Oct 15. 2022

Alchemy - a science or magic?

What is Alchemy?

Alchemy - a science or magic?

Alchemy is an ancient practice and it combines philosophy with science such as chemistry and physics, and it also intervenes with esoteric branches such as astrology and magic. This practice clashes with contemporary science in many aspects, partly because Alchemy, despite its scientific procedures, is deeply rooted in spirituality. For example, it works with the belief that everything around us contains a universal spirit and is a part of it.

In general, we could say that Alchemists mainly work with the first level of being, including stones, minerals and metals. Alchemists believe that metals are alive and also that base metals (for example, iron) are just imperfect and less spiritually mature forms of noble metals (such as gold). The aim of most medieval alchemists was to turn base metal into noble metal, i.e. to perform chrysopoeia (the term originates from the Greek word khrusopoiia, which means gold-making).

Generally speaking, the common goal of Alchemy is to purify or perfect nature and also humans themselves, where the perfection of humans should have been achieved by creating a philosopher’s stone. That was the Magnum opus of Alchemy, the great work of Alchemy.

Elements and symbols

Alchemy is based on Aristotle's theory that four elements, fire, water, air and earth, combine in countless ways to create everything on Earth. Every one of these elements is associated with certain qualities:
fire (????) - hot and dry, represents the principle of life, motion and action
water (????) - wet and cold, represents the process of transformation and purification
earth (????) - dry and cold, represents groundedness, stability and maturity
air (????) - hot and wet, represents a beginning, changes and also intelligence.

Moreover, there are Three principles of Alchemy of which all matter is composed:
salt (????) represents the body and is a principle of fixity
mercury (☿) represents the spirit and is a principle of fusibility and volatility
sulphur (????) represent the soul and is a principle of inflammability.
Alchemists also believed that all metals are formed from mercury and sulphur, where gold is the most balanced combination of their purest forms.

Alchemy started disappearing with the arrival of modern science. Even though some of its assumptions were proved wrong, some of them are in conflict with the modern understanding of the word, Alchemy; it gave a basis to today's chemistry and is still studied by many people these days.