Alchemy 101: What is Alchemy?
Alchemy is a practice that has its origins in Egypt, as evidenced from the word in itself. The Arabic prefix Al, meaning ‘the’, combined with the word khemia, derived from khem, the name for the land of Egypt, gives us the translation of the term ‘alchemy’: “The art of Egypt”.
From Egypt, alchemy was a gift from the Kemetic god Thoth (’Djehuty’), who thus is seen as its founder. Thoth brought to man sciences and mathematics; he presided over scribes and knowledge.
As the Hellenics, or Greeks, traveled into Egypt, they associated many of the Kemetic deities with their own. For example, the Hellenic god Hermes became synonymous with Thoth. Through this relation between Thoth and Hermes, Hermes was also perceived as the founder of alchemy. Thus, alchemy is commonly referred to as the Hermetic art, or the arts of Hermes. Additionally, he is also referred to as Hermes Trismegistus, ‘Thrice-great Hermes’.
From Egypt, the practice of alchemy gradually spread north until finally reaching the European countries. Alchemy also had a presence in eastern countries, taking on a similar, but different, form there.
Furthermore, alchemy is a two-sided subject; it is a practice that is both spiritual and physical. It encompassed astrology, mysticism, spiritualism, and physics.
Throughout history there have been three main goals of an alchemist:
I. To transmute ordinary metals into gold.
II. To make the soul progress from its ordinary state to one of spiritual perfection.
III. To create a substance known as the Philosopher’s Stone, using raw materials and the assistance of the divine.
Alchemy was composed of both of science and spiritual principle; if an alchemist could transmute, or “purify”, base metals into gold, then, they believed, they could achieve spiritual purity.