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alchemy on the Index
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Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Fri Mar 26th, 2010 11:53 pm
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Hi all,

One can often find in popular literature on alchemy statements to the effect that the Roman Catholic Church (and the unexpected Spanish Inquisition) prosecuted alchemists or at least prohibited it. There is a listing of all books that were put on the Index librorum prohibitorum from 1600 until it became discontinued in 1966:
Index librorum prohibitorum : 1600-1966, ed. by J. M. de Bujanda, Montreal: Centre d'Études de la Renaissance, Université de Sherbrooke, Médiaspaul; Geneva: Librairie Droz. 2002 [it is vol. 11 of the series Index des livres interdits; the earlier volumes cover various indexes of the 16th c. -- but they are not viewable on GoogleBooks]
I tried to search for books on alchemy in it on Google, and also in a listing of the last published index from 1948 available on the Internet, but could find only 5 items:

Libavius, Andreas
  • Defensio et declaratio perspicua alchymiae transmutatoriae, opposita Nicolai Guiperti expugnationi virili, et Gastoris Clavei apologiae contra Erastum male sartae et pravae. 1604 (1605 --> index)
  • Appendix necessaria syntagmatis arcanorum chymicorum. 1615 (1618 --> index)
Maierus, Michael
  • Symbola aureae mensae duodecim nationum, hoc est hermaea seu curii festa ab heroibus duodenis selectis, artis chymicae visu, sapientia et authoritate paribus celebrata. 1617 (1624 --> index)
  • Verum inventum, hoc est munera Germaniae, ab ipsa primitus reperta (non ex vino, ut calumniator quidam sceptice invehit, sed vi animi et corporis) et reliquo orbi communicata. 1619 (1627 --> index)
Theatrum chemicum. 1602, 4 vols. (1709 --> index --> 1900)

The first four (Libavius and Maier) were put on the index for religious reasons and remained there until 1966 (I guess at least the Symbola... may have been included because of the "Alchemical Mass"). But the case of Theatrum chemicum is most interesting because it was listed only in 1709 and removed from the index in 1900. I would suspect that someone (or some group) must have actually applied for its removal -- and who could have done that in 1900 about alchemical texts!? For comparison, Copernicus' De revolutionibus was on the index from 1616 until 1822.

Best regards,

Rafał


Last edited on Fri Mar 26th, 2010 11:54 pm by Rafal T. Prinke

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Sat Mar 27th, 2010 12:12 am
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Hi Rafal,

It may have had something to do with the reorganisation of the Index following the Vatican Council of 1869/70 rather than specific lobbying:

"During the Vatican Council, great exertions were made, especially on the part of Germany and France, to induce the assembled Fathers to mitigate the ecclesiastical laws relating to censorship (cf. Coll. Lacens. Concil., VII, 1075), but before this question could be discussed, the council was dissolved. Leo XIII, therefore, took it upon himself to reorganize the ecclesiastical legislation in this respect, which he accomplished by the Constitution, "Officiorem ac Munerum" (25 Jan., 1897) and the reform of the Index, published in 1900. Since that time, for all literary matters, for censorship and prohibition of books, no other laws or rules are in force than those contained in the new index of Leo XIII."

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15303a.htm

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Sat Mar 27th, 2010 06:53 am
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.

Some jumbled notes on this topic.

A most valuable reference is George Haven Putnam, The Censorship of the Church of Rome, New York & London, 1906. In the second volume, the whole chapter XI (pp.379-445) is devoted to the Leonine revision of the Index. It has been pruned of roughly a thousand titles from the Benedictine one (which would be re-edited from 1758 to [1896] 1900; form the compilation and revision made by Benedict XIV). The Theatrum chemicum being one such dropped title.

Pre-leonine Indice can be found for a mere 50-60 bucks. The closer to 1896, the better, because of the added entries.

Still, a useful reference: the 1835 Index, here in a re-printing of 1847, and appended in Migne edition of Pluquet’s Dictionnaire des Hérésies. [See link below. The list itself begin at the col. 937.]



You’ll find in it:

-Paracelsus, as a “Class I, Append. Trid.”, that is, a nota haeresis suspecti, whose works were condemned in bulk. Strangely, he seems to have been withdrawn from the Clementine Index (Clement VIII, first issue in 1596), only to be put down again under Benoît XIV. A strange grace period of 162 years. I wonder who advocate in his favour...;

- and Fludd, whose Utriusque Cosmi was censored by a decree in 1627 (Mersenne the lobbyist? Maybe. He was pretty influential. Anyway, in an outburst in 1631, he will still call Fludd a “Cacomagum, Haeretico-magum, seu fœtida & horrenda Magia Doctorem...”). This title was still forbidden to Roman Catholics by the 1948 Index which will only be revoked in ’66, as you pointed out. On Fludd, see also Putnam, vol. II, pp. 128-9. ;

 

 http://visualiseur.bnf.fr/CadresFenetre?O=NUMM-209865&M=pagination

 


And let's not forget that Venice, that fiercely independent city of printers, had its own legislation (and Index). The Roman Index was completely disregarded.

Yours,

- Carl
 

P.S.: There’s something unclear, here, though.

Putnam (vol. I, pp. 255-6) tell us, about the ‘pardon’ of Paracelsus in the Clementine Index, that: “In the schedules, as finally approved, Clement omits from Class I, as first shaped by Sixtus, fifteen names; the only one of these which may be considered as of continuing interest is that of Pracelsus. The additions to this class comprise twenty-five names. Among these are included...”

Yet, later, in a chapter on the revision of 1758 by Benedict XIV (vol II, p. 50), he writes that: “Against the entries of books which were condemned in the Tridentine Index, is noted Ind, Tri., and for those condemned under Clement, Append. Ind. Trid.  For condemnations after 1696, the year is specified, and occasionally the Bull itself.”

So, wait a minute; if Paracelse is listed with the ‘1 Cl. Append, Ind. Trid.’ note, it should be because his whole work was prohibited under Clement VIII. But Putnam said that this pope omitted is name from this category (?!).

An error of Migne?

 

P.P.S.: On the setbacks of Arnaud de Villeneuve (+1311) with the Spanish Inquisition, who also had distinct Indice:

-During his lifetime (in 1305): Thorndike II, p.846; and H. Ch. Lea, The Inquisition of the Middle-Ages, New York, 1961 (abridged), pp. 592-593;

-Posthumous: Lea, op. cit, p. 354; Thorndike II, pp. 846 again and 851. Also, for a reference on the expurgation of the alchemical tracts from his ‘Œuvres complètes ‘, see A. Calvet, 'Les alchemica d’Arnaud de Villeneuve', in Alchimie : art, histoire et mythes, Textes et travaux de Chrysopoeia I, Paris/Milan, 1995, p. 167.

.



Last edited on Sat Mar 27th, 2010 07:15 am by Carl Lavoie

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Sat Mar 27th, 2010 09:12 am
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There are lots of editions of the Index available for free download from Google Books, but the latest in date seems to be 1854:

http://books.google.com/books?id=OSUvAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22index+librorum+prohibitorum%22&hl=en&ei=Kb2tS_y4Jsqv4Qb2lLS6Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CEwQ6AEwBTgU#v=onepage&q=&f=false

and some later editions available for sale here:

http://www.vialibri.net/cgi-bin/book_search.php?search=rare+books&np=9&refer=jump&id=4badc11e55e90&sortfield=8&sort_val=hi&authword=&titleword=Index%20Librorum%20Prohibitorum&pub=&keyword=&pricemin=&pricemax=&yearmin=&yearmax=&fed=&sgd=&dj=&curr=USD&iter=2&order=asc&sort=yr&start=250&type=A&conv=1&ekey=Index&act=&count=416

Last edited on Sat Mar 27th, 2010 09:28 am by Paul Ferguson

Rafal T. Prinke
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 Posted: Thu Apr 8th, 2010 04:45 pm
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Hi Carl,

Sorry for the delay in replying -- and thank you for interesting information.You’ll find in it:

-Paracelsus, as a “Class I, Append. Trid.”, that is, a nota haeresis suspecti,

- and Fludd, whose Utriusque Cosmi was censored by a decree in 1627
So Paracelsus was indeed censored, as one would expect. I now understand that the series Index des livres interdits in its 11th vol. covers only books actually published in the period of 1600-1966. But both in the case of Paracelsus and Fludd I would guess it was their suspect theological speculations rather than alchemy as such.

Last edited on Thu Apr 8th, 2010 04:46 pm by Rafal T. Prinke

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Fri Apr 9th, 2010 05:38 am
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Most probably. Plus, alchemical parallels drawn sometime with the Christ’s resurrection, (ab-) use of Marian imagery, etc.; all this was pretty irksome to many.

But as you point out, these are only the few and far between exceptions. The Index isn’t exactly a heap of grimoires. You notice that the late-XIXth and XXth centuries editions are replete with ‘bad literature’, and hundreds of titles of the Modernists, or those standing in the way of the Immaculate Conception or the Papal infallibility agendas. Not even considering the petty paybacks of the Dominicans and of the Jesuits on each other’s books (depending on who, at the time, was at the head of the Congregation of the Index), there is still a whole lot of works which are of complete orthodoxy:  Papal sanctions striking the books of authors who disobeyed in pursuing the controversy on a muddled, decade-old subject. As for alchemical literature, yes, when it didn’t spread sacrilegious ideas, or encroach upon the sphere of theology, why would they have care?


Last edited on Fri Apr 9th, 2010 05:51 am by Carl Lavoie

Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Sat Oct 27th, 2012 06:41 am
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.
Rafał, a book review of the latest book by Sylvain Matton, Scolastique et Alchimie (XVIe-XVIIe siècles),Paris-Milan, S.É.H.A.-Archè, 2009.

http://www.panurge.org/spip.php?article400


A must-read, it seems, regarding the (relatively rare) ecclesiastical sanctions toward alchemy. Although, only for the Jesuits he lists Antonio Rubio, Juan de Piñeda, Paolo Comitoli, Sanchez, François Garasse, Leonard Bildstein, Binet, Luigi Giuglaris, Theophile Raynaud, Georges de Rhodes and André Sémery.

See the content with the link below :

http://www.panurge.org/IMG/pdf/Scolastique_et_Alchimie.pdf

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Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Wed Jan 9th, 2013 01:46 am
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.
I was reading Immodest Acts (Oxford Univ. Press, 1986), by Judith C. Brown, a Renaissance scholar that was teaching History at Stanford at the time. I mention the credentials because the book’s subtitle makes it look like some late-night reading. So, it is regarding Benedetta Carlini, Abbess of a Theatine convent near Florence and convicted false mystic (she’ll be investigated and end up dying in prison after thirty-five years of incarceration) who, in yet another of her fake raptures, this time end of May 1619, will use this metaphor. This is supposedly the Christ speaking through her; talk about an argument d'autorité against chrysopœia :



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Carl Lavoie
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 Posted: Wed Feb 20th, 2013 04:23 am
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.
Michel Noize, «Le Grand Œuvre, liturgie de l’alchimie chrétienne.» Revue de l'histoire des religions, Volume 186 (1974) pp. 149-183.

An oldish paper, almost of scholarly standard.

L'auteur, s'appuyant sur des textes représentatifs de ce courant de pensée, montre que bon nombre d'alchimistes de confession catholique établissaient et développaient des analogies très précises entre leur foi et les thèmes alchimiques. L'étude de ces comparaisons le conduit à conclure que l'alchimie sublime en christophanie ses mythes, sa spiritualité et ses pratiques. Anamnèse et eschatologie, célébration sacrificielle, réconciliation et sanctification universelles, le grand œuvre est l'accoucheur des achèvements métalliques comme la Messe est actualisation de la Rédemption pascale. Une attention particulière est portée au rôle du mouvement spatio-temporel qui permet à l'adepte, comme au chrétien, de s'affranchir des entraves du temps. L'alchimie était peut-être et involontairement une chimie embryonnaire et une métallurgie empirique. Bien plus et délibérément, elle fut une doctrine philosophique, une sotériologie, une ascèse spirituelle et un ensemble de pratiques rituelles faisant de l'Artifex un Hierourgos, analogue et confrère du célébrant eucharistique. Elle fut, enfin, une liturgie et un essai de connaissance de Dieu à partir de ce monde, complémentaire de la théologie qui interprétait le cosmos à partir de la Révélation.

http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/rhr_0035-1423_1974_num_186_2_10217

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Last edited on Wed Feb 20th, 2013 05:18 am by Carl Lavoie


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