Alchemy, the Hermetic art and science which strives to turn lead into gold, was officially forbidden at times in history. The tradition goes back thousands of years, and has consistently fought against oppression, and in the Middle Ages, it was officially made illegal.
Alchemy was made illegal in 1404 because King Henry IV believed it could disrupt gold and silver supplies, and therefore it posed a threat to his rule. There were also philosophical reasons, as alchemy is part of a system of philosophy of personal empowerment and individual freedom.
The alchemists continued to practice in secret, hiding their laboratories, and writing their notes in code so that no one else could read them.
1404: The Year Alchemy Became Illegal
On January 13, 104 King Henry IV formally made alchemy illegal in England. It was called the Act of Multiplication, and the reason for it was to protect the value of the existing gold and silver. The king was concerned that alchemists would be able to create precious metals of out lead and mercury, and therefore undermine the financial system that was in place.
During the Middle Ages, gold and silver coins were used to buy and sell. In fact, these coins were used until the 20th century. It was only in 1933 that most of the countries of the world stopped using gold in their currency. It was in 1965 that President Johnson approved the Coinage Act, which removed silver from the coins in circulation.
Alchemy Could be Used to Disrupt Financial Systems
Through alchemy, it was believed that gold and silver could be reproduced, which not only would make the alchemist fantastically wealthy, it would lower the value of the existing gold and silver, as there would be more in supply. It had the potential to disrupt the tenuous balance of power between kingdoms and bankers, as a successful alchemist could theoretically produce enough gold to hire an army of soldiers and pose a threat to England, France, and the other kingdoms of the time.
Alchemy is a Threat to Those Who wish to Control Others
There is also a deeper reason for forbidding alchemy, and that is that is poses a threat to those who want to control others. The ruling class used religion to keep people in fear and shame, ensuring that they behave a certain way and never seek to improve their conditions in life. Alchemy offers a way out of this oppression. Alchemists say that the process of turning lead into gold is the exact same process as turning our current human consciousness into Christ consciousness.
Alchemy is a branch of the Hermetic sciences, along with astrology, an ancient body of philosophy which enable the individual to act in accordance with divine magic, and access latent powers that are within every human being. It is a self-affirming philosophy that empowers the individual. It is an ideological threat to tyrants and autocrats, who control those whom are subject to their rule through their thoughts and beliefs.
A Brief History of Alchemy
Alchemy took a long and winding path to get to England in the 1400s, when it was officially forbidden. Its origins are often traced back to ancient Egypt where early experiments in metallurgy were conducted.
Greek and Egyptian cultures started to merge, in part because of the exploits of Alexander the Great. Higher knowledge started to be discovered, or perhaps passed down from Thoth, as enthusiasts of the Hermetic arts may believe, and alchemists were in pursuit of the elusive Philosopher’s Stone, the substance which allows them to turn lead into gold, and thereby having an equivalent transformation occur to their soul. Read more about the Philosopher’s Stone here
Eventually both the Egyptian and Greek civilizations declined, but later scholars from the Islamic world discovered the knowledge. Obsessed with the ideas of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks who came before them, they organized and translated all the alchemical texts they could find, including the Emerald Tablet, attributed to the author Hermes, which you can read more about here. For several hundred years, during the Golden Age of Islam, the Islamic empire was the center of alchemical research. Then later, in the Middle Ages, interest spread to Europe. And that brings us to 1404, the year it was officially made illegal in England.
The Discoveries of the Alchemists
Alchemists created new alloys by successfully blending metals together, as well as created acids and pigments. They invented apparatus for distillation, widely used today in the process of making alcohols and perfumes. The alchemists conceived of the idea of atoms, hundreds of years before modern atomic theory.
The Secrecy of the Alchemists
Because it was forbidden, and also because of fierce competition amongst alchemists, their research and notes were kept top secret. The laboratories were hidden out of fear of punishment from the authorities. The alchemists kept careful detailed notes of their progress as they conducted their experiments, often involving applying heat to substances in order to separate the components, or to fuse together new combinations of metallic alloys. They would write their notes in code so as not to be detected, and also to hide their knowledge from their competitors.
A Balanced Look at How Possible Alchemy Really Is
Is alchemy possible? That is a question that has fascinated people for millennium. There are valid arguments on both sides of the fence.
One obvious reason why we should take alchemy seriously is because Isaac Newton did. Revered as the father of modern physics and the inventor of calculus, Isaac Newton spent his lifetime fascinated by the ancient art and science of alchemy. In his extensive personal writings on the matter, he describes his pursuit of the Philosophers Stone, which involved correspondence and collaboration with some of the other greatest scientific minds of the time, including famed chemist Robert Boyle.
Alchemy has been described by skeptics as a ‘proto-science’. This is because, while alchemy does refer to many scientific facts, it is inherently non-scientific, in that it does not follow the Scientific Method. When debunkers of alchemy point out that alchemy does not follow the scientific method, what they mean is that it lacks supporting evidence, and cannot be reliably tested. It does not follow the process of asking a question, researching, establishing a hypothesis, testing, observing and analyzing, and then presenting the findings.
However, such outright dismissals of alchemy do not acknowledge it’s many undeniable achievements. From creating alloys to inventing laboratory equipment. In direct contrast to the criticisms of the skeptics, the alchemists did so much to promulgate the scientific method, as their approach was to conduct experiments again and again, carefully and methodically making adjustments in ways that could later be duplicated.
Perhaps the two biggest reasons for the rejection of alchemy are that officially its goal, to turn base metal into gold and silver, has not been achieved. We only hear rumours and myths that it has been done by someone, somewhere. But an independent thinker can recognize that the secretive nature of alchemy means that successfully transmutating lead into gold would probably not be shared with the public. Perhaps it has already been achieved in some secret alchemy lab at some point in history, by an alchemist only interested in the transmutation of the soul. Or it could have even been achieved in the laboratory of a modern corporation, whose research and intellectual property are proprietary.
Another reason for the rejection of alchemy is that the objectives of alchemy, the transmutation of the soul, are not recognized by science, and have more of a religious nature to them. In modern atheistic society, the concept of transmutating the soul, or in other words, changing from our consciousnesses into Christ consciousness, is quaint and outdated. The dogmatic nature of current atheistic thinking outright dismisses such ideas, and the richness, figuratively and potentially literally, ideas like alchemy add to our lives.
The Resurgence of Interest in Alchemy in Recent Times
Over the centuries interest has waxed and waned in the ancient hermetic art of alchemy, and in recent times there has been an increase in interest. There are different approaches to looking at the fascinating subject. Some continue to carry the torch of pursing the Philosopher’s Stone, that elusive substance which will give the alchemist the Elixir of Life, a cure to all disease, and immortality.
Others come to the subject as part of their pursuit of creating their own personalized spirituality. Since the introduction of Eastern philosophy into the western world in the 20th century, we have seen a myriad of blends of ideas as people have realized they can craft their own personalized religion. Alchemy, and the wonderful aesthetic that it provides as well the rich history, along with astrology, yoga, and many other ideas are now a part of the modern New Age movement, as well as Neo-Pagan movements such as Wicca.
Another group of people have begun to appreciate alchemy as the precursor to modern chemistry. These types are often technology enthusiasts, who while they reject the spiritual component of alchemy, have begun to appreciate how alchemy was working on breaking substances down to their most basic building blocks, as well as carefully observing and taking notes.
If you want to continue exploring this subject more deeply, you can see which books I recommend by clicking here.