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
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
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
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
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
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.
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]