Tag Archives: light

Light Anatomy

I can’t say how this began.

In one early unknowing attempt to rewire what life was disarranging I snarled at my boss that I was going to bed. “Alright!” he said, puzzled at my accusatory tone. I too was puzzled since apart from a mild temperature I had no idea why I was going to bed nor why I sounded so accusatory. I spent all day in my room without eating. I was working in Holland at the time. I can’t remember if it was then, although I think the time after, when during the hours in bed I became simultaneously so hot and so cold and also so confused that I had the window wide open to cool me off and the heating fan on maximum to warm me up.

Anyone who wishes to explain this by Darwinian adaptational advantage can feel free to speak up. It is clearly shamanic illness/spiritual emergence etc. But I had never heard of shamanism and was brought up to assume that it was a fictional category some unfortunates chose to pretend was real. After a day or two at most it would subside. I said nothing about it even to myself. (That wasn’t so wise but I just had no transpersonal interests.)

The process became stronger and more interesting. In one episode in my twenties I again took to my room, knowing this time that I was searching for something. I thought it must have to do with fantasy or myth. I began pulling out books, thumbing them for images. Each one was ‘obviously not it’. They ended up in a pile on the bed with me.

I didn’t know what I was searching for — “something to complete me”, it seemed. But these things did not complete me and I seemed to know that; how? What in me knew this? What was pushing me to seek?

I realised that something in me could actually “see” what I was looking for. I decided to look “where” this thing was looking. I discovered that it was seeing a great light. I don’t think this light was at all external (some can be of course) — it was an inner illumination. I went up into it. Some interesting stuff happened. When the day ended I was chuckling to myself in delight and breathing quite obviously through the soles of my feet, which was odd because I’d never been taught pore breathing or indeed any transpersonal techniques at all; not even so much as the idea of them existed in me consciously.

That light was a good thing to discover. Although it’s not that bad I don’t like the term ‘Higher Self’. Superconscious Light is a term I will use to myself. The light does have content and even form in a way but is not… describable. The older terminology in the West was genius (Latin) or daimôn (Greek). (Inspiration denies mechanism. There is not some mechanism here. Tell anyone who thinks you are a machine to go wrench themselves; they are just trying to control you.) This is all about aliveness but in a massive key. It’s also about love and strength and inspiration, vivification and destination and — yes superconsciousness, consciousness in a higher and more intense key. There are problems with “higher self” because of the word ‘self’ since most people mistake self-concept for self, whereas this light is something which cannot be entered whilst maintaining the self-concept.

The overhead space is The Place You Get To in both Yogic and Taoist Inner Alchemical systems — after a long while of previous opening and harmonising though. It is “where the story really starts”. I’ve learned a lot more down-to-earth stuff to help with the accessing.

Using Ericksonian trance in this highly non-Ericksonian context, I like to join the subconscious mind (which in this form of hypnosis is solution-generating) to the superconscious. In this way I think of first getting into the body below and then getting out of it above, which fits with the Yoga/Taoist stuff again. First you go down then you go up. Trancework is an incredible way to change in preparation because you often don’t even notice it happening. You just find you have changed, and you see that ‘it’ has been creative behind the scenes. Plus ‘it’ can tap into abilities you didn’t know you had. I’ve used this to smooth out the differences between the Taoist qigong stuff and what I do naturally — psychology in general offers a viewpoint from which you can see both things. Cross-cultural confusions can be avoided.

Note the “Ka’auhelemoa Rain” falling from the superconscious. (To me it feels more like the sun.)

It was nice to discover the Huna 3-selves diagram which shows the “first down then up” formula.

What is important though is to see this as mapped on the body in the Eastern style. Victor Anderson’s Etheric Anatomy adapts it, β-body being the conscious, α-body the subconscious, and γ-body superconscious. As you can see he’s relating it to auric layers — also to different substances. His Feri tradition was very Huna-influenced. The subconscious starts around the diaphragm area which is nice to play with if one is not literalist. Anderson calls the γ-body the ‘personal god’ — that’ll do but thinking about badocelot’s comment last week I like to use the g-word as little as I can. It’s just played out, little left of its cultural carcass for the theological hyenas. (Daimonic could also = angelic if that interests you.)

Can I just say how weird it is that this is right there, all the time, and we all have it? It is ordinary but so far removed from the ordinary. It’s said to be immortal — maybe it is but I don’t quite know what that means. (What happens when the universe ends?) Anyway longer than you can count. And yet unaging. Although transpersonal in the sense of being beyond what most would think of as themselves, I am not talking about anything cosmic here. Haloes cross cultures and are related to getting that light entrained to the rest of the energy body.

I’ll give later some very easy ways to use trance with this, but wouldn’t want to tell anyone to “have faith” in some light they can’t see. Nothing I write is about faith — only evidence and experience interests me. I would rather give people stuff they can test for themselves (the subconscious is easy to test) and would never have used the light if I didn’t know about it first. Since it is there all the time there is no point in my pretending otherwise.

The episode where I was first conscious of the light as an adult was in retrospect a Breakout — but with no conscious priming, only subconscious processes pushing. There’s quite a lot of that in my life. There’s a lesson there although it may not do many that much good — simply that because I didn’t talk and think about these experiences they remained separate from my identity. In fact having learned what the word means I can say quite certainly I was dissociated from them, with all that implies about the potential of actual Dissociative Identity Disorder (what used to be called multiple personality disorder).

It’s no wonder one is ‘attracted’ to this or that practice, because the culture squashes things and one is not allowed to think about them, but they are pushing to get out. Often I see that people squash themselves. I can recall that before I knew about kriyas I really thought I had a nervous system problem — but at the same time “I” didn’t, because “I” as normal social mind didn’t choose to know about those funny twitches with any particular clarity. I guess on some level I was sure I was ok, but that level was far from “me”. Maybe there’s a reader or two that can relate.

This also meant I never noticed the synchronisms between altered states and my regular life. In our culture it is actually possible to be dissociated from one’s own soul.

Still it’s nice to have in definite and clear “view” the staggering limitlessness of what underlies even one human being! I don’t know how the anatomy works in non-human beings. I might try to find out sometime… this has unfortunately been the wettest English April in a century. I hope your May has begun well…

Not so fast!

Human energy knowledge is a precious resource -- click for artist Olver Sorin's facebook page

Ch’i exists — fine. It travels through the body in meridians, which the yogis call nadis — fine too, but a map of the nadis doesn’t look like a map of the meridians. Now my feeling here is that if in doubt, they’re both right, and I’ll back that up this week, in other words I’m arguing anti-exclusivism, but I’m also going to argue anti careless syncretism.

Subjects like these are touchy for some which prevents clarity, so I can’t say how grateful I’ve been for independent scholarship on religious and transpersonal issues — the secular is one of the best things ever to have happened to the spiritual.

Taiji Symbol

Let’s take a nice one — yin and yang and how they manifest creation. I was talking of Tao last week, and most will know its close relation, taiji. We learn in Tao Te Ching ch. 42 that: “Tao produces one, one produces two…” etc. Now stop me if you’ve heard this one:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…

Personally I see a connection there. Division into or generation of two different things as the beginning of generating everything else is a feature of so many cosmic beginnings I’ve happened across that it looks like a definite pattern. Would you expect this if a prime unity comes at the apex of much mystical experience? Well yes, but the division into two is never of two things the same. There are two definitely different substance-principles and they seem to differ in consistent ways. Genesis has more right away — when God has created light, he goes on to separate it from the darkness, and then he has to separate the upper waters from the lower waters, etc.

Lao-tzu of course is not myth, but the god Wenchang is more mythically Chinese and also happens to be one of the few gods of whom we can read the autobiography, which begins:

When Hundun first divided into opaque and clear,
In the astral quarter of the Southeast the phosphors shone sharp and bright.
In its midst were contained the billowing energies of the Great Monad.
I was already in secret correspondence with the quintessence of creation.

— Terry F. Kleeman tr., see A God’s Own Tale (1994)

More of Wenchang next week, but again there’s that division, this time into ‘opaque and clear’. Those are standard attributes of yin and yang. “Hundun” is the primordial Unintelligibility/Chaos.

In the Babylonian Enûma Elish, there’s a primal deity named Apsu who represents fresh water and is male. He mixes his waters with Tiamat, who amongst other things is the salt ocean, is connected with primordial chaos, and is female, to produce ‘sky above and earth below’.

In the Greek Orphic theogony, Ananke, whom we met last week, is a primordial player. She was serpentine and spread her limbs through the universe. She mated with Chronos, or time, male, also serpentine in form. In some versions they enwrap the egg of the cosmos and split it into two. Out of that came Phanes, a being of Light, who was married to Night.

The Vikings how ‘before the dawn of time’ there were two regions — Niflheim, dark and cold, and Muspelheim, hot and fiery. In between was Ginnungagap, the great void. The cold mists of Niflheim and firesparks from Muspelheim met in Ginnungagap and produced an elixir which dripped down to form a humanoid shape: Ymir, the first of the giants.

(Now don’t get me started on those giants.)

I myself have not yet seen a vision of the actual formation of the cosmos, although some I know have, but am rather experientially familiar with the yin/yang thing and its differentiation and marriage. If I were to sum up the relevant terms above, carefully hoarded down the ages in 5 very different places, I’d have something like:



What happens if we say all of these look related?

One has only three options at that point, and I’ll skip over the first, which is to say this is all just cultures passing stories to one another along with “coincidence”, as simple whimsical materialism. These records are prized because someone “sees”, and their vision concerns the nature of the universe rather than just the inside of shamans’ heads. Such visions coincide because they were each, in a different way, seeing something which actually is in a more-than-symbolic way “at the root of the universe”.

So we have two options left. I’ll call the first Hard Perennialism. If I were doing Hard Perennialism I’d say things like: the Light produced by God was called the Great Monad in China, and Phanes in Greece, whilst the direction of Southeast is equivalent to fire in China or Muspelheim to the Norse where ‘phosphors sharp and bright’ were said to exist, etc… gradually I produce a composite story with terms from the multiple cultures. I’ve gone from seeing a connection to seeing identity.

This sort of thing is a) sometimes enlightening, b) useful in that it makes a transcultural space, and c) fun. It goes back a long way. Zosimus of Panopolis, the first Hermetic Alchemist of whom we have record (3rd-4th c. CE), was a master synthesiser, but I can’t be the only one today who finds his zippings-together a little awkward at times:

In the original hieratic language the first man… is designated Thouthos. The Chaldeans, the Parthians, the Medes and the Hebrews call him Adam… the Adam of flesh is called Thouth with respect to the visible outer mould, but the Man within him, the Man of Spirit… is Phos, and from this it follows that men came to be known as “photes”…

On the Letter Omega, Howard M. Jackson ed./tr. (1978)

… etc. The Adam of Genesis and the Egyptian god Thoth both happen to be namers in their respective mythologies, so Zosimus can blend them for his particular practice — Hermetic alchemy.

Thoth. on the right in ibis-headed form

Ultimately he also seems to claim more: to know the “actual meaning” behind it all, what Adam and Thoth “really were” all along. That’s what Hard Perennialism tends to do — “I get what these people were all driving at, now it can be revealed.” But in actual fact it often makes a new belief system entirely, by pointing up similarities but completely ignoring differences. The ibis-headed Thoth, associated with baboons and the moon, is a deity, magician, peacemaker, and judge of the dead, and had originally precisely dingo’s kidneys to do with Adam, the biblical first human being. They coincide at one point but differ at most others. Not even a Jungian could elide them on archetypal grounds.

Spiritual vision is a funny thing, reports of it even funnier. Connection does not equal identity — necessarily. Sometimes there is no doubt – — sometimes a lot. Tao is not necessarily “God”. They may be the same, it depends upon human choice and perception. (There are Taoist religious movements, of very long standing, that make Tao a personal-style god and re-imagine Lao-tzu as its incarnation BTW.) Ginnungagap is never said to have produced Muspelheim and Niflheim but was used by them to form an elixir. In what sense was God’s light “married to” the darkness from which he separated it, as Phanes was married to Night? Tao produced one, one produced two, but then two went ahead and produced three which is a whole different kettle of tilapia. And so forth.

Are these differences important? Actual practices tell us much here. Broadly, yang is said to exist on the right of the body and yin on the left, across cultures — but not absolutely always, and there are plenty of people making the opposite way work right there. This is not intellectual; actual exercises and energies are used involving ch’i in relation to the body, and these have a considerable effect on it, and on the mind. It is very easy to see these ideas as the same conceptually, but sometimes the actual use of them is dead opposite. Practice trumps theory.

When two ways conflict but are both right, this is tricky to Hard-Perennialise. It happens quite a lot. Glenn’s system of stacking the elements, for example, is the usual one in Budo and Mikkyo Buddhism, which puts the element of fire below air at the solar plexus, whereas the Westerner Bardon puts fire at the top, above air, in the head — following, say, Robert Fludd (in the first illstration on this page, note the elements at the bottom of the monochord with their latin names). Both can’t be right, if we’re looking for some kind of complete match, yet both absolutely are right, in that both systems have been shown to work. They have actual effect on bodies and souls, more than enough to prove the underlying visions are at least to some extent real rather than mere fancy.

So the seemingly simple ideas of yin and yang division or 4 elements are actually multiple, and filtered through cultural windings into systems and ways that don’t always correspond. Each is a truth. They may be at odds when seeming to chime, or to chime when seeming to be at odds.

That’s why I say not so fast! to Hard Perennialism. I tend to go with what I call Soft Perennialism, which means acknowledging things are the same and also different, which they tend to be, and which knits together terms admitting that one particular kind of sense may not be the only kind. (Zosimus’ Adam was not nonsense in context, but was nothing a rabbi would want to go with.)

Creative use of mythic and visionary materials is very important, and can turn up great stuff — I’ve always held the Jungian attitude in high esteem, for example, and the shadow/anima concepts combine very well with Glenn. But, “true” though this stuff is in the sense of ‘it corresponds to the symbols and works in practice’, one can’t look at it as ‘the truth’. Jung’s alchemical psychology is a great use for the material but alchemists like Zosimus and his successors weren’t psychologists, in fact used chemicals and laboratories as well as spiritual techniques, and were often interested in some very physical results. There is no ‘one true answer’ about used of the four elements, about yin and yang.

Perhaps there’s one more reason to prefer Soft Perennialism — it leaves the aesthetic of the original intact. Take the Viking cosmology, wedded to the Iceland landscape. Kevin Crossley-Holland goes wild with the descriptions of the beginning of the universe, with his ‘yeasty venom, ‘dismal hagger and rime’ and so on. He may go a little past his sources, but what he’s saying is that these people were of their land, and it was a tough one in a tough time, a time for tough people who took the evil of the world for granted and snarled at it. Many modern will say things like, “We don’t grovel before our gods, or they wouldn’t think we were worth listening to.” I value that, the particular flavour of something adapted to a particular niche, something not universal but particular to certain individual cultures, just as much as anything general to be abstracted therefrom.

Now I’ve brought in gods again… today we’ve had Yahweh and Tao-as-divinity, we’ve had Wenchang, we’ve had Thoth. But what are these ‘god’ things anyway? That’s my topic next week.


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