Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 12, Vol. 2. Vernal Equinox 2007

The Path of Alchemy, Mark Stavish. Llewellyn Publications; Woodbury, MN, USA. 2006. 229 pages. $14.95 USD.

review by Samuel Scarborough

In recent years there has been a resurgence in the interest of alchemy within the esoteric community, especially in hermetic circles. There have been several books in the past, particularly in the late twentieth century, which have greatly contributed to this interest. These books concentrated on the theory and practical laboratory work that a budding alchemist must concentrate on in order to do the Great Work. Now in the twenty-first century Mark Stavish has written a new and refreshing book on the subject of alchemy.

A bit about the author of this new book, Mark Stavish has published many articles, book reviews, and interviews on Western Esotericism. In 1998 he founded what would become the Institute of Hermetic Studies in Pennsylvania. In 2001 he established the Louis Claude de St. Martin Fund, a non-profit fund dedicated to advancing the study and practice of Western Esotericism.

In many ways this new book by Mark Stavish is like those earlier books from the late twentieth century by Manfred Junius and Frater Albertus. It provides basic laboratory work with distillation trains and various flasks, funnels and receivers. The difference here is in the language used. Stavish has written the book in such a manner that anyone can understand the material as it is presented.

The book is laid out in ten chapters, along with three appendices, a glossary, selected bibliography, alchemical reading list and resources, and an index. Each chapter covers a different aspect of alchemy. The first chapter illustrates what the Royal Art (alchemy) is and discusses the basic ideas associated with alchemy, astrology, and the Qabalah. The second chapter covers basic spagyrics, which is plant alchemy. In this chapter Mark Stavish gets the new student into actually working with alchemy in its two forms: Practical and Spiritual. On the Practical side, he has the student actually create a tincture with very basic equipment. The student does not have to have expensive laboratory equipment to work with this section of the book. For that matter, just about all the practical experiments presented can be done with very little laboratory equipment. On the Spiritual side of alchemy, Stavish presents a series of meditations on the basic concepts of alchemy at the end of this chapter. As well as the practical experiment and meditation presented he also has an assignment list for the chapter. Actually, the assignment list for a chapter is included in every chapter of the book.

Each chapter following the second has the student doing a progressively more difficult experiment or an experiment on a different aspect of alchemy. These chapters, experiments, assignments for the chapter, and additional meditations help the student to better absorb the material of alchemy both on a practical level and on the spiritual in a clear concise manner.
By the time that a person actually works through Mark Stavish’s The Path of Alchemy they will have more than a basic understanding of how to work with spagyric alchemy on both the practical laboratory level and the spiritual meditational level. The merging of these two aspects of alchemy in many ways goes beyond what either Junius or Albertus did in their works, which were primarily on the practical aspects of alchemy. While I am not saying to throw your copies of The Alchemist’s Handbook or The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy away, I would say that Mark Stavish’s book on alchemy certainly should be included on the shelf with them. Do yourself one better; do not just let this book set on the shelf, but actually work through the material in it so that you will have a greater understanding and appreciation for the Royal Art.