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Title: Alchemy
Description: Links and excerpts.

Belorin - March 28, 2005 06:47 AM (GMT)
These are all from the original Alchemy thread.
Flamel's Gold
5 Birds of Alchemy
An Alchemist's Tale
Nicolas Flamel
World of
the Azoth
Many of the references in the thread were subsections of a main site, in those cases I listed the main site only, going for quality, not quantity.

aramantha - March 28, 2005 03:18 PM (GMT)
Many thanks, O Prince among Dragonlords! Weeding through the various stashes of alchemy material we have here is a real labor of love.

These links are likely to stay live for quite a while, so this will be extremely helpful. But we can also post cut-and-paste chunks of writing (articles, text selections) that we find, to keep the bigger context of a quote available for our readers, even though we may only use a sentence or paragraph of a piece in a post we might make in a literature thread.

Here is the link and a small section of one of the best overviews for the modern reader that I have come across. (It also has a trippy, Blake-inspired graphic. ^_^ ) This article (originally written as the introductory reading for a college course) is attempting to tie the medieval vision of alchemical processes to the Jungian interpretation of alchemy as a process of inner psychological development (which you can see as metaphor, or, as Jung saw it, the older experiments were a projection outward into the physical realm of those same inner psychological processes which alchemists were already aware of, on some level.) Since we are already thinking of metaphoric psychological applications for alchemy within the Harry Potter books, this becomes a very useful orientation to the whole difficult business. A long-ish read, but very readable, and hard to put down if you're at all interested in these things.

"Grossinger says that "what Carl Jung recognized was that the stages of the alchemists also corresponded to a process of psychological individuation. The psychic stages were as precise and rigorous as the chemical ones by which they became imagined. Furthermore, they generated a physical and even quantitative terminology for an undiagnosed tension of opposites in the human psyche arising from male and female archetypes, a struggle they sought to resolve by the creative unity of the chemicals in the Stone." Alchemy sought to unite Spirit (male), and Matter (female) through a Royal Union (coniunctio) to create their synthesis in the homunculus, hermaphrodite, or lapis. This is an alchemical metaphor or version of the generic process of spiritual rebirth.

The entire body of alchemical literature covers many variations on the theme of the Great Work. No single person will ever express all of the operations and symbols described in alchemy, just as no single person ever embodies the totality of the Self. We each have unique experiences of the common roots of humanity or the collective unconscious. Thus, the various operations of alchemy come in different order for the various practitioners. The alchemical writings seem to contradict one another about the evolution of the process. Some claim to have made the Stone and lost it, over and over -- like the elusive revelations of a psychedelic trip. Likewise, in dreams we sometimes find the symbols of the end-product (like a mandala, or flower, or child) appearing at the beginning of the process. They symbolize what is latent and seeks manifestation.

Nevertheless, in both alchemy and Jungian psychology there are classic stages in the process of individuation or personal experience of the unconscious -- psychic milestones. One major recurrent theme in modern dreams is the symbolism of the planets, which correspond with the alchemical metals. These metals, or planets (astrology), archetypes (depth psychology) or Spheres (QBL) can be understood psychologically as the building blocks of the ego, which forms itself from fragments of these divine archetypal qualities. These spiritual principles seek concretization through the unique experience of an individual ego. This links spirit and matter; it comes down to earth.

The sacredness of the Opus, or Great Work, is the central idea behind alchemy. It is a holistic perspective. One must be self-oriented, rather than ego-oriented. The adept is also diligent, patient and virtuous. In other words, in order to create the Stone, you must have that integrative potential within yourself for self-realization -- for becoming whole or 'holy.' It requires an inward seeking, just like the process of individuation. It is a solitary task for no one may follow where you go. But there may be guides who will help inspire your faith and dedication to the task. Others have been to the territory you will explore, but none will accompany you.

The secret of alchemy is that it is a personal journey of transformation, and cannot be explained but only experienced. It is "eating the dish," not just reading about it in an alchemical cookbook. Its effects must be channeled into spiritual growth, for if alchemy is used to gratify personal desire the work is lost. This means the ego gets inflated with its own importance when the real power source lies within the Self. This naturally produces a regression back into an unconscious state, back to the prima materia, raw psychic material. The instinctual urge for growth and transformation lies within us. For this urge to be considered evolutional requires that the ego must cooperate quite deliberately and consciously with the Self. This leads toward self-realization.

The main purpose of the Opus is "to create a transcendent, miraculous substance which is variously symbolized as the Philosopher's Stone, the Elixir of Life, or the universal medicine (panacea). The procedure is, first, to find the suitable material, the so called prima materia (lead), and then to subject it to a series of operations which will turn it into the Philosopher's Stone (gold)." (Edinger, 1978)."

aramantha - April 2, 2005 10:53 PM (GMT)
Here is the link and a small chunk of a dense scholarly article about the spiritual aspects of the alchemical process. It's worth opening and browsing though (or read completely, but it's a sweaty job -- personally I'm not done with it myself) for the little plates picturing the processes of joining by the King (sol) and the Queen (luna).

Have a look especially at what the author says below about alchemical processes and time (bottom of the selection), which is another of the great themes the Harry Potter series plays with over and over again:

Spiritual Alchemy

Interpreting Representative Texts and Images

Karen-Claire Voss

Presented to the Amsterdam Summer University: "Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times." August 15-August 19, 1994. This is a slightly revised and augmented version of what appeared in Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times, ed. by R. van den Broek and W.J. Hanegraaff. State University of New York Press: New York, 1998

Alchemy is of interest to the historian of science because of its bearing on the development of modern chemistry, but it is also of special interest to the historian of religions, because it represents a centrally important current within the western esoteric tradition. [1] That tradition was, and still is, as Antoine Faivre expressed it so beautifully, "both a way of life and an exercise of vision." [2] I recall this characterization here to emphasize the fact that the esoteric tradition and the various currents of which it is comprised are not merely historical artifacts but have always been, and continue to be, dynamic, vital actualizations of the human spirit. The texts and the iconography of spiritual alchemy are replete with images that attest to that vitality. It is for this reason that I do not attempt to trace the development of what I am calling spiritual alchemy (a distinction that is explained below) in a chronological way. Besides, this has already been done in several easily accessible overviews. [3] My approach will be to treat it as an integral whole, one that escapes what Mircea Eliade (one of the noted commentators on the subject) described as the “terror of history.” [4]

. . .

A Framework for Understanding
The term "spiritual alchemy" is a precise designation that I chose using the same distinguishing that were used by the alchemists themselves. An alternative form, “material alchemy,” was practiced by those who were often referred to as “puffers.” Originally, this term simply referred to the efforts with bellows that were needed to keep the fires going. Eventually, however, it came to acquire disparaging connotations; it was used by one group of alchemists to refer to another, i.e., to those who were engaged in a mere pseudo-alchemy and whose insight into the nature of the alchemical process never extended beyond the material. [15] “Puffers" maintained that the Philosopher's Stone was material gold, and only that. They were in the work for the money, or they were in it in order to increase the store of facts that were then available, or both. In contrast to this, "spiritual" alchemy was understood as a form of illumination, a means of transmutation, a method for experiencing levels of reality that are not ordinarily accessible, since they exist beyond the level of everyday reality. "Material alchemy" utilizes substances from the physical world and has for its goal some product or other (e.g., gold or knowledge). "Spiritual alchemy," in contrast, works with physical substances too, but in a very particular way: one that is "spiritual" in that it includes all of the characteristics of material alchemy, and also goes beyond them, to an experience of transmutation resulting in an ontological change. Alchemists who practiced “spiritual alchemy” would be the first to insist that, strictly speaking, there is not other kind of alchemy. Whether or not they were correct in this is not for us to decide; but for the sake of brevity, henceforth in this paper I will refer to spiritual alchemy simply as alchemy.

Below, I will provide an overview of the alchemical process. First, however, I want to set forth a partly theoretical, partly descriptive account in order to afford some preliminary help with understanding. In what follows I give an account of the alchemical process that presents, first, a description of three characteristics that permit us to distinguish these two types of alchemy (i.e., the experience and concept of the subject/object relation; causality; and time) and second, a summary of changes that took place in an alchemist’s conceptual model as the work progressed. [16] For the sake of clarity and brevity, each of the three characteristics has been more or less artificially separated from the other two, although in fact of course each is related to the others in exceedingly complex ways.

Here are the three characteristics:

1. Subject/object relation. Both types of alchemy exhibit a characteristic experience and concept of the subject/object relation. In material alchemy one conceives reality as an object completely removed from oneself, outside oneself; hence, what we call the self is the subject, what we call the world is the object, and the boundary between subject and object is static, fixed. In spiritual alchemy, however, one finds reality to be a living system in which one participates, to which one contributes, and in which the boundaries between subject and object are fluid.

2. Causality. Both types of alchemy exhibit a characteristic experience and concept of causality. Material alchemy is characterized by what one can call substance or mechanistic causality. This is the kind of causality associated with a "means/ends" approach to reality, one that holds that reality is comprised of only one level and that all of its elements can be manipulated as one manipulates a machine--for example, a lawn mower. Spiritual alchemy, however, is characterized by what one can call process causality, the kind that Giordano Bruno had in mind when writing about the "inner artificer". [17] At the level of conceptualization, the operative causality in spiritual alchemy is understood to possess an infinite number of gradations of the movement from potency to act, which can be modeled (albeit inadequately) [18] as a spectrum marked at one end by absolute potentialization and at the other by absolute actualization. [19]

3. Time. The theme of the acceleration of time in alchemy has been discussed at length by Eliade, and I do not intend to do more than mention it here. [20] The basic idea is that telluric processes that took aeons to accomplish within the earth could be radically accelerated in the alchemical laboratory. Here I simply wish to call attention to a contrast that can be perceived between the conception of time in material alchemy and in spiritual alchemy. In material alchemy one generally finds a conventional conception of time as being comprised of three discrete "parts": past, present, future. Moreover, time is considered irreversible; it flows in one direction only. In spiritual alchemy one finds a much more subtle conception of time in which these three discrete parts are only apparently separated from each other. In spiritual alchemy, time is not experienced as irreversible, but reversible; not only that, but in spiritual alchemy the "movement" of time is not so much a movement as a mode of perception, [21] and thus goes far beyond being something which can be conceived of in linear terms, as having a forward or backward motion that could be modeled as occurring on an imaginary line.
I have described these three characteristics for the sake of completion, but in this paper, most of the emphasis will be on the first two.

Skivin'Ivy - April 9, 2005 12:46 AM (GMT)
These aren't Web Links - but they are Alchemy Resources that I wanted to share - so I've put them here. Just move them if it would be more appropriate for them to be elsewhere! ^_^

So here's a short list of Illustrated Books on Alchemy ('cos everything looks better with pictures!) that were detailed in the bibliography of a book I was reading. I'd be interested if anyone has come across any of them and has any comments.

Burland, C.A 1967. The Arts of the alchemists. Macmillan, New York.

de Pascalis, Andrea. 1995. Alchemy: the golden art. Gremese International, Rome.

de Rola, Stanislas Klossowski. 1977. Alchemy: the secret art. Thames and Hudson, London.

de Rola, Stanislas Klossowski. 1988. The golden game. Thames and Hudson, London.

Fabricus, Johannes. 1976. Alchemy. Diamond Books, London.

Roob, Alexander. Alchemy and mysticism. 1997. Taschen, Cologne.

My bookshop guy said the last one was especially good - but he didn't have a copy.

(the list is from Aftel, Mandy. 2001. Essence and Alchemy: a book of perfume. Bloomsbury, London.)

Skivin'Ivy - April 17, 2005 10:11 AM (GMT)
Here's a couple more links:

Alchemical Texts at the Internet Sacred Texts Archive

Adam McLean’s Alchemy Web Site and Virtual Library

The Secret Book of Artephius

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