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effect it, are, in the practice, full of error and imposture, and in the theory, full of unsound imaginations. For to say, that nature hath an intention to make all metals gold; and that, if she were delivered from impediments, she would perform her own work; and that, if the crudities, impurities, and leprosities of metals were cured, they would become gold; and that a little quantity of the medicine, in the work of projection, will turn a sea of the baser metal into gold by multiplying : all these are but dreams; and so are many other grounds of alchemy. And to help the matter, the alchemists call in likewise many vanities out of astrology, natural magic, superstitious interpretations of Scriptures, auricular traditions, feigned testimonies of ancient authors, and the like. It is true, on the other side, they have brought to light not a few profitable experiments, and thereby made the world some amends. But we, when we shall come to handle the version and transmutation of bodies, and the experiments concerning metals and minerals, will lay open the true ways and passages of nature, which may lead to this great effect. And we commend the wit of the Chineses, who despair of making of gold, but are mad upon the making of silver: for certain it is, that it is more difficult to make gold, which is the most ponderous and materiate amongst metals, of other metals less ponderous and less materiate, than via versa, to make silver of lead or quicksilver; both which are more ponderous than silver; so that they need rather a farther degree of fixation, than any condensation. In the mean time, by occasion of handling the axioms touching maturation, we will direct a trial touching the maturing of metals, and thereby turning some of them into gold: for we conceive indeed, that a perfect good concoction, or digestion, or maturation of some metals, will produce gold. And here we call to mind, that we knew a Dutchman, that had wrought himself into the belief of a great person, by undertaking that he could make gold : whose discourse was, that gold might be made ; but that the alchemists over-fired the work : for, he said, the making of gold did re
quire a very temperate heat, as being in nature a subterrany work, where little heat cometh ; but yet more to the making of gold than of any other metal; and therefore that he would do it with a great lamp that should carry a temperate and equal heat: and that it was the work of many months. The device of the lamp was folly; but the over-firing now used, and the equal heat to be required, and the making it a work of some good time, are no ill discourses.
We resort therefore to our axioms of maturation, in effect touched before. The first is, that there be used a temperate heat; for they are ever temperate heats that digest and mature : wherein we mean temperate according to the nature of the subject; for that may be temperate to fruits and liquors, which will not work at all upon metals. The second is, that the spirits of the metal be quickened, and the tangible parts opened: for without those two operations, the spirit of the metal wrought upon will not be able to digest the parts. The third is, that the spirits do spread themselves even, and move not subsultorily; for that will make the parts close and pliant. And this requireth a heat that doth not rise and fall, but continue as equal as may be. The fourth is, that no part of the spirit be emitted, but detained : for if there be emission of spirit, the body of the metal will be hard and churlish. And this will be performed, partly by the temper of the fire; and partly by the closeness of the vessel. The fifth is, that there be choice made of the likeliest and best prepared metal for the version : for that will facilitate the work. The sixth is, that you give time enough for the work : not to prolong hopes, as the alchemists do, but indeed to give nature a convenient space to work in. These principles are most certain and true; we will now derive a direction of trial out of them, which may, perhaps, by farther meditation be improved.
327. Let there be a small furnace made of a temperate heat; let the heat be such as may keep the metal perpetually molten, and no more; for that above all importeth to the work. For the material, take
silver, which is the metal that in nature symbolizeth most with gold; put in also with the silver, a tenth part of quicksilver, and a twelfth part of nitre, by weight; both these to quicken and open the body of the metal : and so let the work be continued by the space of six months at the least. I wish also, that there be at sometimes an injection of some oiled substance; such as they use in the recovering of gold, which by vexing with separations hath been made churlish : and this is to lay the parts more close and smooth, which is the main work. For gold, as we see, is the closest, and therefore the heaviest, of metals; and is likewise the most flexible and tensible. Note, that to think to make gold of quicksilver, because it is the heaviest, is a thing not to be hoped; for quicksilver will not endure the manage of the fire. Next to silver, I think copper were fittest to be the material.
Experiment solitary touching the nature of gold.
328. Gold hath these natures; greatness of weight; closeness of parts ; fixation ; pliantness, or softness ; immunity from rust; colour or tincture of yellow. Therefore the sure way, though most about, to make gold, is to know the causes of the several natures before rehearsed, and the axioms concerning the same. For if a man can make a metal that hath all these properties, let men dispute whether it be gold or no. Experiments in consort touching the inducing and
accelerating of putrefaction. The inducing and accelerating of putrefaction, is a subject of a very universal inquiry : for corruption is a reciprocal to generation : and they two are as nature's two terms or boundaries; and the guides to life and death. Putrefaction is the work of the spirits of bodies, which ever are unquiet to get forth and congregate with the air, and to enjoy the sunbeams. The getting forth, or spreading of the spirits, which is a degree of getting forth, hath five differing operations. If the spirits be detained within the body, and move more violently, there followeth colliquation,
as in metals, etc. If more mildly,
If more mildly, there followeth digestion, or maturation; as in drinks and fruits. If the spirits be not merely detained, but protrude a little, and that motion be confused and inordinate, there followeth putrefaction; which ever dissolveth the consistence of the body into much inequality; as in flesh, rotten fruits, shining wood, etc. and also in the rust of metals. But if that motion be in a certain order, there followeth vivification and figuration; as both in living creatures bred of putrefaction, and in living creatures perfect. But if the spirits issue out of the body, there followeth desiccation, induration, consumption, etc.. as in brick, evaporation of bodies liquid, etc.
329. The means to induce and accelerate putrefaction, are, first, by adding some crude or watery moisture; as in wetting of any flesh, fruit, wood, with water, etc. for contrariwise unctuous and oily substances preserve,
330. The second is by invitation or excitation; as when a rotten apple lieth close to another apple that is sound: or when dung, which is a substance already putrified, is added to other bodies. And this is also notably seen in churchyards where they bury much, where the earth will consume the corpse in far shorter time than other earth will.
331. The third is by closeness and stopping, which detaineth the spirits in prison more than they would; and thereby irritateth them to seek issue; as in corn and clothes which wax musty; and therefore open air, which they call aër perflabilis, doth preserve: and this doth appear more evidently in agues, which come, most of them, of obstructions, and penning the humours, which thereupon putrefy.
332. The fourth is by solution of continuity; as we see an apple will rot sooner if it be cut or pierced ; and so will wood, etc. And so the flesh of creatures alive, where they have received any wound.
333. The fifth is either by the exhaling or by the driving back of the principal spirits which preserve the consistence of the body; so that when their government is dissolved, every part returneth to his nature or homogeny. And this appeareth in urine and blood when they cool, and thereby break: it appeareth also in the gangrene, or mortification of flesh, either by opiates or by intense colds. I conceive also the same effect is in pestilences; for that the malignity of the infecting vapour danceth the principal spirits, and maketh them fly and leave their regiment; and then the humours, flesh, and secondary spirits, do dissolve and break, as in an anarchy.
334. The sixth is when a foreign spirit, stronger and more eager than the spirit of the body, entereth the body; as in the stinging of serpents. And this is the cause, generally, that upon all poisons followeth swelling: and we see swelling followeth also when the spirits of the body itself congregate too much, as upon blows and bruises ; or when they are pent in too much, as in swelling upon cold. And we see also, that the spirits coming of putrefaction of humours in agues, etc. which may be counted as foreign spirits, though they be bred within the body, do extinguish and suffocate the natural spirits and heat.
335. The seventh is by such a weak degree of heat, as setteth the spirits in a little motion, but is not able either to digest the parts, or to issue the spirits ; as is seen in flesh kept in a room, that is not cool : whereas in a cool and wet larder, it will keep longer. And we see that vivification, whereof putrefaction is the bastard brother, is effected by such soft heats ; as the hatching of eggs, the heat of the womb, etc.
336. The eighth is by the releasing of the spirits, which before were close kept by the solidness of their coverture, and thereby their appetite of issuing checked; as in the artificial rusts induced by strong waters in iron, lead, etc. and therefore wetting hasteneth rust or putrefaction of any thing, because it softeneth the crust for the spirits to come forth.
337. The ninth is by the interchange of heat and cold, or wet and dry; as we see in the mouldering of earth in frosts and sun; and in the more hasty rotting of wood, that is sometimes wet, sometimes dry.