Alchemy Phase 1: Calcination

Alchemy Phase 1: Calcination


Fire is powerful. Its essence can be found in the Big Bang, the formation of the Earth, and the symbol of the phoenix. These all give clues to the secret of renewal. The science and art of alchemy sheds much light on this.

The ancient and medieval alchemists pursued far more than making gold. The creed they followed most was “As above, so below,” a mystic axiom that asserts the connection between the microcosm and the macrocosm in a holographic, Russian doll kind of way. In other words, they followed very specific physical procedures, yet these processes always mirrored internal psychological and spiritual states. Their goal was to perfect matter while perfecting their own inner natures simultaneously.

One of the first processes in alchemy was called calcination. This was the stage of subjecting something to enough intense heat and fire that it would produce white ashes, called a “salt” by alchemists. It was a preparatory step in producing an elixir, as it purified the physical ingredient. Every alchemist was both a proto-psychologist and a shaman of sorts. In calcinating a substance, he or she would strive to also calcinate the mind and soul.


Sometimes we find ourselves in a calcinating event or even stage of our life. We can choose to repress our feelings toward this, or acknowledge them and use the event or stage as a growth opportunity. Signs that you’re experiencing calcination are that your world is crashing around you and you don’t know who you are anymore. You get the sense that you have to let go of a lot of things you’ve been holding onto. The funny part is, most of those things were just limiting you, being dead weight in your journey. Now you can actually walk your Path with momentum.

Calcination may occur with most intensity when we’ve been ignoring the baggage we’ve been carrying for awhile. We get comfortable and lose touch with our true sense of purpose. Getting comfortable really just means getting habituated – even to something soulsucking or painful. The calcination process removes those anchors, whether we like it or not. Essentially, it’s an omen from our Higher Selves or Providence saying “You’re off your Path! Here’s a wake up call!”

Once we are purified through this spiritual burning, we can move forward with more freedom and buoyancy. We don’t have superfluous things restricting our flow. It can be scary relinquishing those things, because we’ve become so reliant upon or used to them…but the magic happens in letting go!

That’s really the key to moving through calcination: surrender. Give in to the process, relax, and have faith that there’s a bigger picture to all this. Spiritual traditions the world over, from Buddhism to Christianity, advocate the power and freedom of nonattachment – if you’re to have any peace amidst calcination and truly grow, you must loosen your grip on what you think is important.

Here’s a little story to flesh this all out…


Mark is an attorney who’s been working for the law firm Josef & Leibermann for 15 years. He works 50-hour weeks, and lives in a 3 story house in a beautiful gated community. Unbeknownst to him, however, the law firm is downsizing and pruning off anyone it sees as less than exceptional. Even though Mark has been there for years, the executives don’t quite see him as being up to par with their top attorneys. He’s informed, very suddenly, that he is terminated.

Furious and dejected, Mark binges on alcohol. He doesn’t see how this happened, and feels it’s incredibly unfair. He’s even considering suing the law firm – before drinking another few glasses of Pinot Noir and laughing at how much of a train wreck that would be!

Mark’s friends and family try to console him, but after seeing him go into the fourth week of binge drinking and posting vicious comments on Facebook, they start to back off. He keeps to himself, splurging his savings and sinking deeper into depression.

One day, a documentary comes on TV about big businesses influencing politics to get their way. “What!?” Mark exclaims. For some reason, his interest is piqued. He devours online articles, books, and more documentaries, and learns about the destruction to the environment caused by some of these big businesses, and how they keep politicians out of the way. Mark is fired up!

The more he researches, the more he forgets to drink. He’s even started going to networking events and lectures to learn more, which is a miracle, considering he’s getting out of the house. Eventually, he meets Sandy, a 35-year-old lobbyist working for the Earth Defense Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting environments around the world and native wildlife. She tells Mark they’ve been needing a person with extensive legal experience to help them in trial, decode laws, and draft proposals. Mark is instantly ignited, and she gives him a number to call for more information.

The next day, Mark dials the number and his enthusiasm is so obvious, that he gets an interview. A few days later, during the interview, Mark realizes that throughout his career, he didn’t like working for people he’d describe as scumbags – people who were clearly guilty and had no respect or remorse. Mark comes to the sudden insight that this is why he wasn’t considered a “top performer” at Josef & Leibermann. He just never felt right about helping guys he knew were in the wrong. The interviewer, however, sees great knowledge and integrity in Mark and decides to hire him!

Working with the Earth Defense Group proves to be a blast, although Mark is still often busy. But he absolutely loves what he’s doing, and feels this is really what he was meant for.

Mark had to let go of his old career and his old identity, and embrace a new way of life. This was too much for him, at first, and he didn’t know what to really do with himself. But, as he let the past burn away, he was able to embrace something new, something more empowering and life fulfilling.

Calcination is “step one” in alchemy (it’s not always in the same order). Get ready for the remaining 6 steps!

Can you remember a harsh period of your life, when you came out with more self-knowledge? Did you let go of anything in order to move forward? Please share below!

Reflective Quote:

“If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the Kingdom.” – Jesus

Would you like to learn more about this process? Click on the links below to follow the progression by stages or jump to the stage you’re interested in most.