At the bottom left corner of page 156 in Manly Palmer Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages is listed the twelve steps of the Alchemical Process. A direct quotation reads: "These twelve are linked with the signs of the zodiac in a manner worthy of consideration." Calcination is listed first, and linked with the first zodiacal sign, Aries. This agrees with the Sixth Treatise in Solomon Trismosin’s Splendor Solis. The first paragraph explains:
"Calcination is put in the beginning of the Work as the Father of a Generation, and is of three kinds, two of which belong to the Corpus or Matter, and the third to the Spirit."1
The quotation is again in agreement with the list in Secret Teachings since the "Father of a Generation" is AB, another name for the second Sephirah, Chokmah, and the Root of Fire. Zodiacal fire is of three modes: cardinal, fixed and mutable, corresponding to the three fire signs. The list in Secret Teachings links Aries with Calcination, Leo with Digestion, and Sagittarius with Incineration. Two of these belong to the body or the matter worked upon, and one belongs to the Spirit. Incineration is also the RED WORK (see same) of the Spirit. First, however, all the sages instruct us to "seek the fire."
The Hermetic Art by a Lover of Philalethes advises the importance of Fire and Calcination:
"We must not only have the Knowledge of this Fire but, as we are often told, the true Measure of it to its Furnace (see ATHANOR); both which seem to be remote from the eyes of the Vulgar: When this is known, the Difficulties that attend the Radical Dissolution of the closed and fixed body of Gold vanish. And before this can be done, this stout fixed Body must be Calcined, and reduced into as fine Calx as possible, which is often hinted by Philosophers, but with a design to conceal it. Geber witnesses, everything Calcined is of easier Solution, because the parts of the Calcined Body, more subtilated by Fire, are more easily mixed with Water, and turned into Water. Without previous Calcination, no Solution is found."2
Solution or Dissolution is the act of meditation that leads us to the Universal Mercury, AIN SUPh AUR, of which the philosopher says elsewhere in the same work:
"This is that Mercury which the Sun diffuses everywhere in the month of March, or the House of Aries; from whence also the Sulphur is to be sought."3
Another quotation in Splendor Solis deserves further investigation pertinent to fire generally and to Calcination specifically. There is a segment on page 63: ON THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FIRES. The second paragraph reads:
"The Heat or Fire of the whole work is uniform, for some say that the heat of the first regimen shall be as the warmth of a brooding hen, others that it ought to be as the natural warmth of the digestion of food and nourishment of the body, while some take the heat of the Sun, when she is in the sign of Aries, as the proper one."
The three fires of the zodiac are here mentioned in exact opposite order. "First regimen" is Calcination, actually the first step in the process. The warmth of the brooding hen is Sagittarius, Incineration. The digestion of food is Leo, Digestion, while the emphasis of Sun in Aries again is Calcination, "as the proper one." Considering the above quotations from different authors, Aries is obviously an important clue to the step Calcination. We ponder Aries and know it to be a cardinal fire sign ruled by Mars, and in which the Sun is exalted. In the Tarot, Aries is assigned the Emperor and the letter Heh. The letter-path on the Tree begins in Chokmah, or AB, the "Father of a Generation," and ends at the Sun in Tiphareth. The Emperor sits on a stone throne in most Tarot versions, but in the B.O.T.A. version he rests atop a stone cube (see CUBE OF SPACE).
Aries, letter Heh, and therefore the step Calcination, are all assigned the North-East edge of this cube. The edge joins the East face (Venus and Copper) with the North face (Mars and Iron). These two metals or chakras inside the Athanor of the Alchemist have everything to do with the first step Calcination. Regular dictionaries define Calcination from the Latin, "calcinare; to burn, roast or purify a substance by heat." The metals Copper and Iron are burned, roasted and purified by ‘alchemical’ Calcination. Saltish tendencies in our desire nature (Copper) and our lower, false volition (Iron) are burned out, purified, sublimated and turned into Mercury by the action of their Sulphur. "Make Mercury of all your Metals," is the frequent alchemical dictum. The result of desires purified, and the ‘burning away’ of false will, is the sublimation of the Heart Chakra; the exaltation of the Sun in Aries by Calcination. Psychologically speaking if we could attain the desireless state and surrender our false will, we would see from the heart. The surrender of false desires and will also aid our Dissolution into the Great Salt Sea. The combination raises the energy in the Heart Center to the level of the One-Ego in Tiphareth. A regimen of prayer and meditation is the most intelligent use of Sulphurous Fires during Calcination. If one is extremely blessed, it may come on in a flash as recorded in Cant. 1:2 (Song of Songs) “with kisses from His Mouth.” The Mouth is Peh, the Hebrew letter assigned to the Tower Tarot Key, and Mars, the ruler of Aries.
The step Calcination of the Grand Alchemical Process rotates annually in all the kingdoms of nature when the Sun traverses Aries each spring in the Northern Hemisphere from whence all the ancient alchemical writings originated. In the third quotation above, "that Mercury which the Sun diffuses everywhere in the month of March, or the House of Aries," calls our attentions to what Eastern philosophers refer to as prana. Prana in the atmosphere sourced from our physical sun acts like invisible pollen in the air. All the kingdoms rise up with a new generation of growth. Within an alchemist, aspiring toward the Stone, the process suggests something deeper. If we succeed turning our Sulphurous Fires, years, even physical incarnations may be dropped from our natural and painfully slow evolution toward reunion. We must proceed, however, as though we had eternity on our side, because we do actually. Each year is a new loop in the eternal spiral towards the Stone. We would do well to study all aspects pertaining to Calcination that we can discover during the Aries season. On the Tree all the spheres, paths and Hebrew letters connected with Fire, Aries, Sun, Mars and Venus give clues to this end. The Cube of Space offers more sources. Look at them in relation to each other. Refer to astrology texts and planetary transits. Read the alchemical Masters. Contemplate and meditate on all of it. Such methods, coupled with zeal and ardent prayer, will render far more than could ever be put into words as these, which merely point a way.
1 Trismosin, Solomon, Splendor Solis. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD. Reprinted by Yogi Publication Society, no date, pg. 69.
2 Westcott, William Wynn, Short Enquiry Concerning The Hermetic Art. Edited by Westcott. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1983, pg. 29.
3 Ibid., pg. 22.