The Mystery of the Fourfold Order

The rooster of lust, the peacock of wanting
to be famous, the crow of ownership, and the duck
of urgency, kill them and revive them
in another form, changed and harmless.

Rumi, “Muhammad and the Huge Eater”

Rumi is here speaking of the four “nafs” or “animal souls”. Not only are these nafs or animal souls comparable to the “four F’s” generally agreed among neurologists as the primal drives or imperatives — fight or flight, feeding and… procreation — they have their counterpart in William Blake’s “four Zoas” or four “beasts”, who Blake refers to as the “four mighty ones” who “reside in the Human Brain”, and who are patterned also after the four beasts who protectively surround the Throne of God in the Book of Revelation. That same pattern is described as the “fourfold Atman” in the Upanishads, whose essence is Brahman. Atman is very likely related to the name Adam, and is in Greek the primal Anthropos, who is the human form as the Androgyne. This is what Blake names “Albion”.

But for the moment, let’s compare Rumi’s four nafs with Blake’s four Zoas of “Albion divided fourfold”, which Blake also saw symbolised as Christ on the Cross — the fateful Tree.

Rumi’s nafs are associated with the Shadow. Rumi described the Shadow long before Blake or Carl Jung, in a poem entitled “Enough Words?”

How does a part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?

Don’t try to put out a fire
by throwing on more fire!
Don’t wash a wound with blood!

No matter how fast you run,
your shadow more than keeps up.
Sometimes, it’s in front!

Only full, overhead sun
diminishes your shadow.

But that shadow has been serving you!
What hurts you, blesses you.
Darkness is your candle.
Your boundaries are your quest.

I can’t explain this, but it would break
the glass cover over your heart,
and there’s no fixing that.

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

When from that tree, feathers and wings sprout
on you, be quieter than a dove.
Don’t open your mouth for even a cooooooo…..

“Darkness is your candle” certainly recalls the title of Carolyn Baker’s book on the collective Shadow, Dark Gold: The Human Shadow and the Global Crisis. There is something in Rumi’s nafs that is redeeming and worthy of redemption. “Kill them and revive them in another form”, which was pretty much the meaning and aim of alchemy — the transmutation.

The animal spirits — the nafs — aren’t to be repressed or extinguished but transformed. This is a consistent theme in Blake’s writings on the Zoas as well. They have their fallen forms and emanations which are but the shadows of their forgotten divine or Eternal Forms. “Eternity in the hour” or “Heaven in a Wild Flower” or “the World in a grain of Sand” are as just as much true of the Zoas as well. The Zoas are paradoxical entities, for they have a temporal form and a divine or eternal form, and Blake sometimes even gives different names to each aspect or their emanations.

Blake also calls the Zoas “our Energies” — our vitality — and they are associated with the classical elements and the structure of the body, as addressed in the previous post. And the Zoas are probably very much involved and implicated in cultural historian Jean Gebser’s four “civilisational types” as being “structures of consciousness” that unfold according to what he calls a “pre-existing pattern” — those structures being, once again, the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational. Gebser’s history of consciousness structures and his taxonomy of civilisational types suggested to him an underlying “pre-existing pattern” that is also most probably suggested by the Upanishads as “the fourfold Atman“, which also makes an appearance in Jung’s psychology as the integral “Self”. In Christian mysticism, Jesus, taken as the incarnation of the “Word” or “Logos“, would be considered an avatar of the Atman or Anthropos, and as such he is often depicted in Christian iconography.

Gebser, in any event, certainly held Christ as an incarnation of that same “pre-existing pattern”, as did Blake as being a representative of that which human beings were destined to become. Certainly, his disciples held him to be “all things to all men” and also as the Alpha and Omega, the first and last. This also characterises Blake’s “Albion” who is, in Blake’s mythology, also the is also that “pre-existing pattern” called “fourfold vision” become conscious of itself as such and therefore integral again.

Legend also has it that four rivers nourished the Garden of Eden. These rivers are “our Energies”. They are the Zoas. They are also the four arms of Shiva (count ’em!)

Dance of the Nataraj

Shiva’s Dance is the dance of the apocalypse, which is the dance of revelation. One should pay careful attention to its symbolism because in many respects the Book of Revelation is a description of Shiva’s Dance. And perhaps it should be pointed out, too, that the dance of Blake’s “Albion” (that he called “Albion Rose” or “Glad Day”) is also Shiva’s Dance.

Glad Day — or “Albion Rose”

The caption that Blake penned to accompany his illustration is quite revealing of this connection between Shiva and Albion: “Albion rose from where he laboured at the Mill with Slaves / Giving himself for the Nations he danc’d the dance of Eternal Death” While that statement might seem quite cyrptic, it’s not so enigmatic when one relates it to the meaning of Shiva’s Dance, or to Rumi’s strange poem entitled “Green Ears“.

Perhaps all this might shed some light on what Blake (or Jean Gebser for that matter) means by his “four Zoas”, his “fourfold vision” and his anticipation of a New Age as the resurrection of “Albion”, or the emancipation of Albion from “the dark Satanic Mill”. Some of it is implicated also in the meaning of what Rosenstock-Huessy calls our “metanoia” or “new mind”, for in many respects Rosenstock-Huessy discovered and made explicit that “pre-existing pattern” that suggested itself to the mind of Jean Gebser in his studies of the evolution of consciousness, and it is also fourfold, and has some quite uncanny resemblances not only to Gebser, but to interpreting the Prophetic Books of William Blake and the meaning of “fourfold vision”.

2 responses to “The Mystery of the Fourfold Order”

  1. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Is there any room in “the four-fold” for “individuation” in such a philosophy?

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