Alchemy is an ancient photo scientific practice and philosophical tradition that has means of transmuting an element into another, commonly defined as the art of transformation. Alchemy can be regarded as both science and philosophy. In essence, alchemy is considered the mother of chemistry. Generally, alchemy is part of historical science, which is involved with human involvement with nature in an attempt to harness nature’s power for human needs and wants. Basically, alchemists revolved around the idea that nature had secrets that could be revealed through experimentations and laboratory tastings and examination.
For the most part, alchemists were limited in knowledge with regards to the properties and nature of the elements. However, the works of ancient alchemists laid the foundation of contemporary laboratory techniques and advanced major findings into many secrets of nature with regards to finding a cure for multiple ailments. This ancient practice was practiced across Egypt, Europe, and Asia. Scientifically, alchemy is primarily about elements, and how one element can be transformed into another. While ancient alchemist processes were thought to be magic the reality is that unlike magic, alchemy can be explained through science and reasoning. Probably, in seeking nature’s secrets ancient alchemists were searching for a connection with the supernatural beings. Similarly, a great deal of astrological work was at play in alchemy works. With this regards, alchemy was mainly considered magic and later alchemists as sorcerers in the witch hunt era.
The main purpose of scientific alchemy was to transform base metals into gold, though other variations appeared in subsequent years. Alchemy also involves the development of immortality elixir, development of panacea that is able to cure any disease and creation of alkahest that is a universal solvent. Alchemy covers a number of traditions, through the use of symbolic language and cryptic penchants make it extremely difficult to trace their mutual influences and relationship. In this light, it is possible to differentiate at least three major dimensions of alchemy which was largely independent in initial stages. These include; the Chinese alchemy that mainly revolved around China and Chinese cultural influences; Western alchemy that occurred around the Mediterranean and has shifted in years from the Islamic world, Medieval Europe, and Greco-Roman Egypt. Nonetheless, alchemy first originated in Egypt.
In ancient Egypt, Alchemy was closely linked with the fertility of River Nile. Probably in the 4th century, alchemy was deployed in mummification procedures. After Christians invaded Egypt much of alchemy were lost though, Greek assimilated alchemy in their own practices including medicine. Alchemy appeared in Europe around the 8th century, when Muslims transmitted the knowledge on alchemical to Spain. While, Europeans, Egyptians, and Muslims were interested in alchemy because of the elixir of life, the main focus was utilizing alchemy to creating gold from diverse substances. Hence, the pursuit of transforming other metals into gold was the pursuit of transmutation and perfection of human spirit.
One famous Islamic alchemist was Jabir ibn Hayyan who envisioned that alchemy could be utilized in creating a human being in the laboratory. He extracted anesthetic elements from herbs and also introduced the rudimentary elements we know today in chemistry. In China alchemy was closely linked to yang, yin and Taoism philosophy and beliefs. In early years of practice, the aim of Chinese alchemy was to discover the elixir of life, and not transform metals into gold. However in years to follow transmutation of other metals to gold was picked. Apart from medicine, Chinese alchemists incorporated exercise techniques that were to enhance one’s life, the alchemical practice of yoga that was probably shared to India. Probably one contribution that stood out from Chinese alchemists was the invention of gunpowder or black powder that revolutionized warfare. This was alchemical invention yet the initial aim was medicine and not warfare.