Elixir of Life
Medieval alchemists and mystics believed they were justified
in their search for the mythical elixir of life, a universal medicine
supposedly containing a recipe for the renewal of youth.
The search for this elixir and a quest for gold became the grand
goals of alchemy.
There was no standard method of manufacturing the elixir
of life. In the grimoire, Le Petit Albert, for example, one is instructed
to use eight pounds of sugar of mercury as the foundation
of such a mixture. Fifteenth-century alchemist Bernard
Trévisan said that dropping philosophers’ stone into mercurial
water would create the elixir. This process would, when
‘‘elaborated to the Red,’’ transmute copper and other metals
into pure gold, he stated; if ‘‘elaborated to the White’’ it would
produce pure silver.
The possibility that the elixir could prolong life was undoubtedly
the chief reason alchemists continued their search.
The aged alchemist, weary with his quest for gold, craved the
boon of youth and desired renewed health and strength to assist
him in carrying out his great purpose. As an illustration of
the alchemical concept of the elixir of life, the following extract
from a work dealing with the secret of rejuvenescence (originally
supposed to have been written by Arnuldus de Villanova
and published by Longueville-Harcourt of Paris in 1716) is instructive
‘‘To renew youth is to enter once more into that felicitous
season which imparts to the human frame the pleasures and
strength of the morning. Here it is to no purpose that we
should speak of that problem so much discussed by the Wise,
whether the art can be carried to such a pitch of excellence that
old age should itself be made young. We know that Paracelsus
has vaunted the metamorphic resources of his Mercury of Life
which not merely rejuvenates men but converts metals into
gold; He who promised unto others the years of the sybils, or
at least the 300 winters of Nestor, himself perished at the age
of thirty-seven. Let us turn rather to Nature, so admirable in
her achievements, and deem her not capable alone of destroying
what she has produced at the moment she has begotten
them. Is it possible that she will refuse unto man, for whom all
was created, what she accords to the stags, the eagles, and the
serpents, who do annually cast aside the mournful concomitants
of senility, and do assume the most brilliant, the most gracious
amenities of the most joyous youth Art, it is true, has not
as yet arrived at the apex of perfection wherefrom it can renew
our youth; but that which was unachieved in the past may be
accomplished in the future, a prodigy which may be more confidently
expected from the fact that in isolated cases it has actually
already taken place, as the facts of history make evident. By
observing and following the manner in which nature performs
such wonders, we may assuredly hope to execute this desirable
transformation, and the first condition is an amiable temperament,
such as that which was possessed by Moses, of whom it
is written that for one hundred and twenty years his sight never
failed him.’’
Trithemius (1462–1516) on his deathbed dictated a recipe
that which he said would preserve mind, health, and memory
with perfect sight and hearing, for those who made use of it. It
consisted of, among other things, calomel, gentian, cinnamon,
aniseed, nard, coral, tartar, and mace. Five grams of it were to
be taken morning and night in wine or brodium during the first
month; during the second month it was to be taken in the
morning only; during the third month three times a week, and
so on continuing throughout life. This was a more comprehensible
recipe than that of Eugenius Philalethes (1622–1666),
who stated
‘‘Ten parts of coelestiall slime; separate the male from the
female, and each afterwards from its own earth, physically,
mark you, and with no violence. Conjoin after separation in
due, harmonic vital proportion; and straightway, the Soul descending
from the pyroplastic sphere, shall restore, by a mirific
embrace, its dead and deserted body. Proceed according to the
Volcanico magica theory, till they are exalted into the Fifth
Metaphysical Rota. This is that world-renowned medicine,
whereof so many have scribbled, which, notwithstanding, so few
have known.’’
In his History of Magic (1913) Éliphas Lévi describes Cagliostro’s
great secret of rejuvenescence in the following terms
‘‘Let us now turn to the secret of physical regeneration to attain
which—according to the occult prescription of the Grand
Copht—a retreat of forty days, after the manner of a jubilee,
must be made one of every fifty years, beginning during the full
moon of May in the company of one faithful person only. It
must be also a fast of forty days, drinking May-dew—collected
from sprouting corn with a cloth of pure white linen—and eating
new and tender herbs. The repast should begin with a large
glass of dew and end with a biscuit or crust of bread. There
should be slight bleeding on the seventeenth day. Balm of
Azoth should then be taken morning and evening, beginning
with a dose of six drops and increasing by two drops daily till
the end of the thirty-second day. At the dawn which follows
thereafter renew the slight bleeding; then take to your bed and
remain in it till the end of the fortieth day.
‘‘On the first awakening after the bleeding, take the first
grain of Universal Medicine. A swoon of three hours will be followed
by convulsions, sweats and much purging, necessitating
a change both of bed and linen. At this stage a broth of lean
beef must be taken, seasoned with rice, sage, valerian, vervain
and balm. On that day following take the second grain of Universal
Medicine, which is Astral Mercury combined with Sulphur
of Gold. On the next day have a warm bath. On the thirtysixth
day drink a glass of Egyptian wine, and on the thirtyseventh
take the third and last grain of Universal Medicine. A
profound sleep will follow, during which the hair, teeth, nails
and skin will be renewed. The prescription for the thirty-eighth
day is another warm bath, steeping aromatic herbs in the water,
of the same kind as those specified for the broth. On the thirtyninth
day drink ten drops of Elixir of Acharat in two spoonsful
of red wine. The work will be finished on the fortieth day, and
the aged man will be renewed in youth.
‘‘By means of his jubilary regimen, Cagliostro claimed to
have lived for many centuries. It will be seen that it is a variation
Eliezar Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
of the famous Bath of Immortality in use among the Menandrian
Aristaeus is said to have left to his disciples a secret rendering
all metals diaphanous and man immortal. The process apparently
consisted of a mystic treatment of the atmosphere,
which was to be congealed and distilled until it developed a ‘‘divine
sparkle’’ and then became liquefied. After the air was subjected
to heat and underwent several other processes, the elixir
supposedly emerged.
The great sixteenth-century physician Paracelsus was reputed
to have discovered the elixir of life. In the De Tintura Physicorum
(1570), ascribed to him, there is a description of a tincture
that enabled individuals to live for centuries.
For an account of a modern claim to have made the elixir
of life, see the entry on Rev. W. A. Ayton.
Lévi, Éliphas. The History of Magic. London Rider, 1913. Reprint,
New York Samuel Weiser, 1971.

Previous articleEhrenberg, Wolfgang (1909– )
Next articleEkisha