Category Archives: Symbolism


In the bright crystal of your eyes
Show the havoc of fire, show its inspired works
And the paradise of its ashes

Paul Eluard

In her “Blake and Antiquity”, Kathleen Raine, the eminent scholar of William Blake, writes in the chapter “The Nether-World of Alchemy”, about Blake’s paracelsian influences. Perhaps one could take it as a mark of Blake’s genuine Gnosticism that in his visionary world, nature and forests are always symbolic of evil. His shadowy female, Vala, roams “in forests of eternal death, and shrieking in hollow trees”.

The forests especially are associated with smoke and fire. According to Kathleen Raine, Blake is here following the ideas of Paracelsus on nature’s Great Mystery. Here nature is seen as in eternal flame, always burning as it grows, endlessly returning to the nothing from which it emerges. Thus all of nature is essentially but a heap of ashes, and her creatures but fumes and smoke. Thus the dark female spirit of the woods, the personification of “the ever-growing, the ever-consuming mystery of nature”, is called The Demoness of Smoke.

In India, there is also a fierce Goddess, called Durga, who, like Vala, is dressed in red and associated with forest fires. Like the demoness Vala, who shrieks in the hollow trees, Durga is originally, in her earlier form as Shakambari, a devouring goddess of vegetation from whose body the different plants grew, and who has Her home in the ghostly-looking sheora tree, that is a traditional habitant of demonesses in India. But although Durga is a mother of demons, she is also, and most prominently, the slayer of demons.

In the 2nd chapter Devi Mahatmya, dedicated to Mahalakshmi, the gods are losing their battle against the demi-gods, when they bring forth Durga from their combined anger, giving each Her their signature weapons, and a lion for Her to ride on into the cosmic battle field. Here are two examples of Her association with forest fires from the Devi Mahatmya:

Her lion mount, shaking its mane in fury, stalked among the throngs as fire rages through forest. (2.52)

In an instant, Ambika led that vast legion of foes to its destruction, as quickly as fire consumes a heap of straw and wood. (2.67)

The scope of this cosmic forest fire is lucidly clarified by Brahmas’ words in the 1st chapter:

By you is this universe supported, of you is this world born, by you it is protected, O Devi, and you always consume it in the end. You are the creative force at the world’s birth and its sustenance for as long as it endures. So even at the end of this world, you appear as its dissolution, you who encompass it all. You are the great knowledge and the great illusion, the great intelligence, the great memory and the great delusion, the great goddess and the great demoness. You are the primordial matter, differentiating into threefold qualities of everything. You are the dark night of periodic dissolution, the great night of final dissolution, and the terrifying night of delusion. You are radiant splendor; you reign supreme yet are unassuming; you are the light of understanding. Modesty are you, and prosperity, contentment, tranquility and forebearence. (1.75 – 79).

As the fiery renewal of nature she is both the protecting Goddess and the annihilating Demoness, and the dark nothingness from which the woods grow up and into which they return, ever in unseen flames. The paraclesian realization that all nature and creatures are but ashes is echoed in the old Shaiva vow of the Pashupata sect from the Atharvasiras Upanishsad, in which the initiate confirms that everything is ash – but sacred ash, for fire makes holy.

A similar realization is found in the alchemical interpretation of the sign reading INRI attached to the wood above the head of the crucified Christ:” Igne Natura Renovatur Integra”, that is Latin for “through fire nature is reborn whole”. This invisible fire is not unlike a presence in all nature. The beginnings and the endings of the myriads of worlds can be found from a dim glow of the will-o-the-wisp by night. She becomes a companion, inspiring such reveries as Gaston Bachelard’s in his “The Psychoanalysis of Fire”:

Death in the flame is the least lonely of deaths. It is truly a cosmic death in which a whole universe is reduced to nothingness along with the thinker. The funeral pyre accompanies him in his passing.

Bachelard, Gaston: “The Psychoanalysis of Fire”
Foster, Damon, S.: “A Blake Dictionary”
Kali, Devadatta: “In Praise of the Goddess – The Devimahatmya and Its Meaning”
McDaniel, June: “Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls”
Raine, Kathleen: “Blake and Antiquity”

Fear Not Your Freedom


John Collier – The Death of Albine

Fear no more the lightning flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash;
Thou hast finished joy and moan:
All lovers young, all lovers must
Consign to thee, and come to dust.

The aim of our lives, I often reflect, should be to become free. Free to exist as we wish, to dare to think, look and to feel in a way that reflects our true selves.

For an artist, freedom is in some ways allowed more easily than to others. In this profession, one is allowed to be a little strange. In some ways it is even expected of an artist; expected that our daily rhythms are not so fixed, that we may be wholly and completely arrested by the smallest thing -a blade of a grass which cuts the air swiftly like a sword, the eye of a fish opening a gate to the underworld with its stare, a paragraph in a book which was written as if straight into our heart with love’s hot needle. So the creative mind swoons at the face of such mysteries, deeply moved, and the person who is perhaps not so inclined looks upon this and thinks, what a wonderfully easy, free (and a little bit useless) life you must lead!

But, freedom is no synonym to comfortable, nor to easy (as is indeed not, the life of an artist, either). Quite the opposite. Freedom is actually quite difficult. It takes work, to not to care for the critics and the slander, to keep doing your thing when all the doors seem to close while simultaneously, nothing opens, to do your thing despite that it may be something which is not considered the norm. Any practicer of the Left Hand Path is familiar with such confrontations with their surroundings. Success takes that one is true to themselves and very brave, which is very hard indeed.

John Collier – Lady Godiva

Certainly, freedom is not for everyone, because not everyone can handle it. We are taught to not handle it; we are taught to not lead and to not experience, but to obey and follow instructions and protocols. To not care very much, to not feel very deeply. The curse of our times is a kind of nihilism and apathy. It’s very easy to fall prey to belittling everything -that one person can’t make a difference, that at a certain age one should no longer play, that things don’t matter, that I should not hold the reins of my own life – and so forth.
What I often find common in people who are, shall we say, free, is that they think of death quite a lot. The realisation that everything dies; one’s parents, friends, pets, yourself, that time is ticking away- there’s something very liberating in this. Both because we will cease to be, our bodies will disappear into the earth, and slowly every item that we touched, will break, be forgotten, burned, thrown away- it all will come to dust.

Death truly is the great liberator and depending on how we relate to death and dying, the idea of dying can either feel like a suffocating prison or the ultimate freedom.

Death will tear away the chains of flesh which bind us here. It will tear away our emotions, the things we touch, the things that touched us. In the face of our struggles, problems, fears, death looks upon, impassive, untouched, inevitable.
What a wonderful thing, that in the midst of life which is filled with chaos, something can be trusted to happen so surely. Perhaps death is the only thing that can be trusted.

Then why should one be afraid of anything if the price for that is the loss of one’s freedom, or that one would never even taste freedom in the first place? How many times is it so that a person, at the moments before their death feels fear and regret? Regret for the things they did not do, for the words they dared not speak in fear of being ridiculed or judged? The passions they dreamt of but never dared live?

It may well be a life-long journey to learn how to fear no more -to not fear freedom, nor that great liberator to whom we all must in the end bow our heads to. But these are worth thinking about. The latter will come inevitably whether one wants it or not. But the former is something that one has to work towards achieving and earning.


John William Waterhouse – Psyche Opening the Golden Box

On Remembering the Dead


Winter snow


Hermann Hesse notes that when artists create pictures and thinkers search for laws and formulate thoughts, it is in order to salvage something from the great dance of death, to make something last longer than we do. It seems that the ancient Egyptians, obsessed with death, were much wiser than the contemporary man in this aspect, as they understood the importance of death in the development of human life.

A person’s life becomes defined at the moment they die. It’s a strange feeling, looking at their phone number and knowing that no one will answer should one try to call. It feels even stranger reading an letter from them- it was, after all, only a few months ago that this was written by warm, moving, living hands that created, and no longer exist. Where she was in one’s mind, is now a kind of a hole, and no one to occupy that space. Each person’s relationship and meaning to our lives is unique, and it can only be understood and seen completely when they are dead. The high and low points of that relationship are considered carefully and with a deeper perspective, because they are gone. Just like funerary rites, this too is a ritual, a final and defining chapter on the relationship that is now dramatically changed.

The evaluation of objects and items too change when a person dies. A bag of salt from her becomes the bag of salt, and it is forever differently defined from other bags of salt. It was hers- hers who died, and now it is mine. There is something powerful and mysterious about it now, on this exchange between the living and the dead. Every time this salt is used, she is there in my mind. An object that was nothing more than a household item for the deceased has now gained a radically different meaning and symbolism through her death. It has begun to feel like a ritual item, much more important than other objects she left behind that had monetary value; and I find that the items that had value in the eyes of the world mean nothing to me.

It’s a curious thing.

This bag of black salt that becomes less every time it is used, and when the bag is empty, there is no way to fill it. One can replace the salt with other salt, but it is not the same. This simple thought fills me with humble wonder, it is almost like a secret; it is a key to understanding. The bag of salt has become a memento mori in the most holistic way. The salt will lessen, and I too, shall die.

What is left then, when a person dies? Not much. A few items, some books, their handprint at the edge of the garden where a sitting area was built years ago. The other hands that carried, built, and planted on that sunny day are still living, moving, warm. What is left for the living are memories that fade and change over time, and if one is lucky, perhaps artworks that reveal little of the inner world of the deceased and stare back at us like a riddle, saying that there is something which can not be yet told. A veil has been drawn between us, a veil that one can truly only part when their own life becomes defined.


At the end of this small pondering, I’d like to address a question that was sent to our general mail a few weeks ago.

If I feel that death is a positive, even holy force, is it wrong to feel sad over the loss of a relative?

I don’t deceive myself enough to claim that I understand the mysteries of death better than the next person. While I believe that death itself is not a tragedy (as opposed to the circumstances that lead to or surround it which may be) it is not wrong to feel sorrow over the departure of a friend or a loved one- they have gone on a journey to which we have not been invited yet and no one can truly know if there can be a reunion or not. It even seems to me that it would be inhuman to deny ourselves the right to feel anything, because we are beings that process via our emotions.

But one thing I think, dear reader, is that when that call does come, be that in fifty years or tomorrow, one should be able to step on the other side of the curtain knowing in their heart that they became the best they can be- that the grains of that black salt were not used foolishly.

One should have a heart that leads them on like a compass, straight as an arrow, regardless of what may come to pass. Suffering is a very human thing, as is sorrow. They both can have the ability to teach us- for the world is an ocean, and each wave that rages against us we can either choose to battle with our flimsy little fists or let it wash over us with the knowledge that once that struggle passes, the wave travels onwards, perishes into the horizon and will never return.

Old Norse Cosmogony: a Kabbalistic Interpretation

Recently I found myself idly returning to an old suggestion: fitting Old Norse cosmogony into a Kabbalistic template. Both have similar emanatory passages, although as Kabbalists vociferously used the written word to transmit, formulate, and arguably consciously create their mythology, they had similarly detailed personal redemptive paths, something which Old Norse mythology has not preserved to such an extent. Accordingly, this aspect has been left absent.

In under a thousand words, this is obviously not a detailed interpretation. It is also worth clarifying that the Lurianic Kabbalistic template I have adopted here is predominantly derived from Aryeh Kaplan’s Inner Space – which serves as an excellent introduction to Kabbalistic concepts – and, to a lesser extent, Sanford Drob’s Kabbalah and Postmodernism.

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Symbolism of the Lucifer Lodge: Rainbow and the Essence of Light

The article series dealing with the symbolism of the Star of Azazel, and specifically of the Lucifer Lodge, begins with a text contemplating the meanings of rainbow and light. These both have been addressed in many vivid contexts and they truly are important symbols in occultism, although their depth isn’t always fully understood.

The most common view is that the rainbow is the union between man and God; heaven and earth; man’s lower, personal constitution and the higher self. The unity of different elements can be seen in the rainbow as it is comprised of a projection of water and light (fire) as it ascends to the heavens when viewed from Earth. Rainbow is also Antahkarana, the rainbow bridge that leads man’s Luciferian intellect and self-awareness, Manas, to ever-higher divinity. And just like the rainbow, Antahkarana is unreachable through worldly manners and deeds. It eludes the one who tries to reach it through action, since it can only be approached through spiritual efforts.

The seven foundational rays and colours of humanity are visible in the rainbow. They emanate from the original light and energy, manifesting just like they do in the human chakra system. However, when viewed from Earth, the colours appear upside-down when compared to the chakra system, in which they traditionally begin from the bottom with red and up to purple. However, this is not the case when viewed from above, as rainbow then appears as a circle with its colours forming a halo; the inmost colour being purple and the outmost being red. This expresses the inner connection of physical and less-physical both in man and the macrocosm: the dense parts settle in the outer ring and the less-physical in the middle. Outside of these two observable extremes is a spectrum of manifestations invisible to man: the physical end, which can’t be consciously reached by senses in their normal state, and the invisible reaches of spirituality. Each of these and everything in between exist on the same spectre, even though it isn’t visible to the naked eye. Whiteness and light shine to the universe in every one of these shades, radiating every colour out of itself while keeping darkness, the unmanifested spiritual perfection, at its core.

Traditionally, rainbow has also been interpreted as the thunder god’s (e.g. Jupiter, Indra, Ukko) bow. Also, just as noted earlier, rainbow is the bridge of Venus-Lucifer, Manas, the purest self-awareness to reach towards the middle point, the mutual source of existence of every living being. This duality, in the sense of energy reaching from the center to the outer circles, can also be seen as Jupiter’s or Indra’s lightning, vajra, which electrifies and puts physical matter in motion. While rainbow can be seen as energy traversing in two directions, vajra also shares this duality: in addition to the lightning, it also is a diamond, man’s solid, divine self and consciousness. It is Manas, which like a diamond, cuts through everything, but is so dense itself that it cannot be cut or divided. It’s the crown that Lucifer sets on the rainbow, the power he has given to us; misinterpreted as a fall, and more correctly seen as lightning flashing from the sky toward earth.

What should be determined from all this? The rainbow symbolizes the oneness of everything manifested and unmanifested. It expresses every one of the rays both together and separated, and especially those which are important to human life, even though it’s only a fraction of everything that exist. They are levels in which the consciousness can traverse, and from which everything is manifestable by it for any period of time. None of these shades is in the wrong place. They’re all in harmonic order. Only through misguided action can we abandon one of its aspects, just like we’ve witnessed with misguided religions and our own misguided actions in the past and present. Still, this wholeness is available and examinable to us, limited only by our capability to comprehend our possibilities towards it. We do not embody just one of those rays. In actuality, the one ray we radiate outward includes the others, which we, for one reason or another, haven’t chosen to emphasize at the moment. This is the reason we can also say that light, the oneness and source of all colours, envelopes darkness, and that darkness, too, contains only the most perfect light of all.