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What are your favorite books on practical Alchemy?


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#1 Michael Sternbach

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 09:43 AM

Hi Tao Bums,

 

This thread was inspired by the current discussion started by FraterUFA on "Alchemy - The Lost Art?" Obviously, laboratory Alchemy - appealing as it is many - is presenting anybody interested in it certain characteristic problems, a really prominent one (since times immemorial) being the question: Where do I start? :wacko:

 

Surely, there is no lack of literature, theories, suggestions... Those who really seem to be in the know are notoriously secretive and use a symbolical language which is open to interpretations on end. Moreover, the way those symbols are being employed by one Alchemist can be quite different from how another is using them... Not making things easy for those who wish to set out on the path of the Great Work in a nitty gritty manner.

 

Therefore, those of you who have surveyed this topic to any degree: What are your favourite books or other sources? Please, let's keep the focus on practical here. If possible, share what you like about a certain book, in what way you find it particularly revealing or helpful.

 

Of course, for starters, I will throw one my own favourites into the pot called:

 

Mutus Liber

 

As this book's title implies, it avoids making those often confusing words but conveys its message in a series of beautiful cartoon-like drawings inviting a more direct contemplative approach. (Yes, I am the visual type of personality.) Some of the very few words it contains are (somewhat ironically) inviting the beholder to read it again and again. :D Needless to say, it is open to interpretation, too, and there are a number of commentaries available in various languages, the most practically oriented ones probably being by Fulcanelli's disciple Eugène Canseliet and especially by well-known Alchemy supporter Adam McLean. I know some others as well, but they again seem to take things more into the realm of purely psychological or metaphysical symbolism - nothing wrong with that, but not what we want to focus on in this thread.

 

I look forward to hearing from you Alchemists out there!

 

Best,

Michael



#2 BaguaKicksAss

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    老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
    - from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

Posted 20 August 2014 - 10:37 AM

Here: http://www.levity.com/alchemy/  :)


  • Michael Sternbach said thanks for this
"Lao Zi said: Great people are peaceful and have no longings; they are calm and have no worries. They make the sky their canopy and the earth their car; they make the four seasons their horses and make dark & light their drives. They travel where there is no road, roam where there is no weariness, depart through no gate".
老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
- from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

#3 BaguaKicksAss

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  • Interests:"Lao Zi said: Great people are peaceful and have no longings; they are calm and have no worries. They make the sky their canopy and the earth their car; they make the four seasons their horses and make dark & light their drives. They travel where there is no road, roam where there is no weariness, depart through no gate".
    老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
    - from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

Posted 20 August 2014 - 10:40 AM

Though, just like the other topics I post in, I highly highly recommend finding an in person teacher.  Though the alchemy course on his site will do in the meantime.  One awesome thing about finding a teacher is that usually said teacher can guide you through doing many of the processes without spending thousands on lap equipment ;)


  • Michael Sternbach said thanks for this
"Lao Zi said: Great people are peaceful and have no longings; they are calm and have no worries. They make the sky their canopy and the earth their car; they make the four seasons their horses and make dark & light their drives. They travel where there is no road, roam where there is no weariness, depart through no gate".
老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
- from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

#4 FraterUFA

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 11:45 AM

I thought it might be helpful to paste this section from the first PRS bulletin.

 

HOW TO GET STARTED IN ALCHEMY

 

This IS INTENDED FOR those who have read or studied about alchemy and are now preparing themselves to commence their work in the laboratory. As this will prove to be a most interesting and enlightening task, it should not be undertaken carelessly. First of all, the place selected for the work about to begin, is of importance. The space required is not large. A corner in the basement or in an attic, perhaps even a garage, will do, as long as there is a constant source of heat available. Cold water should also be close by for the cooling of the condenser tube. A few bottles and flasks and a mortar and pestle are desirable, if not necessary, to have the ingredients handy and protected, also for the grinding of the dried herbs and other substances to be worked with.

 

A table and chair just about complete the furnishings. The table or workbench should be so located that the heat and water source are very close by and handy, as the gas flame or electric heat, whichever is available. is constantly needed. For the gas flame, a Bunsen burner, or better still, a Fisher burner are recommended. As for the flasks, the flat-bottom type, called Erlenmeyer flasks, are best for us. For stoppers, both types, cork and rubber, are needed. A small mixed assortment will last a long time. A support to bring the flask over the flame, to hold it in a rigid position when used for distillation, also is required. It can either be bought or be homemade, as long as it meets the requirements.

 

Since the most important implements will, no doubt, be known by now to the beginner, we shall begin by getting the substance prepared, that is to be alchemically to be worked with. Let us choose a herb that is easily available. Say, Melissa (Melissa officinalis-lemonbalm). Since it is an important herb and any herbal supply house can furnish it, we shall use it g, an example in our first experiment.

 

The dried herb usually works best. The first step, is to ascertain that it is the correct herb. This may seem superfluous. but it is not. There is, for example, a difference between wild and garden sage in our work. The flowers of the wild sage again produce a different medication. Therefore always make sure the herbal substance involved is the desired one.

Next in procedure is the grinding of the herb. This may be accomplished by rubbing between the hands or by grinding it with the pestle in the mortar. The more minute the particles the easier the extraction. Having accomplished this, the next step is to place it in a flask, bottle or container, preferably glass, that can be well closed, over which is poured the menstrum to extract it with. The easiest way is to pour some strong alcohol (NEVER use denatured alcohol or Methanol), preferably brandy, over the herb in the flask or bottle, then close it tightly and put it on top, or near the furnace in the winter, or provide it with a gentle warmth not to exceed the temperature required for the hatching of chicken eggs. Allow at least one-half to one-third of the container to be empty above the herb immersed in the menstrum, so it has room for expansion and to relieve some of the pressure that may build up within the container.

 

After several days the menstrum will be colored green. The shade of the color will depend on the type of Melissa used and the strength and pureness of the alcohol. When sufficiently macerated, (this process is called maceration) the liquid is to be poured off into a clean glass container and the remaining herbal substance should be placed in an earthenware dish, and then be burnt to ashes. This is accomplished by taking it outdoors and by igniting it. The alcohol, which has saturated it, will catch fire and will burn the leftover of the herb, now called feces, to black ashes. As this will cause smoke and smell, similar to the burning of weeds in the fall, care should be taken not to do this in a room.

 

After the burning of the feces, as we shall call them from now on, they can be incinerated over the open flame in earthenware, or any fire resistant dish, until they become a light gray. An occasional grinding in the mortar, with the pestle, and then reburning, which we shall now call "calcining," will let the lightening of the feces become noticeable. When this state has been arrived at they should be removed from the fire and, while still warm, be placed into a flask, which has been preheated, so as not to break it from the sudden temperature change, over which is the poured-off essence to be added. The flask must again be tightly stoppered so that no alcohol fumes can escape and again be subjected to moderate heat for digestion

 

After several weeks, depending on the constantly retained degree of heat and the careful preparation before, the liquid must again be poured off. During this interval of digestion it is assumed that the feces have absorbed enough of the essence necessary for the formation of the required strength. With the feces left in the flask, it will need again to be stoppered and for another few weeks brought in contact with the moderate warmth, so essential for its concoction. After a few more weeks, the medication is then ready for use. It is absolutely harmless but of high potency and should be taken in minute amounts. A few grains in a glass of distilled water will produce exhilarating results. This is the most primitive and simplest form for the preparation of an herbal substance, according to the precepts of Alchemy.

 

As logically quite some time will have elapsed during the maceration period, the time interval has to be put to beneficial use. In the meantime we shall attempt to procure a pure menstrum from alcohol, or spirits of wine. Since there are various kinds of alcohol, we are chiefly concerned with but one, at the outset of our work. This is the spirit of wine. As wine generally contains less than 20% of alcohol by natural fermentation, this alcohol (spirits of wine) has to be extracted. Remember, apple wine, loganberry wine, etc., are not grape wines. Therefore, we stay with wine fermented from the grape. The tyro in our work has to go step by step to master eventually the essential fundamentals. At present we are concerned about learning all these steps ourselves gradually, as this is so important, especially later, in our more progressed work. We, therefore, take some pure unadultered wine, or grape brandy, and pour a sufficient amount into a flask for distillation. The amount depends on the flask at hand. It should never be filled more than half full. Then, in a rubber or cork stopper, two holes are to be inserted to fit tightly a thermometer and a bent glass tube. The thermometer shall not touch the wine and the bent glass tube reaches barely below the stopper. Now we need a condenser. This may be purchased from any chemical supply house. The bent glass tube from the flask is inserted into the stopper that closes the condenser opening.

 

We have formed now what is called a distillation train. The water to cool the condenser will have to be connected with a rubber tube from the tap, which needs an adapter for this purpose, to the condenser jacket, where it will flow out at the top opening back into the floor or sink drain. This will cool the vapor, or steam, that rises from the heated flask and drips out of the bottom end of the condenser into a receptacle. When all this is set up, the heat under the flask will have to be started and before long, the wine will begin to boil and the vapor begins to rise, goes up through the bent glass tube and will enter the condenser, where the cooling water around the inner tube will let it emerge at the end as a distillate, dripping into the receiver. The heat should be so regulated that the first distillation will not exceed 80 degrees centigrade. The thermometer will show what it takes on heat to maintain this temperature.

 

When about 15 or so drops have distilled over and the temperature has been regulated and the thermometer shows the same degree of heat, the receiver may be attached to the condenser end, to avoid evaporation of the alcohol and any possible ignition of the fumes. This, however, should be done only after the pressure in the distillation train has become equalized, and this will be after some of the liquid has come over. When the temperature begins to rise to above 85 degree celsius and all of the alcohol has come over but with it still some traces of water, the train may then be disconnected, after the flame has been extinguished and the vessels have cooled off enough to be safely handled.

 

The residue of the wine can now be discarded as it is of no further use to us at present. The distillate we save. Depending on the amount of wine used for the distillation we either have to distill some more or, if the alcohol in the receiver exceeds 100 milliliter, we can then begin with the rectification of the spirits of wine. As our distilled spirits of wine is not pure as yet it has to undergo several more distillations to become absolute alcohol. This is accomplished by redistillation, exactly as the first time, only the newly distilled wine is poured back every time into the distillation flask. There will always remain a small amount of cloudy residue after each distillation, which we discard, as it contains still some water. During these subsequent distillations the temperature has to be about 78 degrees ·centrigrade. Only during the last, approximately seven times are sufficient, should the temperature be 76 degrees. The final menstrum is more potent when we macerate a herb in it. As it contains no more traces of water it reaches the spiritual essence of the herb in shorter time and moi-e effectively.

 

There is another way to purif3r the spirits of wine with potassium carbonate anhydrous. This process we do not use in the beginning. Since with the purified spirits of wine we obtain better results in our work we shall always use it for the extraction in the herbal work.

 

(In the following installments we shall consider the extraction of herbs by distillation with yet another menstrum and continue until we end with the mineral and metallic essences.)

 

Start with the herbal extraction first, in order to familiarize yourself with the procedure. Too much time is being consumed when metallic extractions at first are undertaken. The process requires great knowledge and perseverance that can only be obtained after a greater length of time. You can rejoice exceedingly by preparing the alchemical herbal medications to bring your body in the desired condition to make it possible to be physically more enduring in your tedious work ahead. It is almost unbelievable what potent remedies can be prepared out of the Vegetable Kingdom, to restore the soundness of the human body. Not to mention what' the mineral (metallic) extractions make possible.

 

The "Vinegar" of Antimony is extracted out of living Antimony. Plain distilled water will extract it, which is a sour as the name indicates and the taste proofs. Do not use any acetous substances for its extraction, or you will not be able to tell which is the vinegar of Antimony and your menstrum, when it comes over. A Shoxlet Extractor worked very well. An Alundum, medium-sized Thimble was used.

 

Paracelsus has proven himself correct in all the experiments, so far accomplished. Once you have the key, his instructions are very precise. Allowing for the more and better adapted modern equipment, some results can even be obtained in shorter time intervals, as we can now in the laboratory thermostatically control, what formerly was tedious manual operation.


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#5 rex

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 08:57 AM

Not a book but a video series:

 

https://vimeo.com/ondemand/spagyricus

 

His books are good too : )


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#6 BaguaKicksAss

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    老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
    - from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

Posted 04 November 2014 - 09:05 AM

I would love to take some of his in person lab alchemy classes! :)


"Lao Zi said: Great people are peaceful and have no longings; they are calm and have no worries. They make the sky their canopy and the earth their car; they make the four seasons their horses and make dark & light their drives. They travel where there is no road, roam where there is no weariness, depart through no gate".
老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
- from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

#7 rex

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 11:39 AM

I would love to take some of his in person lab alchemy classes! :)

Me too!
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#8 Asmo

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 01:30 PM

Hi!

 

Jean Dubuis. Nothing more comprehensive out there.

His Lessons are free if you can speak french, english version is distributed by Triad Publishing but

they have been on the net for many years.

 

Jean Dubuis 2 Volumes (48 Lessons) on Spagyrics - English/French

 

John Reid - Pflanzen-Alchemie - German http://www.numinosa....en-Alchemie.pdf

or in english on levity.com

 

Aurea Catena Homeri - 1723 German the english translation of Sigismund Bacstrom isn't good/complete, but ok to read trough.

 

now you should have a good understanding of what you're doing :D

 

Jean Dubuis 4 Volumes (84 Lessons) on Mineral Alchemy - English/French

 

Congratulations you did it ! :D

 

If you want the informationoverkill R.A.M.S. http://www.ramsdigital.com/

They will sell you 292 Scans of Alchemical Books on USB Drive for 54AU$

Good and worth the money but absolutely not necessary.

 

Best whishes

Chris


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#9 BaguaKicksAss

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    老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
    - from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

Posted 04 November 2014 - 02:34 PM

Hi!

 

Jean Dubuis. Nothing more comprehensive out there.

His Lessons are free if you can speak french, english version is distributed by Triad Publishing but

they have been on the net for many years.

 

Jean Dubuis 2 Volumes (48 Lessons) on Spagyrics - English/French

 

John Reid - Pflanzen-Alchemie - German http://www.numinosa....en-Alchemie.pdf

or in english on levity.com

 

Aurea Catena Homeri - 1723 German the english translation of Sigismund Bacstrom isn't good/complete, but ok to read trough.

 

now you should have a good understanding of what you're doing :D

 

Jean Dubuis 4 Volumes (84 Lessons) on Mineral Alchemy - English/French

 

Congratulations you did it ! :D

 

If you want the informationoverkill R.A.M.S. http://www.ramsdigital.com/

They will sell you 292 Scans of Alchemical Books on USB Drive for 54AU$

Good and worth the money but absolutely not necessary.

 

Best whishes

Chris

 

Wow! :D :wub:

 

See you all in a few months... ;)


  • rex said thanks for this
"Lao Zi said: Great people are peaceful and have no longings; they are calm and have no worries. They make the sky their canopy and the earth their car; they make the four seasons their horses and make dark & light their drives. They travel where there is no road, roam where there is no weariness, depart through no gate".
老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
- from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

#10 FraterUFA

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 06:15 PM

> Jean Dubuis. Nothing more comprehensive out there.

 

I have mixed thoughts about this.

 

The PON lessons have a lot to offer for the beginner. But there is a lot that is misleading in there. Let's just take the whole concept of the seven planetary elixirs for instance. This is an interesting exercise (and a tedious one) but once you progress, you'll see that that this is a sledgehammer approach that probably doesn't achieve anything alchemical at all. I have seven elixirs and two of them maybe... maybe... have some minimal effect. And I might be imagining that.

 

Dubuis was a typical Frenchman... he came up with lots of logical theories and did not bother to test them. And he's incredibly disorganized. You will spend a lot of time spinning your wheels on this material. 

 

Much better to go find a teacher.

 

YMMV!

 

Fr. UFA


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#11 BaguaKicksAss

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    老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
    - from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

Posted 04 November 2014 - 06:17 PM

Always better to find a teacher :).  So many things just can't be taught via a book, and also folks tend to leave the good stuff out of books...

 

I'm still going to have a look through though, see if he goes into any details on the stones. 


"Lao Zi said: Great people are peaceful and have no longings; they are calm and have no worries. They make the sky their canopy and the earth their car; they make the four seasons their horses and make dark & light their drives. They travel where there is no road, roam where there is no weariness, depart through no gate".
老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
- from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

#12 Asmo

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Posted 04 November 2014 - 11:34 PM

> Jean Dubuis. Nothing more comprehensive out there.

 

I have mixed thoughts about this.

 

The PON lessons have a lot to offer for the beginner. But there is a lot that is misleading in there. Let's just take the whole concept of the seven planetary elixirs for instance. This is an interesting exercise (and a tedious one) but once you progress, you'll see that that this is a sledgehammer approach that probably doesn't achieve anything alchemical at all. I have seven elixirs and two of them maybe... maybe... have some minimal effect. And I might be imagining that.

 

Dubuis was a typical Frenchman... he came up with lots of logical theories and did not bother to test them. And he's incredibly disorganized. You will spend a lot of time spinning your wheels on this material. 

 

Much better to go find a teacher.

 

YMMV!

 

Fr. UFA

 

Hi!

 

You criticized the information and the man who wrote it, but you don't reveal what's wrong :)

 

What exactly do you think is misleading in his material ?

Why are the 7 planetary elixirs/tinctures a sledgehammer approach ?

 

Which of his theories did he not test? Can't really see the disorganization, care to explain further ?

 

I'm sorry to hear that your elixirs don't do much, but you don't want to blame that fact on anybody but yourself do you ? ;)

 

Chris



#13 BaguaKicksAss

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    老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
    - from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

Posted 06 November 2014 - 12:10 AM

Since this thread has the attention of a few folks who practice physical alchemy, thought I would ask a question or two ;).

 

Would making plant or oak salts, using my metalsmithing metal melting furnace (not yet used) or my kiln, still work?  Or is it necessary to do a long slow incineration?  Using the stove indoors smokes up and smells up the entire house, so looking for some alternatives.  Also something which doesn't take all day would rock too.  A bonfire in the backyard also isn't feasible at this time unfortunately (though perhaps one out in the woods). 

 

It looks like John Reids talks about using a kiln to heat up the rose quartz to make an oil of that. I of course also wonder if other non-toxic rocks make some interesting oils.  Don't know how to use a soxhlet extractor though... youtube...


Edited by BaguaKicksAss, 06 November 2014 - 12:54 AM.

"Lao Zi said: Great people are peaceful and have no longings; they are calm and have no worries. They make the sky their canopy and the earth their car; they make the four seasons their horses and make dark & light their drives. They travel where there is no road, roam where there is no weariness, depart through no gate".
老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
- from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

#14 BaguaKicksAss

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  • Interests:"Lao Zi said: Great people are peaceful and have no longings; they are calm and have no worries. They make the sky their canopy and the earth their car; they make the four seasons their horses and make dark & light their drives. They travel where there is no road, roam where there is no weariness, depart through no gate".
    老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
    - from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

Posted 06 November 2014 - 12:31 AM

http://www.alchemywe...m/johnreid.html :wub:


"Lao Zi said: Great people are peaceful and have no longings; they are calm and have no worries. They make the sky their canopy and the earth their car; they make the four seasons their horses and make dark & light their drives. They travel where there is no road, roam where there is no weariness, depart through no gate".
老子曰:大丈夫恬然無思,澹然無慮,以天為蓋,以地為車,以四時為馬,以陰陽為禦,行乎無路,遊乎無怠,出乎無門。
- from Wen Zi (Tongxuan Zhenjing) 《通玄真经》, 5th century BC

#15 Asmo

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 02:48 AM

HI!

 

If the temperature can be controlled  it should be fine, iirc you need to stay under 800°C for organic salts.

 

The initial burning should imho not be attempted inhouse or in your furnace.

Do it outside and after that you can take the ashes and work indoor.

 

Long/Short Calcination: Depends what you're trying to do and the material you start with.

Purification through separation of finely ground ashes doesn't take too long.

 

Rose quarz is not a plant therefore you need other temperatures for calcining.

 

Chris


  • BaguaKicksAss said thanks for this

#16 Michael Sternbach

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 05:06 AM

I am happy to see that my thread finally got some momentum. :)

 

I collected and read many books on Alchemy written from different perspectives, including secondary as well as primary literature. However, it is very difficult to arrive at a coherent picture, especially as far as the practical art is concerned, safe for some introductory works into 'Vegetable Alchemy'. Of course, Alchemy has always been notorious for its obscurity and lack of a terminology and symbolism common to most practitioners. Some scholarly efforts have been made by contemporary academics like Lawrence M. Principe and William R. Newman to figure out what the Alchemists of yore were actually doing in their laboratories. While some of their conclusions are illuminating, they still provide only a rather fragmented view, at best. Even how and with what material to start the Great Work is far from unambiguous.

 

However, as far as I figured out so far, there are two major methods employed by a substantial number of advanced practitioners:

 

The Wet Path

 

This starts with manufacturing a somewhat elusive Spirit of Wine and a preparation of lead acetate. The principal text is Johann Seger Weidenfeld's "The Secret of the Adepts". In modern times, it was attempted by Alexander von Bernus.

 

The Dry Path

 

This starts with manufacturing a star regulus of metallic Antimony. It is also called the Flamel way and was followed by such famous Alchemists as Eirenaeus Philalethes and Sir Isaac Newton.

 

The details of the practice of either path still elude me, however. If you have anything to share on them, I invite your comments. Alternatively, feel free to PM me.

 

Thanks.

 

Michael






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