Mystical Semiotics – Analysis of Michael Dante’s Sonnet: E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum:
E pluribus unum: the Latin translates as: ‘out of one, many’ or ‘out of strength, unity’ - the second locution is a much looser rendition of the Latin, but retains the original gravitas. The phrase turns up on dollar bills, military insignia, and government logos. The expression makes its appearance throughout the centuries, appearing in a number of secret societies…
Form & Scheme:
E Pluribus Unum was written as a Spenserian sonnet. This poem was conceived as three quatrains connected by the interlocking rhyme scheme: a-b a-b, b-c b-c, c-d c-d; followed by a rhyming couplet: e-e.
Each line has 10 syllables.
E Pluribus Unum is a mystical poem - a modern rendition of sixteenth century metaphysical poetry. Its themes are existential. E Pluribus Unum is a polysemical text, embedded with esoteric symbols.
The fist stanza points out that only the non-conditioned mind can know God. Such a mind is able to contain and transcend the opposites, thus it is the mind of a ‘sinner’, ‘poet’, ‘prophet’, and ‘priest’. The first stanza attempts to point to the fact that self-knowledge and paths to God are one. Only a self realized man or woman can contemplate on themselves as to quote the interlocutor: ‘my own religion.’ Thus God meditates on himself through taking the form of a man or a woman and Self-realizes his or her own Divinity. This motif is extended when the narrator explains:
I am that which I am— God’s Holy Lamb
I am eagle, lion, bull, and man-beast
(Stanza 1, lines 3 and 4).
The narrator is answering a question, which Moses proposed to the Elohim (God) in the Book of Exodus. Moses addresses the burning bush, asking God his name. The God of Israel replies: ‘I am that which I am.’ Thus, the poem’s narrator speaks from an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent viewpoint.
The second half of line 3 states the narrator is also ‘God’s Holy Lamb’— the Holy Lamb, which was slain for the sins of man, thus he identifies himself with the resurrected Christ (astrologically represented by Aries).
We also find out that the author is more than one thing; he is several things at the same time; to quote the text again, he is:
eagle, lion, bull, and man-beast
(stanza 1, line 4).
Paradoxically, the author is expressing a plural-first-person preposition by using the singular first-person pronoun. The author is one and many— his viewpoint is multidimensional.
These signs obviously have some mystical import and indeed, they do. The ‘eagle’ is Scorpio in its positive aspect, the ‘lion’ is Leo, the ‘bull’ – Taurus and the ‘man-beast’ is the sign of Aquarius the Water Bearer – the four fixed signs of the zodiac. This narrator exists in all directions— he is multidimensional. His eye (I), spans the four directions of the compass.
Astronomical and psychological realms interpenetrate. Henceforth, spirit and matter are conjoined together in an eternal continuum. The author of the text points out cryptically that he is the space of pure awareness. He is consciousness, plus all of the objects that arise within that consciousness - he is the creator and the created. Being multidirectional, he transcends all directions. Thus, he looks from the single direction of eternity – the single eye (I) of God. The narrator sees from the centre. This is the non-directional point out of which all six directions radiate. Jesus calls this center-point: ‘within’ - it is the illuminated space of pure consciousness - ‘the kingdom of heaven.’ It is known by the Christians as the Life-Giving Spirit – the Singularity of the Universe.
From the centre-point of this axle – a seed sprouts the axis mundi or world tree: diagrammatically represented by the Christian symbol Chi-Rho, known also as the chrismon or labarum. Out of this (mustard) seed grows the whole universe. This seed is the mid-point between the microscopic and the macroscopic universe, interpenetrating both universes it makes all things interconnected through the quantum field of consciousness. Therefore, we find at the summit of this universal ‘tree’ burns the Supernal Sun – the All-Loving, All-Intelligent Light which shines in the heart of man.
The Seven Directions and the Seventh Seal:
The seventh direction is obviously the first and the last direction - the center-point from which the manifested universe arises which is neither inner nor outer, and yet both. This universal still-point is symbolized as God’s rest day, which both proceeds and terminates his universal work. Thus the six days of the week are represented also as the six directions on the labarum device – and the Sabbath or the most Holy day points inwards to eternity. God’s Eternity then represents the timelessness out of which time and space are projected through the movement of the Spirit and thus the scriptures proclaim: ‘God moved over the face of the deep.’ This point then is the inner-sanctum in the Universal Temple and is represented as the heart chakra in man.
Stanza 2 reproduces the same thematic, following the trail of paradoxes to their logical conclusion. The interlocutor states that he is ‘now deceased’ (stanza 2, line 1) and yet he is ‘your progeny’ thus he exists in a timeless state, which is unknowable by the senses and unreachable by the human mind. He is and is not, he is both positive and negative, neither and both. Thus, we find out that the narrator is dead, alive and unborn! He is the impulse, which drives dead artists to paint their posthumous portfolios — as a person, he is a sacred mystery summed up by the name of God: I AM (and as I am, he is pure negation). In this negation lies the affirmation of his presence! This Universal I AM is the Seventh Seal which opens Heaven and Earth.
Escaping from History: Breaking through into Eternity:
In the third stanza this slippery pronoun is given the characteristics of both Christ and Harry Houdini — the first signifies the divine escape artist who gave his life for the world, the second is Christ’s alter-ego and counterpart. Christ escaped out of the world, while Houdini escaped back into it (and out again by his accidental death). Both men mirror the other, the escape artist is the inverted image of the true Christ locked within.
Both men claimed they would come back from the dead, and neither ever did. Both men were Messiah’s of their own age. Christ died a martyr, whereas, Houdini died accidentally. One is reminded of the words of Christ: ‘he that exalts himself shall be humbled.’
The Attraction of Opposites through the Holy Eucharist of Life:
The narrator goes on to claim he is: ‘… the bread, the wine, the flesh, the blood’ (stanza 3, line 10). He is the Eucharist (or the u-r-Christ, if you prefer). He is both body and spirit conjoined and mixed – the spirit (life), which intoxicates the body.
Suddenly, in this alchemical poem the narrator changes sex. She now says that she’s called Nefertiti, thus Stanza 3, lines 11 & 12 reads:
I am the rosebud lips of Nefertiti
Infinity swirling in a soapsud
The eminent etymologist Pierre Sabak says that the name Nefertiti means: ‘soul of the dual kingdom’. Another meaning of the name according to Sabak is, ‘beautiful life.’ Life is comprised of ‘two kingdoms’ – mental and corporeal – existence is psycho-somatic. Queen Nefertiti holds the secret to the mysteries of life. Her ‘rosebud lips’ are an opening into the divine – symbol of the fecundity of her womb. Symbolically her mouth gives birth to both life and death. The Sacred Word of Life is spoken or sung - a form of divine intercourse. The rose is a traditional symbol of divinity, its scent represents the invisible sweetness of the spirit. God is therefore, trans-gendered – He is also a She! In Christian mystical literature this femininity is represented (and repressed) as both the Virgin Mary and the the Holy Spirit. In truth, it is the Universal Virgin Mind which is neither born nor dies and which appears to birth the eternal Christ: the never-dying-ever-resurrecting-impulse-of-life. To quote the ancients: "the world is but the surface of the mind and the mind is infinite."
Awareness perceives it’s own presence through sexual attraction, and always, it is attracted to a version of itself. This version is a mirror-opposite. Eternity apperceives its own temporality through its own absence. Nefertiti is therefore the feminine counterpart of an alchemical transformation— the queen of Heaven and Earth. In this poem, her Christian counterpart is the Holy Spirit - the Life Giving Breath of God.
These ideas are represented in the New Testament through allegory: the mystical wedding of matter and spirit which Christ alludes to. The one awareness must therefore split itself into one-of-two: so that it might come to know itself again by joining with its opposite. This merging causes both death and rebirth – i.e. physical birth resultant from sexual congress - a mystical resurrection from the ecstatic death of orgasm. In the case of Christ, the birth may be spiritual through awakening to his own inner nature and re-membering his True Identity beyond death. Therefore, the One re-emerges from itself eternally living, dying and resurrecting out of itself, and from this we have the circle of Eternal Life - the One Life appearing as the illusion of many lives. The Christ-man; therefore, transcends the illusion of life and death, he dies to the world so that the many may know the One.
This awakening to truth is what has become known as being saved. This Salvation is the experience of timeless being, it has nothing to do with ‘belief’, its import lies in the fact that it lays outside of the mind. It is the realization of the Eternal Light that shines beyond the dualizing and mesmerizing power of the human mind – it is the non-conceptual light from which all ideas and beliefs originate from. This Light transcends all dogmas and religious concepts, making them totally irrelevant. It is the Life Giving Spirit which lies beyond the world of illusion – the Light beyond the false ideas of the mind. This is the Second Birth – the Baptism of Light. It is the mysterious disappearance of the old self – this is allegorized in the New Testament and is part of what is now known as the Rapture. It is the dissolution of the Serpent in the purifying fires of Hell. In this death, Eternal Life awakens through the Resurrection and the Power of Christ.
Unity in Plurality: One Face – Different Masks:
The divinity of the One Self is always in disguise – this is why in the New Testament, Christ called the High Priests hypocrites or mask wearers. He could see the deception hidden behind the face of respectability. He understood the power of human conditioning in programming erroneous beliefs, which promoted suffering – especially through social division. These divisions and castes were promoted through the priestcraft of his day. Every war on the planet fought since then, has been perpetrated under the banner of this misperceived schism. This schism divides Humans both from themselves and their true natures. Within E Pluribus Unum the narrator wears all masks, embracing all personae. He is the human race in all its diversity, the Cosmological Man.
Christ promoted a teaching which highlighted the falsity of religious doctrines – especially the Letter of the Law: a teaching which ultimately cost him his life. The Pharisees saw that such a teaching was dangerous in that it might upset the whole social order and unleash anarchy. They feared a loss in their power. The narrator embraces all faces and thus transcends the Realm of Diversity. The interlocutor of E Pluribus Unum embraces social equality as he himself is the mouthpiece of an awakened man: within him Christ as risen.
E Pluribus Unum: Radical Equality in Diversity:
Christ put the Pharisees and the Sadducees under the eye of scrutiny, he then forgives them for their ignorance. The Passion of Christ shows that letting go of false concepts - awakens true divinity. In the presence of this human divinity, love stirs and is felt as equality. To know equality is to know the divine unity hidden behind the apparent mask of diversity. Christ saw the essence behind the mask wearer whether they were a whore, publican or priest. This Christ is not some mythical or historical figure, but it is the Christ that is present in every human being that shines behind the mask of the personality - existing beyond the mind, it is eternally so. Therefore, Christ Self-shines behind the eyes of all people - it is only seemingly obscured by the paradoxical nature of the human mind, which tends to separate and divide. This is the liberating truth which sets free the human race - as Christ said: "know the truth and the truth shall set you free." This is the true essence of E Pluribus Unum – it is the central pivot on which the narrative spins.
The narrator of the sonnet sees all within himself, for all are an expression of himself. This universal-omniscient viewpoint celebrates this diversity in the Holy Eucharist of Himself – as divine personae. Each disciple eats himself and thus re-members the Eternal Christ within himself.
Thus the true teaching of Christ appreciates the radical equality of the human race. Without love there is no equality – unity then masquerades under the pretense of diversity and plurality. Under this delusion of ignorance lays the real tragedy of the Human Race. According to Christ the Pharisees were ‘white washed tombs’ clean on the outside and filthy on the in. Until the One Face of God is realized then the mask wearer continues in the ignorance of his role.
This truth could not be realized through the highly structured teachings of the Pharisees who needed social division in order to establish religious hegemony. This is why Christ also alluded to Pontius Pilate that his power ‘came from above.’ It is the Universal I AM which operates through history – there is no separation in the universe, only the appearance of it through the illusion of the world. Thus Christ said: "I am in the world but not of it." It is for this reason that the speaker in the poem says that he is ‘both prophet and priest.’ He sees beyond all social division because his vision allows him to be his ‘own man.’ In the apperception of realty: Divinity is realized. The narrator knows the Universe as a direct expression of himself and is now individuated through the ‘three persons in one.’ The Seer and the seen are absorbed into the seeing of divinity and the cosmos is now understood to be a part of his universal identity.
To quote Sri Ramana Maharishi in his Forty Verses on Reality:
The duality of the subject and object
and trinity of seer, sight, and seen can exist
only if supported by the One. If one turns
inward in search of that One Reality they fall away.
Those who see this are those who see Wisdom.
They are never in doubt.
The Wheel of Life and the Circle of Infinity:
In line 12, ‘infinity’ swirls in a ‘soapsud’— the spelling mistake is intentional. There is no singular for soapsuds. Life is a revolving circle of sublimity and beauty. The surface of this outer circle is colorful and moving, whereas the inner circle of the centre-point is both invisible and forever still. Within this image, the author conveys the Buddhist notion of impermanence, the interconnectivity of form and emptiness, heaven and earth as expressed in the Diamond Sutra. In this transient image we understand the nature of life through a metaphor. We see that nothing is so constant as change. This change is represented through the colors which swirl around the surface of a bubble. These beautiful and transparent temporal colors are an expression of the invisible spirit from which they made and to which they return to. These sublime transitions are the outer manifestation of an inner spiritual harmony in which nothing dies and through which all things are continually resurrected and renewed.
One is reminded of what the ancients said when they described God as being ‘a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’ (now-here).
This circle within a circle is the eye of God watching the manifestation of the world, represented by the outer ring of the bubble, which is forever changing in a beautiful display of color and life, the hues revolving around the Wheel of Life. From this cosmological perspective even the ‘I am’ is negated. The last line of stanza three, therefore, does not begin with a pronoun. The perspective is so wide and incomprehensible, that the first person pronoun is replaced and substituted by ‘infinity.’ Infinity is ineffable, unknowable, and therefore unreachable by the pronoun. One would say it is the Infinite Pronoun or the zero-point in the quantum field. On the part of the narrator, this technique is a mystical elision. God’s point of view embraces all viewpoints. Therefore, the single viewpoint of God is now missing having exploded into the universe and merged into His creation.
As previously stated: "the world is but the surface of the mind and the mind is infinite."
Sacred Numbers and Mystical Elisions:
The missing letter of the misspelled word ‘soapsud’ is S, which is the 19th letter of the alphabet. This letter in medieval times was esoterically used as a shorthand signifier for God. God is thus present and yet conspicuously missing in his creation. He is thus pure presence. This mystical being animates all life in all places, at all times. Being in and yet beyond both He-She-It is formless, timeless and spaceless. The letter is shaped like a serpent, thus it knows both good and evil (duality) and is linked with the wisdom of God. For this reason, the letter S is connected to both trees in the Garden of Eden. Nineteen is associated with the kabala. It is a major mystical number in the Holy Koran. This figure is also a central number connected with a symbol known as the flower of life, which encrypts the speed of light, and thus is relevant to the mechanics of both perception and conception. Numerically, 19 represents the Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end and is tied into sacred geometry and the maths of creation and perception. The Alpha and the Omega contains everything which can be thought - it is a repository of interconnected, global knowledge and through that universal knowledge the Temple of God is built according to strict mathamatical laws, which define the structure of the cosmos - through which the principle of consciousness operates.
Male and Female Trees of Life:
The One Mind of God is filtered through either a masculine or a feminine tree of life and thus it experiences the sense of separation. In the Genesis story in the bible, this is conceived as man’s fall from grace, it is the Original Sin caused by the sense of lack that arose from a sense of separation and inner-alienation. Unity is thus lost in the duality of gender. The love which both male and females craves is just a mask covering the divine love they feel for God, from this love is unleashed the creative power of the Universe. In this power is held the Keys to Heaven and Earth, the flip side of it is that Death is set loose. In reality, death is an illusion misperceived through the split-mind of the Human central nervous system.
Rosebuds, Divine Femininity and Queen Nefertiti: Symbols in E Pluribus Unum:
Flowers indicate both fruit and life – beginnings and endings. Roses are fragrant – they are traditional symbols which point to the invisible aspect of God; they also signify Her presence in nature. The rose has thorns and causes pain— both physical and mental anguish. Rosebuds symbolize the female generative organs from which we come into existence. Death is born into the world through the Universal Mother. From this birth we come to know the pain of separation— the sin of the world. Man as Christ is an aspect of God— the fruit of God, indicated by the ‘rosebud lips’ of his mother. These lips give birth to all possible pronouns (stanza 3, line 11). All pronouns are merged into the words— I AM. This is the sacred utterance of the universe. In the English language, am, home and amen are all related to the Sanscrit Omkara - the divine syllabel of Hinduism, which hums through the universe and is said to be the Secret Name of God - the Alpha and Omega (OM)as well as the life-giving Logos. In English, the Omkara lends itself to the transcedental as a prefix in words like omnipiscient, omnipotent and omnipresent - signifiers of Divinity. These words are imparted on us by our birth from our mother’s lips. Like the Logos, we are spoken into existence from the singing lips of divinity. This sacred vibration beats our hearts and illumines our consciousness.
‘Rosebud’ and ‘soapsud’ both rhyme and represent different aspects of the same thing. They are the physical and the noumenal aspects of creation. The rosebud is a signifier of human sexuality.
Sexual attraction is a search for the divine, which is sensed as a lack and this lack manifests itself as a desire to find God in the other person, and to create and manifest new life.
Desire stirs a subtle feeling of alienation and causes the appearance of the world to split into subject and object, male and female. Duality in reality does not exist. Reality is non-dual. Therefore, the unification of male and female polarities also heals the imagined split between subject and object. The unification of both these polarities can be summed up by the words: I AM, the first word is a synonym for the latter, and vice-versa— the true name of God, Buddha, Christ and I (but not me); just pure unadulterated I-AM-NESS with no appendages, attributes or qualities - simply self-shining and eternally present.
Therefore, man is not what he is and is what he is not! The seed that falls from the flower of life sprouts into the tree of life, which is doomed to mis-see(d) the world, misinterpreting life, through the bias viewpoint of gender. This sows the seed of tragedy. Man is thus the symbolical and spiritual offspring of Nefertiti (and the Virgin Mary). She holds the secret to the flower of life and this is why the narrator describes her lips as a ‘rosebud.’ Nefertiti is the flower of life from whose ‘lips’ issues the word of God (Logos in the Greek); she is the queen of the dual kingdom.
Beyond Language: the Mystical Formula and Metaphysics of E Pluribus Unum:
Man misperceives himself as something, which he is not— i.e. as separate from God, thus his mind appears to be split into one of two polarities by the Tree of Good and Evil— his central nervous system. The splitting of the mind is the fall of man spoken about in the bible. Only the Christ-mind is holy enough to atone for the ‘sins of the world,’ i.e. to see past this delusion of duality and see through it – notice the pun on the word fruit. This is the whole-mind that is healed from all of the misperceptions of the split-mind, the sinful nature of man. Thus Original Sin was passed onto the human race through the accidental misperception of reality. The narrator in the poem is seeing through the cosmic delusion of the world— he looks into the heart of the universe through the eyes of God (I) and sees only unity. He no longer ignores his true nature and so is not bound by humanity’s ignorance. He has transcended social conditioning, going beyond the group mind, he has re-entered Reality.
The interlocutor is the Logos. He therefore looks through the eye(s) of God and speaks through the mouth of the Goddess. His vision is not obscured by gendered ways of looking— and so he sees reality differently to the rest of humanity. Being androgynous in nature, he is able to transcend normal categories of sex and so his identity belongs to neither polarity. He exists beyond normal classification. He understands life from a universal perspective. From this standpoint, he takes his place in eternity, as the true cosmological (wo)man— enthroned on the right-hand of God. Being neither male nor female, he is ‘nobody’ in particular and yet he is everyone. He is the Hermaphrodite of the alchemical tradition. This one awareness expresses itself through all three pronouns and is unified in the first person of the Godhead: thus the scared mystery of the Holy Trinity: ‘I am three persons in one yet no-one.’ This mystical formula is the true affirmation of E Pluribus Unum. The true affirmation of presence can only be apperceived through the negation of the world. Identity, alone remains. Meanwhile, the world dies while the Eternal Spirit remains untouched.
The universal principle of awareness is everywhere and so the words I AM are eternally sacred in all languages, for they connote the very presence of God. The words I AM are eternally true all languages, as it is impossible to negate them or refute them, indeed, to do so would be to affirm them. At any moment, the words I AM are always valid – their truth can never be denied. This is what Christ meant in the gospel when he said that if your eye be ‘single’ then you would be full of ‘light’. The metaphysics of E Pluribus Unum points to Christ’s Golden Rule. I am ‘him’, I am ‘you’ I am ‘me’ – I am ‘three persons in one’, to quote the first line of the final couplet of the sonnet – I am the universal principle of awareness expressing itself as myself. In essence, I am Christ: the Messiah in Man. True Resurrection is the sudden apperception of the undying nature of Reality – that Reality partakes in the true nature of man, indeed it is the very Identity of the Universe.
In this participation with the rest of the universe the One Identity partakes in the Holy Communion of Life.
I AM: Oneness and Diversity – The World is an Error of Perception, only the Individual is Real:
What we perceive is thus an error of perception - God is not out there but within us, and yet God is ‘no one’ (stanza 4, line 13). He is the tri-unity ‘three-persons in one.’ He is the invisible subject, which experiences all objects, and so he must be ‘no one’ or the noumenon of phenomena - pure universal I am-ness. He is everyone! God is the seventh central direction, the seventh seal in the Book of Revelation: opened and enlightened by the Christ-mind that transcends time, space, locality, gender and even agency. In reality, this seal is always open but appears closed through the misperception of objects and through gendered-bias ways of misperceiving reality. Human programming and conditioning has shut this Seventh Seal till the End Days or the end of time, which is seen by the enlightened Christ man as a mistake projected onto the universe by the delusional mind. Once the false is seen as false then the feeling of separation dissolves and the individual mind melts into the universal esctasy of God. Nothing changes, only perception. Ipso facto, Oneness knows itself again and the truth of E Pluribus Unum is thus realized.
When one knows oneself as one really is – then experiencer and the experience collapse into the divine experiencing of pure subjectivity: pure non-differentiated I am-ness. This is the Nirvana of the Buddhists, Christ refers to it as the ‘kingdom of Heaven’. This is why Jesus of Nazareth said: ‘remember me as I am.’ He was not referring to his body. Instead, he was referring to the Universal Nature in which we all participate. To understand this mystical secret is to break the ‘bread’ and drink the ‘wine’ of the Holy Communion. The narrator of E Pluribus Unum goes further; he is the transubstantiated flesh and blood of Christ.
The narrator of the sonnet, literally looks through the eyes of Christ and sees no separation from God— the ‘three persons’ in line 13 are re-united and reintegrated into the universal mind of God (Christ is the 13th man: Head of the 12 Disciples).
In truth, all one can ever say is that I am the eternal I am-ness. Man rediscovers himself as God and sees the world from that position. He looks at things now under the aspect of eternity – this is the true work of the ‘prophet’, ‘priest’ and ‘poet’ of the poem.
In this vision of eternity, the self is eternally sacrificed and resurrected anew.
The Mind divides and the Heart Unties: Individuality is Merged in Radical Equality – therein lies the peace of God:
Thus, to quote the final stanza of the sonnet:
I am three persons in one yet no-one
always I am, E pluribus unum.
The first line is a negation. The second affirms the living presence of God, echoing the Arabic benediction: ‘there is no God but God’. This deity is both immanent and transcendent – like the hermetic formula: God is both ‘above’ and ‘below.’
God is pure absence, which arises as awareness denoted by the word I (subjective pronoun) and pure presence denoted by the appearance and the apperception of my universe or me (objective pronoun): which is what I am as pure existential presence. From the One Spirit flows the multiplicity of all that lives, filtering down through a hierarchy of being. The whole universe cannot exist outside of the sphere of awareness; therefore, the perceptual is an aspect of the non-perceptible, non-conceptual Spirit. It is the ‘light of the world’ that shines outside of time and space, illuminating every where and when. Therefore, like God the author can also say: ‘I am that which I am,’ which is the central message of the sonnet. I am both one and many ‘Always I am, E pluribus unum.’ Radical individuality is seen to be an aspect of equality: another face of love… Identity, alone exists. And in that identity lays the true and eternal peace of God!