Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)



Advisor/Committee Chair

Patrick Nold

Committee Member

Mitch Aso


This paper explores the life and work of 13th century English Franciscan friar, Roger Bacon in light of the spiritual-religious practice of alchemy. Bacon’s works in pertinence to alchemy reflect his belonging to a school of intellectual thought known as Hermeticism; which encompasses the practice of alchemy. Bacon can be placed among other philosophic practitioners of alchemy throughout history; allowing for expanded insight into the life of this medieval scholar. Throughout history, Bacon’s most well-known work, the Opus Majus, has been interpreted in a variety of ways. However, when considering what the practice of alchemy is at its Arabic roots, the sometimes vague and perplexing character of Roger Bacon becomes less elusive. Bacon has been called both a magician and a scientist as a result of the obscureness in his work; this paper explores the underlying motives Bacon had in constructing the Opus Majus. Roger Bacon expressed that sapientia or "divine wisdom" could be systematically obtained by following the revised scholastic curriculum he outlined in the Opus Majus. What is this sapientia? Where did Bacon get this idea? And why did Bacon work tirelessly to prove its efficacy to Pope Clement IV? This paper sets out to provide a deeper look into the place that alchemy held in Bacon’s life and the reasons he wished to integrate it into the Christian learning curriculum at the universities of Paris and Oxford.

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