Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007. Paperback, xviii+596 pages. New.
Despite the revival of interest in Alchemy as a discipline and subject of historical analysis, there has hitherto been little focus on Indian alchemical traditions. David Gordon White’s The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India is therefore a welcome addition to the understanding of alchemical traditions in South Asia and beyond. Working from a body of previously unexplored alchemical sources – in particular the medieval Siddha traditions, White demonstrates for the first time that the disciplines of alchemy and hatha yoga shared common elements and practitioners, and that they can only truly be understood when examined together. Pointing the way towards new understandings of Indian mysticism, be it Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Islamic and Tantric, The Alchemical Body shows how central alchemical practices were in precolonial India, and traces its development from the Vedas to the modern age. This is a ground-breaking work which will interest anyone with an interest in Indian history and esoteric traditions.