The Sourceress: Fire & Ice
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, Elixir, or Panacea: the universal remedy of cosmic consciousness.
In 1307, the Knights Templar were accused of worshiping the heretical figure of Baphomet, considered by the uninitiated as a symbol of Satan. In reality, this symbol comes from a level deeper than and prior to such dichotomization as good/evil where the opposites are still fused. It is actually a symbol of fertility, the erotic element being symbolic rather than literal. The name itself is a puzzle, perhaps the corruption of Mahomet, brought back to Europe during the Crusades. He figured prominently in the Cathar heresies, and provided the basis for accusations of heresy and witchcraft.
However, the name probably comes from combining two Greek words–baphe and metis—and means “absorption into wisdom.” 19th century magician Eliphas Levi’s version of the figure nestles in the opened cranium of this Post-Modern Baphomet, and helps provide an alternative image of the Tarot Trump, The Devil. On his arms are the alchemical terms solve and coagula, reminding us that to create the Philosopher’s Stone we must dissolve ourselves in chaos and then re-emerge with a reborn embodiment.
Levi called the figure ‘a pantheistic and magical form of absolute,’ a diagram of the god who is the sum total of everything in the universe—an obviously phallic principle of organic life. It contains the symbols of the four elements: the head stands for fire, the wings for air, the scales for water, and legs for earth. The torch is a symbol of divine revelation, the pentagram of human intelligence, the caduceus the union of the sexes, etc. It is a sign of redemption.
The symbolism of alchemy has to do with the structure of the unconscious, and modern dreams contain the same metaphors. Its practical value should not be underestimated. The alchemical operation consists essentially in separating the prima materia, the so-called chaos, into the active principle, the soul, and the passive principle, the body. They are then reunited in personified form in the coniunctio, the ritual combination of sol and Luna, which yields the magical child (filius sapientiae orfilius philosophorum), the reborn self, known as the ultima materia.
The collective unconscious appears in the many symbols of religion, myth, art, and dreams. The Urobouros dragon biting its own tail depicts the original chaotic condition, which prevails before the radical transmutation. But it contains all the refined ingredients of the ultimate state in their uncooked form—the heat has yet to be applied to the unrefined material, raw uncooked emotion. Therefore, we see not only the anguish and despair of the beginning, but the seeds of rejuvenation, rebirth and promised illumination of the final stages of the process.
Thus, prima materia is the seed of the process, which takes place in the natural mind; it is the seed of enlightenment. The Crown of Creation is an overarching symbol equating with the top sphere Kether in Qabala. It triumphs over the terrible Dragon of the primal, unrefined condition, represented by the dragon or Terrible Mother. In the bottom-center is Atlas holding the earth to symbolize the material sphere of Malkuth. All is one magical movement from Kether through Malkuth. Ego cannot separate itself from the powers and abilities of the subconscious. To submit this material to the process means to apply conscious effort to the task, and find our own experiential spirituality. Prima Materiarepresents the crossroads or crisis preceding a spiritual awakening (intellectual doubts, metaphysical problems).