Alchemists believed, as did the Greek philosophers before them, that all metals were based on a combination of the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. In order to change a base metal into gold it was only necessary to rearrange the proportions of these elements to achieve that of the noble metal. This could be achieved with the aid of a secret catalyst – the Philosopher’s Stone. The main concern of the alchemist has been, and continues to be, the search for and preparation of this enigmatic substance. By tradition alchemists have observed a discreet silence about the processes of this art, but some chose to pass on to posterity their knowledge. It is, however, a veiled and encoded legacy, for even at their clearest their texts are often most obscure – and deliberately so, for the alchemists recognised the need to keep their secrets hidden from the greedy and the casually curious. Yet, in spite of its mystery, perhaps because of it, alchemy continues to fascinate many of the great minds of successive generations and it is yet possible for the dedicated student to penetrate the symbolic veil of the Secret Art.
Doctor Robert Black, who was born in 1925, has dedicated his adult life to the study of chemistry. During his long career as a research scientist he specialised in the study and practical application of radiation chemistry and dielectric phenomena. He is also the author or co-author of more than forty scientific and technical papers in this specialised field. He perceives chemistry as being the exploration of the properties of matter and his approach to it embraces the full spectrum of human endeavour in this field – including the work of the alchemists. His enthusiasm for alchemy and his awareness of its dual significance began to grow in the mid-1940s, following his study of Robert Boyle’s work on bioluminescence. It was also through Boyle that he was led to understand that alchemy has not only a material aspect as a proto-science, but also a profound spiritual dimension that paradoxically connects alchemy with the discipline of modern chemistry just as much as it separates the two.Dr. Black is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and of the Society of Chemical Industry, and, in other fields, of the Society for Psychical Research and of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia, of which he was for many years Recorder-General.
Five English Alchemists by Dr. Robert Black
FIVE ENGLISH ALCHEMISTS is an introduction to the most significant English exponents of the Alchemical Mysteries of the pre-Enlightenment era.