The central alchemical axiom is 'Solve and Coagula' or Dissolve and Coagulate.
There is a constant repetition of letting go and gathering in. Separation and Re-union of Opposites in the alchemical process to transform lead into gold. The oppposites are often expressed as
At the end of the alchemical process there is a fusion of the King and Queen in to a single perfect being which is a symbol of the harmonic balance between masculine and feminine poles.
Before the perfected being is formed the alchemist must destroy primal matter of all impurities before creating pure gold, the creating of gold being the quest for self knowledge and self perfection.
This is Polarity as practised today. The quest is the same.
"The Alchemist" by Patricia St. John
My Master an elixir hath that turns
All base and worthless substances to gold.
From rubble stones He fashions palaces
Most beautiful and stately to behold.
He garners with a craftsman's skilful care
All that we break and weeping cast away.
His eyes see uncut opals in the rock
And shapely vessels in our trampled clay.
The sum of life's lost opportunities,
The broken friendships, and the wasted years,
These are His raw materials;
His hands rest on fragments, weld them with His tears.
A patient Alchemist! --He bides His time,
Broods while the south winds breathe, the
North winds blow,
And weary self, at enmity with self,
Works out its own destruction, bitter slow,
Our gallant highways petered out in mire,
Our airy castles crumbled into dust,
Leaving us stripped of all save fierce desire,
He comes, with feet deliberate and slow,
Who counts a contrite heart His sacrifice.
(No other bidders rise to stake their claims,
He only on our ruins sets a price.)
And stooping very low engraves with care
His name, indelible, upon our dust;
And from the ashes of our self-despair
Kindles a flame of hope and humble trust.
He seeks no second site on which to build,
But on the old foundation, stone by stone,
Cementing sad experience with grace,
Fashions a stronger temple of His own.