Friday, 11 May 2012

Mistie speech

I've just started a book recommended by Rogerh - John Read's "The Alchemist in Life Literature and Art". I haven't finished it yet, but I just had to post this delicious quote. As you read it, please remember that it's about alchemists and not climate scientists. I don't want anyone mixing them up.

The alchemical adepts treated their esoteric doctrines and practical operations as weighty and sacred secrets, to be maintained as a closed body of knowledge. Their "noble practise" was thus "to vaile their secrets with mistie speech," lest the clodhopper might turn from his plough and cultivate the more alluring soil of the Sages.

The literature of alchemy, of which enormous accumulations have been preserved both in printed books and manuscripts, therefore abounds in cryptic expressions, often to the point of unintelligibility and incoherence. The alchemists delighted also in allegory and in symbolic representations of their doctrines and ideas. In such ways they made great play with a limited stock of ideas, upon which they rang an unending series of trivial changes, both in their expressions and their imagery.

Does nothing change?


Weekend Yachtsman said...

Yes, things do change.

The difference is that the modern alchemists have harnessed the power of the state to turn us all into their vassals.

Anonymous said...

@Yachtsman - or even vessels.

Is the image mirrored AK? I once used this quote appropos some consultants, it was not welcomed. R4 Material World did a piece on Alchemy Thur 10th, though I think J Read could have done a better job.

My copy set me back £25 in 1990 - was it a good investment?

James Higham said...

it's about alchemists and not climate scientists. I don't want anyone mixing them up


A K Haart said...

WY - yes, many of them know the potential power of their art just as acutely as the alchemists did.

Roger - John Read's image seems to be the mirrored one. I really ought to know because I've seen it, but that was some years ago.

My copy was £8.79 (inc postage) for a first edition, but it's an ex library copy covered in stamps etc.
On the whole, good hardback copies seem to be very expensive on Amazon.

A K Haart said...

James - well you and I might mix them up but I suppose we are cynical!

Sam Vega said...


has just come up on The Guardian's CIF.


A K Haart said...

Sam - interesting but too process-driven for me. Policy-based integrity is where we'd end up.