The International Journal of

..I ranspersonal Studies
Volume 20, 2001
Entering the Inconceivable: 1 On the History of Mystical Anarchism 85
Stereogramic Viewing and the Spirit of in Russia
the Mountain Cave VV Nalimov
The Editors
Dreams and Reflections Under a Hill: 5 A Selection of Poems by Wang Wei (701-
Fragments of a Triviographic Description 761), Tang Dynasty Poet-Painter,
of the Umbra Vale by a XXth-Century Translated From Chinese Characters
Ex-Soviet Transrational Traveler Into English Typescript
T R. Soidla Carl Sesar
The Emergence of the Ego/Self 19 A New Look at Theosophy: 107
Complementarity and Its Beyond The Great Chain of Being Revisited
Herbert Guenther H David Wenger
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi: 33 The Ad Man Monk 125
A Transpersonal Anthropologist Looks at Asa Baber
the Anima
Charles D. Laughlin Ageless Nonsense of Our Life 135
Kuang-ming Wu
The Meaning of Self-Liberation and 53
Some Loops From The Source of The Backward Glance: 143
Danger Is Fear Rilke and the Ways of the Heart
Elias Cap riles Robert D. Romanyshyn
Healing of Psychoses in 67 Death, Identity, and Enlightenment 151
Transpersonal Understanding in Tibetan Culture
Joachim Galuska Karma Lekshe Tsomo
Spirituality and Psychotherapy: 79 Monks and Buddhas 18, 31, 32, 77, 78, 84, 98,
The Matter of "Separation Anxiety" Ralph Augsburger 134,141,142,173, back cover
and Beyond
Stuart Sovatsky About Our Contributors
Manuscripts. Beginning with Volume 22, 2003, The Internationaljournal ofTranspersonal
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Entering the Inconceivable
Stereogramic Viewing and the Spirit of the Mountain Cave
The garden bamboos
The wind's invisible form:
Movement of shadows
In the moonlight.
A monk asked, "What about it when the dust
is wiped away and the Buddha is seen?"
The master said, 'It is not that the dust has not been
wiped away, but that the Buddha is impossible to see."2
Stereogram by Stephen Schultz
"Vanishing Panda," created by Stephen Schultz, Ph.D. Copyright © 1994 by SPS Studio, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of SPS Studios, Inc., publisher of Blue Mountain Arts® products.
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 1-4 1
© 2001 by Panigada Press
HE SEARCH to evoke three-dimensional depth on a plane surface has long
played an important role in the history of art and photography.
"'Stereogram' is the generic term for two-dimensional images that, when
viewed in the right way, appear to be three dimensional."3 Since the 1960s,
stereography has advanced dramatically with the development of random dot
stereograms by Bela Julesz; the single-picture stereogram by Christopher Tyler;
repeating pattern and color field stereograms and other such creations; the influx
of artists drawn to the medium; and the role of sophisticated computer programs.
My involvement with stereograms began in the fall of 1994, when a student
gave me a thank-you card-the front of which was a captivating 3-D scene called
"Vanishing Panda."5 The foreground was a lush green forest with violet and yellow
butterflies; the middle part was a forest of bamboo trees; and the top part contained
the faces of four smiling panda bears. The entire scene looked two-dimensional to
me, but the back of the card provided the following instructions:
Hold the art close to your nose so that it appears blurry. Relax and stare at it.
Make believe you are looking "through" the art, slowly move it away from your
face until an image "pops out" and becomes perfectly clear. The time it takes to
see the image can vary, so don't get discouraged!
I tried again and again for a month to see the alleged 3-D image emerge,
experimenting with a variety of viewing techniques: all to no avail. Discouraged, I
finally gave up.
A year later I was sitting in my dentist's waiting room. Next to me was a six-
year-old girl waiting for her mother and gleefully preoccupied with flipping through
a book of stereograms. She would look at each picture for a few moments, smile,
and move on-obviously delighted by the embedded 3-D images she was able to
see. I couldn't resist asking her the secret of her success. "Oh, you just look, but
don't look," she said. When I got home I immediately retrieved the panda picture
and tried out my young informant's advice. After a few moments the embedded 3-D
picture suddenly leaped into vivid focus. The experience was sudden and compelling.
I would characterize it as having entered the inconceivable.
Books on stereograms sometimes also allude to transpersonal themes:
The appearance of a 3-D figure hidden in the random-dot stereograms had a
distinct effect on my consciousness. It reminded me that the way the world looks
is the way I learned to see it and that there are other ways of seeing the world,
other dimensions right before our eyes .. .looking at the illustrations in this book
is a kind of meditative practice.
Indeed, one of the pleasures that the color field stereo grams provide is an altered
state of awareness, similar to those sometimes produced by psychedelic drugs or
religious experiences'?
... the painstaking effort required to wrest the three-dimensional image from the
random-dot stereogram is a kind of ritual, a form of meditation that allows you
to transcend the reality of daily life.
We would add, one cannot succeed in seeing stereograms by a willful act of
concentration: a relaxed, receptive gaze, an attitude of nonforceful action or effortless
effort is necessary. One has to give up trying to see and just see. In this regard, the
2 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
most illuminating parallel between stereogramic viewing and transpersonal
perception is the experience so often reported by stereogram viewers of suddenly
seeing something that was there all along but heretofore "impossible" to see. The
experience of suddenly and vividly being there, seeing what was there all along, entering
the inconceivable, recalls a frequent transpersonal refrain:
A monk asked, "What about when the True Realm of
Reality has no dust upon it?"
The master said, "Everything is right here."9
That moment is like taking a hood off your head.
What boundless spaciousness and relief!
This is the supreme seeing:
seeing what was not seen before. 10
Do not think
The moon appears when the clouds are gone.
All the time it has been there in the sky
So perfectly clearY
I was born with a divine jewel,
Long since filmed with dust.
This morning, wiped clean, it mirrors
Streams and mountains, without end.
Why should I seek?
I am the same as he.
His essence speaks through me.
I have been looking for myself.13
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
We have drawn special attention to stereogramic viewing as a potent
metaphorical analogue for transpersonal realization. But can a playful perceptual
pastime like viewing stereo grams provide a transpersonal destination? Sometimes
the way in is the way out:
During the eighth century Wu Tao-tzu (d. 792) completed his last masterpiece
for the royal court. It was a landscape painted on a wall of the court. Wu Tao-tzu
worked patiently on it in solitude and kept the work draped until it was completed
and the Emperor arrived for its unveiling. Wu Tao-tzu drew aside the coverings
and the Emperor gazed at the vast and awesome scene and its magnificent detail:
woods, mountains, limitless expanses of sky, speckled with clouds and birds, and
even men in the hills. "Look," said the artist pointing, "here dwells a spirit in a
mountain cave." He clapped his hands and the gate of the cave immediately flew
open. The artist stepped in, turned, and said, "The inside is even more beautiful.
It is beyond words. Let me lead the way!" But before the Emperor could follow or
even bring himself to speak, the gate, the artist, the painting and all faded away.
Before him remained only the blank wall with no trace of any brush marks.
Entering the inconceivable: the heart of transpersonalism?
Entering the Inconceivable 3
1. Shigematsu, S., Ed. & Trans., 1988, A Zen harvest: Japanese folk Zen sayings. New York: Weatherhill, p. 139.
2. Green, J., 1998, The recorded sayings o/Zen Master Joshu [Chao-chou ch'an shih yli lu]. Boston: Shambhala,
3. Cadence Books, 1994, Stereogram. San Francisco, Author, p. 10.
4. See reference in note 3 and Cadence Books, 1994, Superstereogram. San Francisco: Author. Both volumes
provide a variety of stereo grams to view as well as historical material.
5. Personal anecdotes relate to the first author.
6. Howard Rheingold, in Cadence Books, 1994, p. 9; see note 3 above.
7. In Cadence Books, 1994, p. 50; see note 3 above.
8. In Cadence Books, 1994, p. 74; see note 3 above.
9. Joshu, in Green, 1998, p. 86; see note 2 above.
10. Dudjom Rinpoche, in R. A. F. Thurman, Ed. & Trans., 1994, The Tibetan book 0/ the dead· Liberation
through understanding in the between. New York: Bantam Books, p. 159.
11. Shibayama, Z., 1974, Zen comments on the Mumonkan. New York: Harper & Row, p. 71.
12. Ikuzanchu, in L. Stryk, T. Ikemoto, & T. Takayama, Trans., 1973, Zen poems o/China and India: The crane's
bill Garden City, NY: Doubleday, p. 7.
13. Rumi, in M. Baugh, 1996, [Review of the book Rumi: One-handed basket weaving]. San Francisco Jung
Institute Library Journal, 15(3),35-49, p. 44.
14. Lao Tsu, in G.-F. Feng & J. English, Trans., 1972, Lao Tsu: Tao Te Ching. New York: Knopf, unpaginated,
section 1.
15. Chang, c.-Y., 1970, Creativity and Taoism: A study o/Chinese philosophy, art, and poetry. New York: Harper &
Row, p. 95.
4 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
S.1. Shapiro
Philippe L. Gross
Dreams and Reflections Under a Hill
Fragments of a Triviographic Description of the Umbra Vale by a
XXth-Century Ex-Soviet Transrational Traveler
T. R. Soidla
Institute of Cytology
St. Petersburg, Russia
This paper presents some experiences, concepts, and provocations related to the personal and over-
personal shadow area. The themes discussed include the Soviet State Emblem, Ego as an Egg, Mr.
No.2 syndrome in politics, I-files, what one spiritual wall has to say to another one, lifestyles at the
galactic center, transpersonal pleasures of dementia, and many others. In addition, in a core part of
this paper I develop a concept that memory recording involves editing of some prerecorded material.
This means that the human life story is in some gross aspects prerecorded, and the actual memory
recording is in many respects a process of editing this inherited (universal or even individualized) life
story. I propose that special synchronization signals have an important part in the functioning of
memory/consciousness. These synchronization signals-besides their primary function in
synchronization of memory recording/retrieval-serve as repositories of some oldest, primal, "timeless"
memory texts. It is the localization of the timeless memory texts within repetitive synchronization
signals that leads to the following basic phenomenon: Repetitive integrative functions like music,
dance, poetry, magical practices, and religious rituals are all able to activate the timeless layer.
(Alternatively, these levels are reached during neurotic and psychotic episodes, including the auras of
supersynchronized brain states.)
In a more specialized part of my hypothesis I assume that primitive protomemory was just the
recording of firing/rest patterns of individual neurons in growing RNA molecules (at a speed normal
for RNA synthesis-ca. 40Hz.). Further developments like synaptic networks, the possibility of neural
maps training, and so forth have not quite replaced the older mechanism. This means that RNA
engrams still exist in some special neurons of special localization determined by the developing neural
network's geometry. At the same time some basic "ideas" involved in the ancient memory recording-
like trypanosome-style editing of prerecorded life story, "timeless" repeated material within
synchronization signals, and RNA-style self-modifying/self-teaching-were retained (and remodeled)
at the new higher neural network level.
RANSPERSONAL means not only pursuing
some highest aim. There are by-paths and
localities of nonordinary mind states more
or less related to one's trans personal quest that
are often labeled as digressive, illusory, and/or
related to lower transpersonal levels. These are
realms one sometimes visits and-even if in other
moments (when one's rational part is taking over)
one can feel ashamed of some of these
experiences-they seem to me anyway at least
to deserve reporting. They can border with
demonology, dementia, moribund manifestations,
Marxist practices, politics, paranoia, parasciences,
science fiction, and so forth. Some of this material
seems to be quite trivial and so is not given due
consideration, some of it is radically rejected from
the conscious realm, but still quite a lot continues
to exist in one's personal mythology (Feinstein &
Krippner, 1988)-even ifit is not often shared with
other people. I have always believed in sharing
these kinds of things, supposing this material to
hint at some possibly ill-interpreted but most likely
potentially important things. If nothing else, this
stuff is sometimes quite funny.
The lnternationaljournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 5-18 5
© 2001 by Panigada Press
E, FORMER Soviet people, are a strange breed.
This is the result of having grown up under
powerful restrictions in our system. (In a way,
Soviet personality is "forever.") Even if sometimes
we feel we are being very spiritual. (No
contradiction for a real Sov-Soul.) Even if we feel
ourselves to be ultimately spoiled (and at the same
time childish). All ofthis can even be considered to
be quite true-cum grano salis. In the former
Soviet Union for most people it was not very
practical to be practical. Salary did not principally
correspond to either the quality or quantity of one's
work. So one was usually working without thinking
too much about the fruit of one's labors. Wasn't it
spiritual? This indeed often meant to be a lovable
personality and still more often, being a heavy
drinker and (or) doing low-quality work. (Human
nature of course always manages to blend the
impractical with the practical. It was personal
relations that could make a real difference in one's
life. Or, if one preferred it this way, being a member
of the ruling party. So, if one was even competitive
above the usual Soviet level, one's abilities were
still mostly channeled not into one's work but along
these lines.) Another funny thing: mass culture was
practically absent-that meant it was available
mostly in the form of an ideologically pure (rather
unattractive) product. Volens nolens, one was
inclined to search for classical, really high quality
works as the only available alternative stuff.
Consuming classical high culture (together with
an excess of alcoholic beverages), being involved in
a nearly uncompetitive working environment, Homo
Soveticus was in any case a funny bird, inhabiting
an enormous country that was involved in the
most violent processes of political and social
experimentation of the twentieth century. Of
course-in some dimensions of experience-we lived
as normal people would in any country. We had our
families, our personal and professional problems,
we were happy and then sad, and again happy.
But the power of some other, not so normal side
of all this, was clearly perceived in certain special
situations: in the absence of alternative
information sources, in the persecution of free
thinkers, and, in my opinion, especially clearly,
during elections-when ca. 99% of all people took
part in them and more than 99% of all participants
were reported to have voted for the "block of
communist and independent candidates." One can
easily consult newspapers of the Soviet years to
confirm this. I think such statistics were considered
to be a very positive fact about our lifestyle and
hence became widely disseminated.
And these improbable numbers were linked to
other peculiarities of our lifestyle in these
comparatively safe 1960s, '70s and '80s of my
"Soviet experience": tabooed writers and sources
of information could be found only in "special
containment" rooms in libraries; foreign travel was
heavily controlled by party officials; unauthorized
contacts with foreigners were considered to be a
half-treachery, and so forth. One noticed all this
and then forgot, and then once again felt this
suffocating atmo- [or rather aqua-] sphere. But one
was free not to notice it, to swim like a fish in this
medium. Likewise one is free now to feel nostalgic
towards these years, looking back from the new
millennium. Or to feel persisting loyalty towards
this country, that, in many aspects, is happily gone
by now. I myself was mostly anti-Soviet.
At the same time, I still remain a product of
this country-everything in me betrays this origin.
(I am not a quick student to learn new ways, and-
yes-here I am, not speaking good English, not at
home with technical gadgets, lacking good table
manners, not caring about a civilized look and
hence wearing 10-20 dollar costumes, and even
unable to drive a car.)
Humpty Dumpty, Jr., the biphasic yolk/white
divided world embodiment, sat on a Berlin wall. You
know what happened next. The Berlin wall was
knocked down. But if no General Secretary's horses
and KGB's men are openly working at wide-scale
wall repair in Europe (or are they?), certainly in
our country's psyche, Humpty Dumpty-having
changed his/her formerly too conspicuous
appearance and color-has already declared hislher
categorical negation of a monophasic world order.
Indeed this Humpty Dumpty shows wondrous
potential for self-organization. The impossible
process of de scrambling has started. For me HD is,
of course, a Giant Bee's egg (for the Bee symbol see
Soidla, 1998a). One hears HD's suggestive voice by
radio and TV speaking about returning to Imperial
values (under the guise of rerecognizing our own
national interests), often even claiming all this to
6 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
be akin to the spiritual, as opposed to Western
materialism. And yes! Who doubts that the spirit of
the former super-power No.2 is still alive in this
mess, slowly restoring its recognizable shape! It
makes me shudder.
But stop! Here emerges a most unpleasant
question: Must I really shudder? Is this terrible
regenerating Bee Egg really just outside of me?
Yes, I remember: On the private level my own
Super-Egg-Ego-has always dreamed about
such powers of self-reassembly. Possibly I am still
not quite honest. Why dreamed? Is not my own
Ego already a manifestation of this blind all-
powerful ruthless power of life, generation and
regeneration? I must not deceive myself in the
valuable moments of sincere rejection of revolting
forms of the politikon zoon reality. I must return
to the world of prayer and meditation to ponder
upon these words: Being, Bee, Egg, Ego. Self
Atman. Brahman. Buddha. Christ.
HERE ARE different kinds of return. In the
world of politikon zoon it is difficult to free
oneself from the spell of one's previous role,
especially if it was the role of a superpower. To
reenter, at least symbolically, the world of a happy
young ogre can feel psychotherapeutic.
Our country has possibly indeed solved some
inner problems by recently returning to the music
of the anthem of Soviet times-and as usual has
created some new ones. There are other nostalgic
doors to reenter; behind one of them we see a
former State Emblem, carrying a powerful
message. (Historically it is probably not quite
legitimate to ascribe a mystical interpretation to
the Emblem, but who knows. Who knows whose
behind-the-scene advice helped to create it. And
what kind of holistic forces were really involved.)
A globe with sickle and hammer signs is bathing
in the golden rays of a sun. A Red Star above the
scene is guarded from both sides by peaceful
sheaves of wheat. Isn't it a rational socialistic world
of industrial and agricultural wealth protected both
by people's generally happy state and by the Red
Army? Time: A dawn of the World Revolution
destined to bring this happiness to all people on
the globe. It can be read this way, but one can also
see quite different pictures.
Version 1: A main feature is an implied bovine
head with visible horns decorated by sheaves of
wheat. In a mystically sound way it is only hinted
at (so as not to make a human-made object to
substitute for the Real thing). The Sun-like
forehead (of the implied Bull) emits the light of
consciousness. Planet Earth is suspended in this
field of consciousness. Consciousness (especially
when purified by Marxist analysis) is the field of
power ready to remold the very material world. A
symbol of a living soul, a pentagram soars above
this icon of the physical universe in the power
position of dialectical unity between the
enlightened field of the Emblem and the
surrounding inert dark wholeness (consciousness
and matter, if not microcosm and macrocosm). The
same pentacle denotes the meeting point of
energies of the right and left horn (good and evil,
Yin and Yang, old and new, left-hand and right-
hand powers). On a lower level of discourse this
little pentagram can even look like a bourgeois
specialist in the service of the Socialist State. (Quite
a hot topic in the 1920s.) In the center of the
emblem, the planet Earth carries imposed icons of
the sickle and hammer to depict the death of an
old (below-socialist level), corrupted, exploiting and
exploited human being who is to be hammered into
a new socialist specimen to take over the New
World. ("Perekovka"-rehammering-was indeed
a popular propaganda word of Stalin's epoch,
describing in positive terms the psychological
processes taking place in forced labor camps.)
Version 2: To a less enthusiastic observer, this
picture will look a bit different. Just consider this
death-in-life and life-in-death, this hammering of
human souls to conform to the New Kingdom
emerging at a class struggle endpoint. The light of
the Sun of this world is limited to the field of this
icon, obviously surrounded by the hostile darkness
of the Old World. Our leaders always felt as ifthey
were surrounded by enemies who were only
thinking about destroying our country. Hence the
small point oflight in an utter darkness, a cosmic
will-o'-the-wisp. So far, so realistic. Now it is also
clear the bull head must be a militant white bovine
skull emitting deadly light. The pentagram ofthe
human soul is about to be torn to pieces by the
power fields ofthe masked horns. Yes! Our Utopia
carried the seeds of its own destruction, of being
led from almost the very beginning by dead gods.
Yes, even if many of us feel connected with some
Dreams and Reflections Under a Hill 7
individuals of the past, the fact that the embalmed
Lenin in Red Square was considered in our official
propaganda "more alive than any living creature,"
seems to be not only really far-out but also quite
revealing. Our poor, deathless, Humpty Dumpty
with a thousand faces! Doesn't it all remind us of
the Byzantine life-in-death described by W B. Yeats
(of course, in an aesthetically quite different
realization)? Under a compassionate-what
else?-smile ofthe Great Mind.
singing sickles and hammers
still marching on a globe
illuminated by a golden ox head
invisible horns decorated with wheat
celebrating a dawn of new
supreme-level consciousness
a star of red clay new Adam cadmon
coupling left and right horn paths
at the mind / matter interface
will-o' -the-wisp' s small screen
whispering offarewell to decrepit humanness
of hammering to a novel unsentimental
victorious shape
looking at one's feet
macht frei
Herr Dschuang
Wrong Bough
Mr. Butterfly)
HAVE SPECULATED about how to go about reading
my papers (Soidla, 1999). No wonder that when
I published this I had already shifted to a less exotic
manner of writing. Alas, some precious shadows
are inclined to disappear in the limelight of rational
consciousness. A real loss for me. So the present
paper must be quite rational. Is it?
I have been a No.2 personality during most of
my life, one who acts in the place of another, a
deputy, vice-head, vice-chairman, an eternal vice.
This has meant a lot of dealing with the shadow
part of my own mind and of the collective mind of
small groups. Vice (in the sense of someone ranking
just below a No.1 person) is vicious, indeed. And
to add more small numbers, I must take note that
my No.2 personality clearly belongs to the Third
The Third World is closer to folk
psychotechniques, less shielded by the scientism
of elite circles. But this makes my
transpersonalism (certainly I myself belong to this
Third World-even if my country in some, mostly
cultural and possibly military aspects, doesn't) a
bit unsophisticated for developed nations' taste-
provincial, naive. But it is still a shoot from the
same master root. It is still quite authentically
trans-[over-] personal, ... still controversial in its
attempt to sit on the seats of both science and
Certainly I feel the difference between "civilized
transpersonalism" (say, transpersonalism No.1)
and my trans personalism. But a Developing
(Third) World position gives some extra freedom I
surely value. And then personally I have always
been between No.1 and No.3. Above I said that I
am a typical No.2 personality-and have kept this
position almost all my life-in quite different
hierarchical structures.
It is difficult to escape the pitfalls of role No.2
if one is cloaked in the No.2 personality role. And
it is impossible not to have a No.2 role if there
exists a No. 1. The role invites and releases
powerful forces of consciousness. Only a wholly
different dimension-the one pointing towards the
Source-can make a difference in a No. 2's life.
Mter all my own No.2 personality problems, I
feel a bit more understanding toward the leaders of
our country which has been aN o. 2 world power for
a long time. (Both toward former and contemporary
rulers.) Poor, all-powerful, fantastic sons of
bitches!. .. Poor-even when they keep patiently
training us-all 140 million-to internalize the new
great post-Soviet super-slogan: "Surrender makes
free." A slogan, that has never been openly
pronounced, but-in one way or another-has
gained tremendous power during the last several
years. This is a slogan that will finally condition
every one of us to feel like an eternal No. 2,profanum
8 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
vulgus, ultimately (Byzantine-style) inferior to a
democratically elected No. 1.
But-why not? A person in the No.2 position
somehow obtains a Rabelaisian right to be really
vicious. He formulates, he communicates, he writes
HESE DAYS Russia has few spiritual
authorities. Many of yesterday's conscience-
and consciousness-raising leaders of inner
resistance to the regime seem to have lost contact
with the new realities. They prophesy to swarming
bees, embrace coyotes, dream in a dark night under
a hill, chase rainbow-colored will-o'-the-wisps in a
no man's land of semidarkness, speak after the end
ofthe message. Countless are the ways of a decent
traveler losing one's way.
Well, in a way, it is a most natural state of
affairs. Even the best garments of Emperor Atman
will wear away one day. But I would like to follow
the paths of our moral VIPs (no irony intended)
along some quite different lines of reasoning. I
have often wondered how even the most
disgusting spiritual teachers can have students
who are not only good and pure but even seem to
emit some spiritual light. Somehow the teacher's
darkness often seems not to be transmitted to the
students. Teacher and student each seem to
receive their just due. This is one, quite optimistic,
mythological line.
Along some other line, the teacher is a tragic
figure of impressive scale. For older, really great,
(note my bias!) leaders there is always some place
for Faustian failures-mistaking lemurs digging
a grave for builders of a decent future world. A great
soul, without corrupting his or her natural purity,
can sometimes even be charmed by some notable
master bee graduate. This is a lesson for the eyes
of our generation, and certainly not a primitive one!
Look more closely at the field ofthis picture! There
is the obvious Mistake-and here is the Magical
Lotus-Like Self-Purifying Being who is making this
Mistake. Among other things, this is a lesson about
not making ajudgment. (And obviously even of not
speaking about not making a judgment, etc. ad
Indeed we must not worry; every one will get
hislher due. Me too.
o QUESTION that I am not of this Faustian
scale, nor even of a Faustian style. But am I
not at least a transpersonalist (technically
speaking) now, after more than twenty years or so
of being involved in the field in one way or another?
Yes, I should not be surprised to learn that
sometimes I share a certain "spiritual" waterhole
with other transpersonal flying or crawling reptiles
of a feather. But at the same time, of course, I am
not quite a professional transpersonalist. Even if
we choose not to discuss the tricky topic of quality,
it is quite clear that I have no kind oftranspersonal
counseling practice such as leading groups or being
a consultant, though I am the associate editor of
The International Journal of Transpersonal
Studies. Anyway, most of my work is in molecular
genetics. Maybe I could be assessed as, say, a 10%
(low numbers again) professional trans personalist?
A silly formulation, but it feels in a way quite useful
to me-as a reminder.
Perhaps 10% is not so bad. There is another
aspect of these estimates. I have learned how
speaking about spiritual matters channels away
the precious energy that was collected in inner
silence. Of course, it can be different in the case of
a "Realized Being" or a "Real" professional. But at
my level this truth certainly holds. The paths of
spiritual materialism of one's mind lead to an
imperialistic giant body in timeless memory stuff.
(It can be quite different for timeless sea birds on
wing-who have already transformed the inner
Teach me, Jonathan Livingston of my youth!
Alas, my flights these days are mediated by senile
dementia rather than by wings. (See below, "No
Time to Travel my Boughs.")
RANSPERSONAL STUDIES often invade territory
already divided up by world religions and
various small religious groups. Who is Mr.
Transpersonal in this field of a Great Game?
Dreams and Reflections Under a Hill 9
The transpersonalist is neither a Referee nor a
Player on the field of religious life. Sometimes a
little Mr. Transpersonal is of course treated as a
ball-to be forcibly knocked around. But the real
game is not centered about himlher. Rather the
transpersonalist is a reporter whose job is to keep
a faithful record of what is taking place. A really
good report is not easy to find. This job requires
understanding the game, a clear, perceptive mind,
and a lack of prejudice. Well done, this can be an
important contribution. But still it does not feel
quite right. "Transpersonal" seems often to be like
some illegal doping of a player's (reporter's,
stadium worker's) blood. So possibly Mr.
Transpersonal is a bit intoxicated but quite a well-
trained reporter? .. We had better stop here.
HAT ABOUT the geometry of the larger field
of Kuru, of the playing field of the global
spiritual game-as perceived from the reporter's
seat? Is there any common aim for all players? Do
they at least obey some common rules? Or will the
deeply rooted hypothesis of some hidden inner unity
of different spiritual paths soon be finally refuted?
The old idea of all religious states leading to one
endpoint has indeed been questioned, notably in a
recent work by Walsh (1995). It is important to
question such uncritically accepted concepts. But
what about extrapolation to the problem of
equifinality of all spiritual traditions? About a
commonality of mystical experience characteristic
to all ofthem? Walsh says, "neither yes nor no." The
popular mind registers paradigm shifting towards
"no." And I cannot escape some images here.
Differences can be misleading at different levels. If
spiritual psychologies never seem to converge, this
may show that they are on parallel courses and one
must look for a deeper underlying structure to see
their essential identity. (One can of course fancy
countless other "geometries of meaning.") This is a
position difficult to defend, as no amount of data
will be able to shatter it. The feeling of great unity
underlying various spiritual manifestations-
whatever the seeming contradictions to this idea-
certainly seems to be an unfalsifiable statement.
Does this mean that the very important question
about inner unity (or lack of such unity) of spiritual
traditions will remain just an intellectual and
spiritual trap-at least within a framework of the
current scientific paradigm? Maybe a koan.
I remember, when I was a youngster, an old man
once told me: "I do not doubt. I know-since the
very moment when God appeared to me as a White
Wall." I was very disturbed by these words coming
from his toothless mouth. But now it is different. I
just cannot escape asking along the same lines-
like a 5-year-old J. D. Salinger hero: "What does
one wall say to the other wall?" You know the answer.
I love solutions of this kind-attractive,
unreachable, frightening, like the smile of the mad
old man-reaching me from some transpersonal
WOULD PREFER to invite a great silence into my
body/mind and to be with it. But I know that
there is another side of all this: There is a trap in
transferring the timeless to personal reality. An
"individualized" silence becomes jealous. Various
personal formulations of the timeless battle one
another. To escape it one has to return to the
Source of silence, the Source ofthe timeless.
I write words, words, words, about silence-
but in the real silence there are no formulations,
no questions. In this realm one apprehends a
silent not-answer.
HERE IS a question that is considered
illegitimate by some (especially Western)
spiritual traditions and certainly denied by
science: Have I been here before?
The formulation of this question is possibly not
so superstition-laden (nor so fundamental) as I
am often inclined to think. Let me put it this way:
when one has read a lot of the text in a given
Human Comedy volume, one can grow anxious to
find some related ("previous") volumes-to gain
a better perspective of an author's general ideas.
(Isn't it a quite understandable human approach?
Even when it includes moments of daydreams
when pondering not only the author's general
concepts but also hislher favorite tricks of the
trade. Especially when one is not yet quite sure-
or just pretends not to know-who the author is.) I
10 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
would not discuss here how scientific or
pseudoscientific the attempts are to find some
answers to this question. But permit me to say a
few words of very personal comment.
I have already told a story about my own
"reincarnation" (Soidla, 1998b), and when still under
the spell of this story wondered how much, and at
the same time, how little, have I taken over from
this "previous existence." During a "transfer," an
individual soul seems to be stripped of its most
immanent qualities. What remains is just some
basic, if not traits of character, then just some "key
words" attached to my life. But the responsibilities
and possibilities I am facing belong to this life and
to the present moment .... Of course, there are
moments when one just enjoys "these stories"
without any moral judgments or qualifications.
The story I told in my paper came to me via a
system of synchronicities and has no independent
factual confirmation, yet, at the same time, it feels
emotionally most convincing. Even ifl am forced to
acknowledge that I have been (and according to
almost any version of common sense indeed I have
been) fooled in the concrete story, it is the metaphor
that remains, that seems to be relevant and
important. In this realm, truth is not yet married
with proof and so artifacts are often on equal
grounds with facts-on some "hidden" level of such
Various personal manifestations certainly share
not only the general but also some of the countless
specific resources (re-sources) and stories of the
Source. This sharing often defies our scientific and
traditional unscientific concepts and limits. Nothing
that I need is missing. All is here-in Consciousness.
Dear Source, teach me one day the art of surfing
the wave creating Me's and related not-Me's in this
more-than-world-wide ocean of consciousness!
HIS IS an etude in a still more materialistic-
quite sci-fi-vein.
The deep underwater realm of oceans is a
natural place for life in the world near the Galactic
Center that is penetrated by an excess of various
kinds of radiation. Of course, in the full-grown
civilizations of the region the radiation-imposed
limitations are now lifted, the necessary protective
planetary and local shields are established, but it
is due to such historical reasons that most of the
highly developed races in this area are water-
By the way, it is surprising how fearless one
feels here-even being aware of all the radiation-
related potential dangers. And how obvious, how
natural, the old idea of consciousness as a kind of
luminosity feels here. To come to the galactic (or
metagalactic) center region is like coming back
home-in some incomprehensible cosmic sense. (Of
course this home looks more awe-inspiring than
homely. Like the astronomical photos I have always
been so fond of. And still it is home-like no other
home has been.)
I learned that all this does not quite mean that
we humans have physically come from the Galactic
Center and that our consciousness keeps some
basic built-in memories that were written down in
this region. Rather it is the very nature of the
universal consciousness that is somehow directly
related to regions like the Galactic Center, to some
physical or metaphysical conditions here. This
relationship has something to do also with the
origin of consciousness. But I am not able to relate
any concepts of this kind. This will require a long
time of changing our minds-a process that by the
way is already taking place (see below). The path
of consciousness is always a path of self-teaching,
a path of self-modification, a path of auto-
catalysis-whatever you feel to be the best word
in a given moment.
Anyway, this is not a place for some mystified
cosmic comments on consciousness. What I can do
in this paper is just share some impressions of
being there. Or rather-as if having been there.
You know the problems with daydreaming.
The Galactic Congress Palace is a building more
than a kilometer deep in an ocean-connected with
nearby "hotels" (habitats) via huge walking
(swimming)/transport tubes (each one with special
gaslliquid content). Tubes lead to the lodges ofthe
main hall of the palace. As visibility in the palace
is considerably aided (but alas, for a naive viewer,
also distorted) by various optical and electronic
devices, at least for us, the real shape of the
kilometer-or-more-deep central hall was difficult
to perceive. Sometimes it looked like a giant old-
fashioned theater, but possibly this was a carefully
engineered illusion. At least the very next moment
one could perceive a dim, dolphin-like shadow
swimming behind a transparent barrier separating
Dreams and Reflections Under a Hill 11
lodges from the apparent central, almost
''bottomless'' part. We were obviously situated close
to the very top. This was later confirmed by
information that the lower levels are for deep-water
creatures and for dwellers of giant planets. They
can spend some time at lower gravitation (like our
cosmonauts/astronauts are able to do), but in deep
water it is easier to provide just the right pressure
conditions. At least it was thought to be this way
when the building was begun, and these ideas were
preserved as a design of this building. Nostalgic
The above-water part of the entire
infrastructure is the place where one finds
humanoids and near-humanoids. This part (that I
know better than any other part of the palace) is
divided into different [half-] transparent tubes-
possibly because of incompatible atmosphere
requirements. Maybe the structure hints at some
possible instinctive, hyperemotional reactions (like
panic and fear) during trans-species contacts that
necessitate these divisions, at least for novices of
this New World. We have seen incredible scenes of
clearly mixed company obviously enjoying
themselves. But as a rule, any actual contacts
between different species seem to be considerably
rarer than one would suppose to be the case in the
Galactic Center. At least with our part of the
Galactic Center building this was clearly the case.
Some supercomputer that created phantoms of
one's own species seemed to mediate most contacts.
It's important to note that these simulations of one's
own species seem to be deliberately not too
perfect-an ingenious device to delicately remind
one of an even more fantastic reality behind the
carefully engineered illusions.
A school on a nearby island (but maybe on a
quite different planet-some specific info seems to
be missing on this point) prepares "tutors" to help
with developing their native planets. This
education process starts with reforming the psycho-
physiological structure of the future instructors.
Notably, one's memory is considerably re-
structured-to the point that one needs a lot of
special training to learn to use the reformed memory
apparatus. The position of planetary tutor is most
demanding and the life span granted of more than
a 1,000 years hardly suffices to compensate for
all the hardships, including intensive, periodic,
30-50 year-long training sessions in the Galactic
Center. In addition, the first 200-250 years of a new
tutor are rather carefully supervised. But the rules
are not too strict on this point. Each case is handled
on an individual basis.
Generally speaking, these planetary-aid
operations (as well as the very fact of galactic
cooperation) are not openly announced to the
citizens of the target planets, so as to keep the
forces of resistance down and local self-opinion
high. New ideas are never introduced as some
ready-made technological or scientific products but
rather as hints, carefully designed to be as invisible
as the emperor's new clothes. These hints are
repeatedly communicated (usually by tutors) to a
set of selected suitable personalities. The contents
of what is communicated are usually in the form
of new fairy tales or new fantasies of art and
literature-rather than in a form of new scientific
ideas. (This is not the whole picture, of course.
Some hidden resonance to support future leaps of
"intuition" is also created. Phenomenologically this
resonance is close to Sheldrake's [1987] concept of
"morphic resonance," but technically a bit
different.) Anyway, as a result, local progress
appears quite natural, only a bit aided in a way no
one is really aware of.
And one of these tutors ... is you, my dear reader!
Using a special technique (modified from Soidla,
1999) I have ensured that only you-the Real
Future Galactic Tutor on Earth-will be able to
read the relevant parts of my text. You'll be
contacted-in due time.
Alas! Just a boy tossing empty plastic bottles
into the water. Most of the bottles are ugly, some
are funny. The ocean is tender and limitless.
EAlLY YOU and I and the very Galactic Center
are of course just simulations on a cosmic
computer 3-D (or rather X-D) screen. There is really
only one Will, one Self, behind the scene, reaching
anyone of us-the figures of the ultimate Cosmic
Game, best described by Advaita Vedanta. Do you
buy this stuff? (There are moments when I almost
do. But as I am not Realized-in the technical
Advaita Vedantic sense-I am free to travel along
some other not so fundamental, but in some way
attractive, trains of thought.) Let's only keep in
mind that the cosmic computer must be really
sophisticated; this means not a computer at all in
12 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
our contemporary sense. Why not suppose here
that this gives us carte blanche to take a leap.
Bored with computers: Let's board a far-out cosmic
There is a funny theory (the "many world
interpretation" by Hugh Everett III, outlined in
Penrose, 1989) that every quantum mechanical
measurement (free will) act leads to a new version
(branching) of a Universe.
This theory feels important to me on the shaky
grounds that I often feel that my world in a way
blinks from one state to another. People whom I
am sure are dead turn out to be alive. Titles and
contents of books I recall seem to have undergone
strange quantum jumps-today they are different
from the form I remember them to be. Things are
not where they used to be; other minor details shift
and dance as if in a not-carefully-enough-made
movie when material from a slightly different
version of various scenes leads to crazy changes of
background details. But I can never be sure. Never.
These branching universes seem to be separated
by imperceptible and impenetrable walls. The same
is true about the enclosed human bodies. Only
Consciousness, that has created these branching
Universes, seems in its unconscious part to
embrace all the versions and so is potentially able
to carry one from one Universe to other ones-
across the borders. In my personal mythology this
becomes possible when memory-imposed
restrictions weaken-in one's old age. I value my
memory problems, my travel pass in this beautiful,
branching world-where even one's past is not
quite fixed; where people who were dead yesterday
are alive today; where one cannot predict what
wondrous stuffwill pop up the next morning. I hail
my glorious state of dementia! (Maybe for slowly
growing conscious of surfing the death / freedom
interface ... )
So, being ignorant of the intricacies of the
physics underlying this theory, I often tell myself
a tale about my being a bud (branching) of
consciousness identified with a concrete human
body, but able to be identified with its semblance
in multiple branchings of physical universes
created by free will actions. Whose will? Most likely
anything that happens in Consciousness will count.
In my own part, I feel identified with the
branchings in which I exist-so it seems to be "my"
will that is important for me. Possibly dis-
identification from one's own concrete will-act (or
identification with a will-act that goes against the
established system of identifications-against
Ego) transfers one to the Source (of Universal Will).
Mysteriously, this Source seems to be "here" in
Silence (in pauses between thoughts, behind
identifying [I] thought), always with me, and still
most elusive. Attention energy is a good carrier in
this field.
Anyway, I certainly enjoy having left my
reproductive age world-for this or some other area
almost uncontrolled by natural selection pressure
(this means, to realms of Pure Consciousness). Help
me, precious luminous Source-beyond my reason,
beyond my understanding, beyond life and death,
beyond time and space!
Laughing I chase my mind on countless
powerful branches of a metacosmic Me-tree.
HERE IS a view-possibly even complementary
to the above one-based on Ouspensky's ideas
of 2-D time (Ouspensky, 1948). It is also among
the fairy tales I like to tell myself with different
variations. At the same time, it is apocalyptic and
can be uncomfortably close to the views of some
radical spiritual groups. Sorry.
Human life is repeated countless times in a
different dimension of Time. But as far as a human
being acts according to inclinations, instincts, and
primitive impulses the same story is repeated. Real
Free Will is something that can change one's life
story, make it unlike its previous versions.
Moments of real Free Will make a difference.
They can change the quality of some parts of our
life story drastically. These zones of another level
of being grow into openings that allow one,
painfully, to drag one's life story-as a whole-
out of its dead forms; out of the old decrepit world
that seems to be on the verge of perishing in quite
real flames after some more repetitions of our life
Moments of real, true, Free Will are points at
which one can break out ofthe worn cocoon of one's
branching life story (and to break this branching
world, as both are growing from a common root).
One leaves the dead form of the branching bush of
one's life story-to become a moist, shining, more
real Imago-a butterfly daughter of the bush-
Dreams and Reflections Under a Hill 13
able to fly to an all-alive all-awake all-aware
rainbow-colored untold new world.
OMETIMES I think in an almost traditional vein,
guessing about the mind of G-d (or God) as
something that is out of my mind (that appears as
another, immeasurably more powerful mind). Even
in the worst case this is a good alternative
perspective to navigate toward my bhakti.
On the level ofthe physical Universe-all these
galactics and metagalactics and billions of years-
feel breathtaking. How am I supposed to contact
the core consciousness that has followed at least a
half-billion years of our planet's history-dealing
with all the "individual souls," and at the same
time with whole species or whole ecosystems, with
nations rather than with individuals. In turn, an
Individual mind is inclined to meet the Universal
one in the field of Kuru, in the field of an inner
battle, in the field of strategic thinking. And, at
the same time, the Universal Mind seems to be
already immanently present in one's individual
mind-as the Timeless realm.
A silent darshan by Timeless [unJcommunicates
all that is needed.
HERE ARE some specific ideas and dreams
related to Science with which I especially
identifY. (They do not look quite like products of
my own mind; they just keep coming to me-as
often undeserved, but much loved, table-
companions and friends.)
Some possibly most important ones among them
are concerned with memory recording. I have
stated that human memory contains an inherited
timeless (mythic) component that unfolds in
constant interplay with a personal memory record.
I have also stated that human memory is not only
recording new events but also on some, possibly
more basic level, editing a universal (possibly
individualized) prerecorded human life story. And
I have stated that consciousness is self-teaching
(self-modifying) on some very fundamental level
(Soidla, 1995, 1996, 1997).
I also believe that at least primitive
proto memory was just the recording of firing/rest
patterns of individual neurons at a speed normal
for RNA synthesis-ca. 40Hz. Further
developments like synaptic networks, the
possibility of neural maps training, and so forth-
usually considered as the only pathways of memory
recording (Edelman, 1992)-have, in my opinion,
not quite replaced the older mechanism. This
means that RNA engrams still exist in some special
neurons of special localization determined by the
developing neural network's geometry. And
certainly that some ideas, like the prerecorded life
story, the editing of this story, timeless stuffwithin
synchronization signals, and RNA autocatalysis-
like self-teaching and self-modifying, were retained
(and remodeled) at the new neural network level
(Soidla, 1995, 1996, 1997).
ANY REMARKABLE ideas that emerged at the
beginning stage of molecular biology were
not subsequently developed in the years that
followed. One of these ideas was the idea of "filled
commas," stating that if a genetic message contains
punctuation signals, then inside these signals there
is a perfect place to write down some useful
"comments," some "service information"-some
texts that are read on a quite different level. As
the usual genetic texts turned out to be essentially
comma-less-and translation punctuation
(initiation and termination) signals were shown
to be of comparatively simple structure-this idea
was abandoned (surviving almost solely in some
memoirs ofthose days). The idea did not resurrect
even with the discovery ofthe intronlexon structure
of eukaryotic genes-as introns, with few
exceptions, can generally be written off as "junk"
(or "egoistic") DNA.
But perhaps the idea of punctuation signals-
as a space for texts written down on a different
level than the main message-can have a curious
Second Coming in a seemingly quite unrelated
realm of memory coding.
One of the greatest problems in discussing
memory/consciousness is the "binding problem"
(Hardcastle, 1996): how perceived colors, sounds,
14 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
smells and shapes come together to create a
realistic picture in one's consciousness and memory.
My general hypothesis is that one necessary
element that would help to explain this
phenomenon is a set of synchronization signals-
signals that will allow for juxtaposing different
parts of a memory/consciousness "text" along
identical time scales, so as to allow-
metaphorically speaking-for proper "dialogical
connectedness" (Yanchar & Slife, 2000).
There are also alternative ways in which
synchronization signals can be involved in memory/
consciousness. If one is inclined to take the
conception of synchronization signals as likely to
have some place in memory recording/retrieval-
one immediately confronts the possibility of
necessary "timeless" comments on the main "in-
time" memory message. This means supposing the
existence of a set of memory service texts that are
situated within synchronization signals forming a
part of memory that is clearly outside of the
ordinary time frame.
My special hypothesis is that these service texts
("comments on living") are involved in the very
process of memory recording (that has an aspect
best described as reciprocal "editing'; and in this
process the inherited seeds of these texts give rise to
mythological, archetypal, and religious imagery
and finally reenter memory in the mature disguise
of mythological figures.
What I am postulating is a basic mosaic
structure of memory records. And that mythological
and mystical phenomena are only related to some
above-the-water parts of a deeper process involved
in the very core of the molecular events of memory /
I assume that memory recording involves the
editing of some prerecorded material. That means
that the human life story is in some gross aspects
prerecorded, and the actual memory recording is
in many respects a process of editing this inherited
(universal or even individualized) life story. This
editing process uses "timeless" memory texts that
are written down within synchronization signals.
In other words, during memory recording memory
texts are editing other memory texts. This process
is most likely reciprocal.
If my core hypothesis about the existence and
localization of timeless memory stuff is true, it is
immediately clear that repetitive integrative
functions like music, dance, poetry (with elements
like rhythm and rhyme), magical practices
(mantra, yantra, etc.), and religious rituals with
their many-leveled, repetitive, highly symbolic
activity are all situated along the royal way
towards this timeless layer. Alternatively, these
levels are reached during neurotic and psychotic
episodes, including the auras of such super-
synchronized brain states as epileptic seizures.
Considerable anecdotal evidence is available to
support these claims.
I am skeptical about the possibility of effectively
isolating some aspects of the Timeless in scientific
experiments-as the function of the Timeless is
highly integrative, multisensory and "holistic." But
it is most likely possible to document many ofthe
repetitive structures involved. Some kinds of
repetitions involved can even be analyzed by
molecular probes of fixed repetitive structure.
There is a possible, but mostly neglected during
the last decades (happily analyzable), substrate that
can be supposed to be involved in memory /
consciousness-RNA molecules. Several numerical
coincidences make this idea attractive for me. First
and foremost-the rate of RNA synthesis--ca. 50
nucleotides / sec is close to ca. 40Hz (gamma) brain
rhythm that some authors (see Crick, 1995, p. 245)
suppose to be related to [visual} awareness. If one
looks further to how long a molecule would be
created during a human lifetime if one continuously
registers firing / rest patterns of neurons, the
resulting RNA molecule(s) is (are) close to the total
RNA content in a typical eukaryotic cell (or to a
whole Lilium genome). At least quantitatively, RNA
seems to fit some basic parameters of the process of
memory recording. Note, however, that this
controversial idea is intended not to substitute for,
but to supplement, the current ideas on memory
coding (Soidla, 1995, 1996, 1997).
I would like to note also that the general idea of
synchronization signals filled with "timeless
comments" seems to be rather independent of any
particular hypotheses (presented above in italics)
concerning the memory recording mechanisms and
their material substrata.
Of course--aU this is armchair speculation. Alas,
though this speculation may one day prove to be
true. (I hope I'm wrong. I see that any paths leading
to a more self-manipulatable world are rather
dangerous. )
You ask why did I include this stuff in the
present Umbra paper. If the light of my mind is
Dreams and Reflections Under a Hill 15
shadow, then what about my shadow per se?
Answer: I included it all, because I recognize that
my promising mind-baby is just a potentially
hazardous armchair monster. But, still ... whose
light and shadow are not really blended these days?
o APPROACH holistic aspects ofthe world (or to
study the Timeless in one's consciousness!
memory) one badly needs some new tools. I suppose
one of these tools would be a new description of
elementary "cells" ("building blocks") of a human
life story-a new I Ching. Possibly this would also
lead us closer to the original memory language of
hypothetical special high abstraction level neurons
that are implied in the above hypothesis of memory
coding. Dear Chinese friends of mine-Chuang Tzu,
Lao Tzu, Li Po, Tu Fu, Li Ho, Su Tung-p'o, Ch'ien
Ch'ien-yi, and many others-I am so honored by
your presence in my life-{!ven if you have been just
images mirrored in glasses of glasses of translation.
These kinds of ideas seem to be fighting to
surface in human consciousness. Why else did
Grisha Bruskin paint his "Fundamental Lexicon?"
ND STILL the key question is, Who am I? And a
key contraquestion: Who is asking this
question (Talks, 1972)? But one usually adopts a
lower level of communication than this and so
meets more specific terms and details.
So here we go again: Countless are the
projections of one's Ego! Either within a
scientifically accepted frame of reference or rather
wild, unscientific ones. But to navigate the field
of human conscious experience with all the
timeless and in-time realms, one needs a sure
compass. One needs to realize what is Ego-this
way or another.
The Dictionary (American Heritage Dictionary of
the English Language, 1970) speaks:
Ego. The Self as distinguished from all others;
The personality component that is conscious, most
immediately controls behavior, and is most in
touch with external reality;
Conceit; Egotism.
And still, all this does not help to answer
questions like-Egoless states-what does it
mean? Is Ego an illusion, or is it the Egoless state
that is illusory? For a meditator, approaching the
ultimate state, wherein the circulation ofthoughts
is stopped or at least thinned, it is clearly the
"Egoless state" that feels simpler. But one can
argue that an apparent stillness of psychological
processes is needed to keep safe some additional
psychological construction (say, Ego + a
constructed artificial extra witness). To start
digging towards the roots of all this controversy,
one must attempt to answer the core question-
What is Ego? Or at least: what does one have in
mind when speaking about Ego?
So-what is Ego? Some possible answers:
(1) A "me" label;
(2) A subject [focal point, source] of the sense of
being a "doer"; an illusion, a label of being a doer
(of identification with one's actions, of attachment
to the fruits of one's actions);
(3) A perceived source of one's thoughts (I-thought
as an "Egg" of one's all other thoughts);
(4) A creator of world illusion (a World Egg);
(5) An assembly point for [some] psychological
(6) A distributor [and/or a perceived source] of
attention energy;
(7) A focus and (auto-dialogue forming) reference-
point of conscious experience;
(8) One ofthe centers ofI-Thou dialogue;
(9) A focus (an editor) of personal memory
narrative, a writer, reader, and a conscious center
of a personalized human life-story-as opposed
to the editor of Timeless parts of memory (Self,
Atman). Due to the mechanism of memory
recording, Timeless memory in a mature
individual also includes [a quintessence of}
personal memory stuff, so in a mature individual
Timeless memory editor (Self) is "more real" than
Ego, possibly more ancient, more fundamental;
(10) A camera obscura-an isolated set of
restrictions (brain!body related limitations,
blackouts) that allows only a dualistic (detached,
"objective," "clear," illusory) perception of the
16 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
(11) A censor of Reality;
(12)An "eye of a cyclone" of psychological processes,
a center of circling ofthoughts. (Is this center empty,
or is it occupied by a motor of psychological
processes--or by controls of such a motor-when
the motor is situated elsewhere?);
(13) An instrument for leading an individual to
effective sexual reproduction. After reproduction
age, the pressure to keep Ego intact and effective
weakens. This weakening exposes the inner tension
and structural properties characteristic for the
mature Ego complex of Consciousness and leads to
disintegration of it. (The resulting Post-Mature Ego
state-having done away with constrictions
imposed by natural selection pressure-embodies
implicit structures of consciousness as such.)
(14) A fake Self, a phony and individual temporary
mask (a personality of a cosmic "computer game")
as opposed to our true personality-
transindividual "Real Me," Self, Atman. A mixture
of mechanical (programmed) traits and traits (like
free will) really belonging to Self (that Ego
mistakenly ascribes to him / herself);
(15) A mirror image of self-illuminating luminosity,
a stealer of this luminosity, a Prometheus-Lucifer.
A clone of the hero of universal antimyth-stealer
of the Universal Timeless fire of Consciousness; a
former coeditor of Timeless memory, possibly a
specialist in using temporary individual memory
material to feed the primal all-encompassing
Timeless memory; after emerging of stable
individual in-time memory-an editor of these new
individual memory records);
(16) A Myth destroyer, a killer of gods (by starving
for attention energy);
(17) A temporary service label created by memory!
consciousness and attached to a set of experiences;
(18) A feeling "I am a body," identification with one's
Please, feel free to add to this list or delete any
items. This draft-level list is only a proposed tool-
an invitation to think along some of the
enumerated lines.
Possibly I must add that most of the above
definitions do not belong to me. I hope that the
roots of most of these formulations are quite
obvious for people interested in mysticism, even if
most of them were a bit reformulated for my
personal use. It is only due to the very informal,
very preliminary level of this compendium-that
no attempt was made to refer to the original
HERE IS an item that is usually neglected, but
quite likely is of some importance for the
problem of Ego and Self.
The key observation is simple, elusive (difficult
to describe, even more difficult to verify), and yet
personally most convincing. I have often noted
that some sentences in my writings are on a
different level than other parts of the text. And
so much on a different level that I seem to know
that it was not I who wrote them. A switch to a
deeper level and something behind my normal Ego
seems to be involved. Many people have came to
the same conclusion; it's a most common fact
among professionals of creative work-with no
consequence for science.
If this is an illusion then the very concept of
consciousness is also an illusion ... And of course
both are. (And I am a heap of bee crap clinging to
an illusory life that is so real, so sweet.)
from passion
to compassion
a lifelong travel unfinished
hyperborean autumn
a duck cutting gray skies
toward hot sun toward death
long waiting for the northern birds:
little faxes in vineyards
a dark shadow at noon
once again a lifetime was sweet
once again a death is towering
over the frightened witless duck
between autumn sky
and autumn sea
shining limitless consciousness
to touch the wing of one's partner
not to help not to be comforted just touching
before the final silence
Dreams and Reflections Under a Hill 17
end of the movie
bright electric light turned on
doors open to outer darkness
LOWING IN the waves of transpersonal
consciousness involves moments of puppy
panic and whining protests when time and again
larger swellings slap against my face, immersing
me into breathless, dangerous deep waters. But
the next moment they carry me on effortlessly and
happily again. The feeling that a flow of some
continuous everyday teaching is compassionately
enveloping me, makes this world a hospitable
place-a room in the mansion of the Source.
Dear Silence, accept me.
American heritage dictionary of the English language. (1970).
New York: Dell.
Crick, F. (1995). The astonishing hypothesis: The scientific
search for the soul. New York: Touchstone Books.
Edelman, G. M. (1992). Bright air, brilliant fire: On the mat-
ter of the mind. New York: Harper & Row.
Hardcastle, V. G. (1996). How we get there from here: Disso-
lution of the binding problem. Journal of Mind and Be-
havior, 17, 251-266.
Feinstein, D., & Krippner, S. (1988). Personal mythology: The
psychology of your evolving self. Los Angeles: Tarcher.
Ouspensky, P. D. (1948). Strange life of Ivan Osokin. London:
Faber & Faber.
Penrose, R. (1989). The emperor's new mind: Concerning com-
puters, minds, and the laws of physics. Oxford, England:
Oxford University Press.
Sheldrake, R. (1987). A new science of life: The hypothesis of
formative causation (2nd ed.). London: Collins.
Soidla, T. R. (1995). Open mouth, open mind: An impression-
istic attempt at a transpersonal autobiography. Part 2.
Living and losing with high energies [With Appendix-
The basic hypothesis: An editing model of memory]. Inter-
national Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 14(Supple-
ment), 43-59.
Soidla, T. R. (1996). A constant rate synthesis/editing model of
memory coding. In Consciousness Research Abstracts. To-
ward a Science of Consciousness, 1996, "Tucson II," p. 66.
Soidla, T. R. (1997). Biological texts, spiritual values. In T. R.
Soidla & S. I. Shapiro. (Eds.), Everything is according to
the Way: Voices of Russian Transpersonalism (pp. 109-112).
Brisbane, Australia: Bolda-Lok Publishing. (A preliminary
version of this paper was published in 1993 as: Biological
texts and spiritual values. In Revival of Russian Religious-
Philosophical Thought. Proceedings of the International
Conference, March 22-24, 1993, pp. 25-29. St. Petersburg:
Soidla, T. R. (1998a). Me and a Giant Kinesthetic Bee: An
attempt at an autobiographical and metaphoric study of
a totalitarian psyche. International Journal of
Transpersonal Studies, 17,19-34.
Soidla, T. R. (1998b). With its gray and muddy mouth ... A
personal myth of the call of Another. International Jour-
nal of Transpersonal Studies, 17, 135-141.
Soidla, T. R. (1999). Thus spake Black Hen: Pray, help me to
become whole, Dr. Comus. Please, teach me how to fly how
to sing ... International Journal of Trans personal Studies,
18, 139-148.
Talks. (1972). Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Tiruvannamalai, India: Sri Ramanasramam.
Walsh, R. (1995). Phenomenological mapping: A method for
describing and comparing states of consciousness. Jour-
nal of Transpersonal Psychology, 27,25-56.
Yanchar, S. C., & Slife B. D. (2000). Putting it all together:
Toward a hermeneutic unity of psychology. Journal of
Mind and Behavior, 21,315-326.
18 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
The Emergence of the Ego/Self
Complementarity and Its Beyond
Herbert Guenther
University of Saskatchewan
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
This study traces the emergence ofthe ego/self idea in Buddhist experience-based and process-
oriented thinking (rDzogs-chen). This is thinking that is primarily concerned with
understanding and less so with establishing and being satisfied with a theoretical system,
one that inevitably remains reductionist and, for this reason, fails to explain or make sense
of what matters most to any living system-such as a human being. Because of its dynamic
character, r Dzogs-chen thinking avoids the pitfall of concretizing the cognitive aspect of the
living, variously called a mind, consciousness, ego or self, into some homuncular entity, and
of assuming this entity to reside in one's head as a kind of passive spectator. Not only did
Buddhist thinking in general, and r Dzogs-chen thinking in particular, conceive of "mind" or
"consciousness" as a complexity off unctions reacting and responding to each other and forming
together the idea of an ego/self, but also, in this respect, it anticipated and antedated the
findings of modern phenomenology with its differentiation into an ego/self (in small letters)
as a limitation of the Self (with a capital letter ) that is neither egocentric nor egological nor
logocentric. In rDzogs-chen thought even the Self is a barrier that has to be overcome in
order to become ek-statically open.
You haf too much Ego in your Cosmos.
-Rudyard Kipling,
(Life's Handicap. Bertran and Bimi)
... to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
-William Shakespeare (Hamlet Liii.58)
OTH "EGO" and "self' conceptualize the
central core around which all psychic
activities revolve. Of these two, the ego,
the Latin word for the English word "I," denotes
the foundational meaning, neutral as regards
evaluative connotations, oftheories of personality.
In addition, it is used as a summary term for
psychological processes connected with the notion
of "self," such that in semitechnical, and even
more so in some popular writings, this is the
meaning commonly intended. However, its most
widely used meaning derives from its being one of
the components in the Freudian tripartite model of
the psychic apparatus consisting of the id., the super-
ego, and the ego. According to Sigmund Freud (1858-
1939), the inventor of the notorious disciplines of
psychoanalysis and psychotherapy,! the ego
has been differentiated from the id through the
influence of the external world, to whose demands
it adapts. In so doing, it attempts to reconcile the
forces of the id and the superego in such a way as to
maximize pleasure and to minimize unpleasure. On
the whole, it is a cluster of cognitive and perceptual
processes that includes such various functions as
memory, problem-solving, reality-testing, and others
that are conscious and in touch with reality
(whatever reality may mean). While its overall trend
is in the direction of an equilibrium state, it cannot
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 19-31 19
© 2001 by Panigada Press
but exclude excellence and creativity and
ultimately results in spiritual death. By contrast,
the super-ego manifests itself in conscience,
shame, and guilt, and as such is the agency by
which the influence of parents and others is
prolonged in such a way that their judgments and
prohibitions are internalized by a process of
introjection in early childhood long before the
child is able to question them. It was the third
component, the id, representing the instincts and
other innate needs, with sexuality as the most
prominent feature, that fascinated Freud to an
extraordinary degree.
The impact of Freud's
ideas on the contemporary intellectual climate in
the English-speaking world is best expressed and
summed up by the British poet and man ofletters
Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973) on the occasion
of Freud's death:
if often he was wrong and, at times, absurd
to us he is no more a person
now but a whole climate of opinion
under whom we conduct our different lives ...
("In Memory of Sigmund Freud," 1940).
While the idea ofthe ego as the center of what
we tend to call a human being's psychic dimension,
in all its limited and yet overevaluated scope, is
ineluctably linked to Sigmund Freud's blinkered
and reductionist view of it and of the psyche
general, the idea of a "self' (with or without a
capital letter) is no less confusing. Broadly
speaking, it is conceived of as the dominant aspect
of a human being's experience that carries with
it the compelling sense of his or her unique
existence. However, the diversity of its uses is
disconcertingly wide-flung, and the intended
meaning is often confounded by the fact that the
term may be used in ways that interact with
grammatical forms, as when, for instance, it is
used as a reflexive prefix that may itself be
interpreted or understood in different senses.
Examples would be such expressions as "self-
control" (the self controlling the self); "self-
actualization" (the self becoming actualized); "self-
consistency" (the self acting consistently); "self-
evident" (the whole compound serving as an
adjective modifying some other proposition); to
which many more expressions could be added.
The traditional primary intentions of the users
of the term "self' refer to existing or presumed
aspects of the users' personhood, only too often
confused with the postulate of an "ego." It is
therefore safe to say that these so-called aspects
are mostly speculative and do not come to grips
with what lies at the very bottom of these spurious
constructs. Following Alfred North Whitehead's
suggestion, we can even go so far as to speak of
them as "entities in misplaced concreteness."
The above picture changed radically with the
late Carl Gustav Jung's (1875-1961) distinction
and relationship between the ego and the Self, of
which he has spoken repeatedly and which
Barbara Hannah (1997) has so admirably
summed up in the words "the eternal Self needs
the limited ego in order to experience itself in outer
reality" (p. 171, italics in original). As is well
known, Jung took the term "Self' from the use of
its Sanskrit equivalent OHman) in the Vedic
Brihadaranyaka -U panishad:
[He] is your Self (atman) that is in charge of
everything from within, immortal.
He can't be seen, but he is the one who sees;
he can't be heard, but he is the one who hears;
he can't be thought of (as a thing), but he is
the one who thinks of (things); he can't be
perceived (sensuously), but he is the one who
perceives (sensuously). There is no other who
sees, but he; there is no other who hears, but
he; there is no other who perceives, but he;
there is no other who thinks, but he.
He is the one who is in charge of everything,
Everything else is frustrating and perishable.
It is against and from this, on the one hand,
almost fanatical reductionist and, on the other
hand, semidynamic background of what is deemed
to be any human being's psychic make-up, that
we can (and even feel compelled to) move into the
as yet uncharted and so alluring dimension of
sheer dynamics; a dimension whose salient
feature is the intertwining of the ideas of
emergence, complementarity, and self-
The term "emergence" has come from
philosophy. It differs from "appearance" in that
any "emergent phenomenon" transcends anything
that can be found in its components. In other
words, where the whole seems to be greater than
the sum of its parts, the implication is that it can
never be fully understood by reductionist
methods. There are two major kinds of
reductionism: the downward one, ending in the
Theory of Everything that does not explain
20 The Internationaljournal ofTranspersonal Studies, 2001, Vol 20
anything; and the upward one, ending in an
equally silly Creationism that offers idolatrous
pseudoanswers to what are supposed to be Deep
Questions. These, on closer inspection, are not
deep at all. The flaw in both kinds of reductionism
is their neglect of the incontestable presence of
the individual who, as it were, calls the whole to
show itself and, upon the latter's doing so,
interprets its lighting-up in the light of a personal
understanding (or lack thereof).5
The idea that the ego or I as a subject's essence,
(which Plato and Descartes believed could exist
disembodied), is an "emergent phenomenon" and
that it emerges in complicity with the dynamic of
Being (that like the ego or I or even the self/Self
is not a thing), seems to have been anticipated in
the following passage:
In the Before in which there was (as yet) no
ego!"I,"7 there (also) were (as yet) no (examples
illustrating the) process of evolution (de-bzhin
In the Before in which there was (as yet) no
ego!"I," there (also) were (absolutely [ye-nas]
as yet) none of the five elemental forces.
In the Before in which there were (as yet) none
of the five elemental forces, there (also) were,
in terms of primordiality (gdod-ma-nas), no
(examples illustrating the) status of a sentient
being (sems-can).
In the Before in which there was (as yet) no
ego!"I," there (also) was no maker-of-the-Before
(sngon-pa-po ).
The forefather (mes-po)8 of the evolutionary
process is nobody else than the very ego!"!."
This passage, on the one hand, "contrasts" any
one who illustrates the process of evolution
(taking place "individually") with anyone who (as
a sentient being) has a mind, and, on the other
hand, deals with the implied dynamics in terms
of phase space. Literally speaking, the term for
"anyone who illustrates the process of evolution"
(de-bzhin gshegs-pa) means "just-so going." This
implies that evolution (or the one who is just-so
going) has no goal. If it had, it would come to a
dead end. As a matter of fact, we are told over
and over again in the original text that Being in
its dynamic (amounting to "evolution") has no goal
(and, by implication, no beginning or starting
point). But this is only one side of Being's (the
whole's) play; the other side is that it has a goal
(and, by implication, a beginning or starting
point). This, on the one end, may be the one who
is just-so going; and, on the other end, the one
who (as a sentient being) has a mind (sems-can).
And while, from the perspective of the ever-
present experiencer in Being's play, the "just-so
going" may be felt as an opening-up with no limits
in sight, the "having a mind" may be felt as a
closing-in that becomes ever more narrow,
oppressive, and suffocating. In brief, Being's
dynamic creates (though not in the creationist's
sense) its own context as the precondition for its
play to continue. And it may go "upward" in the
direction of becoming spiritually alight, erlichtet,
and radiating this light,9 or "downward" into the
direction of becoming spiritually clouded over,
both phases being "emergent phenomena." Since
in Being's "playing with itself' the presence of the
experiencer as a participant in this play was not
only never forgotten, but emphatically insisted
upon, the experiencer's surrounding space-of-the-
possible gives evolution its specific twist of
running "downhill" through its phase spaces,
intimated by the almost untranslatable terms ye-
nas andgdod-ma-nas.
In this context one other point must be briefly
noted. This is the emphasis on the med, "the
nothingness-that-is," the "No" that in r Dzogs-chen
thought, as primarily developed by
Padmasambhava, is akin to the gnostic thinker
Basilides' No and the discussion of Spirit in the
Apocryphon of John. 11 When spoken of as gzhi-
med, the "ground-that-is-not" recalls to mind the
German mystic Jakob Bohme's Ungrund. This
"No" (med), the "nothing-that-is" (med-pa), the
"ground-that-is-not" (gzhi-med), is charged with
possibilities that carry with them this No's energy,
as Padmasambhava never tires of telling us.
It may now be asked, from where do the
"emergent phenomena" emerge, and how and why
do they emerge? The answer to the "wherefrom"
is that they emerge from the nothing-that-is (med-
From the nothing-that-is diversities originate.
More elaborately stated is the following answer:
From the dimension of the ground-that-is-
not the ground of all that is emerges;
From the dimension of that which is itself
not a particular existent the totality of
particular existents emerges;
From the dimension of that which is itself
not a lighting-up the diversity of that
which lights-up emerges;
The Emergence of the Ego/Self Complementarity and its Beyond 21
anything; and the upward one, ending in an
equally silly Creationism that offers idolatrous
pseudoanswers to what are supposed to be Deep
Questions. These, on closer inspection, are not
deep at all. The flaw in both kinds of reductionism
is their neglect of the incontestable presence of
the individual who, as it were, calls the whole to
show itself and, upon the latter's doing so,
interprets its lighting-up in the light of a personal
understanding (or lack thereof).5
The idea that the ego or I as a subject's essence,
(which Plato and Descartes believed could exist
disembodied), is an "emergent phenomenon" and
that it emerges in complicity with the dynamic of
Being (that like the ego or I or even the self/Self
is not a thing), seems to have been anticipated in
the following passage:
In the Before in which there was (as yet) no
ego/"I,"7 there (also) were (as yet) no (examples
illustrating the) process of evolution (de-bzhin
In the Before in which there was (as yet) no
ego/"I," there (also) were (absolutely LYe-nas]
as yet) none ofthe five elemental forces.
In the Before in which there were (as yet) none
ofthe five elemental forces, there (also) were,
in terms of primordiality (gdod-ma-nas), no
(examples illustrating the) status of a sentient
being (sems-can).
In the Before in which there was (as yet) no
ego!"I," there (also) was no maker-of-the-Before
(sngon-pa-po ).
The forefather (mes-po)8 of the evolutionary
process is nobody else than the very ego!"!."
This passage, on the one hand, "contrasts" any
one who illustrates the process of evolution
(taking place "individually") with anyone who (as
a sentient being) has a mind, and, on the other
hand, deals with the implied dynamics in terms
of phase space. Literally speaking, the term for
"anyone who illustrates the process of evolution"
(de-bzhin gshegs-pa) means "just-so going." This
implies that evolution (or the one who is just-so
going) has no goal. If it had, it would come to a
dead end. As a matter of fact, we are told over
and over again in the original text that Being in
its dynamic (amounting to "evolution") has no goal
(and, by implication, no beginning or starting
point). But this is only one side of Being's (the
whole's) play; the other side is that it has a goal
(and, by implication, a beginning or starting
point). This, on the one end, may be the one who
is just-so going; and, on the other end, the one
who (as a sentient being) has a mind (sems-can).
And while, from the perspective of the ever-
present experiencer in Being's play, the "just-so
going" may be felt as an opening-up with no limits
in sight, the "having a mind" may be felt as a
closing-in that becomes ever more narrow,
oppressive, and suffocating. In brief, Being's
dynamic creates (though not in the creationist's
sense) its own context as the precondition for its
play to continue. And it may go "upward" in the
direction of becoming spiritually alight, erlichtet,
and radiating this light,9 or "downward" into the
direction of becoming spiritually clouded over,
both phases being "emergent phenomena." Since
in Being's "playing with itself' the presence of the
experiencer as a participant in this play was not
only never forgotten, but emphatically insisted
upon, the experiencer's surrounding space-of-the-
possible gives evolution its specific twist of
running "downhill" through its phase spaces,
intimated by the almost untranslatable terms ye-
nas andgdad-ma-nas.
In this context one other point must be briefly
noted. This is the emphasis on the med, "the
nothingness-that-is," the "No" that in rDzogs-chen
thought, as primarily developed by
Padmasambhava, is akin to the gnostic thinker
Basilides' No and the discussion of Spirit in the
Apacryphan af Jahn.
When spoken of as gzhi-
med, the "ground-that-is-not" recalls to mind the
German mystic Jakob Bohme's Ungrund. This
"No" (med), the "nothing-that-is" (med-pa), the
"ground-that-is-not" (gzhi-med), is charged with
possibilities that carry with them this No's energy,
as Padmasambhava never tires of telling us.
It may now be asked, from where do the
"emergent phenomena" emerge, and how and why
do they emerge? The answer to the "wherefrom"
is that they emerge from the nothing-that-is (med-
From the nothing-that-is diversities originate.
More elaborately stated is the following answer:
From the dimension of the ground-that-is-
not the ground of all that is emerges;
From the dimension of that which is itself
not a particular existent the totality of
particular existents emerges;
From the dimension of that which is itself
not a lighting-up the diversity of that
which lights-up emerges;
The Emergence o/the EgolSelfComplementarity and its Beyond 21
From the dimension of that which is both
existence and non-existence samsara and
nirvana emerge;
From the dimension of non-duality
unexcitability (ma-rig) and originary
awareness (ye-shes) emerge;
From the dimension that is itself not some-
thing given (as something postulationally
The (uni)trinity of (the whole's) eigenstate
(rang-bzhin), stuff (ngo-bo "the nothing-
ness of sheer possibilities"), and
suprasensual responsiveness and concern
(thugs-rie) emerges;
From (this [uni]trinity) the duality of (an
individual's) three existential fore-
structures (of his concrete being)14 and
three poisoning forces emerge;15
(From it) the three supramundane
emerge, by way of their inner
transformative dynamics, as the three
rotating stops.17
From this ability to dissolve (into Being's
nothingness) or inability to do so,
(The evolutionary process) emerges as the
duality of a passageway (into higher
dimensions) and a passageway (into an
ever-deepening) going astray.
From the dimension of the nothing whatso-
ever (the welter of) anything whatsoever
has emerged.
The duality ofbecominglbeing an (exception-
ally) erlichtet one (sangs-rgyas) through
understanding and of becoming/being an
(ordinary) sentient being (sems-can)
through one's lack of understanding
(Reflects Being's) depth and width (in its)
creativity having emerged as the dynamic
of the ego/"!."
The answer to the second question of why there
should be anything is implicitly present in the
original premise. By whichever terms we may
refer to Being, be they the "ground" (gzhi) in the
sense of "the-ground-that-is-not" (gzhi-med) or the
"Ungrund," "the nothing-that-is" (medlmed-pa),
the "dimensionality that is consistent with itself
and everything else" (mnyam-pa'i ngang) or, in
mathematical terms, a bland uniformity to which
the word "symmetry" is applied, this "nothingness"
is-( to use this fateful word in our language )-no
thing whatsoever, rather it is "something" forever
on the brink of breaking Up.18 The disturbance
that breaks the symmetry lies within Being's
nothingness, by virtue of which Being is unstable
and its nice description as "everywhere the same"
is rudely defaulted. rDzogs-chen thinkers had a
word for this disturbance (somehow felt as a kind
of turbulence): it was gzhi-rlung and, literally
rendered, means "Being-qua-tempest." Thus we
are told in a passage that in its terseness is made
up of mostly experientially descriptive terms:
From out of the center ofthe vortex of (one's)
Dasein (as which Being's) space-like
vortex as (a dimension of) noematic-
symbolic profiles (has constituted itself),
There ceaselessly emerge dynamic patterns
(as expressions of Being's) radiance.
The disturbance that is Being (in the sense
of being both Being-in-its-beingness and
one's Dasein) emerges as the dynamic of
the ego!"I,"
(Being's) radiance emerges as the dynamic of
the play (staged) by the ego/"I," (and)
The (fluctuations between) the ground state
and the excited state (of Being's "intelli-
gence") in their ceaselessness are the
dynamic of (this) play.
While in this passage the emergence of the ego/
"I" (nga) as a relative latecomer is emphasized,
in another passage the same is said about the seW
Self (bdag) as a figment of mentation (sems):20
The disturbance (inherent in) Being and the
dynamic (inherent) in (Being's) excitabil-
ity (constitute the whole's)
Cognitive (disposition, resulting in one's)
mentation that takes it as its self/Self. 21
This disturbance is already itself a pattern-
"it's patterns all the way down"-that comes-to-
light as the complexity called "mind/mentation"
(sems). In a lengthy passage whose beginning is
relevant to the present context, we are told:
The quincunx of disturbances (rlung) in
Being is the mind/mentation's lighting-up
The quincunx ofthe elemental forces (as
concretizations of Being's) quincunx of
luminescences Cod) is the mind/
mentation's lighting-up mode;
The quincunx ofrays oflight (zer) (as
concretizations of Being's) quincunx of
luminescences is the mind/mentation's
lighting-up mode.
Before going into the details of the ego/self
syndrome and mutual complicity, rather than
complementarity, two passages may be quoted
because they contain (and elucidate) terms that
occur over and over again in the probing of this
22 The lnternationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
problem, and the question of why and how things
go wrong (for which the technical term is 'khrul-
pa "errancy"). The first one states:
Indeed, although there is nothing wrong
(,khrul-med) with the ego!"I"
It is because ofthe dynamic in the ego!"I" that
something seems to go wrong.
To give an example: although in the bright sky
There may be no clouds and no mist,
Clouds and mist arise incidentally.
(Similarly), although there may be no
unexcitability (as such) in Being,
It is when (Being's latent) suprasensual
responsiveness and concern emerges as its
(manifest) dynamic
That that which is called "unexcitability" (ma-
rig-pa) comes about incidentally.
Restated in contemporary language,
"unexcitedness" (ma-rig-pa), the hallmark of an
ordinary sentient being (sems-can), and a
"supraconscious ecstatic intensity" (rig-pa), the
characteristic of an exceptional being, of one who
is erlichtet (alight, sangs-rgyas), are homologous
"phenomena" since they derive ("emerge") from
the same source that is Being, the whole, in its
suprasensual responsiveness to and concern with
(thugs-rje) the whole. Prosaically expressed, this
means that the universe is a gigantic fluctuation
that may be experienced as the whole's play with
itselfthrough us as its participants.
The second passage, as far it allows itselfto be
translated in the strict sense ofthe word
has this
to say:25
When the sems-nyid (that is) all-cognizance
(and) all-ecstasy26 (and also is) without any
Has established itself, in its radiance-
nothingness,28 like the [clear and wide-open]
sky, as
The radiance (of the) directly experienceable
originary awareness modes
that have been
self-originated since their incipience,
This is (what is meant by) chos-nyid.
While sems-nyid and chos-nyid admit of
multiple interpretations because they are
basically experiential and, strictly speaking,
pre ontological concepts, for brevity's sake we may
render sems-nyid by "in-tensity" and chos-nyid by
"ex-tensity." Their complementarity-the one
cannot be without the other-reflects a symmetry
transformation. Thus, the chos-nyid is the sems-
nyid's displacement transformation and, since the
sems-nyid is not a container, but open, infinite,
flawless-any closure or finiteness being, quite
literally, a flaw-the chos-nyid is also the sems-
nyid's dilation symmetry.
This idea of a dilation symmetry is clearly
recognizable by this ex-tensity's (chos-nyid) longer
and shorter qualifications as "ever expanding in
depth and width" (gting-mtha' yangs-pa) and "ever
expanding in depth" (gting yangs). It is in this
dilation symmetry that "self' (bdag) and "ego" are
its emergent phenomena. Thus:
The self (bdag) ofthe totality of the material
and immaterial is
The ex-tensity's ever expanding depth and
and similarly:31
The immaterial, self-originated, and radiant
Is the (experiencer's) real Dasein in its
expanding depth.
These quotations may intimate the cosmic
reality of the self. The anthropic reality as the
duality and/or fluctuation between what is the
status of an ordinary being and what is that of an
erlichtet being is expressed in the following
The duality of an erlichtet being and an
ordinary being resulting from (the
experiencer's) understanding or lack
Is the ex-tensity in its expanding depth as it
has emerged into the dynamic of the ego
Here it may not be out of place to say a few
words about what we call "self/Self'-a concept
lacking precision. In the Tibetan context, the term
bdag, corresponding to our "self' (written with a
small s-), usually occurs as one component in the
compound nga-bdag, referring to the egoI"I"-self
syndrome, and differs from the "Self' (written
with a capital s-). Again, in the Tibetan context,
in order to leave no doubt about what is intended
and meant, namely, the selfhood ofthe topic under
consideration, the term bdag-nyid and/or bdag-
nyid chen-po is used.
But now things get
complicated, because this bdag-nyid chen-po is
further qualified as being rtag-pa, usually and not
incorrectly rendered as "permanent." However,
this qualification flies in the face of what
Buddhism has insisted upon all the time, namely,
The Emergence of the Ego/Self Complementarity and its Beyond 23
that everything is impermanent (mi-rtag-pa).
How are we to resolve this apparent
contradiction? The answer is provided by a simple
but fundamental principle: symmetry. As we
know, symmetry offers a simple and convincing
explanation of regular patterns. An example is
crystal lattices, because their patterns are
themselves highly symmetric. But if symmetry is
fundamental, the same through all time and in
all places, how can that which is called a
wholeness (gzhi), based on "perfect symmetry,"
evolve into a diversity of different patterns such
as the ego!"I" -self syndrome and Selfi'Selfhood?
The answer again is symmetry, this time
understood in its specific sense of being a bland
uniformity as the very source of interesting
patterns, through a process known as "symmetry-
breaking." This is brought about by a disturbance
that may be deliberate, as when I throw a pebble
into a still pond, or it may be spontaneous, as
when the disturbance comes about byitselfwithin
the very system that is going to be disturbed. Since
in rDzogs-chen thinking wholeness or Being
cannot admit of anything outside itself without
losing its character of wholeness, this disturbance
occurs within it and, as we have noticed, this
feature of wholeness is so aptly called "Being's
turbulence" (gzhi-rlung). The seemingly resultant
instability of Being does not contradict its
stability. As an argument for this claim and an
example to illustrate it, the words of Ian Stewart
(1998) may be quoted:
The surface of a duneless desert is flat and
featureless-a highly symmetric state in which
every position is exactly the same as any other.
When that symmetry breaks-and it takes
little more than a breath of wind to achieve
this-the symmetric state becomes unstable.
A little bit of sand piles up here, a shallow hole
appears there. These changes to the surface
affect the flow of air, and the disturbances are
reinforced. Soon, huge dunes build up.
However, because the original system, the
hypothetical flat desert, is highly symmetric,
some of that symmetry remains in the dunes.
That's what gives them their striking patterns.
In view of the fact that in rDzogs-chen thinking
the selflSelfin-its-being-itself(bdag-nyid chen-po)
is the whole (gzhi) and yet only an emergent
phenomenon of it (snang), its stability (rtag-pa)
is described in terms that are equally applicable
to the whole. This means that the self/Self is,
strictly speaking, an approximation symmetry
and as such can and must be cultivated (bsgom)
in order to become the experiencer's enlivening
experience. It should not come as a surprise that
as an experience it shares the features of the
whole, imaged as a bland symmetry likened to
the frozen surface of a lake with no elevations or
depressions in it, a fertile field, a king's treasury,
and pure gold-the latter image serving to
highlight the whole's value.
The technical term for what I have called
cultivation (sgom / bsgom), is usually rendered as
"meditation." Like most such loose renderings, it
completely fails to convey what is actually meant.
First of all, it should be clearly noted and
constantly borne in mind that what we refer to
as "meditation" varies in its Indo-Tibetan context
from person to person, both with respect to that
person's intellectual acumen and his sociocultural
Secondly, there is a further distinction
between something that can be described as
"meditation" and something (if this designation
is still aJ:?>plicable) that is not some such thing
called "meditation." It is more of the nature of a
pointer to an experience that is best described as
"non-meditation" (mi-bsgom having a verbal
character, and bsgom-med having an ontological
character). It would far exceed the scope of this
study to go into all the details. Suffice it to
highlight the salient features of this "cultivation
of the bdag-nyid chen-po."
As a process it is, in many respects, comparable
to what Carl Gustav Jung has called a person's
"individuation process"-a process in which he
himself was involved throughout his life and
which made him a kind of seer. But there are also
far-reaching differences, because the Buddhist
rDzogs-chen thinkers were not preconditioned
and constrained by theistic postulates that, on
closer inspection, undermine the person's being-
truly -himselflherself. Being-truly -oneself means
that one stands free of what one believes to be
one's ego!"I" and of what is commonly referred to
as a self (that in one way or another remains
egologically tainted).
To the extent that the "cultivation ofthe bdag-
nyid chen-po" relates to something deemed to be
something existent, it may be conceived of as an
interiorization process. Its three phases, described
as being of an external (phyi), an internal (nang),
and an arcane (gsang) nature, may be explicated
by making use
of the mathematical concept of
24 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
phase space-a geometric image in which every
aspect that emerges is surrounded by a halo of
aspects that didn't-but could have been present.
Phase spaces are vast-they contain all
possibilities, not just a few. Phase spaces have a
dynamic that prepares the system, such as a living
being, for exploring the space or dimension of the
adjacent possible. Thus, the first phase space, the
"external," described as a relaxing in body, speech,
and mind, and a persevering in a mood oflaissez-
faire-ism, prepares the experiencer for the
exploration of the second phase space, the
"internal." This is described as an imaginative
recapitulation ofthe experiencer's physico-psychic
origin. As a kind of inner landscape it is, on the
physical side, made up of the inner organs such
as the intestines, heart, and lungs and so on, and
of the complexity of the neural network. And on
the psychic side it is a kind of moving from a static
structure-oriented perspective to a more dynamic
process-oriented one, including aspects (that
become refined through learning) such as seeing
in perspective or the continuity of areas and
spaces. It also makes use of creative features such
as emphasizing and preferring certain forms and
colors, and suppressing certain details and
"turbulences" that might disturb the chosen model
of "reality." It is here that the experiencer's
critically appreciative acumen (shes-rab) and
efficacy in dealing with the emergent situation
(thabs) are of utmost importance. Though still
limited in scope, this phase space may, for all
practical purposes, be associated with "one's self'
(bdag). But this "one's self' is not the same as the
"Self," the bdag-nyid chen-po.
It is in the third phase space, called "the
arcane," that this "one's self' (bdag) is superseded
by the self-reflexive mind (rang-rig).36 Here, as
Erich Jantsch (1980) has succinctly pointed out:
... the processing and organization of
information become independent not only of
metabolic processes, but also of direct sensory
impact. The self-reflexive mind may now
become totally emancipated and set out on its
own course of evolution. It is not "we" who
think, but "it" thinks in us. (p. 164)
In other words, information becomes in-
formation in the true sense of the word, and
corresponds to a specific dynamic regime of a self-
organizing system such as a human being. No
extraneous baggage is needed.
In more evocative language this phase space
is described as involving three concurrent
(1) Having the king firmly seated on his throne,
(2) Having the minister imprisoned, and
(3) Keeping the populace in check.
The "king" is explicated as the self-reflexive
mind (rang-rig) and the "throne" as the
dimensionality of meanings stored and/or in statu
nascendi, accessible to and at the disposal of the
king's originary awareness modes, the "minister"
as the mind (sems),38 and the "populace" as the
five senses.
Despite its political imagery we
should be wary of misconstruing it as a political
manifesto and, in so doing, displaying our
ignorance about our own and any other group's
sociocultural background, and in our hubris
imposing our ignorance on whosoever or whatever
we want to control.
After this excursion into the experiencer's
individuation process as a way of becoming
authentically himself (bdag-nyid / bdag-nyid chen-
po) let us return to the ego!"I" (nga) and self (bdag)
syndrome and mutual complicity, if not to say
near-identity, as the greatest obstacle on this way.
This obstacle is variously referred to as an
"adversary/enemy" (dgra) or as a "demon/sorcerer"
('gong-po), the former, though basically presenting
the blindly instinctual, having something human
about him, the latter, though still presenting the
instinctual with an admixture of cunningness,
being thoroughly demonic. In any case, the
expression Jgong-po nga-bdag is a recurrent
locution. In particular, whether understood as an
adversary or as a demon, this ego/"I" -self
syndrome is tied to the instinctual-affective,
conceived of as something polluting that, quite
literally and figuratively, poisons the whole
system and the atmosphere in which it lives. The
genesis of the enemy-demon complicity is due to
the dynamic aspect (rtsal) gaining the upper hand
in the otherwise quiet dimensionality of Being's
(creative) ex-tensity (chos-nyid). Thus we are
Although in the primordial vortex, (Being's)
ex-tensity (that is) the mother (of all that is
to be) there is no separability, (it so happens
The Emergence o/the EgolSelfComplementarity and its Beyond 25
With the lighting-up of its (inner) dynamic
with its "feelers" (as) its children, (these
children) appearing as enemies, are
(mis)taken as enemies (such that)
The three poisons are a chronic disease (that)
Is overcome by the elixir that is (the
individual's triune forestructure
experienced as his) corporeality, voice, and
spirituality. The source of these enemies is a demon (who
perpetuates) the ego/"l"-self (syndrome).
The "stuff' of which these enemies are made, Strictly speaking, there is more to this passage
are the three pollutants (or) poisons
than meets the eye. There are at least three com-
The associates of these enemies are the five plementarities involved. The one is the complemen-
pollutants (or) poisons,42 and tarity of the ego!"!" syndrome (nga-bdag) and the
The supporters ofthese enemies are the eighty- Self (bdag-nyid / bdag-nyid chen-po). 46 The other is
(four) thousand pollutants. the complementarity of the life-threatening poi-
In more modern terms, it is the instinctual- son (dug) and the life-enhancing elixir (bdud-rtsi).
affective that mili- ,...-_______________________ -, The third comple-
tates against the F" mentarity is the one
19ure 1
spiritual. In the Th 1 fth C I d d al of the instinctual-
e Comp exity 0 e oncrete n ivi u
mythopoeic r D- affective-emotional
zogs-chen context, The ego!"!" syndrome (nga-bdag) <_> The Self (bdag-nyid) (nyon-mongs) and
this aspect of ours the fore structures
was envisioned as The poisons (dug) <_> The elixirs (bdud-rtsi) of the individual's
both a hostile army mental-spiritual ex-
that has to be re- The instinctual (nyon-mongs) <_> The forestructures (sku) istentiality (sku),
pelled and a viru- with its implied
lent poison that (Here <_> means complementarity) functionality of
has to be eliminat- their originary
L-_______________________________________________ ~
ed from the sys- awareness modes.
tern. Since rDzogs-chen thinking was experience- The above can be diagrammed as in Figure 1.
oriented, emphasis was placed on intrapsychic While in the above-quoted passage the emphasis
process, for which the idea of poison as a directly has been on the three poisons, in their giving rise
felt impact on the system was an apt illustration. to the instinctual, constituting the experiencer's
So the question of how this poison is made inef- chronic disease that affects him "from deep
fectual is repeatedly asked and answered. As an within," there is another passage, also by
example the following passage from one of Pad- Padmasambhava, that explicates this nefarious
masambhava's writings is highly instructive:
working of the three poisons in a more
The three poisons are overcome [and realized
to be an individual's triune fore-
that is experienced as his]
corporeality, voice, and spirituality.
How are (the three poisons) overcome?
The poison that is the dullness-darkness (of
his ego!"l" -self syndrome) is overcome by the
elixir that is the bodily felt fore structure of
his being sheer meaning (chos-sku),45
The poison that is the irritation-aversion (of
his ego!"l" -self syndrome) is overcome by the
elixir that is the felt fore structure and
pattern of his being a-world-of-possibilities
(that are to be voiced and communicated,
The poison that is the cupidity-attachment (of
his ego!"l" -self syndrome) is overcome by the
elixir that is the fore structure and pattern
of his being a guiding image (sprul-sku).
"personalistic" manner and, as may be expected,
assumes a more violent character:47
The executioner who is the self-originated
originary awareness mode(s)
Tears out the very substance of the demon who
is the ego/"l"-self syndrome (so that)
It abides in and as the self-originated
awareness mode(s) as such.
After the great hero who is the unitrinity of
the forestructures (of the experiencer's
existen tiali ty)
Has torn out the very stuff that is (the
experiencer's) three poisons as the
instinctual (in him),
He forces his way into the castle (from which)
the unitrinity of three forestructures will
Having killed dullness-darkness he sees
(himself as) the chos-sku,
26 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Having killed irritability-aversion he sees
(himself as) the longs-sku,
Having killed cupidity-attachment he sees
(himself as) the sprul-sku.
(This means that) by killing/eliminating the
three poisons one sees the three fore-
structures (in their unitrinity).
There is still another way of seeing the poisons,
now augmented to five, as a hostile army with
which one must do battle, not only in order to
avert its onslaught but, more importantly, to crush
the enemies. There is no better introduction to
this topic than the German poet Friedrich
Holderlin's (1770-1843) dictum,
Wo aber Gefahr ist, wachst
Das Rettende auch
(But where there is danger, there also grows
That which will help).
-Patmos (1803, printed 1808)
The "actual" situation, though still "located" in
the imaginal realm of the psyche, is presented in
the form of a question-answer dialogue between
two femininities (mkha'-'gro-ma). Ofthese, the one
asking questions, the Rin-chen mkha'-'gro-ma,
presents the restfulness ofthis dimensionality, and
the one answering the questions, the Las-kyi
mkha'-'gro-ma, presents the dynamic of this
The executioner who cuts these enemies' vein
of life
Is a butcher, self-originated and self-dissolving.
Having chosen as his companion the dimension
that is utterly free from conceptual
He has enlisted as his helpers (the whole's)
nonbirth and symbolic pregnance.
With his sword that is his appreciative-
discerning acumen (shes-rab)
He destroyed, in the no-man's-land between
light and darkness,
The three culs-de-sac.
(Then) inside the
entrance to the fortress,
In a room (harboring) the egological mind with
its three functions,50 (he found)
The (main) enemy, the ego!"I" -self syndrome
The butcher, self-originated and shining in his
own luminosity,
Cut this enemy's throat with his sword that is
his appreciative-discerning acumen (and)
With the adamantine hook [that is his efficacy,
thabs] he tore out the (enemy's) heart.
Having cut the enemy's (vein of) life that is
(the system's) state of unexcitedness (and
unexcitability), the ego!''!'' -self syndrome,
He submerged (himself) in the dimensionality
in which birth and death had been
completely eradicated (and now)
Resided in the vortex of (the whole's) radiant
light that is its symbolic pregnance. (In
other words)
This great hero, (in whom) the three fore-
structures (of his authentic existentiality)
are present of their own accord,
Has cut the veins oflife of (the enemies') leader,
which are (dullness-darkness,) irritability-
aversion, and cupidity-attachment.
(When) in this manner the (other) enemies'
vein of life had been cut, (what was left)
Turned into the (dimensionality of) no-birth,
symbolic pregnance, and dynamic
In this dimension in which there is nothing to
do (on purpose) and which lies beyond the
scope of the (purposing) intellect, he
submerged (himself) (and as a consequence)
He (stood) free of the notions (chos-can) that
are the constraints of his supraconscious
ecstatic intensity (and what prevailed) as
The ever expanding depth and width of
(Being's creative) ex-tensity (chos-nyid)51-
(Everything) had turned into the vortex ofthat
for which there is no name and in which
(all the intellect's) limitations had been
Two points are to be noted. The one is that the
cutting ofthe vein oflife ofthe (inner) demon ('gong-
po) and his associates (dgra) is done by the
appreciative discriminative acumen of the
(authentic) Self (bdag-nyid), which means coming
to face with this inner demon and recognizing him
to be a fake. This "coming face to face"52 with the
demon, in whom the instinctual manifests itself
in a more humanly tangible form, involves his
undoing by means of the experiencer-qua-Self's
appreciative-discerning acumen (shes-rab), (that
recognizes him for what he is), and efficacy (thabs)
(that deals him the death-stroke). It leads, if
this is still the right word, to a deeply felt
understanding, if not to say, innerstanding (rtogs)
of wholeness, making utterly futile any ego!"I" -self
motivated endeavors to reject something in the
vain hope of gaining something. It is through this
understanding/innerstanding that the experiencer-
qua-Self stands free from (grol) the instinctual and
what is its misplaced concreteness. And so the
"Teacher" tells his audience:
The Emergence o/the EgolSelfComplementarity and its Beyond 27
The manner in which the experiencer-qua-Self
stands free from the instinctual without
having rejected it is as follows:
Without having rejected dullness-darkness
(he) stands free as the chos-sku,
Without having rejected irritability-aversion
(he) stands free as the longs-sku,
Without having rejected cupidity-attachment
(he) stands free as the sprul-sku,
Without having rejected arrogancechubris (he)
stands free as the indivisibility (that is
Without having rejected envy-grudge (he)
stands free as bliss supreme.
The intent of this quotation is clear: the
individuated person, to use a Jungian term, lives
simultaneously in two worlds: the world of his
everyday life that, whether he likes it or not, is
very much dominated by the instinctual; and the
world of the spirit/spiritual, of which in rare
moments he catches a glimpse that makes his
everyday life liveable.
The second point to note is the reference to
"that for which there is no name" (ming-med)-
an expression frequently used by Padmasambhava.
Due to the thingifying tendency of the egological
mind, the egol"I"-self syndrome, it may be
misunderstood as being "some thing," which it is
not. Rather, this misunderstanding, like all other
misunderstandings on which one's commonly
accepted "reality" rests and thrives, is a formidable
barrier to one's individuation process, and, like an
arduous mountain pass, has to be crossed (la zla).
Thus we are told and admonished:
Since the facets of the play staged by the
"feelers" (extended) by the self-originated
self-(emergent) dynamic
From the primordial ex-tensity (of Being) for
which there is no name and which has
nothing to do with birth
Is the (dimension of the whole) having gone
astray due to the impact of the intellect's
postulates, cross this mountain pass.
1. For a trenchant critique see Dineen (1996), Szasz (1988,
1997), and Webster (1995), to mention only a few
outstanding works.
2. As a matter offact Freud was so obsessed with his sexual
theory that in this respect he was in no way different from
any religious fanatic. This fanaticism cost him many
friendships. For details see Hannah (1997, pp. 88-91, 101,
3. The oldest and most general use ofthis term goes back
to ancient Greek philosophy. For Plato it is the principle
oflife, a distinguishing feature of organisms, the animator
of any animated (thing) or "ensouled" thing (empsykhon).
Aristotle, in his De anima, counts self-nutrition,
reproduction, movement, perception, and, maybe as an
afterthought, thinking as "psychical" powers, and goes on
to speculate that the rational part of the psyche may be
separable from the body. Aristotle's pseudo-scientific
thinking lingers on in the modern body-mind problem.
The corresponding adjective "psychic" is generally and
loosely used as pertaining to the mind and that which is
mental. In this sense it is more or less synonymous with
psychological. In a narrower sense, it pertains to various
aspects of psychology, foremost among them
"spiritualism." Another use pertains to psychogenic or
functional disorders. The ancient Greeks' materialistic
conception of the psyche and the psychic/psychological has
not been very conducive to a clear understanding.
4. There are two related passages: III 4.2 and III 7.1-23.
The above quotation is taken from III 7.23. I have
paraphrased the Sanskrit word antarytimin by: "he who
is in charge of everything from within," where "everything"
sums up the detailed entities over which he (the Self) is
in charge. The usual rendering of this term by "controller"
seems to reflect a kind of Western dominance psychology
read into the Sanskrit text.
5. The technical Tibetan term for this "lighting-up and its
interpretation" is snang-srid. The lighting-up and its
interpretation are commensurate with each other. This is
indicated by the term kha-sbyor which, literally rendered,
means "joining (one's) mouths," and experientially
speaking, describes the felt intimacy of a kiss. A lengthy
disquisition in three installments of this theme is given
by Padmasambhava in his sNang-srid kha-sbyor bdud-
rtsi bcud-'thigs 'khor-ba thog-mtha' gcod-pa'i rgyud ("The
eradication of samsara from A to Z by a drop of the
quintessence of the elixir of immortality-Cthe whole's]
lighting-up and its interpretation in joining each other in
the intimacy of a kiss"). There are several recorded editions
of this text. None of them has been studied in itself or in
comparison with the others to this very day.
6. sKu'i rgyud Padma 'khyil-ba, 4: 302a; Taipei ed., vol.
55, p. 442, column 7.
7. The Tibetan phrase nga med-pa'i sngon-rol-na is usually
rendered as "before I existed." However, philosophically
speaking, this rendering fails to take into account the
ontological character of the "Before." Mathematically
speaking, it fails to recognize its character of "symmetry."
What does symmetry mean? As 1. Stewart and J. Cohen
(1997, p. 170) have pointed out:
The word "symmetry" is used rather loosely in ordinary
speech, to mean some kind of repetitive pattern or even
just "elegance ofform." Mathematicians use the term in
a much more specific way: a symmetry of an object is
transformation that leaves it looking exactly the same.
28 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
For the benefit of a reader not familiar with
mathematicians' jargon it may be pointed out that by
"object" the authors understand any subject matter under
As we shall see, rDzogs-chen thinkers developed the
idea of their "Before" in terms of what nowadays we would
call "symmetry-breaking" and "phase space."
8. On the significance of this idea see Guenther (1996, p.
94 n. 50).
9. This term, sangs-rgyas in Tibetan, describes the
experience of one's mental-spiritual darkness dissipating
and, with this dissipation, the light-that-we-are spreading.
It is unfortunate that a deeply moving experience has been
misplaced and misconstrued into a dull Buddha-thing and
commercially exploited idol.
10. Bothye andgdod-ma are nouns and suggest a beginning
as a no-beginning. The phrases ye-nas andgdod-nas might
be clumsily rendered as "from the perspective of the ye "
and "from the perspective of the gdod-ma," the ye
antedating, as it were, the gdod-ma.
11. For details see Guenther (1996), p. 73.
12. Sangs-rgyas kun-gyi dgongs-pa'i bcud-bsdus ri-bo
brtsegs-pa, 3: 9a.
13. rGyud thams-cad-kyi rgyal-po Nyi-zla'i snying-po 'od-
'bar-ba bdud-rtsi rgya-mtsho 'khyil-ba, 3: 21b. This work
will henceforth be quoted under the short title Nyi-zla'i
snying-po 'od-'bar-ba.
14. These are the chos-sku, longs-sku, and sprul-sku. A
detailed "explanation" would require lengthy chapters
concerning each of these forestructures.
15. These are the more or less well-known "pollutants"
(nyon-mongs): "(mental-spiritual) dullness-darkness" (gti-
mug), "irritability-aversion-hatred" (zhe-sdang), and
"passionate attachment," "cupidity-addiction" Cdod-chags).
16. Tib. zhing-khams. The best explanation of this
compound (zhing and khams) is found in Khrag-'thung rol-
pa'i rdo-rje's Dag-snang ye-shes dra-ba-las gnas-lugs rang-
byung-gi rgyud rdo-rje snying-po, p. 266:
One speaks of zhing, because it is like a field in the
sense that it is the source from which Being's lighting-
up as samsara and/or nirvana spreads, as well as in
the sense that it has become the universe of man's
cognitive domain. One speaks of khams, because in
whatever sensuous mode samsara and nirvana
manifest themselves, they have the same flavor by
virtue of being the expression of man's potential as his
optimization thrust.
Specifically these supramundane realms are, each in
its own way, related to man's three existential
forestructures (on which see above n. 14). In this sense
we might conceive of these forestructures as excitations
of their environing fields from which they cannot be
separated as monolithic entities.
17. Tib. 'khor-logsum. Padmasambhava's bDud-rtsi bcud-
thigs sgron-ma brtsegs-pa, 2: 325, explains this technical
phrase to the effect that the rig-pa, "the supraconscious
ecstatic intensity," the yid, "the egological mind," and the
sems, "mentation/mentality as the individual's ontic
foundation," fail to hold to their legitimate place, that is,
the ground-that-is-not (gzhi/gzhi-med). It is easy to see
in this 'khor-lo gsum what a mathematician calls
"rotational symmetry." What this means may be
illustrated by the rotation of a square whose position in
space cannot (and must not) be altered. To preserve this
position the axis must pass through the center. Ifthe axis
is perpendicular to the plane of the square, any rotation
will leave the square in its original plane. Three rotations
by 90', 180' or 270' leave the square indistinguishable
from its original state.
In mythopoeic imagery the "environment" or "realm"
of which the chos-sku is, so to say, the "excitation," is a
sheer radiance Cod-gsal rdo-rje snying-po). Its
"environment" or "realm," of which the longs-sku is its
excitation, is the "sound waves issuing from the drum that
is being beaten by Being's personification as Brahma"
(tshangs-pa'i rnga-sgra), and the "environment" or "realm"
(of which the sprul-sku is its excitation) is Mahabrahma
(tshangs-pa chen-po) in whom we can easily recognize the
Brahmil sahampati of the Pali tradition. These images
reflect the Indian contribution to the evolution ofrDzogs-
chen thought.
18. It is interesting to note that the illustrative images
for this bland uniformity or symmetry, carrying with it
the idea of being something static, are thoroughly dynamic
in rDzogs-chen thinking: mkha'-klong "the sky/space
vortex" and rgya-mtsho-klong "the ocean vortex."
19. Nyi-zla 'od-'bar mkha'-klong rnam-dag rgya-mtsho
gsal-ba, 1: 123a.
20. Kun-tu-bzang-mo klong-gsal 'bar-ma nyi-ma'i gsang-
rgyud, 25: 367a.
21. The text continues stating that this self/Self is a
quincunx of originary awareness modes that tend to
condense into the five elemental forces and, in so doing,
undergo a symmetry break into an original radiance and
a set of phonemes resulting in dichotomic thought
22. Nam-mkha' 'bar-ba'i rgyud, 1: 95b.
23. Kun-tu-bzang-mo klong-gsal 'bar-ma nyi-ina'i gsang-
rgyud, 25: 366a.
24. By "translation" I understand the conveyance of the
meaning in one language into that of another language,
not a mechanical transposition of a word in one language
into that of another language, reflecting the mechanic's
total lack of context awareness.
25. rDzogs-pa-chen-po'i cig-chod kun-grol chen-po, 25:
389a. Because of the intricacy of both the original text
and its translation, the original is here quoted in full:
The Emergence o/the EgolSelfComplementarity and its Beyond 29
sems-nyid kun-shes kun-rig dri-med 'di
gsal stong nam-mkha' lta-bur gdod-ma-nas
rang-byung ye-shes mngon-sum gsal-ba-ru
gtan-la phebs-na de-ka chos-nyid yin
26. The compound shes-rig is split into its two components
shes and rig, each of which is qualified by kun meaning
"all" in the sense of "through and through." shes can be
likened to the "ground state" of sems-nyid and rig to its
"excited state." In their coherence these two "states"
describe what we would call a fluctuation.
27. This qualifying term describes the bland uniformity of
the mathematician's idea of symmetry as a dynamic
concept, and links up with the image ofthe clear and open
sky that, in r Dzogs-chen thought, is far from being a static
28. In the compound gsal-stong both components have a
verbal character. While we have no difficulty in expressing
this verbal character ofgsal, when necessary, as "radiating,"
we have considerable difficulties in rendering stong
adequately. A. N. Whitehead's "not allowing permanent
structures to persist" comes closest to what the Tibetan
term intends. The rendering of this term by "empty"
(because its Sanskrit corresponding term sunya is an
adjective, not a verb) is plain nonsense. "Empty," as well as
its noun form "emptiness" (sunyata) are container
metaphors. And sems-nyid as an epistemological-ontological
concept is certainly not a container.
29. There is a close connection betweenye-shes "originary
awareness mode(s)" andgdod-ma "incipience." Bothye and
gdod-ma refer to a beginning such that ye antedates, as it
were, the gdod-ma. This would imply that (any) ye-shes is
a kind of Ur-wissen as a potentiality, that in its becoming
actual reminds us of the famous dictum by the German
poet N ovalis (Friedrich Leopold, FreiheIT von Hardenberg):
Aller Anfang ist schon ein zweiter Anfang
(Every beginning is already a second beginning).
30. Nyi-zla'i snying-po 'od-'bar-ba, 3: 20b.
31. Ibid.
32. Ibid., fo1. 21b.
33. The qualifying adjective chen-po is, grammatically
speaking, an elative: "there could be nothing greater,"
hence the expression bdag-nyid chen-po means: "there
could be nothing greater than this Self."
34. Bang-mdzod 'phrul-gyi lde'u-mig, 6: 162a.
35. I avoid the current rendering of this term by "secret,"
because it is a mystery-monger's commercial ploy. The
wordgsang is an experiential term: what is so referred to
must be experienced in order to be known.
36. To be very precise, the Tibetan term rang-rig
corresponds to the Sanskrit word suasariwitti, a key
concept of the Indian Mimiinisaka system of philosophy.
It means that the individual's cognitive capacity/quality
(rig, saniuit) is autonomous (rang, sua) and does not
depend on something other than itself.
37. In order to avoid any misunderstanding and rash
conclusions regarding the use of "we" and "it" by Erich
J antsch in the above quotation, it may be pointed out that,
though this use seems to be similar to Carl Gustav Jung's
use of "personality No. I" and "personality No.2," the
difference is enormous. J antsch speaks from the
perspective of a system as a whole; Jung speaks from the
perspective of what may be said to be aspects of the whole.
Certainly, a psychopathic condition is not the same as
being an individuated person: it is the very opposite, if
not to say, the negation of it.
38. The term "mind" (sems) is here used in a rather
sweeping manner. In itself it comprises a variety of
pre sensory functions and in this sense can be said to be
an individual's ontic foundation as the basis of his
intellectual (mental/spiritual) horizon. Within the
hierarchical organization of the individual's psyche it
ranks lower than what is referred to by rig-pa and/or rang-
rig with its functions as probes of its depth.
39. sPros-bral don-gsal, 1: 48ab.
40. sNang-srid kha-sbyor bdud-rtsi bcud-thigs, 2: 234b.
41. These are dullness-darkness in the sense of spiritual
unexcitedness and unexcitability, irritation-aversion-
hatred, and passionate attachment/cupidity-addiction.
42. These are the same as those listed in note 41,
augmented by arrogance and envy.
43. Nyi-zla'i snying-po 'od-'bar-ba, 3: 22ab.
44. This triad of sku gsung thugs differs markedly from
the triad lus ngag sems. Both triads are usually rendered
as "body," "speech," and "mind." The former triad belongs
to the level of experiential thinking that does not allow of
clear-cut demarcations. Hence, this unitrinity has been
rendered slightly unconventionally, though it is
phenomenologically precise. The latter triad belongs to
the level of representational thinking with all its
fragmentizing features.
45. The contrast between and/or the complementarity of
dullness-darkness (gti-mug) and the light that is the chos-
sku is clearly stated by Padmasambhava in his sPros-bral
don-gsal, 1: 55a:
When the chos-sku radiates, organismic
thinking comes to nought,
And 1: 55b:
With the chos-sku radiating, dichotomic
thinking diminishes.
46. Linguistically speaking, the nyid in the bdag-nyid
points beyond itself to wholeness (or Being-qua-being) that
makes it possible for althe Self to be.
47. Nyi-zla'i snying-po 'od-'bar-ba, 3: 25b.
48. Ibid., fo1. 26b. In this quote only the answer has been
30 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
49. These are the three hierarchically organized levels of
the individual's psychophysical dimension: the level of
sensuality, the level of aesthetic patterns, and the level of
no patterns whatsoever.
50. These are its "overall searching," its "determining the
object of its search," and its "settling on it." The implication
is that the egological mind deals with idees fixes.
51. Though not explicitly stated, a triad of phase space is
understood: chos-nyid -> chos-can -> chos, where chos-
nyid (Being's ex-tensity as the dimension where meanings
are stored or in statu nascendi) is what we tend to call
the creative vacuum; chos-can (that which is of the nature
of chos-nyid) is, in phenomenological diction, Being's
openness closing-in onto itself; and chos is this closure in
misplaced concreteness.
52. A detailed account of this "coming face to face" (ngo-
sprod), found in several works by Padmasambhava, would
go beyond the scope of this essay.
53. Nyi-zla'i snying-po 'od-'bar-ba, 3: 25a.
54. Ibid., fo1. 30b.
A. Works in English
Dineen, T. (1996). Manufacturing victims: What the psychol-
ogy industry is doing to people. Montreal: Robert Davies.
Guenther, H. (1996). The Teachings of Padmasambhava.
Leiden: Brill.
Hannah, B. (1997). Jung: His life and work. Wilmette, IL:
Chiron Publications.
Jantsch, E. (1980). The self-organizing universe: Scientific
and human implications of the emerging paradigm of evo-
lution. Oxford, England: Pergamon Press.
Stewart, I. (1998). Life's other secret: The new mathematics
of the living world. New York: Wiley.
Stewart, I., & Cohen, J. (1997). Figments of reality: The evo-
lution of the curious mind. New York: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press.
Szasz, T. S. (1988). The myth of psychotherapy: Mental heal-
ing as religion, rhethoric, and repression. Syracuse, NY:
Syracuse University Press.
Szasz, T. S. (1997). The manufacture of madness: A compara-
tive study of the Inquisition and the mental health move-
ment. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press
Webster, R. (1995). Why Freud was wrong: Sin, science, and
psychoanalysis. New York: Basic Books.
B. Works in Tibetan
Unless stated otherwise all works are quoted from the Derge
(sDe-dge) edition of the rNying-ma'i rgyud-'bum by volume
and folio number, as well as from the Taipei edition of the
Tibetan Tripitaka, by volume, page, and column number.
The Emergence of the Ego/Self Complementarity and its Beyond 31
32 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi
A Transpersonal Anthropologist Looks at the Anima
Charles D. Laughlin
Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
International Consciousness Research Laboratories (ICRL)
Men past their midlives may become involved in a dialogue with their own unconscious. This dialogue
often takes the form offemale and female-related imagery and feelings that represent hidden mental
processes in the self. C. G. Jung called the producer of these images and feelings the anima (or the
animus in women), the harbinger of the contrasexual aspects of our being. We often come to know the
anima by becoming aware of the qualities we project upon our contrasexual Other. The author, a
trans personal anthropologist, explores his own forty years of encounters with his anima, beginning with
spontaneous and ecstatic "mandala experiences," and proceeding through decades of meditation and
study in the traditions of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, the Western mysteries, and Navajo religion. He
argues that engagement with the anima is a hermeneutic process, and that traditional societies often
have an intact, mystical cycle of meaning within which such experiences make sense. Euroamerican
) contemplatives, however, are frequently in the position of having to create their own cycle of meaning,
because their enculturation does not inform their personal anima experiences. The role of culture in
mediating anima/us related interpretations is discussed, and a model is presented that may help guide
practitioners to a better understanding of how their psyches work, relative to both their conscious-
unconscious and their personal and cultural conditioning. The author concludes with an argument in
favor of a closer integration of trans personal psychology and transpersonal anthropology.
Not all the contents of the anima and animus
are projected .. . Many of them appear
spontaneously in dreams and so on, and many
more can be made conscious through active
imagination. In this way we find that
thoughts, feelings, and affects are alive in us
which we would never have believed possible.
Naturally, possibilities of this sort seem utterly
fantastic to anyone who has not experienced
them himself, for a normal person "knows
what he thinks." Such a childish attitude on
the part of the "normal person" is simply the
rule, so that no one without experience in this
field can be expected to understand the real
nature of anima and animus.
-Jung, Aion (1951/1959, p. 19)
T ALL BEGAN nearly forty years ago when I
awoke early one morning staring at the
world through a mandala. I don't mean
mandala in a metaphoric sense, but quite
literally. I came out of sleep and into waking
awareness in a state of bliss and looking at my
room filtered through the most exquisitely
complex and colorful mandala. It was a living
thing and pulsed in synchrony with the rhythm of
bliss energies I felt coursing through my body.
The experience lasted for only a few minutes and
then subsided. The mandala image faded as the
bliss energies faded. It is hard to describe the
complexity of the image, for no matter how
proficient an artist I might have been, there is no
way I could ever have rendered the image
accurately on paper. It was made up of hundreds
ofthousands of fine, radiant colored lines, like a
multicolored, pulsing doily or circular lacework
made of pure energy hanging in front of my eyes.
The ambient light in my bedroom was dim, but I
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 33-52 33
© 2001 by Panigada Press
could discern the normal objects in the room
through the gauzelike filter of the mandala.
This experience scared me. In fact I became
furious with a friend with whom I had had coffee
the night before, thinking that she had spiked my
drink with some kind of drug. That was before I
myself had explored psychoactive substances,
and I was very naive about such things. Of course
my friend had not inflicted any drugs on me, nor
was she the kind of person who would have done
such a thing. As it turned out, this was the first of
many such mandala experiences that I was to
have over the years, and I quite naturally became
very curious about their phenomenology. The
experiences in those early days were always
spontaneous, and I had no notion that I could
willfully produce them. They were essentially
hypnopompic images and they all shared a
common structure:
1. The Visual Aspect. An intense visual
experience consisting of an intricate pattern of
bright colored, infinitesimal lines-the total
configuration corresponding to a classical
mandala (i.e., a pattern that manifests a
definite center, is symmetrical about that
center, and is circular while at the same time
"quaternary"; see Argiielles and Argiielles,
1972). The pattern is so intense that it may be
perceived for a few minutes or longer after
awakening, with the eyes open or closed, even
in a lighted environment.
2. The Affective Aspect. An intense and active
state of euphoria not associated with the
ingestion of drugs. This affective state
corresponds in intensity and decay rate with
the visual aspect and is a similar state to that
experienced in deep meditation or trance.
Over the years I have spoken with a few people
who have had similar experiences of mandalas in
their waking consciousness-usually during
meditation sessions-and many more people who
recall mandala motifs arising in their dreams.
The direct experience of spontaneous, eidetic
mandala imagery while people are awake,
however, appears to be a fairly rare event. I am
still not clear as to whether or not the mandala
experience occurs in all persons during their
dream life, or merely in a significant few. But that
it is experienced by some people in all societies is
quite likely, for the mandala motif in company
with other images expressing the wholeness of
the self is-as Jung (1951/1959) noted inAion-a
virtual cultural universal. The appearance ofthe
mandala motif in religious and nonreligious
symbolism is very widespread among the world's
societies. It is present in the iconography of
Buddhist sects, Australian aborigines, and
various Plains Indian groups, as well as Western
Christianity, to mention but a few examples.
Jung and the Mandala
UNG WAS, of course, fascinated by the mandala.
But I was unaware of Jung or of his interest
uring those early years of spontaneous
transpersonal episodes and later drug-induced
My first encounter with Jung and
his interest in mandala symbolism was profound
and significant. A decade after my own first
mandala experience, I was browsing in a bookstore
and found a copy of Jung's Mandala Symbolism
(1959/1972). As I leafed through the plates, I was
struck by the remarkable similarity between four
ofthose images and my own mandala experiences.
So I bought the book, and only later did I discover
in an editorial footnote that the four plates I had
identified were the very four, and the only four,
that Jung himself painted from his own dream
This remarkable correspondence naturally
led me to study closely all of Jung's writings
pertaining to the mandala.
In a number of places, Jung (e.g., 1964) points to
the scientific significance of the mandala motif in
dreams and religious symbolism around the
world. Jung described the phenomenon as follows:
The Sanskrit word mandala means "circle" in
the ordinary sense of the word. In the sphere
of religious practices and in psychology it
denotes circular images, which are drawn,
painted, modeled, or danced. Plastic structures
of this kind are to be found, for instance, in
Tibetan Buddhism, and as dance figures these
circular patterns occur also in Dervish
monasteries. As psychological phenomena
they appear spontaneously in dreams, in
certain states of conflict, and in cases of
schizophrenia. Very frequently they contain a
quaternityor a multiple offour, in the form of
a cross, a star, a square, an octagon, etc. In
alchemy we encounter this motifin the form of
quadratura circuli. (1959/1972, p. 3)
J ung firmly believed in the existence of the
universal or "collective" unconscious, as well as in
the fundamental tendency of humans to reason
by constructing binary oppositions, or antinomies.
34 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Jung felt the mandala to be the key to human
symbolism because it is a primal archetype.
such it often represents both the self and the
unification or nexus of all possible oppositions
(Jung 195V1959, p. 31). Among other contexts, the
mandala is encountered by the conscious ego in
that of dreaming. But one thing that impressed me
from the beginning is that, although Jung did
encounter mandala motifs in his dreams and in his
automatic painting exercises, he apparently did
not encounter eidetic mandala imagery in the
waking state in either hypnagogic/hypnopompic
states or contemplative visions. This difference in
our respective experiences of the mandala turns
out to be crucial, for so far as I can tell, Jung never
fully appreciated the mandala as a type of anima
imagery, or as a doorway to the anima. His
interpretation of mandala images was limited to
an expression of the wholeness of the self
Mandala As Anima
ET ME continue with my own mandala saga
and I will return to this point in a moment. In
working with these spontaneous mandala
experiences, I learned that I could gain some
measure of control over the experience by the
exercise of concentration upon the center of the
image. The more intense and unbroken my
concentration became, the longer I could hold the
image and the ecstatic affect that accompanied it.
In effect, what I was learning to do was to prolong
the hypnopompic state by stabilizing what is
normally an evanescent warp of consciousness
between the dream world and the waking world
into a more enduring state of consciousness.
initially hit upon this technique unaided, but I
later discovered that it is used to good effect in
Tibetan dream yoga for the alteration of the
hypnagogic/hypnopompic warps in order to retain
awareness during the dream phases. In this
fashion, I was able to stabilize the imagery and
affect for up to thirty minutes or more at a time.
At some point in this development, the
intricate, lacy mandalas began to morpho At first
they only became geometrically dynamic-much
like the ever-changing image in a child's
kaleidoscope-but with the difference that the
geometric imagery appeared to emerge from the
center of the mandala and flow outwards to the
edges of the visual field. Later, this process of
emergence began to take on a three-dimensional
quality and became one of rushing down a long,
geometrically intricate tunnel. If my concentration
was sufficiently intense, the tunnel experience
would open out into other kinds of visions, either
of bright lights, or of some scenario like a lucid
dream. I was not asleep, however, and was very
much awake and aware. By the later 1970s, or
about a decade and a half after the first mandala
experience, I had learned a lot about formal
meditation. During one weekend retreat, while I
was meditating upon my breath, the mandala
experience again arose.
I experienced myself
flying down the usual tunnel with ever-
increasing bliss, and into a light that became
brighter and brighter until brilliant white light
pervaded my entire consciousness and the bliss
had increased to the point of almost unendurable
ecstasy. When I slowly returned to the awareness
of my tingling and twitching body and my
surroundings, I found I was lying on the floor,
curled up in the fetal position, ten feet from the
chair I had been sitting in when the experience
had begun. I retained no memory of how I had
gotten there.
As it turned out, this was the first time that
the mandala experience had morphed into a
birthing experience, an initiation as it were. It
became an exploration that was to unfold for
some years afterwards, especially during
meditation retreats. These experiences brought
me back into contact with my birth and with the
trauma associated with that event. For some
years, I could not do breathwork without
triggering birthing experiences, sometimes
associated with mandala imagery.7
On top of this, during the latter 1970s and
early 1980s I was intensively doing the Tibetan
Tantric Buddhist foundation practices (ngon-
dro), one of which is called the "mandala practice"
or dkyil-'khor (Beyer, 1973, pp. 437ff; MacDonald,
Cove, Laughlin & McManus, 1988). This
repetitive practice involves constructing a
mandala-like form out of rice atop a round,
mirror-like surface and then wiping the surface
clean. The practitioner concentrates on the
operation of assembling and disassembling the
rice-form while repeating a chant that describes
the construction of the mandala-like mystical
cosmos surrounding the mythical Mount Sumeru.
This operation is repeated, often for hours at a
time, at least a hundred thousand times during
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi 35
the basic introductory work prior to advanced
Tantric practice.
It is not surprising that this practice deepened
and elaborated my spontaneous experiences of
mandalas, and mandala-associated birthing
experiences (a type of anima experience), and
underscored the significance of the mandala as a
"calling" as it were from the anima-the mandala
taking on the characteristics of "the womb of
form" (Namgyal Rimpoche, 1981). At such times,
our consciousness produces an experiential
surround with ourselves in the middle, which
may be considered an aspect of the Great Mother
Parenthetically, it is precisely this kind of
experience that is used to support empirically the
view of death and birth as depicted in the Tibetan
Book of the Dead (or Bardo Thodol, Tib: bar-do' i-
thos-grol; see Fremantle & Chogyam Trungpa,
1975). The Tibetan term bardo refers to the space
or gap between things, between events. A bardo is
a point of transition between one state and
another. With respect to the stream of
consciousness, bardo is equivalent to our
biogenetic structural concept of "warp" between
"phases" or states of consciousness.
With respect
to death, the bardo refers to the warp between the
end of this life and the beginning ofthe next life-
in other words, rebirth. And some of the
phenomenology arising during the bardo is said
to involve whizzing down tunnels into light and
other lucid phenomena.
The mandala experience as I have described it
is a type of anima experience, or may morph into
anima-related imagery. In terms of
psychodynamics at least, mandala motifs may
constitute anima expressions which vary in their
function and their interpretation according to
their distinct geometry and dynamics. I would
suggest at least three types of spontaneous
mandala experiences, as well as their functions:
1. Static, two-dimensional mandalas. In their
two-dimensional form without much morphing,
mandalas may emphasize union or relations
among antinomous structures. They may
constitute a "calling" from the self to greater
union, or a warning that the ego is off center in
some significant way.
2. Dynamic, two-dimensional mandalas. In
their more dynamic, kaleidoscopic, but two-
dimensional form, mandalas may express the
antinomies that arise and pass away within
the ongoing stream of consciousness. The
warning here from the self may be to attend to
the stream of consciousness and position the
awareness in the middle between the
demands and productions of binary
structures-for example, between ego and
shadow aspects.
3. Dynamic, three-dimensional mandalas. In
their dynamic and three-dimensional "tunnel-
like" form, mandalas may represent the
recurring transformation and "re-birth" which
is required for the ego to become sufficiently
flexible to incorporate both shadow and anima
materials into its increasingly dynamic
organization. This recurring process may
express the alternating coniunctio and
negrido phases of psychic growth that Jung
emphasized (Schwartz-Salant, 1998, Ch. 7).
Jung on the Anima
UNG'S DISCOVERY of the anima (Latin for
''breath,'' "soul," "shade") in males and the
animus in females is one of the main
distinguishing features of his view of
The anima/us is a:
... natural archetype that satisfactorily sums
up all the statements of the unconscious, of
the primitive mind, of the history oflanguage
and religion. It is a "factor" in the proper sense
ofthe word. Man cannot make [the anima/us];
on the contrary, it is always the a priori
element in his moods, reactions, impulses,
and whatever else is spontaneous in psychic
life. It is something that lives of itself, that
makes us live; it is a life behind consciousness
that cannot be completely integrated with it,
but from which, on the contrary, consciousness
arises. For, in the last analysis, psychic life is
for the greater part an unconscious life that
surrounds consciousness on all sides-a
notion that is sufficiently obvious when one
considers how much unconscious preparation
is needed, for instance, to register a sense-
impression. (Jung, 1940/1968a, p. 27)
The anima/us performs the bridge or mediator
function between the ego and the collective
unconscious (Jung, 1930-1934/1997, p.127; Steinberg
1993, p. 183)-that vast field of archetypal structures
that we inherit by virtue of having human brains
(Jung, 1940/1968a, pp. 27-28; see also Laughlin,
1996a).11 Jung noted that there are as many
archetypes as there are species-wide, typical
perceptions (1940/1968a, p. 48). Archetypes of the
collective unconscious are in a certain sense
36 The InternationalJournal ofTranspersonal Studies, 2001, Vol 20
indistinguishable from the instincts (1951/1959,
p. 179), and it is from the archetypal structures
that the more developed, differentiated and
mature structures of experience grow (Steinberg,
1993, pp. 182-185). The archetypes are living
tissue, and whether or not they grow, they are
alive and will at every opportunity "do their
thing," usually outside the bounds of our ego
The anima/us is also one of the most
controversial of Jung's notions.
This is due
primarily to (1) the difficulty of operationalizing
the term in the kind of crisp, inclusive-exclusive
form that science requires, and (2) the cultural
stereotypes evident in Jung's definition of male
and female attributes. Jung never intended the
concepts to be other than phenomenological ones,
covering as they so usefully do the very fuzzy
natural categories of our experiences of the
collective unconscious:
The empirical reality summed up under the
concept of the anima forms an extremely
dramatic content of the unconscious. It is
possible to describe this content in rational,
scientific language, but in this way one
entirely fails to express its living character.
Therefore, in describing the living processes of
the psyche, I deliberately and consciously give
preference to a dramatic, mythological way of
thinking and speaking, because this is not
only more expressive but also more exact than
an abstract scientific terminology, which is
wont to toy with the notion that its theoretic
formulations may one fine day be resolved into
algebraic equations. (Jung, 195111959, p. 13)
The anima/us cannot be pinned down to a crisp
theoretical formulation, for to attempt to do so, as
many "Jungian" systematists are wont to do, is to
rob the term of its essentially phenomenological
power. Indeed, natural categories oftranspersonal
experiences are by their very nature fuzzy (see
Laughlin, 1993 on this issue). As Jung (196111965)
notes in his autobiography, Memories, Dreams,
Reflections, the notion of anima/us arose as a
consequence of his experience of his parents, the
experiences of his patients, and especially in his
own internal process of individuation. Considering
this rich symbolic material, Jung suspected at first
that the anima/us is in relation to the unconscious
as the persona is in relation to the external world of
objects (Jung, 1928/1966, p. 304). But being open to
his own experiences, he later came to see that the
same-sex shadow performs that filtering process
with the unconscious, and that the anima/us
involves the direct apprehension of the unconscious
by the ego-a relationship that may nonetheless be
distorted by shadow responses to contrasexual
content. Indeed, it was Jung's view that it is
through incorporating the shadow, or the personal
unconscious, that one comes into a more direct and
effective interaction with the anima/us. For this
reason, he argued that the anima/us should be
encountered within the context of actual human
relationships in order for the contrasexual
elements of the psyche to be integrated into
consciousness (Jung, 195111959, p. 22). As we shall
see, while this is the most common course of
integration of anima/us materials, especially for
individuals undergoing analysis, the enactment of
the syzygies
in actual relationships is neither
necessary nor sufficient for individuation. Were
this not true, then Eastern paths like Tantric
Buddhism would be ineffectual.
Unfortunately, most people never come to
understand that many ofthe attributes they project
upon their contrasexual opposites derive from
qualities of their own psyches that their
has caused to be alienated from
their consciousness. In blind ignorance of their own
psychodynamics, most people fail to perceive the
many and varied ways in which they project
themselves upon other people (Jung, 195111959, p.
19; 1930-1934/1997, pp. 4-5). Nonetheless,
experience teaches those with the eyes to see that
we frequently become ensnared by our own
projected psychic materials:
The Anima determines man's relationship to
women, and in the encounter with a woman,
man experiences and recognizes the essence of
his own soul. Wherever he projects his soul
upon a woman, a kind of magic identity is
established. This expresses itself in the guise
of overwhelming emotions, especially with the
intense feeling of "falling-in-Iove." Thereby
the Anima becomes fate-shaping. When one's
own soul is projected, one feels unable to
separate oneself any longer from the object of
the projection. When one believes he has
found, at long last, one's complement, one does
not want to lose this "other half." Thus the
Anima drives the young man towards the
realization of his yearnings. (Brunner, 1963/
1986, pp. xxi-xxii)
We unconsciously yearn for unity with our self,
but because we are outer-oriented, we project the
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi 37
contrasexual aspects of our selves upon the Other
and then feel compelled to interact with the Other
in a manner Jung called participation mystique
(1930-1934/1997, pp. 6-7; after Lucien Levy-
Bruhl, 1923/1966), or the kind of magi co-mystical
involvement in which we can become trapped
when possessed by unconscious materials. Such
possession states are frequently highly charged
with psychic energy (i.e., libido; see Jung, 1912/
1956, Part 2, ch. 2) and the object of our obsession
numinous, bordering on the sacred. Because the
state of participation mystique is a special kind of
hyperintentionality (samadhi or "absorption-
state" in Buddhist psychology; see Laughlin,
McManus & d'Aquili 1990, p. 118), the experience
is of at least a partial dissolution of ego boundaries
and a sense of more or less union with the Other.
Culture and the Anima
T IS quite possible for any of us to learn how our
own psyches work. To accomplish this,
however, requires that one develop a
contemplative turn of mind. Armed with
contemplative skills (Laughlin, McManus &
d'Aquili, 1990, ch. 11), it is possible to understand
the mechanisms of consciousness by studying
one's own mental acts-even as they are
operating upon objects and events in the world.
And sooner or later this process of internal study
brings us into contact with our anima/us. As I
mentioned above, Jung suggested the term
anima/us to cover the experiences we all have of
the contrasexual archetypes, the material
appropriate to the opposite sex that we inherit as
humans and suppress during our development.
For me, as for other males, this relationship with
the unconscious is often mediated by feminine
imagery, as well as by reflection upon my
relationships with real women. That is, aspects of
my unconscious self are frequently represented
by female motifs in dreams, fantasies, episodes of
active imagination, spontaneous visions (Skt:
nimitta) during meditation, and in projections
upon actual females with whom I am in
relationship (Meier, 1995, p. 103). Those Eros
qualities that in the course of my own
enculturation were considered female-qualities
like nurturance, emotion, sensitivity to nuances
of relationship, mood, softness, intuition and
spiritual awareness-were for a long time
suppressed in my quest for a male identity.16 But
because that quest had drawn my ego way off
center from the self, the self began to call the ego
back into its fold with imagery that hooked my
attention and awareness-the first and foremost
call being the mandala experience. My path of
individuation, as is perhaps the case with
everyone, has been idiosyncratic-a reflection of
my own distinct life-course (Ulanov & Ulanov,
1994, p. 19). In addition, my path has also
reflected both cultural and genetic elements-my
life-long enculturation and the array of archetypal
structures I inherited as a human with a very
typical human nervous system.
Much has been made of Jung's presumed
ignorance of the fact that his experiences as a
contemplative and as a healer were culturally
loaded. But this view is largely the result of. a
superficial reading of Jung. In fact he was
perfectly aware that the anima/us experiences of
people from other cultures would be different and
conditioned by their upbringing. Moreover, as the
archetypes themselves are never experienced
directly, and are really structures, not contents, an
infinite variety of images and themes may be
mediated by the anima/us, depending upon
personal and cultural factors (see Ulanov &
Ulanov, 1994, pp. 16-18 for a good discussion of
this issue).17 Keep in mind that Jungwas as avid a
reader of the ethnography of his day as was his
teacher, Freud, before him. Indeed, his appreciation
of cross-cultural variation was at the root of his
suspicion that Eastern yogic and spiritual
practices were inappropriate for Euroamericans.
As for myself, because my masculine ego-ideal,
as well as the field of underdeveloped archetypes
comprising my unconscious, were heavily impacted
by my upbringing, it is clear that just what
constellation of archetypes comprises the anima
for me will vary from that of other males in my
society, and is demonstrably influenced heavily by
culture. Culture clearly influences the extent to
which a male identifies with the variety of
functions of the psyche-with emotion, with
intuition, and with other attributes of self. Thus . ~
the path of self-discovery for each of us is as much
an encounter with our cultural background and
personal development as it is with the deeper and
instinctual collective unconscious.
As is sometimes
said in the Western mysteries, each knight must
enter the forest at the place darkest to him (or her).
38 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi
Since the beginning of time man, with his
wholesome animal instinct, has been engaged
in combat with his soul and its demon ism. If
the soul were uniformly dark it would be a
simple matter. Unfortunately this is not so, for
the anima can appear also as an angel of light,
a psychopomp who points the way to the
highest meaning ...
HEN WE do enter that forest, we enter the
domain of the Wild Mother (i.e., the
chthonic unconscious, the thoroughly chaotic and
undifferentiated domain of Eros). We encounter
both mythical beasts and domesticated animals,
demons of every sort and description, and
eventually the positive and negative aspects of
the contrasexual anima/us. As we emerge from
each encounter, we are impressed
with the living reality of the
archetypes-entities in the
depths of the psyche that seem
not only to be alive and enduring,
but also marked by something
approaching consciousness.
Jung's writings appear at
times to be ambiguous with
respect to whether or not the
archetypes are actually conscious,
and in particular, how conscious
the anima/us may be. He speaks
at times as though the anima
only attains consciousness by
interaction and integration with
the ego (e.g., Jung, 1951/1959,
pp. 24-25), and at other times he
speaks ofthe anima as the ego's
psychopomp in its exploration of
the unconscious, and as having a personality of
its own (e.g., Jung, 1930-1934/1997, pp. 1215-
1216). However, this ambiguity is only apparently
so. A closer reading of Jung, accompanied by the
requisite direct experience, may lead to a better
understanding of the subtle distinction between
being conscious of something in the normal ego
sense, and the active, living presence and
intention of non-ego mediated archetypes. The
archetypes do compete for trophic resources, for
after all they are living cells within the central
nervous system (see Laughlin, 1996a). Being
organizations of millions of cells, the archetypes
will "do their thing," so to speak, in a very active
way. But just because structures in the
unconscious are living systems, compete for
trophic resources, and may eventually become
entrained to conscious network,19 this does not
mean that the archetypes themselves are
conscious. Rather, as Jung (1930-193411997)
suggests: "It is as if you cut off a little finger and
it continued to live quite independently; it would
then be a little finger personality, it would be a he
or a she, it would give itself a name and talk out
of its own mind" (p. 1216).
The struggle of "I-ness" among the complexes
is achieved through the competition of organized
societies of cells for entrainment to conscious
network-in this respect I come down heavily on
Jung's side rather than James Hillman's more
metaphysical views (Hillman, 1989, p. 31;
Collins, 1994, p. 13). As far as I can tell, the
archetypes are not conscious in
the commonsense way we all
mean by the term-a term
defined primarily by the qualities
of awareness and intentionality
that we experience in ourselves
every day. But when the
archetypes engage consciousness
by way of imagery, they do
become involved to some extent
in consciousness, and in a
certain sense ''become conscious."
As Jung (1928/1966) repeatedly
emphasized, however, the
archetypes are autonomous, and
cannot be known directly, but
only by way of their sensory
productions. So causation from
consciousness back to the
archetypes (so to speak) is
constrained by the fact ofthe unconscious nature
of archetypal processing (p. 97). The unconscious,
and especially the collective unconscious, is
largely free from the intentionality of
consciousness. Yet, at the same time, the process
of assimilation of archetypal materials by the ego
does exercise a certain limiting effect upon
subsequent transformations produced by the
archetypes, and the role of the ego in generating
distinctions and discriminations among
archetypal elements arising in consciousness is
fundamental to the effect ofthe archetypes on our
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi 39
The most common medium for encountering
the anima/us is in our most intimate contrasexual
relationships, beginning of course with our cross-
sex parent (Ulanov & Ulanov, 1994; Schwartz-
Salant, 1998). There is fascinating evidence from
pre- and perinatal psychology that we are born as
social beings, cognizing and participating in social
events, and knowing our mothers. Not only is the
world of physical objects archetypally "already
there" to neonatal perception at, or before birth, so
too is the world of socially significant objects and
interactions. These are objects that include speech
sounds or vocal vibrations, interactive gestures,
emotional expressions and faces, and especially
the face, gestures, feelings, smell, physical touch,
breasts and speech of the mother (Field, 1985;
Murray & Trevarthen, 1985; Butterworth &
Grover, 1988). In other words, we are born with
certain nascent proclivities to project socially
relevant meaning upon significant others.
As I have argued elsewhere (Laughlin, 1990),
the psychological attributes projected upon the
feminine are nonarbitrary, and are grounded in
our pre- and perinatal experiences of both the
woman as the world, and the mother or female
caregiver as a powerful mediator between the
perinatal child and the world. Because of this
heavy archetypal loading, followed by early
experiential identification of the feminine with
Eros, the Logos faculties of the higher cortical
functions that generally develop later than the
experiential-emotional faculties become invested
in the masculine. Of course the extent of
opposition between feminine and masculine
attributes in the adult will depend upon the
personality, enculturation and age of the
individual. Nonetheless, there exists a recognizable
cross-cultural and nonarbitrary regularity to
gender projections.
The whole of the self is never projected upon the
Other, nor can we rely solely upon tracking our
projections onto Others in the outer world to learn
the full breadth and depth of our anima/us
manifestations (Jung, 1951/1959, p. 19; cf.
Schwartz-Salant, 1998, Ch. 10). This is because
living people often draw projections they resemble
in some manner relative to our anima/us imagery.
But no one person can resemble all of our anima/
us. In my case, my anima will generate one set of
attributions upon a small, dark, compact and
moody woman who becomes for me a chthonic
nixie 20_a woman vaguely resembling my mother
in her youth. She is a creature of the oceanic
depths, inarticulate and seductive in her ways,
emotionally chaotic and often destructive; and if
my gaze were to become trapped by her, I would be
led into a tumultuous and chaotic roller coaster
ride which would inevitably end in torment and
self-denigration-a siren of monumental
proportions in my phenomenology, indeed.
But also my anima will project another set of
attributions upon a taller, fairer, more slender
and more intelligent woman-a female Other of
radiance and loving countenance who may act as
both nurturing lover, fellow spiritual companion,
and psychopomp. The anima qualities that I
"recognize" in the Other will be somewhat
different, depending upon the archetypal category
to which the woman penetrates.
And of course,
no living person can live up to these projections
entirely, if at all-be they positive or negative. If
one holds tenaciously to these projections and
attempts to ignore or explain away the
anomalous qualities of the real person, then the
relationship, so long as it lasts, is doomed to
acted-out psychopathology and/or oblivion.
When it comes to relationships with the
opposite sex, we are caught upon the horns ofthe
proverbial dilemma-and the dilemma is wired
into our neurophysiology. On the one hand we are
designed to track and model reality in a veridical
way. This is important in the interests of
adaptation. Psychotic hunters would not last long
in the jungle. On the other hand, we are propelled
by an inner urge to organic unity-to organize the
bits and pieces of our psyche into a coherent
whole. When we become engaged in tracking our
anima/us, we find out that the same person in the
real world-our significant Other-is the object
of the drive both for verity and for an anima/us
projection device (or APD). The same person
becomes both a real object in the world, and a
mirror of our own unconscious processes.
As I have mentioned already, much is made in
the literature about real relationships being the
principal locus for the anima/us work (e.g.,
Schwartz-Salant, 1998). While this is probably
true for most people who work within a Jungian
frame, full engagement with the anima/us does
not require a real person, nor is a real
relationship sufficient for completing the work.
In order to optimize our encounters with our
anima/us, we must learn to track our dream,
fantasy and other imagery directly-we must
40 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
learn to quiet the mind and contemplate
spontaneous visions, and explore themes and
scenarios in active imagination. In so doing we
may come to explore our anima materials freed
from projection upon people, and in their natural
settings-that is, within the internal field of our
own "theater of mind." In this way we accumulate
the data necessary to discern patterns in the
imagery, and thus begin to make cognitive
distinctions based upon the recurrent form ofthe
imagery, the recurrent context of presentation,
and typical emotional and intuitive loading.
OR EXAMPLE, one of the earliest and most
profound experiences of psychic energy I have
ever had was during a weekend "loving-kindness"
retreat in 1979. Part ofthe work we were assigned
was to imagine a rose in the heart region while
repeating the famous mantra, Om Mani Padme
Hum, associated with the Tibetan deity, Chenrezig
(Skt: Avalokitesvara). Numerous visual images
spontaneously arose during the retreat, including:
a red sun emitting radiant rays of rose light; two
rose planes, one above me and one below me,
formed by conjoined bubbles; a bush sprouting
innumerable red roses; blue tubes spewing rose
energy; and a long lake between mountain peaks
with a golden mountain at the end of the lake. All
of these may be interpreted as Eros-related
symbolism; that is, symbols expressing the
intensification of Eros energies in my body.
At a certain point while I was in a state of deep
absorption and blissful peace, the image of a
beautiful blond female figure dressed in a red shift
appeared walking away from me in my left visual
field. At first I intended to ignore her as I routinely
did with all other distractions from the object of my
meditation, but then I intuited that "she" was an
archetypal expression of my anima. So I sent her a
blast ofloving feeling visualized as a laser beam of
rose light emanating from my heart. As the laser
beam of light connected with the image, both the
image of the woman and my bodily self-awareness
instantly exploded into a rapidly expanding
sphere of rose energy. Within a split second, my
consciousness was in a state of intense absorption
upon boundless space filled with pulsing,
shimmering rose particles and ecstatic bliss.
There then followed the eruption of a soundless
scream and another energy explosion from the
depths of my being that culminated in the
awareness of the visual image of a tunnel or birth
canal. When corporeal awareness gradually
returned, I spent a couple of hours in complete
tranquillity, either contemplating the essential
attributes of mind, or in absorption upon this or
that symbol as it arose before the mind's eye.
A number of elements of this experience are
significant to our discussion of pure anima visions:
1. Perfection of the image. Contemplatives
come to understand that images freed from the
imposition of external perception tend to perfect
themselves. From my point of view, the female
form was utterly perfect. I felt that no living
human being could ever be that beautiful. Or, in
the case of a negative anima image, nothing in
the world could be so utterly repulsive or terrible.
In both Eastern and Western meditation
training, an external object like a bowl of water or
a flower or the painting of a deity or guru is
frequently used to activate an image that is then
internalized in the "mind's eye" and meditated
upon as an eidetic image.
Those who do this
work notice that the internalized eidetic image or
"visualization" tends to perfect itself. It will lose
any flaws present in the external stimulus, and
will perfect the ideal geometry of relations in the
form. The deity may become translucent and
even radiant as though backlit. In this manner
one may learn that no object in the real world
could ever completely match the perfection ofthe
inner archetypal imagery. As a matter of fact
there actually exist Tantric texts in the East
describing the physical qualities to be looked for
in finding the ideal lama consort. It is clear that
these instructions are for the purpose of finding a
lover who simulates the perfect dakini
on the
inner plane as closely as possible. And with such
an experience, one may learn that one's notions of
gods and goddesses derive from the projections
onto our sensorium, and from our sensorium onto
the world, of the perfect productions of our
2. Intense affective charge. Pure anima images
may be entrained to intense libidinous energies.
Indeed, the affective charge may become so
intense as to constitute a warp driving the
consciousness into an altered state-perhaps a
hyperintentional state of absorption. This
pairing of the anima image and intense affect
may confirm and animate our interpretation of
the feminine principle. In the East, this energetic
principle is associated with images ofthe dakinis,
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi 41
young naked females dancing in the flames of
transformation. The image ofthe blond woman in
the red shift was my very Western vision of the
dakini-perhaps a Western version of Dorje
Pagmo (Skt: Vajravarahi), a young female figure,
approximately16 years old, who is paired (yab-
yum) with the male deity Korlo Demchog (Skt:
Chakrasamvara)-forming a typical syzygistic
image in the Tibetan Tantric system. Mter the
peak experience, I was able to meditate with great
concentration and energy for a considerable
number of hours.
3. Coniunctio. With the amount of love that
had been generated doing the "loving-kindness"
penetration work, there transpired the explosive
dissolution of both ego consciousness and
alienation from the Other, thus producing, for a
few moments at least, a coniunctio oppositorum
(Jung, 1951/1959, p. 31; 1940/1968a, pp. 175-177),
the mystical resolution of the tension ofsyzygistic
duality. Loving or positive, blissful psychic energy
is the universal solvent which, when it fills the
crucible containing the opposites, dissolves the
boundaries and creates union. I suspect that the
closest most people come to this experience is
during orgasm, a relatively brief state which is
mediated by the simultaneous discharge of both
the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous
systems. The meditative coniunctio experience
is probably energized in a similar fashion, but
without the involvement of the sexual organs. I
should note that the coniunctio experience was
many times as intense as any orgasm I have ever
experienced, thus adding to the sense of the
sacredness and numinosity ofthe joining.24
Girls, Girls, and Not a Drop to Drink!
HIS EXPERIENCE proved to be a profound one for
my development, but was by no means a
solitary event. In fact many hundreds of images
have emerged out of the mist in dreams and
visions that have provided information about the
breadth, depth, and various attributes of the
anima. Often these images reflected the ego-
shadow ambiguities relative to the feminine.
There was one phase during which, in meditation
retreats, many of my meditative visions and
dreams were replete with more than the usual
sexual imagery. For example, sometimes the
entire visual field would be taken up by a
landscape of rocks and boulders, with hundreds
of naked and lascivious male and female figures
draped over rocks as far as the eye could see,
involved in every conceivable posture of sexual
abandon. Such visions were accompanied by
intense sexual arousal that would at times
persist for hours.
It was during this period that I learned ofthe
unitary source of psychic energy. I hit upon this
fact quite by accident, for becoming bored with all
the lascivious imagery and sexual arousal, I tried
willing those energies to rise up the central
channel, rather than out via the genitals. And it
worked! Playing with this experience, I discovered
that there exists something like a psychological
"tap" by which one can willfully shunt psychic
energy outward as sexual arousal, or upward into
the heart as pure loving-kindness (Skt: metta; see
Laughlin, 1985), and further upward into the
"third eye" region of the head, thus leading to
intense clarity and penetrating awareness (see
Laughlin, 1994a on kundalini and Tibetan duma
[or tummo] practice). There is an experience in
which one may flip back and forth between
outward and upward shunting, and during this
flipping back and forth, the imagery changes in
appropriate accord. If for example one is focused
upon a radiant female deity as the object of
meditation, the psychic energy directed from the
heart may lead to ecstatic union, whereas if the
energy is directed outwards through the genitals,
the imagery may shift to coitus. A central point to
make here is, so far as my phenomenology can
tell, as goes the structure of psychic energy (or
libido), so goes the imagery. The image and the
affect appear to be two aspects of the same
underlying structure.
With respect to the shadow, and its impact upon
experiencing the anima and its productions, one
must keep in mind that we are dealing with the
interplay between two levels in the development of
the brain. One ofthese is the conditioned "personal"
unconscious and the other is the deeper, more
primordial and relatively unconditioned "collective"
unconscious. The latter, in my view, is the nascent,
genetically inherited organization
of the human
nervous system, while the former are the more
developed, antinomous adaptations that have
emerged during enculturation and ego-identity
formation of the individual. In my case, there has
existed a strong attraction toward, complemented
by a fear of and aversion to, the female Other. This
ambiguity was laid down in my infancy, and was
acted out in the world for years by a neurotic
42 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
alternating attraction and aversion to the same
In the experience of pure anima imagery, the
duality expressed itself at times as female figures
that would morph from sexually attractive forms
into repulsive, fearsome forms, and vice versa. For
example, during one retreat I had a vision in which
I was sitting behind a picket fence looking out at a
vast and dismal landscape. In the distance a
female figure appeared-a manikin really-with a
naked lithe body which shone as though she were
covered in chrome. As she came nearer, she smiled
seductively and reached out and opened a gate in
the fence. As she passed through the gate she
morphed into a dark, frightening figure with
leathern wings and demonic countenance, and
then took flight and passed over my head.
The affect during this episode was revealing
and typical of many of my encounters with anima
figures. The affect was ambivalent-of
attraction or interest on the one hand and anxIety
on the other, the ego/persona associating itself
with the positive attraction to the feminine, while
the shadow was in fear of engulfment and
possession by the Terrible Mother. To the
shadow, woman takes on the aspect of the
sucCUbUS,26 one of "Kali's minions." This episode
shows that the anima may be experienced both
positively and negatively, as both good and evil,
as radiant light and order, or darkness and all-
engulfing chaos, depending upon the filter of
affect and attitude intervening between
consciousness and the archetypes (Jung, 1940/
1968a, pp. 28-36). Of course the normal state of
consciousness of one encountering the anima is
primarily that of ego involvement with imagery
while the various shadow elements are repressed.
Hence most of us are conscious primarily of
affect relative to contrasexual Others
upon whom we project our anima. Our shadow
attributions and affect remain in the subconscious
and act out their values and intents in devious
ways, including projection upon people
more distant from us than loved ones. But III
meditation states the shadow may become far
more conscious and be capable of penetrating into
the conscious network such that one is aware of
both complexes simultaneously. As Jung (1951/
1959) put it:
The relative autonomy of the anima- and
animus-figures expresses itself in these
qualities. In order of affective rank they stand
to the shadow very much as the shadow stands
in relation to ego-consciousness. The main
affective emphasis seems to lie on the latter;
at any rate it [the ego] is able, by means of a
considerable expenditure of energy, to repress
the shadow, at least temporarily. But if for any
reason the unconscious gains the upper hand,
then the valency of the shadow and of the other
figures increases proportionately, so the scale
of values is reversed. (p. 28; emphasis added)
Of course in meditation work, the unconscious
may well gain the upper hand, at least for a while,
for the deepening tranquillity that develops in
mature contemplation, as it were, pulls the energy
rug out from under the repressions. Arising anima
figures may be greeted by ambiguous feelings and
conflicting attitudes, depending of course on the
distinct pattern of enculturation and personal
development of the individual psyche-that is,
depending upon the ego-shadow configuration and
its limbic and cognitive-perceptual associations.
Anima possession can no doubt be dangerous to
the stability of an individual's daily adaptation. But
possession does have its lighter side. The funniest
encounter with anima possession I ever experienced
occurred during a lengthy retreat in Scotland.
During that retreat I was working on the
symbolism of the Tibetan Tantric deity Demchog
(in Tibetan Buddhist terms, the yab). Demchog's
consort is DOlje Pagmo (the yum), the young naked
female figure mentioned above. The two are
depicted in the text and in pictures as dancing in
flames while in sexual union-that is, in the so-
calledyab-yum posture. One ofthe techniques used
in this practice is to imagine oneself alternately as
the male deity embracing the female, then as the
female deity embracing the male. Naturally it was
far easier for me to identify with Demchog than
with Dmje Pagmo, so I spent a lot of time working
on being a young, vivacious, red-skinned female.
While identifying with the yum, I would take on a
certain submissive relationship27 to the yab, and
would imagine quite successfully being entered by
"his" phallus. Meanwhile, during this retreat I was
wearing the long flowing red robes of the Tibetan
monk, and I would daily take long walks out on the
moor where all I ever saw were herds of sheep in the
distance and the occasional shepherd. There came a
point in these meditations when the female image
penetrated deeply into my unconscious and I began
to act out the part, and on several occasions found
myself dancing lightly across the moor singing
tunes like "I'm a girl! I'm a girl!" at the top of my
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi 43
lungs. Part of my observing mind was fascinated by
these transformations, while another part drew
amusing associations with Julie Andrews in the
movie, The Sound of Music.
Simplification of the Anima Images
THERLESS entertaining, but no less informative
things were learned during this retreat,
among them being the discovery of the inexorable
simplification of the core symbolism involved in
Tantric meditations. Those who have done this
kind of work will know that eventually the deities
"come alive" in the sensorium, and instead of
one struggling to hold an eidetic image, the
meditation becomes one of watching the eidetic
figures "do their thing" in the mind's eye.
of the behavior of these yab-yum images was
dancing. But how the yab and yum interacted
with each other within the dance began to reflect
the state of my consciousness at that moment
relative to watcher and unconscious. Not only
that, but within a few days, the Demchog-Dorje
Pagmo humanoid figures had transformed into
two simple bindus,29 or bubbles, colored
respectively blue and red. The dance between the
red and blue bindu-ized yab-yums became the
dance between my male and female self, and
when the state of consciousness was one of
opposition between the male and female elements
of my consciousness, the bindus would remain
distinct and relate to each other by differential size
and complementary activity. But when my
consciousness was experiencing ecstatic union,
the two bindus would become part of a larger
symbol, with the blue male bindu in a red field
and the red female bindu in a blue field, and the
two fields swirling around and around,
intertwining with each other. Thus it was that I
learned firsthand the phenomenological origins
of the Taoist yin-yang symbol.
I also learned that:
1. Bindus may become permanent fixtures. Once
the deities had morphed into bindus, they became
a permanent fixture in my consciousness. To this
day, over fifteen years later, ifI close my eyes and
concentrate, the two bindus are there in the
mind's eye. Moreover, when I am intensely
watching the male and female aspects of
consciousness, the bindu representation will
frequently resolve into the yab and yum bindus
with a smaller, more intense and golden colored
bindu standing between the red and blue
2. Bindus may represent the anima. The
interaction of the bindus represents to some
extent the general state of consciousness at the
moment, even during more ordinary states, and
in particular the interaction between the
watcher, the shadow and the female anima. The
vastness of the self often crops up as a red mist
surrounding the dynamic yab and yum bindus,
the red sphere representing the anima-bridge
between the ego identified with Logos and the
vastness of the unconscious.
3. Simplification increases symbolic universality.
As symbols become naturally simplified, they
also become more universal. Symbols like
Demchog and Dorje Palmo, as with Jesus or with
the Navajo's beloved Changing Woman, are
heavily loaded with cultural attributes. But as
they simplify before the mind's eye, they take on
increasingly universal forms-forms like flowing
water, colored mist, spheres, lightning bolts,
rocks, and so on. This includes the naked human
form as well.
Anima and the Cycle of Meaning
Thus the anima and life itself are meaningless
in so far as they offer no interpretation. Yet they
have a nature that can be interpreted, for in all
chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret
order, in all caprice a fixed law, for everything
that works is grounded on its opposite. It takes
man's discriminating understanding, which
breaks everything down into antinomial
judgements, to recognize this.
-Jung (1940/1968a, p. 66)
OMING TO terms with one's anima is a
hermeneutic process (Jung, 1940/1968a, pp.
32-41). Meanings do not adhere in the contents of
the unconscious, but are attributed by conscious
reflection to contents. Yet there is an ordered-
one might even say lawful-regularity to these
contents. It is the task ofthe engaged ego to apply
meaning that as closely as possible approximates
the hidden order expressed by the anima-and to
do so in a dynamic, growing and nonideological
manner. For, as I have said, the anima is not the
unconscious itself, but only the expression of
processes forever hidden from our sight. As a
northward-flying wedge of geese is the harbinger
of spring, so too is anima imagery the harbinger of
44 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
processes in the self. The sight of a flight of geese is
only a harbinger to the mind that associates this
phenomenon with a much-welcomed change of
seasons. In other words, the phenomenon is
interpreted as a sign, and as it happens is
naturally associated with seasonal changes.
Just so, we learn to interpret our own anima
imagery in a way that both accurately reflects the
underlying processes of the psyche, and builds a
shared repository of meaningful imagery by
means of which the conscious and unconscious
parts of the mind-brain may communicate with
each other. It is as though there is room for only
one library of symbols within memory, a
repertoire of images that both the conscious and
unconscious parts of the psyche may use to
communicate. The problem is that the grammar
of the communication differs drastically between
the two, and it is the task of the conscious mind to
learn to read the unfamiliar rules of the
unconscious, for the unconscious cannot and will
not adapt to the grammar of the higher cortical
functions of the brain. In time, there develops a
corpus of shared meanings by which the
unconscious may express its deepest processes,
and which consciousness may use to penetrate
and engage unconscious processes. For example,
ifI close my eyes and focus my attention upon the
spontaneous dance ofthe bindus, I will be better
able to interpret what is going on in my psyche. In
that way I am privileging the communication
from the unconscious. But alternatively I can use
visualization techniques to trigger desired
activities normally outside the direct control of
consciousness. For example, suppose that I am
feeling stressed. If I focus my attention upon a
radiant cool blue, pea-sized bindu in my "third
eye" region and then suddenly drop the sphere
into my navel region, my body will almost
instantaneously become calm. In this way I am
privileging the executive function of the
conscious ego over the unconscious.
The Traditional Cycle of Meaning
OR MY conscious ego and for my unconscious,
the meaning of the bindu and other anima
related images (nixies, goddesses, succubi) has
developed out of their nascent, relatively
undifferentiated forms into a virtual dictionary of
symbols, based upon a lifetime of experiences
associated with them in memory. Had I been born
and raised in a traditional society with an intact
mystical worldview, and had I undergone many
of these experiences, I likely would have
interpreted them within the local cosmological
context-a cultural process we have called the
cycle of meaning. 31
The cosmology, which people mainly carry
around in their heads, is imagined and expressed
by way of their culture's stock of symbolic material
in such a way that people are able to participate
intimately in their version of a symbolically
pregnant mythic reality.32 As Alfonso Ortiz (1972,
p. 135) noted, the associations, principles and
assumptions upon which a traditional cosmology
are founded are rarely, if ever, created anew by
individuals. Rather, most people accept and
participate in accordance with the worldview they
inherit from their culture. This participation
results in real life experiences that are in turn
interpreted in terms of the cosmology, thus
completing a negative feedback loop33 which
instantiates the cosmology in individual
experiences and which also confirms the truth of
the people's system of knowledge.
Let me suggest a good example of an intact
traditional cycle of meaning from the culture ofthe
Navajo people of the American Southwest-a
people amongst whom I have lived and researched
for years. While it is true that many Navajo people
today do not entirely subscribe to the traditional
worldview, and may in fact know little about their
traditional roots, traditional Navajo cosmology
exhibits many of the features common to such
cosmologies worldwide (see Laughlin & Throop,
2001). Moreover, the cosmology is thoroughly
syzygistic both in religious iconography and in its
appreciation of the antinomous, yet unitary
nature of reality. Much of Navajo philosophy is
organized around the postulate that all perceivable
things in the world have invisible aspects that may
be imagined as "Holy People"-for example, the
Mountain People, the Star People, the River
People, the Rain People, the Corn People, and so
forth. Most of the humanoid Holy People have a
male and a female representation; that is, Blue
Corn Boy, Blue Corn Girl, and so forth. For more
philosophically inclined Navajo thinkers, these
Holy People are thought of as anthropomorphized
symbols for the normally hidden and vital
element within all things, which traditional
Navajo philosophy equates with "Wind" (nilch'i;
see McNeley, 1981). As real people, we also have
such a hidden dimension called "the Wind within
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi 45
one" (nilch'i hwii'siziinii). All these Winds are
really part of the one all pervasive and all
encompassing Holy Wind. Winds are never
understood to be distinct entities, since energy is
thought to be flowing in and out of even the most
apparently enduring objects. It is the coming and
going of wind that accounts for the tapestry of
reciprocal causation typical of this particular
understanding ofthe cosmos. The choice of "wind"
as the central metaphor is an explicit recognition-
common to many cultures on the planet-that
there are forces that normally cannot be observed,
save by inference from their effects.
At the root of the sacredness of Navajo
cosmology, and of the Holy People who represent
the essence of reality, are the many myths
recounted through the generations. It is very
much the function of myth in societies like that of
the Navajo to reveal and explicate the hidden
dimensions ofthe world. The hidden energies that
are the essence of the world are given a face-a
countenance that may be contemplated, that is
"pleasing to the mind," that may be enacted in
ritual (e.g., in the elaborate and ingenious Navajo
system of hitaal, or healing ceremonies), and that
may be imagined in daily life as the efficient cause
of significant phenomena and events. For those
members who are well versed in their society's
mythopoetic system, the core myths and their
various symbolic extrusions are often understood
to be all-of-a-piece. They form a single, ramified
"cognitive map" (Wallace, 1966) within the context
of which events in their everyday lives make sense
and are easily related to both other events in the
contemporary world, and archetypal events that
unfold in the context of mythological narratives.
As I said, Navajo cosmology is essentially
syzygistic. The main tension and complementarity
characteristic of the world is attributed to the
interplay of the male and female principles.
Complementarity is emphasized, each pole
requiring the other in order to maintain viability.
There are even myths that tell the story of what
happens when the male and female principles get
out of synch (see e.g., Matthews 1897/1994, pp.
71-74). Even the famous Navajo ceremonials are
divided into complementary sets, the Blessingway
ceremonies-given female attribution and
concerned with harmony-and the Enemyway
ceremonies (given male attribution and concerned
with protection; see Griffin-Pierce, 1992, pp. 40-
41). Within each of these sets, there are male and
female elements-like the male bindu in the
female field and the female bindu in the male
field in the yin-yang symbol. Hence anyone
reared under the influence of these stories and
ceremonies would come to interpret relationships
as characterized by both polarized tension and
unity of complements. Moreover, both men and
women are conditioned to think ofthemselves as
embodying male and female principles, and being
essentially whole and spiritually empowered by
the one, all pervasive Holy Wind. The most
important concept in Navajo philosophy is hozho,
which is usually translated as "beauty" or
"blessing," but which also connotes harmony,
health, unity, good, and so forth (Farella, 1984).
Men who have knowledge about, and participate
in the traditional ways will explicitly interpret
their state of hozho in terms of the male and
female principles being in harmony within their
being. Their anima (they would not speak in
these terms of course) would be related to the
female Holy People and especially to Changing
Woman, the Navajo's most revered goddess and
beloved Earth Mother (Schwarz, 1997).34
Charlie's Transpersonal Cycle of Meaning
UT MANY of us in modern Euroamerican
society do not have such an intact syzygistic
cosmological tradition into which we have been
nurtured and enculturated, and to which we can
have recourse when interpreting our inner
imaginings. Thus part of the spiritual path for
many of us requires that we discover some sensible
context within which to lodge and integrate these
meanings. This quest for an integrated context of
meaning is required by the holistic operator of the
brain (d'Aquili & Newberg 1999), or what Jung
called the archetype of wholeness, which he held was
indistinguishable from the image of the divine
(Jung, 1951/1959, p. 40; 1940/1968a, p. 388). Jung
found his own context by way of a careful
reconstruction of latter day alchemy (194411968b;
1955-1956/1970). I, on the other hand, like so many
these days, have borrowed extensively from
Eastern mystical teachings and have combined
them with various aspects of modern science,
including knowledge about how the human brain
works. Still others have found the required context
in charismatic Christianity, Sufism, orin shamanism,
wicca and other so-called "new world religions."
46 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
The result is that I, like many who spend years
tracking their inner psyche, have developed a
quite personal, and essentially transpersonal cycle
of meaning. Recall the mandala experience with
which I opened this paper. The first time I
encountered this experience, the only context of
interpretation I had in my head was that a friend
had dosed me with a psychotrope. In other words,
I had no appropriate cycle of meaning within
which a transpersonal experience made any sense.
But later on-much later on-my life course had
led me through various avenues and adventures,
and I ended up thinking about things out of an
essentially transpersonal worldview in which not
only mandala experiences, but ecstatic union with
ladies in red shifts and dancing bindus make
perfect sense. The major difference between both
the paths found by myself and Jung on the one
hand, and those of people raised in traditional
cosmological cycles of meaning on the other, is that
the former paths are relatively dynamic and
plastic, while most traditional systems tend to be
extremely conservative of meaning.
In fact,
adepts in traditional systems tend to place strict
controls on the types of experiences that are
allowed to occur and the range of interpretations
available for those experiences. For instance,
professional Moroccan oneiromancers always
interpret the more important dreams of their
clients in terms of the symbolism and teaching of
the Koran, whereas a proper Jungian approach to
dream interpretation is appropriately individual
and dynamic (see e.g., Jung, 1930-1934/1997; see
also Maidenbaum, 1998).
HESE REFLECTIONS upon the anima have been
all too brief. But I think a few salient points
have been brought out with respect to our
engagement with the anima. Let me close by
briefly outlining the more important points, and
then discussing the relevance of the anima to
transpersonal studies:
1. Anima and gender. Although we most
commonly encounter our anima in the image or
person of the female-especially in the intimate
relationship with our significant Other-not all
anima imagery is explicitly female. Nor need it
be, either when it spontaneously arises or when
we use imagery to penetrate and potentiate
unconscious processes. Images like mandalas,
animals, geographical features like simulacra,36
tunnels and streams may all represent or
penetrate the anima. A symbol as simple as a
bindu may suffice. Thus it is clear that to know
whether or not a symbol represents the anima is
an interpretive act, easy enough to accomplish
with projections upon actual females, but a much
more creative operation with tunnels and bindus.
We need always to keep in mind that Jung never
intended the concept to be crisply defined by any
particular form. The anima is a function of the
Whatever imagery occurs to express
those unconscious and archetypal aspects of the
nonmale self that we have suppressed in our
development as males may be reasonably
supposed to be activities of the anima. In any
event, this forms a good working hypothesis from
which to begin discriminating anima and
nonamma lmagery.
2. Anima as structure and as content. There is
a natural ambiguity involved in thinking of the
anima as an innate function of the nervous
system which, until active in producing imagery
in the sensorium, remains essentially contentless.
This is similar to saying that until the hand does
its thing, there is no grasping. Anima may refer to
the underlying structure of communication
between the conscious and unconscious mental
faculties, and it may refer to the dream and
fantasy imagery that expresses activities in the
unconscious. This distinction is far from trivial
when we place the issue in cross-cultural
perspective, for while there is such a phenomenon
as a relatively pure archetypal experience, most
anima imagery is culturally loaded. I seriously
doubt that a black native of Zimbabwe, or a
Micronesian from the Marshall Islands would
encounter a radiant white blond in a shift during
a meditation retreat. More than likely, their
positive anima ideal would resemble their own
culture's goddesses. But to say that the content of
anima imagery is culturally influenced is not to
deny the universal, archetypal basis of the
structures within the nervous system that
mediate it.
3.Anima and affect. While it is natural to focus
upon dream imagery and meditation symbols, it
is often the affect associated with these
phenomena that alert us to anima eruptions.
This is especially true with shadow-anima
interactions. My impression for years has been
that the symbolism in a vision or dream may
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi 47
actually be produced by the affect, rather than
the affect tagging along after the imagery. Often
the imagery would seem to provide a scenario
that makes sense of the feelings we have at the
moment. Conflicting emotions may well produce
a scenario of conflicting relations among images.
Thus not only archetypal images may be
influenced by culture, but also the emotion
associated with the imagery, for emotion as it is
commonly understood in our culture is mediated
by cognitive as well as affective structures
(Laughlin & Throop, 1999).
4. Anima and interpretation. The main point I
wish to stress here is that working with the anima,
in any cultural setting, is an interpretive process.
The anima must be involved in some form of cycle
of meaning that integrates knowledge-often
social ways of knowing-with the individual's
direct experiences. Most traditional cultures will
provide an interpretive context within which
anima imagery and affect will make sense.
It is very unlikely that such systems will
interpret anima-like experiences as psychodynamic.
Rather, they will tend to be interpreted in terms of
visitation by spirits, goddesses or demons,
depending upon whether they are affectively
positive or negative. Anima possession may be
viewed as soul-loss, or possession by some spirit for
the purpose of healing or killing (Boddy, 1994;
Bourguignon, 1976; Prince, 1968). If they are
considered bothersome, sometimes anima states
may be seen as being due to witchcraft or sorcery.
The positive aspect of anima manifestation may
involve interpretations of "divine intervention"
when manifestations include intuitive inspiration-
the word "inspiration" being used advisedly here,
for it originally meant the divine breathing wisdom
into one. Intuition in many cultures is considered
intervention from the external domain of the spirit,
rather than as an internal and largely unconscious
function ofthe psyche.
It is very important from the anthropological
point of view to understand that a "Jungian"
hermeneutic is just as culturally loaded as any
other. It is the purpose to which the interpretation
is put that matters. From the standpoint of
individuation, the Jungian approach will probably
carry one to higher states of maturity than will
traditional cycles of meaning. The latter are
normally more concerned with the social
integration of meaning than with aiding the
individual to optimize his or her own individuation.
Transpersonal anthropology takes as a
fundamental tenet that the extraordinary
experiences encountered by people everywhere
are to be considered relevant and appropriate to
science-thus reinforcing the arguments made by
William James in support of a radical empiricism
(James 1912/1976; see also Laughlin and
McManus 1995). As I have made plain by coming
down hard upon the essentially hermeneutic
aspect of the process of individuation, the range of
experiences that may be considered anima-related
will vary from culture to culture. I am
emphasizing the cross-cultural aspect to anima
experiences, not because ethnography is the stock-
in-trade of the professional anthropologist, but
because of the apparent ignorance of cross-
cultural factors often found in the Jungian
literature today. During the years that I worked
with meditators of all ideological stripes and
cultural backgrounds, I was impressed by the
extent to which people can uncritically accept the
interpretations most amenable to their worldview.
To my reading at least, the failure to take into
consideration the relativity of interpretation is not
only antithetical to what Jung taught, but is also a
blind spot in the development of transpersonal
A better integration of transpersonal
psychology and transpersonal anthropology
would help the development of transpersonal
studies. Transpersonal psychologists are frequently
unacquainted with over a century of ethnographic
interest in transpersonal experience, and over a
quarter century of organized trans personal
anthropology (see Campbell & Staniford, 1978;
Laughlin, 1988, 1994b; Laughlin, McManus &
Shearer, 1983). Meanwhile, transpersonal
anthropologists often ignore clinical and
experimental research into the causes and
varieties of transpersonal experience. Moreover,
the interpretive element that is involved in all
experience is often given less consideration than it
requires in the transpersonal psychological
literature. Just as debilitating, the
psychophysiological processes that underlie
extraordinary experiences are, as a rule, given
short shrift by anthropologists-due primarily to
the implacable mind-body dualism that infests
that discipline. It is true to say that transpersonal
anthropology is far more robust than is
48 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
neuroanthropology, and very few of the handful of
neuroanthropologists have any interest whatever
in relating brain science to transpersonal studies.
The study of the anima/us function of the
human psyche might provide an auspicious focus
for the integration of transpersonal psychology
and transpersonal anthropology. This is for
several reasons: first, anima/us experiences are
almost by definition transpersonal, regardless of
their cultural setting. Because of the bridging
function of the anima/us, the ego, of whatever
configuration, is brought into direct communion
with the unknown, the mysterious and the
numinous. Second, anima/us imagery would
appear to be a cultural universal, usually related
to the aspect of culture we in the West recognize as
religion. As such, there must be a genetic and
psychophysical basis for such universal
psychological properties which produce some of
the core elements of traditional worldviews. And
third, anima/us related experiences would seem to
arise in many folks as spontaneous and
ineluctable callings from the spiritual domain-
though how people interpret such encounters will
vary with their cultural background. Thus animal
us imagery may provide valuable clues to the
etiology and psychological significance of
shamanistic and other spiritual conversion
experiences. In short, the transpersonal study of
the anima/us function and anima/us related
experiences would seem to be pregnant with
possibilities for research, whether that research be
based upon contemplative, clinical, experimental,
ethnographic, or psychophysiological approaches.
An earlier version of this paper was presented before the
C. G. Jung Society in Ottawa, Ontario, on May 11, 2001.
It is dedicated in loving memory to my friend and fellow
ICRL member, Mike Witunski.
1. I should note that I began exploring psychotropic drugs,
including marijuana, peyote, mescaline and LSD-25
during the later 1960s. None ofthe spontaneous mandala
experiences were associated with ingesting drugs.
2. The editor's footnote in question is note 1 in Jung's
Mandala Symbolism (195911972, p. 71) and in the second
edition of Jung's The Archetypes and the Collective
Unconscious (1940/1968a, p. 355). The four plates are
numbers 6, 28, 29 and 36.
3. Archetype is defined by Jung (1959/1972) as "a
particular, frequently occurring, formal aspect of
instinct." The term of course predates Jung, and may be
traced to the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers and
mystics; see Meier (1995, p. 96).
4. The stream of consciousness is punctuated by rapid
transformations of internal structure (in biogenetic
structural theory we call these "warps"; see Laughlin,
McManus & d'Aquili, 1990, pp. 140-145) that establish
the initial configuration of the much more enduring
"phases" or states of consciousness.
5. In my own exploration of Tibetan dream yoga, I was
forced to attempt to sleep sitting upright in order not to
lose consciousness during the hypnagogic warp. I built a
wooden box that was padded on the sides and on the
bottom with thick styrofoam in which I slept every night
for three months. I was thus able to maintain
consciousness through an altered hypnagogic state and
into a night of lucid dreaming with virtually total recall.
6. In other words, anapanasiti meditation.
7. These birth-related experiences are originally what
involved me in the study of pre- and perinatal psychology,
and eventually led me to various writings on pre- and
perinatal anthropology (see, e.g., Laughlin, 1991).
8. As with any meditation, many experiences may arise
during the course of this work. One of the main insights
that will inevitably arise is that the mirror practice is a
symbolic replica ofthe sensorium, and that the rice grains
are dots, the mandala the totality of forms that arise in
the sensorium via the organization of dots, and the wiping
clean of the mirror is the flux of sensorial events,
including the dots making up the events. Full realization
of the essential impermanence of sensorial events is
considered in some Buddhist traditions to be a principal
watershed in the psychological development of a being.
9. See Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili (1990, n. 5).
10. For useful discussions ofthe anima/us, see Hopcke (1989,
ch. 19), Stein (1998, pp. 125-149), and Brunner (1963/1986).
11. Jung wrote that the archetypes are "ever-repeated
typical experiences" that are somehow impressed upon
the materiality ofthe body-that they had been "stamped
on the human brain for aeons" (1928/1966, p. 69). And not
in human beings alone are archetypes to be found, but
very likely in animals as well (192811966, p. 69).
12. See for example the feminist critique of Jung's
presumed sexist bias in Karaban (1992).
13. "Syzygy" is from the Greek and Latin roots meaning
"yoked" or "paired." It refers to the structures responsible
for the fact that each of us has within us both male and
female aspects. It also refers to the male and female
complementarity in many of the cosmologies of
traditional peoples.
Mandalas, Nixies, Goddesses, and Succubi 49
14. The term "enculturation" derives from cultural
anthropology and means "the process by which an
individual acquires the mental representations (beliefs,
knowledge, and so forth) and patterns of behavior
required to function as a member of a culture" (Barfield,
1997, p. 149).
15. See Brunner (1963/1986, p. xxi-xxv).
16. I was raised in Arkansas and Texas, and all of my kin,
including my mother, who were in any way spiritually
active were females.
17. This structure vs. content distinction is not unique to
Jung. Far from it. It is to be found in the metaphysics of
Aristotle and Kant, to name a couple of thinkers. The
great sociological theorist, Emile Durkheim, likewise
reasoned that inherent "categories of understanding"
organize culturally variant contents into universal
patterns of cognition; see Throop and Laughlin (2002).
18. See Tiberia (1977) for empirical research on this issue.
Tiberia demonstrated that the qualities projected upon
fantasized females vary with the type of masculine ego-
ideal, and the attributes of the psyche with which the
subject identifies. Also, Colman (1996) looks at early
developmental factors that may impact the later
experience of the anima/us, and Beebe (1984) examines
the relationship between the father's anima and that of
his son.
19. "Conscious network" is our term for the network of
neurophysiological structures mediating consciousness
in each moment of consciousness; see Laughlin,
McManus, and d'Aquili (1990, pp. 94-95).
20. A "nix" is a water demon or sprite-a "nixie" being the
female version; for instance, the mermaid.
21. See Laughlin, McManus, and d'Aquili (1990, pp. 189-
195) on the concept of symbolic penetration.
22. See Laughlin, McManus, and d'Aquili (1990, pp. 198-
211) on the Tibetan Buddhist system of symbolic
23. The dakinis are Tantric goddesses who are protectors
and servants of the Buddha Dharma. Some dakinis
actually dwell among humans on earth.
24. I might also note that the peak experience here was
not equivalent to the experience of nirvana, which
although also an absorption state is not an absorption into
sensory material. This experience was equivalent to
ecstatic union with the godhead, not to "stream entry" in
the Buddhist sense.
25. That is, neurognosis; see Laughlin, McManus, and
d'Aquili (1990, p. 49) and Laughlin (1996b).
26. A succubus is a female spirit said to have sex with men
while they sleep. It may also disturb the tranquility of
meditating monks.
27. See Steinberg (1993, pp. 162-163) on submission as a
feminine attribute.
28. This "coming alive" aspect of visualization practice is
a type of "universal symbol" about which we wrote in
Laughlin, McManus, and Webber (1985) and Laughlin,
McManus, and d'Aquili (1990, pp. 201-202). These are
archetypal symbols that arise in the sensorium unbidden.
Yet they are lawfully entailed by the type of visualization
practice in which one has been engaged. Often the
changes in the universal symbol offer clues to the teacher
as to how advanced the adept has become in the practice.
29. Skt: bindu (Tib: tig le or thig.le) meaning "drop" or
"dot." This term connotes the essence of the male and
female energies, and combined refers to the essence ofthe
Buddha mind.
30. The scientific study of this process in relation to
healing is called psychoneuroimmunology; see Ader
31. The "cycle of meaning" is a central concept in
biogenetic structural theory. For further reading on the
topic, see Laughlin (1997), Laughlin, McManus, and
d'Aquili (1990, pp. 214-233), and Laughlin and Throop
32. Lucien Levy-Bruhl (1923/1966) called this intimate
engagement with a people's mythopoetic system
"mystical participation." (See my earlier section, "Jung on
the anima.")
33. Using systems theory, a "negative feedback loop" is an
information channel that tends to reinforce the previous
state of the system-in other words, it is conservative
feedback. A "positive feedback loop" is an information
channel that tends to cause the system to change or
34. Many modern Navajos who interact within the
context of Anglo society will no doubt also experience
Anglo anima imagery. I am speaking here of more
traditional people who live out their lives on the Navajo
35. Of course there must be some flexibility in traditional
systems, for otherwise they would not keep up with
changes in society and the environment, but changes tend
to be slow and take generations. This is the process
anthropologists call "revitalization" (Wallace, 1966).
36. A "simulacrum" is a geographical feature, like a rock
or a mountain, that resembles (to the human mind) some
anthropomorphic form, like a vagina, horns, breasts, face,
and so on; see Paul Devereux (1992, p. 152; 1996, pp. 194-
37. In biogenetic structural terms, the anima/us is the
homeomorphogenic structure by which processes outside
the structure of the sensorium become imagined in the
sensorium. Because all innervation within the nervous
system is reciprocal-that is, nerves run back and forth
50 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
between any two loci-images may be caused by
unconscious processes (expression), or may excite
unconscious processes (penetration); see Laughlin,
McManus and d'Aquili (1990, p. 193).
38. James Hillman's rejection of this crucial distinction
between structure and content has the effect, intended or
otherwise, of totally culturally relativizing the concept of
the anima/us. Hillman (1985, p. 13) and others (e.g.,
Griffin, 1989, p. 40) have rejected Jung's distinction
between the archetypes as unknowable structures in
themselves and archetypal images and ideas as knowable
transformations (or "contents") of those structures. They
do so on the dubious grounds that, if the "archetypes in
themselves" are in principle unknowable, then how can we
know anything about them? But this is a serious error that
further confuses the underlying ontological difficulties
with the notion of archetype. Moreover, it is a view that is
overrationalized, ethnocentric, and phenomenologically
naive. There really exists no universal structure in
Hillman's account whose transformations allow
comparisons and deductions pertaining to its hidden
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52 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
The Meaning of Self-Liberation
and Some Loops From
The Source of Danger Is Fear
Elias Capriles
University of the Andes
Merida, Venezuela
Self-liberation does not mean that a self is liberated from delusorily valued thoughts or
delusory experiences; what it means is that such thoughts and experiences liberate themselves
spontaneously. Their liberation may take place in three main ways. The paradoxical, inverted
dynamics of samsara manifest as countless "laces" in which we tie ourselves up; understanding
the functionality of these "laces" is one of the preconditions for them to self-liberate, the
others being direct introduction and knowledge ofthe "treasure of instructions."
I. The Base, Path and Fruit in the
Dzogchen Teachings and the True
Meaning of
HE DZOGCHEN teachings of Tibetan
Buddhism speak of Dzogchen as Base
(Tibetan: zhi [gzhiJ), Dzogchen as Path
(Tibetan: lam [lam]) and Dzogchen as Fruit (Tibetan:
drebu ['bras-buJ).l Dzogchen as Base is our original
condition of total (chenpo [chen-po])2 plenitude and
perfection (dzogpa [rdzogs-pa])3 -which, in samsara
just as well as in nirvana, is the true condition of
both the subject and the object, of both mind and
matter, and in general of all entities.
In any given individual, this original condition
may manifest three different ways of functioning:
(1) samsara, wherein a deluded consciousness fails
to apprehend the said condition as it is, and only
perceives its own dualistic, substantialist fictions;
(2) nirvana, wherein the condition in question is
apprehended as it is and thus experience is
characterized by total plenitude, while actions are
marked by total perfection; and (3) a condition
called "base of all" or kunzhi (kun-gzhi), wherein
neither samsara nor nirvana are manifest-so that
there is neither the perfect freedom inherent in
undeluded primordial cognitiveness nor the
incompleteness and self-encumbering inherent in
It is when samsara has manifested that we need
Dzogchen as Path, which consists of the repeated
self-liberation of delusion in the unveiling of
Dzogchen as Base, and which, if carried on
thoroughly and uninterruptedly until its final
consequences, will result in the manifestation of
Dzogchen as Fruit (which ultimately will imply the
manifestation of one of the typically Dzogchen
types of consummation ofthe physical organism).
In short, Dzogchen as Path and Dzogchen as Fruit
are but the direct unveiling of Dzogchen as Base
-the difference between them being that the first
is transient, whereas the latter is definitive.
Now we can explain why it is misleading to
speak of "self-liberation from delusorily valued
thought," "self-liberation from delusory
experiences," and so forth. It so happens that "self-
liberation" means that, rather than being liberated
by an intentional action carried out by the mental
subject, delusorily valued thoughts and delusory
experiences liberate spontaneously, of their own
accord. Moreover, when self-liberation occurs, the
illusion that there is a separate mental subject
The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 53-66 53
© 2001 by Panigada Press
perceiving an object, or acting upon it, and so on,
dissolves like a feather entering fire: The self-
liberation of delusorily valued thoughts, delusory
experiences and so on, involves the instant
disappearance of the illusory mental subject. Any
attempt by the illusory mental subject to liberate
such thought or experience would confirm and
sustain the illusion that there is a mental subject
separate from the flow of experience and from the
myriad potential objects. Since this is a most
essential aspect ofthe essential delusion at the root
of samsara, it would bar self-liberation and sustain
samsara. Thus the phrase "self-liberation from
thoughts" is misleading insofar as it seems to imply
that there is an inherently existing self, soul or
mental subject that, as a result of its own
intentional action, is liberated from delusory
thoughts, experiences, and so forth. Such a
misunderstanding is likely to give rise to the
attempt by the illusory mental subject to liberate
a delusorily valued thought, a delusory experience
and so on-which, as noted above, would bar self-
The above explanation has to be made more
precise, as there is not one kind of self-liberation,
but a whole range, divided into three main types,
corresponding to three principal capacities.
Whereas the first type/capacity of self-liberation
depends on a previous intentional movement of
attention that intends to apprehend the true
essence of a thought that is already established as
an object, the second type/capacity of self-liberation
depends on an instant automatic reaction as the
delusorilyvalued thought begins to arise. The third
type/capacity of self-liberation does not involve
either an intentional movement of attention toward
a thought that is already established as object, or
a spontaneous reaction as the delusorily valued
thought begins to arise. In this last type of self-
liberation, as the thought arises, it self-liberates,
like a drawing on water: thought is not delusorily
valued even for an instant; therefore, it never veils
the "essence" or ngowo (ngo-bo) aspect ofthe Base,
which is voidness (shunyata, tongpanyi [stong-pa-
nyid], wu, mu).7
Though the first type of self-liberation is
preceded by an intentional movement of attention
towards the thought that is already established as
object, and the second type is preceded by an
instant automatic reaction of attention as the
delusorily valued thought begins to arise, in neither
ofthem is self-liberation produced by the illusory
subject's intentional acts or spontaneous reactions.
Self-liberation being spontaneous liberation, its
occurrence shows most clearly that the subject
cannot cause it, and that the obstinate attempt to
do so does but increase the force and intensity of
delusion. However, even this attempt will not
prevent self-liberation, as the increase of the force
and intensity of delusion may lead it to a threshold
level at which, its reductio ad absurdum having
been achieved, its spontaneous liberation becomes
possible. In turn, this increase of delusion to a
threshold level and its subsequent self-liberation
will demonstrate even more clearly that the
subject's intentional actions or automatic reactions
may not cause liberation.
The following lines may illustrate the first type/
capacity of self-liberation:
As I look into the thought in order to
apprehend its essence
suddenly there is no one to look and nothing
to be seen,
as subject and object instantly, spontaneously
independently of their will, like feathers
entering fire:
Thought disappears on the spot and there only
the patency of inherently self-liberating
primordial cognitiveness.
In turn, the second type/capacity of self-
liberation may be poetically described in terms of
the following lines:
Like snakes
tensions appear and dance in my breast;
like snakes
they uncoil and free themselves on the spot
in the radiant, limitless, unborn
and empty expanse.
To conclude, the third type/capacity of self-
liberation may be poetically expressed as follows:
Silence roars and darkness shines
in the sparkling fullness of the void-
and if a thought arises
it is void
and therefore does not veil
the roar of silence
in the fullness of the void.
Since there is no longer an apparent distance
between a subject and an object, (we) cannot follow
patterns "down the river" as subjects who look
toward an object, but simply "remain in the
54 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
source" beyond the subject-object duality. Like
endlessly moving ripples in a spring, thoughts
leave no traces and there is no mind to seek them:
The "mirror" of primordial cognitiveness reflects
whatever appears at any moment, but no imprint
is ever left on its surface, as there is no observer
to look into the mirror. Thus, there is no longer
any "meditation," but authentic, true self-
H. The Source of Danger is Fear
'7"1JE SOURCE of Danger is Fear is a manuscript
1 consisting of successive sections, the materials
of which came to me while I was in retreat in the
higher Himalayas practicing Dzogchen between
1977 and December, 1982. Each section of the
original manuscript has two parts: the first
describes a "lace" in which we frequently tie
ourselves up, and the second provides instructions
for the practice ofthe Dzogchen Upadesha
may create the conditions for the "lace" described
in the first part to undo itself spontaneously. The
condition for this possibly to occur is that we have
already been introduced to the state of absolute,
nondual, undeluded Awareness
that the
Dzogchen teachings call rigpa (though even in this
case the lace cannot be untied by means of a
contrived action). It so happens that this text was
written in the tradition of the Upadesha series of
the Dzogchen teachings, which provides
instructions allowing us to remain in the state of
absolute, nondual, undeludedAwareness to which
we have already been introduced.
It must be noted that some of the "laces"
described are auto-catalytic systems-that is,
systems involving positive feedback loops that
cause them to grow exponentially from their own
feedback. They are prevented from doing so by
the effective work ofrepression (in case we prefer
to use Freud's explanation
), or bad faith (in case
we prefer to use Sartre's12). This depends on a low
bioenergetic input
and the concomitant state of
small space/time/knowledge,14 and it can curb the
system's tendency to increase its intensity toward
a threshold level at which, having achieved its
reductio ad absurdum, the system becomes
liable to self-liberation. Contrariwise, the
understanding of the functional structure of the
"lace" described in the first part of any given
section and the increase of the bioenergetic input
and the consequent enlargement of the
individual's space/time/knowledge may activate
the process of reductio ad absurdum, just as the
introduction to the state of rigpa and the
knowledge ofthe methods outlined in the second
part of each section may create the conditions for
the system's self-liberation-or, in other words,
for the "lace" to undo itself spontaneously.
In this paper I shall not reproduce the second
part of each section, but only the first one, that
is, the one describing the "lace" in which we tie
ourselves up. The reason for this is that the
instructions contained in the second part are not
to be publicly/indiscriminately broadcast, but only
transmitted. individually to authorized, capable
practitioners, by an authorized, capable Master
(which certainly I am not).
We miss the now and its inherent bliss
and experience uneasiness and discomfort
as we run after thoughts which project a
"better" future,
evoke a "better" past or imagine a "better"
and thereby indulge in longing or nostalgia.
The now is supreme bliss, which we miss,
as we concentrate on thoughts about the future
or the past
or on countless miscellaneous thoughts
because we miss the now's supreme bliss
as we concentrate on thoughts about the future
or the past
or on countless miscellaneous thoughts
because the now's supreme bliss eludes us
as we concentrate on thoughts ...
da capo sine fine ...
Pleasure and pain
We fail to obtain lasting pleasure
and constantly reap pain
as a result of our obstinate attempt
to attain lasting pleasure and avoid all pain.
We wish to obtain lasting pleasure
and elude the pain produced
by our attempt to obtain lasting pleasure
and to elude the pain produced
by our attempt to obtain lasting pleasure
and to elude the pain produced ...
da capo sine fine ...
The Meaning of Self-Liberation and Some Loops From The Source of Danger Is Fear 55
When we are in repose
and experience no novelty or change
we project on our experience the concept of
and, as a result of the subtle rejection of our
produced by the delusorily valued projection of a
"negative" concept,
we experience the uneasiness and discomfort
called "boredom."
However, in order to forbear our daily toil and
we need the incentive of aspiring to repose
and therefore we tell ourselves that we cannot
enjoy repose at present
because in order to do so first we must resolve
some problems,
and thus we engage in struggle
in order to win the repose
that we imagine will provide us with pleasure
and satisfaction.
However, when we "win" our repose
and experience no novelty or change
again we project on our experience the concept
of "boredom"
and thus experience uneasiness and
and so again we tell ourselves that we cannot
enjoy the repose
because first we must resolve some problems,
and therefore again we engage in struggle
in order to win the repose
that we imagine will provide us with pleasure
and satisfaction ...
da capo sine fine ...
By hungrily looking toward a supposed future
to be obtained from a supposedly substantial
we miss the total bliss of nowness.
Then, when the desired future arrives
we are so possessed by the attitude
of looking toward the future and away from
the present
that we cannot at all enjoy the experience we
had yearned for.
Then we elude awareness of our frustration
and of the emptiness
we have discovered
by imagining that pleasure will be found'in
the future
when we obtain another object.
Thus, the great bliss and plenitude of now ness
continues to be hidden as we look and rush
toward the future
and experience the dissatisfaction and
of being away from the now.
Fear, insecurity, suffering, and refuge
We are constantly searching for security
because we are fearful.
We are fearful because we search for security
instead of giving ourselves up to the insecurity
that life is:
if we gave ourselves up to insecurity we would
feel secure,
for we would have no fear of insecurity.
Escaping insecurity, instead, implies and
begets fear:
the more we escape, the more we affirm that
there is something to fear;
the more we affirm there is something to fear,
the more we fear.
Thus, we search for security because we fear
and we fear because we search for security.
We fear the terrible sensation that fear is
but the fear of the sensation of fear
begets the sensation of fear that we fear.
We try to elude our fear by taking refuge in
friends, lovers, groups, beliefs, identities,
Since these objects are breakable and unstable
by taking refuge in them we condemn
ourselves to the fear of losing our refuge:
we take refuge because we fear losing the
refuge that we take
because we fear losing the refuge that we take
because we fear ...
da capo sine fine ...
We fear that others discover our fear
but our fear that our fear may be discovered
is fear that may be discovered by others:
we fear that they may discover the fear that
they may discover
the fear that they may discover the fear that .. .
da capo sine fine .. .
The delusory valuation of thought at the root
of the belief in a self
is sustained by neuromuscular tensions,
vibrations, contractions and reverberations
insofar as attention is occupied with thoughts/
other than the tensions, vibrations,
56 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
contractions and reverberations,
are not felt to be unpleasant and thus may be
In turn, insofar as they are conserved,
we are compelled to evade them
and, thus, to conserve them.
There can only be tension when there is
and, whenever there is tension, consciousness
rejects it.
However, insofar as tension is not the central
object of attention
rejection of it is subtle and, therefore, tension
is slight.
Then, as we become aware of tension, our
rejection increases
proportionally to our awareness of it,
making tension increase and become more
The more unpleasant tension becomes, the
more we reject it,
making it ever more unpleasant. This
autocatalytic system
may bring the unpleasantness to a threshold
at which the subject-object duality/delusion at
its root may collapse
and thus unpleasantness may come to an end.
When we anguish about another's anguish
our anguish feeds the other's anguish
by confirming the belief in the extreme
importance of life and pain
which is the deepest root of anguish.
At first, the immediate cause of anguish may
be an external situation;
once anguish has manifested,
the immediate cause of anguish may be the
presence of anguish itself.
In the same way, consoling someone confirms
the belief in the extreme importance
ofthat individual, of his or her experience and
of his or her grief.
Since this belief is the deepest cause of grief,
confirming it may cause grief to increase.
By trying to do something about our distress
we cause the aversion at the root of distress to
and confirm the illusion of absolute importance
which is the deepest cause of distress.
Blaming others
As soon as we experience guilt, fear, distress
or any other undesired emotion
we want to escape.
We fail to understand that undesired emotions
are painful
only when we regard them as undesirable and
want to escape.
Worse still,
when, for any reason, we experience guilt,
we try to get rid of it
by blaming others for the "evil" for which we
feel guilty.
Thus we add to our guilt the guilt of blaming
making our guilt increase and therefore giving
to an even greater need to blame others.
Regarding some aspects of ourselves as
and feeling that a self having such aspects
would itself be abhorrent,
we are compelled to deny them in ourselves,
project them on others, and abhor those others.
Moreover, we can only abhor and hate others
if we justify our hatred
and elude guilt for it
by thinking that it is the fully cogent response
to the evil-doing and the supposedly evil nature
of the individual whom we hate.
We evade awareness of the pain in our heart
that hatred is
by concentrating on the object of our hatred
and its supposedly evil character.
Since we do not realize the pain that hatred
we may continue to hate,
perpetuating the pain that hatred is.
Contemplation and uptight mindfulness
In order to attain the state of Contemplation
-that is, to "rest" in the state of absolute,
nondual, undeluded Awareness-
and avoid being drawn away from this state
by distracting thoughts
an alert attentiveness is needed.
However, attention is precisely what
Contemplation must dissolve.
The Meaning a/Self-Liberation and Some Loops From The Source of Danger Is Fear 57
Being alert so that distraction will not carry
you away generates tension.
However, tension is precisely what
Contemplation must cut.
If you are not alert, thoughts will carry you
and make you revolve in the wheel of samsara.
However, if you are alert, this will beget
tension and aversion
and sustain the illusory perceiver-doer
which is the root of samsara.
When we begin to meditate
we keep alert
so that thoughts will not carry us away from
constituting a "chain of delusion" that would
cause us
to ceaselessly revolve in the "wheel of
we are taught that we must "reCognize" the
essence of thoughts
so that they will liberate themselves in the
ocean of gnosis-
the state of absolute, nondual, undeluded
Trying to do this, we give rise to a delusive
"uptight mindfulness"
which is a function of the duality of subject
and object
and of the delusory valuation of "the self' and
"its thoughts"-
and which, thus, keeps us revolving in the
"wheel of samsara."
When we are carrying out an activity
and worry about erring
our worry and self-consciousness interfere with
our subjectivity,
causing us to blunder.
It is when fearfully we look down toward the
abyss that we fall.
When we become the object that others watch
and judge
and thus get self-encumbered,
for fear of others and of our painful experience
we "hide our head in the sand,"
trying to minimize suffering by minimizing
This experience of rejection, however,
will last only insofar as we reject it
and evade full awareness of it.
Delusion, distress and here-nowness
The distress inherent in delusion
may be taken to be inherent in leisurely here-
and, thus, we may spend our lives evading
leisurely here-nowness,
trying to fill our time with business and
and thus generating the aversion to the here-
and-now that gives rise to distress
and missing the plenitude, fulfillment and
bliss inherent in plain here-nowness.
Conceptualizing the now as being boring, we
reject it
and thus experience the pain produced by
which we believe to be inherent in leisurely
and that we reject, giving rise to further pain,
which we believe to be inherent in leisurely
and which we reject, giving rise to further
pain ...
da capo sine fine ...
And, in general, when we face situations with
little variety or change
-whether in our daily activity or while sitting
in meditation-
we project the ideas of boredom, dullness and
and thus reject our experience, experiencing
the unpleasantness
that we call "boredom, dullness and heaviness"
and believing that it is inherent in those
in which there is little variety or change.
By rejecting both the unpleasantness
and the situation with which we have
associated it,
we generate more unpleasantness,
that we reject, generating more
unpleasantness ...
We feel empty and try to fill this lack
by contacting, acquiring and possessing
valuable objects.
However, by trying to fill our illusory lack
we affirm it as real and true,
sustaining it and making it grow in proportion
to the "value" ofthe objects with which we try
to fill it:
the more valuable the object, the greater our
lack becomes.
58 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Thus, by attempting to recover the original
plenitude we lost
as we felt separate from the plenitude of the
we make ourselves empty and dissatisfied.
Others? pride, and value
We may also try to "fill the lack" with value
projected on us by others
and, becoming the object that they prize, swell
our heart with pride.
However, instead of granting us plenitude,
this exposes us to the risk of being
or of being unappreciated, despised or
by making our heart's fluctuations depend on
the Other's look
we condemn ourselves to anguish and anxiety
again and again, we must fall into the hell
of self-deprecation, disparagement and
A swollen heart is easy to puncture
with the spear of a look or the arrow of a sharp
The more we strive to obtain a high value
through the Other's favorable look,
the more we affirm ourselves to be lacking in
and so the more we need to be filled
with the value the Other bestows on us
and the more exposed to contempt and
humiliation we become
-and so the more anguish we shall have to
and the emptier and more deprived we shall
Favorable conditions
The esteem and respect of many is a source of
when others admire and accept the entity
indicated by our name
the mental subject establishes a "link of being"
with that entity
and, accepting it, it accepts the totality of its
experience and sensations
and thus experiences pleasure: as the Stoics
knew well,
sensations are pleasurable when we accept
and unpleasant when we reject them.
Thus, the others' favorable look causes us to
feel wellY
However, accepting whatever we are
conditioned to accept,
conditions us to reject what we are conditioned
to reject
whenever we meet it.
Therefore, pride causes samsara's Ferris wheel
to turn:
after we ascend, we shall have to descend
and meet the distress which human beings call
The Buddha Shakyamuni declared that, in
pleasure is but a momentary relief from pain.
This relief is pleasurable
because it allows us to stop rejecting our
and accept it, thus experiencing pleasure.
However, the pleasure thus obtained is
transient, for it is not possible
to make acceptance permanent, shunning
rejection forever.
Looking for pleasure is a source of pain,
yet we cover the embers with so many ashes
that for a while we cannot feel the burn.
Thus, we consolidate our habit of clinging to
the ember
so that sooner or later we shall burn our hand.
Worrying for others
When those who care for us worry about our
the true cause of their worry is not whatever
we do
but the fact that they have taken refuge in us
-who are breakable and changing entities-
rather than in their own unbreakable and
changeless essence.
Nevertheless, they often make us feel
that the cause oftheir sorrows is our behavior
-for example, our dedication to the spiritual
and thus feel justified in inflicting themselves
with suffering
and feel compelled to make us feel guilty
by letting us know that we are the cause of
their sorrows.
If we believe them, we may experience guilt
and worry,
failing to see that they have themselves caused
their own sorrows
just as we are causing ours by inflicting guilt
and worry upon ourselves.
If we have any responsibility for both their
suffering and ours
it lies in our mistaken refuge and the delusory
valuation that sustains it.
The Meaning of Self-Liberation and Some Loops From The Source of Danger Is Fear 59
Illness and pain
By obsessively protecting ourselves
from what we regard as the sources of illness
we may give rise to the bioenergetic
imbalances that beget illness.
Thus, we may give rise precisely to that which
we want to avoid.
Similarly, it is our rejection of "pain"
that turns into pain what is but naked
the only pain is the one resulting from the
making of pain a problem,
rejecting it, and despairing about our inability
to bring it to an end.
Good and evil
As children, we are taught that, in order to
"be good,"
we have to keep our nature under control and
-which implies that we are inherently evil
and that this evil will manifest if we do not
control our nature.
Even those of us who were told that we were
were repeatedly made to feel bad
in order to discourage unwanted behavior
and make us try to feel good by adopting the
"positive" identity others offer US
and behaving as they want us to behave.
Nevertheless, since the condition of our
is the implantation of a monstrous phantasy
(the monster that mother saw us as while
punishing us)
no matter how deep inside we bury this
it will surface again and again
soiling our "good works" with "evil."
Thus, by trying to make us be "good"
"well-meaning" people implant the roots of
"evil" in us.
When we miss the ineffable, nonconceptual
there arises the need to endow our life and
tasks with enunciable meanings
and to put hopes in worldly aspirations.
Then, we fear that if we lose these meanings
and fail to realize these aspirations
the result shall be meaninglessness and
We cannot see that the loss of false meanings
and hopes
is necessary for rediscovering the ineffable,
nonconceptual meaning
inherent in the state of absolute, nondual,
undeluded Awareness.
Only this meaning may make us feel
truly and completely full(filled) and realized.
Because we have lost the meaning beyond
we give rise to conceptual meanings;
because we cling to conceptual meanings
we have no access to the meaning beyond
because we have no access to the meaning
beyond words
we give rise to conceptual meanings ...
da capo sine fine ...
Moralhli teachings and relative
Relative teachings and moralist practices
may help beings of certain capacities
to lead a less conflictive existence.
However, an exaggerated emphasis on them
may lead us to believe that rules and precepts
are absolute
and that their observance is ultimately
thus increasing the delusory valuation that is
the cause of duhkha
and making us more intolerant toward others.
Whatever causes us to rise to heaven
later on will be the cause of our falling into
As stated by Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh:
"Giving (dana) practiced with an aim
may result in the grace of being reborn in
This, however, is like shooting an arrow
when the strength propelling the arrow is
it will return to the ground
and this will be a source of adverse karma
for times to come."
By taking the way of heaven
we fall deep into hell.
In a succession of toothaches and ice-creams
which does the child want to have first?
It is better to step down from the wheel
60 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol 20
that carries us up to heaven and then takes
us down to hell.
Yet the worst with moralism
is that it may be used by "demonic"
as a pretext for murdering truly Enlightened
In the name of purity, the greatest possible
fault is committed.
Despise the passions?
Let us take the example of anger:
If I despise my anger
I shall give rise to anger against my anger.
Since anger against anger is also anger,
by despising anger I shall produce more of
what I want to uproot.
The more my anger grows, the more I shall
despise it;
the more I despise it, the more it will grow.
In general, it is impossible
to despise our passions without despising
for we feel responsible for our passions
(and, when we no longer do so, we are no longer
prey to passions).
So, when we despise our passions we become
a despicable self;
the more we despise them, the more despicable
we become,
and the more despicable we become,
the more the passions that we deem despicable
grow in us.
If one tries to "purify oneself' through relative
-from the visualization and recitation of
to practices of tsa/lung/thigle
the assumption that there is an impurity to
be purified
will sustain the delusory valuation of thought
and thus the duality and judgment which
constitute the impurity.
Thus, our endeavor will be comparable
to cleaning a pristine mirror with a dirty
If the bioenergetic input is high enough,
if one is subject to the supreme samaya
and if one possesses the instruction,
self-liberation will disperse the clouds
covering the sky and blocking the sunlight.
Contrariwise, the idea of an impurity to be
sooner or later would become the door to hell.
Opening up
We fear opening up,
feeling that this would expose us to evil and
and, eventually, make us lose ourselves and
ultimately be destroyed.
How little we realize that we can only be
when, being possessed by delusory valuation,
dualism and self-clinging,
and believing that we are ultimately real and
important selves
to be protected and safeguarded, we close
since the supposedly real and important "I"
may always be harmed
we are thus condemned to terror, anguish and
and provide a target that is vulnerable to
By opening up and attaining Enlightenment,
we attain plenitude and stability that cannot
be harmed
and are freed from fear, anguish and anxiety.
In the same way, we fear that if we open up
an underground monster lurking in our depths
may possess us.
However, the monster of unconscious phantasy
is sustained
by our drive to check it and keep it under
by supposing that it is our deepest nature,
we keep it alive, producing unforeseen effects.
Ifwe applied the instructions and opened up,
the illusory monster
would dissolve in anoic gnosis
free of subject
and object
and we would be rid of inveterate impulses.
Uneasiness in meditation
When we sit in meditation and look at our
we may feel uneasy
and think that this uneasiness is inherent in
Actually, it is the uneasiness of delusory
The Meaning ofSe/fLiberation and Some Loops From The Source of Danger Is Fear 61
valuation and grasping,
which normally we fail to realize as such
because we are closed and our attention is
with countless projects and ideas.
If this uneasiness becomes evident when we
sit to meditate,
we may wrongly associate it with meditation
and openness
and thus be "instinctively" tempted to
interrupt our meditation
and keep clinging to and following overvalued
trying to escape from uneasiness
by clinging to its very source.
If, instead, (we) "reCognize" the essence ofthe
present thought
and thus "Enter" the State
uneasiness disappears in the plenitude and
bliss of the unborn.
We project the uneasiness of delusory
on openness and Contemplation
and thus keep from the latter
and cling to and follow overvalued thoughts,
reaffirming and reinforcing the source of
Boredom in meditation
In Contemplation, plenitude, bliss and
satisfaction are inexhaustible.
However, sooner or later, Contemplation is
we feel separate from the continuum of the
become obsessed with an object of desire which
we imagine
will provide us with plenitude, bliss and
and, by developing a powerful yearning for it,
we maintain the state of illusory duality and
which is lack of plenitude, distress and
Thus, we compulsively run after our own tail
which, no matter how fast we spin, always
remains out of reach.
If the conception of an object of desire
does not spontaneously liberate itself upon
and we fail to apply the instruction which
allows its self-liberation
the uneasiness of delusory valuation and
desire will drive us
to interrupt our practice in order to run after
the object of desire.
Too many passions and delusions in
If, while we "practice" Contemplation,
passions and delusions arise uninterruptedly
and we experience anguish or uneasiness
we feel that these are justified
by the undesirable flow of passions and
which we believe is their objective cause.
However, in truth our uneasiness springs
from the delusory valuation of the concept of
"passions and delusions"
and the belief that these are inherently
Profound instructions
When the "two lights"28 shine and, failing to
"reCognize" their nonduality,
the "light ofthe son" fights the "Mother Light,"
or when a tremendous agitation possesses us
and we do not manage to cease struggling and
we should apply the "profound instructions"
we have received.
However, the more we apply these instructions
in order to "resolve" the situation,
the more we affirm ourselves as different from
the latter
and the more value and reality we ascribe
to both the situation and ourselves;
therefore, the more we affirm and sustain our
and the more conflictive and unbearable we
make our situation.
Our attempt to resolve the situation
reinforces the situation we want to resolve.
Peaceful mandalas
Our inability to somehow alter the impassivity
of peaceful mandalas
-the peaceful, undefiable immutability ofthe
seemingly begets irritation. Actually, the cause
of irritation
is the inveterate impulses of delusion
rather than the peaceful mandalas to which
we are reacting
and which we thus turn into wrathful
62 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Wrathful mandalas
If, when (we) are "resting" in the state of
and the bioenergetic input is very high,
we feel subtly separate from whatever is
the experience ofthe wrathful mandalas may
take place:
the flow of experience shakes us until the
of someone who is shaken and something
shaking her or him
dissolves in absolute, nondual, undeluded
Ignoring that the agitation that we suffer
is the skillful means of the True Teacher
we may feel anguished and resist and try to
thus increasing the agitation:
our most precious friend is perceived as our
most dreadful enemy.
IHo Social Laces
Ecology and survival
Our terror of insecurity and impermanence
leads us to invent
technological "solutions" in order to eradicate
all risks of death, illness, and all that we
consider to be a problem.
Thus, we produce pesticides, chemical
fertilizers, antibiotics,
drugs and all kinds of "sciences," devices and
-from nuclear energy to genetic
that disrupt the ecological balance on which
our lives depend
both in the so-called "external world" and
"inside our bodies."
We try to destroy the "negative" side ofthe coin
of existence
-the side featuring death, suffering, illness,
insecurity, hard work, pain and so on-
by constantly putting corrosives on it.
Nowadays, corrosion has worn away so much
of the coin
that it is about to reach the side we wished to
-life, joy, health, comfort, security, leisure,
pleasure and so on-
and thus put an end to human existence.
By trying to destroy death
we have come to the brink of bringing all life
to an end.
Social change
The oppressive structures of society are
internalized by all of us,
molding our psychological and experiential
Ifwe set out to transform society
without having transformed our own inner
we unavoidably reproduce those structures in
the new order ofthings.
Therefore, what we mean to be a total
transformation of society
will be but a mere change of masters.
The internalized, aggressive and oppressive
elements of society
are integrated into the structure of our psyche.
If we project those elements of our psyche on
the ruling class
and try to destroy them by destroying the
members ofthat class
our destructive and oppressive actions will
make all the more powerful
the negative elements of our psyche which we
wished to destroy.
Having destroyed the ones on whom we
projected those elements,
the latter's underground presence will be felt
again in our own selves
and thus we shall be compelled to project them
on new "others"
who may also be destroyed as though they were
those aspects.
The Enemy
Fearing that the Enemy may destroy us
we have almost achieved the destruction that
we fear.29
Ifwe used the most powerful weapons that we
have developed
we would not only destroy our enemies, but
would destroy ourselves.
Moreover, in building those weapons we have
so much radioactive pollutants into the
that even if we do not use them our survival is
The Meaning ofSe/fLiberation and Some Loops From The Source of Danger Is Fear 63
For this issue of the International Journal of
Transpersonal Studies, I had originally written a very long
and conceptually complex philosophical paper titled "The
Meaning of Being: Steps to a Metaexistential
Metaphenomenology of Mind."
The first sections of the said paper discussed the
meaning of "being," both logically and phenomenologically,
mainly against the background of the theses drawn by
Aristotle, Pyrrho, Nagarjuna, Plotinus, Pascal,
Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Sartre (less
relevant to the aims of the paper being those produced by
Kant, Hegel, Ayer, and others). In particular, those sections
showed that, in Heidegger's philosophy, being is a
phenomenon that arises upon understanding the word
"being," as well as upon perceiving an entity as being (or
as no longer being, as never having been, etc.). Heidegger's
being, therefore, is a most basic, delusory phenomenon of
samsara rather than the true condition of all reality that
the Dzogchen teachings of Tibetan Buddhism and Bon
call the Base or zhi (gzhi). The idea was to make clear the
true logical and phenomenological meanings of being,
show Heidegger's error in identifYing Heraclitus' aletheia
with his own conception of being, and demonstrate that
the German philosopher's terminology is inappropriate
to translate Dzogchen texts.
The last sections of the said paper presented a
metaexistential metaphenomenology, according to which the
experiences that existentialism and existential philosophies
in general regard as most authentic-those featuring
anguish, distress and so on-though being indeed more
authentic than the pleasant samsaric experiences produced
by the mechanics of bad faith (self-deceit), are actually the
most basic manifestations of essential human delusion
(which the Buddha Shakyamuni called avidya and
Heraclitus named lethe). Actually, the state of utter
authenticity is that which different Buddhist and non-
Buddhist Wisdom traditions call Awakening or
Enlightenment, which involves the self-liberation both of
the phenomenon of being and of all experiences of anguish,
distress, and so on.
The main point in the paper in question was that the
ideal translator of Dzogchen texts is one who is perfectly
familiar with self-liberation. Anyone else will be merely
rendering personal fantasies about Dzogchen. Only those
who are familiar with self-liberation (and thus with going
beyond the experience of being that is one ofthe most basic
delusory phenomena of samsara) can understand the
Dzogchen texts on the basis of what I have called a
"metaontological hermeneutics" (Capriles, 1999; related texts
are Capriles, 2000c and Capriles, in press) and thus render
their correct meaning into other languages. Therefore, the
first condition for correctly translating Dzogchen texts (even
prior to knowing the Tibetan language), is to actually practice
Dzogchen and thus have a valid experience of Dzogchen as
Path and therefore of self-liberation.
However, the original paper was philosophically
complex and lengthy and therefore I finally decided to
publish the present paper, shorter and poetical, instead.
1. Throughout this paper, the Tibetan words that are not
within square brackets convey an approximate
pronunciation of the original Tibetan term; the Tibetan
words in square brackets provide the Wylie system
transliteration ofthe vocable, which allows the Tibetologist
to reconstruct the original Tibetan script.
2. Normally "chenpo" means ''big'' or "great." However,
N amkhai N orbu Rinpoche has noted that in this and some
other cases the term is given an absolute meaning, as it is
used to indicate something that, being total, cannot be
bigger or less big, greater or less great. In such instances,
the term is to be translated as "total."
3. When a glass is full to the brim with some liquid, Tibetans
say the glass is "dzogpa." When an action is perfectly
accomplished, they also say the action is "dzogpa." In
particular, the Base, Path and Fruit of Dzogchen are
characterized by absolute plenitude and perfection;
therefore, in the combined word "dzogpa chen po"
(Dzogchen), it is appropriate to translate the term "dzogpa"
as "plenitude and perfection," and to render the combined
word as "total plenitude and perfection."
4. These are: (1) the Rainbow Body (Jalu [dja-lus]); (2) the
Body of Light (Okiku ['od-kyi sku] or Ophung ['od-phung]);
and (3) the most highly accomplished manifestation ofthe
Body of Light, constituted by the Total Transference or Powa
Chenpo ('pho-ba chen-po). For an explanation see Capriles
5. Since both Dzogchen as Path and Dzogchen as Fruit are
beyond the experience of normal sentient beings, only
accomplished Dzogchen practitioners may explain the two
said aspects ofDzogchen: Whoever is not perfectly familiar
with self-liberation, upon describing it, explaining it, or
speaking of it will but express fantasies about the nature
ofDzogchen as Path and Dzogchen as Fruit. Moreover, since
beings in samsara fail to correctly apprehend the condition
of Dzogchen as Base, even in explaining the Base, those
who are not perfectly familiar with self-liberation will but
express the products of their own imagination.
6. In a text on the practice of the Dzogchen Menngagde
(man-ngag-sde; Skt.: Upadesha) translated in the mid-
1970s, the phrase "liberates itself as a snake uncoiling"
(which referred to the delusorily valued thought) was
mistranslated as "liberates himselflike a snake uncoiling."
The translator had no experience of self-liberation and thus
understood the ambiguous Tibetan syntax as meaning that
the skilled meditator liberated himself or herself from the
thoughts and so on, in a way that is analogous to that in
which a snake whose body has been tied into a knot undoes
the said knot.
7. For an explanation ofthe three aspects ofthe Base see
Capriles (2000b). For a more detailed explanation see
Capriles (2000a).
8. Primordial awareness is said to be inherently self-
liberating because, when there is no delusory valuation of
the "triple projection" and therefore the illusory subject-
object duality does not manifest, all that arises in our
experience is like the ever-moving ripples in a watersource
that cannot be followed: rather than being like the more
stable ripples that form in a stream and that, as they go
64 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
down, may be followed by an observer standing on the
banks of the river, that which arises in our experience is
always changing and there is no separate observer to
follow it. The point is that, since the ripples change so
rapidly and since there is no (illusory) separate observer
who may follow their change through successive moments,
it is impossible to establish that they constitute a stable
form and thus to delusorily perceive them as a substance.
Thus, when the reCognition of the essence (ngowo [ngo-
boD of thoughts results in the manifestation of the
Dharmakaya (the so-called "Mind" aspect of
Enlightenment), and thus the illusory subject-object
duality dissolves like feathers entering fire, the ensuing
nondual state, wherein primordial cognitiveness is fully
patent, naturally liberates all would-be delusorily-valued
thoughts. For example, ifthe illusion of a separate subject
begins to arise, it spontaneously dissolves on the spot.
9. Upadesha is a Sanskrit word, whereas Dzogchen (rDzogs-
chen) is a Tibetan word. In Tibetan, upadesha is menngag
(man-ngag), and the corresponding series of Dzogchen
teachings is menngagde (man-ngag-sde) or menngaggyide
(man-ngag gyi-sde). I have used the Sanskrit term because,
being the term used by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, it is
best known to members of the Dzogchen Community. The
word Upadesha means "secret oral instructions"; however,
since many instructions of the Upadesha have become
written, almost public instructions, I shall translate the
term simply as "instructions."
10. I use the word "Awareness" because of its Anglo-Saxon
etymological meaning, which is "being true."
11. According to Freud, repression is the action of
subconscious mechanisms which keep ego-dystonic
contents (i.e., contents which are incompatible with one's
self-image) out of the focus of conscious awareness.
12. According to Sartre, bad faith is a self-deceit which
the conscious mind carries out knowingly and
intentionally and which involves, in the same operation,
deceiving itself about its own deceit, so that once the self-
deceit is accomplished there is no conscious awareness
that there was any deceit. Sartre uses the concept of bad
faith to explain many phenomena which Freud explains
through the concept of repression.
13. Sanskrit: kundalini; Tibetan: thigle (thig-le). It must
be noted that the Tibetan term thigle translates both the
Sanskrit word bindu (sometimes translated, in the context
of Tantrism, as "seminal seed") and the Sanskrit vocable
kundalini. Tibetans chose to translate both Sanskrit words
for a single Tibetan term because in Tantrism kundalini
depends on bindu to such an extent that actually they
may be regarded as being exactly the same thing.
14. For an explanation of this concept see Tarthang Tulku
15. This emptiness is not the voidness sought by the
Buddhists, but the uncomfortable emptiness of the lack
of wholeness and fulfillment inherent in the illusion of
16. When I use the noun "meditation" or the verb "to
meditate," I am referring to a function of mind-that is, of
delusion-which involves mindfulness, attention and the
subject-object duality. When I use the word
"Contemplation," I am referring to a state in which mind-
that is, delusion-as well as mindfulness, attention, and
the subject-object duality have disappeared and the state
of absolute, nondual, undeluded Awareness is
uninterruptedly manifest for a given period oftime.
17. Naturally, if we are ashamed of pride, the first moment
of acceptance will be followed by a second moment of
rejection, which being rejection of sensation results in an
unpleasant experience.
18. That is, to "be-having-ourselves," which implies that
the inner observer, that has assumed the values of society,
has to check and govern us as objects.
19. This will be so provided that our parents or educators
allow us to embody the kind of identity that they and society
deem "positive." If they do not allow us to embody a
"positive" identity, we shall have to assume an identity
socially regarded as negative and, therefore, we shall have
to obtain from people generally regarded as evil the
approval and admiration that we need in order to function.
This, however, does not mean that we become "good" or
"evil" due solely to the influence of others during childhood;
genetic propensities may partly explain why the same
parents react differently to each of their children, helping
them adopt a specific role in life. Thus, there is a
determining influence of karma from "previous lifetimes."
For a brief explanation, see my paper "Beyond Mind: Steps
to a Metatranspersonal Psychology" (Capriles, 2000b); for
a more detailed explanation, see my books Que somas y
ad6nde vamos (1986) and The Direct Path (1976).
20. Duhkha: dissatisfaction, lack of plenitude, missing the
point, recurrent suffering. This is how the Hinayana Schools
characterize samsara.
21. See Yoka Daishi (Yung-chia Hsuan-chueh)/Taisen
Deshimaru [1981]).
22. Often-and even more so when we are Dharma-
practitioners-we may feel that the passions are alien forces
trying to possess us, and thus we fight against them
(begetting further passions). Since while we fight against
the passions we experience them as alien forces, we neither
feel responsible for them nor identify with them. However,
once we fall prey to the passions, we feel responsible, at
least for having yielded to them, and we identifY with them,
for we are acting them out.
23. In Tantric and Dzogchen Buddhism, Vajrasattva, the
"vajra being" (i.e., the "immutable/indestructible being"),
is the embodiment and symbol of the Sambhogakaya,
containing all zhitro (zhi-khro) or "peaceful-wrathful"
deities. In the outer or lower Tantras, the figure of
Vajrasattva is used in combination with the famous
Hundred-Syllable mantra as a most important
purification practice. In the inner or higher Tantras,
Vajrasattva is the pivot of the visualization-
transformation version ofthe practice of zhitro, as all the
relevant deities are contained in him. In the Dzogchen
The Meaning of Self-liberation and Some loops From The Source of Danger Is Fear 65
Upadesha, the zhitro-which in this case does not involve
visualization or transformation-is a means to catalyze
the process of self-liberation of delusion, so that samsara
and the propensities for it to manifest are most rapidly
neutralized without any effort whatsoever on the part of
the practitioner.
24. rTsa / rlung / thig-le.
25. This is the point in the story about the poems by the
Ch'an Buddhist Masters Hui-neng and Shen-hsiu when the
5th Patriarch, Master Hung-jen, was to name a successor.
26. Samaya means "commitment." Hinayana Buddhism
is based on keeping vows that are lost at death. Mahayana
Buddhism is based on the training of bodhichitta, which
requires the practitioner to go beyond all limits (including
vows as well as the drive to protect his or her own
individual existence) if this is necessary to benefit beings
and lead them to Enlightenment. Tantric Buddhism is
based on samaya or commitment, which involves a series
of duties that vary according to the Tantric vehicle
involved, but which in general require that the disciple
has a pure vision of the Teacher (the vajra Master or
Vajracharya) and fellow students (vajra brothers and
sisters). Dzogchen also has a samaya, but in this case the
samaya does not involve keeping specific precepts, as it
may be subsumed in the four "mepas" (med-pa) or "there
isn't," which are the negation of the four main points of
the samaya ofthe inner or higher Tantras-for the samaya
of Dzogchen may be expressed succintly in terms of the
teaching Tilopa gave N aropa on the banks ofthe Ganges
and that was codified as the Mahamudra Upadesha: "The
highest samaya is broken by thinking in terms of
The point is that trying to keep precepts necessarily
involves the delusory valuation of thoughts that establish
what is permitted and what is forbidden, as well as an
activity ofthe apparently separate observer that is to keep
the precepts. The Dzogchen teachings do not permit or
forbid any particular actions: they just require the
practitioner to be beyond delusory valuation, transcending
the apparently separate observer in the continuity of the
inherently self-liberating state, and thus being beyond
the acceptance and rejection that are necessary in order
to keep precepts.
27. (a) I call this gnosis because it is a function of
cognitiveness/awareness and because certain Gnostic
trends called gnosis the cognition of the absolute; (b) I
add the adjective anoic because in the unveiling of such
gnosis the mind (noia)-implying the noetic-noematic
(subject-object) duality, delusory valuation, and other
experience-shaping, delusory mechanisms-is
28. The "two lights" are the one called "Mother Light" and
the so-called "light ofthe son" referred to in the following
line of the "lace." They manifest as a seeming duality in
some yogic experiences of tho gel (thod-rgal) , or of the
indivisibility of thiigel and tekchii (khregs-chod) in the
nyingthik (snying-thig) and especially in the yangthik
(yang-thig) practices of the Dzogchen Menngagde (man-
ngag-sde; Skt., Upadesha), as the patent manifestation
of dualistic delusion. The apparently separate, delusory
mental subject is associated with the "light of the son";
when the illusory subject in question dissolves upon
reCognition ofthe single Nature, so that only the so-called
"Mother Light" remains, it is said that the "light of the
son" has "integrated into the Mother Light" (though
actually nothing integrates into anything, as the point is
that the illusion that there is a "second light" simply
disappears). This is the type of integration that is
characteristic of the thogel and yangthik practices of the
Dzogchen Upadesha.
29. Actually, we have done so not only because offear that
the enemy may destroy us, but because we want our social
or racial group and our nation to be privileged and become
the masters of the world. Of course, most of us refuse to
accept that we want this and thus we justify our own
country's massive construction of weapons and its
aggressive policies with arguments about the danger
represented by an aggressive enemy. Citizens of what used
to be "the two superpowers" did this, and so do those of
the other, less powerful States.
Capriles, E. (1976). The direct path: Providing a background
for approaching the practice ofrDzogs-chen. Kathmandu,
Nepal: Mudra Publishing.
Capriles, E. (1986). Que somos y ad6nde vamos [What are we
and where are we going]. Caracas, Venezuela: Unidad de
Extension de la Facultad de Humanidades y Educacion,
Universidad Central de Venezuela.
Capriles, E. (1999). Pasos hacia una hermeneutica
metaontol6gica [Steps to a metaontological hermeneuticsl.
Paper read in November 1999 at the 5th National
Congress of Philosophy in Caracas, Venezuela. (To be
published in the Proceedings of the Congress)
Capriles, E. (2000a). Budismo y dzogchen [Buddhism and
Dzogchen]. Vitoria, Spain: Ediciones La Llave.
Capriles, E. (2000b). Beyond mind: Steps to a
metatranspersonal psychology. International Journal of
Transpersonal Studies, 19,163-183.
Capriles, E. (2000c). Estetica primordial y arte visionario
[Primordial aesthetics and visionary art]. Merida,
Venezuela, Ediciones GIEAAlCDCHT-ULA.
Capriles, E. (in press). Aletheia: Heniclito vs. Heidegger.
Madrid, Spain: Proceedings of the First Conference on
Ibero-American Philosophy.
Tarthang Tulku. (1977). Time, space and knowledge: A new
vision of reality. Emeryville, CA: Dharma Publishing.
Yoka Daishi (Yung-chia Hsiian-chiieh)/Taisen Deshimaru.
(1981). Canto del inmediato satori [Song of instantaneous
satori]. Barcelona, Spain: Vision Libros.
66 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Healing of Psychoses in
Transpersonal Understanding
Joachim Galuska
Fachklinik Heiligenfeld
Bad Kissingen, Germany
An acceptable understanding of the healing of psychoses is only possible through empathy in
the psychotic experience. Starting with the concepts of Podvoll, Benedetti, and Peciccia,
psychoses are described as deep disorders of the structure of consciousness. The healing
process of psychoses needs the reconstruction of the sense of being, of awareness, and of the
sense of self. To prevent therapists from becoming destabilized by archetypical energies and
destructive forces, a grounding in transpersonal consciousness, in healthy structures of
evolution, and in a team which is able to transform the psychotic dynamics is necessary.
The Evolution of Human
E CAN presume that human consciousness
is a way in which existence appears.
The structure of consciousness, its or-
der, is therefore the order of existence, the order
of being, which naturally reaches far beyond the
recognizable structure of our consciousness.
Let us try to imagine in how many ways the
absolute, God, nothingness, appears as the infi-
nite number of forms and processes of existence.
Our imagination is certainly too limited, but we
can ask ourselves what characterizes the struc-
ture and the peculiarity of human consciousness
as a way of being. Buddhism, for example, shows
us that our experiencing in essence consists of an
organization ofthe experiences. We could also say:
as a human being, existence senses or feels, as a
human being in existence is conscious. But an-
other interesting trait is carried by human con-
sciousness: the egoic "I" which we clearly perceive
in the present. Moving on, we could say: as a hu-
man being, existence senses or feels itself. In ev-
ery one of us it can become conscious of itself. In
every human consciousness, being identifies itself
as self. Moving on further, we could metaphori-
cally say: as a human being, God can realize Him-
self in His creation. But this self-knowledge, this
sensation of being is not complete. Every one of us
is only a minute appearance, a minute part of the
whole, like a small bubble on the ocean that at
best can recognize itself as part of a huge and gi-
gantic ocean. The present possibilities and bound-
aries for encountering oneself as a human being
have been described as the qualities of self-con-
sciousness or of personal consciousness (Wilber,
Self-consciousness has a clear boundary be-
tween "I" and "No-I," between inside and out, and
tends to identify with the pleasant. It transfers
everything that cannot be integrated to the out-
side by projective processes. It throws away ev-
erything that cannot be used anymore. Anyone
who threatens it, is destroyed by it. Anyone who
gets in its way is pushed away by it, if possible.
This is how we have treated other human beings,
animals, plants, the whole planet. And now we
realize the effects of our actions because they have
an effect on us. We have poisoned the atmosphere
and partly destroyed it and are now starting to
suffer from it and become sick. We have exploited
The Internationaljournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 67-77 67
© 2001 by Panigada Press
other people and now have to realize that the earth
lacks enough resources for everyone to live as we
do. As parents we have ignored our children and
as old people we sense how we are gotten rid of
and nobody is interested in us any more. We make
others responsible for our difficulties but do not
find a way out of our problems. All these are ways
in which we are confronted with our own actions.
This seems to be an essential characteristic of the
process of evolution of human consciousness: the
confrontation with itself. In being confronted with
the results of our actions as the "1," we can realize
that the idea of our boundary is an illusion. The
other humans on whom we project ourselves are
not different from us. The other people belong to
us. We are part of this planet; it is not to be differ-
entiated from us. Ifwe damage it, we damage our-
selves. To realize this leads to an expansion ofthe
feeling of self beyond the boundary of "1." If we
identify within a relationship with this social holon
(Wilber, 1995), which means as a couple, we very
clearly feel what it means if one is disrespectful or
abusive of the other. How can we learn to expand
our consciousness beyond the boundaries of self-
consciousness and feel how our family feels, how
the organism in which we work, our working field,
feels, how humanity feels? An essential conse-
quence of this stepping over our boundary of self,
this form of transcendence, this expansion of our
consciousness, is the increasing acceptance of re-
sponsibility. If we stop projecting we can realize
the effects of our actions because we do not need to
ward them off. And if we identify more and more
comprehensively and extensively, we, as a con-
tainer of our collective consciousness, can sense
and feel the effects of our own forces. Then we could
recognize what we are doing when, for example,
we abuse a child or wipe out a species of animals.
Then we could really take responsibility.
Psychoses in the Process of
Evolution of Consciousness
ROM THE point of view of evolution, sickness is
apparently a common phenomenon. Evolution
is a process of changing oneself, of newly structuring,
of dissolving the old, of the experimental creation
of new possibilities. Accordingly, in new structures
not everything fits together, friction comes into
being, pain comes into being, and on the level of
organic life, sickness appears. At the same time, we
find all kinds of healing processes that calm pain,
that continue the fitting together. Processes of
sickness and healing are apparently typical marks
of the process of evolution or change. If anything is
disturbed or out of order, pain, symptoms, sickness,
appear. We could say that these are zones which
most of the time are especially full of energy and
which lead to clear efforts for healing. In this sense
sickness is important because it represents sensitive
areas of development and change. At these points
at least, a huge suffering appears as subjective
feeling. This mobilizes other processes which help
us to recognize the sickness and which help to heal
it, or at least help to dignify appropriate ways of
dealing with these zones of sickness as long as they
cannot be healed.
Like sickness, healing is also a part of the
evolutionary process that learns from disturbance,
that tries to remove it and that looks for
integration. We could say that for us healing is
connected with the whole knowledge of being. In
principle, healing can anchor itself in all forces of
being, in all forces of evolution, and it can use
everything needed from these forces. The healing
process is therefore infinitely wise; it represents
the wonderful task of contributing to the wholeness
and integrity of being, to its harmony and higher
development. Healing in this sense is connected
with the best intention of evolution. Therefore it
feels good if something heals or if we are working
in a healing profession. With healing values like
kindness, good order, good development, the feeling
of wholeness, integrity, attunement, and fitting
together are connected. In analogy to the process
of healing bodily sickness, wherein the basic and
healthy structures of body processes have an effect
and can be reestablished, we can understand the
healing processes of mental illness which exhibit
far-reaching disturbances of consciousness.
Psychoses are probably such far-reaching
disturbances of the inner structure of order of
consciousness. If the task of human consciousness
should be that of feeling itself, of sensing and
realizing itself, then existence misunderstands
itself in psychosis. In psychosis, consciousness
manifests or organizes itself in a chaotic way, in
a way that does not fit together. And that is how
existence misunderstands itself:
The certainty about the everyday construction
of reality which derives from our self-
consciousness is partially lost. An
68 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
identification with archetypical forces and
contents occurs which cannot however be borne
or endured. That is how the patient on one side
is at the mercy of the archetypical energies,
and on the other side tries to organize and
interpret them. We could say that the patient
has lost ground and stability and is drifting
like a ship in the ocean, being lost without
steering in a gigantic thunderstorm. Sometimes
the patient thinks he or she is the storm, the
raining, the roaring ocean, the wrecked ship,
the loose steering wheel or the lightning.
(Galuska & Galuska, 1995)
The interaction of unsuitable aspects of self-
consciousness with archetypical forces and
contents then leads to all kinds of forms of
unfamiliar inner realities. Up to now we still have
great problems in recognizing the essential
regularities of this process. But if we want to have
a healing effect, we have to try to understand
psychotic processes. This seems to be a basic
requirement for the treatment of disturbances of
consciousness, of mental disturbances, mental
sickness: the empathetic attunement with the
other human being and his or her subjective
experience, combined with the ability to compare
it with a healthy structure. From this, a deeper
understanding can result; and with this perhaps
the ability can develop to support a healing process
in an essential phase or at an essential place.
Unfortunately, out of its often-held biological
attitude, modern psychiatry is frequently not
interested in a deeper understanding of psychoses.
And, what is more, it is hindered in research
concerning psychopathological correlations
because ofthe postulate ofthe absolute boundary
of understanding. This postulate was put forward
by Jaspers at the beginning of this century and
means that, in a survey of the contents of
experience, a basically uncrossable boundary exists
for that which we can still understand (Glatzel,
1987). A biographic connection of an otherwise
unreasonable fear would just be understandable,
but for a delusive idea or the hearing of voices there
would be no comprehensible possibility of
Considered more precisely, however, the
absolute boundary of understanding proves to be
born out of the investigator's fear that his or her
own consciousness will be shattered. If we look
more closely at the nature of empathy, we can see
that it is characterized by the effort to establish a
highly precise equivalent of the experience of the
other in oneself, which comes into being in a kind
of process of resonance. In the case of psychosis
this would mean that psychotic experience in the
consciousness of the psychiatrist or the
psychotherapist can be experienced without
causing insanity in the experiencer. Many people
who work with psychotic patients know the feeling
of fright, of fearful restlessness or bottomlessness ,
that from time to time spreads in them. And only
a few seem to have succeeded in developing a
deeper understanding of the processes of
consciousness of psychotic people.
Edward PodvoH
OR ME, one of these therapists with such a
deeper understanding is Edward Podvoll. His
illuminating book, The Seduction of Madness
(Podvoll, 1990), guides the reader into the
comprehension of psychotic processes and their
healing by means of four autobiographies of
psychotic individuals. Podvoll shows how these
people, out of an urge for inner transformation and
through different ways of trying to realize this
transformation, in a borderline situation of their
lives, get into an altered state of consciousness that
entrances and fascinates them. This altered state
of consciousness he calls, following Henri Michaux,
the "second state." It is a kind of natural, archaic
substrate of thinking and consists of consciousness
that is at the mercy of a series of so-called "micro-
operations" of thought which represent the seeds
of insanity. Such micro-operations, for example, are
an enormously accelerated thinking that repeats
and multiplies itself and spreads without
boundaries. Thoughts and pictures can unite as
hallucinations as in a dream. Any kind of perceived
phenomena can be personified and "tremendously
Unnatural, perverted impulses or contrasting
thoughts appear. Thought processes can become
things in the form of sounds or voices and are then
personified as ghosts. Essentially, the psychotically
changed consiousness loses the ability to doubt and,
above all, in the struggle for certainty, it fights
against self-critical impulses, so that it soon loses
the ability to watch and reflect upon itself. In this
way it increasingly loses its way in the "ocean of
its own projections."
Healing of Psychoses in Transpersonal Understanding 69
It feels at the mercy of forces which are beyond
its control; it feels led by these forces, by ghosts, by
machines, or by people. If the forces are of a very
destructive character, it ends up in an inner realm
of hell in which even self-destruction is possible.
"Rare are the insane who are able to cope with their
insanity" (Michaux, in Podvoll, 1990). But even in
these states, moments of wakefulness, so-called
"islands of clarity," sometimes appear. These are the
moments in which consciousness is free of psychotic
experience, in which spontaneous rays of hope with
a new freshness appear, in which doubts concerning
the reality of psychotic experience and small aha-
experiences occur. Podvoll considers these islands
of clarity to be decisive. In suitable, healthy
surroundings they can increase, so that the
dissipating identifications become less frequent.
This zone of wakefulness is a kind of inner observer,
an "I myself which is no longer retransferable to
the abused, fragmented, always interrupted 'I.'"
"Any healing depends on this "zone of wakefulness"
(Podvoll, 1990).
The discovery of the zone contains an essential
value of healing psychoses, because a human being
who experiences this zone of wakefulness comes
to know it as a moment of spiritual meaning that
gives his or her life a different direction. For the
psychotic patient to find a way again, tremendous
effort, discipline, and much courage are needed,
because again and again the patient can end up in
the suction of psychotic ways of experience. At first,
such patients will distance themselves slowly from
their madness and live in a time of change between
being awake and madness. But psychotic
experiencing also has to constitute itself again and
again. That is how weaker forms or maybe even
positive, loving voices appear. Benedetti (1992)
describes such psychopathological phenomena
during a process of healing as "progressive"
psychopathology that can even be of a supporting
character for the healing. In this stage, the
recovering patient is extremely sensitive and
vulnerable, the danger of relapse is huge, and calm
and stable surroundings are essential. Increasingly
it is necessary that structures of consciousness be
built up which have power over their own thinking.
That is why the patient will have to stop from time
to time at the abyss between dream and reality to
learn to recognize self-deception. "In the end, the
healing of a psychotic person depends on how much
readiness and ability he has to submit to a detailed
rediscovery of his own state of mind" (Podvoll,
1990). The essential task of psychosis in therapy
is supposed to consist ofthe "unification of heaven
and earth," in the "synchronization of body and
mind." By the principle of heaven is meant the
support of consciousness, the care of consciousness,
which psychotic persons have to look after, and
their paying attention to the spiritual dimension
of life. This means both a certain kind of thought
training and the unfolding of inner peace and
presence as an observing of thought processes. By
the principle of earth is meant the preciousness of
the human body and its care and earthly
occupations like shopping, cooking, cleaning,
gardening, and doing house repairs. "Heaven" and
"earth" can now be united by rituals, love for detail,
and compassion in "human principle." Whenever
we act in such a way, a place of healing evolves
(Podvoll, 1990). Although the preceeding is a very
brief presentation ofPodvoll's work, I consider his
understanding of psychotic processes to be most
Gaetano Benedetti and
Maurizio Peciccia
wo OTHER research scientists and therapists
who have contributed significantly to a
deeper understanding of the nature of psychotic
processes are Gaetano Benedetti and his colleague
Maurizio Peciccia. Benedetti has dedicated a great
part of his working life to research, therapy, and
supervision of the treatment of people in psychoses
(Benedetti, 1983, 1987, 1992; Benedetti et aI.,
1983). Starting from psychoanalytical thinking, he
has developed a number of concepts of
understanding. Together with Peciccia, he has
created a psychotherapy for psychoses, in which
they work with patients and therapists drawing
pictures as a substitute for verbal communication
until a certain degree of healing is established
(Peciccia & Benedetti, 1989, 1996). In a complex
process of theory-building, they finally conclude
that a splitting, a fundamental dissociation, is the
most essential characteristic of schizophrenic
psychoses, as Bleuler and other psychiatrists
suggested earlier. In particular, the experience of
the observation of one's own participation in an
interaction is supposed not to be integrated by
schizophrenic individuals.
70 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
As I have already mentioned, self-observation-
the consciousness of the self of its own
experiencing-does not exist during a psychosis.
Ordinarily a differentiation is possible between the
experience of taking part in an interaction, for
example with the outside world, and the
observation ofthe different contents of experience.
Ifthe participatory function of an interaction and
the function which observes this experience are not
integrated now, the patients are either completely
at the mercy of the interaction or totally isolated
from it. This means they either develop an
excessively individual and not commonly shared
view of reality and interpret it in a delirious way,
or they do not even take part in interactions,
isolating themselves in their observing function
and becoming autistic. The participation in reality
equals a merged symbiotic experiencing:
"Sometimes we see the psychotic patient living
symbiotically, we feel him to be very close to us; he
tells us: 'I am the moon, the sun, the universe. I
am you'" (Peciccia & Benedetti, 1996). The
observing function, on the other hand, equals the
state of separation, of the "separate self": "At other
times the patient is in his separate selfbut, as he
is split off from the symbiotic self, his separation
is extreme, it is autistic solitude: 'nothing exists
apart from me: the sun, the moon, the universe,
are meaningless shadows which I cannot
distinguish' .. .'you are light-years away from
me' ... 'you are not there' " (Peciccia & Benedetti,
These two states should, ifthey are integrated,
generate a harmonious feeling of self. In contact
with another person, we consciously live in a
dimension in which we feel separate, comparable
to the fact that we can see light as a particle
separate from other particles. But unconsciously,
we have the impression that we are in the other
person or that we are the other person, much as
we can interpret light as waves. Unfortunately,
Peciccia and Benedetti understand this
unconscious state of being one of an illusion. They
think that it is necessary to see it as an illusion as
it helps to accept the disillusionment of the
principle of reality. If we take a Buddhist viewpoint,
we would look at the feeling of a separate self as
being an illusion. However, if we follow the wave
and particle model oflight, it mainly seems to be a
question of perspective: Ifwe form our experiencing
out of the perspective of the social holon (Wilber,
1995), we feel separate. If we expand our
experiencing to the perspective of surrounding
social holons, then the experience of connected.ness
and oneness comes into being. In the structure of
psychotic experience, however, a fundamental
disintegration of symbiotic and of separate states
of experience exists, of which the patient is
painfully aware. In the symbiotic state, in merged
experiencing, in the function of participation, the
feeling of boundary and self-observation is missing.
In the state of separation, of isolation, the function
of observation, the experience of connectedness and
integration is missing. The path from a feeling of
separation to a feeling of connectedness and vice
versa cannot be taken due to the fear of loss of
self, out of the feeling of one's own life being
Benedetti (1992), in the course of his life, has
developed a series oftherapeutic concepts to reach
the goal of healing psychoses in this changing of
dissolving closeness and impenetrable distance in
the therapeutic relationship. For him the
"dualization of psychopathology" is decisive. This
means that the therapist, by, in a way, taking over
psychotic forms of experience, detoxifies and
transforms them in his or her own organism and
then again puts them at the disposal of the patient.
He calls it "therapeutic appersonation of suffering"
and "therapeutic projection." Agood illustration of
these principles is the psychotherapy of psychoses
mentioned above, which was developed by his
colleague Peciccia.
In this therapy, an integration of the
participating and observing functions of
experiencing can occur by means of an exchange
of drawings. The patient draws a picture of his or
her experiencing, then talks about it. Next the
therapist answers with a drawing that takes up
part ofthe patient's drawing, giving a progressive
movement to it by adding more elements or small
changes. In this process of drawing between patient
and therapist, the drawings increasingly contain
parts of the experience of self of the patient and of
the therapist. In connection with the continued
dialogue about the drawings, connections between
symbiotic and separate forms of experience can
come into being (Peciccia & Benedetti, 1996).
I have outlined the concepts of Pod.voll and of
Benedetti and Peciccia in some detail here because
they are an essential contribution to a transpersonal
understanding ofthe healing of psychoses.
Healing of Psychoses in Transpersonal Understanding 71
The Process of Healing
of Psychoses
HAVE DESCRIBED how the inner structure of order
of consciousness is disturbed and fundamentally
shattered in psychosis. On the path to an extensive
feeling of self, existence misunderstands itself. It
does not remain rooted in fundamental principles
of the order of consciousness such as: becoming
and fading; being and nonbeing; consciousness;
sense of self; silence; energetic sensing; the ability
to control the orientation of consciousness; and the
differentiation of sensations of the body, emotions,
perception of the senses, thoughts, and pictures of
imagination. Podvoll (1990) vividly describes how,
because of a multitude of disordered and untamed
micro-operations, consciousness becomes addicted
to madness. To me it seems essential to understand
that psychotic patients identify with archetypical
structures. This means they connect the feeling of
self with very basic dynamic patterns, but they do
not succeed completely, which leaves them feeling
that they are the victims of these energetic
phenomena. In catatonia, for example, the patient
repeats simple movements, feels led or obsessed
by them, or remains in complete stillness. In
coenesthetic forms of schizophrenia the patient
feels his or her body to be flooded with energies,
beinginfiuenced, occupied, or infected. It is striking
that consciousness turns to an energy quality and
intensity that is not normally at its disposal and
which it cannot control. It is probably this fact that
makes up part of the fascination of psychoses, the
"seduction of madness," as Podvoll (1990) calls it.
It seems as if existence wants to feel an elemental
force, as if consciousness wants to feel a larger and
more fundamental force than itself, than the small
picture of itself and feeling of self that self-
consciousness normally has. But the psychotic
consciousness is unable to cope with this dynamic,
with this intensity. It loses its order; it disintegrates
and misinterprets itself as being the Messiah, the
devil, the extraterrestrial, or the messenger of a
superior power.
If the task of human consciousness to date is to
transform its feeling of selffrom self-consciousness
to wider forms of consciousness, to transpersonal
and collective forms of consciousness, then it will
be necessary to integrate those elemental dynamic
patterns of life, the archetypical forces of the
collective unconscious of humanity. This is
necessary because it is the living out of these
mythological forces, including the myth of
individuality, that brings so much suffering for
humanity. It is important for us both to live in the
energies, forces, and forms and at the same time
to be able to control them, perceive them, to be
completely free of them.
This, in my understanding, is the connection of
participatory function and observing function, of
"symbiotic," merged self and "separate" self, as
Peciccia and Benedetti (1996) call it. Looking at it
in this way, our task is increasingly to surrender
to the process of evolution and to connect ourselves
with its unknown possibilities and forces. And, at
the same time, we must be completely free,
unmoved, and still, anchored in the native soil of
nonbeing, the absolute. Psychotic people seem to
have failed to grasp the simultaneity of heaven
and earth. That is how their failure is an expression
of the struggle to fulfill the task to which human
consciousness is now dedicated. Psychoses are
therefore diseases of time in a deeper sense. They
will only be able to be healed if our consciousness
succeeds in the transforming process which
evolution now requires.
In the process of healing a psychosis, the
psychotically changed consciousness basically has
to build a new order of its inner structure. Going
more deeply into the psychotic experience, a living
out ofthe psychosis, unfortunately much too often
leads to a further shattering and far-reaching
splitting if, in the therapeutic context, it cannot be
understood as a "progressive psychopathology"
(Benedetti, 1992). This structure-giving and
arranging process can be followed by a
transformation of personality because, consciously
or unconsciously, this human being has failed due
to that urge for transformation, and it can best be
fulfilled in the process of healing. On this path,
other human companions are of tremendous help.
Ifwe, from a transpersonal viewpoint, understand
every human being as part of a complete existence,
we could say that existence helps the part of itself
that is lost, to organize itself and to recover by
adding other parts and forces in the form of
therapists. The consciousness that has lost its way
first of all needs very basic guidance and
information. However, it is sometimes really
difficult to :find an access to the psychotic person
at all because the person, in confusion and fear,
has retreated completely into a defensive position.
72 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol 20
If we systematically build up the therapeutic
activities, in the beginning we find making contact
with the patient is simply being there. The
therapist is anchored in being present to pure
being. The therapist and the patient are simply
together, doing simple things, allowing the patient
to feel that the therapist is there if needed. This is
comparable to a mother who, in a natural way, does
her housework while the small child is playing.
For both, the common presence is completely
natural. This presence in pure being is the basis
for the psychotic consciousness having at least
somewhere to feel safe. It is actually this
fundamental feeling of being that it has often lost.
It is lost in the nowhere land of emptiness, of
nonbeing, in which, however, it cannot anchor
itself. If somebody is there, if somebody is really
there, tangibly there, the psychotic consciousness
can gain more trust in the reality of existence, in
the reality of being.
In a second step, the emphasis is on developing
consciousness, on recognizing and extending the
"island of clarity" and wakefulness, as Podvoll
(1990) calls it. For this purpose, it is helpful to do
simple things in a conscious manner, preferably
together; for example, the practical things of
everyday life, concrete and earthly activities,
maybe also some touch or eye contact that brings
forth the awareness that we are there for each
other. A further step is for the patient to be able to
sort out, and to feel safe in, his or her feeling of
By the experience of simple actions, the
sensations going along with them, and the
realization that they are its own, consciousness in
this moment has a chance to recognize the
fundamental nature ofthe feeling of self, the egoic
manner of our experiencing. It can become
conscious of the fact that everything that it
experiences right now in this very moment is
experienced by itself, and of how it can look at other
parts as belonging to itself and at other parts as
belonging to the world. That is how consciousness
can once more discover and learn to understand
itself. Maybe this is the reason why people who
come out of psychosis in a certain way appear like
newborn babies, traumatised by a heavy birth,
vulnerable and clumsy, but also curious about life.
The forms of therapy in which patients feel their
boundaries of body, where they learn to give
grounding to themselves and where they use their
senses, are a great help in enabling them to feel
themselves. At this point it will also be important
to support the awareness of beautiful things, of
good food, and to make tender experiences of the
senses possible. Again and again, the basic
principles of human experience and its
fundamental order have to be explained. For this
we need patience and a sense ofthe practical ways
of behavior. As, for example, the reality check of
psychotic persons is disturbed, which means that
they do not know how to bring their inner reality
into line with that of another human being; the
therapist needs to show and explain this to them.
Patients also need to learn, when another human
being looks at them sharply and they are afraid
that the other person does not like them and is a
threat to them, that they can approach that person
and ask him or her about the look. On the one hand,
this means basic work and thought-training, as
Podvoll (1990) proposes. On the other hand, it
demands great prudence and spiritual wisdom
because, as I have tried to show, psychotic
consciousness is busy with basic questions of being
and reality. In that respect, a therapeutic
companion for a psychotic person will in some way
have to be a spiritual companion or even a spiritual
Another essential element in the treatment of
a psychosis is setting boundaries to shattering dy-
namics, especially by appropriate guidance but also
by more substantial limitation of destructive forces
and processes. Closed mental hospitals, isolation,
restraint, and medication make us painfully aware
of this situation. Sometimes it is very difficult for
an empathetic companion to set boundaries and
limits to a consciousness that misunderstands it-
self and damages itself and others. The way of deal-
ing with destruction is certainly the most painful
part in healing a psychosis, and it is also one of
the most difficult tasks for the therapist to under-
stand in sufficient depth. Certainly there are states
in which the psychotic consciousness consists ex-
actly of an identification with self-destructive en-
ergy-patterns. Such suicidal identifications not
only exist in psychosis, but also, for example, in
situations of war. But in most cases of destructive
or self-destructive impulses, the cause seems to be
found in the fear of destruction of one's own exist-
ence and in the attempt to rescue oneself in death.
Feelings of self and of being are confused. The
flight into death out offear of the end of the world
Healing of Psychoses in Transpersonal Understanding 73
or because of the threat by a seeming persecutor
can be understood as an attempt to rescue the feel-
ing of self at the cost of life, which means being.
The shattering of consciousness, especially the split
of the egoic experiencing of separation from the
possibilities of feeling connected with being (see
also Peciccia & Benedetti, 1996) seems to be the
cause for this basic misunderstanding. The feel-
ing of self can only exist when it is based on being.
In self-destruction, self-extinguishing or the fear
of these, psychosis points to death as being a door
to nonexistence.
Destruction, extermination, and killing are
functions of evolution. They are necessary to create
space for something new that can arise from
nonbeing. In evolution, zones of nonbeing are
perhaps created to make space for a higher being,
for a further step in evolution to come into
existence. As, in the death of the individual,
existence is extinguished, in some way every living
being existentially knows about nonbeing. If,
however, the process of dying does not happen in
depth by surrender to the arrival in native soil, by
surrender to the reunion with God, but stays
related to the feeling of self, death appears as "the
evil one." Destruction is then not a neutral
evolutionary principle, but a threatening "evil
power." At least in psychosis, the feeling of self
becomes accessible, but at the cost of a fundamental
threat. Destruction should not need to threaten
the feeling of self. It often even serves the
development of a being that senses itself. But the
psychotic human being first has to struggle for
assurance of the sensation of being, conscious
being, and the feeling of self. Most severe
destructive forms of psychoses can therefore only
be healed if anchoring occurs beyond the feeling of
self or even in nonbeing and the psychotic person
realizes his of her self-destructive tendencies. In
this case, psychotic individuals would have to
realize that the attempt to identify with very
aggressive and destructive forces, which means
that destruction belongs to them, has become a
part of them. Only if they realize their own
destructiveness, only if they are distressed about
how destructively they behave, can they tame these
forces and turn away from them. Otherwise, they
are in great danger of misunderstanding their own
experience, and they are in great danger of wanting
to rescue themselves or others, or of being killed
by their own suicidal impulses.
Therapeutic Accompaniment
F WE become aware of these aspects of the
. healing of psychotic processes, we can develop
a sense about what an enormous task it can be to
accompany a psychotic process. Certainly only a
therapist who is capable of recognizing psychotic
experience, meaning the disorder ofthe structure
of consciousness, can treat it effectively. For this,
we human beings have the wonderful possibility
of empathy, of sensitivity, of attunement. This
principle really is a wonder. Expressed
transpersonally, it means that a part of existence,
the consciousness of the therapist, can open up to
another part of existence, the disturbed and
psychotically changed consciousness ofthe patient.
As therapists, we tune in to the patient. We line
up our field of consciousness to some degree with
that ofthe psychotic patient. Usually this happens
by our allowing the experience of the patient to
reproduce itself in us, and at the same time
observing and examining it. The tuning in and the
evocation of psychotic experience in a lesser degree
in one's own consciousness is nevertheless a very
difficult and painful task. The therapeutic
companion must have a powerful capacity for
creating and bearing exemplary madness. Only if
the therapist is able to comprehend psychotic
experiencing, might she or he be capable of
recognizing the confusion and delusion and the
nature ofthe disturbance. We have to realize what
it can mean for a therapist to feel internally what
the patient experiences: namely, that the whole
world is against me; everybody wants to destroy
me, wants to threaten my existence; that the
telephones and sockets are bugged, the neighbor
wants to kill me, and so on.
Only ifthe therapist is capable of bearing such
inner disruption, maybe even the inner hell of the
patient, without also becoming insane, can the
therapist possibly show the patient the way out.
For this, the therapist needs a surrounding that is
not insane, an anchoring in structures of
consciousness that are deeper than the disturbance
of the patient. How can the therapist be capable,
at least part-time, of dissolving his or her own
consciousness to serve as a container for the
psychotic suffering of the patient? Because only in
such a case can the disorganized parts of the
patient, the patient's misunderstandings and
misinterpretations, be understood and be sorted
74 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
anew. To be such a container that can carry the
energetic dynamics of psychotic experiencing to full
term requires an anchoring in a transpersonal
consciousness (Galuska & Galuska, 1995) and a
connectedness with a circle of therapeutic
companions who are around the patient. In their
connection, they form something like a healing
circle in the concrete or figurative sense. The circle,
the team, is a much more effective principle than
the individual therapist (Galuska, 1996). The
individual therapist is best protected from the
danger of being destabilized while working with
psychotic patients by an anchoring in the
fundamental principles of consciousness, especially
in spiritual qualities like inner silence, centering,
emptiness, distance, consciousness. The anchoring
fundamentally needs to be deeper and more
comprehensive than the disturbance. Here
psychotic forms and disruptions of consciousness
may exist that can be sufficiently understood and
brought into line internally only by a consciousness
which is rooted in the absolute, in God, or by an
"enlightened human being," who would also need
to have clinical experience, which is a rare
occurrence in the history of humanity. The
anchoring in the basic structures of consciousness
gives greater security for the therapist when he or
she is part of a team and is supported by mutual
reassurance. For example, by the therapist
exchanging ideas or impressions about a patient
with colleagues, and in so doing, again stabilizing
his or her own structure. Every therapist will have
to be well-connected in a team while accompanying
a psychotic person, because the stability and order
of the therapist's own consciousness can best be
supported in this way. Especially helpful here is
the supervision of the treatment. In supervision,
on the one hand, the labilized integrity of a
therapist can be reestablished, while, on the other
hand, the process of carrying the psychosis to its
full term is supported: This is a concept that makes
very clear the significance of the team, of the
"healing circle," in the therapy of psychoses.
Let us, for the sake of understanding the healing
process of psychosis, change our perspective and
not look just at the individual psychotic person,
surrounded by his or her therapeutic companions.
Let us see the superior whole, the healing circle,
the collective field of consciousness, that has
absorbed the psychotically changed consciousness.
If we understand it as a larger organism, then its
task is obviously to enable one part of it to
transform. AU forces of this organism, such as
compassion, love, control, leading, setting
boundaries, becoming conscious, and so on, which
we only partly know and understand, can have a
combined effect here (Galuska & Galuska, 1995).
Perhaps we could compare it to carrying a baby to
full term, so that a new structure of consciousness
can be born. In therapies of psychoses, we often
find the themes of death and resurrection. People
involved in the healing process of psychotic
developments appear to be predestined to solve the
question of uniting heaven and earth, described
above as the evolutionary task of human
But perhaps the picture of carrying a baby to
full term is too extreme. Maybe the healing circle
rather represents a container which detoxifies,
digests, and assimilates unfitting and destructive
patterns of human consciousness. Therapists can
very often participate in fundamental processes of
change, in gigantic energetic intensities, in the
solution of existential questions. If we take on such
a perspective, then in relation to the current
handling of psychoses, the most critical point is
not the use of violence and medication, but the
question of healing on the one side, or the isolation
of a "psychotic center" and the restriction of damage
on the other side. If we cannot completely
understand the disturbance of consciousness in
psychosis, it will threaten our own consciousness
and we will therefore isolate the psychotic person,
so that he or she cannot do any damage. And in a
situation where that is the only possibility left, we
should do it with as much compassion and mercy
as possible. But psychosis cannot heal like this, it
remains a potentially dangerous center felt by
many people who have been treated only medically,
who have been left by themselves and who prefer
to forget "the whole horror story." A successful
healing of psychosis can only happen if more
complete structures of consciousness are built
around it, if people are around with whom the
patient can connect, who can be trusted, and who
build a collective field of healing around him or
her. In the future, it will remain something special
to find people who are capable of restructuring
and healing psychotic structures.
We only can gain the whole deeper
understanding of psychotic processes if we connect
with the persons who have lost their way, if we
Healing of Psychoses in Transpersonal Understanding 75
open ourselves, if we allow ourselves to be touched
by them internally. We can have a healing effect
only if we create a healing field in which the
psychotic person can settle down, into which the
patient can be streamed, and to which the patient
can be entrusted. This is only possible if our hearts
open up for each other, if we allow compassion,
mercy, and love also to have an effect on the
disturbed and suffering. If the task of humanity,
as mentioned above, is to fulfill the simultaneity
of heaven and earth, to unite nonbeing and the
conscious experiencing of evolutionary processes,
then the synthetic principle is a characteristic of
the heart. To give a picture: We are children of
heaven and earth and our task seems to be to unite
and give form to the qualities of our parents, the
absolute and the individual form of our reality in
a human manner. It is human if it is happening
with love, dignity, and grace. Out of our heart, the
holistic force of unification and merging can have
an effect. It bears its fruits in integral creative
We need the clarity and intelligence of our
consciousness to be able to offer effective help to
sick people. At the same time, we need our heart
for this task, otherwise, the solutions can be cool
and clean but without love. It is love that reconciles.
Love has a fundamental effect, even before any
understanding. It is love that says yes to any form
of being, to any form of consciousness, just as it is.
And it is love that gives what the psychotic person
needs most: an absolute yes to being, because he
or she has lost trust in life. The heart allows us to
be helpful even if we do not understand the
sickness, even if we cannot treat or heal it. It gives
comfort and human sympathy, it allows us to stay
connected with suffering in a respectful and
humble way, even if we cannot contribute to its
healing or the alleviation of its suffering.
Health and the Goals of Healing
F WE take a last look at the field of healing, we
can now more easily understand that healing
forces in essence have an effect by having a
connection with the structures of health. This is
why every hospital, or other health institution,
really has to emphazise health as a starting point.
To be healthy means to be structured, organized,
in balance, in harmony; it means to have the
potential to activate one's own abilities, to fall back
upon resources, to function, to feel alive, relaxed,
and free. Health seems not to be a goal of evolution;
rather it seems to be a prerequisite for the ability
to live one's life, to develop, and unfold it. The more
rooted we are in our health, the less is the danger
of becoming sick and the more ideal are the
conditions for us to use our potentials and abilities.
From this viewpoint, prevention, in contrast to the
healing of sickness or even the treatment of
symptoms, is of wider importance. Prevention in
the sense of support of a healthy life, the feeling of
being healthy, is of fundamental meaning also for
the treatment of all sickness. It is therefore easily
comprehensible that, especially in psychoses, a
basis from which healing can start is only reached
by building up and strengthening healthy
structures so that the psychotic person can, at least
for a few moments, feel clear, safe, supported, free
from fear, and alive. For a healthy healing field to
be established, people who work therapeutically
especially need to take care of their own health.
They have to constantly watch that they become
and remain healthy. Therefore it is naturally
imperative for therapists to be in therapy
themselves. Body hygiene, psychic hygiene,
hygiene of the mind, hygiene of relations, are
important requirements in the life of a therapist.
The larger a therapist's task, the more awareness
of his or her own health is necessary if the therapist
is not to become "infected" by the problems of the
patients, on a physical, emotional, or mental level.
Therefore, spiritual health is one of the essential
prerequisites for the accompaniment of psychotic
people. A psychotherapist who is in danger of
becoming psychotic will most probably not be able
to conduct psychosis therapy except as part of a
team and under supervision. Then the therapist
might even be able to heal himself of herself in the
process. In general, a fairly healthy consciousness
is required to be able to heal a sick individual. Sick
people can give much comfort and compassion to
each other because they recognize their own
situation in one other. But healing needs to relate
with healthy structures and processes, ifit is to be
effective in the organism of a sick person or in a
therapeutic relationship in the surrounding field
of treatment.
What then is the goal of the healing of
Is it the restoration of balance in the
neurotransmitter system of our brain?
76 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Is it the elimination or alleviation of disturbing
Is it the establishment or reestablishment of the
ability to live and work in society, in the human
Is it the development of normal self-
consciousness, of a normal ego-structure?
Is it the mastery of psychic abilities-the ability,
instead of being possessed by "ghosts" or
archetypical forces, to use, in a kind oftrance, these
inner voices ... heard as a channeling source?
Or is the goal of healing a psychosis to reveal a
mystic who has found Divinity within, who has
realized Divinity and lives in its creation?
Maybe the last goal is the most noble. However,
a holistic perspective would not exclude any of
these goals, but would see them as representing
aspects of a comprehensive truth. To accompany a
psychotic patient requires a readiness to accept
that life far exceeds our ability to understand it,
that we will never have complete understanding
but can only try to give our best-with ease,
magnanimity, dignity, and humility. If we remain
receptive to an ever-new and more complete
understanding, then we can live in
acknowledgement of the open and unpredicted
process of evolution, whose directions and
revelations are still unknown to us.
This paper is a translated revision of Galuska (1997).
Benedetti, G. (1983). Todeslandschaften der Seele [Death land-
scapes of the soul]. Gottingen: V & R.
Benedetti, G. (1987). Psychotherapy of schizophrenia. New
York: New York University Press.
Benedetti, G. (1992). Psychotherapie als existentielle
Herausforderung [Psychotherapy as existential challenge].
Gottingen: V & R.
Benedetti, G., Corsi Piacentini, T., d'Alfonso, L., Elia, L.,
Medri, G., & Saviotti, M. (1983). Psychosentherapie,
Psychoanalytische und existentielle Grundlagen [Therapy
of psychoses, psychoanalytic and existential foundations].
Stuttgart: Hippokrates.
Galuska, J. (1996). Transpersonale stationare Psychotherapie
[Transpersonal stationary psychotherapy l. Transpersonale
Psychologie und Psychotherapie, 1, 23-33.
Galuska, J. (1997). Heilung von Psychos en in
transpersonalem Verstandnis [Curing of psychoses in
transpersonal comprehensionl. Transpersonale
Psychologie und Psychotherapie, 2,48-63.
Galuska, J., & Galuska, D. (1995). Korpertherapie im
Spektrum des Bewusstseins [Therapy ofthe human body
in the spectrum of consciousnessl. In E. Zundel & P.
Loomans (Eds.), 1m Energiekreis des Lebendigen [In the
energy circle of the living personl (pp. 88-111). Freiburg:
Glatzel, J. (1987). Allgemeine Psychopathologie [General psy-
chopathology]. Stuttgart: Enke.
Peciccia, M., & Benedetti, G. (1989). Das progressive
therapeutische Spiegelbild [The progressive therapeuti-
cal reflected image]. Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 3, 296-
Peciccia, M., & Benedetti, G. (1996). The splitting between
separate and symbiotic states of the self in the psycho-
dynamics of schizophrenia. International Forum of Psy-
choanalysis, 5, 23-38.
Podvoll, E. (1990). The seduction of madness. New York:
Harper Collins.
Wilber, K (1995). Sex, ecology, spirituality: The spirit of evo-
lution. Boston: Shambhala.
Hea!ing of Psychoses in Transpersona! Understanding 77
78 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Spirituality and Psychotherapy
The Matter of" Separation Anxiety" and Beyond
Stuart Sovatsky
California Institute ofIntegral Studies
San Francisco, California, USA
Drawing from Feuerbach, Kierkegaard, Buddhism, and Yoga, this article looks at consciousness as
infinitely divisible sentience congruent with relentless impermanence. It then examines infantile
"separation anxiety" (and thus, all sorts of anxious psychopathologies) as, in part, an initiatory spiritual
experience into the infinity of consciousness and its congruence with eternal time. Further, it explores
"self-soothing," while integrating existential, neuroendocrinal, and spiritual discourses on this
phenomenon. Based upon these observations, it suggests refmements in the clinical mood of the "holding
environment," including "clinical admiration" and "clinical shy awe."
N 1841, Ludwig Feuerbach, arguably the first
Western transpersonal psychologist, asserted
that consciousness is itself the inner Infinity
that various religious traditions ascribe to some
external Deity.
Consciousness, in the strict or proper sense, is
identical with consciousness of the infinite; a
limited consciousness is no consciousness;
consciousness is essentially infinite in its
nature. The consciousness of the infinite is
nothing else than the consciousness of the
infinity of the consciousness; or, in the
consciousness of the infinite, the conscious
subject has for his object the infinity of his own
nature. (Feuerbach, 1841/1957 pp. 2-3)
From this fundamentally transpersonal viewpoint,
each individual is ineluctably embedded in (or
constituted as a subject by) his or her own personal
infinity of consciousness. (That is, a conscious
subject who declares to have found "a limit" within
his or her own consciousness should not confuse
us: His or her consciousness will necessarily be
there, just as well; thus the use of the word "limit"
will have been ill-placed.)
Likewise, this self-sense, with its bodily localized
"experiences," memories, and invoked vocabulary
(thoughts), qua conscious subject, is, too, shot
through and through with this infinitely divisible
"light" of consciousness. Thus, the merging of
ground-consciousness with ego-figure, often also
called (a bit confusingly) "ego transcendence," could
also be called "fmding infinity of sentience wherever
you look," what J. D. Salinger (1953) caned, "God
pouring God into God."
Yet, each of us also becomes variously perceiving
of the many "other" or "finite" objects of
consciousness at least from birth onward, and
thereby variously distracted from, and then
returning to, the more familiar shoals and the yet-
to-be-fathomed depths of one's own infinity of
(Here linguistic thinking issues
forth, reaching with its thousand-and-one names
with evermore nuances and differentiations to, as
Heidegger [Schiirmann, 1987] termed it, "world"
a world. Thus, as Wittgenstein [1968] mused,
languages are "forms oflife.")
Let us wonder, then, if there might be
mysteriously profound going on at
some subtle (physiospiritual) level (the "level" of
embodied consciousness itself) when a mother-
object (as object relations theorists call her) leaves
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 79-84 79
© 2001 by Panigada Press
her baby, and the baby, now crying, struggles (as
psychodynamic theories posit) to develop "self-
soothing" coping skills to ameliorate "separation
What is this tearful "anxiety" that springs up
so immediately when the mother-object departs
from the infant's field of perception? And what is
it that "mounts" as the duration of separation goes
on and on and on? From a Feuerbachian
perspective, might not this infantile emotional out-
pouring be seen as the baby's voicing of the first
inklings of an endless congruence of intrinsically
infinite consciousness with cosmically infinite time
(in vivid contrast with the mundane time of
mothers who come and go)?
And from Whence does this "self-soothing"-this
"spiritual Mother's Milk"-precipitate its
comforting warmth into the baby's highly
stimulated inner sensorium? Is the endocrine
system (endorphins, etc.) a visceral conduit or
anatomical synonym for what Feuerbach called the
"tears of God," that is, God's love precipitating
physically into human bodies-to be reductively
named in the (a-spiritual) theories of object
relations as (mere) "self'-soothing? (See Rein &
McCraty, 1994; McClelland & Kirshnit, 1987;
Cantin & Genest, 1986.)
In Feuerbach's "anthropological" translation of
theological predicates into human attributes, we
have a basis for a transpersonal (spiritual)
developmental theory to assert that there "is" a
depth of goodness that the psychodynamic term
"self-soothing" points to, that opens the normative
concept of "self' into the extraordinary. That is, the
depth ofthe selffrom whence this soothing comes,
a depth that goes on and on, deeper and deeper,
further and further, however subtle (or
"insubstantial") this soothing quality might at first
seem. Perhaps it never ends in time or in the
limitless divisibility of sentience itself.
Linguistically, "it" quivers in the word, "possibility";
biochemically, it (possibly) vibrates at some
molecular level of secretional thresholds.
Consider that these spiritual depths point
toward "homeopathic levels" of(in)significance: the
realms of "faith the size of a mustard seed" that
legendary voices tell us can "move mountains."
Whose faith? That of the on-looking Mother (the
linguistic forms of life and secretional thresholds
she lives in) and, via her so faith-filled hugs and
utterances, the infant's own inwardly developing
faith (biochemical responses).
And whose faith before that? The faith-guided
perceptions of (Feuerbachian or Freudian or
whomever) infant psychologists who authoritatively
tell parents what "is going on" in their infants'
experiences, and those so-trained therapists who
tell their adult clients (perhaps themselves now
parents) the "archaic developmental meaning" of
their current "anxious" feelings. Here we see the
"worlding" of various infant-enculturating worlds
(linguistic forms of life), woven through with
linguistic-somatic threads of faith in some model of
parenting practices to be passed on from one
generation to the next by intonation of word and
flickering qualities of tear and touch and look.
And before all of these people's faith-namings,
there is the possible mystery of subtler and subtler
endogenous soothing-secretions, the "Divine tears
of love" which soothe all those who grant their
(nonomnipotent, but inexhaustible) vibration all
molecularly palpable existence. And in following
the wave-releasing contours of these endorphin-
like secretions, caregiver and infant feel them
waveringly intensify. Thus, the alchemical impact
(literally) of "rocking the baby," akin, no doubt, to
the adult Judaic faith-rocking of davening, that of
Islamic zikr-rocking, yogic kriya-shivering,
Pentecostal prayer quivering, Quaker and Shaker
"quaking" and "shaking," and so on, throughout
the world's many religious "traditions."3 (Sovatsky,
1998,pp. 123, 153)
Imagine that when mother departs, the so-left
infant's inward focus of attention now more
undistractedly feathers out into the limitlessness
of consciousness. The infant feels a daunting awe
and even terror-like some naIve astronaut
terrifyingly dazzled by the boundlessness of outer
space (or, possibly, like the person who experiences,
on and on, consciousness well after her or his vital
signs have ceased).
What if we are willing to believe that the baby
cries out, "Waaaa Waaaa," not merely in the agony
of clinically significant anxiety or merely in the
desperate longing for the return of the mother,
but also as a profound response to being abruptly
initiated a little further into the daunting infinity
of the baby's own conscious depths?4
If we are willing to so believe, then this crying
is most certainly an infant's version of what
Kierkegaard originally meant by his nonclinical,
theologically-rapt term, "angst": A dreadful (yet
potentially faith-provoking) uncertainty that we
feel when merely touched by the next moment of
80 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
the Eternal-Infinite, when known (accepted) as
such-a wavery profundity within the immediacy
of time-flow that is diluted and disguised by our
quotidian, linearly time-scheduled lives and our
contemporary a-spiritual emotion psychologies
and neuroendocrinology.
Listen to a baby crying at such times and
imagine as you give comfort, as I have many
times, that there is something "profound" (not just
"anguishing") that is happening and see what you
think. Try living in that form of life.
Consider, moreover (no scientific evidence
prevents us from so doing), that the baby's crying
and crying might involve a complex reaching into
a terrible and beautiful space akin to that which
Rilke hauntingly described in his hours of
grievous loss and spiritual longing:
Who, if I cried, would hear me among the angelic
Orders? And even if one of them suddenly
Pressed me against his heart, I should fade in
the strength of his
Stronger existence. For Beauty's nothing
But the beginning of Terror we're still just able
to bear. CRilke, 1939, p. 21)
If the baby's cries involve, to some degree, the
ambiguity of a "spiritual terror" upon initiation into
the immense and almost threatening beauty of
infinite time, then the parental hug should be one
admixed with protective comfort, awe, and an
admiring pride. If the tearful voicings are deemed!
named "separation anxiety," then the hug is a
comforting apology, a salve on a wound, the
termination of a trauma. The difference between
these two hugs-is it not all the difference in the
world? Why? Because each hug takes place in a
different universe: one where at least a hint of the
shimmering Divine grandeur is granted, and one
where it is not.
Winnicott believed that in the gap of the crying
baby's "need" and the mother's "failure to adapt to
her baby's needs" (in Winnicott, Shepard, & Davis,
1989, p. 156), the baby develops an ability to think
which "becomes a substitute for maternal care and
adaptation." The mother can thereby "exploit the
baby's power to think" by continuing to fail to come
to her crying baby. Thus, for Winnicott and his
many followers, thinking becomes a "defence
against archaic anxiety and against chaos and
against disintegrative tendencies or memories of
disintegrative breakdown related to deprivation"
(p. 157).
The pathos of Winnicott's depiction feels
impenetrable and utterly persuasive. Yet, if we
believe in a spiritual profusion, thinkable but also
beyond thinking (e.g., the wordless knowing of
meditation or homeopathic ["spiritual"] levels of
soothing endorphins), this scene becomes more
complex and we must find a way into this
complexity. Otherwise, and in spite of the
Winnicottian "good enough mother" (itself a
sensing ofthe merciful, this time, an expert's mercy
for mothers everywhere), the spiritual-temporal
poignancy of this gap where urgency reaches into
the uncertain, into the endlessness of time, is
Should we care if something at so subtle a level
is being missed in the (possible) over-
pathogenicizing of such cries? Faith, its possible
growth, and the possibility that there is Something
being missed asks us to care.
There can most certainly be the temporally
mounting terrors of abandonment, or worse, much
worse. For much worse happens for all sorts of
faith- or hope-diminished reasons, negligences, or
even "acts of nature." Yet there is also the barely
thinkable spiritual dimension into which, perhaps,
only an ever-increasing sense of urgency is able to
reach. Winnicott believed he heard "archaic
anxiety," "chaos," and "disintegrative breakdowns"
in the inarticulate cries of the left-infant. A
FeuerbachianlRilkean listener might believe he or
she hears (has faith that it hears) something else,
too, that humbles infant or adult thinking, yet
permeates us with wisdom of the infinite and can
mature us into its vast security.
So, of course the child should be hugged by a
"good enough mother." (We are beyond just "leaving
the baby to cry"-as previous authorities
sometimes recommended.) Yet it is a different
child-frightened, vulnerable, yet also a noble and
spiritually initiated child-who is hugged, and thus
a far more admiring and honoring, not just soothing
and protective hug that is received. And it is a
mother who receives her infant's blessing, not just
his or her gaping need. And the possible cries of
the child who is not then hugged call us even now;
we cannot rest easy until he or she is embraced.
Yet the hug that comes, as soon as possible, let it
be such a soothing, loving, and honoring embrace.
And then, let us see over the generations the
difference that this and many, many other such
subtle "spiritual" refinements might make in our
Spirituality and Psychotherapy 81
psychologies, in our neuroendocrinology, and in our
Then there is this mystery of self-soothing-
which ranges from the baby's happy and immediate
refocusing on some bauble or perhaps on a thumb,
to the more profound depths of eternal awe that
mystics call "God's Endless Love."7
Thus, the gradations of awe-of-the-eternal of
those transfDced in mystic rapture or meditative
stillness; or in privately anxious decisive moments
(awaiting a birth, an execution, a sunset, a mother's
return); or in chronically autistic or catatonic
(confusingly called, "timeless" states, instead of
"infinite time" states) self-absorption or in oscillating
dissociations; or in the (seeming) interminability of
suicidal depression; or in the mushroomings of
psychotic terror and panic disorders, with their
endlessly repetitive obsessive thoughts, memories,
guilts, rages-as endless as the endless divisibility
of consciousness itself, oftime itself.
For the metaphoric sea that Stanislav Grof
(1989) quipped "drowns" the psychotic and in which
the mystic "swims" is, from the Feuerbachian
perspective, the unfathomable sea of infinitely
divisible sentience conjoined with eternal time-
with its somatic correlate, the neuroendocrine-
hormonal sea.
We could ask, is there a greater and under-
explored depth of the "self' that has this (amazing)
innate capacity we call "self-soothing" and even
more profound powers "further down" such as an
"undying awareness"-that is, an eternally-
nourished "immortal soul?"9
And is it not in these same depths that
enlightenment uroborically (self-soothingly)
foments its blissful biochemistries, and in which
the faith-begging hells of anxiety, depression,
autism, dissociation, or psychosis brew their more
morbid (internally secreted and reabsorbed)
biochemistries? For, in these depths ofinfinite time
and consciousness are bottomless and spiraling
grounds for much confusion, especially for any
faith-diminished developmental psychology.
Thus, through various "prematurely" (before
one has gained the embodied wisdom imparted by
matured appreciation of infinite time) catalyzing-
catastrophic events throughout our lifetime,
heaven suddenly breaks through the quotidian
with the daunt of the infinite.
Yet, lacking any
sort of (spiritualized) clinical language to
differentiate the heavenly awe from the hellishness
of the mundane catastrophe, the divine
biochemistries of endless awe commingle most
unfortunately (and undeciphered) with the feelings
of situational danger to brew dark endocrine
concoctions. The finite terror (and its "post-
traumatic" aftermath), not merely endless time
itself, confusingly feels like it is what will last
Without a proper name ("form of life") to tease
out the spiritual component ofthe experience, one
understandsllives one's traumatic experience in a
purely mundane way and thus comes to feel
"endlessly" (not merely sudden-catastrophically)
doomedY We might easily discern the spiritual
from the mundane at, for example, a funeral where
something "spiritual" or "profound" is differentiable
from the sheer anguishing sorrow of grief; likewise,
the "spiritual inspiration" at weddings can be
discerned from the partying joys.
In the mere flow of perpetuity, conjoined with
some all too finite "fear" or "concern," is what
Kierkegaard (1946) called the "sickness unto
death." In this purely psychological terror (the real
danger being over), one longs for an end that does
not come-only more of the eternal (time) comes,
and with it more obsessive terror. At such times,
can one find the slightest trickle of spiritual
Mother's Milk? And from where? Perhaps from the
pineal source of soothing endorphins and
(scientifically verified) radiant, rejuvenating
melatonin-the legendary "third eye," where
kundalini yoga locates shiimbhavl-mudm, "delight
gesture of subtle envisioning of the Divine" and
amrita, "eternal life nectar."
In other words, might babies, children, adults
and the dying all be involved in constant
maturations of faith (so-called "spiritual
emergence") regarding some "edge" of their own
(spiritual-temporal-sentient) depth to believe in,
or barely believe in, or to disbelieve in, felt/named
variously as nonspecific terror, anxiety, emptiness,
the future, overwhelming awe, or eternal time?
And, is not this "edge" the perpetual edge of
the (inexplicable) arising ofthe very next moment
of eternity (the "right now" that is always "right
now") and its passing away and the arising ofthe
next and the next (what I will denote below with
a series of t, t, t, t, t, t's) with its overlooked,
perpetual mystery of the "never happened
before"-forever forward? No wonder waking up
to this sense of ever-fleeting time (anicca) is the
82 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
core of the difficult-to-attain enlightenment of
Buddhism, and ofthe beatific or transfixed states
of many other spiritual traditions: the Eternal
Grace of Christian redemptive time, the ecstatic
Eternal Dance of Shiva and the ek-static
("moving") stream of Heraclitus-even now,
t,t,t,t,t,t,t as you t,t age t,t,t and read t,t,t these
very words t,t,t,t,t,t,t,t,t,t ...
If there is such a depth (of consciousness, of self,
of anxiety, of temporal impermanence, and of sooth-
ing), if we believe in it and believe what we say
about it has substance, then a cornerstone of con-
ventional developmental theory-"separation" and
its "anxiety"-may need to be reassessed.
Likewise, the mood of the therapeutic "holding
environment" (a clinical analog to a mother's
soothing "holding" of her child and a fundamental
concept and practice in Self Psychology) may also
need to become more complex than that created
by the step beyond psychoanalytic "neutrality"
known as "empathy," so hard-won by Self
Psychologists. For there may be more going on than
empathy can best respond to in the maturational
anxieties of infants and adults, alike.
Future therapists using the soteriological
(spirit-redeeming) psychology I now posit might
someday express their "clinical admiration," or
"clinical shy awe" with clients whom they see as
engaged in various spiritual struggles with faith
(to sustain humbled confidence while under duress)
or to find the way to forgiveness, given and
received. (Did Self Psychologists really think they
had coined the last word in clinical rapport,
allowing us to close the book forever with
Likewise, those aspects of psychotherapy where
"separation anxiety" is the interpreted name for
the client's discomfort-therapy terminations or
just the 49th minute of a 50-minute hour-might
be viewable as possessing spiritual import: an
awakening to endless temporal impermanence that
is made vivid at endings of all sorts.
1. The postmodern concern with difference takes its
ontological hold here-that which is other from the pre-
differentiated, the One. Further, there are the problems
of "what" constitutes a difference, and by whose authority
is this standard to be chosen and applied, and who is to
abide by that authority, in infinite regress, perhaps all
the way back to the One-yet by whose authority shall
we choose to "believe" that there is a One that can be
regressed to? And if this One is to have any attributes
(benignity, for example), who defines them and what
verifies their ontic existence, beyond the mere positivism
of logical, persuasive utterance? Via the sensual or
aesthetic descriptor, "union" or "unitive experience," the
semantic-interrogatory stance becomes more emotional,
more infused by endocrine chemistries. The grammatics
and semantics of serious interrogation give way to sheer
(almost wordless, perhaps) wonderment and awe. This
youthful or matured wonder-awe might (be said to) "begin"
where the limits of ponderous postmodern discourse
(limits which Sokal and Bricmont [1998] revealed to us
with no little humor) "end."
2. I have italicized and capitalized the S of "Something"
to indicate an ambiguity that, perhaps, this Something
deserves to be capitalized.
3. See McNeill (1995) on social rhythmic practices as a
basis for human and cultural evolution.
4. Even Jesus is said to have cried out when being crucified
as he began to feel the greater magnitude into which he
was ostensibly dying.
We also face the question of how much spiritual
significance can credibly be granted to babies. See R. D.
Laing (1982).
5. Thus, mystics resort to both geographical deserts and
meditative emptiness "deserts" to dwell undistractedly in
their own Infinity. Thus, too, the tantric view of emotional
fluctuation, the theory of rasa, and alchemical emotion
transmutations. See D. G. White (1996).
6. Wilber (1980), Washburn (1994), and others speak of
the experience of pre-egoic unitive states of consciousness
and that of post-egoic states. I am focusing on how this
so-called ego can quake even in the most matured of saints,
given a deep enough (or sudden enough) look into the
shimmering abyss of infinitely divisible consciousness and
its congruence with relentless time-passage. I believe I
am also granting more (unverifiable?) intelligent sentience
to infants, more spiritual import to the "ego-shattered"
("psychotic," "borderline," etc., persons), and more
vulnerability to the saintly-enlightened (particularly as
they become more socially influential) than many other
transpersonal writers.
7. The Jnaneshvar Gita states that kundalini ("coiled"
Mother-Energy) causes yogis (by uncoiling) to "move their
bodies as children do." The self-soothing baby's pulling
on his or her own limbs is, again, more spiritual "Mother's
8. Thus, I have distinguished the "present" of conventional
therapies-being present with the client-from this "deep
present." Thus, too, we find the basis for the modern
exogenous alchemy of psychopharmacology.
Spirituality and Psychotherapy 83
In my continuation of Lee Sannella's work since 1981
on what he called "the transcendence or psychosis"
question, I have found that (I grant that), in vivo, there is
much fluctuation between the overwhelmingly
transcendental and the floridly psychotic. Further
complicating the situation is the (nonomnipotent, but
significant) effect of the therapist's (helpful person's)
confidence and verbal competence in talking with such
people about the spirituality of their experience. "You
mean I'm not crazy?" can be a most salutary client
response to a therapist's "spiritual explanation" for (at
least part of) what this client is experiencing.
9. In the yogic physio-spiritual anatomy, amrita (hormone
of immortality), akin no doubt to purportedly age-
reversing melatonin, is the most potent distillate of the
Mother Kundalini's glandular alchemy.
10. Thus, various cultures expose their youth to a trying
rite of passage into adulthood to temper their bodies with
the endochemistries of the eternal. In yoga, the internal
alchemy of urdhva-reta (refinement of the seed juices)
saturates the transmuting yogi in the bodily precipitates
of the eternal. Similarly, sexual orgasm (with its rush of
endochemistries) is said to offer a glimpse ofthe eternal.
Certainly childbirth and parenting bestow their own
wisdom of potentially eternal perpetuation and personal
11. Here, what Wittgenstein (1968) called "language
games," the consensual vocabulary of a discipline, become
"forms of life," literally dictating what experiences an
individual can and cannot be having. Likewise, we find
the dangers of "shadow-work" psychotherapy, where
positive emotions (including forgiveness) are not
uncommonly held as suspect, and whose proponents claim
that there "is always more work" that "can be done."
12. Indeed, we will have taken a firm step into a far more
spiritually charged human existence.
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84 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
On the History of Mystical Anarchism in Russia
v. V. Nalimov
Moscow State University
Moscow, Russia
Translated from the Russian by A. V Yarkho
T SEEMS that the time is ripe to write about
. the subject of Mystical Anarchism. It is not a
simple subject to discuss. It is rooted in the
remotest past of Gnostic Christianity and even
perhaps earlier (according to the legend) in
Ancient Egypt.
In Russia, the development of Mystical
Anarchism, or otherwise, Mystical Acratism, is
primarily connected with the name of Professor
ApollonAndreevich Karelin (1863-1926). In 1917
he returned to Russia from Paris after many
years of forced emigration (Nikitin, 1991a,
The well-known American historian of
Anarchism, Avrich (1998), calls Karelin a Soviet
anarchist, because for a number of years he was
the leader of a small group of anarchists in the
All-Union Central Executive Committee. The
members of the group were "observers" in the
supreme organ of authority. Its task was to make
all that was happening more humanitarian, to
oppose the death penalty and terror in general.
Anarcho-Mysticism did not represent any
political party. It had neither a program nor a
definitive ideology.l A supporter need not have
been an anarchist. The term "Anarchism" itself
was interpreted very broadly. It would be more
apt to speak of the principle of nonviolence,
understood with sufficient broadness. At the same
time, it was not a nonviolence of the Tolstoyan
type. The revolution as an overthrow of the
existing regime was regarded by many as a
natural and unavoidable historical event. The
important thing was that the fight for freedom
should not turn into a new nonfreedom.
At the end of the 1920s, among some of the
Anarchists, the idea offorming a party emerged.
Their argument was that Anarchism had failed
in a revolutionary struggle because it had no
organization of the Bolshevik type. The
counterargument was that formation of such a
party would render meaningless the anarchic
movement. Representatives of Mystical
Anarchism, A. A. Solonovich in particular, were
sharply against the idea of the party. I was a
witness of this absurd and vehement fight.
But the philosophical foundations ofthis fight
were fairly serious. By the end of the 1920s the
following alternative had become obvious: either
to construct a new society based on a materialistic
position, which unavoidably makes it necessary
to resort to a dictatorship of the Bolshevik type,
or to take the road of a free quest, in which case
the boundaries of human individual
consciousness should be expanded. The latter
means acquiring spiritual experience, and
establishing contact with mystical experience.
However, the word mysticism sounded awful to
many, especially in the 1920s, which were
penetrated by the spirit of vulgar scientism.
The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 85-98 85
© 2001 by Panigada Press
Mystical Anarchism in Russia
NSTITUTIONALLY, in somewhat simplified terms,
Mystical Anarchists could be regarded as
members of a closed religious-philosophical
fraternity, most often called the Order of the
Temple. Participants could be people of spiritual
broad-mindedness, having: (1) uncompromising
moral values (of predominantly Christian type);
(2) a pronounced awareness of personal dignity;
(3) a faculty of mystic perception, an ability to
recognize spiritual aspects in the environment and
in metaphorical texts; and (4) a profound urge
towards the ultimate principle ofthe Universe.
Spiritual broad-mindedness immediately
excluded the participation of members ofthe ruling
party and dogmatists of all sorts.
It is noteworthy that Mystical Anarchists
preserved neutrality toward the ruling party
longer than any other dissident revolutionaries.
Another noteworthy detail is that Karelin lived in
the apartment house inhabited by government
members, "The 1st House of Soviets" (former Hotel
National, Room 219).2
Indeed, Solonovich was first arrested in 1925.
But then he was interceded for by Karelin (with
the support of A. S. Yenukidze) and liberated. He
was even given back his typed manuscripts, which
were accompanied by the declaration that they
were to be regarded as scientific works. The only
requirement was that Solonovich was not to
organize any groups, circles, or regular meetings;
that is, he was not to work with people.
Even then people associated with Solonovich
were actively shadowed. A relative of Solonovich's
secretary told me that she was regularly
summoned to a certain place with the suggestion
that she should cooperate with the authorities.
Sometimes, when she was out with her young man,
she was approached in the street by agents who
mysteriously proposed to her that she should
follow them. The last menace was that she would
be infected with a venereal disease. For help, she
had to address Pyotr Germogenovich Smidovich
(deputy of M. I. Kalinin), who usually helped in
such matters willingly and with success. As a
result she was summoned by V R. Menzhinsky.
She was startled upon entering as she heard the
"Switch on the radiators!"
"So you don't want to cooperate with the Soviet
"Do you know how these authorities behave?"
"Take her away!"
Mter that the persecution stopped.
A tragic case: a young anarchist for some reason
moved (with his family) to Komsomol'sk-na-
Amure. He never concealed his views and was
reported to the police (nothing more). Then he was
summoned, an inquest started, and he was beaten
on the head with revolver butts, which caused his
death. All the materials (with many photographs)
were again sent to Smidovich. After the
investigation was over, the victim's family was
granted a pension. What really strikes us about
this horrible case is the degree of intolerance.
Representatives of the authorities, whose job it is
to preserve order, kill a person only because of his
dissidence. That brings about sad thoughts:
Perhaps, this intolerance is an important index of
spiritual retardedness in our country?
One certainly should be very cautious in
evaluations. I am reminded of Karelin who said
that the revived Gnostic Christianity, transformed
here into a Mystical Anarchism, nowhere received
such a broad response as in our country. It could
also be added that its members were never so
much persecuted as here.
We have to acknowledge that we lived, and
continue to live, in a very heterogeneous country
in which so many different cultures of East and
West came into contact. True unity failed to be
achieved either through the tsarist regime or that
of its Bolshevik heirs.
The Scale of the Movement
UDGING BY fragmentary data, Mystical
Anarchism in the 1920s (during a short period
of time) became very widespread among free
professionals and intellectuals: scholars and
scientists, college professors, artists and actors
from many towns. There were also contacts with
noninstitutional spiritual teachings, and
somewhere in the Caucasus, contacts with
sectarianism. An attempt was even made to come
into contact with the youth (scouts organization).
I feel we shall never be able to get exact data
even after all the archives are open, as for the
sake of safety, different names were used:
Brotherhood of Parakletes,3 Order ofthe Spirit,
Order of the Light, Order of the Temple,
perhaps many other ones. When I returned after
the repressions (1936-1954), I recognized many,
86 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
but did not speak to them: the masks were still
on. Not everybody remained as before. Some
became traitors, some merely went over to
another camp without betrayal and turned into
non-Party Bolsheviks. How could it be possible
to disentangle all that? I am sure there were
people who recognized me, too.
A. A. Solonovich (who knew already of the
future arrest) told me as his farewell: "Now we
are numerous and some small roots will remain."
Where are these roots?
I was saying good-bye to him at the familiar
leather sofa where a new blanket lay prepared
for the prison.
Readiness flOr Sacrifices
HE READER must have long felt a desire to ask
why all that was necessary.
This question can have various answers.
The most general answer is as follows: a
spiritually endowed man aware of the Universal
responsibility, a Pneumatic (a term ofthe Gnostics
often used by Solonovich), is such that in tragic
times he must be willing to act in any
circumstances. But how? In a hopeless situation
the only open road is sacrifice. This is a Christian
answer to the above question.
Are we ready to accept it?
I believe that Mystical Anarchists acknowl-
edged this principle. At least this is testified to
by the fact that after the arrests of 1930 their
activities were still going on.
Another question is: while the elder partici-
pants, experienced and mature, were ready for
sacrifice, did they have the inner right to can
younger ones to follow them? My feeling is that
they did. They called only a few and were honest
in warning them of what might happen. It was
hard on everybody. The mother of my friend Yu.
Proferansov herself led her only son to the road
to Golgotha.
Could there be any hope for a positive, or at
least, not so cruel an outcome? Before the mass
terror, Solonovich spoke of the possibility of a
spontaneous beginning of a second world war and,
as a consequence, of a new revolution that could
acquire a different, nondictatorial nature if people
were spiritually prepared by that time. His
forecast was essentially erroneous.
Indeed, the Second World War did break out,
but we gained a triumphant victory together with
our Western allies. Then came the lengthy period
of the Cold War that we eventually lost against
former allies. The expected revolution came, and
the dictatorship ofthe Bolshevik party collapsed.
But by that time there were practically no
spiritually-prepared representatives of free
The policy of dictators to exterminate all
dissidents was farsighted, and their alternative
dramatic: If not for them, the country would perish.
But was it intelligent and humane?
It is difficult for us to understand the course
of history in the twentieth century. We can only
comprehend the fate of individuals, but never that
of humankind. Such fate is beyond our grasp.
In the terms of the ancient Greek philosophers
we could use the term Epokhe, abstention from
further reasoning; or elseAeon, extratemporality.
The latter term was widely used by Gnostics who
wished to restore by their imagination what was
happening in Ultimate Reality. We are unable,
however, to reinterpret their constructions in
contemporary language.
Readiness IOf the Russian Intelligentsia
to Accept the New Mystical Teaching
HE NATURAL question is: why did Mystical
Anarchism receive such a broad response in
My opinion is that it was significantly related
to the situation of the first postrevolutionary
years. The Russian intelligentsia was preparing
for the revolution for a long time and discussed
at length the ways of its development. But despite
the arguments one thing was certain: They
believed it would be successful and sacred. They
believed in people, in their creativity and
faultlessness. They were ready to worship
people's capacities.
But their romantic hopes were destroyed. Only
the Bolsheviks were able to curb the mad cruelty.
All the other parties proved helpless: Their
position was too civilized. Traditional Anarchism
failed to stand the test as well. The Church, too,
proved to be helpless, though "Holy Russia" was
a frequent phrase. The central problem proved
to be the deficit of kindness, tolerance, and
The reflective and concerned intelligentsia
again had to face the notorious Russian question:
What is to be done?
On the History of Mystical Anarchism in Russia 87
Many intellectuals felt that Mystical
Anarchism provided an answer to this question:
It was to make Christianity more profound by
returning to its origin, to liberate it from
dogmatism and some anachronistic ideas, to
remove intolerance towards other religions and
science, and to introduce into the outlook
mysticism lost by the Church.
What we have said above, on the role played
by the revolution in the development of the new
religious movement, can be supported by the fact
that when A. A. Karelin came back to Russia he
started as the Secretary of the Russian
Federation of Anarchists-Communists, though
later these activities became secondary and then
stopped altogether, replaced by a mystically-
oriented philosophy.
Ideological Premises
AST BUT not least are the ideological premises,
the most important question being about the
basis of Mystical Anarchism.
There is no source, nor can there be a source,
that would formulate the principal premises of this
teaching. It cannot exist since the thinking of an
Anarchist must remain free, untied by any
unconditional dogmas.
Still, there was a source. It existed as oral
ancient legends.
The amazing fact is that Karelin
actually remembered all the legends (there were
more than a hundred): Mter his death not a single
note was found. These texts were regarded as
esoteric material, not to be passed on to the
noninitiated. At the same time it was said that
even if they got into the hands of outsiders, that
would not do much harm, as their perception is a
It can be performed only in a specific
spiritual atmosphere created by the leader
together with the collective sharing his attitude.
Karelin possessed a special spiritual power that
was preserved for some time after his death.
It was emphasized, and indeed was very
important, that everyone could understand the
legends in his own way, as myths, tales, or
allegories exposing elements of the new outlook.
The creative task was to be able, after this text
became a part of you, to create your own text
corresponding to the meanings and requirements
of the present day. That was an ancient Gnostic
The fact that the legends were passed on orally
made the teaching dynamic. The storyteller could
change the text according to the change of culture.
This is not to say that the spirit of the teaching
changed, it was only the form that was subject to
changes. The oral mode was also significant for
the reason that great attention was paid to
answering the questions posed by listeners in the
course of telling the legend. Such conversations
are only possible in the language of today.
An essential question is how much these
legends correspond to historically preserved
materials of Christian Gnosticism. I am not in a
position to act as an expert, but I would still like
to say a few words about this point.
I feel that the general spirit of legend is in
accord with Gnostic thinking, but that is about
all, at least for the above-mentioned reason, that
legends could change with time. We should also
bear in mind that legends (e.g., in the case ofthe
Templars) were complemented by new material
related to the development of knighthood; and by
the Crusades, that provided new meetings with
the East, including Moslem esoterism. The legend
of the Holy Grail became a new subject as well
(Jung & von Franz, 1970; Baigent, Leigh, &
Lincoln, 1989).
It is also difficult to answer the above question
for the following reason: It is not easy to achieve a
formulation of what Gnosticism is. In the broadest
understanding it represents the Christianization,
and, at the same time, the Hellenization
of the
entire range of Mediterranean cultures.
It is difficult to indicate on the time scale when
this movement started and when it ended, or, to
be more accurate, when it went underground,
emerging on the surface as individual splashes,
though frequent and sometimes prolonged ones.
It is not simple either to describe the
geographical expansion of the movement. One of
its trends, Manichaeism, spread from Northern
Africa to China, having found a specially favorable
soil in Middle and Central Asia. One of the Gnostic
sects is preserved in Iraq to our day.
Still, attempts were made to formulate the basic
postulates. Below we quote one of the statements
by Jonas (1958):
The stage would be the same [as in the Bible],
the theme as transcending: the creation ofthe
world, the destiny of man, fall and
redemption, the first and the last things. But
how much more numerous would be the cast,
how much more bizarre the symbolism, how
much more extravagant the emotions! Almost
88 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
all the actions would be in the heights, in the
divine or angelic or demonic realm, a drama
of pre-cosmic persons in the supranatural
world, of which the drama of man in the
natural world is but a distant echo. (p. xiii)
Here is a broader view of the subject discussed
(Sventsitskaya & Trofimova, 1989):
At the International Congress in Messina in
1966, the thesis was formulated stating that
to define the origin of Gnosticism means to
define its essence. It was however absolutely
impossible to establish its OrIgm
unambiguously, as in teachings related to
Gnostics according to the ancient evidence a
mixture of fairly different elements is
represented. (p. 165)
In contemporary language we would say that
the outlook of Gnosticism is a multidimensional
phenomenon: Its probabilistically weighted
constituents are correlated. This correlation is not
stable, it is determined by the active observer
changing in the process of perception the weight
of individual constituents.
It is this flexibility that enables modern
researchers to discover parallels between modern
thinking and the Gnostic ideas ofthe distant past.
It is also essential that in both cases, in the present
and in the past, thinkers on the deep level of their
consciousness proceeded from the same
archetypes. One of the attractive features of
Gnosticism is exactly that it reflected in the most
complete way the archetypal heritage without any
dogmatic limitations. Gnosticism in its manifold
vision of the world seems to be the freest systematic
view of the world.
We would like to illustrate the above by a few
examples. In the book already quoted
(Sventsitskaya & Trofimova, 1989) we find the
following words concerning the search for parallels
between Gnosticism and modern times:
... that opened up the prospects of drawing
parallels between apophatic descriptions of
the One and the linguistic observations of L.
Wittgenstein; between Gnostic cosmology and
the hypotheses of contemporary physics on
duality and nonduality; between the
identification of man in ancient texts and the
roads of psychoanalysis. (p. 166)
The book Gnosis und Mystik in der Geschichte
der Philosophie (Koslowski, 1988) is devoted to
the problem of parallels.
This collection of
papers contains twenty chapters embracing not
only individual thinkers but also entire trends.
We see how deeply Gnosis penetrated
philosophical thinking up to our day.12 We would
also like to mention here a collection of papers,
edited in Holland, which is hard to get: Gnosis de
Derde Component van de Europese Cultuurtraditie
(Quispel, 1988) resembling the book (Koslowski,
1988) both structurally and in content. We would
also like to indicate the comprehension of
Gnosticism in prerevolutionary Russia. Below we
quote the paper of A. Belyi devoted to the early
works of A. Blok (Belyi, 1988):
... she is the Virgin, Sophia, the Mistress of the
World, the Dawn; her life incarnates in love
the most supreme goals of Vladimir Soloviev
and the Gnostics; turns abstraction into life,
and Sophia into Love; and brings down straight
into our soul odd conceptions of Valentine and
Vasilides, connects the vaguest quests of
ancient times with the religious-philosophical
quest of our days. (p. 285)
As you see, part ofthe intelligentsia in Russia
was ready to accept Mystical Anarchism
fermented by Gnostic Christianity.
Opposition to the State
Power and Orthodoxy
ESPITE GNOSTIC teaching being so broad,
opposition did emerge, and it was sometimes
quite pronounced, both in the distant past and in
days close to our time. One case was the opposition
to Byzantine Orthodoxy. The description of this
opposition may shed more light on the nature of
Gnostic Christianity than any attempts to describe
it according to numerous sources. Such an
approach could be called apophatic, as it reveals
the nature of Gnosticism by stating what it is not.
The opposition will naturally be revealed by the
difference in interpreting canonical texts.
We shall consider the following aspects of
1. The principle of doing. Gnostic Christianity
traditionally accepts the principle of doing as an
urge towards justice; social justice, of course. That
follows from reading canonical gospels. Recall at
least the parable of the fig tree. Christ also said
of himself:
I must work the works of him that sent me
while it is day: the night cometh, when no m a ~
can work. (John 9:4)
On the History of Mystical Anarchism in Russia 89
For I have given you an example, that ye
should do as I have done to you. (John 13:15)
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that
abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth
forth much fruit: for without me ye can do
nothing. (John 15:5)
Orthodoxy, on the contrary, limits itself to
praying, praying for everybody. But is that
In contrast to Orthodoxy, Gnostic Christianity
in the tragic days of revolutionary conflict made an
attempt to join the struggle, having declared the
formation of the new movement, Mystical
Anarchism. Representatives of this trend who were
not afraid to soil their names entered theAll-Union
Executive Central Committee. Why then did none
of the hierarchs of Orthodoxy recognize the
revolution as a fact and enter the Committee (at
least as observers) to soften the terror?
2. Opposition of the sources. The great teaching
of Christ which is actually extratemporal (i.e.,
invariant with respect to the multitude of cultures)
is given to us by the Church as interpreted through
only one ancient culture. That attaches archaic
features to the teaching, which alienates many
intellectuals from Christianity. The alienation is
also promoted by the fact that opposition is often
manifested between the Old Testament and the
New Testament.
As early as the time of its first appearance,
Gnosticism attempted to go beyond the boundaries
of national limitations, rejecting the Old
Testament as a primitive (from the viewpoint of
Weltanschauung) interpretation of the history of
one nation. In the Gnostic interpretation, the
Christian teaching has significantly acquired a
cosmopolitan nature.
Gnostics did not accept the Old Testament, and
their attitude to the New Testament was critical.
The reason for this was an essential divergence of
initial premises. In the Gnostic approach, God was
alienated from the fate of this world. God was
described by such epithets as indestructible
existing without a name, inexpressible:
supercelestial, immutable, unknowable,
nonexistent. It was stated that the Savior with
his mission exists from initial time in various
manifestations. "I wandered through worlds and
generations until I came to the gate of Jerusalem"
(Jonas, 1958, p. 79). Man is but a wanderer in the
world, and Earth is but one of his abodes. A special
metaphysical significance was attached to
knowledge as a way of spiritual ascent. The
language of Gnosticism is amazing. Its typical
feature is a symbolic way of expressing ideas by
means of allegories, myths, and legends, and
sometimes poetry that contains philosophical
images. Its peculiarity is a creation of new
metaphors. To the words of ordinary language such
as Silence, Reason, Abyss, or Delusion, a new
specific meaning is attached without any
additional explanation.
How different is all that from what we regard
as Christianity!
The renovated Russian Gnostic Christianity
also recommended treating the canonical gospels
critically. For instance, it is difficult today to accept
the statement, "But the very hairs of your head
are all numbered" (Matt. 10:30, Luke 12:7).15 This
extreme determinism is not compatible with the
concepts of our day. It would be difficult to see God
as a giant computer counting our hairs. It is
equally difficult to understand why marrying a
divorced person should be regarded as fornication
(Matt. 5:32; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18). That
seems to be a concession to the cultural tradition
of those days. Such examples can be multiplied.
The important thing is also to interpret facts that
were supposed to be overlooked. For instance ,
Orthodoxy considers it sinful to speak of
metempsychosis, but it is mentioned in the Gospel
according to John 9:1,2; the idea ofthese lines is
that the blind man could commit a sin before he
was born, that is, in a previous life.
3. Attitude to power is one of the examples of
opposition of the Old Testament to the new
teaching (if it is liberated from certain alien
In the Gospel according to Luke we read how
the devil tempted Christ:
And the devil said unto him, All this power
will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that
is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will
I give it. (Luke 4:6)
If thou therefore will worship me, all shall be
thine. (Luke 4:7)
In contrast to that, in the fifth book of Moses
we learn that power belongs to God:
And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God
require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God,
to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and
to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart
and with all thy soul. (Deuteronomy 10:12)
90 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord
oflords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible
God, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh
reward. (Deuteronomy 10:17)
Another, demoniacal image of the carrier of
supreme power is given in the Apocryphon of
(Robinson, 1981):
[10] And she [Sophia] called his name
Yaltabaoth. This (20) is the first archon who
took a great power from his mother. And he
removed himself from her and moved away
from the places in which he was born. He
became strong and created for himself other
aeons with (25) a flame ofluminous fire which
(still) exists now. And he joined with his
madness which is in him and begot authorities
for himself.
[11] And he is impious in his madness,
which is in him. For he said (20), "I am God
and there is no other God beside me," for he
is ignorant of his strength, the place from
which he had come.
But Yaltabaoth had a multitude [12] of
faces in addition to all of them, so that he could
bring a face before all of them, according to
his desire, being in the middle of seraphs. He
shared (5) his fire with them; therefore he
became lord over them, because of the power
of the glory he possessed of his mother's light.
Therefore he called himself God. And he did
not (10) put his trust in the place from which
he came.
[13] And when the mother recognized that
the cover of darkness was imperfect, then she
knew (35) that her consort had not agreed
with her. She repented [14] with much
weeping. And the whole pleroma heard the
prayer of her repentance and they praised on
her behalf the invisible, virginal Spirit. (pp.
But let us return now to the New Testament.
In the Epistle of Paul, the Apostle to the Romans,
the tradition ofthe Old Testament of praising any
supreme power is again repeated:
13:1. Let every soul be subject unto the higher
powers. For there is no power but of God: the
powers that be are ordained of God.
Thus each Christian has to face the dilemma
of whether to accept unquestioningly any supreme
power or to reject the principle of violence itself.
Russian Orthodoxy identified itself with the
Russian powers, both with the former tsarist
power and the postrevolutionary one, when at first
it was not yet militantly atheistic. Gnostic
Christianity in the Russia of 1917 found itself
under the banner of Mystical Anarchism. Without
letting ourselves be carried away by emotions,
we can assert that both interpretations of the
initial texts are possible. The choice is determined
by the spiritual level of the one who chooses.
It is noteworthy that the word communism
was inscribed on the banners of both Bolshevism
and Anarchism. The experience of more than
seventy years has demonstrated that for those
who have chosen the road of conscious murder
this slogan quickly turns into a mask.
The word communism has lately become one
of abuse. But it should not be forgotten that this
utopian image is part of the foundation of
Christianity. Recall but one phrase from Christ's
sermon, "Sell what you have and give alms" (Luke
An originally Gnostic European heresies were
developed under the symbol of equality,
brotherhood, and freedom. There is a well known
treatise On Justice (Nikolaev, 1913) ascribed to
Epiphanies that sheds light on early Gnosticism.
This is how it is described in the book by K.
Rudolph (1977): "The author [ofthe composition]
reveals the image of Gnostic communism and
shows in this way what explosive force the
Gnostic world had" (pp. 285-286).
The charge had long been wandering through
Western Europe until it exploded in full force in
Russia, where the idea of the dictatorship of the
proletariat, also borrowed from Europe, was used
as a detonator.
4. Going beyond the limits of original sources,
in its urge to preserve the purity of belief,
Orthodoxy treated secularization with caution. is
Nevertheless, the history of Russian philosophical
thought is essentially the secularization of
Orthodoxy. It will suffice to remember such names
as F. Dostoevsky, L. Tolstoy, V. Soloviev, S.
Bulgakov, P. Florensky, and many others
(Zen'kovsky, 1989). Secularization was naturally
fraught with conflicts with the Church,
sometimes of very serious significance. In recent
decades this thread of Russian thought was
broken, perhaps for the reason that the state
censorship became much stricter. But it may be
that due to the existing oppressive atmosphere
the spiritual impulse was attenuated.
But let us come back to Gnosticism. In it,
even within one trend, many nonconflicting
ramifications were allowed to exist. For instance,
On the History of Mystical Anarchism in Russia 91
for one of the well-known schools of Gnosticism,
that of the Valentinian, even in the sources
preserved today we can find many independent
versions deviating from the original one. This is
what Irenaeus wrote about this trend (Jonas,
1958): "Every day one of them invents something
new, and none ofthem is considered perfect unless
he is productive in this way" (p. 179).19
When we try now to mentally reproduce the
atmosphere in which Gnosticism was developing,
we see a brotherhood of people, each of whom
meditated over the problems of existence
proceeding from the common premise of man's
desertedness. The results of these meditations
were formulated as philosophical and poetic
structures, the most vivid of which gave rise to
separate schools and their ramifications. Many
were seized by a creative quest. They tried in their
imagination to create the mythological model of
the world. Their penetration into the depths ofthe
human spirit is amazing.
Up to now we have spoken about the sharp
opposition of Russian Orthodoxy and Gnosticism.
But this opposition was later softened, if not on
the side of Orthodoxy itself, then in its
secularization, which underwent a similar process:
The Russian teaching of Sophia was also a
mythological model of a cosmogonic variety.
If now we come back to Mystical Anarchism,
its inner life can be almost fully characterized by
the same words that we used to describe ancient
Gnosticism: that it was a brotherhood whose
intensive creative activities were going on both
within it and outside. It was expressed in plays
staged in theaters,20 in creating artistic works and
in writing philosophical papers on general social
and historical subjects. I personally was well
acquainted with the works of Solonovich. Thirteen
of his philosophical notebooks are preserved. All
in all there were fifty-nine exercise books and five
thicker ones. I also remember his papers on Christ
and Christianity, the courses of lectures called
"Elements of Weltanschauung and Mystical
Anarchism," as well as his fundamental work on
M. Bakunin and the cult of Ialdabaof during the
last two millenia. He regarded Bakunin not only
as a political figure but also as a philosopher.21
That is how the principle of doing was
personified, aimed at expanding spiritual
knowledge in an epoch when it was in every way
suppressed by the dominant ideology of atheistic
Personalities and Reprisal
I would like to sketch here a few portraits.
Alexei Alexandrovich Solonovich, of
mathematical background, Associate Professor at
the Moscow College of Technology, was my teacher.
He was rather tall, solid, of considerable physical
force. There was something Mongolian about his
face: high cheekbones, slanted black eyes, a
flattened nose. He had long hair reaching to the
shoulders, a high forehead, and a noble and
significant look. He spoke like a born orator. His
speech would fascinate an audience as soon as he
pronounced the first words: It was full of lofty
ideas, original judgments, inspiration, and
intellectual audacity. He was intelligent and
Once an unknown person from the audience
tried to provoke him with the question:
"Is there a group of people forming around you?"
His answer was instantaneous:
"You can get an exhaustive answer to your
question from the GPU [Secret Police]."
Solonovich was one of the leaders of Mystical
Anarchism. He spoke in public often and openly.
He signed with his true name the papers that were
published outside the state publishing houses.
He was first arrested in 1925, but set free soon
after the verdict. He was even given back his
manuscripts, which were classified as scientific
papers. The only condition made was that he
should not work with people. This requirement
was, however, impossible to fulfill, as the
participants of the movement set themselves the
task not only to master spiritual knowledge,
Gnosis, but also to implement it in concrete deeds.
For some time the question was even raised
concerning the necessity of creating a closed
spiritual university. That was not completely
fulfilled, but the university did exist, though not
officially, and I was to study there for ten years.
I was always amazed by the efficiency of
Solonovich: He taught higher mathematics at the
Moscow College of Technology (it was he who made
me interested in mathematics after he had
demonstrated to me its philosophical meaning in
relation to Weltanschauung). He gave public talks
on philosophical subjects, developed the theory of
Mystical Anarchism, read a lot on history and
psychology, and displayed an acute interest in the
traditional symbolism of the East and West as well
as Eastern spiritual teachings and Gnosticism. He
92 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol 20
also prepared various cross-disciplinary
educational courses for the audience that
gathered in the Kropotkin museum, where all
these spheres of interest were brought together,
and that in the sphere of philosophy, covered
everything from Aristotle to Kant. Even then he
was trying to integrate spiritual, scientific, and
general cultural knowledge into a single
Besides, he often met and talked with people,
attracting them with his charismatic personality.
His time was occupied and arranged by encoded
marks in the pad that he would take out of his
eternal Tolstoyan shirt when he made another
appointment with US.
Arrested for the third time, Solonovich died
in prison in 1937 after a hunger strike.
Agniya Onisimovna Solonovich was the wife
and helpmate of Alexei Alexandrovich. I
remember her especially well, as our
relationship was characterized by a very specific
flavor of maternal friendliness that I especially
appreciated, for I lost my mother when I was a
boy of nine
and never regained this maternal
space until I met Agniya Onisimovna.
Tall, big, almost common, she was completely
transformed when she started to speak. Her
ideas were clear and penetrating (obviously the
effect of her-albeit unfinished-mathematical
university education). Her position in the
Kropotkin museum enabled her to devote herself
wholly to the "great cause." After her husband
was arrested in 1930, she took his place in all
his activities.
Two features were especially prominent in her
character: her cordiality, that we all knew very
well, and her stoicism, that manifested itself at
the inquests after her arrest in 1936. Reading
protocols of the inquests one cannot help being
amazed not merely by her human courage in the
face ofthe merciless monster of the system, but
by her lofty spirit and dignity.
In each protocol one comes across the refrain
pronounced almost word for word: "I am a
convinced Anarchist and I refuse to answer this
question for moral-ethical reasons." Not once did
she accept the accusations she was charged with,
either at the inquests, in the court, or when she
had to sign a special paper informing her ofthe
grounds on which she was incriminated. She
declared her position with firm though uneven
letters: "Innocent. Agniya Solonovich."
I would like to quote here one of her letters,
preserved in the KGB archives, that was
addressed to Solonovich in prison, in 1925. Let
her speak to us with her own voice at least now:
My dearest beloved Alexei,
We are all hugging you numerous times:
myself, Al'ka, Tanya, Seryozha, Katya, Narya,
mother, Tonya, Iya. I received your cable on
July 26. Is it possible that you were en route
for so long? How are you? How is your health?
What kind of regime do they have in Suzdal?
I am awaiting your letter impatiently with all
the details of your life and a description of how
meetings with relatives are arranged. I would
like to know that beforehand to get ready. I
hope you have already written about all that.
Please, be especially careful with your health.
All this time I have had my hands full with
the bustle about your case and do not yet know
whether they are going to reconsider it. The
procrastination is such that I can hardly bear
it. Send me a warrant that I can take care of
your case, otherwise, in the office of Katanyan
they refused to inform me. My dear, do not
worry and do not waste your energy over there.
You write that you feel guilty about me. This
is completely wrong: your arrest did not
depend on you. You have not done anything to
be arrested for, so you are not guilty. I could be
arrested in exactly the same manner ... And the
children may remain alone. Will we feel guilty
about them? We are all right. Atka, Tanya,
and Iya play together, sometimes they fight.
Just now they have taken the carpet and their
dolls outside and are playing in the shade near
the barn, opposite the porch.
Mother helps me a lot. Though sickly, she
has plenty of endurance. She walks and takes
care of herself We leave the house to her and
go away, each to our duties. Sergei is off to a
football match, Tonya and Katya go to their
offices (Katya has found a job, it seems to me
a temporary one, in a children's home), I go
somewhere in connection with your case. By
the evening we all get together. I am not yet
looking for ajob, since it would take time and
I would not be able to petition for you the way
I would like to. For the moment this is my
closest task. I am only thinking about the way
to get you free. I have not yet applied for the
meeting. First I have to see people, and after
that I will come to see you. I'll bring along
paper, books, jam, and other things. Please,
write what you need most of all. I am sending
you for your expenses 10 roubles and 6 stamps
for the letters. I received only two of your
letters, of July 9 and 15. No letters from
On the History of Mystical A narchism in Russia 93
America so far. No money in the Red Cross.
There is desperate need for it. How is Ivan
Vasil'evich? Kindest regards and all the best
to him. Are you together again? Apollon
Andreevich is still in a sanatorium and both
he and Eugen. send you best regards. They
occupy now a room on the opposite side, near
the main entrance, the first to the left as you
enter. When I visited them on Sunday, Eugen.
was in bed. All our friends are now concerned
with how I am doing. That is very handy, as
thanks to this I can avoid taking care of that
myself Actually, this is such a trifle ... Now the
only essential thing for me is you, I can only
think about you ... Here is a piece of news for
you: the other day the daughter of our
Ashkhabad aunt came to see me and said that
your mutual acquaintance would soon arrive
in Moscow and stay in the same place that he
had left before. I am surprised. In a few days
we shall have our kitchen repaired. Your niece
Irina came. This year they no longer live in
the same apartment over Moskva-river where
they used to live and where we visited them. A
pity-it was so nice to sit on their balcony. She
is bustling around as always. What are you
busy with, what are you thinking about? How
is your mathematics going? At the worst, we
shall order whatever you need from abroad,
but will not leave you without books. Perhaps,
you want to write something about Anarchism
or other problems that interest you. Do that. I
would be especially interested in your letters
on early Anarchism. Remember that in a letter
with a 7-kopeck stamp you can write a whole
sheet of paper, and if only I could get such
letters every week ... I am longing to be
spiritually with you. It is hard on me that I
cannot experience everything that you are
experiencing at the moment. Anyway, there is
no point in complaining: if legal Anarchism
continues to be persecuted, my destiny will be
the same. Until the repairs are over, Tonya
occupies your room. Then I shall move there,
because Seryozha will take my place.
Tatyanikha repeats every day, "Daddy sweetie
come back quickly,)) in a patter. Al'ka
remembers you rarely, but when she does, then
in a very serious way. When she hears we are
talking about you she suddenly asks us to
repeat something. As to Sergei, he will write
himself I received the money. Paid off almost
all the debts. Also paid to the proprietor for
two months (June and July) and not taking
into account the money I am sending you, I
still have 20 roubles. That will be enough for
10 days, and soon after there will be another
salary. How do you arrange with washing your
things? How many hours a day are you
outdoors? Is it a camp or a prison? I wish so
much to see you, my dear Alyoshechka, to speak
with you. Write more often and longer letters.
Anyway, you have more time to spare, while I
am run off my feet. I will soon begin to learn a
new piece for recital.
Your advice is that I
must not waste time. But I have to confess that
all this time I have been unable to read
anything but novels. It seems that now I will
be able to start something more serious, though
not immediately but after my bustle is over.
Each time when Sophia Grigorievna
Kropotkina comes to Moscow, she comes to see
me. She sends you best regards. I wanted to
mail this letter yesterday, but was late. So, see
you soon. I kiss you affectionately,
Your loving Agniya
Mikhail Alekseevich Nazarov was short, bearded,
with light brown hair. Unostentatious but well-
educated, he knew foreign languages and was one
of Solonovich's favorite students. He was very
enthusiastic about the ideas of Mystical
Anarchism and devoted his time and his soul to
them and to all of us. He talked much with people,
and wrote much on social-historical subjects.
There was something old-fashioned and stable
about the fluidity of his thoughts.
But people are truly revealed only in tragic
Arrest and inquests became a tragic reality
for him not only because he acknowledged being
guilty of preparing terrorist plots against the
leading party and government members, but also
because he was made to give evidence against
Agniya Solonovich and Iosif Sharevsky, which
formed the basis for their accusation and death
verdict. Iosif Sharevsky was shot on the same day
as Agniya Solonovich, at the age of 25.
Like her,
he never acknowledged himself guilty, and
refused to answer any questions at the inquests,
to prevent his investigators from using his
responses as evidence against others. They both
were tried by the Military Board ofthe Supreme
Court ofthe USSR headed by Ul'rikh. The entire
procedure ofthe trial, prepared beforehand in the
written form, took twenty minutes, and made no
provision for the presence of witnesses, advocates,
or the right to appeal the verdict. It was thus to
be fulfilled immediately. The relatives received
from the civil registrar's offices certificates that
death occured in prison or in camp, with an
arbitrary date. The requests, entitled "secret,"
were sent out by the KGB and the corresponding
papers that had nothing to do with reality were
issued by the official state offices. They lied as
94 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
much as they wished and to whomever they
wished. In the name of what? I would like to know
Speaking about Nazarov, I must say that he
was forgiven by all the victims at the time when
they hoped to be able to tell him that personally.
But he was also shot. (In the evidence material
there is a postmortem certificate stating that
Nazarov suffered from a grave mental disease.
But if that could be discovered posthumously, how
could that be overlooked in the process of
I do not know how many people were arrested
in the case ofAnarcho-Mysticism in 1936-37, but
I know that nine people were shot (among them
the well-known anarchist-mathematician D. A.
Bern), all those who were charged with terrorism
and tried by the Supreme Board of the Supreme
Court of the USSR.
A large group of the accused tried by the
Special Conference were sentenced to five years
in labor camps that, for those who survived,
turned into a prolonged term at camp and eternal
exile. Some of the survivors were rehabilitated
in the 1950s, others only in the 1960s.
I am thinking now of all who perished.
The castle of Shan on-I happened to visit this
ancient fortress ofthe French kings elevated over
the earth that goes far beyond the horizon.
Everything around was in bloom, happy, and
. blissful.
It is in this castle that Joan of Arc, guided by
the voices, recognized the King in disguise.
It is in this castle, on the central landing of
the thick round tower, that the Grand Master of
the Order of Templars, Jacques de Molay, and the
Commander of Normandy, Geoffroy de Charnay,
were chained to the wall. In March of 1314 the
King of France, Philip the Fair, and Pope Clement
V burned them in a slow fire in a Paris square
(Baigent, Leigh, & Lincoln, 1989).
The destruction of the Templars was a major
event of the fourteenth century. Here is how a
contemporary, Dante (1931), responded to it:
91. I see the second Pilate with this deed,
Yet not content but ruthless, without law,
Into the Temple bear his sails of greed.
94. When shall 1,0 my Lord, rejoice to see
The vengeance which, being hidden, maketh
Thy wrath in thine own counsel privity.
-Purgatory, Canto XX
After their order was exterminated the
surviving knights continued to participate
actively in the evolution of European culture, but
in a concealed form. This subject is thoroughly
illuminated in a book by Baigent, Leigh, and
Lincoln (1989).
Six hundred and twenty-three years later
those who called themselves Templars die again,
this time not in public but under the title "secret."
Why were their deaths necessary? Why in
secret? Why the absurd accusations whose
absurdity was evident even then? How was it
possible to say that Mystical Anarchism, a
spiritual movement preaching nonviolence, was
capable of degrading to terrorism?
The accusations were absurd from the
geographical point of view as well. A. A.
Solonovich could hardly have headed the
terroristic movement he allegedly did because he
was in exile in a small village in Siberia,
inaccessible in winter and barely accessible in
summer. As for IosifSharevsky, who was allegedly
sent by Solonovich to Moscow in order to organize
terroristic acts, he could not do that because he
was under observation and his contacts with
Moscow were limited by a one-hundred-kilometer
area, beyond which he was not allowed to travel.
What lies at the root ofthe urge to exterminate
a movement ofthis sort? The question is pertinent
also because the evidence indicates that belonging
to the Order did not subject one to the criminal
I am holding in my hands the book by Kanev
(1974). It contains a lot of interesting data, and
mentions Mystical Anarchism, including A. A.
Solonovich. But it finishes with the statement
that in Russia Anarchism was not repressed but
simply came to an end.
The only words we can address to the author
ofthe book are:
Woe unto the world because of offences! for it
must needs be that offences come; but woe to
that man by whom the offence cometh! (Matt.
What was the true reason for the destruction
ofthe Templars of our day? In the Gospel of Philip
(Robinson, 1981) we read:
On the History of Mystical Anarchism in Russia 95
83. For so long as the root of wickedness is
hidden, it is strong. (p. 149)
The Anarchists wished to disclose the root of
wickedness called to life by the idea of bloody
dictatorship, which was at the moment perceived
by many as the power able to undertake the
favorable social transformation of the world.
I wrote this book in memory of people who have
perished, of their destroyed cause, of their
annihilated works. My text is not complete. I
would like to hear others who are able to tell
about what I have missed. I was close to this
movement for ten years, but I was too young and
I was only at the threshold. The movement was
dominated, on the one hand, by esoterism, and
on the other hand, by severe conspiracy that
isolated us from each other.
But the lectures of my teacher Alexei
Alexandrovich Solonovich; communication with
his wife Agniya Onisimovna Solonovich; the
image of Apollon Andreevich Karelin; and the
inspiration passed on by them, struck the fire
within, whose power and light illuminated all my
life and thoughts. Everything that I have written,
thought over, or made, can be devoted to them-
they initiated my spiritual creativity and taught
me "the courage to be."
This work is based on the author's personal experience
and materials from the Central Archives prepared by
J eanna N alimov-Drogalina. It is a chapter from V. V.
Nalimov's autobiographical memoir, A Rope-Dancer (A
Wreckage), published in Russian (Nalimov, 1994). The
chapter was translated into English by A. V. Yarkho and
has been further edited for the present work.
After the present work was finished, A. L. Nikitin (19921
1993) published a series of papers entitled "Templars in
Moscow" in the journal Nauka i religiya [Science and
1. Despite the lack of ideology, Karelin's Mystical
Anarchism had its outlines, though fuzzy ones. Karelin
cannot be considered a direct heir ofthe anarchism ofG.
Chulkov that emerged as early as the first decade ofthe
twentieth century. Still, we would like to quote here two
attractive fragments from the book by Chulkov (1971):
By mysticism I mean an aggregate of feelings based
on the positive irrational experience occurring in the
sphere of music. I call music not only the art revealing
in combinations of sounds principles of melody and
harmony, but any creative activity based on rhythm
and revealing to us directly the noumenal side of the
world. (p. 3)
Fight against dogmatism in religion, philosophy,
morality, and politics-that is the slogan of Mystical
Anarchism. The fight for the anarchic ideal will lead
not to indifferent chaos but to a transformed world, if
side by side with the fight for liberation we shall be
participants in the mystic experience via art, religious
love, via music in general. (p. 43)
2. This is official information: It was an address of the
Secretariat of the All-Union Federation of Anarchists-
3. Parakletes (Greek)-Spirit-Comforter, Protector.
4. The three last names are also given in the articles by
A. L. Nikitin (1991a, 1991b).
5. Oral legends are the tradition of early Christianity.
Here is what we find to the point in Sventsitskaya and
Trofimova (1989):
Oral tradition continued to exist in the period when
the first scriptures appeared. Eusebios of Caesarea
(IV c. A.D.) in his "History ofthe Church" quotes the
Christian writer Papias (2nd half of the II c. A.D.J of
Hierapolis (Minor Asia) who collected oral legends:
" .. .ifI had a chance to meet anyone who communicated
with forefathers, I would carefully ask them about the
forefathers' teaching, for instance, what Andrew said,
what Peter or Philip said, and what was said by
Thomas or James, assuming that a living and
penetrating voice would be of better use for me than
bookish lore." (p. 9)
A little further in the same book we read:
Apocalyptic literature was intended for reading out
loud. It had to be "entered" emotionally: intonation
and expression ofthe reader was to make the effect of
frightening, mysterious description more impressive,
and "entering" itself was regarded as a sacrament.
(pp. 12-13)
6. One should not think that esoterism is an infringement
of democracy. Science is also esoteric in its own way-it is
impossible to comprehend serious books on theoretical
physics or mathematics without a solid background.
Popularization of science only vulgarizes it. The same is
true of art. A well-organized university education is a sort
of initiation: the professor passes on to his students
something more than the contents of the manuals. He
creates an intellectual atmosphere in which students learn.
7. The legends are preserved and some of them are
published in the journal Nauka i religiya [Science and
Religion] (see Nikitin, 1993), which I feel to be
illegitimate, as it violates the tradition. The copyright
should have been obtained from those who were to guard
the tradition.
96 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
8. What they borrowed from Hellenism was the idea of
sin not as the absence of obedience (fall of Adam) but
noncognition of oneself. The Gnostic idea emphasizing
" ... the indissoluble connection of the one with the
multitude embraced by it" (Sventsitskaya & Trofimova,
1989, p. 183) is obviously Hellenic.
9. Remember the Bogomils, the Cathars, and their
followers, the Albigensians. It is perhaps possible to speak
ofthe influence of Gnosticism (through the Rosicrucians)
on the evolution of ideas of the French Revolution.
10. The term Gnosis is often understood to have a broader
meaning than Christian Gnosticism.
11. I would especially like to emphasize the Gnosticism
of Carl Gustav Jung.
12. An attempt was even made to see the elements of
Gnosticism in dialectical materialism.
13. At the beginning ofthe revolution Russian Orthodoxy
did not come out with its own program corresponding to
the catastrophic situation ofthose days. In our day, too,
many acute problems keep arising, but we do not hear
the Christian response to them. For instance, a tragic
problem for our country is that of abortions, as well as
that of population reproduction. We are all aware ofthe
fact that sooner or later politicians will have to solve such
problems. But where is the voice of Orthodoxy? We feel
it should have joined the discussion of these problems,
and, moreover, join the struggle for its Christian solution.
The attitude toward social responsibility of Western
Christianity is different. Here is a quotation from the
paper of the Swiss Protestant theologist Barth (1966),
one of the founders of "dialectical theology":
In this way the Kingdom of God starts attacking
society. (p. 203)
Are we aware of the fact that what is required from
us today is not opposition in one or several specific
questions, but re-orientation to God in our life as a
whole. (p. 206) [Pages are given according to the
Russian edition.]
14. This opposition is natural, this is the meaning of
Christ's Divine Message.
15. Note that Marcion, a Gnostic close to traditional
Christianity, required that these lines be omitted, as the
alienated God could not occupy himself with human hairs.
16. In our book (Nalimov, 1982) a separate chapter is
devoted to the problem of reincarnation. This subject is
also discussed in Nalimov (1990).
17. This gospel is entirely devoted to theurgical
18. Secularization is religious belief manifested outside
the church.
19. Irenaeus was the Bishop of Lyon. His famous
conviction of Gnostic heresies dates back to the end of
the second century.
20. At present the following names of theater figures of
this trend have become known: L. A. Nikitin, P. A.
Arensky, V. S. Smyshlyaev, Yu. A. Zavadsky (Nikitin,
1991a). Moscow Arts Theater 2 seems to have been
strongly influenced by this trend. Mikhail Chekhov was
in all probability also acquainted with it.
21. The interpretation of Bakunin in the book by
Zen'kovsky (1989) is very close to that given by
22. Since we continue to work with the archive materials,
certain facts can be specified in the future.
23. Solonovich lived in a by-street near Ostozhenka, on
the ground floor of a two-storey wooden building which
no longer exists. By a passage, one entered a dining room
and a small bedroom, with a bed table at the bed on which
was a bunch of ritual artificial flowers resembling real
ones. Opposite the bedroom there was a study with a
large rectangular table surrounded by massive leather
chairs with high backs and a cosy leather sofa, with small
portraits ofP. A. Kropotkin and Gandhi on an upper shelf.
On the walls one could see large paintings of M. A.
Bakunin and A. A. Karelin. The host's seat was a
bentwood chair with a round back, at the head of the
24. My mother, a surgeon treating soldiers during World
War I, was mobilized by the Red Army and died in an
epidemic of spotted fever.
25. I think she means the texts of the legends.
26. It goes without saying that Nazarov was not the only
one who gave evidence "by order." Among those was also
a cousin of Iosif Sharevsky, Iosif 10ffe, who cooperated
with the KGB and had regularly informed for them since
1934. It should also be said that Nazarov started to give
his disheartening evidence only at the end of the
investigation. It is to his credit that he resisted so long.
27. These lines concern the struggle of Philip the Fair
against the Church's (Pope's) power.
28. Here is the relevant statement:
The disappearance of anarchism not only as a political
trend, but also as an ideological one, from the arena
of life of Soviet society is, as we see, not the result of
forcible measures but a consequence of a consistent
ideological struggle of the Communist Party and
radical social transformations made on the basis of
Lenin's plan of constructing socialism. (Kanev, p. 401)
On the History of Mystical Anarchism in Russia 97
Avrich, P. (1998). The Russian anarchists. New York: Norton.
Baigent, M., Leigh, R., & Lincoln, H. (1989). The Holy Blood
and the Holy Grail. London: Corgi Books.
Barth, K. (1966). Der Christ in der Gesellschaft [A Christian
in society]. In J. Moltmann (Ed.),Anfange der dialektischen
Theologie [Beginnings of dialectic theology] (pp. 3-37).
Munich: Kaiser. (Published in the Russian bi-monthly Put',
No.1, 1992, 180-210)
Belyi, A. (1988). A. Blok. In A. Belyi, Izbrannaya proza [Se-
lected prose] (pp. 280-286). Moscow: Sovetskaya Rossiya.
Chulkov, G. (1971). 0 misticheskom anarkhizme [On Mysti-
cal Anarchism]. Letchworth, England: Prideaux Press.
(First Russian edition, St. Petersburg: Fakula, 1906)
Dante Alighieri. (1931). The divine comedy (J. B. Fletcher,
Trans.). New York: Macmillan.
Jonas, H. (1958). The Gnostic religion: The message of the
alien God and the beginnings of Christianity. Boston: Bea-
con Press.
Jung, E., & von Franz, M.-L. (1970). The grail legend. Bos-
ton: SIGO Press.
Kanev, S. N. (1974). Oktyabr'skaya revolyutsiya i krakh
anarkhizma [The October Revolution and the collapse of
anarchism]. Moscow: Mysl'.
Koslowski, P. (Ed.). (1988). Gnosis und Mystik in der
Geschichte der Philosophie [Gnosis and mysticism in the
history of philosophy]. ZurichlMunich: Artemis Verlag.
Nalimov, V. V. (1982). Realms of the unconsciouss: The en-
chanted frontier. Philadelphia, PA: lSI Presss.
Nalimov, V. V. (1990). Spontannost'soznaniya:Veroyatnostnaya
teoria smyslov i smyslovaya arkhitektonika lichnosti [Spon- .
taneity of consciousness: Probabilistic theory of meanings
and semantic architectonics of personality]. Moscow:
Nalimov, V. V. (1994). Kanatokhodets [A rope-dancer]. Mos-
cow: Progress.
Nikitin, A. L. (1991a). Rytsari Ordena Sveta: GPU protiv
anarkhistov [Knights of the Order of Light: GPU against
anarchists]. Rodina [Fatherland], No. 11/12, 118-122.
Nikitin, A. L. (1991b). Zakluchitel'ny etap razvitiya
anarkhicheskoi mysli v Rossii [The concluding stage ofthe
evolution of anarchist thought in Russia]. Voprosy filosofii
[Problems of Philosophy], No.8, 89-10l.
Nikitin, A. L. (1992-1993). Tampliery v Moskve [Templars in
Moscow]. Nauka i religiya [Science and Religion], 1992,
Nos. 4-5, 6-7, 8-12; 1993, Nos. 1-3.
Nikolaev, Yu. (1913). V poiskakh za bozhestvom: Ocherki iz
istorii gnostitsizma [ In search of divinity: Essays on the
history of Gnosticism]. St. Petersburg: Novoe vremya.
Quispel, G. (Ed.). (1988). Gnosis: de Derde Component van
de Europese Cultuurtraditie [Gnosis: The third component
of the European cultural tradition]. Utrecht: H & S.
Robinson, J. M. (Ed.). (1981). The Nag Hammadi Library.
San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Rudolph, K. (1977). Die Gnosis: Wesen und Geschichte einer
spatantiken Religion [Gnosis: The essence and face ofre-
ligion in late antiquity]. Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang.
Sventsitskaya, I. S., & Trofimova, M. K. (1989). Apokrify
drevnikh khristian: Issledovanie, teksty, kommentarii
[Apocryphs of Ancient Christians: Research, texts, com-
ments]. Moscow: Mysl'.
Zen'kovsky, Z. Z. (1989). Istoriya russkoi filosofii [History of
Russian philosophy]. Vols. I, II. Paris: YMCA Press.
98 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 99-106 99
© 2000 by Carl Sesar
Passing a Temple Smothered in Incense
no idea a temple smothered in incense
lay many miles on up this cloudy peak
an old wood and a path with no people
where was that gong deep in the hills
brook babble chokes past jagged rocks
the sun slant cold in the green pines
near dark around a bend an empty pool
I sit calmly and quell deadly dragons
100 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Reply to Vice-Prefect Chang
at this late age all I want is peace
not one hundred and one things to do
don't have any grand plan for myself
just to go back to the rickety woods
let the pine wind flap my belt loose
pluck lute in the mountain moonshine
you ask me what about causes eternal
go fishing and sing in a deep lagoon
Wordpainting 101
Home to Sung Mountain
a river winds by the tall grass
my cart clip clops lazily along
the water runs with a mind of its own
night fowl in pairs fly back together
a ghost town vigilant at an old ferry
as the sunset fleods the autumn hills
come a long way to this high mountain
now to slam my door shut on the world
102 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Return to Wang River
in the gorges below a lazy bell tolls
fishers and woodsmen dwindle to a few
far away a mountain darkening at dusk
alone I wend up the white clouds home
sedge vines are too weak to hold fast
and willow flowers airy so easily fly
on the east flat green spring grasses
sick with regret I close my wood gate
Wordpainting 103
Six Accidental Poems, Number 6
got old and 60 lazy turning out poems
there's nothing left but to get older
a make believe poet for one past life
and a dabbler at painting before· that
couldn't get shy of my left over ways
so folks in this life know me as both
by nwme and style and all of that yes
but about my heart are still no wiser
104 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Sitting Alone One Autumn Night
sit alone sad alas my temples are gray
the hall is empty and the hour is late
mountain fruits plop in the heavy rain
weed bugs crick and buzz under my lamp
hair gone white won't ever change back
and a golden elixir can't be concooted
want to know how to avoid siok old age
all you do is learn how not to be born
Word painting 105
It was said of Wang Wei that "in his poems there are
paintings, and in his paintings, poems." Oft quoted and
much discussed, this statement by the Sung dynasty
poet, painter and calligrapher Su Tung-p'o (1037-1101)
came to embrace Chinese poetry in general, with regard
to its imagistic content and descriptions oflandscape,
the graphic quality of Chinese characters, which are
written with the same brushes used for painting, and
the calligraphed poem itself, a concrete arrangement
of images fixed in space, vibrant with meaning, often
hung on a wall and viewed as a painting.
Using a manual typewriter, I've tried to carryover
the visual dimension of Wang Wei's poems along with
the thoughts and feelings they express. The originals
have eight lines, five characters per line. Five poems
are in the "new style" developed in the T'ang, known
also as "regulated verse." The poem titled "Six
Accidental Poems, Number 6" is in the earlier, less
regulated "old style."
Chao, Tien-ch'eng (Ed.). (1736). Wang Yu-ch'eng chi-chien-
chu. Passing a Temple Smothered in Incense, 7.11b; Re-
ply to Vice-Prefect Chang, 7.4b-5a; Home to Sung Moun-
tain, 7.6b; Return to Wang River, 7.6b; Six Accidental Po-
ems, Number 6, 5.4a; Sitting Alone One Autumn Night,
9.4a. The definitive edition of Wang Wei's complete works.
Leys, S. (1986). Poetry and painting: Aspects of Chinese clas-
sical esthetics. In S. Leys, The burning forest (pp. 3-34).
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Sesar, C. (1997). Translating Takuboku. In A. V. Heinrich
(Ed.), Currents in Japanese culture (pp. 439-458). New
York: Columbia University Press. A description of tech-
niques used to establish a visual form when translating a
modern Japanese tanka poet.
106 The International Journal of Trans persona I Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
A New Look at Theosophy
The Great Chain of Being Revisited
H David Wenger
East Lansing, Michigan, USA
This paper presents an exploration of the evolution and multidimensional nature of human
consciousness. It first establishes a context for this exploration in the Great Chain of Being
(a central concept ofthe Perennial Philosophy-the core of philosophical wisdom common to
the world's religious traditions). Next, certain constructs from the teachings of Theosophy
are summarized, shown to be consistent with the Great Chain of Being, and then used as a
model for exploring the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of consciousness.
Finally, implications of this model for a spiritual psychology are discussed.
Vast chain of being! which from God began,
Nature's ethereal, human, angel, man,
Beast, bird, fish, insect! what no eye can see,
No glass can reach! from infinite to thee ...
From nature's chain whatever link you strike,
Tenth, or ten thousandth, breaks the chain
-Alexander Popel
HIS PASSAGE from Pope's An Essay on Man
illustrates the extent to which the idea of
the Great Chain of Being pervaded
eighteenth-century thought prior to the advent
of logical positivism and scientific reductionism.
The view described by the Great Chain of Being,
the conception that holds the universe to be
multidimensional, consisting of an infinite
number of links ranging in hierarchical order
through every possible grade, was for centuries
one of the most well-known views in Western
philosophy, science, and literature. Although this
perspective eventually fen on hard times, the term
was revived in the modern era by Arthur Lovejoy
(1936/1961) in his book The Great Chain of Being,
and the idea was more recently examined by Ken
Wilber (1993) in his essay ofthe same name.
In the present paper, the Great Chain of Being
is conceptualized as a foundation construct for the
study of consciousness. The esoteric and now
somewhat obscure body of philosophical/spiritual
thought known as Theosophy, a system that
applies the Great Chain of Being with precision
and detail, is then used as a lens through which
to view the unfolding of human consciousness.
Finally, the resulting implications for a spiritual
psychology are discussed. First, however, I will
very briefly review the history of the Great Chain
of Being as a philosophical construct.
Historical Review
HE GREAT Chain of Being is regarded by Wilber
(1993) as a central component ofthe broader
philosophical theme called the philosophia
perennis, or the Perennial Philosophy, said to
underlie all religious traditions throughout
history. Although the term philosophia perennis
has been used in Western philosophy for
centuries, it was popularized more recently by
Aldous Huxley (1944) who defined it, in part, as
"the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality
substantial to the world of things and lives and
minds; the psychology that finds in the soul
something similar to, or even identical with,
divine Reality" (p. vii). Huxley goes on to say that
"rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be
found in the traditional lore of primitive peoples
in every region of the world, and in its fully
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 107-124 107
© 2001 by Panigada Press
developed forms it has a place in every one of the
higher religions" (p. vii). In ordinary language, the
essence of the Perennial Philosophy is simply some
form of a belief in God, an Absolute, or a Divine
order. It is called "perennial" because it is common
to all peoples at all times. And despite the opposing
perspective offered by postmodern, contextualist
schools of thought (see Ferrer, 2000; Wilber, 1998),
the Perennial Philosophy is arguably the dominant
worldview underlying contemporary transpersonal
Lovejoy (1936/1961) calls the Great Chain of
Being "one of the half-dozen most potent and
persistent presuppositions in Western thought" (p.
vii). Until approximately the beginning of the
nineteenth century it was "probably the most widely
familiar conception ofthe general scheme ofthings,
ofthe constitutive pattern ofthe universe" (Lovejoy,
1936/1961, p. vii). According to Lovejoy (1936/1961),
the idea of the Great Chain of Being is rooted in
Plato's principle of "plenitude" (Lovejoy's term),
Aristotle's principle of "qualitative continuity," and
Aristotle's principle of "unilinear gradation"
(Lovejoy's term). Very briefly, what Lovejoy calls
Plato's principle of plenitude says that if a thing
can exist, it will.
Aristotle's principle of qualitative
continuity posits that if a thing exists it can be
graded on a continuum of excellence (Lovejoy, 1936/
1961, pp. 55-56); and what Lovejoy refers to as
Aristotle's principle of unilinear gradation, holds
that a qualitative continuum can be applied not only
to matter, but to "powers of soul" as well (Lovejoy,
1936/1961, pp. 58-59).
To summarize, the Perennial Philosophy holds
that the fundamental substratum, or "ground" of
reality is spirit, or consciousness, and that this
fundamental reality known variously as God,
Brahman, or Tao manifests itself as the physical
universe. Additionally, the multidimensional
universe posited by the Great Chain of Being
describes a hierarchy, as Wilber (1993) puts it,
"reaching from the lowest and most dense and least
conscious to the highest and most subtle and most
conscious" (p. 53); or, a spectrum of consciousness
with matter at one end and spirit at the other. In
Wilber's (1993) words:
The central claim of the perennial philosophy
is that men and women can grow and develop
(or evolve) all the way up the hierarchy to Spirit
itself, therein to realize a "supreme identity"
with Godhead-the ens perfectissimum toward
which all growth and evolution yearns. (p. 54)
In recent years the language used to describe
the Great Chain of Being has evolved. Arthur
Koestler (1968) coined the terms "holon" to denote
a thing that is whole at one stage but part of a larger
whole at the next, and "holarchy," defined as a
hierarchy of holons. Wilber (1993) then borrowed
Koestler's terminology and applied it to the Great
Chain of Being. In later writings, Wilber (1998,2000)
refers to the Great Chain as a "Great Nest of Being,"
in which the levels are conceptualized as concentric
holarchical spheres nested within themselves in a
hierarchy of increasing wholeness. Wilber (2000)
further describes the Great Nest as representing "a
great morphogenetic field or developmental space-
stretching from matter to mind to spirit-in which
various potentials unfold into actuality" (p. 12),
(which is essentially an updated version of Plato's
principal of plenitude and Aristotle's principles of
qualitative continuity and unilinear gradation, as
mentioned above). Wilber's modem terms are useful
reformulations of the original expression, and for
purposes of this paper, I find his integration of
Koestler's (1968) terminology to be especially useful.
Accordingly, I will use "holarchy of being" or
"evolutionary holarchy" interchangeably with "the
Great Chain of Being."
Consciousness Evolution Through. the
Holarch.y of Being
T HAS become commonplace in contemporary
society, and particularly in holistic medicine
and psychology, for people to be regarded as
multidimensional beings, having levels of
expression in addition to, but equally as important
as, the physical. Evidence of a widespread
acceptance of this concept can be seen in the many
current book titles that include the words soul or
spirit, or some combination of the words mind,
body, soul, and spirit (e.g., Jessel-Kenyon, 1999;
T. Moore, 1992; Myss, 1996; Zukav, 1989). This
holistic, multidimensional perspective is nothing
new. It is consistent with a view of humankind
planted squarely in an evolutionary holarchy, in
a Great Chain of Being, and is taken directly from
the world's primary wisdom/religious traditions.
Although the language used varies from tradition
to tradition, the dimensions of being are, quite
simply, the levels of holarchy as they appear in
these traditions. Partly following Wilber (1993),
who summarized the terms used for the levels of
108 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
developed forms it has a place in every one of the
higher religions" (p. vii). In ordinary language, the
essence ofthe Perennial Philosophy is simply some
form of a belief in God, an Absolute, or a Divine
order. It is called "perennial" because it is common
to all peoples at all times. And despite the opposing
perspective offered by postmodern, contextualist
schools ofthought (see Ferrer, 2000; Wilber, 1998),
the Perennial Philosophy is arguably the dominant
worldview underlying contemporary transpersonal
Lovejoy (1936/1961) calls the Great Chain of
Being "one of the half-dozen most potent and
persistent presuppositions in Western thought" (p.
vii). Until approximately the beginning of the
nineteenth century it was "probably the most widely
familiar conception of the general scheme ofthings,
ofthe constitutive pattern ofthe universe" (Lovejoy,
1936/1961, p. vii). According to Lovejoy (1936/1961),
the idea of the Great Chain of Being is rooted in
Plato's principle of "plenitude" (Lovejoy's term),
Aristotle's principle of "qualitative continuity," and
Aristotle's principle of "unilinear gradation"
(Lovejoy's term). Very briefly, what Lovejoy calls
Plato's principle of plenitude says that if a thing
can exist, it wilP Aristotle's principle of qualitative
continuity posits that if a thing exists it can be
graded on a continuum of excellence (Lovejoy, 19361
1961, pp. 55-56); and what Lovejoy refers to as
Aristotle's principle of unilinear gradation, holds
that a qualitative continuum can be applied not only
to matter, but to "powers of soul" as well (Lovejoy,
1936/1961, pp. 58-59).
To summarize, the Perennial Philosophy holds
that the fundamental substratum, or "ground" of
reality is spirit, or consciousness, and that this
fundamental reality known variously as God,
Brahman, or Tao manifests itself as the physical
universe. Additionally, the multidimensional
universe posited by the Great Chain of Being
describes a hierarchy, as Wilber (1993) puts it,
"reaching from the lowest and most dense and least
conscious to the highest and most subtle and most
conscious" (p. 53); or, a spectrum of consciousness
with matter at one end and spirit at the other. In
Wilber's (1993) words:
The central claim of the perennial philosophy
is that men and women can grow and develop
(or evolve) all the way up the hierarchy to Spirit
itself, therein to realize a "supreme identity"
with Godhead-the ens perfectissimum toward
which all growth and evolution yearns. (p. 54)
In recent years the language used to describe
the Great Chain of Being has evolved. Arthur
Koestler (1968) coined the terms "holon" to denote
a thing that is whole at one stage but part of a larger
whole at the next, and "holarchy," defined as a
hierarchy of holons. Wilber (1993) then borrowed
Koestler's terminology and applied it to the Great
Chain of Being. In later writings, Wilber (1998,2000)
refers to the Great Chain as a "Great Nest of Being,"
in which the levels are conceptualized as concentric
holarchical spheres nested within themselves in a
hierarchy of increasing wholeness. Wilber (2000)
further describes the Great Nest as representing "a
great morphogenetic field or developmental space-
stretching from matter to mind to spirit-in which
various potentials unfold into actuality" (p. 12),
(which is essentially an updated version of Plato's
principal of plenitude and Aristotle's principles of
qualitative continuity and unilinear gradation, as
mentioned above). Wilber's modem terms are useful
reformulations of the original expression, and for
purposes of this paper, I find his integration of
Koestler's (1968) terminology to be especially useful.
Accordingly, I will use "holarchy of being" or
"evolutionary holarchy" interchangeably with "the
Great Chain of Being."
Consciousness Evolution Through the
Holarchy of Being
T HAS become commonplace in contemporary
society, and particularly in holistic medicine
and psychology, for people to be regarded as
multidimensional beings, having levels of
expression in addition to, but equally as important
as, the physical. Evidence of a widespread
acceptance ofthis concept can be seen in the many
current book titles that include the words soul or
spirit, or some combination of the words mind,
body, soul, and spirit (e.g., Jessel-Kenyon, 1999;
T. Moore, 1992; Myss, 1996; Zukav, 1989). This
holistic, multidimensional perspective is nothing
new. It is consistent with a view of humankind
planted squarely in an evolutionary holarchy, in
a Great Chain of Being, and is taken directly from
the world's primary wisdom/religious traditions.
Although the language used varies from tradition
to tradition, the dimensions of being are, quite
simply, the levels of holarchy as they appear in
these traditions. Partly following Wilber (1993),
who summarized the terms used for the levels of
108 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
holarchy by representative religious teachings of
three widely practiced wisdom traditions-Judeo-
Christian-Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist, let us
look briefly at these traditions.
The Christian terms for the dimensions of
being derive from the tripartite holarchy of body,
soul, and spirit seen in both the ancient Greek
and Hebrew traditions.
Although there is
probably some variation in the terms that can be
accurately used to describe the Christian view, in
my opinion they can be appropriately rendered
as: body, flesh, mind, soul, and spirit.5In Vedanta
Hinduism, the levels of holarchy can be seen in
the five "sheaths" or dimensions of being (the
koshas) that are said to cover human essence like
the layers of an onion, each of which corresponds
to one of the world divisions, or planes of existence
(the lokas). These sheaths are called annamaya-
kosha (literally, the sheath made of food, or the
physical body), pranamaya-kosha (the sheath
made of prana or vital life force), manomaya-kosha
Figure 1
(the sheath made of mind), vijiiiinamaya-kosha
(the sheath made of intuition, or higher mind),
and finally,anandamaya-kosha (the sheath made
of bliss) (Chatterji, 193111992; Werner, 1997).6
In Buddhism, correspondences to the levels of
holarchy are not as neatly packaged as they are
in Christianity and Hinduism. Nevertheless,
glimpses of holarchy can be seen throughout the
various schools in the concept of the five groups,
aggregates, or skandhas (Prebish, 1975;
Schumann, 1993); in the later doctrine of the three
bodies of Buddha, the trikaya (Nagao, 1991;
Schumann, 1993); and in the eight levels of
consciousness, the vijfiiinas, of the Yogacara school
of Mahayana (Ehman, 1975; Schumann, 1993).
Specifically, in the Yogacara system, the first five
levels of consciousness (holarchy) are the five
senses. Following these are the mano-vijfiiina, the
sixth level, mental consciousness; the seventh
level, manas, a more subtle mental consciousness
related to the reception and disposition of the data
Approximate Correspondences of the Terms Used for Evolutionary Holarchy by Christianity,
Vedanta Hinduism, the Yogacara School of Mahayana Buddhism, and Theosophy7
Body Flesh
• physical body • non-distinct
• cognition and
It vital existence • God
physical form
intellect • Source oflife
Levels of Being • physical-
appetites or
Annarnaya- Pranarnaya- Manomaya- Vijfianarnaya- Anandarnaya- Spirit
kosha kosha kosha kosha kosha
(sheath made of (sheath made of (sheath made of (sheath made of (sheath made of
HINDUISM food) "vital air") mind) intuition) bliss)
Sheaths, or
• physical body
• emotional o concrete mind • higher, or • Brahman-
energy based on sensory
subtle mind
• vital life force data ·ultimate realiry
The First Five Vijfianas Mano-vijfiana Manas Alaya-vijfiana Level of the
• the five senses • mental • a more subtle o "storehouse"
BUDDHISM consciousness
mental consciousness
Levels, or
Physical Body Emotional Body Mental Body Causal, or Body of Bliss Spirit
Spiritual Body
Vehicles of
• emotional s concrete mind • higher, or o s ~ p e r - e universal
Consciousness energy based on sensory subtle and conSCIOusness conSCiousness
• "desire" body data intuitive mind II monadic
A New Look at Theosophy 109
from the preceding six consciousnesses; and
finally, alaya-vijiiiina, the eighth consciousness
or "storehouse consciousness" (Ehman, 1975). And
beyond these levels is the Absolute (Schumann,
1993), what Wilber (1993) calls "pure Spirit."
An objective ofthis paper is to explore aspects
of the expression and evolution of consciousness
through the dimensions of human experience,
examining what the Great Chain of Being really
looks like in human terms. In my view, one of
the most thorough, detailed, and sensible
conceptualizations available regarding the human
multidimensional makeup, and the manner in
which human consciousness is expressed and
evolves through these dimensions, is found in the
esoteric writings of Theosophy. Although
Theosophy does not enjoy widespread popularity
in modern transpersonal thought, I find it to be a
particularly useful perspective from which to view
human consciousness because holarchy is
delineated with clarity and precision, both as a
cosmology and as a corresponding system of
personal evolution through that cosmology. Thus,
the Theosophical view of evolutionary holarchy
is the specific philosophical/theoretical foundation
on which my observations about the evolution of
consciousness are based. An overview of how the
Theosophical conception ofthe levels of holarchy
compares with those of Christianity, Vedanta
Hinduism, and the Yogacara school of Mahayana
Buddhism can be seen in Figure 1.
The reader will note that the Theosophical view
ofholarchy is equivalent to these widely practiced
religious/wisdom traditions, all of which, as we
have seen, perceive the Great Chain in much the
same way.
As background material, I will next present a
brief summary of the Theosophical teachings
regarding the "planes of nature" (the Great
Chain), what might be thought of as the overall
cosmology of Theosophy, and the corresponding
"bodies" or "vehicles" through which consciousness
is expressed.
Following this summary, I will
discuss implications for a spiritual psychology.
An Overview of Selected
Theosophical Concepts
HEOSOPHY IS a body of philosophical and
esoteric spiritual thought based on the late
nineteenth-century writings of Helena Blavatsky
(e.g., Isis Unveiled, 1884; The Secret Doctrine,
1888), further developed by Annie Besant, C. W.
Leadbeater, and others, and derived from ancient
Hindu, Tibetan, and Egyptian sources. Theosophy,
which provided one of the earliest introductions
to Eastern religious thought in the West, is only
one of a number of movements based on broad
spiritual principles that emerged as alternatives
to traditional Western religions in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The
teachings of Theosophy are extremely detailed
and abstruse, and use archaic terms such as
"permanent atom" and the like which fall
discordantly on twenty-first-century Western
ears. In part for these reasons, as well as a
confusing variation in detail from writer to writer,
and in all likelihood because it was not clearly
differentiated in the public mind from
spiritualism (which was tainted with charges of
charlatanry), Theosophy has, for the most part,
been relegated to a place of semiobscurity in
modern spiritual and psychological thought.
The brief summary given here is somewhat
streamlined. I have limited it to concepts most
germane to this paper, have omitted details that
serve more to obscure than to clarify, and have
modified some ofthe terminology to render it more
palatable to the modern reader.
The Planes of Nature
CCORDING TO the Theosophical version of
evolutionary holarchy, the universe is
composed of a series of discrete yet continuous
dimensions, or planes, called the "planes of
nature," a conception that appears to be
essentially identical to the world divisions, or
planes of existence (the lokas), found in
Leadbeater (1903/1980) referred to
these planes as consisting of matter in differing
degrees of density, or texture, ranging from the
physical plane that we perceive with our ordinary
five senses through graduated and increasingly
more subtle spiritual planes to the plane of pure
spirit. Bailey (1930) described the composition of
the higher planes somewhat differently, but her
meaning is essentially the same. According to
Bailey (pp. 56-57), the universe is filled with an
underlying substance which can be defined as
matter in the sense that matter is energy. Thus,
physical matter is energy in its densest form and
spirit is this same energy in its highest, or most
110 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
subtle, form. A modern writer (Gerber, 1988)
described the substance of the various planes as
differing in vibration rate, or frequency, and used
the analogy of musical notes increasing in
frequency from one octave to the next to describe
the progression from one plane to another.
Theosophy teaches that there are seven planes
in all and that each plane in turn is divided into
seven subplanes. Different sources use different
names for these planes. In this paper, I will use
the names employed by Lansdowne (1986): adi,
monadic, atmic, buddhic, mental, emotional, and
physical, with the highest plane (adi) being the
plane of pure spirit and ranging downward in
order to the plane of dense matter, the physical.
These seven planes are illustrated in Figure 2.
It should be noted that, although the planes
are depicted graphically as layers one on top of
another like a bookshelf, this is only a two-
dimensional representation of a complex,
multidimensional construct. In reality, the planes
occupy the same three-dimensional space and
thoroughly interpenetrate one another.
The Vehicles of Consciousness
CCORDING TO Theosophy, the real human Self
is a spark, or fragment, of Universal
Consciousness caned the "monad," defined by the
American Heritage Dictionary (Morris, 1969) as
"an indivisible and impenetrable unit of
substance." Although rooted in the highest plane
(the adi), the natural home of the monad is the
second plane (the monadic). As a fragment of
Supreme or Universal Consciousness, the monad
has the same three-fold nature as Universal
Consciousness, namely, the aspects of will, love-
wisdom, and active intelligence. This three-fold
expression of Supreme Consciousness is the
Trinity of Christianity (Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit, in that order) and of Hinduism (Shiva,
Vishnu, and Brahma, in that order). The monad
might be conceptualized as the human spirit, a
spark or fragment of the Divine Spirit, and
therefore ofthe same three-fold nature as Divinity.
Monads that choose to develop consciousness
on the five lower and increasingly dense planes
anchor a reflection, or a stepped-down version, of
themselves on the third and fourth planes (the
atmic and buddhic) and on the highest subplane
of the mental plane. This lower reflection of the
monad is called the Spiritual Triad because, on
these lower planes, it manifests the three aspects
of Universal Consciousness: will, love-wisdom,
and active intelligence. The Spiritual Triad is a
seed of divine life on these planes and is the spirit,
or life force, that ensouls the human expression
which occurs on the three lower planes: the
mental, emotional, and physical. These three
planes are the "field" of normal human
evolution-the so-called "Three Worlds" in which
human consciousness is expressed.
Theosophy teaches that on the three lower
planes, the monad (or individual human spirit)
constructs bodies, or vehicles, for the purpose of
expressing consciousness and gathering
experience on these planes. These vehicles are
constructed of the matter, or substance, of which
the lower three planes are composed and allow
consciousness access to these planes. Thus, not
only do we have a physical body, but emotional
and mental bodies which occupy roughly the same
space as, and interpenetrate, the physical body
as wen. The only real differences are that the
bodies that exist on the emotional and mental
planes are constructed of the more highly refined,
or more subtle matter (or higher vibration rate,
depending on one's viewpoint) of these higher
planes. In the previous section I pointed out that
the Theosophical notion ofthe planes of nature is
essentially the same as the planes, or world
divisions, found in Hinduism. In like manner, the
concept of the vehicles of consciousness
corresponds to the Vedantic view of the koshas,
the sheaths which surround human essence (each
of which relates to one of the world divisions).12
As Figure 2 indicates, the physical body
consists of two portions: the dense physical body
and the etheric body. The world of ordinary matter
that we perceive with our five senses is composed
of the substance of the three lowest (or most
dense) subplanes of the physical plane: the
gaseous, liquid, and solid subplanes. In
Theosophy, the highest four physical subplanes
are called the first, second, third, and fourth
ethers (using the language ofthe time), and the
etheric body is built of the substance of these
The etheric body is the lowest of what are
sometimes referred to as the "subtle bodies."
However, the etheric body is not a separate
vehicle, but simply a part ofthe physical body. It
A New Look at Theosophy 111
Figure 2
Theosophical View of Human Evolution Through the Great Chain of Being
Universal Consciousness (three-fold in essence):
will, love-wisdom, and active intelligence
The Monad, a spark of Universal Consciousness
(three-fold in essence)
r- -- --
The Spiritual Triad:
Body of Bliss
Lower reflection of

Q the Monad as the

0. i;l
spirit, or life force,

'b <U

in three-fold
'" '" tl



f------- ---------
Spiritual (Causal)
Soul/Higher Self
--- -------- Z

0 ;:0 i§

Mental Body
f------- ----


'-' >l.i S -p --
;:0 U

'-< " f;l

"" <U

Emotional Body

------ -

- --------------

"" "

first ether
second ether
Etheric Body
-PHYSICAL third ether _
__________ fourth ether
-- liquid -- --
is what is sometimes called the "vital body" (or
the "energy body") and is the link between the
physical body and the various forces of the higher
planes, including the universal life force, or
energy, which in the East is called ch'i or pmna.
The etheric body underlies the dense physical
body through an intricate system of energy
channels, or very fine threads of force, called
"nadis" (Bailey, 1942, 1953) that parallel and
energize the nervous system. Where many lines
of etheric force (or nadis) intersect are found the
major centers of etheric force called "chakras"
(from Sanskrit meaning "wheels," so named
because to persons with clairvoyant vision they
Dense Physical
resemble whirling vortices). Each chakra
underlies, or is associated with, a particular nerve
plexus and endocrine gland. Detailed information
on the etheric chakra system is beyond the scope
of this paper. I mention the chakras for the
purpose of indicating the manner in which this
fairly widespread concept fits in the broader
structure of the vehicles of consciousness.l
The emotional plane lies just above the
physical plane in the Great Chain of Being and is
the world of emotion and sensation. The
corresponding emotional body, sometimes called
the "desire" body, acts as an interface between the
physical body and the mental body in that it
112 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
converts information received from the physical
body into sensations that are passed on to the
mental body as perceptions. To these sensations
the emotional body can add qualities, such as
"pleasant" or "unpleasant," or any feeling, such as
desire, fear, or envy (Lansdowne, 1986, p. 5). The
emotional body is often referred to in the esoteric
literature as the "astral body" (and the
corresponding emotional plane is often called the
"astral plane") because the emotional body is said
to have a luminous, or "starry," appearance to the
clairvoyant eye.
The next highest plane in the Great Chain, the
mental plane, is the world of thought and intellect.
It contributes two vehicles to our multidimensional
makeup: the mental body and the causal body. The
mental body consists of the substance of the lower
four subplanes ofthe mental plane, and the causal
body is built of the matter of the three highest
subplanes (see Figure 2). The mental body is
sometimes called the "lower concrete mind." It is
through this vehicle that the ordinary aspects of
intellect which involve manipulating and attaching
meaning to sensory data are expressed. The causal
body is sometimes referred to as the "higher mind"
because it is built on the highest levels of the
mental plane and is the province of abstract
thinking and of those aspects of intellect (such as
intuition and wisdom) that go beyond usual
conscious thought (Lansdowne, 1986, pp. 7-8). The
causal body deals with the essence and underlying
nature of things, "the true causes behind the
illusion of appearances" (Gerber, 1988, p. 155).
The causal body differs from the physical,
emotional, and mental vehicles in several
important ways. Before addressing these
differences, however, it is necessary to comment
briefly on the Theosophical tenet (or, more
generically, the Eastern view) that the evolution
of the human soul takes place over the course of
many lifetimes. While not entirely prerequisite to
the conceptions developed in this paper, much of
their substance and complexity depends on viewing
the process of human psychological and spiritual
maturation as resulting from having experienced
human existence in virtually all possible forms and
circumstances. The present paper is not the forum
in which to argue the case for reincarnation; this
has already been done, and done well (e.g.,
Cranston & Williams, 1984; Howe, 1974; L. D.
Moore, 1992, 1994; Stevenson, 1966). I will
mention, however, that this view is not entirely an
Eastern perspective. It perfectly fits the idea of
evolutionary holarchy, a construct which appears
to be universal. Secondly, it was not foreign to
ancient Greek thought, as seen in the Myth of Er
in Plato's Republic (10.614-621). And finally, as
pointed out by L. D. Moore (1992, 1994), it is not
contradicted by the teachings of Christianity.14
Now let us return to the ways in which the
causal body differs from the physical, emotional,
and mental vehicles. First, whereas the lower three
bodies are temporary, that is, they are used for one
lifetime and are replaced with each new lifetime,
the causal body is a permanent vehicle throughout
the many lifetimes of human evolution.
the causal body is the home of the soul. It is the
seat of human consciousness, the receptacle for the
seed of spirit, or life force with which the monad
(via the Spiritual Triad) vitalizes the human form.
At the beginning of the human cycle of evolution
the causal body exists in only rudimentary form.
It is built slowly over many lifetimes by the
accumulation of good qualities which are developed
in each life. It is the storehouse for the abstracted
positive essence of each life, for the character,
wisdom, and spiritual qualities that build life after
life. The causal body is the vehicle of expression
for what I refer to as the "spiritual" dimension, or
level of being. Thus, I have chosen to replace the
Theosophical term "causal body" with "spiritual
body" in order to bring the terminology in line with
the conception of the spiritual dimension as it is
commonly understood, and as it is used in this
paper. From this point on, I will use the term
"spiritual body" interchangeably with "causal
Theosophy also describes a higher vehicle which
Besant (1918) calls the "body ofbliss."16 This body
corresponds to the Hindu anandamaya-kosha, or
"sheath made of bliss," and is the vehicle of
expression at the level of consciousness beyond that
which requires physical plane incarnation. It is a
dimension to which spiritually advanced mystics
(both Eastern and Western) apparently have
access. This level of consciousness is known as
"superconsciousness" and corresponds to the atmic
and buddhic planes of nature (see Figure 2).
According to Theosophy, during the time the
human soul is maturing, or gathering experience
in the Three Worlds of human evolution, the soul
is housed in the physical, emotional, mental, and
A New Look at Theosophy 113
spiritual bodies while in physical incarnation, and
these bodies are vehicles for the human
multidimensional expression. At death, the soul
simply exits, or sheds, the physical vehicle. The
soul is still clothed, however, in the emotional,
mental, and spiritual bodies and the person is just
as alive as before. The essential difference is that
now the individual's primary plane of conscious
experience is the emotional plane rather than the
physical plane. The level (subplane) within the
emotional plane at which the soul primarily
operates between lives will vary depending on its
level of evolution, and since the planes
interpenetrate, the soul does not necessarily go
anywhere in a spatial sense.
Although the soul residing primarily on the
emotional plane between lives can perceive the
physical plane, most of us on the physical plane
cannot see into the higher planes. However, those
persons gifted with clairvoyant vision can see
emotional, mental, or spiritual vehicles and
therefore can perceive entities from the emotional
or mental planes. And there are times when some
ofthe rest of us (especially children) are given a
brief glimpse into these realms. What are
commonly referred to as "auras" are nothing more
than the subtle bodies (i.e., the etheric, emotional,
mental, and spiritual vehicles). The majority of
clairvoyants, however, do not perceive beyond the
emotional body.
Implications for a
Spiritual Psychology
F WE view humankind not as physical beings
but as spiritual beings expressed through
bodies on multiple dimensions, the focus of
psychology must perforce turn to the indwelling
spiritual essence: the Self, soul, or consciousness.
Human consciousness, as we have seen, is a
reflection of spirit-or Universal Consciousness-
on the lower planes. This fragment of Divinity
evolves along a continuum, metaphorically called
the Great Chain of Being, toward eventual
reunion with Universal Consciousness, the ens
perfectissimum. And further, the vehicles through
which the evolving consciousness is expressed are
manifested on dimensions which can be thought
of simply as points on the Great Chain.
viewing consciousness from the perspective of the
Great Chain of Being, we bring psychology and
spirituality together. Ifwe perceive consciousness
to be the stuff with which psychology is concerned,
and see it as "reaching from the lowest and most
dense-to the highest and most subtle" (Wilber,
1993, p. 53), and also as the manifestation of spirit,
we see that there is no difference between
psychological growth and spiritual growth-they
are both an evolution in consciousness. This view
is not an integration of psychology and spirituality.
Rather, it is a recognition that they are essentially
one and the same.
Modern psychology was spawned within the
broader context of philosophy during the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and, in the
beginning, was not sharply differentiated from
theology. As nineteenth-century empiricism fueled
a growing schism between science and religion,
however, psychology sought distance from its
philosophica1Jtheological roots and scrambled to
align with its more measurable cousin, biology.
Freud even went so far as to imply that religion is
a form of neurosis.
It is therefore interesting that at the beginning
of a new millennium we should be searching for a
psychology that embraces humankind's spiritual
nature when the seeds ofthis psychology have been
latent within the discipline all along. It is also
interesting, if not ironic, that the wedge which was
driven between science and religion is arguably
best illustrated by the debate over Darwinian
evolution, and now, with a return to the philosophia
perennis, the concept of evolution provides an
underlying construct for a spiritual psychology. But
in this case, the principle of evolution is applied to
aspects of Self beyond the physical-the evolution
of consciousness; what Aristotle might have called
"powers of soul."
In my view, a psychology of consciousness (or
the soul)-by definition a spiritual psychology-
must include the following three areas of inquiry:
(a) the evolution of consciousness which occurs as
a function of many incarnations on the physical
plane; (b) the multidimensional nature of
consciousness and the effects of the expression of
consciousness on these dimensions; and (c)
individual differences in the nature of souls prior
to birth that influence the development of personal
The present paper addresses the first two areas
of inquiry. The third area, the notion that souls
114 The International Journal ofTranspersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
differ in some innate manner independent from
experience, lies outside the parameters of this
paper. I will note, however, that the Theosophical
teaching of the seven "rays," or the seven
fundamental building blocks of creation, first
mentioned by Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine
(1888) and extensively expounded by Bailey
(1936-1960), provides a remarkable vehicle for a
detailed analysis of these differences.
Interpretations of Bailey's abstruse writings have
been compiled by many authors, most notably by
Robbins (1988).18
Consciousness Evolution:
A Developmental Psychology
N THE evolution of any given individual, there
occurs a gradual growth and expansion of
consciousness and a concomitant development, or
refinement, of the emotional, mental, and
spiritual vehicles as a function of accumulated
experience and personal effort. That is, as the soul
experiences the human condition from a large
variety of perspectives and in virtually all
circumstances in the course of many lives, the way
in which the individual perceives and understands
the world and the Self in relation to (and as part
of) the world evolves. Thus, human evolution
proceeds as a series of gradual, yet at times
dramatic, expansions in consciousness. And as
consciousness expands and is expressed through
the vehicles, the vehicles themselves mature.
According to Leadbeater (1903/1980), the trained
clairvoyant can literally see the emotional,
mental, and causal (spiritual) bodies and can
estimate from this the individual's level of
The expansion of awareness through four levels
of consciousness is a process not unlike the
changes in understanding and awareness that
occur in a person's growth from childhood to
adulthood. As one would expect, the level of
consciousness expansion, or soul maturity, varies
from person to person at the beginning of any
specific life. From this perspective, any theory of
developmental psychology is, at best, incomplete
without the understanding that one's behavior,
general level of functioning, and character are
very much dependent on the level of consciousness
brought into, and developed during, the present
Current theories of psychological development
work better when applied to children than to
adolescents or adults, because all children are
focused on mastery of the physical dimension, and
variations in the development of the emotional,
mental, and spiritual dimensions are not yet
apparent. Theories of psychological development
tend not to work as well in explaining and
predicting growth into adolescence, adulthood,
and beyond because developmental tasks that are
normal for people at any given age vary
enormously according to the individual's level of
consciousness evolution, or soul maturity. Not only
are there tasks, or developmental markers,
specific to each of the dimensions of human
expression, but expected levels of development,
or normal ages at which developmental markers
"should" occur, on each of these dimensions, are
not the same for all people because of differences
in consciousness level. Thus, when researchers
study developmental data from large samples
using psychological instruments, unless overall
consciousness evolution is accounted for, normal
developmental markers and the appropriate ages
for these markers to show up will "wash out," or
be obscured. Several theories of ego development
(e.g., Erikson, 1950, 1968; Loevinger, 1976) and
Kohlberg's (1984) theory of moral development do
offer useful models of psychological development
through adolescence and adulthood. Yet, the
usefulness of these models is limited because we
do not know the levels of consciousness of the
populations from whom the theories were derived.
In the initial incarnations of any soul on the
physical plane, the focus is on physical body
functioning. This is not to suggest that the
individual does not function at all from the higher
bodies. Certainly, a person does have emotional,
mental, and spiritual capacities at any
evolutionary phase. The functioning of these
bodies, however, is not mature, and the overall
functioning and behavior of that individual will
reflect the relative lack of development (or
evolution) of each of these bodies. The person at
this stage will be primarily focused on physical
behaviors; emotional control, as well as
intellectual and spiritual functioning, will be
In later incarnations after physical body
functioning has been mastered, the focus shifts
to the emotional body. This is not meant to suggest
A New Look at Theosophy 115
that physical capabilities are lost or that the
physical body in later incarnations is necessarily
less strong or vital, only that the emotional body
is now maturing as well. Since the emotional body
is the seat ofthe emotions, as this vehicle matures
the emotions are tamed. This does not mean that
the full spectrum of emotions is not, or should
not be, experienced. It does mean, however, that
an individual's behavior is no longer at the mercy
of unbridled, primitive passions such as rage and
revenge; mastery ofthe emotional life is achieved.
Obviously, the maturation of the emotional body
will change and broaden an individual's
experience ofthe world (and of the Self in relation
to the world) and will result in a clear shift in the
person's ability to live effectively in a social
context. Developmentally speaking, this
represents a major expansion of consciousness
which marks a significant step forward.
In like manner, in due time the developmental
focus shifts to the mental body. As was true during
the maturation of the emotional body, the
individual's perceptions and manner of viewing the
Self and the world broaden, and the quality of social
interactions changes as a reflection of the person's
growing intellectual capacity and corresponding
tendency to apply reason and thoughtfulness to
all aspects oflife. The resulting shift in awareness
constitutes another major expansion of
According to Bailey (1942), the physical,
emotional, and mental vehicles, as a unit, form the
personality which, together with the soul,
constitutes the human expression in the Three
Worlds, or the field of human evolution. With
relative maturity of the mental vehicle the
physical, emotional, and mental components ofthe
personality begin to work together as an integrated
system. Prior to this developmental stage, which
Bailey refers to as "personality alignment," the
component vehicles operate independently. At this
point, however, the personality becomes a fully
functioning entity that is greater than the sum of
its parts and is able to receive input from the soul.
Personality alignment allows the physical,
emotional, and mental aspects of one's Selfto unite
in common purpose. Thus, the individual is now
capable of a high level of achievement.
During all the lifetimes in which the physical,
emotional, and mental bodies are maturing and
the personality is becoming coordinated, the
spiritual body is, of course, also gradually
developing, and in time the developmental focus
shifts to the spiritual nature. As I pointed out
earlier, the spiritual (or causal) body is the home
of the soul. Thus, as the spiritual body develops,
the individual has greater access to guidance from
his or her soul. The soul begins to contribute
higher understandings and insight through
intuition, or an inner knowing, and the individual
responds more clearly to the world of higher
values, such as unselfishness and service to
others. Gradually, the nature and purposes ofthe
soul (as opposed to those ofthe personality) begin
to dominate, and the personality assumes a role
subordinate to the soul. Bailey (1942) refers to
this process as "soul fusion"; the personality
energy at this stage becomes united with, and
complementary to, that ofthe soul. The individual
naturally experiences a concomitant shift in
outlook, perspective, and values, accompanied by
corresponding changes in behavior. These
developmental shifts mark an especially dramatic
expansion of consciousness.
An aspect of particular importance regarding
the development of the spiritual body and the
corresponding increase in input from the soul is
that, in my opinion, what we think of as
"conscience" is actually guidance from the soul.
Does it really make sense that what is commonly
called the "still small voice" comes from a
psychoanalytic conception called the superego? I
believe that the superego is an accurate and useful
construct for describing the internalization of
parental and societal prohibitions. It is, indeed,
an important mechanism that influences
behavior, especially in children and in individuals
near the beginning of their physical plane
incarnations. However, the superego controls
behavior as a reminder of prohibitions and
consequences only. It tells us what behaviors are
wrong, not because they are not right, but because
they evoke punishment. It is our soul that tells
us what is right. We then control our own behavior
because we know that certain behaviors are not
right. This is what is really meant by the term
"knowing right from wrong," which might be more
accurately phrased "knowing right from that
which is not right."
The still small voice isjust that. The soul does,
indeed, communicate to us in a quiet voice and is
available to everyone throughout the entirety of
116 The International Journal of Trans per sonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
the evolutionary cycle. However, before the
spiritual body is developed to any significant
extent, that voice is not heard consistently or
clearly. As the spiritual body matures and input
from the soul becomes more pronounced, the still
small voice is more easily heard and understood.
A formal method for training oneself to listen
better to that inner voice is meditation, or
contemplative prayer.
For individuals at or near the beginning of the
evolutionary cycle, the superego may be the
greater part of what controls behavior. As
development proceeds, the ratio of superego to
soul influence gradually shifts, and for those
persons closer to finishing the cycle, soul influence
is the greater part ofthe individual's inner control.
This change, or shift, in the agent of inner
influence might be described as a shift from the
avoidance of punishment to moral, principled
behavior. There is a parallel to the long-term
evolutionary process in the development from
childhood to adulthood as well, in that a young
child's behavior is governed more by what is or is
not wrong, and an adult's behavior is governed
more by what is or is not right. Those occasional
persons who are characterized as being without
a conscience, I suspect, are individuals who are
near the beginning of the evolutionary cycle and
whose superego mechanisms have failed.
I wish to be very clear that the evolution ofthe
vehicles of consciousness does not occur in discrete
steps from one body to another. There is some
functioning and development of all the bodies from
the beginning, and growth of the emotional,
mental, and spiritual vehicles occurs
simultaneously, but mature functioning in each
of the bodies occurs in developmental sequence.
One might visualize a rough and hypothetical
representation of this evolution for an individual
at various points as depicted in Figure 3.
I also wish to stress that just because any given
body is mature from an evolutionary perspective,
there is no guarantee that the individual will
choose to focus on or develop that functioning in
any given life. Mature functioning of any vehicle,
once developed, exists as potential in a specific
lifetime, but the body mayor may not function
maturely depending on the choice or effort of the
individual. As an example, an individual with
mature spiritual functioning will also be capable
of mature functioning at the physical, emotional,
Figure 3
Hypothetical Comparison of Sequential Development
at Different Points in the Evolution Process
II Physical Mental Spiritual
Early Stage Mid-Range Late Stage
and mental levels (given healthy and undamaged
vehicles, of course). Complete, or balanced,
functioning for this individual would require a
focus on each of the four bodies (or levels of
consciousness). However, she or he may not
necessarily choose to maintain a focus on each
body, resulting in a less than fully balanced life.
On the other hand, a person who is, for example,
at the early stages of developing the emotional
vehicle will have some capacity for functioning in
the higher bodies (or from a higher level of
consciousness), but will not be capable of mature
functioning in these bodies. In either case, there
is no judgment implied. That would be like
comparing a child with an adult.
Balanced functioning for any individual,
regardless ofhislher degree of evolution, requires
a focus on the development of each of the four
bodies irrespective of the maturity level of each
body. For example, balanced functioning for a
person who is in the early stages of emotional body
development would require a continued focus in
the physical world, while also exercising the
emotional faculties, and in addition, bringing to
bear mental and spiritual functioning at whatever
levels the person is capable, regardless of what
those levels are. The important aspect is the
"exercise offunction."20
By the same token, balanced functioning for
the individual who is primarily at the stage of
maturing the mental body would require a
continued focus on mature functioning of the
physical and emotional bodies and a stretching
offunctioning into the spiritual realm. Similarly,
balanced functioning for someone who is maturing
A New Look at Theosophy 117
the spiritual body would require continued
attention to the functioning of the three lower
bodies. Everyone is familiar with individuals who
are focused in the mental body to the exclusion of
proper functioning of the physical, emotional, and
spiritual bodies. It is also very common to see
individuals who are focused on developing their
spiritual body but have abandoned attention to
the full functioning of their lower vehicles (e.g.,
individuals who engage the mental body to the
point of deciding that religious dogma as they
know it no longer makes sense, and then abandon
critical thought while embracing every new
spiritual teaching they encounter).
There are, of course, those persons who have
special challenges to balanced functioning in that
one or more of the three lower vehicles are
damaged. For those who have suffered trauma to
the physical, emotional, or mental bodies, the
exercise of the greatest degree of functioning and
balance that is possible (given the limitation) is
important, even though the result may look
somewhat different than would otherwise be true.
Although the experience and effort required for
the vehicles of consciousness to reach maturity
takes many lifetimes, there is a parallel of this
developmental process which occurs within each
lifetime (depending to some extent on the level of
evolution already achieved). According to Bailey
(1942, pp. 52-53), this results in five crisis points
in the life of the individual. The first three crises
result from the soul appropriating the physical,
emotional, and mental bodies. By appropriating,
Bailey means that the soul begins to use that
vehicle as an instrument of its purposes. When this
occurs, a crisis point is created because the influx
of soul energy causes rapid change which can
destabilize the vehicle. The five crisis points are:
1. Appropriation of the physical body between
approximately ages four and seven.
2. Appropriation of the emotional body during
adolescence. This crisis is manifest, and is
easily observed in most people, as an emotional
instability during this time.
3. Appropriation of the mental vehicle in late
4. A crisis point that occurs between the mid-
to-late-thirties and the early-to-mid-forties
when the individual's essence begins to
emerge. At this point there will be changes in
the person's life direction and focus, sometimes
dramatically so.
5. A crisis point that occurs in the late fifties
to early sixties in those individuals who have
developed an effective relationship between
their soul and their personality.
At crisis point 4, the age at which this process
begins will vary, and the direction, length, and
intensity of the resulting crisis will differ
according to circumstances and what is
evolutionarily appropriate for the individual.
Essentially, at or near mid-life one's highest level
of consciousness can potentially begin to manifest.
In those persons with a measure of emotional and
mental vehicle maturity who have not yet
achieved personality alignment, the crisis can be
as simple as the discovery that one's interests and
values differ from what one was taught through
environmental conditioning. In those persons who
have achieved personality alignment or soul
fusion (either in the present life or in a previous
life), it is during this time that the soul begins to
influence the personality, and in this case the
crisis results from the emergence of soul aims as
opposed to personality aims. In a person whose
soul influence is emerging, one mayor may not
see identification with, or a specific interest in,
religious or spiritual matters. Nevertheless one's ,
life will follow a spiritual (i.e., not a material) path,
the need for service to humanity will become
evident, and one will have the benefit of intuitive
promptings by, and understandings of, the soul.
From that point on, service to humanity in some
form will be the vehicle for further spiritual
Many people will experience the promptings
from the soul, and an emergence of essence, in a
strong but confusing manner that will be
manifested in restlessness and dissatisfaction with
one's life as it is, but without a sense of what one's
soul is attempting to become. In these persons, the
very natural need for change may be experienced
in a materialistic manner. If so, they are likely to
trade in their possessions for newer models (toys,
houses, cars, spouses, etc.). But if this is done
primarily because of disinterest in what they have
and without a corresponding interest in, or
understanding of, the aims of their soul, they may
very well remain restless and dissatisfied, and their
spiritual growth will likely be truncated. This
results in the worst-case scenario of the "mid-life
118 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
At crisis point 5, the degree to which the
individual responds to soul input and the degree
to which the higher vehicles are used and developed
determine to what degree the soul continues to use
the vehicles in a vital manner into old age.
Conversely, in those persons who do not continue
fully using and developing their vehicles of
consciousness, the soul begins gradually to
disengage and to withdraw its input. This does not
mean that the soul leaves the body (this does not
occur until death), only that the wisdom, intuition,
and guidance that comes from the soul is
withdrawn, and the personality is no longer a
useful instrument for the soul.
The timing ofthe vehicle appropriations, or the
ages at which they occur, can have profound
developmental significance. This is especially true
ofthe emotional and mental body appropriations.
The developmental effects of timing differences in
a child's physical body maturation are easily seen
and understood. However, the effects of timing
differences in emotional and mental development
are more difficult to perceive and understand and
are typically not addressed when assessing growth
and development of adolescents and early adults.
This is because existing theories of psychological
development have not fully viewed emotional and
mental growth in the context of a paradigm which
accounts for normal developmental lags such as
are obvious in physical growth. The normalcy of
physical growth variations is easily understood,
resulting in comments such as, "She hasn't reached
her growth spurt yet." However, in emotional and
mental development, what I believe to be normal
lags in growth are typically seen as developmental
failures, and result in pejorative labels such as
"immature" and "underachiever." In reality,
variations in emotional and mental development
must be viewed simply as normal differences in
the age of appropriation of the emotional and
mental bodies. Unfortunately, in the absence ofthis
understanding, and the resulting design of
appropriate growth experiences, young people who
vary on these dimensions are routinely damaged
by our acculturation institutions as they currently
exist. Often, those persons who lag behind on
emotional and mental body appropriations
eventually catch up and excel on those very
dimensions, but they must overcome the handicap
of societal damage to do so.
General Psychotherapy Considerations
FIND IT interesting that although the dominant
. Western philosophical/religious tradition does
not teach reincarnation, it is nevertheless a
component of popular culture. As an example, the
long-term view of evolutionary growth is often
tacitly acknowledged in our contemporary
Western culture by common use of the term "old
soul." The existence of an "old" soul presupposes
the existence of its opposite, or "young" soul, and
by extrapolation, levels of soul age in between.
Using the theory of consciousness evolution
through the four levels of spiritual development
which I have described, or the corresponding
concept of soul age, with a modicum of practice it
is not difficult to arrive at a rough estimation of
where any given soul is in its evolution. Such an
understanding has profound implications for the
practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Normal
functioning for an individual near the beginning
of his or her physical plane incarnations will be
very different from what is normal for a person
who is mature on all four dimensions. For
example, a person whose developmental focus is
on the emotional vehicle will be working with the
experience of emotions like rage and jealousy.
However, a person who is focused at the mental
or spiritual levels and/or who has achieved soul
fusion (see earlier discussion) will concentrate on
aspects of life more germane to his or her
particular developmental level. That person may
continue to have the emotions of rage or jealousy,
but they will be experienced differently and will
be secondary, rather than primary, life issues.
Obviously, for individuals at these different
developmental levels, the therapy goals will be
different, therapeutic interventions will be
different, and the ways we measure outcomes will
be correspondingly different.
As a starting point in treatment it is important
that the therapist evaluate the individual from a
perspective of psychospiritual development.
Essentially, the therapist must determine where
a given individual is in the evolutionary spectrum
and in what ways functioning on the four
dimensions of consciousness may be out of
balance. Therapy focus and interventions can be
designed accordingly to encourage functioning at
the highest possible level, to encourage a
stretching into the next higher level (and by doing
so to facilitate mastery ofthe level below), and to
A New Look at Theosophy 119
encourage balanced functioning. Also, it is
important to attend to any level or levels on which
an individual may have abandoned focus in the
belief that lower levels are of less importance, or
are less "spiritual," than the higher levels. The
developmental evaluation must also include an
assessment of the sequential appropriation
process as described in the previous section. Were
there significant variations or delays in the
appropriations and corresponding crisis points?
Did trauma occur as a result of out-of-phase or
poorly executed appropriations? Is the individual
at this time experiencing an appropriation crisis?
To what extent has trauma from an earlier crisis
point damaged the ability to smoothly negotiate
the vicissitudes of an appropriation or crisis point
currently in progress?
I suspect that for optimum psychological health
it is important for individuals to advance their
overall evolutionary development to the fullest
extent that they are able. For the most part,
consciousness will expand in each lifetime simply
as a function ofliving. However, when individuals
choose not to expand and develop their emotional,
mental, and spiritual vehicles when the
opportunity exists to do so, I believe that depression
and/or other kinds of physical, emotional, mental,
or spiritual imbalances will occur. Persons who fail
to develop the emotional, mental, and spiritual
levels of functioning of which they are
developmentally capable, or who fail to advance
the spiritual development with which they were
born, essentially waste the opportunity of a
physical plane lifetime. It is such persons who are
most likely to experience difficulty at the crisis
point in the late fifties and early sixties, when the
soul chooses whether or not to remain fully invested
in using the bodies (see crisis point 5). For those
persons in whom the soul does begin to withdraw
input at this point, there will be a gradual decline
into the worst aspects of their personalities, and
ultimately into bitterness, depression, and despair.
In my psychotherapy practice, I have found
certain observations and conceptions derived from
the present model to be particularly useful in
framing a clinical understanding of individuals
and in designing appropriate psychotherapeutic
interventions. Although a full discussion of the
clinical applications lies outside the parameters
of this paper, I will briefly summarize these
conceptions as follows:
l. Bonding between individuals occurs on each
ofthe four levels of consciousness, and human
relationships consist of complex arrangements
of bonding on these levels. This conception has
profound implications for understanding how
people function in a social or relational context.
In general, successful relationships tend to
occur between people who share similar levels
of vehicle maturity. More specifically, I believe
that the quality of intimacy in a relationship
increases dramatically as levels of
consciousness on which bonding exists are
added to a relationship.
2. The occurrence and timing of appropriations
and the associated crisis points offer a
perspective for viewing rapid changes in
people's lives that can destabilize psychosocial
3. It is my belief, based on my interpretation
of clinical data, that each of the vehicles of
consciousness has memory. This conception
has direct application to understanding the
human response to emotional trauma and to
the treatment of psychological dysfunction
which results from trauma, especially Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Concluding Thoughts
BELIEVE THAT a spiritual psychology must be
much more than simply an acknowledgment
that humankind has a spiritual nature that
yearns for fulfillment. This is not a psychology of
spirit, merely a psychology that does not exclude
spirit. At the same time, I believe that a fledgling
spiritual psychology must avoid the temptation
to rely too heavily on counting and measuring in
an attempt to look like a "real" science. While
there is certainly nothing wrong, for example,
with developing taxonomies of altered states of
consciousness or cataloging the varieties of
mystical experience, we should beware of being
seduced into reductionistic culs-de-sac.
If science and religion are truly not
antagonistic, and if psychology and spirituality
can indeed be viewed as aspects of the same
process, then not only should we count and
measure what can at this time be quantified, we
should also admit data from spiritual sources to
scrutiny, and allow contemplation and intuition
as methods of inquiry. In this same vein, Wilber
(1998) argues that the scientific method, conceived
as a broad empiricism, can legitimately be applied
to realms beyond the physical. Thus, using what
120 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Wilber calls the "three eyes of knowing" (flesh,
mind, and contemplation), the entire Chain of
Being is exposed to the gaze of science. To that
end, in this paper I have proposed the
Theosophical version of the Great Chain as a
conceptual framework well suited to the task of
exploring the evolution of consciousness through
the nonphysical dimensions, thereby providing
structure for a spiritual psychology.
1. An Essay on Man in Four Epistles. (1733-1734/1776,
Epistle I, lines 237-240, 245-246).
2. Although few transpersonal theorists are likely to
dispute that interpretation and context are important
factors in understanding mystical or transpersonal
experience, the postmodern schools of thought that hold
truth and reality hostage to context-dependent
interpretation are basically atheistic: Contextualism
taken to its logical conclusion would deconstruct Huxley's
"divine Reality" to a meaningless concept. In my opinion,
a view of human spirituality not firmly rooted in a divine
Reality, as is apparently suggested by Ferrer (2000), risks
advocating that humankind seek transcendence to a
contextual morass.
3. Lovejoy explains Plato's principle of plenitude as "the
thesis that the universe is a plenum formarum in which
the range of conceivable diversity of kinds ofliving things
is exhaustively exemplified-[andl that no genuine
potentiality of being can remain unfulfilled" (Lovejoy,
1936/1961, p. 52).
4. The ancient Greek terms were body (soma), soul
(psuche), and spirit (pneuma; literally, breath). Old
Testament Hebrew does not express the idea of body as a
physical form. The word used is flesh (basar): the body as
a whole but not the form or shape. Thus, the corresponding
Hebrew terms are: flesh, soul (nephesh), and spirit (ruach,
meaning life force) (Bond, 1991, p. 1299; Stricker, 1991,
p. 61; Turner, 1980, p. 421; Wolf, 1991, p. 202).
5. The terms I use for the first two levels, body and flesh,
differ from the corresponding matter and body used by
Wilber (1993, 1998) and again by Walsh (1997). Matter
and body do make sense as descriptors of ascending points
on the Great Chain of Being, and thus appropriately
designate the first two levels of Wilber's ''basic great chain"
(Wilber, 2000). However, the terms as used by these
authors in describing the Christian view ofholarchy lack
support in the New Testament.
In Christian usage, the meaning of the word flesh is
taken from the Hebrew basar and the Greek sarx (both
nondistinct designations of physical form) and emphasizes
a suggestion of physical/emotional appetites, or desires
(Grant & Rowley, 1963, p. 299; Hoehner, 1991, p. 498;
Stricker, 1991, p. 61; Turner, 1980, pp. 176-178). Body, in
New Testament writings, is the Greek soma (Stricker
1991, p. 61). '
For the most part, the word mind is not clearly
differentiated from heart and soul in biblical usage, and
the words are translated somewhat interchangeably from
a number of Greek and Hebrew terms. In the New
Testament, however, the concept of mind as the human
faculty (or dimension) of cognition and intellectual activity
does emerge more clearly in the fairly consistent use of
the Greek nous (see Cowen,1991, pp. 967-968).
6. The works cited here, and in the treatment of Buddhism
in the following paragraph, are resources to be used in
understanding the terms and concepts from Hinduism and
Buddhism that I mention. They do not relate these
concepts to holarchy as used in this paper.
7. This figure is intended to compare the Theosophical
version of evolutionary holarchy with the way in which
holarchy is seen in some of the world's primary wisdom
traditions, and the terms used to describe these traditions
are based in part on Wilber (1993). Many systems use
four or five levels and a level thought of as Spirit, God,
the Absolute, or a similar term. Accordingly, I show six
levels including Spirit, or God. However, this figure will
correspond to the Great Chain viewed as the seven levels
given in Theosophy or the Hindu lokas, or by Ken Wilber's
charts (Wilber, 2000, pp. 197-217) through the first five
levels. The final two levels of the seven-level system are
collapsed into my final level. Thus, the levels (or terms)
in Wilber's charts will stretch across my figure a little
differently, but basically correspond to it. Also, Wilber's
five-level "General Great Chain" terms (matter, body,
mind, soul, and spirit) can be read from left to right across
my figure with the first three corresponding fairly closely
to my first three cells.
8. Many of the ideas presented in my brief summary are
basic Theosophical teachings that are derived from many
sources and, therefore, are not specifically referenced.
However, although by no means a comprehensive
bibliography, these ideas can be found in the following
works: A. A. Bailey (1936-1960); A. Besant (1904/1954;
1918); Z. F. Lansdowne (1986); and C. W. Leadbeater
9. In this regard, note the title of Peter Washington's (1995)
book-Madame Blavatsky's Baboon: A History of the
Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism
to America. In the title alone, Washington manages to
erroneously identifY Theosophy as spiritualism, as well
as malign the character of principal Theosophical figures.
Another example: Nelson (2000) characterizes
Theosophical teachings as either distortions of Hindu and
Buddhist thought or as having been fabricated by
Blavatsky (p. 81).
10. Hinduism views the universe as consisting of differing
regions, planes, worlds, or world divisions, called the lokas,
with each world produced from the "matter" ofthe world
above it in descending order from the world of Brahman
A New Look at Theosophy 121
through decreasingly subtle regions to the physical world
(see Chatterji, 1931/1992; Grimes, 1996; Werner, 1997;
Wood, 1964). Different schools of Hindu thought use
somewhat different terms to describe the world divisions;
Grimes (1996, p. 177) lists seven planes (in ascending
order from the physical plane): (1) bhu-loka, (2) bhuvar-
loka, (3) svar-loka, (4) mahar-loka, (5)jano-loka, (6) tapo-
loka, and (7) satya-loka.
11. This figure is a compilation of information collected
from many sources, and elaborates on a graphic
representation of the seven planes in Initiation, Human
and Solar (p. xiv) by A. A. Bailey (1922).
12. The correspondence between the Theosophical bodies
and the Vedantic koshas requires explanation because
Vedanta also uses the word "body," and uses it in several
different ways with differing shades of meaning. The term
thus invites confusion in understanding how it is used in
Theosophy as well as in more specifically transpersonal
writings that use Vedantic concepts. In the most common
usage, Vedanta posits three bodies (the sha6ras): the
gross, subtle, and causal bodies (in Sanskrit: sthula-
and composed
of progressively finer layers of matter (Grimes, 1996;
Werner, 1997; Wood, 1964). The three correspond
to, but are not exactly the same as, the five sheaths, or
coverings of At man, called the koshas. The first and third
bodies (shariras) correspond to the first and fifth sheaths
(koshas) respectively. However, the second, or middle
corresponds to, or is composed of (depending on
one's viewpoint), the middle three koshas. In addition,
although the koshas and the are not the same
thing, I believe it is accurate to view them as structurally
related, or as having a similar nature. Some scholars (e.g.,
Grimes, 1996; Werner, 1997; Wood, 1964) regard the
koshas as the layers which form the three bodies.
Additionally, Wood (1964) uses "body" to describe both the
shar'iras and the koshas with the difference being
primarily one of classification, but with the shariras
having more of an implication of an instrument or vehicle
(p. 26). Chatterji (1931/1992, p. 90) says simply that the
koshas are "only the [physical] body and other human
factors regarded from a particular point of view" (emphasis
mine). In Theosophy, the system is viewed as five bodies
which are also conceptualized as instruments, or vehicles,
to be used by consciousness (much like Wood, 1964). Each
of these bodies corresponds to a plane of nature just as
the koshas (in Vedanta) correspond to the lokas.
It is also important to understand that in both Vedanta
and Theosophy the Great Chain of Being is most
fundamentally represented by the underlying worlds (lokas),
or planes, which might be viewed simply as areas on what I
call the spirit-matter continuum (see Figure 2). The Vedantic
koshas (or in Theosophy, the bodies) are constructed from
the substance of their corresponding planes, from the
physical body up through the range of the subtle bodies.
Thus, the koshas and/or the bodies can be conceptualized as
the Great Chain made manifest, a correspondence to the
Great Chain, rather than the Chain itself.
13. The topic ofthe etheric chakra system is well covered
in many sources. A particularly thorough treatment can
be found in Vibrational Medicine: New Choices for Healing
Ourselves by Richard Gerber (1988).
14. Moore (1994) noted that reincarnation was commonly
accepted in Jesus' day and that he did not deny or teach
against it (pp. 182-184); many ofthe early church leaders
taught reincarnation (pp. 185-186); and no ecumenical
council ofthe Christian Church has ever officially rejected
belief in the preexistence of the soul or reincarnation (p.
321). Contrary to common belief, the Fifth Ecumenical
Council (553 A.D.) did not condemn the belief in
reincarnation. According to Moore (1994), the Council was
called by the Byzantine emperor Justinian for primarily
political reasons. One of his political agendas was the
condemnation ofOrigen, a prominent and respected third-
century church leader who taught the preexistence ofthe
soul, as well as reincarnation specifically. Significantly,
although the Council rejected his views on Christology
(the nature and identity of Christ), it remained
conspicuously silent on the issues of the preexistence of
the soul and reincarnation.
15. Athough only the causal body is a permanent vehicle
that remains throughout every life, a template or "seed"
ofthe emotional and mental bodies is stored in the causal
body and becomes the starting point for those vehicles in
the succeeding incarnation.
16. Lansdowne (1986) uses the term "spiritual body" in
reference to this higher vehicle. Since I already use
"spiritual body" in place of "causal body," I prefer to use
either the term "light body" or Besant's "body of bliss" to
describe this vehicle of consciousness.
17. Combs and Krippner (1999), in critiquing Ken Wilber's
views of spiritual evolution, seem to question whether a
theory of spiritual growth defined as a progression through
the Vedantic stages can be viewed as following an
evolutionary course. Since the concept of human
consciousness evolving via the Theosophical bodies (which
correspond to the Vedantic koshas) is central to the thesis
developed in this paper, let me point out several tenets of
Hindu thought, and advance some perspectives, which
argue for the validity of viewing a spiritual progression
through Vedantic planes of being as an evolutionary
The concept of evolution is fundamental to Hindu
philosophy. Consider the basic Hindu principle of the
inbreath and outbreath of Brahman: In this view, the
creation process is seen as alternating between two phases
of divine manifestation, srishti (throwing out) or
involution, and pralaya (drawing in) or evolution, in an
eternal cycle (Chatterji, 1931/1992). Thus, the physical
universe (the physical plane) is the maximum point of
the outbreath (involution), and (as seen in Theosophical
theory) the human spirit, or monad, is a fragment of
Universal Consciousness on the return to source
(evolution); a worldview that is, by definition, a theory of
spiritual growth following an evolutionary path.
122 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
I believe that confusion is introduced when a spiritual
progression through Vedantic stages is discussed without
differentiating the underlying worlds or planes (lokas)
from the sheaths (koshas) that are manifested from the
"substance" of their corresponding planes. For example,
Combs and Krippner (1999) refer to Vedantic stages
interchangeably as metaphysical planes and as sheaths
(koshas), which they then identify as states of
consciousness. Since they had already noted Tart's (1975)
view that states of consciousness are discrete, it is implied
that the Vedantic stages (identified as undifferentiated
planes/sheaths/states) are discrete, and thus the
hierarchical and continuous nature of the underlying
Hindu cosmology, or the Great Chain of Being, is obscured.
In addition, when Combs and Krippner (1999) argue
that spiritual growth, defined as experiencing or
identifying with the more subtle planes of being, cannot
be viewed as following an evolutionary course because
these experiences "are simply not evolutionary in and of
themselves" (p. 17), they again imply that a view of
spiritual growth as an advancement through Vedantic
stages is not evolutionary. While I fully agree with this
observation, and would add that experiencing or
identifying with the more subtle planes also is not
necessarily a measure of spiritual attainment, the
observation is unrelated to whether a Vedanta-based
theory of spiritual growth follows an evolutionary path.
18. In addition to Bailey's material, a body of channeled
information called the "Michael" teachings (Yarbro, 1980,
1986, 1988) includes a framework for understanding
innate soul characteristics that correspond in many ways
to the seven-ray material. I believe that either or both of
these systems can usefully be incorporated into a spiritual
It may be tempting to reject channeled material out-
of-hand. However, if we believe in the existence of states
of consciousness other than the normal waking state, and
in higher, more intuitive states of mind such as the
Vedantic vijfiiinamaya-kosha, and if we recall the history
of "revealed" teachings in the major religious traditions,
we must also realize that it is only a mind closed to
wondrous possibility that can categorically reject (to
borrow a phrase from St. Paul) "things which are not seen."
19. Judgment might be more easily understood if one
compared a child to an adult who continues to behave
like a child, and this is an evolutionary possibility which
does occur. But even in this eventuality, the individual's
choice must be treated with respect. Learning and karmic
consequences which give opportunity for learning are
latent within even the worst choices.
20. "Exercise of function" is a term coined by Heinz
Hartmann (1939/1958) in his seminal work, Ego
Psychology and the Problem of Adaptation, to describe the
critical developmental importance of using undeveloped,
but emerging, fundamental components of the ego. As a
matter of interest (and in an extension of Hartmann's
concept) it should be noted here that, in my view,
ultimately the emotional body comes to complete maturity
through application of the mental body to whatever degree
it is capable. Similarly, the mental body comes to complete
maturity through application ofthe spiritual body.
21. The recent "Michael" teachings (Yarbro, 1980, 1986,
1988) describe five distinct soul ages (infant soul, baby
soul, young soul, mature soul, and old soul), and give a
detailed delineation of behaviors, tendencies, attitudes,
and understandings characteristic of each level. I perceive
this to be a corresponding presentation of essentially the
same material as the system of consciousness evolution I
have outlined in this paper.
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124 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
The Ad Man Monk
Asa Baber
Contributing Editor, Playboy Magazine
Chicago, Illinois, USA
VEN TODAY the valley leading up to the
Tokufuji Temple is famous for its maple
leaves in autumn.
The smog of Kyoto stays in Kyoto.
Past the third bridge and in front of the
Sanmon Gate, it seems that time has gone
back seven hundred years to the day Fujiwara
Michiie ordered construction of the Temple.
So it was for N agawa on that early October
morning not long ago.
He left his family and friends and job and
debts, and he walked up into the colorful
valley. He did not bother to say goodby to
anyone. He simply turned his back on Kyoto.
N agawa had been thinking of changing his
life. Or ending it.
Once he had almost thrown himself under a
train. And on more occasions than he could
count, he had considered leaping out of his
high office window.
His life seemed too shallow and too compli-
cated for him.
N agawa was a modish man. He wore three-
piece suits from a British tailor in Hong Kong,
high-heeled Italian boots, gold-rimmed spec-
tacles, a gold Seiko watch. His hair was rela-
tively long. It fell straight down over his collar
and was as black as always; not a streak of
gray in this, his fortieth year.
He drove a sports car. He read Mishima,
especially after the writer's suicide, and he
bought eight-track tapes of the Tokyo String
Quartet. By chance, he had become interested
in Korean secular painting, and he fancied
himself to be something of an expert in the
Nagawa's life was beautiful on the surface.
But there was a fault running smack down the
middle of it. He could feel unnamed forces
shifting, rumbling. Pressures inside of him
made him impatient and breathless and dizzy.
Yet there was no single thing to blame for all
his deeply felt chaos. It was just there, like a
continual toothache.
One day this last autumn, while Nagawa
was feeding pigeons in the park during his
lunch hour, he happened to see a spread of
monk's clothing in a pawn shop window across
the street.
He had been singing a jingle to himself, but
the moment he saw the clothing in the window
he froze as if he had been sprayed with epoxy.
The pigeons continued to peck and coo at
his feet. Cars and buses and motorcycles
roared around the square. The white gloves of
a policeman directing traffic moved in karate
motions. But Nagawa had eyes only for the
scenario that was filling his head.
Without talking to anyone about it, N agawa
finished his work that afternoon. He attended
a conference on fuel injection layouts for next
year's advertising campaign. He dictated a
memo suggesting more market studies be done
in the rural areas of Japan. He went through
the motions of his job but his mind was some-
where else.
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 125-133 125
That evening, instead of his usual martini
with friends at the rooftop bar, Nagawa went
to the pawn shop and bought the entire
monk's outfit: the formal traveling robe, the
bundle of seasonal robes and kimonos with the
Buddhist scriptures tied on top, the jihatsu
bowl for feeding and begging, and a straight
razor with a wooden handle for shaving his
face and head.
The saucer-style hat draped too wide and
low around his head. N agawa did not want to
buy that.
"It's like blinders for a horse," he said to the
''You must have it," said the clerk. "No Zen
monk would be seen outside the monastery
without a hat. You want to look like the real
thing, don't you?"
"All right. Wrap all of it up, please. It's not
for me, you understand. My company is put-
ting on a play. It's a costume."
"Sure," said the clerk. He was younger than
N agawa but he spoke with the familiarity of a
man who could put his hands in N agawa's
pockets whenever he wanted. "But just in case
you decide to wear it yourself, let me tell you, it
works. A friend of mine wore one of these
monk's disguises into the Queen Bee. You know
that bar on the Ginza? Hey, the girls were all
over him. Wild, huh?"
"It's not for that," Nagawa said. He hurriedly
paid the clerk and :rushed out of the shop
carrying several large packages.
With his London Fog raincoat and prosper-
ous appearance, N agawa had no trouble
getting a cab.
He went to a bathhouse on the outskirts of
Kyoto. He had been there a few times before.
It was a modest and clean place. Traffic was
still heavy and it took some time to get there.
N agawa stored his things in a locker.
Wearing only a towel, he walked into room
number twelve, the one he had been assigned.
There was a steam cabinet, a bathtub, a low
massage table, a wash basin and mirror, two
wooden stools, and a white plastic bowl. The
floor was white tile with a drain at its center.
"You want to steam first?" asked a woman
who walked in behind him.
She was not very young. She had a pleasant
face and mature body. N agawa watched her
full breasts move in the bikini cups of her
bathing suit. She carried an armful of white
cotton towels.
"Why don't we sweat you up a little first?"
She spoke in the gutteral accent of the Ryukyu
Islands. Nagawa had grown up listening to his
father speak that way.
"I'll just have a bath and shampoo," N agawa
said. "And I'm going to ask a favor of you."
"Favors are my business," the woman said
with a wiggle. She was leaning over the tub as
she turned the faucets on full blast. "Just ask
for Michiko."
"Please!" said Nagawa, still standing in the
middle of the room. "I need my head shaved.
Will you do that?"
Michiko stood up. She laughed. "Now I've
heard everything."
"I'm serious! I even brought you this." He
held the straight razor towards her. The blade
was still enclosed in the handle.
Michiko looked carefully at N agawa. She
lifted the razor slowly from his hand. ''You're a
strange one," she said.
"Please!" N agawa pleaded.
"It will cost you extra," she said cagily. "And I
hope you're not planning on killing yourself
when I'm done. That's the way with you
skinny ones, you know? I had a doctor in here
one night who slit his belly when my back was
turned. What a waste! Of course, if you're
going to do that kind of thing, might as well do
it here where we can wash the blood right
down the drain. We're never messy here."
"N 0, no," N agawa said. "I'm going to be a
monk. But I have to shave my head first."
''What? 'Ib be a monk? First you have to be
crazy, that's what." She turned the water off. "Sit
down over there." She pointed at the stool. "We'll
take care of you. Take off your towel. I've seen it
before, you knOw."
N agawa crouched on the stool while
Michiko fussed with the water in the tub. She
ran hot water, then cold. Little by little she
began to pour water down his back. She used
the bowl for that.
Soon she was throwing scoops of water onto
his head, his chest, his legs.
N agawa felt like he was a target in a water
126 The International Journal ofTranspersonal Studies, 2001, Vol 20
"Stand up!" she commanded.
He stood. Michiko soaped his back and
chest. Her warm fingers dug into his muscles.
She lathered his groin and pulled on his penis.
His knees were trembling.
Kneeling before him, she washed his thighs
and calves, made a pass at his feet.
When he was a column of suds and bubbles,
Michiko pushed him back onto the stool and
splashed him with bowls of water again.
N agawa felt foolish. He was embarrassed
by his erection. "Michiko, please just shave my
head. I am going to be a Zen monk. This other
stuff is not doing me any good at all."
She was talking nonstop. Her words were
earthy and simple. N agawa was not used to
such directness any more.
"If that's what you want, that's what you'll
get. In the tub with you now. That's right. Rest
your head on the ledge. I can shave you best
there. But if you ask me, it's stupid for a good-
looking man like you to shave all this hair.
Don't the girls love it? I'll bet they do. You look
like a Beatle, you know? John Lennon married
a Japanese girL I saw them on TV once. Put
your head back. That's right. You're a baby
and I'm your mommy and I'm going to go
slowly so this doesn't hurt. Close your eyes. Go
on. When you wake up you'll be just who you
want to be. Isn't this ridiculous? Some of my
best customers come in here with wigs on, but
you want your head shaved. It doesn't make
sense, but then what does?"
She chattered and laughed as N agawa lay
silently in the warm water.
He gave himself up to Michiko's ministra-
tions. His long hair fell off and floated like
seaweed in the water. Slowly, from front to
back, the razor worked its way across his
"What am I losing? What am I gaining?"
These two questions echoed lazily in his mind,
but in truth he did not think of much.
"There!" Michiko said at last. She ran her
hands over his newly smoothed pate. "Want to
see yourself?"
N agawa rose up out of the water and
stepped over to the mirror.
What he saw was another person with a
tired face and a shining dome that looked pale
and unprotected.
There were a few razor nicks. N agawa
dabbed at them with his towel.
"It's what you asked for!" Michiko said when
she saw the sour expression on his face. "1 told
you it was crazy!"
"Who are you?" Nagawa asked the mirror
image silently. "You look so weak. You're like a
dead bonsai tree. Ugly!"
"Lie down on the table and I'n walk on your
back," said Michiko.
"No! I'm finished here. I must go to the
monastery!" Nagawa felt a panic that he did
not understand.
"Listen, I'll give you an oil rub, all right?
Warm oil. You'll love it." Michiko unhooked her
bikini top and leaned against the sink. Her
breasts were elegant and well shaped. She had
amazingly long nipples that stood out like
N agawa was lost in confusion. Michiko
seemed beautiful to him. Her body was rich
and her mouth was over-painted and she had
one gold-capped eye tooth that she hid with
her hand as she smiled. She was a bit stocky,
and certainly without shame, but even those
qualities appealed to him.
To Nagawa, this woman offering herself
represented the world and the flesh, things he
thought he was leaving.
"My suit and boots stay here!" he said rap-
idly as he ran down the corridor to his locker.
"The raincoat too. Everything!" He tore at one
of his packages as he talked. "Sell what you
want. Give it away. I don't care. You can have
my wallet too. Here. Take it! Go on."
He was dressing as fast as he could. The
monk's robe was too big for him now. He
realized that he had tried it on over his suit
Michiko stood with his suit draped in her
arms and his wallet in her hands. She seemed
uncertain. "Let me give you a hand job at
least," she said. "This is worth a lot of money."
"No!" cried Nagawa.
He fled from the bathhouse. He stumbled
down the steps in his clogs. The huge sleeves
of the monk's robe floated around him. The hat
almost blew off his head.
With one hand holding the hat and the
other carrying the rest of the packages,
The AdMan Monk 127
N agawa shuffled through the suburbs of
Kyoto. He looked like a bird in the night wind,
a nervous crow under an enormous straw hat.
It was a long walk out of the city and up
into the valley.
Nagawa almost gave up and called a cab. "No,
no," he scolded himself, "you don't drive up to a
monastery in a taxi! It's just not done that way."
In those hours before dawn, strange dogs
roamed the streets. There were few cars on the
road. N agawa talked to himself as he walked.
"They'll probably lie for me at the office. I wish
I could see that. Mr. Iwashita will be in a rage
by noon. lowe him those overlays on the sports
coupe. 'He had too much to drink last night,'
he'll tell Amy. 'Call his apartment and get him
out of bed.' And of course Amy will stall him as
long as she can. But she'll have to call sooner or
later. Unless Reiko calls the office first because
she's worried that I never came home. What a
fuss! They'll think I'm dead."
He smiled as he moved through the empty
streets. He thought of all the people he loved
and hated, usually a little of both at the same
time, and he imagined the various reactions
they would have to his disappearance.
By the time the sun was up, Nagawa was
high enough in the valley to see most of Kyoto.
The yellowish haze that accompanied every
rush hour was beginning to appear.
"The choice is simple," N agawa said aloud to
the maple trees. He was feeling very romantic.
The reddening maple leaves seemed to warm
him. "You trees are so beautiful! You are
leading me straight to the Temple. Why would
anyone want to go back down there to all that
traffic? I'll live up here with you and your
He reached the Sanmon Gate.
He was breathless and his toes were bloody
from stumbling into things.
Nagawa set his packages down. There was
a tablet hanging at the closed gate. He read it,
There is no definite gate
to enter The Great Way
"But I'm sure this is the right place,"
N agawa said to himself. The road was not
heavily traveled. There were few places of
distinction along the route. Nagawa knew the
Tokufuji Temple when he saw it, and he knew
there was a monastery inside.
He knocked loudly on the wooden gate. No
one answered. He knocked again. "Hey! Open
up in there!" He picked up a small maple
branch and pounded.
The gate opened slightly.
A tall man in clogs stood before Nagawa.
Was he a monk? He carried a long wooden
staff in his hands. His head was shaved. He
wore a black kimono. A man of indeterminate
age, neither young nor old, with an expression
that seemed fierce.
N agawa smiled and extended his hand.
"Good morning," he said, "1 thought everyone
was asleep. I have come to join you, you see-"
but before those last words were out of his
mouth, N agawa felt a tremendous blow on his
He had been knocked to the ground.
The tall man stood over him with his hands
on the wooden staff. ''You are not welcome
here," he said in a gruff voice. There was
spittle in the corners of his mouth.
Nagawa stared at the angry face. He felt
weak from immense surprise.
Where were all the calm old men he had
read about? Zen monks were peaceful crea-
tures. But this was a samurai, this one. Cer-
tainly no monk. Possibly the Gatekeeper.
Yes. That fit N agawa's logic. The
Nightclubs had bouncers, didn't they? So
temples must have gatekeepers.
"Who was your temple priest?" asked the
Gatekeeper. "You'd better tell me fast!" He
took a step towards Nagawa.
"Wait a minute!" N agawa cried. He held his
hands over his head. He looked at his straw
hat lying like a useless funnel in the dirt. "Let
me talk to the Zen Master. Please! I must see
the Roshi."
The Gatekeeper had already swatted
Nagawa on the shoulder blades again. ''You
are not a disciple of anything! Go away!" He
kicked dust at N agawa's robes.
"I'm here to study and learn and meditate!"
Nagawa choked. He was near tears. "Please let
me talk to the Roshi." He wanted to turn and
128 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
run. He never thought his best hopes could be
perverted like this.
"He doesn't have time for the likes of you!"
The Gatekeeper prodded N agawa in the ribs
with his staff. "If you take my advice, you'll go
back where you came from. But listen care-
fully, dumbbell. If you stay on these steps,
then you must remain in a bowing posture.
You will not look up. You will not look around.
Look only beneath your feet. Understand?"
N agawa nodded.
"Don't let me catch you gazing about. I'll
beat you silly if I do. Just give me the chance
and I'll make paste out of you."
Nagawa felt his knees tremble against the
hard earth. He did not dare raise his head to
watch the Gatekeeper go back through the
Sanmon Gate, but he could hear the sound of
his retreating clogs.
Leaning against the steps, his bare head
bowed in his hands, Nagawa felt very unsure
of himself. He was not used to this kind of
Wasn't he well known in Kyoto? He was
respected. He always managed to get tickets to
the theatre or the Sumo matches. He was
known in some of the best restaurants. He
golfed, drank with friends, spent some week-
ends in Tokyo. His salary bonus every New
Year was always more than the year before.
Yet here he was, kneeling in the dirt at the
foot of the steps of the Tokufuji Temple.
"Look beneath your feet!" was one of the last
things the Gatekeeper had said.
"That man is so dumb and mean," Nagawa
thought, "that I'd better do exactly as he says
or I'll never get to see the Master."
Shifting his weight from haunch to haunch,
N agawa stared at the ground.
How boring! Nothing to see. It was worse
than reading computer printouts.
N agawa leaned back against the gatepost.
He could hear things happening around him.
Sometimes people walked by. He kept his head
down. When would the Gatekeeper appear
Thigh muscles began to ache. N agawa
longed for his office chair with the leatherette
arms. He thought of udon, the kind with the
special noodles that he bought from the vendor
in the park. There was the smell of udon itself.
Someone was boiling broth nearby, he would
swear to it!
Cruel to cook upwind of a starving monk.
Cruel to leave a man of good intentions squat-
ting like a drunk over a benjo ditch. Nagawa
had grown used to being entertained. He
needed more than simple joys to keep boredom
There was the fly, for example.
It was probably the last fly in all of Japan
that autumn. It was fat and slow, unaware of
danger, naive as a blind angel. It walked
across N agawa's toes and buzzed past his face.
Sometimes it flew up his robes.
N agawa played a game with the fly. He
cupped his hands over it. Then he released it.
He studied it closely.
The fly's body had subtle reds and greens to
it. There was a glint like that offish scales.
Had he made a discovery? Were fish and
flies related? Possibly from the same species
many thousands of years ago?
"That's not bad!" N agawa said to himself.
"After aU, there are flying fish. Now to find
fishing flies!" He giggled at his own stupidi-
ties. But he was like this when there was
nothing to do.
He felt as if he were a child again back in
N aha. He was in his yard, all alone, trapping
spiders, drowning ants, building mud forts
and drawing meaningless designs in the dirt.
"Enough is enough!" N agawa called out
finally in a desperate voice. Even another
beating by the Gatekeeper would be better
than this tedium he was enduring. It was
afternoon. It was late. Time was slipping by.
"Come on! I can hardly move as it is! If you
ask me, I've done a fine job out here!" He was
yelling at the earth beneath his feet because
he was still afraid to raise his head. "Hey! Let
me in!"
There was no response.
The sky was clouding up and a cool wind
picked dying leaves off the trees.
N agawa debated with himself. Should he
just barge in through the gate? Or should he
give up and go back to Kyoto?
He was thirsty and tired.
He yawned. He dozed.
The AdMan Monk 129
Soon he had curled into a ball and lay
sleeping at the foot of the steps.
N agawa was dreaming that he had been
turned into a sterling silver fish. He was
perfect in configuration, solid as a ball bear-
ing. He flew over traffic jams. He swam home
through water pipes. A helicopter tried to
settle down on him and crush him against the
concrete runway of the Kyoto Airport, but he
was so tough and faultless in his silver shape
that he survived without injury.
It was a dream that vacillated between fear
and pleasure.
"Wake up, fool! Wake up!"
N agawa struggled out of his reveries. He
was being spanked. By his father? No, his
father had been dead for years. It was dark.
Night? Yes. Where?
"Wake up and come with me."
The Gatekeeper was swatting N agawa
across the buttocks.
"Sorry!" N agawa cried. He tried to hop to his
feet but he was stiff from his day's posture. He
stumbled to his knees and had to push himself
slowly to a standing position.
"What's the matter with you?" the
Gatekeeper asked. "Are you a cripple?" He
hooked his wooden staff behind Nagawa's
ankles and tripped him up. Nagawa fell
heavily on his backside. "Come on, fool! Get
up! We can't let you clutter these steps all
night. You'll stay in the guest house. Then I
want you out of here by morning."
N agawa gathered his things together. He
trotted through the gate behind the
Gatekeeper, whose step was long and gliding.
They crossed a courtyard lit with torches.
Once over a small wooden footbridge, they
turned left towards a dark tea hut that stood
by the far wall. N agawa was led into a small
room with sliding doors.
A candle burned on a stand. There was a
tatami mat on the floor and a large screen by
another door. A bucket of water with a wooden
ladle, a small bowl of rice and a plate of pick-
led plums were set in the center of the mat.
"You may eat, drink, sleep. Whatever you
wish," said the Gatekeeper.
N agawa felt his stomach tighten at the
smen of steaming rice. He could tell how
foolish he looked to the Gatekeeper. Here he
was, robe undone, packages loading his arms
like an indulgent father shopping for Boy's
Day, his straw hat lost somewhere in the
shadows of the room.
Yes, here he was, facing a rough and impas-
sive man probably twice his size who looked as
if he had been carved from mahogany, so neat
and chiseled were his features.
"When may I see the Roshi?" N agawa asked.
It took all of his courage to do so.
The Gatekeeper laughed, not nicely. He
pounded the handle of the wooden staff in his
palms. The sound was sharp, as if the hands
too were wood. "This is no place for a lush.
Look at you! This is a Zen monastery, not a
hotel for disappointed city folk. Do you really
think things are easier here?" The Gatekeeper
snorted. His nostrils flared. In the candlelight,
his face took on the features of a Kabuki mask.
"Go back to Kyoto. You smell of baby powder
and soap!"
N agawa had a sudden memory of Michiko
lathering his penis. He squeezed his eyes shut.
"How can I hope to be a monk when that kind
of woman appeals to me?" he asked himself. He
tried to make his voice brave and resonant: "I
must see the Roshi. I want to be a monk.
Surely you cannot stop me yourself1" N agawa
felt tears of frustration in his eyes.
Again the Gatekeeper laughed. "No. No. I
can't stop you."
"Then let me see the Zen Master!" For the
first time, N agawa was able to be truly angry.
He dropped his packages and stood with his
fists clenched.
"You must earn that right," said the
Gatekeeper quietly.
"Then let me earn it!"
''Very well." The Gatekeeper pointed at a
scroll hanging on the screen. "Read that tablet
over there. Go on."
Nagawa stepped over to the screen. He
tilted the scroll towards the candlelight. He
read aloud:
If a man climbed a high tree and
hung from its highest branch-not
with his hands and feet but with his
130 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
teeth-and if someone came along
and asked him the meaning of Zen,
how should he answer?
It was Nagawa's turn to laugh. "That's
"Is it?" asked the Gatekeeper.
"I never heard of such a thing."
"Too bad."
"What do you mean?"
"There are eighteen hundred koans in Rinzai
Zen," said the Gate keeper. "It takes the best
minds at least fifteen years to solve them all.
Our Roshi has done that, for example, but he
is the only one here who has."
"That's why 1 want to see him," said
Nagawa. "I always go to the top man. That's
just good business."
"Fine. But first you must answer the riddle
you just read. It is one of the simpler koans, I
assure you."
N agawa looked from the tablet to the
Gatekeeper. There were a thousand questions
he wanted to ask. "Wait!" he called as the
Gatekeeper stepped out the door.
The door slid shut.
Nagawa was left alone.
Suddenly, it was cold. Nagawa shivered.
There was no hibachi.
He saw a rat scurry across the tatami mat.
"I'd better eat," Nagawa said to himself.
He sat cross-legged on the floor, the way he
used to do as a child. He ate rapidly. He drank
from the ladle and water dribbled down his
Were the monks spying on him through the
rice paper walls? Was this some kind of a test?
"1 don't care," N agawa said loudly. His voice
sounded strange to him in the still night. He
went on talking. "I wonder what time it is.
Hey! Anybody got the time? You might as well
answer. This silent treatment is really stupid,
you know? HI wanted an initiation I'd join the
Boy Scouts again. You should let me see the
Roshi. I can be just as stubborn as you. I can
wait. I've cooled my heels for some of the
biggest people around."
Nothing, not even wind.
Nagawa felt as if he were inside a spaceship.
He was floating out in a vacuum, a limbo.
He turned his mind to the koan. He spoke
again. "If I were hanging from a branch by my
teeth? That's crazy. Nobody can do that.
Parrots, maybe. But not people. Not even
monkeys. So the whole thing's invalid, right? I
mean, it doesn't even deserve thinking about.
The answer is that there's no answer."
N agawa waited. He had a fantasy that the
walls would be torn down by monks eager to
congratulate him on his quick solution.
But there was nothing.
"All right!" he talked on after a time. "If I
were hanging by my teeth from a branch and
someone came along and asked me the mean-
ing of Zen? Let's see. If I said anything I'd
break my neck, right? Right. But if I didn't
answer the question, then I'd insult the person,
right? Wait a minute! It depends on the per-
son!" N agawa smiled. "Sure. I mean, who would
be stupid enough to ask me anything in a
situation like that? Huh? You're walking along
in the forest and you look up and some poor
bastard is hanging by his teeth way up there.
Are you really going to ask him a question?
'How's it going? How's the wife? What's the
meaning of Zen?' " N agawa laughed and held
his arms wide as if he had an audience. "Any-
one who asks a question at a time like that
doesn't deserve an answer! Agreed?"
What was that sound he heard? An owl? A
cat? Were there people shuffling behind the
walls or was that another rat?
He stared at the candle flame. It was hyp-
notic, especially now with food in his belly. It
had been such a long day.
N agawa spoke to the empty room again, but
this time his tone was less strident.
"If I were hanging by my teeth, the only way I
could answer questions would be through sign
language. Right? Now that makes sense." He
thought for a minute. "Look at it this way. If a
deaf mute were hanging by his teeth and
another deaf mute came through the forest, it
would really be easy for them to communicate.
Right? Since they both would know sign
It was a silly thought. Nagawa knew that.
But it was also a possible answer. He was
feeling just desperate enough to reach for
The Ad Man Monk 131
Was it accepted? Apparently not. No one
came in to get him.
Nagawa began to lose the focus. He thought
of other things. His head nodded, and at times
he probably dozed.
He came back to the koan occasionally.
"But if a deaf mute were hanging by his
teeth, he wouldn't be able to hear the other
deaf mute coming through the forest, so how
would he know when to signal?"
Oh the fatigue. Who could care about a far-
fetched koan when the need for sleep was
overwhelming? It was much too much to ask of
Besides, all the monks were asleep, weren't
they? Nagawa couldn't hear a thing outside.
Not even the Gatekeeper.
But what if it was a test? What if the
Gatekeeper was crouching behind the wall
just waiting for him to go to sleep?
No, he must not sleep.
He must think. Think of his life. Compose
himself for the meeting with the Roshi.
Ah, the Roshi.
The Roshi would be an old man with a face
as wrinkled as a copper washboard. He would
be kind and gentle and wise. He would smile
passively at N agawa and say ''Yes, my son," and
"No, my son," and "It is written in the stars, my
son." He would pat N agawa on the back in a
gesture of appreciation. He would signal to the
other monks that they were to make room for
this searcher, this weary wanderer who had
given up all for Truth.
"Prepare a pallet for this noble man," the
Roshi would order, "for he has given up the
world of ambition and lust and charge cards to
enter into our ways of meditation and silence.
Let us welcome him with open hearts."
Gongs would sound. Bells would tinkle.
Wooden blocks would be clapped together.
Nagawa would be divested of his robes. He
would be swaddled in a kimono, and perhaps a
strange light would shine above his head as he
left the grievance, the disturbance, the farce of
the material world.
"I will make a fine monk," Nagawa whis-
pered to himself.
He did not realize it, but for the second time
that night he slept.
"Fool! Hey! Fool!" The Gatekeeper was
prodding him with his foot.
Nagawa rolled over. "Sorry!" he mumbled.
It was dark. The candle had gone out. "Can
you see the lines in your palm?"
"Pardon?" Nagawa yawned. He was sitting
up now.
"Hold out your hand. Can you see the lines
in your palm?"
Nagawa held his right hand close to his
face. "Sort of."
"Why, then, it is morning. Get up! Pull
yourself together. It's time for you to go back
to Kyoto." The Gatekeeper lit the candle.
N agawa stood slowly. "Oh no you don't. I
get to see the Roshi, remember?"
The Gatekeeper leaned on his staff. "Only if
you solved the koan, remember?" He smiled
like a bandit.
N agawa had forgotten his part of the
obligation. He scratched his head. Strange to
feel naked scalp. "I've thought a lot about that
koan," he said slowly. Suddenly, an audience
with the Roshi was a frightening thing.
Nagawa feared failure the way a wolf fears
"It's quite a riddle to me."
The Gatekeeper snorted. "Do you have the
"I'm not sure."
''You're not sure?" The Gatekeeper stared at
him with eyes of ice.
"N o. I have to think about it a little longer. I
have a lot of possible answers, you see? I just
have to sort them out. Could you come back a
little later?"
"No," said the Gatekeeper simply. "We don't
run on your schedule here. You are either
ready to face the Roshi or you are not. Which
is it?"
This change in momentum. What was
happening? A few hours ago Nagawa had been
ready to fight for his right to interview the
Roshi. Now he was afraid.
"1 don't have the whole thing solved yet,"
Nagawa protested. "But I'm really close to it. I
only have to tie up some loose ends." Why this
sense of panic? "I can't do everything at once. 1
have some pride you know. I can't face the
132 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Roshi until I know what I'm going to say. Give
me another hour. Another half hour?" N agawa
hated the whine of his own voice.
"You are not ready?"
"When I'm ready I'll let you know," said
N agawa. "Don't bother me until then." He was
trying to sound officious. It was a tone he had
used with success on airline ticket clerks,
waitresses, hotel managers.
It didn't work this time.
"Come along," said the Gatekeeper. He was
pulling N agawa by the wrist. "Surely anyone
as smart as you has the answer."
"I'll come when I'm ready!" shouted Nagawa.
He jerked his wrist out of the hold. It hurt to
do that. He rubbed his arm.
The light in the room was grey like old
newspaper. "I'm the kind of man who does his
homework first," said N agawa. "1 keep my
mouth shut until I know what I'm talking
about. Understand?"
The Gatekeeper seemed to relax. He nodded
his head. "That makes very good sense," he
said quietly.
"Damn right it does," sulked N agawa. ''You
don't go off half-cocked where I come from.
"So I'm working on the koan. I'll let you know
when I'm ready." Nagawa realized he was
sweating in the cool morning air. "I can see the
situation, all right? A man is hanging by his
teeth. Someone walks under him and asks him
a question. How does the man answer?"
"Right. It's a tough one. You can't be too
careful when you're answering something like
that. You can't come out with anything that
strikes your fancy. No sir." Nagawa's head was
bobbing in agreement with himself.
N agawa found himself picking up his
packages. "I'll tell you what. I'm going to think
really hard about that koan. Every day." He
found his hat in the corner. "I'll check all the
options. One by one. When I've got the answer,
I'll be back. All right?"
N agawa felt like a guest who has stayed too
long at a party. The Gatekeeper seemed bored
with him. N agawa fumbled with all the things
he was carrying.
"Of course, it doesn't matter where I am
while I'm thinking, does it? I'll go back to
Kyoto and soak my bruises and work on that
koan." As he said this, he thought of Michiko.
"It's not so bad in the city." N agawa paused.
What else was there to say? "So goodby!"
He backed slowly out of the room, half
bowing. He tried to read the thoughts of the
Gatekeeper. Impossible.
Nagawa shrugged his shoulders. He turned,
walked through the yard, passed under the
frame of the Sanmon Gate.
Kyoto lay before him. It was downhill. An
easy walk through the maple leaves that had
fallen like a thousand napkins from the trees.
From the tea house, a group of monks
watched N agawa's figure moving down the
road. He was almost jogging. A gust of wind
caught his straw hat and sailed it like a
saucer out over the valley. N agawa did not
even look back.
"He was very close, wasn't he?" asked the
Gatekeeper with a small smile. "If he had
come face to face with me and taken his
rebuke and then gone back to meditating, he
might have come near his gate to The Great
"Yes Roshi," said the others, bowing.
The Ad Man Monk 133
134 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Ageless Nonsense of OUf Life
Kuang-ming Wu
University of Missouri-Columbia
Columbia, Missouri, USA
This essay meditates on childhood and old age and death, two extremes of life,
to show how our life is so beyond us as to appear nonsensical. Strangely, the
actual apprehension oflife-nonsense calms, cleanses, and cheers us ahead. Life-
nonsense heals.
A kid shouted at a giraffe, "Doggie!" Seeing
geese walking by, a kid I baby-sat softly, slowly
whispered, "How come they have no hands?"
Standing in the field, my boy sighed, "It's
quieter when birdies sing."
The Great One is one who loses none of one's
baby-heart. (Mencius, 4B12)
Toward the end of his life, Black Elk, a shaman
of the Oglala Sioux, often fell to all fours to
play with toddlers. "We have much in common,"
he said, "They have just come from the Great
Mysterious and I am about to return to it."
(Smith, 1991, p. 374)
DR VERY life itself is beyond our
understanding. This mysterious self-
transcendence of human life is
manifested clearly, poignantly, in nonsense all over
life. The following pages serve to underscore three
points. One, we watch childhood-the life-
beginning, and old age-its ending, to see how
nonsensical both are. Two, such life-nonsense is,
however, profoundly sensible. Three, this is because
such life-nonsense, upon being realized, heals us.
The healing itself is beyond understanding,
nonsensical. Our life is sensible nonsense. The
construction ofthis essay is simple. We ponder on
childhood, then old age and death, both of our
significant other and ourself, and find ourselves
strangely healed in the process.
Kids, Laughter, and Nonsense
IDS SAY the darnedest things," says Art
Linkletter (1957, 1977; cf. Mackall, 1993).
My four examples below support him.
One; a boy was drawing an airplane in Sunday
school. Pointing at the pilot in the plane, he asked
Father Rick if he knew the pilot's name. Father
Rick said he did not know. "Don't you know him?
He is Pontius Pilate!" insisted the boy. Wow!
Two; after taking the Eucharist elements the
whole congregation turned hushed in meditation.
Then, a boy exclaimed, "What is going on here?"
The effect was immediate.
Three; we asked a boy what his name was. He
calmly replied, "I'm Cute." (Everyone said he was
cute, so he thought that was his name.) He laugh-
exploded us.
Four; watching a little girl playing, one man
said to another, "She is kawaii, isn't she?" ("Kawau"
is "cute" in Japanese.) Overhearing it, she
demanded, "I'm not 'kawani'!" (She took it as an
insult.) Both men burst into laughter. "Not funny!"
she snapped back. Her proud tottering rejections
of "cute" and laughs were so unbearably cuter,
enough to make both men laugh-roll on the ground.
They had to try their hardest to keep quiet.
Now, it is interesting to consider why we are
so attracted to the above stories. Our attraction
is significant. Childhood is our root, and
The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 135-141 135
© 2001 by Panigada Press
considering here why amounts to considering our
root-why. The first two stories tell us four points,
and the second pair perhaps an additional four.
The stories' implications are inexhaustible, to be
sure, but these eight points suffice for now to
illustrate how excitingly complex and mysterious
is the child's attraction.
a. First, let us consider the first two stories.
Laughter is evoked when what we take for
granted, our common sense, is (i) suddenly and
unexpectedly (ii) challenged and broken down/
through. Moreover, (iii) such challenge/
breakdown, such nonsense, must be pleasant to
evoke laughter. Stories One and Two precisely
fulfill all three of these conditions to charm us
into laughter.
Our pleasant task (iv) is to consider why such
a child's breakdown of our common sense-their
nonsense-is "pleasant" to us adults. The reason
is quite instructive and wholesome. Kids shout
at us adults because they don't understand why
such obvious matters (Pilate as pilot, "funny"
sudden silence at the church) are not obvious to
And we should have been ashamed of
ourselves instead oflaughing at kids, for we have
lost their sense of "obviousness" that links us
straight-bypassing silly adult "common sense,"
our nonsense-to matters of fact at hand, as they
appear to kids' straight/unsophisticated eyes.
"What's going on here?" is the kid's shout at the
naked Emperor's hypocrisy, adults' nonsense of
common sense/convention. The shout creates and
opens out beyond our routine "secure" common
sense. The beyond-sense, the new creation of kid-
sense, is significant nonsense. Kids indeed say the
darnedest things.
Their nonsense is significant because it jolts
us into realizing this fact of the kids' world, which
is to come back home to our pristine-selves, our
own good old childhood, and homecoming to
ourselves, to be in touch with ourselves, is
significant, healing/relaxing, deserving of our
laughing wholesome happiness.
We must note a significant point here.
Laughing happiness is ours, not the child's, who
is happy but need not laugh. That young lady was
angry in all her happiness. She is happy-and-
angry because she is spontaneous. We are not, and
so we must be jolted to laugh into the child-
happiness of spontaneity, where our laughter is
both happy and spontaneous. The child saves us
into the child. The child fathers the man, for kid-
nonsense saves and heals adult-nonsense.
b. Then, we consider the second pair of stories.
These stories have the same four elements of the
first story-pair to make us laugh. (v) In addition,
we note that "I'm cute" and "I'm not cute" are
contraries pointing to the same conclusion-both
are "cute." And this point-their nonsense-is also
part of what made us laugh.
Why do contraries point to the same point? (vi)
Because both come out of and express the same
point, that is, kids are straightforward. (vii) And
the fact that contraries express the same point
indicates that kids' straightforwardness breaks
through our ordinary logic/sense to reality. Our
sense-turned-nonsense allows us to come straight
home to our heart of being. We stand in awe in
front of the kid-world shot through with adult
illogicals/nonsense, where kids frolic and thrive.
And this fact makes us think. (viii) To grow up
means to grow out of such kid-freedom from
stringent adult logic. Our growth makes us lose
creativity that defies logic/sense, for logic is part
of our common sense, what we take for granted,
where there is no room for creativity. Logic keeps
us within common sense. Creativity must break
logic, and is nonsense.
Now, we can integrate/illuminate the rambling
points above by putting them this way. Our adult
world is the world of separation/distinction among
things/events/ideas-this from that, mine from
yours, right from wrong. The kid-world has no
such separation. It is the world not of mine
(against yours) but of-me, that is, the world is part
of me and I of the world, or rather, here it is
senseless to say "of," "me," "world."
This is hard to imagine. We have to look into
our adult world for something that corresponds
to kid-experience. I feeillive kids' undifferentiated
world in music, swimming, and the peak
experience (Abraham Maslow) of a concentrated
act. I am made of music, water, and act, as they
are made of me-no separation/difference here.
No "this-that/right-wrong separation" means no
"names" to separate/identify. Sense separates/
names. Nonsense non-separates (not even
separated from separation), non-names (even
naming casually), as kids. I asked a little boy how
old he was. "I don't know." "What's your name?"
"I forget. Mom knows." A brother beside him
proudly said, "He doesn't know anything!" And
both joined hands and ran away. I stood there-
136 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol 20
awed. Kids' world is the world of "aesthetic
undifferentiated continuum" (to borrow from
Northrop)2 of dynamic pulsation. Here things,
events, and ideas erupt to disappear, only to erupt
again, and again. Such undifferentiated non-
separation is nonsense to adult sense made of
Significantly, this kid-realm of non-separation
has no room for "mistake" or "cute," for both
assume separation. We adults say that the boy
"mistook" an adjectival "cute" for a noun, his
name, that the girl in anger "mistook" people's
loving epithet "cute" for an insult, that the boy
"mistook" Pilate as pilot, or post-Eucharist silence
as funny nonsense. Such adult explanation gives
no reasons why their "mistakes" are "cute" and
evoke our happy laughter. The explanation is an
arbitrary adult imposition, and produces no
"mistake," no "cute." How so?
"Mistake" assumes distinguishing this from
that, correct from incorrect, then taking "incorrect
that" as "correct this." And making a "mistake"
amounts to realizing a mistake-by two separate
subjects P and Q.3 That is, a "mistake" involves
the subject (P) standing apart from another
subject (Q), judging Q to have "misjudged"
between things, A and B, with an independent
standard S, these five separate items, P, Q, A, B,
and S. But kids have no such separation/
distinction, so they have no "mistakes."4
Likewise, "cute" makes sense only by, again,
assuming [a] a separation of the others from the
self and [b] others' judgment from outside on the
self, who therefore is not aware of being "cute."5
Such an entangled meaning-complex of "cute" is
entirely foreign to kids who live in dynamic non-
separation. The boy is as completely reasonable-
not "mistaken"-in taking "cute" to be his name,
as the girl is in feeling invaded/insulted by an
unknown epithet, "cute." We adults judge kids as
"cute," pleasant nonsense, as they judge us as
irrelevant nonsense.
To repeat: Neither kid is "mistaken." Their
behavior is natural/spontaneous and "right," and
such natural spontaneity is what charms us into
ourselves. For natural spontaneity is rightly/truly/
authentically the self-as-it-is in/with the world-
as-it-is. So, kids pleasantly surprise and charm
us, for we adults have been living in the senseless
(so kids would say) world of separation for so long,
as to be completely unprepared for such
naturalness that is "nonsense" to us.
And kids charm us to heal us. For separating
things one from another separates oneselffrom the
world, and oneself from oneself. This radical
separation is existential sickness. Natural
spontaneity manifests self-possessed wholeness,
and being at-home-in-oneselfis existential health.
So, kids, judged as "cute," incite our hearty laughs
to heal us whole. Kid-nonsense heals adult-
All this seems to make sense, but does it, really?
We can answer, "Yes," either way, and we would be
For first, these stories make a wholesome sense
because they actually please, cleanse, enrich, heal,
and put us at ease. No proof is more conclusive
than actuality. As the proof of the pudding is in
the eating, so the proof of kids' profound
significance is in their making us laugh, making
us pleasantly whole/wholesome. And so the above
explanation ofthe kid-stories makes sense.
Yet, secondly, after all, kids look forward to
growing up, and adulthood completes growth. We
cannot so "grow up" and be "improved" to "turn
immature again"; we cannot need to be
straightened by the previous immaturity of the
child we have tried to outgrow, and have succeeded
in outgrowing. Creativity, for instance, is what we
strive to grow up to. And growth consists in
learning how to be logical. Yet creativity allegedly
belongs to childish disregard of logical decency
(pilot as Pilate, I am Cute), which we must unlearn
by learning from the child not to make such childish
Thus all the above explanation of our
pleasure with the kid-stories of nonsense is itself
nonsense. We must look elsewhere to explain our
pleasure, for instance, our condescending pride/
satisfaction at our improvement over childishness
we have outgrown.
So both answers, pro and con, make sense. ''Both
answers, 'Yes' and 'No,' are correct" shows that this
entire situation of adult-child mismatch is
Thus "the child is father to the man" ,
who yet fathers the child-and this is nonsense.
"Kids" are our root-of-being, so the nonsense shows
that we are nonsense at the root, existentially,
Old Age an.d Non.sense
FTER CONSIDERING the child who began/begins
our life, we must now consider its other end-
old age. Old age has at least three features. (1)
"Old age" deserves pondering. (2) The pondering
Ageless Nonsense of Our Life 13 7
produces nonsense. (3) We cannot help but ask,
"Are both these points connected? How/why?" Yet
asking/answering such questions is odd/nonsense.
We must elaborate on these points in order.
1. A Jewish friend of mine wisely said that
everyone stumbles. Yet after they do, young people
say they stumbled, while old folks say it is because
they are old. Someone said of Confucius that he
was "one who knows it cannot [be done] and [still]
does it." He said of himself, "I'm not one born
knowing, but one who loves the old [and] is quick
to seek it." He also said-at 62, the tradition says-
he was "one who, so fired-up, forgets meals, so
happy, forgets worries, not knowing old age is about
to come."8
All the above amounts to saying that we impose
our "age" on us. We really are as young as we feel,
and as old as we think we are. There is one thing
we are not allowed to think. We should not think
we are senile, decrepit, and useless. For we can/
should live happily beyond 97 as a laughing Bob
Hope, and then die a young magnificent Mozart.
Let us go in the other direction, from feeling
young to growing old. We see two related aspects:
(a) aging in this life grows into second childhood to
life beyond; (b) one's aging is an important
community matter that goes beyond the individual.
a. First; they say we grow old to return to the
child to be cared for. Three points can be seen.
One; to "return" here means not to turn back
but to turn again into the child. And this means to
grow again into childhood for the second time, to
grow beyond our first childhood into the second.
Senility is second childhood.
Two; the second childhood grows beyond the
status quo into the "great one" (Mencius
), which
can mean "adult" in Chinese. The second childhood
grows into the Adult beyond adulthood-in-this-life.
Seniors, now senile, are children ready to grow
beyond this world, beyond the grave.
Three; we, their posterity, serve our seniors in
second childhood because we respect their future
beyond this world, much as we do our posterity
because we respect their future in it. Yet these two
services also differ. We gladly nurture our kids we
love; we gratefully nurture our beloved seniors who
parented our growth.
b. Thus, secondly, as "old age" grows "up, up,
and away" into divine heights, our reverent
gratitude grows into veneration. Kemung (1998),
the Papuan theologian, reports that old folks' many
years of social contributions earn them such
"riches" of communal respect that their merits and
reciprocal relations with posterity "last forever"
beyond their earthly life. They are the apotheosized
beyond this side of the grave-to be served/fed!
appeased to protect their posterity (pp. 52-53). This
theme/sentiment/custom sounds familiar to the
Chinese people, whose convention of devout filiality
so spreads all over morality and politics as to tip
over deep into religion. Just think: By parenting
children, we grow and are promoted into the
Beyond, persisting/surviving/caring beyond time
through time.
2. Now, such claims as the above are
extraordinary. They impress us with interest, even
awe, and at the same time offend our common
sense. They are nonsense in four ways.
One; are they correct? Are they incorrect? Both
questions can, again, be answered affirmatively,
and something that can be both correct and false
is nonsense. Thus the extraordinary character of
the above claims bespeaks nonsense.
But, two; what extraordinary nonsense these
claims are! Can we really psychically "beat"
physical age? As for parenthood extended to the
Beyond, such phenomena may also signifY that the
parenthood that towers over us as children of our
parents is also immanent among/within us, even
part of us as our nature, for without our parents
we would not have existed. But how can we be an
extension of what is beyond-us (we are children)
or how can we extend to the beyond-us (we turn
divine when deceased)?12 In short, how can the
beyond-us be part of us (we are children, we turn
divine)? All in all, old age is extraordinary
Yet, three; we cannot simply brush these
claims aside as "silly," for they enable us-the
community-to live richly and happily. They are
significant nonsense, then. And yet, obviously,
"significant nonsense," meaningful meaningless-
ness, is itself nonsense.
Four; one can of course object to taking as
nonsense the above claims/pondering on aging. For
although these claims offend our logical!
physiological sense, they are meaningful/
significant as so inspiring an exhortation to our
present living, for such logical/physiological
nonsense provokes us into thinking afresh,
empowers us to live better and richer. Divide and
conquer-one meaning of it is senseless logically
and physiologically, while the other is sensible,
hortatory, and empowering.
138 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
But how could nonsense make us think? How
could nonsense enable us to live better? Moreover,
the fact that these claims are divisible in
meaning-that such nonsensical division in
meaning obtains at all-is inexplicable, that is,
nonsense. The objection, then, amounts to a
powerless/nonsensical quibble against the
3. So, it remains that "old age" deserves
pondering (1) and the pondering produces
nonsense (2). Now, we cannot help but ask here
why and how these two strange points obtain and
become connected. An obvious answer is: that is
the way it is, that the actuality oflife is nonsense
at the core, and that the above two points serve
to describe, if not explain and reveal, this
But, as we ask and answer as above, we also
cannot help but notice that this very relation of
our asking to answering is itself somehow odd,
that is, nonsense. For why is it "obvious" that life-
actuality is nonsense? Isn't our pondering on "old
age" and its resulting nonsense supposed to
explain that life-actuality is nonsense? Why is it
that, on the contrary, the nonsense character of
life-actuality explains our pondering and its
nonsense character? How could explanation be
explained by what it explains? Turn and twist as
we may, we remain deep in the realm of
All this of course underscores how significant
"nonsense" is, and also that, no less significant,
the very possibility of this assertion-that
nonsense can be significant at all-is itself
nonsense, for how could senselessness be sensible
and significant? Life is significant nonsense,
because it is nonsensically significant.
But all this sounds awfully abstract, to the
point of irrelevance. To drive home the nonsensical
character of old age ending in death, here is a
confessional meditation on my Abu's (Mom's)
death at age 90.
I Miss Abu My Love Powerful
'7J!E CALL from my niece, Jenny, bludgeoned me
1 numb. "Ama (Grandma) went straight Home
at 6 p.m.!" I crawled into bed. "No! How can it be! It
cannot be! 0 God." I was just puttering around for
stuff for tomorrow's hard-won flight to Abu (Mom)
in a Long Island hospital. I thought I would bring
her home soon. All that was gone, nothing. Pain.
But then, strange things kept happening. The
next morning I found myselfin a limousine sitting
beside an English professor who loved to teach
foreigners. Later, I rushed to the TWA ticket line.
Then I realized that my jacket was missing. I was
too thrilled at our conversation to look around
before leaving the car. I was thinking of how to
contact the limousine company, when suddenly a
man came up to me, saying, "Here is your coat.
It's going to be mighty cold in New York." It was
the driver.
No need to go on. My eye is not the best, but
every tearful step of my trip to Long Island and
back went incredibly well, without getting lost or
stumbling. And, to think of it, I have been taking
for granted Abu's protection and guidance all my
life, constant and impressive as they were. She has
been praying and caring for me every waking
minute. Now she is with Jesus. So, she is now more
powerful than ever, caring for every loved one-
child, grandchild, and great-grandchild. Abu is
our Guardian Angel, our Angel guiding /
protecting / prospering US.
Early in the morning before the visiting night at
the funeral home, I dreamed that Abu was a kid
climbing up There in the bright morning mist. Her
favorite sister, Si-i, favorite brother, Si-ku, and then
all her family members-all kids-flocked to her,
shouting, "How come you came up here so late?
What a slowpoke! What took you so long?" They
formed a ring around her and danced and sang.
Then they, like kids, for they are kids, pointed
fingers at her, laughing, "How come you are still
bent over like a hunchback, an ugly hunchback?
Funny, funny!" They kept laughing at her so much
that she tried hard to stretch up straight, but could
not. I sneaked up, whispered to her in English (Why
in English is beyond me), "Pray!" "Oh!" she said
and prayed. And she jumped straight up andjoined
the dance and handclapping and singing. Then I
woke up.
I told my dream to the first person that I met
that morning, A-liong, my youngest brother, and
he was awash in tearful joy. For he was worried
about Abu, who confided before death, that she did
not know if she would recognize her brothers and
sisters, when she went up bodiless in thin air to see
bodiless loved ones. My dream assuaged A-liong's
Later, the sleeted wind cut into me. I stood,
unfeeling, a stone in the garden, as I watched Abu
so low in the ground. Michi, my sister, sobbed,
Ageless Nonsense a/Our Life 139
saying, "0 no, it's so chilly here. Abu will catch cold."
I softly answered, "The ground and the soil-
everything is God's creation. Abu is okay." We
hugged in tears.
Thus Abu is nestled there in the ground and far
high up There in the Heavens. Abu is everywhere
alive, now that she is no more in body. Desmond
Tutu said that only the wounded doctor truly heals.
Kierkegaard said that only the deceased teacher
truly teaches. And Jesus said that it is good for us
that he goes away, for then his Comforter, his Spirit
of empowering care, is in us for us to be in him.
Abu is now love-powerful in us, more for us than
while she was alive in body, for she is now in Jesus
the All-Powerful for us, in us.
As for myself, the death of my beloved parent,
who gave me life and unconditional support, is my
"motherly sickness to death," ever living to drain
away all my sicknesses to death. It is a happy twist
to Kierkegaard's gloomy "sickness unto death that
never dies," that is, despair. Yet in the twist that
drains away my sicknesses, this death-sickness
remains sickness, now poignantly inducing despair.
This love-sickness to death is my love-quicksand
sinking me, my black holes ever-hungry, draining
me. A dilemma now wrecks me. It is not that I head-
know that Abu is in me and heart-miss her. It is
that I both gut-know that Abu is in me protecting,
guiding, and gut-miss her in wrenching, draining
pain. My terrible pain confesses all this paradox,
but does not describe it.
Strange thus is my Abu Homecoming, my
motherly Nothing Alive, my sucking suckling
Nothing. I'm cut, drained, and nourished. I miss
my Abu so terribly.
-Kong-beng, her Kid
N ow, let's put all this pain and paradox in our
perspective of the Beyond. This is one case where
the Beyond impinges on existence. We feel the
impact as catastrophic, in the mode of
Nothingness. The Nothing is beyond our logic/
sense, and we have it and take it as Nonsense.
The pain of paradox in my Abu's death graphically
illustrates it.
But we may laugh at Nonsense. The laughter
either belongs to low people who take it as
something beneath them, as Lao Tzu said in the
Tao Te Ching (41), "Low people laugh on hearing
the Tao. [If] no laugh, [it] deserves no Tao." It is
Zen Enlightenment resulting from daring to tread
Nonsense as steps-Tetralemma, continuous
double negatives frequently through tears-to
Parinirvana (Takakusu, 1947, p. 79). Both low-
laughter and Zen-laughter are nonsensical,
laughing at our life nonsense that is often
catastrophic, invariably experienced as an
unexpected confrontation out of nowhere, as in
Such Buddhist Mahaparinirvana is-for us
now existing-indistinguishable from plain
Nirvana. Inevitably we all bump into it as death,
an unbearable Nothing that draws and drains us
into wrenching pain. I've met it in my Abu, my
significant other, described above, and I will meet
it in my own death soon enough. Old age is
profound Nonsense.
E HAVE gone through our observation and
thought experiment on both ends of life-
childhood, old age and death. Such specific
meditations apply to all other spheres of life
between these two ends, and we simply feel
refreshed. Such refreshment indescribably quiets,
replenishes, and strengthens us, at least while
we are attentive and pondering. Our personal life
is transpersonal: We are bigger than what we can
understand, and such life-nonsense heals. For
seeing that life is nonsense frees us to affirm or
deny life and death, romping as kids with that
Oglala Sioux shaman.
1. We will soon consider how kid-obviousness bypasses
adult-judgment ("They are 'mistaken' ") because the kid-
world of obviousness has no room for "mistakes."
2. F. S. C. Northrop (1946) used this rather convoluted
phrase to characterize the world of the Orient.
3. P and Q can be the same person at different times-P-
self judging, later Q-self judging P's judgment.
4. Adults-separate from kids-can and often do
pronounce kids to be "mistaken." Such judgment, however,
is an adult imposition, an "insult" irrelevant to the kids'
5. When this meaning-structure of "cute" is violated,
something unpleasant occurs, as expressed in the accusing
tone of, "Now, don't try to be cute."
140 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
6. Even a compromise, for example, creativity, combining
the logical adult with the illogical child, is nonsense, for
combination of the logical with the illogical is an
impossible contradiction.
7. One can say that nonsense obtains only when yes and no
obtain in the same sense/aspect, and our situation here may
well not be such. Instead of tediously examining this claim,
however, we can ask why the situation is so complex. The
child in us shouts, "What's going on here?" No answer to
both questions shows the situation to be nonsense, after all.
8. The Analects 14/38, 7/20, 19.
9. Chuang Tzu (2/52) says that the oldest person alive
has lived as long as the baby just born and died, and the
baby stillborn is the longest lived of all. Does this mean
that our elders are in their second childhood?
10. Mencius (4B12) said, "The Great One is he who loses
none of his 'baby's heart.''' I interpret the "Great One" to
be the true "adult." We must remember, such a Taoist-
sounding saying is Mencius', and Mencius is the second
great sage in Confucianism.
11. "Exempt from the complications of life that devolution
introduces, ancestors are thought to enjoy a wholeness of
character that their offspring lack. The assumption
probably arises ... from an instinctive ontological
recognition that closer-to-the-source means to
be ... better ... Even the childlikeness and naivete of[elders']
later years tends to be regarded as an advance toward
the state of paradisiacal rightness that preceded the
world's decline. Toward the close of his life, Black Elk, a
shaman of the Oglala Sioux, often fell to all fours to play
with toddlers. 'We have much in common,' he said. 'They
have just come from the Great Mysterious and I am about
to return to it'" (Smith, 1991, p. 374).
12. So it becomes very difficult if parents turn
unreasonable. While they are alive, we can only
respectfully urge/plead/entreat. When they are up There,
deceased, we can only offer sacrifices to appease them.
13. Does this feeling-conviction jibe with praying to St.
Anthony or Buddha or Jesus for finding things by tuning
our brain frequencies into the frequency ofthe things lost?
This is yet a matter of course, for Abu is now with/in Jesus
our Guardian Lord who, through Abu as Abu through
Jesus, impresses on me how protective of me He and she
are, together.
Kemung, N. Z. (1998). Nareng-Gareng: A principle for mis-
sion in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New
Guinea. Erlangen, Germany: Erlanger Verlag fUr Mission
und Okumene.
Linkletter, A. (1957). Kids say the darnedest things!
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Linkletter, A. (1978). The new kids say the darnedest things!
Boston: G. K. Hall.
Mackall, D. D. (1994). Kids are still saying the darnedest
things. Rocklin, CA: Prima.
Northrop, F. S. c. (1946). The meaning of the East and the
West. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Smith, H. (1991). The world's religions. San Francisco:
Takakusu, J. (1947). The essentials of Buddhist philosophy.
Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai'i.
Ageless Nonsense of Our Lift 141
142 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
The Backward Glance
Rilke and the Ways of the Heart
Robert D. Romanyshyn
Pacifica Graduate Institute
Carpinteria, California, USA
This article is a presentation of the backward glance as the gesture of the heart's ways of
knowing and being. Drawing on his background in phenomenology and Jungian psychology,
the author develops this gnosis of the heart via the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. The backward
glance is an invitation to linger in the moment in order to recollect what we have lost, left
behind, or forgotten. The gnosis of the heart is an act of mourning, which invites us into the
terrors andjoys ofloving in the face of death. Loving in this way is our vocation. In the risks
and failures oflove, we begin a journey of homecoming. Heartwork is finally homework.
AM SITTING here at my computer, the day
already quite far along in its journey towards
the night, and thinking about this article,
knowing that the deadline, itself a curious word to
describe the art and process of writing, is fast
approaching. It is not that I do not know what I
want to say, for the backward glance has been a
gesture that has haunted me for many years and
has been a theme of many lectures and articles.
Rather, it is the title as I wrote it just now. It warns
me to be wary offollowing dead lines. It makes me
pause to wonder who has written those words and
who is writing this article.
The backward glance presumes a pause, an
arrest of one's forward motion in the world, even if
only for the briefest of moments. Who makes such
a pause now? I do. But who is this "I" who seems
so familiar with this gesture? In this moment 1
realize something that I have never seen before. It
is myself as phenomenologist for whom the pause
is the natural pre-condition for the gesture of the
backward glance.
What is phenomenology if it is not the art of
lingering in the moment? Lingering in the moment
is the prelude to the backward glance, and
phenomenology taught me this art. Or, perhaps, it
is nearer to the truth of the experience to say that,
when I encountered phenomenology many years
ago in the person of my friend and teacher J. H.
van den Berg, it awakened the dormant tendencies
of my own heart and soul. To linger in the moment,
to be content with idling away an hour or two in
reverie (Romanyshyn, 2000a), an attitude that is
so easily judged and dismissed as wasting time,
even perhaps on occasion to allow oneself to be
useless (Romanyshyn, 2000b), is the gift of
When one lingers in the moment, mysteries
unfold. Each moment becomes a haunting and one
begins to experience the invisible and subtle shapes
and forms that shine through the visible, that
sustain it and give it its holy terrors and its
sensuous charms. Lingering in the moment, each
moment is stretched beyond its boundaries, until
suddenly the moment itself falls out of historical
time into some timeless realm. The horizontal line
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 143-150 143
© 2001 by Panigada Press
of time collapses and one falls into vertical time,
where moments belong together not by virtue of any
causal connection, but because of an emotional
affinity and kinship amongst them. So, one day
while sitting with my back against the cold, damp,
stone wall of an old and ancient French Gothic
church in Venasque, a tiny village in the Luberon
valley of southern France, the warm sun on my face
and the quality of the air and the light opened a
portal to another world that I once knew but had
forgotten, a world that does and does not belong to
my biographical history (Romanyshyn, 1999, pp.
In such a moment, one is neither in time and
space nor outside time and space. Rather one is in a
nowhere realm, a no-where world that is now-here.
To linger as a phenomenologist in the moment is to
open oneself to these breakthroughs ofthe timeless
into the timebound, breakthroughs that are
experienced as ontological surprises, that is, as
breakdowns of our usual and familiar ways of
knowing the world and being in it. And in this regard
I realize that I am as much a depth psychologist in
debt to the work of Carl Jung as I am a
phenomenologist so much in debt to myoId friend
and teacher J. H. van den Berg.
Phenomenologist and depth psychologist, then,
gather around the title of this essay. They pause
there, lingering in the moment that seems to
promise some epiphany. Or, perhaps it is better to
say that I am drawn here in these two guises, and
that I am stopped by some soft whisper, which hints
that something more is to come. And there is more.
There is Rilke, who is a poet.
What does the poet bring to the backward glance,
whose prelude is a lingering before a fall? The poet
brings the heart and its ways of knowing and being,
the heart that Pascal said had "its reasons which
reason itself does not know" (Pascal, 1995, p. 158).
The heart, too, that the poetry of the Sufi mystics
celebrated as the organ of perception for the subtle
worlds ofthe imaginal realm that are no-where now-
here (Corbin, 1969). The mind races ahead, but the
heart waits. It lingers, just long enough on occasion
to be penetrated by the mysteries of the world, by
the numinous presence ofthe sacred in the ordinary,
when, for example, the song of the bird at dawn
reveals a great secret of the world: that light and
song are one and the same; that the song of the bird
is the voice of the morning light.
I know this presence of the poet. Having found
my way into psychology through philosophy many
years ago, I say now that I have found my way out
through poetry. Not that I am no longer a
psychologist! Rather, along this arc from
philosophy to poetry, I have learned that
psychology is a way station, a rest stop, at times
an oasis, a halfway house between worlds. Rilke,
among many others, has been a sure guide here.
So too, Kathleen Raine, poet, teacher, friend.
So, even here at the beginning, I pause, because
the few words that announce the title are
themselves a pregnancy of possibilities. Here at
this threshold, even before I begin, there is a
haunting, as if these three guises of
phenomenologist, depth psychologist, and poet are
the portals through which the ghostly presences
of van den Berg, Jung, Raine, and Rilke come to
claim authorship ofthis work. I turn for a moment,
glance over my left shoulder, and I feel their
presence. They hover here with me, whispering the
words that ask to be said, suggesting this or that
turn of phrase. This pregnant pause, this brief
glance, this dangerous gesture makes me even
wonder for whom this work is being done. Whom
does it serve?
In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams,
Reflections, Jung (1961/1989) confesses that, "In
the Tower at Bollingen it is as if one lived in many
centuries simultaneously." "There is nothing here
to disturb the dead," he adds, and in this place the
souls of his ancestors are sustained as he goes about
the work of answering "for them the questions that
their lives once left behind" (p. 237). For Jung it is
the ancestors for whom the work is done. It is the
dead oflong ago, stretching down the long hallway
of time, who ask us to linger in the moment, and
who solicit from us this turning.
The backward glance is the beginning of a
vocation. It is a moment when one can be given
the gift of a calling that designs the destiny of a
life. This is the sense of Jung's reflections, but I
know it, too, in my heart. This is what van den
Berg gave to me-questions that have sustained
me over time. He also gave me a way of being with
these questions, a way of going about this work of
being a phenomenologist. He did not teach me
merely to look at the world with open eyes. Any
phenomenologist could have done that. No! his
lesson was far more subtle. To re-gard the world,
144 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
to look again, to linger with open eyes that love
the world. This is what he gave me, a way of seeing
the world that shifts the locus of vision from eye to
heart. In doing so, he prepared me for the poets,
who practice this kind of vision.
In his poem, "Turning Point," Rilke says, "Work
ofthe eyes is done, now / go and do heart-work. .. "
(Rilke, 1989, p. 135). This heartwork is a work of
transformation, and the heart that Rilke speaks
of here is a kind of alchemical vessel whose
processes mirror those of the physical heart. Just
as the physical heart transforms venous blood into
arterial blood with the air of the world, the
alchemical heart transforms the dense material of
the seen world into its more subtle forms with the
breath of the word. This mirroring is, I believe,
the secret intuited by the phenomenologist Gaston
Bachelard, whose Poetics of Reverie (1969) is a
heart's sure guide in the art of lingering. For
Bachelard, poetry helps one breathe better because
through it word and world flow into each other.
"The man who reaches the glory of [this]
breathing," Bachelard says, "breathes cosmically"
(p. 181). To practice the art of lingering in the
moment as prelude to the backward glance is
heartwork, which is good for one's physical well-
For Rilke this transformation of matter into
language is the very function of poetry itself. Before
the word is spoken, we pause, take a breath, and
draw into ourselves the open world that lies there
in front of our gaze. And then, in-spired by the
world, we speak. But who is speaking in this
moment? Is it us or the world? For Rilke there is
no doubt. "Earth," he asks, "isn't this what you
want: an invisible/re-arising in us?" (1939, p. 77).
In the ninth elegy Rilke offers us the image of the
wanderer who brings back from the mountain slope
not some handful of earth, "but only some word he
has won, a pure word, the yellow and blue gentian"
(p. 75). Things want to become invisible in this way.
They want to realize this destiny of transformation,
to become in-spired by the breath of language, to
become in words their subtle form.
It is through the language of the heart that the
world of nature is transformed. It is also through
the eyes of the heart that the dead become present
to us, and through these same eyes that the dead
and the living are changed into the more subtle
shapes of an imaginal presence. So van den Berg,
who still lives, is already for me also a lingering
presence who haunts my work and gives to it its
style. So too, Kathleen Raine, who also still lives.
In this imaginal landscape, they are kin of my soul
whose abode is my heart, and in this way they join
the dead, Rilke and Jung, to companion me along
the way.
The backward glance is a gesture that exposes
the heart and opens it to this subtle, imaginal world
that is no-where/now-here. To linger in the moment
is the prelude to this act, and in this pause you let
go of your mind and risk yourself to the heart and
its ways of knowing and being. It is a gnosis rooted
in the etymology of the word, which relates heart
to memory. As an act of heartwork, the backward
glance initiates the work ofre-membering, a work
that is a journey of homecoming to that no-where/
now-here imaginal place where one's biography
falls into the larger stories of creation. The awe-
full beauty of this moment, which begins with the
pause that lingers, is the discovery that what
matters in a human life is not only what we know,
or might yet discover, but what we have forgotten,
left behind, neglected, marginalized, and otherwise
abandoned. And the awe-full terror ofthis moment
of the heart's awakening is the realization that we
are all pilgrims on a journey to no-where, orphans
between worlds on a journey of homecoming.
Prelude derives from a root that means to play
ahead of or in advance of the opening of a work,
usually in the sense of an artistic performance. I
want to stay within the mood of this word as this
prelude nears its end and the work of this essay is
about to begin. I want to keep the spirit of play
and the spirit of art in the work, and so I will
organize this essay around several scenes of the
backward glance. Indeed, in this spirit of play, my
intention in what follows is to make a scene, or
several scenes. Before, however, the curtain falls
on this prelude a final word about it needs to be
Just as I have lingered for a moment at this
threshold to see who accompanies me as the writer,
this prelude invites the reader to wonder who is
reading, who is present in the moment when one
stops along the way and lingers. The invitation is
to enter into a style of reading that goes through
the heart. As such, this invitation is into a way of
knowing that is about neither facts nor ideas, a
gnosis that is an aesthetic sensibility, a gnosis that
The Backward Glance 145
opens one to feeling those more elusive presences
that haunt the imaginal world. It is a gnosis where
one is capable of being touched and moved by the
otherness of this world where the dead and the
living have already been transformed into matters
of and for the heart. It is a gnosis whose arc begins
in a turning where you lose your mind for the sake
of the heart.
Scene On.e: The Man on the Hill
HE DUINO ELEGIES is, perhaps, Rilke's most
famous poem. Filled with numerous figures
like angels and animals, lovers and children who
die young, acrobats and wanderers, the figure that
captures the essence of this poem is, I believe, the
one that appears at the end of the eighth elegy. It
is the image of a man on a hill that overlooks his
valley, the final hill that shows him his home for
the last time.
Who is this man? He is each of us, the one who
obviously has turned around for the sake of a final
glance. All of us know such moments, and we often
live them with some passing sense of sorrow. Rilke's
poem, however, burns the image of this moment
into the soul. His poem turns this gesture into a
poetic act through a simple question that he inserts
into this turning. ''Who's turned us round like this,
so that we always / do what we may, retain the
attitude / of someone who is departing?" To
underscore the impact of this image-question, Rilke
(1939) says that just like this man on the hill "will
turn and stop and linger, / we live our lives, forever
taking leave" (p. 71).
The eighth elegy is a hymn of mourning. There
is a very strong feeling tone of lament for
something that we have lost along the way, not
only in our personal lives, but also in our collective
lives as human beings. One reads this elegy and
hears a continuous sigh for what we have become,
"spectators" who look at the world from a distance,
who are never nestled within things long enough
in order to look out from them. For us as
spectators the world is a display, crowded with
"empty, indifferent things, pseudo-things,
dummy-life," as he says in a letter a year before
his death (1939, p. 129).
In contrast with the spectator we have become,
Rilke praises the animal, within whom "there lies
the weight and care of a great sadness." The curious
thing about this praise is that this sorrow of the
animal is for us, as ifthe animal somehow knows
our spectator condition and mirrors for us what
we have lost. Thus Rilke says, "For that which often
overwhelms us clings / to him as well,-a kind of
memory / that what we're pressing after now was
once / nearer and truer and attached to us / with
infinite tenderness." Compared to that time and
place, a place that Rilke calls our "first home," and
which I would call a landscape ofthe soul, that no-
where world now-here, this time and place that is
our second home where we are spectators "seems
ambiguous and draughty" (1939, p. 69).
In this elegy the backward glance turns us
toward this original home, which the animal
remembers for us and which we ourselves dimly
recall. This other time and place is what beckons
us, this calling of that world that once was but
never has been, that no-where now-here, that
soulscape which is not for the eyes of a spectator,
that homeland of the heart.
But who belongs to that homeland ofthe heart?
Who dwells there with the power to turn us round
and make us aware that we are always looking at
things as iffor the last time? These questions take
us into the core ofRilke's work and life. To get there,
however, we have to go by way of a different
question. The gesture itself of a backward glance
indicates that there is no direct vision of whoever
it is who turns us in this way. The spectator's
forward gaze has to be given up for the backward
glance. The question of who turns us in this fashion
has to yield to the question of who has heart for
such a turning.
The eighth elegy says that the child does,
sometimes. On occasion, the child can get quietly
lost within that first home, but he or she is always
dragged back again to the timebound world. In
some of the other elegies and in other poems, Rilke
portrays this quiet presence of the child to this first
home as that faraway look that we sometimes see
on a child's face. Moreover, he even wonders if the
child who dies young preserves something of that
first home, which makes the death of a young child
even a cause for some sad joy. Rilke challenges us
in this way to re-imagine our lives, and as difficult
as this image may be, it is not so without merit
that we can dismiss it. I do not want to soften
Rilke's image by taking it as only a symbol. Rilke
is speaking about the actual death of a young
146 The International Journal ofTranspersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
child. Nevertheless, the image does have a symbolic
resonance. We are admonished, after all, to become
again like children if we are to enter that other
time-place, the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lovers too may have the heart for this turning,
but Rilke is too cautious about love to accept its
lasting value. Thus, he rebukes lovers for getting
in the way of each other. "Lovers-were not the
other present, always spoiling the view!-draw
near to it and wonder ... ," he writes. "Behind the
other, as though through oversight, the thing's
revealed ... But no one gets beyond / the other, and
so world returns once more" (1939, p. 69).
Although Rilke considers children and lovers
as possible candidates for this heartwork of
turning, for this change of heart that is the
backward glance, the image ofthe man on the hill
overlooking the valley for the last time, the one
who is always on the verge of departing, cancels
these possibilities, or at least postpones them. A
poem, like a dream, demands fidelity to the images,
especially for a phenomenologist. The one on the
hill is a man, not a child. And he is alone, not with
a lover. Who, then, finally has heart for this gesture
of re-gard, the courage, a word etymologically
related to heart, for the backward glance? "Or
someone dies and is it" (1939, p. (7). Rilke says
this too in the eighth elegy, and the italics are his.
Recall Jung's words about the Tower at
Bollingen, that place where he did the work of the
ancestors. Those words have the same spirit that
is present in so much of Rilke's poetry. His work
and his life bear continuous witness to the claim
that we owe life a death, and that it is only in living
life from the side of death that we most truly exist
as human beings. Indeed, the Elegies celebrate our
place between Angel and Animal and mark that
domain as our privilege because, neither like the
Angel who is eternal, nor the Animal, which
perishes, we die. We perish, as it were, with
awareness, a condition which also marks a
boundary between the spectators we have become
and the innocent child who, in dying young, dies
perhaps before knowing what has been lost.
This difference is crucial for Rilke, because the
awareness of death also deepens love. While Rilke
is eloquent about the difficulties oflove, it remains
for him our highest calling. He says, "only from
the side of death .. .is it possible to do justice to love."
He also says, "It lies in the nature of every ultimate
love that, sooner or later, it is only able to reach
the loved one in the infinite" (1939, pp. 122-123).
At the heart of love for Rilke beats a passion, a
hunger, a desire for the infinite. Thus, in spite of
the rebuke that lovers spoil the view for each other,
the paradoxical thing about love is that it is only
through the other that we glimpse the divine.
So who has the heart for this work of turning?
Those who have risked the difficulties of loving,
even loving in the face ofloss. That is who we are
with the man on the hill, lovers whose vision looks
upon the world with the attitude of departing,
lovers who see things always as if for the last time.
If it is the dead who call us home, then it is lovers
who have risked the terrors ofloving in the face of
death whose hearts are attuned to those voices that
solicit the backward glance. The next two scenes
play out this theme through two of Rilke's most
compelling poems about love and death.
Scene Two: The Return of the Dead
"REQUIEM FOR a Friend" is a poem Rilke wrote
for Paula Modersohn who died on November
21, 1907, less than three weeks after giving birth
to a daughter. Her death disturbed Rilke because
he saw in her life and death a vocation that was
crushed by the conventional forces of marriage.
Paula was a painter, and if it is true that through
her Rilke saw something of his own conflict
between communal life and the solitude required
for creative work, it was still her struggle to hold
the tension of work and love that haunted him.
In the opening lines of the poem, Rilke makes it
quite clear that she is exceptional among the dead.
"Only you / return; brush past me, loiter, try to
knock / against something, so that the sound
reveals your presence." Others who have died seem
" ... so contented / so soon at home in being dead, so
cheerful, / so unlike their reputation." Paula,
however, is not at home in her death, prompting
Rilke to say, "I'm sure you have gone astray / if you
are moved to homesickness for anything / in this
dimension." Addressing her again, he says, "the
gravity of some old discontent / has dragged you
back to measurable time" (RHke, 1989, p. 73). Her
return is an appeal to Rilke, a pleading, he says,
that "penetrates me, / to my very bones, and cuts
at me like a saw." "What is it that you want?" he
asks (p. 75).
The Backward Glance 147
The poem, a conversation between the poet who
is alive and the failed artist who has died, is
whispered in the night, amongst shadows and
mirrors. Rilke confesses to Paula that he has in
fact held onto her through the mirror, a presence
through the image, which is real but free of the
weight of earthly life. But that mirror presence is
so different from how she is now present to Rilke
that he wonders, somewhat angrily, if she has
denied herself the fruits of her death. "I thought
you were much further on" (p. 73) he says earlier,
but her return fragments this hope. He is forced
to attend to her appeal.
"Come into the candlelight," he says. "I'm not
afraid / to look the dead in the face." But this
invitation and Rilke's boldly courageous claim
does not capture the attitude of her haunting
return. On the contrary, Paula's return from the
dead requires Rilke to look back in order to
understand her appeals to him. In the candlelight,
he is silent with her for a time, until an invitation
arises from that silence: "Look at this rose on the
corner of my desk: / isn't the light around it just
as timid / as the light on you?" Bathed in the same
subtle light, Paula and the rose share the same
tension. "It too should not be here, / it should have
bloomed or faded in the garden, outside, never
involved with me" (p. 77). But it is here, there on
Rilke's desk, and in response to its presence he
knows that he is called to let it rise up within his
heart and take on its subtle form through the
breath of the word.
Should we be here? Yes! For being here does
matter, and about this fact Rilke has no doubts,
as the Duino Elegies make clear. It is only that
death reminds us that we have come from
elsewhere, that we have fallen into time from
some other world, a journey into birth, which
death reverses and closes as a homecoming. This
memory sits in our hearts as a longing. It sits in
our hearts, too, as a calling; " ... time / is like a
relapse after a long illness" (p. 81), Rilke says. A
relapse, not a recovery! Arelapse into the sickness
of forgetting, whose prescription is the vocation
to remember.
Paula's return from the dead is an appeal for
mourning: "That's what you had to come for: to
retrieve / the lament that we omitted" (p. 83). This
requiem, however, is not just for her. It is also for
Rilke himself, and for all of us. The dead return
to awaken us and in this return they invite us to
re-gard again everything in life that we have just
simply passed by. So Rilke wonders whether for
the sake of Paula he must travel again. He also
asks, "Did you leave / some Thing behind, some
place, that cannot bear your absence?" He says,
too, that "I will go to watch the animals / ... which
hold me for a while / and let me go, serenely,
without judgment." And, he adds, "I will have the
gardeners come to me and recite / many flowers,
and in the small clay pots / of their melodious
names I will bring back / some remnant of the
hundred fragrances." All this he will do and more:
"And fruits: I will buy fruits, and in their
sweetness / that country's earth and sky will live
again" (p. 75).
A catalogue of simple, common, ordinary things
and actions. Rilke will do all of this, not just for
Paula but also for himself and for all of us. He
will return to these things and to these actions
that he has done so many times with new re-gard.
The dead, like Paula, who have struggled to hold
the tension of life and work, return and turn us
around, and in their presence we stop for a
moment, linger, and take that second look. These
dead are our teachers, the ones who initiate the
backward glance and inform it as a ritual of
mourning. They teach us that we are called to
love and to work while knowing that we will and
must fail. In this regard, these dead teach us that
mourning lies at the core ofthe human heart, that
the backward glance envisions the world through
eyes of lament.
Scene Three: The Rose that Fades
RPHEUS IS the eponomous poet, the one whose
name when spoken is the presence of poetry
itself. For Rilke, Orpheus is the figure who shows
us that eyes of lament exercise the mournful
heart. Through Orpheus we see that the backward
glance opens the heart to the transitory nature of
the world, to the fleeting character of all that we
hold close to the heart and cherish. No matter
what we do the things that we love pass away.
Not even art, with its hopefully timeless forms,
can triumph over mutability and the certainty of
death. Only in the moment and for the moment
do we sometimes create a fragile and temporary
haven in the midst of loss.
148 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
In his Sonnets to Orpheus, Rilke (1942/1970)
celebrates this paradox of evident mutability and
desired permanence that Orpheus embodies.
Orpheus is the one who both fades and endures.
Thus, in the final sonnet, Rilke says, "And if the
earthly has forgotten you, 1 say to the still earth: I
flow. 1 To the rapid water speak: I am" (p. 127).
Orpheus is who and what he is in his flowing, and
in this guise he is emblem for who and what we
are called to be. Orpheus: Ich rinne-I flow; Ich
bin-I am! Rilke and each of us in the presence of
Orpheus: We change, therefore, we are! We die,
therefore, we live! This is the Orphic celebration
for Rilke, this seed of joy in the heart oflament,
this ejaculation ofhfe in the face ofloss. Through
Orpheus, Rilke transcends the dichotomy of the
eternal and the temporal; he surrenders that
longing for the timeless in the midst of the
timebound, and that despair in the folds of time
for the eternal. Through Orpheus, Rilke celebrates
the paradox that we can love the world and others
because they do pass away; love the rose, which in
its blooming is already beginning to fade. Indeed,
even for Orpheus himself there can be no record
that fails to honor the tension ofthis paradox. Thus,
Rilke says, "Set up no stone to his memory. 1 Just
let the rose bloom each year for his sake" (p. 25).
Rilke's vision of Orpheus is a metaphysics of
the heart and its ways of knowing and being, a
phrase that I use here intentionally to counter the
metaphysics of the mind and its ways of knowing
and being. The former embraces death as the other
side of life, while the latter flees it. The former
nourishes an epistemology of love; the latter
spawns an epistemology of power. The lover's
lingering backward glance is the emblematic
posture of this metaphysics of the heart; the
spectator's forward penetrating gaze the posture
of the metaphysics of the mind.
In "Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes," Rilke (1989)
best sums up his poetic vision. The poem re-tells
the classic story of Orpheus' descent to the
underworld to rescue his beloved Eurydice from
death. With Rilke, however, the tale is told from
Eurydice's point of view, and in doing so Rilke
allows us to glimpse how the supposed failure of
the backward glance is our fate. At the last
moment, Orpheus stops, and turns round to see if
Eurydice, guided by Hermes, is following. In this
turning, Orpheus disobeys the commands of the
gods, and he loses Eurydice once again, this time
I do not know if it is true that poetry here attains
to a unique level of wisdom, but it seems that this
tale of disobedience leaves no doubt that the gods
wisely forbid the backward glance. They know
Orpheus must fail, and that through the failure
he, and through him we, will come to know that
the timeless is to be made here in the timebound
through loving in the face ofloss. Angels are eternal
and animals perish, but we die. But because we
die we also love in ways that they cannot. In
"Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes," the backward glance
reveals that death is the bride oflove. This is why
Paula returns. This is why the dead return and
solicit the backward glance: to open the eyes of the
heart so that we can see through the eyes of love
and loss.
Scene Four= The Call of Destiny
HE BACKWARD glance is instruction in the art
of holding on by letting go. Orpheus' failure
to make love eternal is his success in making love
a human act that spans the timeless and the
timebound, an act that transforms fate into a
vocation, an act that releases each lover to his/her
destiny and in doing so manifests the eternal no-
where now-here. This is why Rilke (1989) says in
the "Requiem" that the only thing that is wrong is
"not to enlarge the freedom of a love 1 with all the
inner freedom one can summon." This is why he
says, "We need, in love, to practice only this: /letting
each other go. For holding on 1 comes easily; we do
not need to learn it" (Rilke, 1989, p. 85).
In the moment when Orpheus turns, he lets go
of Eurydice, just as in her death she has already
let go of him. There are, I think, no other lines of
poetry that capture this moment of Eurydice's
release better than those that Rilke pens for the
moment of Orpheus' turning. In her death she had
already passed beyond being Orpheus' possession:
"She was no longer that woman with blue eyes 1
who once had echoed through the poet's songs ... "
Already in her death, she had closed within herself,
" ... had come into a new virginity." Multiplying the
images of her intensified, new interiority, Rilke
says, "She was already loosened like long hair, 1
poured out like fallen rain, shared like a limitless
supply." And as if to underscore the significance of
The Backward Glance 149
this transformation into her own destiny, Rilke
adds as a single line, set off from the previous lines
and those that are to follow, "She was already root"
(Rilke, 1989, p. 53).
Orpheus had descended into the underworld to
rescue from death the woman that he knew and
loved. Eurydice, however, is not that woman. When
he turns and Hermes puts out his hand to stop
Eurydice, and, according to Rilke, tells us with
sorrow in his voice that Orpheus has turned,
Eurydice, unable to understand, softly whispers,
"Who?" (p. 53).
Eurydice then turns round and follows her own
path into her destiny. She descends with Hermes
back into the timeless underworld, while Orpheus
returns alone to the world oftime. But he too finds
in this return, after the turning round of his
backward glance, his own destiny. In the last
sonnet of the first part of Sonnets to Orpheus, Rilke
tells us that Orpheus outsings the enraged cries of
the maenads. Though in the end they do destroy
him, the vibrations of his songs linger " .. .in lions
and rocks 1 and in trees and birds. There you are
still singing" (Rilke, 1942/1970, p. 67).
The backward glance-so simple, so fraught
with peril! A lesson arranged by the gods! A
teaching that humbles the mind by opening the
heart to the presence of death. A gift brought by
the dead who return to show us how to love the
moment because it flows away, like water held in
the palm of one's hand. Orpheus is the archetypal
image of this gesture: his "failure" our hope; his
songs, which linger after his death, our joy.
Moreover, in his lingering songs the destiny of
Orpheus, which he is given in a backward glance
that only seemingly fails, becomes our vocation.
"Only because at last enmity rent and scattered
you 1 are we now the hearers and a mouth of
Nature" (p. 67). In the backward glance we hear
through the heart's lament over loss the singing of
the world. Then the backward glance becomes a
homecoming, homework that is also heartwork, a
song of lament that swells into a hymn of joy.
HE PRELUDE is finished, the scenes are done,
the curtain has fallen, the lights have been
dimmed. But someone lingers in the corner,
inviting a final backward glance.
In a letter that he wrote in 1918 shortly after
the war, Rilke says, "The scale of the human heart
no longer applies and yet it was once the unit of
the earth, and of Heaven, and of all heights and
depths" (Hendry, 1983, p. 122). We have forgotten
the gnosis ofthe heart. Our hearts no longer seem
large enough to be the measure ofthe heights and
depths that bless and wound a human life. At this
exit should we not wonder if our hearts are failing
today because we have no re-gard for the world
and have grown deaf to its appeals to stop and
turn and linger. Perhaps we need to learn the
backward glance as a gesture of mourning so that
we can be released into song.
Bachelard, G. (1969). The poetics of reverie (D. Russell,
Trans.). Boston: Beacon Press. (Original work published
Corbin, H. (1969). Alone with the Alone: Creative imagina-
tion in the Sufism of Ibn' Arabi. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press. (Original work published 1958)
Jung, C. G. (1989). Memories, dreams, reflections. New York:
Vintage Books. (Original work published 1961)
Hendry, J. F. (1983). The sacred threshold. Manchester, En-
gland: Carcanet Press.
Pascal, B. (1995). Pensees and other writings (H. Levi, Trans.).
New York: Oxford University Press.
Rilke, R. M. (1939). Duino elegies (J. B. Leishman & S.
Spender, Trans.). New York: Norton.
Rilke, R. M. (1970). Sonnets to Orpheus (M.D. Herter Norton,
Trans.). New York: Norton. (Originally published 1942)
Rilke, R. M. (1989). The selected poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke
(S. Mitchell, Ed. & Trans.). New York: Vintage Books.
Romanyshyn, R. (1999). The soul in grief' Love, death and
transformation. Berkeley, CA.: North Atlantic Books.
Romanyshyn, R. (2000a). The pleasure of reverie. Salt Jour-
nal, 2(6), 22-25.
Romanyshyn, R. (2000b). Psychology is useless; or it should
be. Janus Head, 3(2), 217-236.
150 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
difficulty in assessing a river, a mirror, and a
crystal ball as material objects and, with some
stretching of our imagination, the chos-sku, longs-
sku, and sprul-sku as mental objects.
Unfortunately this facile assessment misses the
point. The river, the mirror, and the crystal ball
are images of movement: the river flows on and
on; the mirror ceaselessly reflects and, more
importantly, reveals; and the crystal ball never
stops shimmering in all the colors of the
spectrum. By contrast, the chos-sku, longs-sku,
and sprul-sku are images of rest in the sense that
they describe our existentiality as remaining the
same under all conditions and in all
circumstances. Only the third line can be said to
be "mental," providing we do not reduce it to
something egological and turn it into another
thing by our ego's thingifying thinking.
The thrust of what is designated by the term
ngo-sprod that, strictly speaking, defies any
reductionist translation, is in the direction of
understanding by coming face-to-face with what
we really are and in so doing re-cognizing
ourselves. This experience is the dissipation
(sangs) ofthe darkness of one's re-presentational
mode ofthinking, and as such a spreading (rgyas)
of the light of one's Urwissen (ye-shes).42 As an
experience, sangs-rgyas is never a commercial
Buddhathing (to be roused from its sleep,
whatever this and similar slogans may mean); it
has no name (ming-med ), and its encounter-cum-
re-cognition (ngo-sprod) allows itself to be
expressed only in images of symbolic pregnance:
There is the profound instruction
by way of
the symbolically meant statement of five
luminescences arising in their irrealizing
Out of a luminous lantern that is the radiat-
ing (of Being's) spatiality;
There IS the profound instruction by way of
the symbolically meant statement of the
darkness becoming completely translucent
by the brilliant sun arising in (what is) some
pitch-black darkness, which is to say that
The totality ofthe phenomenal world with its
probabilistic interpretation is filled with a
brilliant luminescence.
There is the profound instruction by way of
the symbolically meant statement of there
being two mansions: the one being the di-
vine mansion of the luminescence of
(Being's) [nirvanicl lighting-up, the other
being the samsaric mansion of darkness
which is to say that '
Once the door of darkness has been shut, the
door through which the originary awareness
(modes) will shine, opens, whereby
All the sentient beings of (Being's) lighting-up
and probabilistic interpretations in terms
of samsara and nirvana will be seen in gaz-
ing at them as becoming and being erlichtet
(alight, sangs-rgyas).
After this excursion into the deeper
significance of the term ngo-sprod, we may now
return to the much favored numerical assessment
of its application on the part of the experiencer.
Most intriguing in this context is its being ofthe
nature of seven varieties.
The preamble to these
self-encounters is the differentiation between the
"elemental forces" ('byung-ba) that are basically
luminous, and their "corruptions" (snyigs-ma)
that prevent their luminosities from prevailing
in what is the joint cosmogony and anthropogony.
This differentiation makes it possible to come
face-to-face with the three forestructures of our
enworlded being (sku-gsum), their five originary
awareness modes (ye-shes lnga), and their
deterioration into the eight perceptual patterns
(tshogs-brgyad ) that we call our mind and/or
consciousness, due to the loss of luminosity and
the lack of awareness.
Within this complexity of encounters that is
meant to make us understand (rtogs) ourselves
and even further to transcend (la zla) ourselves
the exposition of the three forestructures
images of what we feel to constitute our
wholeness, has been a recurrent theme. Although
the relevant literature is enormous, it has been
mostly ignored for obvious reasons: the difficulty
of a language that reverberates with the
immediacy of experience, and the inherent
defiance of any reductionism. Two quotations may
suffice. The one states:
From perspective of (its) ecstatic intensity,
a radiance-cum-nothingness, in which its
Proto-light and (proto-)turbulence have not yet
One speaks ofthe "stuff" (of which) the chos-
sku is made.
From the perspective of a stirring (that has
occurred in this nothingness and resulted
in the) emergence of its proto-light (taking
on the character of a) corporeal pattern that
together with the spirituality (of the noth-
Forms a whole, (this is what is the) longs-sku.
104 The InternationalJournal ofTranspersonal Studies, 2002, Vol. 21
From the perspective of the (unity of) a corpo-
real pattern and a spiritual (quality) one
speaks ofthis combination as the sprul-sku.
The other has this to say:48
From the perspective of (Being's) ecstatic in-
tensity (one speaks of) a chos-sku,
From the perspective of (Being's transforma-
tion into its) proto-light (one speaks of) a
From the perspective ofthe radiance of the five
perceptual patterns, this is seen as a stir-
ring (in the direction of a) multiplicity, and
this very stirring is (what is meant by)
Even more intriguing in this context is the
encounter with, and assessment of, the five
originary awareness modes. In the epistemology-
oriented and speculative texts, these have been
dealt with in terms of their being the founded
(brten) on the founding (rten), that, is the sku.
Here, there are two approaches. In the one
approach, (which I shall call the "more or less
conventional" one), the interchangeability ofthe
awareness modes with the elemental forces,
similar to the interchangeability of rig-pa and
chos-sku, is stated to be as follows:
The mirroring/revealing awareness mode
[has its raison d'etre in what is] the
water's raison d'etre,
The identity-with-itself-and-with-every-
thing-else awareness mode [has its raison
d'etre in what is] the earth's raison d'etre,
The specificity-initiating awareness mode
[has its raison d'etre in what is] the fire's
raison d'etre,
The task-posed-and-accomplished awareness
mode [has its raison d'etre in what is] the
wind's raison d'etre,
The meaning-rich dimensionality awareness
mode [has its raison d'etre in what is] the
(sky-like) spatium's raison d'etre.
Translated into the modern, preeminently
rationalistic jargon, this quotation attempts to
impress on us the deeply felt understanding of
the nature of each element. Water is primarily
cleansing and, in so doing, reveals what has been
normally hidden from sight: Earth provides a
solid ground, on which we, being an identity in
the sense of an as yet unbroken symmetry, can
stand firmly: Fire is the spark evolving into the
blaze of our analytically selective rationality:
Wind blows away our laboriously built-up
figments: The spatium is an opening-up, as well
as the openness in which "things can happen."
The other approach reflects Padmasambhava's
yang-ti understanding and teaching, that goes far
beyond his spyi-ti understanding and teaching.
The presentation of this approach is by (or
attributed to) a certain Sriratnavajra (about
whom nothing is known). It runs as follows:
An originary awareness mode (that is
Being's) symbolic pregnance (and) no-
An originary awareness mode (that is
Being's) brilliance (emerging) from the
vortex of its proto-light (having become an
actual) brilliance,
An originary awareness mode (that is
Being's) brilliance in its self-
originatedness (and) disposition to be
An originary awareness mode (that is
Being's) auto-luminescence (and) auto-
dissipation (of darkness)-(as a) spreading
oflight, .
An originary awareness mode (that is
Being's) lighting-up by itself and (this
lighting-up's) dissolution in its legitimate
It would exceed the scope of an essay to go into
the details of each and every encounter with and
recognition of one's "infrastructure." Suffice it to
point out and emphasize that this infrastructure's
Lichthaftigkeit (alightness), as revealed in its
understanding that, however it is prized, is never
a speculant's absolute, but a phase in one's growth
into one's humanity (so often misunderstood as a
regression into some sort of primitivism or an
escape from being-in-this-world). Rather, this
growing-up is crossing the mountainlike barrier
that stands between us as sentient (opinionated)
beings (sems-can) and us as sensibly erlichtet
(alight) beings. In the words ofPadmasambhava:
As long as we are [mere] sentient beings (sems-
can) we deal with the five sense objects com-
Once we have some deeper understanding
(rtogs-ldan), (we deal with them in such a
manner) that as (Being's) auto-manifesta-
tion we let them dissolve in our no-(longer-)
appropriating them,
Once we have become erlichtet (sangs-rgyas)
we (deal with them) in having become sen-
sitively concerned about everything, which
means n-o-t-h-i-n-g.
The Re-Cognition o/Being's Infrastructure as Self-Completion 105
But this "nothing" is not a nothing; rather, in
our having become and being erlichtet through
an ongoing process of encountering and re-
cognizing this dynamic state's infrastructure, any
rigidifying and thingifying trend, positive or
negative, has been transcended. This ongoing
transcending is a challenge and few will rise to
face it. Within our Western world frame I do not
know of any better formulation of this pursuit
and vision than the one as a postscript to his
distich Kenne dich selbst ("Know yourself'),
written in 1798 by the German poet N ovalis
(Friedrich von Hardenberg):
Einem gelang es-er hob den Schleier der Gottin
zu Sais-
Aberwas sah er? Er sah-Wunder des Wunders-
sich selbst
(One person succeeded-he lifted the veil of the
goddess at Sais-
But what did he see? He saw-miracle of
miracles-himself ).
1. A very lucid interpretation of intelligence as dynamic
and creative and of intellect as static and more or less self-
limiting, has been given by Bohm and Peat (2000, p. 114).
2. Kun-tu-bzang-mo klong-gsal 'bar-ma nyi-ma'i gsang-
rgyud, 25: 379ab.
3. rGyud thams-cad-kyi spyi-phud nyi-zla bkod-pa nam-
mkha' dang mnyam-pa'i rgyud, 1: 101b.
4. This rather cryptic statement presumes an
acquaintance with Padmasambhava's favorite image of
a child "returning home" to its mother and, in this reunion
with her, recognizing the intimate bond between them
that makes the two one, though not in a numerical sense.
In the Rin-po-che sNang-gsal spu-gri 'bar-bas 'khrul-
snang rtsad-nas gcod-pa nam-mkha'i mtha' dang mnyam-
pa'i rgyud, 2: 296b, Padmasambhva tells us:
By recognizing (Being's) creativity as one's mother,
there is no aversion (and its)
Mistaken identification as hell has been eradicated.
5. Kun-tu-bzang-mo klong-gsal 'bar-ma nyi-ma'i gsang-
rgyud, 25: 374a.
6. Rin-po-che 'od-'bar-ba'i rgyud, Taipei ed., vol. 55, p.
404, column 7.
7. Kun-tu-bzang-mo klong-gsal 'bar-ma nyi-ma'i gsang-
rgyud, 25: 353a. A similar passage is found on fol. 380a
of the same work.
8. The meaning of this German word as explicated by
Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) in his Philosophy, I:
Existenz is the never objectified source of my thoughts
and actions. It is that whereof I speak in trains of
thought that involve no cognition. It is what relates
to itself, and thus to its transcendence ... Standing on
the borderline of world and Existenz, possible
Existence views all existence as more than existence [.J
(1967, p. 56)
The definition corresponds exactly to what the rDzogs-
chen thinkers understood by rgyud. Its Sanskrit
equivalent tantra, having the double meaning of being a
treatise and an experience of an intrapsychic reality, has
nothing to do with what the sex-crazed "Tantrics," be they
Westerners or Easterners, have made of it by way oftheir
being in the clutches ofma-rig-pa.
9. "Imaging process" is my rendering ofthe Tibetan term
sgom, whose Sanskrit equivalent is bhavana, usually
rendered by "meditation." What the Tibetan and Sanskrit
terms describe is akin to what the late Carl Gustav Jung
has called "active imagination." Specifically, the Sanskrit
term is a causative noun, meaning "letting and aiding
images to come to the fore." As a dynamic process,
imaging has nothing to do with what is popularly referred
to as "meditation," concerning which its contemporary
practitioners are deeply confused due to their inability,
or should one say, ma-rig-pa, to distinguish between
fixation and concentration.
10. rang-ngo. The use ofthis expression foreshadows the
experiencer's coming face-to-face with what he really is
in his beingness from a dynamic perspective.
11. These are the immediacy of its felt presence, its
growth in intensity, its reaching the limits of its intensity,
and its transcending itself.
12. In the above four stanzas the key terms bral and grol
highlight the principle of complementarity, characteristic
ofrDzogs-chen thinking. Both bral andgrol are "neutral"
verb forms (neither transitive nor intransitive according to
our verbal categories): bral intimates the feeling tone of
"apartness," grol intimates the feeling tone of a "parting."
13. Rin-po-che 'od-'bar-ba'i rgyud, Taipei ed., vol. 55, p.
404, column 7.
14. The Tibetan term zang -thaI is a concept that describes
an experience in which one comes to what seems to be
an impenetrable wall, that suddenly gives way so that
one can go "right through" it.
15. This harsh statement is amply supported by wisdom-
crazy cultists and academics (in the West) and their
imitators (in the East). The mistranslation of prajiiii by
"wisdom" goes back to the late Edward Conze who is
reported to have thrown a fit when the word wisdom was
mentioned in its Western context, and to have declared
that the West has no wisdom, which he then identified
with the ordinances ofthe politbureau ofthe former USSR.
The perpetuation ofthis mistranslation by academics seems
to be due to their being more concerned with proving the
dictum (ascribed to Anatole France) "Les savants ne sont
pas curieux," rather than with studying the original texts.
1 06 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2002, Vol. 21
16. Nor-bu-rin-po-che'i rgyud, Taipei ed., vol. 55, p. 404,
column 4.
17. Ibid., columns 4-5.
18. sPros-bral don-gsal, 1: 7b.
19. Kun-tu-bzang-mo klong-gsal 'bar-ma nyi-ma'i gsang-
rgyud, 25: 350ab.
20. The borderline between the "physical" and the
"imaginal" is extremely fluid so that, without taking the
context and its linguistic expression into account, under
the still prevailing reductionism, the distinct features of
these two dimensionalities may simply be ignored or
obliterated. Thus the imaginal tsitta (a Tibetanized form
of the Sanskrit word citta) may be equated with the
"heart" as the seat of dispassionate thinking,
mythopoeically assuming the shape of calm and serene
"deities." The imaginal dung-khang may be equated with
the "cerebrum" as the seat of passionate thinking,
mythopoeically assuming the shape of fierce and furious
"deities." The imaginal rtsa may be equated with the
"veins," mythopoeically assuming the character of the
imaginal body's skeleton or, more precisely, its dynamic
scaffolding. The sgo may be equated with the "eyes,"
mythopoeically assuming the character of gates through
which, as we might say, the so-called mental-spiritual
"goes out" to meet the so-called physical and letting it
"come in." The reference to the two eyes implies the other
senses as well. This reference to the eyes reflects the fact
that in us, as living beings, sight has taken precedence
over the other sensory functions.
21. The term, in this spelling, links the more or less
concrete body (lus) of the experiencer with its dynamic
process character, as experienced in the incipient closure
onto itself of Being, and referred to as rin-chen-sbubs
"preciousness envelope." In view of the fact that rDzogs-
chen thinkers thought of the living individual as being
basically spiritual and luminous, it may not be out of
place to quote Ernst Cassirer's (1874-1945) similar idea
expressed in his The Individual and the Cosmos in
Renaissance Philosophy:
Every spiritual being has its centre within itself. And
its participation in the divine consists precisely in this
centring ... Individuality is not simply a limitation;
rather, it represents a particular value that may not
be eliminated or extinguished, because it is only
through it that the One, that which is "beyond being,"
becomes ascertainable to us. (1964, p. 28)
22. The rendering of this admittedly difficult Tibetan
phrase is prompted by the consideration that the term
'od refers to "light" as virtual. It becomes "actual" when
it "radiates" (gsal ) and in its radiance comes in distinct
colors. This distinction between "virtual" and "actual"
calls to mind Thomas Aquinas' (1224125-1274) dictum:
color nihil aliud est, quam lux incorporata
(color is nothing else but light embodied)
quoted in Anita Albus', The Art of Arts - Rediscovering
Painting (2001, p. 293). The term thig-le denotes a
multifaceted reality in the specific sense of in-forming
and organizing the system that it is. This "information"
is "light," and just as this light shines in itself and by
itself, so also information is not a transfer of information,
but the system's information to itself of its dynamic.
23. The last three stanzas are also quoted by Klong-chen
rab-'byams-pa Dri-med 'od-zer (1308-1364) in his mKha'-
'gro yang-tig II, 199-200, forming volume 5 of his sNying-
tig ya-bzhi. His version collated with the sDe-dge edition
makes it possible to present a correct text. It is this
"corrected" version that has been given in translation.
The last stanza is particularly difficult to render. The
term snang has the double meaning of "lighting up" (as
translated), and of "making visible." Similarly, "a shining
lamp" may imply a quincunx of lamps. Our language
simply cannot cope with the singular and plural as a
single "reality."
24. Kun-tu-bzang-mo klong-gsal 'bar-ma nyi-ma'igsang-
rgyud, 25: 352a.
25. From a linguistic point of view it is important to notice
the difference between 'gyur-ba-med and mi-'gyur-ba.
According to our categories the first term is a noun, the
second is an adjective. The same holds good for 'gag-(pa)-
med and mi-'gag-pa.
26. Ye-shes thig-le zang-thal-gyi rgyud, Taipei ed.,vol. 55,
p. 417, column 7.
27. Die asthetische Erziehung des Menschen, in einer
Reihe von Briefen. 1795, 15th letter.
28. sPros-bral don-gsal, 1:12a.
29. bDe-ba-chen-po byang-chub-kyi sems rmad-du byung-
ba'i le'u, 25: 225b-226a.
30. To the best of my knowledge, the longest and most
detailed disquisition is given by Klong-chen-rab-'byams-
pa Dri-med-'od-zer in his Grub-mtha'-mdzod, sDe-dge ed.,
vol. Kha, fols. 122a-127a.
31. It is interesting to note that the Sanskrit language
does not distinguish between mtshan-nyid and mtshan /
mtshan-ma. It has only one word: lak§larta.
32. bDud-rtsi bcud-bsdus sGron-ma brtsegs-pa: 2: 328.
33. sPros-bral don-gsal, 1: 37a.
34. Ibid.
35. In this capacity it is (a) "voiding" (stong-pa) , (b)
"unceasing" (mi-'gag), (c) "indivisible" (dbye mi-phyed-pa),
(d) ''knowing this to be so" (der shes), and (e) "intangible"
(thogs-pa med ). These five qualifiers are the "insubstantial
and irrealizing rig-pa's" transformations into originary
awareness modes (ye-shes) such that: (a) the "voiding"
becomes the awareness mode-qua-dimensionality where
meanings are stored as well as being in statu nascendi (chos-
dbyings ye-shes), from whose auto-luminescence the voiding
is seen and felt as being of a deep-blue color; (b) the
"unceasing" becomes the quasi-mirroring awareness mode-
qua-dimensionality (me-long lta-bu'i ye-shes), from whose
auto-luminescence (unceasingly mirroring the meaning
The Re-Cognition o/Being's Infrastructure as Self-Completion 107
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment
in Tibetan Culture
Karma Lekshe Tsomo
Jamyang Choling Institute
D haramsala, India
Questions regarding death and the ephemeral nature of life and individual identity have been
preeminent in Buddhism for centuries. As Buddhism spread to new geographical regions, it
accommodated itselfto the local cultural and philosophical climate, often blending elements of belief
about death and dying. When Buddhism entered Tibet in the seventh century, it was understood
against a background of indigenous Bon beliefs and cultural practices. In this cultural and
philosophical environment, Tibetan scholars and practitioners evolved unique interpretations and
practices related to death, the evolution of consciousness, and enlightenment.
I examine Buddhist attitudes toward death, rebirth, and the intermediate state between death and
rebirth as understood within Tibetan culture. I first describe the cultural milieu within which
Buddhist ideas were adopted and recast. Then I explore the centrality of death in the Tibetan Buddhist
tradition and the practices that arose to utilize the experience of dying and the intermediate state
between death and rebirth (bardo)l as opportunities for psychological transformation.
I am not, I will not be.
I have not, I will not have.
That frightens all the childish
And extinguishes fear in the wise.
-Nagarjuna (in Hopkins, 1998a, p. 97)
S A SMALL child I was fascinated with the
question of what happens after death.
An aura of mystery, fear, and avoidance
seemed to accompany the topic of death.
Although I asked one authority after another, the
answers did not strike me as satisfactory. The
reward of heaven or the threat of hell did not
seem satisfactory to explain what happens to
human beings after the breath stops and the eyes
close. I continued to search and looked further
afield to find an explanation to this puzzle. My
search led me to many countries in Asia and
eventually to the Tibetan refugee settlement of
Dharamsala in northern India.
After my third serious bout of hepatitis during
my studies in Dharamsala, I naively asked a
Tibetan doctor, "Am I going to die?" Dr. Yeshi
Donden, the private physician to H.H. the Dalai
Lama, immediately replied, "Of course, you're going
to die! We're all going to die!" Clearly, his personal
perspective on life and death was intimately in tune
with the descriptions of death and dying I had been
studying in Tibetan Buddhist texts.
Some years later, as I lay for three months in
hospitals in Delhi and then Tiajuana recovering
from a poisonous viper bite, the prospect of death
loomed very near. Every day death was imminent,
particularly in view of the medical care available.
The medical staff in Delhi did not expect me to
survive and for several weeks after receiving the
poisonous bite, I dwelled in a liminal realm
between consciousness and unconsciousness that
bore little relationship to ordinary waking reality.
Mter one particular surgery, the staff saw me turn
blue and I awakened in what appeared to be
another realm of existence. The experience of
living on the edge of death for so long rekindled the
questions about death that had fascinated me as a
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 151-173 151
© 2001 by Panigada Press
The Tibetan Pre-Buddhist Worldview
LTHOUGH THE Tibetan plateau is situated
directly north of India and Nepal, the
enormity of the Himalayan mountain range
made Tibet practically inaccessible to Indian
Buddhist culture until the seventh century C. E.
Several miraculous portents had drawn certain
Tibetans' attention to Buddhism as early as the
first century C. E., but it was not until the reign of
Songtsen Gampo (618-650)-through marriage
alliances with princesses from Nepal and
China-that sacred images and monasteries
began to proliferate in Tibet. King Songtsen
Gampo sent the scholar Tonmi Sambhota to India
to devise a script for the Tibetan language in
order to facilitate the translation of Sanskrit
Buddhist texts. Subsequent kings continued to
send Tibet's brightest young scholars to India to
study, to invite teachers, and to acquire Buddhist
texts and commentaries. Thus began a centuries-
long process of translating the Buddhist canon
into Tibetan.
The Buddhism that prevailed in India during
the period when the tradition was transmitted to
Tibet (between the eighth and tenth centuries)
included two major discernible streams: the
analytical systems of philosophical tenets that
flourished in the great monastic universities, and
the esoteric Tantric meditation systems that
were practiced in great secrecy in mountain caves
and other solitary spots. Under royal patronage,
the Tibetans exerted enormous energy to import
Buddhist texts and teachings of various
traditions and lineages, and they spent the next
thousand years analyzing and practicing them.
Bon Thought and Ritual
HE RELIGIOUS traditions of pre-Buddhist Tibet
. are collectively known today as Bon. These
indigenous traditions have absorbed so many
Buddhist ideas and practices over the course of
time that they have in many respects become
nearly indistinguishable from Buddhism. These
confluences, combined with the lack of early
historical documentation, make it extremely
difficult to get an accurate idea of Bon civilization
as it existed prior to the advent of Buddhism. We
do know that pre-Buddhist shamanistic traditions
were deeply concerned with the spirits of the dead.
Skilled ritual specialists carried out elaborate
funerary rites and were believed capable of
discerning traces of the dead in substances, after a
person's consciousness had departed. Bon priests
formulated 360 ways of dying, 4 ways of preparing
graves, and 81 ways of taming evil spirits (Bansal,
1994, pp. 41-43). Offerings to the dead, the
sacrifice of particular animals, and other rituals
were performed to ensure a blissful afterlife for the
souls of the dead. It was also believed that souls
could be exorcized by funerary specialists to
benefit the dead. These early beliefs and practices
reveal an interest in the liminal aspects of death
and could explain the Tibetan Buddhist emphasis
on death and dying in subsequent centuries. Even
today, Bon practitioners in some Tibetan cultural
areas continue to perform these funeral rites
(Bansal, 1994, p. 183).
Sky burial, a Tibetan practice still in evidence
in Tibet today, most likely springs from the Bon
tradition. Disposing of the dead in this manner
surely reflects the environment: The earth was too
hard to dig graves, and fuel for cremation was
scarce and costly. Cremation was only an option
for wealthy or illustrious people such as renowned
lamas. In sky burial, on a particular day that is
determined by divination, the corpse of the
deceased is chopped into pieces and fed to the
birds. This practice, which may appear disrespectful
of the dead, is performed as a fmal act of
generosity. Rituals carried out to determine the
karmic destiny of a dead person or to exorcize
troublesome spirits apparently trace their roots to
Bon and similar shamanic practices, and are
performed even today.
Shamanic practices never died out in Tibetan
societies and many complex indigenous rituals for
death and other aspects oflife persisted long after
Buddhism was introduced. Samuel (1993, pp.
446-447) suggests that prior to Buddhism
funerary rituals were focused on protecting the
surviving community from the spirits ofthe dead,
whereas after Buddhism was introduced emphasis
shifted to the welfare of the dead person in the
afterlife. Even though Buddhism is famous for
rejecting the notion of an enduring soul, Samten
Karmay argues that "Buddhism was never able
to suppress the concept of soul in Tibet" (in Lopez,
1997, p. 37). The la (bla), translated as spirit, life-
force, or life-essence, is not the same as the self,
but nonetheless is highly individuated. In Tibet,
a person is believed to have an individualla that
152 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
can wander away and be lost, and thus cause
psychological disorientation or psychosis. But
there are specific rituals that can be performed to
lure the la back into the body.
La is a concept not only associated with human
beings, such as in a personal soul or life force, but
also with animals, natural elements, and places.
At the time of birth, the la appears in conjunction
with five other deities, representing life, female,
male, enemy, and locality. Just as Hawaiians
plant a breadfruit tree at the birth of a child, in
some regions Tibetans plant a tree, usually a
juniper, which they call a "la tree" (la shing)
(Samuel, 1993, p. 187). The la is related to fortune
in this life rather than to liberation, and does not
seem to be related to rebirth (Samuel, 1993, p.
187).2 Samuel (1993) says that, "The la can leave
the body, weakening one's life and exposing one
to harm. It can also be affected by damaging or
destroying its external resting-place" (p. 187).
The la must be protected from harmful influences
and "returned" through rituals if stolen. The fact
that rituals such as these continue up to the
present day in Tibetan societies is evidence that a
covert theory of soul (la) has endured since pre-
Buddhist times and continues to coexist with the
Buddhist concept of selflessness.
With regard to death, there is considerable
common ground between Bon and Tibetan
Buddhism. Both draw analogies between death
and sleep, death and dreaming, and exhort
practitioners to maintain total awareness as the
internal and external signs of death are
encountered. Both Bon and Tibetan Buddhism
speak of: (a)phowa ('pho ba) practice (transference
of consciousness); (b) visions in the bardo
(intermediate state); (c) prayers for the dead for
forty-nine days; and (d) liberation in the bardo.
But there are also some conceptual differences
between Bon and Tibetan Buddhism. For
example, Bon speaks of the Six Clear Knowledges
of: (a) death; (b) cause and effect; (c) complete
knowledge; (d) clear light ofthe bardo; (e) nature
of the mind; and (f) trikaya (similar to the
Buddhist trikaya, "three bodies of the Buddha");
and the Six Recollections on: (a) past lives; (b)
stages of the bardo; (c) consciousness as without
support; (d) the master's instructions; (e) visions
as mental projections; and (f) the pure essence of
mind that opens onto one's yidam ("meditational
deity") (Wangyal, 1993, p. 187). Instead offour or
six bardos as in Tibetan Buddhism, Bon speaks of
three, each of which corresponds to a different
level of practitioner: superior, average, and
inferior. The superior practitioner is one who dies
with total awareness of the absolute view,
liberating the mind into the essential nature of
reality like "a snowflake dissolving in the ocean"
(Wangyal, 1993, p. 187). Despite these differences,
there are obvious confluences between Bon and
Tibetan Buddhism.
The Ephemeral Nature of Life
The Tibetan Mode of Dying
EWCOMERS ARE often struck by the centrality
of death in the Tibetan Buddhist
tradition. Images of Yama, the Lord of Death,
greet visitors at the door of most Tibetan temples.
Beginning meditators are taught to meditate on
the impermanence oflife and to reflect that from
the moment of birth, death stalks "like a
murderer with poised sword" (Wangyal, 1993, p.
187). To visualize one's own rotting corpse and
the dissolution of body and mind at the time of
death engenders insight into the impermanence
of life. This insight then acts as an antidote to
laziness and attachment. Through the practice of
cho (chod), accompanied by the rhythm of drums
and lyrical chanting, one perfects the virtue of
generosity by donating one's own severed limbs
and internal organs to hungry ghosts and spirits.
One learns to direct the 84,000 winds ofthe body
into the central psychic channel, through the
crown of the head, and toward a rebirth in a Pure
Land. Another method of teaching impermanence
is the ritual of creating a three-dimensional sand
mWJ4ala symbolizing the "pure land" of the
enlightened being which all sentient beings are
capable of becoming. Mter being carefully
constructed, the mWJ4ala is destroyed and
thrown into moving water to symbolize the
ephemeral quality of all life. Ritual instruments
used in the cham (monastic "dance") and other
Tantric rituals symbolize cutting through the
attachment to self. In various ways, each of these
practices offers methods to demolish
misconceptions about the self. Symbolically, ego
identification is transcended on three levels: (a)
the outer, symbolizing external form; (b) the
inner, symbolizing the emotions; and (c) the
secret, symbolizing the subtle mind and body.
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 153
A huge corpus ofliterature generally referred
to under the rubric of Lamrim (The Graduated
Path to Enlightenment) arose in Tibet to facilitate
study and meditation on key Buddhist concepts;
meditation on death and dying is a principal
topic. The texts provide instructions for actual
meditation practice, including contemplation on
the inevitability of death and the stages of the
dying process. In the texts are many slogans
designed to remind the practitioner throughout
the meditation that death is definite, yet the time
of death is indefinite, and at the time of death
only Dharma practice will be of benefit. These
meditations on death and dying are done
repeatedly to help practitioners develop
detachment and equanimity and to prepare them
to meet death calmly and constructively.
Death forces us to confront our yearning for
immortality, what Wallace (1993) calls "life's
oldest illusion," and to recognize how we are
"enmeshed in the chain oftrivial concerns that fill
daily life" (p. 11). Attitudes toward death are thus
closely connected to a sense of personal identity,
because death represents the loss of a person's
familiar identifications, especially the
identification with this body and mind. Strong
emotions such as anger or attachment to friends
and possessions are viewed as serious
impediments to mindful, meaningful dying and
causes for disagreeable future rebirths.
From a Tibetan perspective, it is assumed that
the mental events or moments of mental
consciousness that comprise an individual's
mental continuum continue to arise after the
physical elements disintegrate and eventually
assume a new locus of physical components. This
cycle repeats endlessly, each successive rebirth
bringing a different identity with unique
propensities as a result of its karmic ledger.
Insight into the nature of consciousness is
therefore central to the Tibetan Buddhist
understanding of death and its consequences.
In the Tibetan Buddhist worldview, the
"person" is a concatenation of physical and mental
components or momentary events. All functional
phenomena belong to one of three mutually
distinct yet interrelated categories: matter (Skt:
kanthii), consciousnesses (Skt: jiUtna), and
nonassociated compositional factors (Skt:
v ipray uk ta-sG1!Lskiira) (Perdue, 1992, p. 354).
Actions of body, speech, and mind create imprints
on successive moments of consciousness, and lie
dormant in the mental continuum until
conditions are conducive to their ripening,
creating the conditions for further actions of
body, speech, and mind. Each moment of
consciousness conditions successive moments of
consciousness. Actions of body, speech, and mind
thus generate further actions, whether wholesome
or unwholesome. Consciousness does not simply
cease at the time of death, but gives rise to
subsequent moments of consciousness, which
continue into the intermediate state (bardo) that
exists between the moment of death and the
moment ofthe next rebirth. Because the moment
of consciousness at the time of death conditions
subsequent moments of consciousness into the
next rebirth, the quality of consciousness (or
"state of mind") at the time of death is critical for
determining the quality of the next rebirth.
Consequently, Tibetan practitioners train their
minds to remain calm and attentive during the
stages of the dying process, throughout the
intermediate state, and during the process of
Rehearsing One's Dying
N THE harsh climate of Tibet, death is a constant
threat. Temperatures dip far below freezing
and life is generally at the mercy ofthe elements.
Tibetan practitioners take the Buddha's teachings
on death very seriously. At the portal to the next
life awaits Yama, the Lord of Death. Eager to
snap up the unsuspecting, he metaphorically
weighs the deceased's former actions, punishing
evil deeds with terrifying consequences and
rewarding good deeds with a happy destiny in the
next life. The physical components of the person
disintegrate within a given time span, determined
by the quality of that person's spiritual practice
and the level of realization attained. The
consciousness of an experienced practitioner may
remain in meditation for some time and delay the
decomposition of the body. Mter the physical
components disintegrate, what becomes of them
is inconsequential, and thus to offer the flesh and
ground bones to vultures is not grotesque, but
rather a commendable act of generosity. Since
rotting flesh is of no use to the deceased or to the
continuity of consciousness, it is considered an
act of merit to donate the flesh to animals,
especially "higher" animals, such as birds. Cho,
154 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, VOL 20
the ritual practice of offering one's body parts to
spirits in meditation, appears to be a rehearsal
for the dismemberment that follows actual death.
Precisely what happens after the moment of
death is a matter of ongoing dispute among
Buddhists, yet all schools concur that the mental
continuum of an ordinary being takes another
hirth. Whether the next rebirth is pleasant or
unpleasant is the result of one's previous actions,
wholesome or unwholesome. For example,
Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga (1964) relates
that when the life-continuum ends, an evil person
is enveloped by the store of his or her evil deeds.
First, the death consciousness arises and ceases,
then the rebirth-linking consciousness arises,
and due to the negative karma previously
created, the signs of an unhappy destiny (the
flames of hen, forests of knives, etc.) appear (p.
632). Conversely, when the life-continuum ends,
a virtuous person is enveloped by his or her good
deeds. Mter the death consciousness arises and
ceases, the rebirth-linking consciousness arises,
and the pleasant signs of a happy destiny
(pleasure groves, heavenly palaces, wish-
fulfilling trees, etc.) appear (pp. 633-634).
Buddhaghosa, the foremost commentator in
the Hili tradition, describes how like gives rise to
like: The material (Skt: mpa, form) gives rise to
the material, while the immaterial (Skt: vijfiana,
consciousness) gives rise to the immaterial. In
accordance with dependent ansmg (Skt:
prat'ityasamutpada), the life-continuum begins
from the rebirth-linking consciousness and
continues until the death consciousness at the
end of the lifespan (1964, p. 719). One assumes or
"takes up" the corporeal aggregates that begin
the life continuum and leaves behind or "puts
down" the corporeal aggregates at the time of
death. All the "formations" between birth and
death-the varied experiences of life-are
characterized by impermanence (Skt: anitya),
unsatisfactoriness (Skt: dukkha), and selflessness
(Skt: anatman). The "formations" are described
as being selfless, because of being devoid of self,
or "ownerless" (p. 721). The lifespan is divided
into ten stages: "the tender decade, the sport
decade, the beauty decade," and so on, with the
formations disintegrating all the while and life
careening uncontrollably toward its inevitable
conclusion. The various stages of life are
therefore in a ceaseless process of formation and
disintegration from moment to moment. The
Indian Buddhist perspective on life and death is
congruent with its perspective on the bipolar
modality of phenomena: a thing can be either
permanent or impermanent; there is no third
alternative. Therefore, if a self were to exist, it
would have to be either a permanent or an
impermanent phenomenon. Buddhaghosa
vigorously denies that any component of the
being is transmitted from one life to the next, and
his view is commonly held by Theravada
Buddhist practitioners today. The Pali texts go to
great lengths to establish that the "self," like all
compounded phenomena, is impermanent and
lacking in any permanent core.
In theAbhidharmakoSa, Vasubandhu describes
an intermediate state (bardo) of indeterminate
length. A bardo being is said to be: (a) visible only
to certain beings; (b) possessed of complete sense
faculties; and (c) unimpeded by material
obstacles. A bardo being lacks materiality, but
nevertheless has a form which, although not
visible to ordinary human beings, may be visible
to other bardo beings, highly realized beings, and
beings with the special capacity to perceive such
a form. Because a bardo being is unimpeded by
material obstacles, it is able to travel through
walls, mountains, and other barriers. Such a
being possesses complete sense faculties and is
able to see, hear, smell, taste, feel sensations, and
cognize. The being lacks materiality (N eumaier-
Dargyay, 1997, p. 92), but still has the aggregates
which are the basis for imputing the existence of
a self. The ultimate destiny of the being is
determined by its former actions (Skt: karma) in
previous lifetimes, or more properly speaking,
the being's destiny arises in dependence upon
causes and conditions which propel it to its next
rebirth. Only one who has practiced intensively
in advance and gained sufficient control over the
mind has the power to choose or avoid rebirth.
Although the standard Tibetan explication of
death and rebirth is somewhat more complex and
colorful, it is remarkably similar to Buddhaghosa's
explication in the Visuddhimagga. Only the
momentary aggregate of consciousness continues
after death, with one moment of consciousness
giving rise to and conditioning the next. Unless
one has achieved a very high level of spiritual
attainment, rebirth takes place "at the mercy of
karma and delusion."
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 155
All Buddhist schools assert that the mental
continuum, being nonmaterial, may travel from
one life to the next without any time lapse,
especially in the case of a sudden accident. In
contrast to Buddhaghosa, who argues that
rebirth necessarily takes place immediately,
Tibetans believe that the consciousness
transverses an intermediate state (bardo) for a
period of up to forty-nine days. The bardo being
seeks an appropriate rebirth in a series of seven
intervals, each up to seven days in length. At each
stage, the bardo being assumes an identity that
presages that of its next rebirth. At the end of
each interval, if an appropriate rebirth has not
been found, the being experiences a "small
death," takes birth in another intermediate state
(bardo), and assumes a new identity similar in
form to the identity it will take in its eventual,
material rebirth. Rather than appearing in the
same form as in the last lifetime, the bardo being
resembles the being it will become. These
changing identities can be seen as analogs of the
series of identities a single mental continuum
assumes over the course of many, even infinite,
lifetimes. Under the influence of defilements,
particularly sexual desire, the mental
consciousness of an ordinary being eventually is
attracted to a couple in sexual union. As a result
of this attraction, the consciousness enters the
mother's womb and conception occurs.3
The term bardo (Skt: antarabhcwa) is most
commonly used to refer to the intermediate state
between death in one lifetime and rebirth in the
next. In fact, the term may denote one of six
intermediate (bardo) states: (a) birth (skye ba'i
bar do); (b) dream (rmi lam gyi bar do); (c)
meditative concentration (bsam gten gyi bar do);
(d) death ('chi ka'i bar do); (e) the afterdeath state
of reality itself (chos nyi bar do, Skt: dharmata);
and (f) rebirth or "becoming" (srid pa'i bar do).
The bardo of birth includes all the experiences
and actions of waking reality from birth until
death; the bardo of dream includes all
experiences and mental events during sleep; the
bardo of meditative concentration includes all
mental events and realizations experienced
during meditation practice; the bardo of death
includes all events during the process of dying
and the moment of death; the afterdeath bardo of
reality itself includes all the mental events
experienced once one regains consciousness after
death; and the bardo of rebirth includes all the
experiences involved in seeking an appropriate
next birth.
The bardo of rebirth ceases with the
bardo of birth, and the cycle begins again.
Enlightened Ways of Dying
Navigating the Journey to the Next Life
s DEATH approaches, the dying person is
encouraged to reflect on the impermanent,
suffering, selfless nature of the mind and all
other composite phenomena, as described in the
early Buddhist texts. In addition, a person who is
sufficiently trained will meditate on the
luminous, empty, knowing nature ofthe mind, as
described in the Mahayana texts, and be prepared
to recognize the clear light nature of the mind
when it appears in the afterdeath state. In the
Tibetan tradition, a practitioner will also have
received instructions and training on the stages
of the dying process and how to recognize the
physiological, psychological, and VIsIOnary
indicators that occur at each stage. If the
practitioner has rehearsed these practices and
become thoroughly familiar with the stages of
dying, it is possible not only to avoid unfortunate
"migrations" after death, but also to achieve high
spiritual realizations, including enlightenment,
during the stages of the dying process and the
intermediate state.
Tibetan medical lore explains how to
determine the time of death by analyzing the
urine of the critically ill patient and by reading
the death pulse (Donden, 1986, pp. 99-101, 104-
105). Of the four medical tantras, the second
describes the signs of death in detail (p. 18). A
composite of gross and subtle winds (bar do rlung
lus, Skt: antarabhavayukaya) is said to continue
during the intermediate state after death. Death
is regarded as a process rather than a unitary
event. The subtle winds and subtle body that
continue after physical death are the basis for the
only semblance of identity that survives an
individual's death.
In his translation of Padmasambhava's Book
of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in
the Between (Bar do thos grol), Thurman (1994)
Western science holds that a "flatline" on the
EEG means cessation of heartbeat and brain
156 The Internationaljournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, VoL 20
activity, and therefore represents death. The
illusion of the subjective "!" in the individual
consciousness, assumed by materialists to
correspond with the presence of brain wave
activity, should cease with the cessation of brain
waves. Yet the picture of death as nothing in
consciousness is not a scientific finding. It is a
conceptual notion. There are many cases of
people being revived after "flatlining" for some
time, and they report intense subjective
experiences. (p. 23)
Thurman (1994) applies Pascal's wager: If there
is nothing after death, well and good; if there is
something, we will not regret being prepared for
it. Karma is described by Thurman as a process of
psychobiological evolution, and Buddhist practice
as the evolutionary technology needed to die
lucidly and then to skillfully traverse the
intermediate state.
Tibetan Funerary Practices
MONG BUDDHISTS, purifying the mind,
absolving negative karma, creating positive
karma, and loosening the bonds that bind an
individual to the world are concerns not only for
the living, but also for those in the intermediate
state after death. The Liberation Through
Hearing in the Bardo (Bar do thos grol), the well-
known Tibetan instruction manual for guiding
the dying through the bardo between death and
rebirth, is often an integral part of funeral
rituals. The text, attributed to Padmasambhava
and discovered by Karma Lingpa (1326-1386), is
an example ofthe hidden treasure text (gter ma)
genre of literature associated with the Nyingma
tradition. The text guides the dying in: (a)
recognizing the fundamental clear light nature of
the mind at the time of death; (b) recognizing the
true nature of the wrathful and peaceful deities
that appear; and (c) achieving liberation from
rebirth. Just as a prisoner on death row may
experience a spiritual breakthrough, the intensity
of the experience of dying can serve as a catalyst
for spiritual awakening. It is believed that a
highly competent practitioner may even achieve
enlightenment in the bardo.
The Tibetan Buddhist tradition teaches that
no matter how defiled one's ordinary consciousness
may be, at its center lies a core ofluminosity-the
potential to become a funy enlightened Buddha.
To realize the luminous nature ofthe mind at the
moment of death is itself a liberation from the
delusions that obscure the true nature of the
mind. The luminous, ultimately nonconceptual
nature ofthe mind is also alluded to in early texts
such as the Anguttara Nikaya. Although this
understanding may also be developed through
meditation practice while one is alive, the dying
process presents an ideal opportunity to discover
the clear light nature of the mind-the primary
identifying aspect of all sentient beings. Without
proper preparation, an individual is propelled
after death into a new rebirth totally at the mercy
of karma and delusion. Therefore, practitioners
make efforts to gain control ofthe mind and train
in navigating the stages of dying beforehand so as
to remain calm and aware during the "journey"
and achieve a desirable rebirth.
Actual practices vary according to the
individual and the lineage. If a person has been a
practitioner of a particular meditational deity (yi
dam) or lineage of transmission, it is common to
incorporate that practice and lineage into funeral
proceedings. The goal is to achieve enlightenment
"in this life, in this very body," but in case one is
not able to accomplish this goal there still
remains the opportunity to direct one's
consciousness to a Pure Land after death. An
extremely proficient adept can effect rebirth in a
Pure Land even without experiencing the bardo.
Such adepts are said to be "deathless"; the coarse
physical body transforms into a pure rainbow
body and leaves no corpse behind. When this
occurs, rainbows appear in the clear blue sky and
the practitioner's hair and fingernails are all that
is left behind in the meditation cell. Reports of
such phenomena are not uncommon in Tibetan
cultural lore.
Phowu: Transference of Consciousness
HE UNIQUELY Tibetan meditation practice
known as phowa, "transference of
consciousness," is a means of preparing for the
journey to the next rebirth. By learning to control
the winds of the body and consciously direct them
through the psychic channels, practitioners also
learn to successfully guide their consciousness
from this life to a rebirth in a Pure Land at the
moment of death. For one sufficiently trained in
phowa, death is the culmination of the practice.
Not only can one avoid an unfortunate future
rebirth, but a competent phowa practitioner is
able to collect the 84,000 winds of the body into
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 157
the central psychic channel and direct the subtle
mind to a rebirth in a "fortunate migration" or a
Pure Land.
The Yoga of Consciousness Transference text
by Tsechokling Yeshe Gyaltsen, the guru of the
eighth Dalai Lama, describes a phowa practice
that focuses on Maitreya Buddha "wherein all
energies of the body are withdrawn just as at the
time of death and a meditational experience
equivalent to death is aroused" (Mullin, 1998, p.
175). The practice preliminaries include the
elimination of non virtuous mental states and the
cultivation of virtuous ones by: (a) generating
bodhicitta, the enlightened attitude of wishing to
achieve the state of perfect Buddhahood in order
to liberate all sentient beings from suffering; (b)
accumulating merit; (c) meditating repeatedly on
bodhicitta; (d) eliminating negativity through
purification practices; and (e) aspiring never to
become separated from bodhicitta (Mullin, 1998,
p. 177). In the actual practice session, one first
visualizes Maitreya Buddha in T u ~ ; i t a Pure Land,
surrounded by countless bodhisattvas, and then
invokes him to manifest at the place of practice.
Next, one recites liturgies of offering, purification,
invocation, and dedication, and visualizes a
nectar of purification and blessings streaming
from Maitreya into oneself. One visualizes
blocking the subsidiary pathways ofthe body and
invites Maitreya to the crown of one's head.
Concentrating on a drop of light in the central
energy channel as being in the nature of one's
own mind, one invokes Maitreya, who fills the
central channel with brilliant light. One then
repeatedly visualizes the light drop at one's
heart, along with the vital energies, shooting up
until it reaches the crown aperture and
descending. In order to achieve the signs of
perfect accomplishment, the practitioner must
bear in mind the illusory nature of the
practitioner, the consciousness, and the process
of transference-the emptiness of "the three
circles" (Mullin, 1998, pp. 181-187).
As the actual time of death approaches, one
accumulates merit by giving away all one's
possessions and then, lying on the right side in
the "lion posture," begins the practice. Great care
must be taken in the practice of ph ow a, however,
to ensure that one's consciousness does not
accidently leave the body before one's lifespan is
exhausted. Because the practitioner is consciously
identifying with the meditational deity, to eject
the consciousness from the body and die
prematurely is not only equivalent to suicide-a
serious ethical transgression-but also slays the
deity that is the object of identification. It is a
widely shared value that Dharma practitioners
should attempt to prolong their lives in order to
fulfill their spiritual objectives. Long life
empowerments (tse dbang) are among the
numerous ritual enactments to prevent untimely
death and prolong life. Collectively, these
practices are designed to "cheat death"
(Padmasambhava, 1998, pp. 196-197).
Chi): Deconstructing the Illusory Self
HE MAHAYANA teachings emphasize compassion,
bodhicitta, and meditation techniques that
erode the self-cherishing attitude. One well-
known practice for eradicating self-cherishing
and perfecting the virtue of generosity is cho, or
"cutting through." In this practice, one visualizes
cutting off one's limbs and other body parts, and
symbolically offering them to hungry ghosts and
other beings in need:
The Chad [cho] rites were reputed to have
been begun in the eleventh century by the
Tibetan female mystic, Machig Labdron. In
the myth surrounding her life, a male yogi in
India transferred his consciousness into the
body of a female foetus in Tibet and she was
born with miraculous powers. It was during
her reading of the Prajfiiiparamita that she
achieved insight pertaining to the emptiness
of all things, and developed the practice which
uses visualizations of demons to overcome
fears and dispel the notion of a belief in a
"self." In the practice, the meditator beats the
rhythm of the chant with a large hand-held
drum and simultaneously rings a bell, which
is said to represent the feminine. At intervals
a thigh bone trumpet is blown to summon the
demons to a feast of the meditator's ego.
(Campbell, 1996, p. 209)
The practice aims at cutting through the
delusions of the mind, particularly attachment to
the body and the illusion of an independent self.
The practice of cho that developed in Tibet has
its roots in early Buddhist texts, specifically the
Jataka tales, the past life legends about Buddha
Sakyamuni. In a past life as a bodhisattva, the
Buddha is believed to have cut off the flesh from
his own thigh and given it to a hungry tigress to
158 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
save her and her cubs from starvation. N amo
Buddha, the sacred site in Nepal that
commemorates this compassionate deed, is a
popular destination for Buddhist pilgrims from
around the world even today.
In one of the few academic studies of eha,
Gyatso (1985) traces the practice to four main
Indian sources: Aryadeva's Tsigs bead, Naro's Ro
sfioms, Orgyan's 'Khrul geod, and especially
Phadampa Sangye's Zi byed (p. 325). The practice
is traditionally linked with the Prajfiaparamita
tradition, wherein offering one's body to sentient
beings is extolled as an ideal practice of
generosity (Skt: oonapliramita), and generally
features Vajrayogini or another female deity or
Qiikini. Codified by the Tibetan yogin Machig
Labdron (Ma geig lab kyi sgron ma, 1055-1143),
eha is a method for severing the tendency to cling
to the body and the illusion of self (Powers, 1995,
Through offering up one's body-the focal
point of physical attachments-one
undermines the tendency to reify such
dichotomies as subject and object, self and
others, and conventional ideas of good and
evil. Thus one recognizes that one's fears are
only the result of mental afflictions, which
themselves are empty of inherent existence.
In order to confront them directly, a cho
practitioner enacts a complex drama consisting
of visualizations, rituals, and prayers in
which deities and demons are initially
conjured up, but later found to be insubstantial,
utterly lacking inherent existence, and
products ofthe mind. (p. 371)
Machig's birth narrative recounts her previous
life as a brahmin dialectician in India. Advised by
a Qiikini to flee his opponents, the purified
consciousness abandons the male brahmin body
in a cave near Var3J;lasi and takes birth as Machig
in Tibet. From early childhood, Machig gains
renown as a yogin and eventually becomes the
progenitor of the deconstructionist eha rite. As
Powers (1995) notes, she "holds the distinction of
being the only Tibetan lama whose teachings
were transmitted to India" (p. 374).
Guru, Deity, and Self
HE TANTRIC path speaks about one's mind
becoming inseparable from the mind of the
guru and the meditational deity. In the orthodox
Buddhist context this is not possible, since each
individuated mental continuum evolves
independently toward its own liberation or
enlightenment. Individual mind streams do not
simply conjoin. The statement that "one's mind
becomes inseparable from the mind of the guru"
therefore represents a conundrum. The most
common interpretation is figurative: One's mind
becomes enlightened just like the mind of the
guru. Because the mind is by nature empty, all
sentient beings have Buddha nature, the
potential for enlightenment. Because one's mind
is empty by nature, one can realize the guru's
enlightened state.
The Tantric meditations use procreative
metaphors to symbolize transformation: the
divine conjugal couple as the parents, the
mroyjala of the deity as the environment, the
womb as the genetrix, and the practitioner as the
embryo of enlightenment (Stablein, 1980, pp.
213-226). The Tantric meditations also speak
about "generating the pride of being the deity,"
that is, pride in the visualization of oneself as
inseparable from the meditational deity (yidam):
Avalokitesvara, MafijtiSri, Vajrapfu;1i, Tara, and
others. This identification of oneself with a
meditational deity-selected from an infinite
number of different manifestations of
enlightenment-is not merely symbolic. One
takes pride in actually "being" the deity,
manifesting all that being's enlightened qualities:
compassion, wisdom, power, enlightened activity,
and so forth. Since enlightened beings are also
individuated, each one being the result of a long
process of evolution, the identification of the
practitioner with the deity is similarly
problematic. In order to be consistent with the
Mahayana hermeneutical framework, the
identification must, again, be taken figuratively,
that is, by juxtaposing the obscured mental
continuum of the ordinary being and the
unobscured enlightened awareness of the
enlightened being.
Relaxing identifications: Self as Metaphor
HE BUDDHIST literature that was transmitted
to Tibet included extensive discussions on
the nature of the self. Misconceptions about the
self are among the three fundamental
misconceptions that lie at the root of all
afflictions: (a) viewing what is impermanent as
permanent; (b) viewing what is undesirable as
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 159
desirable; and (c) viewing what is selfless as
having self. Clinging to the self is integrally linked
with grasping at permanence, and both are causes
of suffering. The identities we take from life to life
are illusory and the images we have of ourselves
are mere projections. Identifying strongly with
these ephemeral identities is a source of great
suffering and confusion, particularly when they
shatter at the time of death.
The existence of a person does not require that
all five of the psychophysical aggregates (Skt:
skandhas) be present, but can be imputed on the
basis of one or more of the aggregates: form,
feeling, perception, karmic formation, and
consciousness. For example, a being in the
formless realm who possesses only the aggregate
of consciousness may be imputed to exist on the
basis of just that one aggregate. Existent objects,
including persons, are necessarily the objects of a
perceiving consciousness. The existence of a
person, therefore, is imputed to exist by a
perceiving consciousness that cognizes one or
more of the five aggregates, for example, seeing
the person's form or hearing the person's voice. It
is not necessary to perceive an the aggregates of a
person to generate a valid cognition ofthe person;
one may validly infer the presence of a person by
hearing the person's familiar voice or seeing the
person's form.
Mahayana texts explain that the theory of
selflessness applies not only to persons, but to all
composite phenomena. This view is not limited to
Mahayana, for the three characteristics of all
phenomena are dissatisfaction (Skt: dukkha),
impermanence (Skt: anitya), and selflessness
(Skt: anatman). Like persons, the other "things"
of everyday experience also exist as conventional
realities which lack inherent reality. "I," "self,"
and "person" are mere labels; upon analysis, no
ultimate referent can be found. The doctrine of
selflessness does not mean that persons do not
exist but only that permanent, partless,
independent persons do not exist (Perdue, 1992,
p. 364). Ultimately, in the Prasangika
Madhyamaka definition, "self' denotes inherent
existence. Hopkins (1983) enumerates seventeen
synonyms of self in this sense: true existence,
ultimate existence, substantial existence, objective
existence, and so forth (p. 36). Even nonexistent
phenomena are said to be selfless, for a self
cannot be found anywhere.
In the Collected Topics (bsDus grva), the logic
primer used in the monastic universities of Tibet,
the five psychophysical aggregates (Skt: skandhas)
constitute the basis of designation of the person,
but the five aggregates are also said to include all
impermanent ("functional") phenomena.
Impermanent phenomena that do not belong to
the categories of form, feeling, discrimination, or
consciousness are subsumed in the remaining
category, compositional factor. Functional
phenomena such as time, directional space,
karma, sal?1sara, and persons belong to this
category. On the basis of the aggregates, a person
can be imputed to exist; without at least one ofthe
aggregates (for example, consciousness), a person
cannot be imputed to exist. If a person's
consciousness can be shown to survive death, it
can be concluded that a conventionally operative
"person" survives death, even though it will no
longer have the same identity as while alive.
In addition to the standard Buddhist
description of the nature of self and selflessness,
Tibetan scholars analyze the self in accordance
with the Mahayana doctrine of the two truths.
The selfis a functional phenomenon that, like all
phenomena, exists at the conventional level of
truth, but is empty of true existence at the
ultimate level. Conventional and ultimate levels
of truth are mutually entailing in the same way
that dependent arising (Skt: pratityasamutpada)
and emptiness are mutually entailing. That is,
each existent (to take the classic example, a vase)
is empty and each has its specific emptiness (e.g.,
the emptiness of the vase). Even permanent
phenomena can be termed dependent arisings, in
the sense that they arise in dependence on their
parts or in dependence on a consciousness that
conceives them (Hopkins, 1983, p. 432).
The nature of the self is explained in terms of
two distorted attitudes to be eliminated: self-
cherishing and self-grasping. Self-cherishing
denotes cherishing oneself more than others; self-
grasping denotes grasping at oneself as being
truly existent. The conventional antidotes to self-
cherishing are loving kindness and compassion-
cherishing others more than oneself. The
ultimate antidote to self-cherishing is bodhicitta,
the enlightened attitude of wishing to achieve the
state of perfect Buddhahood in order to liberate
all sentient beings from suffering. The
conventional antidote to self-grasping is
160 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
meditation on impermanence-realizing the
fragile, fleeting nature of one's own existence.
The ultimate antidote to self-grasping is the
wisdom (Skt: prajfiii) that directly understands
the emptiness (Skt: sunyatii) of all phenomena.
This is an awareness of things "as they are,"
without false projections such as "I," "me," and
"mine." The self is mistakenly perceived by
ordinary beings as being truly existent, even
though it exists in dependence on the five
Further, the five aggregates are
mistakenly perceived to truly exist, even though
they exist on the basis of their constituent parts
("bases of imputation"). This imputed existence
(Skt: prajiiaptisat) is then misinterpreted as true
Once the practitioner eliminates the
misconception ofthe self as existing independently
of its bases of imputation, ignorance or
"unknowing" (Skt: avidya )-the root of all other
delusions-is eradicated. When ignorance is
eradicated, the first link in the chain of
dependent arising that binds beings within
saJ?1sara is simultaneously destroyed. Nagarjuna
(2ndl3rd c.) expresses it this way:
Having seen thus the aggregates as untrue,
The conception of I is abandoned,
And due to abandoning the conception of I
The aggregates arise no more.
(In Hopkins, 1998, p. 97)
When the aggregates are no longer conceived as
being truly existent, there is no self in which
suffering can inhere, hence liberation from
suffering is achieved.
Persons, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas
FURTHER TOPIC to consider is what death
means to a bodhisattva or a Buddha. Do
bodhisattvas and Buddhas die like ordinary
mortals or are they beyond death? What does
death mean for an embodied Buddha such as
Sakyamuni who has transcended conceptual
thought? What does it mean· for a bodhisattva
who willingly defers liberation for the good of the
world? Does the bodhisattva ideal contribute to
the illusion of self or undermine it? To strive for
Buddhahood requires not only much dedication
and conviction, but also tremendous self-
confidence, even pride: the aspirant must vow "to
liberate aU beings without exception, and to take
the responsibility for establishing each and every
one in the state of perfect Buddhahood." Is the
wish to liberate all living beings a form of self-
sacrifice or is it, as Trungpa Rinpoche reportedly
once said, "the biggest ego trip that ever
In the early Buddhist texts, a Buddha like
Sakyamuni is portrayed as an ordinary human
being who, through diligent practice, achieves
the state of nirvii/Ja and passes away ("enters
paranirvii/Ja"), more or less like any other person,
although perhaps with more equanimity and
wisdom. Prior to enlightenment, a bodhisattva is
a selfless practitioner who aims at liberating all
sentient beings, but is otherwise vulnerable to
death and rebirth, just like everyone else. As the
Mahayana teachings evolved, these concepts
began to change as the Buddhas and bodhisattvas
progressively assumed more mythic proportions.
Even in pre-Mahayana texts, a practitioner
who successfully attains the state of a fully
enlightened Buddha is no longer subject to birth
and death and is therefore liberated from cyclic
existence (saJ?1sara). The Mahayana texts
explicitly state that one who has achieved the
status of a bodhisattva has also achieved the
power to determine one's future rebirth. Unlike
ordinary beings who are "thrown" to the next
rebirth "at the mercy of karma and delusion," a
bodhisattva achieves the power to emanate
multiple bodies in multiple world systems in
order to benefit sentient beings. The motivating
force behind the bodhisattva's endeavors is not
pride or egotism, but boundless compassion.
In Tibet, the belief in the bodhisattvas' power
to reincarnate intentionally became
institutionalized in the tulku system, in which
reincarnate lamas are recognized in childhood,
revered as being the reembodiments of specific
highly realized practitioners, and singled out for
special treatment and education. The word
"tulku" is the Tibetan translation of the Sanskrit
word "nirmf1l:duiya," signifying the emanation
body in the trikaya theory of the Buddha. The
oldest tulku lineage, that ofthe Karmapas, began
with Tusum Khyenpa (1110-1193) and continues
until the present, with the 17th Karmapa, U gyen
Trinley Dorje, who recently escaped Chinese
domination and defected to India.
Unlike the bodhisattvas who intentionally
take rebirth in saJ?1sara to benefit sentient
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 161
beings, Buddhas are viewed as perfectly
enlightened beings who benefit sentient beings
through methods that do not necessarily require
taking an ordinary birth. For this reason, the texts
refer to the ultimate attainment of Buddha hood as
achieving "the deathless dharmakaya" (formless,
enlightened wisdom aspect ofthe Buddha). These
various identities and permutations within the
different Buddhist traditions are, like all
phenomena, ultimately devoid of abiding identity.
Whereas the enlightened awareness of a Buddha
is permanent, the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, arhats,
and ordinary beings alike are identity-less,
operating on a ceaselessly changing, conventional
level of reality. Even the bodhisattva who is
recognized as the reembodiment of a spiritual
adept, manifesting the predispositions of an
earlier incarnation, represents simply another
phase in a continuous series of conventional
Consciously Dying
HE TIBETAN Buddhist tradition has developed
a panopoly of methods to cultivate conscious
dying. By training in mental discipline,
practitioners learn to control their various levels
of conscious awareness and reach a point where it
is even possible to separate the gross and subtle
levels of the mind and the body. Proficiency in
controlling the levels of consciousness is
specifically useful during the dying process. For
this reason, the experience of dying is simulated
and rehearsed in meditation practice. Learning
to recognize the "clear and knowing" nature ofthe
mind enables a practitioner to understand the
mind not only while living, but also, and more
importantly, while dying, and during the critical
junctures between life, death, and rebirth.
The preliminaries for conscious dying include
a series of reflections on the nature of death, its
implications, and its inevitability (Coberly, 2001;
Mullin, 1998, pp. 54-58). Meditating on death,
one first reflects on the fact that death is definite,
by considering that: (a) death comes to everyone;
(b) the lifespan is constantly diminishing and
cannot be extended indefinitely; and (c) while one
is alive, little time is spent on mental cultivation.
In the second part of the meditation, one reflects
on the fact that the time of death is indefinite, by
considering that: (a) the human lifespan is
uncertain; (b) the causes of death are many and
the conditions for supporting life are few; and (c)
the body is very fragile. In the last part of the
meditation, one reflects on the fact that at the
time of death, only mental cultivation is of
benefit, by considering that: (a) friends and
relatives are of no further use; (b) possessions are
of no further use; and (c) one's body is of no
further use. Serious reflection on these topics can
motivate a person to abandon worldly concerns
and concentrate intensively on spiritual practice.
Another method of meditating on death is to
visualize the dissolution of the elements of the
body and mind that occurs during the stages of
dying (Coberly, 2001; Lati Rinpochay & Hopkins,
1979, pp. 32-48). The dissolution ofthe elements of
the mind and body (earth, water, fire, wind, and
consciousness) occurs in conjunction with the
dissolution of the five aggregates, accompanied by
specific physical, external, and internal signs. For
example, as the earth element, representing the
form aggregate, dissolves, the most solid
constituents of the body (bones, teeth, and nails)
begin to disintegrate, and the body feels weak and
heavy; internally, one feels depressed and sees a
mirage-like appearance. In this way, a practitioner
meditates on each ofthe signs that appear as all of
the subsequent elements dissolve in sequence:
earth, water, fire, and wind. Next, consciousness
dissolves in three stages: the consciousness of
white appearance, the consciousness of red
increase, and the consciousness of black
appearance. As the last ofthese dissolves, the clear
light of death appears. The luminous refractions in
rainbow colors represent the six realms of rebirth:
white for the god realm, green for the demigod
realm, yellow for the human realm, blue for the
animal realm, red for the hungry ghost realm, and
black for the hell realm. At this point, the
consciousness of most beings takes rebirth,
impelled to one realm or another by familiar
longings and projections.
A uniquely Tibetan method of death meditation,
mentioned earlier, is cho (chad), "cutting
through." Other examples are the visualization
techniques described in the Tantric texts
transmitted from India and still practiced in the
Tibetan tradition today. Through meditative
experience, imagining oneselfto be an enlightened
being, the developing stage of Tantric practice
aims at purifYing birth, death, and the intermediate
state between death and rebirth (Guenther, 1986,
p. 44). The visualization of meditational deities,
female and male, consciously and continuously
162 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
during these critical stages has the effect of
eliminating unproductive and unwholesome states
of consciousness, or "impure manifestations." In
this way, "death is not a passage into nothingness,
but a way of existing as an end attained; everything
that has prevented authentic being, has 'died'"
(Guenther, 1986, p. 45, n. 5).
During the intermediate state, the aim is to be
completely aware when death occurs and to
recognize the clear light nature of consciousness
when it appears, without fear or distraction. The
process of purification and attunement that occurs
when one remains alert and fully mindful of the
clear light nature ofthe mind during the bardo is an
opportunity for successive levels of realization, even
liberation. Just as during the dream state between
sleep and wakefulness (rmi lam bar do), the subtle
consciousness is said to "ride" on a subtle body.
Because this state is an opportunity to recognize the
"indivisibility of motility and mentality," that is, the
changing nature of consciousness, Guenther (1986)
calls it an "intermediate state of possibilities" (pp.
83-86). It is not that these subtle states of
consciousness are not present during ordinary
waking life, it is just that most people are so
absorbed with grosser levels of consciousness that
they remain unaware ofthem. However, after the
gross body disintegrates, along with the grosser
levels of consciousness, most people have an
increased opportunity to become more aware of
these subtle levels of consciousness. Unfortunately,
unless people have familiarized themselves with
these more subtle levels of consciousness through
meditation practice, they will be unable to
recognize and work with them during the
intermediate state and the opportunities presented
at death will be wasted. Identity in the
Mterdeath State
Bardo: Between Death and Rebirth
CCORDING TO the historical overview of the
bardo by Cuevas (1999), the concept of an
intermediate state (Skt: antarabhava) that was
originally presented in the Abhidharma literature,
especially that of the Sarvastivada school,
referred specifically to the intermediate state
between death and rebirth (pp. 2-6). In the
Abhidharmakosabhar;yam, Vasubhandu (1988)
cites mention of the antarabhava as one of seven
possible existences (Skt: bhava) mentioned in the
Saptabhavasutra, as an incipient being in the
Asvalayanasutra (vol. 2, pp. 386, n. 500) and as
one type of anllgamin ("non-returner") mentioned
in various texts in the Pali canon:
The Blessed One teaches that there are five
types of Anagamins: one who obtains Nirv8J;la in
an intermediate existence (antaraparinirvayin),
one who obtains Nirv8J;la as soon as he is reborn
without effort (anabhisaT{tskfiraparinirvayin),
one who obtains Nirv8J;la by means of effort
(abhisaT{tskfiraparinirvayin), and one who
obtains Nirv8J;la by going higher (urdvasrotas).
(vol. 2, p. 386, n. 507)
A classification of three types of antaraparinirvilyin
by duration and place appears in both Pa1i and
Sanskrit texts (vol. 2, pp. 386, n. 507). The
Marasfltra mentions the case of a negative spirit
(Skt: mara) named DU§in who, because of his
grave transgressions, was reborn immediately in
hell without any intermediate (antara) dwelling
(vasa) (vol. 2, p. 389).
In time, the concept of an intermediate state
(bardo; Skt: antarabhava) became elaborated
into four stages: (a) birth, (b) life, (c) death, and
(d) the interval between death and rebirth. Three
ofthese stages gradually became identified with
the three bodies (Skt: trikaya) of a Buddha:
dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya.
By understanding the nature of one's own mind
as the union of clear light and emptiness, one
recognizes the clear light of death as the
dharmakaya, or "truth body." By consciously
directing the visions and experiences of the
intermediate state, one transforms the bardo into
the sambhogakaya, or "enjoyment body." And by
consciously directing the rebirth process, one
transforms birth into the nirmanakaya, or
"emanation body" (Powers, 1995, p. 289). The
synthesis thus represents an integration of the
ordinary processes of death, intermediate state,
and rebirth with the generation and completion
stages ofTantric practice. Through the practice of
"deity yoga," visualizing oneself in the aspect of
an enlightened being, one simulates the state of
enlightenment. In this way, the adept becomes
skilled at closing the door to further rebirth, a
practice known as "obstructing the bardo." At the
same time, the practice of assuming an
alternative, enlightened identity undermines the
individual's allegiance to accustomed mistaken
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 163
identifications. By extension, the practice
undercuts the individual's customary perceptions
of reality in toto.
The eleventh-century Indian master Naropa
(1016-1100) innovatively drew correlations
between several sets of three. He relates hfe,
death, and rebirth to the trikaya doctrine, to the
three levels of practitioners (dull, medium, and
sharp), and to the visions that appear to the
dying, in what has become a standard Tantric
practice formula in the New Translation Schools
of Buddhism in Tibet. Naropa's Tibetan disciple
Marpa Lotsawa (Rje btsun lho brag pa, 1012-
1097) further developed this schema by
integrating a three-fold doxographical formulation
of the bardo into foundation (correct view of
emptiness), path (practice method), and fruit
(attainment of enlightenment). Marpa's disciple
Milarepa (Mi la ras pa, 1040-1123) further
elaborated these ideas in The Song of the Golden
Rosary. Building on the ideas of Milarepa and
others, Yangonpa (Yang dgon pa) arrived at a
modified list of six bardos, namely: (a) the natural
state; (b) ripening from birth to death; (c)
meditative stabilization; (d) karmic latencies and
dreams; (e) dying; and (f) becoming. The ultimate
objective of the practice is to utilize the stages in
the process of dying and becoming to achieve
realization and avoid rebirth. The "bardo of
reality itself' (chos nyid bar do) began to appear
in the twelfth century, apparently derived from
the Nyingma (rNying ma) tradition.
Grasping is said to be the root cause of
continual rebirth in cyclic existence. Two types of
grasping are elucidated by the Mahayana
tradition: grasping at persons (the "self') and
grasping at phenomena as being truly existent,
although they are not. To counteract grasping,
the Buddha taught the impermanent,
unsatisfying, illusory nature of self and
phenomena. He taught that all phenomena are
empty like foam, water bubbles, mirages, echoes,
plantain trees, dreams, reflections in a mirror,
and conjurers' tricks. Other means of
counteracting grasping at personal identity are
found in the visualization practices taught in the
Vajrayana tradition. Here, one imagines oneself
in the form of an enlightened being (the yidam, or
meditational "deity") in a completely pure realm
surrounded by other similarly enlightened
beings. This type of visualization practice is
taught as a means to cut through the habitual
tendency to grasp at the perception of a
substantial self. Because it accustoms the
individual to a different mode of perception and
engenders an awareness of the arbitrary and
flexible nature of personal identifications, it is
recommended in preparation for death:
If you gain realization in this practice of the
pure body, then during the transitional
process following death, it is certain that you
will be liberated. It is best if you can be
liberated when the peaceful emanations arise
and, if not then, when the wrathful
appearances arise. CPadmasambhava, 1998,
pp. 149-150)
To visualize oneself in the form of a meditational
deity removes all fear when the peaceful and
wrathful archetypes of enlightened mind appear
in the bardo. Further, by identifying with the
form and enlightened qualities ofthe deity at all
times, one actualizes or "becomes" the deity.7
Through a process of simulation, one's ordinary
identity and environment become transformed
into an enlightened identity and pure
environment. Ordinary deluded pride based on
self-cherishing and grasping is replaced by the
pride of being the deity, based on compassion and
the wisdom which directly realizes emptiness.
The Profound Dharma of the Natural
Liberation Through Contemplating the Peaceful
and Wrathful: Stage of Completion Instructions
on the Six Bardos, a treasure text (gter ma)
attributed to Padmasambhava and discovered by
Karma Lingpa (Kar magling pa, 14 c.), names the
intermediate states slightly differently than
Yangonpa does.
It also lists them in a different
order as the bardos of (a) living, (b) dreaming, (c)
meditative stabilization, (d) dying, (e) reality
itself, and (f) becoming. Yangonpa's description of
the bardo of the natural state is roughly
equivalent to Padmasambhava's bardo of reality
itself. The following discussion will consider
these six states one by one.
The Bardo of Living
HERE ARE four contemplations that are
fundamental for subduing one's mind and
attaining liberation: (a) the preciousness and
rarity of a human rebirth; (b) death and
impermanence; (c) the sufferings of cyclic
existence; and (d) the law of cause and effect
(Padmasambhava, 1998, pp. 3-51; Dhargyey,
164 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
1974, pp. 39-97). These are known as "the four
thoughts that turn one's mind to the Dharma."
N ext, one settles into the posture with seven
features, and rests the body, speech, and mind in
their natural states.
While generating the pure
motivation of wishing to achieve awakening for
the good of all beings, an unwavering awareness
that extends beyond the meditation session into
the actions of everyday life is cultivated. Some
meditation methods focus on a specific object,
while others have no focus, like boundless space.
Generally speaking, these approaches are typical
of the Gelug (dGe lugs) and Nyingma schools,
respectively. The Gelug school presents a gradual
approach in which the mind is purified of
delusion and eventually transformed into the
perfectly enlightened knowing of a Buddha; the
Nyingma presents a Ch'an Buddhist-like approach
in which the mind is regarded as being
primordially liberated and the Buddha nature
(Skt: tathagatagarbha) as already manifest
(Dhargyey, 1974, pp. 103,207). Both schools, and
the Sakya (Sa skya) and Kagyu (bKa' brgyud)
schools as well, turn their attention to meditation
on the true nature of the mind itself. According to
Gyatrul Rinpoche, a Nyingma lama, this
naturally luminous awareness is "the cause of
awareness in question is simply natural,
ordmary awareness without any type of
modification, without any fabrication. It is
without beginning; it is without birth
remaining, or cessation. Failing to
its nature, we enter into dualistic grasping,
grasping onto ourselves, grasping onto others,
grasping onto our own personal identity,
grasping onto the identity of other phenomena.
In this way we grasp onto that which is
nonexistent as being existent. As a result of
that, we continue to wander in the cycle of
existence. (Dhargyey, 1974, p. 124)
In the words ofPadmasambhava, this awareness is
"inseparable clarity, awareness, and emptiness,"
"the stainless sole eye of primordial wisdom"
(Dhargyey, 1974, p. 126). In this view, the present
human life is the most precious window of
opportunity for manifesting primordial wisdom.
By transforming the bardos of living, dreaming,
meditative stabilization, dying, reality itself, and
becoming, those with sharp faculties are able to
manifest enlightened, omniscient awareness in
this very body, in this very life. Failing that, the
bardo concept may still have practical value in
facilitating a positive experience of dying.
The Bardo of Dreaming

on dreaming go hand in hand
.wllth the mstructions on the illusory body,
cultiVated through meditation during the
daytime. Retreating into solitude and generating
an altruistic motivation, one meditates on the
mutable, illusory nature of one's body and all
other appearances, and how grasping at these
binds beings within cyclic existence. On the basis
of this practice, called the "pure illusory body,"
one also trains in the practice of dream yoga. The
first step in dream yoga is to begin seeing the
phenomena of everyday waking reality, as well as
the one perceiving them, as lacking in any
essence and thus not different from a dream or an
illusion. Next, one goes to bed in the evening and
lies in the "lion posture,"lO while clearly
visualizing oneself as one's preferred meditational
deity (yidam). The immediate aim is to learn to
recognize dream states for what they are, in
anticipation of apprehending the intermediate
state after death for what it is. A series of
visualization exercises are employed to sharpen
this awareness. For example, during the dream
state, one may imagine jumping into a raging
river, then experiencing it as bliss and emptiness.
Understanding the illusory nature of the
phenomena that appear in dreams, one practices
transforming them-multiplying, collapsing,
and changing them into various shapes and sizes.
Progressively, as one continues to practice, a
clear recognition of the dreamlike, illusory
nature of all phenomena and all appearances,
waking and sleeping, occurs.
Central to the practice of dream yoga is vivid
visualization on the clear light that appears as
one falls asleep, until eventually the clear light
dawns naturally, clear and empty, during the
dream state:
To apprehend the clear light in the nature of
reality-itself, you who nakedly identify
awareness should position your body as
before, subdue your awareness, and in vivid
clarity and emptiness focus your awareness at
your heart, and fall asleep. When your sleep is
agitated, do not lose the sense of indivisible
clarity and emptiness. When you are fast
asleep, ifthe vivid, indivisibly clear and empty
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 165
light of deep sleep is recognized, the clear light
is apprehended. (Dhargyey, 1974, p. 164)
The clear light appears to all sentient beings at
the time of death, but one must be skilled to
recognize it for what it is. The clear light also
appears at the junctures between wakefulness
and sleep, and sleep and wakefulness; but again,
one must be skilled in order to glimpse it (Varela,
1997, pp. 122-130):
[The mind of clear light] manifests at periods
when the grosser levels of consciousness cease
either intentionally, as in profound states of
meditation, or naturally, as in the process of
death, going to sleep, ending a dream,
fainting, and orgasm. Prior to its manifestation,
there are several stages during which a
practitioner experiences increasingly subtler
levels of mind ... The winds (or currents of
energy; rlung, prana) that serve as foundations
for various levels of consciousness are
gradually withdrawn, in the process of which
one first has a visual experience of seeing an
appearance like a mirage ... billowing
smoke ... fireflies ... sputtering butter-lamp ... a
steady candle flame. With the withdrawal of
conceptual consciousnesses, a more dramatic
phase begins, at which point profound levels of
consciousness that are at the core of
experience manifest. (Hopkins, 1992, p. 244)
Even the interval between the cessation of one
moment of consciousness and the arising of the
next may be an opportunity for glimpsing the
clear light.
The identification of one's consciousness with
the clear light totally supplants identification
with ordinary personal identity. Thus dream
yoga is an opportunity to rehearse recognizing
the clear light that will appear during the bardo.
Done well, with perfect wisdom and awareness,
the identification of one's consciousness with the
clear light will serve as a catalyst for the
manifestation of the dharmakaya-the perfectly
enlightened awareness of the Buddha one
becomes. This obviously is the culmination ofthe
practice: the "clear light natural liberation of
delusion" (Padmasambhava, 1998, p. 168). One's
usual deluded identification is replaced by a
thoroughly awakened identification that is
beyond the ability of ordinary consciousness to
perceive. Whether achieved while awake, asleep,
meditating, dreaming, or dying, the dharmakaya
is at once an evolution of one's ordinary deluded
stream of consciousness and an entirely new,
omniscient state of awareness.
The Bardo of Med.itative Stabilization
MONG THE five aggregates that comprise the
Buddhist sense of self-identity, consciousness
is unquestionably central. Consciousness, which
is synonymous with awareness, is defined as
"clear knowing." Thus, according to the teachings
of Padmasambhava, to overcome the instinctive
grasping at personal identity, it is necessary to
relinquish grasping at awareness itself. This can
be accomplished through practicing the bardo of
meditative stabilization.
No matter how profound the teachings or our
realizations, there remains the possibility of
pride and attachment, further obstacles to
liberation. To prevent pride and attachment from
arising, one must go beyond a merely intellectual
understanding to a state of direct awareness.
Gyatrul Rinpoche comments, "Just as a sword
cannot cut itself, and the eye cannot see itself, we
have been unable to recognize our own nature"
(Padmasambhava, 1998, p. 172). This seems to point
to a self-aware consciousness such as is posited by
the Yogamra school, but Padmasambhava does
not analyze it as such. In any case, the reference
is to the unenlightened, untrained mind. It is
through training the mind that one becomes
aware of one's own mind. Questions about
whether a separate consciousness is required to
observe mental consciousness and whether the
mind resembles a mirror that sees itself are not
questions that concern contemplatives; for them,
the goal is to go beyond conceptual thought, and
experience is the only relevant teacher.
The notion of going beyond conceptual thought
is not limited to any particular Buddhist school,
of course. For example, the rigorously analytical
Gelug and Sakya schools acknowledge that direct
insight into emptiness is a nonconceptual
awareness. In these schools, practitioners on the
ten bodhisattva stages from the Path of Insight
until enlightenment meditate by alternating
theoretical analysis of emptiness with calm
abiding (Skt: samatha), using emptiness as the
object of meditation. The meditation session
begins with theoretical analysis of emptiness
that continues until a very clear realization of
emptiness IS gained. At that point, the
166 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
practitioner meditates single-pointedly on
emptiness itself until meditative stabilization
(Skt: samadhi) is achieved. When the power of
concentration begins to decline after meditating
for some time, the practitioner returns to
analytical meditation focused on emptiness. In
this way, the two practices are alternated-
analysis of emptiness and unwavering
concentration on emptiness-for the duration of
the session. When the meditation session ends,
an intellectual understanding of the empty
nature of all phenomena is retained, ordinary
phenomena continue to appear on the conventional
level. In the postmeditation state, the practitioner
accumulates merit through various other means;
direct insight into emptiness (Skt: vipW§yana) is
achieved primarily through formal meditation
In Tibet, a doctrinal dispute developed
between adherents of two different views of
emptiness. The rang tong (rang stong, "self-
empty") view, which is prevalent in the more
analytical Gelug and Sakya schools, asserts the
emptiness of all phenomenon, including
emptiness, and denies the existence of an
absolute reality. The zhen tong (gzhan stong,
"other-empty") view, which is more prevalent in
the Kagyu and Nyingma schools, asserts that the
"other"-apparent reality-is empty, but there is
an ultimate reality (Skt: buddhajiiiina) that truly
exists. Adherents ofthe rang tong view interpret
tathagatagarbha (Buddha nature) as the
emptiness of inherent existence of the mental
continuum that enables sentient beings to
achieve enlightenment. The tathagatagarbha
was taught for non-Buddhists and needs to be
interpreted because, if it were taken literally, it
would amount to the same thing as a soul
(Williams, 1989, p. 106). Adherents of the zhen
tong view take the tathagatagarbha teachings
literally and accept the existence of an ultimate
reality that exists inherently (Williams, 1989, p.
107). The fact that all beings have the
tathagatagarbha means that they have the
enlightened awareness of a Buddha, which is just
temporarily obscured. When the obscurations are
removed, the dharmakiiya is revealed; therefore,
tathagatagarbha and dharmakaya are identical.
While both approaches aim at nondual,
nonconceptual awareness, their philosophical
differences, especially their articulations of
ultimate truth, have crystallized into what IS
known as the rang tonglzhen tong debate.
The Bardo of Dying
OR THOSE who have not had time to meditate or
are not trained in the practices ofthe illusory
body, dream yoga, and the clear light,
Padmasambhava provided instructions on the
bardo of dying. If one engages in the transference
of consciousness before actual death has occurred,
it is equivalent to committing suicide, therefore it
is crucial to ascertain without doubt that death
has occurred before phowa is begun. For a
practitioner of deity yoga who practices
identification with a yidam, to transfer the
consciousness prematurely is said to be equivalent
to murdering the deity. There are various means of
"cheating death"-specific Buddhist practices for
longevity such as saving animals' lives and the
practices of Amitayus and White Tara-that may
be attempted. If these are unsuccessful and death
becomes certain, one prepares to experience the
stages of dying as the gross body and mind
disintegrate.l1 When the clear light of death
appears, the gross self imputed to exist in
dependence on the gross body and mind has
disintegrated, and a subtle selfimputed to exist in
dependence on the subtle energy-mind has taken
its place (Varela, 1997, p. 125).
The practice of phowa (transference of
consciousness) begins with a review of the four
thoughts that turn one's mind to the Dharma: the
precious human rebirth, impermanence, suffering,
and the law of cause and effect. After gaining
clear insight into the defects of cyclic existence,
one develops renunciation-the determination to
be liberated from cyclic existence. Sitting in
meditation posture, one then visualizes blocking
the "apertures of cyclic existence" (anus, genital
opening, urinary opening, navel, mouth, nostrils,
eyes, and ears), departure through which results
in rebirth within the six realms of cyclic
existence. One visualizes a central psychic
channel extending from below the navel to the
crown chakra at the top of the head and flanked
by subsidiary channels on the right and left. One
then concentrates on forcefully drawing the
winds and energies of the body up through the
central psychic channel along with a radiant
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 167
white "drop" (Skt: bindu) in the nature of
awareness, and directs them out through the
Brahma aperture at the crown of the head.
Except at the time of death, one then visualizes
the white drop descending and coming to rest at a
point below the navel.
When it becomes clear that actual death is
sure to soon occur, it is beneficial to first give
away all one's possessions. Whether the
generosity is actual or visualized, it creates merit
and prevents attachment-the greatest hindrance
at the time of death. In fact, objects of attachment
or aversion are best removed from a dying
person's room, lest they spark unwholesome
mental states. Next, one regrets transgressions
of the precepts and "restores" them through a
ritual confession of faults. Then, sitting in
meditation posture, if possible, or in the lion
posture, if not, the practice of phowa is begun.
One reflects:
Now I am dying. So in general in the three
realms of the cycle of existence and in
particular in this degenerate era, I rejoice
that I can transfer my consciousness while
having the companionship of such profound
instructions as these. Now I shall recognize
the clear light of death as the Dharmakaya,
I shall send out immeasurable emanations
to train others according to their needs, and
I must serve the needs of sentient beings
until the cycle of existence is empty.
(Padmasambhava, 1998, pp. 208-209)
If the practice of phowa is successful, a drop of
blood or lymph will appear at the crown of one's
If the practice is not successful, one continues
through the visualizations, either summoning
the visualizations oneself or by having a spiritual
mentor or friend recite the instructions in one's
ear. If the clear light of death is recognized as
inseparable from the clear light nature ofthe mind
or dharmakaya, it is possible to become freed
from rebirth once and for all, and to achieve
either perfect enlightenment or rebirth in a Pure
Land where enlightenment can be quickly
attained. This is called "the meeting of the
mother and child clear light," because it mixes
the "mother" clear light of death with the "son"
clear light which dawns, through meditation,
during sleep and the waking state (Lati
Rinpochay & Hopkins, 1979, pp. 47-48). If this
highest "pristine dharmakaya transference of
consciousness" is successful, it is confirmed by
serene skies and a sustained physical radiance.
If the dharmakaya transference is unsuccessful,
one attempts the transference of the sambhogakaya
("enjoyment body"), the aspect of an enlightened
being that manifests in a Pure Land. Sitting in
meditation posture, if possible, one visualizes the
meditational deity at the crown of the head and
focuses single-pointedly on a white drop (Skt:
bindu) or seed syllable at the base ofthe central
psychic channel. As in the phowa meditation, the
vital energies are driven up the central psychic
channel to the crown aperture and absorbed into
the heart of the meditational deity visualized
there. If the transference is successful at death,
one becomes a Buddha in sambhogakaya form,
confirmed by the appearance of deities, rainbows,
and relics. If the transference is not successful at
the moment of death, one continues the practice
during the intermediate state.
If the sambhogakaya transference is
unsuccessful, one attempts the transference of
the nirm£u:wkaya ("emanation body"), the aspect
of an enlightened being that manifests in the
desire realm, for example, in ordinary human
form. Lying on one's right side, offerings of body,
speech, and mind are made to the representation
Buddha visualized in front of one. Such a
visualization helps to break through the
possessiveness that arises from a strong
identification with one's ordinary body, speech,
and mind. Imagining a red and a white drop in
the central psychic channel, one pushes them
forcefully upwards until they emerge from the
left nostril and dissolve into the heart of the
Buddha visualized in front. If the transference is
successful, once death occurs one becomes a
Buddha in nirmiilJ,akaya form, attested by the
appearance of clouds and rainbows in auspicious
shapes, and flowers falling from the sky. If the
body is cremated, the skull remains undamaged.
If the transference is not successful at the
moment of death, one continues the practice
during the intermediate state.
The crown aperture is regarded as the
pathway to the Pure Land, whether this be the
Pure Land of Amitabha, another Buddha, or the
r/iikin"is (enlightened beings in female form), and
the departure of the consciousness from this
aperture signals the achievement of liberation.
168 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Departure of the consciousness from the
apertures in the upper part of the body is said to
lead to fortunate "migrations," while departure
from the lower apertures indicates rebirth in
unfortunate states. Because one's state of mind,
especially at the moment of death, is such a
powerful indicator of one's immanent destiny,
even beginning practitioners are advised to go for
refuge (in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha),
generate the bodhicitta, take precepts, and
generate wholesome thoughts as death
approaches. Mter a practitioner has died, a
companion may even direct the deceased's
attention to a Buddha on the crown of the head,
touch the crown, or gently pull the hair at the
crown aperture to nudge the consciousness
toward a higher realm of rebirth. Reciting the
names of the Buddhas (RatnaSikhin, Amitabha,
etc.) and reading the Liberation Through
Hearing (known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead)
are also beneficial for helping a person in the
bardo achieve liberation or a higher rebirth.
The Bardo of Reality Itself
HE FIFTH intermediate state, the bardo of
reality itself, is an opportunity to identify the
nature of reality itself (Skt: dharmatii) and
achieve the natural liberation of seeing. In the
Nyingma tradition, this is understood as the
practice of Dzogchen, "the Great Perfection."
Dzogchen involves prescribed postures and
gazes, awareness ofthe outer and inner "absolute
natures" (apprehended as the cloudless sky and a
lamp), and learning to hold, expel, and stabilize
the vital energies ofthe body, aimed at realizing
primordial wisdom. These practices cause four
visions to arise: (a) the direct vision of reality
itself; (b) progressing experience; (c) consummate
awareness; and (d) extinction into reality itself
(Lati Rinpochay & Hopkins, 1979, p. 243). Unlike
the practices discussed earlier that employ
extensive visualizations and recitations, these
visions arise independently without ideation.
Absolute nature refers to primordial wisdom:
clear luminous awareness and emptiness. With
practice, "bindus of the strand of one's own
awareness" appear in the form of primordial
wisdom, emanating lights and containing the five
divine embodiments of Buddhas with their
consorts. Stabilizing a vision of consummate
awareness over time, one eventually emanates
the sambhogakaya effortlessly. The "vision of
extinction into reality itself' is the ultimate
attainment achieved through the Tantric
tradition of Dzogchen. Proponents assert that
this culminating attainment is higher than what
is possible in the slUra (non-Tantric) tradition,
although the descriptions of omniscient
Buddhahood ("knowing all that is, as it is") are
identical both in Dzogchen and other Tantric
The Bardo of Becoming
HE FINAL bardo, the bardo of becoming, is for
those who have not succeeded in any of the
preceding five transitional processes and are
therefore subject to taking rebirth. After
realizing oneself to be dead and wandering in the
intermediate state, one visualizes arising in the
form of a meditational deity in a pure Buddha
realm where all beings are in the form of the deity
and all sounds are the sound of the deity's
mantra. Generating a visualization of oneself as
the deity, as inthe generation stage of practice,
one becomes a vidyadhara ("knowledge holder")
in the form of one's yidam. By this practice, one
erodes the illusion of a fixed personal identity and
learns how to close the door to future rebirth in a
womb. As a vidhyadhara, one can travel to any
Pure Land or anywhere else.
Padmasambhava's text describes several
ways of "closing the entrance to the womb": (a) by
becoming a divine embodiment; (b) by imagining
your spiritual mentor with consort; (c) by the
practice ofthe four blisses; (d) by the antidote of
renunciation; (e) with the clear light; and (D with
the illusory body (Lati Rinpochay & Hopkins,
1979, pp. 257-273). Due to habitual attachments
to sexual desire, untrained sentient beings
ordinarily and automatically gravitate to
situations of sexual activity. One who will take
rebirth as a female feels attracted to the male
partner and one who will take rebirth as a male
feels attracted to the female partner, and due to
this sexual attraction one enters the womb of
one's future rebirth. However, if one is
consciously able to turn away from the womb and
visualize oneself in the form of a meditational
deity in union with the deity's consort instead, it
is possible to "block the entrance to the womb,"
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 169
meaning that one will not take rebirth in the
ordinary way. Although rebirth may still occur,
the practice sows the seeds for the achievement of
siddhis (extraordinary accomplishments) both in
the present and in future lifetimes, including the
supreme siddhi of perfect enlightenment. The
practices for closing the entrance to the womb are
therefore one last opportunity for attaining
realization and final awakening.
Analyzing the Bardo
HE CONCEPT of a bardo being who traverses an
. intermediary liminal stage between death
and rebirth makes sense within a context that
accepts karma and the recycling of consciousness
as fundamentaL Although Theravada Buddhist
adherents deny the existence of such an interval
and insist that rebirth occurs the moment after
death ("arising-citta immediately follows falling-
away-citta"), Harvey (1995) finds evidence in the
early texts to support the idea of an intermediate
state (Pat;t;hana 1.312-13, in Harvey, 1995, p. 98).
In a passage from the S a ~ y u t t a Nikaya, the
Buddha refers to a time, fueled by craving, "when
a being lays aside this body and is not arisen (Skt:
anuppanno) in another body." Harvey shows that
the time referred to here cannot be the period of
gestation in the womb, because "arising" (Skt:
anuppanno) can be distinguished from "becoming"
(Skt: bhava), the condition for birth (Skt:jati) in
the twelve links of dependent arising (Skt:
pratityasamutpada), and therefore refers to
conception (Harvey, 1995, p. 99). The Abhidharma
literature of early Buddhism asserts that both
the mind and body sense bases are present from
the time of conception, and therefore conception
is clearly the start of new life (Harvey, 1995, p.
99).12 The S a ~ y u t t a Nikaya passage leaves open
the possibility of an interval between death and
Even if the bardo being is impervious to
physical harm, Tibetan texts make it clear that the
body of the deceased should not be disturbed, since
to disturb the body can disrupt the consciousness.
Unless the deceased has developed excellent
powers of concentration and compassion while
alive, this disturbance is likely to distract the mind
and can arouse anger that will affect the
consciousness adversely and negatively influence
the being's future rebirth. Although the term
"deceased" indicates that an individual is
clinically dead, it should be understood that the
consciousness, in this view, may continue to be
active. A number of pertinent factors can affect a
person's experiences not only at the time of death,
but also in the bardo (if there is one), and in the
next rebirth. For example: (a) the circumstances
surrounding the death; (b) the person's level of
mental development; (c) the person's actions in the
present and previous lifetimes; (d) the quality of
the last moment of consciousness; and (e) the
environment surrounding the person during the
transition from one life to the next all have an
effect. Let us consider these factors one by one.
First, the circumstances surrounding the death
may be peaceful or traumatic. Many factors
determine this, such as whether the death is
timely or untimely, or the person is conscious or
unconscious, or in pain or not in pain. The most
favorable circumstances are a peaceful death that
is the result of natural causes and takes place in a
pleasant environment. The least favorable
circumstances are a sudden violent death that
occurs in an angry, fearful, or hateful atmosphere.
Second, the person's level of mental
development will determine what intellectual
resources the person brings to the experience of
dying. The level of mental development can also
determine, at least in part, whether the person is
conscious or unconscious in the moments leading
up to death, and whether the person is mindful at
the moment of death and during the transition to
the next rebirth, if there is one. The optimum
circumstance, from a Buddhist point of view,
exists for the practitioner who has gained
mastery over the mind, eliminated all negative
mental factors, cultivated all positive mental
factors, and is able to die consciously. The worst
circumstance exists when a person has no control
over the mind, is thus under the influence of
negative emotions (whether conscious or
unconscious), and therefore cannot help but
generate thoughts of anger and hatred during the
process of dying. From a Theravada Buddhist
perspective, the skilled practitioner described
here will become an arhat without remainder
(Skt: nirupadhiSe:;;anirviiJ:w), that is, he or she
will achieve liberation from rebirth and leave no
aggregates behind. From a Mahayana perspective,
the skilled practitioner will die peacefully and be
able to concentrate on following the bright
170 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol 20
colored lights associated with the Buddhas, and
as a result achieve either rebirth in a Pure Land
or attain the perfect enlightenment of a Buddha.
A Tibetan Buddhist practitioner can achieve this
through such practices as phowa, cho, and
various other Tantric practices. All Buddhist
traditions agree that a person who has no control
over the mind will take rebirth at the mercy of
karma and the delusions present in the mind.
The bardo texts further state that beings who are
unaware or frightened by their experiences will
naturally gravitate, in accordance with their
karma, to the dun lights associated with the six
realms of rebirth.
Third, the person's actions in the present as
well as in previous lifetimes will condition the
experiences during the dying process and the
bardo. A virtuous person will have accumulated
the merit required to be reborn in a fortunate
realm, whereas a nonvirtuous person will not
have accumulated such merit, and will be reborn
in an unfortunate realm. The strongest imprints
on the mental continuum are said to ripen first
and the imprints that are the most recent are
likely to be the strongest.
Fourth, the quality of the last moment of
consciousness is said to be a decisive factor in
determining the quality of the next rebirth. For
example, even if the circumstances of death are
unfavorable, the person's past actions have been
generally negative, and the mind is untamed,
there is still a possibility of generating a positive
final moment of consciousness that could lead to
a positive rebirth. Because each moment of
consciousness is conditioned by the moments that
have gone before it, the likelihood of an
untrained, nonvirtuous person being able to
generate a positive moment of consciousness at
this critical juncture is extremely unlikely,
especially when the death occurs under
unfavorable circumstances, such as violence.
Still, according to the texts and commentaries,
there is a possibility.
Finally, the environment surrounding a
person facing death can have a powerful
influence. Even a skilled practitioner with good
karma who is dying a natural death under
favorable conditions may experience an
unwholesome moment of consciousness at the
time of death, due to some unexpected negative
circumstance. If a person has developed perfect
concentration, completely eradicated all mental
delusions, and developed all positive mental
qualities, it is impossible for an unwholesome
consciousness to arise, for the person is either an
arhat or a Buddha and therefore not subject to
rebirth, or a bodhisattva and therefore not
subject to uncontrolled rebirth. A person who has
not attained these qualities, however, is
vulnerable to outside influences and it is possible
that an unwholesome consciousness may arise.
Even a highly skilled practitioner can conceivably
be affected by anger, hatred, or desire in the
immediate environment and may as a result
generate an unfavorable last moment of
consciousness. Similarly, a person who has
negative karma and an uncontrolled, nonvirtuous
mind is vulnerable to outside influences and it is
possible that a wholesome consciousness may
arise. For example, such a person could
conceivably be affected by a calm, loving, and
compassionate immediate environment that
results in the generation of a positive state of
mind at the moment of death.
For this reason, Buddhists are concerned with
creating a peaceful, loving environment for the
dying. A teacher or spiritual friend may be
invited to advise the dying person in accordance
with the Buddha's teachings, and especially to
remind the person that death and dissolution are
inevitable for all living beings. Tibetan Buddhists
may place images of enlightenment, such as
Buddhas and bodhisattvas, within the dying
person's range of vision. Family and friends who
believe in the efficacy of merit will make offerings
to monasteries and the Sangha, donate charity to
the needy, chant siUras (scriptures) or prayers or
the Buddha's name, and dedicate the merits of
these practices to the dying or just deceased
person. All these efforts are aimed at creating a
favorable environment, accumulating positive
karma, and nurturing a positive state of mind to
ensure a favorable transition from this life to the
next. Even those who are not convinced about the
existence offuture lives, the efficacy of merit, the
existence of the bardo, or the possibility of
attaining higher rebirth and enlightenment
generally feel that it is worthwhile to observe
these traditions, just in case there may be some
The result of these beliefs and practices is
fulfilling, both personally and socially. For
Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 171
example, providing a serene environment for a
dying trajectory brings a sense of peace and well-
being not only to the dying person, but to the
family and friends as well. To conduct one's life in
accordance with Buddhist guidelines (e.g.,
engage in wholesome actions, avoid unwholesome
ones, cultivate mental discipline, concentration,
and compassion) helps to allay everyone's fears
about a person's future after death and can put
the mind in a positive frame at the moment of
death. To engage in positive actions on behalf of
the deceased-the practice of generosity, recitation
of sfttras, and other meritorious actions-is
psychologically beneficial for survivors, and
helps to alleviate grief, a sense ofloss, or a sense
of remorse. In this way, Buddhist beliefs and
practices are of practical benefit for both the
dying person and the family. As an added benefit,
ifthere is a bardo, the deceased is in a position to
negotiate it with maximum skill and benefit.
And, if there is a future life, the deceased is more
assured of a favorable one. Therefore, quite
independently of its ontological status, the
primary value ofthe bardo concept may be that it
helps to facilitate a positive experience of dying.
1. Italicized words in parentheses are Tibetan unless
otherwise noted.
2. Samuel suggests that la (soul) and lha (deity) are
related concepts that may have a common source, but
according to my sources the two concepts are distinct.
While there may be some overlap, la resembles a personal
soul whereas lha is an external deity.
3. Birth from a womb is actually only one possible mode of
birth mentioned in the Indo-Tibetan tradition, the others
being birth from an egg, birth from warmth and moisture,
and birth by miracle.
4. The bardos are described variously in a number of
books. Tsele Natsok Rangdrol (1994) speaks of four
bardos: the natural bardo of this life, the painful bardo of
dying, the luminous bardo of the wisdom of great bliss
(Skt: dharmata), and the karmic bardo of becoming.
Thurman (1994, p. 35) reminds us that these Buddhist
schemata of enumeration are heuristic devices.
5. The mistaken sense of a self may also arise in
dependence on the six elements: earth, water, fire, wind,
space, and consciousness, but the analysis of self in terms
of the five aggregates is most common.
6. Here I use the term "true existence" rather than
"inherent existence," since the Svatantrika-Madhyamaka
school accepts the inherent existence of phenomena but,
along with the Prasailgika Madhyamaka, does not accept
true existence.
7. The term "deity" is a misnomer. The meditational
deities (yidam) visualized in these practices are not
denizens of the god realms, but fully enlightened beings
such as Amitabha, Ratnasambhava, Hayagriva, Vajrapani,
and Yamantaka, or bodhisattvas visualized as enlightened
8. Zab chos zhi khro dgongs pa rang grollas rdzogs rim
bar do drug gi khrid yig. Translated by B. Alan Wallace,
with commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche, in
Padmasambhava (1998), pp. 81-273.
9. Legs crossed, hands in the lap, spine straight,
shoulders level, chin tucked in, lips gently shut, tongue
against the upper palate, and eyes gently shut.
10. Lying on one's right side, with the right hand placed
under the right side of one's head and the left hand placed
on the left thigh. This posture is said to facilitate the
transfer of consciousness to a Pure Land at the time of
11. These stages are described in detail in Lati Rinpochay
and Hopkins (1979), pp. 13-20, 29-48.
12. According to Harvey (1995), the Kathlwathu mentions
the opposing view that all the sense organs are present
from the beginning. There is no mention of implantation
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Death, Identity, and Enlightenment in Tibetan Culture 173
About Our Contributors
Ralph Augsburger was born in 1932 in La
Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Mter completing
his studies at L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts of La Chaux-
de-Fonds, he dedicated himself to engraving and
painting. He has been honored with many
awards-including the First Prize of the city of
Geneva for watchmaking, jewelry design, and dia-
mond-setting (1961); the First Prize ofla Palette
Carougeoise (1977); and the 1st prize of Aart's
Masters Paris Monaco (1996). In 1996 he became
Associate Academician in Art at the International
Academia Greci Marino. Augsburger's life has
been sculpted by a constant drive to travel the
world, which has filled him with humorous and
poetic anecdotes; including that of a departure
from Kenya when he had to pay a tax on his own
paintings because, as the custom official declared,
"You are taking with you the colors of my coun-
try." He has also painted several murals abroad,
at home, and on a boat: Mauritius Island, Tahiti,
La Chaux-de-Fonds, Basel, and the
Transoceanique boat "Le Rousseau." His paintings
have been exhibited world-wide in galleries and
museums in Basel, Bern, Geneva, Los Angeles,
Monaco, New York, Paris, Sidney, Tahiti, Tokyo,
and Zurich. Most recently, he contributed to the
Pax 2000 event for the United Nations in Geneva.
His work can be sampled on the Web at:
Author's address: Rue Liotard 11, 1202
Geneva, Switzerland.
Asa Baber, M.F.A., is a full-time freelance writer
and Contributing Editor at Playboy magazine,
where he has been publishing fiction, nonfiction,
and essays for more than thirty years. In 1982,
he originated the "Men" column, which he still
writes. Baber has taught English, theatre, and
journalism at several colleges and universities.
His short stories have appeared in periodicals
such as, Iowa Review, Chicago Magazine, Trans-
atlantic Review, Playboy, and TriQuarterly. His
novel, The Land of a Million Elephants, was pub-
lished by William Morrow and serialized in
Playboy. A book of essays, Naked at Gender Gap,
was published by Birch Lane Press. A selection of
his short stories, including "Ad Man Monk," was
published in Tranquility Base and Other Stories
by Fiction International. He has received several
awards for his writing and his work has appeared
in various anthologies.
Author's address: Playboy, 680 N. Lake Shore
Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.
Elias Capriles was born in 1948 in Caracas,
Venezuela. Mter carrying out studies in several
disciplines, he dropped out and went to the Indian
subcontinent, where he did mind research, wrote
on the subject, and ran "spiritual emergency"
refuges. Since the mid-1970s he has studied
Dzogchen with Thinle N orbu Rinpoche, Dudjom
Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentze Rinpoche, and
Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. From 1977 through
1982 he spent most of the time practicing the
Dzogchen Upadesha in retreat in the Himalayas.
While in retreat in the Himalayas, he also wrote
a book of poetry. In 1983, he returned to
Venezuela; then, in the mid-1980s, he invited
Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche to Venezuela, as a
result of which the Dzogchen Community was
founded there. He has written on different
subjects, including books and papers on Buddhism
and Dzogchen, comparative religion, and the
history of civilizations. In a series of other books
and papers, Capriles has attempted to express the
Dzogchen view in terms of Western philosophy
(ontology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of
history, philosophy of religion, aesthetics, political
philosophy, economic philosophy, axiology,
epistemology, philosophy of science), psychology,
sociology, politics, and economics. Capriles is one
of the three Venezuelans featured in La
Philosophie en Amerique Latine (Que sais-je,
Presses Universitaires de France); his works have
The InternationalJournal of Transpersonal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20, 175-179 175
© 2001 by Panigada Press
been published in South Arnerica, Spain, Italy, and
most recently in Russia and the USA. Currently,
he teaches and does research both as Chair of
Eastern Studies and as a member of the
Department of Philosophy at the University ofthe
Andes (Merida, Venezuela); he has also taught
Namkhai Norbu's gradual Buddhism-and-
Dzogchen Santi Maha Sangha training in Peru,
Venezuela, and Spain. Capriles has just finished
a book in English (for which he is seeking a
publisher) entitled The Unthinkable, Being, and
the Gradation of Being: Dzogchen and Western
Author's address: Apartado Postal 483, Merida
5101, Venezuela.
Joachim Galuska, M.D., is a psychiatrist and.
psychotherapist and serves as Medical Director of
the Heiligenfeld psychotherapeutic hospital in Bad
Kissingen, Germany. In 1990, he founded the
hospital for psychosomatic diseases and psychiatric
rehabilitation based upon holistic concepts,
including meditation and transpersonal
psychotherapy. The hospital has successfully grown
over the years to over a hundred beds. In 1992,
Galuska became the cofounder of SEN Germany,
the spiritual emergency network in Germany. In
1995, he founded the German journal of
transpersonal psychology and psychotherapy
(Transpersonale Psychologie und Psychotherapie)-
and he continues to serve as its coeditor. In 1999,
Galuska became one ofthe cofounders of a German
association for scientific exploration in the field of
transpersonal psychology and psychotherapy,
known as the "Deutsches Kollegium fUr
Transpersonale Psychologie und Psychotherapie."
Galuska's special interests include the field of
transpersonal consciousness, clinical implications
oftranspersonal theory, and practice and research
in the field of meditation and spiritual
emergencies. He has published several articles
on such topics in Germany. Galuska is happily
married and has two children who are his teachers
and healers: Divina, seven years old, and Raphael,
three years old.
Author's address: Fachklinik Heiligenfeld,
Euerdorfer Strasse 4-6,97688 Bad Kissingen,
Herbert Guenther, Ph.D., D.Litt., was born in
Bremen, Germany. He received his Ph.D. in In-
dian Languages, Philosophy, and Literature from
Munich University in 1939, and his Dr. phil.habil.
from Vienna University. (This degree was neces-
sary for being allowed to teach at German and
Austrian universities: the so-called venia legendi.)
In 1950 he moved to India to teach at the Univer-
sity of Lucknow and at the Varanaseya Sanskrit
Vishvavidyala at VaranasilBenares, where he was
instrumental in introducing Tibetan studies on a
nonsectarian basis. In 1964 Guenther was invited
to Canad.a to chair the newly established (now
defunct) Department of Far Eastern Studies at
the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. In
1966 he was visiting professor at Yale University.
In 1983 he was the first scholar to be awarded
the degree of D.Litt. from the University of
Saskatchewan, from which he retired in 1984 as
Professor Emeritus of Far Eastern Studies. In
1987 Guenther became the only non-Indian to
receive a citation and a silver plaque and ceremo-
nial scarf from the Anantajyoti-Vidyapith
Academy at Lucknow for outstanding contribu-
tions to Indian culture. In 1999 he was selected
as "International Man of the Millennium" by the
International Biographical Centre of Cambridge,
England, in recognition of his services to educa-
tion. He is also listed in Outstanding People of
the 20th Century. Guenther continues research in
his chosen field of interest. He is married, has
two married daughters, one grandson, and two
granddaughters, and lives with his wife in Saska-
toon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Author's address: 1320 13th Street East,
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7H OC6, Canada.
Charles D. Laughlin, Ph.D., is an emeritus
professor of anthropology and religion at
Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
His undergraduate work was at San Francisco
State College in philosophy and anthropology,
and his graduate work in anthropology at the
University of Oregon. During his first
among the So people of Northeastern Uganda, he
came to the conclusion that all states of
consciousness and all cultural conditioning
involve changes in and development of neural
structures. So as a postdoctoral student, he spent
a year as senior fellow at the Institute of
Neurological Sciences, University of Penn sylva-
176 The International Journal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
nia. learning his way around the brain. During
this period he cofounded (with John McManus
and Eugene G. d'Aquili) a school of anthropologi-
cal theory called "biogenetic structuralism."
Laughlin became interested in meditation and
consciousness research in the 1970s and began
researching Tibetan Buddhist techniques for
driving extraordinary states of consciousness. He
lived as a Buddhist monk for many years and
traveled widely in India, Nepal, and Southeast
Asia, living in monasteries and studying under
various gurus. During this period he met other
like-minded researchers and helped found the
field of transpersonal anthropology. Somewhat
later he did a stint as editor of Anthropology of
Consciousness, the journal of the Society for the
Anthropology of Consciousness. In the early
1990s he became interested in the philosophy and
religion of the Navajo peoples of the American
Southwest, and he has devoted a number of field
trips to living with Navajo friends in an effort to
understand the relationship between Navajo
religious practices, states of consciousness, and
the remarkable Navajo philosophy of wholeness.
He is a fellow ofthe International Consciousness
Research Laboratories (ICRL) group, and is the
coauthor of Biogenetic Structuralism (1974), The
Spectrum of Ritual (1979), and Brain, Symbol
and Experience (1990), all published by Columbia
University Press.
Author's address: Department of Sociology
and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ot-
tawa, Ontario K1S 5B6, Canada.
Vassily Vassilievich Nalimov (1910-1997),
D.Sc., Professor, a self-made person, Ugro-Finn
by origin, managed not only to survive the
gruelling regime ofthe Gulag (1936-1954)-when
hell pursued people-but to oppose it by his
"courage to be," his way of mind, and his devotion
to the meanings which created his anarchistic
personality: love for freedom and nonviolence. He
insisted upon being a "free thinker" and proved
it by the pioneer character of his works, both in
science and philosophy. It was Nalimov, who by
probabilistic inspiration, shifted the paradigm of
cause-and-effect, revealing the continuity of
meanings and the voice of eternity. He created a
national school of mathematical methods of
experimental design; formulated the conception
of Scientometrics, including coining the very
term; elaborated a probabilistically oriented
model oflanguage, consciousness, and evolution
viewed as a self-organization process; and
elaborated the integrated world outlook based on
Plato's philosophy. He made a critical analysis of
modern science, raising the issue of what
"scientific" means in modern science-which
contains both rational and irrational elements
within it. Nalimov's books were translated into
several European languages; five of them were
published in the USA, and two more were
translated and kept as microfilm in the Library
of Congress (USA). His name was in the list of
"Citation Classics," due to his contribution to the
application of mathematical statistics.
Mathematics and philosophy for him were closely
combined: Since his youth he had been convinced
that philosophic comprehension ofthe world was
only possible by means of mathematical language.
He loved "thought as it is," and he worked until
the last day of his life. His last words addressed
the Universe: "I wanted to look through the open
window, behind the window of the whole
Universe, and that very Universe to grasp."
Robert D. Romanyshyn, Ph.D., is a core faculty
member in the Clinical and Depth Psychology
programs at Pacifica Graduate Institute in
Carpinteria, California. In addition to his most
recent book, The Soul in Grief' Love, Death and
Transformation, he is the author of Technology
as Symptom and Dream, and Psychological Life:
From Science to Metaphor, which is scheduled to
be republished in September of 2001. A collection
of some of his essays written in the last ten years
is also scheduled for publication in the winter of
2001. The major theme of these essays is the
journey of the soul in search of home.
Romanyshyn is currently also finishing a book of
poems entitled Dark Light. He travels widely to
lecture and give workshops on the grieving
process, and the healing power of poetry. He lives
with his wife, Veronica, and two of their four
children in Summerland, California.
Author's address: Pacifica Graduate Institute,
249 Lambert Road, Carpinteria, California
93013, USA.
About Our Contributors 177
Carl Sesar is the author of Hey, a book of short
poems printed by hand under the imprimatur of
One Shot Press, which, with two stamp pads, red
and black, plus 102 rubber stamps, is the smallest
press in the world. Other books are typed, or put
on slides and projected on a screen for the
audience to enjoy while silently sitting together
reading in the dark. His Wang Wei translations
and rubber-stamped book of poems were recently
on display in Massachusetts at the Fitchburg Art
Museum exhibition, "Poetry & Painting, East &
West." Sesar is also translator of the modern
Japanese tanka poet Ishikawa Takuboku and the
ancient Roman lyric poet Catullus. He holds a
degree in Greek and Latin from the City College
of New York, a Ph.D. in Chinese and Japanese
from Columbia University, and was founder and
chair of the Department of Asian Languages and
Literature at Wesleyan University, where he
taught from 1967 to 1975.
Author's address: 7 Bardwell Street, Florence,
Massachusetts 01062, USA.
TonuR. Soidla, Ph.D., D.Sc., was born in the small
town of Rakvere in Estonia as a Gemini (a twin
cat/rabbit in his case). He spent most of his
conscious life in St. Petersburg, a magical city in
the northwestern corner of Russia, a strange
traditional attractor for both the Russian and
Finno-U grish psyche. A geneticist by training, he
is a transpersonalist at heart, a Christian involved
in Advaita Vedanta practice along the lines of Sri
Ramana Maharshi, and a natural dualist in
search of nondual experience. Soidla lays claim
to be the author of fifteen or so irresponsible
essays on transpersonal matters, mostly based on
idiosyncratically treated personal material.
Author's address: Institute of Cytology,
Tikhoretsky Avenue 4, St. Petersburg 194064,
Stuart Sovatsky, Ph.D, has degrees in Religion
from Princeton University (where he received the
Timothy Leary Award) and Psychology from the
California Institute for Integral Studies, where
he is a trustee and faculty member, as well as
being on the faculty of John F. Kennedy
University. He wrote the first federal grants to
bring Yoga to incarcerated youth and the indigent
mentally ill in the mid-1970s, and is convening a
conference on "Prison Yoga" at the Institute for
Noetic Sciences in 2001. Together with Robert
Thurman and Rajiv Malhotra Sovatsky, he is also
convening a think tank conference at Columbia
University in 2002 on "Global Renaissance & Indic
Wisdom." Sovatsky was recently elected co-
president of the Association for Transpersonal
Psychology. Since 1984, he has directed the first-
ever "spiritual emergence" service (founded by Lee
Sannella), while his clinical work focuses on
saving marriages using forgiveness and
admiration. He recently coauthored the business
plan for the largest, "greenest," urban complex in
the USA. Sovatsky is the author of Words From
the Soul: Time, East / West Spirituality, and
Psychotherapeutic Narrative (State University of
New York Press) and Eros, Consciousness and
Kundalini (Inner Traditions), and articles on
suicidal linguistics and impermanence, eros as
mystery, and gender. As lead vocalist for Axis
Mundi on the compact disk, Mystery School, he
has been called the "John Coltrane of Sanskrit
chanting," and is a twenty-five-year practitioner
of kundalini yoga.
Author's address: 1951 Oak View Drive,
Oakland, California 94602, USA.
Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Ph.D., is a faculty
member in Theology and Religious Studies at the
University of San Diego (USA) and Director of
the J amyang Choling Institute of Buddhist
Studies in Dharamsala (India). In addition to a
doctoral degree in Comparative and Asian
Philosophy, she holds degrees in Asian Religion,
Asian Studies, and Oriental Languages, as well
as having completed a six-year program in
Prajiiaparamita at the Institute of Buddhist
Dialectics, Dharamsala. An activist in the
international Buddhist women's movement, she
has served as secretary of "Sakyadhita:
International Association of Buddhist Women" for
many years and has helped found eight education
programs for women in the Indian Himalayas. In
1994 she coordinated the visit of H.H. the Dalai
Lama to Hawai'i and produced a compact disk
based on his talks. In 1995 she directed the award-
winning community education project "Living and
Dying in Buddhist Cultures" and produced an
associated series of educational videos. In addition
to articles, she has published the following books:
178 The InternationalJournal of Trans personal Studies, 2001, Vol. 20
Sakyadhita: Daughters of the Buddha; Buddhism
Through American Women's Eyes; Innovative
Buddhist Women: Swimming Against the Stream;
Sisters in Solitude: Two Traditions of Monastic
Ethics for Women; Buddhist Women Across
Cultures: Realizations; and Living and Dying in
Buddhist Cultures (with D. W. Chappell).
Author's address: Theology and Religious
Studies, University of San Diego, 5998 Alcala
Park, San Diego, California 92110-2492, USA.
H. David Wenger, Ph.D., is a psychologist and
psychotherapist living in East Lansing, Michigan.
He received his doctorate in Counseling
Psychology from the University of Missouri and
then spent ten years on the faculty ofthe Michigan
State University Counseling Center, where he was
involved both in direct service and the training of
graduate students. Since 1982 he has been in
private practice. As a student of metaphysics, he
has for many years speculated on the application
of esoteric and metaphysical principles to the
theory and practice of psychology, and has
attempted to integrate these principles into his
psychotherapy practice. He is currently involved
in writing a longer work on the topic of a spiritual
psychology which will incorporate ideas from the
present paper.
Author's address: 718 Collingwood Drive, East
Lansing, Michigan 48823, USA.
Kuang-ming Wu, Ph.D., received his degree from
Yale University in Philosophy. At present, he
teaches Japanese culture/language at the
University of Missouri-Columbia. He has been a
professor of history at the National Chung-cheng
University (Taiwan), John McN. Rosebush
University Professor at the University of
Wisconsin-Oshkosh (USA), and a visiting
professor at the National Taiwan University, the
University of South Mrica (Pretoria), Aarhus
University (Denmark), and the University of
Texas-EI Paso (USA). He is working on his
eleventh volume, Nonsense: Cultural Meditations
on the Beyond, from which this essay is derived.
Other volumes of his include: Chuang Tzu: World
Philosopher at Play (Crossroad/Scholars, 1982);
The Butterfly as Companion (State University of
New York Press, 1990); History, Thinking, and
Literature in Chinese Philosophy (Academia
Sinica, 1991); On Chinese Body Thinking (Brill,
1997; National Science Council Distinguished
Award, Taiwan); On the "Logic" of Togetherness
(Brill, 1998); On Metaphoring (Brill, 2001), and
so on. He has chapters in Time and Space in
Chinese Culture (Brill, 1995), Norms and the State
in China (Brill, 1993), Understanding the Chinese
Mind (Oxford, 1989), and other edited works. At
home in Japanese, English, Chinese, and
Taiwanese, he is interested in comparative
culture/philosophy, philosophy of religion,
phenomenology, and aesthetics.
Author's address: P. O. Box 30791, Columbia,
Missouri 65205, USA.
About Our Contributors 179
Photo by Philippe L. Gross
Special Book Offer
I wanted to look through the open window,
behind the window of the whole Universe,
and that very Universe to grasp.
These words were spoken, shortly before his death,
by V V Nalimov-one of the twentieth-century's
great visionaries and an outstanding scientist, math-
ematician, and cultural philosopher, as well as Russia's
most widely known transpersonal writer.
We are pleased to announce that a limited number of
sets of Professor V. V Nalimov's books (translated into
English) are available on a complimentary basis for
two-year subscribers (shipping costs extra). Each vol-
ume is a hard cover edition that retails for u.s. $ 29

Two-year subscribers will receive Realms of the Un-
conscious: The Enchanted Frontier, Space Time, and
Lifo: The Probabilistic Pathways of Evolution; Faces of
Science; and In the Labyrinths of Language: A
Mathematician's Journey.
We look forward to your support of the Journal.