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Thread: What language(s) to learn?

  1. #11
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    May 2009
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    JDP, dwarfed yes, but how many texts can be read and understood in one lifetime?

    There have been numerous English Alchemists

    Roger Bacon, John Dastin, George Ripley, Thomas Norton, Thomas Charnock, John Dee and son Arthur (Welsh, although had one of the largest libraries in England of that time), Edward Kelley...

    The list of English Alchemists and their works goes on and on...

    William Backhouse, Elias Ashmole, Thomas Henshaw, Edmund Dickinson, Robert Boyle, George Starkey, Isaac Newton, James Price, Albus Dumbledore

    I am sure there are many other English Alchemists missed from the list above and one could spend a lifetime studying their works. The
    problem here lies in the fact most wrote in Latin or old English and thus some understanding of this would still be required.

    Another problem to be taken into account is the information lost or misinterpreted in translation on a subject that is already riddled with red-herrings and ciphers, which make these translations almost
    incomprehensible and there are many and varied translations of most texts. I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have not yet read a text that I can say I fully understand or isn't open to
    many and varied interpretations so I look inside myself and at nature for the answers; I’m sure they’re out there.

    Learning from others can be fun, but discovering things for oneself needs no translation.

    Ghislain

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghislain View Post
    JDP, dwarfed yes, but how many texts can be read and understood in one lifetime?

    There have been numerous English Alchemists

    Roger Bacon, John Dastin, George Ripley, Thomas Norton, Thomas Charnock, John Dee and son Arthur (Welsh, although had one of the largest libraries in England of that time), Edward Kelley...

    The list of English Alchemists and their works goes on and on...

    William Backhouse, Elias Ashmole, Thomas Henshaw, Edmund Dickinson, Robert Boyle, George Starkey, Isaac Newton, James Price, Albus Dumbledore

    I am sure there are many other English Alchemists missed from the list above and one could spend a lifetime studying their works. The
    problem here lies in the fact most wrote in Latin or old English and thus some understanding of this would still be required.

    Another problem to be taken into account is the information lost or misinterpreted in translation on a subject that is already riddled with red-herrings and ciphers, which make these translations almost
    incomprehensible and there are many and varied translations of most texts. I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have not yet read a text that I can say I fully understand or isn't open to
    many and varied interpretations so I look inside myself and at nature for the answers; I’m sure they’re out there.

    Learning from others can be fun, but discovering things for oneself needs no translation.

    Ghislain
    As you point out yourself, many of these English alchemists actually wrote in Latin. In older times, nationality did not guarantee that a writer would write in his local vernacular. In medieval and most of early modern Europe Latin was the language of the intellectuals for hundreds of years, just like Arabic was (and largely still is) such a language in the Islamic world, and Greek in the ancient Hellenic world (which included Byzantium and parts of Egypt and the Levant.)

    Translation is the best method to gather information about this subject before coming up with experimental approaches to see if any given claim has any real foundation. Alchemical treatises are usually difficult to understand, but not impossible.

    The "learning from nature" approach could take eons before giving any positive results. Just look at chemistry. For 200+ years its practitioners have been "learning from nature" as well, and their opinion about transmutation is that it is totally impossible short of having an "atom smasher" on your backyard. Gathering information from the experience of others is a great way of "cutting to the chase" and saving time & money in countless of experiments that will lead absolutely nowhere. And even with that advantage, it will still take you a long time and great effort to gather anything worthy of investigation, because the literature on the subject is riddled with all sorts of lies and mistakes (both deliberate and unintentional) that will also cost you time and money.
    Last edited by JDP; 06-14-2013 at 09:30 PM.

  3. #13
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    California
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    One shouldnt need to learn any other languages outside of english to have a better understanding of the esoteric. There is so much material out there now that has been translated to english. The art of alchemy is a language in itself, if you can't comprehend the english texts of your own language how can you comprehend the texts in a foreign language?

    If you really want to learn another language try spanish or chinese. That will probably do more for you in this life.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
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    134
    Quote Originally Posted by JDP View Post
    Unfortunately, Berthelot and his associates were not very interested in the Greek Byzantine alchemical texts, which they thought were too "mystical" (to them "practical alchemy" was pretty much just the texts that contain seemingly clear "recipes", which is absurd; in fact, the majority of these early texts that contain such "recipes" are proto-chymical texts, not alchemical properly) so they left them mostly untranslated. Only a few of these have been translated into modern languages (ex: a Byzantine alchemical poem ascribed to "Theophrastos" was translated into English by C. A. Browne, and some of the "Lessons" by Stephanos were translated into English by Frank Sherwood Taylor.)
    This is sadly true. But with time things could get better. A translation of the whole Stephanos' Crysopoeia should appear for the Éditions les belles lettres.
    Cheers
    t

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by teofrast40 View Post
    This is sadly true. But with time things could get better. A translation of the whole Stephanos' Crysopoeia should appear for the Éditions les belles lettres.
    Cheers
    t
    Unfortunately, for some reason the few new translations of alchemical texts written in Greek are being mostly done into French instead of English (why? English nowadays has more readers worldwide than French could ever dream of!) There was a guy in an American university who was working on an English translation of all the "Lessons" by Stephanos, but for unknown reasons he pulled down the website where he was giving updates of his progress with the project:

    http://www.alchemydiscussion.com/vie...404&forum_id=6

  6. #16
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    Jun 2012
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    187
    Reading esoteric works in translation is a perilous exercise at best - you put yourself very much at the mercy of the translator. Although a few good translations do exist, it's always more informative to check back on the work in its original language - even the best translator must struggle with double meanings that can't quite be rendered elegantly into the target language. Speaking of double meanings, the literature is also rife with interlinguistic puns which frequently carry a lot of meaning, so for example reading a seventeenth century German manuscript there may be important things you miss if you don't also know Latin, Greek, and French.

    Many of the most valuable works in the tradition were indeed originally written in Arabic, but unfortunately it's frustratingly difficult to get your hands on text. Until that changes, you're probably better off giving Arabic a pass, as the grammar is very foreign to westerners and the vocabulary is nuanced, complex, and highly variable depending on the time and place of the author.

    Obviously Greek, Latin, German and French are the big ones. There's some interesting stuff written in Italian, and you could probably profit from a general familiarity with the various dialects of Mediterranian Romance (Italian, Provencal, Catalan, Spanish etc.). There's a lot of stuff written in Sanskrit from various periods that's really worth reading.

    If you want to read the Qabbalistic texts you're kind of committing to a study of the whole Rabbinic tradition of exegesis, but it's an interesting comparison to contemporary works, and can shed valuable light on difficult ideas. Still, you're still talking about learning Biblical Hebrew, Rabbinic Hebrew, and Aramaic, along with a whole body of literature, so I wouldn't put it first on the list.

    Chinese you can give a pass. I'm actually doing reconstructive work on Old Chinese, and it's amazing how little we know about pre-Han grammar. Most of the texts we'd be interested in were written during that period. Han and post-Han texts are pretty spare, unless you're into long, dry histories and maybe martial arts. I understand that during the romantic period they had a flowering of epic novels with hundreds of characters, but that's not really what you're asking about.

    There's a whole bunch of cartoons from Japan which make extensive use of the language of the art. I wouldn't expect any startling enlightenment, but it can be fun to feel in on something so I suppose you could pick that up too if you wanted.
    From separation between the seen and the unseen, a feeling of distance.
    From separation between the seen and the seen, a feeling of breadth.
    From separation between the unseen and the unseen, a feeling of depth.
    From rotation of the elements, a feeling of motion.
    From the equivalence of alternate rotations, a feeling of choice.

  7. #17
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    Just my 2 cents, I heard from a fellow alchemist, that Japanese is a mystical and alchemical language.
    One friend told me that the sound emanating from the letters were activating some parts of his brain while chancting them.

    Anyway, as a French person, I access a lot of french texts, but I found that Italian is also rich and full of alchemical litterature (I'm working more and more with italian texts, some very interesting texts are given by the "Edizioni Mediterranee"). Latin one are extremely interesting (most of Norton's are not translated unfortunately, and of the Hermetic Museum)...

    German clearly is full of dense and practical texts, but it is not yet my preference.

    Sanscrit would be of interest also, but for now, in my works, it is for practical yoga and mantras.
    Salazius

    http://dartigne.blogspot.com/

    My Works

    "I want to transmute everywhere" ~ The Spirit of Alchemy.

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
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    Quote Originally Posted by Salazius View Post
    Anyway, as a French person, I access a lot of french texts, but I found that Italian is also rich and full of alchemical litterature (I'm working more and more with italian texts, some very interesting texts are given by the "Edizioni Mediterranee"). Latin one are extremely interesting (most of Norton's are not translated unfortunately, and of the Hermetic Museum)...
    Once you'll learn Latin you will be able to understand most of European languages. So learning it is a very grateful task.

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