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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Alchemy
More than chemistry... more than magic...
Penguin (Alpha) 2008. Oversize; illustrated. Glossary, Index, Resources. 338 pages. ISBN 1592577350
This amazing book is a straightforward guide to the ancient craft of alchemy written for the modern reader. Authored by practicing alchemist Dennis William Hauck, the author of The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation and The Sorcererís Stone: A Beginnerís Guide to Alchemy, this work is a complete reference and concise guidebook to the Great Work. Hauck is the publisher of the Alchemy Journal and has translated a number of important alchemy manuscripts dating back to the 13th century. He is on the board of governors of the International Alchemy Guild. More at www.DWHauck.com. Read a Review of this book in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition and reader Feedback.
Introduction (from the book)
My initiation into alchemy came while I was attending the University of Vienna. I had gone there to study mathematics in the tradition of the Viennese logician Kurt Goedel. However, within three months of my arrival, I was sidetracked into studying a much older tradition.
Four hundred years earlier, Vienna and nearby Prague were at the heart of European alchemy, and hundreds of alchemists flocked to the area to study. I was unaware of Viennaís rich alchemical tradition until one day when I stumbled into a basement room in the university library that was full of old alchemy books.
The German and Latin manuscripts were in antique typesetting that was very difficult to read, but the drawings in those books were strangely profound and resonated deeply with me in ways I could not put into words. All I knew was that whatever was going on in those drawings was more real than anything that was going on in my life at the time, and I wanted to be part of it. I resolved to learn as much as I could about alchemy and began translating the old manuscripts I found in Vienna and Prague. My research led me to even larger collections of alchemy books in Switzerland, Germany, and Holland. Finally, an Italian friend directed me to Merus Favilla, a practicing alchemist living in Prague who occasionally took on new students. After some painstaking negotiations, Merus agreed to take me as a student. Every Wednesday for over a year, I took the train from Vienna to Prague to be initiated into the mysteries of the ancient craft. The cost of my weekly tuition was a carton of Camel cigarettes for my master and a box of Mozart Balls (chocolates) for his wife.
I learned much during my strange apprenticeship in Prague mostly about the hidden signatures and correspondences of things. But the most important thing I learned was that the real trick to grasping alchemy was making it come alive within me. As the German alchemist Gerhardt Dorn once put it: "You must transmute yourselves from dead stones into living Philosophical Stones."
Unlike academic disciplines, alchemy can actually take root in you and grow into something that is more than the sum of its parts. This is when the true secret teachings of alchemy begin and when the magic happens. There is some sort of energetic connection to the principles of alchemy that is very empowering. True alchemists know exactly what I am talking about, and I hope you will, too, by the time you are done with this book. The objective of this book is to teach you the alchemistsí coded language so you can appreciate and work with the ancient wisdom they have passed down to us. For my part, I promise to be honest and direct, with no unnecessary secrecy, no pompous theorizing, and no special allegiance to any particular tradition or organization. My focus in this book is to help you understand the principles of alchemy and apply them in practical ways in the modern world.
So let your apprenticeship begin with this book. All you have to do is assume the role of a ďcomplete idiotĒ and become an empty cup. Forget everything you thought you knew about alchemy and alchemists. You are now at the beginning of your journey. Remove your blindfold and begin the trek toward enlightenment. And donít worry, you have everything you need hidden away inside you. Just come as you are.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part 1: Introduction to Alchemy
Chapter 1: Your Apprenticeship in Alchemy
Chapter 2: The First Alchemists
Chapter 3: The Land of Khem
Chapter 4: Medieval Alchemy and the Quest for Gold
Part 2: The Principles of Alchemy
Chapter 5: The Alchemistís Code
Chapter 6: The Elusive First Matter
Chapter 7: The Four Elements
Chapter 8: The Three Essentials
Chapter 9: The Philosopherís Stone
Part 3: The Operations of Alchemy
Chapter 10: Climbing the Ladder of the Planets
Chapter 11: The Black Phase
Chapter 12: The White Phase
Chapter 13: The Purple Phase
Part 4: Practical Alchemy
Chapter 14: Inside an Alchemistís Laboratory
Chapter 15: The Spagyric Process
Chapter 16: The Kitchen Alchemist
Chapter 17: Working with the Metals
Part 5: Spiritual Alchemy
Chapter 18: Philosophers of Fire
Chapter 19: Mental Alchemy
Chapter 20: Alchemy of Relationships
Chapter 21: Alchemy of the Soul
Chapter 22: The Sacred Marriage
Part 6: Modern Alchemy
Chapter 23: Alchemy and Medicine
Chapter 24: Social Alchemy
Chapter 25: The Science of Magic
The Complete Idiotís Guide to Alchemy by Dennis William Hauck
Alpha Books; NY, 2008. 311 pages. $16.95 USD
review by Samuel Scarborough
Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
As has been pointed out in my other book review on alchemy, there has been resurgence in the interest of alchemy in the esoteric community over the last few years. One of the more prolific writers on this topic in recent years has been Dennis William Hauck, who has written such alchemical books as The Emerald Tablet: Alchemy for Personal Transformation and The Sorcererís Stone: A Beginners Guide to Alchemy has contributed to this renewed interest within the esoteric community.
Mister Hauck once again adds to the teachings of modern alchemy in his latest book, The Complete Idiotís Guide to Alchemy. As the name implies, the book is part of that successful series of books, The Complete Idiotís Guide, that have those bright orange covers. Do not let the concept of Complete Idiotís Guide fool you, though. The material is not too watered down, but worded in such a way that anyone can read it and come away with at least a basic understanding of the topic presented in the book. Hauck does just that in this book Ė he reduces many of the most complex subjects in alchemy to easy to understand concepts and definitions.
The contents of the book are broken into six parts. These parts are: Part 1: Introduction to Alchemy; Part 2: The Principles of Alchemy; Part 3: The Operations of Alchemy; Part 4: Practical Alchemy; Part 5: Spiritual Alchemy; and Part 6: Modern Alchemy. There are also two Appendices; one on Resources that covers a basic bibliography, as well as websites; and one that is a Glossary of useful alchemical terms.
Each of the various parts of the book is broken down into chapters that cover the different topics that relate to the overall theme of the part. For instance, in Part 1: Introduction to Alchemy, Mr. Hauck covers some basic history relating to alchemy and some of the legends associated with ancient alchemy and alchemists. Part 2: The Principles of Alchemy covers such topics as the secret language of the alchemists, what the First Matter is, the Four Elements, the Three Essentials, and the Philosopherís Stone. Part 3: The Operations of Alchemy discusses the Planets and the three phases of alchemical work. Part 4: Practical Alchemy takes a look at what is inside the alchemistís laboratory, the process of Spagyric (plant alchemy) work, working with the metals associated with the Seven Planets, and how to set up a basic alchemical laboratory in your kitchen. Part 5: Spiritual Alchemy covers the broad range of topics associated with uniting your spirit with the divine in the Magnum Opus (Great Work), and finally in Part 6: Modern Alchemy, Hauck discusses how alchemy applies to medicine, magic, and social uses of alchemy.
Alchemy is a broad subject that cannot be condensed into a single book so that every person can pick it up and begin to practice the Royal Art. What Dennis Hauck does with this book, The Complete Idiotís Guide to Alchemy, is give the long-time student and the new seeker the basics to understand alchemy. For the long-time student he presents the material so they may be able to look at it in a new light, and certainly be able to explain it to anyone, especially a new person seeking information on alchemy. For the new student seeking to understand alchemy, or to even begin practicing alchemy, here is a book that gives the new student a firm foundation in alchemical thought and practice.
The Complete Idiotís Guide to Alchemy is not a pretty book to sit on your shelf, with its bright orange cover. It is a case for not judging a book by its cover, though as the material inside that bright cover has many great points to help both the new person and the practiced hand. Aside from one point in the historical section where the material is ambiguous in relation to a person and event, the overall material is very clear and concise. While I do not like some of the New Age ramifications that Mr. Hauck includes in the latter chapters of the book, these sections will appeal to some people interested in alchemy in one form or another. The book has pointers and helpful hints throughout that are great additions to the material, the material is clearly discussed by someone who has more than a clue about this difficult and often misunderstood subject. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has any form of interest in alchemy whatsoever.
THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO ALCHEMY
This amazing book is a straightforward guide to the ancient craft of alchemy written for the modern reader. Authored by practicing alchemist Dennis William Hauck, this work is a complete reference and concise guidebook to the Great Work. Covers all aspects of alchemical apprenticeship, including the history, principles, operations of both practical (laboratory) and spiritual alchemy, with a complete section on modern alchemy. Indispensible Resources guide and Glossary; complete Index. Illustrated. Penguin Archer 2008. Item #887. Retails for $16.95.