This plant distillation section seems to be inspired by the distillation of wine. From which LeBreton derives the eternal lamps. We will learn how distillation is subject to the lunar and terrestrial phases and also to the philosophical laws of ordinary water. The mineral distillation section seems to be inspired by the distillation of mineral waters. However, never as in this section on distillation, LeBreton does prove to be a man of the early eighteenth century. My translation from the original French edition of 1722.
On General Distillation
Distillation is the ascent or descent of the radical humid to purify it.
Nature purifies the earth’s exhalations by frequent distillation, then she unites the pure volatile with the pure fixed, generating all the mixed.
The vapors that arise from the earth and all the liquors extracted from plants, or which transpire from all animate bodies, get up to the air carried by the wings of the spirits they enclose; then they blend in with the air. Then they unite with each other through the equality of their magnetism, and soon fall back in the form of rain or dew.
Meteors are generated from a thin matter that boiling and decoction push and violently drive out of the fixed matter.
Meteors cannot be pure elements, because they ignite and destroy themselves.
Nothing can destroy itself as long as it is powerful and stable in its own Nature and being. And nothing is more powerful in its nature in this universe than a pure element.
What is converted into meteors is nothing other than the spiritual part of the humid radical of all mixed, which cannot bear the boiling nor bear the impact of the particles of an opposite magnetism.
All the substance of the radical humid does not dissipate, otherwise the generation of the mixed would cease.
As the spirit of the matter is different according to the predominance of each element, the meteors are different due to the difference of this same matter.
Fiery meteors contain fire or sulfur as the dominant principle to a greater or lesser extent.
If this sulfur principle does not predominate to a higher degree, the magnetism of these particles reduces them to a glutinous substance which soon, with the evaporation of the superfluous moisture, becomes susceptible to flame.
The flame has a more or less long duration in igneous meteors, according to the subtlety or density of the matter, and according to the proportion of the consistency of water and earth. As can be seen in oils, sulphites, nitrites and other similar things.
Air meteors contain the air to a more or less dominant extent.
This air, excited by the magnetism of the other principles, violently rushes out of the matter which contains it and violently pushes our common air; this produces the winds. Then it converts into water and falls back to earth, reanimates the magnetism of too dry plants, cooks and unites intimately with the fixed spirit. Thus it gives growth to vegetables and perfection to the generations begun.
After the igneous meteors, great winds arise and arrive due to the violent blow that the air receives from the volatile spirits. Epidemic diseases also often manifest themselves, generated by the corrupted exhalations with which the air is filled, and which introduce into the moods of the animals magnetisms or movements opposite to those which maintain their fluidity and their balance with the solid parts of the machine.
The spiritual substance that rises from the center of the earth hits the molecules of water it encounters, and thus causes storms on the sea by the different refractions it undergoes there, in the same way it produces winds by the recoil of the air.
This spiritual substance dominates according to the growth it receives in the phases of the Moon, whose whirling with respect to the earth and their reciprocal illuminations is all the more or less alive, more or less capable of interrupting and repelling the outpourings of this spirit which makes the magnetism of the earth, and which makes it revolve in the vast sea of rarefied waters which support it.
Thus the radical humid of the mixed has the habit of following the Moon. It is most abundant when the Moon most strongly repels the central spirit of the earth, so that it finds less outlet towards the lunar sphere.
The ebb and flow of the sea follow these aspects which are called quarters of the moon, because this spirit substance causes them.
The flow of the sea takes place when this spirit substance, trying to escape through the waters, so to speak, swells them. It lasts as long as the magnetism of these coarse and heavy waters balances the effort of this spirit. But it ceases as soon as this spirit has sufficiently expanded and easier ways have opened up. Thus the waters can flow back and return for some time to their level.
From this it follows that the ebb and flow take place in the Ocean but cannot take place in the Mediterranean sea because the waters of the Ocean are thick and coarse and those of the Mediterranean are thinner and unable to act as a counterweight to the spirit substance.
Rivers containing large quantities of this volatile spirit and a coarse water are agitated by the ebb and flow like the Ocean.
Original version: Les fontaines ausquelles on remarque un flux et un reflux ne peuvent en avoir, à cause que leurs eaux SOIENT grossieres, puisqu’elles sont toutes fort subtiles: mais bien a cause des esprits volatils mineraux qui bouillonnent sous la Terre
My personal, and not verbatim, version: Fountains in which one notices an ebb and flow cannot have any, although their waters are coarse, for they are all very fine. This ebb and flow is caused by volatile mineral spirits boiling underground. (In fact, observe how LeBreton uses the verb “to be” in the present subjunctive, not in the simple present: soient and not sont: the first verb is present subjunctive, the second is simple present).
Such is a Fountain found in the Pyrenees that has an ebb and flow from hour to hour, for the water fills the pores of the earth and thus prevents the mineral spirit from evaporating, and as it thickens it pushes the water so abruptly out of its own channel that in an hour it is all emptied. Then, in the following hour, the channel fills up with new water coming from the spring or from other small streams, and so the ebb and flow are always alternate. (Here, it is not clear whether LeBreton means the “philosophical” ebb and flow or the “hydraulic” ebb and flow. All subsequent aphorisms, up to XXVIII, deal with this peculiar fountain).
This does not happen in winter, because at this time the mineral spirit is not so abundant in the earth, or because, being less excited by the sulfur principle which affects it less in this season, it condenses into water or vapor in the earth and it rises in less quantity and with less effort.
It can also be said that (in winter) this mineral spirit is in small quantity, because the pores of the earth are closed and filled with coarse air and the elemental sulfur penetrates it less to mix with the elemental water, and compose the moist radical which generates everything and increases the quantity of mineral spirits.
In winter, animals, on the contrary, contain more spiritual substance, because they are fed without hindrance, and because their pores are much more closed; the parts that can perspire do not evaporate so easily and can only escape when they have become extremely tenuous.
Thus this Fountain of the Pyrenees in winter is not pushed by the ebb and flow, nor is it agitated by the quantity and impetuosity of the metallic spirits.
Lake Geneva is more agitated when the weather is calm and clear than when the air is turbulent and the sky is overcast, because in calm and serene the impression of the weight of the column of air is more direct and is not intercepted by the winds and by the clouds, so the waters of the lake are compressed with greater force and do not allow a free exit to the central spirit of the earth.
When this spiritual substance rises, it is occupied by the specific spirits of different animals; thus animals of those species are generated in the air, which then fall back to the earth with the water of the vapors that had raised them.
Aqueous meteors contain water as the dominant, and thus their spirit substance in the cold thickens into water, hail, snow, etc.
Terrestrial meteors contain the more or less dominant earth. Thus when this spirit substance is occupied by metallic or stony spirits, metals and stones are generated in the air which then fall to the earth.
Thus it may be conceivable that Nature raises this spirit substance to purify it, and to unite it afterward with fixed matter to produce all things.
In the same way the Chemist separates the two roots of the mixed, purifies them and unites them again to compose his arcane.
The character signifying distillation is that of the celestial Lion, and the distilled water of the Philosophers is also called Lion.
The two lower circles signify the two spirits. The upper circle joining the other two signifies water in which the chemical sun is exalted by various distillations, just as the celestial Sun is exalted in the celestial sign of Leo.