The Three Evils, the Four Birds, and the Zoas

Buddhism recognises Three Evils: Greed, Malice (or Ill-Will), and Ignorance. There is quite an abundance of these today. They are the elements of samsaric existence. And against these Three Evils it sets up the Three Gems as refuge from the evils — “I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha”. You can say that the Three Gems are transforms or metamorphoses of the Three Evils, or the Three Evils, optionally, are perversions of the Three Gems. The names, or virtues, “Buddha”, “Dharma”, and “Sangha” are simply surrogate terms for what Jesus also referred to as “The Way, the Truth, and the Life”, or, optionally, the three virtues named “faith, hope, and charity”. These, however, have lost their original meaning over the centuries. But you can also say that “faith, hope, and charity” correspond to the meanings “Buddha”, “Dharma”, and “Sangha”.
Rumi (and Sufism) has, optionally, the “four nafs” or animal spirits, which Rumi calls “the Four Birds“, which he refers to as “the four heart-oppressing qualities”,

The duck is greed.
The rooster is lust.
The peacock is superiority.
And the crow is worldly desire.

And Rumi admonishes that they be killed and revived as something else, transformed and metamorphosed. They are “evils” then, only in the sense of their being perversions, or inverted forms, of the good which they are in essence. In their essence they correspond to Blake’s Proverb of Hell that runs:

The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.

Blake would appear to be contradicting Rumi, but it is not so. What Rumi describes as vices Blake, contrariwise, describes as virtues. The enigma lies in the distinction between the profane and the divine forms, befitting the old saying that “Satan is but the ape of God”. Here, again, we are challenged to overcome our tendency towards dualistic rationality and an “either/or” type of logic and acknowledge the paradoxical character of reality — that the “lower” very often resembles the “higher”, for there is a very fine line between ignorance and innocence which often befuddles the religious as, for example, Jesus’s blessing of the man who he found working on the Sabbath.

Rumi’s “four Birds” or four nafs are Blake’s four Zoas in their fallen forms from their previous high estate. By “fallen form” Blake means by Marty Glass means by one of the features of the Kali Yuga or Dark Age — “the Fall into Time”. Blake’s Zoas have their fallen forms — the form they take in the “Ulro” or realm of Shadow called “samsara” otherwise — and they have their “Eternal Forms” corresponding to that domain that Jean Gebser refers to as “the ever-present origin” and who are otherwise known as “the Guardians of the Four Directions”. In their fallen state, however, they are the warring, contending, and contradictory factions of the disintegrate “Adam” or human form.

And, since we know from Blake that the Zoas “reside in the Human Brain” and the human nervous system, and are our “energies” — largely Nietzsche’s “Dionysian” energies — and since we know that the human brain is divided into two hemispheres with two different modes of perception, as described by Iain McGilchrist in The Master and His Emissary, and by Jill Bolte-Taylor in My Stroke of Insight, we may surmise from this that the “fallen forms” of the Zoas or Rumi’s four Birds, have much to do with the functioning of the “Emissary” or brain’s left-hemisphere, while the “Eternal Forms” have much to do with the “Master” or right-hemisphere mode of perception, and that we can conclude from this that what we call “profane” and what we call “sacred” have very much to do with the nature of awareness, whether it is focussed in the left- or right-hemispheric modes. There is, in that sense, a very fine line between the profane and the sacred. The profanation is what McGilchrist calls the Emissary’s “usurpation”, which “usurpation” corresponds to the meaning “the Fall into Time” (or what Blake calls “Generation”, which is the meaning of the word “secular”) and which Blake represents as the fallen form of the Zoa named “Urizen” (or “Selfhood”).

This is reflected in Jill Bolte-Taylor’s description of the two different modalities of the divided brain as having even two different “personalities” and which very much has to do with their two different approaches to time. Here analogy of the left-hemisphere with a “serial processor” and of the right-hemisphere with a “parallel processor” pertains to time, for one is asynchronous and the other synchronous. Or, as Blake put it, “eternity is in love with the productions of time” is very much related to the Master-Emissary relation described by McGilchrist and by Bolte-Taylor, and this corresponds to Nietzsche’s dictum that the true self is not the self that merely says “I am”, but which does “I am”. The Nietzschean “soul” or “self” described in his Zarathustra (in “The Despisers of the Body“) is McGilchrist’s “Master”.  And what Jill Bolte-Taylor describes as “the life-force power of the universe” as being identical with the “Master” is what Nietzsche calls “Dionyisan” energy, so that Blake’s statement that “all that lives is Holy” already anticipates Nietzsche’s Dionysian awakening by decades.

The relationship between the Master and the Emissary is a very paradoxical one, one which corresponds to the relationship between the eternal (or timeless) and the temporal. That paradox is expressed in the ultimate paradox of Buddhism, too: “nirvana and samsara are not the same; nirvana and samsara are the same.” This paradox hinges on the paradoxical relationship between awareness and consciousness or, correspondingly, the Master and the Emissary modes of perception, which are not different, yet are very different, which is the kind of paradox that drives logicians mad, or at least those given to what Blake dismissed as “Aristotle’s Analytics”. “Heaven in a Wild Flower”, “Eternity in the hour” and “the world in a grain of sand” (or “nirvana and samsara are the same and yet not the same”) violates Aristotle’s law of noncontradiction.

The Kali Yuga, or Dark Age, is a very strange thing, which is pretty much what McGilchrist means by the Emissary’s “usurpation” of the Master, and which is pretty much the meaning of “the Fall into Time”. This “Fall into Time” and the “Mutation into Machinery” are pretty much related through the hegemony of the clockwork, which is also related to “the End of Nature” and “the Reign of Quantity”. This world of Time and Death which, to the ego-nature seems so real, so solid, is, from the view of the Master, merely a description and an interpretation of the Emissary (or Urizen) — Maya, a mirage, a cloud, Lila. Yet it is very relevant mirage, for “eternity is in love with the productions of time”.

It must be added in closing, here, that when Rosenstock-Huessy states that “God is the power that makes men speak” he is also referring to the relationship between the Master and the Emissary and that this just as much corresponds to Blake’s “eternity is in love with the productions of time”. The world of Time and Death for the body is a translation into secular terms of perceptions that originate in the Master, but which the Emissary then interprets (or misinterprets and mistranslates) into the perception of a solid physical world of duration and extension — a world of past and future, and of inner and outer, and which would actually have no meaning at all except for a consciousness that interprets them in terms of past and future and of inner and outer. That also was the clear meaning of Jill Bolte-Taylor’s TED talk about her “stroke of insight”. It could just as well have been entitled “eternity is in love with the productions of time”.

A little while ago, I watched the old movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and noted that the French title is L’Invasion des Profanateurs. Apparently there is no way to translated “body-snatcher” into French except as a profanation — profanateur. Usurpation is profanation, and the French probably preserves still the notion that “the body is the temple of the living God”. Once that is acknowledged, Blake and Nietzsche become easy to understand, and what they understand by “profanation” also.



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