2. One Operation
Every effort goes with mistakes
goes with smoke.
Therefore one should not give up
the work that
corresponds with ones nature
because it is full of defects.
The alchemists often repeat that the entire
alchemical work is only one process, requiring only one simple action.
This action is named with different terms depending on the point of view
one takes. It is called purification, washing, cleaning, warming,
cooking, distilling and so on. Some alchemists put all those terms in a
seemingly chronological order.
(Atlanta Fugiens, Michael Maier, Franfurt,
The whole work is nothing but warming,
cooking, one of the many symbols to show that the entire alchemical
process is nothing but one continued action. You can call it meditation,
or clear awareness, but it needs to be done continuously. This is the
only way purification of body and soul will result in uncovering the
true divine nature of the practitioner.
In the beginning of the work
it is called dissolution because the central fire, that has been
stirred, is transforming the earth into water. The dissolution is the
reduction of the fixed and dry into the essence of water. The fixed has
been made fluid. The fluid is also called quicksilver and prima materia
or first matter. Pernety (1858) says about the dissolution: "The
philosophical solution is the transformation of the fixed root humidity
into a watery body. The origin of this dissolution is the volatile
spirit which is enclosed in the first water." One could say that your
true consciousness that is always there but kind of hidden in yourself,
is working by the action of your will, to bring your everyday
consciousness (the fixed) into the unconscious (water). One could also
say that you become more aware of what happens inside you, especially
your feelings and subtle energies, both of which are often compared with
By this continuous warming or cooking, distillation happens.
The water evaporates and become more subtle with each cycle of
distillation. The vapors cool and condense. The condensed water descends
and penetrates the earth. The process is repeated again and again.
After distillation fixation or coagulation happens. Fixation is the
inseparable union of the fixed and the volatile, or sulfur and
quicksilver, into a matter that that is so durable that it is
unassailable to the fire. But in the mean while one continues the
warming of the matter.
One can say that the entire process is
nothing but warming. The fire needs to be maintained (that is one ‘s
attention needs to be kept focused).
The distillation or
purification is actually the continuously improving of oneself, to root
out, for example, every egotistic action or negative emotion. For this a
continuous vigilance and diligence is necessary.
place the planets with each successive stage of the Great Work. Although
the distillation remains the same during the entire process, in
symbolical terms, the alchemist ascends from the planet Saturn towards
the planet Mercury. He starts with Saturn, the coldest and heaviest
planet, the traditional evil-doer, the god of time and death. Mercury is
the lightest planet and is next to the sun, bathing in the light and
warmth of that star. Here the alchemist discovers eternal youth.
When the alchemist thus ascends throughout the planets, he transforms
their characteristics in himself. Each planet corresponds with certain
The Great Work can be found in its
entirety in the Egyptian myth of Osiris. Osiris was a god-king who was
locked up in a chest by his brother Seth. Seth is the symbol of the
powers of decomposition, the fire that causes putrefaction. The chest is
the alchemical ‘vas’, or vessel. The chest was closed with nails and
lead (lead is the metal of nigredo, or blackness). Then, Seth threw the
chest into the ocean. The ocean is the alchemical water, or the second
stage of the Great Work, when the earth has been reduced to water. The
ocean itself is a symbol of the prima materia to which the matter has
been reduced. The chest eventually washed ashore under a tamarind tree.
The tamarind is also a symbol of the second stage, albedo or whiteness,
because of its white blossom. Isis, the wife of Osiris finds the chest
and brings it back to Egypt. This is the coagulation of condensation. By
her magical powers she is able to receive the seed of Osiris and gives
birth to Horus. Here the alchemical seed of matter has been found, and a
new birth takes place, that of a pure consciousness. Horus is a sun god,
thus the light has come through. When Set also finds the chest with the
dead Osiris (Osiris is the symbol of the common man that has died) he
cuts the body up in fourteen pieces and scatters them around. This again
refers to the decomposition and sublimation, that needs to happen again
and again, until everything is pure. Isis looks for all the pieces and
buries each of them at the spot (the fixation). Only the phallus of
Osiris she could not find because an oxyrhinchus fish had swallowed it.
This could mean that the sexual power has been transformed into a higher
energy, and will nevermore express itself on a lower level. It is said
that the lower expression of the sexual drive binds man to the physical
world or the world of darkness. The phallus is no longer necessary
because Horus has been conceived. Horus represents the reborn man. In
his appearance as a child he is called Harpocrates, and corresponds with
the boy Mercurius. Horus is also the resurrected Osiris. In alchemical
terms, the old King has died and the young King is born.
also the universal principle of life. He is the seed, like the wheat
berry. The Egyptian would sow wheat berries on mummies, so they would
sprout, symbolizing the resurrection of the dead. Osiris was also a god
of fertility, and thus he had the name "the Great Green One". His skin
color was often painted green. The alchemists talk about the ‘green
seed’ in nature, that is the ‘prima materia’, or green dragon, the
fertile energy of life that penetrates everything.