Creative alchemy, global mythology with Pistis Sophia. Interview with Writer & Painter Stephen Linsteadt by Willi Paul, PlanetShifter.com & planetshifter.com
Excerpt from Stephen Linsteadt’s book, "Aquarian Messenger":
About how to create a living modern myth, von Franz said people must reflect and take back their projections. “We need to take the opposites within ourselves instead of projecting them onto other people.” (matter of heart) This is what happened during World War II when people projected all their problems onto the Jewish people. We take a risk when we demonize Muslims or profile people with middle-eastern decent as terrorists or potential terrorists. In our own state of imbalance we automatically bring unconscious archetypes and their energy into our lives as a countermeasure. When we deny their existence Jung says, “They become an inexplicable source of disturbance which we finally assume must exist somewhere outside ourselves.” (Alch. Stud. p.36) This, he says, leads to collective delusions and ‘incidents’ such as revolutions, war, and to destructive mass psychoses. (Alch. Stud. p.36)
We are most definitely at a turning point in the history of modern civilization. Jung said it was totally predictable based on the psychosis of our global patient as well as a result of the course of our religious history. (10) For him, it was not just coincidental that these developments paralleled the Precession of the Equinoxes through the constellation of Pisces and into Aquarius. (11) Regardless, events are already in motion that will amount to some of the biggest challenges humans have ever faced, individually or collectively. Jung’s prophesy is that the Aion of Aquarius will see the activation of the Shadow of the unconscious that will challenge us to leave our externalization and materialism and redirect our psychic energy to find a new era of Self-discovery. The Aion of Aquarius just might bring us into a place of balance where the sacred meets technology, a kind of techno-transcendentalism.
Cell phones and the internet have put people in touch with one another. The World Wide Web has been called the framework of a new global consciousness. Everything that happens everywhere in the world today is instantly posted on the internet for all to see. The airwaves are saturated with information. Synchronicity is becoming a frequent phenomenon, as one only has to think of an old friend and an invitation to be their friend on facebook miraculously arrives in your email. It is the feminine principle in action. We now have a worldwide community where people from every culture, race and religion are merging into one global consciousness. The internet is taking the masks off the men.
The alchemical process has shown us the importance of confronting our outer conditions. It calls us to reflect on our negative attitudes towards others and ourselves. It insists that we bring the spirit of nature back into our lives; that we spiritualize every moment of every day. When the masks are off the masculine, we are able to see behind the media story of the ‘evil doers’ and at once recognize the people in faraway lands as being our neighbors, our friends, our brothers and sisters. When we have that connection with others and view our world as a global community it causes the feminine principle to go into action, make changes to our environmental policies, help those that are starving or homeless, and to reach out to each other as though we are all in this together.
The modern living myth is told every day. It is each of us living out the alchemical process from within and on the outside. It is listening to the guidance of Sophia. It is in responding to her messages. We saw this externalized in the stories of people who were tapped on the shoulder by Sophia to gather others and carpool across the country to help the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. ...
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Interview with Stephen Linsteadt by Willi Paul
Do you understand what some writers and artists are calling "new mythologies"? What inspirational sources are in your tool kit?
When I think of the term “new mythologies,” I immediately think of “space-age myths,” which conjure up images of “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” and other futuristic science-fiction stories, such as “Avatar.” While these often include mythical themes—the hero overcomes an obstacle; confronts a psychological issues with a parent; prevails over evil, etc.—they are not, in my view, representational of the truly “modern living myth.” The modern myth or the “new mythology to come” as Joseph Campbell pointed out, is the mythology of the planet, which I agree we don’t yet fully possess in a complete form. (Campbell, J., The Power of Myth, p.28)
The space age has broadened our view of our place in the universe and provided new horizons to explore. On the one hand, this serves as an opportunity for us to gain a worldview that extends beyond ourselves—a singular global society in a vast universe. On the other hand, however, deep space can serve as providing more external space on which we can project our demons. Marie-Louise von Franz, a colleague of Carl G. Jung, said it best, “If our Western civilization has a possibility of survival it will be by accepting the alchemical myth.” (Matter of Heart, 1985) The new myth will include the story of how we stopped projecting our shadows onto other people, other races, countries, and religions and instead learned how to integrate our negative tendencies within ourselves.
Until we learn to do the inner work, which Jung warned was dangerously lacking in Western culture, we will continue to demonize other countries, other religions, and other races.
Is Joseph Campbell's work and vision supporting your experiences?
Joseph Campbell’s work stands as a beacon for our future. He insisted, as did Jung and von Franz, that the new myth must talk about the planet and the society it talks about must be the society of the planet—a global community.
Can you offer us some symbols, songs or stories that speak in mythological terms for the Sustainability Age?
The bottom line to creating a new modern myth is the transformation of the individual. My favorite symbol for this is the ouroboros, the dragon eating its own tail. It is the symbol of our lower animal (serpent) self being consumed by the wisdom of our higher Self. This occurs when we rise above the conflicts we create when we think primarily about ourselves and, instead, give ourselves over to the service of others and the global community at large.
Campbell suggested that the moon might become the symbol of the new myth to come since from the lunar view there are no borders or divisions between nations, states, and people. (Campbell, J., The Power of Myth, p.41)
Global Alchemy Forum uses the symbol of the ouroboros surrounding the dove, whose wings encompass the four corners of the quaternio (the four directions and the four stages of alchemy).
Until we have a global modern myth that talks about how human beings tore down their physical and psychological barriers and how they reconnected to Nature and saved the planet, we will have to rely on the individual stories we tell about ourselves. These are the living modern myths that people tell about their personal transformation. They are the stories of people who helped others in a time of personal tragedy or natural disaster; stories of people coming together as one without distinction between race, creed, or country; stories of how entire societies came to the aid of the poor and malnourished realizing that the suffering of one person affects the whole.
The image of the Goddess represents the re-emergence of the matriarchal, nurturing and connecting feminine principle that brings balance to the patriarchal energies of greed that seek power and control at the expense of Nature and the planet.
Is sustainability like a religion?
I view myths as offering spiritual guidance. By ‘spiritual,’ I mean the power that animates life as well as the sub-atomic ingredients that make up our physical universe. Myths also serve as metaphors for the invisible world beyond our ability to conceptualize through our limited reasoning. The spiritual quest is a journey of transformation and personal experience of the divine. Religion, on the other hand, starts out as a metaphor for the personal journey of one who has experienced unity with the unseen world. Instead of following their example, as all great mystics encourage, we tend to externalize their experience in the form of ritual or mere ‘faith’ instead of endeavoring to take the journey ourselves.
Therefore, “sustainability” in its truest sense—where individuals connect with each other and the planet through personal experience of the reality of that inner connection—is a way of life, a state of being. If ‘sustainability’ becomes a ‘religion,’ it means we have only given lip service to the process and have succumbed to the ‘green’ campaign that masquerades in front of the corporate and patriarchal greed that has led us to the brink of extinction and loss of connection with nature in the first place.
What bands, films or authors stir your imagination these days?
I’m inspired by the poets and artists of our time that interact with the world of spirit; the world of Nature and the unconscious. They speak to us in symbols and metaphors. Their work is numinous—pointing to the divine. I’m inspired by painters such as Marcel Duchamp and Cy Twombly. I am also inspired by poets such as: Hafiz, Rumi, Tulsi Sahib, and Kabir. I enjoy reading mystical texts from Eastern traditions in addition to books by Jung, von Franz, Edward Edinger, and Joseph Campbell.
Are you a shaman?
A shaman is one who has experienced, first hand, the world that lies beyond the one of our physical senses and everyday lives. They step out of the “collective conscious,” so to say, and into the field of the unconscious. Unfortunately, not all of what exists in the unconscious is describable through language—through words. The Eastern mystics taught that access to the unconscious is attained through stillness of mind; stillness of thought. This is the goal of some meditation practices.
Am I a shaman? A shaman trainee, at best. But, aren’t we all?
Is alchemy a process that intrigues you? Do you actively use it?
The first stage in alchemy is where we meet the ‘serpent,’ our dark side. This is the blackening stage where we confront the dark side of our personality. It may require a long process of inner development and awareness until we realize that everything we view as negative in the world is a reflection of our own inner state. It is the ‘blackening’ stage because it is the cooking of all our impurities, our corruption and desire to conquer nature and people. All our negative tendencies go into the alembic or the alchemist’s still (our body), as a witches’ brew filled with toads, eye of newt, and everything disgusting. It all boils together in its own juices. We cook in our own worldly juices. The fire that cooks is the heat of Tao, Logos, the Word, Creative Song (Power).
The heat is the purifying agent. Matter boils until nothing remains except the purified steam that rises above. This steam represents the second stage, the whitening stage. This vapor is our essence, our pure and true selves that rises and is separate from the worldly soup. It is the alchemical metaphor for the soul’s release from matter. It is quite beautiful. You can imagine the vapor floating above the physical world, drifting up to meet and merge into Sophia who then embraces you and manifests in her full glory. This second stage is where we become quieter and more detached and objective. It is the stage where we are connected with our higher Self inwardly as well as to those around us and with Nature—the planet.
When we apply the alchemical process to our every day events, we learn to accept the difficulties we encounter as lessons in awareness. These outside events teach us not to react from a place of self-interest but to step outside our self into the view that looks to the well-being of those around us. The alchemical process is an active process psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually and serves as a metaphor for the sustainability of the planet.
Are you seeing any shifts away from traditional religion to a more Nature-based view?
The younger poets in Global Alchemy Forum have impressed me with how much they have individuated from the “collective conditioning.” They have challenged the ‘beliefs’ of their parents and society as a whole and are willing to step off the edge into the abyss of the unconscious. They find that the religions of the past no longer serve their self-reflecting psyches. They came into the world with eyes wide open to what no longer serves humanity; to what threatens our sustainability. They have seen that the corporate ladder doesn’t lead anywhere except to an empty cloud of unfulfillment. Instead, they embrace the concept of Nature and are concerned with the health of the planet. They are interested in communes, where people live in harmony and strive for personal growth and higher consciousness.
How do you connect mythmaking and innovation in your work?
As a painter, I rely heavily on the mythological and the symbolism of the unconscious. I strive to create a sense of the luminous in my work whether it is painting, poetry, or story telling. Innovation, for me, only occurs when I am able to find that quiet place where Sophie is able to work through the brush, pen, or keyboard.
Who is Sophia? “The modern living myth is told every day. It is each of us living out the alchemical process from within and on the outside. It is listening to the guidance of Sophia.”
Sophia is a central figure of the Gnostic texts and is a central figure in the Odes of Solomon found in the Gnostic text, Pistis Sophia. Every mystical branch of every religion refers to her. She is universal.
The early Judeo-Christian Gnostics referred to her as the Wisdom of God. She is God’s feminine half—the compassionate side. She is the Holy Ghost, the Logos, Word, or Tao. She is Universal Intelligence projected into this realm by the First Manifested described in Gnostic Cosmology. She originates from regions outside time and space; from the world of the Shamans—the unconscious. She is infinite intelligence and wisdom always providing guidance and help to those who ask. Because she is beyond space and time, she is the source of synchronistic events and exists just behind the veil. Sophia sends us messages in dreams, often found through archetypal symbols found in mythology and alchemy. In psychological terms, von Franz describes her as representing the collective unconscious as “the sum of all the original idea patterns of reality.” (von Franz, Alchemy, p.184)
In St. Thomas Aquinas’s alchemical treatise, < a href=http://www.levity.com/alchemy/auror-8.html target=”blank”>Aurora consurgens, Sophia seeks the human being who is worthy of her. She whispers in our ears in those quiet moments when we are still, to come and draw near. “Leave the ways of the Corruptor, and come near to me and I will enter into you and make you wise in the way of Truth.” (Ode to Solomon, p. 146) This represents the mystical marriage of our soul with the godhead. It represents the merging of our consciousness with our ‘diamond body’ by turning off the ‘out-flowing’ of our individual will. Once this happens we will possess a higher state of awareness and gradually melt and merge into something else—our beloved.
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“The alchemical process has shown us the importance of confronting our outer conditions. It calls us to reflect on our negative attitudes towards others and ourselves. It insists that we bring the spirit of nature back into our lives; that we spiritualize every moment of every day.”
- Aquarian Messenger
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Smlinsteadt at hotmail.com