Refractions of Ether
19" x 24"
Marker on Bristol Vellum Paper
This is the base piece of a vertical triptych based on peak spiritual experiences; this particular part is focused on matter. Ether, in this context, refers to "a very rarefied and highly elastic substance formerly believed to permeate all space, including the interstices between the particles of matter, and to be the medium whose vibrations constituted light and other electromagnetic radiation". Ether rises from nothingness on the left and burns brightly to manifest as matter; it returns to nothingness leaving smoky trails of its existence on the right side of the page. The smoke is symbolic of our thoughts and memories. The importance of our home, Earth, is also highlighted in this image. The plants are all psychotropic, representing the effect matter can have on consciousness, and the way the earth may talk to us directly.
Drawing our attention to the upper left corner of the image we find the sands of time, every moment, every second that occupies a new arrangement of matter in space. This is filtered through (left to right) the Mayan calendar, Jung's archetypal representations of the soul's journey, a modern clock, a sundial, and a moon cycle diagram, all representing different perceptions for quantifying and understanding the concept of change and movement we call time. The next level is filtration through the senses, which then pours itself onto a bed of neurons to be filtered further. This finally is released into a bright yellow light on the brain.
This whole process represents the conscious experience and the process by which we filter out all available perception to create a tiny, individual phenomenon of thought. You will notice there are key holes in this imaginary structure, which brings us to the keys.
This image follows Auldous Huxley's proposal in his short writing "The Doors of Perception". He writes of his ideal that the brain essentially functions as a filtration mechanism to allow only a minute quantity of information enter consciousness, but certain things can disrupt the filtering (in the book, it was the psychedelic substance, mescaline that did so) to allow a broader expanded perception of the universe. The keys represent two ways to unlock and stop the filtration system (though there are many more). The first key has 5HT sub 2a written on it which refers to the mechanism that substances such as mescaline and other psychedelics effect to induce their mind expanding qualities; it is a specific subtype of serotonin receptors. The second key has a broken 8-prong wheel representing enlightenment and the breaking of the cycle of life and death as is the goal in many eastern, particularly Buddhist practices. These are just two symbolic representations of ways to break normal waking consciousness.
Here in the piece we find a representation for Earth as a living being. She has the symbol of an 8 pointed star on her neck representing creation. She slumbers, curled in a seed pod that grows into a great tree. The tree, in the middle part of the triptych grows into us, is our root chakra. She dreams of life and of us, and we grow only from her.
This part of the image is another reference to our physical perception. The distortion in the two individuals represents the way our bodies are mapped on our brains proportionally. We have the greatest amount of brain region devoted to the largest parts, the smallest to the smaller parts. The idea of physical touch and intimacy is introduced here as well. We touch, but remain separate beings on this plane of existence.
Here we find ether emerging from nothingness. It behaves like the electrons that appear to blink in and out of existence at a quantum level. The energetic particle of potential emerges and burns brightly and brilliantly, illuminating and manifesting as all that we see.
On the other side we see it returning to the nothingness, leaving a ghostly trail. This represents the lingering images and thoughts that actual creation leaves in the world and in our minds. The face blowing the smoke represents nostalgia and the desire to blow the smoke back over to the side of creation as we resist change and new matter.
Here in the piece is the dichotomy of life and death. We see the beginning of multicellular living organism growing into a heart and beyond. We also see the inside of a nautilus shell representing the divine ratio that all things appear to follow in their physical make up. Then there is a skeleton, there is blood, there are predatory animals, there is pain and death and thorns. The thorn and chalice reference the death of Jesus Christ as it represents resurrection and breaking the bounds of life and death.
This part of the piece has various psychotropic plants. There is the fly agaric mushroom, morning glory flower, passion flower, poppy flower, psilocybin mushrooms, tobacco leaves, datura, peyote cacti, and the vines that compose ayahuasca. There is a belief that the earth allowed certain plants to evolve to communicate more directly with humans; this speaks to that. This also is a representation of the profound effect matter can have on the mind. The scroll in the center has alchemic symbols for the four elements with a symbol for them being in perfect harmony in the center.