The Literal and the Poetic

© 2017 R. Eugene Laughlin
All Rights Reserved


Therefore, development in the context of the Magician’s Zodiac is necessarily an empirical endeavor, essentially a function of direct experience of natural phenomena, and contemplation thereof, pertaining to the dynamics symbolized in the Glyph. With respect to that approach, a distinction between the literal and metaphorical meanings of the events symbolized in the Glyph is useful, if not essential to developing a generalized system that can be applied anywhere and anytime.

To illustrate the idea and advance a preference toward a metaphorical or poetic posture, consider the Quadrants of the Glyph as representing the Seasons. Note that weather patterns of the literal seasons vary considerably from place to pace and year to year. While the practice of observing/contemplating local weather patterns is consistent with the ideas expressed above, fixing local weather patterns to the Seasons depicted on the Central Glyph and building up personal correspondences from there may be unnecessarily limiting. That’s because if after some years of developmental work one relocates to a region far away where the weather patterns are markedly different, the previously built associations may no longer be consistent with day to day experience.

In service of a more generalized and flexible system that is not bound to regional dynamics, it is necessary to divorce the idea of Seasons, and other aspects of the Glyph, from any specific local phenomena. A more useful approach, even if less intuitive, is to find places on the Glyph for local phenomena that fit more generalized patterns derived from the traditional development of the Wester Zodiac. The one such traditional reference, which was in fact a guiding influence in the development of the Central Glyph, is Aristotle’s conception of the Four Canonical Elements, which defines the Elements by the unique intercross of the two basic sensory qualities of relative heat and moisture:


The traditional associations of Air-Spring, Fire-Summer, Water-Autumn, Winter-Earth were almost certainly derived from local weather patterns known to the originators of those correspondences, but adopting them today requires seeing past the weather to the metaphorical Seasons that attached over centuries of use.

When and where the original Zodiac developed, Spring would have been marked by a warming trend and rain, Summer would have been hot and dry, etc. For us today, it’s the poetic connotations that matter, not the literal weather at any given locale. To get a sense of it, consider the many weather-related linguistic idioms:  joys of spring, dead of winter, autumn years, summer fling. The underpinnings of those idioms can be further explored by delving into the idioms of the basic qualities of the Elements, the relative heat and moisture: hot temper, warm disposition; cold hearted, cool customer; dry sense of humor, dry bones; wet blanket, get your feet wet. While these idioms aren’t necessarily universal and don’t necessarily convey all esoteric meanings of the Elements or Seasons, they do indicate a path toward a metaphorical rather than a literal posture with respect to the symbols of the system.

A vital point here is that the sensory qualities underpinning the Elements in this scheme can be equated to physical sensations that are associated with intuitive responding to unfolding events, and deeper insight into the meanings of things. Idioms of heat and cold are commonly connoted to emotion-related phenomena: a hot-headed person is quick to anger, for example; a cold-hearted person is insensitive to the feelings of others. Aristotle’s system of sensory qualities provides a basis for internal monitoring that, with good training and experience, becomes the basis for automatically interpreting events and responding according to the dynamics embedded in the Zodiac.

That’s not to say that the physical reflections of the canonical Elements don’t have important things to teach. Indeed, the purest example of Water is water itself. But don’t underestimate the poetry and metaphors about getting and being wet, drying off or drying out, taking the plunge/diving in, swimming with sharks, and so on. Understanding Elemental Air, at least in part, means understanding what it means to be warm and wet. Getting to the next level of what canonical Spring means, in the context of the Magician’s Zodiac, calls us to understanding what it means to be wet and warming, but drying out while getting ever warmer.  


Last articles: An Empirical Approach to Mystical and Magical Development

Next Article: Developmental Goals for the Magician's Zodiac


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