Hypothetically- if a mundane with philosophical alchemy were to initiate the hermetic alchemy virtue, would they be able to distill vis from an aura with a creo+vim score of zero (obviously they would want to study at least a level or 2 of magic theory)
You need Hermetic Alchemy before you can take Philosophical Alchemy, and Hermetic Alchemy is an hermetic virtue so not available unless you have the Gift.
So it is a bit of a moot question, but hypothetically, if some mundane somehow got both those virtues, then sure why not.
okay, although when I was talking about a philosophical alchemist I was referring to the alchemy in art and acadame, which does not even require a virtue, but missed that Hermetic Alchemy was in fact a hermetic virtue...
yet oddly both spirit familiar and hermetic empowerment are not hermetic virtues...
so no distilling vis through mundane means, but bind a spirit into a lifelong sympathetic relationship? No problem!
As written, that is true. I think that is a mistake by the writers though. The virtues in TM:RE are a mixed bag - some are listed as hermetic mystery virtues and some just as mystery virtues, without any obvious pattern as to which is which. (Spirit Familiar is not marked as an hermetic virtue while Theurgic Spirit Familiar is, for example.)
Considering that HM:RE is supposed to be mainly about mysteries for hermetic magi, I am inclined to treat all the virtues in it as hermetic virtues unless indicated otherwise.