Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose practitioners have, from antiquity, claimed it to be the precursor to profound powers. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied, but historically have typically included one or more of the following goals: the creation of the fabled philosopher’s stone; the ability to transform base metals into the noble metals (gold or silver); and development of an elixir of life, which would confer youth and longevity.
Alchemy differs significantly from modern science in its inclusion of Hermetic principles and practices related to mythology, magic, religion, and spirituality. It is recognized as a protoscience that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine. Alchemists developed a structure of basic laboratory techniques, theory, terminology, and experimental method, some of which are still in use today.
Alchemy can be a confusing subject for those who think in the literal sense. If you were to view it poetically, it could simply be viewed as turning a negative into a positive. A principle that finds its root in magick, yet can be applied in your daily life, by viewing the negative occurrences as lessons to be learned.
The goal of the alchemist, is to apply this pattern of thinking toward all aspects of your life. Through your experiences, in seeking enlightenment, you find that coincidences have a deeper meaning in guiding you to your own personal truth. In a sense, it comes down to perspective, and when you reprogram the pattern of your thinking, you can find your own “philosopher’s stone”, which allows you to apply that pattern to all instances and find a deeper understanding.
Now, whether or not an alchemist can turn lead into gold is something that will always be up for debate. When you look at the historical nature of alchemy, you find that it holds a more spiritual role in the esoteric and hermetic traditions. It seems to reflect a shift in consciousness from the physical to nonphysical realms, which is why they relied heavily on their dreams to guide them to perfect their ‘Art’.
The goal of the alchemist is spiritual purification and transformation of the soul into their physical being, by understanding the divine nature within, and the unification with their body. The alchemists worked to purify themselves by eliminating the “base” material of the self and achieving the ‘gold’ of enlightenment. The adept must work to expand their consciousness, in order to further develop their insight and intuition. The wisdom they attained through experience, and the manipulation of all things in the physical plane, which would then allow them to transcend this realm and understand the immortal nature of their spirit.