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Alchemy a Fantasy Art?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Storm Kesocascay, Apr 10, 2013.

  1. Storm Kesocascay

    Storm Kesocascay Minstrel

    Alchemy, one of the world's most powerful and mysterious practices. Many call it a religion, a magic, a practice solely focused on eternal life and infinite riches. Sometimes, a powerful science that blurs the line between science, magic, and religion. But can it be used in a fantasy novel? What exactly is Alchemy?

    I, an alchemist myself, normally add alchemy into my plots just for its sheer power and mystery. Many can be entranced at the idea of alchemy.

    This will be a brief summary of alchemy and the kind of alchemy that can apply to the fantasy world. If you wish to seek more details or have specific questions, feel free to ask.

    Alchemy blurs into 3 categories; religious (used in Philosophical Alchemy, or applying alchemy to the real world), Elemental Alchemy (an alchemic practice using magic in the formulas), and Inter-Dimensional Alchemy (alchemy used for plains-walking, or walking between worlds, commonly by meditation). Nicholas Flamel was the world's most influential and most powerful alchemist. The reason being is because he was all three types of alchemist. An alchemist who masters all three alchemic disciplines is called a Shadow Alchemist. There are few throughout history and believed to be extinct now, but most Shadow Alchemists hide their identity. Seriously; do you want your neighbor being a Shadow Alchemist?

    Religious Alchemy/Philosophical Alchemy is simply applying the mathematical laws of alchemy to the functions of the real world such as making a product and selling it at a combined price of all of the materials used to make it (Law I of the Alchemic Codex-Equivalent Exchange) or paying a debt (again; Law I) or giving money you do not need to someone who needs it (Law III of the Alchemic Codex-Alchemist be thou for the people, not self). the laws for Religious alchemy mainly come from Elemental Alchemy. It's like sociology in an alchemic or scientific point of view. We perform Religious Alchemy on a daily basis without even thinking abotu it. (think about my above examples)

    Elemental Alchemy is the "original" alchemy. it is the version that has lived and lasted the longest and still lives minutely hidden in the margins in modern-day science. Elemental Alchemy gets its name because it is broken down into 9 different elements that effect each other and each element breaks down further to match our periodic table. Certain alchemists master certain elements giving them certain titles. Here is a list of the elements and the titles you take while studying and when you master the element.

    Fire-Ember Alchemist (student)-Flame Alchemist (master)
    Water-River Alchemist (student)-Moon Alchemist (master)
    Earth-Soil Alchemist (student)-Mountain Alchemist (master)
    Air-Gust Alchemist (student)- Divine-Wind Alchemist (master)
    Vitae (life/living essence)-Living Alchemist (student)- Sewing-Life Alchemist (master)
    Dark/Shadow-Dusk Alchemist (student)-Shadow Alchemist (master. must master all other elements)
    Lightning/Thunder (goes by both names)-Storm Alchemist (student)-Thunder Alchemist (master)
    Ice-Burg Alchemist (student)-Freezing Alchemist/Glacier Alchemist (master)
    Steel/Metal (specializes only in metals and stones, not everything about the ground or Earth)-Ore Alchemist (student)-Platinum Alchemist (master)

    Some alchemists change their titles once they pass the level of student so these are the basic names that are commonly taken. Flamel called himself the Sun Alchemist, even though he was actually a Shadow Alchemist. (irony?)

    Some of these elements have weaknesses and resistances to each other. It's a lot to talk about so I'll tell you this chain when asked to. I will also show how exactly Elemental Alchemy works when asked and show all of the processes and laws.

    Finally is Inter-Dimensional Alchemy. It is literally meditating to pass into different realms and dimensions. Alchemists believe that there are thousands of dimensions and each are another world and all humans have the ability to "plains-walk", or meditate to cast your soul into these other dimensions. Inter-Dimensional Alchemists are mainly monks and nomads. Some believe that these types of alchemists originated from Asia, perhaps India or Tibet, maybe China. This is the most complicated and the most difficult of the disciplines and will take more than a forum posting to describe.

    And this is the types of alchemists. Remember; in ancient times, alchemists were dime-a-dozen and were always looked up to. Almost all alchemists were blacksmiths or artisans of a similar practice. A lot of fantasy and mystery surround alchemists to this day.

    Also, your alchemists do not have to be men leaning over vats of molten materials all of the time, alchemists were also skilled magicians and used their alchemy as an advantage. Think of Avatar; The Last Airbender. Those powers are close to what an alchemic master would have.

    I hope this helps. Feel free to comment or ask questions.
    J. S. Elliot likes this.
  2. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    Did you make this up? I can't tell if this is supposed to be a worldbuilding experiment or sincere historical account. You seem to actually believe it, but I'm not sure.
  3. Dr.Dorkness

    Dr.Dorkness Minstrel

    I concur. What I know of alchemy (which isn't much), it is just the same as science, but in an other time. I might just be wrong though.
  4. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

    I find this thread helpful. As alchemy will be a component of my universe, I'm sure I'll have questions for you. I think this needs to be moved over to the Research Forum.
  5. Lycan999

    Lycan999 Minstrel

    I do not know if you came up with this yourself or it is from some other source, but this is not accurate portrayal of alchemy. In actuality alchemy's roots can be traced back to China and Egypt. I do not know much about alchemy in Egypt, but in China alchemist were hired by Emperors to search for the elixir of life. Obviously none ever succeeded, and many were executed because of their failures (that is if they did not kill the Emperor first, quicksilver (mercury) and other toxic materials were common ingredients in alchemic recipes). Gunpowder was actually invented by accident because of Chinese alchemist.

    Later alchemy moved West to Europe and changed from the search for immortality to the search for wealth. More specifically, how to change base metals into pure gold by means of the fabled Philosophers Stone. Here it mirrored Chinese alchemy almost exactly, alchemist working for kings, being executed when they failed, being executed when they cheated the king, making an actual discovery and being executed because it was not the right discovery, and finally discovering gunpowder as well. Alchemy paved the way for modern chemistry and eventually was driven out of existence.

    In modern literature and culture alchemy is often portrayed as a cross between science and magic and often incorporates both the search for gold or immortality, though often the book or story will take place because of the alchemist's discoveries. true, alchemist still believed in the classical idea of 4 elements, but not in the way you say they do. they are more often portrayed as scientist than magicians.
    Dr.Dorkness and Mindfire like this.
  6. Storm Kesocascay

    Storm Kesocascay Minstrel

    I researched alchemy from farther back. I found a few flaws with most that I have seen through the confusion of cultures and found other civilizations that used different forms of alchemy varying in many ways. The common trend that I keep seeing is that alchemy is a natural process that humans can perform themselves using the basic methods. It evolved over the years changing and jumbling until it evened out as a research for eternal life for many centuries then converted again during the Scientific Revolution changing to more science and less magic-science bridge.

    What I list here is a basic wrapping from the roots of alchemy which (to my understanding) matches fantasy more than most other versions that I have researched.
  7. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    Also, Nicholas Flamel was not an alchemist. Those were legends that appeared after his death.
  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    I don't think that's known, by any means. A lot of works on the subject are ascribed to Flamel. The idea that he was involved in alchemy was later questioned. But the issue is hardly settled, from what I can tell. He may well have been involved in it.
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Isn't that just from Fullmetal Alchemist?
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2013
  10. Storm Kesocascay

    Storm Kesocascay Minstrel

    FullMetal Alchemist uses (mostly) real alchemic laws and principles. That's the only show that I'd watch and not yell on how they developed it.
  11. Yellow

    Yellow Minstrel

    I may be totaly wrong here, but my understanding is that alchemy has two sides. One being rather scientificaly oriented, more famously associated with attempts to transmute metals, attempts to create life out of inanimate objects, and the quest for immortality, though like our physicists they were also interested in the quest for the ultimate component of matter, which they called the universal solvent. Practical alchemists used a somewhat rudimentary precursor to the scientific method and attempted to describe the universe as being made of smaller components with predictable outcomes in their relation to one another, and so they created the first attempts at what would later be known as the periodic table. Alchemists also pioneered some techniques still used in modern science such as distilation and decantation, and extraction of essential oils from medicinal plants and herbs. They also dealt with health, giving birth to Iatrochemistry, which is (very roughly speeking) the belief that desieses and ailments can be cured by purely chemical methods.

    On the other hand there is what some would call "spiritual" alchemy, and it's followers believe that the processes described in alchemical accounts, such as teh creation of the philosopher's stone, were in fact metaphors expressing the tools and means to spiritual enlightenment. In such a view, for example, the transmutation of iron into gold mirrors the purification of an alchemist's soul through the varied (and sometimes intermingling) spiritual and practical doctrines described to create the Philosopher's stone, which itself would be a metaphor for a spiritual awakening triggered by an already perfect, external factor.

    From my limited understanding I believe most alchemists didn't make this division in alchemy, and to most the practical aspect was intimately related to the spiritual aspect, and both were inseparable, though I speak only of european alchemists of the middle ages. The thing is that alchemy meant so many different things to so many different people throughout so many different cultures and historical periods, it is rather hard to come up with a precise deffinition for it.
  12. Storm Kesocascay

    Storm Kesocascay Minstrel

    You are correct on many points. You are also correct that many Alchemists didn't separate between science and religion. The Kaiyumae, the race of people that my books are based off of, were primarily alchemists. The Illuminatae were purists who sought alchemy as a strict religious discipline while the Shadowists believed it to be a demonic art rising humans from their proper place. According to the Shadowists, all humans are a lower form of life and must be treated as such, even a Shadowist himself. The Neutralians were, as their names states, are neutral on the matter and were one of the first to successfully harmonize science and religion into one practice. They pretty much treated alchemy as a religion and a philosophy of all things in Reality. They, apparently, moved on to be modern alchemists and chemists before dying out like the rest of the branches.

    The strange thing that I found is that through all of Kaiyumi history that I could find, not a single war was raged between any of the three branches; they almost coexisted, up until the Virgin Purge of the Illuminatae, which were kind of their version of a crusade. I'm not sure if I'm missing something making my research incomplete or something was destroyed containing information of a war or no war existed at all. In my experience, religions almost always fight over each other, yet this was strange. As far as I know, all three branches were called Kaiyumae and all three worshiped the same gods with the same names with the same history and the same myths of their religion. But their interpretations of the basic Kaiyumi law of equality was vague. All Kaiyumae agree that all things have value and that value is equal to another, including humans. But the value of humans is or what humans are equal to was unclear with no given value so they parted ways on that matter. The main summary I can find of this difference is this;

    Illuminatae-believe that humans are gods. Abolished and disgraced the idea of humanism believing that if humans are gods, we must live like gods until we die and take our seat of power amongst the divine lords.

    Shadowists-believe humans are vile and cruel and are a freak of nature. Humans are a punishment that must be served to receive redemption and enlightenment. We are to live in sty and live as low-lives, like trolls. the ultimate pessimists of humans, worse than Machiavelli.

    Neutralians-believe all humans are equal and all have the potential to be gods; hard work, dedication, and hard study can turn one into a god. These were the majority and the leaders. They also believed that ALL religions of the world can agree to disagree. For example; a Neutralian would believe that a Catholic could have a friendly and meaningful conversation with a Muslim about their religions (not being racist, I'm just giving an example) and can agree or disagree peacefully on their beliefs.

    The Kaiyumae were sometimes called the "Pioneers of Alchemy", but it all depends on your source. As I said; the alchemy given here is better fitted for Fantasy writing by using Kaiyumian alchemy.

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