Whole Earth Review

The Jewish Alchemists.

The Jewish Alchemists. – book reviews

Andrea Chase

Once upon a time, Jews were revered as masters of the Great Work. This comprehensive survey of their influence on alchemy, beginning with Genesis and ending with the Comte de Saint-Germain, doesn’t stint on excerpts from the alchemists themselves and includes wondrous illustrations of alchemical devices and emblems.

There was, moreover, a certain a priori affinity between the world view of alchemy and that of the Kabbalah. The alchemist considered all existing things, whether mineral, vegetable, animal, or human, as containing a basically identical essence – this is emphasized in every study discussing alchemy – and and an almost identical doctrine underlay kabbalistic thought. Once kabbalistic manifestation of this idea was the belief in metempsychosis, the transmigration of souls, which assumed that one and the same soul (i.e., spiritual essence) could inhabit in turn a human being, an animal, or a plant, and move from one such body into another. For people habituated to believe in this doctrine there was nothing strange in the idea that lead, copper, silver, gold, and so on were essentially the same, and were but disparate forms containing the same metallic “soul.”

The close association between Solomon and the philosophers, stone is shown by the fact that the materia prima of the stone was sometimes represented as the two interlaced triangles of “Solomon’s Seal,” which survives to this day as the Jewish national emblem known as the Magen David, David’s Shield. For the alchemists, this seal or star was the symbol of wisdom … The Magen David was also interpreted as a symbol of the four basic elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Sometimes it represents “universal matter.”

COPYRIGHT 1994 Point Foundation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group