Category Archives: Myth and Symbol

Upcoming Attractions

Time to check in again. The new batch of stuff is getting closer and I can give you more of a preview.

As noted, I’m finished with personal psychology etc. for now. I’m going to try and offer a view of Kundalini experience that’s in key with what Glenn put out, more so than the post-theosophical stuff you mostly get now (although they dovetail fine).

From Glenn’s position you can look out over a wide landscape where all sorts of other things fit perfectly. Before he ever started the meditation that awoke Kundalini he was always interested in traditional religion and shamanism from a psychological angle. I’ve noticed that those who are instinctually into the fantastic really dig Glenn. The interface of all that with mythology will show some great ways to re-understand reality. I’ll be talking about the imagination a lot, giving ways to think about it that separate it from the idea of “false or unreal”, as well as the mythic from the “fictional”.

With reference to my own experiences, Glenn’s written examples, and some other stuff from the (mostly modern, not all) literature on spiritual experience, I’m going to try and show the shape of transpersonal as an exploration, bound up with how the world fits together, in a loose model you can use, trying to give flavour and feeling. I’ll link everything in to all the literature that explains it best. And all of this will happen in a new format which will shake things up a little.

By the end of the initial tranche, if you awaken Kundalini, you should be in a more advantageous position for harmonising your experiences, taking advantage of the work of preceding generations, and staying out of the rubber room.

Here’s a taster that may surprise you. I’d like to introduce you to this wonderful lecture by J. Stephen Lansing:

A Thousand Years in Bali

Sorry I couldn’t get it to embed. (If you want to get rid of the subtitles just pick the top option, “Choose language…”)

I reference the feeling behind these ideas a lot right now. Expansion of the holotropic spontaneity stuff, out from the personal and psychological, into the ecological and the cultural. This vid so beautifully introduces you to how patterns at a basic level “on earth” form through self-organizing complex systems. The background is ecology. I have a feeling you’ll be as glued as I was, but what you’ll note too is where he covers human beings partaking in this process via mythic imagination, ritual and democracy. It’s all very practical and actually observed in operation on mundane levels, unlike what most people think “myth” is — there’s nothing “escapist” about the mythic imagination, it is absolutely life and death**.

The vid is a perfect demonstration of a) How these relationships form in nature and ritual; b) How some of our modern science is actually able to understand this very well if we actually use it; and c) How if we use the wrong myths we ignore the science and slaughter the relationships. Always important to know who the good guys are.

What comes up on this blog will I hope get “under the skin” of such a view of reality and apply it to a life more like yours, especially if that life undergoes the amplification of energy and imagination in Kundalini. The deep meaning comes vivified under your eyes, as recorded in experiences going back millennia. The actualised shaman is the steward of his entrainments.

Stay tuned folks!

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** “In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.” — Tolkien, On Fairy Stories, and yes, modern fantasy culture figures in too…


Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XIX

5 Elemental Challenges — Void

Once, distinguished SBNRs like W.B. Yeats learned Hermetics with the Golden Dawn.

Now, in Greece, “Golden Dawn” refers to the neo-Nazi thugs who recently terrorised an immigrant theatre group in an action some have termed an “early Greek Kristallnacht”.

Their leader, shouting “Wrap it up you Albanian faggots” at the besieged staff inside the theatre, whom he threatened to post home to their mothers dismembered in boxes, was an elected fascist member of the Greek parliament. Real fascist — not George Bush. The police looked on idly.

That could well be in the future of much of the West, in various guises, not all of them such literal retreadings of the Panzer by any means. Anyone still living in the era of comfortable $1,795 6-day workshops should be thinking carefully.

It’s unfortunate that the “Golden Dawn” name is far from coincidental. The Nazis themselves had their roots in SBNR, and represent a rather grander version of the same kind of monomythic regression we see in the guru-narcissists. The Nazi salute may itself be a copy of a gesture (scroll up a bit in that link) originally learned by Yeats and others in the Hermetic tradition for good SBNR reasons.

SBNR is perhaps specially placed to watch that particular situation. As our lifeblood is pluralism, democracy and free speech, we ought to be motivated too. There is a chance of doing more than watching, too… more in the next post.

Meanwhile I sense that we still await the shape of the Western SBNR of the future. It won’t look like the present. More than one researcher is saying that in the current period the unserious is being winnowed out, and it looks that way to me as well.


Putting the Jigsaw Together (means extending it infinitely on all sides)

Collecting the past few months…

A subpersonality of mine could see superconscious light and show it to “me” (previous post). I’ll compare that with: in October last year I talked about LeShan’s concept that we can ‘break the laws of physics’ and experience psi because other laws are in operation when we are in other states — ‘different states, different rules’. Whilst in normal consensus-social mindstates I couldn’t see the light, but this could change in a different state.

What could any person do if not bound to normal states? What could they experience? Emmerson tells us that most people have 5-15 commonly used states for everyday life. But there’s an awful lot more to any human than those 5-15 states.

Spiritual training = new states and expanded relationships. Entraining to one’s own chakras as described in January this year expands the energy and function of the chakra which in turn affects the whole system — as all entrainments and all selves do. Opening chakras is opening new selves.

When entraining to the consciousness of a tree as mentioned in March this year an interesting thing happens — an “image” (loosely) of that tree is in you and one of you is in that tree. Whilst the entrainment continues there can be ‘one being’, ‘one system’; later the image of the other half of the system remains. This image is known as an ‘introject’ in some forms of psychology, and is a kind of internal model of who and what the tree is or was; it is with you and is affecting and transforming the system. Mutual transformation can do a lot of processing as trees like things we don’t.

1st in Image sequence from Grof’s Realms of the Human Unconscious showing shattering-rebuilding — click to enlarge

So we swap ch’i and parts of ourselves become parts of others (not in any diminishing way), introjects are taken in, exchanged. We take on ch’i of a tree, or a friend, and they take on ours, and having the introject is related to having the ch’i. Thus after Glenn pumps a lot of ch’i into Kevin Millis he gets an occasional “urge to surf” (Path Notes, p. 52). This is the Millis-introject, who likes surfing.

Selves can build around empowered images, introjects with ch’i attached. Again in January this year, I mentioned TV controls people — by entrainment to it which implants introjects that can be empowered. A good way to ensure they are empowered is to use music and bright colour, sexual themes, friending tactics, social displays, excitement or life/death situations, and quick cuts to prevent cortical processing. This is exactly the combination you would use if you wanted to implant images to bind to Freud-style neuroses. (An empowered image is the same as a “cathected” one in Freudian terms.)

Trauma can build walls between surface and deeper self-states which can dissociate or split off, and the effects of this can be incredible — consider: Murphy describes cases where a person is allergic to citrus juice in some personalities but not in others, has stripe marks from a childhood whipping in some personalities but not in others, and so forth.

Later stage in the sequence — click to enlarge

But we know that we can regather these selves into one again, reassemble. The resulting (time-based) “one” is not stiff, it flows into every area of the world(s) and spins and triggers and entrains as it needs but remains one. This reassemblage reminds us of shamanic initiation. Also of the myths of reassemblage — Osiris and Zagreus (or Lemminkäinen, or Ganesha even). What comes of those reassemblages is not what was before, it is a new synthesis and in particular is friendlier with death. Being torn apart and reassembled is normal for kundalini experiencers. Empedocles is relevant too, with his universe alternately split apart by Strife and reassembled by Love. This post is reassembling many past posts.

The step after the previous, showing the rebuilding. Click to enlarge. The full sequence in this case study had 14 steps.

The work of Grof reveals many deep parts of everyone are already entrained to non-physical things. It couldn’t be otherwise. At the ground-of-being level we are all entrained to the same thing and thus the whole system is constantly affecting the whole system. Those with “issues” aren’t able to access easily, but the tools are there. (Sometimes the therapeutic tools are too linear but we have workarounds). Having integrated that self of mine which could “see the light” — now “I” can see it. And I can do more, I can become it, which is pretty good going actually, although not at all equivalent to en“light”enment in itself of course.

It must be clear that the same drive that pushes the OCD sufferer to wash themselves 100 times a day pushed me to the light, and pushes the goddess energy through the spine and vagus nerve, and something equally important is sought in all cases, but shifting consciousness is required to get to that something.

Entrainment means that you are being changed, the influence is coming in and also going out, and you are changing what is entrained to you as it develops an introject of you. Something is brought into being by this process, a pathway. Those pathways can be walked and their directions can be changed. Different states, different rules, different entrainments. Each entrainment works by psychological absorption. The body is a kind of tradition of entrainments — we by no means possess some complete introject of our own bodies, they are mysteries in both senses. The universe is another such tradition.

In December last year I mentioned the culture could turn polyparadigmatic, which is equivalent to reassembling it and might be better than nervously trying to enforce ideocratic monoparadigms. Science that knows about the non-material is split off from the culture as a rejected subpersonality. We know how many of Zeus there are — when Zeus is entrained to the Olympic festival he is Zeus Olympios, when entrained to his task of hurling thunder he is Zeus Brontios, and a hundred others. Don’t we always experience how superficial oneness not only masks multiplicity but also prevents deep-flowing-oneness-of-manyness?

Significantly, the ego-states approach, with use of hypnotic trance, shows the same pattern of internal resolution of trauma followed by transcendence that you would get from LSD therapy and from the breathwork of Grof. (Although it can be far better controlled I think, and there are many other possibly useful techniques.) Things suddenly turn mythical, archetypal, bigger — and you’re away. No-one ever really lives in just those 5-15 social selves, surely. Seated yoga and qigong are, or begin as, forms of breathwork, and altered states involve strong levels of absorption. The initial moments of LSD entrainment are playful like the initial Smile of Glenn.

Kundalini rewires all the old relationships as well as making new ones possible. Thus a person with all her introjects empowered with ch’i, with that mosaic arranged throughout her life, is carrying pieces of the world with her as live connections which are consistently informing and being informed by her life(ves) at a series of levels. It is for this reason that the world becomes enlightened when the person does.


Musings on Entrainment

Psychologically, let’s call entrainment the process whereby interaction with “something” brings a personality into being. Entrainment with silence is the process whereby the connection with the truth of the upper self can be maintained. Accepting the shadow is the process by which the gap between the personality and the truth of bodied and transbodied life is bridged.

(The thread which runs through all interactions can be made stronger than each. This seems to depend on parasympathetic dominance.)

Base chakra deities from yogic lore -- Indra, Brahma, Dakini. In China deities associate to organs instead.

In autohypnosis the entrainment is to the voice. But ‘voice’ has many meanings since people have more voice in them than they normally use and more is carried in the voice than words. People can talk differently if they know they are deeply listening. All entrainment works on inner archetypes which are known in all alchemical traditions. Multiple parts of us have a presence, associated with organs and chakras.

Shadow “acceptance” (including transformation through inhabitation and co-operation) has everything to do with really being in the body. So we know many normal entrainments take us out of it — why not, since we interpret things linguistically? Traumatic stress, which underlies much human dysfunction, is exclusion of now-experience from the body by the body’s own force. But when harmonised with that force things are very different. It does more than one dreamed when we are entrained to it, it to us.

Many people’s adult experience includes their personality and not much more. Life and society entrains them. Meta-entrainment, or entraining to that which continues despite entrainments, would mean re-entering the world that the social mind sucks us out of. Since society is ultimately a means of survival, the shadow is equivalent to death — that is, it is a byproduct of the instinctive attempt to avoid death — as is traumatic stress. The Stoics correctly taught that what survives death will not survive long unless harmonious tension and energy (pneuma or ch’i) is in place to amplify it. There is certainly a hole through which you can look to see beyond death, but to survive in that environment you have to entrain to it.

Some people’s belief systems prevent this which is itself the result of entrainment. Absolutism stems from Greek over-knifed logic, which makes everything too accurate and thus changes it. This is combined with Abrahamic over-faithiness where reality must be constantly overruled by wild attachment to a text-based “understanding” that we have to cheerlead as it “explains everything for our own good”.

The other day online someone saw what I said, put me into a category, and then demanded I defend the category! Desperately hitting out against himself in the form of a box containing my words that he had constructed, he went down slugging. Shadow.

Put the world on a Mandala and it acquires order and harmony with a centre.

Uprush of negative emotion sorts things into ‘good/bad’ categories which instead should be placed into a properly gradated worldview allowing quiet. (Mandalas place everything in a coordinated way to allow for this.) At any moment one may secede from the normal meanings. That world is not the last wor(l)d.

The ability to go within overrules everything else. Building the relationship with it makes freedom. It doesn’t change the world completely, but it changes your world completely. Most people seem too busy. Everything is listening including their own bones, but the conversation never begins.

Dionysus is connected with the esoteric Zagreus myth of being torn apart but then reborn -- click for more

Multiple selves are entrained by multiple external centres of interaction, but internal work unites them into a harmonious whole. It’s Empedocles, Dionysus, Osiris all over again.

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Anywhere is Everywhere
Anyone is Everyone
The world is a Tundra of Eachness

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Relaxercise -- beautiful movement exercises for wholeness

Benefit from this easy Feldenkrais, should you choose to. Been using it for years, a great secret weapon, Western move regimen, shadow “acceptance” through slowness. One more way to cancel out body-mind dualities that are especially vicious in the West, and the usual rubbish about needing to be someone else.

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He told her: “You have a mask.”
The patient replied: “You have a mask, too, Dr. Reich.”
He in turn said: “Yes, but the mask hasn’t me. “

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Next two weeks: inspiration and freedom.


Who are these “god” persons, anyway? *

Zeus and his eagle -- Lakonian cup from Naucratis. One of my favourite deity images. 560-550 BCE

One thing I’ve been trying to do, by researching the hell out of anything I can get my hands on, is understand how gods, say, have “looked” to others over the millennia of human culture. The world does not always appear to me how it has been described.

Sometimes I experience things and it can be a case of, was this what x meant by y?… what I’ve discovered is a large accreted layer of cultural complication that obscures the nature of experience. Some people talk about things rather intellectually, as if you could just rearrange puzzle pieces. Human language is political and rhetorical — in contrast the underlying language of the universe is fresh and alive.

Gods really do appear to people. I hope more research is being done on the pagan end of it… yes I see it is, not sure about the illustration there though! Trails are being broken here, trying to bring forward threads from different dimensions.

Goodwyn’s Neurobiology of the Gods is a useful justification of Jungianism by neurophysiology that tends to suggest the gods are just in your brain and equivalent to Darwinian traits, leaving out synchronicity altogether. It’s very important to keep the neuroscience correlated, but perhaps one has to be careful not to turn it into apologia or be too straight, like The Phantom Menace next to Jung’s own views, the numinous Force becoming something to do with blood cells.

The times are a little bland don’t you sense? The truth is not always sensible. “Common sense is at times completely senseless,” says Hatsumi-soke in his foreword to Path Notes. The feeling of being amongst lots of experimentation, of a liminal phase of culture where any experience could happen, is drawing to a close. I suppose much of it got siphoned into vague rubbish anyway.

This post is about the cultural aspect of deities, about what happens. Gods get interwoven with human communities and whatever they may initially be, their nature changes with that step. They inevitably become political. A secular viewpoint reveals interesting details.

Looking at Chinese popular religion is fun if you are out of the habit of polytheism. Much of it could have been scripted by Jack Vance. Back in the 15th and 16th centuries, confused Jesuit missionaries observed that Chinese people, dissatisfied with a god’s services, would happily whip his statue through the streets. One man is said to have sued a god in court for failing to heal his daughter. What’s more interesting is that he won, and the god’s statue was exiled over the border, the monks shooed off to other things.

Modern Wenchang Figurine -- nowadays you'd mostly go to him for help and luck in your exams

Gods have careers and we can follow them. Last week I mentioned that Wenchang, a literary patron god and Confucian personification who has been worshipped for millennia now, is one of the few gods with an autobiography available to us. This is quite true and thanks to Terry Kleeman’s translation in A God’s Own Tale (1994), we can now read it in English. The document was obtained by spirit writing, on planchette, in 1181. It details the god’s beginning, numerous mortal incarnations, and apotheosis, with many fun incidents of weather control, interaction with dragons, and general settings of things to rights betweenwhiles.

A god’s behaviour and motivation turn out exactly as one would expect of his time and place. Deities have to conform to human laws. Plato tried this too, confronting the Greeks with the shamefulness of the gods’ behaviour in traditional tales — infanticide, theft, bickering and philandering is awkward in your divine models when you’re trying to teach ethics — but the tales were never really changed as he suggested, only reinterpreted. In a sense, Chinese culture claims to be Plato’s Republic in the flesh, and became far more openly moralising which you see in Wenchang’s Book of Transformations. Despite some Taoist leanings this god never puts a moral foot wrong from the Confucian angle, so from the modern rhetorical one, the document becomes a platform for the god (and his cult) to get to the exalted public position they enjoy today.

Chinese Planchette Writing is not dissimilar from the Western version -- click for detailed description

Spirit writing often took place at public ‘phoenix altars’, some of which were fortune telling stations. Not too different from modern trance mediums. One of the funniest true supernatural stories I’ve ever heard shows how they worked. A group of students gathers at a phoenix altar, interested in how they’ll fare in upcoming exams. They try to speak to Lü Dongbin, the great Taoist immortal who apparently often stopped by these places, but all they can get contact with at first is an uncouth spirit named Drunkard Zhao whom they hurriedly dismiss. Patriarch Lü does then show up though, so:

The students solemnly bowed twice, then asked about their fates in the examination. The phoenix wrote, “Rub more ink.” Thereupon each person prepared ink on his inkstone and in a moment they had filled a bowl. Kneeling, they asked how they should use it. The phoenix said, “You students divide it up and drink it, then hear my pronouncement.” They all divided the ink and drank it. When they had finished, the phoenix wrote in large characters, “Normally you do not study; now you drink ink at the last moment. I am not Patriarch Lü, I am still Drunkard Zhao!”

— Kleeman p. 11

Other shrines did no fortune-telling, preferring to heal and spread divine news. This type of activity produced Wenchang’s autobio. Let’s say he is no Drunkard Zhao. Between his constant military services to his country whilst incarnated, his diversion of rain to save villages from undeserved droughts, his righting of every sort of individual misdeed from infanticide to forced judicial confession, and his political efforts against rash rulers and their heavy mobs, one could hardly imagine a more respectable god. Heck, even between lives when ruling Taoist fairylands he gathers armies of demons to kill troublesome spirit tigers.

What’s interesting is when Kleeman unwraps layers and finds the deity started recorded life quite differently — as Viper, the immortal poisonous serpent of Sevenfold Mountain who had thunder and rain under his control and received offerings from the town of Zitong at the mountain’s foot. Some of those offerings might have been human lives, we learn.

Zeus came to Europa as a Bull, a moment vivaciously sculpted here by Althea Wynne -- click for more

That deities are often animals to start with, that they sometimes later transform, that snakes in particular occupy a special place in early pantheons, I suspect I don’t need to point out. The transformation to human happens over time and varies with the culture. Egyptians often favoured animal headed human deities — we saw the ibis head of Thoth last week. In Greece gods shapeshift and Zeus often goes courting in various animal forms. All of this is the sign of various knittings-together of the root experiences of deity into a suitable form. Animals remain a gateway to nonordinary states.

In the case of Wenchang, the national roster of deities was re-ordered to include humans with virtuous pasts and nothing else. For the Lord of Zitong to prosper politically, he has to transform but the older exploits in serpent form are written into the Transformations, and he is gifted with the ability to assume dragon form at will.

And he has to appear moral. Very moral. To me this often appears to be an attempt to “explain” in human terms things that may well not fit them. I’ve quoted before Glenn’s ultratrue statement that “when people become too goody-goody they begin to falsify their stories and behaviour”. (Shadow Strategies, p. 31.) We don’t know if Wenchang really acts with anything like human ethical considerations “in mind”, because he had to appear to do so anyway. The difference between show good and real good, between actual human virtue on the one hand and displayed persona-goodness with disharmonious shadows in the background on the other, is the kind of thing Lao-tzu sometimes has in mind:

When the great Tao is forgotten,
Philanthropy and morality appear…

When the Family has no Harmony,
Piety and Devotion appear.

— ch. 18

One who has propriety has the veneer of truth
And yet is the leader of confusion.

— ch. 38 (R. L. Wing tr.)

This is the emergence of the superego and the armoured exterior shell in the human psyche, along with the philosophy that says true naturalness, from which arises the only real good, may be profoundly hurt thereby. Since it can run even unto castration, as I found out this week, the awake and cautious may wish to draw conclusions about human flourishing.

But that was the official doctrine and so the god must conform. That’s how these things go. Is it any wonder that heavy-duty mystics often conflict with cultic pronouncements? Interestingly modern new age channelling mediums never seem to contact anything like Drunkard Zhao. Or perhaps they do but no-one knows. They are expected to be morally appropriate too.

Politics rewrites history and makes use of geography. It’s about what gets power. The ecological and economic flow is the flow of Tao through the world. Sevenfold Mountain itself was handily placed on the road from Xian to Chengdu, in fact its temple straddled this road. Thus anyone entering Sichuan would meet the temple and its god first; and the status he early acquired as defender of the province was therefore natural. There’s nothing transcendent about it necessarily; it’s terrain and technology which shapes energy and is shaped by it. One can follow in Kleeman’s book the other steps on the road to the illustrious position the god occupies today, of which the writing of the Transformations itself was one shrewd example — not necessarily any the less sincere for that of course.

Behind the progress of any other deity will lie similar political considerations. A “god” as named at any point in history is one step in a very long process. A god will have been many things to many people on the way to our day.

The Chariot of Apollo -- Odilon Redon

The more popular a god, the more the variable. To many nowadays, Apollo is shorthand for some kind of prissy anality needing to be busted open to natural forces by Dionysus. Apollo the great light, the god who protected from plague but could also command it, the god of lyric poetry but also the god who inspired transrational trance prophecy in dozens of oracles — not so much talked of. The Greek shamans they never taught you about in school unless they called them “philosophers and mathematicians”, the iatromanteis, were often also known as phoibolamptos, that is Apollo-possessed, which has some correlation perhaps with epilepsy and thus moves towards the kundalini experience.

Gods do not fit easy categories when you look at them. I haven’t yet unearthed much about the early cult of Zeus, originally another mountain and storm god who also made a number of astute political moves, but his many identities attest to his multiplicity. He may be Zeus Agoreus who watches over the marketplace for fair dealing, Zeus Boulaios who presides over parliament, or any of hundreds of others, and often with very different attributes — as a house deity he too appears as a snake. The names fit the god into the culture and at each shrine he has a different surname, he is our particular Zeus. Wenchang similarly did not suddenly morph from serpent to literary patron. He has been responsible for heading armies too, for sending fertility to the childless, and for broadcasting salvational advice to those in distress, each under a different epithet.

Often the process involves eliding differing groups of gods, or one “swallowing” others and taking the epithets too. This might be a literal swallowing, especially with earlier gods who are of course less burdened with morality. It’s hard to see whether Yahweh began life as a storm god or only acquired those attributes after eliding with the Canaanite El, a god married to a goddess, Asherah, who was famously suppressed in the Bible.

Yahweh also interrelated with the Canaanite Baal (Ba’al, itself a complex of deities, simply means ‘lord’). One can follow his career much as one can that of Wenchang, as he gradually becomes associated with wider geographical areas. The difference is that he early becomes incommensurate and non-depictable. At one stage accopmanied by other deities and heading up a divine assembly too, his incomparability and superiority, especially in scattering enemies (“Who is like you among the gods, Yahweh?”, asks Moses, Exod. 15:11, and goes on to describe the future blasting of individual enemies) — led to monotheism as a later development. It all happened longer ago, so there is less documentation remaining, and the career owed more to conquest than to moral dignity as is natural for the bronze and iron ages, but the process is recognisably similar. (Green 2003 is useful to compare Yahweh with local rivals.)

Jesus of Nazareth visibly goes through another equivalent process, the gospels filling the role of Wenchang’s Transformations, and the series of astute cultic moves beginning with Paul and vaulting into the major leagues with adoption by imperial Rome. Monotheism itself, however obviously counterfactual, often does the cult good in terms of popular acceptance, owing to fear of falsehood and the sense of righteousness involved in falsifying all other ways. And so forth. Needless to say Christ appears in as many guises as there are Christianities.

This all goes some way to explain why the question, ‘Do(es) god(s) exist?’ is sometimes a difficult one. What are you actually asking about? Ideas about gods come from all sorts of weird places. So do ideas about what constitutes ‘existence’. There are certainly things operating behind these cultural presences that go back into nature and indeed determine it. To some degree a god has got to be delivering something to be deserving a place in the human imagination. Sometimes a deity appears and confirms all that is thought — at other times, completely confounds it. The investigation is ongoing.

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* With apologies to Douglas Adams


Tales from the Tao

When I was young, I knew something about underlying worldness which I afterwards forgot, or let lie. I knew things had aliveness, including trees and rocks, somehow bound up with their meaning and the meaning of everything. Communication happened with a spellbinding quality in a togetherspace that seemed to evade regular human communication.

What was this? Where did it go? Why did meditation and energy bring it back again, and then some? People like Ken Wilber have been misled by Jean Piaget into believing animism is a charmingly mistaken childhood phase of anthropomorphic projection. This is the worst answer since a schoolboy who was asked “What is ananke?” replied it was for wiping your nose. (Actually quite close to Tao in obscure Greek myths is the answer.)

It seemed impossible to pursue these feelings as adolescence went forward — but difficult to be myself without them. Felicitas Goodman has written beautifully of a similar predicament:

Felicitas Goodman -- she's got over her alienation

On the eve of my twelfth birthday I had a severe headache… The next morning I bled for the first time. I went to my mother… “This means,” she said, “that we now have an adult daughter in our house.”… Very soon I discovered all on my own what being an adult apparently meant, and confided it to my diary: “The magic time is over”… I noticed the impediment first with the fresh, crunchy snow which fell right after my birthday. It was nice, but I could not make it glow…

I believe today that a large part of initiation in wiser societies… has to do with helping the adolescent to reconstitute the waning capacity for ecstasy. The harsh stimulation[s] of the nervous system… are designed, I think, to substitute a different, an adult, form for the spontaneous ability to call up that very special trance…

Obviously I was living at the wrong place. How gladly I would have submitted to whatever trial if only someone could have told me what it was I was losing… Actually, I was coming up for confirmation, which was modelled after ancient initiation rituals, but it was cruelly vacuous… nothing, absolutely nothing happened. I did not even know what I had expected, but it was very clear to me that I had not received it.

Where The Spirits Ride the Wind (1990)

That’s the only sad part of her book as she describes her very clever and intuitive rediscovery of ways to vivify that are still being used. Glenn’s ideas perfectly chime with all this. Note the sexual energy redirected at menarche which corresponds with id and ultimately with kundalini. Also important are those methods of ‘harsh stimulation of the nervous system’ in traditional cultures which engage the same energy and are used in many quarters historically and today — see for example Shadow Strategies p. 286 or Martial Arts Madness p. 18, although, as the latter points out, “meditation seems a clear winner over torture”.

Like Goodman I didn’t know there were ways forward that actually worked. Of course, my culture didn’t always want me to. I’d love to blame materialism and Christianity alone for the deadness of the material world as presented to me, and I wouldn’t necessarily be far wrong, but there are no nature worshippers amongst the Platonists either. Even the Stoics, who valued harmony with Nature above all and knew about ch’i, didn’t write on aliveness. The reason we tend to “grow out of animism” in the “Civilised West” is simply that there has never been a widespread mature version of it to grow into. Being raised on Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin, and seeing how important the idea of an alive nature was to many people, I wondered why.

After Kundalini these things were radically revivified and I began to get answers. The social mind programmes the natural one — right down to the energetic system. It went a lot deeper than I thought.

Big civilisations rarely have strong animist elements; polytheism may help maintain them since perversely monotheism tends to dualism (more on a subject related to that next week.) Some cultures keep more for longer in their learned phases, some less. China in some ways exemplifies the former, Europe the latter. Taoism of course is not mainstream in China since it rejects the Confucian emphasis on the sincerity of ritual in favour of Naturalness, but natural Tao itself in China is usually the basis. Ming era Confucians thus found Jesuit missionaries puzzling since Chinese sages said following Nature was the Tao, but the missionaries said that overcoming nature was the Tao. One may draw conclusions at that point.

Without some way to reconnect the energy, there’s often nothing an individual can do. Society impacts our minds because we need to survive; society is our way of doing so, and we are its. Glenn points out somewhere that the social mind experiences only the reality allowed for it and that includes strong influence on your biology. If a culture likes to manipulate nature as a mechanism it probably can’t conceive of natural aliveness and harmony, at least not without wincing, so it will have a job to perceive it. Individuals must thus know how to accept the Shadow, which includes the socially unacceptable, to experience the deeper truth.

Different civilisations, different rules. André-Georges Haudricourt had a wonderful little theory, interesting and at least somewhat true. He thought that in the Mediterranean and Middle East, herding became archetypal, more than agriculture. Herding involves shouting and prodding and enforcing your will on a bunch of often silly, stubbornly recalcitrant animals, so it made a monotheistic god who shouted and enforced his will on silly recalcitrant humans. The animal, hence nature, became the problematic half of a dualist value system. Shepherd images in Christianity are legion. The symbolism of the Hebrew alphabet, which is pictographic like the Chinese, includes not only an ox, but an ox-goad as well.

Just happens

China developed the more agricultural archetype. You don’t yell at plants. Anyone who has done any gardening knows the magic is that it just happens, slowly, mysteriously, and often completely out of sight. At a certain time, given certain conditions, things know what to do. The principle behind that knowing is part of what the Chinese called ‘Tao’, which is mysterious, invisible, feeds all, and has the respect of everything, fulfilling itself in all natural actions. But without having to yell and try to be ‘in charge’– indeed its silence and mystery in accomplishing everything is a measure of its greatness to both Taoists and Confucians. It remains animism-friendly, since the natural order is its sphere, and it forms the connection between all natural things, including us:

The Great Tao extends everywhere.
It is on the left and the right.

All Things depend on it for growth,
And it does not deny them.
It achieves its purpose,
And it does not have a name.
It clothes and cultivates All Things,
And it does not act as master.

Tao Te Ching 34

The Tao produces;
Its Power supports;
Its Natural Law forms;
Its influence completes.

Thus All Things without exception
Respect the Tao and value its Power.
To respect the Tao and value its Power —
No one demands this, and it comes naturally.

— 51 (R. L. Wing tr.)

Since the Tao ‘does not act as master’, one could not imagine a ‘jealous Tao’ as there is a ‘jealous God’. Tao has the respect of all things whether they know it or not, like any natural law. (Gravity and evolution don’t exactly need to hector you into obedience.)

Spiritual actualisation is a question of optimising and harmonising the natural processes within a human being. People who do have a way to do that will find themselves perfectly capable of sensing similar processes in the wider world. There is aliveness, consciousness, and a motion which communicates in feelings and images. It’s significant that Glenn associated the spirit of kundalini with the id, the creative power running through the human system, a concept which can widen to include “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower,” as Dylan Thomas put it. Poets like him have to work hard to maintain aliveness and often write in image-feeling-metaphors of the kind one finds transferred with ch’i.

The language they write in may also be relevant since the western pictographs have long since vanished. All human lettering systems start out as image-metaphors, poetry in themselves. In the Chinese system these of course remain. Morrissey recently embarassed himself by spitefully calling the Chinese a ‘subspecies’ which is the act of a rather snide and bitchy poet alienated by a thoroughly different linguistic and philosophy. The Chinese are the only massive civilisation with very highly developed thinking in a non-Indo-European, uninflected language. They show little preoccupation with the static ideal beingness that Western philosophy has argued about since Greece, because unlike ours their language doesn’t naturally refer to it. But science’s new numerical language gets flow better and as a result the systems-science view has far more in common with the Chinese one than with the Platonist.

Saturating oneself with ch’i increases the vitality and with that comes awareness. It is natural to be so saturated when young, but requires more skill when older. Qigong is a far calmer way than romantic poetry, which is rarely content since it is always trying to leap for unattainable heavens which could only be actually attained in a state of peace. The feeling I have is often much more like the simple Navajo chant:

The mountains, I become part of it.
The herbs, the fir tree, I become part of it.
The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering waters, I become part of it.
The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen, I become part of it.

Navajo Chant calligraphy and collage by Tina Fields -- click to see the originals on her excellent blog

Pure materialism will many times not survive long-term quiet. Folklorist Barre Toelken spent time with the Navajo and noticed things happening, writing some of the more extraordinary ones down in a paper for Barbara Walker’s Out of the Ordinary — Folklore and the Supernatural (1995) which is full of good things and includes tales like this:

On many occasions when I was living with my adopted Navajo family in the 1950s, people would begin acting as if they had received some information from afar… after a month or so of herding sheep and carrying water to our corn plants day after day, some family members would suddenly prepare for a trip… I would hear offhand comments like, “Perhaps there’s a sing [curing ceremony] down by Red Mesa”… On our way toward the Red Mesa area… we would encounter other Navajos heading in our direction… A day later we would pull our wagon over the crest of a hill and find a gathering of perhaps a hundred people near someone’s hogan… No phone calls, no maps, no addresses, no written invitations, no messengers… the reservation itself is the size of Belgium, and families often live miles from the next… There is no doubt in my mind that these events… actually “happen”, for they are witnessed by everyone who is involved.

Toelken calls this the ‘moccasin telegraph’. ‘Becoming part of it’ would be an equally good term. Jung’s name for it was synchronicity and it was really working for him since his theories are in the enviable position these days of having some interesting science supporting what he did instinctively. He liked the leaf-cutter ants which are too short-lived to observe mating behaviour in the previous generation but know exactly what to do; it just happens when the time is right. Human males will know that when the time is right to mate (when isn’t it), the anima will provide the appropriate picture to guide that all-important nervous system energy; whatever an ant uses for an anima does the same thing. The ant may have less irony about it and less neurosis. Such flows and timings appear everywhere in nature. There are signs of it in the Middle Eastern religions we’ve inherited — Proverbs 30 for example, with its ‘wisdom of the ants’.

Tree + Ch'i

Exchanging ch’i with a tree on a regular basis will do plenty for you — Liang and Wu do some nice qigong in that line, including clever protection ideas I may try this summer. I know an oak in Regent’s Park who is strong stuff indeed. No two qigongs work with trees the same way. Lam has a different approach as does Chia in this nice video.

The Tao achieves its purpose, spontaneous natural action in consonance with rhythms flowing in an immemorial patterned system… the geese fly West, the ants mate, the sing happens near the Mesa… a girl reaches menarche and begins her longing for spiritual contact. Humans are sometimes overcome by aspects of their delicately complex systems and can deviate from this livingness or from their own voice and identity in a way that causes them considerable pain. That’s the dark side of free will and quiet is often a part of the answer. Accepting one’s own nature, spontaneity, and living in the territory rather than the map, are all pointed up in the of actualised people.

The feeling of being connected back up with kundalini was for me such a relief, like being alive again, and synchronicity goes through the roof as heaven and earth find each other and new relationships open up. Accepting the Shadow matters here partly because you are receiving info with source and intent different from normal, that shapes the system in a different way. Info humans consider important is normally social, verbal, screen-based and other ‘intellectual maps of desired results’ which is useless for this. The ability to accept neutrally rather than to seek to repattern reality is what opens one up to these feelings, images and energies.

Since some may not believe that ants have mythopoeic subconscious minds, I give this next story for them, or anyone who believes animism is for kiddies. Lineage successor Rob Williams told it about Glenn:

Doc liked to go hiking… We drove out to New Iberia, right along the coast of the swamp… I happened upon a large gator… I got as close as I could… took a picture and backed away. Glenn had walked across a narrow foot bridge that was about 40 feet long. He was already on the other side looking out into the water. I noticed a brownish cloud coming up from the river on my left. As it approached I realized it was a swarm of wasps.

Glenn had told me about the Louisiana wasps that were huge yellow jackets. They had a powerful sting. I felt uneasy as they collected into a sphere shaped swarm between Doc and me, over the bridge. I thought back to when I first walked fire. I assumed the go for it attitude and, with no fear and great confidence, walked across the bridge through this swarm of wasps. They were bouncing off my face and body as I walked through them to the other side of the bridge. I didn’t get stung. I walked over to Doc with adrenaline pumping through me. I turned and looked back to see the swarm circle, break formation and fly on down the river. I asked Doc if he had seen the swarm and he didn’t answer… He was such a wizard. He was testing me using familiars in nature.

Hoshinjutsu, pp. 94-5

Says hi to Glenn from me... :)

Animism says we are interacting with Persons. Glenn was in tune with the Tao enough to do that in a major way since he knew Persons don’t all look like your auntie marge. We met talking swords months back. The Tao is a mass of intertwining morphic fields, a way of knowing and communicating, ch’i moving through the world. Each thing has its own identity, its own Tao within the mix, its own lifestream, all accomplishing itself in cycles and flows small and large.

The Tao has no fixed position;
It abides within the excellent mind.
When the mind is tranquil and the ch’i is regular,
The Tao can thereby be halted.
That Tao is not distant from us;
When people attain it they are sustained.
That Tao is not separated from us;
When people accord with it they are harmonious.

Therefore: Concentrated! as though you could be roped together with it.
Indiscernible! as though beyond all locations.
The true state of that Tao:
How could it be conceived of and pronounced upon?
Cultivate your mind, make your thoughts tranquil,
And the Tao can thereby be attained.

Neiye ch. 5 (Harold Roth tr.)


“Sing to me, Muse, of that man of many ways…”

"The Odyssey" -- miniseries

A lighter post for you here. :)

Not everything on a screen is terrible, and this old HBO Odyssey came my way from 1997, which is great. Must have missed it at the time, same period as the well-received Ted Danson Gulliver which I did see. I also noticed something interesting about it, by which readers may feel free to be stunned…

No-one will be embarrassed by this, not 100% faithful but far from being some Harryhausen thing, sticking to Homer (/Virgil) for feel and 90% of plot. It has a true Greek flavour, doesn’t bowdlerise adult bits, wonderful scenery too; director got an Emmy. (Obviously there was some policy at the time about putting the ‘class’ into ‘fantasy classics’, prestige TV etc.)

Bernadette Peters as Circe

Unexpectedly and happily, female characters get attention and nice casting. Isabella Rossellini (Athena) and Greta Scacchi (Penelope) do their usual good jobs.

Vanessa Williams as Calypso

Bernadette Peters is a suitably sassy Circe. Vanessa Williams as the nymph Calypso and the always-impressive Geraldine Chaplin as Eurycleia were particular standouts, but the crown goes to the astonishing Irene Papas who lends Odysseus’ mother Anticlea some serious tragic weight.

Besides, I was impressed with Armand Assante’s Odysseus, himself. He manages to make human sense of the role whilst giving it heroic stature.

And that brings me to the something interesting.

Armand Assante as Odysseus

Classical Carving of Odysseus -- from the cheekguard of a helmet

Below we have Assante as Odysseus, photographed straight off the TV. Below that on the right, we have a carving dated about around 400 BCE (two and a half thousand years ago that is), depicting — Odysseus.

That is good casting. :)

Perhaps I should one day do a contrastingly bitchy post on the mangling of Greek myth in, say, Xena… don’t know if it’s worth it. I’m sometimes still startled sweating from slumber, with the image of the great snake-tailed founder of Athens, Cecrops, transformed again before my hypnopompic eye into a hunky bronze age flying Dutchman (“tall, dark and cursed for eternity…”) who yells Oprah Winfrey platitudes about love whilst being swilled down a cheap CGI plughole… if you have no idea what this paragraph means, as I hope, then thank your gods.

English translations abound for those wanting to investigate the Odyssey in greater detail, with Lattimore’s a great choice, and Ian McKellen’s reading of Fagles not bad either on a long journey or winter’s night. Take no English meanings for granted though, as all the translations roll over the words for “mind”, “soul” etc., in such a way as to obscure the Greek beliefs set out in books by Bremmer or Onians. Though academic those guys give the game away completely as far as concerns Greek understanding of energy bodies, especially Bremmer.

Next post I hope to blow minds in perhaps a slightly more useful or profound way.

Meanwhile here’s a fun scene from the Odyssey miniseries to give you an idea. Plenty more excerpts to choose from there on the right…

EDIT: Just found the complete miniseries here, how long it’ll be up I don’t know.

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NB: Last week’s Glenn Morris videos opened some sectarian controversy I had no idea about, to do with his lineage succession, so I took them down. There has been disappointment on that, and I can hardly keep Glenn’s universally worthwhile words all to myself, so after a think and a couple of adjustments I’ll repost in the near future. Chill until then, if you would.


So Where Are You Going Later?

Thought I’d end the year on a note of high speculation and talk about resurrection, one of the two intriguing aspects of the Christ story often held up as evidence of divinity, along with the virgin birth. However seasonal the latter strikes me as a little tougher, especially since no-one could have seen proof. But hey, who knows. There are plenty of examples in myth. You’ll know one of them if you’ve seen Clash of the Titans. It happened to a hammerhead shark a few years back — primitive species often find miracles easier than we do, see Becker. (The scientific term, parthenogenesis, is simply the Greek for ‘virgin birth’. A literal human example would have the double-X chromosome structure and thus be female, but without nudging from test tubes it’s conventionally believed impossible in mammals.)

Resurrection meanwhile means dying only to return to life again, and then disappearing up to heaven leaving no mortal remains. It is thus a special brand of immortality. I choose to start at the more believable end of the scale. There are consistent anecdotal reports of OBEs reducing body mass. Richardson’s Dancers to the Gods contains info on a teacher of Dion Fortune, for example, I forget the name, whose physical body weight shrank to that of a small child when his spirit was projected. The astral body meanwhile was said to be visible to the untrained naked eye and to leave a dent in cushions it sat on.

The question I’d ask is what happened when the man died. Quite possibly the mortal remains, although still present, weighed far less than expected.

Some will know that an astral body with that much solidity has plenty of etheric matter in it. The etheric connects with the deep energy known as jing in China and ojas in India. This is considered present in blood, sexual fluids and bone marrow and is used as a fuel for spiritual transmutations. Taoists talk of transmuting jing into qi and then qi into shen (spirit) into order to attain immortality.

Mantak Chia used to make early students laugh by pointing out that Westerners obsess over a single immortal, Jesus, whereas the Taoists have hundreds to their name. (See Winn in Kohn & Wang 2009, p. 179.) Shijie, meaning something like ‘post-corpse deliverance’, is one Taoist term for resurrection. “Accounts of shijie are notable for denying that the person has left behind a real corpse,” says Kirkland in the magisterial Routledge Encyclopedia of Taoism (2011). This product of union with the Tao is described in numerous texts and scriptures and became one standardised outcome of neidan or inner alchemy.

Although this isn’t the place for a big survey there are numerous clues telling us we are onto something. Some of those “delivered” left behind bits of their bodies which they had not managed to transform: a particularly cool one is Cai Jing who managed to completely dissolve the all-important bones but left the skin behind, “intact from head to foot, like a cicada shell,” says the tale, see Campany (2002), p. 60. So we have a spectrum, from a normal death at one pole to a complete transformation at the other, with Fortune’s teacher and Cai Jing at points between. Tsultrim Allione reports examples of Tibetan yoginis who leave behind only their hair and nails as another point on the same line.

Resurrection requires death and could therefore be considered unclassy. In Taoism as in many other traditions probably the most prized result of transformation is ‘ascending to heaven in broad daylight’, with witnesses. Many Taoists are last seen flying off on the backs of cranes, toads, or dragons, accompanied by fellow-immortals — just as a chariot and horses of fire lifted Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind. The common factor is always a life that has physically ended with no mortal remains to show for it. The person concerned may later make physical appearances, but has already passed through what would have been death.

Often reported is the death of a person whose body is nowhere to be found when burial time comes. Having had only older examples thus far we can take the more recent one of Ramalinga Swamigal, aka Villalar, the great Tamil poet and saint whose transformation occurred on January 30, 1874. The room into which he locked himself, alone, was found to be empty when finally forced open.

A Spanish woman named Sobhana claims to have been in contact with Ramalinga for many years with enjoyable results and has interesting info on his bodily transformation. It began with things like smoothing of the skin or softening and flexibility of tendons and bones, going forward via miraculous recovery of a childhood body to an ultimate invisible but nonetheless bodily omnipresence in all things. The parallels with Taoist practice are quite apparent. Jing/ojas again plays an important role with Ramalinga himself writing of “the semen and sexual fluids having ascended to the chest and condensed into a supra-energy form”.

Recent Tibetan manifestations of related phenomena have been reported by inclusivist Western Christian observers such as David Steindl-Rast, who see the New Testament parallels. In the Summer of 1998 the body of the Nyingma/Gelug practitioner Lama Khenpo-A-chos was covered with a yellow cloth, after his death which followed illuminations of the complexion, wondrous fragrances, and rainbows over the small hut in which he lived. There was no aging or illness. Eight days later when the cloth was removed the body had vanished. Witnesses seem quite numerous.

Even IONS is interested and although such western investigation threatens to profane processes no-one would wish to disturb, the interviews with three eyewitnesses of these events that have been recorded by Father Francis Tiso are probably of some little interest. Tiso’s been visited by Tibetan visions, knows of other recent examples, and takes this stuff as a type of Christ’s resurrection. I think that would interest such doubtful ‘experts’ as Plantinga who continue to need an exclusivist Christianity!

Tiso however sees this as mostly Buddhist-Christian interfaith stuff with primary implications for his own religion. He thus leaves the Tamil and Taoist examples uninvestigated, hasn’t heard of qigong, and doesn’t mention jing transformation, although he does note Old Testament references to ‘dew’ (Hebrew tal) that have a jing-like context. (By the time he starts sermonising about saving humanity and claiming that Tibetan Buddhist practices are derived from Christianity [!!], many will be twiddling their thumbs. Still he’s done the work of collecting the modern data and his presentation is worth a listen.)

There we have it anyhow: taking a cross-cultural and evidential view, once again, has interesting implications for those who think it’s all ‘myth’, with ‘myth’ equivalent either to ‘symbolism’ or else to ‘rubbish’. Anyone can experiment with using energy to alter the bodily composition, and if you’re into anything like what I’m into, you’re already doing it.

On this exalted note I’ll allow my hardworking blog a brief break. Let me take this opportunity to wish all my readers an enjoyable holiday season and new year. Thanks to everyone who has been interested to join me so far. My next post will be on January 7th, 2012.

Best wishes to you all in your various intriguing endeavours, and have fun!

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I’m indebted to Amazon reviewer Ashtar Command for supplying information I used in this post.


Of Love and Immortality

When it comes to kundalini, how are we going to talk about it? With Saraswati, of higher levels of power in the nervous system, of a “wider range of human activity”, of a “heightened awareness and capability”, of “entering the spiritual dimension”? With the excellent Hiroshi Motoyama, of a gradual ascent through physical and mental, and beyond, overcoming the limitations of each level? Shall we talk about biology, psychology, and all the attendant phenomena of energy, health and bliss?

We could, but what is it all? When we talk about kundalini or about ‘enlightenment’ of any kind, we do seem to be talking about the great human quest. What can we say about it that catches the soul, the way the soul needs to be caught? Aren’t we talking, after all, about something that should call to everyone? What?

The idea that comes to my mind is found in Plato’s Symposium, his greatest artistic achievement, and crucially a work that concerns love. Its most important contributions are from a woman — the mysterious seeress Diotima of Mantinea, one of the few speakers in all of Plato who shows Socrates a thing or two, and the only one to school him so thoroughly. Socrates claims to have learned from her the ‘true philosophy of love’.

What she unfolds to him is the universal pattern of eros. Beginning with the love of a physical partner, it finds a truer love that communicates on a soul level. From this beginning it progresses searchingly through higher forms of eros, to worldly achievement, to artistic and scientific understanding, and eventually comes in pure contemplation upon the proper object of eros, the true and divine Beauty, unalloyed and pure, of which all other forms of love were a mere foretaste, and which always existed behind them all.

Diotima also extends our discourse by giving a reason for this search, and that reason is immortality. This, she implies, is deeply implanted in us as an instinct. Immortality causes us to love our children, for we see our continuance in them. An apprehension of immortality drives people to do deeds which will be sung after they are dead. It leads people to try and discover underlying truths about life and reality, which have the character of something eternal. And the ultimate, the ne plus ultra of this erotic quest, which is revealed to those who have travelled it all in due succession, is a “nature of wondrous beauty”, “the final cause of all our former toils”, “a nature which is everlasting.”

In making immortality the object of eros, Diotima involves us in the matter of death. The final goal, she says, has no ‘waxing and waning’ in it, no fair and foul, simply everlasting beauty without change. By contrast, all of us know the fundamental facts of the other varieties of love — they do change, and whatever we love apart from this ultimate will be bound to be impermanent. And here is something we can all comprehend, that does indeed call to us all. Here is the human quest. On some level, we seek immortality by instinct, cannot seem to help doing so. Much of the psychology that does any good simply amounts to this. No lesser love can suffice.

My subconscious flashes up to me the famous interview that Melvyn Bragg did with the writer Dennis Potter, not long before the latter’s death. As television, its power seems universally acknowledged, commanding respect even from YouTube commenters. I haven’t watched it recently, but as he attempted to explain the consciousness of childhood, I recall Potter talking about the extraordinary pungency of thinking, as a young boy, “I’ve lost my pen.” As he said (you’ll correct me on the wording I’m sure), “the penness of that pen, the lostness of that lost…” That is the truth of eros — I had it, the love seemed real, but now it is gone. I had a relationship with it, but now I am alone again. On some level, we seek love that is immortal, but the loves we do find seem to trick us.

And that is the great quest, the quest of kundalini. Yes, we can lay out very cleverly all the psychological ramifications, but in the end, it’s all about love. We can talk about false self-concepts that must be destroyed — they’re only loves of ideas of ourselves we try and fail to make immortal. Or projection and concretization — just the attempt to make our fantasies of immortal love physically real by ignoring the nature of those around us. All results from love of things other than the absolute formless reality which, all kundalini lineages seem to concur, underlie all else. All love you have experienced is just a dim reflection of the underlying Truth. The bitterness of loss leads you to contemplate life, in an attempt to discover that which can’t be lost, and that can only be discovered by giving up what is a mere reflection.

Some part of us knows what it is to be immortal. Some part can never be happy without it. That’s the message of Plato by Diotima. The Platonists take it forward, but it exists also earlier in Greek philosophy, in different forms — recall the great Empedocles, the ‘exile from the gods’, the wonder worker who consciously foresaw his return to immortality. And in more eastern terms, is it any wonder that the excellent Stuart Sovatsy sees in yoga “overwhelming ecstasy, effulgently enlightened consciousness, pathway to an endless eroticism…”, even when he writes so eloquently of celibacy? Let’s not beat around the bush, there is an actual lovemaking with the divine being talked of here. In my experience it is perfectly literal. The Sufis speak of god as a lover. The Taoists are not shy of claiming real immortality, by the combination of yin and yang which make love and give birth to the immortal child. Ask Teresa of Avila about the eroticism of her divine experiences, not shirked in the depiction by Bernini:

We are not speaking about metaphors here. It won’t be long into any real practice before you get the idea: the love and immortality involved are not mere “ideas” in the sense we normally use that word — if so, there would not be so much emphasis on removing thoughts, and right at the beginning of the process. We have had it upside down: the metaphor is not in the divine world, it is our physical world that is in some sense merely symbolic and only the pale echo of something incomparably greater.

It’s this quest that meditation and energy work of the kind I talk about on this humble blog reveals to the aspirant. This is the human quest, the quest for a love that transcends death. (Did you really think all those hermits had no fun at all? ^_^) Is it any wonder that Saraswati talks of these heightened powers, Motoyama of this gradual transcendence? We are speaking of human beings who seek to re-establish themselves in the divine, and the divine in themselves.

Having understood all that, it’s only natural to ask: why? How do we human beings find ourselves in such a position, constantly looking around us for a love we can’t find, and having to quest for it, to unwrap the veils covering it?

Here, unfortunately, we have to take leave of philosophy. The only answers to this question that human beings have managed so far are mythic. Not that we should spurn the mythic either — Plato certainly didn’t, and I value it greatly — but there is never any way to confirm the understanding given by myth. It becomes merely a question of tasting the flavour of it, of seeing whether it can apply. We don’t know.

The myth I’m thinking of is found in the Corpus Hermeticum, that wonderful collection of tracts arising out of the spiritual ferment of Hellenistic Egypt. Its first text is a revelation by a being named Poemandres (an aspect of the universal mind) who amongst many other things gives a mythic account of human origins. Apparently it was all a question of love, right from the beginning. We as immortal beings fell in love with Nature, and she with us, and we became lovers. But because of this, we subjected ourselves to fate and became mortal although still also immortal. We loved ‘not wisely but too well’, as we still do, all of us, and bound ourselves up in a world that operated as a permanent distraction from the Truth that, within, still motivates us.

One of the best lines of Poemandres is translated in the more modern version of Copenhaver using the word ‘desire’, but the Greek original says eros, and I prefer the older translation of G. R. S. Mead, which is still a valid reading I think:

Let him [that is, us, humanity] learn to know that he himself is deathless, and that the cause of death is love, though Love is all.

Could there be any better description of the human condition? Love causes death, yet is also the answer to it if its form can be transmuted — to something far beyond what the ordinary person experiences.

That this transmutation can actually take place is what is attested in all the spiritual traditions I’ve mentioned, and indeed in everything I’ve been trying to write. We have never been dealing with anything other than this. The version of the quest given by Poemandres is more esoteric than Diotima’s, but with its journey through seven spheres to re-emerge in the realm of Heaven, it may well remind us in some way of the journey through the chakras that Glenn laid out, following in his turn so many others. In any case, there is surely a sense in which all of these quests are the same. I encourage all those who choose to undertake any version of the quest. May you find the love that does not die.


Chakra Psychology

As I’ve been writing the first 22 posts on this blog, I’ve of course been experimenting with the techniques that power my viewpoint, most of which are now organized around the ideas of Glenn Morris — yet I find I’ve hardly talked about him. Glenn was a genius and hard to categorize.

He wanted to make a way that would survive him, and he has — the people over at KAP (Kundalini Awakening Process) are the most obvious inheritors, that is Susan Carlson, Santiago Dobles and Tao Semko. They have now taken on a new guy as a regular teacher called Paul Densmore, and seem to have trained several others too. There’s also Rob Williams, who is affiliated with them but teaches from his position as Soke of Hoshin Budo Ryu, the martial arts lineage Glenn established. Then you have others such as Robert Morgen, and Susanne Williams who is still turning up with useful stuff. (Thankyou, internet). And so forth, they all are continuing the same Glenn methods with their personal emphasis, tuning and sculpting.

Glenn was one of the great American mystics. When he does choose to write about the non-physical world, there isn’t a sniff of convention, of mealy-mouthed light and “ascension” stuff from some new age channelling tract, of anything reliant on calculation, of any disingenuousness in it. It just spills out in mythic colours. His spirituality is as full-blooded as his words are subtle. (I hope the literati discover him one day). If you are trying to tread incautiously in his footprints, respect is recommended — yet he makes it all sound so natural. He has been there, and he knows how to write about it:

The woodcuts of Blake resemble the dark holographic hollowness of the shape-changing energy beings… The gods can be treacherous and were forged in very different times… If your fundamentals are not in order, they will show you to a very glorious death. Some people have strong needs to be crushed into oblivion. The ladies of yin are very well versed in crushing.

Plato’s Republic lacks a variety of roles necessary for a valued, meaningful, fun life in a complex modern society like the U.S. His model, however, is popular with the dragons from whose cave he stole it… It’s breathtaking.

Even female lions will support a philosopher king, as was demonstrated by the pride at Florida’s Budweiser Gardens in the late 1960s when they kept killing the males introduced by their keepers to replace “Old Charlie” who eventually died in the saddle. The goddesses are waiting in their pure gardens starved of affection, and bored after waiting a few thousand years for a prince to show up with a kiss and an encyclopedia.

(from Chapter 13, “Denizens of the Deep”, in Shadow Strategies of an American Ninja Master)

This being a tiny flavour only. There’s plenty of weirder stuff, all written with a cheek recalling Heinlein’s or Cabell’s heaven-storming clever grins.

But the reason we take this from Glenn is that he is also a man of practicality. He doesn’t always talk crazy. Glenn had a Sc.D. in Psychology, of which his favoured branch was the Humanistic, and when it came to his meditations, he was determined to use it.

One of the greatest results is his chakra psychology. Well that’s not an uncommon thing to write about nowadays… Indian texts describing the chakras themselves evoke states of mind as well as the more mystical symbologies. And Jung ran with the latter, to some good effect. But not all the work done with chakras nowadays has that level of seriousness. (I’ve noticed, for example, material that attempts to relate the chakras to developmental age bands in a psychodynamic manner, on absolutely no evidence.)

Here, Glenn was completely different. The use of chakras was a psychological matter to him, and when it came to psychology, you were talking about science. We all have chakras, whether we are mystically inclined or not. Glenn focused his research on ordinary members of the public and, using the traditional four-elements-plus-void attributions of the chakras, tested the character traits of over 5,000 people using instruments and personality inventories of his own, as detailed in the posthumous e-book, Quantum Crawfish Bisque. The result was a personality system of real value typologically — and also mystically. The traditional elemental chakra attributions (Earth for base/muladhara, then Water, Fire, and Wind, with Void for the top three chakras) formed both an initiatory system and a psycho-ecology which fed the energy and body and inner imaging.

So one could look at the chakras and see subconscious motivators. For example that extraordinary mix, so exactly right in practice, of the earth chakra: leadership, sex, practicality and sensuality, manifesting, growing, teaching, protecting — and negatively sexual obsession, repression, bullying, etc.

But also, adopting the positive attitude of the chakra helped to awaken it and to conquer the negativity in it as one went through one’s psyche. If you want better earth energy and an open earth chakra, work on being strong but flexible, sensual but not lazy, practical; tighten up your use of sexual energy without being judgmental, and speak the truth; look for where you’re overly loose and not consistent in these areas and you will see the specific change you want. Do it with impeccable intent.

And to cap it all, use this to open up the system in meditation. The apotheosis of earth if you like. Attitude and affirmations (and perhaps some symbols appropriate to your personal way, more on that another time) that you have already used for healing can be brought in. You may, if interested in movement for art or fighting purposes, already have ‘walked the walk’ of the element concerned. Now you sit, still the mind, smile, open the tan tien, maybe run an orbit or two. Then take the attitude of the element and imbibe it deeply — for earth it would be that mix of steadiness, lovingness, confidence, practicality, uninhibition, truthful words, enjoyment of body, use of anger to right wrongs but never initiate, etc. (See Shadow Strategies, p. 46).

Hey presto, you are the earth chakra. You are listening to it and it to you. Now when you use your energy skills and then circulate the chi, that is going to do something — it’s going to open you up, change you, reinforce you, in that particular earth way. Your body is already awakening and healing, and your mind is learning to master the positive and negative manifestations of this node. Then you’ll string the whole series of these elemental attitudes together, water next and so forth through the pillar… and as the energy responds (within control) you’re already at Lesser Kan and Li. Your system from Light down to feet is starting to play a unified alchemical symphony in harmony with your environment, and your physiology is changing. (Then you have to learn to surrender.)

The sheer genius of this idea is that it makes a chakra initiation a series of psychological and emotional states, in a general enough way that we can all apply the idea. It’s that old topic I’ve mentioned before on this blog — inner multiplicity. As Tao Semko points out in a recent video, there are plenty of initiation systems designed to awaken kundalini. But apart from the actual techniques of meditation and breath and energy, they give stuff on the mental and emotional levels. They give you an attitude and a set of beliefs, and that commitment necessary to awaken the energy. If we take the set of elemental attitudes, plug in what we know about psychology and real life, and test it — suddenly we have an updated version of something that started off in the bronze age. Psychology and a certain artistic intuition will do the work that religion or philosophy used to have to try and do on its own. You use the ethic that makes sense for you and then you learn by feedback with the life force itself (If you get it wrong, you will be corrected.)

I’m going to continue this series with a little comparison of Glenn Morris’ to Franz Bardon’s system, which also uses the four-plus-one elements approach. See you then.