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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Quintessence

Quintessence, it's well, quintessential, isn't it? The Fifth Essence, the Fifth Element, Quintessence is quite possibly the force making the universe accelerate, or perhaps it is the antithesis of Dark Matter? Is it an alchymistically condensed and refined, purified distillate of Luminiferous Aether? Does it have something to do with Vacuum Energy or Zero Point Energy? Physics has been very fickle in its love-hate trash it/keep it/rehabilitate it relationship to Quintessence. But that's science for you--always rushing after the latest fad and quick to distance itself from its old friends and pack away the old toys so no one notices them.

But Alchemy never forgot Quintessence. Alchemy is not a game, but rather a tool, a process, and an aspect of Natural Philosophy that was, much like Aether and Quintessence, relegated to the dust-bin next to Astrology, Geomancy and the Doctrine of Signatures.

Quintessence? It never went away. How could it? It's the purest, most perfect essential state of any matter and even if we call it a dozen other names or concoct elaborate mathematics to hide our shame in referring back to concepts bandied about by dodgy old guys with funny little furnaces and an inordinate amount of exotic glassware, so what? Quintessence remains pure, unsullied and rich in potentials and possibilities that have barely been tapped.

An Alchymist develops Quintessence as one of their core endeavors. It is incredibly useful, and is an essential part of developing Philospher Stones, Serums, Sirrups, and other wondrous concoctions, decoctions or distillations that cure ailments, improve performance, and produce incredible effects.

You could say that Quintessence is at the very core of Alchymistry.

But there's no need to blame Paracelsus.

7 comments:

  1. I do like it though that modern theoretical physics at least tries to find a use for this old term. Now if only they could do the same with phligiston. ;)

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  2. I never realized that science was so trend-minded. But thanks to your post on quintessence, it's given me something to think about.

    Thanks for sharing, and it's a pleasure to meet you via the A-Z Challenge!

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  3. @Trey: Phlogiston is fun, we'll have something for you later. Never cared for the Spelljammer version all that much, but that was then. Maybe we'll have to take another look at it now.

    @Jeffrey Beesler: Welcome! Science is very faddish--older theories get deprecated quickly and three different scientists can describe the same exact thing in nearly the same words and more often than not they'll tear each other down before they'll merge their work and cooperate. Science is as driven by marketing-principles as anything else where you have to appeal to the judgement of people who aren't particularly well-versed in your chosen specialty. It's actually quite intriguing to look into the history and the politics behind science. And the personality clashes and feuds are as grand as anything from Art History or politics combined.

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  4. http://swordsandstitchery.blogspot.com/2011/04/yachlli-multi-headed-parasite-of-outer.html
    Could this be what these things are feeding on?

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  5. @ Jeffrey Beesler (and anyone else who might be interested in the history of science) - if you haven't yet, you might want to read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

    @Netherworks - I can't wait to see what you come up with for Phlogiston.

    Who says the Multiverse isn't inherently ironic? On a comment concerning the flammable principle, my captcha was "chill".

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  6. Interesting post. Quintessence sounds like a great theme for a book.
    Great meeting you through the A-Z!

    nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  7. @Needles: Could be...

    @Jennie: Thanks for that link--an excellent suggestion! Phlogiston is in the works...

    @Nutschell: Or a band, or a perfume, or a pizza parlor. The name has gotten a lot of use over the centuries. Glad that you found us. Welcome to the sordid fringes of the netherverse!

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