In alchemy we start out with philosophy and seek to test that philosophy. This is the origin of the modern scientific method where a hypothesis is developed and then reality-tested. The hypotheses of alchemy are what makes it unique and sets it apart, philosophically, from other esoteric arts. Each hypothesis needs to be tested by the alchemist themselves, in order to know their veracity.
One of these hypotheses is that consciousness is a force in nature. What this means is that consciousness or “being aware that we are aware” is not just something arbitrary that exists only inside the human mind. But rather, that the whole universe is, to some degree, conscious – at least on a rudimentary level. By exploring, understanding and using this philosophy, an alchemist can achieve transformations that are not possible without the focused, intended use of consciousness.
Another hypotheses is that All is One. In the alchemical cosmological worldview, all things are interconnected. "That which is Above corresponds to that which is Below" states the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Tristmegistus. This means that the heavens (stars) are connected to things on the Earth. Or that our inner world of thoughts, feelings and images are connected to the world of matter. The light of imagination could be thought of as a subtler form of actual physical light.
Another alchemical hypotheses is that all things consist, to some degree, of a body (salt), soul (sulphur) and spirit (mercury)- you can find out more about these principles by clicking here. By separating, purifying and recombining these parts alchemists can exalt or increase the vibration of a thing - this is the alchemical maxim of "solve et coagula (dissolve and recombine).
By doing the alchemical process, the sympathetic connection between the alchemist and the matter they are working on becomes stronger. A parallel process takes place - as the matter changes so too does the alchemist. The outer gold that alchemists seek to create cannot be made without finding inner gold. A similar analogy - when your house is messy and you feel disgust, then you tidy it, you feel tidy and at peace inside yourself too. This is the same principle.
Finally, we could say that there are two paths in alchemy, or perhaps two goals. One is called the chrysopoeian path. This refers to a completed alchemical preparation, usually said to be a red powder of projection, that can be cast onto base metals in order to transmute them into gold. It is often said to be prepared from gold and/or antimony. The second goal of alchemy is the elixir of life. It uses the same processes as the first goal (the Philosopher's Stone) but this is a medicinal preparation, an elixir of life said to restore health or promote longevity.
To see some alchemical preparations, head on over to the temple shop.