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The Nigredo: Working Through Depression with Alchemy

When we suffer we are left to search for meaning.

"Only that which has been properly separated can be rightfully joined.”

Working Through Depression with Alchemy

by Iona Miller, 2/2008


"Right at the beginning you meet the dragon, the chthonic spirit, the devil or, as the alchemists called it, the blackness, the nigredo, and this encounter produces suffering..." ~ Carl Jung

"I am an infirm and weak old man, surnamed the dragon; therefore am I shut up in a cave, that I may become ransomed by the kingly crown...A fiery sword inflicts great torments on me; death makes weak my flesh and bones...My soul and my spirit depart; a terrible poison, I am likened to the black raven, for that is the wages of sin; in dust and earth I lie, that out of Three may come One. O soul and spirit leave me not, that I may see again the light of day, and the hero of peace whom the whole world shall behold may arise from me..." ~ Aurelia Occulta Philosophorum


Alchemy is the Great Work. This alternative spiritual tradition is a process of separation, transformation and integration that cannot be reduced to recipes and axioms. This is just as true of the substances worked experimentally in the retort as it is of the personality undergoing the transformative process. This unique mode of perception is experientially validated. It affirms the sacred and recognizes the creative aspect of energy and the energy body in actualizing potential.

Alchemy delves into the mysteries of nature with an esoteric view -- that of the multi-level unification of microcosm with macrocosm to bridge the abyss between the body and the spirit. Everything is related through complex corresponding qualities. The alchemists claim that theosophical rebirth and transmutation of your essential being through imagination and meditation is possible. They developed individual conceptions of how to proceed, including psychic, scientific and aesthetic facets.

More than a school of thought, alchemy is a gnosis, a "way" of knowing. It is a deliberate attempt to grasp immortality in which the process is paramount. We all embody the archetypal journey of life, consciously or unconsciously. We are born in our essential nature but it quickly becomes covered with a hard-shelled core of the false ego. We long to return to our true nature. Alchemy amplifies and accelerates this process of self-actualization, connecting with a sacred sense of self.

Naturally, there is no absolute actualization, no final self-reflective insight. It is a recursive formula of returning, over and over on more subtle levels, to the sacred center where heaven and earth meet. You don't have to heroically "succeed" at alchemy.

Not succeeding will deepen you as you improvise the narrative that is your life up to that point. How many times do we make, then lose the Stone? How many times do we lose our hard-won happiness or wholeness? The trick is to not paralyze yourself with New Age guilt over it. If a scientist has a failed experiment he or she doesn't wallow in shame or analysis paralysis but starts over with new boundary conditions.


First, you must separate yourself from the herd mentality. When your comfort zone becomes constrictive, you have grown beyond it. Still, only a few adventurous souls will move beyond the cocoon of their self-imposed prison. If you suppress yourself too much, you become a stranger to yourself. Alienation is felt as chronic depression.

You have to change your level of game play, change your reality map. You die to one level to be reborn at a higher level. Disidentify from the social hologram, disidentify from rigid roles and soul-diminishing victimization to become open. To step up your game, you have to reconnect with your core, your deep presence and awareness. Reality speaks for itself if we listen closely enough to nature and our nature. But you have to retrain your eyes, ears, and heart to comprehend the intuitive language of alchemy.

The paradigm of control is based on domination. Our culture only operates as long as the POWER stays on, literally and metaphorically. This rigid system is the dragon you first confront. It is a depressive vision of reality which affects everyone. Some try to numb out through a variety of escapes but there is no escape from yourself.

Depression has an initiatory function. By diving into your deeper nature you can find relative peace. You can find and reclaim your own inspiration, creativity and Mystery. It takes self-care, self-regulation and self-mastery. You need to empower yourself based on your Purpose, Prospects, Power (Push) and Plan. You will slay many dragons before you become a dragon Adept yourself.

Alchemy, one of many repressed traditions, is the antidote to alienation, an accelerated pathway to self-realization. It is an alternative, pre-scientific spiritual and philosophical interpretation of life, encompassing its physical, emotional and mental aspects. It builds psychological resistance, allowing your old self image and worldview to go into flux. You confront chaos, darkness and depth.

This elegant, organic, holistic worldview is immediately relevant to contemporary life -- a new way of being in the world rooted in a rich inner life. It is a way of healing and recovering yourself. There are many ways to articulate the dynamic process. Our raw personalities are the products of a sick system that fears chaos, that fears "letting go." But nature shows us that chaos and complexity are the hallmarks of creativity and self-organization.

Traditional structures do not teach you how to transcend themselves and learn to think and behave independently. They just reinforce sleepwalking zombies, the programmed consensus of their control mechanisms. External rewards reinforce the mind-control trance. When we break down, it is a failure to cope. Consensus philosophy shapes institutions. Toxic order puts systems above people.

Society applauds a variety of greed-oriented process addictions, but you can change to a healthier process that balances soulless society. Paradigms condition our undefined perceptions and beliefs about the nature of reality. Choose your own images, symbols and icons rather than those you are programmed to accept mindlessly. Reject metanarratives. Learn to breath differently and correct dehumanizing suggestions and negative self-talk.

Faulty paradigms abuse your soul. You might deny the erosion of your soul and sensitivity. Cynicism means you notice but are apathetic. Depression makes you feel hopeless. Fear keeps people in line but it stifles creativity. It is the power of nightmares.

Countermeasures include learning your Scripts, Games and Rackets, identifying your personal shadow, distinguishing it from collective shadow and dialogue with your soul guide, inner or outer. You also have boundary issues. You need to set better ones on the outside, and expand your inner mindscape.

Your own pathologies are the portal to the protean richness of your inner world. The point is not to live happily ever after, but to live fully and deeply. Even in baseball you are doing well if you get 3 hits in ten, and few of those will be homeruns. It's the same with your projects and desires. Make the most of your "greatest hits" by learning from your misses.

Alchemy helps you create a freer mindset beyond the orders of the vertical power system by reclaiming your essence. Listen to your soul guidance, your inner compass. But you have to hack the consensus reality system that has taken root in your mindbody and do an intervention on yourself. You have to awaken to a new awareness beyond the irritation syndrome you've learned to accept as normal. Tolerating it diminishes you. But, rather than fighting it, you have to make a positive move beyond it.


The old paradigm is hierarchical; the new paradigm is non-linear, transformative. In the first, we search for order and security outside ourselves. A confining belief system is the greatest hindrance. In the later, we seek inner wisdom and wholeness, freeing ourselves from external control by political, sociological and psychological control systems. You are responsible for your own do-it-yourself transformation to greater awareness and potential.

Transformation is the paradigm of synthesis and integration. Child-rearing, social systems, government, religion and corporations promote conformity through control, not by fostering human potential. Social hierarchies are role-bound. Transformation from within leads to freedom from dependency on the power brokers of hierarchy. The free individual is not hierarchical, not controlled by an external reward system.

You are the alchemical vessel and the contents of your psyche is the means and object of transformation. Transmutation changes the fundamental nature of a thing in itself -- noumenon. Alchemy synthesizes noumenon and phenomenon but it is a lifetime endeavor leading toward healing and transcendence. It reverses the meaning of subjective and objective and collapses the dualism.

In philosophy, noumena are the basic subjective reality behind all sensory experience, all perception. But is it reality or a model? Consciousness interprets itself through our neuronal circuitry as a World Simulation Process, a Synthesized World Reality.

There is some inherent reality in it -- a facet of uncovered truth, in a sense part of some higher understanding. Alchemy recognizes the subjective/objective as fundamental but it resolves the duality. The underlying unity of spiritual experiences reveals noumenon as the objective and phenomenon as the subjective aspect of our experience. Spirit is more primordial than objective materiality. Whereas, science declares material phenomena objective.

Our models become reality itself if we integrate them successfully. The ultimate goal is to transcend phenomena altogether resting in the groundstate of pure awareness. Our root consciousness and the Consciousness of the "light of nature" are undividedly interactive.

The dragon is your own unrealized infinite potential. The infinite is our direct link to reality. There are deeper dimensions of soul and spirit beyond ego gratification. Active evocation of the imagination reveals your invisible depths. Understanding of your own essence, unmediated by hierarchy, is like a beacon that draws you into an even deeper connection with the sacred.

Psychologically, the dragon is union of ordinary human reality with the potential of the Transpersonal Self and the passion for transformation. It is a symbol of DNA and/or the kundalini energy. This symbol of the Great Work represents the Anima Mundi, or Soul of the World, which is the sum total of planetary existence, the holographic blueprint of all being.

Medicine confering the gift of youth can be made from its venom, in which form the dragon is a healing power. This spiritual food of immortality signifies that the ego assimilates and digests the previously unconscious aspects of the Self. This elixir of youth creates the immortal body, equivalent to the Philosopher's Stone, the Adept whose lightbody feeds on the nuclear core of creation.

As the images and substances change, you change too. You connect with your divine intelligence, your essential nature. The character of your life can supercede even genetic predispositions. The sense of security and belonging of the old paradigm, based in inadequacy and insecurity, is transformed to a unifying vision. You realize you can access your divine essence directly. Alchemy begins working when you design your life on sacred principles.


There is theory and practice in science, and two applications in alchemy -- spiritual alchemy and experimental alchemy involving literal lab work. You can work either method separately or both in concert. Like mystics of all paths who have gone before, we make the experiment on ourselves. The ego keeps you attuned to consensual reality and unaware of the primal ground. But old rules no longer apply and you have to realign your life.

Our true selves are beyond what our conscious awareness alone could ever make of us. Alchemy gives structure to the chaos of our lives, resolution to paradoxical conflicts, to psychic disturbances. The spiritual experience of the alchemist mirrors intrinsic cosmic order. Normal expansions of consciousness are not linear and you will return many times to the process of benign regression and restoration.

You can chose to enter a heightened state of awareness to unconscious material, to primary process. A temporary retreat, this adaptive regression is cathartic and leads to inspiration and creative integration. This seemingly backward step to primary process leads to two steps forward toward spiritual experience. Rather than dictatorial, the ego becomes receptive to new contexts and meanings for even visceral memories. You no longer believe in a limited sphere of reality.

Both Jungian and Transpersonal psychology deal far more clearly with the same process we find in alchemy. The nonlinear process is described openly in psychology since there is no need to conceal its purpose from a potentially-deadly Inquisition. Astrology, kabbalistic and even chemical elements are seen as archetypal, symbolic forces operating in a holistic system.

You can struggle with obscure alchemical texts, often written by those whose intuitive grasp of the process was incomplete, or you can amplify your understanding with parallel modern work. Alchemy encourages divergent thinking. You can "try on" many ideas and if they don't fit, move on to other working hypotheses. A solid grounding in the basics of process work can illuminate your own quest and help you see where you need to focus more easily.

You can struggle with arcane language or learn to translate it into modern terms. The point is not to be sucked into living in a wormhole of 14th Century thinking but to make it come alive for yourself today, to adapt it to contemporary life. Your own unique fusion ideally is a 21st century application of this ancient tradition.


Since alchemy delves into the hidden nature of matter, a basic understanding of quantum physics -- how nothing becomes something -- is also useful. A little research will be amply rewarded. You don't need to know the math but comprehend that there are now scientific parallels that support the esoteric intuitions of alchemy.

Some knowledge of other mystical paths is often helpful in drawing parallels and deciphering the literal and spiritual meanings of texts. You can easily find many analogies. How much or how little you apply this method to your own quest depends on your own inclinations. The recipe remains the same, but reading the recipe is not tasting the dish. The secret is that it is an experiential not merely conceptual process.

There is a visible and invisible workshop -- the body and imagination. The creative imagination is a power of soul that helps you extract your hidden nature. Benchwork is a projective mechanism that mirrors your psychic transformation synchronistically. Projection turns into a clarifying image. You gain an experiential knowledge of the elements and materials of alchemy, rather than just comprehending a concept.


There is a treasure to be discovered; you are mining your own depths. The dragon guards this treasure. Your psychophysical being is a vessel of the soul and spirit. The physical body is sustained by the energy body, the field body and its photonic zero-point component -- the "hidden light of nature."

This is our fundamental nature, our quintessence. We are made of the fabric of spacetime and stardust. Awareness of our true condition in the present moment brings us to the very center of our experience of the universe. Elemental matter is evolving in both the microcosm and the macrocosm. We can take a bottom-up or top-down view of that process that revives the alchemical worldview.

This spacetime fabric, the groundstate of being, is the invisible radiance of virtual photon fluctuation (ZPE; vacuum potential) that underlies all elements -- the source of matter. Interaction with the vacuum gives atoms their stability. The densest atoms are mostly void. Our own bodies are mostly void, the dynamic fabric of spacetime.

There is a fundmental relationship between space, sound, light, energy, matter, and consciousness. It is the task of the alchemist to observe and experiment with these elements in the microcosm that is his or herself. If that which moves is matter, that which makes it move is awareness.

Like physicists we seek the truth of time and space by digging deep into the veiled secrets of the laws of matter. But we do it with an essentially spiritual purpose in an attempt to speed up nature's process of evolution, our own evolution.

The quantum vacuum contains in-formation about all that is. Many suggest this is the basis of consciousness as well as matter -- that it is consciousness. The Vedas suggested as much centuries ago. Vedic seers looked within and grasped the concept of wholeness, of Oneness, alchemy's recurrent theme. The quality of unity is the cosmic order itself.

The debate over mind and matter is not new. Clearly, we are psychophysical beings. Body is mind and mind matters. We structurally embody the memory of our experiences. This is the mindbody paradigm of complementary medicine. It is consciousness that seems irreducible but we don't know how mind and matter proceed from it.

The science of consciousness studies is only now catching up theorizing that matter seems permeated by consciousness. Our own consciousness is the first matter. There is spirit in matter and matter in spirit, forming a reciprocal dynamic between consciousness and our biological organism.

Our senses and mentation filter our interpretation of our experience through our beliefs. We have to keep in mind that there is perception and Reality, and not all theories relate to that reality. They are models of reality. Consciousness is the creative core of matter. This is the nature of Mystery and you ARE that.

This cosmic medium transports light, gravitation, energy and pressure. Holographic modulation of waves upon waves of fields keeps us in nonlocal communication with the entire cosmos. Active information is present everywhere, projecting and recording the historical experience of matter. The ancients called it the Akashic field. Such information is called "nonlocal" in physics, and "transpersonal" in psychology. It is distributed in a continuous universal field.

Arguably, such a luminiferous medium -- an infinite luminous ocean -- is analogous to the Clear Light, primordial light or 'ground luminosity' in Tibetan Buddhism. All form is in the Void and the Void is in all form.

Formless awareness is the source of enlightenment; all phenomena are illusions of the mind. Consciousness freed of the bondage of matter is liberated, but the body is an essential part of the alchemical process -- the altar, the temple, the laboratory.

Through meditation it is possible to remove the shadowlike conditioning of the bodymind and remain in the clear undeluded nature, the Body of Light, as a vehicle of consciousness.


The alchemical axiom, “As Above, So Below” means there is a universe to explore within yourself and you are not separate from the whole Cosmos in any way. Primordial nature is the dynamic ground of all experience. This emptiness is a plenum that is the root of all form, the source of all conventional phenomena. We work in the gap or empty interval between intention and action.

In terms of psychological perception, all voids are not created equal. There are dead, violent and fertile voids. Some seem like black holes which exert a massive gravitational pull on your being with little hope of escape. They are the imaginal product of the fear of disintegration, fragmentation, fear of the great unknown.

The ego creates its own dead void by separating itself from the whole with existential alienation. The dead void disappears once you connect with the fertile void of the dynamic ground, the formless state of pure potential. First you must endure the overwhelming sensations created by contact with this powerful source. The missing transformative information lies in the very heart of chaos. But there is light at the end of this tunnel.

The nigredo is the call of this emptiness, which initially is depression in its personalistic form and transcendence in its universal aspect. It has been called the Voice of the Silence. The luminous heart of experience is the antidote to the sorrow and suffering of existence, the Universal Medicine or panacea. It is Medicine Light.

The inner light, the vastness of radiant reality, is ever young, NowHere. Wisdom is realizing undisturbed emptiness, the dimension of ultimate reality. Alchemical practice establishes the necessary base for self-reflexive consciousness. But it only works if you apply it to the activities of life as well as meditation.

The raw psychic contents (prima materia) become cooked (ultima materia) when you are released from the shadows of ignorance into bliss. There is no quick fix to the accumulated baggage of life (pride, paranoia, jealousy, passion, dissatisfaction, ignorance, craving, aggression). The method works if you do, but you must be motivated, either by passion or despair to enter into such an arcane pursuit. Old habits of thinking, feeling and doing do not die quietly.

You must dare to seize the noble fruit. The impetus may come from an inexplicable attraction to the experimental alchemical art, life passages, spiritual longing, an illness or dis-ease of body or mind, or both. The force of desire ignites an inner heat.

The spiritual landscape is changing and alchemy offers a safe harbor for the drifting spirit beyond institutional or cult affiliation. Many paths are vying for participants but alchemy chooses you. It is a self-initiatory path that provides a structure or scaffolding for metaphorical death and rebirth, a generic process described in many traditions. But you must remain dedicated to the process.

In exploring the unknown you are exploring yourself. The journey to wholeness often begins with a retreat – into oneself, your interior nature. The experience can be one of darkness, coldness, the isolation of the self-imposed outsider.

Your energy is purposefully turning inward and it is best to follow it, even to amplify that dynamic. Some choose the laboratory, some a therapeutic setting, some plant allies, and others an eclectic self-directed approach.

We all have negative tendencies, self-destructive compulsions, self-sabotaging impulses, or neurotic self-defeating patterns. This is our psychological baggage, including anger, greed, lust, vanity and attachment. This is the lead to be refined into gold.

In his or her work, the novice alchemist channels both the voluntary and compulsive aspects of the depression that can drive the urge to transform. Our perceptions, attitudes and emotions shape biology and behavior.

The alchemical work itself forms a vessel of transformation, a safe place where the alchemist can be fully open to nature and his or her own primordial nature. With alchemy you can work with your thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or avoiding them. Once initiated, the unfolding cycles of the Magnum Opus naturally lead through and beyond the nigredo toward breakthroughs rather than breakdown, emergence rather than emergency.

Fear is an invitation to growth. You must grow and face your fears to solve the problems of multidimensional existence. But to do so you have to make spiritual growth a priority by giving it time and attention.

Only your comprehension of the deeper nature of depression, recognizing the call, and your commitment to the conscious struggle for transformation makes it alchemical. Then you rescue the fragmented parts of yourself. Suffering is meaningful. It leads to empathy, which funds active compassion. Take responsibility for how you interpret your life based on your limiting beliefs.


Collectively, we are all challenged by the pressures of selfish corporate interests, escalating technology and global crises that threaten the sustainability of human culture and life. Key areas include the environment, economics, energy, the racket of war and social stability. None of us can single-handedly resolve these issues but we can start with the darkness in ourselves. We must evolve to conform better to our real needs in our relationships to one another and the environment.

Part of the art of alchemy is decoding your own symbolic language. Depression means you have lost your dream and have yet to reconnect with a new one, with the new images or symbols that can pull you forward toward your future.

Primal people call it loss of soul. We recognize it as loss of self-worth, loss of hope. You feel hopeless and helpless. Fear and victimization make you easy to manipulate. It's a "No Exit" script.

You hurt so much that you may be convinced you are going to die or even wish you would. But the fantasies of death are telegraphing a metaphorical message. Your old self is on its way out. Getting into this morbid state is the point. You have acute awareness of your mortality. The experience of maximum despair is “hitting bottom.” You are a mess. The good thing is there is nowhere to go but up.

What do you want your tombstone to say? Do you want your core experience to remain one of abandonment, damage, rejection, shame, inferiority or arrogance? You are metaphorically decomposing. This is the paradoxical flip side of ego inflation, toxic narcissism, and shallow self-absorption. It keeps us from responding to even outstanding opportunities.

This crisis is an extraordinary opportunity to re-create your life and world. You have to learn how to use your strengths and skills while you meet multiple challenges and stressors. You need to uncover your buried potential and mine the gold of your buried talents and creativity. You have to leave your comfort zone, break out of your cocoon.

This hero’s depression lifts once you embark on your mission with purpose, based on finding your inner vision. Once you’ve heard the “Call to Adventure” you have enthusiasm, passion, intentionality and direction. You determine to persevere through the crisis, but the road has many trials. The devil comes as chaos, suffering or pain. Psychophysical suffering feels like wandering around in fear and darkness – a dark night of the soul, even a journey to Hell.

The ancient Greek vision of Hades was that of a dark, cold, windy, dry realm. This is a good metaphor of all our early traumas of abandonment, hunger, loss, sorrow and shame that are frozen in the labyrinthine halls of psyche. We cannot meet or accept life's legitimate suffering. We can't grieve these ominous shadows so they pile up on us creating blind spots, despair, denial, and wrongful assumptions. The trouble they cause is their demand to be seen for what they are.

This glacial ice cave houses unresolved issues that continue to affect our relationships with self, others and world. It drives our compulsions for achievement and the pain of loneliness. We all carry the burdens of self-doubt and loneliness. We simply remove ourselves from whatever we cannot or will not process, but they remain alive and powerful though buried or frozen, multiplying in scope and weight as we grow older.

Though lack of unconditional acceptance is a natural part of human experience, these unhealing wounds are the hidden focus of our conscious lives. These early losses hang around frozen in time, as if they are still happening. Simply changing their apparent expression, they obstruct the flow of our lives until we recognize and acknowledge them.

The dragon in this cave is our cold reptile brain, the instinctual root that wraps its claws around the higher mind exerting a downward pull. It is the hypervigilance of survival, the cold killer instinct, raw stimulus and response without considered thought -- pure impulse.

Reptilian fear takes you into fight-or-flight overdrive when you feel threatened or endangered. It conditions our sensory experiences and biological functions. The reptilian brain is the trunkline from brain to body. Its about territory, reproduction and social dominance. It habituates, has a ritualistic quality and is highly resistant to change. It becomes addicted to crisis mentality and negative energy. It feeds on it.

The unhealing wounds of unrealized suffering, self-delusion, addiction, chronic depression, compulsivity, failed relationships and some physical illness present opportunities throughout life to reconcile and resolve what we couldn't heal earlier. The word 'resolve' echoes the alchemical maxim of 'Solve et Cogaula," the liquification and reintegration of essentially frozen psychic energy.


Heartache and pain, a persistent sense of failure and inadequacy are core human experiences. We feel a hunger or sense we are missing something. The older we get, the more the fear of death creeps in, feeding the desire to numb out and not feel anything at all. Death tempts and attacks us in this predestined confrontation. It rips our illusory boundaries to shreds.

This unfinished business locks us into a distorted "virtual" reality, a false self. When we are out of balance and pursue pleasure at any cost, our old wound is showing. If these deepening shadows mess up our lives enough, we are forced to break free and tunnel out of the cocoon of distortions and self-loathing. This deadly and dreaded challenge to your courage can reconnect you with your lost confidence by drawing on transpersonal resources. It is an unavoidable part of the journey to an authentic life.

Constructive discontent can drive our best thoughts, emotions, and actions. But to get to its root you must enter a tomblike passageway, making a journey to “the center of the Earth,” to the center of yourself to gain the treasure, the cure, the grace. This is engagement with power within.

You can't go back so you must go forward. We have the potential to grow beyond mere personal fulfillment to transpersonal experiences. New information you gain from the unconscious helps you create a dynamic new situation, an ever-widening, self-perpetuating cycle that restores flow.


What if you actually believed you are a capable and worthwhile person? How would building and aligning with greater mental, emotional and physical power within impact all facets of your life and relationships? What would life be like if you really opened a new pathway that helps you live, lead and succeed in your purpose, in your essential nature? What is blocking you?

When old defenses no longer work, you must develop new coping skills for developmental challenges. But this initiatory way includes many deaths and rebirths. Nigredo, the blackening, isn’t always the first stage, but may be one of relapse, eclipse or another incubation stage.

Nigredo is a recurrent cycle of desire and frustration with no real beginning. Your energies are sucked from the outer world and turned in on themselves. Normal life is radically disrupted. When you are paralyzed by life there is nothing to do but let go of your control fantasies. An eclipse of the ego offers a way into the deeper energies of the unconscious.

After involuntary or voluntary symbolic death, reborn spirit eventually emerges from the rotting corpse of the old self with its limiting worldview. This death is equivalent to the conception of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. Death becomes your ally and advisor. Meditators are advised to “die daily” in their practice. The ego is eclipsed but the Stone is born. These trials nourish the Self. Vision expands, wisdom deepens, self matures.

Conscious alchemy offers a direction, an operational roadmap for realizing your highest potential. It is a psychospiritual path, approached experimentally and spiritually. You make the experiment on yourself. It is a whole brain, whole self process, involving both rational and irrational forces.

Psyche has a regressive tendency. If you block the process of growth, depression will recur, again and again. You will regress anytime your work goes awry, you seemingly take a step backward, or circumstances weigh you down. Each octave of work brings exponential results. Over time, you catch yourself in self-defeating acts sooner in the cycle. But the full weight of the dirty business must be born each time disruption intrudes chaotically into your life.

Part II


Systematically study, understand and neutralize the effects of
lower needs. Accept the world in all of its complexity, mystery
and ambiguity. Take cues from the winners in this world, not
the losers. Keep the company of the doers, not the talkers.
Play your personal game on as many levels as you're able. Fall
in love with your processes, innovations, dreams and higher
ideals. Be sensitive to and welcome the arrival of peak
experiences. Have no guilt when you see yourself becoming
compulsive and proactive. Allow yourself to be swept up in your
personal "must."

In this stage a person grasps the reality behind the symbols of his or her inherited systems, and is also drawn to and acknowledging of the symbols of other's systems. This stage makes room for mystery and the unconscious, and is fascinated by it while at the same time apprehensive of its power. It sees the power behind the metaphors while simultaneously acknowledging their relativity. In stage five, the world, demythologized in stage four, is re-sacrilized, literally brimming with vision. It is also imbued with a new sense of justice that goes beyond justice defined by one's own culture and people. Because one has begun to see "the bigger picture" the walls culture and tradition have built between ourselves and others begins to erode. It is not easy to live on the cusp of paradox, and due to its radical drive towards inclusivity, the mind struggles to assimilate and integrate faster than it can work through its cultural and psychological baggage. It is an overwhelming, ecstatic stage in which one is radically opened to possibility and wonder.



Campbell, Joseph (1976), The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Bollingen.

Miller, Iona, “Conscious Alchemy,” (2006)

Miller, Iona and Graywolf Swinney, (2000) CHAOSOPHY 2000, “Depressive Disorders / Grief and the Consciousness Restructuring Process,” Asklepia Foundation.

Miller, Iona and Richard Alan Miller (1994), THE MODERN ALCHEMIST: A Guide to Personal Transformation, Phanes Press: Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Miller, Iona (1993) Dream Wave: Primal Imagery in the Creativve Consciousness Process, Chaosophy 93, Asklepia

Voss, Karen-Claire Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times, ed. by R. van den Broek and W.J. Hanegraaff. State University of New York Press: New York, 1998

Iona Miller is a consultant and nonfiction writer for both the academic and popular press, a hypnotherapist (ACHE), and multimedia artist. Her work is an omnisensory fusion, a metaphysical mashup of interdisciplinary cultures. Though practiced in many specific doctrines, she takes greater interest in the EFFECTS of doctrines from religion, metaphysics, science, psychology, and the arts. Our beliefs are the moldable raw material of the psyche, manipulated by governments, media and culture. How do we become what we are and how is that process changing in the near future?

Ms. Miller writes for the international academic and popular press and is published by Phanes Press, Destiny Books (Inner Traditions), Autonomedia, Nexus Magazine, Dream Network, PM&E, and more. She serves on the Boards of, and The Wisdom Center, nonprofit organizations. Recent print articles include Der Golem (Germany), Paranoia zine #44, #46 (USA), HunterGatheress Anthology, JNLRMI (Russia), Antibothis (Portugal), The Art of Fetish (Miami), and Journal of Interdisciplinary Crossroads (India). Her artwork has shown in Miami, Phoenix, New York, and more. She has appeared in 21st Century Radio, Untamed Dimensions, Reality Portal, Digital Long Island, etc.



“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


I am the Hermetic King resurrected from the sepulcher of the
nigredo. My fire has been drawn out of the darkness; purified
and exalted. My expansive fire is Solar by nature and I am called
the Son of the Sun . I am the purified and exalted fire of your soul.
I am the solar radiance of your consciousness and the true Gold
of the philosophers.

Steve Kalec


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.