An ancient form of speculative science that sought to transform physical objects from one form into another, particularly copper and lead into silver and gold, respectively. This science has evolved into many laboratory techniques and terms that are used even to this day.
But what does alchemy have to do with Freemasonry?
Some of our earlier Brethren and great thinkers of their time would use alchemy not only in its (proto) scientific form but also in a spiritual and metaphysical sense. The idea of the magnum opus, or “Great Work”, was sought after by its practitioners. They understood that nothing could top the works of the Creator, so they focused on the structure and temple that was the human body and spirit. These ideas connected to similar ones in Taoist philosophy and even made it as far as influencing Dr. Carl Jung. Dr. Jung then used the “stones” mentioned in alchemical equations to relate to psychological awakenings in his patients, hence the transformative process.
In short, the alchemical process, both physical and spiritual, has had an influence on many things, including our own Fraternity’s precepts. By chipping away our rough ashlar, we are opening ourselves to new ideas, and turning ourselves into our own magnum opus. So, I ask you, Brethren, are you slowly becoming gold, or are you a lump of lead stuck in the earth?