College of Isis - Star of Ishtar and Chinese Inner Alchemy Part III
The Spiritual Teachings of the Fellowship of Isis and Inner Alchemy
The Star of Ishtar of the Fellowship of Isis and
Daoist Inner Alchemy
Part III: The Octave of the Cosmos
by Linda Iles
"How exciting for me to read that you have found the Chinese diagram. I am a believer in the Tao (Daoist) philosophy. Do write about Ho-tu (also spelled Hetu) and Lo-shu (also spelled Luoshu). Our Star of Ishtar balances the Male or Yang and Yin, Female in each of our cells. It also relates to Inner Elixir Skill Alchemy, Neidan. Our Lightning Flash!" - Rt. Rev. Olivia Robertson, FOI co-founder
"On the High Altar in the Chapel of Ishtar we have eight candles, eight is the special number of the Fellowship. The Star of Ishtar has eight rays, the year has eight main festivals, it is the sign of eternity, of magic - the two loops signifying higher and lower awareness, the world above and the world below experienced as one”. - Rt. Rev. Olivia Robertson, FOI co-founder
The five central planetary numbers of the Luoshu are surrounded by eight outer numbers, which correspond to the eight musical notes which emanated at the beginning of creation. These eight notes of creation of the Luoshu are said to define the cosmological unfolding and enfolding of the coils of the Hetu, by through the harmonious arrangement of numbers, which are corresponded to musical scales or octaves.
When the Hetu Dragon diagram and the Luoshu Turtle diagram were converted from their earlier form as a series of lines, circles and dots to trigram strokes, they were then reproduced as sixty-four hexagrams of eight sections. Each of the sixty-four hexagrams was seen to be a tone, set up within an octave. These are visualized as a wheel of eight spokes, which in the ancient Chinese Inner Alchemical system corresponded to the eight musical notes or tones of creation. Each set of tones is part of a musical scale which can be used to travel toward the Center of All Things or away from it. As the number tones of the Dragon and Turtle pass each other they briefly couple and ‘sound’ out the tones of the hexagrams, recurring as ‘time chords’ that vibrate matter into spatial reality. These vibrations can also be used to restructure inner reality, the fabric of the human soul.
The ancient Chinese Alchemists placed great importance on the use of sound and music as a tool to harmonize the forces of nature as well as the elements of the inner self. Confucius wrote about musical rites that could be performed regularly to prevent beasts from growing wild and to prevent natural disasters. The Daoist or Taoist tradition places great emphasis on the Trigram of Eight Tone Harmony which is the basis of the Universe. These eight notes correspond to our western concept of a diatonic octave. A ritual manual of the Dao contains this passage:
Pure sound was as yet unheard, the stars were not in their place, when suddenly the energies from the Three Regions gushed forth, producing the eight Notes of Harmony…expressing the essence of the Three Energies, and the subtle manifestation of the Five Elements. - (Schipper, p. 193)
The end result of the sounding of the Eight Primal Notes of Creation is represented as the I Ching. According to the Dao teachings, the underlying Five Phase scale contained a fixed relationship with the Primal Eight Tones, thus bringing every single note into a harmony of vibration with all the rest.
In the system Olivia Robertson was guided to create, we have eight notes or a diatonic octave of colored rays of the Star of Ishtar, with the 8th note containing the frequencies or color of the preceding seven notes.
Rainbow/All Colors = 8th note (in the FOI Star of Ishtar diagram)
B (white) = crown chakra
A (violet) = third eye
G (blue) = throat
F (green) = heart
E (yellow) = solar plexus
D (orange) = reproductive
C (red) = root chakra
In the use of five levels and the eight rays of the Star of Ishtar diagram and corresponding liturgy rites, Olivia has set up a system very like that of the combined Dragon and Turtle diagrams of the Daoist Inner Alchemy of ancient China. The colors she has chosen for the Star of Ishtar diagram echo the correspondences of Color and Chakras developed in ancient India. Isis as Goddess of Ten Thousand Names inspired Olivia with the universal truths that shine forth in the various systems of many ancient traditions.
Our colored rays of the Star of Ishtar begin with Ray 0 which is colored White and end with Ray 8 which is colored as a Rainbow ray. The 0 of the White Ray can be likened to the egg, a vehicle of the origin of life, a level of consciousness not yet fully awakened. The 8 of the Rainbow Ray can be seen as fully enlightened consciousness, the sphere of spirit and physical consciousness connecting and functioning with each other. White light, when broken down by a prism is seen to contain all colors of the rainbow. Ray 0 can be seen as the egg which bears within it the seed or essence of all colors. In contrast, Ray 8 as the Ray of the Rainbow, contains all colors activated and in perfect harmony.
Olivia writes in the introduction to “Dea, Rites and Mysteries of the Goddess”:
The purpose of ritual is to strike a note on one level - even with bell, gong or sistrum, and so to awaken the same note on other octaves of being. When a shrine is awakened through its true keynote and colour, it begins as it were to hum like a well-tuned harp.
The eight rays of the Star of Ishtar are the octaves which correspond to the planets, sun, moon and stars. Sounding the keynotes of a ritual in the FOI liturgy is accomplished through the use of correspondences. These include alignment of a rite with planets, signs of the zodiac, seasons of the year, colored rays of the Star of Ishtar and the colored levels of the Coils of Tiamat. The colors and manner of dress of the participants in each ritual also have symbolic and therefore psychic notes of resonance with the Octave of Inner Alchemy. Olivia recognized the importance of impressing the vibrational energies of these notes into the psyche of an individual with the use of creative imagination and visualization. When the ritual implements are gathered together, the participants appropriately garbed, the altar set up, and the Gods and Goddesses of the rite invoked, deep changes can be wrought through inner alchemy within the psyche. This was the purpose of the elaborate use of robes, color and ritual implements, and the use of an archaic sounding language, to take us to another place and time in a magical journey that transforms our inner being.
She writes in chapter 11 of the “The Call of Isis”:
The interlinking area between the spheres of Divinity and the earth sphere, was that of the Temple of Ritual. For the law of Octaves of sound prevailed throughout the universe in the law of correspondences. Strike a note on one level, and you produce a corresponding response in the sphere you wish to contact. Make a symbolic gesture on this plane with deliberate intention, and you affect the area on which you are concentrating.
In the third paragraph of the introduction to “Melusina, Life Centres of the Goddess” Olivia writes:
In each galaxy, in each atom, these two powers work, sometimes in passivity, sometimes in action. And both operate through the Great Goddess and the great Goddess Modes. Yin-Yang may be likened to the Major and Minor keys in music, or to the two sets of colours of the spectrum: Yang; red, blue and yellow: Yin; violet, green and orange. The difference between the Goddess and God modes and the Yang and Yin powers is this: Goddess and God are direct emanations from Deity, with the qualities of Love, Beauty and Truth, and the will to express these qualities through creating the Universe. Yang-Yin, Positive and Negative forces, are the Powers through which Deity works. Power is the tool with which Divinity brings to birth suns and worlds.
A line from the above quote is of particular interest in the context of color and octave “…Yang; red, blue and yellow: Yin; violet, green and orange”. On the Star of Ishtar, where the Coils of Tiamat are bisected through use of color on the line from Spring Equinox to Fall Equinox (East-West line), the inner coils of upper half are colored in Yin colors rimmed with the outer color Indigo, which is a higher expression of the color blue. Indigo is a color that contains both Yang (blue) and Yin (black) energies. The inner coils of the lower half are colored in Yang colors, rimmed with the outer Yin color of Violet.
The colors of the Rays of the Star of Ishtar starting with Ray 0/8 and continuing clockwise are White (Yang) Rainbow (Yin and Yang), Red (Yang), Orange (Yin), Yellow (Yang), Green (Yin), Blue (Yang), Indigo (Yin/Yang), Violet (Yin).
The colors of the Levels of the Coils of Tiamat starting at Ray 4, Ritual no. 1 and spiraling inward towards the Divine Matrix in the center are Violet (Yin), Indigo (Yang/Yin), Blue (Yang), Green (Yin), Yellow (Yang), Orange (Yin), Red (Yang), Violet again (Yin) ending at the Divine Matrix which is both White and Rainbow (Yin and Yang).
Through the use of color Olivia was guided to create a constant interplay between the cosmic forces of Yin and Yang on the Star of Ishtar, just as in the black and white Xianting Diagrams of Inner Alchemy of the Daoists.
The Vesica Piscis of Dana
Within the North of the Chapel of Ishtar, the Holy of Holies within the Temple of Isis at Clonegal Castle, stands a shrine to Dana, the Mother Goddess of the Tuatha de Danann of Ireland. This altar contains a beautiful painting of the goddess Dana by Olivia Robertson.
It depicts Her as tall with long blond hair flowing down a cape and robe of sky blue. Dana’s feet are placed firmly upon earth, while about her head are depicted the stars of heaven. A winged angelic figure hovers near and a stylized Pisces Vesica forms the background of the painting, a symbol that closely resembles the number “8.”
Eight is the total number of rays in the Star of Ishtar. Eight is the sum total of the bisected colored levels of being of the coils of Tiamat which surround the egg-shaped Divine Matrix of creation. The number eight can be seen as a symbol of alchemical transformation of the soul, a joining of the two spheres of consciousness, celestial and terrestrial, psychic and physical. Shown upright eight is the symbol of these two spheres connected, spiritual awareness is connected to and can be accessed by the newly awakened physical or mundane awareness.
In the tarot trump, Strength and in the Magician, the eight is shown sideways, as the sign of eternity or infinity. Here the two loops are on an equal level, each fully functioning in complete harmony one with the other. Olivia writes, “…eight is…the sign of eternity, of magic - the two loops signifying higher and lower awareness, the world above and the world below experienced as one”. This is the essence of magic, the purpose of the FOI liturgy, to bring all aspects of our being into harmony, to function equally as a spiritual and physical being.
The ancient Chinese Alchemists joined the celestial forces of the Dragon with the terrestrial forces of the Turtle diagrams. The use of the number eight “8” in the Star of Ishtar diagram of the Fellowship of Isis is another way to express a symbol for the joining of the heavenly and terrestrial forces and so becomes the Vesica Piscis.
The eighth letter of the Greek alphabet Theta, is written in upper case as Θ and in lower case as θ. Although it is the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet, in the system of Greek numerals it has a value of nine. In its archaic form it was written as a cross within a circle . Later it was notated as a line within a circle, which became the modern Greek Θ. It was also notated as a point or dot within a circle .
The Neoplationist philosopher and author Porphyry of Tyros (232 AD - 304 AD) wrote that the Egyptians used an X within a circle to symbolize the soul, having a value of nine, and that this symbol also represented the Ennead. Johannes Laurentius Lydus (c. 490 AD) a Byzantine author and scholar wrote that the Egyptians used a symbol for Cosmos in the form of a dot within a circle, and equated this Egyptian symbol to the Greek Theta, describing it as a fiery circle representing the world, spanned by a serpent named Agathos Daimon, or “good spirit,” a deity of hidden wisdom and physical well being.
While the sources used by Porphyry of Tyros and Johannes Laurentius Lydus cannot be verified with absolute certainty, it is known that the ancient Egyptians did use the symbol of a circle with a point in the middle in their hieroglyphs to signify the sun and the sun god Ra. It was written exactly the same way as the glyph used today to represent the sun. The ancient Egyptians did have a group of nine (Ennead) of gods and goddesses, they did often represent the solar disc with the divine cobra encircling it and rearing up as the uraeus above the disc. The Aten as a symbol of the sun and the number nine corresponds directly to these basic concepts of the Star of Ishtar:
(1) Tiamat the cosmic dragon goddess
(a) in ancient China the dragon is connected with the number nine
(b) in ancient China the dragon was described as having the body of a snake
offering here a correspondence to the solar serpent Goddess of ancient
(2) Human gestation takes place over a period of nine solar months
(a) traveling through the colored octave of the coils of Tiamat to the Divine
Matrix (or traveling away from it) there nine total levels of awareness
(b) the solar nine corresponds to the nine binary numbers of the Luoshu.
(3) The Star of Ishtar is also the Star of Isis, the Soul or Home of Isis is Sirius
(a) Sirius is sometimes described as the “Sun behind the Sun” in ancient
(b) Spiritual Awakening at a certain level brings contact with the sphere of the
Inner Sun, the Divine Matrix or Inner Sun of the Isian Mysteries. It is also
the goal of Inner Alchemy.
In the context of the Star of Ishtar diagram, the Aten symbolizes the Inner Sun that was seen by Lucius, a Priest of Isis. Olivia Robertson believed the vision of Lucius described by Apuleius was an Inner Mystery of the Initiates of the Goddess Isis. In “Isis of Alchemy, Transformation Through the Goddess” Olivia writes:
The Sign of Aten, the Alchemy of Isis, and the Star of Ishtar
"At midnight I saw the sun shining as if it were noon”. Priest of Isis, from the "The Transformations of Lucius”. Antonine period, Rome…This sentence has always haunted me…I felt that I had in part missed some vital part of my vocation as Priestess of Isis. I noticed writers on the Isian Mysteries would refer to this "sun" as merely symbolic, attaching no actual happening to Lucius’ experience.”
Olivia writes that the symbol of a circle with a central dot, represents not only the outer sun, but the dot in the center represents the hidden Inner Sun that exists within every human being. When the unawakened consciousness of 0 becomes the spiritual awareness of 8, the next step is for spiritual consciousness to travel up one more octave level as 9, leaving the spiral to return to the Divine Matrix. From there once again, the soul may in time embark on another journey along the rainbow spiral, ascending or descending according to the Purpose of the Soul.
Throughout her many years of active service as co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis, Olivia never gave up her quest to attain this elusive Isian mystery. Again in “Isis of Alchemy” she writes:
“Aged eighty-three, on the night of Thursday the 22nd June, I went to bed early after this longest day of the year 2,000. I fell into a deep sleep - but was abruptly woken up by a brilliant flash of white light, like a star. The South-East wall of my room seemed to evaporate, and I felt the presence of beings, who had caused this flash. Then, to my delight, I saw a Sun floating in the centre of my room. It shone brilliantly with golden light slightly flushed as is the sun at dawn. I wondered why it was not nearer the ceiling. I fell into deep sleep, thinking: "I have seen the sun”… As to my own quest, it has led me home. I have discovered the hidden sun within the transforming fire on Brigid’s Hearth.”
In China, when a seeker has successfully completed their quest, or when a student has passed their exams it is called “Leaping through the Dragon's Gate.” Olivia found the hidden sun while traveling the rainbow coils of Tiamat.
And so may it be for us all!
The Star of Ishtar diagram is a progressive, spiraling harmonic scale of color, symbol and divine energies, coiling around the central Divine Matrix from which all of life has come forth. It maps the interplay between “Yang-Yin, Positive and Negative forces … the Powers through which Deity works. Power is the tool with which Divinity brings to birth suns and worlds.” That includes not only the macrocosm of the outer universe but the microcosmic worlds and inner sun that exist within each of us.
This diagram of the microcosmic and macrocosmic forces can be used to chart spiritual progress through the use of the numbered rituals and the keys of color, symbol and archetypal divine energies of Goddess and God. The Star of Ishtar is also a symbol in and of itself. It illustrates enlightened consciousness - with all the colored octaves or levels of being and the colored rays of consciousness fully activated, charged with color and light. It depicts every element in perfect harmony and perfect proportion within the inner and outer manifestations of the cosmos.
In the FOI Liturgy book “Nuit of the Milky Way, The Alchemical Journey of the Questing Twins” Olivia writes of Aiden and Elaine, two seekers of inner wisdom:“For every being and existence is a star in the celestial body of Nuit. They discover the White Star of Truth and the Golden Sun of Love in harmony through the Rainbow Bridge of the Arts. Stars and sun are shown forth through the mirror of Hathor, the Moon. Every projection of a sphere is a mirror reflection sent forth by a greater state of being. Through this ever changing beautiful mirror of colour and sound, visions and magic, two realms, greater and lesser, are brought together. This is the Vesica Pisces, two circles overlapping yet retaining perfect originality. These are the Starry Twins that produce the Jewel of Perfection.”
Note from Author: This article was originally a research paper written as a final installment in studies towards solar alchemist ordination through the Solar Iseum of the Crystal Goddess, headed by Dr. Gina Pollaro, Prs. H. and Solar Alchemist. Dr. Pollaro is a gifted priestess and guide through the inner solar alchemical mysteries.
The correspondences between the Star of Ishtar diagram of the Fellowship of Isis and the Daoist Inner Alchemy system came as a personal epiphany, all coalescing in a sudden moment of clarity during my alchemical studies.
The Star of Ishtar is a masterpiece of occult symbolism, and so are the rituals of the FOI liturgy. The use of symbolism, the subtle interplay between pantheons and myth that exists in the liturgy truly reflects the aim of the Fellowship to honor the good in all faiths.
It is my sincere hope that for those who have worked with the Star of Ishtar, this article will provide a venue to see it in a new way, and that as others find new insights and correspondences with the Star of Ishtar and other spiritual truths, they will share their own views. There is an old Buddhist saying: "All paths merge to become one path, all truths merge to become one truth, at the top of the mountain."
Thanks to Tim, and to I.H. for assistance in translation of German texts.
(*) Note on Phi and Pi
The numerical value of Phi (φ) used to determine the Golden Mean in architecture, music, art and nature is 1.618
The numerical value of Pi (π) used in Algebra and other branches of higher mathematics is 3.14159
The numerical values Phi and Pi are named for two different letters of the Greek alphabet. The 21st letter is Phi, notated as φ and the 16th letter is Pi, notated as π.
Phi and Pi are pronounced differently from each other. In modern Greek Phi is pronounced as fee, the Anglicized pronunciation of Phi is ‘fye.’ Pi is pronounced ‘pie.’ The Golden Mean was named Phi in honor of the classical Greek sculptor Phidias because of his constant employment of the Golden Mean in his work.
It is Phi (φ) the numerical value of the Golden Mean, and its utilization within the diagram of the Star of Ishtar that is discussed above.
Beer, Robert, “The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs,” Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, Massachusetts, 1999, pp.116-120
Cammann, Schuyler, “The Magic Square of Three in Old Chinese Philosophy and Religion,” History of Religions, An International Journal for Comparative Historical Studies, Eliade, Mircea, editor, Volume 1 (Summer), 1961, pp. 38-39. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.
“Some Early Chinese Symbols of Duality,” History of Religions, An International Journal for Comparative Historical Studies, Eliade Mircea, editor, February, 1985
Cook, Richard S., “The Etymology of Chinese Chén,” from “Linguistics of the Tibeto-Burman Area,” Volume 18.2, pp.1-238, University of California, Berkeley, Fall,1995. This issue of LTBA is devoted entirely to a single monograph by author Cook on the etymology of an ancient Chinese zodiacal sign. ISSN: 0731-3500, Library of Congress No. 82-640813, OCLC No.: 4790670
Cundy, H.M., Rollett, A.P., “Mathematical Models,” Tarquin, July, 1997, 14th edition, p.70, previously published by Oxford University Press, 1977, 1981
Gurdjieff, G. I., “Life is Real Only Then, When I Am,” Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1981
Hodous, Lewis, D.D., “Taoism,” Encyclopedia Britannica, William Benton, publisher. Chicago, London.
Jenkins, John Major, “Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian and Vedic Traditions,” Bear & Company, Vermont, 2002
Robertson, Olivia “Dea, Rites and Mysteries of the Goddess,” Cesara Publications, Clonegal, 1988 (third impression)
Robertson, Olivia, “Isis of Alchemy, Transformation Through the Goddess,” Neptune Press, London, 2002
Robertson, Olivia, quotes from private correspondence, notes taken during in-person discussions.
Robertson, Olivia, “Nuit of the Milky Way, The Alchemical Journey of the Questing Twins,” Fellowship of Isis, Clonegal, 2005
Robertson, Olivia, “The Call of Isis,” Neptune Press, London, 1993
Rosenkrantz, Arild, “The Fruits of Anthroposophy - An Introduction to the Work of Dr. Rudolph Steiner”, edited by George Kaufmann, MA, published by Threefold Commonwealth Publishing, London, 1922. Two articles by Dr. Rudolph Steiner included in this book, titled“Eurhythmy” and “The New Impulse in Art” were used as references.
Schipper, Kristofer and Wang Hsiu-huei, “Progressive and Regressive Time Cycles in Taoist Ritual,” History of Religion, February 1985, pg. 193
Steiner, Rudolph, “A Lecture on Eurythmy” notes taken from a lecture given by Dr. Steiner in 1923, published in cooperation with the Rudolph Steiner Press. The original German text is published in the book Eurythmie als sichtbare Sprache (Vol. No. 279 in the Bibliographical Survey, 1961
von Lippmann, Edmund. O., “Die Entstehung und Ausbreitung der Alchemie”, originally published in two volumes 1919-1931, J. Springer, Berlin. Re-published in 1954 in three volumes,
Weinheim, Verlag Chemie. An important treatise on all forms of alchemy. Text in German.
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Note: This article is included here by request of FOI Co-Founder Olivia Robertson.