Some alchemists consider Distillation the sixth step in their process for confecting the Stone. The steps suggested in The Secret Teachings of All Ages by Manly P. Hall is the example outline used for these definitions. The standard, chemical definition for Distillation is "the volatilization or evaporation and subsequent condensation of a liquid; the purification or concentration of a substance by the process of distilling."
Alchemists are also purifying and concentrating a substance by their Distillation. Blood is purified by the concentration of an extra amount of chyle (see CHYLUS), released into the blood stream by suggestions from the conscious mind. In this connection consider an alchemical drawing from the British Museum, reprinted in Alchemy by Titus Burckhardt. Facing page 144, Plate 7 is titled ‘The Marriage of Sulphur and Quicksilver in the Hermetic Vessel.’ Some elements in the picture are similar to another representation explained under the definition DIGESTION (see same). The point in Plate 7 to be noted here, however, is that the woman (subconsciousness) is grasping the hand of the male (self-consciousness), and holds his hand over her own intestinal region. The male reaches his left hand around her to grasp a dragon by the throat region (Venus Center). Both figures float above a toad, which in turn perches on the intestinal region of the dragon. As you ponder this picture and other drawings that have been pointed out, carefully consider this lengthy quotation from The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order, page 180, by Dr. Paul Foster Case:
"The power that enables Man to contact the super-conscious levels when enlightenment comes is a form of energy derived from physical activities that are under the astrological domination of the sign Virgo. This is why the Fama, in speaking of the Brethren who established the Order, says: ‘They were all bachelors, of vowed Virginity.’ On the surface this seems to be a reference to celibacy. Really it alludes to the occult fact that the actual physical energy that leads to illumination is drawn primarily from assimilative functions, all ruled by Virgo. Law of Response, represented by Key 9, is also involved in this. The mental attitude of intentional responsiveness or receptivity to the influx of the "Light form above" (represented by the Hermit's lantern) has a direct effect on subconscious processes controlling assimilation. What happens is that more solar energy is extracted from chyle, the Virgin's Milk of the alchemists. This additional energy cannot be received unless one is sincerely and wholly devoted to its right use. There is no way to evade this fundamental necessity. The psychic makeup of human beings is such that unless one devotedly intends to use this extra power correctly, he never gets it. The judge of intention is by no means personal consciousness of the aspirant but none other than the One Self, which can never be deceived. One may fool himself as to his motives for gaining occult powers, but nobody can fool the Self. Thus, none but those who are truly devoted ever find this power at their disposal."1
The lengthy passage was necessary here since nowhere else is this truth found to be more openly and clearly presented. Virgo is the sign equated with Distillation. Mercury is exalted in Virgo. The self-conscious mind, with its powers of concentration and suggestion to the subconscious level, is the key power in Distillation. It begins with food selection we choose to burn in Our Furnace to feed the Athanor. We continually remind ourselves that all is One Light, and all that we eat digests to form a more subtle body composed of that Light. Originally, this was one purpose for reciting Grace before meals, acknowledging the truth that what we eat is of the One. For some Grace is still said with this understanding behind it.
So important is chyle before and after enlightenment that all the alchemical writings of sages alluded to it. In The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly P. Hall included a manuscript of the Hermetic and Alchemical Figures of Claudius de Dominico Celentano Vallis Novi. The second picture leaf illustrates a hermit sitting at a cave entrance, alluding to the Hermit Tarot Key and the intestines in the cavernous Virgo body region. Leafs 20, 24 and 25 all reveal naked or semi-clad virgins; two hold their breasts alluding to the Virgin's Milk. Very important is leaf #9. Beneath the picture is a sentence: “Understand thoroughly what it is that the man has in either hand if you wish to be enlightened.” In his right hand the man holds the spinal column (the little tree) with the 'flowers' of the wise. The same tree is in leaf #10, but in leaf #18 the tree sprouts from the lower intestinal region of the supine man. In leaf #9 the man's left hand is on a vessel, which alludes to the esophagus and stomach. The man's left hand in leaf #10 rests over his intestinal area. The other, naked man holds the root of the tree with his left while his right hand points his index finger. The finger (as in the Magician Tarot Key) and all the other hands hint at YOD.
It is not enough to merely understand this, as the sentence above teaches. The procedure is to be performed by “our Mercury” hinting suggestions to the subconscious mind to Distill extra amounts of chyle. In the hardbound reprint of Codex Rosae Crucis there is the ‘The Dragon of Chaos’ (facing page 42) upturned on its back with a Mercury symbol sprouting from its own Virgo region. The Black Dragon has always been the alchemical symbol of human intestines, coiled in the cavernous darkness of the abdominal region, the “bowels of the earth.” In Splendor Solis seven picture-plates represent the seven chakras in glass vessels or retorts. Plate XVII, on the Fourth Treatise, represents the Mercury Chakra. Inside this retort is another Virgin, this time holding her right hand directly over her abdominal region, below her stomach. In light of all the above, the meaning is once again made clear but even more direct. Hebrew letter Yod means Hand, both of these symbols are assigned the Hermit Tarot Key and Virgo. No part of the drawing is arbitrary or accidental. All elements point directly to chyle and its great importance in the alchemical process. Dragons, virgins, hands, hermits, caves, streaming milk from breasts and other such allusions all stress the same point. Even the Hebrew letter Yod is used to symbolize a droplet of this precious Gold. All the other letters of that alphabet are said to contain it and are derived from it.
Finally, the Hermit Tarot Key and Yod are assigned the direction North-Below on the Cube of Space. The bottom side of the Cube represents functions of the subconscious mind. It is true that small, constant amounts of chyle are released into the blood stream, subconsciously, in all members of the human and animal kingdoms. It is part of our immune systems and we could not live without it. It is the extra amounts infused into the blood that is affected from the conscious level, hence the male figure's hand on the woman's intestines in the picture described from Burckhardt's Alchemy. Since the Hermit joins the North face of the Cube (assigned Mars and the Svadishthana Chakra) to the bottom face of the Cube (the Moon and the Ajna Chakra), the two centers are directly involved in Distillation. With conscious intent we give suggestions to subconsciousness by any manner of pictorial or verbal symbols (pictures are better). She will do the rest. Through the Moon's center of activity, subconsciousness will release extra amounts of chyle into the blood stream. Through the power of the Mars center the reproductive force will construct cells of power throughout the body. These cells will not only ward off any hint of illness to the system, but will hold the sufficient Light Power that will enable us to perform acts of seeming miracles to the ordinary human. Eventually it manufactures the Inner Stone and we are enlightened. Now, if one so wishes, the actual physical stone and elixir can be made because we are The Stone! Curing diseases by mere touch, reading the past and foreseeing future trends, and ultimately, disintegrating and re-integrating our physical vehicle anywhere in the universe at will are all mere side effects of the grand gift we shall inherit by His Glorious Grace. Please cross reference with BLACK DRAGON, LAC VIRGINIS and CHYLUS.
1 Case, Dr. Paul Foster, The True And Invisible Rosicrucian Order. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1987 ed., pg. 180.