A lot of people have a preconception about Alchemy that it is only a kind of esoteric practice.
Historically, the vast array of Alchemical literature is filled with strange symbols, complex chemical treatise and confusing metaphors – giving it a sense of mystery that is bordering on the occult. And, even when we look to modern movies, books, or computer games too – there is always this close link to Mysticism. With Alchemists who spend their time in isolation, slaving over some sort of potion, in the quest to gai supernatural powers.
But, in fact, the field of Alchemy is so much broader than what we discover in fiction.
And when we step away from our typical notions of these things, real Alchemy can actually bring profound psychological insights, open to just about everyone who wants to make a positive change in their life.
After all, beneath all metaphors and allegories, the key to Alchemy is essentially this idea of refinement.
Ancient Alchemists sought to turn “base” materials like lead, into something “pure” like gold. Or to discover a so called “elixir for life” by uncovering deeper layers of the world around us
But, in undertaking such a process, they were not just seeking material riches. Rather, the Alchemist knew that external transformation of the world around them, would also lead to a kind of individual metamorphosis too.
In other words, the quest to “turn lead to gold” was actually just a metaphor for inner growth. Teaching us that we as individuals are able to turn our fears into courage, or sadness into love, or darkness into beauty, or negatives into a positives . . . if we only learn the right psychological processes.
So, in that sense, Alchemy was always an internal practice first and foremost. But, at the same time, the core aims of Alchemy can also be translated into all walks of life too. And, in fact, a lot of us undertake alchemical processes every day without even realising it!
For example, think of an Artist – who takes a blank canvas, and, simply through the manipulation of pigment, transforms it into a masterpiece.
Or, think of a gardener –inheriting a plot of land that is nothing but bare soil . . . and patiently cultivating it into something as beautiful as a rose garden, or fruitful as a vegetable patch.
In both cases, the person takes something plain, and refines it into something beautiful. Creating wonders out of the very same material that others with less skill would have just cast aside.
And, there are many more examples of this creative Alchemy too; from the musician turning silence into a symphony. . . to the yoga practitioner working to refine their body into something healthier and more flexible . . . to the chef using simple ingredients to create sublime flavours.
In short – any art form that encourages us to create something from nothing is essentially a form of Alchemy.
And, again – just like the mystical Alchemy was said to bestow psychological benefits on it’s practitioners . . . so, practicing an Art form can have a truly transformative effect on the artist too.
After all, we become the thing we practice the most.
So, in pursuing greater wisdom – we become wiser.
In pursuing health – we become healthier.
And, in working to bring beauty into the world, we are naturally becoming more beautiful.