Saturday, November 23, 2013

On Orientation

One of the most essential keys by which we may find our way in the unfathomable is that of orientation, which, as Henry Corbin points out in his Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, is among the most basic components of our moment by moment experience in the world. This is true not only in this world, but in the visionary world as well. Our tendency to spacialize the world around us is intrinsic to the very experience of presence. Orientation allows us to engage with the experience of spaciality in a systematic fashion. It allows us to move with knowledge and intent.

Arming oneself with a point of orientation on the spiritual path is essential to real progress. Without a destination, the traveler is bound to wander in circles, lost without a map in the vast Arcanum of the Mysteries. The stars have long served as guiding lights in this regard. Particular stars indicate, by their positions in the heavens, the places in which the keys to the Mysteries may be found. These are not terrestrial locations, but rather centers of initiatic truth hidden within the depths of the collective unconscious. These centers can be experienced directly by the practitioner as places of great transformative power. When they are used as focal points for the exaltation of consciousness, their light can reveal to us that which is unknowable by any other means.

The stars have taken up permanent residence in the cultural psyche of humanity as a means of navigation while at sea. The surface of the waters would have been unnavigable to our ancestors without the regularity of the constellations shining from above. Just so, the depths of the unconscious would only drown us had we not a system of fixed relations by which its contents may be mapped and charted. The sea may be the origin of life, but it appears as a tumultuous and devouring mother to those who would attempt to plumb its depths without a key.

We have at our disposal several tools by which we may symbolically orient ourselves in the visionary world. If the periodic table of the elements along with the works of Newton define the laws of the outer world, then the corresponding laws of the inner world are defined by the Sepher Yetzirah, the I Ching, the Tarot, the visions of Ezekiel and John, of Boehme and Blake. We are not without an abundance of maps, we have but to learn to use them correctly.

Let us set forth then into the visionary world, armed with maps of mythical temples and otherworldly abodes. By tracing these routes through the invisible, we may find our way back to our true source and origin, and from thence to our true destination, neither wholly in heaven or on earth, but partaking equally of both. 

(Some thoughts on the corresponding art of aimless wandering may be found here).

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