When people mention the states of alchemy they often think of refining metals to a new state, often referred to as the transmogrification of lead into gold through the seven steps.
Yet this is not the case, old alchemists had such an understanding of the process, that they concurred, if there is an essence or seed which created the plant, then there to must be an essence or seed which incorporates that of the rock and metals. For they are also planted into the earth to grow and spread.
The process or end goal of the alchemist was to have the ability and knowledge to bring this essence out of the metal or plant by destroying the body of the substance and subjecting it to the path of refinement, distillation, calcification and destruction. In order to bring out the minerals purest form.
This was also seen as the path of the soul, and in its transgression It too must undergo such changes to reach its higher state of being, with that being said, the processes of alchemy were references to refining ones self with hopes to reciprocate the natural order of things and thier steps to reach a state of self perfection or philosophically, to attain a heart of gold.
In a sense, this is the path to enlightenment, breaking down of the self, reforming into a new aspect, to which one may then create a better solvent for the next process, and so on until perfection has been received.
*note: I speak these words from my own perception and without the need to adhere to others understanding of the matter. If you have learned from this then that was the way you were meant to receive it and i hope you pursue more into the matter with self research. If you hold opposition and brazen ideology from your own understandings then that too way the way your were meant to receive this. I don't pick sides I just play the game. :) happy pondering.