back to The Secret of Hermetic Alchemy
The Three Phases of the Great Work
What is the first thing you encounter when you close your eyes? Blackness. When you enter your inner world, you enter into darkness. This is the first experience, and the first stage of the Great Work. here the operation of putrefaction takes place. Here the fixed gets dissolved by the volatile. By becoming aware of the volatile mind, the bodily consciousness diminishes. In alchemical symbols Nigredo is always indicated by something black: the raven, the raven's head, the dark jacket, darkness, the night, the Solar or Moon eclipse, the tomb, hell, and death.
When the Matter has entered the stage of blackness, it is called lead or Saturn, or the head of Moorish one.
2. Whiteness or Albedo
This is the perfect putrefaction, when all blackness has disappeared and the color white appears. Then it is said that life has conquered death, that the king has been revived, that earth and water has become air, that the child has been born, that Heaven (the Volatile, the Female) and Earth (the Fixed, the Male) have married. It is the realm of the Moon.
When one has purified his awareness of Self, during meditation, by eliminating thoughts, or otherwise, then at a certain point, light appears. This can be but is not necessary a visual light inside oneself. The light that appears is also metaphoric for an absolute clear, pure awareness of Self. It is something that cannot be described. I have experienced it myself, although for very brief periods. One does not indeed experience the darkness anymore that is there when one closes the eyes.
The alchemists say that in Whiteness, the Matter has attained a degree of Fixedness that fire cannot destroy. In that state one is in a very fixed position, that is, very stable, very much in the here and now, in total clarity of Self.
The Philosophers say that when one has attained this stage, one needs to destroy the books because they become superfluous. From this point on one needs to continue this purification of awareness to the next stage of redness.
3. Redness or Rubedo
The third and last phase is characterized by the color red. When the White stone or the White Elixir has been made, it needs to purified further, sublimated, until the Matter becomes totally Fixed and is completely stable. Then we have the Red Sulfur, the red stone, the Red Elixir, the Stone of the Wise.
When the divine light has emerged during meditation, one needs to make it last. this demands a continued effort of holding one's attention to this pure awareness, not only for the length of the meditation session, but also during every day life. At a certain point the pure awareness of one's divine self will be permanent.