Today’s Book of the Day is Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul written by Titus Burckhardt and published in 1997 by Fons Vitae (the book was originally published in 1960, in German, under the title Alchemie, Sinn- und Weltbild).
Eminent Swiss metaphysician and scholar Dr. Titus Burckhardt (1908 – 1984) was an expert and a leading member of the Perennialist or Traditionalist School.
He has written many books on metaphysics, cosmology, anthropology, esoterism, alchemy, Sufism, symbolism, and sacred art in German, French, and English.
The Traditionalist or Perennialist School is a group of scholars and thinkers who believe in the existence of some perennial wisdom, philosophy, and truth that represent the common source for all the major world religions.
Some famous exponents of this school of thought are René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, William Stoddart, Harry Oldmeadow, Jean-Louis Michon, Huston Smith, and Marco Pallis.
Alchemy has always been studying philosophy, science, and spirituality looking for the root and the path towards spiritual attainment, seen as a holistic transformation of human nature. As a curious learner and researcher of this fascinating subject, I want to introduce you to this amazing work.
This book can be considered as an introduction to the symbolic and spiritual basis of Alchemy, or the Science of the Soul, as the author suggests. With its valuable insight, it offers the readers some of the tools needed to grow the personal attitudes required for the soul’s advancement: trust, confidence, hope, and detachment.
One of the core ideas of the book is of course the concept of the seven stages of the Alchemical Process: Calcination, Dissolution, Separation, Conjunction, Fermentation, Distillation, and Coagulation. So, once our old nature dissolves, we can coagulate it into a new, higher, and more noble form.
Alchemy, in this book, is not just the precursor of chemistry or psychology, it represents a true science of the Cosmos, that then reflects itself into a science of the human, and divine, Soul.
A science that connects the soul, in both its human and universal declensions, to the cosmos, here seen as microcosm and the macrocosm, intimately bound one to each other.
Burckhardt clearly states this when he says that “spiritual alchemy was not necessarily involved in outward metallurgical operations, even when it made use of them as similes. It is nevertheless to be supposed that originally the inward and outward work went hand in hand, for, within the framework of an organic civilization orientated towards man’s highest goal, a craft can only have meaning when it serves a spiritual way“.
So, this book represents a way for the readers to be, in a certain way, initiated to the most intimate meaning of Alchemy starting from what we can actually perceive here, “down”. So, if Alchemy‘s goal is to bring men from the materia prima into a state of purity which makes possible the transformation into the unity of Soul and Spirit, the author here, without requiring the readers to pass through all the steps of the progress, shares the essential knowledge needed to grasp the key meaning of this knowledge.
It is worth noticing that Burckhardt has also written several outstanding books on Islamic esotericism and Sufism as well as on the traditional art of the East and West. So he uses both his knowledge of western and eastern cultures to satisfactorily explain the basic alchemic doctrine.
The chapters of the book describe nearly every key aspect of Alchemy, from an explanation of its language to the discussion of planets and metals, the elements, the materia prima, the alchemical marriage, the alchemy of prayer, the history of Nicolas Flamel, and the Emerald Tablet.
The book is also rich in images, that add great value to the text, acting as a sort of further explanation of the concept described in the chapters.
I recommend this book to everyone interested in Alchemy, culture, art, and comparative religion, even if some of the themes are dealt with in a language that may be considered “old fashioned” by some of the youngest readers.
2 thoughts on “Book of the Day – Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul”
Entertaining and enlightening review, Raffaello, thank you.
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Happy you liked it, Michael!!
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