Friday, May 27, 2016

The Blind Men And The Elephant

Throughout the ages there have been adepts who have realized the true nature of reality. Over the 30 years or so of my spiritual seeking and searching, I have read books by and about many of these individuals and there was never any doubt that each one experienced a reality that I could only intuit from the words they wrote.

Ramana Maharshi head shot
Ramana Maharshi
And yet the nature of that experience was different for every realizer. This left me asking the question how can so many realizers have such different experiences and in some cases different ways of explaining the one reality or enlightenment? This was certainly something to ponder.

As human beings we experience at three different levels. Experiences in the Gross realm take place largely in the body. The next level of experience occurs in the Subtle realm, characterized by phenomena, yet to be scientifically verified, such as mysticism, NDE, OBE, dreams, astral travel, visions, kundalini.

Finally, there is experience in the Causal realm which is where the ego 'I' originates. It is also the source of attention. Experiences in any or all of these dimensions are not enlightenment. When I first heard the parable of the blind men and the elephant, I had a palpable and immediate insight that the elephant was a metaphor for enlightenment and each realized adept had only perceived one aspect and then proclaimed it to be the whole elephant.
Writing and speaking from my own experiences and insights — realizations gained from these sources, as opposed to being theoretical and/or philosophical hypotheses — have always been important for my own integrity as a spiritual writer. And so I look at the nature of my experiences in these three domains and how sensing one aspect of the elephant fully convinced me it was enlightenment.

The experiences I'm talking about relate to the esoteric path of spirituality as opposed to the exoteric path of religion. It is also not a linear path; the Subtle/Causal can occur alongside the Gross, but the Subtle experiences are not consciously accessible in the beginning.

Experiences in the Gross realm occur largely up to the age 21 although nowadays many twenty-somethings don't actually reach that age until a much later date. Nevertheless, these physical, emotional, mental experiences occur as the ego and egoity develops.

Physical also spiritual beings
While engaged in intensive self-developmental training for five years, I examined areas of my life where I felt a loss of freedom, power, and self-expression due to circumstances and events in my past, whose meaning I then shifted to other causes in order to free myself from the hold these experiences had on me. During my time in this training I was definitely gripping the leg of the elephant and declaring it to be enlightenment or freedom from suffering. At that time, this was Enlightenment for me and I told everyone who would listen that it was!

The Chakras
The Body's Chakras
Prior to this, I'd studied and practiced Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, which allowed me to understand that any path where the attention is turned inward stimulates Subtle realm experiences. On many a retreat, I remember participants sharing what occurred in the class meditations, members reporting how they'd "seen" lights and colors and my feeling baffled and somewhat envious as my meditations were nowhere near as blissful! Now I understand that this phenomena is the nature of the Subtle, which, for some reason, I didn't have access to at that time. Later, I was to experience the Subtle in its strongest form — the arousal of Kundalini with its attendant release of energy.

I now realize I held back from pursuing the Subtle: there was something I felt I couldn't trust myself with. Had I had these lights, visions, and mystical experiences, I might have gotten stuck there! Plus, my heart told there was more to it. My reluctance to engage in this realm is why I haven't had many experiences of this type and why I groan inwardly every time someone mentions "seeing angels." In the past I am ashamed to say that I was dismissive of everything to do with revelations like this. Now I completely accept these kinds of experiences as valid and originating from the Subtle realm.

Open hand vs. Closed fist
The Causal realm is where one adept claims the source of the ego 'I' and root of egoity as well as the root of attention dwells. Because of my lifelong struggle with ego, I decided to investigate his claims and despite the communal damage that devotion to a Guru often arouses, I became a formal devotee of this realized Adept because of the clarity with which He writes about this dimension of experience, and the fact that it can only be felt. He speaks at length about the ego knot that defines this realm and how it is only when the ego knot is released that there is Enlightenment. According to my Guru's analogy, before attention is freed from this causal knot the human being is like a closed fist — separate, but after the ego knot breaks, the closed fist becomes an open hand and the separation is no more.

Profound as this is, it is still only another part of the elephant because the elephant itself has four additional states within its own state: Divine Transformation, Divine Transfiguration, Divine Indifference, and Divine Translation. Another reason I became a formal devotee of this realized Adept is because these stages resonate intuitively. These stages exist not because this Adept was a great thinker, but because every word He's written comes from His experience. For me, this realized Adept has not only grasped the whole elephant but IS the elephant.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Supernatural And Metaphysical Unite!

Sad is watching someone thump his chest because he believes he's won an argument that's unwinnable. That's what the polemic concerning God vs. No God is, an unwinnable argument, a polemic.

In polemics the winner is the one most skilled in argumentation. Evidence, empirical or anecdotal, is not to be found, while shouting and obfuscation are ubiquitous and omnipresent. Invective, rant, tirade, broadside, diatribe, attack, harangue, condemnation, criticism, stricture, admonition, rebuke are its hallmarks. Ted Cruz is a master of polemics. didn’t have to read Cold-Case Christianity (CCC) written by LA cold-case homicide detective, J. Warner Wallace to realize that it was based on customer profiling and psychographic targeting with a liberal dose of the agent's and the author's crafting a clever non-fiction book proposal, i.e., that a veteran homicide detective could apply the principles and techniques used in solving cold cases to prove the veracity of the Bible. Trouble is, the author doesn't start from scratch; he has a foregone conclusion he is determined to fit his so-called researched facts to. I downloaded the sample pages, read them, saw where he was headed, and decided to pass on the rest. Nevertheless, the book is a big seller, which says more about the general lack of analytical skills than it does about the book's content. It tells us that people need constant reinforcements of their beliefs, and they are ready to accept them blindly, in whatever form they are offered — film, article, webpage, book.

Bart Ehrman's book Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible offers a more coherent appraisal of the Bible's content than CCC does, but whether you accept Ehrman's or Wallace's version of the facts is not the real issue. Both are best sellers. And both put forth arguments that are mere stand ins or straw men for the real issue: the God vs. No God argument. One side argues that, if they can verify evidentially the accuracy of the Bible, it then follows that God must exist; the other side argues that if they can disprove the assorted "facts" in the Bible, it proves that God does not exist. This is the straw man fallacy, which Wikipedia summarizes thusly, "The so-called typical 'attacking a straw man' argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition." Whether the information in the Bible is accurate or not does not prove or refute the existence of God.
This straw man approach is a new wrinkle to the old "There is a God" argument, the one which urged you to accept the existence of God on faith. But like that approach, it's beside the point. Whether you argue "Bible facts" or "faith," there's no proof that God does or doesn't exist. I'm not saying He doesn't; I'm saying I don't know. No one knows, and no one can prove otherwise.

The “faith" approach is more of a movement than a proof, a political groundswell with no rational basis. The "Bible facts" argument is moot because — even though it's a diversionary straw man tactic meant to bolster the less reasoned "faith" argument — it boils down to using the intellect in trying to prove, or disprove, the existence of God. I call this the outside-in approach. It is not possible to apprehend the supernatural — I prefer the term metaphysical — with the rational mind, from the outside-in. Not possible to use intellectual pyrotechnics or polemics to authenticate the supernatural or metaphysical. Authentication must be lived and experienced first hand.

There is an alternate: the inside-out approach, which uses Eastern energy cultivation techniques such as meditation, yoga, etc, to actually awaken the hidden subsystems of the human body, allowing the individual to experience metaphysical reality directly, i.e., to pass from the physical to metaphysical planes, and thereby bear witness to what I call the energy continuum — an expanded reality beyond the material world that contains that world and the worlds beyond all cosmological worlds. How far an individual goes with this type of practice depends on his volition and dedication. Let me add here one insight it has given me: the ultimate aim of meditation is to become more and more conscious. Enlightenment, therefore, is becoming fully conscious.

How did I arrive at this? Through a kundalini meditation that projected me into a vibratory state of such profound consciousness that I realized, not because someone asked me to take it on faith, but because I experienced it, that a hidden metaphysical reality does exist, that death is only an intermediate state. How unconscious I had been all of my life!

What sort of mechanism did this meditation trigger in order to accomplish this? It used the body's most powerful source — sexual energy. Quite simply, the energy source which creates life was rerouted and drawn up the spinal column into the brain. Since kundalini is a biological phenomenon, it needs to draw energy from a biological source in order to accomplish its purpose. That source happens to be sexual, the same energy source involved in procreation. How could it be otherwise? The energy used to create life is the same energy used in spiritual re-birth. What other source in the human body has the requisite energy to accomplish such a task?

Luckily, I was in my early thirties when this happened. Plenty of time to learn from this process and to restore my body to its optimal condition. At first, the effects were physical; my brain and its casing were reshaped (strange how the physical awakens the metaphysical which in turn kick off a reconditioning of the physical). Gradually, as these metaphysical experiences deepened, I became more conscious, until I realized I was using only a portion of my potential, that full consciousness might somehow remove me from the physical world. As I said, becoming conscious is gradual and I haven't felt ready to make such an existential leap.

But whether it boils down to what Christians refer to as a supernatural experience or to the term I prefer, a metaphysical experience, my aroused kundalini showed me that while we can't prove the existence, or non-existence, of God, we have at our disposal a vast range of experiential phenomena, such as OBE, NDE, kundalini awakenings, etc., all of which are triggered by a voluntary or an unexpected summoning of biological energy.

With this type of experience, there's no need to thump the chest; winning the argument is not the goal here. Scientific evaluation is. These cases don't depend on polemics; they occur irrespective of cultural, language, religious, educational, or geographical differences — and they share many of the same symptoms and effects. For the individual, it's a take-it-as-it-comes succession of phenomena in the laboratory of his or her own body, which, over time, also quiets the ego as it renews the being. For society, it's a piecemeal compilation of metaphysical accounts, which, as each anecdote is added, becomes an avalanche begging for a suitable means of scientific authentication.

The inside-out approach jettisons the whole baggage of conventional wisdom, polemics, and traditional religion. Christianity, which was turned into a political party by Augustine of Hippo and whose proponents/apologists and critics/detractors have argued God vs. No God back-and-forth for over two thousand years without making any progress, is an especially sad case.

Individuals, influential early Christians like Arius and Origen, who encouraged the direct experience of the inside-out approach — much in the mode of Buddha, Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti, Milarepa, and Lao Tse — were systematically rooted out and persecuted by pro-Augustine spin doctors, a case well-documented in the Elizabeth Clare Prophet book on Reincarnation and Christianity. Yes, there are unproven hypotheses in her book, but the idea that Jesus was on a Buddha-like trip during his lost years, supports the notion that the major historical spiritual figures used the inside-out approach to arrive at the insights and fundamental practices that the religions named after them are based on. The outside-in approach didn't appear until much later when the various spin doctors began arguing the endless stream of dogma/doctrine, much to the chagrin of the real authorities on religious experience.

In fact, the supernatural yearnings Christians feel are a positive element; they need to join with metaphysicians to practice and pursue the inside-out approach that values energy cultivation and direct experience over polemics and the dictates of intermediaries, i.e., priests, spin doctors, theologians, and ecclesiastics.

Those who take the inside-out approach have made, and will continue to make, measurable progress in the practice and discovery of energy cultivation techniques which lead to direct metaphysical experience, the multiplicity of which is just beginning to be catalogued and authenticated, à la Michael Murphy’s The Future of the Body, a survey of consciousness and meta-normal experience.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Chinnamasta, The Sixth Mahavidya

I know that different peoples' experiences are different, but Kundalini, to me, always feels female. How sheer energy, primordial life force should have a gender I'm not sure, but perhaps the realities indicated by the words male and female descend into depths of being where the external manifestation — thoughts, feelings and even bodies — no longer count. Perhaps it's at these deep levels of being, and not in thoughts, feelings and bodies, that male and female fully fuse and that wonderful reality called the Androgynous, an achievement in both Tantric and Western alchemy, is achieved. Kundalini, as a female energy, fuses with Siva, the still point, timeless being. Certainly, the Tantras seem always to refer to Kundalini as She, not It. (She Who Is Outside The Universe, And Goes Upwards)
In this regard, icons of the Mahavidya Chinnamasta in Hindu Tantra are very revealing. The ten mahavidyas, or manifestations of the Goddess, represent the different stages of manifestation of Kali. And Chinnamasta, the sixth mahavidya is pivotal as She stands at the crossover point between the unmanifest and the manifest. Her transformation-icon also has deep erotic references. You can see one of these icons in Phillip Rawson's excellent book, The Art Of Tantra. It's an eighteenth century icon from Kangra titled Chinnamasta Arising From The Joined Bodies Of The Originating Couple.
Last Tango In Paris (1972)
Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider

At the bottom of the image a man and woman copulate on an eight-petalled lotus. They may be the "Originating Couple," but in this particular icon they look wonderfully human, and happy. They are entwined in sexual union, the man on his back (stillness, immovability) the woman lying full-length on top of him (movement and energy.) The Goddess stands on top of them. The portrayal is so vivid that one could almost picture the Divine Woman standing on top of two people making love, too real and intense to disturb them. The Goddess's body is red, and the Kali chain of skulls (the chain of time, birth and death) hangs round her neck, or rather round what's left of her neck, because in her right hand she holds a pair of shears with which she's just cut off her (crowned) head, which she holds in her left hand. Spouts of blood from her severed neck are drunk by two maidens, who symbolize the right and left nadis (pingala nadi and ida nadi). It's a violent and grotesque image that generates power on many levels. On one level, it's a dramatic portrayal of sexual transcendence, the copulating couple are real, human lovers, but their ecstasy has ascended the central channel (the susumna nadi) and instead of a physical climax has entered the "no-head" state of consciousness beyond the brain, beyond bodily thought or feeling, a state which is more, not less, real than the physical body.