The Diamond

Great Symbols Series @ Theosophy Trust


 An ancient Greek story tells that no one except Alexander ever reached the place where the diamond was produced. It was believed to be in a valley somewhere in the land of Hind. "The glance cannot penetrate to its greatest depths and serpents are found there, the like of which no man hath seen, and upon which no man can gaze without dying." Alexander wished to bring out the diamonds but no one was willing to undertake the descent. Therefore he sought the counsel of wise men who cryptically told him that if he threw sacrificial flesh into the valley, the diamonds would adhere to it and birds of the air would bear it up to him together with the diamonds.

 It was in the ancient land of Hind that the earliest diamonds were discovered. Cherished for their beauteous qualities and symbolical meaning, the irradiating power of the fabled stone subsequently sparked the imagination of men throughout the world. The greatest and most vile acts of humankind have been linked symbolically and physically with this precious stone. The flashing diamond in the forehead of a carved deity or at the heart of a sacred altar symbolizes the pure reflective light of soul wisdom, but the stolen diamond eye and the lust for its barter or influence represents man's betrayal of himself. Like Alexander, man has wanted to steal the light of the diamond without understanding the nature of the serpent-wisdom that guarded it. Many lives have been lost and destinies altered in pursuit of the diamond. Some gems were indeed fabulous. From the Cullinan diamond, the 530-carat Star of Africa was cut and given to Edward VII to be set in the Royal Sceptre as a symbol of England's power. From the same diamond a 317-carat gem was cut and set in the British Imperial State Crown along with several additional gems of considerable size. Legends of the treasured Kohinoor diamond of 108 carats go back over 5000 years. Its passage from one ruler to another marks many dramatic changes in India's political history. In Brazil a slavewoman found the 254-carat Star of the South and was given freedom and a life pension by her subsequently rich and powerful masters.

 The great powers attributed to the diamond are suggested in the etymology of its name. The word itself comes from the Sanskrit dyu, meaning luminous being,' a symbol of light and brilliance. The word is also linked with 'adamantine,' which comes from the Greek adamas, meaning 'unconquerable' or 'indomitable.' It was a word applied by the old Greeks to hard metals and stones. Later, adamas became corrupted into adamant, diamant and diamond. The ancients believed the diamond to have more power than any other stone in its effect upon humanity both spiritually and physically. The diamond was believed to represent purity and innocence and was used as a protection against evil. Set in fine steel, the Romans considered the diamond a safeguard against insanity, and ancient astrologers believed it to be particularly powerful, when worn by someone born under a strong aspect of the planet Mars, in fortifying constancy and strength of mind. It has also been believed by many to give courage and to promote harmony and love while worn on the left side of the body, for the strength of the diamond's growth is towards the North, which is the left side of man as he faces East. Worn for its occult powers or treated as an emblem for the irradiating mystical center of life, the diamond, from its discovery in the depths of the earth to the many-faceted brilliance of its revealed heart, provides a rich insight into the profound accuracy with which nature reflects archetypal ideas in physical formation.

 The diamond is a mineral formed of carbon, and is the only gem composed of a single element. It is chemically the same as graphite, though the atomic structures of the two minerals differ. Diamonds crystallize in isometric systems, most commonly in octahedrons, though occasionally in hexagons and dodecahedrons. The atomic structure of the diamond is comprised of carbon atoms linked to four equidistant neighbors so that a tetrahedral linkage occurs throughout the crystal. It has a perfect cleavage in four directions parallel to its octahedral faces. Being the hardest natural substance known to man, the diamond can only be cut and faceted by the rotary action of its own dust. This hardness is directly related to its atomic structure, as is the degree to which light is refracted and dispersed. Light hits the atoms of an object and starts them vibrating sympathetically. These vibrations are passed through the structure from atom to atom. Transparency is that condition where light passes through aligned atoms and is ejected at the other side. Depending upon their arrangement, the atoms will select out the wavelengths or colors that are ejected. Because of its atomic structure, the diamond has the ability to refract light more than any other transparent substance and can produce a full spectrum of wavelengths. A beam of white light encountering the angle of a diamond is widely dispersed into various wavelengths producing vivid sequences of rainbow colors.

 Kimberlite is the basic igneous material in which diamonds are found. It is intrusive, having been formed deep within the earth and exposed after millions of years of erosion, during which thousands of feet of surface material have been washed away. In some parts of the world this diamond-bearing rock is found in the necks of extinct volcanoes or in bits along stream beds leading to the sea. While diamonds are often found more than 3000 feet within the earth, they have also been discovered in meteorites, indicating a universal evolution of their chemical and structural formation.

 If we view the physical properties of the diamond as analogues of more abstract principles in nature, the significance of its form and symbolic meaning increases. The element carbon, which composes the diamond, is one of the four basic elements in the universe. As a principle in nature, it is the basis of all organic substances. The carbon atoms of the diamond are transformed through crystallization, involving the element in a geometric form of great significance. Philosophically, if we conceive of nature as alive and intelligent, then all its processes must be continually informed by intelligence. The Secret Doctrine says that this is the work of informing creators who are "like the numerous rays of the solar orb" and who become the mediating agents in "fructifying and awakening the dormant vitality inherent in Nature and its differentiated matter." Thus carbon atoms, in tetrahedral linkages form. It substance describing octahedrons, are informed by, and in turn structurally manifest, the information of intelligent nature.

 The octahedron, the form most common to the diamond, is a double pyramid, combining two crosses reflective of the tetrahedral atomic structure and symbolic of the joining of heaven and earth or God and man. It is this geometric form which, more than any other in nature, precisely describes the ancient teaching "AS ABOVE - SO BELOW." The double pyramid provides the perfect reflection of the divine process wherein idea becomes is deeply significant that the basis of all organic – carbon – should be the element involved in this structure. The fact that the atomic ordering of this element produces the double pyramid is suggestive of the geometric alignment necessary to realize the divine in the mundane. The hardness of the diamond suggests the immutability of this archetypal pattern in nature. It can literally make its mark upon all other formations in life, retaining its own structure long after other material has been transformed. Just as the hardness of the diamond is so great that it can only be faceted by itself, so nature comes to realize itself through itself, and man, seeking the pure light of spirit, must perfect himself by the power of his inmost being.

 Pure white light, striking the diamond, would pass readily through it, but encountering any of its angles, is dispersed out in all the basic colors of life. Thus the light of pure spirit manifests itself in the seven colored rays of the architects of the universe. But buried deep within its material shroud, the undiscovered diamond cannot be reached by the pure light. Encrusted in the earth, it is recognizable only to one who looks within the layers of matter for its pure reflecting crystal which waits to reveal the divine pattern.

 In the Buddhist tradition, the diamond obtains its fullest symbolic expression. The Sanskrit word vajra is used to connote various attributes connected with the diamond, as is the Tibetan term dorje. Vajra or dorje often refer to a weapon or instrument in the hands of a god having occult powers to repel evil influences. The Sanskrit vajra literally means 'diamond club' or sceptre, such as that of Indra, referred to as his thunderbolt. In Buddhism it is the sceptre of Initiates and Adepts and is the symbol of possession of all the siddhis, the highest spiritual powers. Controlling these powers, such a one is also called Dorjesempa, which literally means 'Diamond Holder,' another title for 'Diamond-Souled.' The power and strength of the spiritual condition of such a soul reflects the adamantine quality of the diamond which symbolizes its "immortal individuality and personal invulnerability."

 In Tibetan Buddhism vajra is associated with the quality of anger which is transmuted into mirror-like wisdom. That is, the essence of anger is transmuted into precision and openness. It is also associated with water which is clear and reflective. Vajra analyzes everything in its own terms, and its intelligence never leaves any area unexplored or unreflected upon. Vajrayana is the practice of creating a direct link with life experience. Of the three yanas of Buddhism, Vajrayana is the vehicle of direct energy. It is that practice which leads to full development. It gathers whatever were formerly kindred tendencies into definite lines of thought and action. It is said that "he who mounts the Vajrayana will go to the other shore of the great ocean of this world of relativity." This tenet upholds the idea that reality is not transcendent to phenomena but immanent in them. Followers of Vajrayana intensify their awareness of this by prefixing the term vajra to all the accessories of their practice. Thus, on a higher level, Vajracharya is the spiritual guru, the 'Supreme Master of Vajra,' guru of the Yogacharyas, who themselves are masters of the siddhis. On a lesser level, Vajrasana indicates the posture of the disciple, while Vajraghanta is the name of the bell he uses in worship.

 The use of the vajra prefix indicates the spirit reflected in the relationships, objects and acts. It indicates the consciousness of their transcendental significance, and it is through this consciousness that the disciple hopes to eventually take possession of a Vajrakaya, or transcendental body, and become a Vajrasattva, a transcendental being, one who is Diamond-Souled. Such are the Mahatmas whose individual personalities are irradiated by their impersonal individuality. The First Logos or Vajradhara, presides over the Dhyani Buddhas and, according to Tibetan tradition, "sends into the world of manifestation his heart." The Vajrasattva is the 'Diamond Heart,' the Creative Logos at one sublime level, the Mahatma at another. Again, the name Vajrapani is that given to the Dhyani Bodhisattva who is the spiritual reflection or son of the Dhyani Buddhas on earth. He is born directly from the subjective form of existence and through its subtlest force, known only to the highest Initiates of the Yogacharya School.

 Thus the symbol of the diamond, reflected on many levels, describes a vast spectrum of unfolding spiritual potency. From the simplest material object to the highest transcendental embodiment, all are like slowly emerging crystals which increasingly reflect the light of pure spirit. Perceiving this, the patient disciple seeks to realize in every act and thought the nature of the 'Diamond Soul.' With constancy and strength of mind he must strive to achieve the purity of clear ideation. In embodying the powers attributed to the diamond, he becomes like one, his whole mind and heart cool and fixed in reflection. But all the strength and powers of lives spent enwrapped in earthly robes must be brought to bear upon this task. For, as it is written in The Voice of the Silence:

 The light from the ONE MASTER, the one unfading golden light of Spirit, shoots its effulgent beams on the Disciple from the very first. Its rays thread through the thick, dark clouds of matter . . . But, 0 Disciple, unless the flesh is passive, head cool, the soul as firm and pure as flaming diamond, the radiance will not reach the chamber, its sunlight will not warm the heart, nor will the mystic sounds of the akasic heights reach the ear, however eager, at the initial stage.

 All life moves slowly toward a clearer reflection of spirit, and man is the reflective pivot in nature in whom the process becomes self-conscious. The disciple must struggle with adamantine firmness to reach that fixity in consciousness which is moved not. The whole of evolution reaches fruition in this 'self-analyzing reflection,' and the clarity of the diamond perfectly symbolizes the realization of this in the Vajrasattva. All the potential of the divine geometry of manifested life is reflected in his 'Diamond Soul.' That light radiating as color through his seven principles becomes a perfectly dispersed benediction in the world. Thus does the perfected man, the 'Diamond Holder,' draw the whole of nature closer to conscious Godhood.