Alchemy defined in Webster's Dictionary as "...the doctrine, study, and practice of chemistry in the Middle Ages, which was chiefly concerned with transmutation of metals into gold and the finding of a universal remedy for diseases...a pouring together...any imaginary power or process of transmuting one thing into another." There are many interpretations of this field of endeavor available today, each depicting slightly different stages, signs, and words describing them. The following is only one among the many.

Alchemy is also a vast mythological system of symbols and metaphors, beings and stories, geometries and diagrams, elements and heavenly bodies, designed to represent aspects of the human psyche, spirit, and soul, as well as provide guidance towards the nature of the Universe. The fundamental events or stages are divided into four color qualities or states of being or becoming: blackening, whitening, yellowing and reddening. This corresponds to the four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. This also corresponds to the four qualities: cold, hot, moist, and dry. Through the process of using mercury, sulphur, water, fire, all in a ritualized fashion, the artifex - the student, can achieve transmutation of the elements; through dissolution, coagulation, distillation, condensation, disintegration and bonding. Ultimately, the Work lies in the moving of the elements around, each in turn yielding another. It is the attempt to unify heaven and earth, the spirit forces above with the Chthonic forces below. Stone changes its nature, elements are extracted, and each releases its powers until all are put together again to form a greater whole. Pythagoras stated that quadernity defines the spectrum of possibilities in the physical world. Aristotle posed the fifth element, the quintessence. The alchemists were seeking to bring this fifth element down to Earth, through the repeated transmutations of matter. The Gold that was sought, however was not the material gold.

Prima Materia, Massa Confusa

This is where it all starts. It is the initial state, already present for the beginning of the process. It assumes all elements and aspects of the Universe are present. Chaos. All is unmanifested and undifferentiated. All opposites exist alone and together. This phase corresponds to the color black.


Calcination. Oxidization, ashing of the metals...transformation of the essence of a thing cannot occur until it has been made into ash, earth, lime, chalk - the spirit must suffer several deaths before it can change and grow...a brightly colored phase ending in white and yellow.


Separation. Now the separation of the four elements from their new state into their independent natures; a loosening...breaking the whole into its parts.


Putrefaction. Blackness is achieved, first passing through red, attempting to bring the pnuema, spirit or breath, back into the remains. This is often done by distillation.


Conjunction. The uniting, joining together, the spirit in matter, Nous and Physis, Sol and Luna, Mercury and Sulphur. This can take place in the most intense heat.


Coagulation. Stratification and bringing together of the various components; a hardening of the new substance. A settling and conglomerating of the elements.


Sublimation. Raising the essences of elements. A refining and purification, and cooling of the mixture.


Fermentation. The smallest parts are dissolved. This in an effort to raise the matter up, by leaving it to sit in a sealed container. A gestation and incubation period.


Exaltation or emphasis. Again raising the essences, often by adding water.


Projection, transference. Adding substances to the base metals to further refine and purify them, and color them, thus imbuing the potencies of them to the mixture. This seeks to produce all colors, the cauda pavona (the tail of the peacock).

Lapis, Elixir

The transformed elements are reunited, and the work complete. The Philosopher's Stone. Also, Earth itself. The soul. The center of every mandala. The unity of all, elements and spirit. A spherical object perfectly round and hard. The embodiment of the perfection of matter and spirit after burning, mixing, cooling, smoothing and aging. This also represents a cosmological view of the manifestation of all things.

In recent times, there have been discoveries of life existing under extreme conditions: heat, cold, and density. It is also theorized that many of the thermal vents deep in the oceans of our world, spewing forth sulphur, nickel, and various molten minerals and metals, then mix with water and air and form the constituents of the primordial soup. Through heat, movement, cooling, and pressure, life forms from the impulse of emanating energy; and comes to pass from liquid to metal, and organic solid, and ultimately to gas. To observe the alchemical process is to observe the process of creation itself, and to thus learn the secrets of divine genesis.

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