The negrado, or blackening,
is often given as the first stage of the Royal Art. But as with most aspects
of this deliberately obscure subject, the exact nature of ‘the blackening’ is hard to pin down. In this article
we will look at the negredo from the perspective of spiritual alchemy.
The basic principle upon
which the content put forwards in this article rests is this: for a change to occur in any given system destruction must precede
creation; for a new order to come to power the old order must be pulled down.
This then is the work
of darkness and destruction, and can be the most painful and difficult stage of the work. But in many ways it is also the
one which most closely resembles the manner in which western culture is accustomed to go about the quest for knowledge and
understanding, for one of the greatest virtues needed for the successful completion of the negredo is scepticism.
The cold critical intelligence
with which the scientist analyses his theories and models, the alchemist must unleash on him or herself. And this is not an
easy thing: to hold up a magick mirror to the soul, and through it to behold within yourself that which is ugliest, most base,
most ignorant, selfish and evil. In the material analogies the blackening is accomplished by direct exposure to fire –
and the negredo of spiritual alchemy is indeed a trial by fire.
The negredo of spiritual
alchemy calls upon the alchemist to look inside himself and to question and challenge everything. In the darkness of the blackening
nothing is sacred, and you must be merciless with yourself. Here is the demon Choronzon, the beast who guards the gates and
your personal nemesis. Be it in a literal or metaphorical sense you must invoke him and face him.
But here also is the pregnant
darkness and the beginnings of genius. One must have courage and faith to let go of what is comforting and familiar and to
step into the darkness of the unknown. But without this abysmal voyage nothing
new can be discovered. Look back at the geniuses of the past, such as Einstein, and you will see that they were not the ones
who extended what was already known; they were the ones who took an axe to the foundations of knowledge, and then set off
in an entirely novel direction. What they did for science you can do for yourself and your own life. From the perspective
of psychological alchemy this is the destruction of the ego (by facing the shadow archetype) which precedes the creation of
the manifest self.
On a slightly different
note, we may also find in the negredo a vindication of much of the suffering we already endure. Through the blackening much
of our suffering may gain a purpose, and thereby by transcended – in the completion of the impetus behind our suffering
and pain it is overcome.