Signs and Symbols: A Doorway to the Holy Place

The question is, why consult signs and symbols when we are modern citizens of the Scientific Age?

What possible benefit could come from an examination of planetary positions at the moment and place of birth?

Did we not leave such superstitious ideas behind when Darwin and Descartes came along?

Granted, Carl G. Jung did much to restore interest in alchemy, astrology, Eastern traditions and the realm of the intuitive. He studied dreams in himself and thousands of clients over the years, and even sent his most challenging clients off to have a horoscope drawn up. He recognized through his theory of synchronicity that there is no such thing as randomness, that everything in this reality unfolds along archetypal lines, and that this unfoldment occurs according to alchemical cycles that appear to have been embedded in the collective unconscious of humanity. Jung was not afraid to look into the dark past for insights into psychological pathologies of modern existence – and what he found during this search was that the ancients were far better equipped to understand the workings of the mind and soul than are scientifically-conditioned “experts” of current times.

Jung paid a price for his rediscoveries, of course, in that his work was marginalized and discarded by the psychotherapeutic establishment, which retains a Freudian perspective to this very day.  So-called “Jungians” are typically regarded by the mainstream with a wink and a nod, at best.  Nevertheless, Jungian ideas have infiltrated the field of psychology in subtle (yet profound) ways, even as these ideas have done wonders in establishing astrology in the West.

Dane Rudhyar, whose work spanned the middle 50 years of the 20th century, crystallized Jung’s revolutionary perspective and combined it with the ancient art of astrology, publishing in 1936 one of the truly original – if nearly-unknown – works of psycho-spiritual synthesis ever produced: The Astrology of Personality. In this book (as well as in most of his writings), Rudhyar showed that astrology is not about predicting future events, but about bringing order out of chaos, giving the individual a roadmap for psychological unfoldment along organic and cyclical lines.

In my consultations, then, it is this ideal of “bringing order out of chaos” that informs the proceedings.

Through this “higher ordering,” something profound and mysterious occurs, and it is this deeper process that gives astrology its true value.

We spend so much of our lives “in the middle of it,” plugging away, often just surviving what seems like a random mess of external influences that push us here and there. We are conditioned, in fact, to believe that this is how life really occurs – that things just happen, and we should respond as best we can. The idea that life unfolds in cycles that may be interpreted through signs and symbols is not something to be taken seriously – so we just push ahead, doing what we can within our limited range of vision.

If nothing else, these past 18 years of working with astrology have shown me that life is not random, that it does unfold according to a collective framework that manifests cyclically, and that these cycles have been expressed through the signs and symbols of astrology for thousands of years.

Astrology puts the individual in touch with the collective, the micro with the macro, and it gives us the opportunity to avail ourselves of a collective perspective that is literally infinite in scope. It is like being put in a spaceship, flown way, way up into our local solar system – into the realm of the Archetypes – and given the opportunity to see life from the point-of-view of higher understanding. From this higher platform of knowledge, order is introduced into what the individual experiences as chaos.

While it’s true that, in identifying certain cycles running through the client’s chart, an occasional insight will arise that may be taken as a “prediction” for future events… what is actually happening is that the client and I are arriving at a synchronistic point of understanding. Together we “see” something clear and obvious, even though it may have been sitting on the client’s nose for years and years. This is an alchemical process, such that, when the two of us climb into the “alchemical crucible,” we have availed ourselves of a Mystery that expresses through signs and symbols. We have immersed ourselves, in fact, in a sea of signs and symbols, submitting to anciently-derived collective wisdom that comes to bear on the present moment.

As I explain this and describe that during a routine survey of astrological data springing forth from the chart, signs and symbols are transmuted into insights that trigger connections and associations within the client. These connections and associations then trigger a similar process within me. In short order, the client and I are seeing one another as an uncanny mirror, sharing in this deeply intimate moment a recognition of an otherwise unconscious human heritage.

There is something profoundly healing in the intimacy of this meeting, beyond even what the signs and symbols represent. It is as though the signs and symbols create a doorway to the holy place of awareness before we take birth, and in this holy place we find a spiritual connectedness that is independent of the form and drama of our current life. We have agreed to spend an hour or so in this place, suspending our conditioning and our beliefs about the should’s and shouldn’ts of life… and we make ourselves available to a wisdom that can’t be accessed in any other way.

Perhaps this description sounds forth as memory and resonance from beyond the chaos of your everyday life.

If so, perhaps the alchemical crucible may be calling you.

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How to Pray

Prayer
The great Walter Lanyon winnows the wheat from the chaff:

In an amusing article which appeared in the London Express, George Bernard Shaw says: “Lots of people pray for me; and I have never been any worse for it. The only valid argument against the practice is the Glassite one that God knows his own business without any prompting.”

Is prayer, then, a futile thing? Certainly anyone who acknowledges the fact that there is a God will likewise grant Him the intelligence to run His universe without any prompting, and also will allow that it is reasonable to believe that no amount of begging or beseeching is going to make him alter His plans.

Yet we are admonished to “pray without ceasing,” but we are also told how to pray and how not to pray. “Be not like the heathen with vain repetitions.” Words will not accomplish anything. Prayer must be something deeper and finer than telling God what He is and what He should do. Prayer is a conscious recognition of the eternality of good, here and now.

Any prayer that beseeches and begs God to do a thing is an open acknowledgment that the Creator has forgotten or overlooked something that is very necessary of accomplishment. The more we beg God to be good, the more we show forth our ignorance of His eternal nature.

Jesus prayed the unceasing prayer of the isness of the kingdom when He said, “It is done,” before the sense-man could see that any change had taken place. Again He said, “Thank You, Father,” indicating that He knew the finished works already existed.

We are told to “enter the closet and close the door.” Turn from the appearances of things and close the door of the senses. When we close the door of the senses, we shut off the testimony of the senses. We do not do this by effort, but by the contemplation of the isness of God and His universe, and so completely fix our attention on Him that the door to the senses is closed without effort or struggle.

“Whatsoever things you desire when you pray, believe [be firm] that you receive [present tense] them and you shall have them.” “Desire is not something to be worked for, but is the thing in its incipiency pressing towards us for expression.” Again we see the acknowledgment of the finished thing which is given to us before we ask, and while we are yet speaking. This would all be impossible if the thing or desire did not already exist in the kingdom of the Real. How could you believe that you receive a thing if it did not already exist?

No man who prays the prayer of acknowledgment will look for a sign. Remember that the “signs follow,” not precede. Looking for results only indicates a state of doubt and fear, and has nothing to do with the real consciousness, which is yours for the acceptance.

“Arise and shine” indicates that you can do both of these things and that you can glorify God for ever and ever, when you realize that glorifying Him is simply acknowledging His perfect universe here and now. “Stand fast,” then, girt about with the armour of right-mindedness with the two-edged sword turning in all directions, upon which is inscribed, “It is done.” “It is done.” What matter though the whole circumstance world offer testimony to the contrary? The storm may sweep over your house and rage without the portals of your universe, but you are founded on the rock and shall not be moved and the storm will soon spend its fury. Its fury will only last so long as it finds anything in you which accepts fury without.

Praying without ceasing is a present possibility. It is an open acknowledgment that “all is well” because God can and does run His universe without help or aid, or even suggestion. The great use of prayer is that it brings us into line with the facts of Being. We get into the universal rhythm and are carried on into our expression of peace and joy. The song of freedom is on our lips, the song of the Giver. The Giver gives without thought of return. He pours out His joy on all mankind. He does not seek to change anything, but His coming brings out hidden beauties, as the sunlight shows forth the glories of a new day — and lo! all is changed.

When man comes to recognize in prayer an opportunity of allying himself with God, he understands how “all things are possible with God,” and if possible with God, possible also to the expression of God.

Not the words uttered but the motive back of them will determine the result. He who prays constantly for self will have few, if any, of his prayers answered. Self-seeking is unnecessary when man takes his place in the universe of all good. He becomes a steward, a distributor of the gifts to all mankind.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” the Master asked. Why waste more time trying to piece together past conditions and failures? “Come out from among them and be separate.” Why fondle the cocoon which has given up its butterfly or the shell which has been left behind the flown bird. “Come out from among them.” Go forth into your new universe, resplendent and joyous, for you are the son of a King.

“Let us pray,” used to be a very somber and doleful thing, despite the fact that we read, “The people of God are a people of joy.” Even Jesus came “that your joy might be full.” This all seems to indicate that prayer should be a joyful acknowledgment of good and not a mournful beseeching and begging.

“Arise and shine.” Approach the Throne of Grace with the smile of freedom; the acknowledgment that God runs His universe perfectly and that you, the son, are merely taking up your place in the “body of Christ Jesus.”

If you are praying for things, remember the admonition, “Consider the lilies and the ravens.” All the effort to make God see how poor you are and how needy your case is will not alter the fact that you have a lesson to learn from the lilies and the ravens who “let” things come into expression and do not constantly worry and storm about the lack of them. How effortlessly the lilies grow and reach perfection and come season after season in all their glory, in all their freshness and beauty.

“He gives His beloved rest” — rest from the hard struggle you have made to get things. A glorious light suddenly surrounds you and shuts out everything. You are wrapped in adoration in the presence of the all good, and you are ready to hear and to understand: “My grace is sufficient for you.” Sufficient is enough. Why worry about signs? Why worry about things? Why worry about circumstances? “My grace is sufficient for you.” That is enough. Claim your “sufficiency in all things” and rest, and you shall see that though heaven and earth shall pass away the Word shall remain. You are that word, which was “let” into expression.

In a recent play the question was asked, “Who made the devil?” The answer was “God,” bringing out the natural deduction that if God made the devil, then God must be using him for His own ends.

“Awake thou that sleepeth.” Reclaim your lost Garden of Eden and dwell there in peace. “Ye shall be in league with the stones of the field,” even as Job has said — one in all and all in one — God in everything and everything in God and the blessed rest that comes from knowing consciously: “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

“He giveth his beloved rest.” You are the Beloved of God.

Not how I was taught growing up… but much more in alignment with my sense of how it should be done… which is something along the lines of becoming completely absorbed in the Spirit, surrendered, abandoned and given over… as in true communion.

Experience

isaac-the-syrian
For my dear friend and teacher, Jeffrey S. Brooks.

A quote from Saint Isaac the Syrian (pictured above):

Do not seek the advice of him that is not thy fellow in behaviour, though he be very prudent. A layman who has experienced things is more to be trusted than a sage who speaks on the basis of theoretical knowledge but without experience.

What is experience? Experience is not this that a man goes and touches things, without acquiring knowledge concerning their advantages and their defects and without remaining with them during a certain time. How often the faces of things give the impressions of defect, whereas within them is found matter full of advantages. In the same way are to be judged things of the opposite aspect.

This is one message that has gotten through to me, loud and clear — with many thanks to Jeffrey.

Speculation and blind adherence to dogma are one thing.

The words of the wise who have attained through rigorous and skillful practice… this is quite another thing.

Choose wisely, or spend years chasing your tail.

Mooji

My wife just turned me onto this gentleman, Mooji, who apparently was a devotee Papaji.

It seems like every other person in our hometown of Boulder was a devotee of Papaji.

Over the years I’ve probably attended 20 or 25 satsangs with devotees of Papaji, of whom Gangaji is the most famous example.

This is “neo-advaita” teaching, which purports to give the “ultimate view” that resides as the final stop along every spiritual journey.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t tell you how to get there, other than to repeatedly say what you shouldn’t do — i.e., “neti, neti.”

You’ve probably heard variations of it before:  “Consciousness is all there is.”

Gee, thanks.

What’s so enticing about neo-advaita teachings is that they are packaged as “not for just anybody.”  While the rest of us poor schmucks are out here beating our heads against the wall, enlightened neo-advaitins are “just being” in a state/non-state of absolute is-ness… or something… and it’s the simplest thing… so long as you are one of the chosen few whose capacity is deep and wide enough to “get it” in fairly short order.  Of course, there’s nothing you can do to “get it,” because it either happens or it doesn’t happen… but, then, there’s nothing actually happening, and for that matter there is no “one” for whom it happens, or doesn’t happen.

Suffice it to say, you just want to shoot yourself in the head after a few years of this stuff.

At a certain point in 1997 or so (can’t be sure, but give or take a year), I had for a close Internet friend a self-confessed Nisargadatta/U.G. Krishnamurti (both of whom I continue to respect and love, by the way) devotee named “El.”  As she was gruff and tactlessly honest in all her communication, she was universally disliked on the big neo-advaita discussion boards to which I belonged, but for some reason I was truly drawn to her.  Just when I was perfecting my neo-advaita pitch and putting it out there from an authoritative perspective (i.e., I was just sure that it had “happened” to me), El brutally knocked me off my high horse… and after three days of licking my wounds, it dawned on me what a beautiful favor she did me.  When I expressed my thanks, she said, “Okay, now you’ve got a chance to go all the way.”

I’m still working on it, but I can definitely say that I am thankful for having moved beyond neo-advaitaism.  It took three or four years after the above-mentioned event before I finally dropped it completely, at which point I stopped ignoring the “signs of absorption” that had been asserting themselves since the very early 90’s… and I found a meditation teacher who could not only explain what was happening to me, but who could help me devise a lifestyle that allows “jhana” to do its spiritually-transformative thing with me.

Still a work in process, but let me just say that, having been a “jhana yogi” for four years, I can watch Mooji’s satsang with a mixture of thanksgiving and tolerance.  My teacher would say that Mooji is “established in second jhana,” and that sounds about right to me.

More power to him.

He could very well, in fact, have it absolutely right.

Rudhyar on Personhood, Schuon on the Underlying Unity

Dane Rudhyar filtered astrology through Jung’s archetypal and alchemical psychology, emerging with a vision of wholeness that’s never found a more effective expression.

From his final book, The Fullness of Human Experience:

What is to be meant by being a person? Why are human beings today determined to operate as autonomous individuals characteristically able to make responsible decisions? Another question inevitably follows: How does a person arrive at what he or she considers a valid basis for the decision? This basis evidently depends on the particular nature of the choice being made; yet, whether or not the person realizes it, any decision implies the acceptance of an approach to life and the meaning of existence which has metaphysical and/or religious roots.

Most religions or spiritual philosophies assume as an incontrovertible fact of inner experiences (particularly in states of intense meditation or ecstasy) that human persons are essentially spiritual entities (Souls or Monads) that, having emerged from “the One” (God or the Absolute), return to their source after a long and dangerous “pilgrimage” through a series of material states. Individuality, and therefore a state of at least relative separateness which allows for basic differences in beingness, are the essential factors in the human condition.

I would add that it is this “state of at least relative separateness” that is at the root of our 21st Century existential crisis — which is why a revival of Religio Perennis is essential to both the survival and wellbeing of the human species on planet Earth.

Why?

Because, without a metaphysical structure, we are left without a context through which this material reality may gain meaning. And without meaning, what’s the point in living?

It is this dirth of meaning that ends up pitting humans against humans, each projecting suffering onto the other, mindless of their essential unity.

On the other hand, with metaphysical meaning comes a recognition of our brotherhood and sisterhood — our collective status as children of The One — and it is this recognition that invites heaven on earth.

From Frithjof Schuon’s definition (.pdf) of Religio Perennis:

One of the keys to understanding our true nature and our ultimate destiny is the fact that the things of this world are never proportionate to the actual range of our intelligence. Our intelligence is made for the Absolute, or else it is nothing; among all the intelligences of this world the human spirit alone is capable of objectivity, and this implies—or proves—that the Absolute alone confers on our intelligence the power to accomplish to the full what it can accomplish and to be wholly what it is. If it were necessary or useful to prove the Absolute, the objective and trans-personal character of the human Intellect would be a sufficient testimony, for this Intellect is the indisputable sign of a purely spiritual first Cause, a Unity infinitely central but containing all things, an Essence at once immanent and transcendent. It has been said more than once that total Truth is inscribed in an eternal script in the very substance of our spirit; what the different Revelations do is to “crystallize” and “actualize”, in different degrees according to the case, a nucleus of certitudes that not only abides forever in the divine Omniscience, but also sleeps by refraction in the “naturally supernatural” kernel of the individual, as well as in that of each ethnic or historical collectivity or the human species as a whole.

(…) The essential function of human intelligence is discernment between the Real and the illusory or between the Permanent and the impermanent, and the essential function of the will is attachment to the Permanent or the Real. This discernment and this attachment are the quintessence of all spirituality; carried to their highest level or reduced to their purest substance, they constitute the underlying universality in every great spiritual patrimony of humanity, or what may be called the religio perennis; this is the religion to which the sages adhere, one which is always and necessarily founded upon formal elements of divine institution.

(…) A civilization is integral and healthy to the extent it is founded on the “invisible” or “underlying” religion, the religio perennis, that is, to the extent its expressions or forms are transparent to the Non-Formal and tend toward the Origin, thus conveying the recollection of a Lost Paradise, but also—and with all the more reason—the presentiment of a timeless Beatitude. For the Origin is at once within us and before us; time is but a spiral movement around a motionless Center.

This last line says it all.

It is something toward which our species once aspired — our fallible, frail species — and with any luck, it’s an aspiration we’ll discover once again.

Soon, before it’s too late.