Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review Wednesday(A Day Early!): The Weiser Concise Guide to Alchemy

Title: The Weiser Concise Guide to Alchemy

Author: Brian Cotnoir

Content: 127 pages including notes, index, and bibliography

In the preface the author says he wanted to make a book that he wished was out when he started his journey into Alchemy. He succeeded.

This is a relatively tiny book that does the job that many many other larger books before it could not do: give a concise, easy to understand, intro to the theory and practice of Alchemy. When I say tiny, I mean it. I read the majority of it in a day. Granted that was just the quick read through, and this book is one that honestly deserves some study.

The theory is both thorough and clear, and some of the best explanations of Alchemical principles I've ever read. It also gives great practical advice on reading traditional Alchemical texts, and stresses the contextual meanings of words in them.

The practical portion is the very beginning of the work, starting with plants, water, vinegar, and alcohol. There is a brief discussion of the mineral work, but it is strongly stressed that before one attempts the mineral work they spend many, many YEARS of practice on the plant work.

A book so good it is inspirational! And that made me sad. Why you ask? One: No index. Two: We are presented with Albertus Magnus' eight requirements for the Work.

I do not meet the first requirement, Silence, as I am a blogger, so.. boned there.

I do not meet the second requirement of "having a place removed from the eyes of men", as I live in a condo with no basement, shed, garage, or other private laboratory.

And I do not meet the eighth requirement of funding, by having enough funds to complete the work.

Now, the venerable Master Albertus is quite right to point that last one out. If you do not have enough resources to pursue the work, perhaps one should look elsewhere. Alchemy is known as "The Princes Art", "The Royal Art", and "The Rich Man's Art". Starting slowly is one thing, but when it comes to having a lab well equipped enough, enough funds and connections to procure raw ore, and enough free time to attend to the processes, it is better to not start and spend your effort elsewhere then to start and not finish and waste both time and resources. It was.. sobering to say the least. Sobering and saddening, to be honest.

For those at all interested in lab alchemy in the Hermetic Tradition this book is a must. In fact I highly recommend it be the first book you read on the subject. I would likewise recommend it to any Hermeticist who wants a broader view of how Alchemy fits into a tradition that in modern practice seems to be very focused on Theurgy and Astrology. It's also a good general interest book for some light occult reading. It flows well and is very informative. Highly Recommended.


The Scribbler said...

Is it really so all-or-nothing? I realize I will probably never have the time or resources for full-blown hard-core alchemy, but I've always thought I should try my hand as some spagyrics. And I think it would be worth it, even if I didn't move on from there.

Jow said...

That's the thing.. I don't know. I still want to try my hand at Spagyrics as well, and I think even if I never make it past plant works that will be fine. I just get discouraged when I see an end point that I cannot logistically manage. Though, I have heard that you can confect the stone from the plant Sundew, however I do not know the process, yet. Time and study will tell.