Israel Regardie - The Philosophers Stone
The word Alchemy is an Arabic term consisting of the article al and the noun khemi. We may take it that the noun refers to Egypt, whose Coptic name is Iaem. The word, then, would yield the phrase "the Egyptian matter", or "that which appertains to Egypt". The hypothesis is that the Mohammedan grammarians held that the alchemical art was derived from that wisdom of the Egyptians which was the proud boast of Moses. Plato, and Pythagoras, and the source, therefore, of their illuminations. If, however, we assume the word to be of Greek origin, as do some authorities, then it implies nothing more than the chemical art, the method of mingling and making infusions. Originally all that chemistry fraeant was the art of extracting juices from plants and herbs. Modem scholarship still leaves unsolved the question as to whether alchemical treatises should be classified as mystical, magical, or simply primitively chemical. The most reasonable view is, in my opinion, not to place them exclusively in any one category, but to assume that all these objects at one time formed in varying proportions the preoccupation of different alchemists. Or, better still, that different alchemists became attracted to different interpretations or levels of the art. There is no doubt that by some writers alchemy was interpreted in a categorical and literal sense - that is, as a chemical means whereby the baser metals could be transformed and made precious. There is a vast body of testimony to this end, evidence which cannot be made to yield any interpretation other than a physical and chemical one. On the other hand, there are certain alchemistical philosophers to whom it would be impossible to impute any other interest than a mystical or religious one.