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I was thinking about alchemy, the way you do, and it occurred to me that it was one of those ’throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ moments that litter our social history.

Alchemists are generally presented as being somewhere on the spectrum of human folly between deluded madmen and charlatans, for presuming they could convert base metal to gold, or find the elixir of life.

But they were also philosophers and visionaries who combined magic, spirituality, mythology and even religion in their forays into the the realms of the unknown. They were early researchers whose efforts for over 1,000 years contributed to the platform we now call science. And it was science, and its appeal to the rational, that finally swept alchemy aside.

This might be called progress, but the cost is that we have lost sight of the connectedness of all things and notions that throughout history, and in all cultures, have sustained and inspired human beings. Magic and spirituality, for example, though often derided or shunned, are nevertheless essential parts of our experience.

Incidentally, we now know that you don’t need arcane principles of alchemy to convert base metals into gold; I recently took some lead to a scrap dealer and got a good price.

 

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