The Balance of an Idea: Mandala and Pyramid

I want here (with this post and following posts) to continue with the theme begun in the last brief essay on The House of Stone and Light, and to begin to address, in particular, some of the issues I raised in my summary comment about Martin Page’s song and the significance of this house of stone and light. As a mandala form it is a symbolic representation of what Jean Gebser would call a “structure of consciousness” — perhaps even the shape of minds to come. There is something quite “Blakean” about Mr. Page’s song; which is to say, prophetic.

Long-time readers of The Chrysalis (and the earlier Dark Age Blog) will recall my earlier scrutinisation of the premier symbol of the modern era — the triadic or pyramid form — as the shape of the modern mind or structure of consciousness made visible. This pyramid is the concrete representation of the mind of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, rooted in the discovery of perspective depth in the Renaissance (ie, the third dimension of space). This is what the pyramid form represents — a ratio of the three dimensions of space as length, breadth, and depth. This is the image of the mental-rational consciousness structure, and its most succinct representation is, of course, in the Great Seal of the United States,

Perspectivism: The pyramid of vision

Perspectivism: The pyramid of vision

The significance and psycho-history of this symbol, its structure, and its meaning were explored earlier (in “William Blake: The Cistern and the Fountain“) as being the shape of the mental-rational or “modern” consciousness, but also as being that against which William Blake revolted as belonging to “Single Vision & Newton’s sleep”. The “new order of the ages” is actually an order or “ratio” of spaces. Time is omitted by establishment. One can also say that “time” is the wasteland or No Man’s Land that lies outside the limits of the perspectivising eye that projects the pyramid of vision from itself, as depicted in the symbol.

The symbol is very revealing. It almost speaks for itself. The barren wasteland or desert outside the cone of vision (and therefore “unreal” by establishment) is what came to be called “the occult” or “the mystical”.  The mental-rational (or perspectivising) eye and mind generated the invisible or “the occult” simultaneously with itself. This is why we don’t find the word “occult” employed until around the 15th century, coincident with the shift to the perspectivising eye as the true physical sense or organ of knowledge and awareness. The entire area beyond the limits of the pyramid, represented as a barren desert, is what also came to be called “the unconscious” or “the irrational”, the “void” or the horror vacui

In the pyramid, in fact, you have the exact shape of dialectical reason. The bases of the pyramid form the thesis-anti-thesis relation, while the “synthesis” is achieved at the apex of the pyramid and the “all-seeing eye”. But this “all-seeing eye” is, in fact, merely a “point of view”. What lies outside the cone of vision is, in fact, invisible. Yet it is by far the largest part of the complete reality. For, at best, this “all-seeing eye” of the illuminated organ of sight perceives, fixedly, only 45 or 90 degrees of its reality. In other terms, it represents only a quarter of the whole considered in relation to the mandala form and structure. As for the remainder, it is called “the hidden dimension” or “the unconscious” or “the unknown reality”.

The truth is, nothing is hidden. The mental-rational consciousness merely hides it from itself, by its own structure. Most of reality, which is revealed to “fourfold vision”,  is actually ignored. Here, then, is also represented the problem of “half-truth” — or the incompletely realised idea. In this image, too, is represented what Jean Gebser referred to as the “deficiency” of the mental-rational (or perspectivising, point-of-view) consciousness, as well as its essential vulnerability to being “invaded by the unconscious”. Perspectivising perception is synonymous with “objective attitude”.

In old medieval maps the world or cosmos is largely concentric. Outside the outermost ring or circle of known reality (ie, consciousness) was inscribed with the words “here be monsters” or sundry beings monstrous and also magical — mermaids and unicorns, gargoyles, gryphons, dragons, devils and angels. The mental-rational consciousness is no less constrained and constricted, even if the circle (the flat earth) has changed into a pyramid. Today, that “great unknown” beyond the limits of the consciousness structure is populated by “aliens from outer space” and “barbarians at the gates”. That is to say, it is just as vulnerable to “invasion”, and it senses its precariousness acutely. Anxiety or Angst about the unknown and invisible “beyond” or “outside” is built into the mental-rational consciousness itself, as an inevitable companion to it. Yet, this mode of perception has come to be considered “the common sense” or the norm.

Compare the pyramid of vision, however, to the mandala form and the essential problem of our time becomes quite evident,


Perspective consciousness, represented by the pyramid, represents only a quarter of the full possibilities of awareness. The pyramid structure represents, by contrast, only one arm of the “cross of reality” or only one facet or aspect of the full reality. Therein lies its deficiency.  Nothing appears more “stable” than a pyramid. But when you consider it within the context of the “bigger picture”, as they say, it is actually highly unstable and unbalanced and quite precarious.

This “single vision” is Blake’s “Urizen”, the false god of Newton who he also calls “Satan” or “the Selfhood” amongst other names. He is the symbol of the deficient mental-rational, and Blake represents him, remarkably, in exactly the same posture as the “all-seeing eye” projecting the pyramid of vision from itself,

Urizen -- Architect of the Ulro

Urizen — Architect of the Ulro

Here again, outside the “cone of vision” represented by the compass, the cosmos is represented as darkness and turmoil. Urizen’s posture is then echoed and reflected in Blake’s “Newton” who, as the disciple of the “false consciousness” of Urizen, is depicted in much the same pose in which Newton is obliviously immersed in, and at the bottom of, a sea,

Newton in the posture of Urizen

Newton in the posture of Urizen

Newton is, here, the symbol of “single vision” or classical consciousness, or what Rosenstock-Huessy referred to as “the Greek Mind” in reference to Greek rationalism (which he largely identified with the philosopher Parmenides, it seems).

This brief discussion of the “shape of the modern mind” (and as seen also by Blake) may help clarify the meaning of “fourfold vision” and “single vision”,

Now I fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep


Blake’s fourfold vision is the shape of a mandala, while single vision is the shape of a pyramid — of consciousness become trapped in its “point of view” and “line of thought” of the cone of vision, yet which condition is considered “normal” or “the natural order of things”.

This has enormous implications, for when the limitations of the mental-rational consciousness are fully appreciated, we will see that our commonsense notions of “equality”, “universality” and, consequently, “justice” are completely wrong, or, at best, but distortions and half-truths. For that is the other implication of the pyramid of vision — it is a symbolisation of half-truth. It is not a mature structure of consciousness, as it inhibits a great deal of reality and “the idea of man” from becoming fully realised at all.

How that happens will be the subject of the next couple of postings in which we will explore the mandala form as the actual shape of an idea, and a map for its fullest or perfected realisation.  The reason human beings have not succeeded in realising their ideals (or without pernicious consequences) is because of a faulty understanding of “idea” which prevents and inhibits the ideal from becoming fully realised, resulting in the problem of “half-truth” (and, consequently also, blowback, unintended consequence, perverse outcome, reversal of fortune, or revenge effect and ironic reversal).



8 responses to “The Balance of an Idea: Mandala and Pyramid”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    In an unbalance world, searching for balance is a historical trend built in the construction of our universe, and there are always humans who are charged to guide and ride that trend. The one-eyed look must be rectified. Moving from the image of the pyramid,( the earthly that exclude the heaven) to the sphere image,( the heavenly that include the earth), is the healthy, whole, integrative path you have always talked about and diligently and intelligently pursued. The eye at the apex of the pyramid is a deaf eye and it is wrongfully sinful to call it all-seeing eye and even the quarter it sees it sees it in a distorted fashion, The Truth is so much hidden but the deaf eye can not see the visible clearly, how do you expect it to see the hidden, that requires active, effective and integrative imagination.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    Thank you for a very sobering article for those who want to sober. Life is a sobering narratve, even god is registering everything we do as the moslem book states. The human is a self-registry machine, to be disclosed on the standing day irrespective whether you have trust or mistrust that day Read the the book of your own actions, thus rejoined the book. Our present dilemma is a mistrust dilemma combined with robbery, another type of inverted trust, Lie is a robbery of truth, called cyber robbery or spying robbery ,legal or illegal. We are living in a very frightening world ,where everything is possible and the possibility of receiving a knock-down blows is very high. The others, government, society or parents are setting all sorts of examples, bad or good, but this does not absolve the human, being a free thinking entity, from choosing his own path, to say otherwise is to insult the human ability to change and transform. All correction movements bear witness to that. There is no escape from struggle. Our governments are imbued with fear more than we can imagine. Fear can either be a killer or a life giver.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    “The truth is, nothing is hidden. The mental-rational consciousness merely hides it from itself, by its own structure.”

    Very well put.

    Blake’s “Now I fourfold vision see,” makes me curious about this “now.”

    For example, we often remember a turning point in our lives when a major shift in our material, mental or psychological, or emotional status takes place. It seems to me the “now” Blake refers to with respect to his “fourfold vision” may have followed one such turning point. There are several biographies of Blake out there, but I’m not sure if any of them is credible and detailed enough to shed some light on the significance of this “now” in Blake’s life.

    I mean how old was he, for example, when he said “Now I fourfold vision see”? And what experiences had he gone through prior to this “now”?

    At the very least, it seems to me that, with this statement, Blake means to stress a turning point in his own life when he was endowed with fourfold vision.

    • Scott Preston says :

      It’s in reference to something I’ve stated in other places: humans have an impressive ability to pull the wool over their own eyes and the rug out from under their own feet simultaneously. And that’s solely due to the narrow focus of their own ego consciousness, so that when disaster strikes, it seems to come “out of the blue”, as they say, or “from out of nowhere”. But it’s easy enough to see where the unintended consequence and perverse outcome arises — not “out of the blue” or “out of nowhere”, but as a logical consequence of their own thinking and actions. Today, this willful ignore-ance has become hazardous to our health, even our planet’s very existence. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves….” We aren’t wholesome creatures. But that is an illness from which we can recover ourselves.

      As to Blake’s fourfold vision — the passage about “I a fourfold vision see” is from a letter to Thomas Butts (a patron of Blake’s) dated 1803. Blake would have been about 46 years old then but was certainly working with, and working out, his “fourfold vision” long before that, as it is the very essence of his art and poetry. He was continuously in search of an idiom or medium by which he could communicate it to others. This was his whole desire — to help others cleanse the doors of perception and perceive the infinite in all things and themselves as infinite. (This is precisely what Rumi means by “emptiness” or “non-Being”, or what Buddhism means by “empty mirror” or “no-self”).

      It seems that Blake had retained this innocence of vision from childhood, but struggled to find a way to communicate it or, in effect, to help others remember and recall what was already their inherent birthright and the essence of who they were before being perverted. Blake was always very rebellious, and it seems he simply preserved contact with the “ever-present origin” (as Gebser would call it) despite his maturation and socialisation.

      Of course, he would not have known his vision as “fourfold vision” until he had become familiar with “single vision” as the antithesis of it.

      This is important to understand about Blake. He was not especially unique. He was articulating what all of us are, yet have forgotten what we are. Blake simply refused to be compromised by the pressures to conform to the “norm” — by parents, by State, by Church or the prevailing conventions of art and science, which he saw as disintegrative, and as violation of the true human form. Blake was simply strong enough to resist being completely co-opted and compromised by those giants and titans whose demands, threats, and pressures normally scare children near to death. Fear and terror is a great motivator for enforcing conformity and compliance. Blake never succumbed to that. Blake saw that the real horror and the real terror was surrendering oneself to single vision, or what he called “Urizen” and the Ulro — the conventional world of shadows.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Thus, he was able to clear the first hurdle on the path of a man knowledge – fear – easily. A very rare gem among our species. Thank you.

  4. LittleBigMan says :

    This might seem a bit off topic, but I thought these photos of “Close-up cuisine” taken by an electron microscope are pretty spiritual.

    Specifically speaking, notice the description of the photographer, Caren Alpert, of the photo #2 and #7. The author’s description of photo #7 is my favorite as it sounds very similar to our cherished phrase “eternity within the our”

    #2: “”Organic foods are beautiful. They have textures that are repeated. Foods grown in the soil have a much different personality than the harsh lines and jagged edges of processed foods.”

    #7: “A whole garden is visible within this single pineapple leaf.”

    Here are the photos:

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