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Nicholas Flamel


James Price in his laboatory

Nicholas Flamel was a scrivener in Paris who spent his working day copying books, deeds and other documents. One night in a dream he was shown a magnificently illuminated, very old book by an angel. When he tried to touch the book, both the book and the angel disappeared.

Some years later, in 1357, he discovered the very same book in a booksellers and bought it. The book was written by Abraham Eleazar and appeared to be describing the alchemical art of transmuting base metals into gold. On every seventh page there was a succession of illustrations showing part of the process but Flamel confided to his wife Perenelle that he found the book incomprehensible and that he could only understand the first few pages.

Flamel studied for twenty years but was still unable to decipher the book. Eventually realising that the author was Jewish and that the book had been written for a Jewish audience, he made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella to try to find someone who could help him. After a year he eventually found a merchant, Master Canches, who realised that the book was an ancient Cabbalistic text which was thought to have been lost forever. Canches returned to France with Nicholas to study the original from which he had made copies but died on the journey.

For four more years both Nicholas and his wife worked on the manuscript, the archetypal alchemical union of opposites, male and female, frater mysterium and sonor mysterium, until finally the work was finished. Apparently they successfully completed a transmutation on January 17th, 1382.

On the 25th of April of that year they repeated their experiment, again successfully, and from that point on suddenly began to acquire huge wealth so much so that over the next fifteen years they funded fourteen hospitals in Paris alone.

These lavish gifts to the community were assumed in popular opinion to be te result of their work in their alchemical laboratory and so, on the death of Nicholas Flamel, a mob broke into their house to try to steal the secrets. They found nothing. However, the mob also broke into the tombs of both Flamel and his wife and the tombs were empty.

They were subsequently sighted in India in 1700 and later at the Paris Opera in 1761. This would have made Flamel four hundred and thirty one years old.

Acknowledgements and further reading:

Sean MartinAlchemy, the Philosopher's StoneWildwood House
Gilchrist, CherryAlchemy, The Great WorkThorsons
Innes, BrianThe Search For The Philosopher's Stone Orbis
Klossowski de Rola, StanislasAlchemy, The Secret ArtThames and Hudson
Redgrove, StanleyAlchemy Ancient and ModernAres
Martin, ShaunAlchemy and AlchemistsPocket Essentials

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Ken James 2008