God the Imagination
There is an age-old imagination that there exists a miraculous substance that enlightens the universe, which is exemplified in the alchemists' idea of the philosophers' stone. This imagination does not come from the personal unconscious, but is transpersonal in origin, as it arises out of the collective unconscious of humanity itself. This imagination has a numinous, archetypal quality to it, which is to say it is an expression of something beyond ourselves. This imagination of a substance which liberates the universe is a symbolic out-picturing of a transformative potential that exists within all of us and which is the goal of the alchemical opus. Our imagination, through symbols such as the philosophers' stone, is revealing something to us of great significance.
Jung says, "The concept of imagination is perhaps the most important key to the understanding of the opus." Accomplished alchemists realized that the God that they were projecting onto the philosophers' stone was an imaginary God, a God of the Imagination. This is not to devalue their God, or imagination, in any way, as if to say "their God is only imagination." The alchemists knew that their God was a creation of the cosmic imagination, and this is why they venerated, revered, and prayed to it. For the alchemists, the imagination is the Divine Body in every person, a refined, rarefied and "subtle body" that is not humanly constructed but divinely implanted in us from a source beyond ourselves.
To the alchemists, the figure of Christ, for example, as the incarnation of the Logos, became pneuma-tically impregnated with the substantiality of, in Jung's words, "the world-creating imagination of God," which is why artist and poet William Blake refers to Jesus as "Jesus the Imagination." Christ, from the alchemical point of view, is the revelation of the divine imagination itself, referred to as the "imagined God," which, alchemically speaking, is the highest praise. Blake comments, "The Eternal body of Man is The Imagination, that is, God himself."
When the alchemists had a living experience of God through their relationship with the imaginatively created philosophers' stone, they realized that the whole experience was nothing other than an experience of the divine imagination, which is to say that they were realizing that they themselves were living inspirations of the divine, creative imagination itself. Jung says, "I am indeed convinced that creative imagination is the only primordial phenomenon accessible to us, the real Ground of the psyche, the only immediate reality." Being the "only immediate reality," the divine, creative imagination is the primordial ground of "reality" itself. Paradoxically, at the same time that the philosophers' stone revealed itself as a product of the alchemists' imagination, the alchemists realized that they themselves -- and everyone for that matter -- were the imagination of the philosophers' stone!
To quote Jung, "The imaginatio, or the act of imagining, was thus a physical activity that could be fitted into the cycle of material changes that brought these about and was brought about by them in turn." The act of imagining influences the material world, while at the same time, is reciprocally influenced by the material world in the process. We dream up the world while concurrently, in a circular, nonlinear and acausal process that exists outside of time, we are dreamed up by the world. This simultaneity of cause and effect, of "creating" the seemingly outer world while at the same time being "created" by it, is an expression of the fundamental correspondence and ultimate indivisibility of the inner and the outer.
The God that the alchemists discovered in the philosophers' stone wasn't merely a projection of their imagination, however; nor did it objectively exist separate from their imagination. Instead of an either/or universe, where our projections are either unreal or real, there is an area in-between in which they are both/and: both real and unreal at the same time. Instead of the overly one-sided, rationalistic assumption that our projections are merely unreal figments of imagination, for example, Jung points out their very real effects by saying, "Whatever their reality may be, functionally at all events they behave just like realities." Having very real effects, the products of the imagination are not imaginary illusions. Jung elaborates, "What we are pleased to call illusion may be for the psyche an extremely important life-factor, something as indispensable as oxygen for the body -- a psychic actuality of overwhelming significance. Presumably the psyche does not trouble itself about our categories of reality; for it, everything that works is real." The effects of the imagination are so real that they "mold" the imagining subject, "casting" us in a form that we could only imagine. Speaking about the products of the imagination, Jung comments that they are "as real as you - as a psychic entity - are real." The alchemists' God was manifesting in, as and through their own imagination, a dimension all its own with a correspondingly subtle, imaginal body.
According to the alchemists, the products of our imagination are not immaterial, vaporous phantoms, but are something corporeal, having a "subtle body" all their own. The alchemists were realizing that the philosophers' stone was a subtle energy body, a super-celestial body, the "star" in humanity, which is the interface between mind and matter. The imaginal, subtle body is a transcendental idea that is neither purely physical nor spiritual, but rather is a hybrid in that it partakes in, encompasses, and is comprised of both the spiritual and material. The subtle body is both the same as and different from each of the two sides that define it, as it is more than the sum of its parts. To quote Jung, "Imagination is therefore a concentrated extract of the life forces, both physical and psychic." A hyper-dimensional portal and mercurial medium, the subtle body is a magical elixir, the product of the imagination that influences, bridges, links, and connects the spiritual and the material worlds. Jung comments, "Somewhere our unconscious becomes material, because the body is the living unit, and our conscious and our unconscious are embedded in it; they contact the body. Somewhere there is a place where the two ends meet and become interlocked. And that is the place where one cannot say whether it is matter, or what one calls ‘psyche.'"
The materialistic prejudice of assuming matter objectively exists separate from the psyche immediately banishes the intermediate realm of subtle bodies to seeming nonexistence. But, nevertheless, the subtle body is a real presence. Its presence is present even in its seeming absence. It has a genuine weight, which means the subtle body leaves an "impression." Once both physics and psychology touch the untrodden, untreadable reaches of seemingly impenetrable darkness where physis and psyche become indistinguishable, to quote Jung, "then the intermediate realm of subtle bodies comes to life again, and the physical and the psychic are once more blended in an indissoluble unity." In a genuine conspiracy, the material and the spiritual worlds truly "conspire" with each other, as they "co-inspire" each other, which is to say that they breathe together as one.
We have so lost touch with the profundity of the imagination that the outer world seems to appear solidified in form, which is merely reflecting that our imagination is concretizing. Having lost our acquaintance with the aesthetics of the imagination, we become "an-aesthetic," numb to our feelings and cut off from the heart, anesthetized from ourselves. Disconnected from the creative organ of the imagination, we lose our sense of aesthetics and our capacity to appreciate beauty. Instead of symbolizing our experience so as to creatively express and liberate it, we become seemingly held captive by a self-reinforcing feedback loop inside of our minds which continually generates a literal, particularized, and concretized viewpoint, both towards the world and ourselves. To the extent that we lose our connection with the ever-flowing novelty and majesty of our own creative imagination, we forget our fluid nature, becoming stunned into immobilization, alienated from and a trauma to ourselves. The play of and our play with the creative imagination, however, is the very act that cultivates, empowers and transfigures the subtle body into healing nectar which dissolves and dis-spells our seeming trauma.
The subtle body transcends and dissolves the categorical divide between the opposites. The realm of subtle bodies exists in a state "between" matter and spirit, like some sort of intermediate realm or Tibetan "bardo" (a gap, or in-between state). To quote Jung, "there did exist an intermediate realm between mind and matter, i.e., a psychic realm of subtle bodies whose characteristic it is to manifest themselves in a mental as well as a material form." Jung's words themselves can be seen to be an atemporal and nonlocal form of his, as well as our subtle body.
The subtle body is a hidden realm through which projections, themselves a form of the subtle body, pass, are transmitted and have their impact. Though seemingly insubstantial, projections carry a real weight and have a very real effect. We live in an information-imbued universe where everything in-forms, acts on, interacts with, and is a projection of everything else. Information itself is a subtle body; in-formation means a message that actually "forms" and alters the recipient. When self-reflective, lucid awareness is added to the mix, the subtle body becomes the medium through which the in-forming influences encoded within the projections are alchemically transubstantiated into "lucidity stimulators." This is to say that our projections, while being the very things that are separating us from real relationship, can, if we recognize their mirror-like, reflective nature, potentially wake us up.
The space of the subtle body is a body that does not fill space in the same way as ordinary matter, and yet it can extend itself all throughout space. The subtle body does not consist of matter, and yet it exists in every atom of the universe. In addition to manifesting through the inner plane of our imaginings, dreams, and visions, the subtle body "fleshes-out" its immaterial, transcendental nature by also incarnating itself through the embodied forms of our ordinary third-dimensional world. The subtle body materializes itself as the entire universe, which is the place of its appearance, but its physical manifestation mysteriously does not contain its substance. This is similar to how a mirror is merely the place of the appearance of the image it reflects, but the substance, the thing-in-itself which the image re-presents, doesn't reside in the mirror. The revelation of the subtle body through the forms of the world are both itself and other than itself at the same time, in the same way that the reflections in the mirror are inseparable from the mirror but are themselves not the mirror.
The subtle body's essence is simultaneously indistinguishable from and transcendent to its mere manifestations. The subtle body is a "no-substance," empty of independent, inherent existence, inseparable from consciousness itself, yet it physically displays itself in, through and as the seemingly substantial forms of the universe. Though able to affect our ordinary lives, the subtle body is not located in the third dimension of space or time, as it literally exists in another dimension which mysteriously interpenetrates into our dimension. Jung elaborates, "the subtle body is a transcendental concept which cannot be expressed in terms of our language or our philosophical views, because they are all inside the categories of time and space."
The subtle body exists in a realm that has no inside or outside, in that it has no location in the way we normally think of location in terms of space-time coordinates. The subtle body is nonlocal, which is to say it is not bound or localized to one particular place or time, but on the contrary, transcends the conventional rules of space and time, as it is expressing itself throughout the entire field of consciousness at all times. Speaking about the part of the psyche that is "extraspacial and extratemporal," Jung writes "'Subtle body' may be a fitting expression for this [nonlocal] part of the psyche."
Nonlocal interaction is characterized by instant informational exchange, where one part of the universe, in no-time whatsoever (i.e., outside of time), appears to interact, affect and communicate with another part of the universe in an immediate and unmediated way. Imagine, in baseball terminology, a throw from deep centerfield to home plate, only the outfielder is halfway around the planet, and the throw takes zero seconds to arrive. The interaction involved in a nonlocal universe is not any known form of interaction we are familiar with, as it occurs infinitely faster than the speed of light can travel through the medium of space, while at the same time doesn't involve any expenditure of energy. Nonlocality's action-at-a-distance is an expression of an underlying and out-flowing information-filled field which connects and inextricably links every part of the universe with every other part in no time. In a nonlocal universe such as ours, no part of the universe is or can be fundamentally separate from any other part, which is to say that nonlocality is an expression of the indivisible wholeness of the universe. This linking, according to the quantum theoretician Henry Stapp, could be the "most profound discovery in all of science."
The subtle body nonlocally configures events in the world so as to synchronistically give shape and form to itself. Synchronicities, where the inner psyche and an outer event co-relate and correspondingly reflect each other (please see my article "Catching the Bug of Synchronicity"), are themselves a form of the subtle body expressing the underlying singularity of all creation. Synchronicities are revelations of the absence of any division between the physical world and inner, psychological reality. Synchronistic events are "lucidity stimulators," neon-signs from the dreamlike nature of the universe to help us wake up to its, and our, dreamlike nature. Just like a dream, mind and matter are not separate, distinct realities, but rather, are seemingly different fundamental components of the same deeper, underlying reality that has both an external-matter aspect and an internal-mind aspect. Jung writes, "the body of the world and its psyche are a reflection of the God we imagine...we have every reason to suppose that there is only one world, where matter and psyche are the same thing." The subtle body is the revelation and living expression of the creative imagination itself, as if it's introducing itself to us in a way we could only imagine.
If we are to engage the subtle body, the imagination must be "employed," which will nonlocally help the life-nourishing "economy" of the biosphere as a whole. The subtle body can only be perceived by the eye of imagination itself, which is the supra-sensory organ of its auto-revelation. Simultaneous to being the object of the alchemists' contemplation, the imagination was itself the organ of perception through which they imaginatively gained access to the other-worldly and world-creating qualities of the sacred imagination existing within themselves. It is important to differentiate the alchemists' notion of imagination, which is a creative activity originating out of and expressing the wholeness of the Self, from mere fantasy, which is a repetitive and self-soothing activity of the ego whose fundamental purpose is to avoid relationship with life. An alchemical text expresses this same idea by saying, "In thine efforts be guided in all ways by the true and not the fantastic imagination." It is the alchemists' version of true imagination that Einstein was referring to when he famously said "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
When the alchemists talk about the "imaginative faculty of the soul," they are giving a clear indication of the secret essence of the alchemical art. The imaginative faculty of the soul is not merely a human attribute, but is a divine activity of the soul in which the human imagination participates and bears witness. The human imagination is enveloped in and suffused with the unconditioned, divine, creative imagination, the imagination that is imagining-creating the whole universe in this very moment. The imagination that the alchemists were interested in was the imagination of God, which is the imagination where what is imagined effects what is happening in a way that can only be imagined and is beyond imagination at the same time.
When we become conscious of an unconscious content, it is as if God's consciousness has expanded through us. At that moment it is as if God has imagined that we have become conscious. These divinely-sponsored, inspired moments of becoming conscious instantaneously and nonlocally registers throughout the whole collective field of consciousness. In a prescient articulation of the nonlocal nature of reality while speaking about the "nature of the collective unconscious," Jung comments, "it seems to me like an omnipresent continuum, an unextended Everywhere. That is to say, when something happens here at point A which touches upon or affects the collective unconscious, it has happened everywhere." Becoming conscious stimulates and empowers the creative imagination, both within ourselves as well as throughout the surrounding field, to become more and more of a primary means through which we engage with creation. The act of becoming conscious depends ultimately upon our connection with the infinite, with something divine within ourselves. Jung comments, "The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life."
Sacred, primordial, archetypal living images are thirsting to enlist our creative imagination as an instrument to in-form and give shape to themselves in, as and through the third-dimensional world. In a certain fundamental sense, we, as egoic agents existing in time, don't create. We can, however, become instruments through which we allow something that already exists in the mysterious, timeless, higher-dimension of our being to appear and become progressively revealed in manifest form. Jung writes, "If a man puts his hand to the opus, he repeats, as the alchemists say, God's work of creation." In becoming an intermediary through which the divine, creative power is expressed and made real in time, we are participating in and en-acting a "recreation" of the eternal act in the play of creation. We may then say that we are creating in a similar sense as God creates, as it is God that is creating through us.
Jung comments, "Because these higher things are imagined by God they at once become substantial instead of lingering in a state of potential reality, like the contents of the unconscious." As compared to contents of the unconscious which remain in a state of unrealized potential, we can get out of our own way and offer ourselves as a conduit for the contents of the divine, creative imagination within us to actualize themselves in, as and through both ourselves and our world. This process directly co-responds to and is reflected in the inner world by the act of consciously realizing contents of the unconscious, or to say it simply -- becoming conscious. Any one of us becoming more conscious lights-up and nonlocally registers throughout the whole universe. When we wake up, the whole universe wakes up with us.
Like an iteration of an inter-nested fractal, the (macro)cosmic, collective process that is happening on the world stage reflects and reveals itself on the inner, personal plane at the same time, as well as vice versa. Different dimensional reflections of each other, the outer collective process and the inner personal process are beyond interconnected, they are the same process simply explicating itself in different dimensions of our being simultaneously. The microcosm (our inner, personal process) and macrocosm (the world process) directly, instantaneously and reciprocally affect each other, as the two are one and the same. This means that the way to effect real change in the world is to transform ourselves by becoming more conscious, as, holographically speaking, the world is enfolded within us while at the same time "We are the World."
Through accomplishing the process of "imaginatio" the soul, "just as God does," is empowered, by becoming an instrument for the divine imagination, to bring about "many things of the utmost profundity outside the body." To quote Jung, "it was a question of representing and realizing those ‘greater' things which the soul, on God's behalf, imagines creatively...The place or the medium of realization is neither mind nor matter, but that intermediate realm of subtle reality which can be adequately only expressed by the symbol. The symbol is neither abstract nor concrete, neither rational nor irrational, neither real nor unreal. It is always both." Once again we have a situation that is not either/or (are symbols real or unreal?), but both/and (symbols are both real and unreal). Symbols in a dream are the form that the unconscious takes to communicate with and ultimately add consciousness to itself so as to awaken the dreamer (which is us), thereby uniting the conscious and the unconscious. A symbol is a bridge and synthesizer of opposites, containing and uniting both of the opposites within itself.
The subtle body is a genuine symbolic entity, an ambassador for the open-ended, seamless field that pervades everything and then some. The nonbinding and ungraspable nature of the subtle body is a symbol reflecting back to us our own intrinsic freedom. Seen symbolically, the subtle body introduces us to and is an expression of the greater interactive, unified and unifying field, transcending the separate self and uniting the opposites of self and other in one fell swoop. A symbol of itself, the subtle body is a spiritual means of transport, in that it is both a manifestation of and doorway into spirit. Being a living symbol, the subtle body is the vehicle that actualizes the very higher-dimensional universe of which it is an emanation. Symbols offer us a precious opportunity, for as Jung writes, a symbol "not only conveys a visualization of the process but - and this is perhaps just as important - it also brings a re-experiencing of it, of that twilight which we can learn to understand." The universe exists in the form of an ever-transforming living symbol of itself, which is to say that it is a continually unfolding, primordial revelation. Just like a dream, the universe is an instantaneous feedback loop, a living work of art, an inspired oracle that is speaking symbolically.
The subtle body is relational in nature and function. The subtle body has to do with relations per se, rather than the seemingly separate things that are doing the relating. The subtle body of the alchemists is a field phenomenon, in that it has nothing to do with separate selves and everything to do with the infinite inter-relationships pervading the underlying field. The field's subtle body is not a thing but a dynamically evolving, living process in which we are all participating, simultaneously creating and being created by, what physicist John Wheeler calls a "self-reference cosmology." Co-joined and coupled in a deeper unity, the seemingly objective and subjective worlds are reciprocally creating and being mutually created by each other. The field of the subtle body does not exist as an isolated, objective entity separate from our subjective awareness, which is to say that it is imaginal. The subtle body is an (im)materialization of the interactive field between us. To quote Jung, "In the deepest sense, we all dream not out of ourselves, but out of what lies between us and the other." Jung is pointing at that "in-between" place in which we are all inseparably interconnected and, in the deepest sense, don't exist as isolated entities. Rather, we exist as relational beings who are interdependently dreaming together, contained in and expressions of a deeper unified and unifying dreamfield.
The subtle body is a form of matter that is so exceedingly subtle that it cannot be perceived through ordinary, consensus-reality means. We can only consciously perceive the underlying subtle body of the field when we "abandon," in Jung's words, a "causal description of nature in the ordinary space-time system, and in its place to set up invisible fields of probability in multidimensional spaces." The field is a higher-dimensional, quantum phenomenon of open-ended potentiality; its infinite wave function collapses into a particularized manifestation depending upon how it is "dreamed up" and observed into form. The underlying field can only be perceived when we step out of our habitual viewpoint of imagining that we exist as a fixed reference point, a center of volitional action, a "time-bound ego," and connect with our timeless selves, who ironically, can only be found in the present moment of time. The subtle body of the field can only be perceived with a shift and expansion of our awareness, while at the same time being an expression of this very shift of consciousness itself.
To quote Jung, "We don't know whether our psyche is material or immaterial, because we don't know what matter is, so we cannot say that there is any difference between the psyche and the body." When we get down to the matter, it is an inescapable fact that we don't even know what the bound-energy wave-packets we call matter actually are. To quote Jung, "What the alchemists called ‘matter' was in reality the [unconscious] self." Jung is pointing at that what the alchemists call matter is inseparable from the projections of their unconscious (please see my article "The Sacred Art of Alchemy"). One thing for sure, which quantum physics has shown us again and again, is that we cannot factor out the psyche from the material world. The alchemical philosophers' stone, mathematically speaking, represents the "equation" that integrates mind and matter.
The subtle body is not experienced by getting out of the body, but rather, by incarnating into it. Our physical body itself is a form of the subtle body, as our physical body is never experienced separately from our consciousness. We only experience our body in and through our psyche, as we never experience one without the other. Jung writes, "In reality, there is nothing but a living body. That is the fact, and psyche is as much a living body as body is living psyche; it is just the same."
The subtle body is ultimately a mental body, a body of light. The idea of the subtle body plays a big role in the New Testament. For example, St. Paul's referring to Christ's "incorruptible body" is an allusion to the glorified form of the subtle body. Speaking of the resurrected body that "we put on with Christ," Jung comments, "Christ is in a way the soul or the pneuma, the incorruptible body that is beyond space and time." All different wisdom traditions symbolically re-present this same ineffable state that symbolizes our true nature in various ways. For example, in Tibetan Buddhism, the adamantine, "diamond body" represents the indestructible, invulnerable aspect of the enlightened state, while the "rainbow body" symbolizes the aspect of our nature that, just like a rainbow, appears but is empty of intrinsic, independent existence, thereby existing "beyond space and time."
This universe we live in, ourselves included, is never experienced without consciousness being part of the equation. Consciousness is the most fundamental feature of reality despite the currently predominating deterministic, scientific worldview in which consciousness is marginalized and ignored. To recognize that the whole universe is not separate from our psyche is to begin to realize the "dreamlike" nature of Reality. Recognizing the dreamlike nature is itself a self-luminous and rarefied form of the subtle body in action. Becoming lucid and recognizing the dreamlike nature of reality is the way this radiant, refined form of the subtle body in-carnates and "in-corporates" itself in the world, while at the same time incorporating the world into itself. The open heart of lucid awareness attracts and dreams the world into itself. Lucid awareness is the polar opposite of, energetically speaking, what a black hole symbolizes. Instead of "disappearing" and imprisoning energy like a black hole, lucid awareness nonlocally "appears" energetically throughout the field. Lucid awareness is like a white hole or rather, a white "whole," omni-directionally emanating radiant awareness. Liberating experience to spontaneously unfold creatively, lucidity is a truly creative act in that it is to be actively participating and engaging in the co-creation of the universe with itself.
To recognize the dreamlike nature is to realize that, just like a dream, all the matter in this universe, ourselves included, is in-formed by and composed of crystallized light, the light of consciousness. All matter is thus recognized to be mind-stuff or crystallized and condensed consciousness. This living light which takes on all the myriad forms of the multiverse is the light of self-existing sentient awareness itself. This is the lumen naturae, the light of nature, the light within the darkness itself, the light which has no opposite (please see my article "The Light of Darkness"). This living light of non-dual awareness is the "light body" of all spiritual wisdom traditions.
Stepping into our "body of light" is analogous to becoming lucid inside of a dream and realizing that what we took to be objectively real, including who we thought we were, is nothing other than a momentary materialization of our own thought-forms, our own imagination, our own consciousness. In a fundamental way that is just like a dream, we can't separate out our consciousness from the body of the world, as the two are so interwoven as to be indistinguishably united. It's not simply that our consciousness is dreaming up the world; as if completing a circle, the world is at the same time dreaming up our consciousness. The world and consciousness are intermingled in such a way that they mutually and reciprocally co-arise in a deeper unified sphere of being. It is impossible to say which initially caused the other, as their relationship has no beginning in time. This realization of the acausal and synchronic co-arising of the world and consciousness "orients" us towards the universe, as well as ourselves, in a whole new way that opens up vast realms and domains of possibilities that were simply not available to us while operating from a more fixated, deterministic, linear and causal worldview.
The alchemists were having the experience that heating a substance so radically changed its form that they thought they had created a new body, what they imagined was even a new being, which they conceived of as a living spirit. To quote Jung, "So you can make a spirit out of matter, can de-materialize - what they call ‘subtilize' matter to such an extent that it becomes a spirit, not a disembodied spirit but a spirit that is a subtle body." Luminous like light, fire is an ancient, primordial image of both God and the Holy Ghost. Jung continues, "Now, since this subtle body was made by heat, they assumed that through the fire they imparted fire-substance to the body so that it became partially like fire, and ‘fire' was another symbol for the soul...And by giving fire to substances they assumed that they became half spiritual, or subtle bodies."
Melting our psychic numbness, fire inflames our buried passions and sheds light on our latent potentials as well as our shadow. Symbolically speaking, fire represents overwhelming affect, deep feelings, and strong emotions, which are the connective elements which provide the linkage between the inner and outer. Jung elaborates, "The fire means, of course, intensity, so if you submit to intensity, say to an intense emotion, you would change into a subtle body. Therefore, to subtilize or sublimate a man, you must expose him to the fire...the fire can subtilize him, or it may destroy him. This idea is expressed also in the non-canonical saying of Jesus: ‘He who is near to me is near to the fire; and he who is far from me is far from the kingdom.'" The divine, refining fire burns away all the impurities and superfluities which seemingly obscure the truth of our being, consuming and transforming our lower nature in a way that progressively reveals our true selves. The ordeals, trials, and tribulations that inevitably come our way as part of life and put us "through the fire" are initiations, designed by a higher, divine intelligence, uniquely crafted for and by our soul to burn away our false, egoic personality traits so as to liberate our latent, higher psycho-spiritual potentials. Whether the fire purifies or destroys us depends upon if we have created a strong enough, hermetically-sealed alchemical vessel within ourselves (to read more on the importance of heating and the alchemical container, click here). These experiences of being internally triggered and set aflame are ultimately a reflection of our own uniquely personal process, while simultaneously being an expression of the collective/nonpersonal/transpersonal field. The microcosm and the macrocosm are always indivisible reflections of each other.
The solution to our dilemma is encoded in the seeming problem. For example, when we are unconscious, we are unconsciously identified with the linkage between mind and matter such that it's invisible to us, i.e., we can't see the connection between the two. Seemingly stuck in a perspective that sees events in the outer world as having no relation whatsoever to our inner state, the dreamlike nature of our experience will simply reflect back the seeming objective truth of our viewpoint, as we continually "prove" to ourselves the rightness of our point of view in a self-fulfilling prophecy. En-trancing ourselves, our own creative power is being turned against us by ourselves. And yet, this unconscious identification, in Jung's words "between the behavior of matter and the events in his [our] own psyche...not only serves as a bridge, it actually is the bridge that unites psychic and material events in one, so that ‘what is within is also without.'" The subtle body of the unconscious has no choice but to reflect back this unconscious identification with itself, as the unconscious is a reflection of this very identification. Paradoxically, the manifestation of the subtle body of the unconscious simultaneously reveals and veils itself in its open revelation of itself. Our unconsciousness is the very thing which keeps us asleep while simultaneously being the very thing which is waking us up. The seeming problem is itself the doorway to its own solution. We simply have to stop concretizing our fixed ideas and interpretations about what is happening and open up to recognizing what is actually being revealed to us by our experience.
Just like a dream, how we observe, or "dream up" the world has an actualizing and meaning-creating influence on how the world materializes and appears to us. This realization unlocks the door to our ever present God-given creative potency, as we realize that in a very particular way the world is as we dream it. We, not as discrete egos, but as interconnected instruments that potentially serve a much vaster, intelligence-filled whole, are creators. There is an alchemical saying, "The philosopher [the alchemist] is not the master of the stone, but rather its minister." When we connect and get in-phase with each other as fellow alchemists-in-training, we discover that we can collaboratively minister to and help each other to activate our sacred power of creative imagination en masse, I imagine, and literally incarnate our most grace-filled vision in, as and through the world. Our only limitation is our imaginary lack of imagination.
Jung says, "the psyche, when directly experienced, confronts us in the ‘living' substance it has animated and appears to be one with." The "living substance" that the psyche has "animated" and "appears to be one with" is the subtle body of the philosophers' stone, which is ultimately both ourselves and the world co-joined. The alchemists discovered that their psyche was not located inside their heads, but rather, that being "in the world" was to be "inside" the psyche. For alchemical adepts, the boundary between dreaming and waking dissolved to reveal its inseparable unity. Becoming lucid in the dream of life, the boundary between self in here and others out there becomes transparent and is seen through, as we are all recognized to be interdependent and interconnected reflections of each other. As if snapping out of a self-limiting spell, our self-image expands as we step into our nonlocal, omni-directional extensions of ourselves, our new "members," so to speak, when we re-member we are "coming from" and "emerging" from both inside and outside of our imagined selves at the same time. The "Self" is found everywhere. Not "apart from" each other, we are "a part of" each other, ultimately all on the same side. Dream characters in each others' shared waking dream who are linkages to each other as well as to ourselves, we are reflective aspects of the same being, Being itself. As the opposites unite, matter becomes divinized, deified, and blessed, and spirit becomes humanized, materialized and incarnated in form. Realized alchemists -- "is there such a thing, or am I just imagining?" -- realize the immanence of the divine creativity in everything, a genuinely transcendental experience which can only be found right now, in this present moment.
Image by _Lev_, courtesy of Creative Commons license