In this module we’ll learn about some of the offshoots of alchemy that have popped up over time. Some are their own practical science while others are batshit crazy ideas that just won’t go away.
Not only does alchemy suffer from it’s own modern embodiment, but it’s also had it’s own batshit crazy reputation to deal with since at least the fourteenth century. So let’s take all that on and see if we can work past it.
“What is alchemy?”
Its inherent mystery leads to varied interpretations with a peppering of misuse. I’m going to do my best here to expand on some defining features. In branding, advertising, new age ventures, literature, and art, the word “Alchemy” is nonchalantly used as a synonym to “awesome transformation”. We can go to the library and see books titled something like “The Alchemy of Spaghetti”. The software company who builds you a wonderful app out of thin air might call themselves “Alchemy Inc”. There are lots of other examples:
- Self helpers, counselors, psychiatrists Homeopaths, herbalists, spagyricists
Goldsmiths, jewelers, miners
- Designers, builders, architects
- Chemists, Biologists, Physicists, Pharmacists
- Producers, artists, musicians, Social and political reformers
- Personal trainers, medical doctors, dietitians, sex magic evangelists, parents
- Secret society types, spooky kids, RPGers, weird cults, the esoteric religious.
The use of the word alchemy in most these contexts just casual (it makes the real deal harder to google). Alchemy is a specific philosophy. Big-picture knowledge. That being said, the things I’ve listed above, from sex work to nuclear physics, are all indeed potential practical applications of alchemical theory. They’re also paths someone might take when learning alchemy. But a chemist, counselor, musician etc. does not an alchemist make. The fitness guru down at the East Side Alchemy Gym might transform your ass into something beautiful, but it’s only alchemical if he’s using alchemy to do it. So how do we distinguish alchemy from other kinds of transformation?
People get some crazy ideas around sex and gender expression so lets take a minute to shoot that stuff down: Exploring alchemy does not mean you have to change your gender presentation or sexual orientation. There is nothing in alchemy to my knowledge that advocates either celibacy or promiscuity. Alchemy is not a simple expression of copulation or procreation. Alchemy is not a simple expression of gender ambiguity or moderated living. The chemical wedding has a much richer symbolism. Some alchemists have engaged their partners in their alchemical process like we find in the fictitious account of Perrenelle Flamel . This seems like the exception rather than the rule.
Not so crazy ideas:
- If consenting adults want to experiment with active and passive principles by having more sex or less sex or different sex, that might be fun and educational, but it is not the cornerstone of alchemy.
- All sexual orientation and gender presentation is okay. That being said, the world is full of effeminate monks and butch nuns. I wonder what’s up with that?
Elements of Alchemy
Apart from all those bits and pieces of alchemy you’ve picked up here in the course, there are a few other process centred ideas that offer consistent guidance:
1. Solve et Coagula.
- Phases of nigredo, through to rubedo.
- The subject of the work must be broken down, perfected, and then rebuilt.
2. Ora et Labora.
- Prayer and work are components of alchemy.
- Trying to accomplish this without acknowledging a higher power, or without action is a red flag.
- True alchemists work with body, soul, and spirit. No exceptions.
3. Prerequisite knowledge of nature and the universe.
- This might be stuff similar to what I’ve presented under the Foundations section. It might be a little different, use different words, or come from a different religion or culture.
4. Internal application towards the stone. External application through projection.
5. In Section one, numerous concepts were explored. Elements such as ‘prima materia’, and ‘the tria prima’. The alchemical opus must be consistent with the cosmogony of the Classics.
Michael Maier. Jocus Severus. 1617.