By Mark Morrisson
Alchemists are more often than not held to be the quirky forefathers of technology, mixing occultism with metaphysical ambitions. even supposing many have been clever and well-intentioned thinkers, the oft-cited objectives of alchemy paint those antiquated experiments as wizardry, now not medical research. no matter if looking to produce a amazing panacea or suffering to transmute lead into gold, the alchemists radical pursuits held little relevance to consequent clinical ambitions. hence, the temptation is to view the transition from alchemy to trendy technology as one who discarded brilliant principles approximately philosophers stones and magic potions in trade for modest but regular effects. it's been much less famous, notwithstanding, that the delivery of atomic technological know-how truly coincided with an efflorescence of occultism and esoteric faith that connected deep value to questions on the character of topic and effort. Mark Morrisson demanding situations the frequent dismissal of alchemy as a mostly insignificant old footnote to technological know-how by way of prying into the revival of alchemy and its impact at the rising subatomic sciences of the overdue nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.Morrisson demonstrates its incredible impression at the rising subatomic sciences of the overdue nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. particularly, Morrisson examines the resurfacing of occult circles in this period of time and the way their curiosity in alchemical tropes had a considerable and traceable influence upon the technological know-how of the day. smooth Alchemy chronicles a number of encounters among occult conceptions of alchemy and the hot technological know-how, describing how educational chemists, encouraged by means of the alchemy revival, tried to transmute the weather; to make gold. studying scientists guides, correspondence, talks, and laboratory notebooks in addition to the writings of occultists, alchemical tomes, and science-fiction tales, he argues that in the delivery of contemporary nuclear physics, the trajectories of technological know-how and occultism---so usually thought of antithetical---briefly merged.
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Extra info for Modern Alchemy: Occultism and the Emergence of Atomic Theory
For these reasons, the models of the physical sciences—whether those of physics or of biology—never really applied to the efforts of the SPR before World War I, and even less to the pursuits of the spiritualist associations throughout the country’’ (394). The Royal Society and the British Association both eschewed psychical research as fundamentally nonscientiﬁc. Yet the occult societies and orders at the heart of the occult revival often viewed their practices and knowledge as explicitly scientiﬁc.
What wouldst thou with me? Silent? Dost thou fear me? . Wouldst thou be wise? Mine is the wisdom of the countless ages. Kiss me, my mortal lover’ ’’ (258–59). Bulwer-Lytton does not take a scientiﬁc perspective on the materiality of the elixir or its effects on the body. Instead, the magical vision of Zanoni is one of human contact with spirit beings that can either be controlled through ascetic and occult rigor, in the case of Zanoni and Mejnour, or not, in the case of Glyndon. Scientiﬁc explanation seems almost beside the point.
But though some devotees of occultism proclaimed the scientiﬁc nature of occultism in published writings, they did not engage with the science of the day in a sustained way. And while the Golden Dawn’s members did begin some study of chemistry and tried some actual alchemical laboratory experiments, for the most part, they followed an interpretation of alchemy grounded in the occult classic A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery (1850) by Mary Anne Atwood. Atwood’s book convinced members to see the goal of alchemy as more a spiritual than a physical and scientiﬁc quest.