May 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Alchemy, like any true Science operates in sequential steps. As Dennis illuminates in Chapters 11-13 of his Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy, the most common division of these steps in the Western tradition is Nigredo, Albedo and Rubedo, the blackening, whitening and reddening stages.
These specific steps seem to have been codified from the Paracelsian Alchemical tradition carried forward by esoteric Masonry during the 18th and 19th century which has produced the most visible efforts in the Art and has provided the basis for so much of what we know today in practice. As with any Traditional exposition the divisions themselves are valuable more for their symbolic resonance than any hard line rule. Other models add additional levels to the process of Transmutation, but such additions usually only explore additional insights into the process which add detail, but do little to change the overall focus of the Great Work.
With these concepts in mind it’s interesting to go back and examine works such as Dante’s Divine Comedy. Here we find the Nigredo (descent into Hell), Albedo (journey into purgatory) and Rubedo (ascension into Heaven) laid onto a Christianized (with heavy influence from Greek and Islamic metaphysics) model. This same structure can be seen in the historical evidence from the practices of Mediterranean Mystery cults, Meso-American spiritual traditions, and Eurasian shamanic practices. The descent into the underworld (often via dismemberment or disintegration), purification and return forms a common motif for innumerable initiatory and religious traditions.
As becomes apparent through reading Dennis’ exploration of these phases, the integration of the process on all levels is demonstrated by astrological, chemical, spiritual, material, mythic and natural symbolism to show the reality of these processes at every level of existence.