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the same names as are now in fashion, but that they were known is proved by the results attained. What matters it by what name the gas given off when iron is dissolved in sulphuric acid was called by Paracelsus, since he is recognized, even by our standard authorities, as the discoverer of hydrogen? His merit is the same; and though Van Helmont may have concealed, under the name “seminal virtues,” his knowledge of the fact that elementary substances have their original properties, which the entering into compounds only temporarily modifies — never destroys — he was none the less the greatest chemist of his age, and the peer of modern scientists. He affirmed that the aurum potabile could be obtained with the alkahest, by converting the whole body of gold into salt, retaining its seminal virtues, and being soluble in water. When chemists learn what he meant by aurum potabile, alkahest, salt, and seminal virtues — what he really meant, not what he said he meant, nor what was thought he meant — then, and not before, can our chemists safely assume such airs toward the fire-philosophers and those ancient masters whose mystic teachings they reverently studied. One thing is clear, at any rate. Taken merely in its exoteric form, this language of Van Helmont shows that he understood the solubility of metallic substances in water, which Sterry Hunt makes the basis of his theory of metalliferous deposits. We would like to see what sort of terms would be invented by our scientific contemporaries to conceal and yet half-reveal their audacious proposition that man’s “only God is the cineritious matter of his brain,” if in the basement of the new Court House or the cathedral on Fifth Avenue there were a torture-chamber, to which judge or cardinal could send them at will.

Professor Sterry Hunt says in one of his lectures: “The alchemists sought in vain for a universal solvent; but we now know that water, aided in some cases by heat, pressure, and the presence of certain widely-distributed substances, such as carbonic acid and alkaline carbonates and sulphides, will dissolve the most insoluble bodies; so that it may, after all, be looked upon as the long-sought for alkahest or universal menstruum.”

This reads almost like a paraphrase of Van Helmont, or Paracelsus himself! They knew the properties of water as a solvent as well as modern chemists, and what is more, made no concealment of the fact; which shows that this was not their universal solvent. Many commentaries and criticisms of their works are still extant, and one can hardly take up a book on the subject without finding at least one of their spec-

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ulations of which they never thought of making a mystery. This is what we find in an old work on alchemists — a satire, moreover — of 1820, written at the beginning of our century when the new theories on the chemical potency of water were hardly in their embryonic state.

“It may throw some light to observe, that Van Helmont, as well as Paracelsus, took water for the universal instrument (agent?) of chymistry and natural philosophy; and earth for the unchangeable basis of all things — that fire was assigned as the sufficient cause of all things — that Seminal impressions were lodged in the mechanism of the earth — that water, by dissolving and fermenting with this earth, as it does by means of fire, brings forth everything; whence originally proceeded animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms.”

The alchemists understand well this universal potency of water. In the works of Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Philalethes, Pantatem, Tachenius, and even Boyle, “the great characteristic of the alkahest,” “to dissolve and change all sublunary bodies — water alone excepted,” is explicitly stated. And is it possible to believe that Van Helmont, whose private character was unimpeachable, and whose great learning was universally recognized, should most solemnly declare himself possessed of the secret, were it but a vain boast!

In a recent address at Nashville, Tennessee, Professor Huxley laid down a certain rule with respect to the validity of human testimony as a basis of history and science, which we are quite ready to apply to the present case. “It is impossible,” he says, “that one’s practical life should not be more or less influenced by the views which we may hold as to what has been the past history of things. One of them is human testimony in its various shapes — all testimony of eye-witnesses, traditional testimony from the lips of those who have been eye-witnesses, and the testimony of those who have put their impressions into writing and into print. . . . If you read Caesar’s Commentaries, wherever he gives an account of his battles with the Gauls, you place a certain amount of confidence in his statements. You take his testimony upon this. You feel that Caesar would not have made these statements unless he had believed them to be true.”

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