Alchemical Notes from The Holistic Qabala
EXCERPTS ON ALCHEMY FROM THE HOLISTIC QABALA
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
In the alchemical search for the God-head in matter (Kether in Malkuth), Paracelsus contended that matter was a living counterpart of the creating deity. A system of correspondences is the foundation of alchemy. The conception of a primal event manifested in different fields is fundamental to alchemy. The process in the retort vessel is analogous to the process of transformation of the psyche. Through alchemy, we can perceive the parallels between microcosm, universe, and man. Alchemy is based on the assumption that the equation world = man = God is Truth.
The metaphysical perception of alchemy grew in the Jungian school of psychology. It emphasizes the process of psychological transformation. This is the Opus, or Great Work of alchemy. It is given this appellation because that which "works" is that which has the power to transform. The experiments are performed on oneself. This renews the alchemical philosophy which is primarily concerned with the union of psyche and matter. There is an indissoluble unity in alchemy between theory and practice. They are explicate aspects (which are experienced through a metaphorical sensory perception) of the Quest, or attainment of immortality through the union of opposites. Thus, the goal of the Opus is precisely this union, which is known as the Philosopher's Stone, Royal Marriage, or Unus Mundus (experience of one world view uniting psyche/body/spirit).
Paracelsus described alchemy as the voluntary action of man in harmony with the involuntary action of nature. If the center of the creative process takes place in the "heart of man", his intentions take on profound significance. They can now influence the destiny of the cosmos. Attainment of this state is known as the production of the Diamond Body.
Alchemy strives for the experience of spiritual rebirth via the union of opposites, or the sacred marriage. The sacred marriage is characterized as the union of the Sun (+0 and Moon (-). These polarized positions may be symbolized variously as positive-negative; male-female; god-devil; spirit-matter; father-mother; etc. The sacred marriage, or coniunctio, creates a bond by which opposites are united in an image which transcends both original potentials. The whole art of alchemy is contained within the image (implicate order) of a magical or divine child.
There is an inherent paradox in alchemy: all the while stressing redemption of the physical body, or matter, alchemy is actively striving toward creation of a subtle, immortal body, which has no apparent physical basis (magical child = body of light).
This central problem in alchemy is the spiritual redemption of the physical body. Alchemy requires resurrection of the soul of body. The challenge one encounters is to "see through" to a unified vision of mundane physical processes with spiritual values. This develops awareness of the ordering processes inherent in matter. The solution is to visualize the physical body as a metaphor for psychic transformation.
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...the mystery of the structure of the universe, was in themselves, in their own bodies and in that part of the personality which we call the unconscious, but they would say in the life of their own material existence...They thought that instead of taking outer materials you could just as well look inside and get information directly from that mystery because you were it. After all, you too were a part of the mystery of cosmic existence, so you could just as well watch it directly. Even further, you could ask matter, the mystery of which you consist, to tell you what it is, to reveal itself to you. Instead of treating it like a dead object to be thrown into a vessel and then cooked in order to see what came out, you could just as well take a block of iron, for instance, and ask it what it was, what its kind of life was, what it was doing, how it felt when melted. But since all these materials are within you, you can also contact them directly and in that way they contacted what we would now call the collective unconscious, which to them was also projected into the inner aspect of their own bodies. They consulted these powers directly through what they called meditation and therefore most of these introverted alchemists always stressed the fact that one should not only experiment outwardly but should always insert phases of introversion with prayer and meditation and a kind of yoga. With yoga meditation you try to get the right hypothesis, or information, about what you are doing or about the materials. Or you can, for instance, talk to quicksilver, or to iron, and if you talk to quicksilver and iron then naturally the unconscious fills up the gap by a personification. Then Mercury appears to you and tells you who the sun God is. A power, the soul of Gold, appears and tells you who and what it is. (16)
So, we see that basically the dynamic impulses of the original alchemists and modern physicists is the same. Namely, to find out all that is possible about how God works.
This Opus, or Work, is understood as taking place in a sealed retort vessel. The nature of this vessel is the origin of the common-use term, "Hermetically sealed." This containment insures that none of the ingredients will be lost, and also provides a container in which the contents are slowly heated, or cooked (calcinatio). The initial material (prima materia) then goes through several stages of transformation, defined as operations. These are not always presented in the same sequence in alchemical texts. Most, however, include sublimatio (seperating), and coniunctio (uniting). There are also operations of circulating, multiplying, and reiterating.
The meditatio, or meditation, consists of inner dialogue with the alchemical figures: Saturn=lead; Luna=silver; Sol=gold; Mercury=quicksilver; Venus=copper; Mars=iron; Jupiter=tin. Because the process of alchemy does not extend into God-Realization. This does not exclude this from occurring through God's grace, however. Then Kether is in Malkuth, the beginning (prima materia) and end (ultima materia) are One. In alchemy, the Anima Mundi, or Soul of the World acts as the soul-guide to the highest region. We experience An-imaginal (Anima-ginal) Reality.
Always remember that the body is of vital importance in any alchemical operation. To transcend somewhere out of the body is not alchemical practice; rather, imagine the body NOWHERE, or now-here. Alchemy is
...a physiological mythology juxtaposed with a cosmogonic mythology. In between is the psyche itself-the arcane substance, the subjective factor-which achieves a personified level in the divinities of mythology. It is the psyche's own image-making activity, its self-creation through symbols, that is central to this model. It represents a process of the "psychization of instinct," the transformation of instinctual and biophysical phenomena into psychic experience. These phenomena can then to a certain extent be brought within the range of conscious will and reason. In this process instinct loses some of its primordial autonomy. It is an opus contra naturam, so to speak...Alchemy accordingly gives us a model for the psychology of projection; it points at once "upward" and "downward." It is radically symbolic in its insistence on the "arcanum." And finally, in the obligation it imposed for the careful elaboration of theoria, it included the formation of apperceptive concepts and symbols as a fundamental part of the opus . (17)
What happens to body/soul at the level of Malkuth? The process of alchemical initiation begins with the stage known as Mortificatio, or psychological masochism. This is the disintegration of the conscious personality. It is specifically a religious crisis in the life of the individual, where ruling ideas lose their meaning. Needless to say, this is a depressing state of being. This depression is imaged in terms of "blackening" and has, therefore, to do with the Shadow. The actual process occurs on XXI. The Universe, which corresponds with the Nigredo.
To derive pleasure from punishing one's body is a curious pathological image. The unheroic, self-humiliation is a form of masochism with a religious aim: to gain forgiveness through a mode of redemption. This dedication to suffering produces meaning, compassion, humility, and healing. This is a discipline of the soul which contradicts the ego attitude.
There is a relationship between ritual flogging in initiation ceremonies and the intoxication of masochistic mortification. The participant is entranced and enters the transformative process. The combination of humiliation and pleasure yields an experience of ambivalence, a primal condition of psyche.
Mortificatio is a psychological operation, not a moral one. We cannot apply a moral frame of reference to it; it is neither good nor bad, better nor worse. It is a necessary, just-so operation. One alchemical text advises, "Take the old black spirit and destroy and torture it..." Another philosopher tells us that "The tortured thing, when it is immersed in the body, changes it into an unalterable and indestructible nature." So the operation is necessary, not to make us morally better or spiritually purer, but rather to change us. When we immerse masochistic material in the body of fantasy, psyche and psychic reality become indestructible. The operation is necessary, not for the sake of moral ego-strengthening, but to make hard psychic reality. If we could fully realize this, that mortification is a way into the weighty, heavy matter of the soul, it might help us get past the momentary cringe. For we cringe and shrink at the moment of realization, at the reality of psyche where there is no ego-control, especially in its ugliness or banality. (18)
Do not confuse masochism, which is a religious attitude to suffering, with martyrdom, which is a manifestation of the neurotic, heroic ego.
The movement from martyrdom to masochism is also a movement from guilt to shame, and this movement has the quality of depth. Guilt is primarily an ego phenomenon, while shame is a quality of the soul. The antidote for guilt is not always forgiveness; it lies rather in the perception of the archetypal dimension in which the ego is caught. Guilt implies the possibility of rectification, of righting the wrong; hence the ego-protests and justifications which are variations on the martyr's theme: "Well, I'm trying!" and "You make me feel guilty," and "If I only had more will-power."
But shame belongs to the dimension of soul, and implies the permanence of a deficiency, the impossibility of rectification (and also of justification). It is the sense of permanent lack, insufficiency, inadequacy, which cannot be made right or corrected by any activity of the ego--no amount of will power, strivings for perfection, or withdrawal of demands from other people will do the trick. In its very nature, its "natural state", the soul is incomplete, and the experience of its incompleteness is the experience of shame. Guilt is a moral category, shame belongs to psychological experience and the experience of psyche. (19)
The Nigredo in Alchemy
The Nigredo represents the rotting stench of decay from the ego's outmoded attitudes and lack of adaptability. It occurs at the time in the life of the aspirant when the strain of the environment has become intolerable. In time, the attacked alchemist comes to realize that he must willingly subject himself to change.
Raven's head is the traditional name for the stage of the process whose technical name is the Nigredo. The Nigredo is symbolized by multiple references to black substances, and is associated with the Shadow archetype, or repressed contents of the personal unconscious. The Nigredo implied a time of melancholia, sleeplessness, and restless volatility. This stage of discomfort with the status quo is quite necessary to initiate the alchemical process. There is an inherent value and meaning in this depression.
Psychologically, one experiences a chaotic state of conflict between hostile psychic elements. There is a tendency toward regression, or losing consciousness of the motivating factors of behavior. Any emotional response to the situation is practically impossible. In modern terms, it is equivalent to the concept of psychic dissociation, which is the root of neurosis and psychosis ("falling apart").
There is always psychic suffering when you "fall" down. This suffering may even persist for a lifetime if there is a technical blunder in The Work (Opus). The alchemist must "pick himself back up." Then, there will be further transmutations from the instinctive psyche.
This stage corresponds to the encounter with the Shadow. The ego and the Shadow must eventually be reconciled. The restlessness and disorientation are the product of an initial collision between conscious and unconscious factors. This is the beginning of a descent into darkness, or the unconscious.
As long as psyche struggles in the Nigredo, it will be emotionally attached to the literal aspects of any situation. Fascinated by "facts" and the "materialness" of any condition, the alchemist fails to extract the symbolic aspect which would allow him to break through into a fresh mode of perception. Typical manifestations of this stage include long dreams, confusions, and a drained or depressed mental attitude. The symbolic attitude is preserved when the Nigredo is perceived as part of a mystery process.
Missing the point, the eye of the aspirant caught up in the Nigredo looks for what is "wrong." It ruminates on such physical questions as, Is it an organic or neurological problem creating these manifestations of depression in me? It will then propose such treatments as pills, body work, or dance therapy. Grossness casts a veil or cloak of physicality over the subtle body of the alchemist and he fails to realize it is his soul which is sick unto death. The "cure" will not come through vitamin therapy, or rejuvenating drugs, or exercise.
The élan vital, or life energy has been pulled into the unconscious, leaving the ego frustrated and discontent. The emptiness and sterility of this condition may be the result of placing too much emphasis on "getting it together" in the work-a-day world, leaving the soul cut off from the well-springs of life. The feeling of being drained, or over-extended may become so powerful that one is forced into a breakdown which demands the time for introversion and recovery of energy reserves.
The ability to see through to a value in depression (to experience the meaningfulness of the feeling of meaninglessness) has a prognosticative purpose. Attaching meaning to depression allows an emotional participation which unblocks the flow of psychic energy. Depression is not a loss of meaning, but the feeling of loss of a sense of meaning. This is actually the beginning point of the quest, as illustrated by such stories as Dante's Inferno, Rider Haggard's SHE, and Melville's Moby Dick .
If one can see that the world is beautiful, but has lost the ability to feel that beauty, there are mood swings from sullen inertia to active despair. There is a sense of fragmentation and alienation from one's self. This is a major reason individuals seek psychological analysis, or a mystical path of renewal.
This whole experience is like a journey through the wilderness and it often appears in dreams under the symbol of the "Night-sea Journey." But when the problems of the personal unconscious have been met and dealt with in analysis, a sense of inner unity and renewal is usually found. This is often accompanied by glimpses of deeper values, of the Self, for instance, that are frequently couched in the terms of religious symbolism. The analysant feels that he is once again reconciled with himself and with God so he can go back to his ordinary life with renewed zest. The wilderness is no longer barren, his life blossoms and bears fruit. (3)
Path 32, connecting Malkuth with Yesod, the Sphere of the Moon, can be the path of renewal which transmutes the alchemist from his sense of confusion and despair.
Following this state of darkness, the alchemists report that light begins to dawn, due to the rising moon, which psychologically means the beginning of insight gained through paying attention to the unconscious, to the night happenings, to dreams and so on, which throw a light on one's inner condition. The moon also refers to Eros, relatedness through feeling. In other words, when the nigredo, the blackness, has been accepted and taken to oneself, instead of being blamed on outside situations and other people, one begins to see that it is one's own withdrawal and loss of feeling one's own shadow, that is the true cause of the darkness. Then the moon rises and in recognizing that one is suffering, not just a personal ill, but is participation in a human experience common to all mankind, feeling returns, feeling and compassion for the plight of one's fellows. That is the feminine eros; the lesser light begins to shine in the darkness of the night. (4)
Further alchemical transmutation will bring one into the warmth of the sun, the greater light, which means there is an increase in the light of consciousness (Tiphareth stage).
And so one meaning of the experience of depression is that our wholeness, or individuation, the Self, can no longer wait while we follow egotistic ways or even seek for legitimate ego fulfillment, and so the Self brings us, drives us, into the wilderness of depression...and communication between earth and heaven is even then about to be revealed to us, if only we will attend to the vision. (5)
Luna and the Albedo in Alchemy
<> Luna represents the feminine aspect of the arcane substance. As we have seen, she is linked to salt, to "white sulphur," to silver, to the albedo, the feminine alba of the coniunctio. She represents the cold, moist, corporeal, receptive but not at all inert feminine principle in the psyche, and appears as sister, mother, and bride of Sol. she is the "vessel" of the sun, receiving and pouring out the powers of heaven, extracting the energy of Sol as a power springing into eternal life. She provides that sense of serene undulating movement, like the moon's path on the night sea, and that gentle and serene and soothing nocturnal light that enables us to see in the dark, when the sun's power has set. When Luna is at her fullness - at the plenilunum - she stands as the nocturnal complement to masculine diurnal consciousness.--Robert Grinnell/Alchemy in a Modern Woman
The Albedo is that stage of the alchemical work which is a phase of "whitening" and "lightening" after the black depressive phase of the Nigredo. It is the emergence of the feminine aspect of the Self or Holy Guardian Angel. the Albedo presages the flowering of fulfillment. Moonlight indicates that state of consciousness where one begins to react emotionally to unconscious contents. In this phase elusive intuitions and spiritual potential are made manifest.
Corresponding with Yesod, the Albedo is the first goal of the alchemical work, reuniting a world divided into "mind" vs. "matter" through the medium of psychic reality. Relevant symbols include the madonna, bride, moon, dawn, and dove.
Experience and experiencer no longer matter as the "images that yet/fresh images beget" release one from the nigredo of personal identity into the mirrors of impersonal reflections. This second whiteness is also not mere ignorance, a disregarding insouciance of the world and its ways, which results from psychic realities taking precedence over more earth-bound perception that attempts to resolve psychic difficulties either away from the world or into the world. Albedo prefers neither introversion nor extroversion, since the differences between soul and thing no longer matter, that is , are no longer imagined in the material terms of the nigredo. . .the albedo is not only a state between but a condition per se. (2)
Hillman calls this lunar stage of the albedo "the emergence of psychological consciousness, the ability to hear psychologically, and to perceive fantasy creating reality."
It is this sense: that all occurrences must first be imagined, that they begin as images, that the very cycle through which anything turns, including ourselves, is a psychological process, that soul fantasies are the ground and seed in all we think and do, want and fear. . .the subtleties of soul are embodied in the mundus imaginalis by primordial persons, eternal archons, angelic essences who offer human consciousness a grounding in hierarchical principles, enabling a human being to recognize what is essential, what comes first, and what is of lasting worth. It is a place of truth. (3)
Hod represents the archetypal Trickster, which manifests alternatively as magician, or clown. Thus, Hermes embodies the comic spirit functioning as a soul guide, enabling us to accept and laugh at our shortcomings. Hermes, as soul guide, , also opens up the way to the hidden depths of the unconscious, bringing us the messages of the Gods.
Hermetic Philosophy began in the Third Century B.C., and revealed the "secrets of nature." It discovered a network of sympathies and antipathies which is categorized in correspondences. It is a Mystery and an initiatory transmission of that mystery. It maintains that with the help of this special knowledge, man can "become god." Hermetism is a revealed secret doctrine which communicates esoteric wisdom. This esoteric knowledge ensures salvvation, not through an initatory chain, but through proper interpretation, application and assimilation of sacred texts. This assimilation is equivalent to initiation.
Netzach is the Sphere which embodies the inspirational force of the creative imagination. It signifies the achievement of perfection in both force and form. It also implies emotional perfection of the consciousness, through understanding of the inner meaning of physical processes (the sexual instinct, in particular).*****
The Emotional Alchemy of the Central Nervous System (Neurotransmitters)
The natural cycle of ergotropic and trophotropic processes is governed by the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. They mediate cycles of arousal and calm, and are therefore implicated in a variety of disorders which display states of hyperarousal and hypoarousal. They are mediated by the neurotransmiters noradrenalin and serotonin. The interhemispheric balancing mediates the harmonization of the left and right hemispheres of the brainmind. They mediate fight-flight responses, and pain-pleasure cycles. They can be chemically related to cycles of inflation, desire, acting out, guilt, remorse, high wellbeing, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. At their extremes, meditative and exalted states reflect as psychological and physiological paradox.
Alchemy of Arousal and Transcendence
We exist within a complex network of cycle within cycles. One of the fundamental cycles of our human lives centers around hyper- and hypoarousal. The activated state of ergotropic arousal is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system; while the trophotropic arousal is mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system. They are related to CRP Journeys as the source of the psychophysical imagery of the hallucination-perception-transcendence continuum.
The Ergotropic System has to do with those mechanisms which belong physiologically to bodily work and the relevant dynamics of activation and general excitation. It moves our muscular and skeletal systems. Its potentiation can be mimicked by stimulation of the posterior and medial hypothalamus. This augments sympathetic discharges, increases cardiac rate, causes pupillary dilation, and inhibits gastrointestinal motor and secretory functions. Other effects on the body include dysynchrony of brain wave patterns, increased skeletal muscle tone. It is related to the elevation of certain hormones including noradrenalin, adrenaline, and adreno-cortical responsiveness. There is also a rise in blood sugar and shortening of time required for coagulation of blood. In Chinese systems, this arousal syndrome is considered YANG, in nature.
The Trophotropic System relates to physiological mechanisms of recuperation, protective mechanisms, unloading, restitution of achievement capacity, normalization, and healing. Its effects originate in the anterior or lateral hypothalamus, including pre-optic and supra-optic areas and the septum. It augments visceral responses, parasympathetic discharges, including reduction in cardiac rate, blood pressure, and sweat secretion. The pupil of the eye constricts, and there is an increase in gastrointestinal motor and secretory function with a fall in blood sugar.
Brain waves become characteristically synchronized with production of alpha and theta patterns. There is loss of skeletal muscle tone, a blocking of the shivering response and increased secretion of insulin. The t-system is associated with the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Its behavioral effects include inactivity, drowsiness, and sleep. They are associated with meditative states. In Chinese systems, this tranquil state is considered YIN, in nature.
Normally, the E-system activates during arousal or in situations of apprehension or danger, while the T-system manifests when danger or anxiety are minimal. We can use a mnemonic to help us remember: the E-system is energized, exalted, or enflamed; while the T-system is tranquil, transformative, and transcendent.
Stimulation of the E-system leads us into the external environment, and is associated with warming. Conversely, stimulation of the T-system leads us into the internal environment, an is associated with cooling. Both system are mediated through a balancing process which takes place in the hypothalamus, so that an “ET” balance is present in “normal” situations. The interplay of both processes keeps our organism in homeostasis. Stimulation of one system over the other creates specific physiological and psychological or behavioral effects.
The E-system function is analogous to the psychosexual energy known as Kundalini. Its content is perceived sensually. The T-system arousal, on the other hand, is sought through purely mental effort, with transcendence of sensory perception, yet there is still imagery which appears in sensory metaphors.
Exalted and Meditative States [scan]
To reach a ‘bliss’ state (or experience of Self) at either end of the spectrum, requires remaining trophotropically relaxed while ergotropically alert. One moves away from “normal” perception either along the “left-handed path” towards hallucinatory states, or along the “right-handed path” of meditation. Activation of the T-system brings desirousness, mania, ecstasy; while that of the T-system yields satiety, relaxation, serenity, calm. This expressed in the colloquialism “cool, calm, and collected” vs. “hot-blooded, spitfire, burnout.”
Consider the metaphors of healing and cooling (or crystallizing) in the transformative process of alchemy. In alchemy, the passive (‘Virgin) tames the active (‘Unicorn’).
By withdrawing attention from the body and senses, awareness becomes purely mental, focused at the eye center (Pineal). All one’s psychic energy remains in the cortex with no sub-cortical information to interpret. The only ‘input’ or stimulation is endogenous. None leaks off down the spine.
Alchemists, philosophers, and psychologists have urged us to balance these systems to achieve a harmonious lifestyle, free of the negative effects of burn-out and excessive stress. Jung quoted the 17th century alchemist, Gerhard Dorn in this regard:
“Learn therefore, O Mind, to practice sympathetic love in regard to thine own body, by retraining its vain appetites, that it may be apt with thee in all things. To this end I shall labour, that it may drink with from the fountain of strength, and, when the two are made one, that ye find peace in their union. Draw nigh, O Body, to this fountain, that with thy Mind thou mayest drink to satiety and thirst no more after vanities. I wondrous efficacy of this fount, which maketh one of two, and peace between enemies! The fount of love can make mind our of spirit and soul, but this maketh one man of mind and body.”
Psychologist Roland Fischer (1967) developed a map of inner space and states of consciousness based on the dynamics of the ergo- and trophotropic systems. He postulated that all knowledge is innate, being an interpretation by the cerebral cortex of sub-cortical information. He contends that each level of arousal contains certain types of information which one can “know” only at that level. This is similar to other theories of state-related learning and memory (Tart, 1975; Rossi, 199 ).
Fischer also postulated that at extreme levels of hyper- or hypoarousal there is a paradoxical shift from one physiological system to the other, automatically. He declared boldly that the extremes in either direction create mystic experiences of the Self, which are interpreted wither as an experience of the Plenum (hyper-arousal) or the Void (hypo-arousal).
Fischer summarized his theories by creating a map, a "Cartography of Meditative and Exalted States." Increased states of arousal are graphed to the left of center (which indicates “normal awareness”, while increasing tranquility is mapped to the right. Movement of an individual’s consciousness to the Left brings increasing motor excitation, while that to the right brings almost total lack of sensory input. In Fischer’s own words:
“What I propose is that normality, creativity, schizophrenia, and mystical states, though seemingly disparate, actually lie on a continuum. Furthermore, they represent increasing levels of arousal and a gradual withdrawal from the synchronized physical-sensory-cerebral spacetime of the normal state. Specifically, there is a retreat first to sensory-cerebral spacetime and, ultimately, to cerebral spacetime only. The gradual withdrawal from physical spacetime is an expression of the dissolution of ego boundaries, that is, the fusion of object and subject, and it implies that an existence solely in spacetime is an oceanic experience, the most intense mirroring of the ego in its own meaning.”
In summary, we can see that for any individual perception of the universe (as Self or mind) can occur as an internal or external experience. It is our rich internal experiences that have puzzled researchers in consciousness as the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness. At the extreme parameter in either direction, we experience an encounter with the Absolute. Along the continuum, we may experience varying forms of an I-Thou dialogue uniting reaching either extremely hyper- or hypo-arousal states.
Hyperarousal, or mania, may result from psychoactive drugs, or a bipolar or schizophrenic episode. It results, sometimes in “ego-death” when the “I” becomes so freaked-out it submits or gives in to the sensory overload which overwhelms it. Hypoarousal leads to a characteristic state of silence or emptying when the ego voluntarily submits to unification of subject and object, of “I” and Self. In either case, cortical and subcortical activity become indistinguishably merged; there is no separate “I” left to perceive an objective reality. Thus, dualism is obliterated.
Paradoxical physiological mechanisms operate in the body under most conditions to chemically prevent the attainment of higher states of arousal on either end of the spectrum. They function somewhat like the switchover from arousal to repose which occurs at the point of orgasm. But it is possible, with repeated exposure to the paradoxical situation to function effectively at higher levels of arousal.
In fact, there is always a complementary component of the opposite arousal system functioning even in the mystical state. If there were no ergotropic arousal in mediation, for example, we would fall asleep. Thus in some sense, our task becomes falling asleep as much as we can while remaining awake. REM sleep, or the dream state, is another example of physiological paradox where there is extreme cerebral excitation coupled with little muscular activity.
We can characterize the physiological condition of an experience of the Self as remaining trophotropically relaxed while ergotropically alert. The mystic achieves his goal when he learns to short-circuit the homeostatic mechanism of negative feedback. The negative feedback system perpetuates the experience of duality between the “I” and Self.
Further correspondence of the E and T systems shows them to be linked with the emotions of love and lust (T-system) and anger or rage (E-system). They are also instrumental in our adaptation to cold (E-system) and adaptation to heat (T-system). These are apparent even in infants in feeding (T) and frustration (E) cycles. In the adult, these are superseded in importance by the sex act, or sublimated forms of creativity.
Thus, the physiological reactions of orgasm and “eureka” are analogous. In foreplay or the incubation of inspiration the parasympathetic system predominates. But at the moment of climax or “eureka” there is a dramatic switchover to the sympathetic system. After the act there a return to the recuperative T-system.
This insight may lead you to some interesting contemplation on why Tantric yogis arouse sexual tensions for the purpose of transmuting them to spiritual purposes, for acts of internal creativity. According to this model, the T-system is responsible for the accumulation of energies or tensions, while the E-system functions for the release of these energies. Thus the dynamics of creativity and orgasm precipitate the release of tensions, which might be sublimated to mystical awareness.
“However, extreme states of arousal and paradoxical ergotropic-trophotropic manifestations also provide the dynamic for mystical awareness and exalted states of consciousness. We have characterized the method of samadhi as remaining ergotropically conscious while trophotropically falling (more deeply than) asleep. Ecstasy involves remaining physically relaxed while becoming mentally hyperaroused. Cosmic consciousness is similarly a state of being trophotropically tuned to the absolute while ergotropically tuned to the relative,” (Lansky).
Fischer, on the other hand, describes mystical rapture in biocybernetic terms: “there is not data content from without, and therefore, no rate of data processing; only the content of the ecstatic experience of the mystic at the height of his rapture is a reflecting of himself in his own ‘program.’
The withdrawal from physical spacetime to cerebral spacetime is what is known as an experience of the causal plane, or mental dimension. Its integration into daily life requires the ability to make a meaningful interpretation of our own nervous system activity. A model or consciousness map helps us delineate one person’s mystical experience from another’s “bad trip.”
Toward this end, of creating an inner road map, we can combine Fishcer’s model with the hierarchy of experiential states created by John Curtis Gowan. Gowan’s model includes three modes of functioning: 1) Trance (ego absent); 2) Art (imagery state); 3) Creativity (ego fully present or transcended). Gowan’s periodic risers to spiritual awareness fit very neatly over Fischer’s cartography to give us an even more detailed series of descriptors of ergotropic and trophotropic functioning.
Thus, we see that the Trance states including schizophrenia, hypnotism, pro-active drugs, and automatic writing, talking in tongues, etc. are under the mediation of the E-system. So are the experiences of our psychological complexes, which produce arousal or anxiety. The perception of archetypes and dreams, or myth, as well as the enactment of psychological dynamics in ritual or art are also part of the E-system, which functions through the Parataxic Mode.
Syntaxic Mode leads to inner rather than outer creativity. It begins in the sublimation of the sexual instinct and proceeds into meditative, concentrative, and contemplative states, culminating in a paradoxical switchover to mystical ecstasy after reaching higher jhana states.
Alchemy of the Central Nervous System
In Mysticism, there are two branches of practice which lead the aspirant to experience "altered states of awareness", different from "ordinary" consciousness. These branches are the right and left-handed path of Magick and meditation. In QBL, the Spheres on the right side of the Tree -- Chokmah, Chesed and Netzach --are considered masculine. They represent a state of hyperarousal (enflamment). The Spheres on the left side -- Binah, Geburah and Hod) are feminine, indicating a calmer state of hypoarousal. The right-hand Pillar of mercy, and the left-hand Pillar of Severity thus represents the opposites of consciousness to be united along the axis of the Middle Pillar.
The blending of the “masculine” (E-system) and “feminine” (T-system) modes of awareness in a “chemical wedding” to produce the Philosopher’s Stone forms the bulk of the subject-matter of alchemy. More recently, this ancient investigation has been taken up in the field of neuropsychology and neurophysiology. An examination of the basic principles of alchemy, such as the unification of opposites, yields some extremely interesting correlations with modern medical research.
Just what are the qualities represented by the basic alchemical substances, and what analogies for these substances can be found in human psychobiology? In alchemy, the primary opposites to be synthesized are characterized as “fire” and “water.”
Alternatively, the fiery masculine spirit is known as the hot Solar principle and corresponds with Sulphur. The watery feminine element is cold and Lunar in nature, correspondingly termed Mercury. In any given alchemical document, these might be referred to as Sol and Luna, Rex and Regina, or Adam and Eve. Though their names and attributes are many, the process of their union remains essentially the same. When considering Path 25, Art, they may be characterized as Artemis and Apollo.
From a biological perspective, we might begin our investigation by attributing the active, hot principle of sulphur to the left hemisphere of the brain. This hemisphere provides rational adaptation to the external environment. The passive, lunar principle of Mercury corresponds to the right hemisphere, which is holistic in its perception. Of course, the blending of these portions of the brain represents the functioning of a whole individual. But since most of us have some form of access to both modes, we must look further into the physiology of the brain to find the precise chemical mediators of the processes of hyperarousal and its counterpart, hypoarousal.
There are two nitrogen-containing organic compounds in the brain (called amines) which have been observed as significant in the balance of physical and mental processes. They are neurotransmitters, chemicals which are highly significant in the movement of electrical impulses between neurons (nerve cells) in the human Central Nervous System. The electrical charges always jump from nerve cell to nerve cell with the help of a given chemical helper, or neurotransmitter.
Two specific compounds were originally proposed as the chemical mediators of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems of arousal. Newer research shows a myriad of neuromodulators, but these two still take center stage in the complex chemistry.
Noradrelalin (NA) also called norepinepherine corresponds with the solar Sulpher and works through the sympathetic system. It facilitates adaptation to external reality. When stimulated, it produces an excited anxious state of enflamment which can culminate in ecstasy. Among disorders of this system are manic episodes and hypervigilance. All illicit CNS stimulants also emulate hyperarousal and lead therefore to addiction.
Serotonin (5-HT) corresponds with the lunar Mercury and works through the parasympathetic system. Its influence is felt in a relaxed condition, like contemplation or meditation. Serotonin deficiencies are blamed for a host of disorders, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Tabulating these various opposites shows some interesting correspondences:
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In physiology, the sympathetic nervous system produces involuntary responses such as alarm, and the “fight-flight” syndrome. The parasympathetic functions include digestion, and slowing one down. The chemicals noradrenalin and serotonin work in the body as cooperative antagonists; they balance one another in such a manner that we do not get too speedy, or sluggish at inappropriate times.
We can easily recognize the “switching mechanism” in ourselves at various times. The most dramatic switch occurs in orgasm, when the body rapidly moves from a highly aroused state to one of extreme relaxation and torpor, even sleep. Another example occurs in the creative process, at the moment of “A-ha,” when intense concentration gives way to satisfactory solution.
Noradrenalin and serotonin are also the mediators of the pain-pleasure cycle. Have you ever wondered why it is practically impossible to stay on a natural “high,” happy at every moment? The normal functioning of chemical processes in he brain makes this impossible. However, mystical practice can moderate the mood swings experienced by most individuals, and even open a realm of bliss, which is distinctively different from an ordinary good mood. Traditionally this bliss is called “spiritual nectar” and emanates from the pineal gland.
Noradrenalin mediates pleasure, action, excitation, motor behavior, and goal-oriented behavior. When there is imbalance, it contributes to depression or manic behavior. Serotonin mediates inaction, satiety, sleep, feeding, and functions as a punishment/pain system to inhibit and balanced the reinforcement/reward system mediated by noradrenalin.
Serotonin is believed to be a reciprocal inhibitor of noradrenalin’s ability to function as a sexual stimulant. This may, in part, account for traditions of ecstatic enflamment, such as Tantra; and conversely, for the progressively decreasing interest in sex reported by many yogis.
It is easy to observe the effects of serotonin and noradrenalin on the sleep cycle of an individual. Serotonin is responsible for beginning and maintaining cycles of deep sleep. Rising noradrenalin is implicated in REM sleep, or the dream state.
Noradrenalin and serotonin exist in a balanced relationship with each other, although the amounts of each vary somewhat in different areas of the brain. For example, the limbic structures contain the highest concentrations of the neurotransmitters, while the neocortical portions have almost none. In most brain tissues they are similarly distributed.
Too much serotonin is known to be harmful for a variety of reasons. It can, paradoxically produce hyperactivity, but soon leads to exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. Irritation by serotonin can also lead the body to produce too many histamines, inducing symptoms of a cold.
Serotonin creates hyperactivity by activating the overproduction of adrenalin and noradrenalin. The personal may feel euphoric for awhile, but after a period of time, this leads to adrenal exhaustion, and decreased recovery ability. Excessive serotonin is now implicated as the “death hormone.” When its levels rise with age in the hypothalamus, with a simultaneous depletion of dopamine (precursor of noradrenalin), the trigger may be pulled.
Noradrenalin and serotonin play a major role in the effectiveness of stimulants and hallucinogens. Long term effects of these drugs leads to depletion of neurotransmitter stores at synaptic junctions in the brain with consequent disorientation and impaired immunological responses.
“The messenger chemical is stored in pouches called vesicles on the surface of the neuron’s cellular membrane and released into the gap between nerves (synapses) when the nerves fire. Many popular stimulant drugs increase the level of NE (Noradrenalin) in these synapses, resulting in greater nerve stimulation. Such drugs include amphetamines, ...over-the-counter diet aids, magnesium pemoline, and cocaine.
“These can temporarily improve alertness, learning in focusing and attention tasks, as well as memory. However, these effects may be due to general stimulation rather than altered data processing by the nerves. A serious disadvantage of these drugs is that once the stored supply of NE has been released from the vesicles and the NE in the synapses has been metabolized, the drugs no longer stimulate nerve activity (this process is called ‘tolerance) until the body produces more NE. Depression is very common during the period when NE supply is low owing to excessive use of the stimulants mentioned above, (Pearson and Shaw, 1982).”
With psychedelics, the body is tricked into producing massive quantities of serotonin, which leads to hallucinations. The body becomes hyperaroused when it tries to compensate by producing the noradrenalin to counteract the serotonin dump.
Serotonin, then, is basically an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It reduces neuron activity. It prevents excessive nervous stimulation which results in depletion. Its nutritional precursor is tryptophan which is found in abundance in milk and bananas.
Noradrenalin is important in primitive drives and emotions like sex, and in memory and learning. When noradrenalin is low, there is depression and poor immune system reactions. To increase noradrenalin storage, take its nutritional precursors l-phenylalanine, or the amino acid L-Dopa to increase brain levels of dopamine and noradrenalin.
Reflecting back to the relationship of serotonin and noradrenalin in the pain-pleasure cycle, we may see how they induce different states of consciousness.
In a privately circulated thesis from the 1970s, Philip Steven Lansky amalgamated his research on systems of arousal with the work of noted Jungian psychologist, Edward Edinger. In his classic text, EGO AND ARCHETYPE, Edinger formulated his ideas on I-Self relationship into a graph showing the progress of the repetitive cycle. Lansky overlaid the likely chemistries, which correspond with these changes. In this manner initial overactivity of serotonin may function as a negative feedback system. A third circle for “drug abuse” might be included to depict the merry-go-round of addiction (Miller, 1982).
This is an interesting appraisal of the alchemy of the Central Nervous System. It might seem that homeostasis would keep consciousness forever in the grip of this psychic life cycle. Yet, Lansky goes on to state:
“However, according to Edinger (1972), individuation means not having to continually repeat the cycle, but to develop conscious dialogues between I and Self. Neurochemically this may be interpreted as a partial overstepping of noradrenergic-serotonergic rebounds, and the concomitant state of more subtle serotonergic/noradrenergic relationships. This is reflected in the ability to remain active (noradrenergic) while inactive (serotonergic). It is a state of physiological and psychological paradox...as is aptly described by the wisdom of The Secret of the Golden Flower.”
This I-Self dialogue is certainly a valued dimension of inner pathworking journeys. It consists of using action in order attain non-action. Lansky concludes,
“Interestingly, the “chymical wedding” of alchemy was a symbol for the simultaneous constellation of psychic opposites, which we have already suggested concurs with a state of physiological paradox. Might not the contents of the two archetypal flasks represent two amines, serotonin and noradrenalin, being poured simultaneously into a marriage bath in the hypothalamus.?”
c. The Alchemical Formula "Solve et Coagula"
In alchemy the balancing of opposites along Path 25 is by their merger as expressed in the formula “Solve et Coagula,” which means to dissolve and congeal. It is old attitudes which must be dissolved, and concrete experiences which form the coagulation---the embodiment of experience.
When a one-sided attitude encounters a more comprehensive viewpoint, the old attitude dissolves. Solutio is the dissolution of the old attitude, which may be experienced as a threat to the world-view of the ego. The ego is interested in maintaining control. It tends to assume that it’s cognitive perception is foremost and builds personality or our world-view from its perception of order.
The ego embraces a paradigm about the nature of Reality. Exposure to someone with a convincing, more comprehensive and demonstrable worldview can wash away the solid ground from under the ego’s feet. This destabilization of the old self may bring up fear and insecurities or pain before the new self is congealed. The ego feels adrift or fragmented before the new viewpoints are assimilated into the conscious attitude and existential experience (coagulatio).
The unified state, or self is the agent of solutio in alchemy. It is either experienced in internal relationships among archetypal entities or forces, or it is projected into one’s environment. An example is where a person meets someone who “makes the bottom drop out” of his/her world. Consciousness then has the choice of embracing or rejecting the broader viewpoint. The long-range aims of solutio is the unification of opposites. Both the archetypal masculine and feminine elements are being dissolved and united at the same time.
When one encounters the Self internally, a larger consciousness of the world and universe, solutio occurs. In pathworking journeys, it may have begun before the journey confronting the enlarged worldview of the Mentor. In solutio, the best qualities of the ego survive and are refined. Those aspects of the ego which consciously relate to the Self withstand solutio, (Edinger).
This alchemical operations has characteristic stages which relate directly to the phenomenology of pathworking journeys:
1. Return to the primal state;
2. Dissolution, dispersal, and dismemberment;
3. Containment of a lesser thing by a greater;
4. Rebirth, rejuvenation, immersion in the creative flow;
5. Purification ordeal;
6. Solution of problems;
7. Melting or softening process (dissolving).
The alchemist, or Mentor, cooperating intentionally with this transpersonal process, experiences the diminishment by solutio as a precursor to union with the Self.
In coagulatio, the conscious realization of archetypal forces comes only through personal experiences with the, in concrete forms. The experiential Journeys are an ideal medium for such tangible consolidation. These forms or patterns are unique for each individual, but they share primary characteristics. Experiences in childhood coagulate the archetypes, most frequently in limited or distorted forms. The inner relationships of creative imagination and external relationships coagulate. These are ways of experiencing personal encounters with the divine.
Coagulatio means to congeal, or become more solid. The ego cannot soar unfettered by day-to-day matters into its spiritual fantasies. Ultimately, the body must be reunited with the process at the sensorimotor level. In order for wholeness to be realized, the alchemist or Journeyer must balance aspirations with personal, concrete reality (spouse, job, children, etc.).
This concrete form of realization of psychic processes in everyday life allows us to “see” that which previously had no form. The Journeys facilitate this deep focus. Archetypal patterns are manifesting in the mundane world constantly. To the alchemist, the archetypes are no longer perceived as qualities or concepts, but as entities with which they share a defined relationship. Psychologically, this is the union of ordinary human reality with the transpersonal Self.
There must always be an investment of psychic energy in the alchemical process. Desire promotes coagulatio. This psychic energy, mobilized as desire, promotes life-experience. The lure is the sweetness of fulfillment. Coagulatio thus symbolizes the limitations of one’s personal reality, the boundary conditions. We find the limits of our abilities in relation to our desires.
In its ultimate projection, coagulatio symbolizes the formation of an immortal body, one firmly grounded in the universal perspective, which is the equivalent of the Philosopher’s Stone.
CONIUNCTIO: The Royal Marriage and Sex Magick
Mystic marriage is ascribed exquisitely in the story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Solomon means the Wisdom of the Sun; Sheba means Seven, which has reference to the seven mystical degrees of the Temple.
1. The Quest
2. The Awakening of Love
3. The Attainment of Knowledge (many are called but few are chosen, for few pass beyond here).
4. Detachment (path begins to narrow);
5. Unification or Blending (mystic marriage);
6. Annihilation (become lost in God);
7. Divine Consummation.
The coming of Solomon represents the beginning of the Quest, and the arrival of the Queen the entrance into the second degree, or passage through the veil of Love. The blending of the two poles constitutes the Mystic Marriage.
In some of the verses King Solomon sings to his beloved, while in others the loved one sings to him. In this antiphonic arrangement is indicated the interaction of the two poles of spirit which express as Will...and Imagination (image-building faculty) whose interaction bring new creations into being; blending of two poles, interior balance. (Corine Heline/The Bible and the Tarot).
Coniunctio is an alchemical term symbolizing the unification of opposites. When the opposites to be united are the masculine consciousness and the feminine unconscious, the union is termed The Royal Marriage. This Royal Marriage is a transcendent symbol of the Self, and embodies psychic totality.
Jung describes the relationship of male and female aspects as they relate to internal spiritual life in The Psychology of the Transference.
"the queen stands for the body, the king for the spirit...the soul bonds them together...psyche is 1/2 bodily, 1/2 spiritual substance, an hermaphroditic being capable of uniting opposites, but who is never complete in the individual unless related to another individual.
This describes an intrapsychic process, where spiritual marriage is an inner experience which is not projected onto another living individual. Tiphareth is the Royal marriage of the soul and the self. The projections of anima or animus have been returned to their proper level in the unconscious. The King and Queen are united, or conjoined, synthesizing the opposites. But this cannot happen until one masters the problem of unconscious desirousness.
Ram Dass has spoken about Westerners misunderstandings about Tantric sex in Grist for the Mill:
The issue of Tantra is often played with by people who desire sexual gratification. And they try to have their cake and eat it too. But in truth, when you desire to have a sexual relationship with another person, the arousal process and the gratification is reinforcing that desire. The only kind of truly Tantric sexuality that is possible is between two human beings who are so rooted in God that there is no preoccupying desire for the other person as 'other.' Then you may use the physiological process of body interaction in order to awaken the energy to move it up through the chakras. But that is only when there is no preoccupying desire whatsoever in either partner. Short of that, just be honest with yourself, sexuality is sexuality, but it not Tantra. The true Tantra is basically the relationship between Radha and Krishna, between the seeker and Mother where you open your soul and become both the lingham and the yoni; you are both penetrating the universe and drawing it into yourself. Because the soul is neither male nor female. And when you have identified yourself as a soul going to God, the sexual dance starts to lose its pull.
The Jews also have a long tradition concerning the sanctity of sex in married life. While the tradition differs from that of Tantra, the spiritual aspects of sex form an integral part of Jewish spiritual life. These views are summarized by Gershom Scholem in Zohar -- The Book of Splendor (1949, Schoken Books).
When is 'one' said of a man? When he is male together with female and is highly sanctified and zealous for sanctification; then and only then he is designated one without mar of any kind. hence a man and his wife should have a single inclination at the hour of their union, and the man should be glad with his wife, attaching her to himself in affection. So conjoined, they make one soul and one body; whereas, and this we have learned, if a man is not wedded, he is, we may say, divided in two. But when male and female are joined, God abides upon "one" and endows it with a holy spirit; and, as was said, these are called the children of the Holy One, be blessed.
These statements needn't be confused with erroneous notions concerning the so-called "soul-mate." Each individual has a complete soul, and is a divine spark. But when we choose to cast our lot with a lifemate, there is a synergetic effect which transcends the qualities of the individuals involved, bringing a portion of the divine into manifestation. It is not that a long lost mate is rediscovered after separation on a higher plane. But, rather, that two compatible souls commit themselves to furthering the development of loving compassion in one another and the world. The whole object of marriage is to reach God. Thus marriage is seen as a creative process of love, where two souls care for one another in a reciprocal manner, furthering mutual spirituality.
What the coniunctio does mean is the psychological resolution of the brother-sister duality, which is represented in QBL by the path 25, Trump XIV, ART.
Imagery of the magical potency of sexual union expresses a psychological truth which has existed in mankind from the beginning. Coniunctio expresses the union of opposites, be they masculine and feminine, sun and moon, or other variations on the theme ("dry-moist," hot-cold, gold-silver, mercury-sulpher, round-square, water-fire, volatile-solid, physical-spiritual, and so on") as described by Jung.
The Romans described their genii, or Genius in relation to the verb gignere -- to "beget" or "engender" -- so that the genius represented first of all the reproductive power of the father of the family and of the son and heir, much like the Egyptian Ka-soul of the Pharaoh. The marriage bed was called genialis lactus; this referred not only to sexual potency but also to the qualities that today we would call psychic vitality, temperament, resourcefulness, and a lively imagination. The genius rejoiced when those who honored him ate and drank well and when their sexual experience was good (indulgere genio), but homosexuality and sexual perversions put him out of humor. Miserly and dry people allow their genius to waste away." (Von Franz, Proj. and Recollection in Jungian Psych). The Roman genius eventually took on a more exalted meaning.
Jung has commented on the appearance of the Self in sexual imagery in Aion. He says,
Where there is an underevaluation of sexuality the self is symbolized as a phallus. Underevaluation can consist in an ordinary repression or in overt devaluation. In certain differentiated persons a purely biological interpretation and evaluation of sexuality can also have this effect. Any such conception overlooks the spiritual and "mystical" implications of the sexual instinct. These have existed from time immemorial as psychic facts, but are devalued and repressed on rationalistic and philosophical grounds. In all such cases one can expect an unconscious phallicism by way of compensation. A good example of this is the mainly sexualistic approach to the psyche that is to be found in Freud. (Aion, p. 226).
An example from Magick of this same phallic approach to life is found in Aleister Crowley, with his emphatically sexual approach to magick. He was, in fact, a contemporary of Freud and Jung and cultural repression doubtlessly concerned them all. Crowley's stern, fundamentalist Christian background was quite puritanical. Perhaps, the liberalization of mores within such groups as The Golden Dawn and Ordo Templi Orientis prefigured the larger cultural revolution. These Adepts were not merely seeking "free love," however. Sex magick, for the invocation of one's Angel, had a higher goal, symbolizing the union of opposites.
The male partner in this sacred marriage is always the hero as higher man. As in myth and ritual, the marriage is "cause" and "prototype" of the world's fertility, that is, of creative life in the world. This fertility of the creative, epitomized in the injunction "Be fruitful and multiply," applies to all phases of life, but presupposes split and differentiation, a polarization of opposites, both without and within. Only a masculine consciousness, an established ego, can be fruitful with the anima; only a male principle which has attained its "higher" form by initiation can be fruitful with the femaleEranos Yearbook, p. 391). (Erich Neumann, "Mystical Man,"
One must be extremely careful in employing sex magick: The criteria for all other rituals of transformation apply, including "is it absolutely necessary?" Usually this is not the case, and the impulsive aspirant bites off more than he can chew. In any case, literal sex magick on the physical plane is a gross misunderstanding and probably represents a confusion of the planes. Remember, you will get what you ask for (i.e. the bud will), but you may get a great deal which you hadn't bargained for in karmic repercussions and unforeseen consequences! Sex magick is best left, therefore, to the "experts," and its description is only included herein for the sake of completeness and metaphorical interpretation.
Man is dual. He carries a woman inside him. Man's soul is feminine and woman's masculine. An initiate of either sex should not need the other; each should be capable of fulfilling himself. Perhaps you've forgotten what the magic wedding means. The only wedding that counts is with oneself. All warriors of our Order function on an exalted level. We are not concerned with doctrines or legends. Our warfare is on a plane beyond human feeling; it is a struggle with oneself to attain the totality of being a man-magician... (Miguel Serrano, El/Ella: Book of Magic Love, p. 55).
Love does not relate to two but to four. One, two, three...First your love with your physical body: the man you are loving, the woman I am. Then the woman inside you, your soul loves my soul, the man within me. This love may be externally sterile, but it gives birth to an eternal son, a being with wings. And so we have four within, and the fifth is our son, the winged man who is also the son of death (Ibid, p. 60).
This describes the production of the magickal child from the union of opposites in interpsychic and intrapsychic relationships, with other and within ourselves. It is easy to see that, although sex magick might be misapplied to manifest one's desires, there is no possibility of sex magick "for fun and profit." Dire consequences can be the only result of such misappropriation of psychological assets.
Sex magick is described metaphorically in alchemical terms in Israel Regardie's classic The Tree of Life, Chapter 16. He learned of sex magic in his work with the Golden Dawn and as Crowley's colleague from the Ordo Templi Orientis. OTO rites reflect their ancestry in Tantric Buddhism, and contain great power. Crowley expounded his complete formula for sex magick in both Liber Samekh, and in Liber Aleph, The Book of Wisdom or Folly (p. 86). Restated in more common terms, it involves the following steps. Presupposed are active magickal pathworking, an oath, banishing rites, etc.
1. Discover your True Will. What is the purpose of this magickal operation. Is it absolutely necessary? Are you at a psychological impasse; is your personality stable or unstable?
2. Personify your intent by naming it and constructing its imaginal form with the QBL correspondence system.
3. Purify and consecrate this entity, i.e. make sure it is a pure archetypal form, uncontaminated by your complexes and prejudices. As a "child" it is all potential. This is the phase of generating Desire through foreplay, while constantly keeping the attention on the purpose of the magical operation.
4. Visualize the image of the magickal child upon entry. This visualization might be the actualization of your own potential, your own authenticity, or a vision of yourself in the future. The union of opposites offers the "child" a vehicle for manifestation, once the gestation period is full. There is a synergetic effect here as both partners contemplate the creation of the child. Their visualizations should be as identical as possible for best results. this invocation creates a living entity.
5. "Consummate the marriage with a golden ring" is a euphemism for climax or orgasm. This moment just before orgasm is a very open, oceanic psychological state, and a potent time for reprogramming and suggestibility for the subconscious. Careful control of the attention at this moment is vital to success. Don't let the thoughts wander at this time even in regular sexual relations, as the thought held at this moment tends to manifest!
6. Consuming the eucharist or eating the sexual fluids means that one assimilates and digests, or integrates the qualities represented by the magickal child as the union of opposites. It is a part of oneself, united with its opposites, and made one's Self, again. It is love, reborn.
There are greater and lesser forms of coniunctio. In the early stages comes the union with the shadow which is the reunion of mind and body. Later comes the reunification with anima/animus, then union with the Self, which produces the unus mundus, or experience of the "One World" where body, soul and spirit are reunited.
The greatest coniunctio is a high mystery, according to Jung in Aion.
The coniunctio oppositorum engaged the speculation of the alchemists in the form of the "Chymical Wedding," and those of the cabalists in the form of Tifereth and Malchuth or God and the Shekinah, not to speak of the marriage of the Lamb.
The dual being born of the alchemical union of opposites, the Rebis or Lapis Philosophorum, is so distinctively marked in the literature that we have no difficulty in recognizing it as a symbol of the self. Psychologically the self is a union of conscious (masculine) and unconscious (feminine). It stands for the psychic totality. So formulated, it is a psychological concept. Empirically, however, the self appear spontaneously in the shape of specific symbols, and its totality is discernible above all in the mandala and its countless variants. Historically, these symbols are authenticated as God-images (Jung, Aion, p. 268).
The three classic stages of the coniunctio may be defined even more closely in terms of QBL, to reveal their essence in regards to psychological and spiritual development. A few quotes from Jung's descriptions of these phases is enough to classify their relationship with the spheres of the Middle Pillar.
Phase 1 = YESOD = Unio Mentalis. In this phase, one's spiritual self confronts the shadow which is composed of contaminated elements of both spirit and soul. Through withdrawal from sensuous reality and withdrawal of projections from the environment, insight is gained. This insight comes from "introversion, introspection, and meditation on desires and motives..."(Jung). It corresponds with Yesod since it implies overcoming the turbulence of emotions.
Phase 2 = TIPHARETH = Royal Marriage. This phase of objective cognition reunites spirit, soul and body under the symbolism of the Chymical Wedding. It means "full knowledge of the heights and depths of one's own character." After reunion of spirit and body through the irrational symbolic process, insights must be applied in practice. Spirit unites with material reality. Self-realization.
Phase 3 = KETHER = Mysterium Coniunctionis. This phase is also termed Unus Mundus, or Unio Mystica, (the Tao in Asia). It means the union of a whole man (microcosm) with the Macrocosm. Here a stable inner security is built and rebuilt. This phase represents synchronous union with "all potential" or the realm of archetypal patterns. Soul merges in Spirit or higher Self in mystic experience forming a "spiritual body." "Seeing through" to the identity between psychic and physical reality; that the "multiplicity of the empirical world rest on an underlying unity." The Qabalists speak of this phase in their axiom, "Kether is in Malkuth." God-realization.
In The Psychology of the Transference, Jung provides an interesting quote from Nicholas of Cusa, an alchemist. The gist of it is that man is an analogy of God.
"Man is God, but not in an absolute sense, since he is man. He is therefore God in a human way. Man is also a world, but he is not all things at once in contracted form, since he is man. He is therefore a microcosm." Hence the complexio oppositorum proves to be not only a possibility but an ethical duty: "In these most profound matters every endeavor of our human intelligence should be bent to the achieving of that simplicity where contradictions are reconciled.
If we apply our insight into these prescriptions for alchemical development, we can see that the requirement for Yesod is to channel sex in marriage through individuation, rather than repressing it. Tiphareth symbolizes the fact that the Royal Marriage of anima/animus in self-actualization, prefigures the spiritual marriage of God-Realization. Reintegration of the royal couple in Tiphareth means self-realization in that the partner is no longer required to live one's unlived potential. Through withdrawal of projections onto the partner, one actualizes one's own potential.
The mystery of the reunion of God and his Shekinah, referred to by Jung in Aion, is that of the mystic reaching Kether on the Path of Return. This exalted experience is rising on the Path 13, II, The High Priestess, which symbolizes this Shekinah on the Tree of Life.
Shekinah literally means the indwelling presence of God, or His Radiance. It is analogous to the Neo-Platonic idea of the Logos, or "the Word," introduced to Jewish though by Philo of Alexandria. It is also called "Holy Spirit", "Holy Ghost", or "the Comforter." Other appellations include "the Daughter of the Voice" which means "God's Voice."
The blessing of Shekinah comes not only to the husband and wife who live in peace and harmony (meaning they are living a psychologically mature love), but also to those mystics who are pious and righteous. It is the illumination and bliss of the tzaddikim, or Hebrew saints.
The nature of the Shekinah is described more fully in The Book of Jewish Knowledge, by Nathan Ausubel.
Some Talmudic Sages conceived of the Shechinah as a spiritual essence of indescribable beauty and exalting effect. Their more literal-minded colleagues translated it into physical terms as a light and radiance. Its approach, they averred, was announced by a tinkling sound, like that of some ethereal bell. One legend even described the dying Moses as being lovingly enfolded in the "wings" of the Shechinah.
Shekinah's relationship to Kether is implicit in the symbolism of the Halo, or "Crown of Glory," when God's radiance rests on the righteous. This is mystic illumination. This is the peak experience of the mystic mountain, or the Path of Return.
Coming back down to the more immediately relevant level of Tiphareth, the Royal Marriage can be described or imagined as the puer-psyche marriage. James Hillman discussed this phase in the article "Peaks and Vales: the Soul/Spirit Distinction as Basis for the Differences between Psychotherapy and Spiritual Discipline." He suggests we get access to this level by using personification of the alchemical substances. "Then we can feel the different needs within us as volitions of distinct persons, where puer is the Who in our spiritual flight, and anima (or psyche) is the Who in our soul." He adds that,
This mess of psyche is what puer consciousness needs to marry so as to undertake "the battle of the sexes." The opponents of the spirit are first of all the hassles under its own skin: the morning moods, the symptoms, the prevarications in which it gets entangled, and the vanity. the puer needs to battle the irritability of this inner "woman," her passive laziness, her fancies for sweets and flatteries -- all that which analysis calls "autoeroticism." This fighting is a fighting with, rather than a fighting off or fighting against, the anima, a close, tense, devoted embracing in many positions of intercourse, where puer madness is met with psychic confusion and deviation, and where this madness is reflected in a distorted mirror. ...Reflection in the mirror of the soul lets one see the madness of one's spiritual drive, and the importance of this madness.
Precisely this is what the struggles with the anima, and what psychotherapy as the place of this struggle is all about: to discover one's madness, one's unique spirit, and to see the relationship between one's spirit and one's madness, that there is madness in one's spirit, and there is spirit in one's madness.
...The spirit needs to witness this madness. Or to put it another way, the puer take sits drive and goal literally unless there is reflection, which makes possible a metaphorical understanding of its drive and goal. By bearing witness as the receptive experiencer and imager of the spirit's actions, the soul can contain, nourish, and elaborate in fantasy the puer impulse, bring it sensuousness and depth, involve it in life's delusions, care for it for better or worse. Then the individual in whom these two components are marrying begins to carry with him his own reflective mirror and echo. He becomes aware of what his spiritual actions mean in terms of psyche. The spirit turned toward psyche, rather than deserting it for high places and cosmic love, finds ever further possibilities of seeing through the opacities and obfuscations of the valley. Sunlight enters the vale. The Word participates in gossip and chatter.
The spirit asks that the psyche help it, not break it or yoke it or put it away as a peculiarity or insanity. And it asks the analyst who acts in psyche's name not to turn the soul against the puer adventure but rather to prepare the desire of both for each other.
...Not for the sake of learning love only, or for community, or for better marriages and better families, or for independence does the psyche present symptoms and neurotic claims. Rather these demands are asking also for inspiration, for long-distance vision, for ascending eros, for vivification and intensification (not relaxation), for radicality, transcendence, and meaning -- in short, the psyche has spiritual needs, which the puer part of us can fulfill [emphasis mine--Ed]. Soul asks that its preoccupations be not dismissed as trivia but seen through in terms of higher and deeper perspectives, the verticalities of the spirit. When we realize that tour psychic malaise points to a spiritual hunger beyond what psychology offers and that our spiritual dryness points to a need for psychic waters beyond what spiritual discipline offers, then we are beginning to move both therapy and discipline.
The puer-psyche marriage results first of all in increased interiority. It constructs a walled space, the thalamus of the bridal chamber, neither peak nor vale, but rather a place where both can be looked at...
The puer-psyche marriage finally implies taking our complexes both out of the world and out of the realm of spiritual systems. It means that the search and questing go through a psychological search and questing, an exploration of soul by spirit for psychic fecundations. (James Hillman, Puer Papers, Spring Pub., p. 54-73).
At this point "in-between," or the center, Tiphareth represents the arena for this Royal Marriage of spirit and soul.
The perfect man is present at all times under different names; in him, all divine attributes are manifested. He is illumined by divine names and in his turn illumines the world with life and virtue. He is the divine copy, or image, a mirror in which divine attributes are fully attributed. He is intermediate between the Creator and creatures...The perfect man, in brief, is the life and soul of the world. He need not make himself known to the people of the world but his very existence brings virtue and harmony in the world (N.P. Archer, ed. The Sufi Mystery, Octagon Press, 1980, p. 124).
Heart is the throne of God in man. It is the temple of Ka'aba, the receptacle of His reflection, the faculty by which the human being is distinguished from other creatures. (Ibid. p. 125).