David Gordon White
University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Paperback, 595 pages
Fluid and Fiery
An absolutely phenomenal work and perhaps the most in-depth study of its kind to address the historical traditions and alchemical practices of the Siddhas. Siddha means realized, perfected one and there were numerous and various Siddha sects throughout India. The predominate focus of this study are the Nath Siddhas (masters of hatha yoga mainly from northern Indian) and the Rasa Siddhas (alchemists of medieval India) who were closely linked in their esoteric practices.
The significant properties and the uses of the "fluid element" mercury and the "fiery element" sulfur are examined in detail as are the uses of semen, menstrual blood, and sexual secretions. The author traces the historical interactions and influences of Taoist and Tibetan alchemy and the trade of mercury through China, Tibet and India via the Silk Road. A wide assortment of topics are examined including but not limited to tantric alchemy, hatha yoga, ayurveda, vedic sacrifice, cinnabar, rejuvenation and longevity.
There is an amazing wealth of detailed data within these 500 plus pages representing over 20 years of the author's research and study. And to his further credit, David Gordon White had the great fortune of having Mircea Eliade help him with the publishing of his first article on alchemy.