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.
(Shown here are the first and last plates of the full Splendor Solis text.)
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 way, 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)