For the sake of accuracy we have typed the Introductory Essay verbatim, in every respect. With Bro. Yarker’s statement regarding the Rosicrucian Societies, those who are well informed on the subject will take issue and it is clear to members of the Fraternity who have investigated the historical side of the Fraternity that Bro Yarker was not only badly informed in this particular area but also that he berates with a decided pro-Masonic leaning, conveying the idea that the Rosicrucians were a sort of appendage of Freemasonry whereas we have every reason to believe that Freemasonry owes its origin to the Rosicrucian Brotherhood. – Frank Modica.
In order to form a just estimate of the following Treatise, attributed to Hermes Trismegistus – as the Greeks termed Thoth – it will be necessary to consider that in all time there has been two opposing schools of science, or, as we may perhaps be permitted to term them, the positive and negative schools of thought – Theosophical and Materialistic Science.
The Grand old Egyptian cult proceeded in its researches upon the axiom that as all things were produced from primordial or first matter by the will and meditation of the One eternal mind, so all things were again resolvable to their first principle. The Father, of all Being, was the Sun, symbolizing Spirit, the Mother the Moon, symbolizing first matter and generation; and from these all nature had birth. It was the belief of the Adepts that in immense cycles everything would again be resolved into first principles. It was upon this basis that Theosophic Science proceeded, and sought by art the mode of transmuting one thing into another, or, to take one instance, to transform the baser metals into pure gold.
Amongst the occult sciences carefully studied by the Egyptian priesthood were Astrology and Alchemy. It is not possible, in our present knowledge, to assign an approximate date when Alchemy, the father of modern Chemistry, became a recognized science, or even to follow its development with precision. But whether we accept the Hebrew story of the Golden Calf as a literal fact, or an allegory of the time of Solomon, it at any rate proves that if Moses, or a later priest, could resolve gold to powder, the Egyptians, from whom that chemical problem was derived, were advanced in the science. This assumed qualification of Moses was greedily seized upon by the old Alchemists as a proof that the ancient lawgiver was an Adept of their secret fraternity; and they even gave out that an apocryphal work on the science was written by the Jewish king, Solomon. They also applied the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece to allegorise transmutation.
We consider that there is internal evidence in the works attributed to Hermes to prove that, though garbled by the later Greeks, they yet enshrine, with perhaps some redundancy, the actual doctrine of the Egyptian Thoth. The Egyptian priests are said by the various writers to have preserved the original scriptures down to the period of Greek domination; but those that have come down to us under the name of Hermes are the oral versions received in the course of secret initiation. The original books of Thoth, being in a language known only to the priests of Mizraim, have hence become lost to our generation.
These remarks, upon the Hermetic writings generally, apply equally to the following Tractate. The nature of the doctrine, as we have enunciated it, necessitates that Alchemical Science should be taught by Theosophical Symbolism; so consistently is this form continued throughout the Ages, that in some cases it is problematical whether even practical Alchemy is intended, and it is clear that in some later instances of the use of Alchemical jargon the object was entirely Theosophical instruction.
The language of this Tractate is Osirian, and much less complicated than the works of the later Alchemists. Thus, where they use the planets to typify Metals, and qualify the trinity of being, as Salt, Sulphur, Mercury, the following Tractate adopts theological qualifications used by the people, or the priests for them, of the trinity of Osiris, Isis and Horus. Thus: we must marry our Crowned King to our Red Daughter, who conceives an excellent and supernatural Son. But our Son, the King begotten, takes his tincture from the fire. Our dead Son lives. The Son already vivified is become a warrior in the fire. Venus begets light, liquifies, her brother being conjoined. Join the Son to the daughter of water, which is Jupiter and a hidden secret. The King: I am crowned with a Royal Diadem;… rest with gladness in the arms of my mother. It needs a very superficial acquaintance with the legends of Osiris, Isis and Horus, to discover the parallel Symbolism, by which this metallic son of the Sun was compared with the Son of Isis and Osiris. It is also noteworthy and curious that the magnet was termed the bones of Horus.
It is clear that we have here the most ancient form of teaching Alchemy as a secret science and also an Egyptian form; and it may not be without interest to our readers to take a short review of the trials and progress of Alchemical literature.
In A.D,. 296, the Emperor Diocletian sought out and burnt all the Egyptian works on Alchemy and other occult sciences. In A.D. 320 we find Julius Firmicius, the Astrologer, attributing a good or bad constellation of the heavens to the professors of Alchemy. Zosimus, the Panopolite, has an express Treatise, “Of the Divine Art of Making Gold and Silver”. Synesius about A.D. 400, has Alchemical references. Cedrenus (A.D. 491) gives an example of a magician who professed Alchemy. Morienus (a Hermit, whose works were translated from Arabic into Latin as early as A.D. 1182) learned the Art of Transmutation, or the Great Elixir, at Rome of Adsar, an Alexandrian and a Christian, and afterwards taught it to Calid, or Evelid, the son of Gizid the Second, who was King of Egypt about the year A.D. 725. Successors continued the science. Geber, about A.D. 730, devoted his life to Alchemy. His true name was Abou Moussah Djafar – Al Sofi, or “The Wise”. He was born at Houran, in Mesopotamia, and we are indebted to him for the first mention of corrosive sublimate, red oxide of Mercury, and nitrate of Silver. In the 10th century flourished Alfarabi, who enjoyed the reputation of being the most learned man of his age. Another great Alchemist – born at Bokara A.D. 980, died 1036 – was Avicenna, whose real name was Ebu Cinna. After this time but few Arabian philosophers of note are mentioned by name, but Alchemy began to attract attention in Spain, into which country the Moors had introduced it, and it encouraged the attentive study of Arnauld de Villeneuve, Raymond Lulli, and Roger Bacon, who, in common with like philosophers, sought, he says, “to hide the discoveries of the wise from a multitude unworthy to possess them.”
Other students of Alchemy and the occult sciences may be named:- Artephius wrote, in the 12th century, the “Art of Prolonging Human Life”; and is understood to intimate that he had attained 1026 years of age, and had paid a visit to Hades. Alphonso, King of Castilee, is said to have written the Tesoro in A.D. 1272, but many believe the work to be a later forgery. It is a small parchment volume of about ten leaves, of which no less than 62 paragraphs consist of unintelligible cyphers, and the book fastens with a curious double lock. William de Lorris begun the Roman de Rose about A.D. 1282, and was assisted by Jean de Meung, who wrote the “Remonstrance of Nature to the Wandering Alchemist”, and the “Reply of the Alchemist to Nature”.We may also mention Albertus Magnus (born 1234, died 1314), the actual designer of Cologne Cathedral.
Isaac Hollandus wrote in the 14th century “De Triplici Ordini Elixiris et Lapidis Theoria” and “Mineralis Opera seu de Lapide Philosophico”,Bernard of Treves (born 1406, died 1490, at Rhodes) was author of several treatises, of which the chief are “The Book of Chemistry”,”VerbumDimissum”,and an essay, “De Natura Ovi”.Nicholas Flammel had by chance purchased in the year 1357 an old book, written in Latin by “Abraham Patriarch, Jew, Prince, Philosopher. Priest, Levite, Astrologer”.It was written with a steel instrument upon the bark of trees, and contained 3 x 7 leaves. Each seventh leaf was a picture. The first had a serpent swallowing rods; the second, a cross with a serpent crucified; the third represented a desert, in which was a fountain, with serpents crawling from side to side. The first page had a picture of Mercury attacked by Saturn; the reverse side represented a flower growing on a mountain top, and around it a number of dragons. The first page of the fifth leaf had a rose-tree in full bloom, supported by the trunk of a gigantic oak at the foot of which was a fountain of milk-white water, the reverse had a royal person superintending the execution of a number of children, whose blood being collected into a large vessel, two allegorical figures of the sun and moon are bathing therein. The account of Flammel is that until 1382, being then near 50 years of age, he made little progress when he accomplished a projection of Mercury and had some excellent silver. He wrote the “Philosophic Summary” three treatises upon Natural Philosophy, and an Alchemical allegory, entitled “Le Desir Desire” and died in 1415, aged 116 years, having from a poor scrivener enriched himself with great wealth, which he applied to charitable purposes.
Basil Valentine (born 1414) is well known in his “Triumphal Chariot of Antimony”.Other Alchemists of this century were Thomas Norton, who wrote the Ordinal; Sir George Ripley was accused of providing means for the Knights of St. John by means of the Philosopher’s Stone, and in 1477 dedicated to King Edward IV, his “Compound, of Alchemy”,or the twelve gates. Sandivogius (born about 1550 died 1636 was a well-known Alchemist to whom all later writers deferred. We may mention a few other occultists here of less note: Peter d’Apona (born near Padua 1250 wrote several works on Magic and was accused by the Inquisition of possessing seven spirits each enclosed In a crystal vessel who taught him the seven liberal arts and sciences. He died upon the rack. Alain de Lisle, of Flanders, had the name of the “Universal Doctor”, was born about 1188 and died a Friar of the Abbey of Citeaux in 1298 aged 110 years. Pope John XXII, was a friend of Arnauld de Villeuneuve wrote a work on Transmutation and had a famous laboratory at Avignon. Robert Grostete, Bishop of Lincoln, 1235, and Michael Scott of Balwirie, country of Fife, laboured under the imputation of Magic, Astrology, and Alchemy. Gower says that Grostete made a head of brass which was able to foretell future events; he was the patron of Roger Bacon of whom as well as of Albert Magnus is told a similar story. In the year 1256 Picatrix, of Spain, compiled a Magical Work – a Summary of 224 old works on the occult sciences. Cecco d’Ascodi was burnt at Florence in 1327. John Dowston an Englishman, lived in 1315 and wrote two treatises on the Philosopher’s Stone. Peter, of Lombardy, in 1330, wrote a complete treatise on Hermetic Science. John de Rupicissa flourished in 1357 and wrote several works. Charles VI., of France, wrote the “Treasury of Philosophy”. Robert, of York, lived in 1350 and wrote “De Magia Coeremoniali”, ” “De Mysteris Secretorum”,and “De Miribilibus Elementorum”.John Aurello Augurello (born 1441, died 1524 ) dedicated to Pope Leo X an Alchemical work, entitled “Chrysopeia”.The Abbe Trithemius, the friend and master of Cornelius Agrippa wrote works on Geomancy, Sorcery, Alchemy, and the movement of the World by Presiding Angels. About 1488 Kofftsky wrote the “Tincture or Minerals”.Henry VI of England patronized Alchemy, and gave a permit to two Lancashire Alchemists, named Trattord and Ashton.
A man of great notoriety and eminence was Phillpus Aurelius Theophrastus Bombastus Paracelsus de Hohenheim. He was induced to study by a perusal of the works of Isaac Hollandus and the Abbe Trithemius was his instructor in metals. In his varied travels he visited Egypt, Tartary, and Constantinople, and learned the great secret at the latter place; his works indicate an advanced knowledge or the whole science and principles of Magnetism, and he is credited with the introduction of the use of opium and mercury into medicine.
Contemporary with him was the celebrated Dr. Faustus, a Pole; he is mentioned by Camerarius Wierius, Melancthon, Gesner, and Luther. Amongst the followers of this Magnetic School we find Bodenstein and Dormius. Paracelsus says: “Every peasant sees that a magnet will attract iron – but a wise man must enquire for himself. I have discovered that the magnet, besides the visible power of attracting iron, possesses another and concealed power”.Trithemius says that he could “at any time send his soul to hold converse with his friends even if they were in prison”.Pomponaz Basil, 1517, writes: “There are men, who, through the power of the will can produce most marvelous phenomena and cures. But in order to effect these perfectly you must have faith and love, and a fervent desire to help the sick and for this every one is not qualified. The sick, too must have faith”.Jerome Cardan (born 1541, died 1576) claimed the faculty, at will, of divorcing the soul from the body.
It would have been easy to us to have vastly extended these notices of the old Alchemists, but we fear to tire the reader with dry details. The period had also arrived when, with the dissolution of Monasteries, the system of initiations with solemn ceremonies and oaths were adopted by Lay Fraternities, various Rites or Rosicrucians became general, and in some measure the fame of the individual was swallowed up by the Fraternities entitled Rosicrucians. The leaders were Fludd in England, Maier in Germany, Vaughan in England; this latter was the author of many valuable works, which it would be well to reproduce; his “Fame and Confession” in English claims for the society the translation of Arabian books on Alchemy. Ashmole, in the latter part or his life, gave much attention to Alchemy, as also Wren and Boyle.
The Association of Rosicrucians sought to penetrate the Secrets of the Infinite at the source of Knowledge and, with a mighty faith accompanied all operations of the furnace and crucible with fasting, prayer, and invocations of the invisible powers. They seem to have taught that all matter consists of three principles – Body, or Sulphur; Soul, Mercury; Spirit, Salt. This triplicity of nature is variously described by philosophers; St. Paul uses the term bodily, Soul, Spirit; St. Augustine, will, understanding, memory; one philosopher says that man is intelligence, activity, sensibility; another, sensation, sentiment, cognition; matter, spirit, force. As all proceeds from one thing, so the first matter of all metals and substances is a fixed something, altered by the diversities of place, warmth, and sulphurs. This something is styled mercury, the green lion the seed. Seminal impressions, being lodged in the earth, fire, and watery fermentations, bring forth, whence proceeds all of the three kingdoms or nature. This primordial substance is in its first stage the Alkahest, or mineral solvent; in the second stage, like clear water, having within it all the elements of physical being, and even the breath of life itself in a latent state. The Alchemical operation was to separate the mercury-soul, or water of life from the spirit-salt, or sperm – and purify the dross body, or sulphur. The whole process was compared with the gestation of the fetus. Hence the first was the Woman, Wife, Queen, Moon, Luna; the second, the Man, Husband, King, Sun, Sol. This conjunction was symbolised by a point within a circle, and the offspring, the purified metal, was the Son, the noble child, or Paradisaical fruit – Phoenix, Son of the Sun. The Royal Bath is the Dissolvent. As the application of heat continued, the contents of the Alembic, or Pelican, assumed different hues – black, called head of the crow, then green, white, yellow, finally red. The metals are thus designated: Saturn, lead; Jupiter, tin; Mars, iron; Mercury, quicksilver; Venus, copper; Luna, silver; Sol, gold ; and these applications, as will be seen from this work of Hermes, are very ancient, and correspond again with the prismatic colors and days of the week. The symbols employed to represent the seven metals are the same as those which were used by the first Astronomers to denote the seven planets. Dr. Wall, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford, says, in 1782, that the symbol of Jupiter is his emblem, a lamb’s horn; Venus the Sistrum of Isis; Saturn the Sickle; Mars the Shield and Spear, Mercury the Caduceus; and that these signs were used in Chemistry from analogy, such as brilliance or other qualities.
This symbolic language enabled the Alchemists to write their secrets in a Jargon intelligible only to the fully instructed. According to the “Breviary of Philosophy”, the initiate took a solemn oath on the Holy Sacrament that he would never reveal to an unworthy person the secrets of the fraternity neither for love, fear, or hope of gain, or preferment. At his death he was permitted to select a Disciple to whom he could bequeath his knowledge, and Ashmole records that Father Backhouse on his death bed bequeathed to him in symbols the process of the Philosopher’s Stone.
In England the Rosicrucian Society, as a practical body, disappeared with the year 1700 but as a moral brotherhood connected itself to some extent with the Freemasons. In Germany they reorganized themselves in the year 1714, and printed a code of laws and this branch, a little later, joined itself with the Freemasons, continuing their researches for the Philosophers Stone until the end of last century, when the Society was formally dissolved. They made a very considerable collection of ancient Alchemical MSS., some of which are said to be in existence, and tend to prove that the designation of the Rosy Cross is much more ancient than supposed; that it had been under a Supreme head, President or Imperator, and that such Grand Master continued the until the Society closed its labors.
In spite of the failure of the organized Fraternity there has been from the year 1788 up various students of Alchemy who have written upon the subject, and some of these claim to have attained very extraordinary results. Very recently there has been the reprint of an Alchemical work, Barrett’s Magus, sent from the press in good style, at a reasonable price. Both in the East and the West there are many believers and Students of Alchemy to whom, we doubt not this reprint of an ancient work will be acceptable. It we accept the Egyptian theosophical axiom that all things proceed from one thing by the will of the One being, then all metals are transmutable; but the scientific Chemist may never arrive at the perfect result by his art.