By Barbara DiBernard
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Extra resources for Alchemy and Finnegans Wake
At its most basic philosophical level, alchemy embodied the reconciliation of opposites; in it such dichotomies as death-rebirth, body-soul, base metal-gold were resolved. This aspect of alchemy also plays a significant part in Finnegans Wake. Alchemical texts contain differing descriptions of the Philosopher's Stone, but most alchemists agree that it is a "medicine" or tincturing agent which, when projected upon other metals, will transform them into gold. In the Splendor Solis, which is referred to in Finnegans Wake, the author Page 4 states that his Stone tinged 1500 parts of silver into gold, and that even larger multiplication followed.
08) shrink with fear at the bellowing of the Mookse, the Pope, and the Church in their militant aspects trying to take over Ireland. Yet, Joyce uses alchemy overall in Finnegans Wake to round out the one-sided Christian dogma and the conscious, rational side of our lives, to compensate for the aspects of life they ignore. As alchemy is the "dream" of Christianity, so Finnegans Wake is the "dream" of our categorized, compartmentalized everyday lives. Whereas in "real life" people are individual, have stable identities, and live in a certain time period, in Finnegans Wake characters are also archetypal, have shifting identities, and are not tied to a specified time period.
By his emphasis on the union of opposites, by his insistence that Finnegans Wake is a rubbish heap yet a work of art, Joyce returns to the unified alchemical tradition and to a view of the universe in which the stars, human beings, animals, metals, and stones are related to and influence each other. Joyce did not "believe" in alchemy, but he believed in the necessity for integrating the physical and the spiritual. Joyce's art is both literal and symbolic, concerned with the details of everyday life, yet mythical and archetypal.
Alchemy and Finnegans Wake by Barbara DiBernard