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I am reading Novuum Lumen Chemicum with the help of Waite’s English translation. (https://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/hm2/hm204.htm) The following passage I cannot understand clearly. It seems that Waite had skipped this.(org.: Musaeum Hermeticum, Frankfurt, 1677, p.545 – page number misprinted as 454)

Nos dum illam quaerimus alia invenimus: & nisi ita usitata esset procreatio humana, & natura in eo suum jus teneret, jam vix non deviaremus.

The sentences before and after this one:

Si hoc revivisceret ipse Philosophorum pater Hermes, & subtilis ingenii Geber, cum profundissimo RAYMUNDO LULLIO, non pro Philosophis, sed potius pro discipulis a nostris Chemistis haberentur: Nescirent tot hodie usitatas destilationes, tot circulationes, tot calcinationes, & tot alia innumerabilia alia Artistarum opera, quae ex illorum scriptis hujus saeculi homines invenerunt & excogitarunt. Unicum tantum nobis deest, ut id sciamus quod ipsi fecerunt, lapidem videlicet Philosophorum seu Tincturam Physicam. Nos dum illam quaerimus alia invenimus: & nisi ita usitata esset procreatio humana, & natura in eo suum jus teneret, jam vix non deviaremus. Sed, ut revertar ad propositum, promisi in hoc primo tractatu Naturam explicare; ne nos a simplici via vera, vana deflectat imaginatio.

I would appreciate any help.

  • Just out of curiosity, are you working from a physical text? Or is the Latin online somewhere linkable? – Draconis May 24 at 3:09
  • Thanks for your interest. I am using a pdf downloaded from Jung collection.dx.doi.org/10.3931/e-rara-7705 This is degitized but not OCRed. – Ryohei Irie May 24 at 3:59
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To supplement, I've located a different published (i.e. professional) English translation: that of a Dr John French, published in 1674. Here's what he has to say for this section:

If Hermes himfelf, the Father of Philosophers, should now be alive, and subtil-witted Geber, together with most profound Raimundus Lullius, they would not be accounted by our Chymists for Philosophers, but rather for Scholars: They would be ignorant of those so many Distillations, so many Circulations, so many Calcinations, and so many other innumerable Operations of Artists now adays used, which men of this age devised, and found out of their Writings. There is one only thing wanting to us, that is, to know that which they effected, viz. the Philosophers Stone, or Physical Tincture we whilst we seek that, find out other things: and unless the Procreation of Man were so usual as it is, and Nature did in that thing still observe her own Law, and Rules we should scarce not but err. But to return to what I intended; I promised in this first Treatise to explain Nature, lest every idle fancy should turn us aside from the true and plain way.

(Errors as in the original.)

I'm afraid I'm not sure what "unless the Procreation of Man were so usual as it is" is supposed to mean: it's a very literal translation of the Latin, but doesn't really seem to make a lot of sense.

  • My understanding: here is something like the contrast between "aurum nostrum" and "aurum vulgi". Lapis belongs to the realm outside this world. "Procreatio humana" is "common" and of this world so they cannot find the Lapis. Lapis is a wonder. Therefore Nature does not keep her law with Lapis and humans have difficulty in finding it. – Ryohei Irie May 25 at 0:42
  • @RyoheiIrie In other words, "usual" here (usitata) means something more like "of the same realm as"? – Draconis May 25 at 1:42
  • Or rather like in "common gold", meaning "vulgus", Is it possible? – Ryohei Irie May 25 at 2:02
  • @RyoheiIrie Maybe? I'm not sure; I've never seen usitata used that way, but it seems possible. What I really need is a dictionary of later/mediaeval meanings. – Draconis May 25 at 2:05
  • ūsĭtātus, not in particulary pejorative sense, but simply "common, ordinary, accustomed..." meaning "not particulary sacred, just an ordinary thing" – Ryohei Irie May 25 at 6:20
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Here's my translation of that whole section:

Si hoc revivisceret ipse Philosophorum pater Hermes,
If Hermes himself, father of philosophers, were to come back to life,

& subtilis ingenii Geber,
and subtle-witted Jabir,

cum profundissimo RAYMUNDO LULLIO,
along with the most profound RAYMUND LULLY,

non pro Philosophis, sed potius pro discipulis a nostris Chemistis haberentur:
our Chemists would take them not for Philosophers, but rather for students:

Nescirent tot hodie usitatas destilationes, tot circulationes, tot calcinationes,
those [ancients] wouldn't recognize all the distillations we use today, all the circulations, all the calcinations,

& tot alia innumerabilia alia Artistarum opera,
and all the myriad other works of our Artists,

quae ex illorum scriptis hujus saeculi homines invenerunt & excogitarunt.
which the people of this century have discovered and derived from their [the old alchemists'] writings.

Unicum tantum nobis deest, ut id sciamus quod ipsi fecerunt,
We're missing only one single important thing, that would let us understand what those [alchemists] created:

lapidem videlicet Philosophorum seu Tincturam Physicam.
namely, the Philosopher's Stone aka the Elixir of Life.

Nos dum illam quaerimus alia invenimus:
While we seek the Elixir, we find other things:

& nisi ita usitata esset procreatio humana,
and so unless human creations were useful to the same extent (?),

& natura in eo suum jus teneret,
and nature kept following its own law where the Stone was concerned,

jam vix non deviaremus.
then we could hardly not go astray.

Sed, ut revertar ad propositum,
But, to return to the original point,

promisi in hoc primo tractatu Naturam explicare;
I promised in this first chapter to explain Nature;

ne nos a simplici via vera, vana deflectat imaginatio.
we must not let empty imaginings turn us away from the simple, true path.

The sentence you've highlighted is basically the author saying that modern alchemists have strayed from the path, which is why they can't make the Philosopher's Stone any more: and it's understandable that they've strayed, because the laws of Nature stop applying where the Stone is concerned, and Nature is so much more interesting to study than the Stone.

(I'm also not quite sure what tinctura physica is supposed to mean; I translated it tentatively as "Elixir of Life" here, since it's linked to the Philosopher's Stone, and asked a new question about it.)

  • Thank you very much for your excellent translation. Cloud cleared for me! Just one point to ask. You translated: «Uicum tantum nobis deest, ut id sciamus quod ipsi fecerunt,» to «We're missing only one single thing, which we know that those [alchemists] made:» Then «unicum»=«id quod ipsi fecerunt)» Is it possilbe to translate the above sentence as follows: «we are missing one sigle thing, so that we might not be able to know what those [ancients] made...» or «we are missing one single thing, so we cannot know what those [ancients] made...» I took this «unicum» for «Natura una») – Ryohei Irie May 24 at 8:03
  • 'Seu' equals 'aka' - Inspired translation! – Hugh May 24 at 11:39
  • Very nicely done. There are a few debatable points. "usitata" means "common" or "frequent", not "useful," right? I believe "procreatio humana" refers to human generations coming into existence, and "in eo" might mean "thereby" (in eo modo), referring to the previous clause. Admittedly, the "nisi" is difficult to understand. – Kingshorsey May 24 at 12:32
  • @Kingshorsey That's how I would usually translate it — "creation" would be creatio instead of procreatio, useful would be utilis — but I wasn't really able to make sense of it with the nisi there. "Unless there could be similarly many human generations", but "similarly" to what? The Stone? – Draconis May 24 at 15:37
  • @RyoheiIrie I like that, that seems like a good translation for that line! – Draconis May 24 at 15:39

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