Alchemy was the original term for Chemistry. Before the so-called enlightenment in the 1600s, there was no difference between the two disciplines. If you were a chemist, you were an alchemist. The same situation was true of Astrology and Astronomy. They were one discipline. The Astrologer was the Astronomer and vice versa.
Like most spiritual sciences Alchemy had its esoteric and exoteric side. The exoteric side was about transforming metals into other metals – i.e. transforming lead into gold. (Modern chemists are doing this already but its an expensive and laborious process – much simpler to just mine it from the earth.) The esoteric side of alchemy was about transforming the lead – the dross – of psychological experience – of karma – into the gold or spiritual knowledge and understanding. In effect, the Alchemist was the ancient equivalent of the Yogi. It was all about internal transformations.
The essence of alchemy can be explained very simply – stripped of all jargon and symbolism. It is about learning how to take a lemon and make lemonade out of it. As the saying goes, “when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade”. There is an art and science to this and this is what esoteric alchemy was all about.
Lemons don’t become lemonade by themselves. Human effort and knowledge are involved. You have to squeeze the lemon, add water and perhaps some sweetener, chill it and voila, you have a delicious and nutritious drink.
When life hands us a lemon, it’s not about punishments. It is handing us the raw material for something wonderful. Only the material needs some processing. Some human effort and knowledge are involved. Using the tools of Alchemy the most serious event – the most apparently catastrophic event – can be converted into something wonderful – cancer, heart disease, losing members, even paralysis. These are the raw materials that life supplies for the spiritual gold that will result.
Helen Keller’s limitations only helped her develop other faculties and she became a useful human being in spite of these things. There are many such stories.