As we move more deeply into the yin side of the year, I remembered a book I read years ago entitled “In Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki. In the book, he explores how in the past life in Japan was governed by shadows – the architecture, clothing, art, lighting, tea ceremony,, landscaping, and eating utensils.
It reminded me that in the northern hemisphere, we have entered the shadowy, yin part of the year and will be moving deeper and deeper into darkness until the Winter Solstice when Light will once again be reborn. In the East, yin means the shadow of the mountain, while yang means the sunny side of the mountain. Yin is dark, internal, receptive, hidden, soft, heavy, cool, wet and in shadow. Yang is bright, external, active, exposed, lit-up, hard, light-weight, warm, and dry.
In most cultures around the world, these flows of energy from yin to yang and yang to yin are depicted by directions. During the fall and winter, light(from the south) descends into darkness and rotates from the SW through the NW, until we get to the North where the darkest day of the year (the winter solstice} is experienced and then the energy flows to the NE where Light once again begins to appear. This is why the NE is called the doorway of spirit because it is the transition direction between darkness and light. The SW, which is the transition point between light and darkness is called the doorway of humanity.
The diagram above from India’s Feng Shui tradition, Vastu Shastra, pictures Purusha, the “cosmic man. ”
We can see the spiritual energy entering his head in the northeast.
Typically, I find homes and temples aligned along the NE to SW axis, or with doors in these directions to be very yin. Not surprising, the islands of Japan and their mountain ranges align in a NE to SW direction, so the thrust of a yin magnetic energy flow underlies and conditions the whole culture.
This may be why in the past, ritual was interwoven into every aspect of daily and religious life in Japan. Religion in Japan was a wonderful mix of ideas from Shintoism and Buddhism. Unlike in the West, religion in Japan was rarely preached. Instead it was a moral code, a way of living, almost indistinguishable from Japanese social and cultural values.
Lawrence Blair in his insightful book, Rhythms of Vision, wrote that only three languages in existence create a perfect mandala when spoken into an oscilloscope – Japanese, High Hebrew and High Javanese! So, even the Japanese language is integrated into the very fabric of their life.
Today, of course this has all changed as globalism has spread Western ideas so widely that almost all modern cultures are, influenced by aspects of Western culture. People have become ungrounded and programmable worldwide by wearing plastic and rubber soled shoes and synthetic clothing. Most are disconnected and unconscious of both Earthly and Cosmic energies.
In his masterpiece, Tanizak remembers how in the past, “We found beauty not in the thing itself, but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates… Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” and he further states that “ In the past. rather than fetishizing the new and shiny, the Japanese sensibility embraced the living legacy embedded in objects that have been used and loved for generations, seeing the process of aging as something that amplifies rather than muting the material’s inherent splendor. Luster became not an attractive quality, but a symbol of shallowness, a vacant lack of history.”
I find the insights in this book, written years ago, still relevant. He reminds us how insensitive we have become to light pollution. He reflects that, “So benumbed are we nowadays by electric lights that we have become utterly insensitive to the evils of excessive illumination.” He further states that, “The progressive Westerner is determined to always better his lot. From candle to oil lamp. oil lamp to gaslight, gaslight to electric light – his quest for brighter light never ceases, he spares no pain to eradicate even the minutest shadow.”
Speaking of Shadows, this week we have Richard Coldman back to do part two of his Projection interview. In our previous talk, we discussed projection of unconscious attributes and the 20th Century birth of consumerism under the influence of Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays with his introduction of “public relations” and propaganda into politics and commerce as instruments of literal mass hypnosis. Our second conversation on the subject opens up the mechanism of projection, ironically powered as it is by the human need for meaning and the ways that our meaning-making can be distorted through the projection of not only negative but ideal attributes onto our neighbors, co-workers, our leaders even onto characters in fictional and historical narratives. Indigenous North American wisdom traditions recognize an entity, a force or a psychic process at the heart of the most dangerous and de-stabilizing outbreaks of individual and mass projection and counter-projection which they call “Wetiko” or “Wendigo”. This is a fascinating discussion!
Richard is a musician, composer, filmmaker and editor, He is also a teacher of tai chi chuan, qigong, and practitioner of Chinese internal martial arts and meditation, with additional input from biofeedback, Feldenkrais method and other somatic arts. You can contact Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is now illegal to sell Berkeys in California – they have been classified as a pesticide because they kill bacteria and viruses! I Wonder what shungite will be classified as!!
Love and Light, Carol