The Asklepia Foundation



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 that stream.
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


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 movement.

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.


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 of nature.

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 forces.

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 attractors.

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 consciousness transformation.

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 Center.

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 center.

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.


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 immediacy.

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 velvetiness.

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 our own.

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 the spiral.

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 of consciousness.

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.


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" model.

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 of unity.

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 new possibilities.

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 renewal.


Arieti, Silvano, CREATIVITY: THE MAGIC SYNTHESIS, New York: Basic Books, 1976.

Cirlot, J.E., A DICTIONARY OF SYMBOLS, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962.

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, 1988.

Wolf, Fred Alan, PARALLEL UNIVERSES, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

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