Alchemy Academy archive
May 2002

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Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
Date: Wed, 01 May 2002
From: Jon Marshall

I would just like to thank everybody for their help in this matter. I'll
actually take the risk of writing to Principe, about his comments at the
Aarhus conference, despite being fairly overawed by his work - from the
time the article on chemical impurities in Basil Valentine appeared in
Ambix (I forget the title).

I do read French, if exceedingly laboriously, but I wonder if Mike could
give me the Fulcanelli chapter references, just so I could try and find
them in the English versions.

jon

Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
From: Mike Dickman
Date: Wed, 1 May 2002

Jon,

I discover I have shot my mouth off a bit...There is, in fact, no
mention in either text by Fulcanelli.

Reference"s in Canseliet, however, are the following:

*l'Alchimie exoliquée sur ses textes classiques [PAUVERT, 1972],
pp. 84 85 90 (and indeed, the whole chapter, entitled )
Le feu du soleil (Réponses de E. Canseliet) [PAUVERT, 1978], p.20
Atlantis vol. 273 p. 361
*Alchimie [PAUVERT, 1978], p. 31

I could translate the two marked with an asterisk - or, at least, the
relevant bits - if you're not in TOO much of a hurry. Let me know.
My e-mail address is

cloudhand@oath.com

All the best,
m

Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
From: José Rodríguez
Date: Thu, 2 May 2002


The trans-cultural and no temporal "archetypes" are a serious
problem for the historians of science. In that sense, Robert Halleux
said the Jungian interpretation of alchemy appears as an
anti-historical approach .

- R. HALLEUX, (1979), "Les Textes Alchimiques", Brepols Publishers,
Turnhout, pp. 55: "... sa démarche soit a priori anhistorique...".

I think he had read Barbara Obrist's Ph. D. These on alchemical
iconography, because Halleux speaks about: "...l'importante
thèse que prépare à Genève Mlle Barbara Obrist".

- R. HALLEUX, (1979), "Les textes alchimiques", (op. cit), p. 149, cf. n. 190:

The Obrist's These was first published in 1982. She wrote a critical
analysis of Junguian books on alchemy.

- BARBARA OBRIST, (1982), "Les débuts de l'imagerie alchimique
(XIVe-XVe siècle)", Editions Le Sycomore, Paris, pp. 14-36.

She said it is an intuitive investigation and not a rational research.
At the same time, she said that a careful analysis of Jung's alchemical
commentaries shows a diachronic and trans-cultural point of view,
so she think it will be in contradiction to a historical perspective.

Some references:

- WILLIAM R. NEWMAN, (1996), "«Decknamen or Pseudochemical
Languaje»?. Eirenaeus Philalethes and Carl Jung", en: «Revue
d'histoire des sciences», pp 159-188. [in English]

- BERNARD JOLY (1996) "Quand l'alchimie était une science.
Introduction", en «Revue d'histoire des sciences», t. 49, 2/3,
p. 151. [in French]

- URZSULA SZULAKOWSKA, (2000), "The Alchemy of Light.
Geometry and Optics in Late Renaissance Alchemical Illustration",
Brill, Leiden, pp. 10-11. [in English]

- LAWRENCE M. PRINCIPE; WILLIAM R. NEWMAN, (2001),
"Some Problems with the Historiography of Alchemy",
(op. cit.), pp. 385-431. [in English]

Yours faithfully,

José Rodríguez

Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
From: Adam McLean
Date: Thu, 2 May 2002

Jon,

There was an interesting discussion on the problems of
the Jungian approach to alchemy on my scholarly alchemy
email discussion group which imemdiately preceded the
formation of the Alchemy Academy discussion group.

This thread arose out of a discussion I initiated on the
scholarly pursuit of alchemy 25/2/99 to 19/4/99. The
Jungian discussion began on 22/3/99 and lasted till
19/4/99. I have not had the enthusiasm to archive these
discussions but as they identify many of the ways in
which the Jungian's approach diverges from accepted
context based scholarship, I will try and find the time
to do this over the next few weeks, and post these onto
the web site.

These two threads of discussion led to me abandon
the scholarly alchemy group and set up the present
tightly moderated discussion forum.

I found the Jungian discussion thread very informative,
as it exposed me to views and approaches to alchemy
that were not part of my own way of looking at alchemy.

José Rodríguez reminded me of this thread when he said :

>The trans-cultural and non temporal "archetypes" are a
>serious problem for the historians of science.

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
From: Mike Dickman
Date: Sun, 5 May 2002

Here is Mike Dickman's translation of the section from Canseliet on Jung.

From

l'Alchimie expliquée sur ses textes classiques (Alchemy Explained on the Basis of its Classical Texts)

Eugène Canseliet (Pauvert, 1972, 1980),

Ch. III, Sollicitations Trompeuses ou Insensées (Deceptive or Meaningless Sidetracks)

[Having raged against the approaches of Bachelard and Guenon over several pages, particularly at Bachelard's ‘masturbatory’, Freudian interpretation of Limojon St-Didier and Génon's ‘oriental’ pretensions, the author continues]

<<p.84>> ... Psychology and Alchemy, the bulky volume by Carl–Gustave Jung, seems to us neither more nor less noxious, gathering together in an extremely fragile personal interpretation, as it does, a host of extracts from texts, bibliographical notes and, especially, symbolic figures, unfortunately rather poorly reproduced and consequently not too convenient for precise examination nor of much benefit to any other efforts of study.

This aside, what might the student of alchemey or, a fortiori, the operative carefully attentive to verification of all these things in the laboratory, expect of so meagre a haul, what might they expect of a speculative writer who has so little understood our Science that he claims to subject it to his own psychological acrobatics and finally does no more than bring it down to the reduced dimensions of his banal procedures <<p.85>> and falacious inferences. Of these, alas! here follows an example picked entirely at hazard among a host of others worth little more:

"The profound obscurity that covers alchemical procedure stems from the fact that although, on the one hand, the alchemist is genuinely interested in the chemical aspect of his work, on the other, he uses it to creat a nomenclature for the psychic transformations which are his real fascination. Every original alchemist constructs himself, as it were, a system of more or less individual ideas, made up of citations from the philosophers and a combination of the fundamental concepts of alchemy, analogies often taken from all and everything."

We shall not pronounce ourselves on an imbroglio of this sort, but let it be recognised that a fair dose of wisdom will be necessary to sorting it out.

What was it that made Carl–Gustave Jung, too, be so led by a prejudicial and seemingly blind and irreducible conceit that he could not swiftly discover beneath the misleading semblance of diversity, the identity and undeniable harmony of the physical and chemical operations utilised throughout time by Philosphers by Fire!

* * *

<<p.90>>... A claim to descent or filiation always demands humility. Obviously enough, no–one will meet with the inestimable forefather on the inferior level of pretentious egocentricity; no–one, not even Gaston Bachelard, Carl–Gustave Jung or René Guénon, understands how to be Pyrophilo or to converse with Eudoxius, as in the rare and beautiful image of their

Here then is the actual meeting between Eudoxius and Pyrophilo. They are discussing the dry way and have at their feet the hieroglyph of the subject and the crucible in which is sealed the secret fire of the wise, in activity. The cave, and the dragon devouring its tail, give birth to the crown of divine royalty held by the disciple.

meeting, presented and commented upon on by Limojon (de Saint-Didier) [cf. the attached image and commentary by Canseliet].

Eudoxius speaks by means of a spiralling scroll, and with the gesture of his pointing index fingers links the brilliant sun to the crown of the Adept, that of the Gods, which is humbly held by the disciple of (our) Science:

O Son, draw thou forth from the ray its shadow.

In the rectangular frame of the composition, the Venerable Philosopher continues:

Here would I have thee know the Orient.
Not that whence is the Sun everywhere visible at the dawning of day,
But where, in the primal beginning,
It first was created.

How far we are, at this level, let me protest one last time, from mental imbalance, and how much more valuable is it to be a mere ‘charcoal burner’ — as we are pejoratively called — rather than a foolish miller of winds and of useless verbiage...


Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
Date: Sun, 05 May 2002
From: Jon Marshall

Again I'd like to thank people for their offers of help and for
the articles they have referred to.

And I suspect that I would not be the only person interested
in the earlier discussions on the subject, so thanks Adam for
all your work as usual.

So far, for what it is worth, my main objections to Jung centre
on his methodology.

Jaffe writes that "Jung's method of research was pre-eminently
historical" (1989: 46). But his method is actually almost a-historical.
The approach he uses might be better compared with the
comparative method of early anthropology, best exemplified by
James Frazer, in which examples of an apparently similar type of
custom and myth are taken from different cultures and historical
periods and compared, either to extract the underlying cause
of their similarities, or for the light they can shed upon each other.

There are some fairly standard objections to this proceedure:

1) It rips out fragments of customs/texts from their cultures, or
even from a lengthier narrative, thus depriving them of the
context which makes them meaningful. The same symbols
may not always mean or refer to the same things in different
contexts. The method also deletes the sense of possible
change and of its consequences - and alchemy does change
over time. If alchemy is related to psychology and unconscious
compensation then these changes are important to the kinds of
compensation alchemy offers. Jung himself seems to think
the psyche may change with social organisation or ideology,
but deletes this from his alchemical studies. For example if
alchemy is a compensation for problems within Christianity,
then it may well be expected to change as Christianity changes,
and we might be expected to ask about what this says about
non Christian alchemies?

2) The apparent coherence may be given by the observer not
the data. For example the observer invents a category which
they call alchemy and look for confirmatory examples ignoring
everything that might be present that does not fit with their
definition. This is particularly likely to be the case when you
take fragments out of texts from widely differing periods. This
is not something to which Jung alone is subject to, many
other people also dismiss large amounts of alchemical writings
as not really alchemical, in order to push their own interpretation
of alchemy as the only possible kind of alchemy.

3) A further, particularly Jungian problem, is that many of his
examples are not examples of the same type of symbol within
a similar context, but 'amplifications' which follow symbols or
motifs into other contexts and into other symbols - that is they
do not clear up 'the problem', but proceed by association to
widen the problem. Thus in the essay on Zosimos Jung writes,
in the following order, about: sacrifice, dismemberment,
flaying, stuffing, scalping, taking the soul, torture, hell, testing
metals on the touchstone, heads, obtaining the arcane
substance, gold from the sun, rays, the hermetic krater, death
and rebirth, Isis, Horus, water and the Nile, Osiris, spirit as water
as paradox, pairs of opposites, violations, states that chemical
recipes are of no interest, and discusses Mercurius, and
roundness. He covers all this within six pages. Sometimes a
reader may be hard pressed to see the relevance of a whole
chain of associations. This may be completely legitimate and
even valuable in dealing with someone's dream, but it does
mean that the books read largely as a web of free association,
if scholarly ones. The finding of 'archetypes' is almost
inevitable if you expand the field of association without limit
(or at least until you reach something which strikes you as numinous),
but the connection of those 'archetypes' to the original symbol,
or textual passage, may be extremely tenuous. It also means
that Jung may actually, amidst all the amplifications, hide his
insights, or at worse, attempt to escape the possibility that his
theory of alchemy is extremely reductive.

jon

Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
From: Hereward Tilton
Date: Mon, 06 May 2002

Dear Jon,

Jung's approach has been criticised for its ahistorical bias
since it first appeared within the academic discourse on alchemy;
nevertheless, that hasn't stopped eminent historians of science
such as Pagel, Read and Dobbs realising that Jung had hit
upon an important aspect of alchemical symbolism. Thus
Pagel stated in Isis back in 1948: "If not the whole story of alchemy,
he has tackled its 'mystery,' its 'Nachtseite', i.e., the problem
most urgent and vexing to the historian." Halleux also speaks
of Jung's "brilliant exegesis of certain particularly mystical texts",
i.e. he is not "overtly anti-Jungian" as Principe and Newman have
argued, but rather understands that it is necessary to make
use of a variety of approaches to this complex and multivalent
subject matter.

It seems to me that we should be careful about applying an
'either-or' approach to Jung's interpretation of alchemy: either
the symbols of alchemy reflect universal propensities of the
unconscious psyche, or they are historically specific code-names
for chemical substances which may well change over time.
This approach leads Principe and Newman to state that "if the
images used in alchemical texts are in fact irruptions of the
unconscious, then there would be no possibility of 'working
backwards' from them to decipher such images into actual,
valid laboratory practice." That the processes in the alchemical
vessel were guided by a recognised chemical logic in no way
precludes the possibility that another purely subjective logic
simultaneously came into play through the assignment of
Decknamen to those processes by association. It is a basic
postulate of psychoanalysis that symbols may possess a
multiple significance, i.e. both manifest and latent, to use Freudian
terms. Anyone remotely acquainted with the data of the
unconscious psyche could not fail to recognise that the
symbolism of alchemy bears a heavy psychological import,
and this became a consciously recognised fact amongst the
alchemists themselves with the emergence of late Renaissance
'spiritual alchemies'.

Just a few thoughts for your talk, in any case.

Hereward Tilton

Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
Date: Wed, 8 May 2002
From: Michael Srigley

In the long and interesting debate about Jung's understanding
of alchemy, there has been a tendency to downplay Jung's
actual knowledge of alchemical texts. This seems to be implied
in the remark that Jung built on Silberer's 'less sophisticated'
psychological interpretation of alchemical processes.

As Hereward Titlton has just suggested, there is a need "to
be careful about applying an 'either-or' approach to Jung's
interpretation of alchemy".

There is an interesting chapter in Gerhard Wehr's 'Jung: A
Biography' (2001) entitled 'The Encounter with Alchemy' in
which he points out the importance of Gerhard Dorn's works
for Jung. Dorn takes an 'either-or' approach to alchemy; it is a
universal process working in both in mind and matter. Dorn's
works became available at the beginning of the 16th century
in the volumes of the 'Theatrum Chemicum'. Jung's quotations
are from this work with the Latin texts in footnotes. In an article
'Alchemical Regeneration: Paracelsus, Dorn and Donne'
('Studies in Spirituality', 4/1994, 146-164), I have suggested
that Dorn's works strongly influenced the metaphysical poet,
John Donne, above all in that poem of physical and spiritual
transmutation 'The Extasie'.

As Dorn wrote: "Know, my brothers, that all that has been said
above and is to be said below can be understood of
alchemical preparations. For what we have said happens in
the separation of the parts of the human being through
speculative philosophy is to be understood as no different
from the separation of other bodies achieved by fire."

(De Speculativa Philosophia, 2nd part, in Theatrum Chemicum,
(1602), 160).

Perhaps more attention should be given to this unitive or
non-dualistic form of alchemy.

Best wishes to everyone,

Michael Srigley

Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
Date: Wed, 08 May 2002
From: Jon Marshall

Hereward Tilton kindly wrote: {And I apologise for heavy snipping]

> Jung's approach has been criticised for its ahistorical bias
> since it first appeared within the academic discourse on alchemy;
> nevertheless, that hasn't stopped eminent historians of science
> such as Pagel, Read and Dobbs realising that Jung had hit
> upon an important aspect of alchemical symbolism. [snip]

I certainly would not wish to imply that Jung had not been influential,
or that historians of science had not acclaimed his work, that would be
silly. Besides we probably owe Jung the acknowledgement that he made
alchemy a subject of study (how many of us came to alchemy after reading
Jung or after reading someone who had read Jung?)

However the arguement I'm trying to make has two main features

1) that his method, by not being grounded in investigation of particular
alchemists, or of changing patterns in the history of alchemy, assumes
rather than proves the existance of an a-historical psychology.
Furthermore Jung himself argues that psychology changes with the
'dominant world view', therefore this is not an assumption that he can
make without much stronger justification than he ever gives. (ocassional
reports of similarities with dream images of people who he does not know
never saw alchemical images anywhere, are not good enough).

2) Symbols and texts do not have meaning independent of their context,
therefore we cannot strip framents of text, or images, away from their
emboddying text and images (and the work of the writer) and compare them
to other equally stripped texts, and say they have an overriding meaning
(even if we believe this is what many alchemists did). The new context
we have given them, will necessarily influence their meaning. There is a
strong form of this argument, that we always distort meaning by
providing a context, but we can endeavour to minimise, rather than
maximise, this effect.

> It seems to me that we should be careful about applying an
> 'either-or' approach to Jung's interpretation of alchemy: either
> the symbols of alchemy reflect universal propensities of the
> unconscious psyche, or they are historically specific code-names
> for chemical substances which may well change over time.

I agree with this completly. But I would argue that the complexity
around substances, naming and images is almost certainly historical, and
thus has to be approached historically (or again at least within one
author's work), before you can make generalisations.

> Anyone remotely acquainted with the data of the
> unconscious psyche could not fail to recognise that the
> symbolism of alchemy bears a heavy psychological import,
> and this became a consciously recognised fact amongst the
> alchemists themselves with the emergence of late Renaissance
> 'spiritual alchemies'.

Again it would be foolish to argue that there were not spiritual
alchemies, or as I'd rather argue that alchemists rarely recognised an
absolute distinction between psyche and matter (as Jung hints himself at
the end of the mysterium), therefore the work on the adept is not to be
distinguished from the work on matter.

What I kind of object to here, is Jung's assumption that the alchemists
did not themselves know what they were doing. Thus he rarely bothers
really to try and read the texts and images from the alchemists point of
view, he tries to translate them into his own theories. This is were I
would agree with the Cansilet so kindly translated for us by Mike.

When working through the volume of Jung's works on alchemy, for me the
primary experience is their size in relation to the amount of ideas, or
systematic exposition that appear in them. Truly, there does not seem to
be that much there!

It is clear that Jung gets much from the alchemists, that they deepen
tendencies within his own works (he himself admits the individuation
process comes from them, he feels justified in claiming the ego is not
the centre of the self through misreading Chinese theories on
circulation, his focus of patience and waiting for nature to work, his
ability to grasp messy bits of the psyche and not dismiss depression
etc), but it is extremely doubtful, to me, that he does clear up the
mysteries of the texts themselves.

jon

Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
From: Adam McLean
Date: 9 May 2002

Dear Jon,

As promised, I have archived two threads of discussion
on the old 'scholarly' alchemy group from Feb/March/April 1999.
These two threads were related.


Discussion on Jungian approach to alchemy

http://www.levity.com/alchemy/jungian_discussion.html


Discussion on scholarly approach to alchemy

http://www.levity.com/alchemy/scholarly_approach_discussion.html


A great deal of reading, unfortunately, but I think these discussions
reveal some of the problems that people have in relating to the
Jungian approach, and to understanding the positive value of a
scholarly context-based approach to alchemy. These
discussion threads as well as other postings on the group led
me some months later to decide to set up the present alchemy
academy group.

You wrote:

>What I kind of object to here, is Jung's assumption that the
>alchemists did not themselves know what they were doing.

This was one of the points raised in the discussion that
I found rather difficult. One person appeared to suggest
that through the Jungian approach that he could understand
Ripley's symbolism better than Ripley. See the scholarly
approach thread for 04 Mar 1999. I found that difficult to
accept. If a text or emblematic alchemical work seems
impenetrable, I tend to take the view that it is my own
lack of understanding that is preventing me from grasping
the intention of the author of this text or images. Often
I find that by working with these at length I am able
gradually to see the structure of the work reveal itself
to me. I would rather take this approach than put my
failure to understand a text or image down to the fact that
the author did not understand what he was creating ! If one
adopts the view that alchemists did not understand what they
were writing then there seems little point in investigating
a subject like alchemy. Why propose that Ripley did not understand
what he was creating, yet take the view, say, that Dorn did ?
Can one just choose authors one agrees with, as having
written out of an understanding, and then claim that others,
whom one does not fully appreciate, did not understood the
material they were writing or images they were depicting?
Surely such arbitrariness must alert us to a failure of the
methodology !

Best wishes,

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
From: Mike Dickman
Date: Thu, 9 May 2002

Please let me hasten to say that I agree - to some extent - with both
Hereward and Michael. My presentation of Eugène Canseliet's
views was in no wise meant to be 'canonical'... simply to point out, or
to RE-point out, that there has been, and still is, an almost scornful
rejection of a Jungian (or any except 'operative') interpretation
among many very highly placed practical alchemists and that this -
as Canseliet points out - turns upon the very question of the
'meaning of the terminology'...

If Bachelard can see onanism in Limojon Saint-Didier and seriously
advance it as his interpretation of the text, what Canseliet is saying
is that enormous care and a genuine understanding of all *other*
(and particlarly 'operative') levels of interpretation will be necessary
if we are not to be left - yet again - with a very strange picture of
what alchemy is all about.

Alchemy is no more a thesaurus of "nomenclature for the psychic
transformations which are his real fascination... a system of
more or less individual ideas, made up of citations from the
philosophers and a combination of the fundamental concepts of
alchemy, analogies often taken from all and everything" than it
is 'an abandoned path on the road to chemistry', and it is to avoid
falling into this second trap - a trap quite as pernicious as the first -
that Canseliet speaks out.

I would also point out the title of the chapter from which the extract
is taken and suggest that, albeit that alchemical symbology seems
susceptible of a variety of interpretations, for many practical
alchemists, until one has understood exactly what the text means
*per ignem*, any but the 'operative' interpretation is simply a
'deceptive and meaningless sidetrack'...

Respectfully,
mike dickman


Subject: ACADEMY : Jung's understanding of alchemy
Date: Fri, 10 May 2002
From: Jon Marshall

Thank you Adam for putting up the threads on the site.

I'd also like to make a further 'complaint' about Jung, and please I do
want to acknowledge both his reading, his knowledge and his dedication
despite all this complaining....

But again, reading the works I'm also struck by how reductionist it all
is. Everything becomes synonymous of a very few things, either
consciousness, complexes, the self or the union of opposites. Whereas
what strikes me about the texts is their incredible concrete
specificity, not just any old couple but a specific type of couple, in a
specific environment, with specific degrees of heat (and I mean
metaphorical specificity), a specific type of mercury etc etc.

Jung seems to loose this concreteness within the generalities of his
theoretical system, in which 'the self' and the coniunctio, despite
being 'unrepresentable' become so abstract that they leach this specific
life from the texts...

Mind you this, to some extent, is always a problem, whenever you try and
find commonalities and ignore the differences - and on top of that
generally choose only fragments to comment upon.

jon

Subject: ACADEMY : Red powder of projection
From: Adam McLean
Date: 13 May 2002

Can anyone recall the earliest text in which the idea of the red
transmuting powder of projection appears ?

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Alchemy Museum opening
From: Michal Pober
Date: Wed, 15 May 2002

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mailto:museum@alchemy.cz

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Subject: ACADEMY : Red powder of projection
From: Ahmad Y Hassan
Date: Sun, 19 May 2002

The elixir as a red powder occurs in the Arabic works of Ja`far
al-Sadiq (died 765), Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber, died c. 815),
al-Razi (Rhazes, died 923/932) and most other Arabic alchemists.
This concept could have been inherited from the pre-Islamic
alchemy of the Near East.

Best regards,

Ahmad Y. Hassan

Subject: ACADEMY : Red powder of projection
Date: Sun, 19 May 2002
From: S.A. Feite

> The elixir as a red powder occurs in the Arabic works of Ja`far
> al-Sadiq (died 765), Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber, died c. 815),
> al-Razi (Rhazes, died 923/932) and most other Arabic alchemists.
> This concept could have been inherited from the pre-Islamic
> alchemy of the Near East.


Are you saying that the direct English translation of the word
or phrase in Arabic would be "Red Powder of Projection"?
It may be helpful if you can give the Arabic transliteration
and a detailed translation of the word or phrase--then I may
be able to find a related reference in Rasashastra
(Tantric alchemy).

Thank you for your interesting and illuminating post.

Sincerely,

Steve Feite

Subject: ACADEMY : Red powder of projection
From: Ahmad Y Hassan
Date: Sun, 19 May 2002

The phrase "Red Powder of Projection" or the "red transmuting
powder of projection" do not occur in Arabic texts in this exact
order of words as if the phrase is one term. The elixir as a red
powder is projected over the base metal that has to be transmuted.
The word "projection" in English is a translation of the Arabic word
"tarh" (put a dot under the "t" and a dot under the "h"). Both words,
the English and the Arabic, mean the act of throwing. The elixir has
to be in powder form so that it can be projected or thrown over
the object to be transmuted.

Best regards

Ahmad Y. Hassan

Subject: ACADEMY : Red powder of projection
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002
From: Rafal T. Prinke

Ahmad Y Hassan wrote:

> The elixir has
> to be in powder form so that it can be projected or thrown over
> the object to be transmuted.

According to some dictionaries, the work "elixir" comes from
the Arabic al-iksir, which comes from Greek "xerion" meaning
"desiccative powder" which was put on wounds to dry/heal them.

If that is true, then perhaps the idea of the (healing) powder
of projection goes back to Hellenistic alchemy? I wonder
what that medicinal powder was made of originally?

Best regards,

Rafal

Subject: ACADEMY : Red powder of projection
From: Ahmad Y Hassan
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002

As Rafal says the "elixir" comes from the Arabic word "al-iksir",
and "iksir" comes probably from the Greek word "xerion"
meaning "desiccative powder".

In Arabic, the word "ixir" was used in medicine as well as in
alchemy. In medicine, it was used for externally applied
dry-powder or sprinkling-powder. Thus, for example, Yuhanna
ibn Masawayh, lists under the ophthalmic remedies six different
elixirs. In other Arabic medical works (like al-hawi of al-Razi)
the word "iksirin", (from the Syriac "ksirin"), meant an eye-powder.
It indicated also a sprinkling-powder for the treatment of wounds.
These applications of the word in medicine support the possible
Greek origin.

"Al-ixir " is explained also by a different etymology by some
alchemists: they say that the substance is called "al-iksir"
because it breaks down the inferior form and changes it into
a perfect one. In Arabic "yaxir " means "to break".
(see Manfred Ullmann under "al-Ixir" in Encyclopaedia of
Islam).

Best regards.

Ahmad Y. Hassan

Subject: ACADEMY : Exhibition: Magic, alchemy, science from 15th to 18th century
From: Adam McLean
Date: 24 May 2002

Exhibition: Magic, alchemy, science from the 15th to the 18th century:
the influence of Hermes Trismegistus
Venice, Monumental Rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana
31st May - 27th July 2002


The exhibition, organised by the Bibliotheca Philosophica
Hermetica of Amsterdam together with the Biblioteca Nazionale
Marciana of Venice, will demonstrate the influence of Hermes
Trismegistus (mythical author of ancient theosophical, mystical
and magical writings) on the development of European scientific
thought from the 15th to the 18th century in Venice but also in the r
est of Europe. The initiative supplements and completes the
exhibition 'Marsilio Ficino and the return of Hermes Trismegistus'
held in Florence in October 1999.

The works on show, both in manuscript and printed form, come
from the two libraries, with the exception of some important documents
from the Venice State Archives and a codex on loan from the Biblioteca
Nazionale of Naples.

The exhibition, planned, like the catalogue, by Carlos Gilly, begins
with the library of Cardinal Bessarion, the great Greek scholar
responsible for the foundation of the Biblioteca Marciana. It is
mainly thanks to him that the Renaissance was rooted so solidly
in ancient Greek culture, of which the writings and thought of
Hermes Trismegistus formed an integral part. From the
Cardinal's neo-Platonic and Hermetic codices, the exhibition
passes on to codices that testify to the diffusion of Hermeticism
in Venice, with such representative figures as Cardinal Domenico
Grimani, Francesco Zorzi and Agostino Steuco. Next come the
most ancient editions of the Corpus Hermeticum to have
appeared in the territory of Venice and examples of provided
of Hermetic motifs in Venetian art. The exhibition then focuses
on the difficult relationship between the Inquisition and magic,
with particular reference to Venice; on Paracelusus and his
followers, who gave a new impulse to Hermeticism, particularly
in northern Europe, where it took on new features and even new
terminology; on how Hermeticism survived the collapse of the
myth of the great antiquity of the writings attributed to Hermes,
a "contemporary" of Moses. Finally the mysterious
Rosicrucians are examined: the exhibition points to the
Venetian and Italian roots of their revival at the end of the 17th
century as Brothers of the Golden and Rosy Cross.


The inaugural ceremony will be held on Thursday 30th May 2002,
at 5.30pm, in the Sala del Piovego of the Doge's Palace
Venice, St. Mark's Square no. 1).


Scientific Committee: Carlos Gilly, Paola Cadelano, Frans A. Janssen,
Joost R. Ritman and Marino Zorzi.
The catalogue, published by Centro Di, contains essays and
entries by Carlos Gilly, Federico Barbierato, Paola Cadelano,
Thomas Hofmeier, Jean Letrouit, Elisabetta Lugato, Anna Laura
Puliafito, Antonio Rigo, Cesare Vasoli and Marino Zorzi.
Lay-out is by Stefano Filippi and Ferdinando Rizzardo of the
Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici e il Paesaggio of Venice. The
graphic works are by Lorenzo Spinazzi.
With the collaboration of the Civici Musei Veneziani.
Press Office: Annalisa Bruni (tel. 041.2407241, e-mail:
bruni@marciana.venezia.sbn.it)


PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Since 3 June 1999, the Libreria Sansoviniana (Monumental Rooms of the
Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana), which is to host the exhibition, has
been part of the cumulative tour of the Museums of St. Mark's Square
(with a cumulative ticket), which also includes the Doge's Palace, the
Museo Correr and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. The ticket-office
(providing entrance to the Correr, Museo Archeologico and Libreria
Sansoviniana) is at the Museo Correr (Ala napoleonica, St. Mark's
Square).


Opening-times
Every day 9am-7pm. The ticket-office of the Museo Correr closes an hour
and a half earlier.


For further information:
tel.
041.5208788 (switchboard);
041.2407241 (press office, from 9am-3pm);
fax 041.5238803;
e-mail:
bruni@marciana.venezia.sbn.it (Dr.ssa Annalisa Bruni, director)
fontana@marciana.venezia.sbn.it (Sig.ra Monica Fontana, assistant)


Subject: ACADEMY : Princess Cecilia of Sweden
From: Adam McLean
Date: 25 May 2002

While researching the 16th century English alchemist Thomas
Charnock for the introduction to a work of his I am publishing, I
came across Princess Cecilia of Sweden in an alchemical
context.

The alchemist Cornelius de Alneto (latinised as Alvetanus) who
had written a book on the making of the divine elixir or the
philosophers' stone, which he had dedicated to Queen Elizabeth.

He claimed to Queen Elizabeth's secretary Cecil (Lord Burleigh)
that for an outlay of ten marks of gold he could produce a
thousand within four months. In 1565 he was installed in Somerset
House with an alchemical laboratory.

Cornelius de Alneto (latinised as Alvetanus) seems to have been
a close friend of Princess Cecilia of Sweden who moved to London
at that time.

Does anyone have any further information on Cornelius de Alneto or
Princess Cecilia ?

They are mentioned in chapter 10 on alchemy in an book on two
Elizabethan adventurers, which can be seen at

http://dialspace.dial.pipex.com/town/walk/acw43/waad01/

Only chapter 10 is relevant here.


Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Princess Cecilia of Sweden
From: Deborah E. Harkness
Date: Sat, 25 May 2002

Dear Adam:

There is a chapter in Alnetano in my forthcoming book The Social
Foundations of the Scientific Revolution: Communities of Science
in Elizabethan London.

This chapter focuses on Giovanni Baptista Agnello and Alnetanus.
There are multiple manuscript editions of a treatise on alchemy
sent to the Queen in the Bodleian and British Libraries. He is a
very interesting figure. I've been unable to find his place of origin,
although some have suggested he was Spanish or Portuguese.

Best,

Deb Harkness

Subject: ACADEMY : Stephanos of Alexandria
From: Adam McLean
Date: 26 May 2002

Are there any English translations of substantial parts of the
writings of Stephanos of Alexandria on alchemy ?

I have, of course, read the short extracts in Jack Lindsay's book
'The origins of Alchemy in Greco-Roman Egypt'. They are
intriguing and I want to read more of his writings.

Perhaps there are translations into French by the early
20th century French scholars, Berthelot, and others ?

Adam

Subject: ACADEMY : Help with an article
From: Adam McLean
Date: 26 May 2002

I am just completing a short introduction to a edition of the
'liber de compositione alchemiae', the book of the
composition of alchemy, the supposedly first book on
alchemy translated from Arabic into Latin, in 1144.

The authenticity of this work partly rests on whether or not
there exists an arabic original.

Ruska and Holmyard argued this matter out in the 1920's
and 30's, but without any firm conclusion. More recently
Lee Stavenhagen rehearses these arguments.

However I noticed something in Carlos Gilly's and Sebastiano
Gentile's catalogue 'Marsilio Ficino and the Return of
Hermes Trismegistus' published by the Blibliotheca
Philosophica Hermetica and the Biblioteca Medicinae
Laurenziana in Florence in 1999. On page 209 they say,

"Today, following the rediscovery of the Arabic original,
this issue has been settled".

Regrettably they do not say where they got this information,
though I did notice a reference below to an article in
the French Journal 'Chrysopoeia' 4, 1990-91 , by R. Lemay
on the authenticity of this work. Unfortunately, I don't
have a copy of this issue - I have all the others !

Can anyone with the leisure and a copy of 'Chrysopoeia' 4
check if this sources of the discovery of the Arabic
original ?

Or if anyone knows independently of this Arabic original
please let me know. It would help so much.

Thanks,

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Stephanos of Alexandria
From: José Rodríguez Guerrero
Date: Sun, 26 May 2002

Dear Adam:

I think you should ask to Maria Papathanassiou (University of
Athens Panepistimioupolis). A few years ago, she completed
a new transcription of the Greek text.

- MARÍA PAPATHANASSIOU, (1992), "Stephanos von Alexandreia
und sein alchemistisches Werk", Ph. D. Thesis, Humboldt
Universität zur Berlin, Berlín.

She wrote some interesting articles in academic publications:
- MARÍA PAPATHANASSIOU, (1990-1991) "Stephanus of
Alexandria: Pharmaceutical notions and cosmology in his
alchemical work", «Ambix», nº 37, pp. 121-133; nº 38,
p. 112 [addenda].

- MARÍA PAPATHANASSIOU, (1996), "Stephanus of Alexandria:
On the structure and date of his alchemical work", en
«Medicina nei Secoli 8», 2, pp. 247-266.

You can find her job address in:

http://www.math.uoa.gr/~web/english/faculty/alg-geo/mpapatha.htm

Subject: ACADEMY : Help with an article
From: José Rodríguez Guerrero
Date: Sun, 26 May 2002

Dear Adam:

Manfred Ullmann found the original arabic text:

- MANFRED ULLMANN, (1972), "Die Natur und
Geheimwissenschaften im Islam", Brill, Leiden,
pp. 191-194 [in German].

Concerning Richard Lemay's work. He thinks Robert of Chester
is the original author of the "Praefatio Castrensis" (It is a short
preface in the latin versión of the "Liber de compositione
alchemiae"). He refuses the arguments of Ruska and Lee
Stavenhagen.

Lemay thinks: "...it has been fashionable among revisionist
historians to declare spurious the intellectual products of our
past culture which do not fit the positivistic canons of
moden science".

I read Stavenhagen opinions of this preface and he said
it is a forgery of the 15th century:

- L. Stavenhagen, (1970), "The original text of the Latin Morienus"
in Ambix, 17, pp. 1-12.

But Didier Kahn found two older copies in Bologna and Berlin.

- DIDIER KAHN, (1990-1991), "Note sur deux manuscrits du Prologue
attribué à Robert de Chester", in: «Chrysopoeia», 4,
pp. 33-34 [in French].


Subject: ACADEMY : Princess Cecilia of Sweden
From: Susanna Åkerman
Date: Sun, 26 May 2002

Princess Cecilia (1540-1627) was daughter to Gustav Vasa
and his second wife Margareta Leionhufvud. She was
maried to Kristoffer II of Baden who controlled some twenty
villages in Luxembourg and Lorraine.

Cecilia and her husband went to England 1564 to try persuade
Elizabeth I to marry her halfbrother Erik XIV of Sweden. Her full
brother Johan III also went to England to persuade Elizabeth
to marry Erik. Cecilia had a child in England 14 June 1565,
Eduard Fortunatus, and Elizabeth I even carried the baby to
be baptized in St. Paul's Cathedral. They also attended
banquets and theatre plays.

Cecilia and Kristoffer however went bankrupt in England and
two men, Georg North and John Dymoch, took possession
of all of Cecilia's dresses and also her court-ladies' apparel.
Cecilia had decided to import English textiles to Sweden,
but there came nothing of this idea and she and her husband
went back to Sweden in 1566. Later she converted to Catholicism.

Was Cecilia involved in alchemy to make gold to compensate
for their monetary losses? Did they go bankrupt because
they were fooled by charlatans?

There is a book by J. Bell 'Queen Elisabeth and a Swedish
princess' (1926).

Susanna Åkerman

Subject: ACADEMY : Help with an article
From: Ahmad Y Hassan
Date: Sun, 26 May 2002

Dear Adam,

In addition to the very useful information given by José Rodríguez
Guerrero, I would like to say that the Arabic originals that were
known till 1971 are mentioned in "Geschichte des Arabischen
Schrifttums" by Fuat Sezgin, Vol. IV, Brill, Leiden, 1971, p. 111.

I agree fully with what José had cited from Lemay, that
"...it has been fashionable among revisionist historians to
declare spurious the intellectual products of our past culture
which do not fit the positivistic canons of modem science".
This is one of the main problems that had distorted till now
several key issues in the history of science and technology.
Berthelot, Ruska and others were unfortunately among those.

Ahmad Y. al-Hassan

Subject: ACADEMY : Princess Cecilia of Sweden
From: Deborah E. Harkness
Date: Sun, 26 May 2002

Dear Susanna,

There are definitely hints in the state papers and in other
manuscripts that Cecilia was interested in Alnetanus (also
referred to as Lannoy) because of promises made to her about
the lucrative nature of his philosophical practices. My reading
of the documents suggests that things were already pretty bad
for them financially, however. I don't think that Alneto actually
worsened the situation, since Cecil & co. were pretty closely
supervising Alneto and ensuring that any alchemical secrets
he's promised to Elizabeth were delivered to the appropriate
royal.

Best,

Deb Harkness

Subject: ACADEMY : Stephanos of Alexandria
Date: Sun, 26 May 2002
From: Jon Marshall

There should be some translations in Ambix by Sherwood
Taylor, together with the Greek text.

Part I Vol.1, No.2, pp.116-39
Part II Vol.2, No.1, pp.39-49

jon

Subject: ACADEMY : VITRIOL image/Alchemy Museum
From: Michal Pober
Date: Mon, 27 May 2002

Dear Friends,

I'm looking for a high-resolution quality image of the VITRIOL
image from 'Le Toyson d'Or' for the Alchemy Museum.
If anyone has such an item and would be willing to send it to
me as a jpg I would be very grateful.

Briefly, for now, re the Museum.
The Opening went very well - lots of people from far and wide,
great concert and very positive feedback.
Of course we see many defects and potential improvements,
which will need both time and money.
Personally though I'm very happy that its done, after 5 years
of immense effort. However incomplete and imperfect it is I'm
not hiding my face in embarrassment..

So please come and visit! Feedback and suggestions will be
very welcome. If any lab worker would like to help make the
laboratory look more 'active' that would be of great help.

Any serious funding ideas would also be greatly appreciated.
We have a few and will be pursuing those.
Individual contributions of even minor sums will also be gladly
accepted, gratefully acknowledged and used to great effect!

With Best Regards,

Michal Pober

Subject: ACADEMY : Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum Volume 2 ?
From: Adam McLean
Date: 28th May 2002

Elias Ashmole seems to have planned a further volume
of the 'Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum', at least I
understand there is a manuscript in the Bodleian which
appear to be a compilation for a second volume.

Has anyone seen this manuscript or have any information
on what material Ashmole planned for this supplementary
volume ?

Adam McLean

Subject: ACADEMY : Vernhout citation
From: Leigh Penman
Date: Wed, 29 May 2002

Dear Academy.

I am looking for an accurate bibliographical reference for the
following article:

H. Vernhout, 'Boccalini's 'Generale Riforma' en de 'Fama
Fraternitatis.'

Harald Hendrix, in his 'Traiano Boccalini. Fra erudizione e
polemica: ricerche sulla fortuna e bibliografia critica'
Firenze: L.S. Olschiki 1995 on p. 111, states that the article appears
in Santing's 'De Manifesten der Rozenkruisers' Amersfoot:
1930 on pp.271-287.

I have a copy of the W.N. Schors reprint (c. 1978?) of Santing's
book, which I had assumed was a facsimile of the Amersfoot
edition, and Vernhout's article does not appear in it. Further,
Gilly's bibliographic description of the 1930 edition (in his
'Fama Fraternitatis: das urmanifest der Rosenkreuzerbruderschaft..',
p.60) states that it possesses only 252 pages.

I can only guess that the Amersfoot edition referred to by Hendrix
may have been a Sammelband.

Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Subject: ACADEMY : Vernhout citation
Date: Thu, 30 May 2002
From: José Bouman

Dear Mr. Penman,

As for the reference to the book or article by Vernhout on
Boccalini: we could not trace in in our library either, but we
forwarded the question to Carlos Gilly.

José Bouman
Curator