Hello there and welcome to another article where I journey into the mysterious depths of the Pokémon World.
After trying to uncover all the secrets I possibly could based on the Sun & Moon trailer last time, like trying to confirm that the region is based on Hawaii and that the X & Y legendaries are based on Norse mythology and the Azoth Ritual, I eventually decided to keep following the alchemy thread.
To my great surprise, I can now confirm that the X & Y and Sun & Moon legendaries are fully based on alchemy, and only draw upon mythology when necessary. In fact, I discovered that all the main legendary pokémon are based on the fundamental principals of alchemy.
To try to explain and prove this to you, I had to read a lot about alchemy and mythology, so it took me a long while to finish this. However, now that it’s ready, I present to you my new article “Pokémon Sun & Moon Analysis and Speculatoin – Alchemy and the True Origins of Legendary Pokémon”.
The first big part of this article is focused on alchemy and attempts to summarize most of its main concepts so you can understand what I’m talking about. You will probably notice how some things might connect to Pokémon as you read through it.
The second part is what you likely are here for, since it’s where I explain how legendary pokémon draw their inspiration from alchemy. In it, I explain how the X & Y and Sun & Moon legendaries are based on the Ladder of the Planets and the Seven Operations of Alchemy. Finally, I also present you with a diagram containing all the main legendary pokémon linked together in what I call the Tree of Life of Legendary Pokémon.
That said, sit back, grab something to eat or drink, and enjoy your time reading and learning new things. Enjoy!
[EDIT 13/05/2016 01:00 – Edited the post at the bottom with information about the symbology around the new legendaries, who are now confirmed as a lion and a bat.]
[EDIT 10/06/2016 01:00 – Edited the post at the bottom with information about the symbology around the Lily Flower and the use of Sacred Geometry in Lumiose City.]
[EDIT 11/06/2016 19:30 – Edited the post at the bottom with information about what I think are the correlations between the current legendary pokémon we have and the concepts of alchemic planets, chakras and sacred geometry we know of.]
[EDIT 06/07/2016 23:30 – Edited the post at the bottom with new ideas regarding Tapu Koko, the Rainbow codename, some ciphers seen in footage, and a potential way Cutiefly might connect into the story.]
[EDIT 10/09/2016 19:50 – Edited the post at the bottom with a few materials I had made in the past months.]
Understanding Alchemy and its Origins
In this first topic, I will try to explain what alchemy is and where it came from. Keep in mind though, that the history of alchemy is almost as long as humanity’s, so this is only a very brief summary focusing on the main details. It’s also related to hermeticism, which you might want to investigate later, but I will leave that up to you. Let’s embark on this adventure now, shall we?
Alchemy can be defined as the art of transformation. Its focus is on how to change one thing into another, and the goal of alchemy is to perfect or evolve the substance at hand. Alchemists try to change something that is inferior, imperfect, or unacceptable into something that is better, more perfect, and closer to what they desire.
The substance can be basically anything, from metals, chemicals or herbs, to our own bodies, minds and souls. It doesn’t belong to any single field, like chemistry, biology, medicine, religion, sociology, politics, software, or psychology. The word “alchemy” simply embodies the concept of accomplishing a creative transformation. This desire to reveal and perfect the original divine light in everything is what the alchemists called the “Great Work”.
Alchemy is based on a fundamental philosophy that has constantly permeated the human mind through the ages. Alchemists call it the “One True Philosophy of the Whole World” and believe it was first revealed to humanity by divine beings who came to ancient Egypt over 10,000 years ago. This period of Egyptian history is known as Zep Tepi, meaning First Time.
The scribe Thoth, considered the first alchemist, recorded the wisdom of the ancient visitors and sealed his writings in two great pillars that became known as the Pillars of Hermes. According to legend, the pillars were rediscovered thousands of years ago after the Great Flood and hidden away in an isolated temple in western Egypt.
Thoth’s pillars were said to contain 36,252 manuscripts, which amounted to the exact number of days in 100 years, with 100 symbolizing perfect completion to the Egyptians. When the pillars were opened a green crystalline tablet was found among them, which carried a succinct summary of the Thothian writings and outlined the philosophy of the Whole Universe. This tablet became known as the Emerald Tablet, and only when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and put it on public display did knowledge of its existence spread. The city of Alexandria was then founded at that time to study and translate these sacred texts, and from there the ancient art of alchemy spread throughout the world in its many forms.
It’s creator, Thoth, eventually became known as Hermes to the Greeks, and later Mercury to the Romans, and his Latin name, Hermes Trismegistus, means “thrice greatest Hermes” and refers to his mastery of all three levels of reality – the physical, spiritual and mental planes of Earth, heaven, and everything in between. Alchemists believe he was a real person who lived for a long time and traveled the world sharing his knowledge of the art of alchemy.
The art was only introduced to Europe many years later, when the Arabs invaded Spain, most of Portugal and southern France, bringing with them translations of many Alexandrian texts, and causing a mini-renaissance centered around Cordoba.
After years of difficulty understanding the manuscripts being translated into Latin for the first time, alchemy would reach its peak in Central Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries, including France, where many bright alchemists of the day lived. This was then followed by a period focused on making gold, where pseudo-alchemists abandoned the spiritual principles of alchemy, leading to its final downfall as a noble art, and the rise of chemistry.
The fundamental philosophy of the alchemists mentioned above is also known as the “Perennial Philosophy” because it has always resurfaced in some form throughout history despite various successful attempts by orthodox authorities to suppress it. The basic idea of the Perennial Philosophy is that there are certain universal truths, sensed by all human beings, which are common to all cultures and systems of knowledge. People in many different cultures and times have experienced similar feelings about the nature of reality and the meaning of existence. Differences between them only arise when some authority attempts to control or adapt these basic ideas into a rigid system of behavior. Unlike most of the existent religions, the Perennial Philosophy states that there are as many roads to God as there are people in the world.
The three fundamental concepts of this philosophy are:
- The material world isn’t the only reality, and simply a shadow of a higher reality. This higher level determines our existence and cannot be grasped by the senses, but only by the higher faculties of the human mind and spirit.
- Human beings mirror the duality of material vs nonmaterial realities. The material body is subject to the physical laws of birth and death, but the nonmaterial body (soul or spirit) isn’t subject to decay or loss and carries the essence of who we are. This divine energy at the heart of everything is known to alchemists as the Quintessence, the Fifth Element, which is recognized as the life force in most other traditions.
- Human beings possess the capacity to discern these separate levels of reality both in themselves and in nature, but are thaught to ignore the subtle clues to this greater reality. Therefore, one of the purposes of our existence and the goal of human beings is to perceive and apply this ultimate truth.
And that’s about it. Hopefully, now you have a basic understanding of what alchemy really is and where it comes from, so we can move on and try to understand some of the basic concepts and principles that alchemy conveys.
The Principles of Alchemy
As we have seen before, alchemy is based on the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, most notably the Emerald Tablet. These secret teachings have permeated all areas of human life since, but the methods and operations of the alchemists have been passed down via concealed ciphers, glyphs and symbols due to their great power to tap into universal patterns and transform things in accordance with the deeper laws of nature. Therefore, it’s necessary for us to understand these principles and the secret language of alchemists before attempting to understand the operations of alchemy.
The Language of the Birds
The way alchemists communicated while concealing the subject matter was via a method of symbolic writing which appears unintelligible unless you have the key to the symbolism to be able to interpret it. This style of communication became known as the “language of the birds”, but was also known as the “green language” or “living language” to indicate it carried more than just static words. This idea came from the suspicion that the high-pitched chirping of birds was actually a superior language beyond our comprehension. Writing has also been associated with birds since the beginning of recorded history for various reasons, which I won’t go into detail about.
The alchemists also spoke in the language of the birds in a literal sense, for they used images of birds to represent some of their most important concepts, especially those that dealed with volatile or spiritual processes. Here’s a few examples:
Ascending Birds – the volatilization or evaporation of compounds.
Descending Birds – the fixation, condensation, or precipitation of compounds.
Ascending and descending Birds – the operation of distillation.
Standing Bird – the kind of alchemical operation underway.
Crow / Raven – Black Phase operations, such as calcination and putrefaction.
White Goose / Swan / Albatross – White Phase operations, such as separation and purification.
Rooster / Cockerel – the operation of conjunction.
Peacock – the beginning of the fermentation operation.
Pelican – the distillation operation and the beginning of the Red Phase.
Eagle – the operations of distillation and sublimation. The color can represent the color of the vapors being released during distillation. For example, a white eagle represents steam.
Bennu / Phoenix – the operation of coagulation and the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone.
Double-headed Eagle / Bat – dual natured substances and androgyny.
Dove – the purifying transformation from the Black Phase to the White Phase.
Basilisk – creature with the head of a bird and the body of a dragon. The chemical union of mercury (the bird) and sulfur (the dragon) in the mineral cinnabar. The spiritual melding of our higher and lower natures of spirit (the bird) and soul (the dragon) to create a new incarnation or “Child of the Philosophers”.
Egg – a sealed vessel of transformation (glass vessels, but also coffins, tombs and sepulchers).
Serpent hatching from / entwined around an Egg – the whole cosmos
Griffin’s Egg – allusion to the Vessel of Hermes in which the conjunction (alchemical marriage) of volatile and fixed principles takes place. This is because the Griffin has the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, therefore merges the king of the beasts and the king of the birds together, making the most powerful and majestic animal.
While birds and flying animals generally indicate spiritual or volatile principles, terrestrial animals usually stand for physical or fixed principles. Whenever two animals are found together, they signify sulfur and mercury or some relationship between fixed and volatile principles. Moreover, animals can also represent some of the basic principles of alchemy, such as the four elements. Here’s a few examples of animal symbolism:
Ox / Lion – the Earth Element.
Fish / Whale – the Water Element.
Dove / Eagle – the Air Element.
Salamander / Dragon – the Fire Element.
Serpent – the life force or energies being exchanged in alchemical transformations.
Two entwined Serpents – the opposing masculine and feminine energies that makes up the life force (like in the Caduceus, Herme’s staff) or the union of opposing substances in the laboratory.
Three-headed Serpent / three Serpents in a group – the three principles of Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt.
Winged Serpent – volatile substances.
Wingless Serpent – fixed substances.
Crucified Serpent – the fixation of a volatile substance.
Frog / Toad – First Matter and the energies of materialization
Black Toad – First Matter being released by the putrefaction of a substance.
Toad on the ground tied to an Eagle in the sky – the union of fixed and volatile components, such as silver and mercury or soul and spirit.
Two Fish swimming in opposite directions – the essences of spirit and soul during the operation of dissolution.
Bees / Beetles / Butterflies – symbols of purification and the rebirth of soul or essence.
Unicorn – a symbol of sublimation and was associated with the white tincture and white powder of alchemy.
Stag – associated with the red tincture and red powder of alchemy.
Stag and Unicorn meeting in the middle of a forest – indicates the completion of the work and the successful creation of the Philosopher’s Stone.
Dog – the domesticated spirit of man or natural forces working to assist the alchemist. Chemically, the dog is Philosophical Mercury or the purified benevolent spirit of the metal mercury.
Wolf – the wild, untamed spirit of man or the chaotic forces of nature. The Grey Wolf stands for the metal antimony which, when molten, mercilessly “devours” other metals like lead, tin, and copper.
Dogs fighting with Wolves – the process of purifying gold with antimony, which was alloyed with other metals to remove them from gold.
Lion – associated with the properties of sulfur or the application of heat or acids to the metals. Chemically, the lion is any salt or fixed substance obtained from the metals.
Black Lion – represents the black salt, lead ore, or in general, the darkest part of a substance that must be purified and transformed by fire.
Green Lion – used when working with minerals and metals. It is the root of the essence of the metals or soul of the metals. The Green Lion was known for devouring the metals, since the chemical signature that gave it its green color was iron sulfate, and acids made with iron sulfate were called the Green Lion. These included vitriol or sulfuric acid, which dissolved most common metals such as iron and copper, and also nitric acid. When nitric acid was mixed with hydrochloric acid, it produced the greenish acid aqua regia, which could even dissolve gold. Images of the Green Lion devouring the sun refer to this ability. The Green Lion is also associated with the green acetate of lead in its oily or unredeemed form. When working with plant essences and vegetable matter, the Green Lion represented the life force in the leaves of plants. In this case, the Green Lion eating the sun is the process of photosynthesis that creates the greenness of nature from the pigment chlorophyll. Alchemists understood this process and tried to isolate the life force in plants to use in their experiments and even create artificial life forms. Philosophically, the Green Lion is the raw forces of nature or the subconscious that we are seeking to tame.
Red Lion – when working with animals, the Red Lion is the life force in blood. In the work with minerals and metals, the Red Lion is the red acetate of lead in its crystallized form. Generally, with the Red Lion we gain control over untamed or unredeemed forces by feeding the Green Lion a seed of gold or purifying it with a catalyst or transmuting agent. Philosophically, the Red Lion is the assimilation or control of the raw forces of nature or the subconscious.
Winged Lion – In the final stages of the work, the Red Lion grows wings. It is the volatile or spiritual aspect of a substance, which is the sublimated salt used to make the Philosopher’s Stone.
Dragon – the properties of mercury or the application of life force or energy. Chemically, the dragon is the mercury acid obtained from the metals or acids in general.
Black Dragon – the blackened metallic compound undergoing putrefaction, death, and decay.
Green Dragon – the indwelling spirit or life of the metal, the thing that gives metals their active properties. Philosophically, the Green Dragon is a formerly ferocious and unforgiving dragon that is now tamed. Its energy is contained by having been crystallized. Formerly threatening unconscious elements have now been assimilated into consciousness.
Red Dragon – appears at both the beginning and end of the work. It is the chaotic energy of the First Matter at the beginning of the work that becomes the Philosopher’s Stone at the end of the work. Chemically, the Red Dragon is the pure red oil of lead in its initial state and the red powder of projection in its perfected or tamed state.
Fire-breathing Dragon / Dragon in flames – a metal melting or a substance undergoing
Dragons fighting among themselves – metals undergoing the process of putrefaction.
Winged Dragon – the volatile principle (spirit or energy).
Wingless Dragon – the fixed principle (soul or material).
Winged Dragon and Wingless Dragon eating each other’s tail (Ouroboros) – the cyclic interplay of volatile and fixed, light and darkness, spirit and soul, energy and matter, creation and destruction, etc.
Serpent / Dragon eating its own tail (Ouroboros) – the union of opposing energies and one of the primary symbols for the Philosopher’s Stone. The caption “All Is One” is usually included with drawings of the ouroboros. Alchemists sometimes referred to the ouroboros as the Agathos Daimon (“Good Spirit”), which was another name for Thoth, the father of alchemy.
The rose is one of the fundamental symbols of alchemy, was specially used during the Renaissance, and eventually became the philosophical basis of the Rosicrucians. Its meaning however, dates back to thousands of years ago, to Egyptian times and possibly beyond.
The rose is a paradoxical symbol of both purity and passion, heavenly perfection and earthly desire, and life and death. In general, the color of the rose denotes its meaning, so it can be used to represent multiple emotions and states of being, as well as the various phases and operations of alchemy, among other things.
Since its symbology is enormous and it doesn’t seem like Pokémon will use it as a symbol, I will skip it without mentioning more details. However, I felt like I should mention it just in case, since the future of Pokémon was described with the word “flowers”.
Ciphers of the Alchemists
Alchemists use symbolic glyphs called ciphers as a way to indicate chemicals, metals, and the basic principles and operations of their craft. In the process of alchemical initiation, ciphers were used as coded teaching tools, and meditation on ciphers was thought to convey unspoken wisdom. The alchemists’ ciphers have much to say about the hidden meanings and archetypal power of their materials and operations. It’s possible you have seen some of these ciphers before during your daily life, but you probably didn’t know what they were or what they represented. In the image below you can find some of the most common ciphers used by alchemists.
The First Matter
The First Matter, Prima Materia in Latin, is the most confusing concept in alchemy, and even alchemists had a difficult time defining it.
The reason the First Matter is so hard to explain is because it is everything and nothing at once. It is the primal One Thing that existed before time, as well as the primordial chaos that contains all possibilities. It is said the First Matter carries the germ or seeds of all things that ever existed and ever will exist in the future. It is the infinite cornucopia from which the myriad of all created things in the universe emerge.
The Emerald Tablet refers to the First Matter as the “One Thing”, the primordial chaos of the universe converted into material reality by the thoughts or Word of the One Mind. This idea of a divine presence seeking expression in the material universe seems to have originated with the ancient Egyptians and has become a basic concept of Hermetic philosophy. Essentially, it’s the basic dark matter of the universe from which all things have sprung.
The ancients thought of the First Matter as a spiritual substance of which external visible nature is an expression and manifestation. This primordial matter contains the powers that form minerals and metals, vegetables and animals, and everything that breathes. All forms are hidden within its depths, and it is, therefore, the true principle or beginning of all things.
To alchemists, the First Matter is a primordial, unorganized state of energy or protomatter that is the same for all substances and exists in an unmanifested state between energy and matter. The chaos or energy of the First Matter is organized or directed by the light of consciousness. Hermetic philosophers believe the whole universe came into being because of an image, thought, or word projected by the divine mind of God in the fabric of the universe, the First Matter. You can think of it as the gray area of reality between manifested and unmanifested.
Before we move on, here’s some of the properties of the First Matter:
– It cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed.
– The amount of First Matter in the universe is fixed, permanent, and unaffected by time.
– It is present everywhere and in all things.
– It exists in the boundary between manifested and unmanifested reality.
– It has a cyclic nature (depicted by the Ouroboros).
– It contains all the components of creation, including the Four Elements and Quintessence.
– It’s the source of the Philosopher’s Stone.
The Four Elements
Philosophers believed that in order for the First Matter to take on form or manifest into space it had to take on a fourfold structure. The basic forces that create this fundamental cubic structure of space have come to be called the Four Elements. Most Western alchemists used the Greek system of Elements, which consisted of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. These Elements are, however, spiritual essences and originate in the higher realm Above, where they represent perfect images or cosmic ideals, they aren’t your ordinary perception of what the four elements are. In the Hermetic teachings, the Four Elements result from the materialization of light or imagery within the divine One Mind of the universe. The idea is that the Elements are the building blocks of the words (or thoughts) of the creator. Aristotle later added a Fifth Element to the system to explain the actions of the planets and stars. He called it the Ether Element and said it was what the heavens were made of. The alchemists would later call it Quintessence, which comes from a Latin phrase meaning “fifth essense”.
Earth and Water were seen as feminine and more fixed Elements, while Air and Fire were seen as masculine and more volatile Elements. The Elements were also attributed two of four qualities among dry, cold, wet and hot. Thus, Earth is dry and cold, Water is cold and wet, Air is wet and hot, and Fire is hot and dry. This makes it so Elements can change into one of the others by changing the qualities of the First Matter, perpetually transforming in an endless cycle.
The Quintessence, or Fifth Element, is an Element beyond the Elements, in that it partakes of both material and spiritual realities and is described as a luminous light that is invisible to ordinary sight. You can picture it as an invisible life force that courses through everything, and that can be seen in a way as a product of the balance of the other four Elements.
To the alchemists, Fire was the most important Element, since they considered it the universal agent of transformation that made alchemy possible. However, this is not the same Fire as the Fire Element, but a Secret Fire. In truth, it’s the Fifth Element, the Secret Fire, the life force coursing through everything and the inner divine spark that makes all things come alive.
The Three Essentials
The Three Essentials are the trinity of forces that make up creation, and the alchemists named them Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt. They were also known as the Three Supernals, the Supreme Trinity, the Three Principia, the Three Universals, the Three Treasures, the Three Magisteriums, and the Tria Prima, which is Latin for the First Three.
Sulfur and Mercury are the primordial opposites that are part of the inherent duality of the universe. We can observe this duality in nature, expressed as masculine and feminine, positive and negative, light and dark, expanding and contracting, energy and matter, Yang and Yin, and many other things depending on the perspective.
Salt is the static result or resolving force created by the union of Sulfur and Mercury. In alchemy, Salt is associated with the Philosopher’s Child and considered the principle of form or structure. The alchemists saw Salt in the formation of fetuses and the growth of plants, as well as in the formation of chemical compounds and in processes like precipitation and crystallization. Salt is active anywhere a new body forms.
All created things consist of Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt, and alchemical procedures can break everything down into these three principles. To differentiate them from the mundane substances of the same name, the alchemists always capitalized the names of the Three Essentials in their writings, or clearly designated them philosophical or sophic substances by calling them Sophic Sulfur, Sophic Mercury, and Sophic Salt.
According to alchemical philosophy, the Three Essentials emerge into creation from a common source, the First Matter. The three-headed serpent or dragon, which is a symbol of the First Matter, captured this idea. Similar to the Big Bang, alchemists believed the Three Essentials were born from the chaotic darkness of the First Matter into our universe in a tremendous burst of energy and light.
Once created, the Three Essentials are indistinguishable from the First Matter in their powers of transformation, and their primal interaction is responsible for myriad manifested things in our world. At the end of the Great Work, the Three Essentials are reunited and integrally fused into the Philosopher’s Stone.
“The Stone is single in essence, but triple in form” is an alchemical motto that conveyed this idea. The three-headed serpent or dragon is also a symbol for the Philosopher’s Stone, although there are distinct differences in attitude and coloring when compared to the beast of the First Matter. This means that somehow, the First Matter itself has been transformed.
In summary, the Great Work begins with the emergence of the First Matter and ends with the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone. Furthermore, the First Matter and the Philosopher’s Stone are composed of the same three essential ingredients. The Great Work is then nothing more than the rectification (alchemical term meaning “to set right”) of the First Matter into the Philosopher’s Stone.
The Two Contraries
The roots of the alchemists’ theory of Sulfur and Mercury lie in an ancient doctrine known as the Two Contraries. The Two Contraries were seen as reciprocal principles of nature, usually described as male and female or active and passive. These are symbolized by the sun and moon, and were an expression of the fundamental natural law of reproduction.
The concept originated in Egypt in the myths of Isis and Osiris, but the doctrine of the Two Contraries eventually spread to Babylonia and China. Although the two opposing principles took on a variety of names, they always shared the same characteristics of the original myth. Isis was the moon goddess, or the feminine, receptive, reflective, productive principle of nature, while Osiris was the sun god, or the masculine, aggressive, penetrating source of energy and identity. Their child was Horus, who became the symbol for all new birth, growth, the green earth, and transformation in general.
Among Alexandrian alchemists, the principle of the sun or Osiris became linked with Sulfur, and the principle of the moon or Isis became linked with Mercury. Their child Horus would eventually become associated with the alchemical substance of Salt. The archetypal principles of the sun and moon represented by Osiris and Isis were thought to give rise to all things, and the concept that all things are engendered through the union of these two opposing forces took root among alchemists around the world.
In China, the doctrine of the Two Contraries arose from the Taoist concept of the Tao (First Matter). Around 300 b.c.e., the concept of the Tao changed to include the two opposing qualities of Yang and Yin. Yang was masculine, positive, expansive, solar, and fiery, while Yin was feminine, negative, contractive, lunar, and watery. Yang was light and tended to rise into the sky, but Yin was heavy and tended to descend into the earth. Yin was the unperfected soul and the only thing that could quench the yearnings of Yang, which was the perfect spirit. It was said that the interaction between these two contrary principles was what created the material universe.
The Arabian alchemist Jabir later expanded the doctrine of the Two Contraries by combining his philosophical readings with his experimental observations. Jabir believed the First Matter deep at the heart of the earth gave off two opposing “exhalations” or spirits that became Sulfur and Mercury. According to Jabir, metals were formed by differing impurities and concentrations of Sulfur and Mercury. Gold was the purest and most balanced or perfect combination of this primal pair. To transform base metals into gold, it was necessary to purify and balance their Sulfur and Mercury. Jabir also believed there existed a Philosopher’s Stone that would instantly transform base metals into gold by permanently joining the Two Contraries of Sulfur and Mercury.
The addition of Salt
For nearly 700 years, Jabir’s version of the Two Contraries dominated alchemy, until the great Swiss alchemist Paracelsus reorganized the Sulfur-Mercury theory to include a third component called “Salt”. He also clarified and corrected what other alchemists had been saying about these very basic ideas for so many years. The result was the theory of the Three Essentials, which turned Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt into powerful universal tools that gave alchemists greater insight into the nature of reality. Philosophically, the Three Essentials were viewed as universal forces present on all levels of reality. Their relationship and interaction determine how substances come into being and are transformed.
Paracelsus defined the Three Essentials by how they behave in fire. Sulfur is seen as what fuels the fire or what is changed in the fire. Thus oil, fat, wood, and coal are all forms of Sulfur. Mercury is the volatile watery essence of the fire that Paracelsus called the “phlegma” and is represented by the flames, light, heat, and smoke issuing from the fire. The new principle of Salt exhibits the fixed essence of the substance burning that resists the fire and is found in the ashes. “The three principles from which all things are born and generated, are phlegma, fat, and ash”, said Paracelsus.
Sulfur is the fiery, solar, active, masculine principle that gives a substance its active properties and identity in relationship to other substances. In alchemy, it is usually associated with the Sun and King. In the laboratory, Sulfur is the flammable oily material extracted from substances, such as the essential oils of plants. For alchemists, Sulfur embodied all those characteristics that we now associate with the idea of active energy.
Mercury is the watery, lunar, passive, feminine principle that represents the hidden essence and creative source of life within things and is usually associated with the Moon and Queen in alchemy. In the laboratory, Mercury is usually extracted from substances by the process of distillation, such as the alcohol distilled from fermented grains and fruits. The alchemists referred to Mercury as the “Mother of the Stone” and felt it was the mediator between Sulfur and Salt in the creation of new compounds. In Hermetic philosophy, Mercury is like the basic blueprint of a thing, the carrier of its image or ideal form that comes into being through the interaction of Sulfur and Salt. Mercury embodied those characteristics that we now associate with the concept of light and mind.
Salt represents fixity, materialization, and the formation of bodies and embodies those characteristics that we associate with the idea of mass or matter. The alchemists sometimes referred to Salt as “Magnesia”, which was actually a mystical term referring to the transformative principle concealed in Salt. Like the First Matter, Salt shows up at both the beginning and the end of the work. It is the imperfect and corrupted matter at the beginning of the experiment that must be destroyed and dissolved to release its essences, so they can be purified and reconstituted into the perfected new Salt at the end of the experiment.
The Four Elements, the fundamental principles of matter, have their origin in the Three Essentials. Sulfur gives rise to the Fire Element. Mercury, in keeping with its dual nature, produces both the Air and Water Elements. And finally, the Salt principle is the source of the Earth Element.
As a side note, I would like to point out that Taoist Alchemy calls these three concepts by other names, namely Shen (Mercury), Chi (Sulfur) and Ching (Salt). However, since these concepts are more focused on working with the body, there are some subtle differences between the Eastern and Western viewpoints.
The Two Contraries Revisited
Although we have established that Sulfur and Mercury are opposites, they aren’t as indentifiable and set in stone as you might think. Like Salt can exist in two forms, one at the beginning and another at the end, so can Sulfur and Mercury have two. This unique relationship of Sulfur and Mercury is suggested in drawings of the ouroboros showing two dragons or serpents eating each other’s tails. One is dark and one is light, or one has wings and the other has feet. As the ouroboros spins through time and space, the two parts change into one another. The alchemists viewed this as the engine that drives reality.
In general, Sulfur deals with the energy aspects of a substance or situation, while Mercury deals with the aspects of inner life and awareness. If the subject is any kind of active energy or fire, then Sulfur is spirit. If the subject is any kind of potential or unexpressed energy, then Sulfur is soul. On the other hand, if the topic is an indwelling life or active intelligence, then Mercury is spirit. And if the subject is an unborn identity or unconscious force, then Mercury is soul.
Salt is the resultant force that gives expression and purpose to the dance of Sulfur and Mercury, being the child of their marriage. It freezes the dance of opposites, grounds them, and condenses their light and energy in form and matter.
The Philosopher’s Stone
The idea of the Philosopher’s Stone originated with Alexandrian alchemists and soon spread around the world. By the Middle Ages, the Philosopher’s Stone became the Holy Grail of alchemy, and not only the key to transforming base metals into gold, but also the secret to eternal life and spiritual perfection. Because the Stone could turn a corruptible base metal into incorruptible gold, it would similarly transform human beings from mortal (corruptible) beings into immortal (incorruptible) beings.
The origins of the concept of the Philosopher’s Stone can be seen in the theory of the Four Elements and the possibility of transforming one Element into another. There was also an ancient belief that metals could be transformed into one another, a belief that probably originated with the observation that some precious metals could be obtained from the ores of base metals. For instance, silver is often obtained from galena, the mineral ore of lead. The preparation of metal tinctures and alloys that imparted the characteristics of gold also suggested that a single agent might exist that would transmute the metals.
The spiritual significance of the Philosopher’s Stone originated in the Egyptian belief in the perfection of the soul and the creation of an immortal golden body. The mystical doctrine of the regeneration of mankind was part of the spiritual traditions of many early civilizations, and the Philosopher’s Stone was the physical manifestation of that fundamental desire for perfection.
In Latin, the Philosopher’s Stone was called the Lapis Philosophorum or Stone of the Philosophers, but the Greeks called it the Chrysopoeia or Heart of Gold. It was also referred to as the Magisterium or the Magistry, Spiritus Mundi or Spirit of the World, Stone of the Wise, Diamond of Perfection, Universal Medicine, and the Elixir.
Many religious scholars believe the Philosopher’s Stone is synonymous with the symbol of the stone found in many spiritual traditions, such as the Old Testament stone Jacob rested his head upon, the New Testament rock Christ laid as the foundation of the temple, the Holy Grail or cup of Christ, the Yesodic foundation stone of the Kabbalah, and the Cubic Stone of Freemasonry. In some ways, the Philosopher’s Stone also resembles the forbidden fruit of Genesis and symbolizes knowledge that human beings are not meant to possess.
The Philosopher’s Stone was then the key to success in alchemy. Not only could it instantly transmute any metal into gold, but it was also the alkahest or universal solvent, which dissolved every substance immersed in it and immediately extracted its Quintessence or active essence. The Stone was used in the preparation of the aurum potabile, drinkable gold, a remedy that would perfect the human body. It was also used to restore a plant or animal from its ashes in a process called palingenesis. Because the Philosopher’s Stone carried the Quintessence or life force, it could even be used to create artificial living beings called homonculi.
The Philosopher’s Stone supposedly looked like a dark red common irregular stone. The material of which the Stone was made was the same red powder of projection prized by the alchemists. The Philosopher’s Stone had the peculiar property of exhibiting a variable weight, being sometimes as heavy as a piece of gold and other times light as a feather. Its primary ingredient was an equally mysterious element known as carmot, which may have been a mythological substance, because no mention of it exists outside alchemy, nor does it appear in any list of modern chemical compounds.
According to alchemical literature, there were two ways to create the Philosopher’s Stone. One was the Wet Way (Lunar Path) and the other was the Dry Way (Solar Path). The Wet Way, used natural processes and was more gradual and safer than the Dry Way, which relied on intense heat and powerful chemicals to achieve the Stone in a shorter time.
When it comes to spiritual alchemy, there was a Wet Way, in which natural inspiration built gradually in the initiate to reach the fervor necessary for personal transformation, and a Dry Way, in which the initiate attempted to ascend on a direct path to divine knowledge. The Wet Way worked with the “slow fires of nature”, while the Dry Way worked with the “raging fires of our lower nature”. Ideally, a combination of the two would be used, uniting them in a third state the Egyptian alchemists called the “Intelligence of the Heart” (Stellar Path).
In the laboratory, the Wet Way began with slow digestion and putrefaction of the matter that could go on for many months. The Dry Way began with roasting and heating in an intense fire that might only last a few hours. In both methods, this process was known as the Black Phase, in which the matter blackened as it was reduced to its basic essences.
The Black Phase gave way to the White Phase, in which a purification of the matter took place and the essences were separated out from any contamination. In the Dry Way, this appeared as a white crust formed by dried matter carried by gases bursting in bubbles on the surface of the material. Sometimes the crust puffed up and released a cloud of white vapor into the flask, which was called the White Eagle. In the Wet Way, a white layer of digesting bacteria formed on top of the putrefied material, which was called the White Swan.
During the final Red Phase, the energies released in the previous operations were captured in a solution or powder. In the Dry Way, this was the appearance of a red coloring on the surface of the molten material or in the ashes, which was caused by high temperature oxidation-reduction reactions and was symbolized by the Phoenix rising from the fire. In the Wet Way, the final phase was sometimes signaled by the appearance of a reddish swirl of oil or pink globules on the surface of the matter. This was associated with the Pelican, which sometimes regurgitated a meal of freshly killed fish for its young and stained its white breast plumage with red blood.
The Operations of Alchemy
The secret processes by which alchemists achieved their transformations were organized in an ancient pattern known as the Ladder of the Planets. Following the Emerald Tablet’s saying of “As Above, so Below”, the operations corresponded to the order and characteristics of the visible planets. The energies of the planets were reflected on Earth in the evolution of the metals, as well as in the planetary archetypes found in plants, minerals, animals, and human beings. The overall work in alchemy progressed through specific operations that occurred in three phases: the initial work of purification took place in the Black Phase; the separation of purified essences that resulted in the empowerment of the substance took place during the White Phase; and the final manifestation of the perfected substance took place at the end of the Red Phase.
The Ladder of the Planets
The idea that heavenly bodies influence our daily lives was part of the basic philosophy that believed humans contained within themselves all the parts of the universe. The Doctrine of Correspondences expressed in the Emerald Tablet’s idea of “As Above, so Below” echoed this concept.
Similarly, the ancients believed a corresponding link existed between the slowly moving planets seen in the sky and the metals found buried in the earth. All the luminous planetary bodies exhibit colors that resemble the hue and brilliance of the corresponding metals, and there were many other similarities that led people to believe the metals were associated with the planets. At one time, it was believed that as the planets revolved around the earth, they spun off their corresponding metals into the earth where they could be extracted by the operations of alchemy.
Eventually, each of the planets and its corresponding metal became associated with an operation in alchemy. Each metal had its own characteristics that required specific processes to transform it, and these operations seemed to be a progression of steps. These practical observations were coupled with the Egyptian stages of initiation in a scheme known as the Ladder of the Planets, which consisted of seven steps corresponding to the five visible planets together with the sun and the moon. The basic concept of this system holds that the planets represent powerful primordial forces that express themselves on all levels of reality. These powers are arranged in a pattern of transformation that ranges from the most material and base level (Saturn) to the most spiritual and noble level (the Sun).
The Great Work of alchemy is then to climb the Ladder of the Planets and reach material and spiritual perfection. Our spiritual return to the stars, or the gaining of cosmic consciousness, is accomplished by climbing the philosophical ladder of the visible planets from Saturn through Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and finally the Moon and Sun.
The sun makes the same journey through the Ladder of the Planets that alchemists try to duplicate in their work. In the sky, the sun appears to travel through the planetary ladder depending on the time of year, as it moves through the twelve constellations of the zodiac. The time it takes the sun to travel between signs is approximately one lunar month (28 days).
An interesting correspondence also exists between the Ladder of the Planets and the human body. Each of the planets rules an energy center in the body and the corresponding organs. These seven centers and their relationships to the planetary ladder were known by Pythagorean philosophers, and there is some evidence that the energy centers were also known to the ancient Egyptians. In Indian alchemy, these planetary energy centers would become known as the body “chakras” (“spinning wheels”).
Below, you can also find a table listing the planets and its corresponding metals, operations, ciphers, zodiac houses, and archetypes.
|Saturn||Lead||Calcination (Incineration)||Aries (Calcination)
|Capricorn, Aquarius||Contraction, Discipline, Potential|
|Jupiter||Tin||Dissolution (Solution)||Cancer (Solution)||Sagittarius, Pisces||Expansion, Freedom, Sociability|
|Mars||Iron||Separation||Scorpio (Separation)||Aries, Scorpio||Assertiveness, Masculinity|
|Venus||Copper||Conjunction (Congelation)||Taurus (Congelation)||Taurus, Libra||Receptiveness, Femininity, Intuition|
|Mercury||Quicksilver||Fermentation (Digestion)||Capricorn (Fermentation)
|Gemini, Virgo||Transformation, Androgyny, Light, Mind|
|Moon||Silver||Distillation (Sublimation)||Virgo (Distillation)
|Cancer||Purification, Subconscious Powers, Body, Soul|
|Sun||Gold||Coagulation (Fixation)||Gemini (Fixation)
|Leo||Empowerment, Creativity, True Self, Energy, Spirit|
Overall, the following aspects are associated with the seven planets:
Saturn – was considered the place where created matter first manifested and represented its most primitive state; represents the principles of contraction, stability, structure, and materialism; symbolized by Father Time with his distinctive hourglass and sickle, who personifies the forces of age, death, and transformation, and is sometimes shown with a peg leg to indicate his infirmity and incompleteness; the black crow is the messenger of Saturn and symbolizes the beginning of the Black Phase of alchemical transformation, a period of darkness over light and matter over spirit; the darkness of Saturn is also the fertile soil of new birth, so it acquired a dual reputation as both a stubborn protector of the status quo and the initiator of profound transformation; it was the most important planet for the alchemists because of its transformative potential, so they equated it with the First Matter and considered it both the beginning and the end of the Great Work. Within the darkness of saturnine energies, the alchemists saw all the possibilities for change and healing.
Jupiter – Jupiter’s light and expansive presence balances the heavy and contractive influence of Saturn, so it represents the principle of divine grace; represents the light and energy of spirit without which the soul would remain imprisoned within the saturnic darkness of matter; the energies of Jupiter are expansive, optimistic, and joyful, combining growth and a positive attitude, manifesting the power of healing and regeneration.
Mars – represents energy and raw power; is aggressive and masculine and governs our animal passions and survival instincts; its qualities reinforce the ego, strengthen will, and help us surpass previous limitations; it also provides us with the energy to act, to begin new projects, or to transform any situation.
Venus – represents refinement of the senses, the passion of the arts, mystical love, romantic relationships, and physical desire; the feminine energy of the planet is passive, receptive, magnetic, relating, adapting, nurturing, and gentle.
Mercury – is known as the Messenger of the gods and governs communication, intellect, writing, speech, and any kind of conversing or commerce. The urge of Mercury is to know and to communicate that knowledge; is associated with the brain and nervous system, as well as breathing and the organs of sense; is depicted as a hermaphrodite because Mercury derives its light or consciousness from the union of the left and right brain or, in alchemical terms, from the marriage of the masculine, rational sun and feminine, intuitive moon.
Moon – controls the ebb and flow of tides, human hormones, and the female menstrual cycle; represents receptivity, reflection, fertility, and nurturing; is said to control the subconscious and is the source of magnetic and astral powers; is the archetypal Queen of alchemy; Egyptians referred to the moon as the “Mother of the Universe” and in several traditions the moon is where our souls go when we die.
Sun – the alchemists saw the sun as the King and husband to the moon Queen; is the fundamental metaphor of the whole alchemical process, for it is the simplest form of matter known, and represents a process of constant purification in which cooler and darker impurities, known as sunspots, rise to the surface and are ejected or burned off; the sun represents wholeness, health, wealth, happiness, ambition, courage, vitality, creative energies, and electric or masculine energy; it also represents our deepest identity, the true self and inner authority, the source of our dignity and integrity.
Basically, Saturn and Jupiter represent the universal powers of darkness and light, matter and energy; Mars and Venus represent the complementary powers of aggression and passivity, the masculine and feminine archetypes; the Moon and the Sun represent the universal principles of soul and spirit; and the planet Mercury represents the principle of transformation that connects all the planetary powers.
The Three Phases and Seven Operations of Alchemy
The Ladder of the Planets was thus expressed in the sequence of operations the alchemists used to accomplish their transformations, which were divided in three overall phases.
This color-coded process of transformation went from an initial Black Phase to an intermediary white Phase and culminated in a Red Phase. This same sequence of colors occurs while working with the metals. If the four base metals (lead, tin, iron, and copper) are melted and fused into a new alloy, the resulting surface color is black. If this black alloy is heated with the noble metal silver and then heated in mercury, it turns white. If all has gone well, the final iridescent red-violet color appears in the metal, which indicates a small amount of genuine gold was formed.
While we can often find detailed descriptions of the operations leading to the appearance of these color markers in the writings of alchemists, some things suggest the alchemists were also talking about spiritual or psychological exercises they performed along with their laboratory work that were associated with the same colors.
Alchemists referred to these three general phases of the Great Work by their Latin names, which are Nigredo, for the Black Phase, Albedo, for the White Phase, and Rubedo, for the Red Phase. A fourth phase is sometimes mentioned, called Citrinitas or the Yellow Phase, but it is usually considered as being part of the Red Phase.
Let us now take a simplified look at these three phases and the processes that develop in them.
The Black Phase
The Black Phase of the work was considered the longest and most difficult phase in alchemy, since the goal at this initial phase of transformation is to reduce the subject to its bare essence or most fundamental ingredients. All the dross, impure, and extraneous material must be removed, or they will contaminate and destroy the later stages of the work.
The alchemists called the overall process that occurred during the Nigredo as mortification, which meant to them “facing the dead part”. In the lab, mortification results in a powder or ashes in which the characteristics of the former substance can no longer be recognized. In personal alchemy, mortification is characterized by feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and worthlessness as one confronts the base, repugnant material he has hidden away inside himself. After the two operations of this phase are completed, the purified essences of the matter at hand are separated out and saved for further work in the next phases.
The first operation is called calcination, which means literally “reduced to bone by burning”. After calcination, the substance becomes dry and hard and is no longer affected by common fire. Alchemists used the astrological sign for Aries as the cipher for this operation. Calcination, also referred to as calcining, is basically a process of dehydration by fire that drives off water and other volatile compounds and brings about a decomposition of the material. In the lab, it usually meant heating a substance in an oven, crucible, or over an open flame until it was reduced to ashes.
In psychological terms, calcination is the destruction of the false ego we have built up in response to pressures from society. We have built up the impurities within ourselves, the blackness that veils the true light of our being. Personal calcination begins when we realize that the things we have accepted as true and important may not, in fact, have any relevance to what is real in our lives. So the first step in personal transformation is to look inside and face our real essence instead of just identifying with our superficial personalities.
The second operation is called dissolution, and sometimes referred to simply as solution. Dissolution is the transformation of a substance by immersing it in water or other liquid. In the lab, it is the liquefaction of a solid or the absorption of a solid into a liquid. It usually involved dissolving the ashes from calcination in water or liquid chemicals. The water in which the ashes were dissolved took on magical properties, and the term elixir from the Arabic “Al-iksir” literally means “from the ashes”. Alchemists used the astrological sign of Cancer as the cipher for this operation.
Personal dissolution further breaks down the corrupted and artificial structures of the personality by immersion in the dark waters of the unconscious. The objective is to bring this threatening material to light in therapy or personal work, rising above the subconscious and learning to integrate the dark side into a reborn self. Psychologists call this part of our personality the “shadow”, which is the inferior or rejected part of our personality. So slowing down and paying attention to feelings allows this material to surface and come to light, where we can examine it and transmute its dark energy in positive ways. By coldly and deliberately reviewing painful, hardened memories without letting them upset you, and then holding the memories in your mind until the emotions behind them finally break to the surface, you get to understand this side of yourself. Other methods of personal dissolution include paying attention to dream symbolism, mental images, slips of the tongue, meaningful coincidences, or keeping journals of thoughts and feelings.
If successful, these initial operations have now eliminated the dross of the substance, whether it is of a chemical or psychological nature. The goal of calcination and dissolution is to eliminate contaminating materials and reveal the most basic constituents or essences of a substance. The job of the next phase in alchemy, the Albedo, is to separate out these essences and recombine them at a higher level of purity and power.
The White Phase
The White Phase of alchemy, or Albedo, is a purification of the matter that survived the Nigredo. It results from a washing or cleansing of the products and their reunion on a new level of purity. This stage is extremely important in the overall progress of transformation, because any remaining contamination or impurities that make it through to the third and final phase can ruin the whole experiment. The goal is to separate the essences of the matter from the dross and waste materials of Nigredo, and then combine the pure essences into a new incarnation or body.
The level of purification during this phase is so great that the fundamental duality of nature is observed in the experiment. In other words, the essences revealed turn out to have opposing positive and negative qualities. In personal transformation, the opposing essences are the masculine and feminine characteristics of the personality, which the alchemists referred to and depicted as the King and the Queen. The alchemists also believed that they could only accomplish the Albedo with divine grace through a merging of the powers Above and the powers Below.
After the two operations of this phase are completed, the essences of the matter at hand will be fused inseparably together to create an exalted matter at a new level of strength and integrity the alchemists called the Stone.
Separation is the third alchemical operation, and is comprised of disuniting, dividing, cutting, or breaking down substances to retrieve their basic constituents or essences. Chemically, it is the isolation of the components of dissolution by filtration and then the discarding of any ungenuine or unworthy material. In the laboratory, the components of the polluted results from calcination and dissolution are usually separated out by a process the alchemists called “inhibition” or holding back, with the most common method being the filtration described above, even though there are others. After any ungenuine or unworthy material is discarded, the essences are usually isolated in separate containers. The alchemical cipher used by alchemists for separation is the astrological sign of Scorpio.
Separation on the psychological level is the rediscovery and isolation of your essence or true self. During personal separation, you lift yourself out of the quagmire of your broken personality and recognize your true self. The operations of Nigredo have broken down your personality into your most basic traits and desires, and during the first stage of Albedo, you become aware of the pure essences within and isolate them from ego complexes and unwanted subconscious elements. This stage is about getting beyond the restraints to our true nature, so the real us can shine through.
The next step of the alchemical transformation is the operation of conjunction, which is the recombination of the previously saved elements into a new compound or purer substance. The process begins with commixtion, which is a mixing or commingling of the saved essences from separation. However, just bringing these essences together in the same vessel is not enough to accomplish this important operation, since the essences must create a new compound, which the alchemists called the child of the conjunction. This is because the alchemists saw the coming together of essences during conjunction as a sexual union or mating of chemicals to conceive a child, which was the new compound or alloy. The alchemical cipher used for conjunction is the astrological sign of Taurus.
Psychologically, conjunction is the union of the opposing parts of our personality, the masculine (Spirit) and the feminine (Soul). The alchemists referred to this initial reconciliation as the fetus or Lesser Stone, for it should allow the initiate to clearly discern what needs to be done to achieve permanent enlightenment, or the Greater Stone (Philosopher’s Stone). In spiritual terms, this union of the spirit and soul was known as the Sacred Marriage, an event usually depicted as the sun and moon uniting in the sky. The union of spirit and soul within an individual produces a third kind of consciousness that combines masculine and feminine ways of knowing into a deeper awareness, something the Egyptians called “Intelligence of the Heart”, and the medieval alchemists referred to as the “Philosopher’s Child”. It is the merging of thought and feeling to produce a highly intuitive state that was considered a direct experience of reality.
Conjunction is thus a prerequisite to progressing further in alchemy. It is the culmination of the work Below in the realm of matter, habits, and thoughts, and the beginning of the work Above in the realm of energy and spirit. If the child of the conjunction survives, it can be nurtured and grown into something entirely new and empowered during the operations of the Red Phase of alchemy, which will be covering next.
The Red Phase
The Red Phase is the third and final phase of alchemy, which once completed produced the Philosopher’s Stone and transmuted base metals into pure gold. Psychologically, it led to the experience of one’s true self, via the integration of opposing and rejected elements in the personality.
Alchemists originally separated this phase into two short stages or moments. The first moment was the appearance of a yellow or golden color in the matter, the Yellow Stage or Citrinitas, mentioned before. This short-lived phenomenon was a sign that the golden stage of transformation was coming. If they were working with a metal, it meant that transmutation into gold was a real possibility. The second moment was signaled by the appearance of a deep purple color in the work. This Purple Stage was also known by the Latin word for purple, Iosis. Purple is actually the color of gold in solution and is an indicator of pure gold atoms in chemistry, which meant the gold revealed by the Yellow Stage was being seeded in the experiment and would eventually grow to transform the entire matter. Alchemists also referred to this stage as the “Transmutation of the Venom”, and they believed it meant that any contamination or poisons left over from the Nigredo were now completely purified and assimilated.
During the transition between Albedo and Rubedo, the work still entered a short stage of putrefaction. The alchemists believed putrefaction was a final cleansing of impurities in the work and sometimes referred to it as the “Purgation of the Stone”. It was considered a final death to any contaminants or remnants of ego in the matter, and it was a necessary prelude to the resurrection or rebirth of the matter on a more perfect or spiritual level. At the darkest moment of putrefaction, often a sudden display of many brilliant colors occurred, which the alchemists named the Peacock’s Tail, or Cauda Pavonis in Latin. This rainbow of colors signaled a fundamental change in the matter since it made the transition from black, the absence of color, to white, which contains all colors. This can be seen as a moment of peace and tranquility before the final phase of Rubedo.
After underoing the last two phases and experiencing the death of putrefaction, the matter of the work was depleted of energy and life force. To make this pure but sterile Earth come alive again, the alchemists felt it must have fresh blood and undergo reddening in the fire. This infusion of life into the dead matter was accomplished by the loving union of the White Queen (universal feminine essence of soul) with the Red King (universal masculine essence of spirit), who work together during Rubedo in a cosmic process sometimes referred to as the “Marriage of the sun and the moon”.
The completion of this Red Phase of transformation was brought about by three last operations. Two dynamic processes known as fermentation and distillation, which combine opposing energies in the work. And the final process of coagulation, which is the final crystallization of energy and matter that becomes the Philosopher’s Stone.
The fifth operation of Fermentation was a miracle of nature to the ancients, since it is the conversion of organic substances into new compounds in the presence of fermenting bacteria. The most common fermentation is the conversion of sugars into alcohol, which held special meaning for alchemists, since they felt alcohol was the actual spiritual essence of a substance. The putrefaction, whose end was signaled by the appearance of the Peacock’s Tail, is actually a natural part of the fermentation process. It is the first step in fermentation, when the matter is allowed to rot and decompose. The cipher alchemists used to designate putrefaction was the astrological sign of Leo. When true fermentation begins, the dead material seems to come to life again as movement and bubbling gases emerge from the influx of digesting bacteria. Alchemists assigned the astrological cipher for Capricorn to the process of fermentation.
Psychological fermentation is the introduction of new life into the inner presence created during personal conjunction. Any problems starting the fermentation process giving birth to the child of the conjunction stem from impurities in our character carried over from the White Phase, which are finally destroyed during the psychological death of putrefaction. Fermentation on the personal level starts with the inspiration of spiritual power that reanimates, energizes, and enlightens the blackened ego. In simpler terms, fermentation is a living, loving inspiration from something totally beyond and outside us in the spiritual realm. Like the colorful Peacock’s Tail of its chemical counterpart, psychological fermentation is often initiated by colorful visions that involve a higher form of imagination the alchemists called the “True Imagination”. They felt the mental images experienced during fermentation were true representations of a higher spiritual reality and not mere fantasy.
After this, comes the sixth operation of distillation, which is the boiling and condensation of a solution to increase its concentration and purity. The alchemists believed that distillation released the pure essence or spirit of a substance in the evaporating vapors, which could then be concentrated using a process known as rectification. This process of rectification refined or purified a substance via repeated distillations, eventually producing a thick and extremely concentrated solutoin the alchemists called the “Mother of the Stone”. This made distillation the most important operation in practical alchemy, since alchemists spent months distilling the same solution over and over. The astrological sign of Virgo was chosen as the cipher for this operation. The alchemists also used sublimation, which they considered a superior form of distillation that led directly to their treasured Philosopher’s Stone. This operation used the astrological sign of Libra as its cipher.
In psychological terms, distillation is a process of spiritization that involves repeated separation and recombination of the spiritual aspects with the unrefined thoughts and emotions of the personality. This is actually a very natural process that we can observe simply by paying attention to our daily lives, since we are always recycling thoughts and regurgitating emotions in a never-ending struggle to organize our lives and find direction and meaning. This chaotic process goes on unchecked and unnoticed until a distilled idea breaks through in the form of a new insight or revised judgment. Personal distillation, however, requires being conscious of this process and deliberately pursuing it to its conclusion. The deliberate agitation and sublimation of psychic forces is necessary to ensure that no impurities from the inflated ego or submerged shadow are incorporated into the new self manifesting in the final stages of transformation.
The seventh and final operation of alchemy is coagulation, in which the body is made spiritual and the spirit is made corporeal. Coagulation produces a new incarnation that can survive in all realms. Chemical coagulation is the physical manifestation of the essence created during conjunction, born during fermentation, and purified in distillation. It is accomplished by the congealing, precipitating, or sublimating of the solidified essence or child of the conjunction. This fixation of spiritual forces is what creates the Philosopher’s Stone, which embodies the principle of transmutation itself. The cipher for coagulation is the astrological sign of Gemini.
With the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, two more operations are now available to alchemists. The first is projection, which is the process of transmuting the base metals into gold. The second operation of the Stone is multiplication, which is the act or process of multiplying or increasing the quantity or volume of something. Even the Stone itself and its powers can be magically multiplied. Multiplication provides the raw material for the elixir of life, drinkable gold, and other panaceas that the alchemists promised would cure all diseases. The cipher for projection is the astrological sign of Pisces, while the cipher for multiplication is the astrological sign of Aquarius.
The most common symbol of coagulation is the Phoenix, a mythical bird that built its nest in a fire and then rose from the ashes completely reborn as a new creature. Alchemists sometimes called the Phoenix the “Ortus”, the rectified one. They described it as a four-legged bird with black eyes, a white face, white forepaws, black hind paws, and a red head with streaks of pure gold reaching to its neck. It was also closely related to the Emerald Tablet, since both are said to have originated in Phoenicia. Egyptian writings also refer to the Emerald Tablet as the Phoenix, like can be found in an ancient stele “I am the Great Phoenix which is in Heliopolis. I am the rendering of all that is and will exist”. the Egyptians also equated the Phoenix with their sacred bird, the Bennu, which symbolized the completely spiritized self that rises up from the lower nature of the soul.
Psychologically, the Phoenix is the resurrected personality that is fully manifested during coagulation, the embodiment of a new state of awareness beyond either masculine or feminine ways of knowing. Paracelsus named this cosmic essence the Iliaster, which literally means “the star in man”. He described it as the “completely healed human being who has burned away all the dross of his lower being and is free to fly as the Phoenix”.On the spiritual level, coagulation produces an entirely new body for the alchemist. This second body is often described as a body of light, which is the Ultima Materia (Ultimate Matter) of the soul. Many experience it as a projected golden body of coalesced light that Paracelsus named the Astral Body, literally the Star Body.
Overall, this brings to an end a summarized version of all the essential concepts you need to have an idea of as we explain the connections to alchemy that exist in the Pokémon games.
Pokémon and Alchemy, an Unexpected Connection
After that very long explanation, some of you might already have connected a few dots, but more likely than not you are still asking yourself what Pokémon has to do with alchemy, right?
Well, it should be obvious by now that Pokémon likes to use groups of legendary pokémon to represent concepts, usually organized in trios or duos. These concepts basically come from various places in the world, and represent alternate perspectives of the Three Principles or of the Two Contraries. This also explains why some pokémon oppose or complete each other, but sometimes have a third balancing member, or a fourth offshoot companion.
Upon further investigation and thinking, I have also verified that all the main legendary pokémon groups can be associated to concepts that exist in different levels of reality, some closer to the divine and others closer to the earthly. This basically means that if you take all the main legendary pokémon groups and organize them together, you get Pokémon’s very own version of the Tree of Life, which basically amounts to an explanation of how everything works together.
Due to this, I have put together my interpretation of Pokémon’s Tree of Life, but before I show it to you I want to explain how the X & Y and Sun & Moon legendaries come together as a representation of the Ladder of the Planets and the Operations of Alchemy. I also want to show you what I believe the Sun & Moon legendaries will be based on.
That said, without further ado, here’s my interpretation of what the X & Y and Sun & Moon legendary pokémon represent:
[EDIT 13/05/2016 01:00 – Ignore the Phoenix and Pegasus ideas, just replace them with the lion and bat symbolism at the end of the post.]
Yveltal = Earth Element – represents Saturn and Mercury / Calcination and Fermentation (Putrefaction)
Xerneas = Air Element – represents Jupiter and Mercury / Dissolution and Fermentation (Real Fermentation)
Phoenix = Fire Element – represents Mars and Sun / Separation and Coagulation
Pegasus = Water Element – represents Venus and Moon / Conjunction and Distillation
Zygarde 50% Forme = Balance of the Elements (Ouroboros) – represents the life force or energies being exchanged in alchemical transformations happening in nature
Zygarde Cell = life force existant in nature
Red Zygarde Core = Red King – represents the volatile masculine and active energies of nature
Blue Zygarde Core = White Queen – represents the fixed feminine and passive energies of nature
Red Zygarde 10% Forme = Wolf – represents the metal antimony and the chaotic forces of nature
Blue Zygarde 10% Forme = Dog – represents the metal mercury and the benevolent forces of nature
Zygarde Complete Forme = Philosopher’s Stone (Ultima Materia / Three-headed Serpent or Dragon – represents the spirit made corporeal (life force in nature fully contained in Zygarde), and the body made spiritual (Zygarde attains the full power of nature)
Magearna = Lesser Stone (Sacred Marriage / Intelligence of the Heart / Philosopher’s Child) – represents an unstable version of Zygarde’s Complete Forme that hasn’t matured yet, therefore it’s an “artificial” Philosopher’s Stone
To fully understand this, lets take a look at each one of them, starting with Yveltal and Xerneas.
To better comprehend what Yveltal and Xerneas are all about I recommend watching Pokémon the Movie: Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction, since things will make much more sense after you watch it and I might mention things from the movie below.
Yveltal is a personification of Saturn since it’s the Alpha that triggers the start of the whole process of transformation. That also makes him the Omega, since it will be waiting at the end of the process to start it all over again. On one side, it’s associated with darkness and death, which is made evident by its destructive behaviour while under the influence of its Dark Aura. On the other side, it’s also a symbol of transformation and the darkness before the light, which is represented by its calmer self flying into the skies and the cocoon (egg) shape it takes while inactive. Crows and ravens, the inspiration for Yveltal, were often associated with bad omens and a premonition of things to come in various cultures, in addition to black alchemical operations, like Calcination and Putrefaction. The white ashes that are a result of these processes can also be seen covering the victims of its Oblivion Wing, that grow as people after being freed from its effects. It also represents the Earth Element, something thrown in your face since the cocoon is buried under the earth in the movie. The color black is also one of the colors associated with the Earth Element, and is found in Yveltal’s color scheme. The three colors used in its regular and shiny designs (black, white and red) might represent the three phases of alchemy that follow the transformation that Yveltal triggers.
Xerneas is a personification of both Jupiter and Mercury. This is easily noticeable when you pit him against Yveltal, since it’s the ligh that overcomes the dark, something that happens in both of the operations associated with those planets. On one hand, Xernea’s Fairy Aura seems to have a calming effect and to nurture personal growth, influencing a being to overcome its flaws. Like Xerneas tells Diancie “It is you yourself that will have to foster life”. On the other hand, its Geomancy seems to have healing and regenerative powers, bringing about physical growth. While using it and turning into its tree form, wise Xerneas says “Do not be sad. This is not a death. This is a sign of birth. And the beginning of hope.”. Both of its powers and the messages conveyed in the movie have a very Jupiterian nature, to say the least. However, Xerneas has a Mercurian side too. Not only does it travel around protecting others and transmitting the knowledge of the law of nature, it can also speak through telepathy. The most telling detail that confirms this though, is its androgynous nature, because even though it resembles a stag (male deer) its voice sounds very feminine. This is probably because Xerneas might be based on the Greek legend of the ceryneian hide, a female deer that looked like a stag with golden antlers. What this means is that Xerneas has the union of the masculine and feminine aspects within itself, which effectively turns him into the messenger of the gods and the guardian of the tree of life. Moreover, the fact its antlers become golden and shine with the seven colors of the rainbow, just like the Peacock’s Tail of the Fermentation operation, while using its powers in general, and later shine with pure golden light while Xerneas transforms into a tree, further supports this aspect. Its Fairy type seems to come from the Celtic legends of stags and deers commanding armies of fairies and guiding people between different dimensions of reality. Finally, we can conclude that it represents the Air Element because it gracefully bounces around while moving, and its design contains two of the colors strongly associated with this element, sky blue and pastel yellow (specially in the antlers when inactive and active, respectively).
Now that we understand the pokémon that represent the first two elements, it’s time I introduce you to the pokémon that represent the other two and are the potential legendary pokémon of Pokémon Sun & Moon. Here they are:
You can find these two by looking at the silhouttes above Ishihara’s hand in the Pokémon Sun & Moon announcement trailer, and then stretching the perspective so you can get closer to what they would like when seen from his position. Let me try to outline those bodies, so I can show you what I think they are.
As you can see, if their final appearences end up being somewhat similar to the outlined silhouttes above, our legendary pokémon will probably be based on a pegasus and a phoenix. Here’s two artworks of those creatures for comparison.
Seems close, right? Well, that’s not the only thing supporting those creatures though, because their mythology and symbology also relates to what they would represent. Let me tackle each one of them.
First of all, the Pegasus has clear links to the Water Element, since it could make springs of water come forth by knocking with its hooves on the ground (Its cousin Unicorn could also purify water and heal sickness). Besides that, three of the colors associated with the Water Element are silver, the color of the moon, and blue and purple, which seem to be the colors of one of the Sun & Moon boxes. It has an obvious connection to Venus as the horse of the Muses, emphasizing its connection to femininity and the passion for the arts and romance. Pegasus also had strong ties to Athena, one of the Greek equivalents of Isis, the Egyptian goddess of the Moon and representation of the White Queen archetype. This, together with its silvery white color, directly connects it with the Moon, which is known for controlling the ebb and flow of tides. The operations of purification associated with these two planets, Conjunction and Distillation, often used white animals or birds as a symbol of purity and ascention, namely the white horse and the unicorn. Therefore, a pegasus is an equally fitting choice to represent both as a pokémon, and even reinforces the concept due to its wings possibly symbolizing the ascention of the soul into the spiritual realm.
When it comes to the Phoenix it has clear connections to the Fire Element, since it burns itself at the end of its life. Furthermore, the colors red, orange, gold and yellow are often associated with the Fire Element, and one of the Sun & Moon boxes seems to have an orange and yellow color cheme. It has obvious links to Mars, since it’s a bird that assertively burns itself without fear, as a way to surpass the limitations of age and nature, to renew itself from the ashes of said fire and keep on living eternally (If that isn’t manly, I don’t know what is). This rebirth process also parallels the constant purification of the Sun in which cooler and darker impurities, known as sunspots, rise to the surface and are ejected or burned off. The rebirth of the Phoenix connects it to the Egyptian god Osiris (death and afterlife), a representation of the Red King archetype, and his child with Isis, Horus (Sun and life), a representation of the Child of the Philosopher’s who has received the union of the masculine and feminine energies within itself and ascended into the heavens. The operations of Separation and Coagulation have everything to do with finding one’s true self or letting it ascend into spiritual form, with Separation usually using birds flying over burned lanscapes as imagery and Coagulation being represented by the symbol of the Phoenix, so the mythical bird can be used as a stand in for both processes when turned into a pokémon.
As a side note, I would also like to mention that the “Marriage of the Sun and the Moon” mentioned before, can probably be interpreted as being a solar eclipse when it comes to daily life events, so there’s a strong chance the plot of Pokémon Sun & Moon will require a solar eclipse, or preventing one, at some point in the story.
Now that we are done with these two, let’s move on onto the last member of this group, Zygarde and its many forms.
First we have Zygarde’s Cell Forme which seems to be simply a representation of the life force existant in nature all around us, which is probably the reason why the Zygarde Cores can use the little guys to monitor their surroundings and to grow in size, changing into the other formes.
Zygarde’s Core Forme seems to be a bit more complex, since we have seen both a red and blue core in the anime. The fact there are two of them, seems to suggest that the Red Core represents the volatile masculine and active energies of nature, while the Blue Core represents the fixed feminine and passive energies of nature. This is also supported by the anime, because the Red Core feels like they should observe and interact with humans to verify it they really pose a threat to the ecosystem, while the Blue Core feels like they shouldn’t deal with humans since they are most likely dangerous and all the same. The existance of this duality also seems to imply that only by fusing both of them together can you obtain Complete Forme Zygarde.
Overall, these two formes seem to be based on a real creature, the planarian worm. These small little wonders of nature are essentially immortal since they have amazing regenerative capabilities, and if you cut or divide them each of the parts will just become its own individual or even meld back together, while retaining the memories and experiences of when it was whole. Moreover, their mouths are generally located around the region where the Zygarde Cores have their core, and all individuals are hermaphrodites, male and female at the same time. There are a few species who can do photosynthesis like the Red Zygarde Core, and some species who have a greenish coloration too. Finally, most of them can be found in dark and wet places, which the Terminus Cave seems to be.
Next we have Zygarde’s 10% Forme, which seems to be based on the dog and wolf symbolism. It makes sense, since the Red Core can represent the metal antimony and the chaotic forces of nature of the wolf, while the Blue Core can represent the metal mercury and the benevolent forces of nature of the dog. Together they make the complete forces of nature.
Zygarde’s 50% Forme seems to be a reference to the symbol of the Ouroboros, since it’s said to monitor the ecosystem and to only reveal its true power when it falls into disarray. This directly references the union of everything in harmony, including the balance of the Four Elements. Since Zygarde is the serpent dragon of the Ouroboros, that means it also is the Fifth Element, or life force of nature, that is both born out of the balance of the other four and keeps them in perpetual balance. The five headed crown of enlightenment on its back, seems to be a reference to these five elements. So far, we have seen each Zygarde Core transform itself into this forme on its own in the anime, but never go behind it, suggesting once again that both need to unite to make Complete Forme Zygarde.
I would also like to point out that it would make a ton of sense if the Red Core could use Thousand Arrows and the Blue Core could use Thousand Waves, since arrows are associated with the masculine side and waves are associated with the feminine side.
Last but not least, we have Zygarde Complete Forme, which seems to represent the three-headed dragon or Philosopher’s Stone, the body made spiritual and the spirit made corporeal. The appendages on each of its sides are a reference to each core, which we already covered in terms of meaning. They can also be seen forming the other two heads besides the central one, like in this Pokémon Tretta trailer, and probably represent something equivalent to the two snakes on each side of the Caduceus staff, for example. Moreover, the fact Zygarde’s head looks like a crown and has a third eye, also supports that it’s an ascended being while in this forme. The fives cores in Zygarde’s chest confirm that it has absorbed the powers of the five elements, with the ones on each extrimity representing Xerneas and Yveltal, the other two probably representing the Pegasus and the Phoenix, and the last white one representing itself, the fifth element. This rainbow of colors on its chest can possibly indicate that Zygarde’s Complete Forme is also slightly based on the the Rainbow Man petroglyph, or Indalo, which can signify good luck and the grace of the creator, and has been found both in Spain and Hawaii. We can thus conclude that Zygarde’s secret power is its Complete Forme, which theoretically has full control over all the elements and forces of natures.
Finally, we have Magearna, which is an artificially created pokémon, made by a Leonardo da Vinci looking guy, using Mystery Science (a.k.a. Mystery School Teachings, which propagate alchemic beliefs). As seen in the first movie trailer for Volcanion and The Ingenious Magearna, even her blueprints bear some resemblance to Leonardo’s works. Moreover, Magearna is said to hold a secret power, much like Zygarde. This power is known as Soul Heart, which seems to be a direct reference to the Egyptian expression “Intelligence of the Heart”, which described the union of the soul and spirit after the conjunction operation, two elements referenced by the blue and pink halfs on her chest and heart mechanism, as seen in the second movie trailer. This means that Magearna is a Lesser Stone, which we can understand as being an imperfect or unstable version of Complete Forme Zygarde. That said, we can assume that Jarvis will somehow unleash Magearna’s powers in the movie, which will result in something bad happening due to the instability, and Complete Forme Zygarde will have to step in to set things straight again and keep Magearna from damaging the ecosystem. Another interesting detail is that Magearna can fold itself into a pokéball shape, which might imply that pokéballs are lesser stones used to contain a pokémon while in its life force state. Opposed to that we have the Mega Stones, which seem to be full blown Philosopher’s Stones that allow a pokémon to ascend into an higher form.
Before I move on to the final part, I would like to mention that the Anistar Sundial seems to be related to the Ladder of the Planets, because the object in the center of the plaza looks like Saturn, which we know is the Alpha and the Omega, but also looks like the Sun with the other six planets orbiting around it, indicating the powers of the Philosopher’s Stone are also present (this latter appearence only happens when the sun shines through the hole in the crystal). This might explain why it’s related to the Mega Stones and you need to talk to Professor Sycamore there before departing in a search for them. The mystery might go even deeper than that though, since there’s a chance the new region could have a Moondial that is somehow linked to it.
Now that you understand how the X & Y and Sun & Moon games make it obvious that Pokémon is using alchemic concepts as a basis for their legendary pokémon, I would like to leave you with a diagram composed of the main legendary pokémon of each generation, which covers my interpretation of the Pokémon Tree of Life. I left out the less important legendaries, but I might make a complete version later once I investigate them properly. You can also take a look at this page on Bulbapedia as a reference to Pokémon myths, and at this video as a reference to the Heart Gold / Soul Silver Arceus Event and the transmutation circle and ritual shown there, since they might help you to better understand where I’m getting at. I encourage you to take a look and share your own thoughts in the comments.
[EDIT 13/05/2016 01:00 – Slightly updated the diagram below.]
After all of that, I think we can safely conclude that the true origin of all legendary pokémon lies in alchemy, since they are all based on the basic alchemic principles that permeate all religions and cultures.
We can also predict that the Sun & Moon legendaries will likely be based on a Pegasus and a Phoenix, and will bring everything together by adding the last two missing pieces in the puzzle that is the Tree of Life of legendary pokémon.
In the end, I hope I was able to explain and transmit to you all the concepts I had in mind.
So thank you very much for reading my work, I hope you liked it!
I would also like to hear your thoughts about this topic, so leave me a comment below if anything comes to mind.
Also, please consider sharing this article with other Pokémon fans so they will learn about this too.
If you happen to like the article and feel like sharing these ideas via your own site or Youtube channel, feel free to do so, but please remember to properly designate this page of nintendokusou.com as the source of your information, ok? And in case of a site, please do not copy the full contents of this article, and link your readers here instead. After you share it, be sure to let me know so I can go participate in the discussion too, if there is one.
Finally, I leave you with a few sites and materials which might help you to better understand and research these topics on your own.
[EDIT 13/05/2016 01:00]
The legendaries have now been shown, and are a lion and a bat.
Even though they aren’t a pegasus and a phoenix, their symbolism and association still matches. So it’s too soon to say the theory is wrong, specially considering what we know about Yveltal, Xerneas and Zygarde matches.
Just replace pegasus with bat, and phoenix with lion, and you will see that it still makes perfect sense, specially when you consider each animals symbolism and behavior.
This does make me curious about those two silhouettes that were in the first trailer, since they can be literally anything at this point.
Below, you can find some images I put together regarding the symbolism around the lion and the bat.
I also included another image with the possiblity that the Sun & Moon legendaries could be based on machine prototypes by Leonardo da Vinci.
Made this new material explaining why Game Freak is using the symbol of the Lily Flower in Pokémon X & Y and Pokémon Sun & Moon, and how it connects to Sacred Geometry.
(Also had to compress the file, so you can find the original over here)
(Click or download to see better):
Made this new material in an attempt to correlate the legendary pokémon we have with the various concepts we know of now. I made this because I realized that Diancie, Hoopa, Volcanion, and maybe Magearna, seem to be connected to the Platonic Solid shapes. Don’t know if this means we will get another 3 mythical pokémon in Pokémon Sun and Moon, but I wouldn’t exclude the possibility as of now. There’s also the possibilty of a third (or more) main legendary pokémon showing up in association with Solgaleo and Lunala, so some of the things might change depending on who it is and what it represents.
You can also take a look at this article for some amazing solids constructed by combining one of the base solids with itself.
(Click or download to see better):
With the release of the new trailers and information, I put some ideas together in another piece of material which you can see below.
(Click or download to see better):
We now know that Tapu Koko is in fact Ku. No doubt about it.
I also think that Xerneas is simply Jupiter, and Mercury is in fact related to Zygarde.
I’m also now convinced that Volcanion is the Dodecahedron and not the Cube like I previously theorized. The image below shows that, and the interpretations of the Dodecahedron as a Platonic Solid that I have found also reinforce that idea, since they mention the symbology of Water and Fire coming together.
Moreover, here’s something I made about the Hawaiian Islands:
Finally, I wanted to say that I’m already working on a new article that will be a follow up on this one and cover several topics, such as:
– Tapu Koko and the other guardian’s connection to ancient Hawaiian legends and traditions.
– The connection Alola and the four guardians have with the Zodiac and Elemental Quaternity.
– What the Zygarde Cube really is. Hint: It’s not a cube.
– The probable rivalry between Marshadow and Zygarde.
– Many other minor details I’m still looking up.
Stay tuned for that, and thanks for reading all of this.