It is currently June 25th, 2017, 12:00 am

Welcome to the Traditional Studies Discussion Forum

Our community is devoted to the discussion of Tradition, a term that has been most adequately defined by Seyyed Hossein Nasr as "truths or principles of a divine origin revealed or unveiled to mankind and, in fact, a whole cosmic sector through various figures envisaged as messengers, prophets, avataras, the Logos or other transmitting agencies, along with all the ramifications and applications of these principles in different realms including law and social structure, art, symbolism, the sciences, and embracing of course Supreme Knowledge along with the means for its attainment."

Topics for discussion include the orthodox doctrines, spiritual methods, and artistic forms of the worlds great religions, especially as they are represented in the Traditional School comprised of such authorities as Rene Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Marco Pallis, Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, William Chittick, Huston Smith, James Cutsinger and many others. Although these writers will serve as our primary focus, all traditional orthodox religions and philosophies are appropriate subjects for discussion. It is our hope that the encounter with the traditional perspective on this forum will allow participants to penetrate further into the depths of their respective traditions and enter into mutually supportive and enriching dialogue with the adherents of other religions.

You are currently viewing our forums as a guest, which gives you limited access to view our discussions. By joining our community, you will have the ability post topics, communicate privately with other members, and access other special features. Registration is very simple and free of cost. Click Here to Join our Community

Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
 Post subject: Rene Guenon on the Tarot
PostPosted: May 7th, 2015, 11:00 pm 
Site Admin
User avatar

Joined: August 29th, 2008, 9:51 pm
Posts: 397
Location: Riverside, CA

... the Tarot ... contains vestiges of an undeniably traditional science, whatever may have been its real origin.

- The Reign of Quantity, p. 255

The primordial revelation which is, like Creation, a work of the Word, is itself incorporated, so to speak, in symbols which have been transmitted from age to age ever since the origin of humanity.

- Fundamental Symbols, p. 12

... It goes without saying that in such cases [of attempting to rebuild the Tarot figures], each always includes many of his particular ideas and there is no reason to consider these 'reconstructions' as being worth more or less than others; we think it is much safer to simply refer to ordinary figures, which have been slightly deformed in the course of time and offer a great chance to save a whole more closely to the original symbolism. At bottom, the transmission of Tarot is very comparable to that of 'folklore', if it is not simply a particular case of it, and preservation of the symbols is assured in the same way ...

- Review of Le Tarot

(See Tarot of Marseilles Heritage for associated images)


We are thinking especially of certain cases encountered in eastern forms of Christianity where, it is worth noting, mysticism itself has not quite the same meaning as in the west. Indeed 'Eastern Hagiography' has some strange and unusual paths to sanctification, like that of the 'fools in Christ,' whose extravagant gifts are meant to hide their spiritual gifts from the eyes of onlookers under the shocking appearance of madness; or, rather are meant to free them from the bonds of this world in their most intimate and most spiritually troublesome expression, that of the 'social ego.' This appearance of madness can be an effective means, although not the only one, of escaping all indiscreet curiosity as well as any social obligations not really compatible with spiritual development; but it is important to note that this involves assuming an attitude toward the outer world that constitutes a kind of 'defense' against the latter, and not, as with the Quietists, a means that by itself leads to the acquisition of certain inner states. We must add that such a simulation is rather dangerous, for it can easily progress step by step toward genuine madness, especially in the mystic who by definition is never entirely the master of his states; moreover between mere simulation and actual madness there can be numerous degrees of rather marked disequilibrium, and any disequilibrium is necessarily an obstacle which, if it continues to exist, opposes the harmonious and complete development of the higher possibilities of the being.

- Initiation and Spiritual Realization, pp. 136-137


We must now point out that the same thing happens with those producers of 'phenomena' to whom we alluded above, which leads directly to the case of 'jugglers', whose behavior has so often served in all traditional forms as a disguise for initiates of high rank, especially when they had to fulfill some special worldly 'mission.' By juggler we must not understand only a kind of 'conjurer,' in accord with the very restricted meaning given this word by moderns, for from our vantage point the man who exhibits the most authentic psychic 'phenomena' belongs to exactly the same category, the juggler being one who amuses a crowd by accomplishing remarkable things, or even by simply affecting extravagant behavior ... If we should add that the juggler ... is usually a 'wanderer,' it becomes easy to understand the advantages offered by this role when for reasons of simple expediency, or for other much more profound reasons, one wishes to escape the attentions of the profane or to divert it from that of which they should remain ignorant.

- Initiation and Spiritual Realization, p. 139


Then, when this same warrior caste, reversing the normal relatiqnships of subordination, claims supremacy. its predominance is generally accompanied by that of feminine elements in the symbolism of the traditional form modified by it; and some­times, even, as a consequence of this modification, also by the institution of a feminine form of priesthood, such as that of the Celtic druidesses, for example.

- Fundamental Symbols, p. 117

The various 'ladies' celebrated by the poets attached to the mysterious organization of the Fideli d'Amore from Dante, Guido Cavalcante, and their contemporaries to Boccaccio and Petrarch, are not women who actually lived on this earth but are all, under different names, one and the same symbolic 'Lady,' who represents transcendent Intelligence or Divine Wisdom

- Insights into Christian a Esoterism, p. 33


'Maya' is the material 'power' (sakti) through which the divine understanding acts; more precisely still it is kriya-sakti, that is 'divine activity', which is iccha-sakti. As such it is inherent in Brahma Himself, or to the Supreme Principle. It is therefore, situated at an incomparably higher level than mere prakrti, and if the latter is also called maya, notable in the Samkhya, this is because it is in reality a reflection of this sakti in the 'cosmological' order. One may, moreover, note here the application of the inverse sense of the analogy, the Supreme Activity reflecting in pure passivity, and the principial 'omnipotence' in the potentiality of the materia prima. Furthermore, maya, by the very fact that it is the divine 'art' that resides in the Principle, is also identified with 'wisdom', sophia, understood, in exactly the same sense as the Judeo-Christian tradition, and as such, is the mother of the avatara [the Theotokos, God-bearer, or Mother of God].

- Studies in Hinduism, p. 86


The emperor presides over the 'lesser mysteries', which correspond to the 'Terrestrial Paradise', that is to say the realization of the perfection of the human state ... being accomplished 'according to philosophy' ['with philosophical instructions to temporal happiness'].

- Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power, p. 69


The sovereign pontiff presides over the 'greater mysteries', which concern the 'Celestial Paradise', that is, the realization of supra-human states, joined thus to the human state by the 'pontific' function ... [being accomplished] 'according to revelation ['with revelations to life eternal'].

- Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power, p. 69


... One must understand by 'Court of Love' a symbolic assemblage presided over by Love itself personified, whereas a 'court of love' is only a human gathering, a sort of tribunal called upon to adjudicate more or less complex cases.

... it is said in this book that the palace of Love rises in the 'center of the universe', and that it has four sides and four gateways; the east gateway is reserved for the god, and the north remains forever closed.

- Insights into Christian Esoterism, pp. 63-65


By reason of this symbolism, the construction of a chariot amounts strictly to the 'artisanal' realisation of a cosmic model ... We need hardly recall that it is in virtue of considerations of this order that crafts in a traditional civilization possess a spiritual value and a truly sacred character, and that it is because of this that they can normally serve as supports for initiation ... the fundamental element of the chariot is the axle (aksha, identical with 'axis' ), which in this case represents the World Axis and which is thus the equivalent of the central pillar (skambha) of a building to which everything in the whole edifice must be referred. Moreover, it is of little importance, as we have said, whether or not this pillar is represented materially; certain texts have it that the axle of the cosmic chariot is only a 'separative breath' (vyana) which, occupying the intermediate space (antariksha, explained as antaryaksha), maintains Heaven and Earth in their respective 'places', and which, while separating them, also unites them as a bridge (setu) and makes possible the passage from one to the other. The two wheels, which are placed at the extremities of the axle, then in fact represent Heaven and Earth; and the axle extends from one to the other, just as the central pillar reaches from the earth to the summit of the vault. Between these two wheels and supported by the axle is the 'box' (kosha) of the chariot, the flooring of which, from another point of view, also corresponds to the Earth; the body formed by the two sides corresponds to the intermediate space, and the roof corresponds to Heaven.

- Fundamental Symbols, pp. 179-180


Taking the strict sense of the name 'Melki-Tsedeq', as 'King of Justice', his proper attributes are the same scales and sword that characterize Mikael, 'Angel of Judgement'. In the social structure these emblems represent the administrative and military offices that properly belong to the Kshatriya caste, and which are the two elements of royal power. Hieroglyphically, they compose two characters to form the Arabic and Hebrew root Haq that denotes both 'Justice' and 'Truth' and which served for many ancient races also to denote royalty. 'Haq' is the enabling power of Justice, the equilibrium symbolized by the scales, whereas power is symbolized by the sword, and it is that which truly characterizes royal power. [This significance could be summarized in the following formula: 'force in the service of right' - if modern usage had not misused it to excess by giving it a wholly external meaning.]

- The Lord of the World, p. 35


While the being remaining in the unmanifested has accomplished realization solely 'for itself', the one that later 'redescends' ... has from then on, with respect to manifestation, a role that expresses the symbolism of solar 'radiation' by which all things are illuminated.

... With regard to manifestation the being that 'redescends' has a function of which the somewhat exceptional character clearly shows that it does not find itself back in a condition comparable to ordinary beings. This these cases are those of beings one could describe as charged with a 'mission' in the true sense of the word ... proceeding directly from the principial and transcendent order and expressing something of that order in the manifested world. As the 'redescent' presupposes the previous ascent, such a 'mission' presupposes perfect inner realization.

- Initiation and Spiritual Realization, pp. 172-175


The relationship which exists between the centre and the circumference, or between what they respectively represent, is already indicated clearly enough by the fact that the circumference cannot exist without its centre, while the centre is entirely independent of the circumference. This relationship can be denoted even more precisely and explicitly by the rays issuing from the centre and ending at the circumference. These rays can of course be depicted in a variety of numbers, since they really are indefinitely numerous, as are the points on the circumference which are their extremities. But in fact, for figurations of this kind, numbers that have in themselves a particular symbolic value have always been chosen ... Among the figures which comprise a greater number of rays, we must mention especially the wheels or 'rounds' which most commonly have six or eight radii. The Celtic "round" which was perpetuated throughout almost all the Middle Ages, is found in both these forms; these same figures, and especially the second, are to be met with very often in oriental lands, especially in Chaldea and Assyria, in India (where the wheel is called chakra) and in Tibet. On the other hand, there is a close kinship between the wheel of six spokes and the chrismon which only differs from it in that the circumference which marks the extremities of the rays is not normally drawn. Now the wheel, instead of being simply a 'solar' sign as is commonly thought in our time, is before all else a symbol of the world, which can be understood without difficulty. In the symbolic language of India, one speaks constantly of the 'wheel of things' or of the 'wheel of life', which corresponds precisely to this signification. There is also the question ofthe 'wheel of the Law', an expression which Buddhism has borrowed, as with many others, from earlier doctrines and which, originally at least, refers especially to cyclic theories. It must be added that the Zodiac is also represented in the form of a wheel, naturally of twelve spokes, and that the name given it in Sanskrit signifies literally 'wheel of signs', according to the primary sense ofthe word rashi which serves to designate the signs ofthe Zodiac.

[Footnote: Let it be noted also that the "wheel of Fortune", in the symbolism of Western antiquity, is very closely related to the 'wheel of the Law' and also, though it may not seem so evident at first glance, to the zodiacal wheel.] ...

Equilibrium itself moreover is nothing other than the reflection in the manifested order of the absolute immutability of the Principle. To see things under this new relationship, the circumference must be considered as being in motion around its centre which alone does not participate in this movement. The very name of the wheel (rota) immediately evokes the idea of rotation; and this rotation is the figure of the continual change to which all manifested things are subject. In such a movement, there is but one single point that remains fixed and immutable, and this point is the Centre. This brings us back to the cyclic concept we spoke of earlier: the course of any cycle, or the rotation of the circumference, is succession, whether in temporal or some other mode. The fixity of the Centre is the image of Eternity, where all things are present in perfect simultaneity. The circumference can only turn around a fixed centre; likewise, change, which does not suffice unto itself, necessarily supposes a principle which is outside change. This is the 'unmoved mover' of Aristotle which again is represented by the Centre. Thus at the same time, since all that exists, all that changes or moves, has no reality apart from the immutable Principle on which it totally depends, this Principle is that which gives motion its first impulse and also that which, subsequently, governs and directs it, which gives it its law, the conservation of the order of the world being in a way nothing but a prolongation of the creative act. The Principle is, according to a Hindu expression, the 'Internal Co-ordinator' (antaryami), for it directs all things from within, itself residing at the innermost point of all. which is the Centre.

- Fundamental Symbols, pp. 47-50


Kala is strictly 'all-consuming Time'; but by transposition it also designates the very Principle itself insofar as it is 'destroyer', or rather 'transformer'. in relation to manifestation which it reduces to the non-manifested state by reabsorbing it, as it were, into itself; this is the most exalted sense in which Death can be understood. It is also assimilated symbolically to the sun,
and it is known furthermore that the lion, whose mask (sinha-mukha) it borrows, is more especially a solar symbol. This leads us back to what we explained previously on the subject of the Janua Cali, and Coomaraswamy recalls in this connection that the Christ who said 'I am the Door' , is at the same time the 'Lion of Judah' and the 'Sun of man'. [The 'solar gate' (surya-dvara) is the gate of Deliverance' (mukti-dvara); the gate or door and the mouth (mukha) are equivalent symbols here. The sun, as 'Face of God', is likewise represented by a lion mask on a Christian sarcophagus at Ravenna.] In Byzantine churches, the figure of the Pancrator or of Christ 'in majesty' occupies the central position of the vault, that is to say, that which corresponds precisely to the 'eye' of the dome. Now this, as we have explained elsewhere, represents, at the upper extremity of the World Axis, the gate by which the 'exit from the cosmos' is made.

To return to Kala, an essentially solar significance also belongs to the composite representation known in Java under the name Kala-makara in which the features of the lion are combined with those of the Makara, while at the same time, by its Makara aspect, it refers especially to the symbolism of Varuna. Insofar as Varuna is identified with Mrityu or with Yama, the Makara is the crocodile (shishumara or shimshumari) with open jaws, which holds itself 'against the current' representing the one way by which every being must necessarily pass, and which is thus represented as the 'guardian of the gate' which the being must pass through in order to be liberated from the limitative conditions (symbolised also by the pasha of Varuna) that keep him in the domain of contingent and manifested existence. On the other hand, this same Makara is, in the Hindu Zodiac, the sign of Capricorn, that is, the 'gateway of the Gods' . The Makara therefore, has two apparently opposed aspects, in a sense 'benefic' and 'malefic', which thus correspond to the duality of Mitra and Varuna (united in an indissoluble pair under the dual form Mitravarunau), or of the 'diurnal Sun' and the 'nocturnal Sun', which amounts to saying that, according to the state achieved by the being who presents himself before the Makara, his mouth is for this being either the 'Gate of Deliverance' or the 'jaws of Death'. This last case is that of the ordinary man who, in passing through death, must come back to another state of manifestation, while the first case is that of the being who is 'qualified to pass through the middle of the Sun' by means of the 'seventh ray' because he is already identified with the Sun itself, and to the question, 'who art thou? ' which is asked of him when he comes before this gate, he is thus able to respond truly: 'I am Thou'.

- Fundamental Symbols, pp. 244-245


As long as knowledge is only mental it is a mere 'reflected' knowledge, like that of the shadows seen by the prisoner's in Plato's allegory of the cave, and it is therefore indirect and entirely outward. To pass from the shadow to reality grasped directly in itself is truly to pass from the 'outward' to the 'inward' and also, from the more particular point of view that we adopt here, to pass from virtual to effective initiation. This passage implies the renunciation of the mental, that is, of the entire discursive faculty, which thence forth becomes impotent since it cannot go beyond the limits imposed upon it by its very nature; intellectual intuition alone lies beyond these limits because it does not belong to the order of individual faculties. Using traditional symbolism based on organic correspondences, one can say that the center of consciousness must be transferred from the 'brain' to the 'heart' ... The passage from the 'outward' to the 'inward' is also the passage from multiplicity to unity, or from circumference to center, to the single point from whence the human being, restored to the prerogatives of the 'primordial state', can rise to the higher states and, by the complete realization of his true essence, finally be effectively and actually what he is from all eternity.

- Perspectives on Initiation, pp. 208-209


Of course the word 'death' must here be taken in its most general sense, according to which we may say that every change of state whatsoever is at once a death and a birth, depending on whether it is considered from one side or the other: death with respect to the antecedent state, birth with respect to the consequent state. Initiation is generally described as a 'second birth', which indeed it is, but this 'second birth' necessarily implies a death to the profane world and follows so to speak as an immediate sequel to it, since these are strictly speaking only the two faces of one and the same change of state.

- Perspectives on Initiation, pp. 172-173


It now becomes clear in what sense the middle term of the Great Triad envisaged by the Far-Eastern tradition should be taken ; the three terms are "Heaven", "Earth", and "Man", with the third playing the part of "mediator" between the other two, uniting their two natures in himself. One may truly say, even of individual man, that he participates in "Heaven" and "Earth", which are identi­fied with Purusha and Prakriti, the two poles of universal manifestation ; but there is nothing here that is peculiar to the case of man, and one may say the same of any manifested being. In order that man may be effectively able to play the part in question in respect of universal Existence, he must have reached the point of situating himself at the centre of all things, in other words he must have attained at least the state of "true man"; even then, he will actually perform that function for one degree of Existence alone, and only in the state of "Divine man" is this possibility realized in its plenti­tude. This is tantamount to saying that the true "mediator", in whom the union of "Heaven" and "Earth" is fully accomplished by the synthesis of all the states, is Universal Man, who is identical with the Word ...

Again, as "Heaven" and "Earth" are two complementary principles, one active and the other passive, their union can be represented by the figure of the "Androgyne", and this takes us back to what was said earlier in regard to Universal Man. Here again, every manifested being participates in the two principles and this is expressed by the presence of the two terms yang and yin, but in different proportions and always with one or the other predominating ; the perfectly balanced union of the two terms can be realized only in the Primordial State.

- The Symbolism of the Cross, pp. 124-125


It is appropriate to note in particular here that every change of state must be considered to be accomplished in darkness, which explains the relevance of the symbolism of the color black to our subject; the candidate for initiation must pass through total darkness before reaching 'true light'. It is in this phase of darkness that what is called the 'descent into hell', takes place, of which we have spoken more fully elsewhere; it is one could say, a kind of 'recapitulation' of the antecedent states by which the possibilities relating to the profane state are definitively exhausted in order that the being may thenceforth freely develop the possibilities of a superior order that he bears within himself and the realization of which belongs properly to the initiatic domain.

- Perspectives on Initiation, p. 173


The baetyl strictly speaking represents the Omphalos, and as such it is a symbol of the Centre of the World, which quite naturally is identified with the 'dwelling place of God'. This stone took different forms, such as, for example, that of a pillar. It is thus that Jacob says: 'And this stone which I have erected as a pillar, shall be the house of God' [Genesis 28, 22] ...

Also to be noted, on the other hand, is the very important part played by the thunderbolt in Tibetan symbolism. The vajra which represents it is one of the principal insignia of the dignitaries of Lamaism. At the same time the vajra symbolises the masculine principle of universal manifestation, and thus the thunderbolt is associated with the idea of 'divine paternity', an asso­ciation also to be found quite clearly in Western antiquity inasmuch as the
thunderbolt is the principal attribute of Zeus Pater or Jupiter, the 'father of
gods and men' ...

In connection with this there is, even in the modem West, another parallel which is truly unexpected: Leibniz, in his Monadologie, says that 'all created monads are born, so to speak, by continuous fulgurations of the Divinity from moment to moment'. Thus, in conformity with the traditional data we have just been discussing, he associates the thunderbolt (French foudre, Latin fulgur) with the idea of the production of creatures.

- Fundamental Symbols, pp. 121-123


In this same Hindu tradition the most common name of the Great Bear is sapta-riksha, and the Sanskrit for bear, Riksha, is linguistically identical with the names it is known by in various other languages: the Celtic arth, the
Greek arktos, and even the Latin ursus. It may be wondered, however, if that is really the primary meaning of the expression sapta-riksha, or if, in accord­ance with the substitution of which we have just spoken there was not rather a kind of super-position of words etymologically distinct but brought together and even identified by the application of a certain phonetic symbolism. In fact, riksha, generally speaking, is also a star, that is, a 'light' (archis, from the root arch or ruch, 'shine' or 'illuminate'), whereas the sapta-riksha is the symbolic abode of the seven Rishis who, beyond the fact that their name relates to 'vision' and therefore to light, are themselves also the seven 'Lights' by whom the Wisdom of earlier cycles was transmitted to the present cycle ...

- Fundamental Symbols, p. 115

The first case, that of going upstream, is perhaps the most remarkable in certain respects; for the river must then be conceived as identical with the World Axis. This is the 'celestial river', which descends towards the earth and which, in the Hindu tradition, is designated by such names as Ganga and Saraswati, which are strictly names of certain aspects of the Shakti. In the Hebrew Kabbala this 'river of life' finds its correspondence in the 'channels' of the Sephirothic tree by which the influences of the 'world above' are transmitted to the 'world below', and which are also directly related to the Shekinah which is a near equivalent of the Shakti; and there are also the waters which 'flow upwards', which is an expression of the return towards the celestial source, represented in this case not by the re-ascent of the cur­rent, but by the reversal of direction of the current itself.

- Fundamental Symbols, pp. 233-234


... this same sign of Cancer is the domicile of the Moon of which the relation with the Waters is well known and which, like the Waters themselves, represents the passive and plastic principle of manifestation: the sphere of the Moon is in fact the 'world of formation', or the domain of the elaboration of forms in the subtle state, the starting point of individual existence.

- Fundamental Symbols, P. 95


... a certain relationship that exists between light and rain, inasmuch as both of them symbolise celestial or spiritual influences. This symbolism is obvious as far as light is concerned; as to rain ... it is always a question
of the descent of these influences into the terrestrial world, and pointing out that this is in reality the deeper meaning of the very widespread rites which have 'rain-making' as their purpose ... Furthermore, light and rain both have a 'vivifying' power that well represents the action of the influences in ques­tion. The symbolism of dew, closely connected with that of rain by its very nature, is likewise related more especially to the giving of life ...

In very different times and places and even into the Western Middle Ages, the sun has often been represented with two kinds of rays, straight and undulating by turns ... First of all, according to the meaning which may seem the most natural when it is a question of a representation of the sun, the straight line rep­resents light and the undulating line represents heat ...

In connection with the same question, this should be noted: fire and water are two opposed elements, this opposition, moreover, being only the outward appearance of a complementarity; but beyond the domain where these oppositions are affirmed, they must, like all contraries, be joined and somehow united. In the principle itself, of which the sun is a sensible image, they are in a way identified, which justifies even more completely the representation that we have just been studying; and even at levels lower than that of the Principle but corresponding to states of manifestation higher than the corporeal world to which fire and water belong in their 'gross' aspect that gives rise to their opposition, there can still be between them an association equivalent, so to speak, to a relative identity. This is true for the 'upper waters', the possibilities of supraformal manifestation which, in a certain sense, are symbolically represented by the clouds whence the rain descends upon the earth, and wherein at the same time there is fire in the form of lightning, and it is still the same, in the realm of formal manifestation, for certain possibilities pertaining to the subtle domain ...

To return to the symbolism of the sun, we will only add that the two kinds of rays of which we have spoken are to be found in certain symbolic figu­rations of the heart, and the sun, or what it represents, is in fact considered as the 'Heart of the World', so much so that here also it is really a question of one and the same thing ...

- Fundamental Symbols, pp. 245-249


There is still another question to be considered, one that is particularly important from an initiatic point of view: we have spoken of the cave as the place of the 'second birth' ; but between this 'second birth' and the 'third birth' there is an essential distinction to be made that corresponds to the distinction between initiation into the Lesser Mysteries and initiation into the Greater Mysteries. If the third birth is also represented as taking place in a cave, how does the symbolism of the cave adapt itself to this? The second birth, which can be rightly called 'psychic regeneration' , takes place in the domain of the subtle possibilities of the human individuality. The third birth, on the contrary, being realised directly in the spiritual order and no longer in the psychic order, gives access to the domain of supra-individual possibilities. The one is thus strictly a 'birth in the cosmos' (to which the birth of the Avatara corresponds in the macrocosmic order), and consequently it is logical that it be represented as taking place entirely within the cave; but the other is a 'birth out of the cosmos', and to this 'exit from the cosmos' (according to the expression of Hermes), there must correspond (in order that the symbolism be complete) a final exit from the cave; for the cave contains only the possibilities included within the cosmos, those possibilities precisely which the initiate must pass beyond in this new phase of the development of his being, of which the 'second birth' was only the starting point.

Certain relationships have naturally to be modified here: the cave becomes once more a 'sepulchre', this time no longer only because it is subterranean, but because the entire cosmos is in a sense the sepulchre from which the being must now come forth. The 'third birth' is necessarily preceded by the 'second death', which is no longer death to the profane world but truly 'death to the cosmos' (and also 'in the cosmos'), and this is why the 'extra-cosmic' birth is always assimilated to a 'resurrection'. In order that this resurrection (which is at the same time the exit from the cave) may take place, it is necessary that the stone which covers the opening of the 'sepulchre' (that is, of the cave itself) be removed. In what follows we will see how this can be represented in certain cases in ritual symbolism.

On the other hand, when what is outside the cave represented only the profane world or the 'outer' darkness, the cave then appeared as the sole illuminated place and, moreover, necessarily illuminated from within, for no light could then come to it from without. Now, since 'extra-cosmic' possibilities have to be taken into account, the cave, despite this illumination, becomes relatively dark in reference, we do not say to whatever is outside it without distinction, but more precisely, to what is above it, beyond its vault, for there indeed is what represents the 'extra-cosmic' domain. In accor­dance with this new point of view, one could then consider this inner illumi­nation as being only the reflection of a light which penetrates through the 'roof of the world; by the 'solar gateway' or 'sun door' which is the 'eye' of the cosmic vault or the upper opening of the cave. In the microcosm this opening corresponds to the Brahma-randhra, that is, to the individual's point of contact with the 'seventh ray' of the spiritual sun, the point which is 'localised' according to organic correspondences, on the crown of the head, and which is also represented by the upper opening of the Hermetic athanor. Let us add, in this connection, that the 'philosophical egg' which manifestly plays the part of the 'World Egg', is enclosed within the athanor, but that the athanor can itself be assimilated to the cosmos in both the macro­cosmic and the microcosmic sense. The cave can thus also be identified symbolically with the 'philosophical egg' and with the athanor according to the particular degree of development in the initiatic process that is being referred to; but in any case the fundamental meaning of the cave will not be altered in any way on that account.

It is also to be noted that this illumination by reflection takes us back to the Platonic image of the cave, in which only shadows are seen, thanks to a light that comes from without; and this light is indeed extra-cosmic, for its source is the 'intelligible Sun'. The liberation of the prisoners and their exodus from the cave is a 'coming into the daylight' in which they can contemplate directly the reality of which they had hitherto seen merely a reflection. This reality is that of the eternal archetypes, the possibilities contained in the permanent actuality of the immutable Essence.

- Fundamental Symbols, pp. 154-155


In this connection it should be noted that between the circular and square forms of the triple precinct figure, there is an important nuance: they relate respectively to the earthly Paradise and the celestial Jerusalem ... There is always analogy and correspondence between the beginning and the end of any cycle; but at the end, the circle is replaced by the square, and this indicates the realisation of what the Herme­tists designated symbolically as the 'squaring of the circle'. The sphere, which represents the development of possibilities by the expansion of the primordial point, is transformed into a cube when this development is completed and when the final equilibrium is attained by the cycle in question.

- Fundamental Symbols, p. 58

We find other interesting information in the meanings of the Arabic word rukn, 'angle' or 'corner'. This word, because it designates the extremities of a thing, that is, its most remote and hence most hidden parts (recondita and abscondita as one might say in Latin) , sometimes takes a sense of 'secret' or of 'mystery'; and in this respect, its plural, arkan, is comparable to the Latin arcanum which likewise has this same sense, and which it strikingly resembles; moreover, in the language of the Hermetists at least, the use of the term 'arcane' was certainly influenced directly by the Arabic word in question. Furthermore, rukn also has the meaning of 'base' or 'foundation', which leads us back to the 'cornerstone' understood as foundation stone. In alchemical terminology, al-arkan, when used without any other specification, are the four elements, that is, the substantial 'bases' of our world, which are thus assimilated to the foundation stones of the four angles of a building, since it is on them in a way that the whole corporeal world (likewise represented by the square) is constructed; and this brings us back directly to the very symbolism which is now our particular theme. In fact, there are not only these four arkan or 'basic' elements, but there is also a fifth rukn, the fifth element or the 'quintessence' (that is, ether). This fifth element is not on the same 'plane' as the others, for it is not simply a basis as they are, but rather the very principle of this world. It will be represented, therefore, as the fifth 'angle' ofthe edifice, which is its summit; and to this 'fifth', which is in reality its 'first', the designation of supreme angle rightly belongs, the angle par excellence or 'angle of angles' (rukn al-arkan), because the multiplicity of the other angles is reduced in it to unity. It may be noted further that the geometric figure obtained by joining these five angles is that of the pyramid with a quadrangular base: the lateral edges of the pyramid emanate from its summit like so many rays, just as the four ordinary elements, which are represented by the lower extremities of these edges, proceed from the fifth and are produced by it; and it is also follow­ing in the direction of these same edges, which we have intentionally compared to rays for this reason (and also in virtue of the 'solar' nature of the point they issue from, according to what we have said about the 'eye' of the dome), that the 'cornerstone' of the summit is reflected in each of the 'foundation stones' of the four angles of the base. Finally, in what has just been said there is the very clear indication of a correlation existing between alchemical symbolism and architectural symbolism, which, moreover, is to be explained by their common cosmological character; and this is yet another important point to which we shall have to return in connection with other parallels of the same order.

- Fundamental Symbols, pp. 191-192

Be outwardly on land and inwardly at sea.
~ Shaykh Muhammad al-Būzīdī

Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum

Search for:
Jump to: