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Many recent authors of a Grand Synthesis of human knowledge construct a complex (or simple, depending on how the case may be) hypothesis, which contains a small number (say 5, or 7, or however many) of basic factors or units or qualities. These serve as a universal map, or univerrsal system of knowledge or understanding. To prove their universality, these theorists will take other, previous theories, which may or may not be like their own, and plot them out, showing how they match.

Now, inasmuch as there is a "perennial philosophy" that does describe the structure of reality, such correlations can be useful. A good example of this is the fourfold cosmology and ontology (theory of being) proposed by Huston Smith, which represents a bare mimum of levels necessary to explain everything, and can be used as a very useful springboard to more complex interpretations.

However there is the temptation to propose more complex correlations, especially if one's own cosmology is complex to begin with. Two good examples of this are the Golden Dawn system of correspondences presented in the book Amazon com 777 by Aleister Crowley (who seems to have taken an original provately circulated manuscript of Mathers and Westcott and with his usual style published it under his own name, adding additional material and commentaries of his own to it), which maps almost every known mythology and occult doctrine of the time (late 19th century) onto the ten sefirot and twenty-two paths of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and the Integral Psychology and Philosophy of Ken Wilber, which even more ambitiously maps almost every field of human knowledge onto a modified five-fold version of Huston Smith's metaphysic, called The Great Nest of Being

The Golden Dawn Correspondences presented in Israel Regardie's Amazon com Golden Dawn, in Crowley's 777, and elsewhere (e.g. in Dion Fortune's book Amazon com The Mystical Qabalah) served as the basis for almost every western occult (Hermetic, Neopagan, Tarot, etc) system since. But useful (indeed essential) as they may be for practitioners and students of the Golden Dawn system of magic, they don't throw light on the other mythologies and wisdom traditions they describe. i.e. the best way to understand about ancient Egypt say is to study proper academic, historical, and archeological egyptological references and sources and meditate on those, rather than try to match the Egyptian Gods with the Hermetic-Kabbalistic sefirot.

However a more generic type of correlation is still possible: comparing different levels of self, different planes of existence, stages of manifestation from One to Many, the overall dynamics of emanation, and so on. In all these and other such areas, if one assumes that reality has a specific structure, then a generalised metaphysical map works well, and one can find the "common denomonators" or "perennial philosophy" of the various Wisdom Traditions.

One may even be able to find more detailed correspondences, although these are not uniformly consistent, and often hidden and invisible in the "noise" of ideosyncratic correspondences. The following table for example compares self-levels with the western occult and Hermetic four elements, the Indian (Samkhyan) five elements and chakras, and the Chinese 5 states of change (although this usually has other meanings as well). These are matched with (a) the levels or grades of self as defined here (the Hermetic correspondences, although this differs from the usual association of Fire as the most subtle element at the top), (b) from the most subtle to the densest (in the Samkhyan and Chakra system), and (c) the largets to the smallest numerical value (in the Chinese system). The resulting table is as follows

Level Definition Element Four Elements and Humours corresponding tarot suite (Hermeticism) corresponding psychological attribute Element (Samkhya) corresponding sense (indriya) corresponding Chakra Element (Chinese) number corresponding psychophysical function (shih)
[ref Needham p.152]
Cognition Thinking Air Sanguine Swords Thinking Manas Mind Ajna (brow) Earth 5/10 Thought
Conation Intentionality
Akasha (space) Hearing/Speaking Vishuddha (throat) Metal 4/9 Speech
Affect Emotions/Feelings Water Phlegmatic Cups Feeling Air Touching/Grasping Anahata (heart) Wood 3/8 deameanour
Thymos Striving Fire Choleric Wands Will Fire Seeing/Walking Manipura (navel) Fire 2/7 Vision
Epithymia Desires
Water Taste/Generative Swadhisthana (genitals) Water 1/6 Hearing
Organism Physical Body Earth Melancholic Pentacles Sensation Earth Smell/Excreting Muladhara (base)

Of interest is the association of "mind" or "thinking" with the highest level, and speech with the next level (associated with the throat chakra, interestingly the Chinese correspondences place Venus here [ref Needham p.152]; in Western astrology Venus is the ruler of Taurus, the astrological sign associated with the throat (and hence speech or having a fine voice). There is no correspondence with the next level down. In the next level, the association of fire (light) with seeing is obvious, hence the agreement between the Indian and Chinese systems. There is no interesting correspondence with the next two levels down, but if one combinese these, then the lowest humor, Melancholic ("Earth"), can be associated with the Chinese "Water" (which has the emotion "fear", although this may simply be because both are associated with Winter and "North", hence a melancholic period (short days, being indoors more, etc).

Thus there are a few interesting correspodences, but alot taht are also arbitrary.

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 20 August 2004, last modified 29 August