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The Alchemy of Mind: Poems
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  1. The Alchemy of Happiness - Marilyn Bowering
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  4. The Alchemy of Mind: Poems

And in addition to explaining memory, thought, emotion, dreams, and language acquisition, she reports on the latest discoveries in neuroscience and addresses controversial subjects like the effects of trauma and male versus female brains.

The Alchemy of Happiness - Marilyn Bowering

In prose that is not simply accessible but also beautiful and electric, Ackerman distills the hard, objective truths of science in order to yield vivid, heavily anecdotal explanations about a range of existential questions regarding consciousness, human thought, memory, and the nature of identity. Ackerman's book, to become a very weighty subject. Her prose reads like poetry, and if you have never before read her work, as A search for how the brain works, and where it ends and the mind begins.

It must be tough for Ackerman Cultivating Delight, , etc. Diane Ackerman was born on October 7, in Waukegan, Illinois. She received a B. These spirits are a mixture of the soul and the body, more divine than the latter but more earthly than the former. Without the physical shackles of the body, the lovers become free to experience an expansion in their love. From this the mind is free. Prior to the emergence of chemistry as a scientific discipline, this incredible malleability was considered to be a property of the quintessence of gold. According to Paracelsus: The quintessence… is a certain matter extracted from all things which Nature has produced, and from everything which has life corporeally in itself, a matter most subtly purged of all impurities and mortality, and separated from all the elements.

From this it is evident that the quintessence is, so to say, a nature, a force, a virtue, and a medicine, once, indeed, shut up within things, but now free from any domicile and from all outward incorporation. The same is also the colour, the life, the properties of things. The significance of an alchemical reading of this poem lies in the process behind the creation of these two kinds of love.

Although the extraction of the quintessence of gold leaves the physical body without sweetness or virtue, this does not amount to a degradation of the body. In nature, the quintessence of gold is found mixed throughout the physical body. This ordinary form of gold possesses all the qualities of the quintessence of gold, but in a more diluted form.

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Alchemists considered this natural form to be incomplete rather than inherently corrupted, which opened up some leeway for the praise of physical love: although physical love would never be as pure as wholly spiritual love, it was not considered to be inherently flawed. Thematically, both of these poems are concerned with tackling the fundamental question of the constitution of humankind.


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If we were to extract the vinegar from the water, we would end up with a small body of very sour liquid, whereas before we had a larger body of somewhat sour liquid — vinegar diluted with water. Likewise, if we extract the quintessence from vitriol, we end up with a smaller body of potent virtue, whereas before we had a larger body of more dispersed virtue. Paracelsus wrote: Nothing of true value is located in the body of a substance, but in the virtue.

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And this is the principle of the Quintessence, which reduces, say, 20lbs. Hence the less there is of body, the more in proportion is the virtue. This has two important consequences for an alchemical reading of the poem. Second, it suggests that Donne considers that the quintessence contains some essential part of a human being; that it is, perhaps, the final atom that lies, indivisible, at the core of a fragmented sense of self.

Donne saw the essential unity and order that characterised the medieval view of the universe as fragmented by the new epistemologies of his age and turned to the metaphor of the quintessence in an attempt to restore harmony. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption… It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

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Although he invokes the Resurrection in the latter public elegy, he shies away from the idea of complete destruction and re-creation. According to Plato and Aristotle, virtues were essentially an insight into what is truly good. This definition was adopted and modified by Christian theologians, including one interpretation by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century which remained influential through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

If we recall that the hermetic philosophy underpinning alchemy was a creation of the early Christian era, we 37 Lacoste , vol. See also Russell , pp. Where they differ is their beliefs about the origin of virtues. For Christians, the virtues are derived from the work of God, whereas for alchemists they have their origins in the stars and heavens of which man is a microcosm.

Alchemical metaphors are used alongside Neoplatonic and Christian ones, diminishing the contrast between a corrupt body and a heavenly soul in order to shift emphasis to the sympathetic relationships which unite them, and a method for interpreting death as a transformation from one state to another, rather than the destruction and resurrection of Christian theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica: A Concise Translation. Timothy McDermott. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode. Carey, John. John Donne: Life, Mind, and Art. Donne, John.

In The Poems of John Donne, ed. London: Oxford University Press.

The Alchemy of Mind: Poems

Ignatius, His Conclave, ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Ficino, Marsilio. Three Books on Life.

The Alchemy of Love: Rumi Poetry (pt.3)

Carol V. Kaske and John R. Fletcher, Angus. In ELH, Vol. Gardner, Helen. Herbert Davis and Helen Gardner. Oxford: Clarendon, p. Hirsch, David A. In Studies in English Literature, , Vol. Lacoste, Jean-Yves. Encyclopedia of Christian Theology.