College of Isis - Star of Ishtar and Chinese Inner Alchemy Part I
The Star and Dragon Diagram of the Fellowship of Isis and Ancient Chinese Alchemy ~ Part I
by Linda Iles
Editor's Note: The following article is an in depth look at the Star of Ishtar and how it is connected to ancient Chinese Inner Alchemy. We will be presenting Linda's article in three parts.
The following quotes from the writings of Lady Olivia Robertson, ArchPrs. are of particular interest in the context of this article:
"The Star of Ishtar and Isis equals TIME. Direction. Activity. YANG. I found the Chinese Mandala with seven coils which is Male, Yang. The Male chromosomes are XY which equals seven. Female chromosomes are YIN, XX which equals eight. Octave in music is eight. 4 x 8 equals 32 (the number of working degrees).
I received direct inspiration from ISIS for the WEB (of Tiamat). The coiled spiral equals SPACE, symbolized by four spheres of Eternity - the body of Nuit, Tiamat, other space Goddesses spreading. This derives from the circle of the Absolute - ATEN. The coils from the spiral of the Cosmos form material, etheric, astral and spiritual. YIN (around Divine Matrix)."
~ Olivia Robertson
(the two quotes above are from a private letter)
"Ritual is just such an attempt to mark the flow of transient existence with spiritual symbolism that evokes other spheres. Strike one note, for instance "C" of an octave and you receive an echo both below and above from higher and lower notes "C". It is the same with the spectrum, with echoing rainbows: with violet and ultra-violet. And so it is with each one of us. Only a thirtieth part of us exists through our physical bodies. Our greater Selves stem from the Divine matrix of eternal reality. For Eternity is not infinite length nor even infinite shortness: it is All Time and All Space and All Consciousness. There is no beginning and no end for the Deities.
And we, children of the Mother of all beings, are therefore as immortal as She. For the Mother is expressed through Her offspring.
The Star and Dragon Diagram of the College of Isis depicts the four-coiled Dragon, Tiamat, Goddess of Babylon, bisected by the eight-pointed star of Ishtar, the Goddess who descended and ascended all spheres to rescue Her consort Tammuz, Shepherd of the Starry Flocks. This diagram may be used to depict the coiled fire of the Life Force impregnated by the cosmic Rays of Divine attributes. Where the rays intersect the four planes are the points which give the 32 working and the Mystical 33rd Magi degrees of the College of Isis. After this diagram had been designed, I found a Chinese picture showing an eight-pointed star superimposed over a seven-coiled dragon. Students working with the zodiacal year of twelve lunations could use a twelve rayed star. For our present purpose we use this diagram to illustrate the development of consciousness through the spiral of Space bisected by Time."
~ Olivia Robertson (above quotes from the introduction of "Panthea, Initiations and Festivals of the Goddess".)
Olivia has always stated that she was inspired by Isis to create the "Star of Ishtar and the Web of the Universe and The Tiamat Dragon Around the Divine Matrix Diagram". (From this point forward, the diagram will be referred to as The Star of Ishtar.) After creating the Star of Ishtar for the Fellowship of Isis, Olivia found an ancient Chinese diagram which consisted of a dragon with seven coils and with an eight rayed star superimposed over it. But just what ancient Chinese diagram was it? I always wondered about this, and so did several other FOI members.
Recently some information came to light which helped to solve this puzzle. I found it when reading about a branch of Daoist Chinese Inner Alchemy named Neidangong, Nei Dan, or Neidan, whose name translates as "inner elixir skill". This branch of alchemy is based on the philosophy of the Dao or Tao. It deals with inner or spiritual transformation rather than transmutation of physical elements.
I presented my findings to Starsheen, AU, to deTraci Regula, AU, to Caroline Wise, AU, to Elda Lantz, ArchDrs., and to my Alchemy teacher, Dr. Gina Pollaro, Prs. H., all of whom serve as teachers in the FOI. They were intrigued. So I sent a copy of my findings and conclusions to Lady Olivia. She wrote back: "How exciting for me to read that you have found the Chinese diagram. I am a believer in the Tao (Daoist) philosophy. Do write about Ho-tu (also Hetu) and Lo-shu (also Luoshu). Our Star of Ishtar balances the Male or Yang and Yin, Female in each of our cells. It also relates to Inner Elixir Skill Alchemy, Neidan. Our Lightning Flash!"
Heaven and Earth, Dragon and Turtle
The diagram that Olivia found was a variation of the circular form of the Xiantian diagram. It is one of the two earliest known diagrams of ancient China. The Xianting diagram was developed by followers of the Dao, or Tao. The term Dao originally meant the revolution or the way of the heavens about the earth. This movement of the heavens was regarded as the cause of the phenomena on earth. The Tao was located about the celestial pole, which was considered to be the seat of power because all revolves about it.
In the course of time, this concrete expression became abstract, and the Tao was viewed as the universal cosmic energy behind the visible order of nature. This cosmic energy regarded as ‘being’ is impersonal, omnipresent and viewed as ‘eternally becoming.’ The cosmic force of the Dao produced ‘yin’ and ‘yang’, the negative and positive, female and male principles of nature. These by their interaction brought forth heaven, earth, and all beings.
The Xianting diagram was developed by the Daoists for use in “Nei Dan” or Inner Alchemy. In Nei Dan all materials were believed to consist of the prime substance Dao, but they were believed to differ in properties and proportion according to the relative content of yang and yin. The interplay of these two qualities as odd and even, light and dark, warm and cold, male and female is the basis for manifestations of all natural substances, all forms of life, and the forces and cycles of nature. Nei Dan, the Inner Alchemy of the Dao was used to accomplish spiritual transformation through meditations and rituals by balancing and harmonizing the inner elements of being.
Xiantian translates as “Before Heaven” or “Early Heaven”. The whole of the Xiantian diagram is a series of concentric circles halved into contrasting black and white areas throughout, representing the contrasting forces of yin and yang. According to the “Suet Wen Jie Zi,” the oldest dictionary of China, the Chinese word “Yi” means “Sun and Moon,” and is the emblem of yin and yang. Yang is represented as solar, colored white, Yin is lunar, colored black. Note the seven concentric circles that surround the eight rayed star. In later periods this diagram was anthropomorphed in Chinese art into a dragon with seven coils, which bore upon it a superimposed eight rayed star or eight spoked wheel. This superimposed diagram of the wheel or star was called Luoshu or Lo Shu, the diagram of the terrestrial turtle (which will be described further in part II).
The Star of Ishtar diagram consists of a circle of spiraled coils that when colored in form two distinct halves with the levels tinted in contrasting hues. The manner in which the levels of the FOI diagram are colored in not only distinguish one level from the other, the upper half of each level is distinguished from the lower half through the use of contrasting colors along the East-West line, accomplishing through color what the Xiantian diagram does in black and white.
The Xiantian diagram is a form of the ancient Daoist or Taoist Chinese Cosmic Number Diagram known as the “Hetu” pronounced “Ho Tu,” or “Dragon Writing” that according to Chinese legend first appeared in 2200 BCE on the back of a dragon-horse. It corresponds to the forces of heaven. On this ancient Chinese Dragon chart odd numbers are considered male and even numbers are female, which is also true of the FOI Star of Ishtar diagram of the Fellowship of Isis.
In the Chinese diagram the numbers were arranged in opposing pairs which could generate a spiral both inward and outward from the central area of the diagram which is corresponded to the number five. Olivia has written of the Star of Ishtar diagram that anyone can follow the rituals spiraling both inward or outward of the Divine Matrix, depending on the spiritual goal they wish to accomplish. Olivia has written in the introduction to “Melusina, Life Centres of the Goddess”:
In Eternal Reality, Source of Deity, there is no beginning and no end. Hence there is no distinction as to which is the greater, Goddess or God. When Deity manifests from the unmanifest Matrix, the Void, Space is created. And where there is Space there is measurement, Which is Time. For every circle has a point within from which may be measured stars. And through each star is formed a spiral which forms myriad spirals. But the informing Mind which creates Space and Time and stars and spirals is Deity. And Deity in order to bring about change divides into Two, Goddess and God. And the Goddess is Daughter of the Matrix and Space, and the God is the Son of the point of Light and of Time. Through their mutual Love springs forth Creation.
Both Goddess and God have two Powers within Them in perfect balance. These are the golden power of Love and the silver Power of Truth. Their polarity produces the Pantheon of Goddesses and Gods. The two powers, named Yang and Yin, Positive and Negative, Rajas and Tamas, when in equilibrium produce statis - Peace, Nirvana, Sattva. But when they are unbalanced they produce movement; they create worlds. Hence there is no harmony without stasis: no creation without action. Both are of divine origin.
Five Sacred Elements
In this ancient Chinese inner alchemical system, the number five represented the human adept and the all permeating, all encompassing potency of the Five Phases called “Wuxing.” In the Star of Ishtar, this fifth level is symbolized by the central egg-shaped oval that contains the Ankh. This center, called the Divine Matrix, along with the four levels of Alma Mater, Flamma Vestae, Porta Mystica and Dulce Domum adds to five.
These five phases or elements are referred to in the FOI ritual “Evening: Rite of the Five Elements” found in the liturgy book “Dea, Rites and Mysteries of the Goddess” thus, providing another correspondence to the five ancient Chinese alchemical levels of being. The elements as represented in our FOI rituals are named earth, air, fire, water and spirit. The elements of the Inner Alchemy of Dao are Wood, Metal, Water, Earth and Fire. These five Daoist alchemical elements represented the unseen activities of the dual forces of creation, Yin (feminine, passive) and Yang (masculine, active). These elements constantly alternate and manifest as the Five Movements, or ‘Wu Yun’ which are the changing seasons and forces of nature in our outer physical world. Within us they define the various stages, phases or conditions of inner being.
The numbers one through five in this system of inner alchemy correspond to the period or condition of formlessness, a primal generation of energy that was called by the ancient Chinese alchemists, Xiantian “Before Heaven“ or “Early Heaven.” The numbers five though nine manifest in the outer spheres or physical plane called Houtian or “Later Heaven.” The number ten in Daoist alchemy is the number of completion, corresponding to the ten lunar months of human gestation. In contrast the various levels of our Star of Ishtar, counted according to their colored levels, amount to eight, four levels each of two colors each. When the sum of their total number eight is increased by the addition of one, representing the oval, egg-shaped center or Divine Matrix, the total comes to nine, corresponding to the nine solar months of human gestation.
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Note: This article is included here by request of FOI Co-Founder Olivia Robertson.