The Splendor Solis and the Jungian Mandala: 22 Images of the Soul

This post will serve as a guide to the Splendor Solis, an “illuminated manuscript” of Alchemical knowledge.

It also contains a nod towards Jung’s notions of Mandalas; it is worth keeping in mind that the Splendor Solis was a touchstone for Jung’s archetypal meditations.

This will be our second journey through the Splendor Solis; like all alchemical texts, this guide is a living, breathing document; this new version will feature revisions, additional insights, and further points of reference.

When every-sub article has been fully updated, this page will return.

Will the next publication be the final one?

I doubt it…

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If you find yourself in Berlin, Germany, and make your way to the States Museums, you might stumble upon a cryptic text called the Splendor Solis. Composed between 1532-1535 C.E., this pictorial manuscript is a living, visual guide to Alchemy. Its twenty two images provide an illustrated pathway to the creating the “red tincture”, better known as the Philosopher’s Stone.

It is definitely a rabbit hole – it contains both the exoteric (i.e. material ends) and esoteric (i.e. spiritual ends) of alchemy.

Is it wishful thinking to think we can turn lead into gold?

No, says the Splendor Solis. Here is how, in 22 images:

1. The Arms of the art
2. Philosopher with flask
3. The Knight on the double fountain
4. Solar King and Lunar Queen meet

The Seven Parables:
5. Miners excavating hill
6. Philosophers beside tree
7. Drowning King
8. Resurrection out of the swamp
9. Hermaphrodite with egg
10. Severing the head of the King
11. Boiling the body in the vessel

The Seven Flasks:
12. Saturn – Dragon and child
13. Jupiter – Three birds
14. Mars – Triple-headed bird
15. Sun – Triple-headed dragon
16. Venus – Peacock’s Tail
17. Mercury – The White Queen
18. Moon – The Red King

19. The dark sun
20. Children at play
21. Women washing clothes
22. Sun rising over the city

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Jung on Mandalas:

In 1938, I had the opportunity, in the monastery of Bhutia Busty, near Darjeeling, of talking with a Lamaic rimpoche, Lingdam Gomchen by name, about the khilkor or mandala. He explained it as a dmigs-pa (pronounced ”migpa”), a mental image which can be built up only by a fully instructed lama through the power of imagination. He said that no mandala is like any other, they are all individually different. Also, he said, the mandalas to be found in monasteries and temples were of no particular significance because they were external representations only. The true mandala is always an inner image, which is gradually built up through (active) imagination, at such times when psychic equilibrium is disturbed or when a thought cannot be found and must be sought for, because it is not contained in holy doctrine.

(Psychology and Alchemy, Princeton University Press, 1993, paragraph 123.)

It seems to me beyond question that these Eastern symbols originated in dreams and visions, and were not invented by some Mahayana church father.

(Psychology and Alchemy, Paragraph 124.)

It is not without importance for us to appreciate the high value set upon the mandala, for it accords very well with the paramount significance of individual mandala symbols which are characterized by the same qualities of a – so to speak – “metaphysical” nature. Unless everything deceives us, they signify nothing less than a specific centre of the personality not to be identified with the ego.

(Psychology and Alchemy, Paragraph 126.)

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Is the Splendor Solis a collection of 22 Mandalas? Is it one Mandala?

Is this a cultural misappropriation? (if so, we also have to blame the Tibetans…)

Here, finally is Jung on his own Mandalas:

My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of the self which were presented to me anew each day. In them I saw the self – that is, my whole being…

The self, I thought, was like the monad which I am, and which is my world. The mandala represents this monad, and corresponds to the microcosmic nature of the psyche.

… The question arose repeatedly: What is this process leading to? Where is its goal? From my own experience, I knew by now that I could not presume to choose a goal which would seem trustworthy to me. It had been proved to me that I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego. After all, I had been brought up short when I had attempted to maintain it… I was being compelled to go through this process of the unconscious. I had to let myself be carried along by the current, without a notion of where it would lead me. When I began drawing the mandalas, however, I saw that everything, all the paths I had been following, all the steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point – namely, to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation.

During those years, between 1918 and 1920, I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self

(Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Vintage Books, 1989, p. 196.)

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To be continued…

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