Essential Characteristics of Alchemy

The art and science of alchemy has some core tenets that are found throughout any writings on the subject. They are central to the work, whether is is physical alchemy, the kind that led to the modern science of chemistry, or psychological or spiritual alchemy.

Central to all traditions of alchemy is a belief in the essential aliveness of all things. It is not the aliveness of biology but a spiritual and metaphysical quality. All creation is animated by the world soul, the “Anima Mundi”, as it was called by the Greeks. In varying amounts, this archetypal energy is infuses all things with a kind of consciousness and implies in turn that all creation is sacred and precious.

This concept is put forth by Plato.   “…Therefore, we may consequently state that: this world is indeed a living being endowed with a soul and intelligence … a single visible living entity containing all other living entities, which by their nature are all related.”
Timeus, 29/30; 4th century B.C.

Closeup of orange butterfly on yellow blossomAnother element central to alchemy is oneness. Just as Plato ends his statement above with the phrase “which by their nature are all related.”, the connectedness of all things is taken for granted in alchemical thought. An alchemist of any tradition  would have no trouble understanding the “Butterfly Effect” of chaos theory.

Alchemists did not divide up or find separate categories for the phenomena of the universe. Alchemy aimed to transcend time and space and logic. As defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary, synchronicity is

the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (such as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causalityused especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung”

Almost everyone has experienced some kind of uncanny coincidence at least once in their life. C. G Jung investigated these kinds of coincidences at length and his writings are full of references to such events. He is in fact the originator of the word synchronicity. To an alchemist this is quite natural there is no defiance of natural law in these occurances, in fact they are an indication of the true nature of the universe.

Cocoon on bare branchEven people whose only exposure to alchemy is through popular culture like the Harry potter books know the main principle of alchemy is transformation. In most cases this is thought to be the transmutation of base metals into gold but it is much more than that. It is about moving from the base in everything through a series of refinements until the highest level of purity is reached. This idea is where most people can make a connection with alchemy. Almost everyone has something about their world, life or self they would like to improve.

In progressing an alchemist must break out of the bounds of the standard view of objective reality. He must be flexible enough to adapt himself as he progresses and his view of heaven and the universe becomes more accurate and clear and he frees himself from imperfections and limitations. The goal is to be completely in line with nature and by his work for the alchemist to aid in the facilitation of evolution,

In many ways these concepts are difficult to absorb and integrate into a mind conditioned by the world view of industrialized society. Still, they are not totally alien. The scientists searching for a Unified Field Theory, the religious person wanting to serve God, the many people working on causes to make the world a better place have all already incorporated some of these ideas into their lives. Medical pioneers are finding new mind body connections and environmentalists are discovering new ways in which natural systems are related to one another. People want to improve themselves and people experience synchronicity. Moving one step at a time, the art of alchemy is not so difficult to appreciate and learn to work with at all.

Bright white sunburst against deep blue sky

 

About angela1313

I am a cat lover, a writer, and an overextended blogger trying to foster for a cat rescue, finish a Master's degree and rehab a fixer upper house i bought.
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