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Alchemy, originally derived from the Ancient Greek word khemia (Χημία) meaning "art of transmuting metals", later arabicized as al-kimia (الكيمياء), is both a philosophy and an ancient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold, investigating the preparation of the "elixir of longevity", and achieving ultimate wisdom, involving the improvement of the alchemist as well as the making of several substances described as possessing unusual properties.[1] The practical aspect of alchemy generated the basics of modern inorganic chemistry, namely concerning procedures, equipment and the identification and use of many current substances.

Alchemy has been practiced in Mesopotamia (comprising much of today's Iraq), Egypt, Persia (today's Iran), India, China, Japan, Korea and in Classical Greece and Rome, in the Post-Islamic Persia, and then in Europe up to the 20th century, in a complex network of schools and philosophical systems spanning at least 2500 years.

Contents

Etymology

The word alchemy derives in turn from the Old French alkemie; from the Medieval Latin alchimia; from the Arabic al-kimia (الكيمياء); and ultimately from the Ancient Greek khemia (Χημία) meaning "art of transmuting metals".[2]

During the seventeenth century chemistry as a separate science was derived from Alchemy[citation needed] , with the work of Robert Boyle, sometimes known as "The father of Chemistry",[3] who in his book "The Skeptical Chymist" attacked Paracelsus and the old Aristotelian concepts of the elements and laid down the foundations of modern chemistry.

Alchemy as a philosophical and spiritual discipline

"Renel the Alchemist", by Sir William Douglas, 1853
Page from alchemic treatise of Ramon Llull, 16th century

Alchemy became known as the spagyric art after Greek words meaning to separate and to join together in the 16th century, the word probably being coined by Paracelsus. Compare this with one of the dictums of Alchemy in Latin: Solve et Coagula — Separate, and Join Together (or "dissolve and coagulate").[4]

The best-known goals of the alchemists were the transmutation of common metals into gold (called chrysopoeia) or silver (less well known is plant alchemy, or "spagyric"); the creation of a "panacea", or the elixir of life, a remedy that, it was supposed, would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely; and the discovery of a universal solvent.[5] Although these were not the only uses for the discipline, they were the ones most documented and well-known. Certain Hermetic schools argue that the transmutation of lead into gold is analogical for the transmutation of the physical body (Saturn or lead) into (Gold) with the goal of attaining immortality.[6] This is described as Internal Alchemy. Starting with the Middle Ages, Persian and European alchemists invested much effort in the search for the "philosopher's stone", a legendary substance that was believed to be an essential ingredient for either or both of those goals. Pope John XXII issued a bull against alchemical counterfeiting, and the Cistercians banned the practice amongst their members. In 1403, Henry IV of England banned the practice of Alchemy. In the late 14th century, Piers the Ploughman and Chaucer both painted unflattering pictures of Alchemists as thieves and liars. By contrast, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, in the late 16th century, sponsored various alchemists in their work at his court in Prague.

It is a popular belief that Alchemists made mundane contributions to the "chemical" industries of the day—ore testing and refining, metalworking, production of gunpowder, ink, dyes, paints, cosmetics, leather tanning, ceramics, glass manufacture, preparation of extracts, liquors, and so on (it seems that the preparation of aqua vitae, the "water of life", was a fairly popular "experiment" among European alchemists). In reality, although Alchemists contributed distillation to Western Europe, they did little for any known industry. Long before Alchemists appeared, goldsmiths knew how to tell what was good gold or fake, and industrial technology grew by the work of the artisans themselves, rather than any Alchemical helpers.[citation needed]

The double origin of Alchemy in Greek philosophy as well as in Egyptian and Mesopotamian technology set, from the start, a double approach: the technological, operative one, which Marie-Louise von Franz call extravert, and the mystic, contemplative, psychological one, which von Franz names as introvert. These are not mutually exclusive, but complementary instead, as meditation requires practice in the real world, and conversely.[7]

Several early alchemists, such as Zosimos of Panopolis, are recorded as viewing alchemy as a spiritual discipline, and, in the Middle Ages, metaphysical aspects, substances, physical states, and molecular material processes as mere metaphors for spiritual entities, spiritual states, and, ultimately, transformations. In this sense, the literal meanings of 'Alchemical Formulas' were a blind, hiding their true spiritual philosophy, which being at odds with the Medieval Christian Church was a necessity that could have otherwise led them to the "stake and rack" of the Inquisition under charges of heresy.[8] Thus, both the transmutation of common metals into gold and the universal panacea symbolized evolution from an imperfect, diseased, corruptible, and ephemeral state towards a perfect, healthy, incorruptible, and everlasting state; and the philosopher's stone then represented a mystic key that would make this evolution possible. Applied to the alchemist himself, the twin goal symbolized his evolution from ignorance to enlightenment, and the stone represented a hidden spiritual truth or power that would lead to that goal. In texts that are written according to this view, the cryptic alchemical symbols, diagrams, and textual imagery of late alchemical works typically contain multiple layers of meanings, allegories, and references to other equally cryptic works; and must be laboriously "decoded" in order to discover their true meaning.

In his Alchemical Catechism, Paracelsus clearly denotes that his usage of the metals was a symbol:

Q. When the Philosophers speak of gold and silver, from which they extract their matter, are we to suppose that they refer to the vulgar gold and silver? A. By no means; vulgar silver and gold are dead, while those of the Philosophers are full of life.[9]

Psychology

Alchemical symbolism has been occasionally used by psychologists and philosophers. Carl Jung reexamined alchemical symbolism and theory and began to show the inner meaning of alchemical work as a spiritual path.[10][11] Alchemical philosophy, symbols and methods have enjoyed something of a renaissance in post-modern contexts.[citation needed]

Jung saw alchemy as a Western proto-psychology dedicated to the achievement of individuation.[10] In his interpretation, alchemy was the vessel by which Gnosticism survived its various purges into the Renaissance,[12] a concept also followed by others such as Stephan A. Hoeller. In this sense, Jung viewed alchemy as comparable to a Yoga of the East, and more adequate to the Western mind than Eastern religions and philosophies. The practice of Alchemy seemed to change the mind and spirit of the Alchemist. Conversely, spontaneous changes on the mind of Western people undergoing any important stage in individuation seems to produce, on occasion, imagery known to Alchemy and relevant to the person's situation.[13]

His interpretation of Chinese alchemical texts in terms of his analytical psychology also served the function of comparing Eastern and Western alchemical imagery and core concepts and hence its possible inner sources (archetypes).[14][15]

Marie-Louise von Franz, a disciple of Jung, continued Jung's studies on Alchemy and its psychological meaning.

Magnum opus

The Great Work; mystic interpretation of its four stages:[16]

  • nigredo (-putrefactio), blackening (-putrefaction): corruption, dissolution, individuation, see also Suns in alchemy - Sol Niger
  • albedo, whitening: purification, burnout of impurity; the moon, female
  • citrinitas, yellowing: spiritualisation, enlightenment; the sun, male;
  • rubedo, reddening: unification of man with god, unification of the limited with the unlimited.

After the 15th century, many writers tended to compress citrinitas into rubedo and consider only three stages.[17]

However, it is in citrinitas that the Chemical Wedding takes place, generating the Philosophical Mercury without which the Philosopher's Stone, triumph of the Work, could never be accomplished.[18]

Within the Magnum Opus was the creation of the Sanctum Moleculae, that is the 'Sacred Masses' that were derived from the Sacrum Particulae, that is the 'Sacred Particles', needed to complete the process of achieving the Magnum Opus.[citation needed]

Alchemy as a subject of historical research

The history of alchemy has become a vigorous academic field. As the obscure hermetic language of the alchemists is gradually being "deciphered", historians are becoming more aware of the intellectual connections between that discipline and other facets of Western cultural history, such as the sociology and psychology of the intellectual communities, kabbalism, spiritualism, Rosicrucianism, and other mystic movements, cryptography, witchcraft, and the evolution of science and philosophy.

History

In a historical sense, Alchemy is the pursuit of transforming common metals into valuable gold. According to Marie-Louise von Franz, the initial basis for alchemy were Egyptian metal technology and mummification, Mesopotamian technology and astrology, and Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers such as Empedocles, Thales of Miletus and Heraclitus.[7]

The origins of Western alchemy are traceable back to ancient Egypt.[19] The Leyden papyrus X and the Stockholm papyrus along with the Greek magical papyri comprise the first "book" on alchemy still existent. Babylonian,[20] Greek and Indian philosophers theorized that there were only four classical elements (rather than today's 117 chemical elements, a useful analogy is with the highly similar states of matter); Earth, Fire, Water, and Air. The Greek philosophers, in order to prove their point, burned a log: The log was the earth, the flames burning it was fire, the smoke being released was air, and the smoldering soot at the bottom was bubbling water. Because of this, the belief that these four "elements" were at the heart of everything soon spread, only later being replaced in the Middle Ages by Geber's theory of seven elements, which was then replaced by the modern theory of chemical elements during the early modern period.

Alchemy encompasses several philosophical traditions spanning four millennia and three continents. These traditions' general penchant for cryptic and symbolic language makes it hard to trace their mutual influences and "genetic" relationships. Alchemy starts becoming much clearer in the 8th century with the works of the Islamic alchemist, Jabir ibn Hayyan (known as "Geber" in Europe), who introduced a methodical and experimental approach to scientific research based in the laboratory, in contrast to the ancient Greek and Egyptian alchemists whose works were mainly allegorical.[21]

Other famous alchemists include Rhazes, Avicenna and Imad ul-din in Persia; Wei Boyang in Chinese alchemy; and Nagarjuna in Indian alchemy; and Albertus Magnus and Pseudo-Geber in European alchemy; as well as the anonymous author of the Mutus Liber, published in France in the late 17th century, which was a 'wordless book' that claimed to be a guide to making the philosopher's stone, using a series of 15 symbols and illustrations. The philosopher's stone was an object that was thought to be able to amplify one's power in alchemy and, if possible, grant the user ageless immortality, unless he fell victim to burnings or drowning; the common belief was that fire and water were the two greater elements that were implemented into the creation of the stone.

In the case of the Chinese and European alchemists, there was a difference between the two. The European alchemists tried to transmute lead into gold, and, no matter how futile or toxic the element, would continue trying until it was royally outlawed later into the century. The Chinese, however, paid no heed to the philosopher's stone or transmutation of lead to gold; they focused more on medicine for the greater good. During Enlightenment, these "elixirs" were a strong cure for sicknesses, unless it was a test medicine. In general, most tests were fatal, but stabilized elixirs served great purposes. On the other hand, the Islamic alchemists were interested in alchemy for a variety of reasons, whether it was for the transmutation of metals or artificial creation of life, or for practical uses such as medicine.

Extract and symbol key from a 17th-century book on alchemy. The symbols used have a one-to-one correspondence with symbols used in astrology at the time.

A tentative outline is as follows:

  1. Egyptian alchemy [5000 BC – 400 BC], beginning of alchemy
  2. Indian alchemy [1200 BC – Present],[22] related to Indian metallurgy; Nagarjuna was an important alchemist
  3. Greek alchemy [332 BC – 642 AD], studied at the Library of Alexandria Stockholm papyrus
  4. Chinese alchemy [142 AD], Wei Boyang writes The Kinship of the Three
  5. Islamic alchemy [700 – 1400], Geber develops experimental method for alchemy during the Islamic Golden Age
  6. Islamic chemistry [800 – Present], Alkindus and Avicenna refute transmutation, Rhazes refutes four classical elements, and Tusi discovers conservation of mass
  7. European alchemy [1300 – Present], Saint Albertus Magnus builds on Islamic alchemy
  8. European chemistry [1661 – Present], Boyle writes The Sceptical Chymist, Lavoisier writes Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry), and Dalton publishes his Atomic Theory

Modern connections to alchemy

Persian alchemy was a forerunner of modern scientific chemistry. Alchemists used many of the same laboratory tools that are used today. These tools were not usually sturdy or in good condition, especially during the medieval period of Europe. Many transmutation attempts failed when alchemists unwittingly made unstable chemicals. This was made worse by the unsafe conditions in which the alchemists worked.

Up to the 16th century, alchemy was considered serious science in Europe; for instance, Isaac Newton devoted considerably more of his writing to the study of alchemy (see Isaac Newton's occult studies) than he did to either optics or physics, for which he is famous. Other eminent alchemists of the Western world are Roger Bacon, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Tycho Brahe, Thomas Browne, and Parmigianino. The decline of alchemy began in the 18th century with the birth of modern chemistry, which provided a more precise and reliable framework for matter transmutations and medicine, within a new grand design of the universe based on rational materialism.

Alchemy in traditional medicine

Traditional medicines involve transmutation by alchemy, using pharmacological or a combination of pharmacological and spiritual techniques. In Chinese medicine the alchemical traditions of pao zhi will transform the nature of the temperature, taste, body part accessed or toxicity. In Ayurveda the samskaras are used to transform heavy metals and toxic herbs in a way that removes their toxicity. These processes are actively used to the present day.[23]

Nuclear transmutation

In 1919, Ernest Rutherford used artificial disintegration to convert nitrogen into oxygen.[24] From then on, this sort of scientific transmutation has been routinely performed in many nuclear physics-related laboratories and facilities, like particle accelerators, nuclear power stations and nuclear weapons as a by-product of fission and other physical processes.

In literature

A play by Ben Jonson, The Alchemist, is a satirical and skeptical take on the subject.

Part 2 of Goethe's Faust, is full of alchemical symbolism.[25]

According to Hermetic Fictions: Alchemy and Irony in the Novel (Keele University Press, 1995), by David Meakin, alchemy is also featured in such novels and poems as those by William Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Emile Zola, Jules Verne, Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, James Joyce, Gustav Meyrink, Lindsay Clarke, Marguerite Yourcenar, Umberto Eco, Michel Butor, Paulo Coelho, Amanda Quick, Gabriel García Marquez and Maria Szepes.

Hilary Mantel, in her novel Fludd (1989, Penguin), mentions the spagyric art. 'After separation, drying out, moistening, dissolving, coagulating, fermenting, comes purification, recombination: the creation of substances the world until now has never beheld. This is the opus contra naturem, this is the spagyric art, this is the Alchymical Wedding'. (page 79)

In Dante's Inferno, it is placed within the Tenth ring of the 8th circle.[26]

In Angie Sage's Septimus Heap series, Marcellus Pye is an important Alchemist that first appears in Physik, the third book.

In The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, one of the main characters is a alchemist.

The manga and anime series Fullmetal Alchemist bases itself of a more fantasised version of alchemy.

The main character in the play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), by Ann-Marie MacDonald, attempts (and succeeds) at determining the alchemy behind Shakespeare's work, Othello.

In contemporary art

In the twentieth century alchemy was a profoundly important source of inspiration for the Surrealist artist Max Ernst, who used the symbolism of alchemy to inform and guide his work. M.E. Warlick wrote his Max Ernst and Alchemy describing this relationship in detail.

Contemporary artists use alchemy as inspiring subject matter, like Odd Nerdrum, whose interest has been noted by Richard Vine, and the painter Michael Pearce,[27] whose interest in alchemy dominates his work. His works Fama[28] and The Aviator's Dream[29] particularly express alchemical ideas in a painted allegory.

See also

Related and alternative philosophies

Substances of the alchemists

Scientific connections

Notes

  1. ^ alchemy: Definition from Answers.com. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. Alchemy, accessed 10 Feb 2010.
  3. ^ Deem, Rich (2005). "The Religious Affiliation of Robert Boyle the father of modern chemistry. From: Famous Scientists Who Believed in God". adherents.com. http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/Robert_Boyle.html. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  4. ^ Davis, Erik. "The Gods of the Funny Books: An Interview with Neil Gaiman and Rachel Pollack". Gnosis (magazine). Techgnosis (reprint from Summer 1994 issue). http://www.techgnosis.com/gaiman.html. Retrieved 2007-02-04. 
  5. ^ Alchemy at Dictionary.com.
  6. ^ The True Nature of Hermetic Alchemy.
  7. ^ a b von Franz, M-L. Alchemical Active Imagination. Shambala. Boston. 1997. ISBN 0-87773-589-1.
  8. ^ Blavatsky, H.P. (1888). The Secret Doctrine. ii. Theosophical Publishing Company. 238. ISBN 978-1557000026. http://www.phx-ult-lodge.org/SDVolume2.htm. 
  9. ^ Paracelsus. "Alchemical Catechism". http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/tschoudy.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  10. ^ a b Jung, C. G. (1944). Psychology and Alchemy (2nd ed. 1968 Collected Works Vol. 12 ISBN 0-691-01831-6). London: Routledge.
  11. ^ Jung, C. G., & Hinkle, B. M. (1912). Psychology of the Unconscious : a study of the transformations and symbolisms of the libido, a contribution to the history of the evolution of thought. London: Kegan Paul Trench Trubner. (revised in 1952 as Symbols of Transformation, Collected Works Vol.5 ISBN 0-691-01815-4).
  12. ^ Jung, C. G., & Jaffe A. (1962). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. London: Collins. This is Jung's autobiography, recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe, ISBN 0-679-72395-1.
  13. ^ Jung, C. G. - Psychology and Alchemy; Symbols of Transformation.
  14. ^ C.-G. Jung Preface to Richard Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching.
  15. ^ C.-G. Jung Preface to the translation of The Secret of The Golden Flower.
  16. ^ The-Four-Stages-of-Alchemical-Work.
  17. ^ Meyrink und das theomorphische Menschenbild.
  18. ^ The order for the Opus phases is seldom given as constant. Dorn, for instance, in the Theatrum Chemicum, places the citrinitas, the golden color, as the final stage, after the rubedo.
  19. ^ Neumann, Erich. The origins and history of consciousness, with a foreword by C.G. Jung. Translated from the German by R.F.C. Hull. New York : Pantheon Books, 1954. Confer p.255, footnote 76: "Since Alchemy actually originated in Egypt, it is not improbable that esoteric interpretations of the Osiris myth are among the foundations of the art ..."
  20. ^ Francesca Rochberg (December 2002), "A consideration of Babylonian astronomy within the historiography of science", Studies In History and Philosophy of Science 33 (4): 661-684, doi:10.1016/S0039-3681(02)00022-5 
  21. ^ Kraus, Paul, Jâbir ibn Hayyân, Contribution à l'histoire des idées scientifiques dans l'Islam. I. Le corpus des écrits jâbiriens. II. Jâbir et la science grecque,. Cairo (1942–1943). Repr. By Fuat Sezgin, (Natural Sciences in Islam. 67-68), Frankfurt. 2002:
    “To form an idea of the historical place of Jabir’s alchemy and to tackle the problem of its sources, it is advisable to compare it with what remains to us of the alchemical literature in the Greek language. One knows in which miserable state this literature reached us. Collected by Byzantine scientists from the tenth century, the corpus of the Greek alchemists is a cluster of incoherent fragments, going back to all the times since the third century until the end of the Middle Ages.”
    “The efforts of Berthelot and Ruelle to put a little order in this mass of literature led only to poor results, and the later researchers, among them in particular Mrs. Hammer-Jensen, Tannery, Lagercrantz , von Lippmann, Reitzenstein, Ruska, Bidez, Festugiere and others, could make clear only few points of detail...
    The study of the Greek alchemists is not very encouraging. An even surface examination of the Greek texts shows that a very small part only was organized according to true experiments of laboratory: even the supposedly technical writings, in the state where we find them today, are unintelligible nonsense which refuses any interpretation.
    It is different with Jabir’s alchemy. The relatively clear description of the processes and the alchemical apparatuses, the methodical classification of the substances, mark an experimental spirit which is extremely far away from the weird and odd esotericism of the Greek texts. The theory on which Jabir supports his operations is one of clearness and of an impressive unity. In vain one would seek in the Greek texts a work as systematic as that which is presented for example in the Book of Seventy.”
    (cf. Ahmad Y Hassan. "A Critical Reassessment of the Geber Problem: Part Three". http://www.history-science-technology.com/Geber/Geber%203.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-09. )
  22. ^ "The oldest Indian writings, the Vedas (Hindu sacred scriptures), contain the same hints of alchemy" - Multhauf, Robert P. & Gilbert, Robert Andrew (2008). Alchemy. Encyclopædia Britannica (2008).
  23. ^ Junius, Manfred M; The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy: An Herbalist's Guide to Preparing Medicinal Essences, Tinctures, and Elixirs; Healing Arts Press 1985.
  24. ^ [|Amsco School Publications]. "Reviewing Physics: The Physical Setting" (pdf). Amsco School Publications. http://www.stmary.ws/physics/amsco_review_and_glencoe/chapter05.pdf. ""The first artificial transmutation of one or more elements to another was performed by Rutherford in 1919. Rutherford bombarded nitrogen with energetic alpha particles that were moving fast enough to overcome the electric repulsion between themselves and the target nuclei. The alpha particles collided with, and were absorbed by, the nitrogen nuclei, and protons were ejected. In the process oxygen and hydrogen nuclei were created." 
  25. ^ see Alice Raphael: Goethe and the Philosopher's Stone, symbolical patterns in 'The Parable' and the second part of 'Faust', London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.
  26. ^ Dante's Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto 29, hosted on the Internet Sacred Text Archive.
  27. ^ Cal Lutheran | Department of Art - Faculty.
  28. ^ The Gilded Raven Blog + » fama.
  29. ^ The Gilded Raven Blog + » Storm / The Aviator’s Dream.

References

  • Cavendish, Richard, The Black Arts, Perigee Books
  • Gettgins, Fred (1986). Encyclopedia of the Occult. London: Rider. 
  • Greenberg, Adele Droblas (2000). Chemical History Tour, Picturing Chemistry from Alchemy to Modern Molecular Science. Wiley-Interscience. ISBN 0-471-35408-2. 
  • Hart-Davis, Adam (2003). Why does a ball bounce? 101 Questions that you never thought of asking. New York: Firefly Books. 
  • Hughes, Jonathan (2002). Arthurian Myths and Alcheny, the Kingship of Edward IV. Stroud: Sutton. 
  • Marius (1976). On the Elements. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-02856-2.  Trans. Richard Dales.
  • Thorndike, Lynn (1923-1958) (8 volumes). A History of Magic and Experimental Science. New York: Macmillan. 
  • Weaver, Jefferson Hane (1987). The World of Physics. New York: Simon & Schuster. 
  • Zumdahl, Steven S. (1989). Chemistry (2nd ed.). Lexington, Maryland: D.C. Heath and Company. ISBN 0-669-16708-8. 
  • Halleux, R., Les textes alchimiques, Brepols Publishers, 1979, ISBN 978-2-503-36032-4

External links


Alchemy, derived from the Arabic word al-kimia (الكيمياء, ALA-LC: al-kīmiyā’), is both a philosophy and an ancient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold, investigating the preparation of the "elixir of longevity", and achieving ultimate wisdom, involving the improvement of the alchemist as well as the making of several substances described as possessing unusual properties.[1] The practical aspect of alchemy can be viewed as a protoscience, having generated the basics of modern inorganic chemistry, namely concerning procedures, equipment and the identification and use of many current substances.

Alchemy has been practiced in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), India, Persia (modern Iran), China, Japan, Korea, the classical Greco-Roman world, the medieval Islamic world, and then medieval Europe up to the 20th century and 21st Century, in a complex network of schools and philosophical systems spanning at least 2,500 years.

Contents

Etymology

The word alchemy derives from the Old French alquimie, which is from the Medieval Latin alchimia, and which is in turn from the Arabic al-kimia (الكيمياء). This term itself is derived from the Ancient Greek chemeia (χημεία) with the addition of the Arabic definite article al- (الـ‎).[2] It used to be thought that the ancient Greek word was originally derived in its turn from "Chemia" (Χημία),[3] a version of the Egyptian name for Egypt, which was itself based on the Ancient Egyptian word kēme (hieroglyphic Khmi, black earth, as opposed to desert sand).[2] Some now think that the word originally derived from chumeia (χυμεία) meaning "mixture" and referring to pharmaceutical chemistry.[4] With the later rise of alchemy in Alexandria, the word may have been mistakenly thought by ancient writers to derive from Χημία, and thus became spelt as χημεία, and the original meaning forgotten.[5] The question of the etymology of the word alchemy is still open, and recent research indicates that the Egyptian derivation of the word may be valid. [6]

Alchemy as a philosophical and spiritual discipline

File:Raimundus Lullus alchemic
Page from alchemic treatise of Ramon Llull, 16th century

Alchemy became known as the spagyric art after Greek words meaning to separate and to join together in the 16th century, the word probably being coined by Paracelsus. Compare this with one of the dictums of Alchemy in Latin: Solve et Coagula — Separate, and Join Together (or "dissolve and coagulate").[7]

The best-known goals of the alchemists were the transmutation of common metals into gold (called chrysopoeia) or silver (less well known is plant alchemy, or "spagyric"); the creation of a "panacea", or the elixir of life, a remedy that, it was supposed, would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely; and the discovery of a universal solvent.[8] Although these were not the only uses for the discipline, they were the ones most documented and well-known. Certain Hermetic schools argue that the transmutation of lead into gold is analogical for the transmutation of the physical body (Saturn or lead) into (Gold) with the goal of attaining immortality.[9] This is described as Internal Alchemy. Starting with the Middle Ages, Persian and European alchemists invested much effort in the search for the "philosopher's stone", a legendary substance that was believed to be an essential ingredient for either or both of those goals. Pope John XXII issued a bull against alchemical counterfeiting, and the Cistercians banned the practice amongst their members. In 1403, Henry IV of England banned the practice of Alchemy. In the late 14th century, Piers the Ploughman and Chaucer both painted unflattering pictures of Alchemists as thieves and liars. By contrast, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, in the late 16th century, sponsored various alchemists in their work at his court in Prague.

It is a popular belief that Alchemists made contributions to the "chemical" industries of the day—ore testing and refining, metalworking, production of gunpowder, ink, dyes, paints, cosmetics, leather tanning, ceramics, glass manufacture, preparation of extracts, liquors, and so on (it seems that the preparation of aqua vitae, the "water of life", was a fairly popular "experiment" among European alchemists). Alchemists contributed distillation to Western Europe. The double origin of Alchemy in Greek philosophy as well as in Egyptian and Mesopotamian technology set, from the start, a double approach: the technological, operative one, which Marie-Louise von Franz call extravert, and the mystic, contemplative, psychological one, which von Franz names as introvert. These are not mutually exclusive, but complementary instead, as meditation requires practice in the real world, and conversely.[10]

Several early alchemists, such as Zosimos of Panopolis, are recorded as viewing alchemy as a spiritual discipline, and, in the Middle Ages, metaphysical aspects, substances, physical states, and molecular material processes as mere metaphors for spiritual entities, spiritual states, and, ultimately, transformations. In this sense, the literal meanings of 'Alchemical Formulas' were a blind, hiding their true spiritual philosophy, which being at odds with the Medieval Christian Church was a necessity that could have otherwise led them to the "stake and rack" of the Inquisition under charges of heresy.[11] Thus, both the transmutation of common metals into gold and the universal panacea symbolized evolution from an imperfect, diseased, corruptible, and ephemeral state towards a perfect, healthy, incorruptible, and everlasting state; and the philosopher's stone then represented a mystic key that would make this evolution possible. Applied to the alchemist himself, the twin goal symbolized his evolution from ignorance to enlightenment, and the stone represented a hidden spiritual truth or power that would lead to that goal. In texts that are written according to this view, the cryptic alchemical symbols, diagrams, and textual imagery of late alchemical works typically contain multiple layers of meanings, allegories, and references to other equally cryptic works; and must be laboriously "decoded" in order to discover their true meaning.

In his Alchemical Catechism, Paracelsus clearly denotes that his usage of the metals was a symbol:

Q. When the Philosophers speak of gold and silver, from which they extract their matter, are we to suppose that they refer to the vulgar gold and silver? A. By no means; vulgar silver and gold are dead, while those of the Philosophers are full of life.[12]

Psychology

Alchemical symbolism has been occasionally used by psychologists and philosophers. Carl Jung reexamined alchemical symbolism and theory and began to show the inner meaning of alchemical work as a spiritual path.[13][14] Alchemical philosophy, symbols and methods have enjoyed something of a renaissance in post-modern contexts.[citation needed]

Jung saw alchemy as a Western proto-psychology dedicated to the achievement of individuation.[13] In his interpretation, alchemy was the vessel by which Gnosticism survived its various purges into the Renaissance,[15] a concept also followed by others such as Stephan A. Hoeller. In this sense, Jung viewed alchemy as comparable to a Yoga of the East, and more adequate to the Western mind than Eastern religions and philosophies. The practice of Alchemy seemed to change the mind and spirit of the Alchemist. Conversely, spontaneous changes on the mind of Western people undergoing any important stage in individuation seems to produce, on occasion, imagery known to Alchemy and relevant to the person's situation.[16]

His interpretation of Chinese alchemical texts in terms of his analytical psychology also served the function of comparing Eastern and Western alchemical imagery and core concepts and hence its possible inner sources (archetypes).[17][18]

Marie-Louise von Franz, a disciple of Jung, continued Jung's studies on Alchemy and its psychological meaning.

Magnum opus

The Great Work; mystic interpretation of its four stages:[19]

  • nigredo (-putrefactio), blackening (-putrefaction): corruption, dissolution, individuation, see also Suns in alchemy - Sol Niger
  • albedo, whitening: purification, burnout of impurity; the moon, female
  • citrinitas, yellowing: spiritualization, enlightenment; the sun, male;
  • rubedo, reddening: unification of man with God, unification of the limited with the unlimited.

After the 15th century, many writers tended to compress citrinitas into rubedo and consider only three stages.[20]

However, it is in citrinitas that the Chemical Wedding takes place, generating the Philosophical Mercury without which the Philosopher's Stone, triumph of the Work, could never be accomplished.[21]

Within the Magnum Opus was the creation of the Sanctae Moleculae, that is the 'Sacred Masses' that were derived from the Sacrae Particulae, that is the 'Sacred Particles', needed to complete the process of achieving the Magnum Opus.[citation needed]

Alchemy as a subject of historical research

The history of alchemy has become a vigorous academic field. As the obscure hermetic language of the alchemists is gradually being "deciphered", historians are becoming more aware of the intellectual connections between that discipline and other facets of Western cultural history, such as the sociology and psychology of the intellectual communities, kabbalism, spiritualism, Rosicrucianism, and other mystic movements, cryptography, witchcraft, and the evolution of science and philosophy.

History

Alchemy is the science of understanding, deconstructing, and reconstructing matter, although it is often seen only as the pursuit of turning common metals into gold. A scientific theory says that if Alchemy is stopped in the process of deconstructing, the object will be destroyed. According to Marie-Louise von Franz, the initial basis for alchemy were Egyptian metal technology and mummification, Mesopotamian technology and astrology, and Pre-Socratic Greek philosophers such as Empedocles, Thales of Miletus and Heraclitus.[10]

The origins of Western alchemy are traceable back to ancient Egypt.[22] The Leyden papyrus X and the Stockholm papyrus along with the Greek magical papyri comprise the first "book" on alchemy still existent. Babylonian,[23] Greek, Indian, Chinese, and other philosophers theorized that the complexity of nature can be explained with a small set of elements, such as those of Empedocles: Earth, Fire, Water, and Air. They have little conceptional similarity to today's 117 chemical elements. In the Middle Ages, Jābir ibn Hayyān's theories and list of seven elements, including sulfur and mercury, were augmented and slowly displaced by more modern criteria for elements and theories of chemistry during the early modern period.

Alchemy encompasses several philosophical traditions spanning four millennia and three continents. These traditions' general penchant for cryptic and symbolic language makes it hard to trace their mutual influences and "genetic" relationships. Alchemy starts becoming much clearer in the 8th century with the works of the Islamic alchemist, Jābir ibn Hayyān (known as "Geber" in Europe), who introduced a methodical and experimental approach to scientific research based in the laboratory, in contrast to the ancient Greek and Egyptian alchemists whose works were mainly allegorical.[24]

Other famous alchemists include Rhazes, Avicenna and Imad ul-din in Persia; Wei Boyang in Chinese alchemy; and Nagarjuna in Indian alchemy; and Albertus Magnus and Pseudo-Geber in European alchemy; as well as the anonymous author of the Mutus Liber, published in France in the late 17th century, which was a 'wordless book' that claimed to be a guide to making the philosopher's stone, using a series of 15 symbols and illustrations. The philosopher's stone was an object that was thought to be able to amplify one's power in alchemy and, if possible, grant the user ageless immortality, unless he fell victim to burnings or drowning; the common belief was that fire and water were the two greater elements that were implemented into the creation of the stone.

In the case of the Chinese and European alchemists, there was a difference between the two. The European alchemists tried to transmute lead into gold, and, no matter how futile or toxic the element, would continue trying until it was royally outlawed later into the century. The Chinese, however, paid no heed to the philosopher's stone or transmutation of lead to gold; they focused more on medicine for the greater good. During Enlightenment, these "elixirs" were a strong cure for sicknesses, unless it was a test medicine. In general, most tests were fatal, but stabilized elixirs served great purposes. On the other hand, the Islamic alchemists were interested in alchemy for a variety of reasons, whether it was for the transmutation of metals or artificial creation of life, or for practical uses such as medicine.

During the 17th century, practical Alchemy started to evolve into "Chemistry",[citation needed] as it was renamed by Robert Boyle, the "father of modern Chemistry".[25] In his book, The Skeptical Chymist, Boyle attacked Paracelsus and the venerable natural philosophy of Aristotle, which was taught at universities. However, Boyle's biographers, in their emphasis that he laid the foundations of modern chemistry, neglect how steadily he clung to the Scholastic sciences and to Alchemy, in theory, practice and doctrine.[26]

with symbols used in astrology at the time.]]

A tentative outline is as follows:

  1. Egyptian alchemy [5000 BC – 400 BC], beginning of alchemy
  2. Indian alchemy [1200 BC – Present],[27] related to Indian metallurgy; Nagarjuna was an important alchemist
  3. Greek alchemy [332 BC – 642 AD], studied at the Library of Alexandria Stockholm papyrus
  4. Chinese alchemy [142 AD], Wei Boyang writes The Kinship of the Three
  5. Islamic alchemy [700 – 1400], Jābir ibn Hayyān develops experimental method for alchemy during the Islamic Golden Age
  6. Islamic chemistry [800 – Present], Alkindus and Avicenna refute transmutation, Rhazes refutes four classical elements
  7. European alchemy [1300 – Present], Saint Albertus Magnus builds on Islamic alchemy
  8. European chemistry [1661 – Present], Boyle writes The Sceptical Chymist, Lavoisier writes Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry), and Dalton publishes his Atomic Theory

Modern connections to alchemy

Persian alchemy was a forerunner of modern scientific chemistry. Alchemists used many of the same laboratory tools that are used today. These tools were not usually sturdy or in good condition, especially during the medieval period of Europe. Many transmutation attempts failed when alchemists unwittingly made unstable chemicals. This was made worse by the unsafe conditions in which the alchemists worked.

Up to the 16th century, alchemy was considered serious science in Europe; for instance, Isaac Newton devoted considerably more of his writing to the study of alchemy (see Isaac Newton's occult studies) than he did to either optics or physics, for which he is famous. Other eminent alchemists of the Western world are Roger Bacon, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Tycho Brahe, Thomas Browne, and Parmigianino. The decline of alchemy began in the 18th century with the birth of modern chemistry, which provided a more precise and reliable framework for matter transmutations and medicine, within a new grand design of the universe based on rational materialism.

Alchemy in traditional medicine

Traditional medicines involve transmutation by alchemy, using pharmacological or a combination of pharmacological and spiritual techniques. In Chinese medicine the alchemical traditions of pao zhi will transform the nature of the temperature, taste, body part accessed or toxicity. In Ayurveda the samskaras are used to transform heavy metals and toxic herbs in a way that removes their toxicity. These processes are actively used to the present day.[28]

Nuclear transmutation

In 1919, Ernest Rutherford used artificial disintegration to convert nitrogen into oxygen.[29] From then on, this sort of scientific transmutation has been routinely performed in many nuclear physics-related laboratories and facilities, like particle accelerators, nuclear power stations and nuclear weapons as a by-product of fission and other physical processes.

In literature

Sir Thomas Malory uses Alchemy as a motif that underlies the personal, psychological, and aesthetic development of Sir Gareth of Orkney in Le Morte d'Arthur[citation needed]. Sir Gareth's quest parallels the process of Alchemy in that he first undergoes the nigredo phase by defeating the black knight and wearing his armor. After this, Gareth defeats knights representing the four elements, thereby subsuming their power. In fighting and defeating the Red Knight (the overall purpose of his quest) he undergoes and passes the rubedo phase. Gareth, toward the end of his quest, accepts a ring from his paramour, Lyoness, which transforms his armor into being multicolored. This alludes to the panchromatic philosopher's stone, and while he is in multicolored armor, he is unbeatable.

A play by Ben Jonson, The Alchemist, is a satirical and skeptical take on the subject.

Part 2 of Goethe's Faust, is full of alchemical symbolism.[30]

According to Hermetic Fictions: Alchemy and Irony in the Novel (Keele University Press, 1995), by David Meakin, alchemy is also featured in such novels and poems as those by William Godwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Emile Zola, Jules Verne, Marcel Proust, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, James Joyce, Gustav Meyrink, Lindsay Clarke, Marguerite Yourcenar, Umberto Eco, Michel Butor, Paulo Coelho, Amanda Quick, Gabriel García Marquez and Maria Szepes.

Hilary Mantel, in her novel Fludd (1989, Penguin), mentions the spagyric art. 'After separation, drying out, moistening, dissolving, coagulating, fermenting, comes purification, recombination: the creation of substances the world until now has never beheld. This is the opus contra naturem, this is the spagyric art, this is the Alchymical Wedding'. (page 79)

In Dante's Inferno, it is placed within the Tenth ring of the 8th circle.[31]

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, there are several references to Nicholas Flamel, and a stone that could turn metal into gold and create an elixir of immortality was sought after by both the villains and Harry and friends, for different reasons.

The manga and anime series Fullmetal Alchemist bases itself on a more fantasised version of alchemy, based on the principle of equivalent exchange. In the manga and anime series Buso Renkin, alchemy is used to form Kakugane, which transforms into a weapon based on a human's fighting instincts. Also, alchemy is used to create homunculi.

The main character in the play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), by Ann-Marie MacDonald, attempts (and succeeds) at determining the alchemy behind Shakespeare's work, Othello.

In contemporary art

In the twentieth century alchemy was a profoundly important source of inspiration for the Surrealist artist Max Ernst, who used the symbolism of alchemy to inform and guide his work. M.E. Warlick wrote his Max Ernst and Alchemy describing this relationship in detail.

Contemporary artists use alchemy as inspiring subject matter, like Odd Nerdrum, whose interest has been noted by Richard Vine, and the painter Michael Pearce,[32] whose interest in alchemy dominates his work. His works Fama[33] and The Aviator's Dream[34] particularly express alchemical ideas in a painted allegory.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ alchemy: Definition from Answers.com. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  2. ^ a b "alchemy". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989. Or see Harper, Douglas. "alchemy". Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=alchemy. Retrieved 2010-04-07. .
  3. ^ See, for example, the etymology for χημεία in Liddell, Henry George; Robert Scott (1901). A Greek-English Lexicon (Eighth edition, revised throughout ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0199102058. 
  4. ^ See, for example, both the etymology given in the Oxford English Dictionary and also that for χυμεία in Liddell, Henry George; Robert Scott, Henry Stuart Jones (1940). A Greek-English Lexicon (A new edition, revised and augmented throughout ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0199102058. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=xumeia&la=greek#lexicon. 
  5. ^ The original source for this analysis is the article on pp. 81–85 of Mahn, Carl August Friedrich (1855). Etymologische untersuchungen auf dem gebiete der romanischen sprachen. F. Duemmler. http://books.google.com/?id=-BMLAAAAQAAJ. 
  6. ^ The article by David Bain, entitled "Μελανίτις γή, an unnoticed Greek name for Egypt: New evidence for the origins and etymology of alchemy?" expresses the current debate. The world of ancient magic. Bergen: The Norwegian Institute at Athens. 1999. http://www.norwinst.gr/Publikasjoner/Papers.htm. 
  7. ^ Davis, Erik. "The Gods of the Funny Books: An Interview with Neil Gaiman and Rachel Pollack". Gnosis (magazine). Techgnosis (reprint from Summer 1994 issue). http://www.techgnosis.com/gaiman.html. Retrieved 2007-02-04. 
  8. ^ Alchemy at Dictionary.com.
  9. ^ The True Nature of Hermetic Alchemy.
  10. ^ a b von Franz, M-L. Alchemical Active Imagination. Shambala. Boston. 1997. ISBN 0-87773-589-1.
  11. ^ Blavatsky, H.P. (1888). The Secret Doctrine. ii. Theosophical Publishing Company. 238. ISBN 978-1557000026. http://www.phx-ult-lodge.org/SDVolume2.htm. 
  12. ^ Paracelsus. "Alchemical Catechism". http://www.sacred-texts.com/alc/tschoudy.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-18. 
  13. ^ a b Jung, C. G. (1944). Psychology and Alchemy (2nd ed. 1968 Collected Works Vol. 12 ISBN 0-691-01831-6). London: Routledge.
  14. ^ Jung, C. G., & Hinkle, B. M. (1912). Psychology of the Unconscious : a study of the transformations and symbolisms of the libido, a contribution to the history of the evolution of thought. London: Kegan Paul Trench Trubner. (revised in 1952 as Symbols of Transformation, Collected Works Vol.5 ISBN 0-691-01815-4).
  15. ^ Jung, C. G., & Jaffe A. (1962). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. London: Collins. This is Jung's autobiography, recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffe, ISBN 0-679-72395-1.
  16. ^ Jung, C. G. - Psychology and Alchemy; Symbols of Transformation.
  17. ^ C.-G. Jung Preface to Richard Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching.
  18. ^ C.-G. Jung Preface to the translation of The Secret of The Golden Flower.
  19. ^ The-Four-Stages-of-Alchemical-Work.
  20. ^ Meyrink und das theomorphische Menschenbild.
  21. ^ The order for the Opus phases is seldom given as constant. Dorn, for instance, in the Theatrum Chemicum, places the citrinitas, the golden color, as the final stage, after the rubedo.
  22. ^ Neumann, Erich. The origins and history of consciousness, with a foreword by C.G. Jung. Translated from the German by R.F.C. Hull. New York : Pantheon Books, 1954. Confer p.255, footnote 76: "Since Alchemy actually originated in Egypt, it is not improbable that esoteric interpretations of the Osiris myth are among the foundations of the art ..."
  23. ^ Francesca Rochberg (December 2002). [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "A consideration of Babylonian astronomy within the historiography of science"]. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 33 (4): 661–684. doi:10.1016/S0039-3681(02)00022-5 
  24. ^ Kraus, Paul, Jâbir ibn Hayyân, Contribution à l'histoire des idées scientifiques dans l'Islam. I. Le corpus des écrits jâbiriens. II. Jâbir et la science grecque,. Cairo (1942–1943). Repr. By Fuat Sezgin, (Natural Sciences in Islam. 67-68), Frankfurt. 2002:
    “To form an idea of the historical place of Jabir’s alchemy and to tackle the problem of its sources, it is advisable to compare it with what remains to us of the alchemical literature in the Greek language. One knows in which miserable state this literature reached us. Collected by Byzantine scientists from the tenth century, the corpus of the Greek alchemists is a cluster of incoherent fragments, going back to all the times since the third century until the end of the Middle Ages.”
    “The efforts of Berthelot and Ruelle to put a little order in this mass of literature led only to poor results, and the later researchers, among them in particular Mrs. Hammer-Jensen, Tannery, Lagercrantz , von Lippmann, Reitzenstein, Ruska, Bidez, Festugiere and others, could make clear only few points of detail...
    The study of the Greek alchemists is not very encouraging. An even surface examination of the Greek texts shows that a very small part only was organized according to true experiments of laboratory: even the supposedly technical writings, in the state where we find them today, are unintelligible nonsense which refuses any interpretation.
    It is different with Jabir’s alchemy. The relatively clear description of the processes and the alchemical apparatuses, the methodical classification of the substances, mark an experimental spirit which is extremely far away from the weird and odd esotericism of the Greek texts. The theory on which Jabir supports his operations is one of clearness and of an impressive unity. In vain one would seek in the Greek texts a work as systematic as that which is presented for example in the Book of Seventy.”
    (cf. Ahmad Y Hassan. "A Critical Reassessment of the Geber Problem: Part Three". http://www.history-science-technology.com/Geber/Geber%203.htm. Retrieved 2008-08-09. )
  25. ^ Deem, Rich (2005). "The Religious Affiliation of Robert Boyle the father of modern chemistry. From: Famous Scientists Who Believed in God". adherents.com. http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/Robert_Boyle.html. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  26. ^ More, Louis Trenchard (January 1941). "Boyle as Alchemist". Journal of the History of Ideas (University of Pennsylvania Press) 2 (1): 61–76. doi:10.2307/2707281. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2707281. Retrieved 30 March 2010. 
  27. ^ "The oldest Indian writings, the Vedas (Hindu sacred scriptures), contain the same hints of alchemy" - Multhauf, Robert P. & Gilbert, Robert Andrew (2008). Alchemy. Encyclopædia Britannica (2008).
  28. ^ Junius, Manfred M; The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy: An Herbalist's Guide to Preparing Medicinal Essences, Tinctures, and Elixirs; Healing Arts Press 1985.
  29. ^ "Reviewing Physics: The Physical Setting" (pdf). Amsco School Publications. http://www.stmary.ws/physics/amsco_review_and_glencoe/chapter05.pdf. "The first artificial transmutation of one or more elements to another was performed by Rutherford in 1919. Rutherford bombarded nitrogen with energetic alpha particles that were moving fast enough to overcome the electric repulsion between themselves and the target nuclei. The alpha particles collided with, and were absorbed by, the nitrogen nuclei, and protons were ejected. In the process oxygen and hydrogen nuclei were created." 
  30. ^ see Alice Raphael: Goethe and the Philosopher's Stone, symbolical patterns in 'The Parable' and the second part of 'Faust', London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965.
  31. ^ Dante's Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto 29, hosted on the Internet Sacred Text Archive.
  32. ^ Cal Lutheran | Department of Art - Faculty.
  33. ^ The Gilded Raven Blog + » fama.
  34. ^ The Gilded Raven Blog + » Storm / The Aviator’s Dream.

References

  • Cavendish, Richard, The Black Arts, Perigee Books
  • Gettgins, Fred (1986). Encyclopedia of the Occult. London: Rider. 
  • Greenberg, Adele Droblas (2000). Chemical History Tour, Picturing Chemistry from Alchemy to Modern Molecular Science. Wiley-Interscience. ISBN 0-471-35408-2. 
  • Hart-Davis, Adam (2003). Why does a ball bounce? 101 Questions that you never thought of asking. New York: Firefly Books. 
  • Hughes, Jonathan (2002). Arthurian Myths and Alchemy, the Kingship of Edward IV. Stroud: Sutton. ISBN 0750919949. 
  • Marius (1976). On the Elements. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-02856-2.  Trans. Richard Dales.
  • Thorndike, Lynn (1923-1958) (8 volumes). A History of Magic and Experimental Science. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0231087942. 
  • Weaver, Jefferson Hane (1987). The World of Physics. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0306430762. 
  • Zumdahl, Steven S. (1989). Chemistry (2nd ed.). Lexington, Maryland: D.C. Heath and Company. ISBN 0-669-16708-8. 
  • Halleux, R., Les textes alchimiques, Brepols Publishers, 1979, ISBN 978-2-503-36032-4

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Alchemy refers to early forms of the investigation of nature and early philosophical and spiritual disciplines combining elements of chemistry, metallurgy, physics, medicine, astrology, semiotics, mysticism, spiritualism, and art.

Sourced

  • The matter lies before the eyes of all; everybody sees it, touches it, loves it, but knows it not. It is glorious and vile, precious and of small account, and is found everywhere... But, to be brief, our Matter has as many names as there are things in this world; that is why the foolish know it not.
    • The Golden Tract concerning the Philosopher's Stone
  • Why should I use many words unto you? For this thing is extracted from thee, and thou art its ore; in thee they find it, and, to speak more plainly, from thee they take it; and when thou hast experienced this, the love and delight of it will be increased in thee. And thou shalt know that this thing subsists truly and beyond all doubt. ... I have not known any Stone which might be likened to this Stone, or which may have the effect of it. For in this Stone the Four Elements are contained, and it is likened to the world and the composition of the world.
    • "The Interrogations of King Calid, and the Answers of Morienus" in De Transmutatione Metallica
  • The alchemical tradition assumes that every physical art or science is a body of knowledge which exists only because it is ensouled by invisible powers and processes. Physical chemistry, as it is practiced in the modern world, is concerned principally with pharmaceutical or industrial research projects. It is confined within the boundaries of an all-pervading materialism, which binds labor to the advancement of physical objectives.
  • These are not fables. You will touch with your hands, you will see with your own eyes, the Azoth, the Mercury of Philosophers, which alone will suffice to obtain for you our Stone. ... Darkness will appear on the face of the Abyss; Night, Saturn and the Antimony of the Sages will appear; blackness, and the raven's head of the alchemists, and all the colors of the world, will appear at the hour of conjunction; the rainbow also, and the peacock's tail. Finally, after the matter has passed from ashen-colored to white and yellow, you will see the Philosopher's Stone, our King and Dominator Supreme, issue forth from his glassy sepulcher to mount his bed or his throne in his glorified body... diaphanous as crystal; compact and most weighty, as easily fusible by fire as resin, as flowing as wax and more so than quicksilver ... the color of saffron when powdered, but red as rubies when in an integral mass...
  • The alchemical operation consisted essentially in separating the prima materia, the so-called chaos, into the active principle, the soul, and the passive principle, the body, which were then reunited in personified form in the coniunctio or 'chymical marriage'... the ritual cohabitation of Sol and Luna.
  • You are an alchemist; make gold of that.
  • I had discovered, early in my researches, that their doctrine was no mere chemical fantasy, but a philosophy they applied to the world, to the elements, and to man himself.

Unsourced

  • Alchemy may be compared to the man who told his sons he had left the gold buried somewhere in his vineyard; where they by digging found no gold, but by turning up the mould, about the roots of their vines, procured a plentiful vintage. So the search and endeavors to make gold have brought many useful inventions and instructive experiments to light.
  • There is an alchemy in sorrow. It can be transmuted into wisdom, which, if it does not bring joy, can yet bring happiness.
  • Transmute yourselves from dead stones into living philosophical stones.
  • Alchemy is the art of manipulating life, and consciousness in matter, to help it evolve, or to solve problems of inner disharmonies.
  • It is erroneous to confuse alchemy with chemistry. Modem chemistry is a science dealing only with the outward manifestations of matter. It never produces anything new. One can mix, compose and decompose two or three chemical substances any number of times, and make them reappear in different forms, but in the end there is no increase in substance; there is only the combination of the substances used at the outset. Alchemy neither composes nor mixes: it increases and activates that which already exists in a latent state. Therefore alchemy can be more accurately compared with botany or agriculture than with chemistry. In fact, the growth of a plant, a tree or an animal is an alchemical process taking place in the alchemical laboratory of nature and conducted by the Great Alchemist, the active power of God in nature.
  • The science of alchymy I like very well, and indeed, 'tis the philosophy of the ancients. I like it not only for the profits it brings in melting metals, in decocting, preparing, extracting and distilling herbs, roots; I like it also for the sake of the allegory and secret signification, which is exceedingly fine, touching the resurrection of the dead at the last day.
  • One becomes two, two becomes three, and by means of the third and fourth achieves unity; thus two are but one.... Invert nature and you will find that what you seek... Join the male and the female, and you will find what is sought...
  • Alchemy is the art of far and near, and I think poetry is alchemy in that way. It's delightful to distort size, to see something that's tiny as though it were vast.
  • Many have said of Alchemy, that it is for the making of gold and silver. For me such is not the aim, but to consider only what virtue and power may lie in medicines.
  • Although Alchemy has now fallen into contempt, and is even considered a thing of the past, the physicain should not be influenced by such judgements.
  • Scholasticism with its subtle argumentation, Theology with its ambiguous phraseology, Astrology, so vast and so complex, are all children's games when compared with alchemy.
    • Albert Poisson
  • O, he sits high in all the people's hearts;
    And that which would appear offence in us,
    His countenance, like richest alchemy,
    Will change to virtue and to worthiness.
  • The glorious sun
    Stays in his course and plays the alchemist,
    Turning with splendor of his precious eye
    The meager cloddy earth to glittering gold.

External links

Wikipedia
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Look up alchemy in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Alchemy
by Sara Teasdale
From Rivers to the Sea Part I

I LIFT my heart as spring lifts up
      A yellow daisy to the rain;
My heart will be a lovely cup
      Altho' it holds but pain.

For I shall learn from flower and leaf
      That color every drop they hold,
To change the lifeless wine of grief
      To living gold.

PD-icon.svg This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1933, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Wikibooks

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

Alchemy2.jpg

Book of Gold

Contents

Is this book for me?

Alchemical text books are by their nature interactive. They do not encourage sponge mentality but higher functioning. If you are the sort of person who thinks everything about a subject can be learned from an encyclopedia then please refer to the excellent section on Alchemy at Wikipedia. This text expects you to get involved, to engage yourself as you review the text.

Some have disputed the factual accuracy of this module. In fact it is inaccurate to the point of trancending the lesser truths of right and wrong. So be prepared not to believe all the beliefs recorded here.

Alchemy: What is it and why is it relevant today?

Historically Alchemy was an art and fledgling science that eventually led to the present Wiki Books. The result was that knowledge was gained. Unfortunately, the secretive nature of the early alchemists meant that knowledge was not always shared.

Mythologically, Alchemy started with *Hermes the Thrice Great* who had three distinct forms or incarnations. Early alchemists were directly involved in metal working and forging gold. The history of alchemy includes two main components: the outer and the inner or secret history. The inner history is only passed on orally and therefore is only available to initiates.

Genuine alchemical work is always (completely encrypted and) unnoticed. The resurgence of alchemy is very much due to the failure and imbalance inherent in left-brain science. Alchemy as a holistic science values both intuition and artistic interpretation that is contrary to linear thought processes. A sentient computer could never understand Alchemy.

History and Significance

Esoteric History of Alchemy

Alchemy started in prehistory and we have no record of this and have to use intuition and the psyche to address this area

Egyptian

Greek

Arabic

Kabalistic

Indian

Chinese

Western

Synthesis

The development of modern science

The early history of science integrated the search for truth with a religious component. Modern secularised science felt this aspect of the search for knowledge was contrary to its aims and marginalised any elements with a religious or mystical content.

Alchemists regard 'science' as a 'bastard son' of their Arte. The reason being the moral and spineless pursuit of knowledge bereft of consequence or foresight. Alchemy is more influential than it has ever been. The nature of this influence is found in the Emerald Tablet.

The Philosopher's Stone -- Alchemy and the Physical Sciences

Alchemy1.jpg

The early history of science integrated the search for truth with a religious component. Modern secularized science felt this aspect of the search for knowledge was contrary to its aims and marginalized any elements with a religious or mystical content. Chemistry is most often associated with alchemy but it can be seen even today in medicine with the caduceus (the staff of Hermes) being the recognized symbol for medicine. The agenda of alchemy has always been the furtherance of human knowledge and the integration and improvement of society. Alchemy has also been a technological system, interested in working operations and the preparation of material wealth, longevity and a big theory of everything now being attempted by 'puffer' physics.

Relationship to Chemistry

Francis Bacon in 1200 came across a recipe involving honey (carbon) and brimstone (sulphur) which created a volatile explosive mixture. Realizing the military potential of this substance he did not release this information and it was another 200 years before the use of gunpowder was 'discovered' by the Western militia.

Relationship to Metallurgy

The charlatans of science claimed that the transmuation of one element into another was impossible. Then they started to understand how this was possible and began to do so.

Now we have quantum science in which observation is altering the nature of reality at the quantum level. Alchemy has always in the operative phase used observation to alter the nature of the Great Work

Atomic table

Relationship to Material Science

Relationship to Physics

===The Elixir homunculus




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Alchemy is most often associated with chemistry, but it can be seen even today in medicine with the caduceus (the staff of Hermes) being the recognised symbol for medicine.

Elixirs, Caduceus, Bombastus

Spagyrism

Spagyrism is the practical application of alchemy in medical treatment. Philippus Theophrast Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541), commonly homunculuscalled Paracelsus, was one of the most famous spagyrists. "The physician," he wrote, "is he who in the bodily diseases takes the place of God and administers for Him."

Distilling the Soul -- Alchemy and the Perfection of the Spirit

Relationship to Religion

Influence on magic, ritual, Christianity, Rasayana, Taoism, Elixirs

Relationship to Mysticism

Relationship to Psychology

Jung, dream analysis

Theory

Pre Chemistry

Aims of Alchemy

Alchemists of the middle ages devoted their lives to discover the Elixir of Life. The Elixir of life was able to turn any metal, like iron, into gold.

Another work of the alchemist was to create a homunculus. This is a man made by man.

Speculative Alchemy

Operative Alchemy

The Elements

water earth fire air

The States

-solid -liquid -gas -jelly -Newtonian plasma -Condensate super semifluids -Butteriness -non-Newtonian fluids -Jesus -magical Bose-Einstein condensates (with magic!)

Practice

The Processes

Distillation

The separation of a volatile component from a substance by heating so as to drive off the component as a vapour which is condensed and collected in a cooler part of the apparatus.

Coagulation

The conversion of a thin liquid into a solid mixture through some inner change, as with yogurt. This can be accomplished by a variety of means - by the addition of a substance, by heating or cooling.

Dissolution

The dissolving or transforming of a substance into a liquid.

Filtration

Calcination

Deconstruction

Reconstruction

Symbology

The Role of Symbolism

The Animals

Since the beginning of human thought, animals have represented a number of things, from cunning to bravery to cowardliness. One needs only to look at literature from around the world to find stories about how Fox tricked Buffalo or how Mouse befriended Cat. (On a side note, one story we usually don't think of as such is the famous story of how Snake tricked Human, but that is a story for another book.)

Ouroboros

The ouroboros is a snake, serpent or dragon that has its tail in its teeth, forming a circle. It symbolizes the continuity of life; that idea that in every ending there is a beginning.

Phoenix

The phoenix can represent a number of things. It is courage, it is kindness, it is rebirth, it is Fire. It helps those in need, its tears heal and it is reborn from its own ashes when it dies.

Dragon

Eagle

Lion

The size, power, and bearing of the lion have captured the human imagination since biblical times. The lion's strength and courage have made him a symbol of power. The lion is mentioned many times in the bible such as "the lion of the tribe of Judah." Because of its noble character and lordly might, the lion is rightly called the "king of the beasts." Conversely, recent history has shown the lion to be "the beast of kings," namely Richard the Lion-hearted of England, William the Lion of Scotland, and Henry the Lion of Saxony and Bavaria. Heraldry is the science of decorating coats of arms. Animals and designs taken from nature were favorite heraldic devices. Excluding fabled monsters such as the dragon, the griffin, the wyvern, and the unicorn, the most popular of the more ordinary animals was the lion, which has also appeared as a part of the legendary Chimera as well as a number of other mythical amalgams. The second of the Plantagenets to rule England (1189-1199) was Richard I called Coeur de Lion, or Richard the Lion-hearted. He was the first English king known to bear a coat of arms. After Richard, many knights chose the lion, a symbol of courage, as their emblem (Lewed).

Unicorn

The Colors

Some modern alchemists whisper of the 'Second Opus' in which a new color is engaged. However this is not the time or place for credibility

Red

Yellow

White

Black

The black, Niger or nigredo corresponds to the primary earth matter of alchemy. In speculative and internal systems it is about the sealing of enegy and the gestation of spiritual force. In many systems of the lowest being the most exalted, black represents the fana-il fana of the dervishes, the dark feminine principle of High Magik, the 'dark' Luciferic degrees of Masonry and so on.

The Numbers

The Planets

In alchemical systems, several astronomical bodies are considered to have influence on the results of one's investigations. These bodies are grouped together under the category of "planets", although the alchemical system includes both the sun and the moon, neither of which is a planet in astronomical science.

each "planet" has it's own relation to metal

Sun

Gold, male

The Moon

silver, female

Mercury

mercury

Venus

copper

Mars

iron

Jupiter

tin

Saturn

lead

Modern planets

Alchemy Today

Development of alternative science, complementary medicine, homeopathy, overunity, radionics and pseudoscience.

Elements of Peace

Bibliography

References

Primary Texts

Additional Reading

Adam McLean's Alchemy Web Site

It's Not Just for the Middle Ages Anymore

MetaReligion on Alchemy

The Great Art

Wikipedia's Alchemy

The Skeptic's Dictionary on Alchemy

Occultopedia on Alchemy

Alchemical relaxation

All about alchemy

Where do these sections go?

Relationship to Media

Films, symbols, Ben Johnson Alchemist

Relationship to Language

Filtration, distillation

Deciphering the blinds and codes

Proponents

Hw-newton.jpg

Isaac Newton considered his alchemical work of far more importance than the scientific work he is renowned for. At the time due to the influence of the Church all knowledge was required to have a religious significance, just as today the scientific establishment requires that its work does not have such a component.

Isaac Newton, Jung, Pope?, King?,

Achievements

Metal work, allopathic medicine, chemical and industrial processes, psychology, cryptology, laboratory equipment. Scientific methodology (in particular documenting and verifying experiments) are some of the well known influences of Alchemy.

As Above, So Below


Simple English

Alchemy is a study of the basic elements called fire, water, earth and air. It is the study of transmutation. It was first studied to learn how to change lead into gold. It is similar to chemistry, but much older. People who studied alchemy were called alchemists.

Alchemists in the Middle Ages often tried to make gold using things that were not gold. They also tried to make the Elixir of Life (which would give the gift of immortality). Many times alchemists would use stories and legends to try to veil (cover up) how to make gold. The psychologist Carl Gustav Jung was interested in this as well but in relation to the soul of man. Alchemists are objective (they deal with external existence) while psychologists are subjective (they deal with the inner life of man). Alchemists deal with the First Matter (a substance that makes transmutation easy) while Psychology deals with the mind. A famous saying in Alchemy: "As above, so below" veils the relationship existing between Alchemy and Psychology.

Alchemy is not a science any more. Some things that the alchemists learned about were important for other sciences, like chemistry.

In 1980, an American scientist named Glenn Seaborg actually changed a very tiny amount of bismuth into gold with a nuclear reactor. But it cost much more to transform the energy to do this than the tiny amount of gold was worth. This is the closest a scientist has come to discover the Philosopher's Stone of the ancient Alchemists. The Philosopher's Stone is the means (way) Alchemists use to achieve (to succeed in) transmutation.

Alchemy was an important science because it helped create many other sciences that came after it, for example, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and astronomy. Alchemists not only tried to create gold but they also looked for self-purification (to separate the pure from the impure with great care) and enlightenment.

Other websites

Wikipedia: Fulcanelli

Wikipedia: Glenn T. Seaborg

Wikipedia: Alchemy

Wikipedia: Carl G. Jung








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