A Thematical Study of the Significance of Imagination for the Alchemical Project

In this project the aim is to identify and philosophically analyze and evaluate the significance of imagination for the emergence and development of the Alchemical project, from the Middle Ages to the present. By using the term “the Alchemical project” I want to emphasize that it is not a matter of a regular historical review of the current time periods. The intention is rather (a) to capture central ideas, basic concepts and philosophical themes underlying the phenomenon of alchemy, and (b) to study how these ideas, concepts and themes develop during different time periods. (You may compare it to how the term “the scientific project” is used in the history of science).

Alchemy is often described as a protoscience which laid the foundation for scientific chemistry. However, this kind of understanding is problematized by contemporary scholars who accentuate the difficulty of drawing a line between spiritual alchemy (a spiritual technique) and material/scientific alchemy (where refinement of natural substances is the proclaimed goal).

Thereby, the project is connected to the debate concerning potential contact surfaces and/or contrasts between the areas of science and religion, respectively. The study is guided by a problem formulation that focuses on what role imagination might have played for the emergence and development of alchemy as both a scientific and a spiritual and esoteric phenomenon.

The project is connected to two different areas: on the one hand, philosophical and esoteric theories about imagination and, on the other hand, interdisciplinary studies on alchemy. As a result, I will consider how the phenomenon of imagination is conceptualized from an insider-perspective (the internal conceptual apparatus of alchemy and Western esotericism) as well as from a purely philosophical framework and analysis. In the last case, this includes both philosophical ideas that have influenced the theoretical framework of alchemy as such, and contemporary schools such as philosophy of mind and phenomenology.

The project is funded by the Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation and the Åke Wiberg Foundation.


Dr. Ingrid Malm Lindberg

Project start: Fall 2022

Senast uppdaterad: 2024-02-02