Revised: September 2019
The eighth step of the Alchemical Process, Putrefaction, alchemists allocate to the eighth house and zodiacal sign Scorpio. So is it listed in Manly P. Hall's Secret Teachings of All Ages. Since Scorpio is ruled by Mars in ancient astrology we might suspect the Mars Center and its metal Iron to be the key force active in this step. In alchemy this is the reproductive force, the regenerative power responsible for tissue cell procreation in the human organism.
Re-channeling the reproductive energy in the initiate is what completes this step, and catapults consciousness into fourth dimensional awareness. Bear in mind that this or any of the so-called steps in the Alchemical Process described by sages has no specific time frame. Putrefaction then, is not necessarily a thirty day period in the zodiacal cycle, although that window is most symbolic and suggestive for meditation. Putrefaction may take years. A life-time or multiple lives may be required for a soul to purge misconceptions concerning the reproductive force through human personality, and learn to re-channel its use toward the enhancement of evolution and awareness.
The fundamental difficulty we aspirants have with Putrefaction is the erroneous root belief that we, each of us, are entirely autonomous; that we are self-willed, going about our lives by self-direction. Primarily this is due to the other root error we hold on to so adamantly, the separative state of our Ego. There’s MEEE! Then there’s everybody else.
Spiritual unfoldment evolves an awakening within us that is finally a destructive process. As the ruler of Scorpio Mars is primarily a destructive force, and when misused as excessive, raw sex-force, without the unifying power of love, it serves to weaken the human organism at the cellular level. As aspirants we cannot evolve into higher consciousness and remain as we are, doing what we do. Through maturity this same 'Iron-Key' (see IRON in Glossary), redirected, helps to destroy conditions that have trapped the separative personality. Fundamentally, Putrefaction destroys the multi-complexes and misconstrued patterns in our consciousness that prevent us from reaching our primary goal of Union with the Higher Self. Sexual continence, not to be misunderstood as total celibacy, may build a resilient, radiant Glass Vessel within which the whole work unfolds on the subconscious level. Outside the Vessel, in the mundane affairs of the old personality, Putrefaction may reflect an extremely uncomfortable state of affairs if misunderstood. What will eventually die is the 'old man/woman' separative personality and all the conditions it has set up for itself previously. It is not that the people, places and circumstances are taken away from us, though it may seem that way on occasions. It is merely due to our impassioned desire to know the Truth about the SELF that these other elements have served their purpose. Slowly, but most surely, all that the old personality has known to be true, comfortable and familiar will eventually fall away from our attention. They have lost their former meaning in our lives. The personality will lose everything on every level because we also lose that old personality itself. This may be why philosophers are adamant with their warnings not to take this Art lightly. While many may think themselves as 'chosen' for this path, only the very strong in Faith achieve completion. The very last dregs of false security we have erroneously learned to trust as sure and solid, slowly and mysteriously disappear from our grasp until we learn there is no one, anywhere, we can rely upon solely except the No-Thing.
This state of consciousness genuine alchemists called the Dead Head; the black stage that is alluded to in all alchemical writings where the subjectum is left in the bottom of the phial as dead, black refuse (see CAPUT MORTUUM).
Death of the separative Ego is beautifully represented in Solomon Trismosin’s illuminated manuscript Splendor Solis. Find this manuscript on the Internet and study those paintings. If you have questions concerning them, email me. Picture Plate XIX illustrates a black sun (our old, separative ego) setting into a dire landscape. Commentary by someone initialed J.K. is woefully weak; I would guess maybe deliberately so. Whether the sad-looking Black Sun shows its last rays shining, or whether those bright rays are hinting the True Ego behind the Dead one is open to interpretation. Regardless, Plate XIX is depicting Caput Mortuum, the Dead Head, in the bleak landscape of the body. The following two plates illustrate “Child’s Play” and “Woman’s Work” summarizing the subconscious “White Work”.
Putrefaction, for sincere aspirants, need not be punishing, however. Because even our ‘surrender’ is not ours to arrange, stage or manipulate. It is a subconscious (woman’s) process executed in a timely manner. Self-consciousness has no option but to surrender since there remain no alternatives at this timely juncture.
The Cube of Space serves to enlighten our understanding of this most important stage. Death, Scorpio and Putrefaction occupy the South-West edge of the cube. This position for Death agrees with the Mexican Yaqui Indian Sorcerer’s knowledge. For when we orient the cube around ourselves in meditation, Death takes its place slightly off to the left. This edge joins the South face and the Sun to the West face assigned Jupiter; the two great benefics in our galaxy. The essential effect of Putrefaction is the destruction of false personality. The two chakras, Sun and Jupiter, are centers of influence that command this end result. The Sun, the Heart and Gold of the One Ego seated in Tiphareth, is the Real Doer of all actions, thoughts and desires. Surrender all these past actions, thoughts and desires along with their attendant victories, failures, pride or guilt, over to the One True Ego within our center. Continue to do so from now into our enlightenment. This impresses cellular consciousness, ruled by the Jupiter Center over the solar plexus region. In time this truth about Self is firmly entrenched in the abdominal brain and recorded on the Akashic Substance. That we really do nothing of ourselves, that the Father within does all works, is finally grasped.
Planet Uranus is exalted in Scorpio and represents the other side of Putrefaction. Picture the free release of Spirit illustrated by the Fool Tarot Key. This is the state of the reproductive energy exalted. Then again, turn to the last Plate XXII in Splendor Solis. There the One True Ego within us all reigns resilient over a renewed body landscape.
Adepts the world over have maintained the necessity of this Death, and have welcomed it as a Blessing. To be released from the nightmare of this 'Vale of Tears' and to perceive creation with new senses is to be delivered and received back into Eden.
Maintaining this attitude will bring about the death of the old, deluded personality with ease and grace, coupled with complete understanding. We shall see and feel extraordinary changes within and about us. Everything we do will assume much less importance as we lose our attachment to the outcome for whatever is given us to do. We shall then realize what it means to be truly human. This does not mean we will not care. On the contrary, care assumes a higher priority. All acts take on the nature of impeccability, which Don Juan Matus impressed upon Carlos Castaneda through the Yaqui discipline. It is selfish credit, misplaced on the lower, separative personality that has dissolved.
In time, we actually feel a force, not of the lower self, working through the body organism we once claimed our personal possession. This waxing sensation within and through the reborn personality is the beginning of what alchemists term the Red Stage, illustrated by the Red Sun in Plate XXII of Splendor Solis. All the people, places and goals we struggled to surrender before Putrefaction are returned to us attendant with increased awareness concerning their meaningfulness in our lives. Many elements of the old ways will have fallen away permanently when we have realized the destructive error of our selfish desires. Our true desires return to be fulfilled, and propel us onward and inward.