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By Sean Martin

Alchemy has regularly been seen as 'the historical past of an error', an instance of mediaeval gullibility and greed, within which alchemists attempted to show lead into gold, create excellent wealth and locate the elixir of lifestyles. yet alchemy has additionally been defined as 'the mightiest mystery guy can possess', and it obsessed the likes of Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle and lots of of the founders of recent technology. This ebook explores the heritage of the so-called Royal paintings, from its mysterious beginnings in Egypt and China, in the course of the Hellenistic global and the early years of Islam and into mediaeval Europe. many of the maximum minds of the center a long time, figures akin to Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas have been attracted to alchemy, and mythical alchemists akin to Nicholas Flamel have been idea to have truly succeeded find The Philosopher's Stone. through the Renaissance, Paracelsus and his fans helped revolutionise drugs, and through the 17th century, alchemy performed an enormous position in paving the best way for contemporary technology. in the course of the 20th century, it grew to become a spotlight of curiosity for the psychologist Carl Jung and his fans, who believed that the alchemists had came across the subconscious. during this totally revised version, Sean Martin has increased the sections on chinese language and Indian alchemy and has additional new fabric at the dating among alchemy and early glossy technology, whereas additionally creating a clean evaluation of this such a lot enduringly mysterious and interesting of topics, to which all others were defined as 'child's play'.

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In addition to this text, and next in importance in the Corpus Hermeticum, are the Poimandres, or The Mind of the Sovereignty, and the Asclepius. In the Poimandres, all of Creation is revealed to Hermes, together with the knowledge that he as a human partakes of the Divine nature. At the end of the text Hermes vows to break free of the prison of the material world to help his fellow beings reach enlightenment. The Asclepius describes a human being as a magnum miraculum, reiterating the idea that we have Divine wonders sleeping within us.

It is known that this was restricted to smiths who worked under the instruction of priests, and all work on metals was done within the confines of temple precincts. As with prehistoric smithcraft, the Hellenistic alchemists were seen to be engaging in a sacred task, one whose secrets were not to be disclosed to the populace at large. A great deal of time was spent in the manufacture of gems and precious metals, and they may have had a greater ritual significance once they had been subjected to the heat of the furnace.

Although seen as the first champion of the scientific method, he was also rumoured to have performed alchemical transmutations, and remains an enigmatic character, still steeped in mystery and legend. Like Pope Sylvester II, he was rumoured to have a talking head made of brass, and it was said that he gained his extraordinary learning from the Devil. He is supposed to have drawn up plans for flying machines and machines that enabled a man to breathe at the bottom of the ocean, and to have constructed a mirror that enabled him to see far-off events.

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