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Author Topic: A L C H E M Y  (Read 1116 times)
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« on: August 02, 2007, 02:35:34 pm »

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 in history

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.

FAKEAlchemy encompasses several philosophical traditions spanning some 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.

One can distinguish at least several major strands, which appear to be largely independent, at least in their earlier stages: Chinese Alchemy, centered in China and its zone of cultural influence; Indian Alchemy in the Indian subcontinent; and Western Alchemy, whose center has shifted over the millennia between Egypt, Greece and Rome, the Islamic world, and finally Europe.

Chinese Alchemy was closely connected to Taoism and Indian Alchemy was related to the Dharmic religions, whereas Western Alchemy developed its own philosophical system, with only superficial connections to the major Western religions. It is still an open question whether these two strands share a common origin, or to what extent they influenced each other.

A major text of Alchemy, called the Mutus Liber, was published in France in the late 17th century. This was a 'wordless book' that claimed to be a guide to making the Philosopher's Stone, using a series of 15 symbols and illustrations.

A connection has been made between Islam and Egypt in a great deal more sources than one might expect, when it comes to the subject.                                                                                     

One source in particular gives further background into the probable founding of the name itself in the following passage: "...The concept is a very ancient one, which seems to answer to deep human motivations. It came to Medieval Europe by way of the Arabs. When they invaded Egypt, which they called Khem, in the seventh century, the Arabs discovered that the Egyptians were masters of the art of working in gold. They called gold-working al-kimiya - 'the art of the land of Khem' - and so, according to one account, the word 'Alchemy' was born."
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