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    • CommentAuthorKinesys
    • CommentTimeDec 10th 2007 edited
    So, Alchemy was the forerunner of modern chemistry.
    The enneagram was there long long before the Meyer-Briggs test.

    What else that is "Mystickal" is the precursor of it's own scientific understanding?
  1.  (263.2)
    Alchemy still has much to offer besides being the precursor of chemistry - both as a metaphor (hell, even Dawkins peppers his rants with phrases like 'the alchemy of understanding') and an ideal. Plus, the more Eastern 'moist' styles - sex-yoga basically, especially explicit in the Chinese form - are effective brain-change techniques.

    I wouldn't take your implication that the mystical becomes moot once a similar or related scientific model appears. Each metaphor fits differing conditions.
    • CommentAuthoradrian r
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
    To understand alchemy as a precursor of chemistry is to misunderstand both. Alchemy is about transformation, and to do so uses nature's processes learned by observation. To that its extent, its method could be called scientific, but its objective -- what is transformed, and what it is transformed into when these processes are applied -- transcends science and makes little sense in scientific terms. The more you compare A to B, the more you miss out what makes them unique and distinct.
  2.  (263.4)
    @adrian r:
    "To understand alchemy as a precursor of chemistry is to misunderstand both."
    To be clear, I do know that. I've studied The Art for over twenty years. It is true, however, that the works of the souffleurs were the immediate precursors of modern chemistry. It's just not all it was.
    • CommentAuthoradrian r
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
    @ Cat Vincent: apologies, my comments were aimed at Kinesys, which I thought was clear but turned out not to be. Ah, the joys of communication...
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007

    The alchemy as transformative metaphor is only really a modern interpretation that fits in well with vaugely new age ideas.

    Make no mistake, medieval alchemists weren't trying to become well-rounded individuals with a great sense of self, they really were trying to make gold and they didn't see what they were doing as magical. To them it was entirely science, even if their worldview encompassed things which now are seen as only existing in the magical spheres.

    Alchemists were applying principles of observation and experimentation to their work and in a very real sense were scientists. They observed that chemical changes could occur under certain circumstances and naturally wanted to turn this to profit.
    • CommentAuthoradrian r
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
    Jung is responsible for some sloppy thinking about alchemy (and Tarot for that matter) which other people picked up and folded into New Age wibble, yes. But alchemy itself was never just about turning actual lead into actual gold. If it were, you wouldn't have texts like Atalanta Fugiene, from 1618, featuring illustrations -- the pictures were as important if not more so than the words accompanying them -- depicting 'The King in his Sweatbox', with the monarch being steamed to release him of his saturnine filth. And you wouldn't have other images I've seen, such as another 17th century one specifically called 'Athanor of the mind', which shows someone having rubbish come out of their head after it's put in a furnace. See also the Splendor Solis from 1532 -- again, an image of a person going through a process of transformation via alchemical processes. That which is transformed has long been known by at least some practitioners of alchemy, to be what we call the self.
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
    I think I'm a bit more interested in the Mandorla in the Venn of magic and science than I am with who's read more about alchemy... let's agree that Kinesys could have picked a better starting place for the conversation, and maybe move on from there?

    Unless no one here believes that the two can and have influenced and grown from each other, in which case I guess I'll go close all the space threads.
  3.  (263.9)
    True to a small degree in the West. Not so true in the Far East (India and China) where the metallic dabbling was always seen as metaphorical. Even in the West, the Art split into 'Speculative' (metaphorical/Illuminist) versus 'Operative' (mucking around with chemicals) by the 17th Century.

    Happy to shut up about Chymestry from now on!
  4.  (263.10)
    So... Clarke's Law, anyone?
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007 edited
    Yeah, Clarke's Law absolutely applies to Alchemy. Very much so.

    There's a fascinating exhibit in the British Museum which has some Alchemists' tools in it, including a knife which had about an inch of its tip supposedly turned into gold - but which was, in fact, copper plated. This was to convince clients or patrons that the Alchemist could definitely achieve results, but perhaps not every time.

    This seems to indicate that some Alchemists had a firm place alongside other kinds of dodgy and fraudulent magicians, fortune tellers and mediums. Copper plating and gilding, however, does belong in the realms of science and shows that scientific knowledge was used to replicate supposed magical effects.

    I do think that it's very important to remember that the primary motivating force behind pretty much all magical investigation, certainly in the west, was the pursuit of either profit or power. If the scientific principles that were discovered proved potentially more profitable, then it's no surprise that this route was pursued instead.

    One of the things that magicians were historically very good at, was finding stolen property and identifying thieves, and this was something that was very profitable for them. The most successful treasure-finding 'Cunning Folk' often frequented pubs or taverns, lurking in dark corners. Something that was far from coincidence, as this is where most stolen property was offered for sale. 'Got it off a bloke down the pub' has a long history... However, what someone who wanted their property returned would be shown, was an elaborate magical working of some kind, to distract from the fact that the 'magician' had just spotted the thief offering the item for sale in the local boozer.

    What's this got to do with alchemy, magic and science? Well, it's just that all these things are usually associated with very high ideals, intended to work for the benefit of mankind, when really all they've ever been about and are still all about is turning a profit. When alchemy became science, it was because the alchemists gave up on the idea of turning lead to gold, or finding the philosophers stone, but instead discovered better ways for blacksmiths to temper either swords or ploughshares, for example. In a very real way the move from alchemy to science was actually good just good science and basic survival capitalism.

    However, the metaphor does work well in terms of modern magical thinking. The idea that change can occur is a powerful one. But I believe that the lesson of the alchemists is that there are things which work and things which don't, and that sticking with the things that work is the important thing.

    Which is, really, the central tenet of Chaos Magic, so we're right back there again!
    • CommentAuthoradrian r
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
    Agreed, there is a long tradition of magic and commerce meeting in dubious circumstances, which is one of the reasons why Mercury is the god of thieves. There's also the long Hermetic tradition, which isn't so simply dismissed as a get rich quick scheme and is all about personal transformation.
  5.  (263.13)
    Shockingly, I refer back to Kinesys and the OP...

    'What else that is "Mystickal" is the precursor of it's own scientific understanding?'

    The one which immediately jumps to mind is the field of bioenergetics, the precursor being the Chinese "ch'i" model, basis of all Chinese medicine, martial arts and indeed alchemy. This crosses over so nicely that (as I mentioned elsewhere on Whitechapel) my standard carry wand is a laser pen, tuned to 625nm. In acupuncture, this is used on people who really really don't like needles. I find it effective in other tasks.

    There's a lot of interesting crossover between Western kit and Chinese medicine these days - and lest you think it's one-way, the Chinese are eager to learn our models of neurology as, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the brain is not actually considered as a major organ but as a neutral storage area for bone marrow!
    • CommentAuthoradrian r
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007 edited
    That East/West interplay is interesting...I'd like to check out Thought Field Therapy one day, an application of acu-points for psychological issues that I've been hearing good things about. Richard Bandler, NLP co-creator, is a fan, and he is also versed in acupuncture as well as using energy work as part of his repertoire. And in January, I'm hoping to go to a workshop on a Chinese alchemical text presented by NLP trainer Michael Breen.
    • CommentAuthorKinesys
    • CommentTimeDec 11th 2007
    Okay, Allow me to fix my comments a bit.

    Magick and science are both founded on the principles of testing theoretical constructs, The only difference between the two is that science, by it's very nature excludes metaphysic and also excludes that which cannot be re-produced in the lab. (Scientists are still baffled by the "Placebo effect"

    What got me thinking along this line is the differences between the Enneagram and the Meyer-Briggs test. My boss is avid sort when it comes to the latter and i espouse the former as being more intuitive and flexible.

    I do know that Alchemy is so much more than a rudimentary form of chemistry. My whole concept of internal magick is founded on it. In fact, an NLP exercise i heard about may be the cause of more internal change than any other that i've tried.

    The exercise is as follows:
    Picture yourself on the other side of a piece of glass.
    Picture the changes you are making to yourself happening to the other self.
    When you are done, open the glass door and take your other self by the hand,
    Allow your new state to slip inside you.

    If that isn't a form of internal alchemy. I don't know what is.
    In fact, i liken nearly every form of art to alchemy in some way.
    If nothing else, it is the act of nailing together two things that have never been nailed together before.

    I am additionally interested in the Yogis, martial artists, and chinese medicine practitioners have seemingly found a back door into work that western science is only begining to scratch the surface of.

    I am fascinated by the concept of tulpas and thought forms. Indeed, as a professional actor i am finding that it is often easier for me to write "In Character". I couldn't explain that if i had all day to do it.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2007
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2007
    Kinesys: and also excludes that which cannot be re-produced in the lab. (Scientists are still baffled by the "Placebo effect"

    As a scientist I may be able to contribute on this thought. One of the big misconceptions is that scientists will only accept what is shown reproduceably. This is only half right. Scientist will only publish that which is reproduceable ; ) But the fundamentals of scientific thought is that things can only be shown to be true, you CANNOT prove that something does not exist or happen. A lot of scientists make this mistake themselves and talk about that which is impossible when what they really mean is that it is not reproduceble.

    The placebo effect is not a mystery and has been shown to be reproduceable in studies where individuals who benefited from one placebo medication also benefited from another.
      CommentAuthorCat Vincent
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2007 edited
    "The placebo effect is not a mystery"

    Do you mean that (some) scientists acknowledge that it happens, or that the neuro-electro-chemical action which causes placebo effect has been defined and tested? If the latter, please share!
    (Not being sarcastic... my-wife-the-ex-neurochemist-shaman tries to keep abreast of the literature on such things and if we've missed a breakthrough I'd like to know.)
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2007
    Hmmm... I suppose in the sense off the mechanics of "how" the placebo effect works may be a mystery.

    I only meant that, indeed, many scientists accept that a placebo effect exists...even may be common. That's probably why people can get money to research the question of how it works. If anything, that scientists can admit the existence of something they do not understand, is a sign of growth in the scientific comunity : )

    My science is biogeochemistry, so I would defer to anything your wife has to say about the subject.

    Funny thing is I did think you were being sarcastic, or at least calling me out...but not because of what you wrote, but because your little I.D photo is flipping me off! lol!
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeDec 14th 2007
    The placebo effect is only a very limited chemical response. It's just about learned behaviour, as it doesn't work on animals.

    The only symptoms is has any effect on are those that are verbally reported by patients or those affected by mood and mental state. A placebo might make you feel better if you've got a stress headache or are suffering from depression, but there's no way it's going to shrink a tumour or do much about AIDS, so it's not like it's some miracle cure that's not understood by science.

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