By Sean Martin
Alchemy has commonly been considered as 'the historical past of an error', an instance of mediaeval gullibility and greed, during which alchemists attempted to show lead into gold, create very good 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 lots of of the founders of recent technology. This e-book explores the background of the so-called Royal artwork, from its mysterious beginnings in Egypt and China, throughout the Hellenistic global and the early years of Islam and into mediaeval Europe. many of the maximum minds of the center a while, figures reminiscent of Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas have been attracted to alchemy, and mythical alchemists comparable to Nicholas Flamel have been notion to have truly succeeded to find The Philosopher's Stone. throughout the Renaissance, Paracelsus and his fans helped revolutionise drugs, and through the 17th century, alchemy performed an immense function 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 found the subconscious. during this totally revised variation, Sean Martin has elevated the sections on chinese language and Indian alchemy and has extra new fabric at the courting among alchemy and early smooth technological know-how, whereas additionally creating a clean overview of this so much enduringly mysterious and interesting of matters, to which all others were defined as 'child's play'.
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Extra info for Alchemy and Alchemists
Fraudulent alchemists such as Chaucer’s canon were known as ‘puffers’, a reference to the bellows used to keep the laboratory fire burning. So great was the craze for alchemical transmutations, that decrees were issued against it all over Europe. As we have seen, alchemy was banned as early as 144 BCE in China; Pope John XXII forbade the manufacture of gold by alchemical means in his Bull of 1317 (but was then said to have created a fortune of his own under the direction of the alchemist John Dastyn).
Symbols of the Stages The stages of the alchemical process also have various symbolic representations: nigredo is often portrayed as a Death’s Head (caput mortuum), or ravens; albedo as a king drowning, or in a heat bath, a pelican piercing its heart with its beak, a unicorn or a white rose; citrinitas as a sower sowing seeds in a field; rubedo as the wedding of the King and Queen, a starry lion, golden coins, a rose garden or the ouroborous eating its tail and arriving back at its divine origins.
Miners were obliged to refrain from sexual activity in the days prior to a descent to the seam being worked. To remove ores from Mother Earth was to take her precious embryos, and an unclean miner would defile the ores and thus doom any smelting done with them to failure. Gold was mined at least as early as 3000 BCE, and the discovery of smelting liberated early peoples from using tools largely as they were found. Now metals could be shaped and moulded • 41 • Alchemy 16/10/06 11:15 am Page 42 ALCHEMY AND ALCHEMISTS into spears, swords and chalices.