Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand

The axis of the world exists within each of us. In the West, it is seen in the trunk of the Tree of Life, the central staff of the Caduceus. In the East it is found in the sushumna nadi of the subtle energy system, where the spiralling ida and pingala echo the entwined serpents of the Caduceus.

In Hinduism, the god Shiva represents consciousness with his counterpart, the goddess Shakti, representing divine energy. The goal of Indian alchemy is to combine these forces in order to restore the original wholeness of the universe and live forever.

Tantra involves the raising of the Kundalini-Shakti energy – said to reside as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. When Kundalini-Shakti meets Shiva-consciousness, Shiva and Shakti unite in divine bliss.

The polarity between consciousness and divine energy lies at the heart of William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in which ‘Heaven’ is referred to as Reason, ‘Hell’ as Energy. In calling for the two to be married, Blake is calling for the union of Shiva and Shakti.

One difference between Eastern and Western traditions is that the Western tradition retains a strong connection with the Earth.

In the lotus position (shown above) the soles of the feet are directed away from the ground; a good position for stimulating a purely spiritual energy. In the God-Form posture of the Western tradition (shown here), the feet are firmly planted on the ground. The polarity between Consciousness and Energy is still present, but in the Western model, Divine Energy is continuous with the energies of the planet. In this manner, human beings truly exist as a Bridge Species, spanning the spiritual and physical realms.

The polarity of the symbolism evokes a number of dualistic pairs.

Instinct in this case is not merely an undeveloped blind reaction but instinct in a much broader sense, involving a deep connection to the world around us: an awareness of the cycles of nature, the fluctuations in energy and the rhythms of life, extending into areas that might be considered clairvoyant (or clairaudient or clairsentient). Instinct is the Energy of Blake’s worldview as opposed to Reason: a connection with the natural world of which we are all a part.

With the evolution of the reasoning mind, the deeper areas have suffered neglect, although they still exist within each of us: sleeping beauties waiting to reawaken.

The polarity explored in this section is that of the conscious and unconscious minds:


There is much debate over the exact definition of the term ‘unconscious,’ as well as the difference between the ‘unconscious’ and ‘subconscious’ minds. Words can have different connotations to different people, e.g. the prefix ‘sub-‘ can evoke strong reactions in some, as it can be seen to mean ‘less than’ (which in terms of consciousness, is far from the truth).

Here, the terms are taken as metaphorical, not connected to any hard and fast definition, merely used to describe that which lies below (or beyond) the level of normal awareness.

Any spiritual system worth its salt is about the connection between the rational mind and the deeper centres: the healthy alignment of conscious and unconscious minds.

The modern world is all surface consciousness, and has forgotten and repressed the subconsciousness, to its own great hurt; and the ancient world was mainly subconsciousness, consciousness having been but recently evolved.

When the two are linked up and brought into polarized function they yield superconsciousness, which is the goal of the initiate.
Dion Fortune, The Mystical Qabalah

The conscious mind is the tip of the iceberg, aware of seven (give or take) bits of information at once. The unconscious mind is aware of all things.

The conscious mind is linear – it likes rationality and logical order, whereas the unconscious mind is a fluid web of cross-connections, able to make intuitive associations between all manner of thoughts, feelings and ideas. This is why dreams that appear to make sense while the person is dreaming often defy description when reassessed in the waking state.

The conscious mind takes care of thinking, using language to process concepts; the unconscious mind does the perceiving and feeling. The conscious mind deals with intellectual knowledge, whereas the knowledge of the unconscious mind comes from direct perception. This is one reason those who dismiss spiritual belief as mere delusion run into problems: they are using one system of knowledge to make a case against another.

Accessing the unconscious mind is a matter of application. The conscious mind can be directed towards bringing what is unconscious into awareness. The effect is no less than mind-expanding, and tends to be accompanied by an increase in mental energy.

Enlightenment isn’t necessarily an all-or-nothing thing; it can occur in increments. A sudden flash of inspiration or the solution to a problem lighting up the mind – though we might not notice it, there will always be an accompanying release of energy as we dissolve an area of ignorance and step into knowledge.

The route to higher realms of expanded consciousness involves first passing through the unconscious mind. This is known as the Underworld Journey.

The idea is conveyed symbolically in the crucifixion of Christ. The Cross of Calgary is the Tree of Life, the axis mundi, the crossing point between worlds. The crucifixion of Jesus represents a separating or withdrawal of the conscious mind from the external world. There follows a descent into the Underworld as the conscious mind is directed into the unconscious realms, before an ascent to Heaven, with the newly enhanced superconsciousness represented by the ascended Christ.

The pattern is reflected in the trials of Perseus: a descent into the Gorgon’s lair (the Underworld) followed by the ascent of the winged horse Pegasus (superconsciousness).

The story is universal.

The Underworld is the first step on any journey of self-discovery.