Neither Francis Bacon nor Paracelsus claims to be a professional alchemist, however, they both portray a strong defence as to why it is imperative to divulge the mysteries of nature. Both readings assert alchemy as a way of discovering the true forms of things. Paracelsus uses alchemy as a reference point of the past in defence for his use of medicine, whereas Bacon asserts through inductive reasoning that this ‘art of logic’ is how ‘we conquer nature’ (Bacon 1620). What they both get right is their concept of alchemy as an art, and how it is seen as ‘the art of discovery’ (Dawkins 1999). f the divine power.
Bacon has two readings that both discuss the matter of alchemy, however, in diverse ways. Firstly, let us acknowledge his insisting on inductive reasoning. Essentially, Bacon presumes through inductive reasoning several interpretations of nature; he chooses this argumentative approach because of his inferences of the unobserved patterns of the future from particulars observed in the past. He suggests an entirely new system of logic, which is based on induction, rather than on syllogism.
In fact, Bacon rejects proof by syllogism as it ‘operates in confusion and lets nature slip out of our hands’ (Bacon 1620). Through alchemy, we can conquer nature; overcome the ‘difficult and dark things’ (Bacon 1620). What’s more is the role he suggests of observational experiment as prerequisites for the construction of scientific theory (Bacon 1620). Paracelsus, on the other hand, convinces us that alchemy is ‘nothing, but the art, which can separate the useful from the useless, and transmute it into its final substance and its ultimate essence’ (Paracelsus 1951).
He deduces that, without alchemy, there would not be medicine. So we can conclude that when he defends alchemy, he defends medicine, rather than the revelation of the mysteries of nature. In his guide, Bacon discusses how we can teach our minds to be receptive to truth and how our minds can invoke illusions, perceptual illusions – idols of the tribe (Mulder 2000)that are inherent in the nature of the intellect itself. Our senses are how we inspect and analyse the nature of this real world (Bacon 1620), and it is within our subconsciousness that we devise things in certain ways.
Our senses affect the way in which we perceive shapes, colours and metals. Whereas Paracelsus talks about physical changes, like from lead to gold. Did he then consider himself to be a ‘natural magician’, who explored the secrets of nature(Gal 2013)? Moreover, he notes the mysteries of nature and how alchemy attempts to reveal and ‘brings to light’ (Paracelsus 1951) what is hidden. There is physical transmutation, an experience, which leads to the unveiling of truth and disproves mystery.
What we also should take into consideration is the role of God and how His influence has affected their respective analysis In Bacon’s The Making of Gold, he addresses the negative view on alchemy due to incorrect implementation. He notes that if done in a proper manner with axioms, then it would work and people would be more accepting of it. Similarly, Paracelsus believes his medicine is the only way to recognize and overcome diseases. ‘Physicians who say that the prescriptions (he) writes are poison’ (Paracelsus 1951), are lacking in understanding of natural forces.
The mysterium of nature created by God is implemented through alchemy. As a consequence, are alchemists seen to be meddling with God’s creation? If they are, it is supposedly both futile and heretical, and we’ll say: dangerous. Indeed God tasks man with completing his natural creation, for ‘man is nature’s agent and interpreter’(Bacon 1620), however, can we say the transmutation of base metals to gold is a way for mankind to alter the ways of God’s creation, perhaps even replace God’s intentions?
For example, the ‘spirit of metal be quickened, and the tangible parts opened’(Bacon 1627) leads to the revelation of gold, hence the alchemist reveals great virtues that ‘lie hidden in nature’(Paracelsus 1951). Here, Bacon presents us with two types of worlds in his Guide to the Interpretation of Nature; nature, free and unconstrained, and nature, confined and harassed when forced from its own condition by art and human agency (Bacon 1627).
Essentially, Bacon argues that nature is more likely to reveal its full potential through the ‘harassment of art’, rather than in ‘her own proper freedom’(Bacon 1627). Although Paracelsus asserts that alchemy is indispensable, Bacon accepts the understanding of nature that upheld the theoretical principles of alchemy (Linden 1974). He embraced a similarity of sorts, but one divested in the tremendously complicated system of analogies (those referencing God, included) adopted by Paracelsus and the magicians.