The Alchemical Body excavates and centers within its Indian context the lost tradition of the medieval Siddhas. Working from previously unexplored alchemical sources, David Gordon White demonstrates for the first time that the medieval disciplines of Hindu alchemy and hatha yoga were practiced by one and the same people, and that they can be understood only when viewed together. White opens the way to a new and more comprehensive understanding of medieval Indian mysticism, within the broader context of south Asian Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Islam.
"White proves a skillful guide in disentangling historical and theoretical complexities that have thus far bedeviled the study of these influential aspects of medieval Indian culture."—Yoga World
"Anyone seriously interested in finding out more about authentic tantra, original hatha yoga, embodied liberation . . . sacred sexuality, paranormal abilities, healing, and of course alchemy will find White's extraordinary book as fascinating as any Tom Clancy thriller."—Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Journal
What distinguished the true alchemist from the fraud? This question animated the lives and labors of the common men—and occasionally women—who made a living as alchemists in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Holy Roman Empire. As purveyors of practical techniques, inventions, and cures, these entrepreneurs were prized by princely patrons, who relied upon alchemists to bolster their political fortunes. At the same time, satirists, artists, and other commentators used the figure of the alchemist as a symbol for Europe’s social and economic ills.
Drawing on criminal trial records, contracts, laboratory inventories, satires, and vernacular alchemical treatises, Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire situates the everyday alchemists, largely invisible to modern scholars until now, at the center of the development of early modern science and commerce. Reconstructing the workaday world of entrepreneurial alchemists, Tara Nummedal shows how allegations of fraud shaped their practices and prospects. These debates not only reveal enormously diverse understandings of what the “real” alchemy was and who could practice it; they also connect a set of little-known practitioners to the largest questions about commerce, trust, and intellectual authority in early modern Europe.
In Alchemy in the Rain Forest Jerry K. Jacka explores how the indigenous population of Papua New Guinea's highlands struggle to create meaningful lives in the midst of extreme social conflict and environmental degradation. Drawing on theories of political ecology, place, and ontology and using ethnographic, environmental, and historical data, Jacka presents a multilayered examination of the impacts large-scale commercial gold mining in the region has had on ecology and social relations. Despite the deadly interclan violence and widespread pollution brought on by mining, the uneven distribution of its financial benefits has led many Porgerans to call for further development. This desire for increased mining, Jacka points out, counters popular portrayals of indigenous people as innate conservationists who defend the environment from international neoliberal development. Jacka's examination of the ways Porgerans search for common ground between capitalist and indigenous ways of knowing and being points to the complexity and interconnectedness of land, indigenous knowledge, and the global economy in Porgera and beyond.
"What emerges from Kachru's fine work is the potential demarcation
of an entire field, rather than merely the fruitful exploration of a topic.
. . . [Kachru] is to be congratulated for having taken us as far as he
already has and for doing so in so stimulating and so productive a fashion."
-- World Englishes
"A potent addition to theoretical, sociolinguistic, attitudinal
and methodological explorations vis-à-vis the spread and functions
of, and innovations in, English from the viewpoint of a non-Western scholar."
-- The Language Teacher
Winner of the Joint First Prize, Duke of Edinburgh English Language Book Competition of the English-Speaking Union of the Commonwealth, 1987
Winner of the 2005 Pfizer Prize from the History of Science Society.
What actually took place in the private laboratory of a mid-seventeenth century alchemist? How did he direct his quest after the secrets of Nature? What instruments and theoretical principles did he employ?
Using, as their guide, the previously misunderstood interactions between Robert Boyle, widely known as "the father of chemistry," and George Starkey, an alchemist and the most prominent American scientific writer before Benjamin Franklin as their guide, Newman and Principe reveal the hitherto hidden laboratory operations of a famous alchemist and argue that many of the principles and practices characteristic of modern chemistry derive from alchemy. By analyzing Starkey's extraordinary laboratory notebooks, the authors show how this American "chymist" translated the wildly figurative writings of traditional alchemy into quantitative, carefully reasoned laboratory practice—and then encoded his own work in allegorical, secretive treatises under the name of Eirenaeus Philalethes. The intriguing "mystic" Joan Baptista Van Helmont—a favorite of Starkey, Boyle, and even of Lavoisier—emerges from this study as a surprisingly central figure in seventeenth-century "chymistry." A common emphasis on quantification, material production, and analysis/synthesis, the authors argue, illustrates a continuity of goals and practices from late medieval alchemy down to and beyond the Chemical Revolution.
For anyone who wants to understand how alchemy was actually practiced during the Scientific Revolution and what it contributed to the development of modern chemistry, Alchemy Tried in the Fire will be a veritable philosopher's stone.
Since the Enlightenment, alchemy has been viewed as a sort of antiscience, disparaged by many historians as a form of lunacy that impeded the development of rational chemistry. But in Atoms and Alchemy, William R. Newman—a historian widely credited for reviving recent interest in alchemy—exposes the speciousness of these views and challenges widely held beliefs about the origins of the Scientific Revolution.
Tracing the alchemical roots of Robert Boyle’s famous mechanical philosophy, Newman shows that alchemy contributed to the mechanization of nature, a movement that lay at the very heart of scientific discovery. Boyle and his predecessors—figures like the mysterious medieval Geber or the Lutheran professor Daniel Sennert—provided convincing experimental proof that matter is made up of enduring particles at the microlevel. At the same time, Newman argues that alchemists created the operational criterion of an “atomic” element as the last point of analysis, thereby contributing a key feature to the development of later chemistry. Atomsand Alchemy thus provokes a refreshing debate about the origins of modern science and will be welcomed—and deliberated—by all who are interested in the development of scientific theory and practice.
Daughters of Alchemy
Meredith K. Ray Harvard University Press, 2015 Library of Congress Q130.R37 2015 | Dewey Decimal 509.25220945
Meredith Ray shows that women were at the vanguard of empirical culture during the Scientific Revolution. They experimented with medicine and alchemy at home and in court, debated cosmological discoveries in salons and academies, and in their writings used their knowledge of natural philosophy to argue for women’s intellectual equality to men.
Bruce T. MORAN Harvard University Press, 2005 Library of Congress QD15.M67 2005 | Dewey Decimal 540.9
Alchemy can't be science--common sense tells us as much. But perhaps common sense is not the best measure of what science is, or was. In this book, Bruce Moran looks past contemporary assumptions and prejudices to determine what alchemists were actually doing in the context of early modern science. Examining the ways alchemy and chemistry were studied and practiced between 1400 and 1700, he shows how these approaches influenced their respective practitioners' ideas about nature and shaped their inquiries into the workings of the natural world. His work sets up a dialogue between what historians have usually presented as separate spheres; here we see how alchemists and early chemists exchanged ideas and methods and in fact shared a territory between their two disciplines.
Distilling Knowledge suggests that scientific revolution may wear a different appearance in different cultural contexts. The metaphor of the Scientific Revolution, Moran argues, can be expanded to make sense of alchemy and other so-called pseudo-sciences--by including a new framework in which "process can count as an object, in which making leads to learning, and in which the messiness of conflict leads to discernment." Seen on its own terms, alchemy can stand within the bounds of demonstrative science.
Primitive man's discovery of the ability to change matter from one state to another brought about a profound change in spiritual behavior. In The Forge and the Crucible, Mircea Eliade follows the ritualistic adventures of these ancient societies, adventures rooted in the people's awareness of an awesome new power.
The new edition of The Forge and the Crucible contains an updated appendix, in which Eliade lists works on Chinese alchemy published in the past few years. He also discusses the importance of alchemy in Newton's scientific evolution.
Both the quest for natural knowledge and the aspiration to alchemical wisdom played crucial roles in the Scientific Revolution, as William R. Newman demonstrates in this fascinating book about George Starkey (1628-1665), America's first famous scientist. Beginning with Starkey's unusual education in colonial New England, Newman traces out his many interconnected careers—natural philosopher, alchemist, chemist, medical practitioner, economic projector, and creator of the fabulous adept, "Eirenaeus Philalethes." Newman reveals the profound impact Starkey had on the work of Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, Samuel Hartlib, and other key thinkers in the realm of early modern science.
In an age when the nature of reality is complicated daily by advances in bioengineering, cloning, and artificial intelligence, it is easy to forget that the ever-evolving boundary between nature and technology has long been a source of ethical and scientific concern: modern anxieties about the possibility of artificial life and the dangers of tinkering with nature more generally were shared by opponents of alchemy long before genetic science delivered us a cloned sheep named Dolly.
In Promethean Ambitions, William R. Newman ambitiously uses alchemy to investigate the thinning boundary between the natural and the artificial. Focusing primarily on the period between 1200 and 1700, Newman examines the labors of pioneering alchemists and the impassioned—and often negative—responses to their efforts. By the thirteenth century, Newman argues, alchemy had become a benchmark for determining the abilities of both men and demons, representing the epitome of creative power in the natural world. Newman frames the art-nature debate by contrasting the supposed transmutational power of alchemy with the merely representational abilities of the pictorial and plastic arts—a dispute which found artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Bernard Palissy attacking alchemy as an irreligious fraud. The later assertion by the Paracelsian school that one could make an artificial human being—the homunculus—led to further disparagement of alchemy, but as Newman shows, the immense power over nature promised by the field contributed directly to the technological apologetics of Francis Bacon and his followers. By the mid-seventeenth century, the famous "father of modern chemistry," Robert Boyle, was employing the arguments of medieval alchemists to support the identity of naturally occurring substances with those manufactured by "chymical" means.
In using history to highlight the art-nature debate, Newman here shows that alchemy was not an unformed and capricious precursor to chemistry; it was an art founded on coherent philosophical and empirical principles, with vocal supporters and even louder critics, that attracted individuals of first-rate intellect. The historical relationship that Newman charts between human creation and nature has innumerable implications today, and he ably links contemporary issues to alchemical debates on the natural versus the artificial.
The Secrets of Alchemy
Lawrence M. Principe University of Chicago Press, 2012 Library of Congress QD13.P75 2013 | Dewey Decimal 540.112
In The Secrets of Alchemy, Lawrence M. Principe, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject, brings alchemy out of the shadows and restores it to its important place in human history and culture. By surveying what alchemy was and how it began, developed, and overlapped with a range of ideas and pursuits, Principe illuminates the practice. He vividly depicts the place of alchemy during its heyday in early modern Europe, and then explores how alchemy has fit into wider views of the cosmos and humanity, touching on its enduring place in literature, fine art, theater, and religion as well as its recent acceptance as a serious subject of study for historians of science. In addition, he introduces the reader to some of the most fascinating alchemists, such as Zosimos and Basil Valentine, whose lives dot alchemy’s long reign from the third century and to the present day. Through his exploration of alchemists and their times, Principe pieces together closely guarded clues from obscure and fragmented texts to reveal alchemy’s secrets, and—most exciting for budding alchemists—uses them to recreate many of the most famous recipes in his lab, including those for the “glass of antimony” and “philosophers’ tree.” This unique approach brings the reader closer to the actual work of alchemy than any other book.