The following is excerpted from a manuscript-in-process entitled Dark Pool of Light: Reality and Consciousness.
There are profound similarities and
differences between the Seven Planes system and the visualization practices of
Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism as well as between theosophy and Vajrayana, Zen,
and Dzogchen, and other lineages of Buddhism in general. These systems address the same Ultimate
Supreme Reality from diverging cultural perspectives, at different emotional
tones, from unique ontological and eschatological perspectives.
Historically theosophy and Buddhism
arrive from opposite poles of West and East and reflect that European and Asian
in their spiritual strategies, meditation techniques, lifestyles, styles of
asceticism, and relative optimism or pessimism regarding our immediate and
ultimate fate. A zendo with zafus for
sitting meditation, chanting paramitas,
and bowing is not the same brand of kiva as a lodge hall with plastic roses and
quartz crystals and circles for conducting séances and summoning spirits. As the Zen initiate sits for hours, days,
weeks, years on a cushion, trying to tame his monkey mind and regain his
fundamental dignity, it doesn't look like a psychic student visualizing his
grounding cord and layers of his aura.
Yet each is running subtle energy.
The long-term gap in cultural context is blatant: While internal
meditation and alchemy in Taoist and Buddhist cultures gave rise to energetic
breathing, gathering of interior chi, and nonattachment to form, the West's
externalized alchemy produced forges, locomotives, and laboratories.
Of course, this is a
oversimplification: the West has internal arts, and Asia
originated technologies too. Both
traditions are Deep Earth. Each shares the other's shamans, sybils, and
psychics. Each is self-secret such that
even if a person were directly given the teachings, he would not have the right
context in which to understand or use them each requires transmission of
rituals and techniques from teacher to student.
Each has tenebrous tendrils in the
other, as the systems are complementary: one's surface tends to function as the
other's depth, and vice versa. Buddhism has enlightenment as its explicit
and apparent goal. Psychic work seeks
personal reality and spiritual freedom.
But those are cover stories.
Spiritual freedom lies also at the core of Buddhism, and enlightenment
is the alternate reality of theosophy. A
lama is as psychic a practitioner as a tarot reader, and an Astral traveler is
as concerned as a Zen monk about the precision of his or her meditation.
Riding a sublime current out of
Hinduism, Buddhism has as its sine qua
non: breaking the cycle of samsara (birth, life, death, and rebirth;
incarnation and reincarnation): "Lead me from the unreal to the real. Lead me from darkness to light. Lead me from death to immortality."*
Theosophy's corresponding goal is to participate fully in the
world. But Buddhists party and carouse
too, while theosophists aspire to get off the Great Roller-Coaster.
Buddhism is rooted in a Vedic view
of life (existence) as illusion, transformation, and inevitable grief. Theosophy does not refute or evade this
verdict, but it does not prioritize it or cast an existential gaze in its
direction. Instead, it follows higher
vibrations, as it leads the horse celebratorily around the corral (the corral
being Life As It Is) and cultivates a resilient capacity for pleasure and
sorrow and the ceaseless waves of change connecting them. At the same time, Buddhists participate in
creative expression of Life As It Is and ride the Wave.
From a monastic Buddhist
perspective, the world is a place of diabolic temptations, of traps that keep
us from self-realization and immortality, luring us into one state of damnation
or another. But why? In either instance actually-pleasure-seeking
or strategic abstinence — why? Or is
"why" a mere bleat against the vastness and mysteriousness of our
Both Buddhist monks and clairvoyant
trainees disavow that our situation is an unfortunate exile outside of satori:
instead, they understand that this is exactly how things should be despite "heartaches by the number and troubles
by the score." We are here to
take in the majesty of creation: "to be able to embrace everything with
the mindfulness of awareness-wisdom, without losing the continuity of that
Easier said than done; easier
practiced over a period of resolve than maintained for the long haul. But that is the way to become a magician or
master in either system, to escape the cycle of endless rebirth or whatever.
The Buddhist gaze is its act of
sitting zazen and encountering limitless interior space, letting thoughts arise
and fade away without beguilement or attachment to a goal. It is like looking an inner night sky. To make ourselves transparent and receptive
enough to glimpse our ground luminosity is our opportunity for awakening within
a dream to something not quite the dream.
In fact, it is our only choice, the only solace we have in the face of
inevitable loss, grief, and suffering.
Japanese Zen master Shunryu Suzuki-roshi posted it this way:
"Suppose your children are
suffering from a hopeless disease. You
do not know what to do; you cannot lie in bed.
Normally the most comfortable place for you would be a warm comfortable
bed, but now because of your mental agony you cannot rest. You may walk up and down, in and out, but
this does not help. Actually the best
way to relieve your mental suffering is to sit in zazen, even in such a
confused state of mind and bad posture.
If you have no experience of sitting in this kind of difficult situation
you are not a Zen student. No other
activity will appease your suffering. In
other restless positions you have no power to accept your difficulties, but in
the zazen posture which you have acquired by long, hard practice, your mind and
body have great power to accept things as they are, whether they are agreeable
"When you feel disagreeable it is
better for you to sit. There is no other
way to accept your problem and work on it….
"The awareness that you are here,
right now, is the ultimate fact. That is
the point you will realize by zazen practice."
"Right here, right now"
is the heart of Buddhist practice, reflected in popularized maxims like
"be here now" and "the power of now." "Right here, right now" means
refining a pinpoint awareness of the moment of consciousness and its
effects. As a damp fog gradually
drenches one, humbly practicing zazen while yielding to the universe soaks one
with a stable joy.
Using quite different tools,
theosophy also taps the energy of "life as it is," awakening our
natural receptivity to joyful energy, but in a more vernacular, free-falling
and county-fair kind of way. While it
has its existential moments and groks the cosmic view, its repertoire for
dealing with the universe skirts spiritually immaturity — a version of flailing
futilely in circles within samsara. Buddhism's advanced practices for attaining
joy and neutrality are discriminating and discrete by comparison with anything
in theosophy. So I wouldn't recommend
dropping Buddhist practice for psychic tools in hopes of having more fun and
getting off scot-free.
Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche warns
against getting trapped in idealized practices or conceptual frameworks
(Buddhist or other). Even the goal of
clarity and "being empty" is a snare unless one holds to the emptiness out of
which all thoughts are proceeding. As
the act of meditation focuses the meditator on present time, he may find
himself counterproductively working with the "now" as a separate, dual concept,
copied from a conforming observation of what insight or compassion should look
like and how it should behave — replicas and counterfeits. Instead one must let things be as they are,
constantly recognizing the fact of the self-arising nature and source of mind,
and waking ourselves to it through constantly shifting appearances. Then compassion will be compassion, and "now"
will really be now:
"The real bodhichitta, which is awakened mind,
is of course already present within us as our basic nature, but somehow it is covered
up by our normal way of thinking, encased within the shell of deluded
perceptions. It's not so easy to have it
become visible immediately in a full-fledged way. It's as if we need to plagiarize awakened
mind a little bit, by forming a thought as an imitation. There is really no way around this other than
to make a facsimile of the awakened attitude….
[W]e need to copy bodhichitta by forming the thought of compassion for
all beings. There is nothing wrong with
that. Bodhichitta is not copyrighted; no
company manufactures it, so it's not as if we'll be sued. We simply want to imitate what we have heard
so much about, the awakened state realized by the buddhas and masters of the
We can't forge compassion. Yet such imitation — copying energy,
plagiarizing visualizations — is not only permissible but de rigueur in theosophy. Of
course, real psychic meditation does not get stuck in forgeries; it blows them
up and moves on as directed by present energy.
Dzogchen prefers clear mind; theosophy prefers clear energy. In the end these are the same. Different paths, same payoff.
The difference between these
systems can sometimes be a matter of whether one believes that the gods and
source energies of the universe are fundamentally benign and ecstatic or
indifferent and cruel — but that is a superficial reading too. Both systems accept a beneficent creation and
our ultimate redemption. Buddhism
doesn't project the universe as ruthless or punitive: our minds have ensnared
us in a vicious cul de sac. Because of the deviousness of the snare,
mature teachers tend toward abstemious strategies while keeping the main
attention on the source of mindedness and the symptomology of our attachment to
fleeting pleasures and security. Joyful
and loving practice provides the basis for transcendence of our core
Kagyu-lineage tulku Chögyam Trungpa's
legendary "crazy wisdom" offers engagement with life as well as permission to
participate in extreme forms of pleasure and experience as teaching modes. The rationale is that, insofar as all states
are real in themselves and arise from the world, no act or encounter can be
avoided indefinitely. Attempted
avoidance merely creates agitated mind and habitual trance states as well as
inauthentic piety without spiritual resilience.
On the other hand, following one's innate desires down to their source
energies is indispensable to transcendence.
"Crazy wisdom" uses the
innate quality of pleasure-seeking to deconstruct itself. If one goes consciously on his or her own
mindful trajectory with an awareness of inner luminosity and the innate
brilliance of their own presence, then in fact every act is allowed and every
experience becomes part of the training — but only as long it is directed toward
clarity rather than pleasure for its own hedonistic sake or for
Trungpa is exhorting people to
understand their own desires — in their origination and intrinsic nature, and
this is different from merely having fun.
He and other such teachers may seem to be encouraging followers to
indulge where they are drawn and attracted, but the path remains one of
dropping attachment. Hedonism turns out
to be symptomatic and superficial solace-seeking and not very pleasurable or
fulfilling in its seeming gratification.
This teaching is way too easy to
misunderstand and misapply because, after all, who doesn't want to have fun in
the context of high-end spiritual permission?
For some it becomes a license to engage in promiscuous sex,
intoxications, and profound slackerdom as per desire. The dark side was provided in spades by many
of Trungpa's followers and those of other "crazy wisdom"
teachers. In the decades following the
exuberant sixties, apologists performed a charade of spiritual practices under
what they took as carte blanche:
ordinary ethics don't apply to this here pilgrim and seeker!
What they rationalized from their
gurus, unfortunately, was that, if you are a sincere Buddhist warrior, you can
have all the wine, women, drugs, and hiphop you desire and, as a bonus, you can
become enlightened in the process. If
that sounds too good to be true…. The
universe is an open road, gracious and magnificent to a fault, but it is not facile. Nobel-level abuses and criminal betrayals
within Trungpa's own Naropa community speak for themselves-but the same brief
could be laid at the feet of many other contemporary gurus, yogis, and dharma
tactiticians (Da Free John/Adi Da, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and Swami Muktananda
As a serious Buddhist practitioner,
Trungpa was trying to persuade his students to break their links with their
self-absorptions, self-deceptions, smugly high self opinions, and other
placations and adornments of ego. He
decried the distractions of our monkey minds, in particular our attachments to
pseudo-miracles and chimerical promises of soul depth. Too many would-be devotees fritter their
lives and hopes away, he warned, for a god they never meet, an essence they
When he urged his disciples to
follow their own crazy wisdom, he meant not their desires per se but the roots behind those desires, the basic emptiness-to
find those it exploration of energy rather than by monastic avoidance. The recipe was recognition of the impulse,
not the satiation of its carnal expressions.
Egoic mind, Trungpa averred, does
not really want to achieve clarity, basic sanity, or its own true nature or the
cessation of its neurotic patterns because that would be planning its own
funeral — so it enacts fake versions of spiritual accomplishment and then tries
to sell itself and others on their legitimacy and sincerity. He called these out as mirages and delusions
on the switchbacking path to clarity.
Eventually we will be disappointed
in all such practices because they do not lead to enlightenment or happiness or
real pleasure. Even if they are
practiced devotedly, they make one only more neurotic. I'm afraid he would consign Astral bodies,
Seven Planes, golden suns, grounding cords, and the like to this nemesis.
However, the neurotic abuse of any
sacred practice — erotic, spiritual, or even compassionate and charitable — is ripe
for the taking, and in the present consumer society, righteous spiritual
heavyweights as well as wannabes among the masses fall for most gaudy and
grotesque attractions and achievements.
It's Burger King reality. We wolf
down more than we need or want. We make
ourselves more sexually obsessed than called for by our desires or needs. We invent a metaphysics more decorous,
inflated, and exaggerated than anything we can use psychospiritually or
integrate therapeutically. We cut
ourselves off from our own souls and paths of individuation, as we creatively
psychopathologize ourselves beyond our ground pathologies and spiritualize
ourselves in fictive and superficial realms where our soul doesn't dwell. We invent fake initiations in the name of
gods and holy precepts and in the guise of Tantric quests and soul
healing. Likewise we declare ourselves
guilty for the wrong reasons, far guiltier in our self-blame than any actual sins
we have committed would entail.
As failed practices turn into
boredom, boredom seeks new toys, chimeras, neuroses and self-seductions,
cleverer ones, with which to entertain itself.
When these come in spiritual disguises and lead to frustration or boredom
again, the boredom turns into anger and then rejection of practice
Trungpa insists that there is no
hidden entertainment in true commitment to the dharma — so boredom in fact is a
very useful sword to expose the hollowness of ego and cut to the goal of
This teaching plays out as a
paradoxical medley of ascetic rejection of neurotic pleasure addictions with
celebratory joy-rides on the world's delights and thrills.
In a theosophical counterpart to
this debate (gratification versus clarity) John Friedlander asks people in
workshops whether they would rather get what they want or be happy. These outcomes are rarely the same thing,
which is a surprise to many. Of
irresistible desires, he asks simply, "Do they actually make you happy? Or are they just what you want?"
In an ensuing exercise he invites
students to look back over the lives and pick out something that they
desperately had to have and would have given anything for, and didn't get. Would they be happier now if they had
More often, in retrospect, we will
find that we dodged a bullet. This is likewise what he is calling attention
to when he suggests looking at one's life, particularly its disappointments and
sorrows, from the perspective of the Soul, outside of time and even after
death, rather than from the standpoint of envy or regret about satisfactions
unrequited. Real happiness is a subtle,
profound, and elusive state and is quite different from exhilaration, fulfilled
passion, or life success-though these draw their energy and pleasure from
primordial core joy.*
It is sometimes hard to tell in
instances of real practitioners and lives which belief is in fact in play,
which practitioner is which: who is cheery and hopeful; who is dour and
severe — and what brand of spiritual epistemology either is practicing. It is often a matter of individual
personality rather than philosophy — an ecstatic magician can be depressed and
alienated despite a productive practice, while a rigorously ascetic Zen monk
can be as happy every morning as a child on Christmas.
From an operational standpoint
theosophy finds more of a grand purpose in this veil of illusions: it has
happened for a reason; it exists expressly for the contemplation or ecstatic
recognition of the divine. We are alive
because we are incarnated, and we have incarnated on the path to
self-knowing. However debauched the
divine has become here — and the present predatory, commodity-ridden global
culture would seem to be about the most anti-spiritual, nihilistic blowback to
sacred reality short of Hell itself — we are participating in cosmic co-creation,
of which this world is a critical and nonoptional phase.
Thus, the karmic, reincarnative
journey is available to all of humanity (and other creatures and entities)
without running the Zen gauntlet. In the
theosophical canon, the universe calls for active participation and co-creation
more than renunciation or empty mind.
Whatever creation takes away in loss, it gives back in another form, so
one has to savor rather than renounce appearances. But that is also what karma and reincarnation
are all about.
Buddhism finds fulfillment and
divine service in confronting uncertainty and mortality moment by moment and
building a capacity to tolerate, appreciate, and live it by translating despair
into conscious acts of compassion and nonattachment. You can feel the cadence of Buddhist practice
at its core when Sogyal Rinpoche reaches out to "to all beings, living,
dying, or dead. For all those who are at
this moment going through the process of dying, may their deaths be peaceful
and free of pain or fear. May all those
who at this moment are being born, and those who are struggling in this life,
be nourished by the blessings of the buddhas, and may they meet the teachings,
and follow the path of wisdom. May their
lives be happy and fruitful, and free from all sorrow."
Theosophy does not approach any of
these these matters so directly and existentially — so, yes, at times its
dilettantishness can result in a shallower spirituality — but it works on
blending shamanically with the intrinsic power of the universe, encountering
its majesty and terror not as an ordeal or punishment but an opportunity for
experience, knowledge, and transformation of meaning.
It is like saying: We're in the
heap, and the heap is all we know, so it must be the right heap, it better be
the right heap, and we are meant to make peace and order and joy here because
it's where and why we exist and the heap exists-so go to it, play magic, or
In that sense the Seven Planes is
slaphappy and easy-going in its approach to practice, though it is
fundamentally sober and serious in its overall view. It seeks focused attention and commitment
through symbols, roses, auras, grounding cords, neutral space, and energy
cultivation rather than by going directly at resistance through thought and
breath. Of course Buddhism has its own
lotuses, sacred colors, and tangkas for visualized pathfinding too.
For some who practice rigid
Buddhism, enlightenment can be turned into a grim march up an unscalable
mountain of infinite height — a sentence of a trillion kalpas that has to be
served and lived out (recalling the legendary Buddhist measurement of a kalpa
as the time it takes for a mountain be worn down by a dove's wing brushing
it — in other words, a very long time). By
contrast, the theosophical perspective has always tended to be gratifying,
playful, affirming, reassuring.
Yet both warn that change is
inevitable, profound, and our only destiny — and you know what that means. Authoritarian theosophy can be as doctrinaire
and grim as any Buddhist precept.
Finally the world is the world, and where we are is where we are.
Aleister Crowley once remarked,
upon the death of a child (and I quote approximately here from memory of
something I read a long time ago), "Yes it's an illusion, but this one is a
Who is to judge or grade among
run-of-the-mill everyday illusions and super ones which get to be the super
ones? Buddhism makes it simple: they are
all illusions, perhaps different scales and grades of illusion, but smoke and
mirrors all the same. Magic meanwhile is
a game for moving clouds and mists, either way.
I know people who have failed to
achieve peace or clarity from years of Buddhist practice and then have broken
through to deeper meditation in a matter of days via Reiki or aura reading-and
then checked back on zazen and been able to deepen its state astonishingly from
the insights gained in a less
structured system. Relieved of the onus
of a narrow meditational focus, they dropped into receptivity to simple
flow. I have also heard of people
traveling the other way — from ritual magic to hard Zen — and succeeding in
deepening a previously blasé or opportunistic spiritual practice.
You can't dawdle in the
paradoxes. In the intersection of these
two viewpoints a world exists, a zone of energy, creation, joy, epiphany that
is also utterly empty, a proposition of total forfeiture. We ignore this barren aspect, even in magical
and shamanic contexts, at our peril. Yet
we must meet the world's full ecstatic manifestation and expression, with an
open heart, even in ascetic systems.
Either way, we cannot afford mere ideology or one-track minds because
reality is always waiting, at a degree of the real.
Creation may not be the Wild West
or Las Vegas — riding the bronco, figurative or real — but neither is it the
gloomiest extreme of samsara, enticing creatures into trance-based delusions
and then dashing them indifferently on the rocks of those beliefs. The universe is both systems, both paths, in
What is it in such circumstances,
to have a serious as opposed to a flibberty-gibbet life? The best teachers of all spiritual traditions
pose a challenge. You don't even need teachers. Our seriousness and our faith are precisely
what let the universe take over, right now.
Both Buddhism and theosophy
practice the art of the impossible through acts of faith, humility, and
devotion. Suzuki Roshi introduces the
Zen version of this paradox through the enigmatic practice of bowing: "Each bow
expresses one of four Buddhist vows.
These vows are: Although sentient beings are innumerable, we vow to
save them. Although our evil desires are
limitless, we vow to be rid of them.
Although the teaching is limitless, we vow to learn it all. Although Buddhism is unattainable, we vow to
attain it.' If it is unattainable, how
can we attain it? But we should! That is Buddhism.
"To think, Because it is possible
we will do it,' is not Buddhism. Even
though it is impossible, we have to do it because our true nature wants us
to. But actually, whether or not it is
possible is not the point. If it is our
inmost desire to get rid of our self-centered ideas, we have to do it. When we make this effort, our inmost desire
is appeased and Nirvana is there."
Theosophy likewise advocates the
impossible: reversing time, seeing the future, conversing with the dead,
learning the details of past lives. It
is not that we expect to accomplish these things and confirm them like the
ordinary successes of life; it is that, since we can't tell the difference
between accomplishing them or not at the subtle level of the techniquesso we
might as well accomplish them. We might
as well take journeys of meaning into the Truth Mystery.
The difference here is a subtle
one: Buddhism says to proceed without
attachment because it is impossible to get there, but along the way you find
and embrace your own true nature and realize there is nowhere to arrive so you
don't have to get there. Theosophy says
to go it because the universe itself is a miracle and not only can any energy
be turned into any other, but every energy is already being turned into every
other on some frequency or other.
Either premise is only words, words
and energy, words as energy, but the
proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is energetic and functional, not
Both Buddhism and theosophy have
magic in their basic operational manuals, but Buddhist magic is different from
theosophical magic. Shunryu Suzuki says
quite: "We can put no magic on the world; the world is the magic. We cast no charms on the world; the world
itself is the charm." We cannot
additionally bedazzle the wonders of nature because nature is what is dazzling — dazzling us into consciousness, beyond
the repertoire of even the most accomplished thaumaturge. Everything in this creation is magical, so our
tricks and tools stand paltry before the austere magic of there being a world
In mature theosophy, we can put no magic on the world either-the world
itself is a magic that we tune into.
Students have gotten confused around this notion because, having been
told that we create our own reality, they think that they should be able to
control reality too, or that these are the same thing.
We can't control reality. That should be obvious; yet it isn't.
Unfortunately most psychic schools in the West teach putting charms on the
world. Naïve, petulant, pompous, and
ultimately futile acts of attempted control are an epidemic among superficial
psychics. They act as though the
universe will open like a slot machine if they tweak the right spot. This has led practitioners of voodoo, love
magic, remote healing, of idle fame and fortune to ruin, misery, even
psychosis. When we pretend to control
reality, we lose our chance to create reality; that is, to engage in a creative
theophany with the universe. And reality
Zen students participate in
creating reality-Zen mind-by bowing and acknowledging the innate divinity of
Theosophy should never become a
game of magic evocation. Its path is the
crease along which the whole of creation is trying to individuate, to express
its true nature and become loving and whole.
We are making ourselves real to ourselves, not doing party tricks.
In Buddhist guru yoga, a student
unites his or her mindstream with the mindstream of the teacher, submitting to
his or spiritual authority, sometimes saying a regular mantra to enforce the
act. The essentially magical premise is
to gain a measure of the guru's grace and karma, to skip steps (many lifetimes
worth of them if possible) through riding on the avatar's swifter steed. Support and solace come simultaneously from
higher intelligence and a local company of seekers. By invoking the mantra, by accepting the
teacher's lineage, the practitioner merges his state of being and destiny with
not just his guru, not only the collective realizations of all the masters and
buddhas in the guru's lineage, or even all the avatars in associated lineages across
space-time, but the Wisdom Mind of the universe itself.
This is a Tantric (mantrayana) practice from the first
millennium that spread from India to Tibet.
The 'mantra' is literally 'that which protects,' so the act of viewing
the guru as the Deity/Buddha protects our mind from ordinary view. The actual prayer
is a tool to remind us of the experience of non-duality, and a magical charm to
enter more deeply into it. Ultimately
guru yoga is not about emulating or worshipping the guru or lineage but about
experiencing this non-duality (Dharmakaya), having the direct experience that the
guru's mind and our mind are one, actually it is more accurate to say that our
awareness is empty of mind. What the
outer devotional aspect can do is to help soften and dissolve habitual mind and
its view, but the real import is the experience of Dharmakaya.
Guru yoga is an option because
Buddha Mind is already present in each individual. One is not merely sharing another's practice
or meditational success; one is merging with his or her own innate spaciousness
and radiance and reclaiming his or her true nature. Recognizing the guru or the lama is simply
recognizing one's own mind.
Guru yoga is a forerunner of
transference in Freudian analysis between therapist and patient-the same
energy, the same operation but on a different psychospiritual plane. In each case something intrinsic-an insight
or karmic trail-is transferred spontaneously.
Quite apart from the actual goal of
guru yoga, many students make fantastic claims, to others certainly and to
themselves as well, about the superior divinity of their guru. This is another example of the consumerist
superstar/Hollywood personality. It
becomes absurd to the point of blasphemy to presume that, for instance, Muktananda
or Adi Da or the Dalai Lama — sophisticated, compassionate, and powerful as each
of these became in their own right — have anything like the level of development
or intelligence that the Earth itself, maintaining all its living and
geological systems, has, or the Mother of all Caribou, or the Mother of all
Turtles, or the Sun maintaining the orbiting planets and forms of an entire
Yes, these transpersonal entities
are also practitioners and alive beings in the sense of individuated integrities;
they are gurus deserving of yoga too.
They have perceptual levels and life-spans both inside and outside our
frame. And they are practicing something
very different from standard human enlightenment.
Theosophy has no exact equivalent
to guru yoga, but it does likewise work on the basis of merging with exogenous
intelligence through one's own intrinsic grace.
Energies in the aura are the practitioner's link to the Wisdom Mind.
Western teaching does not provide a corresponding method for
entering a guru's karmic zone, but there is a vague parallel in the concept of
the Group Soul and another in the voice provided by a teacher to match in
traveling through planes of consciousness.
One might also extrapolate that Christians practice a form of guru
yoga, by taking Christ in to their hearts, and wanting to "become as Christ."
While Buddhist yoga requires arduous training
in attention and devotion to an advanced master, theosophical or Christian
transference of wisdom and frequency is in principle automatic and at one's
But the paradox that joins these
systems tells us that the opposite method holds for each modality too: satori
or enlightenment is available spontaneously in Buddhism, no matter one's level
and degree of practice, and discrete attention is required to actualize energy
for moving among tiers of consciousness.
At the highest level of Buddhism, magic becomes obvious, though it is a
distraction and ruse with mostly potential for spiritual remission at
sublevels, while at the highest level of theosophy, one can engage a guru's
karma if that is their intention.
Dzogchen, considered the ultimate
Buddhist teaching, is literally the primordial essence of all teachings, the
Great Perfection or Completion, not in terms of a final goal but a path through
the ground of our primordial nature.
Dzogchen is as subtle and profound a Mind teaching as Planet Earth
offers. No matter how often you return
to an authentic Dzogchen text, there is always more wisdom under its nuances and
subtexts of words, pouring out the blessings and source luminosity, even in
Dzogchen goes to the basis of our
incarnate situation, the big hitters: being, essence, manifestation, space, action,
life and death, karma. Its teachings deliver
these foci through their penetration of the tantra of existence — a mixture of
high philosophy and rigorous practice, which shows how we got here, where and
what this is, and what we have to do in order to achieve self-realization
through a non-discursive state of attention to self-arising forms.
Try telling any of this to the
neuroscientists, behaviorists, and "map is the territory" realists
cited earlier in this book, and they will mostly smirk. It is not part of their collective universe
or agenda; it does not compute.
In an email to me on this text,
reader James Moore observes: "I made a bumpersticker inspired by a Dzogchen teaching of
MIND — You're Just Imagining It.' Which
makes the crucial distinction between 'mind/thoughts' (which both science and Buddhism
say is an illusion) and awareness of this thought stream, 'the true nature of
mind,' which is a constant. So, our mind
(or whatever stuff we want to talk about) can be an illusion, but the question
then is, 'An illusion to whom, to what level of consciousness or quality of
awareness?' This is the core teaching of Dzogchen, but I'm amazed it isn't more
clearly elucidated in modern Western philosophy, psychology, and science
(probably because it apparently requires a 'leap of faith' to accept this
immeasurable/unquantifiable, yet obviously experienced, awareness)."
Functionalism may propose that subjective mind is an
illusion. Dzogchen teaches to bypass the mind and access
awareness directly, and that while the mind is an illusion, this 'nature of
mind' is not — the luminous awareness inherent in emptiness isn't an illusion (unlike other Eastern
philosophers who state that it's all
Science attempts to define mind in order to
understand nature. Dzogchen considers
that process a tautological feedback loop that muddies the glass through which
humanity is looking for something deeper.
The glass of materialism cannot in fact be cleaned because you cannot
wash matter off matter. Its ultimate
false clarification is to be scrubbed down to nothing but particles — particles
that are so dense and transparent at the same time that they are a de facto dead end.
I will leave it to you to decide
which is a more sophisticated view of consciousness: the one offered by the functionalists
and materialists promoting neuroscience or the Dzogchen approach. They mark the current diametric poles of
human epistemology and the real battlefield of modernity. By comparison the rift between radical Islam
and the West is a passing family squabble about who has bigger guns, more
balls, and is going to kick more ass.
Dzogchen arrives at precisely the
same intersection of transparency and opaquity as science but, recognizing it
at once as a temporary conflation, cleans the glass of material tautologies and
then looks again through its newly subtler rendering. But you can only clean the glass if you
believe in mind as a real portal rather than a bioelectric mishmash of multiple
drafts, a portal wherein the convergence of transparency and density is a view
into something else, real and stable and lucent. If you get misled by extrinsic conflagrations
and fireworks, and interrogate them as if the true reality and profundity, you
never see the dark pool of light through which all self-originating forms pass.
In Dzogchen practice a person must
transcend his or her thinking rational mind and enter Rigpa, "the naked
awareness, within which everything is contained: sensory perception and
phenomenal existence, samsara and nirvana.
This awareness has two aspects: shunyata — emptiness as the absolute, and
appearances or perception as the relative." (ZP5)
This insight is rooted at least a millennium before experimental science
began in earnest though, from the standpoint of the super-sophistication of science,
it is delusional, soft, uneducated, naïve.
Science seeks a map of primordial
nondual reality. Rigpa is primordial nondual awareness in its
seriousness and commitment to a continuity of tough empirical analysis
(interior not external). Once one gains
clarity, one sees that "the essence of mind is empty, spacious and pure
from the beginning, like the open, blue sky; its nature is luminous clarity,
unobstructed and spontaneously present, like the sun with all its warmth and
light; and its energy of manifestation is compassion, unimpeded and all
pervasive, like the rays of the sun that shine on us all
This is mind's natural,
unperturbed, nonintellectual, meta-scientific state. It is not an intellectual or even emotional
conceit; it arises from the nature of our being, our heart purity, and our
uncontrived and genuine nature.
From a third position theosophy
delivers a progeny of that same golden sun in a more procedural and operational
manner without the goals of nonattachment or eventual enlightenment. Its point is not to catapult us out of the
messy world that we are in; it is to synchronize and synergize that world with
the higher energies that source and sustain it whether such energies exist or not.
After all, we have our existence and our imagination, and everything
else should be left to destiny and the gods.
We don't have to figure it out because we can't figure it out; we just
have to do our stuff, activate our energies, clear out old pictures; the rest
will take care of itself. We don't have
to find profundity: it finds us; it is
Another difference between
theosophy and Dzogchen practice is that psychic work emphasizes, arguably to
the exclusion or at least demotion of everything else, the energetic
interference of other entities in one's aura, while Buddhism prioritizes one's
own independently originating mind.
What one practices in Dzogchen, by
contrast, is holding to the primordial state without effort or clinging so that
"relative appearances are naturally freed in themselves, where they arise,
and thus there is no need for renunciation." (ZP70)
This is a transparent paragon to which psychic meditation aspires. Maybe.
Suzuki-roshi spoke eloquently on
this: "The most important thing is to forget all gaining ideas, all dualistic
ideas. In other words, just practice
zazen in a certain posture. Do not think
about anything. Just remain on your
cushion without expecting anything. Then
eventually you will resume your own true nature. That is to say, your own true nature resumes
The process of relaxing into one's
own nature and experiencing its essential luminosity is fathomless, profound,
and discrete, as reality and phenomena keep splattering the clear sky with distraction,
fuss, and urgency. The unaltered core
beneath this is the key to deepening mind and being.
Although here too I believe that
the teachings and practices crisscross under the surface, it still remains that
the space of Dzogchen and Vajrayana is very clean and empty — literally spacious — and
in the ritual and existential cultivation of that spaciousness you go toward
your own independently originating existence.
By comparison the space of theosophy is ornate and jazzy.
The reason that I think that they
crisscross is that the primordial source energy has only its own origin and
realization of the divine and, whether one identifies it with intruders or
one's own fragmented attention, the diagnosis is the same, and the imperative
is to clear it.
Which method one chooses to practice
depends on which layer of reality and existence one chooses to travel along en
route to the same destination: Dzogchen for silent, deepening awareness en
route to transcendence, theosophy for playing with and being played with by the
world's energies in hope that enlightenment or its equivalent will work itself
out because the universe is bonded to a singular resolution. Dzogchen says, "It's a bear and a
bitch, so go to it." Theosophy
says, "It's a bear and a bitch but "ooo-eee,/ooo-eee
baby,/let me come and take you on a/sea cruise." Both are meant to be practiced in and among
ordinary life while observing simutaneously the arts of family, householding,
gainful labor, and social service.
Neither is in principle monastic.
Dzogchen cuts through the paradox
of why, if we are born out of creation itself — out of spirit, out of enlightened
and divine being — we should be in such a fix and have to bother to practice so
hard just to get by, let alone find any comfort, let alone become sane, let
alone enlightened; or, for that matter, why it should make any difference what
we do, since it is all divine — or inversely, if we are not born divine and have to practice and train with great
difficulty to attain transcendence, what's the point and how can matter
cultivate in itself a quality which is not inherent and innate (plus what if we
are just zombies anyway, with mere illusions of consciousness, mind, and
"Let's say that I have just
died," Tsoknyi Rinpoche proposes.
"The particular type of group dreaming I shall now join — whether it
is a hell group or a hungry ghost group or a group of celestial beings is
entirely dependent upon the karmic phenomena that I have created earlier…. Once…I am pushed in [a] direction by
karma…the karma begins ripening. I start
to experience that type of scenery, and at that point, even if I change my mind
and think, 'I don't want to be here any longer,' it would be difficult to shift
dreams. Why? Because it is ripening; it is
"Without understanding this
important point, you may be uncertain as to what those realms actually
are. Dependent origination and karmic
experience are very central to the reality of what we are, and they are
Something more profound than
everything lies at our base and is unfolding through our lives and awareness to
its own fruition. Such is, in effect,
our situation on Earth and why this so-called life "illusion" can't be
dismissed or just popped like a bubble.
We are still ripening.
As noted above, a major difference
between Buddhism and theosophy is that theosophy does not have enlightenment as
its primary operative strategy.
Enlightenment or even fortuitous reincarnations are not, in its terms,
the supreme or only goals of the universe.
We do not know what the goals of the universe are, but they may well
comprise stuff far from enlightenment or an intention toward it. From this perspective, enlightenment is a
particular agenda about which the universe has not yet commented yea or
nay. The goal itelf is, in part, an
attempt to control reality and claim confidential knowledge of the universe's
Enlightenment has been such an
automatic construct and paragon in Buddhist and even New Age systems that it
almost never deconstructed outside of the terms of its proposition, but one
might consider for a moment that enlightenment roughly means particularly
leaving this state of awareness, this frequency of self-reflective ego
consciousness along one track of time (unidirectionality) and entering timeless
But if that is the goal, what about
the paradox that timeless nondual being has somehow and to some purpose chosen
to manifest in the dual space of personal desire and the human individuality
homing frequency? Why? Why has spiritual energy has chosen to
constrain identity within subjective containers of stably fixed personal
experience, to create the human platform: "a whole universe of physical,
emotional and mental contrasts which arise when we think of ourselves as
separate beings and we think of everything outside the boundary of our skin as
utterly outside our self"?
John Friedlander thinks it worth
considering that the pursuit of enlightenment and the tantric practices used
for attaining it may rub out certain filters that are meant to be there. They
are meant to be there for reasons that are concealed within the universe's
arcanum, its undisclosed plan, so one shouldn't automatically presume the
opposite: that removing them is prime and ultimate goal of existence.
What is enlightenment anyway? In a literal sense it is "light"-a
state of being immersed primordial-ground light, a taming of mind so it becomes
illuminated from within-ontological luminosity.
But this is naked awareness, not enlightenment as such. I would suggest
that naked awareness is a powerful enough goal in itself without the prize of
enlightenment, though in either case these are words for something else.
In John's terms enlightenment is simply the removal of
Etheric filters; it is a technical issue of practice. He says:
"As a result of thousands of years
of ego development described I the last chapter, our Etheric body contains
filters that create a pause of self-reflection between our experience and our
interpretation of that experience. That pause of self-reflection and our
subsequent individualized interpretation of our experience gives our experience
a resonance, a folding back on itself that most other consciousnesses don't
have. This is humans' unique contribution to the universe.
"Our bodies and the psychic underpinnings are like virtual
reality goggles that create the perception and suggest the sense of me and not
me, self and other. When a person becomes enlightened he or she changes her
Etheric body and removes the filters that have created the apparent sense of a
self utterly distinct from others. This removal of the filters takes enormous
power and focus. Often practitioners seeking enlightenment will undergo years
and even lifetimes of discipline cultivating good character to the point of
a result, many enlightened beings are also saintly. But saintliness is not a
requirement. Etheric filters can be
shattered by intense esoteric practices without the person's developing
emotional or mental maturity….
and of itself, enlightenment says nothing about the state of the enlightened
beings' emotional clarity or mental wisdom."
That is certainly the case, as (for
instance) Chögyam Trunga showed that it was possible to be enlightened and an
alcoholic too, and other enlightenened masters, almost certainly legitimate,
were pederasts, pedophiles, gluttons, and many other human things. Enlightenment is a state, a frequency, an
enhanced mode of being, but it is not the
state of perfection and infallibility; it is not the end of all growth, personal
or otherwise, nor is it the ultimate goal of the universe. The universe is working on a vaster fabric of
which enlightenment is one of the baseline threads.
From a more pedestrian theosophical
viewpoint, enlightenment entails a capacity to travel among planes unimpeded,
hence to enjoy Astral, Causal, Buddhic, Atmic, and Monadic zones; to experience
their colorations of reality as familiar on their own terms; to be able to
navigate transdimensional geographies; and of course to achieve the Adi, home
source of "enlight," eventually to get to realms beyond the Adi in
John puts it this way:
"Theosophy's aims are radically
different. Theosophy explores a universe of evolution without end. Of course
the ground of being, that simple sense of being comprising non-dual awareness,
is the ground of being for all consciousness and for all evolution. Non-dual
reality is the unchanging ground to which nothing can be added or taken away. But
Theosophy explores another direction, the direction of perpetual evolution. Using
an appealing straightforward structural model, the Victorian Theosophists
redirected the mystical quest into a businesslike engagement of the world….
"In Theosophy, the soul is the
center of human life. The soul, in Theosophical terms, is that eternal gestalt
that puts down an incarnation into physical reality, learns from it, moves to
its next incarnation, and learns from it. Through a linear series of
incarnations, the soul (and deeper aspects still) achieve mastership rather
than enlightenment. No mention is made of non-dual awareness. Instead the
excitement is focused on ever greater kindness and generosity, and on an ever
greater objective impeccability (more like the evolutionary chain of angels
rather than humans)."
Enlightenment is a nonchoice in
theosophy only because it is outside the system. There is no abstract heaven or domain beyond
gradations of energies and their vibrational expressions. There is no rulebook or scheme of
prerequisites for final karmic graduation. Everything is more complicated,
entangled, enigmatic, and emergent than the goal of transcendence, or any goal,
allows. There is spacious awareness without enlightenment: the Great Dance.
We have no way to get off the board
because there is no board; there is only energy changing. Truly enlightened teachers of all traditions
teach this too of course, but many Buddhists, like Catholics, still yearn to
get out of here with their teachers and chums and go to that chimerically
eternal better place-the Heaven or Nirvana where all these troubles and
reversals cease and spaciousness extends forever.
Mythical enlightened beings such as
the Hindu yoga-saint Babaji or the the figure behind indigenous American
Trickster Coyote, are said to incarnate, to descend repeatedly onto the
Physical plane anew and to take on a working simulacrum of their original
cellular-genetic body at will.
Ostensibly they can also, if summoned or so moved, travel here in an
Astral body, a Mental body, a Monadic body.
And while such entities are in the process of continual shape-changing,
enlightenment is on hold, though they could go there too, vamoose from this
planet for good. Maybe by now they have.
From one metaphysical perspective
we have lives at all because there was nothing else to do with eternity. Time exists as an expression of energy, as
there is no exogenous way otherwise to individuate and transmit soul and
attention. From a cosmological
standpoint, time is a contrivance to create cosmology. Sequentiality flows oneway because we are
inside something, and that something appears to us as a moving
temporality. All creatures are clocks,
traveling motionlessly on a swift river that goes only one way, no return
possible. All life is subject to birth,
maturation, decay, and cessation.
Inanimate matter is chugging along with us: you cannot smash an asteroid
(or a piece of china) and then turn it around such that it flows back into its
precise prior state.
In this zone we are born, mature,
grow old, and pass-in time only. Then
amnesia wipes out the workings and works of time. Only it is not amnesia; it is a deeper and
more indelible memory.
Time is a tautology and a
contradiction. To become enlightened is to be annihilated. To be annihilated is to lose individuality:
individuated consciousness merges with cosmic consciousness. Since that greater consciousness field is
eternal, changeless, and outside chronology, you are extricated from samsara
and leave time.
But to where, from the standpoint
of consciousness? If being enlightened
is getting off the roller-coaster, where does one arrive from there?
Eternal bliss is a dangerous
proposition, while total emptiness can sound a lot like a functional
materialist's view of death as obliteration and eternal dreamless sleep.
Plus, how is the cosmic
consciousness of enlightenment different from the primordial empty state in
which reality and existence originated in the first place? The Big Bang!
Is the goal simply to travel from
original mind through rough country back to original mind? Transparency into matter into transparency?
But there is another way to look at
time and its obliteration. Time can be
cosmological filler at one level and fall away at another so that all events in
time are full (event-full) but simultaneous and synchronous.
Seth explains through Jane Roberts:
"When I tell you that
you lived in 1836, I say this because it makes sense to you now. You live all your reincarnations at once, but
you find this difficult to understand."
He says, "You lived in 1836," but he means, "You live in 1836."
Suzuki Roshi speaks similarly from a Buddhist chord: "We
are always here. Do you understand? You think before you were born you were not
here. But how is it possible for you to
appear in this world, when there is no you?
Because you are already there, you can appear in the world. Also, it is not possible for something to
vanish which does not exist. Because
something is there, something can vanish.
You may think that when you die, you disappear, you longer exist. But even though you vanish, something which
is existent cannot be non-existent. That
is the magic."
The resolution to this koan-the
ultimate fate of consciousness, root and ground nature — is in the heart, beyond
dichtomies and dialectics of the mind.
Buddhist and psychic lineages have
roots in different ranges of the shamanic tradition. Buddhism models the inner, contemplative
aspect of shamanism, whereas theosophy is a ritual, symbolic version of
shamanism, retaining its ancient tool kit spontaneous healing, precognition,
remote viewing, tekekinesis, and telepathy but adding a modern psychological
and metaphysical strategy.
In this light, one can try to
capture a glimmer of a pancultural North American Indian world-view which
recognizes the individuality and awareness of Sun and Moon and Earth and of the
archetypal totemic basis of animal species.
It goes something like: the universe is a great dream in which warriors,
gods, and totem spirits pour together.
The landscape into which the European colonials sailed and then hacked
was a Dreamtime in timeless cyclical continuum-Penobscot and Pawnee, Miwok and
Chickasaw, Tlingit and Hopi. The
invaders drove the indigenous mindedness off the land because they saw it as
actual land, real estate inside time. In
the process, they forced the habitants out of the dream. By introducing noncyclical, secular time,
they shattered the ceremony and drove the spirits away.
America's native people didn't get
it at all when the White Guys arrived in giant sailing vessels from beyond the
Great Water with their deeds and flags, medals and gerunds. They could not wrap their minds around the
concept. They did not see the scam
coming because its premise was so incongruous to them — that someone could show
up and claim their ancestral territory, a sacred zone in which they had dwelled
and hunted for generations immemorial, whose every hectare they had committed
to memory, space which had been given them by gods, totems they had defended
against intruders for timeless time — that someone else could seize it in the
name of a mere Idea and then hold it with muskets and cannons and a willingness
to act at all times without morality, honor, or compassion. Law is a strange clan god indeed, but a god
nonetheless. The natives never got it,
and so they were dispossessed, by the Word.
They put everything at stake in the ceremony and the dream, and that was
not necessarily wrong, though they lost the battle on this plane and in this
reality, for now.
The fact is, the realm they
discovered and inhabited is still here and continues to lean on us and our
consciousness and must be encountered before the bigger game is up.
For the Asian Buddhist, who shares
shamanic ancestors with the North American natives, the bardo waking dream was
subtilized into deeper layers of aware being.
But that was after Hindu influences arrived from India, and those other
"Indians" were long vanished, to new lands, where they enacted the
Dreamtime in another plane, its warriorship, buffalo, coups, medicine bundles,
scalpings, and vision quests-sacred and numinous acts that the Westerners
coming around the planet the other way misperceived as pagan primitivisms.
When Buddhists arrived in Arizona
in 1974, coming from the ancestral East, Tibetan Kagyu Karmapa and Hopi clan chief
brought the shamanisms and dialects back together. In the words of an observer:
"It was early to mid afternoon
in the 100-degree range as the big car, a gold-colored Cadillac, began to
gradually spiral its way from the desert floor around and around this
mountain-like mound of dry and dusty soil which was Mesa 2. As soon as we arrived at the top of the mesa,
His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, emerged from the car
and was greeted by a short, wiry, and weather-beaten Chief Ned, who was
probably in his late seventies. The Hopi
chief was clad in dusty Levis, an old plaid short, and worn-out snakers. In spite of the terrible hardships that had
befallen the Hopis, here stood a man, a chief who, while showing signs of being
worn out and downtrodden, possessed dignity and presence.
"His Holiness asked the chief
how things were to which he replied, 'Not so good.' The chief explained that no rain had fallen
in seventy-five consecutive days and the crops were failing, creating enormous hardships
not only for his tribe but for others as well.
His Holiness's response was swift and immediate. From his face there arose and radiated a
great wave of compassion. His Holiness
promised Chief Ned that he would pray for the chief and the rest of the
Hopis. What followed was a special
invitation from the chief to Holiness and his small entourage of five or so to
enter the Hopis' sacred kiva. Afterwards
there was a brief but warm farewall between Chief Ned and His Holiness.
"The Karmapa returned to the
front passenger seat of the Cadillac and we began a gradual descept under a
horizon-to-horizon spotless clear blue sky.
We were hardly two-thirds of the way winding around and down the mesa
when His Holiness began to recite a particular puja. A noticeable stillness ensued and with it a
sense that we were circumambulating this mesa.
We reached the desert floor and continued on a forty-minute ride to the
eventual destination, a motel convention center.
"It was during those forty
minutes that I witnessed nothing short of sheer magic. For as His Holiness continued the puja, I
watched in wonder and amazement at the unfolding of a magically sped-up
transformation of a clear blue sky into something else. This miraculous display easily upstaged the
scene in the Cecil B. DeMille film The
Ten Commandments of the sky above Moses as he parted the Red Sea. The Hopis had lost their siddhi for
rainmaking…." The Karmapa was
bringing it back from the East, the homeland, as there was still enough shared
chanting energy to allow a psychic correction en route. It was the Hopis who made the rain, but it
was the Karmapa who supplied the reconciliation of notes.
"I alternated between driving
and watching, transfixed by something quite unbelievable, namely this stage-by-stage,
magically time-enhanced transformation of a clear blue sky into a solid
steel-gray-and-black colored-sky that was actually quite frightening to look
at. It is challenging to behold such an
intense level of concentrated, rapidly magnetized energy so suddenly made
manifest from something seemingly empty."
Here shamanic manifestation meets
psychic manifestation and magical invocatio and both meet transparency and
spaciousness: the universe is revealed in its Unity Basis as one perfectly,
subtly unfolding logic and nature. There
is no actual discrepancy between naked mindful awareness and self-creating
reality, between compassion and energy, between fullness and emptiness, between
Eastern and Western or either and Indigenous branches of shamanism.
Another way of posing the
difference between Buddhism and the various schools of theosophy is that
Buddhism begins from the premise that this isn't real — this manifestation — and
then works toward understanding it and participating productively in it because
something is real. Theosophy begins from the premise that this is real, this whole creation, and then
works toward understanding it and participating productively in it with the
goal of encompassing its entire contingent energetic manifestation. Both try to wake us up by screaming:
"Look at this. No, I mean really
look at this. No, you don't
understand. Really this! It is subtler, deeper, more deceptive, more
incredible, more poignant than you grasp.
Wake up. Look, damnit! It is absolutely beautiful and
mysterious. Life is. Mind is.
Being is. And there is more. Even more.
And then there is even more."
Find the spot where 'This is real'
is the same as 'This is not real,' and hold it.
This is a very subtle fulcrum on which to balance because 'this is real'
goes to the root of all that is; and 'this is not real' also goes to the root
of all that is — all that is, ever was, or will be; everything you have, ever
had, or are going to have. The way in
which both are simultaneously valid and, more than valid — essential, and
essential to maintain nondually-is the yoga of life. It is a sublime and existential yoga, an
Eternal Object undercurrent, and it imposes its posture at every moment, and
asks you to meet and maintain it. That
is where Buddhism and theosophy embrace.
When I recited koan of 'this is
real and this is not real' to John, he remarked that he had thought the
identical thing but as follows: "It is better to experience our existence
as unreal and meaningful than to experience it as real and
meaningless." I love it. One can swing on that jungle gym too as with
every lurch from bar to bar, the same ones back and forth, it gets deeper: real
but meaningless (science), unreal but meaningful (Buddhism). "Unreal and meaningless" qua
"real and meaningful" is equally profound in that it may add nothing
to the original pair but it also takes nothing away.
In the tension between 'this is
real and I know it is real and not only real but really profound and
fathomless' and 'this is not real but an ecstatic mirage and not real in an
unimaginably profound way,' an exquitely subtle reality arises. Your mission — and it is too late to decide
whether you should wish to accept it or not — is to fuse the two views into one,
an epiphany that cradles the universe (and your being) in its bottomless
In moments of involvement in life
as it is, we experience a kind of euphoria out of which an emanation radiates
through those catacombs at every deepening and telescoping and microscoping
layer such that the whole enigma of existence-at-all, of universe via starry
corridor and raucous carnival, fills with the light of our own immaculate
being, our inexplicable pinpoint of "I" from which we radiate and
suffuse into said catacombs of universe (and self). Then 'this is real' is commensurate and
inextricable to 'this is not real': simultaneous halves of a paradox dunking us
in wonderment and horror both, a mutating, shifting, sensation of astonishment,
exuberance, reverence, and shock-because it is all and only matter and we are
matter too, as we resonate together in an unknown vulnerable space on the
precipice of an utter and unknowable abyss.
And at each moment, you silently
chant to yourself: "This is real.
Get it. This is real. But this isn't real. It can't be real." Not only because it isn't real but because
there is another context, another context for anything, and everything, and
once you get it, you light it, at least momentarily, with the realization that
every moment and thing in the universe is absolutely incredibly, insanely
perfect — magnificent, unprecedented, exquisite, beyond reckoning or
explanation — inextricable, irreconcilable, indispensable, imperative,
eternal — and here you are.
(BTW I don't think that this is the
kind of stuff that zombies can do or be programmed to do, but I could be
wrong. Perhaps someone has written two
very subtle programs-Theosophy 3.0 and Buddhism 3.0. Either way, I think it is fine to run both of
them together and let Zombie and Dzogchen chips fall where they may.)
Possibly no condition of our
present Piscean incarnation is more subject to Aquarian metamorphosis than our
way of dying. At death the material
corpus that we carry around as ourselves turns into a corpse and is abandoned
by the Self and the Soul (wherever they go).
It beyond doubt is left to molder and dissipate, its corpuscles,
membranes, and matrices lost as such.
The Soul, if it exists, takes with it the luminosity and essence of the
body's experience, but it forfeits something in the process. "There's something that's lost," John
Friedlander posits, "when you leave your body behind." He recommends careful study and practice of the
Rainbow Body, an echelon previously reserved for high priests, Kriya yogis, and
Vajrayana lamas. If people cultivated a
different attention, they might be able to leave here by way of the Rainbow
Body, converting flesh into light and preserving crucial information stored in
it at subtle levels. All unscathed
experience is used in Creation's memory structure, beyond neurons, hard drives,
and ganglionic centers.
"The Atmic is probably the
plane that is involved in learning how to exit life in the Rainbow Body,"
John intuits, "in other words rather than dying in the way that almost all
of us currently do, you simply transition, turning the cells of your body into
light…. You transition into a different
energy level…. That might be the
preferred way of moving to your next spiritual step…. It is a great individual
and group blessing…for people to learn to take their body with them as
A Rainbow Body begins as a Physical
papyrus of condensed light and neurons and personality engrams which burst into
aura sheaths and dissolve into the Greater Cosmos like dew without losing their
essence. Without Rainbow resurrection we
can't find the gateway, we don't see the corridors or portals, for instance by
which that little snake in the driveway got into this zone, now skitters across
the gravel, looking here and there for passages through the dimension.
Tibetan lamas study and train for a
lifetime (or more) to design their memory structure for continuity into a next
life-they try to hold onto enough meaning and karmic structure to join the
beads on the string, not in a science-fiction sense of assembly-line ghola
clones of themselves but in the actual process that the structure of
However, John says, that does not
mean that all of the rest of us can't play or are not in the same game. It
is the game at hand. We may not be
nearly as good at karmic continuity as a Tibetan lama because we do not train
it fifty thousand times, and we do not have the same stake in eligibility or
primogeniture, but we are working with the same rulebook, the same cellular
storage structure, the same Akashic record, an identical DNA-based gossamer
Rainbow-Cellular frozen-light carapace with an innate karmic carryover
regime. We don't reincarnate like them,
but we eventually ford the same river to come upon the same ghost
terrains. How could we not?
Referencing the spirit Seth, he
proposes that our memory structure and ego existence after this life may not be
exactly what is traditionally proposed or whgat we would choose or expect, but
we will probably consider in the end that the universe has given us a fair
A cellular-light body impregnated
with a neural network coiled into a storage and ganglion is a temporal
repository for the Soul or essential being.
The Flower of Life vehicle of transformation, the theosophical instrument
for psychic continuity is of pretty much the same vintage as the Hindu and
Buddhist one — how to get out of this realm and body in relative good shape and
continue the journey.
Since we each inherit a Rainbow
Body, we also can exchange it back into light, not as psychic acrobats but as
ourselves. If Aquarian prophecy bears
out, we should see more of this practice, and not just from lamas, by the
middle of the twenty-first century.
Sometimes in a chi gung class when I am asked to make myself light and cleanse my
bones with chi energy, I feel cosmic
stuff pouring down through my crown chakra into my tan-tien, torpedoing through the bottoms of my feet into the
earth. I feel that this is what I am
made of, how my density was fashioned — that I am yawing back to an original
energetic state, to light itself, imagining and cultivating that sensibility
not only in my mind but in my cells.
I feel it
briefly; then the feeling passes.
This is our greatest secret as well
as our most imposing shadow. We were
once energy bodies, and we can be energy bodies again; it's that simple, that
You don't have to be a lama
targeting a rebirth to participate in your own high energies and transits of
creation or to imprint your knowledge, internalizations, and experiences into
the fabric of creation. "Rebirth by
lama" is just one style. Buddhist
practice may valorize its catechism, but the universe itself is not privileging
or honoring only certain tickets of admission.
Everything happens, everything works, as what it is.
resident teaching in Cincinnati, John joked that the happiness he was talking
about was something a bit more substantial than "Michigan beats Ohio
State," to which a voice in the audience called,"Now that's a
fantasy!" I am reminded too of
Robert Penn Warren in All the Kings' Men:
"Were we happy tonight because we were happy or because once, a long time
back, we had been happy? Was our
happiness tonight like the light of the moon, which does not come from the
moon, for the moon is cold and has no light of its own, but is reflected light
from faraway." (226) The
psychic entendre of RPW's merely
existential metaphor radiates at multiple levels throughout my entire book.