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Marlan, S. (2009). Henderson, Joseph L. & Sherwood, Dyane N. Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis. New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2003. Pp. xix + 227. Hbk. £30.00.. J. Anal. Psychol., 54(1):143-144.
   

(2009). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 54(1):143-144

Book Reviews

Henderson, Joseph L. & Sherwood, Dyane N. Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis. New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2003. Pp. xix + 227. Hbk. £30.00.

Review by:
Stanton Marlan

In this unique and important contribution to our understanding of the alchemical imagination and its relation to depth psychology, Joe Henderson and Dyane Sherwood focus upon the twenty-two paintings in the Harley manuscript (British Library) of the Splendor Solis (1582), an alchemical text of unknown authorship but written under the pseudonym of Salomon Trismosin—a work that recounts the wanderings and adventures of an adept in search of the Philosophers’ Stone. The manuscript, written in German and divided into seven Treatises, contains many quotations from well-known alchemists. While the authors find the text of some interest, it is the power of its illuminated paintings that engages them and through which they explore the character, depth, and psychological import of the alchemical process.

Transformation of the Psyche is remarkable for the beauty of these richly symbolic paintings and the high quality of their reproduction, and the book was obviously constructed with great care and a refined combination of analytical and artistic sensibilities. With an eye to the psychological and transformational dimensions of these twenty-two paintings, the authors find that they fall into patterns and exhibit contours and processes that link them together into three coherent and interrelated series.

The first series consists of eleven plates that appear to be based on observations of chemical transformation in a laboratory setting (colour changes, distillation, calcification, etc.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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