Pondering the Dyad

I think that, of all the numbers I’ve encountered in the occult, and especially lately with my meditations on the Tetractys, the Dyad has to be the most confusing and hard to understand for me.  I mean, what’s so hard about it?  It’s just one more than the Monad, two, isn’t it?  Well…no.  Two Monads does not a Dyad make; two Monads are necessary, it’s true, but they are not sufficient to make the Dyad.  The Dyad is more than just a combination of two things, it’s a unity or union between two things.  You can’t analyze (take apart) the union without synthesizing (putting together) the ends, though it’s easy to see the two ends as separate and distinct from each other and, crucially though incorrectly, understand them as whole entities in and of themselves.  But consider:

  • What is music?  Music is a sequence of notes, yes?  But it’s also the rhythm, the timing, and the harmony produced between successive or concurrent notes that produces the music.  Music is not a just a sequence of notes, but it’s something more than that.
  • What is a fight?  A fight is the interaction between two fighters, yes?  But it’s also the flow, the connection, the respect or lack thereof between them where the fight itself takes place.  An individual fighter fights nobody on their own.
  • What is a sephirah?  A sephirah is an emanation of God that reflects one of His many attributes, yes?  But it’s also the connection and flow from God.  Without a connection, a sephirah has no means to be filled with God and becomes a husk.
  • What is love?  Love is the relationship and harmony between two individuals, yes?  But it’s not possible to have love without something to love, nor is it possible to love someone without reciprocity or knowledge and having love both around and in the recipient.  Without the connection, love devolves into lust or limerence.

The Dyad represents something that is not itself able to exist; it requires two, and the Dyad is the representation of the two co-existing.  That union is the Unit, the Monad present in a lower register, but the Monad is no longer in existence as soon as it makes existence, because then there is something that exists as Creator and something that exists as Creature.  The emptiness (and I’m using this in a Buddhist “interexistence” or “dependant existence” sense) that is formed between the two monads in the Dyad is the true Dyad, without which you just have a collection of monads.  I mean, consider the human body: the human body is a collection of organs, bones, and humours; going deeper, it’s a collection of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles.  Yes, we are all just a collection of these things, but clearly there’s more to it than that to produce a cohesive unit, a complete whole.

Trying to comprehend the numbers on the Tetractys is different than simply counting how many spheres are in a rank, or the number One through Ten each dot represents.  If you do that, you’re just understanding each number as a collection of monads when there’s so much at work within each number.  It’s like, if you study energy work, if all you study is the seven chakras of the body, you neglect the fact that energy cycles throughout the body; focusing on the chakras alone treats the body as just the seven chakras when the body is a collection of major and minor chakras and all the medians and channels that connect them all.  Having a blockage of energy in the lower leg cannot itself be healed by focusing on any one of the chakras, but if you’re not trained to focus on the body holistically, then you aren’t going to be able to make much of an impact on the body.

I’ve noticed parallels between my lack of knowledge on the Dyad and one of the issues I currently have in learning aikido.  In my martial art, I’m starting to get the hang of the actual moves themselves, how to move my one-point around, how to roll the arm for a pin, how to step properly to allow myself enough safe space in attacking or being attacked.  Still, none of this is useful if I can’t apply the moves in practice against an opponent, and that’s where the matter of timing and connection comes in.  I can sense my own ki, and I can sense the ki of my opponent, but connecting the two together when the opponent is approaching to grab me is an issue.  Timing, the flow and blending of myself and the opponent, is something I’m still having to work on and it’s not clicking yet.  It’s not a matter of counting seconds or recognizing a limit of distance after which I can move my own body; I have to blend with the motions and ki of my opponent in order to make the technique work.  This timing, this connection between me and the other, is the “presence” of the Dyad in aikido; there is no such thing as attacker and attackee if I can’t properly engage or be engaged in attack.  It is only through the fluid and completely connected actions of myself and the other that aikido works, without which it’s just two people trying to put each other into pins and joint locks fruitlessly.

In the Tetractys, the rank of the Dyad is the first time we see a connection formed between two Monads.  It is the first time we have the opportunity for comparison or change between two otherwise indistinct and undifferentiated Monads; by the power of this connection, we can say that “this is and that isn’t” or “this changes into that”.  None of this is possible in the rank of the Monad, since there is by definition only ever One thing to compare or be compared to, and comparing something to itself is a tautology that makes anything and nothing true.  I mean, even the figure of the Monad itself, the circle with a point in its center, cannot itself be made by one thing alone.  It was made by an old-style geometer’s compass, making use of both its legs; one to stabilize it in the center, and one to give form around it.  With only one leg, it could only produce one point, but with two, it can make a shape, a circle, a neverending line enclosing an area.  It gives definition and the first possible comparison: what is in the circle and what is outside.  A point cannot be meaningfully compared to any other point without other notions of length or measure, but with a circle or a line (either being made from a connection between two points) we can do just that.

Aikido, at least in my style of Shin-Shin Toitsu Aikido (Aikido with Mind and Body Unified), there’re four principles of mind and body unification and five for the practice of aikido itself.  The last principle of the first set and the first principle of the last set are the same: “ki is extending”, meaning that ki flows constantly through ourselves and through the universe.  If we get in line with the flow of ki, aikido works; if we try to force things, aikido doesn’t work.  After this, to make aikido work, you need to know your opponent’s mind and respect their own flow of ki; you need to understand what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it, and act accordingly to respect their actions and make them go where you want them to go.  If you know how to move around their ki, you know how they’re going to move their ki, so you know their mind; if you know their mind, you’re connected with them and letting ki extend properly.  This is the essence of timing, and is moreover the essence of all connections: knowledge.  Dyad is knowledge.

Even in the Hermetic text of the Poemander, it makes sense.  In the beginning, there was only Nous, the Mind, single and simple.  Literally everything only began when the Nous produced the Logos, the Word.  The Word is Thought, which is produced in the Mind.  Prior to the Logos (if there can conceivably be a “prior” in a world that does not experience time), there was only Mind without Thought.  Once Mind produces Thought, the Mind has something to think about, something other.  Even if the Logos is the Nous, the two are still separate and, thus, the Monad becomes a Dyad.  It is by relation can we think, can we ponder, can we consider, can we reflect, can we know.  Knowledge of the Other leads to a union, and in union things can happen.  In union we become a unity, reuniting the Logos with the Nous once more.  Music is the knowledge of  how different notes strung together form a pleasing melody, or when played at once form a harmony.  A fight is the knowledge of how two people interact to blend together in action.  A sephirah is the knowledge of how the light of God flows from the Source through different channels into yet other channels, transforming from some one thing raw into some one thing manifest.  Love is the knowledge of two hearts and minds acting as one.

Knowledge is the root of all action.  Knowledge is the root of all transformation.  Knowledge is the root of separation.  Knowledge is the key to union.  It’s the things to be known that change from situation to situation, but in knowledge all situations become different manifestations of the same cause.  I may not yet have a solid knowledge (heh) of the Dyad just yet, but at least something’s been opened.

Strength of Voice

One of the most difficult problems I had in starting my career as a magician was speaking.  I mean, I’ve always had a way with words; writing has always been my forte, and was one of the things that saved my ass in college when other projects didn’t go so well.  Speaking, however, was another story; I often speak too quickly for many people to follow, and according to my parents (though I have no memories of this) I had a speech therapist help me when I was really young.  Public speaking has always given me a minor case of stage fright, and I used some herbs now and then to calm the shaking of my knees and slow me down when presenting a topic to a class.  It’s gotten better over time, but the written word was always better than my spoken word for years.

In magic, of course, one can’t always get by with writing things out, despite the inherent magic in the written word (a la Thoth-Hermes).  Prayer, for instance, nearly mandates speaking things out loud, especially in a Hellenistic or pagan context, and making my prayers “feel” powerful wasn’t a matter of my word choice.  It was a matter of speaking things willfully, intentfully, and powerfully on their own using the here-and-now voice rather than preserving and enduring ink.  Saying a consecration of fire over my altar candles never really “felt” like it took effect, and though the angels came when I conjured them, it still felt like my words were empty though I was using the proper channels and ritual to back them up.  Speaking out loud is something that has been a weak point in my magical practice, though it’s gotten better with practice.  This practice is more than just focusing on the words.  This rings too close to contemplation and meditation, and that’s not always the proper thing to do in a conjuration or a quick blessing of something, especially if you’re pressed for time, and ultimately isn’t helpful if you’re already in a meditative or focused state.  Focusing on the words is important, of course; any ritual action can benefit from increased or single-minded focus, since having the mouth talk in one direction while the mind is running in the other never helps to complete a ritual successfully.  Still, focus wasn’t really the issue.

Recent studies of mine have pointed out where this practice really took off for me, though I’m thinking about it in a new way than I did before.  In my style of aikido, there are five disciplines, one of which is called sokushin no gyō, or bell purification.  You sit down and clear the breath, then ring a bell in tune while performing a simple but loud chant.  This is usually done for a substantial amount of time, often forty minutes or more, and chanting anything loudly for forty minutes can wreak havoc on the vocal chords.  That is, unless you chant in the proper way.  Aikido teachers call it “speaking from the one-point”, or the center of the body, which is energetically the same as speaking from the navel/svadisthana chakra or the lower dantian in Chinese medicine.  Although we speak using our vocal chords, if we merely chant “from” there, we end up stressing them and causing damage; if we speak “from” our center, the vocal chords are more relaxed and aren’t stressed out from the chanting.

This is an important part of aikido in any of its disciplines; one moves or pushes the individual parts of the body to change things, but always moves with the one point and letting the rest of the body follow with it.  Walking, for instance, involves moving the one point forward and letting the legs carry it in that direction, rather than just moving the legs one in front of the other.  It’s weird to think about, but it’s an important point in aikido.  By acting from the center, we end up acting with our whole body as well as our whole mind, since the center is both the energetic center of the body as well as its physical center of mass.  If we chant or speak from the center, then, we speak with our whole body and mind unified as one, which can be done for much longer and with less strain than if we spoke or moved from any other part of the body.  The kiai, or force shout that martial artists often use, is done in the same way; instead of shouting it from the vocal chords or lungs, one shouts it from the center which helps to coordinate the body better when executing a particular technique.  Moving and acting from the center projects energy and strength in a way that uses our entire being more than if we used an individual part of the body, which uses just the strength of that part alone.

This aikido-centric way of thinking about speaking from the center is what’s really being meant when other magicians talk about vibrating or intoning words or sounds.  Some magicians talk about this from a physical standpoint, where you feel your body reverberate or feel the words reverberate in your head.  What’s really being meant here is that you’re using your entire being to speak the word, not just the body with the lungs nor the thought with the mind.  By all means, of course, vibrate your godnames until the Sun sets for the last time; it helps, and producing these sounds in the world is enough to cause changes in it and in yourself!  It’s just like me speaking the prayers of conjuration without really saying them, as it were, since the prayers still worked when I merely spoke them.  But it’s the unification of the mind and body that really puts these prayers and names and sounds and chants on a whole different level than just saying them mentally or just saying them physically with no such unification.

Unifying the mind and body feels different, too, when speaking in this way.  Physically, it doesn’t feel like much, save for something much stronger than a simple reverberation in the head; it feels like everything goes comfortably fuzzy and fizzy, or like you’re entering a trance state.  Mentally, however, it’s a lot more noticeable.  You’ll probably be aware that the thoughts in your head “feel” different depending on who’s saying them and how; for instance, your own thoughts about something you’re actively thinking about “feel” different from the chatter going on in the back of your head about monkey-mind concerns, just as the thoughts that you think “feel” different from those that spirits speak in conjuration or communion.  Likewise, thoughts that are spoken with a unified and directed mind “feel” different from thoughts with a non-unified mind.  To me, it feels like these unified-mind thoughts are “higher up”, or clearer in some way that’s hard to put into words.  It’s really similar to how the Hymns of Silence feel, now that I have experience with those.  Speaking in this way, in a sense, is applying the Hymns of Silence to back up any prayer or speech you have, which can cause far more change in the world than merely spoken words, since you have the force of the cosmos backing up your own vocal chords at that point.

When you get this feeling even once, it’s easy to keep going with it, and soon it becomes second nature to speak with this.  Spirits come to your call more often and with less delay; blessings feel more assured and secure; people snap to attention and hear you out for longer.  It still requires practice, of course, and a lack of focus can easily take away from this style of speaking, but this is a strength of voice that rivals even what Dune’s Bene Gesserit can muster.  Channeling the sacred words and names, the sounds of the vowels, and prayers takes getting used to, and it’s important to build up a familiarity with the words themselves first so the mind can easily recognize them just as so the body can easily pronounce them.  Again, it’s like aikido: it’s important to learn what the name and ideas are of the technique as well as the proper hand, arm, foot, and body motions are before one can properly apply them from the center rather than from individual body parts.  In order to unify the actions of the body and the thoughts of the mind, it’s important to have the actions and thoughts known ahead of time; you can’t unify things without anything to unify together.

If you’re not in such a martial art that puts a focus like this on its motions, never fear!  I got the hang of speaking with unified mind and body without taking aikido, too, though aikido has certainly already helped me in that regard, as well.  When you pray, don’t just rattle the words out from a book; study the prayer, feel how each word feels in the mouth, understand what feelings are triggered in the heart and what thoughts come from the mind, and then put them all together praying, essentially, from the heart.  When you vibrate the vowels of the planets, don’t just sing them loftily; feel the energies of the planets within you being directed outwards in all directions from you just as your voice can be heard in all directions, unifying you with the planetary energies already around you and strengthening yourself as well as your environment.  When you intone sacred names in the LBRP or similar rituals, don’t just shout them out; connect, commune, and open yourself up to the beings and forces behind and within those words and bring themselves to you just as you bring yourself to them.  It takes practice, but then, no strength can be developed without a good and repeated workout.