The Alchemists of Olde constantly spoke of the spirit and soul of the world. Their perception of the four elements was directly tied to how understood said world spirit. They saw each “separate” element as aspects of the same whole. Think of modern physics and how they define adhesion/cohesion, attraction/repulsion in relation to energy. This gives our modern minds the basic framework needed to grasp what the ancient initiates taught.
When we come across this universal seed alchemists claim was born from the chaos, destroyed and born again in a never ending cycle we are seeing a sort of energy conversion being explained. In much the same way we see that everything needs energy to grow the alchemist believed everything is interdependent on this World Spirit.
We see this touched on briefly in the Golden Chain of Homer:
“The creatures of the animal kingdom feed on it and grow by it, (i.e., Spirit in the Air) because they take in Air constantly, and also those of the plant kingdom, grow out of this Water (spirit in the rainwater, etc.) and use it for the preservation of their life. Vegetables do not require any proof, for the farmer can perceive such action in the plant Kingdom directly…-The Golden Chain of Homer
The text goes on to explain what Hermetics described as the Law of Rhythm- Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.
“Now we have partly proven theoretically that rain and dew are the universal reborn chaos, the universal-general seed of the great world or macrocosm, the Spiritus et Anima Mundi, out of which and by which not only everything already born is preserved till its time arrives, but is also destroyed and reborn again by the very same Agent. And in such a cycle, this water continues to function to the end of the World, as we will elaborate further in another chapter.”-The Golden Chain of Homer
Occultists have long since viewed everything in the physical Universe as working parts of a whole where everything is interconnected. When they spoke of the transmutation of one form into another they were citing a natural law. Much like Heraclitus saying “fire dies the death of air” they believed that nothing ever truly dies; it changes form. Spiritus Mundi being connecting fiber, or vital life force, that holds it all together.
I hope this sheds light on how to apply a modern mind to alchemical teachings to all of my Fraters and Sorores working through the Great Work. Sometimes all we need to do is replace a more archaic word to see the entire subject in a new light. Peace Profound.