Conjunction in Alchemy
The fourth stage in western alchemy is called conjunction. After calcination (burning), dissolution (washing), separation (filtering), only the purest material is left to combine in the conjunction phase. The saved elements from the previous steps represent the range of the four elements of water, fire, air (metal in Taoism) and wood (only in Taoism, not western alchemy) that are combined into the fifth element, a purified form of earth energy.
In Taoist alchemy, a conjunction-like process is undertaken at the heart. Taoist alchemy also builds upon the previous work, which, when done correctly, has cleaned out the practitioner to ensure the conjunction process is not tainted. In Taoist alchemy, the heart relates to the sun and the energies that combine in the heart resonate with the planets. Just like the sun is the center of the solar system, the heart is the center of the human being. The various parts of our mental and spiritual energy can integrate to make us a more harmonious whole.
Alchemists from east and west refer to the new energy as a process like birthing an inner child. The process is called birthing ‘the immortal fetus’ in Taoism or ‘the child of conjunction’ in western alchemy. In meditation, it is a Sacred Marriage of the male and female energies inside of us. These were combined with the union of the masculine and feminine energies of nature. The inner sexual imagery sounded like incest to religious officials and provided another reason to ban internal alchemy.
The whole process of working toward enlightenment can hinge on the success of conjunction. The new consciousness that emerges, the inner child, must be cared for like a real child. Unfortunately, the pressures of society, family, career, and everyday life can be too much for the optimistic ideals of the newly conjuncted adept. But, there is hope for change as a new, refreshing, unexpected, and wonderful presence emerges after the darkness a soul encounters in calcination and dissolution. With care and practice, it is said that the purified consciousness of conjunction becomes crystallized into an incorruptible pearl or stone.
If the imagery of internal alchemy seems too abstract, there is a simpler way. John Prine recommended “blow up your tv, throw away your paper, move to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try to find Jesus on your own.”
Tao Te Ching:
Transforming Your Lead Into Gold