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Date: Wed, 6 May 1998
From: M P Andrews

Can anyone help? I'm researching the intellectual and philosophical endeavours of the seventeenth century and am trying to discover what links (if any) can be found between standard western philosophy (those seventeenth century names we'd all recognise, Descartes, Locke and up to Hume) and alchemy. I'm not a scientist and know too little of the history of science (though Newton's connections with alchemy are fairly well known to me) so I won't be able to make much sense of long chemical replies. My first degree was in philosophy and theology and that's still a good description of what I'd like to find out more about.

If anyone on this list has previously considered the possible links between philosophy and alchemy I'd love to read what you thought.

Matthew Andrews

Date: Wed, 6 May 1998
From: Claude Gagnon

Dear friend,
I would suggest, even if it seems that there is one century short, the acta of the colloquium J.C. Margolin et Matton, Alchimie et philosophie a la Renaissance, Paris, Vrin, 1993.

There are also acta from the Groningen colloquium, Alchemy revisited, published by Brill few years ago.

Claude Gagnon

Date: 6 May 1998
From: George Leake

Here's an angle suggested by Faivre and Copenhaver (email me in private for cites): Causabon, the 17th century scholar who determined that the Corpus Hermeticum was written much later (i.e. ca 1st-3rd centuries CE) than previously suspected, had ties to philosophers like Descartes.
Meanwhile, many interested in Rosicruciansim in the 17th century held onto the (perhaps now discredited) notions of an Egyptian prisca theologia (which persists to some degree today; I have encountered hostility from a number of people bringing up Causabon).


Date: Thu, 07 May 98
From: Jon Marshall

As you probably know Locke was interested in alchemy owning copies of the theatrum chemicm britanicum, works by Geber, Paracelsus Glauber, Basil Valentine etc. he worked with the alchemist David Thomas making medicines, he corresponded with Newton about Boyle's red earth and various other alchemical subjects etc.

see Dewhurst *John Locke physician and philosopher* the various volumes of Locke's correpondence and Newton's correspondence.

Shay in *the transmutation of alchemy into science and political thought* (unpublished phd thesis) argues that Locke took the perfectability of man,and the tabula rasa from the idea of the prima materia. The work became education.

Leibniz knew the alchemist F. M van Helmont and his promotion of the work of Lady Anne Conway (which is influenced by alchemy and cambridge platonism)

Merchant "the vitalism of Franciscus Mercury van Helmont its influence on Leibniz"Ambix vol 26 pp170-83, 1979.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that Leibniz was a practitioner, but I won't guarantee that.

Coudert has written articles on F. M. vanHelmont (but never published her book?) and on Lady Anne. She has also written on *Leibniz and the cabbala*

There is a story that Descartes spent some years of his youth looking for the rosicrucians, and proved he wasn't a rosicrucian as he was visble! (i think in Yates *rosicrucian enlightenment*), but that doesn't actually prove he was influenced by them.

I'd also look at Ackerman *Queen Christina of Sweden and her circle*, which has some stuff about Descartes, and about Christina's hermeticism

sadly I don't think there is any connection between Hume and alchemy