Alchemy is a (Greco-Roman, Islamic, Medieval, Renaissance, modern / Indian / Chinese) tradition of thought that is devoted to acquiring Power over Physical Creation through Understanding of its mechanics and processes. Any individual who seeks such power may be referred to as an Alchemist.
Alchemy may be subdivided into Internal Alchemy which is concerned with the purification and perfection of the human Soul, and External Alchemy which is purification, perfection, and control over Physical Creation.
Over the centuries, alchemists have sought power to transmute substances (in particular the power to transmute cheap metals into gold, a.k.a. Chrysopoeia), power over life and death (i.e. the discovery of Panacea), and even domination over Time. As H.J. Sheppard notes:
Alchemy is the art of liberating parts of the Cosmos from temporal existence and achieving perfection which, for metals is gold, and for man, longevity, then immortality and, finally, redemption. Material perfection was sought through the action of a preparation (Philosopher's Stone for metals; Elixir of Life for humans), while spiritual ennoblement resulted from some form of inner revelation or other enlightenment (Gnosis, for example, in Hellenistic and western practices).
The tradition of alchemy emerged in Hellenistic Egypt where "elements of technology, religion, mythology, and Hellenistic philosophy combined to form the earliest known records of alchemy in the west.".
Modern Natural Science, which any casual observer can see is essentially an enterprise devoted to Power over Physical Creation is, though many may deny, a modern extension of the alchemical will to Power, Scientists may be thus considered Alchemists in the traditional sense. David Noble documents the history of this Alchemical Impulse as it moves forward and becomes embedded (and increasingly obscured ) within the foundations of modern Science
- Linden, Stanton J. (1996). Darke Hierogliphicks: Alchemy in English literature from Chaucer to the Restoration. University Press of Kentucky, p. 11.
- Wikipedia contributors, Alchemy, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemy [Accessed: January 15, 2015]
- Noble, David. The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention. New York: Penguin, 1999.