Alchemy – Was it ever really possible?

Divine Science.

Alchemy, the fore runner of our modern chemistry, is a subject rich in mystical significance! But has Alchemy ever really been possible? We examine the evidence.



Alchemy, the fore runner of our modern chemistry, is a subject rich in mystical significance! At the heart of this "Divine Science", as it was known, was the belief that metals and alloys could be changed into others, by the action of certain compounds in conjunction with planetary alignments.

For centuries the quest for the Philosophers Stone and the Elixir of Life consumed the minds of dedicated individuals who forfeited everything in their quest for ultimate knowledge. They believed that base metals could be changed into gold and sought vigorously the formula that would give them the gift of perpetual youth. Fortunes were squandered and marriages broken in the quest for this magic, which we now look upon quite smirkingly as something which could never happen!

But can we be sure that these dedicated efforts were really as futile as we are led to believe, or was there more to this eccentric art than first meets the eye ?

Art of the Black Lands.

What we do know is that Alchemy is a very ancient craft dating back to at least the days of the ancient Egyptians. In fact the very word alchemy, from which we derive our modern word chemistry, is a modern corruption of the old name for Egypt – the black lands, after the black mud of the river Nile.

In his book "Egyptian Magic" the eminent scholar and Keeper of Antiquities at the British Museum, Wallis Budge, had this to say regarding the name and use of alchemy:

"Side by side with the growth of skill in performing the ordinary process of metal working in Egypt, there grew up in that country the belief that magical powers existed in fluxes and alloy’s and the art of manipulating the metals and the knowledge of the chemistry of the metals, and of their magical powers were described by the name Khemeia, that is to say ‘the preparation of the black ore (or power) which was regarded as the active principle in the transmutation of metals. To this name the Arabs affixed the article Al, and thus we obtain the word Alkhemeia or alchemy, which will perpetuate the reputation of the Egyptians as successful students of white magic and of the black arts".

Alchemy then is of Egyptian origin. But who had taught them this craft? Was it just a matter of good fortune that their minds ran to such things; or had they discovered the seeds of an already well established science that once flourished during the halcyon days of the Golden Era? A science now almost totally forgotten and ridiculed as far too implausible to be taken seriously !


As in all things Egyptian, there are many who ascribe the influence of this knowledge to lost Atlantis. Knowledge carefully preserved to survive even the immense catastrophe that wiped it all away.

An inkling of how this might have been accomplished comes to us from the Babylonian priest and historian Berossus! According to Berossus the secrets of this earlier age were carefully preserved in specially built vaults. He writes of certain priests who foreseeing the coming disaster made sure that the secrets of the pre-flood era were securely buried in the City of the Sun at Sippara, close to Babylon.

Repositories of knowledge.

In Egypt itself there is much talk of buried vaults containing treasure chambers filled with great books of knowledge and wisdom. It was from just such a source that we owe our knowledge of Atlantis. As we heard in an earlier chapter the priests of Sais had access to records dating as far back as ancient Atlantis – nine thousand years before Plato. Other secret repositories of knowledge may never have been found, and one such chamber is rumoured to exist close to the pyramids of Giza.

After the great deluge these records were diligently sought after and most of them recovered. It was this knowledge – along with other influences such as culture bearing beings – that was to constitute the main impetus for the speedy resurrection of man’s fortunes. In the aftermath of the great disaster it formed an unbroken link with that past age of brilliance and included in these records might well have been the full secret of the craft of alchemy!

Modern doubts.

The shame is that today the very notion of alchemy is greeted with mirth and hilarity, an example of distorted medieval thinking, with no scientific basis.

The real pity of this closed thinking, is that if there was ever an age capable of understanding the scientific implications of alchemy then this is it; for in theory the workings of alchemy are quite plausible. We know for instance that many substances have molecular structures that are to a great extent similar. All it takes to turn one into another is the rearrangement of its molecules. To turn lead into gold for example requires the displacement of just one molecule. It really is that simple !

Of course the difficulty lies in the minute size of these molecules, and the problems in manipulating them. Nevertheless we are now seeing the first tentative steps in the development of machines capable of manipulating the tiniest particles! Indeed given time the transmutation of base metals into gold and silver, by molecular engineering might well become no more than a routine process.

The Elixir of Life.

The transmutation of metals was only part of the alchemical quest. The other more elusive goal was the Aqua Vitae, the so called Elixir of Life!

Here we are faced with one of the most basic of human desires to not only prolong life, but also to remain perpetually young ! The quest for this secret has carried on for hundreds of years ! Throughout history, particularly in the Middle Ages, there have always existed those who believe that this Elixir can be found by arcane methods of purifying substances in conjunction with the power of the Earth and the planets! In effect they believed they could find the secret to retard, if not entirely bring to a halt the aging process.

Again we find ourselves in an area where modern research is catching up with well established ancient beliefs. For the aging process is something that we now know a lot more about. In fact the genes responsible for aging can now be identified and isolated, and from this vital step it is surely no more than a matter of time before the influence of these genes is modified and the aging process curtailed and retarded.

Malignant Virus.

Some observers choose to see aging in terms of a malignant virus, and although we commonly accept our lifespan to be somewhere in the order of eighty years or so, these theorists say there is no reason why we should not live out life spans up to ten times as great ! The fact that we don’t, is they say the result of this malignant aging virus which they believe can in time be isolated and removed !

Significantly, ancient writings show a progressively diminishing life expectancy. In the early Biblical days for example, people living five or six hundred years was nothing unusual. People have often questioned the method of counting years in these times, but as we saw earlier the definition of a year as 365 days was already known and used ! At no stage in the Bible, or in any other document relating to these fantastic life spans are we led to believe that when dealing with peoples ages one year equals anything other than the currently accepted three hundred and sixty five and a one quarter days .

But if it is true that people did live out these fantastic life-spans what was it that allowed them to do so? Moreover why did this longevity abruptly fall to a life-span of years that is much like our own ? What happened to make it this way ? For that matter why did the alchemists in their "divine art "feel the secret of longevity could be manufactured by use of a secret formula ?

Curtailed development.

Here the implications are truly staggering. Once we lived out fantastic life-spans encompassing half a millennia, and now our allotted life expectancy falls to well below a century. As we mentioned earlier it’s almost as if at some time in our development we inherited a devastating aging virus that even in this technological era still bedevils our species.

Perhaps the Elixir of Life was the secret formula that retarded the affects of this destructive gene virus, a secret formula that became lost and forgotten. Or perhaps it was just handed down and administered to trusted initiants, who kept it a closely guarded secret.

The fact is these secrets were never meant for the masses, but only those felt worthy to discover them!

Ancients among us.

The folklore surrounding the Elixir of life refers to people alive today who have lived for thousands of years. People perpetually young, who just drift from place to place, never settling, or placing roots. These wanderers are rumoured to work to a secret agenda, influencing governments, and the mood of the people with subtle behind the scenes activity. Then having accomplished their mission in one place they then move to the next.

Practical Science.

Seen through the light of modern eyes these romantic legends are seen as just that – quaint fables that have no place in modern science. Yet in its day alchemy has been termed the science of sciences, and in the Middle Ages more than one practitioner of these ancient crafts became famed for their skill in them..

The truth is we find numerous exciting references to alchemists who were accredited with great success in the process. In fact the 13th century British alchemist Raymond Lully, had such a firm reputation for his skill that he was accorded special facilities by Edward the Third ! In the book "The Lure and Romance of Alchemy", CJS Thompson describes "that when Lully arrived in London, lodgings in the Tower were assigned to him – not it should be stressed as a prisoner – and that there he made gold".

Constantinos writing in 1515, declares that he actually saw "the gold pieces that were coined from the metal which at that time were still named in England, The Nobles of England, or the Rose Nobles".

The Impossible science?

We also find hints that the Elixir of Life, was not the undiscovered chimera it is thought to have been. In fact extracts from Medieval manuscripts clearly mention that the "impossible science" may have been more than just a fleeting dream.

The historian Alberuni commenting on the claims of Hindu alchemy gives us the following insight: "They (the Hindus) have a science similar to alchemy which they call Rasayana, an art which is restricted to certain operations, drugs and compound medicines. It’s principles restore the health of those who are ill beyond hope and give back youth to fading old age".

Pills of Immortality.

The writer CJS Thompson describes "a curious legend concerning a Chinese alchemist Wei-po-Yong, who wrote a treatise on a preparation called the Pills of Immortality,"which after a prolonged study he is said to have ultimately succeeded in making"!

The authenticity of some of these obscure manuscripts is bound to be open to question yet undeniably there is a consistent written record of alchemists who were said to have discovered this Elixir of Life! We also find tantalising manuscripts detailing the exact steps involved in the alchemical process but these are disappointingly wrapped in a vague mystical prose made purposely unintelligible.

People who arrive at a knowledge of these things feel, quite understandably, that they have been hand picked by a supernatural power, and that any disclosure of this knowledge to people unprepared or unequipped to handle it represents a desecration of what to them, are divine truths and sciences!

The situation regarding knowledge of these things can best be expressed in terms of a well worn phrase that "those who talk don’t know, and those who know won’t talk "!

Because of this veil of secrecy the arguments of those for and against, are bound to be confined to circumstantial evidence, though we feel that here too it will not be long before mainstream science begins to catch up with this "chimera", and places alchemy in it’s rightful place as an accepted scientific process.