Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Ubiquity of the Eight-Armed Sphere

Brian George

A few weeks back, I responded to a question posed by Antero Alli, which read, “Are men really mutant women?” I wrote, “I'll stick with Plato's analysis: men and women are the mutant halves of what was once an eight-limbed sphere.” Antero replied, “An eight-limbed early model for Leary's 8-Circuit Brain?” (Antero has written two excellent books on this model of the eight-circuit brain—The Eight-Circuit Brian: Navigational Strategies for the Energetic Body and The Shamanic Path to Quantum Consciousness: The Eight Circuits of Creative Power.) I wrote that I was also preoccupied with the number eight, and posted an excerpt from a recently revised essay about the West African tricksters Eshu and Ananse that explores the central significance of this number. Here is one paragraph of the excerpt:

“The number eight (8) struck me as significant. In the Yoruba tradition, eight gives birth to all other numbers. Even one is born from eight. There are eight elements of primordial consciousness in the Hindu cosmos. There are 108 prayer beads on the mala of a sanyasin, or monk. The god of destruction, Shiva, is sometimes portrayed with eight arms, and his roadside shrines, where he takes the form of a small cement head with three shells for the eyes and mouth, look exactly like those for Eshu, the Yoruba trickster god who is the guardian of the crossroads. Shiva is said to have either eight or 108 dance forms. In the Hebrew tradition, boys are circumcised eight days after birth. Ananse is notoriously phallic. It seemed possible that there was some type of connection. Perhaps the trickster invented circumcision a way to show his phallus off. In the Symposium, Plato has Aristophanes argue that human beings were originally spherical creatures with eight limbs, whose halves were arranged back to back. They wheeled around like clowns doing cartwheels. They were enormously powerful, and Zeus feared that they would assault Olympus, so he decided to cripple them by chopping them in two. In Taoism, it is said that the four gives birth to the eight; the eight then gives birth to 10,000 things. There is a Gnostic text about the boundary of the created world called Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth. Ananse mediates between Nyame, the obscure god of the sky, and Asase Yaa, the mother of the Earth. At the boundary of the nonexistent, he weaves an open house. He drops on a self-created thread from the circumference.”

Antero responded, “Going by your post here it seems you may be a little more than ‘preoccupied’ with the number 8. Though I have written two books on the 8-Circuit model (and teach a course on it once a year), I rarely refer to it in my daily thinking processes. It's the experience that symbol systems refer to that has my attention.”

I wrote, “My concern is not so much with the number eight as with the nature of the primordial body. In the late 1980s, I had several experiences during meditation in which my various bodies fell away like the stages of a rocket. At the end, I experienced myself as a kind of crackling electrical sphere. These experiences did not last long, but, ever since, the memory of what it felt like to exist in this type of body has stayed with me as an almost constant presence. My normal four-limbed version and this spherical version somehow coexist. A bit later, in 1990, after a yogic initiation, a small luminous sphere appeared in my field of vision. It was sometimes very bright and at other times almost invisible. Unlike the experiences in the 1980s, which were spontaneous, my interaction with this sphere had more of the aspect of a dialogue. These experiences were subtle rather than violent, and mercurial rather than dualistic, with a sense of the vantage point being everywhere and nowhere. In my poetry and prose, I have attempted to explore these experiences from a number of different angles.”

Image: Victor Brauner, Mythotony, 1942

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