Category Archives: Symbolism

Ars Geometrica…

 

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‘The alchemists disagreed on just about every aspect of the Great Work, except one: that it is impossible to succeed without the secret.’
– Patrick Harpur.

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I am reminded of ‘The Riddle of the Elements.’
The Ancient Greek Philosophers would each in turn trumpet the virtues of a particular Element claiming that it alone was primary and the source of the others, all the time, knowing full well that the solution to the riddle lay in sourcing the Four from a Fifth Element of an entirely different and more spiritual realm known as the Quintessence.
The Alchemists appear to be engaged in a similar process, describing the First Matter in terms of three ‘Spirituous Essences’, though the solution this time may be of a different order –
One in Three rather than Four from One.
They also seem to be describing the various products of a process at each stage of its operation simultaneously, thus for e.g. they might have described the process of evaporating sea-water as… Water… and… Salt… as well as its catalyst…Heat or… Fire…
Why would they do this?
To widen the scope of a mind mired in linear time?
Possibly, certainly, when one realises that the Fruit is in the Seed and not vice versa, or that the Body is in the Mind… a perspective is instilled, which opens up wide vistas to the Imagination.
Indeed, this technique only seems strange to a mind which habitually regards its own reality as an actuality.

As magicians for e.g. we might ask, in Tarot,
How is the ‘High Priestess’ ‘The Empress’?
Or, how is ‘The Fool’ ‘The Magus’?
Or indeed, in the case of ‘The Fool’, how does this key equate with any of the other major keys?
But here the equivalencies seem at the very least, much easier to accept, if not actually natural, simply because we work with these energies in an ‘Imaginal Realm’.

What the Alchemists are really doing is describing the lower in terms of the higher and in some cases what we are reading is, as it were, a Fourth Dimensional description of a Three Dimensional event.

The event itself appears to be an internal unification or better; a re-unification of polarised energies or ‘opposites’, or even, as the Alchemists would have it, a marriage, or wedding but what is the product of that wedding?

THE STONE OF MERCURIOUS

Moon’s Flux
Sun’s Seed
Earth’s Crux
Fire in the Sea
Blood from a Tree…

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Sun, Moon and Stars…

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… “Before Ogma, I swear.
Before Sun and Moon and Stars,
before Sky, Land and Sea, I swear.
Before the Sidhe-Folk, I swear…

Defenders of the land,
victory and defeat are created in each of you.

What I ask of you in dealing with this foe
is not the work of cowards.

Our hosting in this conflict
will defeat those who have destroyed
the prosperity of the land.

Circling leftward I curse them!

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Rod of Aspen
End Measure
Sod of End
Fuagh!

May the foe-men be hindered.
May fear be heard among them.
The End-Time has taken form.

Ravens will come upon our foe with doom,
and be their shared torment.

Their end goes before us to the foe;
they are mournful and doomed.

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O, my Warrior Band;
my most warlike host,
in the burning fields of battle,
High-Folk will sustain your form in the clouds of the sky.

O you, my Glorious Ones,
a nine-fold brightness is upon us,
through the powerful skill of our men-of-art,
the battle fire will not falter until victory is won.

My Troops, greatest of sea-like hosts,
here in the beauty of the land,
a frenzy of battle invites you to embrace fate.

With mighty waves of golden, powerful, burning fires,
and battle lust may you seek out your foe upon the field,
embracing fate in a frenzy of battle.”

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Perspectives on Perception…

1 ‘The Seed at Zero.’

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The Circle is Time

Six of the Nine
Process through time

Three of the Nine
Are outside time:

Divine.

Yet still impact
And impinge in time
By impelling this processional motion.

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3‘ Six of the Nine’.

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The Six of the Nine can be represented by the six faces of a cube:
Enfolded outlooks on the world.
The Three of the Nine can be represented by the three dimensions of a cube:
…Dimension is always an adequate symbol for Divinity.
The Seed at Zero can be represented by the cube itself in miniature:
A little world encapsulated by a larger one..?

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4Three of the Nine’.

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What is the antithesis of one?
None, two or many…?
It is tempting to answer money… that is, ‘my one’ as opposed to The One, which ‘belongs’ to everybody.

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For many years I laboured under the misapprehension that to glean the gist of a thing was to have the mere rudiments of it which is almost the exact opposite of the word’s actual meaning. This can happen because of the context in which words are used and context which has at least two viewpoints if not many more is really just another word for perspective.

The World is predicated on number.
Mineral, Plant and Animal growth are all governed by number.
Music is number in time.
Geometry is number in space.

Neither the World, Music nor Geometry initially ‘looks’ very much like number but that is what they are.

The qualities of number are the key to understanding this, which really means their properties and their relationships, each one conceived as distinct from all the others yet linked by natural sequence and logical progression.

Strictly speaking there are only seven numbers.
Zero is not a number because it is the negation of number:
It is rather both Tomb and Womb of number…
One is not a number because it is everything, without which there would be no thing:
Not One Thing…
Nine is not a number because it is a completion and possesses all the qualities of Zero:
And although numbers go on for ever they always repeat from Nine…

But Geometry can help here too because the way we see things affects the way we think about things and vice-versa.

Whenever we come across a reversible we have reflection and the world, it has been claimed, is merely a domain of perceived reflections.

Plato’s Cave is the classic simile for this idea.
In order to affect the shadow-play of the world-screen one has to access the light source.
The outer can only be affected by changing the inner.

This can be ‘seen’ to be the case by experiencing the following ‘optical illusion’.

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When the outer cube ‘flips’ the inner cube remains unaffected.
But if the inner cube ‘flips’ the outer cube has to flip too.

Can you see it?

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Crocodile Man…

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Crocodile Man was married to Whistle Duck and they had two daughters…

“We’ll have fish tomorrow night,” said Crocodile Man, “I’ll go out early in my bark canoe.”

So next morning Crocodile Man set off, and his two daughters went to collect swamp grass to go with the fish.

Whistle Duck also left camp making sure her daughters did not see her.

The two sisters collected the swamp food and returned to camp.

The younger of the two girls saw their father returning and called out to him, “Father we will come and collect the fish!”

“No!” said Crocodile Man, “just send your elder sister to collect the fish.”

So the elder daughter went down to her father who had beached his canoe at the edge of a creek. When she started to unload the fish Crocodile Man copulated with her. The girl’s younger sister saw this and so did her mother who remained hidden, watching.

The fish was cooked and eaten and Crocodile Man and his family fell asleep.

The next morning Crocodile Man again set out in search of fish whilst his daughters went to collect swamp food.

This time, while they were gone, Whistle Duck collected dried grass and began to roll it on her thigh in order to make a rope.

Upon the return of her daughters to camp with swamp food Whistle Duck hid the rope she was making in a hole and covered it with paperbark.

All proceeded as before with Crocodile Man returning to the creek  fish-laden and calling for his eldest daughter with whom he then copulated.

Before eating the communal meal Whistle Duck set aside some of the food that her daughters had collected.

On the third day Crocodile Man and his daughters again set out in search of food as before.

Every day they were going farther and farther afield to find food and it was taking them much longer to return to camp.

Whistle Duck worked on her dried grass rope while they were gone and on the return of her daughters she again hid it and added lily roots, which was some of the food they had collected, to her growing store.

Crocodile Man returned late, called for his eldest daughter and copulated with her before they all sat down to eat.

The next morning after Crocodile Man had set out in search of fish, Whistle Duck  sent her daughters to pull up a banyan tree and return to her when they had done so.

“What are we to do with the banyan tree?” asked the younger daughter upon their return.

“Your father is always copulating with your sister,” said Whistle Duck, removing the grass rope from under the paperbark.

“What are we to do?” asked the elder daughter.

“Look at this Dreaming,” said Whistle Duck, “it is the Milky Way Rope.”

The two daughters looked at it and became giddy.

Their eyes span around in their head.

When they had recovered they knew what to do.

They collected the store of food into baskets and took up the shade of the banyan tree.

Whistle Duck threw the grass rope into the sky and her daughters quickly shimmied up it.

The elder daughter climbed first with her younger sister and then her mother behind.

They all sat down under the shade of the banyan tree with their store of food and Whistle Duck pulled up the rope to form the extent of the Milky Way in the sky.

When Crocodile Man returned from his fishing trip he called out from his canoe but no one answered.

He clambered ashore and walked up the creek to his camp but there was no one there.

Only the sound of crows could be heard…

“Waag…Waag…Waag…”

‘What has happened to those girls,’ thought Crocodile Man.

‘Has someone abducted them?’

‘Has someone killed them?’

‘Has their mother taken them away?’

Crocodile Man called out for Whistle Duck.

He ran around the camp, searching, and found only ant tracks…

Crocodile Man’s younger daughter called down from the sky, “Father, I am here!”

“What should I do?” said Crocodile Man.

“Go fetch the fish and bring it up here,” said the younger daughter lowering the grass rope.

So Crocodile Man brought the fish and began to climb the grass rope.

Whistle duck reached behind her ear, pulled out a large mussel shell, and began to cut the grass rope.

The younger daughter did not want her father to fall so she grabbed the large mussel shell and hid it from her mother.

But Whistle Duck pulled a small mussel shell out from behind her other ear and carried on cutting the grass rope.

The grass rope frayed and snapped just as Crocodile Man was nearing the top with the fish. Before he fell Whistle Duck grabbed the fish from him.

The place where Crocodile Man fell back to earth is his Dreaming.

He crawled off back to the creek on his injured knees and became a crocodile.

Whistle Duck and her two daughters remained in the Milky Way.

Adapted from R.M and  C.H Bernt, The Speaking Land.

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The Marsh King’s Daughter II…

 

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‘…The Earth will see you on through this time…’

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…There always is.

The Marsh King sinks back beneath the waters with the unnamed Egyptian Princess in his thrall.

Some time later a green shoot with a water-lily bud appears above the slime.

The bud unfurls to reveal a small girl-child.

The child is spotted by a watching Stork and is taken to a barren Viking couple who, quite naturally, are enthralled with the gift and immediately besotted with the child.

Children normally display both the physical and temperamental characteristics of their ancestors, predominantly their parents, and usually in more or less equal measure.

Here, these tendencies are pronounced.

Helga, for this is the name the Viking couple choose for her, is a beautiful girl-child during the day, albeit displaying a strong blood-thirsty streak, whilst as the sun sets she turns into a compassionate, toad-like monster!

Is the name significant?

How important is it that Helga is the only named character in the story?

Could any device be better chosen to make us consider the diurnal polarity of Day and Night and their profound affects upon our consciousness and its natural tendencies?

Cold mountain…

Warm earth…

If we are in any doubt as to what we are to make of these devices we are introduced to the somnambulistic nature of both Denmark and the nether regions of Marsh-Land later in the tale.

To make matters worse, Helga’s apparent beauty beguiles all those who gaze upon her and blinds them to the reality of her brutish day-time nature.

It is only her adoptive Viking mother who witnesses and begins to see and realise the true nature of the problem presented to both her, and by extension us, in the form and expressions displayed via the mysterious Marsh King’s Daughter.

There is more…

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The Marsh King’s Daughter…

 

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‘…Hi-ho the Carrion Crow, Fol-de-rol-de riddle…’

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Although the second longest of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, The Marsh King’s Daughter is relatively little known and perhaps, even, considered to be one of his ‘lesser’ tales.

It is a huge, sprawling epic of a yarn, which like most of his stories draws liberally from the ancient sagas, legends and folk tales which Hans imbibed in his youth.

Unlike some story tellers, although Anderson approaches the traditional devices with free reign, he never loses sight of their psychological and spiritual import and consequently, whilst sometimes apparently piling device upon device in wild profusion, there is always a satisfying, not to say, profound pay off to his seemingly more fantastical meanderings.

In these posts then, rather than retell the story, we intend to focus on aspects of the tale in order to investigate and elucidate the psychological and spiritual components of the story as a whole.

The Marsh King himself, though central to the plot, plays a comparatively minor role in the story, appearing just once, initially disguised as a tree stump.

It is a cunning disguise which gives the foul fellow the opportunity to drag an unsuspecting princess to her apparent doom beneath the marshes.

But wait, how did such a delicate, pretty one find herself on the edge of a marsh in Denmark?

She was sent from Egypt by her dying father to look for the antidote to his wasting disease.

And how did she get there?

She donned a feathered cloak and flew there as a swan.

Then, why didn’t she simply re-don the cloak and fly away when the Swamp Man revealed himself to her?

Because her jealous sisters, who had flown with her, stole her cloak and destroyed it…

Spatially, the construct is no less dazzling.

Here, as in most traditional stories the horizontal polarity of Egypt and Denmark constitutes a world and its other-realm.

The Outer, wasteland, can only be re-invigorated from the Inner depths which appear to be somewhat murky.

The healing herb reputedly grows in a bog, the domain of the Marsh King.

Already, the mix of natural metaphor and deep psychological insight  begins to weave its ancient magic.

But there is more…

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Infinite Regress…

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THE INFINITE HIGHWAY

If one always returns to where one came from,

then one’s destination is halfway between where

one came from and where one is going to.

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HALFWAY TO INFINITY

Every step along the infinite highway is simultaneously

an equal distance between an infinite future

and an infinite past, that is, it is halfway to and from infinity.

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EQUAL PARTS OF INFINITY

To find the halfway point of any distance,

one first splits the distance into equal parts then,

when the number of equal parts remaining is equal

to those that have passed one has one’s halfway point.

The equal parts of infinity, however, are all infinite.

Infinity is the only thing that can be split into… infinities.

This is known as counting the for evers of forever.

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FOREVER YOURS

Reflecting upon all this it appears…

‘The Ancient of Days’

Is a good poetic name for infinity.

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THE INFINITE HOTEL

A Traveller approaches the Infinite Hotel and asks The Ancient of Days for a room.

Now, there are an infinite number of rooms in the Infinite Hotel, however, the Traveller is informed by the Ancient of Days that all the rooms in the Infinite Hotel are taken.

Q: How does the Traveller get a room in the Infinite Hotel ?

A: The Ancient of Days asks the occupants of Room 1 to move into Room 2 and the occupants of Room 2 to move into Room 3…and so on… and on… Infinitely, thus making room for the Traveller.

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INFINITE EXPANSE

At any one time in the Infinite Hotel then, there will be any number of people on the corridors moving from one room to the next, and this number will be dependent on how many Travellers are seeking a room in the Infinite Hotel…

Consider this…

All the rooms in the Infinite Hotel have a name…

All the rooms in the Infinite Hotel have the same name…

The name of all the rooms in the Infinite Hotel is ‘After-Life’.

Consider this…

All the corridors in the Infinite Hotel have a name…

All the corridors in the Infinite Hotel have the same name…

The name of all the corridors in the Infinite Hotel is ‘Life’.

By extension…

The occupants of each room in the Infinite Hotel have names…

The occupants in the room before yours are called ‘Parents’

The occupants in the room after yours are called ‘Children.’

The act of moving from room to corridor is called ‘Birth’.

The act of moving from corridor to room is called ‘Death’.

‘Life Duration’ in the Infinite Hotel can be defined as,

the amount of time spent in the corridor

 before moving into the next room…

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IN FIN…

Once one

Never none

Forever one.

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Space Time…

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‘…You may as well know now you are far more likely to see the spiritual than you are to read it. The spirit came first and we learned to see before we learned to read. It is nigh on impossible to alter the ramifications of all that and no one really wants to but it is easy to forget. You can look at something for years without seeing it…’  – The Initiate

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In the West we are accustomed to regarding pictures as illustrations of the words used to tell stories. Our earliest reading is accompanied by pictures which frame, direct or manipulate the ideas contained within the words we have just read and our judgements about the skills of the illustrator are formed by and depend on just how closely the depicted image comes to how we have envisaged the related story in our minds eye…

But it was not always this way.

Many of the oldest stories, by which we mean the myths, are tales told to elucidate sacred icons and while it is undoubtedly the case that a picture paints a thousand words it may not be possible for a single word to paint a thousand pictures.

This means that many of our oldest stories are in fact no more than interpretations, which is as it should be and really can only ever be, but it also means that in the absence of the icon to which these interpretations refer there is something missing.

The picture itself!

But the picture itself is not the whole story either because even with the icon and the interpretative story or indeed a number of different interpretative stories and their attendant glosses… there is still something missing and that something is known as context and, what is more, that context can only come from individual lookers and listeners which means… you, but only if you do indeed take care to look and to listen.

To listen properly involves being silent.

To look properly involves using more than the eyes.

This ‘set up’ and its corresponding ‘state of affairs’ really is fundamental to most of what passes for our experience here on earth and one of the gravest errors it is possible to make is to let another person define our experience for us.

All the sacred texts teach this by leaving room for interpretation and by using icons or pictures as the sources of their inspiration.

After all one may spend a lifetime considering the arguments of a thousand and one savants on the likelihood or otherwise of, let’s say… reincarnation without ever being convinced one way or the other and yet, alternatively, one may also be lucky enough to catch the merest glimpse of a series of temple panels which taken together accurately depict the same concept… and instantly know it to be true.

But don’t take our word for it… go out and discover it for yourself!

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