There are two sorts of Philosophers. Some only searching into Nature by herself, have in the monuments of their writings delivered the virtue and power which sublunary things have, as well from the elemental qualities, as from heaven and the stars; as the physicians are. And some others who have described the natures of animals, trees, herbs, metals, and precious stones. But others truly are more glorious, penetrating most sagaciously and sharply not only into Nature, but finally into the arcanum itself of Nature, and into her more inward recesses, have by a truer title assumed to themselves the name of philosopher. But because Nature produces all metals out of two things sulphur and Mercury, and has left us the superior bodies generated out of them, with the inferior bodies, certain is it is that the industrious may make the same out of her three operations, and reduce the inferior bodies to the Nature and perfection of the superior bodies.
It is evident that all little trees, flowers and small herbs are produced from water and the union of a subtle earth. And if you endeavor to produce a tree or an herb, you must not take earth or water, but rather that which is from them, as a scion or a seed, which being committed to the bosom of the earth, the parent of all things, and cherished with a nutriment of their own nature, and called forth by the darting of the solar light, do in due time break out into the superficies of the earth, into the species of a tree or an herb. In like manner that divine art teaches how to take the seed our of the more perfect body; which being put into the philosophical earth prepared by art and continually decocted by a temperate heat into a white or red powder, is said to have converted the inferior bodies into the nature of the superior.
I will propose you a similitude of gold. The ethereal heaven was shut from all men, so that all men should descend to the infernal seats, and be there perpetually detained. But Jesus Christ opened the gate of the ethereal Olympus, and has now unlocked the kingdoms of Pluto, that the souls may be taken out; when by the co-operation of the holy spirit in the virginal womb, the virgin Mary did by an ineffable mystery and most profound sacraments conceive what was the most excellent in the heavens and on the earth; and at length brought forth for us the saviour of the whole world, who out of his super abundant bounty shall save all who are able to sin, if the sinner turn himself to him. But she remained an untouched and undefiled virgin: whence mercury is not undeservedly compared to the most glorious saint the virgin Mary. For mercury is a virgin because it never propagated in the womb of the Earth and metallic body, and yet it generates the stone for us; by dissolving heaven, that is, gold, it opens it, and brings out the soul; which understand you to be the divinity, and carries it some little while in its womb, and at length in its own time transmits it into a cleansed body. From whence a child, that is, the stone, is born to us, by whose blood the inferior bodies being tinged are brought safe into the golden heaven, and mercury remains a virgin without a stain, such as is was ever before.
Besides the science of the stone is so sublime and magnificent, that therein almost all Nature and the whole universe of beings is beheld, as in a certain clear looking glass. For it is like a lesser world, where there are the four elements, and a fifth essence, which they call heaven in which another most noble essence has placed its seat, which some philosophers have used to compare (with reverence be it spoken) to the omnipotent God, and the most holy and undivided Trinity. Which is neither of the nature of the heaven, nor of the natures of the elements: and they have called it by a particular name, the soul, the middle nature. And as God the maker of the world: so this essence, which is called by the title of a God, is everywhere in the whole world, it is, in the physical glass. And as the omnipotent God is immense in the procreation of its like, even to the last end of the greater world. For then the generative nature shall be taken away from every procreating thing. From which words one skillful in Nature may gather, that the stone can tinge many parts; whereby also many other difficulties may be removed. Then out upon Aristarchus who blushes not to profess himself an interpreter of the divine writings, and yet feareth not with his most impudent railing to attack this knowledge of a Nature created by God; than which, next after the sacred writings, God has conferred on this world nothing more magnificent and more sublime.
Tell me by the immortal God, what is more unjust than for men to hate what they are ignorant of? And then if the thing do deserve hatred, what is of all things more shallow? What more abject? Or what greater madness and potage is there, than to condemn that science in which you have concerned yourself just nothing at? Who hast never learned either Nature or the majesty of Nature, or the property or the occult operations of metals. The councellour also babbles and crokes, and the pettyfoggers of the law, the greatest haters of philosophy, who with the hammer of a venal tongue coin themselves money out of the tears of the miserable: who shipping over the most sacred of laws, have by the intricacies of their expositions persecuted all the world with their frauds. But why do I go after jeers and satyrs? Let these crabbed fellows and their followers remain perpetually in their opinion, who know nothing. Which is honest, which is pleasant, which is delightful, which lastly is anything elevated above a vulgar doctrine: and who have attained at nothing glorious and famous, but perhaps at some plebian business from the black sons of Cadamus. But to which purpose are these? I have made the choice of this stone of the philosophers familiar to me; and I very often call it the only Minerva, and the greatest pearl of all occult philosophy, or of magic, not indeed of the superstitious, but of the natural. Yet it seems in the opinion of the unlearned to degenerate far from a better study: which is decreed and ordained by the divine will.
The most glorious God, the contriver, and the ineffable author of all things, before the beginning of the world, wanting nothing, but all-sufficient to himself, and forever remaining in the most profound retirement of his divinity, being out of his most abundant beauty willing, that the things from all eternity foreknown should proceed into existence, created in the beginning a certain essence of them, in rough draughts, as I may say, as yet unformed, which Moses, he whom I am to stile the fountain and chief president of the philosophy of the philosophers, does sometimes call a void and empty earth, sometimes an abyss and water, but Anaxagoras a confused chaos. Others have rightly termed it, the mother of the world, the foundation and the face of Nature. Within whose womb when all things lay undistinguished and undigested, nor more conspicuous in their proper forms, the artificial creator, did by the intervening spirit of God exactly and regularly drawn and describe this visible world, according to copy and the similitude of the intelligible world. Hence he with shining fires most workman-like adorned the heavens hung up on high, and so ordered and digested the motion of them, and of the stars, that they should in a wonderful manner run about the arch of heaven, for the formation of the varieties of the seasons succeeding one another; and that by their motion and light they might warm, cherish and preserve in their beings the inferior things. Therefore he laid the inferior things beneath the superior, as an egg to be hatched under a hen, or as a woman to be made fruitful by a man. Into which he from the beginning inserted certain seminal reasons, that they might, taking their opportunities, multiply themselves, as I may say, with a perpetual fertility and offspring. But God wrought out his compacted being of the world by certain harmony and musical proportion alleyed to one another, that which are in the superior world are in the inferior also, but in a terrestrial manner: that which likeness are in the inferiors, may also be seen in the superious, in a celestial manner indeed, and according to the cause.
To which you may perhaps apply the opinion of Anaxagoras, holding that everything is in everything. Wherefore it is agreeable that God should rule and fill up all which he created. Nor do we therefore say that God does fill up all things, that they should contain him, but that they rather should be contained by him. Neither is it to be thought that God is in all things so that each thing according to the proportion of its bigness may contain him, that is the greater things the more, and the lesser the less. But God so filleth up all things that there is not anything where he is not. And we therefore understand within all things, but not included without all things, but not excluded: and therefore to be the interior, that by his uncircumscribed magnitude he may include all things. Therefore St. Dennis says: That all things may be affirmed of God, since he is the author and governor. On the contrary, that all things are more truly denied of him, since he is nothing of those things which he created. Which seems to me more acceptable and more certain, as well by the variable course of this world, as for the unsearchable abyss of his most exalted divinity. For God has placed the greatest distance between him and the created things. But God is truly immense and ineffable, not to be discovered, not to be understood, above all imagination, above all thought, above all understanding, above all essence, unnamable, to be by silence alone proclaimed in the heart: the most powerful, the most wise, the most clement: the father, the world, the holy spirit; and altitude incomprehensible, a trinity indivisible, an essence immutable. Whose image is all Nature, though the eye never be so intent. Who is the unity of all creatures, and main point, and the only one; who is stronger than all power, greater than all excellence, better than all praise. Whom the divine Plato made to inhabit in a fiery substance, meaning, that is, the ineffable Splendor of God in himself, and love around himself. Whom others have asserted to be an intellectual and fiery spirit; having no form but transforming itself into so ever it would and co-equalizing to all things universally. Who in a manifold way is as it were joined to his creatures. Again going forth from that his infinity eternity and omnipotence, he by a ferverent love, sincere faith and solid hope may be imbosomed in the purified minds of men. Let whom be blessed for all thousands of thousands of ages.
We said a little before that God was unnameable, whom Martinus Capella says that Arithmetica saluted by a proper name, when going to salute Jove, she with her fingers folded down into them, made up seven hundred, ten and seven numbers. But what that most noble number means, and its division into its members, the Arithmetician knows; not he who inquires into the mercantile way of numbering but into proportions. In this number we discover all numbers, and every proportion both musical and geometrical. Add something of greater moment. That in these numbers the name of God is most exactly found. Whose most holy and forever adorable name is in this fullness of time set down in five letters. When in the time of Nature it was written with three, and of the law with four. We say moreover that God has every name, because all things are in him, and he is in all things: as shall hereafter be disputed of, and yet has no name, because a fitting name cannot be given to the divine majesty. But how much mystery and strength number has in itself, I easily believe the Pythagoreans knew very well, who called one number Pallas, another Diana, another the father, another the mother, and finally one the male, and another the female: and those who had the greatest knowledge in the numeral science, applied the monas the united to God the creator: But the dias or duality to matter: to forms themselves the virgin trias or three: then to man and to his life hexas and heptas the six and seven. But the eneas or ten they not a miss did very handsomely apply to all creatures.
But to return to the purpose, hear Dionysius repeating: That God is in all things, or all things are in God, as numbers are in unity, as in the center of the circle are all the right lines: and as the soul is the strength of the members. Because as the unity is the common measure, fountain and original of all numbers, and containing in itself every number entirely cojoined, is the beginning of all multitude. But guiltless of all multitudes is always the same and immutable; so in like manner are created things toward the creator. And as an individual soul, is the ruler of its body, and the whole present to the whole body, and to every part of it: so God is everywhere in this world and fills and governs, and perpetually preserves it by the virtue which he daily infuses liberally into created things out of the eternal fountain of his spirit. From whence we rightly by a certain similitude of the soul, do call the God of Nature or the power of God, by which he maintains all things, a soul, a middle nature, or the soul of the world. Not that the world itself is an animal, which we may explode from the entrance into christian philosophy, partly in the christian metaphysick, and partly in this consideration of the stone.
But sublimeness of the Nature hereof requires to be composed in a loftier style; we have here chosen a lower sort of speech; and we place the soul of the world chiefly in the sun. For there is nothing in the soul of the firmament, beside a soul, which represents a greater similitude of God than light itself. Since everything does challenge to itself so much of God, as I may say, as they are capable of light. And since nothing is more conspicuous bright-eyed than the sun, many of the platonicks chiefly imitating Orpheus herein have termed the sun, the eye of the world. Because all things were seen and shown themselves in it as in a certain most bright mirror. Hence Heraclitus says, that all things would perish, should you take the sun out of the world. What is this small body of ours, if the soul be away? No vein having a pulse is to be felt there, there is in it no show of sense, no vital breath nor any respiration therein. Wherefore it also seemed good to some to call the sun the heart of heaven. Because as in the heart there is the only fountain of blood moistening and reddening the other members of the human body, and infusing a vital motion: So there seemeth to be in the sun the vegetation and preservation of all, as well inferior as well as superior things. Because he by this light inspires as it were, life and heat into inferior things. But light is a certain simple of single action converting all things unto itself by an enlivening warmth, passing through all beings, carrying their virtues and qualities through all and dispersing darkness and obscurity. Phoebus therefore resides in the middle with his refulgent locks, as king and emperor of the world, holding a scepter of the government: in whom that there is all the virtue of the celestials, nor only Iamblichus, but many others have confirmed. And also Proclus says: At the sun's aspect, that all the powers of all celestial things are gathered together and collected into one, which we believe are gathered together and collected into one, which we believe are at length through his fiery breathing have spread over this lower world. This also may be even a mighty argument to you: that the sun approaching toward us, the earth grows full of herbs and ripens, but when he departs it withers. But I now delight to make some comment on the infancy of Nature.
"An unknown concerning the Chymicall Art.
But Lucerna Salis affirms him to be Marcilius
Ficinus, an Italian of the Dukedome of Florence
or Tuscany, in the year 1518."
Item 7 from Ms. Sloane 3638. Transcribed by Justin von Budjoss.
This text is a translation of a Latin text, Marsilius Ficinus, 'Liber de Arte Chemica', which was printed in the Theatrum Chemicum,
Vol 2, Geneva, 1702, p172-183. It is not entirely certain if this text was actually written by Ficino, or was later ascribed to him.