Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Brief History Of Transhumanism 3a

In this part of our series we further explore the pre-scientific efforts at transcending the limits of humanity.
As the Renaissance period emerged in Europe, men felt more open about seeking things that had hitherto been closed to most Christians under the Catholic Church.  But the genie as we say, had been let out of the bottle.
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The Renaissance And The Rediscovery of Alchemy in Europe
With the rediscovery of the in Western Europe of the Arabic writings preserving the works of ancient Greek authors, an awakening took place, especially in Italy.  One of the shining figures of this age was Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.  In his famous book Oration On The Dignity Of Man, Mirandola defended religion, philosophy, natural philosophy and magic.  If there ever was a transhumanist manifesto, this is it.  Apart from the religious foundation he begins with, in regards to Adam and creation story, one must see the foundation of his thought as being of a spirit which places man and not religion at the center of the universe.
...the Great Artisan mandated that this creature who would receive nothing proper to himself shall have joint possession of whatever nature had been given to any other creature. He made man a creature of indeterminate and indifferent nature, and, placing him in the middle of the world, said to him "Adam, we give you no fixed place to live, no form that is peculiar to you, nor any function that is yours alone. According to your desires and judgment, you will have and possess whatever place to live, whatever form, and whatever functions you yourself choose. All other things have a limited and fixed nature prescribed and bounded by our laws. You, with no limit or no bound, may choose for yourself the limits and bounds of your nature. We have placed you at the world's center so that you may survey everything else in the world. We have made you neither of heavenly nor of earthly stuff, neither mortal nor immortal, so that with free choice and dignity, you may fashion yourself into whatever form you choose. To you is granted the power of degrading yourself into the lower forms of life, the beasts, and to you is granted the power, contained in your intellect and judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms, the divine."
We include a video of his portion of Mirandola's book recited and annotated by professors of the renaissance.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

Paracelsus &  Nicholas Flamel
Paracelsus otherwise known as Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, was a Swiss renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist astrologer and occultist.  Paracelsus, famous for many notable achievements in medicine and chemistry, also worked with alchemy creating his famous Elixir Proprietatis, which he claimed "...was to potent as to continue health and long life to the utmost possible limits." He further stated that by using this elixir a man "...should live as long as Methuselah."  That this was widely believed is evident from this ad that was placed in a book published in 1690 in England.

Paracelsus also claimed that this tincture, this universal medicine, this philosopher's stone, was in use by ancient Egyptian priests.
...Paracelsus the Great in his writings constantly reiterates this belief, and claims that some of the primitive Egyptian philosophers lived, by means of a tincture distilled from the Philosopher's Stone for one hundred and fifty years, and that the lives of many had been prolonged several centuries.  'For its power is so remarkable that it extends the life of the body beyond what is possible to its congenial nature, and keeps it so firmly in that condition that it lives on in safety from all infirmities.  And although, indeed, the body at length comes to old age, nevertheless, it still appears as though it were established in its primal youth.  The Tincture of the Philosophers is a Universal Medicine, and consumes all diseases, by whatsoever name they are called, just like an invisible fire.  The dose is very small, but the effect is very powerful.'
Home of Nicholas Flamel
Nicholas Flamel  (1330-1418)  This rather obscure Parisian notary and book seller is believed to have met with a Jewish Kabbalist alchemist named Abraham Eleazar.  This lastly mentioned individual is believed by most to be a totally fictitious character.  It is generally believed that the acknowledged editor of the book ascribed to Eleazer is the true author.  This argument however, has been disproven by Raphael Patai in his book titled, The Jewish Alchemists: A History And Source Book.  Flamel is credited with the writing of on alchemical book titled Exposition of the Hieroglyphicall Figures.

According to one account, Flamel had a dream in which an angel appeared to him and showed him a book which he said Flamel would one day understand.  As the angel was to hand him the book Flamel awoke from the dream.  Sometime later a stranger came into his book shop and showed him this very same book which Flame purchased.  This was manuscript was titled, The Book by Abraham The Jew.  For 21 years, Flamel tried to interpret the book to no avail.    Flamel eventually made a vow to St. James of Compostela and made the pilgrimage to Spain also for the purpose of conferring with Spanish Jewish Kabbalists who might help him interpret the book.  After this trip, when he returned to France, he became rich.  So rich that he was able to establish many charities and hospitals for the poor.  Some of these organizations exist in France to this day.  He also is claimed to developed the elixir of life, which according to the stories about him allowed him to avoid death and prolong his life indefinitely.
Cardinal Richelieu

The book that was given to Flamel has an interesting history.  He left in his will to his will to his nephew Perrier.  This last will was republished in France in 1750.  This Book by Abraham the Jew passed through the families hands from father to son for 200 years.  As to what became of the book no one knows for sure.  There is an interesting encounter with this book and one of the most powerful men in France in the 1600s - Cardinal Richelieu.
A descendant of Flamel, named Dubois, who must still have possessed a supply of the projection powder, threw off the wise reserve of his ancestor and used the powder to dazzle his contemporaries. In the presence of the King, he changed leaden balls with it into gold. As a result of this experiment, it is known he had many interviews with Cardinal de Richelieu, who wished to extract his secret. Dubois, who possessed the powder but was unable to understand either Flamel's manuscripts or the book of Abraham the Jew, could tell him nothing and was soon imprisoned at Vincennes. It was found that he had committed certain offences in the past, and this enabled Richelieu to get him condemned to death and confiscate his property for his own benefit. At the same time the proctor of the Chitelet, no doubt by order of Richelieu, seized the houses that Flamel had owned and had them searched from top to bottom. Through whatever means, it is believed Richelieu took possession of the book of Abraham the Jew. He built a laboratory at the Chateau of Rueil, which he often visited to read through the master's manuscripts and to try to interpret the sacred hieroglyphs. On the death of the cardinal, all traces of the book were lost, or rather, all traces of the text, for the diagrams have often been reproduced. Indeed, the book must have been copied, for it is recorded in the seventeenth century that the author of the Tresor des Recherches et Antiquites Gauloises made a journey to Milan to see a copy which belonged to the Seigneur of Cabrieres. In any case, the mysterious book has now disappeared. Perhaps a copy or the original itself rests under the dust of some provincial library.
Volume 1 of Lucas'
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As for Flamel's death, here is the information we have.  Paul Lucas physician to King Louis XIV writes in a book titled, Voyage dans la Turquie, published in 1719 that Flamel was still alive at that time.
At Broussa Paul Lucas made the acquaintance of a kind of philosopher, who wore Turkish clothes, spoke almost every known language and, in outward appearance, belonged to the type of man of whom it is said that they " have no age." Thanks to his own cultured presence, Lucas came to know him fairly well, and this is what he learned. This philosopher was a member of a group of seven philosophers, who belonged to no particular country and traveled all over the world, having no other aim than the search for wisdom and their own development. Every twenty years they met at a pre-determined place, which happened that year to be Broussa. According to him, human life ought to have an infinitely longer duration than we admit; the average length should be a thousand years. A man could live a thousand years if he had knowledge of the Philosopher's Stone, which, besides being knowledge of the transmutation of metals, was also knowledge of the Elixir of life. The sages possessed it and kept it for themselves. In the West, there were only a few such sages. Nicolas Flamel had been one of them. Paul Lucas was astonished that a Turk, whom he had met by chance at Broussa, should be familiar with the story of Flamel. He was still more astonished when the Turk told him how the book of Abraham the Jew had come into Flamel's possession, for hitherto no one had known this.
As shocking as this conversation was so far, Lucas writes even more amazing things,
“Abraham the Jew was a member of our group," the man told him. "He had determined not to lose sight of the descendants of his brothers who had taken refuge in France. He had a desire to see them, and in spite of all we could do to dissuade him he went to Paris. He made the acquaintance there of a rabbi who was seeking the Philosopher's Stone, and our friend became intimate with the rabbi and was able to explain much to him. But before he left the country the rabbi, by an act of treachery, killed our brother to get possession of his book and papers. The rabbi was arrested, convicted of this and other crimes and burned alive. The persecution of the Jews in France began not long afterwards, and they were expelled from the country. The book of Abraham was sold to Flamel by a Jewish man who did not know its value and was anxious to get rid of it before leaving Paris. Having discovered the Philosopher's Stone, Flamel was able to remain alive in the physical form he possessed at the time of his discovery. Pernelle's and his own funerals and the minute care he bestowed on the arrangements for them had been nothing but clever shams.”
This Turk continued to explain to Lucas things that we are sure he could hardly believe,
But the most amazing thing that Paul Lucas heard was the statement made by the Turk that both Flamel and his wife Pernelle were still alive! Having discovered the Philosopher's Stone, Flamel had been able to remain alive in the physical form he possessed at the time of his discovery. Pernelle's and his own funerals and the minute care he bestowed on the arrangements for them had been nothing but clever shams. He had started out for India, the country of the initiates, where he still lived.
According to our source, the publication in France of Lucas' book created a great sensation. Normally we would not mention such a thing, except that Lucas was a highly respected rational person.

We include two videos which show some of the sites connected with Flamel's existence.  There has been a series of fiction books written using him as a fictional character.  Of course the Harry Potter first series the Philosopher's Stone deals with Flamel.  If you cannot see the embedded video here is the link:

In part 3b we continue with the stories of others who have been believed to have lived for long periods of time.

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