The Principles Behind the Myths
One of the themes that has run through my life has been the quest to understand the principles that underpin all established traditions and mythologies. The thesis is simple. If the laws of physics are consistent across the planet – the laws governing the falling of Newton’ apple are the same whether we be in China, England or America – then so too must be spiritual laws and principles. The challenge has been to assess different traditions, in a meditative way, to sort out what these principles might be, for sometimes the relationships are not so obvious. Can we reconcile religious beliefs such as Christianity or Buddhism, with the gods of Ancient Egypt or Greece or the workings of the I Ching? I believe so. This article dips into this theme through some of these great traditions and China is a good place to start.
The I Ching and Feng Shui
Seeing how this principle works through our lives can give much insight. For example any statement that I make about myself will always contain its opposite. If I say “I am a truthful person” or “I am a loving individual” then I need to also acknowledge the potential of both the liar and hateful part of my nature. If I deny my potential to hate or lie then someone else close to me will carry these qualities for me. The person who denies their anger or jealousy will always be surrounded by angry or jealous people. One revealing way we can explore ourselves is by looking at our relationships with our friends, family and colleagues for they will reflect back to us our balances and imbalances. What bugs us in our neighbour is what irritates us within ourselves. In this it is also important to remember that in order to explore the light we have to acknowledge and integrate the shadow. The aim ultimately is to find balance or as the Buddha so aptly stated to walk the noble middle path.
From the weaving of yin and yang all else flows. In Ancient China this was taken to two more levels. First, by combining two lines, either yang or yin, gives four possible combinations. To get to the final stage a third line is added to this pattern, which gives eight specific groupings. These are known as trigrams (combining three yang or yin lines), each representing a different quality or principle. The I Ching is based on uniting any two trigrams to create a hexagram (six lines). Each hexagram is given a different name with a detailed set of interpretations on it’s meaning.
We can look on these eight key trigrams in the same way that the Greeks or Ancient Egyptians viewed their gods. So interpreted another way the I Ching is trying to understand or interpret what happens when say the principle of Aphrodite (Greek goddess of love) is combined with the principle of Ares (Greek god of war).
In China these principles were seen as a family; a father and mother with three sons and three daughters. Each was endowed with a specific set of attributes in a similar way to how the gods and goddesses of other pantheons were portrayed.
In Feng Shui these principles were set out in a specific pattern known as the Bagua, which is based on a magic number square of nine numbers. Eight of these numbers relate to the eight trigrams, whilst the ninth, in the centre of the square, represented by the number 5 relates to us. Each of the other numbers is ascribed one of the eight key directions (North, North-East, East and so on). We can therefore see that each direction or part of a building was ascribed to the influence of one or other of these principles. For example Khan the Middle Son (number 1) who is associated with water sits in the North. His influence highlights dangers, hardships and also transformation and cleansing. This is the ideal placement for a bathroom. As Khan also looks after the career it is important the bathroom is not neglected but kept clean and tidy with the toilet seat down and any leaks attended to promptly to ensure that money does not flow away.
There is not space here to examine each of these principles in detail. In summary all we need to say at this stage is that the development of yin and yang into the Bagua shows eight primary principles, centred around a ninth, which in the magic square is shown as the number 5.
The tarot is divided into two main sections known as the Major and Minor Arcana. It is the Major Arcana, containing twenty-two picture cards that interests us here. Remarkably, when we examine the deck, we find there are eight cards that are quite distinct from the rest. These are the main character cards comprising the following:
It is these eight cards and the principles behind them that reflect the eight trigram principles of the Bagua. For example, Chien the Father principle of the Bagua equates with The Hierophant in the tarot and Chen (Thunder) the eldest son is The Magician in the tarot deck and so on.
It is worth just pausing for a moment to consider the other cards of the Major Arcana for they too tell an interesting story. Of the remaining fourteen cards twelve relate to the astrological signs and represent an initiatory journey through the zodiac, rather like the twelve labours of Hercules. The other two cards – The Sun and The Tower – relate to the spiritual and physical aspects of our world and more directly how these principles relate within us. In other words The Sun represents our spiritual self, whilst The Tower is the physical body.
The zodiac cards and their initiatory aspects are as follows:
I have found the ‘Rider-Waite’ pack the most revealing of the symbology of these principles and if you set out the journey as I have shown you will get some fascinating insights into our initiatory challenges. I do appreciate that this is not a standard association. For example the Chariot is usually connected with the astrological sign of Cancer but when looked at as I have shown the associations are obvious.
Like the I Ching the tarot can be used for divination as well as an initiatory, meditative tool for gaining insight into ourselves, our journey through life and the spiritual principles that shape our world. Effectively the hero or heroine, in their journey, needs to understand and work with the principles contained in the eight character cards. In Greek mythology the gods and goddesses would come to the aid of the heroes to help them in their quest, which is saying the same thing. Today many people will call upon their angels to assist them. Raphael is The Magician in the tarot deck, Gabriel is The Emperor, Uriel The Hermit and Michael The Empress and so on.
Here we hit a problem for the Kabbalah is based on ten principles or Sephiroth not eight, so how do we reconcile this difference. Moreover the tarot is traditionally associated with the pathways on the Tree of Life not the Sephiroth themselves. This I believe is a misconception for whilst the tarot cards can also relate to the pathways the eight key archetype cards most certainly also relate to the Sephiroth. To make up our ten principles of the Kabbalah we need to add in two more principles; these are represented by the two cards of The Sun and The Tower, in other words the physical and spiritual sides of our being.
The Sun and The Tower
Again there is a great deal more that could be said about this journey than space here permits. The Kabbalah offers another lens through which to view these archetypal principles and how they can be worked in a methodical and meditative way. From my own perspective the present pattern of relationships on the Kabbalistic Tree is Piscean in nature. As we move into Aquarius certain amendments need to be made to the placements, particularly in the lower part of the Tree. However that is another story.
The Heliopolitan Pantheon
of Ancient Egypt
As the mythological story developed with the slaying of Osiris (the slaying of Christ?) by his evil brother Set and the search by Isis for her beloved husband another four characters are drawn into the group. These are the falcon headed Horus, the cow-headed Hathor, the jackal headed Anubis and the ibis headed Thoth. Effectively it is this group of eight gods and goddesses that form the dynamic energy for this present time. We can now equate this group with the tarot cards characters.
The portrayal of these principles and their inspired attendant stories, set out by the initiates of Ancient Egypt, give wonderful insight into these great truths. Because of their vastness, in my book Develop Your Intuition and Psychic Powers, I called these principles ‘Quantum Universities’. This was the closest term I could find to describing their spheres of reference. They are not difficult to access and draw inspiration from, we just need a few keys and all are part of a matrix of spiritual energy that infuses this planet. We can track any one of these principles through the different pantheons. For example, the Magician principle of the tarot was Thoth to the Ancient Egyptians; Hermes to the Greeks; Mercury to the Romans; Odin to the Teutonic peoples; Merlin in the Arthurian legends; the archangel Raphael in Christian and Islamic belief; Dian Cecht to the Celts; Lemminkainen in the Kalevala of the Finnish peoples and Chen the eldest son in the Chinese Bagua. The same principle of healing, balance and communication perceived and represented by widely ranging peoples.
In summary we can say that the great spiritual traditions point to the influence of eight primary forces or archetypal principles centred around a ninth. Whether we choose to see this central ninth as God, the sun or our spiritual Self, it matters not. Outside of these eight key spiritual forces are arranged the twelve astrological principles. It is the combination of these energies at a spiritual level that gives form to our world. As we move forward into the twenty-first century these same principles will make their presence felt and as they do they will take on new forms that reflect our modern world. This is one of the gifts that global awareness brings us. We can connect to them by simply opening our hearts to their energies.
David Furlong (First published in Light Magazine 2004)
David has been working as a healer, therapist and sensitive for more than 40 years. He is the author of five books including Develop Your Intuition and Psychic Powers from which this article is taken.
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The Lotus can be placed above one's head, under the feet or over a chakric point.
A combination symbol of the ankh, the Sun and the equi-distant cross and circle, which is a very powerful protective and healing symbol.
The Flaming Sword is a wonderful symbol for clearing the old energies of a room or space.
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