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'Salt' as a third 'principle'
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Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Tue Sep 20th, 2011 05:51 am
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Reading that line in Bruce T. Moran’s Distilling Knowledge (2005, p. 80) ...

 

“Some in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries did indeed invoke Paracelsus as a forerunner [...], but it was not necessary to do so because traditions of chemical medicine and even references to the cosmological three principles of Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury existed as well within other contexts, including medieval alchemy and ancient and Arabic medicine.”

 

... I was wondering what could have been these sources from medieval alchemy which Paracelsus used for his Tria prima.

 

Philosophical texts offer many analogies, but what about more specifically ‘alchemical’ sources for his three principles idea? (Not Isaac Hollandais, of course!)  

 

All I could think of was in the closing section of the Turba philosophorum : “It is also a stone and not a stone, spirit, soul, and body;”

http://www.archive.org/stream/turbaphilosophor00gratiala#page/206/mode/2up


 

And Walter Pagel (Paracelsus, 1982, p.88) only put briefly: “Paracelsus would seem to have elaborated on the traditional alchemical doctrine. He added the third principle, “salt”. This is [...] the principle directing material towards the solid state.”
 
 

But Didier Kahn (Alchimie et Paracelcisme, p. 602) points towards a lullian text (which one ?) : “Par ailleurs je viens de signaler que l’importance du sel chez Palissy, qu’on est souvent tenté d’imputer à une connaissance précoce de Paracelse, pourrait tout aussi bien provenir de la connaissance d’un important traité pseudo-lullien, qui d’ailleurs a toutes chances d’avoir été lui-même déterminant dans la genèse de l’idée des tria prima chez Paracelse.”



So, any ideas what about other alchemical authors that could have suggest to Paracelse the concept of Salt as a third ‘principle’? (Ripley maybe?...)

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Last edited on Tue Sep 20th, 2011 04:55 pm by Carl Lavoie

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Mon Sep 26th, 2011 11:08 pm
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Histories of chemistry, like this one:

http://books.google.com/books?id=s00aAQAAMAAJ&q=%22albertus+magnus%22+%22tria+prima%22&dq=%22albertus+magnus%22+%22tria+prima%22&hl=en&ei=jvaATuWPK8yKswbrtOz0DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CE4Q6AEwCA

suggest Albertus Magnus as the link with the Greeks.

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Tue Sep 27th, 2011 03:19 am
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Interesting. Too bad we cannot see the footnotes (can't find an on-line copy, but the search engines come up with six mentions of ‘tria prima’ on that first page). University libraries, then.

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Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Fri Oct 14th, 2011 03:08 pm
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Carl Lavoie wrote:
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Interesting. Too bad we cannot see the footnotes (can't find an on-line copy, but the search engines come up with six mentions of ‘tria prima’ on that first page). University libraries, then.

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I wonder if Holmyard is the common source for the Albertus Magnus link.

Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Mon Oct 17th, 2011 01:32 pm
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There was an old article:
Hooykaas, R. (1949). 'Chemical Trichotomy before Paracelsus?', Archives Internationales d'histoires des sciences. 28:1063-74.
I read it a long time ago but remember that his conclusion was there were no "tria prima" before Paracelsus. It should, obviously, be reconsidered in the light of more recent knowledge/publications.

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Mon Oct 17th, 2011 01:51 pm
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Rafal T. Prinke wrote:
There was an old article:
Hooykaas, R. (1949). 'Chemical Trichotomy before Paracelsus?', Archives Internationales d'histoires des sciences. 28:1063-74.
I read it a long time ago but remember that his conclusion was there were no "tria prima" before Paracelsus. It should, obviously, be reconsidered in the light of more recent knowledge/publications.


And here is that study, complete:

http://books.google.com/books?id=i8OjfyDtf_EC&pg=PA105&lpg=PA105&dq=%22Chemical+Trichotomy+before+Paracelsus%22&source=bl&ots=LfPYXZDJMs&sig=YKUM8XpdAdl2hznSMQE6oap01Uk&hl=en&ei=biScTruIBdDC8QPSxsnrBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22Chemical%20Trichotomy%20before%20Paracelsus%22&f=false

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Wed Oct 26th, 2011 05:52 am
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.

I've found the book that Paul’s link above shows, Barry Barnett and Wilson’s Inorganic Chemistry (2nd ed., 1959), a seriously outdated work.

Actually, worst than that, as they credit Boyle for coming up with the concept of atoms, etc. Not exactly impressive, for the late ‘50s.

Anyway, they assert that indeed, the ‘tria prima’ were from Albertus Magnus.

 



 

No footnote, no source. (- sigh-)

Anybody that recalls of a line in Albert Magnus regarding three principles ? And/or which one is that pseudo-lullian treatise Kahn is referring to ?

.

 


Last edited on Wed Oct 26th, 2011 05:55 am by Carl Lavoie

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Mon Oct 15th, 2012 04:47 pm
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Page 88 of Holmyard's "Alchemy" says

"Razi follows Jabir in assuming that the proximate constituents of metals wer emercury and sulphur (or an inflammable oil), but sometimes suggests a third constituent of a salt nature - an idea which occurs very frequently in later alchemical literature (p.174)."

Page 174 referring to Paracelsus.  In the same section, Holmyard mentions work by Ruska, Stapleton and Heym, so it may well be that you can find more information in their works.

Or read "The Book of the Secret of Secrets" yourself. 

 

 

 

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Fri Nov 16th, 2012 05:21 am
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What you pointed out, Alexander, is echoed by Principe :



-L. Principe, The Secrets of Alchemy, p.46.

So, Paracelse reader of Rhasès, or did he came up with the notion of ‘Salt’ independently of literary sources ?
Anyway, you’re right, I should check out The Book of the Secrets of Secrets.

[Later...]

The short ‘alchemical’ section in Roger Bacon’s edition of the Secretum secretorum, which run from the page 114 (178 of 382)/ fol. 87b to the page 117 (181 of 382)/ fol.89a, have his interesting glosses and marginal notes.

http://sul-derivatives.stanford.edu/derivative?CSNID=00002451&mediaType=application/pdf

I may have miss an explicit reference to ‘Salt’ as a constituent of metals, but in the footnote of the last page, after the mention of ‘sulphur’ or ‘arsenic’ used in the process and eventually recombined with ‘quicksilver’, it goes on :

“Similiter calx sive pulvis metalli vilioris de quo fiet nobilius. Et similiter nobilioris. Et post hec incorporentur adinvincem donec fiant unum corpus. Et tunc proicitur in metallum vilius liquatum et fit nobilius.”

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Last edited on Fri Nov 16th, 2012 07:24 am by Carl Lavoie

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2012 05:23 pm
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This may or may not be useful, but I am slowly reading "The Chemical Philosophy", and on page 256-9 he writes of Kepler claiming that Islamic chemists recognised three principles of salt, sulfur and mercury.  The reference being to Kepler, "Adversus demonstrationem analyticam ... de Fluctibus ... " in Gesammelte Werke, Volume VI, (1940), page 439. 

So maybe Kepler mentions what medieval or pseudonymous or maybe even Arabic sources he got the idea from. 

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Mon Dec 3rd, 2012 07:59 pm
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Alexander Guthrie Stewart wrote:
This may or may not be useful, but I am slowly reading "The Chemical Philosophy", and on page 256-9 he writes of Kepler claiming that Islamic chemists recognised three principles of salt, sulfur and mercury.  The reference being to Kepler, "Adversus demonstrationem analyticam ... de Fluctibus ... " in Gesammelte Werke, Volume VI, (1940), page 439. 

So maybe Kepler mentions what medieval or pseudonymous or maybe even Arabic sources he got the idea from. 


It's available on-line here:

http://visualiseur.bnf.fr/Visualiseur?Destination=Gallica&O=NUMM-094958

but in an earlier edition. The page reference in this edition is 455 and the relevant sentence is about half way down, beginning 'Sin vero ad resolutionem...' but he just says 'Arabes, chymicorum tuorum majores, tria agnoverunt principia: sal, sulphur et mercurium...', 'the Arabs, the more eminent of your chemists, have recognised three principles: salt, sulfur and mercury...' and nothing more specific than that.

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Mon Sep 9th, 2013 03:50 am
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It seems as if the conclusions of Hooykaas, as expressed in the paper that Rafał cited, that there were not three ‘Principles’ until Paracelsus, has been challenged [refuted?] by Walter Pagel in 1958.

Allen G. Debus, in The English Paracelsians (NY, 1965, p.45, note #35), mentions the two views in a somewhat irenical fashion (“The derivation of the sulphur-mercury theory is still open to some question.”), and states them both, begining with Hooykaas'



... before siding with Pagel; Paracelsus only “extend the theory” that already existed (p. 27) :

“Geber had already added a third principle, arsenic, to these two [sulphur & mercury], and had considered the three to have both spiritual and material properties in the metals; but the Geber modification was not universally accepted. The contribution of Paracelsus was to add salt as the third principle and extend the theory for all things rather than the metals alone.”
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Last edited on Mon Sep 9th, 2013 03:55 am by Carl Lavoie

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Mon Sep 9th, 2013 07:39 am
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Carl Lavoie wrote:
.
It seems as if the conclusions of Hooykaas, as expressed in the paper that Rafał cited, that there were not three ‘Principles’ until Paracelsus, has been challenged [refuted?] by Walter Pagel in 1958.

Allen G. Debus, in The English Paracelsians (NY, 1965, p.45, note #35), mentions the two views in a somewhat irenical fashion (“The derivation of the sulphur-mercury theory is still open to some question.”), and states them both, begining with Hooykaas'



... before siding with Pagel; Paracelsus only “extend the theory” that already existed (p. 27) :

“Geber had already added a third principle, arsenic, to these two [sulphur & mercury], and had considered the three to have both spiritual and material properties in the metals; but the Geber modification was not universally accepted. The contribution of Paracelsus was to add salt as the third principle and extend the theory for all things rather than the metals alone.”
.


The Pagel's can be viewed here:

http://tinyurl.com/p4fu8pd

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Mon Sep 9th, 2013 02:25 pm
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Pages 88-89 : Elaborated on a traditionnal alchemical doctrine, and "extends to all objects of nature the theory of the Alexandrian alchemists." [...] And for the spiritual & material natures of the three 'principles' in pre-Paracelsus writers: "In fact, the opposition between soul and matter ceases here, and in this Paracelsus may have been influenced by certain mediaeval views of 'Prime Matter' ".

P. 229 : "In this, 'Prime Matter' was not visualised as purely corporeal, but also as spiritual to an equal extant. In the same way, fine corporality was attributed to Spirit ("Pneuma").

Too bad that the pages 227-228 are not available.

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