Morien (or Morienus) (fl. 12th century C.E.)
Twelfth-century alchemist. It is commonly supposed that
Morien, or Morienus, as he is sometimes styled, was born at
Rome, and it is also reported that, like Raymond Lully and
several other early practitioners of alchemy, he combined
evangelical ardor with his scientific tastes. While still a mere
boy, and resident in his native city, Morien became acquainted
with the writings of Adfar, the Arabian philosopher, and gradually
the youth’s acquaintance with these developed into tense
admiration, the result being that he became filled with the desire
to make the personal acquaintance of the author in question.
Accordingly he left Rome and set out for Alexandria, this
being the home of Adfar, and, on reaching his destination, did
not have to wait long before gaining his desired end. The
learned Arabian accorded him a hearty welcome, and a little
while afterward the two were living together on very friendly
terms, the elder man daily imparting knowledge to the younger,
who showed himself a remarkably apt pupil. For some
years this state of affairs continued, but at length Adfar died,
and thereupon Morien left Alexandria and went to Palestine,
found a retreat in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and began to lead
a hermit’s life there.
Meanwhile the erudition of the deceased Arabian acquired
a wide celebrity, and some of his manuscripts chanced to fall
into the hands of Kalid, sultan of Egypt. He was a person of active
and enquiring mind, and observing that on the cover of the
manuscripts it was stated that the secret of the philosophers’
stone was written within, he naturally grew doubly inquisitive.
He found, however, that he himself could not elucidate the precious
documents, and therefore he summoned illuminati from
far and near to his court at Cairo, offering a large reward to the
man who should solve the mystery. Many people presented
themselves in consequence, but the majority of them were mere
charlatans, and thus the sultan was duped mercilessly.
Presently news of these doings reached the ears of Morien.
It incensed him to think that his old preceptor’s wisdom and
writings were being made a laughingstock, so he decided that
he must go to Cairo himself, and not only see justice done to
Adfar’s memory, but also seize what might prove a favorable
opportunity of converting Kalid to Christianity.
The sultan was inclined to be cynical when the hermit arrived,
nor would he listen to attacks on the Muslim faith, yet he
was sufficiently impressed to grant Morien a house wherein to
conduct research, and here the alchemist worked for a long
time, ultimately perfecting the elixir. However, he did not
make any attempt to gain the proper reward, and instead took
his leave without the sultan’s awareness, simply leaving the precious
fluid in a vase on which he inscribed the suggestive words
‘‘He who possesses all has no need of others.’’
But Kalid was at a loss to know how to proceed further, and
for a long time he made great efforts to find Morien and bring
him again to his court. Years went by, and all search for the vanished
alchemist proved vain, but once, when the Sultan was
hunting in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, one of his servants
chanced to hear of a hermit who was able to create gold.
Convinced that this must be none other than Morien, Kalid
straightway sought him out. Once more the two met, and again
the alchemist made strenuous efforts to win the other from
Islam. Many discussions took place between the pair, both
speaking on behalf of their respective religions, yet Kalid
showed no inclination to desert the faith of his fathers. As a result
Morien relinquished the quest in despair, but it is said that,
on parting with the sultan, he duly instructed him in the mysteries
of the transcendent science.
Nothing is known about Morien’s subsequent history, and
the likelihood is that the rest of his days were spent quietly at
his hermitage. He was credited with sundry alchemistic writings,
said to have been translated from Arabic, but the ascription
rests on the slenderest evidence. One of these works was
entitled Liber de Distinctione Mercurii Aquarum, and it is interesting
to recall that a manuscript copy of this work belonged to
the great chemist Robert Boyle (1627–1691), one of the founders
of the Royal Society in London, while another is entitled
Liber de Compositione Alchemiae, and this is printed in the first
volume of Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa.
Better known than either of these, and more likely to be
really from Morien’s pen, is a third treatise styled De Re Metallica,
Metallorum Transmutatione, et occulta summague Antiquorum
Medicine Libellus, which was rep