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Rheomode
03-04-2013, 04:27 PM
I am currently reading her Foundations of Newton's Alchemy (which is a fascinating book btw), and I have some questions concerning conclusions she has drawn about the alchemist's understanding of the alchemical process in the 17th century. Now, granted :) she was a history scholar and as such approaches the topic from that angle, but it seems clear that she spent a good deal of time reading alchemical works, or at least other scholar's interpretations of these works. In this book it looks as though she is drawing most of her personal understanding of alchemy from Jung's version of the Art. I am familiar with Jung and have read through some of his works, but I have not studied him in depth, so this may be why I am having a hard time nailing down the sources of some of her conclusions.

Specifically I am curious about the following excerpts starting on page 28, speaking of the matter upon which the alchemist projects:

... the use of the matter as the external medium for projection, as well as the acts actually performed in the laboratory, were absolutely essential for the functioning of alchemy. It was only that the knowledge of the matter had to be kept vague. Thus the alchemist necessarily used obscure, symbolic, and irrational terminology for his materials... Equally important was the lack of self-awareness. Too much insight into his own psyche would impair impair the alchemist's psychological processes onto matter. Thus the older alchemy comprised a delicate balance of ignorance, and an overemphasis on either it's material or its psychological side would seriously impair its vitality."

If anyone is familiar with Jung, are these his observations? Or has anyone run across this type of interpretation in works pre-1975?

~Jen

Illen A. Cluf
03-04-2013, 05:10 PM
If anyone is familiar with Jung, are these his observations? Or has anyone run across this type of interpretation in works pre-1975?

~Jen

Interesting coincidence! I just cracked this book open three days ago and started reading it. I have most of Jung's books on Alchemy and will see if he made those types of observations.

In the meantime, here is a relevant quote from Wikipedia, which supports what B.J.T. Dobbs is saying:

"The fundamental thesis Jung is advancing about the relationship between Alchemy and Psychology is that for pre-scientific humans there is not a sharp distinction between subject and object and thus this leads them to unconsciously project their own inner states onto external objects (especially objects that are mostly unknown to them), so a reflective analysis of alchemical symbols becomes revelatory about the unconscious psychic life of this time period. Prior to this rational segregation of experience the world was a totally different one, phenomenologically, as people did not distinguish between the qualities of the object they were perceiving and their own values, emotions, and beliefs. It is partly for this reason that the alchemists cannot say aloud exactly what the philosopher's stone really 'is' and why there are so many different symbols for the work."

From:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_and_Alchemy

Illen

Rheomode
03-04-2013, 06:00 PM
Fantastic coincidence :D I would be happy to have any kind of discussion about this book that interests you, I am 1/3 of the way through it, and am finding it really enjoyable, it's an amazing window into that time period, as well as a dangerously comprehensive bibliography of this era (dangerous to the bank account that is...).

And thanks much for the quote, this does seem to support her view directly. If you find more about this from Jung in the future, feel free to share, I'll be here for a while. I am curious about the "lack of self-awareness" or "too much insight into his own psyche" ideas. I suppose a better understanding of Jung's exploration would shed light on this :-)

Illen A. Cluf
03-05-2013, 01:01 AM
Fantastic coincidence :D I would be happy to have any kind of discussion about this book that interests you, I am 1/3 of the way through it, and am finding it really enjoyable, it's an amazing window into that time period, as well as a dangerously comprehensive bibliography of this era (dangerous to the bank account that is...).

And thanks much for the quote, this does seem to support her view directly. If you find more about this from Jung in the future, feel free to share, I'll be here for a while. I am curious about the "lack of self-awareness" or "too much insight into his own psyche" ideas. I suppose a better understanding of Jung's exploration would shed light on this :-)

I'd be more than happy to discuss the book with you. I have barely started it, and currently, I'm only about 20 pages into it. I have long been fascinated with Newton's work, and his incredible contributions to human advancement.

I quickly browsed Volume 12 of Jung's Collected Works, "Psychology and Alchemy", and indeed there are many statements which support Dobb's assertion. Here, for example is a quote from pages 227-228:

"This was a time when the mind of the alchemist was still grappling with the problems of matter, when the exploring consciousness was confronted by the dark void of the unknown, in which figures and laws were dimly perceived and attributed to matter although they really belonged to the psyche. Everything unknown and empty is filled with psychological projection; it is as if the investigator's own psychic background were mirrored in the darkness. What he sees in matter, or thinks he can see, is chiefly the data of his own unconscious which he is projecting into it. In other words, he encounters in matter, as apparently belonging to it, certain qualities and potential meanings of whose psychic nature he is entirely unconscious. This is particularly true of classical alchemy, when empirical science and mystical philosophy were more or less undifferentiated."

On pages 244-245 he says:

"The real nature of matter was unknown to the alchemist: he knew it only in hints. In seeking to explore it he projected the unconscious into the darkness of matter in order to illuminate it. In order to explain the mystery of matter he projected yet another mystery - his own unknown psychic background - into what was to be explained: Obscurum per obscurius, ignotum per ignotius!. This procedure was not, of course, intentional; it was an involuntary occurrence."

"Strictly speaking, projection is never made; it happens, it is simply there. In the darkness of anything external to me I find, without recognizing it as such, an interior or psychic life that is my own. It would therefore be a mistake in my opinion to explain the formula "tam ethice quam physice" by the theory of correspondences, and to say that this is its "cause". On the contrary, this theory is more likely to be a rationalization of the experience of projection. The alchemist did not practice his art because he believed on theoretical grounds in correspondence; the point is that he had a theory of correspondence because he experienced the presence of pre-existing ideas in physical matter. I am therefore inclined to assume that the real root of alchemy is to be sought less in philosophical doctrines than in the projections of individual investigators. I mean by this that while working on his chemical experiments the operator had certain psychic experiences which appeared to him as the particular behaviour of the chemical process. Since it was a question of projection, he was naturally unconscious of the fact that the experience had nothing to do with matter itself (that is, with matter as we know it today). He experienced his projection as a property of matter; but what he was in reality experiencing was his own unconscious. In this way he recapitulated the whole history of man's knowledge of nature."

Illen

solomon levi
03-05-2013, 05:44 AM
hmm. i thought Dobbs books were more on the lab side... haven't read them, but they're often referenced for Newton's notes on labwork.
fascinating though... projection. it's difficult to believe most alchemical authors were that unsophisticated. or is Jung suggesting they are guardians/preservers of that mindset? granted, people project all the time without realising it... something i've put conscious attention towards. i don't see how that relates to Newton's alchemy.

Illen A. Cluf
03-05-2013, 11:53 AM
hmm. i thought Dobbs books were more on the lab side... haven't read them, but they're often referenced for Newton's notes on labwork.
fascinating though... projection. it's difficult to believe most alchemical authors were that unsophisticated. or is Jung suggesting they are guardians/preservers of that mindset? granted, people project all the time without realising it... something i've put conscious attention towards. i don't see how that relates to Newton's alchemy.

The Jungian material is in the beginning part of her book, which is the "Conceptual Background". She makes the point that "projection" occurred before the more modern era, before the alchemists were able to analyze themselves (their "psyches") and the true nature of matter, with the tools of modern science.

I don't necessarily agree with her at this point, but I'm keeping an open mind as I read her perspective.

I have yet to see how all this relates to Newton. I have the feeling that she will make the case that Newton stood at the doorway of the ways of the past, and the ways of modern times.

Illen

Rheomode
03-05-2013, 04:31 PM
No need to rely on Dobbs for Newton's lab notes, you can read them for yourself! He was fabulously meticulous:


http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/view/MS-ADD-03973/9

There are quite a few of his notebooks digitized now so anyone can access them.

I confess a special love for Newton :o I am happy to be in good company. These excerpts that you've posted are great, its really useful to have this perspective in mind now as I progress though the book. This in particular interests me with regard to Newton:


This was a time when the mind of the alchemist was still grappling with the problems of matter, when the exploring consciousness was confronted by the dark void of the unknown, in which figures and laws were dimly perceived and attributed to matter although they really belonged to the psyche.

I like to think (and it is a good possibility) that Newton's interest and exploration into the greater world started early for him, and if this was the case, there may be more to his scientific works than the face value. It occurred to me a few weeks ago that you can take his laws of motion of the physical world and kind of apply them to metaphysics as well (its likely this has been discussed somewhere already, but I haven't yet read all of his bios)... the third law of action and reaction being equal and opposite is kind of neat within this framework. I'm curious about the possibility that his laws might communicate layers of meaning, and when we approach this from our perspectives of esotericism, it's not so much of a stretch. It makes me wonder if maybe he not only stood at the doorway between times, but perhaps started building a bridge between worlds. The man was really damn smart in some unfathomable ways :)

solomon levi
03-05-2013, 04:32 PM
Thanks Illen. I look forward to both of your summations. :)

horticult
03-05-2013, 05:12 PM
cgj can not be understand without freud
read freud about dreams and jokes, at least ; its quite funny & revealing; & of course his psychopathology!!
read cgj tavistock

imho newton did only 1 but genial thing = first writting down of physical law into equation; cars & pc rose from it

lwowl
03-05-2013, 06:00 PM
cgj can not be understand without freud
read freud about dreams and jokes, at least ; its quite funny & revealing; & of course his psychopathology!!
read cgj tavistock

imho newton did only 1 but genial thing = first writting down of physical law into equation; cars & pc rose from it

If you're interested in the relationship between Freud, Jung and Alchemy then you might be interested in this:
http://www.alchemylife.org/Pages/bltav1_wpf/bltav1_wpf.html
Click to Psychological Elements
Freud was an ass responsible for the suicide of Dr. Herbert Silberer, who was one of his students along with Jung. Silberer was the first to make the connection between alchemy and psyche.

"Dr. Jung gathered the largest private collection of alchemical texts in the world. As he pursued his investigations Jung was astonished to discover those functions and themes he mapped in his medical practice were mirrored in alchemical texts hundreds of years old. Jung’s creative and inspirational approach developed from his professional medical practice coupled to his intense study of ancient alchemical texts generated voluminous commentaries. His published commentaries popularized the nascent modern pursuit of spiritual alchemy.

Though he may have dismissed alchemy as “rather silly” on first exposure to it through Silberer’s landmark work, Jung was nonetheless greatly influenced by Silberer’s revelation that alchemy was really the pursuit of spiritual evolution and fulfillment. Silberer gave credit to A.E. Hitchcock for first suggesting this in, Remarks upon Alchemy and the Alchemists, published in 1857. Hitchock, was a Major General in the U.S. Army, a philosopher soldier. He amassed a large collection of original alchemical manuscripts. Perhaps because he was a professional soldier and not an academic nor scientist Remarks upon Alchemy and the Alchemists was overlooked by the scientific and academic communities at the time, but it had a following among occultists.

Silberer was a Viennese psychiatrist psychoanalyst involved with the circle of pioneers in the field of psychology surrounding Sigmund Freud, including Carl Jung and Alfred Adler. So through the publication of Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbols, alchemy though long dismissed as foolish, again came to the attention of professionals and academics. Sadly when Silberer presented a copy to Freud he was severely criticized. He became despondent and hung himself. Had he not received such a harsh response from his mentor Freud no doubt he would have pursued the subject in greater detail many years before Jung became engrossed with it. Jung learned from the tragic fate of Silberer and braced himself for rejection from Freud when Jung published his own theories on psychoanalysis and psychology. Freud, upon reading Jung’s published theories severely criticized him also."

lwowl

Rheomode
03-05-2013, 06:24 PM
Great website! I love the artwork at the top of the page, that's gorgeous piece, whatever it is :) I run across Silberer's book every now and again and I still haven't read it, but I definitely want to at some point... I remember reading something about this sadness before, it may have been in Jung's autobiography.

And I dunno... I kind of feel that I got a pretty decent glimpse into Jung via his Red Book, but! I have not yet read any of his lectures, so I leave the verdict open on this one.

solomon levi
03-05-2013, 06:46 PM
hi rheomode. i didn't see your last post before. yeah, Newton's amazing. i read a couple books by Newman and Principe. here's a video at bottom of page you might enjoy.
http://heterodoxology.com/2012/10/10/william-newman-demonstrates-alchemical-transmutation-with-a-few-notes-on-whiggishness/

solomon levi
03-05-2013, 08:35 PM
another vid, newton's dark secrets:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdmhPfGo3fE

Rheomode
03-05-2013, 10:20 PM
Thanks for the links! I watched as much as I could of each of them (my time for watching things on screens is limited), the documentary was fun and seems to be overview of material you can find in the biographies, and Newman certainly has an interesting angle.. although I have a hard time shaking the suspicion that these scholars and scientists are still missing the forest for the trees. An awful lot of scoffing going on there :)

Illen A. Cluf
03-06-2013, 12:14 AM
Fantastic coincidence :D I would be happy to have any kind of discussion about this book that interests you, I am 1/3 of the way through it, and am finding it really enjoyable, it's an amazing window into that time period, as well as a dangerously comprehensive bibliography of this era (dangerous to the bank account that is...).

And thanks much for the quote, this does seem to support her view directly. If you find more about this from Jung in the future, feel free to share, I'll be here for a while. I am curious about the "lack of self-awareness" or "too much insight into his own psyche" ideas. I suppose a better understanding of Jung's exploration would shed light on this :-)

Here is another quote from Volume 12 of Jung's Collected Works (pages 278-279), which more directly addresses the ideas you mention above:

"But, just because of this intermingling of the physical and the psychic, it always remains an obscure point whether the ultimate transformations in the alchemical process are to be sought more in the material or more in the spiritual realm. Actually, however, the question is wrongly put: there was no 'either-or' for that age, but there did exist an intermediate realm between mind and matter, i.e., a psychic realm of subtle bodies whose characteristic it is to manifest themselves in a mental as well as a material form. This is the only view that makes sense of alchemical ways of thought, which must otherwise appear nonsensical. Obviously, the existence of this intermediate realm comes to a sudden stop the moment we try to investigate matter in and for itself, apart from all projection; and it remains non-existent so long as we believe we known anything conclusive about matter or the psyche. But the moment when physics touches on the 'untrodden, untreadable regions,' and when psychology has at the same time to admit that there are other forms of psychic life besides the acquisitions of personal consciousness - in other words, when psychology too touches on an impenetrable darkness - then the intermediate realm of subtle bodies comes to life again, and the physical and the psychic are once more blended in an indissoluble unity."

Illen

solomon levi
03-06-2013, 12:49 PM
I love what was being realised in these quotes.
I think there is still the tunnel vision though.
Alchemy is "as above so below, etc".
It always surprises me when people verify that principle and think
that specialised area is all alchemy is about.
Psychology is pretty encompassing though... near the root, if not the root.
Consider Ouspensky:
"I SHALL speak about the study of psychology, but I must warn you
that the psychology about which I speak is very different from
anything you may know under this name.
To begin with I must say that practically never in history has
psychology stood at so low a level as at the present time. It has lost
all touch with its origin and its meaning so that now it is even
difficult to define the term psychology: that is, to say what
psychology is and what it studies. And this is so in spite of the fact
that never in history have there been so many psychological
theories and so many psychological writings.
Psychology is sometimes called a new science. This is quite
wrong. Psychology is, perhaps, the oldest science, and,
unfortunately, in its most essential features a forgotten science.
In order to understand how psychology can be denned it is
necessary to realise that psychology except in modern times has
never existed under its own name. For one reason or another
psychology always was suspected of wrong or subversive tendencies.
either religious or political or moral and had to use different
disguises..."
read more here if you like:
http://www.messagefrommasters.com/Ebooks/Gurdjieff_Ouspensky_Books/Ouspensky_-_The_Psychology_of_Man's_Possible_Evolution.pdf

Rheomode
03-06-2013, 04:30 PM
Fantastic, this excerpt nails it! And really interesting as well, Jung certainly analyzed the hell out of all of this, and I am in perpetual awe of his personal discoveries and body of work. Although honestly, most of the time I'm reading him, I'm like, "Yeah.. totally, yeah.. totally, yeah.. totally, wait.. what?" :D

And I couldn't agree more Solomon, it seems that the more you try to rationally nail down and define the alchemical process, the further you push yourself away from actually apprehending it :)

Andro
03-06-2013, 11:56 PM
it seems that the more you try to rationally nail down and define the alchemical process, the further you push yourself away from actually apprehending it :)

Actually, Alchemical processes can be regarded as quite rational and logical. But they are also much more than that, as well.

It's most people who aren't rational, despite what they keep telling themselves...

Said one Dark Warlord of the 20th century: “I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.”

BTW, he also said: “As in everything, nature is the best instructor.”

(at least try to evaluate those quotes outside their historical context:))

Rheomode
03-07-2013, 12:50 AM
I get you :) In my experience so far, I drive what I can of the rational aspect via scientific working and observations into my process, but it's when I rest and shut down that rational side that the illuminations filter in, you know, balance. That's what I was thinking of when my mouth shot off. I expect I am sharing nothing that you aren't already aware of.. that or I am completely crazy. I frequently suspect the latter.


(at least try to evaluate those quotes outside their historical context)

Give me time :p And unfair! How are these selections analogous... so, my view is likely due my experience (see above), but I don't understand why texts designed to transmit transcendent wisdom would require a knowledge of historical context.. wisdom is wisdom is wisdom. If I were wise and had something amazing to share that would help people find a way to free themselves from the trappings of the mundane, I would want to organize it in a way so that it could reach as many people as possible, for as long as possible. I guess that's kind of why I find the 17th c manuscripts so brilliant, it seems like they kind of achieved this via the imagery and verbiage they chose, in a way that sidesteps historical context.

Maybe? I bet Newton thought so :cool:

solomon levi
03-07-2013, 01:53 AM
Originally Posted by Rheomode
it seems that the more you try to rationally nail down and define the alchemical process, the further you push yourself away from actually apprehending it

i think this is pretty accurate. i wrote something about fleeing mercury somewhere that makes similar points. it flees the grasping hand. the mercurial serpent must be 'nailed down' to a hollow oak.

Illen A. Cluf
03-07-2013, 02:03 AM
Consider Ouspensky:

Another writer who I admire! Thanks for sending this link. It's a long document, but I will enjoy reading it. I have many of his books, but I don't think I have this one.

Illen

Illen A. Cluf
03-07-2013, 02:14 AM
Fantastic, this excerpt nails it! And really interesting as well, Jung certainly analyzed the hell out of all of this, and I am in perpetual awe of his personal discoveries and body of work. Although honestly, most of the time I'm reading him, I'm like, "Yeah.. totally, yeah.. totally, yeah.. totally, wait.. what?" :D


Hi Jen,
Jung is certainly far more interesting and astute than Freud was. Freud was very much against introducing the spiritual part of our psyches, whereas Silberer ( I have his book but only read parts of it) and Jung went against him and introduced this aspect. I understand that Freud was so upset with Silberer for writing about this aspect that he gave him such a strong rebute that Silberer committed suicide afterwards. Jung also opposed Freud in this regard but was prepared for the rebuke he knew he would get.

I'm more than half way through Dobb's book now and am really enjoying it. There was one particular quote that I found especially interesting (page 107):

"Since, however, the Christian revelation had to be the touchstone of truth, all of those fascinating new-old ideas in the esoteric writings of antiquity had to be reconciled with Christianity or else rejected out of hand."

Illen

solomon levi
03-07-2013, 02:30 AM
:) get you reading Castaneda and we'll be literary twins. he, Ousp/Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti (who i know you read and admire) are like my top 3 influences, authors who changed my life.

if you like Dobbs, you must read about Starkey, an excellent book with practical lab info... what got me into volatile alkali...
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226577147/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2/189-2916212-7073433?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_r=193AZWK4Y4GZHVQCASN7&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_i=0226577023

such an enjoyable fascinating read.
not to imply that Dobbs wrote it... i just imagine they are similarly interesting.

Illen A. Cluf
03-07-2013, 03:28 AM
:) get you reading Castaneda and we'll be literary twins. he, Ousp/Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti (who i know you read and admire) are like my top 3 influences, authors who changed my life.

if you like Dobbs, you must read about Starkey, an excellent book with practical lab info... what got me into volatile alkali...
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226577147/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2/189-2916212-7073433?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_r=193AZWK4Y4GZHVQCASN7&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_i=0226577023

such an enjoyable fascinating read.
not to imply that Dobbs wrote it... i just imagine they are similarly interesting.

I guess we're literary twins! I read all of Castenada's books decades ago.

I have many authors who changed my life. Krishnamurti is definitely at the top, but so are Hermann Hesse, Ouspensky/Gurdjieff, Castaneda, Robert Pirsig, Michael Baigent and many others.

I have read Gehennical Fire, as well as many other books by William R. Newman and Lawrence Principe. The latest book I purchased by Principe was "The Secrets of Alchemy". These books are excellent!

Illen

Rheomode
03-08-2013, 01:21 AM
Gehennical Fire looks super interesting to me, I have added it to my cart. Thanks!

And you know Illen, I got to the section on Henry More in the book, and my brain blew in like 20 different directions at once, so I kinda got caught up here for a bit... are you familiar with him? I'm really liking the impact he seems to have made on Newton, the plot thickens. The history is amazing here, so many interesting characters and philosophies. I'm a fan of d'Espagnet and I have much respect for Descartes, so watching More kind of settle in between them is neat. I was actually surprised at how little I could find on the net, concerning More or his works, but The Immortality of the Soul has also been added to my cart and I have placed my order, done and done!

I would like to bring this mindset back into fashion:


In other words, he based his reasoning on three great authorities: the authority of reason, divine authority, and the authority of antiquity.

:D

I wasn't aware of this issue of the Christianization of philosophies during this time period. The quote you cite is very interesting, for me, in a couple of areas, and if you'd like to share, I'd like to hear. The first thought that occurred to me was, "Jesus.. I wonder how much of my own education and perception has been influenced or even skewed by this period of Christianization..." O_O Especially considering my love for 17th c manuscripts, and how familiar More's process is to me, as he was drawing connections and finding all of the similarities between systems of thought in antiquity that I stumbled across during my development as well.

Even more intriguing is the fact that I don't come from a religious background, so I knew nothing of the Bible until I dove into it myself after being directed there by the manuscripts that were published during this time period, and I saw nothing but metaphor everywhere I looked in that book. Fascinating :)

Seems like they made it work out.

That's quite a rock to toss in the pond, I wonder if those ripples enabled Blavatsky's mind to move the way it did, with regards to unifying the systems.

~Jen

Illen A. Cluf
03-08-2013, 04:14 AM
And you know Illen, I got to the section on Henry More in the book, and my brain blew in like 20 different directions at once, so I kinda got caught up here for a bit... are you familiar with him?

That section was indeed quite interesting. He's not as well known as Thomas More, but I guess he's best known for his disagreements with Rene Descartes. The whole part about mechanical philosophy was quite fascinating.


I was actually surprised at how little I could find on the net, concerning More or his works, but The Immortality of the Soul has also been added to my cart and I have placed my order, done and done!

Here's a free source for his "Collection of Several Philosophical Writings":

http://archive.org/details/collectionofseve00morehttp://





I wasn't aware of this issue of the Christianization of philosophies during this time period. The quote you cite is very interesting, for me, in a couple of areas, and if you'd like to share, I'd like to hear. The first thought that occurred to me was, "Jesus.. I wonder how much of my own education and perception has been influenced or even skewed by this period of Christianization..." O_O Especially considering my love for 17th c manuscripts, and how familiar More's process is to me, as he was drawing connections and finding all of the similarities between systems of thought in antiquity that I stumbled across during my development as well.

Even more intriguing is the fact that I don't come from a religious background, so I knew nothing of the Bible until I dove into it myself after being directed there by the manuscripts that were published during this time period, and I saw nothing but metaphor everywhere I looked in that book. Fascinating :)


The Christianization of philosophies had actually been going on quite some time before Newton. I was brought up as a Catholic, but turned against the Church after an incident when I was about ten years of age, immediately after being "confirmed". From that time onwards, I decided to read the entire Bible and all I could about other religions, and this fascination has never left me. I was obsessed with trying to discover why so many who belonged to different faiths were so insistent that theirs was the only way and that all others were heathens, which is still the prevailing view. If there was only one God, and only one true religion, was it fair to be born in a geographical region, or to a family, that only taught/indoctrinated one of the other religions? Of course not. Therefore, perhaps all religions are seriously flawed. I personally do not see the value of any religious organization whatsoever. For me, religion is a personal philosophy, one that does not require elaborate castles, robed administrators, and old rituals practiced without any longer understanding the meaning behind those rituals. The whole world is a Church, and our access to it should not be through the guidance of a protected pervert or a defective and totally misunderstood set of writings. Dobbs was saying that a lot of biblical references were included in the alchemical treatises so that they would conform with the prevailing Christian doctrines. During those times it was very dangerous to be involved with something that did not meet the approval of Christian ways. The Church has a long history of spilling the blood of anyone who goes against its beliefs.


That's quite a rock to toss in the pond, I wonder if those ripples enabled Blavatsky's mind to move the way it did, with regards to unifying the systems.

Blavatsky was a result of the separation of matter and spirit by science. The intense study of physical matter leading to Chemistry, Medicine and Physics began in the 17th century, severing off the spiritual altogether. The spiritual was then picked up by other groups who separated it from matter, and extreme spiritual philosophies such as that practiced by the Theosophists beginning in the 1800s developed. These spun off into all sorts of modern New Age philosophies.

Luckily, Alchemy is making a comeback. It has always been a philosophy which tries to bring spirit and matter together in a holy union.

Illen

Rheomode
03-09-2013, 06:19 PM
Thank you for sharing :) Every once in a while I catch myself thinking, "Maybe I could choose the catalyst for once ??" But then I suppose that somewhere along the line I did, and for good reason.


The whole part about mechanical philosophy was quite fascinating.

Funny that you mention this, it's been on my mind for a bit. I wasn't aware of this shift/split in the philosophy (you'll notice that my historical knowledge is spotty and surface at best, so please don't hesitate to expand my view), and I had to wonder if these might be the guys that the classical authors had in mind as they spent a considerable portion of their words on warnings against the charlatans and pretenders. I recognize that there were likely a few interesting characters publishing questionable works at the time, I mean it was like a bomb was dropped in 17th c Europe and thousands of papers flew everywhere, but these mechanical philosophers would have had a higher profile and possibly wider circulation. It was a question for me for a while because most of the classical authors seemed to support each other, and although you can find the occasional hint that a couple of them might have made it most but not all of the way to the goal, the author still communicates a profound respect towards the others. So I'd end up confused because it wasn't often that I'd get impression that someone was pretending be in possession of knowledge that they didn't have, and who knows, maybe a few even published prematurely, but I was always on the lookout, which was distracting.

I wonder if it might be useful to include these mechanical works in the collections found online, to add more context.

It's really interesting to read about the analogy that surfaced with regard to the constituent particles in the universe and the alphabet, which I've heard before and actually feels like an elegant illustration to me in one respect, but in the minds of the mechanical philosophers it seems to have played out differently.. I don't know, reading some of this is tricky for me, Dobbs illustrates the deductions and assumptions of all the sides, and most of the time I am seeing everyone saying the same damn thing (again, clarity at a distance). But it seems that planting these ideas in a mind where the rational reigns supreme does little more than set the stage for methodological reductionism. This might be a limited view on my part :)


Luckily, Alchemy is making a comeback. It has always been a philosophy which tries to bring spirit and matter together in a holy union.

This is a conversation I'd like to have in the future maybe, I have been noticing interesting differences between the texts published today as compared to older texts, and so I wouldn't mind gaining some insight :)

And btw, regarding this:


The whole world is a Church, and our access to it should not be through the guidance of a protected pervert or a defective and totally misunderstood set of writings.

I couldn't agree more.

Rheomode
03-10-2013, 01:55 AM
So in a bizarre twist of synchronicity, the two discussions in this forum I am involved with just collided:

http://www.alchemyandchemistry.edwardworthlibrary.ie/Chymistry-at-the-Universities/Utrecht

Boerhaave is the first of the mechanical philosophers that Dobbs discusses, and quote at the top of the page seems to be a nice illustration of the divide that starts taking place during this time:


Jo. Conr. Barchausen, professor of chemistry at Utrecht, deserves well to be read. He is an honest writer, and sufficiently accurate; he delivers good matter in an excellent style, tho’ his reasonings are not so much to our mind. His Elementa Chemiae are printed in 4to, and contain a great many particular experiments, and manual operations, no where else to be met withal.

Herman Boerhaave, A new method of chemistry (London, 1727), p. 39.

:D!

Illen A. Cluf
03-10-2013, 04:21 PM
Thank you for sharing :) Every once in a while I catch myself thinking, "Maybe I could choose the catalyst for once ??" But then I suppose that somewhere along the line I did, and for good reason.

"Choice" is a strange concept. We all think we have "freedom of choice' but "choice" is dependent an so many uncontrollable actions. "Choice" is not only dependent on experience, but also very much on "knowledge". And "knowledge" is largely based on geography, circumstance and indoctrination. For example, it is well known that historical "fact" is enormously biased in favor of the nationality who wrote it. Medical "breakthroughs" are largely based on grants, and the largest sponsor of grants are the international drug companies. Thus you will see almost no publications on how to boost our immune systems, the only key to good health.


Funny that you mention this, it's been on my mind for a bit. I wasn't aware of this shift/split in the philosophy (you'll notice that my historical knowledge is spotty and surface at best, so please don't hesitate to expand my view), and I had to wonder if these might be the guys that the classical authors had in mind as they spent a considerable portion of their words on warnings against the charlatans and pretenders.

I think that the key charlatans were amongst the Platonic and Neo-Platonic groups, although new ones also sprang up after mechanical philosophy took the stage. Charlatans and pretenders are the curse of humanity and one of the key reasons why we progress so slowly in terms of quality. We are still apes, but the only difference is that we are now dressed in business suits. Not only were charlatans and pretenders prevalent throughout the alchemical writings, they are even more prevalent today amongst all the various Alchemy forums. I believe that one of the problems is that it is the general nature of people to WANT to be cheated and deceived, especially if it involves drama of an entertaining nature. This is one of the main reasons for the success of slick, dramatic "snake oil" salesmen in the past, and the real estate agents and lotteries and gambling casinos of today. I notice also that many naive beginners like to "follow" the most pretentious and dramatic claimants.


It was a question for me for a while because most of the classical authors seemed to support each other, and although you can find the occasional hint that a couple of them might have made it most but not all of the way to the goal, the author still communicates a profound respect towards the others. So I'd end up confused because it wasn't often that I'd get impression that someone was pretending be in possession of knowledge that they didn't have, and who knows, maybe a few even published prematurely, but I was always on the lookout, which was distracting.

This respect that alchemists had for those noteworthy alchemists that preceded them is one of the main reasons why I still believe in the possibility of transmutation as observed by the ancients. Their explanations are undoubtedly incorrect, but I cannot believe that their observations were incorrect.. But I believe that it is true that many, if not most, of the authors did not actually achieve the Philosophers Stone. It is so difficult to know which authors to invest time with and which ones to avoid, especially since they speak in riddles, symbols and allegories. I believe that ANY silly alchemical theory can be "proven" by creative interpretation of what the ancients wrote. That is the main problem, in my opinion, why the ancients should not have used the degree of symbolism that they did. It creates far more confusion, accidents, disillusionment, and even deaths than the good they were trying to convey.


I wonder if it might be useful to include these mechanical works in the collections found online, to add more context.

I'm not sure I understand where you want these collections included.


I don't know, reading some of this is tricky for me, Dobbs illustrates the deductions and assumptions of all the sides, and most of the time I am seeing everyone saying the same damn thing (again, clarity at a distance). But it seems that planting these ideas in a mind where the rational reigns supreme does little more than set the stage for methodological reductionism. This might be a limited view on my part :)

Even Newton, with his mechanical philosophy, still based his philosophical mercury on writers with a Neo-Platonic world view, such as Sendivogius and Philalethes. The practices didn't differ much, just the attempts to explain it.

I finished the book last night, and for the benefit of others, I'll try to provide a brief overview of it in a subsequent message.

Illen

Illen A. Cluf
03-10-2013, 09:12 PM
My Overview of
Foundations of Newton’s Alchemy
By B.J.T. Dobbs

This book is primarily written for academics, with some understanding of basic chemistry. Be warned that the author believes that the “philosophical mercury” as described by past Alchemists was a misunderstanding, based on a primitive theoretical philosophy and a lack of understanding of chemistry as we know it today.

The book was written to set the foundation of Isaac Newton’s alchemy within his historical context, which was during the time of a scientific revolution, and how his alchemical experimentation and analysis influenced his later scientific papers. Newton believed he had achieved experimental success in preparing the true “philosophical mercury”, and left a very complete account of the experimental work, which Dobbs analyses in detail.

The book contains 6 chapters. The first four chapters are almost exclusively aimed at providing the broader as well as specific background and environment in which Newton developed his own understanding and concepts, both in terms of historical alchemy, as well as the type of alchemy practiced during the time Newton lived. She discusses Aristotelianism, Platonism, Neo-Platonism and the developing Mechanical Philosophy of Descartes.

The fifth chapter is an in-depth review of Newton’s alchemical papers and the development of his “philosophical mercury”. This is a period from 1668-1675. Although he was doing alchemical experiments, Dobbs considers his approach as scientific. The purpose of this chapter is to reach an understanding of the earliest experiments conducted by Newton, both from an alchemical as well as a scientific point of view. Dobb’s difficulty in addressing these approaches was that Newton did not really write about the theoretical basis for his approach. Thus much of it had to be deduced.

The sixth and last chapter is a little difficult to follow if you are intent on understanding the details. The key motive for this chapter is to indicate some of the material in Newton’s scientific writing which seems to be based on his alchemical ideas, and to prove that he was indeed a scientific alchemist. These ideas are based on Newton representing the second generation with respect to mechanical philosophies. The early mechanical philosophers included Descartes, Digby, Hobbes, Gessendi and Charleton. Later, Boyle and Henry More joined the ranks, both of whom had an important influence on Newton’s approach. Henry More's philosophies began with Platonism and Neo-Platonism, but he later moved towards mechanical philosophy. Of the early mechanical philosophers, two were very interested in alchemy – Sir Kenelm Digby and the Honourable Robert Boyle. Dobbs assumes that Newton adhered to a corpusularian concept of matter throughout all his alchemical work. Newton truly believed that he had obtained a true philosophical Mercury, although his experimental work and initial understanding was based on authors holding a Neo-Platonic point of view. These included Sendivogius, d’Espagnet and Eirenaeus Philalethes.

Newton’s scientific writings began to appear in 1675, right at the end of his alchemical experiments involving the philosophical Mercury. At this time his writings already showed an integration of alchemy along with and the mechanical philosophy of that time.

In my opinion, this is a very worthwhile book to study, and can serve as a useful companion to some of the more recent and related books written by Lawrence M. Principe and William R. Newman. Although Newton firmly believed that the starting matter was Antimony (primarily with the help of iron) – which today is one of the most common beliefs - I am not so convinced. I currently believe that the references to “antimony” by earlier philosophers was just a decknamen for another matter, often mentioned, but seldom pursued.