Splendor Solis–summer alchemy intensive


The first Boulder Association of Jungian Analysts (BAJA) Boulder Jung Seminar Summer Intensive on Alchemy was held at Boulder’s Hyatt Place over the weekend of June 24-26, 2016, on the beautiful and complex 16th century text Splendor Solis with Jungian Analyst Joe McNair.

Joe McNair_1 - 2016-06-26 at 08-42-38
(Shown here are the first and last plates of the full Splendor Solis text.)solis1

Joe’s approach to this well studied text brought the participants slowly and inexorably through one plate at a time, at a pace that gave room to open each image within the psyche, and allow it to work on the group as a whole.  Pensive reflection on the central theme and the intricate web of symbols in each plate (22 in all), coupled with consideration of the bordering motifs, left everyone enriched, satiated, if not a little overstimulated. “I need to go back and look at my notes,” someone said at the end. “There was so much to this seminar.” “It was dynamic–we were steeped in it,” said another participant.

Joe has a truly magical way of entering into the feeling content of each plate, circumambulating them from the perspectives of Jung’s functions, astrology, the alchemical colors, the alchemical substances being transformed (lead, mercury, salt, etc.), the operations and the stages, and more.  The group engaged in rich discussions and explorations. They experienced alchemical solutio, and when coagulatio happened the insights were unmistakable and profound.

For me, alchemy has to be lived and experienced.  We can read all we like, but to “get it,” we have to step into the relationship with the image, experience the alchemical group process as it moves with the images,  and feel what the alchemists were feeling: in other words, one has to experience the alchemical field. Because Joe’s workshops are both oratory and laboratory, one emerges having actively worked yet also acted upon and transformed; one is in the alembic and watching the reactions within.  Joe has a unique way of inducing the layers of the alchemical field so that no matter where you are with alchemy you feel you have been able to stay with the image yet he brings it alive through contemporary psychological conditions, challenges and stories.

For many this was a first experience of Joe’s teaching style, for others it was a repeated experience.  Either ss22way, we can all agree that it removed us from the “Trumped Up” drama of the outside world, and allowed the intensive space for internal work with the unconscious, which is what Jungian work is all about.  Thanks Joe!

Stephen Foster, Jungian Analyst


(Shown here are the first and last plate of the text–Plate 1 and 22–of Splendor Solis)

Creativity and the Wilderness

The Call to Create by Linda Leonard, Jungian Analyst

( Photo taken in the  Aspen area 2015)


“Before I began to write this book, I had the following dream: I was in the wilderness. Suddenly twenty-five wild beasts surrounded me in a circle. I saw that to survive, I had to better learn to feed them and discover how to relate to each one.

When I woke up, I realized that the wild beasts symbolized an abundance of instinctual creative energy. If I did not feed these forces and learn to honor and respect them, they would devour me. I needed to learn how to live in the wilderness. The dream reminded me of the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast,” in which a simple maiden learns to love a fearsome beast. When she frees the beast from his enchantment by loving him, she discovers that his princely kingdom contains the secrets of creativity.

Every time I approach a new project, I feel just like I do when I trek in the wilderness. Creating is like being in the wilds, surrounded by beasts. The sense of wonder before the magnificence of the wild lands and the awe before exotic animals is beautiful and terrible. Imagine being in the jungle and seeing a Siberian tiger approach. This is the way I experience the creative process. I am thrilled with the spirit of adventure, yet alert and anxious before the danger.

In nature’s wilderness, death is always near—in the sudden strike of lightning, the unexpected freeze, the flash flood, the avalanche, or the chance encounter with a bear. The wild psyche, too, brings us face to face with death every time we transform our lives or create something new. Our inner wilderness is like the great white space of an endless snowscape. There, in solitude, we enter the infinite mystery and meet the ineffable. Even if we are with others, we still make a solitary journey.

In the beginning of transformation—whether in personal life or in creative work—people sometimes feel alone, lost, and disoriented. When we create, we enter into uncharted territory. We may fear that imagination will fail us or that we will not be able to find the trail markers that we need to write, paint, choreograph, or create the net phase in our daily lives. Do we have a compass? Have we lost the map? Do we know how to pitch a tent in a snowstorm? Have we brought the right equipment, and do we have the training to find our way in or out of unknown country? Can we even find the hint of a track?…..

I perceive the call to create to be grounded in nature. Nature is a major source of creative inspiration, healing, and renewal. Since life is creative and a natural process, we need to understand nature and its cycles to flourish creatively. Knowing more about the seasons and their rhythms can help us comprehend the phases of creativity.” This excerpt was taken from the preface in The Call to Create.

Click here for more writing by Linda Schierse Leonard.


Creative Instinct and Individuation by Nora Swan-Foster, Art Therapist and Jungian Analyst


Nora Swan-Foster © 2011

The Swiss Jungian Analyst Elizabeth Ruf said the following in her lecture on “Patterns of Sacrifice and Initiation”:

“The creative challenge of our time is to take our own path of individuation under our feet because if we do not no one will do it for us and we will be forever undone. To live one’s own life is to take these first steps of creativity.”

Jung declared creativity one of the five instincts. When our daily life lacks the space to consciously attend to our creative instinct, we wither and dry out. We feel brittle, breakable, and often times more vulnerable. We may wonder why we are melancholic.  Without the creative instinct having a channel of expression, our daily life loses its purposefulness.

Finding our way back into relationship with our creativity looks different to everyone, yet it is essential nourishment for our soul.  Sometimes the path is through cooking or cleaning, arranging some flowers or taking the dead leaves off our houseplants. Other times we come home to ourselves through using art materials, singing in the shower, recording our dreams, or listening to music. Nature is a constant reflection of our creative instinct. When we are in nature, we see ourselves in constant flux and transformation.

As winter approaches, rituals that honor the movement of the creative instinct fertilize our soul and honor the transformations that have occurred in our life or that are yet unknown to us. Sacrifices most certainly will need to be made; we may feel utterly alone in the darkest hours, but when we release and offer sacrifices we make investments to our soul and fertilize our individuation journey. Each day we are asked to find time to maintain the quiet readiness for the next movement in life. The movement becomes known when we take up our individuation path with the steps of creativity as if they were our first steps in life.