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The Cosmic Dance

Tibetan Thangka of Vajravarahi, a Buddhist Dakini

"Oh Sun! Do rise so the atoms dance!

The One who causes the earth and the heavens to dance

Joyful souls, in ecstasy, they dance

I whisper into your ears where the dance is leading them

Inside the cell or out in the space

In the wilderness and in the air

Adore them cause they, too, like us are befuddled and amazed

Whether in the state of keen pleasure or in the state of deep sorrow

Each atom, by the ineffable sun,is mystified and perplexed." - "The Poem of Atoms", Rumi

When one of the most famous Hindu goddesses, Kali, dances on top of her husband, Shiva, the Tantric tradition interprets it as the moment in which "shava", which means "corpse", becomes Shiva, the embodiment of the transcendent consciousness. Without Kali, he is "corpse", pure consciousness and potential without manifestation, when Kali gets on top of him, he becomes manifest through her - Shiva is manifest through her and there is nothing in the visible or invisble worlds that is not their dance. In Buddhist tantra, the dakinis, or the female sky dancers, are the embodiment of the perfect wisdom and highest realisation. In the poem above, Rumi speaks of the "dance of atoms", and Ibn Arabi describes entire cosmos as interaction, sexual intercourse or dance, between "fathers and mothers". Human existence, according to Ibn Arabi is the marriage of spirit and the body.

The dance, the interaction, the rhythm, dynamism, music, seems to be at the center of many notions about the source, root, creation or ultimate realisation of the world. Today, we shall not analyse these, but rather, I will tell a story of a primordial Greek myth in which everything began as a dance.

Photo of the decoration on an attic red figure vase depicting Eurynome, Pothos (his name is written above his head), Hippodamia, Eros, Iaso, and Asteria.

In the beginning there was nothing but Chaos, primordial darkness and nothingness. Nothing was there but the tangled and cold Chaos, the only one that could be heard was Eurynome, daughter of Oceans and her gentle breath. There was only her breath and her dream. Then, still in slumber, in each of her hands, she grabbed the two tails of Chaos. Awakened from her dream, she began her performance. One of the tails in her hands, she released upwards and called it Sky, the second tail, she released beneath her and called it Sea. The creator of Sky and Sea, could begin her dance. Her moves became faster, and from her whirling and kicking in the Sea, the water and air, finally kissed. She kept dancing, feeling the air and water against her skin. As she leapt towards the North, she created North Wind. She took the wind, braided it and of it made bone and flesh and called it Ophion, the great North Wind serpent.

Her solitary dance became the one of a pair - her and Ophion began to dance together on the Sea. She changed her form into a dove, so she could fly above and swoop down to him, he would come from under the sea to catch her. With her wings, she hugged him and held him close. She took him into herself, and once exhausted, she flew down to the Sea, and floated on it in a gentle sleep. But her peaceful slumber was interrupted by her swelling body - for the fruit of her and Ophion's bond was to come. Through pain and spasms, from her womb, came the egg of the universe. Curious to see what the egg would hatch, she kicked it, pushed it, but nothing would do. The egg remained firm and closed.

Not knowing what else to do, she called for the North Wind. "Coil around the egg", she told him, "break it down". The great serpent of the North coiled around the egg, but the egg still held firm. Six tries and all equally without a result, finally, the seventh coil broke the egg in two. The two halves were still floating on the Sea as the egg's mother was observing carefully what was to happen. First came out the stars that scattered around the sky, then the mooon, then the sun's blinding light. Then came the planets, among them the Earth. Eurynome, taken by the beauty of its mountains, valleys, rivers and seas, stepped upon it and sought the beautiful Olympus. Eurynome and her spouse, Ophion, enjoyed the beauty and sweetness of the beautiful planet. But Ophion grew bored with the beauty and joy, and he began telling everyone that he is the Creator. Eurynome, the one who created the sea, skies, the wind and the egg could not tolerate his boastful speech, and she banished him into a pit.

Once again alone, she looked at the creation. But then, she noticed that something was missing. She saw the Earth's creatures walk with families, the lion had the lioness, and the sheep her ram, only the planets stood alone. She too was alone, for Ophion was of her not with her, and she in her longing, finished the creation - she created a king and a queen to rule each planet, and crafted pairs in everything - She and He, north and south, night and day. Looking at the final dance of agreement and disagreement, quarell and make up, Euroynome was satisfied, and she rested.

The sound, the rhythm, the dance, the interaction, the bang, the vibration, the egg that cracks, the serpent, are often in creation myths, almost universally, across the cultures, and we, as parts of the same cosmos, are part of the melody and the dance, both abstract and concrete at the same time.



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