By Sean Martin
Alchemy has normally been seen as 'the background of an error', an instance of mediaeval gullibility and greed, within which alchemists attempted to show lead into gold, create significant wealth and locate the elixir of existence. yet alchemy has additionally been defined as 'the mightiest mystery guy can possess', and it obsessed the likes of Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle and plenty of of the founders of contemporary technology. This e-book explores the historical past of the so-called Royal paintings, from its mysterious beginnings in Egypt and China, throughout the Hellenistic international and the early years of Islam and into mediaeval Europe. a few of the maximum minds of the center a while, figures similar to Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas have been interested in alchemy, and mythical alchemists akin to Nicholas Flamel have been concept to have really succeeded find The Philosopher's Stone. through the Renaissance, Paracelsus and his fans helped revolutionise medication, and through the 17th century, alchemy performed an enormous position in paving the way in which for contemporary technology. in the course of the 20th century, it turned a spotlight of curiosity for the psychologist Carl Jung and his fans, who believed that the alchemists had stumbled on the subconscious. during this totally revised variation, Sean Martin has multiplied the sections on chinese language and Indian alchemy and has further new fabric at the courting among alchemy and early sleek technology, whereas additionally creating a clean evaluation of this such a lot enduringly mysterious and engaging of topics, to which all others were defined as 'child's play'.
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Extra info for Alchemy and Alchemists
The belief that all things in the visible world have counterparts in the invisible world, the abode of spirits and gods, implies that the smith, in effecting changes in the visible, material world, was also making changes in the other world and vice versa. This linked the craft inextricably with the spiritual, and suggests a possible reason for why matter and spirit were seen as being so closely aligned. The work of the smith was to shape metals that had been taken from the womb of the Great Mother and ‘improve’ them through the process of smelting.
The work of Arab scholars such as Avicenna (980–1037) and Averroes (1126–98) was breaking new ground; indeed the advances of the Arabs provided crucial fuel for the renaissance that Europe was experiencing at this time. The First European Adepts The first European masters were not exclusively alchemists. The first name in European alchemy is that of Albertus Magnus (1193–1280), who was born in Lauingen in Swabia, and became a monk in 1223 when he joined the Dominicans in Padua. Although apparently not very tall, he became known as Albert the Great, the Doctor Universalis who excelled in all branches of learning.
The Symbolic Characters of Alchemy No alchemical text ever spoke plainly, for fear of their authors being branded heretical, or of being kidnapped by the nobility • 30 • Alchemy 16/10/06 11:15 am Page 31 BASIC IDEAS AND THEMES (as happened frequently) and then being forced to make gold for their captors. Symbolic characters therefore play a strong role in alchemical poems and paintings, and numerous alchemists (such as Trithemius) were also pioneering code masters. Mercury Mercury is the most important, as he is not only related to the art’s mythical founder, Hermes Trismegistus and the Greek god Hermes, but is also seen as the personification of the work.
Alchemy and Alchemists by Sean Martin