What is alchemy? Well, answering this question becomes confusing to many modern people because alchemy has been in a morass of confusion itself for centuries. What we can say for certain to begin with is that alchemy was the root of today’s modern science of chemistry. But what makes alchemy distinct from chemistry?

Going back far enough in tradition, alchemy may not be much distinguished from chemistry other than in its relative lack of scope. The word “alchemy” is traced back ultimately to "al’kimia", with "kimia" being an Arabic translation of "khem", a Coptic word that refers to the fertile “black land” of ancient Egypt. The original name for Egypt was Khem in reference to this amazingly fertile Nile-enriched soil. Thus “alchemy” is the science or arts of the black lands. These black lands, so fertile, were believed to have been created out of the mysterious First Matter. Traditional alchemists believed that the entire Cosmos was made out of this First Matter and everything (and everyone) in it was merely a derivative of this First Matter.

It should not surprise us then that the ancient Egyptian priests, who were also wizards (as all ancient priests were), practiced what we now call alchemy. They wished to achieve a three-fold aim: to create the Philosopher’s Stone, out of which could be made a special Elixir that would grant the drinker great powers of perception and wisdom; to enhance their longevity and personal health, which the Elixir could also do; and to transform base metals into purest gold, which gold seen as the most pure metal (silver was the second most pure).

The three major elements involved in the alchemical process were mercury (quicksilver), sulfur, and salt. It should be noted that quicksilver is used even today to help remove gold from mined gold ore. Sulfuric acid is used in metal working, and salt is our most universally used preservative. But each of these elements had a symbolic value, too: mercury is "spirit", sulfur is "soul", and salt is "body". The Philosopher’s Stone was the catalyst, and just a pinch of it was said to set the alchemical transmutation process in order.

But through the centuries, the ancient arts of alchemy gradually became obscured, and then persecuted by the Church. To hide themselves from violence, latter day alchemists began creating their own personalized “periodic table”, or symbols for the various alchemical elements (there were 16). The loss of standardized symbols enabled fakers and charlatans to pose as alchemists and take over in attempts to get money and power, corrupting and confusing the whole practice.

Probably what is today remembered as trying to change lead into gold was originally the gold ore purification process. (Gold was thought to be magical; it was not money.) But the way we think of alchemy today is as a metaphor and ritual-like lifestyle. Today’s alchemist does not seek to practice a form of chemistry, but instead seeks the transformation of human nature. The heavy, leaden human nature that forms negative attachments, becomes weighed down and poisoned by stressors, and is obsessed with getting-and-spending must be transformed into a golden soul of sun-like illumination, health, and lightness of heart. When the poet Yeats said “myself must I remake”, he was speaking like today’s alchemist.

Author's Bio: 

Evelyn Lim recommends inner alchemy to create a life of abundance. She is the author of the book, Abundance Alchemy: Journey of Gold. She also wears many hats: Life Coach, Intuitive Consultant, Blogger, Master NLP Practitioner and Vision Board Counselor. Her vision is to turn her dreams into reality, inspiring others to do the same.

Evelyn runs an inspirational site with topics on self love, visioning, creativity, law of attraction, intuition and so on. Click over here to get a free report on Creative Visualization or visit her site at http://www.abundancetapestry.com.