History Of Alchemy

History Of Alchemy Cover
From an early period the Egyptians possessed the reputation of being skillful workers in metals and, according to Greek writers, they were conversant with their transmutation, employing quicksilver in the process of separating gold and silver from the native matrix. The resulting oxide was supposed to possess marvelous powers, and it was thought that there resided within in the individualities of the various metals, that in it their various substances were incorporated. This black powder was mystically identified with the underworld form of the god Osiris, and consequently was credited with magical properties. Thus there grew up in Egypt the belief that magical powers existed in fluxes and alloys. Probably such a belief existed throughout Europe in connection with the bronze-working castes of its several races. Its was probably in the Byzantium of the fourth century, however, that alchemical science received embryonic form. There is little doubt that Egyptian tradition, filtering through Alexandrian Hellenic sources was the foundation upon which the infant science was built, and this is borne out by the circumstance that the art was attributed to Hermes Trismegistus and supposed to be contained in its entirety in his works. The Arabs, after their conquest of Egypt in the seventh century, carried on the researches of the Alexandrian school, and through their instrumentality the art was brought to Morocco and thus in the eighth century to Spain, where it flourished exceedingly. Indeed, Spain from the ninth to the eleventh century became the repository of alchemic science, and the colleges of Seville, Cordova and Granada were the centers from which this science radiated throughout Europe. The first practical alchemist may be said to have been the Arbian Geber, who flourished 720-750. From his "Summa Perfectionis", we may be justified in assuming that alchemical science was already matured in his day, and that he drew his inspirations from a still older unbroken line of adepts. He was followed by Avicenna, Mesna and Rhasis, and in France by Alain of Lisle, Arnold de Villanova and Jean de Meung the troubadour; in England by Roger Bacon and in Spain itself by Raymond Lully. Later, in French alchemy the most illustrious names are those of Flamel (b. ca. 1330), and Bernard Trevisan (b. ca. 1460) after which the center of of interest changes to Germany and in some measure to England, in which countries Paracelsus, Khunrath (ca. 1550), Maier (ca. 1568), Norton, Dalton, Charnock, and Fludd kept the alchemical flame burning brightly. It is surprising how little alteration we find throughout the period between the seventh and the seventeenth centuries, the heyday of alchemy, in the theory and practice of the art. The same sentiments and processes are found expressed in the later alchemical authorities as in the earliest, and a wonderful unanimity as regards the basic canons of the great art is evinced by the hermetic students of the time. On the introduction of chemistry as a practical art, alchemical science fell into desuetude and disrepute, owing chiefly to the number of charlatans practicing it, and by the beginning of the eighteenth century, as a school, it may be said to have become defunct. Here and there, however, a solitary student of the art lingered, and in the department of this article "Modern Alchemy" will demonstrate that the science has to a grate extent revived during modern times, although it has never been quite extinct. Taken from a 1960 reprint of "AN ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF OCCULTISM", by Lewis Spence; University Press, Hyde Park, New York. Originally Published in 1920, it is considered to be one of the most complete texts on the subject.

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