THE TRANSMODERN ALCHEMIST

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Science-Art Mystics

“We expect artists as well as scientists to be forward-looking, to fly in the face of what is established, and to create not what is acceptable but what will become acceptable . . . a theory is the creation of unity in what is diverse by the discovery of unexpected likenesses. In all of them innovation is pictured as an act of imagination, a seeing of what others do not see . . . “creative observation.” (Bronowski, 1958).

“Scientists search for a ‘real’ and hidden, internal visibility (invisible to the naked eye) which will confirm the limits of identity. . .This is an act of limitation which inverts its own criteria by relying on a ‘depth’ model of identity, which is invisible, but gives visibility through microscopic magnification. Yet this search for an invisible core of identity remains open to a visible transgression via artists who are constantly exposing these new certainties as constructs.” (Sargeant, 1999).

“Any given state of consciousness is permeated by the clear light of primordial awareness. However solid ice may be, it never loses its true nature, which is water. In the same way, even very obvious concepts are such that their ‘place’, as it were, their final resting place, does not fall outside the expanse of primordial awareness. They arise within the expanse of primordial awareness and that is where they dissolve.” (Dalai Lama)
“To summarize, I have spoken of seven major aspects of Solutio symbolism: (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.” (Edinger, 1985, Anatomy of the Psyche)
“There is a generic process in nature and consciousness which dissolves and regenerates all forms. The essence of this transformative, morphological process is chaotic — purposeful yet inherently unpredictable holistic repatterning. The Great Work of the art of alchemy is the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, a symbol of wholeness and integration. 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.” (Miller, 1992, “Chaos As the Universal Solvent”)

Emanation: Creative Source

In philosophy emanation, a transcendent principle, is primordial. All derived or secondary things proceed or flow from the primal Source. It eliminates will from the theory of creation. There is no hand of a supreme artisan who finds matter at his or her disposal. All things, actually or only apparently material, flow from the primal principle. Alchemy calls Chaos the prima and ultima materia. In this chaosophical philosophy, all systems emerge from and eventually dissolve back into chaos.

Unlike evolution, the process of development, emanation declares the immutability of the first principle. Emanation involves a series of descending stages, a subjective gnosis, not a developmental evolution that goes from less to more perfect. Thus, chaotic excitability is a paradigm of emergence, transcendent yet immanent potential. The undecomposable domain of Chaos is not an emptiness, but a rich, generative source — a bornless nothingness from which all form proceeded.

There is an unmanifest fundamental reality, a virtual field, which is an invisible flux not comprised of parts, but an inseparable interconnectedness. In this dynamic model, there are no “things”, only energetic events. This holoflux includes the ultimately flowing nature of what is, and also of that which forms therein. This subquantal domain marks the limit of our ability to peer into the Mystery of nature at cosmic zero.

At the human scale, we are blinded to this primal creative field, virtual photon flux. Chaos theory as holism without wholes allows us to describe both psyche and matter in terms congruent with physical reality. This is simply the way nature works, and the way our nature works, too. Chaos provides a comprehensive psychophysical metaphor for uniting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual realities.

Global recruitment is characteristic of chaotic patterning. It allows the best balance between random fluctuations, permitting discoveries and innovations. Changing the activity of just one element can unleash an avalanche of changes in the patterns that might have otherwise occurred (“butterfly effect”). A structural perturbation is a permanent transmutation for the functions of a network.

Because interconnectivity is more than metaphorical, realizations translate across disciplines. Metaphors reflect the interdependency of mind and body, and the embodied nature of metaphor holistically reflects the unity of individual and world. The events and experiences of our lives become embedded in our structure and metabolism. We might call this nonlocal entangled embodiment “metaphorms.”

Physics deals with the energetic aspect of the world. Information theory deals with the communicational or patterning aspect. Fractals, nature’s dynamic self-organizing pattern, exist in the paradoxical space between dimensions, levels and forces of existence. They arise at the interface between processes, at boundary zones where they serve both to connect and separate multiple levels. They translate information/energy, structuring dimensions by adding or recursively removing structure, embodying process.

Fractal dynamics escalate change from tiny to large scales. Self-organization is an emergent property of systems and organisms, from the cosmos to human beings. Chaotic dynamics governs the emergence of this new order from apparent randomness. The deep coherence of the overall process implies hidden or missing information for holistic patterning within the apparent “noise” or randomness of chaotic patterns.

Consciousness, like creativity, is an emergent phenomenon patterned by strange attractors which govern the complexity of information in dynamic flow. Our consciousness appears co-temporaneously with our embodiment, creating the imaginal flux of representational and nonrepresentational perception – the stream of consciousness. The cosmic trinity of chaos, matter, and attraction appears at the heart of modern chaos theory and alchemy.

The Vedas identify all creative intent and substance as a manifestation of primal consciousness, which is considered the basis of all manifestation. In this worldview, there is nothing but consciousness. Complex dynamics is implicated in the energetic translation of “waves of unborn nothingness”. Healing is the biological equivalent of creativity. The more complex a system, the more stable and self-correcting it is.

Coniunctio

The objective (frater) and subjective mode (soror mystica) are not divorced from one another, anymore than the left and right hemispheres of the brain. They marry in the mystic, in entanglement with Cosmos. Science adapted the artist’s sense that the detail of nature is significant. Like yin and yang, they rely on one another in a dynamic meld that lies beyond the dialectic in the tension of opposites. Synthesizing and transcending opposites is the theme of alchemy.

The metaphors of science have gained increasing relevance in the artworld and transmodern mysticism. Art and science begin as imaginative speculation that guesses at a unity or gestalt. The same holds true for alchemy. Metaphors reflect universal or holistic references and processes, connecting concepts across disciplines. There is a dimension of reality that transcends mind and matter.

The creative act is one of uniting the unmanifest with the manifest world in a meaningful, often symbolic way. Such conception is relevant to consciousness, organization, structure, faith, subconsciousness, emotion, even spirituality. Above all, creativity means trusting the process. Investigation of the negentropic criterion helps us move toward a truly transdisciplinary doctrine for the artistic field of influence.
The alchemical operation Solutio, the Universal Solvent is called “the root of alchemy,” corresponding 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 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–a psychedelic, expanded state. Chaos Theory provides a metaphorical language for describing the flowing dynamics of the chaotic process of psychological transformation.

The Hermetica included works on magic, alchemy, astrology, healing, gnosis, theurgy, ritual, and philosophy. These texts were based on sympathetic magic, that like substances sharing an essence could influence one another through resonance effects, synchronicities. Like cures like. As the god who presides over boundaries, Hermes is able to transcend them. He is therefore also the ruler of ceremonial magic, which transcends the limits of ordinary consciousness, communing with the divine. Identification with a given energy is accomplished by a three-fold ritual, which echoes the generic creative process:

1). Separation from the profane or ordinary state of consciousness. Dissolution of the ordinary state of conscious.

2). The transition stage, or twilight zone which lies between them. Creative or chaotic consciousness.

3). The new order or perception of reality which occurs in the sacred time of the soul. Identification with ehanced sense of self, greater well-being.

Hermes is The Magus, the magician, the lord of boundaries, or doorways, the threshold or liminal area. The inbetween, or twilight zone, enables a state of receptivity to become established. It allows an emptying process, a letting go. Ritual acts reawaken deep layers of the psyche. This brings the mythological or archetypal ideas back to memory.

Myths, according to d’Aquili, present themselves as systems of antinomies, or opposites: heaven/hell, good/evil, life/death. Because of a basic function of the brain he calls that ‘binary operator.’ This function abstracts qualities of things and arranges them as pairs of opposites, or dyads, whose meaning is intimately related to its partner. He conjectures that it is located on the inferior parietal lobe of the dominant side, and is one way the mind seeks to understand the world. Myths play on these antinomies and propose solutions to them.

Myths are like collective dreams; ritual is an enactment of myth. So, we create myths to satisfy our need to understand our environment and give us some sense of control over it, or an understanding of our place in it. A given myth has stability of structural relationship and meaning. In science we call them ‘models’. Like metaphors, they provide a reference point without defining a reality.

Meditatio, Imaginatio, Operatio

Alchemy is an irreducible fusion of mysticism, science and art that also happens to be therapeutic or growth-promoting and tantalizingly hints at illumination. The process begins with doubts and lack of conviction but time spent on self-knowledge and spiritual exercises is amply rewarded.

Alchemy is unbound. It evolves like any science or artform through revolutionary paradigm shifts that revision or reframe its philosophy of practice. Chaos theory is an organic model of creation. Chaos prevails from the infinitely small to cosmic levels. Dynamic processes are deterministic though unpredictable. All experience is subjective. Intuition is an informational source that is non-linear and therefore can create quantum leaps in consciousness. Using imagination, we can ‘see through’ to a deeper level of reality.

The Universe is a fractal manifestation of the interaction or interdependence of chaos and order. Nature and evolution are complimentary systems evolving at the edge of chaos the source of the genesis of new forms. Like a fractal, the individual embodies the whole, to a greater or lesser degree. We are neither exclusively biological nor psychospiritual beings we are both/and psychobiological.

Alchemists seek understanding of the relationships between all the elements. Holistic vision is developed with experiments on matter and self, fantasy and meditation. In alchemy, meditation is reflection, inner dialogue and an extended act of active imagination fired by awareness and libido, “an inner colloquy with one’s good angel.” Transpersonal experience creates a new interpretation, or perspective on reality. Systems arise from positive feedback and amplification. Thus, archetypes introduce erratic behavior that lead to the emergence of new situations, including creative insight.

Both perception and cognition can be modeled as a transition from a state of chaos representing the unrecognized condition, or the unresolved problem, to a state of order. Creativity or learning can emerge spontaneously, from exploring states of confusion, to the instantaneous insight of a “Eureka” moment, or knowing state through bifurcation to a new attractor, to chaotic resolution. The trick is experiencing “emptyness” as the initial condition of consciousness. The openness of empty awareness is the key.

At supercritical junctions we either breakdown (emergency) or increase adaptation (emergence) with more creative solutions. Creativity is an excited-exalted state of arousal with a characteristic increase in both informational content and the rate of information processing. Creative holistic repatterning is introduced into the human system through the psyche as nonmanifest yet phenomenological images, symbols, and patterning information.

Imagination is embodied, objectified, expressed in the creative process. It is knowing through living through, distinctionally different from knowing about. It carries a sense of immediacy. Imagination is the voice of creativity. It is the primary way we experience soul; imagination embodies it’s own reality. It is self-revelatory. Meaning dwells in the image like consciousness dwells in the body.

Alchemy is also a thought experiment that plunges one into the upwelling spring of Nature feeding the roots of matter and psyche. Ultimately, these cycles of experimentation and reflection are warming acts of love that keep the gentle fires of the alchemical transformation going. The formula “VITRIOL” encodes the various operations of the alchemical process.

In the Transmodern union of opposites, the real and the unreal are no longer opposed. The concept of reality emerges, no longer bound to the material world but turned into fiction because of it. Reality and existence are no longer synonymous – it is a type of reality that continues to “be” even when it may not “exist” and does not comply with the simple status of simulacrum — virtuality. Thus alchemy shares much in common with quantum mysticism and the holographic paradigm which seek the secrets of nature’s subquantal realm. Doing so creates a hyperreality, revealing a glimpse of the future.

The problem becomes not one of how to know something radically new, but how to learn something radically new. Thus metaphors are instructive. They are a central Way of leaping the epistemological chasm between old and new knowledge, old and new ways of essential being. Metaphors help us makes this leap, help us enter a problematic situation in order to solve it, to explore it, and explore the world restructured by this metaphor.

We can tap the source of creativity, healing and holistic restructuring through imagination and metaphor. The possibilities for concepts and thought are shaped in very special ways by both the body and the brain that evolved to control it, especially the sensory-motor system. Conceptual metaphors appear to be neural maps that link sensory-motor domains in the brain to regions where more abstract reasoning is done. This allows sensory-motors structures in the brain to play a role in abstract reasoning (Lakoff, 1999).

In fact, when metaphors are synchronistic, emergent, spontaneous, self-organizing expressions of our dynamic stream of consciousness, they are an imaginal encoding of information that bridges the domains of conscious and unconscious worlds, material and transpersonal realms. Such metaphors can be deeply transformative — more than mere language. They are a technology for changing our behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Intentional contact and immersion in these metaphors can transform our spirit and soul.

The problem becomes not one of how to know something radically new, but how to learn something radically new. Thus metaphors are instructive. They are a central Way of leaping the epistemological chasm between old and new knowledge, old and new ways of essential being. Metaphors help us makes this leap, help us enter a problematic situation in order to solve it, to explore it, and explore the world restructured by this metaphor.

We can tap the source of creativity, healing and holistic restructuring through imagination and metaphor. The possibilities for concepts and thought are shaped in very special ways by both the body and the brain that evolved to control it, especially the sensory-motor system. Conceptual metaphors appear to be neural maps that link sensory-motor domains in the brain to regions where more abstract reasoning is done. This allows sensory-motors structures in the brain to play a role in abstract reasoning (Lakoff, 1999).

In fact, when metaphors are synchronistic, emergent, spontaneous, self-organizing expressions of our dynamic stream of consciousness, they are an imaginal encoding of information that bridges the domains of conscious and unconscious worlds, material and transpersonal realms. Such metaphors can be deeply transformative — more than mere language. They are a technology for changing our behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Intentional contact and immersion in these metaphors can transform our spirit and soul.

Melting Point of Formation

Alchemists are contemplative researchers versed in the science of personal transformation and the art of inner magic. Alchemical insight ultimately short-circuits self-referential feedback loops, leading to breakthroughs in perception and quality of being. At the groundstate, mind is utterly emptied of all contents. Both physical and mental space dissolve in this exploration.

A dynamic vacuum state of consciousness opens paranormal states of awareness and healing. In much ado about Nothing, the bubble of illusion (all mental and physical phenomena) bursts in primordial awareness. In the highest potential energy state, space, time, mind and matter dissolve into their Source — the “melted vacuum” of physics, the “clear water” (Cole, 2001) of the alchemists (Lambspring). This unencumbered non-dual state is innate radiant potential. The upwelling geyser of all internal and external phenomena emerge from this dynamic absolute space beyond all internal structure.

According to King, ‘If a series of small bifurcations occur resulting from successive [quantum] computational steps, we would say the conclusion was arrived at deductively, but if however a major global bifurcation is required to reach self-consistency, an intuitive leap of understanding may result.’

The transition from chaos models the sudden moment of insight — the “a-ha” or “eureka”, deductive cognition, sensory recognition and decision-making — or the bursting bubble into primordial awareness. Computational predictivity is thus complemented by conscious anticipation enabled through quantum transaction and manifested in the transition from chaos.

The fear, danger, anxiety and stress produced during confrontation with the transpersonal psyche can create a personal catastrophe, a spiritual emergency. Catastrophic chaos usually leads to what is called a bifurcation or splitting of the energy in two different directions. The experience may be shattering. The interface of the conscious ego and the numinous must be effected with some care so the later doesn’t take over.

But sometimes regression serves the process of evolution and leads to creative transformation and renewal of the self on a higher level. Therefore, the potential benefits of the transformative path make the risks worthwhile. Rather than breakdown, it may lead to artistic, scientific, or spiritual breakthrough, creativity and expression.

Alchemy is a science-art, a tool to describe and mold reality using experimental and meditative techniques. As an art medium, alchemy helps us illustrate nature and our own nature in contemporary terms by creating new paradigms and environments. Alchemists manufactured and articulated theories of reality and healing fantasies of the body/soul/spirit, as well as dyes, paints, and medicines or improving the quality of metals and glass.

Alchemy is a tradition of particpatory wisdom. Medieval alchemy was couched in the archaic language of its time, but we are not limited to that, nor to theological, Hermetic, Masonic, Theosophical or New Age jargon. Philosophies and sciences evolve in articulation, theory and practice. New discoveries and statements of meaning inform our practice at all levels. In many cases, alchemy anticipated them.

Our worldview has evolved to include quantum physics and dynamics in our models of reality. In the 20th Century, Carl Jung described alchemy in terms of depth psychology and shed new light on an old science. But that discipline continues to redefine itself. Jung’s notions of a heroic, striving Self have been transcended with imaginal, nonlinear models of consciousness, archetypes as strange attractors and healing fictions. Can we expect any less from 21st century alchemy itself?

Alchemy is a multidisciplinary pursuit focusing on mystic technologies, life sciences, metallurgy, chemistry, dynamics and physics. We can take a revolutionary view of today’s alchemy as dynamic process in terms of Chaos Theory and its related sciences. There are analogies between contemporary practice of sacred psychology, chaos theory, quantum theory, scalar physics and alchemical processes, some of which are more than metaphorical.

Emergence

Metaphor is Nature’s language. Matter has lost its central role in physics. Mass/energy and light are interacting abstract oscillating excitations of the vacuum. Nothing actually oscillates. There is aesthetic pleasure in finding likenesses between things once thought unalike. It gives a sense of richness and understanding. The creative mind looks for unexpected likenesses, through engagement of the whole person.

We can draw from the organic metaphors of illumination, quantum physics, field theory, and chaos theory to illuminate the state of the arts. Physics describes the interrelationship of chaos and order as field relationships, while chaos theory describes nature’s own methods of creation and self-assembly. Entropy is the tendency for any closed part of the universe to expand at the expense of order. It is a measure of randomness and disorder — chaos.

Negentropy is the generative force of the universe. The “melted vacuum” of absolute space, where quarks, electrons, gravity and electromagnetism are the same, is an infinite supply of radiant energy — virtual photon flux. Negentropy (emergent order from chaos) is a nonlinear higher order system, a dynamically creative ordering information. Thinking, science, and art are therefore negentropic.

Negentropy, like art, is ‘in-form-ative.’ It is related to mutual information exchange. Information is embodied in the fractal nature of imagery and symbols, which compress the informational content of the whole. Creativity is an emergent phenomenon patterned by strange attractors, which govern the complexity of information in dynamic flow.

In the artistic process, collapse is consistent with focus; focus is consistent with selection; selection is consistent with the resonance or stimulus. The stimulus is consistent with the physical reality and reality is consistent with collapse. In quantum chaos, this collapse is a cascade leading to an entirely new organization – to emergent creativity.

The whole process is a flow or condensation of potential of consciousness. The gauge is the perspective of consciousness or imagination. We are free to choose our perspective. The essence of our time-bound experience is receptivity to experience, to flow within the vortex. When we experience our timeless nature – our unbound self — there is no flow, only resonance. We have the freedom to choose our point of focus or resonance. We can be stimulated by probability or chance, by the chaotic creative process underlying all reality itself.

We cannot predict what will come of it, what will emerge from entering that creative vortex, nor should we even try. All we can do is let go and open ourselves to the morphing power of the transcendent imagination, to bring our awareness into resonance with it. As we transcend the vortex we narrow our freedom to select our perceptual view of the physical world.

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~ by ionamiller on May 9, 2009.

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