Tables of Correspondence
by: Lucas Parker - 2002


What is a Table of Correspondence?

    What I've done here is called a "table of correspondence". The purpose of a table of correspondence is to map symbols from seperate systems together in terms of each other. For example, take the old cardinal element system of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Each element in the system is a symbol, representing a force of nature in its purest state. They aren't names for specific phenomena, but rather for certain qualities which the respective phenomena reflect.
    Earth, for instance, represents things that are stable, static, secure, material. These are by no means objective truths about the planet Earth itself. However, when somebody mentions Earth, those concepts probably come easily to mind to most humans. The symbols, then, are not meant to communicate objective, quantitative truths about spatial phenomena. Describing a woman as "earthy" communicates more information of greater relevance than describing her as "Kate." These symbols are intended as tools for understanding things in terms of their qualities, giving people a feel for what the can expect from something.
    Another basic set of symbols which communicate quality is color. Red, blue, yellow and purple are all qualities an object might have. Picture in your mind an "earthy" setting. Whatever the setting is, each object has color. Picture temperate forests, desert cacti, moss, whatever you decide to picture, there's a good chance that the most common color is green. We now have the makings of a correspondence. Symbols of quality are useful by themselves, but they can't be described in any objective way, so it's often useful to refer to symbols in terms of other symbols. The planet Earth has a multitude of colors, but the symbol "Earth" brings to mind the color green. The color green might also put you in mind of the qualities of "Earth." The only requirement is that there be some similarity in quality.

How do I use it?

    In this table, I've drawn correspondences between three systems of vastly different origin.
  • First, the Chakra system of human physiology. In the system, there are 7 major points on the body, called Chakras, where lines of energy running inside and outside of the body intersect en masse. By accessing these points, critical portions of the body (both the physical and spiritual body) can be diagnosed and affected. In this system, the physical, emotional and spiritual states are interconnected. Tension or pain in the body can be a symptom of emotional or spiritual discord; treating a disorder can involve all these dimensions. There are numerous minor Chakras on the body, but for my purposes I didn't require that level of sophistication.
  • Second, the Judeo-Christian model of the Seven Heavenly Virtues and the Seven Deadly Sins. Each Virtue and Sin represents a quality or set of qualities that thoughts and feelings can take.
  • Third, I've given correspondences to the Heirarchy of Needs. This model, created by Abraham Maslow, is a modern creation. Like the other two systems, it is a set of qualities. But these qualities are symbolized using words that are both contemporary and common. Further, the model itself implies a linear progress of growth, starting at a very base state and building a higher state on top of it. Each symbol is a stage which must be completed before the next is realized.
    Each of these systems is a means of understanding the qualities of the human condition, but each does the job from its own unique angle. By combining these systems into correspondences, we gain the ability to understand ourselves from not just one, but three different perspectives, simultaneously. The method is up to you. You can use meditation, self-hypnosis, ritual magick, prayer, or any means you're comfortable with. The only requirement is that you are able to see yourself in terms of the symbols you use. The symbolism is just a very power tool for internal dialogue. If you have thoughts, feelings, habits or what-have-you that are stifling you, you don't have to just try to ignore it and hope it goes away. With the right combinations of maps and models, you can catch the thoughts or feelings as they happen, comparing their qualities and patterns with those of your symbols. Once you associate it with a symbol, you can also associate it with other, corresponding symbols. Some types of symbols are useful for understanding things as objects, others better for understanding things as processes, others for changing one thing into another, and so on.

How do these three systems fit together?

The Chakras

    The Chakras are an ancient holistic system still in use today. They provide a map of the body, not in terms of bones and organs, but in terms of interactive processes. All the dimensions of living - physical, emotional, spiritual - are interacting with each other through a system of energy conduits both inside and outside of the body. At certain points in the body, some of these points intersect, forming a Chakra. There are seven "major" Chakras: Crown, Third Eye, Throat, Heart, Solar Plexus, Sacrum and Root. Because the body exists in multiple dimensions, the Chakra system already includes correspondences between physical, emotional and spiritual conditions.
    This facilitates the diagnosis and treatment of the whole person. If the person is healthy, energy flows freely throughout the body. If there is a blockage of some kind, it will show itself not just as tension or weakness in the body, behaviors and attitudes will also be evident. Each Chakra corresponds to certain portions of the body, certain types of thoughts and behaviors, and certain types of spiritual attitudes. These dimensions cannot be treated seperately. Heal only the body and a new ailment will return. Heal only the mind and a new bitterness will arise. Heal only the spirit and faith will have no form with which to sustain itself.
    This system is incredibly useful, if for no other reason than the inseperability of the dimensions of life. With this map we find that each part of the body has a mental and spiritual component. Each Chakra is a nexus of physical, mental and spiritual activity. To put it a different way: a Chakra is a part of you that shares a part of your capacity to think and communicate. You can literally talk to your body. You can ask it about aches and pains, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, impulses.

The Seven Heavenly Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins

    Numerologists hold that numbers have symbolic properties which are universal. On the surface, the only commonality between this system and the Chakras is the number 7. The Chakras are the way the body interacts with itself, whereas Virtues and Sins are ways of interacting with the outside world. The Chakras are processes, whereas the Virtues and Sins are states. However, they fit together perfectly.
    Each Virtue and its corresponding Sin are opposite concepts. They are mutually exclusive - they cannot both exist simultaneously in the same action. They are opposed, one being a force for creative living, the other for destruction. They're dichotomous.
    The Yin and Yang of Taoism is a symbol of dichotomy; it tells us that any two opposing forces make up a greater whole. Faith and Pride, for example, are concepts which directly oppose each other. If we say, for the sake of argument, that Faith is Yang and Pride is Yin, we haven't diminished Faith or Pride any, but we've made them potentially more useful to us by putting them in terms of another symbol. Together, the two represent a whole force, consisting of both creative and destructive qualities and their interaction. The concept could be incredibly useful, but we need a symbol for it.
    We just happen to have one ready. On the table, Faith and Pride are in the same row as the Crown Chakra. The Crown symbolically incorporates both the potential for Faith and for Pride, and like the Yin and Yang is a whole, greater than either. The condition the Crown is in when energy flows through it might influence the occurrence of a Faithful action or a Prideful one. Whatever happens, the Crown Chakra is still the Crown Chakra. It contains and manifests Faith and Pride, but it has a seperate dimension of identity. Faith and Pride only exist when there is an action they describe. Because Chakras describe process, instead of just a state, they exist continuously over time.
    In their isolated state, the Virtues and Sins seem to be intended to represent forces that exist outside of man, greater than him, able to pull him along, but incomprehensible. Incorporated with the Chakras, they are much less ominous, and much more useful.

The Heirarchy of Needs (or Maslow's Pyramid)

    Maslow's Pyramid bears some similarities to both systems. It describes states and processes both. It's not a perfect fit with the other systems. Originally it had five levels. I found the sixth level in the table (Spiritual needs) on a website that attempted to incorporate the Pyramid into a Christian system. I put it here because it might be useful.
    A person starts at the bottom of the Pyramid, until the basest needs are fulfilled. He then moves on to the next highest level, to fulfill his safety needs, and so on. I incorporated this system because, although Chakras and Sins are incredibly interesting, they don't translate well into modern psychology. The Pyramid correspondences should be helpful in relating your discoveries and insights to more current methods of understanding the workings of the mind.

Chakra Sense Consciousness Element Virtue Sin Need Notes
Crown Empathy, unity Awareness of the wholeness of the universe and one's place in it; soul Inner or White Light (the ineffable whole self) Faith Pride   Notes
Third Eye ESP, inner senses Spirituality; the unconscious Inner Sound (like Inner Light, but more mundane; the ineffable self at this moment) Hope Envy Spiritual
(not in Maslow's original model)
Throat Hearing Expression and reception; communication between the whole self and everything else. Seperateness of self and others at its most essential, individual level. Ether (the border between the spirit and the material) Charity Gluttony Self-actualization Notes
Heart Touch Perceptions of close relationships with other people Air Fortitude Lust Esteem Notes
Solar Plexus Sight Ego; Sense and ease of being. The condition of this chakra indicates the condition of a one's awareness of and comfort with the place one has made for oneself in society. Fire Justice Wrath Social Notes
Sacral Taste Awareness of appetites; food, sex, raw pleasure. The needs and wants of the body are felt here. A person's sensitivity and connection to his or her own bodily desires is determined by the condition of this chakra. Water Temperance Greed Safety Notes
Root Smell Survival, subsistence, trust, security in the here-and-now. Earth Prudence Sloth Physiological Notes