Monthly Archives: May 2011

Greek Kundalini Monsters

There’s a lot of over-generalized rubbish on the net about cross-cultural kundalini, the whole seven seals = seven chakras thing etc., which is a shame because there is in fact evidence of it as a widespread phenomenon. A great key there is that it can awaken in people who don’t practice at all and merely go through an NDE for example, with absolutely typical symptoms. But you can also get a lot of clues from looking at cultural objects. Most people who have seen the Caduceus of Hermes know they are in all likelihood looking at an Ancient Greek version of the familiar serpent power, in symbolic form.

Caduceus

There are other interesting Greek hints, which provide clues for the modern seeker. One has to be careful because snakes were associated with spirits generally and the spirits of heroes in particular, but occasionally they plainly had more to do with the serpent power.

Gorgon statues are particularly interesting. Of course we know that the hair of medusa was often said to be composed entirely of live snakes, but gorgon depictions often showed her very differently — as an ugly or monstrous woman, but with two intertwined serpents at her waist which actually recall the caduceus.

Gorgon with Snakes at waist

Kundalini is often associated with the monstrous feminine via the Hindu goddess Kali, so this is a Greek continuation of a traditional trope. We get the confirmation we need from the fact that Medusa’s blood came up in two streams (again recalling the Caduceus, as well as the ida and pingala channels etc.) one a deadly poison used by Athena afterwards, and the other a wonderful healing balm used by none other than Asclepius, who was also one of the few definite examples in actual Greek Myth of a divinized mortal, and whose Rod shows the method by which he got his divinity plainly enough.

Rod of Asclepius

The story doesn’t end there though, because it’s also said in some Greek myths that Pegasus, the wonderful flying horse, sprang from the blood of the slain Medusa or was otherwise somehow gorgon-birthed. Nowadays we definitely think of Pegasus as winged, and in some depictions he gets his wingedness from Medusa. The monstrous feminine is demonic — but holds the key to achievement if one can conquer or harmonize its monstrous element in oneself. The horse pre-eminently (amongst many other symbolic roles of course) is an OBE animal cross-culturally. Both Mohammed and Odin, for instance, journeyed in the non-physical on the backs of horses with mythical attributes.

But not all Greek art shows Pegasus as winged. We get a great clue from a 5th c. BCE terracotta relief from Melos.

Bellerophon fights the Chimera, mounted upon Pegasus

It shows the hero Bellerophon on the back of Pegasus, fighting yet another monster, the chimera. The chimera has a tail which is a snake, yet the unwinged Pegasus also has front hooves being raised off the ground by a snake, suggesting that the snake is in some way his means of flight. One snake lifts the magical horse and thereby the hero, whilst the other forms part of the monster which the hero must conquer — yet the snakes are very alike. The monstrous chimera represents a nervous system out of control, but Pegasus is an animal nature that has risen harmoniously and is able to soar. It’s the poison/healing balm duality again. It’s a duality within us all.

Bellerophon may have had kundalini but clearly he did not achieve full enlightenment, since he is specifically remembered as having been thrown off Pegasus in his attempt to assume immortality, when Zeus stung the horse with a gad-fly — he ended his days as a misanthropic cripple, and did not join the likes of Asclepius (or Heracles) in becoming an immortal.

However, Pegasus himself did make it to immortality.


Reading List Reorganized

New post tomorrow… just to let you all know that the Reading List has now been re-organized by subject matter. Some interesting posts coming up, so stay tuned!


Talking Statues and Bitch Swords

The power of sacred objects — a very big subject. One can only guffaw as, one by one, even some quite savvy psychologists have tried to explain: oh their power is merely symbolic.

The fact is, there are numerous practices for making sacred objects which really do have a life of their own, and numerous examples of interaction with them. Some methods involve what in Hermetics have come to be known as ‘fluid condensers’ — substances that absorb chi or energy. Recipes range from simple to extremely complex. I’ve used simple ones, based on calendula for example, and they work. Take your liquid and paint it onto an object — hey presto, the object will be able to absorb chi and become ‘energized’. A lot of the clever wands and mirrors described by people like Franz Bardon and Draja Mickaharic depend on this kind of thing.

Statues and pictures can be enlivened by the same method. Bardon gives good instructions. Such items were well-known to the Ancient Greeks. Medea’s process in making her living statue of Artemis, involving pharmaka or herbs, doesn’t seem to differ much from the modern approach — see Faranoe 1992. Hephaestus and Daedalus were responsible for a number of Greek living statues having remarkable reputed powers. It was Hephaestus who made the dogs at the door of the palace of Alcinous in the Odyssey. The Hermetic Asclepius gives details on how such statues foretold the future and meted out justice.

If the Greeks practiced this, the Egyptians (like the Assyrians for that matter) did so even more I suspect. The Buddhists still do such things, with their stupas for example, if reports are to be believed. The Hindu ‘murti’ are another instance — here’s a nice discussion, if a little over-worthy for my taste, in which the enlivening process is described, a rather different one from the Hermetic method but with points of similarity. As its author, the redoubtable ‘marxist yogi’ Peter Wilberg, puts it:

The idolization of a Holy Book is a recognition of the truth that it is more than a material artifact of paper and ink. Similarly however, there is more to a temple, cathedral, synagogue or mosque than brick or stone, more to music than man-made material instruments and the sound vibrations they produce, just as there is more to a painting than its pigments, more to a great religious sculpture or ‘idol’ than wood, stone or bronze or some idle fancy of the sculptor.

… and, one might add, more to the human body as well.

Frank Perry, a highly-achieved player of the Tibetan Singing Bowls, says he has several which have had spirits placed in them. He goes hunting for them all over the East. More than one person has also insisted the British Museum is crowded with very old objects that remain ‘alive’. A well-known teacher and writer on astrology, for example, told me that a statue of an Egyptian goddess had spoken to him on a visit there. He wasn’t usually one for this kind of woo-woo, more the staid and academic type. (To his consternation she still speaks to him even though he’s back in the states.)

Most people in that museum will go to the Egyptian stuff first if they are looking for ‘ensouled’ items. But not Glenn Morris — he always headed straight for the Japanese swords. He used to say there were a couple in the British Museum still ‘putting out’ (chi), and in a not-altogether-nice vibe at that. Since much else he told me has turned out accurate, I believe him.

Glenn’s story of his ‘bitch sword Lydia’, from Path Notes, is a very cute tale, here is Glenn’s inimitable telling:

I have an old sword made by Yoshida Tamekichi of Seki. It’s a night sword, which means the blade is mottled and smoky in appearance so that it’s hard to see. Same principle as bluing a knife or gun. I bought it from an antique dealer for $75 as it was pretty beat up and the bloodstains in the officer handle wrappings weren’t particularly attractive. Its owner probably didn’t make it home. Every time I tried to sharpen it or clean it up, I’d get cut – once to the bone on my left thumb knuckle. I read a biography of Tesshu (one of the last great samurai swordsmen to achieve enlightenment) and decided to try running energy into the blade as well as meditating with it in my lap. One night as I was meditating the sword became very cold and a woman’s voice spoke to me saying, “You keep that ninja to (short straight-bladed sword favored by boat warriors) beside your bed instead of me. How can you be such a fool? Don’t you know I deserve better treatment than this?!”

I got up, moved the to out of the bedroom, and put her beside my bed. She has been light and easy to handle ever since. I haven’t been cut since. I had her scabbard and handle decorated by my mystical jeweller friend for a whopping fee. I had her nose redone even though it dropped her value as a bushido collector’s item by ten thousand dollars. The sword sometimes seems to move about me on her own when I do sword drills as a form of compassionate compensation. I don’t have the faintest idea how a swordmaker trapped a female spirit in a sword three hundred years ago.

Glenn named the sword ‘Lydia’ after Kenneth Roberts’ Lydia Bailey, and passed it on to his student Rob Williams before his death:

Glenn Morris passing 'Lydia' to Rob Williams

So don’t believe anyone who tells you magic items appear only in D&D games! Nor anyone who says that there is nothing more to them than ‘belief’. Idolatry’s future is bright.


Schizophrenia & Mysticism

Schizophrenia is the most severe psychosis, “sacred symbol of psychiatry”. But the sacredness is of longer standing — renaissance madmen aroused ridicule, fascination and respect, as ‘holy fools’. Reading psychiatric records it’s not hard to understand why.

Schizophrenics are often lost in terrain I recognize, and they often even recognize the fact. The simplistic definition is that they have lost the ability to ‘reality test’ — the truth must be more complex since it is by no means uncommon for a schizophrenic in the middle of discussing (say) how they used to be a drawing in a book, but then came to the doctor’s office as a human being, to suddenly add: “Mind you, that all sounds a bit ridiculous!”. Louis Sass (1995, upon whom I’m relying a lot here) brilliantly refers to this as ‘double bookkeeping’. Their perceptual world is a strange one in which deep meaning can spring up without explanation out of a landscape which otherwise is utterly alien to them in feeling, where the universe can seem in great danger or indeed already to have ceased existing — but for the mystically inclined, some landmarks can still be recognized.

For example Bleuler in Dementia Praecox (1958) mentions a man having the ‘metaphysical delusion’ that ‘he contained within his own body all the heavenly bodies while also maintaining that these heavenly bodies simultaneously existed in the outer world.’ An ordinary shrink might do a double take there. But this is actually a high realization in some eastern and western spiritual traditions. In the kabbalah of the Sepher Yetzirah (see for example Kaplan 1997, Bardon 2010) the inside of the body, the organs, are connected to the cosmos, and the same is true in many forms of Taoist inner alchemy, some of which are being openly taught (eg. by Mantak Chia). The realization that the inner self or microcosm contains the heavenly bodies is an advanced one.

Daniel Schreber is a classic case, much-discussed (see Freud 2003). He felt he had been granted great insight by god, and his inner world consisted of ‘rays’ and ‘nerves’ travelling in mysterious ways between god and himself. The way he describes them would make anyone who had experienced chi and jing travelling in pathways of the soul and body sit up and take notice.

A continual series of images Schreber experienced involved an alternate female body he had, which if one looked closely in dim light one could see clearly (in his opinion — no-one ever did.) But this phenomenon has been observed in all sorts of normal people too, by people who vision the etheric and astral anatomy clearly. Victor Anderson in Etheric Anatomy (2004), for example, chronicles how the energy body of a male practitioner is more female in shape, having breasts and vulva and even an etheric womb.

Personally I suspect Taoist ‘inner intercourse’ are about resolving these two bodies, and Michael Winn goes further and states (rather Platonically) that being an androgynous spirit in a sexed body creates a psychic disjuncture which many alchemical practices were all about resolving. Makes a lot of sense to me. But either way, it has been well-chronicled how the first stages of spiritual opening often involve coming to terms with the opposite-sex inner self (Jung called this the anima or animus) and it has also been observed that many people build into their own energy bodies, by means of sexual energy, some image of an ideal partner (see for example Vieira 2007). Schreber’s behaviour and suspicions were actually perfectly in line with this.

Schreber also felt in the energy closer to his physical body that wonderful stirring of kundalini energy that produces a great sensuousness in the system. He called this his ‘nerves of voluptuousness’… it’s hardly suprising no doctor knew what he meant by that. Worse from their point of view would be his idea that there was some other, bigger mind in him, and that he did not know which of these minds he was. This is a classic symptom of a higher self which the earthly ego can’t yet assimilate.

There is no doubt that in other terms Schreber was simply insane. He believed that in some way everything was being created by, through or for him. He would sit in a garden for an hour looking at mosquitos, convinced that he himself was creating them — he called these events ‘miracles’. But when he writes about inner vision it could be any mystic speaking:

We are used to thinking all impressions we receive from the outer world are mediated through the five senses, particularly that all light and sound sensations are mediated through eye and ear. This may be correct in normal circumstances. However, in the case of a human being who like myself has entered into contact with rays and whose head is in consequence so to speak illuminated by rays [possible symptoms of energetic over-development of the head centres in an intellectual personality, without grounding -- JW], this is not all. I receive light and sound sensations which are projected direct onto my inner nervous system by the rays; for their reception the external organs of seeing and hearing are not necessary.

I have the exact same thing. :)

Some of the perceptions of schizophrenics have a sort of terror to them, but if viewed mystically, suddenly become clearer. “I am not alive, I cannot move,” said one patient; “I have no mind, and no feelings; I have never existed, people only thought I did.” As nihilistic as it can sound, certain high meditation practices aim for similar realizations. Similarly with patients who’ve said that things can be both real and unreal, both inner and outer, both subjective and objective. Zen practitioners relate such realizations to deep stages of achievement, and compare also the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, verse 22: “Jesus said to them: When you make the two one, and when you make the inside as the outside, and the outside as the inside, and the upper side as the lower; and when you make the male and the female into a single one, that the male be not male and the female female; when you make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then shall you enter [the kingdom].”

In short, something has certainly gone wrong in the case of a schizophrenic like Schreber, who believes that god is in some way ‘fixated on me and can’t look away’ — but his perceptions are still tantalizingly close to many mystical ones. He even experienced many sensations of chi arousal that will be familiar to practitioners of qigong.

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Some will recognize the above as a modified forum post. Apologies if you were tuning in for something on Ken Wilber — I wrote it but I wasn’t satisfied, so I need to research more.


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