Alchemy is a structural craft, based on geology, metallurgy, herbs and protochemistry.
It enabled the discovery of the periodic table (in phases, separately by the geologist De Chancourtois, by Meyer, and Mendeleev). Many of the technology aims of the craft were realised, including transmuting metals and minerals, such as oil and coal into plastics. Transmuting human nature proved impossible. The alchemical impulse for individual self-improvement is not the same as the evolutionary paradigm of science, which seeks and finds evidence of our former supposed primitive state, and of our current supposed elevated state, among the rags of cultural mutation.
The industrial revolution (see Blake’s London, under Kabalah below) had transformed the spiritual version of alchemy into a consumerist cult of alcohol, pills and drugs, making pharmacy and addiction the main economy worldwide. Consumerism transforms experience and people, but not for the better. Practical alchemy is a perpetual impulse in all people and cultures, expressed in cooking, experimentation, and attempted meddling in the structural expressions of nature, lately via genetic engineering. All crafts apply archetype, but only alchemy and kabalah study the implied structure of things and processes. The spectacular result was chemistry and biochemistry.
The Hermetic dictum, inherited or re-invented from alchemy, stresses “the miracles of one only thing… all things have been and arose from one, by the mediation of one, so all things have their birth from this one thing,” in Newton’s translation of the emerald tablet.
Alchemy, like all the esoteric crafts, is largely an elaborate natural correspondence theory, tested by isolating and ‘tacking’ attributes between different sets or categories of things. Thus our alchemical impulse laid the groundwork for chemistry and physics, which closed the circle by finding predicted elements (including Helium), and eventually photographing particles and waves. Among natural categories, alchemy includes some cultural categories, such as motivations and personality, the domain of astrology (which recently became psychology). Structural anthropology also reaped some of the ‘bread’ that alchemy had once cast on the waters of natural philosophy, by applying correspondences to social behaviour.
Ironically the human sciences now shun multi-disciplinary approaches, because they resemble crafts. Instead, the humanities isolate single classes of things, and apply tests of logic to theorise the parts of each class. Science and esoteric crafts now both suffer from the assumption that most behaviour, and therefore culture and artefacts, are conscious, practical constructs, mastered by conscious skills. This ‘scientific’ paradigm results in correspondence theories, typically of supposed ‘hidden knowledge’ that could be shared, improved, withheld, scrambled, or lost.
However the ‘grammar’ of culture is impossible to use consciously, or to fake, even now that it is revealed as readable in artworks and building sites (see the Commission Impossible section)………… [order the book at $30 plus postage from Four Equators Media, via edmond at syrex dot co dot za, using Paypal ]……