When speaking of Salt obtained by venting, Christophle Glaser may have given a real Secretum Artis, the secret of the Art, hint.
In chapter four of his Traité de la Chimie, 1668, Glaser describes active principles Mercurius, Sulphur, and Salt trying to give animistic resources to chemical substances. In so doing blending old chemistry and alchemy.
In the previous post, Christophle Glaser introduces the active and passive five principles and begins with Mercurius’s description. My translation is verbatim. I maintained Glaser’s original writing punctuation. My commentaries are after translation.
“Sulfur is the second active principle, but less working than spirit. Its texture is oily, subtle, penetrating, and flammable, it is scarcely reduced to pure principle as well as others since it contains some spiritual particles, it floats over water as the subtle aromatic oils do, rosemary, sage, turpentine and other, and if it contains some portion of salt and earth, then it is greasy and heavy oil that sinks to the middle and the bottom of the water, that we notice of the oils of gum, asphalt, wood, which are distilled from the violent fire, it is this principle which is said to be the cause of beauty or deformity of animals or different colors and plant odors or the ductility and malleability of the metal. It makes the other principles binding, which without it might not be kept alive because of the few relations there are among them; it preserves bodies from corruption, softening the salts e spirits acrimony, and being igneous it guarantees the plant where it abounds from cold, frost, and other insults of the seasons, as Cypress trees do and other similar vegetation which always keeps their greenness.
The third active ingredient is salt, which is discovered after the volatiles is evaporated or vented because it remains fixed with the earth, from which it is separated by dissolution and evaporation, then it presents itself to us in a crumbly body easy to be brought to powder, which proved by its dryness, craving by moisture, it draws air so powerfully that soon it reduces to liquor: Salt is purified by fire and is combustible, it retains the spirit and preserves the sulfur from combustion, and it is their basis and foundation, it causes flavors to taste different, and makes the bodies where it is abundant long-lasting and almost incorruptible: for example, the oak which contains little oil and lots of salt, is long-lasting, and many other mixed which are of the same nature.”
Retaking Glaser’s Mercurius description from the beginning of chapter four, we know that here he intends a mere distillation product. Stating that spirit presents for the first to our senses, Glaser means the first to appear on the top of an alembic ( the lower heat of vaporization substance. In the vegetal kingdom very often ethanol). Bear in mind that Alchemical Mercurius does not appear on the top of an alembic. Indeed it appears in a vessel over blackness. Like a star. For it is extracted from electronic clouds.
Nevertheless, Glaser’s chemical principles continue acting strangely. He states something really interesting about the necessity for mercurius to be stabilized by other principles when residing inside a mixed body. That’s a hermetic truth: Mercurius does not single out as Sulphur does. Mercurius is the principle of Life to be applied to everything. Quite like fuel in a car. It has to be stabilized by “minerals and metals, which are almost lacking this principle”. Alchemy is defined as “ mineral spagyric”. But, to be honest, minerals are not an alchemical must. Alkahest is to be extracted from every kingdom, for in every kingdom lies Secret Fire. But from minerals, Secret Fire can be found in quite massive quantities. For metallic electronic clouds are really impressive compared to nonmetallic ones. And, in addition… minerals can be easily sublimated.
Sulfur is less working than spirit. Indeed, in Alchemy, Sulphur is a Mercurius more coagulated, denser. Glaser said: “it contains some spiritual particles”. In Spagyrics they called Sulfur a thicker and more viscous distillation product. Of course, a viscous liquid is not our hermetic Sulphur.
Anyway, Glaser does not identify oily spagyric sulfur for essential oils, as many modern spagyrics do. But simply as a molecular product with a slightly higher heat of vaporization. “it is scarcely reduced to the pure principle”, Glaser defines Sulphur as a principle and then finds it difficult to be reduced to pure principle. Indeed, in Alchemy, perfect Sulphur is a no-return phase. But we are to see in the next chapters what Glaser means by that.
“it is said to be the cause of beauty or deformity of animals or different colors and plant odors or the ductility and malleability of the metal.” Here Glaser is the son of his time. He gives platonic attributes to this oily liquid he called sulfur. By the way, there are Hermetic truths in these words.
“The third active ingredient is salt, which is discovered after the volatiles is evaporated or vented because it remains fixed with the earth, from which it is separated by dissolution and evaporation”. This description and process perfectly fit any chemical compound formed from the reaction of an acid with a base, with all or part of the hydrogen of the acid replaced by a metal or other cation, that’s to say a canonical salt, as we are used to knowing. This is a spagyric description. For hermetic salt can only be Azoth, that’s to say a Mercurius metamorphosing into Sulphur. Alchemically speaking Salt does not exist. Were Basilius Valentinus and Paracelsus the first to name it in their treatises? Salt does be in existence in a chemical sense. It is like a Vase. Now, pay attention: Glaser here presents a secret hint in quite clear wording. A real Secretum Artis, the secret of the Art. “which is discovered after the volatiles is evaporated or vented, because it remains fixed with the earth, from which it is separated by dissolution and evaporation”. Merian, engraving Atalanta Fugiens emblem number thirty-two, uses coral allegory for the very operation. Remember all of these words. Do learn them by heart. It would be very interesting to know if these “drying” operations are to be done in a closed or open vessel. A tip: try also for congealment and calcination tags.
“Salt is purified by fire and is combustible, it retains the spirit and preserves the sulfur from combustion, and it is their basis and foundation,” Chemical salts do not feature like that, only alchemical salt can retain Mercurius, for only Sulphur or Soul can retain Spirit. This is Alchemy at last. Notice that hermetic Salt is never plural.
“It makes other principles binding, which without might not be kept alive because of the few relations there is among them;” Be aware of the rule of three in which a name may stand for at least three different concepts. Never take hermetic symbols too seriously, because they could really be applied to nothing.
To be continued at Glaser 3 Passive Principles, Alcohol, Amalgam, Calcination .
Glaser Traitè de la Chimie frontispiece can be of some interest.