Morien (or Morienus) (fl. 12th century C.E.)

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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 repeatedly published, the first edition appearing at Paris 1559.