The Origins of Alchemy

Practices of Alchemy were common in ancient Egypt where customs regarding life after death influenced study and development of rudimentary chemistry. Efforts to preserve bodies and organs gave rise to experimentation with mixing fluids and different substances until the right combinations achieved the desired effect. These practices were linked with spiritual tradition, specifically the Egyptian God Tehuti’, and the existence of a mysterious artefact known as the Emerald Tablet’ that later formed the cornerstone of a new field of study and mysticism the Hermetic movement. This movement of spiritual traditions predating Christianity is considered the foundation upon which the practices of alchemy grew into a major field of study.

The existence of Emerald Tablet was not widely known until medieval times when it began to circulate throughout the alchemical community as a result of interaction with Muslim mystics. The origin of this single piece of green crystal is lost in obscurity, some believe as far back as 10 000 years however around 400AD it was buried to protect it from religious zealots of the time where it remains hidden to this very day. The oldest surviving copies of the Emerald Tablet are Arabic translations and despite the mysterious origins, many scholars believe there was a great significance in messages of the text.

The Emerald Tablet is an artefact of significant spiritual meaning considered as the source of alchemy. For this reason, it was considered forbidden knowledge and condemned for thousands of years by the Egyptian priesthood, medieval churches and even some religious leaders of today. Scholars devoting their entire life in study of these texts believed the text contains secret knowledge of physical, mental and spiritual sciences unprecedented in depth of understanding; indeed the belief is these are clear instructions describing how to achieve personal transformation and acceleration of human evolution. The study of alchemy arose from a belief the Emerald Tablet contained secrets for transforming matter, time and reality.

The study and science of alchemy was therefore born from this mysterious and inspirational artefact. It was common for practitioners and scholars to have a copy of the inscriptions in their laboratories and libraries. Alchemy is possibly the only common spiritual and scientific system of belief linking traditions of Eastern and Western cultures. Alchemy was (and sometimes still is) ruthlessly suppressed by governments and religious authorities throughout its entire history.

Some of our most advanced fields of study and scientific disciplines owe their very existence to alchemy thanks to the efforts of practitioners and their desire to understand the nature of matter. Egyptian alchemists discovered alloys, dyes, perfumes and jewellery. Early Arabs developed new systems of numbers and began to quantify lengths of time for processes, in other words; the beginnings of modern mathematics. Attempts to transform matter gave us the understanding of matter itself over a period of many hundreds of years in study this is sometimes characterised in descriptions of alchemists and their attempts to transform lead into gold, alchemy was so much more.

Perhaps someday the Emerald Tablet, this mysterious green crystal that influenced so much human history, will be rediscovered and modern science given the opportunity to unravel the secrets locked in this ancient artefact. Imagine our considerable advanced knowledge in the sciences applied to texts the ancients grappled with for thousands of years. What new discoveries might we discern?

Without any doubt, the study and science of alchemy cannot be discounted as one of the most significant contributions to modern fields of study, science, mathematics, spiritualism and culture. The many attempts to repress the practice of alchemy retarded development and perhaps silenced some of history’s most brilliant minds. It also true that some of the scientific wonders in our 21st century may not have been possible without the efforts of practitioners and discoveries attributed to alchemy.