Posts Tagged ‘alchemists’

Carl Jung was an important 20th century alchemist, but he did not spend years in a tower with beakers and flasks.  The transformation he searched for was within himself.  Psychology and Alchemy (Princeton University Press 1980) has been widely available, though not so widely accessible,  and  in the 21st century his notebook The Red Book was published (W.W. Norton 2009).

The Red Book is like a journal, but is much more.  He illustrated his dreams and visions.  This drawing of a Mandala reminds me of some of the images in the Voynich Manuscript.  Here is an image from the Red Book and an image from the German alchemy book Die Gab Gottes 1598

Jung said,  “The real mystery does not behave mysteriously or secretively; it speaks a secret language, it adumbrates itself by a variety of images which all indicate its true nature. I am not speaking of a secret personally guarded by someone, with a content known to its possessor, but of a mystery, a matter or circumstance which is “secret,” i.e., known only through vague hints but essentially unknown. The real nature of matter was unknown to the alchemist: he knew it only in hints. In seeking to explore it he projected the unconscious into the darkness of matter in order to illuminate it. In order to explain the mystery of matter he projected yet another mystery – his own psychic background -into what was to be explained.”  —Psychology and Alchemy (Part 3 Chapter 2).

In the Hermetica of Elysium I tried to show both aspects of the medieval alchemists.  I wanted to describe how the people who were focused on earthly treasure and power sought to gain an advantage over their competitors using any means possible…including maintaining a resident alchemist who was supposed to be working on turning base metals to gold, while at the same time he was really working on discoveries of the mind.  This is a fertile field for adventure and excitement…how could a novelist resist?

Jung spent years in research, and his collected works would take years to study.  His ideas about what it means to be a human being have tremendously influenced the field of psychology.  His Synchronicity theories tie in with String Theory and link psychology with theoretical physics in ways that make both psychologists and physicists uncomfortable.

Remember, magic is just science we don’t understand.







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Wikipedia says “Medieval fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that encompasses medieval era high fantasy and sometimes simply represents fictitious versions of historic events. This subgenre is common among role-playing games, text-based roleplaying, and high-fantasy literature.”

I think if a story included unicorns and dragons it would be considered Medieval Fasntasy.

The Hermetica of Elysium has not a single unicorn, and no dragons. This novel is heavily steeped in the actual historical world of alchemists and the people who supported them. Much of this kind of history is unknown because of the necessary secrecy. Not secrecy because secrets are a big ego-boost…but secret because of the real threat of a painful death if one was discovered delving into the mysteries of the Universe without benefit of a priest. The Catholic Church had a stranglehold on the spiritual in Europe at the time, and anyone caught thinking or reasoning was held in suspicion. Anyone caught practicing the old religion was held in chains.

The alchemists sought to understand the knowledge of the ancient philosophers of Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Middle East. They experimented with the essences of plants and minerals and tried to see their world from an objective viewpoint. They wanted to observe how things worked, not just listen to a priest tell them how god made it so. In this desire they contributed to the genesis of modern science.

In the novel, The Hermetica is a book containing collected wisdom of many cultures, written in many languages and on many topics. Inside is the key to understanding some of the more difficult mysteries of life and death. This key is linked to a necessary mental state that must be achieved in order for a person to rise above the mundane and and really understand how the world works. Robert Heinlein had to create his own word for this experience becuse English is weak in mystical vocabulary. He called it “grokking fully”. This phrase, along with “sharing water” became common among the young people of the sixties when they stumbled upon the enhanced visionary capabilities available at the time and found themselves grokking the nature of reality.

If this is all real, where is the fantasy in the Hermetica of Elysium? The story starts out in reality, in history. It moves through the imagined world of the alchemists to a realm of possibility that delves into the mystical. Once a person has expereinced these realms, the fantasy element dissolves into a personal reality.  After that, only what one has yet to experience becomes “fantasy”.

Every real, solid experience you have is rooted in an idea first. Everything.  You cannot even go to the Quickie-Mart for a soda and chips without thinking first, “I want a soda and some chips”. It starts simple and can move quickly to the complex: “I want to become President of the United States”, or “I want to become involved in a land war in Asia”.  At that genesis point, the idea is fantasy. Whether you bring it into physical reality or not is up to you.

That is why The Hermetica is Fantasy. It delves into the world of the mind and the spirit. Two things even our fantastic technology can neither define nor photograph. But no one doubts that the mind and the spirit exist.

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