By Sean Martin
Alchemy has regularly been considered as 'the background of an error', an instance of mediaeval gullibility and greed, during which alchemists attempted to show lead into gold, create great 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 booklet explores the heritage of the so-called Royal artwork, from its mysterious beginnings in Egypt and China, in the course of 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 corresponding to Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas have been attracted to alchemy, and mythical alchemists equivalent to Nicholas Flamel have been proposal to have truly succeeded find The Philosopher's Stone. in the course of the Renaissance, Paracelsus and his fans helped revolutionise medication, and through the 17th century, alchemy performed a big position in paving the best way for contemporary technological know-how. throughout the 20th century, it turned a spotlight of curiosity for the psychologist Carl Jung and his fans, who believed that the alchemists had came upon the subconscious. during this totally revised version, Sean Martin has multiplied the sections on chinese language and Indian alchemy and has additional new fabric at the courting among alchemy and early glossy technology, whereas additionally creating a clean review of this such a lot enduringly mysterious and engaging of matters, to which all others were defined as 'child's play'.
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Jabir’s importance lies in the scope of his work, and the thoroughness of his approach. Although he was a Sufi, his work was not tainted by the sort of mystical speculation that had thrived in Alexandria. With Jabir, we can see the beginnings of what we would now call the scientific method. He developed a theory that all metals were generated by the interaction of sulphur and mercury, and grew in the earth under the influence of the planets. The planets had been associated with metals from the time of the first Babylonian astrologers, with Saturn governing lead, Mars iron, Jupiter tin,Venus copper, Mercury mercury, the Moon silver and the Sun gold.
47 • Alchemy 16/10/06 11:15 am Page 48 ALCHEMY AND ALCHEMISTS Arabic Alchemy The fortunes of Hellenistic Egypt began to decline in the early centuries after Christ. The loss of the library is one of the greatest disasters in human history and also one of the most damning indictments of religious fundamentalism: our knowledge of the ancient world would be infinitely greater had any of the texts survived. The irony of the Muslim sack of Alexandria was that almost as soon as Islam began to establish itself, around the same time, it encouraged learning in a way that Christianity never did, and Islam began to inherit the wisdom of Greece and Egypt.
The Language of the Birds Alchemists were masters of wordplay. Many alchemical texts claim that they are ‘hiding a secret openly’, meaning that initiates • 35 • Alchemy 16/10/06 11:15 am Page 36 ALCHEMY AND ALCHEMISTS will understand them, and that everyone else will see complete gibberish. The great Persian poet Farid ud-din Attar’s twelfth century work The Conference of the Birds is one of the earliest works to ‘openly conceal’; he states that his work is intended to show the path of spiritual development through the journey of a group of birds to find the palace of the Simurgh, or Lord of Creation.