The word alchemy is an Arabic term comprised of the article "al" and the noun "khemi." The later word relates to "Khem" the Coptic name of Egypt. Alchemy thus means, "that which pertains to Egypt." Thus the words alchemy and chemistry are a reminder of the scientific legacy of Egypt. Another possible origin of the word is the Greek "cheo" which means "I pour" or "I cast"??"a word often used in reference to the ancient Greek metalworkers who used many alchemical formulae. Together, alchemy and astrology are two of the oldest sciences known to humanity. The specialized fields of herbalism, mineralogy, natural science, chemistry, pharmacology, and medicine all evolved from the mother science known as alchemy.
The outer body of alchemy is chemistry; it is in fact the ancestor of modern chemistry. But in addition to being a science, this ancient art is also a philosophy. Alchemy is a science that is based upon multiplication and the natural phenomenon of growth??"it is the process of increasing and improving that which already exists. Alchemy is evolution ??" the raising of vibrations.
Practitioners of the art considered nature to be the greatest alchemist of all; causing the latent seeds of all life to multiply and grow through the act of transmutation. One objective of the alchemists was to carry out in the laboratory, as far as possible, the processes which nature carries out in the earth plane. Not only did they try to duplicate these natural operations, they tried to reproduce them in a comparatively short period of time??"speeding up processes which nature
takes vast amounts of time to manifest.
Alchemy is the art and science of transformation. This is not an easily understood art, because the primal medium of alchemical expression is through the use of allegory and mythological symbols, which can be interpreted simultaneously both at a material and a spiritual level. The primary goal of alchemy is to bring all things, including humanity to its pre-ordained state of perfection. To that end, the alchemical theory states that eternal wisdom remains latent, dormant and obscure in humanity so long as a mundane state of ignorance and superficiality exists. The objective of alchemy is the uncovering of this inner wisdom, and the removal of the veils and obstacles between the mind and its intrinsically pure divine source.
Golden Dawn students are required to study the various terms, symbols, and concepts used in alchemy. They are not required to practice laboratory alchemy.