雅思阅读真题+题目+答案:An Exploration of Alchemy

来源:原创作品 | 2019-12-0212


雅思阅读真题+题目+答案:An Exploration of Alchemy

Alchemy is one of the two oldest sciences known to the world. The other is astrology. The beqinnings of both extend back into the obsaurity of prehistoric times. According to the earliest records extant, both of them were considered as divinely revealed to man so that by their aid he might regain his lost estate.

In spite of what many people may believe, Alchemy is not dead. The practice of Alchemy has continued for more than two millennia, some say it is nearly as old as human civilisation itself. For a time in the Dark Ages, it was also thought to have been dead, but it re-emerged in Western Europe in the twelfth century.Alchemy and its underlying principles have evolved over time, much like the transformation of metals with which it is concerned; it too has transformed into something else.

In Alchemy, the primary aspiration was to change ordinary metals into gold. The secondary aim was to achieve spiritual perfection. The alchemists viewed their work as a melding of spirituality and science. Their belief was that matter has a common soul which alone is permanent, the body, or outward form, being merely a mode of manifestation of the soul and therefore transitory and transmutable

The beginnings of Alchemy can be traced to lthe ancient Egyptian city of Alexandria, which was the acknowledged centre of the intellectual world about 300 BC. But to better understand Alchemy requires a step backward to the timesof Aristotle and Plato, who lived about a century earlier. At that time, there were two opposing views concerning the nature of matter. Aristotle believed that matter is continuous and therefore capable of infinite subdivision, but Epicurus, elaborating the pre-Aristotelian views of Democritus, held it to have a grained or discontinuous structure, consisting of atoms of the same primordial material which differed in their size, shape and form. Aristotle held that the basis of the material world was something called "prime" or "first matter." The embodiment and realisation of the prime matter came through the first stage of form, found.in the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The elements are related by qualities of dry(cold), moist, hot and dry. Each basic element was characterised by, an imbalance in proportion of the basic qualities, so fire was characterised by hot and dry, as water was by cold and wet. Thus, each element could be transformed in another by changing the quality which they share.

A depiction of the four elements blending in universal creation.

Plato ascribed to the theory of the four elements constituting all other substances.He had an idea that the constituting units (particles) of the four elements were based on the geometry of triangles. He considered gold as consisting of homogeneous particles (which today we know is true). Here is an explanation by Plato regarding these four elements

:...out of the elements of this kind, the body of the universe is created, being brought into concord through proportion; and from these it derived friendship, so that coming to unity with itself, it became dissoluble by any force, and save the will of him who joined it. Now the makina of the earth took up the whole bulk of each of these four elements.

The alchemists adopted Aristotle's theories into their art. Early alchemical theories of the origin and changes of matter were based on their interpretation of the four elements as constituents of matter, principally as formulated by Plato and Aristotle. Their reasoning, in attempting to accomplish the feat (of transmutation to gold), was based on their belief in the unity of matter, and in the existence of a potent transmuting agent known as the Philosopher's Stone. The "Philosopher's Stone," which had many other names, was that mystic substance when combined with base metals would remove the impurities of those metals and result in the transmutation to (the pure metal of) gold or silver.

Closely connected to the symbolism of the Philosopher's Stone, was the concept of the Prima Materia, or primary material, which was thought to be a prime, chaotic matter, which might come into actual existence if impressed by "form." In time, the Alchemists came to modify the theory of the four elements, apparently to better suit the model of their pursuit

The books and manuscripts explaining the chemicals and processes were obscure and subject to various interpretations. The symbolic language used was incomprehensible except to an initiated few. It is clear that a majority of these manuscripts are nothing more than cryptic recipes and processes conveyed through intricate drawings and diagrams which are awe-inspiring. Most of the earlier records contain recipes which would be used by the goldsmiths to make gold alloys harder, heavier or more brilliant (in colour). Some of the ingredients used by the alchemists include copper, lead, sulfur, arsenic, urine and bile. They would mix these ingredients together in the proper proportions, then try to remove the "impurities," to be left with gold or silver. Heat was the fundamental requirement of nearly every alchemical process, from distilling dew to smelting lead. Indeed it seems that they tried just about everything.

However, without the technical knowledge and understanding, the alchemists were in effect just "spinning their wheels." They possessed neither the knowledqe of atomic structure nor a refined technical apparatus. Many rumours remain about how this alchemist or that one succeeded in creating or capturing some of this elusive substance, but they all seem to lack any credibility. All of these things and more contributed to its demise.

A sixteenth century physician and alchemist named Parcelsus changed the course of history by insisting that the true goal of Alchemy was finding medical cures. Some of his followers abandoned their search for the Philosopher's Stone and focused on more constructive experiments, resulting in many important discoveries. Then in 1645 the Royal Society of London, a national academy of science, was formed and began to hold weekly meetings. King Charles II inauqurated the group, and it was Robert Boyle, one of the groups' first members, whose published work "Skeptical Chemist" (1661) challenged the long accepted principles of Aristotle's four elements, and the alchemists three. It was the final blow to Alchemy, which came to be replaced by more rigid (and productive) sciences-namely chemistry and physics.


Classify the following statements with A, B, C. D, Eand F.

A Aristotleв

B Epicurus

C Plato

D Parcelsus

E Boyle

F King Charles II1

1. Gold comprises homogeneous particles

2. retargeting the goal of Alchemy to heal rather than change metals into gold

3. publication of "Skeptical Chemist"

4. principle of four elements

5. The universe (proper) was brought into harmony by proportion

6. calling the basis of the

7. material world "prime"7 Matter has discontinuous structure.

Questions 8-9

According to the author, normally alchemists regard their work as a marriage of 8........and 9.......sin word to fill in each blank)



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