Citrinitas, 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.
This 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.