La Mettrie’s Man-Machine

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Philosophers’ theories regarding the human soul? Basically there are just two of them: the first and older of the two is materialism; the second is spiritualism.

The metaphysicians who implied that matter might well have the power to think didn’t disgrace themselves as thinkers. Why not? Because they had the advantage (for in this case it is one) of expressing themselves badly. To ask whether unaided matter can think is like asking whether unaided matter can indicate the time. It’s clear already that we aren’t going to hit the rock on which Locke had the bad luck to come to grief in his speculations about whether there could be thinking matter.

The Leibnizians with their ‘monads’ have constructed an unintelligible hypothesis. Rather than materialising the soul, they spiritualised matter. How can we define a being like the so-called ‘monad’ whose nature is absolutely unknown to us?

Descartes and all the Cartesians – among whom Malebranche’s followers have long been included – went wrong in the same way, namely by dogmatising about something of which they knew nothing. They admitted two distinct substances in man, as if they had seen and counted them!

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Vedic Mathematics: Sixteen Sutras and their Corollaries

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The divergence embraces everything other than the fact of intuition itself – the object and field of intuitive vision, the method of working out experience and rendering it to the intellect. The modern method is to get the intuition by suggestion from an appearance in life or nature or from a mental idea and even if the source of the intuition ie the soul, the method at once relates it to a support external to the soul. The ancient Indian method of knowledge had for its business to disclose something of the Self, the Infinite or the Divine to the regard of the soul – the Self through its expressions, the infinite through its finite symbols and the Divine through his powers. The process was one of Integral knowledge and in its subordinate ranges was instrumental in revealing the truths of cosmic phenomena and these truths mere utilised for worldly ends.

Tirthaji_S.B.K. Vedic mathematics or sixteen simple mathematical formulae from the Vedas

Odyssey. Note Quote.

In tracing an interpretation of the Odyssey it is not necessary to follow the order of the poem as arranged by Homer or by whoever compiled the Homeric legends; it is easier and more rewarding to take the simple narrative in the natural sequence of events. After leaving the battlefield of Troy, Odysseus embarks for his native isle, “Ithaca the Fair,” expecting to arrive there quickly; but at the very outset a tempest drives the fleet off its course, and a great fight impedes his progress. The destruction of all his ships but one, and of many of the sailors, follows quickly. One of the strangest incidents in this introductory part is the encounter with Polyphemus, the Cyclopean giant with a single eye in the middle of his forehead. Before we shrug him off as a creature of early man’s distorted imagination, we should hold in mind the possibility of a symbolic meaning. Creatures of a similar type were mentioned by many archaic peoples far removed from each other; possibly they referred to some past event in human history, now forgotten.

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After their escape from this one-eyed monster and some further perilous adventures, Odysseus and his companions soon reach the island of the enchantress Circe, who represents the fascination of sensual delights. Odysseus is unaffected by the gross enticements which overwhelm his fellows, now turned into swine by the goddess; and his boldness and “confidence in heaven” finally conquer the temptress and compel her to serve him. She restores the men to human form and instructs Odysseus how to find the way to the Underworld.

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The entrance into Hell or the Underworld, the “open tomb,” has more than one meaning in ancient allegories, and is always introduced in some form in myths of initiation; Orpheus, Aeneas and many others had to make the dread “descent.” In the legend of Perseus and Andromeda, the hero aided by the gods flies to the hideous regions of cold and darkness and destroys the deadly Medusa before he can rescue the princess of Ethiopia from the monster. For Odysseus the event is an ordeal of terror. Circe has warned him that before he may go further, he must gain information about the future from Tiresias, a venerable prophet, who lives with the inhabitants of Hades, though he himself is not dead. The approach to the entire experience is surrounded by fearful dangers and to pass safely through the multitudes of vengeful shades calls for the highest physical and moral courage. Like all heroes of epics of the soul, he has to traverse the Valley of the Shadow of Death: to face the shades, the lingering remains of past sins and errors; then to learn what is necessary for his further progress.

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The tone of the poem changes at this point; the lightness and gaiety with which Odysseus has related his adventures is replaced by a deep solemnity, and the scenes of Hades are described with intense vividness and many touches of realism. Are these portrayals actual revelations of postmortem life? Leaving the more impure regions, Odysseus moves on, sees stern Minos, the Judge of the Dead, and even gets a passing view of the heavenly world or the Elysian fields, where the higher and immortal parts of man are held to exist between incarnations on earth. (Plato and Plutarch give valuable insights into the Greek teachings on this mysterious subject which are found to be practically identical with the Egyptian, Indian, and other ancient views of these after-death states.)

At length, having interviewed the sage Tiresias, Odysseus returns to Circe who outlines the perils still lying ahead on his homeward journey. Then come the hazardous Straits between Scylla and Charybdis, and the subtle allurements of the Sirens. Exquisitely fair, they offer him the satisfaction of the pride of knowledge, telling him they know “Whate’er beneath the sun’s bright journey lies,” and singing with all the charm of celestial music:

Blest is the man ordain’d our voice to hear,
The song instructs the soul, and charms the ear.
Approach! thy soul shall into raptures rise!
Approach! and learn new wisdom from the wise.

Having passed successfully through the trials of the Underworld, will he be overcome by pride and rash self-confidence? Knowing well the overwhelming power of this temptation, the hero takes every precaution, has himself tied to the mast and stops the ears of his crew with wax against the Sirens’ songs. They steer safely through the Straits — only to plunge again into difficulty when his men, to satisfy their gluttony, kill and devour Apollo’s sacred oxen. This so arouses the wrath of the god that he sends a great tempest to destroy the last of Odysseus’ crew, and the brave man is left with nothing but his own strength and the favor of Athena, his guide.

In his desperation and loneliness he meets with a temptation that almost proves his undoing. He succumbs for seven years to the blandishments of the lovely nymph Calypso in her enchanted Atlantean island. Calypso even offers him “immortal life, exempt from age or woe.” But with the help of Athena, the personification of divine wisdom, he summons the strength to resist.

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This is one of the passages in the Odyssey that reveals the high understanding of the poet and the profound quality of his teaching. For here is shown the wide gulf between any artificial prolongation of the life of the personality with its selfish cravings and that genuine immortality born of steadfast aspiration and self-control which leads to union with one’s inner god. Such a philosophy nourishes the roots of our being and reminds us of the words of the Nazarene:

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. –– Matthew, 16:24-5

Paul, the wise master builder, in common with the great teachers of antiquity, refers to the same principle when he speaks of being changed “in the twinkling of an eye.” This is a cryptic saying suggesting the spontaneous springing into activity of the power of intuition which sees the difference between a nobler life and the delusions of sensual gratification.

When Odysseus makes his decision, the irresistible power of the Olympian deities is exerted in his favor, Calypso abandons her inducements and, like Circe, is transformed from a temptress into a helper. Odysseus builds a new vessel with his own hands and sets out joyfully for home, a voyage still not without its risks. Upon his arrival, he discovers the terrible conditions to which his wife and son have been reduced by the outrageous conduct of her admirers and soon perceives that his greatest battle is yet to come. His wife, Penelope, who stands for the climax of his endeavors, his goal, does not immediately throw herself into his arms. Ragged, worn, and disguised as an old man, he is not easily recognized by her, though his aged nurse and faithful dog know him quickly. Even when Athena restores him to the prime of life, and to greater dignity and beauty than before, he has to prove his identity to Penelope before she will accept him. This hesitation on her part is not, as some have thought, a blemish on the story; it could not be otherwise. It is traditional that anyone wishing recognition by the higher self must make a clear demand; he must unmistakably recognize and call upon his inner god before it can help him.

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Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew., 7:7).

Odysseus’ supreme opportunity comes when he finds his palace invaded and his wife surrounded by a mob of suitors, all trying to persuade her that he is surely dead and that she should choose a second husband from among them. Repugnant as they are, they have no power over Odysseus, but he must destroy them before he can regain his rightful place. They represent lingering traces of lower desires which must be slain forever if he will be master in his own household. At last the battle is won, the evil forces overpowered, and Odysseus, calm, purified, asserts his noble identity to Penelope and is joyously received by her.

From a practical point of view, the scene of this last struggle and the method adopted by Odysseus in challenging the suitors may appear singular, but there is good warrant for these in the mystical symbolism obviously familiar to Homer. The contest takes place at close quarters, in the confined space of the palace hall, yet the hero has to depend upon his mighty bow for success — the bow that none other can wield — instead of the more logical weapons of sword or spear. The bow is the weapon of Apollo, god of light, and the day of Odysseus’ victory is sacred to that deity. In Hindu philosophy also, the bow, or in some cases the arrow, stands for man himself who must be strong enough in texture to stand the strain. In one of the Upanishads, it says:

Having taken the bow, the great weapon, let him place on it the arrow, sharpened by devotion. Then, having drawn it with a thought directed to That which is, hit the mark, O friend — the Indestructible. . . . It is to be hit by a man who is not thoughtless; and then, as the arrow becomes one with the target, he will become one with Brahman. — Mundaka,II ii, 3-4

The Odyssey closes with the hero, now triumphant as the rightful king and leader, going forth and subduing the few remaining rebels after which, the poet says, the “willing nations knew their lawful lord.” His future reign is left to the imagination, but it is secure in peace and wisdom for, having conquered the enemies in his own house, he cannot fail.

Spiritual Suicide. Thought of the Day 22.0

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असुर्य नाम ते लोका अन्धेन तमसावृताः ।
तांस्ते प्रेत्याभिगच्छन्ति ये के चात्महनो जनाः ॥

asurya nāma te lokā andhena tamasāvṛtāḥ |
tāṃste pretyābhigacchanti ye ke cātmahano janāḥ ||

‘In to the worlds of the asuras, devils, enveloped in blinding darkness, verily do they go after death who are slayers of the Atman, the Self.’

A deep philosophical truth is couched in mythical, symbolic language. Life lived without the consciousness of our divine nature is trivial; it is life of darkness and sorrow. The word ‘darkness’ used in this verse is not physical darkness, but the darkness of ignorance; it is spiritual blindness. The verse compares this darkness to hell. In myths, hell is abode of the asuras, the demons. An alternating reading is asurya, literally ‘without sunlight’, absolute darkness. The verse further tells us that those who prefer to live in such spiritual blindness are really killing themselves. Ātmahana means ‘people who kill themselves’. The death of the body is not so serious as the death of the soul. By neglecting our true nature, by ignoring it by clutching at the shadows of the non-Self all the time, we commit suicide of the most serious kind. Shankaracharya, in his commentary on this verse, explains the nature of this extraordinary kind of suicide which the world practices on the widest scale. Says he:

अविद्यादोषेण विद्यामानस्यात्मनस्तिरस्करणादात्महनेत्युच्यते ।

avidyādoṣeṇa vidyāmānasyātmanastiraskaraṇādātmahanetyucyate |

“Because a man neglects his ever-present Self through the evil of ignorance (spiritual blindness), he is called ‘one who commits suicide”.

Anthropocosmism. Thought of the Day 20.0

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Russian cosmism appeared as sort of antithesis to the classical physicalist paradigm of thinking that was based on strict a differentiation of man and nature. It made an attempt to revive the ontology of an integral vision that organically unites man and cosmos. These problems were discussed both in the scientific and the religious form of cosmism. In the religious form N. Fedorov’s conception was the most significant one. Like other cosmists, he was not satisfied with the split of the Universe into man and nature as opposed entities. Such an opposition, in his opinion, condemned nature to thoughtlessness and destructiveness, and man to submission to the existing “evil world”. Fedorov maintained the ideas of a unity of man and nature, a connection between “soul” and cosmos in terms of regulation and resurrection. He offered a project of resurrection that was not understood only as a resurrection of ancestors, but contained at least two aspects: raising from the dead in a narrow, direct sense, and in a wider, metaphoric sense that includes nature’s ability of self-reconstruction. Fedorov’s resurrection project was connected with the idea of the human mind’s going to outer space. For him, “the Earth is not bound”, and “human activity cannot be restricted by the limits of the terrestrial planet”, which is only the starting point of this activity. One should critically look at the Utopian and fantastic elements of N. Fedorov’s views, which contain a considerable grain of mysticism, but nevertheless there are important rational moments of his conception: the quite clearly expressed idea of interconnection, the unity of man and cosmos, the idea of the correlation of the rational and moral elements of man, the ideal of the unity of humanity as planetary community of people.

But while religious cosmism was more notable for the fantastic and speculative character of its discourses, the natural scientific trend, solving the problem of interconnection between man and cosmos, paid special attention to the comprehension of scientific achievements that confirmed that interconnection. N. G. Kholodny developed these ideas in terms of anthropocosmism, opposing it to anthropocentrism. He wrote: “Having put himself in the place of God, man destroyed his natural connections with nature and condemned himself to a long solitary existence”. In Kholodny ́s opinion, anthropocentrism passed through several stages in its development: at the first stage man did not oppose himself to nature and did not oppose it, he rather “humanized” the natural forces. At the second stage man, extracting himself from nature, man looks at it as the object for research, the base of his well-being. At the next stage man uplifts himself over nature, basing himself in this activity on spiritual forces he studies the Universe. And, lastly, the next stage is characterized by a crisis of the anthropocentric worldview, which starts to collapse under the influence of the achievements of science and philosophy. N. G. Kholodny was right noting that in the past anthropocentrism had played a positive role; it freed man from his fright at nature by means of uplifting him over the latter. But gradually, beside anthropocentrism there appeared sprouts of the new vision – anthropocosmism. Kholodny regarded anthropocosmism as a certain line of development of the human intellect, will and feelings, which led people to their aims. An essential element in anthropocosmism was the attempt to reconsider the question of man ́s place in nature and of his interrelations with cosmos on the foundation of natural scientific knowledge.

Phantom Originary Intentionality: Thought of the Day 16.0

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Phantom limbs and anosognosias – cases of abnormal impressions of the presence or absence of parts of our body – seem like handy illustrations of an irreducible, first-person dimension of experience, of the sort that will delight the phenomenologist, who will say: aha! there is an empirical case of self-reference which externalist, third-person explanations of the type favoured by deflationary materialists, cannot explain away, cannot do away with. As Merleau-Ponty would say, and Varela after him, there is something about my body which makes it irreducibly my own (le corps propre). Whether illusory or not, such images (phantoms) have something about them such that we perceive them as our own, not someone else’s (well, some agnosias are different: thinking our paralyzed limb is precisely someone else’s, often a relative’s). One might then want to insist that phantom limbs testify to the transcendence of mental life! Indeed, in one of the more celebrated historical cases of phantom limb syndrome, Lord Horatio Nelson, having lost his right arm in a sea battle off of Tenerife, suffered from pains in his phantom hand. Most importantly, he apparently declared that this phantom experience was a “direct proof of the existence of the soul”. Although the materialist might agree with the (reformed) phenomenologist to reject dualism and accept that we are not in our bodies like a sailor in a ship, she might not want to go and declare, as Merleau-Ponty does, that “the mind does not use the body, but fulfills itself through it while at the same time transferring the body outside of physical space.” This way of talking goes back to the Husserlian distinction between Korper, ‘body’ in the sense of one body among others in a vast mechanistic universe of bodies, and Leib, ‘flesh’ in the sense of a subjectivity which is the locus of experience. Now, granted, in cognitivist terms one would want to say that a representation is always my representation, it is not ‘transferable’ like a neutral piece of information, since the way an object appear to me is always a function of my needs and interests. What my senses tell me at any given time relies on my interests as an agent and is determined by them, as described by Andy Clark, who appeals to the combined research traditions of the psychology of perception, new robotics, and Artificial Life. But the phenomenologist will take off from there and build a full-blown defense of intentionality, now recast as ‘motor intentionality’, a notion which goes back to Husserl’s claim in Ideas II that the way the body relates to the external world is crucially through “kinestheses”: all external motions which we perceive are first of all related to kinesthetic sensations, out of which we constitute a sense of space. On this view, our body thus already displays ‘originary intentionality’ in how it relates to the world.

Egyptology

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The ancient Egyptians conceived man and kosmos to be dual: firstly, the High God or Divine Mind arose out of the Primeval Waters of space at the beginning of manifestation; secondly, the material aspect expressing what is in the Divine Mind must be in a process of ever-becoming. In other words, the kosmos consists of body and soul. Man emanated in the image of divinity is similarly dual and his evolutionary goal is a fully conscious return to the Divine Mind.

Space, symbolized by the Primeval Waters, contains the seeds and possibilities of all living things in their quiescent state. At the right moment for awakenment, all will take up forms in accordance with inherent qualities. Or to express it in another way: the Word uttered by the Divine Mind calls manifested life to begin once more.

Growth is effected through a succession of lives, a concept that is found in texts and implied in symbolism. Herodotus, the Greek historian (5th century B.C.), wrote that

the Egyptians were the first to teach that the human soul is immortal, and at the death of the body enters into some other living thing then coming to birth; and after passing through all creatures of land, sea, and air (which cycle it completes in three thousand years) it enters once more into a human body, at birth.

The theory of reincarnation is often ascribed to Pythagoras, since he spent some time in Egypt studying its philosophy and, according to Herodotus, “adopted this opinion as if it were his own.”

Margaret A. Murray, who worked with Flinders Petrie, illustrates the Egyptian belief by referring to the ka-names of three kings (The ka-name relates to the vital essence of an individual); the first two of the twelfth dynasty: that of Amonemhat I means “He who repeats births,” Senusert I: “He whose births live,” and the ka-name of Setekhy I of the nineteenth dynasty was “Repeater of births.” (The Splendour That Was Egypt)

Reincarnation has been connected with the rites of Osiris, one of the Mysteries or cycles of initiation perpetuated in Egypt. The concept of transformation as recorded in the Egyptian texts has been interpreted in various ways. De Briere expresses it in astronomical terms: “The sensitive soul re-entered by the gate of the gods, or the Capricorn, into the Amenthe, the watery heavens, where it dwelt always with pleasure; until, descending by the gate of men, or the Cancer, it came to animate a new body.” Herodotus writes of transmigration, i.e., that the soul passes through various animals before being reborn in human form. This refers not to the human soul but to the molecules, atoms, and other components that clothe it. They gravitate to vehicles similar in qualities to their former host’s, drawn magnetically to the new milieu by the imprint made by the human soul, whether it be fine or gross. It is quite clear from the Book of the Dead and other texts that the soul itself after death undergoes experiences in the Duat (Dwat) or Underworld, the realm and condition between heaven and earth, or beneath the earth, supposedly traversed by the sun from sunset to sunrise.

The evolution of consciousness is symbolized by the Solar Barque moving through the Duat. In this context the “hours” of travel represent stages of development. Bika Reed states that at a certain “hour” the individual meets the “Rebel in the Soul,”  that is, at the “hour of spiritual transformation.” And translating from the scroll Reed gives: “the soul warns, only if a man is allowed to continue evolving, can the intellect reach the heart.”

Not only does the scripture deal with rituals assumed to apply to after-death conditions — in some respects similar to the Book of the Dead — but also it seems quite patently a ritual connected with initiation from one level of self-becoming to another. Nevertheless the picture that emerges is that of the “deceased” or candidate for initiation reaching a fork offering two paths called “The Two Paths of Liberation” and, while each may take the neophyte to the abode of the Akhu (the “Blessed”) — a name for the gods, and also for the successful initiates — they involve different experiences. One path, passing over land and water, is that of Osiris or cyclic nature and involves many incarnations. The other way leads through fire in a direct or shortened passage along the route of Horus who in many texts symbolizes the divine spark in the heart.

In the Corpus Hermeticum, Thoth — Tehuti — was the Mind of the Deity, whom the Alexandrian Greeks identified with Hermes. For example, one of the chief books in the Hermetica is the Poimandres treatise, or Pymander. The early trinity Atum-Ptah-Thoth was rendered into Greek as theos (god) — demiourgos or demourgos-nous (Demiurge or Demiurgic Mind) — nous and logos (Mind and Word). The text states that Thoth, after planning and engineering the kosmos, unites himself with the Demiurgic Mind. There are other expressions proving that the Poimandres text is a Hellenized version of Egyptian doctrine. An important concept therein is that of “making-new-again.” The treatise claims that all animal and vegetable forms contain in themselves “the seed of again-becoming” — a clear reference to reimbodiment — “every birth of flesh ensouled . . . shall of necessity renew itself.” G. R. S. Mead interprets this as palingenesis or reincarnation — “the renewal on the karmic wheel of birth-and-death.” (Thrice-Greatest Hermes)

The Corpus Hermeticum or Books of Hermes are believed by some scholars to have been borrowed from Christian texts, but their concepts are definitely ancient Egyptian in origin, translated into Alexandrian Greek, and Latin.

Looking at Walter Scott’s translation of Poimandres, it states that “At the dissolution of your material body, you first yield up the body itself to be changed,” and it will be absorbed by nature. The rest of the individual’s components return to “their own sources, becoming parts of the universe, and entering into fresh combinations to do other work.” After this, the real or inner man “mounts upward through the structure of the heavens,” leaving off in each of the seven zones certain energies and related substances. The first zone is that of the Moon; the second, the planet Mercury; the third, Venus; fourth, the Sun; fifth, Mars; sixth, Jupiter; and seventh, Saturn. “Having been stripped of all that was wrought upon him” in his previous descent into incarnation on Earth, he ascends to the highest sphere, “being now possessed of his own proper power.” Finally, he enters into divinity. “This is the Good; this is the consummation, for those who have got gnosis.” (According to Scott, gnosis in this context means not only knowledge of divinity but also the relationship between man’s real self and the godhead.)

Further on, the Poimandres explains that the mind and soul can be conjoined only by means of an earth-body, because the mind by itself cannot do so, and an earthly body would not be able to endure

the presence of that mighty and immortal being, nor could so great a power submit to contact with a body defiled by passion. And so the mind takes to itself the soul for a wrap

In Hermetica, Isis to Horus, there is the statement:

. . . . For there are [in the world above, two gods] who are attendants of the Providence that governs all. One of them is Keeper of souls; the other is Conductor of souls. The Keeper is he that has in his charge the unembodied souls; the Conductor is he that sends down to earth the souls that are from time to time embodied, and assigns to them their several places. And both he that keeps watch over the souls, and he that sends them forth, act in accordance with God’s will.

There are many texts using the term “transformations” and a good commentary on the concept by R. T. Rundle Clark follows:

In order to reach the heights of the sky the soul had to undergo those transformations which the High God had gone through as he developed from a spirit in the Primeval Waters to his final position as Sun God . . .” — Myth-And-Symbol-In-Ancient-Egypt

This would appear to mean that in entering upon physical manifestation human souls follow the path of the divine and spiritual artificers of the universe.

There is reason to believe that the after-death adventures met with by the soul through the Duat or Underworld were also undergone by a neophyte during initiation. If the trial ends in success, the awakened human being thereafter speaks with the authority of direct experience. In the most ancient days of Egypt, such an initiate was called a “Son of the Sun” for he embodied the solar splendour. For the rest of mankind, the way is slower, progressing certainly, but more gradually, through many lives. The ultimate achievement is the same: to radiate the highest qualities of the spiritual element locked within the aspiring soul.

Theosophical Panpsychism

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Where does mind individually, and consciousness ultimately, originate? In the cosmos there is only one life, one consciousness, which masquerades under all the different forms of sentient beings. This one consciousness pierces up and down through all the states and planes of being and serves to uphold the memory, whether complete or incomplete, of each state’s experience. This suggests that our self-conscious mind is really a ray of cosmic mind. There is a mysterious vital life essence and force involved in the interaction of spirit or consciousness with matter. The cosmos has its memory and follows general pathways of formation based on previous existences, much as everything else does. Aided by memory, it somehow selects out of the infinite possibilities a new and improved imbodiment. When the first impulse emerges, we have cosmic ideation vibrating the first matter, manifesting in countless hierarchies of beings in endless gradations. Born of the one cosmic parent, monadic centers emerge as vital seeds of consciousness, as germs of its potential. They are little universes in the one universe.

Theosophy does not separate the world into organic and inorganic, for even the atoms are considered god-sparks. All beings are continuously their own creators and recorders, forming more perishable outer veils while retaining the indestructible thread-self that links all their various principles and monads through vast cycles of experience. We are monads or god-sparks currently evolving throughout the human stage. The deathless monad runs through all our imbodiments, for we have repeated many times the processes of birth and death. In fact, birth and death for most of humanity are more or less automatic, unconscious experiences as far as our everyday awareness is concerned. How do we think? We can start, for example, with desire which provides the impulse that causes the mind through will and imagination to project a stream of thoughts, which are living elemental beings. These thoughts take various forms which may result in different kinds of actions or creative results. This is another arena of responsibility, for in the astral light our thoughts circulate through other minds and affect them, but those that belong to us have our stamp and return to us again and again. So through these streams of thought we create habits of mind, which build our character and eventually our self-made destiny. The human mind is an ideator resonating with its past, selecting thoughts and making choices, anticipating and creating a pattern of unfolding. Perhaps we are reflecting in the small the operations of the divine mind which acts as the cosmic creator and architect. Some thoughts or patterns we create are limiting; others are liberating. The soul grows, and thoughts are reused and transformed by the mind, perhaps giving them a superior expression. Plato was right: with spiritual will and worthiness we can recollect the wisdom of the past and unlock the higher mind. We have the capacity of identifying with all beings, experiencing the oneness we share together in our spiritual consciousness, that continuous stream that is the indestructible thread-self. All that it was, is, or is becoming is our karma. Mind and memory are a permanent part of the reincarnating ego or human soul, and of the universe as well.

In the cosmos there are many physical, psychic, mental, and spiritual fields — self-organizing, whole, living systems. Every such field is holographic in that it contains the characteristics of every other field within itself. Rupert Sheldrake’s concepts of morphic fields and morphic resonance, for instance, are in many ways similar to some phenomena attributed to the astral light. All terrestrial entities can be considered fields belonging to our living earth, Gaia, and forming part of her constitution. The higher akasic fields resonate with every part of nature. Various happenings within the earth’s astral light are said to result in physical effects which include all natural and human phenomena, ranging from epidemics and earthquakes to wars and weather patterns. Gaia, again, is part of the fields which form the solar being and its constitution, and so on throughout the cosmos.

Like the earth, human beings each have auric fields and an astral body. The fifty trillion cells in our body, as well as the tissues and organs they form, each have their own identity and memory. Our mental and emotional fields influence every cell and atom of our being for better or worse. How we think and act affects not only humanity but Gaia as well through the astral light, the action of which is guided by active creative intelligences. For example, the automatic action of divine beings restores harmony, balancing the inner with the outer throughout nature.

Initiation

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Every country has its own methods of preserving the knowledge and tradition of the Mysteries. The degrees are variously reckoned, sometimes four, five, seven, or even ten; but whatever the divisions, during the days of their purity they all honored the one divine purpose of consummating the spiritual marriage of the higher self with the awakened human soul, from which union springs the seer, the adept, the master of life. Through the ravages of time and priestcraft, and the tangle of intrigue and ignorance in which exoteric rites are enmeshed, one perceives the venerable tradition.

In Asia Minor, Theon of Smyrna writes of five degrees in the initiatory cycle:

(1) “the preliminary purification,” because taking part in the Mysteries “must not be indiscriminately given to all who desire it”;

(2) “the tradition of sacred things” which constitutes the “initiation proper”;

(3) the “epoptic revelation,” where the candidate may experience direct intuition of truth;

(4) “the binding of the head and placement of the crown” — a clear reference to the mystical authority received with the crown of initiation to pass on the sacred tradition to others; and, finally,

(5) “friendship and interior communion” with divinity — this was considered the highest and most solemn mystery of all, the complete assimilation of the enlightened mind with the divine self — (Theon of Smyrna, Mathematics Useful for Understanding Plato + Isis Unveiled).

In Persia during the time of Mithraism, when the sun god was honored above earthly things, seven were the degrees, the candidate receiving a name relevant to each stage of interior growth. Using the Graeco-Latin names that have come down to us, the first-degree neophyte was called Corax, “raven” — the dark bird, one in whom the light of wisdom had not yet awakened in great measure. It signified likewise a servant: one who gives of his heart totally before receiving admission into the second degree which was termed Cryphius, “occult”: one accepted as a disciple of esoteric lore; the third was Miles, “soldier,” one who had received sufficient training and purification to become a worker for good. The fourth — Leo, “lion,” emblem of solar power — has reference to the fourth initiation in which the candidate begins the conscious solarizing of the nature through instruction and specialized training. The fifth degree was known as Perses, “Persian,” signifying to the Persians of the time one who was becoming spiritually human — manasaputrized, that is, mind-born. The sixth, Heliodromus, “messenger or runner of Helios (the sun)” is a reference to Mercury or Budha, as messenger between the sun in the cosmos and the sun in man: the bloom of buddhi. The final and seventh was called Pater, “father,” the state of a Full Initiate — (Esoteric Tradition 2:864).

The Hindus likewise had various names for their disciples as they passed from one degree to another. For instance, in one school the candidates received the names of the ten avataras of Vishnu. The first degree neophyte was termed Matsya, “fish”: one yet low in the scale of spiritual mastery. The second was Kurma, “tortoise”: one step higher in evolutionary development. The third degree was called Varaha, “boar,” a further advance in individualization, while the fourth was termed Nara-simha, “man-lion.” This fourth stage marks the turning point between the preliminary degrees of the Lesser Mysteries and the advanced degrees of the Greater Mysteries. This title of man-lion points to the choice demanded of the aspirant between dominance of animal soul qualities and the supremacy henceforth of the truly human attributes. Success in the fourth degree insured the entrance into the fifth called Vamana, “dwarf,” in which the candidate assumed the robes of occult humanhood, though such humanhood was as yet infantile compared to full mastery. Parasu-Rama, “Rama with an axe,” name of the sixth-degree neophyte, suggests one capable of hewing his way with equanimity through the worlds of both spirit and matter. In the seventh degree the disciple becomes fully humanized, receiving the name of Rama, hero of the Ramayana, an important epic of Hindustan. The last three degrees, the eighth, ninth, and tenth, are called respectively: Krishna, the avatara whose death ushered in the Kali yuga some 5,000 years ago; Buddha, whose renunciation of nirvana brought light and peace to a sorrowing world; and the final and tenth, Kalkin or Kalki, the “white-horse” avatara who is yet to come. As noted in the Vishnu Purana, he is destined to appear at the end of the Kali or Iron Age, seated on a white horse, with a drawn sword blazing like a comet, for the destruction of the wicked, the renovation of creation, and the restoration of purity. In ancient symbology the horse also symbolized the sun, hence the tenth avatara will come riding the steed of solar glory to usher in the New Age clothed with the sun of spiritual illumination.

While seven were the degrees usually enumerated in the Mysteries, hints have been given of three higher degrees than the seventh. But so esoteric would these be that only the most spiritualized of humanity could comprehend and hence undertake these divine initiations. Rare indeed are those who become avatara-like; rarer still, “as rare as are the flowers of the Udumbara-tree” are the Buddhas. As for the tenth and last — such has been left unmarred by description.