I was born in a small town in the southern Ukraine and spent half of my life in Kyiv. At the age of thirteen I met a yogin who taught me basics of Eastern metaphysics and some important practices. Three years later modern music became the main interest in my life and all the rest gradually slid to the background (however did not disappear completely). When getting university degree in the field of acoustics and electronics I was in parallel studying European languages, literature, psychology and history of religion. At the age of thirty-two I felt deeply disappointed at all my occupations and studies that were promising in the end nothing but another job well or no so well paid. Then I asked myself “is there anything else at all in this world, anything really different?..” And a very strange and unexpected answer came to my mind out of nowhere: “alchemy”.
I was on a subway train at the moment. I cannot say I was totally unfamiliar with the term or even with its Jungian interpretation; however – fortunately or unfortunately – I had a relatively good background in chemistry (that together with physics was mandatory discipline in Soviet universities) and was already very skeptical about depth psychology. So, what on earth should I look for in alchemy? At that very moment the train stopped, and an old friend of mine who was working in the Historical Library entered the carriage. Without even saying “hi” he proudly held out to me a manually bound xerox book. It was a copy of Isaac Holland’s “Work of Saturn” in Russian translation published in St Petersburg in 1787, one of the very few alchemical treatises ever printed in Russia by that time: “Can you imagine, we found the original in the old store-room, not catalogued. I made a copy for myself, and I can lend it to you; I remember you usually liked such rare unreadable stuff”. Holding the book in my hands I already knew: that was it; any further reasoning or arguments would be useless. And there was no mistake. The following years Thrice-Great Hermes was extremely kind to me, providing me with the most interesting books, most important encounters and very propitious circumstances, including the possibility of collaboration with the brilliant creator of this blog.
It is generally accepted that there are “spiritual” alchemy and “lab” alchemy or sometimes “operative alchemy” and “mental alchemy”. It is actually true with only one remark: the above distinctions belong not to alchemy, but to our mind. Alchemy is about one thing, the thing that performs all miracles in this world, and the miracle of this world. There’s no “matter and spirit”, all is matter of various density – or all is spirit of various density, and still nothing but a manifestation of that one thing. There is no world and no laboratory beyond our mind, whether we work closing our eyes in meditation, or soil our hands with the coal. Alchemy is art of one thing, and it doesn’t only mean we should take just one thing to work with, it also means we should become one thing eventually, whatever we do with our hands or brains. The more I learn in the ancient tradition of alchemy, the more sense makes for me all that disjunct knowledge that I was so much disappointed with many years ago, and it does not look disjunct anymore. All European culture – philosophy, art, science – is consciously or subconsciously based on hermetico-alchemical tradition, it roots in it; it flourishes on its soil. However this tradition as transferrable knowledge depends heavily on specific and complicated symbolism that should be learned in traditional sense, i.e. not mechanically remembered, but lived through, experienced, cultivated. And since that symbolism originally comes from the operative environment, explanations and notes of a practical alchemist with extensive laboratory experience are indispensable and priceless whether you work with chemical substances or perform mental operations; otherwise, anyone even of great intellectual capabilities and erudition can be easily deluded.