I was looking through Cirlot’s Dictionary of Symbols and found this description of Alchemy:
Alchemy is a symbolic technique which seeks to materialize spiritual truths. It is a poetic, religious, and scientific endeavor. The goal is to experience material phenomena as symbols which point to a complete theory of the universe and the destiny of the soul (the secret of discovering gold would be a mark of divine favor and thus success). [paraphrased from my notes and memory rather than quoted word for word]
While it’s not a perfect metaphor, the notion of Alchemy is a helpful model for my own artistic process.