The difference between Virgin Earth and Volatile Salt is not so trivial when dealing with marriages. Sabine Stuart Chevalier presents it in her Discours Philosophique chapter on Earth.
An introduction to Sabine Stuart de Chevalier can be found in “Lessons on the first three elements”. My translation from the original french.
Discours Philosophique page 39: “We are not talking here about our stepping ground, but of earth, we can find in the vaporous exhalations and which we called Virgin Philosophical Earth. It doesn’t need a preparation other than to purify the spirits within contained. It will be well prepared when these spirits are properly purified; but it cannot be used as Matter, then after having destroyed its form and given it another one, by re-incrudating (making crude again) its seed in order to develop the fruit which contains the germ. When one has this earth, which is called Volatile Salt, one has achieved at the same time the fire, air, and Mercurius of Philosophers.
Nature, since the beginning, prepared this earth towards the four elements’ conjunction; and it had always been keeping to do that in order to separate all the impurities and superfluities, till the subtleness which will assume the form which it is destined to it.”
When Stuart Chevalier talks of the element earth she seems to indicate a substance in a solid state. But when talking of the Virgin Philosophical Earth she designates the Mercurius/Secret Fire extracted from salts volatilization ( a spirit is indeed the product of salt volatilization), purified from what she called mineral sulfur, if you remember my introduction post on her dealing with metals formations in mines, Stuart Chevalier talked about greasy sulfur which naturally composes, together with mercurius, all minerals. That’s being the first marriage of our virgin. When a mineral then undergoes volatilization this greasy substance gets lost, and in so doing the girl regains her virginity and is ready for the alchemical marriage.
This Virgin Philosophical Earth’s main use is unquestionably to dissolve our metals, which should then be incrudated, or reduced to… another Virgin Philosophical Earth since the Mercurius is always reducing to Mercurius, but it is no more defined so. Put in an easier way, nothing like Secret Fire itself is entitled to extract another Secret Fire from a raw salt or Materia Tertia. However, the first Virgin Philosophical Earth is said to be useless as the first Matter, or Materia Prima. Of course, I do not believe anymore and never believed, that such a thing as a “ seed” of metal may ever be in existence. Here Stuart Chevalier tells us that such metallic seed is the result of soaking into our Universal Dissolvent. If you really intend to go on with this seeds stuff you are going to inevitably find yourself in a cul de sac. We have to translate this ancient wording into a more understandable system. The Secret Fire contained in our Dissolvent is fairly good. But we need a huge amount of that in order to reach our Perfect Sulphur, which only metals can make us certain to happen. In fact, only a metal can provides us the real Volatile Salt. Of course, incrudation is not a process to be achieved in a single dissolution. It takes still a long way to achieve the Volatile Salt Stuart Chevalier mentions (1), which is fire and air and Mercurius of Philosophers, so the grand total is earth. The name “ Volatile Salt” is not an undue frill, since this salt is really extremely volatile, of course being the ultimate product of an extreme salt’s volatilization, till tingeing, processes.
This earth results from the destruction and reconstruction of the four elements, which nature is processing from the very beginning. We moderns can call the process a never-ending change of state (2) to reach a new body, which is very different from the old one.
Discours Philosophique page 40: “ These admirable virtues fall down to the earth by means of the beams of the stars which penetrate our globe, where the four elements are contained. All the stars’ beams are heading to the center of the earth; there it is where they gather together and where they attract all the seminal virtues of the forms of all things.
Earth is consequently the mother of all things, of all four elements, for it conquers and contains the seed of all things: it continuously distributes the gifts it receives from the above and that will be till skies are moving. Raimundus Lullius thought that the waters closed inside the inner of the earth to attract these celestial influences, moreover those promoting the generation of metals by condensation and separation of vapors. Page 41: By means of our art we prepare these spirits, making them suitable and lightsome in order to act on the first Matter or Materia Prima which is the metallic earth within that we have to put all these spirits, they will attract all the virtues they are endowed with; they will attract only the spirits prepared to metals generation. The same author goes on to say he can attract the same spirits with water whose he reveals the composition and which can coagulate and fix the quicksilver.
All natural things have an essence and substance composed of a double portion of matter, for they contain at the same time the formal virtue. The Matter comes from elements and the form of celestial virtues arrives which can give a shape to the elements matter”.
Sabine Stuart Chevalier makes us acquainted that Secret Fire is contained in the beams of the stars and seems to be also attracted by our planet’s inner center (3). She argues the phenomenon is brought about by the four elements contained. In poor words, this is caused by the contraction-expansion of our elements, or states of matter, which so heterogeneously magnetizes the matter that the coming out of Secret Fire also gets attracted in turn. By means of alchemical art our Materia Prima, or metallic Soul, but it is fair to say even Spirit of Life/Mercurius is already all set to that, can finally attract sky beams as a magnet. In fact, Raimundus Lullius reveals that he could prepare water, or Mercurius as it is always called water even if in a solid state, for the purpose. Note Lullius statement of Alchemy being a “ condensation and separation of vapors”.
The Secret Fire seminal virtues are nothing more than what we call Soul or a denser Mercurius. Consequently, the earth is the mother par excellence, which gives the matter the capability to make a new living body.
The double portion of matter is composed of Mercurius-Sulphur since ancient alchemists did believe that only Sulphur could induce a substance to take a particular form. In modern times we could say that if Mercurius gives life, Sulphur gives the individual property (4). Many alchemists think what is coming from the sky is a Sulphur.
On pages 43 and 44, Stuart Chevalier deals with metals generation inside mines, which I repute as being a redundancy not essential to her Alchemy.
Page 45: “… It is not a question of extracting the agile matter to invigorate it, but we need to take this tincture (5) from the substance of gold or silver to strengthen and increase it by means of the spirits extracted from a combined quantity of vitriol, salt of niter and rock alum.
These three minerals must be put into a horn, and distilled phlegm till these powerful and dissolvent spirits will raise; then one has to change the vessel and give strong fire. That’s the method to achieve a great number of good spirits to be then rectified at balneum maria, by cohobations or repeated distillations over the same matter, till nothing more will distill and the spirits will appear as oils at the vessel bottom.
Put this oil into a triangular glass matrix, close tight and get those spirits “fait monter au haut d’une pointe de la matrice” (my translation was: to raise the top of a tip of the matrix), then get there back to make them raising up another tip and keep on that operation till they will not be seen raising again and will remain in the bottom of the vessel.
Page 46: “ Those spirits, worked in that way, feature the property of congealing the raw Mercurius since as metallic bodies they have received a quality they have lured inside the earth; In fact, they contain a Sulphur also coming from metals. The more these spirits will be subtle, the more they will powerfully act on metals”.
Always there is this idea to extract the most possible quantity of Secret Fire from raw matter, and Stuart Chevalier here points at the biggest containers of the alchemical matter we can find on our planet: gold and silver (6).
The aforementioned salts, namely vitriol, salt of niter, and rock alum are ubiquitous both in Alchemy and in ancient chemistry. Sabine Stuart here doesn’t specify what she intends for the salt of niter, if urine salt, or Sal Armoniac, or saltpeter. Probably, seeing the mixture with other two metallic compounds, such as vitriol and rock alum, she has in mind the Salt Armoniac (7), a salt appreciated for its volatility. So here we have two metallic salts featuring low vaporization heat and a volatile salt. What can we need more than to extract our Mercurius? But, instead, Stuart Chevalier states that all that is just to “congeal” a raw Mercurius (since if Sulphur is being put into cause here, the mentioned “Mercure” cannot but be our Mercurius). Sabine, as we will see further down, doesn’t content herself with a generic Secret Fire/Mercurius extracted from the aforementioned salts. She wants “the” Mercurius. Thus the above salts seem to be here just means of dissolution and an interesting fixation.
- See also Atalanta Fugiens & the Golden Apples;
- See also Cesare Ripa & the Hot Frozen Ouroboros World Machine;
- See also Thesaurus Hermeticum & the Pythagorean River;
- See also Eros, Psyche & a New Alchemical Body;
- See also Guido Montanor & the Latin Verb Tingo-Tinxi;
- See also Weidenfeld & Basilius Oleum Vitriolis;
- See also Lemery & the Aqua Regia first Step: Salt Armoniac;