Rosicrucian Writings Online


The Philosopher's Stone

A RECORD OF THE SECRET BOOK OF THE ALCHEMISTS
 
By Frater Raymond Lindgren, F. R. C.
 
[From The Rosicrucian Digest December 1937]
  
  
THE BOOK has a binding of copper, engraved with hieroglyphics and strange symbols. Its pages are of the bark of trees and closely covered with writing. Every 8th page contains a diagram--mystic key to the text. There is an aura of reverend antiquity about it, for this is The Book of Abraham The Jew!
 
In it are the secrets of existence--of life and death--of transmutation of metals--of the soul. Where is it?
 
The story of this ancient manuscript is an unfinished drama running through the centuries, with bearded alchemists and secretive mystics as its actors, in scenes that are now tragic, again divinely gratifying, and at all times fascinating to the seeker after truth.
 
But let us dip back to about the middle of the 14th century, when the Book first came out of the East and into the hands of a simple bookseller in Paris; one Nicolas Flamel. The life and works of Flamel are not legendary, for documents bearing evidence of his accomplishments have been found.
 
Against the columns of Saint-Jacque la Boucherie, was his little bookstall, barely 2 by 2 feet in measurement. But it soon grew causing him to move to a large house, where those who copied and illuminated manuscripts could work with him. At this time Nicolas Flamel married Pernelle, whose intelligence and devotion were so great a help to him during his long life.
 
Even at this time, Flamel was somewhat of a mystic. He knew that the secret of the philosopher's stone existed and he desired to find it. But not only for the formulae that would enable him to turn base metals into gold; there were other secrets more precious that would teach him transmutation of the soul. But how could he, a poor Paris bookseller, ever contact the eastern sages whom he was convinced possessed this knowledge?
 
So strong was his desire, so constant, that one night he dreamed that an angel showed him the Book, admonishing him to look well upon it. Shortly thereafter, a ragged man came to his shop with a book to sell. Flamel knew, the moment he saw it, that here at last was the fulfilment of his dream. He knew also that the Book comes only to those who are meant to have it.
 
For 21 years Nicolas Flamel meditated and pondered the secret symbols. But he was without understanding. Much of the text was in ancient Hebrew, so here too he was thwarted in his efforts. There were at that time no Jews in France to help him, for they had been banished, many flying to Spain, where they formed into communities of learned mystics.
 
At the end of this score of years of concentration and disappointment--which was not long considering what was at stake--Flamel found he could safely go to Spain with the idea of contacting some of these learned Jews, were he to adopt the clothes and habits of a pilgrim. This he did, but the exhausting journey was a failure, until, weary and disappointed he turned his face toward Paris and his beloved Pernelle.
 
At Leon, the bookseller was by chance put in touch with a learned old Rabbi. Yes! He knew of the Book; had been awaiting this moment all his life. The two worked through the night, zealously, inspired. But Flamel had brought only the pages containing a copy of the Hebrew text and a few of the symbols. They must travel to Paris at once.
 
But Jews were not allowed in France. "Very well. I will be converted," said the old Rabbi. With great haste they began their journey to Paris, but the feeble old Jew died on the way. Flamel returned alone, aware that the knowledge he now possessed would allow the complete translation of the Book.
 
After three years of intensive application, the "simple bookseller," his research finished, changed half a pound of mercury into silver, then into gold. From this time on Nicolas Flamel was rich, but all of the wealth he created was spent on charitable schemes such as the building of hospitals, churches and houses. He worked on at his shop and continued to live in a simple manner until his transition.
 
Pernelle died first and her husband spent his last few years writing books on alchemy. Then he followed Pernelle.
 
And what of The Book of Abraham The Jew? As soon as the death of Flamel became known, almost every alchemist in Europe made a "pilgrimage" to his massive tomb. As time passed, his house and shop, in fact any building with which he had anything to do, was ransacked in search of the Book and perhaps a few phials of the magic projection powder, without which the transmutation of metals was impossible.
 
But the truth is that the Manuscript, as well as a supply of the red projection powder, had been entrusted to a nephew of Flamel, and remained in the family for the following 200 years. In the reign of Louis XIII, robbers smashed into Flamel's tomb and, soon after, word went around that the coffin was empty.
 
About this time a descendant of Flamel foolishly used some of the powder in a public demonstration. Thus began a new act in our drama, for the famous Cardinal Richelieu now took possession of the Book and tried his best to decipher and understand its veiled contents. But he died unpossessed of its secrets, and the Book again disappeared.
 
But there is no doubt that it was copied! One is known to have existed in Milan, Italy in the 17th century. In 1719, one Paul Lucas wrote a book on his adventures in the Near East. He told of meeting a philosopher in Turkey who was familiar with the story of Flamel, and who had made the astounding assertion that both Flamel and his wife were still alive in India. But it is improbable that this was true, for Nicolas Flamel's philosophy welcomed natural death as a release.
 
About 1550 a manuscript which was probably a copy of the lost Book came to light in a curious manner in Wales. A de-barred lawyer named Talbot spent the night at an inn and the landlord showed him an unintelligible old book. It had been found, he said, several years before, together with two ivory balls, in the grave of a Catholic Bishop. The landlord called his children, who were even then playing with one of these mysterious ivory balls.
 
Talbot bought the book and ball for five dollars, and took them to a friend who was interested in hermetic science. The ivory ball contained a red powder and they made gold at their first attempt. But the manuscript itself remained forever meaningless to them, and when the powder was exhausted they could make no more gold.
 
Lust for the yellow metal and the worldly riches it brings has doomed many men down the centuries. Most of the alchemists who were able to probe for the philosopher's stone and its means and formulae for transmutation of metals, missed, or were entirely unaware of, the sublime secrets it held for the transmutation of the spirit.
 
Raymond Lulle made gold for Edward III. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden issued gold coins bearing a special mark denoting their hermetic origin. Wilhelm Leibnitz, famous philosopher, joined a body of Rosicrucians in Nuremberg, in pursuit of the philosopher's stone. Elector Augustus of Saxony, alchemist, left an immense fortune. Till the end of the 18th century alchemists who valued their existence were forced to practice the strictest secrecy, for the persecutions and tortures inflicted on these fathers of all our modern science were horrible, beyond writing.
 
But the secrets were not lost! Three years ago a business man and Rosicrucian, call him Mr. X, was attending a sale at Sothebey's, the world-famous auctioneers in Bond Street, London. The personal library and effects of the Grand Master of the Masonic Order of France were being auctioned to the highest bidder.
 
A flat, brown book, noted in the catalogue as a copy of the breviary of Nicolas Flamel, was put up for sale. Mr. X felt suddenly that he must possess that book. Bidding began. It leaped stiffly skyward. A few early voices dropped out. Higher soared the figure. One opponent remained. With a steady voice, Mr. X called out his last offer. Silence. Bang went the gavel, and the book was his.
 
It had cost him a preposterous price, but he knew better than to argue with the hunch that had urged him to buy it. He took the book home and placed it on a shelf with some first editions and forgot about it. That was in 1934.
 
A few weeks ago Mr. X was in his library and felt impelled to go to a shelf and take down this strange book; he had forgotten what it was. Slowly he thumbed through the pages; noticed that it was penned in the middle of the 19th century in ancient French; noticed also that it was in illuminated script, containing many drawings of alchemical apparatus, in gold, silver and various other colors. On the first page there was a portrait, postage stamp size, of Nicolas Flamel.
 
Mr. X recognized also many secret symbols, and as he had studied this very French years ago, saw that the text was a translation of the cyphers, as well as of secret alchemical signs used in the middle ages to disguise the formulae of alchemists. But he was unmoved by this discovery, and replacing the book, turned to other interests.
 
About a week later, a friend said casually, "Have you read 'The Return Of The Magi'? I think you would be interested in it." Mr. X bought the book that same day and opened it at random. His eyes fell, surprised, on certain words which he quickly connected with the old manuscript in his library.
 
Then suddenly, he realized why he had been forced to purchase at so great a price, that strange book. It was a copy of The Book Of Abraham The Jew!
   

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