The excerpt below discusses the alchemical steps detailed in Spendor Solis’ final two treatises. The in-depth instructions showcased in the Sixth Treatise touch upon a 12-step alchemical sequence, while the Seventh Treatise includes information on the benefits of transmuting a base material into the Philosopher’s Stone. Skinner concludes this excerpt by adding his own commentary on Splendor Solis—explaining that there is still a lot more to the alchemical text than we currently know.
THE SIXTH TREATISE
This treatise summarizes the whole process starting again at the beginning. One of the best-known alchemical sequences of 12 stages was delineated by George Ripley, Canon of Bridlington (c. 1415–90) in his Twelve Gates of Alchemy.
Many, but not all, of these stages are to be found in the sixth treatise but in a different order:
1. Calcination is the first step.
2. Separation of the Elements to extract the Quintessence.
3. Sublimation consists of vaporization and re-condensation, in which the Quintessence is extracted from the Elemental “faeces”, the remaining solid matter.1
4. Ablution of the blackness and the stench.
5. Putrefaction. The material’s initial appearance is destroyed, and what was concealed within it is made manifest.
6. Trituration, in which the material is crushed to powder.
7. Decoction is boiling to concentrate the metallic waters.
8. Assation, or roasting drives off the moisture.
9. Distillation clarifies the matter.
10. Coagulation/Congelation completes the Work.
11. Multiplication and projection are strangely passed over in silence.
THE SEVENTH TREATISE
This treatise consists mainly of diverse quotations from other alchemical works with little apparent structure. The authorities quoted include Albertus Magnus, Alexander, Alphidius, Aristotle, Artos (Hortulanus), Avicenna, Baltheus, Calid (Khalid), Ciliator, Constantine, Ferrarius, Galen, Pseudo-Geber, Hali, Hermes, Hippocrates, Lucas, Menaldus, Miraldus, Morienus, Ovid, Pythagoras, Rhases, Rosinos (Zosimus), Senior Zadith (Muhammad ibn Umail al-Tamini), Socrates and Virgil. It is interesting that most of these are Arabic or Greek sources, all are from before 1400 and there are no specifically Christian references or images in the book.
The author hints at “fiery water”, a universal solvent that Lapidus refers to as “Sophic fire.” Following this are comments on the Philosopher’s Quicksilver and Mercury, salt, alkaline salt, alum, vitriol, black sulphur, lead, red lead and sal ammoniac (ammonium chloride), most of which ingredients have not been mentioned earlier.
the benefits of the stone
The benefits claimed for this art are fourfold.
1. Health. It is claimed that if one takes the elixir (in a warm drink) it will make you well. It reputedly heals paralysis, dropsy, leprosy, jaundice, heart palpitations, colic, fever, epilepsy, the gripes, and many other diseases and disorders.
2. Metal transmutation. The text here talks of making any silver completely golden in colour, substance and weight, and identical in melting, softness, and hardness to gold, rather than transmuting base metals.
3. Stone transmutation. A property seldom mentioned in alchemical texts is to make all common stones into precious stones such as jasper, jacinth, red and white corals, emerald, chrysolite and sapphire, crystals, carbuncles, ruby and topaz.
4. The ability to make glass malleable and easily coloured.
Splendor solis is an amazing work of alchemy and artistry, but one that requires close study to discover its secrets. Its symbolism does not appear to be consistently applied (there being four distinct sequences), and there is some deliberate obfuscation (for example in the sixth treatise). Its images contain a lot of details that are not commented on in the text, and remarks in the text that are not illustrated. Nevertheless, it marks a high point in alchemical imagery. The main thing to keep in mind is that the author’s primary purpose was to describe how to take a raw prima materia from nature and speed up its “evolution” to the point where the Philosophers’ Stone is created.
There are no comments about the spiritual state of the alchemist nor is there any overt Christian imagery, although these components feature in many later works on alchemy. Similarly, this author does not draw any parallels between the physical process and psychological interpretations of the images. To get the most from Splendor solis, do not look for what is not there. Instead, delight in the richly allegorical images and the 16th-century alchemical wisdom that is to be found in this manuscript.
Dr. Stephen Skinner is an Australian author, editor, publisher and lecturer. He is known for authoring books on magic, feng shui, sacred geometry and alchemy. He is an expert in both alchemy and 15th and 16th-century grimoires, having edited not only Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries, but also the book of Lapidus, one of the last remaining physical alchemist texts of the 20th century. He is an authority in 15th to 18th-century magic manuscripts and the author of more than 40 books on Western esoteric traditions. He has published over 46 books in more than 20 languages.
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