The alchemical process is one of discovery, artisanship and transformation at material, conceptual and spiritual levels. It begins with enquiry into the origins of the subject with the aim of fully understanding the role of abstraction, symbols and other forms of encoded information – particularly to discover the prime material and its various permutations. The alchemist must solve the riddle that abstraction represents, which is to say must understand that alchemy’s sophisticated abstractions both hide and reveal, in plain sight, a deeper reality of actual substances and processes integral to alchemical work. By learning to decode or solve alchemy’s puzzles, the alchemist discovers keys that unlock barriers to progress thus allowing fundamental work to begin in earnest. What follows is the preparatory stage of purification and reduction in order to remove any impurity or limitation that might corrupt the work or impede further progress. It is the Solve stage directing one’s attention to multiplicity, which allows for a complete dissolution of the primary material. This results in a reorganization of things that clearly reveal an apparent dualistic nature inherent in alchemical substances and processes, physical or otherwise. At this stage, the newly realized apparent division is soon discovered to be incomplete in its divided state, and remains so until reconfiguration occurs in the form of reunification, this being the union of opposites that results in an entirely new result greater than the sum of its parts. The entire process of reconfiguration takes place in recognizable phases known collectively as the Coagula stage. The result is an entirely new configuration, pure and enduring, immune to fire or tarnishing in addition to possessing tremendous transformative applications in-potentio.
Begin with initiation and alignment with the primary subject matter and seek the origins from which all the substances, processes and ideas emerge. Become familiar to the point of fascination with substances, materials, specifically the prime material and explore the properties and potentiality inherent within – as it is this that dictates the various processes by which these substances are to be manipulated. Potentiality must be brought to actuality. Next, ascertain what form the result should take, even though the actuality might perhaps be other than expected. Become familiar with the result as preserved in accounts of adepts who have left a record for those who might become inspired to undertake the work in the wake of their experience and success. Become familiar with the Art and its artisanal requirements. Develop the awareness, technical proficiency and experience prerequisites to carry out the work to its completion. Finally, fully align with the purpose for beginning the work in the first place. Clearly identify the motivating factor, the function, purpose or goal the work is to serve towards realizing the eventual objective – material, conceptual or spiritual. This purpose, although realized last, is often the point of departure.
To anyone just setting foot on his or her journey along the alchemical path, abstraction is the first stage on the voyage of discovery. Initially, abstraction is a realm of confusion, misunderstandings and intentional misdirection. By gradually decoding or decrypting alchemical abstractions however, this stage unfolds as a realm of revelation, intuitive comprehension and tremendous insight. It is a proving ground serving to challenge and test understanding … to shift perception away from entanglement in a rigid frame of reference or approach. Unpicking the locks or finding the hidden keys to alchemical mystery caged in abstraction results in movement beyond illusory surface reality to the heart of the subject matter at hand. The result is the realization of a reality hidden in plain sight yet presented in such a way as to misdirect those operating only from a rigid intellectual or conventional frame of reference.
The process of purification and reduction removes all that would impede further progress. It is a breaking down of the subject matter into the most reduced and refined form possible. This can require tremendous effort, focused concentration, and an ability to endure discomfort of monotonous repetition and noxious byproducts while always maintaining an eye toward detail and progress. The process serves to prepare the prime material and subsidiary substances in such a way that brings about the desired transformations flawlessly. This stage requires the most dexterity and attention to detail. Often an aspiring adept would spend tremendous time and effort as an apprentice in this stage in order to perfect the foundational work necessary to mastery of the Art. This is the Solve stage.
Upon achieving mastery of purifying and reducing the primary and subsidiary materials, they are further realized as fixed and volatile compounds. The fixed compound contains a small portion of the volatile and the volatile a small portion of the fixed. The fixed aspect is identified as the material body principle, whereas the volatile is seen as containing the soul-spirit principle imbued with energetic growth and regenerative potential. These two compounds have been traditionally described as earth and water, body and blood, male and female, solar and lunar and so forth. At this stage, all of the disparate multiplicity has been artisanally transformed into two clearly opposite yet complementary compounds. Division is revealed as an artificial or illusory construct upon the realization that the two opposing forces do not clash with each other, but rather dance in harmonious transformation towards an inseparable union. This dance is a movement en route toward the undivided state, a realization of the undivided condition as being the polar nature inherent in duality that reveals opposites as integral to totality. This is the beginning of the Coagula stage.
The dialectic synthesis of polar opposites results in the final configuration, destiny fulfilled. The final union takes place in graduated stages according to increasingly hot fire phases in which the subject matter is so conditioned by the fire that it finally becomes fireproof. By completing the work, all transformative potential has been realized and applied. The overarching perspective from this stage is a final picture in which all the pieces of the puzzle have settled into their relevant place. The great work comes to completion and with it a new perspective where multiplicity is experienced in a single model via the process of dissolution and reconfiguration. The entire process demonstrates self-growing and self-organizing, autopoeisis as an expression of natural law and its revealed superior intelligence. The alchemist begins with a single prime material and works artisanally through multiplicity to arrive at not only a fine product that can be further applied, but also gnosis, a holistic experience of reality. It is an awakening to an integrated and unified whole in which all substances and processes, successes, failures and reattempts reveal the All as the collective face of the One.