by Patrick MacManaway
Similar difficulty and frustration is described by Earnest Eitel in his account of the early British encounter with Feng Shui as practiced and reverenced in the Chinese communities that they began trading with, where all economic considerations were given lower priority than that of honouring the principles of harmonious and respectful relationship with their landscape and the numinous energies that moved through it, and in moving affected all other things.
That initial sense of alienness and unfamiliarity has remained with respect to our Western experience of Feng Shui, although now instead of a frustration at having to deal with a thing beyond logic and the rational demands of capitalism, many in the West feel compelled to explore the exotic mystery of a system working with subtle energies that can enhance every aspect of our lives, and paradoxically one of it's greatest appeals is in it's application to the business environment where it can be turned to the advantage of the corporate capitalistic world. The circle turns and the serpent swallows its tail…
Geomantic principles have been largely denied in the West, particularly at the popular level, since the political working of Christian Religion forced it either into hiding or secrecy. For many, therefore, an encounter with Feng Shui is a first experience with geomancy in any form.
Readers of these pages will be increasingly familiar with the rich tradition of geomancy in Western culture, and indeed with the understanding that all primal and indigenous cultures have a deep sense of their relationship with the earth and her subtle currents as the central component of their cosmology.
There seems to be a general difficulty however in reconciling the Eastern and Western traditions of geomancy, and many practitioners and students of the Earth Mysteries and the Neolithic and Celtic traditions in the UK feel that Feng Shui is not recognisable as part of their body of research or knowledge.
This seems to be a particular paradox, as in the very awakening of our cultures' renewed connection with earth energies, we percieve Feng Shui to be a living tradition of geomancy, but cannot see how the placement of our cash register next to our door, the positioning of a mirror behind our desk or the hanging of bamboo flute on an exposed beam has anything to do with lines of ley energy or the rising of the midSummer Sun.
How can two cultures have ended up with such radically different approaches to a similar issue?
Kipling found that East and West could indeed meet at a point beyond words - at a shared place of honour and integrity.
We might well look in a similar fashion beyond and behind the differences of Western Earth Mysteries and Eastern Feng Shui to find a place of meeting beyond words, beyond the historical, political and cultural interpretations to a place of symbol and spirit. And there as expected we find that at core, all people who watch a Sunflower slowly unfold do indeed see the same thing.
Let us look in two places for this shared truth and wisdom - at the Eastern and Western cycles of elements, and at the fundamental cosmological mandalas that each uses to orient itself in space.
Four and Five
Students of the Western mysteries learn to percieve the esssence of the world in four fundamental forms - the forms of earth, water, air and fire. These are generally layed on a cosmological mandala or medicine wheel, and are associated with states of being and states of consciousness, with distinct experiences, processes and initiations relating to each one.
Anyone who has worked with these four to a point where they become an internalised unconscious language and a powerful set of tools and allies feels great resistance to the apparently contradictory notion of the five element system used by those in the East.
This resistance is more than the burden of learning a new language - the correspondences of the five elements of the East - water, wood, fire, earth and metal - do not seem to be near enough or share sufficient equivalents to be describing the same things - and how to fit a five point sytem into a four point sytem without loing the integrity of both ?
I have been sitting with these apparent contradictions for some time, and recently had the pleasure and priviledge of spending time with Richard feather Anderson, San Francisco-based teaacher and practitioner of geomancy embracing both the Eastern and Western traditions.
The five elements of the oriental wheel are not in fact elements as we perceive elements to be in the West.
Rather than describing fixed, cardinal states as do our four, they are describing ways in which energy moves between states.
Thus wood is the movement of energy outwards, fire is the movement of energy upwards, metal is the movement of energy inwards and water the movement of energy downwards.
Rather than placing them at the cardinal points of our wheel we might therefore place these four at the Cross-quarter points, between the fixed states of the quarters (remembering that the Celts were perhaps even more concerned with the Cross-quarters and the points of energy shift between the seasons than with the quarters at the seasonal midpoints).
Earth, the fifth of the oriental elements, or more correctly "dynamics of change" is related to the constant and inevitable movement of energy in circles and cycles, and is correctly placed in the centre of the cosmological wheel, being the pivotal hub around which all else constantly rotates.
Now we begin to see an integrtion between the two systems, particularly when we remember that our fifth Western element, ether, is also present in the centre of the wheel, informing and preceeding the four fixed states.
But we are still left with the problem of orientation on the wheel. The Ba Gua, which is the oriental cosmological mandala used as an overlay on any site to read the relative energies present, seems not to speak closely to the Celtic or Native American medicine wheels.
This may be so at first glance, but feather was able to show me that the Eastern and Western mandalas do indeed share the same truth and wisdom.
The Magic Square of Saturn
Firstly, both are based on the magic square of Saturn, and reveal sacred geometry to be the underlying fundamental at work.
Secondly, the Ba Gua used in site work is called the "Later Heaven Sequence" and speaks to a constantly spinning wheel of unstable and therefore living energies.
The "Former Heaven Sequence" is an earlier and more fundamental mandala that lies behind the Later Heaven Sequence, and relates to the way that things are oriented in Heaven.
This Former Heaven Sequence is in essence identical to the Celtic wheel worked with by students of that tradition, placing all the archetypal energies, seasons and states of consciousness at the same points in space and time.
What can we take from this revelation?
Universality - All Paths Are the Same Path
Firstly, great relief that all paths are the same path and that all revelations are revelations of the same fundamental truths, so whatever path you're on - providing its working for you - keep going.
For those of us working to further and promote geomancy and spiritual connectedness with landscape, the news is also encouraging. Conflicts are superficial, truth and wisdom is universal.
This very universality is perhaps the most important thing to connect with of all.
NLP practitioners know that all people access information in similar ways, with certain gestures, eye movements and postures bringing particular consciousness to the fore.
It follows that a medicine wheel or cosmological mandala is an externalised version of the way that we hold our energetic matrix around us, and that this matrix from is universal to all of life.
A New, Fresh and Universal Geomantic Paradigm
This being so, in exploring a new, fresh and universal geomantic paradigm, uncluttered by unneeded and outdated historical and political baggage we must be simple enough to appeal to all, whilst being universal in order to allow those on any path to feel its truth and applicabilty to themselves.
Sacred geometry, astronomy/astrology, and the earth energies remain the three generic fundamentals in all cosmological systems.
I encourage each one of us to seek always the simple, always the shared and always the universal in all that we do in order that we continue to dissolve boundaries and embrace our shared experience of communion with each other and all of nature, above, below, inside and outside.
The path back to the Garden of Eden is the path to unity consciousness.