Alchemy is a secret science that saw the light of day as early as the 1st century B.C., one that remains shrouded in mystery even today. This mystery is kept alive mainly due to the mystical symbols, hidden signs and coded language alchemists use.
Alchemy and mystery are indivisible
Recognized as a true mystical science, alchemy has always cultivated mystery. Originally, the avowed aim was to discover a substance (called “elixir” or the “philosopher’s stone“) that could transform metals into gold. The goal for alchemists was to achieve the “Magnum Opus”.
But beyond the chemical aspect, this art hides a philosophical and spiritual aspect: alchemists seek the way to transform human beings, to make them evolve, and to perceive what lies deep down behind appearances.
Alchemy has its own doctrine, specific fundamental principles and, above all, its own language and is made up of a multitude of symbols and signs which are incomprehensible to non-initiates. A large part of alchemy is based on this esoteric and symbolic knowledge.
A multitude of esoteric symbols
Ancient alchemists used codes and a poetic and symbolic language, one that was deliberately allegoric and obscure, in order to prevent laymen from accessing this knowledge.
Many alchemy treaties have been written over the centuries and they all feature the same peculiarity: they describe chemical and physical experiments but leave many gray areas. They do not specify what raw materials should be used, for instance. These materials are to be found in riddles that the initiated has to solve before he can decipher the instructions of the alchemy treaty.
Symbols are ever-present. They refer to materials, nature elements or processes aimed at transforming matter.
Here are a few common alchemical symbols:
The four elements:
Gold, and also the Sun:
The Sun and a downward cross represent Copper but also Venus
The Sun and an upward cross topped by an arrow represent Iron and Mars
Salt in a crucible
The Union of the Philosopher’s Salt, Sulfur and Mercury