"The origins of alchemy can be traced back to Hellenistic Egypt. After the collapse of the empires of antiquity, it found safe haven in Arabic culture until returning from there to medieval Europe. Alchemists, sort of "pre-chemists," literally tried to turn some worthless piece of material into gold or another precious substance. They cooked, chopped, baked and prayed, recording their recipes in the symbolic language of a prescientific mind.
Jung studied their writings as metaphors to understand how the psyche tries to heal itself through transforming the difficult part of our personality into something of value and sustenance - through the inner healing process, in other words. Both the alchemists' imagining the goings-on in the piece of material they thought they were transforming and Jung's observing the goings-on in a psychologically transforming personality evidenced the creative, goal-oriented process of fragmentation and recentering." [J. Gary Sparks]