Alchemy As The Precursor To Modern Medicine Practices

1918 words - 8 pages

In the early days of alchemy, many scholars doubted the authenticity and credibility of alchemy as a scholarly field of study. They labeled it as “mystical” and challenged greatly the possibilities of alchemical transmutations and any practitioner’s credibility. However, alchemy was still practiced and discussed in all levels of society. Alchemy has been discovered in recent times to have been central to the development of early modern science and medicine. The practice of alchemy has made many contributions to the development of modern chemical medicines.
Alchemy was said to be the production of a new substance by experimenting and changing natural matters in a laboratory. These new ...view middle of the document...

Alchemy has also been labeled as having mystical ties and being an esoteric or arcane practice (Bobory & Rampling, 2012). This brings to mind images of cauldrons bubbling and men trying to change lead to gold. Some practitioners felt that they could perform transmutations of metals with the correct process and combination of materials. In Fraser’s analysis of the works of Zosimos of Panopolis (2004), it is mentioned that Zosimos believed that alchemy was from a higher power, from the offspring of fallen angels that took human women as wives. Zosimos goes on about how the Book of Enoch, an ancient Hebrew scripture, shares a view of the “occult sciences and technology” as the reason for humanity’s corrupted morals (Fraser, 2004).
Some believe that early alchemy is linked to Hermeticism. Alchemists refer to Hermes, a philosophical author, when tracing their wisdom back to its source. His teachings are considered to be what lead alchemists to discovering the “innermost arcana naturae,” or secret nature (Pereira, 2000). Hermes Trismegistus is defined as the first alchemist, in accordance with a Hermetic myth that Hermes was the first to teach men liberal and mechanical arts, especially alchemy and astrology, after the flood. Latin and Arabic writings hold the presence of alchemical treatises that can be traced to Hermes. Hermes is a symbol of the unity between the human, divine, and natural world. This creates his appeal to alchemists and Renaissance magicians and philosophers (Pereira, 2000).
The early practice of alchemy has been traced all over Europe. Research shows it started in Greek-speaking Egypt and Byzantium before spreading to the Islamic lands. From there, alchemy made its way to Christian Europe and continued to branch out to other places. By the middle of the twelfth century, alchemy had gone from Arabic to Latin. Alchemical practitioners exchanged information through letters across great distances and had commercial networks to find and secure needed materials and books. The scale of such exchanges of information are not always noticeable in modern studies, even with the Renaissance of curiosity in alchemy and its histories (Bobory & Rampling, 2012). Alchemists also travelled the land far and wide to gather wisdom from their own nation and from other nations (Rampling, 2012). However, some alchemists preferred to stay close to home in their studies, wanting the “preservation” of the sources within their national traditions (Bobory & Rampling, 2012).
Alchemy had a division of sorts in the seventeenth century, being labelled under one of two “schools,” the mercurial or Sendivogian school. The “mercurial school” states that the material used to produce the Philosopher’s Stone had to be of a metallic nature. While those of the “Sendivogian school” believe that the alchemist started with an extracted salt from the earth. Two scholars that believed in the latter, Sedivogius and Drebbel, contended that it was not...

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