Alchemy Returning to Modern Scholarship

“An Alchemist in his Workshop,” by David Teniers II

Alchemy, it seems, is making its way back into the modern day. A recent post from Jennifer Emick at , spoke about how the news media reported on a recent conference of scientists and chemists held in Philadelphia.

Why is this of interest to Freemasonry you may ask?

One of the rays of light I have been following recently is concerned with why Freemasonry exists. Where does it come from, what is it about. Why is our ritual so very important and what is it striving to teach us. One area I have found it to reside in is the Neo-Classical ideas formed during the renaissance, and beginnings of alchemy.

I do not believe that alchemy is the “key to Freemasonry” but I do very much believe it to of played a part in the transformation from a membership guild (with both operative and non operative members) into a more egalitarian society of nobleman membership and ideas.

Engraving from the Fisher Collection
in part, the act of creation passing from the
hand of God, through mother nature, to an ape.

From the New York Times article, it cites a participant in saying:

“the relationships of patrons and alchemists showed that “alchemy was a direct engagement with the political, economic, religious and intellectual realities of the early modern world.”

Ideas key to Freemasonry. Also, another observation of the scientists there said, in speaking about the Alchemist Paracelsus, that they:

“made some advances in the detection of disorders by analyzing urine and claimed marvelous cures through alchemy.”

“In his chemical cosmology, he saw the world as a great distillation vessel and its changes as parallel to the operations carried out in a laboratory. But he recorded his material and spiritual ideas in the deliberately opaque writing typical of many alchemists, who expressed themselves in codes, symbols and emblems to conceal their findings from the uninitiated.”

Again, more tenants of Freemasonry. But the broader idea of Freemasonry is clear in the stories discussion about a patriarch of Alchemy:

“Even geniuses of the first order, like Isaac Newton, found alchemy irresistible. It was an accepted method of seeking knowledge — or confirmation of received truth — in early modern history.”

Newton’s endeavors into Alchemy were not purely to transmute lead into gold, but like his work in physics, he wanted to make the connection to God and the physical universe.

But let me say, the Times story draws no parallel to Freemasonry, the connection in this piece is all mine. But a recent book by Robert Lomas “Freemasonry and the Birth of Modern Science” (which I plan on reviewing here shortly) details the formation of the British Royal Society in 1660 with the beginnings of modern Freemasonry.

Why does the formation of the Society relate to Freemasonry you may ask…?

The original make up of members were Freemasons, meeting under “discretion” of Freemasonry, and all of them were scientists of some sort, and all were coming from the tradition of alchemy. Isaac Newton, a member of the Society, is considered to be the father of modern science and the last Alchemist.

Just some food for thought, enjoy the articles.

New York Times
New York Sun

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~ by Greg on August 7, 2006.

One Response to “Alchemy Returning to Modern Scholarship”

  1. Excellent posts–love the images.

    Newton, science/alchemy, early Freemasonry–very interesting stuff!

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