Ming the Mechanic:
Patterns and Alchemy

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Patterns and Alchemy2007-02-15 14:24
picture by Flemming Funch

First, a little piece about patterns, which I noticed quite randomly in an article about Ancient Chinese Sex Advice:
It is a commonplace that the Han dynasty distinctions between the 100 schools of philosophy are to some extent false divisions forced on a much more complex history. Lewis takes this further and tries to uncover what the categories of thought were in Han and pre-Han China. Part of this, particularly in Writing and Authority, is the importance of patterns. There are patterns that govern the changes in the universe, human affairs and the body, and understanding and adjusting and adjusting to these patterns is what knowledge is all about. (Lewis explains all this a lot better than I do.)

One aspect of this is the sage, the person who has learned to be a master of patterns. There are lots of different aspects of this, one of which is medicine. One’s body is of course governed by the same patterns as everything else and thus being a doctor, preserving one’s health and attaining immortality through alchemy and ruling the empire all involve the same sort of knowledge. Those with a proper knowledge of patterns can avoid all sorts of nasty things and can also draw power from the universe.
That sort of spoke to me. In early times, wise people were those who had integrated all kinds of knowledge, who were skilled in reducing it to simple, universal patterns. And just that idea there, that we even can find patterns in the universe that apply equally well in health, politics, physics, or whatever.

Alchemy went out of fashion at some point. Physicists a few hundred years ago, like Newton, were invariably alchemists at the same time. They were kind of inseparable subjects. Da Vinci, he found it quite natural to master art, science and medicine at the same time. If we're looking for the patterns of the universe, it is only logical that we look for the common patterns in all of this. As opposed to separating out one aspect, trying to find the rules for that, and ignoring whether it fits on anything else.

It is the difference between holistic thinking, like we associate with Eastern medicine now, and the archetypical Western approach of cutting everything into little pieces and treating them separately. Where, interestingly, the Eastern approach would tend to deal with the exact, unique individual or situation, but as a whole, and the Western approach dissects the pieces, but then treats them in a generalized abstract way, preferably without variation.

So, how about alchemy. Wikipedia has a nice page on it:
In the history of science, alchemy refers to both an early form of the investigation of nature and an early philosophical and spiritual discipline, both combining elements of chemistry, metallurgy, physics, medicine, astrology, semiotics, mysticism, spiritualism, and art all as parts of one greater force. Alchemy has been practiced in Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Persia, India, and China, in Classical Greece and Rome, in Muslim civilization, and then in Europe up to the 19th century—in a complex network of schools and philosophical systems spanning at least 2500 years.

Western alchemy has always been closely connected with Hermeticism, a philosophical and spiritual system that traces its roots to Hermes Trismegistus, a syncretic Egyptian-Greek deity and legendary alchemist. These two disciplines influenced the birth of Rosicrucianism, an important esoteric movement of the seventeenth century. In the course of the early modern period, mainstream alchemy evolved into modern chemistry.

Today the discipline is of interest mainly to historians of science and philosophy, and for its mystic, esoteric, and artistic aspects. Nevertheless, alchemy was one of the main precursors of modern sciences, and many substances and processes of ancient alchemy continue to be the mainstay of modern chemical and metallurgical industries.
But it doesn't really leave anything that's very applicable nowadays. Are there any alchemists in any meaningful sense nowadays? I mean people who're polymaths who search for the patterns in the universe in both scientific and metaphysical ways? There was Buckminster Fuller. But it is a bit of rare thing.

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16 Feb 2007 @ 11:55 by Doug @ : Patterns and Alchemy
My understanding of Alchemy is that it is/was less philosphical and less broad than your article describes. Certainly there were alchemists who took the approach you described. However, most of them had much more mundane approaches, the most common of which was the search for a mechanism to produce gold (typically turning lead into gold). As they lacked a scientific underpining for their efforts (e.g. elements and atomic structures were unknown at this time), they had to rely on philosophy to direct their attempts.

The blessing and curse of modern research is that the depth of understanding of the physical universe is such that for 99.99% of research there is no need for a philosophical approach. This is probably fortunate as much people, however intelligent, lack the ability and nature to be truely lateral and multi-disciplinary in their approaches. This is reserved for the gifted few, who are and always have been a rare percentage. However, if one looks at some of the truely revolutionary steps in human knowledge (e.g. Theory of Relativity), in modern times as in recent times, it has as often as not been based on a philosophical approach.  

16 Feb 2007 @ 17:31 by ming : Alchemy
Yeah, Einstein was more coming from a philosophical perspective, trying to discover what made the most sense.

As to the alchemists, yes, I don't know. Some people say that the search for the transmutation of lead into goal was just a metaphor for a more fundamental transformation. But maybe it was only like that for some kind of inner circle, and the regular alchemist was just searching for easy riches, I don't know. But it remains a good metaphor for the search for patterns in the universe.  

16 Feb 2007 @ 17:58 by Tim @ : Wikipatterns

16 Feb 2007 @ 18:37 by bi @ : The devil lies in the details

That'll be true for Western alchemy, but Chinese alchemy (e.g.) are concerned with other things, such as producing the ultimate elixir for longevity.

Perhaps another reason for the dearth of "holistic" thinking is that knowing just the general concepts usually isn't very useful. A would-be physician can talk about yin and yang, but at the end of the day, how does he associate these things with specific parts of the body, specific symptoms, and specific cures? That, I think, is the interesting part.

-- bi, [link]  

16 Feb 2007 @ 21:29 by ming : The details
Right. One can easily err to the side of treating everything as just general, abstract ideas. It is not necessarily just either western types of precise fixes versus eastern vague metaphysical ideas. The cool thing could be if one could address universal principles, but be very specific about finding workable solutions with them.

As far as medicine goes, I've usually gotten better results from the holistic kind. Western doctors would usually just prescribe me something, without really caring much about how I'm doing overall. Whereas a holistic kind of doctor usually would be able to tell me something more useful, and give me something that actually works. Like, despite that traditional medicine would regard homeopathics as nonsense and superstition, it would usually be a homeopathic remedy that would give me a result more immediately. And the same in terms of diagnosis.

I once was very sick with pneumonia. I didn't know exactly what it was at first, other than that I was coughing my lungs out, and I was in bed very sick. I first went to a holistic practitioner who was using a device based on energetic medicine, which tests the resonance of various substances with parts of the body, through acupuncture points. Something a regular M.D. would consider complete pseudo-scientific quackery. It took him about 3 minutes to tell me that I had pneumonia, exactly what strain, and exactly where. But unfortunately it was so advanced I needed antibiotica, which he couldn't precscribe, so I had to go to a regular doctor. That took about 4 hours in the emergency room, with blood samples, phlegm samples, x-rays, and lab tests. Which eventually showed the exact same thing, and the doctor gave me my antibiotics. Clearly a much more primitive approach.  

16 Feb 2007 @ 22:12 by ming : Wikipatterns
Ah, thanks for that link, Tim. I didn't know that one.

... Oh, wow, did you notice they link to one of my postings. Or maybe you have something to do with it?  

2 Apr 2007 @ 20:21 by Merlinski - holistic alchemist @ : Alchemy
Your article Patterns and Alchemy was very fare to the concept and practice of alchemy. And yes it was very widespread in its fields of endeavour. However the relationship to numbers and patterns as well as the Pythagoras Spiral which shows the relationship between the universe and everything also relates to the musical spheres and that leads to another extravaganza of thought processing.

Comments by Doug play into the misdirection of the establishment who would want everyone to believe that all the alchemists ever wanted to d was to convert base metals into gold. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. However within the past twenty four months, experiments done using one of the worlds largest particle accelerators in Switzerland = succeeded in firing atoms of lead and copper - resulting in creating GOLD! So the Medieval European alchemists weren't so mad after all.

With regard to their main quest. They were looking for a universal ELIXIR to prolong life while maintaining fitness and vitality of body and mind to that of a youthful level. They were trying to banish senility and dementia of old age and with the help of their quest utilizing metals (modern day minerals), they tried to diminish the content of these metals by constant pounding and creating powdered forms to mix into liquids which they then tried to get these metals to become emulsified and into a state of suspension.

Alexandra the Great had his own alchemists who treated his sword severed arm with a type of silver foil together with powdered silver and gold with totally successful results. The same goes for the use of finely powdered gold being used by the ancient Egyptians to treat brain abnormalities resulting in modern day types of Parkinsons and other limb tremor orientated illnesses.

Today with the advent of using electricity and computers, we as Holistic Alchemists, can produce particles of gold and silver so small as to be virtually nano in size and bearing a small positive electrical charge which can enter the body either orally or topically through the skin to attack an illness or disease while at the same time provoking the localized blood cells to reproduce the damaged or diseased soft tissue, cartilage, muscle or bone. These blood cells actually metamorphose into any needed damaged parts. The most effective metal for this effect is Ultrafine Colloidal Silver which also kills all single celled germs, viruses, bacteria, allergens, and pathogens that it comes into contact with.

Because of the miniscule size (0.010-0.001 micron) of these colloidal particles, they can actually go inside of our blood cells where they can kill off invading single celled invaders. This is done by depriving these invading cells of oxygen, thus killing them by suffocation and having NO SIDE EFFECTS. These ultrafine colloidals are not toxic in any way as they can and do pass through all and any membranes in the human body. Thus the work of the alchemist of old is vindicated in so far that we are attacking the very causes of old age and deterioration which they were so involved in seeking over the centuries and millennia.  

2 Apr 2007 @ 20:51 by ming : Colloidal
I've certainly found colloidal silver to be an excellent remedy, albeit the home made kind, which probably isn't ultrafine. But it works. So, I'm glad that's some kind of alchemy too.  

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you clowns make me weep. alexander of macedon never had his arm chopped off, and never had it magically reattached. colloidal metals can be toxic depending on the metals used, and colloidal silver has no health benefits at all.

quick note of realism, colloidal silver will turn you blue. enjoy being a smurf.  

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