Chaos, the Solvent & Stone

Spiritual Alchemy Alchemical Arte Chaos Naturae Chaos, the Solvent & Stone Chaotic Sea Lumen Naturae Art Gallery Anima Mundi Alchemy Defined Alchemy 101 Universal Solvent The Elixir Nigredo/Depression Saint Germain Modern Alchemist Psychogenesis Conscious Alchemy The Elixir The Stone Living Light The Stone Metasyn Laboratory Gallery Body & Soul Holistic Qabala Psychogenesis 1 Text Psychogenesis 2 Text Psychogenesis 3 Text Alchemical Essays Review Whole Sum Infinity Freestyle Emotional Alchemy Chaotic Consciousness Helix to Hologram Chaosophy Transmodern Alchemy Dynamics in Alchemy Upwelling Blog Photo 4 Photo 2 Photo 4

Chaos, the Solvent & Stone
by Iona Miller 4/2009


Everybody Must Get Stoned

The Great Work of the art of alchemy is the creation of the Philosopher's Stone, a symbol of wholeness and integration. The Stone is also the prima materia. The liquid form of the Stone, called the Universal Solvent, dissolves all old forms like a rushing stream, and is the self-organizing matrix for the rebirth of new forms. It is thus a metaphor or model for the dynamic process of transformation, ego death and re-creation.

The Stone is a return to the prima materia. The Philosopher's Stone is like a psychic lodestone or vortex. It 'magnetically' orders the contents of our consciousness around it through reflexive feedback loops in chaotic yet meaningful fashion. It is a 'strange attractor' in the lives of those engaged in the quest for alchemical transformation. The Stone whispers to us in our slumber. It brings us into its orbit.

This instinctual attraction toward processes that dissolve the ego and liquify consciousness leads to transpersonal experience via symbolic death/rebirth. As alchemists we experience deep states of emotional turbulence in initiation ordeals and in the merger of subject (soror mystica) and object (frater). The massa confusa of the vortex of pure information becomes gradually differentiated as we work through the alchemical stages.

The alchemical operation Solutio, called "the root of alchemy," corresponds with the element water. It implies a flowing state of consciousness, "liquification" of consciousness, a return to the womb for rebirth, a baptism or healing immersion in the vast ocean of deep consciousness.

It facilitates feedback with Source or the groundstate of consciousness via creative regression. De-structuring, or destratification by immersion in the flow of psychic imagery through identification with more and more primal forms or patterns leads toward creative emergence of a psychedelic, expanded state. This creativity can become a stabilized trait of the individual.

Chaos Theory, as well as alchemy, provides a more than metaphorical language for describing the flowing dynamics of the chaotic process of psychological transformation. Chaos has always been recognized as a primal condition from which things emerge and into which they dissolve when they become obsolete. It sets the stage for holistic repatterning. Creativity and healing are emergent properties of self-organizing systems.

Chaos Naturae

Chaos is a pure cosmic principle. The language of chaos theory augments, validates and supports the arcane terminology of alchemy. We can unpack its metaphors in the analogical language of alchemy. It gives us a unitarian language to discuss the alchemical process in contemporary terms. As a chaosophical natural philosophy, alchemy is an art with its origins in magic.

Chaos theory provides a philosophical basis for exploring the relationship of psyche and matter since they share a common dynamics. It allows us to formulate a theory of consciousness and healing based on an organic model of transformation, rather than a mechanistic or cybernetic process, as other contemporary theories.

Chaos, matter and attraction lie at the heart of chaos theory and complex dynamical systems. Chaotic systems display certain characteristics including complex feedback loops, self-organization, holistic behavior, and inherent unpredictability. Because of its holographic nature, a chaotic system cannot be decomposed.

There are certain primary characteristics of chaos and chaotic systems (complex dynamic systems):


1) deterministic
2) paradoxical
3) self-generative
4) self-iterating
5) self-organizing
6) intrinsically unpredictable
7) yet boundaried
8) and geometric
9) and sustained by complex feedback loops


1) sensitive to initial conditions
2) disproportionately responsive to stimuli
3) translatable from micro- to macroscopic proportions
4) attractor centered
5) shuffled time/space
6) apparently acausal (actually enfolded; implicate/explicate)
7) qualitative
8) global phenomena
9) flexible/creative

Each of these aspects can be literally or metaphorically illustrated by a consciousness state, particularly if we include dreamlife, art, therapeutics and esoterics. In fact, they are all present within each and every one of us when we turn our attention inward. This is our raw prima materia.

Still there are patterns in seeming confusion randomness -- the vortex of the pleroma of raw information generated internally and in our environment. Our experience of the cosmos is essentially of multi-dimensional holographic images. Matter is simply frozen light or energy which also patterns consciousness or psyche. We observe this ongoing dynamic as the stream of consciousness with its concurrent imagery. Paying attention to images invests them with more meaning.

We live in a chaotic universe. The chaos of our human lives is reiterated from the subatomic through the cosmic level. Chaos is the matrix of creation. It provides a bridge for unfolding "heaven on earth," a means of manifesting and grounding spiritual energy that is not only creative but healing.

In solutio, the body is joined with the soul and spirit. The skin-boundary dissolves into visceral as well as sp iritual perception. Awareness of physical processes may be greatly amplified, appearing as impressions, intuitions, sensations, sounds, odors.

Chaos is endlessly self-generating and self-iterating. It is an evolutionary force. New forms emerging from chaos tend toward higher degrees of adaptation. This recycling of consciousness leads to a self-referential vortex. Changes in state are accompanied by changes in boundaries, strength or intensity and stability (equilibrium points, periodic orbits, stable and unstable manifolds).

Chaotic systems revolve around attractors, nexus points of psychic gravity. Chaotic attractors are potential information generating devices. Some are fixed point attractors, or periodic oscillators like pendulums swinging between paradoxical opposites, while others are downright strange attractors. The degree of entrainment of processes determines the degree of coherence or integration of a system and its ability to unfold the potentiality of emergent information.

Attractors are magnetic analogs of archetypes. These pacemaker nuclei generate supercritical perturbations that resonate through our whole being. Pushed toward different attractors, we go through a state change, a new pattern or network of behavior. Changing the activity of just one element may unleash an avalanche of changes in the patterns that otherwise would not occur.

The body is always speaking silently. Through this raw, physical expression, that which was solid becomes liquified, dissolved, deliteralized. The concrete image of the body "morphs" into the flow of pure energy, in a variation of Transubstantiation. It is the "rapture" of being siezed up into the heavenly realm.

The flow of dynamic energy from the deep Self reawakens and activates the body, and also that portion of the unconscious that the body carries. The body not only carries, but is the memory of the entire evolutionary cycle. Consciousness can access any portion of this material memory through creative regression.

The body manifests kinesthetic, preverbal, and preconceptual memory of its direct experience. Immersion in the healing creative energy flow is like a spiritual baptism, which facilitates creative reformation of ordinary consciousness, and even the physical body.

Solutio, as a state of consciousness, unites the powers of above and below, transpersonal and personal. It is the integration of the higher spiritual powers with personal experience that embodies the healing dynamic. This produces the paradoxical poison-panacea. The dual nature of the universal medicine points to a consciousness state beyond both opposites.

All apparent structure is chaos and in chaos there are hidden forms. When we are far from equilibrium change becomes inevitable. Like a bifurcation point in chaos theory, the old system either fails or emerges with a higher degree of order. Our bifurcations or state changes are personal crossroads, decision points, initiated by perturbations of our systems. Flowing back and forth between chaos and order keeps us healthy.

We can cooperate with chaotic dynamics, enter a less-rigid process of flow, submitting outworn aspects of the ego to dissolution. This increases our adaptability and helps us evolve. Chaos theory provides a comprehensive metaphor for uniting physical, emotional, mental and spiritual realities -- holistic repatterning.

The alchemical process begins and ends with chaos (prima materia/ultima materia). Chaos is the universal solvent. Current research in quantum chaos shows it exists across all scales and domains of nature and human nature.

Illuminative Vortex

The nature of life is chaotic. Jung said, "God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of life for better or worse."

Alchemy is a way of being and a form of thought. The subtle gold is the fully liquified Mercurius. Alchemy describes, demonstrates and illustrates the participatory field as central to the conscious condition in nature. As alchemists we intentionally engage the participatory field of consciousness to perform the Opus, or Great Work.

The concept of this interconnective field allows us to redefine consciousness consistent with the unpredictable values of quantum mechanics and chaos theory. The alchemical world is animated. Images have immediate present reality. Intentionally interacting with the experiential process allows us to transform consciousness.

As exemplified in alchemy's prime directive, "Solve et Coagula," the raw material of self and world is deconstructed to facilitate emergent self-organization at a higher level. This is nature's way, as chaos theory has shown us. Nature is a self-sustaining dynamical balance of order and chaos.

The alchemical perspective is not merely deconstructionist. Alchemical decomposition is paradoxically regenerative -- cyclically regenerative, even negentropic. In this sense, alchemy is Transmodern though it radically predates that post-Millennial philosophy.

Alchemy explores the nature of matter-energy and consciousness. It is possibly the first historical example of self-initiation, self-help and self-care -- self-organization of the human chaotic condition. Though following certain common guidelines, each alchemist's process is necessarily idiosyncratic. Solutions emerge from and through each individual practitioner in a self-empowering inner journey

The brain can become more chaotic while solving problems. Neurons express self-organized criticality (SOC), neither ordered nor random but somewhere in between. Chaotic modulations are reined in by attractors (archetypes, psychic gravity wells). Critical points lead to phase transition. The edge of chaos is the point of emergence for new behaviors, enhanced capacities and transformed identity.

Universal Solvent

Chaos is the universal solvent (Miller). Human intention is about choices, self-reflection and the search for meaning. The edge of chaos, where critical systems adapt and evolve, is the most effective place to be. As more than a metaphor, it mirrors greater degrees of freedom and nonlinearity in systems far from equilibrium.

Jungian psychologist, Edward Edinger lists seven aspects of solutio:

(1) return to the womb or primal state; (2) dissolution, dispersal, dismemberment; (3) containment of a lesser thing by a greater; (4) rebirth, rejuvenation, immersion in the creative energy flow; (5) purification ordeal; (6) solution of problems; and (7) melting or softening process. These different aspects overlap. Several or all of them may make up different facets of a single experience. Basically it is the ego's confrontation with the unconscious that brings about SOLUTIO.

Critical thinking, (purposeful, reflective judgement about what to believe and do), helps us navigate through superstition, presumption, conjecture, confabulation, groupthink and psyops toward testable hypotheses and models of reality. Relevance is determined by heart, intuition and skilled, active observation of experiences, information, communication and argumentation.

Bifurcation is the splitting of attractors. A cascade of bifurcations is the precursor to chaos. The number of attractors in a dynamical system changes when any system parameter is changed. Certain changes are possible which are absent in conventional systems. Periodic attractors describe oscillations between polarities which lead to flow. Strange attractors are the center of gravity for critical phenomena and experiences, holding us in thrall for longer or shorter periods of time.

The process doesn't have to make sense to the rational mind. Small and large-scale changes emerge and the practice of our art facilitates that, offering more potential for realization. Dramatic changes can come from seemingly insignificant events. As gain changes, the nature of the attractor changes.

Alchemy's structure challenges us to remain at the evolutionary edge, mutable to the transformative process. Patterns are detectable in the process when you look closely enough. Alchemy's mystery is the reconciliation of opposites, refining arcs of ascent and descent. Due to the Butterfly Effect, amplification of small fluctuations turns up the heat or intensity of psychic processes.

Integrating the science of chaos theory can help us expand our understanding of reality moving us closer to a unified worldview. It impacts our sense of self as well as our concept of "how things work" in the universe. Pushing through fear and following chaos back into our lives in a positive way also fosters the healing process, stimulating feelings of rejuvenation and well-being.


Chaotic Consciousness

Implications & Applications

There are certain fundamental characteristics of chaotic systems and each has its analogy and application to the nature of human consciousness and therapeutics facilitating the natural healing process.

Sensitivity to initial conditions. The main feature of self-generated complexity is the presence of an iterative mechanism which transforms the information contained in the initial conditions in a deterministic way. In this sense, it is possible to view complexity as elaborated simplicity. Sensitive dependence on initial conditions means similar causes do not produce similar effects. Disease is a crisis presented to an organism that creates the opportunity to dissolve the old structure and evolve into a new one, better adapted to survival. We are not limited to any specific technique or practice for healing, but use a deeper understanding of the nature of the healing process itself to create whatever technique is needed at whatever level we are working.

Butterfly effect. A variance so small it is almost insignificant in the beginning can create vast differences as the system evolves, making it impossible to track or predict. In natural healing, just as one traumatic incident may pattern a lifelong disorder, one healing therapeutic event may completely and permanently restructure the whole system from the most fundamental level. After a bifurcation there can be no return to the old situation.

Fractal Embedding. A fractal is an object that reveals more and more detail as it is increasingly magnified, like seeing the universe in a grain of sand. Self-similarity repeats its conformations from the most fundamental to the most complex level. A disease image appears in a myriad of self-similar forms revealed through the levels. Again, one traumatic event can shape a life; one intense therapeutic event can reshape it.

Strange Attractors. Investigation of the mechanism of turbulence led to the invention of the term strange attractor. The turbulence of strange attractors is “turbulence in time” -- deterministic chaos, or temporal chaos. Graphic depictions of attractors allow us to map a dynamical system’s behavior in discreet-time or phase-space. Roughly speaking, an attractor is what the behavior of a system settles down to, or is attracted to. A system may have several attractors. Strange attractors are the core of unpredictable variation with limits. For humans this means any perturbation from conception onward can be a determining factor in structure and personality. Personality traits can be construed as strange attractors of behavior. Natural chaos allows adaptation and self-organization for evolutionary change.

Bifurcation. Amplifying a situation, intensifying it, leads to de-stabilization. This leads to a phase transition; phase instabilities or turbulence in a system lead to the possibility of bifurcations. Near bifurcation, systems present large fluctuations. Such systems “hesitate” among various possible directions of evolution. Even little fluctuations in subsystems combine through positive feedback loops, becoming strong enough to shatter any pre-existing organization. This crucial moment is known as bifurcation. At this point, the disorganized system either disintegrates into chaos, or leaps to a new higher level of order or organization. Through this means, order arises spontaneously from disorder through self-organization. Healing is an ever-present potential.

The Edge of Chaos. When a system is far-from-equilibrium, the slightest flux can be amplified into structure-annihilating waves. Chaos theory helps us think in terms of these fluctuations, feedback amplification, dissipative structures, and bifurcations. Chance plays its role at or near the point of bifurcation, after which deterministic processes take over once more until the next bifurcation. Thus, nonequilibrium, the flux of matter and energy, is a source of order. The highest mean fitness is at the phase transition between order and chaos. Complex adaptive systems adapt to and on the edge of chaos. All the action lies in going just beyond the boundary from the known and comfortable into the fear, pain, and challenge.

Chaotic Consciousness. There is a fundamental field of unstructured consciousness prior to energy or form, the bornless field. A return in the journey to this state evokes spontaneous healing and creative self-reorganization. At the quantum level, strange attractors influence the emergence of consciousness and its interactions with other fields to create the essence of self and external reality. In Bohm’s holographic model, consciousness can be either enfolded as potential structure or a field, or it can be manifested or unfolded as structure in the space-time universe. In enfolded or potential form, it is outside of space-time reality.

Autopoietic self-organization; creativity and self-actualization. Human EEG shows significant fractal structure, suggesting the brain inherently resides in a state of self-organized criticality, where a small stimulation can set it into fluctuation where the response distribution is fractal. Small changes in this process result in whole person changes in a healthier direction. This process is creative; healing is biological creativity. When we overcome fears, face pathology, and seek to comprehend it, we grow healthier. When we willingly choose to face our being, seeking to comprehend it, allowing awareness of its terrors, passions and transiency, we become most truly human and self-actualized.

Emergence. Central to any understanding of consciousness and the brain, emergence is a process by which order appears “spontaneously” within a system. When many elements are allowed to mingle, they form patterns among themselves as they interact. When the mind lets go of its rational order and enters into unstructured chaos it emerges later with a new structure.

Placebo Effect. Medicine is just beginning to use the mind-body connection for healing. Given a dummy drug at least 30% experience the same pain relief as with true painkiller. But this effect requires no “pill” to initiate spontaneous healing; the pill itself is meaningless. The body has the ability to produce any biochemical response once the mind has been given the appropriate suggestion, which is converted into the body’s intention to cure itself. We can bypass the deception of the sugar pill and directly to the intention. This is the panacea.

Dreams/REM. Dreams are complex dynamic systems; they embody the very nature of chaos. They are uncensored messages from the twilight zone of chaos-order and communicating with us at the most basic sensory levels imaginable. Dreaming reflects a pivotal aspect of the processing of memory, and helps us form strategies for survival and adaptation. They are complex, incorporating self-image, fears, insecurities, strengths, grandiose ideas, sexual orientation, desire, jealousy, and love. Their unusual character is a result of the complex associations that are culled from memory.


Edinger, E. F., Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy(1998). Chicago: Open Court Publishing.

Miller, Iona "Chaos As the Universal Solvent",

Miller, Iona (2001) "Chaos theory & complex dynamical systems in human consciousness & healing"



LUMEN NATURAE, Iona Miller, 1993