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..:: The Portal ::..

By

Alan Schneider

                                                                                                                                            

              Here on the Manifest Physical Plane of Expression we are all but trapped in the condition of waking sensory awareness – indeed, we are thus imprisoned for the term of incarnation in the body of flesh that creates and sustains that awareness.   Yoga calls this sad condition “The Mind Trap”, and attributes it to the persistent action of that citadel of our waking state – the Freudian ego.  For most of us, this condition will never be overcome during incarnation, grounded as it is in the body that is incarnation in the human form.   Even youth’s delight is no escape – or at least not a lengthy one – from this condition, merely a vacation, nothing more.   And as youth wanes into age, and then old age, the grim nature of our physical containment in the flesh becomes more and more apparent for what it really is – the sensory vessel of suffering – dukkha, in Buddhist terms – that wears wearily on the otherwise undisciplined consciousness, to culminate only in that release from suffering known as death.   Such is the fate of the flesh, the senses, and the ego – the eternal trinity of material enslavement.   Surround ourselves as we will by sensory material distractions, sooner or later we must and will confront our physical, mortal circumstances, of this there can be no doubt.   

            This SYNERGY essay is concerned with what the Buddha referred to as the “treatment” of the human malady outlined above, and specifically with the discernment of that possible alternative to our difficulties in the flesh afforded by accessing and passing through The Portal – the psychic gateway to the other side of the perceptual looking glass of conscious perception.    This gateway – this Portal – lies paradoxically not beyond the physical organism in some external environment, but within the field of consciousness that is apparently sustained by it.   I say apparently sustained here, because the spiritual Truth is that the awareness born in and of the physical senses is only the most superficial layer of consciousness, and that the apparently deeper layers – the personal and collective unconscious minds – are, in reality, the transitional paths to a realm that lies beyond the body, senses, and conscious ego in an entirely different continuum of experience and perception.   What is required to access this extra-sensory, extra-personal region while still incarnate is the concern of this essay – the way out of The Mind Trap.   

            In his book Gestalt Therapy Verbatim,  the expatriate German psychiatrist Fredrick S. Perls made the telling observation that, ”The only way out is through!”, and this is entirely accurate with regard to our human obstacles – only rarely can they be circumnavigated – in the vast majority of cases, they must be confronted and overcome.   To begin with, we must therefore consider the first barrier lying before the Portal – cumulative, negative conditioning having taken place through the physical senses on the Physical Plane.   Not only does this conditioning not require the presence of the ego (in many cases it has significantly taken form prior to the formation of the ego), it actually comprises the ego in a statistically significant number of individual cases.  Thus is the first step towards the Portal a particularly difficult one to take – many people are so entangled with their conditioning that they never even realize its existence as the mechanism circumscribing their awareness – they just take things as they appear to be as “reality”, never questioning nor investigating anything.   Others may realize that there is something more than meets the eye of consciousness, but are so intimidated by the painful circumstances of their conditioning that they can proceed no further.   Another class of person will at least attempt to counteract their conditioned responses, perhaps with some degree of success, but will eventually surrender the struggle as the evident long term frustration of the project becomes clearer to them.   It is the relatively rare individual who stops at nothing to eradicate the monster of trauma instilled within them through whatever means are required to establish genuinely free behavioral choice.   This is customarily a long, painful process of reopening old wounds that have never healed, or perhaps healed incorrectly, and instituting the genuine self-forgiveness and deeply compassionate understanding required for their cure.   

            The last category of person noted above is the one which has the greatest success at healing the personal trauma that constitutes the first barrier – the first ring-pass-not – on the path to the Portal – the layer of personal unconscious material that surrounds and insulates the ego from the Truth.   Most or all of the negativity present in this region must be released into healing and recovery for real progress to be made in the exploration of the next barrier – the collective unconscious lying beyond the personal unconscious in the Psyche.   This is where many spiritual aspirants wander astray – they believe that there are shortcuts in the healing process, whether that process is called therapy, or Yoga, or Meditation, or Prayer, or catharsis.   As Perls observed, the only way out is through, even if this means passing through the Gates of Hell along the way.    Anyone who will not, or cannot, perform this obeisance will go no further – the isle ways of metaphysical bookstores everywhere are filled with dime-store psychics who have given up the quest for enlightenment in exchange for psychism – the superficial play at magic, and mouthing of empty spiritual platitudes, offered for money to the unwary.   Be advised, dear Seeker, to complete your emotional work in the Freudian personal unconscious as the necessary adjunct to proceeding to the vast region of the collective unconsciousness.  

            At this Jungian collective level, the nature of the barrier shifts radically, producing a subtle and deceptive second ring-pass-not associated with the region.    What is found here is a series (perhaps hundreds in succession) of increasingly deeply significant symbolic constructs – archetypes – that demonstrate what Jung referred to as numinosity – they stand out in the Psyche with an almost hypnotic quality that tends to captivate awareness, and generate a need to pursue their meaning to ever deeper levels of significance.   Now, there is no reason why one should not invest in this process of inner exploration if this is what one feels called to in their Heart and Soul, and many Seekers do so for the balance of their lives, resulting in legitimate personal satisfaction and spiritual achievement – there is certainly enough material present in the collective unconscious to occupy many, many lifetimes of investigation.   The nature of the ring-pass-not concerned with this region is one of manifestation, as consciousness emerges from the Portal to take first archetypal, and then physical perceptible form.   

            Perhaps some further discussion of the Portal itself would be helpful for the reader here, before proceeding.  There is some variance of opinion (a considerable amount, actually) among advanced Seekers throughout history regarding what exactly it is that lies at the absolute foundation of the Psyche.   I myself have had a variety of experiences with this condition, which amounts to a noncondition with and without perceptual attributes.   Now, Hindu Samadhi usually characterizes this phenomenon (which this paper refers to as The Portal) as pure white light, supreme bliss, omnipresent knowledge, omniscient insight, and omnipotent Presence, among other things.   Jungian psychodynamics simply refers to the Self as the generator of the Psyche and all its content.   Freud used the term libido for essentially the same thing, while Yoga specifies the Kundalini Energy as the origin and driver of all human experience.    Buddhism, on another hand, features the phenomenon of Satori – the attainment, predominantly through meditation, of a state of absolutely non-dual awareness, free of any kind of subject or object – and therefore free of all conflict – resulting in, again, a state of supreme inner peace and bliss.  This is the indescribable state of being-in-not-being-and-not-being-in-being that is central to Buddhist philosophy and practice.   Finally, Daoism maintains, in a similar vein, that “The Dao which can be spoken of (i.e. specified) is not the Eternal Dao”, and there are many other representations of what amounts to The Portal in the spiritual mysticism of other cultures throughout the ancient and modern world. 

            If we look at what these traditions all have in common, certain trends emerge.   For one thing, they all point to an absolute cessation of personal involvement and/or vestment in human experience – the ego and its partners desire and expectation are succinctly excluded from the process of conscious perception here.   This exclusion is accomplished by the attainment, through a variety of means, of significantly altered states of consciousness in the individual, to the point where the belief in, or sense of, personal identity is lost for the duration of the condition.   What then supplants the personal (ego-based) focus normally present in perception is a range of experiential phenomena of an increasingly impersonal, collective character, determined (I believe) by the root consciousness of the perceiver, personal psychic capacity, the culture of origin, and preexisting levels of spiritual development related to that culture.    Jung once specified that the precise nature of the archetypes was unknowable and imperceptible,  but that they nonetheless generated a psychic force that, when filtered through the individual’s culture, resulted in the formation of perceptible archetypal symbols in the Psyche.   The Portal is the universal point of origin of that psychic force.            

            If this phenomenon is itself unobservable, how are we to know anything about it?   The science of Chaos Theory has some answers to this question.   Even if something is completely beyond the possibility of observation – for example, future events which, from the perspective of an observer now have not yet occurred – it may still be possible to gain some information about its possible nature by noting the statistical similarities of the outcomes of events emerging from the chaotic threshold.    If there are demonstrated trends of manifestation in these events, then chaos theory maintains that they are the result of the influence of strange attractors present within (or perhaps beyond?) the chaotic threshold – organizing principals present in even the chaotic environment, including that “chaotic environment” known to us all as physical existence.    Let us take a look at what some of these attractors may possibly be by considering the grand expanse of human history.   

            At some point in the distant past, the borderline-aware instinctual responses of our primate ancestors evolved into the first glimmerings of legitimate sentience, as language, culture (as defined by tool use), and social communication emerged into expression, all primarily driven by increases in the size and complexity of the brain.   Archeology informs us through the examination of ancient cultural artifacts what the concerns of ancient and prehistoric humans apparently consisted of.    Apart from such practices as hunting, and gathering and distributing sustenance and resources – the practical daily concerns of survival – there seems to have been a perception of, or belief in, the existence of certain unseen, intelligent influences shaping human affairs present in even the most primitive ancestral human affiliations.   These are essentially the first strange attractors identified by our ancestors, although they had no such terminology for them, and they demonstrate remarkable similarities that still exist down to this day.    The ancients called these influences spirits, totems, and Gods, and posited in them the controls of existence now, and in the future, including that “future” called the afterlife.   As soon as we knew anything, we knew the generating concepts that are still with us today, and probably always will be – in fact, the archetypes of the collective unconscious.  

            What then were and are these most basic, most original symbols that shaped our consciousness?   What were the “Gods” of antiquity?   And, of greatest importance, how did we interact with them?     

            As one progresses into the realm of the collective unconscious, the more acculturated symbols are slowly replaced by the more instinctual ones.   It is quite reasonable to suppose that primitive humans, and pre-humans, functioned more or less exclusively in this original, instinctual symbolic context, experiencing a personal contact with the symbolic forms they experienced in their consciousness that was undiluted and unmodified by modern “logic” and “reason” – to the ancients, the spirits were real influences governing affairs that had to be reckoned with for the sake of personal survival and tribal wellbeing – not hypothetical considerations occurring beyond perception as is the case with so many modern cultures.   To the primitive mind, what was outside of the organism and what was inside were equivalent perceptions in an undifferentiated stream of consciousness.   In a word, the archetypal images were reality in those days.  

            The earliest symbols as evidenced by aboriginal cave art, rock paintings, and certain figurines found in Europe, Asia, and the Americas portray fertility images as identified objects of solicitation – i.e. worship – including the famous Venus of Wollendorf figurine dated to some twenty five thousand years ago, and many Native American totem images of comparable antiquity.   The oldest known South Asian images originating in the Indus Valley region are of horned bull-like figures that are generally felt by archeologists to represent fertility totems as well.   Whether these cultures had connected the act of copulation with reproduction is less clear, however, and this may or may not have been the case.   Under such circumstances, the solicitation of fertility images for continued growth of the social system is even more relevant – more people meant more farm hands, hunters, and gatherers – always an advantage for survival amid conditions of presumably high attrition from disease and natural disasters.  

            The prevention of such negative occurrences seems to have been the next order of priorities for primitive people.   Again referring to the Indus Valley region of ancient India, the original God Rudra preceded the current Shiva as the deity most concerned with disaster and destruction in those times, and may even have predated the occurrence of Indra, the significantly more benevolent God of the Harvest and Justice known to be worshipped at the time.   Most ancient cultures seemed to have had negative images that correspond to Rudra who were deeply feared by the local populace for their destructive potential, and Indra, who were appreciated for their potential gifts of abundant harvests, good health, and good fortune.  

            Beyond “love and death”, the most prevalent ancient themes seem to have revolved around animal totems that are often represented in the context of the hunt and hunting rites – associative magic rituals that were felt to increase the likelihood of good, abundant hunting. Clearly, abundance was a primary consideration of primitive people everywhere, frequently linked beyond prosperity to literal survival over lengthy, cold winters in many areas of Europe and America.   Animal figures also represented the presumed or real qualities of the animal in question – various animals were felt to represent bravery, wisdom, fertility (notably cattle), grace, industriousness, persistence, and so forth, and the lucky individual who was able to retain some portion of such a creature following a successful kill or capture could perform additional rites to internalize these qualities.   Let us not forget that, for the primitive, these were not symbolic, but literal gestures that inculcated the animal quality into the person.  

            At some point the questions of good and evil – morality – must also have come into play in ancient culture.   Such figures as Rudra were almost certainly perceived as evil, harmful, and undesirable, where Indra – who was also the spirit of the Indus River and the flooding associated with fertile soil and abundant harvests – was undoubtedly seen as good and desirable.    Although such images of good and evil frequently seem childlike and simplistic to the modern mind, they have a profound bearing on our discussion of the Portal, because this simplistic moral sense has remained functionally intact at the deepest levels of the instinctual collective unconscious up to this day where the Portal is to be found.  All subsequent developments in religious and spiritual consciousness have their roots in this precept:  what harms me is evil, and what assists me is good, with the understanding that “me” in this context expands to the undifferentiated family and tribal existence – essentially becoming “us” in the process.   The development of the individual ego, and the associated personal sense of self, took place in the context of advanced tool use as culture expanded into the age of metal work and large scale masonry in the vicinity of six thousand years ago – prior to this point perception was still largely collective, tribally focused, and undifferentiated.  

            Returning to the subject of the nature of the Portal, this is most certainly a primary archetypal symbol driven into form by an equally primary principal – the Creation archetype.    In deference to the wide variety of Creation myths in modern and antiquated culture, Jung simply referred to the Self as the source of creation in the Psyche, with the understanding that the Psyche was all that we can really know in the face of the primary chaos of external events.   That those external events seem relatively organized and predictable today is a cultural artifact resulting from the past ten thousand years of human evolution and social progress – a condition that is still always in question today, and doomed to failure at death in any case.    We may win for awhile, but that is all.  It is noteworthy that Jung himself was familiar with the Hindu Chakra system of consciousness classification, and lectured on it, but had only attained the comprehension of the first five levels – the last two he dismissed as psychotic fantasy and spiritual conjecture – and this is probably more a comment on his limitations as an investigator than the spiritual Truth, including about the Truth of the Self and the Portal, neither of which he could attain, because they existed at the highest, deepest levels of awareness he had not perceived himself.  

            Here, I have to rely on my personal experience and impressions of what I have done, and where perception has taken me, and, of course, the accounts of the Seers and Seekers of history.  This information is quite difficult to convey, because the sense of personal existence is washed away in these experiences – certainly something is perceiving and experiencing, but it is not the ego, the vestiges of which cannot exit in the Presence of the Self, the Portal, and other states of the Highest manifestation. 

            If we begin here with the Jungian model, then we must accept his supposition that there is a source of manifestation for the Psyche, which he called the Self.   This state of things is represented diagrammatically at the end of every SYNERGY essay, and stands as the best single depiction of the scientific model of consciousness of which I am aware.   The Self is what I am referring to here as the Portal as well, in fact, the Portal of the Creation of the Psyche.   Since this is such a rarified level of perception, and so subject to individual limitations of perception (such as those Jung himself had), I will not deal with the variety of descriptions mentioned earlier in the first paragraphs of this essay, even those which agree with my own experience – since they can be no more than that – the experience of an individual steeped in the modern method of scientific inquiry, impressive as they were.  I will, however, deal with the question of good and evil as it pertains to Creation.   Did (and does) the Creative Source, the Portal, produce both good and evil consequences for humanity?  The answer is yes.   Does it produce neither? Again, the answer is still yes.  How can both be true?  The answer lies in the fundamental construct of human life – the body, which we perceptually live in for all of our days, and perceptually die out of at the end of our days.  

            No one can doubt that the body is created and exists – the evidence of its existence is irrefutable to the physical senses – there is some kind of physical vehicle that is always present sustaining the ego and at least Freudian awareness.  Except in rare cases, even after traveling far from this basic level of experience, we still return to it, however changed we may be by the journey.   Yoga theory distinguishes several types of Samadhi, the highest attainable human experience, in this regard – from relatively temporary expressions to the ultimate expression of Maha Samadhi – physical death of the organism.    Only a very advanced Soul like Ramana Maharshi or Ramakrishna existed full time within the Portal, and only by being dead as an ego for the duration of existence.    The preponderance of belief in Hindu tradition is that such Souls are sent into manifestation as a body by the Creator to show human beings the Truth of their condition, and the way out of the Mind Trap – the subject of this essay.   

            Now, the Creator also sends another influence, in this case into Astral manifestation,  specifically in the Lower Astral Plane, immediately contiguous with the Physical Plane and the Etheric Medium that immediately proceeds physical perception – the Spirit of Darkness and Deception personified by the body of flesh.   There are many names for this Spirit, but I prefer Lucifer – the old Latin term for “light bearer” in nighttime processions and rituals.    This is the final influence preceding the experience of the physical senses, and it accounts for the true nature of physical existence as noted by Christ and Buddha – suffering.   How could the light bearer be the source of such deception?   Because that light is born in conditions of spiritual darkness, not to guide us forward, but to lead us astray.   Only by Seeking the Spiritual Truth of Enlightenment on the higher Planes of Expression can we know the Eternal Light that exists beyond the temporary illumination of the physical senses and flawed interpretations of the ego.   So it is that this existence in the flesh is Karmic damnation for the Soul, the curse of consciousness if we remain in the Freudian awareness alone, and do not seek Enlightenment.    Yes, my friends, today’s sweet pleasure is tomorrow’s bitter agony, to be terminated only by death if we do not find the Way Out!

            And what is that Way?   First, we must deemphasize worldly matters, thus neutralizing Lucifer’s primary tool in consciousness – temptation.   This does not mean that we must go to the extremes of Medieval mortification of the Flesh, but an awareness needs to be maintained for our own good that what we are physically attracted to is placed in our consciousness to lead us off the Path of the Light.     Next, we must practice one or more of the many rites of higher consciousness – Yoga, meditation, chanting, prayer, and so forth – to reinforce the Presence of the Light in our conscious perception.   And we must, above all, seek out the company of those others among us who have begun to Awaken to the Truth, or perhaps even to have Realized the Self of Jung, and the Portal of this essay, and share in their experience of the Light as often as possible up to and including monastic life if this is what is required.   And, lastly, in the vein of the preceding statement, we must make a life of spiritual service to others the priority of this existence, not a life of material acquisition.   It may not be necessary to live in a monastery or Ashram, but we must live in service to the Light always, demonstrating this in service to each other.    If these measures can be set in place in our existence, we will find our way out of the Mind Trap and back to the Portal of Creation, and the Self of Self Realization, not as an intellectual construct, but as the Living Light of Truth. 

                                          - With Love, Alan -

                         (Copyright 2010, by Alan Schneider)

 

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