CHAPTER TWO: SIXES
4. SIX YOGAS
THE PRACTICING TRADITION
II. 4. THE SIX YOGAS
The idea of the Unity--an experience of oneness within oneself and with nature, as well as with the whole of being--has ever been the goal of religion and practical psychology, long before the anxious modern concerns of ecological science. In its narrower historical sense, the word YOGA refers to a Hindu contemplative discipline directed toward attaining spiritual insight; it also usually implies a distinct cultural bias ascribing high value to tranquility and states of bliss or peacefulness. It was the Sanskrit word for "peace" thrice inscribed, with which T. S. Eliot, in "The Waste Land," chose to end the poem:
Shantih shantih shantih
Indeed, Eliot appended a note for this final line:
Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. "The Peace which passeth understanding" is our equivalent to this word.
[ T. S. Eliot, The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950. Harcourt, Brace, New York (1952), p. 37 f., 54-55. This poem, which first appeared in 1922, begins (in the dedication to Ezra Pound, il miglior fabbro) with a reference to the Cumaean Sibyl: "Nam Sibyllam quidem Cumis ego ipse in oculis meis vidi..." as indeed I did (KVM). ]
In a rather expanded sense the nature of a given YOGA may be either peaceful or ecstatic, connoting an exercise, a series of exercises, or an entire regimen and program of practices intended to integrate consciousness through body, speech and mind. More complex analyses identify four centers of consciousness: the physical body, the conscious intellect, the heart or emotions, and a supervening sense of the spiritual. The essential notion implied by a "yoga" is action intended to unify. The same Indo-European root yeug has given rise to both the Sanskrit word YOGA and the English YOKE (as in yoking a team of oxen). Closely related words are ADJUST, INJUNCTION, JOIN, JUGULAR, JUNCTURE, JUNTA, JUXTAPOSE, and of course, CONJUGAL.
Whether by vows or by convention, one doesn't usually discuss the details and processes of internal, contemplative yogas with people who have not taken advantage of the opportunity to embody such (or similar) lessons. A good reason for this is because, unless the lessons are embodied through experiential understanding as well as by theoretical knowledge--with a sufficiency of both to have "gotten the hit"--then talking or writing about collateral phenomena is just a matter of so many words. That is to say: from many, many generations of passing along to ordinary people knowledge about specific functions of internal awareness--in the context of a checkered variety of languages and cultural conventions--it is recognized as a function of "skillful means" (Sanskrit, upaya) that IF one does not realize, say, what the psychic heat is about, THEN discussion of other, "higher" practices may not only escape understanding, but also possibly confuse and misdirect a natural desire to discover the truth of the matter. Nevertheless, the "secret" will be bruited about, and eventually the Dharma will be proclaimed, although perhaps right here it may sound more like a purr than a lion's roar.
We occasionally follow a practice quite common in Oriental studies (especially those concerning spiritual and psychological work), supplying cross-references in Sanskrit because that language has developed a rich and remarkably precise vocabulary of technical terms. More than a happy by-product of linguistic function, it is rather a deliberate product of design. Sanskrit enables one to indicate with exquisite refinement and precision just how a word is to be sounded because it is a wholly artificial, literary language, used for scholarship and for sacred scripture. Whereas Prakrit was the earlier vernacular (spoken) language of India, Sanskrit introduced a logical notation system, invented by an assemblage of meticulous grammarians before the fourth century BCE to record the sung or chanted ancient Vedic hymns. As such, Sanskrit is the ancient formal language of Hinduism; but it also came to be used for scholarly disputation by members of other religions and by academics in general.
THE PRACTICING TRADITION
Among the cardinal traditions of Tibetan Buddhist teachings and practice is that based on the Six Yogas of Naropa. This venerable sequence of meditations is not just arbitrarily organized as six exercises on successive levels of consciousness (a feature it shares with other traditions); the six-part structure also contains an internal, intrinsic logic that is recapitulated in the visualization exercises themselves. In some related systems a syncretic element counts as a seventh chakra (e.g. "Thousand Petal Lotus") emblematic of the whole.
[ See, Herbert V. Guenther, The Life and Teaching of Naropa, Oxford University Press, London (1963). Chakra indicates a sphere of energy.]
The practices which became formalized in Tibet as the Six Yogas of Naropa still form the basic curriculum of instruction during the "Three Year, Three Month, Three Day" retreat for the training of the "Diamond Vehicle, or Path," Vajrayana Buddhist, Kargyud-pa lamas. In the visualizations and breathing exercises associated with the channels (in Tibetan dBu.Ma., Sanskrit nadis), the two colors survive as the red (solar, right channel) and the white (lunar, left channel). The important and multivalent Tibetan term Tig.le. (Sanskrit bindu), meaning "drop" also mystically indicates the Essence, or "vital energy," and is associated with male (white) semen and female (red) blood, as well as with other bodily secretions, especially those of the endocrine system.
[ Teachings of Tibetan Yoga, translated and annotated by Garma C. C. Chang, University Books, New Hyde Park, New York (1963), p. 124-125.]
After a period of political disfavor (according to later reform movements), the Idea of Enlightenment became warped and skewed in Tibet through cultural adaptations. The practice of Buddhist meditations in terms of "the six realms of existence we go through, the six realms of our psychological states," was then reintroduced in the eleventh century. This integral program of six-part yogic practice was brought back into Tibet by Marpa, the Translator, from the mystically revitalized Indian tradition of Tilopa and Naropa. The sage Naropa is respected as a very important teacher, and was at one time Rector of India's great Nalanda University.
Through Marpa, the specific techniques of Naropa's method were finally established as the foundation of Tibetan yoga. Then through Marpa's star pupil, Tibet's greatest mystic and poet Milarepa, and subsequently with the monk Gampopa, the lineage was established of the Kargyud-pa, called the Practicing Tradition, transmitting the central teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism and specific methods of meditation practice down to present times. The core of this transmission is known as The Six Yogas of Naropa, comprising an integrated system designed to awaken and direct what is called Candali (or kundalini, the serpent energy) in a related practice of India. In Tibet, the Yoga is called gTummo, or psychic heat, the first and most basic practice, and one of the most fundamental "secrets" of the esoteric, Tantric Buddhist tradition.
[ Chögyam Trungpa, "Commentary," The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo, by Guru Rinpoche according to Karma Lingpa. A new translation from the Tibetan with commentary by Francesca Freemantle and Chögyam Trungpa, Shambhala, Boulder and London (1975), p. 2. See also, The Life of Marpa the Translator: Seeing Accomplishes All, translated from the Tibetan by the Nalanda Translation Committee under the direction of Chögyam Trungpa, Rimpoche, Prajna Press, Boulder (1982). ]
The meditation for producing psychic heat provides a factual basis for the somewhat melodramatic stories of Tibetan monks who, on an icy cold night, dry out a series of wet sheets wrapped around their unclad bodies. It can be done, by any ordinary human being--with proper instruction and practice--and so, as with other physical exploits such as "fire-walking," represents nothing particularly magical or mysterious. The secrets here are matters of mastering specific meditation techniques, and applying them with a focussed mindfulness. This is not at all to disparage such accomplishments, for among practicing lamas and members of the spiritual community, or sangha, the psychic heat meditation, or gTummo, is believed to establish the essential foundation for opening oneself up and becoming able to absorb the higher teachings of all six Yogas of Naropa.
The second of these Six Yogas is called the Illusory Body Practice, which in Sanskrit is known as Maya, conveying the idea of the world as illusion. At this stage, the adept may work with specific visualizations, utilizing works of art in ways that are uncommon from the Western perspective. The term yantra means "tool" or "aid," and is used to describe art that is thus functionally employed. What the Tibetans would call a thangka (a hanging scroll painting usually with representation of a Buddha or other spiritual being), many Westerners might refer to as a mandala, misled in part by the popularizing but problematical appropriation of this term by the psychologist Jung. The Sanskrit term implies a centrally-designed, more or less graphically symmetrical representation -- although technically it refers to a three-dimensional sculpture or other offering, rather than a two-dimensional painting or design. The central message of meditation on Maya is that all perceived manifestations of being are illusory and void. While continuing the gTummo meditation, the essence of this practice lies in transforming the human body into what is called the Rainbow Body of Enlightenment.
The third Yoga of Naropa is called rMilam in Tibetan, or the Dream Yoga. It is also based upon the continued successful practice of the previous exercises. One must learn to recognize and remember dreams, developing skills of transforming one's self while dreaming. This process greatly serves internal purification, clarifying any confusion about the illusory nature of both Samsara (this world) and Nirvana (any other world you might care to imagine). After all, the Tibetans admit--with typically direct good humor--dreams are still just dreams. But the eventual goal is to be able to transform consciousness into the Rainbow Body while in the Bardo, that special state of being, as they say, intermediate between death and rebirth.
By attaining stages of such purification in this lifetime, one may learn to recognize the Clear Light, said to appear in various forms during the Bardo. The refinement of this practice is known as Od Säl in Tibetan: recognizing, visualizing, and being able to hold the vision of Innate Light in its different aspects. By transcending worldly attachments and discriminations, one is said to clear the way for realization of Innate Self-Illuminating Wisdom. The Bardo Yoga is reckoned as the fifth of the Six Yogas. Finally, this is followed by the Yoga called Pho Wa or, as it is often rendered in English, "the Principle of the Transference of Consciousness."
Undoubtedly more been written in English about the Bardo than about all of the other Yogas combined. This is, of course, a mixed blessing from the practical concern of fully and accurately transmitting the teachings. Even in movies such as Poltergeist one meets themes borrowed from the lore of the Bardo, as it were. One reason for this--apart from the Western world's general fascination with death--may be attributed to the curious popularity and wide influence of the W. Y. Evans-Wentz edition under the title, The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
[W. Y. Evans-Wentz, The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Oxford University Press (1957, paperback edition, 1960). The text was edited from a translation by Kazi Dawa-Samdup prepared some thirty years earlier. ]
"Books of the Dead" proliferate. The ancient Egyptian text that goes by this title may be more correctly called The Book of Going Forth by Day (REU NU PERT EM HRU). Preserved as The Papyrus of Ani, it is among the oldest of the world's spiritual writings, in the Theban recension dating from around 1250 BCE. Other papyri, such as those of Hunefer and Anhaï, as conserved in the British Museum's Department of Egyptian Antiquities, also document this tradition. A modern American version based on the Tibetan model was composed by Doctors Leary, Alpert and Metzner; another is by E. J. Gold. The title has been appropriated for a photo documentary of the late (and no doubt also mystically-inspired) Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. A text called "the baskervillean bardo thodol" was published in a slim, yellow volume by Hapi, as "Translated from the Coptic The Victorian Book of the Dead." And if this were not enough, in its September/October 1997 issue, the New York-based magazine Spy featured a parody, "The New York Times Magazine Book of the Dead."
[ Raymond O. Faulkner and Ogden Goelet, Jr. translators, The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day (The Papyrus of Ani), edited by Eva von Dassow, with illustrations from the 1890 edition by E. A. Wallis Budge. Chronicle Books, San Francisco (1994). This beautiful edition was conceived by James Wasserman. See also, The Book of the Dead: Famous Egyptian Papyri, with commentaries by Evelyn Rossiter, Miller Graphics/Liber, Fribourg-Geneva, (1979). Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. University Books, New Hyde Park, New York, (1964). E. J. Gold, American Book of the Dead, And/Or Press, San Francisco, (1975). Hapi (Alexander Jack), 221A Baker Street: The Adamantine Sherlock Holmes, translated from the Coptic The Victorian Book of the Dead. The Kanthaka Press, Brookline, Massachusetts, n.d.
There have appeared (not in every case by miraculous agency) several translations of the Bardo text, authorship of which is attributed to the great eighth-century Tibetan and mystic Padmasambhava, also called Guru Rimpoche. An authoritative translation from authentic sources for the secret text of the Bardo Thötröl was directed by Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, an incarnate Tibetan lama whose heritage included specific empowerment in the Six Yogas of Naropa (and much else, besides). In this form the book was published by Shambhala Press, in The Clear Light Series, fittingly dedicated to Evans-Wentz. This particular volume in the Series was dedicated to His Holiness the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. The late Karmapa is reckoned in the direct line of descent: from Dorje Chang, Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, and the lineage of Karmapas in their successive incarnations down to the present, the young seventeenth embodiment as head of the Kargyud-pa (the lineage of the Practicing Tradition).
The Bardo Thötröl is one of a series of instructions on six types of liberation: liberation through hearing, liberation through wearing, liberation through seeing, liberation through remembering, liberation through tasting, and liberation through touching. They were composed by Padmasambhava, and written down by his wife, Yeshe Tsogyal....Padmasambhava [Guru Rinpoche] buried these texts [called terma] in the Gampo hills in Central Tibet, where later the great teacher Gampopa established his monastery. Many other texts and sacred objects were buried in this way in different places throughout Tibet, and are known as "hidden treasures."
[ Chögyam Trungpa, "Foreword," The Tibetan Book of the Dead, p. xi. In the often confusing conventions of transliterating from the Tibetan script, the title may also be rendered bar-do'i-thos-grol. Tibetan orthography is difficult, in part, because of many "silent" letters; so consistency suffers. For a different interpretation reflecting the Gelug-pa lineage of the Dalai Lama see, Robert Thurman, translator, Tibetan Book of the Dead, Bantam, New York (1994). ]
In Tibetan tradition, there was also a lineage of people who were empowered to discover these hidden treasures. They were known as tertons, and were regarded as incarnations of the eighth-century Padmasambhava's twenty-five disciples. Karma Lingpa, who discovered the Bardo Thötröl text, was one of these; and he passed the teachings on to the thirteenth Karmapa, who gave them to the eighth Trungpa of Surmang monastery, where they were duly received by Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche. This represents a unique pattern of highly-qualified access to teachings about life and death, that may be quite unfamiliar to those who assume the candid and open access to objective information that is the bedrock of Western scientific and scholarly procedure. We might reflect on the dignities of continuity, and other guarantees for the authenticity of teachings not similarly made available by our populist, exoteric approach to the educational curriculum, and we might well wonder what kind of shaky sophistication we have purchased when, even in the privileged environment of the university, so many people are disturbed by the mere discussion of sanity and insanity, by the pursuit of real truths about "drugs, sex, and rock'n'roll," or by other touchy subjects, such as what it might really mean to die.
The point...is the fundamental principle of birth and death recurring constantly in this life. The book is not based on death as such, but on a completely different concept of death. It is a "Book of Space"....But the basic principle I am trying to put across now is that of the uncertainty of sanity and insanity, or confusion and enlightenment, and the possibilities of all sorts of visionary discoveries that happen on the way to sanity or insanity....There are all kinds of bardo experiences happening to us all the time, experiences of paranoia and uncertainty in everyday life; it is like not being sure of our ground, not knowing quite what we have asked for or what we are getting into. So this book is not only a message for those who are going to die and those who are already dead, but it is also a message for those who are already born; birth and death apply to everybody constantly, at this very moment....If we are open and realistic enough to look at it in this way, then the actual experience of death and the bardo state will not be either purely a myth or an extraordinary shock, because we have already worked with it and become familiar with the whole thing.
[ Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, "Commentary," The Tibetan Book of the Dead, p. 1-3. ]
Many six-part systems or structures reappear in the various mystical traditions based upon practices of meditation and internally concentrating one's awareness. As with the Hopi, the Hindus, and the Buddhists, a tradition of six levels or centers of psychic energy also occurs in Western mystical traditions. For example, it has been shown that Dante applied the concept of the six stages of ascent, derived from Plato's Symposium, to the anagogic level of his six guides.
What Dante is telling us...is that we have a choice when given an inspiration, to let it mirror our own private concerns or to interpret it according to the universal truth it contains.
[ William Anderson, Dante the Maker, Routledge and Kegan Paul (1980) p. 402. Also, Burton Voorhees, in an unpublished work, "Dante: La Commedia," (July, 1987), explores the relationship of Dante's poetic group, known as Fideli d'amore ("faithful followers of love") with the Knights Templar and the masters Ibn el Arabi and Maulana, Jalaluddin Rumi in the Sufi spirit of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).]
Dante is well-known for his attention to the symbolic value of numerical composition, in particular the number nine, the number six just cited, and most fundamentally the number three. He composed the Commedia in terza rima, or three-part rhymes, structuring the poem throughout by threes. A general practice of numerical composition in medieval literature was based upon lines of tradition that had come down through Pythagoras in classical antiquity, drawing from doubtless earlier but uncertain sources emanating from Egypt or Sumer and Babylon. The use of secret, symbolically cyphered numbers throughout the Bible is well-established, as reflected by Saint Augustine's extensive speculations on the mystical meanings of 33 (as the number of years in the life of Christ), or the 153 fish that Peter caught (John 21:11), to explain which requires a very far-fetched collocation of number values with associated symbolic concepts. But this is exactly the sort of complicated manner in which medieval authors and commentators did, in fact, compose.
[In] the early Middle Ages--before the birth of Scholasticism, profane school learning and doctrina sacra are not separated. Learning consists of traditional and memorized masses of material. The energy and the impulse to search it through are yet lacking. From the symmetries and correspondences of the basic numbers there arises a seeming order which is believed to be sacred. All artes, to be sure, stem from God and are therefore good. Yet the science of number is superior to them all. For the creation, the rhythm of time, the calendar, the celestial bodies, are based upon number....What I have here brought together to give the reader an idea of medieval number symbolism may produce the effect of an omnium-gatherum of curiosities. But something very different lies behind it. Every reader of medieval Latin texts knows that few Bible verses are so often quoted and alluded to as the phrase from the Wisdom of Solomon, 11:21: "omnia in mensura et numero et pondere disposuisti...."
[ Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, translated from the German by Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series XXXVI, Pantheon Books, New York (1953), Excursis XVI, "Numerical Composition," p. 504 f. Chapter 17 is devoted to Dante. "The Book of Wisdom [or, the Wisdom of Solomon] was probably produced in Alexandria in the first century after Christ." p. 504. ]
This idea, that "God disposed all things by measure and number and weight" was particularly attractive to artists of the Renaissance, as they became students of perspective and proportion. The very terms of Solomon's Wisdom were used by Albrecht Dürer to declare his intentions when beginning work on the great engraving, Melancholia I executed following 1513, in the years when Dürer, like Duchamp exactly five hundred years later, lost interest in painting altogether. Together with "tools and objects pertaining mostly to the crafts of architecture and carpentry," this print shows two curious objects,
not so much tools as symbols or emblems of the scientific principle which underlies the arts of architecture and carpentry: a turned sphere of wood and a truncated rhombo-hedron of stone. Like the hourglass, the pair of scales, the magic square, and the compass, these symbols or emblems bear witness to the fact that the terrestrial craftsman, like the "Architect of the Universe," applies in his works the rules of mathematics, that is, in the language of Plato and the Book of Wisdom, of "measure, number and weight."
[ Erwin Panofsky, The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer, Princeton University Press (1955), p. 157. See also, p. 132 "...Dürer lost interest in painting altogether. No picture was produced between 1513 and 1516, and the two painted works of 1512 are merely the aftermath of the preceding phase." Dürer's declaration of intent is quoted in Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl, Dürers Kupferstich Melancholia I, Eine quellen-und typen-geschichteliche Untersuchung, Berlin and Leipzig (1923), p. 67; cited by Curtius, European Literature, p. 504, n.10 ]
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in On Consideration asks rhetorically, "What is God? He is length, width, height and depth." Divine geometry was taken as given by the late Latin writers Boetheius, Martianus Capella, and Isidore of Seville, who composed a treatise, De Numeris.
All numbers which were mentioned in the Bible must needs have a secret meaning...Of the very greatest importance is Hermann Krings's demonstration that the ordo-idea of the medieval world-picture developed from this one Bible verse [Wisdom of Solomon 11:21]. Through this verse, number was sanctified as a form-bestowing factor in the divine work of creation. It acquired metaphysical dignity. This is the imposing background of numerical composition in literature.... "Numero disposuisti." God's disposition was arithmetical! Must not the writer likewise allow himself to be guided by numbers in his disposition?
[ Curtius, European Literature, p. 503, 504. ]
The number six on the Sephir Yetzirah, the Tree of Life in the mystical tradition of Judaism, corresponds to Tipareth associated with the sun and the idea of Beauty. Indeed, the six-pointed star has been taken as the very emblem of Zionist Judaism by those who have adapted for the flag of modern Israel the two superimposed equilateral triangles called the Shield or the Star of David. The six-pointed Magen-- or, Mogen--David may be imagined as the overlapping or interpenetration of two equilateral triangles. Traditionally the upward-pointing triangle signifies the emblematic male (yang) energy, and the downward-pointing triangle signifies female (yin) energy--perfectly balanced in this symbol of the Mysterium Conjunctionis.
What, then, is this "mysterious conjunction," this Sacred Marriage?" Robert Graves informs us that the Arabic-speaking peoples of North Africa call the figure enclosed in a circle the Seal of Solomon--rather than associating it with David. In an eloquent passage, he explores both the historical significance and the possible current emblematic importance of the figure:
The six points of the Seal represent the multiplication of the female or lunar number, three, by the male or solar number, two; so do the six points of the double pyramid....Thus Solomon's name is clearly more appropriate for attachment to the Seal than his father David's. David was a fighter and a politician, not a mystic like Solomon, whose proverbial wisdom and control of spirits made him famous far outside his territory. The triangle with its point uppermost was regarded as male; the other, lying reversed, had always been the accepted hieroglyph for "woman," because it recalled the outline of women's pubic hair--men's is kite-shaped rather than triangular. A superposition of the male on the female triangle (wherever the sun was regarded as male and the moon as female) therefore referred to sexual desire, while the surrounding circle suggested holy privacy. The seal seems to have sanctified a divine marriage in countries which originally worshipped a Supreme Goddess rather than a Supreme God, but in which (by a compromise between matriarchal and patriarchal custom) the executive side of government had been entrusted first to a lover chosen by the Queen to act as her temporary vizier, and then, after political revolution, to her husband as permanent King reigning with the Goddess's consent....
Yet Solomon's Seal meant far more than an announcement of a public love-feast [celebrated in Tabernacles built by Belzebiel]; when examined closely, it proves to be a statement of man's dependence on woman for his well-being, most applicable wherever man is equated with the Sun as power and energy, and woman with the Moon as wisdom and healing....Nor was Solomon's Seal merely a dynastic charm. As a two-dimensional sign for the double pyramid it laid down the law for all true-love-alliances.
This law may be framed in English as "Man does, Woman is!": which does not deny women their right to activity, but confirms their power to restrain male activity within the bounds that, their intuition warns them, are needed to restrain genocide.... But without any such love-understanding -- and in the civilized world the conspiracy between money, politics and science grows daily more threatening to human survival, nor can any women put an effective brake on male government -- we are already on the brink of moral ruin.
[ Robert Graves, "Solomon's Seal," Difficult Questions, Easy Answers, pp. 176 ff. ]
In one of the programmatic visualizations adapted for Western use from the tradition of "psychic heat" or kundalini meditations, the two triangles which Robert Graves associates with the symbolic male and female are imagined as within one's own body. The inverted triangle is visualized at the lower end of the spine, or more accurately, at the perineum, the base of the torso. While controlling and directing one's breathing, and visualizing specific colors (corresponding with specific mental and bodily functions, musical tones, etc.) one's center of attention gradually shifts upward, being imagined in successively higher locations until it reaches the crown of the head where it joins the other triangle that has its apex pointed upward. This overlapping of triangles forms the emblem of the mysterium conjunctionis, or Seal of Solomon, visualized as settling down into the center of the chest, that part of our physical anatomy we conven-tionally associate with the "heart": in an ancient sense, the "soul."
[ See, Oscar Ichazo, The Human Process for Enlightenment and Freedom, Arica Institute, New York (1976), p. 78 f., and p. 92. ]
The passage above offers only a brief description of what, in practice, is a precise and subtle exercise, the effects of which are moving and immediate. It is, perhaps not beside the point that a major approach of Arica -- a contemporary manifestation of the venerable idea of a real "school" -- is based on a nine-part system. The Arica Institute, with direction from Mr. Ichazo, has performed a remarkable service in preparing extremely clear indications, written in plain American English, that provide objective injunctions (i.e. telling one exactly what must be done) in order to perform such work. Thus, these exercises have been rendered accessible to an international group of ordinary human beings at a time when this order of knowledge and practical wisdom is vitally important for the well-being of the entire planet. Arica, together with the several branches of Tibetan Buddhist teachers, some T'ai Chi Ch'uan and Sufi masters, and other authentic practitioners of what is called The Work, have all gone a long way toward bruiting about the secrets which, in former contexts, have been too often encrusted with the embarrassing [DÉBARRASSÉ.] garble of self-indulgent, obscurantist mystification.
[ Further information is available from the Arica Institute, Inc., 150 Fifth Avenue, Suite 912, New York, NY 10011, (212) 807-9600. ]
At this juncture it may be appropriate for us to offer some sort of respectful gesture before the divine spiritus. Since important elements of our theme and the key to our modus operandi involve number, to whom better should our supplication be directed than to the god called Hermes, traditionally in charge of this province. The Greek god Hermes is but one historical representation of the archetypal character known to almost every society, with incarnations encountered all over the world. He is an heroic Culture Bringer and at the same time also a Trickster: Coyote, Raven, Reynard the Fox and Bre'r Rabbit. Prometheus of the Titans who brings fire to the ancestral Greeks was but one of many avatars of Hermes. Preceding the Greeks, austere aspects of the archetype were manifested by Thoth and Anubis in Egypt, whose purview was wisdom (before Solomon), writing and magic.
[ See, Norman O. Brown, Hermes the Thief: The Evolution of a Myth, Vintage Books, New York (1969) for a good introduction. See also, Paul Radin, The Trickster, A Study in American Indian Mythology (with commentaries by Karl Kerenyi and C. G. Jung), Bell, New York (1956).]
Hermes is a multivalent figure, of many shifting shapes. Famous tales are told of him as a prodigious infant on Olympus. He was the last of the twelve gods to arrive, except for Dionysos, the thirteenth but a sort of wild card who may be among the oldest. Archaeologically and mythologically, Dionysos and Hermes are both much older than, say, Apollo (the eleventh god on Olympus) who usurps many rites of more venerable deities. One fascinating study attempts to link the Sumerian culture-bringing Oannes figure with the explosion of Vela X, a supernova of around 4000 BC. A subsequent form of the archetype, as Ea's son Marduk, the master of exorcism and incantations, was magician of the gods and chief deity of Babylon. A similar function was fulfilled by the god Brhaspati, "the creator of prayers" according to the early inhabitants of India who practiced the Vedic religion, and who regarded this deity, too, as a culture-bringer.
[ Brown, Hermes the Thief, p.20. For Oannes, see George Michanowsky, The Once and Future Star, Barnes and Noble, New York (1979), which we will consider in a later context. ]
In northern traditions, traits of Hermes can be identified in Odin, who brought writing in the form of the runes to mankind; but as well there are trickster reflections in the sometimes malevolent Loki. Hermes appears as the Roman boundary deities Janus and Silvanus; and many of the Greek Hermes' traits are transferred to the Roman god Mercury. With the possible exception of the Libyan Athena, Hermes was the primordial craftsman; and his primary domain is communication, hence this archetype commands magic, number, mathematics, calculation and most kinds of figuring. Just so, he may be taken to represent the element of divinity in such expressions of harmonic relationships as the velocity of electromagnetic emissions or the fine structure constant. Hermes was the arbiter of ways in which number, whether in cosmic ratios and the chance operations of oracles, or in local trade transactions, could facilitate the transmission: not only of goods, but of generic information. Therefore, he was patron of businessmen, thieves and attorneys, and of teachers, messengers ("angels"), and thus in a sense priests, augurs and all intercessors or interlocutors.
The name HERMES comes from herma the Greek word for a cairn or heap of stones. Since remote antiquity cairns have marked boundaries, serving as common points for interaction among strangers. Hermes in Greece, and Thoth in Egypt, are both tokens or cultural emblems for (among other things) that divine spirit and energy manifested by human beings in piling up one stone upon another: originally construction of shelter, then actual building, and later, more sublimely, architecture and the skill of craftsmanship raised to the level of what we call the fine arts. The first monumental architecture in the world made from cut and dressed stone was the immense and sophisticated temple complex at Saqqara, constructed during the Third Dynasty of the Old Kingdom in Egypt under the Pharaoh Zoser. It might seem extraordinary that we know the name of the architect...but then, he was a truly extraordinary being, called Imhotep, an apotheosized high court official, a physician, and (at the very least) doubtless an inspired organizer of immense public works.
Marcel Duchamp, in quite his own way, we may see as a veritable avatar of Hermes, particularly in his role as an artistic herald of the twentieth century and as a sort of modern culture-bringer for America. Duchamp's impact was felt immediately in the United States following the 1913 New York Armory Show. The influence of Duchamp's work has also had profound, if sometimes delayed, effect in the world of modern art.
[See Calvin Tomkins, Duchamp: A Biography. Henry Holt/ A John Macrae book, (1996). In a review of this volume, Roger Shattuck offers a synopsis of Duchamp's work, and cites William Rubin's treatment in Dada and Surrealist Art (Abrams, 1969) as offering "the most probing short assessment of Duchamp's accomplishment." Shattuck also reviews Jerrold Seigel, The Private Worlds of Marcel Duchamp: Desire, Liberation, and the Self in Modern Culture, University of California Press (1996). See, Roger Shattuck, "Confidence Man," The New York Review, Volume XLIV, No. 5 (March 27, 1997), p. 22 f. ]
Many of the movements and innovations of the later twentieth century can be traced back to his gestures: a sketch, a note, a word here or there, but especially through the influence of that mysterious, hermetic masterpiece, the Large Glass and related Boxes. In a biographical sense as well, the Duchamp character displays many qualities of Hermes as an archetype: a sly, mischievous trickster figure who (if only intuitively or, as he implied, "unconsciously") may have been himself more than just superficially acquainted with the traditional mysteries of Hermes. But the biggest secret of all may reside "beyond his art and non-art works," in Duchamp's lasting influence and fascination through his unique and abiding sense of humor. We may join with Roger Shattuck who, in concluding his review cited above, expressed this appreciation of the jocular:
I can hear Duchamp still laughing among the celestial plumbing fixtures not only at our gullibility but also at inferior con men who seek their reward not in laughter but in money or sex or power--or in conventional fame.