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Mudras & Hand Symbolism: Hand Mysteries? Part 3
[Note: This paper contains images which may be seen as originally published at our website]
In ceremonial magick of the Western Tradition, the hands and fingers are used for various purposes among which is to trace symbols, sigils, and signs in a consecrated space or object. They are also utilized to banish, invoke and direct forces to certain targets. In contrast to the adepts of ceremonial magic, stage magicians apply the hands to entertain audiences with their many illusory tricks. They call this, "prestidigitation," or "sleight of hand." In prestidigitation, the hands are used in various ways to deceive and mislead the eyes, and also in guiding the mental focus of the audience. The saying that "the hands are quicker than the eye," is a well-known cliché used by stage magicians.
While still on the topic of entertainment, we have to consider the applause. The clapping of hands in modern usage is an expression of delight, agreement, an accompaniment to music, or appreciation for someone's stage performance. Metaphysically, it is said that ovation dispels the presence of angelic beings. These creatures of light dislike the vibrations produced by the applause. From the occult point of view, therefore, clapping is regarded as a negative practice.
In dance, gestures of the hands are essential in conveying or expressing symbolic messages and metaphorical meanings. They possess a rich vocabulary and tell non-verbal stories that evoke our primordial emotions as well as divine sensations. This can easily be seen and experienced in the hula-dance of the Polynesians. These dances and hand movements narrate various myths of the land that transports us to another world. In Hindu classical texts regarding dance, hundreds of hand gestures are mentioned, together with descriptions of the thirteen positions of the head, thirty-six of the eyes, and nine of the neck. In the Hindu dances based on the Carnatic music composition, the following mudras are used among many others: Raaga mudra, Tata mudra, Aachaarya mudra, Naayaka mudra, Vamsa mudra, Biruda mudra, Lakshana Grantha mudra, Prabandha mudra, Sthala mudra, etc.
Although the many poses of the hands in traditional dance may portray symbolical meanings, they are also functional in the sense that they modify the morphogenic or auric field of the human organism, and likewise meant to regulate the energy flow within the etheric body.
There are numerous forms of dance or dancing style prompted by the various levels of the psyche. Basically, we can classify three types of dance originating from the subconsciousness, consciousness and the superconsciousness. The instinctive or primitive dance originating from the subconsciousness is well known and is displayed by both man and beast. Most of these movements and their awkward gestures usually are mating courtship dances and the release of pent-up energies. Cultural dances evolved from these unrefined movements. They are a projection of what the psyche understands of beauty, grace, form, rhythm, etc. The third category may be called mystical dances. They originate from higher levels of consciousness beyond the reach of the conscious mind, but whose energies may be channeled through the physical body producing divine movements. Some forms of dancing are the amalgamation of all three classifications. The traditional dancing styles of Eastern countries such as India, Thailand, and Indonesia are typical of these. In these dances mudras are often formed to alter the consciousness of the dancer and indirectly affect the consciousness of the spectators. About 16 years ago the writer personally witnessed one of the traditional Javanese dances performed by a very talented young man. The dance was called "Kesadaran," or "Consciousness." We were spellbound from start to finish.
Music often make us move and sway our hands, feet, and body unconsciously. Why does it do this? For the simply reason that musical energies have the power to possess our beings and cause an altered state of awareness making us lose a certain degree of control over our physical motor system. All beings are susceptible to the influence of music. Animals and plants are especially vulnerable. In Greek myth we often hear tales of Pan, the personification of Nature, dancing to the mystical tunes of his pan-pipes, and all those who heard him play would also join in the fun, the mirth, and the merry-making. Similarly, when the Greek sage Orpheus played on his lyre, all became entranced, even the rocks listened attentively.
In the Hindu tales of the gods, as found in the Bhagavata-Purana and the Gita-Govinda, Krishna is said to have enchanted the gopis, or shepherdesses of Vrindavana with his lila dance and magical flute-playing. Each gopi was so mesmerized and distracted by Krishna that they would forget everything else around them. They would become so one-pointed that they would believe that they were the only one present before their Lord. Evidently, music has the power to cause ecstatic feelings.
The god Shiva is often portrayed in iconography in a dancing pose as Nataraja, or "Lord of Dance." Representing the Consciousness aspect of Nature, why does Shiva engage in a Cosmic dance? It is because Shakti or divine energy, flows through his being and causes spasms and convulsions at first, and then rhythmic movements in attunement with the beat of the Cosmos. Amidst spiritual flames, Shiva dances rapturously, burning and transmuting all of the old outworn forms of life hindering cosmic progress.
In a microcosmic scale, a Shiva-dance likewise occurs to a practitioner of mudras. Spontaneous dancing may transpire as a result of the awakening of the life-force in the lowest psychospiritual center of the etheric body. While conducting the mudras the practitioner's whole being would often move involuntarily. The physical body might sway forward and backward, left and right or rotate on its axis. His or her hands would move on their own accord in circles, in arches, in figure-eights, in a chopping upward-downward movement, or oscillate in a left-right or forward-backward direction; sometimes the hands are mysteriously placed at various layers of the aura, or even at certain focus points--at the chakras or energy centers of the body. While Shakti is active, she may also induce the practitioner to assume unlearnt mudras. The energies invoked through mudras have an intelligence all of their own and they do their work through movements. They know what to do to balance, purify, transform, or integrate celestial energies into the microcosmic system.
In the martial-arts field, hands are used as weapons of defense or destruction. The "Tiger's Claw," the "Iron Fist," "the Drunken-style Fist," etc, all indicate the manifold lethal forms that the hands may assume to strike an opponent or to ward off blows. In contrast to this, the finer arts make use of the hands constructively and creatively to produce wondrous objects of art, and to compose and produce heavenly music. Like the Cosmic dance of Shiva, the movements of Tai Chi, Pencak Silat, and other forms of self-defense have part of their origin in an awakened source of energy moving through the limbs producing involuntary movements. These movements were later noted down and turned into the various steps of martial-art discipline and training.
Some systems of metaphysical development teach us to move the body in a certain way. Though this has an effect in stimulating energies in the body it is not quite as effective in producing the desired results as when compared to the assuming of mudras that cause the energies to produce natural movements all of their own accord.
When we clasp our hands by interlacing our fingers, the thumb at the uppermost, whether right or left indicates which hemisphere of our brain predominates. Psychology tells us that if the right thumb is uppermost it is logic or reason that is predominant within us, or if the left thumb, intuition.
The hands play an important role in empowering the mind to function optimally. Since energy radiates from the palms and fingertips, they are often unconsciously utilized as stimulators re-connecting lost or poor links between synapses of brain neurons. In the book Body Magic, an important work on esoteric man, Benjamin Walker describes how the operations of the hands often attempt to improve the mental processes by certain placements:
"When the fingertips of the two hands are placed together, a circuit is set up with the brain that is believed to assist thought. People in deep thought will often talk with their fingertips pressed together, as if unconsciously aware of the need to establish such a current to assist their concentration. If a man wishes to recall something he has forgotten, his hand will instinctively touch his forehead to contact with his fingers the source of his thinking."
From what has been written thus far, it is evident that hands play a prominent role in everyday life. This can also be seen in the way we have invented all sorts of idioms regarding them. For instance, "lend me a hand," "hands-off," "hand-in-hand," "old-hand," "hands-on," etc.
The Application of Hands in the Spiritual Path
In the Spiritual Path hands are used for the following purposes:
As an instrument of healing.
As an instrument of blessing and consecration.
As an instrument of general service.
As an instrument of teaching.
As an instrument of purification, invocation, prayer, and communion.
As an instrument of healing
Chakras, or energy-centers are to be found all over the body. There is a chakra to be found in each palm of the hand. There is likewise a minor chakra at every fingertip. The size, activity, and power of these chakras are dependent upon various factors. One of these is the purity of the subtle channels terminating at those chakra points. These subtle channels or etheric nadis convey the life-force all over the body and may be projected outside of the body through the hand chakras. Healers of various metaphysical traditions make use of the hands to convey healing energy or to break up toxic crystals imbedded in the tissues. Since ancient times Chinese doctors have been diagnosing a person's state of vitality through sensing the strength of the energy radiating from the hands, from the phalanges of the fingers, and the pulse at the wrist. Among the many systems of alternative therapeutics that make use of the hands are acupressure, Shiatsu, Chakra healing, Reiki, Rosicrucian Contact healing, Body Electronics, various forms of massage work, etc. Like Jesus the Christ, every Initiate on the Spiritual Path is essentially a healer, though he may not blatantly proclaim or advertise himself to be one. When circumstances and necessity calls for it he would gladly offer his services to the suffering one, always stressing, however, that it is not he that works, but the "Father " within him.
As an instrument of blessing and consecration
Metaphysics teaches and proves through various experiments which may be personally verified by skeptics that energy radiates from the hands. This energy may be used to magnetize objects, places, spaces or people for various purposes. The religious term for magnetization is consecration. Blessing is a form of consecration. It refers to the magnetization of a human being rather than an object with a spiritual force. Generally, in the act of consecration or blessing we seek to raise the vibrations or frequency of a person or an object, or to empower it with certain energies that would turn it into a psycho-spiritual generator that would influence its immediate surroundings in a certain way. Thought-forms imbued with mental suggestions and emotional power are often attached to these blessings. Curses operate much in the same way as blessings, they however, bring about negative effects. The curse on Tutankhamen's tomb is a classic example of this.
Where people are concern in the act of blessing, the metaphysical practitioner would also seek to clear obstructive or congested energies preventing the person from being aware of or communing with his or her Higher Self. Once this purification is achieved the person would possess a clearer line of communication with his hidden god or genius and acquire a stronger sense of protection, faith, and a constant guidance from the Most High.
In the act of blessing or consecration, the hands work in harmony with the power of the spoken word to modify the magnetic-field structure of people and objects.
As an instrument of general service
The hands are tools of service and humanitarian aid. Spiritually and socially, it is applied in extending a helping hand to our fellow beings, to those in need of bare necessities, comfort and solace. In spiritual teachings, karma yoga is often associated with the hands in active giving without any thought of remuneration or recognition. This is a vital principle. The desire to serve humanity must come from the heart without any thought of self or ego. Selflessness, self-sacrifice, and active service are important virtues that the spiritual aspirant has to embody and express at every breathing moment. When self-comfort, self-importance, and self-aggrandizement are the sole motives of help to others then the hands are misapplied and any act carried-out is unmeritorious. Spiritual disciples should not attract attention to the fact that they are serving. The best service is done quietly in the shadows without any fanfare or advertisements. The Master Jesus explained it concisely in this manner: "Do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing." Occultly, the left hand is used for receiving energies, while the right hand is employed for giving them.
As an instrument of teaching
Spiritual Gurus teach in various ways. They give teachings orally, in writing, telepathically, through example, symbols, drama, and by the use of gestures. The hands can convey lots of information when knowledgeably used. Symbolic movements of the hands may portray the workings of Cosmic laws and spiritual principles. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes the hands may tell what the mouth cannot. A loving touch tells something that words are often unequipped to. In Zen Buddhism, the Guru often gives shock treatments to his students with the use of the hands. A rap on the head or a slap on the face at the appropriate moment and psychological condition after intense meditation is supposed to cause a student to suddenly apperceive the natural state of his mind and thereby become enlighten.
As an instrument of purification, invocation, prayer and communion
Perhaps the most common use of hands in religious and in metaphysical spiritual work is its application in prayer. Basically, this does not require any specialized knowledge. The hands are instinctively used when appealing to God, to higher intelligences for intercession or when used simply as gestures of adoration or reverence, just as we instinctively scratch our foreheads or pull our beards when we seek to arouse our mental powers. The hands may be clasped, outstretched or assumed in any other way that the heart dictates while in silent prayer. Esoteric teachings, however, teaches various mudras, or hand gestures that have specific purposes for the invocation of cosmic forces and spiritual beings. The liturgical formula "The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen" in the Christian Tradition accompanied with the touching of the appropriate points of the head and body at the conclusion of a prayer conveys a certain power to the etheric body when correctly done. However, the perfunctory manner in which it is performed provides very little of worth. In Hinduism, such placing of the hands upon certain parts of the body with magical intent is called Nyasa.
To commune with the divinity within us we may apply various mudras that facilitates mystical communion. Mudras establishes a psychic condition in the mind and body that temporary elevates our consciousness, and disperses the etheric webs that protects the psyche from being prematurely bombarded by psychic/celestial energies. It aligns and unites our objective consciousness with the superconscious mind. An altered state of consciousness is easily achieved through the use of the hands in the performing of mudras. Through mudras our communion with the so-called supernatural is controlled. We open and close the portals to higher worlds through the application of our will.
In ceremonial magick the hands are extensively used to direct and build up forces in one's sacred place of worship and practice. Symbols are drawn on the ground or in the air with the power radiating from the hands and chakras to invoke and evoke cosmic metaphysical forces. The avatar Sai Baba is often seen making gestures in the air. He does this for the purpose of dispersing and cleansing the ambient surroundings and atmosphere from negative energies. The metaphysical practitioner or ceremonial magician makes use of the hands in manifesting certain things and conditions.
To conclude this article we would like to praise the hands for what they offer us--the opportunity to grow and serve. The fingers and thumbs of the hands should not quarrel among themselves as to who is the greatest, as related in some ancient fables, for they all have their place in supporting the need in us to further pursue our dreams, in fulfilling our earthly tasks and cosmic mission. The harmonious conjoined functioning of the fingers and thumbs of the hands is a metaphor for the right relationship and cooperation between the sons of men to manifest the Will of God, just as the fingers and hands manifests the will of its possessor. The noblest use of our hands is to extend it in friendship, in kindness and in unconditional love.
Copyright © 2006 Luxamore
About the Author: Leonard Lee aka Luxamore
Metaphysical teacher, counseler, healer and merchant of occult/magickal items of Indonesia.
Magickal Items from Indonesia: talismans, mustika pearls, kerises, etc.
Magickal Bezoar Mustika Pearls from Indonesia.