21st Century Alchemy
A Journey through Inner Realms of
Wonder and Imagination
via Modern Iconography and Recycled Imagery
by Iona Miller, c1994-2000
Under Construction : Some Links may still be
inactive for a few more days...
PSYCHOGENESIS: QABALISTIC ART
"The psyche consists primarily
of images, and the primary activity of the psyche is imagining."
"Somewhere there was once a Flower,
a Stone, a Crystal, a Queen, a King, a Palace, a Lover and his Beloved,
and this was long ago, on an Island somewhere in the Ocean 5000 years ago.
Such is Love, the Mystic Flower of the Soul. This is the Center,
Welcome to my world--a world ensouled and enlivened
by imagery. A world of the seemingly familiar, yet peculiarly mysterious.
In our modern culture every image, mundane or
divine, has been used and abused. In the Postmodern Era there is
no new iconography. In imagery and art, there is nothing new under
the Sun. Everything which can be used from religion, myth and symbolism
has been used and can only be recycled -- recycled like these collaged
images from the trash-heap of society. The materials for these images
was literally someone's garbage. My task was therefore, as usual,
trying to turn "lead into gold."
Here, in this animated world, images are lovingly
juxtaposed with their complements and opposites. Some images just
want to "live together." The familiar is combined with the mysterious,
reflecting a unique surrealistic vision. Reflectaphors, or reflective
metaphors, repeat themselves in each image or poster, as well as jump from
image to image--i.e. they echo themes among the various pieces as the series
unfolds itself in self-similar fashion, like the iterations of fractals.
So, Anima Mundi bids you welcome and acts as our
tour-guide or hostess. She coaxes you deeper into the labyrinth of
desire and fulfillment, where each of you can find your own resonance,
the imagery which speaks the loudest or clearest, or beguiles with the
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. Soul is the middle world
between gross materiality and the spiritual world.
Matter, spirit, and ego fight over the soul.
Yet soul is a primary experience, virtually our only way of being.
Each wants its unique fantasy to reign uppermost. So, the first task
is to distinguish soul from spirit, so the body may unite with and be enlivened
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 becoming aware of the animating principle and develop
a relationship with Her.
All images arise either from body processes (instinct)
or psychic forms (spirit). Whether instinct-controlled or spirit-controlled,
they are related to physiological processes. They appear psychologically
as images, but work physiologically. They produce emotional or visceral
aspects, but not in any causal way. The images don't produce reactions.
The image is the entire psychophysical gestalt.
The soul generates images unceasingly. 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
Let the images come into your body. Embrace
The ancient art of alchemy was the search for the
God-head in matter. The alchemical task was to unify spirit and soul
in the body. Psychic reality means to be in soul, esse in anima,
as Jung put it. It means an enlarged experience of concrete reality,
a dialogue with events, situations and circumstances.
Psychic reality means to be in soul, through embodiment
(soma) or enlivenment (psyche)--perceiving images viscerally and mentally.
Acknowledgement of this force does not constitute Goddess worship--only
recognition of the archetypal nature of reality, and the archetypal reality
of nature, and our own nature. She is a way of reclaiming the divinity
of body, matter, and world. This notion is part of the cultural return
of the Feminine. Jungian analyst, James Hillman invites us into this
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.
This resurrection of the soul of the world means
a raising of consciousness of created things, the world's psychic reality.
Physical reality becomes psychic, and psyche becomes real--it "matters."
The difference between soul and external things no longer matters.
Inner and outer world are both real and in fact One World.
Image, metaphor and symbol bridge the abyss between
matter and spirit. Images are the subtle net that unites symbols.
They are integrated with feeling, mind and imagination. We can see
soul in all natural objects. We can notice our fantasies constantly
conditioning our experience of reality. Knowledge of spirit doesn't
come from ideas, even revelations, but through a reflective process.
I began this series of collages shortly after
the death of both of my parents three days apart from one another.
I am not a trained artist, but a clinical hypnotherapist with a strong
Jungian background in symbolism. Realizing I could use this for processing
my own pain and grief, I began them as Art Therapy. I had originally
made a few as examples for my students in a college class I taught, "An
Introduction to Depth Psychology."
I found in my therapy practice a tendency for
clients to present certain recurrent motifs, such as black holes, "blacker
than black," tunnels, images of chaotic breakdown, etc. Prior, I
had been writing a book called Dreamhealing with shaman/therapist
Graywolf Fred Swinney. It was about Aesklepian dream healing, a technique
developed around the metaphors of the then-new science of Chaos Theory
which is now known as Complexity. In this deepening process, the
client becomes each element the imagination presents in turn. Immersed
in this imagery, I sought to create some visual images which might intimate
So, my posters are gestalts--where all
elements are co-temporaneous, existing in time holigraphically--presented
together even though they image a dynamic process. Each of them constitutes
a shamanic dream journey--a full immersion in the inner world.
None of them are contrived beforehand--all were
emergent experieences of just letting the image work themselves.
No theme was determined in advance. The posters themselves dictate
some of what must happen on them. In order for them to appear seamless,
I had to hide or disguise the seams in various fashions. Yes, sometimes
"less is more," but most often more was needed to insure a seamless quality.
This was not a project were minimalism even could prevail.
Part of the burden and joy of working in this
medium is using what one has, or can find, what is spontaneously available.
Jungian psychology uses the notion of the bricoleur, the craftsman
who works with that which is at hand. This includes the psychologial
situation as well as the materials. My grief work accentuated the
death-rebirth motif which is ubiquitous in therapy in any case.
In their formative stages, the elements were not
fixed on the canvas, and sometimes due to electrostatics, heat, and gravity
"things moved of their own accord." Almost invariably, this was an
improvement over any intuitive or deliberate placement I might have made.
So, it was a process of flowing with the animating process, rather than
dictating the process.
Later, they organized themselves into larger groups.
There were obvious thematic connections for some of them, but others were
not so obvious until there were hundreds of them. Their order has
no relationship to the time of assembly. I have never re-sorted them,
but for some reason the over-all story of the text for each leads seamlessly
into the next, providing a narrative stream. The text for each piece
suggested itself long after completion through a recognition process, or
sometimes immediately by synchronicity. They assembled themselves
and with one another by a process I can only describe as "synarchy."
The awesome pandaemonium of imagery flowed forth
spontaneously and my ego could not fight its way free. Rather, I
had to surrender to the forces that oftten crossed my subjective will.
I was a slave to the process for some time, producing several pieces a
week for long periods of time, and sometimes even doing more than one per
day. The mystery images are a compelling source of transformation
and healing, and it worked! The physician healed herself, or rather
opened to the inner healer and let time take care of the rest.
[The poster originals are 24 x 36, and are assembled
completely by hand. No computer enhancement has been used on any
of them. All were done between 1994 and 1999.]
NATURE OF ART
What a picture means to the viewer is strongly
dependent on past experience and knowledge. In this respect the visual
image is not only a representation of “reality” but a symbolic system.
Language distinguishes between the functions of expression, arousal and
description, or symptom, sign, and symbol. It is important to distinguish
the expression of an emotion from its arousal, the symptom from the signal,
especially in the “communication” of feeling.
Communications may be symptomatic of emotive states
or they may function as signals to release certain reactions. Human
language and art has developed the descriptive function to inform others
of a particular state of affairs past, present, or future, observable or
distant, actual or conditional, visionary or imaginal. The visual
image is supreme in its capacity for arousal, while its use for expressive
purposes is problematic, and unaided it may require a matching statement
for clarity or illumination to convey the creator’s intent or experience.
Art can fail to communicate its message because the viewer lacks the experience
or context or code to “get it,” as the artist saw or intended it.
We are “programmed” to respond to certain visual
signals; but this arousal function of sights is not confined to definite
images. Configurations of lines and colors have the potential to
influence our emotions. What is usually described as communication
is concerned with matter rather than with mood. Like verbal messages,
images are vulnerable to the random interference engineers call “noise.”
They use the device of redundancy to overcome this hazard. In art,
this redundancy of imagery and themes creates the “style” of the artists
and the body of work reflects the issues and concerns to be communicated.
The chance of a correct reading of the image is
governed by three variables: the code, the caption, and the context.
Jointly the media of word and image increase the probability of a correct
reconstruction or effect on the beholder. The mutual support of language
and image facilitates emorizing or memorability. The use of two independent
channels guarantees easier reconstruction in the mind’s eye. The
image works in conjunction with other factors to convey a clear-cut message
that can be translated into words. But the real value of imagery
is its capacity to convey information that cannot be coded in any other
way, frequently through the use of allusion or metaphors of known objects
The information extracted from an image (in particular,
an archetypal image) can be quite independent of the intentions of its
maker. However faithful an image or reproduction, conveys visual
information, thje process of selection always reveals the maker’s interpretation
of what he considers relevant. The “TELLTALE PICTURE” requires that
interpretation on the part of the image maker must always be matched by
the interpretation of the viewer. It is only when we are confronted
with a totally unfamiliar kind of structure that we are aware of the puzzle
element in any representation.
The easier it is to separate the code from the
content, the more we can rely on the image to communicate a particular
kind of information. A selective code that is understood to be a
code enables the maker of the image to filter our certain kinds of information
and to encode only those feature that are of interest to the recipient.
Such renderings are transitions from a representation to diagrammatic mapping
and the value of the later process for the communication of information
needs no emphasis.
What is characteristic of the map is the addition
of a key to the standarized code. It is only a small step from the
abstraction of the map to a chart or diagram showing relations that are
originally not visual but temporal or logical. A network of logical
dependencies (images held in the network of a piece), the diagram will
always spread out before our eyes what a verbal description could only
present in a string of statements. The image is non-linear.
Reading an image like the reception of any other
message, is dependent on prior knowledge of possibilities, we can only
recognize what we know, consciously or a priori from the unconscious.
Mysticism and alchemy have often employed imagery or visual symnbols to
appeal to seekers after revelations. To such seekers the symbol is
felt to both convey and conceal more than the medium of rational discourse.
One of the reasons for this persistent feeling
is the diagrammatic aspect of the symbol, its ability to convey relations
more quickly and more effectively than a string of words. A symbol
can become the focus of meditation. If familiarity breeds contempt,
unfamiliarity breeds awe. A strange symbol suggests a hidden mystery,
and if its known to be ancient, it is felt to embody some esoteric lore
too sacred to be revealed to the multitudes.
Art is not produced merely for aesthetic effects.
It is the arousal function that determines the use of the medium.
The cult image and its shrine mobilize the emotions that belong to the
prototype. The power of such images is stronger than any rational
consideration. There are few who can escape the spell of a great
cult image in its setting. The mnemonic power of the image means
the power of symbolism to transform a metaphor into a memorable image through
vivid portrayal. Allegorical images turn an abstract thought into
a picture, a poetic evocation of feelings.
There is a contrast between the prose and the
poetry of image-making. The Romantic concept of genius stressed the
function of art as self-expression, but the expressive symptoms of emotions
is to be distinguished in the theory of communication from the dimension
of arousal or description.
Innovation in either the sciences or arts occurs
only when a single mind perceives in disorder a deep new unity. Science
is an attempt to control our surroundings by entering into them and understanding
them from inside, and in a subjective reality, so is art and mysticism.
Both employ the processes of discovery, invention and creation. A
contemplative civilization values mystic immersion in nature and the immanent
emptiness within all nature (the ground state), the union with what already
Art is a personal, though often anonymous creation.
And scientific discovery may be as well. Both science and art seek
to find the design of nature in her detail. It requires inductive
thinking followed into the detail of nature, and our nature to develop
Theories are imaginative choices which often outstrip
the given facts. Induction images more than there is ground for and
creates relations, which at bottom can never be verified. Every induction
is a speculation and it guesses at a unity which facts we know suggest.
Every innovator has a particular way of looking att and arranging the facts,
guided by a sense of aesthetic unity and beauty. Science shows us
that nature has a unity, and this unity makes her laws seem beautiful in
their simplicity. Our demand that nature be lawful is a demand for
unity. We seek it instinctively.
We become creative, whether as artistis, scientists
or mystics, when we find a new unity in the variety of nature, a likeness
between things (symbols or images) that were not thought alike before,
and this yields a sense of richness and of understanding. The creative
mind looks for unexpected likenesses, new analogies, and engaged the whole
Art and science may likewise bridge the conflict
between paradoxical analogies, between poetic metaphors, and enrich our
understanding of the world without completing it. The images we create
depend on our factual grasp of the relation between the symbols in the
image. Power is contained in conjoining minute particulars which
denote the change of scale between the metaphor and its application.
This is the value of originality.
We expect artists and scientist to be forward-looking,
to fly in the face of what is estabished, to create new paradigms, not
what is acceptable, but what will become accepted. Like art, science
is preoccupied less with facts than with relations, less with numbers than
New vision is the continuing search for structure.
A theory is the creation of unity in what is diverse by the discovery of
unexpected likenesses. In all of them innovation is pictured as an
act of imagination, a seeing of what others have not yet seen. It
is indeed, a creative observation of outer or inner worlds: "The Tell-tale
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Sourceress: Fire and Ice
Materia est Ultima Materia
Sun: The Raven's Head
Philosophorum: Conceptual Calcinatio
Sophia--Body Wisdom: The Natural Senses
Hierophant Trumped: Priest of the Mysteries
Magus: Bornless Babe in the Abyss
Mundus: The Unitive Mystical State
Philosophorum: The Philosopher's Stone
The Voice of Creativity
Chaos as the Universal Solvent, I
Return to the Womb
Pitstop in Some Bardo
Consciousness: One Star Insight
Dreamhealing: Purification Ordeal
Grace: Solution of Problems
Melting or Softening Process
Naturae: The Heart of Mercurius
of the Self
and Conversation: The Holy Guardian Angel
The Royal Marriage
Anthropos: The Archetypal Man
Within Wheels: As Above/So Below
is in Malkuth
Eye: Sound & Vision
Woman: Another Starry Night
Inner Egg Meditation
Mystery of Life: Mystery Beyond Form
Alchemy: Four Worlds Without End
Space is the Goddess Nuit
Veiled and Unveiled
Four Children of Horus
Heart of Osiris
Heart of Egyptian Magic
IV: MYTHOPOESIS part 2
for the Grail Castle
Lord of Dreams
Cross: Promise of Consilience
The Jewel Is In the Lotus
of the Jade Warrior
of the Golden Flower
Knot Without Beginning or End
Dream of Mutant Hybridization
Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Truth No. 1: You Are Here
MYTHOPOESIS: THE POSSIBLE HUMAN
Heir to the Campbell legacy, Jean Houston is one
of the great mystery teachers of our time. She is one of my personal
Heroes. Because some of my work parallels hers, her comments are
germaine to my own experience--only she can put it so much better than
I. So, I take the liberty of selecting from some of her latest work,
because it so suscinct and pertinent.
In A MYTHIC LIFE, (1996, Harper
Collins: San Francisco;http://www.harpercollins.com)
Jean describes her personal experiences. I'm using her
words for now, as her first-person account can substitute pretty much for
my own consciousness experiments with myself and others:
"I began offering field trips in subjective
realities. Using hypnosis and trance, guided meditation, we entered
inner realms of imagery and subjective realities. [This is the
model of archaic shamanism, magic, mysticism, and modern psychotherapy.]
After an initial experience of abstract images
followed by images or feelings with more psychological content, my students
would often experience a kind of visionary anthropology made up of fairy
tale narratives, myths, archetypal figures, visits to "other worlds" and
"other dimensions," and similar science-fiction-like schema. It was
fascinating to notice how many elements of the traditional hero's journey
came up during these visits to inner worlds. This suggested that,
despite cultural variations, the pattern of the hero's journey might be
coded universally in the human mind and psyche.
After some time in these inner worlds had elapsed,
I would tell my students, "You are about to experience something that can
be very powerful, a symbolic death and rebirth." Next, I would tell
them that a symbol would now arise in their consciousness that stood for
their essential self. Once they sensed this, I would ask them to
opbserve this symbol as it grew smaller and smaller, until at last it disappeared.
"Then," I would add, "you may experience a kind of dying, and when this
has been known fully, there will be a rebirth. Please know that you
do not have to have this experience but that it is now available to you
if you do want to have it."
[As an evocateur of spiritual experience] I
wondered what we are to make of such religious and mystical experiences?
Why, when the suggestion is given, are they so natural and ordinary and
so readily evoked? In fact, it warned me how close to the surface
is religious ecstasy and how easily it can be called forth and misused.
[Session work showed me] that each possible
human is not a member of some collective, but a profoundly individual and
precious demonstration of life in its infinite variety. This is certainly
true on the physical plane and unimaginably more so when it comes to experiencing
the internal realms. Indeed, the possible human can think in inward
images and experience subjective realities as strikingly as she can know
objective ones. She listens to inward music as complex as any symphony,
in fact often richer, for instruments and sounds are added that are unknown...She
uses these images to entertain herself as well as to provide the materials
of creativity and invention. She is already an adventurer into a
vast reservoir of virtual realities and needs no machine to assist her.
She knows that self-creating works of art are always budding out of the
fields of her mind, and she can capture and rework them as she wishes.
Consciousness for her is a vast landscape,
a continuous landscape, and she travels its length and breadth at will.
She enters a state of meditation here, a region of deep trance there, finding
shortcuts into the realms of fantasy and imagination, spelunking her way
into the caves of creativity. She continues to discover the many
cultures of her psyche and has matriculated in the Innerversity, studying
all manner of knowledge and wisdom that these cultures within provide.
She has many friends and allies in the inward
and imaginal worlds, the most important of whom may be the beloved of the
soul, the spiritual friend who is her archetypal partner and the companion
of her depth reality. And, whenever she feels ready, she journeys
to the source places of her soul, where she partakes of the everlasting
waters of life and the spirit. She lives daily life as spiritual
exercise, and her radiance affects all who meet her, for she is deeply
empathic, knowing herself part of a seamless kinship with all living things.
Being more, and using more of herself, she feels and cares more deeply
about the decay and degradation in the social and moral order. In
spite of evidence to the contrary, she recognizes others as God-in-hiding,
and in whatever way she can, she calls them back to their own possible
humanity. This possible human is not mere fantasy.
I have found that most people, given opportunity
and training, can learn to think, feel, and know in new ways, to become
more creative and more imaginative, and to aspire within realistic limits
to a much larger awareness, one that is superbly equipped to deal with
the complex challenges of modern life. True, we have never achieved
the fully functioninbg person described above, but we are getting closer.
Many people have allowed me to tap into the
streams of realities that exist within them, and what I see in these streams
are other realms. I must conclude that our local existence is nested
in the domain that I call the "We Are." This is the abode of symbols,
guiding archetypes, and myths. Enduring in an eternal world outside
time and space, and thoroughly transhistorical, the We Are realm functions
as the contact point for sacred time and space, the container for that
which never was but is always happening. Since its source is complex,
its coding is intense.
By this I mean that the archetypal image bears
within itself multiple meanings, modds, potentials, dimensions. Thus
the human psyche is inherently polytheistic, which is why sacred psychology
has to honor the gods and goddesses in everyone. To me, what we call
"gods" are actually encoding of particular energy patterns from the We
Are realm seen with certain qualities and moods to help us relate to them
more personally. That is today, this realm is the place where the
self joins its larger possibilitiess--when perceived as gods and goddesses.
In Sanskrit, these being are called yidams, personified river to the ocean
The gods are forces that have crystallized
in the consciousness of human cultures and are revered as personalized
emanations of a greater and unnameable power coming from both within and
beyond the psyche. Sometimes they assume a humanized, semihistorical
form [a Master of consciousness exploration]. We may feel a particularly
loving resonance with such beings who have been elevated to godhood, identifying
with both their numinous power and their storied humanity.
Virtually every culture has tapped into this
archetypal realm to acquire the energies of the stories that illumine rites
of renewal and social transformation. For example, since the We Are
realm is the residence of creation myths and the energies of origins, many
cultures have their priestesses, priests, shamans, and rulers enact a central
creation myth at the time of the new year. They play the parts of
the gods who conquer the principles of chaos, restoring order and recreating
the world. In this way, they bring the Great Time of creation and
deeper reaches of the psyche back into the local world of the This Is Me.
In so doing, nature is restored, and psyches of both community and individual
are granted the healing energies of new life.
Today, what we call the gods come down to us
as the imaginative products of earlier historical ages--Greek, Roman, Egyptian,
Asian, Native American. They are, in fact, numinous borderline personalities.
Embedded in earlier myths and ways of being, they serve as vehicles through
which we may come to understand our strengths as well as our shadows. They
grant us perspective into the ways in which certain behavioral patterns
dominate our lives. Part of the emergence of an archetypal spirituality
and mythology is the ongoing story of our allowing the gods their growtth
as we in turn deepen our humanity. Only then can we see the divine
beings as partners in creation.
The divine-human partnership hhas thus become
the leading archetypal image for our time. The partnership is one
that mystics and poets have long known to be true, for myths and archetypes
communicate from the poetic level of mind and thoughts, allowing nature
to speak to the imagining soul rather than just presenting us with scientific
laws and probabilities. The poetic mind is of a higher order of coherence,
because it has color, aesthetic form, rhythmic relation; it belongs to
a finer frequency of the mind-brain continuum. Indeed, evidence exists
that in certain states of consciousness, the mind-brain system appears
to move into a larger wave resonance, a frequency that may itself be nested
in a continuum of m ind beyond the field of the experiencing body.
In this state, mystics and highly creative people come back enriched and
enlivened to do or think remarkable things. When we meet myths and
archetypes in this state, we can speak directly to the inner imaginal realm
in which mind, nature, and spirit converge, and our highest potentials
become available to us.
I once studied fifty-five of the most creative
thinkers, scientists, and artists alive in America. These people
had sustained a high level of creativity over many years. I talked
to them at length, ran tests, and observed them when they were boh "on"
and "off" their creative bent.
What I found is that most had trained themselves
to delve consciously into depth levels of reality in which the forms and
creations of their imaginative life and works were conceived. They
drew their insights not only from their own capacious minds but also from
the great creative archetypal realm wherein are "stored" the principles
that source new ideas and forms.
I also discovered that a majority of them felt
that they were partnered by an archetype, a beloved of the soul, a spiritual
partner who amplifies the deeper aspects of the self. This relationship
disengages us for a while from the demands and demeanings of our local,
ego-focused personalities and allows us to view our personal concerns from
a universal perspective.
Beyond and within the other two realms lies
the realm I call the "I Am." This is the realm of Being itself, pure
potency, love, the very stuff of reality. This is the realm many
know as God. This does not mean "the gods," they live in the We Are;
rather, it means God as the ground and unified Essence of being.
About this realm nothing and everything can
be said. The I Am is the supreme fractal wave from which everything
branches, out of which everything comes forth. We bear its signature
in the wave forms of our cells, the curvings of our histories. God
is always calling to the human heart. We are signalled all the time
by the pulsings of original grace.
The seed within, which held and nurtured the
divine spark, is now fully grown, and we find ourselves transplanted into
the vast gardens of universal life.
Today we are in a period of cultural and personal
expansion. We are experiencing not just the revival of ancient images,
but also the harvest of all the world's cultures, belief systems, ways
of knowing, seeing, doing, being. Gradually we discover that these
stories are our own stories, that they bear the amplified rhythms of our
own lives, deepending and enhancing us, filling us with a sense of the
fractal resonance of the mythic life within our own.
Working with myth, we assume the passion and
the pathos of Isis as she seeks to recover the remains of her husband Osiris;
with Parsifal, we take on the quest for the Grail; we labor with Hercules
and travel with Odysseus into the archetypal idlands of inner and outer
worlds. It requires that we undertake the extraordinary task of dying
to our current, local selves and of being reborn to our eternal selves.
A psychology with a mythic or sacred base demands
that we have the courage both to release the limitation brought about by
old wounds and toxic bitterness and to gain access to theundiminished self
with its vast inner storehouse of capacities. We can then use these
capacities to prepare ourselves for the greater agenda--becoming an instrument
through which the source may play its great music.
Then, like the hero or heroine of myth, we
may, regardless of our circumstances, become an inspiration for helping
culture and consciousness move toward its next level of possibility.
At this we startle, we shake. The scope of this dream demands that
we live out of our true Essence, which is always too large for our local
contracted consciousness to contain. It requires many mythic adventures
of the soul to reloom body and mind.
Myths have such power because they are full
of archetypes. Archetypes are many things--primal forms, codings
of the deep unconscious, constellations of psychic energy, patterns of
relationship. Our ancestors saw them in the heavens, as Mother Earth,
Father Sky, Sister Wind. They were the great relatives from whom
we derived, and they not only gave us our existence, they continue to personify
as mythic characters and their stories, such as that of the holy child.
As major organs of the psyche, archetypes give
us our essential connections, and without them we lose the gossamer bridge
that joins spirit with nature, mind and body, and self with the metabody
of the universe. Archetypes are organs of Essence, the cosmic blueprints
of how it all works.
Because they contain so much, archetypes frustrate
analysis and perhaps can only be known by direct experience. Thus,
in the journey of transformation, we participate in these symbolic dramas
and actively engage in archetypal existence. We form a powerful sense
of identity with the archetypal character, and this mythic being becomes
an aspect of ourselves writ large. Symbolic happenings appear with
undisguised relevance, not only for our own lives and problems, but also
for the remaking of society.
Joseph Campbell told Jean Houston that she is
supposed to help find the correspondences between myth and everything else--history
and science and psychology and what's trying to happen in the world--the
pathways from the past and the pathways to the future. Myth sheds
its radiant light on the multiplicity of human learning as well as the
mysteries of the human heart. They are the "mything links."
Campbell summarized the process in his classic
accounts of the Hero's journey with its characteristic tasks, such as "the
call to adventure." Some of us feel the call every minute.
The next stage in Campbell's cycle of the hero's journey is the refusal
of the call, putting the summons off or delaying it because it comes
at an inconvenient time or because one doesn't feel worthy.
The hero risks crossing the threshold of adventure,
to enter a realm of amplified power. In the traditional journeys,
this stage involves leaving the world of ordinary reality and entering
the inner, visionary realms, confronting the guardian of the threshold.
The real threshold guardian is in ourselves, the part of us who will not
release our hold on consciousness enough to let the ego dissolve our boundaries
and ooze into that deeper realm, the via positiva.
Once across, the hero is swallowed by the unknown,
be it a whale, a wolf, a sarcophagus, or a cave. It takes many guises
and can take the form of a depression or ingression, even a strong need
to get away from it all. The road of trials in the hero's journey
is a time of incredible tests, ordeals, and extraordinary adventures.
After securing the boon, there is magic flight
back across the threshold with the boon intact...integrating the results
of the journey. Once you answer the call to a larger life, there
is no turning back. We learn to think mythically. Life is allied
with myth in order that we may advance along an evolutionary path carrying
us nearer to the spiritual source that lures us into greater becoming.
It grants us access to the DNA of the human
psyche, the source patterns originating in the ground of our being.
It gives us the key to our personal and historical existence. Without
mythic keys we would have neither culture nor religion, no art, architecture,
drama, ritual, epic, social customs, or mental disorders.
We humans are the storied, mythic links between
the great patterns of existence and the local experiences that assure their
continuity in the world of time and history. In my current work,
I often use variations of this pattern as the loom on which to weave journeys
of transformation drawn from the world's great myths and stories.
I find that regardless of the culture, people will go further and faster
in developing human capacities if their training is tied to a story, especially
a myth. For myth transcends and thus tansforms our usual blocks and
condititionings, carrying us into a realm in which these need not constrain
us. And if the myth is a familiar one, present in the fabric of the
culture, it works even better.
How do we achieve our own renaissance of mind
and spirit? By connecting with a potent sense of our own Essence.
Essence is not a place or a time, an insight or even a state of mind.
It is the deepest part of our nature, an actual presence that is innare
and inborn. When it wears a personal face, it is called an angel
or a daimon, or genius. Still others think of it, in its incorporeal
form, as the soul. It does not develop with education or maturity.
It is beyond symbols, and is, therefore, neither
archetype nor angel, neither wise old man or woman, nor divine child.
These symbols point the way to Essence, the incorruptible "diamond body."
Essence is so real, so substantial, that it exceeds all symbols, images,
and language in deep and profound living embodied experience.
When we first climb out of the bottom of the
well, we experience Essence as a strange and beautiful country of the soul.
It brings a clarity, a precision that seldom comes from reasoning, intuition,
The deepest values, purposes, and patterns
for life, the richest potential coding for existence, the source level
of creative patterns, innovative actions, and ideas become known to us
from the perspective of Essence through its rediscovery of life's higher
purpose through the images.
Click here for link
to Jean Houston's MYSTERY SCHOOL
With these prefatory remarks, please enjoy
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Last Updated 1/31/00