Retort, Alembic, Cucurbit
These standard laboratory materials are commonly described as instruments used primarily in distilling operations. Classic alchemical literature had the same operation in mind. However, DISTILLATION (see same), with respect to manufacturing the Philosophers’ Stone, is understood solely as an internal, bodily process. Discerning readers already know this as true, but confusion is still evident when we read some modern interpretations of the old fire philosophers' manuscripts. Modern writers tend to group these glass vessels generally with the Glass Vessel, defined as the human aura (see GLASS VESSEL). This may seem like hair-splitting, but true alchemists had something quite specific to say concerning their Retorts, Alembics and Cucurbits. In Plate II – The First Treatise of Splendor Solis, we are shown a red-robed philosopher palming a retort while he points to it with his right forefinger. Within the retort is a lemon colored solution. Attached to its mouth is a banner with the Latin instruction: “Let us go in quest of the four natural elements.” This is the same intent and meaning behind the Magician symbolism in Tarot packs agreeing with esoteric designs. The red-robed philosopher/magician (desirous self-consciousness) mixes and blends the four elements, light, water, air and food in the stomach. It is the squaring of the circle. These four substances turn into the circular sanguinary system as pure, charged Aurum Potabile. The lemon liquid is digestive stomach-acid fluid – NOT urine.
The Virgin's Milk is distilled into the small intestines (extended forefinger, Yod) of both the philosopher and the Magician. Plate II and the Magician Tarot Key are near the beginning of their respective picture books. This is the beginning of the Art, as the First Treatise clearly states:
"The Philosopher's Stone is produced by means of the Greening and Growing Nature."1
Paracelsus is even clearer, for once, in The Aurora of the Philosophers, chapter XII:
"Hence it is clear that the distillations of the druggists are useless, vain, foolish, and of no value, because these people do not know how to extract the blood-like redness from vegetables. Nature herself is wise, and turns all the waters of vegetables to a lemon color, and after that into an oil which is very red like blood. The reason why this is so slowly accomplished arises from the too great haste of the ignorant operators who distill it, which causes the greenness to be consumed. They have not learnt to strengthen Nature with her own powers (here he insinuates the addition of extra amounts of chyle), which is the mode whereby that noble green colour ought to be rectified into redness of itself."2
Very many people in our remote-controlled video world, wolfing down TV dinners, faces in their i-phones, have no clue regarding the importance of their simple digestive functions. This, plus ignorance concerning the addition of the Virgin's Milk and Prana extracted from the atmosphere, has led to all manner of illnesses and early deaths. Make no mistake concerning all the instrumentation in this Art. While they are most certainly inner 'tools,' they must be considered functionally different from each other if we are to understand the subtleties of the sages' words. The entire physical body is our Athanor; the etheric aura is our Glass Vessel. Metals are the immature force centers in the finer bodies that influence physical glands and organs, the Secret Vessels. Our lungs are our Bellows. The stomach, burning fuel, is our Furnace. The lacteal in the upper portion of the small intestines, where chyle is introduced into the blood, is our Retort, Alembic or Cucurbit. This is the place where Gold, the physical solar force, is distilled into the blood stream.
Consider the alchemical picture book of Claudius De Dominico Celentano Vallis Novi in the Alchemy chapter of Manly P. Hall's Secret Teachings of All Ages. Leaf 9 illustrates a philosopher sitting with a vessel (esophagus and stomach) under his left hand. His other arm holds up Ida, Pingala and Sushumna (Flores Sulphuris). Moon and Sun are positioned above and below the Flowers. His left hand hints Yod and the Virgo body region where the Virgin's Milk is distilled. Lac Virginis, sometimes called semen solare, Seed of the Sun, has been misinterpreted as the seminal sexual fluid, but it is pure solar energy that is alluded to. Its release into the blood stream is a subconscious power initiated by super-consciousness after a mere suggestion from the self-conscious level. It is then blended with Prana, also a self-conscious input, within the bellows. Rayi, the White Work, then distributes this power throughout the cell structure during self-conscious sleep. Please find and refer to all these pictures and take the time to study them for a better understanding of the alchemist's instruments.
1 Trismosin, Solomon, Splendor Solis. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD. Reprinted by Yogi Publication Society, no date, pg. 17.
2 Paracelsus, Theophrastus, The Aurora Of The Philosophers. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1986, pg. 17.