INTRODUCTION to Real Alchemy (Robert Bartlett)

by Dennis William Hauck


The book before you is an amazing accomplishment in many ways. My friend and fellow alchemist Robert Bartlett has laid bare the secret processes and experiments of our discipline with exceptional clarity and openness. He has exposed the Hermetic origins of alchemy and shown how modern alchemists approach the ancient art. But first and foremost, his book is a revelation of the genuine craft of alchemy as it was meant to be practiced.


While the work of Carl Jung and others have underscored the archetypal power and universal significance of alchemical symbols, alchemy itself is much more than a psychological commentary on the nature of the human psyche. It is true that alchemy reflects the highest aspirations of the human soul, for our gold has always symbolized the hastened perfection of man as well as matter.  However, any alchemist worth his salt knows that lasting transformation only takes place when the work is accomplished on all levels of reality – the mental, the spiritual, and the physical. The Great Work is actual work to be done with the hands, the heart, and the soul, and not just understood with the mind.


A medieval alchemist brought back to our era would be highly amused at the endless discussions among modern theorists as to the nature and depth of alchemy or its sudden blossoming in the offices of psychiatrists and New Age counselors. “Has no one ever tried it?” he would ask incredulously. “What good is such understanding without its practical application in the world?”


No alchemist in history ever thought the Secret Art was solely a mental discipline. The work of transformation takes place in the real world. Yet alchemy is not chemistry. Chemistry is a superficial science that deals only with the external forms in which the elements manifest. A chemist seeks to rearrange atoms and molecules to exhibit different properties of the same dead material. An alchemist seeks to create an entirely new substance by exposing its essences, bringing them alive, and causing them to grow.


When an alchemist performs a laboratory experiment, it is the culmination of careful planning to find the right timing and personal purification to create the sacred space in which the transformation can take place. The alchemist becomes an ingredient in his own experiment, and his intention and passion contribute to the outcome. He suffers as the essences are teased and tortured from the substance, and he is elated when the hidden spark of truth brings the dead matter back to life on a new level of being.


Admittedly, this is a strange way of looking at laboratory work in a materialistic, industrialized world, and there are many prejudices the modern mind must overcome to accept the possibility that alchemy is real. Yet perhaps, after reading this book with a free heart and open mind, you might find an ancient voice speaking to you through the drone of appliances, engines, and commercial broadcasts that make up our environment. The voice will whisper: But have you tried it?

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