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Table of Contents

  1. What is alchemy?
  2. Where did alchemy originate?
  3. Are there alchemists today?
  4. Can anyone study alchemy?
  5. Where does one learn alchemy?
  6. What are the best books to read about alchemy for beginners?
  7. What is the goal of alchemy?
  8. Has alchemy been superceded by modern science?
  9. What is the relationship between alchemy and modern science?
  10. What is the relationship between alchemy and religion?
  11. What is the personal goal of an alchemist?
  12. What is the philosophers Stone?
  13. What is the elixir of Life?
  14. How does longevity work?
  15. Is alchemy black magick?
  16. Who are some modern alchemists?
  17. Who is Frater Albertus?
  18. Who was Paracelsus?
  19. Who is Jean Dubuis?
  20. What is alchemy?
  21. What is alchemy?
  22. What is alchemy?
  23. What is alchemy?
  24. What is alchemy?
  25. What is alchemy?
  26. What is alchemy?
  27. When is ... ?

What is alchemy ?

There are fundamentally four definitions of alchemy today.

(1) Alchemy is an ancient tradition of sacred chemistry by which one discovers the truth about the nature (both spiritual and temporal) of reality, its structure, laws and functions. (Traditional school of thought.)
(2) Alchemy has nothing to do with chemistry (essentially) but is in fact a spiritual psychology veiled in archaic chemical symbolism. (Jungian or neo-Jungian school of thought.)
(3) Alchemy is sex magick traditionally veiled in archaic chemical symbolism. (Western sex magick school of thought.)
(4) Alchemy is whatever I say it is because nobody knows what it is. ((Generally) The new-age school of thought.)

The first definition of alchemy is the original and traditional definition. The alchemical tradition extends back over 5000 years. Other definitions outside of the traditional one, have only become popular in the last 200 years. 

The second definition is based on two premises. That traditional alchemical literature mentions both (supposedly archaic) spiritual and psychological concepts as well as (supposedly archaic) chemical concepts. It was suggested as an offshoot of Jungian psychology, which picked up the concept from mainstream occultism, that the chemical symbolism in classic alchemical literature is merely a cryptographic mechanism designed to hide what was then thought to be secret or heretical knowledge. 

The third definition began to gain wider acceptance during the 19th century as Western (and largely Germanic) European sex occultists pondered the details of Eastern sexual occult practices and began the process of transcribing them into a format more easily digestible to Western occultists. The basic rationale' here begin that because classic alchemical literature spoke relatively often about the copulation of male and female principles, and because such imagery filled the tantric tradition to over flowing, that they in fact must be one and the same system.

The fourth definition is not worth commenting upon because its adherents rarely have even the most superficial knowledge of alchemy upon which to base even a halfway acceptable argument.

This collection of FAQs on alchemy is only concerned with the first and traditional definition. It also states that the other three definitions are only valid outside any consideration of the tradition that is the origin of the term and activities referred to as 'alchemy'. The rationale for all other definitions, outside the first, is based on one simple idea - and that is that - because alchemy concerns itself with a universal concept, then anything and everything can be referred to as being alchemical.

While this is true in a general and holistic sense it does not help us to describe and define 'traditional' alchemy.

For example, while it is true that the craft of crop cultivation involves the artistic improvement of a natural process of the life/death cycle of, say, wheat, it does not help matters to call the wheat farmer an alchemist.

It is requisite, therefore, in support of our definition, to insist that an alchemist, in the traditional sense of the word, is someone who consciously practices alchemy with the intention of obtaining its traditional goals.

To summarise then:

Alchemy is the art and science of discovering the hidden secrets of the natural structure, laws and functions of created things. Alchemy seeks to do this by applying a universal formula, which in fact is evolution in its essential sense, to objects in the three kingdoms, animal, vegetable and mineral, with the intention of revealing the causes of things and thereby understanding the spiritual nature underlying the outer forms of the universe.

The rationale behind this is that every physical 'thing' has its spiritual counterpart. That by dissecting physical things and uncovering and examining their simplistic core structures and properties, the basic spiritual laws which support the universe may be known and understood (to some degree).

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Where did alchemy originate?

(and how by what road did it travel to get to the Western world?)

The origins of alchemy are shrouded in mystery. The art has been practiced since before recorded history. The oldest written records of all the main cultures include references to alchemical concepts and alchemical methodology. 

For convenience sake it is often said that the art originated in ancient Egypt with the reign of the God-king Thoth-Hermes, the founder of the Hermetic (magickal) Tradition. Alchemists themselves often refer to Thoth as having created alchemy as the mother science, the font and touchstone (measuring stick) of every other art and science. 

Another legend professed often by Christian alchemists of the middle ages was that it was the science given to Adam after his expulsion from Eden, in order to aid him in finding a way to return to paradise.

History, though, insists that the Egyptians and Sumerians first practiced a type of alchemy from the earliest ages. That the Greeks gained access to this knowledge when they conquered Egypt about 332BCE. This knowledge passed to the Arabs about 500AD when they took control of Egypt. The Arabs translated the Greek texts they obtained into their own language. Then, during the dark ages, Christian monks seeking wisdom from the East were initiated into secret societies by the Arabs, gained knowledge of alchemy, and started translating Greek and Arab alchemical texts into Latin.

In this way the esoteric alchemical tradition was preserved and passed on within the Christian monastic tradition (in the Western world), almost solely, until the renaissance. At that time secular persons being initiated into secret societies began bringing such information out into the light of day through secular publications.

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Are there alchemists today?

The alchemical tradition has survived in an unbroken chain of transmission down to the present day.

Although there are obviously, to the trained observer, many misunderstandings and errors and forgotten knowledge within the circles of the modern inheritors of this ancient tradition, it is also logical that, because of the cryptic nature of nearly all classic alchemical literature, we would not have more than the simplest operative tradition today if we did not have access to information that had been preserved and passed down from ancient times.

Besides this consideration, once one manages to gain access into the still very closed circles of operative alchemists it becomes immediately obvious that the tradition is still quite healthy and productive.

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Can anyone study alchemy?

There certainly is nothing, outside of a natural born lack of intelligence or physical capability, stopping anyone from practicing alchemy. That is, unless the country you reside in has laws against such things as the ownership or use of laboratory equipment or the distillation of alcohol. There are men and woman both young and old in many of the worlds cultures who practice and investigate alchemy enthusiastically.

There are also a good number of helpful books to aid the beginner, and experienced alchemists who are willing to tutor apprentices.

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Where does one learn alchemy?

The answer to this question depends largely on your temperament. There are three usual approaches though.

(1) You seek tuition from an experienced alchemist.
(2) You join a school which teaches alchemy.
(3) You go it alone and try to learn from books and by experience.

The above suggestions are arranged in the order of likelihood of gaining most success (in alchemical pursuit).

There is little doubt that if one manages to obtain personal one-on-one tuition with an experienced alchemist that it is under those conditions that he will learn the most. Schools can teach a great deal, but the most public ones (which are easiest to join) generally prove to be the least reliable. There are, however, a few good schools that are not public, that are part of some fraternal system usually, that provide an excellent learning environment. Such schools usually describe themselves as being 'primarily' alchemical in focus. It should be understood that experience has shown that esoteric colleges (or Orders) which teach alchemy as 'part' of their course of study often are not teaching alchemy at all (but some other lame excuse for alchemy).

The third option is understandably the least likely to produce much of worth alchemically speaking. If one studies alone the main source of inspiration is going to be literature. It is well known that such literature is so cryptic in format that few individuals ever gain much aid without some other outside help.

In fact it is a well known alchemical axiom that:

"The aspirant to alchemy cannot succeed in our art unless he by aided by a Master, or through a revelation gifted from God."

Needless to say that we have met few students over the years who make claim to gaining any 'real' headway through revelation. We all have our moments where we piece things together by means of long contemplation. But success is rarely gained without the experienced help of an Adept or Master alchemist.

There are a couple of other areas of interest which the novice aspirant might consider as sources of help if he is online. That is to join alchemical e-lists, chat rooms or newsgroups (usenet) and to search web sites.

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What are the best books to read about alchemy for beginners?

Without doubt the all time best read for the novice is Frater Albertus' "The Alchemists Handbook".

Frater Albertus is one of the big names in modern alchemy, and this book of his starts right at the beginning and takes the novice through each successive step in the 'prima' (first stage of learning) or herbal work, in easy to understand language. Albertus also includes some notes on advanced work and on the general philosophy of alchemy.

Next in line after Albertus' handbook is Manifred Junius' "Plant Alchemy". Manifred is another well known and respected modern alchemist and his book on plant alchemy (the prima) is very detailed and has a slight Eastern twist to it.

After these two books we might mention "John Reid IIIs course on practical alchemy" found at Adam McLeans website ( This is a complete instruction book on the herbal work with almost everything required in the way of knowledge by the novice.

Below we provide a liast of good beginners reading material that will serve well for the student who has become familiar with the prima practicum and the basic philosophy.

  • Collecteana Chemica (A.E.Waite)
  • The Hermetic Museum (A.E.Waite)
  • The Great Art (Joseph Pernety)
  • A Compendium of Alchemical Processes (Anon)
  • The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony (Basil Valentine)
  • Alchemy rediscovered and Restored (Achibald Cockren)
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What is the goal of alchemy?

The goal of alchemy can be described as being both of two things:

(1) To produce the Philosophers Stone and the Elixir of Life ... and
(2) To provide an education about the mechanics of the secret nature of the universe during the process of seeking the first goal.

We might also add that one of the roles that alchemy, as an esoteric art/science was originally designed to play in the drama of esoteric education in general was for it to provide an accurate measure of what is possible and what is not where the claims of occultism are concerned.

Alchemy is therefore referred to as a touchstone. It is an accurate mirror of natural law wherein everything that might be claimed by an esoteric science, such as magick, can be tested and proved under laboratory conditions. It has been said that the original Rosicrucians, who were great champions of alchemy, would not accept any claim by occultists, that could not stand up to the alchemists scrutiny.

It would often be argued by spiritually minded persons that such an exercise cannot be carried out, and such an insistence has been the basis of many weird and foolhardy claims by spiritual aspirants.

Nevertheless every alchemist worth his salt knows that every spiritual concept is anchored to some physical basis and that the one may be measured and understood by the other with little difficulty.

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Has alchemy been superceded by modern science?

This is probably the most commonly asked question by heavily left brain bias individuals.

The basic supposition is that humanity has progressed greatly since the pre-Christian times and that modern science has a vastly greater understanding of and mastery over 'things'. It is also taken for granted (based on the previous premise) that it is only through our advancement in technology that we are capable of fathoming the depths of nature.

There is another side to this issue though that claims that where science has made some amazing advancements in understanding matter to the benefits of those who wish to exploit it, that it has also careered out of control to the point where it is likely to cause the near extinction of humanity in the near future. The eventuality, it is argued, is the result of a lack of understanding of the non-physical (or spiritual) side of nature. 

Besides these quite common claims about the role alchemy might play in a science ravaged society there is also the fact that alchemists, today, just as their forbears in past times, possess secrets about the nature of reality and the manipulation of matter which have not been solved by conventional science and which have not even been considered yet by the greater portion of humanity.

This puts experienced alchemists in a precarious position where psycho-spiritual mechanics are concerned.

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What is the relationship between alchemy and modern science?


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Who is ... ?

[This is the answer to the question.]

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Copyright Parush 1997
All rights reserved - last update 8th Dec 2001

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