Commit to Change yourself, the world will follow! Become an initiate to the Great Work by doing the following and by being what is necessary to change your mind!

There are three stages in the alchemical work: the nigredo, the albedo and the rubedo. Before undertaking any of these stages, preliminary work is needed. Alchemy provides tools or what's call operations to help in the work. In the first stage, the initiate must establish a laboratory, purify him or herself, identify the prima materia and reduce the prima materia to its essence. 

the Laboratory: 

  This is a classic picture of an alchemical laboratory. It is unusually large and neat. I use it to illustrate important elements that go into making a laboratory. You will notice that there are three main sections: on the left is the adept praying his oratory beneath a tent surrounded by many texts and recipes; on the right is the physical laboratory in front of which is the athanor where the work will be done. Notice above the fireplace are many bottles containing all sorts of elixirs. In the foreground center is a table upon which are a number of musical instruments, and in the far rear of the image is a door - the door of infinity that reminds us of the fake doors we find in ancient Egyptian temples and tombs. I devote a good deal of time in my book Alchemical Psychology explaining many of these elements and some of the recipes hidden everywhere. For example, in the rafters is one that reads, "keep vigilant even while sleeping."  It is important to emphasize that the first two parts on the left and right suggest that alchemical work involves psyche and soma. At the center are the instruments that harmonize these two aspects of the work. the Prima Materia: Where does one start the work? While alchemists throughout the ages have made many suggestions I think the place to begin is with oneself. In alchemy, the outer reflects the inner (as above, so below or as within so without). You must begin by making a very important decision: are you ready to devote your life to changing lead into gold, not physically of course, but psychologically and spiritually. In psychological terms this means dedicating yourself to transforming the unconscious into consciousness. The unconscious is a world unto itself, but we can recognize it most clearly at night in our dreams and in the day in our habits. In alchemical work, we devote ourselves to forming a relationship with the unconscious, first in ourselves, then in others. This work is an act of purification because as we take notice of our habits for example we can easily become critical and even self-destructive. But with the right uncritical attitude, one of love, we concentrate our higher Self on this prima materia and over time, habits dissolve. Thus, the first operation in this work is called solutio that works like water boring through solid stone. Because this takes time it is helpful to also set your intention so that your decision can endure over the many interruptions, distractions and challenges of that life inevitably brings our way. the Nigredo: 

 

This is a classic picture of an alchemical laboratory. It is unusually large and neat. I use it to illustrate important elements that go into making a laboratory. You will notice that there are three main sections: on the left is the adept praying his oratory beneath a tent surrounded by many texts and recipes; on the right is the physical laboratory in front of which is the athanor where the work will be done. Notice above the fireplace are many bottles containing all sorts of elixirs. In the foreground center is a table upon which are a number of musical instruments, and in the far rear of the image is a door - the door of infinity that reminds us of the fake doors we find in ancient Egyptian temples and tombs. I devote a good deal of time in my book Alchemical Psychology explaining many of these elements and some of the recipes hidden everywhere. For example, in the rafters is one that reads, "keep vigilant even while sleeping." 

It is important to emphasize that the first two parts on the left and right suggest that alchemical work involves psyche and soma. At the center are the instruments that harmonize these two aspects of the work.

the Prima Materia:

Where does one start the work? While alchemists throughout the ages have made many suggestions I think the place to begin is with oneself. In alchemy, the outer reflects the inner (as above, so below or as within so without). You must begin by making a very important decision: are you ready to devote your life to changing lead into gold, not physically of course, but psychologically and spiritually. In psychological terms this means dedicating yourself to transforming the unconscious into consciousness. The unconscious is a world unto itself, but we can recognize it most clearly at night in our dreams and in the day in our habits. In alchemical work, we devote ourselves to forming a relationship with the unconscious, first in ourselves, then in others. This work is an act of purification because as we take notice of our habits for example we can easily become critical and even self-destructive. But with the right uncritical attitude, one of love, we concentrate our higher Self on this prima materia and over time, habits dissolve. Thus, the first operation in this work is called solutio that works like water boring through solid stone. Because this takes time it is helpful to also set your intention so that your decision can endure over the many interruptions, distractions and challenges of that life inevitably brings our way.

the Nigredo: 

  Darkness pervades this first stage of the work. This image shows a skeleton holding a raven standing upon what is known as the black sun. When we plunge ourselves into the unconscious everything goes dark. It is a dangerous time when one can become disoriented and depressed. It is therefore important to have a partner - a friend, a mentor, a therapist - to help you get through this challenging stage. You will also notice the word putrefaction to the left and right of the skeleton. This another operation where things are left to rot. Just as we purified the prima materia and end up looking like a skeleton, this stage involves shedding things that no longer serve us. Caution: don't be too quick to condemn your ego, for as von Franz said in the quote I offered earlier, it is only the inflated ego that needs to "rot in hell." In hell, such negative things are exposed to the fire that then reduces them them to their core essence, what in alchemy is called ash. This fire operation is calcinatio. Alchemy is known as the operations of the sun, and in the image we see both sun and moon separate in the left and right corners, and in the middle where they come together the sun is completely blotted out like a solar eclipse. Psychologically, this means that the light of consciousness is hidden from us. Just as the angel points downward, so too must be go deep within ourselves and into the unconscious to find the hidden stone, the lapis philosophorum. the Albedo:  

 

Darkness pervades this first stage of the work. This image shows a skeleton holding a raven standing upon what is known as the black sun. When we plunge ourselves into the unconscious everything goes dark. It is a dangerous time when one can become disoriented and depressed. It is therefore important to have a partner - a friend, a mentor, a therapist - to help you get through this challenging stage. You will also notice the word putrefaction to the left and right of the skeleton. This another operation where things are left to rot. Just as we purified the prima materia and end up looking like a skeleton, this stage involves shedding things that no longer serve us. Caution: don't be too quick to condemn your ego, for as von Franz said in the quote I offered earlier, it is only the inflated ego that needs to "rot in hell." In hell, such negative things are exposed to the fire that then reduces them them to their core essence, what in alchemy is called ash. This fire operation is calcinatio. Alchemy is known as the operations of the sun, and in the image we see both sun and moon separate in the left and right corners, and in the middle where they come together the sun is completely blotted out like a solar eclipse. Psychologically, this means that the light of consciousness is hidden from us. Just as the angel points downward, so too must be go deep within ourselves and into the unconscious to find the hidden stone, the lapis philosophorum.

the Albedo:

 

You will notice in the picture on the left our skeleton now has skin and the raven is gently perched upon him. He is being revived by angels and both sun and moon in the lower portion of the image are dynamic forces. This returning to life is akin to what some people term 'being reborn,' but here is less a religious term than one that involves both psyche and some, body as well as soul. It is as if you were coming back to life in a wholly new form. As I point out in my book Embodying Osiris, this work is mythologically described as Osiris being murdered, dismembered and then re-animated by his wife Isis. The work of the albedo involves a man discovering his inner feminine and for a woman her inner masculine. Moving from the circle of the first image to the one on the rights shows this development; now there are a man and woman in a small and larger circle. This process that alchemist is performing is known as the squaring of the circle. It implies a process of individuation where we first develop a conscious relationship within ourselves and then with people of the opposites sex. This is the earliest formation of what will later be called the Royal Marriage of the Opposites (sol and luna).

the Rubedo:

 

In the final stage of the work we see the integration of the finest essence of man, King Sol, and his equally regal Queen Luna. Notice also that there is a third element - a dove that draws down the spiritual energy. In other words, the rubedo is about establishing a sacred relationship with the Divine. Two cautions: we may get glimpses of this state, but it can take a lifetime or more to stabilize it so that we can access it at will, or if you happen to be a saint live in this divine presence all the time. The second caution is something called a false coniunctio. This word means union and it is the essence of the work. While we have seen separation and now union, we must be sure that this is a true union and not simply wish fulfillment. The alchemists often warn, All haste is of the devil! In other words, you cannot push the work, but rather it must develop naturally and gradually. Those whose sole purpose was to make gold out of lead as quickly as they could were called puffers. A false coniunctio is consequence of greed, inflation and excessive desire. The true Royal Marriage is one of many images of the Philosopher's Stone, which of course is a divine state of being and cannot really be rendered in pictorial form. Still artists over the millennia have given us incredible images that reflect transcendental consciousness. 


want more?

If you are interested in further exploring alchemy you can go to my alternate website by clicking on the link below. There you will find a treasure-trove of alchemical material including papers, images, charts and even a fun game! There are also many other alchemy cites and references that are listed there, many of which specialize in various aspects of the Art. But remember don't just study alchemy, practice it - that's where you'll find the real Gold!

Alchemical Psychology  ->

 

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