Mar 10, 2012

Eyes of the Soul


We've all heard that the eye is the window to the soul. But what ideas does it really refer to? As everything else in this manifested world, the eyes are powerful symbols that point to higher Truths.

Since the dawn of mankind, the act of seeing has been associated with spiritual understanding. To the ancients, the eye is one the most important symbols used to convey spiritual truth.

The eye is a multifaceted symbol that would takes volumes to describe. For this short article, I will deal with just one aspect of the image. The symbol I would like to talk about today is called a mandorla, which means "almond." Here is the image:


Recently, I have written much concerning Henry Corbin's mundus imaginalis, which he believes is the realm of Imagination (as opposed to the imaginary). It is an intermediate world, a metaxy, situated between spirit and matter. A mandorla is the intersection of two overlapping circles. This eye-shaped image speaks of the intermingling of two worlds. This is a beautiful image of the intermediary nature of Soul and the mundus imaginalis. No wonder the eyes are the windows to Soul!

Via our eyes, we have the ability to gather sense data about our material world. This is a blessing, for our world of Nature is truly a work of art. Similarly, we also have more subtle eyes with which we may view other worlds, such as the mundus imaginalis. Corbin believed that active imagination was the method that would open this atrophied inner organ, allowing us to view these very real worlds, which otherwise are invisible to us. A good example of this is the worlds we traverse every night in our dreams. An opened eye is awakened consciousness.

A mandorla, macrocosmically, could be seen as a portal between two worlds; microcosmically, it is the entry-point to our material world, our mother's womb. It has been much used in Christian symbolism over the centuries in iconography, especially dealing with the Holy Virgin.
The union of the two worlds, or the zone of intersection and interpenetration (the world of appearances), is represented by the mandorla, an almond-shaped figure formed by two intersecting circles. In order that, for the purposes of iconography, the mandorla might be drawn vertically, the two circles have come to be regarded as the left matter and the right spirit.
Think of the left-brain/right-brain image: left deals better with the material, right is better with spiritual things. I won't say this is a strict dichotomy because, via the corpus collosum (another wonderful image of the intermingling of worlds), these two areas of the brain work in unison.

I am not saying here that the brain is the location of Soul, as Descartes tried to do, saying it was situated in the pineal gland. I see all material things as images of the True. Soul is not a thing, not an entity at all.

The intersection of the two circles, or
The zone of existence symbolized by the mandorla, like the twin-peaked Mountain of Mars, embraces the opposing poles of all dualism . Hence it is a symbol also of the perpetual sacrifice that regenerates creative force through the dual streams of ascent and descent, appearance and disappearance, life and death, evolution and involution. Morphologically, it is cognate with the spindle of the Magna Mater and with the magical spinners of thread (Dictionary of Symbols, by J.E. Cirlot).
Matter is the realm of polarity. Our Mother, the Earth, through these polarities, spins Her thread into what we experience physically. The mandorla, the Eye, the "twin-peaked Mountain of Mars," is the "zone of existence," where polarity is dissolved; the polarities of the material world are commingled in loving embrace.This is Soul. This is who we are.

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