The Minor Work or Opus Minor of the esoteric-hermetic secret doctrine is a part of hermetic alchemy. This includes first and foremost the work with the elements in the area of personality. More precisely, in the Minor Work of Alchemy, the Higher Self harmonizes or balances our four elements and brings them under the conscious rule of the Quintessence.
Alchemy – These four elements are earth, air, water and fire. Within the work of alchemy these four elements are balanced in the personality. In the Lesser Mysteries, among other things, the so-called “Plant Stone” is produced and so the aspirant gradually learns to master these elements.
The four elements are the four aspects of personality. For example, the element earth, corresponds to the material body. The element air, on the other side, corresponds to the intellect (mental plane), that is, the tool of thought. The emotional sphere (emotional plane), for example, the feeling of envy, jealousy, hate or love etc., corresponds to the element water. The element fire, finally, deals with the aspect of will and willingness – as well as the driving force of ambition. This is the lower will and should not be confused with the higher will.
In Western mystery tradition, these four elements are gradually dealt with in the vehicle of personality. In the Kabbalistic Tree of Life these four elements correspond to the 4 lower sephiroth (spheres). The lowest Sephirah Malkuth is associated with the element earth, the sphere Yesod above it with the element air. The sphere Hod is associated with the element Water and the sphere Netzach corresponds with the element Fire.
In an authentic spiritual training system, the aspirant is introduced to a special room, the symbolic laboratory, and is “tempered” there. Through powerful tools such as symbols, rituals, invocations of the elements, through working with the higher aspects of these elements, true transformation occurs. However, it is important that this transformation takes place in certain stages and in a predefined order. It is not possible to skip steps or to fall below the minimum time for the required temperings. It is extremely important to work from the bottom up, just as when building a temple, because each step is the foundation for the next one.
First the material plane is worked on, then the plane of air, then the plane of water and finally the plane of fire. Initially, the aspirant in the Minor Work is harmonized on the physical-corporeal plane, which means that the alchemical student begins to question everything material on the personal plane and to create harmony in this area of life: This could be family constellation, living situation, position, friends and relationships, job and finances, the health of the body etc. Among them is also the so-called Rough Work of Alchemy. The Rough Work illustrates, among other things, purification processes of the body.
The next level is the intellect, but also the subconscious, because there is a hidden connection here. The subconscious is prepared to receive higher impulses. This means that the intellect deals with Wisdom scriptures, holy scriptures, higher analogies and the like, which can, at least in phases, bring the intellect to despair and overwhelm at this level.
As the element water is harmonized, emotions become calmer. In doing so, the aspects are “sacrificed” to the work of service. The aspirant is prepared for the work of service and no longer walks this path on his own and his work thus becomes more powerful. Thus the aspirant becomes more open, the calming of the “stormy waves of the sea” causes that the aspirant finally gains access to true meditation. Only when we are really quiet inwardly and our mind has calmed down, can we participate in the “one” meditation.
In the next stage of the Minor Work, the fire aspect is balanced. The desired nature, the aspiration gets the right direction, namely the aspiration for the higher. In the Minor Work of Alchemy these four elements are thus aligned in a symmetrical cross. Therefore, each element not only has the right position, but also the right length – in harmony with each other – in the correct proportion and measure.
The Minor Work is also called the Work or Art of Silver. This silver principle has to do with the subconscious of the human being, with the animal soul, which corresponds to the lower elementary nature. Another correspondence is the moon, which merely reflects the light of the sun. Silver as a female principle can be found in every human being – because every human being has a subconscious. In the minor work initially the task is to align this silver with the higher gold principle, so that it clearly reflects the light of the sun (gold).
After the Minor Work, i.e. the balancing of the elements, has been completed, the prepared aspirant will be brought into contact with the Fifth Element, the subtly hidden, the quintessence, the spirit element, in the next step. That is how true spiritual mastery over the elemental nature is attained. The Holy Guardian Angel, our Higher Self holds the conscious dominion from this point on. Thus, it is the crowning glory of the Minor Work and at the same time the gateway to the Great Work.
Only after this step has been taken will we be prepared for the Great Work of Alchemy. The Hermetic Academy preserves these alchemical keys in theory and practice.