– – – Kimbal Anderson Sensei
So. Fire and water: sui-ka. ‘Ka‘ is fire, ‘mizu‘ or ‘Sui‘ are water. So that becomes: “fire and water”: ka-mi… kami nature… so it’s heaven and earth, and then the innumerable kami – all the combinations of fire and water that exist – in relation to delivering the energy and message of Heaven and Earth.
Now, after playing with this stuff over the years – and having basically learned the alchemy of growing plants from my father – I think that people have pretty much always been universal in their thinking, but we have created an “East” and “West” as part of a colonialism dialogue, and it has very little to do with anything else.
We find Zen in Shakespeare…
And going back to the Mongol florescence – when they were the high culture of two-thirds of the continent – they sent a hundred of their best teachers to Europe, and asked for a hundred in return.
There was a unified vision – only, under certain kinds of Christianity, it had to go underground.
So if we think that Great Nature is the informant of all things and that we all live in Great Nature… then – the vertical being Heaven and Earth, the horizontal being Fire and Water, we might use those terms, or in Europe they would use the alchemic terms: Mercury and Sulphur. And you can think of Sulphur being formed as the fire element: the sulphurous bowels of the Earth, vulcanism and all that. Mercury being liquid – a liquid metal that weeps from a stone. If you apply fire to this stone, it will weep metal-water.
And they have great uses… the sulphurous compounds, and the action of mercury.
And even in alchemic discussion: the ‘hermetic’ arts is a term… well… Hermes is the Roman name for Mercury.
O’Sensei, who was a universalist, uses the term ‘cinnabar field’ – you tend to read that in Chinese sources, but that’s not where that originally came from… it’s just that their records got saved.
Okay. So this horizontal nature is the consonants, the vertical nature is the vowels.
Those are two points – there must be a third point. Well there is: that’s the harmonic.
So a word is composed of vertical and horizontal rotating. You can’t make a sound without rotation, because it has duration. So – as I was talking about in the park – you have these three factors, three gems, that are interacting, producing our experience of time and space.
When we have memory – which is an echo of time and space – we have the hap-po or the ba-qua in two things at once: the present moment, and the past moment… a n d the future moment. Now we have three more rotating fields of energy. Eight times eight is sixty-four. It’s a very interesting mathematical play.
I think that if you and I were living long ago, we would be reading word-plays, based on these numbers. And I could say: “there were sixty-four lords and ladies dancing” and you would know that I was talking about this alchemic story. “The king was created during the dance of the sixty-four”… and we would read into it all this knowledge.
Now, in aiki, the horizontal aspect is where people tend to get stuck because they get triggered on the horizontal – someone pushes, they push back: it’s all horizontal. Then they learn about the vertical, but it’s only “my vertical”, not an interaction of verticals. And then eventually they get where they understand that we unify verticals.
In fact, I’ve found that vertical tatate musubi is one of the most potent things to learn: when you start getting to where someone can push into you with all these dimensions of energy, and you can organize it through the vertical and unify with them, you have something quite potent.
But you don’t want to get stuck there…
…in my life… I’m always exploring my relationship to Nature. And if I had every resource, I would go back to being an archeologist, because I want the free license to explore the planet and see the underlying story… I love the story of humans… I would also like to re-introduce these deeper alchemic things into human lives because – as we’ve discussed – the world of appearances has taken over the world of being. Alchemists live in the world of being and transformation. Constantly transforming.
You can read about the alchemy of paint…
…sacred art was where most of this paint went. And they refined gems and such. And actually…
They were built in the city of alchemists. The varnish is full of gems. The wood had been through a transformation in the water: it had molded in a certain way – a particular fungus had penetrated the wood and made the fibers homogenous. All of it was perfectly homogenous. So whatever you apply to this perfectly balanced material has great effect. It’s not trying to overcome imbalance.
So, in training, I endeavor to convince you to look at things differently.
And one of those is: cease to train to correct the imbalances. Train as if balanced, and allow the body to follow that and become balanced.
Often, people have a model of self-correction that is punitive. But the correction-based approach will never be satisfied. It’s impossible. So even if you’re doing things quite well, and you’re at the verge of great unity, the mind-body’s been prepared to look for something wrong, and fix that last thing.
But when you switch, and be like the Stradivarius, where the wood has this totally harmonized nature. So that the shape and the varnish can profoundly and evenly work, so there’s no longer a trying to work around imperfections. You don’t have a perfect surface: you have the most potentially yin surface – absolutely receptive – and the gems are yang. And the shape is the third thing. Stradivari was so good with the shape. Given yin material and a yang varnish, and an understanding of form… you can look at a violin, and you can see the trigrams on it. You can look at the bridge…
For us in aikido, we have the potential to encounter transformative science, hermetic science… because I think O’Sensei was pretty clear about aikido being a hermetic science. He really was. The whole idea was that he took an MMA level of violence and he said: let’s transform it. And then when people say, “well, you couldn’t fight in MMA…”… well you’re exhibiting the very thing that he said: “that will destroy us.”
But the form and the voice of Great Nature is why we’re here. It is the dialogue between the human and the universe. The translation machine I think of its as the calligraphy. The form is the calligraphy. I look at the eight-sided thing, and what the properties are, and orient it with this day. With this particular day. Where the sun is and where the heat is doing something. And I look at plants and how they turn their bodies.
I see the order of things.
And I can just be the observer – I can just drink my tea and be the observer – but I’m not content with that. I want to dance. I want to ride the waves. I want to connect with the flow of things, to be that, to have it function through me.
And then you find that it gives rise to heroic impulses of creativity, and gentleness, and kindness and strength. And it also gives you power that you never necessarily had for yourself.
Because Nature steps in. It moves you beyond your fear. It corrects you if you’re listening. And that would be sui-ka – mercury and sulphur.
* – * – *
And fire always rises naturally. And water always settles naturally. So you now have the forces and the unity and the knowledge.