OTHER MODALITIES OF THE SYMBOL OF THE WHEEL
our contemporary cultural outlook, we are accustomed to visualizing space
and time as homogeneous, without fissures. Antiquity did not think the
same, and established, in distinct, specially selected geographical places,
on precise dates of the calendar, their ritual spaces and times. And those
spaces and times, in the invisible fabric of life, are precisely the points
of conjuncture (ensembles, knots or ligatures) or of interconnection with
other planes or worlds.15
In this sense, it is interesting to single out the symbology of the wandering peoples, who, in the course of a journey through the years (time) and the various places (space) find their being in solidifying, concentrating, or crystallizing as a people, or nation, in a determinate temporal and spacial circumstance.16 When this circumstance is noticed by the priests, the sages, and the chiefs, the people settle in that spot and at that time, and in this fashion create a culture-the new life of a group-a plane, or medium, which, by the radiation of a center, as in the model of the cosmic wheel, is to structure the conceptions, emotions, sentiments, of a community. Or, and this is the same thing, their raison d'être as such.
We are witnessing a re-creation of the world, the institution of a cosmogony, which makes the life of that group possible, and which the people itself shapes in actuating it. This "cosmicization" of a spatio-temporal point on the circumference-or periphery of the wheel-would be a spoke of the wheel, a reflection of the central unity, and a true center for those who would ascribe themselves to it. In this sense, we must recall once more that centrifugal energy, or the energy of expansion, corresponds to centripetal energy, or the energy of contraction. And that both together realize the rite of life and death of this or any other community, as well as of any created thing, which is subject to the cause-and-effect determinant, as everything included in the manifest world. Thus, then, in inaugurating for themselves a meaningful space and time, in the mass of the indeterminate and amorphous,17 they sacralize it for themselves,18 and enhance it through its intrinsic quality, to the detriment of the less meaningful or profane, frankly connected with the relative, the multiple, and the colorless.
In this fashion, by way of this rite, a people is born, who begin to reckon their time, their history, from that moment forward-their origins, from this perspective, being mythic and nontemporal. They likewise take account of themselves, of their being, and visualize themselves as protagonist, "center of the world," or "chosen people." Which is the same as to say that they have a name.19
This same name, or color, or number, or particularization of a genetic chemistry, or fingerprint, is absolutely personal. And it is expressed by way of a mark or sign, which bestows on the being its individuality among a group of beings. And that-paradoxically-is at the same time the proclamation of its own death, in the (cause-and-effect) limitation of any plane of existence-inasmuch as it is obvious that what gives us life is precisely thereby signing us with death.
We have seen, then, how the birth of an entity (for example, a culture) simultaneously creates a new space and a new time, in which that entity develops; and we have seen that this development is nothing but that being itself. To put it another way: every creation renews the spatio-temporal, archetypal, possibilities of the original creation, and is only a modality of that same creation, as it actualizes the possibilities of that which, in the manifest universe, has occasioned the spatio-temporal coordinates. For a traditional civilization, sacred festivals are meaningful points on the circumference of the calendaric cycle, which ensure communication with the invisible energy of the center, the reflection of verticality.20 The same occurs with the vast space that, like the year, presents points and situations of conjuncture, of communication of energy through distinct planes or levels.21 These situations are given at precise geographical circumstances, in the places where cities are established, temples are erected, or homes are built.22
These meaningful (sacred) points are clearly hierarchized with respect to meaningless (profane) points, although they are intimately related with the latter. The ones could not exist without the others.23
In this perspective, the center of the symbolic model of the wheel would correspond to the origin, and its manifest unfurling would correspond to the samsara (to borrow a term from Hinduism and Buddhism), from which, thanks to a concentration of energies, one would return to the nirvanic oneness simoultaneous of beings and things. They have never left this oneness except in illusory and successive manners, in accord with the dialectical patterns of the dual mind. On the other hand, it must be emphasized that this hierarchical division between the nirvanic and the samsaric, and likewise between the sacred and the profane, the simultaneous and the successive, is emphatically relative-and valid only from the viewpoint of the samsaric, the profane, and the successive, that is, of the discursive, which seeks to express one sole fact and one sole reality, in itself comprising the limitless spectrum of all possibilities of manifestation, whatever these may be. From the periphery to the center, these hierarchies are established, the center itself being the maximal hierarchization, as symbol in the plane of the original vertical unity, which produces all things by degrees, and to which the latter necessarily return in successive form. If a drop of water falls into a basin, it forms a field of radiation reaching the limits of the basin. From the point of view of a being situated within that limit, and accordingly, a successive being, the return to its original font would be realized through the breach of the various concentric circles, which present themselves as images of worlds or different spatio-temporal states, as placed at intervals, which just so prevent their fusion with the center. Or they enwrap and conceal that original drop, that primordial seed, which is glimpsed as anterior in time.
The symbolical figure of a circle,24 containing other circles within it, considered from the viewpoint of its expansion (ad extra), is the succession of intermediate rungs or stages that make possible the existence of any creation.25 Taken from the viewpoint of the periphery, it is the hierarchized journey (ad intra), or successive scale that is traversed as it seeks fusion with the primordial center.26 Thus, in the model of a traditional city (or civilization), the limits of the same mark out a meaningful space. Outside this order all is incertitude, confusion, barbarism, or savagery. But this city is hierarchized. On its periphery, the great mass lives.27 One degree within (or higher) we find a smaller number of persons, devoted to more specific activities. Another grade or step within or higher, we meet a still smaller group, the nobility, and above it, alone, the emperor, as incarnation of royal power and especially of priestly knowledge or wisdom.28 This is the true idea of aristocracy, always linked to the spiritual hierarchy, and to the knowledge that it contains in its depths, without a point in common with the versions to which we are generally accustomed, degradation and inversion proper to "this world."
In the symbolism of construction, the architecture of the temple rises up from the quadrangular plane of the base (the earth) to the hemisphere of the cupola (heaven), hierarchically arranged in superimposed planes or levels. This temple, in its floor, or horizontal plane, will reproduce the same vertical hierarchies of its structure, and the difficult and hierarchized passage through it. The street would represent the world of the confused and risky. On the street the temple has a door (symbol of passage from one space to another space, or from one state to another state), indeed establishing the boundary between the sacred and the profane. In disappearing behind it, and upon the passage through the area where the baptismal font is located (symbol of regeneration by water, or new birth), one penetrates the temple area properly so-called-and traverses the route29 leading to the center of the temple,30 where the altar is found, as projection, in the plane of the verticality of the cupola-and upon the stone of sacrifice, with its relationship with fire, the sacrarium,31 an empty area or vessel capable of receiving the heavenly currents that will be scattered upon this point as emanations, and which could well be called the "heart" of the temple.
Beginning here, the hierarchies are vertical, and in order to perceive them one must die anew, and rise or be regenerated in the fire. While the baptismal waters are akin to those born of the mother's belly (although they may fast, do penance, and practice asceticism or chastity like John the Baptist), the baptism of fire is related to the rock of sacrifice, the ceremonial blood and wine; with Christ, and those who virtually have no human condition any longer, not even the blurred sign of the determination of birth, wherefore they are not found identified with their person, or even with their actual relative acts-that is to say, those who now know the supra-individual steps of being by direct intuition, of whom it is said that they no longer perceive exclusively by the senses, and are in a condition to undertake a new journey, this time vertical. This same meaning (of the concentric circles, hierarchized with respect to their proximity to a center or axis) is given by the Hebrews to Zion as the chosen land, with the sacred city of Jerusalem within it, and in the interior of the city its temple, and hidden at the heart of this last, the Sanctum Sanctorum.
If the temple is a model of the cosmos, the divine effluvia must be found immanently at the most hidden part of the same. If the human body is also a temple, and a model or miniature of the cosmos, these effluvia, as well, must be found virtually, or in potentia, in the depths of the heart. In the cosmic model of the wheel will be found the central (invisible) point that articulates its gradual radiations or vibrations of energies, until it reaches its proper limits, or surface forms. But: (a) the temple is not the sum of its stones, or the quantitative inventory that could be taken-in any direction-of its totality or its parts; (b) just so, man is not the sum of his cells, nor the catalog of his numberless components; and (c) on the other hand, in the symbolical model that we are studying, "thirty radii converge on the hub of the wheel, but it is the empty part of the center that makes the wheel useful."32 Indeed what is really of interest is the internal space and its different, meaningful, sacred qualities, and not the quantitative succession of windows and columns of the temple, or muscles and pores of the human being, or limitlessly numerous places through which the wheel passes, has passed, or will pass. And actually, that internal place is the residence of silence, or mystery. The heart is the clef (key) of being, since in it is found the possibility of the vertical ascent-messianic salvation, or the definitive emergence of samsara in nirvana, or state of "illumination."33
This liberation is attained along a gradual path, by stages, which, in the case of the Far Eastern tradition, are listed from the periphery to the center, as the human being's Tao, the Tao of the earth, the Tao of heaven, and the Tao of Tao's or the Tao abstract. In the Jewish tradition (likewise moving from the periphery to the center), the listing proceeds from Olam ha'asiyah, or world of materialized reality, to Olam hayetsirah, world of the cosmic formations, to Olam haberiyah, or plane of creation, to Olam ha'atsiluth, the world of the emanations. This ascending spiral route, which moves from the lowest to the highest,334120 from the grossest to the most subtile, from the multiple to the synthetic, and binds various planes together, in successive fashion, is the one Dante describes in the Divine Comedy. And it is well known that this way is called that of the initiation into the mysteries. Which is equivalent to the transmutation of consciousness of the apprentice or pupil, the broadening of all of his latent or dormant possibilities-who, through an archetypal process, realizes a "journey," or successive route-the adventure of cognition, which ultimately terminates in the acquisition of what has been sought. This discovery is called liquor of immortality, elixir of long life, paradise, treasure, eternal life, or Holy Grail.
In the archetypal center, or in the vertical axis, is that place for which all living beings long, consciously or not. And there is where it is found by scientists, or philosophers, or artists, as the medieval alchemists called themselves. On the other hand, it is in this invisible place, barely virtual, where the sages of all peoples and all traditions have found it, one and all. For they know that what is greater in one sense is lesser in another, and vice versa. Thus, what is greater in a heightened order (heaven) is almost imperceptible in a low order (earth). And what is greater in a low order (earth) is less in a high order (heaven). These personages therefore seek the small, the imperceptible, the invisible, the subtile, since they know that there is where is found, in potency, the whole possibility of power. And they do not seek it in order thereupon to utilize it in a practical spirit. Nor indeed do they manipulate this cognition as a literal "formula." Rather, on the basis of interior experience, they recognize or incarnate the truth of these asseverations, flawlessly reversed with respect to the illusory education received in the profane world, which makes of the quantitative and the largest the most powerful, when the reality is precisely the contrary, since any act is included in its potency.
In any case, this "route" or "journey" is analogous to that of the creation of a world or cosmos. It is also the reintegration of the soul into its higher planes, after physical death as well as initiatory death. And in both cases, the soul that withholds its progress in the divine "journey" of being must necessarily fall downward, and be reincarnated anew, if it is a matter of physical death, and be limited to a stage on the road that would be fixed by its own convictions or conditions, if we refer to initiation. Then it will not have been able to be reabsorbed into its origin, and it will be impelled to wander once more through innumerable states of universal being, having lost the opportunity represented by the human state, with the latter involving not definitive condemnation,35 but the difficulty of spiritual realization, and the "trials" necessary for the "polishing of the stone," that is: the hazardous transition from one state to another state (death/resurrection, unfastening/fastening), toward the immobility of the ever-present principle.
In this sense, we must observe that the "progressive," "victorious," and "scientific" man, as he is conceptualized by contemporary modern society-that is, by us as children of the conditioned programming that has fallen to our lot-in the eyes of a traditional society has not yet attained to being man. According to this conception, we ordinarily exist in an infrahuman state, and we must actualize, by way of an intense labor, our latent or dormant potentialities, until we arrive at the Edenic, virginal, or primordial state36 that, in our model of the wheel, is the central, original point, the tabernacle of the temple, the heart of the living being, the empty space in which we can be fecundated by the spirit. Then we should be in the presence of the opportunity for the birth of the inner Christ (announced by John and Elijah),37 that Christ who, in turn, through his passion and death, could finally identify with the Father, in direct form, the form that allows him resurrection and eternal life. In this last case, what would occur is fusion with the deity-without confusion-the union in the vertical axis represented by the tree of the cross. That is, one would arrive at suprahuman, or supracosmic, states, and the opportunity of absolute transcendence, which no language or code will ever be able to express, but that can be experienced by the true human being, in her and his intermediary character.
|15||The numerical series and the musical scale are two discontinuous codes, and their components are not homogeneous. Hence the arithmetical paradoxes and musical half-tones.|
|16||In the case of the Aztecs, after a pilgrimage of a precise (magical) number of years, they find their moment, or the necessary maturation, or the adequate temporal excision, corresponding with a spatial fact: the discovery of an island among the waters, the traditional symbol of the center; and of a rock, a miniature of the mountain, which, together with the tree-in this case a prickly pear-is an emblem of the axis.|
|17||For example, the circular or quadrangular schema of a city (or civilization) amidst the confusion of the wild forests or fields. On the other hand, the temples or cultic tents, whose shape is circular, are proper to nomadic peoples, while those of a quadrangular base correspond to the sedentary peoples.|
|18||The sacred has nothing in common with the "religious" as commonly understood today.|
|19||Recall the creative and intermediary power possessed by the human being, bestowed on Adam in Paradise: that of naming all things. At the same time, names are but the symbolic forms of the unnamable. And we already know that the name expresses the essence of the "thing."|
|20||Or spokes, in the model of the wheel of the cosmos. These "rays," whose relation to the celestial is obvious, are emissaries uniting earth with sky. In the case of the circle, it is the "radii" that bind the center with the circumference.|
|21||As has already been indicated, each of the limitless number of points along the periphery constitute an "individualization," and a reflected image of the archetypal point, just as the latter corresponds to a society or a human being.|
|22||These terms are equivalent and interchangeable. The altar of the home is the hearth, and the paterfamilias is the priest. Among nomadic peoples, a ritual post is erected, a symbol of the axis, which is planted in the place where the people in question are to pitch camp. Other pilgrims carry this same center within themselves.|
|23||In the life (cycle) of a human being, these meaningful points, in which is established direct or vertical communication with other times or spaces, or better, where other readings or experiences of the spatio-temporal coordinates in which we are framed (crucified) are actualized, can be visualized as special states of awareness, and many of them are recalled as meaningful, or as evocations or "reminiscences," in the sense attributed by Plato to this term.|
|24||Or its quadrangular equivalent.|
|25||Passing through the desert, Jacob reclines in a determinate place where there is a rock, symbol of the axis (miniature of the mountain) on which he rests his head. Here he "dreams" of "angels," who "descend" and "ascend" by a ladder from heaven to earth and earth to heaven. This irruption of the vertical into the horizontal is equivalent to the radiation of the center, or the spoke of a wheel, which communicates movement to the periphery, as we have already seen.|
|26||Thus Denis the Areopagite, speaking of the straight lines that converge in the center, tells us that, in proportion as they are closer to the same, the union is more intimate. And on the contrary, the farther away they are from it, the greater is the separation among them.|
|27||What we could call the base, if we give tridimensionality or relief to this plane model of the city. Indeed, successive circles or squares, within one another, give us the idea, in the plane, of what the pyramid or ziggurat is in space, which goes from its numerous base to its culmination in the final single point.|
|28||Let us observe that the expansive (ad extra) series could be expressed: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10 (number of totality), while the contractive (ad intra) series would be: 10 = 4 + 3 + 2 + 1, according to the celebrated Pythagorean tetraktys.|
|29||In this journey one encounters the "labyrinth" (as at Chartres and in other cathedrals and temples), symbol of the pilgrimage in quest of knowledge, and of the danger of "getting lost." We must face the difficulty of finding our way out, for our own salvation.|
|30||In some churches, especially in Gothic cathedrals, this center is not found in the "middle" of the architectonic form, but in the center of the cross, which is the schema of the constructive plane. As we know, the Christian cross does not have equal arms.|
|31||The sanctuary, or ark of the covenant, is in turn another miniature of the cosmos.|
|32||Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching/, 11.|
|33||It is curious to reflect that many persons think that illumination is produced to the accompaniment of sentimental orchestras of violins and harps, or with grave and solemn music, in a cinema world of self-compassion and pomposity. Others believe it comes by chance, or like a lightning bolt. In both versions, we must observe that this "illumination" comes from without, to enlighten the subject in question. That is, there is a subject that enlightens, and an enlightened object. Quite the contrary, enlightenment refers to a state of consciousness, in which things and ourselves are a single identity, without confusion of any sort, and in which a distinct enlightenment embraces all objects, which simultaneously gleam in the new light of a state that has just been discovered, and which is translated into that knowledge.|
|34||Despite the fact that its first and longest steps are often described as a descent to the infernal regions, a journey to the lower world, to the interior of the earth.|
|35||By an act of repentance in the present, that is, by a reactualization, the "sins" of the past are erased. The axis of the wheel remains immutable, while ongoing change is the property of mobility.|
|36||To know that we are nothing, that we need know nothing, to put off the vain pride of officialized ignorance and our false security.|
|37||This would be, properly, the human state. And it would therefore correspond to the mediating function of the human being between heaven and earth. Furthermore, the identification between Adam and Christ is well known. This central situation is called tifereth in the Hebrew Cabala, and corresponds to the center, from which the sun extracts its energy, which it manifests, let us repeat, through its rays or the spokes of the wheel.|