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Ripley's Epistle to King Edward Unfolded

George Ripley

Source: Adam McLean's Alchemy Website @

This Epistle as it was imediately written to a King, who was in his generation, both wise and valiant, so it doth comprise the whole secret, both learnedly described, and yet Artificially vailed, yet as the Author testifieth, that in this Epistle he doth plainly untie the main knot. So I can and do testifie with him, that there is nothing desirable for the true attaining of the mysterie, both in Theory and Practick of it, which is not in this short Epistle fully taught. This then I intend as a key to all my former writings, and assure you on my faithful word doubtfully or mystically, as I have in all my other writings, seeming to aver some things which taken without a figure, are utterly false, which we did onely to conceal this Art: This key therefore we intend not to make common; and shall intreat you to keep it secret to your self, and not to communicate it, except it be to a sure friend, who you are confident will not make it publick. And this request we make upon very good grounds, knowing that all our writings together, are nothing to this, by reasons of the contradictions wch we have woven into them, which here is not done in the least measure. I shall therefore in this Epistle take up a new method, and that different from the former, and shall first draw up the substance of the Philosophy couched in this Epistle, into several Conclusions, and after elucidate the same.

The first Conclusion is drawn from the nineth stave of this Epistle, the eight first staves being only complemental, and that is, That as all things are multiplyed in their kind, so may be Mettals, which have in themselves a capacity of being transmuted, the imperfect to perfect.

The second Conclusion in the tenth stave is, That the main ground for the possibility of transmutation, is the possibility of reduction of all Mettals, and such Minerals as are of Mettallick principles, into their first Mercurial matter.

The third Conclusion is in the eleventh stave, That among so many Mettaline or Mineral Sulphurs and so many Sulphurs there are but two that are related to our work, which Sulphurs have their Mercuries essentially united to them.

The fourth conclusion from the same stave is, That he who understands these two Sulphurs and Mercuries aright, shall find that the one is the most pure red Sulphur of gold, which is Sulphur in manifesto and Mercurius in occulto, and that other is most pure white Mercury, which is indeed true quicksilver, in manifesto and Sulphur in occulto, these are our two principles.

The fifth Conclusion from the twelfth stave is, That is a mans principles be true, and his operations regular, his event will be certain, which event is no other than the true mystery.

These Conclusions are but few in number, but of great weight, the amplification, illustration, and ilucidation therefore of them will make a Son of Art truly glad.

For the first, Forasmuch as it is not for our purpose here to invite any to the Art, onely intending to lead and guide the Sons of Art; we shall not prove the possibility of Alchimy, by many arguments, having done it abundantly in another Treatise. He then that will be incredulous, let him be incredulous, he that will cavil, let him cavil; but he whose minde is perswaded of the truth of the Art, and of it’s dignity, let him attend to what is in the Illustration of these five Conclusions discovered, and his heart shall certainly rejoyce.

We shall therefore briefly Illustrate this first Conclusion, and insist there are more largely, where the secrets of the Art are most couched.
For this first then which concluded in effect the truth of the Art, and its reality, he that would therein be more satisfied in it, let him read the Testimony of all Philosophers, and he that will not believe the Testimonies of so many men, being most of them, men of renown in their own time, he will cavill also against all other Arguments.

We shall onely hold to Riplyes Testimony in this our key, who in the fourth stave, assures the King that at Lovain he first saw the greatest and most perfect secrets, namely the two Elixers; And in this following verse, craves his confident credit, that he hath himself truly found the way of secret Alchimy, and promiseth the discovery of it to the King, onely upon condition of secrecy.

And in the eighth stave, though he protests never to write it by pen, yet proffers the King at his pleasure, to shew him ocularly the red and white Elixer, and the working of them, which he promiseth will be done for easies costs in time. So then he that will doubt the truth of the Art, must account this famous Author, for a most simple mad Sophister, to write and offer such things to his Prince, unles he were able in effect to do what he promised, from which imputation his writings, and also the histories of him, of his fame, gravity, and worth will sufficiently cleer him.

We now come to the second Conclusion, the substance of which is, that all Mettals and bodies of Metaline principles, may be reduced to their first Mercurial matter, and this is the main and chief ground for the possibility of transmutation. On this we must insist largely & fully, for (trust me) this is the very hinge on which our secrets hang.

First, then know that all the Mettals, and serveral Minerals have Mercury for their next matter, to which (for the most part, nay indeed always) there adheres, and is concoagulated an external Sulphur, which is not Mettaline, but distinguishable from the internal kerne of the Mercury.

This Sulphur is not wanting even in common Argent vive, by the Mediation of which, it may be precipitated into the form of a dry pouder. Yea and by a liqour (the Alchahest) well known to us, (though nothing helping of this Art of transmutation) it may be so fixed, that it may endure all fires, the Test and Coppel, and this without the addition of any thing to it, the liquor (by vertue whereof it is fixed) coming away intire, both in its Pondus and vertue.

This Sulphur in gold and silver is pure, in the other Mettals it is less pure, therefore in gold and silver it is fixed, in others it is fugitve, in all the Mettals it is coagulated; in Mercury or Argent vive, it is coagulable; in gold, silver and Mercury, this Sulphur is so strongly united, that the Antients did ever judge Sulphur and Mercury to be all one, but we by the help of the liquor, (the Alcahest) the invention of which, in these parts of the World we owe to Paracelsus (though among the Moors and Arabians it hath been and is (at this day) commonly known to the acuter sort of chemists) but this I say we know that the Sulphur which is in Mercury coagulable, and in the Mettals coagulated, is external to the nature of Mercury, and may be separated in the form of a tinctured Mettalick Oyle, the remaining Mercury being then void of all Sulphur, save that which may be called its inward Sulphur, and is now incoagulable of it self (Though by our Elixer it is to be coagulated) but of itself, it can neither be fixt nor precipitated, nor sublimed, but remains unaltered in all corrosive waters, and in all digestions of heat. One way then of Mercury azating all Mettals and Minerals, is by the liquor Alcahest, which out of all such bodies as have Mercury in their constitution, can separate a running Argent vive, from which Argent vive all its sulphur is then separated, save that onely which is internal and central to the Mercury, which internal Sulphur of Mercury no corrosive can touch, Next to this way of universal Reduction, there are also some other particular wayes, by which Lead, Tin, Antimony, yea, even Copper, and Iron may be reduced into a running quicksilver, by the help of Salts, which because (being corporeal) they pierce not so radically as the forenamed liquor doth, they therefore do not spoile the Mercury of its Sulphur but that as much Sulphur as there is in common Mercury, so much also there is in this Mercury of the bodies, onely this Mercury hath specificated qualities according to the nature of the Mattal or Mineral, from which it was extracted, and from that reason (as to our work, which is to dissolve perfect species of Mettals) it hath no more vertue than common Argent vive: There is then but only one humidity, which is applicable unto our work, which certainly is neither Tin nor Copper, nor is drawn from any thing, which nature hath formed, but from a substance compounded by the Art of the Philosopher. So then, if a Mercury drawn from the bodies, have not onely the same deficiency of heat and superfluity of foeces as common Mercury hath, but also a distinct specificated form, it must (by reason of this its form) be so much the farther remote from our Mercury then common Argent vive is.

Our Art therefore is to compound two principles (one in which the salt, and another in which the Mercury of nature doth abound) which are not yet perfect, nor yet totally imperfect and (by consequence) may therefore (by our Art) be exalted which that (which is totally perfect) cannot be: and then by common Mercury to extract not the Pondus, but the celestial vertue out of the compound, which vertue (being fermental) begets in the common Mercury an off-spring more noble than it self, which is our true Hermaphrodite, which will congeal it self, and dissolve the bodies; observe but a grain of Corn in which scarce a discernable part is sprout, and this sprout, if it were out of the grain, would dye in a moment; the whole grain is sowen, yet the sprout onely produceth the herb: So is it in our body, the fermental spirit that is in it, is scarce a third part of the whole, the rest is of no value, yet all is joyned in the compositition, and the faeculent corporeous, part of the body comes away with the dreggs of the Mercury. But beyond the example given of a grain it may be observed that the hidden and spiritual vertue of this our body, doth purge and purifie its matrix of water, in which it os sowen, that is, it makes it cast forth a great quantity of filthy earth, and a great deal of Hydropical saline moisture. For instance thy washings (for a tryall) with pure clean fountain water, weigh first a pint of the same water, and take the exact weight of it, then wash thy compound eight or ten times, save all the faeces, weigh thy body and Mercury exactly, weigh thy faeces being very dry, then distill or sublime all that will sublime a very little quick Mercury will ascend; then put the Residue of the faeces in a crucible, set them on the coals, and all the faeculency of the Mercury will burn like a coal, yet without fume; when that is all consumed, weigh the remaining faeces, and thou shalt find them to be two thirds of thy body, the other being in the Mercury, weigh the Mercury which thou sublimedst, and the Mercury prepared by itself, and the weight of both will not recompence thy Mercury weight by farre. So then boile up thy water to a skin, in which thou madest thy Lotions, for that is a thick water: and in a cool place thou shalt have Christals, which is the salt of Mercury Crude, and no way fit for Medicines: yet it is a content for the Artists to see how the Heterogeneyties of Mercury are discovered, which no other Art save the liquor of Alcahest can do, and that in a destructive, and not a generative way as this is, for this operation of ours is made between male and female, within their own kind, between which there is a ferment which effecteth that which no other thing in the world could do. In all truth, I tell you, that if you should take our imperfect compound body, per se, and Mercury, per se, and them alone, though you might bring out of the one a most pure Sulphur, and out of the other a Mercury of Mercury, which is the nut of Mercury, yet with these thou couldst effect nothing, for fermental virtue is the wonder of the World, and it is by it, that water becomes Herbs, Trees, and Plants, Fruits, Flesh, Blood, Stones, Minerals, and everything, look then for it onely, and rejoyce in it as in a deservedly invaluable treasure; Now know that fermentation, works not out of kind, neither do salts ferment Mettals; Wilt thou know then whence it is that some fixt Alcalyes do extract a Mercury out of Minerals, and out of the more imperfect Metals, consider then, that in all these bodies the Sulphur is not so radically mixt and united, as it is in Silver and Gold. Now Sulphur is of Kin to divers Alcalyes, that are ordinarily dissolved or melted with it, and by this means the Mercurial parts are disjoyned, and the Argent vive is by fire separated. The Mercury thus separated, is spoyled of its Sulphur when as indeed there needs onely a depuration of the Sulphur by separating the impure from the pure; but these salts having separated the Sulpher do leave the Mercury worse, that is, more estranged from a Metallick nature, than it was before, for in its composition that Sulphur of Saturn will not burn, but though it be sublimed, calcined, made sugar, or vitrefied, yet by fire and fluxes it still returns to the same it was in before, but its Sulphur being (as is aforesaid) separated, will take fire, if joyned with Salt-peter, even as common Sulphur doth, so that the Salts act on the Sulphur of which they rob the Mercury; they act not on the Mercury for want of ferment which is not to be found, but onely among Homogeneall things. Therefore the ferment of bread leavens not a stone, nor doth the ferment of anyanimal or vigetable, ferment a mettal or mineral.

So then, though our Gold thou mightest obtaine a Mercury by the help of the Liquor, of that first ens of Salt, yet that Mercury would never accomplish our work, whereason the otherside Mercury made out of Gold by our Mercury, though there be three parts of our Mercury to one of the Gold, This Mercury I say will (by continual digestion) accomplish the whole work; marvell not then, that our Mercury is more powerfull, which is prepared by Mercury; for certainly the ferment, which commeth between the compound Body and the Water, causeth a death, and a regeneration, it doth that, which nothing in the world can do, besides it severs from Mercury a terrestreity, which burns like a Coale, and an Hydropical humor melting in common water, but the residue is acuated by a Spirit of life, which is our true embryonated Sulphur of our water, not visible, yet working visibly. We conclude, that all operations for our Mercury but by common Mercury, and our body according to our Art are erronious, and will never produce our mystery, although they be otherwise never so wonderfull. For as the Author of the Newlight saith, No water in any Island of the Phylosophers, was wholesome, but that which was drawn out of the reines of the Soll and Luna. Wilt thou know what that meanes? Mercury in its pondus and incombustibility is Gold fugitive, our Body in its purity, is called the Phylosophers Luna being farre more pure than the imperfect mettals and its Sulphur also as pure as the Sulphur of Soll, not that it is indeed Luna, for it abides not in the fire, now in the composition of these three (1) our common Mercury and the two principles of our compound there interceeds, the ferment of Luna, out of which though it be a Body, proceeds yet a specificating odor: yea and oft the pondus of it is diminished: If the compound be much washt, after it is sufficiently clean. So then the ferment of Soll and Luna interceeds in our composition, which ferment begets an offspring, more noble than it self a 1000 fold, wheas should’st thou work on our compound Body by a violent way of Salts, thou should’st have thy Mercury by farre less noble, than the Body, the Sulphur of the Body being separated and not exalted by such a process.

We now come to the third conclusion, which is that among all metaline and mineral Sulphur there are onely two, that belong to our work, which two have their Mercuries essentially united with them. This is the truth of our secrets, though we (to seduce the unwary) do seem to aver the contrary, for do not think that (because we do insinuatetwo waies, therefore) we really mean as we say, for verily (as witnesseth Ripley) There is no true principle but one. Nor have we but one matter, not but one regimen of heat, and one linear way of proceeding.

These two Sulphurs as they are principles of our work, they ought to be homogeneal, for it is onely Gold spiritual that we seek, first white, then red, which Gold is no other then that which the vulgar see, but they know not the hidden spirit that is in it. This principle wants nothing but Composition, and this composition must be made, with our other crude white Sulphur which is nothing but Mercury vulgar, by frequent cohobation of it upon our Hermaphroditical Body, so long till it be come a fiery water.

Know therefore that Mercury hath in its self a Sulphur, which being unactive, our Art is to multiply in it a living active Sulphur, which comes out of the loyns of our Hermaphroditical Body, whose father is a metal and his mother a mineral, Take then the most beloved daughter of Saturn, whose armes are a circle Argent, and on it a sable cross on a blackfield, which is the signall note of the great World, espouse her to the most warlike God, who dwells in the house of Aries, and thou shalt find the Salt of Nature, with this Salt acuate thy water, as thou best knowest, and thou shalt have the Lunary bath, in which the Sun will be ammended.

And in all truth I assure thee, that although though hadst our body Mercurialized (without the addition of Mercury of any of the metals) made per se, that is without the addition of Mercury, it would not be in the least profitable unto thee, for it is Mercury onely, which hath a Celestial form and power, which it receives, not onely, nor so much from the compound body, as from the fermental virtue which proceeds from the composition of both the body and the Mercury, by which is produced a wonderfull Creature: So then let all thy care be to marry Sulphur with Suphur, that is our Mercury which is impraegnated, which Sulphur, must be espoused with our Sol then hast thou two Sulphurs married and two Mercuries of one off spring, whose father is the Sol, and Luna the mother.

The fourth Conclusion makes all perfectly plain, which hath been said before, namely that these two Sulphurs are the one most pure red Sulphur of Gold, and the other of most pure clean white Mercury.

These are our two Sulphurs, the one appears a coagulated body, and yet carries its Mercury in its belly: the other is in all its proportions true Mercury, yet very clean and carries its Sulphur within its self, though hidden under the form and fluxibilitie of Mercury.

Sophisters are (here) in a labyrinth, for because they are not acquainted with metalline love, they work in things altogether heterogeneal, or if they work upon metalline bodies they yet either joyne males with males, or females with females, or else they work on each alone, or else they take males, which are charged with natural inabilities, and females whose matrix is vitiated. Thus by there own inconsideration they frustrate their own hopes, and then cast the blame upon the Art, when as indeed it is onely to be imputed to their own folly, in not understanding the Phylosophers.

I know many pittifull Sophisters do dote on many Stones, vigitable, animal, and mineral, and some to those add the firey Angelical, Paradaical Stone, which they call a wonder working essence, and because the mark they aim at, is so great, the Waies also, by which they would attain their Scope, they make also a double, one Way they call the Via Humida, the other, the Via Sicca, (to use their languages).

The latter way is the labirinthian path, which is fit onely for the great ones of the earth to tread in, the other the dedalean path, an easie way of small cost for the poor of the world, to enterprize.

But this I know and can testifie that there is but one Way, and but onely one Regimen, no more Colours than ours, and what we say or write otherwise, is but to deceive the unwary, for if every thing in the world ought to have its proper causes, there cannot be any one end, which is produced from two waies of working on distinct principles. Therefore we protest and must again admonish the Reader that (in our former writings) we have concealed much, by reason of the two waies we have insinuated, which is the play of children, and the work of women, and that is decoction by the fire, and we protest that the lowest degree of this our work, is that the matter be stirred up, and may hourly circulate without feare of breaking the vessel, which for this reason ought to be very strong, but our linear decoction is an internal work, which advances every day and hour, and is distinct from that outward heat, and is therefore invisible and insensible. In this our work, our Diana is our body when it is mixed with the water, for then all is called the Moon, for Laton is whitened, and the woman beares rule, our Diana hath a wood, for in the first dayes of the Stone, our body after it is whitened grows vegitably. In this wood, are at the last found two Doves, for about the end of three weeks, the soul of the Mercury ascends, with the soul of the dissolved Gold, these are in folded in the everlasting armes of Venus, for in this season the confection are all tincted with a pure green colour, these Doves are circulated seven times, for in seven is perfecton, and they are left dead, for they can rise and move no more, our Body is then black like to a Crowes bill, for in this operation all is turned to pouder, blacker than the blackest. Such passages as these we do oftentimes use, when we speak of the preparation of our Mercury, and this we do to deceive the simple, and it is also for no other end that we confound our operations speaking of one, when we ought to speak of another, for if this Art were but plainly set down, our operations would be contemptible even to the foolish. Therefore believe me in this, that because our workes are truly Natural, we therefore do take the liberty to confound the Phylosophers work, with that which is purely Natures work, that so we might keep the simple in ignorance, concerning our true Vinegre, which being unknown, their labor is wholly lost.

Let me then (for a close) say onely thus much; Take our Body which is Gold, and our Mercury which is seven times acuated by the marriage of it, with our Hermaphroditicall Body, which is in a Chaos, and is the splendor of the soul of the God Mars, in the earth, and water of Saturn, mix these two in such a pondus as nature doth require, In this mixture you have our invisible fires, for in the water of our Mercury is an active Sulphur or mineral fire and in the Gold a dead passive, but yet actual Sulphur now when that Sulphur of the Gold is stirred up and quickened, there is made between the fire of nature, which is as the Gold, and the fire against nature, which is in the Mercury, a fire partly of the one and partly of the other, for it partakes of both, and by these two fires thus united into one, is caused both Corruption (which is Humiliation) and generation (which is Glorification and Perfection:) Now know that God onely governs this way of the internal fire, man being ignorant of the progress thereof, onely by his reason beholding its operations, he is able to discern that it is hot, that is, that it doth perform the action of heat, which is decoction, In this fire there is no sublimation, for sublimation is an exaltation, but this fire is such an exaltation, as that beyond it, is no perfection.

All our work then is onely to multiply this fire, that is to circulate the body so long until the vertue of the Sulphur be augmented. Again this fire is an invisible Spirit, and therefore not having dimentions, is neither above nor below, but everywhere in the Sphere of the activity of our matter in the Vessel: So that though the material visible substance do sublime and ascend by the action of the elemental heat, yet this spiritual virtue is alway as well as in that which remains in the bottom, as in that which is in the upper part of the Vessel. For it is as the soul in the body of man, which is everywhere at the same time, and yet bounded or termined in none.

This is the ground of one Sophisus of ours, (viz.) when we say that in this true Philosophical fire, there is no sublimation, for the fire is the life, and the life is a soul, which is not at all subject to the dimensions of Bodies, Hence also it is that the opening of the Glass or cooling of the same during the time of working kills the life or fire, that is in this secret Sulphur, and yet not one grain of the mettal is lost. The elemental fire then is that which any child knowes how to kindle and govern, but it is the Philosopher onely, that is able to discern the true inward fire for it is a wonderful thing, which acts in the body, yet is no part of the body. Therefore the fire is a celestial virtue it is uniformed, that is, it is alwaies the same until the period of its operation is come, and then being come to perfection it acts no more, for every Agent, when the end of its action is come then rests.

Remember then that when we speak of our fire which sublimes not, that thou do not mistake and think that the moisture of the compound which is within the Glass ought not to sublime, for that it must do uncesantly, but that the fire that sublimes not, is the metalline love, which is above and below and in all places alike. Now then for a close to all that hath been said, learn and be well advised what matter you take in hand, for an evil Crow laies an evil Egg, as the proverb hath it, let thy seed be pure, the shalt thou see a noble offspring, let the fire without be such, as in which our confections may play to & fro uncessantly, & this (in a few daies) will produce that which thou most longeth for, the Crows Bill.

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