A Meditation on Jakob Boehme’s Fourfold Vision
To your minds there is such a thing as news,Rumi, “Green Ears“
whereas to the inner knowing, it’s all
in the middle of its happening.
Let’s continue today with the theme of the earlier post on “Waring the Whole”, which we can begin to understand through contemplating Jakob Boehme’s famous illustration of what Blake calls “fourfold vision” also. What Rumi means by “it’s all in the middle of its happening” is the view from the centre of this structure, which Rumi calls “the inner knowing” and this is coincident with what Jean Gebser calls “the vital centre”. From this illustration we begin to gain a glimpse, too, of what Gebser means by “time-freedom” and a “pre-existing pattern” in the various transforms of consciousness structures.
The first thing to note about the illustration is that it is a mandala — a very common — even universal — symbol. It is also a symbol of the wheel of time and space. Time is represented in the ancient ouroboros of the recurrence of same which Boehme places on the circumference of the structure which contains the spaces — the four quadrants of the mandala — while the boundaries of the quadrants are designated by the four classical elements — air, earth, fire, water. These are also the principle components of what we call “climate” as atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere and their reflection in the human biological form as respiratory, metabolic, nervous, and circulatory systems.
Essentially, then, the body is also a mandala-like form, and another image of the Tetramorph in those terms, and also in terms of its energetic configuration as mechanical, thermal, chemical, and electrical energies.
So J. Krishnamurti is exactly right in saying “You Are The World” for their is an immediate and direct affinity between the Earth structure and the body structure. For this reason, too, Rudolph Steiner is quite correct — you can come to know Nature and the Earth directly through your own body structure and organisation.
That organisation and structure is a Tetramorph, and is rendered symbolically as the mandala. Wheels within wheels, as in Ezekial’s vision.
A second thing to note about Boehme’s mandala is, you cannot perceive the whole from the periphery or circumference, but only from the centre of the structure. This is often called “the still centre of the turning world”. It’s even imaginable that Lennon and McCartney had Boehme’s illustration in mind when they composed “The Fool on the Hill”.
The circumference, as we have said, represents time and the four quadrants also, then, Ages, what Eastern philosophy calls the Four Yugas or the Four Ages of Man in classical Greece. For Gebser, of course, those four Ages also correspond to four different consciousness structures and civilisational types he calls “archaic”, “magical”, “mythical”, and “mental-rational” and which correspond also to William Blake’s “four Zoas” of “Albion divided fourfold”
The circumference of Boehme’s mandala is the wheel of time, which is also what W.B. Yeats calls “the gyre”, as in his poem “The Second Coming”.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The falcon the falconer here correspond to what Iain McGilchrist, too, calls “the Emissary” and “the Master” respectively. But when the Emissary loses its roots and connection to the Master, the mandala of being begins to lose coherence and begins to disintegrate. The coherence of mandala structure is crucially (and that word means “cross”) dependent upon a proper relationship between the periphery and the centre of the structure. This is also reflected in Jean Gebser where the centre is called “the vital centre” (or “diaphainon”) and the circumference is described as “distantiation” of the self or mind from the vital centre, which is the meaning also of “time-freedom”.
“Eternity is in love with the productions of time”, as Blake put it. The eye that wares the whole at the centre of the structure does not itself fully participate in time, but preserves a relationship with time through the radii. These are also the faculties constituting the fourfold Tetramorph — thinking, feeling, sensing, willing — all of which are “the emissaries” if you will — all emissaries of the “fourfold Atman” (Aurobindo) or “Albion divided fourfold” (Blake).
Now, Blake places reason on the circumference or the periphery of the mandala structure. And, in fact, his City of the Imagination (Golgonooza) and “New Jerusalem” all depicted as mandalas also, the four gates to each being also the four Zoas who “reside in the Human Brain”. So you can come to understand a very great deal of Blake’s rather enigmatic vision through contemplating the meaning of Boehme’s illustration of the Tetramorph.
Any kind of hyperpartisanship or monomania breaks the bonds that keep this structure coherent. This has the same import as Rosenstock-Huessy’s philosophy of “the cross of reality” as explained in his book Speech and Reality. His remark that “God is the power that makes men speak” is also illustrated by Boehme’s illustration, for it is the centre and its emanations that preserves the integrity of the whole.
In contemporary mental-rational terms, the four directions are represented respectively by conservatism (trajective), liberalism (prejective), socialism (subjective) and environmentalism (objective) or, rendered differently, the family, the individual, the community, or the life-world at large, respectively. So there is already an implicit mandala in the relationships between these four orientations or moods. These bonds (which can also break, “things fall apart”) are also rendered in the indigenous Sacred Hoop symbol, which is both map and pledge, where each of the cardinal directions represent individual, family, community, and the life-world in a stable and harmonious concord.
The centre of this structure, rendered as Boehme’s eye of awareness, is what some refer to as “Eternal Now” and why they encourage “inner Silence” as a way to actualise this sense of what Gebser calls “time-freedom” for it wares the whole and not just the segment, sector, or part.
If we want to make Blake’s “New Jerusalem” effectively real and actual, this is the structure it must take, and this is what Blake calls “fourfold vision” (whose centre is “Albion”) and what Jean Gebser calls equivalently “integral consciousness” (whose centre is the diaphainon). And we are beginning to see moves in this direction, which is what Gebser calls “presentiation”.
Boehme’s illustration makes visible not only what we are in our own essential psychophysical-spiritual configuration — a Tetramorph — but also the structure of all existence itself, and especially the relationship between eternity and time. To the central eye that wares the whole, all phases of the ouroboric cycle — all Ages — become co-present.
“It’s all in the middle of its happening”, as the great Rumi put it.