John Heron, August 1984
The purpose of this paper is twofold: firstly, to provide some metaphors for the divine; and secondly, to offer some cognitive events, based on the metaphors, that open up the possibility of acquaintance with the divine.
The first class of metaphors
This first class concerns divine immanence, the spirit within the world of our human experience.
Metaphor 1 The divine is the infinitude within. This is a spatial metaphor. The divine is construed as the point of zero dimensions at the centre of any spatial entity or particular locus. There is here the excitement of paradox. Infinitudes within are infinite in number, since any and all space is infinitely divisible; yet the multiplicity of infinitudes within is a unity, because a totality of points of zero dimensions has no spatial differentiation within it. The divine that is everywhere infinitely within is an apparent multiplicity, an ultimate unity.
A related paradox is to do with physical space and mental space. For ordinary experience these two kinds of space are not obviously the same: the space of my mental imagery, as when I imagine a tiger, is not the same as the space of my filing cabinet. But an infinitude within the mental image is not other than an infinitude within the physical object. There is no differentiation between mind and matter in a state of zero dimensions.
In general, infinitudes within constitute the unity between any self and any different self, between any self and any object, between any object and any different object.
Event 1 Locate your felt centre of experience; that is, simply centre yourself. Expand the feelings, mood, associated imagery at this centre, until you are attending to, contemplating, the infinitude within it. This is an infinitely diminishing vista into indivisibility. You can imagine the contents of the mental space of your felt centre expanding until there is more and more emptiness. This emptiness is also decreasing to nothingness, dimensionlessness, for your attention is zeroing inwards into your mental space. You can’t reach the zero point of your mental space because it is an infinitude within but you can contemplate it. Is it anywhere, everywhere, here, there, the farthest star, the next door neighbour? Do you have acquaintance with the paradoxical not-being-present of the indwelling, immanent divine?
If you open up the mental space within so that you find more and more empty space between feelings, impulses, moods, images, thoughts – as you expand the latter contents in order to contemplate the infinitude within – you are in an inner emptiness, a void: which is, as it were, around the infinitude within. Hence the next and closely related metaphor.
Metaphor 2 The divine is the void: the emptiness within any and every sort of content, physical, mental, supra-physical. The more you magnify or expand the scale of any manifest structure the more empty it is. At a very high degreeof magnification, the universe is full of emptiness. The divine is this full emptiness. There is more emptiness than universe. On the scale of divine immanence, void is first, content and differentiation second. Everywhere first of all and all the time there is nothing, second of all something.
Event 2 Look at a physical object, and at the same time contemplate its immanent emptiness by magnifying its structures in awareness so that its emptiness becomes more evident than its structures. Dwell in the emptiness, in the void of it. Expand this process to include the whole visual field including your own body and mental structures. Note how more resistant the mental structures are to this opening up of immanent emptiness. Note, too, how once the mental structures are opened up in this way, the immanent emptiness of the whole subject-object universe (person in their world) becomes more accessible. Do you feel that contemplation of the emptiness generates liberation, peace, bliss among your mental structures? Do you notice there is a coming into being out of the emptiness? Hence the next closely related metaphor.
Metaphor 3 The divine is a generative womb. This is a double metaphor: the divine is a void and the void is a womb. The subject-object universe comes into being, emerges, out of the void within it. The void continuously spins the web of being out of itself. Phenomena dance into being out of the void. There is a spiral surge out of nothingness. True to form, the womb metaphor generates many others: emerging, spinning, dancing, spiralling, surging. The qualities are those of life-giving, time-bestowing, being-generating.
Event 3 Look at a flower. Dwell in its immanent emptiness by means of event 2 above. Note how it continuously comes into being out of this emptiness. Now note how at the same time and as an aspect of the same phenomena your perception of the flower and all associated mental structures are continuously coming into being out of the emptiness that generates the subject-object distinction. Note how your perception of the world eternally participates in the continuous seamless generation of you, your perception, the world, out of the womb of the void.
Metaphor 4 The divine is a woman who wears creation around her womb, her void: all manifestation is her body and soul. She is self-generating – the life and being giver, the spinner of time, abundant in multiplicity and many-partedness. Everything determinate, whether mental, physical, supra-physical, is part of her and issues from her. Essentially she is the creatrix, the generative womb; superficially she is the accessible process of the subject-object world, the body and mind of experience – what there is and the knowing of it. As both creatrix and process, she is the source of life, of being, of time, and of relatedness.
The divine woman, as the source of being, is the source of body and soul, the twin aspects of being. Body provides the individuality, the constant individuating locus for soul, which is the centre of experience and learning, of relationship.
Event 4 Centre yourself: enter the felt centre of your experience. Open it up, expand the mental contents of it to contemplate the infinitude within. Enter the void, attend to your coming into being out of its generative womb. Feel how quintessentially feminine this process is. Notice how you are continuously and endlessly coming out of the ecstatically open thighs of the divine woman.You can, as it were, hardly keep up with the continuous emergence of yourself into being, tending to fixate on what has already come into being and making constructs and choices out of that. Live in the birth process of erotic emergence. Notice how in this process you are interrelated with the web of being.
Metaphor 5 The divine is love: the intensely felt essence of interrelatedness; the bliss of inter-being, of essential interconnectedness; the ecstasy of total interdependence without loss of distinctness of being. The divine love is the soul of the divine woman, glowing as the unity of the manifold differentiated parts of her mental and physical being.
Event 5 Enter the felt centre of your experience. Move through the sequence of event 4. Live in the birth process of comng into being interrelated with the web of being. Notice how this whole web of being is itself immersed in, is a manifest of, a bliss-field: an endless, celebratory, giving out, unfolding and interleaving of relationship. There is a continuous, effortlessly abundant delight in both the distinctness and the reciprocity of beings, as they pour into being.
The second class of metaphors
The second class concerns divine transcendence, the spirit beyond the world of our human experience.
Metaphor 6 The divine is the infinitude without. This is the spatial metaphor complementary to that of metaphor 1. The divine without is the infinitely distant plane into which the sphere of space around us expands at infinity. The paradox is that of three dimensions resolving into two at infinity.
A further paradox is that the infinitely distant plane is the same for all points in space. And this is so for all points in physical space and all points in mental space.
Event 6 Let your imagination go out to the periphery of physical space, expanding around the solar system, our galaxy, manifold galaxies, in all directions simultaeously – a global swelling of awareness. Note that since it is your imagination that is thus engaged, your contemplation of expanded physical space takes place in mental space, the space of your imaging process. Note too that as you reach out in awareness to the periphery of space, mental and physical, your awareness seems to transcend both into the ineffable. What is this ineffable – light, majesty, holiness, splendour? It is the over-arching ineffable, “das Umgreifende”, the all-encompassing, that which is beyond all name and form, and which by its nature defies all definition. However, we can employ the paradox of a metaphor for this ineffable.
Metaphor 7 The divine is a crown high-raised above creation.
Event 7 Repeat event 6 and contemplate the transcendent ineffable. Note how the limits of your awareness tend to convert expansion through all space everywhere around you into contemplation of an ineffable light above you yet somehow beyond the compass of ordinary mental and physical space. It is as if the infinite circle that “bounds” the infinitely distant plane is projected as a circle, ring, cylinder, crown of light at the limits of your spatial comrehension, and because of these limits, too, above you. Yet this crown high-raised, ringing with glory, portends the limitless, the infinite, that which is unreachable, beyond space and creation.
Metaphor 8 The divine is the emanating word. The crown high-raised rings with the archetypal speech of creation. It is the locus of divine utterance at the transcendent threshold of space. It emanates the declaration I AM: “I” announces consciousness, “AM” announces all determination of form and process.
Event 8 Repeat event 7 and contemplate the crown high-raised, the circle of ineffable light at the limits of spatial comprehension. Attend to the utterance coming forth from it. This utterance is not in any earthly language, yet from it emanate all earthly terms for the assertion of being. Can you apprehend the archetypal speech which in your mind becomes I AM? Let your being resonate with the divine word whence emanates your identity, and the identity of all phenomna around you, anywhere, everywhere.
Metaphor 9 The divine is a man who names everything: his words shape the contours of creation, making determinate and determinable all form and process. His speech is the formative energy of space, the dynamic language in which creation is clothed. His words are sounding universals, eternally resonant ideas, the source of meaning and comprehension in the mind, and of intelligibility in the phencmena of the world. He is the word, whose domain is the domain of consciousness, space, archetypal ideas, formative energy – the origin of identity and meaning.
Event 9 Repeat event 8 and hear the divine word at the limits of your imagination. Now hear this word emanate the resounding ideas that shape the forms and processes of the universe from the most subtle levels of being to the most peripheral and gross. Each sound has a meaning and the meaning is dynamic, formative, and interpenetrates with every other sound that has a meaning, and this without any loss of distinctness, of clarity of resonance, of transcendental intelligibility, of dynamic formation. The consciousness of great space resounds with the formative energy of universal ideas.
Metaphor 10 The divine is wisdom: the meaning of the spoken language that delineates the form and process of the universe.
Event 10 Listen to the universal speech as in event 9. Listen to the wisdom of its utterance.
The third class of metaphors
The third class concerns the domain of interaction between immanence and transcendence, between the divine woman and the divine man, between emergence from the womb and emanation from the word.
Metaphor 11 The divine is a line. This is the third spatial mtaphor. The divine line is drawn from the infinitude within to the infinitely distant plane without. It is bidirectional, both the way up and the way down, the way out and the way in. While the infinitude within is an apparent multiplicity, an ultimate unity, the divine line is an actual multiplicity: it constitutes the domain of actuality, of manifestation, of the many.
The paradox of the divine line is that it is ultimately circular: since it is drawn from a point that is an infinitude within here where you are, to a point that is an infinitude within on the infinitely distant plane, and since all infinitudes within constitute an ultimte unity, the line returns to its starting point.
Event 11 Building on all the previous events, imagine yourself suspended, as it were, between the generative void within and the emanating word without. A simple way of doing this is to imagine the generative void or infinitude within at the base of the spine just in front of the coccyx, and the emanating word as if uttered from a luminous crown just above the head. Now you are the matrix of mental and physical lines interwoven between the two. To experience in a simplified form both bidirectionality and circularity, imagine a line going from above your head, down the front of the body, through the base of the spine and up the centre of the back to the top of the head, then down the left side of the body, through the base of the spine and up the right side of the body to the top of the head, then down the front of the body and so on continuously. Or imagine yourself as the locus of these two circles, spinning rapidly at right angles to each other. What come up from below are life, soul (experiential centre), body and time, what come down from above are consciousness, ideas, subtle energy and space.
Metaphor 12 The divine is two interweaving spirals: the way up and the way down, the way out and the way in. For one simple geometrical symbol, take a line spiralling upwards and outwards from a central point, then spiralling downwards as if round an invisible sphere whose centre is the line’s starting point, then spiralling upwards and inwards back to the central point. Such a symmetrical twin-spiral shape has, of course, its central axis, the straight line that constitutes the reference point of its coordinates. Even more simply, take just one spiral expanding upwards and outwards from a central point, and see it also as a spiral contracting inwards and downwards to that central point.
The way down or the way in is both a descent and a contraction, a series of more and more self-limiting utterances of the divine speech. But there is a copulation of divine gender here. What comes into being on the way down or the way in, comes into being out of the creatrix, the goddess, the divine womb. The divine word in its emanation of self-limiting formative ideas provides as it were the invisible axes around which the creatrix spins her contracted modes of being.
The way up or the way out is both an ascent and an expansion, a series of increasingly complex self-generating elaborations of life into consciousness. Out of the goddess there emerge ever more subtle and self-transcending modes of being whose initiatives are evoked by and in turn invoke the divine word and its formative powers.
Crudely put, mind contracts into life (life focuses mind) and life expands into mind (mind liberates life). But both these two modes of manifestation in the universe, the coiling of being and the uncoiling of being, are complementary expressions of the goddess. Being coiled is unconscious, dark, mysterious, enclosing: the word buried in the womb. Being uncoiled is conscious, light, magisterial, liberating: the word revealed in and through the outpouring of the womb.
The growth of a foetus in its mother’s womb is a simultaneous coiling and uncoiling of being. As the foetus grows the latent mind of the person-to-be contracts more and more into the limiting locus of a living organism; and at the same time the living organism expands more and more towards the threshold of consciousness.
In adult life, action in the world and interaction with others in the world is the coiling of being; the awareness of a liberating and creative active imagination brought to these deeds is the uncoiling of being. The equipoise of coiling and uncoiling is manifest divinity. External action coils, internal action uncoils being: speech may be the servant of either, or simultaneously of both. Such simultaneity is not contradictory: you can associate and cooperate with others (coil) in a way that expands and liberates the souls of all those involved (uncoil).
Event 12 Make love with your partner, with awareness of her/him as an expression of the divine woman/the divine man. Sexual passion is a coiling of being, awareness is an uncoiling of being. Let them interact as in the play of creation.
Or, for a more general version of this event: in the context of social interaction with a friend or loved one or intimate partner, note the emtional tone or mood of your being. If the mood is positive, enhance it with celebratory auto-suggestion or internal silent prayer. If it is negative modify it and rearrange it with an internal restructuring of your attitude to, and your beliefs about ,the situation. Social interaction is the coiling of being; awareness and attitudinal restructuring – or realignirent of meaning - brought to it is the uncoiling of being.
Metaphor 13 The divine is the awakened human being – who is the primary continuous locus of the simultaneous coiling and uncoiling of being. Her actions and projects coil up being; the active imagination she exemplifies in them, her awareness, realignment and expansion of mind, uncoil being. Thus what she creates in the world is self-developing, self-limiting and self-transcending: for example, a social grouping which has principles of structural change and termination built into it, and which is psychologically and socially liberating for those who participate in it.
In the deeds of the awakened human being, the uncoiling overflows the coiling, like a cornocupia, the horn of plenty. In the deeds of the unawakened person, the coiling strangles the capacity for uncoiling: there is a self-knotting, a looping in on itself of being.
Event 13 Implement a project that both contains and liberates: design and facilitate a structured exercise in an experiential learning group so that the participants focus in depth on a particular experience in such a way that they are also opened up to wider reaches of life and consciousness. More generally, be immersed in any situation is such a way that your active imagination is free to uncoil it, that is, creatively transform it in ways that are liberating for the souls, including yours, that are involved with it.
Metaphor 14 The divine is an androgyne, a being both female and male, a being with unusual powers to create on the ascending scale of being, that is, to create those things which are self-transcending, which reach out beyond themselves and their own limits, continually aspiring. Correlatively the divine androgyne has unusual powers to delve into the descending scale of being, to plumb the depths – and maybe in the process to become wounded, vulnerable, bleeding and at risk. These complementary powers lead over into each other. And each exemplifies both female and male aspects.
Event 14 Find ascent through descent. Go into your hidden, wounded, vulnerable place. Stay with it, be with it, enter it with loving awareness. Await its transmutation into a gateway to the ascending scale of being, into growth, expansion, celebration, creation.
Metaphor 15 The divine is power, the will that moves the whole: it is the articulation point of the nine parameters of creation: time, space, matter; life, consciousness, energy; individual souls (centres of experience), archetypal ideas, particular things. It is akin to dharma. From the transcendent beyond originates consciousness, archetypal ideas (universals, essences), their dynamic energy, space,. From the immanent within originates time, substance or matter, life, souls. Particular things or entities are where these polar originals interact. Particular entities, such as human beings, have their own kind of autonomy, their own kind of will – symbol and artefact of that divine power that articulates the whole.
Event 15 Exercise your will. Do something, anything. Implement a choice. Act. Note how your act has a remarkable autonomy, articulating yet independent of your body, your aliveness, your soul or psychological state, your ideas, your relation to time and space, your energy, even your consciousness. Note, too, how your highly autonomous act, whatever it is, is also at the saw time paradoxically grounded in Act, divine power. Note how your act is androgyne, poised between word and womb, subject to the sway of neither, an expression of the potentiality of your liberty. It is the mysterious power of the act of will that has all these qualities. What your act of will creates in mental or physical space – that is in the domain of the goddess, coiling being around the universals of the divine word.
The fourth class of metaphors
The fourth class of metaphors concerns the whole that comprises the immanent spirit, the transcendent spirit, and the relatively autonomus universe of interaction between them.
Metaphor 16 The divine is the tetragrammaton, the four syllable name of the modes of the divine: YOD, the immanent source, the divine womb; HE, the transcendent source, the divine word; VAU, the domain of existents, of actual entities, whose interacting paramters are those of the Womb (life, time, matter, soul) and of the Word (consciousness, space, energy, archetypal ideas); HE, added to the previous three taken altogether, YOD-HE-VAU-HE, declaring their unity.
Event 16 Meditate on, that is, contemplate the tetragrammaton: mentally intone its syllables, dwelling in their meaning. Notice how the second HE is like an explosion of consciousness into total comprehension, when you hold the meaning of the first three syllables simultaneously in mind.
Metaphor 17 The divine is the mandala which exhibits in fourfold graphic symmetry the polarities of immanence and transcendence, the divine womb and the divine word. Draw a circle with two lines at right angles to each other going through the centre of the circle, one horizontal, the other vertical, each line extending a radius length beyond the circle. Put arrows pointing outwards, away from each other, at each end of the horizontal line, and arrows pointing inwards, towards each other, at the ends of the vertical line. In the middle of the circle, around its centre, draw a leaf.
The circle represents transcendence, its centre immanence; the horizontal line represents the divine worb and its outpouring, the four parts from left to right representing time, matter, life, soul; the vertical line represents the divine word and its emanations, its four parts from top to bottom representing consciousness, archetypal, ideas, energy, space; the leaf represents the domain of actual entities, the universe of particular beings.
Event 17 Having drawn the mandala, contemplate it visually while dwelling in its meanings: first serially, the meanings of its parts one after the other; then simultaneously, the meaning of its parts held in the mind all at once. Now mentally intone the tetragrammaton while looking at the mandala and entertaining its meanings. With YOD look at the centre, with HE the circumference, with VAU the two lines and the leaf, with HE the whole of it.
Metaphor 18 The divine is an embrace between a woman and a man. The woman is Eros uncoiling to Logos, the man is Eros coiling from Logos, the centre point between them is divine immanence, the remote periphery of space in the universe all around them is divine transcendence, together as one they are the manifold universe of particular beings.
Event 18 Enter into such a mutual embrace with an intimate partner who is entering into it in the same spirit as you. Dwell in the meanings – first serially, then simultaneously – of the centre, the periphery, the togetherness. Dwell in the meanings while mentally intoning the corresponding syllables of the tetragrammaton. Share the experience verbally with each other afterwards.
Metaphor 19 The divine is a ritual involving 48 people in 6 groups of 8. Each group is a different sort of actual entity in which the eight paramters of creation – life, time, matter, soul, consciousness, space, energy, archetypal ideas – interweave in different ways. The six sorts of entity are: mineral, plant, animal, human, nature spirit, human spirit – the latter two inhabiting a domain of space and being both within and beyond the physical.
Event 19 Enact the ritual. Each group of 8 is allocated a different sort of actual entity and each person in the group is allocated a different parameter of creation. The group then works out its own way of symbolising the creation of that entity by the spatial disposition and movement of its members.
Metaphor 20 The divine is the New Jerusalem, heaven on earth, the regenerate planet, the orb singing in the cosmos; in which society is abundant artefact within its liberated ecological context.
Event 20 Create it.
The fifth class of metaphors
The fifth class gives a more detailed account of what has arisen in one or the other of the first four classes.
Metaphor 21 The divine is dyadic. It manifests in polar, complementary terms, Emergence and Emanation. The former, the way up, proceeds in the emerging sequence of time, matter, life, soul. The latter, the way down, proceeds in the emanating sequence of consciousness, archetypal ideas, energy, space. As these two sequences coil round each other, we get the secondary dyads of time and space, matter and energy, life and archetypal ideas, soul and consciousness. Also, as they coil round each other, they generate, for any actual entity, the apparent domains of subjectivity and objectivity. Thus time, space, matter, energy constitute the domain of objectivity; life, archetypal ideas, soul, consciousness the domain of subjectivity. Yet these two domains are apparent only and cannot be separated out from each other: they interweave to create an interdependent subjective-objective reality.
Event 21 Contemplate the following conceptual mandala:
Let yourself, a human being, be the actual entity in the middle. Consider the four parameters of your subjectivity. Your soul, with its capacities for feeling, choosing and thinking is capable of learning and development: it is your personhood. Your life includes your capacities for breathing, sensing, sleeping, waking, moving, having physical desires, and so on. Your consciousness is your capacity for being aware of your state of soul, of your life processes. Soul, life and consciousness are clearly not the same: soul or psyche has its unconscious dimension, as do many of the processes of life. Yet they interweave to create your subjectivity. But not without images and ideas, those echoes in the soul of the archetypes of the Word
But persons are only persons in relation with other persons. Subjectivities constitute an inerconnected web of intersubjectivity. And subjectivity is in part constituted by having a perspective on the objective world of matter, energy, time and space. Note, then, how reality is intersubjective-objective: a vast heterogeneous web of idiosyncratic perspectives which interconnect and overlap at both their subjective and objective poles.
Metaphor 22 The divine is relationally dyadic, or a dyad of relations. The polar or complementary sorts of relation are those of parity and disparity. And each of these comprises its own internal polarity. A parity relation is one of equality of significance and influence: interdependence and mutuality of meaning and power. But there are two complementary kinds of such a parity relation: those that hold within the domain of one of the divine genders; and those that hold between the domains. Thus a peer relation, in the context of a social system, between two women or two men, is an example of the former; and a peer relation between a woman and a man is an example of the latter.
A disparity relation is one of inequality of significance and influence: one of the terms is prior, setting up an asymmetrical relation of meaning and power. And there are also two complementary kinds of disparity relation. One pertains to the domain of Emergence: it is the relation of “emerging from”, or “being grounded in”, or “rooted in”, or “founded on”. In this kind of disparity relation, what is below or underneath, what is the foundation and ground, is the prior term and has the greater significance and influence. There is a descent into meaning and power.
From this perspective, the experiences of soul are grounded in the processes of life; the processes of life are grounded in processes of matter and these are grounded in the regularities of time. Thus soul growth is deepened through attunemnt to the life-rhythms of breathing, heart-beat, sleeping and waking, rest and exertion, fluctuations of sexual energy, menstruation and ovulation, appetitite and defaecation. And these in turn are deepened through attunement to the earth, sun and moon and their regularities of time, the cycles on which the solar system is grounded.
The other and complementary kind of disparity relation pertains to the domain of Emanation: it is the relation of “emanating from”, or “expression of”, or “descending from”, or “falling under”, or “under the influence of”, or “subject to”. In this kind of disparity relation, what is above and beyond, what is higher, is the prior term and has the greater significance and influence. There is an ascent into meaning and power.
From the Emanation perspective, space is the expression of subtle formative energy, which is the expression of archetypal ideas, which are the expression of universal consciousness. At the human level, space emanates from the subtle energy of the perceptual constructs of human consciousness.
In this theology it is clear that one kind of relation is basic and primary: it is the relation of parity – of the complementarity kind. For this is the relation between Emergence and Emanation. Secondary to this and subsumed within it are the two complementary disparity relations decribed above. These two sorts of disparity relations, taken in relation to each other, are in a relation of parity. In other words, “grounded in” is mutually complementary with “emanating from”: neither is more or less significant or influential than the other.
We do not, therefore, have a crudely hierarchical universe. On the contrary, we have descent and ascent, deepening and expansion, power below and power above, influence within and influence without, complementing each other in parity. Parity is in a disparity relation with disparity: that is, parity is more significant and influential than disparity.
Event 22 Contemplate the following conceptual mandala.
|Parity between Emergence and Emanation|
|Disparity within Emergence:descent into power||Disparity within Emanation: ascent into power|
|Parity within Emergence||Parity within Emanation|
Note again in your contemplation how the fundamental relation in the scheme of things, according to this mandala, is a peer relation between two different sorts of hierarchy: the ascending hierarchy of Logos and the inverted, descending hierarchy of Eros. And each of these hierarchies has within it a subordinate peer relation that can hold between entities at the same level within the hierarchy.
So there is a sort of paradox: the basic kind of ultimate relation is that of parity, but the basic relation between ultimate relations is that of hierarchy, since parity rules over hierarchy which rules over a lesser kind of parity.
Consider the political implications of this.