A Dialog Across Time

A large part of mystical practices is about correspondences among things. Omens and runes, Sephiroth and Hexagrams, all are about a the deep orders and patterns of the universe. Then again what is mysticism of all stripes but the idea of an involved, deep, living universe?

Of course anyone who’s dealt with correspondences in such practices knows there are two things you can count on:

  • A history of charts, graphs, grids, lists, and so on trying to understand these correspondences.
  • People not agreeing on these things currently or throughout history. Sometimes quite pointedly.

It’s strange, isn’t it? Anyone who’s read a tarot or cast Hexagrams has had those moments where things just line up. You know you’ve stumbled onto something deep, something real where all those correspondences and commentaries line up . . .

. . . but also there’s so much out there talking about those correspondences. From online arguments to ancient commentary it’s a bit overwhelming.

How are we to deal with all these writings on correspondences over time? As a person interested in the I Ching, I’m used to hearing people discuss commentaries by various authors centuries or even aeons apart. I even have translations of two specific commentaries on the I Ching, one for meditative practices, one for organizational practices. It takes a certain level of commitment to decide you want to detail good organization advice for sixty-four different hexagrams.

But needless to say these historical commentators aren’t always on the same page. Or the same book. It can be confusing or even distressing, as you wonder if someone has gone off the rails or is just to deep for you or is using a regional or timebound reference.

Over time I’ve come to think of all these commentaries and charts, conflicting as they may be, conflicting as their creators may be, as an effort over time. We’re all trying to figure out how the universe works, how the parts line up, to find the structure behind reality. They may not agree, but maybe by study we can find more about just how it all lines up. We can be part of the dialogue, but that’s going to take us stepping up, reading, contemplating, and thinking.

Nothing is right. Nothing is perfect. You could write the most complete and accurate book on mystical correspondences ever, but how much of it might be bound by time, place, and cultural references? But a dialogue? A dialogue is something that can go on over time.

We can even be part of it.


Elemental Thoughts and Respect

My own religious and mystical practices are, blatantly, syncretic.  I could hold forth on my fusion of Western mysticism, Taoism, Buddhism, various religious, plus whatever I found lying around.  I’m of the firm belief religion is an interface one constructs to connect with the universe, and I’m eclectic in everything else in my life.  I’d like to tease out one part of that for a discussion of the Four Elements – Air, Earth, Water, and Fire.

I was recently contemplating the ways some of we mystics invoke the four Elements – they are oft associated with the Quarters of the world and thus guardian spirits.  Indeed, I have similar associations with my own daily invocations.  It struck me that tying elements to various guardians is appropriate as these elements represent the very life we have on earth.  Indulge me, if you will, on a deeper exploration of these elements and some mystical thought.

Earth of course is where we all come from, and what we are made of.  It is the soil in which our food grows, on which we live, and to which our bodies return.  There is no life without Earth – I mean it’s also where we keep all our stuff.

Water is vital to every living thing as we all need water – in many ways the cornerstone of life.  It is our oceans and their great dynamic energy, it is our blood and bodily fluids.  There is no life without Water.

Fire is the sun, the heat that drives the great engine of our planet.  The heat ensures life can exist, the light fuels the plans upon which we depend.  Our bodies are great chemical reactions that produce heat as well – we are Fire.  There is no life without Fire.

Air is the atmosphere, the breath.  Much like water, we are constantly in an exchange with the air that allows us to live.  It is also our speech, our communication.  There is no life without Air.

It’s appropriate we tie such elements to whatever guardian forces we invoke, from angels to the Guardian Beasts because these elements are why we are alive.  When we call upon the elements or beings associated with them to protect us it makes sense.  In fact, associating such guardians, such preservers and pillars of the world seems appropriately respectful to the foundations of our world.

With these associations in mind, my own daily invocations take on a deeper, more urgent meaning.  I not only understand the powers I call upon deeper, I also have developed more respect for them.  There’s something visceral when you invoke Fire (or the Archangel Michael, or the Vermillion Bird, etc.) and also think of the sun, of life, of plants growing.  There’s more respect.

There’s also a little healthy fear.  We depend on these Elements for life – and humanity has made a good job of trying to screw them up.  To invoke guardian powers of these forces, wether you think of them as metaphorical or alive (or both) is to remind oneself life exists in a balance, and we depend on that balance.

I present this not just for fun and conversation, but as a personal insight on why mystical correspondences are so important – they make us think.  A simple contemplation of my daily activities led me to a deeper, more visceral place of respecting my environment and my own occult practice.  Even a simple musing might lead you to some great insight and thus greater connection.

And perhaps, a little appropriate fear.

– Xenofact