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A Brief History of Alchemy
It is common today to think of alchemy as the mere precursor of chemistry or a primitive and not very accurate attempt to describe nature. This is entirely untrue. Alchemy, from its beginnings, was a means to transform the human soul from its base (lead) state to its Enlightened and eternal state (gold). Alchemy lies at the heart of the world’s three dominant modern religions.
The word “Alchemy” is derived from Khem, the name of Egypt, “Al” means “of” so the word means “of Egypt.” It came to mean the wisdom of Egypt. Many of the sayings and methods attributed to Hermetica have been traced hieroglyphic texts that are among the earliest Egyptian writings, others have been traced further back to cuneiform tablets of the Sumerians, dating to 6000-5000bce. It is claimed that the wisdom of alchemy was even older than these sources currently no evidence to either dispute or confirm this claim.
The texts known as the ‘Hermetica’ are not the product of one ancient sage or Divinity. They are named after the Greek God Hermes Trismegistris, Thrice Great Hermes, the Greek name of Egyptian God Thoth as in the ancient world it was common to credit the God or Goddess who inspired the author. Hermetica is seen as the direct descendant of Sumerian and Egyptian philosophy.
The Egyptian God Thoth was believed to have invented the sacred art of writing and the concepts of justice; he taught mankind astronomy, architecture, geometry, medicine and religion. He was the carrier of Divine messages and recorded all human deeds. Like the Hebrew/Persian god, He sat among the judges of the dead, weighing the heart. An unworthy heart (soul) was eaten by Sobek and ceased to exist, while the worthy went to the blissful realms or were reborn to continue their evolution. It is therefore understandable that Thoth, the God of Wisdom, was credited with the creation of alchemy.
300bc - Greece
The Hermetica inspired some of the greatest achievements of the ancient world. The famous Library of Alexandria contained more than 500,000 scrolls, including Euclid, Archimedes, Ptolemy (geometry), Aristarchus of Samos (who demonstrated that the world was round and revolves around the sun some 1500 years before Kepler) and texts on math and geography which were translated in Latin and dominated these fields well into the middle ages. Here scientists studied ancient Egyptian texts* and learned of the precession of the equinoxes and that the moon, which revolved around the Earth, was responsible for tides. (Sumerian text predated this teaching by 3000 years.) Eratosthenes, a famous Greek alchemist, calculated the circumference of the Earth and was unchallenged until the last half of the 20th century when space travel and computer measurements confirmed his measurements adding only a few decimal points. All of these authors were alchemists.
The writings of Hermes Trismegistris have had a profound effect on Western
thought and religion. The Hermetica’s influence on early Christianity
is seen through such saints as St. Clement, St. Origen – an Alexandrian
who synthesized pagan and Christian doctrines, and St. Augistine who were
each students of Hermetic philosophy. The New Testament’s emphasis
on “the Word” is Hermetic Greek doctrine.
400’s - Dark Ages
700’s - The Muslim Empire
In the 9th century, the first University was established in Baghdad and was called “the House of Wisdom.” Many pagan works were translated and taught, studied and practiced. Hermetica became the secret inspiration for many unorthodox religious sects such as the Sabaeans, Sufis (who called Hermes “Idris and Enoch.”), Zoroastrians, Gnosticism and various schools of neo-Platonists. The most notable of the Sufis was. Al Hallaj martyred as a heretic, who loudly espoused the Hermetic wisdom “I am the truth,” and “We are all God.”
1100’s - India
1400’s - Florance & The Renaissance
Reuchlin (1455 – 1522), the teacher of Martin Luther and Erasmus, studied the Hermetica in Florence and left to sew the seeds of the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Thomas Linaere, a student in Hermetica and natural philosophy, founded the Royal College of Physicians in London. The mathematician Nicholas of Cusa; the physician Paracelsus; the architect Filippo Brunelleschi; the astronomer Copernicus, the astronomer Toscanelli (whose map inspired Christopher Columbus). All of these men studied Hermetica in Florence. Copernicus studied these ancient texts and announced his (re)discovery that the Earth revolved around the Sun. He quoted Hermetica in his landmark Revolution of Celestial Orbs.
1500’s - England
1600’s – Modern Day
Secret societies such as Masonry, the Golden Dawn, the O.T.O., the Rosecrutians were founded around Hermetic texts and on Hermetic doctrines.
Early Hermetic writings remain some of the oldest and greatest sacred texts ever written. In a very real sense, Hermetica continues its influence as quantum mechanics demonstrates the hidden truths of ancient Hermetic philosophy and psychology validates alchemy as true means of mental and spiritual health. Religion and science are merging.
Some of the more famous people who were practicing alchemists or influenced by alchemical texts:
The Alchemist’s Prayer
Oh, most singular and unspeakable Presence, first and last in the
Universe, brighten the fury of my fire and burn away the doors of my being.
Cleanse my soiled soul; bathe me in your awesome light. Set me free from
my history and cut me loose from my boundaries. Unite me this the one
thing, hidden in my life, wherein is my only strength. Fill me with your
Presence, allow me to see through your singular Eye, grant me entry to
your Mind, let me resonate with your Will. Make me transparent to your
flame, and fashion me into a lens for your light only. Transmute me into
an incorruptible Stone in you eternal service, like the golden light that
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