- The medieval forerunner of chemistry based on the supposed transformation of matter. It was concerned particularly with attempts to convert base metals into gold or to find a universal elixir.
- A seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.
I love this word, so much, and it sums up the realm in which I work, well the 2nd understanding does. Daniel Liebermann dedicated a chapter to Alchemy in his book Spellbound. “When two chemicals react with each other, something occurs that’s different from what we’re used to seeing.” Lieberman is attempting to take us into our unconscious mind. In his book, he warns of some of the dangers of the unconscious mind and our wandering into that space. He goes into projection, meditation and the shadow self, a plethora of great thoughts and information. However, for me, the chapter on Alchemy was drew me into this book.
A seemingly magical (Spiritual) process of transformation, creation, or combination. Lieberman gives the example of cream being poured into coffee; 2 substances now combined to make something new.
In Oxford a group of us went to a bar called “The Alchemist” where we watched multiple drinks transformed into something new! It was fun, and mostly just bar tricks, but it was Alchemy. I would dare say our Advances are Alchemy for our Doctorates. We could all study and read and gain wisdom from our project faculty, but I dare say it’s the alchemy of our time together for 3 years and our intense times of the Advances that the magical process of transformation.
In hospice chaplaincy our world of ministry is learning the art of understanding, diagnosing, and healing spiritual pain, and it doesn’t end there, we also try to help transform spiritual pain. Richard Groves started a non-profit that trains all of us on this important task of being present to spiritual pain. In a YouTube interview Lieberman states “It’s no longer about fighting to survive, we no longer live in that kind of scarcity, so we have to find meaning. We have to choose something that’s hard and involves failure because that is how hard it is, you can’t choose an easy life”.  We need to find meaning.
In my experience, where we fall short as a culture and as a church (though we talk about it every Easter Sunday) is that we tend to end our pain and suffering with the act of healing. Whether it’s actual healing, or prayers answered, or even death. We fall short in the Alchemy of pain. We walk through our suffering we tend to say “phew” that was tough and try to move on. However, we have been alchemized, changed, and shoving down the pain we went through does come back. Groves, and Lieberman would say that the true gift of pain and suffering is transformation. We must look back and process what we just went through and acknowledge how we’ve been changed by what we’ve been through. Alchemy of Spiritual Pain and Grief.
Lieberman introduces us to Karl Jung’s interest in two alchemical processes, circulatio and conjunction. “Circulatio is the repeated processing of alchemical ingredients, view as necessary to bring about the desired results.” Lieberman is noting that when we’ve been through a process repeatedly, it leads to growth and transformation. I think of ritual and the act of communion every week is transformative, but perhaps each individual communion participation is not necessarily transformative. It’s the repeated act of participating in the ritual that brings transformation. “Once we recognize the circulatio in our own lives, we can see it in others’ lives as well”. What a powerful call to first work on ourselves, recognize our own growth and then utilize that transformation to empower others to recognize their own alchemy!
“Conjunctio is the bringing together of opposites, which for Jung was a symbol of individuation.” I have officiated my fair share of funerals, and supported hundreds of families in grief. The true alchemy of grief, the Conjunctio is that grief and joy are opposite sides of the same coin. I usually get a “huh?” type of look from the grieving but go on to explain that they are experiencing such deep grief because they have had the true experience of joy. If joy was not part of the equation with their experiences with the deceased their grief would not be as deep. They influence each other and in that alchemy, we experience grief and understand the gift of joy. John Fehlen and I noted pretty quickly in our research that a lot of his books on joy spoke on grief, and almost all my books on grief spoke on joy. Alchemy is a gift, it is transformation. May we be given the gift of transformation, especially after hard things, like this doctorate.
 Lieberman, Daniel Z. Spellbound. (Texas, BenBella Bbooks, Inc, 2022) pg 145
 Groves, Richard. The American Book of Living and Dying. (California, Celestial Arts, 2009) pg 39
 Lieberman, Daniel Z. Spellbound. (Texas, BenBella Bbooks, Inc, 2022) pg 163.
 Lieberman, pg. 166.