Sitting around, playing fetch with your cat, thinking about how difficult alchemy is? Don’t beat yourself up too much. You’re not alone. It was just as messed up in the 14th century as it is today.
Petrus Bonus’ New Pearl of Great Price contains a list of ten things that make alchemy difficult. Here’s a plain language summary of these problems which are every bit as true now as they were 700 years ago. Like your 14th alchemy unaltered? Bonus’ text can be found here.
1. Alchemists give you obscure instructions.
2. Today’s alchemists are all doing something different. Some of them must be screwing it up.
3. People don’t got the philosopher’s stone. Fakers give us a bad rap.
4. Alchemists talk crazy talk. Sometimes they don’t use the same crazy-talk as their alchemist friends. You thought there was a secret decoder ring? Sorry tiger.
5. “Get it out of dumps and gutters, or pay a fortune for it, but pay nothing for it, then mix it with nothing, or maybe everything”. There are contradictions in alchemical texts. Maybe we can’t take them literally.
6. ‘Guess what the allegories mean!’: It’s a fun game. Sometimes we lose.
7. Chefs expect recipes that makes sense. Alchemists garnish at the start, preheat
at the end, and stir everywhere in between.
8. Alchemists tell you about using many types of vessels. Then they tell you that
there is only one vessel. What’s not to understand?
9. Alchemy takes nine months… I mean forty days… I mean 7 years…. I mean 12 minutes. What? Wait until spring…. I mean Libra.
10. The starting substance of alchemy (prima materia) is clearly an eagle in a pink dress. My wife says it has a blue hat though. Mark has done it with a mushroom. I wonder what kind of mushroom. Bill uses blood spilled over a glass pyramid. This is getting complicated.
The Remedy: Whiten Latona and tear up your books!