Splendor Solis: Plate 18

Is the Force of the heat thus mixed with heat in the earth, that it has made light the collected parts and resolved them so as to surpass the other elements, and therefore this heat shall be modified with the Coldness of the Moon – Solomon Trismosin


Plate eighteen is the final plate in the second series of the Splendor Solis. The cucurbit has gone through its final transformation, and in the center now stands the king. Like the queen in plate nineteen, he holds a golden scepter, and ball in his hands. He is standing on the moon, the symbol of feminine, and like his predecessor the queen, symbolizes his grounding in the opposite. His robe is red, the color of the rubedo that marks the final stage in the quest for the philosopher’s stone.

Above the king we find Luna, the personification of the moon, riding in her chariot, a crescent moon in her hand. The moon is above and below the king, so while it may seem that the plate skews towards revering masculinity by celebrating the end of the great work as a male figure, it is important to remember it is the combination of the masculine and feminine that allows the great work to come into existence. The king may rule the middle ground of the alembic flask in this plate, but the feminine is dominant both above and below. Both Luna and the moon below are golden, not the usual silver color associated with the feminine moon, but rather the solar masculine. This further symbolizes the interchange between the two forces as they co-mingle together, which brings us to the physical alchemy operation that is represented in this stage: Coagulation.

Coagulation occurs when the purified distillation from the last plate fuses with the remaining matter and recombines to a singular substance: The philosopher’s stone. The stone is a combination of matter and spirit, a recombining of the now purified body and soul. The prima materia has now become elevated to the ultima materia, symbolized by the golden glow emanating from the youthful king.

Luna’s chariot is pulled by two women, both holding golden ropes as they pull her through the clouds. This differs from the other chariots, which all had animal guides and suggests the elevation of the human spirit above our animalistic nature which is one of the goals of spiritual alchemy. Cancer, the sign ruled by the moon, adorns the back wheel.

Below Luna is a pastoral scene. On the left, in the far distance, are a number of men rowing boats along the river which meanders back to the village. Two men ride horses along the banks of the river, beside a field where a man is harvesting wheat. Two other men stand, hunting falcons perched on the arms of one while a hunting dog sniffs the ground below. In the foreground is a man hunting the ducks that glide along the rivers surface, his dog by his side. Next to him is a man fishing with a rod from the banks, while two other men trawl a fishing net through the water. On the right-hand side are two women gathering water from the river, behind them a mill, its waterwheel powered by the river current. In the far background we see more hunters and hounds, firing guns at the geese that fly above.

To understand the meaning of this scene we must go back to the first treatise, and the theory that elevating matter is done by taking that which nature provides and using human art and invention to improve upon it:

Here Nature serves Art with Matter, and Art serves Nature with suitable Instruments and method convenient for Nature to produce such new forms; and although the before mentioned Stone can only be brought to its proper form by Art, yet the form is from Nature. – Solomon Trismosin

This scene shows humans hunting with their tools to provide them with life-sustaining food and harnessing the power of the river to grind their wheat in the mill. Human innovation has allowed them control over nature, and thus elevated them from the animal kingdom. We saw over the previous two plates the evolution of art, and the increasing sophistication of the medium, and while this plate may seem to be divorced from art, it reminds us that it was the innovation in food gathering that allowed humans the freedom to move on from hunting, nomadic tribes, to organized society which allowed us the freedom to live and develop our personal, individual consciousness. Once we complete our own great work; walk the path, purify body, spirit and soul, and re-integrate them into a harmonious and balanced system, then we can find our own philosopher’s stone.

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