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Real Alchemy: A Primer of Practical Alchemy – Robert Allen Bartlett

Real Alchemy: A Primer of Practical Alchemy - Robert Allen BartlettThis book is a great anthology of everything that one needs to know about the ancient and mysterious art of alchemy. Starting with the brief history and basic theory of alchemy, the author introduces the practice, which has been around for thousands of years.

Before reading the book, I anticipated to read about the practice of alchemy; I did not expect to be reading how to actually perform alchemical experiments, the various distillations, described with step-by-step instructions. The author does a remarkable job describing basic experiments, which can be done by anyone without any scientific background in a regular kitchen, and then gradually getting into more sophisticated procedures.

My favorite aspect of the book was reading about all the symbolism, history, mysticism, and meaning behind alchemy. The connection between astrology and alchemy is omnipresent throughout the text, creating great correlations between the symbolisms of two “sciences”. Of course, it difficult to label either as a science, as it is known today. In my eyes, both astrology and alchemy are pseudosciences, and the author is trying really hard to show the reader that alchemy is not necessarily a pseudoscience, but it is definitely not a science like chemistry.

In the conclusion, it is clearly stated that alchemy cannot be compared to chemistry, since two diverged into completely different paths a long time ago. Alchemy is more of a philosophy. It is a journey, which can lead alchemists to their own personal enrichment and fulfillment. However, alchemy does have a practical use, in which various elixirs are made to treat sicknesses. The herbal elixirs and mineral extracts have been known to have medicinal purposes, and some non-Western cultures still use herbs as medicines (some may call them alchemists!).

This book is a practical manual of laboratory alchemy, which can be done by almost anyone. It offers a glimpse into the past and an actual route towards reuniting with it by following an ancient tradition. It is slightly humorous though to end the book by discussing the Philosopher’s Stone, which is capable of turning any metal into gold, in addition to having other magical powers, and then giving recipes for its making. As long as the reader does not get carried away by the mysticism, this is a very curious read.

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