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THE SYMBOLISM OF THE HUMAN BODY

Professor Sergiu ANGHEL1


"I.L. Caragiale" National University of Theatre and Film
Bucharest
Choreography Department Director

Abstract: The vision that people had about the human body has evolved over time. Rather, it has
continuously changed, because "evolution" meant not every time, at every moment of a changing of
the paradigm, an increasingly clarification, a more sharp image that cultures have developed in
relation to the human body.
Most radically different conception of the role, significance and symbolism of the human body were
recorded - in the European space - between Roman and Greek antiquity and the debuts of Christian
era. Worshiped in Antiquity and mortified by Christians the human body was the battlefield where
were fought the fiercest ideological battles of the first millennium AD. And the fight - in a deaf form
- continues...
Radical difference between the way the human body it was and is still regarded were recorded and
longer found today across and beyond the dividing line that separates the western world from Orient.
If we stand - symbolically speaking - midway between the two worlds we see that, by contrast with
the sombre, visceral vision of the body that it was building in the Western world, due in part to an
iconography that emphasized (especially in the Gothic sphere) suffering, martyrdom, ascesis,
emaciation and death, the Far Eastern world inherited and was cultivating by tradition the concept of
a luminous body built in perfect harmony with the universe. The disciplining of the body in Far
Eastern cultures known in the Hindu space as tapas ardour, even though it has some similarities
with Western ascesis, is oriented, by contrast with the former, towards the superior tuning of the
body's energy strings, towards the idea of obtaining resonance with the universe's ethereal planes,
and by no means towards the maceration of the 'flesh' as sole solution for obtaining spiritual
volatility. The Yoga and Zen disciplines approach the body from a perspective diametrically opposed
to the European one; while Western ascesis is 'flagellating' at the bodily level and glorifying in the
sphere of man's spiritual attributes which it clads in the incomprehensible nimbus of 'grace', of
'mystery', making the human body a magnum misterium the Oriental psychosomatic disciplines
make the body a veritable spiritual vehicle, which, in order to reach its goal, spiritual liberation, has
to be tuned like a fine mechanism. In other words, while in the West the spiritualization of the human
being is understood first and foremost as a negation of the physical body (which was seen as
perishable matter) and paradoxically as a final spiritualized embodiment the Orient proposes a
perfect tuning of all corporeal energies, a decisive step in the undertaking of a gradual spiritualization
1

Sergiu Anghel graduated with a degree in choreography in Cluj and Bucharest, having previously obtained a degree
in letters at the University of Bucharest, with a major in Romanian and a minor in French. His PhD thesis was
entitled 'Archetype Dance in 2002'. He is a member in full standing of CIDD-Unesco and of ITI-Bucharest. He has
printed two specialty books and has authored over 20 TV film shows, having written the scripts and dramatic texts of
those works. He has been made an Officer of the Order for Education (sergiuanghel@hotmail.com)

of a body seen as a succession of more and more rarefied densities. The projection at the universal
scale of this type of thinking would generate in the West the pattern of corporeal constellations as
part of a mytho-etiological cosmogony, while in the Orient, the mythologies of a body constellated
within a mythologized anthropology.

Antiquity vs. Christianity


The first Christians have looked down upon the human body, when not demonizing it altogether.
Within the Christian philosophical dogmatic construct, this has two major explanations.
First of all, we can see here a rejection reaction to one of the effigies of the 'pagan' world. Both
Greeks and Romans cultivated the body to idolization, since in the economy of the ancient world,
the entire proper functioning of society depended on its good functioning and vigour. Ancient
Greeks, through Phidias, Polycleitus, Praxiteles, and Lysippus, created the canons of physical
beauty of their heroes, while Christianity, in rejection of these norms, canonized the relics of its own
heroes. The former worshiped the vitality of the body, while the latter worshiped its mortification.
The former have conceived the ideal proportions of the human body in the solar attempt to glorify it,
while the theologians of the church have theorized the lack of substance of the body in the
Neptunian attempt to mystify it. The ancients opened the doors of the palestra2 to cultivating the
body, while the church locked up in the monasteria, in the solitude of cells, the first monachos3.
How radical Christian dissidence was for the ideals and way of life of the ancients we can see in the
way of life of anchorites4, hermits5, stylites6, and from what we know of the life of the so-called
brutoy7. Their disdain for the body went so far that according to patristic sources when the
maggots fell off their festering sores they would pick them up and put them back there to complete a
work upon their own body they had started themselves. Radical options of this type, however, date
from before the emergence of the first Christian communities, well-known in this respect being the
Jewish sects of the Therapeutae8 or the Essenes. Since we cannot develop this topic more than this
without straying away from our initial topic, let us limit ourselves to noting that, while Greek
antiquity, and to some extent Roman antiquity, strove to apply in life the philosophical and aesthetic
ideal known as kalokagathia9, Christian theologians were trying to create a way of life derived from
the rigors of a concept known as kenosis, whose literal meaning is 'emptying', 'reducing to naught'.
Curiously, and in any case symptomatic of human psychology, kalos kai agathos, the wish of the
2
3
4

5
6

7
8
9

A space dedicated in antiquity exclusively to physical exercise


Monks, from Gr. (kalogeros) = beautiful old man
From the Gr. Anachoretes = one who retreats, made up of the particle ana = back, against, and a derivation of the
verb chorein = to move
From the Gr. eremites = desert dweller, from eremia = desert, and eremos = uninhabited
Gr. stylites, hermits who, like Simon Stylites, lived on a small platform atop a pillar, which could reach 16 m in
height, and which they didn't leave their entire lives
Hermits who refused any food except grass which they grazed like animals
Jewish sect on the shores of the Red Sea whose dwellings would be taken over the Christians
Philosophical concept of the ancient Greeks which was an attempt to blend beauty, kalos, with good, agathon

ancient Greeks to make man better and more beautiful, was being built within a world pervaded by
cruelty and indifference to human life, most times seen as a chimera in a universe defined by
fatum10, while the negation of the human being contained in the concept of Kenosis is issued from
the positions of and in conformity with the principles of affirming love for mankind...
Of course, the rigorous asceticism of the anchorites went slowly away, as the causes that had
generated it disappeared, which certifies its external motivation; subsequently, through
coenobitism11, the church slowly starts to rein in the 'excesses' of the ascetics, which bothered a body
of clerics whose luxury, more and more obvious starting in the 15 th century, could, by contrast,
become odious to the masses of the faithful.
The relaxation of the clerics did not bring with it, however, an 'opening' towards the enemy of the
human soul, their very bodies, which it had been since the beginnings of Christianity and would
continue to be so, animated by its demon, dance.
By contrast with the sombre, visceral vision of the body that it was building in the Western world,
due in part to an iconography that emphasized (especially in the Gothic sphere) suffering,
martyrdom, ascesis, emaciation and death, the Far Eastern world inherited and was cultivating by
tradition the concept of a luminous body built in perfect harmony with the universe. The
disciplining of the body in Far Eastern cultures known in the Hindu space as tapas ardours, even
though it has some similarities with Western ascesis, is oriented, by contrast with the former,
towards the superior tuning of the body's energy strings, towards the idea of obtaining resonance
with the universe's ethereal planes, and by no means towards the maceration of the 'flesh' as sole
solution for obtaining spiritual volatility. The Yoga and Zen disciplines approach the body from a
perspective diametrically opposed to the European one; while Western ascesis is 'flagellating' at the
bodily level and glorifying in the sphere of man's spiritual attributes which it clads in the
incomprehensible nimbus of 'grace', of 'mystery', making the human body a magnum misterium
the Oriental psychosomatic disciplines make the body a veritable spiritual vehicle, which, in order
to reach its goal, spiritual liberation, has to be tuned like a fine mechanism. In other words, while in
the West the spiritualization of the human being is understood first and foremost as a negation of the
physical body (which was seen as perishable matter) and paradoxically as a final spiritualized
embodiment the Orient proposes a perfect tuning of all corporeal energies, a decisive step in the
undertaking of a gradual spiritualization of a body seen as a succession of more and more rarefied
densities. The projection at the universal scale of this type of thinking would generate in the West
the pattern of corporeal constellations as part of a mytho-etiological cosmogony, while in the Orient,
the mythologies of a body constellated within a mythologized anthropology.
It is very hard to tell when the cleavage between the two cultures occurred. It is quite probable that
this may have happened in a historical period, since the Neolithic preserves some cave painted
documents that could speak to some unity of the Neolithic world, unitary at least at some
underground level of archetypes. Very probably, perspectives on the human body may have become
sensibly different in the Western world and the Oriental world after the spread in the Mediterranean
basin of Old Testament cultures. The postulation of Adam's creation out of clay (Adamah = red clay
in Hebrew), an idea which is much older, taken over from the Egyptians, who had a primitive
10
11

The Latin name for destiny seen as an implacable and whimsical force of the gods
Common organization, koinos bios, of monastic life

horned deity named Khnum, who shaped human beings on a potter's wheel and provided them with
an ethereal 'double' called ka, an equivalent of the vital breath (see: Fig. 2), generated, along with
Christian myth exegesis, a tenebrous image of the human body. The Greeks, too, believed that
people had been created by Prometheus from the mud of the Earth mixed with his tears. It is only
natural that such a vision on anthropogenesis, which is uniform across the three cultures of the
Mediterranean, could only extract in time a doloric dimension of the body. By opposition with
establishing the opacity of the human body, the Orient has developed an entire doctrine of the
luminous body. Vestiges of such visions can be found all around the world (see: Fig. 3 ) since the
Neolithic, and, as distant as they are in the past, they are surprisingly close to the 'specialized'
iconographic features of Hinduism.
The concept of a subtle, invisible body, or of an energy body, depository for spiritual forces capable
of linking the human being to the loftiest vibrations of astral planes, was developed principally in
the Upanishad texts, grouped in Araniakas, a part of the Vedas, considered to be the esoteric side of
Vedanta. The texts of the Upanishads12, especially those with precise data on yoga techniques,
describe the human body as a subtle laboratory within which one could have radical mutations
capable of favouring the awakening of a miraculous energy called kundalini13, which lies dormant at
the base of the spine. The awakening of this energy is only possible within a process of the novice
undergoing physical and moral purification, and results partially in the hatching of some energy
centres called chakras14, and, as an ultimate purpose, the opening of the last chakra, situated at the
top of the head, called Sahashrara Chakra, a moment that coincides with reaching a form of mystical
ecstasy and 'self-realization', the fulfilment of devotion. We cannot dwell too much here on the role
played in the human body by these energy centres and the relationship between them and with the
subtle world. Let us just add that these energy centres are linked by a dual and cooperative energy
flow named based on its two aspects Ida and Pingala; the first is in an energetic and spiritual
relationship with principles falling within lunar symbolism (feminine, wet, cold, imaginative, etc.),
the other, conversely, summing up principles attributed to the solar symbolic universe (masculine,
dry, hot, rational, etc.) The effort of yoga15 disciples consists in perfectly balancing these two
energies, in which they see not only an indispensable condition for the proper functioning of the
body, but also a premise of the awakening and lifting of the kundalini energy through a core conduct
that makes the synthesis of the two opposing energies, called sushumna, to the point of its maximum
hatching out of the shashashara chakra Fig. 3bis
Of course, such a conceptual platform linked to the ultimate meanings of the human body, the
attitude towards its forms of expression, could not be neither inhibited nor inhibitive. On the
contrary, in Hinduism, projecting some truths relating to the energy economy of the body, where a
top spot is held by the hypothesis according to which tapas, the 'well-tempered' yogi ascesis,
pranayama, the control of breath, but also of vital breath (vayu) of the body could lead, along with
the awakening of the kundalini energy, to the dissolution of karmic ties, led to the god Shiva being
12

13

14
15

About 150 texts of which only 108 are considered 'synoptic', they were written between the 8th and the 5th centuries
BCE, treating mainly the problem of the identity between atman individual soul and Brahman, the universal soul
The kundalini energy, meaning 'coiled' in Sanskrit, is represented as a snake holding its tail in its mouth as a sign of
the lethargy that has to be broken by tapas ardor, ascesis
Chakra = wheel in Sanskrit
Yoga = yoke in Sanskrit, or yoking

seen as a dissolver of universes through the medium of dance, which became his distinctive sign. As
a consequence, as a spiritual space governed by a god who dances, ancient India could only hold
this art in great esteem, giving it the best chances for development and conservation.
The geographic spaces that Hinduism came into contact with borrowed this way of reflecting and
adapted it to local religions. Tibetan Buddhism seems to know the esoteric techniques that awaken
the body's energy centres, but in their iconography they only have five energy vortexes instead of
the seven recorded in the Upanishads. Fig. 4
As for ecstatic techniques practices in Christian Orthodoxy, there is rather reticent talk of
hesychasm16. The commentaries written on this ascetic discipline specific to Orthodoxy are very
rare, and iconography is non-existent. Curiously, authoritative sources in this area, though
recognizing some similarities with the Oriental psychosomatic disciplines, only recall two 'energy'
centres that enter into the equation of hesychastic prayer: the mind and the heart. The technique
seems to consist of 'uniting the mind with the heart', a fact that triggers, according to some credible
practitioners, as Father Cleopa was at Neam Monastery, the spread of great heat throughout the
body, and an indescribable state of beatitude. No commentator of the phenomenon speaks of the
other energy centres of the body. It seems that within Christianity, the body as a whole is prohibited
even when we talk about its subtle workings. The only bridge that somewhat ties Orient and West at
the level of this type of discipline can be found in the works of the alchemists, whose enciphered
language gave birth to a rich iconography containing a whole series of images similar to those
produced by the illustrators of Upanishad concepts.
Even though most alchemy experiments are produced in vitro, in fact inside a crucible or furnace
called athanator, there are a series of explicit texts and even images that emphasize the fact that the
alchemical attempt to transmute metals had direct consequences on transformations within the
alchemist himself. Some documents, accompanied by images that speak to this point, go as far as
putting an equal sign between the athanator and the body of the alchemist, who, during the
processes of the Great Work17, undergoes within itself the transformations that the substances
involved in the alchemical process undergo. Alchemic gold as we have said before is in fact
nothing more than the attempt of some initiates to discover, based on the law of correspondences
that linked in their opinion the material and subtle worlds, the laws of a perfect optimization of the
physical and spiritual functions of the human being while purifying all of nature. In their language,
these attempts bore cryptic names such as the phases of the Great Work: Albedo, Nigredo, Rubedo,
etc., phases that could be correlated with the stages of ascension of the kundalini. In fact, these
similarities transpire also at the level of European alchemical iconography when compared with
images describing moments from yoga disciplines, especially kundalini-yoga. Fig. 5 and: Fig. 6 ).
If we consider the other alchemical representations too (see: Fig. 7 and: Fig. 8 ), which reflect quite
clearly the fact that the much discussed transmutation of metals was for alchemists a mere outer
reference system for guiding inner spiritual work, we will reach the conclusion according to which
any deep study of the 'secret' functions of the body, whether it was occurring in the Orient or the
street of alchemists in Prague in the 1600s, could only lead to similar results, in spite of a slightly
16
17

From the Greek hesychia = quietness


Generic name given by the alchemists to the efforts to transmute base metals mostly lead into gold

different approach.
From the point of view of our study, this truth is important, since it is an argument in favour of the
idea that the human body was recovered as an object of study, in spite of church bans, which had
turned it taboo for centuries, thanks to the secret work of alchemists. Due to these studies, which
aimed not only to understand the mechanisms by which the body could improve its functions to the
point that it resonated with divine energy, but also to discover the significant relationships with the
laws of the universe and their reflection at the level of the body, we can today better understand
some aspects of the symbolism of the human body.
In what follows we shall try to review some of the traditional interpretations attributed to the
segments of the body, and, without touching on the symbolism of internal organs, irrelevant to a
study that only attempts to better understand the human body as an instrument in the art of dancing,
we shall recall some of the more recent interpretations18 on this topic.
What is closest to us and yet more enigmatic in this 'lower world' than the human body? What is
more concrete and yet more mysterious? More complex and more chained into a fundamental unity?
For a millennium, the western world was, willingly or not, the slave of a form of scholastic
thinking19. It inherited from it a dual vision of the Universe. Starting with Augustine of Hippo (4 th
century), who left a deep mark on western thinking with his Manicheism, good and evil started
gaining little by little an absolute value. In this context, the West, holding on to the idea that 'Man is
a rational animal formed of a soul and a body' 20, quickly came to identify evil with the body and
good with the soul.21 Of course, placing the body in this way in the context of western reflection on
the human body could not generate significant milestones for the symbolism of the human body,
since right from the beginnings of Christianity it was repudiated across the board. Which is why we
shall not take into account western culture in the attempt to recover information on the way in which
Europeans saw and understood the body, for the simple fact that such reflection at least officially
never existed.
Things are not the same fortunately in the case of the first monotheistic religion, the Mosaic
religion. In this sense, the Kabbalah is not only a major document in terms of establishing the
relationships between macro and microcosm, between man and divinity, but is also a working
instrument allowing one to prolong speculations able to be made from the fundamental principles of
its texts22. To this end, the Sephirot Fig. 9 comes as a pattern for the organization of the universe,
within which one can discern not only the attributes of god, but also the correspondences between
the divine and material worlds, and one can see in the very organization of the sephirot the
relationships between the energy centres of the human body, and, correlated with them, the
significance or symbolism of each segment of the human body. In this last case the similarity with
18

19

20
21
22

These interpretations are based mainly on observations in a book signed by Annick de Souzenelle - Le symbolisme
du corps humain, Albin Michel ed. Paris, 1991.
A dualist and rational current of thinking: it impregnated western theology, starting with the 1054 schism, which
separates the West of the Christian East and gradually empties it of its trinitary and pneumatic dimension
Old catechism of the Paris diocese
Annick de Souzenelle, Simbolismul corpului uman, Ed. Amarcord, Timioara,1999 pg. 50.
The doctrine of the Kabbalah, a term which has the meaning of transmission by tradition, is founded in two works:
Sepher Yetsirah and Zohar

the chakra theory becomes quite obvious. In fact, even Papus, in one of his works 23, admits the idea
that the Kabbalah tradition is only an adaptation of Hindu esotericism to the Judaic space.
Even if such considerations surprising as they are would still float for a while in the area of
purism, the comparative analysis of the Kabbalah diagrams and the iconography of Tantrism will
reveal some similarities as surprising as the claims made by the well-known occult writer.
I found similarly surprising the statement made by the author of the work called 'The Symbolism of
the Human Body' when she says: If my hypothesis is correct, the human body should correspond
to the 'Divine Body'. Its build should be in accordance with the ontological pattern of divine
structures; it should match the Sword Tetragrammaton24 drawing, the Sephirot drawing. Truth be
told, it was not this process of thinking that brought me to the conclusion above. The conclusion
came by itself, all of a sudden; one day, contemplating the Sephirot, I saw in it the body of Man. The
drawing was mental (this happened one afternoon in the middle of the street); the vision was so
violent that I suddenly had the certainty that I was on a royal path, a path of Truth. The street was
flooded by light... etc.25
It suffices to look at Fig. 10 and Fig. 11 to realize that the 'revelation' of the author, with all of the
autobiographical-mysticoid detail that accompanies it, can only have the candour of a postColumbus discovery of the Americas. These things were obviously known by the traditional authors
of the Kabbalah, and the subsequent images only translated into the esoteric knowledge that for
some reasons had to be hidden. Similarly lacking in originality is unfortunately the supposed
invention of the 'Sword Tetragrammaton', on whose symbolism the author builds practically her
entire work. Long before the 'noble discovery' made by Ms. Souzenelle, the Medieval Kabbalists,
using the ideogram resources of the Hebrew faith, had conceived a vertical version of the
tetragrammaton that suggested the outline of the human body Fig. 12, with the obvious wish to let
through the truth according to which the human being and even the human body have a similar build
with divinity. Of course, the symbolic interpretation of the Man Tetragrammaton does not stop at
this single aspect. A symbol can be an inexhaustible source of information, and, as the etymology of
the word claims26, can recover by analysis elements of an integration that it is only a part of. We
shall limit ourselves to take on here only one level of interpretation, relating to the ideographic
symbolism of the Tetragrammaton, leaving aside the speculations relating to the literal meanings of
the divine name or those related to gematria. The image resulting from the superimposition of the
four Hebrew letters is obviously a human figure in which ( yod) is the head, ( he) the upper body,

( vau) the heart and spine, while the second ( vau) is the lower body. The first observation is that
the image is framed perfectly by the Sephirot diagram, which is proof of the authenticity of this
organization of letters composing the divine name, since the 'Tree of Life' as the Sephirot diagram
23

24

25
26

Grard Encausse (Papus) 1865-1916, La Kabbale - Tradition secrte de lOccident, Ed. George Carr,
Paris 1962
By 'Sword Tetragrammaton', Annick the Souzenelle understands the four letters that make up the name of Yahweh in
Hebrew (*), with the difference of placing the letter yod (*) above the other letters that make up the tetragrammaton,
giving it the aspect of a sword handle
Annick de Souzenelle, Simbolismul corpului uman, Ed. Armacord,Timioara, 1999, pg. 54-55.
Symbolon = sign for recognition. Initially a symbol was simply a flat object broken in two, whose two parts, by
reconstituting a whole, proved a common origin: of family, of clan, of group, etc.

is also known, is considered by the Kabbalah the divine pattern by which the entire universe has
been built. The similarity between the Tree of Life and the ideogram that results from the
superimposition of the letters of the divine name tetragrammaton reveals another truth revealed by
the Kabbalah, which is that 'The Universe constitutes HIS BODY 27, the couple Adam-Eve is HIS
SOUL, and God himself in his double polarization constitutes HIS SPIRIT'. The Kabbalah claims
that in the 'couple' Adam-Eve, seen as an androgynous unit, the head of man is Adam, while his
heart is Eve. Within the vertical Tetragrammaton in Fig. 12 , these two centres define the exterior
and the interior of the human being. Reconstituting the initial androgynous unity, lost as a
consequence of the original sin, can only be regained through uniting the mind (head) with the heart
Fig. 13, which is the major theme of hesychast meditation and practice we've had the opportunity to
talk about. Relative to this statement made by the Kabbalah, it would be interesting to recall that
Jesus himself, in the apocryphal Gospel according to Thomas, answers thus the apostles who asked
him what they should do to gain the Kingdom of God: Lorsque vous ferez le deux Un et que vous
ferez lintrieur comme lextrieur, lextrieur comme lintrieur, le haut comme le bas, lorsque
vous ferez du masculin et du fminin un Unique, afin que le masculin ne soit pas un mle et que le
fminin ne soit pas une femelle, lorsque vous aurez des yeux dans vos yeux, une main dans votre
main, et un pied dans votre pied, une icne dans votre icne, alors vous entrerez dans le Royaume!
28

Of course, such statement and many others of its kind could not be to the taste of the Christian party
activists of the first centuries, gathered together in synoptic councils. Even less so this statement
from this gospel considered apocryphal: : Jsus disait: Si la chair est venue lexistence cause
de lesprit, cest une merveille, mais si lesprit est venue lexistence cause du corps, cest une
merveille de merveille 29
We shall conclude the enumeration of these considerations referring to the particular way in which
various religions and traditions regarded the human body and its relationship with the exterior and
its own interior, observing a final and revealing if not even paradoxical difference between the
approach to the body in Western Christianity compared to the Eastern one, and the consequences of
this difference of optics in the area of spiritual life. It is truly curious to notice to this end that the
West rebels by all means at its disposal against corporeal energies, choosing as its preferred medium
of meditation the ordeal of the Saviour, records mystical epiphenomena acutely corporeal such as
the stigmata, while the easterners, much more tolerant with the needs of the body, root their spiritual
experience in meditating on the image of Christ in his glory, reporting only phenomena of
transfiguration. In what regards western mysticism, well known is the phenomenon of receiving
stigmata presented in the biographies of St. Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, or, more recently,
Thrse Neumann or Padre Pio. At the same time, equally famous are the tales told by Motoliov,
disciple to Seraphim of Sarov, who recounts how his teacher, instead of giving him a theological
explanation about love, shrouded him in the light of his body.
27

28
29

His Body, meaning God's. Cf. Papus, Kabbala- Tradiia secret a Occidentului, Ed. Herald,
Bucureti, 1996, pg. 108.
lEvangile de Thomas, Ed. Albin Michel, 1988, Logion 22 pg. 93.
Ibidem, Logion 29, pg. 108.

This author is fully aware that these considerations might be seen as divorced from our topic. The
great majority of theoreticians of dance approach the issues of this art from a purely physical
perspective, starting on the premise that dance is an art of the body's expression and nothing more. I
believe them to be in a state of error similar to that of the first dogmatic Christians when, extolling
the virtues of the world, forgot if they ever knew it that the living human being is the expression
of the miracle of a triple coming together in union of an energy in three forms of aggregation, one
that only the limits of our mind force us to see more or less in terms of outlines and delimitation, in
spite of mutual fusions and ilimitations. Substituting for death, which is only the last stage of a
natural process of spiritual decanting, the first Christians hurried to separate the body from the spirit
while the human being was still alive, covering two thousand years of history with the shroud of the
dead who have buried their dead. On the other hand, substituting for life, which is only the natural
process of the gradual pervasion of matter by the spirit, the modern people have awakened the body
in the middle of its dream of glory, preparing for it the nightmare of the millennium of its cloning.
In a way, beyond the specificity of 'methods', we believe that in fact the idolatry of the body whose
ultimate expression cloning can become, is also a form of death, but one that, as opposed to
separating the soul from the body, specific to auroral Christianity, practice the separation of the body
from the soul. Similarly, the methodical separation of the soul from the body by the ancients can be
seen as a form of spiritual cloning. After all, if western mysticism had had only winners, probably
history would have recorded the disbanding of processions of stigmatized on the streets of Middle
Age cities feasting just as, if genetics comes out victorious in the battle for the body of flesh we
would presumably be able to see up and down on Broadway the limousines of billionaires who
would be able to afford to have as their luxury drivers their own clones...
Getting back to the two types of mystical experience, the western, doloric one and the eastern,
auroral one, it seems evident that the human being is indeterminate, both corporeally and spiritually,
and that, accordingly, it can become spiritually identical with the object of its meditation, just as it
can become corporeally a sum of its exercises or of its exertion, which it accepts as reflected upon
itself.
We consider that, even though it seems somewhat collateral to the topic that we have proposed, this
analysis of the becoming of the human being, followed mainly in its bodily section, shall be of great
help when, in the chapters dedicated to the ancient history of dance, we shall attempt to understand
the ultimate motivations of such attitudes, which otherwise would remain catalogued as they have
so far, as simple means of showmanship within the customs of a community, or as a simple
spectacle art. The theoreticians of dance seem to forget, every time they rewrite a history of this art,
that the sole instrument that give it life is the very 'life' of the body, this being as we believe we
have managed to prove inseparable from the other two dimensions it has, the soul and the spirit,
which in fact it expresses in synchronicity with its own expression. Only by ignoring this reality
could it create and still creates sometimes choreographic forms that only contain the anatomic
reality of the body, ignoring thus the fact that the most precious thing in the human body is the very
receptacle capacity it has, in which it can pour itself, or out of which meaning can pour out.
Below we shall try a rehabilitation of the segments of the human body, in an effort to recover, as we
would the scattered segments of the body of Osiris, each hidden meaning of the body, in a new
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concept of a whole of which, not so far back in time, we could only see the surface.

THE FEET (SOLES)


Looking carefully at the Sephirot diagram, Fig. 9 , we can easily notice that it is organized mainly
on three vertical columns. The central one unites the sephirot Kether (the Crown) and Malkut (the
Kingdom), flanked by the two lateral columns known as the 'Pillar of Law' on the left and the 'Pillar
of Mercy' on the right. On the three vertical columns three triangles are seated: the upper triangle,
above the head, the first inverted triangle, corresponding to the cardiac-pulmonary complex, and a
third inverted triangle, which corresponds to the urogenital plexus (the lower part of the stomach
and the pubis). The last sephirah, Malkut, corresponds to the feet. This is without going into too
much detail the anthropomorphic organization of the Sephirot. In reverse order, it is a
superimposition of the pattern of cosmic organization. Thus, the cosmic tree has its beginning in the
Kether sephirah and it has its roots deep in the tenebrous uncreated Ain Sof (the Undending,
meaning the infinite.) What results from here, with regard to the 'cosmic' significance of the feet, is
that this is intimately tied to the ultimate form of the manifestation of the cosmic tree (its leaves and
fruit) which, at the level of the Kether sephirah, corresponds to the soles of the feet. From this last
perspective we can see differently than as a gesture of ultimate humility as was transmitted to us
through the Christian tradition Jesus' gesture of washing the feet of his disciples. At the level of
mystical feeling, the gesture in itself is not even singular. It is well known that in the course of the
initiation of bektashi dervishes, the spiritual guide utters while washing the feet of the novice the
following words: The God of mercy and love commands you to wash away every time the dirt
gathered on the paths of mistake and rebellion you have strayed onto.
What results from this is that, in a symbolic way, the feet are considered symbols of morality, of
'straight stepping'. However, the symbolism of the feet goes way beyond moralizing metaphoric
interpretations. The Malkut sephirah, as a place of manifestation for Kether, is also known to
Kabbalists as the 'Divine King's Wife' or 'Israel's Maiden'. Which is why the coupling of the two
sephirot is also called the King and Queen. In a way, Kether and Malkut, the Crown and the
Kingdom (or the Crowning), correspond to spirit and matter united. From this to the symbolic
'sexualisation' of the foot there is only one step. In fact, united, the feet constitute an obvious
matricidal sign 'crowned' by the ten toes standing as a diadem. Fig. 14 Constituted in this way,
this symbol represents the form (the form is feminine, because it receives a content) which matter
takes, impregnated by the spiritual principle and organized in the shape of the perceptible cosmos,
the one we plant our feet in.
From the point of view of zodiac analogies between constellations and the segments of the human
body, the feet correspond to the sign of Pisces. In this sense, the gesture of washing the disciples'
feet may be considered as the underlining of a detail of the zodiac scenario within which the new
religion is configured. The symbolic importance of the feet also lies in the fact that they represent,
next to the head, one of the extremities, and in the old astrological representations, between the head
and the feet, meaning between the signs Aries and Pisces, we have the beginning and the ending
point of the zodiac cycle. Fig. 15 The head and the feet contain between the two of them the entire
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human being as a seed, and, same as the sperm that is nothing but the reduction of a being to these
two essential components, they represent the synthesis between information (the head) and
dissemination (the feet), or that between time a dimension of the processes of thinking and
space, the dimension within which information circulates. It is not by chance that, in order to
represent man's death as a whole, the collective imagination chose as a symbol two crossed tibia
placed underneath a skull.
In order to mark once again the importance of the feet, not only symbolic, but also esoteric, all we
have to do is recall this passage from Kuric Upanishad30:

Secret de lesprit,
Mystre subtil de lintelligence:
Le Point Marman situe sur le pied,
Il faut savoir quil est Cela,
Nom et forme de toute chose!
Pratiquant le yoga avec constance,
Ladepte concentre son esprit,
Avec finesse, sur le Point Marman31
Jusqu le trancher peu peu,
Comme Indra, de son foudre,
Trancha la tte de Vrtra!32

THE LOWER LEGS


As a first manifestation of the 'feet as seeds', the lower legs are the stems on which the intermediate
fruit of the symbolic becoming of man will grow, which, as we will see in the following article, are
the knees. Within the edifice of the human body seen as an abode of God, the lower legs are the two
basic pillars of Solomon's temple, known as Jakin and Boaz. The usual translation of these names is
that of 'He Buildout' and 'Through His Might'. The anagram reading of the two names, however,
reveals hidden meanings. Thus, for Jakin we obtain the Greek word Nika, meaning victory, and the
initial J or I, which comes from the name of the goddess Isis or that of Jesus (Joshua), as revealed by
a tradition preserved in Tarot symbolism Fig. 16 . The letter B, from the word Boaz, as it is known,
is the opening letter of the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis, which goes into the word 'Bereshit',
meaning 'in the beginning'. It is interesting to note that the anagram reading of this word too seems
30
31

32

Kurica = knife in Sanskrit


Very old term encountered as early as the Rig Veda, designating the only point on the body where a hero is
vulnerable. In the 'forest' (secret) tradition of the Upanishads, marman is a point on the big toe where tman-brhman
is prisoner. Thanks to Yoga discipline, the soul can leave the big toe to dwell in the heart until the moment of its total
liberation
Ksurik Upanishad, in Upanishads du Yoga, Ed. Gallimard,1971, pg.138.

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to contain hidden meanings. We thus obtain the following string: B, first word of the first chapter of
the Bible, followed by O, Omega, the last word of the Greek alphabet, followed by Alpha, the first
letter of the same alphabet, and Z, the last letter of the Latin alphabet. The fact that Jachin has five
letters while Boaz is made up of only four may be intriguing, considering that the two pillars-lower
legs have to be perfectly even in order to maintain the balance of the Man-Temple. This symbolic
unbalance may seem a grave error of construction for the image that is under the sign of the Gemini
(see the symbol from the upper part of the image placed between the columns). After all, twins are
identical. Castor and Pollux have the same number of letters in their names. The enigma, suggested
in fact by the way the string of first and last letters making up the word BOAZ is put together, leads
us to a common place of alchemical terminology and iconography which is the cryptic syntagm
AZOT33, itself composed of the first and last letters of the Greek, Latin and Hebrew alphabets. In
order to have between Jachin and Boaz a restoration of both the perfect nominal balance and the
antinomy suggested by the colors white and black attributed to the two columns itself impossible
lacking perfect symmetry we have to look within the image for the last letter of the Hebrew
alphabet, the letter T (Thav). The letter T can be found in the word Torah, written on the scroll that
Jesus holds. The position of the scroll leaves no doubt as to another hidden significance. The
Egyptian representations of Isis show the goddess holding the baby, Horus, son of Osiris. Fig. 17
Since the Evangelists attribute to Jesus the statements: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep
my saying, he shall never see death.', 'If ye love me, keep my commandments', 'He that hath my
commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of
my Father...'34, statements which could lead to the conclusion that there is an identity between Jesus
and the Law (Torah), without dwelling too much on this constellation of symbolic meanings, we
shall only say that guarding the letter and spirit of the Law become, through the revelation of the
swallowing of the book in John's Revelations Fig. 19 synonymous with the action of eating the body
of Christ (the letter of the Law) and drinking his blood (spirit). In fact, we find this scenario in
Ezekiel: 'And when I looked, behold, a hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was
therein.35 () Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go
speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. And he said
unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then
did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.' 36 The conclusion is simple: Isis holds in
her arms Jesus under the shape of the Tora, while the 'legs' of the Temple represent, through the
Jachin pillar, Jesus' final victory, coloured white not by chance, and the finalization of the tenebrous
work of the beginnings (bereshit) symbolized by the Boaz pillar, which holds within it the world of
the verb between the alpha and omega covers. We can see here also a metaphor of the support of
spirituality represented by the Temple and the 'legs' of the two Testaments.
It is known that Hiram of Tyr, the architect of Solomon's Temple, cast the two pillars in bronze and
decorated their capitels with pomegranates. In the vision John has in Revelation, when he sees
someone resembling the Son of Man, he makes the following description: ' and his feet like unto
33

34
35
36

AZ , a term by which alchemists defined the fifth element, identified by some with spirit, by others with
electricity or magnetism
John I 8:51, 14:51, 21
It is known that the text of the Torah was written on a scroll, as it is even today kept in the synagogue
Ezechiel 2:9 and 3:1,2,3

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fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace...'37


It is obviously a vision of Jesus that supplies us one more argument in support of the theory that
Solomon's Temple was anthropomorphically designed, and was supported by the legs of the
Saviour, who in fact identifies himself with the Temple when he says he can bring it down and
rebuild it in three days.
It is an often quoted fact in astrological literature that, due to the procession of the equinoxes,
humanity leaves Pisces at the end of this millennium to enter into the Age of Aquarius. And it is an
equally known fact that this is the constellation matched in the human body analogy with the area of
the lower legs. The planet governing Aquarius is Uranus. For the soles of the feet, associated with
the symbolism of the primordial waters, the lower legs represent the uranian heavens, associated
with air. The loss of uranium qualities, as proven by the myth of Hephaestus, the one thrown down
from the Olympian heaven because of his ugliness, which resulted in his lower legs getting shattered
upon impact with the earth. As a consequence, all chthonic characters have some kind of walking
deficiency Fig. 18 Walking deficiencies or a deformity of the lower legs represents by reverse an
involution, or a blockage of spiritual evolution.
Christianity, represented by the feet, evolves in the ascending spiritual evolution of humanity
through the lower legs of Aquarius towards the first fruit of the pomegranate of the knees seated on
top of the two 'legs' of the Temple's body. This is how one should interpret, in our opinion, Jesus'
statement according to which he is the Alpha, the beginning of the spiritual work. Socially,
Christianity resonates perfectly with this symbolism, being obviously a doctrine of change from
bottom to top.

THE KNEES
The Bambara tribe calls the knee the knot of the staff of the head38 and make it the seat of political
power. In this respect, they match numerous ancient traditions that make the knees the main abode
of bodily power, a symbol of the authority of man and his social power. Hence the expressions: 'to
lower one's knee = to submit', 'to bring someone to their knees = to impose one's will on someone,
or even to kill them, 'to kneel in front of someone = to ask for mercy, etc.
In astrological symbolism, knees are tied to the sign of the Capricorn, which a fact that is
exceedingly interesting for the accuracy of the mechanisms of archetypal imagery for populations
that have no notions of astrology corresponds to the 10 th house of the zodiac, known as the sector
the individual's social expression. Thus, the coincidences with Bambara traditional faith, and not
only, are striking.
As a Saturnine articulation that links symbolically speaking the jupiterian thigh to the uranian
lower leg, or, in other words, authority and the principle of freedom, the knee can be assimilated,
through its Saturnian qualities of prudence, coldness, calculation, caution, with the diplomatic
qualities indispensable to climbing the social steps of the Capricornian mountain.
37
38

Revelations, 1:15
Jean Chevalier et Alain Gheerbrant, Dicionar de simboluri, Ed. Artemis, Bucureti, 1995, pg. 92.

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If we see the foot as the 'seed' out of which the human being is born, and the lower legs as the stems,
the knee, by its very shape, may be seen as a fruit, the first achievement of man. His social insertion
is a sine qua non condition of his spiritual evolution, and for that man has to function similarly to
the knee which itself is an insertion at the optimal limit between authority and freedom.
But the knee (Latin genuculum, and its diminutive, geniculum) is related to the family of words that
bears the meaning of regeneration. After all, the knee is the one that generates the movement of the
whole leg. Like any fruit, it contains the seeds of a new generation, and thus it can be seen, next to
the foot, as a second seed of the becoming of the human being, related to which the thigh becomes a
trunk, and the sex becomes the next seed bearing fruit... Of it spring, finally, the trunk and its rib
branches at the top of which grows the last fruit, the head, whose seeds give birth to spiritual man.
Traditional myths grant a lot of attention to the knee. Pythagoras is known in the pre-Socratic texts
as the 'scholar with the golden knee'. In Kalevala, the world is born out of the eggs laid by a duck on
the knees of the goddess of waters at the moment she lifted herself over the waters the 'fertile' knee,
etc. Corresponding to Capricorn and Saturn, the knee is matched in the ranking of corresponding
metals with lead. It is a well-known fact that the stated ideal of alchemists (with the reservation of
the symbolic interpretation of this statement) was to turn lead into gold. We can thus deduce that,
similarly to the imperative of the social insertion of man, which corresponds symbolically to
accomplishing his 'weight', his 'pull' in the material world, and his verticalization symbolized by the
lead weighted plumb line and the weight specific to this metal, the ultimate fate of the human being
consists of the achievement of his 'gold', which, with its features as luminous and stainless,
symbolizes the ideal of reaching immortality.

THE THIGHS
In the order of anatomical build, the thighs present an obvious similarity with the lower legs. If we
look at the body from bottom to top, they seem to stem out of the pomegranates of the knees (see
above). If we look at it the other way around, the thighs seem to be two pillars that lie on top of the
pillars of the terrestrial Temple, thus bearing the significance of the celestial Temple or the heavenly
Jerusalem.
It is widely known that the ancients swore on Zeus or Jupiter. In astrology, Jupiter is the planet that
governs Sagittarius, the sign that corresponds to the thighs anatomically. In a significant
'coincidence', when Abraham asks Eleazar his son to swear he would not get for his son Isaac a
woman from the land of Canaan, he says; 'Put, I pray thee, they hand under my thigh; and I will
make you swear on the Lord, the Lord of Heavens, and I will make thee swear by the LORD, the
God of heaven, and the God of the earth...' 39 It is obvious that this gesture was equivalent to a vow
in which the heaven and the earth were called as witnesses in an expression of totality. The thigh
gains, in this sense, an attribute of integrality, summing up or expressing the very spiritual essence
of the individual. Thus, successive biblical generations are 'raised' from the thigh of Abraham, an
expression that does not have, as one might think, a sexual, terrestrial connotation, but an essential
one, as an equivalent of the identity expression 'bone of bone', and not the other one, recalled in
39

Genesis 24:2,3

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other contexts, 'flesh of [someone's] flesh'. The thigh thus gains symbolically a spiritually maternal
value. It is known that Dionysus 'gestated' in Zeus' thigh. Semele, his mother, wishing to know Zeus
in all his glory, is thunderstruck. Zeus extracts Dionysus from his mother's womb andre-births' him
from his own thigh. And rebirth is an unmistakable sign of spiritual initiation.
Just as the lower legs are an expression of man's spiritual stability (his instability being punished, as
we have seen, by shattering of the legs), the thighs represent the movement, the spiritual evolution
of the being, whose unfulfillment results in some grave consequences. In this sense, quite revealing
is the punishment meted out by the Angel to Jacob at the end of the well-known biblical struggle:
'And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And
when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of
Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.'40
Deuteronomy recalls the threats Moses addressed those who would not obey divine law: 'The LORD
shall smite thee in the knees, and in the legs, with a sore botch that cannot be healed, from the sole
of thy foot unto the top of thy head.'41 Obviously, the 'plagues' involved here, clearly inferior in terms
of propagation of fear compared to other threats that could have been invoked, have a symbolic
value and we believe aim at the meaning of a possible ontological catastrophe that could strike
the human being in case it doesn't fall in line with the divine norm, physical infirmities being only
the outer sign of spiritual shortcomings.
In the order of elements, thighs are attributed fire. Together with the other three parts of the lower
body, the feet, who have water attributed to them, the lower legs, having as a governing element air,
and the knees, which correspond to earth, the thighs tie together a coherent micro universe. Just as
in relation to the Macrocosm man synthesizes its structure, at the level of the Microcosm which is,
the script of the all reflected in everything repeats by the fact that the lower body is symbolically
structured similarly to the upper body. Man the microcosm thus reflects himself wholly in his lower
side just as it reflects the upper side.
The instrumentalization of the body in the art of dance will then be able, more than any other
instrument, to express not only the human being in all it has subtlest, but, indirectly and of course in
a purely spiritual plane, the entire cosmic drama that the human body not only contains and reflects,
but lives, even if most times at an unconscious level.
The author of these lines considers that, in total contradiction with the apologists of the purely
spiritual character of music, which they place at the antipodes of dance, which they perceive only in
its physical character, a musical instrument, such as the violin (to use as an example the most noble
example from the musician's objectual set), and which in essence is only an artisanal assemblage of
a wooden box, a stick, a few fish guts and a tuft of horse hair, is able to better express the human
being in its integrality than the very human being expressed by its very body. Of the entire range of
instruments invented by the mind of man, none raises to the value of the human voice, the only
musical 'instrument' that reaches the body's level of subtlety, being a part of this whole.
Paradoxically, the human voice, coming from within man, is destined to express it outwards, while
40
41

Ibidem 32:24:25
Deuteronomy 28:35

15

the body, the exterior form of the human being, expresses its interiority, the most subtle level of
living feeling.

16