By Cherry Gilchrist
Alchemy, the traditional paintings of reworking base steel into gold, can be visible as a robust metaphor for contemporary transformation. With a huge creation to non secular self-discipline, the weather of Alchemy applies the traditions of alchemy to our time, and explains:
> how the alchemical technique works
> the symbols utilized by alchemists
> the half performed through desires and song in alchemy
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Extra resources for The Elements of Alchemy
The Bird grew so fast under our eyes , that we well saw why the Virgin gave us such a warning of him. He bit and scratcht so devillishly about him, that could he have had his will upon any of us, he would have soon dispatched him. Now he was wholly black, and wild , wherefore other meat was brought to him . . whereupon all his black Feathers moulted again, and instead of them there grew out Snow-white Feathers. He was somewhat tamer too, and suffered himself to be more tractable, nevertheless we did not trust him.
The Knights' community, though based on Catholic principles , was receptive to innovatory ideas that would have been suspect elsewhere , and many came to Rhodes to teach and learn in an atmosphere of comparative intellectual freedom. Since one of the chief occupations of the Knights of St. John was healing the sick, there was a natural connection between their endeavours to promote the study of medicine and herbalism, and alchemy, whose Elixir had the reputation of being a panacea. In the late medieval period, Jacques Millac, a French herbalist and apothecary who had antagonised the Catholic Church in his own country because of his interest in alchemy, j oined the Order in order to be able to live in Rhodes and experiment as he wished.
Even closer to the alchemical genre is John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress ( 1 6 7 5 ) , which traces the journey of the pilgrim who wishes to reach salvation and charts the crises and stages of transformation he must go through before reaching the Holy City. It starts : 'As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where there was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream . . ' It has a great deal in common with the alchemical process, since it begins with Christian's struggle with the Slough of Despond, the ' scum and filth' of the world, that equates with the base First Matter of the alchemists.