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The Mystic Spiral : Journey of the Soul

by Jill Purce


[ Flow, form and symbol ] [ The evolutionary spiral ] [ The breathing cosmos ] [ The two eternities ]
The two eternities

Situated between the poles, on our journey through the spherical vortex, we see at either end our source and goal. We are pulled in both directions, since the longing for the womb, described by some psychologists, has its counterpart in the passionate longing of the mystic for union with God.

For the first part of our lives we are predominantly outgoing, externalizing and developing our individual ego as a basis from which to cope with the world around us.

This is the development of our first consciousness of self as a separate entity.

Starting from the pole, our initial windings are expanding. They start small, so that in the beginning it takes less time to complete one cycle. The relative speed of development and growth in a child, as seen from the outside, is prodigious in the beginning.

Setting out as children, we have an enormous journey - our entire sphere to wind round - before we reach home once more. Each turn or cycle takes gradually longer to complete; objectively, the development gets slower, and the windings become gradually more stable as they approach the equator or turning-point. We can see the same development in two dimensions on the Yin Yang, where at the fullness of one cycle the seed of its opposite offsets the balance and causes a reversal of direction, after which, on the vortex as on all homeward journeys, the speed of rotation increases.

Each winding marks a containment and a completed cycle in the development of the whole; but, as each is a part of the whole, the completion is also a beginning, so that the spiral shows the endosure and 'rounded' quality we experience, and the equivalent points reached at every new winding. The recurrent moments of crisis and decision, when understood, are growth junctures, points of initiation which mark a release or death from one state of being and a growth or birth into the next. 'How many times,' said Yeats, 'man lives and dies between his two eternities.'
Most traditions, mythologies, religions and legends describe these two eternities, the two ends of the life spiral. In psychological terms, for example, that from which we part with such reluctance is the undifferentiated matrix of the unconscious, an existence bathed in the pre-egoid memories of the watery abyss of our life within the womb. Everything here seems to have been easy and perfect, eternal and deathless; this was the Golden Age and Paradise, and that from which we were expelled.

The dawning of consciousness was a self-consciousness. By eating from the Tree of Knowledge we saw ourselves objectively - from outside and hence naked - for the first time. This was the first sign of our development, the turning round in order to observe ourself and the consequent delineation of an identity and 'whole' within the unformed ebb and flow of unqualified bliss. This state is described in many of the creation myths, which are at once microcosmic and macrocosmic. The first phase in the ego's development appears mythologically as the cosmic egg. In the Hindu tradition it is the Golden Egg of Brahma, floating on the waters of chaos: the first tentative separation, while still floating amid that which it contains and composes. Astrologically this is the phase governed by the moon, for the moon controls the waters and reflects the sun, as the ego reflects the Self. The egg is formed by the inturning or involution of Being.

If the beginning ofour journey was the Golden Egg or the Golden Age, its end is the rediscovery of that which we lost, the Golden Fleece or Alchemical Gold. But the right way back to the beginning is by going on. As the Tao Te Ching says:

      Going on means going far,
     Going far means returning.


To go back would be to go against the order of things, and to get sucked into the downward vortex. There can be a return to the centre only if there was first a departure from it, just as there can be no contraction without expansion. As one leads to the other, so the initial expansion and exploration of the developing being is checked by its return from unlimited dissipation into the infinite. Thus delineated, the 'ego' is contrasted with that which is outside the boundary, a God transcendent, and returns to dissolve its own delineation, to find God within and immanent.

The goal is at once a perfection of and a release from the self. Although these can be two distinct aims, it is also through the knowledge necessary for perfection that there is a release. The annihilation of the self in God, which is the Eastern goal of Nirvana, is also the release from the coils of Maya or illusion, the rounds of existence, and hence the passage from the spiral on to the central axis - the Centre in the midst of conditions - which is also the realization of the source in one's own being.


     For what the centre brings
     Must obviously be
     That which remains to the end
     And was there from eternity.
           (Goethe, Westöstlicher Diwan)

On some paths the centre is dissolved; on others it has, by virtue of sheer perfection and knowledge, become transparent. In the Hindu tradition, the centre is called the 'Diamond Body'. This still point, free from the emotional turmoils of everyday existence, is described as something indestructible and unchangeable. In other traditions it is the Rock of Living Waters, the Ka'aba of the Heart, the Philosophers' Stone, the Stone of Sure Foundation, the pearl or jewel. The centre hardens, its transparency increasing, until, indestructible, it has the clarity of the diamond.

Seen on the flat spiral our journey can begin in infinity and move inward to the centre, the concentration of infinity into a point. Infinity is thus reached through a process of ordering and concentrating. The One which is everywhere can be found in the centre of being: a concentration of the One as everywhere into the One as centre.

This organization and concentration is implicit in the diamond, whose constituent carbon atoms, while the same as those of graphite and of coal, have here reached a state of maximum order and perfection. lt is the clarity gained by such an ordering that is the goal.

The spiral journey which begins in transparency, at its most fluid in the unformed waters, comes to its final transparency in the perfection of the diamond.

[ Flow, form and symbol ] [ The evolutionary spiral ] [ The breathing cosmos ] [ The two eternities ]




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