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False Paths

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I will expose here three paths I followed that have led to a dead end. They were inspired by the books of Robert Bartlett.

The first one, can be found in his book "Real Alchemy" and deals with the so called alkahest of tartar. This substance is supposed to be able to extract the sulfur of metals and minerals. In brief, Bartlett requires us to perform a dry distillation on crude tartar and then purify the distillate. We obtain a clear liquid which upon digestion with a mineral, metal or calx of it will extract a redness out of it. I have done it and digested it with gold leaf. Miraculously, the liquid turned yellow, then dark red! It also created dark spots on the gold. However, this was nothing but an artifact. The "alkahest of tartar" will perform the same upon digestion even if there is no gold in it at all. The most possible explanation is that a self condensation reaction is manifesting. Upon evaporation, the red liquid left a black residue which has the characteristics of an organic substance. The whole process mimics the extraction of gold so well and can fool someone easily. I have to mention that this path is not found in the writings of old artists.

The second path, the path of acetates, has a trap also, in which Bartlett has been caught too. This path is explained and followed in his second book "the way of the crucible". Instead of following to the letter the writings of the elder, he takes the acetone produced from the destructive distillation of acetates and starts to digest it with gold calx and antimony. No wonder that the acetone will turn red upon digestion. This is considered as a sign of extraction upon the gold. Bartlett goes on by purifying by distillation the various fractions of the liquid and performing chemical analysis upon them. Should we perform a blind test by digesting acetone alone, we would see the error here. Acetone is well known to self condense and produce various products. You could witness quickly this transformation by mixing in acetone one drop of sulfuric acid (acid is the catalyst).

I doubt that any of those "extracted" oils has any medicinal qualities (I'm not only supposing, have tried also)

I am not writing these in order to downgrade the books and the work of Bartlett. On the contrary, I believe his books have great value, he has done a great job of collecting the most interesting gems of alchemical bibliography. However, when it comes to his practice, something is missing. I think the originator of those half paths is PON and Jean Dubuis. They couldn't follow successfully the operations described by medieval books and missed some valuable key.

Finally I must add one more operation that leads to false results. If one tries to extract with alcohol a mineral or metal that has been opened by fusion with lye, he will obtain an extract. However this can be attributed to the formation of sodium ethoxide as a blind test on a mixture of alcohol and lye can show. It can get yellow, red and even black color (upon concentration) and also mimics very well the true extraction.

That's all for now friends. I hope some time in future we could do a discussion on some of Rubaphilos' methods and operations.. Thanks for reading!

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  1. Krisztian's Avatar
    Krisztian -
    I don't believe Bartlett would post the correct one even if he knew. That's not the style of many of these well-known figures.

    But what you say I believe is true.
  2. Andro's Avatar
    Andro -
    theFool - Thanks my friend for making your valuable experience publicly known.

    It should help a lot of people with their decisions on what kind of study path(s) to approach/pursue.

    Also, anyone interested - please read this related (and IMO very relevant) post: Advice on Alchemy Schools & Courses
  3. JDP's Avatar
    JDP -
    There are so many false so-called "paths" that it would actually be funny & amusing if it wasn't for the sad fact that they have ended up making countless people throughout many centuries to just waste their time and money, sometimes even to the point of financial ruin. Another popular belief that is totally false is the one about "animated mercury" with antimonial amalgams. You would think that this fallacy would have been put to rest after the likes of Boyle, Newton, George Wilson, Boerhaave, etc. tested such claims and found absolutely nothing remotely resembling the Philosophers' Stone, no matter how long they digested metals with such supposedly "animated mercury", but alas, far to the contrary, even today there's still plenty of seekers wasting their time and money distilling antimonial amalgams expecting that it will somehow work.
  4. lwowl's Avatar
    lwowl -
    It is sad that these new masters of alchemy are repeating the dead end mistakes of their teachers. People just starting out in alchemy taking these courses are being taught a false paradigm that will take years to undo.
    Maybe it is helpful for newbies to learn some lab procedures from them, but they will be better served by chemistry courses in their community schools.
  5. Andro's Avatar
    Andro -
    I must admit I am not personally familiar with the 'modern' teachers and courses. I have only bought Bartlett's book (years ago) and have collected quite a few hearsay less than enthusiastic reports on other 'moderns' (from other students of the art I have met). Bartlett's book, the lofty titled 'Real Alchemy', is of little use beyond simple plant tinctures IMO. The book fails to deliver on the more advanced practices, especially as it progresses towards the finale. I have performed quite a few experiments from his book when I was starting out and was recipe-oriented like many beginners, and only hit dead ends. Nevertheless, those experiments helped me become acquainted with the behavior of Matter and I must give the moderns some credit for getting me into performing actual lab work.

    Another modern is a member here, and only shows up once a year or two, and then only to link to his own forums and classes. So, I strongly recommend to stick with the classics and with deep inner Hermetic contemplation. The Art can't be bought. As the saying goes - when the student is ready, a teacher will appear. Maybe
  6. Krisztian's Avatar
    Krisztian -
    This is turning out to be an excellent blog, theFool. Thanks for the start-up and for your reflection!

    It is just my opinion, and mean to ruffle no feathers, but those who're known in modern times in the public by name are only playing a 'role'. Perhaps even to confuse, mislead, as was the flavour of the Old Masters. 18th Century is full of such examples. I know two big names personally, and while one of them offers good courses openly, the only way to see serious work is to visit him. Not given via email, nor phone, nor Skype.

    My point being, it takes many, many years for a master of the Art to reveal to anyone anything that's worthwhile. Only very few, maybe one or two students, hang on in a lifetime.

    I see that trend in the Old Times as well. Things haven't changed much.

    The other point that I wanted to make is that majority of alchemists belong to egregore, took an oath of silence, so wouldn't be able to discuss anything worthwhile anyways.