Plate XXI – The Fifth Treatise, Part I, 3rd Chapter
The ‘Three Stages of the Art’, commonly recognized as the Black, the White and the Red Stages, and first mentioned in Plate XIII, then again in Plate XV, appear again here, detailed in these last three plates. The Black Stage has just been examined in Plate XIX.
There are nine women at work in this picture, indicative of Yesod (Foundation) the 9th Sphere on the Tree of Life, wherein the bulk of this Great Work occurs.
Yesod is called the ‘Purified Intelligence” in the Sepher Yetzirah. It is the Moon in Qabalah, Alchemy and Astrology. It is the White Work to clear the dross within our subconscious, which in turn purifies the physical body for both to receive and reflect the Light impulses from the Sun in Tiphareth, the real basis of our lives.
This plate is an illustration of the White Stage. It is also called Woman’s Work while it is familiar to most sages and philosophers as the ‘White Work of the Moon’. Mr. Trismosin makes the point most evident with this scene of the 9 women laundering and drying white material only.
After the inevitable Black Stage of Dissolution and Putrefaction have been realized and the surrender of all levels of ‘personal’ activities are complete, enter the White Stage. This is the attitude most descriptive of saints. Whatever is being transmuted though this stage is occurring within the depths of the Subconscious.
At the self-conscious level, what is left of it, acts of meditation, imagination and prayer are predominant. We are beseeching the Almighty Creator by impressing upon Yesod, the automatic consciousness, and the Yetziratic level of Qabalists and Alchemists alike, for His Grace.
We must desire liberation above all else in this world. The Higher Powers we beseech do not work their miracles upon the insincere and lazy. And we do not seek release or escape from this world of illusion, but rather liberation of the consequences of believing and accepting this illusion as reality.
Through this White Stage we endeavor to make the idea habitual that our individual personal life is directly guided by a higher intelligence within us, and that “of myself I can do nothing, the Father within me He doeth the works”. In the pure, genuine alchemical sense, this is what is meant by ‘self-denial’. We need not deprive ourselves of any necessities of life. We need not stop enjoying ourselves because that is what the Life intends for us. It means to disavow and disown our ignorant perceptions of ego, personality and our ‘personal’ self-hood. In effect we are attempting to fulfill the admonitions of sages, philosophers and Rosicrucians the world over to complete the “Squaring of the Circle”.
Long believed to be an impossibility by mathematicians, intellectuals and scientists who totally misconstrue what Alchemy is actually, this ‘circle-squaring’ business was offered as definitive proof by them declaring that this and hosts of other claims from esoterists are utterly absurd. But, the ‘square’ has long been the symbol of the physical plane and the body-vehicle specifically, while the ‘circle’ represented the indefinable and ineffable spiritual. Bringing what the ‘circle’ represents down into habitation of the ‘square’ is the exact meaning of the alchemical dictum behind the ‘White Work of the Moon’.
Within our Subconscious mind is the real secret for rebuilding our regenerated physical life. By surrendering all that which seemed pertinent to our separated lives, and that has been blasted into us from the multi-sources of stupidity and blatant ignorance, we would be able to hear more clearly from the Source within us, the Father, Who doeth the works!
Through our prayers and meditations with imagination our subconscious imagery begins to alter the structure of our cells, affecting the structure of the entire body-vehicle. No one is able to merely read about how this is done. It comes from within from a level Qabalists call the World of Briah. The White Work is accomplished through our continuous dedication to wanting to serve others and all life, and needing a more perfect physical vehicle to perform such tasks.
The ‘reproductive’ power and energy generic humanity uses to procreate the species, or squander for mere amusement, is the very power that rebuilds a completely new physical vehicle and personality complex. It is through the pituitary gland, the Ajna Chakra, discussed in Plate XVIII, that is in ‘charge’ of the energy currents that flow through the sympathetic nervous system.
The written portion of The Third Chapter speaks of Sublimation, to raise up. Webster’s defines it: “to express (unacceptable impulses) in acceptable forms, often unconsciously”. We have no conscious control over this process, which is why we beseech The Almighty. And the Third Chapter concludes with:
“This being the proper philosophical sublimation, by means of which the perfect method is carried out.
And this is why this Art is compared to Woman’s Work, which consists in cooking and roasting until it is done.”
Please read that portion of the manuscript.