Revised: May 2021
Alchemists claim Fermentation to be the tenth step in their process for making the Philosophers’ Stone. So is it listed in the Secret Teachings of All Ages. As such it would then be equivalent to the tenth sign of the zodiac, Capricorn. Saturn rules Capricorn and is therefore the chief or key power in Fermentation. The Saturn Center (Muladhara Chakra) is the subtle center and key power in the astral body with the sacral plexus (in the nervous system near the base of the spine) being the corresponding center in the physical laboratory. If the consciousness of a student alchemist is what psychology labels 'normal' (whatever that may be) the aspirant possesses poise, deliberation, and the ability for steady concentration due to the energy flow through a balanced sacral center. These are key attributes, necessary for this stage of the Work.
Fermentation is a subconscious process. Saturn is the symbol for cohesion and constriction. Its effects mesmerizes self-consciousness by impressing upon the senses a false bondage to the physical appearances of this World of Assiah. Alchemical Fermentation is chiefly concerned with the exact means by which we gain freedom from this bondage of appearances. The aspirant wishes to attain freedom from whatever inhibits the clear flow of the higher vibrations from the Life-power that flows through us. At the conscious level we are led to conclude nothing is happening; that all our efforts have been in vain; that we can affect nothing, and that the whole idea of returning to The One is a futile endeavor.
But, on a deeper level within the subconscious we are ‘fermenting’. The ordinary definition of fermentation is the act or process of excitation, irritation, inflammation or agitation; to cause something to foment. This is what transpires deep within subconsciousness through this step. The resulting effect at the conscious level is fear if the process is over active, and if deficient its effect is impatient, rash behavior, and eccentricity or dreaming without doing. This can be a most uncomfortable phase since it makes the bearer acutely aware of our lower nature and its power to determine behavior. We are now cognizant of the blatant imperfections others see in us. We become depressed and discouraged. This is affected by the exaltation of the Mars force. What foments here are all the lower, negative Mars Center energies being replaced by higher expressions of that same force. The lower, separative will-force resists the new influx, creating the discomfort, but it must eventually give way. One effect at the conscious level is the feeling that nothing seems to be going our way; that we are losing grasp. In a nutshell, during Fermentation the lower self is slowly dying, but in the deep subconscious there is still massive resistance.
What eventually fills the vacuum is courage from the Higher Will by an increased flow of Kundalini from the sacral center. This may restore the poise, deliberation and concentration needed to continue with the Work. On the Qabalistic Cube of Space, Capricorn and Fermentation occupy the edge West-Below. All bottom edges of the Cube are symbolic of subconscious processes. In the case of Fermentation the West face, assigned to Jupiter (Manipura Chakra), works in conjunction with the face Below, allocated to the Moon (Ajna Chakra). These are the combined energies of the abdominal brain behind the navel and the pituitary gland behind the root of the nose. In a sense these centers and Fermentation work all the time.
Fermentation, no mere phase in a given period, agitates throughout our studies, prayers and meditations. Everything we have done or do presently subsequently ferments. We can say truthfully that our entire life is a process of fermentation. These steps are not to be construed as following a particular recipe or sequence. They were designed to make us think and meditate. But it is also true that what transpires ‘inside’ our Athanor does involve the centers described. During Fermentation the four centers, Saturn, Mars, Moon and Jupiter are actually working to break down our interpretation of this world's illusion, to expose the True Reality behind it. This unfolds with or without conscious knowledge. Certain effects reflect from our outer world during the process, however. The Sages and Masters who have gone this way before have devised ingenious ways to show us aspirants that we are on the right track. This is what all classical literature on Spiritual Alchemy is designed to do. Other steps are under conscious direction or control, but regardless what step we may think we are 'in', they are all either under one, or any combination of three modes of consciousness: 1) the Sun, super-consciousness; 2) the Moon, subconsciousness; and 3) Mercury, the self-conscious mind. The Great Work is performed solely by the interaction of these three.