Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Hole in the Head


The day we visited the Parthenon it had been raining. If you have been inside this temple of Emperor Hadrian's design you will know that it has an oculus - or eye at the top, about 140 feet above the stone floor, - which on that day was very wet.

In building the temple with an oculus Hadrian's intention was to have us consider that we are both of the earth and enclosed in it, and we are simultaneously exposed to the infinite universe.

Thomas Moore in his book 'The Soul's Religion', suggests that the oculus can represent the mystery which envelops and permeates and stands at the centre of our lives.

He tells us that the native people of the Great Lakes are taught by their shamans about the oculus which is represented in their spiritual culture by the Pleiades constellation and also by the hole in the top of the shaman's lodge.
Through the hole in the lodge and the doorway to Pleiades the soul can take flight and communicate with the heavens.

The Hopi Pueblo people have a similar doorway in their mythology but this is found in the soft spot on an infant's head, and they teach that we can open the door in the top of the head and let ourselves be guided.

Thomas Moore argues that if we are able to find a gap in our thinking, or frame of mind, - do some emptying, - we can make a space to receive spiritual inspiration - and the mysterious and the infinite can enter.

We can do this space-finding in a variety of ways - either in time and space - such as a meditative corner or a quiet walk; we can find it emotionally through suffering, loss, through breakdown or an impasse; or we create it intellectually through the emptying of goals, expectations, facts or beliefs.

"When we are foolish enough to leave a hole
in our own intelligence

or smart enough to install a well oiled door
in the tops of our heads

grace can pour into us."

The image of the rain drifting down through the oculus to the stone floor below in the Pantheon reminds me that if we have faith enough to open our minds and our hearts and allow grace to flow into our souls then we may hear the beat of the universe both within and without our own citadel.

Thomas Moore, The Soul's Religion - Cultivating a Profoundly Spiritual Way of Life, Harper Collins



  1. Alan Watts once said that most of us run around as if we were a "skin-encapsulated ego negotiating an alien universe." Our usual way of seeing ourselves is really only one limited view of reslity, a view that, sadly, overlooks oculi imagined and actual.

    Watts usefully pointed out that the skin, with its several large holes and thousands of pores can be reasonably regarded as the membrane which *connects* the inside of us with the outside of us.

    Thank you for your post, Delwyn. It can be useful to leave doors ajar.

  2. If only more people would use their oculus to "see" as native americans and other indigenous people. Maybe "a hole in the head" wouldn't have the negative connotation it does.

    Thanks Delwyn!

  3. I have to teach myself
    And that is not easy.
    To be aware to life in the moment and not in the future or past.
    No one told me it would be easy.
    The mind has a life on its one if you let it,if we where only thought the tools for life at a early age,knowledge passed on by family and spiritual leaders then our culture would have been as rich as the indigenous people from around the world,we are not being thought to be spiritual.
    So I have to teach myself
    and that i not easy.

  4. Dan, thanks for that addition. Yes we can do with thinking of being less impervious and more porous to the universe. I hope you are better..

  5. Welcome to you Normana53, I'm glad you have come visiting.Yes we could do with a little more imagination and receptivity along those lines.

  6. Hello Mona my friend,
    The times that we grew up in did not value the spiritual as away seeing and being. But opening up to this perception can be exciting and rewarding even tho it takes effort.

  7. Grace being usually meant as 'the grace of God' is an interesting concept. I am not too sure whether Grace is something we can actually induce by some sort of preparation or prayer or persuasion. I sometimes wonder if it is not something freely given to both the just and the unjust by the gods in a completely unconditional and arbitary way - the grace of god often never seems to be bestowed to those that by our human standards are worthy of it and so many that by human standards could do with a good dose of gods grace never seem to recieve it>

  8. Alden I think that's the point. Grace has no preferences, it just is, but my message was that we have to open to it through one means or another. Grace is not something we can regulate but something we can open to and learn to accept.

  9. What a singular revelation. Thank you for the research and the sharing. Tell me more about Basho.

  10. Hello Lakeviewer, Thanks for your visit. I have always loved many things about Japan, even more so after visiting a few times. Last year I walked the Nakasendo which was widely used in the Edo period. Basho wrote at that time - I love haiku for its simplicity, brevity and ability to convey experiences and emotions and imagery so succinctly. Basho deserves a this space!

  11. A beautiful post. Timely too, thanks Delwyn.

    Loved the ideas behind the oculus.xx

  12. Hi there Natalie, I hope your day has been a good one. Thanks for coming to my place..
    Happy Days

  13. I never know what to expect when I visit here. But it is always interesting and thought provoking.

  14. I have never been in the Parthenon when it was raining. I have seen it with a shaft of gold sunlight extending down to the floor, an amazing sight. I envy having seen it in the rain.

    One of my great teachers who taught us about chakras used to say that it's not necessary to open every chakra as wide as possible, nor to close it down. She would say, "You don't have to turn it up to broil or snuff it out. How about a nice, steady 350 degrees?" (In Farenheight, 350 is the middle temperature at which almost anything can be cooked from bread to chicken.)

    The crown chakra of the Parthenon is perfect, not too big, not too small. I love that place. Thanks for bringing back memories of Rome. I love Rome.

  15. Hello Reya, nice to talk to you again at my place. Thank you for your additions to this musing.I hadn't thought of the oculus as the crown chakra. Makes sense.

  16. Violet: I'm glad I have the ability to surprise you...and hope you enjoy the diversity.

  17. I read your piece this morning, and it has been with me all day, helping to keep me 'open' all day. Thank you.

  18. Hi there Jennifer, welcome to my chatty place.
    I'm feeling glad that the oculus story may have reminded us to make efforts to keep 'open' so that we can see and hear with fresh acuity..


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