It would be much more honest to say, ‘See you yesterday.’ For most, it’s what they see.
The word “Alchemy” is an Arabic one although it probably really originated in ancient Egypt. The popular explanation is that it originally meant “the art of the land of Khem”, Khem being the name the Arabs gave to Egypt for it was from Egypt that they acquired their knowledge of this strange science. However, although Alchemy to the average man means the science of transmuting ordinary or base metals into pure gold, to the true Alchemist it has a second and more deeper meaning which was the search for spiritual perfection, the search for the true elixir of life, the revelations of the soul and the secrets of the Cosmos. Thus, although the true Alchemist still endeavored to purify base metal into gold, this was just the outer symbol of the transmutation of his soul from a lower state to an eventual union with the Creator. In actual fact his patient striving and experimenting over the years was indicative of his striving on inner levels towards this spiritual union. The outer and inner work combined to strike a perfect balance of redemption and renewal.
Whenever the word alchemy is mentioned among those who study the occult and mystical, the subject of the miraculous philosopher’s stone often occurs. What is or was this elusive thing? It was certainly not some mystical rock upon which the sage sat and meditated, nor was it some closely guarded tablet inscribed with words of wisdom. The average alchemist of the 14th, 15th and 16th century believed, just as their more mystical colleagues, that the universe was permeated by an all-pervading spirit and that somehow this could be chemically reproduced into a magical substance which not only could transmute ordinary metal into gold but, taken as a medicine would confer immortality and thus was referred to as the elixir of life. It was actually a bit of a paradox as they already were well aware of the immortality of the soul so why go to all the trouble of reproducing an external elixir? Perhaps it was the allure, the very possibility of being able to reproduce that eternality in a liquid form. But of course the true alchemist, the true sage knew that this was an inner process of soul realization and that a material substance could have no real effect. Nevertheless, it was the alchemists who helped to form the basis of chemistry as we know it today. There are in fact many documented cases where the distillations of the alchemical process cured many illnesses and diseases of those times. Alchemy, as a spiritual and profane science was adopted by many well known personalities of the 15th & 16th centuries to name but a few:- Roger Bacon (an incarnation of the Master St Germain) Albertus Magnus, Paracelsus, John Dee, Edward Kelly, and many great thinkers such as Isaac Newton, Descartes and Leibnitz professed a great interest. Naturally, humans being what they are, the idea of being able to change ordinary metal into gold is scoffed at, yet there is no doubt that many of the ancient alchemists possessing the secret did actually achieve this. In the British Museum is a piece of such alchemical gold purported to have been made in 1814.
As to the actual processes involved there is hardly anything available in clearly understood written form being as they were, hidden beneath a vast array of symbolism drawing on astrology, religion and the occult. Alchemists were always concerned in preserving the utmost secrecy about their work and for a very good reason. In the last century one of France’s greatest chemists, Armand Barbault, was able to produce a pure gold liquid purported to be the elixir of life of which the ancients spoke of and it was used to cure the disease of multiple sclerosis. Carl Jung devoted years to the study of its symbols which occurred often in the dreams of his patients and came to the conclusion that these symbols stemmed from a common source which he termed the “collective unconscious”, archetypes of distilled memories inherited from ages past.
The story of alchemy is truly a fascinating one paralleling as it does so much of the spiritual life, of the quest of the soul for at-onement with the God-Head. It is a story of the most amazing and wonderful visions and signified over and over again the duality of spirit and form and their ultimate union, the reconciliation of opposites. It was a fascinating journey of experiment and discovery, a journey and quest which all truth seekers and aspirants towards soul realization are part of. All soul seekers are treading the way of return and are involved indeed in the inner work of spiritual alchemy, of purifying the dross of the lower human nature and transcending or transmuting that lower nature into the higher on a glorious journey of cosmic proportions.
Robert Gresak, South Africa