My son has seen a wonderful tree. The Thunder birds come and go upon this tree, making a trail of fire that leaves four paths on the burnt grass that stretch toward the four Winds. When the Thunder birds alight upon the tree, it bursts into flame and fire mounts to the top. The tree stands burning, hut no one can see the fire except at night.

A Chief of the Omahas

 Great mysteries stay the tongues of those who hear them, and so the council Elders drew upon the sacred pipe and nursed the fertile silence that filled the lodge. Out of the flames that curled and intertwined before them and the powerful images of the vision which insinuated themselves like physical parts of a precipitating form in their minds, they conceived of a sacred ceremony which could sustain the essence of the revelation for all. They named it the Hedawichi Ceremony after the pole of cosmic orientation which was its central feature. The vision was retold again and again by the wise ones who seldom speak, and the young people listened and strove to align their hearts with the fiery pole. On the other side of the world, perhaps also inspired by ancient visions, people of Indonesia continue to construct their houses around a navel pole which rises up through the realms of the three worlds. Commoners among the Buginese find their greatest source of spiritual protection close to this pole as it passes from the ground up through the living quarters, which are on stilts, to the rafters. Families shun the area beneath the house because it is the realm of demons and unclean things, and the navel pole, passing through the middle world where humans live, meets but does not penetrate the upper world of the gods, which is represented by the area between the rafters and the high-pitched, thatched roof. It was in the more elaborate houses of the rulers of these small kingdoms that the pole penetrated the celestial realm and joined all three worlds. Through it, and hence through the presence of the king, divine power descended and spread out to encompass and protect the kingdom. It was the navel of the people connecting them with their source and, as it was for the Omaha, the axis of their cosmic orientation.

 The pole of man, the kingdom and the world is the fixed mean around which everything revolves. It is the mystic centre and the zenith which in China was represented by a jade disc with a hole in its centre. It is the unvarying mean which is, nonetheless, the cause of all change involving a continuous metamorphosis of matter generated by a oneness located beyond all duality. In its penetration of this world and its connection with others, some have seen its nature as basically related to procreation and fecundity. This notion is surely connected with the widespread belief that the North Pole is the head of Mother Earth and the South Pole her feet. The head is the point positive where the gods commence their descent into the world and it is said to be the land where human life began. Each great god or 'Prince on Earth' first appeared, we are told, as one of the seven powers of the Logos. They were individualized as a God or Messenger and then, mixed with matter, reappeared as great sages and instructors of men who themselves had become physicalized and spread out towards the feet of the Mother.

 There are, however, many mysteries here, for just as man is both spiritual and material in nature, so the movement of divine influences in and out of the physical world involves a passage between two realms of nature which are at the opposite poles of being. The arcane teachings stress that the formation of suns and stars from primitive matter represents an entirely different order of things from the subsequent development of planets around their sun. It is said that the positive pole of the Golden Egg of Brahma gives birth to the world of matter while the negative pole is lost in the Absolute Unknowableness of Sat. The Gods ascend from the North Pole of the earth to the South Pole of heaven, suggesting that there are inversions which must be noticed in order to understand the connections between macrocosmic and microcosmic nature and the communion between the two. An old adage points out that "To say what is below is an imitation of what is above is not to say that what is below is what is above." The Egyptians, however, blended the superior and inferior natures in the symbol of the black and white Kabiri who personified the two poles. They, like Castor and Pollux, were the Heavenly Measure and the spiritual and physical man. One pointed to the heaven of Mount Meru; the other, inverted, to the hell of Patala. The white Kabiri is like light "whose one pole is pure Spirit lost in the absoluteness of Non Being", while the black represents the matter in which light condenses, the sacrifice of the fall into the brazen prison of Patala or Hades.

 The 'skull-cap' of the globe is sometimes referred to as the White Island or the land of the Hyperboreans. In the Puranas it is referred to as being north of Meru, where it formerly stretched in a horseshoe from Greenland to the Bering Straits. The Hyperboreans were called the people of Uttara-kurus (the Northern Sun) and are described as those souls who have reached a completeness that is devoid of negativity or shadow. They were gigantic ancestors of the Titans whose abode was at that point where the globe was motionless while the rest of the world was a watery desert. Here, in this land which is like a crown that remains in place throughout the manvantara of this Round, man was born. At the entrance to the seven zones was eternal spring in darkness, for our darkness was light to the man of dawn. It is said that the Gods rested there and Fohat reigns still, manifesting in the cosmic and terrestrial electricity that courses along the earth's pole and is stored and liberated at its ends.

 In the Sufi tradition the white land of the Hyperboreans is identified with an Emerald Rock whose green light fills the eyes of the aspiring mystic. It is the colour which signifies the life of the heart (whose physically red colour is a chromatic opposite to green on the colour wheel) and its symbolism has inspired many references in mystical Islamic literature to the Emerald City. So central is this concept of a polar paradise to the Sufis that the Western reader of childhood fiction is apt to wonder at its seeming ease of translation into the trials of a small girl from Kansas. But perhaps the slaying of the witches of the four directions and their hosts of material powers does indeed echo the awesome ordeals of the lonely polar voyager who glimpses the unmoving point beyond that inland sea which seems like an unreachable mirage.

 Siberian mythology is replete with references to the fixed storeys of heaven. To the various tribal people in that part of the world, the floor of the highest of these storeys was seen as the roof of the next below it and all these worlds were believed to be joined by holes situated under the pole-star. The sky was therefore called seven-holed, and shamans who made journeys between worlds carried discs with holes in them on their person. It is through such ancient customs and beliefs that we gain access to an aperture in the thickness of the material world through which we can glimpse an older knowledge of the seven systems or planes of being. These are the seven polar circles in which the suns are central bodies. The Central Spiritual Sun, to which all motion is ultimately referred, is the heart of all the rest. Around this first sun revolves, on a polar plane, the second, which is the Atman radiated on man. The third revolves on the equatorial plane and cements Buddhi to manas, while the fourth (our visible sun) endows man with manas and the kama rupa. Each of these systemic suns is reflected through a host of beings who act as the Eye of God. In his prophetic works, William Blake depicts the fall of man through seven spheres, which are the furnaces of hell during his fall and the eyes of God when man reascends to his original pristine condition. According to the Islamic tradition, the constellation of the Bear (in the Greek, Άρκτος or Arctos) forms seven apertures (poles) through which God showed himself to Ruzbehan, the Sufi mystic. To him God spoke: "I manifest to you through these openings; they form seven thousand thresholds leading to the threshold of the angelic pleroma (malakut). And behold I show myself to you through all of them at once."

 In symbolical diagrams depicting the poles and suns of these other worlds, one receives a linear impression of that which does not participate at all in linear time and space in the worldly sense. We are taught in The Secret Doctrine that the poles of other worlds are in coadunition and conjunction with the physical world. Thus the Seven Lokas of the Sons of Fohat exist metaphysically within one another rather than telescoped inside each more substantial one like so many progressively ethereal Chinese boxes. The core of the polar mystery is contained within the arcane teaching revealed by H. P. Blavatsky in her "Psychic and Noetic Action" and will not be unravelled by the intellect alone. The flashing gaze of the mystic polar voyager is the only laser beam that can melt the frozen wall that surrounds the motionless Laya Point, the midnight sun which does not alternate with darkness.

Hindus say 'The Pole called Sidd'hapur was once within the track of the sun . . . The Sun was once at Sidd'hapur, the Country of the Gods.'

 Sidd'hapur is the place of powers, it is the place of the ark that carries the seeds of future life wherein the year is comprised of a day and a night. This period referred to is one during which the axis inclined towards the sun. The Egyptians revealed their knowledge of this in the three Virgos shown between the Lion and Libra in the Dendera Zodiac. When Herodotus visited Dendera he was told by the hierophants that the poles of the earth and the ecliptic had formerly coincided three times since the time that their zodiacal records had commenced. This was referred to elsewhere in terms of Virgo descending into the Pit, at which time the earth lay on its side and the North Pole pointed to Aquarius. As the earth thus revolved around the sun, the Northern and Southern hemispheres alternated between darkness and light during the solstice periods. Life thirty degrees north of the equator would have been similar to polar life today, leading one to wonder about the relationship between the shifting poles and the races of man. In the Hindu tradition the beginning of the reign of a new Manu is marked by such a shift, which brings on the displacement of the oceans, the submergence of polar lands and the upheaval of new continents along the equatorial belt. This is caused by a slowing down of the turning of the earth and a tilting of its axis, resulting in a titanic geophysical disturbance.

The present polar regions are the earliest of the seven cradles of humanity but the tomb of the bulk of mankind during the Third Race when Lemuria began breaking up.

 Remarkable descriptions of this immense ancestral cataclysm indicate that the Elect of Lemuria, who were the disciples of the Sons of Will and Yoga, took shelter in Shambala while some of the accursed ones came to live in caves. The earth is described as having changed her face from pole to pole and the White Island was covered with a veil while her children migrated to the Black Land where Daityas from Pushkara and Rakshasas from the seventh climate replaced the Saddhus of the Third Age who had descended to them from other higher regions. There are also ancient Hindu records of the shift which took place at the time that the last portions of Atlantis were submerged and the ungodly Atlanteans perished. If, however, the present polar regions are both cradles and tombs, a picture of activity emerges where continents and ocean basins are seen to have risen and fallen in various patterns involving the same land masses in present continents as once combined in different ways to comprise earlier ones. The conditions effected by the various stages marking the descent of spiritual intelligence into matter reflect the characteristics of great Root Races even in such detail as the latitudinal and longitudinal placement of land masses, their size and shape, as well as the location of the poles in relation to the axial inclination. If the present polar regions are the earliest cradles of humanity, then it would seem that the Fifth Root Race may gravitate, like the Lemurians, towards the point of their emergence as ethereal members of a far earlier race and attempt to go beyond a mere physical 'discovery' of the North Pole.

 In the eleventh century, King Haardraade of Norway declared that "all those regions that are beyond [the Northern ice cap] are filled with insupportable ice and boundless gloom". He might have been echoing the words of Homer, who wrote of the visit of Odysseus to the Earth's Verge where he spoke with the spirits of the dead in whose abode "no Sun-god shone down a living light". Exploring the extent of the northern ocean with his ships, the king "was scarcely able by retreating to escape in safety from the gulf's enormous abyss, where before his eyes the vanishing bounds of earth were hidden in gloom". Later, of course, the lure of a possible northwest passage inspired polar exploration, and the heroism manifested by a few was perhaps less for the sake of the mystery of the pole than for personal and political glory. Many lives were lost in the frozen wilderness, ships crushed by unyielding ice floes and dreams numbed by relentless cold and hardships. Perhaps one of the most remarkable sagas was that of Ernest Shackleton, whose great courage and compassion brought his men through one of the most terrible of ordeals after their ship Endurance was crushed in the ice pack of Antarctica. Their harrowing adventures in three small boats in which they crossed the forbidding Antarctic Ocean to South Georgia Island is the story of the finest boat journey on record. Had Shackleton focussed his sights upon the north polar land of the gods instead of the earthly feet of the Mother, he would have been tested in subtler and more dangerous ways. But the greatness of soul he displayed which caused his men to love him better than themselves, was the same quality needed if he had perceived clearly the inner polar journey. Never daunted, he again turned south and made his last Antarctic journey in a ship called Quest, which reached South Georgia Island at Grytviken on January 4, 1922. Before sleeping that night, he wrote in his diary: "At last, we come to anchor at Grytviken. . . a wonderful evening. In the darkening twilight I saw a lone star hover gem-like above the bay." That was his last, for he died during the night, leaving his quest incomplete. His favourite words seem particularly meaningful when considered in the light of a great soul journey which threads its way through myriad lives and over changing seas and continents in search of the Blessed White Isle:

Never for me the lowered banner,
Never the endeavour lost...

 A striking thing about the physical North and South Poles is that in almost every respect they are different. The North Pole lies near the centre of a deep ocean basin surrounded by land, while the South is dominated by a high land mass surrounded by three oceans. Antarctica is a very large continent (the fifth largest in the world) which doubles in size during its winter. Its ice pack is fresh, the old pack tending to break up each year, while that of the North Pole is many centuries old, lying in dense layered slabs in the dark sea. The blocks on its edge are irregular and rise like fantastic ships out of blackened waters, but the old internal floes are difficult to penetrate and mock the explorers' attempts to pass. Both poles have a continual effect upon the climate of the world. The variable extent of arctic ice pack is related to the variable intensity of atmospheric circulation. The general circulation of atmosphere in the world is forced by gradients arising from net heat loss to space in polar regions and net heat gain at low latitudes. Conversely, the intensity of polar cooling is influenced by the extent of ice on the ocean. Of major importance to the climates of North America and Europe is the exchange of heat, mass and salt between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans which takes place through a narrow gap between northeast Greenland and Spitsbergen. The poles are the world's 'energy sinks' or heat deficit areas where the air circulation is sluggish and more stable, seemingly approaching a still condition around which the global forces swirl.

 Knud Rasmussen, the Danish-Eskimo explorer, once wrote: "Thus, whilst century follows century, everything changes. Even this desert has had its adventures, for we find great, beautiful branches of coral, bearing witness that even here in this heart of winter was once a tropic climate where the waves of a living ocean driven by mild breaths of wind merrily lapped across the stubborn remains of a bygone era." Of course, all the Alaskan oil and that of the North Sea indicate the presence of an ancient and rich organic environment, and we are reminded of myths that tell of a time when Greenland would have been more aptly the name of that northerly land mass. There is abundant evidence which suggests a series of polar shifts including that derived from the great Pleistocene glaciation. The sinking of large equatorial land masses would have resulted in the upheaval of polar lands great enough to cause glaciation through the blockage of the flow of warmer southern waters. The big question, left unanswered by modern scientists, is whether this coincided with a change in the eccentricity of the earth's orbit, bringing about displacements of the whole polar region through shifts in the position of the earth's axis. This problem is linked to the problem of the varying compression of the poles as it relates to density and rotation rate of the planets in our solar system. Without an orientation which is based upon principles as unwavering as the pole-star, modern science will never unravel these mysteries, for their solution awaits the understanding of one who views the cosmos from the perspective of the still central point of 'the Unmoved Mover'.

 The pole of orientation is a primary phenomenon of our presence in the world. The four cardinal points are not things encountered but directions which express man's acclimatization to his world but which directions are always dependent upon the reference point of the north pole-star. As man has increasingly experienced the world during his long evolution, he experiences varying orientations but the principle of polar orientation remains. It is the way in which man invariably experiences his vertical orientation in the seemingly horizontal world. Here we are struck with the significance of the fact that man, unlike all other creatures, is bipedal. He stands upright, his spine a vertical axis connecting his higher cranial centres to his earthbound appendages. His dual nature is evident in mind as well as body, and the possibility of striving to reach the cosmic pole (the Emerald City) is essentially linked to the binary nature of human individuality, the undivided duality of seeker and guide. That man has progressively come to experience disorientation in the world is widely recognized. The idea of a horizontal, linear evolution through time cannot be traced back to a timeless reference. The effects of increased reliance upon arbitrary orientation points in time and space steadily undermine man's inner awareness of the true Orient. A gifted interpreter of Sufi mysticism commented that "The night of rejected demonic depths or, on the contrary, the horror of the day inspired by the fascination of these depths - these perhaps are the two impotencies to which Occidental man succumbs. It is not by compounding them that one finds the luminous Night of the 'Oriental', that is to say, of the 'Northern Man', nor the Night of the intra-divine heights."

 The mystic Orient is the place of origin and of return. It is the Heavenly Pole which is the threshold of the beyond. The seeker of this pole must dislocate himself from the contrasts regulating the categories of outward appearances in the world. What is involved is an ascension outside of all cartographical dimensions to a north which "can only obtain its full significance by a mode of perception which raises it to the power of a symbol". This is due to the fact that archetypal images are the very 'organs of meditation' through which the imagination grows. These are not logical constructs or psychic projections of a collective cultural consciousness but real 'parent' forms of a species. Such an archetypal image is Plato's Allegory of the Cave, which is analogous to the struggle of Hermes to climb out of the well towards the Sun of the North Pole aperture. In the well one mistakes the cosmic north for hell, just as man mistakes the inner earth (pole) for hell and looks outside his poor separate self for heaven. The well or cave leading to the sun is like the caduceus or the narthex wand of initiation which leads, through its hollow stalk, to the burst of golden light symbolized in the ripened wheat of the Eleusinian mysteries or the burning flame atop the tree seen in the vision of the Omaha youth.

 The flame atop the tree could only be seen at night, just as the visionary apperception of the Divine Polar Region is preceded by the darkness at the approach to the Pole. The crossing of this darkness (which Odysseus seemed to dread) is the supreme ordeal of individual initiation involving the development of the permanent astral, called in some traditions the resurrection body. Just as the roots of Meru are in the navel (centre) of the earth, so the quest for the pole begins at the central point where the earthly man reaches upward towards the place of the Immortals. This is 'the Mountain of Vision' where the meeting between the angel Daena and her earthly ego takes place. Here the Archangel Vohu-Manah enjoins the visionary prophet to shed his robes (his material vestures). One is reminded of the mysterious disappearance of Damodar in the Himalayas who, in leaving behind in the snows the outward symbol of such divestment, surely met with that glorious Self of which his personality was but a projected shadow. There is a Sufi saying which states that "He who knows himself knows his Lord", which is to say that the T is not itself without the alter T. The real merging with that Lord is an event involving the "manifestation of the Heavenly Witness" and the reaching of the pole. It is a break with the collective and a reunion with the transcendent requiring the meeting point between the lower and higher poles. Man needs a shaykh al-ghayb or suprasensory guide to find his own centre where ambiguity ceases. This guide is akin to the Hosts who act as the Eye of God at the polar (solar) apertures of the seven planes of being. Such a guide or Hosts are like the heavenly point of orientation of spiritual ascent. They act as a polar magnet drawing the eternal individuality towards the Divine Source. In the darkness where the polar voyager struggles, there is the initially weak but ever-present magnetic pull of the polar centre which will, if the voyager persists, become the gradually intensifying light of the midnight sun, the flame that can be seen only in the darkness.

 Mount Meru, Olympus and the Place of the Gods called Sidd'hapur . . . they all signify the northern pole whose positive point connects like a section of the narthex wand with the negative point of the world beyond. The fire which Prometheus secreted in the pramantha shaft is the blaze of Fohat visited electrically upon the earth like the flashing presence of the thunderbird. All of the mysteries concerning the electromagnetic forces operating in man and the world are capable of being understood but only with reference to this essential pole of orientation within man and the universe. In man the pole goes up through the chakras to the lotus peak where the guiding Lord waits, like Shiva on the summit of Kailash, to initiate him. His whole central being, his innermost heart, inclines in its axis towards that hidden source which brings light into the darkness of the inner world. The trail of fire leaving paths stretching to the four winds is seen clearly as directions relevant to the world left behind, and only the source of the flame is seen as real. The polar aspirant is now one with those voyager-Initiates who have arrived at the Eye of the Pole "through which God looks at the world".

And we shall see old planets change
And alien stars arise,
And give the gale our sea-worn sail
In shadow of new skies.

Hermes, June 1979