Once we have broken down all of our personality characteristics that were in the way, we are left with the process of dissolution which is the beginning of feeling less identification with our false sense of self. Once we are free from our pride or self-doubt, we can take one step back and truly observe our positive and negative qualities.
In this stage, our inability to take responsibility for our many faults, our avoidance of traumatizing memories, and other inner tensions rise to the surface, causing us to become aware of how our behavior might be affecting others.
This is the beginning of spiritual maturity and the spiritual awakening process. Sometimes this stage of transformation is brought about accidentally by illnesses and misfortunes in our lives that cause us to really pay attention to what we’re doing, shocking us out of our avoidance patterns (such as workaholism, drugs, and TV watching).
Separation is the stage where we make our thoughts and emotions more defined by isolating them from other thoughts and emotions. A simple example is our attempt to free our heart from resentment while trying to forgive someone.
The process of separation involves truly becoming aware of our authentic feelings for a person, or for ourselves. In this stage, we choose to experience our anger, frustration, or disappointment towards another or ourselves, rather than reverting back to the old habit of dutifully trying to “forgive” or “forget” because it is the “right” or comfortable thing to do.
Separation is closely entwined with shadow work in that we must allow all feelings and thoughts within us to surface side by side. This helps us to isolate particular elements of our character in order to honestly see and assess them.
After the purification and clarification of the first three stages, we must properly combine the remaining elements within us through the process of “Conjunction.”
While in the previous step we separated and learned to distinguish all the separate feelings and thoughts within us, Conjunction provides the inner space – the simmering – that is required for us to truly and honestly accept all the parts of our authentic self.
When we experience this stage of spiritual alchemy, all of our unconscious thoughts and feelings bubble up to the surface and into the light of conscious awareness. In this stage, journaling, introspection, solitude, and meditation are particularly useful.
Fermentation is the beginning of our process of rebirth. This stage can be compared to the death of a grape, which then becomes the birth of wine. While the first four stages involved working with aspects of our old personality, in the stage of Fermentation we begin to experience moments of our more “refined” self.
Fermentation occurs in two parts: Putrefaction and Spiritization. Putrefaction is the decomposition of our former selves; the process of inner death by which the old elements of our conscious and unconscious minds are allowed to rot and decompose. (Some call this stage the dark night of the soul, as it can be followed by troublesome mental states such as depression.)
On the other hand, Spiritization is the stage in which we begin to look at the world in a new light. With the right guidance and with solid inner work, Spiritization involves letting go of all the aspects of ourselves and our lives that don’t serve or contribute to our spiritual transformation. This is when we taste moments of great inner peace and stillness.