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2007 | 112 | S | S-5-S-18

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What Is (Was) Alchemy?



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A serious scientific journal seems to be the wrong place for a paper on alchemy. However, we believe that the history of science includes knowledge of the complex relations between specific scientific disciplines and what is called the "world-view" (Weltanschauung): the image of the world corresponding to a given stage of cultural development. The world-view, born of the "marriage" of Aristotle's philosophy with Christian theology, was for many centuries largely predominant in Europe of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance. The "scientific revolution" [1] of the 16-17th centuries: the birth of the "new cosmology" of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler and of the "new mechanics" of Galileo and Newton was limited to the physical science, but its direct consequence was the appearance of the "new philosophy". The mechanistic, rationalist and empirical philosophy of the enlightenment rejected the magic elements of the medieval world-view.









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  • 1. T. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1970
  • 2. H. Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, Becon, Boston 1958
  • 3. L. Abraham, Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2001
  • 4. A. Koyré, Etudes d'histoire de la pensée scientifique, Gallimard, Paris 2007, p. 50; B. Easlea, Witch-Hunting, Magic and a New Philosophy, Harvester Press, Brighton 1980
  • 5. B.J.T. Dobbs, The Foundations of Newton's Alchemy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1984
  • 6. Aristotle, On Generation and Corruption (in English), http://classics.mit.edu//Aristotle/gener_corr.html
  • 7. http://classicpersuasion.org.pw/empedocles, fragment 23
  • 8. M. Eliade, Forgerons et alchimistes, Flammarion, Paris 1977
  • 9. C.A. Reichen, A History of Chemistry, Hawthorn, New York 1963
  • 10. Collectanea Lacinii ex Arnoldo de Villa Nova in Giovanni Lacinius, Pretiosa margarita novella..., Venice 1546, English translation: A. Mc.Lean, http://www.rexreach.com
  • 11. Genesis, III.18, King James' Version
  • 12. Romans, VIII.19-21, King James' Version
  • 13. M. Maier, Symbola aureae mensae, reproduced in [19] (p. 273)
  • 14. C.A. Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis, Collected Works, Vol. 14, Routledge and Kegan, London 1963
  • 15. A. McLean, Rosary of the Philosophers, 1980, http://www.levity.com/alchemy
  • 16. K.-C. Voss, Gnosis and Hermetism, in: Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times, pp. 203-234, Eds. R. van den Broek, W.J. Hanegraaff, State University of New York Press, New York 1998, p. 203
  • 17. K.R. Popper, in: A Pocket Popper, Ed. D. Miller, Fontana Press, Glasgow 1983
  • 18. A. Faivre, Lésotérisme, PUF, Paris, 2002; Accès à lésotérisme occidental, Gallimard, Paris 1996
  • 19. C.G. Jung, Psychologie und Alchemie, Zurich 1952, English translation by R.F.C. Hull, Psychology and Alchemy, Routledge, London 2000, p. 227
  • 20. S. Hutin, Les alchimistes au Moyen Age, Hachette, Paris 1995
  • 21. R. Alleau, Aspects de lálchimie traditionnelle, Les Editions de Minuit, Paris 2003
  • 22. J. Beydon, G. Delmas, J. Druaux, P. Griboval, J. Phys. Rad., 19, 144a, 1958

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