Part V

Elements in Transition: Chemistry, Air, Atoms, and Heat

Of the Nature of Things (1537)

Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim)

58

From Book I: Of the Generations of Naturall Things

The generation of all natural things is twofold: Naturall and without Art; and Artificiall, viz. by Alchymie. Although in generall it may bee said that all things are naturally generated of the Earth by means of putrefaction. For Putrefaction is the chiefe degree and first step to Generation. Now Putrefaction is occasioned by a moist heat. For a continuall moist heat causeth putrefaction, and changeth all naturall things from their first form and essence, as also their vertues and efficacy, into another thing. For as putrefaction in the stomach changeth and reduceth all meats into dung; so also putrefaction out of the stomach in a glasse, changeth all things from one form into another, from one essence into another, from one colour into another, from one smell into another, from one vertue into another, from one power into another, from one property into another, and generally from one quality into another. For it is evident and proved by daily experience that many good things which are wholsome and medicinable, become after putrefaction naught, unwholsome, and meer poison. So on the contrary, there are many bad, unwholsome, poisonous, and hurtfull things, which after their putrefaction become good, lose all their unwholsomnesse, and become wonderfull medicinable: because putrefaction produceth great matters, as of this wee have a most famous example in the holy Gospel, where Christ saith: Unless a grain of Wheat bee cast into the Earth, and be putrefied, it cannot bring forth fruit in a hundred fold. Hence also we must know that many things are multiplyed in putrefaction so as to bring forth excellent fruit. For putrefaction is the change and death of all things, and destruction of the first essence of all Naturall things; whence there ariseth a regeneration, and new generation a thousand times better, &c ... .

And here wee must take notice of something that is greater and more then this: viz. if that living Chicke be in a vessell of glasse like a gourd, and sealed up, burnt to powder, or ashes in the third degree of Fire, and afterward so closed in, be putrefied with the exactest putrefaction of Horse-dung, into a mucilaginous flegm, then that flegm may be brought to maturity and become a renewed and new made Chicke: to wit, if that flegm bee again inclosed in its former shell or receptacle. This is to revive the dead by regeneration and clarification, which indeed is a great and profound miracle of Nature ... .

Here it is necessary that we speak something of the generation of Metalls; but because we have wrote sufficiently of that in our book of the generation of Metals, wee shall very briefly treat of it here, only briefly adding what was omitted in that book. Know that all the seven Metalls are brought forth after this manner, out of a threefold matter, viz. Mercury, Sulphur, & Salt, yet in distinct and peculiar colours. For this reason Hermes did not speak amisse when he said, that of three substances are all the seven Metalls produced and compounded, as also the Tinctures and Philosophers Stone. Those 3 substances he calls the Spirit, Soul, and Body: but hee did not shew how this is to be understood, or what hee did mean by this, although haply hee might know the three Principles, but did not make mention of them. Wherefore we do not say that he was here in an error, but only was silent now, that those 3 distinct substances may be rightly understood, viz. Spirit, Soul, and Body, we must know, that they signifie nothing else but the three Principles, i.e. Mercury, Sulphur, Salt, of which all the seven Metalls are generated. For Mercury is the Spirit, Sulphur the Soule, and Salt the Body, but a Metall is the Soul betwixt the Spirit and the Body (as Hermes saith) which Soule indeed is Sulphur; and unites these two contraries, the Body and Spirit, and changeth them into one essence, &c.

Now this is not to bee understood so as that of every Mercury, every Sulphur, or of every Salt, the seven Metalls may be generated, or the Tincture, or the Philosophers Stone by the Art of Alchymie, or industry, with the help of Fire; but all the seven Metalls must be generated in the mountains by the Archeius1 of the Earth. For the Alchymist shall sooner transmute Metalls, then generate or make them.

Yet neverthelesse living Mercury is the Mother of all the seven Metalls, and deservedly it may be called the Mother of the Metalls. For it is an open Metall, and as it contains all colours, which it manifests in the Fire, so also occultly it contains all Metalls in it selfe, but without Fire it cannot shew them, &c.

But generation and renovation of Metalls is made thus: As a man may return into the womb of his Mother, i.e. into the Earth, out of which hee was first made a man, and shall again bee raised at the last day: so also all Metalls may returne into living mercury againe, and become and by Fire bee regenerated and purified, if for the space of forty weeks they bee kept in a continuall heat, as an infant is in his Mothers wombe. So that now there are brought forth not common Metalls, but Tinging Metalls. For if Silver bee regenerated (after the manner as wee have spoken) it will afterward tinge all other Metalls into Silver, so win Gold into Gold, and the like is to be understood of all the other Metalls.

Now forasmuch as Hermes said that the soule alone is that medium which joines the spirit to the body, it was not without cause hee said so. For seeing Sulphur is that soule, and doth like Fire ripen and digest all things; it can also bind the soule with the body, incorporating and uniting them together, so that from thence may bee produced a most excellent body. Now the common combustible Sulphur is not to bee taken for the soule of metalls, for the soule is another manner of thing then a combustible and corruptible body.

Wherefore it can bee destroyed by no Fire, seeing indeed it is all Fire itself: and indeed it is nothing else but the quintessence of Sulphur, which is extracted out of reverberated Sulphur by the spirit of wine, being of a red colour and as transparent as a Rubie: and which indeed is a great and excellent Arcanum, for the transmuting of white metalls, and to coagulate living mercury into fixt and true Gold. Esteeme this as an enriching treasure, and thou maist bee well contented with this onely secret in the Transmutation of Metalls ... .

Book 2: Of the Growth, and Increase of Naturall Things.

It is sufficiently manifest and knowne to every one, that all naturall things grow and are ripned through heat and moisture, which is sufficiently demonstrated by rain and the heat of the sun. For no man can deny that rain doth make the Earth fruitfull, and it is granted by all that all fruits are ripened by the sun.

Seeing therefore this is by divine ordination naturally possible, who can gain-say or not beleeve that a man is able, through the wise and skilfull Art of Alchymy, to make that which is barren, fruitfull, and that which is crude, to ripen, and all things to grow, and to be increased... .

It is possible also that Gold, through industry and skill of an expert Alchymist, may bee so far exalted that it may grow in a glasse like a tree, with many wonderfull boughs and leaves, which indeed is pleasant to behold and most wonderful.

The process is this. Let Gold bee calcined with Aqua Regis,2 till it becomes a kind of chalke, which put into a gourd glasse and poure upon it good new Aqua Regis, so that it may cover it foure fingers breadth, then again draw it off with the third degree of fire, until no more ascend. The water that is distilled off, poure on againe, then distill it off againe. This doe so long untill thou seest the Gold to rise in the glasse and grow after the manner of a tree, having many boughes and leaves: and so there is made of Gold a wonderful and pleasant shrub, which the Alchymists call their Golden hearb and the Philosophers Tree. In like manner you may proceed with Silver and other Metalls, yet so that their calcination bee made after another manner, by another Aquafortis,3 which I leave to thine experience. If thou art skilled in Alchymie, thou shalt not erre in these things.

Book 4: Of the Life of Naturall Things.

No man can deny that Aire gives life to all things, bodies, and substances that are produced and generated of the Earth. Now you must know what, and what manner of thing the life of every thing in particular is; and it is nothing else then a spirituall essence, a thing that is invisible, impalpable, a spirit, and spirituall. Wherefore there is no corporeall thing which hath not a spirit lying hid in it, as also a life, which, as I said before, is nothing but a spirituall thing. For not only that hath life which moves and stirres, as Men, Animalls, Vermine of the earth. Birds in the Aire, Fish in the sea, but also all corporeall and substantiall things. For here wee must know that God in the beginning of the Creation of all things, created no body at all without its spirit, which it secretly contains in it.

For what is the body without a spirit? Nothing at all. Wherefore the spirit contains in it secretly the vertue and power of the thing, and not the body. For in the body there is death, and the body is the subject of death, neither is any else to be sought for in the body but death.

For that may severall wayes bee destroyed and corrupted, but the spirit cannot. For the living spirit remains for ever, and also is the subject of life: and preserves the body alive; but in the mine of the body it is separated from it, and leaves behind it a dead body, and returnes to its place from whence it came, viz. into the Chaos, and the Aire of the upper and lower Firmament. Hence it appears that there are divers spirits, as well as divers bodies.

For there are spirits Celestiall, Infernall, Humane, Metalline, Minerall, of Salts, of Gemmes, of Marcasites, of Arsenides, of Potable things, of Rootes, of Juices, of Flesh, of Blood, of Bones, &c. Wherefore also know that the spirit is most truly the life and balsome4 of all Corporeall things. But now wee will proceed to the species, and briefly describe to you in this place the life of every naturall thing in particular.

The life therefore of all men is nothing else but an Astrall balsome, a Balsamick impression, and a celestiall invisible Fire, an included Aire, and a tinging spirit of Salt. I cannot name it more plainly, although it bee set out by many names. And seeing wee have declared the best and chiefest, wee shall bee silent in these which are lesse materiall.

The life of Metalls is a secret fatnesse which they have received from Sulphur, which is manifest by their flowing, for every thing that flowes in the fire, flowes by reason of that secret fatnesse that is in it: unlesse that were in it, no Metall could flow, as wee see in Iron and Steel, which have lesse Sulphur and fatnesse then all the other Metalls, wherefore they are of a dryer Nature then all the rest ... .

Book 7: Of the Transmutation of Naturall Things.

If wee write of the Transmutation of all Naturall things, it is fit and necessary that in the first place wee shew what Transmutation is. Secondly, what bee the degrees to it. Thirdly, by what Mediums, and how it is done.

Transmutation therefore is when a thing loseth its form and is so altered that it is altogether unlike to its former substance and form, but assumes another form, another essence, another colour, another vertue, another nature, or property, as if a Metall bee made glasse or stone: if a stone bee made a coale: if wood be made a coal: clay be made a stone or a brick: a skin bee made glew: cloth be made paper, and many such like things. All these are Transmutations of Naturall things.

After this, it is very necessary also to know the degrees to Transmutation, and how many they be. And they are no more then seven. For although many doe reckon more, yet there are no more but seven which are principall, and the rest may bee reckoned betwixt the degrees, being comprehended under those seven: And they are these. Calcination, Sublimation, Solution, Putrefaction, Distillation, Coagulation, Tincture. If anyone will climbe that Ladder, he shall come into a most wonderfull place, that hee shall see and have experience of many secrets in the Transmutation of Naturall things.

The first degree therefore is Calcination, under which also are comprehended Reverberation, and Cementation. For betwixt these there is but little difference as for Matter of Calcination: wherefore it is here the chiefest degree. For by Reverberation and Cementation, many corporeall things are calcined and brought into Ashes, and especially Metalls. Now what is calcined is not any further reverberated or cemented.

By Calcination therefore all Metalls, Mineralls, Stones, Glasse, &c. and all corporeall things are made a Coal and Ashes, and this is done by a naked strong Fire with blowing, by which all tenacious, soft, and fat earth is hardened into a stone. Also all stones are brought into a Calx, as wee see in a Potters furnace of lime and bricks.

Sublimation is the second degree and one of the most principall for the Transmutation of many Naturall things: under which is contained Exaltation, Elevation, and Fixation; and it is not much unlike Distillation. For as in Distillation the water ascends from all flegmatick and watery things and is separated from its body; so in Sublimation, that which is spirituall is raised from what is corporeall, and is subtilized, volatile from fixed, and that in dry things, as are all Mineralls, and the pure is separated from the impure ... .

Let that which is sublimed be ground and mixed with its feces, and bee againe sublimed as before, which must bee done so long, till it will no longer sublime, but all will remaine together in the bottom and be fixed.

So there will bee afterward a stone, and oyle when and as oft as thou pleasest, viz. if thou puttest it into a cold place, or in the aire in a Glass. For there it will presently bee dissolved into an Oyle. And if thou puttest it againe into the fire, it will againe bee coagulated into a Stone of wonderfull and great vertue. Keep this as a great secret and mystery of Nature, neither discover it to Sophisters ... .

The third degree is Solution, under which are to bee understood Dissolution and Resolution, and this degree doth most commonly follow Sublimation and Distillation, viz. that the matter be resolved which remaines in the bottome. Now Solution is twofold: the one of Cold, the other of Heat; the one without Fire, the other in Fire.

A cold dissolution dissolves all Salts, all Corrosive things, & all calcined things. Whatsoever is of a Salt and Corrosive quality is by it dissolved into Oyle, Liquor, or Water. And this is in a moist, cold cellar or else in the Aire on a marble or in a glasse. For whatsoever is dissolved in the cold contains an Airy spirit of Salt, which oftentimes it gets, and assumes in Sublimation or Distillation. And whatsoever is dissolved in the cold, or in the Aire, may again by the heat of the Fire bee coagulated into powder or a stone ... .

Putrefaction is the fourth degree, under which is comprehended Digestion and Circulation. Now then Putrefaction is one of the principall degrees, which indeed might deservedly have been the first of all, but that it would be against the true order and mystery, which is here hid and known to few: For those degrees must, as hath been already said, so follow one the other, as links in a chain or steps in a ladder.

For if one of the linkes should bee taken away, the chain is discontinued and broken, and the prisoners would bee at liberty and runne away. So in a ladder, if one step bee taken away in the middle and bee put in the upper or lower part, the ladder would be broken and many would fall down headlong by it with the hazard of their bodies, and lives ... .

Now putrefaction is of such efficacy, that it abolisheth the old Nature and brings in a new one. All living things are killed in it, all dead things putrefied in it, and all dead things recover life in it.

Putrefaction takes from all Corrosive spirits, the sharpnesse of the Salt and makes them mild and sweet, changeth the colours, and separates the pure from the impure; it places the pure above and the impure beneath.

Distillation is the first degree to the Transmutation of all naturall things. Under it are understood Ascension, Lavation, and Fixation.

By Distillation all Waters, Liquors, and Oyles are subtilized; out of all fat things Oyle is extracted, out of all Liquors, Water, and out of all Flegmaticke things Water and Oyle are separated.

Besides there are many things in Distillation fixed by Cohobation,5 and especially if the things to bee fixed containe in them Water, as Vitriall doth, which if it bee fixed is called Colcothar... .

Moreover, in Distillation many bitter, harsh, and sharp things become as sweet as Honey, Sugar, or Manna; and on the contrary, many sweet things, as Sugar, Honey, or Manna may bee made as harsh as Oyle of Vitriall or Vineger, or as bitter as Gall or Gentian, as Eager as a Corrosive ... .

Coagulation is the sixt degree: now there is a twofold Coagulation, the one by Cold, the other by Heat, i.e. one of the Aire, the other of the Fire: and each of these again is twofold, so that there are foure sorts of Coagulations, two of Cold, and two of Fire ... the Coagulation of Fire, which alone is here to bee taken notice of, is made by an Artificiall and Graduall Fire of the Alchymists, and it is fixed and permanent. For whatsoever such a Fire doth coagulate, the same abides so.

The other Coagulation is done by the Aetnean and Minerall Fire in the Mountains, which indeed the Archeius of the Earth governs and graduates not unlike to the Alchymists, and whatsoever is coagulated by such a Fire is also fixed and constant; as you see in Mineralls and Metalls, which indeed at the beginning are a mucilaginous matter, and are coagulated into Metalls, Stones, Flints, Salts, and other bodies, by the Aetnean fire in the Mountaines, through the Archeius of Earth, and operator of Nature ... .

Tincture is the seventh and last degree, which concludes the whole worke of our mystery for Transmutation, making all imperfect things perfect and transmuting them into a most excellent essence, and into a most perfect soundnesse, and alters them into another colour.

Tincture therefore is a most excellent matter, wherewith all Minerall and Humane bodies are tinged and are changed into a better and more noble essence and into the highest perfection and purity.

For Tincture colours all things according to its own nature and colour.

Now there are many Tinctures and not only for Metalline but Humane bodies, because every thing which penetrates another matter, or tingeth it with another colour, or essence, so that it bee no more like the former, may bee called a Tincture ... .

For if a Tincture must tinge, it is necessary that the body or matter which is to bee tinged, bee opened and continue in flux, and unless this should bee so, the Tincture could not operate ... .

Now these are the Tinctures of Metalls, which it is necessary must bee turned into an Alcool6 by the first degree of Calcination, then by the second degree of Sublimation, must get an easy and light flux. And lastly, by the degree of Putrefaction and Distillation are made a fixt and incombustible Tincture and of an unchangeable colour.

Now the Tinctures of Mens bodies are that they bee tinged into the highest perfection of health and all Diseases bee expelled from them, that their lost strength and colour bee restored and renewed, and they are these, viz. Gold, Pearles, Antimony, Sulphur, Vitriall, and such like, whose preparation wee have diversly taught in other books ... .

Book 8: Of the Separation of Naturall Things.

In the Creation of the world, the first separation began from the foure Elements, seeing the first matter of the world was one Chaos.

Of this Chaos God made the greater world, being divided into four distinct Elements, viz. Fire, Aire, Water, and Earth. Fire is the hot part, Aire the moist. Water the cold, and Earth the dry part of the greater world.

But that you may in brief understand the reason of our purpose in the 8th book, you must know that we doe not purpose to treat here of the Elements of all Naturall things, seeing wee have sufficiently discoursed of those Arcana in the Archidoxis7 of the separation of Naturall things; whereby every one of them is apart and distinctly separated, and divided materially and substantially, viz. seeing that two, three, or foure, or more things are mixed into one body, and yet there is seen but one matter. Where it often falls out that the corporeall matter of that thing cannot bee known by any, or signified by any expresse name, untill there bee a separation made. Then sometimes two, three, four, five or more things come forth out of one matter, as is manifest by daily experience in the Art of Alchymie.

As for example, you have an Electrum,8 which of it selfe is no Metall, but yet it hides all Metalls in one Metall. That if it be anatomized by the industry of Alchymie and separated: all the seven Metalls, viz. Gold, Silver, Copper, Tinne, Lead, Iron, and Quicksilver come out of it and that pure and perfect.

But that you may understand what Separation is, note that it is nothing else then the severing of one thing from another, whether of two, three, four, or more things mixed together: I say a separation of the three Principles, as of Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt, and the extraction of pure out of the impure: or the pure, excellent spirit and quintessence from a grosse and elementary body; and the preparation of two, three, four, or more out of one: or the dissolution and setting at liberty things that are bound and compact, which are of a contrary nature, acting one against the other untill they destroy one the other ... .

The first separation of which wee speake must begin from man, because hee is the Microcosme or little world, for whose sake the Macrocosme or greater world was made, viz. that hee might be the separator of it.

Now the separation of the Microcosme begins at his death. For in death the two bodies of Man are separated the one from the other, viz. his Celestial and Terrestial body, i.e. Sacramental and Elementary: one of which ascends on high like an Eagle; the other falls downward to the earth like lead ... .

After this separation is made, then after the death of the Man three substances, viz. Body, Soule, and Spirit are divided the one from the other, every one going to its own place, viz. its own fountaine, from whence it had its originall, viz. the body to the Earth, to the first matter of the Elements: the soul into the first matter of Sacraments, and lastly, the spirit into the first matter of the Airy Chaos ... .

Of the Separation of Vegetables (Book 8), Concerning Physicians.

All these Separations being made according to the Spagiricall Art, many notable and excellent medicines come from thence, which are to be used as well within as without the body.

But now seeing idlenesse is so much in request amongst Physitians, and all labour and study is turned only to insolency, truly I do not wonder that all such preparations are everywhere neglected, and coales sold at so low a price that if Smiths could be so easily without coales in forging and working their Metals, as Physitians are in preparing their Medicines, certainly Colliers would long since have been brought to extream want.

In the mean time I will give to Spagiricall Physitians9 their due praise. For they are not given to idlenesse and sloth, nor goe in a proud habit or plush and velvet garments, often shewing their rings upon their fingers, or wearing swords with silver hilts by their sides, or fine and gay gloves upon their hands, but diligently follow their labours, sweating whole nights and dayes by their furnaces.

These doe not spend their time abroad for recreation but take delight in their laboratory. They wear Leather garments with a pouch and Apron wherewith they wipe their hands. They put their fingers amongst coales, into clay and dung, not into gold rings. Thy are sooty and black, like Smithes or Colliers, and doe not pride themselves with cleane and beautifull faces. They are not talkative when they come to the sick, neither doe they extoll their Medicines: seeing they well know that the Artificer must not commend his work, but the work the Artificer, and that the sickcannot be cured with fine words.

Therefore laying aside all these kinds of vanities, they delight to bee busied about the fire and to learn the degrees of the science of Alchymie ...

[Conclusion of Book 8: On the “Final Separation” / Last Judgment].

And lastly in the end of all things shall bee the last separation, in the third generation, the great day when the Son of God shal come in majesty and glory, before whom shall be carried not swords, garlands, diadems, scepters, &c. and Kingly jewels with which Princes, Kings, Cesars, &c. doe pompously set forth themselves; but his Crosse, his crown of thorns, and nails thrust through his hands and feet, and spear with which his side was pierced, and the reed and spunge in which they gave him vineger to drinke, and the whips wherewith hee was scourged and beaten. He comes not accompanyed with troopes of Horse and beating of Drums, but foure Trumpets shall bee sounded by the Angells towards the foure parts of the world, killing all that are then alive with their horrible noise, in one moment, and then presently raising these again, together with them that are dead and buryed.

For the voice shall bee heard: Arise yee dead, and come to judgment. Then shal the twelve Apostles sit down, their seats being prepared in the clouds, and shal judge the twelve Tribes of Israel. In that place the holy Angels shall separate the bad from the good, the cursed from the blessed, the goats from the sheep. Then the cursed shall like stones and lead be thrown downward: but the blessed shall like eagles fly on high. Then from the tribunall of God shal go forth this voice to them that stand on his left hand: Goe yee cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the Devill and his Angells from all eternity: For I was an hungry, and yee fed me not; thirsty, and you gave no drink; sick, in prison, and naked, and you visited me not, freed mee not, cloathed me not, and you shewed no pity towards me, therefore shalt you expect no pity from me. On the contrary, hee shall speak to them on his right hand: Come yee blessed, and chosen into my Fathers Kingdome, which hath been prepared for you, and his Angells from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me meat; thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in; naked, and you covered me; sick, and you visited me; in prison, and you came unto me. Therefore I will receive you into my Fathers Kingdom, where are provided many mansions for the Saints. You took pity on me, therefore will I take pity on you.10

All these being finished and dispatched, all Elementary things will returne to the first matter of the Elements and bee tormented to eternity and never bee consumed, &c. and on the contrary, all holy things shall return to the first matter of Sacraments: i.e. shall be purified, and in eternall joy glorifie God their Creator and worship him from age to age, from eternity to eternity. Amen.

Book 9: Of the Signature of Naturall Things (of Minerall Signes).

... But to returne to our purpose concerning Minerall signes, and especially concerning the Coruscation of Metalline veins, we must know that as Metalls which are yet in their first being send forth their Coruscation, i.e. Signes, so also the Tincture of the Philosophers, which changeth all imperfect Metalls into Silver and Gold (or White Metalls into Silver, and Red into Gold) puts forth its proper signs like unto Coruscation, if it be Astrally perfected and prepared. For as soon as a small quantity of it is cast upon a fluxil metall, so that they mixe together in the fire, there ariseth a naturall Coruscation and brightnesse, like to that of fine Gold or Silver in a test, which then is a signe that that Gold or Silver is freed and purged without all manner of addition of other Metalls.

But how the Tincture of Philosophers is made Astrall, you must conceive it after this manner: First of all you must know that every Metall, as long as it lies hid in its first being, hath its certaine peculiar stars.

So Gold hath the stars of the Sun, Silver the stars of the Moon, Copper the stars of Venus, Iron the stars of Mars, Tinne the stars of Jupiter, Lead the stars of Saturne, Quicksilver the starres of Mercury.

But as soon as they come to their perfection and are coagulated into a fixt Metalline body, their stars fall off from them, and leave them as a dead body.

Hence it follows that all such bodies are afterwards dead and inefficacious, and that the unconquered star of Metalls doth overcome them all, and converts them into its nature and makes them all Astrall ... .

For which cause also our Gold and Silver, which is tinged and prepared with our tincture, is much more excellent and better for the preparation of Medicinall secrets then that which is naturall, which Nature generates in the Mines and afterwards is separated from other Metalls.

Translated by J. F. M. D.

Reading and Discussion Questions

1.Today, alchemy is usually regarded as a pseudoscience. What aspects of this practice look esoteric? What techniques of experimentation have been developed by alchemical researchers?

2.What does Paracelsus regard as the goals of all this experimental effort?

3.Does Paracelsus retain the Aristotelian distinctions between living/non-living and heavenly/earthly? Do you see any evidence of the mercury/sulfur/salt theory developed by Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and other Islamic alchemists?

1“The immaterial principle supposed by the Paracelsians to produce and preside over the activities of the animal and vegetable economy; vital force” (OED).

2“A mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids, so called because it can dissolve the ‘noble’ metals, gold and platinum” (OED).

3“The early scientific, and still the popular, name of the Nitric Acid of commerce (dilute HNO3), a powerful solvent and corrosive” (OED).

4Ruland states that “Balsam is a substance which preserves bodies from putrefaction. It is internal and external ... . It is also called a most tempered gluten of the nature of any body to which it belongs. Briefly, it is the liquor of an interior salt most carefully and naturally preserving its body from corruption” (Lexicon 69).

5Repeated distillation.

6An obsolete form of “alcohol.” Here the meaning appears to be either a “fine impalpable powder produced by trituration, or especially by sublimation”; or “condensed spirit” (OED 2, 3b).

7The Archidoxis is one of Paracelsus’s major alchemical works; first published in Latin translation (from the German) in 1569, it became immediately popular on the Continent, and in England in the seventeenth century.

8I.e., an alloy of the seven metals.

9Physicians who, like Paracelsus, employ the principles and materials of alchemy (e.g., metals and minerals) in effecting cure.s, rather than the herbal preparations of the Galenic school.

10Paracelsus’s eschatological scene is drawn from Matt. 25:3l–46.

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