The seventh chapter of Chemical Serpents is titled “Illumination”. To illuminate in literal terms is to supply or brighten with light, in metaphorical terms it is to enlighten. Enlightenment is something spiritual types often talk about without actually defining it very well. For one thing it is not a state that once attained is simply how you are forever, it is something to strive for and to actively maintain. Having said that, once a certain point is reached, an “awakening” had, it seems very difficult to “go back to sleep”, but it is far from impossible and all too easy to go crazy or at least become beguiled with strange notions, because you have become far more open to stimulus and must remain detached from much of it. Illumination is not an easy thing, it is not about being happy or fulfilled, it will not help you make more money or impress your friends, it will in fact strip away every comforting illusion you ever used to hide from fully confronting your reality. Enlightenment strips back all of our preconceptions, our cultural conditioning, our cherished ideas about who we are, and shows us our much less edited truth.
For an artist this is far from an unusual notion, for the difference between the trained and untrained hand and eye is that the trained can reproduce with accuracy and honed style their actual perception or intention while the untrained will produce what they think they perceive or intend, a caricature at best. When we believe our preconceptions we are living in a caricature, a highly abridged and inaccurate map of our reality. When our preconceptions are stripped back and we are more open our map may be much more accurate and faithful to our unique perspective on things. Robert Anton Wilson calls this map our “reality tunnel”.
Gloriam Totius Mundi means “glory of the world”. This is another reference to the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus. To me the glory of the world is the realisation of the self as a unique facet of a conscious whole. Our reality tunnel is the current nature of our existence, to believe it to be the only true reality is foolish, to “break free” of it is to fail to embrace what we are, but to understand that we are neither the shape of the tunnel that we are pouring through, nor the substance being poured through it, but a transient union of the two in constant interplay, is to get a taste of enlightenment.
In the image I reference the first four of Robert Anton Wilson’s Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness. If you have any interest in psychology or in reading an owner’s guide to operating the human nervous system I highly recommend his seminal “Prometheus Rising”. On either side of the legs of the main figure we see clusters of images, the remains of an egg that has been broken in two. On the right a bird merging with a lion, representing our bio-survival impulses (Mars), along with the head of a knight, representing our emotional and territorial instincts (Jupiter). On the left an orgasmic face, breast, vagina and cock, representing the social and sexual instincts (Venus), and beneath that a map of the human brain, representing the semantic and symbolising functions (Mercury). According to Wilson these first four circuits generally dominate us, robotising us with conditioned reflexes, but if we gain access to the higher circuits we gain more perspective and flexibility in our responses. The higher we go the more perspective we gain, achieving the ability to reprogramme ourselves. Wilson refers to the part of us that does this as The Metaprogrammer, the golden figure of this piece.
In the Kabbalistic Tree of Life these lower impulses can be viewed as the lower seven spheres, a seven headed beast to be mastered through balance with the highest three (the supernal triad). By rising above our preconceptions and conditioning we may become freer to embrace and experience the divine nature of existence here and now. This is the essence of the psychedelic and the mystical.