I will, accordingly, offer my analysis of both and post this review for both versions. Occasionally one or the other offers a better translation. This is either due to a better grasp of the text or a better source. I have not verified that this was the case.
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Even thus saith Hermes: Through long years I have not ceased to experiment, neither have I have spared any labour of mind. And this science learning and art I have obtained by the sole inspiration of the living God, who judged fit to open them to me His servant, who has given to rational creatures the power of thinking and judging aright, of forsaking none, nor giving to any occasion to despair.
For I would had never discovered this matter to anybody had it not been from fear of the day of judgment, and the perdition of my soul if I concealed it. It is a debt which I am desirous to discharge to the Faithful, as the Father of the faithful did liberally bestow it upon me. Understand ye, then, O Sons Of Wisdom, that the knowledge of the four elements or the ancient philosophers was not corporally or imprudently sought after, that are through patience to be discovered, according to their causes and their occult operation.
Yet, their operation is occult, since nothing is done except the matter be decompounded, and because it is not perfected unless the colours be thoroughly passed and accomplished. Know then, that the division that was made upon the water by the ancient philosophers separates it into four substances; one into two, and three into one; 7.
Take of the humidity, or moisture, an ounce and a half, and or the Southern redness, that is the soul of gold, a fourth part, And know ye that the vine of the wise is drawn forth in three, yet the wine thereof is not perfected, until at length thirty be accomplished Understand the operation, therefore. Decoction lessens the matter, but the tincture augments it; because Luna in fifteen days is diminished; and in the third she is augmented. This is the beginning and the end.
Behold, I have declared that which was hidden, since the work is both with thee and about thee - that which was within is taken out and fixed, and thou canst have it either in earth or sea. Keep, therefore, thy Argent vive, that is prepared in the innermost chamber in which it is coagulated; for that is the Mercury which is separated from the residual earth.
He, therefore, who now hears my words, let him search into them; that are to justify no evil-doer, yet to benefit the good; Know ye, therefore, Children of Wisdom, who enquire concerning the report thereof, that the vulture standing upon the mountain crieth out with a loud voice, And know that the chief principle of the art is the Crow, that is the blackness of the night and clearness of the day, and flies without wings.
From the bitterness existing in the throat the tincture is taken, the red goes forth from his body, and from his back is taken a thin water. Understand, therefore, and accept this gift of God that is hidden from the thoughtless world. In the caverns of the metals there is hidden the stone that is venerable, splendid in colour, a mind sublime, and an open sea. Behold, I have declared it unto thee; give thanks to God, who teacheth thee this knowledge, for He in return recompenses the grateful.
Put the matter into a moist fire, therefore, and cause it to boil in order that its heat may be augmented, for that destroys the siccity of the incombustible nature, until the radix shall appear; For this reason are philosophers said to be envious, not that they grudged the truth to religious or just men, or to the wise; For of such the philosophers are made accountable to God, and evil men are not admitted worthy of this wisdom.
Know that this matter I call the stone; yet it is also named the feminine of magnesia or the hen, or the white spittle, or the volatile milk, Include, therefore, and conserve in this sea, the fire and the heavenly bird, to the latest moment of his exit.
Yet I deprecate ye all, Sons of Philosophy, on whom the great gift of this knowledge being bestowed, if any should undervalue or divulge the power thereof to the ignorant, or such as are unfit for the knowledge of this secret. Behold, I have received nothing from any to whom I have not returned that which had been given me, nor have I failed to honour him; even in this I have reposed the highest confidence.
This, O Son, is the concealed stone of many colours, that is born and brought forth in one colour; know this and conceal it. By this, the Almighty favouring, the greatest diseases are escaped, and every sorrow, distress, and evil and hurtful thing is made to depart; My son, before all things I admonish thee to fear God, in whom is the strength of thy undertaking, and the bond of whatsoever thou meditatest to unloose; whatsoever thou hearest, consider it rationally.
For I hold thee not to be a fool. Lay hold, therefore, of my instructions and meditate upon them, and so let thy heart be fitted also to conceive, as if thou wast thyself the author of that which I now teach. If thou appliest cold to any nature that is hot, it will not hurt it; Take the flying bird and drown it flying a vague metaphor for Pheonician boats on the seas and divide and separate it from its pollutions, that yet hold it in death; For if thou shalt deliver it out of its prison, after this thou shalt govern it according to Reason, and according to the days that I shall teach thee; Extract from the racy its shadow, and from the light its obscurity, by which the clouds hang over it and keep away the light; by means of its construction, also, and fiery redness, it is burned.
Take, my Son, this redness, corrupted with the water, that is as a live coal holding the fire, that if thou shalt withdraw so often until the redness is made pure, then it will associate with thee, by whom it was cherished, and in whom it rests. Return, then, O my Son, the coal being extinct in life, upon the water for thirty days, as I shall note to thee And now I have made the heart of the hearers, hoping in thee, to rejoice even in their eyes, beholding thee in anticipation of that which thou possessest.
Observe, then, that the water was first in the air, then in the earth; I say, moreover, that this sulphur doth tinge and fix, and is held by the conjunction of the tinctures; The disposition sought after by the philosophers, O Son, is merely one in our egg; Yet the Son, enquiring or Hermes, saith, The sulphurs which are fit for our work, whether are they celestial or terrestrial?
To whom the Father answers, Certain of them are heavenly, and some are of the earth. Then the Son saith, Father, I imagine the heart in the superiors to be heaven, and in the inferiors earth.
Yet saith Hermes, It is not so; the masculine truly is the Heaven of the feminine, and the feminine is the earth of the masculine. The Son then asks, Father, which of these is more worthy than the other; whether is it the heaven or the earth?
Hermes replies, Both need the help one of the other; for the precepts demand a medium. Yet, saith the Son, if thou shalt say that a wise man governs all mankind? Yet ordinary men, replies Hermes, are better for them, because every nature delights in society of its own kind, and so we find it to be in the life of Wisdom where equals are conjoined.
Yet what, rejoins the Son, is the mean betwixt them? To whom Hermes replies, In everything in nature there are three from two: the beginning, the middle, and the end. First the needful water, then the oily tincture, and lastly, the faeces, or earth, that remains below.
Yet the Dragon inhabits in all these, and his houses are the darkness and blackness that is in them and by them he ascends into the air, from his rising, that is their heaven. Yet whilst the fume remains in them, they are not immortal. Take away, therefore, the vapour from the water, and the blackness from the oily tincture, and death from the faeces; Know then, my Son, that the temperate unguent, that is fire, is the medium between the faeces and the water and is the Perscrutinator of the water.
For the unguents are called sulphurs, because between fire and oil and this sulphur there is such a chose proximity, that even as fire burns so does the sulphur also. All the sciences of the world, O Son are comprehended in this my hidden Wisdom; It behoves him, therefore, who would be introduced to this hidden Wisdom, to free himself from the hidden usurpations of vice; And this know that except thou understandest how to mortify and induce generation, to vivify the Spirit, and introduce Light, These secrets, Son, it behoves thee to conceal from the vulgar and profane world.
Understand, also, that our Stone is from many things, and of various colours, and composed from four elements that we ought to divide and dissever in pieces, and segregate, in the veins, O, blessed watery form, that dissolvest the elements: Now it behoves us, with this watery soul, to possess ourselves of a sulphurous form, and to mingle the same with our Acetum.
For when, by the power of the water, the composition is dissolved, it is the key of the restoration; then darkness and death fly away from them, and Wisdom proceeds onwards to the fulfillment of her Law. Know my Son, that the philosophers bind up their matter with a strong chain, that it may contend with the Fire; because the spirits in the washed bodies desire to dwell therein and to rejoice.
In these habitations they verify themselves and inhabit there, and the bodies hold them, nor can they be thereafter separated any more. The dead elements are revived, the composed bodies tinge and are altered, and by a wonderful process they are made permanent, as saith the philosopher.
O, permanent watery Form, creatrix of the royal elements; who, having with thy brethren and a just government obtained the tincture, findest rest. Our most precious stone is cast forth upon the dunghill, and that which is most worthy is made vilest of the vile.
Therefore, it behoves us to mortify two Argent vives together, both to venerate and be venerated, vis-a-vis. O, Nature, the most potent creatrix of Nature, that containest and separatest natures in a middle principle. The Stone comes with light, and with light it is generated, and then it generates and brings forth the black clouds or darkness, which is the mother of all things. Yet when we marry the crowned King to our red daughter, and in a gentle fire, not hurtful, she doth conceive an excellent and supernatural son, which permanent life she doth also feed with a subtle heat, so that he lives at length in our fire.
Yet when thou shalt send forth thy fire upon the foliated sulphur, the boundary of hearts doth enter in above, Then is he transformed, and his tincture by help of the fire remains red, as it were flesh. Yet our son, the king begotten, takes his tincture from the fire, and death even, and darkness, and the waters flee away. The Dragon shuns the sunbeams that dart through the crevices, and our dead son lives; The Son, already vivified is become a warrior in the fire and of tincture super-excellent.
For this Son, he is the treasury, even he bearing the Philosophic Matter. Approach, ye Sons of Wisdom, and rejoice; And now he is invested with the red garment, and the scarlet colour is put on. Understand, then, O Son of Wisdom, what the Stone declares; Protect me, and I will protect thee; increase my strength that I may help thee! My Sol and my beams are most inward and secretly in me my own Luna, I give freely, and reward the intelligent with joy and gladness, glory, riches, and delights; Behold, that which the philosophers has concealed is written with seven letters; for Alpha and Yada follow two; and Sol, in like manner, follows the book; Auditor, understand, let us use our Reason; consider all with the most accurate investigation, that in the contemplative part I have demonstrated to thee, the whole matter I know to be the one only thing.
Yet who is he that understands the true investigation and enquires rationally into this matter? It is not from man, nor from anything like him or akin to him, nor from the ox or bullock, Thus saith Venus: I beget light, nor is the darkness of my nature, and if my metal be not dried all bodies desire me, for I liquefy them and wipe away their rust, even I extract their substance.
Nothing therefore is better or more venerable than I, my brother also being conjoined. Yet the King, the ruler, to his brethren, testifying of him, saith: I am crowned, and I am adorned with a royal diadem: I am clothed with the royal garment, and I bring Joy and gladness of heart; And everything which the philosophers have hidden is generated by us. Hear, then, these words, and understand them;
The Golden Tractate of Hermes Trismegistus