Alchemy is a pre-scientific direction in the development of chemistry. Alchemy: Description, History, Philosophy and Interesting Facts
If we turn to the etymology of this word, it comes from the Arabic ’al-khīmiyā’, which came from the long-Greek χυμεία - “fluid”, or χυμενσιζζ - “casting”. Or maybe it is from the ancient name of Egypt - Hem. The original meaning of the word "alchemy" - most likely, "Egyptian art."
Mention of alchemy is found in ancient manuscripts of China and India. Already from this it is clear that alchemy is the knowledge that came from a long past, from the period of the axial time of civilization, the time of the birth of the main religions and the philosophical knowledge of humanity.
The heyday of alchemy is associated with the era of the Crusades of the Middle Ages, when the mysterious and metaphysical knowledge, almost lost and reached in the form of recipes or practical recommendations, were subjected to experimental verification.
The history of the Middle Ages is filled with information about scientists who have studied how to make gold in alchemy and who received the mercies of kings. And about those who did not succeed, and some disappeared along with the laboratories.
Then knowledge began to revive and take shape as the science of alchemy. The history gave us the names of the great alchemists Paracelsus, Alexander Cagliostro, the Jewish Maria, Nicholas Flamel, Georges Ripley and others. At the same time, the goals of the teaching appeared, explaining what alchemy is.
Practical knowledge of alchemy appears in the mythical times of the Heavenly Emperors of China, the first man Pangu and the Lords, who brought the Fire to the earth. The philosopher of ancient China, Lao Dza, and the Kuznets Brotherhood give an idea of the ability to achieve change and the transmutation of metals.
In ancient India, alchemy is the science of man, his inner change and mystical state. Ancient Indian alchemical treatises are devoted not to metals, as in China, but to methods and methods of human development.
Egyptian alchemy had a wide knowledge of metals and stones, which are still striking today. The knowledge of the Egyptians embodied in the mystery of the construction of the pyramids and the features of mummification. The myth of Osiris, the god of rebirth and death, is connected with the discovery of the philosopher's stone of immortality.According to the myth, the human body, dying, continues to live, moving into another state, the immortal soul always lives in one body (this is the reason for the development of the science of mummification). It is believed that the alchemy was discovered by the demigod Hermes Trismegistus, which is why this knowledge is also called hermetic.
Arabs take over the centuries-long knowledge of Egypt. Alchemy is a science without mystery. The alchemist Ayub Al Ruhawi embodied the ideas of Aristotle on the interconversion of metals into a treatise on the properties of metals, surprisingly accurate. The alchemist Geber (Jabir ibn Khayan) introduces the mercury-sulfuric theory of the origin of metals, which became the basis for many centuries of the science of alchemy. On paper, for the first time, knowledge has been deciphered and explanations of the properties of metals and the possibility of their changes are imprinted.
Crusades Europeans brought with them the Arab knowledge of alchemy. Science or magic, but it gained a lot of enthusiastic adherents and, thanks to encrypted manuscripts, overgrown with a bunch of fraudsters and charlatans. For many years and the reigns of various kings fell under the influence of the mystical charm of alchemy.
With the light hand of one of the most loyal fans of this science, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Rudolph II (1552-1612), Prague today is the capital of alchemy.By his order, astrologers, alchemists and astronomers settled in the Golden Lane of Prague.
The works of this alchemist, who lived in the period 1493-1541, are associated with the basics of knowledge of what science of alchemy is. He developed the tasks of European science, which boiled down to the following:
- search and manufacture of elixir (philosopher's stone);
- the birth of the homunculus;
- search for alkagest - the solvent of any substances;
- restoration from the ashes of living creatures (paligenesis);
- the invention of the magic substance - the world spirit;
- search for ways of quintessence;
- search aurum potabile - the perfect medicine.
The philosophical principles of alchemists are complex, confusing and symbolic. In short, they are as follows:
- The macrocosm or the universe is a product of the One Absolute or the Divine Being. "Everything is One, and One is everything."
- Everything exists in the unity of opposites, of duality. All phenomena, concepts, properties are viewed from opposite sides (man / woman, spirit / body, water / fire).
- Everything consists of alchemical substances: Soul, Spirit, Body (Three Kingdoms).
- Separation, purification and synthesis are the three stages of alchemical practice and the spiritual part of alchemy.
- All life consists of the main elements: Fire, Water, Air, Earth.
- Attached to these elements is the fifth, the Philosophical Mercury, the quintessence of the four elements.
- The evolution, the development of everything goes to the predestined state of absolute perfection.
Thus, practical alchemy really looked for a way to turn everything into perfection - into gold. Spiritual practices of alchemy were looking for a way, how to get spiritual gold from “unclean” elements (ordinary people) - wisdom. And with philosophy in mind, alchemy is the science of transmutation and transformation.
Directions of thought
The first thing that comes to mind when discussing what alchemy is is finding a way to make gold from base metals. That is what occupied the minds of medieval scholars. Gold was gaining more and more power, and conditions required a search for ways to quickly enrich.
Another direction that alchemy has acquired is the search for and the attainment of immortality. Many legends have come to the present day about the alchemists who have found a way to live forever in a physical body, and the recipes for the prolongation of youth and life continue to find their followers today.
The third goal, about which you rarely find information in philosophical treatises, is the achievement of harmony and happiness.
Modern metaphysical literature is replete with information that popularizes and sometimes replaces the concepts of such a science as alchemy. Science or magic, magical rituals and recipes for the cure of all diseases, the achievement of physical immortality and instant enrichment - which of all is true, and where is fiction?
The main principles of alchemy
Knowledge is based on three principles or laws of alchemy.
The first principle: matter, as the basis of everything, is one. It takes many forms and can be modified and flow from one to another. But all things are the Great Primary, one and indivisible.
The following follows from this law, saying that everything that is in the macrocosm is in the microcosm. What is in the great is in the small. And you can understand the processes occurring in the large, having studied them in the small.
The third - matter consists of three constituent elements (these are substances, not chemical elements):
- Sulfur. Male beginning. An immortal spirit that disappears without a trace when burning matter.
- Mercury. Feminine. The soul that binds the body and the spirit. The most important of their three substances.
- Salt. The material body, the part that remains after firing.
These elements constitute the essence of natural bodies and act as an inseparable triad. The degree of perfection depends on their ratios. More perfect are those where there is more Sulfur. Where there is a lot of Salt, there is a lot of heavy, applied to a man of the earth, physical.
Church and Alchemy
The position of the church in relation to this "dark science" is understandable. And although it is reliably known that Pope John XXII was passionate about alchemy, it was he who published the bullet "Against the alchemists" in 1317. The clergymen such as Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict II, Albert the Great and many others were interested in the secret of how to make gold in alchemy. The Catholic Church imposed a curse on this science. It was banned in France, Venice, England. The number of scientists subjected to persecution and death is uncountable.
The church and skepticism, which grew in the scientific environment due to the invasion of fraudsters, did their job. By the end of the 16th century, alchemy as a science entered the period of a sunset that lasted for three centuries.
Only in the XVIII century, such outstanding minds as Isaac Newton, G. Leibnitz, R. Boyle and others turned their eyes to its sources and became adherents of science.
Alchemy as pre-scientific chemistry
In the academic community, they relate differently to the status and role of the work of alchemists. Indeed, the criteria of scientific do not fit the alchemical experiments and research.They were carried out without accurate measurements, based on speculation. Mystery, mysticism and witchcraft enveloped the activities of the alchemist, which is quite consistent with the medieval culture of society.
And although more often the hypotheses and theories of alchemists have not been confirmed experimentally, it is impossible to take away from her the right to the first descriptions of the properties of substances and metals. And many of their ideas were successfully implemented in glassmaking, metallurgy and the manufacture of medicines.
Should alchemy be considered the progenitor of chemistry, if even today its many knowledge and experiments are widely used in this science? The answer is obvious.
Alchemy: science or magic?
And today, disputes and discussions on this issue do not subside. Mysticism and mystery that has enveloped the famous alchemists of antiquity, the legends and recipes of magic potions fueled the interest of contemporaries.
It is human nature to believe in a miracle and hope for a magical solution to their problems. The people to instant enrichment is also indestructible. Therefore, supporters of alchemy are and always will be. And they will selflessly continue to search each for their philosopher's stone.