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alchemy

The medieval forerunner of chemistry, concerned with the transmutation of matter, in particular with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir. The ...

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The Oxford Companion to Local and Family History (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
History, Local and Family History
Length:
23 words

... The chemistry of the Middle Ages and throughout the 16th century, concerned especially with the attempt to transmute base metal into...

Alchemy

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2003
Subject:
Religion
Length:
111 words

...Alchemy Arabic ilm al-kimiyah . The science of alchemy combined occult practices, such as the transformation of the spirit, with scientific concerns and methodologies, but retained a strong technological dimension. These included the preparation of compounds and chemical products, chemical operations such as distillation and crystallization, and the invention of technical apparatus for laboratory use. Most of the known works of alchemy, including those of Jabir ibn Hayyan (eighth century) and Abu Bakr al-Razi (ninth century), contain considerable sections...

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World Encyclopedia

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2004
Subject:
Encyclopedias
Length:
87 words

... A system in European philosophy in the Middle Ages and Renaissance . It contained elements such as Gnosticism and astrology , now regarded as mysticism , alongside early scientific ideas. By the medieval period alchemy was interwoven with many other aspects of thought. It later helped inspire the origins of science, and alchemists pioneered the techniques of chemistry . However, alchemy hid ideas in complex symbolism and became widely misunderstood. Its reputation declined as it was abused by hoaxers claiming to be able to create material,...

ALCHEMY

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The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2011
Subject:
Religion
Length:
602 words

...in non-Jewish alchemical treatises as well). The most influential use of alchemical concepts is found in the Zohar . Several sections of the Zohar, and of the Hebrew kabbalistic works of Moshe de León, use alchemical processes and terminology as components of the homiletical interpretation of biblical verses in a kabbalistic manner. R. Yoḥanan Aliman, a kabbalist who wrote at the end of the fifteenth century, included alchemy among his many interests in sciences and magical procedures. The Safed kabbalist R. Ḥayyim Vital wrote an alchemical treatise and...

alchemy

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Michael Martin

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (4 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2022
Subject:
Religion
Length:
522 words

...alchemy A method of investigation into matter utilizing an idiosyncratic, even poetic, language for describing (as well as concealing) its insights and assertions. Often interpreted as a form of natural science or as a proto-scientific discipline, scholars of alchemy have also observed spiritual or religious corollaries with the imagery and tropes of alchemical discourse. Forms of alchemy were known in ancient Egypt and Classical Greece and its tenets were transferred to the Christian world with the cross-pollination of Islamic scientific writings (often...

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A Dictionary of Hinduism

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Religion
Length:
227 words

...alchemy, since it uses mercury and drugs as its transformative agents. A large number of alchemical texts, produced over a period of a thousand years (from the 2nd century ce ) are attributed to a legendary figure, or series of figures, called Nāgārjuna. Indian alchemy draws on, and is intimately bound up with Tantric thought and practice, and the two flourish alongside each other from the 6th to the 15th centuries ce . What counted as ‘alchemy’ for the siddhas was a mixture of alchemy proper, yoga , and Tantric practices. In short, any spiritual or...

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The Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Subject:
Science and technology, History of Science
Length:
985 words

...Arnald of Villanova, Ramon Lull , and John of Rupescissa—incorporated these innovations into alchemy. Among other changes, the position of mercury in alchemical manipulations became more central. Despite this activity, interest in alchemy declined, only to reappear with renewed vigor in the Renaissance. Alchemical ideas grew out of the cultures of which they were a part. Consequently, Greek, Arabic, late medieval, Renaissance, and early modern alchemical traditions each had distinctive characteristics. The craft also diffused within each cultural...

alchemy

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The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
History, Early history (500 CE to 1500)
Length:
865 words
Illustration(s):
1

...as a model for the alchemical work, thus incorporating Christianity into the very technology of alchemy . John of Rupescissa, a Franciscan exponent of radical *poverty , wrote a hugely popular Liber de quinta essentia omnium rerum that used alchemy as the basis for a reformed *medicine where *distillation acquired central importance. At the same time, John was a prophetical writer who incorporated the popular themes of the coming of *Antichrist and the tribulation of the elect into his other alchemical writings. The alchemical fusion of scholastic...

Alchemy

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The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2005
Subject:
History, modern history (1700 to 1945), Religion
Length:
1,006 words

...Allison P. Alchemy: The Philosopher's Stone . Boulder, 1980. Provides a general account of the history of alchemy and the emergence of chemistry as does Debus. Debus, Allen G. The Chemical Philosophy: Paracelsian Science and Medicine in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries . 2 vols. New York, 1977. Dobbs, Betty Jo Teeter . The Foundations of Newton's Alchemy . Reprint, Cambridge, 1983. Describes the influence of alchemy on Newton's thought. Montgomery, J. W. Cross, Constellation and Crucible: Lutheran Astrology and Alchemy in the Age of...

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A Dictionary of Philosophy (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2016
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
32 words

... The medieval combination of chemistry, philosophy, and secret lore aimed at transmuting base metals into gold (by means of the philosopher’s stone), and discovering the universal cure for disease and...

alchemy

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Thomas Hofmeier

The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2018

... Alchemy is the intellectual endeavour to grasp scientifically processes of change in nature and to apply this knowledge to improve matter artificially, bringing the flawed to perfection. It is generally assumed, against the alchemists’ own claims of Egyptian ancestry, that alchemy began at the time when its Greek name chemeia first appeared in texts of Graeco-Roman origin collectively called the Corpus Alchemicum Graecum (1st–14th cents.). However, the word chemeia first appears only three times in the Corpus and possibly indicates a substance...

Alchemy

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The Grove Encyclopedia of Medieval Art and Architecture

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2013

...The ultimate promise of alchemy, the creation of an earthly paradise, was strong enough to keep the myth of chemical transmutation alive throughout the 17th century, when several important printed alchemical emblem books were produced. When the practical and theoretical aspects of alchemy split during the Enlightenment, its symbols and metaphors became occult curiosities, subsumed within Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, whereas its laboratory procedures and apparatus evolved into modern chemistry. Bibliography A. Coudert : Alchemy: The Philosopher’s Stone ...

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A Dictionary of World History (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2015
Subject:
History
Length:
207 words

... A pseudo‐science originating independently in China, Greece, and India in about the 3rd century bc , concerned with the possible transmutation of all matter, most famously the transmutation of base metals, such as lead, into gold. The transmutation was variously an end in itself, a means by which to make an elixir of life, and a route to the creation of a panacea, or universal medicine. Early alchemy degenerated into superstition and mysticism, but the art flourished once again in the 8th century ad in Arab countries. Translations of Arabic ...

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The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
1,148 words

...and astrologer whose Ars alchemiae was intended to remove some of the obscurity into which alchemy had descended, Roger Bacon , whose own interest in alchemy led to his name being attached to many more treatises than he actually wrote himself, and George Ripley , the author of over 200 manuscript treatises of alchemy, perhaps the most famous of which was The Compound of Alchemy , dedicated to King Edward IV (but first published in 1591 ). The study of alchemy in Britain, as elsewhere in Europe, increased dramatically under the influence of the Swiss...

Alchemy

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The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2003
Subject:
Religion
Length:
251 words

... (Arab., perhaps from Gk. via Syriac, al-kīmiyā ). The endeavour (minimally) to find the key to the transformation of chemical substances, especially of base metals into precious ones; and beyond that, to find ‘the elixir of immortality’. The word and practice of ‘alchemy’ thus underlie modern chemistry. In its earlier forms it pervades all religions, though moving increasingly to interior and spiritual transformations. Thus in Taoism, there were two different levels: practitioners of Wai-tan (external alchemy) sought a potion for immortality, based on a...

Alchemy

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The Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Religion, Social sciences
Length:
1,168 words

... Alchemy in the West is chiefly understood as a European search, possibly from the first century developing initially in Hellenistic Egypt, for the philosopher's stone ( lapis philosophorum ) or elixir of immortality. As the endeavor to transform chemicals and particularly base metals into gold, medieval alchemy became the springboard for modern chemistry. Alchemy itself underlies much religious development in general and is especially to be found in Daoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Hermetic Christianity. Comprising both the more mundane effort to develop...

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William H. Brock

The Oxford Companion to Medicine (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2006
Subject:
Medicine and health
Length:
1,017 words

...an instant transmutation. Given that the same synonyms were also used for different substances, the resulting poetic mysticism must have been as confusing for alchemical practitioners as it is for the historian. Newton , for example, spent years compiling an index chemicus in an attempt to make sense of alchemical allegory. Historians have delineated three principal traditions underlying alchemical thought and practice: technical, theoretical, and religious (or psychological). Egyptian and Greek dyers, metallurgists, jewelers, and pharmacists are known to...

Alchemy

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The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2009
Subject:
Religion, Social sciences, Regional and Area Studies
Length:
1,584 words

... . From the perspective of the history of science, alchemy can legitimately be considered an Islamic creation. Notwithstanding some developments in ancient China, it was in the Islamic world that alchemy developed from a dark craft with its mysterious recipes into a systematic discipline founded on well-defined cosmological and metaphysical principles, and here the first alchemical literature largely (though not invariably) was written in a clear scientific language unobscured by esoteric terminology. While Muslim alchemists themselves drew on various...

Alchemy

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Syed Nomanul Haq, Massimo Campanini, and Mauro Valdinoci

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Science, and Technology in Islam

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2014
Subject:
Religion, Science and technology
Length:
2,344 words

...elements of the phenomenal world in a faster and more radical way than the natural course of events would permit. Roots of Islamic Alchemy. One can identify three major traditions in the history of alchemy: Chinese alchemy, Indian alchemy, and Western alchemy. It is to the Western tradition, initially centered on Greco-Roman Egypt, that the origin of Islamic alchemy is traced back. The foundation of the Egyptian alchemical tradition is credited to the legendary Hermes Trismegistus (Thrice Greatest), identified by Greeks with Thoth, the Egyptian god of...

alchemy

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Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2005
Subject:
History, Early history (500 CE to 1500)
Length:
1,351 words
Illustration(s):
1

...of having misinterpreted the alchemical texts. In this logic, the 15th c. saw few texts of any originality, but a development of allegorical alchemical expression, in both literary and iconographical form. Thus the Book of the Holy Trinity metaphorically superimposed prophecy , mysticism and alchemy. Treatise on alchemy. Vessel for the fifth essence. 15th-c. manuscript. Padua, University Library. L. Thorndike , A History of Magic and Experimental Science , New York, 1923–1958 (8 vol.). E. J. Holmyard , Alchemy , Harmondsworth, 1957 (re-ed. 1968)....

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