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Alchemical Processes Part II



Fermentation is used as a conversion process of organic substances into new compounds using a living medium. As demonstrated earlier, Putrefaction is the first step in fermentation, where substances are allowed to decompose. Like the process of making wine, Putrification occurs as it is embued with digesting bacteria. Although Fermentation uses a natural heat in its operation, it does not subject the substance to intense heat or flame in the laboratory. In more philosophical terms, Fermentation is the doorway to a new consciousness through the adoption of the inspiration of imagination. This imagination is so powerful that it overcomes our perspective of reality and replaces it. It can be thought of as an out of body experience. In the traditional sense, fermentation is nothing more than the process of turning grapes into wine or grain into beer. Putrefaction is part of this process, which is why, in some instances, it is considered part of the seven processes of alchemy. In fact, unlike the Nigredo process, the putrefaction process is considered by Alchemists to be a void soon to be filled with the presence of what is known as the Philospher's Child.

This is the sixteenth emblem of twenty-two from the book, “Splendor Solis,” (Splendor of the Sun), allegedly written by Salomon Trismosin. The accompanying text states: "The Heat works elevatingly, for by its force the spirits hidden in the Earth are raised up into the air, wherefore the philosophers say, that whosoever can bring to light a hidden thing, is a Master of the Art. The same is meant by MORIENUS, when he teaches that ‘He who can recreate the SOUL is able to see color, and also by ALPHIDIUS saying: ‘Hence it is that this Combat raises upwards, or else you shall not gain by it’." Emblem colored by Adam McLean,

Interestingly, the scarab or dung beetle is the symbol for the process of Putrefaction and Fermentation. This comes to us from the ancient Egyptians who were meticulous observers of nature and its behavior. The scarab beetle makes a ball of dung and lays its eggs within it. The ball containing the eggs is rolled into its underground home and over the course of time, the Putrefaction process takes place and as it enters its final stages, the beetle rolls the ball back to the surface towards the warmth of the sun. Warmed by this process, the larvae hatch and take flight. The beetle is known as Khepri and is affiliated with the rising sun as the dung ball it rolls was, to the ancient Egyptians, a metaphor for the rising sun which brought life to all of Egypt.

The ancient Egyptians believed Ra, the sun god, rolled the sun across the sky, transforming humanity. Subsequently, the scarab was seen as a symbol of heavenly cycles and of the concept of resurrection and regeneration. Khepri assisted Ra and was seen as the rising sun and it was believed that Khepri renewed the sun every day and then carried it through the Duat or underworld after sunset, only to gloriously return the next day.


Ultimately, the process of Fermentation is represented by a two-headed hermaphrodite called, The Rebis. The Rebis is also known as the aforementioned, Philospher's Child, which is the resulting union of the Red King and the White Queen during the Conjunction process. In Ancient Greek philosophy, it is the union of Hermes and Aphrodite, the goddess of love. But the entity is in an intermediate stage of development and needs to be subjected to additional work as it is in an incomplete form. 


This Emblem, sixth in a series of twelve from from Basilius Valentinus's, "L’Azoth des philosphes” series, depicts the Rebis, which is a hermaphrodite, indicating the perfect and harmonious communion of both male and female energies (the red half of the hermaphrodite is the Red King representing the masculine and the white half the White Queen, representing the feminine). The Rebis is surrounded by the planetary energies including the sun and moon. The white half of his body is linked (via the lines extending from his body) to the moon, Saturn and Jupiter. His red half is linked to the sun, mars and Venus. Above his head is the symbol for Mercury (the element and the planet). He stands upon a green dragon breathing the flames of transformation. It has wings yet it does not take flight, which to me represents taming of the volatile or that the dragon is earthbound as is usually depicted in alchemical imagery. The dragon sits upon a sphere which holds two forms; the triangle (representing spirit, soul and body and the square, representing the four forces of nature, water, air, fire and earth. (Image colored by Adam McLean, 

The Rebis in this image is shown naked as it is purified, (as was the King in the water during the Dissolution process), and is being heated with the metaphorical flames of Fermentation. Heat has an important presence because, like the dung beetle's ball, it contains the embryo of a being yet to be transformed through the Putrefication and Fermentation processes. This is emblem 33, from Michael Maier's, "Atalanta Fugiens," (published in 1617 with illustrations by Matthias Merian and wonderfully colored by Adam McLean,, it’s title informs us, "The Hermaphrodite, lying like a dead man in darknesse, wants Fire.” This is a further process of purification of the Hermaphroditic Child.


The Fermentation phase is likened to the chemical phase in that new matter is created from the death of old matter. As mentioned previously, grapes are crushed to produce wine and so the old soul must be crushed and obliterated to make way for the new soul. The grapes are destroyed as they are crushed and release their essences in the process. Putrefaction follows as the grape juice decomposes. Subsequently, a white layer of bacteria appears on the grape juice which initiates Fermentation. Ultimately, the new essence  overcomes the grape juice and replaces it with wine or metaphorically speaking, the old consciousness is destroyed and a new and higher consciousness emerges from the ashes of the old (similar to the Phoenix). Fermentation introduces new life and strengthens it.


Methods of invoking Fermentation on a personal level are activities like meditation and desire for a mystical union with the spiritual nature of the universe. Using the Peacock's Tail as an analogy, we are to invoke spectacular visions called, "True Imagination." As I was writing this, I was immediately taken back to my studies of the Amazonian shaman, Pablo Amaringa and his enigmatic ayahuasca vision paintings. Now, Pablo is not an Alchemist, as far as I'm aware, and his imagery has nothing to do with traditional alchemy, but it is interesting to note certain similarities. Taking this a step further, the imagery in Pablo's work reminds me of Jungian archetypes and of Biblical and Qur'anic spiritual visions and imagery (my capstone project for my integrative studies Bachelor's degree was based on the premise that Amazonian shamans and Biblical and Qur'an Prophets share identical visions and thus should be placed on the same level of respect by Western cultures). 

These are just a few samples of Pablo's amazing work. Serpents, ladders, birds and trees abound in his imagery, reminding me of striking similarities with Biblical and Quranic themes.

Depicted in the emblem above, the red King (Rubedo) and the white Queen (Albedo), masculine/rational, feminine/intuitive respectively, crown the new prince (new consciousness), officially known as, "The Philosophical Child.” The emblem is number nineteen in a series of twenty from J.D. Mylius’s, "The Rosary of the Philosophers," (Rosarium philosophorum sive pretiosissimum donum Dei) later published in Frankfurt, 1622. It was originally published in 1550 as part II of, "De Alchimia Opuscula complura veterum philosophorum.” However, some of the original woodcuts were replaced with updated versions by Michael Maeir as Mylius was one of his disciples. Hence, the emblem above was a replacement for the original emblem pictured below. The titular word, “rosary" is unrelated to rosary beads as it refers to a rose garden, which was deemed a metaphoric collection of quotes of wisdom in sequence. Adam McLean provides a more comprehensive portrait of the Rosarium:


"The Rosarium as a text is not a work of the kind of spiritual alchemy we find later in the early seventeenth century in the output of Mylius, Maier, Fludd, and the Rosicrucian alchemists. It does not deal directly with the spiritual principles of alchemy and state these as a coherent philosophy in the text, but rather this spiritual alchemy is incorporated into the series of illustrations. It was only in the later sixteenth century and particularly during the Rosicrucian period, that alchemists felt free to express the profound truths of their spiritual philosophy in the form of words. Until that time, in the alchemical tradition the spiritual principles were still only expressed in symbols. So, while the Rosarium in its text attempts a synthesis of physical and soul alchemy, we also find as a further layer, that the series of symbolic illustrations incorporates in pictorial form the principles of a spiritual alchemy.” Emblem colored by Adam McLean,

Here is another beautiful illustration from, "Biblioteca dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Roma," the 18th century manuscript on alchemy, which depicts the King and Queen holding hands with the Philosophical Child while I can speculate that Sophia (due to the star above her head), pours a retort of mercury into the waters. The image is from Guity Novin’s, “A History of Graphic Design” text which includes a chapter entitled, “Art in Alchemy: Visual Communication of Symbols,”




Distillation is the process of separating the component or substances from a liquid mixture by selective evaporation and condensation. Distillation may result in essentially complete separation (nearly pure components), or it may be a partial separation that increases the concentration of selected components of the mixture. In either case the process exploits differences in the volatility of the mixture's components. In industrial chemistry, distillation is a unit operation of practically universal importance, but it is a physical separation process and not a chemical reaction. Alchemically, Distillation is the operation that seeks to condense a substance through boiling to increase its purity and concentration. The pure essence of said substance is released in the evaporation. Vapors are captured and eventually cool to create a pure liquid in condensed form. If further purification is required the process can be repeated. 


To distill something is to release its essence in vapor form. In terms of practical Alchemy, or Alchemy performed in the lab, it is the most important method to obtain the purest substance. Here is an excerpt from the Alchemist, Dennis William Hauck's works concerning another form of Distillation called, Sublimation and how it relates to Alchemy:


"In a kind of distillation known as sublimation, no liquid is used at all. The solid material gives off vapors that condense directly onto an extremely pure powder at the top of the distilling apparatus. The solidified material remains stuck to the sides of the alembic until collected by the alchemist. The alchemists considered sublimation a superior form of distillation that led directly to their treasured Philosopher's Stone."

This is the seventeenth emblem of twenty two from the book, “Splendor Solis,” (Splendor of the Sun), allegedly written by Salomon Trismosin. The accompanying text states,"The Heat warms the cold earth, that while cold was half dead. Thereof says SOCRATES: When Heat penetrates, it makes subtle all earthly things, that are of service to the matter, but come to no final form while it is acting on the matter. The Philosophers conclude on the mentioned Heats in brief words, saying: Destil seven times and you have separated the destructable moisture and it takes place as in one distillation. Is the Force of the heat thus mixed with heat in the earth, that it has made light the collected parts and resolved them so as to surpass the other elements, and therefore this heat shall be modified with the Moon; ‘Extinguish the Fire of one thing with the Coldness of another’, says CALID." (Emblem colored by Adam McLean,

In the Alchemist's lab, these are the components for the Distillation process


As the vapor rises and is then collected, it is empowered by both the Above and the Below. This involves heating a substance until it boils, and then condensing the vapors into a purified liquid. It increases its concentration and purity, such as takes place in the distilling of wine to make brandy. And, as noted by Hauck, this process is clearly stated on the Emerald Tablet thus, "It rises from Earth to Heaven and descends again to Earth, thereby combining within Itself the power of both the Above and the Below." This labwork is obviously metaphorical for the spiritual transformation to come.

Here is an excellent example of the process of Distillation presented in both the alchemical lab and transformative human processes. The Image is from the, “Evolve Consciousness” website:


On personal level, the same repetative process of dissolution is utilized just as in the lab. We are to be vigilant as to our daily thoughts; the thoughts that recur and circumambulating in our minds. The Distillation process is employed to shatter these recurring thoughts so that we may form new insights. It is the forming of new insights into our consciousness and removing all emotion and purification of the soul.




The final process of the Alchemical operations is Coagulation, where the body is transformed into a spiritual essence and the spirit becomes corporeal. It is literally a resurrection of the soul through the amalgamation of the purest essences of our consciousness. Hauck calls it, "the eternal spirit body." It is symbolized by the phoenix, who rises from the ashes of its former self as a new creature. The legendary Alchemist, Paracelsus called this, “The Star in Man,” a new and completely healed person who has burned away the dregs and dark constructs of the soul and is free to take flight as the phoenix.


Adam McClean speaks to birds in Alchemical symbolism here:


"What did the alchemists wish to symbolise by birds? The essential thing about birds is that they, having as their domain the air element, mediate between the earthly realm and the heaven world. The alchemist in observing the flight of birds, recognised in them a picture of the human soul undergoing spiritual development. The soul, aspiring upwards, flying free of the restraints of the earth bound body seeking the heavenly light, only to have to return to the earthly consciousness again after the meditation, the alchemist symbolised by the bird. Thus the bird symbols, in alchemy, reflect the inner experiences of soul alchemy, the soaring of the soul free from the earth bound body and the physical senses. The soul, in the meditations of soul alchemy, touches upon the spiritual world, and brings something of this back into the outer life again. The birds as symbols mediate between the physical and spiritua1 worlds, they reflect certain archetypal experiences encountered by the soul in its development through the alchemical process. (From his magnificent website on Alchemy:

This is the eighteenth emblem of twenty two from the book, “Splendor Solis,” (Splendor of the Sun), allegedly written by Salomon Trismosin. The accompanying text states:


AUCTOR DE TRIUM VERBORUM, the author of THE THREE WORDS gives in his writings a peculiar method to govern the HEAT or the FIRE saying: ‘When the Sun is in Aries, he indicates the First heat, or Grade of the Fire, which is weak because the heat is under the Rule of the Water, but when the Sun is in Leo, then it indicates the Second Grade, which is hotter because the great coldness of the Water being under the Rule of Air. In the Sign of Sagittarius is the Third Grade, this being not of a burning heat, and under the Rule or Order of Rest and Pause. (Emblem colored by Adam McLean,

As the Phoenix builds its nest it is building its funeral pyre. It alights itself through self immolation and is engulfed in flames, rising from its ashes transformed as a new spiritual being. It no longer is corporeal but instead has transcended. This powerful emblem, from Johann Daniel Mylius’s book entitled, “Reformation of Philosophy,” explores the magnificent imagery and symbology of the phoenix.

The incredible engraving above is from J.D. Mylius’s, "Opus Medico-chymicum,” (The Medical-Chemical Work), published in 1618. The artist who created the emblems in Atalantia Fugiens, Matthieu Merian, created this stunning masterpiece, colored by Adam McLean. In most Alchemical engravings and woodcuts there are always a vertical axis and a horizontal axis. The vertical axis separates the masculine from the feminine and this is easily demonstrated in this emblem with the female figure holding the moon on the right while the male figure holds the sun on the left. The horizontal axis represents the separation of the earth and the heavens; as above, so below. We are separated from the Above which contains pure spiritual and archetypal energies, while living in the Below in a duality of matter and spiritual energy; in a constant struggle between soul and spirit - King and Queen, Yin and Yang, positive and negative. Opposing yet complimentary principals which, when brought together, create an exception to nature. The goal of the Alchemist is to bring these energies together - Above and Below - to reside in the middle enabling access to all realms. To be between these two realms brings balance of all energies - spiritual and material. This is a most important concept which pertains exclusively to the precepts of the Emerald Tablet (the Emerald Tablet was written by the Atlantean/Egyptian, Thoth, thousands of years ago and is THE cornerstone of Alchemical wisdom). 

It is said that every alchemical symbol is contained in this amazing image. Certainly, the horizontal line designates the principle of Above and Below. In the Below section, we can see the image split once again between the darker, lunar feminine aspect on the right (the woman holding the moon) and the lighter masculine aspect on the left, (the man holding the sun) these are the complimentary opposites. In the center is the Alchemist wearing a robe demonstrating the marriage of the feminine and masculine - two forms of conscious thought. Producing a higher gnosis - the stars in his robe on both sides symbolizing the higher energies of both forces. A state of intuition and of knowing, which allows you to penetrate the mysteries of the Universe. The trees on both sides of the Alchemist represent the metals and natural processes of the earth. In the Above section, there are 29 cabalistic angels representing the archetypal images or faces of God. In numberology, the number 29 converts to the number 2 (2 +9 = 11 and to reduce 11 to a single digit we add 1+1=2), and the number 2 which represents the embryonic division of the One Mind to create Mind the Maker, which itself is depicted as the larger Sun, whose rays encompass the entire Universe. (Hauck, 141) There are two suns depicted here - the greater sun which is unknowable, similar to the Hindu, Brahman - representing the intent of the Universe, which brings forth the second sun as in the Hindu, Atman. To clarify from a Hindu perspective, Atman is the individual, while Brahman is the collective consciousness of all living entities. This is similar in concept to dark matter and physical matter, where undetectable dark matter makes up most of the universe while physical matter makes up a much smaller percentage. As stated earlier, naked bodies in alchemical imagery represent purity in its highest form. We cannot view the source without becoming absorbed into it. As stated earlier, staying above is not the goal. The name of God is in Hebrew at the top in the form of the Tetragrammaton representing sulfur, while the dove on the right represents the secret in matter (salt) - energy - holy spirit. The lamb represents Christ and the element, mercury, which has dualistic properties. It represents light; part wave, part particle and combined as the light of consciousness. (Image colored by Adam McLean,

The Philosopher’s Stone: to quote from, Dennis William Hauck:


"In the Alchemist’s laboratory, chemical Coagulation is the physical manifestation of the essence created during Conjunction, born during Fermentation and purified in Distillation. It is accomplished by the congealing, precipitating, or sublimating of the solidified essence or child of the Conjunction. This fixation of spiritual forces is what creates the Philosopher’s Stone, which embodies the principle of transmutation itself. (page 158, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy”) 


This is the creation of the Philospher’s Stone, which was legendary in that it once it is created, it brings eternal life and cures for all diseases. The phoenix is a symbol of this process. If this sounds familiar, we need look no further than the Harry Potter books and films, as the first film was originally titled, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” but was modified to the sexier, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” as J.K. Rowling used Alchemy as an integral ingredient to her stories.

This incredible image it's from a mid-17th century book, Engraving from Malachias Geiger's "Microcosmus hypochondriacus,” published in Munich, 1651 embodies Myriad ideas and imagery of alchemy. As in many alchemical images, it is divided into two realms, The Above and The Below. Dividing these two rooms stands the Tree of Life, and at the highest section of the image are symbols that represent Jehovah, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. In the lower heaven, directly below, are the seven planets whose light emanates in rays down to The Below. The planets surround a zodiacal sphere made up of two Ouroborai serpents biting each other's tales. 


Inside the sphere are surrounding circles, each listing the three forms of mercury, sulfur, and salt. Each element is represented in three ways; the common, the corporeal, and the philosophical. At the center of this circle is a triangle with the symbol for mercury within. Two angels above the planets direct the light that emanates from the upper heavens to The Below as well. Ultimately, the influences of the highest heavens are affected through the planets and radiate to the earth below.


Beneath the tree of life is a crowned woman who holds the book of wisdom in her left hand and a scepter in her right, which is draped about with the Alchemical axiom, "That which is Above is of that which is Below." In the tree above her, represented by golden orbs, are the planetary metals and other Alchemical symbols. There are two mountains on either side of the tree of life; the mountain on the left is in flames and above it hovers a phoenix clutching two globes.


Above The mountain on the right is an eagle clutching two globes. In front of the mountain on the left or three birds a peacock, a crow and a swan, all birds pertaining to different processes and alchemy. In front of the mountain on the right, are the sun and the moon, walking into the Alchemist's lab being and greeted by Mercury. They are escorting two Lions and the rays from the planet mercury land upon their heads.


Specific Information about the book I found on, Martayan Lan located at; 

70 East 55th Street, 6th Floor 

(Heron Tower) 

New York, New York 10022



In Geiger’s complex alchemical scheme, the cures for melancholia are intimately connected to the hermetic pursuit of colloidal gold (aurum potabile), the chemical Tree of Life, and the three principles of Sulphur, Mercury, and Salt. As in Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, the work establishes a medical basis for what is confirmed to be a mental disease (hypochondria here meaning a species of melancholy), and offers three categories of cure: diet, surgery and drugs – each of which is illustrated by a remarkable full-page allegorical plate, described as being “both Galenic and Hermetic”. Further illustrations depict the interior of a pharmacy of ‘Galenic chemistry’ (p. 240), a dining room (‘Diet’, p 116), and a surgeon’s practice. They, however, are dwarfed by the 5th emblema, a large folding plate which combines astrology, the humours, and alchemical symbols to illustrate the interconnectedness of melancholia with the wider macrocosm. Here we find the Tree of Life bearing the 7 known metals and 12 alchemical metalloids; on the right a tablet unites the three principals, Sulphur-Mercury-Salt, promising “a long, easy, healthy, life of glory and infinite riches”; beneath this another figure attempts the chemical preparation of aurum potabile. What is perhaps of the greatest interest is how the method of cryptic and allegorical illustration widespread in 17th century engraved title-pages and alchemy books have been extended to the treatment of other, medical material. Some of the credit should probably be ascribed to the fact that the engraver Kilian was a prolific engraver of emblems books, but it remains of interest that this method of illustration had so permeated the Baroque culture of southern Germany that it could be employed in a discursive chemico-medical text by a respected physician. Physician to the Elector Maximillian, Malachias Geiger (1606-71) studied at Louvain before attending anatomy lectures in Paris. Geiger was reputedly a great friend of the famed poet Jacob Balde, whose life he is said to have saved from a violent illness (ADB). He published a number of other medical titles. OCLC shows 3 US copies: the University of Chicago, National Library of Medicine and Yale Medical. Krivatsy 4614; Waller 2460; Arents (Supplement) 349; Heinrich Laehr, Literatur der Psychiatrie, I.254; cf also the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Not in Ferguson or Duveen. (Image colored by Adam McLean,


From esoteric and philosophical standpoint, Coagulation incarnates and releases the Ultima Materia of the soul, the Astral Body, which the alchemists also referred to as the Philosopher's Stone. Using this magical Stone, the alchemists believed they could exist on all levels of reality. You can consider it as some supreme value or the living wisdom and knowledge of Truth. The seeker connect here his basic self with the Higher Self and become the Whole Person.


And finally...


Stanley Kubrick may have been familiar with alchemy as he was a well read man. His film (and book), “2001: A Space Odyssey” had a powerful transformational impact on me when I was ten years old. I didn’t know why it affected me, but now, fifty years later, I believe I understand. In my humble opinion, it is one of the greatest alchemical treatises in history (although there are tremendous nods to Nietzsche’s philosophy here as well). Please understand there is no evidence to support this idea, as it is my personal supposition. As far as I am aware, I can only assume the film had alchemical influence.

In the above image, the Monolith has just appeared to apes and transforms them into the seed of humanity by teaching them to use tools. The image is such a powerful Alchemical one; the moon represents the feminine, the sun the masculine and they are about to eclipse, which is the union of complimentary opposites. The Monolith is the Philosopher’s Stone itself - the very object of transformation.

Here, the astronaut ages before our eyes (the Nigredo Process) and is literally transformed by the Monolith (Philosopher’s Stone), into the “Star Child” (perhaps a nod to Paracelsus’s, The Star in Man?)

Does this look familiar? Yes, indeed, it resembles the above Alchemical illustration of, As Above, So Below.

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