FOREWORD to The Way of the Crucible (Robert Bartlett)

by Dennis William Hauck


In my work in alchemy over the last forty years, I have met a lot of people who call themselves “alchemists” who never set foot in a laboratory. In fact, just about anyone who talks about transformation – whether it is on the personal level, in the arts, or in business – is likely to call themselves alchemists. In the popular mind, the psychological and spiritual aspects of alchemy have overshadowed the work in the lab.  

Traditionally, however, the alchemists were much more than intellectuals or philosophers. To accomplish lasting transformations, they had to succeed not only on the mental and spiritual levels but on the physical level as well. Taping into the synergistic relationship between mind, matter, and energy is the essence of traditional alchemy and what differentiates it from all other disciplines.

How did the split between spiritual and practical alchemy come about? During the heyday of alchemy in the Middle Ages, alchemists around the world were pursuing the fabled Philosopher’s Stone, which was said to instantly perfect any substance and change lead into gold. But the fascination with gold brought a new class of mercenary alchemists known as “puffers,” who sat at their furnaces constantly fanning their bellows, hoping to produce gold by purely physical means.

The puffers worked only with external fires, never kindling the “secret fire” of the initiated alchemist that originated in psychological purification and spiritual meditation. When the puffers were unable perform their transformations, they resorted to trickery to finance their endeavours. Before long, a backlash developed against alchemists in which true alchemists suffered along with the puffers.

Gradually, alchemy split into two different directions. The purely physical work of the puffers, who discovered many new compounds and laboratory techniques, gave rise to modern chemistry. True alchemists rejected this commercialization of alchemy and were forced to practice their art in seclusion. In their view, the central work in alchemy – the operation of the Stone – was not within reach of the chemist.

Today, however, the two paths of alchemy are converging again. Advances in quantum physics have revealed the hidden role consciousness plays in nature, and many other fundamental alchemical principles are being proven in practical demonstrations. The operations of alchemy have been shown to work in psychology, sociology, business management, and other seemingly unrelated areas.

The new alchemist is a hybrid born out of the two cultures of science and mysticism. This modern breed of scientist-mystic or chemist-alchemist is personified by the author of this book, Robert Bartlett. Robert does traditional alchemy using modern tools. Educated as a chemist, he was initiated into alchemy by Dr. Albert Reidel (Frater Albertus) and became his chief chemist at Paralab.

In his lab work, Robert integrates chemical knowledge and modern laboratory techniques with ancient alchemical wisdom. His also knows how to enhance his experiments with work on the personal and spiritual levels, and the first thing you notice when you meet him in person is his lack of ego and complete dedication to alchemy.

In short, Robert is the modern epitome of the true alchemist, and I highly recommend his work to both beginning and advanced students of the Art. This book and his previous introductory text, Real Alchemy, are among the few works available today that teach alchemy the way it was meant to be taught.