The Death (And Resurrection) of The Sacred Hoop

Having worked as a consultant for a spell at the Aboriginal Healing Project, it’s absolutely gut-wrenching for me to see how little progress seems to have been made in the actual healing of indigenous communities, especially in confronting the epidemic of aboriginal youth suicide. Right here is where building “resilience” has become most pressing. Indigenous people the world over have ever been on the front lines what we call “globalisation”, and more than most suffering the often destructive dynamics of the Megamachine.

Nonetheless, as an elder once said, too: “we’re all in the same canoe”. And he’s quite right. Our societies are broken. The Sacred Hoop is broken and the task of mending it is the Great Work of the Hermetic Philosophy which must enlist everybody’s efforts and support. This is where what Gebser calls “the double-movement” of disintegration and re-integration — or death and resurrection from death — is going to be tested foremost. For here, in these broken aboriginal communities, is where nihilism and its overcoming is becoming a test case for the entire fate of the Earth. As Nietzsche put it “If a man has a why he can put up with any how“, and that’s the secret of resilience. Our why must be, collectively, throwing ourselves into mending the Sacred Hoop. This only will give meaning to our acts and our lives in these times.

The restoration and revival of the Sacred Hoop from its debasement can only come about if the young are inspired, and through that inspiration enlisted in the Great Work of “mending the Sacred Hoop”, which means a re-integration. Why isn’t this happening? It is supposed to be the task of the elders to inspire the young with taking on that task and one which would give their lives direction and meaning, and not just for the indigenous communities either, but for the whole world and the sake of “the global soul”.

Evidently, there is a breakdown in the succession of the generations, and this is not alone due to the disastrous and destructive effects of the notorious Indian Residential School system or to economic deprivation alone. The elders also seem to have lost faith in the potency of the Sacred Hoop, or even memory of its profound meaning has passed beyond their knowledge and recollection, maybe even for generations before colonisation. If the elders have not been inspired and aroused themselves, how can they pass that faith and inspiration on to the young in their own great time of need? Inspiring the young in resilience, and in the task of mending or reintegrating the Sacred Hoop is the only way to stem the epidemic of suicidal nihilistic despair and dispirited life described in the Guardian article by Selena Randhawa. If the indigenous have been the victims of ignorance and darkness, ignorance and darkness cannot be fought with ignorance and darkness. Ignorance and darkness must be fought with knowledge and light.

The Sacred Hoop not only is that teaching of the knowledge and light, but is a map of how to achieve wholeness or integration — as fourfold man within a fourfold cosmos or, if you perfer, “four-dimensional man in a four-dimensional cosmos”. This is about healing and unifying the Global Soul and not just a specific remedy for aboriginal consciousness and identity alone. We aren’t just “Treaty People” in our separate solitudes, but altogether “Sacred Hoop People”, too. That was the meaning of Lakota Medicine Man Black Elk’s famous vision as told to John Neihardt in Black Elk Speaks.

Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

Remember that: “We are all Sacred Hoop People”, and those who don’t know that are living in the darkness and ignorance that it is the task of the integral consciousness and Sacred Hoop to dispel.

This is one reason why the Sacred Hoop had to break and be remade again. The Hoop was constrained and limited by local custom and by geography, and not yet, for that reason, a perfect image of the Global Soul. It applied only, at most, to “Turtle Island” — the North American continent.

Turtle Island

It was a flat, two-dimensional representation that was not yet a sphere. It’s true shape is a sphere, and as such it now embraces the whole Earth and not just “Turtle Island”. And as such, too, it is the supreme symbolic representation of fourfold man living in a four-dimensional cosmos. The analogy we wish to draw here is as that between seed and flower. Once you know that we are all “Sacred Hoop People” very ignorant and dark things like racism, fascism, ultra-nationalism, or even sexism become impossible to justify or sustain, and, in fact, are seen as diseases of awareness.

Insight into the profounder meaning of the Sacred Hoop as a representation of the Great Soul (Mahatma) or Global Soul  will come only when the Great Work of mending the Hoop engages with other traditions and time-contexts where it appears also in some other form or another. It’s in comparing the Sacred Hoop with those other symbolic structures that the meaning of them all becomes completely transparent, and that’s true “globalism”. We have discussed many of those symbols in past posts as they reflect also the structure of the Sacred Hoop, and they all provide insight into each other, fulfilling the meaning of all those forms as being a single meaning — a single universal, a representation of “the Universal Humanity” in its true, but largely still veiled aspect, as the integral consciousness or what Gebser calls “the diaphainon“. It will not be amiss to revisit those here once more, and to realise why consciously reconstructing or re-integrating the Sacred Hoop is the same as achieving wholeness and health as well, especially for indigenous youth, for the Hoop is the shape of a man or a woman, and eventually reveals itself in and as the true shape of man or woman.

To put that another way: you are the Sacred Hoop, and your task is through time, to realise and embody that fully as the implicit luminous being you essentially are originally, which is called “the diaphainon” by Gebser. Until globalism, in fact, the fuller meaning of the Sacred Hoop couldn’t be really appreciated as also a symbolic form of the Universal Humanity — the one who “speaks from the centre of the voice”, which is the vital centre of the Sacred Hoop (which Maurice Nicoll calls “Integral Life” in his great book Living Time).

There are many other traditions of the “fourfold” which help illuminate also the meaning of the Sacred Hoop, and we start once again with William Blake’s mythology of the “four Zoas” and his “fourfold vision”, as he illustrated it

William Blake — the Fourfold Vision

The “four mighty ones in every man” that are Blake’s “Zoas” (and which also “reside in the Human Brain”) are the cardinal points — North, South, East, and West — of the Sacred Hoop. These, as noted in other posts, are called “the Guardians of the Four Directions”. The four are also called, by Rumi, the four “nafs” or “animal souls”. Time, as such, began when the original man fell into inner division (called “the Fall Into Time” or dukkha or the Kali Yuga) and the “Zoas” have been in conflict with each other ever since for dominance, and will remain so until their harmonisation or re-integration in the coming “New Age” as “Albion” who is the “Universal Humanity”.  In The Ever-Present Origin Jean Gebser calls that state of consciousness before this inner division occurred in man the “archaic consciousness”.

There is some recognisable affinity, too, between William Blake’s description of the “Zoas” and Jean Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” as four historically realised civilisational types — (besides the archaic, also the magical, the mythical, and the mental or “mental-rational”). The hegemonic or dominant Zoa of our time is, of course, “Urizen”, who represents the mental-rational or “perspectivising” consciousness structure.

Plato also has four “levels” of consciousness named: eikasia, pistis, dianoia, and nous or noesis. These are ways of knowing or “types of mind”, as it were. Noesis or nous would appear to be close to Gebser’s “integral consciousness”. Maurice Nicoll discusses these at some length in his book Living Time and the Integration of the Life. In reverse order, these “types of mind” also suggest the Greek “four Ages of Man” — Gold (noesis), Silver (dianoia), Bronze (pistis), and iron (eikasia).

There is also to be mentioned, in this regard, the four elements, “essences” or powers — Earth, Air, Fire, Water — which are found everywhere in the ancient world, powers which correspond to metabolic system, respiratory system, nervous system, and circulatory system of the body, and the ancients’ search for the “quintessence” (or fifth element) or regulating principle that ruled over their order or relationships (homeostasis or relative equilibrium). This was identified, especially by Heraclitus, with the mysterious “Logos“. Logos means, in one sense, “word” or even “soul”. This Logos as “word” or “soul” shares an affinity with the notion of the man or woman who “speaks from the centre of the voice”, which is the centre of the Sacred Hoop, for it is also said that “the Sacred Hoop is in language”.

So, we have a recurrence of this pattern: Rumi’s four nafs, Blake’s four Zoas, Gebser’s four structures of consciousness, Plato’s four types of mind, the four primordial elements, and the four Ages of Man.

Turning to a more contemporary model, we also have Carl Jung’s “four psychological types”, also represented in a cruciform or quadrilateral relation to one another, as well as their integration as “the Self”. Jung’s own mandala or representation of that integration of the Self is the Sacred Hoop.

Jung’s mandala of the Integral Self

Again, there is an affinity between Jung’s four psychological types and Blake’s four Zoas, too. And there is an affinity between these and Jean Gebser’s civilisational types as well — as consciousness structures (ie, identifiable and distinct ways of configuring or structuring the times and spaces of a life-world).

The Sacred Hoop is also represented in many places in Hermeticism and the Hermetic Philosophy. Here, for example, is Jacob Boehme’s own illustration,

Turning now to Christianity and Buddhism, we find the same fourfold relation represented, and neither is this coincidental or accidental. In Christianity it takes the form of the four Evangelists — Mark, Matthew, Luke, John — especially in their zoomorphic forms, and in their relation with the Logos on the Cross.

Agnus Dei: Christian Mandala of the Fourfold Self

Thanks to mikemack’s previous comment, we have an interpretation of this configuration from the earliest days of Christianity,

‘…since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. ‘ St. Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 120-202 AD).

The sentiment expressed by Irenaeus is equally the meaning of Buddha’s reception of the Guardians of the Four Directions, who gifted to the Buddha their own begging bowls upon his Enlightenment, but which he “united with his own for the sake of the dharma“.

The Buddha receiving the the Guardians of the Four Directions

In Chinese lore, the same pattern recurs, only the Guardians of the Four Directions are four Dragons and the role of the vital centre or integrating Logos is assumed by the “Jade Emperor”.

The Four Dragons and the Jade Emperor

I will again raise the social philosophy of the “speech-thinker” (or “time-thinker”) Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. His “cross of reality” model or “grammatical method” fully accords with the secrets of the Sacred Hoop.

Rosenstock-Huessy’s new grammatical paradigm

Here, the Guardians of the Four Directions, and the cardinal points East, North, West, and South of the Sacred Hoop, are assumed by the four persons of grammar, as representatives or agencies of the four times and spaces of the life-world. Rosenstock-Huessy has convincingly justified this arrangement in his writings, particularly in Speech and Reality and in The Origins of Speech. His short book The Multiformity of Man (available online) also articulates what he calls the four “ecodynamic laws” of society employing the same quadrilateral logic as represented in the Sacred Hoop.

Finally, we’ll not want to forget Carlos Castaneda and his “four enemies of the man of knowledge” or the four stages on the path of knowledge — Fear, Clarity, Power, and Old Age — as described to him by his mentor don Juan Matus. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see that Fear and Old Age correspond to the time axis in both Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality or as the East and West coordinates of the Sacred Hoop, and that Clarity and Power correspond to the two poles of the space axis, the inner and the outer, and to the North and South poles of the Sacred Hoop correspondingly. These are the stages that must be traversed in the course of a lifetime, usually marked by certain initiations, and for that both the “cross of reality” and the Sacred Hoop serve as a map. Although the four enemies (who are also the benefactors in another aspect) are those of the man of knowledge, the four enemies of the society and the cross of reality are, for Rosenstock-Huessy, Decadence, Anarchy, War, and Revolution. The correctives for these social evils are also four: Faith, Unanimity, Power, and Respect (most of which actually seem quite lacking today). These correctives are deemed to stabilise and protect a society’s “cross of reality”.

We could go on and on with this. Perhaps you yourselves know of an equivalent symbolisation or evident quadrilateral. In past posts, for example, I’ve looked at the evolution of the four main contemporary ideologies — liberalism, conservatism, socialism, environmentalism — as outgrowths of the mythical or theological consciousness as well, having been originally the equivalent of the “Guardians of the Four Directions” but now transmuted from the symbolical or mythical mode of consciousness into terms of the “mental-rational” structure as ideology.

I believe that with the Sacred Hoop and its teachings, the indigenous hold the key in their hands to unlocking some of the deeper mysteries and meanings of all these matters, only they don’t seem to know that they are holding the key. But what greater adventure could there be in these times than realising you hold the key to the heartbeat of the world?

You just have to use it.


15 responses to “The Death (And Resurrection) of The Sacred Hoop”

  1. mikemackd says :

    One of the most insightful books I have read on the similarly unhealed indigenous communities in Australia, also with an epidemic of youth suicide amongst many other indicators of poor mental and physical health, is by Richard Trudgen. His book is called “Why Warriors Lie Down and Die” (2000, Darwin, Aboriginal Resource and Development Services).

    I’ve met him. He’s the white-bearded fellow in photos at He writes about the Yolnu people, one of whom, a writer and performer of beautiful music who achieved international fame (including performing for Obama), died recently aged 46.

    On p. 65 Trudgen notes the dominant culture’s ‘naming, blaming and lecturing’ process ‘affects the health policies and programs’, turning them into further assaults on the people, compounding rather than alleviating the crisis’, and creates a ‘paralysed thinking environment’:

    Most of these have one common characteristic: they are ‘simple’, for supposedly ‘simple people. At times their simplicity even makes them very inaccurate. Yet these subjects are at times complex, and the people need accurate and comprehensive information to truly understand them – information that Yolnu have no problem learning if it is thought through and delivered in the right way.

    On p. 223, Trudgen observed that the same problems can be seen among the Sioux Indians of South Dakota.

    Sounds like simplex, left hemisphere thinking stuffing others up again, and wasting money while doing so.

    I have kept an eye out for fourfold divisions like the sacred hoop in cultures here, but so far, no good. There is an insignia on a car that parks outside my place of an Aboriginal service organisation that has six dots around a central one, but I haven’t got to the bottom of that yet, or even its provenance.

    It does point out a difference between the Star Key and the Sacred Hoop, though: the Star Key’s six directions include an up and down as well as a left, right and a front, back. I’m not sure what, if anything, should be made of that.

    • mikemackd says :

      I have just discovered that Rod Tweedy posted an article online four days ago at:

      It’s about psychopathy, and twice includes Blake’s rendition of the Beast, which has a central head and three other heads each side, with a similarly seven-headed creature emerging from the waters beneath him, but which holds a sword in one hand and a mace in the other.

      Perhaps that’s meant to be Lucifer and Satan.

      • mikemackd says :

        Of course, it’s Blake’s version of the Beast of the Book of Revelations!

        I must say that I find Blake’s art often ugly and disturbing; hideous, even, and Revelations similarly viscerally off-putting. I guess that could be seen as part of Gebser’s “double-movement” of disintegration and re-integration”: quite discomforting.

        Not as discomforting as seeing the dark side of what the megamachine wreaks, though, or as gut-wrenching as seeing the state of so many of the Aboriginals here. Some things we do not want to know about ourselves and others, we must to, as you put it, mend the sacred hoop.

        On the other hand, or hemisphere, Trudgen states:

        The ethos of Why Warriors can be summed up in one word: Dharanganamirr, which is a Yolngu word meaning “deep reciprocal recognition and understanding”.

        We believe that all cultures in the world have the right to exist and flourish, and that mutual humanity, understanding and respect should be fostered to pursue what the Yolngu call Magaya, peace and tranquil harmony.

        This sounds similar to the Southern African concept of Ubuntu (which was employed to arrive at the Paris agreement).

        • Scott Preston says :

          I haven’t looked too deeply into Blake’s characterisation of the “Beast”, although I can surmise that it is the Jungian “Shadow”, since the seven heads are the mirroring of the seven churches, seven stars, seven heavens, seven chakras, etc, or perhaps renderings equally of “the seven deadly sins”, although this might be unlikely. Lucky number seven also has its inverted aspect or shadow side.

      • Scott Preston says :

        That’s an interesting article by Tweedy. The “Red Dragon” is what a lot of so-called “Nietzscheans” idealise as the meaning of his “overman”. So do the Ayn Randists idealise this “Red Dragon”. Not sure why Tweedy didn’t recognise the name “Dolarhyde” as an homage to Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    I would like to suggest a definition of “Enlightenment” that makes sense — as the realisation, authentication or “verition” (as Gebser calls it) of the liminous being that we implicitly are. And we do, to a certain extent, intuit that in words like “radiant” or “brilliant” and so on applied to certain people. What is recognised as the Inner Light is the luminous being. This is what Gebser calls the “diaphainon”.

    The authentication of the luminous being that we are implicitly — or the verition of the diaphainon — that seems to me like a simple way to understand the meaning of full “Enlightenment”.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    From Nicoll’s Living Time

    “Our natural state is, internally, one of confusion, even insanity. We do not notice this distinctly. Now while this internal condition of man, at the ordinary level of consciousness, has been clearly realised from earliest times, what particularly characterises the early standpoint of practical ‘philosophy’ was the view that there was a perfectly definite further state of a seed or a chrysalis. Man could not merely become ‘better’ — a better social being or a person more adapted to life — but he could become something quite different. We find this central idea running through all esoteric teaching, whether in the New Testament or elsewhere. Man can perfect himself, become complete, become a whole being…” (p. 120)

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      LIVING TIME…… of my favorite books.

      • Scott Preston says :

        “I have already said that if the actuality of the fourth dimension is grasped, all history becomes alive. All IS, in this dimension, not WAS and WILL BE. Every moment IS. Every moment is living. The world extended in Time IS. The creation of the world is in Time. It is all PRESENT.” (p. 166) of Living Time.

        Yes, it’s a pretty rich book. As you can see from this quote, it’s pretty much concerned with the “ever-present origin” as described also by Gebser.

        For Nicoll (as for Gebser) the origin and destiny of the cosmos — all its history — is the soul. The soul itself is the cosmic reality and the alpha and omega in one. The cosmos is, in a sense, the soul’s own autobiography, and it’s in that sense that soul and God are one. The soul contains all times or aeons in itself. This was also the view of the Hermeticists and also of Seth as well.

        I’m discovering that there are, indeed, precedents for Gebser’s philosophy in older and ancient sources, which I’ll have to follow up.

        • Steve Lavendusky says :

          Time is the most important thing next to awareness. The flow of time through us gives us an opportunity to extract what we can. Time is the three-fold stream flowing through our three centers. We fish in time’s ‘ever-rolling’ stream; what we catch is ours, but what we don’t is gone. Time does not wait for us to catch everything in the stream, but if we catch enough we shall have enough to form the higher bodies—and thereby become enduring.

          A.R. Orage. Good friends with Nicoll and fellow Gurdjieffian.

  4. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    It seems we are living in a dead time where words that are supposed to be used in serving truth, justice, goodness and beauty are turned into killing weapons as the language of rejection and carelessness has caused all this epidemic of youth suicide and other maladies in other regions. Thinking trivailly and negligibly about the impact of the words is leading our world to destruction. It is the malady of the soul that manifests itself in so many examples. It is sad our involvement with the symptoms and our shying away from addressing the obvious apparent cause. It is an anti-truth movement shrouded by perceptual blindness. Life is the realm of oneness away from dispersion, Different expressions but one meaning a good reminder of that important oneness. Moving away from the perspective vision as all the calls are crying for, to a unified human vision is our only way to know the real and the oneness of the real that points to the oneness of our humanity and the oneness of our cosmos where our earth is favored by the human consciousness as the door to the one. Unfortunately this consciousness has been abused as not to be a way to him but away against him as it is stipulated in the divine record. Nothing takes place without his permission, so the story of Moses,Jesus and Mohammad tells us. Forgetting the divine bond is the entrance to self-forgetfulness and spiritual death. Self remembering is our tool to spiritual growth, the premise that has been emphasized by all prophets and mystics. We are living in a divine interactive field where all processes take place, basic among them the human process that defines the shape of that human in light of his positive or negative interactions. It is an expression of human consciousness either as Gebser put it, in an integrative mode or disintegrative mode. Ibn arabi talked about the point and how two point make a line and how two lines make plain and emphasized the self remembering as the main outlet to his field a self remembrance that is ignited by remembering the divine bond. It is the language we create determine the way of our navigation in this life, that is our internal language and not only the external language. The two realities Nicoll, the student of Gurdjieff spoke about. Yes it is broken bond as reflected by the broken crescent,the broken cross,the broken star, the broken hoop etc etc. It is time of real knowing.

  5. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    I forgot to say once the humans forget his internal spiritual strength they become victims to others that is why there is the call to know one self. It is hard without light.

  6. mikemackd says :

    Alas Scott, work pressures loom, so I must depart for the time being.

    Resurrection? Who knows? Not me.

    I’ll still be lurking though, from my tomb of travail.

    All the Best,


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