The Structure of the Cycle of Being - 3
These human states eventually lead to the crucial moment of equilibrium
between the principles of Unity and Multiplicity — to the symbolic Sunset and Illumined Man. Beyond this stage we have to imagine a state of being in which predominant subjectivity takes the place or function of objective materiality and corporeality. Existence fades out as inistence develops its essential characteristics. The symbolic Night follows Day.
When Western religious philosophers (and St. John quoting Jesus in Revelations 1:8) speak of alpha
, they refer to the beginning and the end of only the half-cycle of existence — that is, of the physical universe. Occult traditions hold that the entire alphabet symbolizes only the unfoldment of this universe.(2
) This universe is the only reality most human beings, even today, actually are able to consider as a field of activity susceptible of being understood and affected by their thoughts and behavior. For the materialist, this is all there can possibly be. For religious persons who deeply feel that there must be some condition of being beyond "this" world, such a condition is mysterious and for many people frightening. Yet human consciousness has reached a stage of development at which we should no longer have to think of beginning and end, but instead of a cyclic process without beginning or end. We should be able to realize that what we call birth and death — either of a single human organism or an entire universe — are two "Gates" through which the cyclic process of being passes.
Through the "Gate of Sound" at the cosmic level, the energy that creates, "in-forms," and sustains all modes of existence issues forth. It manifests in the life-field of a planet (its biosphere) as vital energy (prana
) and breath — the first breath of a newborn. At the "Gate of Silence," human beings who are ready experience for a brief, nearly timeless moment according to their individual stage of evolution and understanding, a degree of "Illumination." This illumination reveals the essential meaning of the realities of their life-span, which is then ending. As individual persons, they "die" into a state of increasingly subjective being; their physical-psychic nature gradually undifferentiates. The elements of which this nature had been constituted since conception are returned to the planetary fields from which they were drawn. These elements that had been combined into a whole of existence disintegrate, only to be eventually recombined into new forms of organization, according to the complex, impersonal rhythms of an immense cycle of changes and transformations. (I shall discuss the subjective aspect of the postmortem processes in Chapter II.)
Passage through the Gate of Silence takes on a different aspect, however, when we think of the human state as the embodiment of one of the four phases of the cosmic and metacosmic (Day and Night) cycle of being. This "human" phase leads to a new one, to which the term inistence refers. The human phase, however, refers to humanity-as-a-whole, or more generally and archetypally.to Man (Anthropos) as a functional part (or level) of the total being of the earth. (In the next chapter I shall outline the sequence of developments marking the slow but progressive evolution of humanity-as-a-whole toward the final condition of Illumined Man and the passage through the Gate of Silence — the ultimate phase of "human history" at the planetary "end of time," "Last Day," or omega state.)
What follows this final condition of Illumined Man — and what individuals
who even now constitute the far-advanced spearhead of human evolution already are experiencing — should not be considered a negation of being. From the point of view of Wholeness, the two opposite principles of Unity and Multiplicity, symmetrically waxing and waning, are equally significant.(3
) Each principle should be understood as an affirmation of being, be it a subjective, contracting or an objective, expansionistic affirmation; an affirmation of the experience of unity (selfhood) in terms of consciousness or an affirmation of the feeling of space-conquest through the spreading differentiation of energy.
In the cycle of the seasons, these two types of affirmation correspond to the summer and winter solstices. They reach their most characteristic and powerful formulations at the symbolic Midday and Midnight of the entire cycle of Wholeness. Midnight symbolizes the predominance of the principle of Unity. All there is is condensed within what I call the Godhead
state. Yet this Godhead is not "the Absolute." Neither is it "One without a second," nor does it transcend the Movement of Wholeness. Wholeness, being all-inclusive, has a place for the Godhead as it has for all living beings and for Man — Man considered as an archetype and as a particular phase of the all encompassing cycle of being. The Godhead is the culmination of being in terms of Unity, but it is not a
Supreme Being. Natural Man (the symbolic Noon) is the culmination of being in terms of the most extreme differentiation possible during the Day hemicycle of existence. It is thus the triumph of Multiplicity and also of what we call nature
. The term Natural Man
therefore refers to a vast number (a multiplicity) of human beings.
When I speak of Godhead, I do not mean what some great mystics like Meister Eckart meant by the term or what Hindu philosophers named Parabrahman
(the unmanifest aspect of Brahman) — to them the "Supreme Reality." The term refers to supreme condition, but it is a conditon of supreme Unity, and Unity is no more absolutely "real" than Multiplicity. The only possible "Supreme Reality" is Wholeness, the perpetual and undefinable interplay of both the principle of Unity and the principle of Multiplicity. Reality is the interrelatedness of all conceivable modes of being, be they predominantly subjective or objective.
Thus the basic structure of the cycle of changes engendered by the perpetual interaction between the principles of Unity and Multiplicity. The tension generated by this interaction is the source of all energy. As the degree and character of the tension changes with the interactions of the principles, energy operates in an immense variety of modes. Considered universally and abstractly, the cycle of change is the Cycle of Being. To a particular consciousness able to perceive, experience, or intuit the entire cycle, it is the Movement of Wholeness. Each phase of the cycle — including the consciousness perceiving it — can be interpreted as an aspect of Wholeness. It is Wholeness-in-act — a release of the energy of the Movement through a definite form. The characteristics of the form and the circumstances of and surrounding the action are essentially defined by the character of the relationship between the principles of Unity an Multiplicity in effect at the time and place the particular act occurs.
The letter mu
occurs at the midpoint of the Greek alphabet which starts with alpha
and ends with omega
. These three letters and their sounds have a profound symbolic meaning. Zen training often uses the constant repetition of the sound Mu
— see Three Pillars of Zen
by Phillip Kapleau). An old tradition tells of an ancient continent called Lemu
ria, of which Australia, New Zealand, and some Pacific Islands are said to be the remains. Life on this continent is supposed to have marked the midpoint of the whole scheme of human evolution, which is said to encompass seven large periods. It was in Lemuria (at the midpoint of the third period) that Man began to appear in his essential character, as a being endowed with "self-consciousness" (the "Promethean gift"). In Sanskrit, the primordial mantram is the sacred word AUM — beginning, end, and middle. But in Latin the word amo
means "I love" — the human form taken by the principle of Unity. Return
Of course metaphysicians can argue as to whether Unity and Multiplicity are two aspects of Wholeness, or if Wholeness is the result of cyclic interaction. It is like arguing about what came first, the chicken or the egg. Return
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