I want to begin by bringing a sort of synthesis of the process as spoken by Jung in Mysterium Coniunctionis:
“Grey and black [nigredo] correspond to Saturn and the evil world; they symbolize the beginning in darkness, in the melancholy, fear, wickedness, and wretchedness of ordinary human life. . . . The darkness and blackness can be interpreted psychologically as man’s confusion and lostness . . . The situation is now gradually illuminated as is a dark night by the rising moon. The illumination comes to a certain extent from the unconscious, since it is mainly dreams that put us on the track of enlightenment This dawning light corresponds to the albedo, the moonlight which in the opinion of some alchemists heralds the rising sun. The growing redness (rubedo) which now follows denotes an increase in warmth and light coming from the sun, consciousness.” (Jung, CW vol. 14, para. 306-307)
The alchemical journey is one of moving from the depths of darkness where one is indeed lost, back into the full light of day where we are aware of our own presence in relation to the world which is illuminated by the day. Aware, conscious, alive. There is a vitality that is felt as one is able to breathe freely and deeply and participate in life rather than stand on the sidelines guarding our breath while trying to fade into the shadows so that no one sees us or hears us.
With consciousness, we become aware of our presence in relationships, we become aware of our body and its sensations, we become aware of the dance of contradictions that often find their expression in good versus evil.
This consciousness is not all encompassing, can never be all encompassing. If all the darkness (unconscious) was exposed and brought to consciousness, there would be no awareness. Awareness can only exist in contrast. Day only exists because there is night. Black only exists because there is white.
Now, to finish this first part of exploring the rubedo with a return to Jung’s words:
“This corresponds to the increasing participation of consciousness, which now begins to react emotionally to the contents produced by the unconscious. At first the process of integration is a “fiery” conflict, but gradually it leads over to the “melting” or synthesis of the opposites. The alchemists termed this the rubedo, in which the marriage of the red man and the white woman, Sol and Luna, is consummated. Although the opposites flee from one another they nevertheless strive for balance, since a state of conflict is too inimical to life to be endured indefinitely.” (Jung, CW vol. 14, para. 307)