Man's earliest observations at defining-the-elements must have been that there were in fact three states of matter, namely: Solid, Liquid, and Gas.
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One of man’s earliest observations in defining-the-elements must have been realizing that there are three states of matter, namely: solid, liquid, and gas. It could not have been difficult to also realize that this was related to temperature and that, along with texture, this differed between different forms of matter.
For instance water is a liquid at normal temperatures, becomes ice when very cold, and is boiled away as water vapor when heated and even disappears (evaporates) when left to stand.
Metals, on the other hand, are solid at normal temperatures (with the obvious exception of mercury) and become molten liquid when heated in a furnace. It is only with modern technology, however, that it could be conceived to attain temperatures hot enough to incinerate metals into gas!
Solid Gold Ingots - Room Temperature
Molten Gold - Melting Point 1065 C˚
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Elements of Nature.
A concept eventually developed which prevailed for centuries. In the West it was believed that all matter was constituted from what was called the four elements of nature. These were namely: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.
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It could not have taken very long in defining-the-elements to observe that matter is inherently unstable and undergoes changes. For instance when wood is set alight the flames give off heat and cause smoke (dirty gas) to ascend eventually leaving a residue of ashes – vastly different from the piece of wood we started with!
A Forest Fire
After A Forest Fire
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Over the centuries observations mixed with folk lore, magic, and superstition, lead to the development of the pseudo science of Alchemy as a system for defining-the-elements. There were deep rooted philosophies and beliefs that secret powers in nature could be accessed and harnessed to profoundly alter both matter as well as life's circumstances.
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Alchemy had diverse objectives and applications. There was for instance the belief in the existence of the fabled “Philosopher’s Stone” with which base metals such as Lead could be transformed into exotic metals like Gold or Silver.
Also, apart from remedies for ailments in health and potions or charms believed to bring good-luck, there was an ongoing search for an “Elixir of Life” which it was believed would confer Youth and Immortality.
What must be appreciated, however, is the positive contribution that this research into what-is-matter did to stimulate and develop the methods of modern medical and scientific research. Research however was and to a certain extent still remains a process of groping in the dark!
To quote Einstein once more in refining research into defining-the-elements:
“If we knew what we were doing we wouldn’t call it research, would we?”
The Alchemist Symbols Of The Elements
Modern Scientific Table Of The Elements
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Alchemy can be termed a “hybrid” protoscience that developed over the centuries as a method of defining-the-elements with roots reaching far back to myths and practices from ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Hellenic, and a host of other philosophies and cultures as well.
Although intermixed, there were two mainstream avenues, the Spiritual and the Physical, both based on the conviction that everything in the Cosmos was inter-connected, and that there were powerful cosmic forces possessing “magical” powers which could be accessed and harnessed to ennoble anything towards attaining perfection.
To quote Wikipedia:
“Western alchemy is recognized as a protoscience that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine. Alchemists developed a framework of theory, terminology, experimental process and basic laboratory techniques that are still recognizable today.”
“They learned how to extract metals from ores, and how to compose many types of inorganic acids and bases. The decline of alchemy continued in the 18th century with the birth of modern chemistry, which provided a more precise and reliable framework within a new view of the universe based on rational materialism”.
Alchemy as a system for defining-the-elements,however, differs from modern science due to the inclusion of religious and magical beliefs and practices which were seeped in mythology, superstition, and spirituality. "Spiritual ennoblement" was believed to be attainable through a form of inner enlightenment or revelation termed Theurgy. This is a form of meditation which attempts to attain enhanced awareness of one’s Higher Self, or an Indwelling God, and thus learn Spiritual Truths and Wisdom that could not be learned from ordinary man.
This is the basis of many esoteric belief systems which have appeared over the years such as Kabbalah, Gnosticism, Rosicrucian-ism, Freemasonry, Scientology, and the modern New Age Movement. The common denominators being that ultimate knowledge is the resort of only an exclusive tiered-structured hierarchical elite, self improvement, and re-incarnation.
The beliefs of Alchemist Spirituality are diametrically opposed by Biblical Christianity. The following texts serve as an example:
Hebrews 9:27-28. " And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. "
1 Corinthians 15:19. "And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world."
Romans 8:38-39. "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
An aspect regarding our spirituality that needs to be emphasized is the question of practicing meditation. Unfortunately, the Reformation and the introduction of the printing press with the consequent over-emphasis on defining questions of doctrine based on knowledge and correct interpretation of the word of God in the Bible, this aspect of practicing our faith has fallen into neglect.
So much so in fact, that many Christians regard the formal practice of meditation with a great degree of suspicion! Something practiced by New-Agers and Buddhism. The truth however is that Christianity has a long heritage of meditative practice dating all the way back to the time of the Desert Fore Fathers!
Practices such as The Serenity Prayer help us clear our minds of all the clutter of daily lives, becoming quiet we can turn our minds inwards and open ourselves up to the indwelling Spirit of Christ which dwells within us.
John 15:20 "When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in You."