Atalanta fugiens emblems 6 - 10Go to emblems 11- 15 . Go to Atalanta page.
Seminate aurum vestrum in terram albam foliatam
Ruricolae pingui mandant sua femina terrae,
But as for the increase & produce of it he leaves that to Nature which administers Rain to the Heat of the Sun, & by these two Multiplies the seeds & improves them into standing Corn fit for reaping. While the blade is growing he weeds out the thistles & throws out all other impediments. He reaps the Corn when it is ripe & cleans it when reaped from its straw & Chaff. So the Physician (likewise the Chemist in a different respect) administers preventing Physick to the Patient as well as Restorative, removes the Cause, Cures the malady, assuages symptoms, takes away superfluous blood by opening a vein & if low restores it by a Regulation of Diet, evacuates ill humors by purging, & so by a thousand methods imitates, supplies & corrects Nature with the operations of Art & Understanding. Our present Considerations are not concerning these things which are commonly known, but of matters merely Chemical.
For Chemistry shows its Affinity to Husbandry even in its secret Terms & courses of Operation. The Husbandmen have their Earth into which they sow their seed & so have the Chemists. They have their Dung with which they enrich their ground, so have these without which nothing can be accomplished nor any fruit expected. They have seed from which they hope for an increase, & unless the Chemists had so too, they would be like a Painter (as Lully says) endeavoring to draw the face of a Man of whom he had never seen so much as the least resemblance. The Country man expects Rain & Sunshine & so indeed the Chemists must supply their work with such & Heat & Rain as is proper & convenient. What need of many words?
Chemistry runs entirely Parallel with Agriculture as its Deputy, & represents it in all things, but under a most compleat Allegory. From hence the Ancients produced their Cerereus, Triptolemus, Osirideus, Dionysius, Golden Gods, or such as had Relation to Chemistry, but at the same time represented them as teaching mortals to cast their seed into the Earth & showing them Husbandry & the planting & Cultivation of Vines & the use of Wine. All which things the Ignorant falsely applied to their Countries' Employment. For these abstruse Mysteries of Nature under these Veils are at the same time explained to the Wise, whilst they are concealed from the Vulgar.
Hence the Philosophers affirm it to be sowed in White foliated Earth, as if they would have said that the sowing of Wheat must be looked upon as an example & consequently imitated. Which the Author of Tractatus de tritico & Jodoc Greverus have most excellently performed in their Descriptions for they have very elegantly adapted each Operation of Husbandry in the production of Corn to the Semination of Gold & the generation of the Tincture. White Earth as being Sandy yields little fruit to the Countrymen who esteem that which is black as being fattest. But the other is of most Value to the Philosophers if it be foliated, that is, well prepared. For they know how to improve it with their Dung, which the others do not. For semination is the propagation of the world by which Care is taken that what cannot last in the individual may be continued in the species. This is in Men, Animals & Plants; in the first, Hermaphroditically, in the two last under different sexes, but in Metals it is far otherwise, for in them a Line is made from the flux of a Point, a Superficies from the flux of a Line, a body from the flux of a Superficies.
But the Stars produce that point before either the line, the superficies, or the Body, because it is the Principle of them all. Nature added the flux a long time afterwards; that is, the Caelestial Phoebus generated a Son underneath the Earth, which Mercury committed to Vulcan to be Educated, & to Chiron, that is, to Manual operation, to be instructed, as it is reported of Achilles that he was detained & Hardened in Fires by his Mother Thetis. Among other things He learned Music & the Art of playing on the Harp from his Master Chiron. Achilles is nothing else but the Philosophic subject, whose Son is Pyrrhus, with red Hair, without which two, Troy could not be subdued, as we have demonstrated in the sixth Book of our Hieroglyphics.
Fit pullus à nido volans, qui iterùm cadit in nidum.
Rupe cavâ nidum Jovis ALES struxerat, in quo
But the neighboring Elements easily suffer themselves to be taken & detained by their Neighbors. Earth & Air are contrary one to the other, & so are Fire & Water, & Yet Fire maintains friendship with Air by heat common to both, & does so with Earth by reason of dryness, & so Air with Water & Water with the Earth. By which means they are joined in bonds of Affinity, or rather consanguinity, & remain together in one composition, which, if it abound with the light Elements, elevates the Heavy with it; if with the heavy it presses down the light. This is illustrated by two Eagles, one with Wings, the other without; the first of which, endeavoring to fly, is restrained by the second. There is a plain Example of this Matter in the fight between the Falcon & Heron, for the Falcon, soaring higher in the Air by his speedy Flying & swift wings, takes & tears the Heron with his Talons, by whose weight, both fall to the ground. The contrary appeared in the Artificial Dove which was an Automata or self-moving piece of Workmanship made by Architas, whose heavy things were carried upwards by light, that is, its wooden body was lifted into the Air by the Spirit that was enclosed within it.
In the Philosophical Subject, the light things are first predominant over the Heavy as to their quantity, but they are overcome by virtue of the heavy, 7 in process of time, the eagle's wings are cut off, & one very great Bird (namely an Ostrich) is made of two, which Bird can consume Iron, & being hindered by its own weight, seems rather to run upon the Earth that to fly in the Air, although it has goodly wings. Concerning this or one like it, Hermes (as the Author of Aurora, ch. 5th affirms) writes thus: 'I have considered a Bird Venerable to the Wise, which flies when it is in Aries, Cancer, Libra or Capricorn,' & 'You will acquire it Perpetually to yourself out of mere minerals & Rocks of Mountainous places.' Senior in Tabula relates to the same thing, where two birds are seen, one flying, the other without wings, whereof the one holds the other's Tail by its beak, that they cannot easily be separated. For this is the machination or device of Universal Nature, always to raise heavy things by light, & to depress light ones by heavy, as the Author of Perfectum Magisterius declares: 'Who constitutes seven Mineral Spirits, as it were erratic or Wandering Stars, & so many Metallic Bodies & Fixed Stars, and enjoins these to be married to the others.' And thence Aristotle the Chemist says: 'The Spirit having dissolved the Body & Soul so that they may exist in their form, does not remain unless You Occupy it.'
Now this Occupation is that You join it with the Body from whence you prepared it in the beginning. Because in that the Spirit at the superexistences of the Body is Occupied from flight. In Camphora, as Bonus observes, the light Elements, that is, Air & Fire, prevail over the Heavy, & therefore it is said wholly to exhale & evaporate into Air. In Argent Vive, the Flowers of Sulphur, Antimony, the salt of Heart's blood, Sal Armoniac & such other things, the Earth flies with the Alembic, & is not separated from it. In Gold, Glass, Diamonds, the Stone Smiris, Granite, & the like, the Elements remain joined a long time notwithstanding the fire, without any detriment. For the Earth retains the other Elements with itself. In other Combustibles, a separation or division of one from another is effected, so that the Ashes are left in the Bottom, & the Water, Air & Fire fly upwards.
We must not therefore have respect to the unequal Composition of these last, being not so strongly mixed, nor to the Commixture of the first, which is more desirable, though composed of Volatiles. But to the solidity, Constancy & Fixity of the middle ones. For so the Bird without wings will detain that which hath, and the Fixed Substances will Fix the Volatiles, which is the thing that of necessity must be Effected.
Accipe ovum & igneo percute gladio.
Est avis in mundo sublimior omnibus, Ovum
The Yolk constitutes the Chicken with its radical parts & Bowels, the seed of the male forming it & becoming the internal Efficient, whereas the White... [**"Albumen materiam seu subtegmen & incrementum dat rudimento seu stamini pulli."] The external heat is the first mover which by a certain Circulation of the Elements & change of one into the other, introduces a new form by the instinct & guidance of Nature. For Water passes into Air, Air into Fire, Fire into Earth, which being joined together, & a specific being transmitted by the stars, an individual Bird is made of that kind whose Egg it was & whose seed was infused into it. This is said to be smitten with a fiery sword when Vulcan performing the office of a Midwife as he did to Pallas coming from the brain of Jupiter, does by his ax make a passage for the newborn Chicken. This is what Basil Valentine affirms, that Mercury was imprisoned by Vulcan at the command of Mars, & could not be released before he was wholly purified & dead. But this death is to him the beginning of a New life, as the Corruption or death of the Egg brings new generation & life to the Chicken.
So an Embryo being freed from that human vegetable life which alone it enjoyed in the Mother's womb, obtains another, more perfect one, by his birth & coming into the light of the world. So when we shall pass from this present life, there remains for us another that is most perfect & Eternal. Lully in many places calls this fiery sword a sharp Lance, because fire as a Lance or sharp sword perforates bodies & makes them porous & pervious [?], so that they may be penetrated by waters & be dissolved & being reduced from hardness become soft & Tractable. In the Stomach of a Cormorant, which is the most voracious of all Birds, there are found long & round worms which serve it as the instruments of Heat, & as we have sometimes observed, seize upon those Eels & other fish which she has swallowed & Pierce them like sharp needles, & so consume them in a short time by a wonderful operation of Nature. As, therefore, Heat pierces, so that which pierces will sometimes supply the absence of Heat. Upon which Consideration, that wherewith the Philosophical Egg ought to be smitten may not undeservedly be called a fiery sword.
But the Philosophers had rather have it understood of Temperate Heat, whereby the Egg is cherished, as Morfoleus in Turba declares: 'It is necessary [that a] wise man's moisture be burned up with a slow fire, as is shown us in the Example of the generation of a Chicken, & where the fire is increased, the Vessel must be stopped on all sides, that the body of the Air (or brass)['aeris' in original] & the fugitive spirit of it may not be extracted.' But what Bird's Egg must it be? Moscus tells us in the same place: 'Now I say that no instruments are made except of our white starry splendid powder, & of the white Stone, of which powder are made fit instruments for the Egg. But they have not named the Egg, nor what Bird's Egg it must be.'
Arborem cum fene concludein rorida domo,
Arbor inest hortis Sophiae dans aurea mala,
There is nothing that can restore Youth to man but death itself, which is the beginning of Eternal life that follows it. However, there are some that say as to his external Form & the restoring of his strength in some measure, together with the taking away of wrinkles, & changing of grey Hair, a proper remedy may be found out, as Lully affirms of his Quintessence, & Arnold of prepared Gold. But here the Philosophers say that if the Old Man would become Young, he must be shut up in a House of Dew, & then he will eat of the fruit of the Tree, & so recover Youth. It is scarce believed by the Vulgar that such Trees can be in Nature. The Physicians write wonders of Myrobalanis [literally: 'miracle fruit'], the Fruit of a certain Tree, that they restore grey Hair to blackness, purify the blood & prolong life. But this is scarce credited.
Marsilio Ficino, in his book of preserving the health of students, recommends sucking the milk of a beautiful young woman, others recommend the eating of Vipers' flesh, but these remedies are more troublesome than Old Age itself, & could not be obtained by one in a thousand, although their effect should be certain. Paracelsus, in his book of Long life, says a sick man may attract to himself the Health of another by imagination only, & so an Old Man may gather Youth. But in this he seems rather to be guided by his fancy than experience. It is certain that the people called Psyllis, with their double pupils, & witches by their very aspect bewitch Cattle & Children, according to Virgil: "Nescio quis teneros oculus mihi fascinet agnos." These things are done without contact. But as for the Tree which is to restore the Old Man, the fruit of it is sweet, red & full ripe, turning into the best blood, as being easy of digestion, & affording the best Nutriment, leaving nothing in the body that is faecal or superfluous. But the Old Man abound with white Phlegm, has white Hair & Complection, which Humours, Color, & Hair are changed into that Red which appears in Youth & Vigor.
Therefore the Philosophers say their Stone is first an Old Man that is white, & then a Young man, which is Red. And they say further that the Old Man must be placed together with the Tree, not in the open air, but in a House, & that not dry, but moist, with Dew. It may seem strange that Trees should spring & grow in a close place, but if it be moist, there is no doubt of their continuance. For the Nutriment of a Tree is moisture & Airy Earth that is fat, which can ascend into the body & Bough, & these produce leaves, blossoms & fruit. In which Natural work then is the concurrence of all the Elements.
Fire gives the First Motion as the efficient, Air gives Tenuity & Penetrability, Water Lubricity, & Earth Coagulation. For when any of their superfluities ascend, Air turns into Water, & Water into Earth. By Fire, I understand the Native Heat, which being propagated with the seed, does by the Power of the Stars as if it were a Smith, forge out & form such fruits as are like to those things from whence the seed ariseth. But a Dewy Evaporation is not only Expedient, to moisten the Tree so as to make it yield fruit, but likewise the Old Man, that he may the more easily be made Young again by that fruit. For the Dewy Vapors will mollify, fill up, & restore his dry & wrinkled skin with temperate heat & moisture. Wherefore Physicians very rationally & with good success prescribe Warm Baths for the atrophy ["marasmo"] or Consumption of Old Age.
But if the thing be well considered, that Tree is the Daughter of the Old Man, which as Daphne is changed into a Vegetable of the like sort, & therefore the Old Man may not unjustly expect Youth from it, seeing He himself was the cause of their being.
Da ignem igni, Mercurium Mercurio,
Machina pendet ab hac mundi connexa catena
So we see that Heat fixed in any part is drawn forth by the same Heat. Limbs benumbed & almost dead with Frost & cold water will be restored by putting them into cold Water rather than by the application of external heat. For as the greater light obscures the lesser, so also greater heat or cold has power over the lesser, so it is necessary that the Cold or Heat that is outwardly applied should be less than that which was before imprinted or fixed in the joints, otherwise the same impression would be made as before, & the like would rather be much more increased than drawn forth by the like.
This drawing out of cold by cold water, & of fiery heat by heat, is agreeable to Nature, for all sudden changes in contraries are dangerous & less acceptable to it, but that which comes by degrees can more easily be endured. So we say there is one internal Fire which is essentially infixed in the Philosophical subject, & another external. The same may likewise be said of Mercury. The internal Fire is Equivocally so cold because of its fiery qualities, virtue, & operation, but the External Fire is Univocally so. Therefore, External Fire & Mercury must be given to the internal Fire & Mercury, that so the intention of the Work may be completed. For in boiling we use Fire & Water to Mollify & mature any thing that has crudities & hardness. For Water penetrates into & dissolves the parts contracted, whilst the heat adds strength & motion to it. Thus we see in the common coction of Pulse ["pulté"], which, being hard in themselves, yet well are broken and reduced to a pulp in Water, the heat of the Fire rarifying the Water by ebullition & reducing to almost an aerial substance, so the heat of Fire resolves the crude parts of Fruit or Flesh into water, & makes them Vanish into Air together with it.
After the same manner, Fire & Mercury here are Fire & Water, & the same Fire & Mercury are the Mature & Crude parts, of which the crude are to be matured by Coction, or the mature to be purged from superfluities by the assistance of Water. But we shall in short demonstrate that these two Fires & these two Mercuries are principally & solely necessary to the completion of the Art. Empedocles was of opinion that the Principles of all things were Friendship & Discord. That corruptions were made by Variance, and generations by Love. This Discord is manifestly apparent in Fire & Water, Fire making Water evaporate & Water extinguishing Fire when applied to it.
But it is likewise plain that generations will proceed from these same things by a certain Friendship. For by heat is made new generation of Air, & by the same Heat that induration of Water into the Stone is performed, & so from these two as the first Elements are made the other two, & consequently from thence the production of all things. Water was the Matter of Heaven & all Corporeal things. Fire as the Form moves & informs this matter, so this Water or Mercury yields the Matter & Fire or Sulphur the Form. That these two may operate & mutually move themselves by Solution, Coagulation, Alteration, Tinction & Perfection, there will be a Necessity of external Helps, as instruments without which, no effect can follow. For as a Smith cannot Work without Hammers & Fire, so neither can the Philosopher without his instruments, which are Water & Fire.
This Water is by some called the Water of Clouds, as this Fire is called Occasioned Fire. It is without doubt called the Water of Clouds because it is distilled as May Dew, & consists of most thin parts. For as it is affirmed that May Dew being enclosed in the Shell of a Egg will raise it up by the Heat of the Sun, so this Water of the Clouds, or Dew, makes the Philosopher's Egg ascend, that is, Sublimes, Exalts & Perfects it. The same Water is also most sharp Vinegar, which makes the body a mere Spirit. For as Vinegar has different qualities & can penetrate to the bottom & bind, so this Water dissolves & coagulates, but is not coagulated, because it is not of a proper Subject. The Water is had from the Fountain of Parnassus, which, contrary to the Nature of other fountains, is upon the Top of the Hill made the Hoof of the flying Horse Pegasus.
There must also be actual Fire, which, notwithstanding, must be governed & qualified by its degrees as with Bridles. For as the Sun proceeding from Aries into Leo, & so approaching nearer, gradually increaseth heat to things growing, so it is here necessary to be done, for the Philosophical Infant must be nourished by Fire as with Milk, & the more plentiful that is, the more he grows.
If you have problems understanding these alchemical texts, Adam McLean now provides a study course entitled How to read alchemical texts : a guide for the perplexed.
Works of Nicolas Flamel
Works of George Ripley
Works of Sendivogius
Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum
Emerald tablet of Hermes
Texts from Musaeum Hermeticum
Spanish alchemical texts
German alchemical texts
French alchemical texts
Russian alchemical texts
Alchemical, astrological and
emblematic art prints
Alchemy and art
Art books Series
Study course on Bosch's
Garden of Earthly Delights
New Hieronymus Bosch Website