Quite a Kamala Jnana of 12th century, Artephius in his Secret Book started description only after Secret Fire extraction, when it begins its stunning performance.
Shadowy till legend, the Secret Book by Artephius was one of the most wanted alchemical text during renaissance period. Perhaps the first european appearance of this book was a latin translation from arabic. Quoted by other important authors like Philalethes, Fulcanelli, Limojon, Coton-Alvart, it has been considered a real lighthouse in a stormy night by generations of alchemists.
Artephius Secret Book is unquestionably a must to read book. The text is largely available on the web to download. Of course is pretty useless collecting texts without reading it, and an understanding of Secret Book can be a hard experience since operations are not presented in sequence. Furthermore the writing also lacks the beginning, as stated above. In spite of this missing part Artephius book remains a very important hermetic textbook but needs a previous paragraphs disposing. Even a person skilled in the art must try to arrange it to make it intelligible.
Before the publication of Kamala Jnana’s Dictionnaire de Philosophie Alchimique (1) very few Alchemy Researchers actually knew not only about Secret Fire but also what Labors of Hercules were really for. Fulcanelli himself confessed that he had lost twenty years of his life because he was unfamiliar with Secret Fire and its working.Thus you can imagine the disorientation of a before Kamala Jnana researcher trying to read Artephius Secret Book, and moreover before the statement that this book was the supreme alchemical handbook so far. Indeed, for a reader thinking of Alchemy as a supreme chemistry ( and that was probably the current belief, back at that time) there was something strange about Artephius words.
Was finally Limojon de Saint Didier aka Alexandre Toussaint to get to the point:” …les plus sinceres même, comme Artephius, le Trevisan, Flamel, ont passé sous silence les preparations de nostre Mercure“ (Le Triomphe Hermetique, Amsterdam 1689) “More truthful authors too, like Artephius, Trevisanus, Flamel keep their silence on our Mercurius preparation”. That’s to say only after labors of Hercules. Fulcanelli and Philalethes quoted Arthepius Secret Book for very important issues, that’s to say for real Alchemy keys, and this is an indication of how much they trusted him. And now the excerpt I chose from Secret Book, a very obliged one:
“And when you see the true whiteness appear, which shineth like a bright sword, or polished silver, know that in that whiteness there is redness hidden. But then beware that you take not that whiteness out of the vessel, but only digest it to the end, that with heat and dryness, it may assume a citron color, and a most beautiful redness. Which when you see, render praises and thanksgiving to the most great and good God, who gives wisdom and riches to whomsoever He pleases, and takes them away according to the wickedness of a person. To Him, I say, the most wise and almighty God, be glory for ages and ages. AMEN.”
This paragraph is only apparently the last, as you can guess from thanksgiving epitome. Artephius here seems to have stopped the description to first sulphur achievement, redness (don’t be happy for the news, since the rule of three provides at least other five different sulphurs). Here we could be in the Main Work ( see an Opus Magnum scheme), after Mercurius Philosophorum (2) and Mercurius Duplicatus (3) achievements.
When alchemist watches the life tree growing, that’s to say when one watches Secret Fire performing by itself. From black, which is not mention in the paragraph, white comes out or is being born from. And from white to red, through yellow-orange or “citrinus”.
Note that Artephius points on whiteness instead of white. That’s to say on a state of condition and not a simple attribute. For it should not be white color catching our attention but what is inside this looking white substance. In paragraph 45 of the same Secret Book we read:” ….for the vulture flying in the air without wings, cries out that it might get up upon the mountain, that is upon the waters, upon which the “spiritus albus” or spirit of whiteness is born.” Here Artephius catches the whole of Alchemy foundation. “..in air without wings….upon the mountains….upon the waters….”. Without Secret Fire, Alchemy would really be an archaic nonsense. This is where we have to extract spirit or whiteness.
Artephius Mercurius is not just white, but a bright white. Like a sword. For in Artephius brightness too is shown. As light usually is, coming out of black. Remember that light colors all together composing the white color ocean light we humans unknowingly live in. Artephius here uses a typical dry way symbol like sword to indicate return of white Sulphur (anyway a Mercurius Philosophorum), or Silver, after second black ( don’t panic, for the ubiquitous rule of three offers many names for the very thing) while vessels are a wet way prerogatives. Secret Language Code Symbols are not at all strict constructions. Alchemy classics are scattered by these inaccuracies. Silver is another allegory for Mercurius//Luna/Moon. Indeed silver is a lunar metal.
When we read :” from one thing we do the two and the three” we have to prepare an alchemical marriage (Mercurius Duplicatus) by means of a double and then the three colors will shade into one another. Then Artephius warns us not to touch anything. But digesting. The term “ heat” ( let’s apart “dryness for now) in Alchemy is of course subjected to rule of three. So we are allowed to understand “ don’t touch anything, for secret fire is working on its own” or “ set your apparatus to a certain degree”. It all depends from your starting materia tertia or raw or crude. The verb “ digest” bring to mind a natural proceeding. Is there something more natural than Secret Fire cooking?
For the first time in an alchemical classic, if I guess right, in Artephius Secret Book we meet a citron color between white and red. Citron is something that had driven crazy generations of Alchemists. Kamala Jnana himself mixed up his photos to make difficult the detection of colors sequence. From Artephius on, we are allowed to know Citron comes between white and red.
To be continued at Artephius and Antimonium est de Partibus Saturni on Secret Book enigmatic incipit.