Anyone can heal. Anyone can be at peace. Our core is a valuable and pristine place which can undergo processes of change— medicine from poison. There are misconceptions about alchemy, one being that it’s a dead art-science. Modern practical and psychospiritual alchemy is becoming popularized as resources become more widely available, from ancient text to theories of the adepts of today, in both mundane and occult circles.
Another misconception is that alchemy is the practice of turning lead or other materials into gold.
The gold of the philosopher’s stone is not of monetary value. Alchemists recreate the processes of nature to bring about transformation, healing, and transcendence. In laboratory work, the alchemist would break down, purify, and recombine their materials while meditating, praying, and reflecting on their inner world as they manipulate their external world. This external manipulation is what we now know as organic chemistry, the internal work is what I offer insight into in this series.
I will be referencing texts from various eras, from the 300 AD to current writings. Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by the mystery school of alchemy and have collected a large archive of resources.
The old formulas have been explored and extrapolated for eons— demystified and remystified over and over again. Cycles are second nature to alchemy, everyone has encountered the ouroboros at some point, the serpent that eats its own tail.
Belief in anything other than our ability to change our mindset, the act of metanoia, is unnecessary. You don’t need a single spiritual bone in your body to practice alchemy of the psyche. Much of the source information is steeped in lore but people like Carl Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz worked in the early 20th century to modernize our understanding, Jung specifically adopting alchemical theory into analytical psychology.
What we may know as shadow work comes from his research into alchemy and how it translates into his work as a psychiatrist. This psychospiritual alchemy has been further adopted into the twelve step program for addiction recovery. But what is shadow work? What is ‘solve et coagula’, motto of the ancients?
While Jung had revolutionary ideas about individuation, the dreamscape, and the ‘shadow self’, these are merely a fraction of the world of psychospiritual alchemy. In his opinion, the allegory of transformation applies to confronting the repressed and shameful parts of ourself, our shadow. This aligns with the alchemical goal of purification but one can’t follow a single modern man’s words to grasp a full sense of this domain, given much of his interpretations have source material to interpret for yourself. The journey is of exploration and learning.
Alchemy isn’t owned or described by any one culture or field of study, ranging geographically from Greece, Egypt, the Middle East, Asia, Europe and beyond, in chemistry, religion, art, biology, psychology, and more. There are guides to interpreting the strange words and symbols, but each process is highly individual to the practitioner— this is alchemy of self. No one can tell you how to change. The choice, reason, and action of transformation is all your own. I will do my best to supply a background with which to work from by presenting these esoteric philosophies in a digestible and understandable way.
Solve et coagula, this means to take apart and bring back together.