By Sean Martin

Alchemy has usually been seen as 'the historical past of an error', an instance of mediaeval gullibility and greed, during which alchemists attempted to show lead into gold, create terrific wealth and locate the elixir of existence. yet alchemy has additionally been defined as 'the mightiest mystery guy can possess', and it obsessed the likes of Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle and plenty of of the founders of contemporary technological know-how. This publication 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. a few of the maximum minds of the center a long time, figures equivalent to Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas have been attracted to alchemy, and mythical alchemists reminiscent of Nicholas Flamel have been notion to have truly succeeded to find The Philosopher's Stone. through the Renaissance, Paracelsus and his fans helped revolutionise drugs, and through the 17th century, alchemy performed an incredible function in paving the best way for contemporary technology. throughout the 20th century, it turned a spotlight of curiosity for the psychologist Carl Jung and his fans, who believed that the alchemists had found the subconscious. during this totally revised version, Sean Martin has elevated the sections on chinese language and Indian alchemy and has extra new fabric at the courting among alchemy and early glossy technology, whereas additionally creating a clean evaluate of this such a lot enduringly mysterious and interesting of matters, to which all others were defined as 'child's play'.

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It also led to his creating one of the earliest maps of the world. ) But this was not all. Bacon saw abuse and ignorance everywhere, and railed against fellow scholars (including Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus). Heretically, he judged the world • 56 • Alchemy 16/10/06 11:15 am Page 57 ALCHEMY IN THE WEST of Classical Antiquity to be morally superior to that of the Christians, and called for greater stringency in universities. He himself learned Hebrew, Chaldean and Greek in an attempt to try to get both the Bible and the Classical authors translated properly.

Morienus was said to have taught Khalid with the hope of converting him to Christianity from the new religion of Islam, and was happy to show the young prince a transmutation. Khalid was so impressed that he declared all his previous teachers to be frauds and had them all executed. Morienus took this as his cue to retire to a cave as far from Khalid as possible, and it was several years before the prince learnt where his teacher was residing. Morienus was brought back to teach once more, and this time imparted the secret to Khalid, who then set about enshrining this wisdom in verse.

The manuscript tradition was essential to the dissemination of • 33 • Alchemy 16/10/06 11:15 am Page 34 ALCHEMY AND ALCHEMISTS alchemical ideas, and there was a thriving black market trade in manuscripts. The best known version of the Aurora is a typical alchemical text: it is profusely illustrated, showing scenes of traditional alchemical figures such as the hermaphrodite, the dragon and the ouroborous, together with more Bosch-like creatures such as human-monkey hybrids, and sun and moon-headed knights.

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