Sogdians & Buddhism

Samten de Wet

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

In a review of Chinese Esoteric Buddhism: Amoghavajra and the Ruling Elite, by Geoffrey C. Goble, we read:

Goble astutely notes that the esoteric rites had Central Asian (probably Sogdian or Khotanese) origins and could have appealed to the military and bureaucratic elite such as Geshu Han, Li Baoyu and Du Hongjian (pp. 204) who had similar ethnic origins.

The Review is ONLINE HERE @ DISSERTATION REVIEWS. And another Review is HERE .

As Mariko Namba Walter informs us:

Pu-k’ung (705 -774), Amoghavajra, who contributed greatly to the introduction of Tantric Buddhism to China, also had a Sogdian mother and an Indian father.


For a comprehensive overview and Introduction, the articles by Dr. Matteo Compareti and Mariko Namba Walter, at Sino-Platonic Papers are a good place to start.



Samten de Wet

24th April 2014

During my peregrinations through history, I discovered evidence that during times of great social unrest, even wars, the creativity of the human spirit still shines through the horrors of the time. For example, [prior to releasing the other material gathered] two great visionaries of the 20th century, Herman Hesse and Mircea Eliade, both created works during the darkness period of the century. Firstly, Hesse. Hesse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, but he did not attend the ceremony. His great opus, The Glass Bead Game, was begun in 1931 and published in Switzerland in 1943, exactly covering the rise of fascism and the Holocaust.

Wiki informs us that by : “. . . 1965, the sales of Hesse’s books by his publisher Suhrkamp reached an all-time low.” But then:

“The situation changed in the mid-1960s, when Hesse’s works suddenly became bestsellers in the United States. The revival in popularity of Hesse’s works has been credited to their association with some of the popular themes of the 1960s counterculture (or hippie) movement. In particular, the quest-for-enlightenment theme of Siddhartha, [first published in 1922] Journey to the East, and Narcissus and Goldmund resonated with those espousing counter-cultural ideals. The "magic theatre" sequences in Steppenwolf were interpreted by some as drug-induced psychedelia, although there is no evidence that Hesse ever took psychedelic drugs or recommended their use. To a large part, the Hesse boom in the United States can be traced back to enthusiastic writings by two influential counter-culture figures: Colin Wilson and Timothy Leary. From the United States, the Hesse renaissance spread to other parts of the world, and even back to Germany: more than 800,000 copies were sold in the German-speaking world in 1972–1973. In a space of just a few years, Hesse became the most widely read and translated European author of the 20th century. Hesse was especially popular among young readers, a tendency which continues today.”


Now, in 2016, we can look back and re-evaluate the work of Hesse, and possibly introduce it to a new generation. Here is a sample of his vision:

“Suddenly I understood that in the language, or at least in the spirit of the Glass Bead Game, in fact everything meant everything, that every symbol and every combination of symbols did not lead to this place or that place, not to single examples, experiments, or proofs, but into the centre, into the secret and the interior of the world, into primordial knowledge [Urwissen]. Every change from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a mythos or a cult, every classical, artistic formulation was, as I understood in the flash of that moment, considered really meditatively, nothing else than the direct way into the interior of the world’s secret, where in the movement of inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang the sacred is happening eternally.”

Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game



“Mircea Eliade was motivated at all times by a deep concern for the future of Western civilisation, which he saw as threatened by possible extinction. He believed it essential that we recognise and acknowledge the archaic and the Eastern contributions to man’s spiritual history while there is still time to do so with good grace. Otherwise, by maintaining an attitude of contempt or superiority towards the rest of the world – past and present – we would bring disaster on ourselves and the world as a whole. Eliade’s whole life was devoted to trying to save the world’s culture by introducing it to itself.”

Robert Temple, The scholar shaman (As published in The Spectator, 25 April 1987) HERE

Eliade’s novel, The Forbidden Forest 1955, is not as well-known as the novels of Hesse, and to be honest, I have not read it. But it was written between 1936 and 1948, more or less exactly parallel to the genesis of Hesse’s GBG.


Kocku von Stuckrad writes:

“In The Forbidden Forest, Eliade introduces a concrete way to escape from historical time into mythical non-time. Already in his childhood days the clairvoyant Stefan knew a secret chamber that initiates called Sambo, This room "was above us, somewhere overhead on the second floor" (Eliade 1978:74). When Stefan dared to open the room he was struck by an experience of enlightenment.” [Note 1]

And in Eliade’s words in The Forbidden Forest:

“And just then, at that moment I understood what Sambo was. I understood that here on earth, near at hand and yet invisible, inaccessible to the uninitiated, a privileged space exists, a place like a paradise, one you could never forget in your whole life if you once had the good fortune to know it. Because in Sambo I felt I was no longer living as I had lived before. I lived differently in a continuous inexpressible happiness. I don’t know the source of this nameless bliss. “ (Eliade 1978:75) 97

Why Eliade called the Secret Room, Sambo, I have yet to discover.

[Note 1] Kocku von Stuckrad, Utopian Landscapes and Ecstatic Journeys: Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, and Mircea Eliade on the Terror of Modernity, Numen, Vol. 57, No. 1 (2010), p. 96.

Newsletter April Full Moon

22nd April 2016

Full Moon: Sun in Taurus. Moon in Scorpio.

A Manichaean Hymn

Living knowledge came to me
It cried and opened my eyes
Woke up my spirit
Woke the god of secrets
Raised man from among the dead
And woke me from sleep
Life had woken in me.

From: A. Esmailpour, Myth: Symbolic Expression (Tehran 1998), p. 203.

Dear Friends,

When I was writing a paper on Hieronymus Bosch for a History of Art project, in the early 1960’s I was led by synchronicity to an exploration of the so-called esoteric arts, such as alchemy, astrology and the Tarot. Now, 50 years later, this exploration is still continuing, and this research and these newsletters are shared with a wide circle of friends. The umbrella for this work, The Luxlapis Project, has never been a secular activity. As I have repeated ad nauseam, it is the interface between culture and spirituality that nourishes us in these difficult times. People have lost faith in politicians and their corporate controllers. Creative productions, when not in themselves dominated by corporate objectives – such as films. novels, and social media, continue to inspire us with visions of the world as it is, warts and all, and perhaps in the genre of science fiction, of what may come to pass.

Back in 1973, Joseph Beuys wrote:

“Only on condition of a radical widening of definitions will it be possible for art and activities related to art [to] provide evidence that art is now the only evolutionary-revolutionary power. Only art is capable of dismantling the repressive effects of a senile social system that continues to totter along the deathline: to dismantle in order to build ‘A SOCIAL ORGANISM AS A WORK OF ART’… EVERY HUMAN BEING IS AN ARTIST who — from his state of freedom — the position of freedom that he experiences at first-hand — learns to determine the other positions of the TOTAL ART WORK OF THE FUTURE SOCIAL ORDER.” More HERE

Lapis Lazuli

The Significance of Lapis in Ritual and Belief

Irene Good

“Lapis lazuli has consistently reflected significance in ritual contexts in Mesopotamia and in Egypt. It was considered to be a powerful apotropaic substance and a healing stone in Babylonian magical texts, particularly when worn around the neck or strung onto a thread as an amulet. This is attested from textual evidence as well as archaeological and art historical study. Lapis lazuli significantly shaped conceptual notions of truth within the Mesopotamian world, where it was used within sacred contexts. The physical nature of this stone, for the Early Dynastic Sumerians in particular (the most valued being luminous, dark and blue), it represented the sacred, the sky and masculinity. It was often paired with red carnelian in burial contexts, reflecting both masculine and feminine. This red-blue pairing is also found in burials of bronze and early iron age peoples in the Tarim Basin of Xinjiang, as red and blue cords were used to bind the hands of mummified bodies. This red/blue male/female connection may reflect a shared colour symbolism with a deep history.

The relevance of colour symbolism and the ritual use of lapis lazuli for the present study is that of the impact of this particular hard-to-find substance and its role in long distance exchange: we can begin to trace the spread of cosmological belief and ritual practice from across the Iranian Plateau, and Central Asia into and out of Mesopotamia, from the third millennium through the second, and begin to see movement in the archaeological record not so much as a spread of people per se, but as a spread of ideas. The potency of this stone in ritual and magic, coupled with its scarcity, would have certainly encouraged a migration of practice .”

FROM: Irene Good. When East met West: Interpretive Problems in Assessing Eurasian Contact and Exchange

in Antiquity, pp..25 – 26 [Peabody Museum, Harvard University] [Available online]


Babylonian Quest for Lapis Lazuli and Dilmun during the City III period

LAUGHTER And tears . . .


Samten de Wet[1]


“It was believed that Ra wept, and from the tears he wept came man.” [2]

We cry, we are born, we speak, we rage, we sleep, we have desires, and we laugh! Is any of this unusual to the human condition? I think not.

“Alexander Dumas tells in his Memoires that, as a child, he was bored, bored to tears. When his mother found him like that, weeping from sheer boredom, she said: ‘And what is Dumas crying about?’ ‘Dumas is crying because Dumas has tears,’ replied the six-year-old child.” [3]

In a Hermetic text preserved by Stobeus, we read:

“Tears are Kronos; birth is Zeus; speech [logos] is Hermes; anger is Ares; the moon is sleep; Aphrodite is desire; and the sun is laughter, for by him laugh all mortal minds, and boundless universe.” [4]

Look again at the seven words of the above planetary associations:

Tears, birth, speech, anger, sleep, desire, laughter

Now reading the quotation from the Hermetica carefully, let us reformulate it as a table:

Tears birth Speech anger sleep desire laughter
Kronos Zeus Hermes Ares moon Aphrodite sun
Or or Or Or or or

The point is that Astrology, or say, the Religion of the Stars, does not only exist outside our daily experiences. It is also not confined to mundane reality, but offers us a switchboard for us to compute the relationships between the microcosmos and the macrocosmos. [5]

The Sword of Truth

The Sword of Truth.

Venus & Mars in The Grand Cross


Saturday, April 19, 2014

I have to admit, that in a manner of speaking, I did not write the short essay on The Grand Cardinal Cross. It just sort of poured out, or through me. Then, on further examination, the ramifications of the Tarot interpretation became rather esoteric and though I promised a Part 2, it seems this will not be forthcoming. Nevertheless, using a form of zoom lens, the following has found its way into The Light of Day.

The Seven Planets all correspond to 7 Metals, to be seen here in this Chart:

In The Grand Cross – MARS IN LIBRA = thus equals: IRON and COPPER


“The word electromagnetism is a compound form of two Greek terms, ἢλεκτρον, ēlektron, "amber", and μαγνήτης, magnetic, from "magnítis líthos" (μαγνήτης λίθος), which means "magnesian stone", a type of iron ore. The science of electromagnetic phenomena is defined in terms of the electromagnetic force, which includes both electricity and magnetism as elements of one phenomenon.”

The Key to this phenomenon, or matrix of energy is to be found in the Myths of Venus and Mars, or Vulcan/HEPHAISTOS.

We must remember that this ‘family’ of Fire Gods are all set within the extensive world of Fire Symbolism.

Jacopo Tintoretto – Venus, Mars, and Vulcan, 1551. Mannerism (Late Renaissance) Genre: sketch and study, 202 x 27 cm. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Germany

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them!

To quote Edgar Wind, out of context:: “The claim that in these late Neoplatonic speculations there was a vestige of an ancient mystery religion, older than, Homer and Hesiod, was a theory which it would be difficult either to prove or refute, because a purely oral transmission, if it existed, could of course not be traced or tested with documents.” [1] Firstly, I am convinced that such vestiges of the mystery religions have survived. Secondly, that there is an oral transmission, thirdly that it cannot be traced with documents, but can be verified with pictures, images, symbols and other representational and non-representational forms. That puts my cards on the table. I also think it is necessary that we expand our paradigms on the nature of this transmission, beyond the boundaries of the present rationalistic discourses. We have today, a lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, represented for example by H.H. the Dalai Lama and H.H. the 17th Karmapa – which has its transmission credentials clearly delineated through the centuries. I am convinced that there are other transmission lineages that are not exoterically documented. Their modus operandi is only visible through the fruits of their action patterns. By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them! And one such Fruit is definitely the Sacred Tarot. An exhaustive sacking and plundering of the historical documents of the 15th century has not as yet resulted in identifying the authors of the Tarot. Yet, parallels, mainly hermetic in nature, or neoplatonic, as is more commonly accepted, are being unearthed at a rapid rate. In the midst of the cacophony of theories and the multiplicity of versions of the Tarot, how can we maintain a stable and a true transmission, honouring the ancient lineage and the imaginal inspiration, and archetypal richness that it embodies? How can we be true to the ancestral responsibilities that have yet to bear fruit. We see the mess that our culture is in at present, the moral bankruptcy, and gross materialism, ignorance, greed and aggression that rule the day. Some astounding images have been released into mass consciousness by way of the novel. For example I quote Philip Pullman: “And for the most of that time, wisdom has had to work in secret, whispering her words, moving like a spy through the humble places of the world while the courts and palaces are occupied by her enemies.” [2] And: “We’ve had nothing but lies and propaganda and cruelty and deceit for all the thousands of years of human history. It’s time we started again, but properly this time . . .” “There are two great powers,” the man said, “and they’ve been fighting since time began. Every advance in human life, every scrap of knowledge and wisdom and decency we have has been torn from one side by the teeth of the other. Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit.” [3] One could place the Tarot and its transmission within this context. The main motto of The Brotherhood of Light, which produced the so-called Egyptian Tarot, is: Contribute Thy Utmost to Universal Welfare – which is very close, if not identical to the Buddhist: May I gain Enlightenment for the sake of all that lives. To me, the Tarot is an instrument of Wisdom operating through Compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings – and I do not explore other systems, where I find the gestalt is lower than these objectives. In these times when ethics and morality take a back seat, we are sorely pressed for guidance. Though some individuals set themselves up as arbitrators of what the Tarot, should and should not do, including myself, in the long run, we are all part and parcel of a metaprogramme, which encompasses much wider objectives than the Tarot itself – and here it would be suitable to include those other great reservoirs of wisdom, Astrology, the Kabbalah, Alchemy, and so forth. In other words, a Gnostic Renaissance is under way, intuited by C.G. Jung back in the early part of the 20th Century. Nor was he alone in identifying this esoteric cartography. The question remains, as to how we, as islands in the possession of Gnostic wisdom, can set up and maintain systems of plumbing to the mass dehydrations of the psyche that surround us. There are no resources at hand, and the few who should be co-operating, are not doing so. The outlet looks pretty bleak, except for those well insulated within their inner esoteric sanctorum, the very enlightened who seem devoid of any social objectives. That is not to say that there are not invisible hands at work behind the curtain of iron materialism. But my point always remains, is that whatever we are doing, it is not enough. The harvest is great and the harvesters few. The trillions of dollars spent on instruments of death and mass destruction, identify only too clearly the seriousness of the situation. I would like to end these speculation with a small piece by the late Terence McKenna: “Now there is present in the world at the moment, or at least I like to think so, an impulse which I have named the archaic revival. What happens is that whenever a society really gets in trouble, and you can use this in your own life-when you really get in trouble-what you should do is say “what did I believe in the last sane moments that I experienced” and then go back to that moment and act from it even if you no longer believe it. Now in the Renaissance this happened. The scholastic universe dissolved. New classes, new forms of wealth, new systems of navigation, new scientific tools, made it impossible to maintain the fiction of the Medieval cosmology and there was a sense that the world was dissolving. Good alchemical word-dissolving. And in that moment the movers and shakers of that civilization reached backwards in time to the last sane moment they had ever known and they discovered that it was Classical Greece and they invented classicism. In the 15th and 16th century the texts which had lain in monasteries in Syria and Asia Minor forgotten and untranslated for centuries were brought to the Florentine council by people like Gemistos Pletho and others and translated and classicism was born-its laws, its philosophy, its aesthetics. We are the inheritors of that tradition but it is now, once again, exhausted and our cultural crisis is much greater. It is global. It is total. It involves every man, woman and child on this planet, every bug, bird and tree is caught up in the cultural crisis that we have engendered. Our ideas are exhausted-the ideas that we inherit out of Christianity and its half-brother science, or its bastard child science. So, what I’m suggesting is that an archaic revival needs to take place and it seems to be well in hand in the revival of Goddess worship and shamanism and partnership but notice that these things are old-10,000 years or more old-but there was an unbroken thread that, however thinly drawn, persists right up to the present.” Yours sincerely, Samten de Wet. Cape Town, Tuesday, June 18, 2013 [1] Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance, p.22 [2] Philip Pullman, The His Dark Material Trilogy. [3] Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife, Scholastic, London, 1997. [4]Terence McKenna, Lectures on Alchemy

The Ribs of Death

“ . . . I was all eare,

And took in strains that might create a soul

Under the ribs of death.

John Milton, Comus

Comus (A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634

The Hippopotamus in The Tarot

Corinne Heline:

“The fifteenth Arcanum places before the aspirant the reminder that “the higher we climb, the harder we fall.” It pictures the spirit of evil which has been known by many names throughout world literature. Here he is represented with the body of a hippopotamus, head of a crocodile, great bat wings, and the feet of a goat. A serpent is seen emerging from the lower part of the body, indicative of the fact that all of his works are dedicated to evil. In one hand he holds aloft the scepter of destruction, in the other the scepter of division, confusion and hatred. Bound by chains to his feet are two human figures with goats’ heads, suggesting the depravity into which man may descend when he allies himself consciously with the forces of destruction.”

Corinne Heline, The Bible and the Tarot, pp.82-83. See more on CORINNE HELINE.

Francesco Raffaele:

“Hippopotamus was still widely diffused in the Egyptian Nile Valley and Delta during the (late) predynastic period. Massive body and violent temper are the main aspects of this animal’s ambivalent symbolism: its size, aquatic habitat and protective behaviour with puppies originate the association of (female) hippos with motherhood, childbirth and prosperity (the scope of votive figurines) and, by extension, a more general apotropaic and prophylactic function (which accounts for the hippopotamus shaped vessels and palettes, apt to serve as containers or supports for the use of important cosmetic and medical substances). The dangerous nature, a tangible threat for humans and their cultivations, and the irritable disposition of male hippos, have generated the other aspect of its religious connotation, the wicked one, exemplified by the identification of hippopotami with the elements of chaos, evil, with the enemies of the king and, later on, with the god Seth. These latter beliefs had their highest expression in the hippopotamus ritual hunt, an apotropaic practice (and a concrete security measure) already performed by early Naqada period chiefs.”

Francesco Raffaele, Animal Rows and Ceremonial Processions in Late Predynastic Egypt. 2010 [Online] [Egypt]