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Psychogenesis I: Alchemical Reality by Iona Miller, 2000
Click here for Alchemy Artshow and explanatory text:


AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE ALCHEMICAL PROCESS: Click on link for a series of alchemical collages, each with its own page of explanatory text based on the operations and transformations of the alchemical process. These images were created as part of my personal quest and healing process, but they have a universal life of their own. I hope they speak to your depths and you find some healing there, too.


"The psyche consists primarily of images, and the primary activity of the psyche is imagining." ~James Hillman

"Somewhere there was once a Flower, a Stone, a Crystal, a Queen, a King, a Palace, a Lover and his Beloved, and this was long ago, on an Island somewhere in the Ocean 5000 years ago. Such is Love, the Mystic Flower of the Soul. This is the Center, the Self." ~ C.G. Jung

The ancient art of alchemy was the search for the God-head in matter. The alchemical task was to unify spirit and soul in the body. Psychic reality means to be in soul, esse in anima, as Jung put it. It means an enlarged experience of concrete reality, a dialogue with events, situations and circumstances.

Psychic reality means to be in soul, through embodiment (soma) or enlivenment (psyche)--perceiving images viscerally and mentally. Acknowledgement of this force does not constitute Goddess worship--only recognition of the archetypal nature of reality, and the archetypal reality of nature, and our own nature. She is a way of reclaiming the divinity of body, matter, and world. This notion is part of the cultural return of the Feminine. Jungian analyst, James Hillman invites us into this world:

Let us imagine the anima mundi neither above the world encircling it as a divine and remote emanation of spirit, a world of powers, archetypes, and principles transcendent to things, nor within the material world as its unifying panpsychic life-principle. Rather let us imagine the anima mundi as that particular soul-spark, the seminal image, which offers itself through each thing in its visible form. Then anima mundi indicates the animated possibilities presented by each event as it is, its sensuous presentation as face bespeaking its interior image--in short, its availability to imagination, its presence as a psychic reality. Not only animals and plants ensouled as in the Romantic vision, but soul is given with each thing; God-given things of nature and man-made things of the street.

This resurrection of the soul of the world means a raising of consciousness of created things, the world's psychic reality. Physical reality becomes psychic, and psyche becomes real--it "matters." The difference between soul and external things no longer matters. Inner and outer world are both real and in fact One World.

Image, metaphor and symbol bridge the abyss between matter and spirit. Images are the subtle net that unites symbols. They are integrated with feeling, mind and imagination. We can see soul in all natural objects. We can notice our fantasies constantly conditioning our experience of reality. Knowledge of spirit doesn't come from ideas, even revelations, but through a reflective process.

I began this series of collages shortly after the death of both of my parents three days apart from one another. I am not a trained artist, but a clinical hypnotherapist with a strong Jungian background in symbolism. Realizing I could use this for processing my own pain and grief, I began them as Art Therapy. I had originally made a few as examples for my students in a college class I taught, "An Introduction to Depth Psychology."

I found in my therapy practice a tendency for clients to present certain recurrent motifs, such as black holes, "blacker than black," tunnels, images of chaotic breakdown, etc. Prior, I had been writing a book called Dreamhealing with shaman/therapist Graywolf Fred Swinney. It was about Asklepian dream healing, a technique developed around the metaphors of the new science of Chaos Theory which is now known as Complexity. In this deepening process, the client becomes each element the imagination presents in turn. Immersed in this imagery, I sought to create some visual images which might intimate this process.

So, my posters are gestalts--where all elements are co-temporaneous, existing in time holigraphically--presented together even though they image a dynamic process. Each of them constitutes a shamanic dream journey--a full immersion in the inner world.

None of them are contrived beforehand--all were emergent experieences of just letting the image work themselves. No theme was determined in advance. The posters themselves dictate some of what must happen on them. In order for them to appear seamless, I had to hide or disguise the seams in various fashions. Yes, sometimes "less is more," but most often more was needed to insure a seamless quality. This was not a project were minimalism even could prevail.

Part of the burden and joy of working in this medium is using what one has, or can find, what is spontaneously available. Jungian psychology uses the notion of the bricoleur, the craftsman who works with that which is at hand. This includes the psychologial situation as well as the materials. My grief work accentuated the death-rebirth motif which is ubiquitous in therapy in any case.

In their formative stages, the elements were not fixed on the canvas, and sometimes due to electrostatics, heat, and gravity "things moved of their own accord." Almost invariably, this was an improvement over any intuitive or deliberate placement I might have made. So, it was a process of flowing with the animating process, rather than dictating the process.

Later, they organized themselves into larger groups. There were obvious thematic connections for some of them, but others were not so obvious until there were hundreds of them. Their order has no relationship to the time of assembly. I have never re-sorted them, but for some reason the over-all story of the text for each leads seamlessly into the next, providing a narrative stream. The text for each piece suggested itself long after completion through a recognition process, or sometimes immediately by synchronicity. They assembled themselves and with one another by a process I can only describe as "synarchy."

The awesome pandaemonium of imagery flowed forth spontaneously and my ego could not fight its way free. Rather, I had to surrender to the forces that oftten crossed my subjective will. I was a slave to the process for some time, producing several pieces a week for long periods of time, and sometimes even doing more than one per day. The mystery images are a compelling source of transformation and healing, and it worked! The physician healed herself, or rather opened to the inner healer and let time take care of the rest.

[The poster originals are 24 x 36, and are assembled completely by hand. No computer enhancement has been used on any of them. All were done between 1994 and 1999.]


Welcome to my world--a world ensouled and enlivened by imagery. A world of the seemingly familiar, yet peculiarly mysterious.

In our modern culture every image, mundane or divine, has been used and abused. In the Postmodern Era there is no new iconography. In imagery and art, there is nothing new under the Sun. Everything which can be used from religion, myth and symbolism has been used and can only be recycled -- recycled like these collaged images from the trash-heap of society. The materials for these images was literally someone's garbage. My task was therefore, as usual, trying to turn "lead into gold."

Here, in this animated world, images are lovingly juxtaposed with their complements and opposites. Some images just want to "live together." The familiar is combined with the mysterious, reflecting a unique surrealistic vision. Reflectaphors, or reflective metaphors, repeat themselves in each image or poster, as well as jump from image to image--i.e. they echo themes among the various pieces as the series unfolds itself in self-similar fashion, like the iterations of fractals.

So, Anima Mundi bids you welcome and acts as our tour-guide or hostess. She coaxes you deeper into the labyrinth of desire and fulfillment, where each of you can find your own resonance, the imagery which speaks the loudest or clearest, or beguiles with the mere whisper.

To experience psychic reality means to be in soul, in the realm of the imagination, as if interacting with its inhabitants and locales. Inner visionary experience, be it wrathful or beatific, is an expression of soul. Through images the unconscious affects our worldview, health and relationships. Soul is the middle world between gross materiality and the spiritual world.

Matter, spirit, and ego fight over the soul. Yet soul is a primary experience, virtually our only way of being. Each wants its unique fantasy to reign uppermost. So, the first task is to distinguish soul from spirit, so the body may unite with and be enlivened by both.

This is a psychological approach to art and life--giving voice to soul, living life as art. It means the return of a subjective feminine eye on reality. It means the enlivening of our bodies and the world of nature with imagination. When we see soul as the background of all phenomena, we becoming aware of the animating principle and develop a relationship with Her.

All images arise either from body processes (instinct) or psychic forms (spirit). Whether instinct-controlled or spirit-controlled, they are related to physiological processes. They appear psychologically as images, but work physiologically. They produce emotional or visceral aspects, but not in any causal way. The images don't produce reactions. The image is the entire psychophysical gestalt.

The soul generates images unceasingly. The soul lives on images and metaphor, especially epistemological metaphors--how we know what we know. These images form the basis of our consciousness. All we can know comes through images, through our multi-sensory perceptions. So, this soul always stays close to the body, close to corporeality, to what "matters."

Let the images come into your body. Embrace the image.


PLATE 1: 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.