PDA

View Full Version : Some of the earliest mentions of the "dry way"



JDP
06-07-2016, 12:31 AM
Following the discussion started on the "Be careful with Fulcanelli" thread, I would like to notice what are probably two of the earliest references to the "via sicca" (the "dry way/path") in the literature on alchemy.

One of the earliest ones I have encountered is in the early 17th century text called "Brief and Excellent Treatise on the Particular and Universal Tincture", first published in German in 1604. In it, the anonymous author already divides the "Universal way" (meaning the making of the Stone, as opposed to the "particulars") into two: the "dry way" and the "humid way". I have not had the chance yet to take a closer look at this work, but from a superficial perusal it seems like what the author means by "dry way" is not the claim that the Stone can be made using solid materials, crucibles and strong fires, but an older claim that there's two secret dissolving agents in alchemy: one is "mercury", in the sense of a "dry water" which "does not wet the hands", and the other one is a "mercurial water" which does wet the hands. The origins of this claim appear to be medieval (one of the earliest texts I have found where this is clearly stated is in the "Correctorium Alchemiae" attributed to Richard the Englishman.)

The earliest unambiguous reference to the "dry way" in the sense of using solid materials and fusions I have found so far is in the "Nova disquisitio de Helia Artista", first published in 1606. The author (viz. Raphael Eglinus) says the following (page 32):

https://books.google.com/books?id=CRxmAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA32&dq=%22Disquisitio+de+Helia+Artista%22+%22ficca%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwinrI6T0JTNAhUGSiYKHeVADJUQ6AEIHTAA#v=on epage&q=%22Disquisitio%20de%20Helia%20Artista%22%20%22fi cca%22&f=false

"Alchemists have two ways, one is called humid, which is done through waters and solutions: the other which is called dry and is done through powder and fusions."

From here to claiming that the Stone could be made by using crucibles and strong fires exclusively is only one very small step.

An early 17th century (first published in 1615) text that has been conjured up by some as an early example of this duality of "ways" is the "Cabala" of Michelspacher, because of this drawing:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-DQJab_pzNJQ/TzDwkv5XUAI/AAAAAAAAAqY/IPRFNlvx2Vc/s1600/Steffan+Michelspacher+-+Cabala+-+1616+-+II.jpeg

As you will notice, the operator at the bottom of the drawing is depicted as carrying out operations in both blazing hot furnaces using crucibles, cupels, molds, bellows, etc. as well as in furnaces with more controlled heats using flasks, alludels, receivers, still-heads, etc. But a closer look at the text that accompanies these drawings does not seem to make any such suggestion of a "double way" of operating but is simply a reference to the different stages of the same process:

http://atrightanglestoreality.blogspot.ca/2016/05/stephan-michelspacher-cabala-mirror-of.html

"The degrees or stages must be carried out in their correct order in the work. Firstly, as plate 1 shows, comes the stage of Calcination, by which is understood the Reverberation and the Cementation.

The next stage expresses the stage of Exaltation, by which is understood Sublimation and Elevation, together with Distillation."

Michael Sternbach
06-07-2016, 11:42 AM
I had a look at the German edition of Hermes Trismegistus Old and True Natural Path last night. The author says that Philalethes suggested making the Stone in the dry way within just two to three hours. So maybe Philalethes created this concept?

Dwellings
06-07-2016, 12:02 PM
I had a look at the German edition of Hermes Trismegistus Old and True Natural Path last night. The author says that Philalethes suggested making the Stone in the dry way within just two to three hours. So maybe Philalethes created this concept?

Can you please take a pic of the page using iphone and upload it or type it out.

JDP
06-07-2016, 12:04 PM
I had a look at the German edition of Hermes Trismegistus Old and True Natural Path last night. The author says that Philalethes suggested making the Stone in the dry way within just two to three hours. So maybe Philalethes created this concept?

Starkey/Philalethes flourished around the mid 17th century. As we have seen in this thread, there already were claims that there was a "dry way" quite before him in the early 1600s.

Also, if the author of "Old and True Natural Path" really knew what "Philalethes" was claiming then he must mean "mercury" processes for the "dry way", not quite the same thing as those who claim that the "dry way" is carried out with fusions of solid materials.

Illen A. Cluf
06-07-2016, 04:04 PM
One of the earliest ones I have encountered is in the early 17th century text called "Brief and Excellent Treatise on the Particular and Universal Tincture", first published in German in 1604.

I think that this date can be pushed back even further. George Ripley, in his Medulla Alchemiae (The Marrow of Alchemy), 1476 wrote:

"From the which Raymundus commands an Oyl to be drawn: from the Lead of the Philosophers (saith he) let there be an Oyl drawn of a Golden Colour; if you can separate this Oyl (wherein is Our second Tincture and Fire of Nature) from its Phlegm, which is its waterishness, and wisely search out the Secret thereof, you may in the space of thirty days perform the Work of the Philosophers Stone."

So Ripley knew of the "short way" or "dry way" or via secca back in 1476, and he referenced this process back to Raymundus Lullius, whio lived during the 13th and 14th centuries. So the via secca seems to have been known at least as far back as the 13th or 14th century.

Even Iasaac Hollandus in 1617, in his De Lapide Philosophrum talked about the "old alchemists" making the Stone "in many different ways".

Myriam Prophetessa (approximately early third century C.E.) in her discussion with Aros, also mentions that the Stone can be made in less than a day.

However, even though the short way was known long before the 17th century, there doesn't seem to be any use of the specific term "via secca" before the 17th century.

Dwellings
06-07-2016, 05:07 PM
Can you please take a pic of the page using iphone and upload it or type it out.

I found the german text online, thanks.

JDP
06-07-2016, 09:09 PM
I think that this date can be pushed back even further. George Ripley, in his Medulla Alchemiae (The Marrow of Alchemy), 1476 wrote:

"From the which Raymundus commands an Oyl to be drawn: from the Lead of the Philosophers (saith he) let there be an Oyl drawn of a Golden Colour; if you can separate this Oyl (wherein is Our second Tincture and Fire of Nature) from its Phlegm, which is its waterishness, and wisely search out the Secret thereof, you may in the space of thirty days perform the Work of the Philosophers Stone."

So Ripley knew of the "short way" or "dry way" or via secca back in 1476, and he referenced this process back to Raymundus Lullius, whio lived during the 13th and 14th centuries. So the via secca seems to have been known at least as far back as the 13th or 14th century.

The distillation of oily substances does not really qualify as "via sicca". These are liquid products obtained through distillation, same thing with the "mercurial" claims of some writers (which go back at the very least to the Middle Ages), even though this specific claim regarding "mercury" was probably the first one to try to label itself as "via sicca" (since mercury "does not wet the hands" it was seen by some as a "dry" solvent, despite its liquid form and the fact that distillation was almost always involved.) The claims of the peculiar "via sicca" that we are concerned with is that the Stone can be made exclusively by fusions in strong fires and suitable vessels (i.e. crucibles) to withstand them. This claim became popular after the account of Helvetius was published, since that is how the brassfounder claims he prepared the Stone, but the question is when did this method (if it really exists and is not an empty boast) came to be? So far I have not been able to find any clear statement of this claim in any pre-17th century source. The only older text I have seen so far that says some things that might be more or less interpreted along these lines are from that Jabirian "Book of Royalty" and the "quick methods" it mysteriously talks about, but even there such a claim as we see emerge in the 17th century is not unambiguously made. The "Jabirian" author of that text still talks about "waters" and "oils" being involved in the operations, so the substances employed could not possibly have all been solid and the operations all carried out in strongly heated crucibles, so even this earlier source does not entirely fit in with the later 17th century claim, though it might have contributed to its development.


Even Iasaac Hollandus in 1617, in his De Lapide Philosophrum talked about the "old alchemists" making the Stone "in many different ways".

Myriam Prophetessa (approximately early third century C.E.) in her discussion with Aros, also mentions that the Stone can be made in less than a day.

However, even though the short way was known long before the 17th century, there doesn't seem to be any use of the specific term "via secca" before the 17th century.

The issue is not whether before the 17th century there existed claims that there were methods by which the Stone could be made in shorter times, but when did the difficult to believe claim that this could be done by exclusively using strong melting fires and crucibles came to be. As was pointed out in the thread about Fulcanelli, even as far back as Arabic alchemical literature we see claims about there being shorter methods to make the Elixir/Stone, but none of them say the same thing as the later 17th century claim that the Stone could be made by exclusively using meltings in crucibles.

zoas23
06-07-2016, 09:25 PM
They don't call it "Dry Way" there, but in the Chemical Wedding (2nd Journey) there is an obvious reference to the Dry way:



"God save you, stranger! If you have heard anything concerning the nuptials of the King, consider these words. By us the Bridegroom offers you a choice between four ways, all of which, if you do not sink down in the way, can bring you to his royal court. The first is short but dangerous, and one which will lead you into rocky places, through which it will scarcely be possible to pass. The second is longer, and takes you circuitously; it is plain and easy, if by the help of the Magnet you turn neither to left nor right. The third is that truly royal way which through various pleasures and pageants of our King, affords you a joyful journey; but this so far has scarcely been allotted to one in a thousand. By the fourth no man shall reach the place, because it is a consuming way, practicable only for incorruptible bodies. Choose now which one you will of the three, and persevere constantly therein, for know whichever you will enter, that is the one destined for you by immutable Fate, nor can you go back in it save at great peril to life. These are the things which we would have you know. But, ho, beware! you know not with how much danger you commit yourself to this way, for if you know yourself to be obnoxious by the smallest fault to the laws of our King, I beseech you, while it is still possible, to return swiftly to your house by the way you came."

The first of the paths to the Castle is, in my not very original opinion, the dry way... but it's not the way that the character of the book chooses to arrive to the Castle.

JDP
06-07-2016, 09:33 PM
They don't call it "Dry Way" there, but in the Chemical Wedding (2nd Journey) there is an obvious reference to the Dry way:



The first of the paths to the Castle is, in my not very original opinion, the dry way... but it's not the way that the character of the book chooses to arrive to the Castle.

Even if that may be what the author had in mind, this is still a 17th century text, so we are still within the same century where this "duality" of ways apparently arose.

zoas23
06-07-2016, 11:33 PM
i like your ways here, JDP. I have the same mentality... always trying to find the "genealogy" of what I like.

So far you have:
-"Nova disquisitio de Helia Artista", first published in 1606. (Raphael Eglinus)... Lutheran, who was born in Switzerland, but lived in Germany due to his lutheranism.
"Cabala: Spiegel der Kunst und Natur, in Alchymia" 1615 by Stephan Michelspacher ---> Lutheran who was born in Austria, but moved to Germany in 1613 due to his lutheranism.
"Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz" 1616 by (probably) Johannes Valentinus Andreae ---> Lutheran and German.

These 3 sources point to Lutheran alchemists living in Germany and writing at least a reference to the dry way in the early XVII century (the 3 of them linked to Rosicrucianism is a way or other). It gets quite clear that the dry way was known by the Lutheran alchemists of Germany in the early XVII century (though most of the early Rosicrucian sources certainly choose the wet path and not the dry path).

Anyway... I think it's interesting that these 3 sources that at least mention the dry path are from lutherans living in Germany and these 3 books got published between 1606 and 1616.

Michael Sternbach
06-08-2016, 12:28 AM
Starkey/Philalethes flourished around the mid 17th century. As we have seen in this thread, there already were claims that there was a "dry way" quite before him in the early 1600s.

Oh right, I overlooked your reference to Raphael Eglinus, a Swiss alchemist who is quite interesting, if for no other reason than being a fellow of Giordano Bruno's - but that's another story.


Also, if the author of "Old and True Natural Path" really knew what "Philalethes" was claiming then he must mean "mercury" processes for the "dry way", not quite the same thing as those who claim that the "dry way" is carried out with fusions of solid materials.

In the Old and True Natural Path, the so-called "dry way" indeed starts with "imbibations" of a solid substance with a liquid, even though the authors claims that the Stone can be produced in a crucible within a few hours, as I said, referring to Philalethes. My question now is where Philalethes has said this very thing.

JDP
06-08-2016, 01:57 AM
Oh right, I overlooked your reference to Raphael Eglinus, a Swiss alchemist who is quite interesting, if for no other reason than being a fellow of Giordano Bruno's - but that's another story.

Eglinus is interesting in his own right. He was deeply involved in the testing of transmutation processes at the Kassel court.


In the Old and True Natural Path, the so-called "dry way" indeed starts with "imbibations" of a solid substance with a liquid, even though the authors claims that the Stone can be produced in a crucible within a few hours, as I said, referring to Philalethes. My question now is where Philalethes has said this very thing.

If the process begins with "imbibitions" then that immediately disqualifies it as the "dry way" in the sense of our query, since it means that a liquid substance was being used at some point in the process. Now, if the liquid being used was a metallic "mercury" (i.e. a liquid that "does not wet the hands") then some authors did consider this to be the "dry way", but still does not qualify as such in the sense that we are inquiring about (which claims that the ENTIRE process is carried out in crucibles and strong melting fires.) Claims about the "dry way" being carried out with metallic "mercuries" are in fact older than the "via sicca" claims we are inquiring about.

As for "Philalethes" making that claim that the Stone can be made in a crucible in a few hours, I can't remember seeing this in any of the texts by him that I have read.

JDP
06-08-2016, 02:07 AM
i like your ways here, JDP. I have the same mentality... always trying to find the "genealogy" of what I like.

So far you have:
-"Nova disquisitio de Helia Artista", first published in 1606. (Raphael Eglinus)... Lutheran, who was born in Switzerland, but lived in Germany due to his lutheranism.
"Cabala: Spiegel der Kunst und Natur, in Alchymia" 1615 by Stephan Michelspacher ---> Lutheran who was born in Austria, but moved to Germany in 1613 due to his lutheranism.
"Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz" 1616 by (probably) Johannes Valentinus Andreae ---> Lutheran and German.

These 3 sources point to Lutheran alchemists living in Germany and writing at least a reference to the dry way in the early XVII century (the 3 of them linked to Rosicrucianism is a way or other). It gets quite clear that the dry way was known by the Lutheran alchemists of Germany in the early XVII century (though most of the early Rosicrucian sources certainly choose the wet path and not the dry path).

Anyway... I think it's interesting that these 3 sources that at least mention the dry path are from lutherans living in Germany and these 3 books got published between 1606 and 1616.

Regarding Michelspacher's book: keep in mind that its alleged connection with the claim that there is a "dual way" in alchemy is extremely dubious since the text that accompanies the drawings does not suggest any such thing. The depiction of "dry" and "wet" operations in the first plate is implied by the accompanying text to represent different stages of the same process, not two separate ways of making the Stone.

Kiorionis
06-08-2016, 02:39 AM
As an aside, after reading through the thread, I've noticed most of the sources are from the West. I'd be curious to know if there are any Eastern perspectives on the matter.

If the West has its wet and external process, maybe the East has it's internal, dry equivalent?

Which makes me think, that if the dry path is more 'taboo' (not appearing in writing until the 17th century), perhaps it has to do with taboo things.

Sadly, as far as I have learned, the majority of the Eastern texts still remain untranslated.


But I've finished my obligations for the day and am drinking a brew and brainstorming, rather than being productive for the thread :)

zoas23
06-08-2016, 02:54 AM
Regarding Michelspacher's book: keep in mind that its alleged connection with the claim that there is a "dual way" in alchemy is extremely dubious since the text that accompanies the drawings does not suggest any such thing. The depiction of "dry" and "wet" operations in the first plate is implied by the accompanying text to represent different stages of the same process, not two separate ways of making the Stone.

My own understanding of that book is that it was one of the first attempts to unite 2 traditions... one of them coming from "Hermetic" sources that became the so-called "Rosicrucian Alchemy" later... and the Aesch-Mezareph or the Jewish tradition.

Michael Sternbach
06-08-2016, 05:12 PM
I start wondering which alchemists claimed - clearly and unambiguously - that the Stone could be made without resorting to "wet" methods whatsoever.

Andro
06-08-2016, 07:08 PM
I start wondering which alchemists claimed - clearly and unambiguously - that the Stone could be made without resorting to "wet" methods whatsoever.

Something to ponder (just an example for the sake of example): Is Mercury (Hg) wet or dry? And how about a viscous oil? Or extra dry wine, for that matter?

(I once had a glass or two of extremely dry wine - at the Flamel restaurant in Paris, no less - and had to drink 'wet' liquids for hours afterwards to counter the dryness...)