Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Magus Magazine: The Occult and the Potentiality of Dreams Part I

Magus Magazine: The Occult and the Potentiality of Dreams Part I: The occult recognizes an experiential  need in the individual. However, this need is really an assertion that Man is born with a potentialit...

The Occult and the Potentiality of Dreams Part I

The occult recognizes an experiential  need in the individual. However, this need is really an assertion that Man is born with a potentiality for reaching a higher state of consciousness. It is a rational need based on reason and aesthetics. Ouspensky ameliorates the idea by saying that Man "as we know him is not a completed being; nature develops him only to a certain point and then leaves him, to develop further, by  his own efforts and devices, or to live and die such as he was born, or to degenerate and lose capacity for development" (Ouspensky 1974). These nascent potentialities for something greater are what fuel a quest for attainment. It is the reason for meditation. It is the striving for nirvanic consciousness that inspires Buddhists; And it is through the working of magic that the occultist hopes to contact the supernatural.

Occult ritual is an inciter of the mystic experience and vehicle for communicating with those out there. Reaching those 'out there' entities is a conscious as well as subconscious experience. D.T. Suzuki states that "just as our ordinary field of consciousness is filled with all possible kinds of images, beneficial and harmful, systematic and confusing; so is the subconscious a storehouse of every form of occultism or mysticism, understanding by the term all that is known as latent or abnormal or psychic or spiritualistic" (Suzuki 1956). The subconscious becomes as important as our conscious self in reaching those innate potentialities we're all born with.

Many occult groups construct elaborate hierarchal systems with which to initiate their neophytes of innate potentialities. According to Lama Anagrika Govinda, "If, through some trick of nature, the gates of an individuals subconscious were suddenly to spring open, the unprepared mind would be overwhelmed and crushed. Therefore, the gates of the subconscious are guarded, by all initiates, and hidden behind the veil of mysteries and symbols (Govinda 1960). The occult, then, uses psychological mechanisms and processes to  impart their teachings to initiates. But what goes on in the mind is what determines the experiential nature of the supernatural.  It is within these psychological nuances that we 'live the myth'. Our nascent potentialities become a process of becoming that occurs when we re-present the numinous.

Perhaps the most prevalent and deeply profound way to re-present the supernatural occurs in trance and dream experiences. When we dream or go into trance, the numinous is re-defined. re-calibrated, and re-presented anew. Every experience of this kind presents a reality where the supernatural is an epistemic conduit defining what we know of the supernatural. Because, of course, our knowledge of the supernatural moves and changes with every supernatural experience that we encounter. Dreams and trance make this effect more pronounced due to the fact that they can be indescribably beautiful or horribly bizarre.

Sometimes the dreamer's community interprets the nightmare as a portent for a future happening. Such was the case in 1642 when a Huron Indian dreamed that non-Huron Iroquois had taken him and burned him as a captive. As soon as he awoke, a council was held. "The ill fortune of such a dream," said the Chiefs, "must be averted." At once twelve or thirteen fires were lighted in the cabin where captives were burned, and torturers seized fir brands. When the dreamer was burned; he shrieked like a madman." When he avoided one fire he at once fell into another. Naked, he stumbled around the fire three times, singed by one torch after another, while his friends repeated compassionately, "Courage, my Brother, it is thus that we have pity on thee." Finally he darted out of the ring, seized a dog held for him there, and paraded through the cabins with the dog on his shoulders, publicly offering it as a consecrated victim to the demon of war, "begging him to accept this semblance instead of the reality of his Dream" (Quoted in Wallace 1967).

Although this narrative is terrifying, not all dream sequences are of the horrible variety. Myth and folklore also includes stories that showcase lovely dream-states. In fact, some dreams are interpreted as a means to procure supernatural powers. Anthropologist Roy D' Andrade studied dreams as a way to obtain the supernatural and discovered that in these cultures, independence and self-reliance is prevalent. Akin to the mythological 'Hero's Journey', the young man leaves the familiarity of the local network and dreams his endowing of powers due to the anxiety of leaving home.

But the dream is also a marrying of the philosophical object and subject. It is both knowledge and our experience of it. As Campbell has eloquently stated, "It is the field of all mythic forms, the gods, the demons, heavens and hells, and since the seer and seen are here one and the same, all the gods, demons, heavens and hells, whether of the Orient or of Dante, are to be recognized here as within us" (Campbell 1968). Merging the object and subject i.e. seer and seen makes it possible for us to reach the potentiality of attainment because the answer is within. But misreading our own communications is also possible due to the fact that we are the sender. Our own unconscious can be to blame for re-presenting a symbol that we misinterpret or misunderstand.

Furthermore, uniting the dream and dreamer also leaves us susceptible to a Bardo experience that takes place deep in the unconscious. The Tibetan Book Of The Dead makes use of dream-states in its teachings. Largely a book meant for the recently deceased, this Book describes a Bardo or liminal existence that occurs in the forty-nine day duration between death and rebirth. During the liminal period of the Bardo, the deceased travels through three states of consciousness. The Chikhui are the immediate happenings at the time of death. It is here that the initiate is awakened to the fact that he is dead. The second, or Chonyid Bardo is the dream state that is characterized by karmic illusions. During the time of the Chonyid, beautiful and loving apparitions give the deceased a sense of peace and belonging. However, after the peaceful entities have produced a sense of awe or contentment, they then change into horrifying demons. The wrathful demons are the changed aspect of the peaceful deities but they area the same. In the Chonyid dream-state, the initiator states to the deceased, "Act then so that thou wilt not fear that bright, dazzling transparent white light know it to be wisdom" (Evans-Wentz 1960). And the initiate is also encouraged to keep in mind the mystic names that were given to him during initiation. These divine names ward off the frightful demons and allow passage into the remaining Bardo that determines whether rebirth or attainment is reached...........

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Magus Magazine: Schopenhauer and Mysticism Part 1

Magus Magazine: Schopenhauer and Mysticism Part 1: But in the end, much of what makes up the occult are stories. They are narratives designed to transmit something. They are signals that ...

Schopenhauer and Mysticism Part 1

But in the end, much of what makes up the occult are stories. They are narratives designed to transmit something. They are signals that relay a common purpose to reach alterity and make contact. Not so far removed from the use of Scriptures in some religious systems or the deploying of Mandalas in others. The narratives say something about the human condition and the need for supernatural agency. Because believe it or not, there is a real need for ‘Otherness’ in the human condition. This need manifests in the creation of subatomic particles by physicists to explain the universe. It is also evident in the ritualization of myth and folklore into daily lives. It is a need to be moved. Within this pathos is an appeal to communicate a specific feeling. In answer to this appeal, Man creates temple complexes with clear lines that demarcate sacred from the profane. Such is the case at the ‘Villa of the Mysteries’ at Pompeii.

Artistic iconography at the Villa transmits the pathos of life and fertility. As Carl Jung remarked, “Here death is embedded by a female demon, with great black wings, visibly thwarted by the erect phallus of the sacred basket” (Jung 1964). The story portrayed in the Villa walls is one initiation and it conjures the feeling of initiation. The ritual and the subjective experience of undergoing an initiatory journey converge to form an event. And this is the goal of occult pathos. Here there is no separation of object and subject. As Eliade states, “By virtue of his initiation, the neophyte attained to another mode of being; he became equal to the gods, was one with the gods” (Eliade 1989). The ritual and its experience are one in the same. I call this merging the occult law of convergence.

The Object Subject dichotomy is a classic philosophical problem that sometimes manifests in reconciliation of contrasts (duality). Ideas of plurality and distinction are considered mere appearances that distract the practitioner from attaining the oneness or at-one-ment of the sacred. Schopenhauer suggested that when someone mediates, they come into the contact with the Will. This Will is the life-force of that person. He wrote that “it is what is innermost, the kernel of each individual thing and equally of the whole. It is manifest in every blindly working force of nature; it is manifest, also, in the considered deeds of man” (Schopenhauer 1844). The Will, according to Schopenhauer, is that piece of sanctity and fire of life that everybody is born with. A spark of the divine, it is the gnosis and sublimity of being at one with the universe. He goes on to state that
Up to now, the concept Will has been subsumed under the concept Force;           but I am using it just the opposite way, and mean that every force in nature is to be understood as a function of Will. For at the back of the concept Force there is finally our visual knowledge of the objective world, i.e. of some phenomenon, something seen. It is from this that the concept Force derives…whereas the concept Will, on the contrary, is the one, among all possible concepts, that does not derive from the observation of phenomena, not from mere visual knowledge, but comes from inside, emerges from the immediate consciousness of each one of us: not as a form, not even in terms of the subject-object relationship, but as that which he himself is; for here the knower and the known are the same. (Ibid)

Akin to the Hindu Brahman, the Will makes distinctions between the Self and the universe unnecessary. Being the universal spirit and the feeling of being in that state are one in the same and anything else is either paradox or absurdity…….