Image, Mythopoesis, and Sacred Alchemy


James Hillman says, "The gift of an image is that it provides a place to watch your soul." Living a mythopoetic life is one of watching your soul and its deep, wide, open, and mysterious movements. Image is a marvelous way to do so—looking at images, creating images, reflecting on, inviting, and exploring images. . . .

I have been creating a form of art journals for almost 20 years now, a process I call the Ariadne Journals. You can get a glimpse of the work here and here. These journals are the reason I became a depth psychologist, why I write a blog about mythopoesis, and what set me on this life path never looking back. Within the confines of the journals I take risks, dream, explore dark and forbidden places, exercise wild imagination, and allow failures and mistakes without excusing or banishing them. I sit with myself as I create the pages in a way that does not happen anywhere else in my life. I enter the domain of the soul.

Entering the soul's domain requires intention and caution. Counter to what many believe, the soul is not always gentle, kind, or moral nor is its domain.

But who can withstand fear when the divine intoxication and madness comes to him? Love, soul, and God are beautiful and terrible. ~ C. G. Jung


In the soul's domain we encounter Persephone, queen of the Underworld and her consort Hades. We stand with Demeter on her rock in Enna, the ombelico of Sicily, in her unbearable grief at the loss of her daughter. We descend with Inanna into the depths, stripped of everything we hold dear.

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me against his heart: I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we still are just able to endure, and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying. ~ R. M. Rilke

And there is Beauty beyond beauty, where we find the ground of our Being and which connects us to Source—Beauty that overwhelms us such that we hide our eyes.

This work of the soul requires a strong container. The confines of the journal and the creative processes that take place within and without are the sacred container. The perimeters and parameters of the journal, the cover we open or close at will, the pages we create, these structures that we call "book" become the alchemical vessel within which transformation occurs. We gift ourselves with image, encounter soul, dive into mythopoesis, and are never the same again.

An Invitation

I invite you to join me and my co-facilitator Charlene Ray this November for a day of meandering the trails of the Whidbey Institute, diving into poetry, and creating pages for your own sacred alchemy. You can find more information for this day long workshop here and here. We look forward to being with you.