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Basic Diagrams of Reality

There are a seemingly infinite number of basic dagrams of Reality.  Ultimately any archetype, any glyph, any symbol, let alone any esoteric or occult system of knowledge, is a basic diagram of reality and the way reality works.  For the sake of simplicity and practicality however, I have chosen half a dozen basic diagrams, which are used here to construct a map or chart of reality in both its static and dynamic aspects.  These are


The Mandala


these images from Integral Paradigm 101

The Mandala is the most widepread map or diagram of reality used by humankind, a fact noticed by C.G. Jung in his studies of the unconscious.  The mandala features the four points as the orientation in space and time, with the centre as the here-now or centre of consciousness (the observer or Witness-consciousness).  Mandalas appear in religious art and architecture and in mystical, esoteric and occult symbolism, in the drawings of very young children, in dreams and in mythology, in yogic, psychedelic, schizophrenic, and any other experences that go beyond the bounds of mundane reality, in fact everywhere one looks one sees the mandala as the representation of totality - certainly of psychic totality, as the Jungians affirm, but perhaps also of cosmic totality as well.  After all, if the occult maxin that the microcosm (the individual existence and experience) mirrors the macrocosm (the universe as a whole), then why shouldn't Reality turn out to metaphysically structured in this way?

The Tetrakys

Tetrakys means "four", although it's built up of ten units.  The Tetrakys was the sacred symbol of the Pythagoreans.  It is sort of like a linear mandala, and shows how the one (unity or the Gohead or source) leads to two (the line, also duality, polarity, matter, creation, the first created principle), the two to three, and the three to four (manifestation, four cardinal points, the mandala again).  Thus each stage has a symbolic value and one could say it represents a plane of consciousness.

The number of units in the Tetrakys, ten, forms the basis for modern numerology (called "Pythagorean" to distinguish it from Kabbalistic or "chaldean" numerology), as well as appearing elsewhere - e.g. the ten sefirot of Kabbalah, and even in one of the hadron patterns of particle physics.

The Chinese Taoists have a similiar numerological sequence to the Pythagoreans, but instead of one-two-three-four it goes one-two-three-many.  here one means the Tao or Reality, two the polarity of yin and yang (see below), three heaven, earth and man as the union, and of course many meaning creation.

some creative interpreations of numerological and sefirotic symbolism

The Tao (Yin-Yang) diagram

yin yang symbol The Yin-Yang symbol is perhaps the most well-known metaphysical diagram of all.  It describes the fundamental polarity and inseperability of the polar opposites; the binary pattern of Reality, and its cyclic metamorphes.  The black represents yin, matter, earth, receptivity, ending, etc, the white yang, spirit, heaven, creativity, beginning, etc.  Note that the white half contains a black dot, the black half a white dot.  This is because yang contains the seed of yin, and yin the seed of yang.  Hence yang becomes yin and yin becomes yang; the basic principle of metamorphosis, and fundamental to the Book of Changes (I Ching).  The pair yin and yang are also equated with female and male, but this is simplistic: both male and female contain both yin and yang.  It is also interesting to consider that the Japanese macrobiotic system uses yin and yang in the opposite way to the Chinese taoists system; e.g. the macrobiotic yin is equivalent in many ways to the Chinese yang, and vice-versa.  This shows that despite the fundamental cosmic reality of yin and yang, human interpretations differ, according to the line of approach.

From the basic binary unit of reality comes the four (2 x 2) which takes us to the mandala, the tetrakys and the quibit.  Times two again and we have the eight trigrams, an important element in Chinese cosmology.  Actually, in view of the importance of the four-fold I see the trigrams as a relatively minor system, and I havent been able to do much with it.  4 x 4 x 4 however (or 2 to the power of 6) gives 64, the number of hexagramic symbols that make up the I Ching oracle, and also the number of possible DNA codons.  The way DNA, which is a sort of organic computer (there is even talk of building nano-computers using the DNA molocule), transmits information is through combining any of the four fundamental nucleotide bases (four again) in sets of three, hence 64 possible amino acid sequences.

The Fractal

Mandelbrot set The Fractal is the most fundamental pattern underlying form in the physical world.  All objects around us - clouds, rivers, trees, the lines on a person's face - can be described in terms of a fractal algorithm.  But more than that, even processes and events can - the pattern of the heartbeat, the fluctuation of the stock-exchange - can be likewise.  So the fractal not only maps out space, but time a well.

The principle of the fractal - which is that the part repeats the whole on a smaller scale - is also an important element in a number of esoteric or occult metaphysical systems; Kabbalah and Theosophy come to mind for example.

The Involution-Evolution Arc

The yin-yang diagram shows reality as a circle.  The Involution-Evolution Arc in contrast is linear (although it can also form a circle (left).  Spirit descends or falls into Matter, then ascends back to Spirit.  This basic cosmological principle is found in Samkhya and Kashmir Shaivism among the Indian philosophies, and Christianity, Gnosticism, Manichaeism, Neoplatonism, Sufism and Kabbalah in the Middle Eastern and Western systems of thought.  In the 19th and early 20th centuries it was represented by the Theosophy of Blavatsky, the Anthroposphy of Steiner, the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo, and the teachings of Meher Baba.  These are all metaphysical systems of thought.  However the inventor and philosophy Arthur Young proposed a scientific version which illustrates stages in terms of increasing degrees of restriction or freedom (very much like Gurdjieff's cosmology in this regard)

The Involution and Evollution Arc according to Arthur M YoungIf we have (following the mandala and tetrakys models) four planes of existence altogether, then the descending-ascending principle passes through seven evolutionary stages altogether (3 descending, 1 at the bottom, and 3 ascending).  Seven is another one of those fundamental numbers, but more so in esotericism and metaphysics than in mathematics or science (although Arthur Young does present philosophical arguments for the validity of the seven).  Thus seven planets, metals, celestial spheres etc in ancient Mithraism and Chaldeism, seven chakras (subtle organs of consciousness) in Shakta Tantra, forty-nine (7 x 7) days of intermediate (between death and rebirth) existence in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, seven levels on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, seven planes, cycles, root races, subtle bodies, etc in Theosophy, and so on.

The Cybernetic Feedback diagram

co-action compass The Cybernetic Feedback diagram forms the basis of Unified Science as presented by Edward Haskell and others in the book Unified Science.  It incorporates the yin-yang polarity in an evolutionary perspective.  The yin or horizontal or x-axis - the "work component" - and the yang or verticall or y-axis - the "governor": or "controller" - can interact in a way that is mutually benefit, mutually destructrive, or benefits or harms only one.  Destructiveness means the element is pulled down to the disorganised starting point or "alpha"; beneficialness means it is carried forward to "omega" (a term borrowed from Teilhard de Chardin, who used it to represent consumation in Godhood, the consummate phase of evolution)


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text content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 27 May 1998, last modified 14 July 2004