Tuesday, March 27, 2012

2001 analysis - part 36: More alchemy; depiction of an unsuccessful citrinitas


Above left and right: The bright 'flares' of light coming from the sun while Discovery One is near Jupiter, signify the alchemical citrinitas. However, as described below, the citrinitas stage in 2001 is incomplete.

So far in the analysis, we've discussed how the nigredo (the first stage of the alchemical Magnum opus, or Great Work) is related to appearances of the monolith; and we've also noted that the movie is a circular narrative. In Psychology and Alchemy, Jung says that "Time and again the alchemists reiterate that the opus proceeds from the one and leads back to the one, that it is a sort of circle like a dragon biting its own tail. For this reason the opus was often called circulare (circular) or else rota (the wheel). Mercurius stands at the beginning and end of the work."[a] We'll talk about Mercurius in a later post, but for now we need to discuss the three alchemical stages that come after the nigredo, and we need to determine at what point each takes place in 2001. We'll note here that in Jungian psychology, the four alchemical steps are to be taken as analogous to the process of attaining individuation,[b] which is a process of psychological integration having for its goal the development of the individual personality.

The next stage after the nigredo is the albedo. It is a Latinicized term meaning "whiteness." Following the chaos or massa confusa of the nigredo stage, the alchemist undertakes a purification in albedo, which is literally referred to as ablutio – the washing away of impurities. In this process, the subject is divided into two opposing principles to be later coagulated to form a unity of opposites or coincidentia oppositorum during rubedo. Jung equated the albedo with unconscious contrasexual soul images; the anima in men and animus in women. It is a phase where insight into shadow projections are realized, and inflated ego and unneeded conceptualizations are removed from the psyche.[c]

The albedo is associated with reflected sunlight.[d] Jung says that the albedo is the first main goal of the alchemical process, and that it is "highly prized by many alchemists as if it were the ultimate goal. It is the silver or moon condition, which still has to be raised to the sun condition. The albedo is, so to speak, the daybreak, but not till the rubedo is it sunrise."[e] It must be the case that in our movie, the albedo is signified by the visit to the moon, at the point at which the monolith appears. However, as noted earlier, each appearance of the monolith is accompanied by a nigredo. To see how the moon is symbolically linked with the nigredo, we again look to Jung: "Being the mistress of moisture, the moon...is the prima materia in the form of water..."[f] The prima materia, also called Chaos, is linked in alchemy to the nigredo. In a sense, the moon has a 'dual symbolism' with regard to alchemy. The point is that the events that take place on the moon in 2001, represent both a nigredo and an albedo (unlike the events surrounding the monolith in the Dawn of Man sequence, which represent only a nigredo).

Above left: The TMA-1 excavation site on the moon. The moon is associated with the alchemical albedo, the second stage of the Great Work. Above right: There is also a nigredo at TMA-1, however, when a high-pitched noise triggers chaos among the astronauts there.

We'll look at the fourth and final alchemical stage, the rubedo, before we look at the third stage, the citrinitas, for reasons that will soon become apparent. Rubedo is a Latin word meaning "redness" that was adopted by alchemists to define the fourth and final major stage in the Magnum Opus. Both gold, and the philosopher's stone were associated with the color red, as rubedo signalled alchemical success, and the end of the great work. In an archetypal (i.e., Jungian) schema, rubedo would represent the Self archetype, and would be the culmination of the four stages. The Self manifests itself in "wholeness", a point in which a person discovers his or her true nature.[g]

Jung says that "the transition [from the albedo] to the rubedo is formed by the citrinitas, though this...was omitted later. The rubedo then follows direct from the albedo as the result of raising the heat of the fire to its highest intensity."[h] The rubedo is signified in our movie at the point at which Bowman experiences enlightenment and is then reborn, i.e., during the final showing of the monolith. (As mentioned earlier, there is a nigredo 'embedded' here, as signified by the beginning of the elderly Bowman's physical decomposition.) However, the entire 'hotel' sequence is part of a dream Bowman is experiencing just before he dies from his head injury, so what is being depicted is really a 'faux'-rubedo - wholeness is not attained, due to the fact that the preceding stage, the citrinitas, is incomplete, as described below.

Citrinitas, sometimes referred to as xanthosis, is a term given by alchemists to "yellowness." In alchemical philosophy, citrinitas stood for the dawning of the "solar light" inherent in one's being, and that the reflective "lunar or soul light" was no longer necessary. The citrinitas is also the stage in which the 'chemical wedding' takes place between yin and yang. Without this union, the rubedo cannot occur.[i] The citrinitas is signified when Discovery One begins to approach the floating monolith near Jupiter (the scene shown in the screencaps at the top of this post), during which we see sun activity that looks similar to massive solar flares. The sun is also symbolically connected with the nigredo in Jung's Psychology and Alchemy (Volume 12 of The Collected Works), in the context of sol niger, the black sun of alchemy.[j] Thus we see that like the moon, the sun, too, has a dual symbolism with regard to alchemy.

Note that one thing Kubrick has done here, is made an original contribution to alchemy, in that he has pointed out that there is a nigredo phase 'embedded' in each of the other three stages of the alchemical process.

Frank Poole and David Bowman represent yin and yang, respectively.

We know that Bowman fails to save the feminine (yin - as represented by Poole),[k] so there can be no symbolic union between yang (Bowman) and yin. Thus, there can be no chemical wedding and no citrinitas, and thus, no true rubedo, so we are left with an incomplete alchemical process. The outcome of all this is that mankind is 'doomed' to repeat this cycle whereby completeness is never attained, until the feminine component within humanity's 'collective' psyche (and within each individual's psyche) can be 'saved'. This is in line with what was stated in the previous post.

There are some hints in the movies of our other directors about the idea of an incomplete citrinitas. In Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, Vincent (yang) and Mia (yin) never actually 'unite'; another way to look at it is that Vincent fails to completely 'save' the feminine within himself, as represented by his failure to completely 'save' Mia. In the analysis of Lynch's Mulholland Drive, it was observed that Diane experiences an incomplete citrinitas. Finally, in Michael Mann's 2006 movie, Miami Vice, lovers Sonny and Isabella have to go their own separate ways in the end; this represents an incomplete union.

a. Jung, C.G. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 12. Princeton University Press, 1968. para. 404.
b. Wikipedia, 'Magnum opus (alchemy)'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnum_opus_(alchemy).
c. Wikipedia, 'Albedo (alchemy)'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albedo_(alchemy).
d. Wikipedia, 'Albedo'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albedo.
e. Jung, C.G., The Collected Works, Vol. 12, para. 334.
f. Ibid., para. 487.
g. Wikipedia, 'Rubedo'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubedo.
h. Jung, C.G., The Collected Works, Vol. 12, para. 334.
i. Wikipedia, 'Citrinitas'. Web, n.d. URL = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citrinitas.
j. Jung, C.G., The Collected Works, Vol. 12, para. 140.
k. Although Poole is male, he to some degree represents a female presence, as discussed earlier in the analysis.


1) In certain instances it has been determined that the creators of some of the productions analyzed on this blog, and/or the creators of source material(s) used in the making of these productions, may be making negative statements about certain segments of society in their productions. These statements should be taken as expressing the opinions of no one other than the creators.

2) This blog is not associated with any of the studios, creators, authors, publishers, directors, actors, musicians, writers, editors, crew, staff, agents, or any other persons or entities involved at any stage in the making of any of the media productions or source materials that are analyzed, mentioned, or referenced herein.

3) In keeping with the policies of the filmmakers, authors, studios, writers, publishers, and musicians, that have created the productions (and their source materials) that are analyzed, mentioned, or referenced on this blog, any similarity of the characters in these films or source materials to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


All images on this blog are used solely for non-commercial purposes of analysis, review, and critique.

All Wikipedia content on this blog, and any edits made to it, are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Marcus Aurelius's Meditations - from Wikisource (except where otherwise noted); portions from Wikisource used on this blog are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Saint Augustine's Confessions and City of God from Wikisource (except where otherwise noted); portions from Wikisource used on this blog are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Saint Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica from the 'Logos Virtual Library' website (except where otherwise noted), compiled and edited by Darren L. Slider; believed to be in public domain.