The coinherence symbol designed by Professor Roger Corless (Duke) in 1983, combining the symbols of various religious traditions. As the logo of the Duke University Department of Religion, it combines 7 symbols (circle, taijitu, wheel, hexagram, labarum, crescent, cross); the logo of the University Religious Council (URC) at UC Berkeley adds 4 more (point, atom, chalice, lotus).

I have redrawn the former version here:

Coinherence Symbol

The symbol combines its constituents “in such a way as to represent simultaneously the full and autonomous presence of each tradition and their intimate interrelation, each inside the other, in the mode of coinherence” (URC).

Meister Eckhart on coinherence: “There is a difference between spiritual things and bodily things. Every spiritual thing can dwell in another but nothing bodily can exist in another. There may be water in a tub, and the tub surrounds it, but where the wood is, there is no water. In this sense no material thing dwells in another, but every spiritual thing does dwell in another. Every single angel is in the next with all his joy, with all his happiness and all his beatitude as perfectly as in himself; and every angel with all his joy and all his beatitude is in me, and so is God Himself with all his beatitude, though I know it not” (Meister Eckhart: Sermons and Treatises, translated and edited by Walshe, vI p50; appearing in Corless’s Many Selves, Many Realities, 2002).

Four woodcuts from German Expressionist Woodcuts, 1994, edited by Shane Weller.

Expressionism was in part a reaction against Impressionism‘s emphasis on atmospherics and surface appearances, and against academic painting’s rigid technique, stressing instead the emotional state of the artist and subject… creating an experience rich in drama that conveyed the inner reality of the subject matter” (pvii).

Barlach’s To Joy

Ernst Barlach. To Joy, 1927 (p1).

Kirchner’s Three Paths

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Three Paths, 1917 (p47).

Rohlf’s Large Head

Christian Rohlfs. Large Head, 1922 (p100).

Schmidt-Rottluff’s Prophetess

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Prophetess, 1919 (p115).

Five of 200 emblems collected and explained by George Wither in his 1635 Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne (2003 Kessinger facsimile).

“For, when levitie, or a childish delight, in trifling Objects, hath allowed them to looke on the Pictures; Curiositie may urge them to peepe further, that they might seeke out also their Meanings, in our annexed Illustrations; In which, may lurke some Sentence, or Expression so evidently pertinent to their Estates, Persons, or Affections, as will (at that instant or afterward) make way for those Considerations, which will, at last, wholly change them, or much better them, in their Conversation” (pA2).

No force

“What cannot be by Force attain’d, By Leisure, and Degrees, is gain’d” (p49).

Before and behinde

“He, that concealed things will finde, Must looke before him, and behinde” (p138).

Each day a line

“Each Day a Line, small tasks appeares. Yet, much it makes in threescore Yeares” (p158).

Unmoov’d abides

“True Vertue, whatfoere betides, In all extreames, unmoov’d abides” (p218).

The garland

“The Garland, He alone shall weare, Who, to the Goale, doth persevere” (p258).

Two Rothkos from Jacob Baal-Teshuva’s Rothko (2003 Taschen edition). “The aim of his life’s work was to express the essence of the universal human drama” (p17). Said Rothko, “‘Any picture which does not provide the environment in which the breath of life can be drawn does not interest me'” (p45).

Violet Stripe

Violet Stripe, 1956.

“‘Silence is so accurate,’ he said, adding that words would only ‘paralyze’ the viewer’s mind. In one conversation he said, ‘Maybe you have noticed two characteristics exist in my paintings; either the surfaces are expansive and push outward in all directions, or the surfaces contract and rush inward in all directions. Between these two poles you can find everything I want to say'” (p50).


Untitled, 1969.

“On another occasion, he announced that, ‘A painting is not about experience. It is an experience'” (p57).

Four illustrations appearing in E. J. Holmyard’s 1957 Alchemy, a historical account of exoteric alchemy.

First, a diagram (p22) of the Greek conception of the four elements — fire, air, water, and earth — in relation to their qualities — wet (fluid, moist), dry, hot, and cold.

Four elements and four qualities

Each element is described, unequally, by its two adjacent properties; thus fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry, air wet and hot, water cold and wet, and earth dry and cold. “None of the four elements is unchangeable; they may pass into one another through the medium of that quality which they possess in common; thus fire fire can become air through the medium of heat, air can become water through the medium of fluidity; and so on” (p22).

This system (with earlier roots, and similarly present in other cultures) was conceptualized by Aristotle (384 BC — 322 BC), who “argues that each and every other substance is composed of each and every ‘element’, the difference between one substance and another depending on the proportions in which the elements are present… It follows that any kind of substance can be transformed into any other kind by so treating it that the proportions of its elements are changed to accord with the proportions of the elements in the other substance. This may be done by change of the elements originally existing in the first substance, or by adding some substance consisting of such proportions of the elements that when the substances are mixed or combined the desired final proportions are attained” (p23).

“Here we have the germ of all theories of metallic transmutation and the basic philosophical justification of all the laborious days spent by alchemists over their furnaces” (p23) — a point well-illustrated (plate 18) in Mylius’ 1622 Philosophia Reformata (see also earlier post on Mylius):

Four elements and the Work

The spherical fundaments display the alchemical symbols of the four elements (earth, water, air, fire, from left-to-right), while the flaming flasks atop represent so-supported stages of the Work, blackening, whitening, yellowing, reddening, which color changes describe successive objectives of the various alchemical operations: calcination, sublimation, fusion, crystallization, distillation, and putrefaction, among other processes.

Arab alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan (a.k.a. Geber, 721 — 815) theorized that all metals were formed in the earth by the union of sulphur (that is, philosophical sulphur, dry and hot) and mercury (also philosophical, cold and wet), and that therefore the art of alchemy is the balancing of these two natures (later, salt made three, the tria prima) to produce other metals (e.g., gold). This was the start of a “chemical marriage” that would influence all of European alchemy during its entire extent, as seen (plate 19), for example, in Barchusen’s Elementa Chemia one thousand years later (1718):

Mercury and sulphur

Wherein is shown the opposing principles of sun and moon, drawing near over receding waters, with the symbols for sulphur and mercury in close association — thence, if the alchemist is successful, to finally unite, the fusion of oppositions, of male and female, represented by the philosophical androgyne:

Grand Hermetic Androgyne

“The Grand Hermetic Androgyne trampling underfoot the four elements of the prima materia. From the Codex Germanicus 598″ (plate 34).

Whose imprint can still be seen today:

Babar in St. Michael and the Dragon

A Laurent de Brunhoff adaptation of Raffaello Sanzio‘s Saint Michael and the Dragon from Babar’s Museum of Art, 2003 (p15).