Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis

Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis

Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis

Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis

Synopsis

The Splendor Solis paintings have not been previously available in print with the quality and color of originalsThe collection hasn't previously been analyzed in its entirety from a Jungian perspective

Excerpt

It is an honor and a pleasure to write a foreword for this psychological study of the Splendor Solis by Drs. Joseph Henderson and Dyane Sherwood. The authors, both active members of the Society of Jungian Analysts of Northern California, together span the generations of analysts who have lived and worked in that mainstay of Jungian thought, the San Francisco Bay Area-the reader will readily feel the collective wisdom of this community distilled into the present volume. The authors each bring their own unique approach to the alchemical manuscript and images under study yet what emerges is a smooth synthesis that in turn demonstrates the power of the Splendor Solis to impact the psyches of its serious students. Dichotomies such as clinical versus symbolic perspectives melt as we are skillfully shown the intimate interplay between alchemical images and contemporary states of mind and soul, whether in the consulting office or in the larger world.

Having a background in chemistry and an interest in the history of science, I had briefly encountered several images from the Splendor Solis prior to my analytic training, though it was not until I viewed the videotape of Dr. Henderson's 1987 lecture on this manuscript that deciphering its psychological relevance became important to me. Given this key to the symbolism, I became especially interested in pursuing my own line of inquiry focused on the seven plates that accompany the Fourth Treatise of the text. These are displayed in Plate II-1 through Plate II-7 of the book you are about to read. They show a succession of scenes in flasks within alcoves which in turn are surrounded by depictions from life of those times (the sixteenth century). These scenes portraying various human activities provide a kind of cultural amplification that corresponds to the archetypal influence imagined to be constellated at that moment in the alchemical process. The archetypal designations are brought to our attention explicitly as the astrological 'god(s)' in the chariots at the top of the frame. In studying this aspect of the plates, I have found it worthwhile to reflect further upon the figures pulling the chariots. These figures are in effect images of the libido whose energy must be harnessed to allow particular archetypal expressions to unfold during the corresponding phase of the work. Thus while two dragons pull the chariot of Mercurius Senex in the first, Plate II-1, it is a pair of peacocks that are the motive force for the second chariot, that of Jupiter, Plate II-2. In passing I suggest this represents a shift from the efforts to exert control over the imagination that is reactively driven by unconscious, somatic processes, to a focus on employing various dimensions of narcissism that will be required for an

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