By Christine Payne-Towler
ArkLetter 48 -- February 24, 2009
In the esoteric arts, there are always specialized vocabularies to deal with. For one thing, there's the ancient mystery of the names of all things, wherein somehow the letters spelling the words manage to indicate the invisible reality standing behind the labels. There exists also an entire canon of ratios, proportions, and harmonic relationships that, in their many literal instances throughout art and architecture, consistently reference specific allegorical and archetypal values.
We must also include the multiple symbol-sets -- alchemical and
geomantic sigils, runes, characters and other glyphic constellations --
which stud the centuries. At the substrate of it all rests the bedrock
tradition of elemental astrology passed down to humanity through study
of the nighttime sky, granting us insight into the long, slow cycles of
the planetary 'gods' overhead. In the 21st century we have a
multicultural esoteric inheritance that is now finally being collated
for the sake of future humanity, a worthy and noble cause.
I'm going to introduce another word today that comes from the esoteric vocabulary of history -- the word is Architectonic. If you search out a spectrum of dictionary references for this word, the primary meanings one encounters have to do with
b) Systemization of the totality of a certain body of knowledge; structures for classifying, organizing and presenting knowledge
A third meaning, insightfully offered by Encarta online, put forward another nuance, one that is closer to the sense in which I wish to use the word here. This becomes our third definition:
Previous ArkLetter articles have introduced aspects of the esoteric paradigm that are transmitted in architectonic style. For example, the Bad Teinich altarpiece is an architectonic presentation of the 'journey of the Soul' -- first through the maze of the earthly garden, then through the rising facade of the goddess temple. We have also pointed out works from the publications of Athanasius Kircher and Robert Fludd, both of whom taxed their illustrators to their limits to find ways of synthesizing and distilling knowledge systems (like that of the interlocking ratios of Pythagorean harmonic theory) into profound single-page graphic illustrations. We have reviewed and commented upon that fascinating compendium of early Renaissance eros magic called the Hypnerotica Poliphili, which has been kept in print to this day within the architectural community because of its exhaustive catalogue of landscape and temple design elements (including their specific terminology and esoteric correspondences). The alchemical masterpiece Atalanta Fugiens is another classic of architectonic presentations, this time serving the subject of Alchemy. Any collection of esoteric art will abound in such presentations, cataloguing metaphysical values by embedding them into the forms and functions of natural landscapes, idealized human settlements, specialized dwellings, musical instruments, and of course the human body's organs and limbs.
As we can see, there are multiple levels to architectonics. There is an architectonic method of designing literal buildings and landscapes, emphasizing harmony of proportion across physical space. Then again, there is an architectonic approach to thinking about systems of knowledge classification, arranging topics and fields into patterns that highlight the relations between their contents. Finally, there is an architectonic way of arranging metaphysical paradigms to define various kinds of psychic or spiritual space, whether that be social space (e.g. in Tarot, the Royals of the 4 Suits, each one specialized for certain roles in the castle community), or the "space" inside of composite structures that can be occupied by different levels of consciousness (e.g. the ascending trajectory of the Tarot Trumps, moving up the Ladder of Lights). Even the word "space" has multiple levels as I'm using it here, including an overall shape and contour in form, plus possible interactions with other manifested forms, as well as interior experiences and functions held within the form. For purposes of this article, we are going to be highlighting certain "spaces of consciousness" that can be found and developed within the natural human form, the realm in which the historical magi of every generation have cultivated their innate powers and capabilities.
Nature's harmonic "thinking"
The west's first literary evidence of architectonic thinking is found in the Pythagorean School of philosophy. However, if a philosophy is to have a comprehensive enough grasp on human experience to survive its founder's lifetime, it has to be pointing to something that is empirically true in demonstrable fact, rather than being just an elegant theory detached from practical life. What the Pythagoreans had going for them are propositions that are demonstrable in many areas of human existence, for example; the mathematics of astronomical calculations, the harmonics and modes of music, the psychological effect of certain natural and built spaces, as well as the scale of proportions demonstrated by the body-symmetries of all living things. As it turns out, examples of the architectonic universe are all around us.
Any sensitive person can sense the specialness of innately resonant chambers, from caves to cathedrals. It is not hard to grasp the emotional and psychological effect of different qualities of light, or music composed to the ancient modes. Many people are aware of some type of "personality" occupying specific places, whether or not, or even despite the fact that, there is a particular construct of civilization marking the spot. Ever since the first human took the time to notice and play with an echo, a shadow or the ripples on a pond, we have been asking ourselves the question "is this space alive somehow? And if so, how?"
The answer has to do with the nature of matter itself. In extremely crude terms, every "thing" that exists in material form vibrates, and things of compatible vibrations find themselves humming in sympathy even across so-called 'empty' space. (Non-material "things" like plasma fields vibrate too, but that's beyond our ken for this conversation...) When a critical mass of objects and alignments resonating to sympathetic frequencies are brought into right relationship with each other, the composite of their mutual harmony becomes palpable. As is so elegantly stated by the ancient sages, like attracts like across the manifested universe. The constant pulsing of every atom keeps the whole creation throbbing, both those atoms that are tied up in 'form', and those that are free to move. The whole creation is slowly but surely seething and sifting its way towards some ultimate harmonic peak which we may never see, but which we continuously participate in.
If we took humans out of the picture, removing all of our meddling and projections, we would still be able to observe this process going on. Nature and the Universe are constantly engaged in this great exchange, and from this process, all the surfaces that support "life as we know it" emerge. Without some kind of inherent predisposition towards coming into order, there would be no Universe, no solar systems spinning around suns, no ice caps or continents, no creatures to occupy the landscape and impose their cultures upon it. Luckily for us, reality abounds with evidence that matter actively seeks harmonious patterns that interlock and nest into each other, from the cellular level to the galactic. Philosophers of every age (until modernity) acknowledged that there is a quality of intelligence occupying every form, every "space" in the creation. Different cultures might call them by different titles, but these qualities have long been quantified using the proportions and ratios suggested to us by Nature. Our elders didn't have the kind of explanations that we do -- putting things in terms of chemical reactions, gravitational forces, and all of our other mechanistic concepts -- but their ways of talking about the inherent tendencies of matter were still pointing at real phenomena that have always been around us, in which we live and move and have our being.
This insight that 'God geometrizes' is extremely old. The observation stems from various discoveries made via the mathematical arts (especially astronomy) that motivated the philosophers to name out the Gods, Demons, Angels and every other "invisible operative" inherent in the Creation. By personifying the principals of number and ratio for the mass mind, Plato and the Pythagoreans (among others) helped the West get our first focus on the Archetypes. Even if, at the popular level, we have lost track of what these synthetic deities were invented to refer to (certainly not the Jungian definition of Archetype!), we still relate the gods to the planets based on their architectonic (cyclic and vibrational) correspondences.
Therefore, when citing the architectonic paradigm that creates form for or holds the contents of a mystical, shamanic, priestly or magical worldview, I am reaching back across the entire history of human civilizations, to point at something that has been intertwined with human awareness since our beginnings as self-conscious entities. The essence of this understanding is that Creation (meaning reality as we know it) has a structure and design that pre-exists the human presence, and it is our destiny to be constantly on the watch for signs and signals of this unfolding Plan. Our ancestors have left us many clues to the puzzle, but we will not be able to understand those clues until we learn to unscrew our modern mindsets and plug back into the older modes of being. To the extent that we can do this, we become more permeable to the Mind of God, which is busy structuring everything that's taking form around us and within us.
Our ancient stance in consciousness
Historically, human spirituality started with shamanism, the worldview and relation to Nature based in indigenous people's direct experience of immersion in the Great Mystery. By investigating the earliest assumptions of aboriginal magic, it becomes easier to fathom what the later priesthoods and Orders are doing. Theoretically, there should be no block to modern seekers who wish to re-activate and inhabit our senses the way our earliest ancestors did. We still have the same standard equipment, even if our cultural overlay is different. Interested individuals of any era should be able to follow our ancestors’ footsteps and craft a platform of consciousness that can free us from the shackles of our domestication, returning us to our natural sensibilities again.
When we were still animals in Nature, our full range of perceptions, skills, and experiences were mediated to us through our bodies. If we had possessions, they were simple enough to carry in a bundle, hanging on our belt. This is not because early humanity lived a rude and primitive life -- it is because at that time, everything at hand was a tool, everything growing around one was potential food, and each tribe exploited innate features of their own landscape for shelter and livelihood. People didn't live where conditions didn't suit them, at least not for long. Existence took place to a great degree outdoors, so the influences of Sun and Moon would be huge. Without the distractions offered by literacy and civilization as we know it, life was lived almost completely in body-space, in the senses, immersed in the expansive moment. The inner life and the outer life were to a large degree simultaneous.
This kind of existence lacks the great gap we moderns experience between the subjectivity and objectivity. Early humanity had no 'space' in their existence for our identity-issues, anomie, depression, alienation or denial. In a nomadic, season-driven life, survival or death are the choices from one day to the next. The sensations and experiences of the body provide the energies fueling the emotions, the will, the psyche and the mind. Using the simple analogue of a deadbolt lock, we could say that the body, the emotions, the ego, the heart, the mind and the soul were all lined up together and in synch with each other. If a person survived their childhood in sound enough shape to procure food and procreate, then the peculiarities of the private, individual psyche would be their own business.
This point is worth dwelling upon. In the life of the 'natural human', hunting and gathering with his or her familial unit, there would be no gauge of what we call 'sanity' beyond possessing high viability to continue living. No science background or religious dogma inhibited the individual from interpreting causes and effects, origins and outcomes for themselves. Faced with an unexplainable mystery like the changing seasons, a lightning storm or an eclipse, there were no academics around to repress people's imaginations about what was happening and why. In such a situation, the people with the most useful, most practical theories would see their explanations gaining popularity. The relative truth of a person's outlook would be judged by his or her ability to enhance the survival of the tribe. If someone could successfully predict the location of the herds in hunting season, or find foods and medicines faster than their peers, than that person would be listened to and followed. It would not matter how fantastical their explanation might seem to us in hindsight. A person could be 'barking mad' according to present-day criteria, even utterly lost in private conversation with invisible forces, but if the results of that person's predictions and suggestions increased the survival success of the band, then that person was consulted, respected and believed.
This is why the modern view of ancient peoples is often quite derogatory and warped. Judging ancient reality by modern standards, we forget that our own slippery grasp of cause and effect is posited on just as many speculations, myths and fabulations as our ancestors' worldviews were. We moderns are just as firmly in the habit of accepting the sloppy premises of consensus reality, spoon-fed to us since our earliest days, as any previous generation ever was. We forget that the minds we 'wear' today are perfectly capable of assembling the very same physical facts and experiences in totally different ways, depending upon what we determine to be real in the moment. Think of the different ways you see the world while under the influence of a high fever, or a scolding from your boss, or a come-hither look from your sweetie. If we take the time to peel our hardened shell of acculturation off, we can begin again to perceive 'all that is' with a fresh slant, from inside our aboriginal sensibilities.
Try to remember yourself back to a time when you were still open, not yet fully scripted, before your trust and imagination was stifled. The goal is to regain that extremely creative and rich state called "magical consciousness". No doubt we have all been hurt and confused by people who would not allow us to stay long in that charmed realm without interruption. However, as the adults in our own lives now, it should be possible to carve out a little space in time to do some explorations in this imaginal zone. It's time to find the paths that lead back to that fertile, unpredictable land of infinite potential, where literally anything can happen from one minute to the next.
If others cannot handle the ideas that emerge from that sacred place, then one simply has to quit sharing. But never, ever quit exploring! Despite our embeddedness in 21st century consensus reality, the meaning and value of your experiences are always and forever up to you. Other people think they have the right to have opinions, attitudes, judgments, and projections of all kinds, but that is secondary by comparison to how your body is experiencing things. It is not necessary to agree with, accept or limit yourself to external consensus reality, except to the extent that doing so will help you thrive. At any moment you are free to close your eyes, detach from your acculturated ego, fall into your aboriginal body/mind and view the 'primordial jungle' around you with utterly fresh eyes.
"Hell is other people" - Jean-Paul Sartre
Once humans started living in larger groups, settling down into fixed residences and engaging in our first technologies, we started creating cultures that were complicated enough to challenge the body-mind connection beyond what our mammalian constitutions could comfortably bear. We started eating better and living longer, we invented tools, we started synthesizing drugs and medicines, and in a million different ways we outgrew our lives as nomads in the wild. I'm not making a judgment one way or another about whether this direction for our evolution is good or not -- it's both. In any case, what is obvious is that living close together, and in greater numbers as the centuries pile up, is stressful. We lose our privacy, we start comparing ourselves with each other, we create hierarchies that end up excluding more people than they include, we begin to harass each other for our differences, and certain individuals, who might have been perfectly functional in a nomadically dispersed survival-level culture, start to be singled out as "weird" -- taboo, demonic, potentially dangerous.
This happens because our circuits get scrambled in the presence of too many strangers. One can investigate the records of our earliest true cities and see the psychological symptoms appearing as soon as the population grows beyond a few hundreds. The simple mammalian parts of our nervous systems get paranoid; we get clannish, we start to have fears about "others" and their "bad magic". This tribal tendency has provided an obstacle to every civilization that made the transition from nomadic ways into a settled life. As our numbers mount and concentrate, the demand for conformity grows because of people's increasing contact with each other. Those who can fit within the emerging norms (even though doing so might be unhealthy and inhibiting) will be favored. Those who cannot or will not homogenize themselves, who fall too far outside of expectations, become marginalized. People lose touch with each other's essential humanity, and the benefits that come from a healthy amount of differentiation within the tribe. Human relations become complicated, political, murky, and devious. We get sick, physically, emotionally, and mentally, because we have lost the psycho-spiritual "space” that we used to have as our birthright -- the "space" to be a nameless, faceless mote in nature, immersed in the matrix of Life itself, free of human considerations and the neurotic agonizing of our new organ of consciousness, the forebrain.
Exercise 1 - An exercise in hypersensitivity
Why would being around strangers make us crazy? Because we are a very psychic, very sensitive species, and it doesn't take much to stir our inner senses. This is not hard to test for oneself. Just pick a time when you are either going to sleep or waking up (without the help of drugs, if possible.) The first challenge is to become aware of the Self 'below' the ego, the energy without your name and face are overlaid. If this exploration can happen when there are no other people around, so much the better. You want to study reality from the blank slate state, like the half-dissolved puddle we pass through on the way into and out of deep sleep. In this state one is self-aware, but not "as" anything particular. Lacking form or structure, one seems to be a soft mist of diffused light hovering together in a timeless place. The task is to just hang there for as long as you can, and witness all the subtle activities that take place in this fog. If you are sliding towards sleep, watch your 'self' deconstruct. If you are waking up, notice yourself assembling as you are pulled out of that deep subjectivity.
This in-between state has certain characteristics, one of which is synaesthesia, meaning mixed-up senses of incredible delicacy. The room might be dark, but the barking of a dog on the next block sets off explosions of light behind your eyelids. The soft gurgle of rain in the gutters makes your viscera flutter. Beams of light falling on your skin can prickle, tickle or feel like a pressure. The pop of wood in the fire can hit you like an arrow through the ribs. No wonder a dripping faucet can become so intense as to drive one completely out of one's meditations! The insomniac dreads this state, feeling incredibly vulnerable and desirous of either oblivion or wakefulness. The shaman, on the other hand, seeks this state out and learns to hang out here for long periods of time, resting but attentive, like a napping cat.
This level of exquisite sensitivity is not something that only happens in that between the worlds state of entering or exiting sleep. In truth, it is with us all the time, in the subtext of our awareness. We mostly live "over the top" of it, consciously ignoring what the body is making of it's moment-to-moment matrix of stimulations. For most of the history of humanity, people have lived in and with this level of awareness as a foreground possibility, keeping a part of their shape-shifty, dreamtime-sensitive awareness alive even through the light of day, long past childhood. But we are too busy for all that -- no trancing out for us moderns! In our merry-go-round lives of perpetual motion, the corner of the brain that is devoted to internal sensitivity is reduced, though never extinguished utterly. Let yourself become aware that your body is always exquisitely attentive to even the subtlest changes, internal and external. It is also co-creating the interior play of your thoughts as well. This waking dream state that the body holds and maintains is the "architectonic chamber of consciousness” wherein all spiritual contacts happen, from the pricking of conscience to a full-blown vision of God.
What I am describing has been called fantasia, or the Imaginal, but the vocabulary is less important than is cultivating the experience. To this day, we still have a choice about how far away we want to be from our instinctive and innate body-knowledge. We can increase the meaningfulness of our bodily experiences by paying more attention to the play of, and granting the inner experience more credibility than we do the outer distractions in our lives. It's always our choice.
The Modern Psyche is a Storm Within the Body
Possessing the particular endowment that makes us human, the "forebrain" or prefrontal cortex, opens us up to a range of disturbances that stress and pressure our animal bodies in challenging ways. Many of us demonstrate certain characteristics, attitudes and reactions that we assume are part of our personalities, when they are actually symptoms of deep, instinctive discomfort stimulated by circumstances and situations that bodily evolution didn't design for -- things like eating artificial foods, living indoors, working on computers, getting no exercise, and saturating ourselves with drugs and alcohol. These circumstances could not possibly have been anticipated by Nature. Such conditions have sprung up quite recently in historic terms, and go against everything that is normal for bodies, human or otherwise. The fact that our consciousness and culture demand that we live in ways that actively upset our functions and our well-being, and that we further expect our bodies to flourish in such unnatural conditions, shows that we have not yet come to terms with the evolutionary "improvement" that has created us as a separate species, despite our long-time presence within the global ecosystem. We have still not negotiated a truce between our brand-new brains and the rest of the existing creation. No wonder our species is plagued by stress disorders, sleep disorders, thinking disorders, psychopathies, and emotional illness!
This is why the very first function of a shaman is that of separating the soul from the body. This is done not only to "doctor" the soul, but also to give the body some relief from its besetting entity, the forebrain/ego. The body, left alone to fend for itself, would be a relatively happy animal, trusting nature while tending to its survival and pleasure needs. But tenanted by our stormy, reactive, paranoid, hypersensitive personalities, the body is hammered by whatever chemical state the momentary mood imposes upon it. Even as the body is trying to signal, "something is wrong here", the ego in the driver's seat refuses to let this information in and become curious about what its vehicle needs. Refusing to reconsider its choices or goals, the ego will clench down and override the body more and more, driving a wedge into the body's basic integrity that cuts deeper over time. Sooner or later the body will lose so much function behind the ego's insistent denial that vital survival systems come unglued, leading to disease, collapse or death. Anybody past the age of innocence has seen the watch this happening in the lives of those we love, and perhaps in our own lives too.
We seldom remember that our bodies provide the platform for our consciousness. People live from day to day utterly ignoring their foundation, the very marrow of their experience, even adding insult to injury by disliking those parts they do pay attention to. The body is treated like a donkey, beast of burden, which we feed badly, drive mercilessly, drug insensate, use incorrectly, and fail to rest and water adequately. This amazing instrument, which has been created by a millennial process of gathering all the best that Nature has to offer, has become enslaved to its newest organ, the forebrain, and a very harsh taskmaster.
So you see, I am not actually blaming 'other people' for the sufferings of the body/mind, since it really is our newly-minted organ of ego that does this to us, then blames the resulting imbalances on external conditions. Over and over we reinvent this wheel, both across our individual histories, and across the march of civilizations. Our restless global history, full of disputes, rejection, cruelty, and genocide is just the macrocosmic outworking of our individual and tribal struggle with this new phenomenon of 'selfism'. We aren't comfortable to live as low-technology aboriginals anymore, cooperating with nature and other species to fill our limited ecological niche, leaving others to do the same. These days we have circumnavigated the globe, enslaved nature and each other with our technology, and yet we have never solved the problem that makes us fight so hard against our own innate endowment. Our insatiable forebrains seek more, better, different, contrast, conquest, power and ultimately domination. We have not yet created a culture that is capable of training and guiding its citizens such that they do not suffer from "anxious brain syndrome".
In truth, the selfishness of the forebrain is absolute, creating a huge waste of our bodily experience in favor of our rationating egos. Yet shamans and wise people of our older cultures have testified that the bulk of their insights and revelations are manifested through intuitive signals they get from within their own bodies, often in sleep or trance. This makes perfect sense if we are keeping up with the latest brain research. However, modern people don't connect the dots and realize the implications for themselves. The latest movie, fashion, or emergency pronouncement hijacks our attention. There's not enough bandwidth left to recognize the cumulative wisdom of humanity's ancient body/mind teachings. We also fail to notice the newest research demonstrating that we can actually heal ourselves, even change our DNA expression, through changing our direction of consciousness. There's plenty of evidence piling up at the fringes of collective awareness that, if followed up on, could revolutionize the planet's health, from microbes to continents. So why can't we make cultivation of the invisible side of life more of a priority?
Lost in the Gnostic Dilemma
Gradually, imperceptibly over the centuries, humanity has externalized almost all of our points of reference. At different rates around the globe, the aboriginal experience of reality (that of being immersed in many layers of consciousness) has been buried under a disenchanted world full of "stuff and things". This means that we barely know who we are without our computers, our cars, our TV's, our work-given labels, our social uniforms, our coffee joints and bars, and all the other trappings that come along with the modern identity-formation process. Even our religions have become status possessions, and/or excuses to be at war ideologically or literally. We own a bunch of fancy objects, tokens and game chips, but it seems that the modern type of ownership seems to burden us rather than assist our well-being. In fact, our inner lives appear to be increasingly impoverished even as our outer world fills up with plastic. How did we manage to lose ourselves within matter? How can we be living inside these bodies, which were invented and evolved to occupy our awesome, majestic harmonic and architectonic universe, while yet remaining so opaque to the significance of our direct experience?
This is the question that the Hermit asks, on Tarot Trump #9. The story on this Trump is that the wise old man in the picture has been through life's wringer, experiencing every developmental stage that must be faced across a life spanning many decades.
He has matured through and outgrown all of the roles offered by childhood, education, mating and family, bread-winning, empire building, spiritual life, natural disaster, sickness and age. What is it all worth, he asks? What does it all add up to?
What's it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about, when you sort it out, Alfie? Are meant to take more than we give?
Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie,
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel.
But if life belongs only to the strong Alfie,
What can you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie.
I know there's something much more, something even non-believers can believe in...
I believe in love, Alfie.
Without true love you just exist, Alfie!
Until you've found the love you've missed, you're nothing, Alfie.
When you walk, let your heart lead the way, and you'll find love any day, Alfie.
For the shamans, healers and theurgists among us, the answer is along the same lines, but manifesting at a more subtle order of thought. It is no longer human love that the Hermit is seeking, but communion, greater consciousness, and communication with All That Is.
Imagine yourself in the position of the Hermit: Looking at the progress of the Trumps from Ignorance (Fool), through Ego (Magus), Conscience (Priestess), Mother (Empress), Father (Emperor), Acculturation (Priest), Accountability (Lovers), Freedom (Chariot), and Law (Justice), we reach the exalted state of the Mediator (Hermit). He witnesses it all but is voluntarily abstaining from inserting himself into any more of those dramas. He is preparing for the Turnaround (Wheel), which will test all of his internal accomplishment (Strength) by facing him with Death (Death), Transformation (Temperance), Unlimited Desire (the Devil), Ruin (The Tower), Spiritual Nakedness (Star), Aloneness (Moon), then finally At-one-ment with Life (Sun), Awakening from the Flesh (Judgment) and Reunion with All That Is (World). In other words, the Hermit is at the stage where he turns his back on the attractions of "outerness" entirely, and starts the journey back towards the center of the cosmos, which is also the center of one's own consciousness. This is the point when the Self releases the world of human preoccupations and embarks upon the permanent and eternal search for the Center.
The Hermit (like all the Trumps) represents a doorway that always stands open. In fact, he's the representation of an Archetype, a Principle, resonating on a frequency that we can attune to whenever we need it. Any one of us can turn around in our own awareness, relax our external web work of associations and triggers, and learn to experience ourselves again in our animal, vegetable and mineral aspects. It is not gone, it never has departed from us, but its "location" is in consciousness rather than in the material world of things and personalities. The image always shows an old man, but that is meant to indicate wisdom and discrimination based on long pondering, rather than the "doddering dilapidation" that moderns project when they think of aging. It could just as easily be pointing to an old soul in a young body, someone who found their bottom line early and has shaped a low-intensity life in order to have the freedom to follow the inner calling.
Exercise #2 - A Simple Exercise in Perspective
Here's something to try, which should help you arrive at a better appreciation for this concept of the architectonics of consciousness. This is another sitting exercise, suitable for use in a number of different situations. Try it next time you have a few in-between minutes to burn.
Your intent is to differentiate the separate 'worlds' accessed by your two eyes. Most people know that the eyes are cross wired into the brain, meaning that the left eye reports to the right brain, and the right eye reports to the left brain. Each side of the brain is specialized to accomplish different jobs for the body as a whole. Therefore, when you are looking exclusively out of one eye only, the reciprocal half of the brain is also stimulated and aroused. Furthermore, even as you are "gazing out" of a given eye, the world is also "gazing in" to that portion of your brain function. What quality of consciousness is doing the "looking out"? What kind of information is coming in? What happens inside of you when you have fully activated that brain/eye/world circuit? Become conversant of the different realities represented by these two different gazes that you possess.
Eventually you can get to the point where you don't even have to open your eyes to make this adjustment. You can shift from right-looking to left-looking purely internally. You might find, as I do, that there's a bit of a neurological blip as the point-of-focus crosses the midline when moving from eye to eye. It actually feels as if I have shifted in my seat, though I'm very careful not to. Somehow, gravity itself hangs differently when we are on different sides of the brain! By further experimenting with your eyes closed, you can actually flip your focus and "look into" the related side of your brain directly. Gaining proficiency in this little trick will give you more choice about which part of your being -- the fight/flight side or the bond/respond side -- to have at the helm as you navigate through these "interesting" times.
Being able to separate out your different worldviews, including the different exchanges each eye is having in its own world, will also lead to a third viewpoint coming into focus -- that of the middle ground, including the membrane connecting the two halves of the brain and the overlapping area of the two eyes' gaze in front of you. Strengthening this fully merged vision (especially with eyes closed, where issues of focus don't come into play) supports the emerging '3rd eye' function of humanity. There's actually quite a teaching to ponder here, if one were to be philosophically inclined ... but that's another article!
Consciousness of An Inner Body
Exercises like the ones mentioned above teach us that our daily awareness is one type of trance, on the vibrational continuum with reverie, dream, desire, rage, sadness, inspiration, meditation and every other cognitive state, from blotto to hyper sentient. Each distinct state represents consciousness attuned to a unique frequency. Each level of the scale has its own uses, its own reality. One's body/mind interface provides the "space" in which their personal scale plays out. Ultimately, the spiritual quest involves exploring the available options of consciousness just the same way a musician explores the potentials of his or her instrument.
Each tradition has its own way of mapping the potentials of consciousness into and upon the body. Paradigms including the Chakra system, the Qabbalah Tree, Melothesic Man and the meridian system of Chinese medicine each serve to demonstrate the sophisticated spectrum of models humanity has invented to chart this "landscape of human potential". From aboriginal medicine circles through all the practices of the world's religions to secular modern self-help paradigms, a vast range of approaches have been devised to help the individual highlight and focus their vital forces towards greater awareness of Life, which most often will lead toward the collective good as well.
Many metaphors have been constructed to give the student a chance to feel his or her way into these subtle gradations of possible sentience. Quite often a mytho-poetic imaginal landscape is evoked, whether naturalistic or constructed, through which the student is directed to 'travel' and meet the 'inhabitants' over a course of sequential adventures. One goal of these journeys is to awaken the practitioner to an alternate body residing within the physical one -- an invisible vibrational body, with which we can travel instantly through space and time, experiencing and achieving wonderful things that are only possible outside the matrix of the flesh. Once that realization is stabilized, one can move on to other goals: Healing our longstanding ills of body or of spirit being a primary one. There's also studying and untying the karmic knots that have conditioned our lives unconsciously since birth. Some will concentrate on nudging certain ideas closer to the surface of the collective consciousness. Others will set about managing the ecosystem away from this cliff we are currently standing on. Ultimately, there are as many goals as there are souls!
In any case, none of these kinds of exploits are available until a person is able to willfully detach from the cultural ego, moving the center of consciousness to the energy body. Without finding some way of converting one's 'location in consciousness', the rest of these far-ranging potentials remain difficult to access.
The Shaman's Ground, Behind the Ego
The kind of culture we have forces us to live on the surface of ourselves as a matter of survival. We identify ourselves by our deeds, our actions, the figure we cut in the collective herd. We spend almost no time in true quietude, distracted as we are by the stimulus/response of the marketplace, the workplace, and our info-tainment networks. So our sense of self is formed mostly on the brittle surface of the "known self", the acculturated mask of ego. Only when we are making the transition between waking and sleeping do we shed this binding exoskeleton of forebrain thinking. From there, most people slither as fast as they can toward the deep ocean of dreamtime, like hermit crabs that fear being caught naked.
Yet, in certain circumstances, we get a chance to retain self-awareness even as we sink deep down into the deeper layers of the psyche. Some people manage to come into self-awareness while they are dreaming, and can explore those realms without setting off the ego-alarms. Others discover that they somehow remain conscious even after being anaesthetized for surgery or put into a medical coma, finding they are watching events from a disembodied corner of the room. People who have seizure disorders or migraines often find themselves lifted out of themselves temporarily. Then there are those who ingest plant or pharmaceutical substances to create similar effects, sometimes with transcendent results. People are routinely driven right out of their bodies by pain, or shock, or some other overriding force they cannot resist (labor and delivery being a common example). One way or another if we live long enough, people eventually get introduced to the reality ~behind~ their reality, the substrate from which their sense of self is formed.
It is an extremely subtle, delicate thing, but the shaman has traditionally been the master of this art -- the art of shape shifting through interlocked worlds of consciousness. Within this category I include not only elemental states like earth/air/fire/water, or animal/vegetable/mineral states, but also hologrammic and harmonic states, as in the convergence-points represented by the Chakras rising along the spine in the yogic model. Every distinct state, or platforms of consciousness, connects to the potentials of a whole world of experience, and each frequency-platform is organized by an entirely different principle than any other. All of these states of being exist within, below, behind, between, alongside and parallel to the acculturated known self of the ego. In other words, they ride along with the forebrain's sense of "I, me, mine", but they seldom are differentiated out well enough to be deployed independent of the 'consensus face' we identify with in our waking hours.
What my Body is asking me to know
When I manage to get my attention and awareness down to my 'ground of being', what happens is that I am filled and immersed in the things my body knows independent of my mind's self-construct. At first this comes as a shock, because the ego is deeply convinced that it is the sole actor on the stage of the psyche. But in truth, the ego represents but the very tiny uncovered point of a vast mountain range of selfhood, most of which is submerged below the water-line of ordinary awareness.
- My body is asking me to know that I, in myself, am a magnetic object. Things and beings that are on my frequency are drawn to me naturally.
- My body is asking me to know that I am a cosmic swizzle stick. Everything I think, feel, desire, fear, love, need, and despise is telegraphed in every direction.
- My body is asking me to know that the weather, the natural environment, the landscape and I are one.
- My body is asking me to know it as my prime magical tool.
Hence I see it as my Planet.
Hence I study its conformation, its meridians, its organs and functions.
Hence I study its associations in the ancient models of Astrology, Angelology, Kabbalah, Alchemy, Yoga, and the like.
Hence I look inward to find every face card in the Tarot deck.
Hence I meditate on my elemental-energy metabolism.
Hence I become conversant with what my body was created to do, including healthy ways it can be used to advance the overall Creation.
Exercise #3 - Boiling the Mysteries down to the Now
In order to escape the imprisonment of the mind and slip away from the bounds of the acculturated ego, it helps to drive oneself "downward" and "inward", searching for a stable point upon which to ground one's unconditioned existence. One of my favorite methods, and one of the easiest, is just to sit roughly upright in a supportive chair, and then close eyes, following gravity down the backbone until all self-awareness pours down into the earth. This is called 'grounding', and it has the wonderful virtue of emptying ones body of the over-complications of the mind. Once one has exited one's human skin and become immersed in the Great Body, the little body knows it is safe, so it can rest.
Eventually I grow back 'up' from that underground place, and at that point I translate the experience as if I am a tree growing in Eden. I take refuge in a favorite plant-form -- a giant Sequoia -- and then just stand there witnessing everything at every level, from root to trunk to branch to needle, from inner to outer, from near to far. This process provides me a platform of consciousness from which to look at the entirety of an issue from a human-neutral point of view.
What emerges during a successful trance of this type is a communication between my essential self and my whole, extended psyche, reflected back at me through the sentient landscape emerging there in my imagination. I accept wholeheartedly every detail of the scene -- the season, the weather, the aspect of the light, the denizens of the landscape, and every detail that makes itself apparent to me. There's no question that I miss a lot, and that some aspects of the experience do not get translated back to my usual mode of awareness when the inner tableau eventually recedes. Nevertheless, the things that come to the foreground of my attention stimulate plenty of effects within myself, and that's the point of the exercise right there.
Remember that the deep mind can't tell the difference between an actual event and an imagined event. Both kinds of experiences are equally impressive and equally 'real' to the deep psyche, our matrix of consciousness. Either type of scenario equally impacts the nervous system. It is right at this crux that we find the shaman's point of power. Because the subconscious takes everything literally, including the imagination, one can create and script internal experiences that serve to transform the self just as surely as going to college, boot camp, or finishing school would do. True, this takes time, commitment, and self-honesty, but there's absolutely no block impinging on any person, at any level of ability, that can keep them from testing this process for themselves and having whatever success they are willing to work for.
Just so, the aspiring mage will cultivate his or her innate nature and abilities exactly this way: Having once 'established one's inner space' through self-observation in meditation, the magus will take the time to study and dialogue with everything that appears within these in 'magical' scenarios. Knowing that these adventures are staged within the imagination, witnessed only by the mind's eye, does not diminish their importance one iota! The key to a good experience is to have curiosity and sensitivity towards whatever you encounter. Over time, the raw materials of spiritual youth will be refined into good working tools and skills.
Saying it this way begs the question "but what if I have no gifts or skills? What if I choose the wrong set of qualities to develop? What if I make myself into something that nobody wants?" These are relevant questions to ponder for a moment, but don't get stuck on them. Remember that the whole manifested Universe of Universes is slowly and inexorably sifting its way to harmonic perfection. At any moment, whenever you are ready, you can go back into your tree and contemplate the lay of the land again. Matter of fact, if you use the Tree meditation often, you will get to witness the new growth coming on gradually, visit by visit, just like the seasons change in outer Nature.
If you do this often, you'll find yourself more easily adapting in harmony with the flow of your external adventures as well. What seems to be true with this meditation is, the more regularly you do it (or something like it), the more regularly your dreamtime/subconscious/fantasia can speak directly to you, and the easier it becomes to decode the cumulating messages. This is, after all, ~your~ interior landscape, and you have its full attention just as it has yours.
A final note
Putting the three suggested exercises together -- self-observation at the threshold of consciousness, 'looking out' of different sides of the brain, and the Tree Grounding visualization -- makes a great foundation for cultivating your own architectonic awareness. You begin to notice yourself operating in "inner space" even in your outer life, using your subtle senses more and getting more incoming communications as well. By starting to engage with and flex your muscles of consciousness, you nudge your system towards a more holistic, hologrammic mode of functioning. What used to be background will come into the foreground, so you'll become aware of realities that were invisible to you before. Your whole sensorium will demonstrate itself as a field of intelligence in constant conversation with the entirety of life. When the ego, that noisy and pushy forebrain, can be unhooked for a little while, the body/mind gets to relax into a more balanced, more responsive state, able to make fresh associations.
From this cleansed perspective, you can read your life the way you would read a dream, a Tarot card, an astrological chart, or an alchemical illustration. Because the truth is, the forms of matter are only temporary assemblages held together by invisible, geometrically vibrating Archetypes. The outer world is really just the mirror of the inner! Things happen in the subtle, invisible energetic realms first, and only later do they break the surface of consciousness to manifest in the literal, tangible, time/space world. When we learn this, we come into a whole new understanding of our relationship with All That Is.
February 24, 2009
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TAROT ARKLETTERS are published by:
Christine Payne-Towler and Noreah Press
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