This is yet another way alchemists declare their First Matter, most frequently called Water, to be inseparable from Cosmic Fire. The fire is within the alchemical water. Fire is the Life principle in the Universal One as Water is the Substance principle within this same One-Thing. When writers allude to the burning quality of this water they refer to its vivifying effect upon the outmoded conditions and circumstances within their consciousness. We ‘burn with water’ in a profoundly deep meditation. Deep within the Great Salt Sea of Binah, burns Sulphur. The Sulphurous Fire destroys negative habits and patterns of ignorance and error that keep us in separation, the enslaved state. The purification is performed deep within our subconscious mind, and completed through the operation of the Red Work. When we strive toward The Great Work with the aid of Our Mercury, our conscious mind, we set up pattern changes in subconsciousness. Subconscious responses from Mercurial suggestions are part of what is called the White Work of the Moon. There are patterns in the deep, black subconscious that cannot be reached from the conscious level. Some of these patterns may have been rooted from previous physical incarnations. Other patterns have developed from race consciousness in this incarnation. Cultural, educational, political, and economical impressions continue to separate us. All these are acted upon by the One-Ego seated in Tiphareth, and termed the Red Work of the Sun. It is the Red Work that ‘burns with water’ all impurities in deep subconscious levels. It clears the way for the One-Life making its influence felt downward and outward, imbuing the cellular structure of the physical body.
The lower portion of the Middle Pillar on the Tree hints the whole process. From Malkuth we descend inward via the thirty-second path. Figuratively this turns the Tree of Life upside down with Malkuth symbolizing our external world and Kether the very depths of our Source. We study, pray and meditate, while working the principles of the Alchemical Art we currently understand. This affects the ninth sphere, Yesod, the seat of our subconscious Vital Soul. Interpreting actions from the Malkuth level, Yesod arranges our outer life and circumstances to conform to our desire for union. This is sometimes a difficult passage if we do not understand that these 'arrangements' were brought on by our determination for that union. The One-Ego similarly works toward Yesod via the twenty-fifth path, ‘burning with water’ all the deeper impurities to form a link with the body in the Vital Soul. In the early stages of our alchemical work we are deluded, believing we are the seekers. Experienced Qabalists offer an exquisite metaphor of stalagmites on the floor of a cave. As stalagmites we think we grow taller and stronger with 'our' progress relative to 'our' position. Later we come to discover that none of 'our' growth was possible without the stalactites continually dripping water from the cave’s ceiling. At Its own good pace, the One-Ego will choose the time and place for the reunion of these two modes. That time, for alchemists, is the discovery of the First Matter. See RED WORK, WHITE WORK and BALNEUM for elaboration on this definition.