Puranic Cosmology Updated 16


‘The more one goes on this path, the more one feels the limitations of not only speech but of thought. The mind is too heavy, too coarse. It will not respond, or responds but imperfectly, to the subtle vibrations that as it were come to it from above. The highest truth must needs be presented in symbols. Fichte, the German philosopher, said that if he had to live his life over again the first thing he would do would be to invent a new set of symbols, but alas, it is not so easy. Symbols are born, not made. They descend from above and cannot be artificially manufactured. In this matter you, poets, have an advantage over philosophers like myself who try to use what is so ludicrously miscalled “exact thought”. From below one can compile only allegories: real symbols are given from above. But when given, one can learn far more from them than from words…In fact, mental concepts – miscalled knowledge – derived from the latter did much to obscure the real knowledge derived from the former and it was only as I learnt to pass beyond words and “thoughts” that the true knowledge originally given by the “symbol” was to shine forth once more and to some extent irradiate even the dead conceptual knowledge.’ (Letter from Krishnaprem to Dilip Kumar Roy in the 1930s, quoted in Sri Aurobindo Came to Me, page 337, Harikrishna Mandir Trust, 2004, 5th edition)

It is abundantly clear that in order to update Puranic Cosmology we first have to understand it and the times in which it became formulated. This task becomes difficult when there is no secure foundation for the exercise. Our civilisation today, wondrous as it may be in many ways, is lacking in the intuitive element that imbued cultures of old. Something of this remains in the subcontinent – almost we could call it a genetic signature; but our world today does not encourage the development of such faculties. Consequently, when we read the ancient texts in Sanskrit it is impossible to mentally hit upon the right translation. I made this point in Update 11. What we do know, and herein lies the complexity, is that each word has several levels of meaning. We may say the same for any language in a sense, but Sanskrit presents problems that English, for example, does not.
The difficulty lies in the fact that the text must bear a certain consistency and coherency. If it is translated by an Initiate of the same path, then we can approach the soul of the Veda more readily than the average Sanskritist who may pick up a correct word here and there but lack that indispensible coherency. The same may be said for the Egyptian “writing”, or the Mayan.
We can understand something of the quality I seek to convey by the focus of this series, the Capricorn thread. But even knowing its form and position among the twelve zodiacal signs, similar to Sanskrit there are many levels of meaning and application of the hieroglyph. For example, when I look at the symbol I perceive an entire body of higher knowledge through it, knowledge which cannot come through academic learning. Foremost, I see Capricorn/Makar in the context of the entire wheel as a progression, a journey indeed – with a starting point and a goal. This unity is essential but it has not played a part at all in the astrology practiced in India, or even in the West to any meaningful degree, if it exists at all. There is no initiatic journey without seeing Capricorn within this unity – one month/’world’ moving into the next, as the Rig Vedic hymn so clearly states – culminating in the victory of the 10th Mountain sign.
The same situation arises when we observe the hieroglyphs covering the walls of certain pyramids and temples of ancient Egypt. Though we are in possession of a Rosetta Tablet (of a much later date than the period in which the pyramids and the Sphinx were built), we believe that based on this key to translation we can decipher whatever we wish to know of the ancients. But in fact we are not able to understand the ancients because symbols, symbolic script means nothing to us. In this light, supposing each glyph contains many layers of meaning; the question is how are we to know to which level the Initiate was referring when the text was carved? Above all, where is that prerequisite coherency, unity, interconnectedness that must be found in the ancient Egyptian texts similar to the Vedic?
The uniqueness of our era is that the art of reading symbols has returned and perhaps in a more impressive manner than in the earlier times we stand in awe of. We may not now perceive in symbols as it were, and we require to have everything spelt out until we have wrung the life out of the image, because Mind is our cherished instrument of comprehension and its coarseness demands this approach; but our times have their own importance and beauty because in this Age of the Supermind the central focus is, precisely, a new seeing, the birth of a new faculty of perception that brings its own tools for deciphering because it stands above Mind and can do what Mind is incapable of: to convey sense and purpose. To this end, the new Language is a synthesis accompanied by a series of gnostic symbols which, because of the new integral perception it encourages, defies distortion. This is its blessing and its bane in a world where we know only the relativism Mind has imposed in an increasing measure across the centuries. The absoluteness of gnostic seeing threatens that relativism, so artfully expressed in the Puranic tale of the Magic Deluder (Update 5). And based on mental cogitation with its inevitable relativism, we can never know that sacred Purpose and so avoid the catastrophe that many feel is immanent given the purposelessness of our civilisation.
The emergence of Sanskrit (‘the language of the Gods’) was an immensely important indicator of the times to come and the task set before the Avatar in this new age. We take far too lightly the fact that when earlier the hymns/mantras were handed down orally, it was suddenly required that they be communicated through a written language. If we study the matter deeply it becomes clear that this development reveals that Sanskrit, because of its special properties, is a bridge between the era when perception in symbols alone was prevalent, and the arrival of an era when a division would occur and the supremacy of Mind would begin. Entering into the 9th Manifestation (234 BCE) and approaching the Aquarian Age of universalism (1926), language was to cease being reserved for an élite.
The immense value of Sanskrit lies in this fact: it could still be reserved for an élite – and by this I do not mean class or caste distinction but initiatic capacity – and at the very same time serve more mundane purposes; indeed, it is noteworthy that Sanskrit is considered the language best suited for computer science. Is this simply a coincidence, or is this part of the more universalised consciousness that was being prepared and which could be foreseen through yogic trikaladrishti (vision of the three times) when those ‘worlds’ were experienced? After all, why did the Rig Veda suddenly need to be transcribed in written form, and in such a way that its heart and soul could be preserved while serving other purposes as well, those that would arise after the Divide that so characterises our culture? Oral transmission still exists today as a firm part of the culture of the subcontinent; and yet, something transpired to make it vitally important to set down in writing with an appropriate vehicle what had hitherto been part of the Guru/Shishya tradition alone.
The times were destined to change, therefore a ‘bridge’ between the old and the new was the order of the day. The original intent remains: initiation is required to grasp the full depths of the mantras, which no scholastic learning can provide. But Sanskrit is like a vast repository of what was accrued from the past and what would be the demands of the future, for those whose task it would be to re-establish the Dharma, as well as to engage in an updating exercise such as we are undertaking in these pages.
It can be noted therefore that a blending of symbols and language is the key to the new perception, the new Seeing. We do not need to fall back any longer on the tiresome refrain that we hear in spiritual circles: It cannot be expressed in words. In the Age of Supermind the new Language does precisely that: it expresses what formerly was considered the Inexpressible with the setting in of the great Divide. But the point I am making is that seeking to decipher hieroglyphs without this reestablishment amidst the circumstances prevailing today is a futile task and actually serves no purpose. Just to decipher a text in no way assures that we will attain or absorb the consciousness of those who had created the symbols and symbolic writing of old. Rather, seeing the appropriateness of what existed then and the development in between, with its own ‘purpose’ and imperatives, opens up a vastly different appreciation of the trials and tribulations we face as a global society today.
Since the subcontinent is the centre from where the new times must evolve, Sanskrit arose in this hallowed land. Like the Puranic Temple or the Myths, it too is a repository of the ancient Knowledge. But it is more than that. It establishes the value of the Word unlike any other vehicle that we have today for conveying the quality of consciousness of the Ancients; and it is for this reason that in India from time immemorial grammar played such a significant role and formed a part of the Veda and the sacred 64 Arts. The structure of a language such as Sanskrit, complex as it may seem, does reveal that it is a bridge between then and now, a repository of sacred truths which are lost in the commonplace approach.

                                  A.                                                                           B.

The symbol of Libra (A) and the Egyptian hieroglyph (B)
with the middle portion removed.

Here is an interesting example of the multi-layered meaning in Egyptian hieroglyphs. It can provide a clue to the approach I am describing. Above is the glyph of the 7th zodiacal sign, Libra (A), the third Cardinal Pole. Next to it is the Egyptian hieroglyph read as ‘horizon’ or the Sun on the horizon. In astrology Libra is of course the sign of Cosmic Sunset, and in mythic tradition of the ancient world, the west was the location of the Underworld.
It is especially important to note that B is found inscribed on the Sphinx. With the clues provided in Vishnu Trivikrama, coupled with the new gnostic symbol which I have called the Map of the 12 Manifestations (see Secrets of the Earth, Aeon Books), given its symbolism (Lion/Man-Woman) the colossus appears to have been built in the 7th Manifestation – precisely the Manifestation of Libra. Its actual construction we may reasonably assume (and weathering erosion confirms) to have been in the Age of Leo within that 7th Manifestation or between 15,120 to 8,640 years ago; that would have been its middle portion around 10500 BCE.
The rationale of Cosmic Sunset is not difficult to understand when the unified zodiac reveals that Libra stands in opposition to the first Cardinal Pole of the Zodiac, Aries or Cosmic Dawn – the beginning of the Journey both for individual birth and for the passage of the Ages. Therefore, given this positioning, or the axis formed by Aries/Libra, exit from this plane would logically be associated with Libra, the opposite position of the setting Sun.
We have this same understanding conveyed in the very profound Rig Veda hymn X.135. In some quarters it is known as a funeral hymn and the verses describe the Chariot of Death. I have approached the hymn differently, however. It is more than evident that this ‘chariot’ is none other than the ecliptic wheel (‘… the wheelless, one-poled car facing in all directions…’) which is to carry the youth in question on to the ‘western egress’ from the eastern ingress. That is, birth provides the new ‘vehicle’ and entry point on the east, exit in the west. And this is my point: we can translate it with an ordinary funeral in mind, or we can see Libra in a much larger context as indeed the exit point opposite the eastern beginning. But it can be an exit means of escape while in life, or something much deeper; or rather, more all-inclusive.
The more mundane reading of the Libra glyph is to see in the symbol a pair of Scales, which does form a part of the sign’s significance for it is indeed one of the equinox balancing poles where night and day are equal. While this explanation cannot be denied it is one of those layers, perhaps the most external. In this initiatic Journey of far more importance is what the myth captures – the underworld; and still of more importance is the question of EXIT, the point where one chooses to plunge into the Void rather than continue the journey into and through the upper half of the wheel and on to the experience of the Vedic Fullness. This is presented as a choice between continuing the Journey and moving into the upper hemisphere of the wheel of twelve to Uttarayana, the fourth and last Cardinal Pole of Capricorn, or ‘opting out’ so as not to face the trial that lies ahead.
This brings us to the most difficult passage in the Vedic Journey: the Initiate’s confrontation with Death. It transpires in the 8th sign/month/stage following Libra, the sign known as Scorpio or the Eagle. The choice between the two is ours to make, as individuals and as a civilisation. We either accept that Heaven is a property of our material world and, more particularly, of this Earth – or we ‘opt out’. It is an act of choosing that the entire world is facing.

Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet
Director, Aeon Centre of Cosmology

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