Symbolism in Georges Braque's Patience (1942)|
Explorations by Peter Y. Chou
Could the Ace and Four of Diamonds be referring to a Biblical chapter & verse?
But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
FORTUNE TELLING FROM THE I CHING
When Braque splits the fortune teller's face into a dark half & light half, it resembles the yin-yang halves enclosed in the circle of Tao. Since the yin & yang lines form the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, let's consult this ancient wisdom book to see what fortune is in store in hexagrams 14 & 41 (cards dealt on the table) and hexagram 42 (number of checkerboard squares).
King Wên & Duke of Chou, I Ching (circa 1000 BC)
14. Ta Yu / Possession in Great Measure
above: Li The Clinging, Flame
POSSESSION IN GREAT MEASURE.
Fire in heaven above:
41. Sun / Decrease
above: Kên Keeping Still, Mountain
DECREASE combined with sincerity
At the foot of the mountain, the lake:
42. I / Increase
above: Sun The Gentle, Wind
INCREASE. It furthers one
Wind and thunder: the image of INCREASE.
WISDOM WORDS FROM BUDDHIST TEXTS
Karen Wilkin tells in her book on Georges Braque of his interest in Buddhism. Could the 42-square checkerboard be referring to Buddha's Sutra of 42 Sections? This text is attributed to Kasyapa Matanga & Gobharana, the first Indian monks to arrive in China during the Han dynasty. It is a collection of Buddha's sayings compiled in the fashion of Confucian Analects, beginning each section with The Buddha said:. Let's look up sections #14, #41, (cards dealt on the table) and #42 (number of checkerboard squares) and learn some wisdom words from the Buddha.
Buddha's Sutra of Forty-Two Sections (circa 67 A.D.)
"What is goodness? What is the foremost greatness?" The Buddha said, "O practice the Way and uphold the truth is goodness. To unite your will with the Way is greatness."
The Buddha said, "One who practices the Way is like an ox pulling a heavy load through deep mud. The ox is so exhausted that it dares not glance to the left or right. Only when it gets out of the mud can it rest. The spiritual aspirant should regard emotion and desire as being worse than deep mud; and with an undeviating mind, he should be mindful of the Way. Then he can avoid suffering."
The Buddha said, "I look upon royalty and high positions as upon the dust that floats through a crack. I look upon treasures of gold and jade as upon broken tiles. I look upon fine silk clothing as upon cheap cotton. I look upon a great thousand-world universe as upon a small nut kernel. I look upon the waters of the Anavatapta Lake as upon oil used to anoint the feet."
Buddha's Lotus Sutra (circa 100 B.C.-150 A.D.)
Chapter 14: Practices that Ease the Way
O Manjusri, what is this perspective on practice of a Highly Perfected Bodhisattva? When a Highly Perfected Bodhisattva abides in a state of patience and gratitude, is gentle and modest, is neither abrupt nor violent, stays unperturbed in heart and mind and, moreover, clings unto nothing yet views all things according to their true nature, does not strain in doing his practice or engage in discriminatory thinking this is termed a Highly Perfected Bodhisattva's perspective on practice.
Ever act with patience and forbearance,
HERMETIC SYMBOLISM & PLATO'S VISION
The cards on the table: Ace of Diamonds & Four of Diamonds (light color) appear to mirror the Four of Spades & Ace of Clubs (dark color) in a symmetric way: 1-4 and 4-1. The number 1 symbolizes unity, spirit, the primordial One, God, heaven, and the circle. The number 4 symbolizes multiplicity, matter, earth, four directions of space, four seasons of time, four limbs of man, and the 4-sided square. Since 1 & 4 symbolize heaven & earth, the Hermetic saying As above, so below. from The Emerald Tablet may be the lesson imparted to us by Braque's fortune teller. Since 1 & 4 represents the One & the Many, we have Plato's vision in The Philebus16d:
From the gods a gift to the human race:
This woman, half dark & half light in Braque's painting is no ordinary fortune teller. She is an Angel of Patience, guiding us to practice the Tao of harmony and peace. The key pendant around her neck and centered at her heart reminds us that we too should look within to find possession in great measure (I Ching #14). By upholding Truth, we follow the Way of goodness and greatness (Sutra of 42 #14). When we abide in a state of patience and gratitude, we follow the practice of Bodhisattvas (Lotus Sutra #14). Then our life is blessed by the gods and we experience enlightenment and the Platonic vision of seeing the One in the many and the many in the One.
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