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     Study Courses on alchemical texts and symbolism
by Adam McLean

I began producing my study courses in 1999 in response to some people asking me to provide them with explanations of alchemical imagery and texts. I suspect they felt they had been deluged over the past years with many alchemical texts and yet they found they could not understand what they were reading there. This was partly due to the archaic language of some of these texts or the obscurities of emblematic symbolism, but it also arose from the fact that few people are able to contextualise the ideas in these texts or symbols in order to understand the difficult and obscure terms. So I began to produce more of these in-depth analyses of alchemical emblems and texts as study courses.
These are not correspondence courses and students should not expect me to be able to write to them individually on particular matters, as regrettably I just do not have time to enter into individual correspondence. The courses are entirely self contained, and do not require any additional materials. In addition the courses are very modestly priced. Please click on the links to get more details of each course.

Courses on alchemical symbolism Courses on alchemical texts
The first or Foundation course.
This explores in detail the individual symbols that compose alchemical emblems and develops the ability to analyse and read alchemical emblems. It is a one year course consisting of 24 lessons to be studied on a two weekly schedule. A great deal of graphic material, examples of emblems, is contained in these lessons. The lessons include: How to recognise alchemical symbols - The geometry of alchemical emblems - Triangles, squares and circles in emblems - Symbols in opposition to one another - Resolution of opposites (Male/female) - Resolution of opposites ( snake) - Trees - An initial look at birds - Variations between different versions of emblems - Animals in the emblem space - The human figure - The Lion - The Dragon - Different types of emblems - Reading some emblems - The general alchemical process.
The course is now available as a printed book and also on CD-Rom.
How to read alchemical texts.
An introductory study course for the perplexed

Adam McLean has now created a one year study course of 24 lessons, which enables the student to read the meaning out of these texts. The first half of the course provides the students with ways of recognising the different types of alchemical text and the distinct approaches one has to take to reading different material. There are a number of exercises for the student to work through and many examples of material for them to study in connection with the lessons. Through this course the reader will become familiar with works of practical alchemy, cosmological alchemy, alchemical allegories, theoretical and spiritual alchemy. The second half of the course provides detailed reading of a number of texts, including some complete works. There are 24 lessons in all.
The course is only available on CD-Rom.

Advanced study course on alchemical sequences.
This course studies in great detail many of the important sequences of alchemical images. These sequences consist of a number of alchemical emblems linked together to illustrate a process. It is essential that one has already taken the foundation course as this advanced course builds on the ideas presented there. It is a one year course consisting of 16 lessons to be studied on a three weekly schedule. A great deal of graphic material is contained in these lessons. Sequences covered include : The Rosary of the Philosophers, Splendor solis, Crowning of Nature, Twelve Keys of Valentine, Lambspring, Donum Dei, Cabala mineralis, Petrus Bonus, among others.
The course is only available on CD-Rom.
Study course on early English alchemy.
Adam McLean sets out in this course to make the early English alchemical material presented in the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum accessible to the modern reader, and to provide a detailed analysis and explanation of each of the works, section by section, sometimes line by line. McLean does not resort to mystification, supposed secret teachings, or trying to explain these works through the filter of modern esotericism, or by appealing to external sources, but instead focuses on what is contained in the text itself. Lesson by lesson you will be helped to appreciate, through understanding the texts themselves, the profound ideas which moulded and shaped early English alchemy. The key works of Thomas Norton, Dastin, Thomas Charnock and others will be revealed and explained. This course of 24 lessons lasts for one year with lessons to be studied on a fortnightly schedule.
The course is only available on CD-Rom.
Advanced study course on the Ripley Scroll.
This is a short course focussing on the amazing, beautiful, complex and enigmatic Ripley scroll. The symbolism and text are analysed and by the end of the course the student should have some understanding of how complex alchemical works like this are composed. It is a six month course consisting of seven lessons to be studied on a monthly schedule.
The course is now available as a printed book.
Study course on the Most Holy Trinosophia.
This late 18th century alchemical allegory has been associated with the Comte de Saint-Germain and also with Cagliostro. Many theories have been advanced about its meaning. Adam McLean has now devised this study course to allow the work to speak its message clearly. For the first time this work is explained line by line, section by section, idea by idea. This course will be entirely based on understanding the structure of the allegory and the text itself. McLean's approach, as in his other work with alchemical material, is to uncover what is actually in the text and images themselves and resist the temptation to make a trite interpretation, or project a mass of external ideas onto the work.
This course of 8 lessons lasts for four months with lessons to be studied on a fortnightly schedule.
The course is now available as a printed book.
Exploring Alchemical Emblems
A series of 24 audio-visual presentations by Adam McLean
This is a new project and method for presenting information about alchemical emblems. It consists of a series of twenty four audio visual presentations for the Windows operating system, each of approximately five to ten minutes duration. In these presentations, the student is guided through an emblem by a commentary devised by Adam McLean. The software zooms into areas and explores each emblem in exhaustive detail. The commentary teases out all the puzzling components of the emblem, providing the viewer with insights into how these were structured and the narrative or message they contain. Through studying a presentation each week, the viewer will, at the end of six months, have become very familiar with the ways in which the alchemists presented their ideas in emblematic form. The course provides penetrating insights into the obscurities of these elaborate alchemical emblems. All the emblematic material has been hand coloured to bring out the details and make it easier to identify the symbolic components.

This is now available on CD-Rom format (220 megabytes).
Advanced study course on the 'Metamorphosis of the Planets'
This remarkable extended allegory by the alchemist Johannes de Monte-Snyder appeared in the mid 17th century and attracted a great deal of attention due to the complexity of its allegorical material. Isaac Newton, in particular, struggled for years to understand and interpret it, and a number of his notebooks discuss this work.
It remains perhaps the most puzzling and complex of all alchemical allegories, extending over 31 chapters, and a number of people who have tried to make sense of it over the years have given up in despair, claiming it was a barbarous piece of unstructured nonsense.
However, Adam McLean shows in this course that if it is read sensitively, then it does reveal its underlying structure. It can then be seen not as a rambling muddle of classical allegory, but an exploration of the ways in which the metals are metamorphosed through the alchemical work, seen through the perspective of mid 17th century alchemical philosophy. Monte-Snyder wrapped laboratory processes in a beautiful and fascinating garment of classical allegory.
The course is only available on CD-Rom.


Over the next years, I have mapped out a schema of study courses that will lead people to a deep encounter with the nature of alchemical texts, allegory and emblematic imagery. Eight have been produced so far, that point the way I have chosen to proceed. I do hope some of you will feel enthusiastic enough to join me on this journey to the core of alchemy. I do need to increase the size of the small group of my students, so if you know of anyone who might be interested in such study courses please tell them about my work.
Many modern writers on alchemy seem unable to understand an entire work in its context and instead merely cherry pick one or two phrases, ideas or symbols and then relate these to some of their pet theories or the belief systems to which they ascribe. You will find my own explanations and commentary very different from those efforts. For the first time you will be able to see what the actual writers were trying to communicate rather than having to view it through some modern theory or preconceptions.
If you have any questions before you purchase any of these courses please email Adam McLean adam@alchemywebsite.com


Please note these lessons are copyright © Adam McLean, and no part may be reproduced or distributed in any form (including the Internet) without the permission of Adam McLean.