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Thread: Alchemists A-Z

  1. #11
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    Jung, Carl (1875 - 1961)
    ...most folks today are familiar with alchemy through the extensive writings of Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. Jung was attracted to alchemy through a series of dreams he experienced, as well as those of his patients, and their resemblance to alchemical symbols representing the stages of self-development, or individuation. However, for Jung, the entire alchemical work, or opus, was viewed from strictly psychoanalytic perspective. Transmutation was not the changing of physical matter, but of psychological matter, from destructive problems, into life enhancing attributes.

    Some of Jung's, seminal works outlining the process of human individuation, or self-becoming, are found in his Alchemical Studies; in which he interprets the meaning of the key stages and symbols of alchemy to explain the internal stages of human evolution, or what alchemists call, interior initiation.

    Laboratory alchemists cautiously point out that despite his contributions, and the critical aspect of psychological work in alchemy, Jung is not considered a real alchemist.

    According to Dubuis, and others, for alchemy to be real alchemy, it must work on all levels of creation - spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical. While one or more can be left out and a transmutation of some sort effected, the results are not considered to be alchemical.

    “It is true that Jung made some additions to symbolism and gave people a means to look at their interior life. As regards to alchemy, Jungian psychology shows that alchemy is a universal art and science, and can lend itself to anything, but to reduce alchemy to a theraputic allegory is a mistake... - source
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    Junius, Manfred M. (1929-2004)

    Professor Manfred M. Junius served as the production manager for spagyrics for Australerba Laboratories and was head of the Australian School of Ayurveda in Adelaide, Australia. His knowledge of alchemy was obtained through many years of personal instruction from Augusto Pincaldi in Switzerland. About his book The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy Mark Stavish has said: "Simply put, this is a classic text on plant alchemy, or spagyrics, for the modern practitioner. . . . Anyone serious about learning alchemy needs to have a copy." - source (link broken)
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  2. #12
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    Kelley, Edward (1555 - 1597)
    The whole of Kelly's story is so wildly and romantically coloured, it is so incredible, and so full of marvels, that it is extremely difficult to know what to believe.

    He began life as an apothecary's apprentice, and showed some aptitude for his calling. It has been stated that, under the name of Talbot, he studied for a short time at Oxford, but left abruptly under a cloud. A few years later, he was exposed in the pillory in Lancaster for having either forged ancient title deeds or coined base money. Both feats are accounted to him. The next incident in his career is a charge of having dug up a newly buried "caitiff's" corpse in Walton-le-Dale churchyard, Lancashire, for the purpose of questioning the dead, or "an evil spirit speaking through his organs," respecting the future of "a noble young gentleman," then a minor. - source (link broken)
    Kelley approached John Dee in 1582... Dee had already been trying to contact angels with the help of a "scryer" or crystal-gazer, but he had not been successful. Kelley professed the ability to do so, and impressed Dee with his first trial. Kelley became Dee's regular scryer. Dee and Kelley devoted huge amounts of time and energy to these "spiritual conferences." From 1582 to 1589, Kelley's life was closely tied to Dee's.

    About a year after entering into Dee's service, Kelley appeared with an alchemical book (The Book of Dunstan) and a quantity of a red powder... With the powder (whose secret was presumably hidden in the book) Kelley believed he could prepare a red "tincture" which would allow him to transmute base metals into gold. He reportedly demonstrated its power a few times over the years, including in Bohemia (present Czech Republic) where he and Dee resided for many years. - source
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  3. #13
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    Lille, Alain de or Lisle, Alain de (c. 1128 - 1202)
    Monk, poet, preacher, theologian, and eclectic philosopher... Alain attained extraordinary celebrity in his day as a teacher and a learned man; he was called Alain the Great, The Universal Doctor, etc. To this the legend alludes, according to which a scholar, discomfited in a dialectical contest, cried out that his opponent was "either Alain or the devil". Alain's principal work is Ars Fidei Catholicæ, dedicated to Clement III, and composed for the purpose of refuting, on rational grounds, the errors of Mohammedans, Jews, and heretics.

    Alain's theology is characterized by that peculiar variety of rationalism tinged with mysticism which is found in the writings of John Scotus Erigena, and which afterwards reappeared in the works of Raymond Lully. The mysticism is, perhaps, more in the style than in the matter; the rationalism consists in the effort to prove that all religious truths, even the mysteries of faith, flow out of principles that are self-evident to the human reason unaided by revelation. His philosophy is a syncretism, or eclecticism, in which the principal elements are Platonism, Aristoteleanism, and Pythagoreanism. He esteemed Plato as the philosopher; Aristotle he regarded merely as a subtle logician.

    ...[he tried to] fuse into one system the various elements derived from different sources, without taking much pains to find a common basis or a principle of organic synthesis. Thus, in psychology he gives at different times three different divisions of the faculties of the soul: a twofold (ratio, sensualitas), a threefold (sapientia, voluntas, voluptas), and a fivefold (sensus, imaginatio, ratio, intellectus, intelligentia). The soul, he teaches, is spirit; the body, matter (in later Platonic sense); and the bond between them is a physical spirit (spiritus physicus). In cosmology he teaches that God first created Nature, whose role it was to act as his intermediary in the details of creating and organizing matter into the visible universe.

    At every step in this portion of his philosophy the influence of the neo-Pythagoreans appears. As a writer, Alain exhibited an unusual combination of poetic imaginativeness and dialectical precision. He modeled his style on that of Martianus Capella, though in his later years the influence of Boethius was, perhaps, predominant. He is to be enumerated among the medieval writers who influenced Dante. - source
    Free on-line text: The Complaint of Nature
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    Llull, Ramon or Raymond Lully (c. 1232 – 1315)
    Ramon Llull was a true ladies man and whilst a member of the Royal Court of Aragon he indulged in such debauchery that King James II of Aragon complained about his behaviour asking him to settle down with a woman. Llull followed the advice but still fell deeply in love (or lust) with a married woman. After a few months this woman finally agreed to secretly meet with him. But just as he was about to kiss her she opened her blouse and revealed a reeking cancerous breast. He fled in horror and subsequently resigned from his materialistic and decadent existence.

    Llull became a Hermit and thus emerged himself in the Hermetic arts. He became one of the first Europeans to advocate the study of the Arabic language, and he founded a college of Arabic study in Majorca in 1276. He made three missionary visits to Africa in order to convert the Muslims to Christianity. On the last of these visits he was stoned to death for preaching against Islam. His followers, the Lullists, combined a religious mysticism with a belief in alchemy. It has even been suggested that Llull himself managed to transmute lead into gold! - source
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  4. #14
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    Magnus, Albertus (1193/1206 - 1280)
    Many books were written on alchemy during the 13th century and just as many were either burned or their authors executed mostly by the inquisition. Of the thirteenth-century literature, a work called Tesero was attributed to Alphonso, King of Castile in 1272: William de Loris wrote Le Roman de Rose in about 1282, assisted by Jean de Meung, who also wrote The Remonstrance of Nature to the Wandering Alchemist, and The Reply of the Alchemist to Nature. Peter d'Apona, born near Padua in 1250, wrote several books on magic, and was accused by the Inquisition of possessing seven spirits, each enclosed in a crystal vessel, who taught him the seven liberal arts and sciences. He died upon the rack.

    It was during a period of history when books and their authors were burned by the Inquisition that Albertus Magnus was born at Lauingen, Swabia. In 1223 he joined the Order of St. Dominic during a time when Genghis Khan and his hordes swept down from Mongolia.

    When Albertus Magnus had completed his education he became a teacher of theology and spent some time in Cologne were one of his hearers was a silent and thoughtful youth by the name of Thomas Aquinas who, in time, would became his great friend and disciple.

    Like Aristotle Albertus Magnus believed that nature and the lives of men were controlled by the stars and the planets. Yet he did not hesitate to criticize: Whoever believes that Aristotle was a God, must also believe that he never erred. But if one believe that Aristotle was a man, then doubtless he was liable to error just as we are.

    Albertus Magnus was an authority on physics, geography, astronomy, mineralogy, zoology, physiology, phrenology and both a student and teacher of alchemy. He renounced all material advantages to devote the greater part of a long life to the study of philosophy in the seclusion of a cloister. He has even been considered a magician and there is a legend suggesting he managed to have turned base metals into gold. Admitting to nothing he said: "Art alone cannot produce a substantial form."

    Over the years Albertus Magnus managed to compose a veritable encyclopedia, containing scientific treatises on almost every subject, and displaying an insight into nature and a knowledge of theology, which surprised his contemporaries. This considering his many religious duties and journey to Rome and to and from between Cologne and Paris. He was also the preacher of a crusade and held such offices as bishop and papal legate

    In 1278 Albertus Magnus drew up his testament and suffered a lapse of memory. He died at Cologne on the 15th of November 1280. He was made a saint in 1931. - source
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    Mary the Jewess (c. 3rd century C.E.)
    Science books describe alchemy as an early form of chemistry. Typically, a male alchemist is shown in a medieval lab, trying to create gold from base materials. In fact, alchemy was not a science, but something closer to a religion, and its earliest and most famous practitioners were women!

    One of the most important women alchemists was Mary the Jewess. She lived in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria around AD 100. During this time, Gnostic religion (a sect of Christianity) influenced alchemy along with neo-platonism and Egyptian cosmology. In Gnostic religion, male and female qualities are considered equal in importance. As a result, women were attracted to this sect of early Christianity and from there, into alchemy.

    Mary invented or improved all the basic equipment used in alchemical rituals. For example, she perfected the 3-armed distillation chamber or still. In her writings, she describes how to use pastry flour to seal joints on the still. She also recommends that the metal used be the thickness of a frying-pan. Apparently, these early alchemists spent more time in the kitchen than in the lab. Because of its connection with cooking, alchemy was known as women's work.

    Mary's book called the Maria Practica was circulated and read in various forms for 1600 years! - source (link broken)
    Several sources equate Maria the Jewess to Miriam, Moses' sister, or to Mary Magdalene. The Bain-marie is attributed to her. Also attributed to her are the invention of the alchemical apparatus known as the kerotakis and the tribikos.

    The cryptic alchemical precept: "One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth." has been attributed to Maria Prophetissa and was called the Axiom of Maria. Psychologist Carl Jung used this as a metaphor for the process of wholeness and individuation.

    The most concrete mention of her name in the context of alchemy is by Zosimos of Panopolis, who wrote in the 4th century the oldest alchemy books known.

    She perfected the 3-armed distillation chamber or still. In her writings, she recommends that the copper or bronze used to create the tubes be the thickness of a frying-pan, and the joint between these tubes and the still-head be sealed with flour-paste. She is also credited with the invention of the water-bath or bain-marie. - source
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    Mayow, John (1643 - 1679)
    [An] English chemist and physiologist... At the age of fifteen he went up to Wadham College, Oxford, of which he became a scholar a year later, and in 1660 he was elected to a fellowship at All Souls. He graduated in law (bachelor, 1665, doctor, 1670), but made medicine his profession, and became noted for his practice - therein, especially in the summer time, in the city of Bath.

    In 1678, on the proposal of Robert Hooke, he was chosen a fellow of the Royal Society. The following year, after a marriage which was not altogether to his content, he died in London in September 1679. He published at Oxford in 1668 two tracts, on respiration and rickets, and in 1674 these were reprinted, the former in an enlarged and corrected form, with three others De sal-nitro et spiritu nitro-aereo, De respiratione foetus in utero et ovo, and De motu musculari et spiritibus animalibus as Tractatus quinque medico-physici.

    The contents of this work, which was several times republished and translated into Dutch, German and French, show him to have been an investigator much in advance of his time.

    Accepting as proved by Boyle's experiments that air is necessary for combustion, he showed that fire is supported not by the air as a whole but by a more active and subtle part of it. This part he called spiritus igneo-aereus, or sometimes nitro-aereus; for he identified it with one of the constituents of the acid portion of nitre which he regarded as formed by the union of fixed alkali with a spiritus acidus.

    In combustion the particulae nitro-aereae - either pre-existent in the thing consumed or supplied by the air combined with the material burnt; as he inferred from his observation that antimony, strongly heated with a burning glass, undergoes an increase of weight which can be attributed to nothing else but these particles.

    In respiration he argued that the same particles are consumed, because he found that when a small animal and a lighted candle were placed in a closed vessel full of air the candle first went out and soon afterwards the animal died, but if there was no candle present it lived twice as long.

    He concluded that this constituent of the air is absolutely necessary for life, and supposed that the lungs separate it from the atmosphere and pass it into the blood. It is also necessary, he inferred, for all muscular movements, and he thought there was reason to believe that the sudden contraction of muscle is produced by its combination with other combustible (salino-sulphureous) particles in the body; hence the heart, being a muscle, ceases to beat when respiration is stopped. Animal heat also is due to the union of nitro-aerial particles, breathed in from the air, with the combustible particles in the blood, and is further formed by the combination of these two sets of particles in muscle during violent exertion.

    In effect, therefore, Mayow - who also gives a remarkably correct anatomical description of the mechanism of respiration - preceded Priestley and Lavoisier by a century in recognizing the existence of oxygen, under the guise of his spiritus nitro-aereus, as a separate entity distinct from the general mass of the air; he perceived the part it plays in combustion and in increasing the weight of the calces of metals as compared with metals themselves; and, rejecting the common notions of his time that the use of breathing is to cool the heart, or assist the passage of the blood from the right to the left side of the heart, or merely to agitate it, he saw in inspiration a mechanism for introducing oxygen into the body, where it is consumed for the production of heat and muscular activity, and even vaguely conceived of expiration as an excretory process. - source
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    McKenna, Terence (1946 - 2000)
    Terence McKenna has been studying the ontological foundations of Shamanism and the Ethnopharmacology of spiritual transformation for the past quarter century. An innovative theoretician and spellbinding orator, Terence has emerged as a powerful voice for the psychedelic movement and the emergent societal tendency he calls The Archaic Revival. Poetically dispensing enlightened social criticism and new theories of the fractal dynamics of time, Terence deobfuscates many aspects of the visionary lexicon, and then some. As artist Alex Grey suggests, "In the twilight of human history, McKenna's prescription for salvation is just so crazy it might work." - source
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    McLean, Adam (1948 - )
    Adam McLean, is a well known authority on and enthusiast for alchemical texts and symbolism, the editor and publisher of over 40 books on alchemical and Hermetic ideas. Based in the UK, he has been writing and researching alchemical and hermetic literature for many years.

    In 1995, when the internet became more widely available, he began to construct The Alchemy Web Site in order to make alchemical ideas more accessible to the wider community. It is now recognised as the most important internet resource on alchemy. - source
    Free on-line text: What exactly is alchemy?
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    Meung, Jean de (c. 1250 – c. 1305)
    French author best known for his continuation of the Roman de la Rose. Tradition asserts that he studied at the University of Paris. He was, like his contemporary, Rutebeuf, a defender of Guillaume de Saint-Amour and a bitter critic of the mendicant orders. Most of his life seems to have been spent in Paris, where he possessed, in the Rue Saint-Jacques, a house with a tower, court and garden, which was described in 1305 as the house of the late Jean de Meung, and was then bestowed by a certain Adam d'Andely on the Dominicans. Jean de Meun says that in his youth he composed songs that were sung in every public place and school in France. - source
    Free on-line text: Works by Jean de Meun
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    Mormius, Peter (c. 17th century)
    ...a notorious alchymist, and contemporary of Bohmen, endeavoured, in 1630, to introduce the Rosicrucian philosophy into Holland. He applied to the States-General to grant him a public audience, that he might explain the tenets of the sect, and disclose a plan for rendering Holland the happiest and richest country on the earth, by means of the philosopher's' stone and the service of the elementary spirits. The States-General wisely resolved to have nothing to do with him.

    He thereupon determined to shame them by printing his book, which he did at Leyden the same year. It was entitled The Book of the most Hidden Secrets of Nature, and was divided into three parts; the first treating of perpetual motion, the second of the transmutation of metals, and the third of the universal medicine. He also published some German works upon the Rosicrucian philosophy, at Frankfort, in 1617. - source
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    Nagarjuna (c. 150 - 250 C.E.)
    Little is known about the actual life of the historical Nagarjuna. The two most extensive biographies of Nagarjuna, one in Chinese and the other in Tibetan, were written many centuries after his life and incorporate much lively but historically unreliable material which sometimes reaches mythic proportions. Nagarjuna was born a Hindu, which in his time connoted religious allegiance to the Vedas, probably into an upper-caste Brahmin family and probably in the southern Andhra region of India.

    Nagarjuna's primary contribution to Buddhist philosophy is in the further development of the concept of sunyata, or (emptiness), which brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly anatta (no-self) and pratityasamutpada (dependent origination). For Nagarjuna, it is not merely sentient beings that are empty of atman; all phenomena are without any svabhava, literally own-nature or self-nature, and thus without any underlying essence; they are empty of being independent. source
    Free on-line text: Nagarjuna's Biography from Tibetan Sources
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    Newton, Isaac (1643 - 1727)
    English natural philosopher, generally regarded as the most original and influential theorist in the history of science. In addition to his invention of the infinitesimal calculus and a new theory of light and color, Newton transformed the structure of physical science with his three laws of motion and the law of universal gravitation. As the keystone of the scientific revolution of the 17th century, Newton's work combined the contributions of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and others into a new and powerful synthesis. Three centuries later the resulting structure - classical mechanics - continues to be a useful but no less elegant monument to his genius. - source
    Free on-line text: Newton's Principa
    Related thread: Newton knew of m-state
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    Olympiodorus of Thebes (c. 380, fl. c. 412-25)
    Olympiodorus was an historical writer, born at Thebes in Egypt, who was sent on a mission to the Huns on the Black Sea by emperor Honorius in 412, and later lived at the court of Theodosius. The record of his diplomatic mission survives in a single epitome:

    He was the author of a history in 22 books of the Western Empire from 407 to 425. The original is lost, but an abstract is given by Photius, according to whom he was an alchemist. A manuscript treatise on alchemy, reputed to be by him, is preserved in the National Library in Paris, and was printed with a translation by Berthelot in his Collection des alchimistes grecs. - source
    Free on-line text: Olympiodorus of Thebes
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    Ostanes (unknown)
    Osthanes was a legendary pre-Islamic sage who, according to some sources, was from Alexandria, though he was Persian according to other accounts.

    He is frequently cited in Arabic and Persian alchemical literature as an authority on alchemy. An Arabic alchemical treatise titled Kitab al-Fusul al-ithnay ‘ashar fi 'ilm al-hajar al-mukarram (The Book of the Twelve Chapters on the Honourable Stone) is attributed to him. - source
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    Paracelsus (1493 - 1541)
    Manly P.Hall wrote that [I]"Paracelsus the world is indebted for much of their knowledge it now possesses of the ancient systems of medicine. Paracelsus devoted his entire life to the study and exposition of Hermetic philosophy. Every notion and theory was grist to his mill, and, while members of the medical fraternity belittle his memory now as they opposed his system then, the occult world knows that he will yet be recognized as the greatest physician of all times. While the heterodox and exotic temperament of Paracelsus has been held against him by his enemies, and his wanderlust has been called vagabondage, he was one of the few minds who intelligently sought to reconcile the art of healing with the philosophical and religious systems of paganism and Christianity."

    It was in his youth that Paracelsus became interested in the writings of Isaac of Holland and as a result he became determined to reform the medical science of his day. This of course also came from the fact that both his parents were interested in medicine and chemistry. His father had taught him to see nature with his own eyes tunring him into a great observationalist. He also learned from his father a great deal about biology, surgery, basics of medicine, alchemy and chemical and metallurgical priciples.

    Paracelsus learned from churchmen versed in medicine and occult lore and he trained in a mining school as an analyst but at the age of fourteen he decided he wanted to become a doctor and left home to go to medical school destined for a life of constant squabblings with the dogmas of his day.

    Over the next five years Paracelsus attended several prestigious universities throughout Europe. But he found no teacher he could respect. He wrote that "how have the high colleges managed to produce so many high asses? The universities do not teach all things, so a doctor must seek out old wives, gypsies, sorcerers, wandering tribes, old robbers, and such outlaws and take lessons from them. A doctor must be a traveller, for knowledge is experience."

    The Renaissance saw a rise in intrest of science and medicine. Great lenghts were taken to create new translations... because the Latin translations of the Middle Ages were no longer acceptable. Some of these translators studied Greek so they could directly do justice to these ancient treasures. But the hunt for original manuscripts led to the discovery of new ones.

    The recovery of the Corpus Hermetica was a major event for all intellectuals, especially Paracelsus who found great knowledge in the Emerald Tablet. Scorning his fellow doctors he stated that "the ancient Emerald Tablet shows more art and experience in philosophy, alchemy, magic, and the like, than could ever be taught by you and your crowd of followers."

    Like many alchemists before, and after, Paracelsus was reported to be seen in several places after his own death having achived immortality by producing the Philosopher’s Stone. Three hundred years later his grave was exhumed and the body found was identified as his own, still revealing no true cause of death.

    During a cholera epidemic in Austria in the 1830’s hundreds of people visited his grave hoping to be cured, and even today some kneel by his tomb, which is a broken pyramid of white marble, praying for cures. He was ignored by the rich but canonized by the poor.

    Independent, self-confident, bold and struggling to break free from the chains of tradition Paracelsus tried to understand and explore the truths of the universe before knowledge or language had come of age to formulate what he sought. Nothing can be harder and therefore the greater the respect should be given to a man who tried to fill the dark with light. - source
    Free on-line text: Coelum philosophorum
    Related thread: Paracelsus
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    Plato (429 - 347 B.C.E.)
    An Athenian citizen of high status, he [Plato] displays in his works his absorption in the political events and intellectual movements of his time, but the questions he raises are so profound and the strategies he uses for tackling them so richly suggestive and provocative that educated readers of nearly every period have in some way been influenced by him, and in practically every age there have been philosophers who count themselves Platonists in some important respects.

    He was not the first thinker or writer to whom the word philosopher should be applied. But he was so self-conscious about how philosophy should be conceived, and what its scope and ambitions properly are, and he so transformed the intellectual currents with which he grappled, that the subject of philosophy, as it is often conceived - a rigorous and systematic examination of ethical, political, metaphysical, and epistemological issues, armed with a distinctive method - can be called his invention. Few other authors in the history of philosophy approximate him in depth and range: perhaps only Aristotle (who studied with him), Aquinas, and Kant would be generally agreed to be of the same rank. - source
    Free on-line text: Links to Plato´s Works on the Internet
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    Pope John XXII (1249 - 1334)
    ...elected by a conclave in Lyon assembled by Philip V of France. Like his predecessor... he centralized power and income in the Papacy, living a princely life in Avignon. He opposed Louis IV of Bavaria as emperor, and Louis in turn invaded Italy and set up an antipope, Nicholas V. During this conflict, Pope John excommunicated Franciscan friar and scholar William of Ockham.

    Pope John XXII also faced controversy in theology. He was the last Pope to say that heaven (specifically the beatific vision) was delayed until Judgment Day. He condemned the popular German mystic Meister Eckhart as heretical. - source
    It was about this time [the 13th century] that the science fell into grave disrepute, for the alchemist's claim to transmute metals offered great possibilities to any rogue with sufficient plausibility and lack of scruple to exploit the credulity or greed of his fellow-men, and there proved to be no lack either of charlatans or victims. Rich merchants and others greedy for gain were induced to entrust to the alleged alchemists gold, silver, and precious stones - which they lost - in the hope of getting them multiplied, and Acts of Parliament were passed in England and Pope's Bulls issued over Christendom to forbid the practice of alchemy on pain of death, although Pope John XXII is said to have practised the art himself and to have enriched the public treasury by this means. - source
    Free on-line text: Quia quorundam
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    Pythagoras (c. 580 – c. 500 B.C.E.)
    Pythagoras, one of the most famous and controversial ancient Greek philosophers... He spent his early years on the island of Samos, off the coast of modern Turkey. At the age of forty, however, he emigrated to the city of Croton in southern Italy and most of his philosophical activity occurred there. Pythagoras wrote nothing, nor were there any detailed accounts of his thought written by contemporaries. By the first centuries B.C.E., moreover, it became fashionable to present Pythagoras in a largely unhistorical fashion as a semi-divine figure, who originated all that was true in the Greek philosophical tradition, including many of Plato's and Aristotle's mature ideas. A number of treatises were forged in the name of Pythagoras and other Pythagoreans in order to support this view.

    The Pythagorean question, then, is how to get behind this false glorification of Pythagoras in order to determine what the historical Pythagoras actually thought and did. In order to obtain an accurate appreciation of Pythagoras' achievement, it is important to rely on the earliest evidence before the distortions of the later tradition arose. The popular modern image of Pythagoras is that of a master mathematician and scientist. The early evidence shows, however, that, while Pythagoras was famous in his own day and even 150 years later in the time of Plato and Aristotle, it was not mathematics or science upon which his fame rested. Pythagoras was famous (1) as an expert on the fate of the soul after death, who thought that the soul was immortal and went through a series of reincarnations; (2) as an expert on religious ritual; (3) as a wonder-worker who had a thigh of gold and who could be two places at the same time; (4) as the founder of a strict way of life that emphasized dietary restrictions, religious ritual and rigorous self discipline.

    It remains controversial whether he also engaged in the rational cosmology that is typical of the Presocratic philosopher/scientists and whether he was in any sense a mathematician. The early evidence suggests, however, that Pythagoras presented a cosmos that was structured according to moral principles and significant numerical relationships and may have been akin to conceptions of the cosmos found in Platonic myths, such as those at the end of the Phaedo and Republic. In such a cosmos, the planets were seen as instruments of divine vengeance (the hounds of Persephone), the sun and moon are the isles of the blessed where we may go, if we live a good life, while thunder functioned to frighten the souls being punished in Tartarus. The heavenly bodies also appear to have moved in accordance with the mathematical ratios that govern the concordant musical intervals in order to produce a music of the heavens, which in the later tradition developed into the harmony of the spheres. It is doubtful that Pythagoras himself thought in terms of spheres, and the mathematics of the movements of the heavens was not worked out in detail. But there is evidence that he valued relationships between numbers such as those embodied in the so-called Pythagorean theorem, though it is not likely that he proved the theorem.

    Pythagoras' cosmos was developed in a more scientific and mathematical direction by his successors in the Pythagorean tradition, Philolaus and Archytas. Pythagoras succeeded in promulgating a new more optimistic view of the fate of the soul after death and in founding a way of life that was attractive for its rigor and discipline and that drew to him numerous devoted followers. - source

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    Rabelais, François (c. 1494 - 1553)
    Rabelais was first a novice of the Franciscan order, and later was a monk at Fontenay-le-Comte, where he studied Greek and Latin, as well as science, philology, and law, already becoming known and respected by the humanists of his era, including Budé.

    Later he left the monastery to study medicine, and probably studied at the University of Poitiers and University of Montpellier. In 1532 he moved to Lyons, one of the intellectual centres of France, and not only practiced medicine, but edited Latin works for the printer Sebastian Gryphius. As a doctor, he used his spare time to write and publish humorous pamphlets which were critical of established authority and stressed his own perception of individual liberty. His revolutionary works, although satirical, revealed an astute observer of the social and political events unfolding during the first half of the sixteenth century.

    Using a pseudonym, in 1532 he published his first book, titled Pantagruel, that would be the start of his successful Gargantua series. In his book, Rabelais sang the praises of the wines from his hometown of Chinon through vivid descriptions of the eat, drink and be merry lifestyle. Despite the great popularity of his book, both it and his follow-up book were condemned by the academics at the Sorbonne for their unorthodox ideas and by the Roman Catholic Church for its derision of certain religious practices. Rabelais' third book, published under his own name, was also banned.

    With support from members of the prominent du Bellay family (esp. Jean du Bellay), Rabelais received the approval from King François I, to continue to publish his collection but after the death of the enlightened king, Rabelais was frowned upon by the academic elite and the French Parliament suspended the sale of his fourth book.

    Afterwards, Rabelais travelled frequently to Rome with his friend Jean du Bellay... Rabelais probably spent some time in hiding, threatened by being labeled a heretic. Only the protection of Du Bellay saved Rabelais after the condemnation of his novel by the Sorbonne.

    Rabelais later taught medicine at Montpelier in 1537 and 1538, and in 1547 became curate of St. Christophe de Jambe and of Meudon, from which he resigned before his death in Paris in 1553. - source
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    Rays, Maréchal de (c. 1420 - ?)
    One of the greatest encouragers of alchymy in the fifteenth century… He was born about the year 1420, of one of the noblest families of Brittany. His father dying when Gilles had attained his twentieth year, he came into uncontrolled possession, at that early age, of a fortune which the monarchs of France might have envied him.

    In his castle of Champtoce, he lived with all the splendour of an Eastern Caliph… The Duke of Brittany's court was not half so splendid as that of the Marechal de Rays. His utter disregard of wealth was so well known that he was made to pay three times its value for everything he purchased. His castle was filled with needy parasites and panderers to his pleasures, amongst whom he lavished rewards with an unsparing hand.

    In the course of a very few years, the reckless extravagance of the Marshal drained him of all his funds, and he was obliged to put up some of his estates for sale… Notwithstanding his diminished resources, he resolved to live as he had lived before, and turn alchymist, that he might make gold out of iron, and be still the wealthiest and most magnificent among the nobles of Brittany.

    In pursuance of this determination he sent to Paris, Italy, Germany, and Spain, inviting all the adepts in the science to visit him… read more on these adventures here - source
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    Regardie, Israel (1907 - 1985)
    Born Israel Regudy to Jewish immigrants in London, Regardie moved to Washington D.C. with his family in 1921 at the age of 13. He developed an interest in occult matters early on and joined Societas Rosicruciana in America in 1926.

    After reading a copy of Book Four by Aleister Crowley, Regardie started a correspondence with Crowley, later moving to Paris to become Crowley's secretary in 1928. In his diaries, Crowley called Regardie the Serpent. In 1932 Crowley and Regardie had a rather large falling out with snide words said on both sides, but later Regardie made his peace with Crowley.

    Regardie was an initiate of Ordo Templi Orientis under Crowley, and after Crowley's death, he was sometimes seen as a neutral arbiter of claimants to the work of that Order.

    In 1932 Regardie joined an offshoot of the Golden Dawn called Stella Matutina and quickly found the order was starting to fall apart. In order to preserve the knowledge of the order, Regardie took the bulk of the Order's documents and compiled the book, The Golden Dawn (1937), which earned him the enmity of the other former members and the reputation of being an oath-breaker. In this respect, he was following in Crowley's footsteps; the older man had published condensed versions of the Golden Dawn rituals and instructions in The Equinox two decades earlier. The greater accessibility of Regardie's book cemented the status of the order's work as a wellspring of occultism for 20th century practitioners.

    In 1937 Regardie... took up the study of psychology and psychotherapy and later started up his own practice. He grew frustrated with the doctrinaire qualities of the various psychological schools, though he claimed a certain adherence to the work of Wilhelm Reich. He was disappointed by his own brief experience with the Jungian school.

    Throughout his later life, Regardie was an outspoken critic of the therapeutic establishment in medicine and psychology.
    Regardie died from a heart attack in Sedona, Arizona on March 10, 1985. - source
    Free on-line text: Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic (PDF download)
    Related thread: Homunculus or homunculi
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    Rhazes or Muhammad ibn Zakariya Razi (864 - 930 C.E.)
    Rhazes was a Persian physician, philosopher and religious critic. While growing up, Rhazes received his medical education in Baghdad. Upon the completion of his formal education, Rhazes went on to practice medicine and direct hospitals in Rai and Baghdad.

    As far as his medical skills went, it has been noted that Rhazes considered himself to be the Islamic version of Hippocrates. During his lifetime, Rhazes wrote many works and his writings went on to become required reading texts for both Islamic and European students in training to become physicians. Of all of his works, Rhazes' most important medical works were entitled, Kitah al-Mansuri and Kitah al-hawi, the latter when translated means The Comprehensive Book. This book served as a compilation of Greek, Syrian and early Arabic medicine. Some Indian medical knowledge was also contained within the book.

    In addition to these major works, one of Rhazes' most famous smaller works was Treatise on the Small Pox and Measles in which Rhazes wrote about these diseases that Hippocrates had not described. As a trademark of all of his books, dispersed throughout Rhazes wrote in commentaries based upon his own medical experiences. In addition to his writings in the medical field, Rhazes has also been credited with being the first to use animal gut for sutures and plaster of Paris for casts.

    In the field of alchemy, Rhazes' greatest work was an alchemical study on an ethical treatise entitled The Spiritual Physick of Rhazes. During the 12th century, Rhazes' works were translated form Arabic to Latin. - source
    In the history of chemistry Rhazes' achievements are of exceptionally important. In his books, for the first time, we find a systematic classification of carefully observed and verified facts regarding chemical substances, reactions and apparatus - all described in a language free from mysticism and ambiguity

    His alchemcial interests became known half a century later in a book written by Ibn al-Nadim's called The Philosophers Stone. In this book we find out that Rhazes' had a strong belief in the possibility of transmutation of lesser metals to silver and gold. - source
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    Ripley, George (c. 15th century)
    Sir George Ripley was a famous 15th century English alchemist... Ripley studied for twenty years in Italy where he became a great favourite of Pope Innocent VIII. He returned to England in the year of 1477 and wrote his famous work The Compound of Alchymy; or, the Twelve Gates leading to the Discovery of the Philosopher's Stone... His twenty-five volume work upon alchemy, of which the Liber Duodecem Portarum was the most important, brought him considerable fame.

    Being particularly rich, he gave the general public some cause to believe in his ability to change base metal into gold. - source
    Free on-line text: The works of Sir George Ripley
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    Rosenkreuz, Christian (c. 15th century)
    Christian Rosenkreuz, or Christian Rose Cross, is the legendary founder of the Rosicrucian Order (Order of the Rose Cross), presented in the three Manifestos published in the early 17th century.

    According to Maurice Magre in his book Magicians, Seers, and Mystics, Christian Rosenkreutz was the last descendant of the Germelshausen, a German family which flourished in the 13th century... Some occultists including Rudolf Steiner... have stated that Rosenkreutz later reappeared as the Count of St Germain... Others believe Rosenkreuz to be a pseudonym for a more famous historical figure, usually Francis Bacon. - source
    Free on-line text: The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz
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    Rutherford, Ernest (1871 - 1937)
    Ernest Rutherford... was a New Zealand born British chemist and Physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics. He discovered that atoms have a small charged nucleus, and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model (or planetary model, which later evolved into the Bohr model or orbital model) of the atom, through his discovery of Rutherford scattering with his gold foil experiment. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. He is widely credited as splitting the atom in 1917 and leading the first experiment to "split the nucleus" in a controlled manner by two students under his direction...

    During the investigation of radioactivity he coined the terms alpha and beta in 1899 to describe the two distinct types of radiation emitted by thorium and uranium. These rays were differentiated on the basis of penetrating power.

    In 1903 Rutherford realized that a type of radiation from radium discovered (but not named) by French chemist Paul Villard in 1900, must represent something different from alpha rays and beta rays, due to its very much greater penetrating power. Rutherford gave this third type of radiation its name also: the gamma ray.

    He was knighted in 1914.

    Rutherford's research, along with that of his protégé Sir Mark Oliphant, was instrumental in the convening of the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear weapons. - source
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  10. #20
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    Saint Germain, Comte de (fl. 1710 - 1784)
    Of Comte de Saint Germain Russian writer Aleksandr Pushkin wrote in his short story The Queen of Spades (1834): "You have heard of Count St. Germain, about whom so many marvelous stories are told. You know that he represented himself as the Wandering Jew, as the discoverer of the elixir of life, of the philosopher's stone, and so forth. Some laughed at him as a charlatan; but Casanova, in his memoirs, says that he was a spy. But be that as it may, St. Germain, in spite of the mystery surrounding him, was a very fascinating person, and was much sought after in the best circles of society. Even to this day my grandmother retains an affectionate recollection of him, and becomes quite angry if anyone speaks disrespectfully of him."

    There are many men/women that have been believed to have gained immortality. One is the Wonderman, Saint Germain, who was an adventurer, an alchemist and a diplomat. His main position in history is during the 18th century and there are many tales spun about and around him. - source
    Myths, legends and speculations about St. Germain began to be widespread in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and continue today. They include beliefs that he is immortal, the Wandering Jew, an alchemist with the Elixir of Life, a Rosicrucian, and that he prophesied the French Revolution. He is said to have met the forger Giuseppe Balsamo (alias Cagliostro) in London. Some have speculated that the Count may even have been a time traveller from the future, due to his many outlandish claims, including that he was present in biblical times and had met Jesus of Nazareth. He also claimed to have met Henry XVIII and other historical figures, and discussed "inventions" that were ahead of the times in which he lived. - source
    Free on-line text: The Most Holy Trinosophia
    Related thread: Comte de Saint Germain
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    Scully, Nicki (unknown)
    ...an author and teacher in the fields of metaphysics, shamanism and healing. Her work combines energetic healing techniques with shamanic principles with the aim of providing integrated and balanced healing and growth processes.

    Founder and creator of Shamanic Journeys, Ltd. and Alchemical Healing, Scully has been visiting Egypt since 1978, and has incorporated aspects of Egyptian magic, lore and imagery into her shamanic work. She currently gives lectures, seminars and performances internationally at a variety of conferences and gatherings, and specializes in spiritual tours to Egypt, Greece, Peru, and what she regards as other sacred power centers. - source
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    Sedziwój, Michal or Michael Sendivogius (1566 - 1636)
    ...a Polish alchemist, philosopher, medical doctor. A pioneer of chemistry, he developed ways of purification and creation of various acids, metals and other chemical compounds. He discovered that air is not a single substance and contains a life-giving substance - later called oxygen - 170 years before Scheele and Priestley. He correctly identified this food of life with the gas (also oxygen) given off by heating nitre (saltpetre). This substance, the central nitre, had a central position in Sendivogius' schema of the universe. A pioneer of chemistry, he also developed methods for isolating and purifying various acids, metals and other chemical compounds.

    In the 1590s Sendivogius was active in Prague, at the famously open-minded court of Rudolf II. In Poland he appeared at the court of King Sigismund III Vasa around 1600, and quickly achieved notoriety, as the Polish king was himself an alchemy enthusiast and even conducted experiments with Sedziwoj.

    In Krakow's Wawel castle, the chamber where his experiments were performed is still intact. The more conservative Polish nobles soon came to dislike him for encouraging the king to expend vast sums of money on chemical experimentation. The more practical aspects of his work in Poland involved the design of mines and metal foundries. His widespread international contacts led to him being employed as a diplomat from about 1600.

    His works and books, the most famous of which was A New Light of Alchemy (Latin original published in 1605), were written in alchemical language, in effect a secret code which was understandable only by other alchemists. Besides a relatively clear exposition of Sendivogius's theory on the existence of a food of life in air (ie Oxygen), his books contain various scientific, pseudo-scientific and philosophical theories, and were repeatedly translated and widely read among such worthies as Isaac Newton into the 18th century.

    In his later years, Sedziwoj spent more time in Bohemia and Moravia (now in the Czech Republic), where he had been granted lands by the Habsburg emperor. Near the end of his life, Sedziwoj settled in Prague, on court of Rudolf II, where he gained even more fame as a designer of metal mines and foundries.

    However the Thirty Years' War of 1618-48 had effectively ended the golden age of alchemy: the rich patrons now spent their money on financing war rather than chemical speculation, and Sendivogius died in relative obscurity. - source
    Free on-line text: Letters 1-10 of Sendivogius
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    Shulgin, Alexander (1925 - )
    Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, Ph.D., is a pharmacologist and chemist known for his creation of new psychoactive chemicals. After serving in the Navy, he earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from U.C. Berkeley in 1954. In the late 50s and early 60s he did post-doctorate work in psychiatry and pharmacology at U.C. San Francisco and worked briefly as research director at BioRad Laboratories before becoming a senior research chemist at Dow Chemical Co.

    In 1960, Sasha tried mescaline for the first time. He then experimented with synthesizing chemicals with structures similar to mescaline such as DOM. After leaving Dow in 1965 to become an independent consultant, Sasha taught public health at Berkeley and San Francisco General Hospital.

    In 1967, he was introduced to the possibilities of MDMA by an undergrad at San Francisco State University at a time when very few people had tried MDMA. Though Shulgin didn't invent the chemical, he did create a new synthesis process in 1976 and introduced the material to Leo Zeff, an Oakland psychologist who worked with psychedelics in his therapy practice. Zeff introduced hundreds of therapists to MDMA and word quickly spread outside the therapist community. Sasha's partner Ann Shulgin also conducted psychedelic therapy sessions with MDMA before it was scheduled in 1985.

    Since that time, Shulgin has synthesized and bioassayed (self-tested) hundreds of psychoactive chemicals, recording his work in four books and more than two hundred papers. He is a fixure in the psychedelic community, speaking at conferences, granting frequent interviews, and instilling a sense of rational scientific thought into the world of self-experimentation and psychoactive ingestion. - source
    Free on-line text: Interview with Alexander Shulgin
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    Starkey, George (1628 - 1665)
    ...an alchemist and the first American scientist. He was born in Bermuda and educated at Harvard College. He became the first English-speaking native of the New World to be extensively read across Europe. Starkey left for London in 1650. Here he set up a laboratory and became the informal chemistry teacher of Robert Boyle, though Boyle never acknowledged this debt. At this time, Starkey wrote various alchemical tracts under the nom de plume of Eirenaeus Philalethes - peaceful lover of truth. These works were read by such luminaries as Isaac Newton, John Locke, and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Newton's extensive writings on alchemy are heavily indebted to Starkey, although Newton incorporated significant modifications as well. - source
    Free on-line text: Philalethes - Three Treatises
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    Stavish, Mark (unknown)
    Mark is a long-time student of esotericism and has written over a two-dozen critically received articles, book reviews, and interviews on western esoteric philosophy and practices.

    Esoteric experience includes initiation into Martinism, and appointment to Regional Monitor Emeritus in the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC. Currently, Mark is the Director for Research for the Occult Research and Applications Project (ORA) sponsored by the Philosophers of Nature.

    In addition to degrees in Theology and Counseling, Mark was raised in a family with over five generations of practicing esotericists. This familial tradition is known as pow-wow and is a form of oral qabalistic magic, with roots in the Renaissance, common among those of Central European decent. - source
    Free on-line text: The Writings of Mark Stavish
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    Steiner, Rudolf (1861 - 1925)
    Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian philosopher, literary scholar, educator, artist, playwright, social thinker, and esotericist. He was the founder of Anthroposophy, Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophical medicine, and the new artistic form of Eurythmy. He characterized anthroposophy as follows:
    “Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe…. Anthroposophists are those who experience, as an essential need of life, certain questions on the nature of the human being and the universe, just as one experiences hunger and thirst.”

    Steiner advocated a form of ethical individualism, to which he later brought a more explicitly spiritual component. He derived his epistemology from Johann Wolfgang Goethe's world view, where “Thinking… is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.” - source
    Read his 300-paged unabridged biography on-line: The Story of my Life
    Free on-line text: The Rudolf Steiner Archive
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    Strindberg, August (1849 - 1912)

    Johan August Strindberg was a Swedish writer, playwright, and painter... Strindberg is known as one of the fathers of modern theatre. His work falls into two major literary movements, Naturalism and Expressionism. He is one of the greatest authors in Swedish literature.

    Strindberg was also a telegrapher, painter, photographer and alchemist. Painting and photography offered venues for his belief that chance played a crucial part in the creative process. Strindberg's paintings were unique for their time, and went beyond those of his contemporaries for their radical lack of adherence to visual reality. The 117 paintings that are accepted as being by his hand were mostly painted within the span of a few years, and are now seen as among the most original works of nineteenth century art. Though Strindberg was friends with Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin, and was thus familiar with modern trends, the spontaneous and subjective expressiveness of his landscapes and seascapes can be ascribed also to the fact that he painted only in periods of personal crisis.

    By the end of his life Strindberg had returned to Christianity, authoring religious works inspired by Emanuel Swedenborg.

    On Christmas 1911, Strindberg became sick with pneumonia, and he never fully recovered. At this time he also started to suffer from a stomach disease, presumably cancer. He died in May 1912 at the age of 63. - source
    Free on-line text: The Road to Damascus
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    Swedenborg, Emanuel (1688 – 1772)
    Emanuel Swedenborg was a true renaissance figure. A man of broad interests, knowledge and ability, he was, among other things, an eminent scientist, philosopher, theologian and visionary. Born in Sweden, he began his career as an engineer and inventor, later becoming interested in anatomy and religion. By the time of his death Swedenborg had gained fame throughout Europe as one of the greatest minds of the eighteenth century.

    During his life, Swedenborg became a prolific writer and left behind nearly 30 published books and a further 30 unpublished manuscripts - on themes ranging from science, anatomy, philosophy and theology - that have since had a profound influence on literature, the arts, philosophy and the social sciences.

    In his mid-forties, Swedenborg began to focus his attention on physiology and anatomy and extended his exhaustive researches to philosophy and psychology. Swedenborg became interested in finding the seat of the soul but eventually realised that science would not provide the answers he sought. He sparked the first interest in the relationship between the cortical substance of the brain and higher mental activities. Despite this new focus, Swedenborg did not neglect other interests and continued to write widely on geology, chemistry, physics and cosmology.

    Swedenborg's enthusiasm for science was, however, later replaced by a preoccupation with religion. He became inspired to study Hebrew and the Bible, writing various commentaries on Genesis. At about the same time he became aware of meaningful dreams and later had psychic experiences. These experiences led to a state of unusual spiritual awareness, which, he claimed, was of Divine permission. Swedenborg said he was allowed to experience the future life, a sort of permanent near death experience, for over twenty years. These spiritual visions led him to devote the remainder of his life to a study of the sacred scriptures and the teachings of the Christian religion.

    Swedenborg died in the Clerkenwell district of London in 1772, famous throughout Europe not only for his eminent contribution to science and technology but above all for his important and influential writings on philosophy and religion. - source
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