brain & mind – where matter meets metaphysics

Archive for the ‘As Above So Below’ Category


…coming in the future,in the meantime, see ouroboros at Wikipedia


Caduceus by Zack Darling

These mememetaxis” is formed from the word “axis” with the prefix “meta” added to indicate that this “axis” is universal, all-encompassing and metaphysical. Also, it is meant to call to mind the word “metaphor” because “metaxis” is a metaphor or rather a meta-metaphor.  It is my intention as a meme artist that the word “axis” is implied as well; a vertical line that runs from lowest to highest, includes all in between and connects it all together like an axle, axis, tree, spine, pole or pillar. Google, Wikipedia, books and other references were NOT used in the following ravings except afterwards for the illustrations and hyperlinks…




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There is a symbolic theme or metaphor that runs throughout many cultures. The outer form of the symbol varies but they are all expressions of the same thing. In various cultures we see some symbolic representation of the center and axis of the world, cosmos and/or the self.

There is the axis mundi or “axis of the world”. This is not to be taken as the earth’s poles but rather a metaphysical axis of the entire world which includes the heavens (or Heaven), the underworld (or Hell) and the spiritual realm in addition to the physical earth. It is something like a spine that holds together all of the realms from lowest to highest with the human world in the center.

Yggdrasil, the World Tree

There is the “world tree“, “cosmic tree” or “Tree of Life” that is at the center of the the disc shaped earth with its roots in the underworld(s) and it’s branches in the celestial world(s).We see this in Yggdrasil, the tree that unites the cosmos in ancient Norse and Teutonic culture. We see this in the “Tree of Knowledge” in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Also there is the “Bodhi Tree” in Buddhism (bodhi means something like wisdom or enlightenment). There are similar “world tree” symbols in ancient Mayan culture, ancient Greek culture, in Hinduism and probably many other cultures. It also appears in the visions and spirit travels of ‘shamans’ throughout the world and history.

Arber Sephirotheca (plate XXI)

Anatomia Auri by J.D. Mylius, 1628

Tree of the Soul by D.A. Freher in Works of J. Behmen 1764

Pseudo Lull, Alchemical Treatise, c. 1470

Sometimes it is a mountain such as Mt. Meru in Vedic mythology or Mt. Olympus in Greek mythology and so on. The base of the mountain is located on the plane of the physical human world, the roots are in the underworld and the peak is in the divine world of the gods. In Hinduism the devas or heavenly gods live at the top and the asuras or hellish demons live under it. In Greek mythology the Olympian gods live at the top and the titans dwell under it. In both cases the mountain is at the center of the physical world. If I remember correctly, Mt. Fuji is the world mountain of Japanese myth, the Black Hills is the center of the Cheyenne and Sioux cosmos, Ayers Rock is the center of the aborigine cosmos. There is an equivalent in Taoism. Likely there are many more cases in other cultures.

Sometimes it’s a pole or a  pillar. Sometimes there are twin pillars or twin trees. When the “world axis” is doubled it merely represents good and evil or some other dichotomy. In the Qabala (Kabbalah, Cabala, etc.), for example, the Tree of Life has a “Pillar of Mercy” and a “Pillar of Severity”. In the symbolism of Freemasonry and in the Tarot alike there are twin pillars; one black and the other white. These two are called Jachin and Boaz which are the names of the twin pillars of the Temple of Solomon.

Tree of Life

We have the Pythagorean “monochord” which is a symbol of a single stringed instrument that plays at different notes or frequencies. The higher and lower notes represent higher and lower worlds.

Monochord by Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi, Vol. 1, 1617

Sometimes it is a serpent that connects the worlds. This is seen in the “rainbow serpent” or aborigines, the serpent on the Tree of Life, the kundalini serpent that connects the chakras of the human body/spirit, the Rod of Asclepius and the Caduceus of ancient Greece and the Hermetic tradition which today symbolize medicine and health care. Sometimes it is one serpent and other times it is two but they spiral up the axis of the human body, the soul, and the cosmos. Sometimes it is one serpent and other times it is two but they spiral up the axis of the human body, the soul, and the cosmos.       This vertically ascending serpent is not to be confused with the symbol of the serpent in a circle, often swallowing its tail. More on this below.

The Caduceus & the Rod of Esclapius

The Caduceus, the Chakras, the Self

A drawing by Aleister Crowley, early 20th century

De Cavernus Metellum Occultum es qui Lapis

Sometimes it is a ladder such as Jacob’s Ladder. Jacob has a vision of a ladder reaching to heaven upon which angels travel up and demons travel down. This ladder often appears in the visions of ‘shamans’ the world over. It is my guess that the popular game “Chutes and Ladders” which is based on “Snakes and Ladders” comes from the same ladder and the ascending serpent mentioned above (not the circular serpent mentioned below).

Jacobs Ladder by Gerard Hoet
Jacobs Ladder by Blake

First Degree Tracing Board (for Freemasonic lodges) by J. Owring, 1819

Death of Theodora, Russian Orthodox icon

Icon showing Old Testament imagery to the left and linking the Ladder with Jacob's

Ladder of Heaven by John Klimakos

De Nova Logica by Ramon Lull, 1512

Utriusque Cosmi, vol. 2 by Robert Fludd, 1619

Via vitae aeternae by Antoine Sucquet, 1620



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It is important to understand that this cosmic axis is not just the axis of the cosmos, it doesn’t just connect the underworld and heavens to the earth. The cosmic axis is also the axis of the self. Not just the human body but the entire self, that is the unconscious, the conscious and the various higher levels of the soul.

The meta-axis or metaxis is the axis at the center of the self and the entire cosmos. We must understand that in mysticism, shamanism, the Hermetic Tradition, yoga, Qabala and so on the self and the world share the same center point, the same axis. The microcosm of the self and the macrocosm are united in this symbol. The metaxis is the center of the circle whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere as the Hermetic axiom goes. The symbol of the circle with the point at the center is found in many cultures. The circle represents the self, the cosmos. The center point is the center of the cosmos, the self. The center point is the axis seen from above. In other words, this universal symbol is the metaxis seen from above instead of from the side. But it is the same idea.

We can say that the circle is the horizon of the world and the point or axis is it’s center and backbone. The wider world has been symbolized by a circle almost universally. As mentioned above this is sometimes symbolized by a serpent in a circle swallowing its tail. This is the circle of the self and the world, not its’ axis or center. The circle goes around horizontally while the axis runs up and down.

Indeed, ‘shamans’ all over the world travel this vertical path. They go into a trance and access other states of consciousness through visions in which they travel up or down this axis. Sometimes they climb the world tree or world mountain. Sometimes they ascend in a tube, a magic rope, travel on the back of a vertical serpent, climb a ladder and so on.

We even see this same map in psychology. In conventional Freudian psychology we have the subconscious, the unconscious and the supra-conscious arranged vertically. In Jungian and other forms of psychology this vertical arrangement becomes more inclusive and all the symbols far mentioned are seen as symbolic representations of the axis of the self.

There is the 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness of Tim Leary and Robert Anton Wilson which builds on the Freudian/Jungian levels co-mapped with all the symbols so far mentioned. All the chakras, states of consciousness, the Tree of Life, imprinting stages, and so on are united elegantly in this model of the self as cosmos. This is an updated version of the axis mundi, the metaxis. Unlike older more traditional models, this one lines up the science with mysticism. This metaxis represents levels of psychology, areas of the brain, aspects of the soul, the chakras and all that these represent.

The Chakras Mapped with the Tree of Life

Finally there is one other “symbol” to mention. In the physical sciences we have the electromagnetic spectrum. Electromagnetism is the one medium behind all energy and matter. Think of a long scale of frequency or vibration (much like the Pythagorian monochord) where the lowest frequencies of vibration are mass and matter and the highest is pure energy and light. This is not taken as a metaphor. Quite literally, the same electromagnetic force is behind everything from lowest to highest. In the middle somewhere is the visible spectrum of the rainbow. Below red is infrared which we cannot see but which exists.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Then we have the colors of the rainbow. Above the highest color we can see is ultra violet. It is electromagnetism at a slightly higher frequency than what we can see. Though invisible to us, ultra violet rays affect us greatly. Also there are all possible tones from the lowest audible notes to the highest pitches we can hear. Also on this scale are long waves, radio waves, microwaves, X-rays and gamma rays. What we see as light is just a tiny section of this scale. Just like the more traditional axis mundi symbols, it contains everything from highest to lowest with the human experience at the center.

8-Cicuit / Tree of Life / Metamap by unknown artist

The picture above is by an unknown artist, found on It maps the 8 circuits with the chakra system, the Tree of Life and other Hermetic and universal symbol systems. This is an excellent pictorial representation of some of what I call the metaxiom. There would be no way to make a single picture of all that is meant by the meme metaxiom but the unknown artist has done an excellent job nonetheless.



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There is a maxim from the Western tradition that goes “As above so below”.1 This is a paraphrase from The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus and is of central importance to the entire Hermetic tradition from Kabbalah to alchemy to ceremonial magic to metaphysics. In my words, the maxim professes a fractal model of the cosmos.

Mandelbrot (If I am spelling his name correctly) defined a fractal as being self-similar on all scales. That is to say that a given fractal is composed of smaller versions of itself. The shape is repeated over and over but on the large and small scales. Pythagoras goes an to say something to the effect of “as in the greater, so in the smaller” and “so as the macroverse is reflected in the microverse, so is the smaller reflected in the greater” and so on.

On a theological level the maxim calls our attention to god (or the gods) reflected in the self and vice versa. Some traditions hold intricate hierarchies of seraphim, angels, arch angels and so on up to the highest with the same branching structure in the opposite direction for demons, arch demons and so on. Man is in the middle, of course.

Man is in the middle. The self unites the higher with the lower. In the esoteric traditions this is symbolized with a downward triangle merging with an upward triangle.

Notice the interlocking triangles in the woodcut above. This is the highest and lowest united. Notice the serpent swallowing his tail framing the whole world of higher and lower. Imagine the metaxis as running up and down the center in a line. This would be the straight path from one end to the other, like Jacob’s Ladder or any of the symbols mentioned above.

On a psychological level we can say that there is the individual mind and individual unconscious and there is a social mind and collective unconscious. On the fringes of psychology they speak of a planetary mind or a Gaian Mind which is that of all life on the planet. In the Western esoterica they collective mind would include non-physical entities, all the archons, angels, demi-gods and so on.

On the physical level subatomic particles are like atoms which are like molecules which are like solar systems which are like galaxies which are like galactic clusters and so on. When you slide the scale on this web page it really reels the mind!

In the Tree of Life in the esoteric traditions, the middle sphere is the point where the upper and lower meet. It is often symbolized as the same upper and lower triangles interlocked. In the yogic tradition the heart chakra is symbolized by the same triangles interlocked. The heart chakra and the middle sphere are to be understood as being the same, as co-mapping each other.

The reason why the idea is introduced here is make the point that the all these axis models are to be understood as the central vertical path from highest to lowest with man somewhere in the middle. It is just an other way to use the metaxis to understand other models of the universe. When you slide the scale on this page you are traveling up or down the metaxis on the level of the physical universe. Now think about this – metaphorically speaking, electromagnetism is the central axis that runs from smallest to largest. In other words, what unites all of these, from the subatomic particles to the entire physical universe is that electromagnetic spectrum mentioned above. All matter and energy is all electromagnetism at smaller or larger wavelengths or vibrations. It is like the divine monochord; different notes give off faster or slower vibrations.

Conclusion – It is only fair to ask about the metaxis “Yes, yes, but what use is it?”. The answer is that it is to be used as a Rosetta stone. Since it correlates all things it multiplies your understanding. If you begin to understand one system you begin to understand the others. These systems all pertain to the self and the world in which the self exists. They all have much to teach about the self and all aspects of the universe on the psychological, spiritual, philosophical, mathematical and physical levels.

They are all models with which we gain greater understanding.

The metaxis model is universal and eternal. It represents everything from lowest to highest, from the self to the cosmos and all in between. It is an endlessly fertile tool for thinking, a meta-map to everything, a key to understanding all these symbolic systems synergistically. Hopefully that makes it relevant.




1. The B.O.T.A. translation – “that which is above is as that which is below, and that which is below is as that which is above”

Newtons’ translation – “that which is below is like that which is above that which is above is like that which is below”

Beato’s version – “Whatever is below is similar to that which is above.”

Latin – “Quod est inferius est sicut quod est superius, et quod est superius est sicut quod est inferius

Contemporary rendering of Latin – “That which is below is as that which is above, and that which is above is as that which is below”

Nineveh Shadrach has recently translated a book attributed to Apollonius of Tyana, The Book on the Secret of Creation (also named Book of the Causes) written in Arabic which predates the Latin upon which everything else handed down in the West is based.

Shadrach – “What is the above is from the below and the below is from the above.”

Note how different this version is. In my opinion it augments the Western version in that it adds an other facet, giving it more depth.