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..:: Enlightenment XVI / Tantra ::..

10/01/2010

- Alan Schneider -

                                 

            It would appear that the Great Force which directs my (and all other human) actions – a force referred to in this series as The Self – has determined that one additional essay is required to complete the sequence on Enlightenment, an essay on the subject of Tantra.    The term “final” is, after all, so conditional in human affairs…

            Tantric scholar David Gordon White has defined Tantra as follows:

“Tantra is that Asian body of beliefs and practices which, working from the principle that the universe we experience is nothing other than the concrete manifestation of the divine energy of the Godhead that creates and maintains that universe, seeks to ritually appropriate and channel that energy, within the human microcosm, in creative and emancipatory ways.” 

This is about as accurate and summative as a description of so expansive a subject can be, with the caveat that the term “Asian”, which originally was fairly appropriate at the time this definition was offered, must now be deleted, since Tantra and neo-Tantric practices have become worldwide in scope today.  Why is this?   Because Tantra involves the ritualization of human sexual activity in its assorted forms of expression, and, particularly with the advent of Freudian theory, this has become acceptable where once it was considered dark and forbidden.    Yes, sex sells anything and everything, including any spiritual theory or practice upon which it focuses!    For this reason, most main stream interpretations of all relatively prevalent religious traditions shy away from Tantra as being too seductive and implicitly erotic for inclusion in legitimate faith, supposed Freudian (and scientific) acceptability notwithstanding.   The subject of Tantra is simply too hot to touch in the popular consciousness – but not too hot to be sought out in surreptitious physical practice by legions of practitioners and devotees!  

 Freud once described all religion as sublimated (i.e. symbolic, indirectly expressed) sexuality, noting the evident similarity of the various states of religious excitement and ecstasies in many belief systems with the stages of sexual arousal and orgasm in physical biology.   Jung took this a step further (i.e. to a higher level of symbolism) with his theory of the archetypes of the collective unconsciousness,  wherein the archetypal symbols of faith and spiritual expression are defined as the specific precursors of human consciousness, including sexuality.    The implication here is that sexual expression that is not directly manifested through the sex act will still emerge in symbolic form with comparable or greater intensity elsewhere in consciousness, and must be expressed in some form as the consequence of that most basic and fundamental aspect of the human condition – the differentiation into the male and female physical forms.   This is the essence of Tantra – the elevation of Freudian libido (his term for vital sexual or life force) first to recognition as a spiritual force present in physical sexuality, and thence on to higher and higher levels of increasingly potent symbolic spiritual levels.  This duality of form is a fundamental expression of the Tao – the polarity of force generating all manifestation in the universe – along with light and dark, hot and cold, strong and weak, love and fear, and the great multitude of other polar extremes through which the Self appears to be expressed.   The human Taoist expression of male and female is the one upon which the philosophy of Tantra rests.   

The libido was Freud’s characterization of another, much more anciently recognized force, known as the aforementioned Tao in Chinese philosophy, arguably the Mojo of many primitive (and modern) African systems, the Chi of Japanese and other Pacific island cultures, and, above all, the Kundalini of India and South Asia – almost all historically Asian as White observed.    Of these, it is the Kundalini, through Kundalini Yoga practice, which has been expanded most thoroughly and completely as the explanation of the action of Tantra.   This is the theory which I have found to be most plausible as the explanation of Ascension and Enlightenment after a lifetime of investigation into many traditions, and the one which I will offer here. 

And, as is frequently the case, we must depart initially from the comfortable security of absolute science to begin this presentation by accepting the premise that the Self is the origin of all consciousness, something which cannot be objectively proven as yet.    As the Creator of all knowable manifestation (i.e. everything present within the Universal Field of Consciousness that is the Self) the Self expresses manifestation in an infinite variety of processes and forms in The Presence of Universal Love.   Even the frequently seemingly cold and impersonal physical universe is the result of this Divine Love radiating forth from the Self.   At this latter level of cosmic vibration, the condition of the Self has become quite dense and impacted, resulting in the perceptible world of the Physical Plane and, above all, Karma, the spiritual action which agitates this Plane into moral consequences and expression.    Karma is the Self manifest on the Physical Plane, particularly the “Karma” known as the physical human body.    This body is essentially trapped in its native sensory condition, at least initially wholly dependent upon the senses for all information about, and subsequent knowledge of, its condition and circumstances.   The Freudian ego cannot penetrate this shroud concealing the Truth of Consciousness from the organism.  

However, the Self has left within every human body the means of rediscovery of the Divine Presence in the form of an initially dormant “packet” of the Kundalini Energy symbolically present in the Sacrum at the base of the spine.   The Kundalini Energy is the Self in microcosal form – a little package of God symbolically nested at the skeletal foundation of the organism.    It is interesting that neither Freud nor Jung, although postulating the existence of libido or archetypes, could say where they were to be found, but Kundalini Yoga is quite specific about this – the base of the spine.    This specificity is the foundation of all Yoga practice – not solely Kundalini Yoga – and, as a result, any postural Yoga system is working with the activation and release of the Kundalini.   This is why the practices of Hatha Yoga and many schools of meditation can result in spontaneous release of the Kundalini along the sequence of the spinal Chakras – often with severely disruptive results for the unprepared practitioner.    The Kundalini represents God seeking reunion with God, the ultimate force in the universe, and something to be treated with great respect and caution in application!   

The theories of most schools of Yoga and meditation are aware of this risk, and proceed slowly with the spiritual development and training of the aspirant for that reason, at least in the case of the correctly trained instructor working in a valid spiritual lineage.   One should always make a point of selecting such an individual for any spiritual undertaking – the generic study from a generic guide can be very risky indeed. 

The sequence of the first three of the total of seven Chakras – the symbolic spinal energy centers of human consciousness – are all concerned with the operation of the limited sensory consciousness of the body on the Physical Plane.  Chakra One, Muladhara, expresses the basic survival valence of the organism – work, cleanliness, habitation, transportation, eating, and sleeping in the material world.  Chakra Two, Svadhisthana, expresses mating and sexuality, as we enter adolescence (and perhaps even long before that, if Freud was accurate in his theories of infantile sexuality).   It is with the onset of the influence of Svadhisthana that the hitherto dormant Kundalini Energy which is the driver of Tantra becomes active within consciousness.    In the cases where the child has experienced a relatively benign, largely trauma-free existence, the initial demonstration of the Tantra involved is largely Left Hand in nature – focused on external sexual interest in a physical partner.   In cases where significant trauma has taken place for the individual, the customary Left Hand orientation may emerge in distorted, perverted contexts, and may also emerge prematurely in a Right Hand orientation toward spiritual practice.    These are the two Paths of Tantra – the Left Hand physical and the Right Hand spiritual.   Many people predominantly experience the Left Hand Path for most of their lives, as it processes in adulthood through Svadhisthana into Chakra Three, Manipura, the social Power Center, and primary focus of ego awareness in the organism as the predominantly social process that it is.    This Center was discussed at some length in my last essay, entitled The Ego, and represents the terminus of the Left Hand Path in consciousness.  

The Paths of Tantra can diverge at either Svadhisthana or Manipura toward Chakra Four, Anahata, The Heart Center, and first genuinely spiritual Chakra.   I say this because this is the Center where selfless love, compassion, the conscience, and the Soul are focused and symbolically expressed in the organism.    In order to continue working with the Right Hand Path, this Chakra must be successfully entered and experienced in consciousness, and represents the Gateway to all of the higher levels of consciousness and spiritual attainment to follow: Chakras Five – Vishuddha, the Throat Center – Six, Ajna, the Brow Center – and Seven, Sahasrara, The Crown Center.  

The progression of the Chakras from the perspective of the Ascending Kundalini is that of decreasing literal sensory experience and increasing intuitive spiritual experience.    Muladhara is very literal and material, anchoring as it does the physical survival of the organism and the Karma that it represents.   Svadhisthana is also very material and literal, at least as it pertains to the Left Hand Path and associated physical sexual practices, but this is also where the possibility of spiritual symbolic manifestation associated with sexuality – the Right Hand Path – begins.   Manipura is the focus of social reality, and the manipulations for power, prestige, and advantage – all abstract symbolic concepts that have, however, clearly defined literal material expressions.    Anahata marks the great divide between the observably physical and the intuitively spiritual – all of the characteristics associated with Anahata must be sensed intuitively, as opposed to experienced literally.  Vishuddha is the focus of vibrational manifestation in human consciousness, representing the spiritual power of chanting and atonement to elevate perception beyond Anahata.   Ajna is the so-called Third Eye – the Inner or All-Seeing Eye of the advanced perception that occurs well beyond even the intonation and tonal vibration of Vishuddha – manifesting as the extrasensory perception of psychic events, power, and insight.   Sahasrara is the literal Seat of the Godhead, the abode of Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, existing beyond all human (i.e. even remotely ego-based) consciousness – and the location of the Jungian Self, the origin of all Being.  

 Certain additional observations may serve to further enhance the reader’s understanding of post-Manipura consciousness.  Since they are all more or less concerned with the body and physicality, the first three Chakras exhibit a linear relationship with each other in perception – they seem to demonstrate logical interconnects in the terms that the ego understands and can at least attempt to manipulate.   Now, inasmuch as the following three Chakras have physical correlates, they do not exhibit the same extent of linearity and logical connectivity as the first three do.    Rather, they represent three regions of involvement that are spiritually complementary and mutually supportive, but capable of independent manifestation.   Compassion, communication, and psychic insight are all linked together, and may spontaneously arise and wane within their respective pervues individually in response to the synchronous inputs emanating from the Seventh level of Sahasrara, the director of all spiritual awareness and consciousness.   This level stands apart from the three preceding Chakras in yet another realm, protected from any possible residual ego vibration by a psychic barrier that acts as a variable filter permitting only pure vibrations of collective consciousness to pass, and blocking all others.   Although it can be perceived from the perspective of Ajna, even that level of activity still manifests too much ego involvement to allow entry.   Essentially, one must die and surrender all subjective, personal knowledge (i.e. worldly experience) to enter the domain of Sahasrara – therein to experience the Godhead and the Self.   

And the Seers of history have identified another region lying even beyond Sahasrara, referred to in Hindu Vedic cosmology as the Brahman – the universal, omnipresent Essence of God permeating everything everywhere, without being solely present in any one object or process anywhere.    This level is so rarefied that even to label it is considered inappropriate, and this is done only to permit verbal and written reference to this mode of experience, which really cannot even be properly considered as experience, since that requires some kind of subject observing some kind of object or process, and the Brahman is none of these, transcending everything knowable or conceivable.    Here, the last traces of consciousness dissolve into eternity in perfect peace as pure non-dual Bliss, without subject, object, or evaluation… 

Thus, we have four discernable modes of consciousness defining existence – the lower triad of three physical Chakras, logical and linear, but spiritually superficial, followed by the next sequence of three higher Chakras, spiritual, but not linear or logical in their actions as the ego understands these things, followed by the Seventh Chakra of the Self, serene and unmoved by all lesser vibrations, as their Creator must be, and finally the Void of Brahman, the great unknowable reservoir from which all manifestation issues, and unto which all eventually returns, to be released again in some other aspect at some other time according to the humanly inscrutable forces present there.    This constitutes the full range of Tantric manifestation, from the first Left Hand manifestations of Svadhisthana, through the Right Hand compassion of Anahata, to the ultimate level of the Self and the Brahman lying beyond in Sahasrara.    At the Brahmanic level, nothing exists, and yet, everything exists in the apparent logical impossibility that nonetheless constitutes the supreme Truth of  Consciousness.  

To my knowledge, only Kundalini Yoga, certain transcendental meditation techniques, and the observance of specific austerities and worldly non-attachment can successfully deliver consciousness from the confines of the Left Hand Tantra that is natural to the physical organism, but holds us in the first three Chakras.   This is true, even if we revert to the strictly scientific paradigm and terminology generally used in these essays.   The first three Chakras constitute the realm of Freudian psychodynamics – superego, ego, and id (Manipura, Svadhisthana, and Muladhara, loosely in that order, subject to the details presented elsewhere in this essay).   The following three Chakras correspond to the realm of Jungian psychodynamics – as the Freudian id is passed through into the region of the collective unconscious and the archetypes – culminating in the experience of the Self at the Seventh, deepest level, and finally vanishing into the infinity of the Void.    As one embraces particularly the practices of meditation and Yoga, conscious perception can be and is carried through the Freudian unconscious region (the id) into the Jungian collective unconscious, where many forms of enhanced archetypal symbolic perceptions occur according to the general design of the Self, manifest through personal Karma (or destiny, if you wish).    It is absolutely necessary to adopt some kind of meditation regimen to liberate consciousness from the Mind Trap of the lower physical Chakras, as a bare minimum of spiritual practice.  

In the theory of Kundalini Ascension, once Tantra is diverted from Left Hand practice to Right Hand practice through the employment of the above referenced techniques (and there are others), the Kundalini (or Freudian libido, again, if you wish) is free to continue upward movement through the sequence of the higher Chakras, successively enervating and activating them, again according the map of personal Karma.    Our personal Karma is the Self’s Divine Love and Will manifest at the lower vibrational levels of the dense forms perceptible in the physical senses as the “real” world of manifest physical objects and events occurring in three dimensions, with time as a forth.   One’s map of Karma may or may not even include higher spiritual activity according to the Divine Plan of the Self for the Cosmos, and it is up to us to accept and understand the wisdom of this, and the many other hardships and forms of ignorance demonstrated on the Physical Plane.  Even when one does succeed in attaining higher spiritual consciousness and Enlightenment, even Samadhi of the kinds already noted in this essay series, even Buddhist Satori, this is to be understood as the manifest Divine Grace of the Self, not willful personal achievement in any sense of the term.   Only the Self is real, acting and flowing through individual human awareness as synchronicity, epiphany, and grace when and where appropriate in the Psyche – the collective Soul of humanity.    By acknowledging this process as the ultimate mechanism of Enlightenment and Balance on the Physical Plane we are liberated from our worldly bondage and ignorance. 

            Some final words of caution are in order regarding the panorama of Enlightenment cast against the background of an as yet still relatively unenlightened world.   Enlightenment is not something to be sold in the world marketplace, although many partially ascended Gurus and would-be spiritual Masters purport to do so.    Enlightenment is the God-given gift of higher consciousness available to every human being on Earth without regard to any other consideration, and the true Guru and Master knows this, offering guidance along the Path without the requirement of material compensation or monetary reward.    An implicit part of this guidance is the practice of deliberation and forbearance on the part of the guide in never encouraging the aspirant to make a goal of spiritual Ascension, a regrettably common feature of achievement in our relentlessly ego-driven world culture today.  If this error in judgment occurs, the risk of inappropriate, psychologically harmful Kundalini Ascension becomes much more significant for the aspirant.   No legitimate guide will ever order or otherwise direct anyone to take any steps along the Path before they are ready, and this readiness has been described in great detail by the Seers of history in terms of the clear signs of preparation – the Initiations – having been attained.    Every spiritual tradition has a series of such Initiations prescribed by the Guru, Gurus, or Masters associated with it, and it is highly recommended that the aspirant seek out an acceptable, legitimate tradition and work within its framework for at least the initial period of some years of spiritual practice.   I did this, and so should you.  

The Kundalini is the most powerful force in the universe, capable of taking us directly into the Divine Presence and beyond, but woe be it to the naïve person who rashly rushes toward the Holy Self – the Angel of God is there before the East Gate of Eden, armed with a Sword of Fire that cannot be evaded for the sole purpose of destroying the remaining ego of those who make it this far, and if you are identified in the least way with your material mind, that Sword will destroy you, or at the very least your sanity.   Heed my words, and proceed slowly along the Path of Enlightenment – you will arrive at and pass the required Initiations in God’s good time, as it should be. 

Please try to understand that this world and Physical Plane is not in any way intended by the Self to be perfect in the terms that ego can comprehend – the sufferings that we experience are real on their level, and must be accepted as such, and worked through as patiently as possible.    This can require a very great deal of patience and tolerance on many occasions – life is a school, not a playground, and, although the playground is there, the point of existence is to learn the lessons set before us in the school room.    It has always been thus, and always will be in the schoolroom of the flesh and senses of this life.  

            You have my blessings for this work – the most important undertaking of which a human being is capable – the quest for Enlightenment.   Know that the Path is long and arduous, with many deceptions and pitfalls along the way, but persevere, and, above all follow your Heart.

                                          - With Love, Alan -

                         (Copyright 2010, by Alan Schneider)

 

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