Monday, November 19, 2018


   As work continues with the ongoing project ART & SPIRITUALITY, the research of Jewell Homad Johnson on Robert Motherwell [1915 – 1991) [ROBERT MOTHERWELL @ WIKIPEDIA]  is a welcome discovery. An article/paper and her main thesis are here:

Jewell Homad Johnson, The Modern Artist As Spiritual Adept [University of Sydney]  ONLINE HERE at her Academia page.

And her main ACADEMIA PAGE.

Jewell Homad Johnson, Robert Motherwell: the artist the spiritual the modern. A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts (Research) Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences - University of Sydney May 24, 2015. [ONLINE HERE]

Then, directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak: Robert Motherwell, The modern painter’s world”, Revisiones, n.º 6 (2010), pp. 69-78.  [ONLINE HERE]

And a Documentary:   Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) STORMING THE CITADEL [ONLINE HERE ON YOU TUBE]

Dedalus Foundation was set up by Robert Motherwell in 1981 to educate the public by fostering public understanding of modern art and modernism through its support of research, education, publications, and exhibitions in this field. [WEBSITE HERE]




Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Cards from a Tarocchi (Tarot Pack): Love and charity


Cards from a Tarocchi (Tarot Pack): Love and charity

Milan, 1428-47

Tempera and gold leaf on paper, each 7Y2 x 3Y2 in. (19 x 9 cm)

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven (ITA 109)

   Although card games in general have a long history dating back to antiquity, these two fifteenth-century cards come from what may be the earliest known tarocchi, or tarot pack. Tarocchi have been associated primarily with divination since at least the eighteenth century. However, in the Renaissance they were used for trick-taking games. These were presumably played like the modern game of Crazy Eights, in which each player tries to discard his or her hand first by matching suits or numbers in turn. The typical tarocchi pack of seventy-eight cards is composed of fifty-six minor arcana: four suits (swords, batons, cups, coins), each with cards numbered one through ten as well as court cards representing a male page, a male knight, a queen, and a king. It also contains twenty-two major arcana, or trick or trump cards, represented by figures or allegories whose original meanings are lost. These trump cards allowed players to change the course of the game for their own benefit; for example, if the last discard was a baton, but the player had no batons, he or she could play a trump and call for a change of suit. But rules-and no complete set of rules survives for this period-seemed to vary widely and no full pack is known, so it is difficult to understand exactly why each trump had such an individual appearance and what each one could do in a game situation.

     The cards here, representing Love and Charity, are two of the eleven known trumps from the so-called Cary-Yale pack, which has been dated to anywhere between 1428 and 1447. Like many of the hand-painted packs from the Renaissance, it is associated with the court of Filippo Maria Visconti, who was duke of Milan from 1412 until his death in 1447· Each of the trumps in this pack has a gold diaper background patterned with Filippo Maria's sunburst device. On the baldacchino of the Love card, his coiled-viper arms alternate with the Savoy cross of his second wife, and his phrase, ''A bon droyt," or "By legitimate rule," is inscribed on the youth's hat. Other cards in the pack have additional devices related to the duke, such as

the impression from a Milanese florin struck during his reign used as the image of the coin in most of the cards in that suit. There thus seems little reason to question Filippo Maria's connection to the pack, particularly because, although best known as an able politician and soldier, he was also interested in the arts and especially in card games.

Between 1410 and 1425, according to his biographer Pier Candido Decembrio, Filippo Maria paid the painter Michelino da Besozzo the sizable sum of fifteen hundred gold ducats for an elaborate pack of cards, almost certainly a tarocchi, decorated with gods, court figures, animals, and birds.1 Although no further purchases were recorded, some 271 cards, representing perhaps as many as fifteen different packs, can be linked to the Visconti or their successors, the Sforza, in fifteenth-century Milan.2 In fact, the majority of Italian tarocchi, both the hand-painted packs and the earliest printed examples, as well as most of the documentary evidence for their production and use, come from the North Italian courts of Milan, Ferrara, and Bologna. The cost associated with these cards-with their fine silver and gold leaf, elaborate punchwork, and carefully composed and painted fronts-indicates that card playing was primarily a cultured courtly  pastime, particularly before printing made it much cheaper to produce packs in multiples for wider dissemination. The Cary-Yale pack was particularly extravagant; the condition of the delicate paint and gilding reveals that the cards were handled rarely and carefully, and the tiny holes in the top margins of each imply that they were strung together for safekeeping when not in use. This would have kept them in a particular order, which may have been a way to teach a new player the rules of the game.

   Tarocchi were not standardized during this early period.3 A total of sixty-seven cards survive from the Cary-Yale pack, but there is no agreement on the original number, which must have been at least eighty-six or perhaps eighty-nine. Instead of the more usual four court cards per suit, the Cary-Yale pack has six: along with the male page, male knight, queen, and king, it also has a female page and a female knight. Since no other pack has those additional characters, these cards may be an indication that this pack was intended for a female member of the court. The CaryYale trumps may have been more numerous

overall. Among its eleven known trumps are the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, which no other pack has, as well  as the Cardinal Virtue of Fortitude, which implies that the remaining Virtues ofJustice, Temperance, and Prudence were also once present. Of course the trumps vary across all packs, and the vagaries of survival obscure what exactly is missing in every case. Despite these mysteries, the two cards shown here are excellent examples of the great richness and variety of the Cary-Yale pack as a whole. The image of the game as it was played-the courtiers dressed as magnificently as the characters on the cards, and the reflections of the punched silver and gold in the candlelit gaming room-offers a vivid picture of fifteenth-century court life.

   These players also needed a reasonably learned background to understand the complex representations on the trump cards. The Love card depicts a couple wearing rich contemporary dress clasping hands in a marital gesture under a baldacchino. A blindfolded Cupid, preparing to drop his arrows on each, flies above them, and a small dog, perhaps a miniature greyhound (a symbol of fidelity and a popular breed in Renaissance courts), scampers at their feet. As with so many objects in this exhibition, the heraldry and handclasp seem to signify a marriage, perhaps indicating that the pack originated as a marriage gift. The Charity card is a simpler composition, dominated, as many of the court and trump cards were, by a single largescale figure. The crowned Virtue is seated on a dais, her luxurious fur-lined mantle gilt and punched in a floral pattern. One of her hands holds a now-tarnished silver bell or censer, while the other supports the small naked boy she nurses. An older male figure in a rose-colored robe under the dais looks out at the player as if commiserating. Although he is not part of the traditional iconography of the Virtue, it has been suggested that he may be King Herod, symbolizing the Vice of Disdain, subdued and crushed by Charity above him.4

Scholars are divided on the interrelated issues of attribution and dating. Some date this pack early, as part of the celebrations surrounding Filippo Maria's own marriage to Maria of Savoy in 1428; if so, the cards may well be a product of the artists associated with the Zavattari, a prominent family of painters who enjoyed court favor in Milan.

   History reveals that Filippo Maria and his wife needed all the help they could get. Their arranged marriage was never consummated, and there is considerable evidence that the couple were deeply unhappy. In this way, the romantic iconography of the Love card might have been meant as a sort of talisman for a successful marriage. Alternately, the pack may have been made later, at some point prior to Filippo Maria's death in 1447.5

The most likely occasions were the marriage of his illegitimate daughter and only heir, Bianca Maria, to Francesco Sforza in 1441,6 or the marriage of Francesco's son Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Bona of Savoy in 1468? If indeed they do date to one of those later marriages, they may instead be associated with Bonifacio Bembo, to whom other, similar tarocchi have been attributed. Bembo's work for the Sforza court is well documented, and his training as a miniaturist would have been a great help in the planning and execution of the Cary-Yale pack. Regardless of authorship, the Visconti and Savoy references on the Love card put this pack in the Milanese courtly ambient, which was known throughout the fifteenth century to have a great interest in cards and card playing.

1. Pratesi 1989.

2. Visconti Tarocchi Deck 1984, pp. 4-6.

3· Dummett 1986, p. 15.

4· R. Decker and C. Decker 1975, p. 28.

5· Toesca 1912, pp. 523-25.

6. Kaplan 1978.

7· Algeri 1981, p. 72.


SELECTED REFERENCES: R. Steele 1900; Parravicino 1903; Toesca 1912, pp. 522-25; Moakley 1966, p. 77; R. Decker and C. Decker 1975; Jane Hayward in Secular Spirit 1975, p. 214, no. 225, pl. 10; Cahn and Marrow 1978, pp. 227-28; Kaplan 1978; Algeri 1981, pp. 64-85; Mulazzani 1981; Visconti Tarocchi Deck 1984; Dummett 1986, pp. 12-15; Pratesi 1989; Bandera 1999, PP· 52-63

From: Art and Love in Renaissance Italy, Edited by Andrea Bayer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2008 [AVAILABLE ONLINE]

Friday, August 31, 2018



“Fine art is not real art till it is in this sense free, and only achieves its highest task when it has taken its place in the same sphere with religion and philosophy and has become simply a mode of revealing to consciousness and bringing to utterance the Divine Nature, the deepest interests of humanity, and the most comprehensive truths of the mind. It is in works of art that nations have deposited the profoundest intuitions and ideas of their hearts, and fine art is frequently the key — with many nations there is no other — to the understanding of their wisdom and their religion.” [1]


“For Abhinavagupta, in other words, art, the spirituality path and the divine reality were clearly one and the same. In the mind of Abhinavagupta, this cosmos is God’s artistic creation, a creation within which every smallest unit of that creation itself embodies and reflects the divine Artist which is its origin. For this reason, artistic expression — be it poetry, drama, music painting or any other artistic medium — is just as capable of bringing about spiritual realization as yogic practice. For Abhinavagupta, the artist is a yogin and the yogin is an artist. The ultimate artistic expression is life itself which presents the opportunity for the attainment of spiritual realization, an event which empowers the individual to recognize his or her own identity as non-distinct from the identity of that ultimate Artist who is the source and very body of creation itself.” [2]

Herbert V. Guenther:

“Insight into life and Being ultimately springs from creative, and by implication, artistic imagination. Therefore, the fine arts not only can give us knowledge, but also, through their influence on our lives, give form to our emotive experiences. The close relationship between Tantrism and the fine arts underlines the importance of learning to see reality as a symbol of life and feeling, not as a sign that points to something other than itself. The meaning of life is in living it.” [3]

[1]   Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics, trans. Bernard Bosanquet, ed. and intro. Michael Inwood (Harmondsworth: Penguin,1993), p. 9.

[2]   Dr. Jeffrey S. Lidke, A Thousand Years of Abhinavagupta, Sutra Journal, January, 2016. [ONLINE HERE]

[3]   Herbert V. Guenther, The Tantric View of Life, Shambhala Publications, Boulder & London, 1976, p. 147.

IMAGE: Cover of a Shakta Manuscript with Uma-Maheshvara

Monday, July 9, 2018


All that remains to me is a great pity for humanity, forced to live out its allotted span upon this cruel earth.

-- Luigi Pirandello

Clowns are grotesque blasphemers against all our pieties. That's why we need them. They're our alter egos.

-- Dario Fo

William Willeford:

 “There have been many works of imagination with the theme of “Ubi sunt . . . “?   In which we follow the great ones of the earth as they yield to the common fate of death; we look at the point where they left us and try to find in the  dust and ashes a trace of their light.

            We do not ponder about fools in this way.”
William Willeford, The Fool and His Sceptre. A Study in Clowns, and Jesters and Their Audience,   Northwestern University Press, 1986, p.4.

Some quotes from Cecil Collins on The Fool. (extracts from The Vision of the Fool and other writings. enlarged edition Ed. Brian Keeble, Golgonooza Press, Ipswich 2002)  [ONLINE HERE]

 I believe that there is in life, and in the human psyche, a certain quality, an inviolate eternal innocence, and this quality I call the Fool. It is a continuous wisdom and compassion that heals with fun and magic. It is the joy of the original Adam in men.

 The Fool is purity of consciousness. This purity is a cosmic folly that is utterly detached from what most of the world thinks worth doing; it is detached from the deadening edifice of clever ambitions, of power, and of the incredible vanity of knowledge, that has already dulled the capacity for poetry of life in contemporary society.

 The secret of life is to share the creative madness of God – if we have never experienced this madness we can be said never to have lived.

 Art is a form of transcendental magic which is created out of that awakened sense, and returns to it.

 The Fool is not interested in success or failure, or the vanity and burden of external knowledge. He is interested in life, in the mystery of consciousness and the transformation of consciousness which comes about through direct perception.

 In other words the Fool is interested in love and its manifestation in that harmony and wholeness which we call beauty. He is therefore in a state of creative vulnerability and is easily destroyed by the world.

 Society must be based on our sense of wonder, the one experience which justifies our being alive.

The artist Cecil Collins wrote in 1989 of his belief of the artist's role in relationship to the spiritual:

"Beneath our technological civilization, there still flows the living river of human consciousness within which is concentrated in continuity the life of the kingdoms of animals, plants, stars, the earth and the sea, and the life of our ancestors, the flowing generations of men and women: the sensitive and the solitary ones, the secret inarticulate longing before the mystery of life. The artist is a vehicle of the continuity of that life and his instrument is the myth and the archetypal image."

    We have to contact the center of our being because there we have contact with the center of the universe. Because we are cut off from our center and from the center of the universe we feel, and are, exiles imprisoned in the world of multiplicity and mere existence, longing to awake and journey back to the center which is our heart and our Home. ...the truth is that the secret desire of our heart is for (this) lost paradise. (The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings, page 90)

 The future of civilization depends upon the freedom of the individual to develop his personal consciousness: to find and to fulfill that essential self, which is unique to each of us. It can be done by gradually stripping away the impurities, the false ideas and conceptions we have of ourselves. These are a kind of dirt on the inner glass of our outlook. (The Vision of the Fool and Other Writings, page 55)

Cecil Collins, The Resurrection of the Dead

This is the age of Holy Spirit, this is the age of the universal principle -- the open, flexible field of consciousness, the understanding of the unity of life in the multiplicity of human experience, so that we find in our culture again that hidden unity which transcends the fate of multiplicity and nemesis. As I see it this creative spirit which has entered our world is causing such disturbance that it will have to be answered by the spirit of the earth which we have denied as much as we have denied the spirits of the higher worlds. We have denied the spirit of the earth, and that spirit of the earth has to appear in woman. The meeting of the spirit of the earth and the spirit of the other world is one of the great moments that, I believe, will come in the future history of culture.

Cecil Collins, from The Vision of the Fool and other writings.

CATHARSIS -  Transformation through the art

CecIl Collins @ WIKIPEDIA

Cecil Collins 1908 –1989 The Great Happiness - A Centenary Exhibition:   Paintings, drawings and prints drawn from major private collections





Cell: 07 999 77 339


Monday, March 5, 2018


George W. Bush: 
 “See in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” [1] 

Adolf Hitler:
“Only constant repetition will finally succeed in imprinting an idea on the memory of a crowd.”  [2] 

C. C. Zain: 
 “Their chief method of getting victims is through having ideas widely accepted that are untrue and which place people in their power. To get these ideas thus widely accepted, they have recourse to thought-dissemination, to the suggestive power of repetition, to insinuations, to platitudes, and to inversions.
Inversion is a method of presenting some idea in a manner that the lie is deeply and inconspicuously concealed amid much truth, the more real the facts, and the more widely they are recognized as facts, the better they afford cover for some cunning lie.” 
"One keeps coming around - and around - this phenomenon of the vast means of communication and its - repetitive nature. Again, one man, Soren Kierkegaard, saw the perverse possibilities in this. In his extraordinary treatise On Repetition, he was the first to suggest that we are moving into a time when falsehood, repeated over and over, would acquire a dynamic genius of its own, [3]that the mere mechanics of repetition would create intellectual and emotional structures." [4]
[1]  Quoted in Eliot Weinberger, What I heard about Iraq, London Review of Books, Vol. 28, Number 1,  5th January 2006, p. 9. 
[2]  Adolf Hitler, Mein Campf, p. 163. In Alan Bullock, Hitler. A Study in Tyranny.
[3] C.C. Zain, The Sacred Tarot, The Church of Light, Los Angeles, various editions.

Monday, February 12, 2018



“Cultivating the Wisdom Gaze: A Contemplation on the Outer and Inner Causes of Globalization”

Judith Simmer-Brown, Ph.D. Religious Studies, Naropa University Boulder, Colorado


   When Tibetan Buddhist lamas fled the Communist Chinese tyranny in 1959, many came to the west to study, teach, and practice the dharma. The culture they encountered, however, presented special challenges to a genuinely spiritual life. In contemporary America, the dominant obstacle they observed was the predominance of materialism, a lifestyle of acquisition that promotes self-grasping. Tibetan teachers have remarked about how difficult it is for American students to practice meditation in a materialistic environment. Observing the difference with their Tibetan home, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche remarked, Because Tibet is an untouched and uncivilized country, people are quite happy with the simplicity of life. They do not long for the comforts and luxury of life. As long as there is food to eat and a roof for shelter, they are very happy. With that state of mind, when they go to retreat, their mind is simple and the decision is quite complete. They think, “Even if I die of an illness during this retreat, I will let myself die. Even if I die of starvation during this retreat, I will let myself die. Even if I die from the difficulties and hardship of the vigorous practice, I will be happy to die.”


  Tibetan teachers continue to ask how consumer mentality has affected the meditation practice of their American students, shaping intentions and expectations for spiritual development. Buddhist scholar Jose Cabezon has suggested that traditional and contemporary Tibetans are primarily concerned about how material wealth “deflect[s] one from pursuing the true, inner wealth of spiritual perfection.”


  Wealth is viewed as ephemeral and therefore rather than accumulating it, it is more important to spend and enjoy it while it is available, or to give it away. He refers to the 13th century Tibetan master Sakya Pandita, who reflected that those who have wealth which they neither use nor give away must be either sick or a deprived spirit. “Accumulating wealth without using it is like accumulating the wood for one’s own cremation. Those who do so are like bees, who put so much effort into manufacturing their honey only to have it taken away from them.”


  Accumulating wealth accrues many obstacles, for then the wealth must be protected and one’s greedy tendencies are exacerbated. When accumulation of wealth is an end in itself, it has the power of diverting one from the spiritual path and creating negative circumstances for future awakening.


  Over thirty years ago, my teacher Ven. Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche, wrote one of first popular dharma books in America, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. This view of the challenges of western spirituality came to him while in retreat in a Padmasambhava cave in Bhutan. Trungpa Rinpoche at that time composed a ritual text called the Sadhana of Mahamudra that addressed the way in which contemporary societies are dominated by material concerns. This text was received in a visionary state as a terma, a hidden-treasure text, attributed to Padmasambhava as a contemporary contribution to the “dark age” dominated by the forces of materialism. In the book, Rinpoche identified what he considered primary obstacles to spiritual development in the west. The relevance of this analysis only increases each year.


Trungpa Rinpoche described the acquisitive pursuit that binds humans to suffering as the hallmark of construction of personal identity, or “ego.” To promote this core activity, three allegorical “lords of materialism” pursue three levels of acquisitiveness: the lord of form refers to physical acquisition, the lord of speech to conceptual acquisition, and the lord of mind to acquisition in the spiritual realm. According to these descriptions, materialism must be challenged or it will co-opt our physical lives, our communities, and our spiritual cores. “Physical materialism” refers to the compulsive pursuit of pleasure, comfort, and security as a balm for all of our problems and concerns. Culturally, it is expressed in the form of consumerism. On the conceptual level, “psychological materialism” seeks to control the world through theory, ideology, and intellect. We mentally create theoretical constructs that keep us from having to be threatened, to be wrong, or to be confused, thus putting ourselves in control. In American life, psychological materialism is expressed in science and technology, medicine and psychology. On the most subtle level, “spiritual materialism” carries acquisitiveness into the realm of our own minds, into our own contemplative practice or prayer, sometimes expressed as religious exclusivism or extremism.


Book Chapter FROM:, Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and The Urge to Consume edited by Stephanie Kaza, Shambhala Publications, 2004





A Note.

Samten de Wet


Albrecht Durer, Portrait of a boy with a long beard



To understand the archetypal struggles embedded in the myths and their astrological equivalents, we have to place these fables in context. For example, the conflict between senex and puer - between the power of age and the power of youth, is well represented in our society.

We have, for example, the cultural or academic mafias, who hold onto power and do not allow any young energy to penetrate their vast ivory towers. We have seen Professors hanging onto their respective Chairs for decades and making it difficult to move on.

Gerontocratic governments with their flocks of politicians, as well as religious structures, have clung to power over hundreds of years. They still are entrenched, as we see with the rise of religious fundamentalism, and the rigidity of the literal interpretation of the text, e.g. stoning a woman to death for giving birth outside of wedlock. These are doctrinal calcifications, typical of Saturn.

Likewise, there exists an inversion, which capitalism has recognized as a value in its marketing strategies, where youth dominates, and does not answer to anything outside of its immediate concerns. This leads to a sort of mass infantilism -  the tantrums of spoilt children.

So, we have the power of the youth market, which denies or is denied, the wisdom and experience of age; and we have the aged, clinging to power for all it is worth. And it is worth very little, in the sense of Treasures in Heaven.  A case in point is the present Trump Regime in America. Guns and Motorcars, the toys of little boys, the dominator culture of testosterone. As we are to believe that the present astrological dispensation is The Age of Aquarius, we should consider the symbolic implications of this sign of the Zodiac.

Aquarius is extremely polarized by the energies of stasis and revolution. The Silver Key and Golden Key images, give us our thematic senex - puer polarity, in the Hermetic, Wise, Old Man of the Tarot, and the Water Bearer, or Pourer, sometimes associated with Ganymede, of the astrological symbol.  So somehow, in the Age of Aquarius, the Senex and the Puer, have to, and will cohabit in their action patterns, for the benefit of the larger society, and from there to humanity.

How could this paradigm be put into action?  Well, simply put, the lead must be tempered with a bit of quicksilver, mercurial energy, and the mercurial must be balanced with a touch of lead.  Gravity and levity have their place.

In other words, there must be a balance between Saturn and Mercury. At the moment we have the Saturn materialism of Militarization, the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, while on the other side we have the Mercurial-Hermetic World Wide Web, the Global Brain, the Gaia - Ecology-Green Movements, and various empowered communities along the lines of gender, ethnicity, resurgent spiritualities and so forth, all very based in communication.

It is not the Youth of the Planet who planned the bombing of Vietnam, Baghdad &c. But they are the ones who died. Think of the millions who died in the 1st World War.

Unfortunately, the Mass Media, with the emphasis on mass - as in massive, titanic, totalitarian,  seems to control the show. But likewise, the Mercurial Web, is also wiring over 60 million people to the Internet - and if open resistance is not evident, internal sharing of information is moving ahead at an ever-accelerating speed.  Saturn can only maintain power by withholding, distorting or inverting information. Mercury cannot be controlled because of its propensity to fragment into Mercurial spheres and reform at the slightest nudge into a unitive, holistic sphere.  The Senex-Saturnine is selfish - the Puer-Mercurial shares. But, as mentioned before, we also have the sharing Wisdom of the Senex, versus the selfishness of Youth!

“… the Roman god Janus with his two faces – the young beardless man looking forward and the old bearded man looking back.”


In this sense, we could speculate that the Past is the Senex & the Future is the Puer.


Edgar Wind in his Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance (1958) amplifies the Durer image:




8. For the combination of puer and senex in one hieroglyph, uniting Infancy and Old Age, Calcagnini used the expression paedogeron ([1]). He first employed the term, with the explanation id est puer senex; in his translation of Plutarch's De Iside et Osiride ([2]), which Panofsky mistakenly describes as 'never published and apparently lost' ([3]).”


“As the term was believed to be Plutarch's, it is more than likely that H. Tietze and E. Tietze-Conrat were right in suggesting ([4]) that Durer's Bearded Child in the Louvre is a paedogeron, or puer senex conceived as a hieroglyphic image. Like the triple-headed monsters in which Youth and Old Age counterbalance each other, this hoary infant would again signify Good Counsel or Prudence, that is, practical wisdom.”


Paedagogus ? paedo- (United States pedo-) combining form of a child; relating to children: ORIGIN  from Greek pais, paid- 'child, boy'.


Samten de Wet, Cape Town, February 2018, based on earlier versions.

[1] Opera, p. 20

[2] ibid., p. 237

[3] Durer II, no. 84

[4] Burlington Magazine LXX, 1937, pp. 81 f.

Saturday, February 10, 2018



IMAGE: Judith Shaw


The Shrine of the Bird Goddess, in the late 80's. The central piece, The Bird Goddess, is a very large painting – 6′ x 10′. The painting and installation was inspired by the work of Marija Gimbutas, amazing archaeologist who uncovered the ancient artifacts of a harmonious, pre-patriarchal Goddess-worshipping Neolithic Old Europe. [ONLINE HERE]

Paul Friedrich, An Avian and Aphrodisian Reading of Homer's Odyssey, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 99, No. 2 (Jun., 1997), pp. 306-320


"THE MEANING, even the sheer presence, of birds in the Odyssey and in similar canonical, paradigmatic texts in other cultures is not obvious to many and has been ignored by all but a few of the legions of specialists. A similar statement could be made about an aphrodisian reading of the text. Yet Homer felt that birds were deeply significant, often as symbols of Aphrodite. To- day we can profitably explore these crucial and nuanced, albeit often subliminal or latent, meanings. Such exploration leads to unique understandings of essential, underlying values in Homeric culture and the cultures of the world generally".

Lucy Goodison, Death, Women and The Sun: Symbolism of Regeneration In Early Aegean Religion, Bulletin Supplement (University of London. Institute of Classical Studies), No. 53, (1989), pp. iii, vii-xi, xiii-xix, 1-261.

Mythical Representations of 'Mother Earth' in Pictorial Media

Nikos Chausidis

[University of Skopje, Institute for History of Art & Archaeology, Macedonia.]


Abstract. This paper summarizes our past researches of the pictorial representations of the Mother Earth myth and the separation of the basic iconographical types. Generally, the paper is not geographically cultural or chronologically limited. This means that we approach the phenomenon in its wider aspect, searching for its universal (transhistorical and transcultural) features. This is justified by the simple fact that the Mother Earth phenomenon itself possesses such a character, being universal for the bigger part of mankind. Yet, beside this principal openness, the focus of our research points toward the archaic cultures, i.e. those that had never, or not in a sufficient degree, entered the spheres of the cultures that are today regarded as civilizations. Here we have in mind the cultures of the Neolithic, the Age of Metals and the later centuries BC. We have divided the corpus of the pictorial representations of Mother Earth into several categories based not so much on the appearance but on the basic semiotic concept that generated them . . .


From: Archaeology of Mother Earth Sites and Sanctuaries through the Ages. Rethinking symbols and images, art and artefacts from history and prehistory, Edited by G. Terence Meaden, BAR International Series 2389, 2012

Mardith K. Schuetz-Miller, Spider Grandmother and Other Avatars of the Moon Goddess in New World Sacred Architecture, Journal of the Southwest, Vol. 54, No. 2, New World Sacred Architecture (Summer 2012), pp. 283-293, 295-303, 305-347, 349-397, 399-421, 423-435

Sabrina Higgins, Divine Mothers: The Influence of Isis on the Virgin Mary in Egyptian Lactans-Iconography, Journal of the Canadian Society for Coptic Studies 3–4 — 2012



This article provides an overview of the scholarship on the relationship between depictions of Isis and Mary that show them breastfeeding or offering their breast (representations of the lactans-type) in Egypt. In particular, it questions the notion of a deliberate cultic continuity between the two holy women based on the similarity of their iconography. The evidence demonstrates that whereas Isis lactans can be documented in the Mediterranean from 700 BCE until the fourth century CE, Maria lactans-imagery only appears uncontested in Egypt from the seventh century CE onwards. This evidence, therefore, does not warrant a generalization that there was a deliberate continuity between the cult of Isis and that of Mary. Although the similarities between the Isis and Maria lactans-imagery are undeniable, they need to be understood within their respective cultural contexts.

Sunday, May 3, 2015




Sunday, May 03, 2015


In an article published in 1994, Prof. Robert Thurman writes:

 “If you’re a twentieth-century teacher, who can say what the twenty-first century will want? We would think somebody would have to be enlightened to be able to do that, and we don’t really have a concept of such a kind of enlightenment. But Tibetan Buddhists do. They know that enlightened knowledge does not just include knowledge of spiritual matters, but it also includes an awareness of how humanity develops and evolves.” [Robert Thurman, Treasure Teachings, An Interview with Robert Thurman, Parabola, Winter 1994, pp.  7-16. ]

His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes:


“If we want a beautiful garden, we must first have a blueprint in the imagination, a vision. Then that idea can be implemented and the external garden be materialized. “  [His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Little book of Wisdom, Rider, London, 1997. ]

This is a very important point. Do we have a vision of what we would like the beautiful garden of the future to be? How many people, today have:  “ . .an awareness of how humanity develops and evolves.” How many people care?  Yes, there are glimpses here and there. But certainly not in the realms of business and politics, where profit in the former and ideology in the latter are all that matters. 

Recently while reading the writings of Sir Arnold Toynbee, I was talking to a friend about the panoramic Vision always being necessary in taking an overview of the patterns of one’s life, as well as the pattern “ . . of how humanity develops and evolves.” In its entry on Toynbee, Wikipedia notes:

“Toynbee's work lost favor among both the general public and scholars by the 1960s, due to the religious and spiritual outlook that permeates the largest part of his work. His work has been seldom read or cited in recent decades.”  WIKI.

It seems, that having a “ . . . religious and spiritual outlook . . . “  is to be avoided at all costs? Peter Kingsley adds this observation:

“Even in these modern times, what half-heartedly is described as mystical perception is always pushed to the periphery. When it’s not denied it’s held at arm’s length — out there at the margins of society. But what we haven’t been told is that a spiritual tradition lies at the very roots of western civilization.” [Peter Kingsley, In the Dark Places of Wisdom, The Golden Sufi Centre, 1999, pp. 6-7}

In the light of all the problems besetting the world today, let us examine some of the ideas of Toynbee:  He writes:


“In a world that has been unified in both space and time, a study of human affairs must be comprehensive if it is to be effective. It must include, not only the whole of the living generation, but also the whole of the living generation’s past. In order to save mankind we have to learn to live together in concord in spite of traditional differences of religion, civilization, nationality, class and race. In order to live together successfully, we have to know each other, and knowing each other includes knowing each other’s past, since human life, like the rest of the phenomenal Universe, can be observed by human minds only as it presents itself to them on the move through time.”  [Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Thames and Hudson, London, 1972, -p. 47. ]

Toynbee not only brings religious and spiritual aspects into his work, but also, introduces the idea of LOVE:


 “We shall, however, have to do more than just understand each other's cultural heritages, and more even than appreciate them. We shall have to value them and love them as being parts of Mankind's common treasure and therefore being ours too, as truly as the heirlooms that we ourselves shall be contributing to the common stock. Without the fire of love, the dangerous fissures in Mankind's social solidarity cannot be annealed. Danger, even when it is as extreme as ours is today, is never a sufficient stimulus in itself to make men do what is necessary for their salvation. It is a poor stimulus because it is a negative one. A cold-blooded calculation of expediency will not inspire us with the spiritual power to save ourselves. This power can come only from the disinterested pursuit of a positive aim that will outrange the negative one of trying to avoid self-destruction; and this positive aim can be given to men by nothing but love.  [Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History, Thames and Hudson, London, 1972, -p. 47. ]



Thomas Alexander, has gifted us with some very beautiful and important advice in how to deal with the incivility in our society:


 “. . .  the central message of Confucianism, something important that it has to say to pragmatism -  namely, the salvation of society comes about by developing humanity in our hearts. This is not about making life more attractive. It is not even about making government "rule by example" rather than by compulsion, though that is a central teaching of the Master. It is about the power of art to shape the way we perceive and feel about other human beings and ourselves so that we are "aesthetically attuned" to them and they to us. This is the great question that Confucianism poses to pragmatism: the real art is the art of humanity, and this is the art of feeling humanity with a humanized heart.”


“The Way, for Confucius, was to be found in cultivating ren, often translated as "benevolence."  The ideogram in Chinese, which combines the pictogram of "man" with that of "two," suggests "person- to-personness." I will render it as "human-heartedness." In Confucius' day, it also connoted inward nobility of character: behaving like a true man, with great-heartedness. This is a fundamental concern for the "aesthetics of social existence" - a concern that human life and its dignity, value, and web of meaningful inter- relationships is foremost in our hearts, and that our hearts are emotionally "attuned" to respond to this instinctively. Ren, human-heartedness, is the raison-d'être for the arts - they restore ren in us, but ren must be there.”    


“Culture is the musical language that allows us to play together. This is why we need ceremony, rituals, manners: li. Without them we would not know how to communicate our care, love, respect, devotion, honor, gratitude. But it is not just any music; the music must express this - ren - not pettiness, greed, small-mindedness. The heart must be there first. "Aesthetics" should deal with beautiful behavior, but the beauty comes from human-heartedness. Life was indeed art for "Master Kong," but art was concerned with an aesthetics of living together. The arts should be used in education to foster our moral feelings, enhance our power of true sympathy, and give us ideals of dignified, caring lives. That was how you saved civilization.

Thomas Alexander, The Music in the Heart, the Way of Water, and the Light of a Thousand Suns: A Response to Richard Shusterman, Crispin Sartwell, and Scott Stroud, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Spring, 2009), pp. 45-46.

“The task is not finished. South Africa is not yet a home for all her sons and daughters. Such a home we wish to ensure. From the beginning our history has been one of ascending unities, the breaking of tribal, racial and creedal barriers. The past cannot hope to have a life sustained by itself, wrenched from the whole. There remains before us the building of a new land, a home for men who are black, white, brown, from the ruins of the old narrow groups, a synthesis of the rich cultural strains which we have inherited. There remains to be achieved our integration with the rest of the continent. Somewhere ahead there beckons a civilisation, a culture, which will take its place in the parade of God’s history beside other great human syntheses. Chinese, Egyptian, Jewish, European. It will not necessarily be all black; but it will be African.”

Albert Luthuli



“Such clear and inspiring thoughts. To cultivate human-heartedness. Yes, this is what makes life beautiful and bearable. This is the energy that transforms. Thank you for sharing these beautifully worded ideas with me, Samten. It is a clear, crisp autumn morning and the sky is blue. I feel their resonance in the world about me. Now I will put on my boots and take the dogs for a walk in the forest. Much love to you, fellow traveler. Alexandra Dodd


“It occurred to me that the images in Tarot function much the way dreams do in psychoanalysis, by providing a symbolic and interpretable language for the elusive shape of our lives. We want our daily experiences, so disappointingly ordinary and frequently chaotic, to be magnified, as Sebald says they are in dreams. We want them to have a dramatic narrative, a coherent shape, a palpable vividness, which the Tarot can provide.”

Christopher Benfey, Tarot Dreams

Richard Stromer, Hermes as God of Liminality and the Guide of Souls. HERE


“Liquid is the element of most birthing, but liquid in what form? Myth presents images of birth from the froth of Uranus’ testicles; birth from the swallowed semen of the masturbating Atum-Ra; birth from the sweat of Ymir’s armpits; birth from the mating of Ymir’s feet; birth from the urine of Izanami; birth from the blood of Medusa; birth from tears as well as vomit; birth of the world from the sucked toe of Vishnu; birth from the cosmic egg; birth from Purusha’s mouth, arms, and thighs; birth from the dew of the East Wind. I suspect there must have been sweat of some sort that birthed, too, Mwindo. Like other divine heroes, he emerged from the finger of his mother, the hand or finger thought to contain procreative power similar to that of a womb.”

 Mary Aswell Doll, The More of Myth. A Pedagogy of Diversion, [Savannah College of Art and Design], Sense Publishers, Rotterdam, 2011, p.7

Mike Crowley, When Gods Drank Urine. A Tibetan myth may help solve the riddle of soma, sacred drug of ancient India; HERE


  Reading Joseph Campbell on Oriental Mythologies, I was struck by the fact that some of the ideas alive and well in the present day, can be traced back from between  1,700 to 4,000 years. For example: the Great Dualist struggle between Light and Darkness, today regurgitated as The Evil Empire, or Satan in the Whitehouse. The efforts to attain a perfect civilization often include the destruction, or vilification of the old.  The ISIL destruction in Iraq, for example, or throwing shit onto a statue of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town, as seen recently.
  Hence, we continue to suggest that a deeper exploration into the roots of our respective cultures, may help to deconstruct some of the cruder aspects of literal interpretations of ancient archetypes. In Greek Mythology we see the struggle between the Titans and the Gods is almost identical to the Battle between the Devas and the Asuras in Aryan/Hindu Mythology. I have been exploring these similarities in a project, which you can explore here:  THE TITAN PROJECT


“The lower depths have been the object of superstition and of legend for as long as there have been men and women to wonder. The Minotaur, half man and half bull, lived in a labyrinth buried beneath the palace at Knossos in Crete. A dog with three heads, Cerberus, guarded the gates of the underworld in classical myth, The Egyptian god of the underworld, Anubis, was a man with the head of a jackal. The journey underground prompted strange transformations. Anubis was also known as ‘the lord of the sacred land’, with the world beneath the ground creating a spiritual as much as a material presence.  The great writers of antiquity – Plato and Homer, Pliny and Herodotus – have described the underground worlds as places of dream and hallucination. Most of the great religions have created temples and shrines beneath the surface of the earth. Terror lingers in caverns and caves, where there may be subterranean rivers and fires. Sixteen thousand years ago the wandering people of Europe lived in or besides the entrance to caves; but they painted frescoes in the deeper and darker spaces of the caverns. The further downward you travel, the closer you come to the power.” [Peter Ackroyd, London Under London, Vintage, p.3. ]


Here are more Projects, Blogs and Websites to explore:


  "I miss that degree of genuine, unfabricated feeling...In a sense, the most dangerous thing in the world is apathy. Unlike violence, warfare, and disease, which can be avoided, people cannot defend against apathy once it takes hold. I urge you to feel a love that is courageous -not like a heavy burden, but a joyous acknowledgement of interdependence."

 H.H. the Karmapa

Love and Peace,  

Samten de Wet.

PS.  The above material consists of seed ideas, plucked at random, or almost from larger bodies of work.  The line of thought can be followed, albeit without  extensive amplification.  EMAIL ME HERE.






Saturday, March 7, 2015



And the god, perceiving that his flowery stroke had failed, said to himself: "He does not notice even the arrow that set the sun aflame! Can he be destitute of sense? He is worthy neither of my flowery shaft, nor of my daughters: let me send against him my army.”


   And immediately putting off his infatuating aspect as the Lord Desire, that great god became the Lord Death, and around him an army of demonic forms crystallized, wearing frightening. shapes and bearing in their hands bows and arrows, darts, clubs, swords, trees, and even blazing mountains; having the visages of boars, fish, horses, camels, asses, tigers, bears, lions and elephants; one-eyed, multi4aced, three-headed, pot-bellied, and with speckled bellies; equipped with claws, equipped with tusks, some bearing headless bodies in their hands, many with half-mutilated faces, monstrous mouths, knobby knees, and the reek of goats; copper red, some clothed in leather, others wearing nothing at all, with fiery or smoke-colored hair, many with long, pendulous ears, hav­ing half their faces white, others having half their bodies green; red and smoke-colored, yellow and black; with arms longer than the reach of serpents, their girdles jingling with bells: some as tall as palms, bearing spears, some of a child's size with projecting teeth; some with the bodies of birds and faces of rams, or men's bodies and the faces of cats; with disheveled hair, with topknots, or half bald; with frowning or triumphant faces, wasting one's strength or fascinating one's mind. Some sported in the sky, others went along the tops of trees; many danced upon each other, more leaped about wildly on the ground. One, dancing, shook a trident; another crashed his club; one like a bull bounded for joy; another blazed out flames from every hair. And then there were some who stood around to frighten him with many lolling tongues, many mouths, savage, sharply pointed teeth, upright ears, like spikes, and eyes like the disk of the sun. Others, leaping into the sky, flung rocks, trees, and axes, blazing straw as voluminous as moun­tain peaks, showers of embers, serpents of fire, showers of stones. [20] And all the time, a naked woman bearing in her hand a skull, flittered about, unsettled, staying not in any spot, like the mind of a distracted student over sacred texts.


   But lo! amidst all these terrors, sights, sounds, and odors, the mind of the Blessed One was no more shaken than the wits of Garuda, the golden-feathered sun-bird, among crows. And a voice cried from the sky: "O Mara, take not upon thyself this vain fatigue! Put aside thy malice and go in peace? For though fire may one day give up its heat, water its fluidity, earth solidity; never will this Great Being, who acquired the merit that brought him to this tree through many lifetimes in unnumbered eons, abandon his resolution."


   And the god, Mara, discomfited, together with his army, dis­appeared. Heaven, luminous with the light of the full moon, then shone like the smile of a maid, showering flowers, the petals of flowers, bouquets of flowers, freshly wet with dew, on the Blessed One; who, that night, during the remainder of the night, in the first watch of that wonderful night, acquired the knowledge of his previous existence, in the second watch acquired the divine eye, in the last watch fathomed the law of Dependent Origination, and at sunrise attained omniscience.

Asvaghosha, The Buddhacarita, Translated by E. B. Cowell, F. Max Müller and J. Takakusu, Oxford, the Clarendon Press, 1894, pp. 137 -58 [Vol. XLIX of The Sacred Books of the East

Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology, Penguin Books, pp. 19-20. Online HERE.










The Alchemy Virtual Library -- An amazing resource on alchemical history and lore put together by Adam McLean. Over 30 Megabytes of alchemical texts on-line. Searchable database of alchemical symbols and images. Lists of societies and publications. Email discussion forums. A must-visit site for anyone interested in alchemy!

Prosveta - Canada (Aivanhov) -- Canadian organization of students of Master Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov.