Alchemical Cycle Logo Master's Thesis:
The Elements as an Archetype of Transformation:
An Exploration of Earth, Water, Air, and Fire

| Table of Contents | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Appendix A | Appendix B | Appendix C | References | Bibliography

Chapter 7: Review and Summary Example: The Alchemy of the Image

Image and Fact: Earth

Every image contains a basic structure, its shape and color as manifested to our visual sense.  This is the first level of the image, its overt form.  Additionally, this level includes the existence of the image as a specific representative of a fact, a bit of information.  Here the image simply stands in for a definite piece of content and is more or less unambiguous.  For example, an image of a cigarette underneath a circle with a line through it represents a singular fact: no smoking.  Thus we can speak of images at this level as signs – signifiers which are visual placeholders for some specific content, and in this sense they are designed to mitigate attempts at variegated interpretation.  When an image is primarily a sign, great attention is paid to the details of the form in order to make it different enough from other signs so as to make its associated ‘fact’ unambiguously clear.  This provides for great efficiency in communication.  Because images are inherently gestalts, they present themselves to us all at once in a non-linear fashion, and our visual brains can grasp the underlying fact without having to rely on the sequential nature of written or verbal language.  This level is the foundation and beginning of all further working with images, and is the bedrock upon which a deeper understanding can be achieved. 

Earth SymbolThus alchemists, in working with images, always begin with an understanding of this most overt aspect of images as signs, and have found it useful to actually form a sign which expresses this fact.  This sign is one of many for the element Earth.  Stated another way, when working from the first level of the image, we can recognize that this sign simply codes for the ‘fact’ that the basic level of the image constitutes its facts: its form, color, structure, and signification.

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