Citrinitas – The Alchemy of the Sun

Old illustration of hermaphroditic union of sun and moonCitrinitas, also referred to as xanthosis, is a term given by alchemists to “yellowness.” It is one of the four major stages of the alchemical magnum opus, and literally referred to “transmutation of silver into gold” or “yellowing of the lunar consciousness.” In alchemical philosophy, citrinitas stood for the dawning of the “solar light” inherent in one’s being, and that the reflective “lunar or soul light” was no longer necessary. The other three alchemical stages were nigredo (blackness), albedo (whiteness), and rubedo (redness).

Citrinitas or yellowing is the stage after albedo. a stage that many authors after the 15th century tended to suppress, or rather compress into the last one, rubedo. While the albedo represented the moon – or female, citrinitas referred to the sun – or male. The union of male and female (the so-called ‘chemical wedding’) was often a symbol of the Work. From their union the hermaphroditic offspring of philosophical Mercury was born. This final phase of rubedo was the culmination of the Great Work. It was the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone in the form of a transparent red stone. This Stone, often portrayed as a Phoenix, was supposed to perfect anything from metals to human beings, bestowing long life or even immortality. 

Old illustration of floating globes representing the four alchemical stages in their respective colors against a landscape backgroundThis third stage of citrinitas, seems to be difficult for some to assimilate. Jung and his student, Marie-Louise von Franz included citrinitas in their discussions of alchemy, but noted that it was a fourth and final stage, that of becoming gold. In  most cases Jung himself expressed the work as having three stages. Still, citrinitas seems to fit better into a flow of growth and development, as well as mystical progress as the third stage. In the second stage, albedo, a light appears in the nigredo darkness, the light of an awakened soul which is symbolised as a moon (the feminine) shining in the darkness. The third stage, citrinitas, brings forth the light of the sun (the masculine), a light which magically transforms the shadowy and fearful subconscious into valuable consciousness. From the dark night of rubedo, to the pale morning light of albedo, the sun rises in citrinitas to the culmination of day in rubedo.

Alchemy does require that the yellow follows the white.   The process is linear and meant to be progressive. However, all stages include elements of the others, in that all transformations are a cycle within themselves. Trying to determine and pinpoint the exact stage of the process achieved can be fraught with difficulties, given these cycles within cycles. In addition sometimes what is progress appears regressive. Alchemy is not a precise tool like mathematics. As an analytic and predictive tool, is more akin to a scupltor’s chisel, a rough tool at first, working toward finer and finer versions.


About angela1313

I am a cat lover, a writer, and an overextended blogger trying to foster for a cat rescue, finish a Master's degree and rehab a fixer upper house i bought.
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4 Responses to Citrinitas – The Alchemy of the Sun

  1. Nachshon says:

    I wonder if Citrinitas was dropped from Alchemy because of its overt sexual imagery, which probably gave ammunition against the alchemists to their enemies. It’s odd that Jung would have dropped it though. Maybe he thought it was not needed for the audiences we was writing for? Personally, I think it to be a very important step in the process; i.e., how do you relate to the people around you?
    Very nice piece!
    BTW, do you know where the painting with the four colored circles over the lake comes from? It looks very old but I want to make sure there are no copyright issues related to it.


    • angela1313 says:

      There are a lot of verrsions of alchical drawings and symbols which are the original works of artists still under copyright. Ireally try to be careful but sometimes certain things get picked up and spread (think Pinterest) and the copyright holder can’t keep up unless they are a big out fit. I’ll check my notes and see what I have on the image. I personally feel there is a lot of value in this stage. I too wonder about Jung’s decision, in spite of his differences with Freud, sex was not a topic that he avoided.


  2. Nachshon says:

    Thanks, I appreciate you checking. Yes, Jung never seemed squeamish on the topic of sex. You stated that the alchemists themselves dropped the stage after the 15th century – or integrated it into the Rubedo. Maybe he just followed their lead? However, I do find this stage undeveloped in the process of growth for many individuals; i.e., how do you continue to relate with the people you love and who love you as you’re changing and growing in such fundamental ways? It’s an important step so that it doesn’t turn into a giant ego trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ravi Kumar says:

    This phase cycle seems to be correct, mortification …albedo…xanthosis…rubedo.
    Still awaiting for Rubedo !


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