Attainment of the Prima Materia, depicted as a journey to a mine, is preliminary for Magnum Opus. It is recommended to begin the search in spring - under Aries or Taurus.
I. Nigredo/Mortificatio: no generation without corruption; an ego-shattering experience. "Black blacker than black".
1. Death of the Old King - often depicted lying sick in bed or surrounded by murderous servants. Saturnine influence. God-sacrifice motif.
2. Prima Materia is moistened and enclosed inside the Vessel (the Philosophical Egg).
3. Sol and Luna meet for the first time. They must make love like "man and woman, otherwise the object cannot be obtained". Sol and Luna are enclosed inside the Philosophical Egg.
4. Birth of hermaphroditic, bisexual Mercurius out of this union.
5. Sol and Luna fight inside the Philosophical Egg - real beginning of Nigredo. Sol and Luna bite and pierce each other, drenching in each other’s blood and drowning in each other’s poison. They die, merging into a single superior substance.
Imagery: dead head, ravens (death birds) picking over human skeletons in the desert, lion, coffins and sacrophagi, black sun.
1. Creation of the White Stone using excessive heating, repeated distillation, and coagulation of the material. The Stone emerges as its residue. All colors of the rainbow emerge - "peacock tail".
2. Sol and Luna appear as the Red King and the White Queen - conjunction of polar opposites of fire and water at full moon.
3. Mercurius is born as a swan or a dove.
Imagery: king at sea, unicorn, lunar egg, beast that can only be caught by a virgin, White Rose.
III. Coagulatio: solidifying, coming back to earth. Color - yellow and yellow-green.
First four sub-stages: Separatio, Fermentatio, Illuminatio, and Nutrimentum - under Venus.
1. Sol sinks low into the ground, Luna rises.
2. Introduction of the Uroboros. It twists around the Philosophical Egg, in an attempt to pierce its shell.
3. First emergence of a gold-like substance.
Last four sub-stages: Fixatio, Multiplicatio, Revificatio, and Sublimatio - under Mars.
4. Gold-like substance turns into mutable silver.
5. Uroboros coils, breaks the Egg’s shell, which catches on fire. The Sun rises in its full strength. The awakening of consciousness.
6. Newly-independent Sol and Luna meet again under Aquarius. Coniunctio in a bath of ressurective blood. Sol passes through Venus, Luna passes through Mars.
7. Mercurius appears above them in the solar center.
Imagery: sower scattering seed (‘letting go’), snake (Serpens Merurialis), swan giving way to eagle which can fly closer to the sun, pelican.
IV. Rubedo, the "fourth degree": psycho-physical unity of the perfect body and the spirit in its highest form. ("Everything comes from the One and returns to the One, by the One, for the One"). Peaceful syzygy of the ego and the Self. Color: divine purple, red.
1. Multiplicatio sub-stage. Full reddening of the Stone; full potential to multiply itself.
2. Projectio sub-stage. The red tincture of the Stone is applied to the gold, which turn can then undergo multiplication. Source of energy - the elixir.
3. Last coniunctio - under Pisces ("Death is the wedding/Love is the wedding"). The Red Kind and the White Queen eclipse each other as they become a woman and a man, respectively. They merge and begin to circulate in the horizontal figure-eight of infinity.
4. Mercurius emerges as the "light of all lights" - the Corpus Glorificatum, which is perfect, eternal, and incorruptible. The red transparent, glowing Mercurial Stone has the ability to grant a multitude of magical powers to its creator. These include telepathy, clairvoyance, levitation, and channeling.
Imagery: Sol and Luna seated in a rose garden and giving away endless golden coins, Egyptian hieroglyph for the sun, starry lion, yolk of the egg resembling the sun, the Uroboros (completion), Stone dyed in pelican’s blood, Filius Macrocosmi.