ELIADE FORGERONS ET ALCHIMISTES PDF

Those ideas took their time in uncovering themselves to my mind: the false equivalence of progress to the inevitable, of civilizing advancement as a linear and undiluted positive. These were clearly common assumptions, The age of this text is startling—text, not book, feels correct for The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structures of Alchemy; its most common format is likely assigned-reading photocopies—as it presupposes concepts over which I felt a sense of individual proprietariness. These were clearly common assumptions, stated without fanfare, over a half century ago. Currently, the ideas they push against are so ingrained within me, and my peers, as children of the post-computer industrial information economy that simply recognizing their truth feels wildly subversive. But they are not new nor are they to be relinquished to the disaffected anticonformists : We must not believe that the triumph of experimental science reduced to nought the dreams and ideals of alchemy. On the contrary, the ideology of the new epoch, crystallized around the myth of infinite progress and boosted by the experimental sciences and progress of industrialization which dominated and inspired the whole of the nineteenth century, takes up and carries forward—despite its radical secularization—the millennary dream of the alchemist.

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Those ideas took their time in uncovering themselves to my mind: the false equivalence of progress to the inevitable, of civilizing advancement as a linear and undiluted positive. These were clearly common assumptions, The age of this text is startling—text, not book, feels correct for The Forge and the Crucible: The Origins and Structures of Alchemy; its most common format is likely assigned-reading photocopies—as it presupposes concepts over which I felt a sense of individual proprietariness.

These were clearly common assumptions, stated without fanfare, over a half century ago. Currently, the ideas they push against are so ingrained within me, and my peers, as children of the post-computer industrial information economy that simply recognizing their truth feels wildly subversive. But they are not new nor are they to be relinquished to the disaffected anticonformists : We must not believe that the triumph of experimental science reduced to nought the dreams and ideals of alchemy.

On the contrary, the ideology of the new epoch, crystallized around the myth of infinite progress and boosted by the experimental sciences and progress of industrialization which dominated and inspired the whole of the nineteenth century, takes up and carries forward—despite its radical secularization—the millennary dream of the alchemist.

To get there, though, some background is required. Chemistry is observation and replication. Why the forge? But not completely beyond the pattern of history; it can still be analogized. Imagine what humanity felt when straddling the line between being able to create, to make, to forge permanent objects, and the life left behind.

This is the birth of pottery, or metallurgy, of agriculture itself. That break—between finding and creating—is where we are now, or at least the now of seventy years ago, with synthetics and biochemical engineering: we can now forge a sword rather than search for sharp stones; build a home rather than find a cave; grow crops rather than gather berries.

His desire to accelerate the natural tempo of things by an ever more rapid and efficient exploitation of mines, coal-fields and petrol deposits, begins to come true. And one cannot help noticing that these synthetic products demonstrate for the first time the possibility of eliminating Time and preparing, in factory and laboratory, substances which it would have taken Nature thousands and thousands of years to produce.

Did you catch it, elision of alchemical assumptions and cultural theory? One is decried as superstitious myth while the other is unironically posited as truth. And, as the peasants of Tonkin still hold today, if bronze were to remain buried for the required time, it would become gold. To sum up: in the symbols and rites accompanying metallurgical operations there comes into being the idea of an active collaboration of man and nature, perhaps even the belief that man, by his own work, is capable of superseding the process of nature.

But this transmutation can materialize only if the bronze has lain a sufficiently long period in the bosom of earth. This, more than belief in the forms and formats of the metals of the earth, more than the physico-chemical advances that make modernity run—accepting this belief that all roads lead to Rome—is to uncritically accept the very illusion of infinite, linear progress.

It was precisely the denial of this inevitability that made the text feel relevant when it was stated with such aplomb. When a text, so heavy with interesting ideas, turns out to be inseparable from unfounded, presupposed racism, its place in a global humanities curriculum is lost. It becomes a work of tepid racism masquerading as cultural foundationalism, a golden lock on the cage of Western cultural supremacy. He writes as a historian of religion, which means he writes about the human quest to influence and control and shape the physical world of matter.

People are also matter. The quest embraces the renewal and the reshaping of the physical person. The great mystery and power generated by this process becomes that which is spiritual. In any case certain techniques - mainly agriculture and pottery - were fully developed during the neolithic age.

Tilling, or the firing of clay, like, somewhat later, mining and metallurgy, put primitive man into a universe steeped in sacredness. It would be vain to wish to reconstitute his experiences; too much time has elapsed since the cosmos has been desanctified as a result of the triumph of the experimental sciences.

Modern man is incapable of experiencing the sacred in his dealings with matter; at most he can achieve an aesthetic experience. But it is clear that a thinking dominated by cosmological symbolism created an experience of the world vastly different from that accessible to modern man.

In fact, when it became an elementary chemistry, the alchemical world of meaning was on the verge of disappearing. Consequently, to understand the meaning and function of alchemy, we must not judge the alchemical texts by the possible chemical insights which they may contain. Such an evaluation would be tantamount to judging - and classifying - great poetical creations by their scientific data or their historical accuracy. But they did this indirectly and only as a consequence of their concern with mineral substance and living matter.

Each chapter often seems like a series of vaguely related ideas, but after some thought, the book coheres decently well. The book is good.

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