Alchemical Mercury: A Theory of Ambivalence by Karen Pinkus

By Karen Pinkus

How do we account, in a rigorous approach, for alchemy's ubiquity? we expect of alchemy because the transformation of a base fabric (usually lead) into gold, yet "alchemy" is a be aware in extensive circulate in daily life, referred to as upon to satisfy a metaphoric responsibility because the magical transformation of fabrics. virtually each tradition and time has had a few kind of alchemy. This publication appears at alchemy, now not at anybody specific example alongside the historic timeline, now not as a tradition or idea, no longer as a method of redemption, yet as a theoretical challenge, associated with genuine gold and actual creation on the planet. What emerges because the least universal denominator or "intensive estate" of alchemy is ambivalence, the very unlikely and paradoxical coexistence of 2 incompatible components. Alchemical Mercury strikes from antiquity, throughout the golden age of alchemy within the Dutch 17th century, to conceptual artwork, to replacement fuels, preventing to imagine with writers akin to Dante, Goethe, Hoffmann, the Grimm Brothers, George Eliot, and Marx. Eclectic and wide-ranging, this is often the 1st research to think about alchemy when it comes to literary and visible conception in a complete means.

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Becher, who endeared himself to various courts of Europe, believed that good government depends, in part, on the ability of the sovereign to sustain the population and expand trade. Some say alchemy is a bad word, Becher notes, but worse are the following: 30 Introduction: Lead into Gold “contributions, taxes, seizures, interest, tolls, usury, the state treasury” (Becher 694). Alchemy is both natural and virtuous because it can improve the salus publici. As long as the prince is pure in his intentions, alchemy is good for society.

This idea is echoed, to give just one example from among many, by the Polish alchemist Michael Sendovogius (Michał Se˛dziwój) : “I wanted you to discover everything here and if at times you understand my meaning but not my words or syllables, I have revealed everything to you, principally in the first and second work” (48). The scholar who claims to know what is meant by the green lion and the philosophical fire, to translate these figures into “light speech,” fails to see how his very translation is bound up with the tradition.

Visibilia 49 Goethe must have had the alchemist’s laboratory in mind when he wrote the lines cited at the beginning of this chapter, and he chose one of Rembrandt’s scholars (referred to either as Faustus or an alchemist in the eighteenth century) for the title page of Faust (Figure 6). 17 Adepts (or perhaps the alchemist’s wife), if present, may do the actual labor. If present, children play at frivolous games or blow bubbles. The alchemist, like the saint, is apparently caught unawares by the painter.

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