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The Elixir And The Stone: The Tradition Of Magic And Alchemy

by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Arrow
  • Publishing date: 26/09/2005
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780099490029
  • ISBN: 0099490021

Synopsis

Since the seventeenth century, science has been contending with philosophy, organized religion and the arts for domination over Western civilization and society. By the middle of the twentieth century, the battle appeared to be won; scientific rationalism and skepticism were triumphant. Yet in the last few decades a strong and potent counter-current has emerged. One manifestation of this has been the so-called occult revival.

In The Elixir and the Stone, Baigent and Leigh argue that this occult revival — and indeed the entire revolution in attitudes which has taken place recently — owes a profound debt to Hermeticism, a body of esoteric teaching which flourished in Alexandria two thousand years ago and which then went underground. The authors trace the history of this intriguing and all-encompassing philosophy — which has much in common with contemporary holistic thought — charting it’s origin in the Egyptian mysteries, and demonstrating how it continued to exercise enormous influence through the magicians and magi of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Many remarkable characters feature in the narrative, including the Franciscan friar Roger Bacon and the Elizabethan magus John Dee; prototype of Shakespeare’s Prospero in The Tempest, but the central figure that emerges is that of Faust himself — one of the defining myths of Western civilization.

The Elixir and the Stone is a remarkably rich and ambitious book that adds up to a little short of an alternative history of the intellectual world. Perhaps for the first time it puts into their true context those shadowy alchemists and magicians who have haunted the imaginations of people for centuries. Moreover it offers a way of looking at the world that is in one sense ‘alternative’, but in another, deeply historical.

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  • Baigent and Leigh's best book yet
    From Amazon

    This is a wonderful read, full of pungent insight and demonstrating an encyclopedic knowledge of Western European history as it relates to individual autonomy in exploring and expressing an understanding of the sacred.

    The first thirteen chapters follow the thread of the Hermetic way of seeing the world and the most notable individuals practicing this art over the past three millennia. It provides fresh information to enhance our understanding of the Renaissance, the history of science, and the history of human development. But the authors' task is not only that for, as they explain in the introduction,
    "Hermeticism afforded more than a mere abstract or theoretical understanding, something more than a general philosophical orientation. It also ... enabled one to see how certain of its own essential principles and dynamics had been hijacked and implemented for ultimately venal ends. `Magic', at least in the modern world, emerged as a metaphor for certain insidious kinds of manipulation - for `the art of making things happen' in a fashion inimical to Hermeticism itself."

    Thus, the seven chapters of Part Two offer a damning broadside of the way the media, and commercial and political interests work their control over the modern mind and obstruct and obfuscate our pursuit of the truthful and the numinous.

    To those who might be surprized by this blend of current affairs with cosmic verities, it should be remembered that Thoth was the god of writing as well as magic. To quote Northrup Frye (in Neil Postman's damning indictment Amusing Ourselves to Death):
    "...the written word is far more powerful than simply a reminder: it re-creates the past in the present, and gives us, not the familiar remembered thing, but the glittering intensity of the summoned-up hallucination."

    In general, the authors' mastery of the material is evident throughout and there are many passages where the writing is almost poetic:
    "Domains of knowledge which had previously been puddles now became bottomless wells or pools, wherein a researcher could sink for a lifetime, and often drown... The Renaissance concept of encyclopedic knowledge gave way to a plethora of specializations, each of which became ever more divorced and dissociated from all others. Integration was supplanted by fragmentation and the exaltation of fragments. Synthesis was supplanted by analysis - an analysis so intoxicated with its own capacity for dissection that it lost the capacity for reassembling what it had dismantled." (page 251)

    My only criticism of the book probably falls to the publishers rather than the authors. Some chapter headings are incongruous with the actual content; for example, the above quote comes from a chapter entitled The Rise of Secret Societies, which really doesn't deal with secret societies at all. Furthermore, readers looking for pragmatic "magician training" will be disappointed despite the subtitle's claim.

    However, this can easily be forgiven as Penquin Books not only have supported these authors' important work but have made it available in a low-cost, well-organized, and illustrated edition. Highly recommended.

  • OUR WORLD IS NOTHING BUT ILLUSION
    From Amazon

    A well researched thorough history of what is really behind the so-called social and technological progress that has lead to modern day reality. Mr. Baigent and his co-writer Mr. Leigh expose probably more than they bargained for in this book by revealing the "magic" behind the madness of our checkered past. As a long-time researcher myself I found "The Elixir and the Stone" a fascinating inside look at what has motivated many of our "greatest thinkers". While the authors are willing to accept the practice of Hermetic alchemy as something which can lead an individual to enlightenment I would have to adamantly disagree and would offer a serious warning to all those who might be persuaded, as a result of reading this book, to experiment with or adopt this philosophy. However, if one is interested in the powers that influence, manipulate and literally hypnotize we masses into a servitude of blind ignorance then I would certainly recommend this book. It is fundamentally essential that we, as independent human beings, be aware that every day of every week, every month of every year, every holiday, every church service, every new tecnological breakthrough, every political election, every terrorist attack is used as an orchestrated attempt to engage every last one of us in a huge magical ritual that is, in the final anaysis, leading us down the proverbial garden path.... Society of all cultures is under a spell; the reality we live is the reality of the sideshow hypnotist. Any volunteers?

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