Anonymous on Fri Apr 20 23:43:14 2001

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The combination and subsequent observation of two chemicals reacting, or
the distillation of a chemical to gain a solid from a liquid by heating,
was essentially a scientific process. It was about the physical material
and the observation of one element changing to another or the distilling
of impurities.

But alongside this there was a parallel psychic or unconscious
interpretation for the practitioner.

The reaction of chemicals was symbolic as well as actual spawning drawings
and surreal narratives which in turn generated momentum to further


"Take some gold which is called the male of the Chrysokolla and a man who
has been kneaded together. The gold of the Ethiopian earth produces it
from its drops. A certain species of ant brings the gold to the surface of
the earth and enjoys it. Put him together with his wife of vapour, till
the divine bitter water comes out. When it has thickened, or coloured red
with the juice of the golden vine of Egypt, then smear over it the
leaflets of the light bringing goddess and also of the red copper or of
the red Venus and then thicken it until it coagulates into gold"

Olypiodorus 5Th century AD from 'The Divine Art'

The means for the alchemist to describe an experiment and its results was
frequently poetic, dream like and often quite hallucinogenic. Drawings and
texts have an extraordinary power and the intensity of description often
reads like a dream or even a drug experience.

It seems that some descriptions actually were written under the influence
of plant hallucinogenics, but often it was the toxic effects of alchemists
working with lead and mercury which were at the root of their altered
states. Rather than these creating inaccuracies within this
proto-scientific environment, these deeper psychological experiences were
fused with the physical experiments with the results and descriptions
having no clear line between creative embellishment and actual experience.


"The lead is so possessed by devils and is so shameless that those who
want to learn about it fall into madness on account of their

The alchemist Olypiodorus 5th century AD

There was no clear delineation between either of these sides of alchemy -
the physical and psychic - one fed the other, symbiotic and interdependent
they ran in parallel.

All processes took on symbolic significance and the distillation of a
chemical was as much about a distillation or change in the alchemist's
psyche as within the vessel which contained the chemical itself.

If the alchemist is admittedly using the chemical process only
symbolically, then why does he work in a laboratory with crucibles and
alembics? And if, as he constantly asserts, he is describing chemical
processes, why distort them past recognition with his mythological

The Psychic Nature of Alchemical Work
Jung CW Psychology and Alchemy pg243 top

The processes of change and movement of physical things were also about
psychological change and movement of the alchemists mind - the apparatus
and vessels used for experiments were also spaces for a form of psychic
development. The practice of alchemy and the dedication of those who
followed it became almost like the observation of a series of live dreams
- analysis guiding the alchemist to the goal of universal and self

Jung interpreted alchemical practice as a visible display of the process
of 'individuation' - the balancing between the conscious and unconscious
sides in the individual - a psychic equilibrium, a point where an
individual became whole and realised what Jung defined as their 'Self'.

"Every advance in culture is, psychologically, an extension of
consciousness, a coming to consciousness that can take place only through
discrimination. Therefore an advance always begins with individuation,
that is to say with the individual, conscious of his isolation, cutting a
new path through hitherto untrodden territory. To do this he must first
return to the fundamental facts of his own being, irrespective of all
authority and tradition, and allow himself to become conscious of his
distinctiveness. If he succeeds in giving collective validity to his
widened consciousness, he creates a tension of opposites that provides the
stimulation which culture needs for its further progress.

"On Psychic Energy" (1928). In CW 8: The Structure and Dynamics
of the Psyche. P. 111

Central to Jung's philosophy is the concept of the collective unconscious.
The collective unconscious is invisible intangible and over arching - a
shared pool of symbols embedded in a universal psychic structure common to
all human beings - a concept common in Eastern philosophies such as

Jung pinpointed that dreams are the place where there is a dialogue and
tangible relationship between the worlds of the personal and collective
unconscious' - sharing this world where archetypal symbols guide us
towards self knowledge, understanding and balance - our own psyches using
collective symbols or archetypes to form our dreams which guide and even
determine our waking states.

The Internet as a psychic space

The concentration of accessible material, put there by a mass of
individual will and desire makes the internet a place of intense
numinosity. The presence of the internet makes the concept of a collective
unconscious more tangible and understandable and much less abstract.

The internet becomes a repository for ideas, emotions and knowledge;
material both known and unknown to us; conscious and unconscious. This
material is beyond individual awareness, and made up from every possible
aspect of human existence is a collective repository - it becomes what I
call a 'psychic vessel'.

People deposit material and retrieve material. This process, and each of
these individual actions, like the processes in alchemical practice, also
operate in a duality, a parallel process, a combination and fusion of the
physical and the psychic.

The process of internet use becomes - in part - a dialogue with the Self -
the united whole, the complete psychic entity of ourselves both personal,
collective, conscious and unconscious - with the internet mirroring the
unconscious, working on both a collective and personal level - with use
affecting the process of individuation.

The internet begins to function as an intermediary alchemical space as I
call it, a place of 'psychic gestation' which hovers between a personal
and collective conscious and unconscious which maps a change and movement
in the psyche of the user.

"We must always ask now whether a mental phenomenon is conscious or
unconscious and, also, whether a "real" outer phenomenon is perceived by
conscious or unconscious means"

Maria Louise Von Franz - 'Science and the Unconscious'
Man and his Symbols

The processes of alchemy were explorations - both physical - the
exploration of chemical processes and also psychic - the relationship of
these processes to the psychic shifts in the alchemist and how the two
related to each other. A process of cause and effect. These changes were
not just passive responses to the material the alchemist was viewing, or
the methods they were using but it involved a process that could be
described as interactive.

This was a psychic interactivity that worked on many levels - and moved
fluidly between the physical or material and a psychic or spiritual
reaction or interaction with it on the part of the practitioner.

"The double face of alchemy- laboratory and library- corresponds to the
twofold nature of the individuation process - active participation in
outer reality and relationships together with a process of inner

Alchemy - An introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology
Maria Louise Von Franz

The process of using the internet can also free elements of our
unconscious via a process of isolated 'dialogue'. This is a 'dialogue'
with our Self in the same way the alchemist used physical processes,
consciously or unconciously to interpret their own states of mind. People
often use the internet in a sense of physical isolation but with an
intense relationship with their own unconscious. Alongside the user
physically interacting with equipment and the screen is a 'psychic
interface' .

This psychic interface flows "between" the user and the machine - beyond
buttons, controls, navigational logic and hand-eye co-ordination and even
content. It is experiential and communicates with the unconscious of the
user; this is the interface of the gamer and the immersed users of the

Pete Gomes  1998

hypertext version in progress


a 5.1 surround sound
audio-visual environment for DVD

Visual Pete Gomes
Music Marvin Ayres

stills | mp3 | movie | summary

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