Fourfold Vision and the Rivers of Eden
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 — William Blake
Legend has it that the Garden of Eden (which name probably means “well-watered”) was sustained by four mighty rivers — Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. The four sustaining rivers of the original legendary paradise are otherwise referred to as “the Guardians of the Four Directions“, and these directions are not geographical coordinates but spiritual “dimensions”. The same four rivers of Eden are the same four beasts that surround the throne of God in the Book of Revelation. And the same beasts that surround the Throne of God in the Book of Revelation are also the same four Zoas of Blake’s divided “Adam”, and which “reside in the Human Brain”. The “original sin” was the departure from wholeness, called “expulsion from Eden”, at which time there also occurred the falling out of the four Zoas.
The legendary Eden is certainly not a geographical or historical entity or place, although it certainly is a “spiritual” place or, more properly, a state or mode of being. It’s actually quite absurd that some people are poking around in the Middle East trying to locate the exact geographical spot of the Garden of Eden, or the lost rivers of paradise, especially after their own spiritual authority, Jesus, has told them that “the body is the temple of the living God” and that “the kingdom of heaven is within you”. The explusion from Eden was the fall into time and, consequently, into what is called “spiritual materialism”.
This accords with Blake’s own view that “God only Acts & is, in existing beings and Men”. This accords with the Buddhist view of anatman also, or No-Self — that nothing has “self-nature”.
The question naturally arises as to whether the Eden legend isn’t what we would call, today, “psychobiology” (or sociobiology), that the Tree of Knowledge or the Tree of Life corresponds to the spinal column and the brain, while the “serpent in Eden” refers to the serpentine or kundalini energy coiled at the root of the tree, with the four mighty rivers corresponding to the flux of energy represented in and as the nervous system, respiratory system, circulatory system, and metabolic systems of the body in the dynamic equilibrium of homeostasis. Adam and Eve, in those terms, would correspond to the anima and animus energies, or yin and yang principles, reflecting the left-side and right-side attentions.
The butterfly (or moth) is a traditional symbol of the psyche, probably for that reason — the wings of the butterfly themselves forming a kind of strange attractor in their own right. (There is even a genus of moth and a species of butterfly called Psyche). A strange attractor very much resembles the shape of a butterfly — a pattern that might describe the flux of energy between the left- and right-side awareness. (And it may be quite significant that the moth figures quite prominently as a magical creature in Castaneda’s writings).
In China, the Guardians of the Four Directions, who may be said to correspond to the four Zoas (who are “our energies” as Blake puts it) and the four mighty rivers of Eden, are four dragons,
The four dragons correspond to the classical elementary forces or archae referred to as Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, corresponding to metabolic system, respiratory system, nervous system, and circulatory system. Over the course of human history, each of these has at one time or another been considered the “seat of the soul” or vital principle, which has resulted in different types of “religion” — animism, vitalism, psychism, mentalism depending on where the “seat of the soul” or vital principle was experienced — in the blood and heart, in the limbs, in the breath or pneuma, or in the head. We locate our identity in the head, which is one reason why we can’t make heads nor tails of the values and cultures of those who don’t (and vice versa), because they don’t place great emphasis on developing the intellect or “mental-rational” functions. In that sense, what we call “mind” is not necessarily always to be found in the head, but may be identified with other functions of the body. Echos of that legacy are still contained in phrases like “I feel it in my bones” or “gut feelings” and so on. These transmigrations of the vital principle or seat of the soul through various functions of the body organism not only give you the religious “styles” of the culture, but also the consciousness structure — Gebser’s archaic, the magical, the mythical, or the mental-rational (which largely correspond to the sensual, the willful, the emotional, and the intellectual).
Blake’s “fourfold vision” is the activation of all of these energies, just as Gebser’s “integral consciousness” is the same as Blake’s “fourfold vision”. For Rumi, Blake’s “four Zoas” are called the “four nafs” or “animal spirits”. It is really not coincidence that the “fourfold self” has correspondences with the Eastern “four Yugas” or world ages, or the Four Ages of Man of Greek antiquity — the Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Iron Ages, (Iron being the element of Blake’s mad Zoa “Urizen”). It follows according to that “pre-existing pattern” that Gebser identified in evolution, and in those terms it is quite true to say, as J. Krishnmurti wrote, “You Are the World“. But the “World” includes everything that is, was, and will be.
In that sense, Krishnamurti is not saying anything different from Blake: “Heaven in a Wild Flower”, “Eternity in the hour”, or “The World in a Grain of Sand”. Well, your body is that flower, your body is that hour, and your body is that grain of sand.
So, is the Eden legend psychobiology? Yes, but not in the sense used by those who identify as psychobiologists, because the body is today even more mysterious than ever since matter itself has become pretty mysterious stuff. There’s nothing but energy in various stages of manifestation or transformation and metamorphosis. But that was already known to Blake. Although he saw that all energy is of the body (and that energy was “Eternal Delight”) the body itself was only a “cloud” or cloak
1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age
The physical body, infinitely complex as it is, is only a portion of the “Soul” as it conceives itself within physical conditions. It is like a musical instrument. But everything that Blake wrote about this, and about the relationship of the soul to the body, was amply corroborated in Jill Bolte-Taylor’s testimony about her “stroke of insight” (and in my own “dream of the fish“, which is why my enthusiasm for Bolte-Taylor’s TED talk never wanes).
What Blake is saying is that the body is an epiphenomenon of the soul, whereas conventional psychobiologists invert that, viewing what we call “soul” as an epiphenomenon of the body. But that’s only true of what we call “mind”.