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The Alchemy of Coffee

Everyone knows that coffee is the greatest thing in the world, that merely drinking it increases intelligence, alertness and improves your personality. Scientific studies even show that it cures impotence in seniors. In spite of these and other mystical qualities, very few people have ever sought to unearth the secret origins of this mystical black elixir. My research has lead me to believe unequivocally that coffee is nothing other than the legendary Philosophers Stone, invented by the Alchemists of the Middle Ages.

Alchemy, also known as the Hermetic Art has long been viewed as a pseudo-science, and those who practiced it incorrectly dismissed as charlatans and rogues. The goal of the Alchemist was to perfect a magical substance called the Philosopher's Stone, which was said to transform base metals into gold, bring about eternal youth, and purify the soul. Because we live in a godless world based on finance and greed, modern historians tend to concentrate on the former use, however, I believe the latter purposes of the Stone were of principal importance to the true Alchemist, and that the transformation of base metals was merely a metaphor describing the other applications. This is consistent with the Philosopher's Stone being coffee, as coffee is a beverage commonly associating with waking. Waking is the rebirth of consciousness from the death of sleep, just as renewing youth is physical rebirth and purifying the soul is spiritual rebirth.

History provides us with several links between alchemy and coffee that seem casual at first. However, when viewed on mass a deeper connection becomes apparent. The coffee plant's first recorded use occurred in Ethiopia. It is no coincidence that Northern Africa was also the cradle of early alchemy. The Hermetic Art was introduced to Europe circa 1500, as was the drinking of coffee. Both practices spread through the West until the 17th century when the counter-reformation caused alchemy to fall into disrepute. However at this time, coffee drinking began to flourish. This seeming paradox was due to the fact that the alchemists used obscure allegories to describe the magic elixir, and therefore when alchemy was suppressed, coffee could slip unharmed through the filter of the inquisition.

One of the founding fathers of the Hermetic Arts was a Swiss Alchemist named Paracelsus, who once said, "Every little hair on my neck knows more than all your scribes and my shoe buckles are more learned than your Galen and Avricenna and my beard has more experience than all your high colleges." He acquired this vast store of knowledge while studying in the Middle East during the early 1500s. His return to Switzerland occurred at exactly the same time coffee drinking migrated from Arabia to Europe.

Johann Rudolf Glauber was a 17th century Alchemist who claimed to have discovered a vital component to the mystical Elixir of Life. Although it did not rejuvenate youth it was reported to have had significant success as a laxative. Because caffeine causes increased urination, it is possible that Glauber's Elixir was in fact a coffee derivative.

In 1782 an English Alchemist named James Price claimed to have turned mercury into gold. King George III examined the alleged alchemical gold and found it to be genuine. He visited Price's lab and demanded that the Alchemist repeat the experiment. During the interview Price excused himself and committed suicide by quaffing a vial of strychnine. Both caffeine and strychnine are of the alkaloid family. Is it not more than likely that if an accomplished alchemical scientist like Price was well versed in the use of one alkaloid that he would therefore be knowledgeable of the other?

In spite of this tragic meeting, King George maintained a strong passion for all things Hermetic. In 1811 he developed an insanity with symptoms including hallucinations and extreme paranoia. Both these disorders are also documented symptoms of extreme caffeine over-dose.

Because Alchemy was considered nearly heretical by the Christian church, alchemists cloaked their research in colourful jargon and metaphor. A lists of several code names for the Philosopher's Stone was compiled by an Alchemist named William Gratacolle in 1652. A comparison between some of these names and current colloquialisms for coffee is astounding.

The Vessel of the Philosophers  Cuppa
The First Matter  Good Morning America
Jupiter  Joe
Most Vild Black  Black Gold
Hermes' Bird  Quick Pick-me-up
Ferment of Elixir  Morning Brew

Alchemist's also used allegorical paintings and woodcuts to record their search for the Philosopher's Stone and point the way for others. Figure (A) is a common example of this practice. Note its startling similarity of composition to Figure (B), which is a diagram of a coffee plant. Hermetic Artwork often depicted a conjoining of opposite principals: A person sprouting a male head and a female head, for example. Or an old man with winged feet, stars and moons sprouting from his head and the body of a giant, fat hairy fish.

These strange images from the middle ages find their counter parts in modern coffee commercials: A banker's head super imposed on the body of a guitar playing hippie, or two sexy, young bodies sprouting the heads of senior citizens. The Chemical Marriage of the King and Queen, seen so often in alchemical art, is mirrored in the wooing of the Taster's Choice Couple. Even Juan Valdez seems to be joined to his donkey at close inspection of the Nabob logo.

The foundations of alchemy are set upon two basis principals. The first is that all matter is made of the Four Elements, which are Fire, Water, Earth and Air. Each element is made of two of the Four Qualities, which are hot, dry, cold and wet. By altering one quality, each element can be transformed into another element. For example, fire is hot and dry. If the dryness is changed to wetness, it becomes steam (air). Earth is dry and cold. When it is made cold and wet it becomes mud (water). The Alchemists believed that if these simple transformations could be carried to the fullest extent, any form of matter could become any other form of matter. Therefore lead could become gold, old age could become youth, and so forth.

The second principal is that each of the seven metals correspond to one of the seven visible planets, which surround the earth in concentric Celestial Spheres. The metal's value is equivalent to the brightness of its corresponding heavenly body. They grow in the earth, under the influence of those bodies. Lead is influenced by Saturn, tin by Jupiter, iron by Mars, copper by Venus, Mercury by Mercury, silver by the Moon, and finally gold by the Sun.

When a human soul is born, it descends from Heaven through the spheres and picks up impurities as it goes. In order for a soul to become pure it must, either literally or symbolically pass back up through the spheres which filter the impurities out. Metal can therefore undergo a similar transformation. If silver is governed by the Moon, one need only filter out one level of impurity in order for it to become gold.

This said, only the willfully blind would fail to notice that both these principals are actively utilized in the brewing of coffee. The grounds (Earth) are cold and dry. Water is boiled by fire, either genuine or electrical, and becomes hot and wet. Steam (air) is produced. At this point the water mingles with the coffee (earth) causing it to become liquid. The grounds are filtered out of the liquid just as the Celestial Spheres filter out the impurities of the soul. We have now created coffee, a magical substance that mystically combines all four elements! We have performed a Chemical Wedding of the King and Queen, united the Sun and Moon and created the Philosopher's Stone!

We need look no further for concrete proof that coffee, the Milk of Java is nothing other than the elusive Philosopher's Stone than The Alchemical Mass, written by Hungarian Alchemist, Nicholas Melchoir in the 16th century. This passage describes the creation of the Philosopher's Stone: "Then will appear in the bottom of the vessel the mighty Ethiopian, burned, calcined, discoloured, altogether dead and lifeless. He asks to be buried, to be sprinkled with his own moisture ... till he shall rise in glowing form from fierce fire ... Behold! A wondrous restoration and renewal of the Ethiopian! Because of the bath of rebirth he takes a new name, which the philosophers call the natural sulphur and their son, this being the Stone of the Philosophers ... It is the treasure of treasures, the supreme philosophical potion, the divine secret of the ancients. Blessed is he that finds such a thing ... Praise be to God for ever more."

The allegory is a simple one, describing the brewing of French Press, or Bodum coffee. The burned, lifeless Ethiopian represents the coffee beans, which have been roasted and ground. The vessel he sits in is the Bodum Pot. When water ("his own moisture"), just off the boil, is poured into the Bodum, the coffee grounds rise to the top. ("He shall arise in glowing form from fierce fire.") The coffee then steeps for four to seven minutes, according to taste. The plunger at the top of the Bodum pot is then pressed down. ("He asks to be buried.") And the French Press Coffee is ready to pour. It is painfully clear that Melchoir could only have had this method of coffee brewing in mind when he wrote the Alchemical Mass and therefore Coffee must be the Philosopher's Stone. There is no other explanation for this and countless other alchemical treatise.

Therefore, we must pay no heed to the spiritually bereft nay-sayers that spout on ad nauseam about the dangers of caffeine addiction, and excessive coffee intake. Their ramblings are simply the caterwauling of the blind and uninitiated. Alchemist Gerhard Dorn wrote, "Out of other things thou wilt never make the One, until thou hast become One thyself." The wise Alchemist have given us the tool to transform ourselves into the One, to purify our souls and grant us life ever lasting. That Elixir of Life, that Philosopher's Stone is nothing other than a Hot Cuppa Black Joe.