Sulphur has a connection to all the other yellow stuff we see in alchemical texts – the citrinitas; the gold; the king; the sun. Something happened somewhere along the way though. Alchemists gave up on citrinitas in the late middle ages. This stage became suppressed, and as a result, much of the symbolism such as the king and Sol fell under rubedo, and the imagery turned red. Seems counter intuitive.
Why did this happen? Since the timelines match, I’ve guessed Paracelsus’ popularization of the tria prima, led to a desire to correspond to three stages. But then why not exclude rubedo? Dr. Cheak’s paper below is gives us a window onto some of this pre-Paracelsus salt.
“In the fourth, the putrefaction of the philosophers is had, which hath never been seen in our days, and it is called Sulphur.”
– The Table of Greater science from the Rosarium Philosophorum
“Aaron Cheak, PhD, is a scholar of comparative religion, philosophy, and esotericism. Former president of the International Jean Gebser Society (2013–2015), he received his doctorate in Religious Studies from the University of Queensland in 2011 for his work on French Hermetic philosopher, René Schwaller de Lubicz. His principal publications include Alchemical Traditions: From Antiquity to the Avant-Garde (2013), Diaphany: A Journal and Nocturne (2015), and The Leaf of Immortality(2017).
He presently runs Rubedo Press from the rugged west coast of New Zealand, where he maintains an active interest in tea, wine, poetry, typography and alchemy.