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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/468

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the modern chemist makes impossible his consideration of the alchemist's search, we may note how far the inherent constitution of the elements, to say nothing of their possible transmutation, has eluded his most ultimate analysis. How immeasurably farther it was removed from the grasp of the alchemist can hardly be expressed. But this is a scientific and not an occult view of the matter; it was not by progressive training in marksmanship that the occultist hoped to send his arrows to the stars. His was a mystic search for the magical transmutation, the elixir of life or the philosopher's stone. One might suppose that once the world has agreed that these ends are past finding out, the alchemist, like the maker of stone arrow-heads, would have found his occupation gone and have left no successor. His modern representative, however, is an interesting and by no means extinct species. He seems to flourish in France, but may be found in Germany, in England and in this country. He is rarely a pure alchemist (although so recently as 1854 one of them offered to manufacture gold for the French mint), but represents the pure type of occultist. He calls himself a Rosicrucian; he establishes a university of the higher studies and becomes a Professor of Hermetic Philosophy. His thought is mystic, and symbolism has an endless fascination for him. The mystic significance of numbers, extravagant analogies of correspondence, the traditional hidden meanings of the Kabbalah fairly intoxicate him; and verbose accounts of momentous relations and of unintelligible discoveries run riot in his writings. His science is not a mere Chemistry, but a Hyper-Chemistry; his transmutations are not merely material but spiritual. Like all followers of an esoteric belief, he must stand apart from his fellow-men; he must cultivate the higher 'psychic' powers so that eventually he may be able by the mere action of his will to cause the atoms to group themselves into gold.

The modern alchemist is, however, a general occultist; he may be also an astrologer or a magnetist or a theosophist. But he is foremost an ardent enthusiast for exclusive and unusual loreā€”not the common and superficial possessions of misguided democratic science. He goes through the forms of study, remains superior to the baser practical ends of life, and finds his reward in the self-satisfaction of exclusive wisdom. In Paris, at least, he forms part of a rather respectable salon, speaking socially, or a 'company of educated charlatans,' speaking scientifically. His class does not constitute a large proportion of modern occultists, but they present a prominent form of its intellectual temperament. "There are also people," says Mr. Lang, "who so dislike our detention in the prison house of old unvarying laws that their bias is in favor of anything which may tend to prove that science in her contemporary mood is not infallible. As the Frenchman did not care what