One of my favourite Sanskrit mantras dealing with duality appears, at its surface, to expound the virtue of crossing from one side of duality to the other.
asato mā sad gamaya,
tamaso mā jyotir gamaya,
mṛtyor mā amṛtaṃ gamaya
Lead me from the unreal to the real;
From ignorance to illumination;
From death to immortality
A millenniums-old basis for meditation, the Pavamāna mantra from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad contains many paradoxes in its simple, three lines. All three lines are, essentially, the same in meaning and message, but their potential redundancy, along with repetition of the entire mantra, are a tool for penetrating layers of consciousness in the reciter.
Unfolding the mantra through repetition and contemplation, it reveals itself as being less about the transition from one side of duality to the other, but in fact it is a reference to that threshold itself — the space between dualities.
Similarly, Major II: The High Priestess, sits at the barrier to the veils of the unconscious, between all dualities — at the magickal stillness that exists on that threshold. The difficulty in penetrating the veil and stepping into it is not because the threshold is unsurmountable, but because it is so subtle (this subtlety illustrated beautifully by Jonathan Siaz of the Fountain Tarot). When we pass too quickly, too eagerly, through the veil, we miss its power and it remains a mere mystery.
In this Pairspective, we will look at both sides of the threshold, but with the intent of gaining access to the threshold itself, penetrating the veil by utilizing a variation of the principles explored in Deck Anatomy.
Use this method when exploring your dreams, before or after meditation sessions, and/or at times when you wish to explore the fine veils of the subtle realms. This is not so much for day-to-day questions, but more for investigating the mysteries that sit between our known and unknown universes, both internal and external.
Consider too, that although the word “duality” inherently describes opposition, two-ness, there are infinite dualities, in the same way that there are infinite opposite sides of a sphere: any point on a sphere has its opposite, and passing through from one side to the other may involve also passing through many veils.
Contemplate your mystery, and rest awareness near the back of your skull, as though your brain is sinking backward and settling into its own root at the base of the skull. Be passive and receptive here, and simply let the brain fold in on itself. Alternately, you can let the brain collapse toward its own centre, halfway between each ear and halfway between the forehead and the occipital bone. (You may also want to refer to the mirror exercise at the opening of this series to help you get in to this reflective state — more about the mirror below).
Once you are in this passive, receptive state, with the brain resting either at its centre or the back of the skull, begin shuffling your deck. Think that as you are shuffling, you are transferring the known and the unknown, that your conscious mind and your unconscious mind are passing through each other. Shuffle until you feel you are at the edge of your mystery.
At this point, cut the deck: attempting to be as close to the middle of the pack as possible. Take the bottom card from the top pack — this represents the deepest element within your conscious mind. Then, take the top card from the bottom pack — this is what is on the surface of your unconscious mind, ready to be discovered.
Seen in this way, the two cards are very close to each other: the part of the conscious mind ready to slip into the unconscious, and the part of the unconscious ready to surface into consciousness.
Between these two cards is the threshold between the conscious and the unconscious, neither card in itself is a goal or destination, but rather entering the space between them.
Hold the cards side-by-side as you look at them, recognizing the similarities and differences between them: the similarities are the bridge, but the differences may very well be the threshold itself. If you could make a card that included the differences between the two cards, what would it be?
With those similarities and differences in mind, alternate holding one closer to you, then the other, back and forth, until the images blend. Visualize a door opening between the two: this is the threshold between the conscious and the unconscious, the known and the unknown, the dark and the light.
When this threshold appears, place the cards face to face and visualize this threshold opening — but not through the cards directly, between them: from edge to edge, corner to corner. Think of looking through the veil not from its face to its back, but obliquely, from its side.
The answer to your mystery is in this in-between.
If you did the mirror exercise as a warm-up or previously, equate the two cards to you and your reflection, and the veil between them is the mirror… but now rather than facing the mirror squarely, looking at your reflection, imagine standing at the mirror’s edge, and step into that narrow space that appears to give so much depth.
You may also try this with a crystal sphere, if you have one: envision the first card as one point around the sphere, the second as its polar opposite, and between those two points, enter the sphere and explore the veils from point to point, slipping into each crack, each fissure, each narrow sliver.
In the words of Björk:
If you wake up
And the day feels a-broken
Just lean into the crack
And it will tremble
Ever so nicely