White before Red, or at least White after a fake Red. In Hortulus Hermeticus, emblem 36, the black-white-red metamorphosis, often our only landmark, is openly stated.
Stolcius here doesn’t want to leave anything to symbolic imagination. Since the regimens of Laton, or Washings, are Alchemy coming de Potentia ad Acto, or from power to act. An Alchemy made exclusively of the ineffable Secret Fire would be perfect.
But humans are prevented from working directly with the raw material par excellence. And I presume it is forbidden to all the forces of nature since nature, too, is to extract our Materia Prima, or first matter, from the electronic clouds of elements. Alchemy is bound to be hosted within chemical processes. Nevertheless, a few can extract almost all of the Secret Fire from a Materia Tertia or chemical salt, and most can only manage a small part. In this lies the great difficulty of Alchemy, the great gap dividing the ancient alchemists from the vulgar era ones. The perfection should be letting Mercurius Philosophorum cook himself. The perfect “Washings” should not be performed with substances other than Mercurius Philosophorum. The real Laton is Mercurius Philosophorum extracting itself. Not too easy water, for the matter, not to burn. But the perfect way of Kamala Jnana (1) is not within everyone’s reach, and I would say by almost anyone.
But these washings must be performed with an ordinary fire to the required degree in many ways or paths. In these cases, Mercurius Philosophorum is so poor to be washed using real distillations, not only symbolic ones. That’s to say alchemists cannot let the Mercurius imperceptibly distill its Materia Secunda, or second matter, or the ultimate matter in which Mercurius must necessarily be hosted to be handled (2). Or maybe these alchemists are so skilled to allow themselves to divert from the perfect rule (3).
Thus in these paths, the steps, or better passages, from black to red through white (4) become very difficult and delicate issues about the common fire—a mastery of chemistry rather than alchemy. Daniel Stolcius, in his Hortulus Hermeticus, dedicates the engraving number 36, which in the messy numbering epigrams becomes number 38 (in fact, among alchemists, order only starts to become a fashion in the late eighteenth century), just to the importance of not burning Laton.
Laton (5) is the phase in which Mercurius, after having been extracted and doubled (6), is put to putrefy together. Then the main work (7) can start, in which continuous applications of Mercurius, previously set aside, are perpetrated to make the matter pass from black to white through a grey color. Sadly it can happen that one doesn’t succeed in seeing the mercurial white reappearing again after black putrefaction, but just a red burn to put an end to his/her adventure. Yes, because Alchemy does not forgive any mistakes, even in non-metallurgical ways, renowned for their difficulty. The hurry or a Mercurius Philosophorun just in their words and desires, in reality with the too poor contents of Secret Fire.
Strangely there is no symbolism in this Hortulus Hermeticus engraving, while Stolcius usually avails himself of a hermeticism so rich to become quite indecipherable.
Here just a round divided into the three principal alchemical colors establishes the unique possible path and metamorphosis: one from black on the base, to red on the top, necessarily through the white in the middle. And that’s normal: have you ever seen an embryo passing from conception (black) to young adult (red), avoiding the act of giving birth (white)?
And if someone had not yet understood, Stolcius provides a clear framing motto in a too much easy latin: “Noster Lato rubens inutilis est, in album conversus valet”, or “ our red Laton is useless, converted in white is full of value”. Just in the remote case of a fake and transitory red. Suppose in the image. We can notice asterisks within the white standing for the stormy grey phase ( not mentioned by Stolcius, but not ignored or hidden by the author of Hortulus Hermeticus; we can more easily perceive this phase from the engraving number five). In that case, those little stars hovering in the red represent the alchemist’s last hope: that white will finally succeed in a fake and transitory red.
This idea was developed in the latin epigram number thirty-eight ( Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa Mangeti tome second 1703), dedicated by Stolcius to Datin philosopher and chemist. This last feature is not so common in Hortulus Hermeticus, mainly pointing at the chemical skills an alchemist should have to come out of that cooking safely.
“Auroram rosea ni Sol producat ab Ortu, Perpetuis tenebris omnia vincta forent, Sic rubeus Lato ni convertatur in album,Tum rubor illius inanis erit“.
“If the rising Sun does not bring along the dawn, all would be tied to perpetual darkness. In the same way, if the red Laton is not converted in white, then its redness will be useless.”
- See also Kamala Jnana, from Black to White;
- See also Morienus & Mercurius Odor;
- See also Hollandus de Lapide Philosophico, first Book 2;
- See also Kamala Jnana, an Introduction to a Live Secret ;
- See also Pernety, Laton & Putrefaction ;
- See also Atalanta Fugiens & Mercurius Duplicatus;
- See also Archarion & the Opus Magnum scheme;