David – Chapter 3
January 22, 2011 § 2 Comments
I’m quite late this week with my reflections on Chapter 3, although I hope my response posts and comments show I’ve not been completely negligent. It’s also given me the opportunity to explore the ideas in this chapter beyond what I had originally thought to discuss.
As Erika pointed out in her Chapter 3 reflections, there have been some scholars who gloss over the Egyptian origins of Alchemy. This was actually central to a discussion on Ishtar’s Gate where a commentor on Ishtar’s Chapter 1 reflections sought to disprove the Egyptian heritage of alchemy through evidence provided by linguistic studies.
While researching a response to that post I came across a very thorough examination of the Egyptian roots of alchemy by Prof. Hamed Abdel-reheem Ead, Professor of Chemistry at Faculty of Science-University of Cairo Giza-Egypt and director of Science Heritage Center, on Adam McLean’s site that provides an interesting addition and expansion of the information that Dennis provides in Chapter 3.
I was glad to hear Erika bring this up. When I was originally considering the issue in light of the discussion on Ishtar’s Gate, I had taken it as simply a misunderstanding between specialties; a linguist, unaware of research outside of their specialty, attempting to tackle and issue with only the tools that their specialization provides. When I considered what Erika said, however, I realized that this kind of omission is unfortunately very frequent in academic dialogue.
Indigenous groups, ancient societies, and people outside of a strict European descent are often assumed to have no viable culture, no capabilities and no history outside of their ‘redemption’ after being assimilated into European culture. This even goes so far as to include the tribal groups that existed in Europe prior to the expansion of the Catholic empire. The depths of this delusion are most fundamentally exposed in the fact that Judeo-Christian tradition itself is rooted in Egypt, through Joshua and Moses, something which you will be hard pressed to find addressed outside of scholarly circles.
In lieu of this, Chapter 3 provides us with a completely different picture of events, in which the contemporary Western world owes it’s finest achievements to Africa and the Middle East. The expansion of cathedral building in Europe after the 9th century shows just how deep this debt really is.
When I started to research some of the Arabic texts mentioned in this chapter, I found that the vast majority of them were not even mentioned on the internet, at least searching from the U.S. Having read translations of some of the works that later came out of this tradition, such as William Chittick’s translation of Mulla Sadra’s Elixir of the Gnostics, I know just how enlightening these works can be and it’s a sad statement on our culture that they are not easily available.
Starting this post I was going to answer a question that Willi posed to me on Twitter as to whether I thought the internet was the Philosopher’s Stone. Upon my first reflection I was going to say that the internet would be more like the Library of Alexandria, a collection of the worlds knowledge where people from all cultures come together to discuss and deliberate. However, when I considered what Erika brought up, and then found myself unable to find even a mention of works so central to culture I realized that there is a vital gap in our communication.
The Wikipedia entry for Aristotle contains only a few brief mentions of his influence on Islamic science, and the section on the loss and recovery of his works doesn’t mention Arabic culture at all beyond a very brief nod to the Islamic philosopher Averroes.
Let us never forget the source from which we draw our wisdom.
The Black Rays Race
See how the black rays of the black race
Have touched the immeasurable wisdom
And therefore the unknown quantity
See how they are not understood
Because as they are is not understood
And as what they know is what they are
See the unlimited freedom of the black rays.
– Sun Ra
Two Prayers for Alchemists
by Karl von Eckartshausen (1752-1803)
1. Light Supreme, who art the Divine in Nature and dwellest in its innermost parts as in Heaven, hallowed be thy qualities and laws!
2. Wherever thou art, all is brought to perfection; may the realm of thy Knowledge become subject unto thee.
3. May our will in all our work be only thee, self-moving Power of Light! And as in the whole of Nature thou accomplishest all things, so accomplish all things in our work also.
4. Give us of the Dew of Heaven, and the Fat of the Earth, the Fruits of Sun and Moon from the Tree of Life.
5. And forgive us all errors which we have committed in our work without knowledge of thee, as we seek to turn from their errors those who have offended our precepts. And leave us not to our own darkness and our own science, but deliver us from all evil through the perfection of thy Work, Amen.
Hail, pure self-moving Source, O Form, pure for receiving the Light! The Light of all things unites itself with thee alone.
Most blessed art thou among all receptive forms, and blessed is the Fruit that thou conceivest, the Essence of Light united with warm substance.
Pure Form, Mother of the most perfect Being, lift thyself up to the Light for us, now as we toil and in the hour when we complete the Work!