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.

How Rational is Divination?

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“Science describes the least of things. The least of what something is. Religion, magic—Bows to the endless.” – Joseph Solomon, A Dark Song.

According to the below TED Talk, divination primarily acts as a method to unlock the unconscious mind by prompting it with symbols and non-linear connections, so that it lends solutions to problems through the language of symbolism.

On the surface of things there is no falsehood in such statements. I would concur that when a divinatory system such as Tarot, Geomancy or Astrology is learned thoroughly the answers one can provide oneself with are based on what has been learned but can be expressed intuitively, like when you can ride a bike or drive a car so well that many of your actions, which you once struggled to learn, come as second nature.

The video therefore provides an accurate depiction of divination at the most rudimentary and basic level. But those of us deeply entrenched in matters of religion, magic and spirituality desire to understand far more that the mere surface of things. That which is ‘occult’ stands for that which is ‘hidden’ and to understand what is hidden one must delve into depths that lie beyond exoteric or materialist understanding.

It is true that divination, like all magical processes, can assist the conscious mind to channel unconscious forces. But the next question a magician would ask in response to such a statement is ‘what is the unconscious?’ To begin to answer this, one might explore the depth psychology of Carl Jung, in which the unconscious is portrayed as a realm of archetypes that transcends the personal space and touches on an objective reality known as the Collective Unconscious, which is ancient parlance would have been understood as the realm of the gods.

Despite the fact that such language can be interpreted either mystically or materially according to one’s beliefs, the most fascinating aspect of Jungian psychology (which overlaps with, but cannot be wholly equated with the arcane arts) is found in the concept of synchronicity as ‘an acausal connecting principle’ through which the events of the inner world are acutely mirrored in the outer world in a striking, meaningful and timely way that is beyond everyday coincidence. Unlike other aspects of the notion of the collective unconsciousness (which some proponents assert can be expressed as a purely biological phenomenon) synchronicity is difficult to quantify materially. The best efforts to do such a thing came from some of the extra-curricular work of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who Jung worked with sporadically over the course of multiple decades in order to prove a quantum connection between the interior and exterior worlds. Ultimately, to the frustration of both, their efforts failed.

With the application of a magical understanding of synchronicity however, the unveiled Self can be understood as a pure reflection of the One described by Hermeticism and Advaitism, as a spark of the Divine in Gnosticism, as God itself in Thelema, as the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you in Christianity, as The Superior Man in Taoism, and so on. What all have in common is the notion that the utmost Self, like the unconscious, can be found within oneself and beyond oneself simultaneously and the realisation of this fact in the form of Samadhi enlightens ones views on the fullness of reality in a way that is significantly beyond ‘the least of things.’

“What the superior man seeks, is in himself; what the ordinary man seeks, is in others.” – The Ethics of Confucius.

Then there is the I Ching. This is a form of divination that, having cast many hundreds of times, I find difficult to connect to any of the aforementioned ideas that could explain divination as a process that connects the rational mind to the intuitive mind.  Such is the frequency of depth, profundity and synchronicity revealed when consulting this oracle that even with no real understanding of the physical form of the hexagrams whatsoever one can obtain answers to one’s questions that are too solid in their clarity to come from any rational or symbolic prompt impressed upon the intuitive mind.

An excellent summary of the I Ching that I find highly satisfactory comes from Chapter XVIII of Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice, which states:

The Yi King is mathematical and philosophical in form… It is in some ways the most perfect hieroglyph ever constructed. It is austere and sublime, yet withal so adaptable to every possible emergency that its figures may be interpreted to suit all classes of questions. One may resolve the most obscure spiritual difficulties no less than the most mundane dilemmas; and the symbol which opens the gates of the most exalted palaces of initiation is equally effective when employed to advise one in the ordinary business of life. The Master Therion has found the Yi King entirely satisfactory in every respect. The intelligences which direct it show no inclination to evade the question or to mislead the querent. A further advantage is that the actual apparatus is simple. Also the system is easy to manipulate, and five minutes is sufficient to obtain a fairly detailed answer to any but the most obscure questions… There is, on the surface, no difficulty at all in getting replies. In fact, the process is mechanical; success is therefore assured, bar a stroke of apoplexy.

The passage continues with an elucidation of divination as a system through which one can obtain clarity in the same way as that postulated in the TED video. Yet, as one may expect from a Magus as venerable as Crowley, it also provides an explanation of the difference between the use of divination as a means of understanding the divine aspect of oneself rather and the mundane method of obtaining intuitive solutions to one’s problems in the way the speaker in the TED talk suggested.

But, even suppose we are safe from deceit, how can we know that the question has really been put to another mind, understood rightly, and answered from knowledge? It is obviously possible to check one’s operations by clairvoyance, but this is rather like buying a safe to keep a brick in. Experience is the only teacher. One acquires what one may almost call a new sense. One feels in one’s self whether one is right or not. The diviner must develop this sense. It resembles the exquisite sensibility of touch which is found in the great billiard player whose fingers can estimate infinitesimal degrees of force, or the similar phenomenon in the professional taster of tea or wine who can distinguish fantastically subtle differences of flavour. Divination affords excellent practice for those who aspire to that exalted eminence, for the faintest breath of personal preference will deflect the needle from the pole of truth in the answer. Unless the diviner have banished utterly from his mind the minutest atom of interest in the answer to his question, he is almost certain to influence that answer in favour of his personal inclinations.

The psycho-analyst will recall the fact that dreams are phantasmal representations of the unconscious Will of the sleeper, and that not only are they images of that Will instead of representations of objective truth, but the image itself is confused by a thousand cross-currents set in motion by the various complexes and inhibitions of his character. If therefore one consults the oracle, one must take sure that one is not consciously or unconsciously bringing pressure to bear upon it…

To summarise, the importance of rational self-knowledge is a necessary factor in divination, and in accordance with some of the more materialist explanations, divination is an excellent took of self-analysis. Yet, as one becomes accurately exposed to the deepest parts of oneself, one unlocks and illuminates aspects of one’s true nature. As things stand, there are aspects to the self and to the mind that go beyond what can be summarised materially, and until such time that our scientific knowledge of these things becomes more advanced, tools such as magic, religion, divination and depth-psychology provide the best techniques we have to better understand such things.

XXVIII: Peacocks

Golden Idol

XXVIII MIDIKON

Servitors: Ilekel, Manties, Losimon, Asmiel, Lomiol, Katsin, Apolion, Pakid, Adon, Pattid, Kosem, Milon, Iparkas, Izozon, Nasi, Tolet, Ekalak, Kilik, Kokolon, Alpas, Ipakol, Soterion, Nolom, Amillis.

The word at the outer edge of the square derives from the Greek μυδεικών (mydeikon), meaning ‘mystical,’ while the name forming the central cross refers to the spirit Ilekel, whose name possibly derives from the Hebrew לחלל (lechalel) meaning ‘to desecrate,’ ‘violate’ or ‘defile.’ The lower case letters represent those altered by me to correct the errors that are evident in it in the original text.

The Vision

A long, thick baton made of plant matter and covered with needle-sharp spines appeared. Each of the baton’s spines had a tiny, lidless eye at its end, each of which turned to look at me at the same time, then started shifting around in a way that was quite unsettling to look upon. As I looked at the baton, a peacock came running towards me telling me I shouldn’t be holding it and instructed me to put it down. Entranced, I kept looking at it, and found it opening out into a blue fan that, with its eyes now spread all over its surface, resembled the tail of a peacock. As I noticed this, the peacock standing before me opened his tail in response then proceeded to run past me, telling me to put the fan down and run with him as something was coming. I folded it back up so it resembled the spiked baton again and ran with him.

Then it was apparent that we were in a thinly-wooded forest. Between, or rather above, the trees came a huge giant, crushing everything it trod on beneath its feet. Then, as the giant came to the baton I left on the floor, the eye-spines that ran up its length pierced the flesh of its feet and turned the giant to stone. Then, after a few moments, the stone giant crumbled to dust and revealed a golden statue of a man, somewhat like Michelangelo’s David, but carrying an axe over its shoulder. The Peacock and I approached the statue and the Peacock joyfully declared the freedom of the idol that had been encased within the giant’s great body. Then the arm holding the axe dropped down to its side for a moment then moved again to strike the ground with it, causing a small crack to appear in the earth. As the earth opened, I saw a pool of very blue water in which hundreds of frogs eggs had been laid. This, I realised, was the point where the spiked baton had been crushed into the ground by the giant’s foot, and had now changed from being a baton/tail/fan into a blue pool full of eggs. On inspection, each of the eggs contained tiny, swimming embryos.

Then, from the water, a large, shark-like monster leaped, its maw raised to the heavens, which peeled back lay by layer to reveal a bald-headed figure garbed in a robe of the same blue as the pool and tail feather had been. Its eyes, however, had skin growing over them which opened by the skin being split open into vertical slits with no visible eyeballs within them. As it gazed upon me, it said ‘speak what you wish, or rather, chant it.’ Doing so, I demanded, in a chant, to be shown the true visions of the square. It told me I was already seeing them, but then explained that none of what I was seeing was real, for nothing around us was actually there. The wood around me and everything in it was an illusion fabricated from the matter of my mind, it said, and this illusion could come in the form of castles, buildings, towns, banquets or anything else one could imagine.

The entity then told me that the mechanics by which spirits worked was through influencing the physical matter of the mind to produce symbolic communications. But, he asked me, how could I truly distinguish what was the work of my own mind and what was the work of the spirits communicating with me. As he spoke, I noticed that his feet became those of an ostrich that dug into the ground and that he appeared to be wearing a pink tutu around his waist. On noting my incredulity about such a ridiculous image, it laughed a bellowing laugh. It explained that they could encourage the mind to see anything they wished it to by the power of suggestion, it said and produced random images of foods like pineapples and carrots appeared for no discernible reason. The point of doing this, it told me, was that I had the mind couldn’t control the formation of these images once they had been suggested to it. This being the case, how could one truly determine whether the images impressed by the mind was the product of one’s own communications with the unconscious or some other extraneous entity. It prompted me then to form whatever images I wished in my own mind. On doing this, I noticed that everything I thought of came easily enough but that the things I was deciding to form images of now also seemed to be influenced by something that may or not be of my own mind.

The entity reiterated again that this was how spirits worked. They could manipulate any matter that they wished to by such power, and did so by working at the subatomic level, as they could range in their sizes from that of a particle, to a microbe or to a great giant. In such forms they could alter the forms and movements of anything physical in unseen, invisible ways, being able to effect the actions of viruses and bacteria, the movements of animals, storms, seas and buildings. Even, it seems, the synapses of the brain that produce various thoughts, images, predilections or emotional responses could be manipulated by them. The veils between the unconscious influence of the mind and the activities of spirits, it seems by such explanations, is thin and indistinguishable. To test this, I asked whether I could be made to see things I had never physically seen if this was the case, and the answer was affirmative. I asked it, for some reason, for it to show me a vision of Byzantium, and it proceeded to show me an image of a city with small white houses and red-brown sloping rooves surrounded by larger buildings with great golden domes. I stated to it that this place could be anywhere, and there was no proof that this illusion was Byzantium at all. That, it said, was my dilemma. How could I ever know if any of the things shown to me were ‘real’ in an objective sense if I couldn’t prove it either way. Ultimately, there is no way to tell if one is being deceived or not by the actions of mind, be it due to the actions of one’s own brain or by spirits who, in this vision, claimed that they worked by manipulating it.

Leaving me to consider such things, I sensed its impending departure and asked it to give me its name before it left. In response, the image of a highly intricate red and yellow banner appeared before me with various heraldic images such as lions and dragons stitched into it. In this centre, around a crest of some kind, two flowing ribbons had two letters stitched into them in red, AF on the left side and AS on the right, spelling out the name AFAS. With this, the vision ended.

Notes

The Square in question appears to have been corrupted in the original text and so was amended by myself to make its proportions even. The original, uncorrected Square appears as follows.

XXVIII CORRECTED

New Spirits apparent in this square are: Izozon, Katsin, Manties, Pakid, Pattid. Possible origins for these names are:

Izozon – יזוז (izoz), ‘move,’ ‘stir,’ ‘go away.’
Katsin – חצי (chatzi), ‘middle’ or ‘half,’ though the most interesting possibility is ‘moiety,’ which refers to something a single thing being split into two halves.
Manties – possibly from the term -mancy, related to divination, which ultimately comes from the Greek μαντεία (manteia).
Pakid – from Hebrew פחד (pechad), ‘fear,’ ‘dread,’ ‘terror.’
Pattid – possibly from Hebrew יפעת (ipat), ‘splendour,’ ‘brilliance.’

The bottom line of the square reveals a backward expression of the word MIDIKON to give the word NOKIDIM – נגידים – ‘Governors,’ which is suggestive of the influence of the Four Kings, Oriens, Amaymon, Paymon and Ariton, but may refer to any entity in a position of authority over others. NOKIDIM also represents the principle of averse mysticism due to the word it derives from mydeikon, meaning ‘mystical,’ and the aura of averse mysticism evident in the square, with its explanations on how spirits interfere with the laws of cause and effect in invisible ways in the physical world, appeared to confirm this. about it.

The nature of the communications in it had a degree of what a psychiatrist would probably call examples of schizotypal or psychotic thinking, due to the postulated statement that external entities may have an effect on thoughts. Such explanations are not entirely inaccurate, as when uncontrolled through the veils of mental illness and a lack of mystical or magical intent this can certainly be the case. However, most human experiences that can be called religious or spiritual, including visions, shamanic experiences, kundalini or other ecstatic states can quite easily be attributed to forms of temporary psychosis. The key here is the ability to acknowledge that mystical experiences are wilful experiments with the fabric of one’s psychic substance that can be used to tap into alternative states of consciousness by communicating with one’s deep and unconscious self. As the entity, Afas, in the vision stated however, there is a quandary involved in this in that one can no longer truly tell what is the product of one’s unconscious, which has been given free reign to act as it wills for a short time, and what is the product of the encouragement or manipulation of forces that exist beyond it.

The true key to understanding whether what we experience in such states is down to us or something extraneous to us lies in receiving proofs that point to something beyond the self. In these experiments this has happened rather consistently with the reception of words that I have had no prior knowledge off in ancient languages that I only have passing familiarity with. In this vision, this happened too, as the name given, Afas, appears to correlate with the Hebrew word אפש (afas), which means ‘wish’ or ‘desire,’ which is objectively relevant due to the entity informing me I could ‘speak what I wished for’ when it first appeared. It’s nature, then, was the granting of wishes or desires in the way that is mythically expressed in the persons of the djinn that emerge from magical lamps in Arabian lore. Another alternative explanation for this sort of phenomena is that the self has the ability to tap into an objective pool of information that lies beyond it, such as that represented by the Collective Unconscious postulated by the eminent sage Carl Jung. This possibility, however, is no less magical in its postulations than the idea of spirits or daemons having an element of influence over us, but I personally believe that the human mind cannot access information beyond its own experiences, but can be prompted and communicated with by preternatural entities that are extraneous to it.

The Square was created with the Moon at 12º Sagittarius and performed with the Moon at 25º Sagittarius.