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Page

Réfer. : SC0306A
Auteur : Boyle Robert.
Titre : The sceptical Chymist.
S/titre : or chymico-physical Doubts & Paradoxes,
Touching the experiments....
Editeur : Printed for J. Crooke. London.
Date éd. : 1661 .
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CONTENTS
PAGE
INTRODUCTORY PREFACE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
PHYSIOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS TOUCHING THE EXPERIMENTS
WONT TO BE EMPLOYED TO EVINCE EITHER THE FOUR PERI-
PATETICK ELEMENTS, OR THE THREE CHYMICAL PRINCIPLES
OF MIXT BODIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
THE FIRST PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
THE SECOND PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
THE THIRD PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
THE FOURTH PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113
THE FIFTH PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
THE SIXTH PART . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186
CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226
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INTRODUCTORY PREFACE TO THE FOLLOWING TREATISE

To give the reader an account, why the following treatise
is suffered to pass abroad so maimed and imperfect, I must
inform him that 'tis now long since, that to gratify an
ingenious gentleman, I set down some of the reasons that
kept me from fully acquiescing either in the peripatetical,
or in the chymical doctrine, of the material principles of
mixt bodies. This discourse some years after falling
into the hands of some learned men, had the good luck to
be so favourably received and advantagiously spoken of
by them, that having had more than ordinary invitations
given me to make it public, I thought fit to review it,
that I might retrench some things that seemed not so fit
to be shewn to every reader, and substitute some of those
other things that occurred to me of the trials and observations
I had since made: What became of my papers, I
elsewhere mention in a Preface where I complain of it:
but since I writ that, I found many sheets that belonged
to the subjects I am now about to discourse of. Wherefore
seeing that I had then in my hands as much of the
first dialogue as was requisite to state the case, and serve
for an introduction as well to the conference betwixt
Carneades and Eleutherius, as to some other dialogues,
which for certain reasons are not' herewith published, I
resolved to supply, as well as I could, the contents of a
paper belonging to the second of the following discourses,
which I could not possibly retrieve, though it were the chief
of them all. And having once more tried the opinion of
friends, but not the same, about tins imperfect work, I
found it such, that I was content in compliance with their
desires, that not only it should be published, but that it
should be published as soon as conveniently might be.
I had indeed all along the dialogues spoken of myself as

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2 The Sceptical Chymist
of a third person; for they containing discourses which
were among the first treatises that I ventured long ago
to write of matters philosophical, I had reason to desire,
with the pointer, to latere pone tabulam, and hear what
men would say of them, before I owned myself to be their
author. But besides that now I find, 'tis not unknown to
many who it is that writ them, I am made to believe that
'tis not inexpedient they should be known to come from
a person altogether a stranger to chymical affairs. And
I made the less scruple to let them come abroad uncompleated;
partly because my affairs and pre-ingagements
to publish divers other treatises allowed me small hopes of
being able in a great while to complete those dialogues,
and partly because I am not unapt to think, that they may
come abroad seasonably enough, though not for the
author's reputation, yet for other purposes. For I observe,
that of late chymistry begins, as indeed it deserves, to be
cultivated by learned men who before despised it; and
to be pretended to by many who never cultivated it, that
they may be thought not to be ignorant of it: whence it is
come to pass, that divers chymical notions about matters
philosophical are taken for granted and employed, and
so adopted by very eminent writers both naturalists
and physicians. Now this I fear may prove somewhat
prejudicial to the advancement of solid philosophy: for
though I am a great lover of chymical experiments, and
though I have no mean esteem of divers chymical remedies,
yet I distinguish these from their notions about the causes
of things and their manner of generation. And for ought
I can hitherto discern, there are a thousand phaenomena in
nature, besides a multitude of accidents relating to the
human body, which will scarcely be clearly and satisfactorily
made out by them that confine themselves to
deduce things from salt, sulphur, and mercury, and the
other notions peculiar to the chymists, without taking
much more notice than they are wont to do, of the motions
and figures, of the small parts of matter and the other
more catholic and fruitful affections of bodies. Wherefore
it will not perhaps be now unseasonable to let our
Carneades warne men, not to subscribe to the grand doctrine

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Introductory Preface 3
of the chymists touching their three hypostatical principles,
till they have a little examined it, and considered
how they can clear it from his objections, divers of
which 'tis like they may never have thought on; since
a chymist scarce would, and none but a chymist could
propose them. I hope also it will not be unacceptable
to several ingenious persons, who are unwilling to
determine of any important controversie, without a
previous consideration of what may be said on both sides,
and yet have greater desires to understand chymical
matters than opportunities of learning them, to find here
together, besides several experiments of my own purposely
made to illustrate the doctrine of the elements,
divers others scarce to be met with, otherwise then
scattered among many chymical books: and to find
these associated experiments so delivered as that an
ordinary reader, if he be but acquainted with the usual
chymical termes, may easily enough understand them;
and even a wary one may safely rely on them. These
things I add, because a person anything versed in the
writings of chymists cannot but discern by their obscure,
ambiguous, and almost aenigmatical way of expressing
what they pretend to teach, that they have no mind to be
understood at all, but by the sons of Art (as they call them),
nor to be understood even by these without difficulty and
hazardous trials. Insomuch that some of them scarce
ever speak so candidly, as when they make use of that
known chymical sentence: Ubi palam locuti fumus, ibi
nihil diximus. And as the obscurity of what some writers
deliver makes it very difficult to be understood; so the
unfaithfulness of too many others makes it unfit to be
relied upon. For though unwillingly, yet I must for the
truth sake, and the reader's, warne him not to be forward
to believe chymical experiments when they are set down
only by way of prescriptions, and not of relations; that is,
unless he that delivers them mentions his doing it upon
his own particular knowledge, or upon the relation of
some credible person, avowing it upon his own experience.
For I am troubled, I must complain, that even
eminent writers, both physitians and philosophers, whom

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4 The Sceptical Chymist
I can easily name, if it be required, have of late suffered
themselves to be so far imposed upon, as to publish and
build upon chymical experiments, which questionless they
never tried; for if they had, they would, as well as I, have
found them not to be true. And indeed it were to be
wished, that now that those begin to quote chymical
experiments that are not themselves acquainted with
chymical operations, men would leave off that indefinite
way of vouching the chymists say this, or the chymists
affirm that, and would rather for each experiment they
alleged name the author or authors upon whose credit
they relate it; for, by this means they would secure
themselves from the suspicion of falsehood (to which
the other practice exposes them), and they would leave
the reader to judge of what is fit for him to believe of
what is delivered, whilst they employ not their own great
names to countenance doubtful relations; and they
will also do justice to the inventors or publishers of the
true experiments, as well as upon the obtruders of false
ones. Whereas by that general way of quoting the
chymists, the candid writer is defrauded of the particular
praise, and the impostor escapes the personal disgrace
that is due to him.
The remaining part of this Preface must be imployed in saying something for Carneades, and something for
myself.
And first, Carneades hopes that he will be thought to have disputed civilly and modestly enough for one that
was to play the antagonist and the sceptic. And if he
anywhere seem to slight his adversaries tenents and arguments,
he, is willing to have it looked upon as what he was
induced to not so much by his opinion of them, as the
examples of Themistius and Philoponus, and the custom
of such kind of disputes.
Next, in case that some of his arguments shall not be thought of the most cogent sort that may be, he hopes it
will be considered that it ought not to be expected that
they should be so. For, his part being chiefly but to
propose doubts and scruples, he does enough, if he shews
that his adversaries arguments are not strongly concluding,

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Introductory Preface 5
though his own be not so neither. And if there should
appear any disagreement betwixt the things he delivers
in divers passages, he hopes it will be considered, that it
is not necessary that an the things a sceptic proposes
should be consonant; since it being his work to suggest
doubts against the opinion he questions, it is allowable
for him to propose two or more several hypotheses about
the same thing: and to say that it may be accounted for
this way, or that way, or the other way, though these
wayes be perhaps inconsistent among themselves. Because
it is enough for him, if either of the proposed hypotheses
be but as probable as that he calls in question. And if
he propose many that are each of them probable, he does
the more ratify his doubts, by making it appear the more
difficult to be sure, that that way which they all differ
from is the true. And our Carneades by holding the negative,
has this advantage, that if among all the instances
he brings to invalidate the vulgar doctrine of those he
disputes with, any one be irrefragable, that alone is sufficient
to overthrow a doctrine which universally asserts
what he opposes. For, it cannot be true, that all bodies
whatsoever that are reckoned among the perfectly mixt
ones, are compounded of such a determinate number of
such or such ingredients, in case any one such body can be
produced that is not so compounded; and he hopes too, that
accurateness will be the less expected from him, because
his undertaking obliges him to maintain such opinions in
chymistry, and that chiefly by chymical arguments, as
are contrary to the very principles of the chymists, from
whose writings it is not therefore like he should receive
any intentional assistance, except from some passages of
the bold and ingenious Helmont, with whom he yet disagrees
in many things (which reduce him to explicate
divers chymical phaenomena, according to other notions):
and of whose ratiocinations, not only some seem very
extravagant, but even the rest are not wont to be as considerable
as his experiments. And though it be true
indeed, that some Aristotelians have occasionally written
against the chymical doctrine he oppugnes, yet since they
have done it according to their principles, and since our

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6 The Sceptical Chymist
Carneades must as well oppose their hypothesis as that
of the spagyrist, he was fain to fight his adversaries with
his own weapons, those of the peripatetic being improper
if not hurtful for a person of his tenets; besides that
those Aristotelians (at least those he met with), that have
written against the chymists, seem to have had so little
experimental knowledge in chymical matters, that by
their frequent mistakes and unskilful way of oppugning,
they have too often exposed themselves to the derision of
their adversaries, for writing so confidently against what
they appeare so little to understand.
And lastly, Carneades hopes he shall do the ingenious this piece of service, that by having thus drawn the
chymists' doctrine out of their dark and smokie laboratories,
and both brought it into the open light, and shewn
the weakness of their proofs, that have hitherto been wont
to be brought for it, either judicious men shall henceforth
be allowed calmly and after due information to disbelieve
it, or those abler chymists, that are zealous for the reputation
of it, will be obliged to speak plainer than hitherto
has been done, and maintain it by better experiments and
arguments than those Carneades hath examined: so that
he hopes the curious will one way or other derive either
satisfaction or instruction from his endeavours. And as
he is ready to make good the profession he makes in the
close of his discourse, of being ready to be better informed,
so he expects either to be indeed informed, or to be let
alone. For though, if any truly knowing chymists shall
think fit in a civil and rational way to shew him any truth
touching the matter in dispute that he yet discernes not,
Carneades will not refuse either to admit, or to own a
conviction: yet if any impertinent person shall, either to
get himselfe a name, or for what other end soever, wilfully
or carelessly mistake the state of the controversie, or the
sense of his arguments, or shall rail instead of arguing, as
hath been done of late in print by divers chymists; or
lastly, shall write against them in a canting way, I mean
shall express himselfe in ambiguous or obscure termes, or
argue from experiments, not intelligibly enough delivered,
Carneades professes that he values his time so much, as

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Introductory Preface 7
not to think the answering such trifles worth the loss
of it.
And now having said thus much for Carneades, I hope the reader will give me leave to say something for myself.
And first, if some morose readers shall find fault with
my having made the interlocutors upon occasion complement
with one another, and that I have almost all along
written these dialogues in a style more fashionable than
that of mere scholars is wont to be, I hope shall be
excused by them that shall consider, that to keep a due
decorum in the discourses it was fit that in a book written
by a gentleman, and wherein only gentlemen are introduced
as speakers, the language should be more smooth
and the expressions more civil than is usual in the more
scholastic way of writing. And indeed, I am not sorry
to have this opportunity of giving an example how to
manage even disputes with civility; whence perhaps
some readers will be assisted to discern a difference betwixt
bluntness of speech and strength of reason, and find that
a man may be a champion for truth without being an
enemy to civility; and may confute an opinion without
railing at them that hold it; to whom he that desires to
convince and not to provoke them, must make some
amends by his civility to their persons, for his severity to
their mistakes; and must say as little else as he can to
displease them, when lie says that they are in an error.
But perhaps other readers will be less apt to find fault with the civility of my disputants than the chymists will
be, upon the reading of some passages of the following
dialogue, to accuse Carneades of asperity. But if I have
made my sceptic sometimes speak slightingly of the
opinions he opposes, I hope it will not be found that I have
done any more than became the part he was to act of an
opponent: especially if what I have made him say be compared
with what the prince of the Romane orators himself
makes both great persons and friends say of one another's
opinions, in his excellent dialogues, De Natura Deorum:
and I shall scarce be suspected of partiality in the case,
by them that take notice that there is full as much (if not
far more) liberty of slighting their adversaries tenets

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8 The Sceptical Chymist
to be met with in the discourses of those with whom
Carneades disputes. Nor need I make the interlocutors
speak otherwise than freely in a dialogue, wherein it was
sufficiently intimated that I meant not to declare my own
opinion of the arguments proposed, much lesse of the
whole controversy itselfe, otherwise than as it may by an
attentive reader be guessed at by some passages of
Carneades (I say some passages, because I make not all
that he says, especially in the heat of disputation, mine),
partly in this discourse, and partly in some other (1) dialogues
betwixt the same speakers (though they treat not immediately
of the elements) which have long lain by me,
and expect the entertainement that these present discourses
will meet with. And indeed they will much
mistake me, that shall conclude from what I now publish,
that I am at defiance with chymistry, or would make my
readers so. I hope the Specimina I have lately published
of an attempt to shew the usefulness of chymical experiments
to contemplative philosophers, will give those that
read them other thoughts of me, and I had a design (but
wanted opportunity) to publish with these papers an essay
I have lying by me, the greater part of which is apologetical
for one sort of chymists. And at least, as for those that
know me, I hope the pain I have taken in the fire will both
convince them that I am far from being an enemy to the
chymist's art (though I am no friend to many that disgrace
it by professing it), and persuade them to believe me when
I declare that I distinguish betwixt those chymists that
are either cheats, or but laborants, and the true adepti;
by whome could I enjoy their conversation, I would both
willingly and thankfully be instructed; especially concerning
the nature and generation of metals : and possibly,
those that know how little I have remitted of my former
addictedness to make chymical experiments, will easily
believe that one of the chief designes of this sceptical discourse
was, not so much to discredit chymistry, as to give


1 The Dialogues here meant are those about Heat, Fire, Flame, etc. (seen by two secretaries of the Royal Society), that the author
somewhere complaines to have been missing with other things of
his presently after the hasty removal of his goods by night in the
great fire of London.

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Introductory Preface 9
an occasion and a kind of necessity to the more knowing
artists to lay aside a little of their over-great reservedness,
and either explicate or prove the chymical theory better
than ordinary chymists have done, or by enriching us
with some of their nobler secrets to evince that their art is
able to make amends even for the deficiencies of their
theory: and thus much I shall make bold to add, that
we shall much undervalue chymistry, if we imagine that
it cannot teach us things far more useful, not only to
physic, but to philosophy, than those that are hitherto
know to vulgar chymists. And yet as for inferior spagyrists
themselves, they have by their labours deserved so
well of the commonwealth of learning, that methinks 'tis
pity they should ever misse the truth which they have
so industriously sought. And though I be no admirer of
the theorical part of their art, yet my conjectures will
much deceive me, if the practical part be, not hereafter
much more cultivated than hitherto it has been, and do
not both employ philosophy and philosophers, and hope to
make men such. Nor would I, that have been diverted
by other, studies as well as affairs, be thought to pretend
being a profound spagyrist, by finding so many faults in
the doctrine wherein the generality of chymists scruples
not to acquiesce: for besides that 'tis most commonly far
easier to frame objections against any proposed hypothesis
than to propose an hypothesis not liable to objections,
(besides this I say) 'tis no such great matter; if whereas
beginners in chymistry are commonly at once imbued
with the theory and operations of their profession, I who
had the good fortune to learn the operations from illiterate
persons, upon whose credit I was not tempted to take up
any opinion about them, should consider things with lesse
prejudice, and consequently with other eyes than the
generality of learners; and should be more disposed to
accommodate the phaenomena that occurred to me to other
notions than to those of the spagirists. And having at
first entertained a suspicion that the vulgar principles were
lesse general and comprehensive, or lesse considerately
deduced from chymical operations, than was believed, it
was not uneasie for me both to take notice of divers phaenomena,

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10 The Sceptical Chymist
overlooked by prepossest persons, that seemed
not to suite so well with the hermetical doctrine; and to
devise some experiments likely to furnish me with objections
against it, not known to many, that having practised
chymistry longer perchance than I have yet lived, may
have far more experience than I of particular processes.
To conclude, whether the notions I have proposed, and
the experiments I have communicated, be considerable,
or not, I willingly leave others to judge; and this only I
shall say for myself, that I have endeavoured to deliver
matters of fact so faithfully, that I may as well assist
the lesse skilful readers to examine the chymical hypothesis,
as provoke the spagirical philosophers to illustrate
it: which if they do, and that either the chymical opinion,
or the peripatetic, or any other theory of the elements
differing from that I am most inclined to, shall be intelligibly
explicated, and duly proved to me; what I have
hitherto discoursed will not hinder it from making a
proselyte of a person that loves fluctuation of judgment
little enough to be willing to be eased of it by anything
but error.

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PHYSIOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS
TOUCHING THE EXPERIMENTS WONT TO BE EMPLOYED TO EVINCE EITHER THE FOUR PERIPATETICK ELEMENTS, OR THE THREE CHYMICAL PRINCIPLES OF MIXT BODIES

PART OF THE FIRST DIALOGUE
I PERCEIVE that divers of my friends have thought it very
strange to hear me speak so irresolvedly, as I have been
wont to do, concerning those things which some take to
be the elements, and others to be, the principles of all
mixt bodies. But I blush not to acknowledge that I
much less scruple to confess that I doubt when I do so,
than to profess that I know what I do not: and I should
have much stronger expectations than I dare yet entertain,
to see philosophy solidly established, if men would more
carefully distinguish those things that they know from
those that they ignore or do but think, and then explicate
clearly the things they conceive they understand, acknowledge
ingenuously what it is they ignore, and profess so
candidly their doubts, that the industry of intelligent
persons might be set on work to make further enquiries,
and the easiness of less discerning men might not be
imposed on. But because a more particular accompt
will probably be expected of my unsatisfiedness not only
with the peripatetic, but with the chymical doctrine of
the primitive ingredients of bodies: it may possibly serve
to satisfy others of the excusableness of my dissatisfaction
to peruse the ensuing relation of what passed a while since
at a meeting of persons of several opinions, in a place that
need not here be named; where the subject, whereof
we have been speaking, was amply and variously discoursed
of.

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12 The Sceptical Chymist
It was on one of the fairest dayes of this summer that the inquisitive Eleutherius came to invite me to make a visit
with him to his friend Carneades. I readily consented to
this motion, telling him that if he would but permit me to
go first and make an excuse at a place not far off, where I
had at that hour appointed to meet, but not about a
business either of moment, or that could not well admit
of a delay, I would presently wait on him, because of my
knowing Carneades to be so conversant with nature and
with furnaces, and so unconfined to vulgar opinions, that
he would probably by some ingenious paradox or other
give our mindes at least a pleasing exercise, and perhaps
enrich them with some solid instruction, Eleutherius
then first going with me to the place where my apology
was to be made, I accompanied him to the lodging of
Carneades, where when we were come, we were told by
the servants that he was retired with a couple of friends
(whose names they also told us) to one of the arbours in his
garden, to enjoy under its coole shades a delightful protection
from the yet troublesome heat of the sun.
Eleutherius being perfectly acquainted with that garden immediately led me to the arbour, and relying on the
intimate familiarity that had been long cherished betwixt
him and Carneades; in spite of my reluctancy to what
might look like an intrusion upon his privacy, drawing me
by the hand, he abruptly entered the arbour, where we
found Carneades, Philoponus, and Themistius, sitting
close about a little round table, on which, besides paper,
pen, and inke, there lay two or three open books; Carneades
appeared not at all troubled at this surprise, but rising
from the table, received his friend with open looks and
armes, and welcoming me also with his wonted freedom
and civility, invited us to rest ourselves by him, which,
as soon as we had exchanged with his two friends (who
were ours also) the civilities accustomed on such occasions,
we did. And he presently after we had seated ourselves,
shutting the books that lay open, and turning to us with
a smiling countenance, seemed ready to begin some such
unconcerning discourse as is wont to pass, or rather waste,
the time in promiscuous companies,

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Physiological Considerations 13
But Eleutherius guessing at what he meant to do, prevented him by telling him, I perceive, Carneades, by the
books that you have been now shutting, and much more
by the posture wherein I found persons so qualified to
discourse of serious matters, and so accustomed to do it,
that you three were, before our coming, engaged in some
philosophical conference, which I hope you will either
prosecute, and allow us to be partakers of, in recompense
of the freedome we have used in presuming to surprise you,
or else give us leave to repair the injury we should otherwise
do you, by leaving you to the freedom we have interrupted,
and punishing ourselves for our boldness by
depriving ourselves of the happiness of your company.
With these last words he and I rose up, as if we meant to
be gone: but Carneades suddenly laying hold on his arme,
and stopping him by it, smilingly told him, We are not so
forward to lose good company as you seem to imagine;
especially since you are pleased to desire to be present at
what we shall say about such a subject as that you found
us considering. For that, being the number of the
elements, principles, or material ingredients of bodies,
is an enquiry whose truth is of that importance, and of that
difficulty, that it may as well deserve, as require, to be
searched into by such skilful indagators of nature as yourselves.
And therefore we sent to invite the bold and
acute Leucippus to lend us some light by his atomical
paradox, upon which we expected such pregnant hints,
that 'twas not without a great deal of trouble that we
had lately word brought us that he was not to be found;
and we had likewise begged the assistance of your presence
and thoughts, had not the messenger we employed to
Leucippus informed us that as he was going he saw you
both pass by towards another part of the town; and this
frustrated expectation of Leucippus his company, who
told me but last night that he would be ready to give me
a meeting where I pleased to-day, having very long suspended
our conference about the freshly mentioned subject,
it was so newly begun when you came in, that we shall
scarce need to repeat anything to acquaint you with what
had passed betwixt us before your arrival, so that I cannot

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14 The Sceptical Chymist
but look upon it as a fortunate accident that you should
come so seasonably, to be not hearers alone, but we hope
interlocutors at our conference. For we shall not only
allow of your presence at it, but desire your assistance in
it; which I add both for other reasons, and because
though these leamed gentlemen (says he, turning to his
two friends) need not fear to discourse before any
auditory, provided it be intelligent enough to understand
them, yet for my part (continues he with a new smile)
I shall not dare to vent my unpremeditated thoughts
before two such critics, unless by promising to take your
turnes of speaking, you will allow me mine of quarrelling
with what has been said. He and his friends added
divers things to convince us that they were both desirous
that we should hear them, and resolved against our doing
so unless we allowed them sometimes to hear us. Eleutherius,
after having a while fruitlessly endeavoured to
obtain leave to be silent, promised he would not be so
alwayes, provided that he were permitted according to
the freedom of his genius and principles to side with one
of them in the managing of one argument, and, if he saw
cause, with his antagonist, in the prosecution of another,
without being confined to stick to any one party or opinion,
which was after some debate accorded him. But, I conscious
of my own disabilities, told them resolutely that I
was as much more willing, as more fit, to be a hearer than
a speaker among such knowing persons, and on so abstruse
a subject. And that therefore I beseeched them without
necessitating me to proclaim my weaknesses, to allow me
to lessen them by being a silent auditor of their discourses:
to suffer me to be at which I could present them no motive,
save that their instructions would make them in me a more
intelligent admirer. I added that I desired not to be idle
whilst they were imployed, but would if they pleased, by
writing down in shorthand what should be delivered, preserve
discourses that I knew would merit to be lasting.
At first Carneades and his two friends utterly rejected
this motion; and all that my resoluteness to make use
of my ears, not tongue, at their debates could do, was
to make them acquiesce in the proposition of Eleutherius,

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Physiological Considerations 15
who thinking himself concerned, because he brought me
thither, to afford me some faint assistance, was content
that I should register their arguments that I might be
the better able after the conclusion of their conference to
give them my sense upon the subject of it (the number
of elements or principles), which he promised I should do
at the end of the present debates, if time would permit,
or else at our next meeting. And this being by him undertaken
in my name, though without my consent, the company
would by no means receive my protestation against
it, but casting, all at once, their eyes on Carneades, they
did by that and their unanimous silence, invite him to
Begin; which (after a short pause, during which he turned
himself to Eleutherius and me) he did in this manner.
Notwithstanding the subtile reasonings I have met with in the books of the peripatetics, and the pretty experiments
that have been shewed me in the laboratories of chymists.
I am of so diffident or dull a nature, as to think that if
neither of them can bring more cogent arguments to evince
the truth of their assertion than are wont to be brought,
a man may rationally enough retain some doubts concerning
the very number of those material ingredients of
mixt bodies, which some would have us call elements,
and others principles. Indeed when I considered that the
tenets concerning the elements are as considerable
amongst the doctrines of natural philosophy, as the
elements themselves are among the bodies of the universe,
I expected to find those opinions solidly established, upon
which so many others are superstructed. But when I
took the pains impartially to examine the bodies themselves
that are said to result from the blended elements,
and to torture them into a confession of their constituent
principles, I was quickly induced to think that the number
of the elements has been contended about by philosophers
with more earnestness than success. This unsatisfiedness
of mine has been much wondered at by
these two gentlemen (at which words he pointed at
Themistius and Philoponus), who though they differ
almost as much betwixt themselves about the question
we are to consider, as I do from either of them, yet they

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16 The Sceptical Chymist
both agree very well in this, that there is a determinate
number of such ingredients as I was just now speaking
of, and that what that number is I say not, may be (for
what may not such as they persuade ?), but is wont to be
clearly enough demonstrated both by reason and experience.
This has occasioned our present conference. For
our discourse this afternoon, having fallen from one subject
to another, and at length settled on this, they proffered
to demonstrate to me, each of them the truth of his opinion,
out of both the topics that I have freshly named. But
on the former (that of reason strictly so taken) we declined
insisting at the present, lest we should not have time
enough before supper to go through the reasons and
experiments too. The latter of which we unanimously
thought the most requisite to be seriously examined. I
must desire you then to take notice, gentlemen (continued
Carneades), that my present business doth not oblige
me so to declare my own opinion on the subject in question
as to assert or deny the truth either of the peripatetic or
the chymical doctrine concerning the number of the
elements, but only to shew you that neither of these
doctrines hath been satisfactorily proved by the arguments
commonly alledged on its behalfe. So that if I
really discern (as perhaps I think I do) that there may be
a more rational account than ordinary, given of one of
these opinions, I am left free to declare myself of it, notwithstanding
my present engagement, it being obvious to
all your observation; that a solid truth may be generally
maintained by no other than incompetent arguments.
And to this declaration I hope it will be needless to add,
that my task obliges me not to answer the arguments that
may be drawn either for Themistius's or Philoponus's
opinion from the topic of reason, as opposed to experiments;
since 'tis these only that I am to examine, and
not all these neither, but such of them alone as either of
them shall think fit to insist on, and as have hitherto been
wont to be brought either to prove that 'tis the four
peripatetic elements, or that 'tis the three chymical principles
that all compounded bodies consist of. These
things (adds Carneades) I thought myself obliged to

@

Physiological Considerations 17
premise, partly lest you should do these gentlemen (pointing
at Themistius and Philoponus, and smiling on them)
the injury of measuring their parts by the arguments they
are ready to propose, the lawes of our conference confining
them to make use of those that the vulgar of philosophers
(for even of them there is a vulgar) has drawn up
to their hands; and partly that you should not condemn
me of presumption for disputing against persons over
whom I can hope for no advantage, that I must not derive,
from the nature or rules of our controversy, wherein I
have but a negative to defend, and wherein too I am like
on several occasions to have the assistance of one of my
disagreeing adversaries against the other.
Philoponus and Themistius soon returned this compliment with civilities of the like nature, in which Eleutherius
perceiving them engaged, to prevent the further
loss of that time of which they were not like to have very
much to spare, he minded them that their present business
was not to exchange compliments, but arguments:
and then addressing his speech to Carneades, I esteem it
no small happiness (says he) that I am come here so
luckily this evening. For I have been long disquieted
with doubts concerning this very subject which you are
now ready to debate. And since a question of this importance
is to be now discussed by persons that maintain
such variety of opinions concerning it, and are both so
able to enquire after truth, and so ready to embrace
it by whomsoever and on what occasion soever it is
presented them; I cannot but promise myself that I
shall before we part, either lose my doubts or the hopes of
ever finding them resolved; Eleutherius paused not here;
but to prevent their answer, added almost in the same
breath; and I am not a little pleased to find that you are
resolved on this occasion to insist rather on experiments
than syllogismes. For I, and no doubt you, have long
observed, that those dialectical subtleties, that the schoolmen
too often employ about physiological mysteries, are
wont much more to declare the wit of him that uses them,
than increase the knowledge or remove the doubts of
sober lovers of truth. And such captious subtleties do

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18 The Sceptical Chymist
indeed often puzzle and sometimes silence men, but rarely
satisfy them. Being like the tricks of jugglers, whereby
men doubt not but they are cheated, though oftentimes
they cannot declare by what flights they are imposed on.
And therefore I think you have done very wisely to make
it your business to consider the phaenomena relating to the
present question, which have been afforded by experiments,
especially since it might seem injurious to our
senses, by whose mediation we acquire so much of the
knowledge we have of things corporal, to have recourse
to far-fetched and abstracted ratiocinations, to know
what are the sensible ingredients of those sensible things
that we daily see and handle; and are supposed to have
the liberty to untwist (if I may so speak) into the primitive
bodies they consist of. He annexed that he wished
therefore they would no longer delay his expected satisfaction
if they had not, as he feared they had, forgotten
something preparatory to their debate; and that was to
lay down what should be all along understood by the
word principle or element. Carneades thanked him for his
admonition, but told him that they had not been unmindful
of so requisite a thing. But that being gentlemen
and very far from the litigious humour of loving to
wrangle about words, or terms, or notions as empty, they
had before his coming in readily agreed promiscuously
to use when they pleaded, elements and principles as terms
equivalent: and to understand both by the one and the
other, those primitive and simple bodies of which the
mixt ones are said to be composed, and into which they
are ultimately resolved. And upon the same account
(he added) we agreed to discourse of the opinions to be
debated, as we have found them maintained by the
generality of the assertors the four elements of the one
party, and of those that receive the three principles on
the other, without tying ourselves to enquire scrupulously
what notion either Aristotle or Paracelsus, or this or that
interpreter or follower of either of those great persons,
framed of elements or principles; our design being to
examine, not what these or those writers thought or
taught, but what we find to be the obvious and most

@

Physiological Considerations 19
general opinion of those who are willing to be accounted
favourers of the peripatetic or chymical doctrine concerning
this subject.
I see not (says Eleutherius) why you might not immediately begin to argue, if you were but agreed which of
your two friendly adversaries shall be first heard. And it
being quickly resolved on that Themistius should first
propose the proofs for his opinion, because it was the
antienter, and the more general, he made not the company
expect long before he thus addressed himself to
Eleutherius, as to the person least interested in the
dispute.
If you have taken sufficient notice of the late confession which was made by Carneades, and which (though his
civility dressed it up in Complimental expressions) was
exacted of him by his justice, I suppose you will be easily
made sensible, that I engage in this controversie with
great and peculiar disadvantages, besides those which his
parts and my personal disabilities would bring to any
other cause to be maintained by me against him. For
he justly apprehending the force of truth, though speaking
by no better a tongue than mine, has made it the chief
condition of our duel, that I should lay aside the best
weapons I have, and those I can best handle; whereas if I
were allowed the freedom, in pleading for the four elements,
to employ the arguments suggested to me by
reason to demonstrate them, I should almost as little
doubt of making you a proselyte to those unsevered
teachers, Truth and Aristotle, as I do of your candour and
your judgment. And I hope you will however consider,
that that great favourite and interpreter of nature,
Aristotle, who was (as his Organum witnesses) the greatest
master of logic that ever lived, disclaimed the course
taken by other petty philosophers (antient and modem),
who not attending the coherence and consequences of
their opinions, are more solicitous to make each particular
opinion plausible independently upon the rest, than
to frame them all so, as not only to be consistent together,
but to support each other. For that great man in his
vast and comprehensive intellect, so framed each of his

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20 The Sceptical Chymist
notions, that being curiously adapted into one systeme,
they need hot each of them any other defence than that
which their mutual coherence gives them: as 'tis in an
arch, where each single stone, which if severed from the
rest would be perhaps defenceless, is sufficiently secured
by the solidity and entireness of the whole fabric of which
it is a part. How justly this may be applied to the present
case, I could easily shew you, if I were permitted to declare
to you, how harmonious Aristotle's doctrine of the elements
is with his other principles of philosophy; and how
rationally he has deduced their number from that of the
combinations of the four first qualities from the kinds of
simple motion belonging to simple bodies, and from I
know not how many other principles and phaenomena of
nature, which so conspire with his doctrine of the elements,
that they mutually strengthen and support each other.
But since 'tis forbidden me to insist on reflections of
this kind, I must proceed to tell you, that though the
assertors of the four elements value reason so highly,
and are furnished with arguments enough drawn from
thence, to be satisfied that there must be four elements.
though no man had ever yet made any sensible trial
to discover their number, yet they are not destitute of
experience to satisfie others that are wont to be more
swayed by their senses than their reason. And I shall
proceed to consider the testimony of experience, when I
shall have first advertised you, that if men were as perfectly
rational as 'tis to be wished they were, this sensible
way of probation would be as needless as 'tis wont to be
imperfect. For it is much more high and philosophical
to discover things a priore than a posteriore. And therefore
the peripatetics have not been very solicitous to
gather experiments to prove their doctrines, contenting
themselves with a few only, to satisfy those that are not
capable of a nobler conviction. And indeed they employ
experiments rather to illustrate than to demonstrate
their doctrines, as astronomers use sphaeres of pasteboard,
to descend to the capacities of such as must be taught by
their senses, for want of being arrived to a clear apprehension
of purely mathematical notions and truths. I

@

Physiological Considerations 21
speak thus, Eleutherius (adds Themistius), only to do right
to reason, and not out of diffidence of the experimental
proof I am to alledge. For though I shall name but one,
yet it is such a one as will make all other appear as needless
as itself will be found satisfactory. For if you but
consider a piece of green wood burning in a chimney, you
will readily discern in the disbanded parts of it the four
elements, of which we teach it and other mixt bodies to be
composed. The fire discovers itself in the flame by its own
light; the smoake by ascending to the top of the chimney,
and there readily vanishing into air, like a river losing
itself in the sea, sufficiently manifests to what element it
belongs and gladly returnes. The water in its own form
boiling and hissing at the ends of the burning wood
betrays itself to more than one of our senses; and the
ashes by their weight, their firiness, and their dryness,
put it past doubt that they belong to the element of
earth. If I spoke (continues Themistius) to less knowing
persons, I would perhaps make home excuse, for building
upon such an obvious and easie analysis, but 'twould be, I
fear, injurious, not to think such an apology needless to
you, who are too judicious either to think it necessary that
experiments to prove obvious truths should be far-fetched,
or to wonder that among so many mixt bodies that are
compounded of the four elements, some of them should
upon a slight analysis manifestly exhibite the ingredients
they consist of. Especially since it is very agreeable to the
goodness of nature to disclose, even in some of the most
obvious experiments that men make, a truth so important
and so requisite to be taken notice of by them.
Besides that our analysis by how much the more obvious
we make it, by so much the more suitable it will be to the
nature of that doctrine which 'tis alledged to prove, which
being as clear and intelligible to the understanding as
obvious to the sense, 'tis no marvel the learned part of
mankind should so long and so generally imbrace it. For
this doctrine is very different from the whimseys of
chymists and other modem innovators, of whose hypotheses
we may observe, as naturalists do of less perfect
animals, that as they are hastily formed, so they are

@

22 The Sceptical Chymist
commonly short-lived. For so these, as they are often
framed in one week, are perhaps thought fit to be laughed
at the next; and being built perchance but upon two or
three experiments are destroyed by a third or fourth,
whereas the doctrine of the four elements was framed by
Aristotle after he had leasurely considered those theories
of former philosophers which are now with great
applause revived as discovered by these latter ages; and
had so judiciously detected and supplied the errors and
defects of former hypotheses concerning the elements,
that his doctrine of them has been ever since deservedly
embraced by the lettered part of mankind: all the philosophers
that preceded him having in their several ages
contributed to the compleatness of this doctrine, as those
of succeeding times have acquiesced in it. Nor has an
hypothesis, so deliberately and maturely established, been
called in question till in the last century Paracelsus and
some few other sooty empirics, rather than (as they are
fain to call themselves) philosophers, having their eyes
darkened, and their braines troubled with the smoak of
their own furnaces, began to rail at the peripatetic
doctrine, which they were too illiterate to understand,
and to tell the credulous world, that they could see but
three ingredients in mixt bodies; which to gain themselves
the repute of inventors, they endeavoured to disguise
by calling them, instead of earth, and fire, and
vapour, salt, sulphur, and mercury; to which they gave
the canting title of hypostatical principles. But when they
came to describe them; they shewed how little they understood
what they meant by them, by disagreeing as much
from one another, as from the truth they agreed in opposing:
for they deliver their hypotheses as darkly as their
processes and 'tis almost as impossible for any sober man
to find their meaning, as 'tis for them to find their elixir.
And indeed nothing has spread their philosophy, but their
great brags and undertakings; notwithstanding all which
(says Themistius smiling), I scarce know anything they
have performed worth wondering at, save that they have
been able to draw Philoponus to their party, and to engage
him to the defence of an unintelligible hypothesis, who

@

Physiological Considerations 23
knowes so well as he does, that principles ought to be like
diamonds, as well very clear as perfectly solid.
Themistius having after these last words declared by his silence that he had finished his discourse, Carneades
addressing himself, as his adversary had done, to Eleutherius,
returned this answer to it. I hoped for a demonstration,
but I perceive Themistius hopes to put me off
with an harangue, wherein he cannot have given me a
greater opinion of his parts, than he has given me distrust
for his hypothesis, since for it even a man of such learning
can bring no better arguments. The rhetorical part of his
discourse, though it make not the least part of it, I shall
say nothing to, designing to examine only the argumentative
part, and leaving it to Philoponus to answer those
passages wherein either Paracelsus or chymists are concerned:
I shall observe to you, that in what he has said
besides, he makes it his business to do these two things
The one to propose and make out an experiment to
demonstrate the common opinion about the four elements;
and the other to insinuate divers things which he thinks
may repair the weakness of his argument, from experience,
and upon other accounts bring some credit to the otherwise
defenceless doctrine he maintains.
To begin then with his experiment of the burning wood, it seems to me to be obnoxious to not a few considerable
exceptions.
And first, if I would now deal rigidly with my adversary, I might here make a great question of the very way of
probation which he and others employ, without the least
scruple, to evince that the bodies commonly called mixt
are made up of earth, air, water, and fire, which they are
pleased also to call elements; namely that upon the supposed
analysis made by the fire, of the former sort of
concretes, there are wont to emerge bodies resembling
those which they take for the elements. For not to
anticipate here what I foresee I shall have occasion to
insist on, when I come to discourse with Philoponus concerning
the right that fire has to pass for the proper and
universal instrument of analysing mixt bodies, not to
anticipate that, I say, if I were disposed to wrangle, I

@

24 The Sceptical Chymist
might alledge, that by Themistius his experiment it would
appear rather that those he calls elements are made of
those he calls mixt bodies, than mixt bodies of the
elements. For in Themistius's analysed wood, and in
other bodies dissipated and altered by the fire, it appears,
and he confesses, that which he takes for elementary fire
and water are made out of the concrete; but it appears
not that the concrete was made up of fire and water.
Nor has either he, or any man, for ought I know of his
persuasion, yet proved that nothing can be obtained from
a body by the fire that was not pre-existent in it.
At this unexpected objection, not only Themistius, but the rest of the company appeared not a little surprised;
but after a while Philoponus conceiving his opinion, as
well as that of Aristotle, concerned in that objection, You
cannot sure (says he to Carneades) propose this difficulty,
not to call it cavil, otherwise than as an exercise of wit,
and not as laying any weight upon it. For how can that
be separated from a thing that was not existent in it?
When, for instance, a refiner mingles gold and lead, and
exposing this mixture upon a cuppel to the violence of
the fire, thereby separates it into pure and refulgent gold
and lead (which driven off together with the dross of the
gold is thence called lythargyrium auri), can any man
doubt that sees these two so differing substances separated
from the mass, that they were existent in it before it was
committed to the fire?
I should (replies Carneades) allow your argument to prove something, if, as men see the refiners commonly take
beforehand both lead and gold to make the mass you
speak of, so we did see nature pull down a parcel of the
element of fire, that is fancied to be placed I know not
how many thousand leagues off, contiguous to the orb of
the moon, and to blend it with a quantity of each of the
three other elements, to compose every mixt body, upon
whose resolution the fire presents us with fire, and earth,
and the rest. And let me add, Philoponus, that to make
your reasoning cogent, it must be first proved, that the
fire does only take the elementary ingredients. asunder,
without otherwise altering them. For else 'tis obvious,

@

Physiological Considerations 25
that bodies may afford substances which were not pre-
existent in them; as flesh too long kept produces maggots,
and old cheese mites, which I suppose you will not affirm
to be ingredients of lose bodies. Now that lire does not
alwayes barely separate the elementary parts, but sometimes
at least alter also the ingredients of bodies, if I did
not expect ere long a better occasion to prove it, I might
make probable out of your very instance, wherein there
is nothing elementary separated by the great violence of
the refiner's fire: the gold and lead which are the two
ingredients separated upon the analysis being confessedly
yet perfectly mixt bodies, and the litharge
being lead indeed, but such lead as is differing in consistence
and other qualifies from what it was before. To
which I must add that I have sometimes seen, and so
questionless have you much oftener, some parcels of
glasse adhering to the test or cuppel, and this glass, though
emergent as well as the gold or litharge upon your analysis,
you will not I hope allow to have been a third ingredient of
the mass out of which the fire produced it.
Both Philoponus and Themistius were about to reply, when Eleutherius apprehending that the prosecution of
this dispute would take up time which might be better
employed, thought fit to prevent them by saying to
Carneades: You made at least half a promise, when you
first proposed this objection, that you would not (now at
least) insist on it, nor indeed does it seem to be of absolute
necessity to your cause that you should. For though
you should grant that there are elements, it would not
follow that there must be precisely four. And therefore
I hope you will proceed to acquaint us with your other
and more considerable objections against Themistius's
opinion, especially since there is so great a disproportion in
bulke betwixt the earth, water, and air, on the one part,
and those little parcels of resembling substances that
the fire separates from concretes on the other part, that I
can scarce think that you are serious, when to lose no
advantage against your adversary, you seem to deny it
to be rational to conclude these great simple bodies to
be the elements, and not the products of compounded ones.

@

26 The Sceptical Chymist
What you alledge (replies Carneades) of the vastness of the earth and water, has long since made me willing to
allow them to be the greatest and chief masses of matter
to be met with here below: but I think I could shew
you, if you would give me leave, that this will prove only
that the elements, as you call them, are the chief bodies
that make up the neighbouring part of the world, but not
that they are such ingredients as every mixt body must
consist of. But since you challenge me of something of a
promise, though it be not an entire one, yet I shall willingly
performe it. And indeed I intended not, when I first
mentioned this objection, to insist on it at present against
Themistius (as I plainly intimated in my way of proposing
it), being only desirous to let you see, that though I
discerned my advantages, yet I was willing to forego
some of them rather than appear a rigid adversary of a
cause so weak, that it may with safety be favourably
dealt with. But I must here profess, and desire you to
take notice of it, that though I pass on to another argument,
it is not because I think this first invalid. For you
will find in the progress of our dispute, that I had some
reason to question the very way of probation imployed
both by peripatetics and chymists, to evince the being
and number of the elements. For that there are such,
and that they are wont to be separated by the analysis
made by fire, is indeed taken for granted by both parties,
but has not (for ought I know) been so much as plausibly
attempted to be proved by either. Hoping then that
when we come to that part of our debate, wherein considerations
relating to this matter are to be treated of,
you will remember what I have now said, and that I do
rather for a while suppose than absolutely grant the
truth of what I have questioned, I will proceed to another
objection.
And hereupon Eleutherius having promised him not to be unmindful, when time should serve, of what he had
declared.
I consider then (says Carneades), in the next place, that there are divers bodies out of which Themistius will not
prove in haste that there can be so many elements as four

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Physiological Considerations 27
extracted by the fire. And I should perchance trouble
him if I should ask him what peripatetic can shew us (I
say not, all the four elements, for that would be too rigid
a question, but) any one of them extracted out of gold by
any degree of fire whatsoever. Nor is gold the only
bodie in nature that would puzzle an Aristotelian, (that is
no more) to analyse by the fire into elementary bodies,
since, for ought I have yet observed, both silver and calcined
Venetian talc, and some other concretes, not necessary
here to be named, are so fixed, that to reduce any of
them into four heterogeneous substances has hitherto
proved a task much too bard, not only for the disciples
of Aristotle, but those of Vulcan, at least, whilst the
latter have employed only fire to make the analysis.
The next argument (continues Carneades) that I shall urge against Themistius's opinion shall be this, That as
there are divers bodies whose analysis by fire cannot reduce
them into so many heterogeneous substances or ingredients
as four, so there are others which may be reduced into
more, as the blood (and divers other parts) of men and
other animals, which yield when analysed five distinct substances,
phlegme, spirit, oile, salt, and earth, as experience
has shewn us in distilling man's blood, harts-horns, and
divers other bodies that belonging to the animal-kingdom
abound with not uneasily sequestrable salt.

@
@



THE SCEPTICAL CHYMIST
THE FIRST PART
I AM (says Carneades) so unwilling to deny Eleutherius
anything, that though before the rest of the company I
am resolved to make good the part I have undertaken of
a sceptic, yet I shall readily, since you will have it so,
lay aside for a while the person of an adversary to the
peripatetics and chymists; and before I acquaint you
with my objections against their opinions, acknowledge
to you what may be (whether truly or not) tolerably
enough added, in favour of a certain number of principles
of mixt bodies, to that grand and known argument
from the analysis of compound bodies, which I may possibly
hereafter be able to confute.
And that you may the more easily examine and the better judge of what I have to say, I shall cast it into a
pretty number of distinct propositions, to which I shall
not premise anything; because I take it for granted, that
you need not be advertised that much of what I am to
deliver, whether for or against a determinate number of
ingredients of mixt bodies, may be indifferently applied
to the four peripatetic elements, and the three chymical
principles, though divers of my objections will more
peculiarly belong to these hast named, because the
chymical hypothesis seeming to be much more countenanced
by experience than the other, it will be expedient
to insist chiefly upon the disproving of that; especially
since most of the arguments that are imployed against it,
may, by a little variation, be made to conclude, at least
as strongly, against the less plausible, Aristotelian doctrine.

@

30 The Sceptical Chymist
To proceed then to my propositions I shall begin with this, that--
PROPOSITION I.--It seems not absurd to conceive that at the
first production of mixt bodies, the universal matter whereof they among other parts of the universe consisted, was actually divided into little particles of several sizes and shapes variously moved.
This (says Carneades) I suppose you will easily enough allow. For besides that which happens in the generation,
corruption, nutrition, and wasting of bodies, that which
we discover partly by our microscopes of the extream
littleness of even the scarce sensible parts of concretes,
and partly by the chymical resolutions of mixt bodies,
and by divers other operations of spagirical fires upon them,
seems sufficiently to manifest their consisting of parts very
minute and of differing figures. And that there does also
intervene a various local motion of such small bodies; will
scarce be denied; whether we chuse to grant the origine
or concretions assigned by Epicurus, or that related by
Moses. For the first, as you well know, supposes not
only all mixt bodies, but all others, to be produced by the
various and casual occursions of atomes, moving themselves
to and from by an internal principle in the immense
or rather infinite vacuum. And as for the inspired
historian, he, informing us that the great and wise Author
of things did not immediately create plants, beasts, birds,
etc., but produced them out of those portions of the pre-
existent, though created, matter, that he calls water and
earth, allows use to conceive that the constituent particles
whereof these new concretes were to consist, were variously
moved in order to their being connected into the bodies
they were, by their various coalitions and textures, to
compose.
But (continues Carneades) presuming that the first proposition needs not be longer insisted on, I will pass
on to the second, and tell you that--

PROPOSITION II.--Neither is it impossible that of these minute
particles divers of the smallest and neighbouring ones
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The Sceptical Chymist 31
were here and there associated into minute masses or clusters, and did by their coalitions constitute great store of such little primary concretions or masses as were net easily dissipable into such particles as composed them.
To what may be deduced, in favour of this assertion from the nature of the thing itself, I will add something
out of experience, which though I have not known it used
to such a purpose, seems to me more fairly to make out
that there may be elementary bodies, than the more
questionable experiments of peripatetics and chymists
prove that there are such. I consider then that gold will
mix and be colliquated not only with silver, copper, tin
and lead, but with antimony, regulus martis and many
other minerals, with which it will compose bodies very
differing both from gold, and the other ingredients of the
resulting concretes. And the same gold will also by
common aqua regis, and (I speak it knowingly) by divers
other menstruums, be reduced into a seeming liquor, insomuch
that the corpuscles of gold will, with those of
the menstruum, pass through cap-paper, and with them
also coagulate into a crystalline salt. And I have
further tried, that with a small quantity of a certain saline
substance I prepared, I can easily enough sublime gold into
the form of red crystals of a considerable length; and
many other wayes may gold be disguised, and help to constitute
bodies of very differing natures both from it and
from one another, and nevertheless be afterward reduced
to the self-same numerical, yellow, fixt, ponderous, and
malleable gold it was before its commixture. Nor is it
only the fixedst of metals, but the must fugitive, that I
may employ in favour of our proposition: for quicksilver
will with divers metals compose an amalgam, with divers
menstruums it seems to be turned into a liquor, with
aqua fortis it will be brought into either a red or white
powder or precipitate, with oil of vitriol into a pale
yellow one, with sulphur it will compose a blood-red and
volatile cinaber, with some saline bodies it will ascend in
form of a salt which will be dissoluble in water; with

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32 The Sceptical Chymist
regulus of antimony and silver I have seen it sublimed into
a kinde of crystals, with another mixture I reduced it into
a malleable body, into a hard and brittle substance by
another: and some there are who affirm, that by proper
additaments they can reduce quicksilver into oil, nay into
glass, to mention no more. And yet out of all these
exotic compounds, we may recover the very same running
mercury that was the main ingredient of them, and was
so disguised in them. Now the reason (proceeds Carneades)
that I have represented these things concerning
gold and quicksilver, is, that it may not appear
absurd to conceive, that such little primary masses or
clusters as our proposition mentions, may remain undissipated,
notwithstanding their entering into the composition
of various concretions, since the corpuscle of gold and
mercury, though they be not primary concretions of the
most minute particles of matter, but confessedly mixt
bodies, are able to concure plentifully to the composition
of several very differing bodies, without losing their own
nature or texture, or having their cohesion violated by
the divorce of their associated parts or ingredients.
Give me leave to add (says Eleutherius) on this occasion, to what you now observed, that as confidently as some
chymists, and other modem innovators in philosophy are
wont to object against the peripatetics, that from the
mixture of their four elements there could arise but an inconsiderable
variety of compound Bodies ; yet if the
Aristotelians were but half as, well versed in the works of
nature as they, are in the writings of their master, the
proposed objection would not so, calmly triumph, as for
want of experiments they are fain to suffer it to do. For
if we assigne to the corpuscles, whereof each element consists,
a peculiar size and shape, it may easily enough be
manifested, that such differingly figured corpuscles may
be mingled in such various proportions, and may be connected
so many several ways, that an almost incredible
number of variously qualified concretes may be composed
of them. Especially since the corpuscles of one
element may barely, by being associated among themselves,
make up little masses of differing size and figure from their

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The Sceptical Chymist 33
constituent parts; and since also to the strict union of
such minute bodies there seems oftentimes nothing
requisite, besides the bare contact of a great part of their
surfaces. And how great a variety of phaenomena the
same matter, without the addition of any other, and only
several ways disposed or contexed, is able to exhibit, may
partly appear by the multitude of differing engins which
by the contrivances of skilful mechanilians, and the
dexterity of expert workmen, may be made of iron alone.
But in our present case being allowed to deduce compound
bodies from four very differently qualified sorts of matter,
he who shall but consider what you freshly took notice of
concerning the new concretes resulting from the mixture of
incorporated minerals, will scarce doubt but that the four
elements managed by nature's skill may afford a multitude
of differing compounds.
I am thus far of your minde (says Carneades) that the Aristotelians might with probability deduce a much
greater number of compound bodies from the mixture of
their four elements, than according to their present
hypothesis they can; if instead of vainly attempting to
deduce the variety and proprieties of all mixt bodies
from the combinations and temperaments of the four
elements, as they are (among them) endowed with the
four first qualities, they had endeavoured to do it by the
bulk and figure of the smallest parts of those supposed
elements. For from these more catholic and fruitful
accidents of the elementary matter may spring a great
variety of textures, upon whose account a multitude of
compound bodies may very much differ from one another.
And what I now observe touching the four peripatetic
elements, may be also applied, mutatis mutandis (as
they speak), to the chymical principles. But (to take notice
of that by the by) both the one and the other must, I fear,
call in to their assistance something that is not elementary,
to excite or regulate the motion of the parts of the matter,
and dispose them after the manner requisite to the constitution
of particular concretes. For that otherwise
they are like to give us but a very imperfect account of the
origine of very many mixt bodies, it would, I think, be no

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34 The Sceptical Chymist
hard matter to persuade you, if it would not spend time,
and were no digression, to examine, what they are wont
to alledge of the origine of the textures and qualities of mixt
bodies from a certain substantial form, whose origination
they leave more obscure than what it is assumed to
explicate.

But to proceed to a new proposition.
PROPOSITION III.--I shall not peremptorily deny, that from
most of such mixt bodies as partake either of animal or vegetable nature, there may by the help of the fire be actually obtained a determinate number (whether three, four, or five, or fewer or more) of substances, worthy of differing denominations.
Of the experiments that induce me to make this concession, I am like to have occasion enough to mention
several in the prosecution of my discourse. And therefore,
that I may not hereafter be obliged to trouble you
and myself with needless repetitions, I shall now only
desire you to take notice of such experiments when they
shall be mentioned, and in your thoughts referre them
hither.
To there three concessions I have but this fourth to add, that--

PROPOSITION IV.--It may likewise be granted, that those
distinct substances, which concretes generally either afford or are made up of, may without very much inconvenience be called the elements or principles of them.
When I said, without very much inconvenience, I had in my thoughts that sober admonition of Galen, Cum dere
constat, de verbis non est litigandum. And therefore also
I scruple not to say elements or principles, partly because
the chymists are wont, to call the ingredients of mixt
bodies, principles, as the Aristotelians name them elements;
I would here exclude neither. And, partly, because it
seems doubtful whether the same ingredients may not be
called principles: as not being compounded of any more
primary bodies: and elements, in regard that all mixt

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The Sceptical Chymist 35
bodies are compounded of them. But I thought it
requisite to limit my concession by premising the words
very much to the word inconvenience, because that
though the inconvenience of calling the distinct substances,
mentioned in the proposition elements or principles, be not
very great, yet that it is impropriety of speech, and consequently
in a matter of this moment not to be altogether
overlooked, you will perhaps think, as well as I, by that
time you shall have heard the following part of my discourse,
by which you will best discern what construction
to put upon the former propositions, and how far they
may be looked upon as things that I concede as true, etc.,
how far as things I only represent as specious enough to
be fit to be considered.
And now, Eleutherius (continues Carneades), I must resume the person of a sceptic, and as such, propose some
part of what may be either disliked, or at least doubted of
in the common hypothesis of the chymists; which if I
examine with a little the more freedom, I hope I need not
desire you (a person to whom I have the happiness of
being so well known) to look upon it as something more
suitable to the employment whereto the company has,
for this meeting, doomed me, than either to my humour
or my custom.
Now though I might present you many things against the vulgar chymical opinion of the three principles and
the experiments wont to alleged as demonstrations of
it, yet those I shall at present offer you may be conveniently
enough comprehended in four capital considerations;
touching all which I shall only premise this in
general, That since it is not my present task so much to
assert an hypothesis of my own, as to give an account
wherefore I suspect the truth of that of the chymists, it,
ought not to be expected that all my objections should be
of the most cogent sort, since it is reason enough to doubt
of a proposed opinion; that there appears no cogent
reason for it.
To tome then to the objections themselves; I consider in the first place, that notwithstanding what common
chymists have proved or taught, it may reasonably enough

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36 The Sceptical Chymist
be doubted, how far, and in what sense, fire ought to be
esteemed the genuine and universal instrument of analysing
mixt bodies.
This doubt, you may remember, was formerly mentioned, but so transiently discoursed of, that it will now be fit to
insist upon it, and manifest that it was not so inconsiderately
proposed as our adversaries then imagined.
But, before I enter any further into this disquisition, I
cannot but here take notice, that it were to be wished our
chymists had clearly informed us what kind of division of
bodies by fire must determine the number of the elements :
For it is nothing near so easy as many seem to think, to
determine distinctly the effects of heat, as I could easily
manifest, if I had leasure to shew you how much the operations
of fire may be diversified by circumstances. But
not wholly to pass by a matter of this importance, I will
first take notice to you that guajacum (for instance)
burnt with an open fire in a chimney, is sequestred into
ashes and soot, whereas the same wood distilled in a
retort does yield far other heterogeneities (to use the
Helmontian expression), and is resolved into oil, spirit,
vinegar, water and charcoal; the last of which to be reduced
into ashes, requires the being farther calcined than it can
be in a close vessel: besides having kindled amber, and
held a clean silver spoon, or some other concave and
smooth vessel, over the smoak of its flame, I observed the
soot into which that fume condensed to be very differing
from anything that I had observed to proceed from the
steam of amber purposely (for that is not usual) distilled
per se in close vessels. Thus having, for trial's sake,
kindled camphire and catcht the smoak that copiously
ascended out of the flame, it condensed into a black
and unctuous soot, which would not have been guessed
by the smell or other properties to have proceeded from
camphire: whereas having (as I shall other, where more
fully declare) exposed a quantity of that fugitive concrete
to a gentle heat in a close glass vessel, it sublimed
up without seeming to have lost anything of its whiteness,
or its nature, both which it retained, though afterwards
I so encreased the fire as to bring it to fusion. And,

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The Sceptical Chymist 37
besides camphire, there are divers other bodies (that
I elsewhere name) in which the heat in close vessels is not
wont to make any separation of heterogeneities, but only
a comminution of parts, those that rise first being
homogeneal with the others, though subdivided into
smaller particles: whence sublimations have been styled,
The pestles of the chymists. But not here to mention
what I elsewhere take notice of, concerning common
brimstone once or twice sublimed, that exposed to a
moderate fire in subliming-pots, it rises all into dry, and
almost tasteless, flowers; whereas being exposed to a
naked fire it affords store of a saline and fretting liquor:
not to mention this, I say, I will further observe to you,
that as it is considerable in the analysis of mixt bodies,
whether the fire act on them when they are exposed to the
open air, or shut up in close vessels, so is the degree of fire,
by which the analysis is attempted, of no small moment.
For a milde balneum will sever unfermented blood (for
instance) but into phlegme and caput mortuum, the latter
whereof (which I have sometimes had), hard, brittle, and of
divers colours (transparent almost like tortoise-shell),
pressed by a good fire in a retort yields a spirit, an oil or
two, and a volatile salt, besides another caput mortuum. It
may be also pertinent to our present design, to take notice
of what happens in the making and distilling of soap; for by
one degree of fire the salt, the water, and the oil or grease,
whereof that factitious concrete is made up, being boiled
up together are easily brought to mingle and incorporate
into one mass; but by another and further degree of heat
the same mass may be again divided into an oleagenous
and aqueous, a saline, and an earthy part. And so we
may observe that impure silver and lead being exposed
together to a moderate fire will thereby be colliquated into
one mass, and mingle per minima, as they speak; whereas
a much vehementer fire will drive or carry off the baser
metals (I mean the lead, and the copper or other alloy)
from the silver, though not, for ought appears, separate
them from one another. Besides, when a vegetable
abounding in fixt salt is analysed by a naked fire, as one
degree of heat will reduce it into ashes (as the chymists

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38 The Sceptical Chymist
themselves teach us), so, by only a further degree of fire,
those ashes may be vitrified and turned into glass. I will
not stay to examine how far a mere chymist might on this
occasion demand, if it be lawful for an Aristotelian to make
ashes (which he mistakes for mere earth) pass for an
element, because by one degree of fire it may be produced,
why a chymist may not upon the like principle argue that
glass is one of the elements of many bodies, because that
also may be obtained from them, barely by the fire? I
will not, I say, lose time to examine this, but observe that
by a method of applying the fire, such similar bodies may
be obtained from a concrete, as chymists have not been
able to separate, either by barely burning it in an open
fire, or by barely distilling it in close vessels. For to me
it seems very considerable, and I wonder that men have
taken so little notice of it, that I have not by any of the
common wayes of distillation in close vessels seen any
separation made of such a volatile salt as is afforded us
by wood, when that is first by an open fire divided into
ashes and soot, and that soot is afterwards placed in a
strong retort, and compelled by an urgent fire to part
with its spirit, oil, and salt; for though I dare not peremptorily
deny that in the liquors of guaiacum and other
woods distilled in retorts after the common manner, there
may be saline parts, which by reason of the analogy may
pretend to the name of some kinde of volatile salts; yet
questionless there is a great disparity betwixt such salts
and that which we have sometimes obtained upon the
first distillation of soot (though for the most part it has
not been separated from the first or second rectification,
and sometimes not till the third). For we could never
yet see separated from woods analysed only the vulgar
way in close vessels any volatile salt in a dry and saline
form, as that of soot, which we have often had very
crystalline and geometrically figured. And then, whereas
the saline parts of the spirits of guaiacum, etc., appear
upon distillation sluggish enough, the salt of soot seems
to be one of the most volatile bodies in all nature; and if
it be well made will readily ascend with the milde heat of
a furnace, warmed only by the single wick of a lamp, to

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The Sceptical Chymist 39
the top of the highest glass vessels that are commonly
made use of for distillation: and besides all this, the taste
and smell of the salt of soot are exceedingly differing
from those of the spirits of guaiacum, etc., and the former
not only smells and tastes much less like a vegetable salt,
than like that of harts-horn, and other animal concretes,
but in divers other properties seems more of kin to the
family of animals than to that of vegetable salts, as I
may elsewhere (God permitting) have an occasion more
particularly to declare. I might likewise by some other
examples manifest that the chymists, to have dealt
clearly, ought to have more explicitly and particularly
declared by what degree of fire, and in what manner of
application of it, they would have us judge a division
made by the fire to be a true analysis into their principles,
and the productions of it to deserve the name of elementary
bodies. But it is time that I proceed to mention the
particular reasons that incline me to doubt whether the
fire be the true and universal analyser of mixt bodies;
of which reasons what has been already objected may
pass for one.
In the next place I observe, that there are some mixt bodies from which it has not been yet made appear that
any degree of fire can separate either salt or sulphur or
mercury, much less all the three. The most obvious instance
of this truth is gold, which is a body so fixt, and
wherein the elementary ingredients (if it have any) are so
firmly united to each other, that we finde not in the operations
wherein gold is exposed to the fire, how violent
soever, that it does discernably so much as lose of its
fixedness or weight, so far is it from being dissipated into
those principles, whereof one at least is acknowledged to be
fugitive enough; and so justly did the spagirical poet
somewhere exclaim:

Cuncta adeo miris compagibus hoerent.
And I must not omit on this occasion to mention to you, Eleutherius, the memorable experiment that I remember
I met with in (1) Gasto Claveus, who, though a lawyer by


1 Gasto Claveus Apolog. Argur. and Chrysopera.
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40 The Sceptical Chymist
profession, seems to have had no small curiosity and
experience in chymical affairs: he relates then, that having
put into one small earthen vessel an ounce of the most
pure gold, and into another the like weight of pure silver,
he placed them both in that part of a glass-house furnace
wherein the workmen keep their metal (as our English
artificers call their liquid glass) continually melted, and
that having there kept both the gold and the silver in
constant fusion for two months together, he afterwards
took them out of the furnace and the vessels, and weighing
both of them again, found that the silver had not lost
above a twelfth part of its weight, but the gold had not of
his lost anything at all. And though our author endeavours
to give us of this a scholastic reason, which I
suppose you would be as little satisfied with, as I was
when I read it, yet for the matter of fact, which will
serve our present turne, he assures us, that though it be
strange, yet experience itself taught it him to be most
true.
And though there be not perhaps any other body to be found so perfectly fixt as gold, yet there are divers
others so fixt or composed, at least of so strictly united
parts, that I have not yet observed the fire to separate
from them any one of the chymist's principles. I need not
tell you what complaints the more candid and judicious
of the chymists themselves are wont to make of those
boasters that confidently pretend, that they have
extracted the salt or sulphur of quicksilver, when they
have disguised it by additaments, wherewith it resembles
the concretes whose names are given it; whereas by a
skilful and rigid examen, it may be easily enough stript of
its disguises, and made to appear again in the pristine
form of running mercury. The pretended salts and
sulphurs being so far from being elementary parts extracted
out of the bodie of mercurie, that they are rather
(to borrow a terme of the grammarians) de-compound
bodies, made up of the whole metal and the menstruum,
or other additaments imployed to disguise it. And as
for silver, I never could see any degree of fire make it
part with any of its three principles. And though the

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The Sceptical Chymist 41
experiment lately mentioned from Claveus may beget
a suspition that silver may be dissipated by fire, provided
it be extreamly violent and very lasting, yet it will not
necessarily follow, that because the fire was able at length
to make the silver lose a little of its weight, it was therefore
able to dissipate it into its principles. For first I
might alledge that I have observed little grains of silver to
lie hid in the small cavities (perhaps glassed over by a
vitrifying heat) in crucibles, wherein silver has been long
kept in fusion, whence some goldsmiths of my acquaintance
make a benefit by grinding such crucibles to powder,
to recover out of them the latent particles of silver.
And hence I might argue, that perhaps Claveus was mistaken,
and imagined that silver to have been driven away
by the fire, that indeed lay in minute parts hid, in his
crucible, in whose pores so small a quantity as he misst
of so ponderous a bodie might very well lie concealed.
But secondly, admitting that some parts of the silver were driven away by the violence of the fire, what proof
is there that it was either the salt, the sulphur, or the
mercury of the metal, and not rather a part of it homogeneous
to what remained? For besides that the silver
that was left seemed not sensibly altered, which probably
would have appeared, had so much of any one of its principles
been separated from it; we finde in other mineral
bodies of a less permanent nature than silver, that the
fire may divide them into such minute parts, as to be able
to carry them away with itself, without at all destroying
their nature. Thus we see that in the refining of silver,
the lead that is mixt with it (to carry away the copper or
other ignoble mineral that embases the silver) will, if it
be let alone, in time evaporate away upon the test; but
if (as is most usual amongst those that refine great quantities
of metals together) the lead be blown off from the
silver by bellowes, that which would else have gone away
in the form of unheeded steams will in great part be
collected not far from the silver, in the form of a darkish
powder or calx; which, because it is blown off from silver,
they call litharge of silver. And thus Agricola in divers
places informs us, when copper, or the ore of it, is colliquated

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42 The Sceptical Chymist
by the violence of the fire with cadmia, the sparks,
that in great multitudes do fly upwards, do some of them
stick to the vaulted roofs of the furnaces, in the form of
little and (for the most part) white bubbles, which therefore
the Greeks, and, in imitation of them, our drugsters
call pompholyx: and others more heavy partly adhere to
the sides of the furnace, and partly (especially if the
covers be not kept upon the pots) fall to the ground, and
by reason of their ashy colour as well as weight were
called by the same Greeks σποδὸς, which, I need not tell
you, in their language signifies ashes. I might add, that
I have not found that from Venetian talc (I say Venetian
because I have found other kinds of that mineral more
open), from the lapis ossifragus (which the shops call
ostiocolla), from Muscovia glass, from pure and fusible
sand (to mention now no other concretes), those of my
acquaintance that have tried, have been able by the fire
to separate any one of the hypostatical principles; which
you will the less scruple to believe, if you consider that
glass may be made by the bare colliquation of the salt
and earth remaining in the ashes of a burnt plant, and
that yet common glass, once made, does so far resist the
violence of the fire, that most chymists think it a body
more undestroyable than gold itself. For if the artificer
can so firmly unite such comparative gross particles as
those of earth and salt that make up common ashes, into
a body indissoluble by fire, why may not nature associate
in divers bodies the more minute elementary corpuscles
she has at hand too firmly to let them be separable by
the fire? And on this occasion, Eleutherius, give me leave
to mention to you two or three slight experiments, which
will, I hope, be found more pertinent to our present
discourse, than at first perhaps they will appear. The
first is, that, having (for trial's sake) put a quantity of that
fugitive concrete, camphire, into a glass vessel, and
placed it in a gentle heat, I found it (not leaving behinde,
according to my estimate, not so much as one grain) to
sublime to the top of the vessel into flowers; which is
whiteness, smell, etc., seemed not to differ from the camphire
itself. Another experiment is that of Helmont, who

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The Sceptical Chymist 43
in several places affirms, that a coal kept in a glass exactly
closed will never be calcined to ashes, though kept never
so long in a strong fire: to countenance which I shall tell
you this trial of my own, that having sometimes distilled
some woods, as particularly box, whilst our caput mortuum
remained in the retort, it continued black like charcoal,
though the retort were earthen, and kept red-hot in a
vehement fire; but as soon as ever it was brought out
of the candent vessel into the open air, the burning coals
did hastily degenerate or fall asunder, without the assistance
of any new calcination, into pure white ashes. And
to these two I shall add but this obvious and known
observation, that common sulphur (if it be pure and freed
from its vinegar) being leasurely sublimed in close vessels,
rises into dry flowers, which may be presently melted into
a bodie of the same nature with that which afforded them.
Though, if brimstone be burnt in the open air, it gives,
you know, a penetrating fume, which being caught in a
glass bell condenses into that acid liquor called oil of
sulphur per campanam. The use I would make of these
experiments collated with what I lately told you out of
Agricola is this, that even among the bodies that are not
fixt, there are divers of such a texture, that it will be
hard to make it appear how the fire, as chymists are wont
to imploy it, can resolve them into elementary substances.
For some bodies being of such a texture that the fire can
drive them into the cooler and less hot part of the vessels
wherein they are included, and if need be, remove them
from place to place to fly the greatest heat, more easily
than it can divorce their elements (especially without the
assistance of the air), we see that our chymists cannot
analyse them in close vessels, and of other compound
bodies the open fire can as little separate the elements.
For what can a naked fire do to analyse a mixt bodie,
if its component principles be so minute, and so strictly
united, that the corpuscles of it need less heat to carry
them up than is requisite to divide them into their principles?
So that of some bodies the fire cannot in close
vessels make any analysis at all; and others will in the
open air fly away in the forms of flowers or liquors, before

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44 The Sceptical Chymist
the heat can prove able to divide them into their principles.
And this may hold, whether the various similar
parts of a concrete be combined by nature or by art; for
in factitious sal ammoniac we finde the common and the
urinous salts so well mingled, that both in the open fire,
and in subliming vessels they rise together as one salt,
which seems in such vessels irresoluble by fire alone.
For I can shew you sal ammoniac which after the ninth
sublimation does still retain its compounded nature. And
indeed I scarce know any one mineral, from which by fire
alone chymists are wont to sever any substance simple
enough to deserve the name of an element or principle.
For though out of native cinnaber they distil quicksilver,
and though from many of those stones that, the ancients
called pyrites they sublime brimstone, yet both that
quicksilver and this sulphur being very often the same
with the common minerals that are sold in the shops under
those names, are themselves too much compounded
bodies to pass for the elements of such. And thus much,
Eleutherius, for the second argument that belongs to my
first consideration; the others I shall the lesse insist on,
because I have dwelt so long upon this.
Proceed we then in the next place to consider, that there are divers separations to be made by other means,
which either cannot at all, or else cannot so well be made
by the fire alone. When gold and silver are melted into
one mass, it would lay a great obligation upon refiners
and goldsmiths to teach them the art of separating them
by the fire, without the trouble and charge they are fain
to be at to sever them. Whereas they may be very easily
parted by the affusion of spirit of nitre or aqua fortis;
which the French therefore call eau de depart: so likewise
the metalline part of vitriol will not be so easily and conveniently
separated from the saline part even by a violent
fire, as by the affusion of certain alkalisate salts in a
liquid form upon the solution of vitriol made in common
water. For thereby the acid salt of the vitriol leaving
the copper it had corroded to join with the added salts,
the metalline part will be precipitated to the bottom
almost like mud. And that I may not give instances only

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The Sceptical Chymist 45
in de-compound bodies, I will add a not useless one of
another kinde. Not only chymists have not been able
(for ought is vulgarly known) by fire alone to separate
true sulphur from antimony, but though you may finde
in their books many plausible processes of extracting it,
yet he that shall make as many fruitless trials as I have
done to obtain it by, most of them will, I suppose, be
easily persuaded, that the productions of such processes
are antimonial sulphurs rather in name than nature.
But though antimony sublimed by itself is reduced but to
a volatile powder, or antimonial flowers, of a compounded
nature like the mineral that affords them: yet I remember
that some years ago I sublimed out of antimony a sulphur,
and that in greater plenty than ever I saw obtained from
that mineral, by a method which I shall therefore acquaint
you with, because chymists seem not to have taken notice
of what importance such experiments may be in the indagation
of the nature, and especially of the number of the
elements. Having then purposely for trial's sake digested
eight ounces of good and well powdered antimony with
twelve ounces of oil of vitriol in a well stopt glass vessel
for about six or seven weeks; and having caused the mass
(grown hard and brittle) to be distilled in a retort placed
in sand, with a strong fire; we found the antimony to be
so opened, or altered by the menstruum wherewith it had
been digested, that whereas crude antimony, forced up
by the fire, arises only in flowers, our antimony thus
handled afforded us partly in the receiver, and partly in the
neck and at the top of the retort, about an ounce of
sulphur, yellow and brittle like common brimstone, and of
so sulphureous a smell, that upon the unluting the vessels it
infected the room with a scarce supportable stink. And
this sulphur, besides the colour and smell, had the perfect
inflammability of common brimstone, and would immediately
kindle (at the flame of a candle) and burn blue
like it. And though it seemed that the long digestion
wherein our antimony and menstruum were detained,
did conduce to the better unlocking of the mineral, yet if
you have not the leasure to make so long a digestion you
may by incorporating with powdered antimony a convenient

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46 The Sceptical Chymist
quantity of oil of vitriol, and committing them
immediately to distillation, obtain a little sulphur like
unto the common one, and more combustible than perhaps
you will at first take notice of. For I have observed, that
though (after its being first kindled) the flame would
sometimes go out too soon of itself, if the same lump of
sulphur were held again to the flame of a candle, it would
be rekindled and burn a pretty while, not only after the
second, but after the third or fourth accension. You, to
whom I think I shewed my way of discovering something
of sulphureous in oil of vitriol, may perchance suspect,
Eleutherius, either that this substance was some venereal
sulphur that lay hid in that liquor, and was by this operation
only reduced into a manifest body; or else that it
was a compound of the unctuous parts of the antimony,
and the saline ones of the vitriol, in regard that (as
Gunther informs us) divers learned men would have
sulphur to be nothing but a mixture made in the bowels of
the earth of vitriolate spirits and a certain combustible
substance. But the quantity of sulphur we obtained by
digestion was much too great to have been latent in the oil
of vitriol. And that vitriolate spirits are not necessary to
the construction of such a sulphur as ours, I could easily
manifest, if I would acquaint you with the several wayes
by which I have obtained, though not in such plenty, a
sulphur of antimony, coloured and combustible like
common brimstone. And though I am not now minded
to discover them, yet I shall tell you, that to satisfie some
ingenious men, that distilled vitriolate spirits are not
necessary to the obtaining of such a sulphur as we have
been considering, I did by the bare distillation of only
spirit of nitre, from its weight of crude antimony separate,
in a short time, a yellow and very inflammable sulphur,
which, for ought I know, deserves as much the name of an
element as anything that chymists are wont to separate
from any mineral by the fire. I could perhaps tell you
of other operations upon antimony, whereby that may
be extracted from it, which cannot be forced out of it by
the fire; but I shall reserve them for a fitter opportunity,
and only annex at present this slight, but not impertinent

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The Sceptical Chymist 47
experiment. That whereas I lately observed to you,
that the urinous and common salts whereof sal ammoniac
consists, remained unsevered by the fire in many successive
sublimations, they may be easily separated, and
partly without any fire at all, by pouring upon the
concrete finely powdered, a solution of salt of tartar, or
of the salt of wood-ashes; for upon your diligently mixing
of these you will finde your nose invaded with a very
strong smell of urine, and perhaps too your eyes forced to
water, by the same subtle and piercing body that produces
the stink; both these effects proceeding from hence, that
by the alkalisate salt, the sea salt that entered the composition
of the sal ammoniac is mortified and made more
fixt, and thereby a divorce is made between it and the
volatile urinous salt, which being at once set at liberty,
and put into motion, begins presently to fly away, and
to offend the nostrils and eyes it meets with by the way.
And if the operation of these salts be in convenient glasses
promoted by warmth, though but by that of a bath, the
ascending steames may easily be caught and reduced into
a penetrant spirit, abounding with a salt, which I have
sometimes found to be separable in a crystalline form.
I might add to these instances, that where as sublimate,
consisting, as you know, of salts and quicksilver combined
and carried up together by heat, may be sublimed, I
know not how often, by a like degree of fire, without
suffering any divorce of the component bodies, the
mercury may be easily severed from the adhering salts, if
the sublimate be distilled from salt of tartar, quicklime,
or such alkalisate bodies. But I will rather observe to
you, Eleutherius, what divers ingenious men have thought
somewhat strange, that by such an additament that seems
but only to promote the separation, there may be easily
obtained from a concrete, that by the fire alone is easily
divisible into all the elements that vegetables are supposed
to consist of, such a similar substance as differs in
many respects from them all, and consequently has by
many of the most intelligent chymists been denied to be
contained in the mixt body. For I know a way, and
have practised it, whereby common tartar, without the

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48 The Sceptical Chymist
addition of anything that is not perfectly a mineral, except
saltpetre, may by one distillation in an earthen retort be
made to afford good store of real salt, readily dissoluble
in water, which I found to be neither acid, nor of the
smell of tartar, and to be almost as volatile as spirit of
wine itself, and to be indeed of so differing a nature from
all that is wont to be separated by fire from tartar, and
divers learned men, with whom I discoursed of it, could
hardly be brought to believe, that so fugitive a salt could
be afforded by tartar, till I assured it them upon my own
knowledge. And if I did not think you apt to suspect
me to be rather too backward than too forward to credit
or affirm unlikely things, I could convince you by what
I have yet lying by me of that anomalous salt.
The fourth thing that I shall alledge to countenance my first consideration is, that the fire even when it divides a
body into substances of divers consistences, does not
most commonly analyse it into hypostatical principles,
but only disposes its parts into new textures, and thereby
produces concretes of a new indeed, but yet of a compound
nature. This argument it will be requisite for me
to prosecute so fully hereafter, that I hope you will then
confess that 'tis not for want of good proofs that I desire
leave to suspend my proofs till the series of my discourse
shall make it more proper and seasonable to propose them.
It may be further alledged on the behalf of my first consideration, that some such distinct substances may be
obtained from some concretes without fire, as deserve no
less the name of elementary than many that chymists
extort by the violence of the fire.
We see that the inflammable spirit, or as the chymists esteem it, the sulphur of wine, may not only be separated
from it by the gentle heat of a bath, but may be distilled
either by the help of the sunbeams, or even of a, dunghill,
being indeed of so fugitive a nature, that it is not easy to
keep it from flying away, even without the application
of external heat. I have likewise observed that a vessel
full of urine being placed in a dunghill, the putrefaction
is wont after some weeks so to open the body, that the
parts disbanding the saline spirit, will within no very long

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The Sceptical Chymist 49
time, if the vessel be not stoppt, fly away of itself; insomuch
that from such urine I have been able to distil
little or nothing else than a nauseous phlegme, instead of
the active and piercing salt and spirit that it would have
afforded, when first exposed to the fire, if the vessel had
been carefully stoppt.
And this leads me to consider, in the fifth place, that it will be very hard to prove, that there can no other
body or way be given which will as well as the fire
divide concretes into several homogeneous substances,
which may consequently be called their elements or
principles, as well as those separated or produced by
the fire. For since we have lately seen, that nature
can successfully employ other instruments than the fire
to separate distinct substances from mixt bodies, how
know we, but that nature has made, or art may make,
some such substance as may be a fit instrument to
analyse mixt bodies, or that some such method may be
found by human industry or luck, by whose means compound
bodies may be resolved into other substances than
such as they are wont to be divided into by the fire. And
why the products of such an analysis may not as justly
be called the component principles of the bodies that
afford them, it will not be easy to shew, especially since
I shall hereafter make it evident, that the substances
which chymists are wont to call the salts, and sulphurs,
and mercuries of bodies, are not so pure and elementary
as they presume, and as their hypothesis requires. And
this may therefore be the more freely pressed upon the
chymists, because neither the Paracelsansi, nor the Helmontians
can reject it without apparent injury to their
respective masters. For Helmont does more than once
inform his readers, that both Paracelsus and himself were
possessors of the famous liquor, alkahest, which for its
great power in resolving bodies irresoluble by vulgar fires,
he somewhere seems to call ignis Gehennae. To this
liquor he ascribes (and that in great part upon his own
experience) such wonders, that if we suppose them all
true, I am so much the more a friend to knowledge than
to wealth, that I should think the alkahest a nobler and

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50 The Sceptical Chymist
more desirable secret than the philosopher's stone itself.
Of this universal dissolvent he relates, that having
digested with it for a compentet time a piece of oaken
charcoal, it was thereby reduced into a couple of new and
distinct liquors, discriminated from each other by their
colour and situation, and that the whole body of the coal
was reduced into those liquors, both of them separable
from his immortal menstruum, which remained as fit for
such operations as before. And he moreover tells us in
divers places of his writings, that by his powerful, and unwearied
agent, he could dissolve metals, marchasites,
stones, vegetable and animal bodies of what kinde soever,
and even glass itself (first reduced to powder), and in a
word, all kind of mixt bodies in the world, into their
several similar substances; without any residence or
caput mortuum. And lastly, we may gather this further
from his informations, that the homogeneous substances
obtainable from compound bodies by his piercing liquor,
were oftentimes different enough, both as to number and as
to nature, from those into which the same bodies are
wont to be divided by common fire. Of which I shall
need in this place to mention no other proof, than what
whereas we know that in our common analysis of a
mixt body there remains a terrestrial and very fixt
substance, oftentimes associated with a salt as fixt;
our author tells us; that by his way he could distil over
all concretes without any caput mortuum, and consequently
could make those parts of the concrete volatile,
which in the vulgar analysis would have been fixt. So
that if our chymists will not reject the solemn and repeated
testimony of, a person, who cannot but be acknowledged
for one of the greatest spagyrists that they can boast of,
they must not deny that there is to be found in nature
another agent able to analyse compound bodies less
violently, and both more genuinely and more universally
than the fire. And for my own part, though I cannot
but say on this occasion what (you know) our friend
Mr. Boyle is wont to say, when he is askt his opinion of
any strange experiment; That he that hath seen it hath
more reason to believe it, than he that hath not, yet I have

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The Sceptical Chymist 51
found Helmont so faithful a writer, even in divers of his
improbable experiments (I alwaies except that extravagant
treatise De Magnetica Vulnerum Curatione, which some
of his friends affirm to have been first published by his
enemies) that I think it somewhat harsh to give him the
lye, especially to what he delivers upon his own proper
tryal. And I have heard from very credible eye-witnesses
some things, and seen some others myself, which argue
so strongly; that a circulated salt, or a menstruum (such
as it may be) may by being abstracted from compound
bodies, whether mineral, animal, or vegetable, leave them
more unlockt than a wary naturalist would easily believe,
that I dare not confidently measure the power of nature
and art by that of the menstruums, and other instruments
that eminent chymists themselves are as yet wont to
employ about the analysing of bodies; nor deny that a
menstruum may at least from this or that particular
concrete obtain some apparently similar substance,
differing from any obtainable from the same body by any
degree or manner of application of the fire. And I am
the more backward to, deny peremptorily, that there may
be such openers of compound bodies, because among the
experiments that make me speak thus warily, there wanted
not some in which it appeared not, that one of the substances,
not separable by common fires and menstruums,
could retain anything of the salt by which the separation
was made.
And here, Eleutherius (says Carneades) I should conclude as much of my discourse as belongs to the first
consideration I proposed, but that I foresee, that what
I have delivered will appear liable to two such specious
objections, that I cannot safely proceed any further till
I have examined them.
And first, one sort of opposers will be forward to tell me, that they do not pretend by fire alone to separate out
of all compound bodies their hypostatical principles;
it being sufficient that the fire divides them into such,
though afterwards they employ other bodies to collect
the similar parts of the compound; as 'tis known, that
though they make use of water to collect the saline parts

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52 The Sceptical Chymist
of ashes from the terrestrial wherewith they are blended,
yet it is the fire only that incinerates bodies, and reduces
the fixed part of them into the salt and earth, whereof
ashes are made up. This objection is not, I confess,
inconsiderable, and I might in great part allow of it,
without granting it to make against me, if I would content
myself to answer, that it is not against those that make
it that I have been disputing, but against those vulgar
chymists, who themselves believe, and would fain make
others do so, that the fire is not only an universal, but
an adequate and sufficient instrument to analyse mixt
bodies with. For as to their practice of extracting the
fixed salt out of ashes by the affusion of water, 'tis obvious
to alledge, that the water does only assemble together
the salt, the fire had before divided from the earth: as
a sieve does not further break the corn, but only bring
together into two distinct heaps the flower and the bran,
whose corpuscles before lay promiscuously blended together
in the meal. This I say I might alledge, and thereby
exempt myself from the need of taking any farther
notice of the proposed objection. But not to lose the
rise it may afford me of illustrating the matter under
consideration, I am content briefly to consider it, as far
forth as my present disquisition may be concerned in it.
Not to repeat then what has been already answered, I say further, that though I am so civil an adversary,
that I will allow the chymists, after the fire has done all
its work, the use of fair water to make their extractions
with, in such cases wherein the water does not co-operate
with the fire to make the analysis; yet since I grant this
but upon supposition that the water does only wash off
the saline particles, which the fire alone has before extricated
in the analysed body, it will not be reasonable, that
this concession should extend to other liquors that may
add to what they dissolve, nor so much as to other cases
than those newly mentioned: which limitation I desire
you would be pleased to bear in mind till I shall anon
have occasion to make use of it. And this being thus
premised, I shall proceed to observe,
First, that many of the instances I proposed in the
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The Sceptical Chymist 53
preceding discourse are such, that the objection we are
considering will not at all reach them. For fire can no
more with the assistance of water, than without it,
separate any of the three principles, either from gold,
silver, mercury, or some others of the concretes named
above.
Hence we may inferre, that fire is not an universal analyser of all mixt bodies, since of metals and minerals,
wherein chymists have most exercised themselves, there
appear scarce any which they are able to analyse by fire,
nay, from which they can unquestionably separate so
much as any one of their hypostatical principles; which
may well appear no small disparagement, as well to their
hypothesis, as to their pretensions.
It will also remain true, notwithstanding the objection, that there may be other wayes, than the wonted analysis
by fire, to separate from a compound body substances
as homogeneous as those that chymists scruple not to
reckon among their tria prima (as some of them, for
brevity sake, call their three principles).
And it appears, that by convenient additaments such substances may be separated by the help of the fire, as
could not be so by the fire alone. Witness the sulphur
of antimony.
And lastly, I must represent, that since it appears too that the fire is but one of the instruments that must be
employed in the resolution of bodies, we may reasonably
challenge the liberty of doing two things. For whenever
any menstruum or other additament is employed,
together with the fire to obtain a sulphur or a salt from
a body, we may well take the freedom to examine, whether
or no that menstruum do barely help to separate the
principle obtained by it, or whether there intervene not
a coalition of the parts of the body wrought upon with
those of the menstruum, whereby the produced concrete
may be judged to result from the union of both. And it
will be farther allowable for us to consider, how far any
substance, separated by the help of such additaments,
ought to pass for one of the tria prima; since by one way
of handling the same mixt body, it may, according to the

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54 The Sceptical Chymist
nature of the additaments, and the method of working
upon it, be made to afford differing substances from those
obtainable from it by other additaments, and another
method, nay and (as may appear by what I formerly told
you about tartar) differing from any of the substances
into which a concrete is divisible by the fire without
additaments, though perhaps those additaments do not,
as ingredients, enter the composition of the obtained body,
but only diversify the operation of the fire upon the
concrete; and though that concrete by the fire alone may
be divided into a number of differing substances, as great
as any of the chymists, that I have met with, teach us
that of the elements to be. And having said thus much
(saies Carneades) to the objection likely to be proposed
by some chymists, I am now to examine that which I
foresee will be confidently pressed by divers peripateticks,
who, to prove fire to be the true analyser of bodies, will
plead, that it is the very definition of heat given by
Aristotle, and generally received, congregare homogenea,
et heterogenea segregare, to assemble things of a
resembling, and disjoyn those of a differing nature. To
this I answer, that this effect is far from being so essential
to heat, as 'tis generally imagined; for it rather seems,
that the true and genuine property of heat is, to set a
moving, and thereby to dissociate the parts of bodies,
and subdivide them into minute particles, without regard
to their being homogeneous or heterogeneous, as is
apparent in the boyling of water, the distillation of quicksilver,
or the exposing of bodies to the action of the fire,
whose parts either are not (at least in that degree of heat
appear not) dissimilar, where, all that the fire can do, is
to divide the body into very minute parts which are of
the same nature with one another, and with their totum,
as their reduction by condensation evinces. And even
when the fire seems must so congregare homogenea, et
segregare heterogenea, it produces that effect but by
accident; for the fire does but dissolve the cement, or
rather shatter the frame, or structure that kept the
heterogeneous parts of bodies together, under one common
form; upon which dissolution the component particles

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The Sceptical Chymist 55
of the mixt, being freed and set at liberty, do naturally,
and oftentimes without any operation of the fire, associate
themselves each with its like, or rather do take those
places which their several degrees of gravity and levity,
fixedness or volatility (either natural, or adventitious
from the impression of the fire) assigne them. Thus in
the distillation (for instance) of man's blood, the fire does
first begin to dissolve the nexus or cement of the body;
and then the water, being the most volatile, and easy to
be extracted, is either by the igneous atomes, or the
agitation they are put into by the fire, first carried up,
till forsaken by what carried it up, its weight sinks it
down, into the receiver: but all this while the other
principles of the concrete remain unsevered, and require
a stronger degree of heat to make a separation of its
more fixt elements; and therefore the fire must be
increased which carries over the volatile salt and the
spirit, they being, though believed to be differing principles,
and though really of different consistency, yet of an
almost equal volatility. After them, as less fugitive,
comes over the oyl, and leaves behinde the earth and the
alcali, which being of an equal fixednesse, the fire severs
them not, for all the definition of the schools. And if
into a red-hot earthen or iron retort you cast the matter
to be distilled, you may observe, as I have often done,
that the predominant fire will carry up all the volatile
elements confusedly in one fume, which will afterwards
take their places in the receiver, either according to the
degree of their gravity, or according to the exigency of
their respective textures; the salt adhering, for the must
part, to the sides and top, and the phlegme fastening
itself there too in great drops, the oyle and spirit placing
themselves under, or above one another; according as
their ponderousness makes them swim or sink. For 'tis
observable, that though oyl or liquid sulphur be one of the
elements separated by this fiery analysis, yet the heat
which accidentally unites the particles of the other volatile
principles, has not alwayes the same operation on this,
there being divers bodies which yield two oyls, whereof the
one sinks to the bottom of that spirit on which the other

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56 The Sceptical Chymist
swims; as I can shew you in some oyls of the same deers
blood, which are yet by me; nay I can shew you two oyls
carefully made of the same parcel of humane blood, which
not only differ extreamly in colour, but swim upon one
another without mixture, and if by agitation confounded
will of themselves divorce again.
And that the fire doth oftentimes divide bodies, upon the account that some of their parts are more fixt, and
some more volatile, how far soever either of these two
may be from a pure elementary nature is obvious enough,
if men would but heed it in the burning of wood, which
the fire dissipates into smoake and ashes: for not only the
latter of these is confessedly made up of two such differing
bodies as earth and salt; but the former being condensed
into that soot which adheres to our chimneys, discovers
itself to contain both salt and oyl, and spirit and earth,
(and some portion of phlegme too) which being, all almost,
equally volatile to that degree of fire which forces them
up, (the more volatile parts helping perhaps, as well as the
urgency of the fire, to carry up the more fixt ones, as I
have often tried in dulcified colcothar, sublimed by sal
amoniack blended with it) are carried up together, but
may afterwards be separated by other degrees of fire,
whose orderly gradation allowes the disparity of their
volatileness to discover itself. Besides, if differing bodies
united into one mass be both sufficiently fixt, the fire
finding no parts volatile enough to be expelled or carried
up, makes no separation at all; as may appear by a
mixture of colliquated silver and gold, whose component
metals may be easily severed by aqua fortis, or aqua regis
(according to the predominancy of the silver or the gold)
but in the fire alone, though vehement, the metals remain
unsevered, the fire only dividing the body into smaller
particles (whose littleness may be argued from their
fluidity) in which either the little nimble atoms of fire,
or its brisk and numberless strokes upon the vessels,
hinder rest and continuity, without any sequestration
of elementary principles. Moreover, the fire sometimes
does not separate, so much as unite, bodies of a differing
nature; provided they be of an almost resembling fixedness,

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The Sceptical Chymist 57
and have in the figure of their parts an aptness to
coalition, as we see in the making of many plaisters,
oyntments, etc. And in such metalline mixtures as that
made by melting together two parts of clean brass with
one of pure copper, of which some ingenious tradesmen
cast such curious patterns (for gold and silver works) as
I have sometimes taken great pleasure to look upon.
Sometimes the bodies mingeld by the fire are differing
enough as to fixidity and volatility, and yet are so combined
by the first operation of the fire, that itself does
scarce afterwards separate them, but only pulverise them;
whereof an instance is afforded us by the common preparation
of mercurius dulcis, where the saline particles of the
vitriol, sea salt, and sometimes nitre, employed to make
the sublimate, do so unite themselves with the mercurial
particles made use of, first to make sublimate, and then
to dulcifie it, that the saline and metalline parts arise
together in many successive sublimations, as if they all
made but one body. And sometimes too the fire does
not only not sever the differing elements of a body, but
combine them so firmly, that nature herself does very
seldom, if ever, make unions less dissoluble. For the fire
meeting with some bodies exceedingly and almost equally
fixt, instead of making a separation, makes an union so
strict, that itself, alone, is unable to dissolve it; as we see,
when an alcalisate salt and the terrestrial residue of the
ashes are incorporated with pure sand, and by vitrification
made one permanent body (I mean the course or greenish
sort of glass) that mocks the greatest violence of the fire,
which though able to marry the ingredients of it, yet is
not able to divorce them. I can shew you some pieces
of glass which I saw flow down from an earthen crucible
purposely exposed for a good white, with silver in it, to
a very vehement fire. And some that deal much in the
fusion of metals informe me, that the melting of a great
part of a crucible into glass is no great wonder in their
furnaces. I remember I have observed too in the melting
of great quantities of iron out of the oar, by the help of
store of charcoal (for they affirm that sea-coal will not
yield a flame strong enough) that by the prodigious

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58 The Sceptical Chymist
vehemence of the fire, excited by vast bellows (made to
play by great wheels turned about by water) part of the
materials exposed to it was, instead of being analysed,
colliquated, and turned into a dark, solid and very
ponderous glass, and that in such quantity, that in some
places I have seen the very highwayes, neer such ironworks,
mended with heaps of such lumps of glasse, instead
of stones and gravel. And I have also observed, that
some kind of fire-stone itself, having been employed in
furnaces wherein it was exposed to very strong and lasting
fires, has had all its fixt parts so wrought on by the fire,
as to be perfectly vitrified, which I have tried by forcing
from it pretty large pieces of perfect and transparent
glass. And lest you might think, Eleutherius, that the
questioned definition of heat may be demonstrated, by
the definition which is wont to be given and acquiesced
in, of its contrary quality, cold, whose property is taught
to be tam honogenea, quam heterogenea congregare, give
me leave to represent to you, that neither is this definition
unquestionable; for not to mention the exceptions, which
a logician, as such, may take at it, I consider that the
union of heterogeneous bodies which is supposed to be
the genuine production of cold, is not performed by every
degree of cold. For we see for instance that in the urine
of healthy men, when the liquor has been suffered a while
to stand, the cold makes a separation of the thinner part
from the grosser, which subsides to the bottom, and
growes opacous there; whereas if the urinal be warme,
these parts readily mingle again, and the whole liquor
becomes transparent as before. And when, by glaciation,
wood, straw, dust, water, etc. are supposed to be united
into one lump of ice, the cold does not cause any real
union or adunation (if I may so speak) of these bodies,
but only hardening the aqueous parts of the liquor into
ice, the other bodies being accidentally present in that
liquor are frozen up in it, but not really united. And
accordingly if we expose a heap of mony consisting of
gold, silver and copper coynes, or any other bodies of
differing natures, which are destitute of aqueous moisture,
capable of congelation, to never so intense a cold, we find

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The Sceptical Chymist 59
not that these differing bodies are at all thereby so much
as compacted, much less united together; and even in
liquors themselves we find phaenomena which induce us
to question the definition which we are examining. If
Paracelsus his authority were to be looked upon as a
sufficient proof in matters of this nature, I might here
insist on that process of his, whereby he teaches that the
essence of wine may be severed from the phlegme and
ignoble part by the assistance of congelation: and because
much weight has been laid upon this process, not only by
Paracelsians, but other writers, some of whom seem not
to have perused it themselves, I shall give you the entire
passage in the author's own words, as I lately found them
in the sixth book of his Archidoxis, an extract whereof
I have yet about me; and it sounds thus. " De vino
sciendum est, faecem phlegmaque ejus esse mineram, et
vini substantiam esse corpus in quo conservatur essentia,
prout auri in auro latet essentia. Juxta quod practicam
nobis ad memoriam ponimus, ut non obliviscamur, ad
hunc modum: recipe vinum vetustissimum et optimum
quod hahere poteris, calore saporeque ad placitum, hoc
in vas vitreum infundas ut tertiam ejus partem impleat,
et sigillo hermetis occlusum in equino ventre mensibus
quatuor, et in continuato calore teneatur qui non deficiat.
Quo peracto, hyeme cum frigus et gelu maxime saeviunt,
his per mensem exponatur ut congeletur. Ad hunc
modum frigus vini spiritum una cum ejus substantia
protrudit in vini centrum, ac separat a phlegmate: congelatum
abjice, quod vero congelatum non est, id spiritum
cum substantia esse judicato. Hunc in pelicanum
positum in arenae digestione non adeo calida per aliquod
tempus manere sinito; postmodum eximito vini magisterium,
de quo locuti sumus."
But I dare not Eleu. lay much weight upon this process, because I have found that if it were true, it would
be but seldom practicable in this countrey upon the best
wine: for though this present winter bath been extraordinary
cold, yet in very keen frosts accompanied with
lasting snowes, I have not been able in any measure to
freez a thin vial full of sack; and even with snow and

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60 The Sceptical Chymist
salt I could freeze little more than the surface of it; and
I suppose Eleu. that 'tis not every degree of cold
that is capable of congealing liquors, which is able to
make such an analysis (if I may so call it) of them by
separating their aqueous and spirituous parts; for I have
sometimes, though not often, frozen severally, red-wine,
urine and milk, but could not observe the expected
separation. And the Dutchmen that were forced to
winter in that icie region neer the artick circle, called
Nova Zembla, although they relate, as we shall see below,
that there was a separation of parts, made in their frozen
beer about the middle of November, yet of the freezing
of their sack in December following they give but this
account: " Yea and our sack, which is so hot, was frozen
very hard, so that when we were every man to have his
part, we were forced to melt it in the fire; which we
shared every second day, about half a pinte for a man,
wherewith we were forced to sustain ourselves." In
which words they imply not, that their sack was divided
by the frost into differing substances, after such manner
as their beer had been. All which notwithstanding,
Eleu. suppose that it may be made to appear, that
even cold sometimes may congregare homogenea, et
heterogenea segregare: and to manifest this I may tell
you, that I did once, purposely, cause to be decocted in
fair water a plant abounding with sulphureous and
spirituous parts, and having exposed the decoction to a
keen north-wind in a very frosty night, I observed, that the
more aqueous parts of it were turned by the next morning
into ice towards the innermost part of which, the More
agile and spirituous parts, as I then conjectured, having
retreated, to shun as much as might be their environing
enemy, they had there preserved themselves unfrozen in
the form of a high coloured liquor; the aqueous and
spirituous parts having been so slightly (blended rather
than) united in the decoction, that they were easily
separable by such a degree of cold, as would not have been
able to have divorced the parts of urine or wine, which
by fermentation or digestion are wont, as tryal has informed
me, to be more intimately associated each with

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The Sceptical Chymist 61
other. But I have already intimated, Eleutherius, that
I shall not insist on this experiment; not only because,
having made it but once I may possibly have been mistaken
in it; but also (and that principally) because of that
much more full and eminent experiment of the separative
vertue of extream cold, that was made, against their wills,
by the forementioned Dutchmen that wintered in Nova
Zembla; the relation of whose voyage being a very scarce
book, it will not be amiss to give you that memorable
part of it which concerns our present theme, as I caused
the passage to be extracted out of the Englished voyage
itself.
" Gerard de Veer, John Cornelyson and others, sent out of Amsterdam, anno dom. 1596, being forced by unseasonable
weather to winter in Nova Zembla, near Ice-Haven;
on the thirteenth of October, three of us (saies the relation)
went aboard the ship, and laded a sled with beer; but
when we had laden it, thinking to go to our house with
it, suddenly there arose such a winde, and so great a storm
and cold, that we were forced to go into the ship again,
because we were not able to stay without; and we could
not get the beer into the ship again, but were forced to let
it stand without upon the shed: the fourteenth, as we
came out of the ship, we found the barrel of beer standing
upon the shed, but it was fast frozen at the heads; yet by
reason of the great cold, the beer that purged out, froze
as hard upon the side of the barrel, as if it had been glued
thereon: and in that sort we drew it to our house, and set
the barrel on end, and drank it up; but first we were
forced to melt the beer, for there was scarce any unfrozen
beer in the barrel; but in that thick yeast that was
unfrozen, lay the strength of the beer, so that it was too
strong to drink alone, and that which was frozen tasted
like water; and being melted we mixed one with the
other, and so drank it; but it had neither strength not
taste."
And on this occasion I remember, that having the last very sharp winter purposely tried to freeze, among other
liquors, some beer moderately strong, in glass vessels,
with snow and salt, I observed, that there came out of the

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62 The Sceptical Chymist
neck a certain thick substance, which, it seems, was much
better able than the rest of the liquor (that I found turned
into ice) to resist a frost; and which, by its colour and
consistence seemed manifestly enough to be yeast, whereat,
I confess, I somewhat marvelled, because I did not either
discerne by the taste, or find by enquiry, that the beer
was at all too new to be very fit to be drank. I might
confirm the Dutchmen's relation, by what happened
a while since to a neere friend of mine, who complained to
me, that having brewed some beer or ale for his own
drinking in Holland (where he then dwelt) the keenness
of the late bitter winter froze the drink so as to reduce it
into ice, and a small proportion of a very strong and
spirituous liquor. But I must not entertaine you any
longer concerning cold, not onely because you may think
I have but lost my way into a theme which does not
directly belong to my present undertaking; but because
I have already enlarged myself too much upon the first
consideration I proposed, though it appears so much
a paradox, that it seemed to require that I should say
much to keep it from being thought a meer extravagance;
yet since I undertook but to make the common assumption
of our chymists and Aristotelians appear questionable,
I hope I have so performed that task, that I may now
proceed to my following considerations, and insist less
on them than I have done on the first.

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THE SECOND PART
THE second consideration I desire to have notice taken of,
is this; That it is not so sure, as both chymists and
Aristotelians are wont to think it, that every seemingly
similar or distinct substance that is separated from a body
by the help of the fire, was pre-existent in it as a principle
or element of it.
That I may not make this paradox a greater than I needs must, I will first briefly explain what the proposition
means, before I proceed to argue for it.
And I suppose you will easily believe that I do not mean that anything, is separable from a body by fire,
that was not materially pre-existent in it; for it far
exceeds the power of meerly naturall agents, and consequently
of the fire, to produce anew, so much as one
atome of matter, which they can but modifie and alter
not create; which is so obvious a truth, that almost all
sects of philosophers have denied the power of producing
matter to second causes; and the Epicureans and some
others have done the like, in reference to their gods
themselves.
Nor does the proposition peremptorily deny, but that some things obtained by the fire from a mixt body, may
have been more than barely materially pre-existent in it,
since there are concretes, which before they be exposed
to the fire afford us several documents of their abounding,
some with salt, and others with sulphur. For it will
serve the present turn, if it appear that diverse things
obtained from a mixt body exposed to the fire, were not
its ingredients before: for if this be made to appear, it
will be rationall enough to suspect that chymists may
deceive themselves, and others, in concluding resolutely
and universally, those substances to be the elementary
ingredients of bodies barely separated by the fire, of which
it yet may be doubted, whether there be such or no; at

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64 The Sceptical Chymist
least till some other argument, than that drawn from the
analysis, be brought to resolve the doubt.
That then which I mean by the proposition I am explaining, is, that it may without absurdity be doubted
whether or no the differing substances obtainable from
a concrete dissipated by the fire were so existent in it in
that forme (at least as to their minute parts) wherein
we find them when the analysis is over, that the fire did
only disjoyne and extricate the corpuscles of one principle
from those of the other wherewith before they were
blended.
Having thus explained my proposition, I shall endeavour to do two things, to prove it; the first of which
is to shew that such substances as chymists call principles
may be produced de novo (as they speak). And the other
is to make it probable, that by the fire we may actually
obtain from some mixt bodies such substances, as were
not in the newly expounded sence, pre-existent in them.
To begin then with the first of these, I consider that
if it be as true, as 'tis probable, that compounded bodies
differ from one another but in the various textures resulting
from the bigness, shape, motion, and contrivance of
their small parts, it will not be irrational to conceive that
one and the same parcel of the universall matter may by
various alterations and contextures be brought to deserve
the name, sometimes of a sulphureous, and sometimes
of a terrene, or aqueous body. And this I could more
largely explicate, but that our friend Mr. Boyle has
promised us something about qualities, wherein the theme
I now willingly resign him, will I question not be
studiously enquired into. Wherefore what I shall now
advance in favour of what I have lately delivered shall
be deduced from experiments made divers years since.
The first of which would have been much more considerable,
but that by some intervening accidents I was necessitated
to lose the best time of the year, for a trial of the
nature of that I designed; it being about the middle of
May before I was able to begin an experiment which
should have then been two moneths old; but such as it
was, it will not perhaps be impertinent to give you this

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The Sceptical Chymist 65
narrative of it. At the time newly mentioned, I caused
my gardiner (being by urgent occasions hindered from
being present myself) to dig out a convenient quantity
of good earth, and dry it well in an oven, to weigh it, to
put it in an earthen pot almost level with the surface of
the ground, and to set in it a selected seed he had before
received from me, for that purpose, of squash, which is
an Indian kind of pompion, that growes apace; this seed
I ordered him to water only with rain or spring water.
I did not (when my occasions permitted me to visit it)
without delight behold how fast it grew, though unseasonably
sown; but the hastning winter hindered it from
attaining anything neer its due and wonted magnitude;
(for I found the same autumn, in my garden, some of
those plants, by measure, as big about as my middle)
and made me order the having it taken up; which about
the middle of October was carefully done by the same
gardiner, who a while after sent me this account of it:
" I have weighed the pompion with the stalk and leaves,
all which weighed three pound wanting a quarter; then
I took the earth, baked it as formerly, and found it just
as much as I did at first, which made me think I had not
dried it sufficiently: then I put it into the oven twice
more, after the bread was drawn, and weighed it the
second time, but found it shrink little or nothing."
But to deal candidly with you, Eleutherius, I must not conceal from you the event of another experiment of this
kind made this present summer, wherein the earth seems
to have been much more wasted; as may appear by the
following account, lately sent me by the same gardiner,
in these words. " To give you an account of your
cucumbers, I have gained two indifferent fair ones, the
weight of them is ten pound and a halfe, the branches
with the roots weighed four pounds wanting two ounces;
and when I had weighed them I took the earth, and baked
it in several small earthen dishes in an oven; and when I
had so done, I found the earth wanted a pound and a halfe
of what it was formerly; yet I was not satisfied, doubting
the earth was not dry: I put it into an oven the second
time, (after the bread was drawn) and after I had taken

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66 The Sceptical Chymist
it out and weighed it, I found it to be the same weight.
So I suppose there was no moisture left in the earth.
Neither do I think that the pound and half that was
wanting was drawn away by the cucumber but a great
part of it in the ordering was in dust (and the like) wasted:
(the cucumbers are kept by themselves, lest you should
send for them "). But yet in this tryal, Eleutherius, it
appears that though some of the earth, or rather the
dissoluble salt harboured in it, were wasted, the main
body of the plant consisted of transmuted water. And
I might add, that a year after I caused the formerly
mentioned experiment, touching large pompions, to be
reiterated, with so good success, that if my memory does
not much misinform me, it did not only much surpass
many that I made before, but seemed strangely to conclude
what I am pleading for; though (by reason I have
unhappily lost the particular account my gardiner writ
me up of the circumstances) I dare not insist upon them.
The like experiment may be as conveniently tried with the
seeds of any plant, whose growth is hasty, and its size
bulky. If tobacco will in these cold climates grow well
in earth undunged, it would not be amiss to make a tryal
with it; for 'tis an annual plant, that arises where it
prospers, sometimes as high as a tall man, and I have had
leaves of it in my garden neer a foot and a halfe broad.
But the next time I try this experiment, it shall be with
several seeds of the same sort, in the same pot of earth,
that so the event may be the more conspicuous. But
because everybody has not conveniency of time and
place for this experiment neither, I made in my chamber,
some shorter and more expeditious tryals. I took a top
of spearmint, about an inch long, and put it into a good
vial full of spring water, so as the upper part of the mint was
above the neck of the glass, and the lower part immersed
in the water; within a few dayes this mint began to shoot
forth roots into the water, and to display its leaves, and
aspire upwards; and in a short time it had numerous
roots and leaves, and these very strong and fragrant of
the odour of the mint, but the heat of my chamber, as I
suppose, killed the plant when it was grown to have a

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The Sceptical Chymist 67
pretty thick stalk, which with the various and ramified
roots, which it shot into the water as if it had been earth,
presented in its transparent flower-pot a spectacle not
unpleasant to behold. The like I tried with sweet
marjoram, and I found the experiment succeed also,
though somewhat more slowly, with balm and peniroyal,
to name now no other plants. And one of these vegetables,
cherished only by water, having obtained a
competent growth, I did, for tryals sake, cause to be
distilled in a small retort, and thereby obtained some
phlegme, a little empyreumaticall spirit, a small quantity
of adult oyl, and a caput mortuum; which appearing
to be a coal, I concluded it to consist of salt and earth:
but the quantity of it was so small, that I forbore to
calcine it. The water I used to nourish this plant was
not shifted nor renewed; and I chose spring-water rather
than rain-water, because the latter is more discernably
a kind of πανσωερμία, which, though it be granted to be
freed from grosser mixtures, seems yet to contain in it,
besides the steams of several bodies wandering in the air,
which may be supposed to impregnate it, a certain
spirituous substance, which may be extracted out of it,
and is by some mistaken for the spirit of the world corporifyed,
upon what grounds, and with what probability,
I may elsewhere perchance, but must not now, discourse
to you.
But perhaps I might have saved a great part of my labour. For I finde that Helmont (an author more
considerable for his experiments than many learned men
are pleased to think him) having had an opportunity
to prosecute an experiment much of the same nature
with those I have been now speaking of, for five years
together, obtained at the end of that time so notable
a quantity of transmuted water, that I should scarce
think it fit to have his experiment and mine mentioned
together, were it not that the length of time requisite to
this may deterr the curiosity of some, and exceed the
leasure of others; and partly, that so paradoxical a truth
as that which these experiments seem to hold forth, need
to be confirmed by more witnesses than one, especially

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68 The Sceptical Chymist
since the extravagancies and untruths to be met with
in Helmont's treatise of the Magnetick Cure of Wounds,
have made his testimonies suspected in his other writings,
though as to some of the unlikely matters of fact he
delivers in them, I might safely undertake to be his
compurgator. But that experiment of his which I was
mentioning to you, he saies, was this. He took 200 pound
of earth dried in an oven, and having put it into an
earthen vessel and moistened it with rain water, he
planted in it the trunk of a willow tree of five pound
weight; this he watered, as need required, with rain or
with distilled water; and to keep the neighbouring earth
from getting into the vessel, he employed a plate of iron
tinned over and perforated with many holes. Five years
being effluxed, he took out the tree and weighed it, and
(with computing the leaves that fell during four autumnes)
he found it to weigh 169 pound, and about three ounces.
And having again dried the earth it grew in, he found it
want of its former weight of 200 pound, about a couple
only of ounces; so that 164 pound of the rets, wood,
and bark, which constituted the tree, seem to have sprung
from the water. And though it appears not that Helmont
had the curiosity to make any analysis of this plant,
yet what I lately told you I did to one of the vegetables
I nourished with water only, will I suppose keep you
from doubting that if he had distilled this tree, it would
have afforded him the like distinct substances as another
vegetable of the same kind. I need not subjoyne that
I had it also in my thoughts to try how experiments to the
same purpose with those I related to you would succeed
in other bodies than vegetables, because importunate
avocations having hitherto hindered me from putting my
design in practice, I can yet speak but conjecturally of
the success: but the best is, that the experiments already
made and mentioned to you need not the assistance of
new ones, to verifie as much as my present task makes it
concern me to prove by experiments of this nature.
One would suspect (saies Eleutherius after his long
silence) by what you have been discoursing, that you are
not far from Helmont's opinion about the origination of

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The Sceptical Chymist 69
compound bodies, and perhaps too dislike not the arguments
which he imploys to prove it.
What Helmontian opinion, and what arguments do you mean (askes Carneades).
What you have been newly discoursing (replies Eleutherius) tells us, that you cannot but know that this bold
and acute spagyrist scruples not to assert that all mixt
bodies spring from one element; and, that vegetables,
animals, marchasites, stones, metalls, etc. are materially
but simple water disguised into these various formes, by
the plastick or formative vertue of their seeds. And as
for his reasons you may find divers of them scattered up
and down his writings; the considerablest of which seem
to be these three; The ultimate reduction of mixt bodies
into insipid water, the vicissitude of the supposed elements,
and the production of perfectly mixt bodies out of simple
water. And first he affirmes that the sal circulatus
Paracelsi, or his liquor alkahest, does adequately resolve
plants, animals, and mineralls into one liquor or more,
according to their several internall disparities of parts,
(without caput mortuum, or the destruction of their
seminal vertues;) and that the alkahest being abstracted
from these liquors in the same weight and vertue wherewith
it dissolved them, the liquors may by frequent
cohobations from chalke or some other idoneous matter,
be totally deprived of their seminal endowments, and
return at last to their first matter, insipid water; some
other wayes he proposes here and there to divest some
particular bodies of their borrowed shapes, and make
them remigrate to their first simplicity. The second
topick whence Helmont drawes his arguments, to prove
water to be the material cause of mixt bodies, I told you
was this, that the other supposed elements may be transmuted
into one another. But the experiments by him
here and there produced on this occasion, are so uneasie
to be made and to be judged of, that I shall not insist on
them; not to mention, that if they were granted to be
true, his inference from them is somewhat disputable;
and therefore I shall pass on to tell you, that as, in his
first argument, our paradoxical author endeavours to

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70 The Sceptical Chymist
prove water the sole element of mixt bodies, by their
ultimate resolution, when by his alkahest, or some other
conquering agent, the seeds have been destroyed, which
disguised them; or when by time those seeds are wearied,
or exantlated, or unable to act their parts upon the stage
of the universe any longer: so in his third argument he
endeavours to evince the same conclusion, by the constitution
of bodies which he asserts to be nothing but
water subdued by seminal vertues. Of this he gives here
and there in his writings several instances, as to plants
and animals; but divers of them being difficult either to
be tried or to be understood, and others of them being
not altogether unobnoxious to exceptions, I think you
have singled out the principal and less questionable
experiment when you lately mentioned, that of the willow
tree. And having thus, continues Eleutherius, to answer
your question, given you a summary account of what I
am confident, you know better than I do, I shall be very
glad to receive your sence of it, if the giving it me will not
too much divert you from the prosecution of your
discourse.
That if (replies Carneades) was not needlessly annexed: for thorowly to examine such an hypothesis and such
arguments would require so many considerations, and
consequently so much time, that I should not now have
the leasure to perfect such a digression, and, much less to
finish my principal discourse. Yet thus much I shall tell
you at present, that you need not fear my rejecting this
opinion for its novelty; since, however the Helmontians
may in complement to their master pretend it to be a new
discovery, yet though the arguments be for the most part
his, the opinion itself is very antient: for Diogenes
Laertius and divers other authors speak of Thales, as the
first among the Graecians that made disquisitions upon
nature. And of this Thales, I remember, Tully informs
us, that he taught all things were at first made of water.
And it seems by Plutarch and Justin Martyr, that the
opinion was ancienter than he: for they tell us that he
used to defend his tenent by the testimony of fouler.

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The Sceptical Chymist 71
And a Greek author, the (Scholiast of Apollonius) upon
these words

Ἐξ ἰλύφ ἐΒλάσησε χθὼν ἅυτη. The earth of slime was made,
affirms, (out of Zeno) that the chaos, whereof all things
were made, was, according to Hesiod, water; which,
setling first, became slime, and then condensed into solid
earth. And the same opinion about the generation of
slime seems to have been entertained by Orpheus, out of
whom one of the antients cites this testimony,

Ἐξ του̑ ὕδατφ ἰλὺς κατέση. Of water slime was made.
It seems also by what is delivered in Strabo out of another
author concerning the Indians, that they likewise held
that all things had differing beginnings, but that of which
the world was made, was water. And the like opinion
has been by some of the antients ascribed to the
Phoenicians, from whom Thales himself is conceived to
have borrowed it; as probably the Greeks did much of
theologie, and, as I am apt to think, of their philosophy
too; since the devising of the atomical hypothesis commonly
ascribed to Leucippus and his disciple Democritus,
is by learned men attributed to one Moschus a Phoenician.
And possibly the opinion is yet antienter than so; for
'tis known that the Phoenicians borrowed most of their
learning from the Hebrews. And among those that acknowledge
the Books of Moses, many have been inclined to
think water to have been the primitive and universal
matter, by perusing the beginning of Genesis, where the
waters seem to be mentioned as the material cause, not
only of sublunary compound bodies, but of all those that
make up the universe; whose component parts did
orderly, as it were, emerge out of that vast abysse, by
the operation of the Spirit of God, who is said to have
been moving Himself, as hatching females do (as the,
original, Merahephet, is said to import, and it seems

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72 The Sceptical Chymist
to signifie in one of the two other places, wherein alone
I have met with it in the Hebrew Bible) upon the
face of the waters; which being, as may be supposed,
divinely impregnated with the seeds of all things, were
by that productive incubation qualified to produce them.
But you, I presume, expect that I, should discourse of
this matter like a naturalist, not a philologer. Wherefore
I shall add, to countenance Helmont's opinion, that
whereas he gives not, that I remember, any instance of
any mineral body, nor scarce of any animal, generated
of water, a French chymist, Monsieur de Rochas, has
presented his readers an experiment, which if it were
punctually such as he has delivered it, is very notable.
He then, discoursing of the generation of things according
to certain chymical and metaphorical notions (which I
confess are not to me intelligible) sets down, among
divers speculations not pertinent to our subject, the
following narrative, which I shall repeat to you the sence
of in English, with as little variation from the literal sence
of the French words, as my memory will enable me.
" Having (saies, he) discerned such great wonders by the
natural operation of water, I would know what may be
done with it by art imitating nature. Wherefore I took
water which I well knew not to be compounded, nor to be
mixed with any other thing than that spirit of life
(whereof he had spoken before) and with a heat artificial,
continual and proportionate, I prepared and disposed
it by the above-mentioned graduations of coagulation,
congelation, and fixation, untill it was turned into earth,
which earth produced animals, vegetables and minerals.
I tell not what animals, vegetables and minerals, for that
is reserved for another occasion: but the animals did
move of themselves, eat, etc.--and by the true anatomie
I made of them, I found that they were composed of much
sulphur, little mercury, and less salt.--The minerals
began to grow and increase by converting into their own
nature one part of the earth thereunto disposed; they
were solid and heavy. And by this truly demonstrative
science, namely chymistry, I found that they were composed
of much salt; little sulphur, and less mercury.

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The Sceptical Chymist 73
But (saies Carneades) I have some suspitions concerning this strange relation which make me unwilling to declare
an opinion of it, unless I were satisfied concerning divers
material circumstances that our author has left unmentioned;
though as for the generation of living
creatures, both vegetable and sensitive, it needs not seem
incredible, since we find that our common water (which
indeed is often impregnated with variety of seminal
principles and rudiments) being long kept in a quiet place
will putrifie and stink, and then perhaps too produce moss
and little worms, or other insects, according to the nature
of the seeds that were lurking in it. I must likewise
desire you to take notice, that as Helmont gives us no
instance of the production of minerals out of water, so
the main argument that he employs to prove that they
and other bodies may be resolved into water, is drawn
from the operations of his alkahest, and consequently
cannot be satisfactorily examined by you and me.
Yet certainly (saies Eleutherius) you cannot but have
somewhat wondered as well as I, to observe how great
a share of water goes to the making up of divers bodies,
whose disguises promise nothing neer so much. The
distillation of eeles, though it yielded me some oyle, and
spirit, and volatile salt, besides the caput mortuum, yet
were all these so disproportionate to the phlegm that came
from them, (and in which at first they boyled as in a pot
of water) that they seemed to have bin nothing but
coagulated phlegm, which does likewise strangely abound
in vipers, though they are esteemed very hot in operation,
and will in a convenient air survive some dayes the loss
of their heads and hearts, so vigorous is their vivacity.
Mans bloud itself as spirituous, and as elaborate a liquor
as 'tis reputed, does so abound in phlegm, that, the other
day, distilling some of it on purpose to try the experiment
(as I had formerly done in deers bloud) out of about seven
ounces and a halfe of pure blond we drew neere six ounces
of phlegm, before any of the more operative principles
began to arise and invite us to change the receiver. And
to satisfie myself that some of these animall phlegms were
void enough of spirit to deserve that name, I would not

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74 The Sceptical Chymist
content myself to taste them only, but fruitlessly poured
on them acid liquors, to try if they contained any volatile
salt or spirit, which (had there been any there) would
probably have discovered itself by making an ebullition
with the affused liquor. And now I mention corrosive
spirits, I am minded to inform you, that though they
seem to be nothing else but fluid salts, yet they abound
in water, as you may observe, if either you entangle, and
so fix their saline part, by making them corrode some
idoneous body, or else if you mortifie it with a contrary
salt; as I have very manifestly observed in the making
a medicine somewhat like Helmont's balsamus samech,
with distilled vinegar instead of spirit of wine, wherewith
he prepares it: for you would scarce believe (what I have
lately observed) that of that acid spirit, the salt of tartar,
from which it is distilled, will by mortifying and retaining
the acid salt turn into worthless phlegm neere twenty
times its weight; before it be so fully impregnated as to
rob no more distilled vinegar of its salt. And though
spirit of wine exquisitely rectified seem of all liquors to be
the most free from water, it being so igneous that it will
flame all away without leaving the least drop behinde
it, yet even this fiery liquor is by Helmont not improbably
affirmed, in case what he relates be true, to be materially
water, under a sulphureous disguise: for, according to
him, in the making that excellent medicine Paracelsus
his balsamus samech, (which is nothing but sal tartari
dulcified by distilling from it spirit of wine till the salt
be sufficiently glutted with its sulphur, and till it suffer
the liquor to be drawn off, as strong as it was poured on)
when the salt of tartar from which it is distilled hath
retained, or deprived it of the sulphureous parts of the
spirit of wine, the rest, which is incomparably the greater
part of the liquor, will remigrate into phlegm. I added
that clause [in case what he relates be true] because I have
not as yet sufficiently tried it myself. But not only
something of experiment keeps me from thinking it, as
many chymists do, absurd, (though I have as well as they,
in vain tried it with ordinary salt of tartar) but besides
that Helmont often relates it, and draws consequences

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The Sceptical Chymist 75
from it; a person noted for his soberness and skill in
spagyrical preparations, having been askt by me whether
the experiment might not be made to succeed, if the salt
and spirit were prepared according to a way suitable to
my principles, he affirmed to me, that he had that way
I proposed made Helmont's experiment succeed very
well, without adding anything to the salt and spirit.
But our way is neither short nor easie.
I have indeed (saies Carneades) sometimes wondered to see how much phlegme may be obtained from bodies
by the fire. But concerning that phlegme I may anon
have occasion to note something, which I therefore shall
not now anticipate. But to return to the opinion of
Thales, and of Helmont, I consider, that supposing the
alkahest could reduce all bodies into water, yet whether
that water, because insipid, must be elementary, may not
groundlesly be doubted; for I remember the candid and
eloquent Petrus Laurembergius, in his notes upon Sala's
aphorismes, affirmes that he saw an insipid menstruum
that was a powerfull dissolvent, and (if my memory does
not much mis-inform me) could dissolve gold. And the
water which may be drawn from quicksilver without
addition, though it be almost tasteless, you will I believe
think of a differing nature from simple water, especially
if you digest in it appropriated mineralls. To which I
shall add but this, that this consideration may be further
extended. For I sec no necessity to conceive that the
water mentioned in the beginning of Genesis, as the
universal matter, was simple and elementary water; since
though we should suppose it to have been an agitated
congeries or heap consisting of a great variety of seminal
principles and rudiments, and of other corpuscles fit to be
subdued and fashioned by them, it might yet be a body
fluid like water, in case the corpuscles it was made up of,
were by their creator made small enough, and put into
such an actuall motion as might make them glide along
one another. And as we now say, the sea consists of
water, (notwithstanding the saline, terrestrial, and other
bodies mingled with it,) such a liquor may well enough
be called water, because that was the greatest of the

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known bodies whereunto it was like; though, that a body
may be fluid enough to appear a liquor, and yet contain
corpuscles of a very differing nature, you will easily
believe, if you but expose a good qantity of vitriol in
a strong vessel to a competent fire. For although it
contains both aqueous, earthy, saline, sulphureous, and
metalline corpuscles, yet the whole mass will at first be
fluid like water, and boyle like seething pot.
I might easily (continues Carneades) enlarge myself on such considerations, if I were now obliged to give you my
judgment of the Thalesian, and Helmontian hypothesis.
But whether or no we conclude that all things were at first
generated of water, I may deduce from what I have tried
concerning the growth of vegetables, nourished with
water, all that I now proposed to myself or need at present
to prove namely that salt, spirit, earth, and even oyl
(though that be thought of all bodies the most opposite
to water) may be produced out of water; and consequently
that a chymical principle as well as a peripatetick
element, may (in some cases) be generated anew, or
obtained from such a parcel of matter as was not endowed
with the form of such a principle or element before.
And having thus, Eleutherius, evinced that 'tis possible
that such substances as those that chymists are wont to
call their tria prima, may be generated, anew: I must
next endeavour to make it probable, that the operation
of the fire does actually (sometimes) not only divide
compounded bodies into small parts, but compound those
parts after a new manner, whence consequently, for ought
we know, there may emerge as well saline and sulphureous
substances, as bodies of other textures. And perhaps it
will assist us in our enquiry after the effects of the operations
of the fire upon other bodies, to consider a little,
what it does to those mixtures which being productions
of the art of man, we best know the composition of. You
may then be pleased to take notice that though sope is
made up by the sope-boylers of oyle or grease, and salt,
and water diligently incorporated together; yet if you
expose the mass they constitute to a graduall fire in a
retort, you shall then indeed make a separation, but not

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of the same substances that were united into sope, but of
others of a distant and yet not an elementary nature, and
especially of an oyle very sharp and foetid, and of a very
differing quality from that which was employed to make
the sope: so, if you mingle in a due proportion, sal
armoniack with quick-lime, and distill them by degrees
of fire, you shall not divide the sal armoniack from the
quick-lime, though the one be a volatile, and the other
a fixed substance, but that which will ascend will be a
spirit much more fugitive, penetrant, and stinking, than
sal armoniack; and there will remain with the quick-lime
all, or very near all the sea salt, that concurred to make
up the sal armoniack; concerning which sea salt I shall,
to satisfie you how well it was united to the lime, informe
you, that I have by making the fire at length very vehement,
caused both the ingredients to melt in the retort
itself into one mass, and such masses are apt to relent in
the moist air. If it be here objected, that these instances
are taken from factitious concretes which are more
compounded than those which nature produces; I shall
reply, that besides that I have mentioned them as much
to illustrate what I proposed, as to prove it; it will be
difficult to evince that nature herself does not make
decompounded bodies, I mean, mingle together such mixt
bodies, as are already compounded of elementary, or
rather of more simple ones. For vitriol (for instance)
though I have sometimes taken it out of minerall earths,
where nature had without any assistance of art prepared
it to my hand, is really, though chymists are pleased to
reckon it among salts, a decompounded body consisting
(as I shall have occasion to declare anon) of a terrestriall
substance, of a metal, and also of at least one saline body,
of a peculiar, and not elementary nature. And we see
also in animals, that their blood may be composed of
divers very differing mixt bodies, since we find it observed
that divers sea-fowle taste rank of the fish on which they
ordinarily feed; and Hippocrates himself observes, that
a child may be purged by the milke of the nurse, if she
have taken elaterium; which argues that the purging
corpuscles of the medicament concurr to make up the

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78 The Sceptical Chymist
milk of the nurse; and that white liquor is generally by
physitians supposed to be but blanched and altered
blood. And I remember I have observed, not farr from
the Alps, that at a certain time of the yeare the butter of
that country was very offensive to strangers, by reason
of the rank taste of a certain herb, whereon the cows were
then wont plentifully to feed. But (proceeds Carneades)
to give you instances of another kind, to shew that things
may be obtained by the fire from a mixt body that were
not pre-existent in it, let me remind you, that from many
vegetables there may without any addition be obtained
glass, a body, which I presume you will not say was pre-
existent in it, but produced by the fire. To which I shall
add but this one example more, namely that by a certain
artificial way of handling quicksilver, you may without
addition separate from it at least a 5th or 4th part of clear
liquor, which with an ordinary peripatetick would pass
for water, and which a vulgar chymist would not scruple
to call phlegme, and which, for ought I have yet seen or
heard, is not reducible into mercury again, and consequently
is more than a disguise of it. Now besides that
divers chymists will not allow mercury to have any, or at
least any considerable quantity of either of the ignoble
ingredients, earth and water; besides this, I say, the great
ponderousness of quicksilver makes it very unlikely that
it can have so much water in it as may be thus obtained
from it, since mercury weighs 12 or 14 times as much as
water of the same bulk. Nay for a further confirmation
of this argument, I will add this strange relation, that
two friends of mine, the one a physitian, and the other
a mathematician, and both of them persons of unsuspected
credit, have solemnly assured me, that after many tryals
they made, to reduce mercury into water, in order to
a philosophicall work, upon gold (which yet, by the way,
I know proved unsuccessfull) they did once by divers
cohobations reduce a pound of quicksilver into almost
a pound of water, and this without the addition of any
other substance, but only by pressing the mercury by
a skilfully managed fire in purposely contrived vessels.
But of these experiments our friend (saies Carneades,

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The Sceptical Chymist 79
pointing at the register of this dialogue) will perhaps give
you a more particular account than it is necessary for
me to do: since what I have now said may sufficiently
evince that the fire may sometimes as well alter bodies
as divide them, and by it we may obtain from a mixt body
what was not pre-existent in it. And how are we sure,
that in no other body what we call phlegme is barely
separated, not produced by the action of the fire: since
so many other mixt bodies are of a much less constant,
and more alterable nature, than mercury (by many tricks
it is wont to put upon chymists, and by the experiments
I told you of, about an hour since) appears to be. But
because I shall ere long have occasion to resume into
consideration the power of the fire to produce new concretes,
I shall no longer insist on this argument at present;
only I must mind you, that if you will not disbelieve
Helmont's relations, you must confess that the tria prima
are neither ingenerable nor incorruptible substances; since
by his alkahest some of them may be produced of bodies
that were before of another denomination; and by the
same powerfull menstruum all of them may be, reduced
into insipid water.
Here Carneades was about to pass on to his third consideration, when Eleutherius being desirous to hear what
he could say to clear his second general consideration
from being repugnant to what he seemed to think the
true theory of mistion, prevented him by telling him,
I somewhat wonder, Carneades, that you, who are in so
many points unsatisfied with the peripatetick opinion
touching the elements and mixt bodies, should also seem
averse to that notion touching the manner of mistion,
wherein the chymists (though perhaps without knowing
that they do so) agree with most of the antient philosophers
that preceded Aristotle, and that for reasons
so considerable, that divers modem naturalists and
physitians, in other things unfavourable enough to the
spagyrists, do in this case side with them against the
common opinion of the schools. If you should ask me
(continues Eleutherius) what reasons I mean? I should
partly by the writings of Sennertus and other learned men;

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80 The Sceptical Chymist
and partly by my own thoughts, be supplied with more,
than 'twere at present proper for me to insist largely on.
And therefore I shall mention only, and that briefly, three
or four. Of these; I shall take the first from the state of
the controversie itself, and the genuine notion of mistion,
which though much intricated by the schoolmen, I take
in short to be this. Aristotle, at least as many of his
interpreters expound him, and as indeed he teaches in
some places, where he professedly dissents from the
antients, declares mistion to be such a mutual penetration,
and perfect union of the mingled elements, that there is
no portion of the mixt body, how minute soever, which
does not contain an, and every of the four elements, or
in which, if you please, all the elements are not. And I
remember, that he reprehends the mistion taught by the
ancients, as too slight or gross, for this reason, that bodies
mixt according to their hypothesis, though they appear
to humane eyes, would not appear such to the acute eyes
of a lynx, whose perfecter sight would discerne the
elements, if they were no otherwise mingled, than as his
predecessors would have it, to be but blended, not united;
whereas the antients, though they did not all agree about
what kind of bodies were mixt, yet they did almost
unanimously hold, that in a compounded bodie, though
the miscibilia, whether elements, principles, or whatever
they pleased to call them, were associated in such small
parts, and with so much exactness, that there was no
sensible part of the mass but seemed to be of the same
nature with the rest, and with the whole; yet as to the
atomes, or other insensible parcels of matter, whereof
each of the miscibilia consisted, they retained each of
them its own nature, being but by apposition or juxtaposition
united with the rest into one bodie. So that
although by vertue of this composition the mixt body
did perhaps obtain divers new qualities, yet still the
ingredients that compounded it, retaining their own
nature, were by the destruction of the compositum
separable from each other, the minute parts disingaged
from those of a differing nature, and associated with
those of their own sort returning to be again, fire, earth,

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The Sceptical Chymist 81
or water, as they were before they chanced to be ingredients
of that compositum. This may be explained
(continues Eleutherius) by a piece of cloath made of white
and black threds interwoven, wherein though the whole
piece appear neither white nor black, but of a resulting
colour, that is gray, yet each of the white and black threds
that compose it, remains what it was before, as would
appear if the threds were pulled asunder, and sorted each
colour by itself. This (pursues Eleutherius) being, as I
understand it, the state of the controversie, and the
Aristotelians after their master commonly defining, that
mistion is miscibilium alteratorum unio, that seems to
comport much better with the opinion of the chymists,
than with that of their adversaries, since according to
that as the newly mentioned example declares, there is
but a juxta-position of separable corpuscles, retaining
each its own nature, whereas according to the Aristotelians,
when what they are pleased to call a mixt body results
from the concourse of the elements, the miscibilia cannot
so properly be said to be altered, as destroyed, since there
is no part in the mixt body, how small soever, that can
be called either fire, or air, or water, or earth.
Nor indeed can I well understand, how bodies can be mingled other waies than as I have declared, or at least
how they can be mingled, as out peripateticks would
have it. For whereas Aristotle tells us, that if a drop of
wine be put into ten thousand measures of water, the wine
being overpowered by so vast a quantity of water will
be turned into it, he speaks to my apprehension, very
improbably. For though one should add to that quantity
of water as many drops of wine as would a thousand times
exceed it all, yet by his rule the whole liquor should not
be a crama, a mixture of wine and water, wherein the
wine would be predominant, but water only; since the
wine being added but by a drop at a time, would still fall
into nothing but water, and consequently would be turned
into it. And if this would hold in metals too, 'twere a
rare secret for goldsmiths, and refiners; for by melting
a mass of gold, or silver, and by but casting into it lead
or antimony, grain after grain, they might at pleasure,

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82 The Sceptical Chymist
within a reasonable compass of time, turn what quantity
they desire, of the ignoble into the noble metalls. And
indeed since a pint of wine, and a pint of water, amount
to about a quart of liquor, it seems manifest to sense, that
these bodies doe not totally penetrate one another, as one
would have it; but that each retains its own dimensions;
and consequently, that they are by being mingled only
divided into minute bodies, that do but touch one another
with their surfaces, as do the grains of wheat, rye, barley,
etc. in a heap of severall sorts of corn: and unless we say,
that as when one measure of wheat, for instance, is
blended with a hundred measures of barely, there happens
only a juxta-position and superficial contact betwixt the
grains of wheat, and as many or thereabouts of the grains
of barley; so when a drop of wine is mingled with a great
deal of water, there is but an apposition of so many
vinous corpuscles to a correspondent number of aqueous
ones; unless I say this be said, I see not how that absurdity
will be avoyded, whereunto the Stoical notion of
mistion (namely by σύγχυσις, or confusion) was liable,
according to which the least body may be co-extended
with the greatest: since in a mixt body wherein before
the elements were mingled there was, for instance, but
one pound of water to ten thousand of earth, yet according
to them there must not be the least part of that compound,
that consisted not as well of earth, as water. But I
insist, perhaps, too long (saies Eleutherius) upon the
proofs afforded me by the nature of mistion: wherefore
I will but name two or three other arguments; whereof
the first shall be, that according to Aristotle himself, the
motion of a mixt body followes the nature of the predominant
element, as those wherein the earth prevails,
tend towards the centre of heavy bodies. And since
many things make it evident, that in divers mixt bodies
the elementary qualities are as well active, though not
altogether so much so as in the elements themselves, it
seems not reasonable to deny the actual existence of the
elements in those bodies wherein they operate.
To which I shall add this convincing argument, that experience manifests, and Aristotle confesses it, that the

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The Sceptical Chymist 83
miscibilia may be again separated from a mixt body, as is
obvious in the chymical resolutions of plants and animalls,
which could not be unless they did actually retain their
formes in it: for since, according to Aristotle, and I think
according to truth, there is but one common mass of all
things, which he has been pleased to call materia prima;
and since 'tis not therefore the matter but the forme that
constitutes and discriminates things, to say that the
elements remain not in a mixt body, according to their
formes, but according to their matter, is not to say that
they remain there at all; since although those portions
of matter were earth and water, etc. before they concurred;
yet the resulting body being once constituted,
may as well be said to be simple as any of the elements;
the matter being confessedly of the same nature in all
bodies, and the elementary formes being according to this
hypothesis perished and abolished.
And lastly, and if we will consult chymical experiments, we shall find the advantages of the chymical doctrine
above the peripatetick title little less than palpable. For
in that operation that refiners call quartation, which they
employ to purifie gold, although three parts of silver be
so exquisitely mingled by fusion with a fourth part of
gold (whence the operation is denominated) that the
resulting mass acquires several new qualities, by vertue
of the composition, and that there is scarce any sensible
part of it that is not composed of both the metalls; yet
if you cast this mixture into aqua fortis, the silver will be
dissolved in the menstruum, and the gold like a dark or
black powder will fall to the bottom of it, and either body
may be again reduced into such a metal as it was before;
which shews, that it retained its nature, notwithstanding
its being mixt per minima with the other: we likewise
see, that though one part of pure silver be mingled with
eight or ten parts, or more, of lead; yet the fire will upon
the cuppel easily and perfectly separate them again.
And that which I would have you peculiarly consider on
this occasion is, that not only in chymicall anatomies
there is a separation made of the elementary ingredients,
but that some mixt bodies afford a very much greater

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84 The Sceptical Chymist
quantity of this or that element or principle, than of
another; as we see, that turpentine and amber yeeld
much more oyl and sulphur than they do water; whereas
wine, which is confessed to be a perfectly mixt bodie,
yeelds but a little inflamable spirit, or sulphur, and not
much more earth; but affords a vast proportion of phlegm
or water: which could not be, if, as the peripateticks
suppose, every, even of the minutest particles, were of the
same nature with the whole, and consequently did contain
both earth and water, and aire, and fire; wherefore as to
what Aristotle principally, and almost only objects, that
unless his opinion be admitted, there would be no true
and perfect mistion, but onely aggregates or heaps of
contiguous corpuscles, which, though the eye of man
cannot discerne, yet the eye of a lynx might perceive not
to be of the same nature with one another and with their
totum, as the nature of mistion requires, if he do not beg
the question, and make mistion to consist in what other
naturalists deny to be requisite to it, yet he at least
objects that as a great inconvenience which I cannot take
for such, till he have brought as considerable arguments
as I have proposed to prove the contrary, to evince that
nature makes other mistions than such as I have allowed,
wherein the miscibilia are reduced into minute parts, and
united as far as sense can discerne: which if you will not
grant to be sufficient for a true mistion, he must have the
same quarrel with nature herself, as with his adversaries.
Wherefore (continues Eleutherius) I cannot but somewhat marvail that Carneades should oppose the doctrine
of the chymists in a particular, wherein they do as well
agree with his old mistress, nature, as dissent from his old
adversary, Aristotle.
I must not (replies Carneades) engage myself at present to examine throughly the controversies concerning
mistion: and if there were no third thing, but that I were
reduced to embrace absolutely and unreservedly either
the opinion of Aristotle, or that of the philosophers that
went before him, I should look upon the latter, which
the chymists have adopted, as the more defensible opinion:
but because differing in the opinions about the elements

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The Sceptical Chymist 85
from both parties, I think I can take a middle course, and
discourse to you of mistion after a way that does neither
perfectly agree, nor perfectly disagree with either, as
will not peremtorily define, whether there be not cases
wherein some phaenomena of mistion seem to favour the
opinion that the chymists patrons borrowed of the
antients, I shall only endeavour to shew you that there
are some cases which may keep the doubt, which makes
up my second general consideration from being unreasonable.
I shall then freely acknowledge to you (saies Carneades) that I am not over-well satisfied with the doctrine that
is ascribed to Aristotle, concerning mistion, especially
since it teaches that the four elements may again be
separated from the mixt body; whereas if they continued
not in it, it would not be so much a separation as a production.
And I think the ancient philosophers that
preceded Aristotle, and chymists who have since received
the same opinion, do speak of this matter more intelligibly,
if not more probably, than the peripateticks: but though
they speak congruously enough, to their believing, that
there are a certain number of primogeneal bodies, by
whole concourse all those we call mixt are generated,
and which in the destruction of mixt bodies do barely
part company, and reduce from one another, just such
as they were when they came together; yet I, who meet
with very few opinions that I can entirely acquiesce in,
must confess to you that I am inclined to differ not only
from the Aristotelians, but from the old philosophers and
the chymists, about the nature of mistion: and if you
will give me leave, I shall briefly propose to you my
present notion of it, provided you will look upon it, not
so much as an assertion as an hypothesis; in talking of
which I do not now pretend to propose and debate the
whole doctrine of mistion, but to shew that 'tis not
improbable, that sometimes mingled substances may be
so strictly united, that it doth not by the usuall operations
of the fire, by which chymists are wont to suppose themselves
to have made the analysis of mixt bodies, sufficiently
appear, that in such bodies the miscibilia, that concurred

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86 The Sceptical Chymist
to make them up, do each of them retain its own peculiar
nature; and by the spagyrists fires may be more easily
extricated and recovered, than altered, either by a change
of texture in the parts of the same ingredient, or by an
association with some parts of another ingredient more
strict than was that of the parts of this or that miscibile
among themselves. At these words Eleu. having
pressed him to do what he proposed, and promised to do
what he desired;
I consider then (resumes Carneades) that, not to mention those improper kinds of mistion, wherein homogeneous
bodies are joyned, as when water is mingled with water,
or two vessels full of the same kind of wine with one
another, the mistion I am now to discourse of seems,
generally speaking, to be but an union per minima of any
two or more bodies of differing denominations; as when
ashes and sand are colliquated into glass; or antimony
and iron into regulus martis; or wine and water are
mingled, and sugar is dissolved in the mixture. Now
in this general notion of mistion it does not appear clearly
comprehended, that the miscibilia or ingredients do in
their small parts so retain their nature and remain distinct
in the compound, that they may thence by the fire be
again taken asunder: for though I deny not that in some
mistions of certain permanent bodies this recovery of the
same ingredients may lie made; yet I am not convinced
that it will hold in all or even in most, or that it is necessarily
deducible from chymicall experiments, and the true
notion of mistion. To explain this a little, I assume,
that bodies may be mingled, and that very durably, that
are not elementary, nor have been resolved into elements
or principles, that they may be mingled; as is evident
in the regulus of colliquated antimony, and iron newly
mentioned; and in gold coyne, which lasts so many ages;
wherein generally the gold is alloyed by the mixture of a
quantity, greater or lesser, (in our mints they use about
a 12th part) of either silver, or copper, or both. Next,
I consider, that there being but one universal matter of
things, as 'tis known that the Aristotelians themselves
acknowledge, who call it materia prima (about which

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The Sceptical Chymist 87
nevertheless I like not all their opinions) the portions of
this matter seem to differ from one another, but in certain
qualities or accidents, fewer or more; upon whose account
the corporeal substance they belong to receives its denomination,
and is referred to this or that particular sort of
bodies; so that if it come to lose, or be deprived of those
qualifies, though it ceases not to be a body, yet it ceases
from being that kind of body as a plant, or animal, or
red, green, sweet, sowre, or the like. I consider that it
very often happens that the small parts of bodies cohere
together but by immediate contact and rest, and that
however, there are few bodies whose minute parts stick
so close together, to what cause soever their combination
be ascribed, but that it is possible to meet with some other
body, whose small parts may get between them, and so
disjoyn them; or may be fitted to cohere more strongly
with some of them, than those some do with the rest; or
at least may be combined so closely with them, as that
neither the fire, nor the, other usual instruments of
chymical anatomies will separate them. These things
being premised, I will not peremntorily deny, but that
there may be some clusters of particles, wherein the
particles are so minute, and the coherence so strict, or
both, that when bodies of differing denominations; and
consisting of such durable clusters, happen to be mingled,
though the compound body made up of them may be very
differing from either of the ingredients, yet each of the
little masses or clusters may so retain its own nature, as
to be again separable, such as it was before. As when
gold and silver being melted together in a due proportion.
(for in every proportion, the refiners will tell you that the
experiment will not succeed) aqua fortis will dissolve the
silver, and leave the gold untoucht; by which means, as
you lately noted, both the metalls may be recovered from
the mixed mass. But (continues Carneades) there are other
clusters wherein the particles stick not so close together, but
that they may meet with corpuscles of another denomination
which are disposed to be more closely united with some
of them, than they were among themselves. And in such
case, two thus combining corpuscles losing that shape, or

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88 The Sceptical Chymist
size, or motion, or other accident, upon whose account
they were endowed with such a determinate quality or
nature, each of them really ceases to be a corpuscle of the
same denomination it was before; and from the coalition
of these there may emerge a new body, as really one, as
either of the corpuscles was before they were mingled, or,
if you please, confounded: since this concretion is really
endowed with its own distinct qualifies, and can no more
by the fire, or any other known way of analysis, be
divided again into the corpuscles that at first concurred
to make it, than either of them could by the same means
be subdivided into other particles. But (saies Eleutherius)
to make this more intelligible by particular examples;
If you dissolve copper in aqua fortis, or spirit of nitre, (for
I remember not which I used, nor do I think it much
material) you may by chrystalising the solution obtain
a goodly vitriol; which though by vertue of the composition
it have manifestly diverse qualities, not to be
met with in either of the ingredients, yet it seems that
the nitrous spirits, or at least many of them, may in this
compounded mass retain their former nature; for having
for tryal sake distilled this vitriol spirit, there came over
store of red fumes, which by that colour, by their peculiar
stinke, and by their sowrness, manifested themselves to
be, nitrous spirits; and that the remaining calx continued
copper, I suppose you'll easily believe. But if you
dissolve minium, which is but lead powdered by the fire,
in good spirit of vinegar, and chrystalise the solution,
you shall not only have a saccharine salt exceedingly
differing from both its ingredients; but the union of some
parts of the menstruum with some of those of the metal
is so strict, that the spirit of vinegar seems to be, as such,
destroyed; since the saline corpuscles have quite lost
that acidity, upon whose account the liquor was called
spirit of vinegar; nor can any such acid parts as were
put to the minium be separated by any known way from
the saccharum saturni resulting from them both; for not
only there is no sowrness at all, but an admirable sweetness
to be tasted in the concretion; and not only I found not
that spirit of wine, which otherwise will immediately hiss

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The Sceptical Chymist 89
when mingled with strong spirit of vinegar, would hiss
being poured upon saccharum saturni, wherein yet the
acid salt of vinegar, did it survive, may seem to be concentrated;
but upon the distillation of saccharum saturni
by itself I found indeed a liquor very penetrant, but not
at all acid, and differing as well in smell and other qualities,
as in taste, from the spirit of vinegar; which likewise
seemed to have left some of its parts very firmly united
to the caput mortuum, which though of a leaden nature was
in smell, colour, etc. differing from minium; which brings
into my mind, that though two powders, the one blew,
and the other yellow, may appear a green mixture, without
either of them losing its own colour, as a good microscope
has sometimes informed me; yet having mingled
minium and sal armoniack in a requisite proportion, and
exposed them in a glass vessel to the fire, the whole mass
became white, and the red corpuscles were destroyed;
for though the calcined lead was separable from the salt,
yet you'll easily believe it did not part from it in the forme
of a red powder, such as was the minium, when it was put
to the sal armoniack. I leave it also to be considered,
whether in blood, and divers other bodies, it be probable,
that each of the corpuscles that concur to make a compound
body doth, though some of them in some cases may,
retain its own nature in it, so that chymists may extricate
each sort of them from all the others, wherewith it concurred
to make a body of one denomination.
I know there may be a distinction betwixt matter immanent, when the material parts. remain and retain
their own nature in the things materiated, as some of the
schoolmen speak (in which sence wood, stones and lime
are the matter of a house) and transient, which in the
materiated thing is so altered, as to receive a new forme,
without being capable of re-admitting. again the old.
In which sence the friends of this distinction say, that
chyle is the matter of blood, and blood that of a humane
body, of all whose parts 'tis presumed to be the aliment.
I know also that it may be said, that of material principles,
some are common to all mixt bodies, as Aristotle's four
elements, or the chymists tria prima; others peculiar,

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90 The Sceptical Chymist
which belong to this or that sort of bodies; as butter and
a kind of whey may be said to be the proper principles
of cream: and I deny not, but that these distinctions may
in some cases be of use; but partly by what I have said
already, and partly by what I am to say, you may easily
enough guess in what sence I admit them, and discerne
that in such a sence they will either illustrate some of my
opinions, or at least will not overthrow any of them.
To prosecute then what I was saying before, I will add
to this purpose, that since the major part of chymists
credit, what those the call philosophers affirme of their
stone, I may represent to them, that though when common
gold and lead are mingled together, the lead may be
severed almost unaltered from the gold; yet if instead
of gold a tantillum of the red elixir be mingled with the
saturn, their union will be so indissoluble in the perfect
gold that will be produced by it, that there is no known,
nor perhaps no possible way of separating the diffused
elixir from the fixed lead, but they both constitute a most
permanent body, wherein the saturn seems to have quite
lost its properties that made it be called lead, and to have
been rather transmuted by the elixir, than barely associated
to it. So that it seems not alwaies necessary, that
the bodies that are put together per minima should each
retain its own nature; so as when the mass itself is
dissipated by the fire, to be more disposed to re-appear
in its pristine forme, than, in any new one, which by a
stricter association of its parts with those, of some of the
other ingredients of the compositum, than with one
another, it may have acquired.
And if it be objected, that unless the hypothesis I oppose be admitted, in such cases as I have proposed,
there would not be an union, but a destruction of mingled
bodies, which seems all one as to say, that of such bodies
there is no mistion at all; I answer, that though the
substances that are mingled remain, only their accidents
are destroyed, and though we may with tolerable congruity
call them miscibilia, because they are distinct
bodies before they are put together, however afterwards
they are so confounded that I should rather call them

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The Sceptical Chymist 91
concretions, or resulting bodies, than mixt ones; and
though perhaps some other and better account may be
proposed, upon which the name of mistion may remain;
yet if what I have said be thought reason, I shall not
wrangle about words, though I think it fitter to alter a
terme of art, than reject a new truth, because it suits not
with it. If it be also objected that this notion of mine,
concerning mistion, though it may be allowed, when
bodies already compounded are put to be mingled, yet
it is not applicable to those mistions that are immediately
made of the elements, or principles themselves; I answer
in the first place, that I here consider the nature of mistion
somewhat more generally, than the chymists; who yet
cannot deny that there are oftentimes mixtures, and those
very durable ones, made of bodies that are not elementary.
And in the next place, that though it may be probably
pretended that in those mixtures that are made immediately
of the bodies, that are called principles or elements,
the mingled ingredients may better retain their own
nature in the compounded mass, and be more easily
separated from thence; yet, besides that it may be
doubted, whether there be any such primary bodies, I
see not why the reason I alledged, of the destructibility
of the ingredients of bodies in general, may not sometimes
be applicable to salt, sulphur, or mercury; 'tilt it be
shewn upon what account we are to believe them priviledged.
And however, (if you please but to recall to mind,
to what purpose I told you at first, I meant to speak of
mistion at this time) you will perhaps allow, that what
I have hitherto discoursed about it, may not only give
some light to the nature of it in general (especially when
I shall have an opportunity to declare to you my thoughts
on that subject more fully) but may on some occasions
also be serviceable to me in the insuing part of this
discourse.
But to look back now to that part of our discourse, whence this excursion concerning mistion has so long
diverted us, though we there deduced from the differing
substances obtained from a plant nourished only with
water, and from some other things, that it was not

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92 The Sceptical Chymist
necessary that nature should alwaies compound a body
at first of all such differing bodies as the fire could afterwards
make it afford; yet this is not all that may be
collected from those experiments. For from them there
seems also deducible something that subverts another
foundation of the chymical doctrine. For since that (as
we have seen) out of fair water alone, not only spirit, but
oyle, and salt, and earth may be produced; it will follow
that salt and sulphur are not primogeneal bodies, and
principles, since they are every day made out of plain
water by the texture which the seed or seminal principle
of plants put it into. And this would not perhaps seem
so strange, if through pride or negligence, we were not
wont to overlook the obvious and familiar workings of
nature; for if we consider what slight qualities they are
that serve to denominate one of the tria prima, we shall
find that nature does frequently enough work as great
alterations in divers parcells of matter: for to be readily
dissoluble in water, is enough to make the body that is so,
pass for a salt. And yet I see not why from a new shufling
and disposition of the component particles of a body, it
should be much harder for nature to compose a body
dissoluble in water of a portion of water that was not so
before, than of the liquid substance of an egg, which will
easily mix with water, to produce by the bare warmth of
a hatching hen, membrans, feathers, tendons, and other
parts, that are not dissoluble in water as that liquid
substance was: nor is the hardness and brittleness of
salt more difficult for nature to introduce into such a
yielding body as water, than it is for her to make the
bones of a chick out of the tender substance of the liquors
of an egg. But instead of prosecuting this consideration,
as I easily might, I will proceed, as soon as, I have taken
notice of an objection that lies in my way. For I easily
foresee it will be alledged, that the above mentioned
examples are all taken from plants, and animals, in whom
the matter is fashioned by the plastick power of the seed,
or something analogous thereunto. Whereas the fire
does not act like any of the seminal principles, but destroyes
them all when they come within its reach. But to

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The Sceptical Chymist 93
this I shall need at present to make but this easy answer,
that whether it be a seminal principle, or any other which
fashions that matter after those various manners I have
mentioned to you, yet 'tis evident, that either by the
plastick principle alone, or that and heat together, or by
some other cause capable to contex the matter, it is yet
possible that the matter may be anew contrived into such
bodies. And 'tis only for the possibility of this that I am
now contending.


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THE THIRD PART
WHAT I have hitherto discoursed, Eleutherius (saies his
friend to him) has, I presume, shewn you; that a considering
man may very well question the truth of those very
suppositions which chymists as well as peripateticks,
without proving, take for granted; and upon which
depends the validity of the inferences they draw from
their experiments. Wherefore having dispatched that,
which though a chymist perhaps will not, yet I do, look
upon as the most important, as well as difficult, part of my
task, it will now be seasonable for me to proceed to the
consideration of the experiments themselves, wherein
they are wont so much to triumph and glory. And these
will the rather deserve a serious examination, because
those that alledge them are wont to do it with so much
confidence and ostentation, that they have hitherto
imposed upon almost all persons, without excepting
philosophers and physitians themselves, who have read
their books, or heard them talk. For some learned men
have been content rather to believe what they so boldly
affirme, than be at the trouble and charge, to try whether
or no it be true. Others again, who have curiosity enough
to examine the truth of what is averred, want skill and
opportunity to do what they desire. And the generality
even of learned men, seeing the chymists (not contenting
themselves with the schools to amuse the world with empty
words) actually perform divers strange things, and,
among those resolve compound bodies into several substances
not known by former philosophers to be contained
in them: men I say, seeing these things, and hearing
with what confidence chymists averr the substances
obtained from compound bodies by the fire to be the true
elements, or (as they speak) hypostatical principles of
them, are forward to think it but just as well as modest,
that according to the logicians rule, the skilfull artists

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The Sceptical Chymist 95
should be credited in their own art; especially when those
things whose nature they so confidently take upon them
to teach others, are not only productions of their own
skill, but such as others know not else what to make of.
But though (continues Carneades) the chymits have been able upon some or other of the mentioned accounts
not only to delight but amaze, and almost to bewitch
even learned men; yet such as you and I, who are not
unpractised in the trade, must not suffer ourselves to be
imposed upon by hard names, or bold assertions; nor to
be dazled by that light which should but assist us to
discern things the more clearly. It is one thing to be able
to help nature to produce things, and another thing to
understand well the nature of the things produced. As
we see, that many persons that can beget children, are
for all that as ignorant of the number and nature of the
parts, especially the internal ones, that constitute a child's
body, as they that never were parents. Nor do I doubt,
but you'll excuse me, if as I thank the chymists for the
things their analysis shews me, so I take the liberty to
consider how many, and what they are, without being
astonisht at them; as if, whosoever hath skill enough to
shew men some new thing of his own making, had the
right to make them believe whatsoever he pleases to tell
them concerning it.
Wherefore I will now proceed to my third general consideration, which is, that it does not appear, that three
is precisely and universally the number of the distinct
substances or elements, whereinto mixt bodies are resoluble
by the fire, I mean that 'tis not proved by chymists, that
all the compound bodies, which are granted to be perfectly
mixt, are upon their chymical analysis divisible each of
them into just three distinct substances, neither more
nor less, which are wont to be lookt upon as elementary,
or may as well be reputed so as those that are so reputed.
Which last clause I subjoyne, to prevent your objecting
that some of the substances I may have occasion to
mention by and by, are not perfectly homogeneous, nor
consequently worthy of the name of principles. For that
which I am now to consider, is, into how many differing

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96 The Sceptical Chymist
substances, that may plausibly pass for the elementary
ingredients of a mixed body, it may be analysed, by the
fire; but whether each of these be uncompounded, I
reserve to examine, when I shall come to the next general
consideration; where I hope to evince, that the substances
which the chymists not only allow, but assert to be the
component principles of the body resolved into them, are
not wont to be uncompounded.
Now there are two kinds of arguments (pursues Carneades) which may be brought to make my third
proposition seem probable; one sort of them being of
a more speculative nature, and the other drawn from
experience. To begin then with the first of these.
But as Carneades was going to do as he had said, Eleutherius interrupted him, by saying with a somewhat
smiling countenance;
If you have no mind I should think, that the proverb, " That good wits have bad memories," is rational and
applicable to you, you must not forget now you are upon
the speculative considerations, that may relate to the
number of the elements; that yourself did not long since
deliver and concede some propositions in favour of the
chymical doctrine, which I may without disparagement
to you think it uneasie, even for Carneades to answer,
I have not, replies he, forgot the concessions you mean;
but I hope too, that you have not forgot neither with
what cautions they were made, when had not yet
assumed the person I am now sustaining. But however,
I shall to content you, so discourse of my third general
consideration, as to let you see, that I am not unmindful
of the things you would have me remember.
To talk then again according to such principles as I then made use of, I shall represent, that if it be granted
rational to suppose, as I then did, that the elements
consisted at first of certain small and primary coalitions
of the minute particles of matter into corpuscles very
numerous, and very like each other, it will not be absurd
to conceive, that such primary clusters may be of far
more sorts than three or five; and consequently, that
we need not suppose, that in each of the compound bodies

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The Sceptical Chymist 97
we are treating of, there should be found just three sorts
of such primitive coalitions, as we are speaking of.
And if according to this notion we allow a considerable number of differing elements, I may add, that, it seems
very possible, that to the constitution of one sort of mixt
bodies two kinds of elementary ones may suffice (as I lately
exemplified to you, in that most durable concrete, glass),
another sort of mixts may be composed of three elements,
another of four, another of five, and another perhaps of
many more. So that according to this notion, there can
be no determinate number assigned, as that of the elements,
of all sorts of compound bodies whatsoever, it being very
probable that some concretes consist of fewer, some of
more elements. Nay, it does not seem impossible, according
to these principles, but that there may be two sorts
of mixts, whereof the one may not have any of all the same
elements as the other consists of; as we oftentimes see
two words, whereof the one has not any one of the letters
to be met with in the other; or as we often meet with
diverse electuaries, in which no ingredient (except sugar)
is common to any two of them. I will not here debate
whether there may not be a multitude of these corpuscles,
which by reason of their being primary and simple, might
be called elementary, if several sorts of them should convene
to compose any body, which are as yet free, and
neither as yet contexed and entangled with primary
corpuscles of other kinds, but remains liable to be subdued
and fashioned by seminal principles, or the like powerful
and transmuting agent, by whom they may be so connected
among themselves, or with the parts of one of the
bodies, as to make the compound bodies, whose ingredients
they are, resoluble into more, or other elements than those
that chymists have hitherto taken notice of.
To all which I may add, that since it appears, by what I observed to you of the permanency of gold and silver,
that even corpuscles that are not of an elementary but
compounded nature, may be of so durable a texture, as to
remain indissoluble in the ordinary analysis that chymists
make of bodies by the fire; 'tis not impossible but that,
though there were but three elements, yet there may be

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a greater number of bodies, which the wonted waies of
anatomy will not discover to be no elementary bodies.
But, (saies Carneades) having thus far, in compliance
to you, talket conjecturally of the number of the elements,
'tis now time to consider, not of how many elements it is
possible that nature may compound mixed bodies, but
(at least as far as the ordinary experiments of chymists
will informe us) of how many she doth make them up.
I say then, that it does not by these sufficiently appear to me, that there is any one determinate number of
elements to be uniformly met with in all the several sorts
of bodies allowed to be perfectly mixt.
And for the more distinct proof of this proposition, I shall in the first place represent, that there are divers
bodies, which I could never see by fire divided into so
many as three elementary substances. I would fain (as
I said lately to Philoponus) see that fixt and noble metal
we call gold separated into salt, sulphur and mercury: and
if any man will submit to a competent forfeiture in case
of failing, I shall willingly in case of prosperous success
pay for both the materials and the charges of such an
experiment. 'Tis not, that after what I have tried myself
I dare peremptorily deny, that there may out of gold
be extracted a certain substance, which I cannot hinder
chymists from calling its tincture or sulphur; and which
leaves the remaining body deprived of its wonted colour.
Nor am I sure, that there cannot be drawn out of the same
metal a real quick and running mercury. But for the
salt of gold, I never could either see it, or be satisfied that
there was ever such a thing separated, in rerum natura,
by the relation of any credible eye witness. And for the
several processes that promise that effect, the materials
that must be wrought upon are somewhat too precious
and costly to be wasted upon so groundless adventures,
of which not only the success is doubtful, but the very
possibility is not yet demonstrated. Yet that which
most deterrs me from such tryalls, is not their chargeableness,
but their unsatisfactorinesse, though they should
succeed. For the extraction of this golden salt being in
chymists processes prescribed to be effected by corrosive

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The Sceptical Chymist 99
menstruums, or the intervention of other saline bodies,
it will remain doubtfull to a wary person, whether the
emergent salt be that of the gold itself; or of the saline
bodies or spirits employed to prepare it; for that such
disguises of metals do often impose upon artists, I am sure
Eleutherius is not so much a stranger to chymistry as to
ignore. I would likewise willingly see the three principles
separated from the pure sort of virgin-sand, from osteocalla,
from refined silver, from quicksilver, freed from its
adventitious sulphur, from Venetian talck, which by long
detention in an extreme reverberium, I could but divide
into smaller particles, not the constituent principles;
nay, which, when I caused it to be kept, I know not how
long, in a glass-house fire, came out in the figure it's lumps
had when put in, though altered to an almost amethystine
colour; and from divers other bodies, which it were
now unnecessary to enumerate. For though I dare not
absolutely affirme it to be impossible to analyze these
bodies into their tria prima; yet because neither my own
experiments, nor any competent testimony hath hitherto
either taught me how such an analysis may be made, or
satisfied me, that it hath been so, I must take the liberty
to refrain from believing it, till the chymists prove it, or
give us intelligible and practicable processes to perform
what they pretend. For whilst they affect that aenigmatical
obscurity with which they are wont to puzzle
the readers of their divulged processes concerning the
analytical preparation of gold or mercury, they leave wary
persons much unsatisfied whether or no the differing
substances, they promise to produce, be truly the hypostatical
principles or only some intermixtures of the
divided bodies with those employed to work upon them,
as is evident in the seeming chrystalls of silver, and those
of mercury; which though by some inconsiderately,
supposed to be the salts of those metalls, are plainly but
mixtures of the metalline bodies, with the saline parts
of aqua fortis or other corrosive liquors; as is evident by
their being reducible into silver or quicksilver, as they
were before.
I cannot but confess (saith Eleutherius) that though
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100 The Sceptical Chymist
chymists may upon probable grounds affirme themselves
able to obtain their tria prima, from animals and vegetables,
yet I have often wondred that they should so
confidently pretend also to resolve all metalline and
other mineral bodies into salt, sulphur, and mercury.
For 'tis a saying almost proverbial, among those chymists
themselves that are accounted philosophers; and our
famous countryman Roger Bacon has particularly adopted
it; that, facilius est aurum facere, quam destruere. And
I fear, with you, that gold is not the only mineral from
which chymists are wont fruitlessly to attempt the
separating of their three principles. I know indeed
(continues Eleutherius) that the learned Sennertus, even
in that book where he takes not upon him to play the
advocate for the chymists, but the umpier betwixt them
and the peripateticks, expresses himself roundly, thus;
" Salem omnibus inesse (mixtis scilicet) et ex iis fieri
posse omnibus in resolutionibus chymicis versatis notissimum
est." And in the next page, "Quod de sale dixi,"
saies he, " idem de sulphure dici potest: " but by his favour
I must see very good proofs, before I believe such general
assertions, how boldly soever made; and he that would
convince me of their truth, must first teach me some true
and practicable way of separating salt and sulphur from
gold, silver, and those many different sorts of stones, that
a violent fire does not bring to lime, but to fusion; and
not only I, for my own part, never saw any of those newly
named bodies so resolved; but Helmont, who was much
better versed in the chymical anatomizing of bodies than
either Sennertus or I, has somewhere this resolute passage;
" Scio (saies he) ex arena, silicibus et saxis, non calcariis,
numquam sulphur aut mercurium trahi posse; ' nay
Quercetanus himself, though the grand stickler for the
tria prima, has this confession of the irresolubleness of
diamonds; " Adamas (saith he) omnium factus lapidum
solidissimus ac durissimus ex arctissima videlicet trium
principiorum unione ac cohaerentia, quae nulla arte separationis
in solutionem principiorum suorum spiritualium
disjungi potest." And indeed, pursues Eleutherius, I
was not only glad but somewhat surprized to find you

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The Sceptical Chymist 101
inclined to admit that there may be a sulphur and a
running mercury drawn from gold; for unless you do
(as your expression seemed to intimate) take the word
sulphur in a very loose sence, I must doubt whether our
chymists can separate a sulphur from gold: for when I
saw you make the experiment that I suppose invited you
to speak as you did, I did not judge the golden tincture
to be the true principle of sulphur extracted from the
body, but an aggregate of some such highly coloured
parts of the gold, as a chymist would have called a sulphur
incombustible, which in plain English seems to be little
better than to call it a sulphur and no sulphur. And as
for metalline mercuries, I had not wondred at it, though
you had expressed much more severity in speaking of
them: for I remember that, having once met an old and
famous artist, who had long been (and still is) chymist
to a great monarch, the repute he had of a very honest
man invited me to desire him to tell me ingenuously
whether or no among his many labours, he had ever really
extracted a true and running mercury out of metalls; to
which question he freely replyed, that he had never
separated a true mercury from any metal; nor had ever
seen it really done by any man else. And though gold
is, of all metalls, that, whose mercury chymists have most
endeavoured to extract, and which they do the most brag
they have extracted; yet the experienced Angelus Sala,
in his spagyrical account of the seven terrestrial planets
(that is the seven metalls) affords us this memorable
testimony, to our present purpose; " Quanquam (saies he)
etc. experientia tamen (quam stultorum magistram
vocamus) certe comprobavit, mercurium auri adeo fixum,
maturum, et arcte cum reliquis ejusdem corporis
substantiis conjungi, ut nullo modo retrogredi possit."
To which he sub-joynes that he himself had seen much
labour spent upon that design, but could never see any
such mercury produced thereby. And I easily believe
what he annexes; " that he had often seen detected many
tricks and impostures of cheating alchymists. For, the
most part of those that are fond of such charlatans, being,
unskilful or credulous, or both, 'tis very easie for such as

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102 The Sceptical Chymist
have some skill, much craft, more boldness, and no
conscience, to impose upon them; and therefore, though
many professed alchymists, and divers persons of quality
have told me that they have made or seen the mercury of
gold, or of this or that other metal; yet I have been still
apt to fear that either these persons have had a design
to deceive others; or have had not skill and circumspection
enough to keep themselves from being deceived.
You recall to my mind (saies Carneades) a certain experiment I once devised, innocently to deceive some
persons and let them and others see how little is to be built
upon the affirmation of those that are either unskilfull or
unwary, when they tell us they have seen alchymists make
the mercury of this or that metal; and to make this the
more evident, I made my experiment much more slight,
short and simple, than the chymists usuall processes to
extract metalline mercuries; which operations being
commonly more elaborate and intricate, and requiring
a much more longer time, give the alchymists a greater
opportunity to cozen, and consequently are more obnoxious
to the spectators suspition. And that wherein
I endeavoured to make my experiment look the more like
a true analysis, was, that I not only pretended as well as
others to extract a mercury from the metal I wrought
upon, but likewise to separate a large proportion of
manifest and inflamable sulphur. I take then, of the
filings of copper, about a drachme or two; of common
sublimate, powdered, the like weight; and sal armoniack
near about as much as of sublimate; these three being well
mingled together I put into a small vial with a long neck,
or, which I find better, into a glass urinall, which (having
first stopped it with cotton) to avoid the noxious fumes,
I approach by degrees to a competent fire of well kindled
coals, or (which looks better, but more endangers the
glass) to the flame of a candle; and after a while the
bottom of the glass being held just upon the kindled coals,
or in the flame, you may in about a quarter of an hour,
or perchance in halfe that time, perceive in the bottom
of the glass some running mercury; and if then you take
away the glass and break it, you shall find a parcel of

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The Sceptical Chymist 103
quicksilver, perhaps altogether, and perhaps part of it
in the pores of the solid mass; you shall find too, that
the remaining lump being held to the flame of the candle
will readily hum with a greenish flame, and after a little
while (perchance presently) will in the air acquire a
greenish blew, which being the colour that is ascribed
to copper, when its body is unlocked, 'tis easie to persuade
men that this is the true sulphur of Venus, especially
since not only the salts may be supposed partly to be flown
away, and partly to be sublimed to the upper part of the
glass, whose inside (will commonly appear whitened by
them) but the metal seems to be quite destroyed, the
copper no longer appearing in a metalline forme, but
almost in that of a resinous lump; whereas indeed the
case is only this, that the saline parts of the sublimate
together with the sal armoniack, being excited and
actuated by the vehement heat, fall upon the copper,
(which is a metal they can more easily corrode, than
silver) whereby the small parts of the mercury being freed
from the salts that kept them asunder, and being by the
heat tumbled up and down after many occursions, they
convene into a conspicuous mass of liquor; and as for the
salts, some of the more volatile of them subliming to the
upper part of the glass, the others corrode the copper,
and uniting themselves with it do strangely alter and
disguise its metallick form, and compose with it a new
kind of concrete inflamable like sulphur; concerning
which I shall not now say anything, since I can referr you
to the diligent observations which I remember Mr. Boyle
has made concerning this odde kind of verdigrease. But
continues Carneades smiling, you know I was not cut
out for a mountebank, and therefore I will hasten to
resume the person of a sceptick, and take up my discourse
where you diverted me from prosecuting it.
In the next place, then, I consider, that, as there are some bodies which yield not so many as the three principles;
so there are many others, that in their resolution
exhibite more principles than three; and that therefore
the ternary number is not that of the universal and
adequate principles of bodies. If you allow of the discourse

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104 The Sceptical Chymist
I lately made, you, touching the primary associations
of the small particles of matter, you will scarce
think it improbable, that of such elementary corpuscles
there may be more sorts than either three, or four, or five.
And if you will grant, what will scarce be denyed, that
corpuscles of a compounded nature may in all the wonted
examples of chymists pass for elementary, I see not why
you should think it impossible, that as aqua fortis, or
aqua regis will make a separation of colliquated silver and
gold, though the fire cannot; so there may be some agent
found out so subtile and so powerfull, at least in respect
of those particular compounded corpuscles, as to be able
to resolve them into those more simple ones, whereof they
consist, and consequently encrease the number of the
distinct substances, whereinto the mixt body has been
hitherto thought resoluble. And if that be true, which
I recited to you a while ago out of Helmont concerning
the operations of the alkahest, which divides bodies into
other distinct substances, both as to number and nature,
than the fire does; it will not a little countenance my
conjecture. But confining ourselves to such waies of
analyzing mixed bodies, as are already not unknown to
chymists, it may without absurdity be questioned,
whether besides those grosser elements of bodies, which
they call salt sulphur and mercury, there may not be
ingredients of a more subtile nature, which being extreamly
little, and not being in themselves visible, may escape
unheeded at the junctures of the destillatory vessels,
though never so carefully luted. For let me observe to
you one thing, which though not taken notice of by
chymists, may be a notion of good use in divers cases to
a naturalist, that we may well suspect, that there may be
severall sorts of bodies, which are not immediate objects
of any one of our senses; since we see, that not only those
little corpuscles that issue out of the loadstone, and perform
the wonders for which it is justly admired; but the
effluviums of amber, jet, and other electricall concretes,
though by their effects upon the particular bodies disposed
to receive their action, they seem to fall under the cognizance
of our sight, yet do they not as electrical immediately

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The Sceptical Chymist 105
affect any of our senses, as do the bodies, whether
minute or greater, that we see, feel, taste, etc. But,
(continues Carneades) because you may expect I should,
as the chymists do, consider only the sensible ingredients
of mixt bodies, let us now see, what experience will, even
as to there, suggest to us.
It seems then questionable enough, whether from grapes variously ordered there may not be drawn more
distinct substances by the help of the fire, than from most
other mixt bodies. For the grapes themselves being
dryed into raisins and distilled, will (besides alcali, phlegm,
and earth) yeeld a considerable quantity of an empyreumatical
oyle, and a spirit of a very different nature
from that of wine. Also the unfermented juice of grapes
affords other distilled liquors than wine doth. The juice
of grapes after fermentation will yeeld a spiritus ardens ;
which if competently rectifyed will all burn away without
leaving anything remaining. The same fermented juice
degenerating into vinegar, yeelds an acid and corroding
spirit. The same juice tunned up, armes itself with
tartar; out of which may be separated, as out of other
bodies, phlegme, spirit, oyle, salt and earth: not to
mention what substances may be drawn from the vine
itselfe, probably differing from those which are separated
from tartar, which is a body by itself, that has few resemblers
in the world. And I will further consider that what
force soever you will allow this instance, to evince that
there are some bodies that yeeld more elements than
others, it can scarce be denyed but that the major part
of bodies that are divisible into elements yeeld more than
three. For, besides those which the chymists are pleased
to name hypostatical, most bodies contain two others,
phlegme and earth, which concurring as well as the rest
to the constitution of mixts, and being as generally, if not
more, found in their analysis, I see no sufficient cause why
they should be excluded from the number of elements.
Nor will it suffice to object, as the Paracelsians are wont
to do, that the tria prima are the most useful elements,
and the earth and water but worthless and unactive; for
elements being called so in relation to the constituting

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106 The Sceptical Chymist
of mixt bodies, it should be upon the account of its ingrediency,
not of its use, that anything should be affirmed
or denyed to be an element: and as for the pretended
uselessness of earth and water, it would be considered
that usefulness, or the want of it, denotes only a respect
or relation to us; and therefore the presence, or absence
of it, alters not the intrinsick nature of the thing. The
hurtful teeth of vipers are for ought I know useless to us,
and yet are not to be denyed to be parts of their bodies;
and it were hard to shew of what greater use to us, than
phlegme and earth, are those undiscerned stars, which
our new telescopes discover to us, in many blanched
places of the sky; and yet we cannot but acknowledge
them constituent and considerably great parts of the
universe. Besides that whether or no the phlegm and
earth be immediately useful, but necessary to constitute
the body whence they are separated; and consequently,
if the mixt body be not useless to us, those constituent
parts, without which it could not have been that mixt
body, may be said not to be unuseful to us: and though
the earth and water be not so conspicuously operative
(after separation) as the other three more active principles,
yet in this case it will not be amiss to remember the lucky
fable of Menenius Agrippa, of the dangerous sedition of
the hands and legs, and other more busie parts of the body,
against the seemingly unactive stomack. And to this
case also we may not unfitly apply that reasoning of an
apostle, to another purpose; " If the ear shall say, because
I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore
not of the body? If the whole body were eye, where were
the hearing? If the whole were for hearing, where the
smelling? In a word, since earth and water appear, as
clearly and as generally as the other principles upon the
resolution of bodies, to be the ingredients whereof they
are made up; and since they are useful (if not immediately
to us, or rather to physitians) to the bodies they
constitute, and so though in somewhat a remoter way,
are serviceable to us; to exclude them out of the number
of elements, is not to imitate nature.
And on this occasion I cannot but take notice, that
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The Sceptical Chymist 107
whereas the great argument which the chymists are wont
to employ to vilify earth and water, and make them be
looked upon as useless and unworthy to be reckoned
among the principles of mixt bodies, is, that they are not
endowed with specifick properties, but only with elementary
qualities; of which they use to speak very slightingly,
as of qualities contemptible and unactive: I see no
sufficient reason for this practices of the chymists: for
'tis confessed that heat is an elementary quality, and yet
that an almost innumerable company of considerable
things are performed by heat, is manifest to them that
duly consider the various phaenomena wherein it intervenes
as a principal) actor; and none ought less to ignore
or distrust this truth than a chymist. Since almost all
the operations and productions of his art are performed
chiefly by the means of heat. And as for cold itself, upon
whose account they so despise the earth and water, if
they please to read in the voyages of our English and
Dutch navigators in Nova Zembla and other northern
regions what stupendous things may be effected by cold,
they would not perhaps think it so despicable. And not
to repeat what I lately recited to you out of Paracelsus
himself, who by the help of an intense cold teaches to
separate the quintessence of wine; I will only now
observe to you, that the conservation of the texture of
many bodies both animate and inanimate, does so much
depend upon the convenient motion both of their own
fluid and looser parts, and of the ambient bodies, whether
air, water, etc. that not only in humane bodies we see
that the immoderate or unseasonable coldness of the air
(especially when it finds such bodies overheated) does
very frequently discompose the oeconomie of them, and
occasion variety of diseases; but in the solid and durable
body of iron itself, in which one would not expect that
suddain cold should produce any notable change, it may
have so great an operation, that if you take a wire, or
other slender piece of steel, and having brought it in the
fire to a white heat, you suffer it afterwards to cool
leasurely in the air, it will when it is cold be much of the
same hardness it was of before. Whereas if as soon as

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108 The Sceptical Chymist
you remove it from the fire, you plunge it into cold water,
it will upon the suddain refrigeration acquire a very much
greater hardness than it had before; nay, and will become
manifestly brittle. And that you may not impute this
to any peculiar quality in the water, or other liquor, or
unctuous matter, wherein such heated steel is wont to be
quenched that it may be tempered; I know a very skilful
tradesman, that divers times hardens steel by suddenly
cooling it in a body that is neither a liquor, nor so much
as moist. A tryal of that nature I remember I have seen
made. And however by the operation that water has
upon steel quenched in it, whether upon the account of
its coldness and moisture, or upon that of any other of
its qualities, it appears, that water is not alwaies so
inefficacious and contemptible a body, as our chymists
would have it pass for. And what I have said of the
efficacy of cold and heat, might perhaps be enough
carried further by other considerations and experiments;
were it not that having been mentioned only upon the by,
I must not insist on it, but proceed to another subject.
But, (pursues Carneades) though I think it evident, that earth and phlegme are to be reckoned among the
elements of most animal and vegetable bodies, yet 'tis
not upon that account alone, that I think divers bodies
resoluble into more substances than three. For there
are two experiments, that I have sometimes made to
shew, that at least some mixts are divisible into more
distinct substances than five. The one of these experiments,
though 'twill be more seasonable for me to mention
it fully anon, yet in the meantime, I shall tell you thus
much of it, that out of two distilled liquors which pass
for elements of the bodies whence they are drawn, I can
without addition make a true yellow and inflamable
sulphur, notwithstanding that the two liquors remain
afterwards distinct. Of the other experiment, which
perhaps will not be altogether unworthy your notice, I
must now give you this particular account. I had long
observed, that by the destillation of divers woods, both
in ordinary, and some unusuall sorts of vessels, the
copious spirit that came over, had besides a strong taste,

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The Sceptical Chymist 109
to be met with in the empyreumatical spirits of many
other bodies, an acidity almost like that of vinegar:
wherefore I suspected, that though the, sowrish liquor
distilled, for instance, from box-wood, be lookt upon by
chymists as barely the spirit of it, and therefore as one
single element or principle; yet it does really consist of
two differing substances, and may be divisible into them;
and consequently, that such woods and other mixts as
abound with such a vinegar, may be said to consist of one
element or principle, more than the chymists as yet are
aware of, wherefore bethinking myself, how the separation
of these two spirits might be made, I quickly found, that
there were several waies of compassing it. But that of
them which I shall at present mention was this, Having
destilled a quantity of box-wood per se, and slowly
rectifyed the sowrish spirit, the better to free it both from
oyle and phlegme, I cast into this rectifyed liquor a convenient
quantity of powdered coral, expecting that the
acid part of the liquor, would corrode the coral, and being
associated with it would be so retained by it, that the
other part of the liquor, which was not of an acid nature,
nor fit to fasten upon the corals, would be permitted to
ascend alone. Nor was I deceived in my expectation;
for having gently abstracted the liquor from the corals,
there came over a spirit of a strong smell, and of a taste
very piercing but without any sowrness; and which was
in diverse qualities manifestly different, not only from
a spirit of vinegar, but from some spirit of the same wood,
that I purposely kept by me without depriving it of, its
acid ingredient. And to satisfy. you, that these, two
substances were of a very differing nature, I might
informe you of several tryals that I made, but must not
name some of them, because I cannot do so without
making some unseasonable discoveries. Yet this I shall
tell you at present that the sowre spirit of box, not only
would, as I just now related, dissolve corals, which the
other would not fasten on, but being poured upon salt of
tartar would immediately boyle and hiss, whereas the
other would lye quietly upon it. The acid spirit poured
upon minium made a sugar of lead, which I did not find

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110 The Sceptical Chymist
the other to do; some drops of this penetrant spirit being
mingled with some drops of the blew syrup of violets
seemed rather to dilute than otherwise alter the colour;
whereas the acid spirit turned the syrup of a reddish
colour, and would probably have made it of as pure a red,
as acid salts are wont to do, had not its operation been
hindered by the mixture of the other spirit. A few drops
of the compound spirit being shaken into a pretty quantity
of the infusion of lignum nephriticum, presently destroyed
all the blewish colour, whereas the other spirit would not
take it away. To all which it might be added, that
having for tryals sake poured fair water upon the corals
that remained in the bottom of the glass wherein I had
rectifyed the double spirit (if I may so call it) that was
first drawn from the box, I found according to my expectation
that the acid spirit had really dissolved the corals
and had coagulated with them. For by the affusion of
fair water, I obtained a solution, which (to note that
singularity upon the by) was red, whence the water being
evaporated, there remained a soluble substance much like
the ordinary salt of coral, as chymists are pleased to call
that magistery of corals, which they make by dissolving
them in common spirit of vinegar, and abstracting the
menstruum ad siccitatem. I know not whether I should
subjoyne, on this occasion, that the simple spirit of box,
if chymists will have it therefore saline because it has a
strong taste, will furnish us with a new kind of saline
bodies, differing from those hitherto taken notice of.
For whereas of the three chief sorts of salts, the acid, the
alcalizate, and the sulphureous, there is none that seems
to be friends with both the other two, as I may, ere it be
long, have occasion to shew; I did not find but that the
simple spirit of box did agree very well (at least as farr
as I had occasion to try it) both with the acid and the other
salts. For though it would lye very quiet with salt of
tartar, spirit of urine, or other bodies, whose salts were
either of an alcalizate or fugitive nature; yet did not the
mingling of oyle of vitriol itself produce any hissing or
effervescence, which you know is wont to ensue upon the
affusion of that highly acid liquor upon either of the
bodies newly mentioned.

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The Sceptical Chymist 111
I think myself, (saies Eleutherius) beholden to you, for this experiment; not only because I foresee you will
make it helpful to you in the enquiry you are now upon,
but because it teaches us a method, whereby we may
prepare numerous sort of new spirits, which though
more simple than any that are thought elementary, are
manifestly endowed with peculiar and powerful qualities,
some of which may probably be of considerable use in
physick, as well alone as associated with other things;
as one may hopefully guess by the redness of that solution
your sowre spirit made of corals, and by some other circumstances
of your narrative. And suppose (pursues Eleutherius)
that you are not so confined, for the separation
of the acid parts of these compound spirits from the other,
to employ corals; but that you may as well make use of
any alcalizate salt, or of pearls, or crabs eyes, or any other
body, upon which common spirit of vinegar will easily
work, and, to speak in an Helmontian phrase, exantlate
itself.
I have not yet tryed, (saies Carneades) of what use the mentioned liquors may be in physick, either as medicines
or as menstruums: but I could mention now (and may
another time) divers of the tryals that I made to satisfy
myself of the difference of these two liquors. But that,
as I allow your thinking what you newly told me about
corals, I presume you will allow me, from what I have
said already, to deduce this corollary; that there are
divers compound bodies, which may be resolved into
four such differing substances, as may as well merit the
name of principles, as those to which the chymists freely
give it. For since they scruple not to reckon that which
I call the compound spirit of box, for the spirit, or as
others would have it, the mercury of that wood, I see not,
why the acid liquor, and the other, should not each of
them, especially that last named, be lookt upon as more
worthy to be called an elementary principle; since it must
needs be of a more simple nature than the liquor, which
was found to be divisible into that, and the acid spirit.
And this further use (continues Carneades) may be made
of our experiment to my present purpose, that it may give

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112 The Sceptical Chymist
us a rise to suspect, that since a liquor reputed by the
chymists to be, without dispute, homogeneous, is by so
slight a way divisible into two distinct and more simple
ingredients, some more skilful or happier experimenter
than I may find a way either further to divide one of these
spirits, or to resolve some or other, if not all, of those
other ingredients of mixt bodies, that have hitherto passed
among chymists for their elements or principles.

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THE FOURTH PART
AND thus much (saies Carneades) may suffice to be said
of the number of the distinct substances separable from mixt bodies by the fire: wherefore I now proceed to
consider the nature of them, and shew you, that though
they seem homogeneous bodies, yet have they not the
purity and simplicity that is requisite to elements. And
I should immediately proceed to the proof of my assertion,
but that the confidence wherewith chymists are wont to call
each of the substances we speak of by the name of sulphur
or mercury, or the other of the hypostatical principles, and
the intolerable ambiguity they allow themselves in their
writings and expressions, makes it necessary for me in
order to the keeping you either from mistaking me, or
thinking I mistake the controversie, to take notice to you
and complain of the unreasonable liberty they give themselves
of playing with names at pleasure. And indeed
if I were obliged in this dispute, to have such regard to the
phraseology of each particular chymist, as not to write
anything which this or that author may not pretend,
not to contradict this or that sence, which he may give us
as occasion serves to his ambiguous expressions, I should
scarce know how to dispute, nor which way to turn myself.
For I find that even eminent writers (such as Raymund
Lully, Paracelsus and others) do so abuse the termes they
employ, that as they will now and then give divers things,
one name; so they will oftentimes give one thing, many
names; and some of them (perhaps) such, as do much
more properly signifie some distinct body of another kind;
nay even in technical words or termes of art, they refrain
not from this confounding liberty; but will, as I have
observed, call the same substance, sometime, the sulphur,
and sometimes the mercury of a body. And now I speak
of mercury, I cannot but take notice, that the descriptions
they give us of that principle or ingredient of mixt bodies,

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114 The Sceptical Chymist
are so intricate, that even those that have endeavoured
to polish and illustrate the notions of the chymists, are
fain to confess that they know not what to make of it
either by ingenuous acknowledgments, or descriptions
that are not intelligible.
I must confess (saies Eleutherius) I have, in the reading of Paracelsus and other chymical authors, been troubled
to find, that such hard words and equivocal expressions,
as you justly complain of, do even when they treat of
principles, seem to be studiously affected by those writers;
whether to make themselves to be admired by their
readers, and their art appear more venerable and
mysterious, or (as they would have us think) to conceal
from them a knowledge themselves judge inestimable.
But whatever (saies Carneades) these men may promise themselves from a canting way of delivering the principles
of nature, they will find the major part of knowing men
so vain, as when they understand not what they read, to
conclude, that it is rather the writers fault than their own.
And those that are so ambitions to be admired by the
vulgar, that rather than go without the admiration of
the ignorant they will expose themselves to the contempt
of the learned, those shall, by my consent, freely enjoy
their option. As for the mystical writers scrupling to
communicate their knowledge, they might less to their
own disparagement, and to the trouble of their readers,
have concealed it by writing no books, than by writing
bad ones. If Themistius were here, he would not stick
to say, that chymists write thus darkly, not because they
think their notions too precious to be explained, but
because they fear that if they were explained, men would
discern, that they are farr from being precious. And
indeed, I fear that the chief reason why chymists have
written so obscurely of their three principles, may be,
that not having clear and distinct notions of them themselves,
they cannot write otherwise than confusedly of
what they but confusedly apprehend: not to say that
divers of them being conscious to the invalidity of their
doctrine, might well enough discerne that they could
scarce keep themselves from being confuted, but by

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The Sceptical Chymist 115
keeping themselves from being clearly understood. But
though much may be said to excuse the chymists when
they write darkly, and aenigmatically, about the preparation
of their elixir, and some few other grand arcana,
the divulging of which they may upon grounds plausible
enough esteem unfit; yet when they pretend to teach
the general principles of natural philosophers; this
equivocal way of writing is not to be endured. For in
such speculative enquiries, where the naked knowledge
of the truth is the thing principally aimed at, what does
he teach me worth thanks that does not, if he can, make
his notion intelligible to me, but by mystical termes, and
ambiguous phrases darkens what he should clear up;
and makes me add the trouble of guessing at the sence
of what he equivocally expresses, to that of examining
the truth of what he seems to deliver. And if the matter
of the philosophers stone, and the mariner of preparing it,
be such mysteries as they would have the world believe
them, they may write intelligibly and clearly of the
principles of mixt bodies in general, without discovering
what they call the great work. But for my part (continues
Carneades) what my indignation at this unphilosophical
way of teaching principles has now extorted from me, is
meant chiefly to excuse myself, if I shall hereafter oppose
any particular opinion or assertion, that some follower
of Paracelsus or any eminent artist may pretend not to be
his masters. For, as I told you long since, I am not
obliged to examine private men's writings, (which were
a labour, as endless as unprofitable) being only engaged
to examine those opinions about the tria prima, which I
find those chymists I have met with to agree in most:
and I doubt not but my arguments against their doctrine
will be in great part easily enough applicable even to
those private opinions, which they do not so directly and
expressly oppose. And indeed, that which I am now
entering upon being the consideration of the things themselves
whereinto spagyrists resolve mixt bodies by the
fire, if I can shew that these are not of an elementary
nature, it will be no great matter what names these or
those chymists have been pleased to give them. And I

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116 The Sceptical Chymist
question not that to a wise man, and consequently to
Eleutherius, it will be lesse considerable to know, what
men have thought of things, than what they should have
thought.
In the fourth and last place, then, I consider, that as generally as chymists are wont to appeal to experience,
and as confidently as they use to instance the several
substances separated by the fire from a mixt body, as a
sufficient proof of their being its component elements:
yet those differing substances are many of them farr
enough from elementary simplicity, and may be yet
looked upon as mixt bodies, most of them also retaining,
somewhat at least, if not very much, of the nature of those
concretes whence they were forced.
I am glad (saies Eleutherius) to see the vanity or envy of the canting chymists thus discovered and chastised; and I
could wish, that learned men would conspire together to
make these deluding writers sensible, that they, must no
longer hope with impunity to abuse the world. For whilst
such men are quietly permitted to publish books with
promising titles and therein to assert what they please,
and contradict others, and even themselves as they please,
with as little danger of being confuted as of being understood,
they are encouraged to get themselves a name,
at the cost of the readers, by finding that intelligent men
are wont for the reason newly mentioned, to let their
books and them alone: and the ignorant and credulous
(of which the number is still much greater than that of
the other) are forward to admire most what they least
understand. But if judicious men skilled in chymical
affaires shall once agree to write clearly and plainly of
them, and thereby keep men from being stunned, as it
were, or imposed upon by dark or empty words; 'tis to be
hoped that these men finding that they can no longer
write impertinently and absurdly, without being laughed
at for doing so, will be reduced either to write nothing,
or books that may teach us something, and not rob
men, as formerly, of invaluable time; and so ceasing to
trouble the world with riddles or impertinencies, we shall

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The Sceptical Chymist 117
either by their books receive an advantage, or by their
silence escape an inconvenience.
But after all this is said (continues Eleutherius) it may be represented in favour of the chymists, that, in one
regard the liberty they take in, using names if it be
excusable at any time, may be more so when they speak
of the substances whereinto their analysis resolves mixt
bodies: since as parents have the right to name their own
children, it has ever been allowed to the authors of new
inventions, to impose names upon them. And therefore
the subjects we speak of being so the productions of the
chymists art, as not to be otherwise, but by it, obtainable;
it seems but equitable to give the artists leave to name
them as they please: considering also that none are so
fit and likely to teach us what those bodies are, as they
to whom we owed them.
I told you already (saies Carneades) that there is great difference betwixt the being able to make experiments,
and the being able to give a philosophical account of them:
And I will not now add, that many a mine-digger may
meet, whilst he follows his work, with a gemm or a mineral
which he knowes not what to make of, till he shewes it
a jeweller or a mineralist to be informed what it is. But
that which I would rather have here observed is, that
the chymists I am now in debate with have given up the
liberty you challenged for them, of using names at pleasure,
and confined themselves by their descriptions, though
but such as they are, of their principles; so that although
they might freely have called anything their analysis
presents them with, either sulphur, or mercury, or gas,
or blas, or what they pleased; yet when they have told
me that sulphur (for instance) is a primogeneal and simple
body, inflamable, odorous, etc. they must give me leave
to disbelieve them, if they tell me that a body that is
either compounded or uninflamable is such a sulphur;
and to think they play with words, when they teach that
gold and some other minerals abound with an incombustible
sulphur, which is as proper an expression, as a
sun-shine night, or fluid ice.
But before I descend to the mention, of particulars
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118 The Sceptical Chymist
belonging to my fourth consideration, I think it convenient
to premise a few generals; some of which I shall the less
need to insist on at present, because I have touched on
them already.
And first I must invite you to take notice of a certain passage in Helmont; (1) which though I have not found
much heeded by his readers, he himself mentions as a
notable thing, and I take to be a very considerable one; for
whereas the distilled oyle of oyle-olive, though drawn per se
is (as I have tryed) of a very sharp and fretting quality,
and of an odious taste, he tells us that simple oyle being
only digested with Paracelsus's sal circulatum, is reduced
into dissimilar parts, and yeelds a sweet oyle, very differing
from the oyle distilled, from sallet oyle; as also that by
the same way there may be separated from wine a very
sweet and gentle spirit, partaking of a far other and
nobler quality than that which is immediately drawn by
distillation and called dephlegmed aqua vitae, from whose
acrimony this other spirit is exceedingly remote, although
the sal circulatum that makes these anatomies be separated
from the analyzed bodies, in the same weight and with
the same qualities it had before; which affirmation of
Helmont if we admit to be true, we must acknowledge
that there may be a very great disparity betwixt bodies
of the same denomination (as several oyles, or several
spirits) separable from compound bodies: for, besides the
differences I shall anon take notice of, betwixt those
distilled oyles that are commonly known to chymists, it
appears by this, that by means of the sal circulatum; there
may be quite another sort of oyles obtained from the same
body; and who knowes, but that there may be yet other
agents found in nature, by whose help there may, whether
by transmutation or otherwise, obtained from the
bodies vulgarly called mixt, oyles or other substances,
differing from those of the same denomination, known
either to vulgar chymists, or even to Helmont himself:
but for fear you should tell me, that this is but a conjecture
grounded upon another man's relation, whose
truth we have not the means to experiment, I will not

(1) Helmont, Aura vitalis, p. 725.
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The Sceptical Chymist 119
insist upon it; but leavings you to consider of it at leasure,
I shall proceed to what is next.
Secondly, then, if that be true which was the opinion of Leucippus, Democritus, and other prime anatomists
of old, and is in our dayes revived by no mean philosophers;
namely, that our culinary fire, such as chymists use,
consists of swarmes of little bodies swiftly moving, which
by their smallness and motion are able to permeate the
sollidest and compactest bodies, and even glass itself;
if this (I say) be true, since we see that in flints and other
concretes, the fiery part is incorporated with the grosser,
it will not be irrational to conjecture, that multitudes
of these fiery corpuscles, getting in at the pores of the
glass, may associate themselves, with the parts of the mixt
body whereon they work, and with them constitute new
kinds of compound bodies, according as the shape, size,
and other affections of the parts of the dissipated body
happen to dispose them, in reference to such combinations
; of which also there may be the greater number;
if it be likewise granted that the corpuscles of the fire,
though all exceeding minute, and very swiftly moved,
are not all of the same bigness, nor figure: and if I had not
weightier considerations to discourse to you of, I could
name to you, to countenance what I have newly said, some
particular experiments by which I have been deduced
to think, that the particles of an open fire working upon
some bodies may really associate themselves therewith,
and add to the quantity. But because I am not sure,
that when the fire works upon bodies included in glasses,
it does it by a reall trajection of the fiery corpuscles themselves,
through the substance of the glass, I will proceed
to what is next to be mentioned.
I could (saies Eleutherius) help you to some proofs, whereby I think if may be made very probable, that when
the fire acts immediately upon a body, some of its corpuscles
may stick to those of the burnt body, as they seem
to do in quicklime, but in greater numbers and more
permanently. But for fear of retarding your progress,
I shall desire you to deferr this enquiry till another time,
and proceed as you intended.

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120 The Sceptical Chymist
You may then in the next place (saies Carneades) observe with me, that not only there are some bodies, as
gold, and silver, which do not by the usual examens,
made by fire, discover themselves to be mixt; but if
(as you may remember I formerly told you) it be a decompound
body that is dissipable into several substances,
by being exposed to the fire it may be resolved into such
as are neither elementary, nor such as it was upon its last
mixture compounded of; but into new kinds of mixts.
Of this I have already given you some examples in sope,
sugar of lead, and vitriol. Now if we shall consider that
there are some bodies, as well natural, (as that I last named)
as factitious, manifestly decompounded; that in the
bowells of the earth nature may, as we see she sometimes
does, make strange mixtures; that animals are nourished
with other animals and plants; and, that these themselves
have almost all of them their nutriment and growth, either
from a certain nitrous juice harboured in the pores of the
earth, or from the excrements of animalls, or from the
putrifyed bodies, either of living creatures or vegetables,
or from other substances of a compounded nature; if, I
say, we consider this, it may seem probable, that there
may be among the works of nature (not to mention those
of art) a greater number of decompound bodies, than men
take notice of; and indeed, as I have formerly also
observed, it does not at all appear, that all mixtures must
be of elementary bodies; but it seems farr more probable,
that there are divers sorts of compound bodies, even in
regard of all or some of their ingredients, considered
antecedently to their mixture. For though some seem to
be made up by the immediate coalitions of the elements,
or principles themselves, and therefore may be called
prima mista, or mista primaria; yet it seems that many
other bodies are mingled (if I may so speak) at the second
hand, their immediate ingredients being not elementary,
but these primary mixt newly spoken of; and from divers
of those secondary sorts of mixts may result, by a further
composition, a third sort, and so onwards. Nor is it
improbable, that some bodies are made up of mixt bodies,
not all of the same order, but of several; as (for instance) .

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The Sceptical Chymist 121
a concrete may consist of ingredients, whereof the one
may have been a primary, the other a secondary mixt
body; (as I have in native cinnaber, by my way of
resolving it, found both that courser part that seems
more properly to be oar, and a combustible sulphur, and
a running mercury): or perhaps without any ingredient
of this latter sort, it may be composed of mixt bodies,
some of them of the first, and some of the third kind; and
this may perhaps be somewhat illustrated by reflecting
upon what happens in some chymical preparations of
those medicines which they call their Bezoardicum's.
For first, they take antimony and iron, which may be
looked upon as prima mista; of these they compound
a starry regulus, and to this they add according to their
intention, either gold, or silver, which makes with it a
new and further composition. To this they add sublimate,
which is itself a decompound body, (consisting
of common quicksilver, and divers salts united by sublimation
into a chrystalline substance) and from this
sublimate, and the other metalline mixtures, they draw
a liquor, which may be allowed to be of a yet more
compounded nature. If it be true, as chymists affirm
it, that by this art some of the gold or silver mingled with
the regulus may be carryed over the helme with it by the
sublimate; as indeed a skilfull and candid person complained
to me a while since, that an experienced friend
of his and mine, having by such a way brought over a
great deal of gold, in hope to do something further with it,
which might be gainful to him, has not only missed of his
aim, but is unable to recover his volatilized gold out of
the antimonial butter, wherewith it is strictly united.
Now (continues Carneades) if a compound body consist
of ingredients that are not merely elementary; it is not
hard to conceive, that the substances into which the fire
dissolves it, though seemingly homogeneous enough, may
be of a compounded nature, those parts of each body that
are most of kin associating themselves into a compound
of a new kind. As when (for example sake) I have caused
vitriol and sal armoniack, and salt petre to be mingled
and distilled together, the liquor that came over manifested

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122 The Sceptical Chymist
itself not to be either spirit of nitre, or of sal
armoniack, or of vitrioll. For none of these would dissolve
crude gold, which yet my liquor was able readily to do;
and thereby manifested itself to be a new compound,
consisting at least of spirit of nitre, and sal armoniack,
(for the latter dissolved in the former, will work on gold)
which nevertheless are not by any known way separable,
and consequently would not pass for a mixt body, if we
ourselves did not, to obtain it, put and distill together
divers concretes, whose distinct operations were known
beforehand. And, to add on this occasion the experiment
I lately promised you, because it is applicable to our
present purpose, I shall acquaint you, that suspecting
the common oyle of vitrioll not to be altogether such a
simple liquor as chymists presume it, I mingled it with
an equal or a double quantity (for I tryed the experiment
more than once) of common oyle of turpentine, such as
together with the other liquor I bought at the drugsters.
And having carefully (for the experiment is nice, and
somewhat dangerous) distilled the mixture in a small
glass retort, I obtained according to my desire (besides,
the two liquors I had put in) a pretty quantity of a certaine
substance, which sticking all about the neck of the retort
discovered itself to be sulphur, not only by a very strong
sulphureous smell, and by the colour of brimstone; but
also by this, that being put upon a coal, it was immediately
kindled, and burned like common sulphur. And of this
substance I have yet by me some little parcells, which
you may command and examine when you please. So
that from this experiment I may deduce either one, or
both of these propositions, that a real sulphur may be
made by the conjunction of two such substances as
chymists take for elementary, and which did not either
of them apart appear to have any such body in it; or
that oyle of vitrioll though a distilled liquor, and taken for
part of the saline principle of the concrete that yeelds
it, may yet be so compounded a body as to contain, besides
its saline part, a sulphur like common brimstone, which
would hardly be itself a simple or uncompounded body.
might (pursues Carneades) remind you, that I formerly

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The Sceptical Chymist 123
represented it, as possible, that as there may be more
elements than five, or six; so the elements of one body
may be different from those of another; whence it would
follow, that from the resolution of decompound bodies,
there may result mixts of an altogether new kind, by the
coalition of elements that never perhaps convened before.
I might, I say, mind you of this, and add divers things
to this second consideration ; but for fear of wanting time
I willingly pretermit them to pass on to the third, which
is this, that the fire does not alwaies barely resolve or
take asunder, but may also after a new manner mingle
and compound together the parts (whether elementary
or not) of the body dissipated by it.
This is so evident, (saies Carneades) in some obvious examples, that I cannot but wonder at their supineness
that have not taken notice of it. For when wood being
burnt in a chimney is dissipated by the fire into smoake
and ashes, that smoake composes soot, which is so far
from being any one of the principles of the wood, that
(as I noted above) you may by a further analysis separate
five or six distinct substances from it. And as for the
remaining ashes, the chymists themselves teach us; that
by a further degree of fire they may be indissolubly united
into glass. 'Tis true, that the analysis which the chymists
principally build upon is made, not in the open air, but
in close vessels; but however, the examples lately produced
may invite you shrewdly to suspect, that heat may
as well compound as dissipate the parts of mixt bodies:
and not to tell you that I have known a vitrification made
even in close vessels, I must remind you that the flowers
of antimony, and those of sulphur, are very mixed bodies,
though they ascend in close vessels: and that 'twas in
stopt glasses that I brought up the whole body of camphire.
And whereas it may be objected that all these examples
are of bodies forced up in a dry, not a fluid forme, as are
the liquors wont to be obtained by distillation; I answer,
that besides 'tis possible, that a body may be changed
from consistent to fluid, or from fluid to consistent, without
being otherwise much altered, as may appear by the
easiness wherewith in winter, without any addition or

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124 The Sceptical Chymist
separation of visible ingredients, the same substance may
be quickly hardened into brittle ice, and thawed again
into fluid water; besides this, I say it would be considered,
that common quicksilver itself, which the eminentest
chymists confess to be a mixt body, may be driven over
the helme in its pristine forme of quicksilver, and consequently,
in that of a liquor. And, certainly 'tis possible
that very compounded bodies may concurr to constitute
liquors; since, not to mention that I have found it possible,
by the help of a certain menstruum, to distill gold itself
through a retort, even with a moderate fire: let us but
consider what happens in butter of antimony. For if
that be carefully rectifyed, it may be reduced into a very
clear liquor; and yet if you cast a quantity of fair water
upon it, there will quickly precipitate a ponderous and
vomitive calx, which made before a considerable part
of the liquor, and yet is indeed (though some, eminent
chymists would have it mercurial) an antimonial body
carryed over and kept dissolved by the salts of the sublimate,
and consequently a compounded one; as you may
find, if you will have the curiosity to examine this white
powder by a skilful reduction. And that you may not
think that bodies as compounded, as flowers of brimstone,
cannot be brought to concurr to constitute distilled
liquors; and also that you may not imagine with divers
learned men that pretend no small skill in chymistry,
that at least no mixt body can be brought over the helme,
but by corrosive salts, I am ready to shew you, when you
please, among other waies of bringing over flowers of
brimstone (perhaps I might add even mineral sulphurs)
some, wherein I employ none but oleaginous bodies to
make volatile liquors, in which not only the colour, but
(which is a much surer mark) the smell and some operations
manifest that there is brought over a sulphur that
makes part of the liquor.
One thing more there is Eleutherius, (saies Carneades) which is so pertinent to my present purpose, that though
I have touched upon it before, I cannot but on this
occasion take notice of it. And it is this, that the qualities
or accidents, upon whose account chymists are wont to

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The Sceptical Chymist 125
call a portion of matter by the name of mercury or some
other of their principles, are not such but that 'tis possible
as great (and therefore why not the like) may be produced
by such changes of texture, and other alterations, as the
fire may make in the small parts of a body. I have
already proved, when I discoursed of the second general
consideration, by what happens to plants nourished only
with fair water, and eggs hatched into chickens, that by
changing the disposition of the component parts of a body,
nature is able to effect as great changes in a parcell of
matter reputed similar, as those requisite to denominate
one of the tria prima. And though Helmont do somewhere
wittily call the fire the destructor and the artificial
death of things; and although another eminent chymist
and physitian be pleased to build upon this, that fire
can never generate anything but fire; yet you will, I
doubt not, be of another mind, if you consider how many
new sorts of mixt bodies chymists themselves have produced
by means of the fire: and particularly, if you
consider how that noble and permanent body, glass, is
not only manifestly produced by the violent action of the
fire, but has never, for ought we know, been produced any
other way. And indeed it seems but an inconsiderate
assertion of some Helmontians, that every sort of body
of a peculiar denomination must be produced by some
seminal power; as I think I could evince, if I thought it
so necessary, as it is for me to hasten to what I have
further to discourse. Nor need it much move us, that
there are some who look upon whatsoever the fire is
employed to produce, not as upon natural but artificial
bodies. For there is not alwaies such a difference as
many imagine betwixt the one and the other: nor is it
so easy as they think, clearly to assigne that which
properly, constantly, and sufficiently, discriminates them.
But not to engage myself in so nice a disquisition, it may
now suffice to observe, that a thing is commonly termed
artificial, when a parcel of matter is by the artificers hand,
or tools, or bot brought to such a shape or form, as he
designed beforehand in his mind: whereas in many of
the chymical productions the effect would be produced

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126 The Sceptical Chymist
whether the artificer intended it or no; and is oftentimes
very much other than he intended or looket for; and the
instruments employed, are not tools artificially fashioned
and shaped, like those of tradesmen, for this or that
particular work; but, for the most part, agents of nature's
own providing, and whose chief powers of operation they
receive from their own nature or texture, not the artificer.
And indeed, the fire is as well a natural agent as seed:
and the chymist that imployes it, does but apply natural
agents and patients, who being thus brought together,
and acting according to their respective natures, performe
the work themselves; as apples, plums, or other fruit,
are natural productions, though garden bring and
fasten together the sciens and the stock, and bath water,
and do perhaps divers other waies contribute to its bearing
fruit. But, to proceed to what I was going to say; you
may observe with, me, Eleutherius, that, as I told you
once before, qualities sleight enough may serve to denominate
a chymical principle. For, when they anatomize
a compound body by the fire, if they get a substance
inflamable, and that will not mingle with water, that they
presently call sulphurs what is sapid and dissoluble in
water, that must passe for salt; whatsoever is fixed and
indissoluble in water, that they name earth. And I was
going to add, that whatsoever volatile substance they
know not what to make of, not to say, whatsoever they
please, that they can mercury. But that these qualities
may either be produced, otherwise than by such as they
call seminal agents, or may belong to bodies of a compounded
nature may be shewn, among other instances,
in glass made of ashes, where the exceeding strong-tasted
alcalizate salt joyning with the earth becomes insipid,
and with it constitutes a body; which though also dry,
fixt and indissoluble in water, is yet manifestly a mixt
body; and made so by the fire itself.
And I remember to our present purpose, that Helmont, amongst other medicines that he commends, has a short
process, wherein, though the directions for practice are
but obscurely intimated; yet I have some reason not to
disbelieve the process, without affirming or denying anything

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The Sceptical Chymist 127
about the vertues of the remedy to be made by it.
" Quando (saies he) oleum cinnamome etc. suo sali alcali
miscetur absque omni aqua, trium mensium artificiosa
occultaque circulatione, totum in salem volatilem commutatum
est, vere essentiam sui simplicis in nobis exprimit
et usque in prima nostri constitutiva sese ingerit."
A not unlike process he delivers in another place; from
whence, if we suppose him to say true, I may argue,
that since by the fire there may be produced a substance
that is as well saline and volatile as the salt of hartshorn,
blood, etc., which pass for elementary; and since that this
volatile salt is really compounded of a chymical oyle and
a fixt salt, the one made volatile by the other, and bath
associated by the fire, it may well be suspected that other
substances, emerging upon the dissipation of bodies by the
fire, may be new sorts of mixts, and consist of substances
of differing natures; and particularly, I have sometimes
suspected, that since the volatile salts of blood, hartshorn,
etc. are fugitive and endowed with an exceeding strong
smell, either that chymists do erroneously ascribe all
odours to sulphurs, or that such salts consist of some
oyly parts well incorporated with the saline ones. And
the like conjecture I have also made concerning spirit of
vinegar, which, though the chymists think one of the
principles of that body, and though being an acid spirit
it seems to be much less of kin than volatile salts to
sulphurs; yet, not to mention its piercing smell; which
I know not with what congruity the chymist will deduce
from salt, I wonder they have not taken notice of what
their own Tyrocinium Chymicum teach us concerning the
distillation of saccharum saturni; out of which Beguinus
assures us, that he distilled, besides a very fine spirit, no
less than two oyles, the one blood-red and ponderous, but
the other swimming upon the-top of the spirit, and of a
yellow colour; of which he dies that he kept then some
by him, to verify what he delivers. And though I
remember not that I have had two distinct oyles from
sugar of lead, yet that it will though distilled without
addition yeeld some oyle, disagrees not with my experience.
I know the chymists will be apt to pretend, that ,

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128 The Sceptical Chymist
these oyles are but the volatilized sulphur of lead; and
will perhaps argue it from what Beguinus relates, that
when the distillation is ended, you'l find a caput mortuum
extreamly black, and (as he speaks) nullius momenti, as
if the body, or at least the chief part of the metal itself
were by the distillation carried over the helme. But
since you know as well as I that saccharum saturni is a
kind of magistery, made only by calcining of lead per se,
dissolving it in distilled vinegar, and chrystalyzing the
solution; if I had leasure to tell you how differing a thing
I did upon examination find the caput mortuum, so slighted
by Beguinus, to be from what he represents it, I believe
you would think the conjecture proposed less probable
than one or other of these three; either that this oyle did
formerly concurr to constitute the spirit of vinegar, and
so that what passes for a chymical principle may yet be
further resoluble into distinct substances; or that some
parts of the spirit together with some parts of the lead
may constitute a chymical oyle, which therefore though
it pass for homogeneous, may be a very compounded
body: or at least that by the action of the distilled vinegar
and the saturnine calx one upon another, part of the
liquor may be so altered as to be transmuted from an
acid spirit into an oyle. And though the truth of either
of the two former conjectures would make the example
I have reflected on more pertinent to my present argument;
yet you'l easily discern, the third and last conjecture
cannot be unserviceable to confirm some other
passages of my discourse.
To return then to what I was saying just before I mentioned Helmont's experiment, I shall subjoyne,
that chymists must confess also that in the perfectly
dephlegmed spirit of wine, or other fermented liquors,
that which they call the sulphur of the concrete loses, by
the fermentation, the property of oyle, (which the chymists
likewise take to be the true sulphur of the mixt) of being
unminglable with the water. And if you will credit
Helmont, a pound of the purest spirit of wine may barely
by the help of pure salt of tartar (which is but the fixed
salt of wine) be resolved or transmuted into scarce half

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The Sceptical Chymist 129
an ounce of salt, and as much elementary water as amounts
to the remaining part of the mentioned weight. And it
may (as I think I formerly also noted) be doubted,
whether that fixt and alcalizate salt, which is so unanimously
agreed on to be the saline principle of incinerated
bodies, be not, as 'tis alcalizate, a production of the fire?
For though the taste of tartar, for example, seem to
argue that it contains a salt before it be burned, yet that
salt being very acid is of a quite differing taste from the
lixiviate salt of calcined tartar. And though it be not
truly objected against the chymists, that they obtain all
salts they make, by reducing the body they work on into
ashes with violent fires, (since hartshorn, amber, blood,
and divers other mixts yeeld a copious salt before they
be burned to ashes) yet this volatile salt differs much,
as we shall see anon, from the fixt alcalizate salt I speak
of; which for ought I remember is not producible by any
known way, without incineration. 'Tis not unknown to
chymists, that quicksilver may be precipitated, without
addition, into a dry powder, that remains so in water.
And some eminent spagyrists, and even Raimund Lully
himself, teach, that merely by the fire quicksilver may
in convenient vessels be reduced (at least in great part)
into a thin liquor like water, and minglable with it. So
that by the bare action of the fire, 'tis possible, that the
parts of a mixt body should be so disposed after new
and differing manners, that it may be sometimes of one
consistence, sometimes of another; and may in one state
be disposed to be mingled with water, and in another not.
I could also shew you, that bodies from which apart
chymists cannot obtain anything that is combustible,
may by being associated together, and by the help of the
fire, afford an inflamable substance. And that on the
other side, 'tis possible for a body to be inflamable, from
which it would very much puzzle any ordinary chymist,
and perhaps any other, to separate an inflamable principle
or ingredient. Wherefore, since the principles of chymists
may receive their denominations from qualities, which
it often exceeds not the power of art, nor alwaies that of
the fire to produce; and since such qualities may be

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130 The Sceptical Chymist
found in bodies that differ so much in other qualities from
one another, that they need not be allowed to agree in
that pure and simple nature, which principles, to be so
indeed, must have; it may justly be suspected, that many
productions of the fire that are shewed us by chymists, as
the principles of the concrete that afforded them, may
be but a new kind of mixts. And to annex, on this occasion,
to these arguments taken from the nature of the
thing, one of those which logicians call, ad hominem,
I shall desire you to take notice, that though Paracelsus
himself, and some that are so mistaken as to think he
could not be so, have ventured to teach, that not only the
bodies here below, but the elements themselves, and all
the other parts of the universe, are composed of salt,
sulphur and mercury; yet the leamed Sennertus, and all
the more wary chymists, have rejected that conceit, and
do many of them confess, that the tria prima are each of
them made up of the four elements; and others of them
make earth and water concurr with salt, sulphur and
mercury, to the constitution of mixt bodies. So that one
sort of these spagyrists, notwithstanding the specious
titles they give to the productions of the fire, do in, effect
grant what I contend for. And, of the other sort I may
well demand, to what kind of bodies the phlegm and dead
earth, to be met with in chymical resolutions, are to be
referred ? For either they must say, with Paracelsus,
but against their own concessions, as well as against
experience, that these are also composed of the tria prima,
whereof they cannot separate any one from either of them;
or else they must confess that two of the vastest bodies
here below, earth and water, are neither of them composed
of the tria prima; and that consequently those
three are not the universal and adequate ingredients,
neither of all sublunary bodies, nor even of all mixt
bodies.
I know that the chief of these chymists represent, that though the distinct substances into which they divide
mixt bodies by the fire, are not pure and homogeneous;
yet since the four elements into which the Aristotelians
pretend to resolve the like bodies by the same agent, are

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The Sceptical Chymist 131
not simple neither, as themselves acknowledge, 'tis as
allowable for the chymists to call the one principles, as
for the peripateticks to call the other elements, since in
bath cases the imposition of the name is grounded only
upon the predominancy of that element whose name is
ascribed to it. Nor shall I deny, that this argument of
the chymists is no ill one against the Aristotelians. But
what answer can it prove to me, who you know am disputing
as well against the Aristotelian elements, as the
chymical principles, and must not look upon any body
as a true principle or element, but as yet compounded,
which is not perfectly homogeneous, but is further
resoluble into any number of distinct substances how
small soever. And as for the chymists calling a body
salt, or sulphur, or mercury, upon pretence that the
principle of the same name is predominant in it, that
itself is an acknowledgment of what I contend for; namely
that these productions of the fire are yet compounded
bodies. And yet whilst this is granted, it is affirmed, but
not proved, that the reputed salt, or sulphur, or mercury;
consists mainly of one body that deserves the name of a
principle of the same denomination. For how do chymists
make it appear that there are any such primitive and
simple bodies in those we are speaking of; since 'tis upon
the matter confessed by the answer lately made, that
these are not such? And if they pretend by reason to
evince what they affirm, what becomes of their confident
boasts, that the chymist (whom they therefore, after
Beguinus, call a philosophus or opifex sensatus) can convince
our eyes, by manifestly shewing in any mixt body
those simple substances he teaches them to be composed
of? And indeed, for the chymists to have recourse in
this case to other proofs than experiments, as it is to
wave the grand argument that has an this while been given
out for a demonstrative one; so it releases me from the
obligation to prosecute a dispute wherein I am not engaged
to examine any but experimental proofs. I know it may
plausibly enough be represented, in favour of the chymists,
that it being evident that much the greater part of anything
they call salt, or sulphur, or mercury, is really such;

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132 The Sceptical Chymist
it would be very rigid to deny those substances the names
ascribed them, only because of some slight mixture of
another body; since not only the peripateticks call
particular parcels of matter elementary, though they
acknowledge that elements are not to be anywhere found
pure, at least here below; and since especially there is a
manifest analogie and resemblance betwixt the bodies
obtainable by chymical anatomies and the principles
whose names are given them; I have, I say, considered
that these things may be represented; but as for what is
drawn from the custome of the peripateticks, I have
already told you, that though it may be employed against
them, yet it is not available against me, who allow nothing
to be an element that is not perfectly homogeneous. And
whereas it is alledged, that the predominant principle
ought to give a name to the substance wherein it abounds;
I answer, that that might much more reasonably be said,
if either we or the chymists had seen nature take pure salt,
pure sulphur, and pure mercury, and compound of them
every sort of mixt bodies. But, since 'tis to experience
that they appeal, we must not take it for granted, that the
distilled oyle (for instance) of a plant is mainly composed
of the pure principle called sulphur, till they have given
us an ocular proof, that there is in that sort of plants
such an homogeneous sulphur. For as for the specious
argument, which is drawn from the resemblance betwixt
the productions of the fire, and the respective, either
Aristotelian elements, or chymical principles, by whose
names they are called; it will appear more plausible than
cogent, if you will but recall to mind the state of the controversie;
which is not, whether or no there be obtained
from mixt bodies certain substances that agree in outward
appearance, or in some qualities with quicksilver or
brimstone, or some such obvious or copious body; but
whether or no all bodies confessed to be perfectly mixt
were composed of, and are resoluble into a determinate
number of primary unmixt bodies. For, if you keep
the state of the question in your eye, you'l easily discerne
that there is much of what should be demonstrated, left
unproved by those chymical experiments we are examining.

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The Sceptical Chymist 133
But (not to repeat what I have already discovered
more at large) I shall now take notice, that it will not
presently follow, that because a production of the fire has
some affinity with some of the greater masses of matter
here below, that therefore they are both of the same nature,
and deserve the same name : for the chymists are not
content, that flame should be lookt upon as a parcel of the
element of fire, though it be hot, dry, and active, because
it wants some other qualities belonging to the nature of
elementary fire. Nor will they let the peripateticks call
ashes, or quicklime, earth, notwithstanding the many
likenesses between them; because they are not tasteless, as
elementary earth ought to be: but if you should ask me,
what then it is, that all the chymical anatomies of bodies
do prove, if they prove not that they consist of the three
principles into which the fire resolves them? I answer
that their dissections may be granted to prove, that some
mixt bodies (for in many it will not hold) are by the fire,
when they are included in close vessels, (for that condition
also is often requisite) dissoluble into several substances
differing in some qualities, but principally in consistence.
So that out of most of them may be obtained a fixt
substance partly saline, and partly insipid, an unctuous
liquor, and another liquor or more that without being
unctuous have a manifest taste. Now if chymists will
agree to call the dry and sapid substance salt, the unctuous
liquor sulphur, and the other mercury, I shall not much
quarrel with them for so doing: but if they will tell me
that salt, sulphur, and mercury, are simple and primary
bodies whereof each mixt body was actually compounded,
and which was really in it antecedently to the operation
of the fire, they must give me leave to doubt whether
(whatever their other arguments may do) their experiments
prove all this. And if they will also tell me that
the substances their anatomies are wont to afford them,
are pure and similar, as principles ought to be, they must
give me leave to believe my own senses; and their own
confessions, before their bare assertions. And that you
may not (Eleutherius) think I deal so rigidly with them,
because I scruple to take these productions of the fire for

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134 The Sceptical Chymist
such as the chymists would have them pass for, upon the
account of their having some affinity with them; consider
a little with me, that in regard an element or principle
ought to be perfectly similar and homogeneous, there is
no just cause why I should rather give the body proposed
the name of this or that element or principle, because it
has a resemblance to it in some obvious quality, rather
than deny it that name upon the account of divers other
qualities, wherein the proposed bodies are unlike; and if
you do but consider what slight and easily producible
qualities they are that suffice, as I have already more than
once observed, to denominate a chymical principle or
an element, you'l not, I hope, think my wariness to be
destitute either of example, or else of reason. For we
see that the chymists will not allow the Aristotelians that
the salt in aches ought to be called earth, though the saline
and terrestrial part symbolize in weight, in dryness, in
fixness and fusibility, only because the one is sapid and
dissoluble in water, and the other not: besides, we see
that sapidness and volatility are wont to denominate the
chymists mercury or spirit; and yet how many bodies,
think you, may agree in those qualities which may yet be
of very differing natures, and disagree in qualities either
more numerous, or more considerable, or both. For not
only spirit of nitre, aqua fortis, spirit of salt, spirit of oyle
of vitriol, spirit of allume, spirit of vinegar, and all saline
liquors distilled from animal bodies, but all the acetous
spirits of woods freed from their vinegar; all these, I
say, and many others must belong to the chymists
mercury, though it appear not why some of them should
more be comprehended under one denomination than the
chymists sulphur, or oyle should likewise be; for their
distilled oyles are also fluid, volatile, and tastable, as well
as their mercury; nor is it necessary, that their sulphur
should be unctuous or dissoluble in water, since they
generally referr spirit of wine to sulphurs, although that
spirit be not unctuous, and will freely mingle with water.
So that bare inflamability must constitute the essence
of the chymists sulphur; as uninflamableness joyned
with any taste is enough to intitle a distilled liquor to be

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The Sceptical Chymist 135
their mercury. Now since I can further observe to you,
that spirit of nitre and spirit of hartshorne being poured
together will boyle and hisse and tosse up one another
into the air, which the chymists make signes of great
antipathy in the natures of bodies, (as indeed these spirits
differ much both in taste, smell, and operations) since I
elsewhere tell you of my having made two sorts of oyle
out of the same man's blood, that would not mingle with
one another; and since I might tell you divers examples
I have met with, of the contrariety of bodies which
according to the chymists must be huddled up together
under one denomination; I leave you to judge whether
such a multitude of substances as may agree in these
slight qualities, and yet disagree in others more considerable,
are more worthy to be called by the name of a
principle (which ought to be pure and homogeneous)
than to have appellations given them that may make
them differ, in name too, from the bodies from which
they so wildly differ in nature. And hence also, by the
by, you may perceive that 'tis not unreasonable to distrust
the chymists way of argumentation, when being
unable to shew us that such a liquor is (for example)
purely saline, they prove, that at least salt is much the
predominant principle, because that the proposed substance
is strongly tasted, and all taste proceeds from salt;
whereas those spirits, such as spirit of tartar, spirit of
hartshorn, and the like, which are reckoned to be the
mercuries of the bodies that afford them, have manifestly
a strong and piercing taste, and so has (according to what
(I formerly noted the spirit of box, etc. even after the acid
liquor that concurred to compose it has been separated
from it. And indeed, if sapidness belong not to the spirit
or mercurial principle of vegetables and animals: I
scarce know how it will be discriminated from their
phlegm, since by the absence of inflamability it must be
distinguished from their sulphur which affords me another
example, to prove how unacurate the chymical doctrine
is in our present case; since not only the spirits of vegetables
and animals, but their oyles are very strongly
tasted, as he that shall but wet his tongue with chymical

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136 The Sceptical Chymist
oyle of cinnamon or of cloves, or even of turpentine, may
quickly find, to his smart. And not only I never tryed
any chymical oyles whose taste was not very manifest and
strong; but a skilful and inquisitive person who made
it his business by elaborate operations to depurate
chymical oyles, and reduce them to an elementary
simplicity, informes us, that he never was able to make
them at all tasteless; whence I might inferr, that the
proof chymists confidently give us of a bodies being
saline, is so far from demonstrating the predominancy,
that it does not clearly evince so much as the presence
of the saline principle in it: But I will not (pursues
Carneades) remind you, that the volatile salt of hartshorn,
amber, blood, etc. are exceeding strongly scented, notwithstanding
that most chymists deduce odours from
sulphur, and from them argue the predominancy of that
principle in the odorous body, because I must not so
much as add any new examples of the incompetency of
this sort of chymical arguments; since having already
detained you but too long in those generals that appertain
to my fourth consideration 'tis time that I proceed to the
particulars themselves, to which I thought fit they should
be previous.
These generals (continues Carneades) being thus premised, we might the better survey the unlikeness that an
attentive and unprepossessed observer may take notice of
in each sort of bodies which the chymists are wont to call
the salts or sulphurs or mercuries of the concretes that
yeeld them, as if they had all a simplicity, and identity
of nature: whereas salts if they were all elementary
would as little differ as do the drops of pure and simple
water. 'Tis known that both chymists and physitians
ascribe to the fixt salts of calcined bodies the vertues of
their concretes; and consequently very differing operations.
So we find the alcali of wormwood much commended
in distempers of the stomach; that of eyebright
for those that have a weak sight; and that of guajacum
(of which a great quantity yeelds but a very little salt)
is not only much commended in venereal diseases, but is
believed to have a peculiar purgative vertue, which yet

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The Sceptical Chymist 137
I have not had occasion to try. And though, I confess,
I have long thought, that these alcalizate salts are, for
the most part, very near of kin, and retain very little
of the properties of the concretes whence they were
separated; yet being minded to observe watchfully
whether I could meet with any exceptions to this general
observation, I observed at the glass-house, that sometimes
the metal (as the workmen call it) or mass of colliquated
ingredients, which by blowing they fashion into
vessels of divers shapes, did sometimes prove of a very
differing colour, and a somewhat differing texture, from
what was usual. And having enquired whether the
cause of such accidents might not be derived from the
peculiar nature of the fixt salt employed to bring the sand
to fusion, I found that the knowingst workmen imputed
these misadventures to the ashes, of some certain kind
of wood, as having observed the ignobler kind of glass
I lately mentioned to be frequently produced, when they
had employed such sorts of ashes, which therefore they
scruple to make use of, if they took notice of them beforehand.
I remember also, that an industrious man of my
acquaintance having bought a vast quantity of tobacco
stalks to make a fixt salt with, I had the curiosity to
go see whether that exotick plant, which so much
abounds in volatile salt, would afford a peculiar kind of
alcali; and I was pleased to find that in the lixivium of
it, it was not necessary, as is usual, to evaporate all the
liquor, that there might be obtained a saline calx, consisting
like lime quenched in the air of a heap of little corpuscles
of unregarded shapes: but the fixt salt shot into
figured chrystal, almost as nitre or sal armoniack and
other uncalcined salts are wont to do; and I further
remember that I have observed that in the fixt salt of
urine, brought by depuration to be very white, a taste not
so unlike to that of common salt, and very differing from
the wonted caustick lixiviate taste of other salts made by
incineration. But because the instances I have alledged
of the difference of alcalizate salt are but few, and therefore
I am still inclined to think, that most chymists and
many physitians do, inconsiderately enough and without

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138 The Sceptical Chymist
warrant from experience, ascribe the vertues of the
concretes exposed to calcination, to the salts obtained
by it; I shall rather to shew the disparity of salts mention
in the first place the apparent difference betwixt the
vegetable fixt salts and the animal volatile ones: as (for
example) betwixt salt of tartar, and salt of hartshorn;
whereof the former is so fixt that 'twill indure the brunt
of a violent fire, and stand in fusion like a metal; whereas
the other (besides that it has a differing taste and a very
differing smell) is so far from being fixt, that it will fly
away in a gentle heat as easily as spirit of wine itself. And
to this I shall add, in the next place, that even among the
volatile salts themselves, there is a considerable difference,
as appears by the distinct properties of (for instance)
salt of amber, salt of urine, salt of man's skull, (so much
extolled against the falling sickness) and divers others
which cannot escape an ordinary observer. And this
diversity of volatile salts I have observed to be sometimes
discernable even to the eye, in their figures. For the salt
of hartshorn I have observed to adhere to the receiver
in the forme almost of a parallelipipedon; and of the
volatile salt of humane blood (long digested before distillation,
with spirit of wine) I can shew you store of
grains of that figure which geometricians call a rhombus;
though I dare not undertake that the figures of these or
other saline chrystals (if I may so call them) will be
alwaies the same, whatever degree of fire have been
employed to force them up, or how hastily soever they
have been made to convene in the spirits or liquors, in the
lower part of which I have usually observed them after
a while to shoot. And although, as I lately told you, I
seldom found any difference, as to medical vertues, in
the fixt salts of divers vegetables; and accordingly I have
suspected that most of these volatile salts, having so great
a resemblance in smell, in taste, and fugitiveness, differ
but little, if at all, in their medicinal properties: as indeed
I have found them generally to agree in divers of them
(as in their being somewhat diaphoretick and very deopilative)
yet I remember Helmont somewhere informs us,
that there is this difference betwixt the saline spirit of

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The Sceptical Chymist 139
urine and that of man's blood, that the former will not
cure the epilepsy, but the latter will. Of the efficacy
also of the salt of common amber against the same disease
in children, (for in grown persons it is not a specifick) I may
elsewhere have an occasion to entertain you. And when
I consider that to the obtaining of these volatile salts
(especially that of urine) there is not requesite such a
destructive violence of the fire, as there is to get those
salts that must be made by incineration, I am the more
invited to conclude, that they may differ from one another
and consequently recede from an elementary simplicity.
And, if I could here shew you what Mr. Boyle has observed,
touching the various chymical distinctions of salts; you
would quickly discern, not only that chymists do gave
themselves a strange liberty to call concretes salts, that
are according to their own rules to be looked upon as
very compounded bodies; but that among those very
salts that seem elementary, because produced upon the
anatomy of the bodies that yeeld them, there is not only
a visible disparity, but, to speak in the common language,
a manifest antipathy or contrariety: as is evident in the
ebullition and hissing that is wont to ensue, when the acid
spirit of vitriol, for instance, is poured upon hot ashes, or
salt of tartar. And I shall beg leave of this gentleman,
(saies Carneades) casting his eyes on me, to let me observe
to you out of some of his papers, particularly those wherein
he treats of some preparations of urine, that not only one
and the same body may have two salts of a contrary
nature, as he exemplifies in the spirit and alkali of nitre;
but that from the same body there may without addition
be obtained three differing and visible salts. For he
relates, that he observed in urine, not only a volatile and
chrystalline salt, and a fixt salt, but likewise a kind of
sal armoniack, or such a salt as would sublime in the form
of a salt, and therefore was not fixt, and yet was far from
being so fugitive as the volatile salt; from which it seemed
also otherwise to differ. I have indeed suspected that
this may be a sal armoniack properly enough so called, as
compounded of the volatile salt of urine, and the fixt
of the same liquor, which, as I noted, is not unlike sea-

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140 The Sceptical Chymist
salt; but that itself argues a manifest difference betwixt,
the salts, since such a volatile salt is not wont to urate
thus with an ordinary alcali, but to fly away from it in
the heat. And on this occasion I remember, that to give
some of my friends an ocular proof of the difference
betwixt the fixt and volatile salt of (the same concrete)
wood, I devised the following experiment. I took
common Venetian sublimate, and dissolved as much of it
as I well could in fair water: then I took wood ashes, and
pouring on them warme water, dissolved their salt; and
filtrating the water, as soon as I found the lixivium sufficiently
sharp upon the tongue, I reserved it for use:
then one part of the former solution of sublimate dropping
a little of this dissolved fixt salt of wood, the liquors
presently turned of an orange colour; but upon the other
part of the clear solution of sublimate putting some of the
volatile salt of wood (which abounds in the spirit of soot)
the liquor immediately turned white, almost like milke,
and after a white let fall a white sediment, as the other
liquor did a yellow one. To all this that I have said
concerning the difference of salts, I might add what I
formerly told you concerning the simple spirit of box,
and such like woods, which differ much from the other
salts hitherto mentioned, and yet would belong to the
saline principle, if chymists did truly teach that all tastes
proceed from it. And I might also annex, what I noted
to you out of Helmont concerning bodies, which, though
they consist in great part of chymical oyles, do yet appear
but volatile salts but to insist on these things, were to
repeat; and therefore I shall proceed.
This disparity is also highly eminent in the separated sulphurs or chymical oyles of things. For they contain
so much of the scent, and taste, and vertues, of the bodies
whence they were drawn, that they seem to be but the
material crasis (if I may so speak) of their concretes.
Thus the oyles of cinnamon, cloves, nutmegs and other
spices, seem to be but the united aromatick parts that did
ennoble those bodies. And 'tis a known thing, that oyl
of cinnamon, and oyle of cloves, (which I have likewise
observed in the oyles of several woods) will sink to the

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The Sceptical Chymist 141
bottom of water: whereas those of nutmegs and divers
other vegetables will swim upon it. The oyle (abusively
called spirit) of roses swims at the top of the water in the
forme of a white butter, which I remember not to have
observed in any other oyle drawn in any limbeck; yet
there is a way (not here to be declared) by which I have
seen it come over in the forme of other aromatick oyles,
to the delight and wonder of those that beheld it. In
oyle of aniseseeds, which I drew both with, and without
fermentation, I observed the whole body of the oyle in
a cool place to thicken into the consistence and appearance
of white butter, which with the least heat resumed its
former liquidness. In the oyle of olive drawn over in a
retort, I have likewise more than once seen a spontaneous
coagulation in the receiver: and I have of, it by me thus
congealed; which is of such a strangely penetrating scent,
as if 'twould perforate the noses that approach it. The
like pungent odour I also observed in the distilled liquor
of common sope, which forced over from minium, lately
afforded an oyle of a most admirable penetrancy; and he
must be a great stranger, both to the writings and preparations
of chymists, that sees not in the oyles they distill
from vegetables and animals, a considerable and obvious
difference. Nay I shall venture to add, Eleutherius (what
perhaps you will think of kin to a paradox) that divers
times out of the same animal or vegetable, there may be
extracted oyles of natures obviously differing. To which
purpose I shall not insist on the swimming and sinking
oyles, which I have sometimes observed to float on, and
subside under the spirit of guajacum, and that of divers
other vegetables distilled with a strong and lasting fire;
nor shall I insist on the observation elsewhere mentioned,
of the divers and umningleable oyles afforded us by
humane blood long fermented and digested with spirit of
wine, because these kind of oyles may seem chiefly to
differ in consistence and weight, being all of them high
coloured and adust. But the experiment, which I devised
to make out this difference of the oyles of the same
vegetable, ad oculum, (as they speak) was this that followes.
I took a pound of aniseseeds, and having grosly beaten

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142 The Sceptical Chymist
them, caused them to be put into a very large glass retort
almost filled with fair water; and placing this retort in
a sand furnace, I caused a very gentle heat to be administred
during the first day, and a great part of the second,
till the water was for the most part drawn off, and had
brought over with it at least most of the volatile and
aromatick oyle of the seeds. And then encreasing the
fire, and changing the receiver, I obtained besides an
empyreumatical spirit, a quantity of adust oyle; whereof
a little floated upon the spirit, and the rest was more
heavy, and not easily separable from it. And whereas
these oyles were very dark, and smelled (as chymists
speak) so strongly of the fire, that their odour did not
betray from what vegetables they had been forced; the
other aromatick oyle was enriched with the genuine smell
and taste of the concrete; and spontaneously coagulating
itself into white butter did manifest itself to be the true
oyle of aniseseeds; which concrete I therefore chose to
employ about this experiment, that the difference of these
oyles might be more conspicuous than it would have been,
had I instead of it destilled another vegetable.
I had almost forgot to take notice, that there is another sort of bodies, which though not obtained from concretes
by distillation, many chymists are wont to call their
sulphur; not only because such substances are, for the
most part, high coloured, (whence they are also, and that
more properly, called tinctures) as dissolved sulphurs are
wont to be; but especially because they are, for the most
part, abstracted and separated from the rest of the mass
by spirit of wine: which liquor those men supposing to be
sulphureous, they conclude, that what it works upon, and
abstracts, must be a sulphur also. And upon this account
they presume, that they can sequester the sulphur even
of minerals and metalls; from which 'tis known that they
cannot by fire alone separate it. To all this I shall answer;
That if these sequestred substances were indeed the
sulphurs of the bodies whence they are drawn, there
would as well be a great disparity betwixt chymical
sulphurs obtained by spirit of wine, as I have already
shewn there is betwixt those obtained by distillation in

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The Sceptical Chymist 143
the forme of oyles: which will be evident from hence,
that not to urge that themselves ascribe distinct vertues
to mineral tincture, extolling the tincture of gold against
such and such diseases; the tincture of antimony, or of
its glass, against others; and the tincture of emerald
against others; 'tis plain, that in tinctures drawn from
vegetables, if the superfluous spirit of wine be distilled
off, it leaves at the bottom that thicker substance which
chymists use to eau the extract of the vegetable. And
that these extracts are endowed with very differing
qualities according to the nature of the particular bodies
that afforded them (though I fear seldom with so much
of the specifick vertues as is wont to be imagined) is freely
confessed both by physitians and chymists. But Eleutherius
(saies Carneades) we may here take notice that
the chymists do as well in this case, as in many others
allow themselves a licence to abuse words : for not again
to argue from the differing properties of tinctures, that
they are not exactly pure and elementary sulphurs; they
would easily appear not to be so much as sulphur's,
although we should allow chymical oyles to deserve that
name. For however in some mineral tinctures the
natural fixtness of the extracted body does not alwaies
suffer it to be easily further resoluble into differing substances;
yet in very many extracts drawn from vegetables,
it may very easily be manifested that the spirit of wine
has not sequestred the sulphureous ingredient from the
saline and mercurial ones; but has dissolved (for I take
it to be a solution) the finer parts of the concrete (without
making any nice distinction of their being perfectly
sulphureous or not) and united itself with them into
a kind of magistery which consequently must contain
ingredients or parts of several sorts. For we see that the
stones that are rich in vitriol, being often drenched with
rain-water, the liquor will then extract a fine and transparent
substance coagulable into vitriol; and yet though
this vitriol be readily dissoluble in water, it is not a true
elementary salt, but, as you know, a body resoluble into
very differing parts, whereof one (as I shall have occasion
to tell you anon) is yet of a metalline, and consequently

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144 The Sceptical Chymist
not of an elementary nature. You may consider also,
that common sulphur is readily dissoluble in oyle of
turpentine, though notwithstanding its name it abounds
as well, if not as much, in salt as in true sulphur; witness
the great quantity of saline liquor it affords being set to
flame away under a glass bell. Nay I have, which perhaps
you will think strange, with the same oyle of turpentine
alone easily enough dissolved crude antimony finely
powdered into a blood-red balsam, wherewith perhaps
considerable things may be performed in surgery. And
if it were now requisite, I could tell you of some other
bodies, (such as perhaps you would not suspect) that I
have been able to work upon with certain chymical oyles.
But instead of digressing further I shall make this use of
the example I have named. That 'tis not unlikely, but
that spirit of wine which by its pungent taste, and by
some other qualities that argue it better, (especially its
reducib eness, according to Helmont, into alcali and
water), seems to be as well of a saline as of a sulphureous
nature, may well be supposed capable of dissolving substances
that are not merely elementary sulphurs, though
perhaps they may abound with parts that are of kin
thereunto. For I find that spirit of wine will dissolve
gumm lacca, benzoine, and the resinous parts of jallap, and
even of guajacum; whence we may well suspect that it
may from spices, herbs, and other less compacted vegetables,
extract substances that are not perfect sulphurs
but mixt bodies. And to put it past dispute, there is
many a vulgar extract drawn with spirit of wine, which
committed to distillation will afford such differing substances
as will loudly proclaim it to have been a very
compounded body. So that we may justly suspect, that
even in mineral tinctures it will not alwaies follow, that
because a red substance is drawn from the concrete by
spirit of vine, that substance is its true and elementary
sulphur. And though some of these extracts may perhaps
be inflamable; yet, besides that others are not, and besides
that their being reduced to such minuteness of parts
may much facilitate their taking fire; besides this, I say,
we see that common sulphur, common oyle, gumm lac,

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The Sceptical Chymist 145
and many unctuous and resinous bodies, will flame well
enough, though they be of very compounded natures:
nay travellers of unsuspected credit assure us, as a known
thing, that in some northern countries where firr trees and
pines abound, the poorer sort of inhabitants use long
splinters of those resinous woods to burn instead of
candles. And as for the redness wont to be met with in
such solutions, I could easily shew, that 'tis not necessary
it should proceed from the sulphur of the Concrete, dissolved
by the spirit of wine; if I had leasure to manifest
how much chymists are wont to delude themselves and
others, by the ignorance of those other causes, upon whose
account spirit of wine and other menstruum may acquire
a red or some other high colour. But to returne to our
chymical oyles, supposing that they were exactly pure; yet
I hope they would be, as the best spirit of wine is, but the
more inflamable and deflagrable. And therefore since
an oyle can be by the fire alone immediately turned into
flame, which is something of a very differing nature from
it: I shall demand how this oyle can be a primogeneal
and incorruptible body, as most chymists would have
their principles; since it is further resoluble into flame,
which whether or no it be a portion of the element of fire,
as an Aristotelian would conclude, is certainly something
of a very differing nature from a chymical oyle, since it
burnes, and shines, and mounts swiftly upwards; none
of which a chymical oyle does, whilst it continues such.
And if it should be objected, that the dissipated parts of
this flaming oyle may be caught and collected again into
oyl or sulphur; I shall demand, what chymist appears
to have ever done it; and without examining whether
it may not hence be as well said that sulphur is but compacted
fire, as that fire is but diffused sulphur, I shall
leave you to consider whether it may not hence be argued,
that neither fire nor sulphur are primitive and indestructible
bodies; and I shall further observe that at least
it will hence appear, that a portion of matter may, without
being compounded with new ingredients, by having the
texture and motion of its small parts changed, be easily,
by the means of the fire, endowed with new qualities, more

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146 The Sceptical Chymist
differing from them it had before, than are those which
suffice to discriminate the chymists principles from one
another.
We are next to consider, whether in the anatomy of mixt bodies, that which chymists call the mercurial part
of them be uncompounded, or no. But to tell you true,
though chymists do unanimously affirm that their, resolutions
discover a principle, which they call mercury, yet
I find them to give of it descriptions so differing, and so
aenigmatical, that I, who am not ashamed to confess that
cannot understand what is not sence, must acknowledge
to you that I know not what to make of them. Paracelsus
himself, and therefore, as you will easily believe, many
of his followers, does somewhere call that mercury which
ascends upon the burning, of wood, as the peripateticks
are wont to take the same smoake for air; and so seems
to define mercury by volatility, or (if I may coyne such
a word) effumability. But since, in this example, both
volatile salt and sulphur make part of the smoake, which
does indeed consist also both, of phlegmatick and terrene
corpuscles, this notion is not to be admitted; and I find
that the more sober chymists themselves disavow it. Yet
to shew you how little of clearness we are to expect in the
accounts even of later spagyrists, be pleased to take
notice, that Beguinus, even in his Tyrocinium Chymicum,
written for the instruction of novices, when he comes to
tell us what are meant by the tria prima, which for their
being principles ought to be defined the more accurately
and plainly, gives us this description of mercury; " Mercurius
(saies he) est liquor ille acidus, permeabilis, penetrabilis,
aethereus, ac purissimus, à quo omnis nutricatio,
sensus, motus, vires, colores, senectutisque praeproperae
retardatio." Which words are not so much a definition
of it, as an encomium: and yet Quercetanus in his description
of the same principle adds to these divers other
epithets. But both of them; to skip very many other
faults that may be found with their metaphorical descriptions,
speak incongruously to the chymists own
principles. For if mercury be an acid liquor, either
hermetical philosophy must err in ascribing all tastes

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The Sceptical Chymist 147
to salt, or else mercury must not be a principle, but
compounded of a saline ingredient and somewhat else.
Libavius, though he find great fault with the obscurity
of what the chymists write concerning their mercurial
principle, does yet but give us such a negative description
of it, as Sennertus, how favourable soever to the tria prima,
is not satisfied with. And this Sennertus himself, though
the learnedest champion for the hypostatical principles,
does almost as frequently as justly complain of the
unsatisfactoriness of what the chymists teach concerning
their mercury; and yet he himself (but with his wonted
modesty) substitutes instead of the description of Libavius,
another, which many readers, especially if they be not
peripateticks, will not know what to make of. For scarce
telling us any more, than that in all bodies that which is
found besides salt and sulphur, and the elements, or, as
they call them, phlegm and dead earth, is that spirit
which in Aristotle's language may be called ὀυσία ἀναλογω
τζδ ἄστρων στοιχείω. He saies that which I confess
is not at all satisfactory to me, who do not love to seem
to acquiesce in any man's mystical doctrines, that I may
be thought to understand them.
If (saies Eleutherius) I durst presume that the same thing would be thought clear by me, and those that are
fond of such cloudy expressions as you justly tax the
chymists for, I should venture to offer to consideration,
whether or no, since the mercurial principle that arises
from distillation is unanimously asserted to be distinct
from the salt and sulphur of the same concrete, that may
not be called the mercury of a body, which though it
ascend in distillation, as do the phlegme and sulphur, is
neither insipid like the former, nor inflamable like the
latter. And therefore I would substitute to the too much
abused name of mercury, the more clear and familiar
appellation of spirit, which is also now very much made
use of even by the chymists themselves of our times,
though they have not given us so distinct an explication,
as were fit, of what may be called the spirit of a mixt
body.
I should not perhaps (saies Carneades) much quarrel
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148 The Sceptical Chymist
with your notion of mercury. But as for the chymists,
what they can mean, with congruity to their own principles,
by the mercury of animals and vegetables, 'twill not be so
easie to find out; for they ascribe tastes only to the saline
principle, and consequently would be much put to it to
shew what liquor it is, in the resolution of bodies, that
not being insipid, for that they call phlegme, neither is
inflamable as oyle or sulphur, nor has any taste; which
according to them must proceed from a mixture, at least,
of salt. And if we should take spirit in the sence of the
word received among modem chymists and physitians,
for any distilled liquor that is neither phlegme nor oyle,
the appellation would yet appear ambiguous enough.
For plainly, that which first ascends in the distillation
of wine and fermented liquors, is generally as well by
chymists as others reputed a spirit. And yet pure spirit
of wine being wholly inflamable ought according to them
to be reckoned to the sulphureous, not the mercurial
principle. And among the other liquors that go under
the name of spirits, there are divers which seem to belong
to the family of salts, such as are the spirits of nitre,
vitriol, sea-salt and others, and even the spirit of hartshorn,
being, as I have tryed, in great part, if not totally
reducible into salt and phlegme, may be suspected to be
but a volatile salt disguised by the phlegme mingled with
it into the forme of a liquor. However if this be a spirit,
it manifestly differs very much from that of vinegar, the
taste of the one being acid, and the other, salt, and their
mixture in case they be very pure, sometimes occasioning
an effervescence like that of those liquors the chymists
count most contrary to one another. And even among
those liquors that seem to have a better title, than those
hitherto mentioned, to the name of spirits, there appears
a sensible diversity; for spirit of oak, for instance, differs
from that of tartar, and this from that of box, or of
guajacum. And in short, even these spirits as well as
other distilled liquors manifest a great disparity betwixt
themselves, either in their actions on our senses, or in their
other operations.
And (continues Carneades) besides this disparity that
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The Sceptical Chymist 149
is to be met with among those liquors that the modems
call spirits, and take for similar bodies, what I have
formerly told you concerning the spirit of boxwood may
let you see that some of those liquors not only have
qualities very differing from others, but may be further
resolved into substances differing from one another.
And since many moderne chymists and other naturalists are pleased to take the mercurial spirit of bodies for the
same principle, under differing names, I must invite you
to observe, with me, the great difference that is conspicuous
betwixt all the vegetable and animal spirits I have
mentioned and running mercury. I speak not of that
which is commonly sold in shops that many of themselves
will confesse to be a mixt body; but of that which is
separated from metals, which by some chymists that
seem more philosophers than the rest, and especially by
the above mentioned Claveus, is (for distinction sake)
called mercurius corporum. Now this metalline liquor
being one of those three principles of which mineral bodies
are by spagyrists affirmed to be composed and to be
resoluble into them, the many notorious differences
betwixt them and the mercuries, as they call them, of
vegetables and animals will allow me to inferr, either that
minerals and the other two sorts of mixt bodies consist
not of the same elements, or that those principles whereinto
minerals are immediately resolved, which chymists
with great ostentation shew us as the true principles of
them, are but secondary principles, or mixts of a peculiar
sort, which must be themselves reduced to a very differing
forme, to be of the same kind with vegetable and animal
liquors.
But this is not all; for although I formerly told you how little credit there is to be given to the chymical
processes commonly to be met with, of extracting the
mercuries of metals, yet I will now add, that supposing
that the more judicious of them do not untruly affirme
that they have really drawn true and running mercury
from several metals (which I wish they had clearly taught
us how to do also,) yet it may be still doubted whether
such extracted mercuries do not as well differ from

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150 The Sceptical Chymist
common quicksilver, and from one another, as from the
mercuries of vegetables and animals. Claveus, in his
Apology, speaking of some experiments whereby metalline
mercuries may be fixt into the nobler metals, adds, that
he spake of the mercuries drawn from metals; because
common quicksilver by reason of its excessive coldness
and moisture is unfit for that particular kind of operation;
for which though a few lines before he prescribes in general
the mercuries of metalline bodies, yet he chiefly commends
that drawn by art from silver. And elsewhere, in the
same book, he tells us, that he himself tryed, that by
bare coction the quicksilver of tin or pewter (argentum
vivum ex stanno prolicitum) may by an efficient cause,
(as he speaks) be turned into pure gold. And the experienced
Alexander van Suchten, somewhere tells us, that
by a way he intimates may be made a mercury of copper,
not of the silver colour of other mercuries, but green;
to which I shall add, that an eminent person, whose name
his travells and learned writings have made famous, lately
assured me that he had more than once seen the mercury
of lead (which whatever authors promise, you will find
it very difficult to make, at least in any considerable
quantity) fixt into perfect gold. And being by me
demanded whether or no any other mercury would not
as well have been changed by the same operations, he
assured me of the negative.
And since I am fallen upon the mention of the mercuries of metals, you will perhaps expect, (Eleutherius) that I
should say something of their two other principles; but
I must freely confess to you, that what disparity there
may be between the salts and sulphurs of metals or other
minerals, I am not myself experienced enough in the
separations and examens of them, to venture to determine:
(for as for the salts of metals, I formerly represented it
as a thing much to be questioned, whether they have any
at all.) And for the processes of separation I find in
authors, if they were (what many of them are not) successfully
practicable, as I noted above, yet they are to be
performed by the assistance of other bodies, so hardly,
if upon any termes at all, separable from them, that it is

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The Sceptical Chymist 151
very difficult to give the separated principles all their due,
and no more. But the sulphur of antimony which, is
vehemently vomitive, and the strongly scented anodyne
sulphur of vitriol inclines me to think that not only
mineral sulphurs differ from vegetable ones, but also
from one another, retaining much of the nature of their
concretes. The salts of metals, and of some sort of
minerals, you will easily guesse (by the doubts I formerly
expressed, whether metals have any salt at all) that I
have not been so happy as yet to see, perhaps not for want
of curiosity. But if Paracelsus did alwaies write so
consentaneously to himself that his opinion were confidently
to be collected from every place of his writings
where he seems to expresse it, I might safely take upon
me to tell you, that he both countenances in general what
I have delivered in my fourth main consideration, and in
particular warrants me to suspect that there may be a
difference in metalline and mineral salts, as well as we
find it in those of other bodies. For, " Sulphur (saies he)
aliud in auro, aliud in argento, aliud in ferro, aliud in
plumbo, stanno, etc. sic aliud in saphyro, aliud in smaragdo,
aliud in rubino, chrysolitho, amethysto, magnete, etc.
Item aliud in lapidibus, silice, salibus, fontibus, etc. nec
vero tot sulphura tantum, sed et totidem salia; sal aliud
in metallis, aliud in gemmis, aliud in lapidibus, aliud in
salibus, aliud in vitriola, aliud in alumine: similis etiam
mercurii est ratio. Alius in metallis, alius in gemmis, etc.
Ita ut unicuique speciei suus peculiaris mercurius sit.
Et tamen res saltem tres sunt; una essentia est sulphur;
una est sal; una est mercurius. Addo quod et specialius
adhuc singula dividantur; aurum enim non unum, sed
multiplex, ut et non unum pyrum, pomum, sed idem
multiplex, totidem etiam sulphura auri, salia auri,
mercurii auri; idem competit etiam metallis et gemmis;
ut quot saphyri praestantiores, laeviores, etc. tot etiam
saphyrica sulphura, saphyrica salia, saphyrici mercurii, etc.
Idem verum etiam est de turconibus et gemmis aliis
universis." From which passage (Eleutherius) I suppose
you will think I might without rashness conclude, either
that my opinion is favoured by that of Paracelsus, or that

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152 The Sceptical Chymist
Paracelsus his opinion was not alwaies the same. But
because in divers other places of his writings he seems to
talk at a differing rate of the three principles and the four
elements, I shall content myself to inferr from the alledged
passage, that if his doctrine be not consistent with that
part of mine which it is brought to countenance, it is very
difficult to know what his opinion concerning salt, sulphur
and mercury, was; and that consequently we had reason
about the beginning of our conferences, to decline taking
upon us, either to examine or oppose it.
I know not whether I should on this occasion add, that those very bodies, the chymists call phlegme and earth,
do yet recede from an elementary simplicity. That
common earth and water frequently do so, notwithstanding
the received contrary opinion is not denyed by the
more wary of the moderne peripateticks themselves:
and certainly most earths are much less simple bodies
than is commonly imagined even by chymists, who do not
so considerately to prescribe and employ. earths promiscuously
in those distillations that require the mixture
of some caput mortuum, to hinder the flowing together
of the matter, and to retain its grosser parts. For I have
found, some earths to yeeld by distillation a liquor very
far from being inodorous or insipid; and 'tis a known
observation that most kinds of fat earth kept covered
from the rain, and hindred from spending themselves
in the production of vegetables, will in time become
impregnated with salt petre.
But I must remember that the water and earths I ought here to speak of are such as are separated from
mixt bodies by the fire; and therefore to restrain my
discourse to such, I shall tell you, that we see the phlegme
of vitriol (for instance) is a very effectual remedie against
burnes; and I know a very famous and experienced
physitian, whose unsuspected secret (himself confessed
to me) it is, for the discussing of hard and obstinate
tumours. The phlegme of vinegar, though drawn exceeding
leasurely in a digesting furnace, I have purposely
made tryal of; and sometimes found it able to draw,
though slowly, a saccharine sweetness out of lead; and

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The Sceptical Chymist 153
as I remember by long digestion, I dissolved corals in it.
The phlegme of the sugar of saturne is said to have very
peculiar properties. Divers eminent chymists teach,
that it will dissolve pearls, which being precipitated by
the spirit of the same concrete are thereby (as they say)
rendred volatile; which has been confirmed to me, upon
his own observation, by a person of great veracity. The
phlegme of wine, and indeed divers other liquors that are
indiscriminately condemned to be cast away as phlegm,
are endowed with qualities that make them differ both
from mere water, and from each other; and whereas the
chymists are pleased to call the caput mortuum of what
they have distilled (after they have by affusion of water
drawn away its salt) terra damnata, or earth, it may be
doubted whether or no those earths are all of them
perfectly alike: and it is scarce to be doubted, but that
there are some of them which remain yet unreduced to an
elementary nature. The ashes of wood deprived of all
the salt, and bone-ashes, or calcined hartshorn, which
refiners choose to make tests of, as freest from salt, seem
unlike: and he that shall compare either of these insipid
ashes to lime, and much more to the calx of talck, (though,
by the affusion of water they be exquisitely dulcifyed)
will perhaps see cause to think them things of a somewhat
differing nature. And it is evident in colcothar that the
exactest calcination, followed by an exquisite dulcification,
does net alwaies reduce the remaining body into elementary
earth; for after the salt or vitriol (if the calcination
have been too faint) is drawn out of the calcothar, the
residue is not earth, but a mixt body, rich in medical
vertues (as experience has informed me) and which
Angelus Sala affirmes to be partly reducible into malleable
copper; which I judge very probable; for though when
I was making experiments upon colcothar, I was destitute
of a furnace capable of giving a heat intense enough to
bring such a calx to fusion; yet having conjectured that
if colcothar abounded with that metal, aqua fortis would
find it out there, I put some dulcified colcothar into that
menstruum, and found the liquor according to my expectation
presently coloured as highly as if it had been an
ordinary solution of copper.

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THE FIFTH PART
HERE Carneades making a pause, I must not deny (saies
his friend to him) that I think you have sufficiently proved
that these distinct substances which chymists are wont
to obtain from mixt bodies, by their vulgar distillation,
are not pure and simple enough to deserve, in rigor of
speaking, the name of elements, or principles. But I
suppose you have heard, that there are some modem
spagyrists, who give out that they can by further and
more skilfull purifications, so reduce the separated
ingredients of mixt bodies to an elementary simplicity,
that the oyles (for instance) extracted from all mixts shall
as perfectly resemble one another, as the drops of water do.
If you remember (replies Carneades) that at the beginning of our conference with Philoponus, I declared to him
before the rest of the company, that I would not engage
myself at present to do any more than examine the usual
proofs alledged by chymists, for the vulgar doctrine of
their three hypostatical principles; you will easily
perceive that I am not obliged to make answer to what
you newly proposed; and that it rather grants, than
disproves what I have been contending for: since by
pretending to make so great a change in the reputed
principles that distillation affords the common spagyrists,
'tis plainly enough presupposed, that before such artificial
depurations be made, the substances to be made more
simple were not yet simple enough to be looked upon as
elementary; wherefore in case the artists you speak of
could perform what they give out they can, yet I should
not need to be ashamed of having questioned the vulgar
opinion touching the tria prima. And as to the thing
itself, I shall freely acknowledge to you, that I love not
to be forward in determining things to be impossible, till
I know and have considered the means by which they are
proposed to be effected. And therefore I shall not
peremptorily deny either the possibility of what these

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The Sceptical Chymist 155
artists promise, or my assent to any just inference; however
destructive to my conjectures, that may be drawn
from their performances. But give me leave to tell you
withall, that because such promises are wont (as experience
has more than once informed me) to be much
more easily made, than made good by chymists, I must
withhold my belief from their assertions, till their experiments
exact it; and must not be so easie as to expect
beforehand, an unlikely thing upon no stronger inducements
than are yet given me: besides that I have not yet
found by what I have heard of these artists, that though
they pretend to bring the several substances into which
the fire has divided the concrete, to an exquisite simplicity,
they pretend also to be able by the fire to divide
all concretes, minerals, and others, into the same number
of distinct substances. And in the meantime I must
think it improbable, that they can either truly separate
as many differing bodies from gold (for instance) or
ostiocolla, as we can do from wine, or vitriol; or that
the mercury (for example) of gold or saturn would be
perfectly of the same nature with that of hartshorn; and
that the sulphur of antimony would be but numerically
different from the distilled butter or oyle of roses.
But suppose (saies Eleutherius) that you should meet
with chymists, who would allow you to take in earth and
water into the number of the principles of mixt bodies;
and being also content to change the ambiguous name
of mercury for that more intelligible one of spirit, should
consequently make the principles of compound bodies
to be five; would you not think it something hard to
reject so plausible an opinion, only because the five
substances into which the fire divides mixt bodies are not
exactly pure, and homogeneous? For my part (continues
Eleutherius) I cannot but think it somewhat strange, in
case this opinion be not true, that it should fall out so
luckily, that so great a variety of bodies should be
analyzed by the fire into just five distinct substances;
which so little differing from the bodies that bear those
names, may so plausibly be called oyle, spirit, salt, water,
and earth.

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156 The Sceptical Chymist
The opinion you now propose (answers Carneades) being another than that I was engaged to examine, it is
not requisite for me to debate at this present; nor should
I have leasure to do it thoroughly. Wherefore I shall
only tell you in general, that though I think this opinion
in some respects more defensible than that of the vulgar
chymists; yet you may easily enough learn from the past
discourse what may be thought of it: since many of the
objections made against the vulgar doctrine of the
chymists seem, without much alteration, employable
against this hypothesis also. For, besides that this
doctrine does as well as the other take it for granted,
(what is not easie to be proved) that the fire is the true
and adequate analyzer of bodies, and that all the distinct
substances obtainable from a mixt body by the fire, were
so pre-existent in it, that they were but extricated from
each other by the analysis; besides that this opinion, too,
ascribes to the productions of the fire an elementary
simplicity, which I have shewn not to belong to them;
and besides that this doctrine is lyable to some of the
other difficulties, wherewith that of the tria prima is
incumbered; besides all this, I say, this quinary number
of elements, (if you pardon the expression) ought at least
to have been restrained to the generality of animal and
vegetable bodies, since not only among these there are
some bodies, (as I formerly argued) which, for ought yet
has been made to appear, do consist, either of fewer or
more similar substances than precisely five. But in the
mineral kingdom, there is scarce one concrete that has
been evinced to be adequately divisible into such five
principles or elements, and neither more nor lesse, as this
opinion would have every mixt body to consist of.
And this very thing (continues Carneades) may serve
to take away or lessen your wonder, that just so many
bodies as five should be found upon the resolution of
concretes. For since we find not that the fire can make
any such analysis (into five elements) of metals and other
mineral bodies whose texture is more strong and permanent,
it remains that the five substances under consideration
be obtained from vegetable and animal bodies,

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The Sceptical Chymist 157
which (probably by reason of their looser contexture)
are capable of being distilled. And as to such bodies,
'tis natural enough, that, whether we suppose that there
are, or are not, precisely five elements, there should
ordinarily occur in the dissipated parts a five-fold diversity
of scheme (if I may so speak): for if the parts do not remain
all fixed, as in gold, calcined talck, etc. nor all ascend,
as in the sublimation of brimstone, camphire, etc. but
after their dissipation do associate themselves into new
schemes of matter; it is very likely, that they will by the
fire be divided into fixed and volatile (I mean, in reference
to that degree of heat by which they are distilled) and
those volatile parts will, for the most part, ascend either
in a dry forme, which chymists are pleased to call, if they
be tasteless, flowers; if sapid, volatile salt; or in a liquid
forme. And this liquor must be either inflamable, and
so pass for oyl, or not inflamable, and yet subtile and
pungent, which may be called spirit; or else strengthless
or insipid, which may be named phlegme, or water. And
as for the fixt part, or caput mortuum, it will most commonly
consist of corpuscles, partly soluble in water, or
sapid, (especially if the saline parts were not so volatile,
as to fly away before) which make up its fixt salt; and
partly insoluble and insipid, which therefore seems to
challenge the name of earth. But although upon this
ground one might easily enough have foretold, that the
differing substances obtained from a perfectly mixt body
by the fire would for the most part be reducible to the
five newly mentioned states of matter; yet it will not
presently follow, that these five distinct substances were
simple and primogeneal bodies, so pre-existent in the
concrete that the fire does but take them asunder. Besides
that it does not appear, that an mixt bodies (witness,
gold, silver, mercury, etc.) nay nor perhaps all vegetables,
which may appear by what we said above of camphire,
benzoin, etc., are resoluble by fire into just such differing
schemes of matter. Nor will the experiments formerly
alledged permit us to look upon these separated substances
as elementary, or uncompounded. Neither will it be a
sufficient argument of their being bodies that deserve the

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158 The Sceptical Chymist
names which chymists are pleased to give them, that
they have an analogy in point of consistence, or either
volatility or fixtness, or else some other obvious quality,
with the supposed principles, whose names are ascribed
to them. For, as I told you above, notwithstanding this
resemblance in some one quality, there may be such a
disparity in others, as may be more fit to give them
differing appellations, than the resemblance is to give
them one and the same. And indeed it seems but somewhat
a gross way of judging of the nature of bodies, to
conclude without scruple, that those must be of the same
nature that agree in some such general quality, as fluidity,
dryness, volatility, and the like: since each of those
qualities, or states of matter, may comprehend a great
variety of bodies, otherwise of a very differing nature;
as we may see in the calxes of gold, of vitriol, and of
Venetian talck, compared with common ashes, which yet
are very dry, and fixed by the vehemence of the fire, as
well as they. And as we may likewise gather from what
I have formerly observed, touching the spirit of boxwood,
which though a volatile, sapid, and not inflamable
liquor, as well as the spirits of hartshorn, of blood and
others, (and therefore has been hitherto called, the spirit,
and esteemed for one of the principles of the wood that
affords it) may yet, as I told you, be subdivided into two
liquors, differing from one another, and one of them at
least, from the generality of other chymical spirits.
But you may yourself, if you please, (pursues Carneades)
accomodate to the hypothesis you proposed what other
particulars you shall think applicable to it, in the foregoing
discourse. For I think it unseasonable for me to
medle now any further with a controversie which since
it does not now belong to me, leaves me at liberty to take
my own time to declare myself about it.
Eleutherius perceiving that Carneades was somewhat unwilling to spend any more time upon the debate of this
opinion, and having perhaps some thoughts of taking
hence a rise to make him discourse it more fully another
time, thought not fit as then to make any further mention
to him of the proposed opinion, but told him;

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The Sceptical Chymist 159
I presume I need not mind you, Carneades, that both the patrons of the ternary number of principles, and those
that would have five elements, endeavour to back their
experiments with a specious reason or two; and especially
some of those embracers of the opinion fast named (whom
I have conversed with, and found them learned men)
assigne this reason of the necessity of five distinct elements;
that otherwise mixt bodies could not be so compounded
and tempered as to obtain a due consistence and competent
duration. For salt (say they) is the basic of
solidity; and permanency in compound bodies, without
which the other four elements might indeed be variously
and loosly blended together, but would remain incompacted;
but that salt might be dissolved into minute
parts, and conveyed to the other substances to be compacted
by it, and with it, there is a necessity of water.
And that the mixture may not be too hard and brittle,
a sulphureous or oyly principle must intervene to make
the mass more tenacious; to this a mercurial spirit must
be superadded; which by its activity may for a while
permeate, and as it were leaven the whole mass, and
thereby promote the more exquisite mixture and incorporation
of the ingredients. To all which (lastly) a
portion of earth must be added, which by its dryness
and porosity may soak up part of that water wherein
the salt was dissolved, and eminently concurr with the
other ingredients to give the whole body the requisite
consistence.
I perceive (saies Carneades smiling) that if it be true, as 'twas lately noted from the proverb, " That good wits
have bad memories," you have that title, as well as a
better, to a place among the good wits. For you have
already more than once forgot, that I declared to you
that I would at this conference examine only the experiments
of my adversaries, not their speculative reasons.
Yet 'tis not (subjoynes Carneades) for fear of medling
with the argument you have proposed, that I decline
the examining it at present. For if when we are more at
leasure, you shall have a mind that we may solemnly
consider of it together; I am confident we shall scarce

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160 The Sceptical Chymist
finde it insoluble. And in the meantime we may observe,
that such a way of arguing may, it seems, be speciously
accommodated to differing hypotheses. For I find that
Beguinus, and other assertors, of the tria prima, pretend
to make out by such a way, the requisiteness of their
salt, sulphur and mercury, to constitute mixt bodies,
without taking notice of any necessity of an addition of
water and earth.
And indeed neither sort of chymists seem to have duly considered how great variety there is in the textures and
consistences of compound bodies; and how little the
consistence and duration of many of them seem to
accommodate and be explicable by the proposed notion.
And not to mention those almost incorruptible substances
obtainable by the fire, which I have proved to be somewhat
compounded, and which the chymists will readily
grant not to be perfectly mixt bodies: (not to mention
these, I say) if you will but recall to mind some of those
experiments, whereby I shewed you that out of common
water only mixt bodies (and even living ones) of very
differing consistences, and resoluble by fire into as many
principles as other bodies acknowledged to be perfectly
mixt; may be produced if you do this, I say, you will
not, I suppose, be averse from believing, yet nature by
a convenient disposition of the minute parts of a portion
of matter may contrive bodies durable enough, and of
this, or that, or the other consistence, without being
obliged to make use of all, much less of any determinate
quantity of each of the five elements, or of the three
principles to compound such bodies of. And I have
(pursues Carneades) something wondered, chymists should
not consider, that there is scarce any body in nature so
permanent and indissoluble as glass; which yet themselves
teach us may be made of bare ashes, brought to
fusion by the mere violence of the fire; so that, since
ashes are granted to consist but of pure salt and simple
earth, sequestred from all the other principles or elements,
they must acknowledge, that even art itself can of two
elements only, or, if you please, one principle and one
element, compound a body more durable than almost

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The Sceptical Chymist 161
any in the world. Which being undeniable, how will
they prove that nature cannot compound mixt bodies,
and even durable ones, under all the five elements or
material principles.
But to insist any longer on this occasional disquisition, touching their opinion that would establish five elements,
were to remember as little as you did before, that the
debate of this matter is no part of my first undertaking;
and consequently, that I have already spent time enough
in what I look back upon but as a digression, or at best
an excursion.
And thus, Eleutherius, (saies Carneades) having at length gone through the four considerations I proposed
to discourse unto you, I hold it not unfit, for fear my
having insisted so long on each of them may have made
you forget their series, briefly to repeat them by telling
you, that
Since, in the first place, it may justly be doubted whether or no the fire be, as chymists suppose it, the
genuine and universal resolver of mixt bodies;
Since we may doubt, in the next place, whether or no all the distinct substances that may be obtained from a
mixt body by the fire were pre-existent there in the formes
in which they were separated from it;
Since also, though we should grant the substances separable from mixt bodies by the fire to have been their
component ingredients, yet the number of such substances
does not appear the same in all mixt bodies; some of them
being resoluble into more differing substances than three,
and others not being resoluble into so many as three;
And since, lastly, those very substances that are thus separated are not for the must part pure and elementary
bodies, but new kinds of mixts;
Since, I say, these things are so, I hope you will allow me to inferr, that the vulgar experiments (I might perchance
have added, the arguments too) wont to be
alledged by chymists to prove, that their three hypostatical
principles do adequately compose all mixt bodies,
are not so demonstrative as to induce a wary person to
acquiesce in their doctrine, which, till they explain and

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162 The Sceptical Chymist
prove it better, will by its perplexing darkness be more
apt to puzzle than satisfy considering men, and will to
them appear incumbered with no small difficulties.
And from what has been hitherto deduced (continues
Carneades) we may learn, what to judge of the common
practice of those chymists, who because they have found
that diverse compound bodies (for it will not hold in all)
can be resolved into, or rather can be brought to afford
two or three differing substances more than the soot and
ashes, whereinto the naked fire commonly divides them
in our chymnies, cry up their own sect for the invention
of a new philosophy, some of them, as Helmont, etc.
styling themselves philosophers by the fire; and the most
part not only ascribing, but as far as in them lies, engrossing
to those of their sect the title of PHILOSOPHERS.
But alas, how narrow is this philosophy, that reaches but to some of those compound bodies, which we find but
upon, or in the crust or outside of our terrestrial globe,
which is itself but a point in comparison of the vast
extended universe, of whose other and greater parts the
doctrine of the tria prima does not give us an account!
For what does it teach us, either of the nature of the sun,
which astronomers affirme to be eight-score and odd times
bigger than the whole earth? or of that of those numerous
fixt starrs, which, for ought we know, would very few,
if any of them, appear inferiour, in bulke and brightness
to the sun, if they were as near us as he? What does
the knowing that salt, sulphur and mercury, are the
principles of mixt bodies, informe us of the nature of that
vast, fluid, and aetherial substance, that seems to make
up the interstellar, and consequently much the greatest
part of the world? for as for the opinion commonly
ascribed to Paracelsus, as if he would have not only the
four peripatetick elements, but even the celestial parts
of the universe to consist of his three principles, since
the modem chymists themselves have not thought so
groundless a conceit worth their owning, I shall not think
it worth my confuting.
But I should perchance forgive the hypothesis I have been all this while examining, if, though it reaches but

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The Sceptical Chymist 163
to a very little part of the world, it did at least give us
a satisfactory account of those things to which 'tis said
to reach. But find not, that it gives us any other
than a very imperfect information even about mixt
bodies themselves: for how will the knowledge of the
tria prima discover to us the reason, why the loadstone
drawes a needle, and disposes it to respect the poles, and
yet seldom precisely points at them? How will this
hypothesis teach us how a chick is formed in the egge,
or how the seminal principles of mint, pompions, and
other vegetables, that I mentioned to you above, can
fashion water into various plants, each of them endowed
with its peculiar and determinate shape, and with divers
specifick and discriminating qualities ? How does this
hypothesis shew us, how much salt, how much sulphur,
and how much mercury must be taken to make a chick
or a pompion? and if we know that: what principle is it
that manages these ingredients, and contrives (for instance)
such liquors as the white and yolk of an egge into
such a variety of textures as is requisite to fashion the
bones, veines, arteries, nerves, tendons, feathers, blood,
and other parts of a chick; and not only to fashion each
limbe, but to connect them altogether, after that manner
that is most congruous to the perfection of the animal
which is to consist of them? For to say, that some more
fine and subtile part of either or all the hypostatical
principles is the director in all this business, and the
architect of all this elaborate structure, is to give one
occasion to demand again, what proportion and way of
mixture of the tria prima afforded this architectonick
spirit, and what agent made so skilful and happy a
mixture? And the answer to this question, if the chymists
will keep themselves within their three principles, will be
lyable to the same inconvenience, that the answer to the
former was. And if it were not to intrench upon the
theame of a friend of ours here present, I could easily
prosecute the imperfections of the vulgar chymists
philosophy, and shew you, that by going about to explicate
by their three principles, I say not, all the abstruse
properties of mixt bodies, but even such obvious and more

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164 The Sceptical Chymist
familiar phaenomena as fluidity and firmness, the colours
and figures of stones, minerals, and other compound
bodies, the nutrition of either plants or animals, the
gravity of gold or quicksilver compared with wine or
spirit of wine; by attempting, I say, to render a reason
of these (to omit a thousand others as difficult to account
for) from any proportion of the three simple ingredients,
chymists will be much more likely to discredit themselves
and their hypothesis, than satisfy an intelligent inquirer
after truth.
But (interposes Eleutherius) this objection seems no more than may be made against the four peripatetick
elements. And indeed almost against any other hypothesis,
that pretends by any determinate number of
material ingredients to render a reason of the phaenomena
of nature. And as for the use of the chymical
doctrine of the three principles, I suppose you need not
be told by me, that the great champion of it, the learned
Sennertus, assignes this noble use of the tria prima, that
from them, as the nearest and most proper principles,
may be deduced and demonstrated the properties which
are in mixt bodies, and which cannot be proximately
(as they speak) deduced from the elements. And this,
saies he, is chiefly apparent, when we inquire into the
properties and faculties of medicines. And I know
(continues Eleutherius) that the person you have assumed,
of an opponent of the hermetick doctrine, will not so far
prevaile against your native and wonted equity, as to keep
you from acknowledging that philosophy is much beholden
to the notions and discoveries of chymists.
If the chymists you speak of (replyes Carneades) had been so modest, or so discreet, as to propose their opinion
of the tria prima, but as a notion useful among others,
to increase humane knowledge, they had deserved more
of our thanks, and less of our opposition; but since the
thing, that they pretend, is not so much to contribute
a notion toward the improvement of philosophy, as to
make this notion (attended by a few less considerable ones)
pass for a new philosophy itself; nay, since they boast
so much of this phancie of theirs, that the famous Quercetanus

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The Sceptical Chymist 165
scruples not to write, that if his most certain
doctrine of the three principles were sufficiently learned,
examined, and cultivated, it would easily dispel all the
darkness that benights our minds, and bring in a clear
light, that would remove all difficulties: this school
affording theorems and axioms irrefragable, and to be
admitted without dispute by impartial judges; and so
useful withal, as to exempt us from the necessity of having
recourse, for want of the knowledge of causes, to that
sanctuary of the ignorant, occult qualities; since I say,
this domestick notion of the chymists is so much overvalued
by them, I cannot think it unfit, they should be
made sensible of their mistake; and be admonished to
take in more fruitful and comprehensive principles, if they
mean to give us an account of the phaenomena of nature;
and not confine themselves, and (as far as they can) others,
to such narrow principles, as I fear will scarce enable them
to give an account (I mean an intelligible one) of the
tenth part (I say not) of an the phaenomena of nature;
but even of all such as by the Leucippian or some of the
other sorts of principles may be plausibly enough explicated.
And though I be not unwilling to grant, that the
incompetency I impute to the chymical hypothesis is but
the same which may be objected against that of the four
elements, and divers other doctrines that have been
maintained by learned men; yet since 'tis the chymical
hypothesis only which I am now examining, I see not
why, if what I impute to it be a real inconvenience, either
it should cease to be so, or I should scruple to object it,
because other theories are lyable thereunto, as well as the
hermetical. For I know not why a truth should be
thought less a truth for the being fit to overthrow variety
of errors.
I am obliged to you (continues Carneades, a little smiling) for the favourable opinion you are pleased to
express of my equity, if there be no designe in it. But
I need not be tempted by an artifice, or invited by a
complement, to acknowledge the great service that the
labours of chymists have done the lovers of useful learning;
nor even on this occasion shall their arrogance hinder

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166 The Sceptical Chymist
my gratitude. But since we are as well examining the
truth of their doctrine, as the merit of their industry,
I must in order to the investigation of the first, continue
a reply, to talk at the rate of the part I have assumed;
and tell you, that when I acknowledge the usefulness of
the labours of spagyrists to natural philosophy, I do it
upon the score of their experiments, not upon that of
their speculations; for it seems to me, that their writings,
as their furnaces, afford as well smoak as light; and do
little less obscure some subjects, than they illustrate
others. And though I am unwilling to deny, that 'tis
difficult for a man to be an accomplisht naturalist, that
is a stranger to chymistry; yet I look upon the common
operations and practices of chymists, almost as I do on
the letters of the alphabet; without whose knowledge 'tis
very hard for a man to become a philosopher; and yet
that knowledge is very far from being sufficient to make
him one.
But (saies Carneades, resuming more serious look) to consider a little more particularly what you alledge
in favour of the chymical doctrine of the tria prima,
though I shall readily acknowledge it not to be unuseful,
and that the divisers and embracers of it have done the
commonwealth of learning some service, by helping to
destroy that excessive esteem, or rather veneration,
wherewith the doctrine of the four elements was almost
as generally, as undeservedly entertained; yet what has
been alledged concerning the usefulness of the tria prima,
seems to me liable to no contemptible difficulties.
And first, as for the very way of probation, which the more learned and more sober champions of the chymical
cause employ to evince the chymical principles in mixt
bodies, it seems to me to be farr enough from being convincing.
This grand and leading argument, your Sennertus
himself, who layes great weight upon it, and tells
us, that the most learned philosophers employ this way
of reasoning to prove the most important things, proposes
thus: " Ubicunque (saies he) pluribus eaedem
affectiones et qualitates insunt, per commune quoddam
principium insint necesse est, sicut omnia sunt gravia

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The Sceptical Chymist 167
propter terram, calida propter ignem. At colores, odores,
sapores, esse φλογιστὲν et similia alia, mineralibus, metallis,
gemmis, lapidibus, plantis, animalibus insunt. Ergo per
commune aliquod principium, et subjectum, insunt.
At tale principium non sunt elementa. Nullam enim
habent ad tales qualitates producendas potentiam. Ergo
alia principia, unde fluant, inquirenda sunt."
In the recital of this argument, (saies Carneades) I therefore thought fit to retain the language wherein the
author proposes it, that I might also retaine the propriety
of some Latine termes, to which I do not readily remember
any that fully answer in English. But as for the argumentation
itself, 'tis built upon a precarious supposition,
that seems to me neither demonstrable nor true; for,
how does it appear that where the same quality is to be
met with in many bodies, it must belong to them upon
the account of some one body whereof they all partake?
(For that the major of our authors argument is to be
understood of the material ingredients of bodies, appears
by the instances of earth and fire he annexes to explain
it.) For to begin with that very example which he is
leased to alledge for himself; how can he prove, that the
gravity of all bodies proceeds from what they participate
of the element of earth? Since we see, that not only
common water, but the more pure distilled rain water
is heavy; and quicksilver is much heavier than earth
itself; though none of my adversaries has yet proved,
that it contains any of that element. And I the rather
make use of this example of quicksilver, because I see
not how the assertors of the elements will give any better
account of it than the chymists. For if it be demanded
how it comes to be fluid, they will answer, that it participates
much of the nature of water. And indeed, according
to them, water may be the predominant element in
it, since we see, that severall bodies, which by distillation
afford liquors that weigh more than their caput mortuum,
do not yet consist of liquor enough to be fluid. Yet if it
be demanded how quicksilver comes to be so heavy, then
'tis replyed, that 'tis by reason of the earth that abounds
in it; but since, according to them, it must consist also

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168 The Sceptical Chymist
of air, and partly of fire, which they affirme to be light
elements, how comes it that it should be so much heavier
than earth of the same bulk, though to fill up the porosities
and other cavities it be made up into a mass or paste
with water, which itself they allow to be a heavy element.
But to returne to our spagyrists, we see that chymical
oyles and fixt salts, though never so exquisitely purifyed
and freed from terrestrial parts, do yet remain ponderous
enough. And experience has informed me, that a pound
(for instance) of some of the heaviest woods, as guajacum,
that will sinke in water, being burnt to ales will yeeld
a much less weight of them (whereof I found but a small
part to be alcalizate) than much lighter vegetables: as
also that the black charcoal of it will not sink as did the
wood, but swim; which argues that the differing gravity
of bodies proceeds chiefly from the particular texture,
as is manifest in gold, the closest and compactest of
bodies, which is many times heavier than we can possibly
make any parcel of earth of the same bulk. I will not
examine, what may be argued touching the gravity or
quality analogous thereunto, of even celestial bodies,
from the motion of the spots about the sun, and from the
appearing equality of the supposed seas in the moon;
nor consider how little those phaenomena would agree
with what Sennertus presumes concerning gravity. But
further to invalidate his supposition, I shall demand, upon
what chymical principle fluidity depends? And yet
fluidity is, two or three perhaps excepted, the most diffused
quality of the universe, and far more general than almost
any other of those that are to be met with in any of the
chymical principles, or Aristotelian elements; since not
only the air, but that vast expansion we call heaven,
in comparison of which our terrestrial globe (supposing
it were all solid) is but a point; and perhaps too the sun
and the fixt stars are fluid bodies. I demand also, from
which of the chymical principles motion flowes; which
yet is an affection of matter much more general than any
that can be deduced from any of the three chymical
principles. I might ask the like question concerning
light, which is not only to be found in the kindled sulphur

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The Sceptical Chymist 169
of mixt bodies but (not to mention those sorts of rotten
woods, and rotten fish that shine in the dark) in the tails
of living glow-wormes, and in the vast bodies of the sun
and stars. I would gladly also know, in which of the
three principles the quality, we call sound, resides as in
its proper subject; since either oyl falling upon oyle, or
spirit upon spirit, or salt upon salt, in a great quantity,
and from a considerable height, will make a noise, or if
you please, create a sound, and (that the objection may
reach the Aristoteliens) so will also water upon water,
and earth upon earth. And I could name other qualities
to be met with in divers bodies, of which I suppose my
adversaries will not in haste assign any subject, upon
whose account in must needs be, that the quality belongs
to all the other several bodies.
And, before I proceed any further, I must here invite you to compare the supposition we are examining, with
some other of the chymical tenents. For, first they do
in effect teach, that more than one quality may belong
to, and be deduced from, one principle. For, they ascribe
to salt, tastes, and the power of coagulation; to sulphur,
as well odours as inflamableness; and some of them
ascribe to mercury, colours; as all of them do effumability,
as they speak. And on the other side, it is evident that
volatility belongs in common to all the three principles,
and to water too. For 'tis manifest that chymical oyles
are volatile; that also divers salts, emerging upon the
analysis of many concretes, are very volatile, is plain from
the fugitiveness of salt, of hartshorn, flesh, etc. ascending
in the distillation of those bodies. How easily water
may be made to ascend in vapours, there is scarce anybody
that has not observed. And as for what they call
the mercurial principle of bodies, that is so apt to be
raised in the form of steam, that Paracelsus and others
define it by that aptness to fly up; so that (to draw that
inference by the way) it seems not that chymists have
been accurate in their doctrine of qualities, and their
respective principles, since they both derive several
qualities from the same principle, and must ascribe the
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170 The Sceptical Chymist
bodies besides. And thus much for the first thing taken
for granted, without sufficient proof, by your Sennertus:
and to add that upon the by (continues Carneades) we
may hence learn what to judge of the way of argumentation,
which that fierce champion of the Aristotelians
against the chymists, Anthonius Guntherus Billichius
employes, where he pretends to prove against Beguinus,
that not only the four elements do immediately concurr
to constitute every mixt body, and are both present in it,
and obtainable from it upon its dissolution; but that in
the tria prima themselves, whereinto chymists are wont
to resolve mixt bodies, each of them clearly discovers
itself to consist of four elements. The ratiocination itself
(pursues Carneades) being somewhat unusual, I did the
other day transcribe it, and (saies he, pulling a paper
out of his pocket) it is this. " Ordiamur, cum Beguino,
à ligno viridi, quod si concremetur, videbis in sudore
aquam, in fumo aerem, inflamma et prunis ignem, terram
in cineribus: quod si Beguino placuerit ex eo colligere
humidum aquosum, cohibere humidum oleaginosum,
extrahere ex cineribus salem; ego ipsi in unoquoque
horum seorsim quatuor elementa ad oculum demonstrabo,
eodem artificio quo in ligno viridi ea demonstravi.
Humorem aquosum admoveho igni. Ipse aquam ebullire
videbit, in vapore aerem conspiciet, ignem sentiet in
aestu, plus minus terrae in sedimento apparebit. Humor
porro oleaginosus aquam humiditate et fluiditate per se,
accensus vero ignem flamma prodit, fumo aerem, fuligine,
nidore et amurca terram. Salem denique ipse, Beguinus
siccum vocat et terrestrem, qui tamen nec fusus aquam,
nec caustica vi ignem celare potest; ignis vero violentia
in halitus versus nec ab aere se alienum esse demonstrat;
idem de lacte, de ovis, de semine lini, de garyophyllis;
de nitro, de sale marino, denique de antimonio, quod
fuit de ligno viridi judicium; eadem de illomm partibus,
quas Beguinus adducit, sententia, quae de viridis ligni
humore aquoso, quae de liquore ejusdem oleoso, quae
de sale fuit."
This bold discourse (resumes Carneades, putting up again his paper) I think it were not very difficult to confute,

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The Sceptical Chymist 171
if his arguments were as considerable, as our time
will probably prove short for the remaining and more
necessary part of my discourse; wherefore referring you
for an answer to what was said concerning the dissipated
parts of a burnt piece of green wood, to what I told
Themistius on the like occasion, I might easily shew you,
how slightly and superficially our Guntherus talks of the
dividing the flame of green wood into his four elements;
when he makes that vapour to be air, which being caught
in glasses and condensed, presently discovers itself to have
been but an aggregate of innumerable very minute drops
of liquor; and when he would prove the phlegmes being
composed of fire by that heat which is adventitious to the
liquor, and ceases upon the absence of what produced it
(whether that be an agitation proceeding from the motion
of the external fire, or the presence of a multitude of
igneous atomes pervading the pores of the vessel, and
nimbly permeating the whole body of the water) I might,
I say, urge these and divers other weaknesses of his discourse.
But I will rather take notice of what is more
pertinent to the occasion of this digression, namely, that
taking it for granted, that fluidity (with which he unwarily
seems to confound humidity) must proceed from the
element of water, he makes a chymical oyle to consist of
that elementary liquor; and yet in the very next words
proves, that it consists also of fire, by its inflamability;
not remembring that exquisitely pure spirit of wine is
both more fluid than water itself, and yet will flame all
away without leaving the least aqueous moisture behind
it; and without such an amurca and soot as he would
deduce the presence of earth from. So that the same,
liquor may according to his doctrine be concluded by its
great fluidity to be almost all water; and by its burning
all away to be all disguised fire. And by the like way of
probation our author would shew that the fixt salt of
wood is compounded of the four elements. For (saies he)
being turned by the violence of the fire into steames, it
shews itself to be of kin to air; whereas I doubt whether
he ever saw a true fixt salt (which to become so, must
have already endured the violence of an incinerating fire)

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172 The Sceptical Chymist
brought by the fire alone to ascend in the forme of exhalations;
but I do not doubt that if he did, and had caught
those exhalations in convenient vessels, he would have
found them as well as the steames of common salt, etc.
of a saline, and not an aëreal nature. And whereas our
author takes it also for granted, that the fusibility of salt
must be deduced from water it is indeed so much the
effect of heat variously agitating the minute parts of a
body, without regard to water, that gold (which by its
being the heaviest and fixtest of bodies, should be the
most earthy) will be brought to fusion by a strong fire;
which sure is more likely to drive away, than increase its
aqueous ingredient, if it have any; and on the other side,
for want of a sufficient agitation of its minute parts, ice
is not fluid, but solid; though he presumes also that the
mordicant quality of bodies must proceed from a fiery
ingredient; whereas, not to urge that the light and
inflamable parts, which are the most likely to belong
to the element of fire, must probably be driven away by
that time the violence of the fire has reduced the body
to ashes; not to urge this, I say, nor that oyle of vitriol
which quenches fire, burnes the tongue and flesh of those
that unwarily taste or apply it, as a caustick doth, it is
precarious to prove the presence of fire in fixt salts from
their caustick power, unless it were first shewn, that all
the qualities ascribed to salts must be deduced from those
of the elements; which, had I time, I could easily manifest
to be no easy task. And not to mention that our author
makes a body, as homogeneous, as any he can produce for
elementary, belong both to water and fire, though it be
neither fluid nor insipid, like water; nor light and volatile,
like fire; he seems to omit in this anatomy the element
of earth, save that he intimates, that the salt may pass for
that: but since a few lies before, he takes ashes for earth,
I see not how he will avoid an inconsistency either betwixt
the parts of his discourse, or betwixt some of them and his
doctrine. For since there is a manifest difference betwixt
the saline and the insipid parts of ashes, I see not how
substances, that disagree in such notable qualities, can
be both said to be portions of an element, whose nature

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The Sceptical Chymist 173
requires that it be homogeneous, especially in this case
where an analysis by the fire is supposed to have separated
it from the admixture of other elements, which are
confessed by most Aristotelians to be generally found
in common earth, and to render it impure. And sure if
when we have considered for how little a disparities sake
the peripateticks make these symbolizing bodies, aire
and fire, to be two distinct elements, we shall also consider
that the saline part of ashes is very strongly tasted, and
easily soluble in water; whereas the other part of the
same ashes is insipid and indissoluble in the same liquor:
not to add, that the one substance is opacous, and the
other somewhat diaphanous, nor that they differ in
divers other particulars; if we consider those things, I
say, we shall hardly think that both these substances are
elementary earth; and as to what is sometimes objected,
that their saline taste is only an effect of incineration and
adustion, it has been elsewhere fully replyed to, when
proposed by Themistius, and where it has been proved
against him, that however insipid earth may perhaps
by additaments be turned into salt, yet 'tis not like it
should be so by the fire alone: for we see that when we
refine gold and silver, the violentest fires we can employ
on them give them not the least relish of saltness. And
I think Philoponus has rightly observed, that the ashes
of some concretes contain very little salt if any at all;
for refiners suppose that bone-ashes are free from it, and
therefore make use of them for tests and cuppels, which
ought to be destitute of salt, lest the violence of the fire
should bring them to vitrification; and having purposely
and heedfully tasted a cuppel made of only bone-ashes
and fair water, which I had caused to be exposed to a
very violent fire, actuated by the blast of a large pair of
double bellows, I could not perceive that the force of the
fire had imparted to it the least saltness, or so much as
made it less insipid.
But (saies Carneades) since neither you nor I love repetitions, I shall not now make any of what else was
urged against Themistius, but rather invite you to take
notice with me, that when our authour, though a learned

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174 The Sceptical Chymist
man, and one that pretends skill enough in chymistry
to reforme the whole art, comes to make good his confident
undertaking, to give us an ocular demonstration of the
immediate presence of the four elements in the resolution
of green wood, he is fain to say things that agree very
little with one another. For about the beginning of that
passage of his lately recited to you, he makes the sweat,
as he calls it, of the green wood to be water, the smoak
aire, the shining matter fire, and the ashes earth; whereas
a few lines after, he will in each of these, nay (as I just
now noted) in one distinct part of the ashes, shew the
four elements. So that either the former analysis must
be incompetent to prove that number of elements, since
by it the burnt concrete is not reduced into elementary
bodies, but into such as are yet each of them compounded
of the four elements; or else these qualities, from which
he endeavours to deduce the presence of all the elements
in the fixt salt, and each of the other separated substances,
will be but a precarious way of probation: especially if
you consider, that the extracted alcali of wood, being,
for ought appears, at least as similar a body, as any that
the peripateticks can shew us, if its differing qualities
must argue the presence of distinct elements, it will scarce
be possible for them by any way they know of employing
the fire upon any body, to shew that any body is a portion
of a true element: and this recals to my mind, that I am
now but in an occasional excursion, which aiming only
to shew, that the peripateticks as well as the chymists
take in our present controversie something for granted,
which they ought to prove, I shall returne to my exceptions,
where I ended the first of them, and further tell
you, that neither is that the only precarious thing that
I take notice of in Sennertus his argumentation; for
when he inferrs, that because the qualities he mentions,
as colours, smels, and the like, belong not to the elements,
they therefore must to the chymical principles; he takes
that for granted, which will not in haste be proved; as
I might here manifest, but that I may by and by have
a fitter opportunity to take notice of it. And thus much
at present may suffice to have discoursed against the

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The Sceptical Chymist 175
supposition, that almost every quality must have some
δεκτικὸν πρω̑τον, as they speak, some native receptacle,
wherein as in its proper subject of inhesion it peculiarly
resides; and on whose account that quality belongs to
the other bodies, wherein it is to be met with. Now this
fundamental supposition being once destroyed, whatsoever
is built upon it, must fall to ruine of itself.
But I consider further, that chymists are (for ought
I have found) far from being able to explicate by any of
the tria prima, those qualities which they pretend to
belong primarily unto it, and in mixt bodies to deduce
from it. 'Tis true indeed, that such qualities are not
explicable by the four elements; but it will not therefore
follow that they are so by the three hermetical principles;
and this is it that seems to have deceived the chymists,
and is indeed a very common mistake amongst most
disputants, who argue as if there could be but two opinions
concerning the difficulty about which they contend; and
consequently they inferr, that if their adversaries opinion
be erroneous, their's must needs be the truth; whereas
many questions, and especially in matters physiological,
may admit of so many differing hypotheses, that 'twill
be very inconsiderate and fallacious to conclude (except
where the opinions are precisely contradictory) the truth
of one from the falsity of another. And in our particular
case 'tis no way necessary, that the properties of mixt
bodies must be explicable either by the hermetical, or the
Aristotelian hypothesis; there being divers other and
more plausible waies of explaining them, and especially
that, which deduces qualities from the motion, figure,
and contrivance of the small parts of bodies; as I think
might be shewn, if the attempt were as seasonable, as I
fear it would be tedious.
I will allow then, that the chymists do not causelesly accuse the doctrine of the four elements of incompetency
to explain the properties of compound bodies. And for
this rejection of a vulgar error, they ought not to be
denyed what praise men may deserve for exploding
a doctrine whose imperfections are so conspicuous, that
men needed but not to shut their eyes, to discover them.

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176 The Sceptical Chymist
But I am mistaken, if our hermetical philosophers themselves
need not, as well as the peripateticks, have recourse
to more fruitfull and comprehensive principles than the
tria prima, to make out the properties of the bodies they
converse with. Not to accumulate examples to this
purpose (because I hope for a fitter opportunity to prosecute
this subject) let us at present only point at colour,
that you may guess by what they say of so obvious and
familiar a quality, how little instruction we are to expect
from the tria prima in those more abstruse ones, which
they with the Aristotelians stile occult. For about
colours, neither do they at all agree among themselves,
nor have I met with any one, of which of the three
persuasions soever, that does intelligibly explicate them.
The vulgar chymists are wont to ascribe colours to
mercury; Paracelsus in divers places attributes them
to salt; and Sennertus, having recited their differing
opinions, dissents from both; and referrs colours rather
unto sulphur. But how colours do, nay, how they may,
arise from either of these principles, I think you will
scarce say that any has yet intelligibly explicated. And
if Mr. Boyle will allow me to shew you the experiments
which he has collected about colours, you will, I doubt
not, confess that bodies exhibite colours, not upon the
account of the predominancy of this or that principle in
them, but upon that of their texture, and especially the
disposition of their superficial parts, whereby the light
rebounding thence to the eye is so modified, as by differing
impressions variously to affect the organs of sight. I
might here take notice of the pleasing variety of colours
exhibited by the triangular glass (as 'tis wont to lie called)
and demand, what addition or decrement of either salt,
sulphur, or mercury, befalls the body of the glass by being
prismatically figured; and yet 'tis known, that without
that shape fit would not afford those colours as it does.
But because it may be objected, that these are not real,
but apparent colours; that I may not lose time in examining
the distinction, I will alledge against the chymists, a
couple of examples of real and permanent colours drawn
from metalline bodies; and represent, that without the

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The Sceptical Chymist 177
addition of any extraneous body, quicksilver may by the
fire alone, and that in glasse vessels, be deprived of its
silver-like colour, and be turned into a red body; and
from this red body without addition likewise may be
obtained a mercury bright and specular as it was before;
so that I have here a lasting colour generated and destroyed
(as I have seen) at pleasure, without adding or
taking away either mercury, salt, or sulphur; and if you
take a clean and slender piece of hardened steel, and apply
to it the flame of a candle at some little distance short
of the point, you shall not have held the steel long in the
flame, but you shall perceive divers colours, as yellow,
red and blew, to appear upon the surface of the metal, and
as it were run along in chase of one another towards the
point; so that the same body, and that in one and the
same part, may not only have a new colour produced
in it, but exhibite successively divers colours within
a minute of an hour, or thereabouts; and any of these
colours may by removing the steel from the fire, become
permanent, and fast many years, and this production
and variety of colours cannot reasonably be supposed to
proceed from the accession of any of the three principles,
to which of them soever chymists will be pleased to ascribe
colours; especially considering, that if you but suddenly,
refrigerate that iron, first made red hot, it will be hardened
and colourless again; and not only by the flame of a
candle, but by any other equivalent heat conveniently
applied, the like colours will again be made to appear and
succeed one another, as at the first. But I must not any
further prosecute an occasional discourse, though that
were not so difficult for me to do, as I fear it would be
for the chymists to give a better account of the other
qualities, by their principles, than they have done of
colours. And your Sennertus himself (though an author
I much value) would I fear have been exceedingly puzled
to resolve, by the tria prima, halfe that catalogue of
problems, which he challenges the vulgar peripateticks
to explicate by their four elements. And supposing it
were true, that salt or sulphur were the principle to which
this or that quality may be peculiarly referred, yet though

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178 The Sceptical Chymist
he that teaches us this, teaches us something concerning
that quality, yet he teaches us but something. For
indeed he does not teach us that which can in any tolerable
measure satisfie an inquisitive, searcher after truth. For
what is it to me to know, that such a quality resides in
such a principle or element, whilst I remain altogether
ignorant of the cause of that quality, and the manner of its
production and operation? How little do I know more
than any ordinary man of gravity, if I know but that the
heaviness of mixt bodies proceeds from that of the earth
they are composed of, if I know not the reason why the
earth is heavy ? And how little does the chymist teach
the philosopher of the nature of purgation, if he only
tells him that the purgative vertue of medicines resides
in their salt: for, besides that this must not be conceded
without limitation, since the purging parts of many
vegetables extracted by the water wherein they are
infused, are at most but such compounded salts (I mean
mingled with oyle, and spirit, and earth, as tartar and
divers other subjects of the vegetable kingdom afford)
and since too that quicksilver precipitated either with
gold, or without, addition into a powder, is wont to be
strongly enough cathartical, though the chymists have not
yet proved, that either gold or mercury have any salt at
all, much less any that is purgative; besides this, I say,
how little is it to me, to know that 'tis the salt of the
rhubarb (for instance) that purges, if I find that it does
not purge as salt; since scarce any elementary salt is in
small quantity cathartical. And in know not how
purgation in general is effected in a humane body? In
a word, as 'tis one thing to know a man's lodging, and
another, to be acquainted with him; so it may be one thing
to know the subject wherein a quality principally resides,
and another thing to have a right notion and knowledge
of the quality itself. Now that which I take to be the
reason of this chymical deficiency, is the same upon whose
account I think the Aristotelian and divers other theories
incompetent to explicate the origine of qualities. For
I am apt to think, that men will never be able to explain
the phaenomena of nature, while they endeavour to

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The Sceptical Chymist 179
deduce them only from the presence and proportion of
such or such material ingredients, and consider such
ingredients or elements as bodies in a state of rest; whereas
indeed the greatest part of the affections of matter,
and consequently of the phaenomena of nature, seems to
depend upon the motion and the contrivance of the small
parts of bodies. For 'tis by motion that one part of
matter acts upon another; and 'tis, for the most part,
the texture of the body upon which the moving parts
strike, that modifies the motion or impression, and
concurrs with it to the production of those effects which
make up the chief part of the naturalists theme.
But (saies Eleutherius) methinks for all this, you have left some part of what I alledged in behalf of the three
principles, unanswered. For all that you have said will
not keep this from being a useful discovery, that since in
the salt of one concrete, in the sulphur of another, and
the mercury of a third, the medicinal vertue of it resides;
that principle ought to be separated from the rest, and
there the desired faculty must be sought for.
I never denyed (replies Carneades) that the notion of the tria prima may be of some use, but (continues he
laughing) by what you now alledge for it, it will but appear
that it is useful to apothecaries rather than to philosophers :
the being able to make things operative being sufficient
to those, whereas the knowledge of causes is the thing
looked after by these. And let me tell you, Eleutherius,
even this itself will need to be entertained with some
caution.
For first, it will not presently follow, that if the purgative or other vertue of a simple may be easily extracted
by water or spirit of wine, it resides in the salt or sulphur
of the concrete; since unless the body hath before been
resolved by the fire, or some other powerful agent, it will,
for the most part, afford in the liquors I have named,
rather the finer compounded parts of itself, than the
elementary ones. As I noted before, that water will
dissolve not only pure salts, but chrystals of tartar,
gumme arabick, myrrhe and other compound bodies.
As also spirit of wine will dissolve not only the pure

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180 The Sceptical Chymist
sulphur of concretes, but likewise the whole substance
of divers resinous bodies, as benzoin, the gummous parts
of jalap, gumme lacca, and other bodies that are counted
perfectly mixt. And we see that the extracts made
either with water or spirit of wine are not of a simple
and elementary nature, but masses consisting of the
looser corpuscles, and finer parts of the concretes whence
they are drawn; since by distillation they may be divided
into more elementary substances.
Next, we may consider that even when there intervenes a chymical resolution by the fire, 'tis seldom in the saline
or sulphureous principle; as such, that the desired faculty
of the concrete resides; but, as that titular salt or sulphur
is yet a mixt body, though the saline or sulphureous
nature be predominant in it. For, if in chymical resolutions
the separated substances were pure and simple
bodies, and of a perfect elementary nature; no one would
be indued with more specifick vertues, than another;
and their qualities would differ as little as do those of
water. And let me add this upon the by, that even
eminent chymists have suffered themselves to be reprehended
by me for their over great diligence in purifying
some of the things they obtain by fire from mixt bodies.
For though such compleatly purifyed ingredients of
bodies might perhaps be more satisfactory to our understanding;
yet others are often more useful to our lives;
the efficacy of such chymical productions depending most
upon what they retain of the bodies whence they are
separated, or gain by the new associations of the dissipated
among themselves; whereas if they were merely
elementary, their uses would be comparatively very small;
and the vertues of sulphurs, salts or other such substances
of one denomination, would be the very same.
And by the way (Eleutherius) I am inclined upon this ground to think, that the artificial resolution of compound
bodies by fire does not so much enrich mankind, as it
divides them into their supposed principles; as upon the
score of its making new compounds by new combinations
of the dissipated parts of the resolved body. For by
this means the number of mixt bodies is considerably

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The Sceptical Chymist 181
increased; and many of those new productions are
endowed with useful qualities; divers of which they owe
not to the body from which they were obtained, but to
their newly acquired texture.
But thirdly, that which is principally to be noted is this, that as there are divers concretes, whose faculties reside
in some one or other of those differing substances, that
chymists call their sulphurs, salts, and mercuries, and
consequently may be best obtained, by analyzing the
concrete whereby the desired principles may be had
severed or freed from the rest; so there are others wherein
the noblest properties lodge not in the salt, or sulphur,
or mercury, but depend immediately upon the form, or
(if you will) result from the determinate structure of the
whole concrete; and consequently they that go about to
extract the vertues of such bodies, by exposing them to
the violence of the fire, do exceedingly mistake, and take
the way to destroy what they would obtain.
I remember that Helmont himself somewhere confesses, that as the fire betters some things and improves their
vertues, so it spoyles others and makes them degenerate.
And elsewhere he judiciously affirmes, that there may
be sometimes greater vertue in a simple, such as nature
has made it, than in anything that can by the fire be
separated from it. And lest you should doubt whether
he means by the vertues of things those that are medical;
he has in one place this ingenuous confession; " Credo
(saies he) simplicia in sua simplicitate esse sufficientia
pro sanatione omnium morborum." Nay, Barthius,
even in a comment upon Beguinus, scruples not to make
this acknowledgment; " Valde absurdum est (saies he)
ex omnibus rebus extracta facere, salia, quintas essentias;
praesertim ex substantiis per se plane vel subtilibus vel
homogeneis, quales sunt uniones, corallia, moscus,
ambra, etc." Consonantly whereunto he also tells us, (and
vouches the famous Platerus, for having candidly given
the same advertisement to his auditors), that some things
have greater vertues, and better suited to our humane
nature, when unprepared, than when they have past the
chymists fire; as we see, saies my author, in pepper; of

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182 The Sceptical Chymist
which some grains swallowed perform more towards the
relief of a distempered stomack, than a great quantity
of the oyle, of the same spice.
It has been (pursues Carneades) by our friend here present observed concerning salt-petre, that none of the
substances into which the fire is wont to divide it, retaines
either the taste, the cooling vertue, or some other of the
properties of the concrete; and that each of those substances
acquires new qualities not to be found in. salt-
petre itself. The shining property of the tayls of glowworms
does survive but so short a time the little animal
made conspicuous by it, that inquisitive men have not
scrupled publickly to deride Baptista Porta and others;
who, deluded perhaps with some chymical surmises, have
ventured to prescribe. the distillation of a water from
the tayles of glowwormes, as a sure way to obtain a liquor
shining in the dark. To which I shall now add no other
example than that afforded by amber; which, whilst
it remains an intire body, is endowed with an electrical
faculty of drawing to itself feathers, strawes, and such
like bodies; which I never could observe either in its salt,
its spirit, its oyle, or in the body I remember I once made
by the reunion of its divided elements; none of these
having such a texture as the intire concrete. And however
chymists boldly deduce such and such properties
from this or that proportion of their component principles;
yet in concretes that abound with this or that ingredient,
'tis not alwaies so much by vertue of its presence, nor its
plenty, that the concrete is qualifyed to perform such
and such effects; as upon the account of the particular
texture of that and the other ingredients, associated after
a determinate manner into one concrete: though possibly
such a proportion of that ingredient may be more convenient
than another for the constituting of such a body.
Thus in a dock the hand is moved upon the dyal, the bell
is struck, and the other actions belonging to the engine
are performed, not because the wheeles are of brass or
iron, or part of one metal and part of another, or because
the weights are of lead, but by vertue of the size, shape,
bigness, and co-aptation of the several parts; which would

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The Sceptical Chymist 183
performe the same things though the wheels were of
silver, or lead, or wood, and the weights of stone or clay;
provided the fabrick or contrivance of the engine were
the same: though it be not to be denyed, that brass and
steel are more convenient materials to make clock-wheels
of than lead, or wood. And to let you see, Eleutherius,
that 'tis sometimes at least, upon the texture of the small
parts of a body, and not alwaies upon the presence or
recess, or increase, or decrement of any one of its principles,
that it may loose some such qualities, and acquire some
such others as are thought very strongly inherent to the
bodies they reside in; I will add to what may from my
past discourse be referred to this purpose, this notable
example, from my own experience ; That lead may without
any additament, and only by various applications of the
fire, lose its colour; and acquire sometimes a gray, sometimes
a yellowish, sometimes a red, sometimes an amethystine
colour; and after having past through these and
perhaps divers others; again recover its leaden colour,
and be made a bright body. That also this lead, which
is so flexible a metal, may be made as brittle as glasse,
and presently be brought to be again flexible and malleable
as before. And besides, that the same lead, which I find
by microscopes to be one of the most opacous bodies in
the world, may be reduced to a fine transparent glass;
whence yet it may return to an opacous nature again;
and all this, as I said, without the addition of any extraneous
body, and merely by the manner and method
of exposing it to the fire.
But (sales Carneades) after having already put you to so prolix a trouble, it is time for me to relieve you
with a promise of putting speedily a period to it; and to
make good that promise, I shall from all that I have
hitherto discoursed with you, deduce but this one proposition
by way of corollary. [That it may as yet be
doubted, whether or no there be any determinate number
of elements ; or, if you please, whether or no all compound
bodies, do consist of the, same number of elementary
ingredients or material principles.]
This being but an inference from the foregoing discourse,
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184 The Sceptical Chymist
it will not be requisite to insist at large on the proofs of
it; but only to point at the chief of them, and referr you
for particulars to what has been already delivered.
In the first place, then, from what has been so largely discoursed, it may appear, that the experiments wont to
be brought, whether by the common peripateticks, or
by the vulgar chymists, to demonstrate, that all mixt
bodies are made up precisely either of the four elements,
or the three hypostatical principles, do not evince what
they are alledged to prove. And as for the other common
arguments, pretended to be drawn from reason in favour
of the Aristotelian hypothesis (for the chymists are wont
to rely almost altogether upon experiments) they are
commonly grounded upon such unreasonable or precarious
suppositions, that 'tis altogether as easie and as just for
any, man to reject them, as for those that take them
for granted to assert them, being indeed all of them as
indemonstrable as the conclusion to be inferred from
them; and some of them so manifestly weak and prooflesse;
that he must be a very courteous adversary, that
can be willing to grant them; and as unskilful a one, that
can be compelled to do so.
In the next place, it may be considered, if what those patriarchs of the spagyrists, Paracelsus and Helmont, do
on divers occasions positively deliver, be true; namely
that the alkahest does resolve all mixt bodies into other
principles than the fire; it must be decided which of the
two resolutions (that made by the alkahest, or that made
by the fire) shall determine the number of the elements,
before we can be certain how many there are.
And in the meantime, we may take notice in the last place, that as the distinct substances whereinto the
alkahest divides bodies, are affirmed to be differing in
nature from those whereunto they are wont to be reduced
by fire, and to be obtained from some bodies more in
number than from some others; since he tells us, he could
totally reduce all sorts of stones into salt only, whereas
of a coal lie had two distinct liquors. So although we
should acquiesce in that resolution which is made by fire,
we find not that all mixt bodies are thereby divided into

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The Sceptical Chymist 185
the same number of elements and principles; some concretes
affording more of them than others do; nay and
sometimes this or, that body affording a greater number
of differing substances by one way of management, than
the same yeelds by another. And they that out of gold,
or mercury, or muscovy-glass, will draw me as many
distinct substances, as I can separate from vitriol, or
from the juice of grapes variously ordered, may teach me
that which I shall very thankfully learn. Nor does it
appear more congruous to that variety that so much
conduceth to the perfection of the universe, that all
elemented bodies be compounded of the same number of
elements, than it would be for a language, that all its
words should consist of the same number of letters.

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THE SIXTH PART
A PARADOXICAL APPENDIX TO THE FOREGOING TREATISE

HERE Carneades having dispacht what he thought
requisite to oppose against what the chymists are wont
to alledge for proof of their three principles, paused
a while, and looked about him, to discover whether it
were time for him and his friend to rejoyne the rest of
the company. But Eleutherius perceiving nothing yet
to forbid them to prosecute their discourse a little further,
said to his friend, (who had likewise taken notice of the
same thing) I halfe expected, Carneades, that after you
had so freely declared your doubting, whether there be
any determinate number of elements, you would have
proceeded to question whether there be any elements at
all. And I confess it will be a trouble to me if you defeat
me of my expectation; especially since you see the leasure
we have allowed us may probably suffice to examine that
paradox; because you have so largely deduced already
many things pertinent to it, that you need but intimate
how you would have them applyed, and what you would
inferr from them.
Carneades having in vain represented that their leasure could be but very short, that he had already prated very
long, that he was unprepared to maintain so great and
so invidious a paradox, was at length prevailed with to
tell his friend; Since, Eleutherius, you will have me
discourse ex tempore of the paradox you mention, I am
content, (though more perhaps to express my obedience,
than my opinion) to tell you that (supposing the truth
of Helmont's and Paracelsus's alkahestical experiments,
if I may so call them) though it may seem extravagant,
yet it is not absurd to doubt, whether, for ought has been
proved, there be a necessity to admit any elements, or
hypostatical principles, at all.
And, as formerly, so now, to avoid the needless trouble
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The Sceptical Chymist 187
of disputing severally with the Aristotelians and the
chymists, I will address myself to oppose them I have
last named, because their doctrine about the elements
is more applauded by the modems, as pretending highly
to be grounded upon experience. And, to deal not only
fairly but favourably with them, I will allow them to
take in earth and water to their other principles. Which
I consent to the rather, that my discourse may the better
reach the tenents of the peripateticks; who cannot plead
for any so probably as for those two elements; that of
fire above the air being generally by judicious men
exploded as an imaginary thing; and the air not concurring
to compose mixt bodies as one of their elements,
but only lodging in their pores, or rather replenishing,
by reason of its weight and fluidity, all those cavities of
bodies here below, whether compounded or not, that are
big enough to admit it, and are not filled up with any
grosser substance.
And, to prevent mistakes, I must advertize you, that I now mean by elements, as those chymists that speak
plainest do by their principles, certain primitive and
simple, or perfectly unmingled bodies; which not being
made of any other bodies, or of one another, are the
ingredients of which all those called perfectly mixt bodies
are immediately compounded, and into which they are
ultimately resolved: now whether there be any one such
body to be constantly met with in all, and each, of those
that are said to be elemented bodies, is the thing I now
question.
By this state of the controversie you will, I suppose, guess, that I need not be so absurd, as to deny that there
are such bodies as earth and water, and quicksilver, and
sulphur: but I look upon earth and water, as component
parts of the universe, or rather of the terrestrial globe,
not of all mixt bodies. And though I will not peremptorily
deny that there may sometimes either a running
mercury, or a combustible substance be obtained from
a mineral, or even a metal; yet I need not concede either
of them to be an element in the sence above declared;
as I shall have occasion to shew you by and by.

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188 The Sceptical Chymist
To give you then a brief account of the grounds I intend to proceed upon, I must tell you, that in matters of
philosophy, this seems to me a sufficient reason to doubt
of a known and important proposition, that the truth
of it is not yet by any competent proof made to appear.
And congruously hereunto, if I shew that the grounds,
upon which men are persuaded that there are elements,
are unable to satisfie a considering man, I suppose my
doubts will appear rational.
Now the considerations that induce men to think, that there are elements, may be conveniently enough referred
to two heads. Namely, the one, that it is necessary that
nature make use of elements to constitute the bodies that
are reputed mixt. And the other, that the resolution
of such bodies manifests that nature had compounded
them of elementary ones.
In reference to the former of these considerations, there are two or three things that I have to represent.
And I will begin with reminding you of the experiments I not long since related to you concerning the growth of
pompions, mint, and other vegetables out of fair water.
For by those experiments it seems evident, that water
may be transmuted into all the other elements; from
whence it may be inferred, both, that 'tis not everything
chymists will call salt, sulphur, or spirit, that needs
alwaies be a primordiate and ingenerable body. And,
that nature may contex a plant (though that be a perfectly
mixt concrete) without having all the elements previously
presented to her to compound it of. And, if you will
allow the relation I mentioned out of Monsieur De
Rochas to be true; then may not only plants, but animals
and minerals too, be produced out of water. And however
there is little doubt to be made, but that the plants
my tryals afforded me, as they were like in so many other
respects to the rest of the plants of the same denomination;
so they would, in case I had reduced them to putrefaction,
have likewise produced wormes or other insects, as well
as the resembling vegetables are wont to do; so that
water may, by various seminal principles, be successively
transmuted into both plants and animals. And if we

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The Sceptical Chymist 189
consider that not only men, but even sucking children
are, but too often, tormented with solid stones; rand that
divers sorts of beasts themselves, (whatever Helmont
against experience think to the contrary) may be troubled
with great and heavy stones in their kidneys and bladders,
though they feed but upon grass and other vegetables,
that are perhaps but disguised water, it will not seem
improbable that even some concretes of a mineral nature,
may likewise be formed of water.
We may further take notice, that as a plant may be nourisht, and consequently may consist of common water;
so may both plants and animals, (perhaps even from their
seminal rudiments) consist of compound bodies, without
having anything merely elementary brought them by
nature to be compounded by them: this is evident in
divers men, who whilst they were infants were fed only
with milk, afterwards altogether upon flesh, fish,
wine, and other perfectly mixt bodies. It may be seen
also in sheep, who on some of our English downs or plains,
grow very fat by feeding upon the grass, without scarce
drinking at all. And yet more manifestly in the magots
that breed and grow up to their full bignesse within the
pulps of apples, pears, or the like fruit. We see also,
that dungs that abound with a mixt salt give a much
more speedy increment to corn and other vegetables,
than water alone would do : and it hath been assured me,
by a man experienced in such matters, that sometimes
when to bring up roots very early, the mould they were
planted in was made over-rich, the very substance of the
plant has tasted of the dung. And let us also consider
a graft of one kind of fruit upon the upper bough of a tree
of another kind. As (for instance) the scion of a pear
upon a white-thorne; for there the ascending liquor
is already altered, either by the root, or in its ascent by
the bark, or both wayes, and becomes a new mixt body:
as may appear by the differing qualities to be met with in
the saps of several trees; as particularly, the medicinal
vertue of the birch-water, which I have sometimes drunk
upon Helmont's great and not undeserved commendation.
Now the graft, being fastened to the stock, must necessarily

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190 The Sceptical Chymist
nourish itself, and produce its fruit, only out of this
compound juice prepared for it by the stock, being unable
to come at any other aliment. And if we consider, how
much of the vegetable he feeds upon may (as we noted
above) remain in an animal; we may easily suppose, that
the blood of that animal who feeds upon this, though
it be a well constituted liquor, and have all the differing
corpuscles, that make it up, kept in order by one presiding
form, may be a strangly decompounded body, many of
its parts being themselves decompounded. So little is it
necessary that even in the mixtures which nature herself
makes in animal and vegetable bodies, she should have
pure elements at hand to make her compositions of.
Having said thus much touching the constitution of plants and animals, I might perhaps be able to say as
much touching that of minerals, and even metals, if it
were as easy for us to make experiment in order to the
production of these, as of those. But the growth or
increment of minerals being usually a work of excessively
long time, and for the mort part performed in the bowels
of the earth, where we cannot see it, I must instead of
experiments make use, on this occasion, of observations.
That stones were not all made at once, but that some of them are nowadayes generated, may (though it be
denyed by some) be fully proved by several examples,
of which I shall now scarce alledge any other, than that
famous place in France known by the name of Les Caves
Goutieres, where the water falling from the upper parts
of the cave to the ground does presently there condense
into little stones, of such figures as the drops, falling
either severally or upon one another, and coagulating
presently into stone, chance to exhibit. Of these stones
some ingenious friends of ours, that went a while since
to visit that place, did me the favour to present me with
some that they brought thence. And I remember that
both that sober relator of his voyages, Van Linschoten,
and another good author, inform us that in the diamond
mines (as they call them) in the East-Indies, when having
diged the earth, though to no great depth, they find
diamonds and take them quite away; yet in a very few

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The Sceptical Chymist 191
years they find in the same place new diamonds produced
there since. From both which relations, especially the
first, it seems probable that nature does not alwaies stay
for divers elementary bodies, when she is to produce
stones. And as for metals themselves, authors of good
note assure us, that even they were not in the beginning
produced at once altogether, but have been observed
to grow; so that what was not a mineral or metal before,
became one afterwards. Of this it were easie to alledge
many testimonies of professed chymists. But that they
may have the greater authority, I shall rather present
you with a few borrowed from more unsuspected writers.
" Sulphuris mineram (as the inquisitive P. Fallopius
notes) quae nutrix est calmis subterranei fabri seu archaei
fontium et mineralium, infra terram citissimè renasci testantur
historiae metallicae. Sunt enim loca è quibus si
hoc anno sulphur effossum fuerit; intermissa fossione
per quadriennium redeunt fossores et omnia sulphure,
ut antea, rursus inveniunt plena." Pliny relates, " In
Italiae insula Ilva, gigni ferri metallum. Strabo multo
expressius; effossum ibi metallum semper regenerari.
Nam si effossio spatio centum annorum intermittebatur,
et iterum illuc revertebantur, fossores reperisse maximam
copiam ferri regeneratam." Which history not only is
countenanced by Fallopius, from the income which the
iron of that island yeelded the Duke of Florence in his
time; but is mentioned more expressely to our purpose,
by the learned Cesalpinus. " Vena (saies he) ferri copiosissima
est in Italia; ob eam nobilitata Ilva Tyrrheni
maris insula incredibili copia etiam nostris temporibus
eam gignens: nam terra quae eruitur, dum vena offoditur tota, procedente tempore in venam convertitur." Which
last clause is therefore very notable, because from thence
we may deduce, that earth, by a metalline plastick
principle latent in it, may be in processe of time changed
into a metal. And even Agricola himself, though the
chymists complain of him as their adversary, acknowledges
thus much and more; by telling us that at a town
called Saga in Germany, they dig up iron in the fields,
by sinking ditches two foot deep; and adding, that within

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192 The Sceptical Chymist
the space of ten years the ditches are digged again for
iron since produced, as the same metal is wont to be
obtained in Ilva. Also concerning lead, not to mention
what even Galen notes, that it will increase both in bulk
and weight if it be long kept in vaults or sellers, where
the air is gross and thick, as he collects from the swelling
of those pieces of lead that were imployed to fasten together
the parts of old statues. Not to mention this, I
say, Boccacius Certaldus, as I find him quoted by a
diligent writer, has this passage touching the growth
of lead. " Fessularum mons (saies he) in Hetruria,
Florentiae civitati imminens, lapides plumbarios habet;
qui si excidantur, brevi temporis spatio, novis incrementis
instaurantur; ut (annexes my author) tradit Boccacius
Certaldus, qui id compertissimum esse scribit. Nihil hoc
novi est; sed de eodem Plinius, lib. 34. Hist. Natur. cap.
17. dudum prodidit, inquiens, mirum in his solis plumbi
metallis, quod derelicta fertilius reviviscunt. In plumbariis,
secundo lapide ab amberga dictis ad asylum recrementa
congesta in cumulos, exposita solibus pluviisque
paucis annis, reddunt suum metallum cum foenore." I
might add to these (continues Carneades) many things
that I have met with concerning the generation of gold
and silver. But for fear of wanting time, I shall mention
but two or three narratives. The first you may find
recorded by Gerhardus the physick professor, in these
words. " In valle (saies he) Joachimica argentum
graminis modo et more è lapidibus miner velut è radice
excrevisse digiti longitudine, testis est Dr. Schreterus,
qui ejusmodi venas aspectu jucundas et admirabiles domi
sue aliis sepe monstravit et donavit. Item aqua cerulea
inventa est Annebergae, ubi argentum erat adhuc in
primo ente, que coagulata redacta est in calcem fixi et
boni argenti."
The other two relations I have not met with in Latine authors, and yet they are both very memorable in themselves,
and pertinent to our present purpose.
The first I meet with in the commentary of Johannes Valehius upon the Kleine Baur, in which that industrious
chymist relates, with many circumstances, that at a minetown

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The Sceptical Chymist 193
(if I may so English the German Bergstat) eight
miles or leagues distant from Strasburg called Mariakirch,
a workman came to the overseer, and desired employment;
but he telling him that there was not any of the best sort
at present for him, added that till he could be preferred
to some such, he might in the meantime, to avoid idleness,
work in a grove or mine-pit thereabouts, which at
that time was little esteemed. This workman after some
weeks labour, had by a crack appearing in the stone upon
a stroak given near the wall, an invitation given him to
work his way through, which as soon as he had done,
his eyes were saluted by a mighty stone or lump which
stood in the middle of the cleft (that had a hollow place
behind it) upright, and in shew like an armed-man; but
consisted of pure fine silver having no vein or ore by it,
or any other additament, but stood there free, having
only underfoot something like a burnt matter; and yet
this one lump held in weight above a 1000 marks, which,
according to the Dutch account, makes 500 pound weight
of fine silver. From which and other circumstances my
author gathers ; that by the warmth of the place, the noble
metalline spirits, (sulphureous and mercurial) were carried
from the neighbouring galleries or vaults, through other
smaller cracks and clefts into that cavity, and there
collected as in a close chamber or cellar; whereinto when
they were gotten, they did in process of time settle into
the forementioned precious mass of metal.
The other Germane relation is of that great traveller and laborious chymist Johannes (not Georgius) Agricola;
who in his notes upon what Poppius has written of
antimony, relates, that when he was among the Hungarian
mines in the deep groves, he observed that there would
often arise in them a warm steam, (not of that malignant
sort which the Germans call Shwadt, which (saies he) is
a meer poyson, and often suffocates the diggers) which
fastened itself to the walls; and that coming again to
review it after a couple of dayes, he discerned that it was
all very fast, and glistering; whereupon having collected
it and distilled it per retortam, he obtained from it a fine

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194 The Sceptical Chymist
spirit: adding, that the mine-men informed him, that
this steam, or damp (as the English men also call it,
retaining the Dutch term) would at last have become
a metal, as gold or silver.
I referr (saies Carneades) to another occasion, the use that may be made of these narratives towards the explicating
the nature of metalls; and that of fixtness, malleableness,
and some other qualities conspicuous in them. And
in the meantime, this I may at present deduce from these
observations; That 'tis not very probable; that, whensoever
a mineral, or even a metal, is to be generated in the
bowels of the earth, nature needs to have at hand both
salt, and sulphur, and mercury to compound it of; for,
not to urge that the two last relations seem less to favour
the chymists than Aristotle, who would have metals
generated of certain halitus or steams, the forementioned
observations together, make it seem more likely that the
mineral earths or those metalline steams (wherewith
probably such earths are plentifully imbued) do contain
in them some seminal rudiment, or something equivalent
thereunto; by whose plastick power the rest of the
matter, though perhaps terrestrial and heavy, is in tract
of time fashioned into this or that metalline ore; almost
(as I formerly noted) as that fair water was by the seminal
principle of mint, pompions, and other vegetables, contrived
into bodies answerable to such seeds. And that
such alterations of terrestrial matter are not impossible,
seems evident from that notable practice of the boylers of
salt-petre, who unanimously observe, as well here in
England as in other countries, that if an earth pregnant
with nitre be deprived, by the affusion of water, of all
its true and dissoluble salt, yet the earth will after some
years yeeld them salt-petre again; for which reason some
of the eminent and skilfullest of them keep it in heaps as
a perpetual mine of salt-petre; whence it may appear,
that the seminal principle of nitre latent in the earth does
by degrees transforme the neighbouring matter into a
nitrous body; for though I deny that sortie volatile nitre
may by such earths be attraçted (as they speak) out of
the air, yet that the innermost parts of such great heaps

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The Sceptical Chymist 195
that lye so remote from the air should borrow from it all
the nitre they abound with, is not probable, for other
reasons besides the remoteness of the air, though I have
not the leasure to mention them.
And I remember, that a person of great credit, and well acquainted with the wayes of making vitriol, affirmed to
me, that he had observed; that a kind of mineral which
abounds in that salt, being kept within doors and not
exposed (as is usual) to the free air and rains, did of itself
in no very long time turn into vitriol, not only in the
outward or superficial, but even in the internal and most
central parts.
And I also remember, that I met with a certain kind of marchasite that lay together in great quantifies under
ground, which did, even in my chamber, in so few hours
begin of itself to turne into vitriol, that we need not
distrust the newly recited narrative. But to return to
what I was saying of nitre; as nature made this salt-
petre out of the once almost an inodorous earth it was
bread in and did not find a very stinking and corrosive
acid liquor, and a sharp alcalizate salt to compound it of,
though these be the bodies into which the fire dissolves it;
so it were not necessary that nature should make up all
metals and other minerals of pre-existent salt, and sulphur,
and mercury, though such bodies might by fire be obtained
from it. Which one consideration duly weighed is very
considerable in the present controversy: and to this
agree well the relations of our two German chymists;
for besides that it cannot be convincingly proved, it is
not so much as likely that so languid and moderate a
heat as that within the mines, should carry up to so great
a height, though in the forme of fumes, salt, sulphur, and
mercury; since we find in out distillations, that it requires
a considerable degree of fire to raise so much as to the
height of one foot not only salt, but even mercury itself,
in close vessels. And if it be objected, that it seems by
the stink that is sometimes observed when lightning falls
down here below, that sulphureous steams may ascend
very high without any extraordinary degree of heat; it
may be answered, among other things, that the sulphur

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196 The Sceptical Chymist
of silver is by chymists said to be a fixt sulphur, though
not altogether so well digested as that of gold.
But, (proceeds Carneades) if it had not been to afford you some hints concerning the origine of metals, I need
not have deduced anything from these observations; it
not being necessary to the validity of my argument that
my, deductions from them should be irrefragable, because
my adversaries the Aristotelians and vulgar chymists do
not, I presume, know any better than I, a priori, of what
ingredients nature compounds metals and minerals. For
their argument to prove that those bodies are made up
of such principles, is drawn a posteriori; I mean from
this, that upon the analysis of mineral bodies they are
resolved into those differing substances. That we may
therefore examine this argument, let us proceed to consider
what can be alledged in behalf of the elements from
the resolutions of bodies by the fire; which you remember
was the second topick whence I told you the arguments
of my adversaries were desumed.
And that I may first dispatch what I have to say concerning minerals, I will begin the remaining part of my
discourse with considering how the fire divides them.
And first, I have partly noted above, that though chymists pretend from some to draw salt, from others
running mecury, and from others a sulphur; yet they
have not hitherto taught us by any way in use among
them to separate any one principle, whether salt, sulphur,
or mercury, from all sorts of minerals without exception.
And thence I may be allowed to conclude that there is not
any of the elements that is an ingredient of all bodies,
sine there are some of which it is not so.
In the next place, supposing that either sulphur or mercury were obtainable from all sorts of minerals. Yet
still this sulphur or mercury would be but acompounded,
not an elementary body, as I told you already on another
occasion. And certainly he that takes notice of the
wonderful operations of quicksilver, whether it be common,
or drawn from mineral bodies, can scarce be so inconsiderate
as to think it of the very same nature with that
immature and fugitive substance which in vegetables

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The Sceptical Chymist 197
and animals chymists have been pleased to call their
mercury. So that when mercury is got by the help of the
fire out of a metal or other mineral body, if we will not
suppose that it was not pre-existent in it, but produced
by the action of the-fire upon the concrete, we may at
least suppose this quicksilver to have been a perfect body
of its own kind (though perhaps less heterogeneous than
more secondary mixts) which, happened to be mingled
per minima, and coagulated with the other substances,
whereof the metal or mineral consisted. As may be
exemplyfied partly by native vermilion wherein the
quicksilver and sulphur being exquisitely blended both
with one another, and that other course mineral stuff
(whatever it be) that harbours them, make up a red body
differing enough from both; and yet from which part
of the quicksilver, and of the sulphur, may be easily
enough obtained; partly by those mines wherein nature
has so curiously incorporated silver with lead, that 'tis
extremely difficult, and yet possible, to separate the
former out of the latter; and partly too by native vitriol,
wherein the metalline corpuscles are by skill and industry
separable from the saline ones, though they be so con-
coagulated with them, that the whole concrete is reckoned
among salts.
And here I further observe, that I never could see any earth or water, properly so called, separated from either
gold or silver (to name now no other metalline bodies)
and therefore to retort the argument upon my adversaries,
I may conclude, that since there are some bodies in which,
for ought appears, there is neither earth nor water; I
may be allowed to conclude, that neither of those two is
an universal ingredient of all those bodies that are counted
perfectly mixt, which I desire you would remember
against anon.
It may indeed be objected, that the reason why from gold or silver we cannot separate any moisture, is, because
that when it is melted out of the oar, the vehement fire
requisite to its fusion forced away all the aqueous and
fugitive moisture; and the like fire may do from the
materials of glass. To which I shall answer, that I

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198 The Sceptical Chymist
remember I read not long since in the learned Josephus
Acosta, who relates it upon his own observation; that in
America (where he long lived) there is a kind of silver
which the Indians call papas, and sometimes (saies he)
they find pieces very fine and pure like to small round
roots, the which is rare in that metal, but usual in gold;
concerning which metal he tells us, that besides this they
find some which they call gold in grains, which he tells us
are small morsells of gold that they find whole without
mixture of any other metal, which hath no need of melting
or refining in the fire.
I remember that a very skilful and credible person affirmed to me, that being in the Hungarian mines he had
the good fortune to see a mineral that was there digged
up, wherein pieces of gold of the length, and also almost
of the bigness of a humane finger, grew in the oar, as if
they had been parts and branches of trees.
And I have myself seen a lump of whitish mineral, that was brought as a rarity to a great and knowing prince,
wherein there grew here and there in the stone, which
looked like a kind of sparr, divers little lumps of fine gold,
(for such I was assured that tryal had manifested it to be)
some of them seeming to be about the bigness of pease.
But that is nothing to what our Acosta subjoynes, which
is indeed very memorable, namely, that of the morsels
of native and pure gold, which we lately heard him mentioning,
he had now and then seen some that weighed
many pounds; to which I shall add, that I myself have
seen a lump of oar not long since digged up, in whose
stony part there grew, almost like trees, divers parcels
though not of gold, yet of (what perhaps mineralists will
more wonder at) another metal which seemed to be very
pure or unmixt with any heterogeneous substances, and
were some of them as big as my finger, if not bigger. But
upon observations of this kind, though perhaps I could,
yet I must not at present, dwell any longer.
To proceed therefore now (saies Carneades) to the consideration of the analysis of vegetables, although my
tryals give me no cause to doubt but that out of must of
them five differing substances may be obtained by the

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The Sceptical Chymist 199
fire, yet I think it will not be so easily demonstrated that
these deserve to be called elements in the notion above
explained.
And before I descend to particulars, I shall repeat and promise this general consideration, that these differing
substances that are called elements or principles, differ
not from each other as metals, plants and animals, or as
such creatures as are immediately produced each by its
peculiar seed, and constitutes a distinct propagable sort
of creatures in the universe; but these are only various
schemes of matter or substances that differ from each
other, but in consistence (as running mercury and the
same metal congealed by the vapor of lead) and some
very few other accidents, as taste, or smell, or inflamability,
or the want of them. So that by a change of texture
not impossible to be wrought by the fire and other agents
that have the faculty, not only to dissociate the small
parts of bodies, but afterwards to connect them after a
new manner, the same parcel of matter may acquire or
lose such accidents as may suffice to denominate it salt,
or sulphur, or earth. If I were fully to clear to you my
apprehensions concerning this matter, I should perhaps
be obliged to acquaint you with divers of the conjectures
(for I must yet call them no more) I have had concerning
the principles of things purely corporeal: for though
because I seem not satisfied with the vulgar doctrines,
either of the peripatetick or Paracelsian schooles, many
of those that know me, (and perhaps, among them,
Eleutherius himself) have thought me wedded to the
Epicurean hypothesis, (as others have mistaken me for
an Helmontian) yet if you knew how little conversant
I have been with Epicurean authors, and how great a part
of Lucretius himself I never yet had the curiosity to read,
you would perchance be of another mind; especially if
I were to entertain you at large, I say not, with my present
notions; but with my former thoughts concerning the
principles of things. But, as I said above, fully to clear
my apprehensions would require a longer discourse than
we can now have.
For, I should tell you that I have sometimes thought
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200 The Sceptical Chymist
it not unfit, that to the principles which may be assigned
to things, as the world is now constituted, we should, if we
consider the great mass of matter as it was whilst the
universe was in making, add another, which may conveniently
enough be called an architectonick principle
or power; by which I mean those various determinations,
and that skilfull guidance of the motions of the small
parts of the universal matter by the most wise Author of
things, which were necessary at the beginning to turn
that confused chaos into this orderly and beautiful world;
and especially, to contrive the bodies of animals and
plants, and the seeds of those things whose kinds were
to be propagated. For I confess I cannot well conceive,
how from matter, barely put into motion, and then left
to itself, there could emerge such curious fabricks as the
bodies of men and perfect animals, and such yet more
admirably contrived parcels of matter, as the seeds of
living creatures.
I should likewise tell you upon what grounds, and in what sence, I suspected the principles of the world, as it
now is, to be three, matter, motion, and rest. I say, as
the world now is, because the present fabrick of the
universe, and especially the seeds of things, together with
the establisht course of nature, is a requisite or condition,
upon whose account divers things may be made out by
our three principles, which otherwise would be very hard,
if possible, to explicate.
I should moreover declare in general (for I pretend not to be able to do it otherwise) not only why I conceive
that colours, odours, tastes, fluidness and solidity, and
those other qualities that diversifie and denominate bodies
may intelligibly be deduced from these three; but how two
of the three Epicurean principles (which, I need not tell
you, are magnitude, figure, and weight) are themselves
deducible from matter and motion; sence the latter of
these variously agitating, and, as it were, distracting the
former, must needs disjoyne its parts; which being
actually separated must each of them necessarily both
be of some size, and obtain some shape or other. Nor
did I add to our principles the Aristotelian privation,

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The Sceptical Chymist 201
partly for other reasons, which I must not now stay to
insist on; and partly because it seems to be rather an
antecedent, or a terminus à quo, than a true principle,
as the starting-post is none of the horses legs or limbs.
I should also explain why and how I made rest, to be,
though not so considerable a principle of things, as motion;
yet a principle of them; partly because it is (for ought we
know) as ancient at least as it, and depends not upon
motion, nor any other quality of matter; and partly,
because it may enable the body in which it happens to be,
both to continue in a state of rest till some external force
put it out of that state, and to concur to the production
of divers changes in the bodies that hit against it, by
either quite stopping or lessening their motion (whilst the
body formerly at rest receives all or part of it into itself)
or else by giving a new byass, or some other modification,
to motion, that is, to the grand and primary instrument
whereby nature produces all the changes and other
qualities that are to be met with in the world.
I should likewise, after all this, explain to you how, although matter, motion and rest, seemed to me to be
the catholick principles of the universe, I thought the
principles of particular bodies might be commodiously
enough reduced to two, namely matter, and (what comprehends
the two other, and their effects) the result, or
aggregate, or complex of those accidents, which are the
motion or rest, (for in some bodies both are not to be
found) the bigness, figure, texture, and the thence resulting
qualities of the small parts, which are necessary to intitle
the body whereto they belong to this or that peculiar
denomination; and discriminating it from others to appropriate
it to a determinate kind of things, (as yellowness,
fixtness, such a degree of weight, and of ductility, do
make the portion of matter wherein they concur, to be
reckoned among perfect metals, and obtain the name of
gold) this aggregate or result of accidents you may if you
please, call either structure, or texture, (though indeed,
that do not so properly comprehend the motion of the
constituent parts especially in case some of them be fluid)
or what other appellation shall appear most expressive.

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202 The Sceptical Chymist
Or if, retaining the vulgar terme, you will call it the
forme of the thing it denominates, I shall not much oppose
it; provided the word be interpreted to mean but what
I have expressed, and not a scholastick substantial forme,
which so many intelligent men profess to be to them
altogether unintelligible.
But, (saies Carneades) if you remember that 'tis a sceptick speaks to you, and that 'tis not so much my
present talk to make assertions as to suggest doubts,
I hope you will look upon what I have proposed, rather
as a narrative of my former conjectures touching the
principles of things, than as a resolute declaration of
my present opinions of them; especially since although
they cannot but appear very much to their disadvantage,
if you consider them as they are proposed without those
reasons and explanations by which I could perhaps make
them appear much less extravagant; yet I want time to
offer you what may be alledged to clear and countenance
these notions; my design in mentioning them unto you
at present being, partly, to bring some light and confirmation
to divers passages of my discourse to you; partly
to shew you, that I do not (as you seem to have suspected)
embrace all Epicurus his principles; but dissent from
him in some main things, as well as from Aristotle and
the chymists, in others; and partly also, rather chiefly,
to intimate to you the grounds upon which I likewise
differ from Helmont in this, that whereas he ascribes
almost all things, and even diseases themselves, to their
determinate seeds; I am of opinion, that besides the
peculiar fabricks of the bodies of plants and animals (and
perhaps also of some metals and minerals) which I take
to be effects of seminal principles, there are many other
bodies in nature which have and deserve distinct and
proper names, but yet do but result from such contextures
of the matter they are made of, as may without determinate
seeds be effected by heat, cold, artificial mixtures and
compositions, and divers other causes which sometimes
nature imployes of her own accord; and oftentimes man
by his power and skill makes use of to fashion the matter
according to his intentions. This may be exemplified

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The Sceptical Chymist 203
both in the productions of nature, and in those of art;
of the first sort I might name multitudes; but to shew
how slight a variation of textures without addition of
new ingredients may procure a parcel of matter divers
names, and make it be lookt upon as different things;
I shall invite you to observe with me, that clouds, rain,
hail, snow, frost, and ice, may be but water, having its
parts varyed as to their size and distance in respect of
each other, and as to motion and rest. And, among
artificial productions we may take notice (to skip the
chrystals of tartar) of glass, regulus martis stellatus, and
particularly of the sugar of lead, which though made of
that insipid metal and sowre salt of vinegar, has in it
a sweetness surpassing that of common sugar, and divers
other qualities, which being not to be found in either of
its two ingredients, must be confessed to belong to the
concrete itself, upon the account of its texture.
This consideration premised, it will be, I hope, the more easie to persuade you that the fire may as well produce
some new textures in a parcel of matter, as destroy the
old.
Wherefore hoping that you have not forgot the arguments formerly imployed against the doctrine of the
tria prima; namely that the salt-sulphur, and mercury,
into which the fire seems to resolve vegetable and animal
bodies, are yet compounded, not simple and elementary
substances; and that (as appeared by the experiment
of pompions) the tria prima may be made out of water;
hoping I say, that you remember these and the other
things that I formerly represented to the same purpose,
I shall now add only, that if we doubt not the truth of
some of Helmont's relations, we may well doubt whether
any of these heterogeneities be (I say not pre-existent,
so as to convene together, when a plant or animal is to be
constituted, but) so much as inexistent in the concrete
whence they are obtained, when the chymist first goes
about to resolve it; for, not to insist upon the uninflamable
spirit of such concretes, because that may be pretended
to be but a mixture of phlegme and salt; the oyle
or sulphur of vegetables or animals is, according to him,

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204 The Sceptical Chymist
reducible by the help of lixiviate salts into sope; as that
sope is by the help of repeated distillations from a caput
mortuum of chalk into insipid water. And as for the
saline substance that seems separable from mixt bodies;
the same Helmont's tryals give us cause to think, that it
may be a production of the fire which by transporting
and otherwise altering the particles of the matter, does
bring it to a saline nature.
For I know (saies he, in the place formerly alledged to another purpose) a way to reduce all stones into a mere
salt of equal weight with the stone whence it was produced,
and that without any of, the least either sulphur or
mercury; which asseveration of my author would perhaps
seem less incredible to you, if I durst acquaint you with
all I could say upon that subject. And hence by the way
you may also conclude that the sulphur and mercury, as
they call them, that chymists are wont to obtain from
compound bodies by the fire, may possibly in many cases
be the productions of it; since if the same bodies had
been wrought upon by the agents employed by Helmont,
they would have yielded neither sulphur nor mercury;
and those portions of them, which the fire would have
presented us in the forme of sulphureous and mercurial
bodies, would have, by Helmont's method, been exhibited
to us in the form of salt.
But though (saies Eleutherius) you have alledged very plausible arguments against the tria prima, yet I see not
how it will be possible for you to avoid acknowledging
that earth and water are elementary ingredients, though
not of mineral concretes, yet of an animal and vegetable
bodies; since if any of these of what sort soever be committed
to distillation, there is regularly and constantly
separated from it a phlegme or aqueous part, and a caput
mortuum or earth.
I readily acknowledge (answers Carneades) it is not so easy to reject water and earth (and especially the former)
as 'tis to reject the tria prima, from being the elements
of mixt bodies; but 'tis not every difficult thing that is
impossible.
I consider then, as to water, that the chief qualities
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The Sceptical Chymist 205
which make men give that name to any visible substance,
are that it is fluid or liquid, and that it is insipid and
inodorous. Now as for the taste of these qualities, I think
you have never seen any of those separated substances
that the chymists call phlegme which was perfectly devoid
both of taste and smell: and if you object, that yet it may
be reasonably supposed, that since the whole body is
liquid, the mass is nothing but elementary water faintly
imbued with some of the saline or sulphureous parts of
the same concrete, which it retained with it upon its
separation from the other ingredients. To this I answer,
that this objection would not appear so strong as it is
plausible, if chymists understood the nature of fluidity
and compactness; and that, as I formerly observed, to a
bodies being fluid there is nothing necessary, but that
it be divided into parts small enough; and that these
parts be put into such a motion among themselves as to
glide some this way and some that way, along each other's
surfaces. So that although a concrete were never so dry,
and had not any water or other liquor inexistent in it,
yet such a comminution of its parts may be made, by the
fire or other agents, as to turn a great portion of them
into liquor. Of this truth I will give an instance,
employed by our friend here present as one of the most
conducive of his experiments to illustrate the nature of
salts. If you take then sea salt, and melt it in the fire
to free it from the aqueous parts, and afterwards distill
it with a vehement fire from burnt clay, or any other,
as dry a caput mortuum as you please, you will, as chymists
confess by teaching it, drive over a good part of the salt
in the form of a liquor. And to satisfy some ingenious
men, that a great part of this liquor was still true sea salt
brought by the operation of the fire into corpuscles so
small, and perhaps so advantageously shaped, as to be
capable of the forme of a fluid body, he did in my presence
poure to such spiritual salts a due proportion of the spirit
(or salt and phlegme) of urine, whereby having evaporated
the superfluous moisture, he soon obtained such another
concrete, both as to taste and smell, and easie sublimableness
as common salt armoniack, which you know is made

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206 The Sceptical Chymist
up of gross and undistilled sea salt united with the salts
or urine and of soot, which two are very near of kin to
each other. And further, to manifest that the corpuscles
of sea salt and the saline ones of urine retain their several
natures in this concrete, he mixt it with a convenient
quantity of salt of tartar, and committing it to distillation
soon, regained his spirit of urine in a liquid form by itself,
the sea salt staying behind with the salt of tartar. Wherefore
it is very possible that dry bodies may by the fire be
reduced to liquors without any separation of elements,
but barely by a certain kind of dissipation and comminution
of the matter, whereby its parts are brought
into a new state. And if it be still objected, that the
phlegme of mixt bodies must be reputed water, because
so weak a taste needs but a very small proportion of salt
to impart it; it may be replyed, that for ought appears,
common salt and divers other bodies, though they be
distilled never so dry, and in never so close vessels, will
yeeld each of them pretty store of a liquor, wherein
though (as I lately noted) saline corpuscles abound, yet
there is besides a large proportion of phlegme, as may
easily be discovered by coagulating the saline corpuscles
with any convenient body; as I lately told you, our friend
coagulated part of the spirit of salt with spirit of urine:
and as I have divers times separated a salt from oyle of
vitriol itself (though a very ponderous liquor and drawn
from a saline body) by boyling it with a just quantity of
mercury, and then washing the newly coagulated salt
from the precipitate with fair water. Now to what can
we more probably ascribe this plenty of aqueous substance
afforded us by the distillation of such bodies, than unto
this, that among the various operations of the fire upon
the matter of a concrete divers particles of that natter
are reduced to such a shape and bigness, as is requisite
to compose such a liquor as chymists are wont to call
phlegme or water. How I conjecture this change may
be effected, 'tis neither necessary for me to tell you, nor
possible to do so without a much longer discourse than
were now seasonable. But I desire you would with me
reflect upon what I formerly told you concerning the

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The Sceptical Chymist 207
change of quicksilver into water; for that water having
but a very faint taste, if any whit more than divers of
those liquors that chymists referr to phlegme, by that
experiment it seems evident, that even a metalline body,
and therefore much more such as are but vegetable or
animal, may by a simple operation of the fire be turned
in great part into water. And since those I dispute with
are not yet able out of gold, or silver, or divers other
concretes to separate anything like water; I hope I may
be allowed to conclude against them, that water itself is
not an universal and pre-existent ingredient of mixt
bodies.
But as for those chymists that, supposing with me the truth of what Helmont relates of the alkahest's wonderful
effects, have a right to press me with his authority concerning
them, and to alledge that he could transmute all
reputed mixt bodies into insipid and mere water; to
those I shall represent, that though his affirmations
conclude strongly against the vulgar chymists (against
whom I have not therefore scrupled to employ them)
since they evince that the commonly reputed principles
or ingredients of things are not permanent, and indestructible,
since they may be further reduced into insipid
phlegme differing from them all; yet till we can be
allowed to examine this liquor, I think it not unreasonable
to doubt whether it be not something else than mere
water. For I find not any other reason given by Helmont
of his pronouncing it so, than that it is insipid. Now
sapour being an accident or an affection of matter that
relates to our tongue, palate and other organs of taste,
it may very possibly be, that the small parts of a body
may be of such a size and shape, as either by their extream
littleness, or by their slenderness, or by their figure, to be
unable to pierce into and make perceptible impression
upon the nerves or membranous parts of the organs of
taste, and yet may be fit to work otherwise upon divers
other bodies than mere water can, and consequently to
disclose itself to be of a nature farr enough from elementary.
In silke dyed red or of any other colour, whilst
many contiguous threads make up a skein, the colour of

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208 The Sceptical Chymist
the silke is conspicuous; but if only a very few of them
be lookt upon, the colour will appear much fainter than
before. But if you take out one simple thread, you shall
not easily be able to discern any colour at all; so subtile
an object having not the force to make upon the optick
nerve an impression great enough to be taken notice of.
It is also observed, that the best sort of oyl-olive is almost
tasteless, and yet I need not tell you how exceedingly
distant in nature oyle is from water. The liquor into
which I told you, upon the relation of Lully an eye-witness,
that mercury might be transmuted, has sometimes but
a very languid, if any taste; and yet its operations even
upon some mineral bodies are very peculiar. Quicksilver
itself also, though the corpuscles it consists of be so very
small, as to get into the pores of that closest and compactest
of bodies, gold, is yet (you know) altogether
tasteless. And our Helmont several times tells us, that
fair water, wherein a little quantity of quicksilver has lain
for some time, though it acquire no certain taste or other
sensible quality from the quicksilver; yet it has a power
to destroy wormes in human bodies; which he does much,
but not causelessly extoll. And I remember, a great
lady, that had been eminent for her beauty in divers
courts, confessed to me, that this insipid liquor was of all
innocent washes for the face the best that she ever met
with.
And here let me conclude my discourse, concerning such waters or liquors as I have hitherto been examining,
with these two considerations. Whereof the first is, That
by reason of our being wont to drink nothing but wine,
bear, cider, or other strongly tasted liquors, there may be
in several of those liquors, that are wont to pass for insipid
phlegme very peculiar and distinct tastes, though unheeded
(and perhaps not to be perceived) by us. For to omit
what naturalists affirm of apes, (and which probably may
be true of divers other animals) that they have a more
exquisite palate than men: among men themselves,
those that are wont to drink nothing but water, may
(as I have tryed in myself) discern very sensibly a great
difference of tastes in several waters, which one unaccustomed

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The Sceptical Chymist 209
to drink water would take to be all alike insipid.
And this is the first of my two considerations. The
other is, That it is not impossible that the corpuscles,
into which a body is dissipated by the fire, may by the
operation of the same fire have their figures so altered,
or may be by associations with one another brought into
little masses of such a size and shape, as not to be fit to
make sensible impressions on the tongue. And that you
may not think such alterations impossible, be pleased
to consider with me, that not only the sharpest spirit of
vinegar having dissolved as much corall as it can, will
coagulate with it into a substance, which, though soluble
in water like salt, is incomparably less strongly tasted
than the vinegar was before; but (what is more considerable)
though the acid salts that are carried up with quicksilver
in the preparation of common sublimate are so
sharp, that being moistened with water it will corrode
some of the metals themselves; yet this corrosive sublimate
being twice or thrice re-sublimed with a full
proportion of insipid quicksilver, constitutes (as you
know) that factitious concrete which the chymists call
mercurius dulcis; not because it is sweet, but because the
sharpness of the corrosive salts is so taken away by their
combination with the mercurial corpuscles, that the
whole mixture when it is prepared is judged to be insipid.
And thus (continues Carneades) having given you some reasons why I refuse to admit elementary water for a
constant ingredient of mixt bodies, it will be easie for me
to give you an account why I also reject earth.
For first, it may well be suspected that many substances pass among chymists under the name of earth, because,
like it, they are dry, and heavy, and fixt, which yet are
very farr from an elementary nature. This you will not
think improbable, if you recall to mind what I formerly
told you concerning what chymists call the dead earth of
things, and especially touching the copper to be drawn
from le caput mortuum of vitriol; and if also you allow
me to subjoyne a casual but memorable experiment made
by Johannes Agricola upon the terra damnata of brimstone.
Our author then tells us (in his notes upon

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210 The Sceptical Chymist
Popius) that in the year 1621 he made an oyle of sulphur;
the remaining faces he reverberated in a moderate fire
fourteen dayes; afterwards he put them well luted up
in a wind oven, and gave them a strong fire for six hours,
purposing to calcine the faces to a perfect whiteness, that
he might make something else out of them. But coming
to break the pot, he found above but very little faces,
and those grey and not white; but beneath there lay a
fine red regulus which he first marvelled at and knew
not what to make of, being well assured that not the least
thing, besides the faces of the sulphur, came into the pot;
and that the sulphur itself had only been dissolved in
linseed oyle; this regulus he found heavy and malleable
almost as lead; having caused a goldsmith to draw him
a wire of it, he found it to be of the fairest copper, and so
rightly coloured, that a Jew of Prague offered him a great
price for it. And of this metal he saies he had 12 loth
(or six ounces) out of one pound of ashes or faces. And
this story may well incline us to suspect that since the
caput mortuum of the sulphur was kept so long in the fire
before it was found to be anything else than a terra
damnata, there may be divers other residences, of bodies
which are wont to pass only for the terrestrial faces of
things, and therefore to be thrown away as soon as the
distillation or calcination of the body that yeelded them
is ended; which yet, if they were long and skilfully
examined by the fire would appear to be differing from
elementary earth. And I have taken notice of the
unwarrantable forwardness of common chymists to pronounce
things useless faces, by observing how often they
reject the caput mortuum of verdegrease; which is yet so
farr from deserving that name, that not only by strong
fires and convenient additaments it may in some hours
be reduced into copper, but with a certain flux powder
I sometimes make for recreation, I have in two or three
minutes obtained that metal from it. To which I may
add, that having for tryall sake kept Venetian talck in
no less a heat than that of a glass furnace, I found after
all the brunt of the fire it had indured, the remaining
body, though brittle and discoloured, had not lost very

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The Sceptical Chymist 211
much of its former bulke, and seemed still to be nearer
of kin to talck than to mere earth. And I remember too,
that a candid mineralist, famous for his skill in trying of
oars, requesting me one day to procure him a certain
American mineral earth of a virtuoso, who he thought
would not refuse me; I enquired of him why he seemed
so greedy of it: he confessed to me that this gentleman
having brought that earth to the publick say-masters;
and they upon their being unable by any means to bring
it to fusion or make it fly away, he (the relator) had procured
a little of it; and, having tryed it with a peculiar
flux, separated from it near a third part of pure gold; so
great mistakes may be committed in hastily concluding
things to be useless earth.
Next, it may be supposed, that as in the resolution of bodies by the fire some of the dissipated parts may, by
their various occursion occasioned by the heat, be brought
to stick together so closely as to constitute corpuscles
too heavy for the fire to carry away; the aggregate of
which corpuscles is wont to be called ashes or earth; so
other agents may resolve the concrete into minute parts
after so differing a manner, as not to produce any caput
mortuum, or dry and heavy body. As you may remember
Helmont above informed us, that with his great dissolvent
he divided a coal into two liquid and volatile bodies,
aequiponderant to the coal, without any dry or fixt
residence at all.
And indeed, I see not why it should be necessary that all agents that resolve bodies into portions of differing
qualified matter must work on them the same way, and
divide them into just such parts, both for nature and
number, as the fire dissipates them into. For since,
(as I noted before) the bulk and shape of the small parts
of bodies, together with their fitness and unfitness to be
easily put into motion, may make the liquors or other
substances such corpuscles compose, as much to differ,
from each other as do some of the chymical principles:
why may not something happen in this case, not unlike
what is usuall in the grosser divisions of bodies by mechanical
instruments? Where we see that some tools reduce

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212 The Sceptical Chymist
wood, for instance, into parts of several shapes, bigness,
and other qualities, as hatchets and wedges divide it into
grosser parts; some more long and slender, as splinters;
and some more thick and irregular, as chips; but all of
considerable bulk; but files and saws make a comminution
of it into dust; which, as all the others, is of the more
solid sort of parts; whereas others divide it into long and
broad, but thin and flexible parts, as do planes: and of
this kind of parts itself there is also a variety according
to the difference of the tools employed to work on the
wood; the shavings made by the plane being in some
things differing from those shives or thin and flexible
pieces of wood that are obtained by borers, and these
from some others obtainable by other tools. Some
chymical examples applicable to this purpose I have
elsewhere given you. To which I may add, that whereas,
in a mixture of sulphur and salt of tartar well melted and
incorporated together, the action of pure spirit of wine
digested on it is to separate the sulphureous from the
alcalizate parts, by dissolving the former and leaving the
latter: the action of wine (probably upon the score of its
copious phlegme) upon the same mixture is to divide it
into corpuscles consisting of both alcalizate and sulphureous
parts united. And if it be objected, that this
is but a factitious concrete; I answer, that however the
instance may serve to illustrate what I proposed, if not
to prove it; and that nature herself doth in the bowels
of the earth make decompounded bodies, as we see in
vitriol, cinnaber, and even in sulphur itself; I will not
urge that the fire divides new milk into five differing
substances; but runnet and acid liquors divide it into
a coagulated matter and a thin whey: and on the other
side churning divides it into butter and buttermilk, which
may either of them yet be reduced to other substances
differing from the former. I will not press this, I say,
nor other instances of this nature, because I cannot in few
words answer what may be objected, that these concretes
sequestred without the help of the fire may by it be further
divided into hypostatical principles. But I will rather
represent, that whereas the same spirit of wine will

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The Sceptical Chymist 213
dissociate the parts of camphire, and make them one
liquor with itself; aqua fortis will also disjoyne them, and
put them into motion; but so as to keep them together,
and yet alter their texture into the form of an oyle. I
know also an uncompounded liquor, that an extraordinary
chymist would not allow to be so much as
saline, which doth (as I have tryed) from coral itself
(as fixt as divers judicious writers assert that concrete
to be) not only obtain a noble tincture without the intervention
of nitre or other salts; but will carry over the
tincture in distillation. And if some reasons did not
forbid me, I could now tell you of a menstruum I make
myself, that doth more odly dissociate the parts of minerals
very fixt in the fire. So that it seems not incredible,
that there may be some agent or way of operation found,
whereby this or that concrete, if not all firme bodies, may
be resolved into parts so very minute and so apt to stick
close to one another, that none of them may be fixt enough
to stay behind in a strong fire, and to be incapable of
distillation; nor consequently to be looked upon as earth.
But to return to Helmont; the same author somewhere
supplys me with another argument against the earth's
being such an element as my adversaries would have it.
For he somewhere affirmes, that he can reduce all the
terrestrial parts of mixt bodies into insipid water; whence
we may argue against the earth's being one of their
elements, even from that notion of elements, which you
may remember Philoponus recited out of Aristotle himself,
when he lately disputed for his chymists against
Themistius. And here we may on this occasion consider,
that since a body, from which the fire hath driven away
its looser parts, is wont to be looked upon as earth, upon
the account of its being endowed with both these qualities,
tastlesnesse and fixtnesse, (for salt of tartar, though fixt,
passes not among the chymists for earth, because 'tis
strongly tasted) if it be in the power of natural agents to
deprive the caput mortuum of a body of either of those
two qualities, or to give them both to a portion of matter
that had them not both before, the chymists will not
easily define what part of a resolved concrete is earth,

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214 The Sceptical Chymist
and make out, that that earth is a primary, simple, and
indestructible body. Now there are some cases wherein
the more skilful of the vulgar chymists themselves pretend
to be able, by repeated cohobations and other fit operations,
to make the distilled parts of a concrete bring its
own caput mortuum over the helme, in the forme of a
liquor, in which state being both fluid and volatile, you
will easily believe it would not be taken for earth. And
indeed by a skilful, but not vulgar, way of managing
some concretes, there may be more effected in this kind,
than you perhaps would easily think. And on the other
side, that either earth may be generated, or at least bodies
that did not before appear to be near totally earth, may
be so altered as to pass for it, seems very possible, if
Helmont have done that by art which he mentions in
several places; especially where he saies that he knowes
waies whereby sulphur once dissolved is all of it fixed
into a terrestrial powder, and the whole body of salt-
petre may be turned into earth: which last he elsewhere
saies is done by the odour only of a certain sulphureous
fire. And in another place he mentions one way of doing
this, which I cannot give you an account of; because
the materials I had prepared for trying it, were by a
servant's mistake unhappily thrown away.
And these last arguments may be confirmed by the experiment I have often had occasion to mention concerning
the mint I produced out of water. And partly
by an observation of Rondeletius concerning the growth
of animals also, nourished but by water, which I remembered
not to mention, when I discoursed to you about
the production of things out of water. This diligent
writer then in his instructive book of fishes, affirmes that
his wife kept a fish in a glass of water without any other
food for three years; in which space it was constantly
augmented, till at last it could not come out of the place
at which it was put in, and at length was too big for the
glass itself, though that were of a large capacity. And
because there is no just reason to doubt, that this fish,
if distilled would have yeelded the like differing substances
with other animals; and however because the mint,

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The Sceptical Chymist 215
which I had out of water, afforded me upon distillation
a good quantity of charcoal; I think I may from thence
inferr, that earth itself may be produced out of water;
or if you please, that water may be transmuted into earth;
and, consequently, that though it could be proved, that
earth is an ingredient actually inexistent in the vegetable
and animal bodies whence it may be obtained by fire:
yet it would not necessarily follow, that earth, as a pre-
existent element does with other principles convene to
make up those bodies whence it seems to have been
separated.
After all is said (saies Eleutherius) I have yet something to object, that I cannot but think considerable,
since Carneades himself alledged it as such; for, (continues
Eleutherius smiling) I must make bold to try whether
you can as luckily answer your own arguments, as those
of your antagonists, I mean (pursues he) that part of your
concessions, wherein you cannot but remember, that
you supplyed your adversaries with an example to prove
that there may be elementary bodies, by taking notice
that gold may be an ingredient in a multitude of differing
mixtures, and yet retain its nature, notwithstanding all
that the chymists by their fires and corrosive waters are
able to do to destroy it.
I sufficiently intimated to you at that time (replies Carneades) that I proposed this example, chiefly to shew
you how nature may be conceived to have made elements,
not to prove that she actually has made any; and you
know, that a posse ad esse the inference will not hold.
But (continues Carneades) to answer more directly to the
objection drawn from gold, I must tell you, that though
I know very well that divers of the more sober chymists
have complained of the vulgar chymists, as of mountebanks
or cheats, for pretending so vainly, as hitherto
they have done, to destroy gold; yet I know a certain
menstruum (which our friend has made, and intends
shortly to communicate to the ingenious) of so piercing
tare, and some skill, I did not much deceive myself, I
have with it really destroyed even refined gold, and
and powerful a quality, that if notwithstanding much
care, and some skill, I did not much deceive myself, I
have with it really destroyed even refined gold, and

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216 The Sceptical Chymist
brought it into a metalline body of another colour and
nature, as I found by tryals purposely made. And if
some just considerations did not for the present forbid it,
I could perchance here shew you by another experiment
or two of my own trying, that such menstruums may be
made as to entire away and retain divers parts from
bodies, which even the more judicious and experienced
spagyrists have pronounced irresoluble by the fire.
Though (which I desire you would mark) in neither of
these instances, the gold or precious stones be analyzed
into any of the tria prima, but only reduced to new concretes.
And indeed there is a great disparity betwixt
the operations of the several agents whereby the parts
of a body come to be dissipated. As if (for instance) you
dissolve the purer sort of vitriol in common water, the
liquor will swallow up the mineral, and so dissociate its
corpuscles, that they will seem to make up but one liquor
with those of the water; and yet each of these corpuscles
retains its nature and texture, and remains a vitriolate
and compounded body. But if the same vitriol be
exposed to a strong fire, it will then be divided not only,
as before, into smaller parts, but into heterogeneous
substances, each of the vitriolate corpuscles that remained
entire in the water, being itself upon the destruction of its
former texture dissipated or divided into new particles of
differing qualities. But instances more fitly applicable
to this purpose I have already given you. Wherefore
to return to what I told you about the destruction of gold;
that experiment invites me to represent to you, that
though there were either saline, or sulphureous, or terrestrial
portions of matter, whose parts were so small, so
firmly united together, or of a figure so fit to make them
cohere to one another, (as we see that in quicksilver broken
into little globes, the parts brought to touch one another
do immediately reimbody) that neither the fire, nor the
usual agents, employed by chymists, are piercing enough
to divide their parts, so as to destroy the texture of the
single corpuscles; yet it would not necessarily follow,
that such permanent bodies were elementary; since 'tis
possible there may be agents found in nature, some of

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The Sceptical Chymist 217
whose parts may be of such a size and figure as to take
better hold of some parts of these seemingly elementary
corpuscles than these parts do of the rest, and consequently
may carry away such parts with them, and so
dissolve the texture of the corpuscle by pulling its parts
asunder. And if it be said, that at least we may this way
discover the elementary ingredients of things by observing
into what substances these corpuscles, that were reputed
pure are divided; I answer, that 'tis not necessary that
such a discovery should be practicable. For if the
particles of the dissolvent do take such firm hold of those
of the dissolved body, they must constitute together new
bodies, as well as destroy the old; and the strickt union,
which according to this hypothesis may well be supposed
betwixt the parts of the emergent body, will make it as
little to be expected that they should be pulled asunder,
but by little parts of matter, that to divide them associate
themselves and stick extremely close to those of them
which they sever from their former adherents, besides
that it is not impossible, that a corpuscle supposed to be
elementary may have its nature changed, without suffering
a divorce of its parts, barely by a new texture effected
by some powerful agent; as I formerly told you, the same
portion of matter may easily by the operation of the fire
be turned at pleasure into the form of a brittle and transparent,
or an opacous and malleable body.
And indeed, if you consider how farr the bare change of texture, whether made by art or nature (or rather by
nature with or without the assistance of man) can go in
producing such new qualities in the same parcel of matter,
and how many inanimate bodies (such as are all the
chymical productions of the fire) we know are denominated
and distinguished not so much by any imaginary
substantial form, as by the aggregate of these qualities;
if you consider these things, I say, and that the varying
of either figure, or the size, or the motion, or the situation,
or connexion of the corpuscles whereof any of these
bodies is composed, may alter the fabrick of it, you will
possibly be invited to suspect with me, that there is no
great need that nature should alwaies have elements

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218 The Sceptical Chymist
beforehand, whereof to make such bodies as we call
mixts. And that it is not so easie as chymists and others
have hitherto imagined, to discern, among the many
differing substances that may without any extraordinary
skill be obtained from the same portion of matter, which
ought to be esteemed exclusively to all the rest, its
inexistent elementary ingredients; much less to determine
what primogeneal and simple bodies convened together
to compose it. To exemplify this, I shall add to what
I have already on several occasions represented, but this
single instance.
You may remember (Eleutherius) that I formerly intimated to you, that besides mint and pompions, I
produced divers other vegetables of very differing natures
out of water. Wherefore you will not, I presume, think
it incongruous to suppose, that when a slender vine-slip
is set into the ground, and takes root there, it may likewise
receive its nutriment from the water attracted out of the
earth by its roots, or impelled by the warmth of the sun,
or pressure of the ambient air into the pores of them.
And this you will the more easily believe, if you ever
observed what a strange quantity of water will drop out
of a wound given to the vine, in a convenient place, at
a seasonable time in the spring; and how little of taste
or smell this aqua vitis, as physitians call it, is endowed
with, notwithstanding what concoction or alteration it
may receive in its passage through the vine, to discriminate
it from common water. Supposing then this
liquor, at its first entrance into the roots of the vine, to be
common water; let us a little consider how many various
substances may be obtained from it; though to do so,
I must repeat somewhat that I had a former occasion to
touch upon. And first, this liquor being digested in the
plant, and assimilated by the several parts of it, is turned
into the wood, bark, pith, leaves, etc. of the vine; the
same liquor may be further dryed, and fashioned into
vine-buds, and these a while after are advanced unto
sowre grapes, which expressed yeeld verjuice, a liquor
very differing in several qualities both from wine and
other liquors obtainable from the vine: these sowre

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The Sceptical Chymist 219
grapes, being by the heat of the sun concocted and
ripened, turne to well tasted grapes; these, if dryed in
the sun and distilled, afford a faetid oyle and a piercing
empyreumatical spirit, but not a vinous spirit; these
dryed grapes or raisins, boyled in a convenient proportion
of water, make a sweet liquor, which, being betimes
distilled, afford an oyle and spirit much like those of the
raisins themselves; if the juice of the grapes be squeezed
out and put to ferment, it first becomes a sweet and
turbid liquor, then grows lesse sweet and more clear, and
then affords in common distillations not an oyle but
a spirit, which, though inflamable like oyle, differs much
from it, in that it is not fat, and that it will readily mingle
with water. I have likewise without addition obtained
in processe of time (and by an easie way which I am
ready to teach you) from one of the noblest sorts of wine,
pretty store of pure and curiously figured chrystals of
salt, together with a great proportion of a liquor as sweet
almost as honey; and these I obtained not from must,
but true and sprightly wine; besides the vinous liquor,
the fermented juice of grapes is partly turned into liquid
dregs or leeze, and partly into that crust or dry feculancy
that is commonly called tartar; and this tartar may by
the fire be easily divided into five differing substances;
four of which are not acid, and the other not so manifestly
acid as the tartar itself ; the same vinous juice after some
time, especially if it be not carefully kept, degenerates
into that very sowre liquor called vinegar; from which
you may obtain by the fire a spirit and a chrystalline salt
differing enough from the spirit and lixiviate salt of
tartar. And if you poure the dephlegmed spirit of the
vinegar upon the salt of tartar, there will be produced
such a conflict or ebullition, as if there were scarce two
more contrary bodies in nature; and oftentimes in this
vinegar you may observe part of the matter to be turned
into an innumerable company of swimming animals,
which our friend having divers years ago observed, bath
in one of his papers taught us how to discover clearly
without the help of a microscope.
Into all these various schemes of matter, or, differingly
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220 The Sceptical Chymist
qualifyed bodies, besides divers others that I purposely
forbear to mention, may the water, that is imbibed by the
roots of the vine, be brought, partly by the formative
power of the plant, and partly by supervenient agents or
causes, without the visible concurrence of any extraneous
ingredient; but if we be allowed to add to the productions
of this transmuted water a few other substances, we may
much encrease the variety of such bodies; although in
this second sort of productions, the vinous parts seem
scarce to retain anything of the much more fixed bodies
wherewith they were mingled, but only to have by their
mixture with them acquired such a disposition, that in
their recess occasioned by the fire they came to be altered
as to shape, or bigness, or both, and associated after a
new mariner. Thus, as I formerly told you, I did by the
addition of a caput mortuum of antimony, and some other
bodies unfit for distillation, obtain from crude tartar, store
of a very volatile and chrystalline salt, differing very
much in smell and other qualifies from the usuall salts of
tartar.
But (saies Eleutherius, interrupting him at these words) if you have no restraint upon you, I would very gladly
before you go any further, be more particularly informed,
how you make this volatile salt, because (you know) that
such multitudes of chymists have by a scarce imaginable
variety of waies, attempted in vain the volatilization of
the salt of tartar, that divers learned spagyrists speak
as if it were impossible to make anything out of tartar,
that shall be volatile in a saline forme, or, as some of them
express it, in forma sicca. I am very farr from thinking
(answers Carneades) that the salt I have mentioned is that
which Paracelsus and Helmont mean, when they speak
of sal tartari volatile, and ascribe such great things to it.
For the salt I speak of falls extremely short of those
vertues, rot seeming in its taste, smel, and other obvious
qualities, to differ very much (though something it does
differ) from salt of hartshom, and other volatile salts
drawn from the distilled parts of animals. Nor have I
yet made tryals enough to be sure, that it is a pure salt
of tartar without participating anything at all of the

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The Sceptical Chymist 221
nitre, or antimony. But because it seems more likely
to proceed from the tartar, than from any of the other
ingredients, and because the experiment is in itself not
ignoble, and luciferous enough (as shewing a new way to
produce a volatile salt, contrary to acid salts, from bodies
that otherwise are observed to yeeld no such liquor, but
either only, or chiefly, acid ones,) I shall, to satisfie you,
acquaint you before any of my other friends with the
way I now use (for I have formerly used some others)
to make it.
Take then of good antimony, salt-petre and tartar, of each an equal weight, and of quicklime halfe the weight
of any one of them; let these be powdered and well
mingled; this done, you must have in readiness a long
neck or retort of earth, which must be placed in a furnace
for a naked fire, and have at the top of it a hole of a convenient
bigness, a which you may cast in the mixture,
and presently stop it up again; this vessel being fitted
with a large receiver must have fire made under it, till
the bottom of the sides be red hot, and then you must
cast in the above prepared mixture, by about half a
spoonful (more or less) at a time, at the hole made for
that purpose; which being nimbly stopt, the fumes will
pass into the receiver and condense there into a liquor,
that being rectified will be of a pure golden colour, and
carry up that colour to a great height; this spirit abounds
in the salt I told you of, part of which may easily enough
be separated by the way I use in such cases, which is,
to put the liquor into a glass egg, or bolthead with a long
and narrow neck. For if this be placed a little inclining
in hot sand, there will sublime up a fine salt, which, as
I told you, I find to be much of kin to the volatile salts
of animals: for like them it has a saltish, not an acid
salt; it hisses upon the affusion of spirit of nitre, or oyle
of vitriol; it precipitates corals dissolved in spirit of
vinegar; it turnes the blew syrup of violets immediately
green; it presently turnes the solution of sublimate into
a milkie whiteness; and in summ, has divers operations
like those that I have observed in that sort of salts to
which I have resembled it: and is so volatile, that for

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222 The Sceptical Chymist
distinction sake, I call it sal tartari fugitivus. What
vertues it may have in physick I have not yet had the
opportunity to try; but I am apt to think they will not
be despicable. And besides that, a very ingenious friend
of mine tells me he hath done great matters against the
stone with a preparation not very much differing from
ours: a very experienced Germane chymist finding that
I was unacquainted with the waies of making this salt,
told me that in a great city in his country, a noted chymist
prizes it so highly, that he had a while since procured
a priviledge from the magistrates, that none but he, or by
his licence, should vent a spirit made almost after the
same way with mine, save that he leaves out one of
the ingredients, namely the quicklime. But, (continues
Carneades) to resume my former discourse where your
curiosity interrupted it;
Tis also a common practice in France to bury thin plates of copper in the marc (as the French call it) or
husks of grapes, whence the juice has been squeezed out
in the wine-press; and by this means the more saline
parts of those husks, working by little and little upon the
copper, coagulate themselves with it into that blewish
green substance we in English call verdigrease. Of
which I therefore take notice, because having distilled
it in a naked fire, I found, as I expected, that by the
association of the saline with the metalline parts, the
former were so altered, that the distilled liquor, even
without rectification, seemed by smell and taste, strong
almost like aqua fortis, and very much surpassed the
purest and most rectified spirit of vinegar that ever I
made. And this spirit I therefore ascribe to the salt of
the husks altered by their co-mixture with the copper
(though the fire afterwards divorce and transmute them)
because I found this latter in the bottom of the retort
in the forme of a crocus or reddish powder: and because
copper is of too sluggish a nature to be forced over in close
vessels by no stronger a heat. And that which is also
somewhat remarkable in the distillation of good verdigrease,
(or at least of that sort that I used) is this, that I
never could observe that it yeelded me any oyl, (unless

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The Sceptical Chymist 223
a little black slime which was separated in rectification
may pass for oyle) though both tartar and vinegar (especially
the former) will by distillation yeeld a moderate
proportion of it. If likewise you poure spirit of vinegar
upon calcined lead, the acid salt of the liquor will by
its commixture with the metalline parts, though insipid,
acquire in few hours a more than saccharine sweetness;
and these saline parts being by a strong fire distilled from
the lead wherewith they were imbodyed, will, as I formerly
also noted to a different purpose, leave the metal behind
them altered in some qualities from what it was, and will
themselves ascend, partly in the form of an unctuous
body or oyle, partly in that of phlegme, but for the greatest
part in the forme of a subtile spirit, indowed, besides
divers new qualities which I am not now willing to take
notice of, with a strong smell very much other than that
of vinegar, and a piercing taste quite differing both from
the sowreness of the spirit of vinegar, and the sweetness
of the sugar of lead.
To be short, as the difference of bodies may depend merely upon that of the schemes whereinto their common
matter is put; so the seeds of things, the fire and the
other agents are able to alter the minute parts of a body
(either by breaking them into smaller ones of differing
shapes, or by uniting together these fragments with the
unbroken corpuscles, or such corpuscles among themselves)
and the same agents partly by altering the chape
or bigness of the constituent corpuscles of a body, partly
by driving away some of them, partly by blending others
with them, and partly by some new manner of connecting
them, may give the whole portion of matter a new texture
of its minute parts, and thereby make it deserve a new
and distinct name. So that according as the small parts
of matter recede from each other, or work upon each other,
or are connected together after this or that determinate
manner, a body of this or that denomination is produced,
as some other body happens thereby to be altered or
destroyed.

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224 The Sceptical Chymist
Since then those things which chymists produce by the help of the fire are but inanimate bodies; since such
fruits of the chymists' skill differ from one another but
in so few qualities that we see plainly that by fire, and
other agents we can employ, we can easily enough work
as great alterations upon matter, as those that are requisite
to change one of these chymical productions into another;
since the same portion of matter may without being compounded
with any extraneous body, or at least element,
be made to put on such a variety of formes, and consequently
to be (successively) turned into so many differing
bodies; and since the matter, cloathed with so many
differing formes, was originally but water, and that in its
passage through so many transformations, it was never
reduced into any of those substances which are reputed
to be the principles or elements of mixt bodies, except
the violence of the fire, which itself divides not bodies
into perfectly simple or elementary substances, but into
new compounds; since, I say, these things are so, I see
not why we must needs believe that there are any
primogeneal and simple bodies, of which, as of pre-
existent elements, nature is obliged to compound all
others. Nor do I see why we may not conceive that she
may produce the bodies accounted mixt out of one another
by variously altering and contriving their minute parts,
without resolving the matter into any such simple or
homogeneous substances as are pretended. Neither, to
dispatch, do I see why it should be counted absurd to
think, that when a body is resolved by the fire into its
supposed simple ingredients, those substances are not
true and proper elements, but rather were, as it were,
accidentally produced by the fire, which by dissipating
a body into minute parts does, if those parts be shut up
in close vessels, for the most part necessarily bring them
to associate themselves after another manner than before,
and so bring them into bodies of such different consistences,
as the former texture of the body and concurrent circumstances
make such disbanded particles apt to constitute;
as experience shews us (and I have both noted it, and
proved it already) that as there are some concretes whose

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The Sceptical Chymist 225
parts, when dissipated by fire, are fitted to be put into
such schemes of matter as we call oyle, and salt, and
spirit; so there are others, such as are especially the
greatest part of minerals, whose corpuscles being of
another size or figure, or perhaps contrived another way,
will not in the fire yeeld bodies of the like consistences,
but rather others of differing textures; not to mention,
that from gold and some other bodies, we see not that the
fire separates any distinct substances at all; nor that
even those similar parts of bodies, which the chymists
obtain by the fire, are the elements whose names they
bear, but compound bodies, upon which, for their resemblance
to the in consistence, or some other obvious
quality, chymists have been pleased to bestow such
appellations.

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THE CONCLUSION
THESE last words of Carneades being soon after followed
by a noise which seemed to come from the place where
the rest of the company was, he took it for a warning,
that it was time for him to conclude or break off his
discourse; and told his friend; By this time I hope you
see, Eleutherius, that if Helmont's experiments be true,
it is no absurdity to question whether that doctrine be
one, that doth not assert any elements in the sence before
explained. But because that, as divers of my arguments
suppose the marvellous power of the alkahest in the
analyzing of bodies, so the effects ascribed to that power
are so unparalleled and stupendous, that though I am
not sure but that there may be such an agent, yet little
less than ἀυτοψία seems requisite to make a man sure
there is. And consequently I leave it to you to judge, how
farr those of my arguments that are built upon alkahestical
operations are weakned by that liquors being
matchless; and shall therefore desire you not to think
that I propose this paradox that rejects all elements,
as an opinion equally probable with the former part of
my discourse. For by that, I hope, you are satisfied,
that the arguments, wont to be brought by chymists to
prove that all bodies consist of either three principles,
or five, are far from being so strong as those that I have
employed to prove, that there is not any certain and
determinate number of such principles or elements to be
met with universally in all mixt bodies. And I suppose
I need not tell you, that these anti-chymical paradoxes
might have been managed more to their advantage; but
that having not confined my curiosity to chymical experiments,
I, who am but a young man, and younger chymist,
can yet be but slenderly furnished with them, in reference
to so great and difficult a task as you imposed upon me:
besides that, to tell you the truth, I durst not employ

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The Sceptical Chymist 227
some even of the best experiments I am acquainted with,
because I must not yet disclose them; but, however, I
think I may presume that what I have hitherto discoursed
will induce you to think, that chymists have been much
more happy in finding experiments than the causes of
them; or in assigning the principles by which they may
best be explained. And indeed, when in the writing of
Paracelsus I meet with such phantastick and unintelligible
discourses as that writer often puzzels and tires his reader
with, fathered upon such excellent experiments, as
though he seldom clearly teaches, I often find he knew;
methinks the chymists, in their searches after truth, are
not unlike the navigators of Solomon's Tarshish fleet, who
brought home from their long and tedious voyages, not
only gold, and silver, and ivory, but apes and peacocks
too; for so the writings of several (for I say not, all) of
your hermetick philosophers present us, together with
divers substantial and noble experiments, theories, which
either like peacocks' feathers make a great shew, but are
neither solid nor useful; or else like apes, if they have
some appearance of being rational, are blemished with
some absurdity or other, that when they are attentively
considered, make them appear ridiculous.
Carneades having thus finished his discourse against the received doctrines of the elements, Eleutherius judging
he should not have time to say much to him before their
separation, made some haste to tell him; I confess,
Carneades, that you have said more in favour of your
paradoxes than I expected. For though divers of the
experiments you have mentioned are no secrets, and were
not unknown to me, yet besides that you have added
many of your own unto them, you have laid them together
in such a way, and applyed them to such purposes,
and made such deductions from them, as I have not
hitherto met with.
But though I be therefore inclined to think, that Philoponus, had he heard you, would scarce have been
able in all points to defend the chymical hypothesis
against the arguments wherewith you have opposed it;
yet methinks that however your objections seem to

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228 The Sceptical Chymist
evince a great part of what they pretend to, yet they
evince it not all; and the numerous tryals of those you
call the vulgar chymists, may be allowed to prove something
too.
Wherefore, if it be granted you that you have made it probable,
First, that the differing substances into which mixt bodies are wont to be resolved by the fire are not of a pure
and an elementary nature, especially for this reason, that
they yet retain so much of the nature of the concrete
that afforded them, as to appear to be yet somewhat
compounded, and oftentimes to differ in one concrete
from principles of the same denomination in another:
Next, that as to the number of these differing substances,
neither is it precisely three, because in most vegetable
and animal bodies earth and phlegme are also to be
found among their ingredients; nor is there any one
determinate number into which the fire (as it is wont
to be employed) does precisely and universally resolve all
compound bodies whatsoever, as well minerals as others
that are reputed perfectly mixt.
Lastly, that there are divers qualities which cannot well be referred to any of these substances, as if they
primarily resided in it and belonged to it; and some other
qualities, which though they seem to have their chief and
most ordinary residence in some one of these principles
or elements of mixt bodies, are not yet so deducible from
it, but that also some more general principles must be
taken in to explicate them.
If, I say, the chymists (continues Eleutherius) be so liberall as to make you these three concessions, I hope you
will, on your part, be so civil and equitable as to grant
them these three other propositions, namely;
First, that divers mineral bodies, and therefore probably all the rest, may be resolved into a saline, a sulphureous,
and a mercurial part; and that almost all vegetable and
animal concretes may, if not by the fire alone, yet by
a skilfull artist employing the fire as his chief instrument,
be divided into five differing substances, salt, spirit, oyle,
phlegme and earth; of which the three former by reason

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The Sceptical Chymist 229
of their being so much more operative than the two latter,
deserve to be lookt upon as the three active principles,
and by way of eminence to be called the three principles
of mixt bodies.
Next, that these principles, though they be not perfectly devoid of all mixture, yet may without inconvenience
be stiled the elements of compounded bodies,
and bear the names of those substances which they most
resemble, and which are manifestly predominant in them;
and that especially for this reason, that none of these
elements is divisible by the fire into four or five differing
substances, like the concrete whence it was separated.
Lastly, that divers of the qualities of a mixt body, and especially the medical virtues, do for the most part lodge
in some one or other of its principles, and may therefore
usefully be sought for in that principle severed from the
others.
And in this also (pursues Eleutherius) methinks both you and the chymists may easily agree, that the surest
way is to leam by particular experiments, what differing
parts particular bodies do consist of, and by what wayes
(either actual or potential fire) they may best and most
conveniently be separated, as without relying too much
upon the fire alone, for the resolving of bodies, so without
fruitlessly contending to force them into more elements
than nature made them up of, or strip the severed principles
so naked, as by making them exquisitely elementary
to make them almost useless.
These things (subjoynes Eleu.) I propose, without despairing to see them granted by you; not only because
I know that you so much prefer the reputation of candour
before that of subtility, that your having once supposed
a truth would not hinder you from imbracing it when
clearly made out to you; but because, upon the present
occasion, it will be no disparagement to you to recede
from some of your paradoxes, since the nature and
occasion of your past discourse did not oblige you to
declare your own opinions, but only to personate an
antagonist of the chymists. So that (concludes he, with
a smile) you may now by granting what I propose, add

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230 The Sceptical Chymist
the reputation of loving the truth sincerely to that of
having been able to oppose it subtilly.
Carneades's haste forbidding him to answer this crafty piece of flattery; Till I shall (saies he) have an opportunity
to acquaint you with my own opinions about the controversies
I have been discoursing of, you will not I hope,
expect I should declare my own sence of the argument
I have employed. Wherefore I shall only tell you thus
much at present; that though not only an acute naturalist,
but even I myself could take plausible exceptions
at some of them; yet divers of them too are such as will
not perhaps be readily answered, and will reduce my
adversaries, at least, to alter and reform their hypothesis.
I perceive I need not mind you that the objections I made
against the quaternary of elements and ternary of principles
needed not to be opposed so much against the
doctrines themselves, either of which, especially the
latter, may be much more probably maintained than
hitherto it seems to have been, by those writers for it I
have met with) as against the unaccurateness and the
unconcludingness of the analytical experiments vulgarly
relyed on to demonstrate them.
And therefore, if either of the two examined opinions, or any other theory of elements, shall upon rational and
experimental grounds be clearly made out to me; 'tis
obliging, but not irrational, in you to expect, that I shall
not be so farr in love with my disquieting doubts, as not
to be content to change them for undoubted truths. And
(concludes Carneades smiling) it were no great disparagement
for a sceptick to confesse to you, that as unsatisfyed
as the past discourse may have made you think me with
the doctrines of the Peripateticks, and the chymists, about
the elements and principles, I can yet so little discover
what to acquiesce in, that perchance the enquiries of
others have scarce been more unsatisfactory to me, than
my own have been to myself.

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