The maze of deception into which we move was patterned after the original lie uttered to man by the ‘great architect of the universe’: ‘But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ (Genesis 2:17).

The events of Eden illustrate the shadowy dominion of the Archons who design the rules and the demands that dictate our thinking process and behaviors. Adam represents humankind, and the god who walked in the garden stands for the structure that governs the conditional world.

The half-truth: If Adam eats the forbidden fruit, he shall surely die.

What is not said: only the physical body decays and perish; the soul and spirit prisoner of the clay can never die for they are eternal.

The partial truth: obedience to God’s commandment will afford Adam a blessed immortality in the Garden of Eden.

The entire truth: disobedience to God is the first step toward liberation of the soul and spirit from their prison, and to enjoy the knowledge and everlasting freedom of the gods.

The lie: God has only Adam happiness and well-being at heart.

The truth: God only has his selfish interests at heart. The demiurge plans to keep Adam satisfied, ignorant, and captive in a beautiful garden to thrive on his emotional life.

Whether we are sold a pill to cure our ills, an elected representative to care for our ills, a system to prevent our ills, or a moral philosophy to make our ills acceptable, we can observe the motif outlined above.

— From The Oracles of the Doubter: re-discovering the gospel of Thomas

engraving by J. Pass after C. P. Marillier, 1796 - wellcomecollection

Adam in Eden, engraving by J. Pass after C. P. Marillier, 1796

 

The new sorcery

Though the demonism of the Middle Ages seems to have disappeared, there is abundant evidence that in many forms of modern thought—especially the so-called “prosperity” psychology, “willpower-building” metaphysics, and systems of “high-pressure” salesmanship—black magic has merely passed through a metamorphosis, and although its name be changed its nature remains the same.

— From the “Secret Teachings of all Ages” by Manly Palmer Hall

Considering those words were written in 1928, they show a remarkable amount of foresight on the part of Manly P. Hall. The Evangelists who believe in the “Prosperity Gospel,” or the followers of the “law of attraction” who read R. Byrne’s “Secret” have simply retooled the old world’s system of sorcery under a guise that makes it acceptable to their moral biases.

Illustration from 'A Ramble round the Globe, DEWAR, Thomas Robert, 1894, British Library

Illustration from A Ramble round the Globe, by Thomas Robert Dewar, 1894, British Library

 

It is the nature of man to build the most complicated cage of rules and regulations in which to trap himself, and then, with equal ingenuity and zest, to bend his brain to the problem of wriggling triumphantly out again.

— From “Fast and Feast” by Henisch, Bridget Ann, 1976

The gyri of the thinker's brain as a maze of choices in biomedical ethics. Scraperboard drawing by Bill Sanderson, 1997 - wellcome

The gyri of the thinker’s brain as a maze of choices in biomedical ethics, scraperboard drawing by Bill Sanderson, 1997 (source: wellcomecollection.org)

The Thread

Hanging by a single thread of a spider’s web, invisible to the eye, a pine needle hangs and sways as if floating of its own accord in the air. Haphazardly under a light breeze, the thread catches a ray of sunshine that makes it turn golden. Thus is the mystery of our life unveiled: believing we run to and fro of our own accord, we are unaware of the unseen strand by which we hang. How many of those threads have been woven by a primal arachnidan self into the web of our fate with mathematical certainty? Our story does not unravel from past to future, it is entwined and hold together in the fiber of a finished tapestry.

— From Whisperings of the Protogenos: a mystical journey

giant spider red cross poster, 1920

Italian Red Cross poster, 1920 (source: wellcomecollection.org)

Windows to the soul

In literature, the eyes are often said to be windows to the soul, or its mirror. In Matthew 6:22, we read: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

In some curious instances, metaphysical concepts linked to the eyes and vision are conveyed through the representational arts.

Byzantine style icon

Byzantine style icon (source: pixabay.com)

A characteristic of the Byzantine style icons is the mysterious large eyes of their subjects. The saints, angels, and gods do not rely on natural eyesight but see through the illusions of the material plane with etherealized eyes. Icons are more than just devotional items, they are instruments of intimate communion between the devotees and the higher beings they worship. Just as the Eucharist allows the participant to literally take into himself the mystical body of Christ, the icon becomes a divine entranceway. The captivating gaze helps the worshipper enter a trance-like state and pulls his soul into the mind of the divinity.

Supernal sight is not an idea unique to Christianity though. The spiritual eye is a traditional religious element found in many contexts and times. One example that fascinates me is the exquisite sculpture of Harpocrates of the Musei Capitolini in Rome.

Statua di Arpocrate

Marble statue of Horus-Harpocrates, dated from the Hadrianic period (source: capitolini.net)

Harpocrates was the god of silence in ancient Greece. The tip of his index raised to the lips signifies restraint in speech. But if the youthful god shuns words, he must have other ways of communicating with his followers. Again, the original aspect of this marble statue is the way the eyes are wide-cut. Here, the son of Isis and Osiris (Horus—for the Egyptians— whose eye symbol has now become infamous) encourages the mystic’s inward perception to probe the silent depths of his own being where the wordless god made his dwelling.

Centuries later, the notion of inner vision reappears unexpectedly in the cards of the Tarot de Marseille. The Tarot decks originated in Northern Italy and incorporate the hermetic and allegorical imagery of the Renaissance. But the creators of the Marseille Tarot seem to have gone farther in embodying a precise esoteric code in their illustrations.

tarot de marseille valet d'épée

Tarot de Marseille valet d’épée

The peculiar, wide, unrealistic eyes of the archetypal tarot figurants have no precedent in the iconography of the time or in the earlier, more realistically rendered tarot decks. A facial affinity can even be noticed between some of the cards’ young male figures and the 2nd century carved representation of Harpocrates. The Tarot card would soon be used for divinatory purposes, which is yet another form of vision beyond the physical, aimed at uncovering hidden aspects of the querent’s life.

In the 21st century, the widened eye finds its symbolic expression through the popular medium of Japanese manga and anime. The typical manga cartoonish eyes are thought to have their origin in American cartoons characters, such as Betty Boop, whose enlarged eyes were imitated by the early manga artists. However, the classic manga character has scarcely anything in common with his farcical counterpart on the other side of the Pacific.

heart-of-thomas-moto hagio

A page from the Heart of Thomas by Moto Hagio (source: mangareader.net)

The manga protagonists are often defined by a richness of complex emotions and feeling, afflicted by existential concerns and inner conflicts, and spend considerable time in abstract thinking. In anime, characters with exaggerated juvenile features are juxtaposed with lifelike drawn individuals—generally secondary protagonists and/or villains—whose inner life is given little consideration if any. In my opinion the large eyes of the Japanese manga are not just a stylistic originality but an artistic convention to draw attention toward the inner motives of the characters and indicate the precedence of mind, spirit and soul over the realm of physicality.