Revised: September 2019
This term, like many in classical alchemical writings, has multilevel implications. We must remember that Spiritual Alchemy is a Triune Art. Three modes of our consciousness, Spirit, Soul and Body, must be worked upon, transmuted and sublimated simultaneously. Merely focusing on only one mode without consideration of the other two will not bring us closer to the Stone. Random House Dictionary defines Decoction as 'the process of extracting an essence from something; as from boiling down a substance.' Alchemists had the same idea in mind, and on different levels, but none of these essences or substances had anything to do with materials outside the human body, the only physical laboratory. On one level, inside the body, Decoction is a process similar to Digestion. The First Treatise in Splendor Solis reveals:
"The Philosopher's Stone is produced by means of the Greening and Growing Nature. Hali, the Philosopher, says thereof: ‘This Stone rises in growing and greening things.’ Wherefore when the Green is reduced to its former nature, whereby things sprout and come forth in ordained time, it must be decocted and putrefied in the way of our secret Art."1
There can be little doubt that what is meant here are the vitamins and minerals 'extracted from' vegetables, picked when ripened, cooked, eaten, decocted, digested and assimilated into the human Athanor. Never are philosophers more profound than when they speak plainly. The essence decocted by boiling down food substances and digesting them in the stomach and intestines is more fully explained under DISTILLATION (see same).
However, there is another, inner level suggested by Decoction, in the realms of Spirit and Soul. I refer to Roger Bacon's Root of the World where he teaches in paragraph twenty-four:
"Notwithstanding the philosophers have subtly delivered themselves, and clouded their instructions with enigmatic and typical phrases and words, to the end that their art might not only be hidden and so continued, but also be had in the greater veneration. Thus they advise to decoct, to commix, and to conjoin; to sublime, to bake, to grind and to congeal; to make equal, to purify, to make white and to make red; of all which things, the order, management, and way of working is all one, which is only to decoct. And therefore to grind is to decoct, of which you are not to be weary, saith Rhasis: digest continually but not in haste, that is, not with too great a fire; cease not, or make no intermission in your work, follow not the artifice of sophisters, but pursue your operation to the complement and perfection thereof."2
Both Bacon and Rhasis are suggesting here that we think, ponder and meditate upon the work as we study the Masters. What is meditation but the mental action or process of ‘extracting the essence’ of something under concentration? They also caution us that we not rush into this endeavor with too great a zeal, as the fanatic, but to employ our energy in a steady, continual fashion. This allows subconsciousness the time necessary for her natural inclination to deduct, digest, cook or ‘decoct’ and properly absorb all the new information and processes that accompany this Great Art. It is as how we would approach any other puzzling problem in life. Rhasis also warns us not to be weary, not to give up despite seemingly impossible odds of reversing the negative subconscious habit patterns. For those of us approaching Spiritual Alchemy initially, it may be years before any inner light shines through the myriad tunnels of consciousness. But it will shine with our perseverance! Since Spiritual Alchemy is not for all at any one time, but certainly for all within time, we are tested even as we are ‘cooking.’ Do we really desire light and union? Can we extract our noses out from our tablets and iPhones long enough to even consider this? Roger Bacon offers these words of encouragement:
"You ought to put on courage, resolution and constancy in attempting this Great Work, lest you err, and be deceived, sometimes following or doing one thing, and then another. For the knowledge of this art consisteth not in multiplicity, or a great number of things, but in unity; our stone is but one, the matter is one, and the vessel is one; the government is one, and the disposition is one. The whole art and work thereof is one and begins in one manner, and in one manner it is finished."3
Please cross reference with DISSOLUTION, DIGESTION and DISTILLATION.
1 Trismosin, Solomon, Splendor Solis. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD. Reprinted by Yogi Publication Society, no date, pg. 17.
2 Bacon, Friar Roger, The Root of The World. Edmonds, WA: Alchemical Press, 1985, pg. 10.
3 Ibid., pg. 10.