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A L C H E M Y

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Author Topic: A L C H E M Y  (Read 1116 times)
Bianca
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« on: August 02, 2007, 02:10:51 pm »





Alchemy as a philosophical and spiritual discipline





Alchemy was known as the spagyric art after Greek words meaning to separate and to join together.


Compare this with the primary dictum of Alchemy in Latin: SOLVE ET COAGULA — Separate, and Join Together.



                                  

The best known goals of the alchemists were the transmutation of common metals into gold or silver (less well known is plant alchemy, or "Spagyric"), and the creation of a "panacea," a remedy that supposedly would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. Although these were not the only uses for the science, they were the ones most documented and well known. Starting with the Middle Ages, European alchemists invested much effort on 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. The philosopher's stone was believed to mystically amplify the user's knowledge of alchemy so much that anything was attainable. Alchemists enjoyed prestige and support through the centuries, though not for their pursuit of those goals, nor the mystic and philosophical speculation that dominates their literature. Rather it was for their mundane contributions to the "chemical" industries of the day—the invention of gunpowder, ore testing and refining, metalworking, production of ink, dyes, paints, and cosmetics, leather tanning, ceramics and glass manufacture, preparation of extracts and liquors, and so on (It seems that the preparation of aqua vitae, the "water of life", was a fairly popular "experiment" among European alchemists).

Indeed, from antiquity until well into the Modern Age, a physics devoid of metaphysical insight would have been as unsatisfying as a metaphysics devoid of physical manifestation. For one thing, the lack of common words for chemical concepts and processes, as well as the need for secrecy, led alchemists to borrow the terms and symbols of biblical and pagan mythology, astrology, kabbalah, and other mystic and esoteric fields; so that even the plainest chemical recipe ended up reading like an abstruse magic incantation. Moreover, alchemists sought in those fields the theoretical frameworks into which they could fit their growing collection of disjointed experimental facts.

Starting with the Middle Ages, some alchemists increasingly came to view these metaphysical aspects as the true foundation of alchemy; and chemical substances, physical states, and material processes as mere metaphors for spiritual entities, states and 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 Church was a necessity that could have otherwise lead them to the "stake and rack" of the Inquisition under charges of heresy.  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 some 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 some 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.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2007, 10:37:56 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.


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