Pulse, Polarity and The Lord of the Dance

Shiva Dancing the Apocalypse

Shiva Dancing the Apocalypse

Consciousness is energy. Energy is polarity. Polarity is pulse. At the “macro” level, this pulse or polarity is manifested in the twin acts of speaking and listening. (Speaking and listening are of a quite different quality than mere talking and hearing, which we call “the formal” — or causal — and “the informal” — or casual). The pulse of energy is represented in grammar, therefore.

At the “micro” level, the twin acts of speaking and listening correspond to the polarity and pulse of consciousness in its two aspects as intentional and as attentional. In energetic terms, the former is masculine-animus, the latter is feminine-anima. This is the cosmic “dance” of movement and repose. These correspond to the energies that don Juan referred to as “nagual” and as “tonal“. The former corresponds to consciousness as (intentionality), the latter to consciousness of (attentiveness).

They aren’t distinct “realms” per se. They are pulse. Only, the pulse happens so fast and quickly that it seems to you that consciousness is a continuum and reality a constant. But an analogy can be taken from film — a number of stills, speeded up, give the impression of continuous motion, even though slowed down you see the “flick” — the pulse. The pulse of intention and attention is also reflected in the polarity of times as being “past” and “future”, and in the polarity of spaces as being “inner” and “outer”. These are the arms of Shiva, which you will note are four, corresponding to the four rays of the “cross of reality” and of the Sacred Hoop. Shiva’s arms correspond to the “four beasts” surrounding the throne of God, to the “Guardians of the Four Directions”, to the Four Evangelists of the Christian cross, and to Blake’s “four Zoas” of the Universal Adam named “Albion”.

The “intentional” we call “Self” and designate that “unconscious”. The “attentional” we call “Ego” and designate that “conscious”. But it’s really just the pulse. They aren’t “places”, but tempo and rhythm, and is the “heartbeat of the cosmos”, as it were. The reciprocity and alternation of the two is what is called “learning”, and is comparable to cybernetic process of feedback and control, input and output. This is not just reflected in the apparent “sexuality” of nature, but, as mentioned, in the acts of speaking and listening, which are also alternation and reciprocity.

Hence it is said that “in the beginning was the Word”.  “Seme” in semantics, which is “seed” (“semen” being related to “word”), forms a host of words like semen, seminar, seminal, seminary, semblance, perhaps even “semi-” as being “part” or “half”. The “Void” into which the word is spoken is the womb. The Void or Great Nothingness or “Big Empty” doesn’t exist in the sense of “oblivion”. It is the state of pure attentiveness. Cosmos and Chaos correspond to speaking and listening phases, or Word and Void, the intentional and the attentional. For large parts of your day, you aren’t really “in” physical reality at all. But you don’t notice it because the pulse of awareness is so rapid that it appears as a continuum.

When your cup becomes empty, only then can it become filled. That’s the purpose of meditation — to become pure attention, waiting at the dawn of time. This is what Rumi means when he says “emptiness is what your soul wants”.

Life and death are the pulse of awareness, in its modes of intentionality and attentionality. The former we call “eros” or the erotic, and the latter we call “thanatos” or the thanatic, and in that sense, the dance of Being and Non-Being. Pascal’s fear of the “Silence of the Infinite Void” is quite a common fear because it seems like Non-Being, and the ego fears this, which is why it is such a chatterbox — the “Monkey Mind”, as the Buddhists call it. Stopping the Monkey Mind is simply becoming an empty cup — pure attention without intention. But we wouldn’t know the “Silence” or the “Void” or “Chaos” at all as “Great Nothingness” if it weren’t for awareness of them as such.

“Why is there something rather than nothing?” is the wrong question, for it asks whether the intentional or attentional is more real. It is not an either/or thing. It is both.

The arms of Shiva express the polarity and pulsation of space, time, and consciousness itself, including what we call “creation” and “destruction” or “Genesis” and the”Nihil”, or expansion and contraction. This is the paradoxical “double-movement”, and its represented as “the Dance”. Jesus is also sometimes called “Lord of the Dance” in his aspect as Shiva, and hence his tongue is represented as being a “two-edged sword”.

Shiva’s dance in the circle of flame (energy), corresponds to Blake’s depiction of the resurrected and re-integrated Albion as “dancing the dance of Eternal Death” in his painting “Glad Day”. That “glad day” is the Dance of Shiva.

William Blake -- the Fourfold Vision

William Blake — the Fourfold Vision

Glad Day -- Albion's "dance of eternal death"

Glad Day — Albion’s “dance of eternal death”



18 responses to “Pulse, Polarity and The Lord of the Dance”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Even though we today speak of “spacetime” (or “timespace”), time and space are not at all identical, even though we sometimes confuse the two because we tend to use spatial coordinates and metaphors to apply to temporal events. The unity of space and time implied by “spacetime” shouldn’t be confused with identity. Time has not been assimilated by space.

    The pulse of spaces is expansion and contraction, or it may be expressed in terms of subject and object or inwards and outwards, or centrifugal and centripetal, etc.

    The pulse of times as past and future times is evolutionary and revolutionary, corresponding to the contraction or expansion of spaces.

    Additionally, eternity and time are polarity and pulse, not separate “places”. Infinite and the finite also are pulse. This is what Blake means in speaking of “Eternity in love with the productions of time” or “eternity in the hour” or “the universe in a grain of sand”. It is not just holographic but pulsating.

  2. donsalmon says :

    This is what Rumi means when he says “emptiness is what your soul wants”.

    One of my favorite statements of Rumi (from his Masnavi): “The entire Koran is teaching nothing from beginning to end but abandonment of belief in phenomenal causation.”

    For me, this is pointing to the false belief that things we perceive have causal powers over other things we perceive. Letting go of this, we begin to see – and more important, feel – everything emerging, from moment to moment, out of Emptiness, abiding in (and as) Emptiness, and passing away “into” Emptiness – Emptiness which is both Emptiness and Form (or, neither Emptiness nor Form, if you prefer:>)

    • Scott Preston says :

      Moments ago, came across this article from the Vancouver Sun about getting “beyond the right and left brain” which was actually pretty static. Not entirely revelatory of much, but I think it does approach the “alternating current” or “pulse” metaphor.


      Rosenstock-Huessy once wrote of a Russian neurologist who ostensibly identified an organ called “the lamina quadrigemina”. This organ would have been a biological correlate to his “cross of reality” inasmuch as it functioned like a “prism”. I’m not sure what they’re referring to, as I’ve never been able to identify it anywhere else. There’s not mention of a lamina quadrigemina in any neurological literature I’m familiar with.

      • donsalmon says :

        This article is very unfortunately misguided and actually misrepresents the research literature.

        It’s a very interesting story though, one I’m sure your readers would be very interested in. If you want the richer details, look up Iain McGichrist at Schumacher College on youtube – it’s one of the best, simplest introductions to his ideas I’ve seen.

        The greatest misfortune in McGilchrist’s approach is he didn’t quite have the nerve to settle on saying he was presenting a richly poetic metaphor. instead, his very long magnum opus (is that the right spelling??) weaves rich metaphor with very dry neurological studies.

        in a way, the author of the article you linked to is almost right – the actual research is only related to McGilchrist’s ideas in a very limited way. There’s amazingly little you can say about our mind and hearts (metaphorically speaking) from more than a century of neurological research. But if you “read” the studies metaphorically, you can find an infinite mine of mystical insights (of course if you know how, you can get the same results from reading dirty dishes properly, or for that matter, the words of Donald Trump!!)

        McGilchrist looked at 2500 years of Western history and saw an interesting dialectic between analytic and intuitive thinking. Sri Aurobindo described something quite similar- Heidegger speaks of thinking vs understanding (I think the words are often translated differently).

        But it is not at all a simplistic duality. There is our cortex – which does appear to have a polarity of analysis and intuitive knowing (actually, McGilchrist quite rightly puts it in terms of two different ways of “attending” to the world, which takes into account knowing, willing, feeling and sensing – closer to your fourfold view).

        but there is so much more – there is our emotional brain (limbic system), instinctive brain (brain stem) heart brain (the 40,000 or so neurons which form a nervous system of sorts around our heart) our gut brain (the 100 million neurons in our gut) and our autonomic nervous system (which is dual or tripartite depending on the source you go to).

        And still more – there is the body-brain as a whole, and beyond that, there is the body-brain-world interface.

        A fantastic website/book remains to be written tying this all together (and in fact, we plan to start working on it in a few years>))

        • Scott Preston says :

          I received McGilchrist’s book “The Master and His Emissary” last week. Pretty hefty tome. Haven’t dived into it as yet, though.

          Todd, in his Sun article, speaks of “vibrant” life. Vibrancy needs to be accounted for as a descriptive term for vigour.

    • Scott Preston says :

      That statement by Rumi is reflected in his poem “The Well”


    • Dwig says :

      Interesting — I recently read Jung’s “Synchronicity: an Acausal Connecting Principle”; Jung distinguishes synchronicity from causality. So should we read Rumi’s statement as rejecting causality, or perhaps viewing cause as one of many ways that phenomena may be connected?

      • Scott Preston says :

        “Acausality” would correspond to, or correlate to, Gebser’s “aperspectivity”. As in “aperspectivity”, it’s not that perspective is abolished, but that it assumes a different function, much less a “trap” for consciousness in a strict “point of view”, or what we call the “opinionated”. Aperspectivity and acausality belong to that “universal way of looking at things” that Gebser hoped would be the modality of integral consciousness. “Cause and effect” are not seen as being strictly linear or, indeed, just “one damned thing after another”. Acausality would correspond to quantum nonlocality, if not being identical with it.

        That is to say, the old doctrine of “affinities” and “acausality” are pretty closely connected.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    Insightful all the way through.

    Most people are terrible at listening and much more active with speaking. It seems to me then that “listening” must require more energy than speaking. For sure, it’s more work for me to listen than to speak. Two pulses are required for listening and one pulse for speaking:

    Listening = 1
    speaking = 0


    • donsalmon says :

      I had a critical thinking professor who gave me the best advice on listening I’ve ever heard:


      Better than anything else I learned as a psychotherapist. In most cases, it may be months (or years, or never) before we realize that we’ve just been assuming we’re on the same wavelength, and actually, we’ve been using words in dramatically different ways.

      One of the simplest dialog (deep listening) techniques is to paraphrase someone else. you’ll almost inevitably get it wrong the first time and you just do it again and again and again until they feel they’ve REALLY been heard.

      When someone feels deeply deeply heard, it has the most profound healing effect – not just psychologically, I might add. I’ve seen people relieved of profound physical pain when they have felt truly heard for the first time.

      We were having some back and forth on one of our forum about “listening”, and I wrote up the following two posts which might be of interest here:




      Everything Scott’s been writing about in recent months regarding the deficient mental/rational consciousness is deeply related to this. In a way, to put it perhaps in an overly simplistic way, our hearts (not our superficial emotions but our deep “souls” if I may use such a word) are terribly closed in this mentally deficient culture (world culture).

      Look at what Scott wrote recently about Canadian (and US and world) politics – what more do you need to know than you have people with closed hearts who can’t listen.

      On a closely related matter – since music is all about listening with the (deep) heart, I struggled for decades to understand how people had any respect for Sigmund Freud. I always thought his ideas about the human mind were loathsome – almost as though he took delight in taking all that was beautiful and noble in human beings and with each saying “See, it SEEMS noble and beautiful but it’s REALLY nothing but…..” well, I don’t want to say. nothing but animal instincts, but animals don’t pervert their instincts the way humans do, so that is not right either.

      Well, having first read Freud in 1970, I finally found my answer in 1994 and I know longer had any respect for him, and I didn’t care how many people I respected thought highly of him.

      An author of a book called “Music and the Mind” was talking with one of Freud’s nephews. The author said, “I’ve heard your uncle didn’t like music.” “Didn’t LIKE it?” the nephew responded.

      “My uncle HATED music.”

      Evidently., music made Freud “feel” rather intensely, and he hated that. So he hated music.

      Well that was it. Anybody who hated music couldn’t possibly understand the first thing about human nature.

      And anybody who hates music has absolutely no capacity to listen to anything.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Really? I didn’t know that about Freud. But I might have surmised it.

        I noted some recent publications on the art of listening. A lot more attention being paid to that side of the dialogical relationship, which is good. It’s just as crucial as learning to speak.

      • LittleBigMan says :


        That’s excellent advice and an insightful remark, as well. Thank you for sharing that.

        Also, it’s really exciting to see you refer to ‘understanding’ as

        “assuming we’re on the same wavelength.”

        That’s exactly how I see ‘understanding’ as a psychic phenomenon; it seems to me that ‘understanding’ is a merging of the wavelengths of two or more beings.

        “…….animals don’t pervert their instincts the way humans do…..”

        I agree completely and that’s one of the reasons I absolutely love every kind of creature and insect that there is. I was having a snack around 4:00pm Pacific Time and listening to the local Bay Area radio station today. I heard something pretty remarkable. The program was called “The Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins” and it was about the author of the book:

        “”Voices in the Ocean: A Journey Into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins.”


        The author, Susan Casey, was narrating a true story in the oceans that was absolutely mesmerizing. It happens that a group of researchers were studying a group of dolphins off of some coast, and they picked up on a behavioral signal from the dolphins that they were urging the researchers to follow them further into the ocean.

        The researchers decide to listen and start their boat and let the dolphins lead the way. After a few minutes, the dolphins stop and signal that there’s something going on under the water at that location. So, the researchers dive in or use their equipment to go look where the dolphins were signaling and they find a girl who was committing suicide with a note tied around her neck. The girl was still alive, though. They pull the girl out and the girl survives!!

        I don’t know if these dolphins were wild or trained in some way to communicate, but this goes to show that dolphins are intelligent enough to attempt to communicate with us. We all know that dolphins are just remarkable sea creatures, but the story still blew my mind.

        And about the music………Music has been “the only constant good” in my life. In fact, I plan on spending some time and learning an instrument one day. I love the accordion.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Accordian? The squeeze=box? Well, I guess Crazy Al made good use of it. How about bagpipes? Ah, the skirl of the pipes! Like cutting into a fresh onion, it makes the eyes water.

          Now, here’s a soulful tune — Pink Floyd’s “Sorrow”. Do you know it? I’ve been listening quite a bit to it lately. It captures something of the latent mood of the times, and perplexity of it: heady optimism, but heartfelt sorrow.

          Actually, if you study the lyrics, it’s a song about the Prodigal Son, who is, of course, us. Actually, I find the images in this youtube video somewhat incongruous with the mood of the actual song, although they may refer to the man’s dreams of a lost paradise.

          Here’s the lyrics. Musically and lyrically it’s quite brilliant


          • donsalmon says :

            Ah, the accordion. I don’t know what folks here think of rebirth (in order to even remotely “grok” it, you have to forget all that you normally assume about time and space, and causation, and identity, and well, everything else, but that’s another story), but it has always felt like the accordion was something that I ‘brought with me.”

            My brother and sister each had a year of lessons back in the 50s, back when for some strange reason middle class american families thought accordion might be a good thing for their kids. My older siblings tired of it fast, but me being 4, I guess I didn’t know it wasn’t cool. My sister taught me how to read music and by 5 I had gone through the first book.

            To this day, I find music from the mid to late 1800s strangely nostalgic – could be past life or just childhood nostalgia for the music I played on the accordion (besides american folk music, there was a whole array of very badly arranged semi-classical music which I also have a strange nostalgia for). It’s at least done me well in that when I play at the nursing home where my 94 year old mother and 96 year old father live, I have a whole set of memorized tunes that are actually nostalgia for them (the 1890s is the music of THEIR parents!)

            I finally got a chance to play “cool” accordion in 1976 when friend brought back a very neat looking small bright red accordion from brazil; something about the tuning made it easy to play Cajun music and Brazilian rhythms. I finally switched to piano by my early teens, but I’ve always enjoyed playing accordion as well.

            I got a job in the 80s as a music director for a Spanish Catholic church, and several times a year they had “fiestas” (well, religious celebrations but for Hispanics from the Caribbean the one blended into the other – more mythic than integral, of course:>) and we used to march up and down 14th street in lower manhattan and I would be up front playing – yes, the accordion.

            The accordion also worked very well as a substitute for the harmonium (an instrument most Indian classical musicians hated but which nonetheless continues to be used in “kirtan” or devotional singing) and I had much fun playing it at the Himalayan Institute back in the mid 1980s and at the NY Open Center for “kirtan” in the mid 90s, until someone stole my little red Brazilian accordion from the Open Center meditation room, of all places!

            One more accordion story – I flew to Austin, Texas in 1984 to play for the wedding of a friend. I had borrowed the accordion from the church where I worked. The airline misplaced my luggage, including the accordion. So I rented an electric piano which had just recently been played by Ray Charles at a massive concert in Austin. For some reason (really) it just felt a lot easier than usual to play the blues on that piano.

            And just in time for my return flight, the airline “found” the accordion.

            Time and space just aren’t what they used to be.

            • LittleBigMan says :

              You have been very very lucky to have been brought up in that environment that allowed you to learn so much about music – and most especially – about the accordion. Lovely instrument.

              I had a very hard time focusing while in the elementary school. Then, one day, in the beginning of the 3rd grade a music instructor showed up in class and I was riveted by the beautiful music she played on her accordion and the beautiful notes she wrote on the board and wanted us to practice in writing and pronouncing over and over in class (DO-RE-MI-FA-SO-LA-SI). That’s from my memory of the lessons back in 3rd grade 🙂

              That’s how much I loved the music.

              Alas, it was not meant to last and the music class was cancelled less than a month after it began 😦

          • LittleBigMan says :

            Yes, the “squeeze box.” I love that name 🙂

            I love the sound that bagpipes make, but it seems to me that the squeeze box is a lot easier to play.

            Pink Floyd is one of very few bands, if not the only one, that when they play the base I can listen. I don’t recall having heard this particular song, though. I agree, the lyrics of the song are brilliant. Especially, these two verses:

            “A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers”

            “And silence that speaks so much louder than words”

            This latter verse is something that don Juan Matus pointed out and demonstrated to Castaneda, too.

            Here’s a piece I have been listening to a lot lately and….Er…..since I’ve been 12 🙂

  4. LittleBigMan says :

    LOL….yes, with my current set of skills on the squeeze-box, it would be very very embarrassing if I attempted it. But over time of a few years from now, I should be able to make some time and take advantage of some music lessons. But of course, in the years that I am developing my musical skills, I must make sure to live out of the city for fear that my neighbors might plot my demise 🙂

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