Abraxas: Beyond Good And Evil (The Divine Series Book 10)
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This basic analysis makes sense of the Masonic use of the symbol — and we should note that the primary symbol of Masonry consists of a square-edge and compass, used for making squares and circles. Anyways, as W. It expresses the mystery of the Incarnation, accomplished within the personal soul.
According to Wolfson, the Circle with its curviness and suggestion of a hole actually symbolizes the female, while the Square symbolizes the male, with the placement of one in the other not only suggesting union alchemical or otherwise but a particular hierarchical relationship. Which is not unlike what Doctor Who does for a living — namely, smashing together disparate genres in new and interesting ways.
But I would argue that the recurrence of the Circle in the Square symbol over and over again as demonstrated by the accompanying images , primarily in the Moffat era, has, in fact, a very particular sort of meaning that reflects a more modern sensibility when it comes to alchemy: namely, the integration of the subconscious and the conscious mind.
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But this is the sandbox that the show has to play in, for after all, in Doctor Who there are no deities, only varyingly strange extraterrestrial aliens and monsters, material all. Now, in The Beast Below we have a Star Whale as our central metaphor, and the plot is largely concerned with the exploitation of it by a police state, which brings up all kinds of class and hence societal implications. And this is all well and good. But as there are many layers to Starship UK, so are there many layers to this story as well.
Consider, for example, the poem in the opening teaser:.
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I think this reading is rather bolstered by the other part of the poem at the end of the episode, which rather than being read by a little girl on a television screen is instead presented by a grown woman in voice-over:. Actually, the poem works really well in terms of the metaphor of the relationship of the conscious mind to the subconscious. But the most concrete evidence for this metaphor being one of consciousness actually comes from the plot itself.
Everyone in Starship UK, upon coming of age, chooses to forget. They forget the trauma of what lies below and make no mistake, the beast below is having a repeated traumatic experience. They have to. So here we have an overt expression of repression , of locking away our memories until a later time, if at all. And she chooses to Forget, a quite reasonable option when thinking through the metaphor.
She, of course, is wearing her nightie, like a regular Wendy Darling. First, the Doctor, Clara, Psi and Saibra have all agreed to a memory wipe — they have chosen to forget. Their mission: rob the bank of Karabraxos. Now, before we get any further, Karabraxos is a very interesting name, evoking as it does the god Abraxas. Abrasax embodies both polarities of Good and Evil, being quite effective at both. So Abraxas signifies a union of opposites, and a divine one at that, which is very much in keeping with the esoteric symbolism of the Circle in the Square.
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This, then, is the context into which our heroes descend. But the Doctor and Clara manage to enter the vaults, and this is where the symbolism becomes paramount. Literally speaking, the key to opening the vault is portrayed as a Circle in the Square. And the vault door itself is also a Circle in the Square. The Vault itself is a metaphor, along the same lines as The Library. The Library is analogous to The Akashic Records, the sum total of all divine knowledge, perhaps even the whole of the Universe, the recognition of the All upon death.
But rather than putting it on the astral plane, as in theosophy, both the Library and the Vault reside at the bottom of an Underworld -- deep in the subconscious mind. For Psi, the thing he needs out of the vault is a negation, something that makes him the opposite of who he is -- namely, the man who forgot. He needs to remember , in order to be reunited with his family. As such, he's a mirror of the Doctor, the man who regrets, the man who forgets, the man who is alone.
His salvation is through anamnesis. For Saibra, the thing she needs out of the vault is also a negation, something that makes her the opposite of who she is -- namely, the woman who mirrors. She needs to stop reflecting the people around her, so she can emanate her own self, her own identity. Perhaps this is why we see her take on the form of Clara, and points the way forward for Clara's own development; Clara has been a reflection of all companions, particularly in The Name of the Doctor , perhaps at cost to her own "self.
And this is exactly what is found in the vaults, something to help Psi remember , and something to help Saibra stop mirroring and just be herself. And soon after these boons are found, Psi and Saibra are resurrected. But such is not the case with Rings of Akhaten. And it comes at it from several angles. And her response to this loss is to, in essence, step into the role of her mother.
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She becomes a nanny to other children. She looks after Merry, comforts her. And sure enough, when bad things happen, Merry believes it is somehow her fault. When we get to the climax of the episode, Merry and Clara go back to the amphitheatre, and Merry sings a song to Grandfather — perfectly. Well, in the denouement, we get this bit of dialogue:. Clara has just remembered that the Doctor was present at one of her traumas, the one upon which the whole episode hinges, the death of her mother, which is really the moment that Clara could no longer be a child.
Now, very early on we get another instance of the Circle in the Square, when the Doctor gets a Time Lord distress box from The Corsair. On the box is a circle, specifically an Ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail, which is a very interesting symbol in its own right. The Ouroboros is very recognizable alchemical symbol, representing not just the circle of eternity or a sequence of cycles, but an unending process of death and rebirth, without beginning or end.
That the Ouroboros appears as a Circle in the Square is therefore terribly apt, and serves as foreshadowing for what is to come. So when she explodes, she explodes everywhere and everywhen. She is, in essence, congruent with the Universe, at one with it, even while manifesting in individual times and places as far as our puny five-dimensional minds can grasp.
However, the House only resides in an asteroid, which is presented as a sphere. This aspect of the House is expressed through Auntie and Uncle, who are refashioned over and over again. For a backdrop we have The Rift, which is presented as galactic vulva, through which death and rebirth is conferred. For I certainly believe the reverse is true as well. Not every instance of the Circle in the Square motif points to the singular events of a particular episode.
All those children, all those children who burned… sounds a bit like what humanity faced in The Beast Below , actually. Porridge, out of his own trauma and shame, has in turn disavowed himself and refuses to be acknowledged as the leader of his people, in which his identity is all wrapped up. But the more interesting parallel is between the Doctor and himself, and this battle with Cyber Control over the philosophical value of emotions, which is played out over a chess board with the children at stake.
For him, integration means accepting his choices, not running away from them. That symbol is the Jewel in the Lotus. We see Porridge in the final shot sitting under a geometric glass dome, surrounded by what appears to be black petals. The first appearance of the Moment, though, is that of a box… with a circle inscribed on the side. He still has the memory of burning all those children, even though he ultimately found a way around it in the end. When she finally enters that room as an adult, what does she find? To me, the subtext is practically screaming childhood sexual abuse. Which her parents or guardians failed to protect her from.
It may help to explain her sexual advances on the Doctor after the Crash of the Byzantium. A trauma that should never have happened. It could be any trauma, really — the image of a Crack is non-specific enough that it could stand for anything.
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Getting diddled by the babysitter. Bit by a dog, or accosted by the gardener. Hell, losing your parents. Ostracized by your peers, or at war with your own body. Whatever it was that happened that shouldn't have happened, but still happened. This is all subtext, I realize that. But what a subtext. Those shots of her rummaging around in her memory are jagged, edgy, difficult. And this is the season-long arc, this whole process of the Squaring the Circle. We get memory wipes in The Beast Below.
The spaceship in the Lodger can tell whether someone subconsciously wants to stay or leave. Likewise, Amy facing issues of abandonment runs throughout her tenure.
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The Doctor threatens to leave her in The Beast Below. So, in the season finale, we get the Pandorica.
A cube, where every side presents a Circle in the Square. Hello, abandonment issues. So she dies.