Splendor Solis


Posted: 12 March 2021


     Splendor Solis, the manuscript touted as the “World’s Most Famous Alchemical Manuscript”, seems to have experienced another resurrection of late. Google it and one can discover information concerning its evolution, history, varied sequential editions and several critics pouring over it with verbose commentary galore along the way. And now, quite recently, there is even a new Tarot Deck based on its 22 images. What one will not discover, from any of those sources, is the actual meaning behind all those beautiful illustrations. Until now, to my knowledge, this is the first concerted effort to do so.

     For this Article, the 1582 edition, printed in London by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD was chosen. The entire manuscript is available in a PDF format and may be downloaded from the internet. It may be a very good idea to do so in order to follow along with a split-screen, simultaneously with what is presented here. The reader may learn a lot more by enlarging some of the illustrations. I chose to include only the central picture from each of the 22 Plates. Most of the embellishments around those central pictures, beautiful though they be, are nonetheless superfluous against the specific information offered herein. Some limited references are made to the accompanying written text of the manuscript which the reader may wish to cross examine for oneself. Besides, having this entire manuscript in your personal reference library is a genuine plus. Commentary upon the written portion of Splendor Solis is not within the scope of this presentation. That alone would be a voluminous effort. And, I offer no commentary about physical alchemy or the alleged wanderings of the alleged Solomon Trismosin.

     That the author’s name is a pseudonym, a nom de plume, is most obvious; and prudent, given the period in which it was allegedly written. It is also quite obvious to a skilled reader of this genre that the person behind the pseudonym is a genuine adept of high caliber, fully versed in the ‘use of the Qabalists’ and ‘the old astronomers’. Choosing the name Solomon Trismosin is only the first clue. It has nothing to do with King Solomon or Moses of Biblical lore, or with any relevance to Hermes Trismegistus, as some commentators have opined.

     Firstly, Sol-om-on is the name of the Sun in three ancient languages. Secondly, in the Latin Cabala Simplex the name sums to 89, which to learned readers suggests a list of ideas of high order, such as: cibus animae, ‘food of the Soul’; aula lucis, ‘temple of light’; and anima mundi, ‘World Soul’ merely being three among the many other ideas that may be gathered through “the use of the Qabalists”. Then, Trismosin, summing to 122 equals Lux interna, ‘inner Light’. This is not a person seeking ‘spot-light’ attention, nor is it the boasting of an inflated separative ego. By this choice for a nom de plume he has implicated that none of the information of this Great Art is from him, but though him.


     Then there is the title of the opus, Splendor Solis. Seasoned students of Qabalah would readily recognize ‘Splendor’ as the English title of the 8th Sphere on the Tree of Life, Hod. Qabalah teaches that this sphere is the Seat of the Human Intellect. It is also the Sphere of Mercury as noted by the ‘Old Astronomers’. That it is also the fullest expression of the One True Ego of all humanity, both quarters aver. Moreover, that One Ego, Qabalah teaches, has Its Seat in the 6th Sphere, Tiphareth, which is also the Sphere of the Sun. Splendor Solis, then, is the One True Ego (Christ Consciousness, Krishna, BN {the Son}, Christos) expressing Itself through His Instrument of the Human Intellect. The enlightened and therefore heightened Human Intellect is subordinate to, and a tool of, the One True Ego within us all. So, ultimately, it does not matter whose intellect was chosen to present this opus to us. To seal the illusive hint Splendor Solis sums to 157, that of Quinta Essentia, the ‘Fifth Element’, Spirit. And the first Theosophic Reduction of 157 is 13: אחד, achad, ‘Unity’, and אהבא, ahebah, ‘Love’.

     It is stated within the manuscript that an individual, a Mr. J. K., is responsible for the “Introduction, Elucidation of the Paintings and the Explanatory Notes”. I have come to learn since that J. K. stands for a Mr. Julius Kohn, from Austria. At the end of his Introductory to the manuscript is the Latin sentence:

“Est in Mercurio Solis quod quaerunt Sapientes.”

“It is in the Mercury of the Sun that the Wise seek”

     It is not clear whether this quotation originated from J. K. or another source. It is, however, another bit which points to the genuine erudition of this manuscript.


     In addition to what has been said of the Tree of Life, spheres Hod and Tiphareth above, “Mercury of the Sun” hints other profound nuances. From both Eastern and Western esoterica comes the doctrine of the “Three Modes of Material Nature”. These are known as the Three Gunas in Eastern Traditions. In Qabalah and Western Alchemy they are addressed as the Three Principles: Mercury, Sulfur and Salt. Each of the seven ‘Metals of the Alchemists’ (Chakras in the East) have three basic expressions. Today’s psychological and social sciences would name the three: Super-consciousness (Mercury), Self-consciousness (Sulfur) and Subconsciousness (Salt).


     “Mercury of the Sun”, therefore, is stating that it is the Super-conscious expression of the Sun (the Metal Gold or the Anahata Chakra), the Christ Consciousness, “that the Wise seek”. The ‘Salt’ (Tamas Guna) expression of this center is that of the separative, egoistic personality that is enslaved by the negative habit patterns of the maniacal-ego personality complex. It is for those of us out here, today, that this quotation, and indeed, this entire manuscript is aimed.

     As for the “Elucidation of the Paintings” by Mr. Kohn, there is nothing of any special note with these ‘elucidations’ that cannot be simply observed by each of us on our own. All that is pointed out there is the obvious observable details within each of the plates, no mention as to what all those details could mean, however. That is the primary reason for this entire Article.


     And something should be addressed here, I believe, concerning the 22 colorful illustrations at the core of this manuscript. Mr. Kohn has stated, first in his Introductory, and again in his Explanatory Notes, that “...the 22 Pictures of Splendor Solis are arranged in the same order as the 22 Keys of the Tarot and have the same Mystic meaning”.

     I do not believe this to be the case, exactly. While it is agreed that they both contain some of the “same Mystic meanings” over all, there are far too many differences between the two to be aligned in the exact ‘same order’. And, the Splendor Solis imagery is far more detailed in many instances while containing and suggesting much higher erudition. There are, indeed, some Plates that could very easily be compared with Tarot. For instance, Plate II could be matched with the Magician in Tarot; or Plate VIII matching the Temperance Key; even Plate XXII with The World Key; and maybe Plate X, loosely with the Death Key. On the other hand the symbols within the first, Plate I, contain references toward the very first three Tarot images (Keys 0, 1 & 2) in brevity. And finally, within the written portion, The Fifth Treatise is introduced with: “On the Manifold Operations of the Whole Work in Four Chapters.” This directly implies that the last four illustrations (Plates XIX thru XXII) are merely a synopsis of the preceding eighteen plates, a reiteration of all those instructions in brief. To presume these four are comparable to the last four Major Arcana of the Tarot is too far a stretch for those of us very familiar with the esoteric Tarot.

     There is another very arcane reason for both ‘Books’ portraying the Alchemical Saga in 22 distinct segments. Splendor Solis is deliberately divided into seven distinct Treaties. The heart and center of those seven is the Fourth Treatise, “Of the Means by which Nature Attains Her Ends.” Those means are the seven Metals, Force-centers, Chakras specifically illustrated in this central, 4th treatise. Esoterically these are the “Seven Spirits of God”, and the seven great ‘rays’ of the universal creative energy.


     Moreover, within “Plate XV – The Fourth Treatise, Fourthly”, is the description of the Heart Center Chakra, the Christ Center of Consciousness. So we have the Anahata Chakra (the Metal Gold) at the center of the 7 Metals, then within the Fourth Treatise at the center of Seven Treatises. The result is The Christ at the Center of Seven, in the Center of Seven. And The Christ is represented by the Sun. Hardly an accident.

     Furthermore, 7 is the exact whole number used as the diameter that will produce the circumference of a circle nearest 22. The formula for such is (π x diameter = circumference). Therefore, 3.1416×7 = 21.99, or 22. In esoteric mathematics 22 represents the completion of a cycle of manifestation, the 22 phases of consciousness symbolized by 22 hieroglyphic letters of the Hebrew alphabet, as well as the 22 inter-connecting paths of Mezela (the Life-force) that flows through the Tree of Life.

     Therefore 22 is most appropriate to symbolically represent cycles of consciousness such as demonstrated in the Book of Tarot and with Splendor Solis. The latter did not copy the format of the former. Splendor Solis was not designed to ditto Tarot. And while both ‘Books’ do present the essence of a ‘Mystic’ meaning, the details chosen to elucidate that essence are in a different order and evoke imagery implicating differing levels of awareness. The Book of Tarot served the general population for generations. It was destined to eventually be distributed among populations in various designs, and even evolved the game-playing card decks familiar to us all. Splendor Solis is of another, slightly higher order which brought forth ideas yet unknown to the mass consciousness. Its designs present an expanded awareness with details more suggestive and ready to be assimilated into our evolving consciousness.


     Many more of us are quite prepared to absorb the deeper nuances behind both the written and pictorial portions of Splendor Solis presented here. It is for all those of us that this is being offered. Bless you, all of us! And Praise the Creator!

     Lastly, I would like to extend my heartfelt 'Thank You' to one Mr. David Holmes for his keen eye and gracious help with the proof reading and grammatical editing of this entire Article. A great help indeed.

Maintain in L.V.X.

Gordon James

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