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Hitchcock answers, conscience. Conscience is not equally “pure” with all men, and not equally developed; the difficulty of discovering it, of which the alchemists tell, is the difficulty of arousing it in the heart of man for the heart's improvement and elevation. The starting point in the education of man is indeed to awaken in his heart an enduring, permanent sense of the absolutely right, and the consistent purpose of adhering to this sense. It is above all one of the hardest things in the world “to take a man in what is called his natural state, St. Paul's natural man, after he has been for years in the indulgence of all his passions, having a view to the world, to honors, pleasures, wealth, and make him sensible of the mere abstract claims of right, and willing to relinquish one single passion in deference to it.” Surely that is the one great task of the educator; if it be  accomplished, the work of improvement is easy and can properly be called mere child's play, as the hermetics like to call the later phases of their work. (H. A., pp. 45 ff.) No one is so suspicious and so sensitive as those whose conscience is not sensitive enough. Such people who wander in error themselves, are like porcupines: it is very difficult to approach them.
Conscience in the crude state is generally called by Section III. The Hermetic Art. 121 the alchemists “common quicksilver” in contrast to “our quicksilver.” To replace the first by the second and, according to the demands of nature, not forcibly, is the one great aim that the hermetics follow. This first goal is a preparation for a further work. Whither this leads we can represent in one word—“God”—and even here we may be struck with the “circular” character of the whole hermetic work, since the heavenly mercury that is necessary to the preliminary work, to  the purification, is yet itself a gift of God; the beginning depends on the end and presupposes it. The symbol of the prima materia is not without purpose a snake that has its tail in its mouth. I cannot, in anticipation, enter into the problem that arises in this connection; only let it be understood in a word that the end can soar beyond the beginning as an ideal.
What is to be done with the messenger of heaven, mercury, or conscience, when it has been discovered? Several alchemists give the instruction to sow the gold in mercury as in the earth, “philosophic gold” that is also called Venus-love. Often the New Testament proves the best commentary on the hermetic writings.
In Corinthians III, 9, ff., we read: “Ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation and another buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, hay, stubble....
Every man's work shall be made manifest... because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.” And Galatians VI, 7 ff.: “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let him not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” The spirit to which it is sowed there is [Symbol: Mercury],  mercury, and the gold that will come out is to be proved in the 122 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts fire.
The alchemists speak of men very often as of metals. Before I cite from the work of Johann Isaak Hollandus on lead, I call to mind that lead, [Symbol: Saturn], bears the name of Saturn.
The writing of Hollandus could quite as well be called a treatise on mankind as on lead. To understand this better, be it added that man in a state of humility or resignation must specially be associated with lead, the soft, dark metal.
The publisher of the English translation of J. I. Hollandus, which is dated 1670, addresses the reader as follows: “Kind reader, the philosophers have written much about their lead, which as Basilus has taught, is prepared from antimony; and I am under the impression that this saturnine work of the present philosopher, Mr. Johann Isaak Hollandus, is not to be understood of common lead... but of the lead of the philosophers.” And in Hollandus himself we read: “In the name of God, Amen.—My child, know that the stone called the Philosopher's Stone comes from Saturn. And know my child as a truth that in the whole vegetable work [vegetable on account of the symbolism of the sowing and growing] there is no higher or greater secret than in Saturn. [Cf. the previously cited passage from Alipili.] For we find, ourselves, in [common] gold not the perfection that is to be found in Saturn, for inwardly he is good  gold. In this all philosophers agree; and it is necessary only that you reject everything that is superfluous, then that you turn the within outward, which is the red; then it will be good gold. [H.
A., p. 74, notes that Hollandus himself means the same as Isaiah L, 16. ‘Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes,’ etc.] Gold cannot be made so easily of anything as of Saturn, for Saturn is easily dissolved and congealed, and its mercury may be more easily extracted from it.” [That means therefore that the conscience easily develops after the destruction of superfluities or obstacles in the plastic lead man.] “And this mercury extracted from Saturn is purified Section III. The Hermetic Art. 123 and sublimated, as mercury is usually sublimed. I tell thee, my child, that the same mercury is as good as the mercury extracted from gold in all operations.” [Herein lies, according to H. A., an allusion to the fact that all men are essentially of one nature, inasmuch as the image of God dwells in them all.] “All these strange parables, in which the philosophers have spoken of a stone, a moon, a stove, a vessel, all of that is Saturn [i.e., all of that is spoken of mankind] for you may add nothing foreign, outside of what springs from himself. There is none so poor in this world that he cannot operate and promote this work.
For Luna may be easily made of Saturn in a short time [here Luna, silver, stands for the affections purified]; and in a little time longer Sol may be made from it. By Sol here I understand the intellect, which becomes clarified in proportion as the affections  become purified.... In Saturn is a perfect mercury; in it are all the colors of the world, [that is, the whole universe in some sense lies in the nature of man, whence have proceeded all religions, all philosophies, all histories, all fables, all poesy, all arts and sciences.]” (P. 77.) Artephius [Hapso]: “Without the antimonial vinegar [conscience] no metal [man] can be whitened [inwardly pure]....
This water is the only apt and natural medium, clear as fine silver, by which we ought to receive the tinctures of Sol and Luna [briefly, if also inexactly, to be paraphrased by soul and body], so that they may be congealed and changed into a white and living earth.” This water desires the complete bodies in order that after their dissolution it may be congealed, fixed and coagulated into a white earth. [The first step is purification, releasing, that is, otherwise also conceived as calcination, etc.; it takes place through conscience, under whose influence the hard man is made tender and brought to fluidity.] “But their [sc. the alchemists] solution is also their coagulation;
both consist in one operation, for the one is dissolved and the other congealed. Nor is there any other water which can dissolve 124 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts the bodies but that which abideth with them. Gold and silver [Sol and Luna as before] are to be exalted in our water,... which water is called the middle of the soul and without which nothing can be done in our art. It is a vegetable, mineral, and animal fire, which  conserves the fixed spirits of Sol and Luna, but destroys and conquers their bodies; for it annihilates, overturns and changes bodies and metallic forms, making them to be no bodies, but a fixed spirit.” “The argentum vivum [living silver] is... the substance of Sol and Luna, or silver and gold, changed from baseness to nobility.
“It is a living water that comes to moisten the earth that it may spring forth and in due season bring forth much fruit.... This aqua vitæ or water of life, whitens the body and changes it into a white color....
“How precious and how great a thing is this water. For without it the work could never be done or perfected; it is also called vas naturae, the belly, the womb, receptacle of the tincture, the earth, the nurse. It is the royal fountain, in which the king and queen [[Symbol: Sun] and [Symbol: Moon]] bathe themselves; and the mother, which must be put into and sealed up within the belly of her infant, and that is Sol himself, who proceeded from her, and whom she brought forth; and therefore they have loved one another as mother and son, and are conjoined together because they sprang from one root and are of the same substance and nature. And because this water is the water of the vegetable life, it causes the dead body to vegetate, increase and spring forth, and to rise from death to life, by being dissolved first and then sublimed. And in doing this the body is converted into a spirit  and the spirit afterwards into a body....
“Our stone consists of a body, a soul, and a spirit.
“It appears then that this composition is not a work of the hands but a change of natures, because nature dissolves and joins itself, sublimes and lifts itself up, and grows white being separated from the feces [these feces are naturally the same that Section III. The Hermetic Art. 125 Hollandus notes as the ‘superfluities’].... Our brass or latten then is made to ascend by the degrees of fire, but of its own accord freely and without violence. But when it ascends on high it is born in the air or spirit and is changed into a spirit, and becomes a life with life. And by such an operation the body becomes of a subtile nature and the spirit is incorporated with the body, and made one with it, and by such a sublimation, conjunction and raising up, the whole, body and spirit, is made white.” (H. A., p.
87.) For elucidation some passages from the Bible may be useful.
Colossians II, 11: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the
sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” Psalm LI, 7:
“Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” I Corinthians VI, 11: “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Romans VIII, 13: “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” John IV, 14: “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never  thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” [In IV, 10, living water is mentioned.] John XII, 24 ff.: “... Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die [Putrefactio] it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in the world shall keep it unto life eternal.” Romans VI, 5 ff.: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him [I must mention here that the hieroglyph for vinegar is [Symbol: Vinegar]] that the body of sin might be destroyed....” I Corinthians XV, 42 ff.: “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.... It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.... The first Adam 126 Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.... We shall all be changed.... For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” I Corinthians XV, 40 ff.: “There are celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial.... There is one glory of the sun and another glory of the moon.” Ephesians II, 14 ff.: “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in  himself of twain one new man, so making peace, and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” If we note the two contraries that are to be united according
to the procedure of the hermetic philosophers with [Symbol:
Sun] and [Symbol: Moon] [sun and moon, gold and silver, etc.] and represent them united with the cross [Symbol: +] we get [Symbol: Mercury with a sun]; i.e., [Symbol: Mercury], the symbol of mercury. This ideogram conceals the concept, Easter.
All these ideas, as we know, did not originate with Christianity.
II Corinthians V, 1: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” John VII, 38: “He that believeth on me... out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” I mention right here that the hermetic philosophers do not pursue speculative theology, but that, as is clearly evident from their writings, they made the content of the religious doctrine a part of their life. That was their work, a work of mysticism.