Chapter 1b

Rule for transforming bodies Icon

January 30, 2022

5 This is of 2 kinds:

  1. The body is viewed as an aggregate or combination of simple natures.

Thus, in gold are united the following circumstances:

  • it is yellow
  • heavy
  • of a certain weight
  • malleable and ductile to a certain extent
  • it is not volatile
  • it loses part of its substance by fire
  • it melts in a particular manner
  • it is separated and dissolved by particular methods
  • etc

An axiom of this kind deduces the subject from the forms of simple natures.

He who has acquired the forms and methods of superinducing yellowness, weight, ductility, stability, deliquescence, solution, and the like, and their degrees and modes, will contrive how to unite them in any body, so as to transform[76] it into gold.

This method of operating belongs to primary action.

It is the same thing to produce one or many simple natures, except that man is more confined and restricted in his operations, if many be required, on account of the difficulty of uniting many natures together.

This method of operating:

  • considers natures as simple though in a concrete body
  • sets out from what is constant, eternal, and universal in nature
  • opens such broad paths to human power, as the thoughts of man can in the present state of things scarcely comprehend or figure to itself.
  1. This rule depends on the discovery of the latent process does not proceed by simple natures,[114] but by concrete bodies, as they are found in nature and in its usual course.

The following species of inquiry is not confined to the mere generation of bodies. It is applicable to other changes and labors of nature:

  • From what beginnings, in what manner, and by what process gold or any metal or stone is generated from the original menstruum, or its elements, up to the perfect mineral
  • how are plants generated from seeds?
  • how are animals generated from coition to birth?

For instance, where an inquiry is made into the whole series and continued operation of the nutritive process, from the first reception of the food to its complete assimilation to the recipient;[77] or into the voluntary motion of animals, from the first impression of the imagination, and the continuous effects of the spirits, up to the bending and motion of the joints; or into the free motion of the tongue and lips, and other accessories which give utterance to articulate sounds.

For all these investigations relate to concrete or associated natures artificially brought together, and take into consideration certain particular and special habits of nature, and not those fundamental and general laws which constitute forms. It must, however, be plainly owned, that this method appears more prompt and easy, and of greater promise than the primary one.

The operative branch answers to this contemplative branch. It extends and advances its operation from that which is usually observed in nature, to other subjects immediately connected with it, or not very remote from such immediate connection.

But the higher and radical operations upon nature depend entirely on the primary axioms.

Besides, even where man has not the means of acting, but only of acquiring knowledge, as in astronomy (for man cannot act upon, change, or transform the heavenly bodies), the investigation of facts or truth, as well as the knowledge of causes and coincidences, must be referred to those primary and universal axioms that regard simple natures; such as the nature of spontaneous rotation, attraction, or the magnetic force, and many others which are more common than the heavenly bodies themselves. For let no one hope to determine the question whether the earth or heaven revolve in the diurnal motion, unless he have first comprehended the nature of spontaneous rotation.

6 This latent process is not obvious to men’s minds.

We do not mean the measures, symptoms, or degrees of any process which can be exhibited in the bodies themselves.

  • We simply mean a continued process which escapes the observation of the senses.

For instance, in all generations and transformations of bodies, we must ask:

  • what is in the act of being lost and escaping?
  • what remains?
  • what is being added?
  • what is being diluted?
  • what is being contracted?
  • what is being united?
  • what is being separated?
  • what is continuous?
  • what is broken off?
  • what is urging forward?
  • what impedes?
  • what predominates?
  • what is subservient?
  • etc

These inquiries should not be made in the mere[116] generation and transformation of bodies only.

  • They should be made in all other alterations and fluctuations:
    • what precedes?
    • what succeeds?
    • what is quick?
    • what is slow?
    • what produces?
    • what governs motion?
    • etc

These matters are unknown and unattempted by the present heavy and inactive state of the sciences.

Every natural act is brought about by the smallest efforts,[78] or at least such as are too small to strike our senses.

  • No one can direct or change nature unless he has properly comprehended these efforts.

7 Similarly, the investigation and discovery of the latent conformation in bodies is no less new, than the discovery of the latent process and form.

We are only admitted to the antechamber of nature.

A clear path, therefore, toward this object also must be thrown open, and well supported.

Labor is usefully bestowed on the anatomy of organized bodies, such as those of men and animals, which appears to be a subtile matter, and a useful examination of nature.

The species of anatomy, however, is that of first sight, open to the senses, and takes place only in organized[117] bodies.

It is obvious, and of ready access, when compared with the real anatomy of latent conformation in bodies which are considered similar, particularly in specific objects and their parts; as those of iron, stone, and the similar parts of plants and animals, as the root, the leaf, the flower, the flesh, the blood, and bones, etc. Yet human industry has not completely neglected this species of anatomy; for we have an instance of it in the separation of similar bodies by distillation, and other solutions, which shows the dissimilarity of the compound by the union of the homogeneous parts.

These methods are useful although attended generally with fallacy.

  • Many natures are attributed to the separate bodies, as if they had previously existed in the compound, which, in reality, are recently bestowed and superinduced by fire and heat, and the other modes of separation.

Besides, it is, after all, but a small part of the labor of discovering the real conformation in the compound, which is so subtile and nice, that it is rather confused and lost by the operation of the fire, than discovered and brought to light.

A separation and solution of bodies, therefore, is to be effected, not by fire, but by reasoning and true induction. This must be aided by:

  • experiment
  • a comparison with other bodies, and
  • a reduction to those simple natures and their forms which meet, and are combined in the compound

We must assuredly pass from Vulcan to Minerva, if we wish to bring to light the real texture and conformation of bodies, upon which every occult and (as it is sometimes called) specific property and virtue of things depends, and whence also every rule of powerful change and transformation is deduced.

For instance, we must examine:

  • what spirit is in every[118] body,[79]
  • what tangible essence
  • whether that spirit is:
    • copious and exuberant,
    • meagre and scarce,
    • fine or coarse,
    • aëriform or igniform,
    • active or sluggish,
    • weak or robust,
    • progressive or retrograde,
    • abrupt or continuous,
    • agreeing with external and surrounding objects, or differing from them, etc.

We must treat tangible essence (which admits of as many distinctions as the spirit), and its hairs, fibres, and varied texture.

Again, the situation of the spirit in the corporeal mass, its pores, passages, veins, and cells, and the rudiments or first essays of the organic body, are subject to the same examination.

The primary axioms allows the clear light which completely dispels all darkness and subtile difficulties.

8 This method will not bring us to atoms,[80] which takes for granted the vacuum, and immutability of matter (neither of which hypotheses is correct), but to the real particles such as we discover them to be.

Nor is there any[119] ground for alarm at this refinement as if it were inexplicable, for, on the contrary, the more inquiry is directed to simple natures, the more will everything be placed in a plain and perspicuous light, since we transfer our attention from the complicated to the simple, from the incommensurable to the commensurable, from surds to rational quantities, from the indefinite and vague to the definite and certain; as when we arrive at the elements of letters, and the simple tones of concords.

The investigation of nature is best conducted when mathematics are applied to physics.

We should not be alarmed at vast numbers and fractions.

  • In calculation it is as easy to set down or to reflect upon a thousand as a unit, or the thousandth part of an integer as an integer itself.

9 [81] From the 2 kinds of axioms above specified, arise the 2 divisions of philosophy and the sciences.

  1. Metaphysics

This includes the investigation of forms which are eternal and immutable.

  1. Physics

This includes the investigation of the efficient cause of matter, latent process, and latent conformation which all relate to the ordinary course of nature, and not to her fundamental and eternal laws.

Parallel to these, let there be two practical divisions; to physics that of mechanics, and to metaphysics that of magic, in the purest sense of the term, as applied to its ample means, and its command over nature.