Bīrūnī, Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad, Alberuni's India (v. 1)

(London :  Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co.,  1910.)

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CHAPTER  XVII.

ON   HINDU   SGIENCKS   WHICH   PKEY   ON   THE
IGNOEANGE   OF  PEOPLE.

We understand by witchcraft, making by some kind of On alchemy

-,,.                 .                                                                         ,.,.„     among the

delusion a thing appear to the senses as something dif- Hindus in
ferent from what it is in reality. Taken in this sense,
it is far spread among people. Understood, however. Page 92.
as common people understand it, as the producing of
something which is impossible, it is a thing which
does not lie within the limits of reality. For as that
which is impossible cannot be produced, the whole affair
is nothing but a gross deception. Therefore witch¬
craft in this sense has nothing whatever to do with
science.

One of the species of witchcraft is alchemy, though
it is generally not called by this name. But if a man
takes a bit of cotton and makes it appear as a bit of
gold, what would you call this but a piece of witch¬
craft ? It is quite the same as if he were to take a bit
of silver and make it appear as gold, only with this
difference, that the latter is a generally-known process,
i.e. the gilding of silver, the former is not.

The Hindus do not pay particular attention to al¬
chemy, but no nation is entirely free from it, and one
nation has more bias for it than another, which must
not be construed as proving intelligence or ignorance;
for we find that many intelligent people are entirely
given to alchemy, whilst ignorant people ridicule the
art and its adepts.    Those intelligent people, though
  Page 187