On Teaching Alchemy

I’m not the kind of alchemy teacher that claims to be able to initiate you into some secret mystery. I’m interested in alchemy from an academic point of view, and my goal as a teacher is to initiate my students into the usual methods of researching and writing about any topic. But I hope not to be the kind of academic who disregards the point of view of those who have a more mysterious view of alchemy. A large part of my efforts in discussing historical alchemy must involve a great deal of debunking of bad historiography of alchemy, anachronism, misreadings of the texts. But contemporary occultist notions of alchemy have become their own cultural form, and deserve study as “contemporary alchemies.” I think that we can learn a great deal from the alchemists–both modern and medieval–but this means looking at rigorous historical scholarship, as well as practical initiatic alchemical traditions, in order to understand the meanings of the language actually present in the texts.

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About teachingalchemy

I'm an MA student in Religious Studies working on Alchemy and Renaissance Magic. This blog is an effort to reflect on my experience teaching two academic courses on "Images of the Alchemical Art" and "Magical Traditions" at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, in 2005-2006.
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