Volume VII: Number 1 Winter 1979




The Philosophical Mercury p.601
Questions and Answers p.618
Salt - back cover

The Philosophical Mercury

Liber enim Librum aperit*

In the last several issues of PARACHEMY many hints and clues have been given concerning the nature and isolation of the Philosophical Mercury. In this article an attempt is made to piece together these hints and references to show how the Philosophical Mercury might be obtained.

The first important reference was given in an article on the Philosophical Mercury by Frater Albertus: "I have before me the text of the section on Chemistry in the Encyclopedia Brittanica of 1771 where the process is outlined, though even unknown to the author thereof what he came up with is indeed the philosophical mercury."1

The one problem with this reference is that, unfortunately, no page number was given. It would be very easy to overlook the particular process because the entire section is filled with various processes dealing with a multitude of substances. So one must either have the eyes to see or a second piece of information. Not having the eyes, a second hint was looked for. This hint came in the form of a question in a recent issue of PARACHEMY which is quoted in full: "Q. When Von Bernus attempted to produce the Philosophical Mercury, he observed a poisoning effect - 'the flies are falling down dead.' The same is mentioned in the article in the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Volatile lead compounds may distill over and escape into the air. Could you please point out the danger?"2 With this new piece of information the task of finding the reference made by Frater Albertus was made easier. All that was necessary to do was to go through all the processes that dealt with lead and see which ones mentioned the poisonous qualities of lead. For those who do not have access to this work, what was found is quoted almost entirely here:

"Reduce a quantity of ceruse into powder; put it into a matras; pour on it twelve or fifteen times as much distilled vinegar; set the matras in a sandbath; leave the matter in digestion for a day, shaking it from time to time: then decant your liquor, and keep it apart. Pour fresh vinegar on what is left in the matras, and digest as before. Proceed thus till you have dissolved one half, or two thirds, of the ceruse.
"Evaporate to a pellicle the liquors you poured off from the ceruse, and set them in a cool place. Greyish crystals will shoot therein. Decant the liquor from the crystals; evaporate it again to a pellicle, and set it by to crystallise. Proceed thus evaporating and crystallising, as long as any crystals will shoot. Dissolve your crystals in distilled vinegar, and evaporate the solution, which will then shoot into whiter and purer crystals. This is the salt, or sugar of lead.
"Lead is easily dissolved by the acid of vinegar. If it be barely exposed to the vapour of that acid, its surface is corroded, and converted into a kind of calax or white rust, much used in painting, and is known by the name of ceruse, or white lead . . .
"The salt of lead hath a saccharine taste, which hath procured it the name also of sugar of lead. For this reason, when wine begins to turn sour, the sure way to cure it of that disagreeable taste, is to substitute a sweet one which is not disagreeable to the taste, by mixing therewith ceruse, litharge, or some such preparation of lead; for the acid of the wine dissolves the lead, and therewith forms a sugar of lead, which remains mixed with the wine, and bath a taste which, joined with that of the wine, is not unpleasant. But, as lead is one of the most dangerous poisons we know, this method ought never to be practiced; and whoever uses such a pernicious drug deserves to be most severly punished. Yet some thing very like this happens every day, and must needs have very bad consequences; while there is nobody to blame, and those to whom the thing may prove fatal can have no mistrust of it.
"Salt of lead may be decompounded by distillation without additament. In order to perform this, you must put the salt of lead into a glass or stone retort, leaving a full third thereof empty, and distil in a reverberating furnace with degrees of fire. A spirit rises, which fins the receiver with clouds. When nothing more will come over with a fire that makes the retort red-hot, let the vessels cool, and then unlute them. You will find in the receiver an austere liquor, which is inflammable; or, at least, an inflammable spirit may be obtained from it, if about one half thereof be drawn off by distillation in a glass alembic. The retort in which the salt of lead was decompounded contains, at the end of the operation, a blackish matter: this is lead, which will resume its metallic form on being melted in a crucible; because the acid by which it was dissolved, and from which it hath been separated, being of a very oily nature, hath left in it a sufficient quantity of phlogiston.
'What is most remarkable in this decomposition of salt of lead, is the inflammable spirit which it yields, though the vinegar which entered into the composition of the salt seemed to contain none at all."3

We also find a similar process in "The Art of Distillation" which is quoted in its entirety:

"Take the Calx of Saturn, or else Minium, pour upon it so much Spirit of Vinegar that may cover it four fingers breadth, digest them in a warm place the space of twenty four hours, often stirring them that the matter settle not too thick in the bottom: then decant the Menstruum, and pour on more, digest it as before, and this do so often until all the saltness be extracted. Filter and clarify all the Menstruum being put together, then evaporate it half away, and set the other part in a cold place till it crystalize. These Crystals dissolve again in fresh Spirit of Vinegar, filter and coagulate the Liquor again into Crystals, and this do so often until they be sufficiently impregnated with the salt Armoniak of the Vinegar as with their proper ferment. Digest them in a temperate Balneo, that they may be resolved into a Liquor like Oil. Then distill this Liquor in Sand in a Retort, with a large receiver annexed to it, and well closed that no Spirits evaporate, together with the Observation of the degrees of the fire: then there will distill forth a Spirit of such a fragrant smell that the fragrancy of all flowers, and compounded perfumes are not to be compared to it. After Distillation when all things are cold takeout, and cast away the black feces which is of no use. Then separate the yellow Oil, which swims on the top of the Spirit, and the blood red Oil which sinks to the bottom of it: Separate the flegm. from the Spirit in Balneo. Thou shalt by this means have a most fragrant Spirit that even ravisheth the senses, and so Balsamicall, that it cures all old and new sores inward and outward, and so cordiall that the dying are with admiration revived with it.
"They that have this medicine need scarce use any other either for inward, or outward griefs." 4

And again:


"Take the mineral of Venus or Saturn, and drive their spirits in a retort; each of these dissolveth gold radically, after its purification.


"Take pulverised ore of Saturn, or vulgar Saturn calcined; its salt with Acetum or its antinae (anima?); purify it in the best manner, that it may be transparent as crystal, and sweet as honey, and be fluid in heat like wax, and brittle when cold. This is the tree which is cut off, of unwholesome fruits, on which must be inoculated the twigs of Sol.5

It can not be mistaken that the three quotes above are talking about the same thing. But is it the Philosophical Mercury? There are two reasons why a conclusion can be drawn that it is: the quote by Frater Albertus given earlier and the reference to the odor of the distillate in the second quote, "... there will distill forth a Spirit of such a fragrant smell that the fragrancy of all flowers, and compounded perfumes are not to be compared to it.".6

Compare this to the following quotes from several sources of different times and places. The first is from the modern alchemist Archibald Cockren: "A friend has described this odour as resembling the dewy earth on a June morning with the hint of growing flowers in the air, the breath of the wind over heather and hill, and the sweet smell of the rain on the parched earth."7
From "The Testament of Cremer" we find a similar passage: "When this happy event takes place, the whole house will be filled with a most wonderfully sweet fragrance; then will be the day of the Nativity of the most blessed Preparation.."8
We also find in "Le Livre Des Figures Hieroglifiques de Nioclas Flamel" the following: "Finalement je trouvay ce que je desirolis, ce que je reconnus aussi tost par la senteur forte."(sic) Which translated reads, "Finally I have found what I desired, which I immediately recognized by the strong scent." (la senteur can also be translated as odor or perfume). And finally in an interview with Frater Albertus we find a reference to the smell of the Philosophical Mercury. The quote is as follows: "Q. What is it? A. The Philosophical Mercury. Q. May I smell it? A. Yes. Q. It reminds me of something but I can't recall what right now."10

So from all the above quotes, the conclusion is that the Philosophical Mercury can be obtained from the Salt of Saturn, also called Sugar of Lead (lead acetate), by a dry distillation followed by successive rectifications. However, it isn't enough to pull a series of quotes together and leave it at that. The final proof of this statement is to be found in the laboratory, where practical experimentation will either prove or disprove the above hypothesis. Those who are prepared and ready will take advantage of this article and either prove or disprove for themselves the veracity of it, and by so doing take us further by sharing with us the results of their experiments.


*One book opens another. -Rhasis
Frater Albertus, "The Philosophical Mercury," Parachemy, Vol. V, No. 1, p. 395.
2 Questions and Answers," Parachemy, Vol. VI, No. 4, p. 592.
"Chemistry," Encyclopedia Britannica, 1771, Vol. 1, pp. 169-170.
4 John French, The Art of Distillation, (London: Richard Cotes, 1651), Book 3, pp. 73-74.
5 The Alchemical Writings of Edward Kelly, ed. and trans. A. E. Waite, (New York: Samuel Weiser Inc., 1973), p. Ivi. This work (Saint Dunstan of the Stone of the Philosophers) can also be found in Parachemy, Vol. I, No. 2, p. 45, under the title of "Alchemistical Compositum."
6 French, op. cit., p.74.
7 Archibald Cockren Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored, (Calif., Health Research Reprints, 1963), p. 123.
8 The Hermetic Museum, ed. and trans. A.E. Waite, (New York: Samuel Weiser Inc., 1974), Vol, 11, pp. 75-76.
9 Claude Gagnon, Description du Livre des Figures Hieroglyphiques .... (Montreal: Les Editions de l'Aurore, 1977), p. 89.
10 'Interviews with Frater Albertus' Parachemy, Vol. VI No. 2, p. 522.



Questions And Answers

Q. Is is possible to buy the Sb2O3 from a manufacturer without learning too late it might be the wrong kind?

A. Yes, indeed.

Q. What is the powder of Algarath or mercurious vitae?

A. Algarath is antimony oxychloride. It is a white amorphorous powder insoluble in water or alcohol. Mercurious vitae is living mercury - quicksilver.

Q. Omphacium is unripe grape juice. Basil, Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, page 109, uses it on antimony glass to open the glass or something. Can you speak of what this is doing to the glass? And once I have extracted the juice of the unripe grapes, do they need to be distilled or worked with in some way before using?

A. It is the potassium contained in unripe grape juice that helps in the fusion of the glass while imparting at the same time some of the essence of tartar.

Q. Please comment on the medical values of the spirit of sulphur versus sulphur of sulphur. Also, can the spirit of sulphur dissolve our various minerals and metals? Under what conditions?

A. Spirit of sulphur is a clear liquid whereas oil of sulphur is a viscous yellowish tinted oil. The medicinal values are that oil of sulphur is a preservative for the flesh of the body and spirit of sulphur, because of its penetrative nature, becomes an excellent agent to help disperse various medicines added to it.

Q. What is the liquid obtained when I place a purified salt in a cool, moist place for a period of time? Example: K2C03, Juniper berry salt.

A. Some salts are very hygroscopic and attract from the moist air essential substances like free nitrogen to enrich the distillate therefrom.

Q. Basil in The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony seems to suggest in several places that the oils of antimony fixed are without venom and the unfixed oils still have some venom. Please comment on this. See pages 36, 89, 127-128.

A. When some of the salts are found within a tincture such are toxic. See also further along more on this question.

Q. Regarding Cockren's Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored, page 126, what was the ratio of Philosophic Gold to the salt?

A. There is no set ratio because the salt will absorb as much of the philosophic gold as it finds is needed to fully saturate it for further action.

Q. Basil talks about 1) venetian earth 2) clay of the sages 3) oil of vitriol 4) oil of red vitriol 5) St. Benedict's cordial, page 164 of Triumphal Chariot of Antimony. What do these things mean?

A. 1) borax 2) Balus Alba 3) true oil of sulphur 4) true oil of iron 5) As the name indicates, a cordial.

Q. I have used to make the herbal tinctures 90 proof vodka. Will I reduce its potency if I would dilute the vodka with water so that it will be 40 to 50 proof and then use it to make the tinctures?

A. It will only weaken the extraction media and may take somewhat longer to extract the herb.

Q. How much is the potency of an herbal tincture increased when after calcination of its plant part the salt is added to the tincture?

A. The mineral contents will increase the potency.

Q. Can an herb come under the influence of two planets? It was mentioned in an herbal book that certain plants are to be found under the influence of the Moon and Jupiter. Please comment.

A. There have been several disputed opinions on this matter by various authors. When more of the seven planets are taken into account, the other half tone value will then make a correction possible.

Q. We have the garden sage and the mountain sage which to my understanding are different. Is this correct?

A. Yes. Garden sage is under Jupiter; Mountain sage under Venus.

Q. Is it essential that only the crude black ore of antimony be used for medical preparations?

A. As the primary substance from which all other preparations Are made, it should be used to assure that the substances are kept alive.

Q. Is the seed destroyed in Red Antimony Sulphide?

A. No.

Q. Is there a maximum temperature in making glass of antimony?

A. Yes, when the temperature is too high, antimony glass will volatilize.

Q. Is the golden color antimony trioxide suitable for medicinal purposes?

A. Yes.

Q. Basil Valentinus writes, "Dissolve and nourish the red lion with the blood of the green lion, since the fixed blood of the red lion is made from the volatile blood of the green one, which makes them both of the same nature." Is this a true statement, properly translated? Would you elucidate a little please?

A. It is a correct translation which has been substantiated in the laboratory.

Q. When by slow distillation on low heat and under a vacuum one has drawn off the KM from the colored tincture of the glass of Antimony (prepared in the Soxhlet), why does one then have to raise the heat and, after changing receivers, drive the oil of Antimony over? What is NOT purified in the residue left after all the KM is driven off? I suspect a process here regarding purification not yet explained to us? Comment please.

A. Some of the glass of antimony particles can be thrown down and remain behind when further distillations are made. This goes also for the fixed antimony, when some residue remains after the oil or tincture has been removed.

Q. When Alchemists refer to proportions, e.g. 2 to 1, does this invariably mean by weight? Not ever by volume, if volume is not specifically stated?

A. It refers mostly to weight. When volume is called for, it will be specified.

Q. Did I hear you right when you said that the body converts its iron intake into manganese?

A. We do not recall such an incident, unless a specific case was considered by way of comparison.

Q. Please comment on the uses of the Para Theriac and in what ways it can benefit those who take it. I have heard that it is even effective against diabetes. Is this true?

A. Para Theriac now renamed Tincture Paracelsus, because of FDA regulations, is said to have been used in addition to other medications and alone against diabetes. However, these are individual testimonies and cannot be considered clinical evaluation. The overwhelming majority of claims that have been made by users is the benefit of invigorated circulation in the body.

Q. Regarding antimony extracted with acetone. What is left in the fluid after precipitation? Is it salt of antimony and useful for medication?

A. Salts of antimony should never be used as medication except under the strict supervision of a qualified doctor.

Q. Can we purchase oil of tartar for alchemical purposes or do we have to make it?

A. It would be a boon to mankind if oil of tartar could be purchased like oil of wintergreen and such. Unfortunately, very few even know how to make it for themselves.

Q. Regarding 'Angel Water': 1) Can you collect more 'Angel water' from argol or the vine? 2) Would calcined oak or oak bark draw 'Angel Water?' 3) Should you discontinue collecting 'Angel Water' when the sun rises and resume when the sun sets? 4) Can you drink 'Angel Water' without harmful results?

A. 1) After the argol has been recalcined. 2) If it contains potassium. 3) Let not the sun shine on it as it would evaporate. 4) Do not drink it! One drop in a glass of water is permissable, as it is highly alkaline.

Q. What significance is there in the fact that Taoist alchemists talk of five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and wood?

A. Wood is used as an example as it consists of the four elements.

Q. Hyssop appears to be used several times in the Holy Bible: John 19:29, Jesus is given sour wine and hyssop while on the cross; Psalms 5L7, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean." Ex. 12.11 Moses called to take a lamb and kill it at passover - "And take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel." Please comment on the meaning and the value of such an herb having such religious focus.

A. Many herbs are mentioned in the bible. As it says above: "Purge" me with Hyssop indicates the quality of the herb and in its religious sense a cleansing or purging of the body and soul are considered essential.

Q. If acetic acid is used for a menstruum on antimony (or any metal), how can its poisonous nature be removed?

A. By distilling and washing it to a neutral state.

Q. In one of the previous classes you talked about the Shroud of Turin. It shows a number of remarkable features, e.g. the nail through the proper space in the wrist (the 'space of Destot') and not the palm, and a very noble face, like one imagines the face of a righteous king. What is the Shroud of Turin?

A. A piece of cloth believed to be the one in which Jesus the Christ was wrapped when he was taken from the cross. It is unusual but still of questionable origin.

back cover


Each and every thing is the Salt of the earth, and its beauty is here for us to experience. The manifestation of Salt differs with each kingdom, and within each kingdom Salt differs from one plant to another, from one metal and mineral to another, from one animal to another, as it differs from one human to another.

In accordance with the law of polarity, Salt has its dual aspects. It is tangible in that it is known in a solid form; it is intangible in that it is known by a subtle essence it imparts, a vital and particular quality that distinguishes it. The solid substance of Salt, the body, is of no value without its intangible counterpart, for the value itself is in the essence, the spirit and soul, that is found within the solid form.

A body with little vitality or poor in quality is not of much worth. It is as the Salt which has lost its savor. It is too weak or deficient in essence to retain for much longer its form or to serve some useful purpose. In the ever on-going process of evolution it is replaced by that which is superior to it. Continually the state, the body, of all things changes, due to various causes.

When the process of purification is the cause of such a change, there is witnessed a remarkable transformation of Salt. It takes on a new body and its old body is cast away, for there is no longer anything of value in it. What is of value is now found within the new body, and it is possible, in this transformed body, for there to be an essence more potent in its vitalness and of a finer and more useful quality. The transformation of Salt through the process of purification takes place in all of the kingdoms, though the manner of such a transformation varies according to the substance worked with. The purification of Salt, of its body, soul, and spirit, makes possible changes on earth that are especially beneficial.

A beauty can be seen in all the Salt that is of the earth, in the old that is passing away and in the new that is appearing. In its time, the old served a useful purpose. With the new, there can be a rejoicing in each effort that is required to bring about and to establish bodies having in them more vital and finer qualities.

Just as we may, in a certain manner, see and know our own body with its own particular weight and dimensions, so we may, in a certain manner, see and know what kind of essence is attracted to it. Through a sincere effort, not only can we ensure that we do not lose our savor, but we can strive to secure within us a greater vitality and those finer qualities especially needed in our world at this time.