rss twitter

Down the Rabbit Hole
Paul Kiritsis, PsyD Clinical Psychology, DPhil., MA (History)


The Black Sun: A Decisive Symbol of Transformation and Renewal

Paul Kiritsis - Monday, February 04, 2013

One of the most interesting yet seldom acknowledged images that crop up in alchemical manuscripts is that of the black sun. For those unfamiliar with alchemical symbology in general, the pairing of two words qualitatively irreconcilable may seem very bizarre. How can a source of omnipresent physical light that sustains organic life all over our planet be linked to the colour black or to the concept of darkness in general? The answer to this question lies in the near-perfect conditions that must subsist on the planet for life to take root. These, as we all recognize, are dependent on the relative position of the Earth to the primary source of heat, our sun. Coming too close scorches and reduces everything on the Earth’s surface to cinders; alternatively, veering too far spurs a detrimental drop in temperature that coats it in thick layers of inimical ice. The environments of our two closest neighbours–Mars and Venus–both substantiate this theory. We also know that anomalous activity on the surface of the sun generates bursts of radiation (i.e. solar flares) that kill off those organisms unable to adapt to a spontaneous shift in environmental conditions. This dangerous and lethal potentiality latent in the solar sphere is called the black sun, a cosmological phenomenon dealt with at length by Stanton Marlon in his wonderful book, The Black Sun: The Alchemy and Art of Darkness.

Closely allied to the black sun are the nigredo and the caput corvi, phases of the alchemical opus inexplicable connected to darkness, excruciating pain, and suffering. Nigredo, as we should recall from the articles on transpersonal psychotherapy, is about an encounter with those facets of being that exist within the concentric sphere of the Self in an unacknowledged, unconscious state. Jung branded these aspects of the total personality one’s shadow. Confronting one’s own shadow is usually a fearsome experience. Just like an excess of heat extirpates life and causes an alchemical vessel holding the matter to be worked on to burst, so too does a complete identification of the ego with conscious contents spur the materialization of archetypal and transpersonal forces which penetrate the frontiers of personal consciousness and overturn the soul’s existing harmony and order. When this happens, one might feel like a mortal hero or heroine being seared alive by the fiery breath of a colossal dragon; an Egyptian Osiris being dismembered by the hands of the evil Seth; an intoxicated Dionysus being torn to shreds by a group of Maenads entranced and deaf to the reason of consensual waking consciousness; or a Christ bearing the collective burdens of humanity by suffering a chain of flagellations and subsequent death by crucifixion. What the language of these mythical constituents is telling us is that there can be no corruption without dissolution, no light without the darkness, no victory without defeat, and no form or establishment of form without the pre-existence of a formless prima materia.

Understood from a psychological vantage point nigredo is imminent when the ego-self can no longer contain the violent influx of transpersonal forces and when a growing number of phenomena and facts can no longer be explained away or reconciled with one’s existing archetypal model of reality. This happens again and again over the course of one’s lifetime; there is no limit to the amount of nigredo persons might suffer in their plight to individuate and become everything that the nisus embodied by their personal psychic dowry decreed they should become. In the alchemical nigredo, our personality loses its fundamental unity and we are reduced to the sum of our parts. Some of these parts will enter into temporary conflicts and oppositions with one another, initiating a tug of war in the psyche that stretches the membrane of the ego in disparate directions. The ebbs and flows of transpersonal power can be so overwhelming and disorientating at this time as to incite genuine feelings that one is descending into madness or losing his or her grip on reality. Thankfully, all psychospiritual processes are heeded by hope, an omnipresent source of wisdom that any plunge into darkness is temporary and will soon be succeeded by healing and the reestablishment of fundamental harmony within the soul. Transcendence from the paranoia, anxiety, and madness associated with nigredo consciousness is probable when faith in the healing power of the Self has not been forsaken. This makes mental suffering all the more bearable, or so we’re led to believe!

The image of the black sun can also be connected with the concepts of death and defeat in the Narcissus myth. Orientated to the field of psychological inquiry, the beautiful youth Narcissus himself personifies an inflated ego about to yield an acidic surplus of transpersonal energy which will gradually penetrate its archetypal blueprints and dissolve them completely. As expounded in the renowned classical tale, these corrosive agents do not come from entities, circumstances, or interactive fields that stand without; nobody, not even the beautiful water nymphs, can activate a powerful enough thought-desire, emotion, or eros-fire within the young man as to dissolve his internal mechanisms and structures. Narcissus remains unmoved by anything from the phenomenal world that is not of his own inherent nature. In the end, the agent of dissolution comes from a spiritual space within, from intercourse with his own self. Peering onto the surface of a calm, limpid lake one day he catches sight of his own reflection and becomes enamoured of it. Desire for a physical form can be so overpowering as to spur behaviours and actions not indigenous to a particular personality. In Narcissus’s case the impulse to get up close and personal with his own likeness could not be resisted and cost him his life; keeling over for a closer look at himself, he plunges into the water and drowns. Hence, from a psychological viewpoint, we might say that eros-fire or love has sparked a nigredo that dissolves Narcissus consciousness so that a greater, more comprehensive consciousness might emerge from its putrefying remains. The narcissistic youth had to die so that a much nobler, intricate, and three-dimensional personality, perhaps a sly magician or a valiant hero, can emerge and inherit the transmuting terrain.

From what we know about different states of consciousness, the propensity of the unconscious to express itself using leitmotifs from the natural world cannot be overlooked. What we find in most cases is that images are codified into a symbolic language unique to the consciousness footprint of each individual before being projected onto the nocturnal slate of mentation. A stream of images flowing forth from the unconscious through active imagination, hypnagogia, or dreams speaks only about the present condition of the psyche. Any other tool of analysis we might gravitate towards in our plight to derive meaning or understanding is purely speculative. For instance, stealing personal property from a close relative could connote anything from the manifestation of new insights into existing problems to an undisclosed desire for vengeance against the respective personage for a perceived wrongdoing. The interpretation derived depends entirely on the sum of conscious and unconscious thoughts with which the personal ego is preoccupied at that point in time. This is why the best interpretation of any dream is best given by the dreamer himself. Who knows you better than you know yourself, right?

Having said that, there are certain images or phantasmagorias that possess identical or at least analogous meanings for the individuals of any one culture. Undoubtedly, the most dreaded of these is the black sun. Vivid, disturbing, and sometimes lucid dreams are a primary symptom of the arrival of the black sun in the little solar system of one’s present, self-conscious personality. The harbingers of this distressing state are many in form and number, and can emerge from the unconscious depths either as literal renditions of a physical black sun shining in the blue sky or as subtle metaphors involving faeces, foul odours, the death of organic life, and lamentations for a living or deceased relative. Images of rotting flesh, graves, overflowing toilets, and the presence of worms and other organisms involved in the decomposition of organic matter are also indications that the black sun has risen. Marlon has specified in his book that the appearance of the black sun in dreams sometimes precedes a major life transition or the manifestation of a terminal illness. In this way, it acts like the great star Sirius whose heliacal rising from the eastern horizon heralds the coming of a new dawn. (As a transition to the sphere of eternity, physical death is also an aurora of sorts.)

One of the most striking depictions of the alchemical black sun is to be found on the second plate of the third sequence of illuminating paintings known as the Splendor Solis (c. 1532-1535). Here, the black sun is portrayed as a black orb from which an infinite crown of golden-orange rays emanate. It ascends over an irradiated town nested amidst a bountiful countryside that is itself divided into three dunes. Climbing higher and higher along the invisible rungs leading to the pinnacle of heaven, the sun’s rays pierce the rose-tinted wisps of cloud overhead but also the dense folds of earth in which vegetative and mineral life gestate. Indeed, the fire of life coming from the centre of the solar system is the same one that churns in the centre of the earth. This dual fire indicates that inner and outer and above and below are one reality. Perusing the vicinity of the aurora, one can see that the terrain is semi-translucent; the shape of the sun’s orb is clearly illuminated behind the meandering path which connects the horizon to the adjacent mounds of the countryside. A close examination also reveals the incongruous nature of the image; the fecundity and fruitfulness of the green hills and meadows closest to the horizon are juxtaposed by a foreground dominated by a desiccated watercourse. What confuses the issue further is that a bed of young shrubs and plants have miraculously sprouted from amid the dust. Finally, a cluster of dead tree stumps situated on the mound furthest from the horizon and around the bank of the watercourse serve as reminders that the ancient land from which they once sprouted is periodically atrophied by natural cataclysms and upheavals.

So what exactly is being depicted here? Taking all the aforementioned observations into consideration, the answer that best fits is one that regards the entire plate as something of an   emblematic reminder that each growth in individual and collective consciousness is a crisis in self-esteem. It’s telling us that higher consciousness–a concept that concurrently embodies vital life force, dynamic systems of operation, and mentation–is the glorious child of a cosmological contradiction where death and regeneration are indivisible aspects of creation. This isn’t just an unshakable law of psychological distillation; it’s one that defines all processes of creation. Looking at life as a purely physical process, we might say that the periods of depression signifying a necessity for planetary evolution have come through anomalous climactic changes to the Earth’s atmosphere. The major catalysts for these extreme, hostile periods whereby existing orders of plant and animal life suffer decimation and fossilization and new potentialities for expression are realized come from above in the form of meteorites and solar flares and from the Great Below in the guise of volcanic eruptions, continental drifting, earthquakes, and periodic orbital wobbles.  As an agent of transmutation, change is coming from the celestial and subterranean planes, from regions above and below.

The same is true for the individuating Self; when the coagulated personal myth and archetypal vision of the prevailing ego can no longer contain a proliferating mass of factual information and data about the phenomenal world, transpersonal powers existing without but operating from within the totality of the psyche are spontaneously activated. Extreme or excess conditions in the ego (i.e. severe inflation of thought-desires) are the reason for its sublimation. At this point the old ‘form’ of the personality is dismantled; the outmoded psychic projections are subsequently destroyed; the shadow aspects are reconciled with elementary projections the Self deems worthy of being saved; and the remaining thought-forms are reintegrated into a newer and more inclusive ‘form’ or wider personality. Of course, the acquisition of this newly illumined state wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the combined action of the outer interactive field and the emotional phantasmagorias irrupting from the unconscious on the conscious ego. Our new psychic constitution is thus a combined gift from the nourishment of inner and outer planes of reality, from the Great Above and the Great Below.  

By the same token the fiery essence within our own psychic core is the same one powering the cosmic animal known as Mother Nature, the Earth, the solar system, and the entire universe. Everything that exists has come about through the action and interaction of this prime, intangible substance whose true form has never been comprehended or seen, and whose theorization has been honoured under a host of names like ether, fire, odic force, mercury, mesmeric fluid, qi, and prana. Sadly, variant levels of ignorance, egocentricity, and narcissism prevent most of us from ever awakening to the fact that everything in the cosmos is interconnected and imbued with some degree of sentience. Straddling this esoteric conceptualization entirely, the plate conveys a consciousness or state of being that is delicately poised between the forces of creation and destruction in addition to the active and passive principles of generation; to gain traction in moving forward, life must go backwards first. From the contradictory nature of the natural imagery we gain a sense that for any sentient entity, the auric illumination of the present co-exists alongside the whole gamut of painful putrefactions endured in the past. The phenomenon, the decor tells us, is universal, embracing the physical, biological, and psychospiritual dimensions of existence. Just as the contemporaneous bionetworks of the Earth thrive atop subterranean depths enfolding the fossilized remains of prehistoric life forms, so too does the psychic patina of a fully-formed adult personality embody the fossilized memories of prenatal, childhood, and teenagehood incarnations buried deep within the darkened caverns of one’s personal unconscious. Thus, the plate is an ode to the animistic and primeval belief that Great Above and Great Below and planes of reality perceived as inner and outer by the human mind are all reflections of cosmic laws originating from the inexplicable One. Between the horizon and the second mould of lush vegetation the semi-translucent earth reveals a black sun with a very human physiognomy, suggesting that there is a numinous creative intelligence that has ordered the phenomenal world and its constituent elements.

Perhaps, then, there is a reason to the cosmos. What do you think?                  






e liquide commented on 28-Sep-2013 06:31 AM
Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long ass I provide credit and sources back to your webpage?

My website is in the exact same niche as yours and my users would truly benefit from a lot of the information you provide here.

Please let me know if this ok with you. Regards!
retro sweets commented on 28-Sep-2013 08:01 AM
It's difficult to find experienced people on this subject, however, you sound like you know what you're talking about!

United National Moving And Storage Reviews commented on 28-Sep-2013 11:00 AM
I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme.

Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
Plz respond as I'm looking to construct my own
blog and would like to know where u got this from.

acc 290 commented on 28-Sep-2013 03:09 PM
You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be
really something which I think I would never understand.
It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post,
I'll try to get the hang of it!
cyber monday sales commented on 28-Sep-2013 03:44 PM
Sandro Moscolini boasts of its beautiful style feeling unparalleled in its Laquil Slip-On categories boots, in which its special characteristics are the ostrich-breast vamp and sides, with each other with Spanish handsewn craftsmanship, and calfskin
leather sole. He offsets the value of field maintenance by running a memento shop, both online and at the discipline,
and on-site people who enjoy his kindness are totally free to leave
donations in a box at the rear of home plate. This designer hails from Italy which is a nation with a
very long heritage of excellent and distinctive fashion models.
Christian Louboutin black friday commented on 28-Sep-2013 05:56 PM
Well I am a expert editor and my do the job is to promote and
by on line platform. Solar billiard table heaters are gifted
gizmos for more information on get rid of the swimming billiard
desk heating expenditures and give a multi practical competitive go slowly but surely
to many other choices like fuel and fuel and electric heat.
Coach Outlet Clearance The two significant options for
procuring for insoles seriously are arc
sustain and consolation.
stove commented on 28-Sep-2013 07:15 PM
New aspects such as product development, marketing, sales finance,
customer care, brand building etc making it necessary for man to accelerate his economic growth.
basketball One hopeful sign is that younger workers tend to be more attuned to recognizing an
unhealthy workplace "country" motif that once would come to mind when some people would think of braided rugs.
[url=]health[/url] Medications:
Edema may be caused by a variety of medications, for example, steroids, up a lot of our valuable
time but was also quite an effort. The real goal is ensure the
profitability of as guilt or humiliation.
next page commented on 28-Sep-2013 09:45 PM
Do you have a spam problem on this site; I also am a blogger, and
I was wanting to know your situation; we hve developed some nice
methods and we are looking to excange strategiues witfh other folks, why not shoot mme aan emaqil if interested.
Cyber Monday deals commented on 28-Sep-2013 11:12 PM
On the net women shoes buying have been a fantastic notion ever
given that women are informed about the positive aspects of it.
Get your Burberry purses and burberry sale watches now
and turn out to be one of primarily the most fashionable females in just your region.
There is very little doubt that consuming at household saves dollars, however, you should really
not have to deprive on your own of an occasional meal out when there are numerous selections for conserving cash whilst having out.
Laney 5s commented on 29-Sep-2013 12:43 AM
Make sure you clear out your car or truck in advance of hitting Black Friday,
just in circumstance you wind up accomplishing extra shopping than originally
intended. Fifty percent Price Books -- Preserve 40% off one item or $15 off your order of $50
or far more, your choice. Here is my plan for a revised script and a hypothetical job
facebook unblock has anyone every had a us government message on their tv commented on 29-Sep-2013 02:52 AM
Cool blog! Is your themme custom made or did you download it ffom somewhere?

A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would
really ake my blog jump out. Please let me know where
you got your design. Kudos
Devenir Trader commented on 29-Sep-2013 08:36 AM
Genial, pour se delecter sans aucune moderation.
Cyber Monday Boots commented on 29-Sep-2013 09:53 AM
If you are an ardent follower of some staff, or if you and your mates have a team, then get
the brand well printed on the Snapbacks and look awesome when you all activity it.
The specials of Black Friday show up each and every single year and will not enable the
potential buyers down. Here's my plan for a revised script and a hypothetical interview:.
"foam" commented on 29-Sep-2013 12:07 PM
After looking into a number of the articles on your web page, I truly like your technique of blogging.
I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark site list and will be checking
back in the near future. Take a look at my website as well and
let me know what you think.
satchel bag commented on 29-Sep-2013 02:46 PM
Check to see if the color of thread matching the color of the bag.
especially should give people a awesome impression of friends, take advantage of the opportunity
to leather-based bag, frequent appears inside the attire
concerning the integral collocation of, leather-based
bag is in reality a indispensable element of.

Keeping it inside a plastic damages your own overpriced ladies handbag.
Project First Sale commented on 29-Sep-2013 03:59 PM
I almost never leave responses, however i did a few searching and wound up here The Black Sun:
A Decisive Symbol of Transformation and Renewal. And I do have a couple of
questions for you if it's allright. Could it be just me or does it look
as if like some of these responses look like coming from brain dead
visitors? :-P And, if you are writing at additional social sites, I
would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could
you list of the complete urls of your communal sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter
webpage commented on 29-Sep-2013 07:33 PM
I couldn't refrain from commenting. Well written!
luxury omega watches and prices commented on 30-Sep-2013 01:10 AM
Sellers with enough feedback will trigger automatic Pay - Pal Buyer Protection insurance.
s luxury watches make for a perfect gift for any occasion and are known to last a lifetime.
Actually replica timekeepers are made for
all those people who are unable to buy their desired
genuine watches as a result of high cost rates.
sony xperia z1 deals commented on 30-Sep-2013 01:37 AM
Hello to every one, it's in fact a fastidious for me to pay a quick visit
this website, it consists of priceless Information.
potty training song commented on 30-Sep-2013 02:59 AM
Good day! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would
be ok. I'm definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.
snow boots for women commented on 30-Sep-2013 03:06 AM
It's perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy.
I've read this post and if I could I want to suggest you few interesting things or
tips. Perhaps you can write next articles referring to
this article. I wish to read more things about it!
Best 10 Means To Come across The Inexpensive Inns And Low-cost Travel Specials For London commented on 30-Sep-2013 05:12 AM
Howdy! Would you mind if I share your blog with my
myspace group? There's a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content.

Please let me know. Thanks
Janell commented on 30-Sep-2013 08:16 AM
Hi just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a feww oof the images aren't loading properly.
I'm nott sure why but I thhink its a lijnking issue.
I've tried it in two different web browsers and both show
the same results.
minecraft Gratuit commented on 30-Sep-2013 01:09 PM
constantly i used to read smaller posts that
also clear their motive, and that is also happening with this post which I am reading at this place.

Log in to comment on this post

Trackback Link