“The objection that might be made by Professor Cooke, in behalf of modern science, to the hermetic expressions, would equally apply to the Egyptian hieratic writings – they hide that which was meant to be concealed. If he would profit by the labors of the past, he must employ the cryptographer, and not the satirist.
Paracelsus, like the rest, exhausted his ingenuity in transpositions of letters and abbreviations of words and sentences. For example, when he wrote sutratur he meant tartar, and mutrin meant nitrum, and so on. There was no end to the pretended explanations of the meaning of the alkahest. Some imagined that it was an alkaline of salt of tartar salatilized; others that it meant algeist, a German which means all-spirit, or spirituous.
Paracelsus usually termed salt “the centre of water wherein metals ought to die.” This gave rise to the most absurd suppositions, and some persons – such as Glauber – thought that the alkahest was the spirit of salt.
It requires no little hardihood to assert that Paracelsus and his colleagues were ignorant of the natures of elementary and compound substances; they may not be called by the same names as are now in fashion, but that they were known is proved by the results attained.
What matters it by what name the gas given off when iron is dissolved in sulphuric acid was called by Paracelsus, since he is recognized, even by our standard authorities, as the discoverer of hydrogen? His merit is the same; and though Van Helmont may have concealed, under the name”seminal virtues”, his knowledge of the fact that elementary substances have their original properties, which the entering into compounds only temporarily modifies – never destroys – he was none the less the greatest chemist of his age, and the peer of modern scientists.
He affirmed that the aurum potabile could be obtained with the alkahest, by converting the whole body of gold into salt, retaining its seminal virtues, and being soluble in water.
When chemists learn what he meant by aurum potabile, alkahest, salt, and seminal virtues – what he really meant, not what he said he meant, nor what was thought he meant – then, and not before, can our chemists safely assume such airs toward the fire-philosophers and those ancient masters whose mystic teachings they reverently studied.
One thing is clear, at any rate. Taken merely in its exoteric form, this language of Van Helmont shows that he understood the solubility of metallic substances in water, which Sterry Hunt makes the basis of his theory of metalliferous deposits.
We would like to see what sort of terms would be invented by our scientific contemporaries to conceal and yet half-reveal their audacious proposition that man’s “only God is the cineritious matter of his brain”, if in the basement of the new Court House or the cathedral on Fifth Avenue there were a torture-chamber, to which judge or cardinal could send them at will.”
H. P. Blavatsky