Wednesday, June 9, 2010
BORROMEAN RINGS (2/3)
an elixir of memory & wisdom
Socrates I can tell something I have heard of the ancients; but whether it is true, they only know. But if we ourselves should find it out, should we care any longer for human opinions?
Phaedrus A ridiculous question! But tell me what you say you have heard.
Socrates I heard, then, that at Naucratis, in Egypt, was one of the ancient gods of that country, the one whose sacred bird is called the ibis, and the name of the god himself was Thoth. He it was who invented numbers and arithmetic and geometry and astronomy, also draughts and dice, and, most important of all, letters. Now the king of all Egypt at that time was the god Thamus, who lived in the great city of the upper region, which the Greeks call the Egyptian Thebes, and they call the god himself Ammon. To him came Thoth to show his inventions, saying that they ought to be imparted to the other Egyptians. But Thamus asked what use there was in each, and as Thoth enumerated their uses, expressed praise or blame, according as he approved.
The story goes that Thamus said many things to Thoth in praise or blame of the various arts, which it would take too long to repeat; but when they came to the letters, “This invention, O king,” said Thoth, “will make the Egyptians wiser and will improve their memories; for it is an elixir of memory and wisdom that I have discovered.” But Thamus replied, “Most ingenious Thoth, one man has the ability to beget arts, but the ability to judge of their usefulness or harmfulness to their users belongs to another; and now you, who are the father of letters, have been led by your affection to ascribe to them a power the opposite of that which they really possess. For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.
There’s a kind of Game that can be played with Tarot cards. Not the trick-taking variety of gambling associated with their emergence in northern Italy [c. 1441], nor the divinatory permutations combined within the fortune teller’s craft. This game imparts a book of secrets preserving a most ancient teaching concealed within the sequence of Letters comprising the Hebrew alphabet. In this respect, Tarot can be used as a cipher-text for performing a kind of alchemical card trick.
In much the same way that Checkers or Chess possess their field of play in the form of a checkered board, Tarot utilizes the matrix of 10 points (sefirot) and 22 inter-connecting lines (pathways) known as the ‘Tree of Life’. By using the simple number trick of adding the individual digits of a number together until reaching a single digit sum, One is able to group the Tarot’s enumeration of Hebrew Letters into 9 sets.
This method of assembling our ‘game-pieces’ is a formulaic device for establishing the components of an even larger puzzle - One we are to construct upon our ‘game-board,’ the Tree of Life. To be more precise, the arrangement of these components upon the Tree constructs an allegorical scenario wherein the alchemical craft of transmuting Lead into Gold serves as a metaphor for the perfection of our ‘puzzle’.
Herein lies an aenigma that has been the Philosopher’s Riddle for ages - One which has taken many guises but always adheres to a retrievable pattern based not merely upon an archetype of the collective unconscious, but structured around a set of relations integrating the mathematics of acoustic geometry with the proportions of regular solids & periodic cycles of planetary alignment - together articulating a model of the cosmos whose musical & celestial harmony lay at the heart of antiquity’s mystery traditions.
While examining the ‘mechanics’ of this System, it is advised that the reader consider this a map only, and not ‘the territory’. The benefits to be derived from exploring such an aenigma are primarily realized through treading its’ pathways for One self. The poise of its’ symbols articulated as One express an architectural view to Numbers as they move thru Space (geometry) and Time (music) in a way that visually balances rational forms, like cubes & octahedrons, with irrational quantities such as pi, the golden ratio, and the square roots of 2 & 3.
On a practical level, this activity is of benefit in constructing what is called a ‘method of loci’ mnemonic TooL - an Art of Memory formed around a recursive pattern in nature, broadly applicable to a wide variety of subjects by virtue of its’ ubiquity. Through repeated distillations it begins to take shape, coming into clearer focus as One gains greater familiarity with the Knowledge it maps and the Understanding that contains.
The rationale behind its’ Table of Correspondences is drawn from the sequence and classification of letters comprising the Hebrew alphabet. It was ‘adopted’ during their Babylonian captivity (7th-6th century, BC), when what had been the ruling class (patriarchs, priests, etc.) within the kingdom of Judea became the servants of the Chaldeans - a culture highly esteemed for their advancements in mathematics, astronomy & geometry. The archaic Hebrew alphabet was at this time replaced by a box script form of Aramaic (the language spoken by the Chaldeans) that then became the basis of the current letters in use. Our cipher-text, as it exists today, stems from the assignment of these ‘newer’ letters to the symbols depicted by hieroglyphs from which the more ancient Hebrew letters had been derived. In a very real sense, the one was grafted unto the other. They had much in common already, having both been based on the Phoenician (or, rather, Canaanite) alphabet from which Latin & Greek were also similarly descended.
Replacing the current symbols tied to their Hebrew letters with those of these ancient glyphs depicts an older version of our Game - their differences reflecting a change of idiom consistent with the transition from the Age of Aries to that of Pisces within the exeligmos of equinoctial precessions.
It has been surmised that these letters broke down into 3 categories based on the type of sound(s) they indicated. One of the earliest known manuscripts (c. 2nd-3rd century AD) containing the basic tenets of the Jewish mystic tradition that would become known as Kabbalah, the Sepher Yetzirah (“Book of Formation”) describes 10 Numbers (sefirot) and 22 Letters as the medium through which the Hebrews’ creator god, Yahweh [YHVH], manifests the universe & everything in it. Classifying each of the letters as either one of 3 mothers (element), 7 double (planet) or 12 simples (zodiac), this book ‘forms’ the alphabetical structure that, when de-ciphered with the Tarot de Marseilles, exhibits a collection of mathematical constants specific to our study of the Great Pyramid in RING ONE.
Developed in the intermediary zone between the ancient Egyptian & Mesopotamian cultures, our earliest alphabets may have retained the texture of a much older system; perhaps One that was known to the high priests of the Gods’ own scribe, Thoth. But whether his ibis-headedness truly invented these Letters & Numbers himself is beside the point: their cipher-text, in its’ current form, demonstrates an internally self-consistent logic for integrating his reputed inventions (writing, arithmetic, geometry, measurement, music, architecture, medicine, alchemy, gambling, astrology & the calendar) into a single, potent mnemonic TooL. One that explains much regarding many specific allegories used in both Semitic & Indo-European mythology; as well as their attending star lore.
Yet their integration depends upon keys that aren’t printed until the 17th century: the matrix of 10 interconnected points referred to as ‘the Tree of Life’; and the Tarot de Marseilles pattern that standardized the Tarot deck format. To what degree either represent a much older tradition of esoteric transmission is a matter of conjecture to which many authors in the intervening centuries have proffered a wide range opinions. Our concern here is less with the specifics of that debate than with the unique structure created by their synthesis - how these Keys unlock the Hebrew alphabet’s cipher-text of correspondences and arrange them into a unified whole. In order to see how this is done requires looking at their distribution in more than 2 dimensions.
Again, the reader is advised that this is only an introduction to this System - a reminder, of sorts - and only succeeds in distilling the ‘elixir of memory & wisdom’ through repeated use.
The TREE of LIFE: projections of light & shadow
Anthanasius Kircher (1601–1680) was a Jesuit scholar & polymath employed by the Collegio Romano whose breadth of inquiry spawned a host of books on topics ranging across fields diverse as magnetism, linguistics, optics, music, mathematics & geology. A ‘pioneer’ in the attempt to reconstruct the lost art of reading Egyptian hieroglyphics, he compiled his 20 years’ research drawing from Chaldean astrology, Pythagorean mathematics, Greek & Latin mythology, alchemy, and the Hebrew Kabbalah into the 4-folio volume, Oedipus Aegypticus (c. 1652-4).
Providing one of the earliest renditions of the Tree of Life exhibiting the structure & symmetry of a projection, Kircher elaborated upon an earlier version of the diagram provided by a Christian convert from Judaism, Phillipe d’Aquin (1625), by designating which of the 22 letters corresponded to each of the pathways interconnecting its’ 10 sefirot.
Kircher had already written one of earliest accounts on projecting images in his Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (“The Great Art of Light and Shadow”, 1646) wherein he suggested such methods were used by the priesthood of Solomon’s Temple and warns against their unscrupulous abuse. As all that’s required to project the 3-d skeleton of a cube (or of any solid) is enough light to cast its’ shadow upon a 2-d plane, the technology for obtaining such a matrix was well within the reach of ancient geometers.
Why it should be of particular interest within Judaism becomes easier to see when we examine the architecture of the Temple itself. Its’ inner sanctum, known as the Holy of Holies, was the ancient Hebrews’ repository for their most sacred relics: the rod of Aron, a pot of manna, and the Ark of the Covenant (containing the 10 ‘words’ brought down Mt. Zion by the Semitic ancestor-hero, Moses). A feature of temple architecture classified as the adyton, it was adjacent to a longer hall called the cella. Described in the Torah’s Book of Kings as being in the shape of a Cube inlaid with Gold, the Holy of Holies was considered the dwelling place of “the name”, YHVH - a symbolic formula of letters embodying the ritual function of the Ark itself as ‘the footstool of God.’
One way of looking at the Tree of Life is as a portable version of the Temple itself; and, just as with Solomon’s Temple after the Babylonian conquest, or the fall of the second Temple at the hands of the Romans, the edifice has been broken into fragments. Even when it stood, the ritual object embodying their covenant with the Divine was supposed to have contained his ‘10 words’ already smashed to bits. In this sense, our ‘Game’ is essentially a process of rebuilding the Temple from all its’ scattered pieces, re-assembling them in much the same way as in the Egyptian myth of Isis’ journey to collect the pieces of her dismembered husband, Osiris, before resurrecting him and conceiving their child, the Sun god, Horus. The formula itself is a geometric expression of mathematically constant proportions, which remain consistent from culture to culture throughout the ages - only the mythology draped over it changes.
Kircher’s Tree disseminated a piece of this Knowledge. Within the same decade master card printer Jean Noblet would provide another: a deck of cards whose mathematical structure parallels the ritual function & sacred architecture of SOLomon’s Golden Cube.
[22/56 ≈ π/8] : [22/14 ≈ π/2] = 4:1 (double octave) = XVI:IV
‘TAROT de MARSEILLES’: the Book of Thoth
Though its’ precise origins remain a mystery, the earliest known Tarot emerged in northern Italy at the dawn of the renaissance - a collection of hand-painted images brought together under the auspices of gambling. These decks and the games played with them had faded into obscurity within Italy by the time Noblet’s printing press issued the pattern of 78 cards we recognize today as the standard Tarot. But, despite having worked from the city of Paris, the structure of his and other decks of this type mostly originating in France are now collectively referred to as Tarot de Marseilles.
Exactly when Tarot’s structural parallels to Kabbala began influencing their composition & design may never be firmly established due to the tradition of secrecy attending the esoteric transmission of Knowledge among its’ adepts; but the earliest explicit mention of major arcana corresponding to the Hebrew alphabet doesn’t appear in print until 1781 with a pair of essays written by Antoine Court de Gebèlin & the Comte de Mellet, and featured within the 8th volume of de Gebèlin’s encyclopedic, Le Monde Primitif (1781).
Though widely panned today by many historians for ‘dubiously’ attributing authorship of Tarot to the Egyptian god Thoth, the eponymous claim may have stemmed from their involvement in Freemasonry. A member of Les Neuf Sœurs, de Gebèlin’s 9 volume work on the ‘enlightened & advanced’ civilizations of antiquity enjoyed a readership which included both the King of France and the President of the United States. Suffice to say, he was likely well-placed within that fraternal brotherhood whose own origin mythos centered around the construction of Solomon’s Temple and the allegorical assassination of it’s Master Mason for not divulging the secrets of his Craft.
Notably, more than just the addition of iconography is attained by integrating Tarot with the Hebrew alphabet; for the Marseilles pattern also established the numerical ranking of major arcana. A critical Key, but still essentially useless lest the player know where the Cipher is put - in this case both a visual & numerical conundrum, or ‘punning riddle’, suitable for a fooL.
Prior to the invention of symbols to represent numerals, the Letters were accorded values that also reflected their sequence within the alphabet. Wedded to the Tarot de Marseilles pattern, their sequence remains the same, but assigns a new value to each number depending solely upon the placement of the Sifr (the arabic root from which both ‘cipher’ and ‘zero’ are derived). When 0=aleph, the first letter, their subdivision by element, planet & zodiac give values whose combination describe proportions consistent with the diagram seen in RING ONE.
Only then does partition of the deck by digital root connect the Letters subdivided into these 9 sets to the Numbers relevant for their assemblage upon the Tree of Life.
Similar to a puzzle made by cutting a picture into many interlocking pieces, there is a ‘completed’ object in which all components of the partitioned Tarot fit together & reinforce One another by their own peculiar, internal logic. Playing with this aenigma is a process of repeated distillations, bringing the object into clearer focus, recognizing in its’ architecture not merely the interlinking of arcane symbols within an octahedral matrix, but also an allegorical key for unlocking the use of symbol within Indo-European & Semitic mythology and star lore.
When examining the zodiacal glyphs it is as if we are looking at this object broken into pieces and then ‘projected’ onto a 2-dimensional surface. One might say that distilling the solution to this particular puzzle requires continually translating its’ partition of glyphs into higher dimensions. This is also consistent with the type of motion or ‘intelligence’ being indicated by each glyph’s design. For example, how Scorpio ♏ depicts a spiral (as seen from its’ side) of transformation through which metamorphosis incurs change; this same spiral is connected to a ‘hymen’ in the glyph ♍ for Virgo, specifying a type of metamorphosis: gestating in the womb of creative ferment until mature enough to cross a Virgin threshold.
Each partitioned set may also be read as a chapter within a narrative describing the Soul’s journey through the Tree of Life. The process of determining what sequence the chapters are ordered in leads to an Understanding of how the game-pieces are to be arranged upon the game-board. Implicit within their sequence is a philosophy on the progression of Number and Form.
Yet, even after having fit together all these pieces on our game-board, there is still an operation to be performed - an error in The System that requires adjustment. Winning the Game is a matter of solving the riddle posed by this specific dilemma, and concerns the mutual use of all these glyphs among both the alchemists & astrologers of the past.
Prizing a certain secrecy which could only be overcome with a requisite modicum of technical proficiency & education, those adept at the alchemical craft used the mythology associated with our planets and constellations to create allegories from ancient lore that could be used to represent specific chemical processes and philosophical concepts. However inscrutable or bizarre this means of communication might seem to the influent, this discourse of riddling becomes accessible when the cipher-textual properties of Tarot are properly applied.
If we scrutinize the iconography of the major arcana, matched against the simple letters pertaining to the zodiac, it becomes apparent there is a fundamental flaw: Libra’s scales of Justice [VIII] have switched places with the Strength [XI] of Leo’s lion. This transposition of symbols within the deck is instructive in many respects, and is utilized within the context of our Game to transform ‘Lead’ into ‘Gold’ by completing a matrix of geometric relations at the 11th point (Gnosis) within the Tree of Life necessary for the 2-d ‘projection’ of a Cube & Octahedron.
Before ever becoming a ‘standardized pattern’, the Tarot arcana representing the cardinal virtues - Temperance, Justice & Strength - tended to vary position more than any other cards within the sequences of older decks. Ironically, the position they ultimately assume in Noblet’s Tarot are poised at the crux of this Puzzle: a crossroads in the Tree's pathways leading to where its’ golden apples grow.
Phaedrus Socrates, you easily make up stories of Egypt or any country you please.
Socrates They used to say, my friend, that the words of the oak in the holy place of Zeus at Dodona were the first prophetic utterances. The people of that time, not being so wise as you young folks, were content in their simplicity to hear an oak or a rock, provided only it spoke the truth; but to you, perhaps, it makes a difference who the speaker is and where he comes from, for you do not consider only whether his words are true or not.
Phaedrus Your rebuke is just; and I think the Theban is right in what he says about letters.
RING THREE: Hera’s Orchard