Revised: June 2021
Of the Accidental and Essential Colors Appearing in the Work
The matter of the Stone thus ended, you shall know the certain manner of such working, by what manner and regiment, the Stone is often changed in decoction into diverse colors. Whereupon it is said: So many colors, so many names. According to the diverse colors appearing in the work, the names likewise were varied by the Philosophers; whereon, in the first operation of our Stone, it is called putrefaction, and our Stone is made black. When you find it black, know that in the blackness whiteness is hidden and you must extract the same from his most subtle blackness. But after putrefaction it waxes red, not with a true redness, of which one says: It is often red, and often of a citrine color, it often melts, and is often coagulated, before true whiteness. And it dissolves itself, it coagulates itself, it putrefies itself, it colors itself, it mortifies itself, it quickens itself, it makes itself black, it makes itself white, it makes itself red.
The principal stages involving the “essential” colors are the black, the white, and the red, in that order. These colors are a code, however. The black of putrefaction is the breaking down and/or dissolving all that within our ‘personal’ consciousness (self- and subconscious) that is preventing the Light of the Christ Consciousness from shinning through our personality complex. Ultimately it is the utter surrender of the separated, personal self-consciousness. Many alchemical writers call the very end of this stage Caput Mortuum (the Dead Head). Bacon informs the reader, however, that after the black stage, redness waxes, “not with a true redness.” The alchemical ‘red’ stage is that which we best try to live the very life we are aspiring toward; though it is not yet true. This false tincture is primarily the result of anger. After a long, ardent seek, one is slowly reduced to the ‘ashes’ spoken of by many writers. We expect some relief, if not reward, for our efforts, but it does not come.
Very few in any generation can continue working over the years with no apparent external results for the effort. Anger waxes within the personal consciousness due to the last-ditch effort of the lower, separated self. The separative ego is indignant. It feels betrayed for believing all these hypotheses of eternal reward for giving up all. Then the moods and attitudes change again when these feelings pass, and the aspirant renews the efforts, continuing as before. The young, tyro alchemist must never forget who exactly is in charge of this entire process. Bacon was very cognizant of this fact when he wrote above, “it dissolves itself, it coagulates itself, it putrefies itself,” and so on. Our surrender is not even ours. Only when aspirants realize this implicitly and explicitly can the false ‘red’ tincture dissipate enough to allow the true whiteness to emerge. The genuine redness evolves from the white. The ‘white’ stage evolves from self-consciousness repeatedly pulling down super-consciousness into the personal levels. This is the predominant aura of the saint. A life dedicated to meditation, prayer, service, and aspiration slowly burns off all the dross in the ‘personal’ subconscious. All ignorant habit patterns and erroneous perceptions of the universe are neutralized and slowly replaced by super-conscious awareness. If and when we are successful with these genuine aspirations, then the red stage emerges.
In one brief sentence, the black stage is the surrender and death of self-conscious interference, the white stage is the constant beckoning to super-consciousness, while the red stage is the actual, continuous life of super-consciousness permanently expressed through the resurrected self-conscious mind.
It is also green: whereon another says, Concoct it, till it appears green unto you, and that is the Soul. And another, Know that in that green, his Soul bears dominion. There also appears before whiteness the peacock’s color. Of this, one says, Know you that all the colors in the world, or that may be imagined, appear before whiteness, and afterward true whiteness follows. Whereof one says: When it has been decocted pure and clean, that it shines like the eyes of fishes, then are we to expect his utility, and by that time the Stone is congealed round.
Behind and beneath the blackness within personal sub-consciousness is a layer of prima materia that is colored citrine. This is the color of the lower levels of collective sub-consciousness in the astral sphere. This is the level of the Qabalistic “vital soul,” which has dominion in the astral body of the sub-conscious mind, “his Soul bears dominion.” The distorted imagery, thoughts, and emotions of collective humanity saturate AIN SUPh AUR at these levels. The distorted saturation gives the matter its greenish hue. This is the First Matter that is a “gross and vile substance” mentioned previously in Chapter Five. This is the First Matter that is a “gross and vile substance.” It is wondrous when first perceived in deep meditations. Aspirants must go deeper, however. Beyond that depth is an array of colors described as the peacock’s colors. What is occurring is a cleansing of this greenish substance. Some authors describe all this as “going deeper,” beyond the citrine strata, while others claim alchemists are “cleansing the substance” by decocting or meditating. Both descriptions are correct. In deeper, prolonged states of meditation, consciousness is cleansed. The peacock’s color “strata” is the separation or break-up of the citrine levels. The substance is turning white tending toward purification, the true “white stage.”
On the Qabalistic Tree if Life the tenth sphere, Malkuth, is 4-colored; the top quarter segment is colored citrine, representing the deeper stages of meditation wherein the Ain Suph Aur is discolored by the mass subconsciousness. This quarter section of Malkuth is pointed upward toward the 9th Sphere, Yesod, the Vital Soul. As Bacon says truly: “It is also green: whereon another says, Concoct it, till it appears green unto you, and that is the Soul.”
In the Splendor Solis manuscript presented on this site, Plate VI illustrates a ‘white-headed’ crow atop an inverted Tree of Life. The top branches of the Tree represent Yesod, the Foundation. The crow’s head is white to represent the White Brilliance of Kether, behind Binah. However, before the ‘whiteness’ is perceived the citrine portion must be cleansed by concerted meditations over a period. That greenish-citrine color is the lower regions of the Vital Soul, Yesod. Please refer to Plate VI in Splendor Solis. Coupled with this it all might emerge more clearly.
The purification process of the deeper levels of personal consciousness can be painstakingly slow if the separated will-force is unduly stubborn. Persistence, however, cleans it. The cleansing effect, when finished, changes the substance mind-matter into a pristine, crystal clarity. All impurities from the personal life-mind and even the collective mind of the race-consciousness will be burned out within the aura. The effect of this pure consciousness is glittery. It shines with a twinkling described above as “fishes eyes.” This is the actual effect in fourth dimensional awareness, seen by some who are genuinely clairvoyant in this, the third dimension. The pure, scintillating fire of the Primal Will radiates throughout.
The colors of light in the Ocean of Awareness is the same Light through varying rates of vibration. In Aleister Crowley's book Seven, Seven, Seven there is listed a color scheme of the four Qabalistic Trees of Life and all twenty-two connecting paths. Each sphere and path has a different hue on the four trees and are titled the King Scale, Queen Scale, Prince Scale, and the Princess Scale of colors. While these color arrangements may be highly subjective, it does attempt to illustrate the various hues of light vibration from Spirit to the more dense levels.
And another says: When you shall find whiteness atop in the glass, be assured that in that whiteness, redness is hidden and this you must extract. But concoct it while it becomes all red for between true whiteness and true redness, there is a certain ash-color. Of this is said: Do not set light by the ashes, for God shall give it to you molten and then at the last, the King is invested with a red crown by the will of God.
Opinions from other alchemists concerning the color stages are warranted here. Baro Urbigerus wrote in the 95th of his One Hundred Alchemical Aphorisms:
"The constant and essential colors, that appear in the digestion of the matter, and before it comes to perfection, are three, viz. black, which signifies the putrefaction and conjunction of the elements; white, which demonstrates its purification; and red, which denotes its maturation. The rest of the colors, that appear and disappear in the progress of the work, are only accidental, and inconstant."1
All alchemical allegories from East and West appear in agreement concerning three major stages or phases in the art. They are referred to as the Black, White, and Red Stages, in that order. Miraldus, a philosopher from the Turba Philosophorum, is quoted in Splendor Solis:
“The principal colours are black, white, and red; between these many others appear.”2
In Root of the World, Roger Bacon explains again:
"Let us return to the black matter in its vessel, continually closed. In the first decoction, which is called putrefaction, our stone is made all black, to wit, a black earth, by the drawing out of its humidity; and in that blackness, the whiteness is hidden. And when the humidity is reverted upon the blackness again, and by a continued soft and gentle digestion is made fixed with its earth, then it becomes white. In this whiteness, the redness is hidden; and when it is decocted and digested by augmentation and continuance of the fire, that earth is changed into redness, as we shall hereafter teach."3
The one vessel is the human aura wherein all the work of regeneration occurs. Note that Bacon advises that the vessel be continually closed, that is, ‘hermetically sealed’. By sexual economy (by this is meant ‘continence’, not total abstinence or celibacy in the beginning work), and decoction (meditation), putrefaction reduces the earth-stone to blackness, the first phase. Again, the Turba is quoted in Splendor Solis:
“Putrefaction is the first and demands the UTMOST SECRECY.”4
"Utmost secrecy" is another reference to sexual continence, imperative in the beginning of the work. It is not until near the ‘end of the work’ that ‘Utmost Secrecy’ is required. However, at that point, if we are sincere aspirants, there is no actual effort in the process. The urges for the base expressions of the life-force merely fall away. The desires for such merely dissipate. Putrefaction comes at the end of the “bath.” Within the bath is the “moist fire” from the metal iron (Mars center) that fills the enclosed aura by re-channeled reproductive energy. For more information of a pictorial nature concerning ‘the bath’, please refer to Plate XI in Splendor Solis on this site.
The psychological effect of this phase is the complete surrender of all conscious efforts. Self-consciousness is reduced to nothingness when the humidity ascends or retracts inward. Humidity “ascending” is a reference to the spirit that ascends at the end of putre-faction and descends again near the end of the work. When the spirit retracts from the body, self-consciousness becomes Caput Mortuum. It is truly a black refuse. The human psyche at this point feels nothing. It even surrenders the quest for higher SELF in that the “spirit” is no longer there to be willing. The darkening phase toward complete blackness is effected by continually negating any power to the lower self. The sublime truth is firmly planted into sub-consciousness that the aspirant does nothing of himself, that all he ever was, is, or will be is due solely to the One-Life living through him. No power whatever is given to the separative, personal self. This is a very contrary stance from the current New Age wave sweeping human consciousness. “Empowering” the lower self is as much in vogue as it has ever been. Subliminal cassette tapes, expensive seminars, and workshops by the thousands continue to extort high fees from sincere seekers led to believe promises of a better life with cornucopia abundance appeasing every lower whim. To those with such duped, convoluted reasoning, alchemy will ever remain the greatest enigma. And once again we are reminded, as all genuine alchemists, sages, philosophers and Qabalists have always written in their manuscripts in agreement with the oldest alchemical text in the Latin language:
“It must be known for certain that nothing of the work can be bought, and that the science of this Art is nothing else than a vapour and the sublimation of water.” - 48th Dictum 5
At the end of this first phase the aura is black, but Miraldus, Bacon, and Ubigerus, quoted initially, hint other colors playing within the vessel. Human moods and deeper feelings change colors in the aura, “only accidental, and inconstant.” No one color is permanent, but the phase colors are predominantly descriptive of phases or stages of the work. In the search an aspirant experiences myriad mood swings, from the most despondent by feeling no progress in the work, to exaltation when a minor satori goads one onward again. Ultimately there is surrender, and within the blackness, beyond the peacock’s colors, is true whiteness. In the “white” phase the work of invoking the higher SELF is constant. Through this phase the aspirant impresses the sub-conscious with conscious recognition of Christ's admission: “Of my own self I can do nothing, the Father within me, He doeth the works.” From here forward all that is desired, done, said, or felt, one gives credit to the One-Life doing it within and through the human personality. No one needs to proclaim this aloud, trying to impress, sounding idiotic. It is known in the heart where it rings loud enough. The daily acts are not ours. The guilts belong to Christ. Successes are not of personality; its failures, not its design. Through this stage personality does not yet know this as fact. The heart knows, but the lower self is yet tinged, profoundly deep, with the erroneous personal guilt for its acts. The truth of the matter is that we are not really responsible.
Yet, continuing this real exercise allows sub-consciousness to act upon that truth in ways that move one even closer to the eventual certainty of the “red” phase. Personality finds that life takes on new meaning. It comes to discover itself in situations and circumstances more harmonious to the total environment. It grows to realize, ever so slowly, that wherever it finds itself is perfect for the moment. A force-flow working through it demonstrates that all surroundings are a perpetual continuum, impeccably synchronized. Other colors still play through the aura, however. Mood swings still move within consciousness; but within the whiteness redness lies hidden, as Bacon teaches. When the red phase blooms, all doubts concerning the total work are dispelled. The lightning flash of true perception from the One-Life floods the lower consciousness with grace and love. It fills the blessed recipient with perfect confidence in the end result. The red phase is then “augmented with a continuance of the fire.” Personality becomes one with It. There is no doubt as to who is in the physical vehicle. The “old man/woman” personality is gone; the new-born creature now enters into a perpetual state of Grace. It looses none of what it was. All the thoughts and actions are now direct consequences of motives from the Inner Doer. The continual decoction and digestion of this newly “born again” consciousness augments the matter into the Living Stone.
Bacon offers one final caution. Between the true whiteness and the true redness appears an ashen color. The gray haze is the blending of the super-conscious red phase with the true white phase. Ida, the white, left side of the sympathetic nervous system, is blending harmoniously with Pingala, the red, right side. “Decocting” is continued until the red phase tinctures permanently, or the personality will revert backwards, to the old neurotic, subconscious habit patterns.
1 Baro Urbigerus, One Hundred Alchemical Aphorisms (Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1986), 16.
2 Solomon Trismosin, Splendor Solis (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD. Reprinted by Yogi Publication Society, no date), 65.
3 Friar Roger Bacon, The Root of the World (Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1985), 12.
4 Solomon Trismosin, Splendor Solis (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD. Reprinted by Yogi Publication Society, no date), 71.
5 Dr. Arthur E. Waite, Turba Philosophorum. Notes and commentary by Waite (London: William Rider & Son, Ltd., 1914), 147.