Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The End of Alchemy?

There used to be a time when alchemists were the right hand man of kings and emperors. The promise, whether fulfilled or not, of manufacturing
gold almost out of thin air that would aid the royal or imperial treasure chests was always appealing and was an opportunity not to be missed, even if the alchemist’s proper credentials were not always in place. If an alchemist were not invited to the royal court, he might move onwards to another king, and bestow his skills on a competing royal – a risk too dangerous for most to take.

But where is alchemy in the 21st century? The notion of a man playing with the elements in his laboratory, trying to concoct gold from “baser elements” might seem like a dinosaur from a lost era, as today, we should know – as science has shown to us – that such alchemical transformations are impossible. Right? And therefore, we no longer find alchemists taking up cabinet positions or influencing the Obamas and Putins of this world. Or if it happens, at least not in public.

What happened? My suggestion would be that alchemy became irrelevant. However, do not get me wrong, I also believe that alchemy has been proven to be true at the same time that it disappeared. It is merely the case that we might have failed to notice this.

As the science of alchemy was so nebulous for so many centuries, the term has come to mean so many things. But most will agree that alchemy is about the transformation of our reality, the elements, through certain means. This knowledge was apparently passed down through secret(ive) schools, maybe from the time of the Ancient Egyptians onwards. At the core is the belief that “prime matter”, the atoms, which are all around us, can be transformed into something far more than what the laws of physics claim or manifest. For the ancient Egyptians, it was the creator deity, Atum – hence the name atom – who had created the universe and everything in it.

The conclusion that our reality is largely a thought construct, is precisely what quantum physics in the first half of the 20th century proved. It revealed that below the layer of what we see, is a sea of quantums, which can be influenced by thought. And this conclusion is precisely the evidence alchemy sought for thousands of years. But it is also the single event that apparently made alchemy obsolete. Somehow, the importance of the interconnected of those two events seems to have gone unnoticed by all, most of all, it seems, the alchemists themselves.

But not all. Dennis Hauck is a practicing alchemist with his own laboratory. He states that he refuses to photograph or videotape or let people in the part of his laboratory where he stores his original substances (which he will transform as part of his alchemical processes), as the alchemist tradition states that if someone were to merely look at their container, those thoughts will have an outcome in the alchemical experiment to be performed. This tradition – which Hauck follows to this very day – is clearly linked with the conclusions drawn by quantum physics, which is that thought influences matter: we can influence the outcome. And that is precisely the alchemical premise adhered to by thousands of alchemists throughout the ages.

Alchemy flourished when Christianity was all about making sure that there was a priest as an intermediary between you and experiencing the divine. That man would dabble in trying to alter God’s creation was an even worse sacrilege, if not demonic. Today, though mainstream science has popularly won the war with organized religion, it nevertheless has placed the same scorn on alchemy the Pope had used. Even though quantum physics is a proper science, “Science” as such likes to put it in the corner.

And so, one might say, alchemy was proven by quantum physics, but at the same time, quantum physics has made alchemy obsolete. Maybe. A succinct overview of modern alchemy definitely suggests that the modern alchemists’ preoccupations are isolated and somewhat outdated – without a proper context. Equally, I believe that quantum physics could learn more about itself if alchemists understood the new paradigm better and tried to see what their discipline could add to this modern science. This resulting synergy would be for the mutual benefit of both. For it is clear that whereas quantum physics talks a great talk, the great… alchemical transformations that this science preaches as gospel and knows to be true, have had little to no real applications for the common people, who would be in awe if they could see some of the magic that quantum physics holds to be true. Seeing is believing.

And so, on the one hand, we have a scientific discipline that knows the truth, but seems unable to visualize it, and alchemy, deemed to be a non-science, but specifically preoccupied with manifesting quantum physics into our reality and visualizing it. Is alchemy dead? No; like the phoenix, it has transformed itself into a new science, quantum physics.

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