Friday, 9 September 2016
The Dark Ocean of Liberation (the series continues)
I fretted about it all: advaita, neo-advaita; cognitive enlightenment, the newly-awakened ones; liberation leashed and unleashed. 'Why bother?' you may well ask. It got to me a bit. What was it that prevented me from embracing all this with open arms? I'm all for liberation, awakening, enlightenment. Was I passing up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for quick and easy enlightenment as a result, maybe, of my own prejudices, hang ups? My own refusal to accept that it might all be as simple as that after all. Was I becoming like those grouchy theologians and scholastics who railed against Tim Leary when he said you could have contact with God without decades of blood, sweat and miserable self-sacrifice?
It was about 'depth', whatever that is. And about the basic ways the universe works. It's kind-of not a universe at all: more like a multiverse, or polyverse. It's not all linear, rational, cause-and-effect in a domino-type way. That's where synchronicity, correspondence, magic, mysticism, Jung, the Kabbalists, good ol' Hermes Trismegistus, come in. Falteringly and imperfectly, they all try to point this out. There's a whole load more going on, and it all needs to come on board for proper enlightenment. There are, of course, advaita and neo-avaita-type dudes out there who dismiss all this, don't accept Jung and his unconscious and archetypal levels of being and the rest. Consciousness, as consciously experienced now, is all there is, they will claim, so that's all we need to deal with. They are free to get on with life and enlightenment just as they choose, of course. But I'd say they are missing out ....
I eventually came across some articles which conceptualised my doubts more lucidly and coherently that I am able to do myself. They turned up on better-than-most alternative website magazine 'energygrid.com'.
First up is Tobias Lars, 'The False Enlightenment' from November 2006. He focuses on the emotional aspect to 'awakening'. Many who pass themselves off as enlightened are, he writes, really empty shells, who have simply let go of their emotional body in favour of a false and incomplete peace. They have traded in their 'pesky feelings', which have been the bane of many-a spiritual follower over the ages. Reading Tobias's article helped manifest the (to me) self-evident reality that all aspects of Being have their part to play. The must have. Emotion, Volition, and the Physical (chalices, wands, and pentacles in Tarot) are just as much aspects of life and of enlightenment as is 'Mentality' (swords). "The advaita concept (oneness, non-duality) is so close, the final 'concept' before merging with Source, it is also especially subject to false 'understandings' of its idea. The Mind gets hold of it, thereby circumventing the 'pesky' feelings." Thanks for that, Tobias.
John Smith, whoever he may be, is particularly fascinating. A number of his articles can be found in the 'Spirit' section on EnergyGrid, stretching back several years. We can follow his progression from a wholehearted enthusiast about Advaita and No Self into a more critical writer about some of its major assumptions.
The most significant of John Smith's articles for our current purpose is that of April 2015, 'Moving beyond Emptiness to Higher-Dimensional Perspectives'. His main point is summed up thus: "No-Self is actually an artifact from trying to map polydimensional identity in a normal space-time framework. As long as we are dimensionally ignorant, we will only be distorting reality when we try to resolve ontological paradoxes using inappropriate modelling."
I have written down two pages of quotations from this most illuminating article (yes folks, I still write on pieces of paper!). But his main point is that No-Self only works if we assume a four-dimensional time-space perspective. Question the dimensional structure of reality, and lots of the rational arguments used in bare-bones Buddhism and Advaita fall apart. To see through 'self' in linear time-and-space does not necessarily mean negating it (or 'me') altogether. "Self is there but not there as it resides in higher dimensions." Maybe we should learn to live in ease and comfort with contradiction and paradox, a more 'feminine' mode of apprehending the world, rather than opting for a consistent yet distorted reality. "Getting past suffering is not so much cooling the fires of desire, but learning not to use restrictive reality maps."
This issue, of applying No-Self practice to a limited view of Mind may turn out to be, I suggest, a largely modern western one. The West has undergone a centuries-old crusade against multidimensional knowledge, enacted by the Christian Church against 'pagans', witches, non-believers, exemplified by the Inquisition. The job was continued by the Enlightenment and its aftermath, determined to root out the 'superstitious and irrational'. The result is the BBC/Richard Dawkins distortion-cum-reduction which is de rigueur nowadays, adopted by many apparently intelligent people without their even realising they've been had by a 'mind job'. Incidentally, while the Church and the Enlightenment are often portrayed as opposing forces, they are both more deeply bedfellows as agents of empire. But let's not go there just now.....
The life story of the Buddha is a bit of a pick'n mix affair. Nothing is really known for sure; different versions are rife, so people - including scholars and 'authorities' - often simply choose what best fits in with their own preferences and prejudices. One thing is more certain than most, however: the Buddha was a bit weird. A former Buddhist acquaintance of mine, Andrew Skilton, writes in 'A Concise History of Buddhism': "It is important to stress that, despite modern Theravada teachings to the contrary (often a sop to sceptical western pupils), he (Buddha) was never seen as being merely human. For instance, he is often described as having the 32 major and 80 minor marks or signs of a 'superman'...." Traditional biographies of Buddha are filled with strange non-human entities with whom Buddha interacts; omens, miracles, other supernatural happenings abound. It was not a Richard Dawkins world that Buddha inhabited.
Later forms of Buddhism similarly overflow with multidimensional existence. In a reaction against bare bones Buddhism, the Mahayana turned up, enriched by the loam of pantheons of archetypal Bodhisattvas, cosmic myths and stories, Bodhicitta, the transpersonal Will to Enlightenment. Later still, Tibetan Buddhism and the Tantra came dripping with mantras and yantras, mudras and mandalas, all efforts to penetrate beyond linear space and time into synchronicity, correspondence, magical manifestation, and other non-linear aspects to Being. They took on board some of the shamanic worldview of the former Bon-Po traditions in Tibet, incorporating astrology among other things.
I am left with the unmistakeable feeling that, however much we may try to beat and blast out 'Self', there remains... well, something. What it gets called probably doesn't matter too much. It's not 'me', yet it's simultaneously 'me' more than is possible to imagine. Universal Mind? Dharmakaya? Tathagatagarbha? No end of words in the various forms of Buddhism. 'Source' is a good word, suggesting the everpresent divine streaming down to here from 'somewhere'. And there is G...G...God. Taken out of its mainstrean demiurgic context, it's not such a terrible word. But I remain uneasy about using it.
Maybe this is the nail of doubt when it comes to LU and its ilk: the absence of any mention of 'something'. Take out 'Self', go even further than LU and deal with craving and aversion online, and what have you got? The higher dimensional realities that John Smith alludes to fail to get a look in; there appears to be no notion of them. To use Jungian terminology, it seems to me that 'direct pointing' can lead to an experience of 'No Self' on the levels of personality and ego; but this leaves shadow, collective unconscious, and the rest more-or-less untouched, to wend their merry way wherever. It is all incomplete because the reality map is incomplete.
As I've stated about 67 times already, this is not intended as a criticism of 'direct pointing' in itself; again, for the 68th time, I have found considerable personal benefit. It's more of a reality check on some of the supposedly awakened or enlightened ones lighting up the spiritual scene, especially through the interent, nowadays. Maybe some of this stuff isn't all it makes itself out to be, or that some people make it out to be. Or maybe I'm just not all that interested in this awakening and liberation modern-style.
These articles come highly recommended. Give them a whirl.....