Basic Theory of the Acetate Path (10) — To Purify the Earth
Ripley begins to discuss the creation of the vehicle for the Stone in the fourth chapter of his Bosome Book “The Creation of our Basis”. This chapter describes the preparation of the solid matter as the vehicle of the Stone, and Ripley instructs us, thus:
“Then take out all the Feces which remaineth in the Retort, and are blackish like unto Soot, which Feces are called our Dragon, of which feces Calcyne one pound or more at your pleasure in a fervent hot Fire in a Potters or Glass-makers Furnace, or in a Furnace of vente (or a Wind Furnace) until it become a white Calx, as white as Snow, which white Calx keep well, and clean by it self, for it is called the Basis and Foundation of the Work, and it is now called Mars, and our white fixed Earth or ferrum Philosophorum.”
This is a very typical description of the Preparation of the primary Salt, explained virtually the same way by every alchemical author who describes the Acetate Path. The concept looks simple enough. Take a portion of the soot-like residue that remains behind after the destructive distillation and calcine it in the hottest furnace you can get access to, which in Ripley's time would have been a pottery or glass makers furnace (1000 degrees C+). Which process he basically concludes by saying … “until it become a white calx, as white as snow”.
If you have ever attempted this type of calcination you will immediately recognise that something Ripley is making look simple, is actually a serious task. Because not only does it require a huge amount of energy, and a constant heat for weeks at a time, at the end it is not 'white as snow'. No matter how you look at it.
So either Ripley is exaggerating the 'white as snow', or he is not telling us everything. From my experience following Ripley's method from the Bosome Book I can say that I have not so far found one lie. But in a number of places while he does tell the truth, he doesn't tell it all. The truth is this Salt does need to end up white as snow, because we require it to be perfectly pure. So there is some knack here that Ripley is not describing.
When I first started work on this stage of the process 20 years ago I simply could not find a solution to that which I eventually called 'the Salt enigma'. I tried a number of different approaches, based on tiny extra bits of information other authors provided. It quickly became obvious to me that anyone who had come this far in the past knew that this calcination of the Salt was very tricky, and so they always described it in a way that caused it to be a serious hurdle. If the alchemist did not have a lot of skill behind him, concerning how to treat Salts in order to purify them, or access to instruction that provided a solution, then he would never succeed in reaching the summit of the work. Because at the point of cohobation of the Principals, if the Salt was not completely pure, the three Principals would never unite into One homogeneous state, forming the vehicle for the Stone.
A number of times I learned this the hard way, wasting years of hard work, and in the end always realising that the reason my Principals would not unite was due to the Salt enigma, that the Salt was not open and pure enough … until, that was I eventually found a key to opening the Salt and to cleansing it all of impurities.
Only one anonymous Adept ever described a real workable answer to this enigma, a solution which until he described it in writing must have remained a carefully guarded secret for centuries.
Ripley does us a service and explains that when this Salt is pure and open the old Adepts referred to it as 'our Mars' and Ferrum Philosophorum (Philosophic Iron). The reason for this is that iron was known as the hardest of metals, and this Salt is the hardest (most closed and stubborn) of the substances we manipulate in the Great Work. Therefore it rightly forms a suitable vehicle, container or shell for the Stone, analogically similar to the armour of a Knight. Which tells us something about the Knight standing on the fountain in the Splendor Solis series.
Disclaimer: I strongly advise that you do not attempt to put the techniques I describe here in to practice unless you have a well developed experience with chemistry, or you have access to the careful instruction of someone who is intimately knowledgeable in the processes I describe herein. Many of these techniques I describe in these essays have potential risks involved, and I do not always point out those risks in my descriptions. I do not take responsibility for any injuries or damages which may occur from the practical experiment with instructions contained in this email.
This essay was first published on the Hermetic Alchemy Forum on 18 December 2013, as post #534.
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