Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
View your shopping cart Shopping Cart | My Account | Help | Become a Fan on Facebook Become a Fan | Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us | Watch Us on YouTube Watch Us | Subscribe to our RSS Feeds Subscribe
Browse ProductsAuthorsArticlesBlogsEncyclopediaNewslettersAffiliate ProgramContact UsBooksellers
Advanced Search
ENCYCLOPEDIA
Glossary
What's New
Most Popular
List of Articles

Email Exclusives
Sign up to receive special offers and promotions from Llewellyn.

Get the Latest Issue of New Worlds

May/June 2016 Issue

New Worlds Catalog

Get the FREE app for your tablet and mobile device. Now available in the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store

Also available as a PDF File.

Click for more information about New Worlds or to receive issues via mail.


The Llewellyn Encyclopedia
Print this Term Print this Article

Alchemy

This article was written by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero on May 31, 2002
posted under Golden Dawn

The word alchemy is an Arabic term comprised of the article "al" and the noun "khemi." The later word relates to "Khem" the Coptic name of Egypt. Alchemy thus means, "that which pertains to Egypt." Thus the words alchemy and chemistry are a reminder of the scientific legacy of Egypt. Another possible origin of the word is the Greek "cheo" which means "I pour" or "I cast"—a word often used in reference to the ancient Greek metalworkers who used many alchemical formulae. Together, alchemy and astrology are two of the oldest sciences known to humanity. The specialized fields of herbalism, mineralogy, natural science, chemistry, pharmacology, and medicine all evolved from the mother science known as alchemy.

The outer body of alchemy is chemistry; it is in fact the ancestor of modern chemistry. But in addition to being a science, this ancient art is also a philosophy. Alchemy is a science that is based upon multiplication and the natural phenomenon of growth—it is the process of increasing and improving that which already exists. Alchemy is evolution — the raising of vibrations.

Practitioners of the art considered nature to be the greatest alchemist of all; causing the latent seeds of all life to multiply and grow through the act of transmutation. One objective of the alchemists was to carry out in the laboratory, as far as possible, the processes which nature carries out in the earth plane. Not only did they try to duplicate these natural operations, they tried to reproduce them in a comparatively short period of time—speeding up processes which nature
takes vast amounts of time to manifest.

In its usual (limited) definition, alchemy is an empirical science that concerns itself with the transmutation of base metals into gold. For many the word "alchemy" conjures up an image of a crude laboratory where foolhardy pseudo-scientists labor to turn lead into gold so that they may spend their lives living in a state of luxury. However alchemy's true definition encompasses the doctrine of the transformation of humanity to a higher stage. The treatises of alchemy are not only chemical in nature, but also mystical and magical. Certainly many alchemists left behind a vast amount of information to prove the fact that one version of alchemy was primarily practical and chemical in
nature. On the other hand, the principal interest of many alchemical philosophers was spiritual. These alchemists did not look merely for the substance of gold; they sought to give the quality of gold to their own being—to transmute the base metals (gross and impure parts of their own nature) to spiritual gold (wisdom). To them gold, the metal that never tarnishes and cannot be corrupted by Fire or Water, was a symbol of illumination and salvation.

Alchemy is the art and science of transformation. This is not an easily understood art, because the primal medium of alchemical expression is through the use of allegory and mythological symbols, which can be interpreted simultaneously both at a material and a spiritual level. The primary goal of alchemy is to bring all things, including humanity to its pre-ordained state of perfection. To that end, the alchemical theory states that eternal wisdom remains latent, dormant and obscure in humanity so long as a mundane state of ignorance and superficiality exists. The objective of alchemy is the uncovering of this inner wisdom, and the removal of the veils and obstacles between the mind and its intrinsically pure divine source.

It is this spiritual alchemy, as opposed to the purely chemical art, that the Golden Dawn stresses. The initiation of an aspiring magician into the Neophyte grade commences the spiritual alchemical process. The Neophyte is the base material that is to be transmutated by the work (or art) of the Hermetic path. Further initiations into the elemental grades are analogous to the processes of separation and purification. Initiation into the Portal and Adept grades represents the cohobation or recombination of the elemental constituents of the magician's psyche into a purified whole. However, the process does not end there. The Adept must incorporate the Quintessence into his or her being, an endeavor that may take a lifetime to achieve. This Great Work or quest for spiritual gold is a long undertaking; although the goal may be distant, every step along the path is infinitely rewarding.        

Golden Dawn students are required to study the various terms, symbols, and concepts used in alchemy. They are not required to practice laboratory alchemy.

Sensitive people have gotten a bum rap. We live in a world that doesn't embrace the values of sensitivity, so we get told that we are weak, unusual, touchy, and hard to please. The sad truth is that we hear these messages in many ways throughout our lives. Even if it is from a well-meaning teacher or parent who tries to "toughen us up," the crux... read this article
Remaining Magickal in the Midst of Chaos
Sacred Space, Tarot, and Your Magical Practice
The Magical Use of Prayer Beads
The Future of Money Magic: What Do We Put Under the Candle When Our Currency Goes Digital?
Understanding the Moon Signs of Others

Most recent posts:
Are You a Sensitive Empath?
Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Dr. Kyra Mesich, author of the new Strength of Sensitivity. I've dedicated my holistic psychology...

The Cards as Living Entities
In just a few months (August, to be precise), Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Tarot by the knowledgeable experienced, and delightful writer Anthony...

Magickal Scavenger Hunts
Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Melanie Marquis, author of A Witch's World of Magick, The Witch's Bag of Tricks, the forthcoming Modern...




The Madness of Mercury The Madness of Mercury
By: Connie di Marco
Price: $14.99 US,  $17.50 CAN
Journey of Souls Journey of Souls
Case Studies of Life Between Lives

By: Michael Newton
Price: $17.99 US,  $20.95 CAN
The Linestrider Tarot The Linestrider Tarot
By: Siolo Thompson
Price: $28.99 US,  $33.50 CAN
Wicca Wicca
A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner

By: Scott Cunningham
Price: $14.95 US,  $16.95 CAN
Easy Tarot Easy Tarot
Learn to Read the Cards Once and For All!

By: Josephine Ellershaw, Ciro Marchetti
Price: $19.95 US,  $21.95 CAN