Hexagram 20, Contemplation, of the I Ching, with King Wen’s explanation from 1143 B.C., as translated by R. G. H. Siu in The Portable Dragon, 1968.


“A person should contemplate the workings of the universe with reverence and introspection. In this way expression is given to the effects of these laws upon his own person. This is the source of a hidden power” (p138).

The Navajo Pollen Path

May 24th, 2007

A Navajo sand painting, New Mexico, c. 1950, dissected in Joseph Campbell‘s The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, 1986. Such paintings, composed of colored sand strewn upon a hogan’s dirt floor, are used in healing and initiation ceremonies, wherein an assemblage of friends and neighbors chant and encourage an initiate, physically entering the painting, to [re]embark upon and [re]live a mythic adventure.

Najavo sand painting of the Pollen Path

Starting at the bottom, “the footprints represent a spiritual ascent along the mystic way known to the Najaho as the Pollen Path” (p93).

“The two colors of the ‘female’ and the ‘male,’ lunar and solar powers… become one on passing between the guardian Spirit Bringers at the entrance to the sanctuary; the path, which is now of the single color of pollen, runs to the base of the World Tree, where three roots or ways of entrance are confronted” (p97).

“The bounded area is equivalent to the interior of a temple, an Earthly Paradise, where all forms are to be experienced, not in terms of practical relationships, threatening or desirable, evil or good, but as the manifestations of powers supporting the visible world and which, though not recognized in practical living, are everywhere immediately at hand and of one’s own nature” (p93).

The painting abounds with symbols, correspondences, archetypes, and hierophanies: the axial Great Corn Plant, its threefold root, the blue bird, its threefold perch, the lightening flash that “strikes to the exact center of the way” (p94), the yellow and black apparitions, the color system, the turns of the path, the number of corn ears and their placement. See Campbell’s expansive discussion.

“The ordeal is an act of sacrifice. The mind is to abandon forever the whole way of relating to life which is of the knowledge of the two powers of the path only as distinct from each other, red and blue. Beyond the exit gate, returning to the world, the path is to be no longer red and blue, but of the one color of pollen. The neighbors and friends who have gathered to witness the occasion will experience an exaltation, but then return to the world along the path by which they came… whereas the initiate, nearly naked and decorated as a god, will have become identified with the adventure” (p101).

Continuing on the theme of the last plate of the last post, four engravings from three works of the master miner Goossen van Vreeswijk: De Roode Leeuw (The Red Lion), 1674; De Groene Leeuw (The Green Lion), 1674; and De Goude Son (The Golden Sun), 1675. These engravings are also collected in de Rola’s anthology (see previous posts), bringing the total here to just 14 of his collected 533.

To make the Bird fly

“‘To make the Bird fly’ is to free the Spirit from its material prison, that it may soar in the alchemical sky and bring back Below the benefits of what is Above. The whole Work, and I have repeatedly stated, is a series of Dissolutions” (p251).

Make the Earth fly

“‘Make the Earth fly’, enjoin the authors; and indeed the Dissolution of our chosen Subject opens the portals of the Garden of the Wise. In rising from the Earth below to the Sky above, the Subject acquires the strength that is strong of all strength” (p245).

The Hermetick Labyrinth

Regarding the path, “the Hermetick Labyrinth symbolizes the material realization of the Great Work. The maze expresses two main difficulties: how to reach its centre and how to get out again. To reach the centre, one must first acquire sure knowledge of the Subject of the Art, and of its preparation, which is accomplished at the central pavilion. The return journey — when the chances of getting lost are greatly increased — signifies the mutation of the prepared Matter with the help of Fire. One sees Fire leading Matter on, guided by Ariadne’s thread. The thread is the Possibility of Nature: the fact that like produces like” (p251).

Pray and Work

As for method, “the result of assiduous studies, speculations and theories will be verified by practice. The spiritual dimension of Alchemy can only be attained by using one’s hands. Ora et Labora sic habebis: ‘Pray and Work, thus thou shalt receive'” (p264).

Drawing again from de Rola’s anthology (see earlier post), seven emblems by Balthazar (Baltzer Schwan) from Johann Daniel Mylius‘s 1622 Philosophia reformata.

These engravings illustrate application of the alchemical formula Solve et Coagula — ‘Dissolve the Fixed and Coagulate the Volatile’ — towards the ultimate conjunction of those opposing principles: the Philosopher’s Stone. The descriptions below are de Rola’s.

tyranny of the external Fire

“Without help from the Volatile, the Fixed is never sublimated; and conversely, the Volatile in growing Fixed grows more and more resistant to the tyranny of the external Fire” (p180).

the fleeing maiden

“Every fixation of the Volatile (the fleeing maiden caught by the monster) is followed by a volatilization of the Fixed until Perfection is reached” (p180).

The First Silver Perfection

“The First Silver Perfection is reached at the end of the Putrefaction” (p181).

the Green Lion

“Here is the Universal Dissolvent, the Green Lion or Mercury of the Wise, without which nothing can be achieved” (p181).

Three faces of the Stone

“Three faces of the Stone: the Philosophick Child, the purified Matter; the Old Man in the sphere, the Materia Prima; and the union of the three Principles, Mercury, Sulphur and Salt” (p182).

Philosophick Mercury

“This emblem (equivalent in significance to the image of a Mermaid or Siren) shows the union of Sulphur (our Fish) and of the first Mercury (the Woman), from which results Philosophick Mercury” (p182).

birds fly

“Here are the components of the Secret Fire: the fiery Water and the watery Fire which, excited by the ordinary Elemental Fire, cause the Birds to fly” (p182).

Suzuki on the Prajna-Eye

May 7th, 2007

Cover art from D. T. Suzuki‘s Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist, 1957 (Collier Books edition). We see the eight-spoked Buddhist Dharma wheel, the Christian crucifixion cross, and, before both symbols, an eye: Eckhart‘s eye, a prajna-eye, the eye of wisdom.


“It is not enough to ‘know’ as the term is ordinarily understood… Whatever knowledge the philosopher may have, it must come out of his experience, and this experience is seeing. Buddha has always emphasized this. He couples knowing (nana, jnana) with seeing (passa, pasya) for without seeing, knowing has no depths, cannot understand the realities of life. Therefore, the first item of the Eightfold Noble Path is sammadassana, right seeing, and sammasankappa, right knowing, comes next. Seeing is experiencing, seeing things in their state of suchness (tathata) or is-ness” (p34).

“Seeing is not just an ordinary seeing by means of relative knowledge; it is the seeing by means of a prajna-eye which is a special kind of intuition enabling us to penetrate right into the bedrock of Reality itself” (p35).

“…which is no other than Eckhart’s eye: ‘The eye wherein I see God is the same eye wherein God sees me: my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one vision, one knowing, one love'” (p43).