Friday, June 01, 2007

The Neo-Alchemists

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Swiss psychologist Carl Jung made alchemy an essential part of his psycho-philosophical ruminations, even though alchemical experimentation, through the ages, produced nothing of consequence. However, the evolutionary thrust it provided chemistry must be given its due.

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What has happened is that scientists, especially physicists, since the early 1900s, have assumed the mantle, the guise, of alchemy, with their formulae and arcane theories and experimentations.

Of course, physicists’ mentor, Sir Isaac Newton, was an alchemist, and his alchemical studies were mirrored in his mathematical and scientific treatises.

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So a precedent, although unspoken and not acknowledged, establishes an imprimatur for today’s scientists, particularly physicists.

The physicist’s Holy Grail, The Theory of Everything, may be likened to the alchemists’ Philosopher Stone.

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(The Elixir of Life, the ejaculatory spew, of alchemy is not relevant to this discussion.)

Quantum theorists are alchemists par excellence.

Titus Burckhardt, in his book Alchemy [Element Books, Longmead, 1986, Page 59] refers to René Guénon’s tome, The Reign of Quantity [Luzac, London, 1953] wherein the author states that there is no spatial extension which does not have a qualitative – as well as a quantitative – aspect.

Alchemy deals with eidos and hyle (forma and material) says Burckhardt [Page 61] which is exactly what quantum physicists contend with: light as wave and/or particle, and quanta itself.

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Cosmologists struggle with visible matter and dark (invisible) matter.

The Hermetic androgyne (king and queen forming one physical body – see Plato’s Symposium also) is not unlike the constructs of the macro-Universe or the quantum-Universe, the world above and the world below.

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Science has not moved very far from the alchemical studies of ancient Egypt or Babylon.

And the alchemy of the 1700s infused Einstein, producing E=mc² where the alchemical idea of transmutation (lead into gold) actually ended up turning uranium into fissionable material, the atom bomb.

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And isn’t M-Theory (the extrapolated string theory) really a search for the material prima?

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One can praise the physicists of today but they are little different from the alchemists of yesterday, and we’ll explore the connection further, upcoming….