Alchemic imagery is half the answer to its practices.
is one of our most mysterious ancient practices. Alchemy has been with us for over 7,000 years with its believed origins to have been
with the Egyptians approximately 5,000 BC.
Most of us easily recognize alchemy as being the method in which to obtain the philosophers stone, turning base metals into gold and, finally,
reaching an immortality. This is where the confusion seems to lay, especially when you actually start to take a good long look at the imagery involved
Most of its practice, methods and equipment have particular attributes that join the physical and spiritual worlds into one. So everything has a name
and a specific purpose. The other major part of Alchemy is the observation of everything around you.
Today, alchemy has evolved into many sub-groups such as chemistry, medicine, anatomy, biology, astronomy and astrology, metallurgy and various other
modern practices. Looking at the imagery you will also notice how many of its symbols are now being used by many secret societies and even public or
The image posted above is an example of how to 'look' at what's really being said in Alchemy. It's also a bit of a brain tease when you first see
what's there, but the more you learn about alchemy, the more the pictures make sense.
Firstly, please note a few, almost religious, images. The leaves on the bush are actually alchemic representations of the Sun, and this image can only
lead to an idea of a 'burning bush' (sound familiar?). Then you have the serpent(s) (notice how the feminine side of the body holds one serpent).
One body with a male and female head conjoined (Eve was created from a portion of Adam). The wings don't particularly look 'Heavenly' in any way,
but it does conjure ideas of an angel, yet this isn't the case. You now have the masculine Lion and the Feminine Swan. These two are purely imagery
to show the attributes associated to Human male and females. Then there is the crown holding both the heads together. In biblical terms, this can
represent only one thing; Genesis, C3 V2(King James version): And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:
and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.
Yet in alchemy, this image has another meaning. You need the wood of a tree (or bush) to make fire; you need fire to help you combine all the things
of the Earth to achieve your final goal, the transmutation of the male and female into one being to reach immortality. This can be seen by the person
standing on a rock above all else, having control and mastery of all below, the crown of achievement and the wings that have risen you above.
History and variations
Alchemy is rich with history, covers many cultures and has changed according to each culture's beliefs at the time. It has been practiced in
Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt, Persia, India, Japan, Korea, China, Greece, Rome, in the Muslim civilization, and then in Europe up to the 19th century.
It has been taught and practiced in many schools, some in deep and utmost secrecy in case of accusations of witchcraft or other attributes that may
have offended the cultures God(s) of the time.
Egyptian alchemy began around 5000BC up to 400BC and was picked up by ancient India roughly 1200BC, moved on to Greece in about 330 BC, then the
Chinese took hold of it in 140AD, Islam had a go at around 700AD Finally arriving on European shores around 1300Ad and is still with us to this
One of alchemy's schools was the great library in Alexandria. In France, near the end of the 17th century, a book was published. This book was called
the Mutus Liber or 'wordless book'. Its 15 pages of images and symbols are supposedly the method and way to obtaining the philosophers stone, the
first great step towards the final goal. Carl Jung saw alchemy as a study of proto-psychology towards the attainment of individuation. Isaac Newton
spent a vast majority of his time studying and writing on alchemy than he did to any other of his subjects for which he is known.
The images and symbols are far more than what they first appear. They allow the transfer of knowledge without the use of words. But you have to know
what most of the imagery represents to be able to fully understand the picture.
To know what the images mean is a study in itself, and then to learn how to do what the images are showing is another grand undertaking. Alchemy was,
and is, not designed for the faint hearted or for those with half a will to achieve. It is for the dedicated few who chose to study its ways, though
in ancient history it may have been openly taught and knowledge freely passed on to initiates just as we do in our school classes today with various
Expansion Of Images
By looking at the numerous symbols in images, you'll find that many are still used today to represent the Sun, planets, places, tools and physical
and spiritual manifestations. You'll also notice that there are a large number of these symbols that have been adopted by corporations and secret
societies. In one example you can see the Alembic symbol from alchemy being mirrored as the compass and square used in freemasonry images. The
alchemic symbols for day and night closely resemble the symbols for male and female.
If you've ever held a test tube or almost any other form of science lab kit, then you have been using, holding or seeing the exact types of vessels
seen in lots of images of method in alchemy. You have touched upon one of mans oldest practices.
Into The Occult
As you will see, many symbols touch on the realms of the occult and the dark arts. Yet some also creep into several major religions. How the two
different sets have split and gone into the idea of dark and light forces, or good against evil and heaven and hell, only history can uncover. Yet
this just gives you more insight into the forces at work behind the full alchemy process and what each symbol means. It is all part of the 'one'.
You can't have death without life and death brings life to something else. What is above, as is below, day and night, right and wrong, black and
white. All part of a balance and spiritual nature that alchemy has recognized.
The Inner Workings
Improving the Metals
The easiest way to explain the principle behind alchemy is to take a piece of green wood. Heat it in a flame and water will begin to ooze out,
therefore it obviously contains the element 'water'. Heating it still and the water turns to steam, so the wood must also contain the element of
'air'. Heat it still and the wood flashes into flame and burns, hence it containing the element of 'fire', eventually for the wood to turn to
ashes and show its obvious connection with the element of 'earth'. This principle gave the early alchemists the foundation of their work. If a
simple piece of wood contained all parts of everything that surrounds us, then so should everything else and by fine-tuning any material we may find
around us we can, therefore, transmute any material into another.
The trick was to find the exact perfect mixing of several materials into another to bring about a change. The main goal was to improve your current
stock, so turning steel to gold was an obvious improvement of the metal. In alchemy, this was not a get rich scheme; this was an act of self growth,
expansion and understanding.
The process itself used various methods which are burning, calcination, solution, evaporation, distillation, sublimation and crystallization. All that
and you may still not get it right. Then along came the sulphur-mercury addition. This was basically two opposed elements, for example fire and water,
one was hot and dry, the other cold and moist. Sulphur generally became related to fire and mercury related to the fusibility of metals.
If the proportions and purity of sulphur and mercury were perfect then the obvious resulting blended product would be gold but the results most often
reported were of silver, tin, lead, iron or copper. Therefore, the mixing and blending process may be refined and perfected by the use of elixirs.
Alchemy is by no way a safe 'trade' to get into, particularly back in its origins. The testing and experimentation of some elixirs were highly
dangerous in more ways than one. The constant use of, or wrong combinations of particular drinks or medications for spiritual insight, in the belief
that the alchemy must include the alchemist for success, would often result in death. Either through poisoning or falling over in your workshop whilst
hallucinating and falling into your furnace. There was also the danger of your experiment going wrong, again from incorrect mixing of volatile
substances or equipment breaking and even over cooking, were all parts of the trade.
The 'wine known to few of our sons' was mostly to blame.
Amazingly, if you don't die, you might go mad instead and several drawings refer to 'this science requires a philosopher, not a madman' whilst
others describe alchemists climbing Jacob's ladder, and as they get higher, they occasionally see a fellow tradesman falling to his death in flames
to become ashes on the ground. An inscription reads 'It depends not only on mans industry: the ability and the urge are all in all in god's
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