Posted in Musings

The Anchor-a cosmology

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Here is a painting of the Vickers memorial in Kane cemetery.

anchor 2 An angelic stone figure holding an anchor stands on a pedestal gazing up into the golden light that filters through the maple trees.

jacobs ladder
Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

The anchor has long been a symbol variously interpreted as faith, hope and soul.  But I think there is another level of interpretation.  The anchor and movement of chain as the tide rises and falls is  a cosmological image.  As the tides rises, the circle occupied by the vessel in its revolutions gets smaller until the chain is vertical, and remains, theoretically, in the center.  This movement describes a cone shape.

Single Gyre

The geocentric, medieval image of the universe, though out-dated by Copernican discoveries, has its origin in human experience and is set to the measure of man’s ratio. It is a true cosmology because it defines spiritual co-ordinates  and gives meaning to a world that, at certain points in history, tends toward a state of dissolution, of entropy. This image of the universe reflects a recurring pattern in civilization’s rise and fall,  yearly cycles, and, on the microscopic level, the alternation of breath.

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, the downward vortex where Satan resides at nethermost point of hell, cast down by gravity and the weight of sin, is mirrored  in the ascending spiral of Mount Purgatory.  In the medieval scheme of salvation, this point is the earthly paradise at the mountain’s summit.  Martha Heyneman in her fascinating book, The Breathing Cathedral, likens this spiral to the movement of thread on a spindle.  She sites Yeats’ vision of  gyres, where the  reciprocal upward and downward movement of these vortexes occur simultaneously.  This reciprocal movement is like the souls ascent through the heavenly spheres at death and the corresponding descent of Divine Intellect into the manifest world, of the timeless dimension into the field of time.

In traditional societies, the dead were honored for their humble service, and the relationship between the dead and living was one of mutual reciprocity. We are culturally enriched by such simple gestures of remembrance. The honor conferred upon the dead completes a pact with the living and the departed are helped in their ascent toward knowledge and liberation.