The Alchemical Opus (La Grande Opera dell’Arte Regia)
Alchemy reveals in the symbol of the Great Work, the process by which Man can arrive at Realization, that is to become conscious of his own true Spiritual Reality. In this work we will explain some allegories and symbols present in the alchemical texts, illustrating the teaching that they veil.
In the Middle Ages the Puritan West considered a heresy the only thought that human beings could rise to the knowledge of their own divine reality. For this the Initiates of that time had to veil their teachings in symbols and allegories. Today this necessity no longer exists, of course, and it is particularly interesting to understand the parallels that bind the Western Initiatory Teaching to those expressed in the East under all other forms, but with an identical substance.
The Initiatic Tradition from the earliest times handed down the Knowledge of the divine reality of man and does so in ways and ways that fit in the form to the different historical periods and to the characteristics of the society of the time. It is the duty of the Initiate to decode and “open” the ancient forms and the ancient symbols, thus bringing to his own conscience the unity of the Teachings through which he will be able himself to reach the goal to which it is destined: the Reintegration of the Self or, in other words, Realization.
He says an ancient motto that the Initiate is able to speak a thousand languages. This is not achieved, of course, by simply studying ancient and modern idioms, but rather by understanding those principles that are the only reality, beyond the veil of Illusion, and knowing how to recognize them in the “thousand languages” or the thousand ways in which they have been transmitted by Tradition. One of these ways is precisely Alchemy.
He who wants to enter the divine kingdom must first enter his mother’s body, and die there …” (Paracelsus)
The Sacred Science that has always, now, and forever been, is, and will be, the very Soul of Life: Al-Quemià! Celestial alchemy, Divine Alchemy, Alchemy that “moves” Everything, All hides, Everything manifests, Everything expresses in billions of faces, only so that “Beauty” is fulfilled and realized in the Unity that can be seen in the multiple.
What is Man then? It is the alchemical work.
The alchemical operation of the One consciousness, which creates and transforms everything. The realization of the Great Work is Man, Being still far from that man who today dominates the Earth without consciousness.
Leonardo’s Man (Vitruvian) The squaring of the circle, which sheds light on what still appears so obscure to us today. The mystery of Good and Evil, the forgotten Eden, the imperfection, the pain, the Death! For the layman it still seems so difficult to understand, to accept! But the answer is contained in the Alchemical Work: in Solve et Coagula! Everything passes from this iron law, or rather golden, and ineluctable.
What to us, human forms, cells of the divine macro-body-consciousness, appears horrible, terrible and unjust, is only a phase of transmutation of a higher plane, outside the limited and limiting judgment of this human reality. It is the operative action of the wider Consciousness that acts from the Macrocosm on the Microcosm from an Alchemical God!
The same struggles and atrocities that we observe on the battlefields, in every part of the world, we also find them within our own microcosmic body, in other forms and guises, but always with the same goal of realization. Yet we don’t judge our cells fighting each other. Everything seems so normal without involving us in the slightest.
God, or rather, the origin point without form and limit, continues the creation of man eternally, through an alchemical action. He creates men and causes them to die, as if feeding on them, reintegrating and regenerating them, making sure that he himself regenerates and can give more evolved “information” or “genetic codes” to the new creatures produced..
In this “simple” and ancient Tablet are hidden the most secrets and the most ancient Mysteries that man has ever dared to know.
The heritage of the oldest and most profound wisdom since man walked on this Earth.
Wisdom very rich and much coveted, so much so that for centuries it has been the cause of death and dark plots, in order to be able to appropriate the Secret of secrets and finally succeed in dominating over everything and everyone.
Commonly, contemporary man has a vision of the esoteric sciences as if they were the expression of occult, underground paths, suitable for the realization of Being, through the use of arcane rites or methods, of an evocative and basically cryptic nature.
Azoth (or Nitrogen), in alchemy, is a solvent or a universal drug, related to other subtle substances such as ether or alkahest, which would be obtained by dissolving the vital spirit hidden in gross matter. Starting from azoth it would have been possible to crystallize the philosopher’s stone and carry out all sorts of transmutation: it was therefore the object of the vision and research of various alchemists.
L’acronimo V.I.T.R.I.O.L.U.M., che viene usato nella letteratura alchemica, è formato dall’espressione latina Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem Veram Medicinam, che significa “Visita l’interno della terra, e rettificando troverai la pietra nascosta che è la vera medicina”.
L’alchimista scava la terra. Scavare o penetrare la terra è il primo passo del processo alchemico. La terra è il corpo, o se stessi. Penetrare la terra corrisponde a penetrare, conoscere, il proprio sé interiore.
Siamo quindi invitati a discendere nella terra, negli inferi, nell’inconscio. La terra è il simbolo dell’uomo fisico. L’uomo deve prendere coscienza del suo mondo interiore, di chi è, cosa sta facendo, quali sono le sue motivazioni eccetera. Una volta rivolta l’attenzione verso l’interno, si scoprirà un mondo nuovo: gli inferi dell’Ade, il regno oscuro delle ombre e dei mostri.
Nel profondo dell’uomo, nell’oscurità della sua psiche, risiedono i moventi delle sue azioni. Dunque il regressus ad uterum, il prendere coscienza di questi moventi profondi, è una condizione necessaria per entrare nella zona di morte illuminata dalla luna, e successivamente sperimentare la rinascita. Terra Mater, la Madre Terra, è sempre stata collegata alla nascita, con l’unione tra uomo e donna (conscio e inconscio), unione dalla quale la nuova vita sgorgherà dopo la morte.Questa discesa viene anche chiamata regressus ad uterum, “ritorno nell’utero”, un termine che viene spesso usato nei riti d’iniziazione. È un ritorno simbolico a un particolare stato primordiale dell’essere che accomuna ogni uomo nell’inconscio collettivo.
The Gate of Eternal Wisdom (Heinrich Khunrath, Amphiteatrum Sapientiae, Hanau, 1604)
In alchemy, the entrance to the unconscious is often represented by the entrance to caves, by stories of travels to the underworld or strange gloomy places in the world.
Sometimes one finds in alchemical writings the representation of the king taking a bath. Water, alchemically speaking, represents the unconscious itself. The King, who is our conscience, immerses himself in it precisely to come into contact with its contents and thus bring them to light, to his own conscience.
Another way in which this contact between consciousness and the unconscious is represented is the symbol of the “conjunctio” (conjunction) or “conceived” (conception) between the King and the Queen, which occurs mainly in water, in a spring or in a fountain. The Queen therefore represents the feminine, the water, the unconscious.
The united king and queen immerse themselves in the tank that represents the unconscious, they are brought to the dark initial state, inside a uterus in which to be reborn. They are spirit and body, they are without the soul that unites them, in fact the dove and the water symbolize the bond of the soul.
“This is why the purifying bath begins to give order to what is separated, through union with the soul, and totality can be reached “
The first four lines of the fourth law of the emerald table lend themselves to an interpretation with interdependent meanings, the first exposes the magical creative path, the second the four forces connected to it. The first two expose the double negative and positive polarity of the creative energy, the third the becoming symbolizing its continuous metamorphosis in the different states of being, in the fourth the earth is understood as a form, this means that the idea for a living being it must be produced in shape. The four forces EARTH, FIRE, WATER, AIR, are connected in polar antithesis so as to be balanced with each other.
Each idea must be transformed into form to be complete and each idea is formed by the union of the two active and passive polarities. The life process that arises from this operation is due to the presence of an immanent program of the inert magma of the single substance, the matrix of everything that is realized in a continuous becoming supported by a quaternary structure of the Universe which can however be unified in a single law. The potential energy of life that supports the IDEA-FORM dynamic is an important concept because it does not mortify the physical body, but places it as a necessary arrival of a natural process, which is why the human being is “DIVINE” even in his physical part, because it is an essential component of the primal process of becoming complete.
Frontispiece of a study in French on the Emerald Tablet
When in alchemy you work with metals (this is how the passions and emotions of man are called), lead is used as the starting material. Alchemists say that there is a demon in lead that can cause insanity, disturbances and visions. The descent into the unconscious is not without its dangers. In a psychological sense, for example, it can lead to schizophrenia. In mythology, the hero enters the underworld to fight against monsters and demons. For his courage and daring, the Great Mother, Goddess of fertility, offers him great knowledge and great wisdom.
Lead, the most impure of metals, must be transformed into pure metal, Gold, the symbol of the Spirit. In general, lead represents man’s lower and more earthly passions. It is on them that the alchemist works, rectifying them (rectifying) and sublimating them more and more
Taoism emphasizes the importance of purification from the selfish tendencies that separate man from his eternal nature. A man who strives to obtain the Tao must renounce desire and become a child who joins the Tao. With this purification, rebirth occurs.
Therefore an alchemist must shun the masses and begin the process of meditatio, self-reflection, in silence.
In Greek mythology there was Tartarus, a name originally used to indicate the underworld. Tartarus is the psychic world in the depths of man, where all the lower instincts reside, such as the desire to kill and destroy, the thirst for blood, fear, hatred, revenge, the desire for power and so on. It is not easy to admit to oneself, but they all reside in us. We have repressed all our dark emotions by confining them to the deep realm of Tartaros. This is the human heritage, dating back to ancient time
It is man’s job to know, feel and be responsible for all his emotions. They must not simply be repressed, since doing so would have the only effect of “compressing” them in some corner of one’s psyche, from which they could emerge when we least expect them. Instead, they are to sublimate, change and transmit into higher feelings. Repression chains man precisely to the objects he represses, but purification will transmute them into positive elements, bringing him closer to his true essence. Until we consciously undertake the Great Work, pain and suffering will disturb our lives. We have to face the mythical monsters in the depths of our unconscious and enlighten them. They are part of the human being. We cannot discard them, but we can control them, dominate them, learn from them, and transform them into servants of the Divine. Monsters are not monsters per se, they are just characteristics of human nature that have been distorted or at least no longer useful to us. We can rectify them and use them to our advantage, to ascend to Self Awareness.
“This task is not for the aspiring initiate. It is only for the bold who dare to face the darkness of the soul. The courage of many will fail, and they will return home. Therefore the pilgrim does not take an easy path, because the world of pleasure is no longer his. He has chosen the path of Arete (Goddess of Virtue), which leads him to many dangers and difficult roads, in solitude and with effort, but ultimately he will become immortal. Whoever loses his life, will obtain it “
While the common man tries to blame others and blame fate, the noble seeks the flaw within himself. (I Ching)
In alchemical symbolism, the dragon represents what Carl Gustav Jung called the Shadow. The Shadow is the name of a series of characteristics and impulses that may be conscious, but which are denied. At the same time they are recognizable and visible in others.
Some examples of Shadow are: selfishness, laziness, intrigue, unreal fantasies, indifference, obsession with money and property. The Shadow is the inferior being in us who desires what we do not authorize ourselves because it is uncivilized, because it is incompatible with the rules of society and with the image of our ideal personality. That’s all we’re ashamed of.
“The dragon does not die until it is killed by his brother (the sun) and his sister (the moon) together” (Michael Maier, Atalanta fugiens, Oppenheim 1618)
If we want to save the purity of conscience (the virgin), then the dragon must be killed. To tell the truth this expression is not quite correct. In some stories where the dragon is defeated and tamed, it is penetrated by an iron-tipped spear. Iron was always considered a special metal, as it was found in meteorites. As a metal associated with Mars, iron has an active, destructive force. The spear, as a phallic symbol, is the alchemical “secret fire”. Similarly, the Greek sun god, Apollo, penetrated the Python of Delphi with arrows and left the Python to rot beside the temple. Since then that place has been called Pytho (rot). And this introduces us to the knowledge of the first of the three phases of the Great Work: Opera al Nero, or Putrefaction.
The dead dragon undergoes a transmutation. The death of the dragon is not an end, but the beginning of the Great Work. Vapors and volatile substances arise from the dead dragon, as seen in the alchemical images. Otherwise said, the earth is partially transformed into water and ascends in the form of steam
The killing of the dragon also recalls a cosmic event. It is the penetration of the raw material as the primary ocean, or primary chaos of the secret fire or divine spirit. The serpent of fire emanated fire and light in the primary waters. When the dragon (or serpent, since the cat of Ra, the sun god, cut off the head of the serpent Apophis), was killed, the original chaos ceased and the process of cosmic evolution began
It should be noted that when the alchemist speaks of the Green Dragon, he is referring to the universal spirit present in everything, therefore not to be confused with the same concept of the dragon of the underworld.
Some sources claim that a stone is found in the dragon’s head, a clear reference to the rough stone, ‘raw material’ or raw material.
What we see in the center of the representation is the metal tree (The alchemical tree) with its fruits, on the right side of this appear the two metals richest in Dye or sulfur, copper and iron, identified with their respective symbols of Venus and Mars below we see the symbol of the sun, or Gold.
We can say that this area on the right is the male part, the most sulphurous part.
The symbols on the left, La zona feminille, instead represent the more silvery metals, that is, richer in mercury, tin and lead, respectively with the symbols of Jupiter and Saturn, and under the silver moon. All these metallic fruits, enclosed by eight-pointed stars, are born from some twigs coming as we see from a single trunk. The upper fruits are underlined by a triangle pointing upwards, which we know to symbolize fire. The vertex of this triangle indicates the middle fruit, Mercury, placed in a flaming star. In the lower part, in the area of the stem without branches, we see a triangle pointing downwards and indicating the water, inside this, at the top, we find the symbols of the princes, Sale: represented by the square, Sulfur and mercury; the tip of the triangle falls into the trunk, and not out like the other two, and it is again, as in the upper triangle, that Mercury takes the place of mediator. On the sides of the tree we see two characters, the one on the right is older and carries an ax in his left hand, while he holds the other hand as if to indicate the sulfur symbol in the lower triangle. The writing above indicates that this old man is Senior (the old man). The young character on the left, on the other hand, points to the trunk of the tree without branches, he too carries a long sword but is not drawn. The writing at the top indicates that it is Adolfo
La Nigredo – Opera al Nero
The wise man is not surprised by death, he is always ready to go. (La Fontane)
Nigredo, or “blackness”, in alchemical language means putrefaction, decomposition. With the penetration of the external fire, the internal fire is activated and the matter begins to rot. The body is reduced to the raw material from which it originated. This process is also called “cooking”. The black earth is closed in a jar or canteen and heated
In addition to the crow’s head (“caput corvi”), one of the symbols of Nigredo in alchemy is the “decapitation”. All these symbols refer to the death of the common man, understood as the death of his inner chaos and his doubts, since he is unable to find the truth within himself by himself. In one of his labors, Hercules cleans Augias’ stables, representing the cleansing of all inner impurities.
Johann Daniel Mylius, Philosophia reformata, Frankfurt, 1622
A friar meditating in a crack in the earth shows that alchemy was above all a spiritual practice. The two bird-like figures are the soul and the spirit of which one must become aware.
Psychologically, Nigredo is the process of moving towards the discovery of self-knowledge. A problem receives full attention and is reduced to its essence. This is not done in an exclusively mental or intellectual way, but above all by using emotions. Real immersion causes putrefaction, the decomposition of what you were stuck in.
Confrontation with internal reality is often painful and can lead to depression. But once you enter the depth of darkness, with the discovery of the seed of the problem – the seed in the raw material – white light is born (albedo, whiteness, the next phase). A state of rest arises. The awareness of the problem has been achieved, the problem has been emotionally processed and knowledge emerges on how to deal with it in a more positive way and thus build a purer attitude.
The alchemists spoke of dissolving “the mixture” (man with all his complexities) in order to return to the germ.
“That from which a thing was made naturally, through that same thing must return to a dissolved state in its very nature. Everything must be dissolved and reduced to that form from which it arose “(Anton Joseph Kirchweger, 1728)
The “Matter” must be stripped of its superfluities to arrive at the center which contains the whole core of the “mixture”. The seed is the essence and contains all the essential powers of the body. You have to get to the center of the problems, the center of emotions, the center of yourself. There lies the power of transformation.
Saturn is the planet that symbolically rules the Nigredo phase. Similarly to Mercury, the symbol of Saturn is used, in alchemy, as a symbol of chaos, of the raw material in the form of rough stone and of the philosopher’s stone. These are all symbols that indicate man at the beginning of the alchemical process. Saturn, with its traditional instruments – the scythe and the hourglass – is the god of death and putrefaction, from which new life will arise. Like the spear and sword, the scythe is a tool of penetration. Saturn is the lead of the philosopher. He is the god who causes melancholy and demonic visions. The “Melancholy” is another term that indicates the Nigredo. Since melancholy can arise when one works alchemically on oneself, the alchemist advises the use of music to lift the soul.
the alchemical expression: “our black earth is fertile land”, expresses the transformation of death into new life, clearly described in the thirteenth tarot card. To give birth to a new beginning, putrefaction is a necessary stage. Life itself is a cycle of death and rebirth, with the continuous creation of new life that gives man the opportunity to work on himself and strive to perfect his condition.
Alchemists claim that the Nigredo lasts for forty days. This period of forty days has a symbolic value: Jesus fasted for forty days in the desert; there are forty days of fasting between Easter and Ascension; the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty days; the universal flood, with which God cleansed the earth of sinners, lasted forty days and forty nights; Saint Anthony spent forty days in the Sahara, tormented by extreme erotic visions and demons.
The Tail of the Peacock
“What prevents men from seeing and hearing God is their hearing, their sight, their will. By their own will they separate themselves from the will of God. They see and hear with their own desires, which prevent them from see and hear God. Earthly and material things keep them in the dark and they cannot see beyond their human nature. If they stood still, they desist from thinking and feeling with their own selfishness, if they triumphed over their will, they enter into a state of abandonment, in a divine union with Christ who sees God, hears God and speaks with Him, who knows the world and God’s will, then eternal hearing, seeing and speaking would be revealed to them. ” Jacob Boehme (1575-1624 C.E.)
The ‘Cauda Pavonis’, the peacock’s tail, or the peacock itself, symbolizes a phase in which many colors appear. Most alchemists place this phase before the Albedo, the whiteness. Only a few place it later.
Gerhard Dorn (16th century) said: “This bird flies during the night without wings. At the first dew of heaven, after an uninterrupted process of cooking, ascending and descending, it first takes the shape of a crow’s head, then a peacock’s tail; its feathers become very white and fragrant, and finally it becomes fiery red, showing its fiery character ”.
The colors refer to the three stages of the Great Work, with the Rubedo, or redness, last.
Albedo – Whiteness
The messenger of light is the morning star. Thus man and woman approach the dawn of knowledge, for in it is the seed of life, a blessing of the eternal. (Haji Ibrahim of Kerbala)
At the end of the Nigredo, a white light appears. We have arrived at the second stage of the Great Work: the Albedo, or whiteness. The alchemist has discovered within himself the source of his life, the source from which the water of life flows, giving eternal youth.
The source is one: male and female are united. In alchemical images we see a fountain from which two flows enter the same tank.
Albedo is the discovery of man’s hermaphrodite nature. In a spiritual sense, every man is hermaphrodite. This is evident in the first embryonic stage of the fetus. There is no sex until after a certain number of weeks after conception.
When man descended into the physical world, a world of duality entered. On a physical level this manifests itself through the differentiation of the sexes. But its spirit is still androgynous, it contains duality in unity. Its unity is not linked to space, time or matter. Duality is a characteristic of our physical world. It is transitory and will eventually cease to exist. When the male and the female are united again, one will have the experience of the true Self. The conscious and the unconscious will be completely united.
The albedo occurs when the sun rises at midnight. It is a symbolic expression that represents the sunrise in the depths of the darkness of our consciousness. It is the birth of Christ in the heart of winter. In the depths of a psychological crisis, positive change takes place.
Further alchemical images representing the Albedo are the baptism in which it represents the purification of body and soul with “living water”. The “living water” was considered the creative force of the divine. It allowed the soul to be welcomed into the community of the Holy Spirit. Therefore baptism allows the purified soul to bring about the resurrection of Christ. This is the “hieros gamos”, the “sacred marriage” between soul and Christ. Christ represents our very inner divine essence.
There are many other alchemical symbols for the second phase, or Albedo: the white swan, the rose, the white queen, and so on. As lead is the metal of Nigredo, silver is the metal of Albedo, transmuted from lead. And since silver is the metal of the moon, the moon is also the symbol of the Albedo. Alchemists also speak of white stone or white enamel. They all basically mean the same thing, even if we have to understand them in the context in which they were written.
Rubedo – Operal al Rosso
the alchemical process is a method of self-knowledge that the soul goes through far beyond its realm of existence. (Mary Anne Atwood)
The jewel has been lost in matter And everyone is looking for it. Some look for it in the east Some in the west Some in the water And some among the stones. (But the servant Kabir)
She found her worth And she carefully wrapped it in the mantle of her heart. (R.Tagore, Kabir 72)
The Albedo is a phase whose meaning was kept secret for many centuries. The meaning of the third alchemical phase, Rubedo or redness, is even more secret and not easy to explain or understand
The white sulfur obtained during the Albedo is also called: “the bodies composed of the pure essence of metals”. Metals are the contents of the soul, and now they have been reduced to their pure essence. Now that the soul has been penetrated by pure light, the alchemist must make it permanent.
In Eastern philosophies Rubedo corresponds to the formation of the “diamond body”, a term appropriate to the pure and permanent Philosopher’s Stone.
When the unification of all the energies of the four aspects of totality has been achieved, a new state of being arises that is no longer subject to change. Chinese alchemy calls it the “diamond body”, which corresponds to the incorruptible corpus (untouchable body) of European alchemy. It is analogous also to the corpus glorificationis (glorified body) of the Christian tradition.
“As the body was slow, raw, impure, dark and destructible because of lack of power and energy, so the rebirth unifies it to the soul and the spirit – vivified and volatile, light and penetrating, pure, refined and clear, transshipping energy, indestructible and full of energy, and is able to maintain this state “. (Franciscus Kieser, about 1600).
“Go above every height, go down further than any depth; receive all the sensory impressions of creation: water, fire, dry and wet. Think that you are present everywhere: in the sea, in the earth and in the sky; think that you have never been born and that you are still in an embryonic state: young and old, dead and in the afterlife. You understand everything at the same time: time, space, things: quality and quantity “burns like incense in my heart, and the breath of everything sounds like a flute through my thoughts”
“There is a fountain in the sky overturned In it a flame burns day and night.This flame burns eternally And does not need wick or oil Day and night the flame burns, all year, every season, and knows no changes” (Paltu Sahib)
The achievement of the Rubedo, or redness, is symbolized by the transmutation in gold. Alchemists often speak of “living gold”. The “living gold of the philosophers” is the pure fire within the philosopher’s stone, or the living silver, or the basic moisture of nature which is completely penetrated by fire. Living gold is the stable seed that vivifies the living silver of the philosopher and the material of stone, that is, the basic moisture of metals. It is a light dressed in a perfect and pure ethereal body. All this seems mysterious, but read it again and know that living gold is pure consciousness, pure awareness.
Actorum Laboratoriichici Monacensis, seu Subterraneae, Johann Joachim Nercher, Frankfurt, 1669
The alchemist is reborn as the Sun, which is equal to the Gold. He was enlightened, he himself became light, and now dominates the three kingdoms of nature.
A description of what the alchemists meant by the term gold is found in a manuscript entitled La Lumiere sortant des Tenebres (The Light Coming from the Dark). Let us remember that sulfur and gold always represent consciousness, awareness.
“Not for nothing did the philosophers give sulfur, or fire, the name gold, for it is indeed gold both in essence and in substance, but much more perfect than common gold. It is a gold that is completely sulfur, or rather a true sulfur of gold, a gold that is totally fire, or the true fire of gold that grows in caves and in philosophical mines; a gold that can not be changed or surpassed by any other element; a very stable gold in which there is only stability; a very pure gold because it is the same purity; a very powerful gold because without it all the rest languishes; a balsamic gold because it preserves the bodies from decomposition; an animal gold because it is the soul of the elements of the entire lower nature; a mineral gold because it is of sulfur, of living silver, of salt; an ethereal gold because its nature is celestial and is a true earthly sky veiled by another sky; finally it is a solar gold, since it is the legitimate child of the Sun and the true Sun of Nature; its power gives strength to the elements whose warmth vivifies the souls and whose movement brings the whole Nature to the movement; from its influence rises the power of things, for it is the influence of light, a part of the heavens, the lower sun, and the Light of Nature, without which even science would be blind; without his warmth, reason would be stupid; without its rays the imagination would have died; without its influences the spirit is sterile; and without his light the intellect would remain in eternal darkness “.
Sometimes alchemists talk about three types of gold. The first is an astral gold, whose center is in the Sun. It transfers this gold with its rays simultaneously to all the lower planets with its light. It is a burning substance and is a constant emanation of the stellar bodies that permeates the entire universe. The space, the atmosphere of the planets and the planets themselves are full of them. We constantly absorb this astral gold with our breath. The astral particles of gold then spread all over our body. This alchemical description accurately corresponds to what in oriental philosophies is called prana.
The second type is elementary gold. It is the purest and most fixed part of the elements and of all the compound substances. All the living beings of the three natural kingdoms have this precious elemental gold within them. It is also called central fire of the earth. The third type is the common metal, gold.
Alchemists also say that elementary gold (pure consciousness) is the philosopher’s stone made pure and perfect by the Great Work.
Gerhard Dorn (16th century) describes alchemical gold as the divine and creative influence present in all matter. “Gold is the medicine that in its original functioning is hardened by the art of alchemy, and therefore can influence all other earthly and material things in a positive way … Gold is the form that has been separated or carried away from its outer body, and it is so penetrating that with its celestial form it influences every exterior thing. Gold is the divine seed hidden in all things, not only in metals, but in all material things, and can be made visible with heat. And just as in the beginning, when God created the world and had a creative influence on matter, with this gold (which you got from matter) you have what repeats God’s creative work – with that, you have a small portion of it the hands. With this, with the power derived from God, things can be created and transformed. Gold has its power because it has the virtue of being one. Even vegetables can cause a medicine to emerge that can be used in this way “.
The philosopher’s Stone
You will not find the philosopher’s stone until you are perfect. (Grillot de Givry)
As there is oil in the sesame seed and a spark in the flint so your Beloved is in your body. Wake it up if you can. As the pupil is in the eye so the creator is in the body. The fool does not know this secret and runs out looking for it in vain. What you are looking for is in the four corners of the earth. It is Inside, you do not see it, because it lives behind the veils of illusion. (Kabir Sahib)
From the twelfth century onwards, the alchemists spoke of an agens necessary for transmutation. Thisagens had many names, but the best known is “Philosopher’s Stone”. Other names are: philosophical powder, great elixir, quintessence. The philosopher’s stone could transmute metals into gold. In the Great Work, the philosopher’s stone is the man himself, being he at the beginning of the Great Work and at the end. In general, stone is the universal spirit, present in all that has been created, and therefore also in the same alchemist.
“We never understood what the ancient philosophers meant by the philosopher’s stone. You can not answer this question before you have understood that the alchemists placed their attention on something unconscious. Only the psychology of the unconscious can explain the secret. The unconscious theory teaches us that as long as this projection is directed to that something, it will remain inaccessible. So the work of the ancient alchemists reveals very little of the secret of alchemy “(Carl Gustav Jung). The philosopher’s stone is the symbol of the perfect man, the end result of philosophical work. Although it is often associated with living silver and sulfur, the philosopher’s stone is difficult to explain in words. We simply do not have the language to do it.
One should also consider the fact that alchemists often used a symbolic language. Symbols are a means of transmitting information, but this means requires a totally different approach to understanding, something that we find difficult in modern society.
“The philosopher’s stone is above all the creation of man by himself, that is to say, the whole conquest of his own potential and his own future; it is in particular the complete liberation of one’s own will, which will give absolute dominion over Azoth and the realm of magnetism, that is to say, absolute power over universal magnetic force, is often related to life force. In some alchemical engravings, water flows from a stone. The stone is the philosopher’s stone, source of the elixir of life: “what is like fire but flows like water”. We all have it inside us “
The philosopher’s stone is also present in the legends of the Grail. In that case it is the cup full of chivalrous and good deeds, which will restore fertility to the kingdom of the King. The king in these legends is our higher self, our divine Self, the Spirit, the Heavenly Man, who has been relegated down into the earthly world. Finding this stone, or the inner divine, and working on oneself to bring it to the surface, will give success to the King’s Palace.
“the Grail is a precious stone, bearer of rich fruits of Wisdom and Purity” (Wolfram von Eschenbach)
Elixir and dyeing ach
He who drinks from the water that comes from the divine will become like a spring in their rising to eternal life. (Gospel of the twelve apostles, 28:10)
In alchemical terms, the body is reduced to live water from which the elixir is generated. Otherwise said, a life-giving spirit is created. Elixir is a synonym of the philosopher’s stone, but the alchemist uses the term elixir when first talking about energy and healing properties.
According to some alchemists, the elixir is the second phase of the Great Work, while the dye is the third phase. Since the second phase is the Albedo, or whiteness, even the tincture is called: “white dye”. It is the state of cooked or digested matter that takes on a white color. When it is projected onto metals, it transforms them into silver. It is a medicine for plants and minerals. We are talking about a purified spirit (man) who, even if only at the second stage, is already guaranteeing the body and the soul.
The red elixir corresponds to the third phase: the Rubedo or redness. It indicates the perfect stone. The Arab alchemists simply called it elixir, which meant “yeast”. The yeast raises the dough, which in the philosophical sense indicates a “multiplication”. In relation to the elixir, life energy is multiplied and therefore in living beings it has a healing function. The elixir cures all ills and makes perfect (ie healthy again) all imperfect metals (such as organs and cells).
The term tincture is used for its penetrating quality. Dyeing is the last degree of transmission of natural bodies. Bring all imperfect things to perfection. Paracelsus speaks to the tincture as a very noble substance that colors all metallic and human bodies, and changes them into a higher essence. It penetrates all the bodies and makes them “ascend” as the yeast does.
Rosarium philosophorum, Frankfurt, 1550
|Artephius (twelfth century) wrote in his “Secret Book” that he had been alive for two thousand years thanks to his elixir. Similar statements were made by other alchemists. It is said that the well-known Count of Saint-German (XVII-XVIII century) does not age because of the elixir. Let us remember that it is not a physical substance, but the divine inner energy of the alchemist who has been brought forward and who keeps the body young.
It has always been believed that there was some kind of liquid, or drink, that could prolong life and give the body almost immortality. Unfortunately the common man often took this concept literally and tried to create a liquid. This liquid, or water of life, is a symbolic term for what is present in man himself. Water of life that flows from a fountain, the fountain of youth.
In the ancient Hindu scriptures (the Vedas and the Puranas) lies the concept of Amrita. Amrita is the drink or food of the gods. It is the food that gives immortality, and is created by the ocean of milk. The Greek gods drank Ambrosia or Nectar, which had the same characteristics.
Alchemists and kabbalists speak of the water of life in terms of, for example, Ab-e-Hyat, or “pungent, burning essence”. More commonly it is called “alkahest” or common solvent. The alchemist produces his dye by purifying his body, his emotions and his thoughts, until he identifies himself with his divine essence. When the divine essence is realized, the water of life flows and takes away all the remaining waste, leaving the pure gold.
Elixir or dyeing makes the alchemist a new man. He is reborn and is immortal, partaking of divine wisdom and unity with the Source of all. He has become a King of Heaven.
The Single Operation
One should not abandon the duty for which one is born, even if it has some imperfection; because everything that is done is wrapped in imperfection, just as the fire is enveloped in smoke. (Bhagavad-gita 18:48)
The alchemist often repeats that the entire alchemic work is a unique process that requires a single, simple action. This action has different names, depending on your point of view. It can be called purification, washing, cleaning, heating, cooking, distillation and so on. Some alchemists put these terms in an apparently chronological order.
Atlanta Fugiens, Michael Maier, Franfurt, 1617
The whole work is nothing but heating, cooking: one of the many symbols that show how the entire alchemical process is nothing but continuous action. It can be called meditation, or clear awareness, but it must be done continuously. This is the only way in which the purification of the body and the soul will result in revealing the true divine nature of the practitioner.
At the beginning, the work is called dissolution, because the central fire, which has been stirred up, transforms the earth into water. Dissolution is the reduction of what is fixed and dry in water essence. The fixed is made fluid. The fluid is also called live silver or raw material. Says on dissolution, Pernety (1858): “The philosophical solution is the transformation of fixed base humidity into a watery body. The origin of this dissolution is the volatile spirit enclosed in the first water “.
One could say that one’s consciousness, which is always present but somehow hidden in itself, works with the action of the will, to bring the daily consciousness (the fixed) into the unconscious (water). One could also say that one becomes more aware of what is happening inwardly, especially the subtle feelings and energies, both of which are often compared to water.
By means of this continuous heating or cooking, it occurs when it is stuck. The vapors cool and condense. The condensed water goes down and penetrates the earth. The process is repeated again and again.
After distillation, fixation takes place, or coagulation. Fixation is the inseparable union of the fixed with the volatile, or sulfur and bright silver, in a material so durable that it is unassailable by fire. While all this is happening, the heating of matter continues.
The whole process is nothing but warming. The fire must be maintained (ie one’s attention must be kept focused).
Distillation, or purification, is actually the continuous improvement of oneself in order to eradicate all selfish action or negative emotion. For this reason it is necessary to maintain continuous vigilance and diligence.
Some alchemists associate a planet with each successive stage of the Great Work. Although distillation remains the same throughout the entire process, in symbolic terms the alchemist ascends from the planet Saturn to the planet Mercury. It starts with Saturn, the coldest and heaviest planet, the evildoer, the god of time and death. Mercury is the lightest planet, located next to the sun, immersed in the light and heat of that star. It is here that the alchemist discovers eternal youth.
When in this way the alchemist ascends through the planets, he transforms his characteristics. Each planet corresponds to certain psychological characteristics.
The process of the Great Work, as we said at the beginning of this work, is not expressed only in alchemical symbolism, but in many other Traditions, both Eastern and Western.
The seed, like the grain of wheat. The Egyptians planted wheat grains on mummies, so that they sprout, symbolizing the resurrection of the dead. Osiris was also the god of fertility, and so was called “The Great Green”. His skin was often depicted in green. The alchemists speak of the “green seed” in nature, that is, the raw material, or green dragon, the fertile energy of life that penetrates everything.
“When you do two, you will do one, when you make the inside like the outside, the outer part as the inside and the upper part as the lower one, when the male and the female will make a single being so that there is neither male nor nor female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot and an image in place of an image, then you will enter the Kingdom “(Gospel of Thomas, 22)
The sacred marriage, the conjunctio or coitus, refers to the union of our divine spirit with the soul and finally with the body. One could say that in the common man the spirit, the soul and the body are somehow separated from one another, even if they work with one another. The goal of the Initiate working on his Great Work is to reunite the three principles,
In alchemical manuscripts, the conjunctio is portrayed as the union, or coition, between King and Queen, between the red man and the white woman, or simply between husband and wife.
“Connect the slave to his fragrant sister, and alone they will perform the whole work; for as soon as the white woman is married to the red man, they will embrace firmly and become one, they will decompose and perfect each other: from the two bodies that were before, they will become one body prepared for perfection “
( Donum Dei, early 16th century).
This quote shows that the conjunctio is often portrayed as an incestuous relationship. This, beyond any moral consideration, indicates that all the material of the Work is within ourselves. (Rosarium philosophorum, 1550) a bizarre but entirely symbolic union.
Carl Gustav Jung argues that this symbolic incest is the descent, or penetration, into the unconscious. It is a regressus ad uterum, or a return to the maternal uterus. The penetration of women is equivalent to the penetration of water or the unconscious. In this way we see that the conjunctioviene depicted with the coitus between husband and wife, king and queen, but also with the king who takes a bath or drinks water. Sometimes coitus between man and woman takes place in water, in a tub or in a fountain. Water is also a symbol equivalent to mercury or living silver.
The alchemist Gerhard Dorn spoke of man’s body, soul and spirit. The body (corpus) corresponds to what we would now call the Jungian term of “shadow”. He considered the soul a neutral vital energy, composed of habits, hopes and desires. The spirit (animus) was the will, the concept of ego. The spirit is always good and has higher mental powers. In the ignorant man they form a trinity, because man is not aware of all three things, but perceives them as one.
Dorn said there are three conjuncti:
The first occurs with the separatio, or distractio. The soul separates from the body when man becomes aware of these two things. The soul and the spirit come together, which he calls unio mentalis. At the moment when man becomes aware of not being his body and begins to perceive the difference between it and the soul and the spirit, the body ceases to be the sole motive of its desires and needs and begins not to express more their negative impulses. The body and its needs are submitted to the will of the soul.
The second conjunctio is the unio mentalis united with the purified body. This occurs when, as a result of the continuous purification of the lower, physical, emotional and mental drives, the connection of the three principles becomes effective. Body, Soul and Spirit are now aligned and work as a whole and harmonious whole.
It is only then that the third conjunctio can take place: the combination of spirit-soul-body with the unus mundus. “L’unus mundus is the potential world of the first day of creation, when nothing existed in actu, that is to say in duality or multiplicity, but only as One”. It is an entry into unity, in which one perceives everything as one.
Also the alchemist Pernety (1858) knew the three conjunctio:
“The first is called double coniuctio. It is found between agens and patiens, between the male and the female, the form and the substance, the bright silver and the sulfur, the thin and the raw.
The second is called triple, because it unifies three things: the body, the soul and the spirit. Thus he transforms the trinity into unity. The third is called fourfold, because it unifies the four elements into one, but includes the other three “.
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