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FROM the very cradle of the greatest civilizations of Antiquity, the precious metals, Gold and Silver, have formed the basis of commercial transactions, facilitated their expansion, and contributed to the mutual intercourse and welfare of mankind. Commerce made easy leads to mutual advancement, civilization, and the spread of knowledge.
Gold and Silver must necessarily, at first, have been obtained from the localities where Nature had deposited them. When their great convenience had once established them in general use as the means of obtaining this world's goods — which are considered to be not only the necessaries of life, but also the product of the toil, industry and ingenuity of some classes of men, or of the luxuries and special fruits of one richly endowed soil and climate to be transported to other countries not so favoured — it is evident that the desire of men to possess as much as possible of the precious metals would stimulate some more ambitious and cleverer than their fellows to try to imitate the processes of Nature. From what we now know to be the extreme difficulty of it, we might reasonably suppose that no one, by the exercise of a mere physical intellect, would be able to succeed in doing so. Gold is mentioned at the earliest period of history, but before the time of Hermes Trismegistus there is no early record of anyone having in this way succeeded in Chrusopoieia. Whether there are not slight evidences of its having been so performed, under peculiar circumstances, in later times, we shall allude to further on. We may take it as presumptive evidence that it was not so done, because we may be sure that if it had been many would have done it, and Gold, which was then, at least, the scarcest of all metals, would have become so plentiful that the market would have been over supplied, and it would have lost its value and use as a convenient mode of exchange. The history of the primitive world gives not the slightest indication that this ever took place. Croesus is related to have obtained his immense wealth from the gold found in the sands of the [Page 6] river Pactolus in Lybia. It would seem he must have taken it all, for Strabo, the Geographer, says none was found there in his time.
The scientific world and the generality of (so-called) educated men, notwithstanding the evidence of all Antiquity, and of, comparatively, more modern witnesses, such as Picus Mirandula, Helvetius, Athanasius Kircher, and others, still affect to doubt whether it ever was done. We have not the slightest wish to make any attempt to convince those who are guided by prejudice and feeling, or the shibboleth of a party, instead of the right use of the logical faculty in deliberately and carefully sifting the whole of the evidence for or against on any given subject. The scientific world is still swayed by loose reasoning and exploded prejudices. It is as well that such men should not believe it. We write not for them. The mark of the true Magus is, by the sternest self-discipline, to have rooted out all prejudices and to have left the mind perfectly free to receive as truth what the preponderance of evidence, as judged by the logical faculty, declares to be such, and utterly to disregard the fashion of the times on any subject. These only will give heed to what we say. "Unless ye become as little children, ye cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven " may be understood to apply to the removing of prejudices and educational errors.
We would not have presumed to offer our own ideas on the Golden Fleece were it not that, firstly, we have been strongly urged to do so, and, secondly, because at the present moment the revival of Occultism has brought in its train, as it always has done, a strongly awakened attention to that one branch of it called Alchemy. That many may not labour in vain at it, we would put before them a few considerations drawn, not from the practice exactly, but from the long contemplation of the lives and calamities of those who have, or, at least, are supposed to have performed this Magnum Opus.
As a basis of what we would wish to submit to them is the very able and useful book recently published, " Lives of Alchemistical philosophers," by Edward Arthur Waite. In the Introductory Essay to his book, followed by the Theory and Practice of the Magnum Opus, Mr. Waite, in eloquent phraseology, examines and comments on some of the latest modern writers on the subject, and with great perspicacity and justice weighs in the balances their probable errors, and declares his own firm belief in opposition to some of these modern Alchemical writers, that it was real material gold which the old Alchemists sought, and not solely the psychical regeneration and perfection of Man.
Mr. Waite also shows the probable use of the "Intuitive Faculty" in those who have attained to the "Magnum Opus". Herein we most cordially agree with him. We have, at the beginning of this Paper, alluded to the extreme improbability of anyone reaching this greatly desired goal by the exercise of the mere physical intellectual powers, however elevated [Page 7] they might be above those of the ordinary run of mortals. We must look elsewhere for a confirmation of Mr. Waite's reasoning as to what was revealed by the intuitive faculties.
Now, in ancient India there existed, of the glorious Aryan race, "Munis", or inspired men, i.e., intuitive. To them we are indebted for the sublime Sciences of Algebra, Astronomy, etc., and if to them we owe so much in this direction, we may safely presume that these were the men, if any, to penetrate intuitively all the secrets of Nature, and behold, by Divine Inspiration, how gold had been formed in the earth. As the Algebra they in this way invented has come down to us, or, more probably, some portion only of it, so we may reasonably conclude did some remnants of their knowledge of transmutation of metals. There are treatises in Sanscrit upon it. What exactly was the connexion between ancient India and Egypt, history does not tell us. That the Misraimites, or Mezzoranians, or Egyptians were skilled in the esoteric sciences is beyond doubt. Hermes Trismegistus was a reality. Possibly both were colonies from the ancient Atlantis, and had both brought with them the Science of Magic. Whatever the source, both Aryans and Mezzoranians had this Science, and by it Hermes Trismegistus made laws for and governed Egypt, giving it dynasties lasting through ages and ages. In Ragon's "Maçonnerie Occulte" he quotes from the " Oedipus Aegyptiacus " of the learned Jesuit, Athanasius Kircher (t. ii., p. 2, De Alchym., c. 1), expresses himself thus as to Hermes :-
" It is so certain that these first men possessed the
art of making gold, whether by extracting it from all sorts
of matters, or by transmuting the metals, that he who doubted
it, or would fain deny it, would show himself perfectly ignorant
of history. The priests, the kings, and the heads of families
were alone instructed in it. This art was always kept a great
secret, and those who were possessors of it always maintained
a profound silence, for fear that the laboratories and the
sanctuary the most concealed of Nature, being discovered
to an ignorant people, they would turn this knowledge to
the injury of the Republic. The ingenious and prudent Hermes,
foreseeing this danger which threatened the State, had then
reason for concealing this art of making gold under the same
veils and under the same hieroglyphic obscurities, of which
he availed himself to conceal from the profane people that
part of philosophy which concerned God, angels, and the universe."
Ragon goes on to say: "It required the evidence and
the force of truth to draw such an avowal from this most
learned father, who, upon many occasions, has disputed the
existence of the philosopher's stone.” One of these
occasions is given in "Histoire de la Philosophie Hermétique,
par M. l’Abbé Langlet du Fresnoy" (Tom.
ii. p. 51). A young man, an unsuccessful seeker of the philosopher's
stone, was visited by a perfect stranger, [Page
8] who showed him a process for making it, did
it with him, and with the powder so made the young man did
convert a large quantity of mercury
into pure gold. At the stranger's dictation he wrote down
the recipe. Yet he never could do it again, nor find the
stranger. Kircher, in accordance with the practice of his
church, intimated that the strange visitor was the devil.
Ragon proceeds to say that the gold then found in all the mines of the world would not have sufficed for the expense of raising the extraordinary monuments, the sumptuous palaces, the immense works which covered the soil of Egypt, but infers that it must have come from the sacred laboratories.
There is an abundance of testimony from other sources, that the Hierarchy or Priest-kings of Ancient Egypt were adepts in the transmutatory art, and, for some centuries, ruled with great justice and equity the rest of the nation by means of the great advantage which this and the discipline of Initiation gave them. It was necessary, therefore, to enshrine this knowledge in the most profound secrecy. Hence the invention of Hieroglyphics and a Symbolism, in which the process is involved in the most intricate, fantastic, and perplexing images, the meaning of which none but the Initiates were able to penetrate. There is reason to believe that the Isiac Table is a revelation to Initiates of the whole process. This Initiation was an ordeal that none but those highly gifted by Nature, such as Moses, Pythagoras, Plato, Apollonius Tyanaeus, and some few others could undergo and live. When they had passed it, they had attained to such a mastery of themselves as not to be likely to make an ill use of this knowledge, even if the penalty of death had not awaited those who divulged the Mysteries of Initiation. [ See Christian's " Histoire de la Magie à travers les âges", etc., pages 106 to 143. Also "Initiations aux mystères d'lsis dans la pyramide de Memphis" and I”Initiation aux Mystères de Mithra aux Sciences Magiques des Chaldéens d'Assyrie, Par Henri Delaage" ]
It is, more especially, to this withholding the secrets of Chrusopoieia from all but those who had achieved the mastery of themselves to which we would now refer. Mr. Waite, as we mentioned above, has shown the different views held by some modern writers, one part maintaining that all the symbolic and mystic allusions of the Alchemists had reference to the human body and soul — to Man — and denying that it included the literal transmutation of the inferior metals into gold. What we have just now given as to the Ancient Initiations, and the books to which we have referred, tend to show that the two things were combined in one; that unless the aspirant had passed the ordeal, guaranteeing his complete subjugation of the lower passions, the knowledge of Chrusopoieia was for ever forbidden to him. [Page 9]
The Hermetic Philosophers understood well the duplex symbolism of their Art, i.e., both its physical and its psychical meaning, e.g., in the Bodleian Library at Oxford is a large scroll done by Sir George Ripley, containing Hermetic Symbolism. At one end is the Fool, or merely natural man, drawn exactly according to the Zero, or first Symbol of the Taro. At the other end is the portraiture of the well-balanced and highly-developed head of the Adept. The Zero may mean either the unregenerate man, or the Prima Materia, the Chaos, of the Alchemists. The space between the Fool and the Adept contains various Symbols applicable either to the progressive stages in finding the philosopher's stone, or to the process of Regeneration of Man.
We know there are individuals in various parts of this country who are secretly or openly working at the Hermetic Art. We do not tell them it is a hopeless task, for undoubtedly history tends to show it has been done even by those who have not become regenerate by a regular process of Initiation, but the same history shows that the percentage of those who have so succeeded is very small, and of this small number there is a fatal record of the direst calamities and miseries coming upon some of them.
Mr. Waite gives a list of more than fifty real or supposed Adepts from Geber to Cagliostro. To go through all these would far exceed the limits permitted to us, and we can only take a few of the most prominent. The Monks, such as Roger Bacon, Basil Valentine, Sir George Ripley and others we may pass over as coming under the category of those who had subdued their passions by an ascetic life, even if they had not undergone an actual Initiation, which seems to be more than probable. Although these could undoubtedly perform the Magnum Opus, the evidence is that they made no use of it for their own mere animal and worldly enjoyment, which of itself shows the attainment of the greatest self-control.
Nicolas Flamel is one of the first prominent laymen whom modern history asserts to have been a true Adept, but that he did not attain to it till late in life. So many years of patient perseverance and the necessary self-denial, the all-absorbing mental concentration, all going on to an advanced period of life, must have been a discipline acting on the same lines as progressive Initiation and, perhaps, equivalent to it in subduing the lower passions. No self-indulgence is recorded of him, but he used his wealth to build churches, alms-houses and hospitals, succoured the needy and did every good work. Eliphas Levi [“Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie", Tome 1, page 355 ] remarks that his final success was owing to his personal preparation. What can this mean but the same effect which is produced by progressive Initiation ? According to Mr. Waite, the reputation he had of possessing the philosopher's stone brought him under the notice of the king, who sent for him. Perceiving [Page 10] the danger he incurred in complying with this summons, he contrived that his wife should appear to die and be buried, but, in reality, she fled to another country, when he also enacted for himself a pseudo-death and burial, but secretly went and joined his wife, and that they were seen alive many years after in another country. If this be true, his Adeptship was environed by a great danger, which his sagacity and prudence alone enabled him to avoid. Had the king demanded his secret and he refused to reveal it, he might have ended his days in the Bastile which Charles VI had just completed.
Bernard Trevisan passed a whole life and spent all his patrimony in vainly trying to make gold, and was reduced to the greatest extremity of poverty, but at last, when he was seventy-five years of age, as he said, by laborious comparing one Alchemical writer with another, picking out a little from each and putting the whole together, did at last find out the secret. This is the piece of evidence we alluded to in our opening remarks as tending to show it could be done by a mere physical Adeptship, but what we have said as to Nicolas Flamel is equally applicable to him. A life-time spent and energies concentrated on the constant search for the one thing, and latterly in poverty, expatriation, and actual want and privation, must of itself have been equal to an Initiation, and have included in it the abasement of the mere animal passions and a corresponding elevation of the higher faculties, which at last enabled him to triumph. We know that Swedenborg became lucid at the age of fifty-seven, and Cardan at about the same age. Trevisan's lucidity may have been delayed to a still later period, and it might, after all, have been a psychic Adeptship which at last gave him the entrance to the shut palace of the king. Of him, Lenglet du Fresnoy [ Philosophie Hermétique", Tome 1, page. 244 ] writes " It was a feeble consolation to have consummated uselessly considerable wealth at the end of more than sixty years, to have been exposed to the most extreme misery, and even to see himself forced to expatriation that his misery might not be known, and not to arrive at the consummation till the age of seventy-five years, an age at which a man can no longer enjoy wealth. However, if Bernard did find, he enjoyed it for some few years, but can one call by the title of enjoyment riches acquired at the expense of his repose, and at the age of decrepitude, when one ought to be no longer occupied with anything but the possession of future good ? " To this we answer that his more than sixty years freedom from debasing worldly pleasures, and the exercise of his will in elevating his psychic powers were the true riches with which to enter upon the next world. We have no account of his abusing the great power he possessed during the remaining years of his life. Men act from habit, which in his case was formed by voluntary long and painful abstinence. [Page 11] This habit was the passport to his final success, and we may reasonably suppose that he considered himself happy to have achieved it even at the cost of so much suffering. His example, however, does not give much encouragement to those who are seeking this power for their own selfish and worldly purposes.
The next prominent adept is the man of apparent contradictions, the marvellous Paracelsus, the pupil of the great Trithemius, who, at the early age of thirty years, had so far advanced that an Arabian Adept at Constantinople revealed to him the great secret, or so much of it as he did not know already. The Arabian must have perceived that he had so far progressed that he was justified in revealing to him what no possessor will impart to an unworthy person, even if it cost him his life to refuse. Much mystery has hung about the death of Paracelsus at the early age of forty-eight years, for the unravelling of which we are greatly indebted to the careful researches of Dr. Franz Hartmann, at Salzburg, which seem to prove conclusively that he was assassinated. This extraordinary man must have used his powers with the greatest moderation, for in his life there was no ostentation nor ambition of high station, and at his death no signs of great wealth were found. His one care seems to have been to heal the sick, performing such cures as are not recorded of any Medicus before or since, and to have been content to live on his professional income, and scorning to use his Alchemical knowledge for his own pleasure or convenience.Éliphas Lévi has said in his remarks upon evocations [ Histoire de la Magie”, page 456 ] — that Schroepffer and Lavater, who practised this dangerous form of magic, both died a violent death, the one by suicide, the other by assassination, and seems to intimate that in these two cases the evocation of spirits was, at least, the indirect cause of this tragical consummation. Whether there was any irregularity in the occult practice of Paracelsus likely to lead to such a calamity, there is no reliable evidence. The kind of life he is said to have passed does not show any great personal comfort or worldly advantage which he derived from the immense power his Illumination gave him, but rather an intense strain upon his bodily and mental functions, which his profound knowledge caused him to perceive must be equilibriated by seasons of conviviality and festive relaxation. His early death seems revolting to all our ideas of what should be the last end of an Adept. Whether he revealed too much to princes is a question not easy to solve. If he did, it may account for that fate overtaking him, which is the allotted portion of the revealers of mysteries. Let those who are entering upon this study consider well the dangers that bristle on their path.
We will only make a passing allusion to Dr. John Dee. Although he had passed probably as many years in the pursuit of the philosopher's stone, yet the extreme poverty and dependence of his last years attest that [Page 12] he could not have performed the Magnum Opus, and that his endeavours to obtain it by communicating with spirits opens up a lugubrious vista of the degradation and humiliation brought upon a man of genius and learning by this risky means. We possess a MS. purporting to have belonged to him which gives the symbols of formulae for evoking the spirits of the planet Venus to gain from them the knowledge of transmutations of metals. Dr. Dee is another lamentable instance of the perils and sufferings incurred by those who try to gain this great prize by running the race without regarding the wise rules laid down by the ancient sages.
Apparently, the most successful as well the most unfortunate and wretched of all Adepts was the Scotchman, Alexander Seton, calling himself Cosmopolites. Mr. Waite gives his history. It seems nothing less than utter infatuation on the part of Seton, in visiting Holland and Germany, to have made projections in the presence of such various people. This infatuation was only equalled by the great courage and fortitude he afterwards displayed when put to the torture by the Elector of Saxony to force him to discover his secret. In this he showed the spirit of the true Adept. And yet his singular folly and imprudence cannot be otherwise designated than as being contrary to all the rules which should guide those who have been admitted to this great arcanum. Mr. Waite does not mention it, but it is known to a few that the mode in which he gained his knowledge was not quite regular. He had a sister, a natural Clairvoyante, whose health he ruined by employing her lucidity in his researches. He also made an evocation of a spirit whom we will not name, and, by this means, gained possession of a powerful Ancient Talisman. In this irregularity we may, perhaps, discern the cause of his great imprudence above alluded to. Spirits always turn the tables on those who constrain them, if they have the opportunity. Neither did Seton, like Flamel, use his wealth for charitable purposes, but simply for his own personal wealth and enjoyment. For two years after escaping from the Elector of Saxony by the aid of Sendivogius, he underwent the greatest bodily suffering from the effects of the rack and the hot irons applied to him. He told Sendivogius that, had not his body been completely disorganized by the terrible torture of the rack, his Elixir would have restored him. We may suppose that his mental agonies could not have been less than his bodily sufferings. From these he was released by death at the end of two years. His fate does not encourage anyone to endeavour, by devious paths, to compass the Art of Transmutation for the purpose of self-enjoyment and the gratification of ambitious worldly desires.
There is another not included in the list given by Mr. Waite, the also unfortunate Dr. Price, of Guildford. This brings transmutation nearer to our own times, for it was in the year 1782, from May 6th to May 28th, upon eight different occasions, in the presence of witnesses varying from [Page 13] four in the first experiment to fifteen in the last but one, Lords Onslow, King, and Palmerston being amongst the number, Dr. Price did transmute inferior metals into gold and silver which stood the test of the assayers in London and Oxford. Every precaution was taken against deception, those coming to the trial bringing the metals to be transmuted and other things with them. There seemed to be no doubt in the minds of those present that Dr. Price had fully succeeded in transmuting inferior metals into pure gold and silver. All this is given at length in the “Annual Register" for 1782. It is also given in the " Gentleman's Magazine", as we suppose, of the same date, but this we have not ourselves seen. It seems to us impossible to read this account of his various transmutations, so often repeated, and before so many creditable and watchful witnesses, without being convinced that if he had used any of the well-known tricks of the pseudo-artists, he must have been detected.
The sequel to this strange history is, that the Royal Society of which Dr. Price was a Fellow called upon him, on pain of expulsion if he refused, to repeat the experiment in their presence. He attempted it and failed. We are precluded from obtaining from himself the causes of this failure, for he forthwith went and committed suicide. The Fellows of the Royal Society would, no doubt, be glad to take this as conclusive evidence that he could not, and never had done it. And yet there were fifteen witnesses of high intelligence and as competent to judge of this particular question as any of the Fellows of the Royal Society, who could have had no special experience in this department. In a Court of Law, we opine, the positive evidence of the fifteen witnesses would out-weigh the negative evidence of the Fellows of the Royal Society. As Occultists we know there may have been other reasons for his failure under such conditions, and what we may call, hostile influences, for we may consider the question prejudged, or they would have been content with, and not ignored, the evidence of fifteen such good witnesses as they were. As Occultists we know that Dr. Price was contravening all the laws of Initiation to attempt to make it a public matter, and was therefore pre-doomed to pay the penalty of failure and death.
As yet we have not succeeded in obtaining any information as to how Dr. Price became possessed of the powder of projection with which he effected the transmutations, whether he made it himself, or whether a small quantity only had been given him by some Adept, and that he had exhausted his stock, or nearly so, in the eight experiments above mentioned, or whether he had learned it from intercourse with spirits, and they according to their wont, turned treacherous to him in his greatest need, we have not been able to discover. Sendivogius was presented by Alexander Seton with a goodly portion of the powder of projection, and, with this, Sendivogius posed as an Adept, published Seton's writings as his own, and transmuted in the presence of Royalty, and received high honours and [Page 14] appointments, but, when his powder was all expended, he became the veriest charlatan and impostor, descending to the meanest tricks, and narrowly escaping the sad fate of Alexander Seton. In the same way, in France, one Delisle is supposed to have possessed himself of the powder of projection by murdering an Adept. Beginning from the year 1708, he deceived the world by his public transmutations, whereby he gained the reputation of being a real Adept, but, at last coming under the notice of Royalty, he was arrested. His guards, knowing he had some of the powder of projection on his person, resolved to kill him to possess themselves of it. With this intention they gave him an opportunity of escaping, that they might have a pretext for firing upon him. Delisle availed himself of this chance, and was fired at and not killed, but only his thigh broken. In this miserable condition, he was imprisoned in the Bastille, and before the end of a year, tired of his miserable existence, destroyed himself by poisoning the wound which the soldiers had given him. Before his death he confessed he did not know how to make the powder, but had it from an Italian Adept. This probably is the one he was supposed to have murdered. How this murdered man gained his knowledge we have not been able to glean any precise information, though it seems he was acknowledged by Lascaris to have been a true son of the Transmutatory Art. The history of Delisle may bear somewhat upon the miserable fate of Dr. Price, from which, by analogy, there may reasonably be considerable doubt whether, even if he were an Adept, he had not, like Alexander Seton, gained his knowledge in a questionable and irregular way. To make projection in public seems of itself to be evidence of a doubtful and risky Initiation, and dire retribution in the shape of terrible personal suffering and suicide usually follows it.
Even as we write, there appears from Paris the startling account of one Tiffereau, calling himself the “Alchemist of the Nineteenth Century” lecturing to an assemblage of eager listeners on his grand discovery of a new method of making gold artificially, proclaiming publicly the details of the process, and demanding that the Government should furnish him with the means of setting up a workshop in Paris whence he could supply the manufactured article at £6 sterling, or as low even as £ 3 for about 2 Ibs. of gold. The present price of gold is not quite £ 4 per OZ. Like Bernard Trevisan, he has passed a long life in the pursuit of the Transmutatory Art, but unlike Trevisan, he does not seem to have really found it, even in his old age. Éliphas Lévi, in his “Analysis of the seven chapters of Hermes", lays down as an axiom ["La clef des grands mystères", page 450]. ”He who would make known the Magnum Opus, would prove thereby that he knew it not". Judging by this, we may reasonably and perhaps safely conclude that Tiffereau, instead of finding by his long years of search and spending all his money on it, has become hallucinated, and like all demented men, now seeks to hallucinate [Page 15] others, and yet with method in his madness, aims at obtaining from the Government the reward of the public gold, which a life-time of research has not enabled him to make for himself. The “Daily Telegraph " had a leading article upon Tiffereau, in which the writer used the threadbare and stock arguments to show that gold cannot be artificially made, and evinces the usual amount of ignorance on the history of the subject. He does, however, perceive and dilate upon, what we have hereinbefore remarked, the complete dislocation of commerce and universal disaster which must ensue, if it could be done so as to be generally known. If Tiffereau has succeeded, as he says, we shall encounter strange changes ere long. Our frontispiece is a copy of one prefixed to a German edition of one of the works of Eugenius Philalethes. The interpretation of it is: The man blindfolded is the Candidate for Initiation into the Mysteries. He wanders in the Labyrinth of Fantasy, led by his own natural instincts, and is deluded by the Elementals or other beings in harmony with his lower tendencies. Ariadne is on the left with the thread in her hand ready to give him the clue for his liberation, but he turns himself from her and simultaneously from the Light of Nature into the region of darkness, which he appears to love better than Light. Possibly, this may have the same signification as the man putting his hand to the plough and looking back, and his consequent unfitness and rejection.
At the bottom of the frontispiece is represented debased human nature under the symbol of a winged dragon which devours its own tail. By this is signified the Initiate conquering his vices and lower inclinations, before he can develop the higher phases of his being, and so render himself fit to be intrusted with the great secrets and powers of Nature.
Within the circle formed by this dragon is seated the Adept, who has passed the ordeal and conquered in all the progressive stages of trial. Having learned to command himself, he is now fit to command others. The “thesaurus incantatus," or enchanted treasure, is laying in profusion around him.
At the upper part, just outside the Region of Fantasy, is the invisible mountain of the Magi, the Sun, Moon, and stars symbolizing the Macrocosm and all its powers and influences known only to these true Adepts, and alluding probably to the seclusion of the Rosicrucians. Philalethes and other Adepts call the attaining to the Magnum Opus the gift of God. Our frontispiece gives an intimation of what he means by this. When a man has conquered himself and made himself one with the Great Soul of the Universe, according to the Oriental philosophy, he becomes a God, and we may suppose this to be the concealed meaning of Philalethes and others, in these words. This Adept, whom we verily believe to have performed chrusopoieia at a very early age, does not appear making transmutations before kings or noblemen, and in his various works he writes obscurely, symbolically, and enigmatically as any Ancient Egyptian [Page 16] Hierophant could desire. None but the Initiated could discover the true meaning of his alchemical writings. His design was only to mislead all but the Initiates. He probably had a further design to make himself known to the Rosicrucians, and to let them see that he would not reveal this Sacred Arcanum. It is supposed that he did ultimately join that Order, but his later years are wrapped in apparently impenetrable obscurity. According to his own account such was the state of society under the then existing regime, such the tyranny and despotism pervading even commercial transactions, such formalities and obstructions, that he had the greatest difficulty in disposing of the gold and silver he had made, and was obliged to roam from country to country, and city to city, and assume all sorts of disguises to conceal his identity. Even for this genuine Adept, his very success brought with it, in those times, anxiety for his personal safety, discomfort, and harassing cares. When the Rosicrucians admitted him into their Order, as it seems likely they did, these anxieties ought to have ceased, but the Rosicrucians themselves were obliged to leave Europe on account of persecutions and dangers, which we will not here more particularly enter into.
The summing up of the evidence we have adduced is simply that Chrusopoieia has been in the past and can still be effected, but that in order to be a successful Alchemist a man must either at an early age first conquer his lower nature, and have no desire left for what are by worldly men considered the advantages of wealth, and have disciplined himself never to reveal the secret, giving hostages to Silence, speaking only in vague and enigmatical verbosity, or he may possibly attain to it by a life-long weary search, and when he shall have arrived at an age when the bodily and mental powers are waning and the grave is yawning to receive him, discover it, as did Bernard Trevisan. Like Tiffereau, he may pass his whole life in the weary search, and at the same age as Trevisan, instead of finding, lose the equilibrium of his faculties, and die in poverty and misery. He may wrest the eagerly desired knowledge, by a fatal pact with spirits, who will take care that he shall not long enjoy his riches without some terrible calamity overtaking him. Verbum sat sapienti.
A work devoted entirely to a research into all the details of the lives of the Alchemists, if research would find such details, we believe would fully confirm that of which we are only able to give a faint outline. We feel sure such a work would overwhelmingly show the futility of making gold by way of hasting to be rich, and using it to enjoy this world's pleasures. Let those who have opportunity and leisure try to throw such a side-light on the Hermetic Art in the lives of its Professors, and they will be benefactors to the human race, and make them content with the less thorny, but surer paths of Theosophy.
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