alchemy (àl´ke-mê) noun
1. A medieval chemical philosophy having as its asserted aims the transmutation of base metals into gold, the discovery of the panacea, and the preparation of the elixir of longevity.
2. A seemingly magical power or process of transmuting: "He wondered by what alchemy it was changed, so that what sickened him one hour, maddened him with hunger the next" (Marjorie K. Rawlings).
[Middle English alkamie, from Old French alquemie, from Medieval Latin alchymia, from Arabic al-kìmiyâ' : al, the + kìmiyâ', chemistry (from Late Greek khêmeia, khumeia, perhaps from Greek Khêmia, Egypt).]
- alchem´ical (àl-kèm´-î-kel) or alchem´ic adjective
alchemy, ancient art or pseudoscience that sought to turn base metals into gold or silver through the agency of a secret substance known by various names (philosopher's stone, elixir, grand magistry). Emerging in China and Egypt by the 3d cent. B.C., alchemy was cloaked in mysticism and allegory, and in time degenerated into superstition. Revived (8th cent.) in Alexandria by the Arabs, it reached W Europe by the Middle Ages. In the 15th-17th cent. experimentation again fell into disrepute, but the base had been laid for modern CHEMISTRY.
The word is derived from the Arabian phrase "al-kimia," which refers to the preparation of the Stone or Elixir by the Egyptians. The Arabic root "kimia" comes from the Coptic "khem" that alluded to the fertile black soil of the Nile delta. Esoterically and hieroglyphically, the word refers to the dark mystery of the primordial or First Matter (the Khem), the One Thing through which all creation manifests. Alchemy, then, is the Great Work of nature that perfects this chaotic matter, whether it be expressed as the metals, the cosmos, or the substance of our souls.
The Basilisk as symbolic alchemical creature.
Alchemy, ancient art devoted to discovering a substance to transmute common metals into gold. Although it was dubious and often illusory, alchemy was the predecessor of chemistry.
The birthplace of alchemy was ancient Egypt, in the Hellenistic age. The ancient Greek theory that all things are composed of air, earth, fire, and water influenced alchemy. The fundamental concept of alchemy stemmed from the doctrine of Greek philosopher Aristotle that all things tend to reach perfection. People thought that gold was perfect and that nature formed gold from other metals. They believed that, with sufficient skill and diligence, artisans could duplicate nature. Early efforts were experimental and practical, but by the 4th century AD, astrology, magic, and ritual became prominent. An Arabian school of pharmacy flourished from 750 to 1258; the scientific creed of these Arabian alchemists was the potentiality of transmutation.
From Arabia, alchemy came to Europe. During the Middle Ages (500-1500), many people sought to fabricate or discover a substance, called The Philosopher's Stone, so much more perfect than gold that it could bring the baser metals to the perfection of gold.
The most famous alchemist was 16th-century Philippus Paracelsus of Switzerland, who held that the elements of compound bodies were salt, sulfur, and mercury, representing, respectively, earth, air, and water; fire he regarded as nonmaterial. He believed that one undiscovered element existed from which the other elements came. He called this prime element alkahest, maintaining that if it were found, it would be the philosopher's stone.
After Paracelsus, European alchemists split into two groups. One group, devoting themselves to discovering new compounds and reactions, were the legitimate ancestors of modern chemistry. The other group took up the visionary, metaphysical side of alchemy, developing it into a practice based on imposture and wizardry, from which the prevailing notion of alchemy has come.
- Erik Davis
An ideogram from the seventeenth century representing the art of alchemy. This symbol shows the influence of Pythagorean geometry mysticism. It can also be perceived as a symbol for the four elements combined with water as the small inner circle, earth as the square, fire as the triangle, and air as the outer circle. As symbol for the elements it has synonyms.
The hexagram is based on the gestalt . The earliest examples of found are dated back to around 800600 B.C. If the structure had been designed by a process of random experimentation with the basic graphic gestalt , the hexagram as graphically simpler than would have been created long before it. Present archeological and historical facts, however, indicate that first appeared at least 3,000 years later than.During antiquity was a symbol for the Jewish kingdom. When this kingdom was conquered in A.D. 70, and, in fact, already some 100 years before that, the Jewish people began to spread throughout the world, as did the symbol .
The hexagram is sometimes known as the shield of David or the Magen David. According to the late Danish semiotician S.T. Achen, the Muslims refer to as Solomon's seal, whereas E. Zehren points out that the sign on Solomon's seal was . The hexagram is frequently used in the magic formulas in the old book of witchcraft, The Key of Solomon.
The alchemists of the Middle Ages used first and foremost as a general symbol representing the art of alchemy and secondly as a sign for combinations of ,water and , fire. Combined these two triangles formed the symbol for fire water, the essence or spiritus of wine: alcohol. It was also used as a sign for quintessence, the fifth element.
In some alchemical contexts, however, was used to mean drink! or swallow!
The Jews in Europe used during the Middle Ages on their banners and prayer shawls. When they were repressed by the Church and the princes, however, a pointed hat, and later a yellow ring, were used to identify them as Jews, thus facilitating their segregation, not . The hexagram became more popular during the nineteenth century and was used to decorate newly built synagogues. The founders of the Zionist movement adopted the hexagram as a rallying symbol in their attempts to create a Jewish national state in Palestine.
On November 9, 1938, at the orders of Heydrich, the hexagram combined with the colour yellow, earlier used to symbolize the Jews, and on ships' flags to symbolize that there was plague aboard, was introduced to mark all those of Jewish birth.
In blue appears on the flag of Israel since 1948.
It is interesting to note that also appeared in pre-Columbian America. In Uxmal, Central America, a plaited hexagram is found on a cliff engraving from around 1000 A.D. It has a "trailing" or "hanging" element, , under it, similar to structures used in the Phoenician cultural sphere around the Mediterranean during antiquity.
The hexagram, plaited and red, is used as a symbol for the Magen David Adom, a humanitarian organization similar to the Red Cross.
Like the sign is hardly used in modern ideography except as a sign for electrical motors with 3-phase or 6-phase winding in engineering. The "empty" hexagram, without crossing lines, or the filled version, , is never used in Western ideography except as a form for a policeman's badge in Iceland and in certain states in the US (the sheriff's star). As form of a policeman's badge is also common in the United States.
This structure has been used in alchemical contexts as a general sign for the art of alchemy. Rudolf Steiner adopted it in modern times, and now it is closely associated with Steiner's anthroposophy.The symbol has also been found engraved around 1000 B.C. on a rock face in Uxmal, Central America.
In modern Western ideography it is used in electricity contexts for a certain type of winding of electrical motors.
AD 1541 Paracelsus dies. During his life, he discovered zinc, and was the first to identify hydrogen. His fame as an alchemist was so great that his tomb in Salzberg was opened because of rumors of great treasures and alchemical secrets buried with him. However nothing was found in the coffin. His famous sword, whose hilt contained the so-called 'Philosopher's Stone', also had vanished without a trace.
Physicists are still interested in the metaphors of alchemy: when a particle bombardment chamber in 1965 finally succeeded in transforming an unstable isotope of lead into a small amount of molecular gold, a statement was released to the press : "The Dream of the Alchemists has been Achieved."
- Steve Mizrach aka Seeker1
Psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung
rediscovered the images and principles of alchemy surfacing in
the dreams and compulsions of his patients and
began a lifelong study of the subject. He concluded that alchemical
images explain the archetypal roots of the
modern mind and underscores a process of
transformation leading to the integration of the personality.
THE CYBERPUNK AS MODERN ALCHEMIST
The baby boom generation has grown up in an electronic world of TV and personal computing screens.
The cyberpunks offer metaphors, rituals, life styles for dealing with the universe of information. More and more of us are becoming electro-shamans, modern alchemists.
Alchemists of the Middle Ages described the construction of magical appliances for viewing future events, or speaking to friends distant or dead. Writings of Paracelsus describe a mirror of ELECTRUM MAGICUM with telegenic properties, and crystal scrying was in its heyday.
Today, digital alchemists have at their command tools of a precision and power unimagined by their predecessors. Computer screens ARE magical mirrors, presenting alternaterealities at varying degrees of abstraction on command (invocation).Aleister Crowley defined magick as 'the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with our will,' and to this end the computer is the universal level of Archimedes.
The parallels between the culture of the alchemists and that of cyberpunk computer adepts are inescapable. Both employ knowledge of an occult arcanum unknown to the population at large, with secret symbols and words of power. The 'secret symbols' comprise the languages of computers and mathematics, and the 'words of power' instruct computer operating systems to complete Herculeantasks. Knowing the precise code name of a digital program permits it to be conjured into existence, transcending the labor of muscular or mechanical search or manufacture. Rites of initiation or apprenticeship are common to both. 'Psychic feats' of telepathy and action-at-a-distance are achieved by selection of the menu option.
- Erik Davis
Stanley Kubrick uses alchemical allegories through out the film _2001: A Space Odyssey_ DVD (1968). The obvious analogies are the celestial alignments that proceed each of the alchemical transmutations in the film. The second main allegory is that it is a black stone that initiates these transmutations. Again this mirrors the alchemical lore about the black stone causing the transmutation of the alchemist.
Finally we get to Kubrick's ultimate trick. He proves that he knows exactly what he is doing with this trick. His secret is in plain sight. First one must remember that everytime the monolith, the magical stone, appears in the film there is a strange beautiful celestial alignment occurring. And one must remember that every celestial alignment in the film is followed by a monolith, that is, except for one. That would be the lunar eclipse that occurs at the very beginning of the film. So the question arises - if we are to stay within the rules that are prescribed in the rest of the film - where is the monolith that is supposed to follow that first alignment? The monolith itself doesn't show up in the film for ten more minutes after that first celestial alignment, so what gives here? Is Kubrick just showing off his incredible special effects? Is it just there to impress the viewer from the beginning? These things may very well also be true, but the ultimate trick of Kubrick's is embedded in the idea that the monolith must appear after every one of these magical alignments. Once again, the secret of the film is completely revealed from the beginning. There is a monolith that appears right after the opening sequence with the magical, lunar eclipse. But where is it? It is right in front of the viewer's eyes! The film is the monolith. In a secret that seems to never have been seen by anyone - the monolith in the film has the same exact dimensions as the Cinerama movie screen on which 2001 was projected in 1968. This can only be seen if one sees the film in it's wide-screen format. Completely hidden, from critic and fan alike, is the fact that Kubrick consciously designed his film to be the monolith, the stone that transforms. Like the monolith, the film projects images into our heads that make us consider wider possibilities and ideas. Like the monolith, the film ultimately presents an initiation, not just of the actor on the screen, but also of the audience viewing the film. That is Kubrick's ultimate trick. He slyly shows here that he knows what he is doing at every step in the process. The monolith and the movie are the same thing.
- _Alchemical Kubrick - 2001: The Great Work On Film_ by Jay Weidner
"Transmute yourselves from dead stones into living philosophical stones." - Gerhardt Dorn