Short Alchemy - Alchemy From H Khunrath Amphitheater of...

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Unformatted text preview: Alchemy From H. Khunrath, Amphitheater of Eternal Wisdom, Germany, 1609 Where does “Chemistry” come from? Medieval Latin: alchimia, from Arabic: al-kīmīya, from ? Traditional view (Plutarch, ca.100 C.E.): From Khēmia (Χηµια), the name used by Egyptians for their country (land of black soil). But maybe from Greek Khŭmeia (χυµεια), derived from khŭma (χυµα), meaning bar or ingot, ‘that which is poured.’ Where does “Chemistry” come from? Or maybe from Chinese: Gold or metal = jin or chin or kim, depending on dialect and transliteration. We will probably never know the exact origin of the word, but the hunt reveals the importance of Chinese, Egyptian, and Arabic cultures in the roots of modern chemistry: alchemy. A. R. Butler and R. A. Reid, Chemistry in Britain, 1986, 311-2. CHINESE IDEOGRAMS FOR THE SEVEN METALS Gold Silver Jin Yin Iron Tie Mercury Tin Gong Xi Copper Lead Tong Qian --- Modern Chinese Periodic Table Historical Origins of Alchemy Hellenistic Egypt (ca. 300 B.C.E.-100 C.E.) Thoth, god of wisdom; inventor of art, science, healing, and writing. ↓ Hermes, called Trismegistus in alchemical texts. God of commerce, invention, cunning, and theft. Legendary author of works on astrology, alchemy, magic (the Hermetic arts). ↓ Mercury (Roman), messenger of the gods, god of commerce. Thoth god of wisdom; inventor of art, science, healing, and writing. From The Gods of the Egyptians, E.A. Wallis Budge, 1904 Hermes Trismegistus Engraving from Historia Deorum Fatidicorum, Geneva, 1675. From the Emerald Tablet: “Because of this they have called me Hermes Trismegistus since I have the three parts of the wisdom and the philosophy of the whole universe.” Historical Origins of Alchemy China (300 B.C.E.-1000 C.E.) Egypt (250 B.C.E.-600 C.E.) Arabic Empire (ca. 600-1200 C.E.) Medieval Europe (1150-1750 C.E.) Well-known practitioners: Robert Boyle (1627-1691) Isaac Newton (1642-1727) Done in by mechanistic and rationalistic views of science, ultimately by atomic theories (Lavoisier, Dalton) Kinds of Alchemists Philosophers or Esoterics, whose goal was to purify or heal the self. “Puffers” or Exoterics, whose goal was to purify or heal metals; i.e. make them into the perfect metal, gold. Iatrochemists, whose goal was to purify or heal the body. This was the goal of Chinese alchemy, reemphasized in the West by Paracelsus (1493-1541). Philosophical Origins of Alchemy From Aristotle (ca. 350 B.C.E.): Four elements Philosophical Origins of Alchemy From Aristotle (ca. 350 B.C.E.) Four elements, four qualities: an alchemical periodic table wet AIR (gas) WATER (liquid) cold hot FIRE (energy) EARTH (solid) dry Naturalistic Basis of Four Elements Heating organic matter over fire WATER → AIR evaporation → FIRE → EARTH burning ash Fundamental principle of alchemy: Nature strives toward perfection. (Contrast with second law of thermodynamics) The Unity of Creation Metals Gold Silver Iron Mercury Tin Copper Lead Planets (Gods) Sun Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn Days: Dies Solis Lunae Martis Mercurii Jovis Veneris Saturni French --- Lundi Mardi Mercredi Jeudi German (-tag) Sonn- Mon- --- --- Donners - Frei- Sams- English (-day) Sun- Mon- Tues(Tiu) Wednes(Wodin) Thurs(Thor) Fri(Freya) Satur- Symbols Vendredi Samedi Alchemy and Healing Illness is the result of an imbalance in the four humors: Black Bile Phlegm Yellow Bile Blood Melancholy Phlegmatic Bilious Sanguine Choleric Black White Yellow Red Earth Water Air Fire Raven Swan Peacock Phoenix Healing Metals Similarly, illness in metals (failure to achieve the perfection of gold) is to be cured by correcting the imbalance in the four elements. Later, the four elements were somewhat superseded by the Materia Prima of salt, sophic sulfur, and sophic mercury. Materia Prima, the Three Principles Sulfur Air, Fire Hot, Dry Sun Soul Mercury Water Cold, Wet Moon Spirit Salt Earth Expansive force Integrative force Contractive force Earth Body Materia Prima, the Three Principles Sulfur Air, Fire Hot, Dry Sun Soul Mercury Water Cold, Wet Moon Spirit Salt Earth Expansive force Integrative force Contractive force ∆S ∆G ∆H Earth Body Recurring Themes in Alchemical Literature Lost secrets of the ancients Need for obscurity to avoid misuse of great powers (and persecution?) Metaphor as reality Unity of all truth; unity of matter Growth of metals and souls toward perfection Existence of Philosopher’s Stone From Roger Bacon (13th Cent. English Friar) Alchemy is “a science teaching how to make and procure a certain medicine called the ‘elixir’ that, being thrown upon metals or imperfect bodies, reduces them to absolute perfection.” Kubrick’s Monolith as Philosopher’s Stone The End of Alchemy Robert Boyle,1661, “The Sceptical Chymist” Antoine Lavoisier, 1789, “Traité Élémentaire de Chimie” John Dalton, 1808, “A New System of Chemical Philosophy” How is alchemy unlike (the ideal of) modern science? Non-empirical Non-objective Non-public Non-reproducible Based on faith in revealed truth …But we can learn some lessons: From Physica et Mystica, Bolos of Mendes (Nile valley), ca. 250 B.C.E. The One furnishes the Other its blood and the One gives birth to the Other: nature rejoices in nature; nature triumphs over nature; nature masters nature; and that not for a nature opposed to such another nature but for one and the same nature proceeding of itself by the process with trouble and great effort. But thou, my dear friend, apply thy intelligence to these matters and thou wilt not fall into error; but work seriously, and without negligence until thou hast seen the end. A Serpent is stretched guarding this temple and he who has subdued it commences by sacrificing it, then roasts it, and after removing its flesh up to the bones makes of it a step to the entrance of the temple. Mount upon it and thou shalt find the object sought, for the priest, at first a man of copper, has changed color and nature and has become a man of silver; a few days later, if thou wish, thou wilt find him changed to a man of gold. ...
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