// RUBEDO //
The final stage of the perfection of an Alchemical Operation (of which Tarot is but one abstract example, if you take it seriously enough, and each human life the same) is known as RUBEDO, or “the Reddening Stage”.
This is symbolically tied to some very ancient and sacred motifs – blood, red roses, a crowned king dressed in red, the mythical phoenix – a bird born from, and immune to fire – the metal gold, the Sun, and so on.
It can take many years, ‘an age’, after ALBEDO and CITRINITAS (Whitening and Yellowing, later in Alchemy CITRINITAS and ALBEDO merged into one stage) for RUBEDO to perfect and finish its work.
After the division and separation and gradual reconciliation of opposites that took place in the NIGREDO collapse and putrefaction (ruled over by Saturn) and the ALBEDO rebirth and reflection (ruled by the Moon), the complete integration of these now ‘playful’ and thoroughly understood dimensions of Self/Other and Problem/Solution and similar antagonistic dualities are unified into a wise, spiritualized, tempered approach to living in the long-term RUBEDO process – which is a solar process (ruled by the Sun), and is irreversible. It ceases to be a spiritual process – it, as it were, ‘enters the blood’.
It is not ‘mere’ insight – which is ultimately revealed to have finite depth.
It is the School Of Hard Knocks application of insight to skilful living…
How to take This, and live – sanely and skilfully?
This is the ‘Doing-The-Work’ part of so-called enlightenment or insight or any meditative process/practice which erodes the ego and leads to shorter and shorter delays between perceptions of reality and appropriate, spontaneous and living responses to those signals, rather than ideological blindness, stubborn habitual patterns and outright self-delusion of those with ‘terrible conviction’ – and little grasp of Reality.
All that has been annihilated in the NIGREDO, then owned and atoned for (at-one’d, embraced, integrated, made whole) in the ALBEDO.
What remains must be forged into firm, profound depths of character relating to the insight and development undertaken in the previous stages, and rebirth as a more connected, individuated, complete and autonomous ‘self’ (or, indeed, lack thereof…)
As the old Zen koan says:
Before enlightenment – chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment – chop wood, carry water…
~ Zen Koan
This is seemingly an adaptation of what is most probably the origin quote:
My daily activities are not unusual,
I’m just naturally in harmony with them.
Grasping nothing, discarding nothing.
In every place there’s no hindrance, no conflict.
My supernatural power and marvelous activity:
Drawing water and chopping wood.
~ Layman Pang, Zen Buddhist
If the NIGREDO is the presentation of an ambiguous but persistent question about what is actually wrong with a querent (Water), and the ALBEDO is the spreading and interpretation of the Tarot and application of its wisdom into the life of the querent (Air), then the RUBEDO is the ongoing determination to stay the course, transform, and allow change to be the new default stability (Fire), rather than the inconvenient interloper that must occasionally be suffered in between extended periods of slow familiarity, security in constancy, and the assured stagnation of the fearful and feckless facing the fearsome, unalterable truth – “all this must pass…”…EARTH.
Only through the embrace and full acceptance of Saturn’s hard, adult lessons and the reflective, cyclical plasticity of lunar enfoldment of this process into the depths of Being can spiritual growth be secured, and one more step on the road to immortality be engraved in the map of our journey.
The Alchemist’s Secret of course, was that the real essence of the RUBEDO was the experienced revelation that although “all this must pass” indeed…there was, and still is, nowhere to go…except round, as it were, the tail of the Ouroboros snake, and straight back into the Head.
Dissolution and Reconstitution.
Solve et Coagula.
Decay and Reformation.
“This is it!” they realized.
“All at Once and All the Time!”
In the state of ‘whiteness’ one does not live in the true sense of the word. In order to make it come alive it must have ‘blood’, it must have what the alchemists called the Rubedo, the ‘redness’ of life. Only the experience of being can transform this ideal state into a fully human mode of existence. Blood alone can reanimate a glorious state of consciousness in which the last traces of blackness is dissolved, in which the devil no longer has an autonomous existence, but rejoins the profound unity of the psyche. Then the opus magnum is finished: the human soul is completely integrated.
~ Carl Gustav Jung, psychoanalyst
When I first began reading tarot, a very wise woman, Emilie, a French – young – lady, who knew more about Tarot then than I will ever know, told me : “If you wish to read Tarot well – live hard!”
My God, did I ever try.
So the RUBEDO ‘gives blood’ to the otherwise easily insipid and sanctimonious introspection and ‘conspicuous spirituality’ of the characteristic reflectiveness of the ALBEDO, which is a sort of abstract, ideal state, a dream fugue after the putrefaction and decay necessary for NIGREDO. The Albedo also threatens and powerfully offers the easy lure of conspirituality in which magick and spirit are used as ‘maladaptive coping mechanisms’ in the harsh glare of materialism’s shiny dreams, a rout to eternalism from the scary growlings of nihilism.
RUBEDO adds teeth to the re-negotiated contract made with Spirit, to guarantee that some elbow-grease and sweat and yes, sometimes real actual blood, are part of the bargain, the quid pro quo between the visible and invisible, the substantial and the insubstantial, the present and the past, to forge and found and fructify the future. Blood cries out!
Working with Spirit, and remaining in the liminal regions of process where it endlessly spins it’s remarkable, intuitive geometries of transform-motion, is no passive consumption activity. It feeds, as you feed.
Playing Tarot is nothing like playing video games to relax, and for catharsis after a long day.
It demands skillful negotiations with forces that can flatten you, inflate you and otherwise form all manner of extra issues you thought you were freeing yourself from on top of the ones you first approached divination with issues to resolve.
These negotiations – with your old bad ways, with the old bad ways of others, with the rituals and preoccupations of long dead ancestors, and with the challenging new ways and unexpected interventions of The Real – are part of the lifelong perfection of the Great Work, the Magnum Opus, the achievement of Self-Knowledge…The individuation of the psyche or ‘soul’ into something whole and harmonious and not divided against or at conflict with itself or its environment, or God, or Nature.
Some, of course, claim that this moment is the absence or loss of something shown to be unreal, and not in any way an achievement, accolade, or personal accomplishment. The truly self-possessed ‘I’ – tends to be humble and aware that no such entity really ‘exists’.
‘I’ is just another thought amongst all the other mental bric-a-brac. There is no monolithic ‘Self’ to perfect. ‘We’ are just dust-Devils, swirling in the wind, grabbing onto passing debris and saying “Here I am!”.
Most – even upon learning this – continue to search and struggle.
Man, sometimes it takes a long time to learn to sound like yourself…
~ Miles Davis, jazz legend, trumpet maestro
Even today, it takes very strong medicines, made by very capable alchemists, to really seriously undertake any sort of proper Alchemical Operation, never mind the Magnum Opus. Alchemy is not a recreational game – it is the most serious undertaking imaginable.
Such Roads remain Open, however, for the determined, the lucky, the unfortunate, the blessed, and the outcast.
And as time wears on, more and more travelers begin their own journey towards their own encounter with these sacred stations of the Work, particularly in the face of ever more obvious cultural and civilizational collapse.
The RUBEDO is connected in the Tarot with Atu IV, Atu XIV, Atu XVI, Atu XIX and Atu XX, all of which are ‘breakthrough’ and ‘test’ symbols, in which Fire is Victorious and reveals a hidden purity – or fails, and leads to burnout, desolation, all turned to ashes, catastrophe and desolation, the end of something precious.
The stakes are the highest imaginable.
The Ancient Friend comes calling, singing his Foolish Song.
Do sangue das minhas veias eu fiz minha assinatura
O meu espirito eu entrego a Deus
E o meu corpo
~ Mestre Raimundo Irineu Serra, “O Cruzeirinho
These lines are in the final hymn – and describe the Rubedo – of a giant healer and spiritual master of the Amazon in Brazil at the beginning of the 20th Century, who discovered a working alchemy of this aeon.
“From the blood of my veins I signed my name
My spirit I deliver unto God
And my body
To the sepulchre”
~ Master Raimundo Irineu Serra, “The Little Cross”
Alchemy is real.
You must undertake your own Magnum Opus, with great trepidation, but much excitement for the adventure.
May your Roads always be Open, and may you burn away your impurities to reveal the essence, the oil, liquor and the salt of your own occult recipe, your own Magnum Opus, the Great Work of Your Life.
May you blacken your regrets and errors, whiten the insights of your reflections and redden the outcome of your efforts with the signature of your own precious blood, which is your Spiritual Fire, your blaze of glory in the Ultimate Glorification of Life Unfolding, the entire raison d’etre…and so discover, for yourself, the Ocultum Lapidem – the Hidden Stone – of the Philosophers, those ‘lovers of wisdom’ who allow their lives to transform, alchemically…
Solve et Coagula!
Praise Be! Life! Death! Rebirth!
This wraps up our brief erudition of Alchemy and how it might all fit into and around the other occult schemes woven throughout the symbolism of the Tarot, the Elements, the Planets and Zodiac signs, and the notions derived from Christian Qabalah and Hebrew Kabbalah that are all carefully – and carelessly – woven into ‘the Wicked Pack of Cards’.
My own Solve is now well underway, as I am moving home in September 2022!
Coagula hopefully by October…
*Checking in – it’s March 2023, and we are DONE, yo!
COAGULATED in a beautiful new house in, as they say, “the Country”…
Expect new content imminently 🙂