In my previous article The Alchemical Transformation Process1 I described how alchemy consists of three phases – the Black Phase, the White Phase, and the Red Phase. These three phases consist of seven operations, the first two operations – Calcination and Dissolution, occur within the Black Phase of Alchemy.
Today we will discuss the second phase – the White Phase, and the operations which comprise this phase. The White Phase, also referred to as Albedo, consists of two operations – Separation and Conjunction.
The White Phase is named appropriately, as from the darkness of the Black Phase, the light emerges. Whereas the Black Phase was characterized by the burning and dissolving of falsities, dross, and other impurities, the White Phase goes about the work of purifying the remaining essence. This purification which occurs within the White Phase is critical, as any remaining contaminants could stand to sabotage the work of rebuilding the new essence which occurs in the third and final Red Phase. Whereas in the Black Phase we burned and washed away contaminants at a gross level, during the White Phase we further purify the matter under transformation at a more refined level.
Within the two operations comprising the White Phase, the pure essence, or quintessence is first separated from the dross – this process is appropriately referred to as Separation. During the next operation, the essences are combined into a new form or body – this process is referred to as Conjunction.
The White Phase of alchemy is symbolized by the King and Queen. This is so because while searching for the quintessence, the alchemist uncovers the duality of the matter itself. All manifested life is comprised of two opposing forces, or poles – a masculine and feminine. Some refer to these opposing forces as positive and negative, such as when discussing polarities in electrical terms. However, in representing the polar opposites in this manner, it is important to recognize that the terms positive and negative are not an assignment of value or judgement, they are relational terms – equal yet opposed.
The following is an updated diagram from the preceding, Introduction to Alchemical Transformation article. In addition to the previously discussed Black Phase, the White Phase has been added with the opposing masculine/feminine (king/queen) symbology:
The White Phase of alchemy is characterized by reaching the quintessence of the matter under transformation. The primary symbol representing the White Phase is the King and Queen, in other words, the duality between the masculine and feminine forces inherent to all manifestation. The White Phase consists of two operations – the first of which is Separation.
White Phase Operation 1: Separation
The first operation within the White Phase is Separation. Separation is the third of the seven operations within alchemy, the first two being Calcination and Dissolution. Separation is the alchemical operation of disuniting, dividing, cutting, or breaking, substances to retrieve their basic constituents or essences2.
It is through the alchemical operation of Separation that we get to the true essence of the item undergoing transformation. Because we reach the essence of its being, that is where the opposing masculine and feminine polarities are discovered.
The operation of Separation is represented by the element air:
“The archetype of Air is an invisible force with a will of its own that down through the ages has always been associated with life force, spirits and spiritual energy. The physical signature of the Air is life-giving oxygen, and its subtle component is the prana or chi that is the focus of Oriental alchemy3.”
The represented Air element is further reinforced by the filtration and aeration aspects sometimes present within this operation. Within the Separation operation there is always a further separation of the essence from remaining contaminants, it is just a matter of how this finer level of separation is brought about.
The operation of Separation is represented by the fire/air sign of Scorpio. To the Egyptians, Scorpio represented a descent into the underworld to bring back knowledge of universal truths4. This is the analogy of the separation process – the alchemist is descending deep into the nature of the matter undergoing transformation to discover its true essence.
The following diagram includes the operation of Separation:
Separation is the first operation within the White Phase and the third phase of the overarching alchemical transformation process. Separation is represented by the element of Air and the zodiac sign of Scorpio.
Recall that the first two operations of alchemy – Calcination and Dissolution were represented by the elements of Fire and Water. Separation includes the third of the four elements, Air. First we subject the matter undergoing transformation to the element of Fire (Calcination), next to Water (Dissolution), and then to Air (Separation).
White Phase Operation 2: Conjunction
The second operation occurring within the White Phase is the operation of Conjunction. Conjunction is the fourth of seven operations within the overall alchemy process.
In the preceding operation of Separation, the alchemist descended into the darkest depths of the matter undergoing transformation to retrieve its quintessence – the very essence of the thing itself. As a result, when the alchemist enters the operation of Conjunction, only the most pure aspects of the matter undergoing transformation remain. All dross, contaminants, and falsities have been removed during the preceding operations of Calcination, Dissolution, and Separation. The very light has been plucked from the thing and that is now what the alchemist has to work with during the present operation of Conjunction. It is very important that the preceding purification were conducted with care as any remaining contaminants will sabotage the transformation process.
You may recall from our earlier definition of alchemy that it is the process of breaking something apart and recombining it to combine something new. We are not simply disassembling and reassembling the matter undergoing transformation to create the same thing, we are creating something new. The “something new” is a critical piece to the transformation process. This is where Conjunction comes into play.
The operation of Conjunction involves taking the remaining pure essences which remain after the purifications operations (Calcination, Dissolution, and Separation) and bringing the remaining items together to create something new. The operation of Conjunction is represented by the element Earth. Through the combination of the elements of Fire, Water, and Air, we create a purified or reborn Earth Element5.
Recall again that the three preceding operations of alchemy are represented by a distinct element – Fire (Calcination), Water (Dissolution), and Air (Separation). Conjunction completes the set of four elements with the addition of Earth. It is through the combination of Fire, Water, and Air that a new Earth Element is created. This new Earth Element is considered the Child of the Conjunction and this is another reason why the White Phase is represented by the King and Queen – it is through the bringing together of the purified opposites that something new is created.
Conjunction is also considered the bringing together the opposing forces of Spirit and Soul. Within the operation of Conjunction, the alchemist is attempting to retrieve the quintessence, or the feminine Soul force from the matter undergoing transformation while at the same time infusing the matter with the masculine force of Spirit from above. It is this merging of Soul and Spirit, or masculine and feminine which brings about the creation of the new Earth Element.
When considering the element of Earth, the alchemists considered Earth as anything manifested and solid. The newly created Earth Element results from the recombination of the essential ingredients into something entirely new and real yet on a more highly evolved level6. In a sense it is the old, but new and different. It is the existing essence, but on a higher turn of the evolutionary spiral.
Earlier I had reiterated the importance of being thorough in removing contaminants during the preceding three operations (Calcination, Dissolution, and Separation). Should contaminants or dross be present, then a new element will not be created and it will be the same existing element, or matter that you started with. If a new element is not produced, the process was contaminated. It is the purified opposing forces which results in the creation of the new thing.
Alchemists consider this merging of opposing forces an alchemical sexual act which results in the Child of the Conjunction. The Child of the Conjunction is the new Earth Element, or transformed matter. In order for the alchemical mating ritual to be successful, the essence of the retrieved feminine essence or Soul must be pure when it is infused with the masculine Spirit. Otherwise, a child or new Earth Element will not be produced.
Symbolically the operation of Conjunction is represented by the Cockerel, or young and virile rooster. Astrologically the operation of Conjunction is represented by the virile bull of Taurus, which to the ancient Egyptians represented fertility and growth. You can begin to see a common theme of Conjunction – an alchemical process symbolized by sexuality in the bringing together of opposing forces to create a child, or new element.
In terms of the overall alchemical transformation process, Conjunction marks an important transition7:
“Conjunction is the turning point in alchemy, the marriage of the Sun and Moon, or ultimately, the union of Spirit with Soul. The alchemists saw this as a passionate coming together of the elements of Fire and Water.”
Because Conjunction is the merging of the opposites, which is required for any act of new creation, it may prove difficult.
The following diagram includes the operation of Conjunction:
The alchemical operation of Conjunction is comprised of bringing together the purified essence of the matter undergoing transformation to create a new Earth Element. The new Earth Element contains the opposing pure essence of the feminine Soul retrieved from the matter undergoing transformation infused with the masculine Spirit. The new Earth Element contains the essence of the original matter undergoing transformation but now exists at a higher level of evolution as a result of the purification (Separation) and infusion (Conjunction) processes. It is by the bringing together of the elements of Fire, Water, and Air that the new Earth Element is created. This new Earth Element is referred to as the Child of the Conjunction. Symbolically the Conjunction operation is represented by the coming together of the King and Queen, the Cockerel, and astrologically by Taurus.
The following is a summary of what you have learned in this article:
-Alchemy consists of three phases – the Black Phase, White Phase, and Red Phase.
-Within the three phases of alchemy are seven operations.
-The first two operations of alchemy, Calcination and Dissolution occur within the Black Phase.
-The second phase of alchemy, the White Phase is comprised of the two operations of Separation and Conjunction.
-The White Phase of alchemy is symbolized by the King and Queen.
-Separation is the first operation of the White Phase and the third operation within the overall alchemy process.
-The operation of Separation is characterized by further purification of the matter undergoing transformation.
-While performing the operation of Separation, the alchemist seeks to delve deep into the matter itself and retrieve its Soul or quintessence.
-The operation of Separation is symbolized by the element Air and the Scorpio zodiac sign.
-Conjunction is the second operation of the White Phase and the fourth operation within the overall alchemy process.
-The operation of Conjunction is the bringing together of opposites to create something new.
-The operation of Conjunction is the bringing together of the purified feminine essence (Soul) retrieved during Separation and merging it with the masculine Spirit.
-By the combination of the three elements of Fire (Calcination), Water (Dissolution), and Air (Separation) a new Earth Element is created.
-During Conjunction if something new is not created, the transformation process has failed.
-The new Earth Element contains characteristics of the old, yet at a higher level of evolution.
-The operation of Conjunction is represented by the Earth element and the Taurus zodiac.
By the conclusion of the Black Phase of alchemy, the first two operations of Calcination and Dissolution will have burned and washed away contaminants leaving the essence of the matter undergoing transformation.
By the conclusion of the White Phase of alchemy, the third operation of Separation will have separated out any remaining dross and further purified the matter undergoing transformation. The fourth operation of Conjunction will have resulted in newly created matter through the merging of opposites contained within the depth of the matter undergoing transformation. We will enter the Red Phase with new matter under which to perform the remaining three alchemical operations.
1. Sedivy, J.R. The Alchemical Transformation Process.
2. Hauck, Dennis William. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy.
3. Alchemy Study Program. Alchemistic Philosophy p. 38.
4. Hauck, Dennis William. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy p. 163.
5. Hauck, Dennis William. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy p. 165.
6. Alchemy Study Program. Alchemistic Philosophy p. 41.
7. Alchemy Study Program. Alchemistic Philosophy p. 41.