The Lesser Work or Opus Minor of the esoteric-hermetic secret teachings is a part of Hermetic Alchemy.
It is primarily concerned with working with the elements within one’s own personality. Specifically, in the Lesser Work of Alchemy, the Higher Self harmonizes and balances our four elements and brings them under the conscious rule of the Quintessence.
These four elements are earth, air, water and fire. In alchemical practice they are balanced within our personality. In the Lesser Mysteries, aspirants gradually learn to master these elements and work towards their harmonization.
These four elements correspond to different aspects of the personality. Earth, for example, represents the physical body. Air corresponds to the intellect (mental plane), which is the tool for thinking. The emotional realm (emotional plane), including feelings such as envy, jealousy, hatred, or love, corresponds to the element of water. The fire element relates to the will aspect, will and desire, and the driving force of aspiration. It’s important to distinguish this lower will from the higher will.
In the Western Mystery tradition, these four elements are progressively worked upon within the vehicle of the personality. In the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, these four elements correspond to the four lower Sephiroth (spheres). The lowest sephirah, Malkuth, is associated with the Earth element, while the sphere of Yesod above it is associated with Air. Hod is associated with the Water element, and Netzach corresponds to the fire element.
In an authentic spiritual training, the aspirant is taken into a special space, a symbolic laboratory, and “tempered”.
This process involves the use of powerful tools such as symbols, rituals, invocations of the elements, and work with the higher aspects of these elements, resulting in true transformation.
It is critical that this transformation occur in specific stages and in a predetermined order. Steps cannot be skipped, and the minimum time required for each tempering should not be underestimated.
Much like building a temple, the work proceeds from the bottom up, with each stage forming the foundation for the next.
The physical and material levels are addressed first, followed by the intellectual and then the emotional. Finally, the Fire aspect is balanced. The ultimate goal is to have each element in a symmetrical cross-alignment within the personality, with the correct position and proportion.
The Lesser Work is also referred to as the Work/Art of Silver. The Silver Principle corresponds to the human subconscious, representing the animal soul of the lower elemental nature.
Another correspondence is the Moon, which merely reflects the light of the Sun. Silver, as the feminine principle, exists in every individual, for everyone has a subconscious. In the Lesser Work, the first task is to align this silver principle with the higher gold principle so that it can clearly reflect the light of the sun (gold).
When the minor work, the balancing of the elements, is completed, the prepared aspirant is brought into contact with the fifth element, the subtly hidden quintessence, the spirit element.
This results in true spiritual mastery over the elemental nature. From this point on, the Holy Guardian Angel, our Higher Self, gains conscious mastery. This is the crowning achievement of the Lesser Work and serves as the gateway to the Greater Work.
Only after this step is one ready for the Great Work of Alchemy.
The Hermetic Academy preserves these alchemical keys in theory and practice.