History: From Alchemy to Chemistry

From Alchemy to Chemistry

Posted by Rosey on February 7, 2016 at 2:42am in The Academy of Alchemy

Many of the earliest chemists, physicians, and philosophers were also alchemists.  

Alchemist’s equipment in a 14th-‐century castle in Arcy-‐sur-‐Cure, France © Alain Nogues/Sygma/Corbis

A quest for purity

The word “alchemy” brings to mind a cauldron-full of images: witches hovering over a boiling brew, or perhaps sorcerers in smoky labs or cluttered libraries. Despite these connotations of the mythic and mystical, alchemical practice played an important role in the evolution of modern science.

Historically, alchemy refers to both the investigation of nature and an early philosophical and spiritual discipline that combined chemistry with metal work. Alchemy also encompassed physics, medicine, astrology, mysticism, spiritualism, and art. The goals of alchemy were:

to find the “elixir of life” (it was thought that this magical elixir would bring wealth, health, and immortality); 

to find or make a substance called the “philosopher’s stone,” which when heated and combined with “base” (nonprecious metals such as copper and iron) would turn it into gold, thought to be the highest and purest form of matter; and

to discover the relationship of humans to the cosmos and use that understanding to improve the human spirit.

Alchemy was scientific but it was also a spiritual tradition. Some of its practitioners had altruistic intentions. For instance, if alchemists could learn the secret of “purifying” base metals into gold, they might gain the ability to purify the human soul. At the same time, alchemy has often been seen as a get-rich-quick scheme and many alchemists as charlatans and pretenders. But many alchemists were in fact serious-minded practitioners whose work helped lay the groundwork for modern chemistry and medicine.

The Alchemist’s Laboratory, an engraving of a Peter Breughel the Elder painting © Lebrecht Music & Arts/Corbis

The central science

Alchemy began as a quest to know the world around us — its composition as well as our own. That quest for knowledge required an understanding of chemical processes, and while alchemy itself would not survive the Enlightenment (the Age of Reason of the 17th and 18th centuries), the quest it began continues today in chemistry. To understand the ever-evolving field of chemistry, which is sometimes called “the central science” because it connects natural sciences like physics, geology, and biology, it’s critical to grasp its beginnings.

Alchemists contributed to an incredible diversity of what would later be recognized as chemical industries: basic metallurgy, metalworking, the production of inks, dyes, paints, and cosmetics, leather-tanning, and the preparation of extracts and liquors. It was a fourth-century Indian alchemist who first described the process of zinc production by distillation, a 17th- century German alchemist who isolated phosphorus, and another German alchemist of the same period who developed a porcelain material that broke China’s centuries-old monopoly on one of the world’s most valuable commodities. These contributions proved valuable to the societies in which alchemists lived and to the advancement of civilization.

But alchemists often made no distinction between purely chemical questions and the more mystical aspects of their craft. They lacked a common language for their concepts and processes. They borrowed the terms and symbols of biblical and pagan mythology, astrology, and other spiritual arenas, making even the simplest formula read like a magic spell or ritual. And although there were commonly used techniques, alchemists shared no standardized, established scientific practice.

Roots in the ancient world

The origins of alchemy are difficult to track down. In the East, in India and China, alchemy started sometime before the Common Era (CE) with meditation and medicine designed to purify the spirit and body and to thereby achieve immortality. In the West, alchemy probably evolved from Egyptian metallurgy as far back as the fourth millennium BCE. The ideas of Aristotle (384–322 BCE), who proposed that all matter was composed of the four “elements” — earth, air, fire, and water — began to influence alchemical practices when his student Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE) established Alexandria as a center of learning. Alexander is said by some to have discovered the Greek god Hermes’s famous Emerald Tablet, reputed to contain the secret of the philosopher’s stone, and to have built the Library of Alexandria specifically to house alchemical texts. These texts were, however, almost entirely destroyed in the third century, and soon thereafter the Alexandrian Zosimus wrote what are now the oldest known books on alchemy, which emphasize its mysticism rather than its medical or practical applications.

Islamic Arabs took over Alexandria in the seventh century CE, and as the center of learning shifted to Damascus and the newly founded Baghdad, alchemical texts were translated from Greek to Arabic. An eminent figure at that time was Jabir ibn Hayyan (721–815, although some sources say he never existed), who became a royal alchemist in Baghdad. Jabir’s writings were the first to mention such important compounds as corrosive sublimate (mercuric chloride), red oxide of mercury (mercuric oxide), and silver nitrate. Like Aristotle, Jabir believed metals grew in the Earth, adding to Aristotelian theory the notion that metals were differentiated by how much mercury and sulfur they contained. Making gold thus required the purification of these ingredients. Scholars in the West first learned about alchemy in roughly the 12th and 13th centuries as they copied and translated Arabic texts into Latin. Medieval science was still dominated by the ideas of Aristotle.

Alchemy after the Middle Ages

Among the most important of the European alchemists was Paracelsus (1493–1531), a Swiss traveling physician/surgeon and the first toxicologist. Paracelsus believed that the body’s organs worked alchemically, that is, their function was to separate the impure from the pure, and proposed that a balance of three controlling substances (mercury, sulfur, and salt), which he called the “tria prima,” was necessary for maintaining health. Paracelsus treated the plague and other diseases with an alchemical approach that included administering inorganic salts, minerals, and metals. He believed that what he called the “alkahest,” the supposed universal solvent, was the philosopher’s stone but had no interest in the transmutation of metals, writing, “Many have said of Alchemy, that it is for the making of gold and silver. For me such is not the aim, but to consider only what virtue and power may lie in medicines.”

Robert Boyle is often considered the father of modern chemistry. An engraving of Robert Boyle by William Faithorne © Bettmann/CORBISIn 1662, Robert Boyle (1627–1691) articulated Boyle’s law, which states that the volume of a gas decreases as the pressure on it increases, and vice versa. For this and other important contributions to scientific inquiry, Boyle is sometimes called the father of modern chemistry, but he was not a scientist in the current sense of the word. Rather, he is what is called a natural philosopher, someone who studied fundamental questions about nature and the physical universe before the 19th century, when dramatic advances in technology began to revolutionize our understanding of and approach to these questions.

Boyle wrote two papers on the transmutation of the elements, claiming to have changed gold into mercury by means of “quicksilver,” the ingredients of which he did not reveal. This caught the attention of Isaac Newton, another enthusiastic alchemist, who, like Boyle, was motivated in his research “by the good it may do in the world.” The two struck up a correspondence.

Central to Boyle’s efforts was his “corpuscularian hypothesis.” According to Boyle, all matter consisted of varying arrangements of identical corpuscles. Transforming copper to gold seemed to be just a matter of rearranging the pattern of its corpuscles into that of gold.

Boyle used his 1661 text The Sceptical Chymist to explain his hypothesis and to dismiss Aristotle’s four-elements theory, which had persisted through the ages. Boyle recognized that certain substances decompose into other substances (water decomposes into hydrogen and oxygen when it is electrically charged) that cannot themselves be broken down any further. These fundamental substances he labeled elements, which could be identified by experimentation.

Boyle was a prolific experimenter who kept meticulous accounts about both his failures and successes. He was a pioneer of chemical analysis and the scientific method, endlessly repeating his experiments with slight variations to obtain better results and, unheard of among earlier alchemists, always publishing the methods and details of his work in clear terms that could be widely understood.

A new framework

By the late 18th century, the field of chemistry had fully separated from traditional alchemy while remaining focused on questions relating to the composition of matter. Experimentation based on the scientific method, the publication of research results, the search for new elements and compounds and their application in medicine and industry beneficial to all mankind, and other concerns first addressed by alchemists dating back many centuries were now the domain of modern science.

Among the most significant of the post-alchemic chemists were the French nobleman Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794) and the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev (1834–1907). In 1789, Lavoisier wrote the first comprehen- sive chemistry textbook, and, like Robert Boyle, he is often referred to as the father of modern chemistry. Lavoisier agreed with Boyle that Aristotle’s four-elements theory was mistaken, and in his textbook, he compiled a list of metallic and nonmetallic elements that would point toward the periodic table developed by Mendeleev in 1869. It was Mendeleev who demonstrated that the elements could be arranged in a periodic — regular and recurring — relationship to each other based on their atomic weights and who created a periodic table that could accurately predict the properties of elements that had yet to be discovered. Mendeleev’s table is still used today.

Chemical questions: Our best hope for tomorrow

Just as alchemy was a touch point for myriad crafts, creations, and — for its time — cures, chemistry resides in the center of the sciences. As an inquisitive discipline, chemistry touches physics on one side and biology on the other. Chemical questions lead to environmental, industrial, and medical applications.

Often working together in research teams at universities and corporations, chemists around the world are developing new techniques and inventions. Like alchemists, sometimes the process of discovery might entail isolating specific components; other findings might come from developing new compounds.

Some recent research:

University of California–San Francisco biochemists identified a memory-boosting chemical in mice, which might one day be used in humans to improve memory.

Cheaper clean-energy technologies could be made possible thanks to a new discovery by a professor of chemistry at Penn State University.

The Duke Cancer Institute found that an osteoporosis drug stopped the growth of breast cancer cells, even in resistant tumors.

These are just a few examples of how modern chemistry carries on the alchemical quest for the elixir of life.

By Michelle Feder

LINK: https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/big-history-project/sta...

***

Elements of Alchemy

Posted by Rosey on February 7, 2016 at 2:34am in The Academy of Alchemy

Here we look at the elements of Alchemy. Alchemy being ‘A power or process of transforming something common into something special.’ Merriam -Webster’s dictionary.

I’ve never wanted to be a witch, but an alchemist, now that’s a different matter. ~ JK Rowling

Many people when looking at alchemy only look at the transmutation of lead into gold. Assuredly wealth creation is an element of alchemy but only one element of alchemy.

True alchemy is the evolution or transmutation from where we are to where we wish to be, or our highest vision that we have for ourselves. In all areas of life. Having being a multi millionaire, and bankrupt I really appreciate physical wealth, but it is only one aspect of life and without ‘wealth’ in the other areas we would be really poor.

Thinking and wishing will not turn base metal into gold. But here with the elements of alchemy you will understand how to turn the common into something special.

1. Decide your life’s purpose what is it that your uniquely equipped to be, to do and to have?
2. Define your Physical Health objective(s) how long do you wish to live for and what quality of health do you desire.
3. Determine what you would like your Family and home situation to look like. Kids? How do you wish to communicate with your significant other? Over time the quality of your communication determines the quality of your relationship.
4. Explore what your spiritual outcome you would like. This is an apposite time to recall that we’re human beings, not human doings, we need time to be.
5. Discover what financial and career objectives are
6. Conceive your social relationships
7. What are you goals regarding mental improvement, learn a language, learn to touch type, take a degree/PhD. Our brains can get better with age, if we use them!

Now that you have accomplished the first element of alchemy deciding what it is that you desire, the second element of alchemy is to establish where you are in each of the key areas of your life. Health, wealth, relationships both family and social your spirituality and your mental condition, these are the elements of alchemy like Water, earth, air and fire are of the physical world.

With the second element of alchemy you take an honest and open inventory of where you are. If you’re deep in debt and just 30 days from financial disaster as most people in the west are. Then put that down that your finances are in a mess, positive affirmations will not get you out of debt. Thinking and wishing will not turn base metal into gold but by deciding where it is that you want to go and establishing where you are now takes us to the third element is putting a plan together from where we are to where we desire to be.

The fourth element of Alchemy is take action, small amounts of action will at best produce small results and often will produce no results at all. You might just feel that you’re doing something. To produce noticeable results massive focused action is the way to go.

The fifth element is to review the results that have been achieved form the massive focused action that we undertook. Test and measure, do more of what works that takes you towards your goal and is fun. And do less or stop those things that are producing results that are divergent from what you desire.

Sixth element of alchemy let go, have fun, relaxing in the knowledge that you are in the process of creating something magical. Turning the common into something really valuable a life lived on purpose full of vibrant good health abundant wealth and deep and fulfilling relationships.

To summaries the six element

1. Decide your life’s purpose what is it that your uniquely equipped to be do and have.
2. Establish where you are in each of the key areas of your life
3. Put a plan together from where we are to where we desire to be.
4. Take action. Massive action.
5. Review the results that have been achieved.
6. Let go, have fun.

Through love the devil becomes an angel. Through love stones become soft as butter. Through love grief is like delight. Through love demons become the servants of God. ~ Rumi

——————————————-

Bruce Kidson 20 years ago had a life changing experience which got him thinking about the meaning of life and his purpose. Bruce spent over 30,000 hours and in excess of $150,000 in finding answers to these and other questions which he shares with you in his free mini course which you can have TODAY for Free. So you can live a life on purpose and with abundant wealth, great health and fulfilling relationships. Come and say hihttp://www.facebook.com/yourwealthforlife.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Bruce_Kidson

LINK: http://vividlife.me/ultimate/18460/elements-of-alchemy/

***

Religious Symbolism in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood


Posted by Rosey on March 7, 2016 at 2:38pm in The Academy of Alchemy

Fullmetal Alchemist is an amazing series, in that it is exciting, and very enjoyable to watch. I already wrote all about that, with a subjective review. I found, however, that the series also happens to be a series that is rich with symbolism, and which can encourage a good amount of thought and debate. Specifically, the series seems to touch on religious ideas a lot. I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look at some of the religious symbolism found within the series, for a more... academic-type hub. Here's a word of warning though -- and it's going to be the only warning. This article will contain major spoilers. I'll be discussing things at a level which necessarily requires stating specific details.

Let's begin:

The main antagonist of the series, Father.
The main antagonist of the series, Father.

Father and the Homunculi

It's probably the least subtle of the series' themes, so let's get it out of the way first: The main antagonist's name is Father, he dresses entirely in white, he fulfills the role as a powerful creator, and he kind of has a Jesus haircut going there. His creations, the homunculi, are named after the seven deadly sins (Wrath, Envy, Pride, Gluttony, Sloth, Greed, and Lust.) Of course, these seven concepts have been popularized as sins by the historic poet Dante (which is probably why in the 2003 series the counterpart to the Father character is named as such), but their origin actually far pre-dates Dante's Divine Comedy. Here's the deal with them:

In the fourth century, there was a Christian ascetic monk by the name of Evagrius Ponticus.His list was a little bit different than the list we have today. His list, for example, included prostitution; also, he had eight vices instead of seven. But what happened was his works were translated and edited, before becoming absorbed into the Christian mindset as the list of seven sins that we now have today.

Ed's trademark Flemel jacket.
Ed's trademark Flemel jacket.
A key element of the cross: A serpent, crucified.
A key element of the cross: A serpent, crucified.

Flemel's Cross

Another easily recognizable symbol from Fullmetal Alchemist would be the symbol that shows up on Ed's jacket, and on Al's armor. That would be Flemel's Cross. Nicholas Flemel was born in 1330, and died in 1418. He devoted his life to studying alchemy -- he was also a devout Christian. When he died, he left some symbols to adorn his grave, one of them being Flemel's Cross. When you break it down, it's pretty interesting. It actually refers to creating a philosophers stone by "crucifying a serpent." It's a metaphor for purifying something that is venomous, or dangerous, and becoming stronger with it. From a Christian lens, this can be interprereted as overcoming Satan (traditionally symbolized as a serpent.)

What it also consists of, is the Rod of Asclepius. Here, we step away from Christianity, and look at Greek Pantheology. Asclepius was the son of the more commonly recgonized Apollo. And he was the god of medicine and healing. This is why today, hospitals, insurance agencies, and other institutions relating to the health industry often make use of a symbol consisting of a snake entwined around a rod as well. 

Note the mark on Lust's neck.
Note the mark on Lust's neck.
A traditional Ouroboros depiction.
A traditional Ouroboros depiction.

The Ouroboros

The marking held by each of the Homunculi (on Lust's neck, on Gluttony's tongue, on Pride's eye, etc.) has meaning as well. This symbol is known as an Ouroboros. The simplest explanation for this symbol's meaning, would be the endless circle of life: life, death, rebirth. In fact the name "Ouroboros" comes from Greek, and means "devouring its tail." The symbolprobably came into existence between 1500 and 2000 years ago in Egypt, and you can find more information than you probably want about that, here. That's not my hub, but it was covered quite well, and it describes, in detail, how the Ouroboros relates to Egyptian gods and philosophies.

How it relates to the Homunculi of the show is pretty self-explanatory. You know how they have a tendency to get chopped up, shot, exploded, dematerialized, and burned alive... and then get back up like nothing happened? Yeah, that's an example of the rebirth process. In fact, on more than one ocassion, the homunculi -- different ones -- state explicitly, that they have "died." Gluttony, in particular, makes it clear that he doesn't enjoy "dying."

Hohenheim uses alchemy in order to walk across water.
Hohenheim uses alchemy in order to walk across water.
Roy Mustang is cut through the palms of his hands.
Roy Mustang is cut through the palms of his hands.

Comparisons with Jesus

Two incidents that occur within the series may remind the viewer of Jesus. The first is when Hohenheim seeks out Father. He starts out in the basement of a church. Seeking the Father in Church -- that's about as good a time as any to toss out some symbolism. Well, he finds a passageway leading to Father's nation-wide transmutation circle, but it's flooded. His solution? Hint: He doesn't drain it. He walks right over it, using alchemy. It's made clear throughout the series that Hohenheim is more than a normal man (he is, in fact, a "human philosopher's stone.") This parallel between him and Jesus solidifies this status.

The second incident occurrs when Roy Mustang is fighting Pride. Now worth noting, is that Pride had previously voiced his thoughts on the idea of God. Taken word for word from episode 30, we have:

"God? How strange. After all this, I've yet to be smote. How many more Ishbalans must I kill for that to happen? God is only a figure created by humans; that's all there is to it. If you want to bring an iron hammer down on me, do it yourself without having to rely on God, human!"

So there you have it. Fuehrer King Bradley doesn't like God. In fact, he's pretty contentious towards the idea of God. So when he manages to pin down Colonel Mustang, and he chooses to impale both of Mustang's palms... that's pretty interesting. The following episodes then contain a Roy Mustang who appears to have stigmata.

The false prophet Leto
The false prophet Leto
The literal fist of God
The literal fist of God

The Church of Leto

Early in the series, Ed and Al visit the city of Lior, where a religious cult has emerged. In this cult, Father Leto, who has a philosopher's stone, uses the powers of alchemy and to gain a position of power, then calls the acts of power "miracles of god." This could be the start of a very interesting debate on whether or not Leto is representative of a larger criticism of religion. However, we won't go in that direction -- at least not in this article. Instead, we'll simply look at it as Leto being an all-around bastard.

Remember what happened to Leto?

He was crushed by the fist of god -- literally. It took some help from Alchemy, but it's interesting how Ed won the fight. He transmuted the arm of what appears to be a religious deity, and uses it to attack Leto. This could be interpreted as god's integrity being preserved, or alternatively, as Ed being blasphemous towards the idea of a god. There's reasonable justification for both arguments. What this was not, however, was unintentional.

Closing

Is that a good start? Hopefully I've included enough food for thought to get everyone's mind working a bit. I feel there's still some aspects that could be explored further. I chose not to touch on the subject of Truth, because, to be honest, it's still pretty hard to work my mind around what commentary was being made with regards to him. Maybe someone else has ideas on this? I'd love to hear in the comments section. In fact, response to the article as a whole are highly encouraged!

LINK: http://hubpages.com/entertainment/Fullmetal-Alchemist-Brotherhood-R...

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