The 23. Discourse.
Of the Philosophers Stone.
AFter that through the knowledge of good Let∣ters * (which by Gods especiall goodnesse are di∣spearsed in sundrie places in this latter worlde) the artes and sciences had recouered their aun∣cient beautie, diuerse men hauing seene the glimpes of this light, which for many yeeres had, as it were layen buryed, haue therewith holpen themselues in the safe conduct to the search of difficulte and hidden secretes: and according to the greater light that eache hath receiued, so hath he penetrated farthest into the deapth of such wonderfull secrets as are dispearsed throughout the whole worlde. Page 291 Yea, euen at this daie, who so list to beholde anie Countrie whatso∣euer, shall in diuerse persons perceiue the lyke affection and dili∣gence as haue beene in their predecessours to finde out the per∣fection of those things that other men had in their dayes sought for. But as when many archers do shoote, few doe hit the marke, so are there not many that can atteyn to that that in their imaginations they had conceiued: which default is rather to be attributed to the weaknesse of mans braine, than to any imperfection of the arts and sciences, the which he that can wel vse and reduce to their true end, doth attaine a great part of his desire.
Among those that are (but ouer curiouslie) giuen to the pursuit * of diuerse obiects, there are none that stande in greater need of ad∣monition, than such as professe with continuall blowing to make their furnaces yeeld forth great treasure, which they imagine their long proofes should reueale: for wee ought to take compassion of those whome we see in errour to spend their yeeres and loose theyr labour, without reaping any fruit whatsoeuer, which haue mooued me to giue thē this smal aduertisement, which they may vouchsafe to take in good part: wherein I pretende by common reason easie to comprehend, and according to my abilitie, to shew them that they are deceiued in those meanes that they take to attaine to their wi∣shed end. Afterward I will speake one word to some learned Phi∣losophicall *Alcumists, that prosecute the same obiect, as also shew what is to be iudged of their so rare and vnknowen purpose. Final∣lie, hauing confessed that there is a true Philosophicall stone (but rather spirituall than materiall) I will declare what it is, also that being diligently sought, it may be found, and found will bring in∣comparable treasure and contentation.
There be, as I take it, in these dayes three kindes of men which deale in seeking for golde by Alcumistrie. The first, beeing poore, * are through necessity that oppresseth, driuen to haue recourse to this art, hoping thereby to find remedie for their want. The second bee∣ing learned, are by the curiositie of their minds moued to search in∣to natures principall workes, but thereto especially driuen by ly∣corousnesse of profite. The third are mightie Lordes, whose desires (still tending to greatnesse and wealth) are through other mennes perswasions so stirred vp, that for the compassing as wel of the one as of the other, they are disposed to vse this art. Now by the exami∣nation of the causes that moue each part, we may iudge who hath the best intent. But in the meane time it is greatly to be presumed Page 292 that they all shoote and draw at the deuill of siluer.
I haue hard some of them discourse in this manner. There haue bene (say some of them) in time past sundrie learned persons as Mer∣curius Trimegistus, Geber, and diuerse Arabians, that haue im∣ployed their time in the consideration of both naturall and supernatu∣ral things, who in their bookes haue left written diuerse goodly instru∣ctions concerning the Philosophers stone or pouder of proiection, which is of so wonderful a vertue, that albeit their speeches be verie darke, yet are they of such sort, that sundrie excellent wits haue since vnderstood them, & plainly expoūded their highest conceits, in putting in practise that which others haue bene content to see into by speculation: for both these conioyned they haue by sūdry proofes deliuered to the view of the sense that which in old time was cōprehēded only in imaginatiō whence haue proceeded the discouerie of wonderfull secrets. Truly these spee∣ches bere a goodly shew and are built vpon the authorities of very braue personages, which these puffing bellowes do diligently note, to the end to set the better glosse vpon their merchandise. Neither can I tell whether I dare alledge that which one of their learned Alcumists did on a time tell me, namely, That they were the here∣tikes of their sect: but I referre my selfe to the truth thereof. Now if the considerations of antiquitie haue ben able as sparkles to kin∣dle in their hearts the desire which wee see doth consume them, the receites and books written in our dayes of the like argument can∣not but haue greatly increased the same, and experience most of all: in such manner as some do seeme to be euen rauished in discoursing vpon the excellencie of this art.
Now will I proceed in the course of their reasons which are as doe follow. That God hath not in vaine indued man with the vnder∣stāding, which he hath giu him to the end to consider of the greatnes and beautie of his diuine workes, and thereof reape so much fruite as shoulde bee vnto him permitted, that afterward he might yeeld to him all praise. That in time past he reuealed infinite, wonderful, and singu∣lar things: alwaies reseruing to himselfe neuertheles sūdry new secrets to disclose, by the varietie whereof the more to stirre vp euerie man to confesse that the abundance of his workes are incomprehensible. That the West Indies which seeme to inclose the whole tresures of the earth, vntill, before vnknowen, were not discouered within these hundred yeeres. Likewise that in these later yeeres the art of transformation of vnperfect mettals into perfect, & the multiplying of the quantity ther∣of, which barbarousnesse and ignoraunce had long buried, is as it were Page 293 reuiued agayne. Also that men haue learned with fire to drawe forth the essence of sundry things, whereof they haue conpounded most soue∣raigne medicines as well to preserue health, as to cure diseases. By which speeches it seemeth the Philosophers stone to consist in such transmutation and multiplication: and this doe all the schollers of this arte together with their bookes affirme: A matter of sufficient admiration, which also ministreth argument sufficient to dispute v∣pon. But first I must declare some of their principles: They saie * that according to the opinions of sundrie auncient Philosophers, the earth hath in her bowels enclosed a certaine substance common to all mettalls, and apt to receiue whatsoeuer the conuenient formes of the same. Also that the sayd substance warmed with a certaine heat, shut vp in the same earth; doth in long processe of time purge and waxe ly∣quide, afterward that it congealeth and groweth hard. Thus hauing by little and little in this slow generation lost the vnperfect qualities, in the end it attaineth to this perfection, whereto nature laboureth to bring euerie thing. This is their opinion of the ingendering of met∣tals; which frō vnperfect do afterward grow to perfection: among the which Golde hath the first place, and Siluer the second. These foundations thus laide, some speculatiue minds haue imagined that it is possible by art to imitate nature, & first that the matter requi∣site and necessary may be found: next; that euen in short time, with artificial fire that thing may be made, which the earth is long about with her naturall heat. With these goodly perswasions haue many as well in times past as now, made infinit experiments whereby to finde, as the Prouerbe goeth, where the beane is hidden.
Truly such men are to bee commended as doe dedicate their la∣bours * to the search of whatsoeuer may tende to the reliefe of mans life, and wherein we doe see the euident tokens of Gods wisedome to shine: but withall it is verie requisite that they which finde that agilitie in their minds, do not vndertake to enter so far into the wil∣dernesse of so many vnknowen secrets, vnlesse for their guides they haue vpright iudgement & discretion, least wandring amisse they lose thēselues as many haue done, who through a desire of knowing too much, being caried vpon the wings of their rashnesse & soaring too high, haue fallen down headlong with Icarus. Experience hath taught yt many things haue ben inuented as soone as sought for, as Printing & Artillery, neither is there any mētion yt they were long in deuising. Others there be yt for these 2000. yeeres cannot be yet throughly vnderstod: as the proportiō the diameter to the circūferēce Page 294 thereof, the cause of the saltnes with the ebbing and fl•wing of the sea, and the reason of that high motion called Trepidation: which may be a sufficient rule to staie vs vpon those things that are possible, and to cause vs to shun the vnpossible. Of which number our blowers will auswere, y• that which they seeke is none, albeit it be a supreme secrete. Truly I confesse it is a great secret, cōsidering that no man could euer yet finde it out: but that it is one of the goodlyest ends of philosophie, as they persuade thēselues, I denie. And the better to know it, I will first diuide it: into morall and politike, and then into supernaturall: afterward into that naturall, which hath relation to all elementarie matters?
The first and second part thereof which concerne manners and * pollicie, and celestial motions with the substances separate from al matters, doe import a farre more worthie argument than this is. For no mettall is any whit comparable to the beautie of the hea∣uens, or excellencie of the vertues. This beeing most euident, that part of Philosophie which hath respect to naturall causes, must of force haue but the third place, which notwithstanding, if anie man should aske thm whether the good that they labour for be not to be accounted among the soueraigne felicities, many wil answere yes. Which what else doth it signifie, but to place mās felicity in earth∣ly things? Which is a matter vtterly repugnant to ye dignity ther∣of. For Gold is created to serue man, not to hold his affections in ser•itude, as it doth most of those that take it for their most beauti∣full and profitable shoot anker whereto they can attayne. In olde time the lyke couetousnesse as we now see moued diuerse to search the darke caues of the earth, also to digge and pearce the same, to the end to fet forth this mettall, as yet they do in some regions: but these new inuentions to ingender it in fornaces, doe shew the desire thereof to be now more vnreasonable than euer it was: so deepelie rooted in mannes heart is this perswasion, that he which possesseth plentie of golde is happie. Which opinion experience hath verie well confirmed to be most false: for if we lyst to looke into auncient Empires and common wealthes, wee shall set that together with Golde vi•e came in: also that vertue flourished so long as onelie brasen money was in vse.
Gold did by ciuill warres almost subuert the Romaine Empire, * and since through the superfluities and dissolutions that it bre• o∣uerthrew it. The Empires of the Assyrians and Medians were changed and extinguished, when Sardanapalus and Darius swim∣ming Page 295 in Golde, conteinned the thinges which they ought to haue had in greatest estimation. When did the Lacedemonian com∣mon wealth flourish more then whiles their monie was of 〈◊〉? For it began to decaie when Golde began to growe into vse and e∣estimation. I knowe none that will extoll Caligula (who in two yeeres spent aboue 67. millions) aboue Fabritius, who hauing nei∣ther Golde nor Siluer in his small house, was neuerthelesse for his iustice and valiancy the guardian of the Romaine common wealth. Who liued a more contented life whether Plato the Philosopher, discoursing in his Academy, or Dyonisius the tyrant in the middest of al his treasures? He it was who through his doctrine made men good, and not the other who with his wealth corrupted them. Tru∣lie it hath bene alwayes seene that Gold hath made more men mise∣rable than happie: for few doe knowe howe both to get and vse it well. These examples one I not alleadge to bring. Golde into con∣tempt: but rather to giue men to vnderstand that to such as want discretion it is hurtfull, and that many other things are to bee pre∣ferred before it. For when men shall see that in all worldes it hath bene a fatall instrument, which hath so terriblie moued mens affec∣tions, likewise that it hath hatched so many mischiefes, they wil be better aduised how they subiect themselues thereto, considering it is made to serue or not to raigne.
How•eit in commendation thereof I will also saie that it is an * excellent mettal, endued with goodly qualities, and verie necessary to helpe with greater facility in the traficke of euerie thing, seruing both for a common price for whatsoeuer we list to exchange, and for an ornament to those that are in greatest dignitie. We ought ther∣fore to esteeme of it according to the commoditie that it yeeldeth, and to attribute no more thereto: but when couetousnesse dooth so rage in vs, that in liew of well vsing it in such sort, wee grow to ex∣cessiue extolling therof, it is conuerted into poyson. For it breedeth murther, enmitie, riot, and wantonnesse: It is also the occasion of warres and •illage, and for the most part infecteth men with vile a∣uarice. Heerevpon did Lycurgus banish it out of Lacedemon, and therewith also all vaine pleasures, the deadly plagues of common wealths. It may be replied in fauour thereof that when the aunci∣ents ment to commend the first age of the worlde, they tearmed it, The Golden world: but wee are to vnderstande that thereby they ment onely the integritie of such as then liued, which they compa∣red to the purenes of Gold, as they did the daies insuing vnto siluer Page 296 and brasse. For us it surpasseth all other mettalls in perfection, so also were the first men more excellent in all goodnesse, than their successours, who haue & stil doe degenetrate. But if any man were disposed to intitle our age with the crowne of the golden world, he might haue some reason thereto. For Gold is now so cherished and worshipped that by it all things are obtained, & without it nothing is doue. He that hath Gold shal be honored, but he that hath none is counted but an outcast. Yea, the mightie men are not content to be clothed therewith, but their houses must also glister thereof: but if we consider the manners of men we shall find them so far altered yt they may be trulier termed maners of yron thā of gold. An ancient good Bishop complaining, sayth, When the Church vessels were of wood, the Bishops were of golde, but when the vessels grew to gold, the Bishops were turned into wood. This doth sufficiently testifie what change it br•edeth in the possessers therof, for in the end it ouercom∣meth the owner, and plungeth him that hath it in all pride and iu∣temperan•ie, vnlesse he be restrained by the bridle of good doctrine.
Some man may saie that many other things may bee likewise * abused, as Lawe, Women, and Wine, which are more necessarie for mans life than it, whose vse (notwithstanding their abuse) is not forbidden. Neither wil I wt Lycurgus conclude that it must be vt∣terly forbidden, only I wil shew yt it is a verie slippery path where∣in we may slide as soone as they that walke vppon Ice. And in deed Golde is the verie Ise where vppon our hearts do slide when wee so farre let slip the reines of our desires that we cannot pluck them back againe. Many men hold opinion, that wealth, if it be not •e•∣tified with plentie of gold, is but like a cloud & too simple. In deed it cannot be denied but it setteth on a fairer glosse, but the same is likewise so course that it peruerteth our iudgements, in yt so highly it alloweth of superfluous things, that it contemneth those that be necessarie. A man may haue his house plentifully furnished with al * things meete and conuenient for the vse of his owne family, the en∣tertaining of his science, and the reliefe of strangers: howbe it if he haue no precious vessels & moueables with other like superfluities hee shall be accounted poore: for custome hath so farre incroched vpon men; that wealth is accounted to consist in needles things ra∣thar than in those whose vse we cannot forbeare. How be it what euer men thinke, this great discōmoditie doth gold breed, yt it causeth a man soone to ouerthrow himself: for if his mind longeth after ye fol∣lies of these daies, he will wast 1000. franks re•• vpon one maske, Page 297 two or 3 garments for himselfe, one banket, some game, or in pre∣sents to his mistres; before he be aware. Before yt gold was so plen∣tiful, ye vse of cloth of gold, siluer, & silk were vnknowen, & precious stones most rare, enē a prodigall person could hardly in many yeres spende his goods. Nowe wee haue a thousande vanities which leade vaine persous to impouerish themselues in one daie. Rabelais reporteth that Panurge in his voiages into Italy learned aboue 78. inuentions to colne by money: but after he had a while haunted the Spanish & French nations, he was perfect in aboue 100. gallant waies to spend it, which made him continually to eate his corne in the blade, which good custome is yet in practise among vs. After yt the barbarous nations had inuaded as well the East as West Em∣pire, & sacked all the treasurs of the same, gold & siluer were for cer∣taine ages almost vnknowen: but after that the Spaniards & Por∣tugals had discouered so many new landes, this minerall wealth & stones, grew as a vehemēt storme to be shed throughout all the pro∣uinces of Christendome, so as euen to this day they do abound. And what is there growen but a general flame of couetousnes, with ex∣treme auarice of some, & excessiue prodigalities of others, wt so ma∣ny superfluities which custome hath brought in, yt 1000. Hercules should haue inough to do to s•ay all these monsters. To be briefe, all this gold & siluer for ten men yt it hath inriched, haue impouerished 10000. To what purpose then is it to attribute therto the power to make men happy? Plato & Aristotle intreating of goods, & wherto they ought to tend, do not go to seeke thē in the bowels of the earth, as shall be hereafter declared. These blowers therfore are to be re∣proued, in that they indeuour to persuade the end of their are to be of such excellēcie, wherby they leade many into error, who of thēselues are already too much inclined to seeke their contētation in material things. The poore sauages of Perow before that our couetousnesse * robbed them of their Golde, had so much, that they made all imple∣ments of household thereof, esteeming it no better then of yron: for they neuer tooke care or laboured to gather, kepe, or otherwise vse it. But since that they were taught, & that they perceiued the imper∣fectious which we•cō••it for Golde, they grew as miserable as our selues, & haue made, as a man may say, their Gods of ye same stuffe which before they troad vpon their feet. When we first began to tra∣ficke with them▪ they gaue for a knife or anie other cutting toole, double or treble ye waight in Gold, making more account of the cō∣modit 〈◊〉 of that mettall, which we esteeme sal•ise, thā of ye other yt we Page 298 thinke so precious. And who so list to speake with reason, must of force confesse that yron, considering it is an instrument without the which few artes consist, is much more necessarie to the vse of mans life than Golde. Howbeit pride, superfluitie, pleasure, and mannes curiositie haue bredde the extreame admiration of Golde. which neuerthelesse, as I haue sayde) is not altogether to bee con∣temned.
Now are 〈…〉e to answere to their arguments, whereby they inde∣uour to proue the meanes to performe their worke to bee both easie * and possible. They saie there is a certaine mettallicall substance•it and conuenient to be transformed into perfect mettalls, which is the true seede that yeeldeth the Gold, and the same (as the principal ground whereon they must build) it is requisite to know verie wel. That in time past few men knew it, but that nowe some excellent schollers in this art are nothing ignorant therein: also that it is like∣ly not to be so strange and vnknowen a thing, considering that euen meane men are perfect in the knowledge of the substance, seed and vertues of plants, hearbes, and foules. Like wise that albeit most of these goodly operations of nature bee hidden in the deapth of the earth, yet is mans spirit able to penetrate into such secretes, sith it can also mount aboue the heuens. To deny the substance that they search for I dare not, because wee see the effects: but to affirme that it is knowen, there resteth the difficultie: for although wee knowe many, as the aforenamed, yet followeth it not thereof that wee are able to comprehend the other, which hath so long beene hidden, ex∣cepte by the discourse of our imagination, vntill experience hath taught vs the truth of this matter. Some common Alcumistes haue in their pamphlets gone about to describe the saide sub∣stance. One assureth it to be quicke siluer or brimstone: the other egges or bloud: and others haue named sundrie other kinds, which haue procured a thousand and a thousand experiments, all which haue proued false. Some of them doe affirme that the true matter must of necessitie haue in it a great vegetatiue power, and some si∣militude with that substance whereinto it shoulde be transformed. Concerning ye, vegetatiue power theyr speech doth stand with some reason for sith nature must be an agent and worke in this action, the matter must likewise haue the same propertie, and not resemble a stone or a peece of wood. As for the similitude, it is likely also that the substance that should yeeld Gold must haue some correspon∣dence therewith: for it were a plaine mockerie to imagine that an Page 299 egge should bring forth a tree, or an acorne a bird. These two pro∣perties then are verie necessarie for the matter which we speake of: neuertheles by ye onely discoursing vpon things conuenient therto, it is not founde, no more than is the Philosopers wisedome, albeit they haue in their discourses qualified and formed it.
But admit I graunt, they knowe the true substance (which ne∣uerthelesse * is a deepe point) yet are they to proue by what artificial meanes, that is to saie, by what regiment or helpe they can en∣force their wished forme, which is not easy to be done: for albeit that arte doe imitate nature, yea, that in some thinges it can euen helpe her, yet dare not our common Alcumists affirme, that it can growe equall with her. Heereto they replie that experience teacheth that the vertue of the arte, duelie fitted with the force of nature, doth so helpe it, that thereof insueth the bringing forth of the kinds in like∣wise as Nature alone may haue brought them forth. As in Egges which are the substance whereof foules are bredd, a man may mini∣ster to them an arteficiall heat so temperate: either in an ouen or by other meanes, that wee shall see them yeeld forth the like foules as nature woulde haue ingendered: as also in the Salte pits wee see that arte together with the sea water and helpe of the natural heate of the Sunne formeth the Salt. If therefore in liuing things, yea euen in dead things, it hath so much power, why may it not lyke∣wise worke in the substance of mettalls? Heereto I aunswere, that this is but a bad kinde of arguing, of a few particular examples in things knowen to make a generall rule for thinges as it were yet vnknowen: for that which may agree with one cannot agree with many. Wee may easilie see that there is great difference betweene the manner by nature obserued in the ingendering of mettals, and the other kindes afore noted. For hauing made the seede of plants, hearbes, and foules so common vnto vs, she also sheweth vs the faci∣litie of their generation: But in mettalles it is another case, for if their substance hath bene hetherto as it were hidden, it is no mer∣uayle that their procreation is vnknowen. Who so list to consider how a Wheate kirnell bringeth forth a fayre and greate eare, shall neuerthelesse therein see but small helpe of arte, sauing some tra∣uayle and tillage of the ground with the sowing therof, which can∣not properly be sayde to be the principall cause of the generation: for it is onely nature, who hauing receiued the seed into the ground as into a matrix, doth heate & putrifie it, also it maketh it to sprout, growe, and take that forme whereto it is most proper. The lyke ef∣fect Page 300 is to be noted in the generation of mettals, which is performed by the onely vertue and power of nature, neither can art worke any great matter therein. And whosoeuer should take the substaunce of them out of their matrixe, wherein nature by hidden meanes wor∣keth, weening through art to make perfect the saide mettalls, shall greatly deceiue himself: for so would it loose the whole force and be∣come lame.
This might the Empirical Alcumists haue therby learned by so * many their false experiments made so long time: which neuerthe∣les haue not yet vtterly diuerted their mindes frō promising to thē∣selues somwhat more: for they affirme that this pouder of proiection once performed, they may by casting a little of it among a greate masse of imperfect mettals reduce ye whole into gold. Now thy pro∣ceed thereto by degrees, saying that one once of this pouder is able to cōuert a thousand ounces of other mettal into gold: & that which is better purified will conuert ten thousand: but that which is once brought to perfection, will multiply, as they tearme it, from one waight to 100000. These be the braue fruites which they make the trees of their garden to beare, whereof the least wil be worth 9000 crownes, & the greatest about 900000. Truly if these effects were as true as the discourses of them are braue, wee shall see many gar∣dens giuen themselues to the tilling of so fruitfull a soyle.
The common opinion of man doth account this same to be a pro∣digious * matter, yea, sundry learned men do meruaile how so many can suffer thēselues to be lead away with such persuasions, of whom if a man aske how this great augmentation can come to passe, they will answere that that should not seeme so strange, considering that daily we see as great matter as that after the same manner: for (say they) ae candle once light is able to impart her light to 100000 more, & yet neuer diminish it selfe one whit: so likewise the vertue of this power is so great, that it communicateth the selfe substance thereof to other mettals apt to receiue it. This similitude, in my opinion, is no great proofe hereof: for the transmutation of a masse of Lead into a masse of Gold, which is a conuersion of substance, doth far differ from mi∣nistring vnto fire any matter that may nourish or maintaine it. Yea, it doth better appeare in this, that the fire hauing consumed ye mat∣ter ministred, they both doe perish: whereas by the alleadged trans∣mutation so perfect a mettall must come of it as may haue a conti∣nual being. They must therefore bring in better reasons & exāples to verrefie this multiplicatiō. Besides, if this were so, it must needs Page 301 follow yt art should surmount nature, because in short space it should worke ye thing which nature is many yeres about. Thus much haue I thought good to answere to the common arguments which they ordinarily vse in their discourses & deuises, wherby a mā may iudge what a small foundation they haue to build so high a worke vppon. Such as being sufficiētly learned, list to peruse their pāphlets may be able with greater grauitie & more at large to dispute with thē, to ye end ye truth being disclosed, many may by abādoning their errors find profit therin. For my part I shal still think thē to be deceiued in * ye waies yt they take, vntil experiēce hath reuealed yt wherof we are in doubt, which is one reson yt we do many times lay against them, saying: yt sith it doth not appeare that any of the ancient Writers could euer with all their furnaces finde out this secret, why do they so obsti∣natly proceed in the search therof? But (say they) in old time many did know it, as Salomon, in whose daies gold was so plentiful, that all his pallace was therewith adorned, & siluer as common as yron: which a∣bundance could neuer haue ben such, had he not practised this hidden Philosophie, wherein through his great wisedome he was most expert. Hereto do they ad yt K. Midas, who, as it is said, turned all yt he tou∣ched into gold, was also skilful herein. Likewise yt the ancient Poets, speaking of the goldē fleece, ment therby the Philosophers stone, which also was not altogether vnknowen when the Romaine Empire was in greatest pride. Howbeit that euer since it hath as it were lien dead together with many other things vntil these later daies, that some men searching among the pouders of antiquitie found out some small frag∣ments of this wonderfull treasure, affirming that some haue made de∣monstration therof, as Cosme of Medicis, and K. Edward of England, who receiued this benefit at the hand of Reimond Lully a Catelaeunia: Others haue concealed it as Arnold de villa noua, & Theophrast Pa∣racelse. To be briefe, leuing a multitude of like exāples, they accoūt thēselues to be followers not of imaginary matters, but of things * alredy practised. Truly I should neuer maruel to see the nouices in this art, yt haue smal practise in histories, somtimes to feed vpō these vanities: but when the maisters thēselues shal go about to persuade the others yt these imaginatiōs are true, it cannot but breed pastime to ye hearers. Wherfore to answere thē, first I say yt the aleaing of ye exāple of Salomō turneth to their disgrace: for Dauid was he yt he∣ped vp most of his treasures, neither is it written yt euer man had so much. The Scripture testifieth, yt he left him toward ye building of ye tēple 100000. talēts of gold, & a miliō of siluer: which amoūtech to Page 302 120. millions of crownes as Bude summeth it. But almost all that treasure did rise of the spoyles and ouerthrowes of the Canaanites and Amorrheans, whom Dauid according to Gods appointment made an ende of rooting out. And as for Salomon, hee was a King endued with perfect wisedome, but he neuer vsed the same to theyr pretended effects, yea, in the holie Bible we find whence he had his Golde and siluer. It is sayde that his shippes sayled with the ships of Hyram king of Tyre into Ophir, which some interprete to bee the Indies, to fetch and the number of Golde that they brought did mount to six hundred sixtie and sixe talents of gold. Nowe the Hebrewes talent of golde, as some doe affirme, was worth sea∣uen thousande Crownes, so as all this summe shoulde rise al∣most to fiue millions of Golde, which in those dayes was a marue∣lous treasure. But some of these men doe imagine that the gold of Ophir was the same that was fetched out of their fornaces, which impudent affirmation deserueth no answer. But I will vse the ex∣ample of Salomon to prooue their arte to be false: for if he whose wisedome was incomparable, who also was perfect in all whatsoe∣uer coulde fall into mans capacity, neuer writ that he gate this se∣crete by blowing: but contrariwise setteth downe some of the meanes whereby he attained to his wealth, shall not we presume that it is an euident abuse to leaue to their experiences? Neither is the example of Midas of any greater credit then the other. For in his person the ancient writers purposed to set before vs a couetous prince, whose treasure through his owne vice grew hurtfull to him selfe. And by the golden fleece the poets ment the veynes of golde or siluer which the Greeke Princes fetcht out of Chalochos in the ship of Argos. Now let vs come to the Romaines. For it can not be denied but the Empire of Rome ouerflowed with wealth: how∣beit it proceeded of the sacking of all the world, and not else where, as testifie the histories. The alleaging of great Cosme of Medi∣cis is but a little tickling to cause vs to smile. For he was a man issued from a very wealthy family, and with all discreete, a great dealer and of muche traficke, whereby he mightily increased his goods, and afterward vsed very stately liberality and expenses as did Lucullus at Rome and Cimon at Athens. Concerning Ed∣ward king of England, who coined so many Rose nobles, no hi∣storie reporteth it to haue bene done with Raymond Lullyes phi∣losophical gold, which maketh me ye rather to thinke that he dealt with minerals. As for Theophrast Paracelse and Arnold de Vil∣laPage 303 noua, no man can denye but they were learned both in Philoso∣phie and Alcumie, and found out great secretes: but I am assured that in any their bookes it cannot be found that the substance of ar∣tificiall gould doth resemble the same whereupon our common Al∣cumistes doe worke, either that the forme thereof is to bee perfor∣med in Fornances: besides, if we consider of their liues, wee shall in the same see the tokens of pouertie, and not of aboundance: where∣by it is likely they rather laboured to finde what were necessarie for the health of mens bodies, then to reueale any such matter as might encrease their couetousnesse. Besides, if either themselues or any other had bene skilfull in this transmutation, I thinke they concealed it as well for their owne safeties and quietnesse, as also to the ende to eschue so many inconueniences as such plentie of gould might haue engendred by falling into cruell and ambitious hands.
I would therefore entreate those that are so hot in the pursuite * of these crooked waies, to consider how many ritch men haue with∣in these hundred yeeres beggered themselues in these miserable ex∣periments. May not so many shipwarackes reclaime them: but they must néedes runne headlong after their owne phantasies: yea, they are so fleshed in this businesse, ye it wil be fower tymes more worke to withdraw them therfro, then to fetch a Massing hedge priest out of a Tauerne: so as wee may say that in this arte there lyeth a cer∣taine hidden power which charmeth those that doe exercise it. And it is likely that such as so vehemently doe hunt after these extraor∣dinarie meanes, are thereto prouoked rather by their owne disor∣dered affections, then by any well guided motions of the minde. As also we see that for punishment to their errors all their labours vanish in smoake. Neither is that all: for some finding themselues in this extremitie doe coyne counterfaite money: others trot vp and downe to deceiue those that are readie to beléeue their goodly mo∣tious, which they make in seeking to catch them in the same s•are wherein themselues haue bene taken. It seemeth to be a punish∣ment of God layd vpon those who contemning so many honest ex∣ercises and lawfull vocations, doe thrust themselues into such labe∣rinths as they can neuer escape without their owne losse. Some man may say that euery one that giueth himselfe to this science doth not cast away himselfe, no nor take any harme thereby: for we see Lords and Princes that haue not sould one Crownes worth of land for it, but are desirous only to learne, as it were in sport, whe∣ther Page 304 the thing that they imagine may be compassed. I graunt they be wise in respect of the rest, but the number of them is small: wher∣as of those that wast themselues in these desires there bee many. Truely he that could learne the goodly discourses that they make to themselues what they would doe when they had atchieued their purpose, should see mounts and meruailes. One would be a King, and an other a Duke: One would make warres whereby to exalt himselfe, an other would build Townes and Castles, and the most part would liue in pleasures and superfluitie. To be briefe, such as are the affections, such would the effects be. But I can neuer think that any secret can be reuealed to those that beare so bad mindes.
Howbeit, if men would vse this arte only to attaine to ye know∣ledge * of diuers vertues and properties of nature, it were commen∣dable in those that would so employ themselues: but there are but fewe that keepe themselues within those boundes, and yet doe they only reape the true fruite thereof that vse it to finde out remedies for sundrie inconueniences & diseases, whereof (as is aforesayd) by fire men haue found most singuler. Ladies & Gentlewomen may, when they are at home, occupie themselues in distillations of wa∣ters and essences drawne out of all sortes of hearbs, rootes and flo∣wers, as well for their owne domesticall vses, as to impart to their poore neighbours & subiects that may stand in neede therof. Were it not also an honest exercise for Lords and gentlemen, who lose so much time, sometimes to recreate themselues in such extractions, not of hearbes only, but also of minerals and other substances, out of the which they may draw such oyle and vertue, that two or three drops thereof may profite more then a whole heape of Apoticarie drugges? How many other braue secrets may be found out by the vse of fire, whereof euen the greatest Princes should not disdaine to be skilfull? Diuers printed bookes doe shewe of things yéelding both admiration, delight and profite. He then that list thus to vse this arte shall bee free from repentance thereof, whereto all those are subiect which seeke to make it by strange deuises to bring forth gould, which is as much as if a man for his owne appetite should seeke to fetch Manna from heauen.
But admit a man should haue conuerted al the stones about his * house into gould, what hath he then done? Truely he may perad∣uenture haue built himselfe a sumptuous sepulchre wherein to bu∣rie his vertues, or a proude theatre wherevpon to display his vices, as it often happeneth those to doe that are stored with great welth. Page 305 Be those the documents which the Philosophers ment to leaue to the posterity? It is not likely: considering that they thinking mans soule to haue had her originall in heauen, would neuer minister vn∣to her any obiect wherein to contemplate and depende vpon that were vnworthie her selfe: neither doth it appeare in their writings that among the resolute and perfect good they euer harboured this earthly felicitie after the which many doe so hunt, euen vnto death. If wee list to credite the saying of Aristotle in his treatise of felici∣tie, we shall finde that he first placeth it in the treasures of the mind than in those of the bodie: and lastly in those of fortune, vnder the which he comprehendeth ritches. Socrates and Plato do also stirre vp men to vertue and spirituall things, & withdraw them from the earth: which should moue these poore deceiued persons to folow the steps of those whō they accompt their great fathers, who through the obseruing of ye precepts of good doctrine, haue not gone astray.
Some there are so obstinate in their opinions, that all that may * be said is not able to dissuade thē from the possibilitie of conuerfion of mettals. Truely to pleasure them I will beléeue thē, but in such sorte as once a scholler in that arte at Paris tould me: that the great Alcumists labored by fornaces vnder ground. This poore appren∣tice herein was of my acquaintance, & had in three yeres space blo∣wen away a goodly house of his owne with some 1000. or 1200. frankes rent, & kept no more but the skinne and bones, yea the fire had drawne away not only ye quintessence, but in a maner ye whole essence of all the apparell that he ware. Which when I had consi∣dered: Well my yong maister, said I you are now in good case to learne to flye, for you haue nothing to loade you or hinder your lightnesse. Oh sir, said he, you should rather take pitie of those that vnawares haue made shipwracke. Truely so I doe, said I, sith I see you so peni∣tent, neither shall the helpe of my purse bee denyed you to furnish you a newe in some lawfull vocation, but now shewe me vnfaynedly what light or certaintie is there in your precepts? Our pamphlets, saide he, are full of ridles and obscuritie, and our long labours and continuall expences, doe in the ende bring foorth but vntimely birthes and phan∣tasies. Haue you not, replyed I, any example either olde or newe of a∣ny that hath found out the secrete. I know, said he, but one that euer attained therto. I pray you, said I, tell me who that was? It is, said he, he: Who? said I, for I cānot know him vnlesse you otherwise name him vnto me. It is he, said he. Why, said I, do you then mock me? Well, said be, Then I must needes tell you. It is the holy father, who hath taught Page 306 all our blowers that they are but doul•es, which in many yeeres doe multiplye all their somewhat into nothing. Where himselfe yeerely in France only transformeth and multiplieth fortie pound of lead, which may be worth two crownes, into 40000 pounds of golde which may be worth 600000. crownes, and then maketh attraction thereof euen to Roome. Truely, sayd I, I will giue you tenne crownes the more for breaking your minde so plainly vnto mee: but I would wish you not to vse much such speech in this towne, least our maisters of Sorbonne im∣mediatly deuounce you an hereticke of seuentene Carects and a halfe: Wherevpon wee parted, and glad he was that he had found some meanes to fatten himself againe, for he was as leane as a red Her∣ring. And for my parte I began to consider of the hidden propertie of this authenticall Caballe, and hauing throughly pondered ther∣of, I fonnd that my iolly blower had better successe in that which he had told me, then in all yt he had done. But because the time was thē too hot to rehearse this tale, I hid it in a corner of my memorie.
Hauing thus discoursed vpon the falsehood that resteth in this *Vulcanist arte, whensoeuer it list to stretch to the forging of gold, I will speake one word of certaine Alcumistes or rather Philoso∣phers, who being consumed in Philosophie, doe in their opera∣tions adioyne the power of nature with the necessarie ayde of the arte. I will tell you what one of them once sayd vnto me concer∣ning the matter wherevpon he had laboured, which now I haue called to minde. He tould me that the whole studie and labour of man in the search hereof was vayne, vnlesse God would reueale vnto him things vnknowne. Also that for the attayning to perfection in this arte, it was requisite first to be an honest man: secondly, to pray often to God to graunt him light in this darknesse: thirdly, to gather know∣ledge of the arte out of good bookes: and finally hauing found out the secrete, to keepe it secrete, and not to abuse this treasure, but to employ it in the reliefe of the needie, or in very good workes. Whereto I re∣plyed, that I found it somewhat strange that he would seeme to worke vyolence to nature, and submit Gods order to mans will, which was vnlikely to obeye, because euery man would giue ouer the artes and sciences, to the ende idely to enritch himselfe in things superfluous and of best necessitie to mans life. He aunswered, that in this operatiue science, wee could not perceiue nature to bee any whit forced, but wor∣king with all facilitie, order and power: which so much the more de∣clared the wonderfull power and wisedome of God: likewise that he knew very well that in as much as this knowledge could not dwell but Page 307 in a contemplatiue soule not polluted with earthly affections, fewe men were perticipants therein. Of whom the most contenting themselues that they had hit the marke, were very scrupulous in the publishing of that which rather by heauenly meditatiō then practise they had com∣prehended, either to vse the fruites thereby atchieued, but in most ne∣cessarie occasions. He, sayd he, that is desirous to learne the arte must marke what the Scripture saith. First seeke the kingdome af God, and all things shall bee giuen you. Also this saying of the Psalmist. The*Lord declareth his secretes to those that feare him. To this I aun∣swered, that these places were ment of spirituall matters, and not of mettalles. True, sayd he, such is their proper interpretation: howbeit we may sometimes see the effects in things materiall, when the former blessing goeth before: as appeared in Salomon, who vpon his prayer had the graunt both of wisedome and aboundance of wealth. You beleeue then, sayd I, that it is possible to transforme mettalles, also that some men haue attained thereto. They be both true, aunswered he, for my selfe haue seene most euident proofes thereof, and as I thinke, there bee some yet liuing which be skilfull in the arte, and to the ende to gather some taste thereof, I pray you reade good bookes, for in them you shall see not only beames, but euen very lights which will shewe you not only the errors of this blowing, but also the true likelihoodes of the metalli∣call Philosophie. Herevpon I was blanke: for hauing finall expe∣rience in this doctrine, I was loth to aunswer impertinently, and being halfe dazeled with so many goodly words, I thought it best to stay vntill by effect I might see the truth of this affirmation, be∣fore I would alowe or disalowe thereof, which I yet waite for. Neither am I so franticke as to thinke that God cannot as soone extend his liberalitie to a good mā (albeit by extraordinary meanes) to vse it lawfully, as he could giue to effeminate Sardanapalus 40. millions of gould, also to the monster Caligula 67. by ordina∣rie meanes, which they wasted in all abominations.
Thus much haue I thought good to speake of the materiall *Philosophers stone: now will I proceede to that which I take to be the true: for the knowledge whereof we can haue recourse to no better writer then Salomon, whom, in my opinion, wee ought to beléeue, as him that was endued with perfect wisedome, whose conceipts and speeches were in many things guided by the spirite of truth, and therfore the rather cleaue to his deuine sentences. As also I thinke that all Alcumistes doe giue the most credite to his testimonies, as of one who is often in their view, in respect that he Page 308 sawe and had a taste of those miseries which they so much reue∣rence. In some of his bookes he hath taught, that although man through his disobedience hath here belowe enthralled himselfe to many miseries, yet God who is goodnesse it selfe, would not leaue him so wrapped in mischiefe, but that withall he hath prepared and offered to him innumerable benefites, to the end that crauing them at his hands he might seeke them, and by seeking euioy them, and so to reape such contentation as may bee had in this life, and to yeeld him praise for the same. He deuideth them into two kindes. In his booke of the Preacher he speaketh of such as are earthly and * corruptible, affirming that notwithstanding their beautie, yet they that trust in them do finde more vanitie then pleasure. I haue, saith he, built me houses, and planted vineyards: I haue made me gardens: I haue had men seruants and maid seruants, a great familie and ma∣ny flockes: I haue gathered gould and siluer, with the treasures of Kings and Prouinces: I haue appoynted singers, and taken pleasure in the sonnes of men: and in wealth I haue excelled all that haue bene before me in Ierusalem. Neither haue 〈◊〉 forbiddē my hart to reioyce in the things that I had prouided: but when I turned to behould all the works of my hands, & the labors wherein I had swet, I found nothing but vanitie and anguish of mind, also that nothing vnder the sunne is permanent. This may be a good instructiō to al those that sixe their felicitie in things fraile & transitorie, to admonish thē moderatly to vse thē, & to cast ye anckors of their cōtentation vpō solide substāces, which the chaunge of fortune, as wée tearme it, cannot carie away.
Such are the second sorte, mentioned in the booke of Prouerbs, * and deserue to be called, goods, for they are spirituall, vncorrupti∣ble, stedfast, and doe yeelde perfect ioye. They therefore that list to followe the precepts of this great King shall not goe astray, as the followers of the rules of our common Alcumistes, so as the schollers that are willing to learne, be endued with humilitie & do∣cilitie, which are ye first preparatiues to yt entry into this studie. For * he that with worldly presumptiō, puffed vp with vaine knowledge seeketh to submit this so worthie & pure a matter to his sences, so farre is he from reaping any fruite thereby, that he cannot so much as perceiue the beautie thereof. These be his words: Happie is the man that findeth wisedome: It is more precious then riches: & nothing*that we can desire may be compared therto. This is the declaration of this secret, which many neuer seeke for, and others doe seeke in∣directly & by crooked paths. He yt can know it & apply it to himself, Page 309 may be assured he hath found the true Philosophers stone, that is to say, plentie of all goods, which do as greatly enrich & delight the soule as the bodie. I doubt if some of these blowers (mad to see his * experiēces vanished in smoak) should chance to read this, he would exclaime & say: Oh, how are we fallen from a feuer into a hot burning ague? sith they here propound vnto vs as great a paradoxe as they ac∣count our owne to be! What reason is there, sith we be of earth, enha∣bite the earth, & liue of earthly things, that they should feede vs with spirituall & inuisible substance? Let vs first banish this terrible mon∣ster pouertie, which continually tormenteth vs, and then we will see to the rest. To this man will I make no other aunswer, but wish him to repaire his broken fornaces, banish his wrath, & again sease vpō his right wittes, which peraduenture he had forgotten in some of his Limbeckes, then will I teach him that the deuine testimonies which I vse in this proofe are as true as his transubstantiall ima∣ginations are false. Let vs therefore heare Salomon, the image of perfect wisedome speake, who discourseth thus. The Lord hath pos∣sessed*me from the beginning: before he made any thing I was ordey∣ned from euerlasting: before the earth, the seas, the hils and the riuers were I was conceiued and brought foorth. When he prepared the hea∣uens I was present: when he inuironed the sea with her ban•kes and laide the foundations of the earth I was with him, making all things: and I delight to bee with the children of men. Who seeth not here that wisedome tooke her originall in heauen, yea euen in the highest heauen, which is aboue all yt we do see? Notwithstanding, to speak properly, she is without beginning: for sith that by her we are to vnderstand the same of God, who is the eternal wisedome of the fa∣ther, we cannot imagine in him either beginning or ending. It is the word, whereby all things were made, & which illuminateth all men. The most learnest contemplatiue Philosophers, as the Aca∣demickes, which haue bene illuminated with some small beames therof, did knowe (and yet knew not truely) & in their writings te∣stifie, that this wisedome whereby the whole world was created and formed and in so good order gouerned, haue of al eternitie bene residēt in the deuine essence. To be brief, yt it is God, who through his deuine wisedome hath declared himselfe vnto men after sundry sortes: but wonderfully in the worke of restauration, when he con∣uerted the mortal imperfectiōs which man had purchased into those perfections that he hath liberally imparted & giuen vnto them. And albeit they had lost ye iust possession of the land, yet hath he granted Page 310 them the inheritance of heauen, wherevpon Salomon sayth. That wisedome is a tree of life to all that will take hould thereof, and happie*shall he be that can keepe it. Truely the excellencie therof doth shine in that it aboundantly excelleth in all things.
But because most men are so little moued toward that which is * spiritual, in that that being wrapped in earthly things, their sences hould them downe to those that be corporall, let vs now as it were visibly shewe it them by the fruites and effects thereof, to the ende they may the better comprehend it. Salomon who hath written a booke in commendation thereof shall performe this duetie. I loued (sayth he) wisedome, and sought her from my youth: she taught mee*the discipline of God and choseth his workes: I preferred her before Kingdomes and Thrones: and in comparison of her accompted riches to bee nothing, neither haue I compared the precious stone vnto her: for all gould is in respect of her but grauell, and siluer shall be esteemed as durt. I haue loued her aboue health and beautie, and haue purposed to take her for my light: for her brightnesse cannot be extinguished: and all my goodes are come together with her, and wonderfull honestie through her hands. She teacheth sobrietie, discretion, iustice and forti∣tude, which are things most profitable to the life of man. If any man couet after plentie of knowledge, she knoweth things past, and iudgeth of such as are to come: she is skilfull in the depth of speeches and solu∣tions of arguments, in the chaunge of maners, deuision of times, the course of the yeere and order of the starres, in the natures of beastes, the strength of the windes and the imaginations of men: in the diffe∣rence of plants and vertues of rootes: and of her I haue learned all se∣crete things, and those that were neuer seene before: for wisedome the workmistris of all things hath taught me: for her sake I shall be won∣derfull in the presence of the mightie, and the countenances of Princes shall meruaile at me. When I come home I shall rest with her, for in her conuersation is no bitternesse, neither is she accompanied with en∣uie, but with ioye and mirth. Moreouer, by her I shall obtaine im∣mortalitie, and leaue an euerlasting remembrance to those that shall come after me. If I could into seuen or eight verses haue abridged all that is here described, I would haue done it, but, in my minde, wee should neuer bée wearie of reading so high and true misteries, which neuerthelesse are but a small parcell of all that Salomon setteth downe. The Alcumistes doe say that one ounce of their po∣wer of proiection is able to conuert a thousand ounces of other mettall into gould: what then shall wee thinke that one graine of Page 311 this heauenly pouder shall doe? Betweene gould and mettall there is some affinitie and correspondence: but betweene vice and vertue, ignorance and knowledge resteth a manifest contrarietie: and yet is that the place wherein wisedome doth worke, for it transformeth the wicked powers thereof into good, and as is aforesayd, teacheth those principall vertues which Cicero in his offices so highly ex∣tolleth: But what man is so grosse and sencelesse, as to compare euen the greatest masse of gould with the least portion of tempe∣rance or iustice? Plato the Philosopher saith, that if with our bodily eyes we could perceiue the beautie of vertue, we would be rauished with perfect loue thereunto: But the vaile of pleasure and igno∣rance so blindeth vs that we cannot see it. And I like well ye iudge∣ment of Solon, who preferred the felicitie of a poore citizen named Telus, that was endued with wisedome and vertue, before the good hap of K. Craesus, who flowed in power and wealth. Here must we stay, as hauing no neede to dilate vpon the sayings of Salomon, considering how amplie he expresseth the benefites proceeding of wisedome: & sith she bringeth the knowledge of heauenly matters, humaine actions, & naturall effects, & withall giueth honor, riches, vertue, praise, health, mirth and fame, what can a man say more?
Now, God imparteth not these benefies onely to the mightie: * for euen the meanest doe participate therein, some more and some lesse, according as it pleaseth him to endue them with this soue∣raigne cause: as being assured that the knowledge of Mechanicall artes, industrie of Merchants, and experience of labourers, are no other but the small effects thereof, which doe also appeare in the or∣der of the gouernment of smaller families, and temperance of the maners of the poorest. But who can make a better shewe of the brightnesse of this light then the very discourses of the Alcumists? For sometimes they wade into the depth of the earth, then doe they consider the operations of nature, & sometimes for the extol∣ling of their arte they climbe euen to the spirituall substances: And what hath opened their eyes to knowe such difficult matters but that wisedome which after an excellent maner doth shine in their vnderstandings? In the meane time, in liewe of suffering them selues to bee guided thereby they vse it as a slaue, in seeking conti∣nually to enthrall it to earthly businesse, as in ould time condem∣ned persons were thrust into the Mynes. Thus doe they re∣compence it badly, and seeme to haue small knowledge of the vertue thereof, which tendeth rather to ascende then descende. Page 312 Those men also are in an error that accompt him vnhappie that hath any want of the goodes which wee tearme of Fortune. And yet the poore man yt with patience beareth his pouertie, is without comparison farre more happie then the ritch man that burneth in couetousnesse. To bee briefe, there is no estate that can make him miserable that hath any portion of this wisedome, which may bee tearmed a very feare of God, or true passion of vertue. To him therefore must we haue recourse, who distributeth so much thereof as is expedient to those that by prayer, humilitie and perseuerance doe cra•e some such beame, as may suffice to augment their con∣tentation. Surely I take this to bee a farre more pretious felicitie, then the knowledge how to multiply whatsoeuer quantitie of gold or siluer: which the couetous and encroaching persons, can by wic∣ked artes doe as well. It is therefore better to stay vpon the search and pursuite of the true Philosophicall stone of wisedome, which enstructeth, comforteth, enricheth, contenteth and saueth those that haue found it, then to hunt after the vayne hope of our blowers in the search of things whereof they growe sad, poore, and into decay, and yet can neuer méete withall.