I like this post, admire Asprem greatly, but think he's mistaken to describe Principe's analysis as "simplistic." Of course attention needs to be paid to the spiritual side of alchemy, but to criticize Principe for not dealing with it misunderstands the scope of his project. Principe is arguing that the historiographical concept of alchemy being "not really" concerned with the physical chemistry is mistaken. He has adequately demonstrated that by showing that the chemical meanings can be found and the experimental results duplicated. He's not arguing that the spiritual side shouldn't be taken into account in order to give a thick description of alchemy, and if you read his recent book "The Secrets of Alchemy" you'll see that he's not trying to sweep spiritual meanings under the rug. He just insists as any good historian would that we must take the cultural context of any alchemical spirituality into account, ideally after first understanding the chemical significations of the text.