Divine Art of Alchemy
“Alchemy is an art, and as every art requires an artist to exercise it, likewise this divine science and art can be practiced only by those who are in possession of the divine power necessary for that purpose. It is true that the external manipulations required for the production of certain alchemical preparations may, like an ordinary chemical process, be taught to anybody capable of reasoning; but the results which he would accomplish would be without life, for only he in whom the true life has awakened can awaken it from its sleep in the prima materia, and cause visible forms to grow from the Chaos of nature.
“Alchemy in its highest aspects deals with the spiritual regeneration of man, and teaches how a god may be made out of a human being or, to express it more correctly, how to establish the conditions necessary for the development of divine powers in man, so that a human being may become a god by the power of God, in the same sense as a seed becomes a plant by the aid of the four elements, and the action of the invisible fifth.”~Franz Hartmann
Alchemy as Art
As Hartmann notes, Alchemy is as much art as it is a science, at least insofar as we think of those terms in the physical world. I’m sure that much of what we consider art with regard to spiritual development will one day be science. We simply haven’t yet learned the rules governing its use yet, so we have to use intuition, making it an art.
What does it mean to say that something is an art as much as a science, or even more than it is a science? Let me give you an example from my own life. When I first studied Computer Programming in the 1970s, it was more art than science. Programing languages were becoming standard, but precisely how to write programs with them was not. It was as much wide open as a novelist who can write a book in many different ways, as long as he follows the basic rules of grammar. If two programmers were given an assignment to write a program to do a specific job, each would come up with a very different solution. But by the 1990’s it had become more science than art. Now when two programmers wrote the same program, the more structured rules meant they would be nearly identical.
In the case of Alchemy, I don’t know enough about its history to say if something similar happened, but as Hartmann says, it never got to the point of being pure science. It remains, like most other spiritual disciplines, a mix of art and science.
Alchemy as Science
While Alchemy was an art, it truly was part science. The divine art of Alchemy was also the divine science of alchemy. Many will scoff at the idea that people trying to turn lead into gold were at all scientific—and they are correct. But that is not what real Alchemists did. It is just an allegorical reference to what they did. Some phony Alchemists thought it was literally true and did try to do that. They were not at all scientists. But real Alchemists were trying to change materialistic people of lead into spiritual people of gold, and that process is science when done correctly. They did not practice random nonsense and call it spiritual development. They had a very scientific approach.
Divine Art of Alchemy for Spiritual Growth
The ancient mystery schools, which were, in a sense, schools of alchemy, didn’t practice methods of spiritual growth with no reason to believe they would work, as many modern schools do. They conducted very scientific experiments and studied the results to learn what worked and what didn’t. If they found no evidence that a particular method of spiritual development worked, they abandoned it. If they found that a method worked, but not as well as others, they recommended to their students the methods that produced the best results. Far different from the “Everyone must follow his own path” nonsense of today.
They never stopped studying and never stopped experimenting. No matter how good a practice was, there could be something better. But they did experiment. They did not just accept the word of some ancient guru that a method worked.
The art came mostly in two ways. One was in how they recruited new students into their programs. This required creativity and the use of arts as they existed in those days. An example might be the creation of oracles such as those of ancient Greece. They also used much art in their initiation ceremonies. They may have seemed strange to an outsider, but they were usually full of carefully interwoven allegories and myths to help awaken the new student. So the divine art of alchemy was art and science.