Stories > Splendor Solis > Plate 11 - The Boiled Philosopher Rejuvenated
A naked bearded man with a white bird perched on his head, is being cooked in water heated by a fire that is tended by a assistant with bellows, in an ornate Renaissance courtyard. The process seems voluntary and the bird on the man's head suggests the boiling off of vapour or spirit. A liquid is being drawn off into a flask at the side of the boiler. In two niches are statues of Jupiter and Mercury. A bas relief of Pygmalion and sculpture he fell in love with is seen at the foot of the column. (Stephen Skinner's Splendor Solis commentary)
The Boiled Philosopher Rejuvenated vs The Caretaker
"The symbolism of the vessel appears as the vessel of spiritual transformation. The pre-Christian plunge bath signifies a return to the mysterious uterus of the Great Mother and its water of life. The image of the alchemist in the bath takes the integration a step further: the objective psyche is fully manifest and aware of itself. It is nothing less than transformation of the whole person. The bird perched on the golden sphere of the youthful king now appears on the head of an ordinary human being. What was formerly the wish of the adept to transcend the limitations of the material reality has resulted paradoxically in a humbled and embodied spiritual attitude. In alchemy, salvation comes not only from above, it comes also from below.”
In my drawing the bird is represented by the crowns on the head of the seahorses. The connection to the plate of the young king applies here too because the comb of the rooster stands for a crown and the rooster’s connection to the sun expresses the wish to transcend limitations of material reality. The seahorse at the bottom of he ocean embodies a more humble attitude. And the sun is still present, but it is above and now a full circle instead of only half.
The workman that blows air at the roaring fire beneath the furnace can be connected to the fish hiding in the seaweed in my drawing. It’s a lion fish and has the same colors of the man: red, white and black. The lion fish is an invasive species and can eat a variety of fish so he’s got plenty to eat and he’s not hungry to eat the seahorses, he’ll just sit there for a while. But like the workman that feeds the fire the lion fish maintains a level of pressure on the seahorses, who nonetheless hang in there. There is also another pressure for the larger seahorse and that is to give birth. But like pregnancy it cannot be rushed.
The Hanged Man also maintains a calm and relaxed attitude in the face of his predicament, and his halo has the same symbolism as the bird on the Philosopher’s head. It’s interesting to note he’s got red tights and a blue shirt while the workman in the Splendor Solis wears blue tights and a red shirt with a white apron and black overcoat.
Note: the quotes in italic are from the book by J.L. Henderson and D.N. Sherwood, Transformation of the Psyche: The Symbolic Alchemy of the Splendor Solis

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