The most miraculous transformation of life as an example of Alchemy is right among us. It is the one from the caterpillar to the butterfly. Let’s use it as a metaphor to grasp the seven steps of Alchemical transformation. The caterpillar spends most of its life consuming the world around it until it grows thick and fat. This recklessness is very much like our daily unconscious behavior. We live by the term that money can buy anything, and there is no need to care for the world we pass on to our children.
One day the caterpillar’s internal clock goes off. Everything gets heavy and, in time, comes to a complete stop. At this turning point, we realize that the world’s resources are vast but not infinite. Moreover, we are sowing off the branch of the tree we are sitting on. At last, we are not passing on the world to our children, but we borrow it from them.
The caterpillar spins itself into a cocoon. We can compare this step to becoming conscious of being unconscious. Our introspection starts. We stop looking for the meaning of life outside and in materialistic satisfaction and instead focus inwards and start the most miraculous transformation of life.
STEP 1: CALCINATION
The old structure of the caterpillar is breaking down and going through a form of death. Now we embark on the first step of our Alchemical journey called Calcination. We are burning off our old conditioning, habits, beliefs, impure thoughts, and ego.
STEP 2: DISSOLUTION
With this seeming death, the caterpillar dissolves into a liquid mess. It enters the second steps of Dissolution. After smashing our ego in the previous step, we dive into the murky waters of the unconscious. Feelings and emotions the ego suppressed previously come to the surface. This liberation is like opening the floodgates to our unconscious, initiating further purification.
STEP 3: SEPARATION
Slowly new kinds of cells start forming in the caterpillar. We call them imaginal cells. At first, the caterpillar’s old cells see them as a threat and fight them. So, these new cells need to seclude themselves to survive. The butterfly enters the step of Separation. For us humans, this step starts when our True Essence slowly surfaces after we have freed ourselves from old obstacles. For the first time, we start feeling our true suppressed gifts we got for our mission here on Earth. It is time to separate this essence from everyone’s expectations and our rigid beliefs.
STEP 4: CONJUNCTION
The imaginal cells keep multiplying and clustering until they reach a critical mass. Once they pass that tipping point, the old cells start cooperating with the new ones. This synergetic effort leads to further replication and specialization. The wings, the antenna, and everything specific to the butterfly begin forming. Still, the old cells continue to work, e.g., as digestive cells. This critical step on the Alchemical ladder, called Conjunction, brings opposites together. Applied to our self-development, this is the point where we start diving into our gifts. We begin the exploration of their vastness and specialization. For the first time in the process, we feel an alignment between Body, Soul, and Spirit connecting the Above and the Below. Furthermore, we start integrating the opposing masculine and feminine forces within us into divine harmony.
THE MOST MIRACULOUS TRANSFORMATION OF LIFE CONTINUES…
The butterfly takes form but is far from finished. If we took it out of its cocoon now, it would not be able to fly and might not even be able to live. The same applies to us. We need to go through all seven steps of Alchemy. Everything else would be either “spiritual bypassing”, or we stay stuck in a “monk’s pride” attitude and drop back in our journey. Maturing is crucial, which happens in further steps of the most miraculous transformation of life.
STEP 5: FERMENTATION
In the next step, the remaining old cells which resist accepting the new form will die away. All old has to die for the new to ultimately thrive. This final death isn’t an easy but necessary operation. Gentle heat from the sun supports the process by warming up the cocoon. Once the butterfly has finished this step, the wings and all details have perfectly formed. Applied to human life, this is the step where the last connections to the old ego die. Our old life, friends, and family are still pulling us back. They want the old version of us. Yet, we have an innate feeling that only the new us can fulfill our mission. A natural struggle happens. This inner conflict is often accompanied by depression and hardships. We are descending into a final “Dark night of the soul”— all the subtle impurities, everything that is corruptible must suffer a final death. Like the butterfly, to support this process, a gentle inner fire is of help. We can fuel it with our devotion and the higher vision we strive toward. We are in the Fermentation step, which first forces the old to rot and die and then the new to mature. Eventually, we see the light at the end of the tunnel which is a sign that this step is nearing its end.
STEP 6: DISTILLATION
All the details of the butterfly are perfect now. The new structure became fully aligned with its new form. Still, the process of the most miraculous transformation of life continues. A final reordering and refinement are necessary. The butterfly struggles within the cocoon to gain its final strength to break free. For us humans, this is the step where we have found our path and keep narrowing it down to its core essence. By now, we know deep in our hearts about our divinity. Every cell of our body feels the connection to our divine source. Through Distillation, the name of this second to last step, we raise our True Essence to the Above and infuse it with Spirit. Whatever is not perfect yet will drop for further Distillation. After multiple rounds, everything we do, share and are gets infused with this higher Spirit. Our essence and our offerings emanate this previously unrecognized light. Like no one would have guessed that a caterpillar once becomes a butterfly.
STEP 7: COAGULATION
Finally, the butterfly is perfect and ready to break free from its cocoon. In this final step of Coagulation, its new form solidifies. Moreover, its wings spread, and it becomes ready to fly and share its unique beauty with the world. This last step in us humans becomes embodied as a complete alignment with our soul mission. This metamorphosis does not mean that we are enlightened yet. It means we came a big step closer to who we truly are. We gain a feeling of contentment and a unique presence. People around us start feeling this newly found spirit within us. We become an inspiration for them to live their dreams and soul mission. The result of this last step is the philosopher’s stone which can turn lead into gold. Once we live our mission and inspire others, we can start seeing the immediate light of gold in their eyes by sharing our authentic presence and gifts. However, this only works with a completely egoless and humble approach to life fully connected to the divine spirit within us.
AND THEN? BACK TO STEP 1
Is the most miraculous transformation of life finished now? NO. But, why all this effort when we have to go back to step 1? Rest assured; you don’t go back to the first step as the same person. Your consciousness is different. You start solving challenges that seemed hopeless before. The one thing that makes all the difference is our attitude which we form through our consciousness. With a new attitude, the world looks and behaves differently to us. The curse and power of this realization are that nothing changed on the outside. All change happens inside of us. The real power lies dormant in each one of us. It waits for ignition to become as strong as the sun’s power, which we can then shine in our life. That is our true mission accomplished through our soul mission — the Great Work or Opus Magnus of Alchemy.