Monday, April 05, 2010

Invisible Sun

Life is a pure flame and we live by an invisible sun within us.

Long before the singer Sting had a hit in 1981 with his song 'Invisible Sun', the image of an invisible sun first appeared in alchemical writings. It became well-known in 2006 when Penguin books published the above quote on the cover of a paperback edition of Sir Thomas Browne's Urn-Burial the quote can be found at the fifth and final chapter at the very apotheosis of the 1658 Discourse.

But man is a Noble Animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing Nativities and Deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting Ceremonies of bravery, in the infamy of his nature. Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us.

Perhaps the question to be asked is whether Sting ever read Browne? Never under-estimate the power of cryptoamnesia, a convenient forgetfulness of sources, especially among artists and poets!

It was in fact the Belgian alchemist and early psychologist Gerhard Dorn (circa 1530-84) who, utilizing Paracelsian 'astral imagery' for his own purposes, first claimed that there was in man an 'invisible sun'  a life-giving force equivalent to the imago Dei, or image of God within man. The image and idea can be found in his Speculativa philosophia, reprinted in the door-stop sized tomes of the alchemical anthology known as the Theatrum Chemicum  (vol.1 1604) an edition being once in Sir Thomas Browne's library.

Here's the source of that elusive 'invisible sun' detected by yours truly in 1996 from a cocktail of reading Jung and Browne. It occurs in Jung's Mysterium Coniunctionis (1955-56) . Gerard Dorn is in fact the most frequently quoted alchemical authors by C.G. Jung. In his Speculativa Philosophia he declares-

The sun is invisible in men, but visible in the world, yet both are of one and the same sun.

To which Carl Jung in his own magnum opus on alchemy comments-

In Dorn's view there is in man an 'invisible sun', which he identifies with the Archeus. This sun is identical with the 'sun in the earth'. The invisible sun enkindles an elemental fire which consumes man's substance and reduces his body to the prima materia. CW 14:49

In any event the source of what is essentially an 'imago dei', (image of God) continues to attract interest, as does the esoteric associations of Browne's philosophical thought and  literary writings in general.

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