Alchemy and Alchemical Practices


The Alchemist by TeniersExcerpted from The Encyclopedia of Occult Sciences, New York, 1939.

Alchemists acknowledge the unity of matter, and in this respect are in agreement with the most eminent of official scientists. They base their atomic system on Ether, the universal fluid (the astral light of the Kabbala), and on the principle of evolution. According to them matter is composed of molecules divided into infinitesimal particles, called atoms, which again are but one degree removed from Ether; hence matter is compact energy which in the last resort is able to dissolve itself into free energy, into force. In truth for the Alchemist energy are but one and the same thing which in short is Substance, in the philosophical meaning of the word.

Thus Substance is All, is One, the Principle, the Absolute. And this One is divided into three :-  Intelligence (or force), Energy, Matter.

The Ether contains all the ethereal vortices (atomic, cyclonic, electric collections of particles) and is endowed with evolution. All bodies are made of atoms identical but variously grouped, all are polymetrical modifications of the same element.

It is therefore not surprising that Alchemists should claim that theoretically (and practically, say some of them) it is possible to make gold, that is to extract from other chemical bodies certain atoms and so to group these latter that they shall in fact constitute gold. It would be just as easy artificially to make Iron, Sulfur or Lead, by arriving at the grouping of the atoms of which they are naturally composed. 


The Kabbala also teaches a unitarian doctrine. Its data are adapted to the three planes of Nature (mental, astral, material). Hermetism therefore gives its keys kabbalistically. The Alchemist – even in modern days – is always a priest who bases his physical or moral work on the Primordial Genesis which is none other than Tarot. Tarot and Kabbala are therefore synonymous. And the Alchemist sees a fatidic connection between the Great-Work and the astral influences, kabbalistic geometry and numbers. These connections are subtle. We do not go into them here as we do not wish to complicate our subject matter.

Neither shall we deal with the discipline which, according to Jollivet-Castelot, the Alchemist must undergo and which he extracts from the interpretation of leaves 8 to 14 of the Tarot, just as he extracts the principles of Alchemy from its first seven leaves and its practice from leaves 15 to 22. Thus the whole cycle of the major arcana of the Tarot (the first 22, there being 78 in all ) corresponds to the Science of Alchemy. This is called the Alchemical Tarot.

So also it would take too long to follow him in his remarks on the Philosopher’s Stone, the Universal Panacea and Palingenesis which constituted and still constitute the three fundamental researches of Alchemy.

We will confine ourselves to saying that Alchemy and occult Therapeutics are two sister-branches of the same science – Hermetism. The Hermetist studied transmutation as well as the panacea whose object was healing by acting on the astral, that is to say on the initial cause of the ill; and looked at in this light the word panacea loses its absurd meaning of a remedy for all ills ; the hermetist did in fact search for a drug sufficiently powerful to restore the circulation, the vital balance, and thus to act beneficently on the whole organism; this may be a chimera, but it is not nonsense.

Besides is the Electro-Homœopathy of some modem physicians so different? And what is Metallotherapy? We quote in this connection a passage by Jollivet-Castelot in New Horizons (December 1908) :- “Alchemists were all agreed that Gold healed, that Gold was the greatest of all Great Remedies ; and they sought to administer it in powders, in solutions.

“The Matter of the Great-Work, mixed with a liquid, liquefied, constituted the Elixir, the celebrated Elixir of long life which was to produce marvellous results. This is mentioned in all the pamphlets of the time; it aroused as much interest as the Philosopher’s Stone itself; and legend relates that Nicholas Flamel and his wife Pernella, having drunk it, went to live for ever on an enchanted isle.

“Well, is it not curious and suggestive that modern Medicine – following in this all the scientists of today, whatever branch of science they may study – at last proclaims, tacitly at least, the depth and the truth of ancient ‘occult’ science and makes use itself of its wonderful revelations?

“Just as the chemists at present recognize the Unity of Matter which has always been maintained by all the Alchemists, so also the doctors of the great medical schools possess themselves of the old prescriptions which point to Metallotherapy as the sanest and the safest treatment.”


“Besides, Metallotherapy and Electrotherapy – no doubt identical, since metals in contact with the skin produce currents – are quite obviously the best treatment in the case of neuropathy, of hysteria, or nervous phenomena of any kind whatever.”

Mr. Bury described the æsthesiogenic effect of the application of certain metals to the skin.

“Mr. I.andouzy reported the case of lethargic sleep induced by the nearness of a magnet; Dumontpallier and Pitres mention cases of sleep and waking brought about by metallic contact.”

At the Salpêtrière numerous researches were made by Charcot, which went to prove the powerful influence of a magnet on patients suffering from hysteria.

“But it is especially to Professor H. Durville that the great honour belongs of having studied in detail and with remarkable ability the various influences of the magnet; he has created the true theory of magnetism which is undoubtedly an agent derived from electricity or a form of this latter energy scattered and latent in all bodies and centralised by certain metals of which it constitutes the soul perhaps, certainly the medical value.”

As to the Philosopher’s Stone, we know that it was a chemical compound which had the power of transmuting metals into gold (Great-Work) or into silver (Little-Work). Bosc de Veze claims that it has actually been found, Van Helmont that he has seen and touched it in the form of a saffron coloured powder. Dr. Emmens has even sent to America ingots of Argentaurum, a precious substance which he had succeeded in making. Papus said that this “magical” powder was called Elixir or Universal Panacea when it was taken inwardlv. In short it was merely a condensation of the vital energy into a minimum of matter.

We shall say nothing of Palingenesis, by means of which Alchemists claimed that they could produce a living being, plant, animal or human (the homunculus).

But is it a matter for laughter?

We look at a back number of the Matin and find the following over the signature of Dr. Stephane Leduc, Professor at the Medical School of Nantes:-

“Life presents itself to us as the result of two physical forces, one active, the osmotic pressure which puts the various molecules into motion; the other passive, the resistance of the plasma and the membranes to this motion. The inequalities of the resistance of the latter to their reparation or union seem to be the cause of the chemical and electrical reactions of life, of nutrition, of assimilation and disassimilation.

“I have been able by means of physical forces to reproduce the form of various cellular tissues constituting living beings, and the cells so obtained turn out to have the same main functions as the living cell. In 5 or 10 per cent gelatin solutions it is possible to obtain a cellular tissue. Each cell has its covering membrane, its protoplasm, its nucleus. By using salt water as plasm and drops of the same salt water coloured with a different extract, entirely liquid cells are obtained. I have produced liquid cells with liliary extensions. These cells have the double current of osmosis and molecular metabolism; when dried up their movements stop; they then present the image of the latent life of seeds and infusoria, for their movements start again as soon as the necessary humidity is restored to them.

“I have reproduced by intussusception of organism and growth phenomena of nutrition which up to the present were considered as characteristics of life. Crystals grow by juxtaposition, as does a wall by the bricks placed on it. Up to now living beings alone have grown by intussusception, that is to say by mixing to the whole of their substance the substance absorbed. In trying to copy the physical conditions of life, I have produced artificial seeds made of one third of copper sulphate and two thirds of sugar with sufficient water to make them into grains; I sow these seeds into an artificial plasm made of water, gelatin, ferrocyanide of potassium and a little salt; the seed surrounds itself with a membrane of copper sulphate which is pervious to the water and the salts, but impervious to the sugar which sets up inside it a strong osmotic pressure owing to which the seed swells, germinates and grows, sending out rhizomes and roots, then vertical sterns which may rise to a height of 12 inches; these stems, simple or branched, sometimes have lateral leaves; they have terminal organs in the shape of thorns, balls, ears, tendrils, etc. These growths have a circulation apparatus in which the sugar and the membranogenous substance rise, like the sap in the plant, to a height up to 12 inches. When a stem is broken during the growth, the pieces reunite; a scar is formed and the growth starts again. These growths are sensitive to all physical and chemical influences, to heat, cold, variations of concentration, chemical poisons. But physiology is wrong in saying that sensitiveness or irritability, that is to say the power of reacting to impressions coming from outside, are characteristic of life. This sensitiveness is a general property of matter; it would be impossible to find an instance of action without reaction; the very pavement responds to the least influence; not only does it thrust back violently the heavy object which falls on it, but it responds by expanding to the mere touch of the finger.

“The growths from these artificial cells exercise most of the functions of living beings, such as nutrition by intussusception, complicated organism, growth, sensitiveness, power to heal wounds ; therefore they constitute a link between the living world and the mineral world. One function only they do not yet possess, the power of reproduction; this problem belongs to the same order as those which I have already solved, and I have prosecuted its study with the following results :-

“In the fertile cells, and generally in all cells capable of multiplying, Hermann Fol has discovered curious figures which he compares to magnetic spectres or phantoms. By means of physical forces and in liquids of the same composition as the living plasm I have reproduced not only these figures, called karyokinetic, but, also in their regular sequence the very complicated successive appearances which they present during the phenomenon of cellular division from the rolled up cord called spiremen down to the final two cells. In the artificial plasm are seen in succession all the phenomena, all the movements and all the shapes which appear in the ovulum after its fertilisation.

“The segmentation of the egg during incubation is one of the most mysterious phenomena of life. Up to now we had no conception of physical force able to produce such a result. Incubation, whatever may be the kind of its production, is always a physical action which produces in the egg currents which are slow to diffuse. In trying to produce in artificial plasms currents which are slow to diffuse, I have obtained a segmentation of such plasms entirely analogous to segmentation of the egg.

“These results have already given us a number of important links between the mineral world and the living world; they show the success of the new points of view which have produced them and of the methods by which they have been obtained.”

And to the strong-minded people who mock at the idea of Philosopher’s Stone we offer another article published in the Œuvre of the 19th March, 1925, over the signature of Mr. Philippe Lenormand: “At a recent meeting of the Academy of Sciences, Professor d’Arsonval showed the design of a new electric generator capable of supplying a continuous potential different of 500,000 volts!

“To be sure higher potential differents had already been obtained, but with apparatus producing alternating currents. But it is these continuous currents of very high voltage which, as we shall see, of the greatest interest to physicists.

“Following Mr. d’Arsonval, Mr. Jean Perrin, professor of chemistry at the Sorbonne, for whose laboratory the new generator was intended, drew attention to this. Mr. Jean Perrin spoke as follows:- “The advantage of this new generator is that it is designed on a principle which will enable the voltage of the continuous current supplied by it to be increased more and more. In its present form it gives 500,000 volts, but when the question of expense no longer arises we shall on the same principle be able to construct an apparatus giving 1,000,000 volts, then 2,000,000, and on the day when we have at our disposal these potential differents, we shall again be able to devote ourselves to the nucleus of the atom. A new chemistry will be created whose field of action cannot yet be foreseen, and we rnav say that on that day something will be modified on this planet.

“Let us try to understand the meaning of the enthusiastic prophecy of the learned professor. “And for this purpose let us rernernber first what is the composition of the atoms of all the bodies which constitute Matter. We know that these atoms consist of a central nucleus, a very tiny grain of positive electricity around which gravitate, like the planets round the sun, grains of negative electricity, the electrons.

“Let us today only consider the nucleus of the atom, for this is characteristic of all bodies. This nucleus is not a simple grain of positive electricity. It consists of other grains smaller still called protons, and which are nothing other than nuclei of the atom of hydrogen, the simplest atom of all. It is the whole of the charge of electricity formed by the union of the protons which characterizes the atom of a body and gives to the latter its peculiar properties. We know for instance that the azote atom has a charge seven times as great as the atom of hydrogen, oxygen eight times, sodium eleven times, and uranium, the most highly charged of all the nuclei, ninety-two times.

“Except in the case of radioactive bodies, the atomic nuclei of which are complicated and consist of a very great number of protons, and which, no doubt on that account, spontaneously disintegrate, the structure of the nucleus is very stable.

“If we were able to withdraw from the nucleus of an atom some the protons of which it consists, we should be able to transform one substance into another, we should obtain a true transmutation of matter, and the dream of the alchemists of old would come true.

“But is there a means of obtaining this splitting up of the nucleus?”

“Down to very recent times the answer to this was no, and the doctrine of the immutability of matter could be held to be settled. But a few years ago an English scientist, Sir Ernest Rutherford, succeeded in partially transforming bodies into hydrogen.

“By bombarding azote, phosphorus and aluminum with the Alpha rays of radium, he succeeded in extracting from the nucleus of the atom of these substances its component parts, the protons, that to say the nuclei of the atom of hydrogen.

“The Alpha rays of radium possess an extraordinary force. They are composed of terrible projectiles consisting of atoms of helium charged with electricity and having a formidable speed.

“Now it is these projectiles which by their concussion succeed in disintegrating the structure of the nucleus of the other atoms.

“The force of a charge of electricity depends on the height of the potention from which it

falls. In the case of the Alpha rays of radium Sir Ernest Rutherford says that it may be taken that these atoms of helium charged with electricity fell from about a million volts. And by means of this million volts it is already possible to extract from the nucleus of an atom a few of the protons of which it consists.

“With two million volts at our disposal, what deeper disintegrations, what unexpected transmutations might we not effect!

 “And in this lies the very great interest of a generator like the one mentioned by Mr. d’Arsonval and Mr. Perrin, on the day on which it would produce a potential different of two million volts. Let us give an example of what we might expect from the bombardment of the atom by means of this formidable voltage. The nucleus of the atom of mercury contains 53 charges, the nucleus of the atom of gold has 52. Therefore it would suffice to extract from the atom of mercury one proton, one nucleus of hydrogen, and it would be transformed into gold.

“Will the philosopher’s stone at last be found?”

 The importance of this discovery, or rather of this find, and its consequences is obvious. First of all it bears out the hexagrammatist theory as to the structure of the atom, with this slight difference that no doubt there are not four simple atoms but only one. And do we not here fall back into obvious Alchemy? Look again at the last sentence of the above short but important article :- “It would suffice to extract from the atom of mercury one proton, one nucleus of hydrogen, and it would be transformed into gold.” The Alchemists tried to do this, for it is merely the transmutation in their heated retorts. We are going to attempt it by means of an electric generator. So long as the end is attained, what matter the means, and will not the theory of the scientists of old be entitled to just as much honour ?

Here is another “modern” aspect of Alchemy. In the January and February, 1925, numbers of the Occult Review there were published two articles signed by Ralph Shirley and Fulblor Hamel referring to a fantastic discovery which Mrs. Dickinson is said to have made at Brighton, which is shortly as follows:-

“Whilst experimenting with Eastern gums and oils for the purpose of producing a new antiseptic, Mrs. Dickinson observed reddish brown crystals on the lid of the receptacle containing the mixture. She directed the flame of a Bunsen burner on to them and after a slight explosion she obtained a crystallisation in the shape of a hollow cylinder.

Soon after she saw suspended in a bottle of her Eastern oil a brown object the size of a ladybird and the shape of a scarab, of a beautiful golden red, fitted with fine threads, giving in the sun bright rays of great luminosity. She enclosed this nucleus in a tube in which it continued to radiate intensely, depositing on the outer wall a steam which condensed into crystals some of which had extraordinary beauty, and resembled crystallised sunbeams. If these crystals are placed in a tube and held in a pail of water, they purify and vitalise the latter.

We are here faced with a new force, superior to radium, for it is in addition able to multiply. It is a universal purifier and a universal solvent.

If a culture is placed in a zinc receptacle and this receptacle into the tank of a boiler, the latter is cleaned automatically. This marvellous water refines oil in the highest degree. Unleavened bread made with this vitalised water remains fresh for an indefinite time provided it is damped from time to time with the water, which can also be used in the cleaning of skins, of flax, as an antiseptic, and for many other purposes.

These are the facts. Alchemy alone can explain them. Are we not at last face to face with the Philosopher’s Stone, which is not a stone but a strange substance having the vital qualities above set out, and which corresponds to the descriptions given by Thomas Vaughan, Arnaud de Villeneuve and others? That substance was protean in character and, like that found by Mrs. Dickinson, made water radioactive.

It is surprising that some scientist does not take up these studies to arrive at some definite result.