The Black Sun
The Alchemy and Art of Darkness
Analytical Psychology
5.5 x 8.5, 288 pp.
17 color photos., 73 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 05/08/2008
Carolyn and Ernest Fay Series in Analytical Psychology
Price:        $24.95

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The Black Sun

The Alchemy and Art of Darkness

By Stanton Marlan

Also available in an open-access, full-text edition at
The black sun, an ages-old image of the darkness in individual lives and in life itself, has not been treated hospitably in the modern world. Modern psychology has seen darkness primarily as a negative force, something to move through and beyond, but it actually has an intrinsic importance to the human psyche. In this book, Jungian analyst Stanton Marlan reexamines the paradoxical image of the black sun and the meaning of darkness in Western culture.

In the image of the black sun, Marlan finds the hint of a darkness that shines. He draws upon his clinical experiences—and on a wide range of literature and art, including Goethe’s Faust, Dante’s Inferno, the black art of Rothko and Reinhardt—to explore the influence of light and shadow on the fundamental structures of modern thought as well as the contemporary practice of analysis. He shows that the black sun accompanies not only the most negative of psychic experiences but also the most sublime, resonating with the mystical experience of negative theology, the Kabbalah, the Buddhist notions of the void, and the black light of the Sufi Mystics.

An important contribution to the understanding of alchemical psychology, this book draws on a postmodern sensibility to develop an original understanding of the black sun. It offers insight into modernity, the act of imagination, and the work of analysis in understanding depression, trauma, and transformation of the soul. Marlan’s original reflections help us to explore the unknown darkness conventionally called the Self.

The image of Kali appearing in the color insert following page 44 is © Maitreya Bowen, reproduced with her permission,

STANTON MARLAN, a Jungian analyst in private practice in Pittsburgh, is the editor of the Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, the editor of two previous books on alchemy, and the author of numerous articles on Jungian psychology. He is an adjunct clinical professor of psychology at Duquesne University, he has a longtime interest in alchemy, archetypal psychology, Asian philosophy, and postmodern theory.

What Readers Are Saying:

" . . . an exquisitely written and produced volume . . . a veritable reader's feast which is teeming with quotations from many cultural, literary and artistic sources. It is a celebration of darkness, if such a thing can be imagined. Marlan explores the meaning of blackness, melancholia and depression through case studies and amplifications from alchemy and the arts."--Journal of Analytical Psychology

“If you want to learn fascinating, enlightening and unsuspected ideas about alchemy this is a must book. The text is a well written, richly illustrated scholarly story of the Black Sun, Sol niger. It sheds the light of blackness, and the luminosity of darkness. The book reports the author’s fascinating and disturbing analyses and histories and their paintings as well as famous artists of blackness. This story of Black Sun will bring you new ideas about death and blackness as well as the personal reflections of the author’s life-long quest for new understanding.”--Harry A. Wilmer, author of How Dreams Help

“Stan Marlan is inspired by a gentle spirit, and an unusually thoughtful mien. Here, he writes a pathway through the oftimes difficult intricacies of psyche using classical Jungian phenomenology. He creates a clear vision of turning points and unity, the latter being the edgy principle that allows a human being to truly see into the many layered soul.”--Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Jungian Psychoanalyst and author of The Fai

“We suffer from too much light. We suffer, individually and collectively, from a light that has no darkness. The Black Sun is a thorough and much needed apology for that autonomous heart of darkness, which as the author says remains a benchmark for the state of our humanness. Stan Marlan, who practices the art of darkness with a deep sense of humility, is a sure guide into the burnt out place of the soul where only the illumination of the darkness itself can heal. This book elaborates an alchemical psychology, which in giving darkness its due is a therapeutic work so crucial at a time when darkness denied has become a global threat.”--Robert D. Romanyshyn, author

“In The Black Sun, Stan Marlan takes us on an unflinching and ultimately healing journey through the shadowed land of despair where most abandon all hope. There, we find, a strange light shines, and in that light we can discern what is otherwise invisible. Marlan teaches us how to see in the dark.”--Murray Stein, author of Jung’s Map of the Soul

“Since Jung first opened the obscurities of alchemy to psychological insight, no one has done a book as thorough, as rich, and as significant as this astounding work by Stanton Marlan. More: it reaches beyond Western alchemy into Eastern knowledge and arcane systems of inspiration, and yet it is directly relevant to the darkness eclipsing the consciousness of our time.”--James Hillman

“Marlan has succeeded in bringing this ancient esoteric art into a modern context in a most edifying manner.”--The C.G. Jung Society of Montreal Newsletter


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