Δευτέρα, 24 Οκτωβρίου 2016

Greco-Egyprian Chemeia - Zosimos of Panopolis (The Secrets of Alchemy By Lawrence Principe)


Greco-Egyprian Chemeia (The Secrets of Alchemy By Lawrence Principe)

In the case of Zosimos,  not enough  of his work survives to map out his thinking  fully. Yet it is clear that  he viewed  the metals  as composed  of two parts: a nonvolatile  part  that  he calls the "body" (soma) and a volatile part that  he calls the "spirit"  (pneuma).
The spirit seems to carry the color and the other  particular  properties  of the metal. The body seems to be the same substance  in all metals; in one fragment  Zosimos appears  to equate it with the liquid metal mercury. Thus, the identity  of the metal is dependent   on its spirit, not its body. Accordingly,  Zosimos uses fire-in distillation,  sublimation,  volatilization,  and so on-to   separate  the spirits from  the  bodies. 
Joining  separated   spirits  to other  bodies  would  then bring about  transmutation   into a new metal.


There is undoubtedly a  link  between Zosimos and Gnosticism.
Gnosticism  was a diverse grouping  of religious movements  of the second and  third  centuries  AD that  stressed  the  need  for revealed  knowledge (gnosis) to achieve salvation."  
This salvific knowledge  included  the realization  that  man's  inner  being  was of divine  origin  but  had  become imprisoned   in a material  body. Knowledge  was necessary  to overcome man's ignorance  (or forgetfulness)   of his origins, enabling  him to begin liberating  himself  (that  is, his soul) from subjection  to the body and its passions,  and  to  the  material  world  and  the  evil forces that  govern  it. 
The  Gnosticism  widespread   in Zosimos's  Greco-Egyptian   milieu  surfaces clearly in two places in his writings.  One is the prologue  to his On Apparatus and Furnaces,  and  the other  is the fragment  called the "Final Account.":" The question  is how and to what extent  Gnostic ideas play a role in Zosimos's alchemical  ideas.

In the first text, Zosimos rails against a group  of rival alchemists who criticize  On Apparatus and Furnaces as unnecessary.  
He  counters   that they think  this way only because  they are using phony  tinctures   (transmuting  agents)  whose apparent  success is actually the result of spiritual beings called daimons." The daimons  trick these errant  alchemists  into believing  that  their  preparations   work,  and  as a result  they  claim that the specific equipment,  materials, and procedures  stipulated  by Zosimos are not needed  for success. The daimons  thus use these false tinctures  to manipulate   their  ignorant  possessors, thereby  keeping  them  under  daimonic  sway and  subjected  to Fate  (an evil force to be rejected).  
What true  alchemists   seek,  Zosimos  declares,  are  tinctures   that are  purely "natural  and self-acting," bringing  about transmutation   by the operation of their  natural  properties   alone." 

To prepare   these  true,  natural  tinctures  the  right  apparatus   and  the  right  ingredients   and  processes  are absolutely  necessary.
To drive home his point  about  the baleful results  of allowing  oneself to fall under  the sway of daimons, Zosimos then  gives a Gnostic  account of the Fall of Man-how    the original human  being was deceived  by ma- leficent spirits into being embodied  as Adam. Zosimos reveals a Christian form of Gnosticism  by recounting  how Jesus Christ provided  human  be- ings with the knowledge  needed  for salvation, namely, the need to reject their "Adam" (the material body)  in order to ascend again to their proper divine realm. Human  imprisonment   and its attendant   evils thus arose in the first place from daimonic  deception,  just like that which now causes the  errant  alchemists  to reject  Zosimos's book. Surely, these  bad  alche- mists are making  their  own circumstances  worse by blindly  continuing to be duped  rather  than  liberating   themselves  from  daimonic  control. Zosimos's critical  prologue  must  have originally  provided  an appropri- ate introduction   to his (now lost) text about  the furnaces and apparatus necessary for preparing  a true transmuting   tincture.

Does Gnosticism  express  itself visibly in Zosimos's alchemical  theories or practices?  Possibly. Given the Gnostics'  fondness  for casting their tenets  into myth  format,  we could wonder  ifZosimos's  choosing  to put alchemical processes  into  an  allegorical  dream  sequence arises  from the  same  tendency to  mythologize doctrines-Gnostic or alchemical. 
Additionally,  Zosimos's guiding  theory  of the twofold  nature  of metals (body  and spirit)  and the practical  need  to free the active, volatile  soul from the heavy, inert  body in order  to achieve transmutations seems to parallel  Gnostic  views and some other  contemporaneous theological views of   man's divine soul as being trapped  in a material  body, and the consequent  need to free it. 
For a Gnostic  (or a Platonist,  for that  matter, and  Zosimos wrote  about  Plato  as well),  human  individuality   and personality are found  in the soul, not the body. In the same way, the metals draw  their  particular nature and identity  from their pneuma, not  their soma.
 
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