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To: alt.magick
From: (joshua geller)]
Subject: Re: alchemy
Date: 49941115

Quoting: >Shawn Knight (

...shawn had, in a previous letter, basically asked me 'do you really believe
in this kinda thing? what do you mean 'you have done some work'? I replied
that I had not prepared the lapis philosophorum, not done much mineral
work at all, but that I had done some work with plants. in further letters
I explained that the alchemists hold that there are three living kingdoms,
vegetable, animal and mineral, and that analogous operations apply over
all three, and that I had done some work with plants ('the lesser circulation'
where work with minerals is 'the greater circulation') and with animal

>If you could explain the "lesser circulation", that'd be great.
>Also any comments you have on making the mineral stone.

I can describe the process of making a plant stone. most of this stuff
I got out of 'the alchemist's handbook' by frater albertus, which I 
cannot recommend too highly.

by alchemical theory, every living being has three basic components.
these are the spirit, the soul and the body. none of these terms are
spiritual or metaphysical, at least not primarily. if you ferment a plant,
the resultant alcohol is the spirit of that plant (well, that makes
sense, right?). if you dissolve a plant in alcohol and drive off the
alcohol, the resultant essential oil is the soul of that plant. and
that which remains after the spirit and soul have been extracted is
the body. 

now the alchemists say that the only two operations possible are
'solve et coagula', ie, dissolution and resolution or analysis
and synthesis. now is as good a time as any, I guess, to deal with
one of the most annoying and misleading things in alchemical
literature, which is the habit of writing generally. when it is
said that these are the only two operations possible, that is 
exactly what is meant. it applies to all sciences and all disciplined
scholarly endeavors. you can either analyze (break something into
its component parts and examine the parts) or synthesize (form
disparate parts into a whole and examine the whole). the work is
said to be a matter of 'opening and shutting'. this is not only
a description of the whole work but a description of each part of
the work. in other words, you take a matter, seperate it into its
component parts, take each part and seperate that into its component
parts (purifying it, in other words, but in a special sense. for instance,
alchemically pure iron (say) does not resemble iron so much as it
resembles iron ore) then the parts are recombined (synthesized) into
a whole that posesses the qualities of the original raw material and
perhaps some new qualities that did not exist at all in the original
raw material.

another thing that annoys people studying alchemical texts is the habit
of using the same word for different things. for instance 'mercury',
'our mercury', 'philosophical mercury' and 'common mercury' are at least
(depending on the writer) four different things. the planetary symbols
'sun', 'moon', 'mars', 'saturn' etc can refer to completely different
things in different passages in the same document. a clue to this one
is that the different stages resemble one another to a very great extent,
and the different materials used at different stages are similar or at
least closely analagous.

in the specific context of the vegetable work, one would take a plant,
and usually a plant that has medicinal qualities (valerian, ephedra,
cannabis, garlic, whatever). some writers say to take that part of the
plant which is used medicinally, some say to take the whole plant, dug
up whole at that time of the year in which the part of the plant used
medicinally is most fully developed (say cannabis in full flower, perhaps
slightly gone to seed). whichever you decide to use, dry it and grind
it very finely. now the usual way to proceed is to dissolve the resultant
powder in rectified spirits of wine (pure grain alcohol distilled from
wine or brandy) in a sealed vessel in a warm place until the solution
gets no darker (couple weeks say). you can also use a soxhlet to do this
stage of the work in hours instead of days. filter the solution from the

feces (the powder after all the essential oils have been extracted)
and calcine this feces to a fine gray or white ash (it is said that if
you calcine enough times the ash will start to take on a reddish tinge,
which is strongly to be desired). drive the alcohol off from the essential

now take a strong round bellied vessel with a long neck that you can
seal very well. combine the calcined ash with sufficient oil to make
a viscous liquid, seal and put on a very low heat (100 degrees 
fahrenheit, say). leave it alone for a month or so. the first color
change to be expected is to black. if that is not occurring after
six weeks you might try inching the heat up a bit. once the mixture
is completely black raise the heat some. the next color change to be
expected is to white and might be expected to take another month or
more. after the mixture is completely white, the heat is raised again.
at any point in this, you want to avoid letting the stuff dry out.
if it appears to be getting dry, moisten it with some of the oil that
you will have left over.

eventually the mixture will turn yellow or reddish and will have the
appearance of a crystalline powder. this is your stone and should be
stored in a dark glass container. it is used medicinally by dissolving
a few grains in water or spirits of wine.

you'll note that no use was made of the 'spirit' in this procedure (or
rather, the spirit that was used was not derived from the working matter
itself). it is not strictly necessary for the work in plants. if you 
prefer to, however, ferment a large amount of the fresh or dried plant
(say 50 pounds fresh or 15 pounds dried) with some brewers yeast in a 
lightly sealed container in a warm place for 2 - 4 weeks. reserve the
scum that will float to the top of the mixture by dipping with a spoon
or feather, gently evaporate the water after distilling off the alcohol
and reserve that oil, then treat the remaining plant matter as above.
I haven't done this. if I were to, I would probably play around with
combining these various fractions in different vessels and see what

wow, there's really a lot of words there. I don't think I'll go into
the mineral work at all right now. in the unlikely event that I see
any interest on the newsgroup (as evidenced by thoughtful followups
asking intelligent questions), I will go into these matters further
to the extent of my really rather limited knowledge.

>I take alchemy like I take astrology.  I have a lot of reasons not
>to believe in it yet I can't help thinking there's *some* validity
>in it, probably not what is highly publicized.

I think so too. I am very skeptical about the possibility of transmutations,
but that is different from saying I disbelieve in same. belief is error
anyway, and so is disbelief. I'll leave speculations on what might be
going on with the mineral work for another post.


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