Ida and pingala in other systems

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Don't make the mistake of assuming that the symbology of ida and pingala is confined to yoga and Indian mysticism. The ida-pingala principle represents a universal truth. It is therefore a part of every spiritual system in some form. Often the same idea of balance is conveyed by completely different symbols, but usually the symbology is strikingly similar.

Many ancient systems depict the route of spiritual life as a path or series of steps. Often tbe moon (ida) is shown in one corner and the sun (pingala) in the other. Sometimes spiritual life is depicted as a winding path which ascends the side of a high mountain. Again, the sun and the moon are shown. The mountain is symbolic of the sushumna. This symbology is veiy common in medieval European secret or mystical societies.

The cross in Christianity has many meanings, but surely one of them implies balance. All opposites are harmonized and equalized at the centre. Furthermore, if you use a little imagination, you can see that the cross is really very similar to the yogic symbol for ida, pingala and sushumna. The left side of the cross is ida, the right side pingala and the vertical line or post is sushumna. Their meeting point is ajna chakra. The upper line or sushumna continues on to the sahasrara (oneness). At the crossing point, in the middle ofthe cross (ajna) there is no ego. It was on the cross that Christ was crucified, meaning that he lost his sense of ego, which he sacrificed at the centre. There are many meanings hidden in the cross and this is just one of them.

Those people who are familiar with the tarot cards will remember that some of the cards show two pillars on each side of the pictures, these include 'the Pope', 'the hanged man' and so forth. The two pillars are ida and pingala. They imply that balance in all aspects of life is necessary for spiritual life. Also many of the cards depict the sun and moon, again indicating the ida and pingala aspects of spiritual life.

Alchemical pictures are particularly notable for their clear illustrations of ida and pingala. Like yogic symbolism, ida is often represented by the moon and pingala by the sun. Other symbols are also used, such as the phoenix, the deer, the lion and so forth, with various meanings, but always the emphasis is on balance. The nocturnal world (internal knowledge) is shown merging with the sunlight world (external expression). All seemingly irreconcilable opposites are shown unified. This harmony and integration of opposites leads to regeneration or transmutation of the individual into higher states of receptivity and being. This regeneration of man is called the philosopher's stone, where his whole nature is refined so that it shines with dazzling luminosity. The average person is like an uncut diamond, dull and lustreless. When the diamond is cut and polished it radiates knowledge and bliss. This arises when the ida is balanced by the pingala at all levels of being.

Many of you have heard of the Goat of Mendes, also known as Baphomet. This is a very evocative mythical figure that tends to induce strange sensations in the psyche of many people. It is a hermaphrodite figure of human form with a goat's head. It symbolizes transcendental magic. Pictures of Baphomet show a black moon in the bottom left hand corner, with Baphomet's arm pointing downwards. The black moon symbolizes the ida path used for selfish purposes. The pointing arm indicates that the misuse of psychic powers, such as in black magic, will eventually lead to a downfall and adverse personal repercussions. It seems that all people who tread the ida path for selfish reasons have a tendency to crash and pay the penalty. If you care to read The Occult, a book by Colin Wilson, you will be firmly convinced of this fact. All the famous occultists whom he mentions suffered through misuse of their powers. They rarely find happiness in life.

The other hand of the Baphomet points upwards to a white moon in the top right hand corner. This shows that the path of ida can lead to spiritual ascension, if psychic powers are not used for selfish purposes.

The ida and pingala pathways are also shown in pictures of Baphomet. But they are only depicted rising from mooladhara chakra through swadhisthana to manipura chakra.

they ascend no further. This is open to many interpretations. In the context of the diagram we understand this as meaning that selfishness in outer activities (pingala) or in inner psychic abilities (ida) will prevent the individual rising above the level of understanding represented by the manipura chakra. You may possibly have a better interpretation.

Hermes was the ancient Egyptian personification of wisdom. He is also associated with Hermes Trismegistus who is believed to have originated the science of alchemy. There is much confusion between history and myth, but this doesn't concern us here. Hermes is usually depicted holding a unique rod in one hand, with two wings at the top end and entwined with two serpents. This is called a caduceus and is illustrated on the right hand side of the diagram under the heading entitled Svmbolism of Ida and Pingala' in part 1 of this discussion1. This symbol is no other than the ida. pingala and sushumna of yoga. If you count the number of intersections of the two serpents you will find that there are six. These represent the junction of ida and pingala at each of the six chakras from mooladhara to ajna. The two wings at the top of the caduceus are the exact equivalent of the two lotus petals that symbolize ajna chakra in yoga, the highest chakra where ida and pingala merge to become one. This mystical symbol is the exact equivalent of ida, pingala and sushumna of India.

Incidentally, this caduceus is the official symbol of the medical profession. In this context it is called the Staff of Aesculapius (the wand of Hermes and Mercury ). This may seem a little fanciful but actually the adoption of this symbol is perfectly logical. Medicine is concerned with balance, for it is imbalance that causes disease. Balance means good health while imbalance implies illness or bad health. This balance or lack of balance applies at all levels of subtlety; it is directly associated with ida and pingala. Illness can be caused by physical, pranic and mental imbalance. In a wider sense, illness is caused by spiritual imbalance. In the extreme sense, we can say that only a person who has achieved the highest stage of spiritual life, unitive life, is truly healthy. The balance of ida and pingala is the prime concern of any system of healing, including medicine, which is why the caduceus is used as the symbol of medical science.

The ancient Egyptian worship of Isis, the gnostic system of Abraxas and many other old systems were very concerned with the balance of ida and pingala. This is very clear from the surviving symbols of these ancient cults. The same applies to systems that are still active, such as the Rosicrucians and Freemasons -balance of opposites is of prime importance.

In the story of Genesis in the Bible mention is made of the tree of good and evil and the tree of life. This is open to many different interpretations, but we see the tree of good and evil to be the ida and pingala, the tree of life being the sushumna. This is confirmed by the fact that the cult of ancient Persia, the cult of Mithra, had a similar symbol. It is widely accepted that much of the Bible was influenced by this Persian cult, or conversely that the system of Mithra was influenced by the Old Testament. There is a well-known symbol of Mithra where two snakes - good (ahura mazda) and evil (ahriman) - face each other and devour the cosmic egg. The egg is in the mouth of each snake. The egg represents perfect harmony at the highest level - sahasrara. These two snakes and the tree of good and evil in the Bible, represent the ida and pingala, the opposing forces or aspects of existence. When the egg is consumed by the ida and pingala snakes then there is perfect fusion in the sahasrara, where all opposites are resolved.

This idea of balance is common to every spiritual system. It is symbolized in many different ways. We have only given the exam-

pies that are obviously very similar to the idapingala symbol. There are innumerable other symbols that say the same thing in a different way. An obvious example is the yin-yang symbol of China - the t'ai chi. This is also shown in the previously mentioned diagram in part 11. It has basically the same meaning as ida-pingala. Yin is female and earthly, while yang is male and heavenly. They represent opposite forces or aspects at all levels from the physical to the more subtle, from the micro-cosmic to the macrocosmic. There is nothing that does not come under their influence. Ida and pingala can be applied to everything. The same is true of yin and yang. Harmony between them leads to health and implies that one's inner being is perfectly in tune with the outside world; disharmony means illness, unhappiness and disequilibrium in one's being and relationship with the outside world. When there is harmony and balance of ida and pingala at the highest level, one blends with the sahasrara (oneness). When there is harmony and balance of yin and yang then the result is Tao. Both are beautiful, expressive symbols crossing language boundaries and time. They apply to everyone in any race, place and era. Moreover, words can so easily be misunderstood and corrupted but symbols retain the purity of the meaning, for they only reveal themselves when one is ready to understand.

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