Like last year, I'm going to use the opportunity of the A-Z challenge to write about some things dear to me, but don't fit into my parenting-and-writing motif. Many of these things are firmly in the category of Alternative Spirituality (Alternative to the mainstream beliefs, that is).
A prominent feature of the Mystery School Traditions is alchemy. What the classic alchemists endeavored to was the changing of lead into gold – this is the part that's familiar to most people. This was done by heating lead in special stoves that may have functioned like pressure cookers. Records of their success is spotty, and since the alchemists were sponsored by nobility, we can't be certain if they propagated for the reputations of the mobility in mind.
More importantly, it's been commonly interpreted that this is to be meant as a metaphor. The lead is said to represent our base nature, and gold illustrates our spiritual potential. Through the furnace (trials and hardship), we are able to turn our self-centerdness into something loftier.
Another function of the alchemists was tinctures. Loosely defined, a tincture is a solution developed by taking a plant and distilling it to it's essential elements. This was the birth of pharmacy. In this way, the alchemists also developed chemistry.
They are often remembered as crack-pots, but lets not forget their contribution to the world. Either way, the spiritual nature of alchemy is worth keeping in mind. I try to keep this in mind (with varying degrees of success) when things get tough.