Gerard Dorn, or Dorneus, in his Dictionarium Paracelsi engraving on the cover, exposes two Eagles bringing bunches of Alchemy keys to an alchemist who is picking up Philosophical Water or Dissolvent.
Generally speaking, the number of Eagles displayed in a picture may signify the number of operations (sublimations) to be repeated. But two is effective, and here, as you can see on the left, Eagles are bringing along keys or axioms. So, in this case, they represent not recurrence but different operations.
Back in the Renaissance, iatrochemistry and the hermetic world were not so far from each other. Turning down the first one may be an unwise conclusion because of a lack of adeptness. Indeed we can find more than expected. Dorneus, the second half of the XVI century, is one of these iatrochemists; he is considered a devoted adherent and perhaps direct student of Paracelsus, whose several works he translated into latin.
In Alchemy, allegories of birds are often used to indicate highly volatile substances, thus feminine. We can be sure that quite all those warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrates distinguished by the possession of wings, moving in on around the hermetic world, are primarily female specimens. They are chiefly produced by the chemical Solve et Coagula during the labors of Hercules and deal with extraction of Mercurius/Dissolvent/Spirit/Secret Fire. Alchemists refer to these substances as Doves and Eagles. We know that Alchemy is the art of transmutation, meaning that all we watch inside vessels are in continuous metamorphosis. White and lovely Doves (Columbae) are the first appearance of Spirit/Mercurius/Philosophical Water (see an Opus Magnum scheme). But their inconsistency and volatility make them undergo a necessary improvement. They need to become Eagles, Philosophers Eagles ( Mercurius Philosophorum/Hermaphrodite ), then Eagles of Metals (Mercurius Metallorum), and finally, Double Eagles (Mercurius Duplicatus).
The first question to answer is how a Dove can become an Eagle. Dove is the first appearance; after at least seven sublimations, it may turn into a terrifying predator: an Eagle. Which have already killed all late Doves, in the sense that it substituted for them. And now it is ready to kill or dissolve or reincrudate all the metals it will encounter on its way. But let’s hear from Dorneus.
At the bottom of the left, Gerard Dorn presents and explains the term Eagle or Aquila: “Aquila, que avium regina est, usurpatur nomine pro sale armoniaco, propter levitatem in sublimationibus. Verum Paracelsus in multis accipi vult pro Mercurio auri praecipitato”. My translation was a hard task due to Dorneus’s syntax errors, not to mention his twisted wording, and consequently cannot but be interpretative rather than verbatim, anyway: Eagle, which is birds queen and synonymous for Sal Armoniacum, promptly rises in sublimations. Paracelsus was several times before this precipitated, or descended, Mercurius of gold.
Set aside, for a moment, this precipitated Mercurius and go on. On the left again: “Aquila Philosophorum, est Mercurius metallorum, id est, metallum in primam sui materiam redactum”. Philosophers Eagle is Mercurius of metals, that is, metal in its (Prima Materia) First Matter reduced. So we have learned that Sal Armoniacum and Eagle ( Aquila) are synonymous. We can ask for help from Pernety and his “ Dictionnaire Mytho-Hermetique” in 1754. And get to the point of “ Sel Armoniac des Philosophes” or Sal Armoniacum Philosophorum: “Matter of the Work during its sublimation and when it volatilizes fixed or Sulphur or Philosophers Gold”.
As we go on, we find ourselves stuck in hermetic symbolism. Alchemists do not want to say a little bit more. Of course, we are before one of the two big hermetic secrets: how to handle a too much volatile dissolvent and why duplicate it. As for the first issue, it is clear that both Dorneus and Pernety evade some intermediate and necessary steps. It is not so easy gathering an extremely volatile substance to put raw metals to be dissolved into. Indeed, as far as I know, it is pretty impossible. As well as being clear that we cannot use Philosophers Gold to fix Dissolvent because Philosophers Gold is a Dissolvent product, and we cannot use something that does not exist yet. Philosophers Gold is Azoth (1), thus the final product of this mercurial fixation. There’s no way. First, we must fix or make this super Dove substance with at least a bit more handling. In vain, we would search authors like Fulcanelli, Philalethes, Artephius, Kamala Jnana, Limojon, Canseliet, etc., to name the celebrities, for the way to “calcinate” our Dissolvent. Iatrochemists and “Practici” are our only resources in this case.
Pernety is not practical. On the contrary, he is an Alchemy enthusiast. Not to mention the monkish state that should get him more charitable than most, indeed he states something:” Sal Armoniacum Philosophorum is the matter of the Work during its sublimation and when it volatilizes fixed or Sulphur”. Sulfur, for the rule of three (the same symbol for many meanings), can be a more fixed version of a volatile substance or… the way to make it. The Coagula… Someone has said that it is not so difficult to inject some air to dry or calcinate. Paracelsus Precipitated Mercurius of Gold perhaps is not such an outlandish proceeding ( Do not trust Rulandus on the subject. His “recipe” cannot be defined as Alchemy).
Let’s get back to Dorneus or Gerard Dorn. He states that Paracelsus was several times before this precipitated, or descended, Mercurius of gold. And that Philosophers Eagle was Mercurius of metals, that was metal in its (Prima Materia) First Matter reduced. Once we have got a fixity inside Eagle, so to be able to handle it, we have All its synonymous. Philosophers Eagle, Philosophers Sal Armoniacum, Mercurius Philosophorum, Azoth, Salt, Mercurius Metallorum, Philosophers Gold, Prima Materia. Real philosophers know how to sublimate and calcinate Doves. This new substance is indeed Mercurius of metals because, and you should know it already, Mercurius/Spirit of Life is the same in all the nature around; see Hollandus concept (2).
Let’s go a step forward. This idea is not enough, for we are looking for Soul/Sulphur, a specific and determinate concept to reach. We have to obtain something specific to a metallic Soul. And, believe me, what Alchemists have worked out is astonishing. At least Dorneus does not hide the second eagle holding bunches of keys—the second of Alchemy’s secrets. The eagles are two. Not in a sequence, but somewhat different and one beside the other. To get married (3).