The Centre of All – The Yellow River in Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram

Gold Chisel in his battle with the god of the Yellow River.

The story of Golden Chisel and the Stone Ram, is an ancient Han Chinese fairy tale in which the Yellow River is the source of the sacred water of Life, it is a sacred river, just as the Ganges is the sacred river of India.

In our prayer Pir (to our Teacher) we say:

 Inspirer of my mind, consoler of my heart, healer of my spirit,
Thy presence lifteth me from earth to heaven,
Thy words flow as a sacred river,
Thy thought riseth as a divine spring, —-

The Yellow River as a sacred source can be seen in the words of ‘Pir’, ‘Thy words flow as the sacred river.’ The teachings flow as from a sacred river. This is the water of life.

In the story of Golden Chisel, the hero, is questing for the sacred water, which tradition teaches, will one-day flow from the lips of a stone ram. Golden Chisel did not have a Teacher as in other stories, – there was only the remnant of a tradition or prophecy in the village to guide him. Golden Chisel, our hero, finds a brilliant shining stone, in the dried-up village pond, roughly in the shape of a ram. From this, he chiselled the stone ram of the prophesy. Golden Chisel made an Ideal of God, or in other words, a structure of a belief for himself. This stone ram, when completed, comes alive and speaks to Golden Chisel. Following this the ram agrees to fetch the sacred water from the Yellow River, each night, so that the village has fresh spring water for its spiritual nourishment.

Golden Chisel does not go with the ram, as in other stories, where the steed, usually a horse, guides and carries the hero on his journey. In European fairy tales, the hero, having won his ‘horse’ after a great battle, rides the horse or psychopomp through the inner realms to the Centre, to find the sacred water. The psychopomp can be understood as the internalised teachings and teacher which carried him from one realm to the next, and who guides and teaches him on his journey.

As we have already said, Golden Chisel, does not have a teacher. All that was left for him in the village was an old tradition. He had to chisel the teachings for himself, out of the hard stone of this tradition, until he had created his  ram. He created his own structure of belief –  his own system. So, it was that the stone ram went to fetch the water for the village each and every night, from the Yellow River.

But after a long time, one night, the little stone ram, does not return, from fetching the water. Golden Chisel goes in search of him and finds him lying by the path – his forehoof broken. The jealous God of the Yellow River had attacked and grievously wounded him.

This wounding or loss of self, can be seen as a psychosis or a Spiritual emergency. This can happen when the Kundalini is awakened without preparation and knowledge, or when we venture deep into the Centre without being taught and prepared.

If we understand that we are all One, we are simply drops in the Ocean of Consciousness – we are part of the Divine One. When we dive into this ocean, we need to hold onto our sense of ourselves, our sense of ‘dropness’. If we do not do this, we can lose ourselves, lose our minds.

Without a teacher, Golden Chisel did not know or understand how to approach this sacred territory. There is a way of approaching this task, which must be understood. It is a dangerous quest, as we see in the story of the fairy of the dawn. In that story, the hero is given a tiny flute which he must play, while he is in the sacred realm of the spring, to subdue the beings which reside there. The Centre is guarded by the Fairy of the Dawn, who could be considered as one of the Archangels surrounding the Throne of God – the Centre in that story.  In this story, it is the God of the Yellow River, who guards the Centre, and who has grievously wounded the stone ram. We too can become seriously wounded, when we are not prepared properly for the quest.

Golden Chisel carried the wounded stone ram home and made for him a golden fore-hoof. So, we see that this terrible wounding can he healed – healed with the gold of Divine Light, with the knowledge of the teachings experienced directly. This also is a long process.

But now Golden Chisel is angry and wants to avenge the injury to his ram.

Golden Chisel took the Sun-and-Moon talisman that had been passed down through his family, and confronted the God of the Yellow River. Ancestor worship was prevalent in China, and still is, so this talisman, is a powerful symbol of his spirituality which he has from his family, even in his DNA.

The God of the Yellow River, attacked with various weapons such as cold and the turtle demons. It seems to me that the turtle demons may reflect the problem of the flooding of the Yellow river (see history below). But I also think that he – the ram, is attacked with cold reason and logic, with the head, rather than the heart. It could have represented a great conflict between a new belief system as rediscovered by Colden Chisel, and an older established religion.

The God had no answer when Golden Chisel told him that the sacred water flows for everybody and does not belong to any one God. The jealous God, thus was defeated by the power of the Sun-and-moon talisman, where the sun represents the masculine principle, and the moon the feminine, united together they represent the Divine Light – Nur. It is this Divine Light, which defeated the jealous god. Begging for mercy, the God of the Yellow River asked Golden Chisel what he wanted, and Golden Chisel and the ram answered with one voice that they wanted fresh water for the village. The God then took from his mouth, a pearl, saying that when the stone ram would hold it in his mouth, fresh water would flow from it forever.

However, the ending of this tale seems to be paradoxical. In returning to the village, the stone ram was ‘seen’ by a young cowherd, as a light shooting towards him. He cried out for everyone to look at Golden Chisel riding a stone ram. But when the ram heard this he immediately transformed into a heap of rocks, out of which flowed a limpid, sweet spring, so fulfilling the prophecy.

When we chisel out our Ideal of God, and indeed mend this from time to time, when it gets damaged,  we have constructed an inner structure of understanding the Truth of the world. Once the Light is perceived by the people or parts of ourselves, who are able to see it, like the young cow-herd, then the water constantly flows from the spring pure and sweet without any intermediary.

This water constantly flows from the sacred Centre of All, when we know how to access it.

Some background history:

The Yellow River is known as the “Mother River of China” and “the Cradle of Chinese Civilization”:  its basin is the birthplace of the northern Chinese civilizations and the most prosperous region in early Chinese history.

The Great Flood of China, also known as the “Gun-Yu myth” (Yang:74), was a major flood event that continued for at least two generations, and which resulted in great population displacements among other disasters, such as storms and famine: according to mythological and historical sources. Treated either historically or mythologically, the story of the Great Flood and the heroic attempts of the various human and other characters to control it and to abate the disaster is a narrative fundamental to Chinese culture. It is also one of the main flood motifs in Chinese mythology, and it is a major source of allusion in Classical Chinese poetry. Various divine or heroic persons or beings contributed to control or in some cases worsen the flooding, including the mysterious bird-turtles of the Heavenly Questions of the Chuci. The main river involved according to tradition, was the Yellow River, and one of the keys to the eventual successful efforts to control the flood waters is traditionally the Yellow River Map.

Fu Xi, also known as Paoxi, is still actively worshipped in modern China. Fu Xi was a culture hero credited with his sister Nüwa with repopulating the world in the aftermath of a great flood, as well as with establishing civilization afterwards. Among his inventions was the Yellow River Map, from which he derived the first trigrams which later composed the I Ching. It is interesting that C G Jung wrote the Forward to the I Ching.

Bagua is a main concept in Chinese philosophical thought: eight figures of mythical origin and emblematic significance that are specifically said to be related to the Yellow River Map and the Luoshu Square. The origin of these concepts is prehistorical, and these have evolved into a complex body of literature, some of it more esoteric, and some less so. Derivation of the bagua has been conceived philosophically according to the taiji or other system in which original unity, symbolized by the bottom circle first differentiates into yin and yang symbolized by solid versus dashed lines. Eight possible unique groupings of these lines into three-line sets are possible. These sets of 3 are known as “trigrams”. Each trigram has its own proper name, in Chinese, and is also considered to possess or to symbolize various qualities of the natural, human, or heavenly worlds. Certain traditions suppose that the Yellow River Map and the Luo River Writing reveal all of these things to one who knows how to read them.

Wolfram Eberhard (sub “Square”, 276) says that the River Plan is proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” to be a magic square. He connects it to the mingtang halls of worship, saying that they share a division into 9 fields: these in turn are correlated with the 9 “planets” (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Rahu, and Ketu), introduced from and according to Indian astronomy. Other sources emphasize these points for the Luo River Writing. Another interpretation of the River Diagram has to do with the 5 “elements” (wuxing) and the 5 cardinal directions.[1]





[1]  July 2017

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