The embers of life, sparks of light, that once burned so warmly, with a brilliant flame, have since waned and
dimmed cold. The joys of paradise past, natural harmony, when the air was sweater, with a golden glow,
have since faded to memories of old. The warmth of the Sun, shining friendship, that once kindled the
heart, a peaceful ecstasy, now glares desert-harsh. The earth that nourished, gold of green, enchanted
serpent dreaming, now a viper venomous. The waters so soothing, spring of life, that through verdant
valleys flowed, now a bitter trickle. Now what will you do, ye childes of dust, fade like deaden stars or else
shine again, you must!
Amidst the alchemist's camp is an open fire and astride the fire is a blackened tripod upon which rests a
black receptacle. He beckons you over and you see that the receptacle is full of a hot red melt. He feeds
the fire with his bellows and soon the melt begins to pour off thick black smoke and a sulphurous odour.
What happens next is quite astonishing. The alchemist stands by the fire and a red light begins to glow
within him, radiating from his chest. He directs the light down to his hands and clasps his hands over the
receptacle as his hands glow with a red heart-shaped light. As he does so, the smoke begins to assume a
definite form, at first you fear that some dreaded demon is materialising from the smoke, but then you see
that it has become a great bird perched on the rim of the receptacle! It is a black creature of smoke and
the alchemist places his hands to its breast and the red glow is transferred into the creature. Now the
creature magnifies in form and assumes the shape of a magnificent regal bird, with its chest puffed up in
avian elegance. Its crest glows a fiery red, like the crown of an ethereal king. Then, the great black form
spreads its wings and takes to the air. You watch it soar toward the risen Sun as a fantastic rainbow arc
bursts with hueful radiance round about it. The Phoenix glides straight through the midst of this regal light.
The black smoky form seems to merge with the Sun, or is it too hard to see in the dazzling light, or has it
melted away into the ether? Perhaps it was just smoke after all?
The alchemist is beaming with joy at the spectacle, though he takes no credit for the work. He turns to you
"You are made of dust and the light that binds it, but no ordinary dust. You are made of stardust. Billions of
years ago when the Universe was young, the first stars lived, grew old and died. As they died they
scattered the seeds of their labours across the Cosmos - atoms of heavier elements like carbon and
oxygen and the metals, including mercury, lead, iron, tin, copper, silver and gold. These elements and their
kin formed new stars, including the Sun and planets like the Earth. You are made from the ashes of the
stars. Ashes and dust. If those great and long-lived ancient fires had not died, neither you nor any bird,
beast or plant would exist, ever. They burnt alone in the darkness in which they died, so as to give you life."
Ashes to ashes...
"The Ashes of Hermes Tree is what you seek. The Phoenix of burning sulphur is the key; born of fire, risen
from the ashes and crowned with regal splendour. Remember, do not waste your savings on many vessels
and furnaces, for we need but one vessel, one receptacle, one furnace... . Find the stone that burns!"
At first you fear that a dreaded demon is materialising from the smoke!
A riddle I give to the:
I live in the mountains and on the plain;
I was the father before there were sons;
I have engendered my mother;
And my mother has carried me in her womb and given birth to me without need of nourishment.
I am hermaphroditic and I have two natures;
I am victorious over all the strong,
And I am vanquished by the most feeble and small;
There is nothing so beautiful under heaven, nor anything with a form so perfect.
There proceeds from me an admirable bird,
Which from its bones, which are my bones, makes a small nest,
Where, flying without wings, it revivifies itself in death.
By Art, surpassing even the abilities of Nature, it is at last transformed to a king, which surpasses
i infinitely the other six.
This is the true miracle of the Terrestrial Heaven by the Art of the sages.
(From A Treatise on the Terrestrial Heaven, 1602, Vol. IV, Theatrum Chemicum.