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Alchemy (Arabic: الخيمياء al-khimia) is both a philosophy and a practice with an aim of achieving ultimate wisdom as well as immortality, involving the improvement of the alchemist as well as the making of several substances described as possessing unusual properties. The practical aspect of alchemy generated the basics of modern inorganic chemistry, namely concerning procedures, equipment and the identification and use of many current substances.
The fundamental ideas of alchemy are said to have arisen in the ancient Persian Empire. Alchemy has been practiced in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia (today's Iran), India, China, Japan, and Korea in Classical Greece and Rome, in the Muslim civilizations, and then in Europe up to the 20th century—in a complex network of schools and philosophical systems spanning at least 2500 years.
Watch Alchemy - Sacred Secrets Revealed
Alchemy as a philosophical and spiritual discipline
Alchemy became known as the spagyric art after Greek words meaning to separate and to join together in the 16th century, the word probably being coined by Paracelsus. Compare this with one of the dictums of Alchemy in Latin: SOLVE ET COAGULA — Separate, and Join Together (or dissolve and coagulate).
The best-known goals of the alchemists were the transmutation of common metals into gold (called chrysopoeia) or silver (less well known is plant alchemy, or "spagyric"); the creation of a "panacea", or the elixir of life, a remedy that supposedly would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely; and the discovery of a universal solvent. Although these were not the only uses for the discipline, they were the ones most documented and well known. Certain Hermetic schools argue that the transmutation of lead into gold is analogical for the transmutation of the physical body (Saturn or lead) into Solar energy (gold) with the goal of attaining immortality. This is described as Internal Alchemy. Starting with the Middle Ages, Arabic and European alchemists invested much effort in the search for the "philosopher's stone", a legendary substance that was believed to be an essential ingredient for either or both of those goals. Alchemists were alternately persecuted or supported through the centuries. For example in 1317 Pope John 22nd issued a Bull against alchemical counterfeiting, and the Cistercians banned the practice amongst their members. In 1403 Henry 4th of England banned the practice of Alchemy. In the late 14th century Piers the Ploughman and Chaucer both painted unflattering pictures of Alchemists as thieves and liars. By contrast, Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, in the late 16th century, sponsored various alchemists in their work at his court in Prague.
Some people suppose that Alchemists made mundane contributions to the "chemical" industries of the day—ore testing and refining, metalworking, production of gunpowder, ink, dyes, paints, cosmetics, leather tanning, ceramics, glass manufacture, preparation of extracts, liquors, and so on (it seems that the preparation of aqua vitae, the "water of life", was a fairly popular "experiment" among European alchemists). In reality, although Alchemists contributed distillation to Western Europe, they did little for any known industry. Goldsmiths knew long before Alchemists appeared how to tell what was good gold or fake, and industrial technology grew by the work of the artisans themselves, rather than any Alchemical helpers.
Several early alchemists, such as Zosimos of Panopolis, are recorded as viewing alchemy as a spiritual discipline, and in the Middle Ages, metaphysical aspects increasingly came to be viewed as the true foundation of the art. Organic and inorganic chemical substances, physical states, and molecular material processes as mere metaphors for spiritual entities, spiritual states and ultimately, transformations. In this sense, the literal meanings of 'Alchemical Formulas' were a blind, hiding their true spiritual philosophy, which being at odds with the Medieval Christian Church was a necessity that could have otherwise led them to the "stake and rack" of the Inquisition under charges of heresy. Thus, both the transmutation of common metals into gold and the universal panacea symbolized evolution from an imperfect, diseased, corruptible and ephemeral state towards a perfect, healthy, incorruptible and everlasting state; and the philosopher's stone then represented a mystic key that would make this evolution possible. Applied to the alchemist himself, the twin goal symbolized his evolution from ignorance to enlightenment, and the stone represented a hidden spiritual truth or power that would lead to that goal. In texts that are written according to this view, the cryptic alchemical symbols, diagrams, and textual imagery of late alchemical works typically contain multiple layers of meanings, allegories, and references to other equally cryptic works; and must be laboriously "decoded" in order to discover their true meaning.