This picture, taken from Archarion’s italian edition of Von Wahrer Alchemie is the most comprehensive Great Work or Opus Magnum scheme so far.
Great Work is Alchemist as well as Secret Fire Work. It is a co-operation. This necessary scheme doesn’t need too many exegesis: it well renders the main three different stages, or works, and it is absolutely indispensable to understand the “why” in ancient treatises.
Nevertheless don’t worry ( or don’t be too happy) : it is not comprehensive of all operations involved. We have to come through gaps, indeed. By the way it provides a very useful mind mapping to create visual representations of relationships between phases, otherwise treated as untied in most of traditional hermetic pictures.
You can see a gallery on page 2. The diagram here presented can be implemented by the frequently asked questions.
The first is “Lavoro Preparatorio” or preparatory work or Labors of Hercules or Alchemist’s work. The subject of Tabula Smaragdina (2). Subjectum Crudum is Materia Tertia or raw matter reduced to chemical salts and it can be whatever you can think of. Provide the required amount of Mercurius Universalis/Secret Fire inside. That’s to say it is recommended a raw matter with a certain amount of Secret Fire inside or previously exposed to Secret Fire. For we are not interested in molecules, but we are trying to gather this ineffable and ubiquitous substance. Generally speaking, some mineral ores are already and naturally rich in Secret Fire. Nevertheless there can be the case in which we have to enrich a raw matter with further Secret Fire coming from the sky (3), or we have decided to take just raw matter from the sky. Aurum Astrale ( Astral Gold) on the left is just astronomical sun and Argentum Vivum ( Quicksilver) on the right is just our orbiting satellite moon. The rule of three ( every allegory or symbol may stand for at least three different concepts) provides other meanings for Sun and Moon symbolism (4), but in this case the very idea behind them is magnetization. As we can see Mercurius Universalis is provided by two celestial bodies.
Analisi, analysis, stands for the process of separating something into its constituent elements. Pay attention here: do not jump to easy conclusion of destroying matter tout court. Analysis is magnetization. And desctruction in Alchemy leads to magnetization. Indeed Subjectum Crudum is the only substance, in Alchemy, that can directly receive destructive daytime influences.
Note that “Solve et Coagula” is not used by Archarion in Labors of Hercules. Mind that a universal hermetic lexicon has always been non existent among alchemists and some authors don’t use this words when referring to mere chemical separation of principles. Nevertheless we can clearly see Mercurius, Sulphur and Salt featuring above Caput Mortuum. And we know they are Solve et Coagula movements, no way (5).
Caput Mortuum is our first putrefaction, our first blackness and moreover our first gap. A huge gap. Here blackness and irrational repetitions make the difference between this preparatory work and spagyria. Achieving Caput mortuum has always been as difficult as achieving Colomba Dianae or first whiteness or Mercurius. Mercurius crudus must become totally and perfectly black to aspire to Primitive Mercurius heights. We must go further than a simple Materia Tertia resolved in a chemical salt. And very few things are more difficult than getting a chemical salt to perfect black in labors of Hercules. In natural world we often come up against some decomposing and disintegrating body. Actually if you go in a wood and look up where new plantings are likely to germinate from, most of the times it will happen over a rotten dead bole. Examine and learn. We are to encounter this concept over and over along this blog.
The canonical end of labors of Hercules is the achievement of first whiteness, or Mercurius, or Universal Solvent, or Alkahest, of Principle of Life, or Spiritus Vitae. Its achievement is a hard human work. Then we have to fix it. Sometimes we don’t need to, but some others, during second work, we better need an hermaphrodite than a too fluid (and volatile) woman. Many can stop here. Mercurius and Mercurius Philosophorum are already a powerful magnet (in the sense of awakener). For another Mercurius/Secret Fire from sky to come and accord a main register. That’s what Fulcanelli called External Influences (6). The first time we encounter the Resonance/Mirror concept. And another Mercurius can be introduced: Mercurius Sideribus .
Boundaries between preparatory work and Main Work are not so clean, as you can see in this Hollandus “recipe” .
But now that we have Spirit we may try to go ahead and extract Soul. As a matter of fact, what Alchemy is for. Second Work or “Lavoro Principale” or Main work. We will need a Mercurius Duplicatus (7). The reason why we need a duplication of Mercurius is, in my opinion, the most secret and fascinating alchemical item. The second time we encounter the Mirror concept. Where Alchemical Marriage takes its origin from. Anyway in this phase alchemist can stand by and watch, at least like a mother watching and feeding her child. Kamala Jnana and Arthephius Secret Book (8) start their descriptions just before Caput Corvi or Crow Head, or second putrefaction. Second Blackness. Secret Fire is now free from his grave/body and can solve et coagulate by itself. It can free itself by itself. And so the separation of principles is here Philosophical and not chemical. Nevertheless a last chemical adjustment will be necessary with Caput Corvi. Then Whiteness is to be achieved by itself. And, in addition, something new happens: redness appears.
This new Alchemical Child needs to be breastfeed with mother’s milk, our Alkahest previously set aside for the purpose. This will be the way the “Rota” or colors rotations will go (9).