In Cabala Mineralis a very simple practical hand written notation helps clearing the three salts enigma about Mercurius Duplicatus, for us to be finally entitled to enter the Main Work.
Cabala Mineralis is the title of a London British Museum manuscript highly positioned at n. 5235 and apparently signed by a Rabbi Simeon Ben Cantara, who maintains the good hebraic habit of generous dissemination.
The picture’s dimension will grant us a confortable reading of the latin undernote: “ Duae, ad plus Tres partes, Mercuri nostri, liquant unam partem luna vel solis vulgi subtilitati,……” That’s to say: “two, or three at maximum, parts of our Mercurius dissolve one part of vulgar Luna-Moon (metallic silver) or Sol-Sun (metallic gold), but already in Mercurius or in spiritual form. Namely they have to be dissolved in Mercurius and then repeatedly volatilized till a complete Mercurius is being reached (1).
Of course metallic silver and gold cannot be put in pieces inside Mercurius Philosophorum to be dissolved. Before that they have to be reduced in “ rust”, namely a salt of any chemical form. Alchemy is not interested to molecular purity. Just simply to the amount of Secret Fire inside.
But, before going any further, how can we be so sure this Cabala Mineralis vessel, with a dark substance inside, is really about Mercurius Duplicatus (2) or Main Work beginning? First of all because its occurring before in time, and in order, image represents an unquestionable Mercurius Philosophorum, as we can deduce from air pipe and caduceus ( this time we can avoid the state of owing filigree). And secondly because the honey moon of the new couple must take place in a death setting. Actually our second putrefaction or blackness, as Rosarium Jacobi masterly puts on display in the conception-putrefaction phase. See an Opus Magnum scheme.
Jean d’Espagnet, in his “Traicté de l’Ouvrage Secret de la Philosophie d’Hermes” or Treatise on Hermes Philosophy secret work, in appendix of “ La Philosophie Naturelle restabliée” Paris 1651 page 273 paragraph 25, writes:” Que l’on ne se trompe pas en adjoutant à deux un troisième…..one has not to get it wrong adding a third to two”. Then d’Espagnet goes on comparing Mercurius Duplicatus to a marriage: “…a marriage is established between two persons, if one looks for a third one, then that comes committing adultery”.
Too much frequently Alchemy, instead, comes by with a third salt. As a matter of fact theory is a thing and practice is something else. And, no wonder, hermetic symbolism raises from that confusion. Compare with Hollandus “Opera Mineralia, sive De Lapide Philosophico” to have an idea of a real laboratory work, though in renaissance period. Thus in an ancient chemistry environment.
We have plenty of images on Mercurius Duplicatus, although it has been a closed secret for centuries. The most used method to keep it out of sight is its confusing with Mercurius Philosophorum. In fact the two iconographies are recurrently forced to appear not disconnected. In Alchemy hardly an allegory or a symbol is not subjected to rule of three, thus three salts are expected to stand at least for three different concepts.
In fact Mercurius Philosophorum too, a volatile Mercurius out of Materia Tertia/Salts volatilization but made more stabilized, can be defined as a man-woman (3) product. An hermaphrodite. A Rebis, from “Res Bina” or two things. Former volatile, now fixed, still solving. This is our Universal Solvent to solve our metals indeed. When volatile is called Mercurius, when fixed is simply called Salt, or Azoth (4). Very often Mercurius becoming more fixed is defined Sulphur and consequently, again, Salt.
They are just one thing, but too much often symbolism deals with Mercurius, Sulphur and Salt as they were three of them. Symbola Aurea Mensae engraving number four, though very famed, represents one the most confusing Rebis or two things in conventional representations. To get things hardier is the appearance of an attending bishop. So we have three individualisms, standing for the same thing, in the case of Mercurius Philosophorum, but three separate salts in the case of Mercurius Duplicatus. Canseliet presented this image in his “Etude diverses de Symbolisme Hermétique et de Pratique Philosophale” 1964, stating the bishop is the indispensable salt to celebrate the ceremony and unify the other two salts. Of course he omitted to say if we are before Mercurius Philosophorum or Duplicatus. As a matter of fact this image is considered one of the most brain burning of all hermetic imaginary.