Alkémi

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Alkémi nujul kana prakték protoilmiah kuna nu ngagabungkeun unsur-unsur kimia, fisika, seni, semiotik, métalurgi, tatamba, astrologi, tasaup, jeung agama. Udagan umum nu utama para alkémis nyaéta pikeun manggihan cara pikeun ngarobah timah jadi emas. Alkémi bisa dianggap mangrupa bibit buit élmu modérn kimia nu ngagunakeun rumusan/aturan métode ilmiah.

Alkémi asalna tina kecap basa Arab al-kimiya atawa al-khimiya (الكيمياء atawa الخيمياء), nu jigana diwangun tina kecap al- jeung kecap basa Yunani chymeia (χυμεία) nu hartina "cast together", "pour together", "weld", "alloy" jsb. (tina chymatos, "that which is poured out, an ingot").

Ihtisar[édit | sunting sumber]

Persepsi umum ka alkémis dianggap élmuwan palsu nu hayang ngarobah timah jadi emas, nu yakin yén sagala zat dijieunna tina opat unsur bumi, hawa, seuneu, jeung cai and dabbled around the edges of mysticism and sihir. From today's perspective, these perceptions have some validity, but if we are to be objective we should judge them in the context of their times. They were attempting to explore and investigate nature before many of the most basic scientific tools and practices were available, relying instead on rules of thumb, traditions, basic observations, and mysticism to fill in the gaps.

Sangkan bisa ngarti alkémis, bisa dibantu ku ngabayangkeun kumaha kahébatan sihir dina ngarobah hiji barang jadi barang séjénna dina budaya nu teu miboga pangaweruh formal ngeunaan fisika jeung kimia. To the alchemist, there was no compelling reason to separate the chemical (material) dimension from the interpretive, symbolic or philosophical one. In those times, and even today, a physics devoid of metaphysical insight would have been as partial and incomplete as a metaphysics devoid of physical manifestation. So the alchemical symbols and processes often had both an inner meaning referring to the spiritual development of the practitioner as well as a material meaning connected to physical transformation of matter. Links between alchemy and the then commonly accepted astrology were also common. The transmutation of base metals into gold symbolized an endeavour toward perfection or the highest heights of actual existence, and the division of the world into four basic elements was as much a geometric principle as a geological one. The naive interpretations of some alchemists, or the fraudulent hopes fostered by others should not diminish the undertakings of the more sincere practitioners.

Further, the field of alchemy evolved greatly over time, beginning as a metallurgical/medicinal arm of religion, maturing into a rich field of study in its own right, devolving into mysticism and outright charlatanism, and in the end providing some of the fundamental empirical knowledge of the fields of chemistry and modern medicine.

Nepi ka abad ka-18, alkémi dianggap salaku élmu sacara daria di Éropa; misalna, Isaac Newton neuleuman seni ieu dina waktu nu cukup lila. Alkémis utama séjénna di Éropa nyéta Roger Bacon, Saint Thomas Aquinas, jeung Thomas Browne. Alkémi mimiti nyirorot pamorna dina abad ka-18 ku lahirna kimia modérn, nu nyadiakeun framework nu leuwih precise and reliable framework for matter transmutations and medicine, within a new grand design of the universe based on rational materialism.

The old matter transmutation ideal of alchemy enjoyed a moment in the sun in the 20th Century when physicists were able to convert lead atoms into gold atoms via a nuclear reaction. However, the new gold atoms lasted for under five seconds before they broke apart.

Alchemical symbolism has been occasionally used in the 20th Century by psychologists and philosophers. Carl Jung re-examined alchemical symbolism and theory and began to show the inner meaning of alchemical work as a spiritual path. Alchemical philosophy, symbols and methods have enjoyed something of a renaissance in post-modern contexts, such as the New Age movement. Even some physicists have played with alchemical ideas in books such as The Tao of Physics and The Dancing Wu Li Masters.

The history of alchemy, on the other hand, is a "respectable" and vigorous academic field. As the obscure — hermetic, of course — language of the alchemists is gradually being "deciphered", historians are becoming more aware of the intellectual connections between that discipline and other facets of Western cultural history, such as the Rosicrucian society and other mystic societies, witchcraft, and of course the evolution of science and philosophy.

Sajarah Alkémi[édit | sunting sumber]

Ngaran alkémi sabenerna ngawengku sababaraha tradisi filosofis nu ngampar ti opat milenia lan tilu benua, jeung deuih kacenderungan basana nu ngarusiah lan simbolik ngahesekeun cukcrukan hubungan sarta silih pangaruhanana.

Urang bisa ngabédakeun sahenteuna aya dua leunjeuran, nu katémbong umumna mandiri, sahanteuna dina tahap awalna: alkémi Cina, nu museur di Cina jeung wewengkon nu kapangaruhan ku budayana; sarta alkémi Kulon, nu puseurna géséh liwat rébuan taun antara Mesir, Yunani, jeung Roma, dunya Islam, nu ahirna balik deui ka Éropah. Alkémi Cina raket pisan patalina jeung Taoisme, sedengkeun alkémi Kulon ngembangkeun sistim filosofis nu mandiri, kalayan hubungan anu kacida déétna jeung ageman-ageman nu umum di Kulon. It is still an open question whether these two strands share a common origin, or to what extent they influenced each other.

Alkémi Cina[édit | sunting sumber]

Whereas Western alchemy eventually centered on the transmutation of base metals into noble ones, Chinese alchemy had a more obvious connection to medicine. The Philosopher's Stone of European alchemists can be compared to the Grand Elixir of Immortality sought by Chinese alchemists. However, in the hermetic view, these two goals were not unconnected; therefore, the two traditions may have had more in common than it initially appears.

Black powder may have been the most important invention of Chinese alchemists. Described in 9th century texts and used in fireworks by the 10th Century, it was used in cannons by 1290. From China, the use of gunpowder spread to Japan, the Mongols, the Arab world and Europe. Gunpowder was used by the Mongols against the Hungarians in 1241, and in Europe starting with the 14th century.

Chinese alchemy was closely connected to Taoist forms of medicine, such as Acupuncture and Moxibustion, and to martial arts such as Tai Chi Chuan and Kung Fu (although some Tai Chi schools believe that their art derives from the Hygienic or Philosophical branches of Taoism, not the Alchemical).

Alkémi Hindu[édit | sunting sumber]

Little is known in the West about the character and history of Hindu alchemy. An eleventh century Iranian alchemist named al-Biruni reported that they "have a science similar to alchemy which is quite peculiar to them. They call it Rasayana. It means the art which is restricted to certain operations, drugs, compounds, and medicines, most of which are taken from plants. Its principles restored the health of those who were ill beyond hope and gave back youth to fading old age."

Alkémi di Mesir kuna[édit | sunting sumber]

Alkémis Kulon sacara umum nyukcruk sasakala senina ka Mesir Kuna. Metallurgy and mysticism were inexorably tied together in the ancient world, as the transformation of drab ore into shining metal must have seemed to be an act of magic governed by mysterious rules. It is claimed therefore that Alchemy in Ancient Egypt was the domain of the priestly class.

Kota Iskandariah di Mesir ngarupakeun puseur élmu alkémi, and retained its preminence even after the decline of ancient Egyptian culture, through most of the Greek and Roman periods. Hanjakalna, praktis teu hiji-hiji acan catetan alkémi Mesir nu salamet. Catetan-catetan eta teh, mun memang pernah aya, jigana musna nalika kaisar Diocletian marentah dimusnahkeunana (diduruk) buku-buku alkémi sanggeus hasil numpes baruntakna Iskandariah (296), nu geus jadi puseur alkémi Mesir. Alkémi Mesir utamana dipikawanoh ngaliwatan tulisan filosof (Hellenis) Yunani kuna, nu saterusna kasalametkeun satutasna ditarjamahkeun di jaman Islam.

Legend has it that the founder of Egyptian alchemy was the god Thoth, called Hermes-Thoth or Thrice-Great Hermes (Hermes Trismegistus) by the Greek. According to legend, he wrote what were called the forty-two Books of Knowledge, covering all fields of knowledge — including alchemy. Hermes's symbol was the caduceus or serpent-staff, which became one of many of alchemy's principal symbols. The "Emerald Tablet" or Hermetica of Thrice-Greatest Hermes, which is known only through Greek and Arabic translations, is generally understood to form the basis for Western alchemical philosophy and practice, called the hermetic philosophy by its early practitioners.

The first point of the "Emerald Tablet" tells the purpose of hermetical science: "in truth certainly and without doubt, whatever is below is like that which is above, and whatever is above is like that which is below, to accomplish the miracles of one thing." (Burckhardt, p. 196-7). This is the macrocosm-microcosm belief central to the hermetic philosophy. In other words, the human body (the microcosm) is affected by the exterior world (the macrocosm), which includes the heavens through astrology, and the earth through the elements. (Burckhardt,p. 34-42)

Alkémi di alam Yunani[édit | sunting sumber]

The Greeks appropriated the hermetical beliefs of the Egyptians and melded with them the philosophies of Pythagoreanism, ionianism, and gnosticism. Pythagorean philosophy is, essentially, the belief that numbers rule the universe, originating from the observations of sound, stars, and geometric shapes like triangles, or anything from which a ratio could be derived. Ionian thought was based on the belief that the universe could be explained through concentration on natural phenomena; this philosophy is believed to have originated with Thales and his pupil Anaximander, and later developed by Plato and Aristotle, whose works came to be an integral part of alchemy. According to this belief, the universe can be described by a few unified natural laws that can be determined only through careful, thorough, and exacting philosophical explorations. The third component introduced to hermetical philosophy by the Greeks was gnosticism, a belief prevalent in the pre-Christian and early post-Christian Roman empire, that the world is imperfect because it was created in a flawed manner, and that learning about the nature of spiritual matter would lead to salvation. They further believed that God did not "create" the universe in the classic sense, but that the universe was created "from" him, but was corrupted in the process (rather than becoming corrupted by the transgressions of Adam and Eve, i.e. original sin). According to Gnostic belief, by worshipping the cosmos, nature, or the creatures of the world, one worships the True God. Gnostics do not seek salvation from sin, but instead seek to escape ignorance, believing that sin is merely a consequence of ignorance. Platonic and neo-Platonic theories about universals and the omnipotence of God were also absorbed.

One very important concept introduced at this time, originated by Empedocles and developed by Aristotle, was that all things in the universe were formed from only four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. According to Aristotle, each element had a sphere to which it belonged and to which it would return if left undisturbed. (Lindsay, p. 16)

The four elements of the Greek were mostly qualitative aspects of matter, not quantitative, as our modern elements are. "...True alchemy never regarded earth, air, water, and fire as corporeal or chemical substances in the present-day sense of the word. The four elements are simply the primary, and most general, qualities by means of which the amorphous and purely quantitative substance of all bodies first reveals itself in differentiated form." (Hitchcock, p. 66) Later alchemists extensively developed the mystical aspects of this concept.

Alkémi di Kamaharajaan Romawi[édit | sunting sumber]

Urang Romawi ngadopsi alkémi jeung métafisik ti Yunani, sakumaha maranéhna ngadopsi kalolobaan pangaweruh jeung filosofi Yunani. Dina panungtungan [[kamaharajaan Romawi], filosofi alkémis Yunani ngagabung jeung filosofi hermetik urang Mesir. (Lindsay)

Dina mangsa tumuwuhna pangaruh Kristen...

However, the development of Christianity in the Empire brought a contrary line of thinking, stemming from Augustine (354-430 CE), an early Christian philosopher who wrote of his beliefs shortly before the fall of the Roman Empire. In essence, he felt that reason and faith could be used to understand God, but experimental philosophy was evil: "There is also present in the soul, by means of these same bodily sense, a kind of empty longing and curiosity which aims not at taking pleasure in the flesh but at acquiring experience through the flesh, and this empty curiosity is dignified by the names of learning and science." (Augustine, p. 245)

Augustinian ideas were decidedly anti-experimental, yet when Aristotelian experimental techniques were made available to the West they were not shunned. Still, Augustinian thought was well ingrained in medieval society and was used to show alchemy as being un-Godly. Ultimately, by the high middle ages, this line of thought created a permanent rift separating alchemy from the very religion that had fostered its birth.

Much of the Roman knowledge of Alchemy, like that of the Greeks and Egyptians, is now lost. In Alexandria, the centre of alchemical studies in the Roman Empire, the art was mainly oral and in the interests of secrecy little was committed to paper. (Whence the use of "hermetic" to mean "secretive".) (Lindsay, p. 155) It is possible that some writing was done in Alexandria, and that it was subsequently lost or destroyed in fires and the turbulent periods that followed.

Alkémi Dunya Islam[édit | sunting sumber]

SAnggeus runtagna Kakaisaran Romawi, fokus kamajuan alkémi pindah ka Tatar Arab. Alkémi Islam leuwih loba dipikanyaho sabab dokuméntasina leuwih hadé: malahan mah, tulisan-tulisan nu leuwih heubeul nepi ka mangsa harita disalametkeun dina mangrupa tarjamah Islam (Arab). (Burckhardt p. 46)

The Islamic world was a melting pot for alchemy. Platonic and Aristotelian thought, which had already been somewhat appropriated into hermetical science, continued to be assimilated. Islamic alchemists such as al-Razi (Latin Rasis or Rhazes) contributed key chemical discoveries of their own, such as the technique of distillation (the words alembic and alcohol are of Arabic origin), the muriatic, sulfuric, and nitric acids, soda and potash (alkali), and more. The discovery that aqua regia, a mixture of nitric and muriatic acids, could dissolve the noblest metal — gold — was to fuel the imagination of alchemists for the next millennium.

Islamic philosophers also made great contributions to alchemical hermeticism. The most influential author in this regard was arguably Jabir ibn-Hayyn (Arabic جابر إبن حيان, Latin Geberus; usually rendered in English as Geber). He analyzed each Aristotelian element in terms of four basic qualities of hotness, coldness, dryness, and moistness. (Burkhardt, p. 29) Thus, fire was both hot and dry, earth cold and dry, water cold and moist, and air hot and moist. According to Geber, in each metal two of these qualities were interior and two were exterior. For example, lead was externally cold and dry, while gold was hot and moist. Thus, Jabir theorized, by rearranging the qualities of one metal, a different metal would result. (Burckhardt, p. 29) By this reasoning, the search for the philosopher's stone was introduced to Western alchemy.

It is now commonly accepted that Chinese alchemy influenced Arabic alchemists (Edwards pp. 33-59; Burckhardt, p. 10-22), although the extent of that influence is still a matter of debate. Likewise, Hindu learning was assimilated into Islamic alchemy, but again the extent and effects of this are not well known.

Alkémi Éropah Jaman Pertengahan[édit | sunting sumber]

Kusabab kuatna patali kana budaya Yunani jeung Romawi, alkémi kalawan gampang bisa ditarima dina filosofi Kristen, ongkoh para alkémis Éropah Pertengahan ogé sacara éksténsif nyerep pangaweruh alkémi Islam. Gerbert of Aurillac, nu engkéna jadi Pope Silvester II, ngarupakeun di antarana nu munggaran mawa sains Islam ka Éropah ti Spanyol. Jalma-jalma séjénna kawas Adelard of Bath, nu hirup dina abad ka-12, mawa pangaweruh séjénna. Ngan, nepi ka abad ka-13 .... (wah... lieur euy!)

Because of its strong connections to the Greek and Roman cultures, alchemy was easily accepted into Christian philosophy, and Medieval European alchemists extensively absorbed Islamic alchemical knowledge. Gerbert of Aurillac, who was later to become Pope Silvester II, (d. 1003) was among the first to bring Islamic science to Europe from Spain. Later men such as Adelard of Bath, who lived in the 12th century, brought additional learning. But until the thirteenth century the moves were mainly assimilative. (Hollister p. 124, 294)

In this period there appeared some deviations from the Augustinian principles of earlier Christian thinkers. Saint Anselm (1033-1109) was an Augustinian who believed faith must precede rationalism, as Augustine and most theologians prior to Anselm had believed, but Anselm put forth the opinion that faith and rationalism were compatible and encouraged rationalism in a Christian context. His views set the stage for the philosophical explosion to occur. Saint Abelard followed Anselm's work, laying the foundation for acceptance of Aristotelian thought before the first works of Aristotle reached the West. His major influence on alchemy was his belief that Platonic universals did not have a separate existence outside of man's consciousness. Abelard also systematized the analysis of philosophical contradictions. (Hollister, p. 287-8)

Robert Grosseteste (1170-1253) was a pioneer of the scientific theory that would later be used and refined by the alchemists. he took Abelard's methods of analysis and added the use of observations, experimentation, and conclusions in making scientific evaluations. Grosseteste also did much work to bridge Platonic and Aristotelian thinking. (Hollister pp. 294-5)

Albertus Magnus (1193-1280) and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) were both Dominicans who studied Aristotle and worked at reconciling the differences between philosophy and Christianity. Aquinas also did a great deal of work in developing the scientific method. He even went as far as claiming that universals could be discovered only through logical reasoning: this ran contrary to the commonly held Platonic belief that universals were found through divine illumination alone. Magnus and Aquinas were among the first to take up the examination of alchemical theory, and could be considered to be alchemists themselves, except that these two did little in the way of experimentation. One major contribution of Aquinas was the belief that since reason could not run in opposition to God, reason must be compatible with theology. (Hollister p. 290-4, 355)

The first true alchemist in Medieval Europe was Roger Bacon. His work did as much for alchemy as Robert Boyle's was to do for chemistry and Galileo's for astronomy and physics. Bacon (1214-1294) was an Oxford Franciscan who explored optics and languages in addition to alchemy. The Franciscan ideals of taking on the world rather than rejecting the world led to his conviction that experimentation was more important than reasoning: "Of the three ways in which men think that they acquire knowledge of things - authority, reasoning, and experience - only the last is effective and able to bring peace to the intellect." (Bacon p. 367) "Experimental Science controls the conclusions of all other sciences. It reveals truths which reasoning from general principles would never have discovered." (Hollister p. 294-5) Roger Bacon has also been attributed with originating the search for the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life: "That medicine which will remove all impurities and corruptibilities from the lesser metals will also, in the opinion of the wise, take off so much of the corruptibility of the body that human life may be prolonged for many centuries." The idea of immortality was replaced with the notion of long life; after all, man's time on Earth was simply to wait and prepare for immortality in the world of God. Immortality on Earth did not mesh with Christian theology. (Edwards p. 37-8)

Bacon was not the only alchemist of the high middle ages, but he was the most significant. His works were used by countless alchemists of the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. Other alchemists of Bacon's time shared several traits. First, and most obviously, nearly all were members of the clergy. This was simply because few people outside the parochial schools had the education to examine the Arabic-derived works. Also, alchemy at this time was sanctioned by the church as a good method of exploring and developing theology. Alchemy was interesting to the wide variety of churchmen because it offered a rationalistic view of the universe when men were just beginning to learn about rationalism. (Edwards p. 24-7)

So by the end of the thirteenth century, alchemy had developed into a fairly structured system of belief. Most importantly, the alchemists were all true Christians. They believed in the macrocosm-microcosm theories of Hermes, that is to say, they believed that processes that affect minerals and other substances could have an effect on the human body (e.g., if one could learn the secret of purifying gold, one could use the technique to purify the human soul.) These men believed the philosophers' stone was a substance that was capable of purifying base metals (and thereby transmuting them to gold) as well as purifying the soul. They believed in the four elements and the four qualities as described above, and they had a strong tradition of cloaking their written ideas in a labyrinth of coded jargon set with traps to mislead the uninitiated. Finally, the alchemists practiced their art: they actively experimented with chemicals and made observations and theories about how the universe operated. Their entire philosophy revolved around their belief that man's soul was divided within himself after the fall of Adam. By purifying the two parts of man's soul, man could be reunited with God. (Burckhardt p. 149)

In the fourteenth century, these views underwent a major change. William of Ockham, an Oxford Franciscan who died in 1349, attacked the Thomist view of compatibility between faith and reason. His view, widely accepted today, was that God must be accepted on faith alone; He could not be limited by human reason. Of course this view was not incorrect if one accepted the postulate of a limitless God versus limited human reasoning capability, but it virtually erased alchemy from practice in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. (Hollister p. 335) Pope John XXII in the early 1300s issued an edict against alchemy, which effectively removed all church personnel from the practice of the Art. (Edwards, p.49) The climate changes, Black plague, and increase in warfare and famine that characterized this century no doubt also served to hamper philosophical pursuits in general.

Alchemy was kept alive by men such as Nicolas Flamel, who was noteworthy only because he was one of the few alchemists writing in those troubled times. Flamel lived from 1330 to 1417 and would serve as the archetype for the next phase of alchemy. He was not a religious scholar as were many of his predecessors, and his entire interest in the subject revolved around the pursuit of the philosopher's stone, which he is reputed to have found; his work spends a great deal of time describing the processes and reactions, but never actually gives the formula for carrying out the transmutations. Most of his work was aimed at gathering alchemical knowledge that had existed before him, especially as regarded the philosophers' stone. (Burckhardt pp.170-181)

Through the high middle ages (1300-1500) alchemists were much like Nicolas Flamel: they concentrated on looking for the philosophers' stone and the elixir of youth (now believed to be separate things.) This had only one possible consequence; the cryptic allusions and symbolism led to wide variations in interpretation of the art and, while many "true", that is, inducted, alchemists existed, many new alchemists interpreted the purification of the soul to mean the transmutation of lead into gold and pursued this track. These men came to be viewed as magicians and sorcerers by the common people, and were often persecuted for their practices. (Edwards pp. 50-75; Norton pp lxiii-lxvii)

Tycho Brahe, better known for his astronomical investigations, was also an alchemist. He had a laboratory built for that purpose at his Uraniborg observatory/research institute.

One of these men who emerged at the beginning of the sixteenth century was named Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. This alchemist believed himself to be a wizard and actually thought himself capable of summoning spirits. His influence was negligible, but like Flamel, he produced writings which were referred to by alchemists of later years. Again like Flamel, he did much to change alchemy from a mystical philosophy to an occultist magic. He did keep alive the philosophies of the earlier alchemists, including experimental science, numerology, etc., but he added magic theory, which reinforced the idea of alchemy as an occultist belief. In spite of all this, Agrippa was still a Christian, though his views often came into conflict with the church. Edwardes p56-9; Wilson p.23-9)

Alkémi di Jaman Modérn jeung Renaissance[édit | sunting sumber]

Alkémi Éropah tetep lumangsung dina cara kieu nepi ka mangsa medalna Renaissance.

European alchemy continued in this way through the dawning of the Renaissance. The era also saw a flourishing of con artists who would would use chemical tricks and sleight of hand to "demonstrate" the transmutation of common metals into gold, or claim to possess secret knowledge that — with a "small" initial investment — would surely lead to to that goal.

The most important name in this period is Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus, (Theocrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 14931541) who cast alchemy into a new form, rejecting some of the occultism that had accumulated over the years and promoting the use of observations and experiments to learn about the human body. He rejected Gnostic traditions, but kept much of the Hermetical, neo-Platonic, and Pythagorean philosophies; however, Hermetical science had so much Aristotelian theory that his rejection of Gnosticism was practically meaningless. In particular, Paracelsus rejected the magic theories of Agrippa and Flamel. He did not think of himself as a magician, and scorned those who did. (Williams p.239-45)

Paracelsus pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals in medicine, and wrote "Many have said of Alchemy, that it is for the making of gold and silver. For me such is not the aim, but to consider only what virtue and power may lie in medicines." (Edwardes, p.47) His hermetical views were that sickness and health in the body relied on the harmony of man the microcosm and Nature the macrocosm. He took an approach different from those before him, using this analogy not in the manner of soul-purification but in the manner that humans must have certain balances of minerals in their bodies, and that certain illnesses of the body had chemical remedies that could cure them. (Debus & Multhauf, p.6-12)

In England, the topic of alchemy in that time frame is often associated with Doctor John Dee (13 July 1527 - December, 1608), better known for his role as astrologer, cryptographer, and general "scientific consultant" to Queen Elizabeth I. Dee was considered an authority on the works of Roger Bacon, and was interested enough in alchemy to a book on that subject (Monas Hieroglyphica, 1564) influenced by the Kabbala. In the life and writings of John Dee it is possible to see a parallel development to that of Paracelsus, insofar as Dee was also redefining the alchemical and magical traditions by the application of more modern methodology. Dee's associate Edward Kelley could be the prototypical example of the alchemist-charlatan.

Nyirorotna alkémi Kulon[édit | sunting sumber]

The demise of Western alchemy was brought about by the rise of modern science with its emphasis on rigorous quantitative experimentation and its disdain for "ancient wisdom". Although the seeds of these events were planted as early as the 17th century, alchemy still flourished for some two hundred years, and in fact may have reached its apogee in the 18th century.

Robert Boyle (1627-1691), better known for his studies of gases (cf. Boyles law) pioneered the scientific method in chemical investigations. He assumed nothing in his experiments and compiled every piece of relevant data; in a typical experiment, Boyle would note the place in which the experiment was carried out, the wind characteristics, the position of the sun and moon, and the barometer reading, all just in case they proved to be relevant. (Pilkington p.11) This approach eventually led to the the founding of modern chemistry in the 18th and 19th centuries, based on revolutionary discoveries of Lavoisier and John Dalton — which finally provided a logical, quantitative and reliable framework for understanding matter transmutations, and revealed the futility of longstanding alchemical goals such as the philospher's stone.

Meanwhile, Paracelsian alchemy led to the development of modern medicine. Experimentalists gradually uncovered the workings of the human body, such as blood circulation (Harvey, 1616), and eventually traced many diseases to infections with germs (Koch and Pasteur, 19th century) or lack of natural nutrients and vitamins (Lind, Eijkman, Funk, et al.). Supported by parallel developments in organic chemistry, the new science easily displaced alchemy from its medical roles, interpretive and prescritive, while deflating its hopes of miraculous elixirs and exposing the inefectiveness or even toxicity of its remedies.

Thus, as science steadily continued to uncover and rationalize the clockwork of the universe, founded on its own materialistic metaphysics, Alchemy was left deprived of its chemical and medical connections — but still incurably burdened by them. Reduced to an arcane philosophical system, poorly connected to the material world, it suffered the common fate of other esoteric disciplines such as Astrology and Kabalism: excluded from university curricula, shunned by its former patrons, ostracized by scientists, and commonly viewed as the epitome of charlatanism and superstition.

These develpoments could be interpreted as part of a broader reaction in European intellectualism against the Romantic movement of the preceding century. Be as it may, it is sobering to observe how a discipline that held so much intellectual and material prestige, for more than two thousand years, could disappear so easily from the universe of Western thought.

Tempo ogé: The four humours, Necromancy, Jungian Psychology, Historicism, Physics and Chemistry

Tumbu kaluar[édit | sunting sumber]