Now I shall here begin
For to teach thee a ready way
Or else little shall thou win
Take good heed what I do say
“This way works. Pay attention to what I’m going to say, or you’ll muck it up.”
Divide thou Phoebus in many parts
With his beams that be so bright
And this with nature him convert
The which is mirror of all light
Phoebus = Phoebus Apollo = The sun. Sunlight is required.
“…the which is mirror of all light” – Darkness. Illuminate the whole room with sunlight, with no darkness there at all. Presumably with mirrors.
This Phoebus hath full many a name
Which that is full hard to know
And but thou take the very same
The philosophers stone ye shall not know
Here it gets allegorical/metaphorical.
All the names of a specific deity (or spirit, or entity, or… oh, you know what I mean!) can be hard to track down. Some are forgotten. But the INTENT is there, and that’s important as well; if you earnestly believe that you have uncovered all the various names – and thus also all the aspects of said entity, then your results should be as you want; likewise, here it is warning you to keep your mind on what all the aspects and properties of the Philosopher’s Stone are.
Therefore I counsel ere ye begin
Know it well what it should be
And that is thick make it thin
For then it shall full well like thee
“Refine your terminology. Make it simple and concise. If you are muttering a mantra of the qualities to yourself, you want a short version, not one that takes ten minutes. If the final conversion takes thirty seconds, you want a mantra that finishes within that time.”
Now understand what I mean
And take good heed thereto
Our work else shall little be seen
And turn thee to much woe
“Assuming you have completed all the prerequisites for this course, these instructions should be clear…”
As I have said this our lore
Many a name I wish he hath
Some behind and some before
As philosophers doth him give
“This has had many names, and will have many more.” (Seriously. Look up Paracelsus’ version of the Philosopher’s Stone, and then look at the descriptions of the Apocryphal modern Red Mercury. Similar much?) “But there are no better names as yet for what we do.”
In the sea without lees
Standeth the bird of Hermes
Eating his wings variable
And maketh himself yet full stable
And now we get to the meat of it… ready for this? The imagery has multiple layers in places and requires some thought to keep straight in your head.
The Sea without Lees: A Philosopher’s Egg. A primitive piece of glassware for certain reactions, which later evolved into the round-bottomed flask. You sealed the top by blowing molten glass over the hole, in the case of this particular action, when the fumes had filled the flask and were pouring out of it. It has no “lees”, no areas of shelter within it, and the contents would be mostly (if not all) fluid.
The Bird of Hermes: in this case, multi-layered imagery. It’s in an Egg, so a bird is the obvious metaphor for the reactants. Secondly, it also can be used to refer to the movements of the vapours within the flask; forming wing-like shapes as it heats.
Finally, there’s the important info: Hermes = Mercury. Mercury (Quicksilver) is well known as an important component of the Philosopher’s stone. Also to be noted: Alchemy was sometimes called “The Art of Hermes”.
Eating his wings, etc.: After a certain amount of time, the mercury vapour condenses and reacts fully, and is no longer dangerous. The reaction consumes itself and becomes stable.
When all his feathers be from him gone
He standeth still here as a stone
Here is now both white and red
And all so the stone to quicken the dead
All and some without fable
Both hard and soft and malleable
When the reaction is complete, the Philosopher’s Stone stands there in the middle, among a little ash from combusted components. The stone is traditionally bright red.
“Quicken the dead”… more multi-level imagery. The base metals (Iron, Tin, Lead) were considered “Dead” in essence by the thought at the time that this would have been written. Gold and Silver were “Living” metals, and Copper was considered very close- they warmed easily to the touch, and were very malleable. So the Stone, by turning base metals into Gold or Silver (depending on the quality of the work… but that’s a lecture for another day!) “quickened the dead”.
But then there’s the OTHER aspect of the Philosopher’s Stone. It provided eternal life, a certain amount of eternal youth, and immunity to all diseases. Theoretically, if used correctly, it could be used to restore life to the dead.
Understand now well and right
And thank you God of this sight
“Got that? Good! Thank you and goodnight!” (essentially.)
Now then… a little more background and understanding. Alchemy was (and is) more than just “Get rich quick”, as it has been broken down to. It’s a spiritual-philosophical discipline – a kind of Zen Chemistry if you like. The REAL Philosopher’s stone is not the red lump (or powder) that you end up with. It’s in the soul, in the spirit, in the heart. The processes are as much metaphorical for the journey of the soul towards enlightenment as they are about boiling mercury with sulphur and phosphorous. It is once you are enlightened – once you have attained a state by which you can understand the ways and mind of God – that eternal life is yours, that you get the wealth you desire (the gold of the spirit – knowledge) and you become unchanged by any disease (because you know it is only a transitory and unimportant thing of the flesh).
Monotheistic religion brought Alchemy to the fore, in a way; if there is one God, and he made everything, and leaves it running – then there must be rules that all things follow. The Philosopher’s Stone is, if you like, the first ever Hacking/Modding attempt, only on a very large scale.
So, what does this mean for Hellsing?
Alucard, who we all KNOW fine well is Vlad Tepes, Dracula. (He has had many names in the past, and will have many more…) Alucard, who is dressed all in scarlet – like the stone. Alucard, who grants life eternal – like the stone. Alucard, who grants immunity to all diseases, who brings knowledge, and whatever other powers you might want to name. He is the weapon of the Hellsing family; he is the fount of their power/wealth. He IS the stone in the traditional sense, the original sense.
On an interesting tangent, Alucard is a Vampire. Vampires, in modern pseudo-mythology are creatures of Lilith – the Sumero-Hebraic deity/demon. In Hebrew, Her name is written Liloth. The Italics are important, and the name comes to be broken down as “(feminine form) Spirits of the Air”, or “Aerial Spirits”. And we have had Aerial Spirits of Mercury already…
Finally, go and look at the illustrated version of the manuscript. And look at the picture that is captioned with the quote that comes in Alucard’s coffin.