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Animistic perspectives, which hold the cosmos as “a being to whom prayers and offerings are made, who is endowed with understanding, agency and sentience, and responds to the actions of humans,” are often dismissed as primitive, yet this account of a healing within the shamanic traditions of the Native American Church and the vegetalistas of the Peruvian Amazon reminds us of how profound healing can be when it arises from indigenous perception of a sentient, living cosmos.
The effort to define alchemy to everyone’s satisfaction may well be impossible. On one hand, alchemy needs to be defined in a way that encapsulates the living breadth and depth of the world’s alchemical traditions. On the other hand, such a definition must also be internally consistent with the many specific, historically contingent (and at times contradictory) expressions of alchemy.