Nature's Alchemy The Emerald Tablet and Tao te Ching
"The most important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts
as to discover new ways of thinking about them." Sir William Bragg
Exploring The Emerald Tablet and the Tao te Ching
Alchemy is a word associated with wizards, magic, sacred rites and initiates seeking to be anywhere but here. It does seem that our spiritual disciplines become more popular during times of suffering. The darker the ages become, the more our answers are found in the next life. Why not come back to earth and explore its wonders by learning to see nature in a new way?
Taoism is a philosophy that dates back to ancient China and differs from most thought systems because it was inspired by what nature can teach us about the human journey. Rather than anthropomorphizing nature or asking us to negate experience, Taoism is a way of retaining and further defining a sense of self, while playfully exploring our connection to the flow.
Nature's alchemy inspires us to return to the here and now. When we return to being natural creatures in a natural world, the journey takes on new meaning. The patterns we observe in nature can be applied to the human journey.
Beyond alchemy's associations with magically transforming substances into gold, nature's alchemy is a practice of purifying our awareness in a way that leads to enlightenment. As a type of meditation, it examines our connection to life in a logical or proof driven way, then ultimately releases us from the limitations in our thinking.
In ancient China, Taoists used the principles of the Tao te Ching to trace the manifestation of the "ten thousand things" back to Tao. Internal alchemy (nei-dun) put one in harmony with Tao, while external alchemy (wai-dan) used the mixing of ingredients to develop an elixir that promoted health and longevity.
The western version of alchemy began in ancient Egypt, a culture fascinated with magic and ritual. The Book of the Dead included spells to help the soul navigate the afterlife. Mummification was practiced to allow the soul to recognize its body and much like shamanism around the ancient world, illnesses were considered to be the disruption of order or Maat, which was cured through ritual. The ancient Egyptians saw death as an interwoven aspect of life and their 'magic' in mummifying bodies must have mystified the Greeks.
Called "khēmia" by the ancient Greeks, the word meant "black land" or Egypt. The Arabic translations of ancient Greek texts in Moorish Spain included the word "Al" as 'the' and the information traveled through medieval Europe as "Al Khemia." Believing that all matter was made of earth, water, fire and air, they sought to transform base metals into gold. The ancient Greeks had reduced life to the 'atom' and alchemy became the science of chemistry.
Many ancient cultures sought to understand life's basic force as it moves through us, and similarities arise in the idea of ch'i (China) prana (India) Pneuma (Greece) Ruah (Hebrew) and Ka (Egypt.) All relate to the primordial essence of the divine flow that connects the individual to the divine. The prime mover however, remains unknowable.
The word transmutation is key to understanding the philosophical and spiritual approach to alchemy as presented by both the Emerald Tablet and the Tao te Ching. With discipline and practice, both texts allow us to climb out of our everyday perception of the world. The purpose is not to separate ourselves from life, but to participate more fully with it.
Mutation suggests metamorphosis and evolution, but 'trans' relates to crossing over, through or beyond from a root word that is also associated with trade. These ideas are the realm of the archetype Hermes called Mercury, ruler of the 3rd house in ancient astrology and relating to the lower mind. This may be why The Emerald Tablet is attributed to Hermes. The last name of Trismegist is translated as 'thrice great,' but also refers to the threefold process of transformation observed in many myths and mystery religions.
Symbolically, three is the outcome of two and transcends an 'either/or' choice, but combines both into something new. This combining of two things to achieve a third and unique product is the essence of chemical transmutation. Just as hydrogen and oxygen produce water, blending different elements always produces something unique.
Like the symbol three in dreams, the transmutation of awareness involves moving from one perspective to the other, back and forth until a type of metamorphosis in thinking occurs. When we dream, consciousness explores unconscious ideas freely so they might be adopted in a type of metamorphosis. In the dream/wake/dream cycle we undergo a form of alchemy.
Comparing the Tao te Ching to the Emerald Tablet offers greater insight in aligning the adept with the One Mind. This is not to completely obliterate any sense of being separate. Appreciating life from the standpoint of moving with a greater flow actually enhances one's life experiences.
The behavior of Tao is similar to what modern science teaches us about the mysteries behind nature and physics. Studying the endless flow of Tao, which both exists and doesn't exist at the same time, allows us to appreciate the importance of the unseen and transcendent perspective.
An example of how something can both exist and not exist is found in the wind. We know it exists because of the swaying trees, but we do not actually see the wind. We know that gravity has an effect that causes ocean waves, but we don't see gravity. This invisible force inspired an understanding of Tao, or how a power can exist, but only take form through its effects. We will explore how we are not only unable to see the actual force, this force is really the interaction of something else.
These aspects are the unseen Tao moving through life to create phenomenon that 'can be tested.' Opening the mind to the power of the unseen and unknowable expands consciousness. We move beyond the 'carved block" of manifestation and open to an understanding of the flow. When we remove any sense of boundaries that separate us from how this power moves through us, anything becomes possible.
Tao te Ching:
When there is nothing that one cannot overcome
no one knows the limits.
The limitations being unknown, one can possess greatness.
Like 'beginner's luck' or how people succeed because they don't understand the rules and therefore, are not limited by them, when the limitations are not known, they are not real. Our mind makes the distinctions that are really just points of expression (called the 10,000 things) in an endless flow of interconnectivity.
When translating ancient texts to trace our common roots, we find a single thread that describes a pathway to a transcendental awareness. In the west, philosophers have been inspired by the Emerald Tablet, while in the east, we see many of the same ideas in the Tao te Ching.
The archetypes and spiritual ideas behind our ancient wisdom appear to share similarities across cultures. What makes nature's alchemy so interesting is that it presents ideas that are only now being understood by physicists.
By comparing the Emerald Tablet to the Tao te Ching, we can learn about one by contrasting it to the other. As a dream analyst and astrologer, I also explore the archetypal realm that inspires transformation in expression across the psyche through symbols. Both capture how the universe expresses itself through us, in a symbolic language of images. This happens each night we dream, and the bigger story is portrayed by the chart or snapshot of the universe at a specific moment that birthed us into time. A chart tells the story of what we are here to do.
Just as our bodies are composed of the same elements created in the big bang, our minds seem to be part of a universal expression of wonder that drives evolution and growth. Nature's Alchemy offers steps to connect with the One Mind or what might allow us to gain access to the wisdom of the collective unconscious.
Since many of these ancient themes trace back to similar archetypes, the Emerald Tablet makes the most sense when interpreted by combining the wisdom of all of our ancient disciplines.
Tao te Ching:
The nameless is the beginning of life.
It is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Remove your desires and you will see the mystery.
Be filled with desire
and you will see only the manifestation.
These two are the same
yet, they diverge in nature
as they issue forth.
Being the same, they are the source
but the source remains a mystery.
Mystery upon mystery,
the gateway of Tao's manifold secrets.
Opening to this mystery is central to Taoism. Eastern philosophies teach the practice of overcoming judgment and expectation which are associated with desire. The desire to experience 'what is' however, offers incredible inspiration when we can stop in a moment of time to observe the mystery of life as it unfolds. Having a desire for an outcome, limits perception to its routine way of viewing life. We take full responsibility for what we accomplish and then blame the universe for our defeat. Our story cannot be separated from the thoughts that make it so. Both the Emerald Tablet and Taoism offer a way to return to a more innocent awareness. We hover at the doorway of perception and can observe life's mystery and actively participate with it.
The Emerald Tablet:
1. True, true, with no room for doubt, certain, and worthy of all trust.
2. That which is below relates to that which is above, and that which is above relates to that which is below to do the miracles of the One Thing.
The Tao te Ching:
When the whole is divided, it has names.
These names come to exist everywhere.
As soon as there are names,
you should know that it is time to stop.
These are the points of expression obvious to discernment, but when we get too caught up in labeling everything, we lose our connection to the endless flow.
Tao is to the world,
like a stream to the valley
that always flows back to the sea.
Because the valley is lowly, the stream finds its way to it naturally, which is the basis for not striving in life when one follows the way of Tao. The Tao te Ching often refers to the carved and uncarved block and we are reminded that manifestation or classifying experience is just a momentary snapshot in time and space (carved block), but the flow of change is ceaseless and without form (uncarved block.)
The uncarved block is undefined simplicity,
and is the freedom from desire.
Without desire there is only stillness.
the empire will be at peace of its own accord.
The idea of 'as above - so below' comes first from ancient Sumeria and was adopted by the Babylonians. Like the Mayan astronomers who came up with the concept of zero, the Sumerians invented the wheel and were fascinated with the divisibility of 60. These arcs along with a knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes, suggest both ancient cultures understood that the stars and planets revolved around the earth. To predict the location of Jupiter, the Sumerians had come up with a mathematical system like calculus in 2000 BC.
Geomancy or the placement of buildings and pyramids to mirror constellations, was practiced in Egypt, China and the Mayan world and all have mythologies based on the movement of the planets, specifically how Venus (Persephone or Kulkulkan) 'disappears' into the underworld for extended periods of time. Pyramids were ancient observatories that allowed for the prediction of seasonal flooding that coincided with celestial movement. Knowledge of celestial movement allowed the Chinese to master astronomy and they used it to understand latitude and longitude. Many believe their maps led to the later expeditions of the European explores.
In Genesis, we are told Abraham came to the promised land from the Mesopotamian area of ancient Ur of the Chaldeans. In Exodus, Moses too, is presented as a Magi or one learned in the Zoroastrian arts of this area. The reason only certain constellations are used in astrology is because of the elliptic movement of the planets through a small band of stars or constellations in the sky overhead. The ancients practiced astrology as a way of understanding one's 'position' or the relationship of the individual to the heavens. Like all mandalas, astrology is a representation of the cosmos as the story of an individual. Abraham's connection to this area may be why the book of Genesis mirrors exactly the much earlier Sumerian myths (eden, flood, tower of babel, Cain and Abel.)
The birth chart is the imprint of the universe at a given moment of time, captured in a sequel of transits that continue to unravel one's life story. The archetypes and orientation are similar to dreams, which are inspired by the same archetypal landscape. Just as the levels and rooms of a house in a dream relate to different aspects of our paradigm, we see a similar representation in the house divisions of astrology. Understanding how archetypes take form in our dreams allows us to explain how and why astrology works. Both draw upon the same transformational energy. In this way, we are a microcosm of the macrocosm that birthed us into time. That which is above relates to what is below.
Of course, astrology and dreams describe a metaphorical realm and so, do not belong to science. But like the wind, which is observable by its effect, astrology is often proven by the accuracy of its interpretations.
3. See how all things originated from the One by a single process, and mediation from the One Mind, so do the transformations occur.
Tao is the One.
It produces the two: Yin and Yang.
The Two produce the three,
and the Three produce the ten thousand things.
Tao is how the masculine (active) force and feminine (receptive) field move as Yin and Yang to create and dissolve manifestation. We see this in physics and similar processes are described as the (trifold) three aspects of (1) creation, (2) sustenance and (3) destruction in our ancient texts. The One (Tao) is the totality of everything as it manifests to become the many.
The 'single process' or behavior of One that takes the form as Yin and Yang can be observed in an electrical current, which is the interaction of a force and a field. A moving charge creates a field that entices the charge forward, which creates another field, etc. In this way, the two cannot be separated. Both energies are One behaving as two. Mediation from the One Mind resembles how archetypes of the collective unconscious inspire our dreams and lead us to transform. To connect with the One Mind means to remove any illusion of separateness that disconnects us from the larger flow. When we discover the 24 hour mind, like Chuang Tzu's butterfly dream, we can remove any separation in the dream/wake/dream cycle to access greater intuition and creativity.
4. The father is the sun (Yang), the mother the moon (Yin.)
In both dreams and astrology, the Sun is symbolic of the masculine drive to become assertive and to provide for ourselves. For a woman, it appears as the Animus, first adopted by the father, then projected on the male in her life, until she becomes self sufficient and empowered in her own right. For the man, the Moon in astrology and the Anima in dreams, represents his ability to feel and access deeper sensitivity. These archetypes in dreams will generally seek to hug, kiss or copulate when 'the hero' is integrating this energy.
For a man who is not receptive to his feeling nature, the Anima may first appear as a crazy woman (Trickster/Anima) attempting to kiss him. The Moon in a man's chart portrays aspects adopted from the mother, later projected on females in his life, until he becomes sensitive and open to his feeling nature. As a an archetypal energy of creation, both the Sun and Yang embody creation and Yin and the Moon portray the enticing force that is submissive to Yang to give this power 'birth.' Yet it is said that "the most submissive thing can overcome the most hard" and we see this during courtship or how our unconscious life ultimately leads to the awakening of consciousness.
In Taoism, the greatest power need not be demonstrated. One who is comfortable with who they are need not defend anything. This way of the 'lowly' ensures that we can move with the flow and not become trapped by the things we cling to and associate with our power. Just as scientists today are still struggling to understand the universe, we need only make peace with what cannot be known.
Tao te Ching:
The further one goes,
the less one knows.
Thus the way gives them life,
virtue raises them.
Circumstances nourish them;
Tao protects them and brings them to maturity.
Kung Fu Tzu taught that conflict with others is best understood by examining the Self and the further we project our inner condition on outer events, the less we discover the truth about our unconscious and authentic Self. The Sun is consciousness and its journey through life, while the Moon is the subconscious and reveals the subterranean life of dreams. In this way, the Sun and Moon are how the conscious and unconscious exchange information that encourages our growth.
Yang is associated with action, while Yin is introspective and we move forward and backward in equal measure. Virtue is the learning experience shaped by the vicissitudes of life. Virtue in Taoism is not to be confused with the 'virtues' taught by the west. Virtue is associated with Te or how Tao is active in the individual. Te is activated from internal promptings, much like our DNA. Tao or 'the way' coaxes our Te forward to encourage the expression of our authenticity. Like the purpose of dreaming, all that we meet is a reflection meant to unmask us to ourselves.
4.(a) The wind bore it in its belly, and the earth nourished it.
The 64 principles of the I Ching are built upon 8 Pa Gua or elementary forces. The Gentle, yet penetrating Wind embodies a constant movement in life toward transformation. It can also suggest 'deep time' or the billions of years it took to create what we know as life today.
In physics, the universal constants include G as gravity, E as the energy of a photon with H as its frequency, and C as the Speed of Light. These equate to numbers that describe life, and even the most miniscule change would mean that life could not have been created, nor could it continue to exist. The Pa Gua called Wind reveals the small and constant efforts that when continued over time, can erode even mountains. It also suggests how water falling on a stone over time will cut through it.
The wind can also be said to be created from "its own belly." This phenomenon arises from an imbalance in the atmosphere and the most simplistic explanation of Tao is the pursuit of balance. Like electricity, the wind is the interaction of two things. High and low pressure systems meet, which create wind. Nature achieves the optimal conditions that will sustain life whenever air or ocean temperatures become extreme. High and low form into wind and the atmosphere changes into storms or hurricanes that renew the environment. The reason many physicists embrace Taoism is because although it is ancient, it seems to hold the answers we seek in understanding how particles, forces and change can manifest where nothing existed. It opens the mind to observe how something can emerge from nothing (quantum physics.)
Whatever created life as a set of universal constants set a pattern in motion that is self sustaining, interconnected and 'born in its own belly' where cause and effect cannot be separated.
Whether in the carbon cycle, nature's reproductive methods of how seeds are carried by animal fur or on the wind, or how pollen is transferred among flowers on the legs of bees, we cannot fail to recognize that life is an all or nothing equation. To truly understand the workings of our universe requires a mind open enough to particpate inclusively with it and not exclusive from it. Distinctions trap us into routine observation that can leave us feeling isolated.
5. Its force or power is entire when it is turned into earth.
Physics describes fields of potential that take form only when something is measured as a point in space. What is measured cannot be separated from the observer as if manifestation requires consciousness to bring it into existence. Potential is an array of possibilities until we define it in the spacetime continuum.
Spacetime has no tense (Past/Present/Future) and nobody really knows why we observe existence in a spatially and temporal way. Our understanding of gravity as space geometry and not Newton's spooky force acting at a distance came from Einstein's work on relativity. One of his collaborators, John Archibald Wheeler said: "Spacetime tells matter how to move and matter tells spacetime how to bend." This interaction is inseperable.
Wheeler also wrote: "We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance." Because our universe has a predisposition for exploring possibilities - mystery might be a fundamental. We want answers without understanding that life is built on a question of possibilities.
An ancient Taoist master would have poked fun at our hunger to interpret something that is right in front of our nose. "The truth points at nothing but itself." When we can see the wind moving like ocean waves in a tree or understand how a hill observed during the night or day is still the same hill - the orifices and senses can perform properly, without judgment, but with wonder. What is 'that thing' that moves through life to change it and how can I move with it?
While scientists have discovered how the particles and forces took form after the big bang, they are still exploring where this energy came from. The inflationist theory suggests that a miniscule amount of primordial energy was unstable and something caused it to expand rapidly. All that we see and will ever see my be similar to how bits and bytes are compressed into zip files. Since time is interwoven into space - time as we know it is a perceptual phenomenon that can also shrink or grow. The speed of movement through space affects time. Time came out of the big bang and we ride the earth like a rocket through space where everyone is traveling at the same speed. Therefore, the arrow of time behaves the same for all of us. Beyond our relativistic view of time however, physics tells us that the past, present and future already exist. "Time is nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once." Like the wind, it may be an organizational phenomena meant to ensure balance.
The point is - wonder opens the mind's infinite potential.
What seems stretched out over a lifetime may collapse like a night's dream when we die or when consciousness is lost. In this way, Taoism was also a practice of learning how to approach death. A detached sense of curiosity is key to purging reactions called forward by events, which leads to a simple joy of being a participant with life. The ancient Taoists knew that the same wondrous thing that created life has also created death, and they looked forward to experiencing what that might be.
Tao is described as the something that comes from nothing. Birth is like the big bang because we expand into individuals with an entire life story as the product of Yang (masculine) and Yin (feminine) coming together. We develop and hold to a sense of being guided by a universe that is both beyond us and within us. Dimension and our orientation to the inner and outer world of perception seems to be what limits our understanding of where we came from or where we are going. Experience and dreaming reflect a sense of moving 'inward and outward according to fixed rhythms.' We travel back and forth until we stop moving outward altogether. We blossom like a flower and then, return to our root.
Tao te Ching:
The way that is brightest seems dull.
The way that leads forward seems to
The way which is even seems rough.
"Its force is entire when it is turned into earth," or when potential becomes manifestation. What is Tao without the Yin and Yang to manifest it? What is nature without its forces to give it shape? What is life without the mind to interpret it? We let go of the 'that' and align with the simplicity of 'this' as the purposeful force that moves through us and the sense of peacefulness it instills.
Change and a movement toward balance is always the result of varying energies coming together, whether through hurricanes or the challenges we face that lead us to open. The carbon existence we have on the earth teaches us in the same way stories unleash our potential through dreaming. Both are a reflection of our inner world. What we believe is 'out there' is really 'in here.' We must go against our inclination to arrive at the center.
The word entire derives from the Latin words for 'not' and 'touch.' It suggests wholeness where no part is left out. It is difficult for the mind to return to a way of thinking that is inclusive rather than exclusive, but this awareness is at the heart of Taoism.
There is a thing confusedly formed, I know not it's name. I call it Tao.
The Tao te Ching explores how judgment can vacillate through distinctions, but how all ideas or extremes of thought relate back to each other:
If you would have something shrink,
you must first stretch it.
If you would weaken something,
you must first strengthen it.
If you wish to lay something aside,
you must first set it up.
If you wish to take something,
you must first learn to give it.
Distinctions are a bit like the maze we create in our minds as we run from one perspective to the other, ever searching for the truth when the moment is the answer.
Day is the absence of Night, yet Night exists somewhere else. What 'is' without the distinction of Day or Night? It is better to settle into a way that is even. "If you wish to lay something aside, you must first set it up."
Because it is not our nature, the journey to this center can seem complex even while it is our most natural way of being in Tao.
The Tao te Ching coaxes us to become "the Valley to the Empire" or to always take the lowly position and go with the flow, rather than defending what might not be appropriate, and is thus torn down.
This is called subtle clarity,
and seeing into the nature of things.
The soft and the weak overcome the hard and strong.
Just as the fish has no need to leave the deep water,
the sharpest weapon does not need to be displayed.
That which has no substance
enters into that which has no crevices.
When the mind transcends the need to classify through distinctions, we move with the changes rather than fighting against them. We stand in the universe with no sense of separation from what unfolds around us and it is perfect. That which has no substance (no distinctions) can access that which has no crevices (undefined.) Like Ouroborus eating its own tail, life moves as a simple Oneness expressed in the many. It self perpetuates a flow toward balance and abundance. The journey is more enjoyable when we don't impede our access to it.
Classifying changing phenomenon is like taking a snapshot of a tree during spring and believing it has died during autumn. Come next spring, we find the tree exactly as remembered. Where did it go during winter? It returned to its root, and like dreaming, we are re-invigorated for what is to come.
Go up to it, and you will not see its beginning;
follow behind, and you will not see its end.
7. Separate the earth from the fire, the subtle and thin from the crude prudently and with modesty and wisdom.
Tao te Ching:
From this I know the benefit of taking no action;
This is the teaching without words that few understand.
Without going out the door, one can see the whole world.
Without looking out the window, one can see the way of Tao.
To separate the subtle from the crude, we recognize how all that we see is related to perception. Neuroscience shows that everything we either experience or dream about is the same electrochemical vibration playing on the mind. We call one representation reality and the other dreams.
The body is paralyzed during dreaming and this can teach us how to hover at the doorway of perception and remain innocent of judgment "like a newborn babe who has not yet learned to smile." Reactions classify life in terms of right and wrong or good and bad, but life is 'just so." What we experience is a reflection of our inner world, and if we want to change experience, we can do so without looking out into the world. We turn within through modesty and wisdom.
I alone am inactive and reveal no signs;
like a new-born babe who has not learned to smile,
Unattached, as though I have no home to go back to.
Most people see differences and are sharp.
I alone make no distinctions,
The home we would return to is a paradigm that traps our ability to observe wonder. The 'crude' or sharp edges of what we see can be softened when we "unsharpenen the edges and soften the glare" of discernment. All of science reveals the mystery that life really is, so rather than define it, observe it. This is the Gateway to Tao's mysterious secrets.
While giving full expression to your vital force
can you make it pliable like that of a newborn babe?
While polishing your mysterious mirror
can you see the world without blemish?
When we remove the red dust that accumulates on our journey as past assumptions, the mysterious mirror captures the mystery and places us within it. To see the world without blemish is the non attachment that connects observation to the One Mind and our vital force back to the flow of abundance. Each reaction and judgment fogs the mirror and so, we settle into just an excited appreciation of wonder. Whatever it is, it is perfect.
Separating the earth from the fire can also associate with the Pa Gua Li or Clinging Fire. This is the synergy of thought and its affects on manifestation. The earth is the carved block of manifestation, while the fire is desire, or drive to see as expectation. The subtle is the actual imperceptible movement of transformation (uncarved block) where the crude is it's opposite - the manifestation. (carved block.) The greatest meditation is simply to return to who you are when no reactions exist.
8. It ascends from the Earth to Heaven, orders the lights above, then again descends from the Sky to the Earth, combining the power and efficacy of the highest and lowest
All of Tao is the balancing of highs and lows or extremes. High and low pressure systems become the power of the wind. Electrons move from higher to lower states and give off light. Efficacy produces a result and the result leads to balance.
The polarity between 'in here' and 'out there' can be observed in the chart hemispheres of astrology. The northern hemisphere relates to the inner workings of the individual, while the southern hemisphere represents how this manifests in the world around us. Like the archetypes that inspire our dreams, astrology is a map of heaven that portrays the path of our transmutation. The chart describes the exact childhood conditions (4th house) that will propel us toward our highest expression (10th house.) We take on a persona (1st house) and may project our experiences onto others (7th house.) Or, we own our inner condition (12th and 3rd houses) and learn from the experience (6th and 9th houses.)
Ordering the lights above is how astrologers see the specific planets, placements and stars as a map of incarnation with its story to tell. The chart reveals the similar hero tales of the symbols that inspire our dreams. In Genesis we are told that the stars were created as signs and in Job we are told that God speaks to us in dreams. Why did the ancients write these things?
Consciousness is, by its very nature, ego oriented and is a self protective mechanism. What were we aware of prior to consciousness? Jung believed we had greater access to the unconscious as children and Julian Jaynes, a psychology professor from Princeton pioneered the idea that consciousness develops with language. Like the 3 year old, he believed the ancients still had direct access to the unconscious realm of archetypes. As language develops, the mind grows accustomed to the proof that a table is always different from a tablet, not only because the 't' is missing, but because a table has legs.
Consciousness is a conceptual process derived from learning a metaphorical language based on how symbols form concepts, and concepts create consciousness. Dream analysts and astrologers merely translate the wisdom of the ancients.
When we recognize how nature causes the emergence of something from nothing through a blending of opposites, incarnation too, may be described as the blending of two things:
Yin: spiritual, reflective, the boundless field, unconscious dreamlife, intangible, eternal
Yang: ego, carbon based, assertive, embodied, consciousness awareness, tangible in time
The speed of light defines dimension and we know this because traveling across space in a particular direction at speeds approaching that of light collapses that dimension. If we traveled up, that dimension collapses and the world would look like a two dimensional flatland. Travel forward and the world would look tall and thin without girth.
Like the big bang, the power and efficacy of the light expands outwards as points in space where time and dimension have expression. When pressure systems meet, "the high is brought low and the low is lifted up," it is just what nature does in a movement toward balance. High is no better than the low just as the field is no more important than the force. It is One thing expressed differently to 'move' or change something.
We know the body returns to an endless carbon cycle just like a tree shedding foliage. It seems that two types of energy are being refined by bringing them together. Why would something eternal and boundless require interaction in an embodied state?
Since we are shown a shift in perspective from Earth to Heaven and back again, what happens when we shift our perspective around to look at it from all sides? What might we learn spiritually by observing this strange place we have come to believe is so tangible? What might we access 'tangibly' by the subtle and strange input of our spiritual life? We have a sense of this when dreams seem to know who we are and where we are going more than we do. It is just how nature expresses itself.
The evolution of consciousness resembles how our primordial deities were destroyed and/or replaced by their children. It captures how the unconscious is overlaid with consciousness as we develop. This is found in the Mahabharata epic of Arjun of Hindu myths, or how Enlil supplants Anu in Sumerian stories. It is found in the stories of Oedipus, Fafnir of Norse myths, and finally Cronus who kills Ouranos and then, is ultimately overthrown by his son, Zeus. The more these deities evolved, the more ego-oriented and human they became. The more human we make the divine, the less divine we are.
We give embodiment a type of definition that negates the expression of spirit. We give spirit a type of respect that negates the purpose of our embodiment. Light is both a wave and a particle and yet, we don't celebrate the state of one over the other. What might we add to our journey of embodiment when we open to the potentials of both conditions? This is exactly what happens during every 24 hour cycle when we move from a bounded to an unbounded state and back again. Nature may have designed dreaming as a way of ensuring we transcend our limited thought patterns. It may have designed the physical experience as a way of learning tangibly through cause and effect.
We dream about what we are not allowing into conscious awareness and what we do not allow into consciousness is actually a more real aspect of who we are. We dream of the parts of our authenticity that we have sent underground. but life is the fodder that inspires our dreams. We separate our story of evolution into dreams and reality. This world we find so solid has gaps in it like a tennis ball with an entire football field of space swirling around it. After all of our scientific research, more that 80% or our universe is missing.
When we can pull back the veil of consciousness, we return to the more nature focused, primordial mythology of nurturing interconnectivity. Like a tree on a hill receiving the morning sun, we need only open to our powers of expansion. All of life is a 'coupling' to drive more life. This is the essence of nature's drive toward abundance and evolution, and we participate in it.
We can come to recognize how nature is a teacher and how giving human attributes to the divine is how we lose our connection to it. Like the fields of potential we are discovering in quantum physics, the ancients saw this fundamental power in life, describing Ouranos as Aithír "spinning, filling all the space, and by spinning it draws the particles of Earth into its center and unites with them, creating Form."
The Tao te Ching:
It rises like illumination, but does not dazzle.
It settles back down, but is not obscure.
It is without beginning, and end,
It is infinite, indefinable.
This is the form of the formless;
it exists in non-existence;
It is indefinable;
This is its greatest mystery.
It is indefinable because we are accustomed to form, but once we detect the form, we lose access to what it is. Who are we when we give credibility to all that we might become?
9. By this means you will acquire the glory of the whole universe.
The Tao te Ching:
You can mould clay into a vessel;
yet, it is its emptiness that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows from the walls of a house;
but the ultimate use of the house
will depend on that part where nothing exists.
In order to be a part of the flow and not the form, Taoism teaches us to become the guest and not the host. Who we are is not as important as what flows through us. Being open, we can align with the efficacy of the One Mind. To remove any sense of separation in all that we experience, we simply make room for its endless flow toward abundance.
Every impulse manifests, whether conscious or unconscious. It doesn't happen suddenly, but today is a mozaic of all the things we have wished for over time. The problem is, by the time something manifests, the mind has already become preoccupied with something else.
We are composed of the same elements and forces we see operative in the world around us. The only thing blocking a flow toward abundance in manifestation is the limitations put on experience by the mind. To become empty, we are filled with a greater purpose. To eliminate the part we play in cause and effect we stop discerning and reacting. The highest use of what we can accomplish here will depend on our willingness to allow the mystery to exist within us.
One who holds fast to the way
does not wish to be full.
Because one is never full
they are worn, and yet can be newly made.
10. Having the light of lights, darkness and obscurity will clear,
The ancient masters of Tao:
So wise, so subtle, and profound.
So deep in their understanding,
that they were themselves misunderstood.
Tentative, like crossing a stream in winter;
Hesitant, like one aware of danger;
Courteous, like a visiting guest;
Subtle, like the melting of ice;
Simple, like the uncarved block;
Vacant, like a valley;
Obscure, like muddy water.
Who can be muddled and settling slowly
Who can remain still and stirring slowly
come to life?
Move too hastily and it becomes clouded again.
Sometimes we need to be muddled before we can become clear. We often go through initiation when the ego is wounded and the outer world grows dark. Yet, this allows us to find the light within. Wonder is the beautiful surprise of the unexpected and it can only be found where we are not looking. Darkness and obscurity are like the mental exhaustion that can fill a perfectly blue sky with smog.
You look out into the world and the bright yellow light of the sun scatters itself through our atmosphere and looks blue. There are millions of lights coming from stars in the night sky and yet the night sky looks dark. What we expect and what we experience can be at odds because there are variables we might not understand.
Igniting the light within, we return to an appreciation for how life sorts itself out on its own terms. The masters traveled lightly through the world, amused by the ever changing Tao. Only a fool would dare to take the lead in something that remains intangible. To be vacant of all preconceived ideas, we return to wonder.
The heavy is at the root of the light.
Stillness is the master of restlessness.
Therefore the sage, traveling all day,
does not lose sight of what is carried.
Though there is great beauty to be seen 'out there,'
they are unattached and ever composed 'in here.'
This is the essence of tranquility in disturbance. No matter the situation, one balances a perspective of being anchored to the intangible and it is okay. The more comfortable we become with the intangible, the more the mystery can operate unimpeded. All of the beauty and the mystery we begin to witness around us is the 'heavy at the root of the light.' What we feel is reflected around us. The center we hold to anchors us to our depths where the surface is just the splashing of emotion, but we do not lose hold of our center. We 'carry' our connection to the profound and allow it to grow ever more profound within. To define it, we would only lose it.
To be the light of lights, we move like Tao, without root in its endless flow toward abundance.
10. It overcomes every subtle thing and penetrates every solid thing.
One who knows has no extensive knowledge;
One broad of knowledge does not know
That which has no substance
enters into that which has no crevices.
Science changes as our understanding evolves, and we continue to tap forces without a thorough understanding of how they work. Knowledge is relative and ever changing. There is still much about the universe that remains a mystery and remaining open to what we don't know allows for greater innovations.
When two people argue, both can be correct. Empathy allows us to understand that each of us has our own relationship with Tao. Knowledge generates defensiveness and this posturing is similar to how excited electrons get knocked down to a lower state. We might have made our point at the expense of possible union. Perhaps the two ideas would have blended to become something new? Coming up against defensiveness in another, seeking to understand will always be more powerful than seeking to be understood. Propitiousness is how Tao brings us together to explore the possibility for change. We overcome the subtle by stepping back and penetrate any barrier by being open. No matter what we find on our path, it is a gift and meant to teach us something.
11. In this way was the Universe created. From this will come many wondrous applications, because this is the Pattern.
The way of Tao:
It does not contend and yet excels in winning.
It does not speak and yet excels in responding.
It does not summon and yet attracts.
It is unstructured and yet excels in planning.
The net of heaven is cast wide, though the mesh is not fine, nothing slips through.
To not contend and excel in winning is to remain open. To respond without speaking is not to defend because substance takes form in silence. To attract without summoning, is to let go of demands to see how we attract exactly what we need. To understand the pattern allows us to detect a similar pattern in how life unfolds.
Consciousness can get trapped in particle expression, while dreaming may release us into our wave-like nature. All things in nature behave as both particles and waves and this pattern of understanding can inspire us to access both.
To hold the way of Tao, you can travel through the world unblemished by what you see because "the greatest traveler does not know where they are going." To understand life in the same mirror we use to understand dream symbols, life's mystery can create excitement in your solar plexus as "the bubbling of instinct, excited by the prospect of your coming-to-be-real."
12. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
I have three treasures,
which I hold and protect:
The first is called compassion;
The second is being malleable like an uncarved block;
The third is not daring to take the lead in the empire.
Compassion is the opening, being malleable allows us to evolve, and when we do not take the lead we can replace certainty with wonder.
13. That which I have said is accomplished & ended.
Close the mouth and eyes;
shut the doors of desire.
And all that you need will never run dry.
Open the mouth and eyes;
meddle with your desires.
And all that you take will not fulfill you.
We once observed static electricity or sparks when rubbing things together, and wondered why lightning moved through the atmosphere. We captured electricity to send telegraph signals through wires, until an understanding of fields and waves allowed us to transmit sound and signals boundlessly through the air. What we have mastered through technology might be applied to the human journey.
Nature's alchemy allows us to travel back and forth between perception and the mysteries of nature. We travel between dreams and wakefulness to transcend our thinking. As a natural creature in a natural world, we can reinvigorate our connection to life's endless flow toward abundance, and the ways in which it stirs us to explore our deeper connection to it.
The master said: "What need has nature of thought or care? When the sun goes, the moon comes; when the moon goes, the sun comes. Sun and moon alternate, thus light comes into view. When cold goes, heat comes; when heat goes, cold comes. Can one be any different from the other? Suchness is neither pure nor impure." Without doing anything, the body circulates blood, regulates temperature and heals us.
Whether through life or dreams, all that we witness is our mirror and we need only keep our perspecive without blemish. Wherever we are going, it begins right here.