The answer to the riddle is the subject of the ancient Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus
About the Alchemy Lab Riddle
From the riddle, the following characteristics of the answer can be discerned:
(1) The answer to this riddle is the key that unlocks the door to wealth, health, enlightenment, and even immortality. Yet this great treasure is “everywhere to be found.”
The Renaissance alchemist George Beatus describes its power and also warns about its misuse: “I am a poisonous dragon, present everywhere and to be had for nothing. My water and fire dissolve and compound. Out of my body you shall draw the Green and Red Lion, but if you do not exactly know me, you will destroy your five senses with my fire. I give you faculties both male and female and the powers of both heaven and earth. I am the Egg of Nature. I am dark and bright; I spring from the earth and come out of heaven. I am the Carbuncle of the Sun. I am a most noble, clarified earth by which you may turn copper, iron, tin, and lead into most pure gold.”
(2) It is something that can only be discovered and understood by first going within our own “house,” which could also be our own body or mind.
This thing is so mysterious and ineffable that it really cannot be spoken of directly at all. The only way to truly understand it is indirectly, through its corresponding signatures within our own bodies and souls. Sometimes these intimations are only obvious at quiet times, or when we focus our undivided attention on the present moment, or enter deep meditation seeking to learn the true nature of reality.
(3) People who blindly follow socially accepted values, beliefs, and behavior, are no longer connected to the mystery of this thing and therefore “throw it away.” It is something often rejected as irrelevant or easily taken for granted.
It seems the more civilized or “adulterated” we become, the less we appreciate this fundamental aspect of reality. But the alchemists knew the crucial importance of this thing, which exists both within ourselves and in the natural world. German alchemist Heinrich Khunrath said: “This is the true Light of Nature, which illuminates all the God-loving philosophers. It is in the world, and the whole edifice of the world is beautifully adorned and will be naturally preserved by it. But the world knows it not. Above all, it is the subject of the great Stone of the philosophers which the world has before its eyes and yet knows it not.” Medieval alchemists frequently referred to this thing as “the Cornerstone the builders forgot.” In other words, it is something important that is not an integrated part of our current civilization.
(4) The answer is both the beginning and end of the Great Work of the alchemists. It is “the only thing from which the Philosopher’s Stone can be prepared.”
The ancient Greek alchemist Zosimos knew that the answer to this riddle, once known and purified, becomes the much-sought-after Philosopher’s Stone. You can see the similarities in his description of the final goal of all alchemists: “In speaking of the Philosopher’s Stone, receive this stone which is not a stone, a precious thing that has no value, a thing of many shapes that has no shape, this unknown which is known by all.” The Egyptian father of alchemy, Hermes Trismegistus, called this miraculous thing the “One Thing” and made it the subject of his renowned Emerald Tablet. The fabled tablet became the foundation of alchemical philosophy and gives a powerful description of what the riddle refers to:
That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above,
and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below,
to accomplish the miracles of the One Thing.
And just as all things come from this One Thing,
through the meditation of One Mind,
so do all created things come from this One Thing
It’s father is the Sun; its mother the Moon.
The Wind carries it in its belly.
It’s nurse is the Earth.