Analogy and Correspondence, The Dialectic


“The Universe is worked and guided from within outwards. As above so it is below, as in heaven so on earth; and man — the microcosm and miniature copy of the macrocosm — is the living witness to this Universal Law, and to the mode of its action. We see that every external motion, act, gesture, whether voluntary or mechanical, organic or mental, is produced and preceded by internal feeling or emotion, will or volition, and thought or mind. As no outward motion or change, when normal, in man’s external body can take place unless provoked by an inward impulse, given through one of the three functions named, so with the external or manifested Universe. The whole Kosmos is guided, controlled, and animated by almost endless series of Hierarchies of sentient Beings, each having a mission to perform, and who — whether we give to them one name or another, and call them Dhyan-Chohans or Angels — are “messengers” in the sense only that they are the agents of Karmic and Cosmic Laws.”

— H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 274

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A few refs as to the importance of correspondence and analogy that resonates throughout the whole of the Secret Doctrine:

SD I:21-21

Stanza I. The history of cosmic evolution, as traced in the Stanzas, is, so to say, the abstract algebraical formula of that Evolution. Hence the student must not expect to find there an account of all the stages and transformations which intervene between the first beginnings of "Universal" evolution and our present state. To give such an account would be as impossible as it would be incomprehensible to men who cannot even grasp the nature of the plane of existence next to that to which, for the moment, their consciousness is limited.

The Stanzas, therefore, give an abstract formula which can be applied, …æ mutandis, to all evolution: to that of our tiny earth, to that of the chain of planets of which that earth forms one, to the solar Universe to which that chain belongs, and so on, in an ascending scale, till the mind reels and is exhausted in the effort.

The seven Stanzas given in this volume represent the seven terms of this abstract formula. They refer to, and describe the seven great stages of the evolutionary process, which are spoken of in the Puranas as the "Seven Creations," and in the Bible as the "Days" of Creation.

Stanza III. describes the Re-awakening of the Universe to life after Pralaya. It depicts the emergence of the "Monads" from their state of absorption within the ONE; the earliest and highest stage in the formation of "Worlds," the term Monad being one which may apply equally to the vastest Solar System or the tiniest atom.

 SD I: viii

The writer, therefore, is fully prepared to take all the responsibility for what is contained in this work, and even to face the charge of having invented the whole of it. That it has many shortcomings she is fully aware; all that she claims for it is that, romantic as it may seem to many, its logical coherence and consistency entitle this new Genesis to rank, at any rate, on a level with the "working hypotheses" so freely accepted by modern science. Further, it claims consideration, not by reason of any appeal to dogmatic authority, but because it closely adheres to Nature, and follows the laws of uniformity and analogy.

SD I:116 fn*

"Who is there to ascertain the difference in that motion, since all nature is reduced to its primal essence, and there can be no one -- not even one of the Dhyani-Chohans, who are all in Nirvana -- to see it?" The answer to this is: "Everything in Nature has to be judged by analogy."

SD I:150-151

The Law of Analogy in the plan of structure between the trans-Solar systems and the intra-Solar planets, does not necessarily bear upon the finite conditions to which every visible body is subject, in this our plane of being. In Occult Science this law is the first and most important key to Cosmic physics; but it has to be studied in its minutest details and, "to be turned seven times," before one comes to understand it. Occult philosophy is the only science that can teach it.

SD I:173

It thus becomes apparent how perfect is the analogy between the processes of Nature in the Kosmos and in the individual man. […] Analogy is thus the surest guide to the comprehension of the Occult teachings.

SD I:177

Everything in the Universe follows analogy. "As above, so below"; Man is the microcosm of the Universe. That which takes place on the spiritual plane repeats itself on the Cosmic plane. Concretion follows the lines of abstraction; corresponding to the highest must be the lowest; the material to the spiritual.

SD I:542

Occult philosophy has taught this since the existence of human speech and languages, adding only, on the principle of the immutable law of analogy -- "as it is above, so it is below" -- that other axiom, that there is neither Spirit nor matter, in reality, but only numberless aspects of the One ever-hidden IS (or Sat).

SD I:586 fn

Now, the writer humbly confesses complete ignorance of modern chemistry and its mysteries. But she is pretty well acquainted with the Occult doctrine with regard to correspondences of types and antitypes in nature, and perfect analogy as a fundamental law in Occultism.

SD I:604

From Gods to men, from Worlds to atoms, from a star to a rush-light, from the Sun to the vital heat of the meanest organic being -- the world of Form and Existence is an immense chain, whose links are all connected. The law of Analogy is the first key to the world-problem, and these links have to be studied coordinately in their occult relations to each other. 

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I think Plato said the same thing when he compared physical life to shadows on the cave wall.  Reality, as we know and experience it is only a shadow of what is truly real.  The physical world is a product of consciousness, a mirror image perhaps?  Anyway as above so below...

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These are fantastic, thank you  Pierre.

Can we find a connection between the immutable law of analogy and the spiral motion of the planets, sun and solar system?

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Gerry, if you find one, keep me in the loop :-)

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Hi Gerry,…..(Can we find a connection between the immutable law of analogy and the spiral motion of the planets, sun and solar system)

 The practice of Occultism/Raja Yoga together with the study of Astronomy, Astrology, (exoteric & esoteric) the Seven Energies of Creation, their passage through the Sacred Planets, non-sacred planets, mans chakra system and how these energies impact on them is, I consider, the answer to your question. Some quotes below to substantiate what I said

 HPB;…Now it is a well-known principle of Occultism that the ONE LIFE which pervades ALL connects all the bodies in space. All heavenly bodies have thus mutual relation, which is blended with man’s existence, since he is but a microcosm in the macrocosm. Every thought, as much as action, is dynamic and is impressed in the imperishable Book of Nature–– the Akasa, the objective aspect of the UNMANIFESTED LIFE. All our thoughts and actions thus produce the vibrations in space, which mould our future career. And astrology is a science which, having determined the nature of the laws that govern these vibrations, is able to state precisely a particular or a series of results, the causes of which have already been produced by the individual in his previous life.

Since the present incarnation is the child of the previous one, and since there is but that ONE LIFE which holds together all the planets of the Solar system, the position of those planets at the time of the birth of an individual—which event is the aggregate result of the causes already produced—gives to the true Astrologer the data upon which to base his predictions.  CW 6  229

A “true prophet” because an Initiate, one perfectly versed in Occult astronomy. [H.P.B.]

Astronomy and physiology are the bodies, astrology and psychology their informing souls; the former being studied by the eye of sensual perception, the latter by the inner or “soul-eye”; and both are exact sciences. ;  HPB’s CW 14 138

 

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"Cosmology is the physiology of the universe spiritualized, for there is but one law."

Mahatma M

Interesting statement to contemplate.

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From Mr. Judge's Law of Correspondences

The importance of understanding the theory of correspondences cannot be overestimated. Students of the Instructions ought to endeavor to get light upon this subject, for the whole theosophical and occult systems are built upon the law of correspondences, which is that of analogy, and is the logical sequence of the doctrine of unity of nature.

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From Purucker's Law of Analogy

Analogy, the much-abused but powerful instrument of human thinking, is now recognized as one of the master keys opening nature's portals. One general law and one common system of manifestation rule throughout the universe, and in this fact lies the meaning of that wonderful Hermetic axiom: "As it is above, so is it below; as it is below, so is it above." Or, expressed more fully: As things are above so are they in all intermediate spheres, and below. And as they are here below, or underneath us in planes still more material than ours, so are they above us in planes vastly more spiritual. This does not imply identities in any collection of cases, but states the operation of uniform action in what we call nature; and any such uniform action, consistent always and continuous, having a beginning and proceeding to its cyclic end, we call a "law of nature."

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If analogy is a tool, as pointed out here, then like any other tool it can be used skillfully or misapplied.  What does it mean to use analogy in the proper and skillful way and what are the ways in which we might misuse it?

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Hi Grace,

you're asking a very good but also very difficult question to answer. I guess trial and error comes into play as we become more acquainted with the principles of correspondence and analogy.

There are some interesting statements by HPB (don't recall the refs from the top of my head) where she points out that for instance ALL triads (3-folds) correspond, similar statements are made regarding quaternaries (4-folds) and sevenfolds and I would imagine that it basically holds good for any number in that respect. Although for most students that in itself is already an amazing discovery, it doesn't end there. The real occult element that comes into play is what to do with that insight? How to apply both correspondences and analogies? I guess we enter here the realm of practical occultism. Another important point is that correspondence does not necessarily imply "identity" but a relationship as to ratios.

There is also an important distinction between correspondence and analogy. Strictly speaking they are not the same although both Mr. Judge and HPB do not always distinguish between the two because in daily live we do neither, they are often used indiscriminately and in ordinary discussions the distinction is rarely made between the two.  :-)

Analogy comes from the Greek analogos or analogikos; a change in proportion or ratio: for instance, a bird wing is analogous to the fin of fish or a human arm, but the proportions or ratios of the design and the functions are entirely different. So there is no functional identity between the two, yet we see there is some relationship involved in the general idea or archetype.

Correspondence comes from the medieval Latin correspondere, from cor- ‘together’ + Latin respondere from re- ‘again’ + spondere ‘to pledge.’:

For instance, the middle A (la) on the piano corresponds with the same A throughout all other octaves, higher or lower – there is an element of identity present (the note la sounds the same in higher or lower octaves) as the ratios or proportions remain the same, i.e. they either are doubled or halved. The note la vibrates at 440 Hz per second, when we go one octave higher it vibrates at 880 Hz, next octave up 1760Hz. One down from the middle A it vibrates at 220Hz per second. So we see an element of identity in the ratio. Nevertheless the middle A is not the same A one octave higher or lower :-)

Here’s a few more refs to analogy and correspondence:

All things in nature have correspondences and are mutually interdependent. (“Le Phare de L’inconnu - The Beacon of the Unknown”, HPB Art. I:440)

… for the field of analogy is boundless, and Universal Laws are immutable and identical in their outward and inward applications. (“Cross and Fire”, HPB Art. II:492)

The foremost and most important factor for the discovery and clear understanding of some given secret of nature is – analogy. (“The Bugbears of Science” (Homeopathy and Mesmerism) CW IV:317)

No comprehensive idea of nature can be obtained except by applying the law of harmony and analogy in the spiritual as well as in the physical world. “As above, so below,” is the old Hermetic axiom. (“Kabalistic Views on ‘Spirits’” CW I:289)

Analogy is the law, and is the surest guide in occult sciences, as it ought to be in the natural philosophy made public. (“Fragments” (On Cycles and Modern Fallacies) CW VII:277-278)

As to the essence of your question, "What does it mean to use analogy in the proper and skillful way", the technical term for your question is termed “false analogy”. I would think that the misuse of correspondence and analogy relates primarily to the motive that is involved, just as with any other activities.

The subject of false analogies is a very tough subject and if your interested google “what is a false analogy” and you’ll be busy for a while :-) Check also Wikipedia here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_analogy

Hope this helps.

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Great summary! Thanks for that, and the references. Marking this distinction between correspondence and analogy has helped me greatly in my own studies.

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Permalink Reply by Alex Papandakis on February 15, 2015 at 12:56pm
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I gathered several things from these excellent comments by Pierre.  One is that analogy works on the principle of ratios.  The music example brings this to light the best for me. Secondly the process of learning that leans on analogy and correspondence is seeking to engage intuition in the student.

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 21, 2015 at 2:30am
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A few thoughts on correspondence and analogy...

If we are looking at a map we would say that the various named points on the map correspondwith the locations of the actual places in the real world.   The map and its points are not identical to the actual landscape with its locations but there is a correspondence between the two (in terms or relative distance, size relationship to each other and to the points of the compass) which we can understand and use if we know how to read a map. The same type of correspondence could be traced out in a simple manner in the sand to explain directions from one place to another to a person seeking the way.  The map is not the thing itself but the correspondence, if accurate, may prove to be essential to one who treads the path outlined.  

Notes drawn on a stave on a musical manuscript correspond to the sounds and rhythms which can be produced by musical instruments. I’m not sure we would would normally say there is a correspondence between two sounds that are an octave apart (i.e one sound is twice the frequency of the other).  We would usually say these two sounds are the same note (e.g. ‘C’) ‘expressed’ (or manifested?) at a different pitch or level.  We might say there is a correspondence between two ‘C’s an octave apart and two ‘A’s that are also an octave apart.  In this case the correspondence is that there is the same relationship between the two “A’ sounds as exists between the two ‘C’ sounds. 

We find correspondences in the same musical progression when it is played in different keys. For example, most popular ‘three bar tunes’ in the key of C, consist of the three chords C, F and G.  This progression would correspond to the chords G, C and D if playing the same piece in the key of G.  In the key of D we would use the chords D, A and G.   The correspondence between them all is that the musical progression in each case uses chords based on the tonic, the fourth and the fifth note of the sevenfold scale.  A chord itself is based on regular intervals between notes - a major chord, for example, is based on the same three intervals (1st, 3rdand 5th note of the scale) regardless of what key the music is played in.  The law of harmony is such that if the intervals (ratios) between the notes on the scale (or which make up a chord) are the same then the chord progression or chord itself will be produce a similar effect regardless of the key.

This may be where the terms ‘correspondence’ and ‘analogy’ became mixed together in their early usage. The meaning of the term ‘analogy’, as Pierre points out, originally derives from latin and greek and has to do with ratio or proportion.  9/3; 12/4; 27/9 are all said to be analagous because each pair of numbers shares the same relationship or proportion to each other which in this case is 3 to 1.  Musical scales and architecture are based upon the laws of ratio and proportion.  Hence we see some of the early mystery schools highlighting the correspondences between the intervals of notes on a musical scale and the distances between planets and stars. Recurring cycles of times have their rhythms and correspondences to other parts of nature and its cycles. All the foregoing have astrological correspondences.   Colour has its own scale and proportions hence the correspondence between colours and sounds.  No doubt there are correspondences between all of the above and the spectrum of mental or spiritual states of consciousness & so on.

The terms analogy and correspondence while not necessarily identical in meaning are similar in that two things are said to be analogous if there are corresponding similarities between them and vice versa.  Analogy can also refer to functional relationships. The wings of a bird and the fins of a fish are analogous in their function. We could also say there is a correspondence between them.  In addition, we often use analogy and metaphor together, for example when light or illumination is used as a metaphor for wisdom or knowledge. Or, we might say that the light from the sun corresponds to the illumination that comes with knowledge & so on.

‘As above so below’ - this can refer to levels of manifestation (such as the examples of different scales in music) or subtle and gross planes of being. It can also refer to ‘as in the greater so in the lesser’, or ‘as in the universal so in the particular’.  In other words universal law(s) operates the same throughout - higher or lower, greater or smaller.  The law of analogy and correspondence suggests that there is a sympathetic or occult relationship between things that share a similar correspondence. This may be why much of the Wisdom Religion remains in the keeping of the Adepts and not given out to the world, as all knowledge contains the key, via analogy and correspondence, to other states of being and to laws and forces in nature.

Just some thoughts.

Permalink Reply by Pierre Wouters on February 21, 2015 at 9:42am
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Excellent thoughts Peter, good examples, as also your reply to Grace.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on February 21, 2015 at 6:28pm
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Thank you for your thoughtful post.

barbara

Permalink Reply by Peter on February 21, 2015 at 6:11am
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Grace asks: What does it mean to use analogy in the proper and skillful way and what are the ways in which we might misuse it? 
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As I understand it, Grace, we misuse the principle of analogy when we over-emphasise the similarities between two things and minimise or ignore their differences. For example, ‘a successful business runs like a well oiled machine’. We can see what the person who uses this analogy might be getting at. The correspondence between the two is that both business and a machines have parts that need to run smoothy together. So far, so good. But there are some really important differences between a business and a machine, i.e. the people (the employees) who work in the business aren’t merely non-sentient ’cogs in a machine.’ If we over emphasise the similarities between a business and a well oiled machine we could end up treating the employees as if they didn’t really matter at all as people (i.e. with aspirations, creativities, needs and responsibilities of their own outside of the workplace) but only matter as a means of production and as such could easily and uncaringly be dispensed with if not working at optimum output.

Another way we misuse analogies is when we assume that because two things are similar in one way they must be similar in another way. For example, ‘That gang of teenagers who normally hang around our street corner after dark are the one’s that vandalised my neighbours house. Therefore, all teenagers that hang around on street corners after dark are vandals.’ While it may be true that some things which are similar in one way are indeed similar in another way this is clearly a misuse of analogy for it overemphasises the few things which are similar while ignoring the many things and circumstances which might make them different.

In our studies we might intuitively sense a connection (a similarity) between two ‘things’ which we can’t yet articulate and this is where it might be important not to be carried away by looking for what supports our intuition (the similarities) while minimising or ignoring those things go against it (the differences).