Before alchemy was a dark art or metaphor for soul work or synonym for magic, it was something much more commonplace: it was a laboratory science.
It all began a long time ago, in a land far away. Egypt, to be exact. What later came to be called alchemy grew from the experiments the Egyptian priesthood used to unravel the workings of the Universe. Those universal forces were called neteru and it’s been theorized that our word “nature” may be, etymologically-speaking, its bastard child twice removed.
- Alchemy was a lab science, i.e. it was performed by experimentation.
- These experiments were performed by priests.
So a long time ago, in a land far away, those engrossed in the mysteries of spirituality were experimenting to understand the nature of the Universe.
As we reinvigorate ancient life sciences like yoga, Ayurveda, Qi Gong, and 5 Element acupuncture, it’s important to understand that back in the day, science and spirituality walked hand in hand.
Why? Because folks back then would be flabbergasted by our compartmentalization of the world; back then, everything was interconnected (hint: it still is).
Fast-forward thousands of years to an internet suddenly interested in “soul alchemy.” What the hell does that even mean?
To unravel it, so it’s not just some marketing slogan (’cause alchemy is an incredibly rich and fertile metaphor, truly worth digging into), we’ve gotta go back to basic alchemy.
Let’s pause first for a word from our sponsor (who would be me… or my business, Herbiary, actually): alchemy is the many times great-grandparent of modern wellness practices. You know Hippocrates? The “let your food be your medicine” dude? He most certainly studied alchemy.
My own first exposure to alchemical principals was through the study of plant medicine. Plant medicine preparations (and pharmaceutical preparations for that matter) are still influenced by things those Egyptian priests discovered all those ages ago.
Okay, back to the present day and how alchemy can support your soul work by helping you untangle thoughts and emotions that are keeping you stuck and stagnant.
The basic steps of an alchemical experiment look like this:
3. Put it all back together again.
When your life feels like a tangled mess, these steps are incredibly useful:
Begin to unravel influences, thought patterns, and emotions to untie the knots. When the threads of your life are bound together, you can’t see clearly and it’s easy to become reactive. My favorite way to separate out is to draw a Mind Map. I like to do this by hand, preferably on big paper, but there are lots of digital tools out there too. Try Canva or Mind Meister. Put your problem issue or knotty thoughts in the middle of your Mind Map, then tease out the individual strands of influences.
Work with each individual strand of thought or emotion to clear it and find resolution within yourself. This might be minutes or months of work, and that’s going to depend on what you reveal to yourself through your Mind Mapping. You may need help to tie off or cut some strands. That’s okay (you are making progress simply by doing this work. Don’t get all judge-y with yourself if you need a therapist or acupuncturist or good friend to help you through it!).
3. Bring It All Back Together
Because everything is interconnected. Make a new Mind Map or do some journaling to see how the new patterns formed through this process.
It’s step 3 which is often neglected… but step three is where the gold is! This is the holy grail of alchemy, the “sacred wedding” where everything that was disparate becomes integrated.
When you alchemize your life in this way, you tap into the everyday magic of our greatest thinkers—from Hildegard von Bingen to Leonardo DaVinci. You step into a long tradition of people who understood that the processes of the natural world are a mirror for processes within ourselves and by unraveling both we come into deeper relationship with neteru: ours and the earth’s.
P.S. While most of the “big names” in alchemy are men’s, women have been alchemists since the beginning. Click through to meet a few!