The character of this tale is called “Legacy.” This character spans centuries, is universal, without age or gender; has witnessed a toughening with time . . . men turn to stone. Legacy was first born in prehistory and drew triangles on dank cave walls. Legacy came into the world again as an Egyptian, at two different times, and remembers certain voyages through serpent lined tunnels that must have denoted nobility. As Christianity, the dawn of it, Legacy recalls shrowded, frightened figures, hiding in tombs and crypts, blackening walls with fugitive smoke, and scratching the faces off the heathen gods. Shortly thereafter, Legacy watched the future Buddha sever his hair and exchange the royal garments for the orange/yellow robe of the ascetic beggar. The Buddha, reclining, his head pointed North, and his face to the West . . . died . . . in 478.
Hera’s bridal train across the elements created the world. This world, composed of veil, both supports and covers us, as does a shelter; the difference being that the veil is transparent, and we come in and out of the weave as a child in the womb receives nourishment. This existence is a kind of osmosis which sustains us, yet obscures the true and profound.
Traversing the Heavens toward Mount Olympus, her left hand clutched in the right hand of Zeus. The train of seven colors glistening, the weave loose. Up, up, ease of flight; not flight but dance, the act of creation. The ascent begins, and although her feet are off the ground, the voluminous train abrades the mountain. Veil over rock with such intensity, that when a thread is caught, the rock is spun into the atmosphere, gyrating, gathering force, becoming a heaven unto its own. The black thread gives rise to Saturn, who in an instant devours his children in the form of moons. He is bent on endurance and reserve. Black: cold color, retreating color, corresponding to processes of dissimilation, passivity . . . debilitation. The next thread to be pulled from the weave is a blue one, a dark blue one which makes blackness visible. As it soars through the Heavens, the blueness attracts an eagle. This mighty animal pulls with such fierceness at the thread, that immediately the tension gives rise to blues ranging from black to white. Dark blue, night sky, stormy sea; light blue, sky and day, calm sea. The string grows longer and the bird grows tired. Hera, witnessing this sight is touched by the animal’s devotion and innocence. In a bolt of thunder, she crowns the bird and designates its reign on the planet of her kingdom: Jupiter.
Because two engenders three, Mercury, the white planet was born. Whether he was the child of Zeus and Hera, or born from a thread, is relatively unimportant. His substance, the consistency of semen, begat two serpents which encircled his wand and became the caduceus. He used it to heal and absolve. He became the messenger between darkness and light, and because he was the third god born, was granted a triform: a fluency and ability to transmute to this day unequaled.
Much to Hera’s amazement, as she looked through her veil and alighted atop the mountain, she heard the first word in the forming universe uttered. She felt a lightness within brought on by her firstborn, and decreed henceforth a trilogy: Sonority, Transparency, Mobility. Mercury, hearing these words, sacrificed a ram and created the lyre from its horns. He plucked a string, and as the echo resounded through the Heavens, Hera ecstatic began to dance. As the veil flowed across the peak of the mountain, the biggest rock caught a yellow thread and engendered Apollo. The cascades of golden hair from his head became emanations of this planet’s nobility. Mercury, pleased to have this body of intuition and intellect at his side, offered him the lyre. Apollo fixed the string of his birth between the horns, shot up to Hera’s side, played for her while she danced wildly, and secretly pulled the three remaining colors from her train. He pulled silver, green, and red, and as he cut the last bit of red from the weave, Hera was seized by an uncontrollable passion. As she danced to exhaustion, Apollo plucked at the four attached strings: Black, Blue, White, Yellow. When her frenzy was finished, he gathered up his fugitive threads, and added them to the lyre. He proclaimed these seven colors perceptible as sounds and the seven musical notes, the seven vowels of the Greek alphabet, the seven vices, and seven virtues, were born. He then took three rocks of varying sizes, tied the remaining bits of string about them, and tossed successively the green, the red, then the smallest and most gently thrown, the silver. They became respectively, Venus, Mars, and the Moon.
Her passion spent, Hera slept. And as she slept, the gods settled into their order within the Heavens. Saturn stayed in the North, Jupiter the East, Mars the South, and Venus the West. Mercury hovered in the Center while at the Zenith Apollo fixed himself and kept the Moon at his Nadir. A metamorphosis was triggered and attributes were taken from these heavenly positions. They formed a neat three-dimensional cross, and because of this placement, a system of attraction/repulsion was created which formed the dynamism of life. Rotations began to complete themselves, and as Apollo died nightly in the West, the West came to signify the kingdom of the spirits. The East therefore came to be associated with birth. Saturn’s coldness calcified the lament for his children and blackness turned to mineral life. Mars, diametrically opposed, assumed the pulse of all life and blood took the color red. Venus, green, in the West acted as a bridge between mineral and animal life, and because she witnessed Apollo’s regular death, green came to be dependent on black as an agent of fertility. This process of decomposition and greenness patterned the unfolding of Nature thus Nature became the color green, Venus the goddess of fertility, and Osiris, the god of death, and of vegetation, took green as his color. He stood resplendent at the top of his steps and invited those beyond to join him.
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With two directions for each dimension plus the center, seven points in space became the dictates for time, as time and space are one. The seven day week echoed the pattern of the Heavens’ gyrations, with one day being the day of rest. This day relates directly to the Center, which is unvarying, as is the sigmoid line bisecting Yin and Yang, and the center of the jade disc Pi in Chinese thought. This Center also relates to the rudimentary third eye: one look from it offers complete destruction, hence rest. One becomes ashes which explains the color grey . . . neutralization, egoism, depression, inertia . . . indifference: meanings derived from the color of ashes.
Primary colors correspond to primary emotions while the secondary and tertiary shades express levels of complexity, which vary with the tone. For the Chinese, color corresponded to rank and authority: yellow, because of its link to the sun was considered the sacred privilege of the royal family. For the Egyptians, blue symbolized truth, and for the Zuni Indians, blue represented the symbolism of levels, of height and depth: blue sky above, blue sea below. In India, the mother goddess is depicted as being red as she is associated with the principle of creation and red denotes the color of activity. There are links between most ancient cultures and their perception of color, an intuitively sensed relationship between all aspects of the real world. These ideas were arrived at independently, with little or no interaction. Perhaps it began with prehistoric man who stained with blood any object he wished to bring to life. In ancient Rome, when a general returned triumphantly, his face was painted red in victory, and he was carried by four white horses in gilt armor, representing the sun. For the Greek, Celtic, and Germanic peoples, sacred horses were also white.
* * *
My face painted red was no consolation . . . it was not the victory I was looking for. I longed, rather, to once again be the lover, he who unties with the beloved in a single weave, as the conscious is bound to the unconscious, the mortal to the immortal. I had studied all those Gemini myths but the hard reality of black and white offered no room for the fantasies to exist between those binary and contradictory forces. Somehow I felt outside of Nature, a voyeur watching crowds lauding me for a victory I eyed with contempt. I felt deeper than, and outside of myself at once, and between these two forces existed the reality: he was dead. There would always be the black knight against the white knight and the angel of death on her white horse. All nothing but a veil of stars, the mother of night: even she holds one black child, one white. In the fields I saw Diana of Ephesus. She held up her hands, they were black. As I stared horrified, I realized her face was black too and was convinced it was the reflection of my own. I rushed to my seer, a woman from the Orient found on a journey in search of spice. She pulled out the cards, and there, in the seventh enigma of the Tarot was my life: one black sphinx, one white. This woman, versed in the mumbo jumbo of fanatics of Christ and the twisted men in turbans who climb ropes in mid-air, consulted further some scriptures and began to recite: "Noah released a black crow before he sent out the white dove." "Fire, although luminous in the sky, leaves black traces on earth. Rain, black in the sky when pent up, becomes clear on the ground."1 “And even the blackest charcoal is brilliant when crystallized.” She said nothing more and I left.
* * *
Black/White, as an inversion symbol of the contraries which comprise the progress of life, is exemplified in the Eastern allegories of the Wheel of Transformations, the Yin and Yang, the Shri-Yantra . . . all tales of man/woman, movement/rest, evolution/involution, right and left. A thesis and an antithesis comprise a synthesis, the only way out of the labyrinth, the assimilation of darkness by light. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”2
Behind every disappearance lies an appearance, as in life there is death. Not in the sense of total negation, but as the other side of life, life in its latent state. Darkness, before split up into light and dark, was not as it is for the Hindus, identical to darkness of the soul. It was a pure state, rich: the stuff from which chaos was turned to order. Generally speaking, black represents the germinal stage of all processes, as it does in alchemy.
Legacy pulls a strand of pearls across blackness and states: "This is the transfiguration of an infirmity.”
The alchemists were concerned with turning the base nature of man into philosopher’s gold. They did not seek riches, but truth: "Our work is the conversion and change of one being into another being, one thing into another thing, weakness into strength . . .”3 "Analyze all the elements in yourself, dissolve all that is inferior in you . . . then with the strength acquired from the proceeding operation, congeal!"4
The prime matter used in alchemy for transfiguration is black. Black is the soul in its original condition, laden with guilt, latent forces, fermentation, pentinence, and the occult. The first stage, calcination, destroys the profane: all interest in life and in the manifest world. The second stage, a consequence of the putrefaction of black, involves the separation of the destroyed remains of the first. It is white, Mercury, lunar and feminine, illuminating the way to ascension, revelation, and pardon. Thirdly there is red, Sulfur, suffering and sublimation, a masculine and solar solution denoting the purification of matter through fire. This is followed by gold, the essence of purified matter: salvation distilled by the preceding operations.
* * *
At the end of this lifetime, I awoke one morning to blackness. It was vast but not empty and represented a kind of boundless freedom. My skin had the pristine chill of porcelain and I floated effortlessly, as though underwater. As opposed to being morose, I felt a certain elation, a warmth and happiness I would have never expected from beyond. The blackness was followed by a brilliant, blinding white: the white of Parian marble in noon-day sun, and through this whiteness, I sensed an imminent red core. I followed it, feeling the pain one associates with renunciation, and finally, after seven years, arrived at gold; a gold so glorious and heavenly that I knew I was about to begin another existence.
After gold, there is the Coincidentia Oppositorium, the joining of opposites, the conjunctio solis et lunae, the white and red rose, the union of fire and water. Then comes the sublimation, the suffering as a consequence of the severance from the world, and the dedication to yearning. The seventh and final stage is the steadfast merger of the static and volatile principles of the world.
The seven steps in alchemy are the same steps Osiris stands resplendent on: a bridge between what is perceived what is beyond perception. Seven is the union of the ternary order (the harmonic product of unity upon duality comprising birth, zenith and descent; heaven, earth, and hell; active, passive, and neuter; Sun, Mercury, and Moon), and the quaternary (the elements, the seasons, the Cardinal points; Saturn, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter; the geometric limitations of man in the three dimensions we live by). Seven is the extraordinary conjunction of the triangle over the square, the sky over the earth. Eight . . . is infinite. It is the two entwined serpents of the caduceus, the eternally spiraling movement of the Heavens.
For every conflict there is a remedy, as in white there is black. The ecstasy of self-annihilation need not be the cessation of being, but rather the banishment of these conflicts and contrasts, of pain. Look North, pose a question. Face the west, prepare to die. Condense and dissolve and there are no shadows.
There is the intrinsic quality of black intuitively perceived as objective fact. There is the blackness instilling the ardor with which we work towards death in fear more strenuous than life itself. There is the black of an inscrutable darkness and the blackness of fertilized land. There is the richness of chaos coupled with the unbridled expression of the base powers of man. All dark and all human, it’s black and white. Why can we not see in the ruin of a man the splendor and mystery of a crumbling edifice? I am, of course, ignoring all metaphors. This is a documentary, not a poem.
1 Rigveda (III,7, 3)
2 Isaiah (xi, 6)
3 Evola “Tradizione Ermetica”
4 Formula of Alchemical Evolution: “Solve et Coagula”