The Magic Cauldron

Here is the magic cauldron, for us dive into the unknown, to drink and not drown.

There are mythologies that are scattered, broken up, all around us. We stand on what I call the terminal moraine of shattered mythic systems that once structured society. They can be detected all around us. You can select any of these fragments that activate your imagination for your own use. Let it help shape your own relationship to the unconscious system out of which these symbols have come.

— Joseph CampbellThou Art That (p. 86)

Visionary Art Education

  1. Material craft (materials, support, grounds, paint, mediums etc)
  2. The means of expression – technique (draftsman-ship, composition, painting methods)
  3. The symbolism, or psyche, of the artist (creativity, inspiration, attunement, meaning)

Typically, when we participate in an arts course we are provided with the means of technique and some examination of material craft. Since it’s a big old world, there are many courses and classes available to attend regarding how to draw, how to make your markings resemble an external reality, and so on. If we made this examination of technique and materials solely the subject of our study, then our work would be a simple training.

The journey we are embarking upon is going to be a study of the first 2 aspects, but will also weigh heavily upon the 3rd aspect of psyche, which is really one of self-enquiry, and yet also strikes to the core of what participating in ‘visionary art’ involves.

Each person has a unique and individual constellation to their psyche. Humans are incredibly neuro-diverse. Our cultural, class, racial and gender groupings involve many points of shared experience and affinity with others, but the idiosyncrasies of a personal psychology also involve very particular experiences of family patterns, upbringing, and a moment in time and geography that will be unique to us.

It is tuning into ourselves, our uniqueness, that paradoxically we come into deeper contact with what we share. A deeper personal knowledge brings us closer to the transpersonal (including, yet transcending, the personal) or what Jung called the collective unconscious, which contains within it not only our cultural archetypes (or ‘symbols’), but also a kind of living spirit of our ‘species house’ which represents in some sort of form our evolutionary and ancestral history.

There have been attempts throughout the history of metaphysics and philosophy to put word to these larger forces of humanity which we are embedded within. We will introduce our study by bringing in these key foundational concepts so more of our study will make sense across the unfolding of the education.


From French égrégore (“spirit of a group”), from the Ancient Greek substantive of ἐγρήγορος (egrḗgoros, “wakeful”) meaning watcher.

The term Egregore refers to the experience of a person in a time and place, experiencing the very specific psychic environment of this place.

Culture, far from being ‘constructed’, is evolved. It lives and breathes. It may be healthy and pulsing, providing strength, or it may be wounded or deranged, a cause of depression and addiction.

Esotericists and occultists have referred to it as thus: “An egregore is sustained by belief, ritual and sacrifice, and relies upon the devotion of a group of people, from a small coven to an entire nation, for its existence.”

‘Land Egregore’ takes this into a more specific ‘bioregional’ level. It could be experienced in the sensibilities of a people in a certain place – in the manner of their comportment, the way they dress, their music and literature – and is reflective of their environment and influenced by the plants, animals, minerals, geographic features, historical layers, weather and particular lore of the area.

The New Zealand Māori art is full of ferns and waves – we could say this is an aesthetic reflection of the egregore of New Zealand and how much of it, as an island nation, is similarly reflected in the ferns, waves, cosmological spirals and flows of Celtic art, which exists in the exact global antipode of Māori culture.

If an artist is aware of the Egregore, there is an ability to speak to that common sentiment of place, drawing energy from the ancestral forms. Art that speaks to Egregore may also affect types of healing within the Egregore by speaking to the shared experience of a people.


If egregore primarily represents place, then the Zeitgeist represents a dimension of time. The two are not separate, but are distinguishable.

Zeitgeist is a concept from eighteenth-to nineteenth-century German philosophy, meaning “spirit of the age”, a force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch in world history.

‘Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still’ by John Martin

We could say the Zeitgeist is a natural progression of the state and forms of a culture and time. It is the march of the unfolding of forms. This is not to say it is always a smooth, predictable and organic progression, because time and culture is complex and fractal, the flow of temporality may reach certain situations of pressure or disturbance which catalyse the expression of the Zeitgeist – through catastrophe, apocalypse and inspiration – into radically different forms. This can be experienced as future shock as a generation may be witness to the changing of the guard more than once.

‘Cultural moments’ representing particular tensions between tribal groups, whether racial, religious, gendered or political, may mean an individual may live in a society possessed by certain ideas. For instance, the first quarter of the 21st century has been occupied by an unfolding discourse of identity, equality and inclusion or diversity.

Globalisation, structural racial inequalities, non-heteronormative gender rights, feminism, borders, and the tension between conservative and progressive politics is now represented across the arts, music, literature and general cultural environ. In future times, generations will consider the zeitgeist of the 2020s strongly possessed by particular issues, just as we may look back at the 1960’s or 1980’s America, and may see the shape of the zeitgeist, even though it may have been hard to understand at the time what one was going through.

If an artist is aware of the zeitgeist, they are aware of the forces occupying the culture at a given time and have then the ability to speak to that cultural moment, consciously inputting into the dialectic unfolding in the culture.


Mythos is an organic living fabric of symbols and myths which is interwoven throughout human culture. In olden times, the mythos spread throughout the world’s people who were only separated by deserts, ice, vast jungle, sea and mountains, but between human beings, lived as a connective network – distinct by egregore and the formative experiences of different people, yet connected.

‘Course of Empire – Destruction’ by Thomas Cole

Mythos contains the traditional essence of accrued generations of human beings, their life experiences, the crises and good times experienced. Although discreet expressions of mythos, aka legends and stories, may have been inspired, then transmitted to a culture through sages, shamans, magi, priestesses and priests, oracles, bards, itinerant wanderers, pilgrims, and so on, they have been transformed through organic oral transmission. The concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ is tone deaf to the fact that traditions live between peoples in subtle and interconnected ways, and it was always a sacred duty of storytellers and shamanistic folk to interface between cultures via transmission and exchange of mythos.

Song and mantra often served to preserve legends through time before written language was transcribed to stone, as in ancient Sumer and Egypt. But oral traditions are fragile to earth changes, famine, war and plague.

A storyteller once told me that stories are not only told to the human audience. There are levels of meaning that resound to both egregore and zeitgeist, or are spoken to the forces of living nature and ‘spirits’ around the human listener. This is an example of how mythos in art may resound the egregore and zeitgeist, and is not intended simply for the surface consciousness of a human audience.


Ethnos is our direct experience of life – that we live within extended kinship networks that are, for most people, connected by bloodlines, genes, heritage and family.

DNA has been described as a ‘self replicator’ and it is the ‘silken thread’ of continuity along which human lives are braided. It is the way of human cultures to grow or shrink over long periods of time, for boundaries to change and to permeate traditions, knowledge and genes between national and racial borders. Nonetheless, an identity formed by living in a country that contains a dominant ethnicity means for most people a shared experience. Rather than appealing to the concept of ‘country’ here, we are talking more of an ‘ancestral’ experience of genetic continuity through time. Not everyone has this experience due to migration, war, colonisation, urbanisation, industrialisation, revolution, or other disruptive events.

Nonetheless, the concept that memory or tendency may be carried in the blood and in the shared familial patterns carried through time – and reflected in art – is an intriguing one.

Considerations for Our Time

The pace of cultural and civilisational transformation on this planet has been accelerating.

Radical anthropology, genetic and linguistic research is beginning to uncover a far more dynamic prehistory before Anno Domini than otherwise assumed – with much more travel, cultural experimentation and forms of advanced society than hitherto imagined. That said, it is still the case that the past 300 years has ushered in a rate of change perhaps unheralded, and perhaps for the first time ever, humanity has a vision of itself occupying a single globe in space, orbiting a sun, only one of countless trillions of stars in an unspeakably weird and vast immensity of the universe.

We are also more keenly aware of the vast stretches of non-human time that existed before our coming – that is, if one is converted to Darwinism – one must then reckon on the strange vision of life arising from chemical oceans and moving slowly through innumerable trial and error forms to adapt itself to an environment where ever more complex organisms could proliferate, and eventually express itself in humanity, and yet assumedly not ceasing here at this stage, but to continue onwards.

Humans are also in this time occupied with the vision of technological apotheosis or transfiguration, by their own hands into new forms, digitally and cybernetically augmented. Whilst a great deal of humanity wishes to have nothing to do with this, it still remains a chosen tangent for many. Even if we choose not to remake ourselves in the transhumanist vision, it’s still the case that digitalisation has radically altered all our lives the past few decades, and our adaptive capacity to this new world is being tested. It is an unprecedented experiment. It also has the intriguing effect of not allowing the cultural past to really die, since music and movies are immortalised in digital time-capsules. Music, movie and fashion on many levels remains fairly unchanged in character the past 30 years for this reason.

This means the considerations of Egregore, Zeitgeist, Mythos and Ethnos may appear unusual, archaic, antiquated and traditional. It is for exactly these reasons that I am sharing them. They are unfamiliar considerations in an increasingly post-historical, post-national, post-religious and post-natural civilisation, and hence these open concepts have acquired a novel and indeed radical tint.

They are offered for your musing, as potential portals of energy in your artistic craft. In effect they represent fields of conscious energy that art has spoken to and reflected down the ages. In the case of many giants in the world of art, this dialogue between the personal and the transpersonal has been a conscious and deliberate undertaking of casting spells, blessing, healings, corrections and prayers from the high mountains.

– Daniel Mirante, Byron Bay, Australia July 2021