The ancient science of alchemy has its roots in the obscure Egyptian past. Mythical knowledge and the legendary philosopher’s stone have haunted several generations of scientists in antiquity and the Middle Ages. Even today, people do not give up trying to find the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe.
Not many people know that the very name “chemistry” is of Egyptian origin. In ancient times, the majestic land of sphinxes and pyramids was called Kemi (Black Earth). This name reflected the fertility of the Egyptian lands compared to the neighboring lifeless desert.
In ancient times Egypt was the center of the sciences. For example, a few hundred years before Christ, there was a real Academy of Sciences in Alexandria, where chemistry was given special importance, and a separate building, the Temple of Serapis, was built. It was revered as a place of worship for wisdom, life and death.
As for the origin of the word “alchemy”, some scholars believe that the Egyptian “kemi” was joined by the prefix “al” from the Arab nomads, who may have adopted some of the Egyptian knowledge that was lost to plunder.
Aims and purposes of the alchemists
The earliest written mention of alchemy is considered to be the manuscript of Julius Firmicus. The ancient alchemists considered obtaining the philosopher’s stone to be their main task. Their theory of the possibility of transforming “base metals” into “noble” was based on the Greek notion of the “primary elements” of which matter is composed.
The Philosopher’s Stone had various names: the great elixir, the red tincture, the philosopher’s egg, the panacea, the red lion, or the elixir of life. In addition to its ability to turn ordinary metals into gold, the philosopher’s stone was supposed to have miraculous healing properties that would allow the wearer to live forever.
Less well known is the “white lion” or “white tincture,” a stone that could turn substances into silver. A distinction was made between the Greco-Egyptian, Western European, and Arabian schools of alchemy.
Famous alchemists of antiquity
One of the most famous alchemists of the past is considered to be Albert the Great. The scientist was born in 1193. Becoming a member of the Order of the Dominicans, young Albert was able to do science in the silence of the monastery cloister. After that, Albert moved to Paris, where he began to give lectures at the university, which enjoyed great popularity among students.
Later, the square where Albert spoke, was named after him (Place de Maubourg – square “maitre Albert”). Five works of this remarkable multifaceted scholar have survived to this day. He wrote the “Code of Rules”, which states that the alchemist must keep the results of his experiments secret.
Roger Bacon, a Franciscan monk who lived from 1214 to 1292, is no less famous. The Englishman devoted all his time to alchemy.
He was imprisoned for 15 years for refusing to give out the secrets of obtaining gold, but in fact, Bacon did not possess the secret knowledge.
Philip Aureolus, also known as Paracelsus, was an excellent physician of his time. He denied the possibility of the existence of the Philosopher’s Stone but successfully applied the experience accumulated by the alchemists in medicine. It is known that Aureole’s healing methods had much in common with mysticism. He was fond of astrology and magic, believing that these sciences could help the healer more than all treatises on medicine.
Another physician, Arnold de Villanova, was accused by his contemporaries of communicating with evil spirits. In his opinion, gold had curative powers. Arnold even healed the Pope, which saved his life during his persecution by the Inquisition for “heretical” ideas and thoughts. After the scholar’s death, his manuscripts were destroyed by the Church as heresy.
The romantic aspirations of the ancient alchemists are still alive today. Despite the development of science and technology, many dreamers believe in “Egyptian science” and are still puzzled over the ways to obtain the miraculous stone.