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  #1  
Old Jun 13, '09, 5:29 pm
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Silvereel Silvereel is offline
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Default Alchemy

Perhaps this doesn't belong here, but it is at least a quasi-apologetics issue.
From what I've been reading apparently Roger Bacon and even Thomas Aquinas practiced alchemy. Modern chemistry owes alot to it, and it may well have been part of the dawn of science, but it was also mixed in with alot of occult material as well. So was Thomas Aquinas practicing the occult in alchemy, or perhaps he only practiced the chemistry part? Also, does/did the Church consider alchemy to be a sin?
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  #2  
Old Jun 13, '09, 10:11 pm
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MarcoPolo MarcoPolo is offline
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Default Re: Alchemy

I'm not aware of Aquinas practicing occult, do you have a reference for that? I didn't see the word "alchemy" in the Catechism at all when I did a web search.
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  #3  
Old Jun 13, '09, 10:35 pm
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Silvereel Silvereel is offline
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Default Re: Alchemy

According to wikipedia:

... Albertus Magnus (11931280) and Thomas Aquinas (12251274) were both Dominicans who studied Aristotle and worked at reconciling the differences between philosophy and Christianity. Aquinas also did a great deal of work in developing the scientific method. He even went as far as claiming that universals could be discovered only through logical reasoning, and, since reason could not run in opposition to God, reason must be compatible with theology. (Hollister p. 290-4, 355). This ran contrary to the commonly held Platonic belief that universals were found through divine illumination alone. Magnus and Aquinas were among the first to take up the examination of alchemical theory, and could be considered to be alchemists themselves, except that these two did little in the way of experimentation...

I doubt that the Church would have much of a stand on alchemy today, since I highly doubt anyone seriously still practices it. Basicly it was about changing lead into gold, getting eternal life etc. but it also had a large philisophical, occult aspect to it as well which most, but not all alchemists practiced. What I've read of Bacon about it seems like he himself was more focused on the chemistry aspects, and I suspect Aquinas and Magnus were probably focused on this as well.
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  #4  
Old Jun 13, '09, 10:54 pm
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DavidFilmer DavidFilmer is online now
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Default Re: Alchemy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvereel View Post
I highly doubt anyone seriously still practices it.
Actually, I know someone who identifies himself as a practicing alchemist.

The alchemists of old were not only interested in changing lead to gold, but in changing (by scientific methods) any "base" thing into a "perfect" thing. This included themselves. Many alchemists died by ingesting chemicals that they thought would bring them to spiritual perfection. Some folks today still believe this is possible.

Actually, Catholics kinda believe this as well. We believe that ingesting the Eucharist is a necessary part of the path to spiritual perfection. Except we embrace the spiritual aspect of the Eucharist, whereas the alchemists missed this essential component - they were only interested in the chemical aspects.

The alchemists were our first chemists (just as astrologers were our first astronomers). Modern science has divested itself of the spiritual aspects of these practices, yet owes a great debt to these early practitioners.
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  #5  
Old Jun 13, '09, 11:07 pm
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Silvereel Silvereel is offline
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Default Re: Alchemy

David, out of curiosity, is your friend Catholic?
And yeah, I realize it was not simply changing things into gold. Gold was an often used example of perfection.
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  #6  
Old Jun 13, '09, 11:14 pm
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Default Re: Alchemy

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Originally Posted by Silvereel View Post
David, out of curiosity, is your friend Catholic?
No. He is not even baptized.
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  #7  
Old Jun 14, '09, 9:20 pm
Mintaka Mintaka is offline
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Default Re: Alchemy

St. Albert the Great never practiced the occult. In his own works, he was very adamant about the fact that he was interested in the properties of things created by God, and of finding out the natural causes of things. He wasn't interested in practicing "magia", and said so. He doesn't seem to have been interested in the mystical/occult side of alchemy at all. He did want to do experiments, make careful observations, and publish his findings. He is regarded for this reason as one of the founders of chemistry (among other disciplines).

As with many medieval scientists, there are occult legends about him doing various things (usually the same things attributed to Bacon or the Roman poet Virgil). As with many medieval scientists (and Virgil), later people tried to sell occult books as supposedly authored by him. But modern scholarship doesn't find any reason to believe that St. Albert even dabbled in the occult, and it's not as if modern scholarship is any great friend of the Church.

If you are interested, there are several medium-length biographies of St. Albert the Great available online.

Thomas Aquinas doesn't seem to have been nearly as interested in science as he was in logic and theology. However, as Albert was his teacher, he was bound to have learned tons of science, and a lot of it through "experientia", aka experimentation and observation.

I don't know as much about Bacon.
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  #8  
Old Jun 15, '09, 1:49 am
wasmit wasmit is offline
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Default Re: Alchemy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvereel View Post
Perhaps this doesn't belong here, but it is at least a quasi-apologetics issue.
From what I've been reading apparently Roger Bacon and even Thomas Aquinas practiced alchemy. Modern chemistry owes alot to it, and it may well have been part of the dawn of science, but it was also mixed in with alot of occult material as well. So was Thomas Aquinas practicing the occult in alchemy, or perhaps he only practiced the chemistry part? Also, does/did the Church consider alchemy to be a sin?
The practice of alchemy was common among scientists from ~1200 to ~1700 link
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  #9  
Old Oct 13, '11, 2:40 pm
john_david_91 john_david_91 is offline
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Default Re: Alchemy

I am a life-long, practicing Catholic, I love my Faith and my Lord and would never forsake Him for the sake of polite argument. So, what I will put below I know and believe to be right.

Alchemy was only "occult" because what they were doing, if done poorly, would have killed a lesser man, and also because of the Catholic Church's attempts at abolishing it after a "Protestant" called Isaac Casaubon related it to the Devil's work. Before Casaubon, Alchemy was practiced in many monasteries across Christendom. In the Middle Ages, most monasteries were akin to our modern conception of a hospital. The monks who practiced medicine practiced it not only physically, using the Essences of plants that grew locally in their region (one monastery in France had concocted a powerful anesthetic), but also Spiritually; which is what Med schools and Nursing schools profess in their daily work, known as the Holistic Approach. The words Holistic and Holy share the same linguistic origins from the greek holos meaning "whole, entirely" and can also be found in the etymology of the word Sacred ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy#Etymology ).

The Holistic Approach in the medical field, as I've described, is the approach that the patient is "one" entity, a combination of Mind, Body, and Spirit, and the aim of medical practice is to treat "ALL" aspects of the patient in all three of those realms. However, that is only textbook perfect and is hardly seen in its entirety in an actual medical facility. What has become known as Alchemy is the practice and application of the Holistic Approach.

Alchemy, unfortunately, has a vague origin, as does the Bible in relation to the individuals who penned it (not in relation to the fact that It is God's direct Word - we all know that It is). Now I'm sure if you've looked into it enough you would come across something known as the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus.

It reads thus:

"Truly, without Deceit, certainly and absolutely

That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, in the accomplishment of the Miracle of One Thing. And just as all things have come from One, through the Mediation of One, so all things follow from this One Thing in the same way.

Its Father is the Sun. Its Mother is the Moon. The Wind has carried it in his Belly. Its Nourishment is the Earth. It is the Father of every completed Thing in the whole World. Its Strength is intact if it is turned towards the Earth. Separate the Earth by Fire: the fine from the gross, gently, and with great skill.

It rises from Earth to Heaven, and then it descends again to the Earth, and receives Power from Above and from Below. Thus you will have the Glory of the whole World. All Obscurity will be clear to you. This is the strong Power of all Power because it overcomes everything fine and penetrates everything solid.

In this way was the World created. From this there will be amazing Applications, because this is the Pattern. Therefore am I called Thrice Greatest Hermes, having the three parts of the Wisdom of the whole World.

Herein have I completely explained the Operation of the Sun."
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  #10  
Old Oct 13, '11, 2:41 pm
john_david_91 john_david_91 is offline
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Default Re: Alchemy

Looking at the second paragraph, upon much meditation of the subject, at least to me, it sounds like it is describing all things in this Universe as coming from God and are of God (which sounds closely similar to St. Thomas Aquinas' concept that God is the source, "un-caused cause", and primary force of motion in all things; Isaac Newton practically said the same thing with his Laws of Motion). The second paragraph also seems to be telling us (interpreting it through a Christian lens) that we should follow Christ. His Way is the way to perfection and balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit (represented in Alchemy as Sulfur, Salt, and Mercury). One would ask, "But where is the Soul in all this?" Well, alchemists attested that the Mind and the Soul were the same thing. A way to confirm this is in listening to Christ when he told us that to imagine having intercourse with someone is the same as the physical act of it.

Paragraphs three and four describe the 7 Alchemical Processes:

1. Calcination
2. Dissolution
3. Separation
4. Conjunction
5. Fermentation
6. Distillation
7. Coagulation

And yes, these are also the steps in modern, spiritless chemistry. But they are also the steps of the many things that we practice in our faith. We can even compare these seven steps to the Creation in Genesis and the before, during, and after of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. We can even correlate these seven stages to the Holy Mass, and there are even 7 Sacraments.

I don't want to take too much space discussing such correlation here, but if you'd like to find the inherent similarities between the Alchemical Processes and the Creation/Crucifixion/Holy Mass then be my guest and follow this link -> http://alchemylab.com/contents_solar...LE OF CONTENTS and scroll down to "Operations of Alchemy". All seven are there and the links for them describe the intellectual/soulful, spiritual, and physical manifestations of each step.

Example: Calcination involves the heating, burning, or destruction of a substance (i.e. the Scourging at the Pillar, The Crucifixion, and Christ's descent into Hell). Mental/Soulful and Spiritual Calcination is the destruction of Ego and of our attachments to the material world (i.e. The Agony in Gethsemane, Christ's 40 Days of Fasting, The Tempting of Christ).

The last paragraphs basically confirm that the 7 Alchemical Processes are derived from the steps God took in the Creation depicted in Genesis; 6 days of Creation and 1 of Rest. Now, where the Tablet says "Hence I am called Thrice Greatest Hermes..." In Greek mythology, Hermes was the messenger god, the medium through which the Heavens could communicate to those on Earth and give those on Earth the knowledge needed to balance the Mind/Soul, Body, and Spirit. Of course there is no such thing as Hermes, so the Tablet must have mistaken an identity through the lens of Grecian mythology. The clue to who it "really" is lies with the phrase "Thrice Greatest", or from the Latin "Trismegistus". This, of course, is the title of which we give God when we identify Him as the Holy "Trinity".

So if Hermes Trismegistus wasn't Hermes but God Himself then where is this Emerald Tablet in the Bible? It is in Exodus 24; verse 12: And the Lord said to Moses: "Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and the law, and the commandments which I have written: that thou mayst teach them." Notice the structure of the sentence; God gave Moses "tables of stone" and (IN ADDITION TO) "the law" and "the commandments".

In conclusion, I cannot see how Alchemy, in this Christian sense, which must undoubtedly be the Truth, would want to be abhorred by Christians and abolished by the One Holy and Apostolic Church. Obviously, as purported by Exodus, God had given "tables of stone" to Moses in addition to the law and commandments. Of these tablets, surely, must have been the Emerald Tablet. And notice that God gave Moses 3 items (the tablets, law, and commandments). It is through Alchemy that God gave us the formula to connect and observe His Will in all aspects and in the balance of Mind/Soul, Body, and Spirit, and it is the Bible which is the recipe book.
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