Introduction and Preface
The entire manuscript of The Mirror of Alchymy by Friar Roger Bacon is presented here. Supposedly it was originally written circa A.D. 1260 in the Latin, and translated by Dr. Michael Charles into English in 1597. The original manuscript is shown here in Courier New font, while commentary is presented below the various sections in Times New Roman. The copy I possess and worked from showed no paragraph indentations. Each chapter in the reprint was shown as merely one paragraph.
As far as I know and can discover no one has yet analyzed the meaning behind what Friar Bacon had written. There have been critiques on the text as a whole, its authorship, its date written and probable history, questions of its originality, the subsequent translations, etc., the usual superficial inquires. No attempts have been offered to explain what Bacon actually meant by his coded and cryptic style. Some critiques have dismissed Bacon's opus as mere gibberish from his period. One critic opines: "...it is impossible to take anything in this little booklet seriously, ..." But it is difficult for me to imagine Roger Bacon being facetious.
This alchemical manuscript was written in a highly encrypted and coded style. All the genuine sage philosopher alchemists did so purposely, not to deceive, but to save their own lives and preserve the secret teachings hidden within. We have to keep in mind that throughout those 'alchemical centuries' before and after Roger Bacon the Roman Church and other religious factions carried quite a big stick. Any and all writings which even seemed to threaten the religious dogma of the period, thereby threatening the very existence of one powerful church or another, the authors or group responsible came under severe persecutions in the name of God as dictated by those temporal powers. Even today we can find spots marked in the central plazas and squares of the medieval sections of towns in Europe where these persecutions were commonplace.
This supposition attempts to explain the actual text intended beneath the coded language. Some alchemical terms within the manuscript, however, are explained elsewhere in this site under the Glossary section, if you are a beginner with this type of prose. In that case you will have to back reference this reading with jumping back and forth to the Glossary section. Bacon's manuscript does not explain fundamentals. His audience had to be those already familiar with classical alchemical literature, or those who were at least advanced aspirants in this Art.
The simplest, most direct way to approach this work, in my opinion, is to keep in mind that the now archaic language and terms have evolved through the centuries. All languages, with their grammar, punctuation and vocabularies have matured since the 13th Century, and again through the late 16th Century, when it was translated from the Latin. Today's language formats are even considerably altered from Dr. Charles' period. Then again, whole new veins of study and knowledge have since appeared in the form of the social sciences.
I believe it would be generous to say that the psychological sciences we are familiar with currently had their beginnings a mere 250-300 years ago? 'Argent Vive' and 'Mercury,' as used in these writings have since been replaced by the psychological term, super-consciousness. 'Sulphur' in this work is to be understood as self-consciousness, while 'Salt' has since been adapted as sub-consciousness.
Many classical alchemical terms, however, cannot merely be substituted with modern vocabulary or current psychological jargon. This was, and remains deliberate because the modern languages take us even further from the original intent of early alchemical literature. It has always been and remains a coded communication, reserved only for those with the deeper desire for understanding.
The alchemists' 'metals,' for example, have led so many impatient for riches to believe gold, silver, tin, etc., to be the actual materials for transmutation into unlimited wealth. The metals presented in Bacon's manuscript are actually ethereal centers through which human consciousness perceives the nature of his environment. Each of the metals is an ethereal portal, so to speak, through which three modes of energy flow in varying proportion. Roger Bacon and the many other classical alchemists before and after his time named these three modes Argent Vive or Mercury, the super-conscious energy; Sulphur, the self-conscious energy expression; and Salt, the sub-conscious mode. Each center, or metal, with its degree of expression in consciousness is addressed in the following.
The Mirror of Alchymy
Friar Roger Bacon
From the London edition of 1597,
being slightly modernized,
by Dr. Michael Charles
In times past the Philosophers spoke after diverse and sundry manners throughout their writings, such that as it were in a riddle or a cloudy voice, they have left to us the ascertainment of their most excellent and noble science, but altogether obscure, and without all hope utterly denied, and that not without good cause. Wherefore I would advise you, that above all other books, you should firmly fix your mind upon the SEVEN CHAPTERS, containing in them the transmutation of metals, and often call to your mind the beginning, middle, and the end of same, wherein you shall find such subtlety, that your mind shall be fully contented with it.
This preface sets the tone for most alchemical writings. It states that masters freely give the message but that the hints are deliberately enigmatic and cryptic. Discernment is up to the reader. They point to signposts upon which to meditate, for two basic reasons, it is surmised. First, alchemy leads toward fourth dimensional awareness. No direct language can adequately explain fourth dimensional experience and awareness. Readers are encouraged to wrestle with imagery that may lead to apprehension, if not comprehension, of that awareness. Second, by submitting their knowledge in the form of chemical recipes, genuine alchemists purposely move the ardent students out of the rational mind, that is, out of the ordinary way the rational mind works. They bid aspirants to look into a thing in an extraordinary way, principally metaphorically, leading away from the linear perception that crystallizes ignorant misconceptions of this world. It also opens the sub-conscious abstract mind which is able to deduce hidden relationships clearly if one can quiet the self-conscious interference. Bacon wrote this little treatise in seven chapters and it actually does contain explanations for “the transmutation of metals,” but these may not necessarily be the chapters upon which he asks readers to fix their minds. He may be referring to the title of Hermes Trismegistus’ Seven Golden Chapters, which preceded Roger Bacon by centuries, even milleniums, and of which he was most familiar, as were true alchemists of Bacon’s period. The Seven Golden Chapters of Hermes also explains the beginning, middle, and end of the transmutation of metals, albeit even more enigmatically than Bacon's offering.