Of Things Perfecting and Corrupting Metallick Bodies

by Jabir Ibn al-Hayaan al-Sufi, translated by Richard Russell

Therefore, seeing this Science treats of the Imperfect Bodies of Minerals, and teaches how to perfect them; we in the first place consider two Things, viz., Imperfection and Perfection. About these two our Intention is occupied, and of them we propose to treat. We compose this Book of Things perfecting and corrupting (according to that which we have found by experience) because Contraries set near each other, are the more manifest.

The Thing which perfects in Minerals is the substance of Argentvive and Sulphur proportionably commixt by long and temperate decoction in the Bowels of clean, inspissate, and fixed Earth (with conservation of its Radical Humidity not corrupting) and brought to a solid fusible Substance, with due Ignition, and rendered Malleable. By the Definition of this perfecting Nature, we may more easily come to the Knowledge of the Thing corrupting. And this is that which is to be understood in a contrary Sense, viz., the pure substance of Sulphur and Argentvive, without due Proportion commixt, or not sufficiently decocted in the Bowels of unclean, not rightly inspissate nor fixed Earth, having a Combustible and Corrupting Humidity, and being of a rare and porous Substance; or having Fusion without due Ignition, or no Fusion, and not sufficiently Malleable.

The first Definition I find intruded in these two Bodies, viz., in Sol and Luna, according to the Perfection of each: but the second in these four, viz. Tin, Lead, Copper and Iron, according to the Imperfection of each. And because these Imperfect Bodies are not reducible to Sanity and Perfection, unless the contrary be operated in them; that is, the Manifest be made Hidden, and the Hidden be made Manifest: which Operation, or Contrariation, is made by Preparation, therefore they must be prepared, Superfluities in them removed, and what is wanting supplied; and so the known Perfection is inserted in them. But Perfect Bodies need not this preparation; yet they need such Preparation, as that, by which their Parts may be more Subtiliated, and they reduced from their Corporality to a fixed Spirituality. The intention of which is, of them to make a Spiritual fixed Body, that is, much more attenuated and subtiliated than it was before. Of all these Preparations (according to our Investigation) we shall sufficiently treat in their proper Place in this Book. What shall be (as is hereafter mentioned) sufficiently prepared, will be fit to make the White or great Red Elixir with.

Of the Stone of Philosophers, that it is one only, for the White, and for the Red, and from what Things it is extracted. And of the Possibility and Way to Perfection.

We find Modern Artists to describe to us one only Stone, both for the White and for the Red; which we grant to be true: for in every Elixir, that is prepared, White or Red, there is no other Thing than Argentvive and Sulphur, of which, one cannot act, nor be, without the other: Therefore it is called, by Philosophers, one Stone, although it is extracted from many Bodies or Things. For it would be a foolish and vain thing to think to extract the same from a Thing, in which it is not, as some infatuated Men have conceited; for it never was the Intention of Philosophers: yet they speak many things by similitude. And because all Metallick Bodies are compounded of Argentvive and Sulphur, pure or impure, by accident, and not innate in their first Nature; therefore, by convenient Preparation, ‘tis possible to take away such Impurity. For the Expoliation of Accidents is not impossible: therefore, the end of Preparation is, to take away Superfluity, and supply the Deficiency in Perfect Bodies. But Preparation is diversified according to the Diversity of things indigent. For experience has taught us diverse ways of acting, viz. Calcination, Sublimation, Descencion, Solution, Distillation, Coagulation, Fixation and Inceration: All which we sufficiently declare in the Sum of the Perfection of the Magistery. For these are Works helpful in Preparation.

  1. February 10, 2011 at 5:18 am

    “Calcination, Sublimation, Descencion, Solution, Distillation, Coagulation, Fixation and Inceration:”

    Would it be correct to view these in combination with comments elsewhere hereabouts regarding the nature of the soul? In particular, I’m intuiting that some of these seem like active processes and others more accurately passive. Is this on the right track?

    Also, Inceration. That’s a very unusual word, not finding much use these days, does it have a context beyond “coating with wax” that may be relevant?

  2. February 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Yes, ‘inceration’ is a dying word to be sure. The context of ‘coating with wax’ should be highly suggestive, if we consider that wax is a ‘form’ that accepts ‘impression’.

    Inceration, as your favorite Adeptrix, Mrs. Atwood, would tell you: is a process which -when complete- should remove the siccity (dryness; aridity; lack of moisture) – See her Suggestive Inquiry – Part I, Chapter 3 – notes 14-16 and associated text).

    Now, you will likely wonder why one would remove the dryness, when one is often told to remove the superfluous moisture. However, these take place at different phases of the operation. One must remove the excess moisture during the beginning of the work, or the matter will not yield the clarity required. One must remove the excess dryness during the final phase of the work, for, as the New Testament indicates: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

    This savor of the salt, this healing balm, this ‘joy of man’s desiring’ must not be absent from the final state of the matter lest it be unfit for its purpose – it would then be mere fool’s gold.

    It is worth looking at The Rosarium Philosophorum.

    For instance:

    And now in the aforesaid chapter note diligently the zealous intention of the Author in it how often he reiterates the manner of inceration. It might have been sufficient to have repeated it but once, but because he might the more strongly and deeply imprint it into the understanding of the reader, therefore he repeats it so often, because in it the whole strength of the Elixir depends. Consider also that Ceration, Fixation and Sublimation are all one and their acts are alike, for by inceration the spirit is fixed and the body is sublimed.

    Are you answered?

  3. February 13, 2011 at 6:58 am

    “Are you answered?”

    I am, thank you. Thank you also for taking it that necessary step further and drawing forth the subtle elements contained in the question.

    In passing, I’ll note part of the process if I may. Engaging the text with one who has a thorough familiarity allows one to gain some measure of calibration for following the right thread(s).

    I also noted recently in myself a variety of exoticism. The technical language of Western traditions is clearly at least as deep and subtle as that of others (how could it be otherwise) but I note I find it more challenging to accept this simple fact than I do with, say, Zen or Taoism.

    Kull Wahad!

  4. March 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Any who might wish to learn more about the topics discussed above should see Part 5 of our commentary on the Alchemical Catechism.

    Two of the most common human behaviours are xenophobia and xenophilia. It is good to be able to notice when these manifest, as both derail accurate perception and conception. It is quite likely we will experience the manifestation of this very human tendency, so it is very good indeed to bring it into the full light of consciousness. As you know, “the first step in avoiding a trap, is knowing of its existence.”

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