Monday, June 30, 2008

Christian Nondualism

Gnostic Christianity is usually understood to be a dualistic movement; however, recent discoveries, including the Gospel of Thomas, have led some scholars to believe that Jesus' original teaching may have been one accurately characterized as nondualism.

The Gospel of Philip, another of the Apocryphal books, also conveys nondualism:
"Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Subtle

Navajo sand painting

In Sanskrit, the word for it is sukshma (the 'u' pronounced like the 'oo' in book). It is the unseen anatomy of the Self, and was once a litmus test for great art, before our senses became dulled by empty intellectualism. The sense of subtlety persists more in classical music culture than in the visual arts, where shock value has more or less obliterated it.

People conditioned by religious or intellectual dogma, often react to art or writing that has a subtle dimension, or points to something beyond the gross, branding it "occult". Without Self-realisation it is difficult to discriminate between what is subtle and what is occult, particularly where traditions which may have originated with Self-realised figures have become mixed over the centuries with magic practices (by magic read: forms of gross ritualism aimed at fulfilling desires other than the pure desire for Self-hood)

The term subtle body is a term for the pranic, mental and consciousness bodies considered collectively, and called Sukshma sarira in Sanskrit. According to the traditional teachings of Yoga, human beings are constituted not only by a gross physical form but by a series of energetic psycho-spiritual subtle bodies each of increasing subtlety and metaphysical significance. Derived principally from the Indian spiritual tradition where they were originally conceived as sheaths covering the immortal soul, these concepts spread throughout Asia, as far East as Japan, and may have influenced the mystical aspects of Judaism and Islam. Knowledge of the subtle body reached the West in the late nineteenth century, brought largely by people who had no direct experience of it in meditative practice.

The concept of one or more subtle bodies in human beings is a common philosophical element in diverse spiritual traditions worldwide (it is even found in the Americas, in the lore of the Hopi holy men, which leads to the conclusion that it is a deep and vital knowledge that emerged there from the collective unconscious, independently of other traditions. Though the concept of the subtle body has been tarnished by association with occult tantric practices in more recent times, it is important to have an understanding of the anatomy of one's subtle self in order to be truly well, in the sense of being an integrated whole.

After getting shocking news, a person may put a hand on their heart. When something strikes us as really wrong, we may feel 'sick to the stomach'. These are examples of the fact that awareness is not confined to the brain, but is suffused throughout the body, particularly in the seven major nerve plexuses governing the main organs of the physical body. Over time, yogis in ancient India and Amerindian healers, for example, gained knowledge of the intricacies of the subtle body, beyond the basic reactions mentioned above, and how various emotional or spiritual states correspond to different parts of the body. They achieved this through the purification, concentration and expansion of awareness in meditation.

Art is a step from what is obvious and well-known toward what is arcane and concealed.

Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Angels of Creation

The Pre-Raphaelite painter Burne-Jones depicted the angels of the seven days of The Creation.
This became the basis of a stained glass design by his lifelong friend William Morris.
The Biblical idea of a sevenfold creation reflects the seven chakras of the subtle system, each with its presiding deity or archangel, governing a different aspect of our being.

Burne-Jones liked to show the Kundalini energy emerging from the Sahasrara Chakra at the crown of the head.

The Soul

In Classical Philosophy, there is the idea of the Anima Mundi or World Soul.
The Latin word anima is feminine.
The part of the world where her soul resides, in particular, is in Italy, where one of her sons - Leonardo - magically managed to capture her face.

"There really is only one world soul,
which I for preference call my soul..."
-Wittgenstein, Notebooks 1914-1916

(Wittgenstein uses the terms soul, self, subject, and I interchangeably)

Multiple souls may exist, each unique; however they do not have separate owners. What Wittgenstein was suggesting is that it is the notion of ownership which creates the illusion of a multiplicity of egos.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Black Elk

"The man who is...pure
contains the Universe
in the pocket of his heart."

-Black Elk, a holy man of the Oglala Sioux

Wakan Tanka is the name for "The Great Spirit" in the Sioux tradition. However, its meaning is closer to "Great Mystery", and is typically understood as the power or the sacredness which resides in everything. Wakan Tanka pervades the entire universe, transcending even the gods -
something similar in nature to the Brahman of Hinduism, or the Tao of Lao Tse.
During a vision, in which he found himself looking from the prospect of a mountain top, Black Elk saw the extent of the power of this Universal Being. Self-realisation is the experience of this Universal Being, not of an illusory individualism. It is a process which first requires humility. In egocentric societies, the notion of humility is associated with weakness. To Black Elk, humility is the key to the infinite and invincible strength of Wakan Tanka.

"[The Sun Dancers] also put rabbit skins on their arms and legs, for the rabbit represents humility, because he is quiet and soft and not self-asserting — a quality which we must all possess when we go to the center of the world. This center which is here, but which we know is really everywhere, is Wakan-Tanka."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Samuel Palmer

The Golden City

I recently made a trip to Canberra to see an exhibition of landscape paintings by artists such as Turner, Monet and Constable. This exquisite watercolour painting by the mystic Samuel Palmer, a friend and disciple of William Blake, was a real highlight.

The influence of Blake can be seen in this engraving.