“He Opens Wide a Third Eye…” by Bei Dao in his written work Old Snow, is a narrative of one mans life and his epiphany on society as life and death would influence it. Bei Dao shows a man looking through a “third eye” or “inner eye” view, a very mystical and spiritual way to look at life that only the most enlightened peoples have been able to observe.
The poem by Bei Dao starts off by a man opening wide his third eye, showing that finally this man has achieved enlightenment by spiritual guidance or by another catalyst of sorts and shows that he is now disconnected from the “world” and is in his own mind to see what the “world” has to tell him and really offer. In the first lines of the poem Dao states a “star above his head” (Dao 325) as appeared and a man “opens wide a third eye” (Dao 325). The star above the mans head is his third eye, an untypical way to see the world in which he lives, and he sees this light or third eye due to the process in which he opened it.
This star can be a warming feeling or it is due to a bright light that he sees in which his spiritual journey as begun. Dao goes on to paint a vivid picture of “warm currents from both east and west” (Dao 325) that “have formed an archway” (Dao 325) these currents show that the man experiencing this spiritual enlightenment has a view of all premonitions of life and his ideals have formed this archway that has emerged. The archway is very symbolic it can be the mans morals to life and the currents from east to west, are morals of the outside world that don’t influence him but now have.
Due to this vision the man is now debating on how to view the world there is a fire brewing inside the man, good or evil he cannot choose, he sits there in remorse and now sees a future that he cannot escape. While he contemplates these new morals in which to live he can now see an alternate route an expressway that “passes through the setting sun” (Dao 325) this will lead him to, something, which may be his final destination and resting place. Yet, all these new vision are scary for he doesn’t know where it leads him but at the same time are very intriguing.
The road through the setting sun is beautiful, hot, blinding, and spacy – for he doesn’t know if this route will lead him to death, new land or new life, but he starts to connect more with the earth and begins to feel a oneness with his life. This new world will make you die, and the man knows this. There is so much pressure on him to do what is right and to move mountains just as the camel does before it collapses into the setting sun and becomes a skeleton. The camel is a lot like the man, taking a journey through strange passages of mountain peaks by himself to get to new land.
But to follow this path in the end will lead to intimate death, not the camel nor the man have any idea of this happening but for a strange reason are happy to travel this path. The camel and the man see this path and gladly take the responsibility to march over it, even when they think they are still moving along they have been dead for so long. So much so that the camel has turned into a skeleton, all flesh has been ripped off its body and turned into energy or other sorts – for scavengers or even the very soil they walked on before knowing.
This feeling of a oneness is still apart of the man and camel, for all the energy they have taken from the earth for their lives that has sustained them is now being returned back. Before you die you are apart of the earth and now the earth starts to become a part of them. Turned “into a layer of coal” (Dao 325) the camel is now a usable source of transportation as he was for many a man while he was living – his duties to human kind pass on with him from life to death. All the energy used as a living animal is now being returned as coal. Which shows that the connection to earth is strong and real.
This is the end to the first stanza of the poem “He Opens Wide a Third Eye…” by Bei Dao. Dao doesn’t just simply end the poem here there are still many unawnsered questions to the mans life and in which direction it is headed. In the start of stanza two the man is now thinking heavily about his life and does not know where his spiritual journey will take him, yet he sits calm and contemplates the theory of his life. Now underwater, once again in a new surrounding the man see’s a new outlook on life but still has no idea in which direction or mind set in which he will take it.
Calm, stable, and fully submerged in water he sits and waits to see a new light. He controls his feelings and is now open to all aspects of life, not knowing where to turn he looks forward as a dark cloud approaches him – a school of fish. The fish are looking at him and confused of an outside influence. We can view the school of fish as people on earth and the man sitting in the water as their surroundings and how he will now influence them. The fish seem to be so flustered by something new and alien life that they don’t know how to act its an obstacle in the way of their path yet none of them know where to turn.
Looking around the man see a flashing light above him, a golden coffin of freedom – an easy way out. Even though he is stuck under the water, or stuck on earth he sees this as a prison, his life is locked up forever in his own flesh, skin and bones. Taking in more of his surroundings the man sees people standing idly behind a giant rock as if they are of great importance and have been watching him the whole time. This giant rock and the people he sees can be viewed as life in the world, the city he lives and the people that are important to his life.
Should he stay with them and live as he was or now take these new influences of life and live as he should or die and go to the golden coffin, die, earlier then expected. As he takes in his surroundings the people are still staring, judging his every move and every move he made in his life. They are judging to see if he will make the right choice, to see if he has made the right choices before and to see if he is truly able to be apart of the Emperor’s memory (heaven). In the last line of the poem Dao states a very powerful line “the exile of words has begun” (Dao 326).
There is no more talking, no more waiting its do or die from here on out. The man starts to awaken from his spiritual journey as he got full intentions where his life was heading if he kept living the way he was. Yet he can’t explain what has happened to him, lost of words he now sees life in a new light. And now the greatest conflict has occurred, will he change his life and do good by being his own being and follow the new path through the setting sun or will he be affected by outside influence and sit idly by like the people behind the rock and do as society tells him.
This poem is about great strife in one mans life and shows how one single outlook or journey can change one mans perspective to start to live differently. But who is the man? What is the journey he just took? What theories or morals did he take from this great extensive spiritual journey? Is it really for a better cause or not? How will the outcome, if he changes his life, be any different as the old path the man took? For one to observe life through their “third eye” they must spend years meditating and opening their chakras – this could take a lifetime and still is not unanimously possible to achieve.
For this man, maybe it is Bei Dao himself that has achieved this enlightenment, shows he is a very spiritual man and already see’s life as something so abstract for the rest of the words people – even without using his “third eye”. To see through this “third eye” and to comprehend what you or one is seeing, we must first open our minds to a broader aspect of the world and see beyond materialism, societies pressure on its people, and block out all worldly possession and distractions – to fully understand and view what one is saying. Yet another, abstract, way to view through this third eye is one of high risk, low reward, and very out there.
One can say you can open your “third eye” by a spiritual psychedelic experience by taking a predetermined amount of dose’s of Magic Mushrooms, Lysergic Acid diethylamide (LSD), Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), or Ayahuasca (a leaf from the amazon used in tea that is a very highly potent psychedelic experience) all of which are highly more potent then the next and can give a human being major visions, sights and sounds to show you the “real world”, or the world of the third eye and what it is truly about, to show you how your life is being lived and how it impacts others or others can impact you.
All these methods of enlightenment are still used today in cultures with a high priest or shaman in ones hierarchy. For them to reach such enlightenment and to open your “third eye” using one of these catalysts to boost the enlightenment path is greatly smiled upon and used in day-to-day life. For one to reach such enlightenment and have these outlooks on life is to be a man of great respect, honor, courage, discipline and considered a special person– for a simple man could not handle the “truths” that he sees.
The journey that Bei Dao or an anonymous man had really that significant? Was this man a high-ranking priest in his village and his visions show a new world order in which his people have to conform to? Or is it ones man spiritual psychedelic experience that has no meaning towards life and is just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to screw with his mind? Does the third eye really exist and if it does, is it an intelligent path to follow or just another way to live? No one can really explain until we take the right of passage ourselves and live out the life we are intended.