Lascaris (fl. eighteenth century)
Legendary alchemist about whom limited facts are known.
He was commonly supposed to have been active in Germany at
the beginning of the eighteenth century, but everything recorded
concerning him reads like a romance and suggests the
Middle Ages.
According to popular belief, he claimed to be of Oriental origin,
a native of the Ionian Isles, and a scion of the Greek royal
house of Lascaris, while on other occasions he declared himself
to be an archimandrite of a convent in the Island of Mytilene.
His reason for coming to Europe was to solicit alms for the ransom
of Christian prisoners in the East, but the alchemical
achievements credited to him make this purpose unlikely. He
began his wanderings in Germany around 1700. While staying
in Berlin, Lascaris fell ill and sent for medical aid. It happened
that Johann Friedrich Bötticher, the young apothecary who
provided medical care, was deeply interested in alchemy. A
friendship sprang up between physician and patient, and when
Lascaris left the Prussian capital, he gave Bötticher a packet of
transmuting powder and instructed him how to use it successfully,
although he refrained from telling him how to manufacture
the powder itself.
Bötticher set to work speedily, concocted considerable
quantities of gold and silver, grew rich, was raised to the peerage,
and began to mingle and be courted by kings and nobles,
especially for his services as a scientist. The title of baron was
conferred on him. When his supply of the precious powder ran
short, and being unable to make more, he found his reputation
waning rapidly. Because he had spent all his newly acquired
wealth, Bötticher found himself reduced to penury. He was
placed under house arrest, and when he attempted to escape
he was removed to prison. During his detention he was allowed
to experiment with chemistry. Bötticher discovered a process
for the manufacture of red porcelain, and by the sale of this he
eventually restored his fallen fortunes.
Why the alchemist gave the powder to Bötticher is unknown,
as is the reason he made an analogous present to someone else
at a later date. The second recipient was Schmolz de Dierbach,
a lieutenant colonel in the Polish Army. Like the German
apothecary, Schmolz succeeded in making a quantity of gold,
although no more is known about him after this transmutation.
A certain Baron de Creux was likewise favored by Lascaris, the
baron’s experiments proving just as successful as those of the
others.
The alchemist bestowed his transmutatory powder on others
as well, such as on Domenico Manuel, the son of a Neopolitan
mason. Manuel then wandered through Spain, Belgium, and
Austria, performing alchemical operations before princes and
noblemen, and reaping wealth accordingly.
Soon Manuel began styling himself Comte Gautano, then
Comte di Ruggiero, and in one town he maintained that he was
La Salette Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
894
a Prussian major general. Elsewhere he declared that he was
field marshal of the Bavarian forces. In Berlin he offered to
make gold in the presence of the king, but when he failed, the
king had him hanged as a charlatan.
That was in 1709, and in the same year, according to tradition,
Lascaris himself performed some successful transmutations
before a German politician named Liebknech, a citizen of
Wurtembourg. Nothing further was ever heard of the mysterious
alchemist, and his generosity had no parallel in the whole
history of hermetic philosophy.