Henderson, J. L. and Sherwood, D. N. (2003) Transformation of the Psyche. The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis . Routledge, London & New York

Using: 'The Harley Text of Salomon Trismosin's Spendor Solis and Alchemical Wanderings and Adventures in Search of the Philosopher's Stone

pxii “Though too limited to do justice to the images, this sampling of a more physically oriented approach is complementary to the reading of the present authors.”

pxii “Both the Rosarium and the Splendor Solis depict a trajectory of processes that involve somatic and psychological transformations.”

p1 “Jung began to study medieval European alchemy, not for its chemical operations but as a source of information about human psychology. He reasoned that the alchemists, while trying to understand the unknown in matter, would project onto matter the images and categories of the unconscious.”

There is a reference error here for a quote from Jung on p2. The reference indicates CW12 §315-16, but this incorrect. Its a good quote but I don't know where it is in Jung.

p2 “Jung also believed that the study of alchemy might help us better understand the psychology of contemporary culture, because we can achieve perspective on our current situation 'when we can reach a point outside our own time from which to observe it.' ”

p3 “In fact, the alchemists themselves were quite often aware that they were using a symbolic language to talk about the phenomenology of inner experience.”

p5 “Alchemy's two goals - the transformation of base metals into gold and the making of an elixir of immortality - coalesced in ancient China with the belief that gold was a magic medicine that could reverse the decline of the body and mind: …”

p14 “Marie-Louise Von Franz, who was a colleague of Jung, translated Aurora Consurgens from the Latin and wrote an extensive commentary on its symbolism. Aurora is of a revelatory, mystical nature and its text mixes biblical and alchemical imagery in seven parables outlining the opus. After a careful study of Aquinas's life and writings, von Franz considers it quite possible that the Aurora was a breakthrough of unconscious material (compensatory to his conscious attitude) dictated to a companion during an ecstatic state in Aquinas's final illness.”

p18 “According to the theory of tria prima , mercury (spirit) was associated with water and characterised by its fusibility wan by being volatile yet unchanged by fire. Sulfur (soul) was associated with air and characterised by its inflammability and being volatile and changed by fire. Salt (body) was associated with earth and was characterised by its not being vaporised by fire and so being found in the ashes. If this theory is kept in mind, it is most helpful in understanding both text and image in alchemical works:
1. mercury - spirit - water - fusible - colatile - unchanged by fire;
2. sulfur - soul - air - inflammable - volatile - changed by fire;
3. salt - body - earth - not flammable - ashes.”

Σ p19 “The Roman Church had formally asserted its exclusive right to interpret or mediate the Holy Spirit at the time of the schism between the Eastern and Western (Roman) Churches, at the Eighth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (869-70). Canon 11 stated:
While the Old and New Testaments teach that man has one rational and intelectual soul, and this is the teaching also of all the fathers and doctors of Church, some persons, nevertheless, blasphemously maintain that he has two souls. This holy and general council, therefore, anathematises the authors and adherents of that false teaching. Anyone presuming to act contrary to the decision of this great council, shall be anathematised and cut off from the faith and society of Christians.
From that time on, according to the Roman Church, man has a soul (giving form and intellectual faculties) and a body, but not a spirit or a second soul.”
A topic for further discussion, whether man is Dyophysite, Miaphysite or Monophysite

p20 “In the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, with the resurgence of interest in classical Greek ideas, the Aristotelian concept of soul as the principle of life - rather than the Platonic idea that the person is a soul within a body - entered into discussions.”

p26 “The clinical practice of psychotherapy, not to mention our personal experience, shows us that our consciousness as human beings has not caught up with these intellectual developments. As Jung has stated,

p32 “Indeed, these images are a valuable commentary on the cultural attitudes of Western European civilisation, attitudes that still affect the psyches of individuals as well as the collective political life of groups and nations.”

The First Series

Plate I-1 A Sick Sun and a Healthy Sun

'Arma Artis' = 'The Arms of the Art'

p35 I do not readily agree with the 'sick sun', 'healthy sun' summary against this first slide. I can see the two suns are different and that the top sun is certainly 'healthier' but given the label over the image, 'Arma Artis' = 'The Arms of the Art' I struggle to see how the intimation towards the 'Art' showing what - in my feeling - the authors describe in a quite negative tone the 'coat of arms' is valid. I'd have thought the first illumination would be more positive or rather more firm in an epistemological tone about the 'Arms of the Art' and what the reader is about to embark upon. The authors description talks of the beginning of the opus occurring outside the building as we look upon the image. I am not convicted to believe it one way or the other, but what if the journey is in the building. The crimson banner hides the 'coat of arms' from the adept. The turbulent water separates the coat of arms, the 'Arms of the Art' still further from the adept outside. What if the building holds the 'Art' and the Adept must cross the water to discover the secret behind the crimson banner - to discover the Arms. I wonder if the Arms contain in them the whole journey as the intro to the treatise?

p37 I wonder if the lower sun, with the three faces might be 'showing' the axiom of Maria or is a reference to our faculties of speech and sight?

p40 “The idea of the feminine as vessel is echoed by the golden frame, which is decorated with delicately rendered symbolic images of plant and animal life. These natural forms are in keeping with the frist words of the text, 'The Philosopher's Stone is produced by means of Greening and Growing Nature.' In medieval times, flowers were thought to be the earthly counterparts to stars. In Greek alchemy, flowers signified spirits or souls, and the lapis was called the 'blossom of metal' and the 'well-formed flower sprouting from four branches [or elements]'.9
9See von Franz, Aurora Consurgens, pp. 392-5
Bold mine. cRef p.172, Splendor Solis, The First Treatise
The reference to Nature also makes me think of Paracelsus. It is also a patient process. Also, plants are seasonal, i.e. death and rebirth, and a pointing to the psyche as opposed to (or more emphasis on the psyche than body) the body that dies just once.

p40 “Like Hermes, the patron and mythical founder of alchemy (the 'Hermetic art'), a heron can travel from the earth to realms both above and below”
This is a bollocks explanation I reckon.

P41 “The alchemists believed that mathematical relationships based on musical ratios could be applied to relationships between elements and the planets to provide guidance about the ratios of ingredients in their preparations.12
9Read, Prelude to Chemistry, pp. 250-4
Light and sound are waves. As humans we can produce or create sound waves, we cannot create from ourselves light waves. I mention this just out of interest. I wonder if on an unconscious level there is something in that - we are musical instruments basically. Much of the alchemical opus references - as with the Gnostics - the light in us, the lumen natura, so we have light in us.

Plate I-2 Setting Out on the Journey

'Eamus Qesitum Quatuor Elementorum Naturas.' = 'We are seeking the nature of the Four Elements.'

p43 “From ancient times, the deer was used to represent a non-ordinary awareness or capacity to communicate with the spirit world.”
They were also hunted, tricky to find, quick through the woods. They were also linked to the Greek goddess Artimis.
“Alchemists used the deer to represent the spirit within matter, also represented by Mercurius, the androgynous changeable Roman god who was known as Hermes to the Greeks. …Jung referred to the deer as a symbol of “Mercurius, the essence, moisture, or principle behind or within the quicksilver ….that indefinable, fascinating, irritating, elusive thing which attracts an unconscious projection …the cervus fugitivus …[fugitive stag…].21
21CW13 §259

p43 “The alchemists believed that metals differed from one another because they contained greater or lesser amounts of particular qualities. According to Paracelsus' theory of tria prima, the three fundanental properties of matter were represented by:
mercury (fluid connection between the High and the Low) Mercury; closely associated with silver, the Moon, and the Feminine Principle.23
sulfur (omnipresent spirit of life) Sulphur; associated with Sol, the sun, and thus with the masculine Principle
and salt (base matter) Salt; the fixed immutable, quality of matter - was associated with body and earth.
23John Read in Prelude to Chemistry, p. 102 notes that, 'In exoteric alchemy, Sol and Luna denoted gold and silver; but in the esoteric literature and operations of the adepts these terms usually stood for sophic sulphur and sophic mercury respectively - or for “our sulphur” and “our mercury,” as they were often called. The best source of sophic sulphur was commonly held to be gold; and thus such terms as sophic sulphur, gold of the philosophers and seed of gold are to a large extent synonymous in alchemical literature. For this reason, both gold and sulphur - of the sophic kind - were identified by the adepts with the masculine principle and represented by the symbol of Sol, which has always been associated with ordinary gold. Again, the feminine principle, sophic mercury, was linked with silver, owing to an imagined relationship between quicksilver (agent-vive) and silver (argent): the exoteric symbol of Luna was therefore transferred by the adepts to denote sophic mercury. This dual application of the symbols of Sol and Luna has given rise to much confusion of thought, not only among the original alchemists, but also among their commentators'

Plate I-3 The Inner Quest

p46 The authors here again reference the first plate in a negative tone, “So, we see that, even though the first image of the series implied that the knight is no longer a satisfactory symbol of the whole personality…”. I don't disagree with the knight no longer representing a complete picture, but I'm still of the opinion that the first plate was not saying that.

p46 “The seven stars over the knight's head are a symbolic reference to initiation. Seven is the traditional number associated with the undergoing a complete process over time, as in the seven days of the week, and the alchemical opus was often described as having seven stages. The Stairway of the Seven Planets figured prominently in the late Classical initiation rites, symbolising the ascent of the soul to the sun-god, or the solificatio. The author of Aurora Consurgens used seven parables, which alluded to the seven stages and to the seven planets. Seven stars were associated with the whitening, or purification, of the prima materia:
After thou has made those seven (metals) which thou has distributed through the seven stars (and has appointed to the seven stars) (and) has purged them nine times until they appear as pearls (in likeness) - this is the Whitening.30
In her commentary, von Franz further noted that within each parable, the entire opus is described in miniature, thus creating a spiral.”
The 'nine times' here reminds me of something I read about there being 9 stages to a catholic ceremony, or 9 levels of prayer, or the 9 levels of hell??, or the 9 choirs of angels…don't know.

p47 “There were innumerable synonyms for each of these principles, many of which were used also to denote the Philosopher's Stone.
Sophic sulphur was called Sol, king, male, brother, Osiris, lion, toad, wingless dragon, …etc.
Sophic mercury was disguised under such names as Luna, queen, female, sister, Isis, …serpent, eagle, winged dragon, …etc.32

Plate I-4 The King and the Queen

'Coagula Masculinum,' or 'Coagulate the Masculine.'
'Lac Virginis,' or 'mild of the virgin'

p51 “In his hand, the kin holds a scepter with a scroll, bearing an inscription in golden letters, 'Coagula Masculinum,' or 'Coagulate the Masculine.' For the alchemists, the process of coagulation turned a fluid into a dry solid. The queen holds a blue scroll with 'Lac Virginis,' or 'mild of the virgin' (spiritual food), also inscribed in gold letters. On a concrete level, the alchemists applied this term to a variety of white fluids.”

p52 “The two scrolls - 'Coagulate the Masculine' and 'Virgin's Milk' - taken together suggest a process that was central to alchemy: solve et coagula, dissolve and coagulate. This instruction is found in an ancient manuscript of Maria Prohetissa.46 The alchemists repeated the solve et coagula many time in order to purify the coagulate.”
The circular process - as was noted earlier in reference to von Franz' comments on the Aurora Consurgens, where each of those images/parables is the entire opus described in miniature, i.e. microcosm depicting the macrocosm. So too here, I think we have the theme of 'dissolve and coagulate' on a repeated level showing that the opus repeats itself over and over again, re-solve = resolve, then re-integrate. Deintegrate -> Reintegrate, Fordham.

p53 “As the process of solve et coagulais repeated, it moves from unconscious, instinctual expectations and actions - as in the previous plate where the two children are urinating - to greater awareness and capacity to tolerate the opposites, as in the present image. In 'Psychology of the Transference,' Jung pointed out that,

p55 “Below the final 'i' of 'Basiliski,' it is possible to discern a dragon-like figure, painted in gold, just above the city. This figure is the basilisk - the monstrous combination of a cock and a toad or snake, said to have hatched from a yokeless egg, which was laid by a cock and brooded by a toad on a bed of dung.55 The basilisk, like the gorgon, could kill with a look and would die if it saw its own reflection. In Christian iconography, the basilisk was synonymous with the devil, its three pointed crest and trifurcated tail the inverse of the Holy Trinity.56

p57 ”'The popularity of the legend of Alexander as a symbol of the height of achievement for a masculine warrior-hero served as one of his most persistent legacies to later ages…. When at Alexander's deathbed his commanders asked him to whom he bequeathed his kingdom, he replied, “To the most powerful.”'60

p59 The meeting of Alexander the Great and the Greek philosopher, Diogenes Cf. CW5, §405 about Diogenes approach to life.

p60 “The alchemists' development beyond an overvaluation of worldly power and mastery (wanting actual gold) was made explicit by the author of the Splendor Solis, Salomon Trismosin, in a simple verse appended to his 'alchemical wanderings':63

Study What Thou Art
Whereof Thou Art a Part,
What Thou Knowest of This Art,
This is Really What Thou Art.
All that is Without Thee Also is Within, As above, so below. Microcosm / Macrocosom.
Thus Wrote Trismosin.64

Similarly, Jung wrote,

p61 “Within the main image, the king and queen are standing on bases suggesting their elemental nature. Wherever you see the elements represented as pure - as Earth, Air, Fire, or Water - it referes to the archetypal level of the unconscious, which lies unseen beneath everyday conscious life.”

Plate I-5 Digging for Gold

'Esthes' = 'Esther' from the bible.
'Hasueros' = Ahasuerus as used in the book of Esther in the bible.

This is the first plate where the illustration shows a scene, not just a bas-relief or image, underneath the main picture. The first parable as per the translation of 'The Harley Text of Salomon Trismosin's Spendor Solis and Alchemical Wanderings and Adventures in Search of the Philosopher's Stone.

75In the Harley manuscript, the Third Treatise, 'The Means Whereby the Whole Work of the Mastery is Perfected,' consists of an introductory paragraph citing the alchemist known as Hermes followed by seven parables. This plate (I-5) follows the first parable. The plates numbered I-6 through I-11 follow each of the remaining six parables included in the Third Treatise, to complete the Frist Series as they are given here.


Plate I-6 The Philosophical Tree

cRef CW13, the 'Philosophical Tree'

p69 In the image there is a guy passing a branch to what could be the adepts/alchemists. It is important that they hold a branch already that has no leaves. The branch being passed to them has leaves. Its almost as though they've 'used up' the one branch and are now getting a new one with which to work. There's something of a circular theme here, a re-solving, the dissolve and coagulate cycle, solva et coagula.

Plate I-7 The Drowning of the King

p177 Read the parable associated with the image. It is important that the picture is not a moment in time but has a chronology to it; the old man dies, calls out to be saved, is not saved, the young king emerges …there is a whole narrative in this image. I think that many of the other images may too have a chronology in them, like von Franz has said of the Aurora Consurgens parables (cRef p46 above), each one is the opus in itself.

p75 “From a psychological viewpoint, this plate represents the capacity of the Self - like the tree with the golden bough - to regenerate, to grow a new way of being.”

p77 “However, the death of the old king and the appearance of the young king have a more profound psychological meaning than a simple change of attitude. The represent the transformation of the person's very way of being in the world, a revolution of the personality. At such a time, a person often experiences premonitions of death and/or anxiety about whether it will be possible to function in everyday life. The dominant organisation cries out in terror to be saved, like the old king sinking into the waters of the unconscious.”
This is very important - the old way cries out to be saved and will rebel against changes, against the emerging king. It is hard to change.

p77 “The spirit, the soul, and the body also appear in alchemy, as symbolsed by a forest (body) in which live both a stag (soul) and a unicorn (spirit) (Figure 19). The unicorn may also be viewed as a symbol of the creative animus.”
cRef the Stag in plate I-2.

Very important….
p79 “We see from the symbolism of the three-tiered crown that the passions are not to be banished (or repressed) but rather transformed. Without them, there is no passion for life, no life force, no basis on which other developments may rest. …
In the crown, the iron, silver, and gold are united and separate, and so this intimates that the final result will not be gold alone.104
104CW13 pp. 277-8, footnote 14

p79-80 There is a good reference here to the work of Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, describing in brief how with the emergence of metal and the hero appealing to the more heroic heart, the relationship, patient and engaged with Nature feel away. As the hero and metal evolved alongside religion I should imagine the patriarchal myth was elevated leaving the powers of darkness and evil to nature where they still lie in many ways with enlightenment and science.

p81 “The debate between the body and the soul was a popular topic in medieval texts. In one well0known example, 'Soul described herself as a noble creature blackened by Flash, which must be overcome by hunger, thirst and beatings.'110

Plate I-8 The Ethiopian

cf. CW13, Alchemical Studies, Jung mentions this plate referencing the Ethiopian as Mercurius. This makes sense when you consider the 'dynamic' nature of this ethiopian and all he is; the different colours etc.

p85 “The image of the man emerging from the mire also brings to mind Dante's description of a muddy swamp in the underworld, where those guilty of the sin of acedia, or spiritual indifference, live for eternity. These are the people who met life's challenges with anger or sullen apathy: we might say that they failed to capture the precious sublimate and ended as clotted masses of prima materia.
Although this last sentence is pretentious Jungian crap I think the description of the image, or someone in acedia is very interesting and reminds me of the state Jung describes in CW9ii of 'rootless consciousness', cRef'd p65 above too.

p86 “Genuine transformation must always include what Jung referred to as 'shadow,'116 'the “negative” side of the personality, the sum of all those unpleasant qualities we like to hide, together with the insufficiently developed functions and the contents of the personal unconscious.'117 (The word 'functions' in this context has a specific meaning. In Jung's terminology, it denotes two pairs of complementary ego functions: thinking/feeling and sensation/intuition.118
117CW7 §103, n. 5..
118See 'Psychological Types', CW6

p87 “The Ethiopian is a figure that appears often in alchemy, reminding us of the essential nature of the problem of the shadow, which is not just a single stage. As Jung pointed out in 'Psychology of the Transference':

Nor is it the end - for this is a process that repeats itself throughout life, as long as individuation continues.”

p88 “In plate I-8 the Feminine Principle is fully manifest as a saving grace, a guardian spirit represented as a woman, a queen who is also an angel, i.e., transcendent. She has the power to rescue the alchemical/analytic process from the folly of mere insight by recasting it as a relational process rather than one of mastery. The wings suggest that the white bird in the previous picture has now taken shape and form, to be experienced in an embodied way. In Jung's terms, she represents the Feminine Self for women or the anima for men.”

Plate I-9 The Hermaphrodite

p90 “The figure has two heads and necks: one is a clean-shaven man with sandy hair and blue eyes; the other is a woman, also with blue eyes and fair, reddish hair.122
122In 'Psychology of the Transference,' Jung discusses an image of the hermaphrodite from another famous alchemical treatise of the sixteenth century, the Rosarium Philosophorum (CW16 §§525-37)

p90 “In its left hand, the hermaphrodite holds an egg, upon which both heads look intently. According to alchemical tradition, the Four Elements are contained in the symbolic egg. The outer shell represents Earth; the membrane between the shell and the white, Air; the white itself, Water; and the yoke, Fire. Thus the egg is a symbol of totality, of the Four Elements distinct yet combined in harmonious relationship: 'all the elements combined with matter to form a source of perfect nature, just so as it is necessary in this noble art.'

p91 “To Marie-Louise von Franz,126 the image of the hermaphrodite illustrated the in-between, or 'stuck,' nature of a complex.”
126von Franz, Redemption Motifs in Fairy Tales, p. 27

p91 “Nevertheless, this is not the end. In fact, if the process should end here, the patient will very likely be left with an inflated sense of power of insight. [The coniunctio of the hermaphrodite] Inflation is a danger here.

Plate I-10 The Golden Head

p95 “One might say that the image of the hermaphrodite as a resolution of the problem of the opposites is contrived, facile, or too intellectual. So we see that as we move along from one plate to the next, there is an anticipation of a solution to the problem of the opposites, followed by a more integrated, embodied, and lived solution, only to be followed by destruction and then a new anticipation.[Death & rebirth]
Once again we must be reminded that fresh insight into the problem of the opposites involving an artificial union can easily be overvalued. There is always the danger of getting fixated upon the insight without the embodiment of the transformation. …The hermaphrodite, then, is an imperfect, or premature, image of the Self, but not a final image. …Hence the ruthless separatio of the present picture.
At this stage, separation involves a sacrifice. We are reminded of the theme of sacrifice and decapitation in the vision of Zosimos,…134
134See CW 13 §95, for parallels between this plate and the golden head and dismemberment in the visions of Zosimos. Jung suggested that, 'the golden head referred originally to the head of Osiris …' and that, 'The Greek alchemists styled themselves as “Children of the Golden Head”' (CW 12 §530).
The head is also the rational and logic of understanding. If you understand or contain the coniunctio, the symbol and if you rationalise or 'own' it, name it without experiencing it you will be inflated, you lose it, so cut off the head.

Also, cRef CW13 Visions of Zosimos regarding the dismemberment of the body :

Plate I-11 The Alchemist in the Bath

p98-99 “Vulcan, or Hephaistos the blacksmith, is the great shaman of Greek mythology. According to Homer, Hephaistos came to Her's aid when Zeus threatened her. Zeus hurled Hephaistos off of Mount Olympus, and he ws crippled by the fall. He had to fend for himself apart from the rest of the gods, but he learned how to transform base metals into valuable things, including beautiful jewelry. He stands for that ability to create order and beauty out of what would otherwise be chaos.”
If these illustrations are at all chronological in their perspective, i.e. as with I-7, then I wonder if Jupiter & Mercury are the start, Hephaistos the next step or part of the journey to the Alchemist in the bath all contained in the Alembic in the foreground.

p100 The authors go on about the alchemist being in pain and suffering in the bath - he doesn't look like he's suffering. This seems a contrived statement to me to suit the Jungian prescript.

p100 “This alchemical symbol conveys that the work done on the chthonic, or earthly, level has released the white bird, which ascends - the reverse of the Christian dogma that spiritual enlightenment comes only from above through divine revelation, as symbolised by the white dove descending in Figure 27 [p99]. In alchemy, salvation comes not only from above: it comes also from below.”

p100 “Edinger speaks of the released bird as the white soul,139 the anima candida, and cites an alchemical text quoted by Jung in Psychology and Alchemy:

139Edinger, Anatomy of the Psyche, p. 121.

The Second Series


p103 “In medieval astrology, each known planet had a 'ruler,' personified as a god or goddess, and in medieval alchemy, each of the seven planets was associated with a stage of the alchemical opus in the following order:
Sol (Sun)
This order begins with what was believed to be the most distant planet from earth and progresses to the nearest.”

p103 “The scenes in the paintings draw upon medieval woodblock and miniature illustrations known as The Planets and their Children. The term 'children' referred to the people born under the astrological signs governed by the planet: the were believed to share traits and occupations consistent with the character of the ruling god.”

p106 “According to the Aurora Consurgens, the ripening of the philosopher's stone requires nine months, the same time as the gestation of a human fetus.”

p106 “The seven 'planets' of the astrologers of those times were in fact the five planets visible with the naked eye (Venus, Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter), plus the Sun and Moon. Each of the five actual planets 'ruled' over two signs of the Zodiac - here depicted on the wheels of the chariots - whereas the Sun and the Moon each ruled over one sign. In this was, all twelve signs of the Zodiac are represented in the series.

Signs of the Zodiac

Dates Sign Planet ruler Element Humour Cross
22 Dec - 20 Jan Capricorn Saturn (passive) Earth phlegmatic cardinal
21 Jan - 19 Feb Aquarius Saturn (active) Air sanguine fixed
20 Feb - 20 Mar Pisces Jupiter (passive) Water melancholy mutable
21 Mar - 20 Apr Aries Mars (active) Fire choleric cardinal
21 Apr - 21 May Taurus Venus (passive) Earth phlegmatic fixed
22 May - 21 Jun Gemini Mercury (active) Air sanguine mutable
22 Jun - 22 Jul Cancer Moon Water melancholy cardinal
23 Jul - 23 Aug Leo Sun Fire choleric fixed
24 Aug - 23 Sep Virgo Mercury (passive) Earth phlegmatic mutable
24 Sep - 23 Oct Libra Venus (active) Air sanguine cardinal
24 Oct - 22 Nov Scorpio Mars (passive) Water melancholy fixed
23 Nov - 21 Dec Sagittarius Jupiter (active) Fire choleric mutable

p108 “Jung pointed out that we have a tendency to experience and conceptualise the opposites as:

p109 “In this view, each return is not to the original beginning. It begins with the prima materia left over from the last cycle. This is represented in various psycho-spiritual systems as a spiral. Jung wrote in 1935:

p110 “From a psychological standpoint, the alembic represents a conscious, purposeful, contained activity. As Jung noted,

The illustrations in relation to the blockbook (woodcut) 'The Planets and Their Children'

Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Luna (Moon)
Plate II-12 Plate II-13 Plate II-14 Plate II-14 Plate II-16 Plate II-17 Plate II-8
The Planets and Their Children

- A Blockbook (woodcut) of Medieval Popular Astrology

Saturn Jupiter Mars Sun Venus Mercury Luna (Moon)
Saturn is my name; I'm first
Of planets high above the earth.
I am by nature dry and cold,
And my works are manifold.
I in my houses firmly stand-
The Goat and the Waterman.
I do much damage by my might,
On sea and land, by day and night.
My exaltation's in the Scales,
But in the Ram my power fails.
It's thirty years, harsh and malign,
Ere I come again to the same sign.
Great Jupiter is now my name,
The second planet, strong in fame.
I am moist and truly warm,
By nature I can do no harm.
Two signs I have, their houses mine-
Archer and fishes, which golden shine.
Seek and prove me there, I pray:
Much good will surely come your way.
When in the Crab, I'm lifted high.
Weaker, in the Goat I sigh.
My passage round the twelve signs is
In twelve long years accomplished.
I am the third planet, Mars,
Wrathful, raging through the stars
I'm full of hate - and hot and dry,
With my might I magnify
All who please me, and I will
Glorify those who war and kill.
My houses the Scorpion and the Ram.
If there is conflict, there I am.
In the Goat I'm lifted high,
In the Crab lose strength and die.
The twelve signs I travel through
Not in one year, but in two.
Men call me Sol, I am the sun,
The middle planet, on I run.
Beneficent and warm and dry,
By nature my rays fill the sky
The Lion's my house, therein I dwell,
And brightly shining I do well.
There I stand, fair and bold,
Against old Saturn's bitter cold
In the Ram I rule and reign
But in the Maid I fail, I wane.
And through the stars my way to wend,
Three hundred and sixty-five days I spend.
I am Venus, fifth planet above
The world, and am the light of Love.
I'm moist and cold, and in my hour
Men feel my great and awesome power.
Two houses are mine, in which I fare,
The Bull and Scales, and when I'm there
I live in joy and jollity,
And Mars can never frighten me.
In the cold, wet Fishes I'm glad to rise,
In the Virgin's sign my power dies.
In just one year and then one day
Through the signs I gently play.
Mercury am I, gentle, soft,
Sixth planet, I send the winds aloft.
When other stars are warm, I'm hot;
I'm just as cold when they are not.
The Twins and the Maid so fine
Are the houses I account as mine.
In which I go most cleverly,
So Jupiter can't bewilder me.
I'm at my best when in the Maid,
But in the Fishes sure to fade.
Through all the signs I make my ways
In three hundred and four and thirty days.
I'm Luna, planet number seven,
The moon, nearest star in the heaven.
Cold and wet, my power ranging
Over all, unstable, changing.
The Crab is my own mansion fair,
And when you see me standing there
If Jupiter can look at me,
I'll do no evil then, you'll see.
I am exalted in the Steer,
In the Scorpion fall low I fear.
Through the stars I leap and bound,
In twenty-seven days I come around.
His Children His Children His Children His Children Her Children His Children Her Children
My children are vicious, dry and old,
Envious, weary, wretched, cold.
Deep eyes, hard skin, their beards are small.
They're lame, misshapen, depraved withal.
Traitorous, brooding, greedy, pale,
They often find themselves in jail.
They grub the dirt, dig graves, plow land,
In foul and stinking clothes they stand.
Condemned to die or live in sorrow,
Sweat and strain, or trouble borrow,
Always needy, never free,
It's Saturn's children there you see.
Modest, happy, virtuous lives;
They're lusty, but they love their wives.
Fortune smiles, they're just and wise,
Rosy faces and laughing eyes,
Well-mannered and well-clothed, refined
With hound and bow they hunt the hind.
In falconry they have much art,
Well-mounted, they pursue the hart.
Sailors and judges and men of the court
Hardworking scholars, their studies not short.
If to these things they are inclined,
It's Jupiter's children that you find.
All my trueborn children fight,
Murder, strive, and slay with might.
Angry, haughty, warlike, proud,
Liars, thieves, their boasts are loud.
Burning, cheating, robbing, hot,
Their quarrels may be just - or not.
Small teeth, small beards, tall and thin,
Noses sharp and hard rough skin.
Butchers of men, killers of swine,
Smiths and marshals, children mine.
Captains, gunners, doctors good,
All those who deal in fire and blood.
Noble and fortunate I am,
As are all my children.
Good beards, large foreheads, bodies fair,
Ruddy lips, of brains their share.
Happy, kindly, well-born, strong,
Fond of harps, viols, and song.
All morning long to God they pray,
And after noon they laugh and play.
They wrestle and they fence with swords,
They throw great stones, and serve great lords.
Manly exercises are their sports,
They have good luck in princely courts.
Lightly loving, full of mirth,
My children are happy here on earth.
Merry when rich and merry poor,
None can compare, you may be sure.
Pipe and tabor, harps and lutes,
They play organs, horns and flutes.
With singing, and with dancing too,
Embrace their lovers, kiss and woo.
They rejoice to hear fair music's sound.
Their mouths are darling, faces round.
Beautiful bodies, parched by Lust's heat,
My children find Love's duties sweet.
My children I faithfully instill
With lust for beauty, greed for skill.
No long journey for them too hard,
Strange new knowledge is their reward.
Their faces are full and pale and round,
Their bodies white, their limbs unsound.
Their clocks and organs are the best,
Excellent scribes, they take no rest.
Dextrous goldsmiths, painters good,
People praise them - and they should.
They are a smart, hardworking lot,
When asked for help they give it not.
All heavenly influence through me must go
Now strong, now weak, now fast, now slow.
Headstrong, heedless, and half-wild -
If he won't be led, he's Luna's child.
Pale round faces and brown eyes,
Cruel teeth, snub-nosed, and never wise,
Easily angered, but soon consoled,
Short, lazy, jealous, greedy for gold.
Tinkers and jugglers and students who roam,
Millers, birdcatchers, those never at home,
If you fish or swim or sail,
As Luna's child you cannot fail.
2013/09/14 12:55

Plate II-12 The Heart of the Dragon (1 of 7)


Δ p111 “Jung pointed out that 'Saturn is the father and origin of Mercurius, therefore the latter is called “Saturn's child”.'”

p113 “According to myth, the caduceus gave Hermes the power to change into any form he desired or to touch others and put them into a dream state. … The origins of the symbolism probably predate Greek culture, since they are identical to the more ancient Tantric symbolism found in Kundalini yoga: the central rod represents a subtle channel, susumn, which ascends along the spine to the brain and through the top of the skull' the left snake represents ida, the lunar channel, while the snake on the right represents pingala, the solar channel.”
cRef Figure 22, p85 for the Caduceus revealed by Sophia.

In reference to the image of Saturn / Hermes being pulled along in a chariot by two winged dragons, cRef p47 (above) : the 'Sophic mercury' referred to as a 'winged dragon'.

p113 “Psychologically, the animal-vehicles are the instinctual energies that are contained and transcended by the god or goddess, who in effect has put them under conscious control.”

p114 “In his essay on 'The Spirit Mercurius,' Jung wrote that,

p115 “David Williams, in his study of the symbolic functions of the monster in medieval European thought and literature, has aptly summarised the dragon's essential symbolism: …This monster is simultaneously a being of water, earth, air, and fire, and thus the sign of the potency and plenitude of being itself. …”32
32Williams, Deformed Discourse, p. 202.

I really like this reference to David Williams about the dragon as a symbol. A theriomorphic symbol encompassing and 'owning' the four elements in many ways. The dragon as a creature holds in its mantal fire = can breath fire, can resist fire, water = scales like a fish, air/wind = can fly, earth = lives in caves, and with four legs just as comfortable on earth as in the air. What a great creature!

p116 “Within the alembic, the naked boy subjects the prima materia to the two processes known as the solutio and calcinatio, which are often said to be the beginning of the alchemical work.”
The mercurial child is both fanning the fire with the billows and pouring the prima materia into the dragon's mouth, the dragon's belly = the fire in fluid form. So we have the paradoxical situation of both liquid and fire, the solution and the calcination. Makes me think of Zosimos, the permanent water = aqua permanens.

Plate II-13 Three birds (2 of 7)


At the top is Jupiter, the king of the gods, whose chariot is being drawn by a pair of peacocks.

p121 “The symbols on the wheels are the two signs ruled by Jupiter, and they come just before and after the signs ruled by Saturn. Sagittarius, which precedes Capricorn, is the active side of Jupiter, whereas Pisces, which follows Aquarius, is the passive side.”

p121 “Sagittarius is symbolised by the Centaur …mythological creature half-horse, half-man, whose unrestrained passions but skill in hunting evoke the potential of mankind's animal nature. The positive potential of this combination was found in the centaur Chiron…”

p121 “Pisces, represented by two fish swimming in opposite directions, is the last sign of the Zodiac and holds within it the potential to swim backwards into the cycle of life or forward to something new. Pisces is associated with intuition, sensitivity, insecurity, and adaptability.”

p124 “Psychologically, outer harmony may allow for a clearer experience of inner factors and conflicts, as well as a search for new information, as represented graphically by the explorations of the alchemists and the hounds. This is a phenomenon well-known to analysts: when the analysand has achieved a reasonable stability in outer life, the inner life is free to stir.”
Although I don't disagree with this I think that it is not the norm. Looking at the images I would say there is an element of inside vs outside, i.e. what is going on in my life and what is going on psychologically. When things are in calm and organised and structured in our lives, very often there is the opposite inside (as Jung often points out)…so there is the conflict and dynamic activity of the three birds. Or, as in the previous image, the Saturnian lifestyle is a struggle and it is then that there is rebirth and a stocking, a child like rejuvenation within our psyche, a calm (before the storm admittedly). I think this is important…where the flow of energy is at a particular point in time.

Plate II-14 A Three-headed bird (3 of 7)


p126 “The god of war, with his shield and spear, rides in a chariot drawn by two galloping wolves. At the front of the chariot is a coiled serpent, representing a readiness to strike but also 'emotionality and the possession of a soul.'58
58CW13, §316

p129 “In alchemy, the wolf was particularly connected with Mars,59 as the personification of the passions that both animate and consume.”
59CW13, §176
…“The wolf can also be an initiatory animal.60
60CW13, p141, footnote 39.

p129 “On the wheels of the chariot, we see the signs of the Zodiac ruled by Mars. Aries, or the Ram, the first sign of the Zodiac, symbolises the original cause or thunderbolt rising from the primordial waters of Pisces, which ended the previous cycle. It is associated with thunder and spring, with the potential becoming actual. In contrast, the eighth sign, Scorpio is associated with the fall season, death, and the hangman. … As a medieval verse puts it, the human 'children' of Mars are, 'All those who deal in fire and blood.'”

p130 “We see dramatic examples of the tension of forward movement in the psychosomatic ailments that may appear during treatment. Paracelsus reflected an ancient therapeutic wisdom when he said, 'The body is a dwelling place of the soul, and the one must open “access” to the other.'58
Italics mine

I like that quote from Paracelsus as not enough is said of the psychosomatic interaction in the individuation process. Also on this page, its worth pointing out the discussion of the cyclical nature of the opus, the spiral motion of repeating but renewing and developing…so movement on three planes. The prima materia renews itself so-to-speak. Each step starts anew with the prima materia = the result of the previous stage.

In this alembic, the three coloured birds (Red, Black, White) from the previous image have come together as one white bird with three heads. I'm reminded of the basilisk creature that has on its head a three pointed crown cRef. p55.
Its worth noting I think that the alembic remains contained - it is an inner process.


“So the single body [of the bird] suggests both the possibility of wholeness, as a fourth, and the fourth that has remained in the body, i.e., remained in the unconscious.” Square brackets mine

p131 ” Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom, the originator of writing and measurement, was represented as an ibis (or a man with the head of an ibis). He carried other gods and goddesses on his wings to the underworld and fulfilled the role of messenger to the gods, represented in Greek mythology by Hermes. His cult center became known as Hermopolis during Classical times.”

Plate II-15 A Three-headed Dragon (4 of 7)

Sol (sun)

The alembic is still sealed. A good question is how we can allow this process to happen internally where now the sun as a symbol of the Self emerges.

p135 “The three heads of this dragon are the colours of the alchemical process but the central head is red, meaning that the final stage of the work, the rubedo, is about to come into view. Both the white and the black heads take slightly lower positions, with the black head at the rear looking almost like a shadow.”

The dragon also looks like an evolved version of the dragon in the first slide, 'The heart of the dragon'.

p135 “Chinese dragons, like this dragon, represent the embodiment of the life force in Nature, which creates from the ground up and not from above by the bidding of celestial gods.”

Ω p136 “Jung suggested that the triadic aspect of Mercurius, who was often represented as a three-headed snake, is the chthonic counterpart to the Christian Trinity.77
77'The Unity and Trinity of Mercurius,' CW13, §§270-2

“In Aurora Consurgens, the lower Trinity is described as earth, which von Franz interprets as:
a psychic reality which has to do with the nature of matter. Matter thus acquires an importance of its own and is even raised to divine rank - in complete reversal of the medieval scholastic view, according to which matter, unless it is given form, has only potential reality. The text is, in effect, proclaiming a glorification of the feminine principle, of the body and matter. From this we can see what a shattering breakthrough of unconscious contents was needed before a man of the Middle Ages could hazard such a statement, …for these are the compensatory statements of the unconscious and not the conscious views of a man of that age.78
78von Franz, Aurora Consurgens, op. cit., p. 385.

Plate II-16 The Peacock (5 of 7)


p140 “The symbols in the alembic and the surrounding scene are no longer in opposition. …neither opposing nor compensating one another.”

p142 “The peacock, with its unfurled tail, is a state often accompanied by joy and enthusiasm for the possibilities in life and relationship. However, it can be an inflating image, because it does not represent the new day itself: it only represents the dawn of the new day. Once again, we have both the transformation and the anticipation of what is still to come.”

Something not mentioned in the book; the peacock's head is to the right although its right eye seems to look ahead. On the left of the alembic is a shadow or reflection onto the glass it seems. The 'reflection' is a 3 pronged spoke it seems, a white on the glass divided into three. This image, the next and the last in this series all have a reflection of sorts. These 'reflections' do not seem unintentional to me.

Plate II-17 The Muse (6 of 7)

Mercury - (Queen in the alembic)

p142 “This scene of city life and industry is a fitting representation of what we mean by the activities animated by the Logos Principle. … ruled by a principle of discipline (often thought of as patriarchal in Western culture).”

As in the 5th image (of this series) notice the 'reflection' on the Alembic - and also, that the alembic now has a crown. This reflection seems to show a division of four perhaps. It could even be the alembic starting to break?

p144 “The infant Hermes in the initial plate reminds us of Michael Fordham's concept of the primal self, or the undifferentiated self in potentia :
Jung's material shows many features of infantile states …and his interpretation of the quaternio as representing the prima materia in which the elements of the self are not integrated is on of them: it represents deintegration of the self resulting in identity of subject and object such as we find in infancy as well as in alchemy …It is the splitting processes on which Jung lays emphasis and he shows that they lead on to states of integration …My own experience of full analysis …depends upon reaching, through representations, the initial state of wholeness - the primary self - from which maturation can proceed.83
83M. Fordham, Analyst-Patient Interaction: Collected Papers on Technique , ed. S. Shamdasani, London, Routledge, 1996, p. 137.

p144 “The queen stands upon a yellow substance or light, on which there appears the profile of a man's head. …The profile in the alembic, however, refers to an individual man whose mental faculties and skills are now at the service of the Feminine Principle of relatedness rather than an end-in-themselves or a source of power or dominance. The yellow may also refer to a transitional stage of the alchemical process, the citrinatis or yellowing, found between the albedo and the rubedo. (This stage was not emphasised by alchemists in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries). The author of the Aurora Consurgens (thirteenth century) made an association between this yellow-red transition and the dawn: 'The dawn [aurora] is midway between night and day, shining with twofold hues, namely, red and yellow … Marie-Louise von Franz commented:
Psychologically this 'aurora' symbol denotes a state in which there is a growing awareness of the luminosity of the unconscious. It is not a concentrated light like the sun, but rather a diffused glow on the horizon, i.e., on the threshold of consciousness. The anima is this 'feminine' light of the unconscious bringing illumination, gnosis, or the realisation of the self, whose emissary she is.87
87von Franz, Aurora Consurgens, p. 206
I wonder if the anima is the emissary of the realisation, or the emissary of the Self?

p144 “The queen in the alembic is surrounded by an aura composed of an inner yellow band and an outer blue band. The colour blue was sometimes used to represent the quintessence, a fifth stage that followed the rubedo. Paracelsus introduced the symbolism of a sapphire from the Cabala in connection with the blue quintessence

Plate II-18 The New Sun as Inner Light (7 of 7)

Luna (moon) - (King in the alembic)

p148 “The maindens suggest that, at the culmination of the process, the instincts (represented by the animals pulling the chariots in the previous images) have become humanised.”

p148 “The moon rules over the astrological sign of Cancer, or the crab… Cancer is associated with the Home, with nurturing and support; according to Orphic belief, it represents the threshold for incarnation of the soul.90
90Cirlot, Dictionary of Symbols, p37.

p149 “This final picture is about mankind using Nature while also honouring Nature, so that none of the human activities are really against Nature. Humans recognise themselves as part of nature and try to live in balance with it. This is perhaps what the Chinese call living in the tao, suggesting the possibility of living more harmoniously with nature and human nature.”
I'm not sure I agree with this entirely. It is temporary - this scene. I'm not sure there is a balance unless man become a macrocosm akin to his microcosm, so to speak. By this I mean man as a collective now would need to control the collective ego, discipline, restraint, hurt, pain, denial…etc, the many stages we've just discussed for the individuals individuation journey would have to transpose to the macro/community level…if we are to live in harmony with Nature. I don't see this happening.

The process in the Second Series.

The Third Series

Cross reference Book Prelude to Chemistry …

p159-160 “Before proceeding with the Third Series, we might ask why the Splendor Solis uses three different series of images to illumine the alchemical process.
The symbolism of the First Series is more like the alchemy of the Middle Ages in Europe, when some alchemists really did think that they were going to make gold. Their symbolism referred to the alchemists' experiences in the laboratory, for example observations of colour changes and the use of processes such as distillation or calcification. This was at first done without any awareness that something was being added from the psyche by using an image or symbol.
…Scientists themselves are often convenced of their objectivity, overlooking their own philosophical, psychological, and spiritual projections…
The second series anticipates the philosophical alchemy that started in the sixteenth century and reached its zenith in the seventeenth century .
…As alchemy became more philosophical and therefore more speculative, its play of ideas was abstracted away from embodied mystical experience and from actual observations of matter. …When you are dealing with the elemental forces - as conveyed by the First Series - you don't know what is going to come next, but if you are operating at a more conscious level, patterns begin to emerge and events may be anticipated.
The final series of images consists of only four pictures.1 From a psychological point of view, the whole alchemical process is now represented by images mirroring certain fundamental states of being.”
1In the Harley manuscript, the plates in this series correspond to the text to the Fifth Treatise, entitled, 'The Manifold Operations of the Whole Work.'

Plate III-1 (19) The Dark Sun

Notice the sun is looking left (unconscious realm), whereas in the 4th plate the sun is looking right (consciousness). Could this image be a mirror image of the 4th plate (4th in this series, image #22). It is a black sun but has golden rays…there's something of that here I think. This could perhaps explain too why the black sun is visible in the earth. The dark sun is the individuals shadow that is half conscious but not really and yet still comes to bear on the light of consciousness, the lumen naturae. For the most part the shadow is still in the earth, still elemental and instinctual in energy, but has broken into consciousness, so the journey begins. There's definitely something of a 'mirror image' between the 1st and 4th plate here…

The burnt out and cut off trees in the foreground with the new - gold tinged - growth from the stumps reminds me of the fire-breaks in SA where they would burn wide paths of veld as fire breaks or burn whole parts of the veld to encourage new growth. New things would flourish out the ash as it was full of nutrients for the new growth.

Plate III-2 (20) Children at Play

There are 10 children in this picture, as noted:

p165 “The number of children - ten - might be of significance. Ten is the Pythagoream Tetractus, a symbol of unity, and so may refer to the totality of an experience. …In alchemy, the multiplicatio, whick could be performed only when the alchemical transformation had been successfully completed, was thought to progress in multiples of ten.14
14von Franze, Aurora Consurgens, p. 386.

That said, I think there is something more in the division of the image into 3 layers or 3 'depths' (all children are boys from what I can tell):
Foreground : There are 5 children in the foreground. A little boy on a red cushion with a gold pattern, a boy in a blue robe helping him, a boy in a yellow robe (= boy with yellow hair in middle ground?) reaching out to him holding a red toy horse, and two boys pulling the cushion. Something akin to the chariots we saw in the previous plates (as pointed out in the text). The kid on the cushion has a necklace with black beads, 5 in total, and what looks like a numeral '5' in black (= 6th 'bead'?).
Middle ground : There are 5 children, an older boy, and an woman. The woman is dressed in red with gold trim (= the cushion), the older boy in a blue robe is helping a younger boy onto the bench (boy in blue robe helping boy on cushion). One of the boys has a black toy horse, is naked and has yellow hair, in comparison to the boy dressed in yellow. There is a small baby that requires a mother to hold it (the woman in red) that somehow shows the start. The basket in the middle ground is in the process of being finished, you can make out the wicker weave pieces sticking out - finishing off or unravelling/broken? In the spirit of the opus I'd say being made, but it could just as well be unravelling. Given that the lady/girl in the background is holding one, I'd go with being finished off. I wonder what the thing behind the woman is?
The background : Through a doorway there is a woman (she is small enough to be a girl, but perhaps that is perspective only?). Two alembics are above the door that leads to the background. The woman holds a shallow dish/basket (like the one in the middle ground) and there is another one behind her. The two alembics are perhaps the means to the unconscious anima figure.
Not sure why the three perspectives …interesting though that there are definitely three scenes that are not interacting with one another - the children in the foreground are oblivious of the children in the middle ground, which makes no sense. There is a dark gold threshold between the two. There is definitely some correlation between these 3 scenes, stages? As the accompanying text in 'The Fifth Treatise' says:
p180 “The Water that turned to Earth, which the Corpus has absorbed, necessarily shows other and manifold colours. For if the properties of an operating thing alter, so must the thing operated on alter. Because in the DISSOLUTION the LIVING SILVER is active, but in the COAGULATION it is passive, operated on. Wherefore is this Art compared to the play of children, who when they play, turn undermost that which before was uppermost.”

The bible too talks of the truth of children, 'be like a child to enter the kingdom of God', or something like that. The elements in the alchemical process have regressed to children, so consciousness must return to its 'parts' (children) to RE coagulate?

cf. here the Hermetic Museum Alchemical text, english translation, p36

Plate III-3 (21) Women Washing

Plate III-4 (22) The Journey's End

p169 “These final four paintings show us that the process itself - not the origin, nor the goal - is the only expression of completion.”

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