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In esoteric thought, names are an integrating expression of the horoscope . There has been a great deal of speculation about the symbolic elements entering into the composition of names: letters in their graphic or phonetic aspects, similes, analogies, and so on. Piobb, for instance, has suggested that the name Napoleon is Apollo in the Corsican pronunciation of O'N'Apolio . The question of why a given name should determine the destiny of one individual but not of another is something which lies beyond the scope of this work. Here we must limit ourselves to describing the rational basis of the symbolism of names and its connexion with the Egyptian idea of the 'power of words' as described in a poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Given the symbolic nature of the Egyptian language, it follows that a name could never be a product of chance but only of the study of the characteristics of a given thing, whether the name in question was common or proper. The name RN (signifying a mouth over the surface of water) represented the action of the 'word' upon passivity. Concerning personal nomenclature, the Egyptians believed that their names were a reflection of their souls. This gave rise to the belief that a name could have a magical effect upon some other person. The equation of name with character and destiny had its repercussions also in descriptive names, such as that of Osiris, which means 'he who is at the top of the steps' the steps, that is, of evolution; or that of Arabia, signifying 'he who walks in silence'. Onomatopoeia was another highly important source in the genesis of language and its ideographic representation, whereby a given being is characterized by one of its essential aspects—as the lion by its roar, for example: or RW in Egyptian . Popular works on occultism which suggest symbolic implications for certain proper names, as in other cases of vulgarized interpretation, have some roots in authentic symbolism but they may also fall into the trap of being too hard-and-fast about the true scope of symbolism. Language has, in the last century or two, reached such a complex stage of development that the applied symbolism of etymology is subject to innumerable errors.
Joachim Gasquet sees the Narcissus-myth as a primordial illustration not on the sexual but on the cosmic level, commenting that 'the world is an immense Narcissus in the act of contemplating itself', so that Narcissus becomes a symbol of this self-contemplative, introverted, and self-sufficient attitude quoted by Bachelard, .
The 12th-century writer Alan of Lille, in his De planctu naturae, describes Nature as an allegorical figure wearing a diadem set with jewels in imitation of the stars: twelve stones symbolize the signs of the Zodiac and seven stand for the Sun, the Moon and the five planets . This concept is wholly astrobiological in character, since it partakes of the tendency to bring the discipline of numbers to bear upon living things, and to infuse the astral, the mineral and the abstract with the vital forces of plant and animal life.
Broadly speaking, the threaded bead-necklace stands for the unifying of diversity, that is, it represents an intermediate state between the inherent disintegration of all multiplicity— always a negative state—and the state of unity inherent in continuity. Regarded as a string, the necklace becomes a cosmic and social symbol of ties and bonds. Because it is usually worn on the neck or breast, it acquires a symbolic relation with those parts of the body and with the signs of the Zodiac pertaining to them. Since the neck has an astrological association with sex, the necklace also betokens an erotic link.
The image of the Negro always alludes to the baser part of man—to the substrata of the passions. This psychological fact, empirically proven by psychoanalysis, finds its parallel—or its origin—in traditional symbolic doctrine, according to which coloured people are the children of darkness and the white man is the child of the sun or of the white, polar mountain .
In primitive thought, he was the deity of heaven in its symbolic aspect of the 'Upper Waters', that is, the god of clouds and of rain. Later he became the god of fresh and fertilizing water. Finally, he was seen as the god of the sea. In this development we can trace not only a chronological and historical line of progress but, more especially, a spiritual projection of the myth of the 'fall', which finally became absorbed into the character of Neptune. The trident, seen from this point of view of 'descent'—of the 'fall'—can be equated with the thunderbolt. Charles Ploix, in La Nature et yes dieux, on the other hand, identifies the trident with the magic wand used in water-divining . For the alchemists, Neptune was quite simply a symbol for water. Apart from the trident, his attributes are sea-horses , signifying the cosmic forces and the swelling rhythm of the foamy waves. The discovery of psychoanalysts that the ocean is a symbol of the unconscious has, at the same time, proved beyond question the relationship of Neptune with the deepest layers of the individual, and the universal, soul. Diel, therefore, is able to conclude that Neptune, like Pluto, symbolizes the negative aspect of the spirit. He is king of the deeps of the subconscious and of the turbulent waters of life; it is he who unleashes storms—representing the passions of the soul—particularly in his extreme role as the destroyer. Diel regards the trident as an emblem of the threefold sin arising from the corruption of the three 'vital impulses' of the spirit conservation, reproduction and evolution, adding that the trident is also an attribute of Satan .
The net is the extreme form of expression of the symbolic bunch of ribbons, the bow and the bond, and hence it is closely bound up with the symbolisms of Entanglement and Devouring. It is the weapon of the Uranian gods, such as Varuna and of those who fish in the waters of the unconscious. Ea. god of water and wisdom, did not fight the primordial monsters face to face but ensnared them by craft. The weapon of Marduk in his combat with Tiamat was again a net, a symbol of magic authority . The connexion between the net and heaven is explained in the following passage taken from the Tao Te Ching: 'The net of heaven', that is, the network of stars and constellations, 'is wide-meshed but lets nothing through' . The symbolism here strikingly illustrates the idea that it is not possible for the individual, by his own efforts nor, of course, by suicide, to escape from the universe. God has bound us with his power and it is beyond our capacity to withdraw or leave.
Night is related to the passive principle, the feminine and the unconscious. Hesiod gave it the name of 'mother of the gods', for the Greeks believed that night and darkness preceded the
creation of all things . Hence, night—like water—is expressive of fertility, potentiality and germination ; for it is an anticipatory state in that, though not yet day, it is the promise of daylight. Within the tradition of symbology it has the same significance as death and the colour black.
This expression, frequent in works of symbology, originates in the ancient notion of the sun, in its nightly course through the lower abyss where it suffers death which is sometimes conceived as a real death followed by resurrection, and at other times as purely figurative. This abyss was associated with the watery deeps of the third—or infernal—level, either in the sense of a lower ocean or of a subterranean lake. According to Leo Frobenius, in Das Zeitalter des Sonnengottes, all the sea-faring gods are solar symbols. For their passage they are shut up in a chest, hamper or trunk symbolizing the maternal bosom and exposed to a variety of perils. The direction of their journey is always contrary to the visible, daily course of the sun. Here is the account given by Frobenius of the archetypal avatars of this essential journey: 'A
is swallowed by a sea-monster in the West. The animal journeys with him in its belly to the East. During the journey, the hero lights a fire in the belly of the monster and, feeling hungry, cuts off a slice of its heart. Shortly afterwards he observes that the fish has reached land; he then begins to cut away the flesh of the animal until he can slip out. In the belly of the fish it was so hot that his hair fell out. Often the hero sets free those who have been swallowed
before him and they escape with him' . This basic situation takes on a variety of forms in a great many legends and folktales, but the essential features of devouring, confinement, enchantment and escape are always present. For Jung, this symbol is a kind of Journey into Hell comparable with the journeys described by Virgil and Dante, and also a sort of journey to the Land of Spirits, or, in other words, a plunge into the unconscious . But he goes on to
add that darkness and watery deeps, in addition to being symbolic of the unconscious, also signify death—not in the sense of total negation but as the other side of life or life in its latent state and as the mystery which exerts its fascination over the consciousness from its abode in the abyss. The journey's end is expressive of resurrection and the overcoming of death and the same applies to the end of a dream or of an illness. Related in symbolism to this is the story of Joseph cast into the pit by his brothers, and Jonah in the belly of the whale Plate XXX.
The Upanishads laid down several different states of consciousness, ranging from wakefulness—peopled by objective forms—or daydreams—ordered in accordance with profound, subjective impulses—to the deepest state of consciousness experienced in dreams of the most intense character, devoid of images. This latter state is directly related to the mystic idea of nothingness. In order properly to grasp the notion of Nirvana, and to understand the ecstasy of self-annihilation, it is very important to recognize that this oriental 'nothingness' is not absolute negation—not the death of all things—but indifferentiation or, in other words, the absence of conflicts and contrasts and hence, the banishment of pain and dynamism. Guenon, in his explanation of this Hindu doctrine, comments: 'In this state the different objects of manifestation, including those of individual manifestation, external as well as internal, are not destroyed, but subsist in principal mode, being unified by the very fact that they are no longer conceived under the secondary or contingent aspect of distinction; of necessity they find themselves among the possibilities of the Self and the latter remains conscious in itself of all these possibilities, as "non-distinctively" beheld in integral Knowledge' . This concept of nothingness as 'non-objective reality'—and hence ineffable—probably reached the Hebrew mystics by way of the Middle East and Persia. According to Rabbi Joseph ben Shalom, living in Barcelona in the 13th century, more than to any other of the symbolic descriptions of the revelation of God, special attention should be devoted to that concerning the mystic nothingness, which is apparent in every abysmal crevice of existence. He suggests that in each transformation of reality, in each crisis, or moment of suffering, each metamorphosis or change of form, or on every occasion when the state of a thing is altered, then the abyss of Nothingness is spanned and made visible for a mystic instant, for nothing can change without making contact with that region of absolute being which the oriental mystics call Nothingness the relevant passage is quoted by G. G. Scholem in Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism. There is a cabalistic anagram which serves to corroborate this by demonstrating that 'nothing' in Hebrew is Ain, and that the same letters form the word for 'I'—Ani.
The distinction between nuditas virtualis purity and innocence and nuditas criminalis lasciviousness and vain exhibition was already clearly established by Christians in the Middle Ages. Hence every nude must always have an ambivalent meaning and imply an ambiguous emotion: on the one hand, it lifts one's thoughts towards the pure peaks of mere physical beauty and in a Platonie sense towards the understanding of, and identification with, moral and spiritual beauty; but, on the other hand, it can never lose altogether its all too human ballast—its irrational attraction rooted in urges beyond the control of the conscious mind. Clearly, the human form revealed, whether in nature or in art, induces either one attitude or the other in the contemplator.
In symbolism, numbers are not merely the expressions of quantities, but idea-forces, each with a particular character of its own. The actual digits are, as it were, only the outer garments. All numbers are derived from the number one which is equivalent to the mystic, non-manifest point of no magnitude. The farther a number is from unity, the more deeply it is involved in matter, in the involutive process, in the 'world'. The first ten numbers in the Greek system or twelve in the oriental tradition pertain to the spirit: they are entities, archetypes and symbols. The rest are the product of combinations of these basic numbers . The Greeks were much preoccupied with the symbolism of numbers. Pythagoras, for example, observed that 'Everything is disposed according to the numbers'.
Plato regarded number as the essence of harmony, and harmony as the basis of the cosmos and of man, asserting that the movements of harmony 'are of the same kind as the regular revolutions of our soul' . The philosophy of numbers was further developed by the Hebrews, the Gnostics and the cabalists, spreading to the alchemists as well. The same basic, universal notions are found in oriental thought—Lao-tse, for example: 'One becomes two; two becomes three; and from the ternary comes one'—the new unity or new order—'as four' Maria Prophetissa . Modern symbolic logic and the theory of groupings go back to the idea of the quantitative as the basis for the qualitative. Pierce suggests that the laws of nature and of the human spirit are based on these same principles, and that they can be ordered along these same lines .
Apart from the basic symbols of unity and multiplicity, there is another general symbolism attached to the even numbers expressing the negative and passive principle and the uneven numbers the positive and active. Furthermore, the numerical series possesses a symbolic dynamism which it is essential not to overlook. The idea that one engenders two and two creates three is founded upon the premiss that every entity tends to surpass its limits, or to confront itself with its opposite. Where there are two elements, the third appears as the union of the first two and then as three, in turn giving rise to the fourth number as the link between the first three, and so on . Next to unity and duality expressing conflict, echo and primordial duplication, the ternary and the quaternary are the principal groupings; from their sum comes the septenary; and from their multiplication the dodecanary. Three is the more direct derivation of seven since both are uneven and four more closely related to twelve both being even numbers. The usual symbolisms are as follows:
The ternary represents the intellectual or spiritual order; the quaternary the terrestrial order; the septenary the planetary and moral order; the dodecanary the universal order. Here now are the most generally accepted symbolic meanings of each number, which will serve as a basis for a brief summary of the psychological theory of Paneth.
Non-being, mysteriously connected with unity as its opposite and its reflection; it is symbolic of the latent and potential and is the 'Orphic Egg'. From the viewpoint of man in existence, it symbolizes death as the state in which the life-forces are transformed 0, 5. Because of its circular form it signifies eternity.
Symbolic of being and of the revelation to men of the spiritual essence. It is the active principle which, broken into fragments, gives rise to multiplicity , and is to be equated with the mystic Centre , the Irradiating Point and the Supreme Power . It also stands for spiritual unity—the common basis between all beings . Guenon draws a distinction between unity and one, after the Islamic mystic thinkers: unity differs from one in that it is absolute and complete in itself, admitting neither two nor dualism. Hence, unity is the symbol of divinity . One is also equated with light .
Two stands for echo, reflection, conflict and counterpoise or contraposition; or the momentary stillness of forces in equilibrium ; it also corresponds to the passage of time—the line which goes from behind forward ; it is expressed geometrically by two points, two lines or an angle . It is also symbolic of the first nucleus of matter, of nature in opposition to the creator, of the moon as opposed to the sun . In all esoteric thought, two is regarded as ominous : it connotes shadow and the bisexuality of all things, or dualism represented by the basic myth of the Gemini in the sense of the connecting-link between the immortal and the mortal, or of the unvarying and the varying . Within the mystic symbolism of landscape in megalithic culture, two is associated with the mandorla-shaped mountain, the focal point of symbolic Inversion, forming the crucible of life and comprising the two opposite poles of good and evil, life and death , Two, then, is the number associated with the Magna Mater .
Three symbolizes spiritual synthesis, and is the formula for the creation of each of the worlds. It represents the solution of the conflict posed by dualism . It forms a half-circle comprising: birth, zenith and descent . Geometrically it is expressed by three points and by the triangle . It is the harmonic product of the action of unity upon duality . It is the number concerned with basic principles , and expresses sufficiency, or the growth of unity within itself . Finally, it is associated with the concepts of heaven and the Trinity.
Symbolic of the earth, of terrestrial space, of the human situation, of the external, natural limits of the 'minimum' awareness of totality, and, finally, of rational organization. It is equated with the square and the cube, and the cross representing the four seasons and the points of the compass. A great many material and spiritual forms are modelled after the quaternary . It is the number associated with tangible achievement and with the Elements . In mystic thought, it represents the tetramorphs.
Symbolic of Man, health and love, and of the quintessence acting upon matter. It comprises the four limbs of the body plus the head which controls them, and likewise the four fingers plus the thumb and the four cardinal points together with the centre . The zeros gamos is signified by the number five, since it represents the union of the principle of heaven three with that of the Magna Mater two. Geometrically, it is the pentagram, or the five-pointed star . It corresponds to pentagonal symmetry, a common characteristic of organic nature, to the golden section as noted by the Pythagoreans , and to the five senses representing the five 'forms' of matter.
Symbolic of ambivalence and equilibrium, six comprises the union of the two triangles of fire and water and hence signifies the human soul. The Greeks regarded it as a symbol of the hermaphrodite . It corresponds to the six Directions of Space two for each dimension , and to the cessation of movement since the Creation took six days. Hence it is associated with trial and effort . It has also been shown to be related to virginity , and to the scales.
Symbolic of perfect order, a complete period or cycle. It comprises the union of the ternary and the quaternary, and hence it is endowed with exceptional value . It corresponds to the seven Directions of Space that is, the six existential dimensions plus the centre , to the seven-pointed star, to the reconciliation of the square with the triangle by superimposing the latter upon the former as the sky over the earth or by inscribing it within. It is the number forming the basic series of musical notes, of colours and of the planetary spheres , as well as of the gods corresponding to them; and also of the capital sins and their opposing virtues . It also corresponds to the three-dimensional cross , and, finally, it is the symbol of pain .
The octonary, related to two squares or the octagon , is the intermediate form between the square or the terrestrial order and the circle the eternal order and is, in consequence, a symbol of regeneration. By virtue of its shape, the numeral is associated with the two interlacing serpents of the caduceus, signifying the balancing out of opposing forces or the equivalence of the spiritual power to the natural . It also symbolizes—again because of its shape—the eternally spiralling movement of the heavens shown also by the double sigmoid line—the sign of the infinite . Because of its implications of regeneration, eight was in the Middle Ages an emblem of the waters of baptism. Furthermore, it corresponds in mediaeval mystic cosmogony to the fixed stars of the firmament, denoting that the planetary influences have been overcome.
The triangle of the ternary, and the triplication of the triple. It is therefore a complete image of the three worlds. It is the end-limit of the numerical series before its return to unity . For the Hebrews, it was the symbol of truth, being characterized by the fact that when multiplied it reproduces itself in mystic addition . In medicinal rites, it is the symbolic number par excellence, for it represents triple synthesis, that is, the disposition on each plane of the corporal, the intellectual and the spiritual .
Symbolic, in decimal systems, of the return to unity. In the Tetractys whose triangle of points—four, three, two, one— adds up to ten it is related to four. Symbolic also of spiritual achievement, as well as of unity in its function as an even or ambivalent number or as the beginning of a new, multiple series . According to some theories, ten symbolizes the totality of the universe—both metaphysical and material—since it raises all things to unity . From ancient oriental thought through the Pythagorean school and right up to St. Jerome, it was known as the number fo perfection .
Symbolic of transition, excess and peril and of conflict and martyrdom . According to Schneider, there is an infernal character about it: since it is in excess of the number of perfection —ten—it therefore stands for incontinence ; but at the same time it corresponds, like two, to the mandorla-shaped mountain, to the focal point of symbolic Inversion and antithesis, because it is made up of one plus one comparable in a way with two .
Symbolic of cosmic order and salvation. It corresponds to the number of the signs of the Zodiac, and is the basis of all dodecanary groups. Linked to it are the notions of space and time, and the wheel or circle.
Symbolic of death and birth, of beginning afresh . Hence it has unfavourable implications.
Stands for fusion and organization and also for justice and temperance .
is markedly erotic and is associated with the devil .
Each of the numbers from sixteen to twenty-two is related to the corresponding card of the Tarot pack; and sometimes the meaning is derived from the fusion of the symbols of the units composing it. There are two ways in which this fusion may occur: either by mystic addition (for example, 374=3+7+4=14=1+4=5) or by succession, in which case the right-hand digit expresses the outcome of a situation denoted by the left-hand number so 21 expresses the reduction of a conflict— two—to its solution—unity.
These numbers also possess certain meanings drawn from traditional sources and remote from their intrinsic symbolism: 24, for example, is the sacred number in Sankhya philosophy, and 50 is very common in Greek mythology— there were fifty Danaides, fifty Argonauts, fifty sons of Priam and of Aegyptus, for example—as a symbol, we would suggest, of that powerful quality of the erotic and human which is so typical of Hellenic myths. The repetition of a given number stresses its quantitative power but detracts from its spiritual dignity. So, for example, 666 was the number of the Beast because 6 was regarded as inferior to seven . When several kinds of symbolic meaning are contained within a multiple number, the symbolism of that number is accordingly enriched and strengthened. Thus, 144 was considered very favourable because its sum was 9 (1+4+4) and because it comprises multiples of 10 and 4 plus the quaternary itself . Dante, in the Divine Comedy, has frequent recourse to the symbolism of numbers .
The work of Ludwig Paneth upon numbers concerns not so much symbolism as such, but rather the normal interpretation of numbers from the psychologist's point of view as they appear in obsessions and dreams of average people. His conclusions are as follows:
rarely appears, but where it does occur it alludes to the paradisiac state which preceded good and evil—which preceded that is to say, dualism.
signifies counterpoise, or man's experience of separate existence, with its concomitant problems, inevitable analysis, dividing up, inner disintegration and struggle.
stands for biological synthesis, childbirth and the solution of a conflict.
as a kind of double division two and two, no longer signifies separation like the number two but the orderly arrangement of what is separate. Hence, it is a symbol of order in space and, by analogy, of every other well-ordered structure. As Simonides, the Greek poet, observed: 'It is difficult to become a superior man, tetragonal in hand, foot and spirit, forming a perfect whole.'
is a number which often occurs in animate nature, and hence its triumphant growth corresponds to the burgeoning of spring. It signifies the organic fullness of life as opposed to the rigidity of death. There is an erotic sense to it as well.
is, like two, a particularly ambiguous number: it is expressive of dualism x 3 or 3 x . However, it is like four in that it has a normative value as opposed to the liberating tendencies of five and the mystic or conflicting character of seven.
is, like all the prime numbers, an irreducible datum, and an expression of conflict or of a complex unity the higher the prime number the greater the complexity. It is sometimes associated with the moon (since 7 x 4=the 28 days of the month.)
in its graphic form as 10, is sometimes used to express marriage.
Nought, as the decimal multiplier, raises the quantitative power of a numerical symbol. A number of repeated noughts indicates a passion for grand things.
General Characteristics of Numbers Paneth draws a distinction between the arithmetical number and the symbolic number: the former defines an object by its quantity but says nothing about its nature, whereas the latter expresses an inner link with the object it defines by virtue of a mystic relationship between what is enumerated and the number itself. In arithmetic, the addition of 1 and 1 and 1 gives 3, but not triunity; in symbolism the second and third of these ones are intrinsically different from the first because they always function within ternary orders which establish the first term as an active element, the second as passive and the third as neuter or consequent. Aristotle spoke of the 'qualitative structure' of th numbers as opposed to the amorphous character of the arithmetical unity. Concerning the higher numbers, Paneth has this to say:
'The multiplication of a number simply increases its power: thus, 25 and 15 are both symbols of eroticism. Numbers composed of two (digits) express a mutual relationship between the individual digits reading from left to right. For example, 23=2 (conflict) and 3 (the outcome).' Numbers made up of more than two digits may be broken down and analysed in a number of different ways. For example, 338 may equal 300 plus 2 x 19, or else 3 and 3 and 8. The dynamism and symbolic richness of the number three is so exceptional that it cannot be over-emphasized. The reconciling function of the third element of the ternary, we would add, may appear in either a favourable or an adverse light. For instance, when in myths and legends there are three brothers or sisters, three suitors, three trials, three wishes, and so on , the first and second elements correspond broadly to what is already possessed, and the third element represents the magic or miraculous solution desired and sought after; but this third element may—as we have said— also be negative.
Thus, just as there are legends where the first and the second fail and the third succeeds—sometimes it is the first six followed by the successful seventh—so there are others where the inversion of the symbolism produces the opposite result: the first two are favourable and the second usually more so than the first but then comes the third which is destructive or negative. The Three Kings, for example, offer the Infant Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense (both positive) and myrrh (negative). In almost all those myths and tales about three chalices, three chests or three rooms, the third element corresponds to death, because of the asymmetrical division of the cycle of man's life, composed of two parts which are ascending (infancy-adolescence, youth-maturity) and the third and last which is descending (old age-death). There is a Hebrew tale, called 'True Happiness', which exactly expresses the symbolic significance of this 'third element'. Here it is in Loeffler's exemplary version: 'A peasant and his wife, dissatisfied with their lot, envied those who dwelt in palaces, imagining their existence to be an unending flow of delights. While he was working in the fields, the man came across three iron chests.
On the first was an inscription which said: "He who opens me will become rich." On the second he read: "If gold makes you happy, open me." On the third: "He who opens me, loses all that he possesses." The first chest was at once opened up and with the silver it contained the couple gave a sumptuous banquet, purchased splendid garments and slaves. The contents of the second chest enabled the couple to discover the luxury of refined living. But with the opening of the third, a terrible storm destroyed all their belongings' . The symbolism bears a relationship to the asymmetrical cycle of the year (Spring—Summer—Autumn followed by Winter) and to all symbols of the 'superior'—for superiority is always perilous.
Finally, there are also visual interpretations of number-symbols, derived from the shape of the digits; but such interpretations are of a specialized nature and are not always well-founded.
The Greek word means 'bride' and also 'doll'. The nymphs accompanying some of the mythic deities are symbolic of the concomitant ideas of those deities . According to Mircea Eliade, nymphs correspond in essence to running water, fountains, springs, torrents and waterfalls. The best known of the nymphs are the sisters of Thetis, the Nereides, who figure in the expedition of the Argonauts. By virtue of their association with the Element of water, their significance is ambivalent and they may preside equally over birth and fertility or dissolution and death . Jung, from the psychological standpoint of his theory of individuation, regards the nymph as an independent and fragmentary expression of the feminine character of the unconscious. He concludes, therefore that what Paracelsus called the regio nymphidica corresponds to a relatively undeveloped stage of the process of individuation, a stage which he relates to the notions of temptation, transitoriness, multiplicity and dissolution .