Nature, Reason, Experience and Reading must be the Guide, Staff, Spectacles and Lamp to him that is employed in Chemical Affairs.
There are innumerable accidents which may happen to Travellers, especially if they are to walk in the night time through dangerous and slippery places. But besides Provisions and Strength of Body, there are four things that are extremely necessary: In the first place a Skilful Guide or Companion, for if the ignorant lead the ignorant it may happen either as to the Blind that they may both fall into the Ditch, or at least they both may run into difficulties and Errors. In the next place, a Staff, by which a Remedy may be provided against the slipperiness of the way. Thirdly, good eyes, for else the way is almost as dangerous to those that are dim-sighted as to the blind. Fourthly, a Lamp or lighted Torch, by which several obstacles may be avoided, so that if any Person applies himself to the search of the Philosophical Medicine, besides strength of Body, and Money sufficient for his expenses, there are four other things requisite, to wit: Nature, Reason, Experience and Reading; for if any of these are wanting the others will be of little prevalence. For these are the four Wheels of the Philosophical Chariot, for which one of them cannot be wanting, and if it be left out it avails nothing.
Nature presupposes Natural Bodies; and Spirits as the Subjects; first ministered by Nature, upon which Art may afterwards exert itself by Preparing, Purifying, and rendering them Capable of having that produced from them, which Art proposes for its end. So the Potter takes Earth and Water; the Glassmaker ashes and Sand; a Smith Iron, Brass, Lead, Tin, Copper, Silver and Gold; a Tanner raw Hides; and so other Artists take other things.
The Chemist has regard to his Materials; theirs are known to them the very first day, but when he Begins, his are utterly unknown to him for many years, and perhaps for his whole life. Nature does indeed lay its finger upon the matters; but there are many things which obscure the impression of Nature, that it cannot be known.
Therefore the first intention must be to intimately contemplate Nature and to see how she proceeds in her operations, to this end that the natural Subjects of Chemistry, without defect or superfluity may be attained to. From whence let Nature be thy Guide and Companion of so great a journey, and follow her Footsteps. In the next place, let Reason be like a Staff which may keep the feet steady and Firm, that they may not slip nor Waver; for without reasoning, any person will be apt to fall into Error. Whence the Philosophers say, ” Whatever you hear, reason upon it, whether it can be so or no. “
For no man is forced to believe or Act Impossibilities, unless he be of a Weak memory, Dull genius, and foolish Imagination to impose upon himself by taking false thing for True, and rejecting true things as False. They say likewise that they take no care of the Words that are said, but rather of the Things as they may be Understood; and that words are for Things, and not things for Words. As for example, if any man should ask if Glass may be made malleable by the Philosophical Tincture? Well, why should I not believe it, provided reason vitiates it?
Thirdly, Experience will be as spectacles by which things may be seen at a distance. These are Optic instruments invented and made by Art, to help and amend the weakness of men’s eyes. Not unlike these are all Experiments of every kind, that have been tried about the Mineral matter, whether seen or truly related, and the more these remain in the Memory the more will be drawn from thence by a man of Reason, who will compare them with themselves, and other things, that he may see what is truth, and what is not.
Fourthly, Reading does as it were, kindle a clear Lamp in the Understanding, without which there will everywhere be darkness and Thick Clouds. But the reading of Good Authors ought to be often repeated, otherwise it will not be profitable.
Kenar Bacassar in the Turba saith, ” He therefore that is of an even Temper and exercises Patience without regret, will go in the right path of this Art. But he that thinks himself able sooner to reap benefit from our Books, is deceived, and it had been better for him not to have looked into or touched them.