In “Azoth”, by Basilius Valentinus, we come up with the archaic term Azoth. Is a neologism put forward for a new third principle or Salt?
Revised and increased by ms. Lamb physician. Paris, 1659. A Lamb (a white fluffy material like wool), a dry ground ( no liquid involved), a sword ( a piercing bright white smelted piece of alloy, an allegory for Mercurius ), an axe ( a piercing red smelted piece of alloy, a symbol for thunder or Secret Fire and sometimes Sulphur) they all seem clues for dry way, that’s to say the smelting way.
Talented Basilius Valentinus, operating in dry as well as in a wet way, either a single person or a group of monks, (but I doubt inside a monastery one could work in a dry way), stands out in Alchemy world for his all-around impressive laboratory activity. He was the first who dares calling some Materia Tertia materials by their common names. He was certainly aware of his ability since he called himself Valentinus from latin Valens, which means man of great valor in the very sense of value + bravery, and Basilius from the latin “king worth”. Quite certainly he didn’t mean in the royalist sense but in the metallic one.
The wording “Azoth, or the way to make the hidden Philosophers Gold”, underlines an equivalence between Azoth and the following of the sentence. That’s to say: Azoth is the way to make the hidden Philosophers’ Gold. Pay attention here, Basilius Valentinus did not write “Azoth is the Philosophers’Gold”, but the way to make it. What’s the difference? “the way to” suggests an operation, not the final result. There is a kind of motion involved here, a metamorphosis. This concept is made stronger by the tree allegory. One is watching a tree growing, nobody can actually make a tree. A tree is being made by itself. The name for the tree is “ Azoth” or Philosophers’ Gold. Another synonym is “Metals tree“. And another is the Mercurius Philosophorum called after its color: Flavus or reddish-yellow. The color of gold.
In Alchemy there is metallic gold, of course, and Philosophers’ gold. It’s only a question of refinement or the process of removing impurities or unwanted elements from a substance. In the next post again on Basilius Valentinus “Azoth”, we will go deeper into these concepts.
Two triangles are here represented and the whole work seems to be very obscure. Sol et Luna, the sun, and the moon are the most important branches, the engine of the entire work. In a triangle the three principles are made prominent, they are in their home. A red axe is under the sun, a white sword is under the moon. Being born by the same tree. Philosophers Gold and Silver are born by the same philosophers’ tree. Here I’m not talking about metallic gold and silver, but philosophers ( taking advantage of the Rule of three each Alchemical symbol can stand for at least three meanings). What has to do Azoth with Sun and Moon? Here the revealing question might be:” is Azoth a Solve et Coagula offspring like Sun and Moon are? Definitely Solve et Coagula is a sophisticated recipient of a lot of meanings. For an Opus Magnum scheme.
In the written part of Basilius Valentinus’ book, excluding the very interesting appendix, we, strangely enough, come up with the term Azoth only twice. In the chapter “Seconde Partie de l’Esprit caché Secret de l’Or des Philosophes” or second part of the secret spirit of philosophers gold, page 37, we found:” & seulement est requis à notre œuvre l’Azoth, & le feu qui n’est autre chose que de laisser cuire, dissoudre, pourrir, coaguler et fixer”. All we need in our art are Azoth and Fire which nothing is but cooking or metamorphosis, solving, coagulating, and fixing. Or in a latin uncompleted version “Azoth et Ignis tibi sufficiunt”. ( Pay attention, for both can represent the same axiom in other Work phases )
At page 47 we encounter:” … du plus bas il monte au plus haut… les Philosophes m’ont orné du nom d’Azoth, les Latins A & Z, des Grecs Alpha & Oméga, des Hébreux Aleph & Thau, tous lesquels noms signifient & font Azoth jeté dans le feu..” From the very bottom to the very high… Philosophers having given me the name of Azoth, latins A & Z, greeks Alpha and Omega, Jews Aleph and Thau”. Perhaps Azoth is a word formed from the initial and final letters of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew alphabets A-Z-Omega-Thau.
Sendivogius uses the same word Azoth when saying:” this water which there’s much talk about is comprehensive of all the qualities, thus heat, cold, dry, and wet. It is divided into body, soul, and means between the two. Sendivogius further called them Hyle, Archeum, and Azoth. And now get back to this post incipit, if you remember I stated that Basilius, along with Paracelsus, had introduced the term “ Salt”.
As mentioned above the downward triangle contains the three principles symbols of Mercurius, Sulphur, and Salt. Till then Alchemical lexicon did not provide any Salt. It is not difficult to presume that this “Salt” may be whatsoever unnecessary or the very name to some extent unrequired. This “ Salt” is Azoth or Prima Materia or Philosophers Gold. Before Paracelsus and Basilius Salt was simply Mercurius and finally became Sulphur. Put in that way, that’s to say adding a third name, this one, Salt, seems the product of Mercurius plus Sulphur. Getting back to the aforementioned Sendivogius statement:” this water… is divided into body, soul, and means between the two… Hyle, Archeum, and Azoth.” So the body is not a flesh body for it is called “ water”, but we can presume it acting as a body or container. Archeum is easily identified as the soul. Azoth is the Principle of Life. The servant. The alchemical lexicon has never been the same for all researchers. Some referred to perfect red when saying Philosophers Gold.
Quoting Gobineau de Montluisant: ” Salt, which ties Soul and Spirit, is the effect of their union and mutual love, as well as a spiritual body that hides them and wraps them in its breast, doing not more than one thing out of three, what prejudiced people do not understand …” Indeed, for this reason, the most ancient philosophers did not raise the salt between alchemical principles, while not neglecting its importance.
Star Planets on the upper branches are the Main Work steps or phases. Once we have reached Azoth or Prima Materia or Spirit we need Materia Prima or Soul or Sulphur. And perhaps Mercurius Duplicatus is to be our next step.
To be continued examining this Basilius Valentinus “Azoth” engraving is also an extensive allegory for Solve et Coagula.
See also Kamala Jnana & Introduction to a Live Secret , Codex Marcianus Ouroboros , Cesare Ripa & the Hot Frozen World Machine , Weidenfeld and Basiulius Oleum Vitriolis , Atalanta Fugiens & Mercurius, Duplicatus :