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Archibald Cockren's alchemical discoveries

There is an interesting account of Archibald Cockren's discovery of various transmuting tinctures in his Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored, 1940.
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Here then, I entered upon a new course of experiment with a metal for experimental purposes of which I had no previous experience. This metal, after the long reduction to its essentials and undergoing separation and preparing a distillation deposit of the Mercury of the Philosophers, the Aqua Benedicta, the Aqua Celestes, and water of Paradise.

The first intimation I had of this triumph was a violent hissing, jets of vapour pouring from the retort and into the receiver like sharp bursts from a machine gun, and then a violent explosion, whilst a very potent and subtle odour filled the laboratory and its surroundings. A friend has described this odour as resembling the dewy earth on a June morning, with the hint of growing flowers in the air; the breath of the wind over heather and hill, and the sweet smell of the rain on the parched earth.

Nicolas Flamel, after searching and experimenting from the age of twenty, wrote when he was eighty years old : ‘Finally I found that which I desired, which I also soon knew by the strong scent and odour thereof'. Does this not coincide, this voice from the fourteenth century, with my discovery of the peculiar subtle odours? Cremer also writes in the early fourteenth century: ‘When this happy event takes place the whole house will be filled with a most wonderful sweet fragrance, and then will be the day of the nativity of this most blessed preparation'.

Having arrived at this point my next difficulty was to find a way of storing this subtle gas without danger to property. This I accomplished by coils of glass piping in water joined up with my receiver together with a perfect government of heat, the result being that the gas gradually condensed into a clear golden coloured water, very inflammable and very volatile. This water had then to be separated by distillation, the outcome being the white mercurial water described by the Comte de St Germain as his athoeter, or primary water of all the metals.

I will again quote from Manly Palmer Hall's introduction to the Thrice Holy Trinosophie the passage in which Casanova describes the athoeter: ‘Then he showed me his magistrum which he called Athoeter. It was a white liquid contained in a white glass phial. He told me that the liquid was the Universal Spirit of Nature, and that if the wax on the stopper were pricked ever so slightly the whole of the contents would disappear. I begged him to make the experiment. He thereupon gave me the phial and the point and I myself pricked the wax, when lo, the phial was empty.' This passage aptly described the water, which is so volatile that it evaporates if left unstoppered, boils at a very low temperature, and does not so much as wet the fingers. This mercurial water, this Athoeter of St Germain, is absolutely necessary to obtain the oil of gold, which is obtained by its addition to the salts of gold after those salts have been washed by distilled water several times to remove the strong acidity of the aqua regia used to reduce the metal to that state. When the mercurial water is added to these salts of gold, there is a slight hissing, an increase of heat and the gold becomes a deep red liquid, from which is obtained by means of distillation the oil of gold, a deep amber liquid of an even consistency. This oil which is the potable gold of the Alchemist, never returns to the metallic form of gold, I can understand now, I think, how it is that some of the patients to whom salt of gold injections have been administered have seccumbed to gold poisoning. So long as the salts are in an acid solution, they remain soluble, but directly the dissolving medium loses its acidity and becomes neutral or alkaline, the salts tend to form again into metallic gold. This is probably what happens in the case of the injection of gold salts into the intercellular fluids, which in some cases leads to fatal results.

Do not imagine that chemists know all about metals! They do not.

...From the golden water I have described can be obtained this white water, and a deep red tincture which deepens in colour the longer it is kept; these two are the Mercury and the Sulphur described by the Alchemists, Sol the Father and Lune the Mother, the Male and Female Principles, the White and Red Mercuries, which two, conjoined again form a deep amber liquid. This is the Philosophic Gold, which is not made from metallic gold but from another metal, and is a far more potent Elixir than the oil of gold. The deep amber liquid literally shines, and reflects and intensifies rays of light to an extraordinary degree. It has been described by many Alchemists, which fact again corroborates my work in the Laboratory. Indeed every step which I have taken in the laboratory I have found in the work of the various followers of the Spagiric Art.

...And now to the final goal, the Philosopher's Stone. Having found my two principle the Mercury and the Sulphur, my next step was to purify the dead body of the metal, that is the black dregs of the metal left after the extraction of the golden water. This was calcined to a redness and carefully separated and treated until it became a white salt. The three principles were then conjoined in certain exact quantities in a hermetically sealed flask in a fixed heat neither too hot nor too cold, care as to the exact degree of heat being essential, as any carelessness in its regulation would completely spoil the mixture.

On conjunction the mixture takes on the appearance of a leaden mud, which rises slowly like dough until it throws up a crystalline formation rather like a coral plant in growth. The ‘flowers' of this plant are composed of petals of crystals which are continually changing in colour. As the heat is raised the formation melts into an amber coloured liquid which gradually becomes thicker and thicker until it sinks into a black earth on the bottom of the glass. At this point (the sign of the Crow in alchemical literature) more of the ferment or Mercury is added. In this process which is one of continued sublimation, a long necked, hermetically sealed flask is used, and one can watch the vapour rising up the neck of the flask and condensing down the sides. This process continues until the state of ‘dry blackness' is attained. When more of the Mercury is added, the black powder is dissolved, and from this conjunction, it seems that a new substance in born, or, as the early alchemists would have expressed it, a Son is born. As the black colour abates, colour after colour comes and goes until the mixture become white and shining; the White Elixir. The heat is gradually raised yet more and from white the colour changes to citrine and finally to red - the Elixir Vitae, the Philosopher's Stone, the medicine of Men and Metals. From their writings it appears that many alchemists found it unnecessary to take the Elixir to this very last stage, the citrine coloured solution being adequate for their purpose.