Circuit of fumes. The Hortulus Hermeticus engraving number 6 proposes a technical exposition consistent with Mary the Prophetess, but the philosophical one.
This article is the first of a series on vapors, fumes, and steams in Alchemy. How to handle them and what they are for. The topic is not trivial since we are before not only a sticky situation in the laboratory but the element Air, or Water as some alchemists argue, because according to them if fumes and vapors flow so they are Water.
For the moment we can consider the alchemical elements as simple states of matter. This topic might seem like survival of ancient chemical superstitions, but ancient treatises are packed with Elements and, what’s more, it seems that ancient chemistry, which didn’t know and search for molecular purity, sometimes was a mere series of operations on Elements/States of Matter.
But, as I above said, there are also philosophical processes involved in Elements. I make myself a bit clearer: if alchemists admit molecular changes of state, on the other hand, they must admit, and moreover look for, changes of state in their Secret Fire. You have already encountered the Secret Fire densities concept on this site. So, according to this vision, our Secret Fire is subjected to changes in density. This should not make any wonder since Fulcanelli dedicated one of his more poetic and inspirational verses to the very concept: ” In its subtle state is a universal Spirit, and we call our Mercurius, but when it descends and penetrates the world, it thickens and coagulates to become the soul, and we call our Sulphur. Lower it freezes in a body, and we call our Salt.”
Fulcanelli also said that our First matter does contain all the four Elements and we will see how Michael Maier, not accordingly with his engraver Merian, translated this idea in Symbola Aurea Mensae. As a matter of fact, very hard for we can find this topic represented, or even explicated, in the same way by all alchemists. The loneliness of those people did cause poetic and sometimes discordant differences in their representations. So I thought not to merge all quotations from them in a single article, but instead to give room to their reasons and symbols.
Almost all the excerpts and pictures we will examine on the same topic are in a way inscribed or consecrated to Mary the Prophetess’s words in her dialogue with Aros. In fact, her statements from the greatest antiquity have still remained our beacon in the night. In the case of this article, both the motto around the Hortulus Hermeticus picture and the verses in Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa take inspiration from the alleged Moyses sister’s words on fumes and vapors.
Two vases, together with their gaseous discharges, are the main characters of this engraving by Daniel Stolcius. Two flowing fumes go back and forth from and to the vases. The inferior vase is emanating upward, the superior downward. The inferior is at the starting line of a hill, while the superior one hovers over the top. A five-blossomed herb is surrounded by the two fumes. But let’s get some more hints from the written parts.
Daniel Stolcius also provides some convoluted verses: ” Fumus amat fumum, rursusque adamatur ab illo. Nam simili quodvis gaudet ovatque suo. Candida sed celsis qua crescit montibus herba hunc fumum foliis haurit utrumque suis“. Or Fume loves fume, which in its turn delights in that. In fact, everyone likes and rejoices in its simile. A bright white, though eminent, the herb which grows up on these hills consumes both fumes with its leaves.
It seems rather clear that we are before an almost chemical process here. Perhaps circulation is involved. The vase at the mount slopes is discharging fume to the sky. But the second one is easily understood as releasing the first. From the Bottom to the top and return, so the circuit is well closed, of course. But why does the motto talk of love between these back-and-forth fumes?
There might be two explications: the two fumes are acting on each other, not only in pushing and pulling but helping each other to pass through the elements. This case is not so plain, because the features and purposes of an alchemical circulation can be several. The central herb’s white color helps us to better understand: we know that our Secret Fire / Mercurius is an ineffable substance that we love to extract from raw matter salts. Reiterated volatilizations, distillations, and sublimations are the conditions to “free” this strange matter from our starting molecular mass. All this does happen during preparatory work ( see an Opus Magnum scheme) when we achieve our Mercurius. In this case to pass through the Elements means to volatilize, or go from Earth to Air.
Once achieved our Mercurius we must fix its volatility into a more sulfurous Mercurius, or Philosophorum (1). That’s to say from the element Air to the element Earth again. Or from a too-volatile state to a more coagulate (2). In poor words, we have to somewhat dry, or better fix, the circulating substance. But a second white, or white Sulphur, is also achieved in the main work. And over and over again, as our first matter will be “washed” by itself (3). The herb does represent our white colors, in fact. But not exclusively, because it holds five leaves, or operations, which we will thoroughly examine in coming articles. Let’s go to the other reason fumes are so fond of themselves.
We know that a gaseous substance tends to be shapeless and with uncertain volume. In addition, it tends to follow other main gaseous streams, for instance, the air’s continuous flow, and because of this, it is said to actually flow. It is also known that gas can merge with the stream of another gas. For instance, this is what happens during the huge phenomenon of galaxy formation (4). In the case of a closed system, we will see a passage from less dense elements to denser ones, as I said above. The latin verb haurio is is a typical too many meanings latin verb, but really it can stand for every alchemical purpose (5).
The second explanation is that our chemical fume might help our Secret Fire not only to come out from the mass shell but to express its flowing urge and goal. In fact, some alchemists did state that the primary aspect of our Secret Fire is to be fluently loose. And in this, it would apparently follow some other major streams. Daniel Stolcius Hortulus Hermeticus engraving number 6 doesn’t appear to want to tell us anymore. Let’s see if the other authors will be less selfish. I would be enough if they were different. And they somewhat are.
- See also Baro Urbigerus and the Circulatum Tree ;
- See also Kamala Jnana Introduction to a Live Secret ;
- See also Disk Galaxy Formation, Fluid Mechanics and Alchemy ;
- Latin verb Haurio-is meanings: draw, extract, dig, collect, drink, absorb, swallow, consume, run out, bear, delight, enjoy;
- See also Basilius Valentinus Azoth, Salt or Philosophers Gold?