Bygone Beliefs
H. Stanley Redgrove

Part 3 out of 3

a stone [_i.e_. it contains no outward sulphur, but only inward, fixed
sulphur], but its appearance is that of a very fine powder, impalpable
to the touch, sweet to the taste, fragrant to the smell, in potency a
most penetrative spirit, apparently dry and yet unctuous, and easily
capable of tingeing a plate of metal.... If we say that its nature is
spiritual, it would be no more than the truth; if we described it as
corporeal the expression would be equally correct; for it is subtle,
penetrative, glorified, spiritual gold. It is the noblest of all
created things after the rational soul, and has virtue to repair all
defects both in animal and metallic bodies, by restoring them to the
most exact and perfect temper; wherefore is it a spirit or `
quintessence.' "[1c]

[1a] BASIL VALENTINE: _The Twelve Keys_. (See _The Hermetic Museum_,
vol. i. pp. 333 and 334.)

[2a] From the "Smaragdine Table," attributed to HERMES TRISMEGISTOS
(_ie_. MERCURY or THOTH).

[1b] _The Book of the Revelation of_ HERMES, _interpreted by_
THEOPHRASTUS PARACELSUS, _concerning the Supreme Secret of
the World_. (See BENEDICTUS FIGULUS, _A Golden and Blessed Casket
of Nature's Marvels_, trans. by A. E. WAITE, 1893, pp.
36, 37, and 41.)

[1c] EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES: _A Brief Guide to the Celestial Ruby_.
(See _The Hermetic Museum_, vol. ii. pp. 246 and 249.)

In other accounts the Philosopher's Stone, or at least the _materia
prima_ of which it is compounded, is spoken of as a despised
substance, reckoned to be of no value. Thus, according to one
curious alchemistic work, "This matter, so precious by the
excellent Gifts, wherewith Nature has enriched it, is truly mean,
with regard to the Substances from whence it derives its Original.
Their price is not above the Ability of the Poor. Ten Pence is
more than sufficient to purchase the Matter of the Stone. . . . The
matter therefore is mean, considering the Foundation of the Art
because it costs very little; it is no less mean, if one considers
exteriourly that which gives it Perfection, since in that regard it
costs nothing at all, in as much as _all the World has it in its
Power_ . . . so that . . . it is a constant Truth, that the Stone is
a Thing mean in one Sense, but that in another it is most precious,
and that there are none but Fools that despise it, by a just
Judgment of God."[1] And JACOB BOEHME (1575--1624) writes: "The
_philosopher's stone_ is a very dark, disesteemed stone, of a grey
colour, but therein lieth the highest tincture."[2] In these passages
there is probably some reference to the ubiquity of the Spirit of the
World, already referred to in a former quotation. But this fact is
not, in itself, sufficient to account for them. I suggest that their
origin is to be found in the religious doctrine that God's Grace, the
Spirit of CHRIST that is the means of the transmutation of man's soul
into spiritual gold, is free to all; that it is, at once, the meanest
and the most precious thing in the whole Universe. Indeed, I think it
quite probable that the alchemists who penned the above-quoted passages
had in mind the words of ISAIAH, "He was despised and we esteemed him
not." And if further evidence is required that the alchemists believed
in a correspondence between CHRIST--"the Stone which the builders
rejected"--and the Philosopher's Stone, reference may be made to the
alchemical work called _The Sophic Hydrolith: or Water Stone of the
Wise_, a tract included in _The Hermetic Museum_, in which this supposed
correspondence is explicitly asserted and dealt with in some detail.

[1] _A Discourse between Eudoxus and Pyrophilus, upon the Ancient War
of the Knights_. See _The Hermetical Triumph: or, the Victorious
Philosophical Stone_ (1723), pp. 101 and 102.

[2] JACOB BOEHME: _Epistles_ (trans. by J. E., 1649, reprinted 1886),
Ep. iv., SE III.

Apart from the alchemists' belief in the analogy between natural and
spiritual things, it is, I think, incredible that any such theories of
the metals and the possibility of their transmutation or "regeneration"
by such an extraordinary agent as the Philosopher's Stone would have
occurred to the ancient investigators of Nature's secrets. When they
had started to formulate these theories, facts[1] were discovered which
appeared to support them; but it is, I suggest, practically impossible
to suppose that any or all of these facts would, in themselves, have been
sufficient to give rise to such wonderfully fantastic theories as these:
it is only from the standpoint of the theory that alchemy was a direct
offspring of mysticism that its origin seems to be capable of explanation.

[1] One of those facts, amongst many others, that appeared to confirm
the alchemical doctrines, was the ease with which iron could apparently
be transmuted into copper. It was early observed that iron vessels
placed in contact with a solution of blue vitriol became converted
(at least, so far as their surfaces were concerned) into copper.
This we now know to be due to the fact that the copper originally
contained in the vitriol is thrown out of solution, whilst the iron
takes its place. And we know, also, that no more copper can be
obtained in this way from the blue vitriol than is actually used up
in preparing it; and, further, that all the iron which is apparently
converted into copper can be got out of the residual solution by
appropriate methods, if such be desired; so that the facts really
support DALTON'S theory rather than the alchemical doctrines.
But to the alchemist it looked like a real transmutation of iron
into copper, confirmation of his fond belief that iron and other
base metals could be transmuted into silver and gold by the aid
of the Great Arcanum of Nature.

In all the alchemical doctrines mystical connections are evident,
and mystical origins can generally be traced. I shall content
myself here with giving a couple of further examples. Consider,
in the first place, the alchemical doctrine of purification
by putrefaction, that the metals must die before they can be
resurrected and truly live, that through death alone are they
purified--in the more prosaic language of modern chemistry, death
becomes oxidation, and rebirth becomes reduction. In many
alchemical books there are to be found pictorial symbols of the
putrefaction and death of metals and their new birth in the state
of silver or gold, or as the Stone itself, together with descriptions
of these processes. The alchemists sought to kill or destroy the
body or outward form of the metals, in the hope that they might get
at and utilise the living essence they believed to be immanent within.
As PARACELSUS put it: "Nothing of true value is located in the body of
a substance, but in the virtue . . . the less there is of body, the
more in proportion is the virtue." It seems to me quite obvious that
in such ideas as these we have the application to metallurgy of the
mystic doctrine of self-renunciation--that the soul must die to self
before it can live to God; that the body must be sacrificed to the
spirit, and the individual will bowed down utterly to the One Divine
Will, before it can become one therewith.

In the second place, consider the directions as to the colours that
must be obtained in the preparation of the Philosopher's Stone, if
a successful issue to the Great Work is desired. Such directions
are frequently given in considerable detail in alchemical works; and,
without asserting any exact uniformity, I think that I may state that
practically all the alchemists agree that three great colour-stages
are necessary--(i.) an inky blackness, which is termed the "Crow's
Head" and is indicative of putrefaction; (ii.) a white colour
indicating that the Stone is now capable of converting "base" metals
into silver; this passes through orange into (iii.) a red colour,
which shows that the Stone is now perfect, and will transmute "base"
metals into gold. Now, what was the reason for the belief in these
three colour-stages, and for their occurrence in the above order?
I suggest that no alchemist actually obtained these colours in this
order in his chemical experiments, and that we must look for a
speculative origin for the belief in them. We have, I think, only
to turn to religious mysticism for this origin. For the exponents
of religious mysticism unanimously agree to a threefold division of
the life of the mystic. The first stage is called "the dark night
of the soul," wherein it seems as if the soul were deserted by God,
although He is very near. It is the time of trial, when self is
sacrificed as a duty and not as a delight. Afterwards, however,
comes the morning light of a new intelligence, which marks the
commencement of that stage of the soul's upward progress that is
called the "illuminative life". All the mental powers are now
concentrated on God, and the struggle is transferred from without to
the inner man, good works being now done, as it were, spontaneously.
The disciple, in this stage, not only does unselfish deeds, but does
them from unselfish motives, being guided by the light of Divine
Truth. The third stage, which is the consummation of the process, is
termed "the contemplative life". It is barely describable. The
disciple is wrapped about with the Divine Love, and is united thereby
with his Divine Source. It is the life of love, as the illuminative
life is that of wisdom. I suggest that the alchemists, believing in
this threefold division of the regenerative process, argued that there
must be three similar stages in the preparation of the Stone, which
was the pattern of all metallic perfection; and that they derived
their beliefs concerning the colours, and other peculiarities of each
stage in the supposed chemical process,from the characteristics of
each stage in the psychological process according to mystical theology.

Moreover, in the course of the latter process many flitting thoughts
and affections arise and deeds are half-wittingly done which are not
of the soul's true character; and in entire agreement with this,
we read of the alchemical process, in the highly esteemed "Canons"
of D'ESPAGNET: "Besides these decretory signs [_i.e_. the black,
white, orange, and red colours] which firmly inhere in the matter,
and shew its essential mutations, almost infinite colours appear,
and shew themselves in vapours, as the Rainbow in the clouds,
which quickly pass away and are expelled by those that succeed,
more affecting the air than the earth: the operator must have
a gentle care of them, because they are not permanent, and proceed
not from the intrinsic disposition of the matter, but from the fire
painting and fashioning everything after its pleasure, or casually
by heat in slight moisture."[1] That D'ESPAGNET is arguing,
not so much from actual chemical experiments, as from analogy
with psychological processes in man, is, I think, evident.

[1] JEAN D'ESPAGNET: _Hermetic Arcanum_, canon 65. (See _Collectanea
Hermetica_, ed. by W. WYNN WESTCOTT, vol. i., 1893, pp. 28 and 29.)

As well as a metallic, the alchemists believed in a physiological,
application of the fundamental doctrines of mysticism:
their physiology was analogically connected with their
metallurgy, the same principles holding good in each case.
PARACELSUS, as we have seen, taught that man is a microcosm,
a world in miniature; his spirit, the Divine Spark within,
is from God; his soul is from the Stars, extracted from
the Spirit of the World; and his body is from the earth,
extracted from the elements of which all things material are made.
This view of man was shared by many other alchemists.
The Philosopher's Stone, therefore (or, rather, a solution
of it in alcohol) was also regarded as the Elixir of Life;
which, thought the alchemists, would not endow man with
physical immortality, as is sometimes supposed, but restore him
again to the flower of youth, "regenerating" him physiologically.
Failing this, of course, they regarded gold in a potable form
as the next most powerful medicine--a belief which probably
led to injurious effects in some cases.

Such are the facts from which I think we are justified in concluding,
as I have said, "that the alchemists constructed their chemical theories
for the main part by means of _a priori_ reasoning, and that the premises
from which they started were (i.) the truth of mystical theology,
especially the doctrine of the soul's regeneration, and (ii.) the truth
of mystical philosophy, which asserts that the objects of nature are
symbols of spiritual verities."[1]

[1] In the following excursion we will wander again in the alchemical
bypaths of thought, and certain objections to this view of the origin
and nature of alchemy will be dealt with and, I hope, satisfactorily

It seems to follow, _ex hypothesi_, that every alchemical work ought
to permit of two interpretations, one physical, the other
transcendental. But I would not venture to assert this, because, as
I think, many of the lesser alchemists knew little of the origin of
their theories, nor realised their significance. They were concerned
merely with these theories in their strictly metallurgical applications,
and any transcendental meaning we can extract from their works was not
intended by the writers themselves. However, many alchemists, I
conceive, especially the better sort, realised more or less clearly
the dual nature of their subject, and their books are to some extent
intended to permit of a double interpretation, although the emphasis is
laid upon the physical and chemical application of mystical doctrine.
And there are a few writers who adopted alchemical terminology
on the principle that, if the language of theology is competent
to describe chemical processes, then, conversely, the language
of alchemy must be competent to describe psychological processes:
this is certainly and entirely true of JACOB BOEHME, and, to some
extent also, I think, of HENRY KHUNRATH (1560-1605) and THOMAS
VAUGHAN (1622-1666).

As may be easily understood, many of the alchemists led most
romantic lives, often running the risk of torture and death at
the hands of avaricious princes who believed them to be in possession
of the Philosopher's Stone, and adopted such pleasant methods
of extorting (or, at least, of trying to extort) their secrets.
A brief sketch, which I quote from my _Alchemy: Ancient and Modern_
(1911), SE 54, of the lives of ALEXANDER SETHON and MICHAEL SENDIVOGIUS,
will serve as an example:--

"The date and birthplace of ALEXANDER SETHON, a Scottish alchemist,
do not appear to have been recorded, but MICHAEL SENDIVOGIUS was
probably born in Moravia about 1566. Sethon, we are told, was in
possession of the arch-secrets of Alchemy. He visited Holland in 1602,
proceeded after a time to Italy, and passed through Basle to Germany;
meanwhile he is said to have performed many transmutations.
Ultimately arriving at Dresden, however, he fell into the clutches
of the young Elector, Christian II., who, in order to extort his secret,
cast him into prison and put him to the torture, but without avail.
Now it so happened that Sendivogius, who was in quest of
the Philosopher's Stone, was staying at Dresden, and hearing
of Sethon's imprisonment obtained permission to visit him.
Sendivogius offered to effect Sethon's escape in return for assistance
in his alchemistic pursuits, to which arrangement the Scottish
alchemist willingly agreed. After some considerable outlay
of money in bribery, Sendivogius's plan of escape was successfully
carried out, and Sethon found himself a free man; but he refused
to betray the high secrets of Hermetic philosophy to his rescuer.
However, before his death, which occurred shortly afterwards,
he presented him with an ounce of the transmutative powder.
Sendivogius soon used up this powder, we are told, in effecting
transmutations and cures, and, being fond of expensive living,
he married Sethon's widow, in the hope that she was in the possession
of the transmutative secret. In this, however, he was disappointed;
she knew nothing of the matter, but she had the manuscript of an
alchemistic work written by her late husband. Shortly afterwards
Sendivogius printed at Prague a book entitled _The New Chemical Light_
under the name of `Cosmopolita,' which is said to have been this
work of Sethon's, but which Sendivogius claimed for his own by the
insertion of his name on the title page, in the form of an anagram.
The tract _On Sulphur_ which was printed at the end of the book
in later editions, however, is said to have been the genuine
work of the Moravian. Whilst his powder lasted, Sendivogius
travelled about, performing, we are told, many transmutations.
He was twice imprisoned in order to extort the secrets of alchemy
from him, on one occasion escaping, and on the other occasion obtaining
his release from the Emperor Rudolph. Afterwards, he appears
to have degenerated into an impostor, but this is said to have been
a _finesse_ to hide his true character as an alchemistic adept.
He died in 1646."

However, all the alchemists were not of the apparent character
of SENDIVOGIUS--many of them leading holy and serviceable lives.
The alchemist-physician J. B. VAN HELMONT (1577-1644), who was a man
of extraordinary benevolence, going about treating the sick poor freely,
may be particularly mentioned. He, too, claimed to have performed
the transmutation of "base" metal into gold, as did also HELVETIUS
(whom we have already met), physician to the Prince of Orange,
with a wonderful preparation given to him by a stranger.
The testimony of these two latter men is very difficult either to explain
or to explain away, but I cannot deal with this question here, but must
refer the reader to a paper on the subject by Mr GASTON DE MENGEL,
and the discussion thereon, published in vol. i. of _The Journal
of the Alchemical Society_.

In conclusion, I will venture one remark dealing with a matter outside
of the present inquiry. Alchemy ended its days in failure and fraud;
charlatans and fools were attracted to it by purely mercenary objects,
who knew nothing of the high aims of the genuine alchemists,
and scientific men looked elsewhere for solutions of Nature's problems.
Why did alchemy fail? Was it because its fundamental theorems
were erroneous? I think not. I consider the failure of the alchemical
theory of Nature to be due rather to the misapplication of these
fundamental concepts, to the erroneous use of _a priori_ methods
of reasoning, to a lack of a sufficiently wide knowledge of natural
phenomena to which to apply these concepts, to a lack of adequate
apparatus with which to investigate such phenomena experimentally,
and to a lack of mathematical organons of thought with which to
interpret such experimental results had they been obtained.
As for the basic concepts of alchemy themselves, such as the fundamental
unity of the Cosmos and the evolution of the elements, in a word,
the applicability of the principles of mysticism to natural phenomena:
these seem to me to contain a very valuable element of truth--a
statement which, I think, modern scientific research justifies me in
making,--though the alchemists distorted this truth and expressed it in
a fantastic form. I think, indeed, that in the modern theories of energy
and the all-pervading ether, the etheric and electrical origin and nature
of matter and the evolution of the elements, we may witness the triumphs
of mysticism as applied to the interpretation of Nature. Whether or not
we shall ever transmute lead into gold, I believe there is a very true
sense in which we may say that alchemy, purified by its death, has been
proved true, whilst the materialistic view of Nature has been proved false.



THE problem of alchemy presents many aspects to our view, but, to my
mind, the most fundamental of these is psychological, or, perhaps I
should say, epistemological. It has been said that the proper study
of mankind is man; and to study man we must study the beliefs of man.
Now so long as we neglect great tracts of such beliefs, because they
have been, or appear to have been, superseded, so long will our
study be incomplete and ineffectual. And this, let me add,is no
mere excuse for the study of alchemy, no mere afterthought put
forward in justification of a predilection, but a plain statement of
fact that renders this study an imperative need. There are other
questions of interest--of very great interest--concerning alchemy:
questions, for instance, as to the scope and validity of its doctrines;
but we ought not to allow their fascination and promise to distract
our attention from the fundamental problem, whose solution is essential
to their elucidation.

In the preceding essay on "The Quest of the Philosopher's Stone,"
which was written from the standpoint I have sketched in the foregoing
words, my thesis was "that the alchemists constructed their chemical
theories for the main part by means of _a priori_ reasoning, and that
the premises from which they started were (i.) the truth of mystical
theology, especially the doctrine of the soul's regeneration, and
(ii.) the truth of mystical philosophy, which asserts that the objects
of nature are symbols of spiritual verities." Now, I wish to treat my
present thesis, which is concerned with a further source from which the
alchemists derived certain of their views and modes of expression by
means of _a priori_ reasoning, in connection with, and, in a sense, as
complementary to, my former thesis. I propose in the first place,
therefore, briefly to deal with certain possible objections to this
view of alchemy.

It has, for instance, been maintained[1] that the assimilation
of alchemical doctrines concerning the metals to those of mysticism
concerning the soul was an event late in the history of alchemy,
and was undertaken in the interests of the latter doctrines.
Now we know that certain mystics of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries did borrow from the alchemists much of their terminology with
which to discourse of spiritual mysteries--JACOB BOEHME, HENRY KHUNRATH,
and perhaps THOMAS VAUGHAN, may be mentioned as the most prominent cases
in point. But how was this possible if it were not, as I have suggested,
the repayment, in a sense, of a sort of philological debt?
Transmutation was an admirable vehicle of language for describing
the soul's regeneration, just because the doctrine of transmutation
was the result of an attempt to apply the doctrine of regeneration
in the sphere of metallurgy; and similar remarks hold of the other
prominent doctrines of alchemy.

[1] See, for example, Mr A. E. WAITE'S paper, "The Canon
of Criticism in respect of Alchemical Literature," _The Journal
of the Alchemical Society_, vol. i. (1913), pp. 17-30.

The wonderful fabric of alchemical doctrine was not woven in a day,
and as it passed from loom to loom, from Byzantium to Syria,
from Syria to Arabia, from Arabia to Spain and Latin Europe,
so its pattern changed; but it was always woven _a priori_,
in the belief that that which is below is as that which is above.
In its final form, I think, it is distinctly Christian.

In the _Turba Philosophorum_, the oldest known work of Latin alchemy--a
work which, claiming to be of Greek origin, whilst not that, is
certainly Greek in spirit,--we frequently come across statements of
a decidedly mystical character. "The regimen," we read, "is greater
than is perceived by reason, except through divine inspiration."[1]
Copper, it is insisted upon again and again, has a soul as well as a
body; and the Art, we are told, is to be defined as "the liquefaction
of the body and the separation of the soul from the body, seeing that
copper, like a man, has a soul and a body."[2] Moreover, other
doctrines are here propounded which, although not so obviously of a
mystical character, have been traced to mystical sources in the
preceding excursion. There is, for instance, the doctrine of
purification by means of putrefaction, this process being likened to
that of the resurrection of man. "These things being done," we read,
"God will restore unto it [the matter operated on] both the soul and
the spirit thereof, and the weakness being taken away, that matter will
be made strong, and after corruption will be improved, even as a man
becomes stronger after resurrection and younger than he was in this
world."[1b] The three stages in the alchemical work--black, white, and
red--corresponding to, and, as I maintain, based on the three stages
in the life of the mystic, are also more than once mentioned. "Cook
them [the king and his wife], therefore, until they become black, then
white, afterwards red, and finally until a tingeing venom is produced."[2b]

[1] _The Turba Philosophorum, or Assembly of the Sages_ (trans. by A. E.
WAITE, 1896), p. 128.

[2] _Ibid_., p. 193, _cf_. pp. 102 and 152.

[1b] _The Turba Philosophorum, or Assembly of the Sages_ (trans. by A. E.
WAITE), p. 101, _cf_. pp. 27 and 197.

[2b] _Ibid_., p. 98, _cf_. p. 29.

In view of these quotations, the alliance (shall I say?) between alchemy
and mysticism cannot be asserted to be of late origin. And we shall
find similar statements if we go further back in time. To give but one
example: "Among the earliest authorities," writes Mr WAITE, "the _Book
of Crates_ says that copper, like man, has a spirit, soul, and body,"
the term "copper" being symbolical and applying to a stage in the
alchemical work. But nowhere in the _Turba_ do we meet with the concept
of the Philosopher's Stone as the medicine of the metals, a concept
characteristic of Latin alchemy, and, to quote Mr WAITE again, "it does
not appear that the conception of the Philosopher's Stone as a medicine
of metals and of men was familiar to Greek alchemy;"[3]

[3] _Ibid_., p. 71.

All this seems to me very strongly to support my view of the origin of
alchemy, which requires a specifically Christian mysticism only for this
specific concept of the Philosopher's Stone in its fully-fledged form.
At any rate, the development of alchemical doctrine can be seen
to have proceeded concomitantly with the development of mystical
philosophy and theology. Those who are not prepared here to see effect
and cause may be asked not only to formulate some other hypothesis
in explanation of the origin of alchemy, but also to explain this fact
of concomitant development.

From the standpoint of the transcendental theory of alchemy it has
been urged "that the language of mystical theology seemed to be
hardly so suitable to the exposition [as I maintain] or concealment
of chemical theories, as the language of a definite and generally
credited branch of science was suited to the expression of a veiled
and symbolical process such as the regeneration of man."[1] But such
a statement is only possible with respect to the latest days of alchemy,
when there WAS a science of chemistry, definite and generally credited.
The science of chemistry, it must be remembered, had no growth
separate from alchemy, but evolved therefrom. Of the days before
this evolution had been accomplished, it would be in closer accord
with the facts to say that theology, including the doctrine of man's
regeneration, was in the position of "a definite and generally
credited branch of science," whereas chemical phenomena were veiled
in deepest mystery and tinged with the dangers appertaining to magic.
As concerns the origin of alchemy, therefore, the argument
as to suitability of language appears to support my own theory;
it being open to assume that after formulation--that is,
in alchemy's latter days--chemical nomenclature and theories were
employed by certain writers to veil heterodox religious doctrine.

[1] PHILIP S. WELLBY, M.A., in _The Journal of the
Alchemical Society_, vol. ii. (1914), p. 104.

Another recent writer on the subject, my friend the late Mr ABDUL-ALI,
has remarked that "he thought that, in the mind of the alchemist at
least, there was something more than analogy between metallic and
psychic transformations, and that the whole subject might well be
assigned to the doctrinal category of ineffable and transcendent Oneness.
This Oneness comprehended all--soul and body, spirit and matter, mystic
visions and waking life--and the sharp metaphysical distinction between
the mental and the non-mental realms, so prominent during the history of
philosophy, was not regarded by these early investigators in the sphere
of nature. There was the sentiment, perhaps only dimly experienced,
that not only the law, but the substance of the Universe, was one;
that mind was everywhere in contact with its own kindred; and that
metallic transmutation would, somehow, so to speak, signalise and seal
a hidden transmutation of the soul."[1]

[1] SIJIL ABDUL-ALI, in _The Journal of the Alchemical Society_,
vol. ii. (1914), p. 102.

I am to a large extent in agreement with this view. Mr ABDUL-ALI
quarrels with the term "analogy," and, if it is held to imply any
merely superficial resemblance, it certainly is not adequate to my own
needs, though I know not what other word to use. SWEDENBORG'S term
"correspondence" would be better for my purpose, as standing for an
essential connection between spirit and matter, arising out of the
causal relationship of the one to the other. But if SWEDENBORG
believed that matter and spirit were most intimately related, he
nevertheless had a very precise idea of their distinctness, which he
formulated in his Doctrine of Degrees--a very exact metaphysical
doctrine indeed. The alchemists, on the other hand, had no such
clear ideas on the subject. It would be even more absurd to attribute
to them a Cartesian dualism. To their ways of thinking, it was by no
means impossible to grasp the spiritual essences of things by what we
should now call chemical manipulations. For them a gas was still a
ghost and air a spirit. One could quote pages in support of this, but
I will content myself with a few words from the _Turba_--the antiquity
of the book makes it of value, and anyway it is near at hand. "Permanent
water," whatever that may be, being pounded with the body, we are told,
"by the will of God it turns that body into spirit." And in another
place we read that "the Philosophers have said: Except ye turn bodies
into not-bodies, and incorporeal things into bodies, ye have not yet
discovered the rule of operation."[1a] No one who could write like this,
and believe it, could hold matter and spirit as altogether distinct.
But it is equally obvious that the injunction to convert body into
spirit is meaningless if spirit and body are held to be identical.
I have been criticised for crediting the alchemists "with the
philosophic acumen of Hegel,"[1b] but that is just what I think one
ought to avoid doing. At the same time, however, it is extremely
difficult to give a precise account of views which are very far from
being precise themselves. But I think it may be said, without fear of
error, that the alchemist who could say, "As above, so below," _ipso
facto_ recognised both a very close connection between spirit and
matter, and a distinction between them. Moreover, the division thus
implied corresponded, on the whole, to that between the realms of the
known (or what was thought to be known) and the unknown. The Church,
whether Christian or pre-Christian, had very precise (comparatively
speaking) doctrine concerning the soul's origin, duties, and destiny,
backed up by tremendous authority, and speculative philosophy had
advanced very far by the time PLATO began to concern himself with its
problems. Nature, on the other hand, was a mysterious world of magical
happenings, and there was nothing deserving of the name of natural
science until alchemy was becoming decadent. It is not surprising,
therefore, that the alchemists--these men who wished to probe Nature's
hidden mysteries--should reason from above to below; indeed, unless they
had started _de novo_--as babes knowing nothing,--there was no other
course open to them. And that they did adopt the obvious course is
all that my former thesis amounts to. In passing, it is interesting
to note that a sixteenth-century alchemist, who had exceptional
opportunities and leisure to study the works of the old masters of
alchemy, seems to have come to a similar conclusion as to the nature of
their reasoning. He writes: "The Sages . . . after having conceived
in their minds a Divine idea of the relations of the whole
universe . . . selected from among the rest a certain substance, from
which they sought to elicit the elements, to separate and purify them,
and then again put them together in a manner suggested by a keen and
profound observation of Nature."[1c]

[1a] _op cit_., pp,. 65 and 110, _cf_. p. 154.

[1b] _Vide_ a rather frivolous review of my _Alchemy: Ancient and
Modern_ in _The Outlook_ for 14th January 1911.

[1c] EDWARD KELLY: _The Humid Path_. (See _The Alchemical Writings_
of EDWARD KELLY, edited by A. E. WAITE, 1893, pp. 59-60.)

In describing the realm of spirit as _ex hypothesi_ known, that of
Nature unknown, to the alchemists, I have made one important omission,
and that, if I may use the name of a science to denominate a complex
of crude facts, is the realm of physiology, which, falling within
that of Nature, must yet be classed as _ex hypothesi_ known.
But to elucidate this point some further considerations are necessary
touching the general nature of knowledge. Now, facts may be roughly
classed, according to their obviousness and frequency of occurrence,
into four groups. There are, first of all, facts which are so obvious,
to put it paradoxically, that they escape notice; and these facts are
the commonest and most frequent in their occurrence. I think it is Mr
CHESTERTON who has said that, looking at a forest one cannot see the
trees because of the forest; and, in _The Innocence of Father Brown_, he
has a good story ("The Invisible Man") illustrating the point, in which
a man renders himself invisible by dressing up in a postman's uniform.
At any rate, we know that when a phenomenon becomes persistent it tends
to escape observation; thus, continuous motion can only be appreciated
with reference to a stationary body, and a noise, continually repeated,
becomes at last inaudible. The tendency of often-repeated actions to
become habitual, and at last automatic, that is to say, carried out
without consciousness, is a closely related phenomenon. We can
understand, therefore, why a knowledge of the existence of the
atmosphere, as distinct from the wind, came late in the history of
primitive man, as, also, many other curious gaps in his knowledge. In
the second group we may put those facts which are common, that is, of
frequent occurrence, and are classed as obvious. Such facts are
accepted at face-value by the primitive mind, and are used as the
basis of explanation of facts in the two remaining groups, namely,
those facts which, though common, are apt to escape the attention
owing to their inconspicuousness, and those which are of infrequent
occurrence. When the mind takes the trouble to observe a fact of the
third group, or is confronted by one of the fourth, it feels a sense
of surprise. Such facts wear an air of strangeness, and the mind can
only rest satisfied when it has shown them to itself as in some way
cases of the second group of facts, or, at least, brought them into
relation therewith. That is what the mind--at least the primitive
mind--means by "explanation". "It is obvious," we say, commencing an
argument, thereby proclaiming our intention to bring that which is at
first in the category of the not-obvious, into the category of the
obvious. It remains for a more sceptical type of mind--a later product
of human evolution--to question obvious facts, to explain them, either,
as in science, by establishing deeper and more far-reaching correlations
between phenomena, or in philosophy, by seeking for the source and purpose
of such facts, or, better still, by both methods.

Of the second class of facts--those common and obvious facts
which the primitive mind accepts at face-value and uses as the basis
of its explanations of such things as seem to it to stand in need
of explanation--one could hardly find a better instance than sex.
The universality of sex, and the intermittent character of
its phenomena, are both responsible for this. Indeed, the attitude
of mind I have referred to is not restricted to primitive man;
how many people to-day, for instance, just accept sex as a fact,
pleasant or unpleasant according to their predilections,
never querying, or feeling the need to query, its why and wherefore?
It is by no means surprising, that when man first felt the need
of satisfying himself as to the origin of the universe, he should have
done so by a theory founded on what he knew of his own generation.
Indeed, as I queried on a former occasion, what other source of
explanation was open to him? Of what other form of origin was he aware?
Seeing Nature springing to life at the kiss of the sun, what more
natural than that she should be regarded as the divine Mother,
who bears fruits because impregnated by the Sun-God? It is not
difficult to understand, therefore, why primitive man paid divine
honours to the organs of sex in man and woman, or to such things
as he considered symbolical of them--that is to say, to understand
the extensiveness of those religions which are grouped under the term
"phallicism". Nor, to my mind, is the symbol of sex a wholly
inadequate one under which to conceive of the origin of things.
And, as I have said before, that phallicism usually appears to have
degenerated into immorality of a very pronounced type is to be deplored,
but an immoral view of human relations is by no means a necessary
corollary to a sexual theory of the universe.[1]

[1] "The reverence as well as the worship paid to the phallus, in early
and primitive days, had nothing in it which partook of indecency;
all ideas connected with it were of a reverential and religious kind....

"The indecent ideas attached to the representation of the phallus were,
though it seems a paradox to say so, the results of a more advanced
civilization verging towards its decline, as we have evidence at
Rome and Pompeii....

"To the primitive man [the reproductive force which pervades all nature]
was the most mysterious of all manifestations. The visible physical powers
of nature--the sun, the sky, the storm--naturally claimed his reverence,
but to him the generative power was the most mysterious of all powers. In
the vegetable world, the live seed placed in the ground, and hence
germinating, sprouting up, and becoming a beautiful and umbrageous tree,
was a mystery. In the animal world, as the cause of all life, by which
all beings came into existence, this power was a mystery. In the view
of primitive man generation was the action of the Deity itself.
It was the mode in which He brought all things into existence,
the sun, the moon, the stars, the world, man were generated
by Him. To the productive power man was deeply indebted, for to it
he owed the harvests and the flocks which supported his life;
hence it naturally became an object of reverence and worship.

"Primitive man wants some object to worship, for an abstract idea is
beyond his comprehension, hence a visible representation of the
generative Deity was made, with the organs contributing to generation
most prominent, and hence the organ itself became a symbol of the
power."--H, M. WESTROPP: _Primitive Symbolism as Illustrated in Phallic
Worship, or the Reproductive Principle_ (1885), pp. 47, 48, and 57. {End
of long footnote}

The Aruntas of Australia, I believe, when discovered by Europeans,
had not yet observed the connection between sexual intercourse and birth.
They believed that conception was occasioned by the woman passing
near a _churinga_--a peculiarly shaped piece of wood or stone,
in which a spirit-child was concealed, which entered into her.
But archaeological research having established the fact that phallicism
has, at one time or another, been common to nearly all races, it seems
probable that the Arunta tribe represents a deviation from the normal
line of mental evolution. At any rate, an isolated phenomenon,
such as this, cannot be held to controvert the view that regards
phallicism as in this normal line. Nor was the attitude of mind
that not only accepts sex at face-value as an obvious fact, but uses
the concept of it to explain other facts, a merely transitory one.
We may, indeed, not difficultly trace it throughout the history
of alchemy, giving rise to what I may term "The Phallic Element
in Alchemical Doctrine".

In aiming to establish this, I may be thought to be endeavouring to
establish a counter-thesis to that of the preceding essay on alchemy,
but, in virtue of the alchemists' belief in the mystical unity of all
things, in the analogical or correspondential relationship of all parts
of the universe to each other, the mystical and the phallic views of
the origin of alchemy are complementary, not antagonistic. Indeed, the
assumption that the metals are the symbols of man almost necessitates
the working out of physiological as well as mystical analogies, and
these two series of analogies are themselves connected, because the
principle "As above, so below" was held to be true of man himself.
We might, therefore, expect to find a more or less complete harmony
between the two series of symbols, though, as a matter of fact,
contradictions will be encountered when we come to consider points of
detail. The undoubtable antiquity of the phallic element in alchemical
doctrine precludes the idea that this element was an adventitious one,
that it was in any sense an afterthought; notwithstanding, however, the
evidence, as will, I hope, become apparent as we proceed, indicates that
mystical ideas played a much more fundamental part in the genesis of
alchemical doctrine than purely phallic ones--mystical interpretations
fit alchemical processes and theories far better than do sexual
interpretations; in fact, sex has to be interpreted somewhat mystically
in order to work out the analogies fully and satisfactorily.

As concerns Greek alchemy, I shall content myself with a passage from
a work _On the Sacred Art_, attributed to OLYMPIODORUS (sixth century
A.D.), followed by some quotations from and references to the _Turba_.
In the former work it is stated on the authority of HORUS that "The
proper end of the whole art is to obtain the semen of the male secretly,
seeing that all things are male and female. Hence [we read further]
Horus says in a certain place: Join the male and the female, and you
will find that which is sought; as a fact, without this process of
re-union, nothing can succeed, for Nature charms Nature," _etc_. The
_Turba_ insistently commands those who would succeed in the Art, to
conjoin the male with the female,[1] and, in one place, the male is
said to be lead and the female orpiment.[2] We also find the alchemical
work symbolised by the growth of the embryo in the womb. "Know," we are
told, ". . . that out of the elect things nothing becomes useful without
conjunction and regimen, because sperma is generated out of blood and
desire. For the man mingling with the woman, the sperm is nourished by
the humour of the womb, and by the moistening blood, and by heat, and
when forty nights have elapsed the sperm is formed.... God has
constituted that heat and blood for the nourishment of the sperm until
the foetus is brought forth. So long as it is little, it is nourished
with milk, and in proportion as the vital heat is maintained, the bones
are strengthened. Thus it behoves you also to act in this Art."[3]

[1] _Vide_ pp. 60 92, 96 97, 134, 135 and elsewhere in Mr WAITE'S

[2] _Ibid_., p. 57

[3] _Ibid_., pp. 179-181 (second recension); _cf_. pp. 103-104.

The use of the mystical symbols of death (putrefaction) and resurrection
or rebirth to represent the consummation of the alchemical work, and that
of the phallic symbols of the conjunction of the sexes and the development
of the foetus, both of which we have found in the _Turba_, are current
throughout the course of Latin alchemy. In _The Chymical Marriage of
Christian Rosencreutz_, that extraordinary document of what is called
"Rosicrucianism"--a symbolic romance of considerable ability, whoever its
author was,[1]--an attempt is made to weld the two sets of symbols--the
one of marriage, the other of death and resurrection unto glory--into one
allegorical narrative; and it is to this fusion of seemingly disparate
concepts that much of its fantasticality is due. Yet the concepts are not
really disparate; for not only is the second birth like unto the first,
and not only is the resurrection unto glory described as the Bridal Feast
of the Lamb, but marriage is, in a manner, a form of death and rebirth.
To justify this in a crude sense, I might say that, from the male
standpoint at least, it is a giving of the life-substance to the beloved
that life may be born anew and increase. But in a deeper sense it is, or
rather should be, as an ideal, a mutual sacrifice of self for each other's
good--a death of the self that it may arise with an enriched personality.

[1] See Mr WAITE'S _The Real History of the Rosicrucians_ (1887) for
translation and discussion as to origin and significance. The work was
first published (in German) at Strassburg in 1616.

It is when we come to an examination of the ideas at the root of, and
associated with, the alchemical concept of "principles," that we find
some difficulty in harmonising the two series of symbols--the mystical
and the phallic. In one place in the _Turba_ we are directed "to take
quicksilver, in which is the male potency or strength";[2a] and this
concept of mercury as male is quite in accord with the mystical origin
I have assigned in the preceding excursion to the doctrine of the
alchemical principles. I have shown, I think, that salt, sulphur, and
mercury are the analogues _ex hypothesi_ of the body, soul (affection
and volition), and spirit (intelligence or understanding) in man; and
the affections are invariably regarded as especially feminine, the
understanding as especially masculine. But it seems that the more common
opinion, amongst Latin alchemists at any rate, was that sulphur was male
and mercury female. Writes BERNARD of TREVISAN: "For the Matter
suffereth, and the Form acteth assimulating the Matter to itself, and
according to this manner the Matter naturally thirsteth after a Form, as
a Woman desireth an Husband, and a Vile thing a precious one, and an
impure a pure one, so also _Argent-vive_ coveteth a Sulphur, as that
which should make perfect which is imperfect: So also a Body freely
desireth a Spirit, whereby it may at length arrive at its perfection."[1b]
At the same time, however, Mercury was regarded as containing in itself
both male and female potencies--it was the product of male and female,
and, thus, the seed of all the metals. "Nothing in the World can be
generated," to repeat a quotation from BERNARD, without these two
Substances, to wit a Male and Female: From whence it appeareth, that
although these two substances are not of one and the same species, yet
one Stone doth thence arise, and although they appear and are said to
be two Substances, yet in truth it is but one, to wit, _Argent-vive_.
But of this _Argent-vive_ a certain part is fixed and digested, Masculine,
hot, dry and secretly informing. But the other, which is the Female, is
volatile, crude, cold, and moyst."[2b] EDWARD KELLY (1555-1595), who is
valuable because he summarises authoritative opinion, says somewhat the
same thing, though in clearer words: "The active elements . . . these
are water and fire . . . may be called male, while the passive
elements . . . earth and air . . . represent the female
principle.... Only two elements, water and earth, are visible, and earth
is called the hiding-place of fire, water the abode of air. In these
two elements we have the broad law of limitation which divides the male
from the female. . . . The first matter of minerals is a kind of
viscous water, mingled with pure and impure earth. . . Of this viscous
water and fusible earth, or sulphur, is composed that which is called
quicksilver, the first matter of the metals. Metals are nothing but
Mercury digested by different degrees of heat."[1c] There is one
difference, however, between these two writers, inasmuch as BERNARD says
that "the Male and Female abide together in closed Natures; the Female
truly as it were Earth and Water, the Male as Air and Fire." Mercury for
him arises from the two former elements, sulphur from the two latter.[2c]
And the difference is important as showing beyond question the _a priori_
nature of alchemical reasoning. The idea at the back of the alchemists'
minds was undoubtedly that of the ardour of the male in the act of
coition and the alleged, or perhaps I should say apparent, passivity of
the female. Consequently, sulphur, the fiery principle of combustion,
and such elements as were reckoned to be active, were denominated "male,"
whilst mercury, the principle acted on by sulphur, and such elements as
were reckoned to be passive, were denominated "female". As to the question
of origin, I do not think that the palm can be denied to the mystical as
distinguished from the phallic theory. And in its final form the doctrine
of principles is incapable of a sexual interpretation. Mystically
understood, man is capable of analysis into two principles--since "body"
may be neglected as unimportant (a false view, I think, by the way) or
"soul" and "spirit" may be united under one head--OR into three; whereas
the postulation of THREE principles on a sexual basis is impossible.
JOANNES ISAACUS HOLLANDUS (fifteenth century) is the earliest author in
whose works I have observed explicit mention of THREE principles, though
he refers to them in a manner seeming to indicate that the doctrine was
no new one in his day. I have only read one little tract of his; there
is nothing sexual in it, and the author's mental character may be judged
from his remarks concerning "the three flying spirits"--taste, smell, and
colour. These, he writes, "are the life, soule, and quintessence of every
thing, neither can these three spirits be one without the other, as the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one, yet three Persons, and one is
not without the other."[1d]

[2a] Mr WAITE's translation, p. 79.

[1b] BERNARD, Earl of TREVISAN: _A Treatise of the Philosopher's Stone_,
1683. (See _Collectanea Chymica: A Collection of Ten Several Treatises
in Chymistry_, 1684, p. 92.)

[2b] _Ibid_., p. 91.

[1c] EDWARD KELLY: _The Stone of the Philosophers_. (See _The
Alchemical Writings of_ EDWARD KELLY, edited by A. E. WAITE, 1893,
pp. 9 and 11 to 13.)

[2c] _The Answer of_ BERNARDUS TREVISANUS, _to the Epistle of Thomas
of Bononira, Physician to K. Charles the 8th_. (See JOHN FREDERICK
HOUPREGHT: _Aurifontina Chymica_, 1680, p. 208.)

[1d] _One Hundred and Fourteen Experiments and Cures of the Famous
Physitian_ THEOPHRASTUS PARACELSUS. _Whereunto is added . . . certain
Secrets of_ ISAAC HOLLANDUS, _concerning the Vegetall and Animall Work_
(1652), pp. 29 and 30.

When the alchemists described an element or principle as male or female,
they meant what they said, as I have already intimated, to the extent,
at least, of firmly believing that seed was produced by the two
metallic sexes. By their union metals were thought to be produced
in the womb of the earth; and mines were shut in order that by the birth
and growth of new metal the impoverished veins might be replenished.
In this way, too, was the _magnum opus_, the generation of the
Philosopher's Stone--in species gold, but purer than the purest--to
be accomplished. To conjoin that which Nature supplied, to foster
the growth and development of that which was thereby produced;
such was the task of the alchemist. "For there are Vegetables,"
says BERNARD of TREVISAN in his _Answer to Thomas of Bononia_,
"but Sensitives more especially, which for the most part beget their like,
by the Seeds of the Male and Female for the most part concurring
and conmixt by copulation; which work of Nature the Philosophick Art
imitates in the generation of gold."[1]

[1] _Op. cit_., p. 216.

Mercury, as I have said, was commonly regarded as the seed of the metals,
or as especially the female seed, there being two seeds, one the male,
according to BERNARD, more ripe, perfect and active, the other the female.
"more immature and in a sort passive[2] ". . . our Philosophick Art,"
he says in another place, following a description of the generation of man,
" . . . is like this procreation of Man; for as in _Mercury_ (of which Gold
is by Nature generated in Mineral Vessels) a natural conjunction

[2] _Ibid_., p. 217; _cf_. p. 236

is made of both the Seeds, Male and Female, so by our artifice, an
artificial and like conjunction is made of Agents and Patients."[1]
"All teaching," says KELLY, "that changes Mercury is false and vain,
for this is the original sperm of metals, and its moisture must not
be dried up, for otherwise it will not dissolve,"[2] and quotes ARNOLD
(_ob. c_. 1310) to a similar effect.[3] One wonders how far the fact
that human and animal seed is fluid influenced the alchemists in their
choice of mercury, the only metal liquid at ordinary temperatures, as
the seed of the metals. There are, indeed, other good reasons for
this choice, but that this idea played some part in it, and, at least,
was present at the back of the alchemists' minds, I have little doubt.

The most philosophic account of metallic seed is that, perhaps, of
the mysterious adept "EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES," who distinguishes
between it and mercury in a rather interesting manner. He writes:
"Seed is the means of generic propagation given to all perfect
things here below; it is the perfection of each body; and anybody
that has no seed must be regarded as imperfect. Hence there can be
no doubt that there is such a thing as metallic seed.... All metallic
seed is the seed of gold; for gold is the intention of Nature in
regard to all metals. If the base metals are not gold, it is only
through some accidental hindrance; they are-all potentially gold.
But, of course, this seed of gold is most easily obtainable
from well-matured gold itself.... Remember that I am now speaking
of metallic seed, and not of Mercury.... The seed of metals is
hidden out of sight still more completely than that of animals;
nevertheless, it is within the compass of our Art to extract it.
The seed of animals and vegetables is something separate,
and may be cut out, or otherwise separately exhibited; but metallic
seed is diffused throughout the metal, and contained in all its
smallest parts; neither can it be discerned from its body:
its extraction is therefore a task which may well tax the ingenuity
of the most experienced philosopher; the virtues of the whole
metal have to be intensified, so as to convert it into the sperm
of our seed, which, by circulation, receives the virtues of superiors
and inferiors, then next becomes wholly form, or heavenly virtue,
which can communicate this to others related to it by homogeneity
of matter. . . . The place in which the seed resides is--approximately
speaking--water; for, to speak properly and exactly, the seed is the
smallest part of the metal, and is invisible; but as this invisible
presence is diffused throughout the water of its kind, and exerts its
virtue therein, nothing being visible to the eye but water, we are left
to conclude from rational induction that this inward agent (which is,
properly speaking, the seed) is really there. Hence we call the whole of
the water seed, just as we call the whole of the grain seed, though the
germ of life is only a smallest particle of the grain."[1b]

[1] _The Answer of_ BERNARDUS TREVISANUS, _etc_. _Op. cit_. p. 218.

[2] _op. cit_., p. 22.

[3] _Ibid_., p. 16.

[1b] EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES: _The Metamorphosis of Metals_.
(See _The Hermetic Museum_, vol. ii. pp. 238-240.)

To say that "PHILALETHES'" seed resembles the modern electron is,
perhaps, to draw a rather fanciful analogy, since the electron is
a very precise idea, the result of the mathematical interpretation
of the results of exact experimentation. But though it would be
absurd to speak of this concept of the one seed of all metals as an
anticipation of the electron, to apply the expression "metallic seed"
to the electron, now that the concept of it has been reached,
does not seem so absurd.

According to "PHILALETHES," the extraction of the seed is a very
difficult process, accomplishable, however, by the aid of
mercury--the water homogeneous therewith. Mercury, again, is the
form of the seed thereby obtained. He writes: "When the sperm
hidden in the body of gold is brought out by means of our Art, it
appears under the form of Mercury, whence it is exalted into the
quintessence which is first white, and then, by means of continuous
coction, becomes red." And again: "There is a womb into which the
gold (if placed therein) will, of its own accord, emit its seed,
until it is debilitated and dies, and by its death is renewed into a
most glorious King, who thenceforward receives power to deliver all
his brethren from the fear of death."[1]

[1] EIRENAEUS PHILALETHES: _The Metamorphosis of Metals_.
(See _The Hermetic Museum_, vol. ii. pp. 241 and 244.)

The fifteenth-century alchemist THOMAS NORTON was peculiar in his views,
inasmuch as he denied that metals have seed. He writes: "Nature never
multiplies anything, except in either one or the other of these two ways:
either by decay, which we call putrefaction, or, in the case of animate
creatures, by propagation. In the case of metals there can be no
propagation, though our Stone exhibits something like it.... Nothing
can be multiplied by inward action unless it belong to the vegetable
kingdom, or the family of sensitive creatures. But the metals are
elementary objects, and possess neither seed nor sensation."[1]

[1] THOMAS NORTON: _The Ordinal of Alchemy_. (See _The Hermetic Museum_,
vol. ii. pp. 15 and 16.)

His theory of the origin of the metals is astral rather than phallic.
"The only efficient cause of metals," he says, "is the mineral virtue,
which is not found in every kind of earth, but only in certain places and
chosen mines, into which the celestial sphere pours its rays in a straight
direction year by year, and according to the arrangement of the metallic
substance in these places, this or that metal is gradually formed."[2]

[2] _Ibid_., pp. 15 and 16.

In view of the astrological symbolism of these metals, that gold
should be masculine, silver feminine, does not surprise us, because
the idea of the masculinity of the sun and the femininity of the moon
is a bit of phallicism that still remains with us. It was by the
marriage of gold and silver that very many alchemists considered that
the _magnum opus_ was to be achieved. Writes BERNARD of TREVISAN: "The
subject of this admired Science [alchemy] is _Sol_ and _Luna_, or
rather Male and Female, the Male is hot and dry, the Female cold and
moyst." The aim of the work, he tells us, is the extraction of the
spirit of gold, which alone can enter into bodies and tinge them. Both
_Sol_ and _Luna_ are absolutely necessary, and "whoever . . .shall think
that a Tincture can be made without these two Bodyes,. . . he proceedeth
to the Practice like one that is blind."[1]

[1] BERNARD, Earl of TREVISAN: _A Treatise, etc., Op. cit_. pp. 83 and 87.

KELLY has teaching to the same effect, the Mercury of the Philosophers
being for him the menstruum or medium wherein the copulation of Gold
with Silver is to be accomplished. Mercury, in fact, seems to have
been everything and to have been capable of effecting everything in
the eyes of the alchemists. Concerning gold and silver, KELLY writes:
"Only one metal, viz. gold, is absolutely perfect and mature. Hence
it is called the perfect male body. . . Silver is less bounded by
aqueous immaturity than the rest of the metals, though it may indeed
be regarded as to a certain extent impure, still its water is already
covered with the congealing vesture of its earth, and it thus tends to
perfection. This condition is the reason why silver is everywhere
called by the Sages the perfect female body." And later he writes:
"In short, our whole Magistery consists in the union of the male and
female, or active and passive, elements through the mediation of our
metallic water and a proper degree of heat. Now, the male and female
are two metallic bodies, and this I will again prove by irrefragable
quotations from the Sages." Some of the quotations will be given:
"Avicenna: `Purify husband and wife separately, in order that they
may unite more intimately; for if you do not purify them, they cannot
love each other. By conjunction of the two natures you get a clear
and lucid nature, which, when it ascends, becomes bright and
serviceable.' . . . Senior: `I, the Sun, am hot and dry, and thou,
the Moon, are cold and moist; when we are wedded together in a closed
chamber, I will gently steal away thy soul.' . . . Rosinus: `When
the Sun, my brother, for the love of me (silver) pours his sperm
(_i.e_. his solar fatness) into the chamber (_i.e_. my Lunar body),
namely, when we become one in a strong and complete complexion and
union, the child of our wedded love will be born.. . . `Rosary': `The
ferment of the Sun is the sperm of the man, the ferment of the Moon,
the sperm of the woman. Of both we get a chaste union and a true
generation.' . . . Aristotle: `Take your beloved son, and wed him to
his sister, his white sister, in equal marriage, and give them the
cup of love, for it is a food which prompts to union.' "[1a] KELLY,
of course, accepts the traditional authorship of the works from
which he quotes, though in many cases such authorship is doubtful, to
say the least. The alchemical works ascribed to ARISTOTLE
(384-322 B.C.), for instance, are beyond question forgeries. Indeed,
the symbol of a union between brother and sister, here quoted, could
hardly be held as acceptable to Greek thought, to which incest was the
most abominable and unforgiveable sin. It seems likelier that it
originated with the Egyptians, to whom such unions were tolerable in
fact. The symbol is often met with in Latin alchemy. MICHAEL MAIER
(1568-1622) also says: "_conjunge fratrem cum sorore et propina illis
poculum amoris_," the words forming a motto to a picture of a man
and woman clasped in each other's arms, to whom an older man offers a
goblet. This symbolic picture occurs in his _Atalanta Fugiens, hoc
est, Emblemata nova de Secretis Naturae Chymica, etc_. (Oppenheim, 1617).
This work is an exceedingly curious one. It consists of a number of
carefully executed pictures, each accompanied by a motto, a verse of
poetry set to music, with a prose text. Many of the pictures are phallic
in conception, and practically all of them are anthropomorphic. Not
only the primary function of sex, but especially its secondary one of
lactation, is made use of. The most curious of these emblematic pictures,
perhaps, is one symbolising the conjunction of gold and silver. It shows
on the right a man and woman, representing the sun and moon, in the act
of coition, standing up to the thighs in a lake. On the left, on a hill
above the lake, a woman (with the moon as halo) gives birth to a child.
A boy is coming out of the water towards her. The verse informs us that:
"The bath glows red at the conception of the boy, the air at his birth."
We learn also that "there is a stone, and yet there is not, which is the
noble gift of God. If God grants it, fortunate will be he who shall
receive it."[1]

[1a] EDWARD KELLY: _The Stone of the Philosophers, Op. cit_., pp 13, 14,
33, 35, 36, 38-40, and 47.

[1] _Op. Cit_., p. 145

Concerning the nature of gold, there is a discussion in _The Answer of_
BERNARDUS TREVISANUS _to the Epistle of Thomas of Bononia_, with which I
shall close my consideration of the present aspect of the subject.
Its interest for us lies in the arguments which are used and held
to be valid. "Besides, you say that Gold, as most think, is nothing
else than _Quick-silver_ coagulated naturally by the force of _Sulphur_;
yet so, that nothing of the _Sulphur_ which generated the Gold, doth
remain in the substance of the Gold: as in an humane _Embryo_,
when it is conceived in the Womb, there remains nothing of the Father's
Seed, according to _Aristotle's_ opinion, but the Seed of the Man doth
only coagulate the _menstrual_ blood of the Woman: in the same manner
you say, that after _Quick-silver_ is so coagulated, the form of Gold
is perfected in it, by virtue of the Heavenly Bodies, and especially
of the Sun."[1] BERNARD, however, decides against this view, holding
that gold contains both mercury and sulphur, for "we must not imagine,
according to their mistake who say, that the Male Agent himself
approaches the Female in the coagulation, and departs afterwards;
because, as is known in every generation, the conception is active and
passive: Both the active and the passive, that is, all the four
Elements, must always abide together, otherwise there would be no
mixture, and the hope of generating an off-spring would be

[1] _Op. cit_., pp. 206 and 207.

[2] _Ibid_., pp. 212 and 213.

In conclusion, I wish to say something of the role of sex in spiritual
alchemy. But in doing this I am venturing outside the original field of
inquiry of this essay and making a by no means necessary addition to my
thesis; and I am anxious that what follows should be understood as such,
so that no confusion as to the issues may arise.

In the great alchemical collection of J. J. MANGET, there is a curious
work (originally published in 1677), entitled _Mutus Liber_, which
consists entirely of plates, without letterpress. Its interest for us
in our present concern is that the alchemist, from the commencement of
the work until its achievement, is shown working in conjunction with a
woman. We are reminded of NICOLAS FLAMEL (1330-1418), who is reputed
to have achieved the _magnum opus_ together with his wife PERNELLE, as
well as of the many other women workers in the Art of whom we read.
It would be of interest in this connection to know exactly what
association of ideas was present in the mind of MICHAEL MAIER when he
commanded the alchemist: "Perform a work of women on the molten white
lead, that is, cook,"[1a] and illustrated his behest with a picture of
a pregnant woman watching a fire over which is suspended a cauldron and
on which are three jars. There is a cat in the background, and a tub
containing two fish in the foreground, the whole forming a very curious
collection of emblems. Mr WAITE, who has dealt with some of these
matters, luminously, though briefly, says: "The evidences with which we
have been dealing concern solely the physical work of alchemy and there
is nothing of its mystical aspects. The _Mutus Liber_ is undoubtedly on
the literal side of metallic transmutation; the memorials of Nicholas
Flamel are also on that side," _etc_. He adds, however, that "It is on
record that an unknown master testified to his possession of the mystery,
but he added that he had not proceeded to the work because he had failed
to meet with an elect woman who was necessary thereto"; and proceeds to
say: "I suppose that the statement will awaken in most minds only a
vague sense of wonder, and I can merely indicate in a few general words
that which I see behind it. Those Hermetic texts which bear a spiritual
interpretation and are as if a record of spiritual experience present,
like the literature of physical alchemy, the following aspects of
symbolism: (_a_) the marriage of sun and moon; (_b_) of a mystical king
and queen; (_c_) an union between natures which are one at the root but
diverse in manifestation; (_d_) a transmutation which follows this union
and an abiding glory therein. It is ever a conjunction between male and
female in a mystical sense; it is ever the bringing together by art of
things separated by an imperfect order of things; it is ever the
perfection of natures by means of this conjunction. But if the mystical
work of alchemy is an inward work in consciousness, then the union
between male and female is an union in consciousness; and if we remember
the traditions of a state when male and female had not as yet been
divided, it may dawn upon us that the higher alchemy was a practice for
the return into this ineffable mode of being. The traditional doctrine
is set forth in the _Zohar_ and it is found in writers like Jacob Boehme;
it is intimated in the early chapters of Genesis and, according to an
apocryphal saying of Christ, the kingdom of heaven will be manifested
when two shall be as one, or when that state has been once again attained.
In the light of this construction we can understand why the mystical adept
went in search of a wise woman with whom the work could be performed; but
few there be that find her, and he confessed to his own failure. The
part of woman in the physical practice of alchemy is like a reflection at
a distance of this more exalted process, and there is evidence that those
who worked in metals and sought for a material elixir knew that there were
other and greater aspects of the Hermetic mystery."[1b]

[1a] MICHAEL MATER: _Atalanta Fugiens_ (1617), p. 97.

[1b] A E. WAITE: "Woman and the Hermetic Mystery," _The Occult Review_
(June 1912), vol. xv. pp. 325 and 326.

So far Mr WAITE, whose impressive words I have quoted at some length;
and he has given us a fuller account of the theory as found in
the _Zohar_ in his valuable work on _The Secret Doctrine in Israel_
(1913). The _Zohar_ regards marriage and the performance of the sexual
function in marriage as of supreme importance, and this not merely
because marriage symbolises a divine union, unless that expression
is held to include all that logically follows from the fact,
but because, as it seems, the sexual act in marriage may, in fact,
become a ritual of transcendental magic.

At least three varieties of opinion can be traced from the view of sex
we have under consideration, as to the nature of the perfect man,
and hence of the most adequate symbol for transmutation.
According to one, and this appears to have been JACOB BOEHME'S view,
the perfect man is conceived of as non-sexual, the male and female
elements united in him having, as it were, neutralised each other.
According to another, he is pictured as a hermaphroditic being,
a concept we frequently come across in alchemical literature.
It plays a prominent part in MAIER'S book _Atalanta Fugiens_,
to which reference has already been made. MAIER'S hermaphrodite
has two heads, one male, one female, but only one body, one pair
of arms, and one pair of legs. The two sexual organs, which are
placed side by side, are delineated in the illustrations with
considerable care, showing the importance MAIER attached to the idea.
This concept seems to me not only crude, but unnatural and repellent.
But it may be said of both the opinions I have mentioned,
that they confuse between union and identity. It is the old mistake,
with respect to a lesser goal, of those who hope for absorption
in the Divine Nature and consequent loss of personality.
It seems to be forgotten that a certain degree of distinction is
necessary to the joy of union. "Distinction" and "separation," it
should be remembered, have different connotations. If the supreme
joy is that of self-sacrifice, then the self must be such that it can
be continually sacrificed, else the joy is a purely transitory one,
or rather, is destroyed at the moment of its consummation.
Hence, though sacrificed, the self must still remain itself.

The third view of perfection, to which these remarks naturally lead, is
that which sees it typified in marriage. The mystic-philosopher
SWEDENBORG has some exceedingly suggestive things to say on the matter
in his extraordinary work on _Conjugial Love_, which, curiously enough,
seem largely to have escaped the notice of students of these high

SWEDENBORG'S heaven is a sexual heaven, because for him sex is primarily
a spiritual fact, and only secondarily, and because of what it is
primarily, a physical fact; and salvation is hardly possible, according
to him, apart from a genuine marriage (whether achieved here or hereafter).
Man and woman are considered as complementary beings, and it is only
through the union of one man with one woman that the perfect angel results.
The altruistic tendency of such a theory as contrasted with the egotism
of one in which perfection is regarded as obtainable by each personality
of itself alone, is a point worth emphasising. As to the nature of this
union, it is, to use SWEDENBORG'S own terms, a conjunction of the will of
the wife with the understanding of the man, and reciprocally of the
understanding of the man with the will of the wife. It is thus a
manifestation of that fundamental marriage between the good and the true
which is at the root of all existence; and it is because of this
fundamental marriage that all men and women are born into the desire to
complete themselves by conjunction. The symbol of sexual intercourse is
a legitimate one to use in speaking of this heavenly union; indeed, we
may describe the highest bliss attainable by the soul, or conceivable by
the mind, as a spiritual orgasm. Into conjugal love "are collected," says
SWEDENBORG, "all the blessednesses, blissfulnesses, delightsomenesses,
pleasantnesses, and pleasures, which could possibly be conferred upon man
by the Lord the Creator."[1] In another place he writes: "Married partners
[in heaven] enjoy similar intercourse with each other as in the world, but
more delightful and blessed; yet without prolification, for which, or in
place of which, they have spiritual prolification, which is that of love
and wisdom." "The reason," he adds, "why the intercourse then is more
delightful and blessed is, that when conjugial love becomes of the spirit,
it becomes more interior and pure, and consequently more perceptible;
and every delightsomeness grows according to the perception, and grows
even until its blessedness is discernible in its delightsomeness."[1b]
Such love, however, he says, is rarely to be found on earth.

[1] EMANUEL SWEDENBORG: _The Delights of Wisdom relating to Conjugial
Love_ (trans. by A. H. SEARLE, 1891), SE 68.

[1b] EMANUEL SWEDENBORG: _Op. cit_., SE 51.

A learned Japanese speaks with approval of Idealism as a "dream where
sensuousness and spirituality find themselves to be blood brothers or
sisters."[2] It is a statement which involves either the grossest and
most dangerous error, or the profoundest truth, according to the
understanding of it. Woman is a road whereby man travels either to God
or the devil. The problem of sex is a far deeper problem than appears at
first sight, involving mysteries both the direst and most holy. It is
by no means a fantastic hypothesis that the inmost mystery of what a
certain school of mystics calls "the Secret Tradition" was a sexual one.
At any rate, the fact that some of those, at least, to whom alchemy
connoted a mystical process, were alive to the profound spiritual
significance of sex, renders of double interest what they have to
intimate of the achievement of the _Magnum Opus_ in man.

[2] YONE NOGUCHI: _The Spirit of Japanese Art_ (1915), p. 37.



IT has been said that "a prophet is not without honour, save in his own
country." Thereto might be added, "and in his own time"; for, whilst
there is continuity in time, there is also evolution, and England of
to-day, for instance, is not the same country as England of the Middle
Ages. In his own day ROGER BACON was accounted a magician, whose
heretical views called for suppression by the Church. And for many a
long day afterwards was he mainly remembered as a co-worker in the black
art with Friar BUNGAY, who together with him constructed, by the aid of
the devil and diabolical rites, a brazen head which should possess the
power of speech--the experiment only failing through the negligence of
an assistant.[1] Such was ROGER BACON in the memory of the later Middle
Ages and many succeeding years; he was the typical alchemist, where that
term carries with it the depth of disrepute, though indeed alchemy was for
him but one, and that not the greatest, of many interests.

[1] The story, of course, is entirely fictitious. For further particulars
see Sir J. E. SANDYS' essay on "Roger Bacon in English Literature,"
in _Roger Bacon Essays_ (1914), referred to below.

Ilchester, in Somerset, claims the honour of being the place of ROGER
BACON'S birth, which interesting and important event occurred, probably,
in 1214. Young BACON studied theology, philosophy, and what then passed
under the name of "science," first at Oxford, then the centre of liberal
thought, and afterwards at Paris, in the rigid orthodoxy of whose
professors he found more to criticise than to admire. Whilst at Oxford
he joined the Franciscan Order, and at Paris he is said, though this is
probably an error, to have graduated as Doctor of Theology. During
1250-1256 we find him back in England, no doubt engaged in study and
teaching. About the latter year, however, he is said to have been
banished--on a charge of holding heterodox views and indulging in magical
practices--to Paris, where he was kept in close confinement and forbidden
to write. Mr LITTLE,[1] however, believes this to be an error, based on
a misreading of a passage in one of BACON'S works, and that ROGER was not
imprisoned, but stricken with sickness. At any rate it is not improbable
that some restrictions as to his writing were placed on him by his
superiors of the Franciscan Order. In 1266 BACON received a letter from
Pope CLEMENT asking him to send His Holiness his works in writing without
delay. This letter came as a most pleasant surprise to BACON; but he had
nothing of importance written, and in great haste and excitement,
therefore, he composed three works explicating his philosophy, the _Opus
Majus_, the _Opus Minus_, and the _Opus Tertium_, which were completed
and dispatched to the Pope by the end of the following year. This, as
Mr ROWBOTTOM remarks, is "surely one of the literary feats of history,
perhaps only surpassed by Swedenborg when he wrote six theological and
philosophical treatises in one year."[1b]

[1] See his contribution, "On Roger Bacon's Life and Works," to _Roger
Bacon Essays_.

[1b] B. R. ROWBOTTOM: "Roger Bacon," _The Journal of the Alchemical
Society_, vol. ii. (1914), p. 77.

The works appear to have been well received. We next find BACON at
Oxford writing his _Compendium Studii Philosophiae_, in which work he
indulged in some by no means unjust criticisms of the clergy, for which
he fell under the condemnation of his order, and was imprisoned in 1277
on a charge of teaching "suspected novelties". In those days any knowledge
of natural phenomena beyond that of the quasi-science of the times was
regarded as magic, and no doubt some of ROGER BACON'S "suspected
novelties" were of this nature; his recognition of the value of the
writings of non-Christian moralists was, no doubt, another "suspected
novelty". Appeals for his release directed to the Pope proved fruitless,
being frustrated by JEROME D'ASCOLI, General of the Franciscan Order,
who shortly afterwards succeeded to the Holy See under the title of
NICHOLAS IV. The latter died in 1292, whereupon RAYMOND GAUFREDI, who
had been elected General of the Franciscan Order, and who, it is thought,
was well disposed towards BACON, because of certain alchemical secrets
the latter had revealed to him, ordered his release. BACON returned to
Oxford, where he wrote his last work, the _Compendium Studii Theologiae_.
He died either in this year or in 1294.[1]

[1] For further details concerning BACON'S life, EMILE CHARLES: _Roger
Bacon, sa Vie, ses Ouvrages, ses Doctrines_ (1861); J. H. BRIDGES: _The
Life & Work of Roger Bacon, an Introduction to the Opus Majus_ (edited by
H. G. JONES, 1914); and Mr A. G. LITTLE'S essay in _Roger Bacon Essays_,
may be consulted.

It was not until the publication by Dr SAMUEL JEBB, in 1733, of the
greater part of BACON'S _Opus Majus_, nearly four and a half centuries
after his death, that anything like his rightful position in the
history of philosophy began to be assigned to him. But let his spirit
be no longer troubled, if it were ever troubled by neglect or slander,
for the world, and first and foremost his own country, has paid him due
honour. His septcentenary was duly celebrated in 1914 at his _alma
mater_, Oxford, his statue has there been raised as a memorial to his
greatness, and savants have meted out praise to him in no grudging
tones.[2] Indeed, a voice has here and there been heard depreciating
his better-known namesake FRANCIS,[3] so that the later luminary
should not, standing in the way, obscure the light of the earlier;
though, for my part, I would suggest that one need not be so
one-eyed as to fail to see both lights at once.

[2] See _Roger Bacon, Essays contributed by various Writers on the
Occasion of the Commemoration of the Seventh Centenary of his Birth_.
Collected and edited by A. G. LITTLE (1914); also Sir J. E. SANDYS'
_Roger Bacon_ (from _The Proceedings of the British Association_, vol.
vi., 1914).

[3] For example, that of ERNST DUHRING. See an article entitled "The
Two Bacons," translated from his _Kritische Geschichte der Philosophie_
in _The Open Court_ for August 1914.

To those who like to observe coincidences, it may be of interest that
the septcentenary of the discoverer of gunpowder should have coincided
with the outbreak of the greatest war under which the world has yet
groaned, even though gunpowder is no longer employed as a military

BACON'S reference to gunpowder occurs in his _Epistola de Secretis
Operibus Artis et Naturae, et de Nullitate Magiae_ (Hamburg, 1618)
a little tract written against magic, in which he endeavours to show,
and succeeds very well in the first eight chapters, that Nature and art
can perform far more extraordinary feats than are claimed by the
workers in the black art. The last three chapters are written in an
alchemical jargon of which even one versed in the symbolic language of
alchemy can make no sense. They are evidently cryptogramic, and
probably deal with the preparation and purification of saltpetre, which
had only recently been discovered as a distinct body.[1] In chapter xi.
there is reference to an explosive body, which can only be gunpowder;
by means of it, says BACON, you may, "if you know the trick, produce a
bright flash and a thundering noise." He mentions two of the ingredients,
saltpetre and sulphur, but conceals the third (_i.e_. charcoal) under an
anagram. Claims have, indeed, been put forth for the Greek, Arab, Hindu,
and Chinese origins of gunpowder, but a close examination of the original
ancient accounts purporting to contain references to gunpowder, shows that
only incendiary and not explosive bodies are really dealt with. But
whilst ROGER BACON knew of the explosive property of a mixture in right
proportions of sulphur, charcoal, and pure saltpetre (which he no doubt
accidentally hit upon whilst experimenting with the last-named body), he
was unaware of its projective power. That discovery, so detrimental to
the happiness of man ever since, was, in all probability, due to BERTHOLD
SCHWARZ about 1330.

[1] For an attempted explanation of this cryptogram, and evidence that
BACON was the discoverer of gunpowder, see Lieut.-Col. H. W. L. HIME'S
_Gunpowder and Ammunition: their Origin and Progress_ (1904).

ROGER BACON has been credited[1] with many other discoveries. In the
work already referred to he allows his imagination freely to speculate
as to the wonders that might be accomplished by a scientific utilisation
of Nature's forces--marvellous things with lenses, in bringing distant
objects near and so forth, carriages propelled by mechanical means,
flying machines . . .--but in no case is the word "discovery" in any
sense applicable, for not even in the case of the telescope does BACON
describe means by which his speculations might be realised.

[1] For instance by Mr M. M. P. MUIR. See his contribution, on "Roger
Bacon: His Relations to Alchemy and Chemistry," to _Roger Bacon Essays_.

On the other hand, ROGER BACON has often been maligned for his beliefs
in astrology and alchemy, but, as the late Dr BRIDGES (who was quite
sceptical of the claims of both) pointed out, not to have believed in
them in BACON'S day would have been rather an evidence of mental
weakness than otherwise. What relevant facts were known supported
alchemical and astrological hypotheses. Astrology, Dr BRIDGES writes,
"conformed to the first law of Comte's _philosophia prima_, as being
the best hypothesis of which ascertained phenomena admitted."[1] And
in his alchemical speculations BACON was much in advance of his
contemporaries, and stated problems which are amongst those of modern

[1] _Op. cit_., p.84.

ROGER BACON'S greatness does not lie in the fact that he discovered
gunpowder, nor in the further fact that his speculations have been
validated by other men. His greatness lies in his secure grip of
scientific method as a combination of mathematical reasoning and
experiment. Men before him had experimented, but none seemed to have
realised the importance of the experimental method. Nor was he, of
course, by any means the first mathematician--there was a long line of
Greek and Arabian mathematicians behind him, men whose knowledge of the
science was in many cases much greater than his--or the most learned
mathematician of his day; but none realised the importance of mathematics
as an organon of scientific research as he did; and he was assuredly the
priest who joined mathematics to experiment in the bonds of sacred
matrimony. We must not, indeed, look for precise rules of inductive
reasoning in the works of this pioneer writer on scientific method.
Nor do we find really satisfactory rules of induction even in the works
of FRANCIS BACON. Moreover, the latter despised mathematics, and it was
not until in quite recent years that the scientific world came to realise
that ROGER'S method is the more fruitful--witness the modern revolution
in chemistry produced by the adoption of mathematical methods.

ROGER BACON, it may be said, was many centuries in advance of his time;
but it is equally true that he was the child of his time; this may
account for his defects judged by modern standards. He owed not a
little to his contemporaries: for his knowledge and high estimate of
philosophy he was largely indebted to his Oxford master GROSSETESTE
(_c_. 1175-1253), whilst PETER PEREGRINUS, his friend at Paris,
fostered his love of experiment, and the Arab mathematicians, whose
works he knew, inclined his mind to mathematical studies. He was
violently opposed to the scholastic views current in Paris at his time,
and attacked great thinkers like THOMAS AQUINAS (_c_. 1225-1274) and
ALBERTUS MAGNUS (1193-1280), as well as obscurantists, such as
ALEXANDER of HALES (_ob_. 1245). But he himself was a scholastic
philosopher, though of no servile type, taking part in scholastic
arguments. If he declared that he would have all the works of
ARISTOTLE burned, it was not because he hated the Peripatetic's
philosophy--though he could criticise as well as appreciate at
times,--but because of the rottenness of the translations that were
then used. It seems commonplace now, but it was a truly wonderful
thing then: ROGER BACON believed in accuracy, and was by no means
destitute of literary ethics. He believed in correct translation,
correct quotation, and the acknowledgment of the sources of one's
quotations--unheard-of things, almost, in those days. But even he
was not free from all the vices of his age: in spite of his insistence
upon experimental verification of the conclusions of deductive
reasoning, in one place, at least, he adopts a view concerning lenses
from another writer, of which the simplest attempt at such verification
would have revealed the falsity. For such lapses, however, we can make

Another and undeniable claim to greatness rests on ROGER BACON'S
broad-mindedness. He could actually value at their true worth
the moral philosophies of non-Christian writers--SENECA (_c_. 5
B.C.- A.D. 65) and AL GHAZZALI (1058-1111), for instance.
But if he was catholic in the original meaning of that term, he was
also catholic in its restricted sense. He was no heretic: the Pope
for him was the Vicar of CHRIST, whom he wished to see reign over
the whole world, not by force of arms, but by the assimilation of all
that was worthy in that world. To his mind--and here he was certainly
a child of his age, in its best sense, perhaps--all other sciences were
handmaidens to theology, queen of them all. All were to be subservient
to her aims: the Church he called "Catholic" was to embrace in her arms
all that was worthy in the works of "profane" writers--true prophets
of God, he held, in so far as writing worthily they unconsciously bore
testimony to the truth of Christianity,--and all that Nature might
yield by patient experiment and speculation guided by mathematics.
Some minds see in this a defect in his system, which limited his aims
and outlook; others see it as the unifying principle giving coherence
to the whole. At any rate, the Church, as we have seen, regarded his
views as dangerous, and restrained his pen for at least a considerable
portion of his life.

ROGER BACON may seem egotistic in argument, but his mind was humble
to learn. He was not superstitious, but he would listen to common
folk who worked with their hands, to astrologers, and even magicians,
denying nothing which seemed to him to have some evidence in experience:
if he denied much of magical belief, it was because he found it lacking
in such evidence. He often went astray in his views; he sometimes
failed to apply his own method, and that method was, in any case,
primitive and crude. But it was the RIGHT method, in embryo at least,
and ROGER BACON, in spite of tremendous opposition, greater than that
under which any man of science may now suffer, persisted in that method
to the end, calling upon his contemporaries to adopt it as the only one
which results in right knowledge. Across the centuries--or, rather,
across the gulf that divides this world from the next--let us salute
this great and noble spirit.



THERE is an opinion, unfortunately very common, that religious
mysticism is a product of the emotional temperament, and is
diametrically opposed to the spirit of rationalism. No doubt this
opinion is not without some element of justification, and one could
quote the works of not a few religious mystics to the effect that
self-surrender to God implies, not merely a giving up of will, but
also of reason. But that this teaching is not an essential element
in mysticism, that it is, indeed, rather its perversion, there is
adequate evidence to demonstrate. SWEDENBORG is, I suppose, the
outstanding instance of an intellectual mystic; but the essential
unity of mysticism and rationalism is almost as forcibly made evident
in the case of the Cambridge Platonists. That little band of "Latitude
men," as their contemporaries called them, constitutes one of the
finest schools of philosophy that England has produced; yet their
works are rarely read, I am afraid, save by specialists. Possibly,
however, if it were more commonly known what a wealth of sound
philosophy and true spiritual teaching they contain, the case would
be otherwise.

CULVERWEL, RALPH CUDWORTH, and HENRY MORE are the more outstanding
names--were educated as Puritans; but they clearly realised the
fundamental error of Puritanism, which tended to make a man's eternal
salvation depend upon the accuracy and extent of his beliefs; nor could
they approve of the exaggerated import given by the High Church party to
matters of Church polity. The term "Cambridge Platonists" is, perhaps,
less appropriate than that of "Latitudinarians," which latter name
emphasises their broad-mindedness (even if it carries with it something
of disapproval). For although they owed much to PTATO, and, perhaps, more
to PLOTINUS (_c_. A.D. 203-262), they were Christians first and Platonists
afterwards, and, with the exception, perhaps, of MORE, they took nothing
from these philosophers which was not conformable to the Scriptures.

BENJAMIN WHICHCOTE was born in 1609, at Whichcote Hall, in the parish
of Stoke, Shropshire. In 1626 he entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge,
then regarded as the chief Puritan college of the University. Here his
college tutor was ANTHONY TUCKNEY (1599-1670), a man of rare character,
combining learning, wit, and piety. Between WHICHCOTE and TUCKNEY there
grew up a firm friendship, founded on mutual affection and esteem.
But TUCKNEY was unable to agree with all WHICHCOTE'S broad-minded views
concerning reason and authority; and in later years this gave rise
to a controversy between them, in which TUCKNEY sought to controvert
WHICHCOTE'S opinions: it was, however, carried on without acrimony,
and did not destroy their friendship.

WHICHCOTE became M.A., and was elected a fellow of his college, in
1633, having obtained his B.A. four years previously. He was ordained
by JOHN WILLIAMS in 1636, and received the important appointment of
Sunday afternoon lecturer at Trinity Church. His lectures, which he
gave with the object of turning men's minds from polemics to the great
moral and spiritual realities at the basis of the Christian religion,
from mere formal discussions to a true searching into the reason of
things, were well attended and highly appreciated; and he held the
appointment for twenty years. In 1634 he became college tutor at
Emmanuel. He possessed all the characteristics that go to make up
an efficient and well-beloved tutor, and his personal influence was
such as to inspire all his pupils, amongst whom were both JOHN SMITH
and NATHANAEL CULVERWEL, who considerably amplified his philosophical
and religious doctrines. In 1640 he became B.D., and nine years after
was created D.D. The college living of North Cadbury, in Somerset,
was presented to him in 1643, and shortly afterwards he married.
In the next year, however, he was recalled to Cambridge, and
installed as Provost of King's College in place of the ejected
Dr SAMUEL COLLINS. But it was greatly against his wish that he
received the appointment, and he only consented to do so on the
condition that part of his stipend should be paid to COLLINS--an
act which gives us a good insight into the character of the man.
In 1650 he resigned North Cadbury, and the living was presented
to CUDWORTH (see below), and towards the end of this year he was
elected Vice-Chancellor of the University in succession to TUCKNEY.
It was during his Vice-Chancellorship that he preached the sermon
that gave rise to the controversy with the latter. About this time
also he was presented with the living of Milton, in Cambridgeshire.
At the Restoration he was ejected from the Provostship, but, having
complied with the Act of Uniformity, he was, in 1662, appointed to the
cure of St Anne's, Blackfriars. This church being destroyed in the
Great Fire, WHICHCOTE retired to Milton, where he showed great kindness
to the poor. But some years later he returned to London, having
received the vicarage of St Lawrence, Jewry. His friends at Cambridge,
however, still saw him on occasional visits, and it was on one such
visit to CUDWORTH, in 1683, that he caught the cold which caused his

JOHN SMITH was born at Achurch, near Oundle, in 1618. He entered
Emmanuel College in 1636, became B.A. in 1640, and proceeded to M.A.
in 1644, in which year he was appointed a fellow of Queen's College.
Here he lectured on arithmetic with considerable success. He was
noted for his great learning, especially in theology and Oriental
languages, as well as for his justness, uprightness, and humility.
He died of consumption in 1652.

NATHANAEL CULVERWEL was probably born about the same year as SMITH.
He entered Emmanuel College in 1633, gained his B.A. in 1636, and
became M.A. in 1640. Soon afterwards he was elected a fellow of his
college. He died about 1651. Beyond these scant details, nothing is
known of his life. He was a man of very great erudition, as his
posthumous treatise on _The Light of Nature_ makes evident.

HENRY MORE was born at Grantham in 1614. From his earliest days he was
interested in theological problems, and his precociousness in this
respect appears to have brought down on him the wrath of an uncle.
His early education was conducted at Eton. In 1631 he entered
Christ's College, Cambridge, graduated B.A. in 1635, and received his
M.A. in 1639. In the latter year he was elected a fellow of Christ's
and received Holy Orders. He lived a very retired life, refusing all
preferment, though many valuable and honourable appointments were offered
to him. Indeed, he rarely left Christ's, except to visit his "heroine
pupil," Lady CONWAY, whose country seat, Ragley, was in Warwickshire.
Lady CONWAY (_ob_. 1679) appears to be remembered only for the fact that,
dying whilst her husband was away, her physician, F. M. VAN HELMONT
(1618-1699) (son of the famous alchemist, J. B. VAN HELMONT, whom we
have met already on these excursions), preserved her body in spirits of
wine, so that he could have the pleasure of beholding it on his return.
She seems to have been a woman of considerable learning, though not free
from fantastic ideas. Her ultimate conversion to Quakerism was a severe
blow to MORE, who, whilst admiring the holy lives of the Friends, regarded
them as enthusiasts. MORE died in 1687.

MORE'S earliest works were in verse, and exhibit fine feeling.
The following lines, quoted from a poem on "Charitie and Humilitie,"
are full of charm, and well exhibit MORE'S character:--

"Farre have I clambred in my mind
But nought so great as love I find:
Deep-searching wit, mount-moving might,
Are nought compar'd to that great spright.
Life of Delight and soul of blisse!
Sure source of lasting happinesse!
Higher than Heaven! lower than hell!
What is thy tent? Where maist thou dwell?
My mansion highs humilitie,
Heaven's vastest capabilitie
The further it doth downward tend
The higher up it doth ascend;
If it go down to utmost nought
It shall return with that it sought."[1]

[1] See _The Life of the Learned and Pious Dr Henry More . . . by_
RICHARD WARD, A.M., _to which are annexed Divers Philosophical Poems
and Hymns_. Edited by M. F. HOWARD (1911), pp. 250 and 251.

Later he took to prose, and it must be confessed that he wrote too much
and frequently descended to polemics (for example, his controversy with
the alchemist THOMAS VAUGHAN, in which both combatants freely used abuse).

Although in his main views MORE is thoroughly characteristic of the
school to which he belonged, many of his less important opinions are
more or less peculiar to himself.

The relation between MORE's and DESCARTES' (1596-1650) theories as to
the nature of spirit is interesting. When MORE first read DESCARTES'
works he was favourably impressed with his views, though without
entirely agreeing with him on all points; but later the difference became
accentuated. DESCARTES regarded extension as the chief characteristic of
matter, and asserted that spirit was extra-spatial. To MORE this seemed
like denying the existence of spirit, which he regarded as extended, and
he postulated divisibility and impenetrability as the chief characteristics
of matter. In order, however, to get over some of the inherent
difficulties of this view, he put forward the suggestion that spirit is
extended in four dimensions: thus, its apparent (_i.e_. three-dimensional)
extension can change, whilst its true (_i.e_. four-dimensional) extension
remains constant; just as the surface of a piece of metal can be increased
by hammering it out, without increasing the volume of the metal. Here, I
think, we have a not wholly inadequate symbol of the truth; but it remained
(1685-1753) to show the essential validity of DESCARTES'
position, by demonstrating that, since space and extension are perceptions
of the mind, and thus exist only in the mind as ideas, space exists in
spirit: not spirit in space.

MORE was a keen believer in witchcraft, and eagerly investigated all cases
of these and like marvels that came under his notice. In this he was
largely influenced by JOSEPH GLANVIL (1636-1680), whose book on witchcraft,
the well-known _Saducismus Triumphatus_, MORE largely contributed to,
and probably edited. MORE was wholly unsuited for psychical research;
free from guile himself, he was too inclined to judge others to be of
this nature also. But his common sense and critical attitude towards
enthusiasm saved him, no doubt, from many falls into the mire of fantasy.

As Principal TULLOCH has pointed out, whilst MORE is the most interesting
personality amongst the Cambridge Platonists, his works are the least
interesting of those of his school. They are dull and scholastic, and
MORE'S retired existence prevented him from grasping in their fulness
some of the more acute problems of life. His attempt to harmonise
catastrophes with Providence, on the ground that the evil of certain
parts may be necessary for the good of the whole, just as dark colours,
as well as bright, are essential to the beauty of a picture--a theory
which is practically the same as that of modern Absolutism,[1]--is a
case in point. No doubt this harmony may be accomplished, but in another

[1] Cf. BERNARD BOSANQUET, LL.D., D.C.L.: _The Principle of Individuality
and Value_ (1912).

RALPH CUDWORTH was born at Aller, in Somersetshire, in 1617.
He entered Emmanuel College in 1632, three years afterwards gained
his B.A., and became M.A. in 1639. In the latter year he was elected
a fellow of his college. Later he obtained the B.D. degree.
In 1645 he was appointed Master of Clare Hall, in place of the ejected
Dr PASHE, and was elected Regius Professor of Hebrew. On 31st March 1647
he preached a sermon of remarkable eloquence and power before the House
of Commons, which admirably expresses the attitude of his school as
concerns the nature of true religion. I shall refer to it again later.
In 1650 CUDWORTH was presented with the college living of North Cadbury,
which WHICHCOTE had resigned, and was made D.D. in the following year.
In 1654 he was elected Master of Christ's College, with an improvement
in his financial position, there having been some difficulty
in obtaining his stipend at Clare Hall. In this year he married.
In 1662 Bishop SHELDON presented him with the rectory of Ashwell,
in Hertfordshire. He died in 1688. He was a pious man of fine intellect;
but his character was marred by a certain suspiciousness which caused
him wrongfully to accuse MORE, in 1665, of attempting to forestall
him in writing a work on ethics, which should demonstrate that
the principles of Christian morality are not based on any arbitrary
decrees of God, but are inherent in the nature and reason of things.
CUDWORTH'S great work--or, at least, the first part, which alone was
completed,--_The Intellectual System of the World_, appeared in 1678.
In it CUDWORTH deals with atheism on the ground of reason,
demonstrating its irrationality. The book is remarkable for
the fairness and fulness with which CUDWORTH states the arguments
in favour of atheism.

So much for the lives and individual characteristics of
the Cambridge Platonists: what were the great principles that
animated both their lives and their philosophy? These, I think,
were two: first, the essential unity of religion and morality;
second, the essential unity of revelation and reason.

With clearer perception of ethical truth than either Puritan
or High Churchman, the Cambridge Platonists saw that true
Christianity is neither a matter of mere belief, nor consists
in the mere performance of good works; but is rather a matter
of character. To them Christianity connoted regeneration.
"Religion," says WHICHCOTE, "is the Frame and TEMPER of our Minds,
and the RULE of our Lives"; and again, "Heaven is FIRST a Temper,
and THEN a Place."[1] To the man of heavenly temper, they taught,
the performance of good works would be no irksome matter imposed merely
by a sense of duty, but would be done spontaneously as a delight.
To drudge in religion may very well be necessary as an initial stage,
but it is not its perfection.

[1] My quotations from WHICHCOTE and SMITH are taken from the selection
of their discourses edited by E. T. CAMPAGNAC, M.A. (1901).

In his sermon before the House of Commons, CUDWORTH well exposes the
error of those who made the mere holding of certain beliefs the
essential element in Christianity. There are many passages I should
like to quote from this eloquent discourse, but the following must
suffice: "We must not judge of our knowing of Christ, by our skill in
Books and Papers, but by our keeping of his Commandments. . . He is the
best Christian, whose heart beats with the truest pulse towards heaven;
not he whose head spinneth out the finest cobwebs. He that endeavours
really to mortifie his lusts, and to comply with that truth in his life,
which his Conscience is convinced of; is neerer a Christian, though he
never heard of Christ; then he that believes all the vulgar Articles of
the Christian faith, and plainly denyeth Christ in his life.... The great
Mysterie of the Gospel, it doth not lie only in CHRIST WITHOUT US,
(though we must know also what he hath done for us) but the very Pith
and Kernel of it, consists in _*Christ inwardly formed_ in our hearts.
Nothing is truly Ours, but what lives in our Spirits. SALVATION it
self cannot SAVE us, as long as it is onely without us;
no more then HEALTH can cure us, and make us sound, when it is not
within us, but somewhere at distance from us; no more than _Arts
and Sciences_, whilst they lie onely in Books and Papers without us;
can make us learned."[1]

[1] RALPH CUDWORTH, B.D.: _A Sermon Preached before the Honourable House
of Commons at Westminster, Mar_. 31, 1647 (1st edn.), pp.
3, 14, 42, and 43.

The Cambridge Platonists were not ascetics; their moral doctrine was one
of temperance. Their sound wisdom on this point is well evident in the
following passage from WHICHCOTE: "What can be alledged for Intemperance;
since Nature is content with very few things? Why should any one over-do
in this kind? A Man is better in Health and Strength, if he be temperate.
We enjoy ourselves more in a sober and temperate Use of ourselves."[2]

[2] BENJAMIN WHICHCOTE: _The Venerable Nature and Transcendant Benefit
of Christian Religion. Op. cit_., p. 40.

The other great principle animating their philosophy was,
as I have said, the essential unity of reason and revelation.
To those who argued that self-surrender implied a giving up of reason,
they replied that "To go against REASON, is to go against GOD:
it is the self same thing, to do that which the Reason of
the Case doth require; and that which God Himself doth appoint:
Reason is the DIVINE Governor of Man's Life; it is the very
Voice of God."[3] Reason, Conscience, and the Scriptures,
these, taught the Cambridge Platonists, testify of one another
and are the true guides which alone a man should follow.
All other authority they repudiated. But true reason is not
merely sensuous, and the only way whereby it may be gained
is by the purification of the self from the desires that draw
it away from the Source of all Reason. "God," writes MORE,
"reserves His choicest secrets for the purest Minds," adding his
conviction that "true Holiness [is] the only safe Entrance
into Divine Knowledge." Or as SMITH, who speaks of "a GOOD LIFE
as the PROLEPSIS and Fundamental principle of DIVINE SCIENCE,"
puts it, ". . . if . . . KNOWLEDGE be not attended with HUMILITY
and a deep sense of SELF-PENURY and _*Self-emptiness_, we
may easily fall short of that True Knowledge of God which we
seem to aspire after."[1b] Right Reason, however, they taught,
is the product of the sight of the soul, the true mystic vision.

[3] BENJAMIN WHICHCOTE: _Moral and Religious Aphorisms OP.
cit_., p. 67.

[1b] JOHN SMITH: _A Discourse concerning the true Way
or Method of attaining to Divine Knowledge. Op. cit_., pp.
80 and 96.

In what respects, it may be asked in conclusion, is the
philosophy of the Cambridge Platonists open to criticism?
They lacked, perhaps, a sufficiently clear concept of the Church
as a unity, and although they clearly realised that Nature is a
symbol which it is the function of reason to interpret spiritually,
they failed, I think, to appreciate the value of symbols.
Thus they have little to teach with respect to the Sacraments
of the Church, though, indeed, the highest view, perhaps,
is that which regards every act as potentially a sacrament;
and, whilst admiring his morality, they criticised BOEHME as
an enthusiast. But, although he spoke in a very different language,
spiritually he had much in common with them. Compared with what
is of positive value in their philosophy, however, the defects
of the Cambridge Platonists are but comparatively slight.
I commend their works to lovers of spiritual wisdom.


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