Alchemist Quotes (17 quotes)
Concerning the alchemist, Mamugnano, no one harbors doubts any longer about his daily experiments in changing quicksilver into gold. It was realized that his craft did not go beyond one pound of quicksilver… . Thus the belief is now held that his allegations to produce a number of millions have been a great fraud.
Even mistaken hypotheses and theories are of use in leading to discoveries. This remark is true in all the sciences. The alchemists founded chemistry by pursuing chimerical problems and theories which are false. In physical science, which is more advanced than biology, we might still cite men of science who make great discoveries by relying on false theories. It seems, indeed, a necessary weakness of our mind to be able to reach truth only across a multitude of errors and obstacles.
Every creature has its own food, and an appropriate alchemist with the task of dividing it ... The alchemist takes the food and changes it into a tincture which he sends through the body to become blood and flesh. This alchemist dwells in the stomach where he cooks and works. The man eats a piece of meat, in which is both bad and good. When the meat reaches the stomach, there is the alchemist who divides it. What does not belong to health he casts away to a special place, and sends the good wherever it is needed. That is the Creator's decree... That is the virtue and power of the alchemist in man.
For many centuries chemists labored to change lead into precious gold, and eventually found that precious uranium turned to lead without any human effort at all.
I suppose that the first chemists seemed to be very hard-hearted and unpoetical persons when they scouted the glorious dream of the alchemists that there must be some process for turning base metals into gold. I suppose that the men who first said, in plain, cold assertion, there is no fountain of eternal youth, seemed to be the most cruel and cold-hearted adversaries of human happiness. I know that the economists who say that if we could transmute lead into gold, it would certainly do us no good and might do great harm, are still regarded as unworthy of belief. Do not the money articles of the newspapers yet ring with the doctrine that we are getting rich when we give cotton and wheat for gold rather than when we give cotton and wheat for iron?
If it be true, that some Chymists have now and then converted Lead into Gold, it was by just such a hazard, as if a man should let fall a handful of sand upon a table and the particles of it should be so ranged that we could read distinctly on it a whole page of Virgil’s Ænead.
If we peep into Dom Claude’s cell, we are introduced to a typical alchemist’s laboratory—a gloomy, dimly-lighted place, full of strange vessels, and furnaces, and melting-pots, spheres, and portions of skeletons hanging from the ceiling; the floor littered with stone bottles, pans, charcoal, aludels, and alembics, great parchment books covered with hieroglyphics; the bellows with its motto Spira, Spera; the hour-glass, the astrolabe, and over all cobwebs, and dust, and ashes. The walls covered with various aphorisms of the brotherhood; legends and memorials in many tongues; passages from the Smaragdine Table of Hermes Trismegistus; and looming out from all in great capitals, ’ANAΓKH.
M. Waldman … concluded with a panegyric upon modern chemistry…:— “The ancient teachers of this science” said he, “Promised impossibilities and performed nothing. The modern masters promise very little; they know that metals cannot be transmuted and that the elixir of life is a chimera. But these philosophers seem only made to dabble in dirt, and their eyes to pore over the microscope or crucible, have indeed performed miracles. They penetrate into the recesses of nature and show how she works in her hiding-places. They ascend into the heavens; they have discovered how the blood circulates, and the nature of the air we breathe. They can command the thunders of heaven, mimic the earthquake, and even mock the invisible world with its own shadows.”
Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know; nor any people so confident as those who entertain us with fabulous stories, such as your alchemists, judicial astrologers, fortune-tellers, and physicians.
The alchemists call in many varieties out of astrology, auricular traditions, and feigned testimonies.
The alchemists in their search for gold discovered other things [of greater value].
The alchemists of past centuries tried hard to make the elixir of life: ... Those efforts were in vain; it is not in our power to obtain the experiences and the views of the future by prolonging our lives forward in this direction. However, it is well possible in a certain sense to prolong our lives backwards by acquiring the experiences of those who existed before us and by learning to know their views as well as if we were their contemporaries. The means for doing this is also an elixir of life.
The study of nature with a view to works is engaged in by the mechanic, the mathematician, the physician, the alchemist, and the magician; but by all (as things now are) with slight endeavour and scanty success.
When the old and bewhiskered alchemist mentally planned his transmutations from lead to gold, he no doubt considered his reagent “spiritus vitroli” second only to his trusty Philosopher’s Stone in power and usefulness; for we read of sulphuric acid back through Alchemical times.
When [alchemist] Augurello applied to him [Pope Leo X] for a reward, the pope, with great ceremony and much apparent kindness and cordiality, drew an empty purse from his pocket, and presented it to the alchymist, saying, that since he was able to make gold, the most appropriate present that could be made him, was a purse to put it in.
[Alchemists] enrich the ears of men with vain words, but empty their Pockets of their Money. Whence it appears to be no Art, but a Composition of Trifles, and inventions of mad brains.
[Alchemists] finde out men so covetous of so much happiness, whom they easily perswade that they shall finde greater Riches in Hydargyrie [mercury], than Nature affords in Gold. Such, whom although they have twice or thrice already been deluded, yet they have still a new Device wherewith to deceive um again; there being no greater Madness…. So that the smells of Coles, Sulphur, Dung, Poyson, and Piss, are to them a greater pleasure than the taste of Honey; till their Farms, Goods, and Patrimonies being wasted, and converted into Ashes and Smoak, when they expect the rewards of their Labours, births of Gold, Youth, and Immortality, after all their Time and Expences; at length, old, ragged, famisht, with the continual use of Quicksilver [mercury] paralytick, onely rich in misery, … a laughing-stock to the people: … compell’d to live in the lowest degree of poverty, and … at length compell’d thereto by Penury, they fall to Ill Courses, as Counterfeiting of Money.