Nazari’s Genealogical Tree

March 28th, 2010

A woodcut diagram by Giovanni Battista Nazari from his 1599 Three Dreams on the Transmutation of Metals (McLean’s edition, translated by Doug Skinner).

Narrates the dreaming protagonist before Raymundus’s arch: “Although I looked over this construction with great delight, and reflected upon its occult secrets, my mind could not climb high enough to discover its meaning. Lost in these thoughts, I raised my eyes again toward the divine edifice; and saw, in the circular frieze of celestial lapis lazuli, these words, engraved and gilded: OUR SON THE KING HAS THREE FATHERS: THE FIRST CAUSES GENERATION, THE SECOND MULTIPLICATION, AND THE THIRD PERFECTION; AND OUR SON IS A POWERFUL KING, WHO FEARS NO OTHER KINGS.

“These words stimulated my desire to understand all of this; so that I could go no further. I gently asked the blessed Damsel to explain the structure, and she replied, ‘Pilgrim, follow me behind the locked door, and I will show you the explanation that you ask.’

“When we arrived, she opened the door with her occult secrets; we entered, and she showed me a large stone of  polished marble, on which I saw a description of the genealogical tree of the aforesaid king, with this diagram” (p119).

Nazari’s genealogical tree, p122. Click for larger version.

“The more this picture confounded me, the more I wanted to learn its meaning. Whereupon the gracious Damsel, seeing me so puzzled, said, ‘I know, my Pilgrim, that you would like to learn the meaning of the structure that you saw, and I find this desire of yours worthy of your request. Listen, then, and know that my explanation of it will also clarify the wonderful work that you saw in the middle of the flowering field; for those words engraved in the frieze of the circular lapis lazuli are the writings of our faithful compatriot N.; which concern the nature of those three fathers, who you can see inscribed on the tree, marked with the letters D, E, and F.’

“‘But come to the fundamental point of our argument: first you must know who engendered these fathers, who they are, and the nature of them. To begin with, then, let me tell you that our Chaos (B) begat the first father, and that this Chaos is the son of Nature (A). This first father was already mother of the second father of our king, Chaos (B) being the father. This mother (G) does not generate; the father does.’

“‘Let us proceed to the second father, who is the cause of the multiplication of the son, our king. And I tell you that he is the son of our Chaos (B). This son is the father and brother of the first father: thus, the first and second fathers are brothers; they are not, however, only two sons, two fathers, and two brothers to our king, but also one son, one father, and one brother. This father was also the mother of the third father, Chaos being the father: for this mother does not generate; the father does.’

“‘The third father is the cause of the perfection of our king, our son; this father is generated from the second father, by means of Chaos (B), his father and brother, but is still brother to the second father. Therefore, they are not only three fathers and three sons to Chaos (B), and three brothers, but a father to our king, a brother, and a son to Chaos (B). Our Chaos (C) has six sons, who are not only his sons, but brothers and sons.’

“On hearing the excellent Damsel’s obscure explanations, I felt as if I too had become a Chaos, from my confusion; for her words scaled the highest limits of the natural art of philosophy, to heights that reason can barely attain. Eager for a clearer explanation of all this, I humbly asked the gracious Damsel, who gently replied as follows.

“‘You will learn, Pilgrim, that these three Fathers, united with their wives (who are begotten by the fathers of our king, our son), and who are not only three, but one single wife, and one husband, beget this son, our most powerful king, who is very fertile in the begetting of countless offspring. And this divine mystery happens in this way: the first youthful father (D), united with his wife and daughter (G), who is white when hidden and black when revealed, is the cause of generation.’

“‘The second father, similarly united with his wife and daughter (H), who is red when hidden and white when revealed, is the cause of multiplication: that is, he is the reason that our king, our son, is so gifted in virtues, and so filled with good, that he can multiply the virtues and good of his other brothers, and destroy their every infirmity.’

“‘The third father, not unlike the others, united with his wife and daughter (I), who is citron when hidden and red when revealed, is the cause of perfection: that is, he is the reason that the king, our son, is born of such perfection that he can perfect his imperfect brothers by the power of his own perfection.’

“The Damsel pursues her explanation; for greater clarity she gives the meaning of each letter or number noted on the tree sculpted on the stone, as follows.

A. Nature generates our Chaos B and C. The former begets the three fathers D, E, and F; the latter generates six sons.
B. Our Chaos has three sons and three daughters, who are sisters and brothers.
C. This Chaos has six sons, who are brothers and sons.
D. The first young father, generating his wife, is the cause of generation.
E. The second father, generating his wife, is the cause of multiplication.
F. The third old father, generating his wife, is the cause of perfection.
G. The first young wife, to the first father.
H. The second middle-aged wife, to the second father.
I. The third old wife, to the third father.
K. Chaos, father of the daughters, fathers, and sons of our Chaos.
L. The third powerful king, contracting, multiplying, and perfecting his brothers.
1. The mother alone.
2. The father alone.
3. Because of them.
4. The first father, young and saffron.
5. The second father, virile and pure white.
6. The third father, old and white.
7. Chaos B and K: the same thing.
8. The first wife, born in Aries.
9. The second wife, born in Cancer.
10. The third wife, born in Libra.
11. Chaos B and C: the same thing.
12. Because of the fathers.
13. Because of the mothers.
14. The white brother.
15. The red brother.
16. The black bother.
17. The sparkling white brother.
18. The ashen brother.
19. The pure white brother.

“When the honest Damsel had finished speaking, I, unable to fully understand her explanation, asked for an example to clarify it. And she, willing to satisfy my request, replied:

“‘My Pilgrim, if you consider the profound secrets of nature, you will see that this king, our son, is generated by the first father (D), multiplied by the second (E), and brought to perfection by the third (F); although there is but one father, who generates, multiplies, and perfects. But let me offer an example.’

“‘Water and flour without yeast is not true bread; thus bread requires water, flour, and yeast. In like fashion, just as neither flour and yeast without water, nor water and flour without yeast, nor water and yeast without flour will generate bread; so too we cannot make our bread without our water, our flour, and our yeast, all first created together. We see, therefore, that our water is the cause of generation, our yeast of multiplication, and our flour of perfection; all of which bring our bread into being. And because our flour and water are created together, and our yeast with our flour and water, we can determine that our water is our flour, and that our flour and water are our yeast, except for their form…’

“‘It was not without some mystery that N. had the aforementioned sentence inscribed into the circular stone. Furthermore, you should know that Raymundus has put all of the science of my magistery into the aforesaid structure, in imitation of the alter to the god of Hermes, which you saw earlier. But this work of Raymundus’s explains that of Hermes, and vice versa; therefore, if you know the hidden secrets of the numen of Hermes, you need no further explanation. But let us move on'” (p119-124).

Kandinsky on the Effect of Color

February 21st, 2010

Two diagrams by Kandinsky from his 1914 Concerning the Spiritual in Art.

“The inner need is the basic alike of small and great problems in painting. We are seeking today for the road which is to lead us away from the outer to the inner basis. The spirit, like the body, can be strengthened and developed by frequent exercise. Just as the body, if neglected, grows weaker and finally impotent, so the spirit perishes if untended. And for this reason it is necessary for the artist to know the starting point for the exercise of his spirit.

“The starting point is the study of colour and its effect on men.

“There is no need to engage in the finer shades of complicated colour, but rather at first to consider only the direct use of simple colours.

“To begin with, let us test the working on ourselves of individual colours, and so make a simple chart [figures I and II, below], which will facilitate the consideration of the whole question.

Figure I, p36f. Click for larger version.

“Two great divisions of colour occur to the mind at the outset: into warm and cold, and into light and dark. To each colour there are therefore four shades of appeal—warm and light or warm and dark, or cold and light or cold and dark.

“Generally speaking, warmth or cold in a colour means an approach respectively to yellow or to blue. This distinction is, so to speak, on one basis, the colour having a constant fundamental appeal, but assuming either a more material or more non-material quality. The movement is a horizontal one, the warm colours approaching the spectator, the cold ones retreating from him.

“The colours, which cause in another colour this horizontal movement, while they are themselves affected by it, have another movement of their own, which acts with a violent separative force. That is, therefore, the first antithesis in the inner appeal, and the inclination of colour to yellow or to blue, is of tremendous importance.

“The second antithesis is between white and black; i.e., the inclination to light or dark caused by the pair of colours just mentioned. These colours have once more their peculiar movement to and from the spectator, but in a more rigid form.

“Yellow and blue have another movement which affects the first antithesis—an ex- and concentric movement. If two circles are drawn and painted respectively with yellow and blue, brief concentration will reveal in the yellow a spreading movement out from the centre, and a noticeable approach to the spectator. The blue, on the other hand, moves in upon itself, like a snail retreating into its shell, and draws away from the spectator.

“In the case of light and dark colours the movement is emphasized. That of the yellow increases with an admixture of white, i.e., as it becomes lighter. That of the blue increases with an admixture of black, i.e., as it becomes darker. This mean that there can never be a dark-coloured yellow. The relationship between white and yellow is as close as between black and blue, for blue can be so dark as to border on black. Besides this physical relationship, is also a spiritual one (between yellow and white on one side, between blue and black on the other) which marks a strong separation between the two pairs.

“An attempt to make yellow colder produces a green tint and checks both the horizontal and excentric movement. The colour becomes sickly and unreal. The blue by its contrary movement acts as a brake on the yellow, and is hindered in its own movement, till the two together become stationary, and the result is green. Similarly a mixture of black and white produces gray, which is motionless and spiritually very similar to green.

“But while green, yellow, and blue are potentially active, though temporarily paralysed, in gray there is no possibility of movement, because gray consists of two colours that have no active force, for they stand the one in motionless discord, the other in a motionless negation, even of discord, like an endless wall or a bottomless pit.

“Because the component colours of green are active and have a movement of their own, it is possible, on the basis of this movement, to reckon their spiritual appeal.

“The first movement of yellow, that of approach to the spectator (which can be increased by an intensification of the yellow), and also the second movement, that of over-spreading the boundaries, have a material parallel in the human energy which assails every obstacle blindly, and bursts forth aimlessly in every direction.

“Yellow, if steadily gazed at in any geometrical form, has a disturbing influence, and reveals in the colour an insistent, aggressive character. The intensification of the yellow increases the painful shrillness of its note.

“Yellow is the typically earthly colour. It can never have profound meaning. An intermixture of blue makes it a sickly colour. It may be paralleled in human nature, with madness, not with melancholy or hypochondriacal mania, but rather with violent raving lunacy.

“The power of profound meaning is found in blue, and first in its physical movements (1) of retreat from the spectator, (2) of turning in upon its own centre. The inclination of blue to depth is so strong that its inner appeal is stronger when its shade is deeper.

“Blue is the typical heavenly colour. The ultimate feeling it creates is one of rest. When it sinks almost to black, it echoes a grief that is hardly human. When it rises towards white, a movement little suited to it, its appeal to men grows weaker and more distant…

“A well-balanced mixture of blue and yellow produces green. The horizontal movement ceases; likewise that from and towards the centre. The effect on the soul through the eye is therefore motionless. This is a fact recognized not only by opticians but by the world. Green is the most restful colour that exists. On exhausted men this restfulness has a beneficial effect, but after a time it becomes wearisome. Pictures painted in shades of green are passive and tend to be wearisome; this contrasts with the active warmth of yellow or the active coolness of blue. In the hierarchy of colours green is the ‘bourgeoisie’-self-satisfied, immovable, narrow. It is the colour of summer, the period when nature is resting from the storms of winter and the productive energy of spring.

“Any preponderance in green of yellow or blue introduces a corresponding activity and changes the inner appeal. The green keeps its characteristic equanimity and restfulness, the former increasing with the inclination to lightness, the latter with the inclination to depth…

“Black and white have already been discussed in general terms. More particularly speaking, white, although often considered as no colour (a theory largely due to the Impressionists, who saw no white in nature), is a symbol of a world from which all colour as a definite attribute has disappeared. This world is too far above us for its harmony to touch our souls. A great silence, like an impenetrable wall, shrouds its life from our understanding. White, therefore, has this harmony of silence, which works upon us negatively… It is not a dead silence, but one pregnant with possibilities. White has the appeal of the nothingness that is before birth, of the world in the ice age.

“A totally dead silence, on the other hand, a silence with no possibilities, has the inner harmony of black… Black is something burnt out, like the ashes of a funeral pyre, something motionless like a corpse. The silence of black is the silence of death. Outwardly black is the colour with least harmony of all, a kind of neutral background against which the minutest shades of other colours stand clearly forward. It differs from white in this also, for with white nearly every colour is in discord, or even mute altogether.

“Not without reason is white taken as symbolizing joy and spotless purity, and black grief and death. A blend of black and white produces gray which, as has been said, is silent and motionless, being composed of two inactive colours, its restfulness having none of the potential activity of green. A similar gray is produced by a mixture of green and red, a spiritual blend of passivity and glowing warmth.

Figure II, p36f. Click for larger version.

“The unbounded warmth of red has not the irresponsible appeal of yellow, but rings inwardly with a determined and powerful intensity It glows in itself, maturely, and does not distribute its vigour aimlessly.

“The varied powers of red are very striking. By a skillful use of it in its different shades, its fundamental tone may be made warm or cold.

“Light warm red has a certain similarity to medium yellow, alike in texture and appeal, and gives a feeling of strength, vigour, determination, triumph…

“Vermilion is a red with a feeling of sharpness, like glowing steel which can be cooled by water. Vermilion is quenched by blue, for it can support no mixture with a cold colour. More accurately speaking, such a mixture produces what is called a dirty colour, scorned by painters of today. But “dirt” as a material object has its own inner appeal, and therefore to avoid it in painting, is as unjust and narrow as was the cry of yesterday for pure colour. At the call of the inner need that which is outwardly foul may be inwardly pure, and vice versa.

“The two shades of red just discussed are similar to yellow, except that they reach out less to the spectator. The glow of red is within itself. For this reason it is a colour more beloved than yellow, being frequently used in primitive and traditional decoration, and also in peasant costumes, because in the open air the harmony of red and green is very beautiful. Taken by itself this red is material, and, like yellow, has no very deep appeal. Only when combined with something nobler does it acquire this deep appeal. It is dangerous to seek to deepen red by an admixture of black, for black quenches the glow, or at least reduces it considerably.

“But there remains brown, unemotional, disinclined for movement. An intermixture of red is outwardly barely audible, but there rings out a powerful inner harmony. Skillful blending can produce an inner appeal of extraordinary, indescribable beauty. The vermilion now rings like a great trumpet, or thunders like a drum.

“Cool red (madder) like any other fundamentally cold colour, can be deepened—especially by an intermixture of azure. The character of the colour changes; the inward glow increases, the active element gradually disappears. But this active element is never so wholly absent as in deep green. There always remains a hint of renewed vigour, somewhere out of sight, waiting for a certain moment to burst forth afresh. In this lies the great difference between a deepened red and a deepened blue, because in red there is always a trace of the material… A cold, light red contains a very distinct bodily or material element, but it is always pure, like the fresh beauty of the face of a young girl…

“Warm red, intensified by a suitable yellow, is orange. This blend brings red almost to the point of spreading out towards the spectator. But the element of red is always sufficiently strong to keep the colour from flippancy. Orange is like a man, convinced of his own powers…

“Just as orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow, so violet is red withdrawn from humanity by blue. But the red in violet must be cold, for the spiritual need does not allow of a mixture of warm red with cold blue.

“Violet is therefore both in the physical and spiritual sense a cooled red. It is consequently rather sad and ailing. It is worn by old women, and in China as a sign of mourning…

“The two last mentioned colours (orange and violet) are the fourth and last pair of antitheses of the primitive colours. They stand to each other in the same relation as the third antitheses—green and red—i.e., as complementary colours” (p35-41).

Mouravieff’s Correction

October 21st, 2009

A diagram by Boris Mouravieff from his 1958 monograph, Ouspensky, Gurdjieff and the Work (translated by the Praxis Research Institute).

Mouravieff corrects Ouspensky’s diagram (see previous post), “which is the most important diagram for all who begin studying esotericism. We can see at first glance that it is not complete, and in addition, it contains grave errors” (p27).

Mouravieff’s correction, p31.

In the corrected diagram above, “the [black] arrows represent the influences created in life by life itself. This is the first kind of influence, called ‘A’ influence. It should be noted that the black arrows cover the surface of the circle of life almost evenly.

“Their effect, as with all radiant forces of nature, is inversely proportional to the square of the distance; that is why man is mainly influenced by the arrows closest to him, so that he find himself drawn at any moment by the result of the present moment. The influence of the ‘A’ arrows on involving man is compulsive; driven by them, he wanders within the circle of his life from birth until death.

“The totality of these ‘A’ influences forms the law of accident, and human fate comes under its rule. But if we examine the diagram more closely we will see that each black arrow is neutralised or counterbalanced by another arrow elsewhere that is equal in force and diametrically opposite in direction, so that had the arrows been left to neutralize each other, the general result would equal zero. This means that, taken as a whole, the ‘A’ influences are of an illusory nature, though their effect is real, and for this reason involving man generally takes them for the only reality in life” (p31).

‘E’ represents “the esoteric center, outside the general laws of life” (p32).

‘B’ influences “are thrown into the turmoil of life by the Esoteric Center. These different influences, which have been created outside life are represented in the diagram by white arrows. They are all oriented towards the same direction. Taken together they form a kind of magnetic field.

“Since the ‘A’ influences neutralise each other, the ‘B’ influences form the only reality in life.

“A man taken in isolation… is represented in the schematic diagram by a finely partitioned circle the surface area of which is crossed by fine diagonal lines except for the small clear area. This means that involving man’s nature is not homogeneous; it is a mixture.

“If a man spends his life without distinguishing between ‘A’ and ‘B’ influences, he will end it in the same way as he began — that is to say, mechanically, moved by the law of accident” (p32).

“Every individual is subject to a kind of preparatory test in life. If he is able to discern the ‘B’ influences and their existence, if he enjoys the taste of gathering them and absorbing them, and if he aspires to assimilate them more and more, then his interior nature, which began as a mixture, will, step by step, begin to undergo a certain evolution. Then, if his efforts to absorb the ‘B’ influences are constant and strong enough, a magnetic center begins to form inside him. That magnetic center is represented in the diagram by the small white area.

“If, once born in him and carefully developed, that center embodies itself, then it will exert an influence on the action of the ‘A’ arrows which are, of course, still functioning. This will lead to a change of direction. This deviation may be violent. It normally goes against the general laws of life, provoking conflicts in and around him. If he loses this battle he will emerge with the conviction that the ‘B’ influences are only an illusion, and that the only reality is represented by the ‘A’ influences. Step by step, the magnetic center that has been formed inside him will be re-absorbed and disappear. After this, his new situation will be worse than it was before he had first begun to discern the ‘B’ influences.

“But if he wins that first fight, his magnetic center, consolidated and reinforced, will attract him to a man of ‘C’ influence — stronger than he is and in possession of a stronger magnetic center than his own. Thus, by way of succession, since the man he had met has a relationship with a man of ‘D’ influence, he in his turn will be linked with the Esoteric Center ‘E’.

“From then on, that man will no longer be isolated in life. He will, of course, continue to live as he did before subject to the action of the ‘A’ influences, which will still exert their dominance upon him for a long time; yet, step by step, and thanks to the effect of the chain of influences B-C-D-E, his magnetic center will develop more and more and to the degree that his magnetic center grows he will evade the domination of the law of accident to enter the domain of consciousness” (p32-33).

A diagram by R. G. H. Siu from his 1974 neo-daoist Ch’i.

“Wouldn’t it be interesting, if the world were structured according to the diagram [above]…

“Light itself consists of energy and ch’i.

“Quantum properties of Light are the refractions of its mass-energy component. Continua are the refractors of its massless ch’i.

“It’s no wonder that a Sanskrit root for Time is Light.

“Energy and mass, inanimate — we call it visible, existent, actual.

Ch’i, our animate — we call invisible and nonexistent, useful.

“Organism is the active unity. Serenity reflects the active harmony.

“Life is an ongoing metabolism modifying ch’i.

“Evolution trends toward ever greater elegance of function.

“Mental illness follows the uncoupling, shunting, or deranging of selected pathways. Death ensues upon the loss of such a metabolic capability, as remnants then revert to inanimate dust.

“The origin of Life does not lie in the synthesis of a specific molecule, which has been arbitrarily defined to be organic.

“Such a change remains inanimate.

“Life arose with the first separation of the ch’i from Light in an assimilable form.

“Every species possesses a characteristic range of capacities for transforming ch’i.

“Normal offspring are endowed at birth with the lower threshold values; the ability to absorb and transform ch’i then increases with experience and with maturity. There is a steady change in the amount and variety of ch’i available from outside sources; and this, in turn, transmutes the former baseline for metabolism, giving rise to yet another series of resulting ch’i. The new ch’i then serves as the raw material for the succeeding process. Each exposure to a novel form of ch’i increases the proficiency of the inherited metabolizing apparatus.

“The metabolizing apparatus thereby constitutes one’s personality; its metabolic scope prescribes the fullness of one’s livingness; the extension of its scope accounts for creativity.

“There is a wide assortment of means by which the ch’i may enter into the being of the living.

“Primitive forms are continually incarnated in the tissues of green plants in photosynthesis, and these subsequently enter through the mouth as food.

“More sophisticated forms come through the ear, eye, mind, and a multitude of diverse and simultaneous communication channels, as compatibility allows.

“There is no past ch’i or future ch’i.

“Just as former states of energy exist in energy, so former states of ch’i exist in ch’i. And just as later states of energy exist in energy, so later states of ch’i exist in ch’i.

“There is only ch’i with hysteresis and potentiality.

“Men speak of the id, the ego, and the superego.

“Id reminds us of the transporting of ch’i through multimedia among the organisms. Ego, of the processing of ch’i internally in organisms. Superego, of the forming of the virtual presences as higher forms of ch’i by man.

“Wholesomeness of living seems dependent on continuing adjustments of a multitude of delicate coherences with the Whole.

“When the animals evolved the talent to produce a virtual presence, they acquired a soul.

“Then there was a God to be adored.

“And an Adam was created.

“As production of virtual presences increases, man’s tie to the Real decreases.

“Soon, he praises innovation and inhuman courage. He invents thrills and excitements. He relies on myths and mysteries. He downgrades Nature with a reckless chisel.

“Life becomes the Grand Illusion.

“With facility in the manipulation of the virtual presences, the primal Superman was born.

“With perfection in the art, a second Lucifer took charge.

“It was then that man came to defy the Lord.

“The interminable conflict thrusting the virtual presences against the real intensifies.

“As the power of the virtual grows, human values ineluctably turn phony. As the rate of change accelerates they turn ephemeral. And doubt in self and gods both virtual and real then takes its toll.

“The twilight of a great civilization is at hand” (p16-20).

Continuing the derivation of the previous post, three more figures from Benson’s The Inner Nature of Color, these illustrating the coloration of the four elements (or processes).

Black figure skyphos with gods, ca. 500 B.C.E (plate III). Click for larger version.

“Although the canonical four color grouping of black, white, red, and yellow is not documented in ancient literature before the first half of the fifth century, it can easily be noticed that these same four colors, separately, together, or in mixtures giving the so-called earth colors, predominate not merely in Greece but all through early cultures. The Greeks, specifically the Attic ceramic craftsmen, had a special relationship to this ‘canon’ in that they refined their color choice, presumably out of a passionate attachment to it, to a glossy black and orange-red as an aesthetic norm. Beings and objects in the pictorial freeze [e.g., above] are shown in black, suggesting the obvious conclusion that this color represents the corporeality, the density, of earth substance. And the frieze itself, be it noted, is reserved in the black density of the pot, also fire earth-substance.

“The orange frieze used in black figure work misses maximum contrast value with the black, so why was it chosen? Perhaps a kind of instinctive insight has always led people to refer to red, or reddish hues, as the color of life… In the circumstances we are considering… the reddish hue can really only represent air (atmosphere), in which all beings and things are bathed. For example if we consider animals or men, they unremittingly draw in life force for the blood through breathing air, whereupon the blood maintains both physical and emotional existence. Red, therefore, represents the air on the macrocosmic plane and in the extended microcosmic sense it represents soul life.

“We can now take stock. The two opposite fix-points, earth-air, provide a contrast that is more spatial than dynamic, for earth and air are fundamentally contiguous, and in an undisturbed state do not act on one another but simply preside over, as it were, the spheres of below and above, respectively. (Fire and water, on the other hand, are by nature hostile to one another, eliminate themselves when, forced together, they must attack each other.) Just as in the relationship of earth and air, the colors black and red have a complementary, not an adversarial, relationship, and it cannot be accidental that as prismatic colors of the Dark spectrum, black and red are precisely contiguous. Nevertheless, the juxtaposition is decisive: black is heavy, immobile, hence can function as support; red as a chromatic color has also a certain density but, as Goethe already noted, it is the least mobile color, so that without forcing a point we could say that it hovers over black. In this way once can feel why the Archaic painters remained so long satisfied with this combination: it gave superb expression to their passionate pursuit of physical reality in a way that no other color and background, e.g., white, could have.

“During the Archaic and Protoclassical periods the Ionian philosophers consistently pondered the nature of the elements on the basis of the polarity principle. Similarly, the colors black and white were seen as polar opposites, like cold and warm, but these colors could not be connected with the actual pair of polar opposites in the elements (fire and water) in view of the factors discussed above. Indeed, apart from black-earth, we shall find that a little leeway must be allowed in assigning color to elements (even red-air). In any case, at this point fire and water are open to appointment to white and yellow. According to the criterion of density already established [in the previous post], yellow, visually the stronger of the two colors, will go to water, the denser element, leaving white for fire (warmth) as the most rarefied substance of all (just as Empedokles took for granted).

“Yellow accordingly is the expression of the principle of fluidity, the functional principle (circulatory system) of the earth planet and all its creatures. Yellow therefore can be called the active color par excellence… White, on the other hand, characterizes the element which is the least physical — which in fact can almost not be conceived of except as an invisible connective (warmth) of the other elements. And indeed on the visual plane white is passive, lacking specific expressionality. It does not in any sense importune us but kindly provides without preconditions an empty space for inner freedom. This makes it highly suitable to represent, at the macrocosmic level, the sphere of pure thought, the goal of nous; the relative loftiness of this sphere may suggest, but does not compel, a connection to the Godhead. I say not compel because the Godhead is logically prior to and beyond all color. Moreover, white can be sullied by the admixture of impure elements, as can pure reason” (p31-33).

“Having established a structured visual paradigm for the relationship of the four elements among themselves [see previous post], we can now consider the associated colors when the paradigms are repeated to show the effects of the respective dominant process… [As] Empedokles himself envisioned: ‘Those elements and forces are to be understood as equally strong and coeval, yet each of them has a different function, each has its own characteristic and in the rounds of time they take their turn being dominant” (p46).

Macrocosmic progressions (p47). Click for larger version.

Fire is the creative principle in (B), (C), (D), hence white; it materializes only in (A), hence red (physical).

Air expands in (A), (B), hence yellow and increases its efforts to do so in (D) hence really a deeper yellow; it loses this quality by taking on weight in (C), hence red (immobility).

Water is the least stable in color. In (A) it is white (diminshingly physical). In (B) water signifies (retains) liquidity even in distillation (oxygen) hence red, yet it also becomes gaseous (hydrogen) thus tending toward yellow; in (C) it achieves maximum movement (yellow) and in (D) it tends toward immobility (red).

Earth is always stable to the extent that it remains the darker part in any condition. In principle, yellow is the color of dispersal, black of concentration, red of intensity or arrested movement and white of non-physicality or minimal physicality.

In all cases the colors share the tendency of the elements to mix themselves constantly and must therefore be taken as in constant gradation from one to the other.

“It must be emphasized that the progressions in [the figure above] relate to the macrocosmos, that is, more precisely, the universal, external and objective — as it were — basis of physical/physiological processes… [Whereas] the implications of elements and colors on the specific level of the human being, whose form and functions — physical, physiological, psychological and mental/moral — constantly interact with the macrocosmos. This is shown in [the figure below]” (p46-47).

Microcosmic progressions (p48). Click for larger version.

Earth is implcit in life processes at all stages providing physicality or its shadow, hence always black.

Water is more subject to movement in (F)-(G), hence yellow but more balanced and stable in (E) and (H), hence red.

Air is more subject to movement in (E) and (H), hence yellow but more stable and dense in (F) and (G), hence red.

Fire is the invisible presupposition of all processes, hence white throughout.

“In structuring the macrocosmic pictures, I employed… the hierarchical evolutionary principle of organization: fire, air, water and earth (as solid matter, the finished product of evolution). By contrast, since the psychological and mental/moral effects of interaction can be realized only by an individual consciousness, the microscopic series is therefore organized according to the biological principle. The order is exactly reversed since the human being begins with earth (physicality) at birth and rises in the end (ideally) to mental/moral ripeness” (p49).

Nine diagrams by J. L. Benson that derive a picture of the four elements theory, from his 2004 The Inner Nature of Color.

“For the purpose of this study, it is essential to invent a ‘picture’ that can also suggest in spatial terms the concept of the miscibility (krasis) of the [four] elements, since these were understood by the ancients to be processes whereby a constant metamorphosis of the visual configuration of the world at any moment is actually taking place. The descriptive determination of such momentary states lies with two pairs of opposing conditions: hot-cold and wet-dry. These qualities in effect give the parameters of two of the elements, fire and water, whereby it can concluded that fire and water have a particular axial quality, a central governing position in the total concept of four.

“The most obvious and striking aspect of this relationship is, as already suggested, the uncontested polarity of fire and water. The archenemy of fire is water; equally, fire opposes water but with much less immediate impact and finality. Fire is quenched by water; water is evaporated (goes into air) by fire. This stronger quality of water allows it to determine how to pictorialize the relationship. Since the inalienable tendency of water is to seek the horizontal, we may use a horizontal line, whereby the placement of fire and water to left or right is still to be discussed: liquefaction opposes combustion” (p36-7).

“With this given, a second less dramatic but equally inescapable polarity remains: earth and air. Their normal relationship is to be contiguous, with the earth below and the air above… This relationship is logically to be illustrated by a vertical line: condensation opposes rarefaction” (p37).

“Given the interaction of the four elements observable by the senses, we can now cross the two lines” (p38).

“Whereas the position of A and E is given by physical characteristics, the placement of fire and water involves the relationship of left and right. Therefore the science and the laws of picture-making, if there be such, must meet and interact. There is no left and right bias in fire and water as such, but there is a fundamental difference between left and right visually… It was the merit of Vassily Kandinsky, acting on a suggestion of Goethe, to have conceptualized the picture plane as an area — blank or not — that is alive with tensions of weight. Indeed, that plane is an excerpt of each observer’s bodily relationship to the horizontal-vertical conditions of earthly existence. Thus the horizontal and vertical represent, respectively, earth’s plan from L to R and space from up to down. This visual resistance experienced in a defined rectangular pictorial space is naturally strongest below and weakest above. The next strongest resistance (tension) is offered by the right side; this is reduced on the left side but not so much as up and down. Thus, there are four degrees of density (sc. visual density) as represented by the following scheme” (p38):

“The applicability of Kandinsky’s reasoning to the problem at hand, if any, must be axiomatic, as indeed all geometrical reasoning lies inextricably rooted in the human body/mind condition. We may therefore criticize the suggested scheme with fire and water inserted” (p39).

“No conflict exists in the vertical plan. The potential conflict is in the horizontal. Although W is correctly placed on the right in relation to A and E, fire cannot easily be related to density in the sense of the other three. That is because, in contrast to ancient (and some current esoteric) thought that warm is a (primeval) substance, present scientific thought sees fire (warmth) as a condition of other substances. In terms of our picture, a resolution of this dilemma may be sought in regarding the elements not as substances but as processes, where there can be no conflict. In this sense we then have the completed diagram as follows” (p39-40):

“Taking into account again Kandinsky’s criteria and visualizing the results of the four processes in terms of changes of density in weighable and measurable materials of earth existence, combustion is clearly in the right position. Combustion can lighten matter, leaving ashes which are lighter than water or earth but still ultimately heavier than air; and on the other hand it may intensify the process of rarefaction and thus contribute to lightness.

“The next problem is to show the opposing pairs of elements in descriptive sense-analytical terms of early thought. These are described by Empedokles as hot/cold and wet/dry. The existence of four quadrants allows us to arrange these terms in the sense of equally balancing contrasts” (p40):

“N.B. the data about the elements contained in [the above diagram] can also be rendered, and more conveniently, by attaching the information about hot/cold and wet/dry to the vectors, as in the diagram below” (p43), a unified picture of the four elements theory:

“The persistent implication in the method of constructing the picture of the Four Elements theory… namely, that this is an irreducible explanation of earthly realities valid for all of humanity, requires a further comment. The elements qua substance require to be thought of as occupying real space: they are in a sense the planet we live on, they are our own body/mind entity. As such they are Being. But they are also synonymous with processes, so that one could just as well speak of the four processes theory — and as such they belong to the realm of time: they are Becoming. There is evidence that the Greeks themselves conceived of this latter idea without, however, living so much in consciousness of the technical potentialities of the processes which dominate our minds, but rather in the blessedness of feeling the processes as earthly projections of realities inherent in higher worlds. Nowhere is this so explicitly put as in a dialogue of Plutarch (De Defectu Oraculorum, 10):

Others (other authors) say, there is a transmutation of bodies as well as of souls; and that, just as we see of the earth is engendered water, of the water air, and of the air fire, the nature of substance still ascending higher, so good spirits always change for the best, being transformed from men into heroes, and from heroes into Daemons; and from Daemons, by degrees and in a long space of time, a few souls being refined and purified come to partake of the nature of the Divinity.

“If we consider this passage in microscopic terms, the reference to men, whose highest earthly member is nous (fire) [see following post], translates into an overlapping of the circle of the four elements by a higher circle of which nous is the lowest member with three stages above it, each of a finer and more (spiritually) rarefied nature: heroes, Daemons, and the Divine itself. The result of this merger of Heaven as the fifth element and fourfold man is therefore a sevenfold picture in all” (p43-4).

Bruno’s Mathesis

June 21st, 2009

Three diagrams representing the Hermetic trinity, as devised by Giordano Bruno in his 1588 Articuli centum et sexaginta adversus huius tempestatis mathematicos atque philosophos, and as appearing in Frances A. Yates’s 1964 Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition.

“These three figures are said to be most ‘fecund’, not only for geometry but for all sciences and for contemplating and operating” (p314).

Figura Mentis, p307. C.f. Cusanus’s paradigmatic diagram and the mouth of Ra.

“There is… a ‘supernal triad’, consisting of the Father, or mind, or plenitude; of the Son, or the primal intellect; of Light which is the spirit of all things, or the anima mundi… ‘Ancient theologians,’ Bruno continues, understand by the Father, mind or mens, who generates intellect, or the Son, between them being fulgor, or light or love. Hence one may contemplate in the Father, the essence of essences; in the Son the beauty and love of generating; in fulgor, or light, the spirit pervading and vivifying all. Thus a triad may be imagined; ‘pater, mens; filium verbum; et per verbum, universa sunt producta’. From mens proceeds intellectus; from intellectus proceeds affectus or love. Mens sits above all; intellectus sees and distributes all; love makes and disposes all. This last is light or fulgor which fills all things and is diffused through all. Whence it is called the anima mundi and spiritus universorum, and is that of which Virgil spoke when he said ‘spiritus intus alit'” (p309-310).

Figura Intellectus, p307.

“A remarkable feature of [Bruno’s] De monade is the use which [he] makes in it of Cecco d’Ascoli‘s necromantic commentary on the Sphere of Sacrobosco… The longest quotation from Cecco comes when Bruno is discussing ten, the number sacred to the ten Sephiroth. He mentions these, but later describes orders of demons or spirits whose hierarchies can be contemplated in the intersection of circles. ‘These (the orders of demons) are contemplated in the intersection of circles, as Astophon says in libro Mineralium constellatorum. O how great, he says, is the power in the intersection of circles.’ This is a quotation of Cecco’s quotation from the Astophon who is to be heard of nowhere else and was probably invented by Cecco. It throws light on why intersecting circles are such a prominent feature in the diagrams by which Bruno represents his Hermetic trinity…” (p322-323).

Figura Amoris, p307.

“Light, says Bruno, is the vehicle in the inner world through which the divine images and intimations are imprinted, and this light is not that through which normal sense impressions reach the eyes, but an inner light joined to a most profound contemplation, of which Moses speaks, calling it ‘primogenita’, and of which Mercurius also speaks in Pimander. Here the Genesis-Pimander equation, so characteristic of the Hermetic-Cabalist tradition, is applied by Bruno to creation of the inner world” (p336).

Carroll’s Symbolic Logic

March 2nd, 2009

Eight diagrams by Lewis Carroll (of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) from his 1897 Symbolic Logic, in which Carroll presents a symbolic method of representing propositions and visually deriving the logical outcomes of syllogisms, fallacies, and soriteses.

“First, let us suppose that the above [Biliteral] Diagram is an enclosure assigned to a certain Class of Things, which we have selected as our ‘Universe of Discourse,’ or, more briefly, as our ‘Univ’.

“Secondly, let us suppose that we have selected a certain Adjunct, which we may call x, and have divided the large Class, to which we have assigned the whole Diagram, into the two smaller Classes whose Differentiæ are x and not-x (which we may call x’), and that we have assigned the North Half of the Diagram to the one (which we may call… the x-Class), and the South Half to the other (which we may call… the x’-Class).

“Thirdly, let us suppose that we have selected another Adjunct, which we may call y, and have subdivided the x-Class into the two Classes whose Differentiæ are y and not-y, and that we have assigned the North-West Cell to the one (which we may call the xy-Class) and the North-East Cell to the other (which we may call the xy’-Class).

“Fourthly, let us suppose that we have subdivided the x’-Class in the same manner, and have assigned the South-West Cell to the x’y-Class, and the South-East Cell to the x’y’-Class” (p22-23).

For example, if x means ‘old’, so that x’ means ‘new’, and if y means ‘English’, so that y’ means ‘foreign’, we have the following diagram:

“Let us agree that a Red Counter [represented below as a dotted circle or as an ‘I’], placed within a Cell, shall mean ‘This Cell is occupied‘ (i.e. ‘There is at least one Thing in it’).

“Let us also agree that a Red Counter, placed on the partition between the two Cells, shall mean ‘The Compartment, made up of these two Cells, is occupied; but it is not known whereabouts, in it, its occupants are.’ Hence it may be understood to mean ‘At least one of these two Cells is occupied: possibly both are.

“Let us also agree that a Grey Counter [represented below as a hollow circle or as an ‘O’], placed within a Cell, shall mean ‘This Cell is empty‘ (i.e. ‘There is nothing in it’)” (p26).

By this formula we can visually represent the following propositions (p34, 35):

“The Reader should now get his genial friend to question him, severely, on [the above] two Tables” (p34).

Let us now support, firstly, “that we change [the Biliteral Diagram] into a Triliteral Diagram by drawing an Inner Square, so as to divide each of its 4 Cells into 2 portions, thus making 8 Cells altogether” (p39).

“Secondly, let us suppose that we have selected a certain Adjunct, which we may call m, and have subdivided the xy-Class into the two classes whose Differentiæ are m and m’, and that we have assigned the N.W. Inner Cell to the one (which we may call… the xym-Class)” (p40) and that we have subdivided the remaining classes in the same manner. “It is evident that we have now assigned the Inner Square to the m-Class, and the Outer Border to the m’-Class” (p40).

Thus we can visually represent propositions of the form (p49):

It is now possible to draw two propositions on the same diagram, one in terms of x and m, the other in terms of m and y, and to visually derive a third proposition in terms of x and y. Consider, for example, the following pair of propositions:

“Some, who deserve the fair, get their deserts;
None but the brave deserve the fair” (p101).

If the “Univ is ‘persons’; m = persons who deserve the fair; x = persons who get their deserts; y = brave” (p140), then the Triliteral Diagram represents that “some m are x [and] no y’ are m”:

The Biliteral Diagram to the right, relating x and y, can be derived from the Triliteral Diagram according to the following procedure: for each quarter of the Triliteral Diagram, “if it contains a ‘I’ in either Cell, it is certainly occupied, and you may mark the… [corresponding] quarter of the Biliteral Diagram with a ‘I’. If it contains two ‘O’s, one in each Cell, it is certainly empty, and you may mark the… Biliteral Diagram with a ‘O'” (p53).

Therefore the derived Biliteral Diagram above concludes that “some brave persons get their deserts” (p140).

This method may also be used to validate the correctness, or expose the fallaciousness, of a proposed syllogism. For example:

“Some epicures are ungenerous;
All my uncles are generous
[Therefore] My uncles are not epicures” (107).

If “Univ. ‘persons’; m = generous ; x = epicures ; y = my uncles” (p145):

“Hence [the] proposed Conclusion is wrong, the right one being ‘Some epicures are not uncles of mine'” (p145).

Writes Carroll, “Mental recreation is a thing that we all of us need for our mental health; and you may get much healthy enjoyment, no doubt, from Games, such as Back-gammon, Chess, and new Game ‘Halma’. But, after all, when you have made yourself a first-rate player at any one of these Games, you have nothing real to show for it, as a result! You enjoyed the Game, and the victory, no doubt, at the time: but you have no result that you can treasure up and get real good out of. And, all the while, you have been leaving unexplored a perfect mine of wealth. Once master the machinery of Symbolic Logic, and you have a mental occupation always at hand, of absorbing interest, and one that will be of real use to you in any subject you may take up. It will give you clearness of thought — the ability to see your way through a puzzle — the habit of arranging your ideas in an orderly and get-at-able form — and, more valuable than all, the power to detect fallacies, and to tear to pieces the flimsy illogical arguments, which you will so continually encounter in books, in newspapers, in speeches, and even in sermons, and which so easily delude those who have never taken the trouble to master this fascinating Art. Try it. That is all I ask of you!” (pXVII).

The reader may pursue the outcome of the following two propositions on his or her own time:

“Nothing intelligible ever puzzles me;
Logic puzzles me” (p102).

The Search for the Way

January 21st, 2009

Speaking of shocks, a diagram by P.D. Ouspensky from his 1949 In Search of the Miraculous.

Ouspensky quotes G., “‘The results of the influences whose source lies outside life [i.e., esoteric influences] collect together within him, he remembers them together, feels them together. They begin to form within him a certain whole. He does not give a clear account to himself as to what, how, and why, or if he does give an account to himself, then he explains it wrongly. But the point is not in this, but in the fact that the results of these influences collect together within him and after a certain time they form within him a kind of magnetic center, which begins to attract to itself kindred influences and in this manner it grows. If the magnetic center receives sufficient nourishment, and if there is no strong resistance on the part of the other sides of a man’s personality which are the result of influences created in life [i.e., nation, climate, family, education, wealth, customs, etc.], the magnetic center begins to influence a man’s orientation, obliging him to turn round and even to move in a certain direction. When the magnetic center attains sufficient force and development, a man already understands the idea of the way and he begins to look for the way. The search for the way may take many years and lead to nothing. This depends upon conditions, upon circumstances, upon the power of the magnetic center, upon the power and the direction of inner tendencies which are not concerned with this search and which may divert a man at the very moment when the possibility of finding the way appears'” (p200).

“‘If the magnetic center works rightly and if a man really searches, or even if he does not search actively yet feels rightly, he may meet another man who knows the way and who is connected directly or through other people with a center existing outside the law of accident, from which proceed the ideas which created the magnetic center'” (p200-201).

Ouspensky’s embodiment and, below, its legend (p204).

V life
H an individual man
A influences created in life, that is, in life itself — the first kind of influences
B influences created outside life but thrown into the general vortex of life — the second kind of influences
H1 a man, connected by means of succession with the esoteric center or pretending to it
E esoteric center, standing outside the general laws of life
M magnetic center in man
C influence of man h1 on man h; in the event of his actually being connected with the esoteric center, directly or by succession, this is the third kind of influences. This influence is conscious, and under its action at the point m, that is, in the magnetic center, a man becomes free from the law of accident
H2 a man, deceiving himself or deceiving others and having no connection, either directly or by succession, with the esoteric center

Hanunóo Color Categories

November 29th, 2008

A diagram by Umberto Eco illustrating Harold Conklin‘s study of the Hanunóo color system (“Hanunóo Color Categories”, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 1955, v2, p339-344).

Eco’s depiction of the Hanunóo color system, appearing in Marshall Blonsky’s On Signs, p170.

“Color distinctions in Hanunóo are made at two levels of contrast. The first, higher, more general level consists of an all-inclusive, coordinate, four-way classification which lies at the core of the color system. The four categories are mutually exclusive in contrastive contexts, but may overlap slightly in absolute (i.e., spectrally, or in other measurable) terms.

“The four Level I terms are:

1. mabiru: relative darkness (of shade of color); blackness (black)
2. malagti: relative lightness (or tint of color); whiteness (white)
3. marara: relative presence of red; redness (red)
4. malatuy: relative presence of light greenness; greenness (green)

“The three-dimensional color solid is divided by this Level I categorization into four unequal parts; the largest is mabiru, the smallest malatuy. While boundaries separating these categories cannot be set in absolute terms, the focal points (differing slightly in size, themselves) within the four sections, can be limited more or less to black, white, orange-red, and leaf-green respectively. In general terms, mabiru includes the range usually covered in English by black, violet, indigo, blue, dark green, dark gray, and deep shades of other colors and mixtures; malagti, white and very light tints of other colors and mixtures; marara, maroon, red, orange, yellow, and mixtures in which these qualities are seen to predominate; malatuy, light green, and mixtures of green, yellow, and light brown. All color terms can be reduced to one of these four but none of the four is reducible. This does not mean that other color terms are synonyms, but that they designate color categories of greater specification within four recognized color realms.

“The basis of this Level I classification appears to have certain correlates beyond what is usually considered the range of chromatic differentiation, and which are associated with nonlingustic phenomena in the external environment. First, there is the opposition between light and dark, obvious in the contrasted ranges of meaning of lagti and biru. Second, there is an opposition between dryness or desiccation and wetness or freshness (succulence) in visible components of the natural environment which are reflected in the term rara and latuy respectively. This distinction is of particular significance in terms of plant life. Almost all living plant types possess some fresh, succulent, and often ‘greenish’ parts. To eat any kind of raw, uncooked food, particularly fresh fruits or vegetables, is known as paglatyun (< latuy). A shiny, wet, brown-colored section of newly-cut bamboo is malatuy (not marara). Dried-out or matured plant material such as certain kinds of yellowed bamboo or hardened kernels of mature or parched corn are marara. To become desiccated, to lose all moisture, is known as mamara (< para, ‘desiccation’)… A third opposition, dividing the two already suggested, is that of deep, unfading, indelible, and hence often more desired material as against pale, weak, faded, bleached, or ‘colorless’ substance, a distinction contrasting mabiru and maarara with malagti and malatuy.

“In short, we have seen that the apparent complexity of the Hanunóo color system can be reduced at the most generalized level to four basic terms which are associated with lightness, darkness, wetness, and dryness. This intracultural analysis demonstrates that what appears to be color ‘confusion’ at first may result from an inadequate knowledge of the internal structure of a color system and from a failure to distinguish sharply between sensory reception on the one hand and perceptual categorization on the other” (Conklin, p341-343).