In a way, alchemy is a precursor to modern chemistry. In ancient times, before we had a modern understanding of science, alchemists tried to create a process by which they could transform lead into gold. Alchemy was also involved in attempts to mix potions that would cure any illness or that would prolong life indefinitely. Alchemy traces its roots to ancient Egypt, where alchemists produced alloys, jewelry, perfumes, and substances to embalm the dead. Modern-day alchemy has seen a revival within the New Age movement.
Alchemy has always been about more than just finding the right combination of chemicals; from the beginning, alchemy involved a philosophical and religious pursuit of hidden wisdom. Alchemy is often associated with Hermeticism, a pagan religion that purports to have the most ancient, most desirable wisdom. Other influences within alchemy are astrology, numerology, Kabbalah, and Rosicrucianism. Alchemists were not just proto-chemists and early metallurgists; they were magicians, mystics, and sorcerers.
Alchemy sought to transform more than metal. It also had a goal of spiritual transformation, purifying the spirit, expanding the consciousness, and touching the divine. That is, alchemists sought to turn the “lead” of the human soul into the “gold” of an enlightened being. In fact, alchemy promotes the belief that only those who have achieved a higher consciousness—those who have attained insight into the mysteries of the universe—are capable of effecting transmutation of earthly things.
Alchemy relies heavily on dreams and visions and altered states of consciousness to procure esoteric “wisdom.” Various symbols and talismans are thought to be imbued with much power. The ultimate goal of alchemy is sometimes referred to as “the philosopher’s stone,” a condensation of a secret substance that will change common metal into gold and, more importantly, bring immortality, enlightenment, and perfection to the possessor of the stone. The philosopher’s stone is also called “the tincture,” “the powder,” and “materia prima.” The first book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, contains many references to alchemy.
Alchemy’s connection to sorcery, occult wisdom, and paganism should be enough evidence that it is unbiblical. But there is a more basic reason why alchemy is wrong—it’s aimed at producing earthly treasures, including wealth and longevity. Jesus said not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth but to lay up treasures in heaven instead (Matthew 6:19–21).