THE SOURCERESS: FIRE & ICE
The High Priestess, mistress of our guided tour to the Abyss of the Transcendent Imagination, gazes out serenely from her inner kingdom. The image is actually one of many incarnations of Psyche, whose name in Greek means butterfly, and is a universal symbol of the soul. This Psyche is in rapport with Spirit, as symbolized by the dove enclosed in the circle of flame over her crown. It reflects the mythography of Psyche & Eros, the divine couple. There is alchemy and magick here in this world, where serpents are a healing force. Myth tells us that the blood of Medusa, the serpent-haired one, was a potion—that from the right side a healing balm, that of the left a fatal poison.
As the Soul of the World, the Anima Mundi represents a way of affirmation and fullness. She is the plenum, the panoply or pandaemonium of psychic imagery—our Hostess for the inner journey we are about to embark upon. She is a soul-guide, a mediatrix of consciousness between the personal and collective. She balances the actualities of daily life with the demands of the Beyond. Ego consciousness emerges as the result of her prior psychic life. The creative process emerges from the unconscious by the “way of the Mothers”—rebirth.
The alchemist’s conviction that psyche and its fantasies are as real as matter depends on how convincing anima makes herself to us. Internalization is necessary for psychic consciousness. It means being aware of your fantasies and recognizing them everywhere, including your belief system. Your fantasies are not separate from your reality, but are instrumental in forming your experience of it.
Personifying is a characteristic effect of the anima archetype. The embodiment of libido can only be apprehended in definite form. Your rebirth is identical with your rebirth images, emotions, actions, and feelings. This angel’s individuation into a distinct personality is precisely what soul-making is all about. Let your imagination refresh your intellect with fantasy.
Behind Eros, the alembic, or alchemical vessel of transmutation, contains the symbols of the three stages of the work (body, soul, and spirit; mercury, sulphur, and salt) as black, white and red birds. When united they produce the Philosopher’s Stone, Elixer, or Panacea: the universal remedy of cosmic consciousness.
The alchemists concretized or personfied practically all their most important ideas—the four elements, the vessel, the stone, the prima materia, the tincture, etc. The idea of man as microcosm, representing in all his parts the earth or the universe, is a remnant of an original psychic identity, which reflected a twilight state of consciousness, according to Jung. This primordial man has taken many forms throughout history, such as Adam Kadmon in Qabala and Purusha in Indian philosophy. In Tarot, this companion of the High Priestess is the Magus, or Magician.
In 1307, the Knights Templar were accused of worshipping the heretical figure of Baphomet, considered by the uninitiated as a symbol of Satan. In reality, this symbol comes from a level deeper than and prior to such dichotomization as good/evil where the opposites are still fused. It is actually a symbol of fertility, the erotic element being symbolic rather than literal.
The name itself is a puzzle, perhaps the corruption of Mahomet, brought back to Europe during the Crusades. He figured priminently in the Cathar heresies, and provided the basis for accusations of heresy and witchcraft. However, the name probably comes from combining two Greek words—baphe and metis—and means “absorption into wisdom.”
19th century magician Eliphas Levi’s version of the figure nestles in the opened cranium of this Post-Modern Baphomet, and helps provide an alternative image of the Tarot Trump, The Devil. On his arms are the alchemical terms solve and coagula, reminding us that to create the Philosopher’s Stone we must dissolve ourselves in chaos and then re-emerge with a reborn embodiment.
Levi called the figure ‘a pantheistic and magical form of absolute,’ a diagram of the god who is the sum total of everything in the universe—an obviously phallic principle of organic life. It contains the symbols of the four elements: the head stands for fire, the wings for air, the scales for water, and legs for earth. The torch is a symbol of divine revelation, the pentagram of human intelligence, the cadeusus the union of the sexes, etc. It is a sign of redemption.
The alchemist dreams in his own specific language, which is exceedingly obscure. In order to understand it, Jung suggests we learn the psychological secrets of alchemy, since only he who knows the secret of the stone understand their words. This virtually incomprehensible “nonsense” has fascinated the most erudite minds, such as Newton, Paracelsus, Goethe,and Jung for two thousand years. The symbolism of alchemy has to do with the structure of the unconscious, and modern dreams contain the same metaphors. Its practical value should not be underestimated.
The alchemical operation consists essentially in separating the prima materia, the so-called chaos, into the active principle, the soul, and the passive principle, the body. They are then reunited in personified form in the coniunctio, the ritual combination of sol and Luna, which yields the magical child (filius sapientiae or filius philosophorum), the reborn self, known as the ultima materia. The collective unconscious appears in the many symbols of religion, myth, art, and dreams. The Uroborous dragon biting its own tail depicts the original chaotic condition, which prevails before the radical transmutation. But it contains all the refined ingredients of the ultimate state in their uncooked form—the heat has yet to be applied to the unrefined material, raw uncooked emotion.
Therefore, we see not only the anguish and despair of the beginning, but the seeds of rejuvination, rebirth and promised illumination of the final stages of the process. Thus, prima materia is the seed of the process, which takes place in the natural mind; it is the seed of enlightenment. The Crown of Creation is an overarching symbol equating with the top sphere Kether in Qabala. It triumphs over the terrible Dragon of the primal, unrefined condition, represented by the dragon or Terrible Mother. In the bottom-center is Atlas holding the earth to symbolize the material sphere of Malkuth. All is one magical movement from Kether through Malkuth. Ego cannot separate itself from the powers and abilities of the subconscious. To submit this material to the process means to apply conscious effort to the task, and find our own experiential spirituality. Prima Materia represents the crossroads or crisis preceding a spiritual awakening (intellectual doubts, metaphysical problems).
“The principle of the art is the raven, who flies without wings on the blackness of the night and the brightness of the day.” . . .”The dragon shuns the light of the sun, and our dead son shall live. The king comes forth from the fire and rejoices in the marriage.”
Jung, Mysterium Coniunctionis
Alchemists called the blackness of the initial depression, grief or stuckness, the Raven’s Head or Black Sun, nigredo, melancholia = Saturn/Earth. Rings of Saturn. The sun is surrounded by the anima media natura and is therefore black. It is a state of incubation or pregnancy, foretelling rebirth from the living death of repression, aridity, or inability to work. Here is the juxtaposition of Sun and Sol-Niger, the anti-sun.
Life as ego has known it in the past is outmoded—the old self-image must die. This precedes psychological revolution and creative reorganization. The black substance of our own shadow must be met and reconciled. Mourning the death of the old self. Emotional participation unblocks the flow of psychic energy and sense of meaning.
The birth of the healing power from the Nigredo belongs to the archetype of the wounded healer. It reflects the psychological capacity as stated by Kerenyi, “to be at home in the darkness of suffering and there to find the germs of recovery with which as though by enchantment, to bring forth Asklepios, the sunlike healer.” This healer’s mother name Coronis means “crow maiden”. The bird of Hermes is also the Raven.
The caput mortuum (death or death head) or raven head is the head of the black Osiris or Ethiopian and also of the “Moon” in the Chymical Wedding. The skull is the vessel of this alchemical transformation. Prior to the change in self-image, one lives a living death, identified only with the vacuousness of the ego’s relative position—a suffering of spiritual poverty.
I, The Juggler or The Magician does his balancing act between the Sun and the Moon, the personified opposites. 0 and XXI The World, Daath octave, Babe in the Abyss, Nihilism. The Nigredo is called “black, blacker than black,” an existential stuckness, the empty void. But by cooking this raw state, a lighter, enlightened condition can emerge. In Northwest native lore, Raven carried his ball of light into the sky, so we no longer live in darkness.
In the alchemical stage known as Putrefactio, we keep up a continual fire and regulate its action so that the Materia Universalis is purified, regenerated and perfected within one vessel and furnace. Nature herself does the work by means of her own inward Fire; but the later is stimulated by the Philosophical Fire. No other work is required from the Alchemist, to perform, but to keep up the Fire by aspiration and prayer.
Give birth to your children while you are in the Fire; Feed, water, and nourish them in the Fire; They will then live and die in the Fire; They will be Fire and remain the Fire. …The Philosopher’s Stone weeps Water; But the world does not know or esteem that Water; The Fire of the wise burns in Water; And lives in the Water; Turn the Fire into Water.
From, the 1st – 18th century AD, alchemy was chiefly concerned with the miraculous water, aqua divina or permanens, which was extracted from the lapis, or prima materia through the torment of the fire. The water stands for the anima mundi imprisoned in matter. This anima is set free not only by means of the “cooking,” but also by the sword dividing the “egg,” or by the separatio, or by dissolution into the four elements or “roots.” Divine water equates with the power of transmutation. It transforms the nigredo into the albedo through miraculous “washing,” animates inert matter and makes the dead rise again.
The Rubedo, or operation of reddening, represents the salamander coming from the refining fire. Fire equals life force responsible for growth and germination in nature. This is the operation of Fire, and means the transmutation of the instrument for testing purity. Fire symbolizes libido or psychic energy. It may come from sexuality, though ethereal fire equates with Divine Logos. This stage is the expansion of consciousness after a crisis in development.
In the uppermost portion, the rock of the Philosopher’s Stone opens to reveal the Holy Ghost—the ultima materia. Lead turns to Gold, which flows forth from the winged Holy Spirit’s mouth as “Truth”. The magickal child cooks in the heat of the rubedo, furthering its incubation, which rests on the four quarters of the earth. The angel protects, and oversees the process of transmutation. Elusive anima peeks out from behind the “crack in the cosmic egg.”
Our development is fostered by the frustration of our sensual and power drives, but only if we have a viable channel of communication with our higher Self. This frustration is the initiatory ordeal of this phase leading to judgement. Fire helps purge the desires to use psychic energy for personal pleasure or power. Experience is penetrating divine inspiration. Fire is the bath of immortality. It means making a connection between ego and transpersonal psyche, learning to see the archetypal aspect of existence. Fire takes on the transforming aspects of Holy Spirit, rather than merely bringing a consuming fire reflecting the pain of a frustrated ego.
The symbolism of the starry heaven coincides with the motif of polyopthalmia (many eyes). The dragon or serpent represents the initial state of unconsciousness, which is to be sacrificed. The inner man, the homunculus passes through the stages and undergoes transformation. In Zosimos, the homunculus stands for the uroborous and is synonymous with Ion, the self-sacrificing priest of the mysteries. Uroboros is also identified with the ego, and the division into four. As an arcanum, the egg is a synonym for water, the dragon, and World Egg.
This image represents the charging or energizing of the Homunculus—the emergent Rotundum. Psychologically, it is analogous to self-reparenting, and materializing archetypal forms. Understanding appears as if it were a “conception.” The Homunculus is the product of the Royal Marriage of Sun and Moon, and is equivalent to the lapis or anthropos. In the ancient art of alchemy, the soul is depicted as a homunculus or “small man.” It is symbolically equivalent to the Elixer or Universal Medicine. It personifies the unconscious as an inner man, a hermaphroditic being, a spirit in a bottle, a “brain child.”
Zosimos and Paracelsus spoke of the homunculus as devouring himself, and giving birth to himself—the death/rebirth necessary for casting off the old and inviting in the new self image. The paradoxical image typically appears before dissolution of the center into its unconscious element—the undifferentiated consciousness of the ground state. In alchemy, the homunculus is sort of a primal “test-tube baby,” created through a dynamic process in the Hermetically-sealed retort vessel. Dr. Frankenstein never had it so good. It feeds daily on the hidden mysteries of nature.
Psychologically, this process is the creation of renewal of spirit, which takes place in the psyche when psychic contents are prevented from “leaking out” and being lost. “Heating” is symbolic of amplifying or intensifying the transformative process. In terms from chaos theory, magnetizing the entity, an ancient prescription, might insinuate the formation of a strange attractor as the complex core of the system. An attractor describes a temporary stability far from equilibrium.
The homunculus is the archetype of the magical child. It is thus an embryonic symbol of rebirth, or re-creation of self by Self. In alchemy, the homunculus is generated by a succession of transformations through the four elements to reach its essential nature. The elements of fire, earth, air and water are analogous to spiritual, physical, mental and emotional life.
Mercurius, or common mercury was literally quicksilver in alchemy. Mercurius philosophicus, the arcane substance, was likened because of its fluidity and volatility with divine water. It is the water which does not make the hands wet, the prima materia or primeval chaos, and the ultima materia, the philosophical man, the lapis. It is the healing process.
Mercurius consists of all conceivable opposites, both material and spiritual. On one hand, he represents the self and on the other the individuation process as redeeming psychopomp or evasive trickster; God’s reflection in physical nature.
Immediately before the albedo or rubedo all colors appear like a peacock spreading its shimmering fan. It announces the end of the work is at hand. The irridescence of Philosophical Mercury emerges as the ever-mobile, shape-shifting energies of the Soul. Psychologically it means that during the assimilation of the unconscious, the personality passes through many transformations, which show in different lights and are followed by ever-changing moods. These changes presage the coming birth.
Only from this inner substance can the soul tinctures be prepared. This stage of integration takes place in a sealed flask, cut off from the outer environment. It requires no external heating as it now contains in itself, a sufficient degree of heat for the process to continue. Peacock’s Tail brings about and betokens the transformation of the poisonous dragon into the healing medicine. The peacock is inner beauty and the perfection of the soul.
The resolution and integration of the Three Principles of Salt, Sulphur, and Mercury means integration of contradictory feeling-values. Mercurius is the play of colors in the Cauda Pavonis, whose appearance heralds the attainment of the goal – restoration of the integrity of the spirit – transfiguration.
"May this water, prepared for the rebirth of men, be rendered fruitful by the secret inpouring of this divine power; may a heavenly offering, conceived in holiness and reborn into a new creation, come forth from the stainless womb of this divine font; and may all however distinguished by age in time, or sex in body, be brought forth into one infancy by the motherhood of grace."
This mandala represents the Lapis Philosophorum Quadratus and the operation of circulatio, cyclic circulation among the four elements, resulting in the quintessence. The eclipse is a symbol of the marriage of the sun and the moon, the union of opposites. The immature ego is eclipsed and threatened with destruction when it naively embraces the maternal unconscious. However, other images indicate that such an eclipse can be inseminating and rejuvinating.
The ego, by incarnating takes on substantial reality, but also becomes subject to corruption and death. The ego is eventually eclipsed, but from its death the "child of the philosophers," the Philosopher's Stone is born. Both sun and moon die and transfer their power to their offspring. Even if it is caused by the wisdom of God, the blackening or eclipse of the sun is a fearful experience, since sun and moon have a destructive side. It is like two loving people who open their hearts to one another and find that vulnerability, doubts and distrust increase also. The ruling principle of the conscious ego must die and transform. This archetypal expression of the Divine Child is a healing panacea.
When the savior child is born, all the forces of darkness attack worse than ever before. Saying goodbye to a neurotic attitude is sad and we resent being separated from our infantility. The divine child naturally always escapes this last outbreak of darkness, because even though newly born it cannot be suppressed anymore. The light is born in darkness. The stone is therefore produced with a process compared with childbirth. The symbolic process begins in chaos and ends with the birth of the new personality.
Coagulatio is the operation of turning something into earth--spirit manifesting as substance, so it often equated with creation. When psychic substances become earth, they take on a particular, localized form, promoting ego development and solidifying personality, connecting the ego with the Self. Here it is represented by the substantive reception of physical impulses via the sensory organs, which is also the confinement within the limits of our own personal reality, but with the capacity for redemption. Psychic development is a process of coagulatio--the images of dreams and active imagination coagulate, connecting outer and inner worlds and relationships. The preexistent totality, the Self is first incarnated, then assimilated through the living efforts of the individual. Then spirit inhabits body.
The blue background of this piece is composed of closeups of actual sensory apparatus, the various sensory receptors. In the center, the incubation of the divine child continues within the realm of the anima--active imagination. The spiritual sense, and even the symbolic sense of balance interact to produce a quickening of the transmutive process. Images of sexual sense, chastity, pregnancy, even dreamsex amplify the definition of the natural senses, the basic substance of existence and embodiment, without which consciousness cannot interact with the environment. The illuminative brain/mind is the center of the revealed truth of a living Universe, a process/goal of evolution, which is overseen here by the celestial hierarchy and the Absolute.
The anima media natura corresponds to Sophia caught in the embrace of Physis and is equated with Divine Wisdom, the feminine counterpart of God. This gnostic Sophia is the alchemical mother. Our own belief in the light means the spirit draws the soul to itself from its imprisonment in the body.
PRIEST OF THE MYSTERIES
Again I beheld the divine and holy bowl-shaped altar, and I saw a priest clothed in a white robe reaching to his feet, who was celebrating these terrible mysteries, and I said "Who is this?" And the answer came: "This is the priest of the inner sanctuaries. It is he who changes the bodies into blood, makes the eyes clairvoyant, and raises the dead."
The Visions of Zosimos
Socially-recognized mediators, the priests of various paths may have little in common except their alleged ability to establish contact with gods and spirits. Their basic function is to communicate with the divine for the community. When priests intercede they come between the suppl;icant and God; when they step aside, direct mystical experience of the Magus becomes possible. In ancient times, priest and magician shared a common arena. They functioned as medicine-men or shamans, specialists in the supernatural. However, we also have an indwelling priest of our own inner mysteries who can function as a personal soul-guide
One claim to priesthood comes from the spontaneous experience and expression of transcendental powers deriving from psychological states interpreted as the chosen of the divinity by the process of vocation. Shamans usually begin their service with a schizophrenic breakdown which they intuitively learn how to heal and can therefore heal others with their new knowledge. The magician is called upon to restore disturbed relations with the supernatural powers and set things aright. This is an art and a power available only to the predisposed, developed through apprenticeship.
Where priests receive formal insturction, the first period of training consists in learning religious beliefs and performing various rites, while the second is devoted mainly to self-training in the course of which the novice seeks mystical experiences and a direct relationship with divine powers. The social position of priests may inspire awe of these mouthpieces of the gods, and often provides them with privileges.
Worship of the Great Goddess through the aeons represents reverence for the Divine Feminine from the Paleolithic times to the Present. Her continued worship through time is shown by the myths, shrines, and sanctuaries around the world that honor this powerful symbol of creation. The cave was one of her original symbols. She is worshipped in Native American, Egyptian, Indian, and Asian civilizations, and more. Although her worship has sometimes been forced underground, it never disappeared.
In ancient Babylon she was Anat, in Egypt Isis and Hathor; Dana in Celtic Ireland; Rhea and Demeter in Greece; and in India, Anapurna. Kwan Yin, Aphrodite, Ishtar, Persephone, Madonna and many more names and faces, yet all one primal Goddess. She is the symbol of Earth and the giver of life, the Vast Mother, who represents all the powers and mysteries of creation for early humanity.
Shifting her solar association onto masculine deities and blackening those of her symbols that, like the serpent, could not be assimilated, patriarchal societies forced the preeminent power of the feminine into an obscure and subservient position. Yet, the Goddess did not simply disappear when her position was usurped. The power she represents has been the source of continuous religious devotion from acient times through the Middle Ages, and up to the present day. There is abundant evidence of the extraordinary permanence of her worship--even at the heart of those religions that tried to destroy Her.
The myth of Eros and Psyche comes to us from a Greek initiate in the Eleusinian or Isis Mysteries. It is of great psychological value, revealing the development of an initiate's relationship with the anima. Eros, the reproductive passion is transformed through its relationship with Psyche. In a sacred marriage with his mother/daughter/sister, Eros repeats the ancient Egyptian formula, Isis- Apophis-Osiris, concerning the mysteries of rebirth and immortality.
The action of the anima/animus archetypes means we project our unconscious ideas of the All-Woman or All-Man onto an individual in whom we seek this idea essence. No single person can be the carrier of all the divine attributes or qualities we might project onto them. When they fail to realize our expectations, the process of consciousness-raising begins if we reown our projections and seek the Self.
Eros moves from sexual objectification toward soulful love. The polarity between sexual passions, secret feelings, and spiritual strivings exerts a definite hold over the ego. Psyche moves through her four archetypal tasks toward empowerment, empathy, and compassion through active introspection. Each is compelling in a magical, magnetic way. The ego cannot detach itself from either of them in our reality since each belongs to this inner reality. We can break free and withdraw projections from both instinctual draws and find mature, soulful love.
Passionate involvement in life unites our spiritual and emotional lives. Facing our fears and pains--becoming conscious of our conflicts--we can find peace. New realizations appear in their embryonic stage as conflicts which offer us choices in life. These decision points become either our life's path or roads-not-taken. Eros, like Fate, is symbolic of the fatal power of attraction which brings opposites together. He is the incarnating life principle, which ushers in the irrational, passionate intensity which makes transformation possible. He "turns up the heat" on the psychic process. He is that spiritual or divine fire which can unite with instinct.
Penetration into the Abyss of the Transcendent Imagination carries its own perils. It is not without trouble that we storm heaven's gates, that infinite abyss of the mysteries. There are pathologies at every level of reality. It is the attempt to penetrate to the nondual state of the condition that is beyond forms. Hence its ritual is that of the "bornless one." Magician, Aleister Crowley attempted to reach this initiation. In his magical efforts he had a Faustian encounter with egotism and psycholoigcal danger--ending his life as an addict and setting himself up as a false god, choking with guilt over his arrogance. There are psychic dangers in magic even for the adept. His cult of personality still survives, but his legacy is dubious, and often seems pre-rational rather than trans-rational.
The critical point is that collective is not necessarily transpersonal. Most of the Jungian archetypes are simply archaic images lying in the magic and mythic structures of our being. They exert a pre-rational pull, but there is nothing mystical, or transpersonal about them. It is imnportant to come to terms with these archetypes, to differentiate them and integrate them (transcend and include), but they are not themselves the source of a transpersonal or genuinely spiritual awareness -- including the so-called Holy Guardian Angel, the magical symbol of higher Self or the Neshamah. In fact, for the most part, they are regressive pulls in awareness and inhibit higher development. They need to be overcome, not merely embraced as so-called divine immanence.
Just because something is collective or non-rational does not mean it is transpersonal. Magic and myth are collective prepersonal (magic and mythic) structures. There are also collective personal structures (rational and existential), and collective transpersonal structures (psychic and subtle). Collective simply means that the structure is universally present.
Gods and goddesses are not transpersonal modes of awareness, or genuinely mystical luminosities, but simply a collection of typical, everyday self-images and self-roles available to us. They are self-concepts and self-roles. To go beyond into formlessness is therefore characterized as the bornless babe of the abyss. Transpersonal archetypes are anemic compared to that transpersonal domain of meditative Light and Sound, the foundation of the world...God within.
The Sun of the One I love has risen in the night,
Resplendent, and there will be no more sunset...
I saw my Lord with the eye of the heart, and I said
"Who are you?" and he said, "Your Self."
Hallaj, the mystic
One may become utterly silent inside, in a gap between thoughts, completely perception-free of mental or sensory conteent, yet awake and fully conscious. Therefore, this pure consciousness event (PCE) may be defined as wakeful but contentless (nonintentional) consciousness. Advanced mystical experiences result from the combination of regular PCEs with the minimization of the relative intensity of proprioception, emotions, and thoughts. De-intensifying of emotional attachments (detachment) means that, over the years, one's attention is progressively available to sense its own quiet interior character more and more fully. It unites soul and spirit while placing the body in a death-like state.
The experience of peace in self, expanded core interior silence, requires the voluntary mystical death that is explicitely connected with the alchemical unio mentalis, the first stage of the three-stage coniunctio. Direct self-recollection leads toward the I AM experience, but requires becoming utterly dead to the things of the world, and void of conceptions. It is no less than the emancipation of the soul from nature--separation from the suffering and grief that nature brings on the soul.
Unio mentalis is the interior oneness Jung called individuation...a psychic equilibration of opposites "in the overcoming of the body," a state of equanimity transcending the body's affectivity and instinctuality. The unio mentalis corresponds precisely to the philsophers who make "dying" their profession: mystics. Desires (anger, greed, lust, attachment, vanity) are to be killed in their obsessive, projected forms for communion with primal Being. Then one may abide in the "Fullness of Emptiness," awareness of consciousness itself.
In the solificatio, the operation of the sun, this transient state becomes a permanent or semi-permanent development of that quiet empty interior silence of original consciousness, even during activity. One maintains a clear sense of the interior awareness, a persisting sense of an unmoving silence at one's core, even while working and living. One has deleted everything inside, becoming "Nothing," blank. This dualistic mystical state (DMS) creates oceanic feelings, the experience of being expanded, quasi-larger or more spacious than one's own body. Consciousness is encountered as more like a field than a localized point, a field that transcends the body and yet somehow interacts with it.
This second stage involves reuniting the spiritual position with the body, manifesting insights. It corresponds to the Indian concept of purusha-atman, and implies bringing the consciousness of wholeness into full-blooded reality, that is lived out fully in everyday life.
"The mystics are channels through which a little knowledge of reality filters down into our human universe of ignorance and illusion. A totally unmystical world would be a world totally blind and insane."