van Helmont's experiences with transmutationThere are three short mentions of Jan Baptista van Helmont's [1577-1644] experiences with transmutation contained in his collected writings edited by his son Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont [1618-1699] under the title Oriatrike or, Physick Refined... London 1662.
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For I contemplate of the Regeneration of those that are to be saved, and of the participation of Life in the Communion of the Eucharist, to happen and be reckoned among earthly things, because there is shewn something like unto it elsewhere in Earthly things: Verily, almost even as in the Projection of the Stone which maketh Gold: For I have divers times handled that stone with my hands, and have seen a real transmutation of saleable Argent-vive or Quicksilver with my eyes, which in proportion did exceed the powder which made the gold in some thousand degrees.
Indeed it was of the colour, such as is in Saffron, being weighty in its powder, and shining like bruised Glass, when it should be the less exactly beaten. But there was once given unto me, the fourth part of one grain. I call also a grain the six hundreth part of an ounce.
This powder therefore I involved in Wax scraped off of a certain Letter, least in casting it into the Crucible, it should be dispersed through the smoakiness of the coals: which pellet of wax, I afterwards cast into the three-cornered Vessel of a Crucible, upon a pound of Quicksilver, hot, and newly bought; and presently, the whole Quicksilver with some little noise, stood still from flowing, and resided like a Lump: But the heat of that Argent-vive, was as much as might forbid melted Lead from re-coagulating: The Fire being straightaway after increased under the Bellows, the Mettal was melted, the which, the Vessel of fusion being broken, I found to weigh eight ounces of the most pure gold.
Therefore a computation being made, a grain of that powder doth convert nineteen thousand two hundred grains of impure and volatile Mettal, which is obliterated by the fire, into true gold.
For that powder, by uniting the aforesaid Quicksilver unto it self, preserved the same at one instant, from an eternal rust, putrefaction, death, and torture of the fire, howsoever most violent it was, and made it as an Immortal thing, against any vigour and industry of Art and Fire, and transchanged it into the Virgin purity of Gold: At least-wise one onely fire of coals is required herein.
So indeed, if so be a just heat of the faithful shall be present, a very little of this mystical and divine super-celestial Bread, doth regenerate, restore and renew, a huge number of the Elect...
I therefore contemplate of the New-birth or renewing of those that are to be saved, to be made in a sublunary and earthly Nature, just, even as in the Projection of the Stone which maketh Gold: For truly, I have divers times seen it, and handled it with may hands: but it was of colour, such as is in Saffron in its Powder, yet weighty, and shining like unto powdered Glass: There was once given unto me one fourth part of one Grain: But I call a Grain the six-hundredth part of one Ounce: This quarter of one Grain therefore, being rouled up in Paper, I projected upon eight Ounces of Quick-silver made hot in a Crucible; and straightaway all the Quick-silver, with a certain degree of Noise, stood still from flowing, and being congealed, setled like unto a yellow Lump: but after pouring it out, the Bellows blowing, there were found eight Ounces, and a little less that eleven Grains of the purest Gold: Therefore one only Grain of that Powder, had transchanged 19186 Parts of Quick-silver, equal to itself, into the best Gold. The aforesaid Powder therefore, among earthly things, is found to be after some sort like them, the which transchangeth almost an infinite quanity of impure Mettal into the best Gold, and by uniting it unto it self, doth defend it from cankering, rust, rottenness, and Death, and makes it to be as it were Immortal, against all the torture of the Fire, and Art, and tranlates it into the virgin-Purity of Gold; only it requires heat.
[Oriatrike, pages 751-2]
I am constrained to believe that there is the Stone which makes Gold, and which makes Silver; because I have at distinct turns, made projection with my hand, of one grain of the Powder, upon some thousand grains of hot Quick-silver; and the business succeeded in the Fire, even as Books do promise; a Circle of many People standing by, together with a tickling Admiration of us all. But it was not a thing extracted out of Gold, because it should change as many weights of Quick-silver, as there were of Gold from whence it had been extracted. First of all, that being granted, as yet, at least-wise, a true transmutation of one thing into another, and that indeed, a manifold one, should stand. Secondly, those that work upon Gold, and Money-makers, have known, that nothing which is not Mercurial, can enter (by flowing) into Mettals, or be co-melted with them; but swims a-top in the flowing. Therefore thirdly, that Extraction should be fatter than any Mettal is, if it ought to tinge so many thousand Parts. Fourthly, that Extraction should be no longer a Mettal, seeing it should exceed the perfection of the purest Mettal, so many thousand times: For a Mettal doth not suffer so many degrees of largeness in its perfection, by how many times the Powder which maketh Gold, converts an inferiour Mettal into true Gold. Fifthly, He who first gave me the Gold-making Powder, had likewise also, at least as much of it, as might be sufficient for changing two hundred thousand Pounds of Gold: But there is none who may have more than a tenfold quantity of Gold; and if he should have it, he should destroy it, that he might at length, make as much Gold from thence: For he gave me perhaps half a grain of that Powder, and nine ounces and three quarters of Quick-silver were thereby transchanged: But that Gold, a strange Man, being a Friend of one evenings aquaintance, gave me. However therefore the Phylosophers Stone be in the Nature of things; yet have I alwayes supposed for the reasons aforesaid, that no Metallick Remedy contains the blessing of the Tree of Life.
[Oriatrike, page 807]