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[Preface, no page numbers]
However I did not presume to keep this universal category to myself, at least as regards that part which inquires into plastic or seminal power. 26 years ago I published a treatise on it, entitled Idea Idearum Operatricium, which had mixed fortunes when it came out, for it soon encountered its Junos and snakes. It impressed the word 'idea' on many people, but not in its customary meaning, which led a certain reader in theology to write to me to ask whether my ideas were Platonic ideas. This reminded me of a conversation between me and Fr Athanasius Kircher at Rome 23 years ago when, among other things, he said this to me: "Sir Marcus, how few people understand these ‘ideas’": and so indeed experience has taught me.
And so I ceased from further investigation, for fear I should be seen to have started rashly, and I withdrew the manner but not the way by which I might do it. Glancing over and eliminating his spurious ideas I stripped down my teachings to be more consonant with Hippocratic and Aristotelian ones. In 1635, before this new philosophy with its ideas had occurred to us, as I have said, I published a treatise concerning them.
I am confident that when they have put aside this credulity and pointless horror of names, and explored his philosophy in the light of nature as Cotes did Lydia, they will, no less easily than I did, change their opinions however long held. When, 40 years ago, I made the acquaintance of Mr Georgius Barschius, a man of great experience in chemical matters, which we often discussed, I bitterly resisted the things he would say, which were then new to me and not so concordant with my philosophy. He was more versed in the works of nature than in sophistry of that kind and replied that I would feel differently when I had had experience of these things. In short order he became my faithful friend for all those years. He was a man of upright life, which he lived out as a bachelor until his seventieth year. When he was dying he made me the inheritor of his collections and chemical library.
I cannot here pass over in silence that great man, famed for his teaching, holiness of life and merits, Fr Martinus Santinus of the Society of Jesus, once my honoured professor of sacred theology, who shunned chemistry so much that when he read my theses for the doctorate in medicine, [p. 281] which were purely chemical, he spoke these words to me: "Good God, when did he get into this Labyrinth?" And when I replied that I had just fallen in love with these truths he groaned.
It happened, not long after, when he was the Rector of the College and I was its regular doctor, that he looked more inquiringly at what we were doing, and was amazed that the metals and minerals from which we derived medications by spagyric art contained things which he had never been able to imagine. Gradually he was drawn into the love of the same chemistry and he would take great pleasure in conferring about these things and watching when he could and indeed introducing what he had learned into his commentaries.
20 years ago I was accompanying Baron Franciscus de Sternberg to Rome and Fr Ignatius Roio was with us. As we proceeded we conversed about varioius topics, including chemistry, and the question of this very spirit of the world was raised. Then the Father disputed against me bitterly until he was exhausted and then he burst out with these words: Whatever your opinion is, I am entirely happy with it, because it is completely consistent with itself. About 30 years ago at St Giles’s here in Prague there was a reader in philosophy of the order of St Dominic who was an acquaintance of mine. He would eagerly hear me on hermetic principles whenever possible. Finally he spoke to me in these words: I do not want to hear more of this from you, for ever since I began to concentrate on this I have experienced great difficulty in teaching everything to the religious and very learned men who are aware of what I write and constantly encourage me.
Here at Prague late one Sunday when it was already evening I was returning home from seeing a patient down a long street and I came to the house called the Black Castle. The house next door to it jutted out from the line of the others and made a narrow passageway. There I noticed a rumbling sound like people upturning the beams. Puzzled to know what they were doing so late I stood on the doorstep of the house opposite with a curiosity I normally lack, so as to be less conspicuous. And behold I saw the porch collapse and soon the whole house followed it into the spot where I had been about to go. A shrieking suddenly broke out and as suddenly ceased, for those who raised the cry had been crushed in the collapse. Some of them were brought out half dead and others unconscious from those beams.
When the Swedes were besieging the city I was standing in front of the College of the Society of Jesus one day with Fr Conrad, a man of outstanding learning and piety, opposite some small openings which had been left between the beams which barred the way between the bridge and the middle hospital. After a while the Father said to me, Is it quite safe for us to stand here? No indeed, I said, and moved a little to the left. And at that very moment an enemy missile came through the opening and struck the place where I had been standing.
Another day I was in my museum on the second floor of my house, bending over a book I was reading, when mounted troops passed by the house at just that moment and discharged their carabines, as they used to do. A slight fatigue and back trouble persuaded me to take a break, and as I raised my head to do so, a flying bullet hit the upper stone of the window and bouncing off it went right through the book and hit the wall with repeated blows. It would undoubtedly have struck my head if I had stayed in the same place. Anyone can notice an infinite number of angelic blessings on him if he will only look out for them.
It is the same in tincturing as with impulse in motion consuming itself with its continuous impact. For the atom which is now tincturing is dying off and has no force beyond that of tincturing, and the atom of mercury which has just been tinctured receives nothing more from the residue of tincture which still remains, while the added mercury takes away its power. Thus the goldsmiths did not know what kind of metal the gold was which Kelly made from copper in the presence of the Roman Emperor Rudolph, as he told them to add more copper. Indeed some of that tincture survives to this day.