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The World as an Integrating Dance

Updated: May 17




The World … The Entire World. This entirety speaks to the grand enhancement of our consciousness and its embrace of all things. Throughout much of the Hermetic tradition, ‘The World’ also means the World Soul. And here in this tarot card we have the Dancing Maiden whose consciousness is merging with the circuitry of the earth and kosmos reflecting Isadora Duncan's statement that "one truly lives only when one dances."

 

Through this dance, a cosmic consciousness is entered … a harmonious intercourse between the subconscious, conscious, and super conscious realms of the psyche. Our Dancer here is fully poised because she is replete and synchronized within herself and is in harmony with the entirety of the world.  

 

She also holds a wand in each hand suggesting the principle of polarities. We see this principle expressed in life through constant contraction and expansion. The human heart and most other bodily organs expand and contract continuously in a process mediated through rhythmic pulse. Similarly, our planet breathes out in the summer of one hemisphere and breathes in during the winter of the other. Plus there’s also the rhythms of sleep and wakefulness, sympathy and antipathy, and in a physics setting, of negative electrical charges and positive charges.

 

The anonymous author writes in Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism

Seen in the light of the Arcanum ‘The World’ – the Arcanum of rhythmic movement or dance – joy is the harmony of rhythms, whilst suffering is their disharmony. The pleasure that one experiences in winter when one is seated close to a fire is only the restoration of an accord between the body’s rhythm and the rhythm of the air – that which we call ‘temperature’. The joy that friendship gives is the harmony between the psychic and mental rhythms of two or more people. […] Joy is therefore the state of harmony of inner rhythm with outer rhythm, of rhythm below with that from above, and, lastly, of the rhythm of created being with divine rhythm (630).

 

Our Mystical Dancer dances with the rhythms and pulses of the great circulation of Universal Life – both the natural, terrestrial rhythms and the planetary and stellar rhythms of the kosmos. She’s both a representative of these rhythms as well as a conduit for them. And our Dancer is naked. Naked because her motive is pure and unadulterated, and she has transcended all possible deceit and hubris. As such, she’s entirely at one with her dance (we could even say her mission), which is to be the intersection vessel for the earth and kosmos. And in this role, she’s free. She’s bound only by the membrane of the living universe, which is why, perhaps, she’s depicted as being surrounded by the wreath of leaves.

 

As a fully individuated human being, our Dancer has become not only a child of the World Soul’s processes, but also somewhat independent of them too. As such, she’s able to step through the immediate sheaths of ‘The World’ – here represented as the circle – and address and speak back to this World Soul as an emissary for a fully actualised and autonomous humanity. Depicted as a human being, she’s therefore able to imbue the World Soul with new and novel life.

 

The entirety of this world can often only be described symbolically and mystically within the hermetic and alchemical traditions. Jennifer Westwood wrote in On Pilgrimage: Sacred Journeys around the World that “Cosmic imagery, the experience of Sufis and other mystics, and the practice of pilgrimage all seem to tell us the same thing: that there is a center that can give us meaning (connection) and purpose (direction). This center is the God described by Saint Bonaventure (1221-74) as a ‘circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.’”


Our world as the Earth Body encompasses both Spiritus Mundi (spirit of the world as W. B. Yeats refers to in the poem The Second Coming) and matter, and bears both the whole and interrelated ecosystems of life upon – and within – it. Usually the depths of this World Soul are not consciously accessible, at least not to someone who has devoted their life almost exclusively to external matters of existence. Such a person has not – as yet – achieved a whole, integrated epistemology. But to those who have the capacity to perceive, our earth and kosmos are in a reciprocal relationship and form an exchange circuit of life … though it’s only the consciousness of an individual on the path of individuation (or fully individuated like our Dancer) who may reach – and touch into – the mutual circuitry of this earth-kosmos exchange.


Our Dancer ​serves life and the Entire World through her dance and she is the vehicle for the forces of the kosmos and earth to ‘speak’ to – and through – the other. To various degrees, and according to the occasion, each of us can be in service to this macro integrational force too. This occurs when we embody selfless service and joyfully commit to our own self-integration whilst also being aware of the kosmos and its movements. As Joseph Campbell wrote in Myths to Live By, “You don’t ask what a dance means. You enjoy it. You don’t ask what the world means. You enjoy it. You don’t ask what you mean. You enjoy it” (p.102-103). And so, in closing both this MythBlast and the year, I trust that you’ve enjoyed the 2023 series dear readers and I very much look forward to sharing more worldly enjoyment with you in 2024!



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