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Axel Hughes
Axel Hughes

Alchemy Deciphered

What can we learn from historical ciphers? Cryptology experts have just scratched the surface of early-modern encryption practices. Much secret alchemical knowledge remains uncovered from a time when making gold and extending the natural limit of life was believed possible through alchemy.

Alchemy Deciphered

The Fullmetal Alchemist universe is a very interesting one. Governed by alchemy, the anime's events are both intriguing and frightening. A marriage of science and ancient theory, alchemy is more akin to science as opposed to magic, despite its magical-looking aesthetic.

There are various forms of alchemy practiced throughout the anime by its many characters. Colonel Roy Mustang practices Flame Alchemy, a fire-based form. With the snap of his fingers, Mustang is able to utilize flames as he sees fit. There is a lot to be unpacked about Flame Alchemy, so what does this form entail?

Berthold Hawkeye, Riza Hawkeye's father, is the man who taught Mustang the fundamentals of alchemy. Hawkeye never obtained his alchemist's license, despite his vast knowledge on the subject. He completed his research in Flame Alchemy, the most powerful form of alchemy there is. He has a dislike for the military, even being disappointed in Mustang for joining them. Hawkeye became concerned that if his Flame Alchemy falls into the wrong hands, ill fortune will follow.

Riza had the symbol tattooed onto her back by her father. Now, Mustang wears a simplified version of it on his gloves to practice alchemy. Mustang's version of the symbol consists of various triangles within a larger ring. At the top of the ring is a smaller symbol that resembles a small flame.

This assumedly refers to the literal physical form of alchemy that involves fire. At the bottom end of the symbol is a salamander. Salamander loosely translates to "fire lizard" in Greek, therefore this symbol is apt. The animal supposedly has mythological connections to fire, as well.

To orient yourself to the bewildering world of 17th-century alchemy, we recommend you first read our interview with Bill Newman before plunging into the interactive manuscript above. In addition, Newman has provided the following overview:

There is a great moment between them where Edward finally acknowledges that he is his father. After that, Edward says that he is doing the last transmutation for alchemists through his body, and he is taken to another realm. He sees the Portal of Truth, and the spirit there says that every human has the power to use alchemy. He plans to revert to a regular human who cannot use his powers. Edward can reflect on his life and his relationships to understand that there is more to living than being a great alchemist.

You can learn alchemy recipes in the game, and these can be used to make useful potions. One of these is the aforementioned Saviour Schnapps. Alchemy Perks, unlocked as you level up your Alchemy skill, provide you with bonuses, such as more potions produced, a higher sell-on value for potions, and a higher tolerance to mistakes while brewing.

What makes Crystal Tones alchemy singing bowls unique is they are infused with gemstones, minerals, earth substances and precious metals which are amplified through the quartz, creating alchemy tones which are exquisite. The crystalline harmonics open synapses and ignite brain waves, bringing cleansing, clearing and clarity. They build the energetic circuits to house unconditional love: potent, anchored and integrated.

The proper application of this craft requires not only a full understanding of chemistry and ancient alchemical theory, but also a sort of natural talent towards recognizing and manipulating the physical objects with energy, which require uncommon levels of intelligence and aptitude. Those remarkable individuals capable of studying and practicing alchemy are known as "Alchemists".

There are many paths by which alchemists can transmute the various substances of the world, with some alchemists being said to transmute by way of the Four Classical Elements (Water, Earth, Fire, and Air) and some by way of the Three Essential Principles (salt, sulfur, and mercury), but the basic tenet at the very foundation of all alchemy is that of Equivalent Exchange.

Inside the circle are specific alchemical runes. These runes vary widely based on ancient alchemical studies, texts, and experimentation, but correspond to a different form of energy, allowing the energy that is focused within the circle to be released in the way most conducive to the alchemist's desired effect. In basic alchemy, these runes will often take the form of triangles (which, when positioned differently, can represent the elements of either water, earth, fire or air), but will often be composed of varying polygons built from different triangles. For example, the hexagram is a commonly used base rune in Transmutation Circles because it creates eight multi-directional triangles when inscribed and can, therefore, represent all four classical elements at once. Other, more esoteric runes (including astrological symbols, symbolic images and varying lines of text) are prevalent and represent a multitude of other, specific functions for the alchemical energy that is released.

A Transmutation Array is similar to a transmutation circle in that it is used to circulate the energy used in a transmutation. However, unlike a transmutation circle, the runes are not confined to the circumference of the circle and may use the circle only as a small aspect of their function. In some instances, a transmutation array may not even be a circle at all, using different concepts to bring about the circulation or release of the energies involved. Transmutation arrays are often found as full body tattoos on alchemists due to the shape of the human body. It is also possible that the non-cyclical nature of transmutation arrays amplifies the 'destruction' stage of alchemy, as they are seen on places such as Scar's right arm and as a circle in the Grand Arcanum (exclusive to the 2003 series). It is shown in the 2009 anime that reconstruction is also augmented by transmutation arrays as shown with both Scar and his brother's other arms.

Over the nearly 400-year history of alchemy in Amestris, great strides in alchemical research have been made by mixing these runes together to augment their power, converge their results and create entirely new pathways of utilization.

Unfortunately, these experiments have given birth to a dark and sinister side of alchemy. Whether out of despair, malice or inquisitive hubris, several alchemists have been known to attempt the application of transmutation to the human body and/or soul, in essence, playing God with human lives. But, just as the Law of Equivalent Exchange applies to the transmutation of non-living matter, devastating rebounds can occur in Human Transmutation because human lives and souls are priceless according to the flow of the world.

Attempts to bring deceased human beings back to life are the most common practices to be called Human Transmutation and play a significant role in the Fullmetal Alchemist series. Using various experimental theories and methods, multiple alchemists in the manga and anime have endeavored to resurrect dead loved ones, but such pursuits are always failures, forbidden by the flow of the universe and alchemy itself.

In the 2003 anime, the results of Human Transmutation are different. The anime declares that it is possible to bring dead humans back into the living world, but upon being revived, they generally become inhuman Homunculi with the physical appearance and memories of the humans they used to be. Using the Philosopher's Stone or a human life as the material to recall the soul, it is possible to bring back a human as a complete human. Al also implies that it may be possible to complete a preexisting homunculus. If this is done, which is theoretically could be with a Philosopher's stone, (allowing one to survive, creating a homunculus and to attach a soul to it) it is unknown if the now complete homunculus will be a full human thus able to perform alchemy, age, and die easily, or not.

Chimeric Alchemy is a branch of bio-alchemy that seeks to alchemically "marry" two dissimilar life forms into a new creature, but even though this science skirts the line of playing God, the prohibition of Human Transmutation forbids alchemists from incorporating human beings into the practice of chimera production. However, there are alchemists who flout this decree and step across the threshold into monstrous experimentation. Shou Tucker, the Sewing-Life Alchemist, was the first recorded alchemist to successfully create a Human Chimera, passing his crime off as a full-animal chimera capable of human speech until his second attempt was exposed to the military, but (as with Soul Binding) the Amestrian government has also been experimenting with this, having created several human-animal hybrids of increasing versatility.

In the manga, alchemy is said to have been taught to Amestrians over 350 years prior to the start of the series by a mysterious man known as The Philosopher from the East and is explained to harness the diastrophic energy that is released from the movement and collision of tectonic plates deep within the Earth's crust to power transmutation. As practitioners of Alkahestry understand alchemy differently, they are able to sense that the source of Amestrian alchemy's power is not diastrophic energy, but more akin to the movement of many, many human beings, suggesting that the origins of alchemy may, in fact, be rather sinister. It is revealed late in the series that, while the earthen energy source does exist, alchemy in Amestris is actually powered by Philosopher's Stone energy, being fed through a nationwide network of underground tubes from Father's body into the earth between the surface and the crust to act as a barrier between Amestrian alchemists and the true energy. Additionally, the ancient nation of Xerxes appears to have had an advanced understanding of alchemy that mirrors, but may be different from, the contemporary Amestrian understanding. 041b061a72


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