The Phoenix and the Peacock

A TenStones Game

George Hersh and Charles Cameron

I met George Hersh through a mutual acquaintance who passed copies of my TenStones Games brochures to him, thinking he'd enjoy the Games. He wrote me:

Interested in a game? How about Eastern vs Western Alchemy? A possible first move being to conjoin the Phoenix and the Peacock in Tiphareth.

Alchemy has always fascinated me, though I confess I know little about the western and less about the eastern forms of the thing... So I agreed to George's proposal, and asked him to explain his first move in a paragraph or two...

Tiphareth, incidentally, is the sixth of the sephirot in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and thus equivalent to the sixth position on our TenStones board. Clearly, this was to be a game which made use of the Kabbalistic associations of the board in its meditations...

-- Charles Cameron


George plays move 1-- the Western Peacock and the Eastern Phoenix in position 6

Here are salient notes for my first move in our Alchemical game:

This game will grow double-layered -- a veneer of Western laminated with a veneer of Eastern to form stained-glass panel, a Jerusalem Windows Tree of Life, the Mysterium Conjunctionis played out in light on the bridge from earth to Ain Soph/Tao.

In position 6, the Place of Beauty, I place the Western Peacock and the Eastern Phoenix, the bird of beauty in its guises of passive and active being.

The alchemical peacock proximately derives from a colored luster formed by layered films of oxides on molten metals. The metal serves as a mirror-backing and the films create interference colors - Newton's colors- white light minus a specific frequency destroyed by cancellation of the impinging and reflected waves. These colors, which have no names in ordinary artistic vocabularies, appear also in the eyes of the peacock tail, where they are created by thin films of protein coating the barbules of the feathers. The alchemists took the fleeting appearance of these colors as a stage in their maturation of the philosopher's stone, a process of deliberate growth in the hermetic vessel, which will be the sacred space or temenos of our game. The peacock is the alchemists perception of beauty as an absolute necessity of the process of transformation.

The Chinese Phoenix exists in contest with the Dragon for the flaming pearl of perfection. In elemental terms, the Dragon is the ruler of water, the Phoenix rules air. The Phoenix is the bird everlasting, symbol of the physical immortality which was a goal of exoteric Chinese alchemy. The Phoenix is related to the Garuda and to the Rukh. The Western Phoenix burns and gives forth itself renewed from the ashes of its pyre. It is a golden bird and is closely allied to the trying of gold alloys in porous stoneware crucibles, where the dross is absorbed into the walls of the crucible and the purified gold remains as a glowing molten pellet.


Charles plays move 2 -- Chymical Wedding in position 7

You have made a beautiful move in the place of Beauty, George. In response, I play:

Move 2: Chymical Wedding in position 7.

Johann Valentin Andreae in his Chymical Wedding (1616, English by Foxcroft, 1690) refers to an unnamed bird which when born at first looks "very bloody and unshapen", then becomes "wholly black", then, after his black feathers moult, grows "Snow-white-Feathers", after which "his Feathers began to be so curiously coloured, that in all my Life I never saw the like colours for Beauty"...

John Warwick Montgomery in his book Cross and Crucible: Johann Valentin Andreae (1586-1654) Phoenix of the Theologians writes of this bird:

As virtually all interpreters of the *Hochzeit* agree, this is a Phoenix.

And yet, and yet... in the margin against the description of the feathers curiously coloured we find the notation "Iridescit"... presumably from "Iris", the rainbow spectrum, and thus a reference to the peacock. Jung writes:

The cauda pavonis announces the end of the work, just as Iris, its synonym, is the messenger of God. The exquisite display of colours in the peacock's fan heralds the imminent synthesis of all qualities and elements, which are united in the rotundity of the philosophical stone..

And yet Jung also quotes Dorn on the subject of a "bird without wings", which:

changes into a raven's head and finally into the peacock's tail, after which it attains to the whitest plumage of the swan and, last of all, to the highest redness, the sign of its fiery nature...

The consonance between this description and that of Andreae is impressive, however, so that when Jung continues directly to say:

This plainly alludes to the phoenix, which, like the peacock, plays a considerable role in alchemy as a symbol of renewal and resurrection, and more espectially as a synonym for the lapis.

I read the matter as referring to no bird and every bird, to no color and every color... surmising that Dorn's bird without wings is Andreae's bird without name -- whose transformations include raven, swan, peacock and phoenix...

And JV Andreae a veritable Phoenix of the Theologians...

*

I am calling this move Chymical Wedding rather than bird without name so that connections can be made to any part of Andreae's fabulous book in linking with this move.

I place it in the position of Netzach, Victory, since resurrection, the "theme" of my western phoenix and peacock alike, is the great victory over death.


George plays move 3 -- "Silent Work" in Malkuth in position 10

He writes:

This is no contest, Charles, but construction. When the music-master jams with the magister-to-be to construct a fugue, from a small quoted beginning quickly grows an elaborate, echoing structure. I count six major links established in your single move: the peacock, the phoenix, alchemy itself, the progression of colors, the idea of deathlessness, the idea of fusion, and I have not exhausted the created possibilities. If I can begin to keep up, we will build something worth more than evanescent interest.

In the sequence of alchemical changes, which itself changes from manuscript to manuscript, from book to book, the first material of our art is common and occurs everywhere, ignored and dismissed. But that material is ineffable, indicated only by implication and metaphor. As a book, silence is the Mutus Liber, the picture book of alchemy, which bids us read, read, read again. The pictures imply the need for a devoted couple to complete the work, an adumbration of a needed marriage. Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment. Here, the bird is not caged and yet does not sing.

Lao Tze cautions: Those who speak, do not know. Those who know, do not speak. This is the stage of the uncarved block, before nigredo, before the application of the Art. Silentium et secessus et liber animus sunt necessaria. Omnia quae impediunt vincat intentio. Quam si tota mente in opus direxeris, nihil eorum quae oculis vel auribus incursant ad animum pervenit. Here, in the place of Earth, the opus is meditation and recognition.

Engraving for Lost Wax Casting:

Shut the door. Be silent. Think only of the work.

The first cut erases the guideline. Each successive cut must be made with full intention or the design will be blurred and lost.

Haste will soften the wax until it fails to hold the track of the tool.

Too much pressure or uneven pressure will shatter or chip the work.

When the repetition of the strokes is sure and steady, each stroke cuts a little deeper and a little wider than its forerunner.

The two hands have different tasks. Each hand must rely on the work of the other.

The design is balanced. Each line must receive the same care and craft.

If the cut is too fast, the tool will chatter and mar the work.

When the design is complete the wax will be embedded in black clay. The clay will be baked white and the wax melted and burned away. Only the pure form will be left as a bubble to receive the yellow molten metal. The peacock glistens on the surface of the metal and the mold glows red in heat

The cooled mould must be broken to release the casting. The design lives in the polished metal, the shattered clay, and the burned wax. If the metal is not used and handled, the design will be erased by corrosion.

The engraver treasures the uncarved block.


Charles plays move 4 -- Light of Mohammed, Color of of Krishna in position 8

He writes:

George:

I thank you for your move in Malkuth, Silent Work. The correspondences between your paragraph on the lost wax method:

When the design is complete the wax will be embedded in black clay. The clay will be baked white and the wax melted and burned away. Only the pure form will be left as a bubble to receive the yellow molten metal. The peacock glistens on the surface of the metal and the mold glows red in heat
and my citations from Andreae and Dorn were of peculiar aptness and beauty. In response, I play:

Move 4: Light of Mohammed, Color of of Krishna

There is a footnote in Marie-Louise von Franz' edition of *Aurora Consurgens* which is worth quoting in full for the richer version of Dorn on the bird without wings which it offers:

A Study in the Process of Individuation, p. 330, n. 124 (mod.): The *cauda pavonis* is identified by Khunrath with Iris, the 'nuncia dei.' Dorn (De transmutat. metallorum, *Theatr. chem*. I, 1602, p. 599) explains it as follows: 'This is the bird which flies by night without wings, which the first dew of heaven by continual decoction, and by ascent and descent upwards and downwards, turns into the raven's head, and then into the peacock's tail, and afterwards it acquires very brilliant and swanlike feathers, and lastly an extreme redness, an indication of its fiery nature.' In Basilides (Hyppolytus, *Elenchos*, C, 14, 1) the peacock's egg is synonymous with the *sperma mundi*, the *kokkos sinapeos*. It contains the 'fullness of colours,' 365 of them. The golden colour should be produced from peacock's eggs, we are told in the Cyranides (Delatte, *Textes latins et vieux francasi relatifs aux Cyranides*, p. 191). The light of Mohammed has the form of a peacock, and the angels were made out of peacock's sweat (Aptowitzer, Arabisch-judische Schopfungstherorien, pp. 209, 233).
*

That's quite a footnote, and I quote it here to honor your reference to the fugal structure of Hesse's Game, as a restatement of the theme of my previous move in another key... but also for the additional material it brings, and specifically for the remark:

the light of Mohammed has the form of a peacock...
to which I would conjoin the following, from Edward C. Dimock's *The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaisnava-sahajiya Cult of Bengal* (U Chicago P, 1966):

the peacock, with his neck the color of Krsna and his uncontrollable urge to dance in the rainy season...
I take pleasure in juxtaposing the inward light of the Prophet and the outward form of the Avatar in this way...

*

Particularly in view of the fact that the *Aurora Consurgens* was originally published as part of Jung's *Mysterium Coniunctionis*, from which my earlier quotation regarding Dorn's bird without wings was drawn, and in any case because both MLvF's footnote and the passage from Jung are so clearly quoting one and the same passage from Dorn, I claim no links between those two passages beyond the fact that one represents a fugal repetition of the other, and have simply chosen to place them in parallel positions on the board, thus choosing position 8, Hod, for the present move.

Position 8 is connected by lines on the board to positions 6, 7 and 10 -- and thus I would claim links for this move to the moves already played in each of those positions:

To Western Peacock and the Eastern Phoenix at 6, since you wrote there:

The peacock is the alchemists perception of beauty as an absolute necessity of the process of transformation
and one might equally say that Krishna is the devotee's perception of beauty as an absolute necessity of the process of union...

To *Chymical Wedding* in position 7, since Mohammed is, like the peacock in that move with its rainbow synonym, the messenger of God...

And to Silent Work in 10, since the prophet is one who enters the great silence to hear the Word, while Krishna is called the stealer of minds because he confers that same silence on his devotees...

And lastly, because Radha, Krishna's consort, is called the golden one:

He, Krishna, is deep blue-green in color, dressed in yellow robes with a garland of flowers round his neck, his flute in his right hand, his right leg bent and crossed in front of his left; his left arm is around Radha, who is beautiful, the color of melted gold...

Edward Dimock and Denise Levertov, *In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali*, p 94
So that again we have the pavonine blue and molten gold in perfect conjunction...


George plays move 5 -- Totentanz in position 9

He writes:

I am not happy to make this move, but it forces itself upon me with the reminder: If not now, when? If not here, where?

In space 9, Yesod, I play the dance of death, the totentanz, the blackness after life and before birth, the blackness of ink, the blackness of Silver and Sulfur. Timor mortis conturbat me.


Death as blackness, the absence of color, the ground upon which color rests.
Death as process, as decay, as dissolution.
Death as the necessary accompaniment of action, the counsel of Krsna to Arjuna. (Mahabharata/ Bhagavad-Gita)
Death as the Crow's head of alchemy, the Nigredo, the black feeder upon death.
Death as the Raven, the Trickster, the World Creator, the releaser of mankind into the world, the stealer of the sun, the provider of fire.
Death as the dance of Kali upon the phallus of Vishnu who is Krishna.
Death as the black sun, the radiation of silence and immobility. (Julia Kristeva)
Death as Maha Kala, the Great Blackness, the holder of the eight-spoked wheel of life and death whose hub is the cock, the serpent, and the pig.
Death as the reward of the Chinese alchemists who sought to make the pill of immortality from the poison Mercury.
Death as the first change of the prima materia. The first step towards perfection is a step down.
*

Examination at the Womb-Door
(By Ted Hughes in *Crow*, 1971)

Who owns these scrawny litle feet?
Who owns this bristly scorched-looking face?
Who owns these still-working lungs?
Who owns this utility coat of muscles?
Who owns these unspeakable guts?
Who owns these questionable brains?
All this messy blood?
These minimum efficiency eyes?
This wicked little tongue?
This occasional wakefulness?
Given, stolen, or held pending trial?
Who owns the whole rainy stony earth?
Who owns all of space?
Who is stronger than hope?
Who is stronger than the will?
Stronger than love?
Stronger than life?
But who is stronger than death?
Pass, Crow.

Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Held.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Death.
Me, evidently.


*

SURRENDER

The light of Spring reopens my closed heart.
My Winter night lifts into open space.
I turn again to my neglected place.
The Equinox compels cold to depart.
I grieve that one I love chose not to live.
I have no answers and no heroes left.
Whole species die and leave the world bereft,
What can I take, with nothing mine to give?
Coyotes hunt where rabbits play and mate;
Life lives upon the deaths of innocence.
Spring twigs leaf out, my heart reminds my sense.
That I am life, both heart and head, not fate.
Spring calls me up to sing with all my breath.
Still I rejoice, as still I dance with death.

-- George Hersh, March 1992

*

As links, and here I claim no links, but observe their inevitable formation:

from Malkuth,
the passage from the silent work to the work of silence.

to Tiphareth,
the black bird becomes the bird of color, the bird of death becomes the bird of life renewed.

From Hod
Krishna the lover is Krishna the charioteer of the great battle, the counselor who urges war.

From Netzach
Marriage is the Great Victory over Death.

From Netzach to Hod to Yesod
That's all the facts when you get to brass tacks: Birth, copulation, and death.

Now, how to move from brass to gold?


Charles plays move 6 -- Wind in position 1

He writes:

George:

Your most recent move, the Dance of Death, is surrounded on all sides, and -- as in some strange variant game of Go -- no direct links will be possible to it in the remainder of our game, though it may still have resonance with other moves. Thus is captivity led captive...

I am left with the possibility of a move in position 1 -- in which case you no longer hold the center column entire -- or 2, 3, 4 or 5. Since, however, the structure of the board will not permit you to play only the central column and I only the two flanking columns, but will in any case demand at least one side column move on your part, I have decided to move in position 1, which links only with Western Peacock and Eastern Phoenix in 6 at this point in the game.

Accordingly, I play wind in position 1, Kether.

From Chuang Tzu, Free and Easy Wandering:

If wind is not piled up deep enough, it won't have the strength to bear up great wings. Therefore, when the P'eng rises ninety thousand li, he must have the wind under him like that. Only then can he mount on the back of the wind, shoulder the blue sky, and nothing can hinder or block him.

Link with Western Peacock and Eastern Phoenix in 6, since I believe it it is clear by now that the Western Peacock and Eastern Phoenix are transforms of one and the same bird, the bird of transformation itself, while the bird named P'eng is also a figure of transformation, for in the beginning of his chapter on Free and Easy Wandering Chuang Tzu writes:

In the northern darkness there is a fish and his name is K'un. The K'un is so huge I don't know how many thousand li he measures. He changes and becomes a bird whose name is P'eng. The back of the P'eng measures I don't know how many thousand li across and, when he rises up and flies off, his wings are like clouds all over the sky. When the sea begins to move, this bird sets off for the southern darkness, which is the Lake of Heaven.

In the phrase "When the sea begins to move", in all of this wind and sea, I find an echo of the opening verses of Genesis, in which the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters...


George plays move 7 -- Fool's Journey in position 4

He writes:

Comments on your move 6.

1. The middle pillar is no one's property. You are free to move where you will, of course. I had not noticed that I was cleaving to the center, since my natural inclination is to the pillar of mercy. Buber has the story of a master of the pillar of mercy who prayed that he might also come to know the pillar of rigor, to praise in all ways. His prayer was granted and he immediately ran and hid under the bed praying to be restored to his former state.

2. The wind is a proper occupant for the crown. In the beginning, the creator moved as wind over water. You share my respect and love for Chuang Tzu and for Watson's translation.

3. As you observed, move 5 filled an eye in the structure of the game, a self-inflicted terminus that Go does not permit. A graceful and proper response, it seems to me, is to reassert, as you did, the primacy of process and moving through by giving the high place to the wind.

4. Wind is colorless, formless, invisible, the supporter of birds, a perfect indicator pointing to the great ultimate that remains above the field of play.

5. Although Kether links only to an occupied Tiphareth at this point in the game, your choice fills the crown with resonances of all that has gone before. Below the P'eng all is blue. The P'eng unites the elements of water and air by transformation. The P'eng is the bird of birds. The P'eng evades death by transformation and flies to the south.

*

Move 7. I play the Fool's Journey to position 4. (this move, at my hand, requires an excess of inelegant exposition.)

Threefold journey: The Fool's Journey, the Journey to the East, the Journey to the West.

The Fool of the Tarot moves through the pack, opposed only by Death and received by The World.

To the foolish narrator, the Journey to the East appears at first to have ended at the Gorge of Morbio Inferiore. This, surely, is the apparent effect of our move 5.

The journey begins in wonder and all possibility and darkens when the journeyer finds himself alone/deserts his companions. The lost journeyer believes himself wise but we discover him as the Fool as the story progresses. At end, the journey is seen to have always continued, flowing about the lost journeyer like a stream around a sullen boulder. The great punishment is to be forced to recognize that the self is alchemically fused to the highest and the best and thus that each missed step misses a spark that is then not returned to the heavens. The journey to the East is the Journey to recover interconnection and appreciation.

The Journey to the West begins with the spontaneous birth of the mind-monkey, Sun Wu Kung, Monkey-Aware-of-the-Void. Monkey, by himself, can ascend to Heaven or invade the Realm of Death, but all his acts are empty vanity. At last he is imprisoned beneath the mountain of five elements to await the true journey. The Monk Tripitaka possesses faith and good intention and nothing else at the beginning. He is the Fool. His first task on the journey is to tame Monkey to his service. He then receives the service of the Dragon/horse, the Pig of the body, and the Sandy priest of energy. His servants are his rescuers and are parts of the divided self.

Earth
The Monk Tripitaka (The Self)
Center, Yellow Orange Brown,
Prima Materia
Yin-Yang = T'ai Chi = The great ultimate undifferentiated

Water
Pigsy (Body-Appetite-Physical Existence)
North, Black,
(EARTH/green)
Kan - water, cloud, a pit, moon (pig)
Nigredo

Fire
Monkey (Mind-Vigilance-Understanding)
South, Red,
(FIRE/red)
Li - fire, lightning, sun (pheasant)
Rubedo

Metal
Sandy (Chi-Life Energy-The Source of Magic)
West, white,
(WATER/blue)
Dwei - lake, marsh, rain (sheep, goat)
Albedo

Wood
Dragon-Horse (Mobility-flow)
East, Green,
(AIR/yellow)
Jen - Thunder (dragon)
Citrinitas

The Journey to the West is alchemical fusion, spiritual awakening, the recovery of what cannot be lost, though it can be mislaid.

Links:

The Wedding necessitates the Journey. When the elements are fused, motion is the inevitable consequence.

The Peacock is the bird of gardens, the bird that does not wander. The Phoenix travels to the ends of the earth to gather fuel for its pyre. The bird moves and moves not, travels and remains still.

Adumbrations:

The Wind that Tramps the World, The Fool Dances His Journey, Krishna as child plays the fool. The sky beneath the P'eng on his journey is the sky above the P'eng, the illimitable blue of distance. The silent workman is immobile, but his work travels for him.


Charles plays move 8 -- Khubilgan in position 3

He writes:

George:

It was out the Western Gate that Lao Tzu was traveling, when his silence paused for a moment to speak. Was ever there a mutus liber to compare with the scrolls which Buddha conferred on Monkey for his journey to the East? When Monkey discovered they were blank, he brought them back to Buddha, who said:

As a matter of fact, it is such blank scrolls as these that are the true scriptures. But I quite see that the people of China are too foolish and ignorant to believe this, so there is nothing for it but to give them copies with some writing on.

Chuang Tzu writes:

The sky looks very blue. Is that its real color, or is it because it is so far away and has no end?

*

Move 8: khubilgan in position 3.

In one of those synchronicities which the game loves, I received the following quotations from Joseph Campbell this morning, as part of the Dream Event in which my games are now being played on the WaterBird board. They arrived at about the time I was writing my last move, Wind, in our own game, with its reference to the Spirit of God moving upon the waters...

The Buriats in the area of Lake Baikal tell of the Great Spirit, Sombol-Burkhan, who, when moving over the waters, saw a water-fowl swimming with its twelve young. Water-bird, he said, dive down and bring me earth - black soil in your beak and red clay in your feet. The bird dove, and Sombol-Burkhan scattered first the red clay on the water and then upon it the black soil; after which he thanked the bird. You shall ever live, he said, and dive in the water.

Which, as my correspondent noted, brings us back to alchemy...

Among the Buriat, the animal or bird that protects the shaman is called khubilgan, meaning metamorphosis, from the verb khubilku, to take another form.

But it is unnecessary to quote Campbell here further, for he piles example upon heedless example, unaware that his bird-costumed Siberian shamans who spoke to their spirits in a strange squeaky voice recall your peacock's scrannel voice, or that his dove that descended upon Mary, and the swan that begot Helen of Troy links with certain moves in a game on the Dream list, though less elegantly than Willie Yeats, while his "Angels are but modified birds" is but a poor echo of von Franz' "the angels were made out of peacock's sweat"...

Links:

To wind in position 1, (i) for the Great Spirit, Sombol-Burkhan, moving over the waters, (ii) for the water bird diving and rising to the air again, so that like the P'eng, it unites the elements of water and air by transformation and (iii) for its name metamorphosis which makes it none other than the bird of transformation itself as I have termed the raven-swan-peacock-phoenix in that move...

To Western Peacock and Eastern Phoenix in 6, since this water bird named metamorphosis is thus also directly comparable to peacock and phoenix which, we have seen, are themselves transforms of the bird of transformation...

*

Under most circumstances I would view a link of this latter kind with some disfavor, since it depends on an interpretation of your move gathered during the course of subsequent play -- though our game itself seems to have been largely devoted to the conjunction of phoenix and peacock into a greater bird (your alchemical bird of beauty), while the identity of the water bird with this alchemical bird is also confirmed by the subsequent involvement of black soil and red clay...

As one receiving dictation, then, and in deference to the synchronies involved, I play khubilgan in Binah, position 3.


George plays move 9 -- Green Tree in position 5

He writes:

Charles:

Were this game played for smaller stakes, I would cry Fowl!
But as it is, I here invoke Athena's owl.
That birds may find their rest in earth, fire, air, or sea,
Athena's spear leafs out to grow anew world's tree.
Simurgh resolves itself to thirty living birds.
Our game completes itself in antic fertile words.

I play the Green Tree to the fifth space.

The Irish tree grows from a pot. All the birds of the air grace its inexhaustible, intertwining branches. The Buriat's tree grows from the underworld to the heavens at the shaman's need, remembering the deed of the diver who brought up the seed of the earth.

The tree of life bears the ten pomegranates of the emanations. Here, self to reflexive self, it plays with us as we play in its branches. The bonsai grows old but does not grow, under the hands of generations. This is the tree for which one cannot see the forest. The wind blows and the tree dances. The tree's journey is through time.

The Great Tree bears a groaning weight.
The Night Snake gnaws its knotted root.
The Nine Worlds bend its branches low.
Bitter the spring at Erda's foot.

At old Mime's well, twist in the wind,
Nine days, nine nights, with soundless cry.
Hugin and Munin wash their wings
In tears and sweat before they fly.

Wisdom is born by runes of craft.
Wrought lines are keys to cunning lore.
Spells are the swords and shields of art.
Time, tides, and truth bring ship to shore.

Hand that knows rune-knife, cup, and oar
Rules as much world as spirit needs.
Mind that plumbs deep the pool of runes
Garners the gold beneath the weeds.

Take what you can. Make what you will.
Tales offer truth whenever told.
Story moves on past life and death.
Song finds the strength that outwears gold.

Warrior who sees past blood and steel,
Woman who will not live as slave,
Find your own truths and tell them well.
Lift up our hearts and bid them brave.

When you retell the oldest tales,
Take of your best, cast off your fears.
Dragons still speak to makers' minds.
Sing for their sharp attentive ears.

Links. Now let the birds sit in the tree and the tree sit in the tree. As Krishna supports phallus, he supports the tree. (I do not ask Mohammed to act in this matter.) Though Ratatosk runs up and down the trunk, he makes no journey out of space.


Charles plays move 10 -- Jacob's Ladder in position 2

He writes:

George:

Your choice of position 5 procures a lovely symmetry of placements on the board.

In position 2, Chokmah, I place Jacob's Ladder.

By this, I intend the Sephirotic Tree: for it appears to me that the branches of the Tree of Life are also the rungs of the ladder which Jacob saw, on which continually the angels ascend and descend.

Our board derives its geometry from this Tree, though I am at pains to distinguish the two for the sake of the Tree itself, and the long tradition which honors it. Yet in its own way, I trust our game with its leaps of association has something of the meditative quality which Abulafia sought, described in a paragraph of Gershon Scholem's:

... the modern reader of these writings will be most astonished to find a detailed description of the method which Abulafia and his followers called dillug and kefitsah, jumping or skipping viz. from one conception to another. In fact this is nothing else that a very remarkable method of using associations as a way of meditation. It is not wholly the free play of association as known to psychoanalysis; rather it is the way of passing from one associatian to another determined by certain rules which are, however, sufficiently lax. Every jump opens a new sphere, defined by certain formal, *not* material, characteristics. Within this sphere, the mind may freely associate. The jumping unites, therefore, elements of free and guided association and is said to assure quite extraordinary results as far as the widening of consciousness of the initiate is concerned. The jumping brings to light hidden processes of the mind, it liberates us from the prison of the natural sphere and leads us to the boundaries of the divine sphere. All the other, more simple methods of meditation serve only as a preparation for this highest grade which contains and supersedes all the others.
Links:

To Western Peacock and Eastern Phoenix in 6.

Peacock's feathers were used for angels wings in art, architecture, and in the mystery plays. Ezekiel's description of the cherubim as having wings full of eyes made such use appropriate, and angels' wings made of peacock's feathers were so commonplace that Chaucer was able to reverse the image and refer to the "pekok with his aungels fetheres bryghte"...

-- Beryl Rowland, *Birds with Human Souls: A Guide to Bird Symbolism*, U Tenn Pr, 1978

Thus:

angels on the rungs of the ladder
these birds on the branches of a tree

To khubilgan in 3.

The shamans of Siberia wear bird costumes to this day, and many are believed to have been conceived by their mothers from the descent of a bird.

-- Joseph Campbell

As it is needful for the shaman to quit the waking self and enter trance to travel between the worlds, so Jacob, sleeping, dreamed his great dream.

Thus:
shaman's vision travels between the worlds
angels move between earth and throne

To wind in position 1.

Here I place with gratitude words of yours, George, which have served as inspiration for my own move:

the wind in the tree, the tree in the wind
the birds in the tree, the tree for the birds

To Fool's Journey in 4.

The angel of the Elegies is that creature in whom the transformation of the visible into the invisible, which we are accomplishing, already appears in its completion... ; that being who guarantees the recognition of a higher level of reality in the invisible. -- Therefore terrifying for us, because we, its lovers and transformers, still cling to the visible.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, to Witold Hulewicz, November 13, 1925
Fools that we are, our journey is perforce a fool's journey, and fools we would be if it did not at times daunt us -- while deafened, dumbfounded, blinded, paralyzed by awe we should be, if we were not for the most part deaf to the celestial choir, dumb to the perpetual praise, blind to the radiant glory...

fools wandering the wide world
children nevertheless beneath the tree
children beneath the wings


Comments and Wrap Up:

In commenting on this game now that we'd wrapped it up, George wrote:

Excellent. With the last move the game is hallowed and elevated. I had not taken clearly your careful distinction between the Tree of Life as a device in religious work and the game board using its topology. All things are sacred and all places blessed.

Some Laws of Small Numbers

One mirrors one
And by that
two are two.
Two and/or times two,
Two to the second power,
Empowers four.
One and two and three and four are ten,
the tetractys or spheres of emanation.
Doubling from four to eight,
sixteen to thirty two, and so to sixty four, the hexagrams.
Twenty two are letters, numbers, paths.
These, lumped with fifty six, sorted in four fourteens,
by discs and wands and swords and chalices are twenty six,
which then are letters once again and stars.

Eight and twenty are the changes of the moon.
Pern in whose gyre? Blood from whose womb?

So do I stumble from one patterned whole
Unto another, seeking out my soul,
And see not that the mirror's cracks are laws.
To mirror minds no cracks are mirror's flaws.

Thank you for your hospitality, courtesy, ingenuity, and creativity.

And I responded:
It was an honor and a delight to play this game with you, and I am grateful to you -- and also to the friend who introduced you to the Games -- for providing me with the opportunity.

It is remarkable to see such moves appear on one's screen, coherent with one's own, and yet unthought by oneself.

In a note to another mutual friend, you wrote:

I was immersed in exploring the overlaps and contrasts of Charles's universe of discourse and my own.

I think the contrasts were, for me, clearest in the beginning moves, when you showed a level of chemical and craft knowledge that would be quite beyond me:

The alchemical peacock proximately derives from a colored luster formed by layered films of oxides on molten metals. The metal serves as a mirror-backing and the films create interference colors - Newton's colors- white light minus a specific frequency destroyed by cancellation of the impinging and reflected waves. These colors, which have no names in ordinary artistic vocabularies, appear also in the eyes of the peacock tail, where they are created by thin films of protein coating the barbules of the feathers.

When the design is complete the wax will be embedded in black clay. The clay will be baked white and the wax melted and burned away. Only the pure form will be left as a bubble to receive the yellow molten metal. The peacock glistens on the surface of the metal and the mold glows red in heat...

Your move 5, death, was stark: its placement in a position already surrounded, as I said at the time, in some way led captivity captive... I am deeply indebted to you for it, for it showed me death as the grit around which the pearl may form.

From James Hillman:

The alchemists had an excellent image for the transformation of suffering and symptom into a value of the soul. A goal of the alchemical process was the pearl of great price. The pearl starts off as a bit of grit, a neurotic symptom or complaint, a bothersome irritant in one's secret inside flesh, which no defensive shell can protect oneself from. This is coated over, worked at day in day out, until the grit one day is a pearl; yet it must still be fished up from the depths and pried loose. Then when the grit is redeemed, it is worn. It must be worn on the warm skin to keep its luster: the redeemed complex which once caused suffering is exposed to public view as a virtue. The esoteric treasure gained through occult work becomes an exoteric splendor.

My games on their various boards have not yet been around long enough for me to know much about the ways placement can work. I remember one game on the TenStones board -- played with the added wrinkle that move 1 should be in position 1, move 2 in position 2 and so forth -- in which for move 8 I confronted a veritable phalanx of dragons to make my links with. There was the Midgard Serpent in 5, a self-vanishing dragon of my own in 6, and a dragon-like creature who is all teeth and guards the gate in 7... I hadn't known it was possible to have a curtain of this sort fall across the board, and was relieved when GM Hopkins came to my rescue with his

dragonflies draw flame...
and changed the tenor of the game... These things, the tactical implications of particular board configurations and orders of play, are of great interest to me, and I thank you again for the graphic demonstration which this particular move embodied.

The overlaps between our universes of discourse became clearer, I think, when I played Chuang Tzu and you played Monkey. And then I was waiting, waiting -- as more birds arrived and some merged into others -- for the appearance of the simurgh...

By game's end we were in poetry, and those words you wrote:

the wind in the tree, the tree in the wind
the birds in the tree, the tree for the birds

were the more profound for their simplicity.

That, at any rate, was our game as I saw it, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have played it with you.



The Phoenix and the Peacock

George Hersh and Charles Cameron
a TenStones Game



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HipBone Games rules, boards, sample games and other materials are copyright (c) Charles Cameron 1995, 96. See Concerning Copyright for full copyright details.