Mining, Metallurgy and the Meaning of Life

A Book of Stories

Roger Sworder

San Rafael, CA: Sophia Perennis, 2009.
180 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59731-085-7
Price: $18.50 US
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Do you earn your living doing what you love? Or do you work to pay for something else—family, hobby, holiday? The meaning of work has changed radically over the last few centuries. In Classical and Mediaeval times, most kinds of work were sanctified, their methods and materials the gifts of God. Work was a form of prayer. Take mining and metallurgy. The Greeks and Romans consecrated these crafts to Hephaestus or Vulcan and to the Gods of the earth. Then the Church made Barbara and Dunstan their saintly patrons, on whom miners and metalworkers could call in danger or difficulty. But the Puritans rooted out this patronage as unwarranted by scripture, and the Industrial Revolution eroded still further the notion that work is sacred and inwardly meaningful. This desecration of work from the Reformation onwards has demoralised us, however wonderful our machines. And with the desecration of work came the violent desanctification of nature at the hands of those same Puritans. This book follows the sacred history of mining and metallurgy over three millennia in scripture, philosophy and folklore. The book distinguishes carefully between Classical, Biblical and Catholic theories of work and between traditional and Protestant work ethics. Both the history and the analysis proceed by means of stories.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:

Preface: City of Gold

Origins: Mining and the Land—Slave Mining and the Right to Work

The Classical Tradition—Homer's Smith God—Prometheus and Arachne—Plato's Theory of Craft

The Biblical Tradition—Greeks, Jews, and Egyptians—Genesis and Exodus—Solomom and Daniel—The New Testament

The Medieval SynthesisThe Sainty Patronage of Mining and Metallurgy—Precious Metals in Church Worship—Christian Alchemy

The Symbol of the Mine—Dragons—Dwarfs

The Desacralization of WorkThe Traditional Work Ethic—The Protestant Work Ethic—Blake and Wordsworth on Work and Nature

Epilogue—The Nuclear Age—Notes—Book Reference

About the Author

Roger Sworder graduated Master of Arts from the University of Oxford, taking his degree in the study of Classical Philosophy and History. He undertook doctoral studies at the Australian National University with a thesis on Plato's theory of knowledge. His second book, Science and Religion in Ancient Greece, is a reconsideration of Odysseus' journey as a path to immortality. Sworder lives and teaches in Bendigo, Victoria, Australia. He is a lecturer in the Department of Arts at La Trobe University, Bendigo. He is a member of a team of lecturers which provides one of the very few courses in traditional studies in the West today. At Bendigo, students are introduced to the earliest phases of our era on the understanding that those people may have understood our common humanity better than we do.