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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Alchemy: The Most Secretive of Arts

Llewellyn Worldwide: Along with astrology and the qabalah, alchemy is considered one of the principle branches of the Western Esoteric Tradition. But while many students are familiar with zodiacal charts and the fundamentals of the Tree of Life, far fewer are acquainted with the basics of alchemy. Too often alchemy is still wrongly caricatured as an attempt by medieval quack-scientists and con-men to gain quick wealth by turning lead into gold, or to dupe others into handing over their gold, only to receive a lump of lead in return while the swindler makes a quick getaway! The origins of Western alchemy date back to Graeco-Roman Egypt, particularly Alexandria. It was here that techniques of metallurgy and herbal medicine were combined with Greek philosophy, astrology, religion, and mythology to form the earliest Western teachings on alchemy. Medieval authors often called alchemy the "Hermetic Art," suggesting that the origin of this science was none other than the fabled master, Hermes Trismegistos, or "Hermes the Thrice Great," who was said to have written forty-two books covering all manner of knowledge. Greek philosophers, such as Empedocles and Aristotle, first developed the theory that everything in the universe was comprised of the four elements of fire, water, air, and earth. These were regarded as qualities that exist within all matter and not merely the outward expressions of the physical elements. The treatises of alchemy included the physical properties and the magical powers of the elements as well as various material substances in nature. After their conquest of Egypt in the seventh century, the Arabs absorbed the knowledge of the Alexandrian alchemists. By the middle of the seventh century alchemy had become a mystical discipline. The medieval Arabs carefully preserved the knowledge they had received and safeguarded all manner of Greek and Arabic alchemical treatises, which they brought to Spain in the eighth century. By 1350, several alchemical tracts were being copied in monastic scriptoria.

In truth, alchemy is the occult science of the transformation of matter. It is a philosophical wisdom tradition and a spiritual discipline that touches upon almost every aspect of the human experience. At its core, alchemy teaches that in this divine universe all matter comes into existence from a common substance or fusion of substances. Everything within the cosmos moves toward a state of perfection known as "gold," but only if the component materials are present in the right proportions or degree of purity. The fundamental goal of alchemy is to bring all things, including humanity, to its preordained state of purity and spiritual perfection—a worthy goal more>>>...