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Alchemy’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange

Alchemy’s First Law of Equivalent Exchange Explained

The law of equivalent exchange in alchemy means that something cannot come from nothing. In order to obtain a particular something, something else of equivalent value must be given in exchange or lost. Essentially, if you want to gain something, you must give something in return.

Alchemists believe that if one wishes to acquire ability to perform a particular task, to bring about change, to heal a close friend or family member, or even resurrect the dead, an equivalent thing must be exchanged. This law deals with the concepts of love and sacrifice.

Who and what determines the equivalency between the two things varies depending on who tells the story. For example, is the exchange measured in emotional or material value? Can it combine both? Think about an heirloom that is passed down from generation to generation. A coin, perhaps. Some may view it as being worthless, of no more value than a coin that is found on the ground. To those who pass it down, however, there is clearly some emotional value to it.

This law can be seen in action in life if we recall the phrase which states there is no such thing as a free lunch. Whatever we earn in life must be paid for in some way, be it time, energy or in effort. Every hour that we spend at work means that we sacrifice time to do other things, such as spending time with family or friends, or pursuing leisurely activities. Our lives can be broken down into categories of gain and loss. What will I gain if I do this? What do I stand to lose if I do that?

The law of equivalent exchange does not apply to love or the relationships we have with each other. This is because there is no adequate way of repaying the love that families and friends show us, except by meeting like for like, by showing them the same love in return. The concepts of loss and sacrifice do not enter the equation. You give back what you are given.

Think about how the law of equivalent exchange has applied in your own life. Did you study rigorously for your exams, your eyes fixed on that A*, giving up the opportunity to socialise with others and make friends so that you stood a better chance of getting to your preferred university? How long did you spend paying off what you owed for that exquisite sports car when you could have settled for a smaller model and saved money? What could that additional money have been spent on? How about that job you longed for and then got, only to find that the hours you worked were too much for your marriage to bear and had negative consequences for your family life? All these are examples of the law of equivalent exchange in action.

How has it applied in your life?


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