The Three Primes

The Three Primes

The fire is Mercury; what is burnt is Sulfur; and all ash is Salt

Building Blocks of The Universe

According to alchemical philosophy, the Three Prime Essentials emerge into creation from a common source – The First Matter – at the beginning of creation.

The First Matter Symbol

The First Matter - The Primal One Thing

The First Matter gave the universe its properties and existed before time & space. It borderlines between manifested and unmanifested reality.  It is chaotic and fluid, constantly changing into its opposite in a cosmic play of creation and destruction. 
It is the spinning forces of darkness and light, each containing the seed of the other and constantly changing into one another. Much like the Yin-Yang in Eastern traditions.

As a result, it is everything and nothing at once. It is the primordial chaos that contains all possibilities. It is the spiritized essence or soul of a substance that gives it its identity, form, and function.

The First Matter cannot be created nor destroyed. It can only be transmuted!

The Three Primes

The Three Prime Essentials are Salt, Sulfur and Mercury (Quicksilver).

At the end of The Great Work, the Three Primes are reunited and integrated into the Philosopher’s Stone.

“The Stone is single in essence, but triple in form.”

Sulfur and Mercury are the primordial opposites that are part of the inherent duality of the universe. You only have to observe nature to see this fundamental duality, which can be expressed as masculine and feminine, positive and negative, light and dark, expanding and contracting, energy and matter, Yang and Yin. 

Salt, on the other hand, is the static result or resolving force created by the union of Sulfur and Mercury. Salt is associated with the Philosopher’s Child and considered the principle of form or structure. Salt is active anywhere a new body is formed.

The easily ignited Sulfur stands for our inner passion and willpower. While the fluid force of the Mercury represents our ever-changing thoughts and powers of visualization and imagination. The hermaphroditic Salt of their union is the Philosopher’s Stone – a perfected state of consciousness that combines passion and feeling with thought and imagination.

Both the Imagination of Mercury and the Will of Sulfur must be called into action,” said a nineteenth-century Golden Dawn member. “They are co-equal in the Work. When the two are conjoined and the Imagination creates an image and the Will directs and uses that image, then marvelous magical effects can be obtained.”

All created things consist of Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt – and the Alchemical procedures can break everything down into these three principles.

“When the Three become One, the Great Elixir is made.”

The Prime of Salt Symbol

Salt – The Base Matter – The Body

Salt is the fixed essence of a substance burning, which resists the fire and is found in the ashes. Salt represents fixity, materialization, and the formation of bodies. It holds the characteristics that we associate with the idea of mass or matter. Salt shows up at both the beginning and the end of The Great Work. It is the imperfect, gross and corrupted matter at the beginning of the work. That which must be destroyed and dissolved to release its essences, so it can be purified and reconstituted into the perfected new Salt at the end.

The Prime of Sulfur Symbol

Sulfur – The Essence of Life – The Spirit

Sulfur (The King) is the omnipresent essence of life. That which fuels and what is changed in the fire.
It is the fiery active masculine principle – associated with the Sun. Sulfur is the flammable oily material extracted from substances, such as the essential oils of plants. Other forms of sulfur are oil, fat, wood and coal.
It represents all those characteristics that we now associate with the notion of the active energy.
The Sulfur unites the two contraries, the body and the spirit, and changes them into one essence.

The Prime of Mercury Symbol

Mercury – The Fluid Connection between Above & Below – Mind/Soul

Mercury (The Queen) is the volatile watery essence of the fire; the flames, light, heat, and smoke being issued. Mercury is the passive feminine principle – associated with the Moon. It represents the hidden essence and creative source of life within things, and it is usually extracted from substances by the process of distillation.
As such, Mercury is like the basic blueprint of a thing, the carrier of its image or ideal form that comes into being through the interaction of Sulfur and Salt. Mercury embodies those characteristics that we now associate with the concept of light and mind.

The Five Elements

The Elements Emerge from the Three Prime Essentials

The Elements, the fundamental principles of matter, have their origin in the Three Prime Essentials. The archetypal force of Sulfur gives rise to the Fire Element. Mercury, in keeping with its dual nature, produces both the Air and Water Element. And finally, the Salt principle is the source of the Earth Element.

Learn more about The Elements, how they influence our being and how they can be applied to our spiritual practice and day to day life.