Blackening in Alchemy
The ‘Black Phase,’ in the western alchemy of the dark ages, referred to the beginning phases of transforming base metals into gold. Western and Taoist alchemy are said to come from a similar origin in pre-history, but that is beyond the scope of this writing. Both traditions focus on the transformation of metals as a metaphor for the transformation of consciousness with the practitioner.
The Black Phase got its name from the color of melting and fusing base metals of lead, tin, iron, and copper into a new alloy that was black. This alloy could be heated in mercury to turn white (The White Phase), and then further transformed by heat into a red-violet color (The Red Phase) to indicate some gold had been created.
The Blackening or Black Phase in a spiritual transformation is a parallel journey in that we take all the character defects, negative emotions, setbacks, and failures and face them squarely. Proactively and consciously, we can transform the psychological raw material with the light of our consciousness. Or, life can force us to face these issues with trials. Spiritual masters say the longer we ignore the darkness in ourselves, the more trials we will face.
Blackening is said to be the longest and most difficult phase in alchemy. The goal is to use fire to reduce the subject to its most fundamental ingredients and then use water to wash away the impurities. The impure materials must be removed, or they can contaminate the process at later stages. In a meditation path, greed, lust, ego, etc., if left unexamined, can return at a later stage in the spiritual practice. Then, the short comings will be magnified by all the energy produced from the chi kung, meditation, or alchemy practice.
The elements of fire and water inside of us are used to ‘cook’ out the feelings of shame, embarrassment, and guilt. We uncover the aspects we’ve hidden away inside of ourselves through a process called Calcination, which western alchemists used to describe as ‘reducing to bone by burning.’ Dissolution is used to dissolve the ashes of Calcination in water.
First though, the physical body must be strong enough to withstand the changes of the alchemical process. Practices of Taoist alchemy and strengthening the physical body can be found in:
The Alchemist’s Tao Te Ching:
Transforming Your Lead Into Gold