The Science of Divine Alchemy

Description

This treatise, ʻIlm al-ṣināʻah al-ilāhiyah (The science of divine alchemy), is a compilation of several alchemical works. The author is unknown, but the treatise quotes heavily from the works of 15th-century alchemist Ali Bek al-Izniqi, nicknamed al-mu'allif al-jadid (the new author), and also known as Ali Chelebi. Other authors quoted include Persian alchemist Aydamar ibn ʻAbd Allah al-Jaldaki (active 1349–61), and Arab-Persian polymath Jabir ibn Hayyan (also known by his Latinized name Geber, circa 721–815). The treatise’s overarching view of alchemy is that it is a spiritual science. Alchemy is defined as a “divine secret” that is inherited from “our father Adam, who passed it on to his sons the wizards and the philosophers of Islam, through the honorable awliya' (saints) and the great prophets.” The work goes on to divide alchemy into two sciences: the elixir, which deals with the “fixing of the corrupted,” and al-mizan (the balance), which deals with the alchemical theory of the balance. The subject of study by both Geber and al-Jaldaki, the theory of the balance maintains that chemical substances cannot react to each other unless they are “balanced” in their composition, a notion that later developed in modern chemistry into Proust's law (the law of definite proportions). Although alchemy is the main focus of the treatise, the work is an amalgamation of several disciplines, including cosmology, numerology, and astrology. The text is in black nastaʻliq, with rubrication indicating attribution, key words, and text sections. The subject of divine alchemy has been historically associated with the theosophy of Twelver Shiism. Given the heavy focus on al-Izniqi, al-Jaldaki, and Geber, it is plausible to assume a Shiite-Persian provenance for this treatise and its unknown author. With al-Izniqi established as a terminus post quem (the earliest possible date), the composition date of the treatise must have been after the 15th century. The date of completion of this copy and the name of the scribe are not given.

Date Created

Subject Date

Language

Title in Original Language

علم الصناعة الإلهية

Type of Item

Physical Description

58 folios : 15 x 8.6 centimeters sheets on 15.2 x 9 centimeters

Institution

References

  1. Henry Corbin, Liadain Sherrard, and Philip Sherrard, History of Islamic Philosophy (London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014).

Last updated: January 10, 2018