Turning base metals like lead into gold is one of the longest-held notions about alchemy. For a good reason, the rather pedestrian view about alchemy has carried on throughout recent history because of the early adopters of the alchemy practice.
Having never lost its relevance with time, alchemy has been here for a while, and it’s not about to
be forgotten any time soon.
Over time, science has ruled out the early ideas of turning base metals into gold, but it hasn’t quite done away with the practice of alchemy. Instead of creating wealth in gold out of seemingly worthless base metals, what it means to be an alchemist today isn’t what it meant a century ago.
As alchemical knowledge in the past made its way into the scientific community, those who took up the practice or even dared to write papers about it were branded as practitioners of pseudoscience. Alchemy today has taken a more personalized approach, making the practice be about the self rather than material things.
Who is an Alchemist?
To define an alchemist, even the modern-day alchemist, you must first appreciate the material-focused history of alchemy.
Throughout history, an alchemist has participated in improving base materials into gold, using partly scientific and philosophical knowledge. With roots in ancient Egypt, the historical practice of alchemy was surrounded by mystery and secrecy attributed to the harshness with which its practitioners were treated.
The improvement aspect of historical alchemical practices is what defines modern-day alchemy practices. As was known in the past, Alchemy has evolved from having base metals as its main subject matter to improving the human condition.
The modern-day and contemporary alchemist actively and consciously engages in practices to transform the human conditions for the better. With an emphasis on the human condition, modern-day alchemy focuses on carrying out the ancient alchemical practices on the human spirit rather than base metals.
“What’s the world’s greatest lie?” the boy asked. “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”– Paulo Coelho
Steps to Becoming a Modern-Day Alchemist
Paulo Coelho is regarded as the father of modern-day alchemy. In his book The Alchemist, he breaks down the steps involved in using the ancient alchemical practices to bring out a personal change in the human self.
In his book, Coelho emphasizes that every human possesses the ability to use alchemical practices to manifest personal improvement. With a personification of the seven ancient alchemical practices, Coelho gives an alternative to the pursuit of ancient alchemy achievements that science has proved unattainable.
The ancient alchemical practice was divided into two parts, breaking down the material and building up a new one. This same approach is taken in the modern-day alchemy practice, with the first being a breakdown of the current self and then building up a new self out of the old.
1. Practice Calcination
From a chemistry point of view, calcination is the removal of volatile substances from material by exposing it to high temperatures.
Since it is impractical to expose yourself to extreme temperatures to facilitate the breakdown process, you can break down your sense of self by practicing self-reflection. You can best achieve self-reflection by setting aside time and space to be by yourself and look inward.
“An old alchemist gave the following consolation to one of his disciples: “No matter how isolated you are and how lonely you feel, if you do your work truly and conscientiously, unknown friends will come and seek you.”– Carl Jung
2. Engage in Dissolution
In ancient alchemy, the next step after breaking down a substance through calcination is dissolution.
The process of dissolving your sense of self will involve letting yourself go when in deeply buried regions of your thoughts. One way to know you’ve achieved this step is when you are completely immersed in thought or activity that you end up losing track of time and space.
3. Go into Separation
What follows the chemical practice of dissolution is separation. Through methods such as filtration, the wanted substances are separated from the undesired material.
In your sense of self, separation will involve clearly understanding who you are at your core and separating it from everything else. You will have to understand yourself, what you want and don’t want, and then follow up by actively building them up and casting them away, respectively.
4. Engage in Conjunction
After separation of the wanted from the unwanted, the practice of ancient alchemy dictates that you take the newly found wanted materials and with them build something new. In your journey of self-transformation, the conjunction will involve taking that which you’ve newly identified or discovered about yourself and using it to build something new out of your life.
The new life can be new belief systems and ideals or different awareness practices or personality traits. The key thing about all the steps up to this point is that the new you is coming from within.
5. Start Fermentation
The chemical process of fermentation involves the use of foreign biological substances to alter the state of another over time.
Rather than using microorganisms, the fermentation step of your self-transformation will involve accepting and soaking into inspiration from other sources outside of you but driven by you. This can include practices such as completely giving yourself away to therapy or prayer.
6. Carry out Distillation
The main aim of the chemical process of distillation is the collection and consequent condensation of vapor that is collected from a heated substance.
Just as in the chemical equivalent, the process of distillation in your self-transformation will involve removing impurities. The impurities in you will be those remnants that sneaked past the process of separation. You can achieve distillation through introspective thinking and finding and doing away with those parts of you which you thought you changed but missed.
7. Start anew with Coagulation
From a chemistry point of view, Coagulation occurs when a substance that has undergone purification is allowed to return to its initial solid-state.
In your self-improvement journey through alchemy, the coagulation step will be characterized by you returning to everyday life while sporting your newly found self.
Life is a journey and is full of ups and downs. If you keep an optimistic mindset and become a modern day alchemist. You will be able to turn what is negative in your life into a positive opportunity for the betterment of yourself and society.