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Thread: What the heck is Alchemy?

  1. #11
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    How very peculiar...

    Here it is again. Maybe it's a problem with monster posts...

    [quote author=Bjorn link=topic=105.msg473#msg473 date=1286670156]
    Could you go a bit more in depth about what exactly these experiments entail?

    1. How would you go about discovering that you needed to perform an experiment in the first place?[/quote]

    Sure - Alchemy postulates that the “inner’ (mental/spiritual) is inseparable from the “outer” (physical), so there are two kinds of experiments - physical experiments and mental/spiritual experiments.

    OK, here's a mental experiment (I’ll explain something about physical experiments with the next question) -

    Research question: When you "feel" something, is it "real" or is it "imaginary"?

    Last night, I was out in the woods after completing some physical exercises I do regularly. Generally, I plan my time so that I go in the woods at about 6, work for an hour or so, then come back just as it is getting dark, at about 7:30. But I was tied up, so I went out late, and came back after dark.

    On the way back it was very dark (moon rises late this time of year), and the trail is not very good (I’m the only one who uses it), and I got the creepy feeling that there was something lurking around, waiting to jump out at me.

    My rational mind tells me that this was imagination. I could go through a whole list of the conditions that were operating which would cause me to have this kind of experience, but if I immediately accept the idea that I am imagining something, that acceptance is based on an a priori assumption (unexamined prejudice) that there actually is nothing there, and that my imagination is playing tricks on me.

    So - I experiment. What happens if I drop the prejudice, and act as if there actually is something there, something “alive” which I might be able to meet and communicate with?

    I won’t tell you what happens when you do this. You can try it yourself, or you may have already tried it or something like this. But something interesting does happen. And, the funny thing is, what happens is real - but you can make it stop happening by shifting the way you think back to the “rational” approach. Maybe.

    So which view is “real”?

    [quote author=Bjorn link=topic=105.msg473#msg473 date=1286670156]
    2. Do you use any tools for these experiments? Is it like a ritual? Help me see more clearly[/quote]

    Traditionally, Alchemy has been tied to experimental chemistry, and there is a whole mass of apparatus that can be used ranging from the Alchemist’s furnace (athanor) to distillation equipment (the pelican) to sealed containers used to allow mixtures to “incubate” (vulture’s egg) - and a lot more besides. The reason that Alchemy developed this way is that at the same time Alchemy was developing, interest in the natural sciences was developing, and the two fed on each other.

    Conservative alchemists still do Alchemy this way, but I don’t. The reason I don’t is that as a modern man, I know that, when you mix two chemical together, something specific is supposed to happen. I don’t always know what that is, but I know that I can find a textbook which will tell me. That means that there is little room for the “unknown” to enter in (it would be different if I were a highly advanced chemist, but I’m not).

    So the physical experimentation part of my work is done through art. When I work with a piece of metal (I make jewelry), I don’t always know exactly what will happen when I do something, and I never know all the possible variables until I’ve explored them, so there is always “the unknown” lurking just around the corner. This gives me a lot of range for my imagination which actual chemistry would not allow.

    You could say that doing physical work (traditionally, chemistry - in my case, art) is the ritual in Alchemy. While you are mentally engaged in doing the physical work, your mind is also doing something - it is paying close attention in a state of expectation and converting the physical changes which it observes into a set of symbolic images. So the physical work becomes a form of meditation.

    There might also be other specific ritual used by some Alchemists - ritual purification baths are common, for instance - but there really is no specific set of rituals that Alchemists perform. Alchemy is a very individualistic path, and each Alchemist generally develops his/her own method of working. It’s not at all like ceremonial magic where you get an instruction sheet…

    [quote author=Bjorn link=topic=105.msg473#msg473 date=1286670156]
    3. Could you explain the homunculi to me?
    [/quote]

    Yeah… uhm, things get tricky in Alchemy to explain because there are always two things going on - the external physical work, and the internal mental/spiritual work. The homunculi - the little man living in a bottle is a good example of this.

    Some Alchemists were engaged in trying to create artificial life in their bottles - just as scientists are still trying to do today. The big difference between what the Alchemists were doing and what modern scientists are doing (aside from the lack of knowledge of advanced biochemistry on the part of 14th century Alchemists) is that the Alchemists believed that, to bring inanimate matter to life, one had to instill it with a kind of vital essence (soul) which they would have to transfer from [b]themselves/b] to the inanimate matter they were working with. They would have to “ensoul” it.

    But not much has really changed. In order to “ensoul” something, the Alchemist would have to focus his/her thoughts, attention, and work on the substance - which a modern scientist would STILL have to do. Modern scientists just don’t think of it in the same terms, currently.

    Symbolically, though, the homunculi represents the true “self” which exists within the bottle (or “vessel”), which is the body of the Alchemist.

    Something funny happens when you engage in certain types of meditation (I see this in Buddhist traditions pretty clearly). You begin to see a separation between the body, the “ego” (the thing that you think of as “me” when you think of yourself. The part that does the talking when you talk to yourself), and something which observes what is going on, but does not act.

    The unmoved observer (the one who does the listening when you talk to yourself) is the homunculus which the Alchemist creates through his/her work. This is the real self, which should be in control, but is usually subordinated to the body and/or the ego. When the real self is developed (actually strengthened by being acknowledged), it takes control and guides the body and the ego, rather than the other way around.

    [quote author=Dufonce link=topic=105.msg483#msg483 date=1286671640]
    would any of it entail mixing aluminum shavings with rust (iron oxide) and igniting it with some magnesium? mmmm.... thermite.... <3 lol burns up to 4500 °F (2500 °C) if ya ever need some really intense heat... like slightly less than the heat of the surface of the sun.
    [/quote]

    No, but it’s fun to do. Be sure to wear eye protection or you’ll burn your retina!
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  2. #12
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    [quote author=CabbageTheif link=topic=105.msg973#msg973 date=1286763106]
    corbin, i have read a handful of books since last year and i have a grasp on the basic basic basic phylosophy of alchemy. i emphasise that it is such a minor grasp because i can feel that this is only the tip of the iceburg.

    my question is what reading material would you recomend for someone who is more than a beginner, but a far cry from a journeyman? what moderate leveled stuff could you point out for me? ...[/quote]

    All understanding is always the tip of the iceberg - you're trying to understand how the universe works, and that's a big job. No matter how much you know, there's always more. Also, for me, I've found that my understanding of Alchemy changes as I go along. If you had asked me questions 10 or even five years ago, I'd have given you very different answers... and they would have been right then, based on what I understood at the time.

    Here's what I recommend - now that you have a basic understanding of the principles of Alchemy, stop reading "about" Alchemy. If you want to learn Alchemy, you have to do it - just as you'd have to get in the water and swim if you wanted to be a swimmer.

    Get a copy of one of the better known Alchemy texts, like The Golden Tractate of Hermes and read it over carefully. Then read it again and again and again until the images begin to come alive for you. Then try to make sense of it - it actually contains instruction for how to proceed, but the instructions won’t make sense until you are mentally ready to understand them (that’s why the writing is so weird. It is actually altering/preparing your mind to understand what it is telling you).

    As far as lab work goes, KashakuTatsu’s advice is excellent. Work with herbs - it’s safe (no lead and mercury), and it can be done with a minimum of equipment in a small space.

    But you don’t have to do lab work. You should do something physical where you can put the principles you are working with into practice, but it could be something like gardening, baking, or painting just as easily as chemical work.
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

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  3. #13
    Sr. Member KashakuTatsu's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    it’s safe (no lead and mercury)
    That's a little bit of an assumption hehe It's only safe if you're working with safe herbs, which I often don't XD

    some of the rocks we grind (PAIN) into the incenses have metals in them. Also get metals from other sources: dried fish (iodine), clams (mercury), spinach (nickle), etc. Excrement has an abundance of metals as well, but meh if you really want to use poo in incense. Blood can be a source for copper, iodine and iron.
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  4. #14
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    [quote author=KashakuTatsu link=topic=105.msg1300#msg1300 date=1286837332]
    That's a little bit of an assumption hehe It's only safe if you're working with safe herbs, which I often don't XD

    [/quote]

    Yes - I meant "relatively safe."
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    Kick Ass Little Crow Corvus's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    Is alchemy a science or a magic? So alchemy is the seperation or use of the body,spirit,and soul? Im still alittle confuzzled. Are thee spirit and soul the ka and ba? If so what is the body? Is thre an ultimate goal to alchemy?
    世の中に潜み落下した「アレ」はねえか? 誰が書き換える 世界の汚れは?
    Do you have 'that' which lies dormant within society? Who can overwrite it, the filth in the world?


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    Sr. Member ghosthaunter's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    [quote author=B. de Corbin link=topic=105.msg1066#msg1066 date=1286791278]

    Get a copy of one of the better known Alchemy texts, like The Golden Tractate of Hermes and read it over carefully. Then read it again and again and again until the images begin to come alive for you. Then try to make sense of it - it actually contains instruction for how to proceed, but the instructions won’t make sense until you are mentally ready to understand them (that’s why the writing is so weird. It is actually altering/preparing your mind to understand what it is telling you).

    [/quote]

    euhm is it normal the book is only 8 pages long? i think i have the ebook. and about 'won't making sense', you're right

    [quote author=Golden Tractate of Hermes]
    ...
    Know then, that the division that was made upon the water by the
    ancient philosophers separates it into four substances; one into two, and three into one; the third part of
    which is colour, as it were-a coagulated moisture; but the second and third waters are the Weights of the
    Wise.
    ...
    [/quote]

    O.O this might take a while to understand...
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    Cannibal Rights Activist Ophidia's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    I know from dabbling hither and thither that there is a lot of alchemical symbolism hidden in paintings (and I'm not talking out of a Dan Brown book) - most of it is 'hidden in plain sight', things like the pelicans and eggs, red & white dragons, suns and moons, you name it.

    Do you know of any galleries or collections of 'alchemical' art, or even good coffee-table books on the subject?
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  8. #18
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    [quote author=Corvus link=topic=105.msg23294#msg23294 date=1292687315]
    Is alchemy a science or a magic? So alchemy is the separation or use of the body,spirit,and soul? Im still alittle confuzzled. Are thee spirit and soul the ka and ba? If so what is the body? Is thre an ultimate goal to alchemy?
    [/quote]

    It's closer to science than it is to magic. Alchemists, per se, do not do spells or conjurations - although that's a bit confusing because Alchemy is one of the "Hermetic Arts" (Arts taught by Thoth/Hermes), which also include astrology, magic, science, etc. So many Alchemists also practiced magic.

    Alchemy is an attempt to understand all of nature at a deep level - it can't include the supernatural... but, if what we call "supernatural" is a part of nature which we don't quite understand yet, it can be studied by Alchemy... So the distinction is pretty muddy, especially because, as one works along the path of Alchemy, one will soon discover that what we think is real, and what actually is real, are often times two different things... Confused? Good - Hermes sez: putrefaction before generation. All colors return to black before proceding.

    I don't know enough about ancient Egyptian beliefs to make an authoritative statement about the Ka and Ba, but, from my perspective, it does seem that spirit is close to Ka, and soul is close to Ba. This may be one of the bits of Alchemy which actually did have it's origin in Egypt.

    In Alchemy, the body is "Salt." When spirit and soul come together, they generate a body, in much the same way that when oxygen and hydrogen come together they generate water.

    The goal of Alchemy is to reach the highest level of potential of which the practitioner is capable - to become a human as it is possible to become, by learning how to use those things which a human is capable of using.

    [quote author=ghosthaunter link=topic=105.msg23306#msg23306 date=1292691694]
    euhm is it normal the book is only 8 pages long? i think i have the ebook. and about 'won't making sense', you're right [/quote]

    It is short. 8 pages... maybe... it's longer in the pinted form, but not very long. Give me an address from where you got the e-copy and I'll check it against my copy to make sure. However, I've been reading that short book for a long time, and I still haven't finished it. There's a difference between words and understanding them .

    I'll give you a tip - when you begin reading it, you are likely to discard the most useful parts because they will seem like they are just some kind of formalized statements. In the beginning, those are he parts you need to pay most attention to because they contain the instructions telling you how to read and use the rest of the text (I know because I made this mistake for several years...).

    For example, you will run into the constantly repeated idea that nothing can be accomplished without the aid of God. This isn't just formal religious BS - You will actually have to allow the thing which the Alchemists refer to as "God" to help you, or you'll get nowhere. It's certainly possible for Hermes to enter through a locked door, but it won't - it's not polite. But he will keep knocking until you decide to let him in.

    [quote author=ghosthaunter link=topic=105.msg23306#msg23306 date=1292691694]
    O.O this might take a while to understand...
    [/quote]

    LOL - give yourself time. After 30 years, it's plain as day to me.

    [quote author=perzephone link=topic=105.msg23323#msg23323 date=1292696690]
    I know from dabbling hither and thither that there is a lot of alchemical symbolism hidden in paintings (and I'm not talking out of a Dan Brown book) - most of it is 'hidden in plain sight', things like the pelicans and eggs, red & white dragons, suns and moons, you name it.

    Do you know of any galleries or collections of 'alchemical' art, or even good coffee-table books on the subject?
    [/quote]

    Yes - I have some picture books, but I think they are mostly out of print now. Try this: http://www.levity.com/alchemy/images_s.html

    There is also a link on the page to works by contemporary artists using Alchemy imagery which you might find interesting - be sure to check that out (http://www.levity.com/alchemy/contemp_artists.html).

    Art and Alchemy go hand in hand together - in Alchemy texts which have pictures, you will often find that the pictures convey far more information than the text does. The Mutus Liber (Silent Book) is a famous text made up only of pictures - here's a link... but somebody added a bunch of words... http://hermetic.com/caduceus/article...tus-liber.html
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    [quote author=B. de Corbin link=topic=105.msg24093#msg24093 date=1293025214]
    Yes - I have some picture books, but I think they are mostly out of print now. Try this: http://www.levity.com/alchemy/images_s.html

    There is also a link on the page to works by contemporary artists using Alchemy imagery which you might find interesting - be sure to check that out (http://www.levity.com/alchemy/contemp_artists.html).

    Art and Alchemy go hand in hand together - in Alchemy texts which have pictures, you will often find that the pictures convey far more information than the text does. The Mutus Liber (Silent Book) is a famous text made up only of pictures - here's a link... but somebody added a bunch of words... http://hermetic.com/caduceus/article...tus-liber.html
    [/quote]

    Oooh, sparklies!

    Thank you
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  10. #20
    Silver Member Caelia's Avatar
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    Re: What the heck is Alchemy?

    [quote author=B. de Corbin link=topic=105.msg24093#msg24093 date=1293025214]


    I don't know enough about ancient Egyptian beliefs to make an authoritative statement about the Ka and Ba, but, from my perspective, it does seem that spirit is close to Ka, and soul is close to Ba. This may be one of the bits of Alchemy which actually did have it's origin in Egypt.


    [/quote]

    They're both different parts of a soul, though in simplistic terms this works

    For further reading: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/ka.htm

    http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/ba.htm


    That could be an interesting approach to a part of alchemy for me, though...
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