Submission for Alchemy Journal, 3-2010
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THE TRANSMODERN ALCHEMIST
On Chaos & Psychophysics: Knowing Nothing More
We should now proceed to find a neutral, or unitarian, language in which every concept we use is applicable as well to the unconscious as to matter, in order to overcome this wrong view that the unconscious psyche and matter are two things. --Professor Wolfgang Pauli
"There is a generic process in nature and consciousness which dissolves and regenerates all forms. The essence of this transformative, morphological process is chaotic -- purposeful yet inherently unpredictable holistic repatterning. The Great Work of the art of alchemy is the creation of the Philosopher's Stone, a symbol of wholeness and integration. The liquid form of the Stone, called the Universal Solvent, dissolves all old forms like a rushing stream, and is the self-organizing matrix for the rebirth of new forms. It is thus a metaphor or model for the dynamic process of transformation, ego death and re-creation." --
Transmodern Alchemy & Chaos
There is a philosophical and alchemical notion that the universe exists primarily as we perceive it through what we know. Therefore, by changing perception, we can essentially change the universe itself. Transmodern scientific imagination confirms this transformative postulate as the basis of matter/consciousness in holographic, dynamics and chaos theories.
Trans- is the prefix that guides the vision of reality as virtual and fluctuating process. At the subquantal level, virtual photon flux, “cosmic zero,” or zero-point energy is the literal and metaphysical substrate of manifestation. An ocean of energetic flux boils into and out of existence. The fiction of ‘reality’ as substantive is revealed and nature’s transparent veil is ripped away.
Alchemy is a science-art and tradition of participatory wisdom. Medieval alchemy was couched in the archaic language of its time, but we are not limited to that, or to theological, Hermetic, Masonic, Theosophical or New Age jargon. Philosophies and sciences evolve in articulation, theory and practice. New discoveries and statements of meaning inform our practice at all levels. In many cases, alchemy anticipated them.
Like the cryptic tomes and dense texts of alchemy, unfamiliar scientific or philosophical theories require thoughtful reflection until they take root in our awareness. Models from many disciplines weave together, amplifying the meaning of alchemical process and patterns. Old experiments can be revisioned in a new light while new dynamical phenomena remain to be discovered. We can even revision the alchemical formula for surviving death.
At the zero-point time is no longer a flow, projection or hope. It accelerates at overwhelming speed, turns back on itself and becomes compressed and plays itself out. Instantaneously, everything takes place before us simultaneously, including retrievals of the past and projections of multiple futures. We have a greater understanding of deep time, earthly cycles and cosmic process than ever before. We communicate at light speed. We talk of supraliminality -- faster than light potentials.
Learning each technical or symbolic language is like learning a foreign language, but becomes second-nature once we sense the overall gestalt. It takes contemplation and consideration of implications. We unpack them one metaphor at a time as we descend into finer domains of existence, from particles to the subquantal world of the microcosm.
Motivation theory suggests if we adopt a mastery orientation to our subjects, we exhibit all the productive learning behaviors we know will work. Even when challenged, we have the natural ability to learn and to keep at it while understanding grows. Simple concepts, not mathematical details, from dynamics and physics are all that is required for illuminating alchemical practice.
Field and Flow
Our worldview has evolved to include quantum physics and dynamics in our models of reality. As in the alchemical dictum, "As Above, So Below," a satisfactory theory must explain both cosmogenesis and microphysics. In the 20th Century, Carl Jung described alchemy in terms of depth psychology and the physics of his day, shedding new light on an old science.
The Modern Alchemist, (1994) describes Jung’s process of individuation -- the transformation of personality and Self. Searching for the hidden structure of matter, the alchemists discovered that of the psyche. Depth psychology continues to redefine itself beyond postmodern notions as new research emerges in nonunitary consciousness, the fractal nature of archetypes and complexes and new models in microphysics mirroring cosmos and co-creator. The alchemical process is its own solution.
Jung's notions of a heroic, striving Self have been transcended with imaginal, nonlinear models of consciousness, archetypes as strange attractors and metanarratives as healing fictions. If new theories in astrophysics, quantum physics and depth psychology supersede the old, can we expect any less from 21st century alchemy itself? The esoteric pursuit for the arcane nature of matter continues.
Transmodern alchemy describes the secrets of matter in scientific terms with correlates of the alchemical worldview. The dynamic blueprints of nature as we comprehend them today are unfolded by stripping away Nature's etheric veil, revealing naked awareness. As we deconstruct our old notions, new realities emerge. The Philosopher's Stone is awakened consciousness.
Hacking the undifferentiated potential, we can explore the theoretical usefulness of Dynamics for modeling processes in the alchemical art. Dynamics is an organic model, an alternative to mechanistic or cyber- models of process. It prioritizes life as the root science. Alchemy is a multidisciplinary pursuit focusing on mystic technologies, spagyrics, healing, life sciences, metallurgy, chemistry, dynamics and physics.
Transmodern alchemy is a new Renaissance science-art -- a treasury of psychophysical meaning. Alchemists sought the experience of Unus Mundus, the one world united through material, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects. Science illuminates the spiritual quest, and spiritual tech illuminates the deep nature of matter and our nature.
Alchemy is a metanarrative, a way of framing all our experience. Alchemy begins and ends in the quest for eternal life. It is a spiritual technology of rebirth using natural methods that in their effect transcend nature by amplifying that which is immortal within us. It does not exist in nature but must be prepared by Art. Art is a form of manifesting, making and objectifying the world - spiritual physics.
Artists and mystics are aware of their own internal space and thus able to enter it, playing the mindbody like a musical instrument. Looking inside, they see the true nature of reality and can express that literally and symbolically. We all possess the creative potential. All creative acts are a marriage of spirit and matter, reaching down into the body as the source of our essential being and becoming.
Today, we might describe this resonance as accessing free or biophotonic energy that regenerates the mindbody. Healing is an aspect of creativity; nature is within and without us. Resonating with the whole, the Magus does not dominate reality but develops embodied psychophysical equilibrium, clarity, wisdom and compassion.
We perform our greatest experiment on ourselves. Creative work originates in the body and is projected out into the world. The projections are then internalized into awareness. The bodymind of the artist is an alchemical vessel containing the creative flux and lux of transformation.
Awareness and consciousness form a continuous alchemical movement. The creative gold is generated and embodied in the alembic of the mindbody. The mindbody is the same substance as the Cosmos and contains and reveals its mysteries.
Alchemy reduces all to the first state, the ground state of being - original experience that is timeless, infinite. The classical Void, the quantum vacuum is a carrier of information.
The energy body or the field body -- along with the scalars (virtual photons) of our holographic blueprint -- connect us directly with the negentropic potential of the zero-point field. Radiant light literally emerges from this mystic void. Primordial structuring processes are common to both psyche and matter, working in the gap or empty interval between intention and action.
So, alchemy refines the way the mindbody generates and processes inherent light as medicine. It refines the aspirant's ability for tapping and amplifying Medicine Light. This primordial state is the luminous ground of our being, hidden deep in the heart of things.
All other goals are subordinate to this prime directive which includes meditative techniques for continuing consciousness after death. This Philosopher's Stone is also the Universal Medicine, the regenerative Elixir of Life. The greatest mystery is Life After Death: we don't die but continue in transcendent form. This is the secret of man and nature.
Paradoxically, when we look into the depths of matter, we look into the depths of ourselves. Scientists and mystics report similar phenomena in their models and phenomenology. Spiritual technologies, the software of sacred penetration and amplification, virtually predicted the fine nature of matter as nothing but a complex illusion - what we have come to understand as a hologram. Mystics have also always emphasized the primal nature of Light, and claimed that we are in fact made of light itself. Science has confirmed this in numerous ways.
Ambient Vacuum is a Plenum of Transformation
Light is an excitation of empty space. "Aether" means ‘shine’ in Greek. Scalar physics tells us the ambient void is omnipresent, yet inherently nonobservable -- it is an omnipresent field of radiant energy potential emanating from every zero-point in the cosmos. But we can observe and infer results of this virtual vacuum fluctuation. Quantum Mechanics demonstrates no discrete particle or solid chunk of anything exists in metric space -- the whole Physical Universe.
Everything is made of Light. Only light matters. Nothing arises but standing waves from the seething zero-point field created by cosmic beings like ourselves. How we do so is a mystery to ourselves. But we are getting closer to non-religious descriptions of reality that curiously have profound mystical overtones.
The properties of mass, inertia, charge and gravity -- and those who observe them -- are the result of space resonances produced by zero-point scalar waves. At zero-point, waves pass through waves without interference. We come from, are sustained by, and are returning to the radiant light of our mass. All electromagnetic force is mediated by virtual photons.
The void is not devoid. In the absence of "solid" matter, we can take a revolutionary view of today's alchemy as dynamic process using Chaos Theory, and related sciences to inform our search. We are indivisibly wedded to our earthly and cosmic environment through zero point field phenomena and resonance. Could consciousness order the world?
Alchemy's prima materia and 'sensitive initial conditions' of chaos are the same. Initiation recalibrates our "initial conditions" and sets transformational "butterfly effects" in motion. The potential of enfolded time energy is transduced into dynamic spatial energy as cosmic jitter (ZPE, Isotropic Vector Matrix). Zero represents the Cosmic egg, the primordial Androgyne merging positive and negative charge - the Plenum. Zero point creative process manifests cosmos, nature and consciousness from roiling quantum flux.
Biophysics tells us we are brilliantly disguised photonic humans -- Homo Lumen -- if we but realize that awareness. The quantum vacuum is a radiant sea of light, encrypted information waves, a dynamic matrix of energy exchange. Our bioplasmic energy pulsates along with this matrix. Because it is ubiquitous, inside and outside, we are blind to it. It is the groundstate of our being.
Transmodernity is the synthesis of modernity and postmodern philosophy, reflected in alchemical notions of transcendence, transformation and transmutation. It transcends the construction and deconstruction of recent historical eras by re-enchanting the Millennial world. So what might a chaos-informed Transmodern Alchemy look like? First and foremost our existential state space is in flux. We arise from an infinite ocean of quantum foam. Phenomena no longer correspond with old-paradigm frameworks. Anomalies, the strangest phenomena have the most to teach us.
Philosophy can be part of everyday life. Alchemy sought the hidden structure of matter. Our inner emptiness is full of promise. Trans- is the prefix that guides the vision of reality as virtual and fluctuating. At the subquantal range of virtual photon flux, this is literally true and the metaphysical substrate of manifestation. At the virtual level, the fiction of ‘reality’ as substantive is revealed and the transparent veil is ripped away.
Nonlinear Recursive Process
Paradoxically, chaos is the essence of order. That order is inherent in and emerges from chaos. Dynamics has successfully explained many natural phenomena and been heralded as a new scientific paradigm. The quintessence is now found in nonlinear dynamics, the holographic field and the virtual vacuum of absolute space. Only when we comprehend the groundstate of being can we fathom reality. It fundamentally changes our alchemical and scientific notions about transformations in ourselves, matter, systems, patterns and structure.
Psychology and neurology now recognize the psyche and brain as a dynamic dissipative system. Therapeutic techniques lead to reorganization of the individual at a higher level of order. Medicine realizes chaos is essential to health. Biophysics recognizes the primacy of light in life processes. The artworld recognizes the aesthetic appeal, rhythm and beauty of fractals. But the poetic science of alchemy made a workable theoretical and experimental system in which chaos was central centuries ago. Each era views nature from the paradigm of its time.
Chaos Theory has been associated with every aspect of human behavior. Alchemy is an irreducible fusion of mysticism, science and art that also happens to be therapeutic or growth-promoting and tantalizingly hints at illumination. The process begins with doubts and lack of conviction but time spent on self-knowledge, experiments and spiritual exercises is amply rewarded. Chaos keeps the process fluid. Alchemy calls chaos the "universal solvent." Virtual Physics describes jitterbugging quantum subspace plasma as a superconducting superfluid.
Alchemy is a nonlinear organizational framework, a model to make sense of our experience, and a means of facilitating transformation. The universe without and within is our alchemical laboratory. The fire is kindled and stoked in the ‘magic theatre’ of the mind and the retort vessel of the body. Alchemy plants virtual fractal seeds in the gaps or intervals of consciousness. We are the portal for the fractal seed to unfold its liberating potential. But we must remain open.
The universe is the cosmic "parent fractal" of the microcosmic scale. Matter and consciousness share deep unity. The outer world we observe through our senses is nothing more than a consistent series of mental images that exists in our mind. Matter itself is an image in the mind, and mental images are the natural phenomena of consciousness. Mining the soul, we disassemble ourselves to reorganize in more refined form, reintegrating at a holistic level.
Alchemy calls Chaos the prima and ultima materia. The prima materia is ubiquitous, everywhere all the time. As we practice spiritual and practical alchemy, we come to understand the deep nature of chaos as the source of all transformative energy. In this chaosophical philosophy, all systems emerge from and eventually dissolve back into chaos.
Solve et Coagula : Chaos is the essence of self-organization. Chaos Theory allows us to follow the Hermetic Spirit deep into the heart of matter and beyond into the subquantal realm in our quest for Nature's secrets. The undecomposable domain of Chaos is not an emptiness, but a rich, generative source -- a bornless nothingness from which all form emerges.
Consciousness, like creativity, is an emergent phenomenon patterned by strange attractors which govern the complexity of information in dynamic flow. Our consciousness appears co-temporaneously with our embodiment, creating the imaginal flux of representational and nonrepresentational perception - the stream of consciousness. The cosmic trinity of chaos, matter, and attraction appears at the heart of modern chaos theory and alchemy.
The Vedas identify all creative intent and substance as a manifestation of primal consciousness, which is considered the basis of all manifestation. In this worldview, there is nothing but consciousness. Complex dynamics is implicated in the energetic translation of "waves of unborn nothingness". Healing is the biological equivalent of creativity. The more complex a system, the more stable and self-correcting it is.
The objective ( Sol, Frater) and subjective (Luna, Soror Mystica) are not divorced from one another, anymore than the left and right hemispheres of the brain. They marry in the mystic, in entanglement with Cosmos. Science adapted the artist’s sense that the detail of nature is significant. Like yin and yang, they rely on one another in a dynamic meld that transcends the tension of opposites. Synthesizing and transcending opposites is the theme of alchemy.
Truth of the Matter
Alchemy, quantum mysticism and the holographic paradigm reveal the secrets of nature's subquantal realm. Metaphors are instructive. They are a Way of leaping the chasm between old and new knowledge, old and new ways of essential being. We can tap the source of creativity, healing and holistic restructuring through imagination and metaphor. They can be deeply transformative -- more than mere language. They are a technology for changing our behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs -- our spirit and soul.
Alchemy is a science-art, a tool to describe and mold reality using experimental and meditative techniques. As an art medium, alchemy helps us illustrate nature and our own nature in contemporary terms by creating new paradigms and environments.
Matter has lost its central role in physics to dynamics. Alchemy can be informed by this new physics. There is aesthetic pleasure in finding likenesses between things once thought unalike. It gives a sense of richness and understanding. The creative mind looks for unexpected likenesses, through engagement of the whole person. Organic metaphors of quantum physics, field theory, and chaos theory illuminate the alchemical art.
The many theories of reality are the Post-Millennial version of the alchemical peacock’s tail that heralds the beginnings of integration, the Unus Mundus -- the Grand Unified Theory or Theory of Everything in physics. The search for the Stone is a long rite of initiation, culminating in the cauda pavonis which signals the perfect transmutation. It is a dazzling synthesis of all qualities and elements much like rainbow colors unite as white light. The iridescent tail represents all the colors of light while the "eyes" symbolize all potential universes.
The Peacock's Tail is the central part of the alchemical process. The myriad eyes in the tail suggest the highly-chromatic view includes multiple perspectives of imaginal vision. The kaleidoscopic vision is a metaphor for the spiritual rebirth that awakens the Third Eye and consciousness of the deeper subtle and field bodies.
The universe informs our awareness and being. Sometimes the universal laws of nature lead us beyond ordinary science. Subjects in isolation don't provide enough to accurately describe our complex world. More disciplines, more tools, better technologies lead to best practice. In theoretics we build up and tear down relentlessly, questioning our own underpinnings, adhering to no stale theory: "Solve et Coagula."
Since matter remains a paradox, our Work, comprehending the spirit of matter, means learning more than the Standard Theory of physics. Both orthodox and heterodox theories stimulate our imaginative and spiritual perception. Energy and information fields, not just genetics, drive human psychophysiology. Libido (psychic energy) drives the imagination. When we speak of Mercury, Sulpher and Salt, we mean our spiritual, energetic and physical bodies as well as the elements.
Each theory adds another piece to the puzzle of existence and meaning, potentially leading to breakthrough on the bench or in consciousness. Such a brief, conceptual survey of alternate theories in physics cannot do them justice, but it can provide leads for further contemplation and research for the esoteric physics of lab work. We study the nature of being and our own being, the essence of inner reality. Consciousness is a timeless transformative force unfolding in nature. Alchemy, art and physics are complimentary modes of inquiry. Symbolic contemplation and interaction transform the material and immaterial self.
Miller, Iona (1992), ‘Chaos As the Universal Solvent,’ Psychedelics Reimagined, Autonomedia;
Hypnotherapist, IONA MILLER is co-athor of THE MODERN ALCHEMIST, a researcher and writer in future science, intelligence and esoterics. She analyzes the collective psyche and cultural effects of geopolitics, religion, science, art and psychology. She has appeared in Nexus and Paranoia, authored several books and international publications. http://ionamiller2010.iwarp.com
Alchemy Journal May 2009, Vol. 10, No. 1
By Iona Miller
“God redeems humanity, but nature needs to be redeemed by human alchemists, who are able to induce the process of transformation, which alone is capable of liberating the light imprisoned in physical creation.” ~Stephan Hoeller, Sufi Journal, Issue 67, Autumn 2005
"Let us imagine the anima mundi neither above the world encircling it as a divine and remote emanation of spirit, a world of powers, archetypes, and principles transcendent to things, nor within the material world as its unifying panpsychic life-principle. Rather let us imagine the anima mundi as that particular soul-spark, the seminal image, which offers itself through each thing in its visible form. Then anima mundi indicates the animated possibilities presented by each event, as it is, its sensuous presentation as face bespeaking its interior image--in short, its availability to imagination, its presence as a psychic reality. Not only animals and plants ensouled as in the Romantic vision, but soul is given with each thing; God-given things of nature and man-made things of the street." ~James Hillman, “Anima Mundi,” Spring, 1982
NUMINOUS & LUMINOUS PSYCHE
Anima Mundi, the feminine principle or mode of Being was historically considered the "soul of the world," the fertility of human, animal and plant life. Renaissance philosopher Giordano Bruno said the World Soul “illumines the universe and directs nature in producing her species in the right way.” She is the magical world of creative mystery.
Our geocentric understanding of ourselves has expanded to the realization that we are an intrinsic part of Cosmos. The Universe is also literally within us. No longer limited merely to our planet, Anima Mundi is the personification of the whole natural world – the Universe. This light, the dynamic reality of the energy field, is within us as within everything. Embodied nature is the link between the archetypal and formative worlds, the hyperdimensional matrix of eternal patterns with sacred proportions and unique manifestations. She is also infinite potential, the possibility of bringing creative ideas to birth, to manifestation.
In the deepest sense, she is the universal wave function, the unmanifest ground of our being, spacetime and the radiant light of virtual photon fluctuation, which underlies all matter and manifestation. Kabbalist Azriel of Gerona claimed "faith" meant entering into a relationship with one's "nothingness" and the "unknown" of the infinite, the ultimate ‘yin’ of non-existence that is the mother of all form.
In ancient times Anima Mundi declared her impenetrable mystery by reiterating that "I am Isis; no man has lifted my veil." This Muse of superconsciousness is bathed in the Light and concealed by it. Thus she alludes to herself as dazzling Solitaire in her virgin nature, that sense of wholeness within oneself, which is the Feminine source of wisdom, magic and meaning.
The natural light of the soul is illumination, embodied in the pineal light of the “spirit molecule,” DMT. Likewise, alchemists seek the divine spark, the light hidden in matter. To work creatively in the world, the Light of Nature needs to be released through inner alchemy. Our own light or divine spark is part of the light of the World Soul, so we can understand the mysteries of creation and the secrets of nature. The tools of inner transformation help Anima Mundi reveal her divine light.
Whether called Isis, Shakti, Maya, Shekinah, Sophia, Demeter/Persephone, Mary, Great Mother, White Goddess or any cultural variant, Anima Mundi is the universal animating principle, the upwelling spring of the creative Imagination, the dynamic flow of imagery, pattern, and form. She is personified internally as a soul guide or Initiatrix and externally embodied as the Soror Mystica. Glimpsing inspiring inner workings of our soul helps us realign our lives, our hopes and our dreams.
ANCIENT & CONTEMPORARY MODELS
Spiritual alchemy has long been informed by depth psychology. Carl Jung’s work in this area is well-known. Less known is that of the main proponent of archetypal psychology, James Hillman who places Anima Mundi as center of his psychological theory. This archetype of the psyche is inherent in the prima materia. It fosters the return of psychological subjectivity to the outer.
Alchemy works in just this projective, animated manner with a deeper level of participation. Phenomenology is the art of dissolution, a natural alchemy, learning how to see again, a way of being in the world between thinking and perceiving. In this aesthetic paradigm, Hillman asserts that images derive autonomy and operate according to their own will, similar to gods.
Gods and goddesses are an intrinsic part of Hillman's archetypal psychology, as they are in alchemy. In mythical perception, gods, metals, plants, minerals, animals, scents, colors, planets and more correspond with one another through the Doctrine of Signatures. Different forms share the same essential nature.
The symbolic nature of metals is the skeleton of spiritual alchemy. The word ‘metal’ means ‘search,’ strongly suggesting the nature of our alchemical work. We don’t seek a natural metal but the virtual metal, it’s essence. The lunar metal of Anima is silver and the white earth (albedo). Jung said, “Earth and moon coincide in the albedo.” (CW14, para. 154)
Silver is washed into veins in faultlines in the earth, and we can take advantage of the analogous process in our psyche. It takes place in that egoic illusion called “mine.” We can mine our own psychic faultlines. Silver is found in lead-silver vein mineralizations, sometimes with gold and zinc. Silver, the seed of the moon in the earth, is refined from the dross of lead-silver concentrate into the silvered mirror of the mind. Solutions emerge from our puzzlement. Reflection gives shape to the imaginal.
MINING THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
Insights can tarnish, losing their shiny clarity. Just as silver is prone to blackening, this phase of the Great Work can be derailed by Saturn’s depression, the destructive illusion of separation. But the depression is the mine. Albedo emerges from blackness, transpersonal release, and emotional relief from the nigredo of personal identity. But the urge to white is not an escape from black – a whitewash -- since there is no soul without body.
Each object or body is also an imaginal image. We can extract silver moments from our leaden body – motions and emotions that regulate the neurochemistry of the body. Alchemical silver can be mined for many rich metaphorical associations (aha moments), just as silver requires polishing for reflection. Friction leads to clarified reflection. Shame is washed away.
Without shadow, whiteness becomes blankness. Shadow that is built into psyche’s body becomes transparent. Shadow is built into the nature of whiteness, as all colors unite disappearing into white. The world becomes an alchemical dream – the terra alba of anima inspiration.
Imaging itself is a mode of mining silver, psychical facts and essences, sometimes by speculation, resonance and artful listening. We may temporarily become a bit of a “lunatic” in the transmutative process The mysterium coniunctionis is moon-madness combined with solar brilliance.
It takes intense heat, intense introspection in the depths, to refine our inert nature. Then the luminous consciousness of the worked on soul arises. Dissolved by desire from its old ground for fusion in the dissolution of gender, anima no longer is exclusively feminine. Passive fantasy becomes transcendent active imagination, revealing the images within nature, the secret heart of nature.
IT IS BUT IT ISN’T
Virtual places, phenomena, and experiences can be just as “real” as material perceptions. The brain responds to the virtuality as if there is no neurological difference between imaginal and externally stimulated imagery. In this sense, imagination is reality. We perceive the sensate world through the non-linear imaginal world, its enfolded imaginal potential.
Anima Mundi embodies the pandemonium of all forms in external and internal perceptions. She bridges our perceptions of the world by stimulating the imaginative faculty. Yet, being attached to materialistic images is not the same as being attached to Mater, matter and earth.
As alchemists, we have to build a relationship with the very essence of the world. Being in soul is a continuous intentional process. The Astral Light is synonymous with the alchemical Anima Mundi. Jung’s idea of the Collective Unconscious as the treasure house of fluctuating imagery is a modern description. This light represents the immanence of the world-soul. She dwells in us and we are enlivened by her Being.
Aristotle conceptualized soul as the form, or essence of any living thing, not a distinct substance from the body it inhabits. Only possession of soul (of a specific kind) makes an organism an organism. The notion of a body without a soul, or of a soul in the wrong kind of body, is completely unintelligible. Soul mediates between mind and body, idea and matter, actualities and the Beyond.
James Hillman (1975) observes that soul, “refers to the deepening of events into experiences; second the significance of soul, whether in love or religious concern, derives from its special relationship with death. And third…the imaginative possibility in our natures, the experiencing through reflective speculation, dream, image, fantasy—that mode which recognizes all realities as primarily symbolic or metaphorical.”
Paracelsus thought the soul was beyond the individual, beyond our control. Plotinus saw all individuals as one soul. Gerhard Dorn said the third degree of the alchemical coniunctio, the most mature phase of individuation, is the personal realization of communion with an original unitary reality. Grounded intuition of a centered sphere of soul opens a microcosm that mirrors the Cosmic macrocosm: "As Above, So Below.”
We need a new cultural proving ground, a new paradigm for the energetic potential of the bodymind and the culture for which it is the ground. In our culture, the body and our fantasies about it have come to represent the lost Feminine element of deep interior processes.
We have lost touch with our primal femininity, the animating principle (nature, body, instinct). We have become estranged from the body through the mechanistic mind/body split, which is also non-relativistic. We talk a good game about 'wholeness' but don't really connect as much as nostalgically yearn for it.
Spontaneous imagery soulfully joins spirit and body. It doesn’t solve our troubles (pathologies) nor "save" our souls. Direct engagement, meditatio, with images for soul-making deepens us through personal experience.
No longer divided against thinking, imagination becomes the ground of certainty. Direct knowledge, gnosis, is demanded by the silvered mind so the soul can understand itself. Conjunctions come when we no longer focus on opposites or meaningful coincidences or conjunction. Imagination is as elusive as the goal of the alchemical process itself.
Through illumined senses we can see through the nature of apparent reality for ourselves, if we but try. Things become transparent, shine and speak. Signs echo within us. Then we develop our own philosophy, apart from consensus. When it comes to questions of speculation on the unknown, we can either accept what others have said, or look for ourselves, perhaps even into delusional lunacy.
The wounded-healer typically passes through a period of madness. Is it avoidable? Perhaps only by educating the psyche with alchemical training, giving it a silvered voice and attentive ear to avoid clinical literalism, paranoid delusion, vitrification, and dissociation. Even then, there is no guarantee lunacy can be avoided.
Anima Mundi is NowHere…the very spirit of life, the ethereal angel of our destiny, the animated archetypal ground and individually the radiant subtle body. More than just the life-spirit, the sacred field body is a natural force, the cosmic energic principle of primordial Consciousness, implicate order – the essence of being and sacred embodiment.
Primordial mankind saw everything as saturated with meaning, both human and cosmic. We, too, can see ourselves as full participants with the interior life of the natural world and cosmos. Not only signs and symbols can be read in the multidimensional environment, the metaphorical nature of symptoms – ours and the world’s – can be discerned. Fantasies open to one another in resonance, recognition, insight, and astonishment.
Alchemy is a poetry-science whose language and experimentation has a naturally therapeutic value. This poetic art and science of experientially reclaiming this relationship and worldview raises conscious recognition of anima mundi. Let the images come into your body. Tuned responses receptively embrace the image. This art is not separate from life, but is infused with life. The substance of the insubstantial is what makes psyche matter. And it is an intrinsic part of alchemical method.
Ancient philosophers proclaimed the world soul, a pure ethereal spirit, is diffused throughout all nature. The notion of soul as imaginative possibility, in relation to the archai or root metaphors, is what Hillman has termed the “poetic basis of mind.” Whitening into psychic reality is embodiment of spirit and inspiriting of body, eliminating oppositional tension.
In alchemy, Anima Mundi acts as the soul-guide to our heights and depths. Beauty is simply manifestation, the display of phenomena, the appearance of the anima mundi. Union with her is consciousness of our primal existential self, and our deepest ecological self, right down to the virtuality of the Void – the primordial field.
Beneath the alienation from nature, which our culture has created, lies a deep resource we can tap which is fundamental wisdom about the unity of life. We are embedded within that seamless fabric of Cosmos, the Feminine source of wisdom. The importance of the present depends on its effect in the realization of a specific future. An experience is important if it suggests or fulfills visionary sight.
Anima Mundi is the secret powers of nature. We need those powers to heal and transform. The intentional use of imagination and image building is a foundation of mysticism. This wisdom is deep ecology, which reveals the way of living in balance through intuition. She is the dark of the Void and the natural Light of the Soul--illumination. She bridges our perceptions of the world by stimulating the imaginative faculty.
Alchemy is a meditation science and art that purposefully cultivates a human relationship with Anima Mundi. To experience psychic reality means to be in soul, in the realm of the imagination, as if interacting with its inhabitants and locales. Inner visionary experience, be it wrathful or beatific, is an expression of soul. Through images the unconscious affects our worldview, health and relationships. Imagination not only conditions our reality, it is our reality. Soul is the middle world between gross materiality and the spiritual world.
This is a psychological approach to art and life--giving voice to soul, living life as art. It means the return of a subjective feminine eye on reality. It means the enlivening of our bodies and the world of nature with imagination. When we see soul as the background of all phenomena, we become aware of the animating principle and direct relationship with Her. The point is not to dissect her soul, but celebrate her body.
LIGHT OF THE SOUL
The soul generates images unceasingly, purposefully ordering our lives. Artists are able to capture and express some of that ceaseless flow. The soul lives on images and metaphor, especially epistemological metaphors--how we know what we know. These images form the basis of our consciousness. All we can know comes through images, through our multi-sensory perceptions. So, this soul always stays close to the body, close to corporeality, to what "matters."
Physical reality becomes psychic and psyche becomes real. It "matters." The difference between soul and external things no longer matters. Inner and Outer worlds are real. They are One World. Image, metaphor and symbol bridge the abyss between matter and spirit. They are integrated with feeling, mind, and imagination through wonder and awe. We can see soul in all natural objects. We can notice our fantasies constantly conditioning our experience of reality.
When spirit as energy and matter as form are in balance, the body becomes the living "Temple of the Spirit." A sense of immortality deepens the sacred dimension of life. Soul’s immortality is sensed in direct experience of non-spatial, non-temporal, nonlocal, four-dimensional reality. Real alchemical work is for the sake of the whole of which we are a microcosm.
Hillman J. (1977). Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: Harper Perennial.
Hillman, James (1980). “Silver and the White Earth, Part I.” Spring, 1980, 21-48.
Hillman, J. (1981). “Silver and the White Earth, Part II.” Spring, 1981, 21-66.
Hillman J. (1982). “Anima Mundi: The Return of the Soul to the World.” Spring, 1982, 71-93.
Hillman, J. (1985). Anima: An Anatomy of a Personified Notion. Dallas: Spring Publications.
Jung, C. G. (1963). Mysterium Coniunctionis. Collected Works, Vol. 14. Princeton N. J.: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C.G. (1968) Psychology and Alchemy. Collected Works, Vol. 12. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press.