On the shores of the Tarcoles River, not too distant from where I live here in Costa Rica, I found quite a few Black-Necked Stilts. Interesting to me is the bird’s head which reminds me of the Yin-Yang symbol, a symbol that represents a few polarities; and, that of consciousness and the unconscious, the masculine and the feminine. I am bringing this photo here as it symbolises for me the shift from nigredo to albedo, from the confrontation of the shadow.
The second stage in the alchemical process is called “albedo.” It is important to note that this is a “whitening” process, not necessarily the “white” stage. Thus, the reason for this photo which shows both black and white. I will return back to Marie-Louise von Franz for a good description of this stage in the alchemical process.
In the alchemical work of the nigredo is followed by the albedo. This phase corresponds in the individuation process to the integration of the inner contrasexual components, the anima in the case of a man, the animus with a woman. (von Franz, C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time, p. 223; cited in Sharp, Jung Uncorked: Book Two, p 50)
Marie-Louise von Franz here uses this information while talking about the psychoanalytic process and the relationship between the analyst and the analysand. But, if we look at this stage in a bigger picture, we can extend it to be more than the integration of the animus or anima; we can see it to be the integration of complexes in general. Remembering that the nigredo was about confronting the shadow, the albedo becomes dealing with what one learns in that confrontation. Hopefully, we learn enough to accept that we own the shadow thus allowing ourselves to withdraw projections. In doing this, we own our complexes and in turn lessen the power of the unconscious to act for us without our awareness. Of course, we know that we can’t master all of this unconscious contents as enough of it is tied into a larger, collective unconsciousness.
I am beginning to see that alchemy is not so esoteric and has become just a way of understanding what is happening to me as I consciously engage with the uncovering of my shadow side. There is no doubt in my mind that in following this path I will become a healthier person, more whole. It’s not perfect, but it is better than what was.