What is Alchemy?

In my dissertation to Flamel College, I attempted to describe what alchemy was by eliminating what it was not. Alchemy, along with Hermeticism and Gnosticism, is one of the three manifestations of Western Esotericism. These three streams of thought manifested in the West at the end of the Egyptian era, and would give rise to the Grail Mysteries later on. 

In my paper, I argued that although there are resemblances, alchemy cannot be adequately equated to modern science, a craft, an art, or a religion as we know and understand them today. From my vantage point, alchemy is much, much more. 

In Western cultures, alchemy is best perceived as a remnant, or a golden thread, if you will, that snakes it way through cultural history, i.e., European, Islamic, Early Christian, Greek, Egyptian, ancient Mesopotamian cultures, and to the shamanic and blacksmith traditions of antiquity. Thus, alchemy not only leads to the symbolic foundations of human knowledge, it reorients one’s perception towards awareness of the origin of the generation of things that was fully understood in antiquity. R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz describes this knowledge as a Sacred Science of Antiquity.

Sacred Science, or the Science of Thoth (who symbolizes the Universal Mind), includes religious ritual, medicine, geometry, astronomy, the laws of everyday life, justice, and which was taught within the House of Life. In this house, which symbolized the Cosmic Man in the terrestrial man or the Anthropocosmic Doctrine, the “secret of becoming” was taught. This secret encompassed the genealogy of archetypes, their attributes and relation to Nature, the composition of matter and its various forms, what animates these forms, and the irreducible expression of spirit, soul, and body.

Essentially, alchemy leads to the Philosopher’s Stone, and the process of consciously seeking it is the Great Work of Transmutation, the Magnum Opus. This Stone is “unspecified” and does not belong to mineral, plant, or animal kingdoms. Yet, not only does it animate the mineral. plant, and animal kingdoms, it is the universal medicine for the human body that eliminates all impurities leaving only perfect equilibrium. Therefore, when found and correctly applied, it leads to the liberation from suffering of the mortal condition.

However, the Great Work is only pursued after realizing that we are confronted with a choice . . . do we choose to develop spiritually, which is an internal process of creation; or do we choose to create in the external world, the result of subconscious projection. In the former case, we learn to understand the reason for the fall of man, and in the latter we realize how things become fixated in matter. In either case, “the only guides are analogy and signature”, which has given cause for R. A. de Lubicz to state:

“This fact has led to the establishment of ‘analogical tables’ such as the zodiac and planetary relationships with metals and, further, with the various parts of the human body and with plant and animal types. This is not a whimsical fantasy or even simply a conclusion based on coincidences observed over a long period of time: there does exist a science based upon Numbers that reveals the reason for these coincidences.”

Consequently, “what alchemy is” is a golden thread leading to the Magnum Opus and the Philosopher’s Stone. It is a gift that has been preserved from antiquity, with its core knowledge symbolized in the Great Pyramid. Alchemy, which is the father of astrology, numerology, and magic, guides one through modern science, the perception of it being a craft, the arts, and religion; it is one of the preeminent guides in the eternal quest for self-realization. Essentially, “what alchemy is” is a process for reorienting one’s perception towards how matter is generated, the source from which it comes, and the essence of reality.

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