Relevance of Alchemy

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I would like to hear from others on the list about how they feel about the significance of the study of alchemy today. Is it a personal issue and/or a professional or scholarly matter, etc.? Why bother?

Hoping this contributes to the discussion,

From: "Jon Marshall"

I suspect few are going to answer this question, precisely because alchemy is in some sense impersonal.

But alchemy is used as a metaphor, or said to be about: chemistry, energy meditation, sexual magic, mysticism, medicine, moral improvement, naive psychology and so on, Bernard Bovasso has implied, not unenlighteningly, its similarity to abstract art, and I once briefly corresponded with a gentleman who regarded them prima materia as space (everywhere present, but nowhere valued) and argued that alchemy was a subset of architecture.

Thus I suspect we have many reasons here for involvement with `alchemy'- perhaps this wideness helps its appeal.

Me, I'm an academic, an anthropologist- no adept. My M.A. thesis was on the history of alchemy in England and its relation to the politics of discourse (yes, yet another version- did you know of the apparent tendency of alchemists to be social radicals?).

Why alchemy/ Well as Rr Rosen pointed out it seems to be the last time that we in the West did not make the split between material and mystical complete. Alchemy dissolves that gap. That is one of its obvious relevances. It does not abandon our traditions but reforms them.

At another level i can't say why alchemy appeals it just does, it is important to me for reasons that are not entirely clear.

So it is a professional, political and personal matter here....

But enough waffle..


From: (Tom McRae)

The fact that there is a resurgence of interest in alchemy seems to indicate more and more people are finding some relevance in the Royal Art.
Seen as a means 'to make gold' it is of scant importance. When seen as it was intended by the Ancients as a means of spiritual transformation, alchemical studies, both theoretical and practical, can be of as much importance to the practitioner in the 1990's as they were in ancient times.

Beannachd leat

Tom Mc Rae.


I agree very much with Jon Marshall's reply, that there is a sort of universal appeal, and that there are numerous applications for the alchemical model of the universe.

My personal interests are in using laboratory alchemy to effect a change in
I have worked continually since 1982 in this area, in the mineral and plant realms, in areas written about by Flamel, Hollandus, Becker, Valentine, and others. This was stimulating intellectually, a challenge in terms of technique, and so on. It began to help evolve an increased awareness of nature, as I began to integrate some of the alchemical ideas and world view into my thinking.

About 2 years ago, I experienced another phenomenon which added a new dimension for me. I will attach excerpts from an article that I am publishing in a newsletter which is related to this.

I omit the beginning of the article which relates a legendary story in which Jacques Bergier was visited by a man whom he thought to be Fulcanelli. That this was probably not Fulcanelli does not change the relevance of the visit to my story...

** Beginning of excerpt from article **
"One afternoon in the summer of 1937, Bergier was visited by the stranger, in the Parisian laboratory where he was working. Bergier was working on projects with Andre Helbronner, a brilliant physicist, researching nuclear physics. Without introduction, the visitor identified himself as an alchemist, and indicated that Helbronner's experiments were on the brink of liberating nuclear energy, which could potentially be disastrous for the planet. His revelation was accompanied by certain technical information for Helbronner, which would, I think, have convinced him of the knowledge of the alchemist, and perhaps have shortened his research. The alleged Fulcanelli indicated that his warnings were out of a sense of duty, of ethics, and that he doubted that his cautions would be heeded.

Bergier asked his visitor for an explanation of alchemy.

"You are asking me to summarize in four minutes four thousand years of philosophy and my whole life's work. Furthermore, you are asking me to translate into plain words concepts for which such a language is not intended. All the same, I can say this: you will not be unaware that in present-day official science the part played by the observer becomes more and more important. Relativity, the principle of indeterminacy, demonstrate the extent to which the observer today intervenes in all these phenomena.
The secret of alchemy is this: there is a way of manipulating matter and energy so as to create what modern science calls a force-field. This force-field acts upon the observer and puts him in a privileged position in relation to the universe. From this privileged position, he has access to the realities which are normally concealed from us by time and space, matter and energy. This is what we call the Great Work."

What then of the Philosophers Stone? asked Bergier.

"The vital thing is not the transmutation of metals. but that of the experimenter himself. It is an ancient secret that a few people rediscover each century."

I have read these words more than once over the years, but without much effect. Relatively recently certain experiences have made these statements rather persuasive. I can think of many reasons not to speak about the details of the experiment that was a stimulus to this change in my thinking, and yet I think that there is a certain obligation to state facts that may be of benefit to others working along similar lines.

The idea that alchemy, like operative qabala, is a means of creating a condition which permits access to different levels of energy has been stated by Jean Dubuis at nearly every lecture. Alchemy has benefits in that self-deception is less likely because of the laboratory setting. (I will say that there are careful qabalists and sloppy alchemists, but I take the statement to be relatively true).

As an idea it was attractive enough, and interesting enough. I did not make the connection between this idea and the experience which I had, until after some months of reflection. It is not necessary to say what the experience was, but the setting should be revealed, and that setting has to do with the Flamel path, so called.

This path makes use of the metallic life of antimony to animate metallic mercury. In the course of the process, one makes amalgams which are distilled. A friend in France knowing that I was 'flying eagles' or making these distillations, suggested that I 'pay attention' to how I felt during the distillations. I did so, in spite of the heat, the work, and periods of intense concentration that the distillations required. We compared our experiences at some time, and I recall nothing about the exchange, except that it was not of any real significance to me.

In the fall of 1993, during a seminar at St. Charles, IL, a distillation of an amalgam was demonstrated out of doors, using an electrically heated distilling apparatus. For reasons of safety, the large group observing the process was seated at some distance from the equipment.

At that time, I had an experience which was both physical and 'subtle' which convinced me that the distillation of amalgams can create a force field of significant proportions. Further, I was satisfied by certain facts of the experiment that there was no self-delusion nor expectation of an experience on my part, and that the force field induces chemical changes within the operator. "The secret of alchemy is this: there is a way of manipulating matter and energy so as to create what modern science calls a force-field...
The vital thing is not the transmutation of metals. but that of the experimenter himself.".

I could enter into speculation about the exact causes of the field and what is taking place during the distillation, but that only leads to further speculation, and not to real knowledge. A friend of mine has had similar experiences in work on the vegetable kingdom. It is my hope that sharing the experience will encourage others to discuss the circumstances of changes in themselves that have come from their work.

As a caution, I do not suggest that anyone enter into the 'Flamel' work without taking all of the precautions for safety that are necessary. Mercury is a toxic material which deserves respect and tremendous care to avoid poisoning the experimenter and others. Further, there is evidence that experiments in the vegetable kingdom, which is much more forgiving, can induce similar results."

** End of article **

I hope that this will stimulate some discussion.

Russ House


Russ: Interesting article.

I've practiced "magick" (whatever that is) by myself for 5 years. During this time a concept somehow evolved telling me that what I was doing (in addition to clearing my psyche) was trying to open a "time/space" window.
I do not know how this concept came to me because no one ever pointed it out, yet the evolution of this concept is the most significant and curious result of my practice to date. Anyway, I've since incorporated a visualization to that effect in my workings.

I've never worked with alchemy before, and have read only a modest amount about it, in passing -- and maybe not very accurate material.

I'd like to do some plant experiments.



So far I see alchemy as a study of patterns and their interactions.
This idea may change as I become more familiar with the subject.

I bother because I am here and trying to make sense of the world.



I believe my interest in alchemy is an attempt to put something truly spiritual back into my life. The cold scientific and logical world we live in seems to have stripped that from us. It leaves us unbalanced.


From: (Ivan Ickovits)

My spiritual background includes Kabbalistic, Sufi, Tibetan Buddhist.
My rational world interface is as a theoretical physicist/system engineer.
Alchemy appears to me to be a bona-fide alternative path of western mystics to transform the human psyche. This intrigues me.

Ivan in Santa Monica

From: aeon963@CERF.NET (Robert E. Wilkinson)

For me Alchemy is an adjunct discipline to the practice to an Integral Yoga, the ultimate goal of which is to achieve the realization of what Sri Aurobindo called the "Truth-Consciousness" or "Swar" of the Veda. It is predicated upon a process of alignment with the underlying order and
organization of the universe.

The key to this Rig Vedic Yoga of alignment is the recovery of a long lost knowledge relating to the most fundamental characteristic of creation, birth from a singularity or "Point". The essence of all creation is compressed into that infinitesimal space, similar to the compactness of a seed holding the entire evolution of its predetermined future growth. The Point emerges as the first space and thereafter Time extends itself for it is TIME that is compressed into that zero. This "Zero" or "OM" as it is known in the Vedic texts is the key to the unfolding of all material forms which issue from a triadic structure formed by the compression of time. This is where you will find the answer to the question of non-local causality, or what happened prior to the so called "Big Bang".

Alchemy as a yogic discipline is about discovering that "Point", or Soul within yourself and this is what the ancients meant by the attainment of the legendary "Philosopher's Stone", or Lapis Philosophorum. It was a magical object believed to have the power to change ordinary metals into gold, but in a larger sense, it represents the final goal of the initiation process, which was the attainment of a key of knowledge leading to the highest wisdom. "This stone", said the alchemist, "is under you, and near you, and above you and around you but mostly, it is within you; it is extracted from you for you are its ore." Its attainment is the magnificent condition resulting from reaching the goal of knowledge, to perceive and know with a certainty that one knows; and to SEE with an understanding, which can be infinitely extended to all situations.

This is not an abstract intellectual practice but an experiential realization of ones correspondent relationship with the universe. To give you some idea of how important this is today, in the July 8th issue of the New York Times there was an article by Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, called "The New Measure of Man". In his article Havel writes,

"The modern age has ended, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems, that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were rising from the rubble."

He goes on to say that the emergence of this new order is conditioned upon man's ability to rediscover himself as an "anthropic cosmological" being which means anchoring himself once more in the universe of which he is an integral part. For me, this is Alchemy and Yoga in their purest sense.


From: Eric M Larson

I study alchemy as a scholar to learn how alchemists, as individuals, found ways to interact with their own prima materia. I am curious about the languages they developed to describe the processes. I am curious about their personal, psychological, and spiritual experiences that accompanied those processes.

With this appreciation of how others have entered and conducted alchemical studies, I am more at ease conducting my own practices and my own work with my prima materia. I can appreciate that my yoga practice, my mystical experiences, as well as my work with the elements of nature are forms of alchemical practices.

It is invaluable for me to discover the similarities between my own practices and the practices of others. That helps me to see what is common to them all.