[An ASKLEPIA FOUNDATION Journal]
Primal Imagery in the Creative Consciousness Process
by Iona Miller, ©1993
ABSTRACT: Consciousness appears as the urge toward
manifestation or embodiment and an equal but opposite urge toward formlessness.
This interplay creates the imaginal flux of representational and nonrepresentational
perception. These clashing currents in the stream of consciousness
create "standing waves" of informational content which may be unfolded
from their implicate to explicate state through direct participation in
The premise of the consciousness journey is that this "dream
wave" may be followed backward/forward toward more primal representations
into the nonrepresentational mode of perception. Certain typical,
recurrent patterns occur at the further limits of these journeys.
Particular phenomena are reiterated at the threshold of chaos--the threshold
of dissolution--including amorphous clouds, black holes in psychic space,
spirals and vortices, as well as dead and fertile voids.
In summary, black holes are accessways between consciousness and the
prepersonal unconscious. They are the first points at which the power
of the Dynamic Ground burns through into the mental-egoic sphere.
They are festering concentrations of psychic energy that magnetically draw
the mental ego away from its worldly involvements and lead it toward its
repressed underlife, which is a perilous unknown. Black holes therefore
should be explored only by the ego that is ready for "the journey," regression
in the service of transcendence.
--Michael Washburn, THE EGO AND THE DYNAMIC GROUND
This existentially full holoplenum that enfolds the totality of existence
is the primary reality for Bohm. Objects are secondary, derived by
unfolding from the enfolded totality. More precisely, there is a
continuous movement of enfolding and unfolding. Bohm uses here the
image of 'a turbulent mass of vortices in a stream.' The flowing
stream qua plenum 'creates, maintains, and ultimately dissolves' the totality
of vortex structures.
--Gordon Globus, QUANTUM IMPLICATIONS
THE DREAM WAVE
Consciousness always strives to take on form. But something within
us is also constantly seeking formlessness. These paradoxical currents
in the stream of consciousness meet in imagination, overlap and set up
interference patterns much like those of a hologram.
Energy flow patterns are defined by existential experience, which can not
only channel, but distort the formless flow of free energy. Thus
imagination can appear in representational and non-representational forms.
It can appear as fleeting images or apparent absence of form or pattern
that is nevertheless perceptible.
When we turn our attention to a specific "wave" of the stream of consciousness,
the act of perception arrests the flux of the world, manifesting an image
or impression of what may be in a state of continuous, perhaps infinite
This "dream wave" may be followed from its representational form to more
primal nonrepresentational perceptions. Perception occurs somewhere
between sensory stimulation (physical or imaginal) and conscious awareness,
and is subject to internal "tweaking" of its informational content.
We have spoken elsewhere ("The Un-Named Dream") about the possible etiology
of one of the recurrent primal images in the dreamhealing--the amorphous
grayness, cloud or fog. But there are other typical images found
at the threshold of chaos, including spirals or vortices, "black holes
in psychic space," dead and fertile voids. Whatever these perceptions
represent, they are reiterated in various forms in the majority of consciousness
journeys. They each have analogies in the reports of mystics.
Representational activity seems to indicate transitional phenomena, while
nonrepresenta-tional activity implies global experience, or diffuse existential
states of being.
Amorphous perception is not always an experience of the primal ground state
as described by mystics. It may be pre-conscious nonrepresentational
activity of the psyche. It comes up in the consciousness journeys
with memories of early life which are experienced before the mind has learned
to think in terms of abstraction and concepts. Thus it carries a
diffuse, impressionistic quality of aperception.
Arieti refers to this pre-conceptual "knowing" as the endocept, which he
describes as follows:
The endocept is a primitive organization of past experiences, perceptions,
memory traces, and images of things and movements. The previous experiences,
which are repressed and not brought back into consciousness, continue to
have an indirect influence. The endocept goes beyond the cognitive
stage of the image, but inasmuch as it does not reproduce anything similar
to perceptions, it is not easily recognizable. Also, it does not
lead to prompt action. Nor can it be transformed into a verbal expression;
it remains at a preverbal level. Although it has an emotional component,
it does not expand into a clearly felt emotion.
As a disposition, it is vague, uncertain, or partial at best. It
involves a sense of expansion, accompanied by a decrease in the intensity
of subjective awareness. It is felt as an "atmosphere," an intention,
a diffuse, "global" or "oceanic" feeling.
This form of cognition is non-verbal, non-dialogical, non-verifiable.
In this primal condition 'self' cannot talk to itself to verbally define
reality. Intuition, inspiration, and empathy (rapport) are three
modes of amorphous cognition. Assuming the form of an image, they
are expressed as creativity.
Amorphous perception arises from pre-verbal, pre-conceptual existential
experience. Expression in images, words, thoughts, feelings, or actions
is absent. It also arises spontaneously in dreams in which language
does not enter. However, more frequently dreams function to bring
mute, unconscious, invisible ideas into representational forms.
THE SPIRAL WAVE
Spiral waves permeate all levels of organization in nature. The propagation
of spiral waves is archetypal. It is an emergent property of self-organization.
We see it in the spinning of electrons to the spinning of galaxies.
As they move through space, their trajectories form spirals. Spirals
manifests in many of the fractal patterns which model the complex dynamics
There are spiral waves in physics, chemistry, and biology. Nonlinear
interactions transport energy along the helical coils of protein molecules.
The complex spiral of the double helix of DNA is the basis of all life
as we know it. The twin serpents spiraling up the Caduceus mirror
in symbolism the human nervous system, crowned by the mind, winged with
imagination. This serpentine spiral is the symbol of healing.
Human consciousness and imagery are no exception to this dynamic patterning
principle. As consciousness "moves" through imaginal space, it creates
a spiral trajectory as past/future unite. Forms of spirals we find
in the consciousness journeys include funnels, whorls, eddies, apocalyptic
whirlwinds, tornados, whirlpools--and all types of natural vortices.
In dreamhealing, the spiral generally marks the initiation of disintegrative
Spirals as "vehicles of transition" in the dream journeys may have an analog
in chemical processes. They are an archetype of spatiotemporal pattern
formation. Spiral waves may be discerned within the unfolding of
the natural number sequence. Chemical reactions may be able to help
us understand temporal and spatial organization in living systems.
Propagating spirals emerge in chemical reactions from sheared target patterns.
Rather than annihilating one another, interacting waves pattern and condition
each other. They have been observed in phenomena as diverse as the
aggregation of cellular slime mold, calcium release, chemical oscillators,
and traveling wave patterns. Epstein (1991) describes aspects of
this process relevant to our discussion.
Chemists and mathematicians have developed an understanding of this
process in terms of the behavior of an excitable medium. (Other examples
of an excitable media include cardiac and neural tissues.) In such
a medium, small perturbations of the homogeneous stationary state are rapidly
damped out, but disturbances larger than a critical size cause the medium
to undergo a large excursion in the concentrations of reactive species
before returning to its initial state.
If such a medium contains a pacemaker nucleus, a small region capable
of generating periodic supercritical perturbations, then, as a result of
diffusion, targetlike patterns of chemical reactivity will develop.
If these circles are broken, the loose ends wrap into rotating spirals.
"Pacemaker nuclei generating supercritical perturbations" is another
way of describing the phenomena of chaotic dynamics and strange
Epstein's work implies it should now be possible to apply the insights
gained from traveling waves in excitable chemical systems to biological
phenomena. We suggest it can also be applied, to some extent, in
The image of the "sacred spiral" is older than our notion of time itself.
In primal cultures it is carved in ideoglyphs, danced in sacred rites,
and enshrined in intricate labyrinths. As a primitive geometry, it
is more primal or fundamental than the archetypal stratum of myth.
Cirlot (1962) views the spiral as "a schematic image of the evolution
of the universe...a symbol for growth." In PREHISTORIC ART, Parkin
notes that "no ornamental motif seems to have been more attractive than
the spiral." Spiral movements dominated dances for healing and
incantation from the Mesolithic Age onwards. They helped primal man
escape from the material world and enter the "beyond" through the mystic
There is a spiral in the Egyptian hieroglyphics which "denotes cosmic
forms in motion, or the relationship between unity and multiplicity."
Cirlot also links bonds (feedback loops) and serpents with the spiral.
For the Egyptians the spiral form symbolized the breath and spirit, and
a large spiral crowned the head of the god Thoth.
Spiral's mythic form is best expressed in poetic language: "From out
of the unfathomable deeps there arose a circle shaped in spirals....Coiled
up within the spirals, lies a snake, a symbol of wisdom and eternity."
Because the spiral is a dynamic notion, it was overlooked by Plato in his
elevation of divine geometrical forms, which he conceived of as more or
less static representations--immutable therefore eternal.
Yet most cultures revere this patterning principle through appreciation
of its aesthetic appeal. It has come to be known as The Golden Mean,
or geometric mean, defined by ratios of integers. It is the basis
of human creative phenomena from musical generation to mythic cosmic cycles.
As far back as we can trace tradition, we find a distinction being made
between the creative spiral (rising in a clockwise direction, and attributed
to Pallas Athene) and the destructive spiral like a whirlwind (which twirls
around to the left, and is attributed to Poseidon). The spiral (like
the snake, serpent, or Kundalini force) can also represent the potential
The evolution of spiral systems relates to angular momentum, gravitation,
spin, and turbulence. Rotatory forms condense from clouds of undefined
random atoms, which develop form and structural symmetry.
Turbulence is inevitable in this process of "condensation from the void."
It is an eternal reality of nature. It is the shearing effect of
disparate velocities, the divergence of streams into eddies and subeddies.
Its elemental dynamic forms--the stress wave--has been described as the
"music" of fluid motion.
At the cosmic level, turbulence is directly responsible for the "condensation"
of diffuse gases which have been and are continuously turning into stars
and planets. The process paradoxically creates and is guided by gravity.
It warps or distorts the spacetime continuum, creating gravity wells.
(Ref. "gravity waves.")
In much the same way the "condensation" or "constellation" of imagery is
accompanied by a dynamic momentum which keeps the process moving.
Analogously in consciousness journeys, the amorphous endocept--or primal
cloudiness--congeals in specific imagery. Rather than worlds in the
physical universe, habitable inner worlds emerge. This dream-wave
can continue unfolding into material manifesta-tions in the body, psyche,
and environment of the dreamer.
The trajectory of spirals in imaginal space typically leads toward a "strange
attractor," or "gravity well." The ultimate universal image of a
gravity well is that of a "black hole" in psychic space. Quantum
mechanics has the complementary notion of "mini black holes" or "wormholes
in space," which are connections to other possible universes, or dimensions.
BLACK HOLES IN PSYCHIC SPACE
A frequent report during consciousness journeys is of a perception of "a
black, blacker-than-black," exerting a magnetic pull on the subject
which is either welcomed or resisted.
They are a means-to-an-end in the process of de-stratification of consciousness,
movement from one universe to another, which allows the dissolution or
passing of the old state of consciousness, the old "world," into a radically
de-constructed flow of energy.
In CCP we enter this process willingly. The journeys help us experience
and experiment with form and formlessness. The direction of movement
is of ego toward Dynamic Ground. But unguided, the direction of flow
can be reversed, in which case there is an invasion of personality by uncontrollable,
eruptive, transformational energy.
Washburn (1988) describes "black holes" as an intrusion of the Dynamic
Ground into the egoic system, part of the risk of submitting the ego to
the deep unconscious with its definite dangers:
The mental ego maintains its internal dialogue so long as the mental-egoic
system remains intact, i.e., closed to the Dynamic Ground. This internal
dialogue continues no matter how disillusioned, dispossessed, and despairing
the mental ego might be. However, once original repression gives
way and, consequently, the Dynamic Ground is opened, interruptions in the
internal dialogue begin to occur.
And these interruptions are not periods of restful, better yet serene,
silence; they are rather moments of trancelike blankness, moments during
which the internal dialogue is extinguished by the infiltration into consciousness
of heavy currents of energy. To use a simile, these interruptions
are like encounters with black holes in psychic space. The mental
ego feels as if in the presence of an oppressive gravity that draws the
mental ego, inwardly and downwardly, toward a dreadful unknown.
In the mystical practice of Hermetic Qabalism, there is an analogous description
of a mysterious state of consciousness known as Daath. It is not
a true vortex or sphere of consciousness like the others, but lies in the
shadowy realm of the gulf between the realms of soul and spirit known as
"The Abyss." Pure Spirit is completely beyond form.
This shadowy sphere forms an 11th sphere on the Tree of Life circuit.
In many ways it is analogous to the Throat Chakra, although its connotations
are often negative. Daath is said to be a gateway to the reverse
of the Tree of Life, the demonic underbelly of the subconscious mind of
the divine--emergent chaos within the divine order.
In contrast to the other stable, steady-states of consciousness depicted
by the other spheres, Daath is the "strange attractor" of the Tree of Life.
It has no real "existence" of its own, being wholly created from the mind
of the operator. It is that "rock in the stream" that allows you
to ford across safely. A supportive, but temporary construct for
consciousness to spring from in the void. It is the otherworldly
ghost of parallel universes.
A positive journey here means an encounter with archetypal Knowledge, an
infusion, or "cosmic download." It is an encounter with the mysterious,
shadowy side of existence, a trip through the looking-glass universe.
The ancient Hebrew qabalists expressed extreme caution for this shadowy
sphere. They reiterate time and again that there are "10 Spheres
on the Tree of Life, 10 and not 9, 10 and not 11." The corresponding
title of this invisible sphere is "Knowledge," in the sense of experiential
On the Path of Return, working up the Tree of Life, it is an "island" in
the mystical void--an oasis in the arid wilderness for the weary wanderer.
Its traditional color has always been described as "black, blacker than
black." When seen in imagination it is well demarcated from the surrounding
Daath is a paradoxical image involving the merging of opposites.
It signifies a complete change in the vehicle of consciousness from one
invested in form (soul) to one informing formlessness (spirit). It
is recommended that novice qabalists avoid this state without guidance.
Whether imagined as dimensional gates in the depths of abyssal space, or
consciousness gates in the abyss of the Transcendent Imagination, they
are to be approached with caution. They are "accessways to the dynamic
depths;" doorways between consciousness and the prepersonal unconscious,
according to Washburn. Only a breath away lies the Unknown.
They are the first points at which the power of the Dynamic Ground burns
into the mental-egoic sphere. They are festering concentrations of
psychic energy that magnetically draw the mental ego away from its worldly
involvements and lead it toward its repressed underlife, which is a perilous
unknown. Black holes therefore should be explored only by the ego
that is ready for "the journey," regression in the service of transcendence.
In physics a black hole means both the death and the birth of matter, simultaneously.
In the consciousness journeys it heralds the death of the ego, the old
self-image, and the creative emergence of the new, like the phoenix rising
from the black ashes. A black hole is also a white hole--spewing
out matter in a parallel universe, having its time sense reversed from
Black holes exist on the edges of eternity balanced between two parallel
universes. They are not stagnant, but move in time. In fact
they drag time and space around with them much like a drain hole drags
sewage down into itself. As an image it is an extreme variation of
For a readable description of "An Imaginary Journey to Parallel Universes
through a Black Hole," see Wolf's PARALLEL UNIVERSES. But prepare
to have your mind boggled with paradoxes about time and space!
In much the same way spiraling into a black hole in the dream journeys
seems to boggle the mind, loosen the identification with the old self image,
overwhelm the sensory system with an influx of subconscious force, and
create a paradoxical shift from hyperstimulation to hypostimulation.
Thus black holes lead to the void of the completely de-stratified state
They lead to the void; or from one void to another; or open into an emergent
universe, but not before complete dissolution in chaotic consciousness.
Imaginal time travel through a black hole involves the collapse of the
event horizon into a singularity whose velocity exceeds the speed of light.
Time and space reverse.
Passing through the black hole is like passing into our parallel past,
possibly reaching the time of our birth, seeing ourselves being born again.
This is the mechanism of regression in the service of transcendence, or
rebirth with a new self image. Black holes are connected to an infinity
of parallel universes.
Each journey moves through a time warp. The past ceases to be the
exclusive conditioning agent of the present and multiple futures open up
as resources--potential and hope are restored, as emergent creative processes
unfold a new sense of self and world.
DEAD, VIOLENT, AND FERTILE VOIDS
Holes and blank spaces represent the unknown, the unnamed threat, the source
of anxiety, and the fear of disintegration.
Black holes are potentially restorative and creative wellsprings.
The feared empty space is actually a fertile void. Exploring it is
a turning point toward therapeutic change. But first comes the chaotic,
catastrophic exposure to the violent void.
Some of its manifestations include falling into blank trances, seriously
deranged states of mind, mental absorptions and agitations, morbid vacancies,
frenzied effusion, mental darkness, riotously overflowing ideation and
affect, mania and confusion.
These are many of the negative manifestations which can occur in the sensory
deprivation tank when there is suspension of all external input.
The compelling power of the unconscious is greatly amplified when there
is no competition from external stimuli. Then the only process left
for the brain to interpret is its own functioning--processing its own processes.
Washburn asserts that morbid vacancies "indicate that the mind has been
taken in tow and is held in traction by the gravitational pull of the power
of the Ground." This sounds like an "unconscious as Great Attractor"
There are voids and voids. The ego inhabits its own dead void, which
it conjures up by separating itself from the whole with existential alienation.
The ego's subjective internal dialogue dominates this realm. It appears
dead because ego is isolated, alone. The dead void disappears when
consciousness begins to experience the void of the Dynamic Ground.
Here one is subjected to the de-repression of the overwhelming contents
of the deep psyche (Transcendent Imagination). The "violent void"
means the infusion of all the pre-personal or pre-existance consciousness.
One is connected now, but overwhelmed by this underlying realm of experience
that is alive with energy.
Weathering the storm, the hero/ine makes a successful "journey to the other
side" to the so-called fertile void, plenum, or pleroma. The fertile
void is the formless state of pure potential, which contains All--a multiplicity
Brain research has created some models relevant to our discussion.
Globus (1987) refers to much the same psychic territory in discussing three
holonomic approaches to thebrain:
In the holographic version of image-producing system the system is initially
empty, like a tabula rasa, and information is loaded in by input (through
'experience'). This is a 'weak' holonomy in that the enfolded whole
-- the 'implicate order' (Bohm) -- is entirely derivative of input, not
the primary reality.
In a second 'strong' version, the holonomic system initially is full
with existence; there is an a priori plenum of enfolded existentia that
is the fundamental reality. Bohm views the primary reality as an
existentially full holoplenum that enfolds the totality of existence.
The matter of the brain holographically enfolds all the matter of the universe.
According to Bohm,
Various energies such as light, sound, etc., are continually enfolding
information in principle concerning the entire universe of matter into
each region of space. Through this process, such information may
of course enter our sense organs, go on through the nervous system to the
brain. More deeply, all the matter in our bodies, from the very first,
enfolds the universe in some way.
The enfolded structure of both information and matter enters consciousness,
but the brain is always filled even prior to input with universal existence.
In the third 'very strong' version, the holonomic system is initially full
with all possible worlds; there is an a priori plenum of enfolded possibilia
that is the fundamental reality. So for the three versions of brain
functioning, the a priori plenum is empty, full with existence, and full
with possibility, respectively."
The only version of brain functioning which doesn't contradict itself upon
examination is that of the holoplenum of possibilia, in which the enfolded
whole is neither primary nor secondary to explicate input, but is of complementary
status. Enfolding/unfolding are cooperative processes.
According to Globus,
The enfolding process that creates the holoplenum is non-specific; there
are randomly-generated "waves" of all frequencies, phases and amplitudes
which are superposed. There results an interference pattern of infinite
richness, all possibilities of explicate order being enfolded to it by
random mechanisms. So the non-specific process generates "holoplenum
of possibilia." The unfolding process, on the other hand, specifically
selects a possibility for actual explicate existence. Brain action
thus includes a continuous selection process. The selection unfolds
particular order to explicate existence and the generative process provides
all possibilities of enfoldment.
This has tremendous implications for those "selecting" to engage in therapy,
in consciousness journeys, and in the spiritual quest. By choosing
to be "observer/participant" in the unfolding process we literally create
The enfolding process has no linear order, only random activity patterned
by chaotic dynamics. The unfolding process is "active", requiring
processing and interpretation. When the active process of world simulation
ceases, as in meditation or consciousness journeys, all that remains is
the non-active, non-dual void, a holoplenum of possibilia.
According to Globus, it appears that the brain in its unsurpassed complexity
generates it own holoplenum of possibilia--a virtual holoworld of possible
worlds. So this plenum of possibilities emerges as a property of
this dynamic system. The brain might also enfold a plenum, like all
matter, in some holographic sense as Bohm suggests, but it also generates
its own plenum.
Whatever the brain's matter enfolds (existentia or possibilia) at its highest
level the brain generates it own plenum governed by the law of the whole,
a virtual holoworld of enfolded possible worlds.
Mind and matter may be unfolded from a common higher dimensional ground
(Bohm). But mind is the very action of unfolding. In the case
of perception, mind is a process of selecting worlds from the holoworld
constituted by autonomous processes. (Or we might say in phenomenological
terms that "intentional action" is selective unfolding.)
The discriminative process continuously selects the perceived world by
unfolding from the holoworld. The two processes complement each other
in generating the world. The world's status is accordingly derivative
and illusory, as in the doctrine of maya.
In extraordinary conditions, such as consciousness journeys, the discriminate
process ceases, and all that remains is the indiscriminate process that
generates the holoplenum of possibilia, a dynamic distinction less void
that enfolds all possibilia.
The third version of holonomic brain theory (possibilia) is supported by
consideration of altered states of consciousness in CCP and the perennial
philosophy. It is also supported by the Many Worlds interpretation
of quantum mechanics.
When we turn our attention within, and observe the stream of consciousness
with a disengaged mind, we have certain archetypal impressions. Whether
a shaman of old, mystic, magician, consciousness explorer, or scientist--all
report strikingly similar observations. It is only in the process
of de-coding the experience, putting it into words, that the differing
doctrinaire philosophies yield different translations.
It is an existential perception that we are "real," physical beings in
a physical world. It is true that consciousness embodies form in
our being. But just as surely the vast amounts of space between the
ghostly "solids" of our sub-atomic structure constitute a virtually infinite
vastness of space.
In this sense, we are truly more formlessness than form. We are structured
consciousness/energy, ever so loosely held together by a matrix of chaotic
disorder. When we let go of structure, seeking formlessness, we find
Arieti, Silvano, CREATIVITY: THE MAGIC SYNTHESIS, New York: Basic Books,
Cirlot, J.E., A DICTIONARY OF SYMBOLS, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,
Epstein, Irving R., "Spiral Waves in Chemistry and Biology," SCIENCE, April
5, 1991, p. 67.
Globus, Gordon G., "Three Holonomic Approaches to the Brain," in QUANTUM
IMPLICATIONS, Hiley & Peat, Eds.; London and New York: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1987.
McClain, Ernest G., THE MYTH OF INVARIANCE, Boulder: Shambhala, 1978.
Washburn, Michael, THE EGO AND THE DYNAMIC GROUND, Albany: SUNY Press,
Wolf, Fred Alan, PARALLEL UNIVERSES, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
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