Friday, October 19, 2018

Le Portail des Papillons

Le Portail des Papillons (The Portal of Butterflies) - digital - 2018, DS.
(Click to enlarge.)

(Note: Sorry for the delay; this post is now complete.)

"Part of me likes the idea that I somehow persist after biological death; it might even be possible, albeit in ways currently antithetical to materialistic science. Empirical science (as currently practiced) may be missing something crucial; if consciousness exists after the demise of its neurological substrate, then it's likely our current definition of consciousness is simply wrong-headed. Maybe brains are more akin to receivers than computers and we're all tuned to the same channel, or at least the same spectrum."

- Mac Tonnies from this September, 2004 Posthuman Blues post.

"Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking says black holes, the mysterious massive vortexes formed from collapsed stars, do not destroy everything they consume but instead eventually fire out matter and energy 'in a mangled form.'"

The bad part about this is that, according to Hawking, black holes can't be used as portals to parallel universes; I'd hoped that some black holes might function as "emergency exits" when the universe begins to die (whether through runaway expansion or the reverse pyrotechnics of the "Big Crunch").

I still haven't quite given up; I leave the task of migrating to other universes to posthuman ingenuity."

- Mac Tonnies from this July, 2004 Posthuman Blues post. The artist's interpretation of a black hole (inset right) was found via this article.

"The problem of “translating the untranslatable” was addressed by the 16th century alchemist Gerhard Dorn, with the notion of what he called the spiracle – in Latin, the Spiraculum Eternitatis, the window or breathing hole into eternity, which Jung writes about extensively as the conjunction of opposites in Mysterium Coniunctionis. The spiracle is described as a hole or passageway in the field of consciousness that allows the “autonomous dynamism of the collective unconscious” to break through into the realm of the personal unconscious. In this joining, it can, to some degree, be worked and translated into living, material reality, whether through word, image, other expressive means, or through lived life itself.  (von Franz, 1980)...

Dorn conceived of the spiracle as a window to eternity, a mysterious center pre-existent in us, linking us to the cosmos, while opening up and bridging the different levels of body, soul and spirit. Through the spiracle one may journey across the threshold in between the above and below, and bring traces of one world into the other and back again – a kind of conception and cross-fertilization between inconsonant realms. The spiracle links and joins these different levels, rendering it possible to reconcile incommensurable opposites through finding a third – a new space or medium which is neither one nor the other, but both."

- Excerpt from an intriguing online Arras article (.pdf): The Spiracle in Alchemy and Art by Diane Fremont (2017). Inset left is the title page from Gerhard Dorn's alchemical text Chymisticum artificium.


In a matter of days the subtitle of Post-Mac Blues will change... from an "8 Year Post-Mac Time Capsule" to a 9 year one. Yes, it's been close to a decade since Mac has been gone and this memorial was initially created. That the two anniversaries should fall mid-autumn on and around the "Day of the Dead" is one of life's little ironies.

This post was slated to appear October 18th, the anniversary of the actual day of Mac's passing... but, as things generally go, neither my muse (nor my more practical self) were quite prepared. In effect, I drew a blank. What could I possibly have to say after nine years that hasn't been said many times in the past? The only plan which came to me was to draw attention to the fact that the number 9 is, theoretically and esoterically, the number of completion...  a rite of passage and the end of a cycle. But, during the course of blogging, I probably mentioned that before, too.

As it happened, it was a dream - specifically the end of a dream - which inadvertently set my little grey cells in motion. The dream featured butterflies (like the Tiger Swallowtail inset left)... and that's about all I'm willing to divulge, but, I had reason to believe that it was, in part, a message from Mac. Okay, not a lengthy report... just a little news flash, as in "Hi again, I'm okay; just passing through..."

But, no, it doesn't really matter if anyone - including myself - believes the dream truly held a message... nor if all those presently reading these paragraphs assume I'm deluded. I often am. The bottom line is that, when I awoke, I felt quite refreshed and almost happy. As this is a rare occurrence, I must conclude that something extraordinary happened.

For those of you who have no knowledge of this sort of thing, that is: the sudden, unwarranted appearance of butterflies (or dragonflies, cicadas, hummingbirds and the like) before, at the time, or just after a loved one's death, the fact is, it's actually a commonplace occurrence in the realm of mediumistic phenomena. Formally referred to as "After Death Communications" (ADCs), it seems many bereaved people are visited by these same, small creatures (mentioned above) in odd ways... encounters which produce an unusually strong emotional response. Most often, the events reported occur in the waking state. But, regarding dreams, well, if there is any ideal "medium" for mediumistic phenomena, the lucid dream would have to be a major contender. And, why is this? Dreams, meta-communications - and even artistic endeavors - rely (heavily) upon symbols, archetypes, interpretations and enigmatic synchronistic events. Like cryptic notes from a shadowy underground, they are all ambiguous. But, then again, when dealing with loss, sometimes they're all we have...

Chrysalis of Tithorea tarricina.
Le Portail des Papillons emerged from my dream experience. Regarding the French title... well, personally, I've always found writers who drop the occasional foreign word into their discussions somewhat irritating... and contrived... but, in my defense, I truly do find "papillon" a stronger, more resilient-sounding word; more descriptive of the creature we've burdened with the insipid name of "butterfly." The actual creature is hardly a wimp; it is a survivor. And, more than most creatures it deserves a title that few realize. That is, It is an alchemist... the real deal... An authentic Master, which has the ability to both naturally and completely transform itself from a base, land-locked larval form - a "tube for food" - into a magnificent creature of flight. It will literally dissolve most of its physical features into a kind of alchemical soup in a crucible we term the chrysalis, cocoon or pupa (inset left), before transforming into its final "golden" form. And this information is not written in a grimoire. Nor is it located in the creature's "brain." According to the biologists who study them, the way the inner mechanism of the papillon is informed is by a series of "imaginal discs" distributed throughout its larval body which survive disintegration, eventually developing into completely new body parts. Interestingly, although the caterpillar seems to lack an actual brain, they seem to pass on some form of memory: "One study even suggests that moths remember what they learned in later stages of their lives as caterpillars." (Via this Scientific American article.) Perhaps, one of those imaginal discs - the one which develops into a brain - is already functioning, or their memories rely upon something other than a central nervous system.

Artist's interpretation of a Black Hole found here.

As for portals, well, we humans seem to have fallen in love with mysterious openings into other realms and hidden doorways that traverse dimensions. Whether via Black Holes, White Holes, Worm Holes - or, yes, even Rabbit Holes (!) - we want to bypass space and time and "break on through to the other side." If all else fails, we introduce Stargates (inset right) produced by ancient alien technologies. Basically, I think some of us just really need to envision a way out... and we intuit that other varieties of reality must exist. That being said, the Papillon Portal might indicate a way back in... an interface between the physical and the metaphysical, the liminal and subliminal, and a threshold for an evolving entity to re-emerge into a higher frequency or form than it previously experienced. In other words, a rebirth, a reincarnation, resurrection; which is, after all, what the papillon (& its metamorphosis) has always symbolized across the globe: the survival of the soul, or the soul itself.*

Strangely enough, however, the papillon never seemed to be an important alchemical symbol, although its life-cycle is so metaphorical for the various stages of the Great Work. In fact, not long after I reflected about the papillon being a Master Alchemist (above) I found an article online describing Gerhard Dorn's (the alchemist mentioned in a quote introducing this post) description of the alchemical process... and it was somewhat similar to my own description of a papillon's metamorphosis: "To attain the quintessence of matter, it is necessary to putrefy the body, decomposing all matter to a uniform blackness, purify it, then attempt to coagulate or condense the resulting spirit into a gold body."

Then again, the "spiracle" (or portal) Dorn proposed (from the same quote) was taken from the biological word "spiracle," which is a tiny respiratory hole featured by some organisms. And, one of those organisms just happens to be the papillon in three of its four stages (after the egg phase).

By the way, the chosen species for the dream, the portal graphic, and this post is a species of the Swallowtail (Papilionidae) (!) family known as the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Above is a photo of the female of the species, a large, beautiful papillon I used to often see back east, but which is not uncommon in New Mexico. I should point out, however, that the female Tiger has a darker twin (inset left), resembling a wholly different member of the family, the Black Swallowtail.

Which brings us to a little synchronicity I'd like to report. It happened on the day I uploaded the second (revised) version of Le Portail des Papillons to this post. I had just turned off the computer and wandered outdoors for a break when I saw this tiny green thing crawling towards me as I walked down the sidewalk towards my car. It looked like a caterpillar, and when I stooped down to inspect it (and remove it from harm's way)** I noticed it wasn't just any caterpillar; it was the larval stage of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, unmistakable because of its huge (false) head with 2 eyespots (below).

Photo found here.

Go figure.


* Papillons, ghosts, Halloween & the Day of the Dead go hand-in-hand in more ways than one. Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead precisely when multitudes of migrating Monarchs arrive in late fall; they believe the lovely creatures are the spirits of their dead ancestors. See here.

Also (found here):
"What is known, is that in Irish folklore, it was believed that butterflies could readily pass through the veil between this world and the magical realm. In the 1600’s, it was considered very bad luck indeed to kill a white butterfly, for it was thought to be the bearer of the soul of a dead child."

** It was a fairly large caterpillar and my guess was that it was about to enter its last phase (instar). Having raised papillon in the past (see here) I've noticed the caterpillars seem to get very agitated when they're about to moult for the last time and pupate (wouldn't you?). They tend to lose their footing when scouting around for the ideal spot to complete their Great Work; which is what I suspect happened to the creature I found. There were some small trees nearby - which it, most likely, fell out of - so I put it back on the trunk of one and it immediately crawled up into the tree's branches.

Here's a short video of a Swallowtail emerging... and 2 longer time-lapse videos of the full metamorphosis of Monarchs found here and here.


Incidentally, on the topic of portals, has NASA found one?

"Observations by NASA's THEMIS spacecraft and Europe's Cluster probes suggest that these magnetic portals open and close dozens of times each day. They're typically located a few tens of thousands of kilometers from Earth where the geomagnetic field meets the onrushing solar wind. Most portals are small and short-lived; others are yawning, vast, and sustained. Tons of energetic particles can flow through the openings, heating Earth's upper atmosphere, sparking geomagnetic storms, and igniting bright polar auroras."

Here's the full NASA report... and an article about another scientifically-possible portal.

Yet, another portal... and another legend.


  1. Fascinating. Touching. Amazing. Such a wealth of connection, synchronicity and depth. One comes away feeling as if a Universal Truth has been divulged. Bravo.

  2. You're too kind, BG, but, as always, thanks for your support!

    As it was, your comment brought home an idea - hidden in Dorn's definition of Spiraculum Eternitatis - which previously eluded me. Re: "Dorn conceived of the spiracle as a window to eternity, a mysterious center pre-existent in us, linking us to the cosmos, while opening up and bridging the different levels of body, soul and spirit."

    In other words, what he was actually implying is that human consciousness itself is a portal... meaning, the human entity is, in some measure, the location of a portal... and, ultimately, WE ARE ALL PORTALS!

    What an extraordinarily profound idea; the man was a genius.

    Perhaps the lesson of the papillon is something similar... in that, metaphysically (and, perhaps, even physically), our bodies are crucibles. But, I'm not Dorn, and I'll leave it up to you (and other individuals) to work that one out. ;-)

    1. I entertain the concept that the human consciousness is, at the base, a portal or terminal connected to the Quantum Well of the Universe. And yes, that would make every one of us a portal. Were we able to somehow upload our particular 'soul wiring/consciousness' to the Well, I suspect one could exist in some state for as long as the universe does.

      But I am not Dorn, as you say. Fascinating. Crucibles indeed.

    2. Hmmm... Quantum Well of the Universe... sounds very 21st Century William Blake... and that's high praise! :-)