About Essence

Not everything is created equal.

This seeming trivial statement is one with which hardly anyone would disagree, and it is true for literally every manifestation in Universe.

However, our purpose here is not to belabor the obvious. What is less straightforward in our daily life is the fact that a phenomenon, expression or entity that is truly outstanding in one way or another embodies a set of principles that are reflected through the manifestation in question. This superiority, which can be demonstrated in many ways that are accessible to our senses, is thus expressed through our conscious or subconscious admiration and wonder, our feelings of love or awe, or in the not infrequent cases where our attraction is unconscious, even a seemingly unexplainable fear towards it.

How, then, is superiority to be defined?

Perhaps the most accurate answer is that superiority must be understood as the capability of conveying and representing that true Essence of the Principle which the superior manifestation reflects. The key word is Essence. Thus we understand that when our admiration is so great that we stand in awe towards or fall in love with something by virtue of its apparent pre-eminence and its actual simplicity, purity, beauty of principle; its excellence, then we have perceived a quality or a set of qualities which we can define as constitutive of superiority. It is said that looks can be deceiving, but that is only true for a very small set of superficial and isolated appearances. If you encounter something that holds genuine quality, over time you are bound to admire it willingly or unwillingly, because ultimately it cannot be denied. The hallmark of true superiority is its ability to maintain its excellence over a broad range of challenging circumstances and this invariably demonstrates itself. In order for this to happen, the simplicity, purity and beauty of principle has to be there in a high degree. When this fundamental purity is present, we perceive it as something beautiful to our senses. Such beauty can manifest in many ways. It can lie in the functional shape of a hammer, in a human body or in a natural landscape, it can express itself strongly in smell or sounds. In every case, that essential purity is recognizable whenever present. Those who are philosophically inclined, and since you are reading this it is more than likely that you are among them, will intuitively know it when something encountered is marked by the elusive yet unmistakable purity of Principle.

One of the qualities that distinguish humans among most other animals is the presence of a particularly large number of color-sensitive cones in our retina. This anatomical peculiarity enables Man to use the power of eyesight to create and convey symbols, impressions and messages in a visual way. It is therefore effective to use visual arts like painting, drawing and photography for the aforementioned purposes. That is why pictures are included in this website. They are there for a reason; they are meant to illustrate something above and beyond the immediate experience of something nice. It is up to you to see it.

Among all the photographic images in this site there is one that stands above all the others because it is perceived to carry "something" to an exceedingly high degree of purity. At first glance the image is in many ways unremarkable, but this does little or nothing to diminish its visual and emotional impact. You will see that the picture displays a lake and its surroundings. This is fitting, since a Holy Lake plays such a momentous role in the genesis and history of the Mongols.

It is therefore also appropriate to illustrate Purity with a lake image on a site dedicated to the Old Mongols.

In this particular image, you can, if you are perspicacious enough, see all these elements present in a purified form, both real and symbolic: There is intense heat as well as equally intense cold, you can perceive the forces of Death as well as the universal Life-Force present. There is dark and light, night and day, there is end and there is continuity, harmony and chaos. You see hibernation and a waiting state with its dozing potential in this scenery, you see active direction and conscious specificity of purpose, but also carefree spontaneity among the elements in this stunning natural landscape. Do not take my word for it when I state that it carries something whose nature may not be immediately and consciously apparent to you, but which is present here in the components in the picture. View for yourself.

The Analysis

Look at the image of this frozen lake. Frozen, yet warm. A bit left to the middle in the image, where the terrain elevates itself towards the East, you see a subtly golden glow mixed with the evergreen trees. At the same time these trees are also covered with snow, so here several different elements are combined even if strongly separate. The golden rays glowing on the trees seems to be cast from above in a steep angle, thus giving the impression that it is being particularly focused on this area.

Is there light, or is there dark? In fact, both. You can see how the sky brings much light, the Everlasting blue sky - Koeke Moengke Tengri - is shrouded in a gentle blue pastel color suggesting high spiritual forces. Below there is Cold and Dark. The landscape shows a state of hibernation, but the green conifers hidden beneath the frozen snow bespeaks the presence of slumbering life everywhere. In the air over the lake there is darkness. Around and in between the trees, there is Dark too. The whole scene is just light enough to permit us to see it all, but dark enough to make us ask "what is hidden here?", intuitively understanding that here is more than meets the eye at the first moment. To the far right you see a fallen tree with its trunk and brances lying at the groung. This is the work of the beavers, now retreated into their lightless underground lodge below the surface of the water. Snow signifies the clarity of mind one feels when watching such an icy cold, and at the same time it gives the whole atmosphere a strong element of white purity. To the left, between the two juvenile birch trees in the foreground and the steep mountain rising up, rocks are just barely visible in the half-dark, showing a strong presence of earth.

Do you see the misty air across the lake, visible at the far end like a faint suggestion? Mist is a symbol of the unseen; the Mongols believe that it it disguises spiritual forces.

One of the first things our eyes fall on, is the animal track that starts precisely where you would stand in the picture. This in itself is an invitation for you to follow, in a symbolic sense. The track is moving and continuing to the South, which is completely in line with the Mongol tradition where the fundamental outward direction is expressed by among other things the invariably southward opening in their traditional dwellings. This direction implies a coming from "home" extending into an outward movement, which is further suggested by the slightly rightward course. (The left is often interpreted as the "home" region, whereas the right symbolizes an area away from home.)

Take a closer look at this track, which might have been that a wolf though in this instance it is made by a red fox. It does have a definite direction, but at the same time it appears to have a relaxed carefree flow. This is a statement of purpose and spontaneity at the same time. Crossing the fox' track is a crack in the ice. This is symbolic of a stop, something that crosses one's path. Undaunted, far from being stopped the animal overcomes it easily and continues. The crack itself is running from west to east, and looking closer it appears that it, too, expresses both structure and chaos. Structure is present because of the definite sharpness of the crack and its superficially linear shape, yet it is at the same time chaotic, since its line assumes an irregular, unpredictable form.

If this crack is viewed not as a discontinuation, but as a line stretching between two imaginary zones, it connects the landscape and serves as a unifying element. Here we see how one and the same thing can be both separating and unifying, and these different aspects showing themselves so conspicuously in the same element reveals the landscape's rich nature. Most significantly, the whole area displays a powerful capability of expressing strong and definite manifestations over a wide variety of situations. This does not imply or lead to an elimination of the individual aspects, rather it is precisely the distinct presence of each separate manifestation that adds up to the exceptional versatility and power unveiled in this whole picture and the area it depicts.

In the foreground, the two small birches manifest structure as they stand determined up from the ground and into the air, growing with the will to rise. Simultaneously their trunks and branches, as with all trees, are chaotic. A particularly strong element of chaos are the branches entering into the picture from above and from the sides. This is however exactly counterbalanced by the lake's regular, even and predictable horizontal waterline running through the panorama, imbuing the whole territory with a remarkably harmonious atmosphere.

Nowhere is here compromise in any way. All the elements stand out as very potent. This is simplicity, purity and beauty; this is superiority.

The Image of Essence:

Enjoy it in five sizes:

Size 1

Size 2

Size 3

Size 4

Size 5

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Last Updated January 18, 2003 by Per Inge Oestmoen