SPINDLE OR BOBBIN
SQUARING THE CIRCLE
STATE OF MIND
STATE OF PRESERVATION
An image of the spiritual principle which gives birth to each individual, related also to the cabalistic emanatist concept of souls scattering from the centre outwards into the world in the form of sparks . E;or Jung, it is therefore a symbol of the heavenly father.
Like the eagle, this bird was consecrated to the sun by the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans, who attributed to it all the powers associated with the sun .
A fabulous being composed of several parts of the human being and four of various animals. The sphinx at Thebes had the head and breasts of a woman, the body of a bull or dog, the claws of a lion, the tail of a dragon and the wings of a bird .
Being the supreme embodiment of the enigma, the sphinx keeps watch over an ultimate meaning which must remain for ever beyond the understanding of man. Jung sees in it a synthesis of the 'Terrible Mother', a symbol which has left its mark on mythology as well . The mask of the sphinx pertains to the mother-image and also to nature-symbolism; but beneath the mask lie the implications of the myth of multiplicity or of the enigmatic fragmentation of the cosmos.
According to esoteric tradition, the Gizeh sphinx is a synthesis of all the science of the past. It is shown contemplating the rising sun and seems to embrace both heaven and earth in its meaning. It is, of course, a symbol which unites, in the midst of the heterogeneity of existence, the four Elements corresponding to the tetramorphs with the quintessence or the spirit sigrufied by the human part of the figure Plate XXV.
The spider is a symbol with three distinct meanings; sometimes they merge or overlap, sometimes one or the other predominates. The three meanings are derived from:
I the creative power of the spider, as exemplified in the weaving of its web;
II thef spider's aggressiveness; and
III the spider's web as a spiral net converging towards a central point.
The spider sitting in its web is a symbol of the centre of the world, and is hence regarded in India as Maya, the eternal weaver of the web of illusion . The spider's destructive powers are also connected with its significance as a symbol of the world of phenomena. As Schneider points out, spiders, in their ceaseless weaving and killing—building and destroying—symbolize the ceaseless alternation of forces on which the stability of the universe depends. For this reason, the symbolism of the spider goes deep, signifying, as it does, that 'continuous sacrifice' which is the means of man's continual transmutation throughout the course of his life.
Even death itself merely winds up' the thread of an old life in order to spin a new one . The spider is a lunar animal because the moon owing to its passive character, in the sense that it merely reflects light, and because of its waxing and waning phases, taking these in the positive and negative sense is related to the world of phenomena, and, on the psychic level, to the imagination. Thus the moon, since it holds sway over the whole phenomenal world for all phenomenal forms are subject to growth and death, weaves the thread of each man's destiny. Accordingly, the moon is depicted as a gigantic spider in many myths .
Spindle or Bobbin
The spindle and the distaff, and likewise the act of sewing, are symbols of life and the temporal; they are therefore related to the moon, a symbol expressing the transitoriness of life or all that goes in phases. Hence, deities incorporating the characteristics of the moon, the earth or vegetation usually have the spindle or the distaff as attributes; this is the case with Ishtar, Atargatis, etc. . Schneider supports this with his definition of the spindle as a symbol of the Magna Mater who is sewing with it inside a mountain of stone or on top of the Tree of the World. In shape, the spindle is a mandorla and so acquires the symbolism of two inter secting circles which stand for heaven and earth, that is, of the sacrifice which renews the generating force of the universe. All spindle-shaped symbols signify the broad idea of mutual sacrifice
and the power of inversion .
Spinning—like singing—is equivalent to bringing forth and fostering life. Hence Schneider's comment 'unhappy is the poor spinner who leaves her skeins that is, her offspring to dry on the river-bank and finds them gone' . The Parcae, like fairies, are spinners. Likewise, a host of figures of legend and folklore. Spiral A schematic image of the evolution of the universe.
It is also a classical form symbolizing the orbit of the moon , and a symbol for growth, related to the Golden Number , arising so Housay maintains out of the concept of the rotation of the earth. In the Egyptian system of hieroglyphs the spiral—corresponding to the Hebrew van—denotes cosmic forms in motion, or the relationship between unity and multiplicity. Of especial importance in relation to the spiral are bonds and serpents. The spiral is essentially macrocosmic . The above ideas have been expressed in mythic form as follows: 'From out of the unfathomable deeps there arose a circle shaped in spirals.... Coiled up within the spirals, lies a snake, a symbol of wisdom and eternity'.
Now, the spiral can be found in three main forms: expanding as in the nebula, contracting like the whirlwind or whirlpool or ossified like the snail's shell. In the first case it is an active sun-symbol, in the second and third cases it is a negative moon-symbol . Nevertheless, most theorists, including Eliade, are agreed that the symbolism of the spiral is fairly complex and of doubtful origin. Its relationship with lunar animals and with water has been provisionally admitted.
Going right back to the most ancient traditions, we find the distinction being made between the creative spiral rising in a clockwise direction, and attributed to Pallas Athene and the destructive spiral like a whirlwind which twirls round to the left, and is an attribute of Poseidon . As we have seen, the spiral like the snake or serpent and the Kundalini force of Tantrist doctrine can also represent the potential centre as in the example of the spider's web.
Be that as it may, the spiral is certainly one of the essential motifs of the symbolism of ornamental art all over the world, either in the simple form of a curve curling up from a given point, or in the shape of scrolls, or sigmas, etc.
Parkin observes in his Prehistoric Art that 'no ornamental motif seems to have been more attractive than the spiral'. Ortiz suggests that, from a semantic point of view, the spiral is an emblem of atmospheric phenomena and of the hurricane in particular; but the fact is that the hurricane in its turn is a symbol of secession from the creative as well as destructive functions of the universe, that is, of the suspension of the provisional but pacific order of the universe. He also points to the connexion between breathing and the creative breath of life. He goes on to suggest that the volute in ancient cultures was a spiral form symbolizing the breath and the spirit. It is for this reason that the Egyptian god Thoth is represented with a large spiral on his head.
Finally, by virtue of its significance in connexion with creation, with movement and progressive development, the spiral is an attribute of power, found in the sceptre of the Egyptian pharaoh, in the lituus of Roman augurs and in the presentday walking-stick. In addition to the above, it is also possible that the spiral may symbolize the relationship between the circle and the centre.
For the spiral is associated with the idea of the dance, and especially with primitive dances of healing and incantation, when the pattern of movement develops as a spiral curve.
Such spiral movements closely related to the pattern of the mandala and to the spiral form that appears so frequently in art from the Mesolithic Age onwards—particularly in France, Ireland and England may be regarded as figures intended to induce a state of ecstasy and to enable man to escape from the material world and to enter the beyond, through the 'hole' symbolized by the mystic Centre. Striking examples of such spirals are those of Gravinias Morbihan New Grange Leinster, Carnwath Scotland and Castle Archdali Ulster.
The double spiral represents the completion of the sigmoid line, and the ability of the sigmoid line to express the intercommunication between two opposing principles is clearly shown in the Chinese Yang-Yin symbol. Two double spirals intersecting form the swastika with curved arms, a motif which is fairly common although not so frequent as the arrangement of a series of double spirals in a continuous rhythm.
It has been suggested that this motif first appeared in Danubian culture, whence it spread outwards to the north and south of Europe and across Asia to the Far East. Whereas the architectural meander of straight lines and right angles is a symbol of earth, the double spiral is closely linked with water.
Given that water is the Element of transition, transformation and regeneration, the double spiral is capable of fully representing its symbolic significance. Hence, it is of common occurrence in the Cretan and other markedly marine cultures. From a cosmic point of view, the double spiral may be regarded as the flattened projection of the two halves of the egg of the world, or of the primordial hermaphrodite separated into two halves, or of the Upper and Lower Waters . Hence, together with the St. Andrew's cross, and the drum shaped rather like an hour-glass, it constitutes a symbol of Inversion and of the relationship between opposites , 5.
The square, as the expression of the quaternity, is a symbol of the combination and regulation of four different elements. Hence, it corresponds to the symbolism of the number four and to all four-part divisions of any process whatsoever.
Psychologically its form gives the impression of firmness and stability, and this explains its frequent use in symbols of organization and construction. For Jung, the four-part division of movements and forms is of greater value than the three-part. Whether or not this is so, what is certain is that, as against the dynamism of the odd numbers and their related geometric forms such as: three, five, the triangle or the pentagon, the even numbers and forms for example: four, six, eight, the square, the hexagon, the octagon are characterized by the qualities of stability, firmness and definition.
Hence, ternary symbolism tends to illustrate activity and dynamism or pure spirit, whereas the quaternary alludes predominantly to things material or the merely rational intellect. The four Elements, the four seasons, the four stages of Man's life, and specially the four points of the compass, are all sources of the order and the stability of the world.
This does not contradict the feminine character which Chinese, Hindu and other traditions ascribe to the square, since it corresponds to the earth, in contrast to the masculine character of the circle and the triangle . In Egyptian hieroglyphs the square signifies achievement arid the square-shaped spiral denotes constructive, materialized energy . However, the square resting upon one of its corners acquires a dynamic sense which is quite new, implying a change in its fundamental symbolism: during the Romanesque period, it was used as a symbol of the sun, comparable with the circle .
Squaring the Circle
The ancient Mesopotamians used to place a circle between two squares in order to find out its area. And the idea of equating the circle with the square also grew out of the concept of the rotating square. But our concern is not with the mathematical but the symbolic problem. 'Squaring the circle', like the lapis or the aurum philosophicum, was one of the preoccupations of the alchemists; but whereas the latter two were symbols of the quest for the evolutive goal of the spirit, the former problem concerned the equating of the two great cosmic symbols of heaven or the circle and earth or the square.
It is to do, then, with the union of two opposites; not juxtaposition as in the coniunctio of the two arms of the cross, for example, but the equation and cancelling out of two components in a higher synthesis. The square was seen to correspond to the four Elements. The aim of 'squaring the circle', then which strictly ought to be called 'circling the square', was to obtain unity in the material world as well as in the spiritual life over and above the differences and obstacles the static order of the number four and the four-cornered square. We have already suggested that the rotated square was reckoned an important part of this project, and Heinrich Khunrath comments in his Von hylealischen Chaos: 'By means of circumrotation or circulatory revolution, the quaternary is restored to purest simplicity and innocence' .
Another means of getting an ersatz 'squaring' was to superimpose two squares, inscribing a circle within them, in such a way as to form an octagon. The octagon can indeed be considered, in both a geometric and a symbolic sense, as the intermediary form between the square and the circle. For this reason it never symbolized the opus itself that is, the mystic consummation of the synthesis of opposites, but it did stand for the path indicated by things quaternary such as the earth, the feminine element, matter or reason towards the circle representing perfection, eternity and spirit. That is why many..
mediaeval baptisteries, fonts and cupolas are octagonal in shape.
The staff has a double symbolism, as a support and as an instrument of punishment. As regards the first, Frazer notes that the ancient Egyptians held a festival after the Autumn Solstice which
they called the 'Nativity of the Sun-Stick', because they supposed that, as the day grew shorter and the sunlight weaker, the sun needed a stick for support . Dali has revived the mythic staff in the form of crutches, which are a recurrent theme in his paintings.
The use of staff-symbolism, both among the ancient Egyptians and in a modern artist such as Dalf, exemplifies an elementary principle of symbolism: the correlation and interchangeability of the material and
spiritual aspects of a given situation. As a weapon it is symbolically identical with the club, the royal weapon (Oedipus kills Laius, whom he does not know to be his father, with a blow of his staff).
Its symbolic meaning is linked with that of the Tree of Life, because of the resemblance of its antlers to branches. It is also a symbol of the cycles of regeneration and growth, as Henri-Charles Puech has observed. The stag, in several cultures of Asia and preColumbian America, came to be thought of as a symbol of regeneration because of the way its antlers are renewed. Like the eagle and the lion, it is the secular enemy of the serpent, which shows that, symbolically, it was viewed favourably; it is closely related to heaven and light, whereas the serpent is associated with night and subterranean life .
Hence, in the Milky Way, on both sides of the Bridge of Death and Resurrection are figures of eagles, stags and horses acting as mediators between heaven and earth . In the West, during the Middle Ages, the way of solitude and purity was often symbolized by the stag, which actually appears in some emblems with a crucifix between its horns thus providing the last link in the chain of relationships: tree/cross/horns . It has also been considered as a symbol of elevation .
The Greeks and Romans perceived certain 'mystical' gifts in the stag, which they exaggerated through psychic projection. One of these supposed gifts was the ability instinctively to recognize medicinal plants, which is what lies behind the assertion in ancient bestiaries that 'the stag can recognize the dictamnus plant'. His prestige is in part a consequence of his appearance: his beauty, grace, agility . Because of his role as messenger of the gods, the stag may be considered as the antithesis of the he-goat.
The symbolism of blots or stains—like that of the wallflakings which so impressed Piero de Cosimo and Leonardo da Vinci—is a combination of the symbolisms pertaining to the shapes of these stains and their texture or material. A related symbol is that of clouds, in so far as both clouds and blots suggest imaginary shapes which, by analogy, may be identified with other shapes. Proof of this has been afforded by the Rorschach test. These blots or stains are often associated with the passage of time, in which case they allude to ideas of the transitory and death.
At the same time, stains and areas of discoloration or imperfection of all kinds may also be explained by reference to the symbolism of the abnormal, for, according to the alchemists, such 'infirmities' in objects or materials actually constitute 'prime matter', the basis for the creation of philosophical gold equated with spiritual evolution. As the Rosarium Philosophorum says: 'Our gold is not common gold.
You, nevertheless, have asked about the green assuming that the mineral is a leprous body because of the green which grows in it. It is for this reason that I tell you that what is perfect in the mineral is solely this green, because very soon it will be transformed by our craft into the truest gold.' Relevant to this is Nietzsche's remark, in Thus SpaGce Zarathustra, that 'Out of the lowest the highest reaches its peak' .
As a light shining in the darkness, the star is a symbol of the spirit. Bayley has pointed out, however, that the star very rarely carries a single meaning—it nearly always alludes to multiplicity. In which case it stands for the forces of the spirit struggling against the forces of darkness.
This is a meaning which has been incorporated into emblematic art all over the world . For this reason, 'identification with the star' is possible only to the chosen few.
Jung recalls the Mithraic saying: 'I am a star which goes with thee and shines out of the depths' . Now, individual stars are often seen in graphic symbolism. Their meaning frequently depends upon their shape, the number of points, the manner of their arrangement, and their colour if any. The 'flaming star' is a symbol of the mystic Centre— of the force of the universe in expansion . The five-pointed star is the most common. As far back as in the days of Egyptian hieroglyphics it signified 'rising upwards towards the point of origin', and formed part of such words as 'to bring up', 'to educate', 'the teacher', etc. . The inverted five-pointed star is a symbol of the infernal as used in black magic .
Being nocturnal, their symbolism is associated with that of night; they are also linked with the idea of multiplicity or with disintegration because they appear in clusters, and with order and destiny because of their disposition and location according to Horapollo Niliacus.
The seventeenth enigma of the Tarot, depicting an allegorical image of a naked girl kneeling down beside a pool, as, from a golden jar, she pours a life-giving liquid into the still waters. In her left hand she holds a silver jar from which she pours fresh water on to the dry earth, encouraging the growth of the vegetation—signified most often by a sprig of acacia and a rose in full bloom, an emblem of immortality and of love. Above this figure are a bright star and several lesser ones. The ultimate meaning of this symbol seems to be expressive of intercommunication of the different worlds, or the vitalization by the celestial luminaries of liquids contained in certain vessels, and implying, furthermore, the transference of these celestial characteristics to the purely material Elements of earth and water. For this reason, Oswald Wirth concludes that this enigma represents the soul uniting spirit with matter .
State of Mind
The symbolist idea that the different worlds are so many different states of being crystallized into different orders of matter and form with their corresponding, expressive characteristics, and that they can be systematized, in their diversity, within a scale or series, after the manner of the regular figures of geometry, colours or sounds, can equally well be taken the other way round. In which case, the states of being, which, from the psychological point of view, are represented as corresponding emotional states, that is, as varying 'states of mind' comparable with the emotional expressions peculiar to each one of the musical modes: severe, ecstatic, anguished, enthusiastic, active, erotic, melancholicSthese states of being, then, come to be represented as certain definite kinds of landscape, in which the additional symbolisms of level, of symmetry of light and colour, all play a definite part.
State of Preservation
A symbol whose meaning is almost literal, or analogous to the physical, by simple transference of the physical characteristics of a thing on to the spiritual and psychological plane. So, for example, fracture symbolizes fragmentation, disintegration and mutilation on the spiritual level; wear stands for weariness of spirit, poor health and a worn-out sentiment or idea; corrosion for destruction, infirmity and suffering.
We have here the age-old concept of the parallel between the physical and the psychic worlds, an idea which gave rise to the alchemists' postulate that a series of operations upon matter must have repercussions upon the spirit— and indeed this was true by virtue of the force of their intention. Nevertheless, one must guard against accepting the above symbological interpretation as the only possible one, for it is a very generalized conclusion; there are, in fact, other symbolic meanings, sometimes, in particular cases, of greater importance than this, deriving from the agent which is bringing it about. The action of each of the Elements, for instance, always imparts a strong flavour of its own symbolic character. Fire, water or earth, if they burn or soak an object, or cause it to putrefy, in addition to altering its physical identity and changing its state also inject into it some part of their own mode of behaviour.
A symbol of the animal in man, that is, of the force of the instincts. As a riding-mount, it is also a symbol of the body. That is why most mythological figures, quite apart from their other attributes, are linked with one particular mount Wotan mounted on Sleipnir, Ahuramazda on Angramainyu, Mithras on the bull, Men on a horse with human feet, Freyr on the boar with bristles of gold . The arrangement of the symbol is like that of the centaur, but the hierarchical order is reversed: whereas the centaur stands for the superior force of the instincts or even for intuition, a gift attributed by some primitive peoples to animals in general and to the horse in particular, the steed in itself symbolizes control of baser forces. In India, the mount is seen as vahana materialization. The pedestal plays a similar role, its shape always being symbolic. In this way, the goddess Padma, for example, is associated with the lotus .
According to Evola in La tradizione ermetica, steel denotes the transcendent toughness of the principle of the allconquering spirit.
This is a symbol which is very common in iconography all over the world. It embraces the following essential ideas: ascension, gradation, and communication between different, vertical levels. In the Egyptian system of hieroglyphs, steps constitute a determinative sign which defines the act of ascending; it forms part of one of the appellations of Osiris, who is invoked as 'he who stands at the top of the steps'. Ascending, then, can be understood both in a material and in an evolutive and spiritual sense. Usually, the actual number of steps involved in the symbol is of symbolic sigmficance. In Egyptian images, the number tends to be nine: the triple ternary which symbolizes the gods of the ennead who, together with Osiris, make up the symbolic number ten which stands for the completed cycle or the return to unity .
A great many Egyptian tombs have yielded up amulets in the shape of ladders. The Book of the Dead says: 'My steps are now in position so that I may see the gods.' Eliade has pointed out parallel images, such as the following: Among many primitive peoples, mythic ascension is indicated by means of a rope, a stake, a tree or a mountain (symbolizing the world-axis). or, according to an Oceanian myth, the hero reaches X heaven by means of the fantastic hyperbole of a chain of arrows. X And in Islamic tradition, Mohammed saw a ladder which the just 1 climbed up to reach God . To refer again to primitive belief, 1 Schneider observes that in order to 'reach' the mountain of Mars and reap its benefits, one must ascend the ladder of one's forebears a —suggesting a biological and historical source for the mystic symbol X of the ladder.
Hence steps are also one of the most notable If symbols in ancestral rites. Images specifically connected with the steps are the mountain, and architectural structures incorporatw ing steps, such as the Egyptian pyramid of Sakkara, the Mesopotamian ziggurats, or the teocallis of America of pre-Columbian days; we have then a synthesis of two symbols—that of the 'templemountain' and that of the steps—signifying that the entire cosmos X is the path of ascension towards the spirit. In Mithraism, the Al ceremonial steps were seven in number, each step being made of a idifferent metal (as was each different plane of the ziggurat in a it, figurative sense). According to Celsus, the first step was of lead X (corresponding to Saturn). The general correspondence with the ? planets is self-evident.
Now, this idea of gradual ascent was taken up ''Low particularly by the alchemists from the latter part of the Middle Ages onwards; they identified it sometimes with the phases of the transmutation process. In Stephan Michelspacher's work Die Cabala, Spiegel der Kunst and Natur (1654), the following graded scale is given: Calcination, Sublimation, Solution, Putrefaction, Distillation, Coagulation, Tincture, leading to a kind of shrine inside a mountain.
According to the Zohar, the ladder which Jacob is said to have seen in his dreams had seventy-two rungs and its top disappeared into the clouds. Broadly speaking, in emblems and allegories throughout the Middle Ages, it is the ascending (affirmative) aspect of the steps which predominates, emphasized by the signs and symbols clustering round the ladder. Bayley points out that many steps are surmounted by a cross, the figure of an angel, a star or a fleur-de-lis located on the border itself.
In Romanesque art, and generally in the thought characteristic of the period, the steps are the symbol of the 'relationship between the worlds', but it must not be forgotten that, within the spatial symbolism of level, there are not two grades indicating two different worlds (the terrestrial or intermediary and the celestial or upper) but three (through the addition of a third: the infernal or lower world).
This is why Eliade (for reasons of psychology as well) states that the steps are a vivid image of 'breaking through' the levels of existence in order to open up the way from one world to another, establishing a relationship between heaven, earth and hell (or between virtue, passivity and sin). Hence, steps located beneath the level of the earth are always a symbol for an opening into the infernal regions.
In Bettini's Libro del monte santo di Dio (Florence, 1477), steps are shown superimposed upon a mountain; to emphasize the parallel—and indeed identical—symbolism of the mountain and the ladder, the former is portrayed as if it were terraced and the terraces are shown to be the rungs of the ladder. On these rungs are the names of the virtues: Humility, Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, Justice, Awe, Mercy, Science, Counsel, Understanding and Wisdom. The steps are portrayed as if chained to the mountainside. On the peak of the mountain is a mandorla formed of angels with Christ in the centre. (Plate XXVI).