What is alchemy?

January 11, 2021
By Dennis Klocek

Mention the word alchemy and most people would imagine some crazy guy trying to change lead into gold. While that is true “Lead” and “Gold” in alchemical symbolism are code words for what is corruptible “Lead”, and what is not “Gold”. 

Corruptible means it will decay in time and lose its form. Seen that way, everything in the manifest world is corruptible or “Lead”. In alchemy what is not corruptible is “Gold”. This describes the continual life producing action of invisible worlds acting on visible worlds. The “Gold” of the invisible spirit side of nature is the creative, inexhaustible potential of life.

In the picture the alchemist is kneeling on the manifest world with its trees and bushes. This symbolizes the need to pay great attention to the will patterns present in the manifest world. This is done as a study path towards understanding the invisible spirit that animates nature. This is not a mystical or spiritist path of abandoning the Earth in favor of spirit. This “Work” is to unite spirit and matter.

 The alchemical consciousness must engage the Earth as spirit potential “Gold” and work to understand how the “Gold” passes into corruptible phenomena “Lead”. This needs study so that through “Work” we can help to evolve the “Lead” of the minerals back into the “Gold” of living things. Growing lettuce turns “Lead” into “Gold”.

Through humility and diligence the alchemical goal is to reveal the genius of the Creation and ask for the intelligence that is behind the forms in nature to inspire what the alchemists called the “Work”.  “Work” is a code word for training the mind to follow the patterns of form in nature in order to create medicinal substances that can heal human ills. The code for that healing ”Work” is “Gold”.

ALCHEMIST KNEELING

To “Work” requires freeing oneself from preconceived, thoughts about the appearances of things in nature. That is symbolized by the walking stick (crutch) lying on the ground. The “Work” is to then touch the earth with an open mind. This is a reversal of the will symbolized by kneeling on the ground. This describes the many hours spent in the laboratory failing to understand the inner nature of substances. 

When the will has been sufficiently brought into harmony with the hidden dimensions behind the manifest world it is possible for  a higher sight to unfold in the mind of the alchemist. The higher sight brings into focus the invisible but powerful realm of consciousness where all things exist in potential. The alchemist enters what is known as the imaginal world. 

DIVINE WHEELS

Imaginal is not the common world of imaginary things but an ordered and highly creative realm of dynamic laws that operate behind the appearances of the natural world. This is symbolized by the wheels in the air. They are the wheels of the hidden laws that animate and inform the Creation. 

ALCHEMIST WITH FOUR ELEMENTS

This next image is of an alchemist trying to balance these two worlds. The solar world is the world of “Gold”, the incorruptible order of spiritual laws. The lunar world is the  corruptible or “passing” world of birth and death symbolized by the code word “Lead”. The solar and lunar worlds are only precariously balanced by an alchemist as he or she stands one foot in the liquid sphere and one foot in the solid sphere. The plants are in the balance between the earth and water elements.  

ALCHEMIST WIND

 In the left hand,  difficult to see, is the symbol for the element wind, a being blowing out of a cloud. This is air the capacity for transformation from more gravity laden states of matter to more levity laden, life states found in growth. Air is the link.

ALCHEMIST FIRE

In the right hand, a vessel of fire is streaming outward towards the Sun. Fire as an element is congealed warmth alchemically. It is the manifest form of warmth. The potential form of warmth is the ”Gold” of the Sun.  Warmth is the invisible inner cellular vitality of cells and blood interacting. The result is digestion and health. 

ALCHEMIST STARS

 The head of the alchemist is placed among the stars. This points to the important aspect of understanding cosmic rhythms as the higher dimension between “Lead” that  is, the manifest world, and “Gold”, the world of spiritual potentials. The life forces streaming invisibly within visible sunlight support life processes and growth. 

The great alchemist Paracelsus linked light and the metallic realm of potentials. Science (Fraunhofer) recognizes that the visible world and the mineral substances that are active in it are fundamentally patterns of colored light frequencies. 


Today’s technical science operates by highlighting differences. It forms a worldview in which all things are seen as entities more and more separate from all other things. Living things transmit information  through synchronous waves in time. The rhythmic similarities when accented are a powerful source of synergy. The alchemical worldview operates by highlighting rhythmic, synchronous similarities. We could say synchronicities amplify synergies. 

 The resulting symbolic language is nuanced and flexible while still maintaining  accuracy and can reveal much when applied to living systems. Alchemy is the science of balancing the visible world of “Lead” with the invisible laws of life active in the solar “Gold” of the spirit. This balance results in health. 

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dennis-klocek

Dennis Klocek

Dennis Klocek, MFA, is co-founder of the Coros Institute and a faculty member at Rudolf Steiner College. He is the author of nine books, including the newly released Colors of the Soul; Esoteric Physiology and also Sacred Agriculture: The Alchemy of Biodynamics. Dennis is also an international lecturer.

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