John Heron, August 1984
second class of metaphors
third class of metaphors
fourth class of metaphors
fifth class of metaphors
The purpose of this paper is twofold: firstly, to provide some metaphors for
the divine; and secondly, to offer some cognitive events, based on the
metaphors, that open up the possibility of acquaintance with the divine.
The first class of
first class concerns divine immanence, the spirit within the world of our
1 The divine is
the infinitude within. This is a spatial metaphor. The divine is construed
as the point of zero dimensions at the centre of any spatial entity or
particular locus. There is here the excitement of paradox. Infinitudes within are infinite in number, since any and all
space is infinitely divisible; yet the multiplicity of infinitudes within is
a unity, because a totality of points of zero dimensions has no spatial
differentiation within it. The divine that is everywhere infinitely within
is an apparent multiplicity, an ultimate unity.
related paradox is to do with physical space and mental space.
For ordinary experience these two kinds of space are not obviously
the same: the space of my mental imagery, as when I imagine a tiger, is not
the same as the space of my filing cabinet. But an infinitude within the
mental image is not other than an infinitude within the physical object.
There is no differentiation between mind and matter in a state of
general, infinitudes within constitute the unity between any self and any
different self, between any self and any object, between any object and any
Locate your felt centre of experience; that is, simply centre
yourself. Expand the feelings,
mood, associated imagery at this centre, until you are attending to,
contemplating, the infinitude within it. This is an infinitely diminishing
vista into indivisibility. You can imagine the contents of the mental space
of your felt centre expanding until there is more and
more emptiness. This emptiness is also decreasing to nothingness,
dimensionlessness, for your attention is zeroing inwards into your mental
space. You can't reach the zero point of your mental space because it is an
infinitude within but you can contemplate it.
Is it anywhere, everywhere, here, there, the farthest star, the next
door neighbour? Do you have acquaintance with the paradoxical
not-being-present of the indwelling, immanent divine?
you open up the mental space within so that you find more and more empty
space between feelings, impulses, moods, images, thoughts - as you expand
the latter contents in order to contemplate the infinitude within - you are
in an inner emptiness, a void: which is, as it were, around the infinitude
within. Hence the next and
closely related metaphor.
The divine is the void: the emptiness within any and every sort of
content, physical, mental, supra-physical.
The more you magnify or expand the scale of any manifest structure
the more empty it is. At a very
high degreeof magnification, the universe is full of emptiness.
The divine is this full emptiness.
There is more emptiness than universe.
On the scale of divine immanence, void is first, content and
differentiation second. Everywhere
first of all and all the time there is nothing, second of all something.
Look at a physical object, and at the same time contemplate its
immanent emptiness by magnifying its structures in awareness so that its
emptiness becomes more evident than its structures.
Dwell in the emptiness, in the void of it. Expand this process to include the whole visual field
including your own body and mental structures. Note how more resistant the
mental structures are to this opening up of immanent emptiness. Note, too,
how once the mental structures are opened up in this way, the immanent
emptiness of the
whole subject-object universe (person in their world) becomes more
accessible. Do you feel that contemplation of the emptiness generates
liberation, peace, bliss among your mental structures?
Do you notice there is a coming into being out of the emptiness?
Hence the next closely related metaphor.
The divine is a generative womb.
This is a double metaphor: the divine is a void and the void is a
womb. The subject-object
universe comes into being, emerges, out of the void within it. The void
continuously spins the web of being out of itself.
Phenomena dance into being out of the void.
There is a spiral surge out of nothingness.
True to form, the womb metaphor generates many others: emerging,
spinning, dancing, spiralling, surging.
The qualities are those of life-giving, time-bestowing,
at a flower. Dwell in its immanent emptiness by means of event 2 above. Note
how it continuously comes into being out of this emptiness. Now note how at the same time and as an aspect of the same
phenomena your perception of the flower and all associated mental structures
are continuously coming into being out of the emptiness that generates the
subject-object distinction. Note
how your perception of the world eternally participates in the continuous
seamless generation of you, your perception, the world, out of the womb of
divine is a woman who wears creation around her womb, her void: all
manifestation is her body and soul. She
is self-generating - the life and being giver, the spinner of time, abundant
in multiplicity and many-partedness. Everything
determinate, whether mental, physical, supra-physical, is part of her and
issues from her. Essentially
she is the creatrix, the generative womb; superficially she is the
accessible process of the subject-object world, the body and mind of
experience - what there is and the knowing of it.
As both creatrix and process, she is the source of life, of being, of
time, and of relatedness.
divine woman, as the source of being, is the source of body and soul, the
twin aspects of being. Body provides the individuality, the constant
individuating locus for soul, which is the centre of experience and
learning, of relationship.
Centre yourself: enter the felt centre of your experience. Open it
up, expand the mental contents of it to contemplate the infinitude within.
Enter the void, attend to your coming into being out of its generative womb.
Feel how quintessentially feminine this process is. Notice how you are
continuously and endlessly coming out of the ecstatically open thighs of the
divine woman.You can, as it were, hardly keep up with the continuous emergence
of yourself into being, tending to fixate on what has already come into
being and making constructs and choices out of that.
Live in the birth process of erotic emergence. Notice how in this process you are interrelated with the web
divine is love: the intensely felt essence of interrelatedness; the bliss of
inter-being, of essential interconnectedness; the ecstasy of total
interdependence without loss of distinctness of being.
The divine love is the soul of the divine woman, glowing as the unity
of the manifold differentiated parts of her mental and physical being.
Enter the felt centre of your experience. Move through the sequence
of event 4. Live in the birth process of comng into being interrelated with
the web of being. Notice how this whole web of being is itself immersed in,
is a manifest of, a bliss-field: an endless, celebratory, giving out,
unfolding and interleaving of relationship. There is a continuous,
effortlessly abundant delight in both the distinctness and the reciprocity
of beings, as they pour into being.
The second class of
The second class concerns divine
transcendence, the spirit beyond the world of our human experience.
The divine is the infinitude without. This is the
spatial metaphor complementary to that of metaphor 1. The divine without is
the infinitely distant plane into which the sphere of space around us
expands at infinity. The
paradox is that of three dimensions resolving into two at infinity.
further paradox is that the infinitely distant plane is the same for all
points in space. And this is so
for all points in physical space and all points in mental space.
Let your imagination go out to the periphery of physical space,
expanding around the solar system, our galaxy, manifold galaxies, in all
directions simultaeously - a global swelling of awareness. Note that since it is your imagination that is thus engaged,
your contemplation of expanded physical space takes place in mental space,
the space of your imaging process. Note
too that as you reach out in awareness to the periphery of space, mental and
physical, your awareness seems to transcend both into the ineffable.
What is this ineffable - light, majesty, holiness, splendour?
It is the over-arching ineffable, "das Umgreifende", the
all-encompassing, that which is beyond all name and form, and which by its
nature defies all definition. However,
we can employ the paradox of a metaphor for this ineffable.
The divine is a crown high-raised above creation.
Repeat event 6 and contemplate the transcendent ineffable.
Note how the limits of your awareness tend to convert expansion
through all space everywhere around you into contemplation of an ineffable
light above you yet somehow beyond the compass of ordinary mental and
physical space. It is as if the infinite circle that "bounds" the
infinitely distant plane is projected as a circle, ring, cylinder, crown of
light at the limits of your spatial comrehension, and because of these
limits, too, above you. Yet
this crown high-raised, ringing with glory, portends the limitless, the
infinite, that which is unreachable, beyond space and creation.
The divine is the emanating word.
The crown high-raised rings with the archetypal speech of creation.
It is the locus of divine utterance at the transcendent threshold of
space. It emanates the
declaration I AM: "I" announces consciousness, "AM"
announces all determination of form and process.
Repeat event 7 and contemplate the crown high-raised, the circle of
ineffable light at the limits of spatial comprehension.
Attend to the utterance coming forth from it.
This utterance is not in any earthly language, yet from it emanate
all earthly terms for the assertion of being.
Can you apprehend the archetypal speech which in your mind becomes I
AM? Let your being resonate
with the divine word whence emanates your identity, and the identity of all
phenomna around you, anywhere, everywhere.
divine is a man who names everything: his words shape the contours of
creation, making determinate and determinable all form and process. His
speech is the formative energy of space, the dynamic language in which
creation is clothed. His words are sounding universals, eternally resonant ideas,
the source of meaning and comprehension in the mind, and of intelligibility
in the phencmena of the world. He
is the word, whose domain is the domain of consciousness, space, archetypal
ideas, formative energy - the origin of identity and meaning.
event 8 and hear the divine word at the limits of your imagination.
Now hear this word emanate the resounding ideas that shape the forms
and processes of the universe from the most subtle levels of being to the
most peripheral and gross. Each
sound has a meaning and the meaning is dynamic, formative, and
interpenetrates with every other sound that has a meaning, and this without
any loss of distinctness, of clarity of resonance, of transcendental
intelligibility, of dynamic formation. The consciousness of great space resounds with the formative
energy of universal ideas.
The divine is wisdom: the meaning of the spoken language that
delineates the form and process of the universe.
to the universal speech as in event 9. Listen to the wisdom of its
The third class of
third class concerns the domain of interaction between immanence and
transcendence, between the divine woman and the divine man, between
emergence from the womb and emanation from the word.
The divine is a line. This
is the third spatial mtaphor. The
divine line is drawn from the infinitude within to the infinitely distant
plane without. It is bidirectional, both the way up and the way down, the
way out and the way in. While
the infinitude within is an apparent multiplicity, an ultimate unity, the
divine line is an actual multiplicity: it constitutes the domain of
actuality, of manifestation, of the many.
paradox of the divine line is that it is ultimately circular: since it is
drawn from a point that is an infinitude within here where you are, to a
point that is an infinitude within on
the infinitely distant plane, and since all infinitudes within constitute an
ultimte unity, the line returns to its starting point.
Building on all the previous events, imagine yourself suspended, as
it were, between the generative void within and the emanating word without.
A simple way of doing this is to imagine the generative void or
infinitude within at the base of the spine just in front of the coccyx, and
the emanating word as if uttered from a luminous crown just above the head.
Now you are the matrix of mental and physical lines interwoven
between the two. To experience
in a simplified form both bidirectionality and circularity, imagine a line
going from above your head, down the front of the body, through the base of
the spine and up the centre of the back to the top of the head, then down
the left side of the body, through the base of the spine and up the right
side of the body to the top of the head, then down the front of the body and
so on continuously. Or imagine
yourself as the locus of these two circles, spinning rapidly at right angles
to each other. What come up
from below are life, soul (experiential centre), body and time, what come
down from above are consciousness, ideas, subtle energy and space.
The divine is two interweaving spirals: the way up and the way down,
the way out and the way in. For one simple geometrical symbol, take a line spiralling
upwards and outwards from a central point, then spiralling downwards as if
round an invisible sphere whose centre is the line's starting point, then
spiralling upwards and inwards back to the central point.
Such a symmetrical twin-spiral shape has, of course, its central
axis, the straight line that constitutes the reference point of its
coordinates. Even more simply,
take just one spiral expanding upwards and outwards from a central point,
and see it also as a spiral contracting inwards and downwards to that
way down or the way in is both a descent and a contraction, a series of more
and more self-limiting utterances of the divine speech.
But there is a copulation of divine gender here.
What comes into being on the way down or the way in, comes into being
out of the creatrix, the goddess, the divine womb. The divine word in its
emanation of self-limiting formative ideas provides as it were the invisible
axes around which the creatrix spins her contracted modes of being.
way up or the way out is both an ascent and an expansion, a series of
increasingly complex self-generating elaborations of life into
consciousness. Out of the
goddess there emerge ever more subtle and self-transcending modes of being
whose initiatives are evoked by and in turn invoke the divine word and its
put, mind contracts into life (life focuses mind) and life expands into mind
(mind liberates life). But both
these two modes of manifestation in the universe, the coiling of being and
the uncoiling of being, are complementary expressions of the goddess.
Being coiled is unconscious, dark, mysterious, enclosing: the word
buried in the womb. Being
uncoiled is conscious, light, magisterial, liberating: the word revealed in
and through the outpouring of the womb.
growth of a foetus in its mother's womb is a simultaneous coiling and
uncoiling of being. As the
foetus grows the latent mind of the person-to-be contracts more and more
into the limiting locus of a living organism; and at the same time the
living organism expands more and more towards the threshold of consciousness.
adult life, action in the world and interaction with others in the world is
the coiling of being; the awareness of a liberating and creative active
imagination brought to these deeds is the uncoiling of being.
The equipoise of coiling and uncoiling is manifest divinity.
External action coils, internal action uncoils being: speech may be
the servant of either, or simultaneously of both.
Such simultaneity is not contradictory: you can associate and
cooperate with others (coil) in a way that expands and liberates the souls
of all those involved (uncoil).
Make love with your partner, with awareness of her/him as an
expression of the divine woman/the divine man.
Sexual passion is a coiling of being, awareness is an uncoiling of
being. Let them interact as in
the play of creation.
for a more general version of this event: in the context of social
interaction with a friend or loved one or intimate partner, note the
emtional tone or mood of your being. If
the mood is positive, enhance it with celebratory auto-suggestion or
internal silent prayer. If it
is negative modify it and rearrange it with an internal restructuring of
your attitude to, and your beliefs about ,the situation.
Social interaction is the coiling of being; awareness and attitudinal
restructuring - or realignirent of meaning - brought to it is the
uncoiling of being.
The divine is the awakened human being - who is the primary
continuous locus of the simultaneous coiling and uncoiling of being.
Her actions and projects coil up being; the active imagination she
exemplifies in them, her awareness, realignment and expansion of mind,
uncoil being. Thus what she creates in the world is self-developing,
self-limiting and self-transcending: for example, a social grouping which
has principles of structural change and termination built into it, and which
is psychologically and socially liberating for those who participate in it.
the deeds of the awakened human being, the uncoiling overflows the coiling,
like a cornocupia, the horn of plenty.
In the deeds of the unawakened person, the coiling strangles the
capacity for uncoiling: there is a self-knotting, a looping in on itself of
Implement a project that both contains and liberates: design and
facilitate a structured exercise in an experiential learning group so that
the participants focus in depth on a particular experience in such a way
that they are also opened up to wider reaches of life and consciousness.
More generally, be immersed in any situation is such a way that your
active imagination is free to uncoil it, that is, creatively transform it in
ways that are liberating for the souls, including yours, that are involved
Metaphor 14 The
divine is an androgyne, a being both female and male, a being with unusual
powers to create on the ascending scale of being, that is, to create those
things which are self-transcending, which reach out beyond themselves and
their own limits, continually aspiring.
Correlatively the divine androgyne has unusual powers to delve into
the descending scale of being, to plumb the depths - and maybe in the
process to become wounded, vulnerable, bleeding and at risk.
These complementary powers lead over into each other. And each exemplifies both female and male aspects.
ascent through descent. Go into your hidden, wounded, vulnerable place. Stay
with it, be with it, enter it with loving awareness. Await its transmutation
into a gateway to the ascending scale of being, into growth, expansion,
The divine is power, the will that moves the whole: it is the
articulation point of the nine parameters of creation: time, space, matter;
life, consciousness, energy; individual souls (centres of experience),
archetypal ideas, particular things. It is akin to dharma. From
the transcendent beyond originates consciousness, archetypal ideas
(universals, essences), their dynamic energy,
space,. From the
immanent within originates time, substance or matter, life, souls. Particular things or entities are where these polar originals
interact. Particular entities,
such as human beings, have their own kind of autonomy, their own kind of
will - symbol and artefact of that divine power that articulates the whole.
Exercise your will. Do something, anything. Implement a choice. Act.
Note how your act has a remarkable autonomy, articulating yet independent of
your body, your aliveness, your soul or psychological state, your ideas,
your relation to time and space, your energy, even your consciousness.
Note, too, how your highly autonomous act, whatever it is, is also at
the saw time paradoxically grounded in Act, divine power.
Note how your act is androgyne, poised between word and womb, subject
to the sway of neither, an expression of the potentiality of your liberty.
It is the mysterious power of the act of will that has all these qualities.
What your act of will creates in mental or physical space - that is in the
domain of the goddess, coiling being around the universals of the divine
fourth class of metaphors
fourth class of metaphors concerns the whole that comprises the immanent
spirit, the transcendent spirit, and the relatively autonomus universe of
interaction between them.
The divine is the tetragrammaton, the four syllable name of the modes
of the divine: YOD, the immanent source, the divine womb; HE, the
transcendent source, the divine word; VAU, the domain of existents, of
actual entities, whose interacting paramters are those of the Womb (life,
time, matter, soul) and of the Word (consciousness, space, energy,
archetypal ideas); HE, added to the previous three taken altogether,
YOD-HE-VAU-HE, declaring their unity.
Meditate on, that is, contemplate the tetragrammaton: mentally intone
its syllables, dwelling in their meaning.
Notice how the second HE is like an explosion of consciousness into
total comprehension, when you hold the meaning of the first three syllables
simultaneously in mind.
The divine is the mandala which exhibits in fourfold graphic symmetry
the polarities of immanence and transcendence, the divine womb and the
divine word. Draw a circle with
two lines at right angles to each other going through the centre of the
circle, one horizontal, the other vertical, each line extending a radius
length beyond the circle. Put
arrows pointing outwards, away from each other, at each end of the
horizontal line, and arrows pointing inwards, towards each other, at the
ends of the vertical line. In
the middle of the circle, around its centre, draw a leaf.
circle represents transcendence, its centre immanence; the horizontal line
represents the divine worb and its outpouring, the four parts from left to
right representing time, matter, life, soul; the vertical line represents
the divine word and its emanations, its four parts from top to bottom
representing consciousness, archetypal, ideas, energy, space; the leaf
represents the domain of actual entities, the universe of particular beings.
Having drawn the mandala, contemplate it visually while dwelling in
its meanings: first serially, the meanings of its parts one after the other;
then simultaneously, the meaning of its parts held in the mind all at once.
Now mentally intone the tetragrammaton while looking at the mandala and
entertaining its meanings. With YOD look at the centre, with HE the
circumference, with VAU the two lines and the leaf, with HE the whole of it.
The divine is an embrace between a woman and a man.
The woman is Eros uncoiling to Logos, the man is Eros coiling from
Logos, the centre point between them is divine immanence, the remote
periphery of space in the universe all around them is divine transcendence,
together as one they are the manifold universe of particular beings.
Enter into such a mutual embrace with an intimate partner who is
entering into it in the same spirit as you. Dwell in the meanings - first
serially, then simultaneously - of the centre, the periphery, the
togetherness. Dwell in the meanings while mentally intoning the
corresponding syllables of the tetragrammaton. Share the experience verbally
with each other afterwards.
The divine is a ritual involving 48 people in 6 groups of 8. Each
group is a different sort of actual entity in which the eight paramters of
creation - life, time, matter, soul, consciousness, space, energy,
archetypal ideas - interweave in different ways.
The six sorts of entity are: mineral, plant, animal, human, nature
spirit, human spirit - the latter two inhabiting a domain of space and being
both within and beyond the physical.
Enact the ritual. Each
group of 8 is allocated a different sort of actual entity and each person in
the group is allocated a different parameter of creation. The group then works out its own way of symbolising the
creation of that entity by the spatial disposition and movement of its
The divine is the New Jerusalem, heaven on earth, the regenerate
planet, the orb singing in the cosmos; in which society is abundant artefact
within its liberated ecological context.
fifth class of metaphors
fifth class gives a more detailed account of what has arisen in one or the
other of the first four classes.
The divine is dyadic. It manifests in polar, complementary terms,
Emergence and Emanation. The former, the way up, proceeds in the emerging sequence of
time, matter, life, soul. The
latter, the way down, proceeds in the emanating sequence of consciousness,
archetypal ideas, energy, space. As
these two sequences coil round each other, we get the secondary dyads of
time and space, matter and energy, life and archetypal ideas, soul and
consciousness. Also, as they
coil round each other, they generate, for any actual entity, the apparent
domains of subjectivity and objectivity.
Thus time, space, matter, energy constitute the domain of
objectivity; life, archetypal ideas, soul, consciousness the domain of
subjectivity. Yet these two
domains are apparent only and cannot be separated out from each other: they
interweave to create an interdependent subjective-objective reality.
Contemplate the following conceptual mandala:
yourself, a human being, be the actual entity in the middle.
Consider the four parameters of your subjectivity. Your soul, with
its capacities for feeling, choosing
and thinking is capable of learning and development: it is your
personhood. Your life includes your capacities for breathing, sensing,
sleeping, waking, moving, having physical desires, and so on. Your
consciousness is your capacity for being aware of your state of soul, of
your life processes. Soul, life
and consciousness are clearly not the same: soul or psyche has its
unconscious dimension, as do many of the processes of life. Yet they
interweave to create your subjectivity. But not without images and ideas,
those echoes in the soul of the archetypes of the Word
persons are only persons in relation with other persons.
Subjectivities constitute an inerconnected web of intersubjectivity. And subjectivity is in part constituted by having a
perspective on the objective world of matter, energy, time and space.
Note, then, how reality is intersubjective-objective: a vast
heterogeneous web of idiosyncratic perspectives which interconnect and
overlap at both their subjective and objective poles.
The divine is relationally dyadic, or a dyad of relations. The polar
or complementary sorts of relation are those of parity and disparity.
And each of these comprises its own internal polarity.
A parity relation is one of equality of significance and influence:
interdependence and mutuality of meaning and power.
But there are two complementary kinds of such a parity relation:
those that hold within the domain of one of the divine genders; and those
that hold between the domains. Thus
a peer relation, in the context of a social system, between two women or two
men, is an example of the former; and a peer relation between a woman and a
man is an example of the latter.
disparity relation is one of inequality of significance and influence: one
of the terms is prior, setting up an asymmetrical relation of meaning and
power. And there are also two
complementary kinds of disparity relation. One pertains to the domain of
Emergence: it is the relation of "emerging from", or "being
grounded in", or "rooted in", or "founded on".
In this kind of disparity relation, what is below or underneath, what
is the foundation and ground, is the prior term and has the greater
significance and influence. There
is a descent into meaning and power.
this perspective, the experiences of soul are grounded in the processes of
life; the processes of life are grounded in processes of matter and these
are grounded in the regularities of time.
Thus soul growth is deepened through attunemnt to the life-rhythms of
breathing, heart-beat, sleeping and waking, rest and exertion, fluctuations
of sexual energy, menstruation and ovulation, appetitite and defaecation.
And these in turn are deepened through attunement to the earth, sun
and moon and their regularities of time, the cycles on which the solar
system is grounded.
other and complementary kind of disparity relation pertains to the domain of
Emanation: it is the relation of "emanating from", or
"expression of", or "descending from", or "falling
under", or "under the influence of", or "subject
to". In this kind of disparity relation, what is above and beyond, what
is higher, is the prior term and has the greater significance and influence.
There is an ascent into meaning and power.
the Emanation perspective, space is the expression of subtle formative
energy, which is the expression of archetypal ideas, which are the
expression of universal consciousness.
At the human level, space emanates from the subtle energy of the
perceptual constructs of human consciousness.
this theology it is clear that one kind of relation is basic and primary: it
is the relation of parity - of the complementarity kind.
For this is the relation between Emergence and Emanation.
Secondary to this and subsumed within it are the two complementary
disparity relations decribed above. These
two sorts of disparity relations, taken in relation to each other, are in a
relation of parity. In other
words, "grounded in" is mutually complementary with
"emanating from": neither is more or less significant or
influential than the other.
do not, therefore, have a crudely hierarchical universe.
On the contrary, we have descent and ascent, deepening and expansion,
power below and power above, influence within and influence without,
complementing each other in parity. Parity
is in a disparity relation with disparity: that is, parity is more
significant and influential than disparity.
Contemplate the following conceptual mandala.
between Emergence and Emanation
within Emergence:descent into power
within Emanation: ascent into power
again in your contemplation how the fundamental relation in the scheme of
things, according to this mandala, is a peer relation between two different
sorts of hierarchy: the ascending hierarchy of Logos and the inverted,
descending hierarchy of Eros. And
each of these hierarchies has within it a subordinate peer relation that can
hold between entities at the same level within the hierarchy.
there is a sort of paradox: the basic kind of ultimate relation is that of
parity, but the basic relation between ultimate relations is that of
hierarchy, since parity rules over hierarchy which rules over a lesser kind
the political implications of this.