Notes to Poem: Mango Mystery

Descartes' dream: November 10, 1619:
Rene Descartes was 23 years old when he had three dreams on this day in a Bavarian village of Ulm (where Einstein was born 3-14-1879). In the first dream, he was swept by a whirlwind, and couldn't reach his Jesuit College, La Flèche, for refuge. He was hurled to the village square where a maiden hands him an exotic melon (if the college represents knowledge, then the melon symbolizes wisdom). In the second dream, a thunderclap wakes him up. He sees sparks of scintillating light flying around in his room (an illuminating experience of the 7th chakra, Buddha's thousand-petal lotus). In the third dream, he sees a giant book with the verse of Ausonius, "Quod vitae sectabor iter" (What path shall I take in life?). An old man appears and quotes the verse "Est et non" (Yes and no). He interprets the old man as Pythagoras with his pair of opposites. Descartes felt that he had a supernatural dream and vowed he would make a pilgrimage from Venice to Notre Dame de Lorette. He fulfilled this vow years later traveling by foot to honor the Virgin Mary. For a scholarly paper, read Alan Gabbey & Robert E. Hall, "The Melon and the Dictionary: Reflections on Descartes's Dreams" Journal of the History of Ideas 59.4 (1998).

Eve's garden & Descartes dream: The contrast is that Eve's apple caused Adam's fall from grace, whereas the maiden's melon caused Descartes' rise to illumined consciousness where he discovered a new geometry & philosophy.

strawberry moon of June: Native Americans have the following names for the Full Moon:
January - Wolf Moon
February - Snow Moon, Hunger Moon, Opening Buds Moon
March - Maple Sugar Moon, Worm Moon
April - Frog Moon, Pink Moon, Planter's Moon
May - Flower Moon, Budding Moon
June - Strawberry Moon
July - Blood Moon, Buck Moon
August - Moon of the Green Corn, Sturgeon Moon
September - Harvest Moon
October - Hunter's Moon, Moon of Falling Leaves
November - Beaver Moon
December - Cold Moon

Mango skin
arranged in
figure 8

Rumi Daylight: This book Rumi Daylight : A Daybook of Spiritual Guidance translated by Camille & Kabir Helminski (1990) was on my desk at the time. Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) was a Sufi mystic poet born on September 30, 1207 in Balkh (now Afghanistan). Escaping Mongol invasion, his family moved to Konya, Turkey, when he was still a child. At age 37, Rumi met a whirling dervish, Shams of Tabriz, and became spiritually enlightened. He poured out his mystical ecstasy in six books of verse, the Mathnawi, one of the greatest spiritual masterpiece on oneness with God and all creation. Rumi died on December 17, 1273.

yellow pit stares at me, a giant almond halo in flames: The image of the mandorla flashed before me. Here are some notes from books on symbolism and mythology in my library.

Mandorla: Although the geometric symbol of the earth is the square (or the cube) and the symbol of heaven is the circle, two circles are sometimes used to symbolize the Upper and the Lower worlds, that is, heaven and earth. The union of the two worlds, or the zone of intersection and interpentration (the world of appearances), is represented by the mandorla, an almond-shaped figure formed by two intersecting circles. In order that, for the purposes of iconography, the mandorla might be drawn vertically, the two circles have come to be regarded as the left (matter) and the right (spirit). The zone of existence symbolized by the mandorla, like the twin-peaked Mountain of Mars, embraces the opposing poles of all dualism. Hence it is a symbol also of the perpetual sacrifice that regenerates creative force through the dual streams of ascent and descent (appearances & disappearance, life & death, evolution & involution). Morphologically, it is cognate with the spindle of the Magna Mater and with the magical spinners of thread.

— J.E. Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols, Philosophical Library, NY, 1962, p. 194

Mandorla: The vesica piscis, or ichthys, the almond-shaped aureole, the "mystical almond" which depicts divinity; holiness; the sacred; virginity; the vulva. It also denotes an opening or gateway and the two sides represent the opposite poles and all duality. The mandorla is also used to portray a flame, signifying the spirit or a manifestation of the spiritual or soul principle.

— J. C. Cooper, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols
     Thames & Hudson, London, 1978, pp. 103-104

Christ in Majesty aureole at Royal Portal of Chartres: Still romanesque in its ornamental richness, the Royal Portal, sculpted about 1145-50, already augurs the Gothic portals by the presence of its great statues. Christ in Majesty sits enthroned in the central tympanum, while two angels at the top of the arch bring the royal crown. The subjects of this portal describe the "Kingdom of God" temporally and spatially. The central composition was inspired by the Apocalypse of Saint John. By 1145, Christ and the Four Animals was already an ancient theme. But here the three-dimensional sculpture asserts itself and serenity replaces the somewhat wild character of the earlier tympanums. The sculptor chose a somewhat banal human model for his "Christ", and then breathed a supernatural majesty into it. The Apostles line up on the lintel and in the arch near the angels. The 24 ancients hold their musical instruments, faithfully reproducing those then in use. The Royal Portal had a leading influence on art, far beyond the frontiers of France.

— Jean Villette, Chartres and its Cathedral, Arthaud, Grenoble, France, 1975, pp. 61-63

Note: In the summer of 1979, I was invited by the French government to the University of Paris, Orsay for a 6-week workshop on "Protein Folding". We had a holiday on August 15, 1979 for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. I took the train to Chartres that day and witnessed the parade of the "Virgin's Veil" from Chartres Cathedral around the town. I purchased Villette's book and the Chartres postcards on that occasion.

Mandorla in Crivelli's "Virgin and Child" In his The Vision of the Blessed Gabriele painting (1489), Carlo Crivelli (1430-1494) encloses the Virgin and Child in an almond-shaped mandorla. Also known as the vesica piscis, it is formed by the two intersecting circles symbolic of each of the holy persons' all-perfection. This painting is at the National Gallery, London. The Blessed Gabriele kneels and sees a vision of the Virgin and Child. The church, at right, is San Francesco ad Alto, Ancona. The Blessed Gabriele was the Superior of this Franciscan convent, and was a member of the noble Anconese family of Ferretti. He died in 1456. His holy reputation was endorsed by the Pope in 1489. After this, the Ferretti rebuilt his tomb in San Francesco. The picture is from the Ancona Church and was probably part of the tomb commission in 1489.

Almond Symbolism: Virginity; the self-productive; the yoni; conjugal happiness. It is also the vesica piscis which in art, often surrounds virgin Queens of Heaven; the mandorla. As the first flower of the year the blossom is "the Awakener", hence it depicts watchfulness; it also represents sweetness, charm, and delicacy. Chinese: Feminine beauty, fortitude in sorrow, watchfulness. Christian: Divine favour and approval. The purity of theVirgin. Hebrew: "Skeked"— to waken and watch. Iranian: The Tree of Heaven. Phrygian: The father of all things: Spring. It is associated with the birth of Attis, the almond having sprung from the male genitalia of the androgynous Cybele. (Cooper, Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, p. 10)

Chalice Well's lid at Glastonbury: The Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England is one of the oldest continuously used holy wells, dating back around two millenia. Legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea settled in Ynys Witrin (Glastonbury) and founded the first religious community in Britain. He buried the Holy Grail deep in the hillside of Glastonbury Tor for safe-keeping. A miraculous spring welled up at this very spot and has continued to flow ever since. The ancients saw wells as gateways to the spirit world where the veils between humans and the greater spirit became thinner, and communications could take place with the gods and goddesses of the nature religions. The vesica piscis on the lid of Chalice Well was designed by the excavator of Glastonbury Abbey, Frederick Bligh Bond, resident archaeologist of the Glastonbury Abbey in the early 1900's. It was given to the Chalice Well as a thank-offering for Peace in 1919, and ideal symbol for Universal Peace.

Dryden says "mangos offer little nourishment": Quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary:
John Dryden (1631-1700), A Prologue, "Gallants, a bashful poet bids me say" (1681)
"Mangos and berries, whose nourishment is little. Though not for food, are yet preserved for pickle."

touch my fingers and thumbs forming seven mandorlas: The almond-shaped giant mango pit inspired this poem as I read about mandorla symbolisms and the vesica piscis how it resembles the "fish of Christ" when two circles intersect to form a chalice for the spirit. This is what happens when two friends meet and while talking, they are exchanging alchemical gold from their inner souls. When we pray, our hands touch— fingers and palms united. If we keep our fingers touching but separate our palms— something miraculous happens: we've formed a miniature cathedral with our hands. The space between the touching fingers forms a mandorla, and there are seven of them! This is my new discovery and may readers experience this miracle for themselves. Contemplating on these outer seven mandorlas of the fingers may correspond to the inner seven chakras of the spine and lead to cosmic illumination. Then, there is no inner or outer, above or below— heaven & earth dancing here & now in joyous bliss. Om Shanti. Shanti. Shanti.

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (2-14-2002)