Michael Sendivogius: The Light of Alchemy
An alchemist imprisoned. The cell does not only contain the man, for with the alchemist travels the work. Hidden within his tattered rags is the key to eternal life. The Magnum Opus. The Philosopher’s Stone. Well, at least, the ingredients. Ingredients not contained within a holding of the church. Luckily for our unfortunate friend, a fellow advocate of the alchemical arts is wandering about this seemingly fictional fortress. The man who would inherit the cryptic formula from the doomed alchemist is Michael Sendivogius, the Light of Alchemy.
If you’re an esteemed alchemist in the late 16th, early 17th century, you can’t hope for a better origin story than Michael Sendivogius. That’s because he made it up, but that’s not the point. This tale gives Sendivogius a distinct characteristic amongst his peers: he is not searching for the stone, he already knows the secret. A bold claim, no doubt, but one that certainly bought him a lot of time. Time is important in alchemy. Who knows how long it will take to make that gold? Also, in order to make gold, you need gold! See how this works well for an alchemist in the King’s Court? Now add the mystique of that comic book origin story, and you can see how Sendivigius was able to manipulate the nature of the art for more time. In some cases, it was required that the gold be heated for nearly a year before it could be purified!
This is not to say that Michael Sendivigius and other alchemist didn’t contribute to the advancement of science and produce actual, tangible results. John Dee, Albertus Magnus, Isaac Newton, and many others that will be featured in the Hall of Heresy are all vital to the fields of science and alchemy. Here’s the kicker: those fields aren’t always mutually exclusive. Sendivigius would cross paths personally with the likes of those just mentioned. In his pursuit of the Great Work, Sendivigius would purify and conjure various acids and metals. He essentially identified the presence of oxygen, that he referred to as “the fruit of life”, 170 years before the element was officially discovered.
Though he couldn’t produce gold, the time and resources that were rendered because of this fictional skill were useful Sendivigious was able to yield scientific results in other fields. Alchemy is the precursor the chemistry. There’s a perfect median a life to call: alchemistry. It is known that alchemy isn’t entirely focused on the transmutation of physical objects,. Without diving into multiple spiritual, magical and religious philosophies in one post, all which stand upon the shoulders of alchemy to some degree, the pursuit of the Great Work, the alchemist true goal is to become enlightened and ascend. To become one. The alchemical union.
Michael Sendivogius was born of the Polish Ostoja Clan, famous for chosen rather than inherited bloodlines. He received his schooling in Vienna, Altdorf, Leipzig, and Cambridge. Sendivogius rose to prominence in the courts of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, who granted him lands in Bohemia and Molavia., and Polish King Sigismund III. This led Sendivogius to be lured to court of Duke Friedrich of Wuerttemberg, where the Duke noted Sendivogius’ claim in his book De Lapide Philosophorum (1604), to have knowledge of the philosophers stone.
Due to his arcane awareness, Michael Sendivogius was imprisoned by the Duke of Wuerttemberg. However, the madness had awarded the magus friends in high places. Emperor Rudolf II, King Sigismund III and a fellowship of Polish Princes marched upon the Duke and Sendivogius was freed. Friedrich would arrange a fake escape, and blamed the folly on his own court alchemist, Heinrich Muehlerfells, who was sentenced to death for the crime.
After living a life of nobility, mystery, intrigue, and serving in the court of Rudolf II for many years, Michael Sendivogius passed on in 1636. Though he died in relative obscurity, the light of alchemy still burns bright many years later.
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