Robert Boyle.

The sceptical chymist online

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Prunis Ignem, Terram in cineribus: Quod si Beguino placuerit ex eo
colligere humidum aquosum, cohibere humidum oleaginosum, extrahere ex
cineribus salem; Ego ipsi in unoquoque horum seorsim quatuor Elementa
ad oculum demonstrabo, eodem artificio quo in ligno viridi ea
demonstravi. Humorem aquosum admovebo Igni. Ipse Aquam Ebullire
videbit, in Vapore Aerem conspiciet, Ignem sentiet in æstu, plus minus
Terræ in sedimento apparebit. Humor porro Oleaginosus aquam humiditate
& fluiditate per se, accensus vero Ignem flamma prodit, fumo Aerem,
fuligine, nidore & amurca terram. Salem denique ipse Beguinus siccum
vocat & Terrestrem, qui tamen nec fusus Aquam, nec caustica vi ignem
celare potest; ignis vero Violentia in halitus versus nec ab Aere se
alienum esse demonstrat; Idem de Lacte, de Ovis, de semine Lini, de
Garyophyllis, de Nitro, de sale Marino, denique de Antimonio, quod
fuit de Ligno viridi Judicium; eadem de illorum partibus, quas_
Beguinus _adducit, sententia, quæ de viridis ligni humore aquoso, quæ
de liquore ejusdem oleoso, quæ de sale fuit._

[Footnote 24: _In Thessalo redivivo. Cap. 10. pag. 73. & 74._]

This bold Discourse (resumes _Carneades_, putting up again his Paper,)
I think it were not very difficult to confute, if his Arguments were
as considerable as our time will probably prove short for the
remaining and more necessary Part of my Discourse; wherefore referring
You for an Answer to what was said concerning the Dissipated Parts of
a burnt piece of green Wood, to what I told _Themistius_ on the like
occasion, I might easily shew You, how sleightly and superficially our
_Guntherus_ talks of the dividing the flame of Green Wood into his
four Elements; _When_ he makes that vapour to be air, which being
caught in Glasses and condens'd, presently discovers it self to have
been but an Aggregate of innumerable very minute drops of Liquor; and
_When_ he would prove the Phlegmes being compos'd of Fire by that Heat
which is adventitious to the Liquor, and ceases upon the absence of
what produc'd it (whether that be an Agitation proceeding from the
motion of the External Fire, or the presence of a Multitude of igneous
Atomes pervading the pores of the Vessel, and nimbly permeating the
whole Body of the Water) I might, I say, urge these and divers other
Weaknesses of His Discourse. But I will rather take Notice of what is
more pertinent to the Occasion of this Digression, namely, that Taking
it for Granted, that Fluidity (with which he unwarily seems to
confound Humidity) must proceed from the Element of Water, he makes a
Chymical Oyle to Consist of that Elementary Liquor; and yet in the
very next Words proves, that it consists also of Fire, by its
Inflamability; not remembring that exquisitely pure Spirit of Wine is
both more Fluid then Water it self, and yet will Flame all away
without leaving the Least Aqueous Moisture behind it; and without such
an _Amurca_ and Soot as he would Deduce the presence of Earth from. So
that the same Liquor may according to his Doctrine be concluded by its
great Fluidity to be almost all Water; and by its burning all away to
be all disguised Fire. And by the like way of Probation our Author
would shew that the fixt salt of Wood is compounded of the four
Elements. For (sayes he) being turn'd by the violence of the Fire into
steames, it shews it self to be of kin to Air; whereas I doubt whether
he ever saw a true fixt Salt (which to become so, must have already
endur'd the violence of an Incinerating Fire) brought by the Fire
alone to ascend in the Forme of Exhalations; but I do not doubt that
if he did, and had caught those Exhalations in convenient Vessels, he
would have found them as well as the Steames of common Salt, &c. of a
Saline and not an Aereal Nature. And whereas our Authour takes it also
for Granted, that the Fusibility of Salt must be Deduc'd from Water,
it is indeed so much the Effect of heat variously agitating the Minute
Parts of a Body, without regard to Water, that Gold (which by its
being the heavyest and fixtest of Bodies, should be the most Earthy)
will be brought to Fusion by a strong Fire; which sure is more likely
to drive away then increase its Aqueous Ingredient, if it have any;
and on the other side, for want of a sufficient agitation of its
minute parts, Ice is not Fluid, but Solid; though he presumes also
that the Mordicant Quality of Bodies must proceed from a fiery
ingredient; whereas, not to urge that the Light and inflamable parts,
which are the most likely to belong to the Element of Fire, must
probably be driven away by that time the violence of the Fire has
reduc'd the Body to ashes; Not to urge this, I I [Transcriber's Note:
extra "I" in original] say, nor that Oyle of Vitriol which quenches
Fire, burnes the Tongue and flesh of those that Unwarily tast or apply
it, as a caustick doth, it is precarious to prove the Presence of Fire
in fixt salts from their Caustick power, unlesse it were first shewn,
that all the Qualities ascribed to salts must be deduc'd from those of
the Elements; which, had I Time, I could easily manifest to be no easy
talk. And not to mention that our Authour makes a Body as Homogeneous
as any he can produce for Elementary, belong both to Water and Fire,
Though it be neither Fluid nor Insipid, like Water; nor light and
Volatile, like Fire; he seems to omit in this Anatomy the Element of
Earth, save That he intimates, That the salt may pass for that; But
since a few lines before, he takes Ashes for Earth, I see not how he
will avoid an Inconsistency either betwixt the Parts of his Discourse
or betwixt some of them and his Doctrine. For since There is a
manifest Difference betwixt the Saline and the insipid Parts of Ashes,
I see not how substances That Disagree in such Notable Qualities can
be both said to be Portions of an Element, whose Nature requires that
it be Homogeneous, especially in this case where an _Analysis_ by the
Fire is suppos'd to have separated it from the admixture of other
Elements, which are confess'd by most _Aristotelians_ to be Generally
found in common Earth, and to render it impure. And sure if when we
have consider'd for how little a Disparities sake the Peripateticks
make these Symbolizing Bodies Aire and Fire to be two Distinct
Elements, we shall also consider that the Saline part of Ashes is very
strongly Tasted, and easily soluble in Water; whereas the other part
of the same Ashes is insipid and indissoluble in the same Liquor: Not
to add, that the one substance is Opacous, and the other somewhat
Diaphanous, nor that they differ in Divers other Particulars; If we
consider those things, I say, we shall hardly think that both these
Substances are Elementary Earth; And as to what is sometimes objected,
that their Saline Tast is only an Effect of Incineration and Adustion,
it has been elsewhere fully reply'd to, when propos'd by _Themistius_,
and where it has been prov'd against him, that however insipid Earth
may perhaps by Additaments be turn'd into Salt, yet 'tis not like it
should be so by the Fire alone: For we see that when we refine Gold
and Silver, the violentest Fires We can Employ on them give them not
the least Rellish of Saltness. And I think _Philoponus_ has rightly
observ'd, that the Ashes of some Concretes contain very little salt if
any at all; For Refiners suppose that bone-ashes are free from it, and
therefore make use of them for Tests and Cuppels, which ought to be
Destitute of Salt, lest the Violence of the Fire should bring them to
Vitrification; And having purposely and heedfully tasted a Cuppel made
of only bone-ashes and fair water, which I had caus'd to be expos'd
to a Very Violent Fire, acuated by the Blast of a large pair of Double
Bellows, I could not perceive that the force of the Fire had imparted
to it the least Saltness, or so much as made it less Insipid.

But (sayes _Carneades_) since neither You nor I love Repetitions, I
shall not now make any of what else was urg'd against _Themistius_ but
rather invite You to take notice with me that when our Authour, though
a Learned Man, and one that pretends skill enough in Chymistry to
reforme the whole Art, comes to make good his confident Undertaking,
to give us an occular Demonstration of the immediate Presence of the
four Elements in the resolution of Green Wood, He is fain to say
things that agree very little with one another. For about the
beginning of that passage of His lately recited to you, he makes the
sweat as he calls it of the green Wood to be Water, the smoke Aire,
the shining Matter Fire, and the Ashes Earth; whereas a few lines
after, he will in each of these, nay (as I just now noted) in one
Distinct Part of the Ashes, shew the four Elements. So that either the
former _Analysis_ must be incompetent to prove that Number of
Elements, since by it the burnt Concrete is not reduc'd into
Elementary Bodies, but into such as are yet each of them compounded of
the four Elements; or else these Qualities from which he endeavours to
deduce the presence of all the Elements, in the fixt salt, and each of
the other separated substances, will be but a precarious way of
probation: especially if you consider, that the extracted _Alcali_ of
Wood, being for ought appears at least as similar a Body as any that
the Peripateticks can shew us, if its differing Qualities must argue
the presence of Distinct Elements, it will scarce be possible for them
by any way they know of employing the fire upon a Body, to shew that
any Body is a Portion of a true Element: And this recals to my mind,
that I am now but in an occasional excussion, which aiming only to
shew that the Peripateticks as well as the Chymists take in our
present Controversie something for granted which they ought to prove,
I shall returne to my exceptions, where I ended the first of them, and
further tell you, that neither is that the only precarious thing that
I take notice of in _Sennertus_ his Argumentation; for when he
inferrs, that because the Qualities he Mentions as Colours, Smels, and
the like, belong not to the Elements; they therefore must to the
Chymical Principles, he takes that for granted, which will not in
haste be prov'd; as I might here manifest, but that I may by and by
have a fitter opportunity to take notice of it. And thus much at
present may suffice to have Discours'd against the Supposition, that
almost every Quality must have some [Greek: dektikon prôton], as they
speak, some Native receptacle, wherein as in its proper Subject of
inhesion it peculiarly resides, and on whose account that quality
belongs to the other Bodies, Wherein it is to be met with. Now this
Fundamental supposition being once Destroy'd, whatsoever is built upon
it, must fall to ruine of it self.

But I consider further, that Chymists are (for ought I have found) far
from being able to explicate by any of the _Tria Prima_, those
qualities which they pretend to belong primarily unto it, and in mixt
Bodies to Deduce from it. Tis true indeed, that such qualities are
not explicable by the four Elements; but it will not therefore follow,
that they are so by the three hermetical Principles; and this is it
that seems to have deceiv'd the Chymists, and is indeed a very common
mistake amongst most Disputants, who argue as if there could be but
two Opinions concerning the Difficulty about which they contend; and
consequently they inferr, that if their Adversaries Opinion be
Erroneous, Their's must needs be the Truth; whereas many questions,
and especially in matters Physiological, may admit of so many
Differing _Hypotheses_, that 'twill be very inconsiderate and
fallacious to conclude (except where the Opinions are precisely
Contradictory) the Truth of one from the falsity of another. And in
our particular case 'tis no way necessary, that the Properties of mixt
Bodies must be explicable either by the Hermetical, or the
_Aristotelian Hypothesis_, there being divers other and more plausible
wayes of explaining them, and especially that, which deduces qualities
from the motion, figure, and contrivance of the small parts of Bodies;
as I think might be shewn, if the attempt were as seasonable, as I
fear it would be Tedious.

I will allow then, that the Chymists do not causelessly accuse the
Doctrine of the four elements of incompetency to explain the
Properties of Compound bodies. And for this Rejection of a Vulgar
Error, they ought not to be deny'd what praise men may deserve for
exploding a Doctrine whose Imperfections are so conspicuous, that men
needed but not to shut their Eyes, to discover them. But I am
mistaken, if our Hermetical Philosophers Themselves need not, as well
as the Peripateticks, have Recourse to more Fruitfull and
Comprehensive Principles then the _tria Prima_, to make out the
Properties of the Bodies they converse with. Not to accumulate
Examples to this purpose, (because I hope for a fitter opportunity to
prosecute this Subject) let us at present only point at Colour, that
you may guess by what they say of so obvious and familiar a Quality,
how little Instruction we are to expect from the _Tria Prima_ in those
more abstruse ones, which they with the _Aristotelians_ stile Occult.
For about Colours, neither do they at all agree among themselves, nor
have I met with any one, of which of the three Perswasions soever,
that does intelligibly explicate Them. The Vulgar Chymists are wont to
ascribe Colours to Mercury; _Paracelsus_ in divers places attributes
them to Salt; and _Sennertus_,[25] having recited their differing
Opinions, Dissents from both, and referrs Colours rather unto Sulphur.
But how Colours do, nay, how they may, arise from either of these
Principles, I think you will scarce say that any has yet intelligibly
explicated. And if Mr. _Boyle_ will allow me to shew you the
Experiments which he has collected about Colours, you will, I doubt
not, confess that bodies exhibite colours, not upon the Account of the
Predominancy of this or that Principle in them, but upon that of their
Texture, and especially the Disposition of their superficial parts,
whereby the Light rebounding thence to the Eye is so modifi'd, as by
differing Impressions variously to affect the Organs of Sight. I might
here take notice of the pleasing variety of Colours exhibited by the
Triangular glass, (as 'tis wont to be call'd) and demand, what
addition or decrement of either Salt, Sulphur, or Mercury, befalls the
Body of the Glass by being Prismatically figur'd; and yet 'tis known,
that without that shape it would not affor'd those colours as it does.
But because it may be objected, that these are not real, but apparent
Colours; that I may not lose time in examing the Distinction, I will
alledge against the Chymists, a couple of examples of Real and
Permanent Colours Drawn from Metalline Bodies, and represent, that
without the addition of any extraneous body, Quicksilver may by the
Fire alone, and that in glass Vessels, be depriv'd of its silver-like
Colour, and be turn'd into a Red Body; and from this Red Body without
Addition likewise may be obtain'd a Mercury Bright and Specular as it
was before; So that I have here a lasting Colour Generated and
Destroy'd (as I have seen) at pleasure, without adding or taking away
either Mercury, Salt, or Sulphur; and if you take a clean and slender
piece of harden'd steel, and apply to it the flame of a candle at some
little distance short of the point, You shall not have held the Steel
long in the flame, but You shall perceive divers Colours, as Yellow,
Red and Blew, to appear upon the Surface of the metal, and as it were
run along in chase of one another towards the point; So that the same
body, and that in one and the same part, may not only have a new
colour produc'd in it, but exhibite successively divers Colours within
a minute of an hour, or thereabouts, and any of these Colours may by
Removing the Steel from the Fire, become Permanent, and last many
years. And this Production and Variety of Colours cannot reasonably be
suppos'd to proceed from the Accession of any of the three Principles,
to which of them soever Chymists will be pleas'd to ascribe Colours;
especially considering, that if you but suddenly Refrigerate that
Iron, First made Red hot, it will be harden'd and Colourless again;
and not only by the Flame of a Candle, but by any other equivalent
heat Conveniently appli'd, the like Colours will again be made to
appear and succeed one another, as at the First. But I must not any
further prosecute an Occasional Discourse, though that were not so
Difficult for me to do, as I fear it would be for the Chymists to give
a better Account of the other Qualities, by their Principles, then
they have done of Colours. And your _Sennertus_ Himself (though an
Author I much value) would I fear have been exceedingly puzl'd to
resolve, by the _Tria Prima_, halfe that Catalogue of Problems, which
he challenges the Vulgar Peripateticks to explicate by their four
Elements.[26] And supposing it were true, that Salt or Sulphur were
the Principle to which this or that Quality may be peculiarly
referr'd, yet though he that teaches us this teaches us something
concerning That quality, yet he Teaches us but something. For indeed
he does not Teach us That which can in any Tollerable measure satisfie
an inquisitive Searcher after Truth. For what is it to me to know,
that such a quality resides in such a Principle or Element, whilst I
remain altogether ignorant of the Cause of that quality, and the
manner of its production and Operation? How little do I know more then
any Ordinary Man of Gravity, if I know but that the Heaviness of mixt
bodies proceeds from that of the Earth they are compos'd of, if I know
not the reason why the Earth is Heavy? And how little does the Chymist
teach the Philosopher of the Nature of Purgatition, if he only tells
him that the Purgative Vertue of Medicines resides in their Salt? For,
besides that this must not be conceded without Limitation, since the
purging parts of many Vegetables Extracted by the Water wherein they
are infus'd, are at most but such compounded Salts, (I mean mingl'd
with Oyle, and Spirit, and Earth, as Tartar and divers other Subjects
of the Vegetable Kingdom afford;) And since too that Quicksilver
precipitated either with Gold, or without Addition, into a powder, is
wont to be strongly enough Cathartical, though the Chymists have not
yet prov'd, that either Gold or Mercury have any Salt at all, much
less any that is Purgative; Besides this, I say, how little is it to
me, to know That 'tis the Salt of the Rhubarb (for Instance) that
purges, if I find That it does not purge as Salt; since scarce any
Elementary Salt is in small quantity cathartical. And if I know not
how Purgation in general is effected in a Humane Body? In a word, as
'tis one thing to know a mans Lodging, and another, to be acquainted
with him; so it may be one thing to know the subject wherein a Quality
principally resides, and another thing to have a right notion and
knowledg of the quality its self. Now that which I take to be the
reason of this Chymical Deficiency, is the same upon whose account I
think the _Aristotelian_ and divers other Theories incompetent to
explicate the Origen [Errata: origine] of Qualities. For I am apt to
think, that men will never be able to explain the _Phænomena_ of
Nature, while they endeavour to deduce them only from the Presence and
Proportion of such or such material Ingredients, and consider such
ingredients or Elements as Bodies in a state of rest; whereas indeed
the greatest part of the affections of matter, and consequently of the
_Phænomena_ of nature, seems to depend upon the motion and the
continuance [Errata: contrivance] of the small parts of Bodies. For
'tis by motion that one part of matter acts upon another; and 'tis,
for the most part, the texture of the Body upon which the moving parts
strike, that modifies to motion or Impression, and concurrs with it
to the production of those Effects which make up the chief part of the
Naturalists Theme.

[Footnote 25: _De Cons. & dissen. cap. 11. pag. 186._]

[Footnote 26: _Sennert. de Con. seus. [Transcriber's Note: Consens.] &
Dissens. pag. 165. 166._]

But (sayes _Eleutherius_) me thinks for all this, you have left some
part of what I alledg'd in behalf of the three principles, unanswer'd.
For all that you have said will not keep this from being a useful
Discovery, that since in the Salt of one Concrete, in the Sulphur of
another and the Mercury of a third, the Medicinal vertue of it
resides, that Principle ought to be separated from the rest, and there
the desired faculty must be sought for.

I never denyed (Replyes _Carneades_) that the Notion of the _Tria
Prima_ may be of some use, but (continues he laughing) by what you now
alledg for it, it will but appear That it is useful to Apothecaries,
rather than to Philosophers, The being able to make things Operative
being sufficient to those, whereas the Knowledge of Causes is the
Thing looked after by These. And let me Tell You, _Eleutherius_, even
this it self will need to be entertained with some caution.

For first, it will not presently follow, That if the Purgative or
other vertue of a simple may be easily extracted by Water or Spirit of
Wine, it Resides in the Salt or Sulphur of the Concrete; Since unlesse
the Body have before been resolved by the Fire, or some Other Powerful
Agent, it will, for the most part, afford in the Liquors I have named,
rather the finer compounded parts of it self, Than the Elementary
ones. As I noted before, That Water will dissolve not only pure Salts,
but Crystals of Tartar, Gumme Arabick, Myrr'h, and Other Compound
Bodies. As also Spirit of Wine will Dissolve not only the pure Sulphur
of Concretes, but likewise the whole Substance of divers Resinous
Bodies, as Benzoin, the Gummous parts of Jallap, Gumme Lacca, and
Other bodies that are counted perfectly Mixt. And we see that the
Extracts made either with Water or Spirit of Wine are not of a simple
and Elementary Nature, but Masses consisting of the looser Corpuscles,
and finer parts of the Concretes whence they are Drawn; since by
Distillation they may be Divided into more Elementary substances.

Next, we may consider That even when there intervenes a Chymical
resolution by he [Transcriber's Note: the] Fire, 'tis seldom in the
Saline or Sulphureous principle, as such, that the desir'd Faculty of
the Concrete Resides; But, as that Titular Salt or Sulphur is yet a
mixt body, though the Saline or Sulphureous Nature be predominant in
it. For, if in Chymical Resolutions the separated Substances were pure
and simple Bodies, and of a perfect Elementary Nature; no one would be
indued with more Specifick Vertues, than another; and their qualities
would Differ as Little as do those of Water. And let me add this upon
the bye, That even Eminent Chymists have suffer'd themselves to be
reprehended by me for their over great Diligence in purifying some of
the things they obtain by Fire from mixt Bodies. For though such
compleatly purifyed Ingredients of Bodies might perhaps be more
satisfactory to our Understanding; yet others are often more useful to
our Lives, the efficacy of such Chymical Productions depending most
upon what they retain of the Bodies whence they are separated, or gain
by the new associations of the Dissipated among themselves; whereas
if they were meerly Elementary, their uses would be comparatively very
small; and the vertues of Sulphurs, Salts, or Other such Substances of
one denomination, would be the very same.

And by the Way (_Eleutherius_) I am inclin'd upon this ground to
Think, That the artificial resolution of compound bodies by Fire does
not so much enrich mankind, as it divides them into their supposed
Principles; as upon the score of its making new compounds by now
[Transcriber's Note: new] combinations of the dissipated parts of the
resolv'd Body. For by this means the Number of mixt Bodies is
considerably increased. And many of those new productions are indow'd
with useful qualities, divers of which they owe not to the body from
which they were obtein'd, but to Their newly Acquired Texture.

But thirdly, that which is principally to be Noted is this, that as
there are divers Concretes whose Faculties reside in some one or other
of those differing Substances that Chymists call their Sulphurs,
Salts, and Mercuries, and consequently may be best obtain'd, by
analyzing the Concrete whereby the desired Principles may be had
sever'd or freed from the rest; So there are other wherein the noblest
properties lodge not in the Salt, or Sulphur, or Mercury, but depend

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