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Interview with the Alchemist

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posted on Dec, 3 2004 @ 04:19 PM
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I originally met the alchemist at a party for my company, in October. A co-worker introduced him to me, saying that the short fellow in front of me with the forgettable name had only recently sold his stake in the company, our employer. Hes also an expert at your hobby, Hes an alchemist! Stus outburst drew momentary stares from the surrounding partiers. Without another word, he abandoned the two of us to the muffled cacophony of the surrounding conversations.

My mouth popped open as I struggled for an introduction, for a conversation starter, for anything to break the awkward gulf between us. Not here, the little man said. Nothing important can be discussed in all this noise . . . Meet me on the third Saturday in November at Les Amis, west of the university campus. At three. Without any other acknowledgement, he turned and walked away.

I showed up at 2:40 p.m., at the appointed caf. He was sitting at one of the outdoor tables waiting for me, in a gray woolen coat and matching fedora. Mid-forties, and a bit obese. His round face sported an overgrown goatee, but instead of looking trendy, it made him look like a Civil War general.

Sitting down across the table from him, I waved at a waitress, ordered a cappuccino with sugar and chocolate. I had come expecting a swindler or some kind of new-age hippie. I began to stammer an introduction: What you said at that party . . .

Without a word, he reached across the table with both hands. He grabbed my right hand with his left, and thrust something into it, something cold, heavy and with a sharp edge or rim. Opening my hand slowly, I saw that it was a plug of deeply glowing metal. Imperfectly cylindrical, with a C-shaped indent in one end, and the other end sort of flaring out into a sharp-edged top, sort of like the head of a very short, fat, nail.

Whats this? I muttered.

"I will let you have twenty questions, just like the childs game. And thats one. It is an example of my work. Yes, its real. Scratch it with your fingernailsee? Brass wont do that. Neither will Pyrite.

Pyrite? I echoed uncertainly.
Pyrite . . . you know, fools gold. And thats number two! Pyrite is not a true metal; it wont scratch like this. It crumbles to a powder under pressure. And brass is too hard to cut with your nails. I looked down and saw instantly what he meant.

And look at its small size he added. Feel its weight! he said unctuously. It weighs almost four pounds, and yet it isnt any bigger than a stack of quarters. A specific gravity 19 times heavier than water. Only one thing has those qualities . . . his voice trailing slowly off.

Suddenly, he snatched the heavy plug from my hand, and I realized the waitress was approaching our table from somewhere behind me. She set down our coffees with a clatter of dishes, and wandered back inside, out of the chill winter breeze.

You mean YOU made this? How? I asked incredulously. Thats both three, and four. And yes, I did. Now, dont ask me how. Thats the one question I wont answer. I mean I will never reveal the precise procedure; but I want to explain the general concepts involved.

I sat in stunned silence, trying to clear my mind of the dizzy giddiness as I began to realize the implications of what he had just put in my hand. Finally, still expecting some sort of scam, I asked, why me? Why did you choose me to share your discovery with?

Because. One of the things about this secret is that it opens all kinds of other doors. Making gold is the least of it! A man who can do this can do anything! I have succeeded in making a change at the atomic levelat near room temperatures! You know what else I can do with this knowledge? Cold fusion! Travel at faster than light speedor bring time to a standstill! Other dimensions! Unlimited energy and power! And everyone who has ever succeeded in the great work of alchemy has passed through those other doors, to new levels of existence. I will soon leave this world of yours, never to return. But I want you to post your questions, and my answers, on that conspiracy website that Stewart says youre always visiting from your computer at your work!

But why do you care if anyone else knows? I asked.

Listen. Every seeker whos found the philosophers stone, almost every one, has left some kind of record among his countrymen, so that other alchemists could find their way along the path to eternity. Thats how I found my way. By piecing together the ancient accounts of successful alchemists from bygone eras, and ignoring the rubbish and myths that have been built up around those geniuses. Its my wish, my duty, to leave a record behind me. Of the thousands who read your tale, one or two will remember it. And they will pass the information along to someone who is earnestly seeking the stone that burns. Stewart has shown me that every word on the internet, every letter, is recorded. He has shown me that anyone, in any nation, can program their computer to search for your prose. A year from now. Five maybe. Who knows? Someone eventually who can read the truth of your tale, they can use my words to find their own way. Flamels works lay in the dustbin of history for three hundred years. Bin Ghazis for twice that. But my words, through you, will be accessed by anyone. Even schoolchildren. And that is question number six.

At his mention of the limits on this conversation, I leaned back and sipped slowly on my cup. He did likewise, licking the frothy milk from the corners of his mustache. I leaned forward again.

Okay. Heres number seven: Why waste time with me? Why not post your saga on your own website, and make sure the information is accurate; hell, why not just go to a the chemistry department at the university?

Thats two questions, seven and eight he shot back. First, I dont understand computers and their H-M-L-T codes. More importantly, though, is the fact that I dont want to be hunted down and stalked by fortune hunters and hoodlums. Stewart showed me how everything on the internet is recordedhow someone can find out which computer you've sent the information from. So. I tell you, and let you post my story as fiction. The masses of humanity will ignore your story. Only the genuine seekers-one or two in millions, will even bother to investigate.

Second, human greed must never be underestimated. You are completely ignorant of what happens to people with dangerous information. Read up on alchemy, friend. Read what the kings of Europe did to men like Kelly and Dee, Raymond Lull and Sendivog. Time and again, successful alchemists were imprisoned and tortured for their secrets. If you think the government would torture prisoners in Iraq, think what they would do for information that could threaten the worlds financial foundations!

And then again; Ive already told you that transmuting lesser metals into gold is just the beginning. If I can make gold, I can make strategic metals, like tungsten and molybdenum.

Or plutonium? I offered.

Exactly. Exactly. So you see why I trust lone seekers after truth, rather than governments and chemistry departments. That was number nine.

But, and this is ten, but arent you afraid of who will read your stuff on the web? Chemistry professors use search engines, too.

God will take care of that. He said, almost to himself. As a matter of fact, I am a Christian. In my studies of alchemy, its history and origins, I have never found evidence of a successful alchemist who was not also a Christian. If you will read Villanova, or Flamel, or Seton, or Philalethes, or Flocker or even A. E. Waite, you will see that they stress your faith journey as much as your physical procedures. Now, new-age occultists have tried to use that attitude to claim that alchemy is somehow a purely spiritual quest. But Im telling you here and now: alchemy involves physical apparatus. Physical samples; the application of heat and cold. And its product is a physical result. He waived his clenched fist, with its golden secret, in front of me.

Only a true Christian can understand the coded words of other Christian seekers. Who knows? Maybe a genuine Muslim could decode the truth in some of the Arab fathers. Of course, they all admit their failure to comprehend the stone. No, only a Christian will spot the inner significance of Flamels words, or see the symbolism of his charities once he succeeded, and before he left France. The same is true of Lull or Seton. Only a Christian, who has earnestly sought the gifts of the Spirit, can recognize the gifts of the wise. Only such a one can SEE the promise of alchemy in the promises Jesus made to his followers.

But if it IS a chemical process . . . I stopped, not wanting to waste a question on what I saw as a line of inquiry that might end our conversation before this enigmatic man had divulged his whole tale.

Tell me this, I intoned. Do you mean . . . What KIND of process is involved? What material did you start with . . . did you use lead?

I didnt use lead, the first time. The original sample, the beginning substance of the Great Work, is one of the secrets that the ancient alchemists were careful never to reveal. Yet they gave a thousand hints. And all of them accurate, too: This beginning substance, they called it the prima materia or first matter; it can be found in abundance practically everywhere in the earths crust. It is despised as worthless, yet if the truth were known, this one substance contains whole worlds within itself. It is necessary for life, and yet it is viewed with disdain. The poor actually have an abundance of it. . .

As to your other question, I used electro-magnetic waves to manipulate this original substance, to set up standing waves or energy fields that helped control the energies I used to manipulate it. I have succeeded twice this year in making quantities of gold using this process. The first time, about two ounces, and more recently about three and a half ounces. Emmens used mechanical force to bring about incremental change, which set the stage for the ultimate chemical and subatomic reactions. He followed the path of the ancients. I instead used an electric field in a large amount of flux, during which heat was applied from a potters kiln. The kiln I bought at an auction; I purchased the electronic components from Radio Shack and by mail order for under two thousand dollars.

How pure was the gold? I asked, enthralled by his tale, without even pausing to consider how many questions I had remaining.

Only partly. I used a blowtorch to puddle the pure gold in the hole of a brick. Thats what this is, he said, waving his closed fist again. He opened his closed hand slowly, like a flower unfolding. You can see here, where I used a pipe to smack it out of the brick once the plug had cooled. This sharp edge is where the molten gold seeped out from under my brick. He cupped the evidence in both hands, allowing me to peer at his treasure once more.

He plunged both hands into the pockets of his coat, as the waitress emerged onto the cold patio once more. We both ordered again, and she returned to the interior of the restaurant. But her intrusion had broken the spell.

We sat staring at each other, trying to re-establish the focus of our dialogue.
Im ready for question fifteen, the alchemist smiled across the table at me.

After a pause, I asked What do you do with the gold? You cant just take it to the bank and ask for change in twenties or something.

I took my first sample to a gold and coin dealer. Theres a dozen of them in the phone book. Told him my uncle had died, an amateur jeweler. I explained that there were a lot of scraps around my uncles workshop, and I wanted to sell em. It was obvious the dealer didnt believe me, but he took it in back and talked to someone. He told me to return in an hour. I went for a walk, and when I came back, he said he could buy it for forty dollars an ounce below retail. He told me that he would need my ID and whatnot. I told him I was in a hurry, and would understand if that raised his costs. It didnt, and he paid me in cash. The next time, I went to a different dealer in another state; a city where my business sometimes takes me.

What has been your biggest difficulty? I wondered.

Well, there have been three different kinds of problems. The first category is what I would call social. Along the path, I have needed to buy some pretty specialized equipment. Things an average person would never buy. In some cases, labware like separation funnels and certain kinds of condensers can only be purchased with a special license. The cops are trying to flag drug dealers. And then there were times when my neighbors became suspicious of weird smells, and the activity in my garage. I actually moved to another county, in order to get away from prying eyes. Much of my work was done in a rural area, with no neighbors nearby. Of course, I later found that I didnt need such expensive and dangerous equipment. But it certainly slowed down my researches, to need to work in secret.

There has been another problem, one which I would call being trapped in the consensus paradigm. I have grown up in a culture that is quite certain of its own world-view. Many scientific concepts are actually only hypothetical. The table of elements, for instance. Before our current chart of the building-blocks of matter, the Russians had developed a very elegant system that predicted elements that had not yet been discovered. But as other theories came to predominate, older models were discarded, sometimes without having actually ever been refuted. Part of my alchemical quest has involved casting off the prejudices of my own culture, the presumptions we were raised with.

The third difficulty has been of a different kind. You might call it spiritual. The closer I got to the secret, the more anxious I became. For some reason, I couldnt force myself into the laboratory. I couldnt concentrate on my notebooks. This past Spring, I would lay aside my work for weeks at a time. Indeed, the equipment I bought for building the final apparatus lay in its boxes for almost a year before I put it together. I felt like some exterior force was preventing me from making any further progress. That is when I began to take up spiritual disciplines related to my faith. I decided that perhaps I was morally unworthy to receive the understanding of the philosophers stone. So I began cleaning up my life. I quit doing drugs. Quit drinking. I even forced myself to quit using profanity, to find an outlet for my temper. I have trained myself to excel at loving others, instead of being consumed with myself. Only after I overcame this spiritual obstacle did I succeed. I cannot describe it to you. Youd have to experience it for yourself.

Okay, I said. Heres a question, number seventeen: How come you succeeded where so many thousands of alchemists and even physicists have failed?

He had been lifting his cup toward his lips; but now it paused, frozen, in midair.

Well, I think others have succeeded. The coffee cup continued to hover. Maybe a lot of others. Not recently, in the current decade; but back before World War Two, in France especially, there seems to have been a whole community of people who had mastered the secret. I think that there was another community in the sixteen hundreds, based in the Low Countries, that formed the basis for the Rosicrucian myth. Personally, I believe there was another in ancient Israel. There may have been an alchemical society among the Pennsylvania Dutch, but that is just a guess.

I suppose you have to have a mind that works a certain way. You dont need a lot of advanced technology. But you do need an advanced moral technology, and a way of seeing outside the bounds of your fellow countrymen.

If thats true, why havent we heard more about the others?

He took another long, slow sip of his coffee. Question eighteen? Well, you have heard about them. Youve been researching them yourself. You just dont believe the kernel of truth that is protected by the husk of legend. Flamel is an example of that. His biographer, Lenglet Du Fresnoy, he practically invented the modern myth of Nicholas Flamel. Fresnoy was writing propaganda during the French Revolution, and made a historical person into a sort of comic-book hero. You cannot believe anything that Fresnoy wrote. He was an idiot. He did similar things to the story of Michael Seton. On the other hand, the information, scant though it is, about Flamels life, or Setons for that matter, from other sources is crucial.

Theres another reason you havent noticed the adepts whove succeeded in finding the philosophers stone. Thats because they quickly realize that they must disappear, or be hunted down. If you carefully read the accounts of successful alchemists, how many of them are reported to die soon after discovering the secret? The short answer is all of them. Some of them, a few, really DID die. I believe they were killed by the same spiritual force that held me back. I definitely believe it would have killed me too, if I had persisted in my quest without refining my own soul. But many of the adepts, the successful ones anyway, faked their own deaths, so that no one would come looking for them. No one stalks a dead man. And with infinite financial resources, it isnt difficult to convince the world that youve died. Or never really existed at all in the first place.

My mind raced ahead of him. Are you about to die, then?

His eyes twinkled and he grinned back at me. My poor wife passed away just a few months ago; a victim of an accident while we were traveling in South America. Yet somehow, I feel that I must go to visit the scene of her passing. Who knows what fate awaits me. He chuckled with almost elfin glee as he sipped the last of his cup.

As I opened my mouth, we both spoke the word twenty in unison, and then began laughing with each other.

Yes I said. My final question. Can you give me any hints, of where to begin, or how to try to do what you have done? I said this as I looked toward the pocket of his trench coat, the one holding the equivalent of at least a month of my salary.

Where to begin? Thats easybegin anywhere! Begin in the Bible. Look up the word gold in a concordance. Begin in your own vegetable garden. Begin at the beach, at the line where the tide ebbs and flows twice a day. Begin in a barnyard. You will never succeed though. Unless. Unless you begin in your own heart. How does a man manipulate matter? Through an act of will. Technology is merely the physical embodiment of mans will. Begin in the classics, in the works of Plotinus or Iamblichus. Read Trismosin and A.E. Waite. Read the Arabs, the Sufi, of whom some were secret Christians. The ancient fathers say that a true adept can make gold from water. I have never tried it; but I am certain that ultimately they are correct. The fact is, its your knowledge that changes the world, because it changes your world-view. Heres a concrete hint: why are the atomic weights of each element on the elementary table not in integers? If quantum physics were true, if neutrons and protons were quanta, then atomic weights ought to be exact multiples of lighter elements. And yet, it isnt so. But then, having a magic wand, or a powder of projection is less important than grace. Just read up on the myth of the sorcerers apprentice, who runs out of the magic powder when the king demands more gold. Like Rumpelstiltskin! The fact is, you will never succeed until you look at the problem from outside yourself. How did nature, how did Godmake gold originally? You can only succeed by imitating nature and the natural world.

What about
Ah-tah-taht! he cut me off. Youve spent your questions, for good or ill. Just put them on the internet, and see what use is made of them. No, youll never see me again. I promise never to contact you again, ever, in this world. You are on your own. We are all, after all, alone. With that, he rose. Laying a crisp new fifty dollar bill across the mouth of his empty coffee mug, he turned and walked away, pausing only to open the little gate that led from the shaded porch out onto the sidewalk. Shutting the gate behind him, he turned and headed West down the sidewalk of the busy street and disappeared for good.

At home, I googled his name. I searched for a phone number. I even got on the county assessors database to look for property owned in the name he had used. Nothing. So I called my friend Stewart, who gave me a phone number. The phone number turned out to be for the reserve desk in the graduate chemistry library on campus. When I asked the girl who worked there, she didnt know the name and couldnt remember anyone matching my description of the alchemist. In the weeks since then, I have been trying to go through company records to find his name among recent company owners, but have turned up nothing so far. I am close to giving up on locating the enigmatic figure who so changed my view of the world. I have even considered traveling to a certain village in the Andean foothills, but have decided it would ultimately be a waste of time.

Instead, Ive begun reading the classics, and Ive ordered a large poster of the table of Elements from a school-supply company. Ill probably hang it over my bed, where I can see it, even in my dreams.

The only evidence I have that my conversation was anything more than a dream is a thin slice of lustrous metal, bendable like a piece of thick aluminum foil, and in no larger than the space under a fingernail.



[edit on 3-12-2004 by dr_strangecraft]




posted on Dec, 3 2004 @ 11:55 PM
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Really terrific story Dr. Strangecraft. Well done!

Are you planning anymore?

B.



posted on Dec, 4 2004 @ 12:09 PM
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excellent work. Glad to you see back.

DE


Odd

posted on Dec, 4 2004 @ 09:17 PM
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That was spectacular... you should pitch that to a publisher or a magazine, if you haven't already



posted on Dec, 4 2004 @ 10:05 PM
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Great work I loved the story
Great subject matter I have always loved the stories of alchemist throughout history



posted on Dec, 8 2004 @ 11:13 AM
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Excellent format! You utilized an incredible amount of wit and research in this piece....Very well done! And the dialogue rolls as though it were a movie or play in my mind, without skipping a beat...


[edit on 12/8/2004 by EnronOutrunHomerun]



posted on Jan, 27 2005 @ 02:09 PM
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To all and sundry:

I am not selling any course in Alchemy.

No, I do not have photos.

No, I will not sell you gold if you have a paypal account.

Mercury is a dangerous substance, and there are strict federal guidelines in place covereing its safe handling and disposal. Do not attempt to work with dangerous substances without a thorough training in Laboratory chemistry!

Look again: IT'S A STORY



posted on Jan, 28 2005 @ 07:21 AM
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Very well written story!

(Can I have some gold?)



posted on Mar, 17 2005 @ 02:45 PM
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Originally posted by Bleys

Really terrific story Dr. Strangecraft. Well done!

Are you planning anymore?

B.

wow i agree with bleys that was terrific you should think of working as an author



posted on Mar, 18 2005 @ 03:54 PM
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I am actually working on a collection of short stories, all of them "interviews." I have one more I will share in this forum, called "Interview with an Arms Dealer." I will probably post it end of month.



posted on Oct, 3 2005 @ 08:51 PM
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[Note: when ATS moved to it's new server, the apostrophes and quotation marks got turned into questions. Here is the original story from my own files, as it originally appeared:
Interview with an Alchemist

I originally met the alchemist at a party for my company, in October. A co-worker introduced him to me, saying that the short fellow in front of me with the forgettable name had only recently sold his stake in the company, our employer. “He’s also an expert at your hobby, He’s an alchemist!” Stu’s outburst drew momentary stares from the surrounding partiers. Without another word, he abandoned the two of us to the muffled cacophony of the surrounding conversations.

My mouth popped open as I struggled for an introduction, for a conversation starter, for anything to break the awkward gulf between us. “Not here,” the little man said. “Nothing important can be discussed in all this noise . . . Meet me on the third Saturday in November at Les Amis, west of the university campus. At three.” Without any other acknowledgement, he turned and walked away.

I showed up at 2:40 p.m., at the appointed café. He was sitting at one of the outdoor tables waiting for me, in a gray woolen coat and matching fedora. Mid-forties, and a bit obese. His round face sported an overgrown goatee, but instead of looking trendy, it made him look like a Civil War general.

Sitting down across the table from him, I waved at a waitress, ordered a cappuccino with sugar and chocolate. I had come expecting a swindler or some kind of new-age hippie. I began to stammer an introduction: “What you said at that party . . .”

Without a word, he reached across the table with both hands. He grabbed my right hand with his left, and thrust something into it, something cold, heavy and with a sharp edge or rim. Opening my hand slowly, I saw that it was a plug of metal. Imperfectly cylindrical, with a C-shaped indent in one end, and the other end sort of flaring out into a sharp-edged top, sort of like the head of a very short, fat, nail.

“What’s this?” I muttered.

I will let you have twenty questions, just like the child’s game. And that’s one. It is an example of my work. Yes, it’s real. Scratch it with your fingernail—see? Brass won’t do that. Neither will Pyrite.”

“Pyrite?” I echoed uncertainly.
“Pyrite . . . you know, ‘fool’s gold. And that’s number two! Pyrite is not a true metal; it won’t scratch like this. It crumbles to a powder under pressure. And brass is too hard to cut with your nails.” I looked down and saw instantly what he meant.

“And look at it’s small size” he added. “Feel its weight!” he said unctuously. “It weighs almost four pounds, and yet it isn’t any bigger than a stack of quarters. Only one thing has those qualities . . .” his voice trailing slowly off.

Suddenly, he snatched the heavy plug from my hand, and I realized the waitress was approaching our table from somewhere behind me. She set down our coffees with a grunt, and wandered back inside, out of the chill winter breeze.

“You mean YOU made this? How?” I asked incredulously. “That’s both three, and four. And yes, I did. Now, don’t ask me how. That’s the one question I won’t answer. I mean I will never reveal the precise procedure; but I want to explain the general concepts involved.”

I sat in stunned silence, trying to clear my mind of the dizzy giddiness as I began to realize the implications of what he had just put in my hand. Finally, still expecting some sort of scam, I asked, “why me? Why did you choose me to share your discovery with?”

“Because. One of the things about this secret is that it opens all kinds of other doors. Making gold is the least of it! A man who can do this can to anything! I have succeeded in making a change at the atomic level—at near room temperatures! You know what else I can do with this knowledge? Cold fusion! Travel at faster than light speed—or bring time to a standstill! Other dimensions! Unlimited energy and power! And everyone who has ever succeeded in the “great work” of alchemy has passed through those other doors, to new levels of existence. I will soon leave this world of yours, never to return. But I want you to post your questions, and my answers, on that conspiracy website that Stewart says you’re always visiting from your computer at your work!”

“But why do you care if anyone else knows?” I asked.

“Listen. Every seeker who’s found the philosopher’s stone, almost every one, has left some kind of record among his countrymen, so that other alchemists could find their way along the path to eternity. That’s how I found my way. By piecing together the ancient accounts of successful alchemists from bygone eras, and ignoring the rubbish and myths that have been built up around those geniuses. It’s my wish, my duty, to leave a record behind me. Of the thousands who read your tale, one or two will remember it. And they will pass the information along to someone who is earnestly seeking the stone that burns. Stewart has shown me that everything on the internet is recorded. He has shown me that anyone, in any nation, can program their computer to search for your prose. A year from now. Five maybe. Who knows? Someone eventually who can read the truth of your tale, they can use my words to find their own way. Flamel’s works lay in the dustbin of history for three hundred years. Bin Ghazi’s for twice that. But my words, through you, will be accessed by anyone. Even schoolchildren. And that is question number six.

At his mention of the limits on this conversation, I leaned back and sipped slowly on my cup. He did likewise, licking the frothy milk from the corners of his mustache. I leaned forward again.

“Okay. Here’s number seven: Why waste time with me? Why not post your saga on your own website, and make sure the information is accurate; hell, why not just go to a the chemistry department at the university?”

“That’s two questions, seven and eight” he shot back. “First, I don’t understand computers and their H-M-L-T codes. More importantly, though, is the fact that I don’t want to be hunted down and stalked by fortune hunters and hoodlums. Stewart showed me how everything on the internet is recorded—how someone can find out which computer you send the information from. So. I tell you, and let you post my story as fiction. The masses of humanity will ignore your story. Only the genuine seekers-one or two in millions, will even bother to investigate.

Second, human greed must never be underestimated. You are completely ignorant of what happens to people with dangerous information. Read up on alchemy, friend. Read what the kings of Europe did to men like Kelly and Dee, Raymond Lull and Sendivog. Time and again, successful alchemists were imprisoned and tortured for their secrets. If you think the government would torture prisoners in Iraq, think what they would do for information that could threaten the world’s financial foundations!

And then again; I’ve already told you that transmuting lesser metals into gold is just the beginning. If I can make gold, I can make strategic metals, like tungsten and molybdenum.”

“Or plutonium?” I offered.

“Exactly. Exactly. So you see why I trust lone seekers after truth, rather than governments and chemistry departments. That was number nine.”

But, and this is ten, but aren’t you afraid of who will read your stuff on the web? Chemistry professors use search engines, too.”

“God will take care of that.” He said, almost to himself. “As a matter of fact, I am a Christian. In my studies of alchemy, its history and origins, I have never found evidence of a successful alchemist who was not also a Christian. If you read Villanova, or Flamel, or Seton, or Philalethes, or Flocker or even A. E. Waite, you will see that they stress your faith journey as much as your physical procedures. Now, new-age occultists have tried to use that attitude to claim that alchemy is somehow a ‘spiritual’ quest. But I’m telling you here and now: alchemy involves physical apparatus. Physical samples; the application of heat and cold. And it’s product is a physical result.” He waived his clenched fist, with it’s golden secret, in front of me.

“Only a true Christian can understand the coded words of other Christian seekers. Who knows? Maybe a genuine Muslim could decode the truth in some of the Arab fathers. Of course, they all admit their failure to comprehend the stone. No, only a Christian will spot the inner significance of Flamel’s words, or see the symbolism of his charities once he succeeded, and before he left France. The same is true of Lull or Seton. Only a Christian, who has earnestly sought the gifts of the Spirit, can recognize the gifts of the wise. Only such a one can SEE the promise of alchemy in the promises Jesus made to his followers.”

“But if it IS a chemical process . . .” I stopped, not wanting to waste a question on what I saw as a line of inquiry that might end our conversation before this enigmatic man had divulged his whole tale.”

“Tell me this,” I intoned. “Do you mean . . . What KIND of process is involved? What material did you start with . . . did you use lead?”

“I didn’t use lead, the first time. The original sample, the beginning substance of the Great Work, is one of the secrets that the ancient alchemists were careful never to reveal. Yet they gave a thousand hints. And all of them accurate, too: This beginning substance, they called it the ‘prima materia’ or first matter; it can be found in abundance practically everywhere in the earth’s crust. It is despised as worthless, yet if the truth were known, this one substance contains whole worlds within itself. It is necessary for life, and yet it is viewed with disdain. The poor actually have an abundance of it. . .”

“As to your other question, I used electro-magnetic waves to manipulate this original substance, to set up standing waves or energy fields that helped control the energies I used to manipulate it. I have succeeded twice this year in making quantities of gold using this process. The first time, about two ounces, and more recently about three and a half ounces. Emmens used mechanical force to bring about incremental change, which set the stage for the ultimate chemical and subatomic reactions. He followed the path of the ancients. I instead used an electric field in a large amount of flux, during which heat was applied from a potter’s kiln. The kiln I bought at an auction; I purchased the electronic components from Radio Shack and by mail order for under two thousand dollars.”

“How pure was the gold?” I asked, enthralled by his tale, without even pausing to consider how many questions I had remaining.

“Only partly. I used a blowtorch to puddle the pure gold in the hole of a brick. That’s what this is,” he said, waving his closed fist again. He opened his closed hand slowly, like a flower unfolding. “You can see here, where I used a pipe to smack it out of the brick once the plug had cooled. This sharp edge is where the molten gold seeped out from under my brick.” He cupped the evidence in both hands, allowing me to peer at his treasure once more.

He plunged both hands into the pockets of his coat, as the waitress emerged onto the cold patio once more. We both ordered again, and she returned to the interior of the restaurant. But her intrusion had broken the spell.

We sat staring at each other, trying to re-establish the focus of our dialogue.
“I’m ready for question fifteen,” the alchemist smiled across the table at me.

After a pause, I asked “What do you do with the gold? You can’t just take it to the bank and ask for change in twenties or something.”

“I took my first sample to a gold and coin dealer. There’s a dozen of them in the phone book. Told him my uncle had died, an amateur jeweler. I explained that there were a lot of scraps around my uncle’s workshop, and I wanted to sell ‘em. It was obvious the dealer didn’t believe me, but he took it in back and talked to someone. He told me to come back in an hour. I went for a walk, and when I came back, he said he could buy it for forty dollars an ounce below retail. He told me that he would need my ID and whatnot. I told him I was in a hurry, and would understand if that raised his costs. It didn’t, and he paid me in cash. The next time, I went to a different dealer in another state; a city where my business sometimes takes me.”

“What has been your biggest difficulty?” I wondered.

“Well, there have been three different kinds of problems. The first category is what I would call social. Along the path, I have needed to buy some pretty specialized equipment. Things an average person would never buy. In some cases, labware like separation funnels and certain kinds of condensers can only be purchased with a special license. The cops are trying to flag drug dealers. And then there were times when my neighbors became suspicious of weird smells, and the activity in my garage. I actually moved to another county, in order to get away from prying eyes. Much of my work was done in a rural area, with no neighbors nearby. Of course, I later found that I didn’t need such expensive and dangerous equipment. But it certainly slowed down my researches, to need to work in secret.

There has been another problem, one which I would call being trapped in the consensus paradigm. I have grown up in a culture that is quite certain of its own world-view. Many scientific concepts are actually only hypothetical. The table of elements, for instance. Before our current chart of the building-blocks of matter, the Russians had developed a very elegant system that predicted elements that had not yet been discovered. But as other theories came to predominate, older models were discarded, sometimes without having actually ever been refuted. Part of my alchemical quest has involved casting off the prejudices of my own culture, the presumptions we were raised with.

The third difficulty has been of a different kind. You might call it spiritual. The closer I got to the secret, the more anxious I became. For some reason, I couldn’t force myself into the laboratory. I couldn’t concentrate on my notebooks. This past Spring, I would lay aside my work for weeks at a time. Indeed, the equipment I bought for building the final apparatus lay in its boxes for almost a year before I put it together. I felt like some exterior force was preventing me from making any further progress. That is when I began to take up spiritual disciplines related to my faith. I decided that perhaps I was morally unworthy to receive the understanding of the philosopher’s stone. So I began ‘cleaning up my life.’ I quit doing drugs. Quit drinking. I even forced myself to quit using profanity, to find an outlet for my temper. I have trained myself to excel at loving others, instead of being consumed with myself. Only after I overcame this spiritual obstacle did I succeed. I cannot describe it to you. You’d have to experience it for yourself.

“Okay,” I said. “Here’s a question, number seventeen: How come you succeeded where so many thousands of alchemists and even physicists have failed?”

He had been lifting his cup toward his lips; but now it paused, frozen, in midair.

“Well, I think others have succeeded.” The coffee cup continued to hover. “Maybe a lot of others. Not recently, in the current decade; but back before World War Two, in France especially, there seems to have been a whole community of people who had mastered the secret. I think that there was another community in the sixteen hundreds, based in the Low Countries, that formed the basis for the Rosicrucian myth. Personally, I believe there was another in ancient Israel. There may have been an alchemical society among the Pennsylvania Dutch, but that is just a guess.

I suppose you have to have a mind that works a certain way. You don’t need a lot of advanced technology. But you do need an advanced moral technology, and a way of seeing outside the bounds of your fellow countrymen.”

“If that’s true, why haven’t we heard more about the others?”

He took another long, slow sip of his coffee. “Question eighteen? Well, you have heard about them. You’ve been researching them yourself. You just don’t believe the kernel of truth that is protected by the husk of legend. Flamel is an example of that. His biographer, Lenglet Du Fresnoy, he practically invented the modern myth of Nicholas Flamel. Fresnoy was writing propaganda during the French Revolution, and made a historical person into a sort of comic-book hero. You cannot believe anything that Fresnoy wrote. He was an idiot. He did similar things to the story of Michael Seton. On the other hand, the information, scant though it is, about Flamel’s life, or Seton’s for that matter, from other sources is crucial.

There’s another reason you haven’t noticed the adepts who’ve succeeded in finding the philosopher’s stone. That’s because they quickly realize that they must disappear, or be hunted down. If you carefully read the accounts of successful alchemists, how many of them are reported to die soon after discovering the secret? The short answer is all of them. Some of them, a few, really DID die. I believe they were killed by the same spiritual force that held me back. I definitely believe it would have killed me too, if I had persisted in my quest without refining my own soul. But many of the adepts, the successful ones anyway, faked their own deaths, so that no one would come looking for them. No one stalks a dead man. And with infinite financial resources, it isn’t difficult to convince the world that you’ve died. Or never really existed at all in the first place.

My mind raced ahead of him. “Are you about to ‘die,’ then?”

His eyes twinkled and he grinned back at me. “My poor wife passed away just a few months ago; a victim of an accident while we were traveling in South America. Yet somehow, I feel that I must go to visit the scene of her passing. Who knows what fate awaits me.” He chuckled with almost elfin glee as he sipped the last of his cup.

As I opened my mouth, we both spoke the word “twenty” in unison, and then began laughing with each other.

“Yes” I said. “My final question. Can you give me any hints, of where to begin, or how to try to do what you have done?” I said this as I looked toward the pocket of his trench coat, the one holding least a month of my salary.

“Where to begin? That’s easy—begin anywhere! Begin in the Bible. Look up the word gold in a concordance. Begin in your own vegetable garden. Begin at the beach, at the line where the tide ebbs and flows. Begin in a barnyard. You will never succeed though. Unless. Unless you begin in your own heart. How does a man manipulate matter? Through an act of will. Technology is merely the physical embodiment of man’s will. Begin in the classics, in the works of Plotinus or Iamblichus. Read Trismosin and A.E. Waite. Read the Arabs, the Sufi, of whom some were secret Christians. The ancient fathers say that a true adept can make gold from water. I have never tried it; but I am certain that ultimately they are right. The fact is, it’s your knowledge that changes the world, because it changes your world-view. Here’s a concrete hint: why are the atomic weights of each element on the elementary table not in integers? If quantum physics were true, if neutrons and protons were quanta, then atomic weights ought to be exact multiples of lighter elements. And yet, it isn’t so. But then, having a ‘magic wand,’ or a ‘powder of projection’ is less important than grace. Just read up on the myth of the sorcerer’s apprentice, who runs out of the magic powder when the king demands more gold. Like Rumpelstiltskin! The fact is, you will never succeed until you look at the problem from outside yourself. How did nature, how did God—make gold originally? You can only succeed by imitating nature and the natural world.”

“What about—
“Ah-tah-tah!” he cut me off. “You’ve spent your questions, for good or ill. Just put them on the internet, and see what use is made of them. No, you’ll never see me again. I promise never to contact you again, ever, in this world. You are on your own. We are all, after all, alone.” With that, he rose. Laying a crisp new fifty dollar bill across the mouth of his empty coffee mug, he turned and walked away, pausing only to open the little gate that led from the shaded porch out onto the sidewalk. Shutting the gate behind him, he turned and headed West down the sidewalk of the busy street and disappeared for good.

At home, I googled his name. I searched for a phone number. I even got on the county assessor’s database to look for property owned in the name he had used. Nothing. So I called my friend Stewart, who gave me a phone number. The phone number turned out to be for the reserve desk in the graduate chemistry library on campus. When I asked the girl who worked there, she didn’t know the name and couldn’t remember anyone matching my description of the alchemist. In the weeks since then, I have been trying to go through company records to find his name among recent company owners, but have turned up nothing so far. I am close to giving up on locating the enigmatic figure who so changed my view of the world. I have even considered traveling to a certain village in the Andean foothills, but have decided it would ultimately be a waste of time.

Instead, I’ve begun reading the classics, and I’ve ordered a large poster of the table of Elements from a school-supply company. I’ll probably hang it over my bed, where I can see it, even in my dreams.



[edit on 3-10-2005 by dr_strangecraft]




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