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Alchemy : the Knowledge of Immortality

  • Date Submitted: 06/09/2013 11:17 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 21.8 
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Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners' claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base metals into the noble metals gold or silver, as well as an elixir of life conferring youth and longevity. Western alchemy is recognized as a protoscience that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine. Alchemists developed a framework of theory, terminology, experimental process and basic laboratory techniques that are still recognizable today. But alchemy differs from modern science in the inclusion of Hermetic principles and practices related to mythology, religion, and spirituality.
The defining goals of alchemy are often given as the transmutation of common metals into gold (known as chrysopoeia), the creation of a panacea, and the discovery of a universal solvent.[1] However, this only highlights certain aspects of alchemy. Alchemists have historically rewritten and evolved the explanation of their art, making a singular definition difficult.[2] H.J. Sheppard gives the following as a comprehensive summary:
Alchemy is the art of liberating parts of the Cosmos from temporal existence and achieving perfection which, for metals is gold, and for man, longevity, then immortality and, finally, redemption. Material perfection was sought through the action of a preparation (Philosopher's Stone for metals; Elixir of Life for humans), while spiritual ennoblement resulted from some form of inner revelation or other enlightenment (Gnosis, for example, in Hellenistic and western practices).[3]
Modern discussions of alchemy are generally split into an examination of its exoteric practical applications, and its esoteric aspects. The former is pursued by historians of the physical sciences who have examined the subject in terms of proto-chemistry, medicine, and...

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