Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Summary of Merkur's "Methodology" paper

Dan Merkur’s “Methodology and the Study of Western Spiritual Alchemy,” was first presented at the 1999 Western Esotericism Consultation Session of the American Academy of Religion. According to Dr. Merkur’s thesis, the view that different alchemical recipes are to be read simultaneously on the metallurgical and the mystical levels and that the transmutation of base metals into gold was isomorphic with an ecstatic process of mystical transformation, is false. The paper discusses the original assumption of isomorphism, including that of Carl. G. Jung, and then proceeds to establish, in agreement with the historian John Read, Paracelsus as the initiator of an alchemy possessing both chemical and spiritual ingredients. Dr. Merkur then discusses some of the assumptions of spiritual alchemy, including the use of psychoactive drugs and scrying stones “to experience the spiritual nature of the sublunar and ethereal realms, respectively.” Furthermore, in the light of the writings of the Welsh alchemist Thomas Vaughan (ca. 1621-1665), there is every reason to assume that alchemists “also adapted the kabbalah’s procedures for incarnating souls during marital sex.”

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