“Professor Sterry Hunt says in one of his lectures: “The alchemists sought in vain for a universal solvent; but we now know that water, aided in some cases by heat, pressure, and the presence of certain widely-distributed substances, such as carbonic acid and akaline carbonates and sulphides, will dissolve the most insoluble bodies; so that it may, after all, be looked upon as the long-sought for alkahest or universal menstruum.”
This reads almost like a paraphrase of Van Helmont, or Paracelsus himself! They knew the properties of water as a solvent as well as modern chemists, and what is more, made no concealment of the fact; which shows that this was not their universal solvent.
Many commentaries and criticisms of their works are still extant, and one can hardly take up a book on the subject without finding at least one of their speculations of which they never thought of making a mystery. This is what we find in an old work on alchemists – a satire, moreover – of 1820, written at the beginning of our century when the new theories on the chemical potency of water were hardly in their embryonic state.”
H. P. Blavatsky