Friday, May 30, 2008

The Path

“You, traveller, there are no roads,

Only wind trails on the sea.”

Antonio Machado

Recently, when I was availing myself of a friends collection of books on the Kabbalah – I had something of an epiphany. Without excavating the profusion of details, the essence of the matter involves two interpretations of the Hebrew word for ‘path’. I have a tendency to siphon lexical interpretations into the experiential and subjective realm, as was the case in this instance.

These experiences are in essence ‘gnostic’ in the sense they involve, evolve and revolve around specific ways of ‘knowing’. It is difficult to transmit these ways of knowing in words. And difficult outside of specific conditions or modalities. Words are very inadequate. I would suggest it is also very connected to the ‘seeing’ of the SEERS! Like the satori of the Zen koan, you either get it or you don’t. Boiled down to basics, what I’m saying is there exists a specific ability to ‘see’ the path that one’s life takes. It is a matter of direction. Of discovering the gestalt. And in clumsy, dualistic terms, of self-actualization. {Without the self!] I also have the unfortunate proclivity of ‘seeing’ how other people have not found their ‘path’ in life. They are floundering around like fish in water. And this applies to most human beings, who only wallpaper over the existential uncertainties. Animals, by contrast, live their path, on an intrinsic, instinctual level.

The hidden core of this emerging essay, depends on an analysis on the two Hebrew terms for ‘path’ - which will be forthcoming in due time . . . for the moment, what I have the audacity to say is that I feel at this moment, more certainly than ever before, that I see the direction of my life’s path more clearly. And it is not even a case of ‘seeing’ . . . . pieces of the puzzle just fall into place, rather in the sense of synchronicity. One feels that there is a Puppet master behind all this. As my mother used to say and live by the saying: “Thy Will Be Done.” The least we can do of this “will’ on earth, seeing that we have no opportunities, as yet, of doing this “will” in Heaven . . . or perhaps merely in the sense of “storing treasures” for some future eventuality.

So again, the attention is moved away from the ego, to the idea of some great one Universal Macrocosmic Plan, of which we are microcosmic parts. And this is the true Path of all sentient beings . . . whether they are conscious of it or not. In fact, being conscious of your place in the Great-Scheme-of-Things-Without-a-Schemer . . . makes perfect sense. To me.

And to be honest, the epiphany, the revelation has not been revealed. I am keeping that core, the heart of the matter, under wraps for the time being. As we said, words cannot express these inner observations - but perhaps actions can. Hence:

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them.

And perhaps our revelations, which are far and few between, are not gifted to us to be shouted from the highest rooftops. They remain esoteric, because they are the very energy from which future action is gestated.

Samten de Wet

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The White Flame of Life

The White Flame of Life

"I dreamt that I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down on myriads of birds all flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds. But now in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter, and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek and then, in a flash, bled and shrivelled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless biological effort? As I stared down, seeming to see every creature’s ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us all, had been born, if the struggle ceased forever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy. But now the gear was changed again, and time went faster still, and it was rushing by a such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; and as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me in a rocket-burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real, but this quivering and hurrying lambency of being. Birds, men or creatures not yet shaped and coloured, all were of no account except so far as this flame of life travelled through them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought was tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life."

From:   J.B.Priestly,  Man and Time:

Quoted in Adler, Studies in Analytical Psychology, p. 143;  Edward Edinger, Anatomy of the Psyche, Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy, Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, 1985, p.129-30; and Marie-Louise von Franz, On Dreams and Death, p. 113-14.

 

 

The Castle of the Soul

    Like Godwin I think we need to approach the Hypnerotomachia from the perspective of Henry Corbin’s Mundus Imaginalis . . .  what type of esoteric stream was taking place, not merely neo-pagan, or neo-Platonic, more likely Hermetic . . .  for example, these clues from Henry Corbin:

 “Unfortunately, there are those who can only think in terms of “conversion”; that is, in terms of a process that would permit them to assign you a collective label. No. To speak of “conversion” is to have understood nothing of “esotericism”. A philosopher knows very well that to be a Platonist is not to register one’s self in some Platonic Church, and even less to prohibit one’s self from also being anything else besides a Platonist. Each and every ‘Orafa, whether from the East or from the West, cannot but think and weigh things in terms of interiority and interiorization, which means making in one’s self a permanent accommodation and abode for the philosophies and the religions towards which one’s Quest conducts one. And such a one must keep his or her secret: Secretum meum mihi. A secret that belongs to the Castle of the Soul. It is not through some external sociological choice that he will outwardly manifest this profound internal reality. It is in the “personal” work that he produces, the exteriorization of which results from the concordance of all of his or her “modes of being”. The “community”, the omma of the esotericists, found in all places and in all times, is the “inner Church”, and there is no confessional act of adherence required for one to be a part of it.

   But it is precisely this inner connection that is the true connection because it is not such as can be prescribed and is moreover invulnerable, and because it is in this sole case that one may truly say that the mouth speaks of the abundance of the heart.”

 

Henri Corbin

 

 

A World Infused With Divinity

In the eyes of the Vedic people, everything in the world was infused with divinity, and they saw the gods themselves as belonging to the everyday world of men. Their gods were not entities outside the world, but personifications of the forces of nature. And since nearly everything in nature was personified as a god, or was seen as an attribute of some god or goddess, Aryans lived, in a real sense, in the thick of divine activity.

Vedic Aryans saw the gods not as creators of the universe, but as part of the creation. However, in later Vedic times Prajapati (the Lord of Beings, here identified as Brahma) came to be designated as the creator, but not so much an active creator as the being from whom creation emanated. ‘Prajapati moves in the womb,’ says the Yajur-veda. ‘Being unborn, he is born in many shapes ... In him all the worlds stand.’ As Keith comments, ‘The idea of world creation is always in the Vedic literature regarded in the light of sending out of something already there rather than of mere bringing into being.’ There was really no creation, only evolution — the universe evolved out of its own latent potential.

Abraham Eraly, Gem in the Lotus. The Seeding of Indian Civilisation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2004, p.132

Friday, May 23, 2008

Love Your Neighbour

We should share the sufferings of our fellow human beings and practice compassion and tolerance, not only towards our loved ones but towards our enemies.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Little book of Wisdom, Rider, London, 1997.

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.

G.K. Chesterton

We are told on Sundays that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. On the other six days of the week, we are exhorted to hate. But you will remember that the precept was exemplified by saying that the Samaritan was our neighbour. We no longer have any wish to hate Samaritans and so we are apt to miss the point of the parable. If you want to get its point, you should substitute Communist [terrorist] or anti-Communist, [anti-terrorist] as the case may be, for Samaritan. It might be objected that it is right to hate those who do harm. I do not think so. If you hate them, it is only too likely that you will become equally harmful; and it is very unlikely that you will induce them to abandon their evil ways. Hatred of evil is itself a kind of bondage to evil. The way out is through understanding, not through hate. I am not advocating non-resistance. But I am saying that resistance, if it is to be effective in preventing the spread of evil, should be combined with the greatest degree of understanding and the smallest degree of force that is compatible with the survival of the good things that we wish to preserve.

Bertrand Russell, Knowledge and Wisdom

Chopping Wood and Fetching Water

There is a wonderful old vision - perhaps it originates in Japan, and may actually be seen in a woodcut by one of the Japanese Masters such as Hokusai. It show a burning building, with two rows of people between the fire and the river. One row is passing empty buckets from hand to hand en route to the river, the other, full buckets, en route to the fire.

This is a possible analogy of how we should be working together but it depends of course on whether the fire is near to a river, or any source of water, a well, or a tap. Another image, a sort of visionary image, that has always been imprinted on some back page of my brain, (and I am not sure which hemisphere) - is a image of a vast dam in the middle of a huge dessert. Here, the emphasis is on hydraulics. The water must be brought to the thirsty earth, to the spiritual aridity of humanity. Thus, engineering is necessary, canals, pipes, plumbing. Or if all fails spades to dig the watercourses. All this involves Work, and we are a lazy species. This could be called: social engineering . . .

Another image, comes from the beautiful and mystical novel ‘Mount Analogue’ by Rene Daumal. Here the analogy is Mountain Climbing. Those who have gone upwards, towards the Peak, or Goal, always prepare the Way for those Ascending from Beneath. They chop wood and leave fresh food for those ascending. As Above So Below. Basically, this should be the principle of any Fellowship. It has resonances with the Dream of Jacob, and the Angels going up and down the Ladder. On a mundane level, most people, when they ascend the social ladder, pull the ladder up behind them.

Unfortunately, there is still a greater reservoir of selfishness and greed - even among my personal friends and it has caused me great pain to see how the basics needs of the self have triumphed over any altruistic motives. But then this is an absolute indictment of our acceptance of competition and greed as the ground motivation of our society. People treat one another accoding to their position on the Food Chain. As such, we must accept the inevitable consequences of such behavior, in the Small Picture, and in the Big Picture, it will only lead to a ruination of the species, if this has not already become an irreversible process.

The world is dying, as one old matriarch said, from a lack of love. The world is burnt dry by the selfishness of humanity. There are great reservoirs of resources, of wealth - of plenty - which are held for the few - by the few. The New Visions which are arising at the moment, in the attempt to counteract this materialism, that may, or may not, destroy the planet - have manifested in countless forms, among many which we count as our own forms, the ones which we have spiritually, intellectual and culturally identified with. These forms, include social forms, religious forms or scientific forms to use a few labels. Among these, for example, I can make a list of all the subjects and their corresponding forms, or manifestations that have interested or involved me in action over the decades, e.g. Buddhism, the Tarot, Art, History, Archaeology, Jungian Psychology, Astrology, Literature, Theatre, Music, Ecology and so on. You can do the same. And mostly, we find there are wide areas of convergence that we share, that demonstrate our mutual friendship, our Fellowship, and hopefully, eventually, our commitment to Serving All Sentient Beings in whatever enlightened or suitable Form we find, or  Create.

Some Forms have Traditions - and some of these Traditions, for various reasons have been hidden and are in the process of re-emerging in the present time. Or, perhaps they have always been present in the ├╝rgrund of Archetypes, and merely manifest in so-called New Forms, to satisfy the Needs of the Day.

One of these forms, and a Form of supreme importance is the Web. It has taken me a years of working on the Web – to digest what it has to offer as a tool, as a medium - and so on. A period of testing and trial. It is my idea of a Hermetic Heaven on Earth! But like all tools, it must be used according to its Inner Nature - which in this case, is definitely Mercurial, and therefore Hermetic. So this brings me back to the practical aspects of fires and buckets, and dams and sluice gates, and of Rest Houses, where those, whom we love, leave fresh milk and freshly baked bread - for those coming up the mountainside, whom we love…

So, let us continue with the work that needs to be done..

Samten de Wet: from the Archives: A Letter to a Friend, Turin, I Due Melograni, 14th October 1997.

Hermetic da Vinci

Professor Martin Kemp of Oxford University, is one of the word’s leading authorities on Leonardo da Vinci.. With Marina Wallace, he is the Director of UNIVERSAL LEONARDO, an absolutely stunning website on da Vinci. Martin Gayford, writing in ARTnews, says:

“To take an example Kemp has written about, what links a map of Tuscan river patterns, a detailed study of a dissected female body, and the Mona Lisa? The answer, Kemp says, is that the veins, arteries, and other sundry tubing in human anatomy and the streams of the Apennines were to Leonardo, not just similar but large and small examples of the same thing. The macrocosm of the wide world—the rivers, mountains, and lakes in the wonderful, cosmic landscape behind the Mona Lisa—was reflected in the microcosm of man (or woman). In Kemp’s reading, Leonardo would have thought of the scenery as a metaphor for the bodily mechanisms of the lady herself.

When Leonardo examined the corpse of a centenarian, Kemp says, he concluded that the old man had succumbed to the “silting” of his blood vessels— exactly the kind of process that would lead a river system to sclerosis. To Kemp, the drawing he labels “Irrigation systems’ of the female body: respiratory, vascular and urino-genital” (1507—8) is a masterpiece comparable to the Mona Lisa. More than that, it is, partly at least, about the same subject.

Of course, the Mona Lisa started off as a portrait of a particular person, Lisa Gherardini. But it became something more and different, and in fact was never delivered to Gherardini’s husband, who had presumably commissioned it. The landscape in the background is a poetic summary of Leonardo’s surveys of central Italian geography, which he had carried out for military and economic reasons. In front of the majestic system of the world, with its rivers and peaks, stands the woman—who Leonardo knew consisted, in part, of an intricate array of capillaries, valves, organs, and liquids. Microcosm recapitulates macrocosm: so there is one Leonardo mystery partly decoded.”

From: Martin Gayford, Decoding da Vinci, ARTnews, March 2007, pp. 134 – 137.

Using the axiom, As Above, So Below, from the Emerald Table, the above points to the essential Hermetic vision of Leonardo da Vinci, in its microcosmic and macrocosmic applications.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

BE WHAT YOU ARE

“The principle of all mystic codes of ethics may be stated in this simple form: Be what you are. That is, be in action what you are in reality.”

 

William Ernest Hocking, Types of Philosophy,  p. 271.

BY THEIR FRUITS YE SHALL KNOW THEM!

To quote Edgar Wind, out of context:: “The claim that in these late Neoplatonic speculations there was a vestige of an ancient mystery relig...