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The First Alchemists

The Spiritual and Practical Origins of the Noble and Holy Art

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

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About The Book

Explores the origins and practices of early alchemy

• Examines the oldest surviving alchemical texts, the original purpose of the “Royal Art,” and the first alchemists, showing how women dominated early alchemy

• Looks at the historical setting for the first alchemists, with detailed accounts of their apparatus, recipes, chemical processes, and the ingredients they used

• Reveals how changing the color of materials was more important in early alchemy than transmuting base metals into gold

Investigating the origins of alchemy and the legend of the Philosopher’s Stone, Tobias Churton explores the oldest surviving alchemical texts, the original purpose of the “Royal Art,” and the first alchemists themselves.

Showing how women dominated early alchemy, Churton looks at the first known alchemist, the Jewess Maria the Prophetess, the early alchemist Cleopatra (not the well-known Egyptian queen), and 3rd–4th century Egyptian female artisan Theosebeia, who had a guild of adepts working under her. He examines in depth the work of Zosimos of Panopolis, whose work inspired the medieval view of alchemy as an initiatory path for the transmutation of base metals into gold.

The author also discusses the political and industrial realities facing the first alchemists. He examines the late antique “Stockholm” and “Leiden” papyri, which offer detailed knowledge of the first known Graeco-Egyptian chemical recipes for gold and silver dyes for metal and stone and purple dyes for wool. He reveals how the alchemical secrets for working with the “living statues” of the Egyptian temples was jealously guarded by the priesthood and how secrecy helped to reinforce beliefs that alchemical knowledge came from forbidden, celestial sources. He also investigates the mysterious relation between alchemy, spiritual gnosis, Hermeticism, and the Book of Enoch.

About The Author

Tobias Churton is Britain’s leading scholar of Western Esotericism, a world authority on Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and Rosicrucianism. He is a filmmaker and the founding editor of the magazine Freemasonry Today. An Honorary Fellow of Exeter University, where he is faculty lecturer in Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, he holds a master’s degree in Theology from Brasenose College, Oxford, and created the award-winning documentary series and accompanying book The Gnostics, as well as several other films on Christian doctrine, mysticism, and magical folklore. The author of many books, including Gnostic Philosophy, The Invisible History of the Rosicrucians, and Aleister Crowley: The Beast in Berlin, he lives in England.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (November 7, 2023)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781644116838

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Raves and Reviews

“In this remarkable and necessary work on early alchemy, Churton outlines a program of research and experimentation into this rich but mostly unexplored area of Greco-Egyptian alchemical philosophies and practices. The depth and range of the material are breathtaking, and it is very satisfying to see the topic of glass addressed so thoroughly. I strongly recommend studying and working with The First Alchemists and going deeper, letting Tobias Churton light the way.”

– Brian Cotnoir, author of On Alchemy, Alchemy, and Practical Alchemy

“The subject of alchemy has always been shrouded in dense fog. Here at last is a book that probes deeply and lucidly into this age-old pursuit, taking us right back to its roots in the Middle East, examining seminal sources and investigating key avatars of alchemy—of both ancient and more recent times—and what precisely they were trying to achieve. Alchemy has both a practical and a spiritual side. Tobias Churton, writing with his customary eloquence, shines a clear light on both aspects.”

– Christopher McIntosh, author of Occult Russia and Beyond the North Wind

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