Good Jupiter and his Archangel Tzadqiel have seen fit to bless me with some inspiration and direct knowledge....and have pointed me in the direction I need to finish the book I'm working on (which, of course, has material I've created myself and from public and published sources). Which is beyond cool. I've been working hard and doing a TON of research into the roots of Alchemy--learning different methods that have been used to complete the Great Work by Adepts of different cultures (David White's "The Alchemical Body" is an absolute must read, by the way. Thank you's to my dear brother VH Fra SR for the recommendation!), and trying to penetrate into the process behind all of the different practices. The fundamentals, the roots of the Work. I have been blessed with an excellent Alchemical Master, who instead of simply saying this=this, has given me small keys and nudges so that I'd discover as much as possible on my own. This has been invaluable. One of the gentlemen I consider a mentor and I were discussing Philalethes on Facebook the other day, and he offered a completely different analysis of the text (The Font of Chemical Truth) than my own. This wasn't disheartening, it was fantastic! I know my analysis is correct and consistent with the hidden principles of Alchemy....but so is his! It doesn't matter to me one whit whether Philalethes practiced the Dry Way (as my good brother put forth) or the Wet Internal Way (which is what I put forth), what blew my mind was that either interpretation could be correct. The nature of the Alchemical language is such that, if you have proper understanding of the process, any of the Alchemical writers can give up the Gold regardless of the particular path they follow. Just as Aleister Crowley once wrought occult truths from nursery rhymes, an initiate who's grasped the Language of the Birds can find alchemical keys in almost any of the texts. This is plainly awesome. I've gone back and re-examined texts of Alchemists I'd disregarded--because they practiced a different Way than the one I considered true--and found them to be rich with meaning and useful Alchemical processes. How foolish I was to discard them in the first place!
I also realized that there are many, many Alchemical methods for getting the job done. Some do it faster, some much slower, but many get it done. Not everyone is following the same system in the old texts; many alchemists vary in the amount of steps they use, the style of work...even the imagery they may use is often only truly consistent internally. I wasted a lot of time--and disregarded perfectly usable methods and texts--because they didn't fit perfectly with the idea I had of what the process should be. It all comes down to choosing the First Matter you are working with--whether it will be an analogical matter such as in the Dry Way or Wet Way (which are much slower, but still efficacious), or a Solar and direct Matter as in the Internal Wet Way (such as used in the Great Rite)--and calcining it. There are variation in technique that different traditions have created to help along Nature's hand, but everything comes from the Calcination. You could do nothing but Calcine as your entire practice, and if the heat is regular, the matter will be refined. There's nothing simpler. You'll observe changes in the glass if you're observant, just as our forebears have done. If you aren't looking, and you don't see all the changes and you're still gently Calcining..you will still complete the Great Work. If you're looking for consistency in method between schools of Alchemy, stop wasting your time. They all seem slightly different, but the heart and soul of Alchemy is the application of Heat to the Matter. Changes occur to the matter at different temperatures, and after different amounts of time in the process...often this is what the Emblems describe. You don't have to recognize all the different changes in a certain way, or perceive them in a certain order. You only need to discover the Matter, and then Calcine it gently. That's it, that's Alchemy.
The thing about the Alchemical process is that it's happening to you anyway...but moving glacially slowly, as Nature is in no rush. If we help her hand along, even a little, than our Alchemical practice has value.
Now, this isn't to say that anyone attempting Alchemy is necessarily actually practicing it. Intent and deep understanding are important. If the Alchemist is actually practicing archemy, and only wishes to transform literal physical metals into literal mineral physical gold for material purposes, than they are wasting their time. Puffers. Ironically the only way one could conceivably make that transformation is to accomplish the True alchemy, which is not a thing done for physical and temporary wealth, but for lasting Spiritual wealth.
So, my current work is creating an Alchemical process that is internally consistent. Something built from my own experiences and understandings. The challenging part is that I can't use the stuff I've been taught directly due to my vows and personal honor...I have to use the principles that I've learned to create a valid alchemical practice. Then, I'm going to send a copy to all the awesome Alchemists I know and challenge them to tell me why they think it wouldn't work. The process is slower than that of, say, the Arcanum Arcanorum, because it doesn't directly utilize certain substances which are especially efficacious for this work and because it is a solitary Path. It'll still get the job done, though.
It will work, and it will work well--hell, it has worked, because it's built upon the same principles as the Alchemy I've been lucky to learn. It will be tremendously interesting to hear what other Alchemists have to say, regardless of whether they agree with me. If I'm lucky, and they discover error in my thinking or processing, I'll have the opportunity to learn. What could be better?
It's peer review, haha! I imagine I'll learn quite a bit about Alchemy--and even more about modern Alchemists--from the reviews my brothers and sisters in the Art have for me. Should be fun.
I think that students of Alchemy should be challenged to create their own alchemical practice in this same way as a proof of understanding of the material and Art. It is often this way in the Martial arts. A student has to contribute to the lore of the field and create his own innovations within the system--often creating a new branch of that system--in order to display his mastery of the things he has been taught. I can't think of a better way to plug any holes in the understanding.