"This whole objective universe
of matter and energy, atoms and stars,
is a construction of the conscience,
an edifice of conventional modes,
shaped by the senses of man."
— Bertrand Russell
Recall that it was Hermes/Mercurius, the Ringmaster, who told the narrator to "join the parade", the outer world of appearances. The lady of the dancing water represents the world of the senses. The lady of the dancing water is Maya.
"In Hindu thought, the
male energy is essentially passive, while the female is the force of action. Maya is one of
those active powers: the constant movement of the universe, pervasive to the atomic level.
There is no life -- no existence, even -- without Maya, but she is so powerful that we cannot
see the essence of things and mistake her movement for reality. For this reason, Maya is
often called "the veil of illusion," the dance of multiplicity that distracts us so that we cannot
see all matter as essentially identical. Illusion, however, as the sages have stressed, is not
the same as falsehood. Maya is not a negative force, but can be a mesh through which we
perceive the ultimate reality of existence -- if we are not distracted by her magnificent
creativeness and complexity."
"Maya is the illusory power of God. She is the creatrix of this universe. She
projects this world for His Lila (sport). Mind, intellect, body, and senses are her
forms. She is the energy or mother-aspect of the Lord.
Just as heat is inseparable from fire, coldness from ice, Maya is inseparable
from Brahman (God). It is dependent on Brahman.
Maya has countless potencies. Solidity of stone is a power of Maya. Fluidity of
water is another power of Maya. Fire is a third burning power. Air is the moving
power of Maya. Ether is the void or space power of Maya.
Maya is neither true nor false. It is truly false and falsely true. It is neither real nor
unreal. It is not real like Brahman, because it disappears when one gets
This Maya is a sort of jugglery. You are astonished so long as the juggler is not
seen. As soon as the juggler is known, the results are known to be unreal; the
wonder ceases at once. When you realize Brahman, the wonder of Maya's
"The Empress is recognized as the combination of the Magician (consciousness)...
(the first album, In the Court of the Crimson King)
and the Higher Priestess (the
(the second album, In the Wake of Poseidon)
implying the union of opposites gives way to totality. The planet Venus is assigned to this card as
Venus stands for love, beauty, desire, attraction, and the arts. She is the Goddess of Love, the symbol of
universal fecundity. As the High Priestess is Isis veiled, the Empress is Isis unveiled. The High Priestess
symbolizes the virgin state of the unconscious, and the Empress typifies the productive, generative activities
within it after it has been infused by ideas from the conscious. The Empress can be thus seen as the
multiplicator of images."
The cards of both the Empress and the High Priestess refer to the same archetypal feminine, the One Principle
which, as Pure Idea, is reflected in many faceted ways. As High Priestess, she is the Virgin and represents the
unconscious. As the Empress she is the fertile mother and represents conscious imagination."
Maya pours the narrator's wine (intoxicates him) and "cages" his eyes. In Cirkus there is a "painted cage" and elephants "ate the floors of their cages".
What is it that the narrator knows? That it is all a delusion.
"You know you will die, and yet you think you will live forever. This is Maya. You
know that the world is full of miseries, and yet you take delight in the perishable
objects and will not leave them. This is Maya. You know that the human body is
made up of all sorts of impurities, flesh, bone, urine and faecal matter, and yet
you rejoice in embracing it under the sway of lust. This is Maya."
"Symbolically, ash represents a redeeming death, or
rather a state of death that is a prelude to life. In Sai
Baba's discourses, the concept often recurs that from
the death of the ego, from its being reduced to ashes,
man rises to the state of imperishable divinity. By
"ego" is meant the complex of passions such as
anger, envy, jealousy, lust and ambitions that
constitute it, which are the real death of the inner life
"Semele was burnt to ashes, her flesh melting away at the sight of the god before
her in all his glory. From the dust which had been her body, arose their son, Dionysius the
twice-born, "god of the savagery and rapturous glory given by the vine" (Baan, 1998, p. 38).
The birth of Dionysius occurs when Semele sees the true nature of her lover -- a luminosity
which disintegrates her "self." Here is a myth, then, which describes what occurs when one is
truly present to the other. To truly be present to the other, in a sense, one's separate identity is
rendered to ash -- we must die to our fantasies of "identity" which wraps us in a web of
delusion. And from the ashes, rises the god of ecstasy and intoxication, Dionysius.
As Nietzsche described, Apollo, in distinction from Dionysius, is "man caught in the
veil of Maya". This veil is lifted with the onset of "Dionysiac rapture."
In Taoist thought, everything in the physical world is said to conform to a basic pattern of flow.
"In the Chinese language this is called li, and the character for li means the markings in jade. It also means the grain in wood and the fiber in muscle. We could say, too, that clouds have li, marble has li, the human body has li. We all recognize it, and the artist copies it whether he is a landscape painter, a portrait painter, an abstract painter, or a non-objective painter. They all are trying to express the essence of li. The interesting thing is, that although we all know what it is, there is no way of defining it. Because tao is the course, we can also call li the watercourse, and the patterns of li are also the patterns of flowing water. We see those patterns of flow memorialized, as it were, as sculpture in the grain in wood, which is the flow of sap, in marble, in bones, in muscles. All these things are patterned according to the basic principles of flow. In the patterns of flowing water you will find all kinds of motifs from Chinese art immediately recognizable, including the S-curve in the circle of yang-yin.
So li means then the order of flow, the wonderful dancing pattern of liquid."
The swirling marble pattern on the album's inner sleeve is an example of li,
the..."patterns of flow
memorialized, as it were, ...in marble..."
"Salt, earth and flowers" refer to the senses of taste, touch and smell. But these things are only "remembered". In Lady of the Dancing Water the narrator is leaving the physical world, dying to the world of the senses.
"As for the five desires, this refers to
worldly forms, sounds, smells, tastes and touchables. They are
ever able to deceive and delude all ordinary people causing them
to develop fond attachment. If one is able to become deeply
aware of the negative consequences of desires, one will not
become involved with them. This is what is meant by renouncing
"All bodhisattvas, lesser and great, should develop a pure, lucid mind, not
depending upon sound, flavor, touch, odor, or any quality. A bodhisattva
should develop a mind which alights upon no thing whatsoever; and so
should he establish it."