Leading Jungian analyst, Nathan Schwartz-Salant's Introduction to Jung's work on Alchemy provides an inviting preface to the topic. This book brings together an essential selection of Jung's thoughts on the topic. The relationship between alchemy and imagination is not to be underestimated:
"The alchemists knew, from their own and from the accumulated experience of centuries of traditional cultures, that their personalities could be transformed. Through initiation rites they felt different, behaved differently, and grew in new ways. No longer bound to the compulsion of adolescent states of mind, or to the flights into promiscuity that wasted their sexual energies, people in traditional cultures learned that they could 'die' and be 'reborn.' And in their reborn form they actually did see the world differently. They could, in fact, see in ways they never could before. Their imagination could become a guide to truth instead of being a capricious trickster. And some alchemists could feel a guiding center that formed in their innermost being and which was strangely linked in feeling to experiences of their most ecstatic journeys. Alchemy developed within this respect for a human concern for the sacred. As a consequence, its very methods were intrinsically bound to the power of illumination and the imagination, and it especially applied the ideas of death and rebirth, so central to initiation rites and mystical experience, to material and psychological change. To understand the alchemical quest we must recognize the intimate relationship that existed between its methods and the transformation of the human personality, or else we shall miss its essential mystery." (1995, p. 5).
~Excerpted from "Jung on Alchemy" by Nathan Schwartz-Salant