Alchemy in the Western world was primarily a search for perfection. There are many avenues in Western alchemy, but here we will only look at the hermetic or philosophical alchemy. The basis of the alchemical work are the three phases: Nigredo or Blackness, Albedo or Whiteness and Rubedo or Redness.
Sometimes an intermediate stage Citrinas, or yellow color, is mentioned that precedes whiteness. As Alchemy was a more or less secretive art in Europe, many people who were interested in this art tried to interpret what these stages really meant. One can find many symbolic descriptions of these phases in alchemical works, but where did this color scheme come from?
The answer always lies in experience, and in the case of the alchemical work, it lies in the universal process of meditation. In the Eastern spiritual traditions, the Blackness refers to the darkness you see when you close your eyes and enter into a meditative state. Usually a breath technique is used to slow down the thought processes, and eventually to stop any thoughts whatsoever. Another technique is to just observe the thoughts come in a calm and neutral way. The purpose is to become aware of one’s inner center, one’s inner being behind the mind that produces thoughts. The mind itself is also just a tool for one’s own inner divine being, which is clear pure awareness. Depending on one’s spiritual level, this process can take a long time to achieve, not only during the daily periods of meditation, but to carry this awareness also into one’s daily activities.
What happens is that a clear white light starts to appear inside one’s head. At first it may be only a dim, moon-like glow, a pale flicker of several different colors, but then it becomes as bright and intense as the radiance of the noonday sun, then crystal clear and white. It depends upon the composition of the mind’s states of reactionary patterns as to how the light in the cranium will first appear. The dim, moon-like glow, turning in a clear light is the stage of Albedo, or Whiteness in alchemy.
The pale flicker of several different colors is called the Cauda Pavonis, or Tail of the Peacock. This intermediate stage does not appear to everyone, and it is also not that often mentioned in Alchemy.
The appearance of the light, which is actually one’s own inner being on a higher level of existence, is something that needs to be cultivated on a daily basis to make it more and more permanent. In Alchemy this is usually called the Distillation, a continuous process of refinement, purification of the lower, bodily energies, the shadow aspects of the souls, the lower emotions, which clouded this pure light up to this point in one’s light. Once all these ‘shadows’ have been cleared, the pure white light can shine in ll its glory.
In the process of refining the light, one might encounter various phenomena that accompany the process. This is well documented by the yogis. One can hear a ringing at the left and right ear separately. Then one has to combine these into the center of one’s head. The tones are actually nerve sounds. They are nerve current, one flows upwards, the other downwards. Combining them in the center of the head creates an circular energy current. The energy of these two currents is then flowing in a circle, and you will enter the golden yellow light of the life force current. The yellow light is the intermediate Citrinas phase of alchemy.
One just continues to bathe in this light and it will turn white. Thus you enter intense experience of awareness, being aware only of oneself.
As one becomes completely aware of one’s own inner light being, the external world becomes more and more strange, separate and unreal. This is why the alchemical process has to be continued beyond this stage of Whiteness. One has to learn to bring one’s consciousness back, through meditation, into the exterior world through concentration, to make the exterior world seem real again. It is bringing the Spirit back into Matter, or the Body. This unification is called Rubedo, or Redness in Alchemy. It is also symbolized by the marriage (union) of the White Queen and the Red King.
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