Yoga and the Great Work

Bhairava Bharavi

Since incorporating regular yogic practices into my routine, I’ve come to learn a lot more of the depth and value of Vedic religion. What I came to realise with great joy is that it is vastly similar in its goals to Gnosticism. In both expressions of spirituality, the purest part of the Self, the Atman, is the permanent, unsullied and unchangeable essence at the core of our being that is in complete harmony with the Divine. Understanding this, the aspirant proceeds to commit themselves to direct knowledge of that innate divinity through works of union such as devotional practices, ritual, meditation, selflessness and intellectual contemplation. With repetition and consistency, such practices lead to a gradual revelation of this internal divinity which reflects that of the outer or cosmic divinity with perfection. In Vedic practices this is termed Samadhi, while in Western Esotericism it is termed many things, but the word Gnosis is the most pervasive and universally understood.

But, being incarnated into matter, our awareness of this divine core becomes lost and forgotten in a mire of bewilderment. In the West, most of us are raised by parents who toe the line of societal expectations regarding work, wealth, leisure, advancement and respectability. Likewise, our media and educational systems advance similar ideas, which, in themselves, are not evil or unreasonable. Yet, when we are conditioned into believing such materialism is the sole purpose of our short lives, we become diverted from the experience of Gnosis by our attachments to our material and emotional desires and fears and seek solace in our what is momentarily distractive or pleasurable.

By understanding that we are all—without exception—innately divine at our core no matter our station of birth, race, gender, sexuality, religion, intellect or physical capacity, the first stage of Gnosis is attained. Once this is realised, the hollowness of a purely materialistic existence begins to make sense and we come to understand why no matter how much money we make, how many lovers we take, how much property we own or how many children we have, there is always a deep sense within us that there is something missing. That ‘something’ is our awareness of what we really are.

With the understanding that the pleasures of the world will never truly satisfy us, we may, through the practice of the works of union described above, come closer to understanding our true identities, or ‘True Wills’ as they are called in Thelema. This process of understanding is universal throughout the religious and esoteric systems of humanity, being called Self-Remembering in the Gurdjieffan system, Individuation in Jungian psychology and both Yoga (pertaining to ‘Union’) and Moksha (pertaining to liberation) in the Vedic religions to name just a few.

What stands in the way of Union, and must therefore be constantly worked through, is the pull of the ego and its attachments. To these our souls are incorrigibly bound by thick chains of ignorance. These binds must be realised and hacked through with persistence, which means that the dark forces of ignorance and delusion generated by the ego and its attachments must be constantly destroyed by the fires of illumination that deities such as Shiva and Parvati—especially in their wrathful aspects like Mahakala, Kali, Bhairava and Bhairavi—can assist us with most auspiciously.

Furthermore, in accordance with the words of the Gnostic Mass—“there is no part of me that is not of the gods”—and the understanding that man and God are One, the deities we may invoke to do this reside within us, physically in our nervous systems and energetically in our subtle bodies in the form of the Kundalini serpent. To activate this serpent and to receive the knowledge it conveys, is the very essence of both the Yogas of the East and the Summum Bonum or Great Work of the West.

Whatever language we use and however we choose to practice the realisation of such things is unique to every individual and has many differing cultural expressions. But the ultimate purpose, no matter how we understand it, is identical and is innately programmed into the heart of every human being who walks the Earth. This being so, realisation of our innate divinity is something we all owe ourselves to aspire towards if we are ever to become what we are truly meant to become.

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