Alchemy III

The Alchemical Quest

Jan & Johnny Mirehiel


Twenty-five years ago, Paulo Coelho launched a simple, unassuming fable called The Alchemist.  Copies of it soon seemed to be in every hand and home, transforming the lives of countless readers around the world.  It also created a new wave of popular interest in Alchemy that is still growing.

Do an Amazon book search on Alchemy and you will see that it has since worked its way into every conceivable subject area:  psychology, spirituality, the arts, literature, business, law, sports, filmmaking, gaming, medicine and quantum physics.   How is it that such an archaic subject found root in modern life?

The holy grail of all alchemical achievements has always been assumed to be the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone that turns lead to gold.   For ages, students of alchemy learned to use symbols, ingredients, and degrees of energy in exploring ways to produce ever more desirable results.   But hidden in and amongst these various “recipes for transmutation” is a teaching that is known to serious Alchemists as “The Great Work” and it is this which resonates with us in today’s oh-so-connected life.

The Great Work was first given voice by 17th century ceremonial magician, Eliaphas Levi, who, before he fell in love, had been studying to become a Roman Catholic priest.  Writing in Transcendental Magic, he said

“[T]here exists in nature a force which is immeasurably more powerful than steam, and by means
of which a single man, who knows how to adapt and direct it, might upset and alter the face of the
world.  This force was known to the ancients; it consists in a universal agent having equilibrium for
its supreme law, while its direction is concerned immediately with the great arcanum of
transcendental magic…

The Great Work is, before all things, the creation of man by himself, that is to say, the full and
entire conquest of his faculties and his future…”

Spiritual alchemy refers to the use of this “universal agent” for the purpose of creating a higher form of being, for oneself, and for the world one affects (as well as the world one E-ffects.)  Those who undertake this Great Work do so only because they believe that it is possible to assist and speed up a natural evolution toward perfection,

All students begin their alchemical studiesby, working with lead, that heavy, dense and worthless metal that is ruled astrologically by somber and stern Saturn, who (like any good teacher) has alternately been called “The Great Taskmaster” and “The Great Educator.”   The student will be required to put his (symbolic) lead through the successive stages of purification until it becomes pure gold.

Sometimes the alchemists speak of “astral” gold and “elemental” gold.  Astral gold emerges from the center of the Sun, and is transferred by its rays and its light to all the lower planets.  Elemental gold is called the central fire of the earth and is at the foundation of all substances, organic and otherwise.  These represent the Masculine and Feminine aspects of Creation, which work best when in balance.


An alchemist with too much yang or too much yin energy will not progress very far along the path until he or she has reigned in their excesses.   In Alchemical terms this process of coming into balance is known as rectification, or putting right.   It may be accomplished ritually, ceremonially, or psychically.

Beginners will find that the most difficult balance to achieve is that of emotional balance.  In the early years of their practice, every little incident sends them spinning off center, losing whatever power they may have accumulated.  The alchemical student is not asked to discard these emotions, but to learn from and master them, to put them to work in the service of the “Great Divine.”

Everyone’s inner world is fraught with monsters: feelings of fear, hate, shame, lust, revenge, greed, depression, narcissism, the lust for power, and more.  Because we have been taught that these are bad, we repress and deny that side of our nature, and we think this makes us “good.”  But repression, while morally acceptable, is not the same thing as being able to release oneself from these desires.

That process begins with an acknowledgement that, though we might be imperfect and susceptible human beings, experiencing this one particular life, we become stronger and better for each battle fought, whether won or lost.  Spiritual Alchemists view these experiences as the fire that produces the transmutation of the “inner metals.”

In its origins, and its essence then, alchemy is a spiritual practice.  The search for “alchemical gold” is actually the search for the perfection of wisdom, light and enlightenment. Through continual and dedicated work in the inner laboratory of alchemy and with attention to Spirit, we are able to reconnect with the fundamental and universal reality of who we really are, the transmuted man as God Incarnate.

With thanks and a tip of the hat to:

Alchemy Guild:
ouse of the Sun:
Mark Stavish, M.A.:
he Alchemy Web Site:

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