A Glass Bead Game

for Marie-Louise von Franz

This game was written as a contribution to the Festschrift in that grand lady's honor to be edited by James Hall and Murray Stein for Chiron Press, but was not selected for publication. Played on the WaterBird board.

Charles Cameron



Move 1 in 1: "Building"

Legend has it that St. Thomas the Apostle spent the latter part of his life preaching the new gospel in India, where he became the adviser -- by virtue of exceptional holiness -- to the king of a small city-state.

This king engaged Thomas at considerable expense to build him a palace, and Thomas indeed went about the business of considering a ground plan, proposing suites of chambers for the royal guests, the royal reception area and so forth.

Nothing, however, was built, and over a period of years, the king's brother came to the not-unnatural conclusion that Thomas was a fraud, intent on bilking his brother of large sums of money without fulfilling his contractual obligations.

This so enraged the brother that he finally told the king his suspicions, and became so excited in the process that he choked on his wrath and suffered death by apoplexy -- a dramatic turn of events which lent more than ordinary credibility to his suggestions.

On arriving in heaven, the brother was ushered into a small but paradisal house, whose windows overlooked a far more splendid edifice -- a veritable palace among the many mansions within our heavenly father's kingdom. "And whose mansion is that?" he asked, having apparently retained a keen interest in matters architectural through the "after death" process. "That," said his ministering angel, "is the palace that Thomas has been building these many years for your brother's eventual use."

At this point the brother requested leave to return to earth, to acquaint his brother the king with the new evidence, and to revise his judgment of Thomas' character and reputation in the light of it. It says much for the generosity of legend -- as against the asceticism of scripture, see Luke 16: 27ff -- that this leave was in fact granted: albeit with the proviso that his return to earth should take place in the form of a dream, rather than as an event in waking life.

Let us build a building:

Like the building that Thomas built, ours will not be located in the physical realm, but in some part of what Guy Davenport calls "the geography of imagination".




Move 2 in position in position 8: "Stone"

The obvious material with which to build a building is stone: and this obtains "above" as much as "below". "Upon this rock I will build my Church", Christ declares, though the rock in question is the person of St Peter, and by extension the intangible idea of the Papacy. Ideas, then, can be our building blocks -- and indeed our use of the word "adamant" to describe those who are inflexible (dogmatic?) in their ideation refers to the metaphysical notion of the uncuttable stone.

Precious stones carry a similar set of extended meanings in Buddhism, where the phrase "the Three Jewels" refers to the Buddha (teacher), Dharma (teaching) and Sangha (congregation) -- it is in these Three Jewels that every Buddhist takes refuge -- while Bodhicitta, the supreme object of the bodhisattva's meditation, is called "rinchen sem chog" in Tibetan, meaning "the precious jewel of all minds".

Our own building, then, will be a net of precious stones of an imaginative sort: a Glass Bead Game or "virtual music of ideas".

Links from "Stone" in position 8:

to "Building" in position 1, stone as building material, peculiarly appropriate to churches
Meditation:
on the various meanings of the word "petrified", on the embodiment of the church in her great stone cathedrals, and on the stone which the builders rejected, which is become the chief corner stone...



Move 3 in position 3: "Straw"

Straw is another building material -- as for instance in Exodus 5, where Pharaoh's unfair demand that the Israelites should gather their own straw to make bricks rather than wasting their time in worship is the "straw that breaks the camel's back": their outcry to Moses and Aaron results in the Lord at last leading them out of their bondage in Egypt.

Straw has been an important ingredient of bricks in many cultures, but is usually unsatisfactory when used as the sole material -- as we learn from the ease with which the wolf "huffed and he puffed" and blew down the house made of straw in "Three Little Pigs".

There has recently been a renaissance of interest in "straw houses" among environmentalists, and interested builders can now find books with titles such as Plastered Straw Bale Construction and Build It With Bales.

Links from "Straw" in position 3:

to "Building" in position 1, straw as building material
to "Stone" in position 8, impermanence of straw contrasted with permanence of stone
Meditation:
on the difference between a "straw man", the fallacy committed when a speaker ignores the actual position of an interlocutor and substitutes a false version of that position to argue against, and the "rock" on which the church is built, emblematic of unshakeable truth...



Move 4 in position 2: "Fire"

The hearth or fireplace is central to a building: it is its contemplative heart. Gaston Bachelard, in his The Psychoanalysis of Fire, writes:

The fire confined to the fireplace was no doubt for man the first object of reverie, the symbol of repose, the invitation to repose. One can hardly conceive of a philosopohy of repose that would not include a reverie before a flaming log fire. Thus, in our opinion, to be deprived of a reverie before a burning fire is to lose the first use and the truly human use of fire.
and again:
Fire is for the man who is contemplating it an example of a sudden change or development and an example of a circumstantial development. Less monotonous and less abstract than flowing water, even more quick to grow and to change than the young bird we watch every day by its nest in the bushes, fire suggests the desire to change, to speed up the passage of time, to bring all of life to its conclusion, to its hereafter. In these circumstances the reverie becomes truly fascinating and dramatic; it magnifies human destiny; it links the small to the great, the hearth to the volcano, the life of a log to the life of a world. The fascinated individual hears the call of the funeral pyre. For him destruction is more than a change, it is a renewal...

Links from "Fire" in position 2:

to "Building" in position 1, fire as the hearth and heart of a building
to "Straw" in position 3, fire easily consumes straw
to "Stone" in position 8, the earth viewed as a "stone with fire at its heart"
to "Stone" in position 8, Senior speaks of the stone "from which you can get, and so give, fire to whomever you wish"
Meditation:
on fire at the heart, consuming all "straw men", all illusory ideas, until bodhicitta, the "precious jewel of all minds", alone remains...



Move 5 in position 5: "Moon"

The moon in her phases shows us change, mutabilitie, impermanence: hers is a reflected light, yet subtler and more lovely than the brilliant light of day.

Water, whose tides she rules, in turn reflects her above all others. It is at the moon reflected in the waters of the Yellow River that Li Po gazes, into the moon in the river that he falls in his drunken reverie, he drowns in the moon. And still the moon remains...

while you, moon,
old moon face,
ripple water, ripple moon
In her fullness, the moon as sky pearl, as precious jewel, can also be seen as the "great wonder in heaven" of the Apocalypse:
a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.
In the Jewish Kiddush Levanah, the Blessing Over the New Moon, we read:
To the moon He spoke: renew yourself, crown of glory for those who were borne in the womb, who also are destined to be renewed and to extol their Creator for His glorious sovereignty.

Links from "Moon" in position 5:

to "Straw" in position 3, like a straw house, the moon is impermanent, changing
to "Stone" in position 8, the moon as a rock, mere real estate
to "Stone" in position 8, the moon as the mother of pearl
Meditation:
on the moon in the night sky...



Move 6 in position 4: "Sun"

Self-shining, the sun is deva: glory, radiance, royalty.

Self-shining, the sun endures, unchanging.

Subtending the same angle at the eye as the moon, the sun is at one and the same time more distant from us than the moon, greater than the moon, and -- most profoundly -- her equal and twin.

Links from "Sun" in position 4:

to "Fire" in position 2, the sun is essential fire
to "Stone" in position 8, it is about the sun that the rock revolves
Meditation:
on Christ as solar principle and logos, as "pyr" or purifying fire in his Eucharistic presence, and as lapis or stone...



Move 7 in position 9: "Aurora"

Aurora Consurgens: A Document Attributed to Thomas Aquinas on the Problem of Opposites in Alchemy, edited with commentary by Marie-Louise von Franz.

Originally published as Part III of Jung's Mysterium Coniunctionis in his Gesammelte Werke, this title was dropped from his Collected Works in English, and issued separately under von Franz's name in the Bollingen Series.

Marie-Louise von Franz puts forward the hypothesis that the authentic Aurora -- Part I: Part II she considers a later commentary -- consists of notes taken by a disciple at Aquinas' final, death-bed seminar on the Song of Songs.

Von Franz suggests that this seminar was packed with alchemical symbolism because Aquinas had undergone a "revelatory" experience a little earlier, which caused him to declare that his previous writings were "as worthless as straw", resulted in his leaving his Summa Theologica unfinished, and allowed a more rapturous, bride-mystical devotional attitude to take the place of his previously predominant intellectualism.

Let us note how tightly this alchemical work maps onto the formula "the stone which the builders rejected is become the chief corner stone":

The very parts of the corpus of alchemical writings which historians of science tends to reject as fantastic -- which they cannot "see" as proto-chemistry -- are those parts which Jung made the cornerstone of his own understanding: spiritual alchemy can thus be seen as the stone which the builders rejected...

Similarly, as the stone that the builders of the Collected Works rejected, Aurora Consurgens bids fair to be considered their chief cornerstone.

If further, as von Franz proposes, the Aurora Consurgens is indeed the unacknowledged work of Thomas Aquinas, it may by the same logic be considered the cornerstone of scholastic philosophy.

Links from "Aurora" in position 9:

to "Fire" in position 2 and "Straw" in position 3, since the Aurora is what remained to be said after the "straw" of Aquinas' previous writings had been consumed by the "fire" of his vision
to "Sun" in position 4, since Aurora is the dawn
to "Moon" in position 5, since the new moon like the rising sun is a moment of worship
to "Sun" in position 4 and "Moon" in position 5, since they are the terms of the coniunctio
to "Stone" in position 8, since the stone is the fruit of the coniunctio
to "Stone" in position 8, since the Aurora is -- as spritual alchemy, as Jungian text, and perhaps even as the final opus of Aquinas -- the "stone that the builders rejected"
Meditation:
on the stone...



Move 8 in position 6: "Alchemy"

Since "Aurora" is itself the chief corner stone of the tribute to Marie-Louise von Franz constituted by our Glass Bead Game, it remains only to make the last three moves concordant with it.

Alchemy is the art of transmuting base metals into gold.

Considering the enormous contributions which Marie-Louise von Franz has made herself to the study of alchemy, it would be both temeritous and superfluous to go beyond this simple definition in a game which is offered to her.

Links from "Alchemy" in position 6:

to "Fire" in position 2, since the refiner's fire tries gold
to "Sun" in position 4, since "sun" is the planetary equivalent of gold
to "Aurora" in position 9, since Aurora Consurgens is an alchemical text
Meditation:
on that which is tried in the refiner's fire...



Move 9 in position 7: "Solomon and Sheba"

Judah and Tamar had twins: the firstborn was named Peretz (breach) on account of the moon whose light is sometimes hidden, and the second Zerach (shining), on account of the sun which always shines. The House of David was descended from Peretz.

The Davidic dynasty is likened to the moon because it underwent various stages of ascendancy and descendancy. Furthermore, since the Davidic dynasty evolved from Peretz, the Talmudic Sages used the message "David King of Israel lives and exists" to inform Jews in far off countries that the New Moon had appeared and been sanctified.

Solomon, being of the House of David, is thus a lunar king.

Sheba, meanwhile, is described in the Song of Songs as both "fair as the moon" and "clear as the sun", and as "Wisdom, namely Queen of the South" she is "said to have come from the East, like unto the morning rising."

Sheba is therefore a solar queen.

Links from "Solomon and Sheba" in position 7:

to "Straw" in position 3, since I Kings 4, in describing the glory of King Solomon's household, mentions straw among the provisions brought to the horses in his stables
to "Moon" in position 5, since Solomon is of the lunar House of David
to "Moon" in position 5, since Sheba as Queen is lunar as queen with respect to Solomon as king
to "Aurora" in position 9, since Sheba is like the sunrise
to "Aurora" in position 9, since the topic of the Song of Songs is the love between Solomon and Sheba
Meditation:
on Israel and God, Church and Christ, bride and groom...



Move 10 in position 10 "Stereophanic"

Hesse's friend Thomas Mann says in Doctor Faustus:

To look at the relations between things must be the best thing after all.
I would like to end this Glass Bead Game with a gift to Marie-Louise von Franz in the form of a neologism of my own devising, and incidentally to explain something about the form of meditation suitable to a Game of this sort.

Hesse describes the function of Glass Bead Games thus:

Our mission is to recognize contraries for what they are: first of all as contraries, but then as opposite poles of a unity. Such is the nature of the Glass Bead Game.
The similarity with Jung's work here can hardly be ignored...

Further, the Glass Bead Game can be played by juxtaposing ideas of many kinds: visual, musical, verbal -- as in this particular Game -- or even kinesthetic. Behind every such pairing of ideas, however, whether in opposition or in parallelism, the unitive intuition may be found. Thus Hesse writes again:

Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with a truly meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, holiness is forever being created.
Since the Game is inherently meditative, the question arises: what form does the Game player's meditation follow?

I think that it is clear from the quotations above that the Glass Bead Game player meditates by holding two parallel or contrary ideas in the mind's eye at the same time. The meditation is therefore analogous to "stereoscopic" vision or "stereophonic" sound: it involves the arising of a third or depth dimension which negates neither of the two elements which gave rise to it, while uniting them. Since the vision in this case is inward, I have coined the term "stereophanic" to describe this effect -- by analogy also with "epiphanic" and "theophanic".

Thus sun and moon, I contend, if held thus simultaneously in the mind's eye, are not eclipsed but transcended -- giving rise to that light of which the Apocalypse speaks:

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it
thus allowing us to participate in the building of the heavenly city. Meditation:
on stereophany in alchemy, in the "Song of Songs, which is Solomon's", and in the Aurora Consurgens...



Charles Cameron

a WaterBird 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.