Why did ancient iatrochemists recommend working through the four elements?
The ancient iatrochemists were used to work with fumes, smoke, earth, acids, alkali, fire, water, dew, and metals. We know that they did not look, and need, for the purity of materials and worked more or less with states of matter, in which the elements can be roughly defined. They observed the four elements being caused by the disaggregation of matter and, conversely, the four elements caused the disaggregation of matter. In short, the chemists considered the four elements as “hammers” to forge the raw matter into a more sophisticated matter.
How did ancient iatrochemists summarize the characteristics of all the elements?
The earth element contains everything. The water element flows. The air element bounces. The fire element determines. Fire commands the air, which shakes the water, and acts on the earth.
What was the theory of elements’ rotation?
Ancient chemists did imagine the Elements’ Rotation as going up and down inside the vessel. To be more precise the movements inside the vessel actually were the Elements. During the chemical works, all the elements must turn into the element with whom they had certain qualities in common. For instance, a direct transmutation of Water into Fire was impossible, as they had nothing in common, but Water could turn into Air, with whom shared fluidity. The transmutation of Elements was called Rotation.
The chemists also affirmed there was a fight between Water and Fire, as they had nothing in common. Anyway only these two ones could solve and condense each other, precisely because they didn’t usually get along. For this very reason, the four Elements were traditionally divided into female and male, and their interaction was called the “love fight”.
What about ancient alchemists, what was their view on the four elements?
The alchemists told of themselves that they mainly worked with Earth and Water (which, according to them, defined all that was flowing, even vapors and fumes). In some cases, they also said to work with Air (which was a conjunction between earth and sky). The element Fire was deemed to be invisible and just did appear at a certain time.
In short, alchemists mainly dealt with the Elements Earth and Water, which were visible to them as well as tangible. While Air and Fire were considered rather impalpable. However, even Earth and Water could not be entirely considered terrestrial, and the invisible Air and Fire entirely celestial. In fact, as strange as it might seem, very often the alchemists did extract the sky from the earth, as the element Earth contained the element Fire and the element Water contained the element Air. According to alchemical pragmatism, the celestial elements could be extracted from the terrestrial ones.
The theory of the elements also concerned the collection of raw materials. In fact, the arrangement of the elements in the matter is different, due to many factors: the time of day, year, harvesting, and processing systems. For instance, in the dew called male it was considered to be there more fire, in the female dew there was more air.”
During the alchemical works, especially in the second-main work, alchemists affirmed to see the rotation of elements rendered through color rotation.
Why did the ancients assert that whoever understood the secret of beer fermentation also got the rotation of the four elements?
The secret of the production of beer is a reduction by fermentation. That implies an extensive dissolution of the raw material, and therefore a spiritualization. Because in putrefaction the elements fight each other, that is, they open up to each other. Then the air or sky comes out, surrounding any body, just as the sky does the earth. When the sky is fixed, the earth is born from the fixation. These same principles can also be extended to the production of glass.
What was Solve et Coagula and why the four Elements were imperative?
Alchemists used to define Solving as the reduction of bodies in the nature of Spirits, while Coagulation was the reduction of a Spirit in the nature of bodies. And so the Body should be spiritual, and the Spirit corporeal. Both should then turn into a philosophical composite, as they called it. The Fixation of volatility was a matter of real knowledge. To this extent, not only the philosophical volatile matter must be made fixed, but the fixed must in every moment be able to return to volatility. In this way all the unwanted matter was really discharged: the volatile matter was able to dissolve, and the fixed matter had the same property. That was a real peculiarity of alchemical composites.
Why it was said that the Earth must be changed into Water and then returned to Earth?
According to both iatrochemists and alchemists, the Earth element was almost always the starting element. It should be soon turned into the flowing element Water, i.e. liquid or vapor, but in the end, the latter will have to be fixed again, and eternally, in the element Earth. It was said that the earth element swallowed everything, as the big fish ate the small one.
What was the best raw matter according to Elements theory?
The best raw matter was the one originally containing all four elements. But it was also the most difficult to handle.
Is the composition of the elements the same in all bodies? Is it true that gold does contain most of the Fire?
The composition of elements is peculiar to each body. For instance, gold has got the most amount of element Fire we can possibly find. And a very masterly prepared Sulfur will present a good amount of element Fire too. While Silver dominates Earth over Fire, as a very masterly prepared Mercurius will do.
Is it true that the composition of elements causes the body color?
Yes, it seems ancient alchemists taught in this way: that the composition of elements can color differently a body during the works. For instance, gold would tend to the redness because of the predominance of the element Fire in it, while silver would tend to whiteness because of the predominance of the element Earth.
What is the acronym I.A.A.T?
IAAT stands for Ignis/fire, Aire/air, Aqua/Water, and Terra/earth. The ancient alchemist did note that during the solve phase ( destruction of the raw matter starting from the element Earth) inside the distilling flask the more volatile parts tended to raise to the top while the less volatile ones stood on the lower parts. So the composition of the matter took the acronym of IAAT during the solve phase. But they also noted that during the coagula phase ( reunification in a new purified and incorruptible element Earth) the composition tended to reverse as the “philosophical” element Terra/earth was no more lying on the bottom. So the real masterly operation is to reverse the I.A.A.T in T.A.A.I.
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