Andreas Orthelius starts his scrutiny of Maria’s words with what worries him most: two Fumes including, or turning on two Lights.
The dialogue between Maria and Aros in Alchemical Art is by far one of the most obscure texts. Perhaps because in this short treatise modern alchemists are told things they do not want to hear. Orthelius takes up the challenge and, with the unique help of his seventeenth-century reasoning, tries to go where only the teaching of an ancient Master could have brought to.
I mean to translate from latin the whole “Ortheli Explicatio Verborum Mariae Prophitissae”, or the Explication by Orthelius of Maria Prophitissa’s Words, from Theatrum Chemicum tome 6, pages 480-486. As part of the first introductive sentence, I decided to keep my translation absolutely verbatim. In this way, you can be able to fully master the text signification. Consequently, of course, the style may be horrible. My translation is in italics and the comments are in normal.
We cannot rely entirely on the synopsis Orthelius presents in Theatrum Chemicum on the words of Maria Prophitissa to Aros as a referent for his review (you can find the full “Dialogue between Maria and Aros on the Alchemical Art” translated in English at levity.com). We don’t even know whether Orthelius Excerpta (excerpts) is by the same author or not. The thing would be interesting to be known because there is the same error in both compositions. And, the strange chance of occurrence, in the very sentence Orthelius seems to be so intrigued by.
In fact in the introductory summarizing excerpts in Theatrum Chemicum, Maria is supposed to have said: “… Postea ignifica (1) vel vitrifica super illud Kybric & Zaybec, quia sunt duo fumi complentes duo lumina….“, then incinerate as well as vitrify on this Kibric and Zaybec, which are two fumes filling-impregnating-completing two lights. And then in Explication by Orthelius we can find again: “… duo fumi complentes duo lumina“. While in the treatise on Maria in Artis Auriferae (that’s to say an official latin source for this essay) there is: “… ipsa sunt duo fumi complectentes duo lumina…”, or the same are two fumes containing-holding two lights. Has Orthelius deliberately chosen the verb “Compleo” instead of the original “Complector” to hint at something? Or was this a mere lack of knowledge of latin verbs? But let’s get down to the whole translation of the Orthelius Commentary now. Latin language purists will be amazed by the great number of neologisms in there. As usual, they are from Italian vulgar (by the way… the latin of Dialogue between Maria and Aros in Artis Auriferae is much more ancient and faithful to classics):
“Quamvis ingenii mei vires, horum verborum ponderi elucidando impares esse… however strong can be the resilience of my mind, nonetheless is an unequal struggle facing the fatigue of elucidation, for this reason, I incessantly trust in Divine illumination, who I hope to be willing to communicate with this unselfish son of Hermes. This helps me to understand these words. Two fumes filling-impregnating-completing two lights, first of all, to put that in order, how two luminaries Sol and Luna, must in Zaybech or in running water, that’s to say in Argentum Vivum-Quicksilver, be dissolved, of those evidently the one from Silver, looking white, the other actually being from Gold, should be red in color. Since the dissolved Gold philosophically appears in such a color, hence is called Kybric and Philosophers Gold.”
First of all, I noticed Orthelius uses the term “Luminar” in his commentary, in the place of “Lumen” which is in the synopsis ( as in the official latin sources for Maria treatise). They are not synonymous. Luminar means window, lamp-lantern, or star-aster ( so a device for giving light). While Lumen stands for light. We will see further that Orthelius will define these two “Luminaria” as stars (Stella-ae). In fact, we know that when salt is brought to the alchemical perfect state of sublimation, till becoming Mercurius, it can take a whitish luminous look. But we also know that metallic Gold, and in minor ways, Silver, are considered lights as well. In fact, chiefly Gold does contain a huge amount of Secret Fire inside (2).
What Orthelius calls Argentum Vivum-Quicksilver, is Mercurius/Secret Fire, that’s to say the Universal Dissolvent for any metal. Which Aros, in his dialogue with Maria, defines as flowing water. Chiefly indicated to dissolve metallic silver and gold. Orthelius uses the term Sol to unquestionably indicate metallic Gold as a calcined powder dissolved in Quicksilver/Mercurius, and so taking a reddish color (when dissolved in our Mercurius). And the word “Luna”? It can stand either for quicksilver/Mercurius, or metallic silver as a calcined powder dissolved in Quicksilver/Mercurius. So taking a white color, as Silver usually does. At this point, I cannot help asking myself why Orthelius need metallic silver if he already has metallic gold in hand. Unless he means the possibility to achieve the Universal Dissolvent directly out of Silver salts… a real skillful Mercurial bomb, indeed. And the Mercurius out of Gold can be even stronger.
In the Splendor Solis Image number 8, sometimes 9, a white woman (Mercurius Philosophorum) helps a red man (Gold dissolved in Mercurius Philosophorum) to walk out of the dark pond of putrefaction to pass all colors. White for first. Orthelius says above that Gold dissolved in Mercurius becomes red, but, as he will state further down, soon undergoes dark putrefaction. Which Maria doesn’t mention. She just affirms that the red, when joined with white, actually turns into white. The Splendor Solis image represents the alchemical marriage between two Mercurii, since the dissolved gold is bound to be reduced to First Matter and consequently to Mercurius (see an Opus Magnum scheme) at the beginning of the Main Work. Nevertheless, Maria might be even talking about something else. But let’s get back to Orthelius’ thoughts now.
“Anyway some very ancient books affirm that a matter from Auripigment for the iron material three or four times sublimated, is called Argentum (latin for Silver) Philosophicum for the nature of its shining white color, flowing Mercurius, countless wonderful mysteries I must be in debt, which opinions I couldn’t in any way deny, nevertheless, I have much in esteem the common Silver which I hope to be able to prove the value.
Concerning the Mercurius from Sol (Gold), which stands for the blood-red color, and nonetheless is a flowing Argentum Vivum/Quicksilver/Mercurius, it is known, the gold in dry water carries out more than a path having a reputation for this, which I know more than eight of those paths, of which Mercurii, because of the different nature of the method, the operation shows peculiar processes, and they are all dissimilar and white looking.”
Here Orthelius states that even if the two metals, Silver and Gold, are respectively white and red when simply dissolved in Mercurius, they become all white when the Mercurius/Universal Dissolvent is extracted by volatilization of their calcined salts. Since Mercurius naturally tends to be a Mercurial white woman.
” On the other end it tends to attest its gorgeous divine color, wonderful and most skillful, some other a more fixed this metallic Mercurius of about a half pound weight more or less to be put in a strong earthen pot over cinders, and with cinnabar prepared according to the art and placed on other cinders (cum cinnabrio artificiali super alio cineritio), in the middle of sulfurous (singular) and Mercurial (plural and capital) fumes of this cinnabar (mediantibus cinnabrii istius vaporibus sulphureis & Mercurialibus), smoked and quite bounced back, for the time of twice six rises to the supreme bloody redness coagulation degree (during every night must be removed from heat and put in a cold cellar).”
Cinnabar is chemically a mercury sulfide. Here Orthelius is playing with the meanings. The single sulfurous fume should be that out of sulfide, as the first mercurial one. But the other mercurial fume should be that of the fixation of our “White Woman”, or royal Mercurius out of gold. The theory not mentioned here, but suggested, is that of attraction: ” fumes attract each other”. Additionally, the ineffable Secret Fire contained in molecular objects ( even if in a flowing state) being a “flowing entity”, tends to be attracted by common molecular, and visible, fumes as well. This phenomenon is called in Alchemy, as well as in ancient chemistry, “Love Between Fumes” (3). And are today well-known as the chimney effect, frictional forces, and pressure differential laws? Of course, the Orthelius fixation method is not entirely disclosed here.
“Here is the gold and Philosophers Kybric, talked about in the text, mentioned by Paracelsus too in his book “de Morbis Mineralibus”, when he says: when gold is reduced in its first matter takes the appearance of the dissolved Quicksilver in a dark color (formam habet argenti vivi liquefacti in fusco colore), which to open by itself, must however macerate, so to get liquified in humid conditions, that’s Paracelsus. In most cases in nine weeks’ time, in fact, a cellar gets liquified, in such a way it is really prepared, to come to liquefaction, not certainly for envy, but for another reason, it is fair to be silent about this process. For the real artist is really senseless to separately extract to the lamp the flowing Mercurius and vice versa, this is the process of Cornelius Alvetanus, who has the one and the other body joined in a phial properly putrified together (or with suitable means), and in Mercurius made to resurrect, can not be imitated ( does he mean “quod non imitari potest” or a lacking imitari potest?)”The expression ” convenientibus mediis” is also really uncertain. A modern Neo-Latin translator might interpret as “with suitable means”, nevertheless in no way a classic latin dictionary shows “medius ” as means, but always as “middle of the two” or even “together”. If interpreted in the ancient way (properly together ), it should be a really sophisticated wording by Orthelius. Anyway, he has elsewhere demonstrated extensive use of neologisms, this one (with suitable means) might be an example. To you the final decision. In my opinion, a Ciceronian sophistication doesn’t fit with the bare technical, and decaying, seventeenth-century latin of the rest of the treatise. To be honest, Orthelius uses a well-known phrase from Cicero to beautify the end of the paragraph, that’s to say “imitari potest”, but he has missed starting it with the necessary “quod non”. In fact “imitari potest” alone actually means “can imitate”. Nevertheless in this sentence “quod” should have been indispensable also for an affirmative sentence. So… can we imitate them or not the process?
” From that, it is said: this is a wonderful arcane of Nature. In fact, the gold undressed of its body and opened in its Quicksilver, it shines somewhat pierces like a star, which splendor our eyes cannot bear… “
Maybe a little exaggerated? But Gold is certainly our Sun on the earth. And Mercurius Philosophorum is a little star.
“… we cover it with a veil to observe for a long time. Promptly follows the Quicksilver of the same Silver, which doesn’t radiate with less splendor. Only before a bolt of lightning, does it pale, the other instead tends to become red, with no doubt a pleasant spectacle. The fight between them will be very nice to see, it is fair to say, nobody can observe it thoroughly, there is nobody who doesn’t fully tremble. You shall see by the same author whom I wish to offer the work of this book, which further will be accomplished.
To be continued at Orthelius Commentary on Maria Prophitissa. Part 1.
- The latin texts, both in Theatrum Chemicum and Artis Auriferae, present neologisms we cannot find in a latin dictionary of the classical age. For i.e. the verbs “Ignifico” and ” Vitrifico” are well later constructions (Italian rather than latin), which apparently would stand for ” to vitrify” and “to ignite”, in the place of the real latin verb “Ignisco”, or take fire-be given fire-to incinerate. While a specific verb for to vitrify could not exist in ancient roman times, so a neologism from the ancient vitreus and vitreum was taken;
- See also Franz Kieser and the two Perceivable Lights ;
- See also Hortulus Hermeticus and Love Between Fumes ;