Ecstatic Astrologers and the Celestial Language

The concepts of a personal God, and of an impersonal super-cosmic or intra-cosmic Absolute, represent two ways of solving the problem of the meaning of existence. The former makes astrology quite superfluous, for the solution of all existential problems is “union with God” — or at least the ability to hold a “dialogue” with God, the absolute and never-failing Guide and Comforter. If, however, the universe is understood to exist through the cyclic interplay of cosmic Principles and of an “infinite Ocean of energy” astrology can be considered as a “celestial Language”.

Dane Rudhyar, “The Spiritual Value of Astrology

I have to admit that, in all my forty-seven years — despite growing up in the Presbyterian Church the son of a preacher — I’ve not been able to wrap my head around the notion of a personal God.

Now, a personal representative of God — that has made more sense to me.

As has the idea of “union” with That… although it’s hard to say that my experience of That is what they (the various scripture writers down through the ages) were referring to when they uttered a name for God.

From my perspective, a universally-acceptable definition of God remains out of reach — as does the absolute certainty that there exists such a Being as God, regardless of the definition.

I mean, does the samadhi of deep meditation equal God?

If I pray intensely and am overwhelmed “by the Spirit,” does this experience prove the existence of God… or does it prove the existence of ecstatic phenomena, without reference to an Ultimate Being?

Perhaps this is the reason why the Buddha left open the question of God, preferring instead to lay out a Path that would eliminate the need for conjecture.

Leaving aside the absolutist assertions of various revealed scriptures that have come down to us, let us suspend our arguments for and against the notion of God, and agree to entertain the idea that individual human beings — beings with a separate consciousness and identity from the Infinite — are incapable of truly “knowing” the Infinite… but that, within our limited range of possible understanding, there may be inspiring clues as to how our world may look from the perspective of God.

There is something of this in what Rudhyar was getting at in his quote.

He was not exactly denying that God could exist in a personal form, or that we humans may “lose ourselves” in this God through a type of spiritual union. In pointing toward a “Celestial Language,” however, he invited us to avail ourselves of an expression of Intelligence that may be decoded through a study of the relationship between our geocentric perspective and the heavens above.

If, indeed, humans were “created in the image” of the Elohim, it stands to reason that there is some correlation between the skies above (representing the outside-looking-in point-of-view of a God with omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence) and the Earth below, along with its human inhabitants.

Most practicing astrologers would say that there is more than “some correlation,” but that a solid astrological understanding equals a profound opportunity to observe human life through the very eyes of the Celestial God.

* * *

For the record, I have a belief in a Unified Intelligence that “communicates” through many Mysteries… most of which remain encumbered in a morass of disinformation, power games, ignorance and confusion.

I believe that astrology is a valid “decoding machine” for the Mysteries, although a given interpretation is susceptible to fallible human bias.  If such bias is an unavoidable consequence of human life, then the question arises:  what sort of astrologer offers a bias most aligned with the Source of Celestial Language?

If a given astrologer comes predominantly from an intellectual/technical life-experience, with no direct (i.e., “ecstatic”) absorption in the all-pervading Divine, then this person’s consultation will offer all sorts of bells and whistles dug from a well-read bag o’ astrological tricks. I believe there is value in receiving a reading from such a technician, in that the client benefits from the combined portfolio of every astrologer to whom our technician has ever been exposed.  There is good and interesting information here… minus a “living bridge” that vivifies the consultation through the astrologer’s experience of spiritual union.

In modern times — thank goodness — many astrologers maintain daily spiritual practices, some of which are bound to produce ecstatic fruit.

Maurice Fernandez, for instance, is a certified kundalini yoga teacher (in the Yogi Bhajan lineage). I have personally attended some of his kundalini yoga sessions, and am willing to testify to the effectiveness of this practice in giving rise to charismatic phenomena. The “third-eye focus” that is so strongly emphasized during a kundalini yoga session brings an assortment of ecstacies, especially with all the intense “fire breathing” and other techniques that pepper a given yoga set.

A reading from Maurice is naturally informed by his spiritual practice, thus offering a living quality to the Mysteries that speak through the Celestial Language of astrology.

I believe, also, that my own experience as an ecstatic contemplative brings a profound connection with astrological information in a way that no book or lecturer could ever provide.

I say this not to toot my own horn, but to strongly hint that the counseling device of astrology — which purports to give insight (at the very least) into universal laws that are God-like in perspective — is nothing but rote recital when devoid of a unitive spiritual practice.

You want your astrologer, in other words, to be able to combine solid astrological understanding with a rigorous practice that brings spiritual authority to the expressions of Celestial Language.

You want to get yourself an astrologer who not only understands the Celestial Language, but who speaks it through the filter of daily “union with God” — beyond the need for conjecture.

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Scientists Discover God

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Well, maybe not all scientists, but I just found an Archive of Scientists’ Transcendent Experiences.

While you’ll perhaps want to peruse several (or all?) of the testimonies, here’s a sample from Allan Smith’s “My Experience of Cosmic Consciousness”:

[…]

The Cosmic Consciousness experience began with some mild tingling in the perineal area, the region between the genitals and anus. The feeling was unusual, but was neither particularly pleasant nor unpleasant. After the initial few minutes, I either ceased to notice the tingling or did not remember it. I then noticed that the level of light in the room as well as that of the sky outside seemed to be increasing slowly. The light seemed to be coming from everywhere, not only from the waning sun. In fact, the sun itself did not give off a strong glare. The light gave the air a bright thickened quality that slightly obscured perception rather than sharpened it. It soon became extremely bright, but the light was not in the least unpleasant.

Along with the light came an alteration in mood. I began to feel very good, then still better, then elated. While this was happening, the passage of time seemed to become slower and slower. The brightness, mood-elevation, and time-slowing all progressed together. It is difficult to estimate the time period over which these changes occurred, since the sense of time was itself affected. However, there was a feeling of continuous change, rather than a discrete jump or jumps to a new state. Eventually, the sense of time passing stopped entirely. It is difficult to describe this feeling, but perhaps it would be better to say that there was no time, or no sense of time. Only the present moment existed. My elation proceeded to an ecstatic state, the intensity of which I had never even imagined could be possible. The white light around me merged with the reddish light of the sunset to become one all enveloping, intense undifferentiated light field. Perception of other things faded. Again, the changes seemed to be continuous.

At this point, I merged with the light and everything, including myself, became one unified whole. There was no separation between myself and the rest of the universe. In fact, to say that there was a universe, a self, or any ‘thing’ would be misleading — it would be an equally correct description to say that there was ‘nothing’ as to say that there was ‘everything’. To say that subject merged with object might be almost adequate as a description of the entrance into Cosmic Consciousness, but during Cosmic Consciousness there was neither ‘subject’ nor ‘object’. All words or discursive thinking had stopped and there was no sense of an ‘observer’ to comment or to categorize what was ‘happening’. In fact, there were no discrete events to ‘happen’ — just a timeless, unitary state of being.

[…]

Perhaps the most significant element of Cosmic Consciousness was the absolute knowingness that it involves. This knowingness is a deep understanding that occurs without words. I was certain that the universe was one whole and that it was benign and loving at its ground.

In terms of Buddhist teachings around meditative absorption, we’d say that Smith was blessed with a spontaneous tour through all four of the rupa (material) jhanas, at which point he seems to have hung out in the fourth for a while.

Yogis who maintain a serious daily meditation practice (i.e., at least three sessions a day, minimum of one hour each), who find time to do 10-day (or longer) retreats every year, become accustomed to “cosmic consciousness” as described here, finding that they are suffused and saturated in various levels of that state throughout each moment of the 24 hour cycle.

That scientists, who are accustomed to intense mental focusing, are reporting such experiences is, in my opinion, hopeful for life on planet Earth.

Good for Allan Smith, and may he revisit this state more and more frequently as his path deepens.

Spanda All Day Long

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Siva, feelin’ the Spanda….

Though my meditation practice is based on the instructions and concepts put forward by the Buddha in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon, I’ve been craving a more devotional connection with the Divine during the past couple months. It’s been my luck to be drawn into two distinct spiritual philosophies — Advaita Vedanta and the Buddhadhamma — during the past ten years or so, both of which tend to negate the “I and Thou” in favor of an ultimate nonduality, which de-emphasizes our connectedness with (or our attachment to) material reality.

So it’s been a pleasure to return once again to a study of Kashmir Saivism (or Shaivism), which seems to me a philosophy designed for those who accept the ultimate nonduality of existence, but who do not deny our seeming separateness as individual beings. On the one hand, Kashmir Saivism is monistic — it sees everything as Siva, the One Truth — while on the other hand, it recognizes the value of devotion, which works through the divine pulsating energy of Siva to transform our consciousness in the direction of an ultimate, sustained identification with Siva.

In other words, if I understand it correctly, Kashmir Saivism works with what the Buddha called “jhana” or meditative absorption (i.e., Spanda), coupling it with powerful devotion toward the guru (who is the manifest embodiment of Siva), so that the Spanda ends up consuming the practitioner, such that the practitioner’s individual separateness is reunited with Siva — a reality that was never absent, despite the practitioner’s delusion of separateness.

Here’s an explanation that makes more clear what I’m struggling to express:

Kashmir Saivism is intensely monistic. It does not deny the existence of a personal God or of the Gods. But much more emphasis is put upon the personal meditation and reflection of the devotee and his guidance by a guru. Creation of the soul and world is explained as God Siva’s abhasa, “shining forth” of Himself in His dynamic aspect of Shakti, the first impulse, called spanda. As the Self of all, Siva is immanent and transcendent, and performs through his Shakti the five actions of creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing. The Kashmir Saivite is not so much concerned with worshiping a personal God as he is with attaining the transcendental state of Siva consciousness.

An esoteric and contemplative path, Kashmir Saivism embraces both knowledge and devotion. Sadhana leads to the assimilation of the object (world) in the subject (I) until the Self (Siva) stands revealed as one with the universe. The goal-liberation is sustained recognition (pratyabhijna) of one’s true Self as nothing but Siva. There is no merger of soul in God, as they are eternally nondifferent.

The idea of submitting to a guru presents another problem for me, as it does for many seekers in the West. In fact, in order to even open up to Eastern teachings, Westerners must pass through an intense questioning of spiritual authority. We must get past our Judeo-Christian dogmatic conditioning, which for most of us gives no outlet for the contemplative, ecstatic, experiential urge toward union with the Divine. To finally access Eastern teachings, which are all about meditation and mystical union, only to be confronted with the need to submit to yet another spiritual authority (in the form of a guru) — well, I can tell you that I’m not to that point, and I don’t see myself reaching that point any time soon, if ever.

I see, however, that my attitude is based on woundedness, as well as a bias toward the “spiritual teacher” that expects him or her to adhere to a level of perfection that may not exist in this world. I must admit that I can find some short-falling or other in every teacher I’ve ever had, as well as in most every teacher I’ve ever read about. For me to expect a “guru” (a loaded word that means “spiritual teacher,” albeit in the context of a teacher-student relationship far more intimate than anything we can conceive of in the West) to be totally unblemished according to some set of expectations through which I’ve been conditioned — well, I’m setting myself up for a fall. I admit that I could use some help in getting over this profound reluctance to devoting myself to a teacher. Perhaps if I pray hard enough, this help will come into my life.

In the depths of meditative absorption (usually kicking in at the 45 or 50 minute mark of each hour-long session), I’ve been getting strong intuitive guidance to beseech the Divine in some form — to thank the Divine for blessing me with such peace, bliss and joy — and to fully surrender to the Living Spirit that is Spanda, jhana, meditative absorption. I’m getting that this is not some inert energy, like an electrical current from a two-pronged outlet, but rather an expression of the Divine that knows me better than I know myself… and I need to fully let go from whatever resistance to it that I still have. I don’t see this as abandoning the Buddhadhamma, which exists as a crystalline basis for living in the peace, bliss and joy of constant saturation in meditative absorption. I see this as an acknowledgment that my practice, which has cultivated meditative absorption and transformed me through it, may be strengthened by the presence of devotion to That which makes it all possible in the first place.

Therefore, I crave a spiritual context that more fully recognizes this need for devotion.

Like, maybe, Kashmir Saivism.