Thomas Aquinas

On Alchemy

Introduction by Robert Pasnau

Thomas says: "I respond that it must be said that water is able to lose its purity and simplicity in two ways, in one way through mixing with another body, in another way through alteration.  And, moreover, either of these happens in two ways, namely through artifice and through nature.  Artifice, however, falls short of the operation of nature, because nature gives a substantial form, that which artifice is not able to do since all artificial forms are accidental unless, by chance, artifice applies the proper agent to the proper material, such as fire to something combustible, in which manner certain animals are produced from certain things by means of putrefaction.  Whatever transformation of water, then, is made through artifice, whether by mixing it or by altering it, the species of the water is not changed.  Thus baptism is able to take place in such water unless, by chance, the water is mixed artificially in so small an amount with another body that the mixture is rather something other than water; for example, mud is earth rather than water and diluted wine is wine rather than water."

Original Latin