An Interview with Orval C. Graves
by Russell House

Reprinted from Issue 18 of The Stone, January - February 1996.

This interview was conducted on October 31, 1990. I had reached Mr. Graves at his California home, having met him in 1989 at San Jose, California during an Alchemy class. I regret that Mr. Graves has since passed away.

Mr. Graves was the librarian for AMORC during the 1930ís and 1940ís, and was responsible for starting the practical Alchemy classes that were given from 1940 until 1945 at Rose-Croix University, where he served as Dean. These classes had a well-known student, Albert Reidel, or Frater Albertus. In addition, to Frater Albertus, I met often with George Fenzke, and was acquainted with Ralph "Willy" Randall, and Orval Graves who participated in these classes. Another student was Hiram Syndergaard, who was a character in the mainly fictional Alchemist of the Rocky Mountains by Albertus. In the August-September, 1945 issue of The Rosicrucian Digest, there is an announcement that "Dr. H. T. Syndergaard of Salt Lake City is presenting brief courses in chemistry, physics and anatomy and supervises the Alchemical Laboratory. Soror Laura James of Bakersfield instructs the classes in elementary and transcendental alchemy, or hermetic philosophy. Staff assistants this year are Frater Ralph W. Randall in herbalism and alchemy, and Frater George Fenzke in alchemical experimentation." In the RCU class photo for 1945, both George Fenzke and Frater Albertus can be identified.

First of all, I read to Frater Graves the text of my article (which was prepared for and subsequently published by AMORC in several languages) that related to the classes in the 1940ís so that he could verify its accuracy. He explained to me that he always encouraged the Alchemy class students to follow the ways of Paracelsus for general techniques and background. Dr. A. Whaley assisted them in trying to replicate some of the government research on making synthetic stones. Incidentally, I saw and handled a large, brilliant cut diamond of several carats which belonged to Orval Graves, which had been made by F. Jolivet-Castellot, a French alchemist who was involved with AMORC. It had been a gift to Graves from the son of Jolivet-Castellot. (Years later, Frater Albertus wrote of an only partially successful transmutation experiment following the methods of Jolivet-Castellot which was conducted in these classes).

In these Alchemy classes in the 1940ís, they made some diamonds that were, essentially, "hard carbon", said Graves. At that time, a friend of Graves who lived in San Francisco at the time of this interview, was growing emeralds through a crystallization process. The gentleman chose not to patent the process, but rather built walls around his home where he produced the synthetic gems Ė the finest manufactured emeralds.

The DuPont company was making stones, such as sapphires, at the time and were of help to Graves and his students, sending samples, and explaining some of the tricks in their process. The classes were not able to duplicate all of the processes, since they were using Alchemical furnaces rather than the high-powered electrical furnaces used by DuPont.

(Graves wrote in an article, The Munificent Alchemist Ė see below Ė that "Ösemi-precious and precious stones have been made at the Rose-Croix University by a process similar to that of St. Germain. A famous jeweler of two continents has spent three months testing a topaz which was made at Rose-Croix University and has pronounced it one of the finest he has ever seen".


Frater Graves explained that there was a wonderful spirit of harmony in the old classes, and that people would take turns staying up all night, as some of the processes required that the furnace and condensers were kept at specific temperatures both day and night for prolonged periods of time. We then discussed the "Alchemical Laboratorium" kits that AMORC developed at that time and sold until the early 1980ís.

OG: Did you get one of them?

RH: Yes, I did.

OG: Oh good. Did you happen to get one when they were making what they call the alembic, the alchemistís condenser?

RH: What I had was a simple tube that went from the flask through a bowl of water. Did you have a different one at another time?

OG: Yes, when we started out, but it was too expensive. We started out making the condenser out of metal, real hard metal, and it could withstand the strain, but they were too expensive and they didnít sell. But thatís about all that I could add other than that the research library was encouraged to find the modern authors and research. I think that thatís where (Albert) Reidel got his idea of carrying on with his various contacts around the country.

RH: Did you use the book Alchemy Rediscovered and Restored by (Archibald) Cockren much?

OG: Yes we did. That had, as I recall, a comparison between the oils of metals and the oil of the various herbs. And as you probably know, George (Fenzke) had perfected that for the herbs.

RH: Yes, he was quite a fellow. He kept up with things after studying at the college (AMORCís Rose-Croix University), and then with Albert (Reidel) for awhile.

OG: Yes. He sent me a letter from Germany. That someone had discovered over there and was working on our type of laboratory Alchemy. And evidently he encouraged them and has contact, but Reidelís group has kind of gone by the wayside but they had nobody there to encourage them.

RH: I think that there were probably among his students some people like George (Fenzke) who, had they had the interest, could have taken things on, but I think Mrs. Reidel only wanted someone who would do exactly like Albert.

OG: And then Albert got off on the Hebrew ladder of the Qabala and things of that sort, and he went a little bit overboard. Which is very interesting (Qabala), but I didnít think it stays close to Paracelsus. I tried to encourage everybody, even though they didnít understand it, to follow Paracelsus. And I still think heís the best with that book (the two volume collection of writings edited by A. E. Waite). Whatís similar to it, did you hear of Richard Ingalese, did I mention his name?

RH: Yes, you did at the class in 1989, and Iíve read They Made the Philosopherís Stone that he wrote.

OG: Well, he wrote twelve books. If you could find any one of them it would be worth it, but a couple of them are really into Alchemy, laboratory Alchemy, as we followed Paracelsus. Theyíre very hard to find. I have all but two of them, I think. One of them had to do with History and Power of Mind. You have probably heard of that. That was as popular as the Bible was for a few years, but that was more or less mental alchemy Ė that wasnít the physical. His book on reincarnation and another one, I canít recall the exact title, but it had to do with the old masters. He never identified who the masters were. But after he got his oil of metals he disappeared and no one has ever seen him or his wife again. Iíve heard of him. (Laughter). Down near Los Angeles where he was supposed to have talked and studied, and I tried to interview different people and they couldnít give me information at all.

RH: Do you know the formula that you had in classes in the 1940ís for St. Germainís tea? How did you happen to find that?

OG: Well, it was very natural. There was a man from Holland who was an AMORC member, a Dutchman and a young man -- you might have run across him. He didnít have time to attend the Alchemy class but he got interested in it and I told him about St. Germain and so on, and he said that someone over there in Holland had the formula, and he compared it and got some notes out of the Ö have you seen the book St. Germain by Manly P. Hall?

RH: Yes, I think I have seen that one. I am familiar with the one that Isabel Cooper-Oakley wrote.

OG: They were similar. And so, he put great store Ė Iíve double-checked two or three cross ways and then it came out very similar. I think itís one of the most potent books on St. Germainís tea that Iíve ever seen. The references to it, anyway.

RH: Right now I am trying to get some of the European flowering ash, or the manna resin to make up a little bit (of the tea). Itís not so easy to get.

OG: No, it isnít. I remember that we had a very, very difficult time. In fact, we had (laughs), we didnít have it very long. You know, you get such a small amount. But, Iíve given up and havenít tried to use that formula. For awhile you could get it in health food stores (this was a product of Frater Albertus which was distributed through ParaLabs), but it didnít have the manna and it didnít have a couple other things in it. So, I just stick to melissa. (Incidentally, it was after Graves efforts to follow Paracelsus in all things that melissa became the first herb used in the AMORC classes, as it was considered by Paracelsus to have more quintessence than other herbs. The tradition was passed down to the students of Frater Albertus, to the AMORC classes that were revived in 1989, and in the first lessons of The Philosophers of Nature Ė Jean Dubuis got his start with one of the old AMORC lab kits.)

RH: Thatís pretty good stuff isnít it?

OG: Did you ever hear of that little tonic, "bitters" thatís in health food stores?

RH: Yes, like Swedish Bitters?

OG: Yes, thatís the one. You saw what they said about Paracelsus on that.

RH: Yes, I went through quite a bit of Paracelsusí writings and Iíve never really seen quite the same formula.

OG: (Laughter). No. I agree with you.

RH: I wonder if there was really an exact formula that was produced from, or if it was more or less the spirit of some of his Ö

OG: Well, this is my off the cuff thing to you Ė you follow the process and let the formula come out of its own accord. Test it. I think that Cockrenís book kind of hinted at that. But the formula, St. Germainís formula, did vary from time to time, but that (one) we got from Holland, he claimed that he got it from some native over there, that I liked a bit better than some of the other ones.

The interview was then finished.

In the 1940ís, Graves wrote a number of articles for the AMORC magazine, many on Alchemy. These were always quite interesting, and reflected his skills in finding unusual information, a task helped by the rare documents he would have access to as librarian and university Dean.

In one of them, The Munificent Alchemist, Graves addressed the life and exploits of one of his favorite personalities Ė Comte Saint-Germain. In the article, he mentions correspondence by a nobleman named Graffer, that indicated that St. Germainís secret of his elixir for long life was usually obtained from herbs. The secret of this elixir was once given to Prince Youssoupoff of Moscow. St. Germain often gave of this herbal elixir to the poor and the weak. Despite his generosity, there were problems in discovering the formula of this tea Ė aqua benedetta as it is sometimes called, and one druggist spent 10,000 Crowns in search of this medicine.

George Fenzkeís notes from a 1940ís AMORC Class gives the following formula:

St. Germainís Formula

® Senna -- 2 grams
® Manna -- 15 grams (Note: this is a gummy product from the European flowering ash tree, Fraxinus ornus)
® Anise -- 1 gram
® (Fennel flowers) "or elders" is handwritten
® Elder -- 4 grams

Below is handwritten: "use four", one implication being that either Fennel or Elder flowers are used, but not both. Gravesí article indicates that there are five ingredients.

Manna is difficult to obtain, but is available in Sicily. The methods of manna production are an endangered tradition, and it left mostly to the old people to harvest. Manna is easily soluble in water, as it is a sugary product from tree sap which hardens in the air. Before drying, the sap has a violet cast. I have seen the tree growing at Fountainebleu near Jean Dubuisí home in France.

Often manna is infested with moths as they lay their eggs in the product. They can be easily filtered out of the solution. The formula should be considered as a tea, rather than as a traditional elixir with strong alcohols. The formula as a whole should help to purify the body and facilitate removal of toxins.

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