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Adam McLean

Adam McLean (1948-) is a well known enthusiast and authority on alchemical texts and symbolism. In 1978 he founded the Hermetic Journal which he published until 1992 during which time he also started publishing the Magnum Opus Hermetic Sourceworks, a series of thirty two editions (to date) of key source texts of the hermetic tradition. In 1995 he began the Alchemy Website, which provides thousands of pages of texts, articles, bibliographical, historical and scholarly analysis, as well as an extensive library of images found in alchemical books and manuscripts - well over 100 megabytes of information. Originally influenced by depth psychological and esoteric views on alchemy, since the late 1980s McLean has become more focused on a scholarly perspective on the subject. Though an enthusiast and promoter of interest in the various facets of alchemy, he feels that the subject can best be studied using a scholarly methodology, and he now bases his approach entirely on the original manuscripts, texts and imagery of alchemy and not on the wild speculations of the present day esotericists and popularisers.

McLean was born and brought up in Glasgow, in the West of Scotland. Early in his life he developed an interest in chemistry and mathematics which he later studied at University. While at University in 1965-69, he became interested in esotericism and occult spirituality, and began reading the vast tomes of Theosophy, Anthroposophy and related mystical traditions. He was especially drawn to alchemy, though at that time there was little available in print to study. During the early 1970s he studied all these ideas in great depth, and eventually felt able to begin writing and editing the Hermetic Journal. He was fortunate to live near Glasgow, which has the best collection of alchemical books and manuscripts in the world - in the Ferguson Collection in Glasgow University Library and the Young Collection in the University of Strathclyde. McLean became a regular visitor to these collections and so was able from an early age to immerse himself in the original documents.

The more he read the original documents the more he realised that these conflicted with and in no way confirmed the speculations of esotericists, Jungians and the popular writers on such subjects of the late 20th century. In the late 1980s, with the help of a sympathic sponsor he set up the Hermetic Research Trust and briefly located himself in London. This gave him direct access to the many collections located there. Throughout the 1990s McLean was supported by Joseph R. Ritman, the founder of the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica. J.R. Ritman gave McLean the opportunity to devote himself full time to researching alchemy and related areas of study. This was an extremely productive period in which he deepened his knowledge particularly of the manuscript material. In 1995, when the internet moved out of the University sphere towards the individual consumer, McLean saw the opportunity and need to provide an online resource on alchemy and thus the Alchemy web site was created.

During this period McLean was able to devote some time to painting and he has produced (to date) nearly 1000 coloured emblems, from alchemical, mystical, astronomical and emblem books. He has also created a significant number of facsimile oil paintings of alchemical images from manuscripts. He is a practical person, rather than someone entirely immersed in academia or abstractions, even undertaking the bookbinding and production of his works.

From the year 2000 he began to produce a series of study courses on alchemical texts and symbolism (seven to date). Through these McLean provided ways of seeing alchemical symbolism in its proper context rather than projecting modern interpretations upon these images. He also provided in depth readings of major alchemical texts, again placing them in their correct context. As, earlier in his life he had worked with esoteric and depth psychological ideas, he is now very aware of the limitations and seductions of such approaches and the need for clear thinking in order to understand the subtleties of alchemical material.

In the last few years he has also taken an interest in the artwork of modern tarot. He sees the plethora of modern tarot designs as a kind of documentation of our time. He is not interested in the tarot as fortune-telling or even as esoterica, but rather from an art historical approach. He has now gathered one of the best collections of modern tarots as the basis for his studies. Sadly, the artwork of modern tarot is almost entirely neglected by present day art historians and academics and no libraries seem interested in collecting tarot decks as a resource. It is his view that tarot with its thousands of designs should be seen as the emblem books of the late 20th and 21st centuries.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Adam_McLean". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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