into a liquor, that will not mix with the now dephlegmed spirit of wine, that the reason for the operation is, that the aqueous particles of the phlegmatick spirit, finding, it seems, more convenience, or facility, to continue their motion among the fixed corpuscles of the salt, than the vinous ones of the spirit, pass into the alkaly, and dissolve it; and thereby desert the liquor, through which they were diffused before. And I know another saline body, that so unites with water, as not to be, by the eye, distinguishable from it, and yet is of such a texture, that water is so much less disposed to mingle with it, than with spirit of wine itself, that it will forsake the body it kept in agitation, to pass into this spirit; and so leave that which it kept in the form of a liquor before, to appear in the form of a consistent body; which instance comes from what nearer, than the former, to the experiment of glaciation.3

And to let you see, Pyrophilus, by one plain, and yet noble instance, that the knowledge of the specific qualities of things, skilfully applied to preparations, may perform, with ease, what neither costly materials, nor elaborate processes are able to effect; give me leave to inform you, that, whereas chymists and physicians have not been able by infusing the true glass of antimony (made per se) in spirit of wine, or the richest cordial liquors, nor yet by torturing it after several tedious and artificial manners, to deprive it of its emetick quality; that vomitive faculty, of antimonial glass, may be corrected by so slight a way, as that of digesting it with pure spirit of vinegar, till the menstruum be highly tinged. For if you gently abstract all the liquor, and on the remaining yellow or red powder you digest well dephlegmated spirit of wine; you may after a while obtain a noble and not emetick tincture; of which though Basilius Valentinus prescribes but five or six drops for a dose, yet a domestick of mine having, out of curiosity, taken to the quantity of thirty drops at a time, he found it not at all vomitive. And this tincture we the rather mention, because, not only Basilius Valentinus, but other skillful persons, highly extol it for several diseases.4

1-Extract from The Works of the Honourable Robert Boyle (1627-1691), Vol. I, Pages 332, 333, London ~CLXXII (1772).
2 Ibid., Vol. Ill, Page 462.
3 Ibid., Vol. Ill, Page 749
4 Ibid., Vol. II, Pages 146, 147.



Questions and Answers

Q. Is Sal Gammae ever used in the Greater Work? If so, please explain.

A. Sal Gammae is rock salt as it comes out of the mines. A stone can also be made from it but should not be confused with the "great work."

Q. In case of ferrous sulfate crystals that we calcine to red giving the crocus of iron, if these are obtained from a chemical supply, are these dead?

A. If made from common iron, like cast iron, etc., yes.

Q. If they are dead, what is an efficient method to come up with an aliveness in them? Is it not possible to revivify these commercially made dead salts?

A. Yes, with an alkahest.

Q. After they are calcined to the red, then extracted, washed, then distilled, would the mercury obtained from the sulphurous earth be alive enough to revivify the dead earth, thereby making what was dead alive by art? Or must a virgin substance be the only way to obtain an alive substance?

A. Yes.

Q. It seems that the saying that nothing is destroyed by fire, only substance is purified, applies here. That is, if one takes a dead salt or crystal in this case, opens it, purifies it, reduces it to its first matter by distillation, this, when returned to earth, is revivified?

A. No.

Q. We take an acetate, distill the acetic off (flash evaporator) under vacuum. The sulphur thickens to a heavy oil consistency. Evaporation is stopped. Distilled water is added and evaporation by distillation is resumed. This is again taken to the thick oil state. More distilled water is added. Now, the pH increases towards neutral. Here is the first question: When the smell changes from the acetic smell to the individual smell of the sulphur (that is, lead acetate smells different than the antimony acetate), how can we tell when to stop? In the case of the antimony, it begins to smell like the vinegar of antimony instead of acetic.

A. When you get the pH 7, or close to it, then stop.

Q. How can we be sure we haven't "distilled the strength out of it" besides the smell?

A. By testing its solvency on other substances of a similar nature.

Q. The distillate from the distilled water washing smells like the vinegar of antimony. Is it the same? If it is, then one would then separate the salts from this water by distillation and by repeated distillation we would sharpen the water?

A. Yes.

Q. When the sulphur is dry, as in Basil, one circulates this sulphur with K.M. until the golden tincture shows. This will come over when the K.M. and the sulphur have been amalgamated (as the Old Ones say). Is the purpose here to make the fixed volatile?

A. As you put it, yes.

Q. Can you omit the K.M. circulation altogether and then distill?

A. Yes, but the result will not be the same.

Q. When you take this washed acetate with KM, distill the K.M. off, and slowly raise the heat, first comes a clear water, very sharp (we will call this #1). Then comes a golden colored oil (we will call this #2). The #1 is clear in all the example experiments. The #2 is not always the same color but varies according to what sulphur we are using. Is the first one (#1) what is called the lunar water and the second (#2) the alchemical sulphur?

A. The first no, #2 part of it.

Q. The two together making philosophical gold (from antimony in this case). The remaining earth is now black. To purify this earth and to purify the mercury, do we grind the earth and put back the distillates together on the earth and distill under vacuum to purify - or do we just use #1 water alone to accomplish the whitening of the earth? Is there a leaching process useful here? It seems that putting all three together is more like the herbal work.

A. The two mentioned above do not make the philosophical gold. The great work is similar to the little work as all three have to be used.

Q. So far in my experiments, the two waters have been kept separate #1 and #2). Is the #1 water the useless phlegm the Old Ones talk of? I think not, but it seems like it could be just chemical water, that is, as opposed to the physical water that would be left from the washing.

A. # 1 yes.

Q. Do we have to circulate the acetate or sulphur with KM? What do we get if we just distill the sulphur when it is washed and dry? Without circulating it first?

A. We don't get the same result.

Q. The unfixed oil of antimony was made with acetone. Evaporated all the acetone. Added spirit of wine (200 proof). When this is evaporated to a thick solid oil and then distilled, you get an oil. Can you help me see the difference between the distilled oil just mentioned and the tincture in the spirit of wine? Especially in respect to dose. Understanding, of course, that these are potent things, would it still be a fixed oil? Is the difference that of a tincture and an alchemical oil? Is this again the philosophical gold (the distilled oil)?

A. The tincture has the oil in solution. They are not fixed and it is not the philosophical gold.

Q. The acetic acid that is removed from the acetate, if the substance started with was a virgin ore, would you then have a strong mineral vinegar, as Basil calls for? Or is that which he refers to the vinegar of antimony? Can you use this, the acetic acid removed from the acetate, when Basil calls for a strong mineral vinegar?

A. It is neither.

Q. What is the difference between the vinegar of antimony and the two waters #1 and #2? Is it only that one is fixed and the other unfixed? It seems that the distilled oil is very volatile, not as the vinegar of antimony. Is it that one is the Alcahest of antimony (vinegar) and the other the Mercury? Basil calls the oil distilled from antimony the quintessence. Is the quintessence the same as the mercury?

A. The vinegar of antimony is prepared differently and is fixed and fixes what it comes in contact with. The Alkahest and Mercury are the same. The quintessence of antimony is its oil.

Q. What is the medicinal value of Oil and Vinegar of Uranium?

A. Not established.

Q. What precautions against radiation are necessary when performing alchemical experiments with Uranium ore?

A. Those required by Federal Regulations.

Q. Since coal is a fossil fuel of primarily vegetable matter, the radical vegetable menstruum will obviously suffice to separate its principles. The resultant Elixir, under Saturn, would clearly be useful for treating diseases of the skeletal system. Would the Vegetable Stone made from coal be a diamond? St. Germain and Cagliostro were reputed to have made innumerable diamonds by alchemical means. Was this their secret? At what temperature should the kiln be set to produce such a Stone in perfection? Can a diamond, produced by natural means, as opposed to art, be used to remove impurities of herbs in maceration? Is this a workable hint concerning the occult properties of gems and precious stones?

A. The Vegetable Stone would not be a diamond. The making of precious stones requires the philosophical mercury.

Q. Must one separate the True Universal Gur into animal, mineral, and vegetable components before attempting to mold it into the life form of a particular kingdom; or will it automatically take on the characteristics of the kingdom in which it is formed? If this separation is actually necessary, how is it performed?

A. The Gur is separated and retains its characteristics.

Q. The importance of water to all life has caused us to wonder if the procedure taught to us using rain water to obtain an Archaeus could also be used on the salt water to make it usable for drinking and growing purposes?

A. It would still have to be distilled.