Archibald Cockren - Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored

After a careful study of Basil Valentine's Triumphal Chariot of Antimony, I decided to make my first experiments with antimony. I soon found, however, that on arriving at a crucial point, the key had almost invariably been deliberately withheld, and a dissertation on theology inserted in its place. Gradually, however, I came to realize that the theological discourse was not without object, but actually the means of veiling a valuable clue of some kind. After much labour, a fragrant golden liquid was finally obtained from the antimony, although this was merely a beginning. The alkahest of the alchemist, the First Matter, still remained a mystery.

Then followed processes with iron and copper. After purification of the salts or vitriol of these metals, of calcination, and the obtaining of a salt from the calcined metal by a special process, followed by careful distillation and re-distillation in rectified spirits of wine, the oil of these metals was obtained, a few drops of which used singly, or in conjunction, proved very efficacious in eases of anemia and debility which the ordinary iron medicine failed to touch.

The conjunction of iron and copper proved to be an elixir of a very stimulating and regenerating character, the action being such as to clear the body from toxins, and I well remember on taking a few drops one evening that the prospect of a spell of fairly strenuous mental work, even after a really laborious day, seemed to hold no terrors for me!

But still the alkahest remained an enigma, and so further experiments were made with silver and mercury. For those with silver, fine silver was reduced with nitric acid to the salts of the metal, carefully washed in distilled water, sublimated by special process, finally yielding up a white oil which had a very soothing effect on highly nervous cases.

In the case of mercury, the metal on being reduced to its oil, produced a clear crystalline liquid with great curative properties, but unlike common mercury, no poisonous qualities.

After this I decided to work upon fine gold --- gold, that is, without any alloy. This was dissolved in Aqua Regia and reduced to the salts of gold; these were washed in distilled water, which in its turn was evaporated in order to remove its very caustic properties. It was at this point that a very real difficulty arose, for when these salts of gold lose their acidity, they slowly but surely tend to return to their metallic form again. Nevertheless, an elixir was finally produced from them by distillation, although even then a residue of fine metallic gold remained behind in the retort.

Having got so far I realized that without the alkahest of the philosophers the real oil of gold could not be obtained, and so again I went back and forth in the alchemists' writings to obtain the clue. The experiments which I had already made considerably lightened my task, and one day while sitting quietly in deep concentration the solution to the problem was revealed to me in a flash, and at the same time many of the enigmatical utterances of the alchemists were made clear.


Here, then, I entered upon a new course of experiment, with a metal for experimental purposes with which I had had no previous experience. This metal, after being reduced to its salts and undergoing special preparation and distillation, delivered up the Mercury of the Philosophers, the Aqua Benedicta, the Aqua Celestis, the Water of Paradise. The first intimation I had of this triumph was a violent hissing, jets of vapour pouring from the retort and into the receiver like sharp bursts from a machine-gun, and then a violent explosion, whilst a very potent and subtle odour filled the laboratory and its surroundings. 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.

Nicholas Flamel, after searching and experimenting from the age of twenty, wrote when he was eighty years old:

"Finally I found that which I desired, which I also soon knew by the strong scent and odour thereof."

Does this not coincide, this voice from the fourteenth century, with my own description of the peculiar subtle odour? Cremer, also writing in the early fourteenth century, says:

"When this happy event takes place, the whole house will be filled with a most wonderful sweet fragrance, and then will be the day of the nativity of this most blessed preparation."

Having arrived at this point my next difficulty was to find a way of storing this subtle gas without danger to property. This I accomplished by coils of glass piping in water joined up with my receiver, together with a perfect government of heat, the result being that the gas gradually condensed into a clear golden-coloured water, very inflammable and very volatile. This water had then to be separated by distillation, the outcome being the white mercurial water described by the Comte St. Germain as his athoeter or primary water of all the metals. I will again quote from Manly Hall's introduction to 'The Most Holy Trinosophia,' the passage in which Casanova describes the athoeter:

"Then he showed me his rnagistrum which he called Athoeter. lit was a white liquid contained in a well stopped phial. He told me that this liquid was the universal spirit of Nature and that if the wax of the stopper was pricked ever so slightly, the whole of the contents would disappear. I begged him to make the experiment. He thereupon gave me the phial and the pin and I myself pricked the wax, when, lo, the phial was empty."

This passage aptly describes this water which is so volatile that it rapidly evaporates if left unstoppered, boils at a very low temperature, and does not so much as wet the fingers. This mercurial water, this athoeter of St. Germain, is absolutely necessary to obtain the oil of gold, which is obtained by its addition to the salts of gold after those salts have been washed with distilled water several times to remove the strong acidity of the Aqua Regia used to reduce the metal to that state. When the Mercurial Water is added to these salts of gold, there is a slight hissing, an increase in heat, and the gold becomes a deep red liquid, from which is obtained, by means of distillation, the oil of gold, a deep amber liquid of an oily consistency. This oil, which is the potable gold of the alchemist, never returns to the metallic form of gold. I can understand now, I think, how it is that some of the patients to whom Salts of Gold injections have been administered have succumbed to gold poisoning. So long as the salts are in an acid solution, they remain soluble, but directly the dissolving medium loses its acidity and becomes neutral or alkaline, the salts tend to form again into metallic gold. This is probably what happens in the case of the injection of gold salts into the alkaline intercellular fluids, which in some cases leads to fatal results. []

From the golden water I have described can be obtained this white water, and a deep red tincture which deepens in colour the longer it is kept; these two are the mercury and the sulphur described by the alchemists, Sol the Father and Lune the Mother, the Male and the Female Principles, the White and Red Mercuries, which two conjoined again form a deep amber liquid. This is the Philosophic Gold, which is not made from metallic gold, but from another metal, and is a far more Potent Elixir than the oil of gold. This deep amber liquid literally shines and reflects and intensifies rays of light to an extraordinary degree. It has been described by many alchemists, which fact again corroborates my work in the laboratory. Indeed, every step which I have taken in the laboratory I have found in the work of the various followers of the Spagyric Art.


And now to the final goal, the Philosophers' Stone. Having found my two principles, the Mercury and the Sulphur, my next step was to purify the dead body of the metal, that is, the black dregs of the metal left after the extraction of the golden water. This was calcined to a redness and carefully separated and treated until it became a white salt. The three principles were then conjoined in certain exact quantities in a hermetically sealed flask in a fixed heat neither too hot nor too cold, care as to the exact degree of heat being essential, as any carelessness in its regulation would completely spoil the mixture.

On conjunction the mixture takes on the appearance of a leaden mud, which rises slowly like dough until it throws up a crystalline formation rather like a coral plant in growth. The "flowers" of this plant are composed of petals of crystal which are continually changing in colour. As the heat is raised, this formation melts into an amber-coloured liquid which gradually becomes thicker and thicker until it sinks into a black earth on the bottom of the glass. At this point (the Sign of the Crow in alchemical literature) more of the ferment or mercury is added. In this process, which is one of continual sublimation, a long-necked, hermetically sealed flask is used, and one can watch the vapour rising up the neck of the flask and condensing down the sides. This process continues until the state of "dry blackness" is attained. When more of the mercury is added, the black powder is dissolved, and from this conjunction it seems that a new substance is born, or, as the early alchemists would have expressed it, a Son is born. As the black colour abates, colour after colour comes and goes until the mixture becomes white and shining; the White Elixir. The heat is gradually raised yet more, and from white the colour changes to citrine and finally to red --- the Elixir Vitae, the Philosophers' Stone, the medicine of men and metals. From their writings, it appears that many alchemists found it unnecessary to take the Elixir to this very last stage, the citrine coloured solution being adequate for their purpose.

It is of interest to note that an entirely different manifestation comes into being after the separation of the three elements and their re-conjunction under the sealed vase of Hermes. By the deliberate separation and unification of the Mercury, Sulphur, and Salt, the three elements appear as a more perfect manifestation than in the first place.