Splendor Solis: Plate 19

DISSOLUTION is the FIRST Operation which has to take place in the Art of ALCHEMY -Trismosin

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Plate nineteen heralds us into the last section of the Splendor Solis, a final collection consisting of four plates which accompanies “THE FIFTH TREATISE ON THE MANIFOLD OPERATIONS OF THE WHOLE WORK IN FOUR CHAPTERS”.  The last series we worked through gave the process in a series of seven stages: Calcination, Dissolution, Separation, Conjunction, Fermentation, Distillation, and Coagulation. Now Solomon Trismosin gives us four stages, starting with dissolution. The goal is the same, but as we will see in the other plates of this series, we are looking through the lens of the human condition and spiritual alchemy rather than the chemical alchemy occurring in the alembic flask.

In plate nineteen, we see a picture of a sun with a human face, but instead of shining brightly in the sky, the sun is rendered transparent within the earth, its face dejected. While its golden rays peek above the horizon, the sun itself is blackened. The sun seems sunken into the earth, the rivers and soil running through it. In the fore-ground we can see dead trees, their outer layers blackened and decayed.

The text accompanying this chapter tells us that: “This Dissolution is nothing but a killing of the moist with the dry, in fact a PUTREFACTION, and consequently turns the MATTER black”. We can see the mixing of the dry and the moist in the plate when the rivers overlay the transparent sun. The sun is black, the blackening the first of the colored stages, the nigredo, that we see in alchemy. It has become the symbol of the prima materia; in physical alchemy it is the decaying, the breaking down of matter that we see replicated in the dead trees in the foreground, which breakdown and decompose to provide life for other growing things. In spiritual alchemy, it is the self-realization, and breaking down of our own personal structures so we can rebuild ourselves again. Sometimes this includes a journey to the underworld, a sinking down into the darkness and the earth, as the sun is doing.

Around the borders of the plate there are many creatures; birds, butterflies, caterpillars, dragonflies, snails and frogs. All the creatures in which we observe transformation as they move through the different stages of their life cycles. This is the key to this plate. Transformation, for with the beginning of the dissolution and decay comes the ability to rebuild and transform. Until we know ourselves well enough to break down our individual blocks and rebuild our psyches again, we can not find the ability to spiritually transform.

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