‘One is the serpent whose poison is doubly composed’ — Cleopatra.
The following piece is adapted from the introductory chapter to my book, Alchemical Traditions: From Antiquity to the Avant-Garde (Numen Books, 2013). The book is a collaborative study of Eastern and Western alchemies, featuring emerging and leading scholars of the world’s alchemical traditions. Part one of the present article deals with alchemy from an etymological and historiographical perspective. In part two, I look more closely at the metaphysics underpinning alchemy as a nondual process.
Alchemy may be described, in the words of Baudelaire, as a process of ‘distilling the eternal from the transient’.