The Rosicrucians regarded the transformation processes in the alchemists’ vessels on the way from lead to gold as a metaphor for the transmutations of the human soul on its way to the perfect spirit-soul.
The human soul must pass through many changes before the divine spirit can connect with it. These changes do not take place automatically. They require intensive effort and a real struggle within oneself between the awakening soul and the forces that surround it. These are the forces of the so-called lower nature – to be understood on the levels of microcosmos (man), cosmos (sun system) and macrocosmos (universe). These forces resist the soul’s development and their influences on the long journey of the soul, and must be neutralized in order to make room for the higher, more spiritual aspects of the cosmos.
The mysterious colors of the “peacock tail”
A striking allegory of that struggle is evident when looking at the “peacock tail” in the vessel of the alchemist. This phenomenon is a change of colors in the vessel, when the alchemist consciously causes the changes of the elements by rhythmic heating. During this process, under constant heat, the dissolved matter “gently goes through the colors“, as the alchemists say, and seven stages of transformation become visible: yellow, green, red, blue, orange, indigo, violet. The alchemist assigns these colors to planets, which correspond with certain metals on the one hand, and on the other hand, with specific levels of human consciousness.
Mercury and Venus – Transmutation to new reason and universal love
In the first stage, the observing eye sees in this soundless color play of transformation a quadruply shaded yellow which turns into gold. On the transformation path of the soul, this means to overcome the thinking of the old analytical thinking: The old mind, which was tied to the influences of Mercury, gives way to a higher mercurial reason.
In the second stage, one can observe the transition to a fourfould-shaded green. That means for the spiritual process: The natural force of love, which is assigned to the Venus, is heighened to the level of the cosmic, all-embracing love.
At the level of the soul, these first two color changes stand for the two fundamental initiations, that in the teaching of modern Rosicrucians are considered as a premise for the further processes
When we talk of four shades, this might indicate the fourfold structure of the human system: the physical body, the etheric body, the astral self and the mental body. These four carriers together form the visible person and all four bodies are equally affected by the conversion processes.
Mars – The struggle against the self-will
At the third level, a fourfould-shaded bright red color will appear in the vessel. This striking color marks the biggest fight of the maturing soul. It is the struggle against the power claim of the unbridled self-will, which is associated with the lower Mars. It is the actual ego that, being a Luciferian element, does not want to give up its claim to power. Only when this battle is fought and a pure courage shows itself to surrender to the higher powers of the soul, the next phase of transformation can begin.
Jupiter – The overcoming of pride
In the following fourth step, the play of colors alters into a fourfould-shaded blue. In the spiritual sense that color symbolizes the overcoming of the arrogance and the vanity associated with the old Jupiter. He, who has lived through this process, can base himself on a power of reasoning that is fair and free from personal ratings, and he possesses the “Jewel of the distinction.”
Saturn – The liberation from the bondage of fate
At the fifth level in the play of colors in the vessel, a fourfould-shaded orange can be observed. For the internal process of transmutation this means overcoming the old Saturn, which holds man in an alleged fateful determinism. In overcoming these restraints, a new freedom arises and the ability to work in autonomious creativity, within the the sense of the divine revelation.
Uranus – The unmasking of irrationality
In the test tube on the sixth stage, the play of colors changes into a fourfould-shaded indigo. For the human soul, which yearns for union with the spirit, that color symbol means the influence of the Uranus force, whose lower spect seduces to irrationality. This aspect of the lower effects of Uranus must be overcome, so that nothing more remains, which contradicts the high, pure reason.
Neptune – Stripping off the last shackle
Finally, on the seventh level, the color spectrum inside the vessel alters into a fourfould-shaded purple. That is the transformation of the lower Neptune forces that entice the people to an imitative, personally colored image of God.
Meister Eckhart, a mystic of the 14th Century, says: “Even the religious consciousness must be cleared out. Therefore I ask God to deliver me from God.”
In overcoming this last fetter, the soul is matured to meet the Spirit and experience the union with him in the “alchemical wedding”.