'Nothing of true value is located in the body of a substance, but in the virtue thereof, and this is the principle of the Quintessence, which reduces, say 20 lbs. of a given substance into a single ounce, and that ounce far exceeds the 20 lbs. in potency. Hence the less there is of body, the more in proportion is the virtue thereof.'
Paracelsus has said:
'The Magi in their wisdom asserted that all creatures might be brought to one unified substance, which substance they affirm, may by purification and purgation, attain to so high a degree of subtlety, such divine nature and occult property, as to work wonderful results. For they considered that by returning to the earth, and by a supreme and magical separation, a certain perfect substance would come forth, which is at length, by many industrious and prolonged preparations, exalted and raised up above the range of vegetable substances into mineral, above mineral into metallic, and above perfect metallic substances into a perpetual and divine Quintessence, including in itself the essence of all celestial and terrestrial creatures.'
By this Quintessence or quintum esse, Paracelsus meant the nucleus of the essences and properties of all things in the universal world.
From the 'Golden Casket' of Benedictus Figulus comes the following:
'For the elements and their compounds in addition to crass matter, are composed of a subtle substance, or intrinsic radical humidity, diffused through the elemental parts, simple and wholly incorruptible, long preserving the things themselves in vigour, and called the Spirit of the World, proceeding from the Soul of the World, the one certain Life filling and fathoming all things, so that from the three genera, or creatures, Intellectual, Celestial and Corruptible, there is formed the One Machine of the Whole World. This spirit by its virtue fecundates all subjects natural and artificial, pouring into them those hidden properties which we have been wont to call the Fifth Essence, or Quintessence. . . . But this is the root of life, i.e., the Fifth Essence, created by the Almighty for the preservation of the four qualities of the human body, even as Heaven is for the preservation of the Universe. Therefore is this Fifth Essence and Spiritual Medicine, which is of Nature and the Heart of Heaven, and not of a mortal and corrupt quality, indeed possible. The Fount of Medicine, the preservation of Life, the restoration of Health, and in this may be cherished the renewal of lost youth and serene health be found.'
Turning from the words of the alchemists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to those of a twentieth century scientist, let me quote from Sir Oliver Lodge's 'Ether and Reality' once again:
'Apollonius of Tyana is said to have asked the
[paragraph continues] Brahmins of what they supposed the Cosmos to be composed.
'"Of the five elements."
'"How can there be a fifth," demanded Apollonius, "beside water and air and earth and fire?"
'"There is the ether," replied the Brahmin, "which we must regard as the element of which the gods are made; for just as all mortal creatures inhale the air, so do immortal and divine natures inhale the ether."'
'What you choose to call this unifying "Something" is of no consequence. The Ancients sometimes spoke of the "Ether," possibly as an addition to the usual four elements, and Sir Isaac Newton adopted this term for the connecting medium. The optical medium connects the particles together in a solid or a liquid, and the same medium connects the heavenly bodies together into systems and clusters and constellations and nebulae and Milky Way.
'All pieces of matter and all particles are connected together by the Ether and by nothing else. In it they move freely, and of it they may be composed. We must study the kind of connexion between matter and Ether.
'The particles embedded in the Ether are not independent of it, they are closely connected with it, it is probable that they are formed out of it: they are not like grains of sand suspended in water, they seem more like minute crystals formed in a mother liquor. . .'
'Speculatively and intuitively we feel to be more in direct touch with the ether than with matter. How we can act on matter is a mystery. How
we have constructed and how we move our bodies, we do not know. We are apt to identify ourselves with our bodies. But there is evidence which shows that we are really independent, that we continue in existence, and can leave our bodies behind. Matter is not part of our real being, not of our essential nature it is but an instrument that we use for a time and then discard. Probably we do not act directly upon matter at all. Our will, our mind, our psychic life, probably act directly upon the Ether; and only through it, indirectly, on Matter. Ether is our real primary and permanent instrument. It is in connexion with the Ether that our real being consists; and through it we are able to manipulate the atoms of matter, to move them, to rearrange them, and thus 'employ them to express our thoughts and feelings and to manifest ourselves to other individual entities who in the long course of evolution have been enabled to construct and employ similar most ingenious, though imperfect, instruments of manifestation. By this means we can become aware of a multitude of existences, the whole animal and vegetable kingdom, of which otherwise we might have remained ignorant; by this means our conceptions of existence have been enlarged and extended, the possibilities of friendship enhanced, the perception of a new realm of law and order attained. And thus is our own nature enriched by the effort and experiences belonging to a new and most interesting-- though from our point of view imperfect and rebellious--physical mode of existence.'
And his closing words:
'It is the primary instrument of Mind, the vehicle of Soul, the habitation of Spirit. Truly it may be called the Living Garment of God.'
This comparison between the writings of scientists of different centuries is interesting, since it seems to me that while there may be some difference in actual verbal expression, each man refers to the same principle.