Journey out of Darkness: Autism, Art, and Self-Discovery

Journey out of Darkness: Autism, Art, and Self-Discovery


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Roy Purcell swims through the tumultuous ocean of his unconscious, moving back and forth between it and his conscious mind. Concepts emerge from unexplained depths as images, which have become the basis for many of his paintings in his intriguing body of work. Raised in a loving Mormon family in rural Utah, Mr. Purcell, nevertheless, suffered because of his Aspergers dysfunctional personality. Unable to make social connections, Mr. Purcell retreats to nature and develops the sensitivity that will later open his unconscious. Journey out of Darkness is Mr. Purcells story of how he transcended his patriarchal heritage and Aspergers damaging personality to find peace as an accomplished artist. Critical to his growth and peace is his third wife and soul mate, Beverly, and the desert where they live in Green Valley, Arizona. Furthermore, the autobiography is the universal archetypal quest with Mr. Purcell as the hero who overcomes obstacles and slays the dragons of his troubled personality.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781546205821
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 12/11/2017
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

Roy Purcell is an accomplished artist, author, and poet with a profound body of work that testifies to his passion for the world and search for Self. He has published five books, and his commissioned work is found in numerous homes and corporations. His unconscious has been pervasive. Nurtured by the outdoors in central Utah, it grew until his life reflected his true nature. Cursed and blessed with Aspergers Syndrome, he thrived on Army structure and listened to his unconscious as it guided him through the Army, the creation of three regional history museums and, exploration of Mormonism, religious disciplines, Jungian psychology, mythology, and world history on his quest for spiritual and personal identity and growth. He lives with his third wife, Beverly in Green Valley, Arizona. He is the father of eight children and has 22 grandchildren. Those interested in personal and artistic growth, the unconscious and psychology, as well as fascinating archetypal journey will enjoy Journey out of Darkness.

Patricia Miller is an authority on the English language. Early in her career she and her husband moved overseas, she to teach second language acquisition and he to serve in the Foreign Service. She has lived in five countries and spoken five languages: Portuguese, Sinhala, Korean, French and Spanish. Furthermore, she has been a teacher, editor, author, language program director, and teacher trainer. Credentials include, a B.A. in English; an M.S in Education, and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Linguistics. Organizational membership includes the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and the National Teachers to Speakers of Other Languages. She and her husband of 54 years reside in the middle of the beautiful desert in Green Valley, Arizona.

Read an Excerpt


Somewhere this side of the beginning


I am weaving around the eroded sandstone remnants of ancient seas in my old '52 Ford on a dirt road, exploring the recesses of the Navajo reservation in Monument Valley sometime during the early 1960s. It's summer, hot, and the changing landscape is impressive. I'm looking for watercolor subjects because I am an artist who paints the desert. The road snakes around between two large sandstone outcrops and dead ends in a cul-de-sac with a Hogan, the typical dwelling of the Navajo, built of earthen walls supported by timber posts; and several old junipers — desert bonsai; and an old single-seated spring wagon parked nearby, its wooden-spoked iron wheels sunk a few inches into the soft sand. Under one of the large juniper trees, an outdoor loom is set up, and in front of it; a Navajo woman is weaving, her shuttle flying back and forth, back and forth, colored threads of homespun yarns emerging, disappearing, emerging again, weaving upon the weft: a life, a story, a design etched deep in her memory.

The weaving is a metaphor. And so I write, the threads of my life moving back and forth in the narrative, appearing, disappearing, only to emerge farther along in the ongoing story. It is not a chronological autobiography, following from birth to old age, but more a stream of consciousness narrative following three themes. First, it is a journey from a childhood locked in an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), more specifically, Asperger's Syndrome (AS). This was my prison of darkness and depression which would eventually release me to freedom because of the tools of painting, writing, and self-training. Second, is the story of my development as an accomplished artist. And third, is a journey from a patriarchal cultural inheritance to the revelation and development of the feminine, creative side of my personality, bringing about a balance in the psyche and thus psychological well-being: a revelation of spirit. That balance is brought about by the awareness and personal development of those traits of personality or genetic makeup inherited from our parental gene structure, traits we define as masculine or feminine. We are a combination of the two — no one is all man or woman. For example, the strongest warrior can be sensitive and loving, tender with deep feelings and insight, intuitive and creative, walking a spiritual path. That is a powerful and beautiful combination. And the most loving, tender-hearted woman can be a warrior, protecting her children, or a dynamic leader in the work force or government, assertively building a better world. The discovery of those varied characteristics and their development in the personality is the hero's journey, whether the hero is masculine or feminine. Specifically, the hero's journey is my journey; it is my journey from the boundary of male-dominated culture (patriarchy) to the freedom of balance and harmony.

In making the hero's journey I am a Livingston seeking the source of my own Nile, seeking an understanding of myself and the forces that have formed me. I descend into the unmapped continent of my being "where there be demons." I plunge into the maze to kill the Minotaur of my fears, and I seek the Holy Grail of my dreams, the Shangri la, the City of Gold, my own Brigadoon. I leave my comfortable world and make my journey into the unknown. And you, dear reader, travel with me as we go together on this quest.

My life has been two steps forward and one step back. I have had no program other than being an artist, and with that encompassing vista before me, I moved from one thing to another according to the promptings of what I came to call the Old Man, my inner voice and guide, later believed to come from my unconscious. It has been the weaving of a tapestry by a blind man whose vision clears occasionally enough to get a glimpse of the developing patterns. So if the threads of the story seem unconnected, it is because of my desire to outline the pattern in my life, like a thread makes its way into the weaving and is dropped; and another thread takes up where the previous one left off and continues the developments of the unfolding pattern.

So, who am I? This frightened and troubled little boy who so wanted to become an artist? Nature was my first teacher, and she drew me to her bosom where she harbored my obsessive focus and sharpened my powers of observation until some of the sharp edges of my Asperger's Syndrome softened. The Army taught me to be the warrior, strong, competitive and directed with a protective cover beneath which I evolved and built a mask of artistic ego that protected me and gave me hope to rise above mediocrity. Yet, beneath my mask was my mother's sensitivity and a deep spirituality which guided my decisions. Over time, I moved beyond judgment and expectations, like my mother, and my life became simple without illusions. I studied religions and the history of God and found them wanting. No, I do not believe in any god, and I don't think I ever did. No, I believe there is only God. Nothing exists that is not God, and the animating spirit that permeates existence is love seeking itself. I am an imperfect expression of that.

My homestead is now in the desert hills of Green Valley, Arizona, where I live with my third wife and soul mate, Beverly. I believe this is where I'll finally drop my body, bid it goodbye with gratitude for providing me with a first-rate journey in the sun and will it to the coyotes I hear at night as a last supper.

It has been a long journey too long for an Old Man Let us rest here by these waters ... Out of fire we have come to quench our thirst we will partake

And I am comforted by the proclamation of the Old Man on the journey:


The quotations used in this manuscript are from The Journey, my first portfolio — poetry written, or more precisely dictated by the Old Man, which came unbidden into my conscious mind in the mid-1960s, over several summers while I was on break from my studies at Utah State University. I was in the desert I loved, poking about the old mining camps of Northwest Arizona, painting with watercolors. The Journey is a collection of my hand-lettered poetry accompanied by etchings and pen and ink drawings, bound in leather, and it illustrates my experience and personal development.

I would later name this ticker-tape of information across the back of my mind, the Old Man to reflect his sagacity in guiding my life.

The Journey

In writing down the bones of my life from birth to old age — the psychological structure as it were — I am made to wonder what the relationship is between the early inner darkness in which I lived and the artistic light which finally illuminated those frightening depths. It's as if an Ariadne thread took me on an artistic journey through explosions of creativity — a magnificent journey — from impending death to illumination. Leaving the mother's dark womb was the breeding ground for my fears.

I was inside a world of darkness, which was probably a combination of depression and Asperger's Syndrome, with social difficulties at its core from which I tried unsuccessfully to reach out; but I was left with no more than hopelessness and only an occasional glimpse of the outside world. There was no release. Yet, the creative impulse would cast a revealing beam into that dark world. I shall punctuate this story with quotes from early writings which bubbled out of that darkness and sent me howling and lonely on an eternal pilgrimage.

There is no release from the visions of the damned There is no release from the kingdom of the damned.

It is the record of a journey from the confines of the mother's womb which enveloped me in warm security into the cold and brutal world, a lone and dreary world, I thought, a frightening and terrifying world. I remember being initiated as a young man in the Mormon temple in Manti, Utah where I was taken through a series of dramatic presentations in various rooms from a pre-existent "World of Heaven Room" into the "Lone and Dreary World Room," and on into the "Celestial Room." The walls of the "World Room" were covered with murals depicting a vast desert wilderness which both frightened and fascinated me. The mountains cradling our little town of Fillmore, Utah were just like those of the Celestial Room and provided food and security. In church we sang songs honoring the mountains of Zion, yet somehow the word of God emerged from the brooding desert to the west beyond that agricultural belt that kept the desert at bay. Nature and specifically the desert were to play a major role in my life.

This earth was alien at first; I felt like I'd been dropped off on the wrong planet on a flyby. But it took hold of my imagination — especially the desert. It pulled me into itself — to old dead trees, holes with no bottom, and creatures that crawled all over me if I held still. "Was I from another lifetime still imbedded in a remembered DNA of historical dimensions?" "Had I lived before?" I posed these questions to myself because I was different — from my brother, my parents, and my classmates. "Had I experienced a life or lives off in some desert waste around the globe or even on an alien planet?" The desert called to me; it was a focusing and familiar landscape for my compulsiveness, forcing me inside myself to begin a journey of self-discovery and liberation. Although I loved the mountains' security, roaming among the trees or following the life-giving gurgle of the cascading streams, ultimately it was the barren, harsh landscape of the desert that drew my introspection.

I lived first in a bubble nurtured in a womb of love by my divine mother; then, I was shocked into awareness! Birth was traumatic.

The mother's darkness did not frighten me but warm security clustered my experience into a Gordian knot that strangled recollection when times pulse pumped me down the chambers of my mother to cry myself into the light of day through the frightening world of flesh

A Traumatic Birth and Rejection

Years later as I embarked on the journey of unraveling who I was, I realized I have always had a driving need for love and acceptance. Under hypnosis I traced my life back, looking for the experiences and influences that had instigated that overwhelming need.

"Did anything happen when you were six?" the therapist asked, counting down toward my birth. No reaction.

"Age five?" Nothing.

"Four? Three? Two? One?" No reaction.

Finally, she reached the time of birth. I broke down and bawled.

It didn't make sense. According to the story my mother told me, I was the first red-headed baby born in the L.A. County Hospital. The nurses played with me, curled my red hair and paid a lot of attention to me during the mandatory ten days of my mother's stay there. Later, while talking to my younger brother, Ross, about the experience, he responded:

"What? That's not what she told me!"

"What did she tell you?"

"When you were ready to come out, your feet came first and the doctor had to work you around in the womb to bring your head down first."

"He used forceps to get your head to come out, and when you finally emerged, your head was misshapen and your lower jaw was off to the side. Your body was wrinkly and chalky. When they tried to hand you to Mom, she looked at you, screamed and wouldn't take you. The nurses took care of you for a few days until your head returned to normal and your body was pink and smooth. At that time Mom accepted and loved you."

Well, that obviously set the tone for my life! And perhaps my Asperger's too, since Asperger researcher Tony Attwood states that research shows a high incidence of Asperger individuals have had birth complications. My mother certainly made up for her rejection of me later, but the reaction had imprinted my psyche. However, her world of love created a secure and warm womb of our home, a loving world, but after the traumatic birth experience.

Over time that world extended outward into the natural world around me, where I was not required to confront or communicate with others. The heartbeat of the home kept me alive. My mother's love was my umbilicus. Yes, perhaps I was accidentally dropped off on this planet on a flyby. An accident, not where I belonged. Nonetheless, there was no going back. I came into this world screaming and kicking, seeking only a return to the womb. In there was peace, solitude and warmth, and the eternal heartbeat connection to the mother. We were one, our hearts beating in pure synchronization and that heartbeat was my lifeline.

My mother finally took me from the nurse's grasp and nestled me into her warm bosom, held me snugly against her breast where I sought the nourishing milk — but the breast was withheld, was not to be, and a crude rubber replica was crammed into my mouth.

I must have looked like a baby Viking when I first emerged, having fought my way so violently into this life. But my mother made it up to me. In her simplicity, love was, ultimately, her greatest gift, no longer withheld out of shock and surprise. I was also supposed to be a little girl! But the little girl was hidden in the Viking's body. That part of me was lost; but then, not entirely, as my journey will tell.

Not that I was gay. I had the opportunity of checking that out later in life and dismissed that possibility when puberty thrust me hungrily seeking the company of girls — who scared me. No, I was a boy, no doubt about that, and the feminine part of me, the genetic inheritance of my mother, was buried deep in the dark, dark layers of the unconscious — the creative sensitive layers. That search for origins was the journey I was destined to make — plunging into dark depths, facing my fears to find, nourish, and release the hidden feminine aspects of my psyche. A boy born into a patriarchal, priesthood ruled world, making a journey to discover the hidden and imprisoned girl, languishing there in the darkness. A creative spirit seeking rebirth. Of course, I made this journey accompanied and guided by the Old Man; furthermore, this overwhelming desire to trace and discover was, as well, powered by Asperger's.

Come who I am and take my hand the blind is ready to be led The mind the conscious fed I am yet asleep.

Birth Time

3:45 a.m. My feet are cramping and the Old Man says it's time to get up. He's bossy, the Old Man. Fifteen minutes early this morning! Get up and write! An old refrain. Been waking up at 4:00 a.m. for my whole life.

I get up and stumble to the bathroom, empty my bladder — still works, thank you! — splash some cold water on my face, down a couple of pills with some swallows of Starbucks iced coffee (don't like regular coffee) and sit down to write.

The Old Man has been my taskmaster for nearly my whole life, telling me what to do and reversing my directions — long before he dictated The Journey, 1966 — long before I got to know him personally. He trained me early to step outside myself and be the observer — to watch myself while riding on my own shoulder, and that was the beginning of my salvation, observing my own darkness, and opening the door into the world of illumination. Yes, the Old Man introduced me, through poetic expression, to my Self and did, perhaps, influence my internal Asperger's drive to be an artist. No doubt "he" understood that through the disciplines of creative self-expression, art and poetry, I would open the doors into the unconscious and bring illumination, including understanding my dark, overwhelming and depressive depths.

When did that all-encompassing prison of darkness originate? The original darkness within the enfolding womb of my mother was not frightening, but a warm security as my own heart pulsed in sync with hers, a powerful rhythm in that liquid warmth. Birth itself was violent and painful, ripping me from that comfortable connection into a world of hurt and rejection.

Perhaps it was that painful act in the immediate darkness before emergence that set the tide. That personal apocalyptic event occurred in the early morning hours around four. Is that why I awake at that time still? My wife calls it an ungodly hour, but it is a good, quiet creative time for me. So why shouldn't I wake up traumatized at four a.m.? Thank God, I got beyond that! The early morning is peaceful now. That quiet hour is a blessed time for my creativity.


Excerpted from "Journey Out of Darkness"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Roy Purcell; Patricia Lynne Miller, PhD..
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements, xvii,
Preface, xix,
Introduction, xxv,
Fragment One Somewhere this side of the beginning,
Fragment Two Further Along Sanctuary: A Path Unfolds,
Fragment Three Exposure Into the "Lone and Dreary World",
Fragment Four Beginning to See Myself,
Fragment Five The Unconscious Explodes:,
Fragment Six Chloride Years,
Fragment Seven Challenges for my Developing Ego,
Fragment Eight Scattered Fragments,
Fragment Nine Something Hidden this Way Comes,
Fragment Ten Feminine Voices,
Fragment Eleven Into the Light,
Fragment Twelve The Magnetic Bond,
Fragment Thirteen Together We Come Tracing Memories to the Sun,
Fragment Fourteen The Final Fragment,
Appendix A: The Las Vegas Historical Series, 303,
Appendix B: Poetical Response to Life of Christ Reenactments, 307,
Appendix C: L'Chaim L'Or — The Long Journey Home, 308,
Appendix D: Native American Leaders Etchings, 311,
Appendix E: Creativity and the Unconscious, 317,
Appendix F: The History of the Serpent, 319,
Appendix G: What is the Journey?, 325,
Artist Bibliography: Works Cited in Book, 329,

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