Conjunction: The Lesser Stone
The magic square of the sun is of the class 'even magic squares' and is constructed by conjoining 4 order 3 magic squares into one. This is the least mathematically elegant class of magic squares and I feel it was chosen for the square of the Sun/Conjunction because of this organized chaos. Also because the sum of integers within the sun square add to 666 which represents not the Anti-Christ as we have been taught, but rather the solar principle.
The phase of conjunction represents the marriage of opposites, a merging of logic and intuition which forms what Egyptians’ called “Intelligence of the Heart”. It corresponds to the Sun and Earth, masculine and feminine, conjunct in an amalgam of un-purified Gold. As these two seemingly opposite layers of thought merge, they expand upon one another as new associations and connections are made. The clearing of negativity during the previous three stages has prepared space for the massive influx of awareness that accompanies alchemical conjunction. Conjunction is associated with the external Solar principal that permeates the Earth, i.e. the self/humanity as a collective being.
This merging of opposites is the first realization of the illusion of duality. There is an equal and opposite nature to all things. Reasons vs. excuses, male vs. female, guidance vs. manipulation, discernment vs. judgement, wisdom vs. intelligence, positive vs. negative, etc. These things all have roots in the same functions and represent polar expressions of one idea. Once this is fully grasped, a centered kind of “knowing” takes place. Gnosis. A dear friend of mine used to offer the brilliantly simple reminder, "this AND that, Tasha". To exist in 3D we require individuality yet we are not limited to it. Our collective human self requires each individual to fulfill a function just like the body requires its individual systems to function individually for the collective. Humanities issue is not that we experience individuality, but that we believe this is all there is and act without concern for the collective health of our species. Humanity has an auto-immune disorder.
There is an originating concept of unity at the root of all religions, in the recent discoveries of quantum physics and even the big bang theory. A unified God, an All, or sciences preferred phrasing, “densely packed matter” for whatever reason fractures and expands into the diversity we see in our 3-D reality. The seeming incompatibility of science and religion(or even various religions) is only another illusion perpetuated by a human population that as a collective, has not yet reached conjunction.
Fermentation: Death and Rebirth
Fermentation is the decomposition of material transformed by the external force of bacteria and oxidation. In this same way, during psychological fermentation our personality realizes its impermanence and eventually suffers its final death. Its dead remains putrefy and rot before being given new life and a new nature. Fermentation works with the volatile substance sulfur which is a symbol of the soul. Sulfur is considered a mixture of Fire and Earth, symbolizing our passage between the worlds.
It is a fascinating paradox that the psychological growth incurred through these operations is due to the deliberate and systematic break down the personality. Personality is both inherent and essential. Like butterfly larvae must first experience life limited in motion and eventually constrained within a cocoon before transforming into flight, we need the experience of individuality to understand unity. Fermentation is associated with Venus, the planet of love, comfort, lust and greed. It represents the dark night of the soul, dying to self importance and the limitations of individuality. Fermentation produces a rebirth of the imagination. In my experience, fermentation is a series of deaths and rebirths. As a deeply fractured and dissociated person, each variation of my 'self' had to undergo its own individual apocalypse. The ego attempts to restructure itself after each death so consequently a new version of self is born again and killed off only to be replaced by another, more fermented state of being.
As this myriad of false identities die, a new presence of mind gradually takes over. The natural consequence of letting the self die is the invitation of Gnosis into the space we create. Like each piece of a hologram contains all the information of the whole, we have access to a living ocean of information once we learn to tap into it. Taoists refer to this as creating a womb for the “spiritual embryo” (the Philosophers Stone) to gestate within.
Here the self closes its eyes on the previous life and opens to the light of a secret, universal spark within that alchemists call “The Peacocks tail”. The Peacock’s Tail is described as a rainbow of light within the mind that illuminates the soul.
Distillation: Circulating & Storing Energy
In Western Alchemy the end result of distillation is called “The Mother of the Stone” because, if we are successful, this state of mind will birth the Philosophers Stone. Like wine is produced through the distillation of fermented grapes, the Mother of the Stone is produced by repeated distillation of the fermented Self which has realized its transcendental nature, passed through the proverbial gates of death and returned aware of the power of its own thoughts. It’s through our thoughts that we seem to pass that veil, it's an experience that takes place within the mind.
The liquid metal Mercury (quicksilver) is symbolic of thought (in some interpretations symbolic of sexual energy) and named after the messenger God Mercury (Hermes) due to his ability to move between Heaven and Earth. The God Mercury is depicted as having wings upon his feet and would carry messages up and down, rising from Earth and descending back down again much like the rising and falling of vapor in the process of distillation. Having passed beyond the veil during fermentation, the Self is now acquainted with other realms and can learn to move between them like the messenger God. The Self is ready to practice controlling and consciously circulating energy.
Distillation is produced by agitating and sublimating a solution. The word “sublimate” is from the Latin root sublimare, “raised up”, it means to raise and modify. Psychological sublimation is to realize and modify specific thoughts or tendencies. Sexual sublimation is the raising of sexual energy without releasing it. For thousands of years Taoists, Tantrics, ascetics and mystics alike have all developed spiritually through the sublimation of desire which is considered the root of all suffering.
During psychological distillation we agitate and sublimate ourselves repeatedly to ensure no residual baggage goes forward with us into the next stage of development. Agitation can be as simple as extended periods of meditation where the body and mind crave action but are denied it. This sublimation of internal energy is essential for the creation of the Philosophers stone, just as each of the previous meditation exercises have built upon one another to prepare you for the challenges of the next phase. In addition to mastering the self by systematically identifying and killing off our false and destructive beliefs, we must also master the bodies that self created through posture, diet and habit. “The body is the temple of the living God”. During distillation, the practices of fasting, sexual/mental sublimation, meditation and yoga become priority. Without these agitations the ego can easily convince us of a shallow sense of well being and mastery. Self imposed challenges prepare us for unexpected challenges that we must rise to meet without old programming being triggered to take over.
Coagulation: The Philosophers Stone
Despite having had countless books, manuscripts, artistic works, even cathedrals created in its honor, little can truly be conveyed about the Philosophers Stone. I have only glimpsed this state of being for brief but life changing moments. There is a heavy shroud of obscurity surrounding the holy of holies. Like the angel who guards the gate back to Eden, the enlightenment of the Philosophers Stone is withheld but for a select few who dare to change their nature and surrender to coagulation with the ALL. We already are everything, but are we conscious of it yet? Can I know the nature of your thoughts by realizing that we are one? Can I realize that they are my thoughts as well, without falling into projection or judgement? Am I willing to take responsibility for everything in my field of awareness, including the wars I detest yet fund with my tax dollars? The concurrent existential crises that lead up to Coagulation are perhaps mirrors of the fragmentation that seems to have taken place at the beginning of the manifest universe. As we lose our grip on an answer to, “Who Am I?” we fragment and realize that we can be (and have been) many amazing and horrifying things. Coagulation corresponds to the Moon, our feminine life force that wants to receive. In Vedic astrology it corresponds to the crown chakra which directly receives cosmic energy. All of the alchemical phases intend to lead us here. Along the way the "dross" is cleared from our thinking which opens up bandwidth for us to receive direct lessons from our unified self on how to best serve it. Coagulation is the final re-membering. A return to the incorruptible "whole". The "monoatomic state" of self. A crystallization of consciousness.