Volpierre process notes by Fischer-Lichtenthal and NDC


Its contents and procedure, describing how to obtain the quinta essentia by the great wet way

By Heinz Fischer-Lichtenthal

In the first part of the Great Work (Opus Magnum) consisting of three parts, any metal carefully dissolved in acid in an artful manner will yield a red juice (menstruum, Blood of the Red Lion.) In such manner a substance will be returned to a certain degree to its, primordial condition (chaos), becoming a useful medium capable of extracting the essential vitality found in all creation and then being able to retain it, i.e., such agens that is superior to inherent atomic power as we understand it presently.

In the second part a 'menstruum universal' (radical solvent, Virgin's Milk, Flying Dragon) can be obtained from the red juice and its residue through gradual and repeated distillation wherein all natural essentials can be dissolved while their inherent characteristics are still retained.

It contains the Flying Mercury in the form of tiny silver colored scales, like salt, which evaporate quickly when separated from the liquid. Furthermore, from part of the distillation of the yellow vinegar a residue is obtained. This residue consists of two powders (volatile salts) which form on the bottom of the glass container, in the shape of eliptical particles laying next to each other in a north-south direction. One of them is white (hermetical Salt) and the other of a yellowish color (hermetical Sulphur.)

The final result is obtained only in the third part when all three mentioned salts are fixed. This is the 'cementation'. By joining (cohobation) of such quinta essentia which does not dissolve them, the final tincture will give to it the desired character and becomes the Great Tincture. The latter is identical with the Philosopher's Stone.

Begin by mixing one part powdered antimony trisulphide and six parts iron filings in a five litre (5,000 ml), wide necked, glass bottle with ground joint and stopper. Evenly cover the bottom by not more than 3/4 cm.

Next, three pourings on the antimony and iron filings must take place consisting of 3 ml of hydrochloric acid and 2 ml of sulphuric acid every 24 hours.

Immediately a strong reaction caused by fuming gases makes it imperative that the container be closed very tightly. No antimony particles must be found between the ground stopper and the flask opening. It is best to moisten the stopper with sulphuric acid. Fasten the stopper with some string using two cork stoppers, one on each side, to tighten the string.

Each time some acid has been poured over the mixture place the glass container in a sandbath at a temperature of 370 - 380C. Let the bottle slowly cool before adding more acid. After the bottle has cooled carefully pour in both acids very gradually and stopper at once. The glass stopper may be removed by inserting strong string tightly between the stopper and the neck of the bottle, then with a uniform jerk on both sides of the stopper, lift it out. Fast work is essential; none of the fumes must escape. Close the bottle very tightly each time after more acid is added.

Beginning with the fourth pouring there is a change of proportion when adding more acid. It is now 6ml. hydrochloric acid and 41/2 ml. sulphuric acid which is to be repeated every fourth day. This schedule must be adhered to no matter what the contents of the container shows. The temperature must be kept'the same as before, except for the short period when more acid is added. Should little lumps show or the substance have a tendency to stick too tightly into a solid mass, use a glass stirring rod and carefully break it up. Be careful not to break the bottom of the retort. Should the glass show a crack a new vessel must be used and the work started anew.

The change of color is as follows:

Dark gray, slight sparkle
pitch black to blue-black
dark gray
light gray
dark brown
light brown
very light gray, almost white
a bluish white
gray, like ice
pure white
glowing green
yellowish green

Then a dark floating ring, 2cm. thick, ascending, getting heavier and darker, (blue-black) enters the mass, which has risen from the bottom to a height of 15 or 16 cm. The color changes from dark blue to light blue, deep, dark blue, now giving off a radiance. Blood red lines begin to rise from the bottom on the side of the vessel. When after circulating for three or four months the rising red juice has reached the top of the mass, the process has reached its sign of development and is concluded.

This juice or tincture can be carefully poured off in any desired quantity. From now on the acids may be added in the same order as before, but in ten to thirty fold quantities or even more, depending on the available space in the container. The mass will dissolve at once.

This solution is kept in special glass bottles for later use. When not enough containers are available only as much as is needed should be dissolved for the work at hand. It is surprising how much acid is necessary to completely dissolve the contents in the glass container.

When shaking the glass container the juice has to show a green lustre. An additional brown coloration shows that the liquid up to this stage has become useless.

The red juice is a natural separation from the Original Chaos. It contains the main element, the 'carrier of light' (Phosphorus-the inner light-fire that burns, but does not consume itself) which manifests in all four elements. Chaos or prima materia is the beginning of matter as we know it. Strength is increased when the corpora is reduced. By too high a heat the fine penetrating fumes (Spirit) would evaporate.

The preliminaries are the beginning of the work and these should be commenced if possible during a fortunate trine such as Mercury trine Jupiter, or trine Venus, or trine the Sun, or a trine with a well aspected Mars.

As much as eighty litres, approximately twenty gallons of the menstruum, has been obtained out of a five litre bottle, approximately one gallon and a quarter.


A 250ml. retort is filled three quarters full of Dragon's Blood. Begin the distillation with a small flame and have in readiness three Erlenmeyer 50ml. flasks. Each liquid will be collected separately. Using a low flame, first, the yellow vinegar (Hydrochloric acid) comes over, thereafter the phlegm which is entirely worthless and can be thrown away.

When nothing more comes over by the small flame, fine threads, rising from the bottom to the top, shows on the side of the retort and announces that the sulphuric acid is about to distill over. The receptacle is changed again and the heat is raised. Toward the end the bellows or more oxygen will have to be used to distill the rest of the sulphuric acid. The retort can be glowing red during the last proecdure. Then let the retort cool and break it.

Remove the remains from the broken retort, grind in a mortar and submit for three weeks in a dish to the moist air, preferably in a cellar away from any light. It is hygroscopic and becomes slimy and finally thick like honey. Place this in a 100ml. retort using a small funnel and glass rod. The neck of the retort must be washed down with the 'Air-water' to be certain that the neck is absolutely clean.

[NDC: At this point the retort can be broken and the contents ground to a powder, but this is not necessary. If the retort is simply left open and placed outside during the time of moring dew every day for a few weeks, it will absorb the water and become fluid.]

Distillation is started with a low flame. Steam will form,, condensing in the neck, and will flow out. When the water has distilled out the steam gets more dense, like fumes, and the distillation must be stopped. Let the retort cool, then break it. Remove the contents and grind in a mortar. Place the contents from the mortar in an evaporating dish, and pour the yellow vinegar over it. There is no danger in this. Then carefully pour the sulphuric acid slowly through a funnel. Take care as it may splash.

The two acids combined turn to red and make a loud noise while doing so. Once again we have the product with which we began. The first part of our work is completed when the red liquid is poured through a funnel into a 250ml. retort and provision made for a repetition of the same process.


The described procedure must be repeated four to six times until the Flying Dragon appears. This can occur during the fifth, sixth, or seventh distillation. One must be especially careful, because our Phoenix can rise suddenly, boiling to the top and flowing out. Quick and efficient changing of the receiving flask is important for this separation.

After Luna has left us, distillation is continued under the same temperature until next the phlegm-like water distills completely over. Continuing the distillation by a lower heat than formerly used, the sulphuric acid comes over.

[NDC: It will appear suddenly as a white cloud of smoke and the receiver flask must be changed quickly to catch the cloud when it condenses into a white solvent. This event takes place right after the hydrochloric acid is distilled. Then after the Philosophical Mercury has distilled, the receiver must be changed again because the useless phelgm water will begin to distill. The sulfuric acid then comes over but now such a strong heat is not required to distill it.]

In the remaining water in the retort a peculiar residue forms on the bottom. Next to each other, but separated from each other, a yellow and white salt will appear in an eliptical north-south formation. Both are volatile and can only be kept in their own water. The same applies to the silver-like scales noticed in the residue.

In case too much moisture has been distilled off the salts and the liquid is not sufficient to cover the bottom of the vessel, some of the distillate must be returned. Without this liquid the volatile Salt and Sulphur would evaporate within twenty-four hours, but in the absence of light it would take longer.

It is recommended during the distillation either to extend the neck of the retort with a glass tube for better cooling, or to use a water cooled condenser. To use the remaining recovered Sulphur again is not recommended!

[NDC: The Philosophical Mercury along with it's silver particles are poured into a flask with the Salt and Sulfur and the flask is stoppered tightly. It's digested on low heat until the 3 substances become one solid red stone which has a distinct sparkle or twinkle unlike anything else, which signifies this being the true Philosopher's Stone.

The strength and power of the Stone can be multiplied until the Stone can no longer be kept in a glass and will penetarte it, turning it into a material as hard as steel but as clear as glass. Using a quartz container or hard glass (Pyrex, Bomex, or Kimax borsilicate glass) higher potencies can be obtained. To multiply the stone, place it in a flask then add just enough Philosophical Mercury to dissolve it entirely, the seal the flask and digest it on gently heat until it again becomes a solid mass.]


Formerly the work was conducted solely with natural ingredients. Acids used by the old Masters with their specific characteristics are now hard to obtain or unknown today.

From a chemical point of view we consider hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid and nitric acid. The latter we can do without for some of the procedures. Hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid useable for the work described was produced by the Chemical Industry in Europe as little as a few decades ago in a so-called Lead Chamber Process. Raw materials used were native sodium nitrate from the Alsace in France, native Vitriol (copper sulphate) from the mines in the Harz Mountains, or Hungary, etc., and red arsenic-sulphur
from Sicily. Common yellow sulphur was found to be useless for producing acid to be used alchemistically.

[NDC: The acids used in this process must be of natural origin and made using the lead chamber process. The sulphuric acid can be made from native copper sulphate (VITRIOL), common yellow sulfur will not work, and the hydrochloric from natural salts sources. If preparing the tincture from gold instead of antimony, nitric acid will be required along with hydrochloric acid and the sulfuric acid is still used. Natural sodium nitrate is used to make the nitric acid.]

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs


Ever had the feeling that your job might be made up? That the world would keep on turning if you weren’t doing that thing you do 9-5? David Graeber explored the phenomenon of bullshit jobs for our recent summer issue – everyone who’s employed should read carefully…

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber.
In the year 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by century’s end, technology would have advanced sufficiently that countries like Great Britain or the United States would have achieved a 15-hour work week. There’s every reason to believe he was right. In technological terms, we are quite capable of this. And yet it didn’t happen. Instead, technology has been marshaled, if anything, to figure out ways to make us all work more. In order to achieve this, jobs have had to be created that are, effectively, pointless. Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

Why did Keynes’ promised utopia – still being eagerly awaited in the ‘60s – never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn’t figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the ‘20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers.
So what are these new jobs, precisely? A recent report comparing employment in the US between 1910 and 2000 gives us a clear picture (and I note, one pretty much exactly echoed in the UK). Over the course of the last century, the number of workers employed as domestic servants, in industry, and in the farm sector has collapsed dramatically. At the same time, “professional, managerial, clerical, sales, and service workers” tripled, growing “from one-quarter to three-quarters of total employment.” In other words, productive jobs have, just as predicted, been largely automated away (even if you count industrial workers globally, including the toiling masses in India and China, such workers are still not nearly so large a percentage of the world population as they used to be).

But rather than allowing a massive reduction of working hours to free the world’s population to pursue their own projects, pleasures, visions, and ideas, we have seen the ballooning not even so much of the “service” sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations. And these numbers do not even reflect on all those people whose job is to provide administrative, technical, or security support for these industries, or for that matter the whole host of ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza deliverymen) that only exist because everyone else is spending so much of their time working in all the other ones.

These are what I propose to call “bullshit jobs.”

It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working. And here, precisely, lies the mystery. In capitalism, this is precisely what is not supposed to happen. Sure, in the old inefficient socialist states like the Soviet Union, where employment was considered both a right and a sacred duty, the system made up as many jobs as they had to (this is why in Soviet department stores it took three clerks to sell a piece of meat). But, of course, this is the sort of very problem market competition is supposed to fix. According to economic theory, at least, the last thing a profit-seeking firm is going to do is shell out money to workers they don’t really need to employ. Still, somehow, it happens.

While corporations may engage in ruthless downsizing, the layoffs and speed-ups invariably fall on that class of people who are actually making, moving, fixing and maintaining things; through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50 hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organizing or attending motivational seminars, updating their facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.

The answer clearly isn’t economic: it’s moral and political. The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger (think of what started to happen when this even began to be approximated in the ‘60s). And, on the other hand, the feeling that work is a moral value in itself, and that anyone not willing to submit themselves to some kind of intense work discipline for most of their waking hours deserves nothing, is extraordinarily convenient for them.

Once, when contemplating the apparently endless growth of administrative responsibilities in British academic departments, I came up with one possible vision of hell. Hell is a collection of individuals who are spending the bulk of their time working on a task they don’t like and are not especially good at. Say they were hired because they were excellent cabinet-makers, and then discover they are expected to spend a great deal of their time frying fish. Neither does the task really need to be done – at least, there’s only a very limited number of fish that need to be fried. Yet somehow, they all become so obsessed with resentment at the thought that some of their co-workers might be spending more time making cabinets, and not doing their fair share of the fish-frying responsibilities, that before long there’s endless piles of useless badly cooked fish piling up all over the workshop and it’s all that anyone really does.
I think this is actually a pretty accurate description of the moral dynamics of our own economy.

Now, I realise any such argument is going to run into immediate objections: “who are you to say what jobs are really ‘necessary’? What’s necessary anyway? You’re an anthropology professor, what’s the ‘need’ for that?” (And indeed a lot of tabloid readers would take the existence of my job as the very definition of wasteful social expenditure.) And on one level, this is obviously true. There can be no objective measure of social value.

I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless? Not long ago I got back in touch with a school friend who I hadn’t seen since I was 12. I was amazed to discover that in the interim, he had become first a poet, then the front man in an indie rock band. I’d heard some of his songs on the radio having no idea the singer was someone I actually knew. He was obviously brilliant, innovative, and his work had unquestionably brightened and improved the lives of people all over the world. Yet, after a couple of unsuccessful albums, he’d lost his contract, and plagued with debts and a newborn daughter, ended up, as he put it, “taking the default choice of so many directionless folk: law school.” Now he’s a corporate lawyer working in a prominent New York firm. He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist.

There’s a lot of questions one could ask here, starting with, what does it say about our society that it seems to generate an extremely limited demand for talented poet-musicians, but an apparently infinite demand for specialists in corporate law? (Answer: if 1% of the population controls most of the disposable wealth, what we call “the market” reflects what they think is useful or important, not anybody else.) But even more, it shows that most people in these jobs are ultimately aware of it. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit. The same goes for almost all the new industries outlined above. There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.

This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment. Yet it is the peculiar genius of our society that its rulers have figured out a way, as in the case of the fish-fryers, to ensure that rage is directed precisely against those who actually do get to do meaningful work. For instance: in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.  Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish. (Many suspect it might markedly improve.) Yet apart from a handful of well-touted exceptions (doctors), the rule holds surprisingly well.
Even more perverse, there seems to be a broad sense that this is the way things should be. This is one of the secret strengths of right-wing populism. You can see it when tabloids whip up resentment against tube workers for paralysing London during contract disputes: the very fact that tube workers can paralyse London shows that their work is actually necessary, but this seems to be precisely what annoys people. It’s even clearer in the US, where Republicans have had remarkable success mobilizing resentment against school teachers, or auto workers (and not, significantly, against the school administrators or auto industry managers who actually cause the problems) for their supposedly bloated wages and benefits. It’s as if they are being told “but you get to teach children! Or make cars! You get to have real jobs! And on top of that you have the nerve to also expect middle-class pensions and health care?”
If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the, universally reviled, unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

David Graeber is a Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics. His most recent book, The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement, is published by Spiegel & Grau.