The History of Alchemy Explained

Alchemy, according to esoteric writers, is said to be the invention of an ancient Egyptian sage called Hermes Trismegistus. The "Father of Alchemy" lived in an unknown age of Egyptian history, though he is thought by some Rosicrucian schools to have lived during the time of Moses and the Exodus of the Israelites. If true, being an Initiate of the mysteries of Isis and Osiris, Moses must have been tutored by Hermes himself, which later enabled him to carry out his mission and to realize his I AM Presence symbolised by the burning bush. The various precepts and the Ten Commandments of the Lord of Hosts revealed to the Israelites by Moses are the first alchemical steps of purification and putrefaction. Further steps were later added to the Mosaic revelation by the Nazarene Master. Indeed, the Christ declared that he came not to abolish the previous revelation, but to fulfill it.

It is thought by some that "Hermes Trismegistus" constituted a title assumed by distinguished hierophants of the Mystery Schools, in a somewhat similar manner that Zoroaster, the founder of the "Fire Religion" is regarded by certain scholars. Incidentally, alchemy may also be considered a Fire Religion, or at least a philosophy, because of its symbology of fire related to the alchemical principles, its prerequisite in the art of transmutation, and to the respect and honor paid to it by alchemists.

Jewish mystics identify Hermes as the antediluvian prophet Enoch, or Idris, as the Muslims call him; while ancient Egyptians see Hermes as Thoth, the god of Wisdom, Learning, and Writing. He was given this apotheosis along with Imhotep, the great architect under the reign of King Zoser of the Fourth Dynasty. It would appear that both men were overshadowed by the archetypal figure of Thoth, and were acknowledged as such by both the inner and outer circles of initiates of the Mystery Schools. Thoth, or his Greek counterpart, Mercury, was a messenger of the gods; and as an archetypal incarnation of this god, Hermes lived up to his name by his literary productiveness. Ancient writers declared that the "Trice Greatest" wrote thousands of books on what later became known as Hermeticism and Alchemy. It is unfortunate that very little of Hermes' works survived the conflagration and destruction of libraries and books by Roman and Christian zeal in the early dawn of the Piscean Age. The world as a whole is still ignorant of the great loss, and it will take some time before the invocation is made by the masses for the Greater Light, for disclosure of eternal principles that would shine upon the paths of men, and consequently, for a full restoration and establishment of an occult library of the world, with an archive and database of every known system and tradition of the metaphysical side of life. Although little is known of Hermes, it is evident through the works attributed to him that he was an intermediary of the Wisdom Ray of the Supreme Being.

One of the most famed works on Hermetic doctrine written, and in concise form, is the Smaragdine Tablet attributed to the authorship of Hermes. Its discovery is traditionally believed to have been made by Alexander of Macedonia in a cave near Hebron. This conqueror of nations who had Aristotle for a Master, was in search of immortality. Although he failed to attain his personal immortality, Alexander did uncover a philosophical jewel that would have given him what he had sought if he had only applied the principles that the Emerald Tablet contained. Tradition relates that the Tablet was wrought out of artificial emerald, as a result of transmutation, with the Hermetic doctrine embossed on it.

Alchemy, as a philosophy and an art in the Western hemisphere in the past two millenia, existed concurrently in other ancient cultures and civilizations--it was practiced intensely by Hindu Yogis and Taoists, in India and China. This parallel growth is probably the result of the Great White Brotherhood's periodic presentation of a spiritual method designed for the development of certain types of temperaments and belief-framework of those aspirants belonging to a certain era and stage of mankind's collective evolution.

Based on this parallel growth of alchemy in the Orient and the regions of the Fertile Crescent suggested to some Esoteric historians that alchemy may have had a common origin in that sunken continent Atlan, or Atlantis, as it is more generally known. Esoteric Tradition declares that a handful of the Atlantean Root Race survived the submergence of the land and transmigrated to Egypt, China, and the Americas. It is reasonable to assume that they brought with them their sciences, art, and culture, which influenced the inhabitants indigenous to the regions where they settled. This would explain the similarities in the traditions and beliefs of native cultures to be found both East and West.

Principles of Alchemy are the principles that Nature herself works with, and thus alchemy, scientifically, existed in the inner planes long before it was brought down to the earth plane by Master teachers. A study of Nature's mysteries would reveal to the discerning student that the higher Intelligences, the Elohim, and the Great Architect of the Universe utilized alchemical principles to precipitate the starry bodies out of Chaos, out of Cosmic Root Substance or "Sunyata," as termed by the Buddhist. Qabalists believe that Adam was taught by the angels in Paradise the art of transmutation, to prepare him for his "Fall" and his climb back toward his Monad, toward godhood--his involution and evolution from a Divine Consciousness to Divine Self-Consciousness.

There is no general concurrence among scholars as to the origin of the word "alchemy." The consensus is that the word is derived from the word "Khem," the ancient name for Egypt, added to the Arabic article "al," meaning "the," thus forming the word "al-Khemy." However, Sir Wallis Budge is of the opinion that alchemy comes from the Egyptian word "khemein," meaning the "black powder" or "ore" which is presumed to be an ingredient in alchemy. No matter where it secured its name, the word "alchemy," it would seem, first came into prominence in the Mystery Schools in Alexandria.