Experience of the subtle realms: Contents page
Chapter 12. Speculative metaphysics
In this chapter I move beyond ambiguous experience, the as if perspective, into pure speculation. What follows is conjecture: I sketch out a pattern of basic concepts to give an intelligible overview of the whole system within which we live. Such a pattern is entirely relative to the context – personal, cultural and historical – of its utterance. There are innumerable, different forms for such patterns. The assertive mode below is to aid clarity, not dogmatism.
The justification for this kind of speculation is found in the doctrine of the continuity of individual consciousness with universal consciousness and its archetypal content. But each individual view of such content is fraught with the inherent limits of its relativity, thus making for a healthy kind of fallibility.
Let us first make a classic distinction between the divine as manifest and the divine as unmanifest. The manifest divine is this universe, the other universe and all kinds and modes of differentiated being involved in them. The unmanifest divine is prior to any kind of differentiation of any sort. The manifest divine can also be called ‘creation’; and this in the two senses of the word – the process of creation, and the product that is created.
From a standpoint within creation, the unmanifest divine can be conceived as bipolar: as immanent and as transcendent. As immanent, the unmanifest divine is within all creation: the infinitude within all experience and all phenomena, the indwelling mystery, the void, at the heart of everything. As transcendent, the unmanifest divine is beyond all creation: the infinitude without, beyond all name and form, all-encompassing, boundless, ineffable.
In terms of Grof’s cartography of transpersonal states, what I call the unmanifest divine is what he names the higher causal realm. He reports two basic kinds of experience that fall within this realm. One is ‘the experience of the Void’ which underlies the phenomenal universe: it is an emptiness that is pregnant with all existence (Grof, 1988: 147). This corresponds to what I call the immanent unmanifest divine.
The other is ‘the experience of formless consciousness transcending all dualities’, a state of boundless ineffability beyond all differentiation (Grof, 1988: 44, 144). This corresponds to what I call the transcendent unmanifest divine. While the two kinds of experience are there in Grof’s account, his conceptual map does not bring out fully this polarity of immanent and transcendent within the unmanifest divine.
The process of creation can also be conceived as bipolar: there is the emergence of the creative process from the immanent, unmanifest divine; and there is the emanation of the creative process from the transcendent, unmanifest divine. Emergence from the unmanifest within, and emanation from the unmanifest beyond, are the underlying bipolar modes of the process of creation, the basic complementary ways in which the unmanifest becomes manifest.
I will call these primal modes of creation, respectively, Eros and Logos. I use these two names to refer to creative principles of different gender: manifest Goddess and manifest God. This echoes, but theologically goes beyond, C.G.Jung’s usage. No reference is intended to the Greek god Eros, whose name is here given a new meaning.
In terms of Grof’s cartography of transpersonal states, what I call Eros and Logos constitute what he names the lower causal realm. Experiences he reports in this realm are of the divine as Demiurge, as Creator of the universe, ‘the supreme force of existence’. Again, however, both the accounts he gives and his analysis do not bring out the polarity of the Demiurge state, the complementarity of Eros and Logos, of emergence and emanation, of creatrix and creator. Although he does say that some subjects ‘reported experiences in which there was a male-female dyad of creators similar to the cosmologies of some non-Western cultures’ (Grof, 1988:142-3).
Spanned between Eros and Logos is the whole universal system of which we are a part, and which I will call Cosmos. In terms of a crude geometrical analogy, Cosmos is the radial system between Eros the centre, and Logos the circumference. Eros, Cosmos and Logos constitute the manifest divine. Eros is within Cosmos; Logos is beyond Cosmos. And as such Eros and Logos are the first and complementary forms of the process of manifestation. Cosmos is the fulness of manifestation, the universe, both physical and subtle. It corresponds, in Grof’s scheme, to the higher subtle level, the lower subtle level and the gross experiential realm (Grof, 1988: 39).
We have then here a basic triad of being: immanent emergence, actual existence and transcendent emanation; the Womb, the World and the Word. The World is not less than the Womb or the Word. Manifest fulness is of equal status as the emergent and the emanate. If we take the Womb, the World, and the Word, that is, Eros, Cosmos and Logos, we may expect to find this triadic interdependence echoed in the more detailed structure of experience. So we can organise within it different triadic sets of ideas. Each set consists of concepts whose interdependence is central to our understanding of the field of discourse to which they apply.
|Eros Cosmos Logos|
|Feeling Willing Thinking|
|Persons Things Ideas|
|Presence Existence Essence|
|Qualities Substances Relations|
|Values Facts Norms|
|Sensation Percept Concept|
|Simultaneity Seriality Duration|
|Synchronicity Causality Necessity|
|Potentiality Actuality Possibility|
|Communion Encounter Understanding|
Table 12.1 Triadic sets of concepts
I don’t propose that we take this kind of thing too seriously, otherwise we become afflicted with categorial dogmatism and rigidity. Just occasionally it may illuminate our thinking in some domain. So if I put together a couple of triads from the above list, I find it fruitful to think that I encounter the existence of something, commune with its presence, and understand its essence (its intelligible features). And that while all these three processes are interdependent, they are also nevertheless distinct and cannot be confused or identified with each other.
In the great world-system of Cosmos, there are three fundamental values that define the status and influence of any particular being or mode of being. They are autonomy, parity and hierarchy. And they are essential to the proper understanding of the manifest system, or any part of it.
To the extent that any entity is autonomous it has a unique status, an idiosyncratic identity and is self-determining, an influence upon itself. Power is self-generated. The entity is self-administering and self-organising. Entities in a relation of parity – or, simply, peer entities – have equal status, and have reciprocal influence upon each other, neither having the greater sway. Power is shared. Entities in a hierarchical relation have different status – one has less status and one has more – and the one with less is subject to the influence of the one with more. Power is exercised by one being in relation to another.
The word ‘hierarchy’ derives from two Greek words meaning ‘sacred’ and ‘rule’. Now in the domain of Cosmos – the physical and subtle worlds – sacred rule operates in two ways, in two directions: up and down. There is the sacred rule of Eros, upwards, from below as it were: the immanent creatrix, spawning influence from the fundament and ground of being, from within it. Power is exercised in the direction of ascent, from the roots upwards, from what is under to what is over. The seed is potent in relation to the impacted soil above it, breaking it up and pushing through it.
This upward direction of sacred rule, of hierarchy, has been repressed and denied in patriarchal systems of theology, of knowledge, and of politics and social order. These systems have improperly emphasised the sacred rule of Logos, downwards, from above: the transcendent creator emanating power and influence from the heights, beyond the earthly vale, beyond the subtle mountain peaks. Power descends from what is over to what is under. Sunlight is potent in relation to the leafy branches below it.
Now I believe that up-hierarchies and down-hierarchies are themselves of equal status, are in a relation of parity. The sacred rule of Eros and the sacred rule of Logos are equipotent. They interact with reciprocal influence, neither dominant under or over the other. They are polar complements equally vital in the ordering of Cosmos. On this view, parity is more fundamental in the scheme of things than hierarchy, for neither an up-hierarchy nor a down-hierarchy is properly exercised or understood save in a reciprocal peer relation with its complement. This basic principle is important also for human politics. For I believe enlightened social systems need to establish parity relations between up- and down-hierarchies.
Parity is a relation that holds not only between up-hierarchies and down-hierarchies, but between entities on the same level in either kind of hierarchy. In this case, in relation to any one hierarchy, up or down, the peer relation is subordinate to the hierarchical relation.
What of autonomy? In the great system of Cosmos, with its up- and down-hierarchies, any entity has only relative autonomy. This autonomy is limited by the reciprocal web of relations with peer entities on its own level, and by the influence exerted over it by levels that are more potent in the hierarchy of which it is a part. Thus an entity that is in some respects self-regulating, will in other respects be in relations of reciprocal regulation with its peers; and all these respects will be set within limits determined by hierarchical influence from above and below.
So there are four parameters that define the function and status of any entity in the universal system: self-control, mutual peer control, up-control (or control from below), and down-control (or control from above). There are innumerable combinations of these four factors, depending on variations of the degree of each of them. The fluctuations and interweavings of these four kinds of power characterise the universal process.
Up-hierarchies are very evident in physical organisms, such as the human body, in which bio-chemical factors have a massive control over human experience and behaviour. But what about the wider scheme of things? Here is one conjectural model. Remember that on this model, the following up-hierarchy has to be considered as dove-tailing with the down-hierarchy of Logos – given later.
‘There are many events in the womb of time which will be delivered’ (Shakespeare: Othello). Time is the original, creative womb of Eros. Out of time emerges matter; out of matter emerges life; and out of life emerges soul.
From the minute to the astronomic scale, time is the controlling ground of matter. Probability waves, vibrating motion, rhythmic patterns: the very dance of time determines what constitutes the dynamic nature of matter at its intimate, submicroscopic heart. At the macroscopic level, the controlling dance is measured out in the great rhythms and cyclic recurrences of the solar system. In our new understanding of the universe, there is a shift from concern with underlying structure to a concern with underlying rhythmic process. The cosmic process whirls with a multitude of beating steps out of the womb of time.
Matter, once set dancing to time, is the controlling ground of life. The material ecosystem of the planet sets the temperature, determines the constitution of atmospheric gases, provides the nutrients – that allow and control the development of living organisms. And this earthly ecosystem is in turn set in the wider solar ecosystem. All living things need to bear witness to the dance of the physical ecosystems that sustain them.
Living organisms elaborate the dance of time; and are compounded of a whole range of different and interpenetrating rhythms – metabolic, neural, cardiac, respiratory, sleeping and waking, and all the others. And they provide the controlling ground for the emergence and expression of soul.
Now by the human soul I mean an idiosyncratic, individual centre of reference that has the potential to receive and impart information, and to learn from experience, by virtue of its distinctive capacities for understanding, feeling and choosing. The soul becomes a self-aware person in the cosmos when touched by universal consciousness.The human soul’s capacity for learning is grounded on and controlled by the rhythmic patterns of its living body, and below that by the earthly and solar ecosystems. But the soul also further elaborates the dance of time at its own level: it has its own cycles and periodic recurrences for learning, change and growth.
So Eros, the womb of time, spins matter out of time, life out of matter and soul out of life, elaborating new forms of temporal dance at each stage. No wonder that shakti, the creatrix in Hindu thought, is symbolised at times by a dancing woman. The soul, emerging at the top of this up-hierarchy, needs to acknowledge not only its own intrinsic rhythms, but also the controlling potency of the manifold frequencies below it in the hierarchy.
Continuing this speculative theological model, let us suppose that the first emanation, the first moment of the transcendent manifest, is the great word of consciousness, I AM: the Logos, the Word and universal consciousness are one. From consciousess-as-such proceed the archetypal ideas of creation, the principles of intelligibility and form for Cosmos. From the archetypal ideas of creation emanate manifold kinds of energy, from which in turn proceed the different interpenetrating domains of space.
The first emanation is the Logos itself, the Word, the original declaration that is universal consciousness: the one and everywhere awareness, the crystal mirror in which all things are reflected and contained. The second emanation is the speech of Logos, its declaration of intent to create an intelligible Cosmos, its announcement of universal ideas and formal principles – the archetypal blueprint and programme for creation.
Such a view echoes that of Philo of Alexandria (30BC – 40AD), the most thoroughly hellenized of all the Jews of the Dispersal. For Philo, the Logos is the instrument by which the transcendent divine makes the world. And he identifies it too with the Platonic world of forms, or eternal ideas.
The theme is repeated by Plotinus (205 – 270AD), the founder of Neo-Platonism. Nous, the divine mind, is the first emanation from the One (the transcendent unity-absolute). And the divine mind is the world of forms because it thinks them. The world of forms contains the archetypes of all things that are. But these great down-hierarchy mystical philosophers of the Hellenistic age had simply no notion of a correlative up-hierarchy, of sacred rule from below.
The third emanation in the down-hierarchy is the manifold of energies. It is interesting that the early use (1599) of ‘energy’ in English had the meaning ‘force or vigour of expression’. The manifold of cosmic energies is the vigour of expression in the archetypal speech of the Logos. The divine archetypes are dynamic, sounding forms that create energy. And out of such energy proceeds the fourth emanation of the down-hierarchy, the diverse dimensions and domains of space.
In a nutshell, space emanates from the energy of the resonating archetypes of the Logos. Of course, this is not a series of emanations in temporal succession, one following after the other. The emanations are grades of hierarchical potency. Universal consciousness is potent over archetypal reality; archetypes control different energies; and energies determine the lay-out and distribution of spaces.
This is all much more obvious in out of the body travel in the other world: by adopting specific forms of thought you access the energy frequencies that open up the subtle spaces you wish to visit.
On this speculative model, the up-hierarchy and the down-hierarchy dove-tail and closely interact, generating the existents of Cosmos. It is all one seamless whole of entwined processes and modes of being.
Figure 12.1 Cosmos: the dove-tailing of Eros and Logos
Figure 12.1 sets out the interdependence. It shows, simplistically, the two hierarchies interacting laterally to mamnifest twelve basic components of Cosmos. At each level, there is a marriage of Eros and Logos. Time and space interact to provide the spatiotemporal fields within which the processes of interchange between matter and energy occur.
Life and archetypal ideas are in continuous exchange in the world of organisms. In biology, questions about the form of living organisms has led to current theories of the morphogenetic field, the chreode, entelechy – all in their different ways models for the influence of the archetypal realm on living things.
Individual souls interact with universal consciousness and find their identity as self-aware persons thereby. Mystics of diverse schools have propounded, experientially, the view that personal consciousness is but an eddy in a vastly extended field of awareness.
The great illusion in the domain of Eros is that of exclusion, of separateness. Thus time seems quite separate from space, matter from energy, living organisms from any involvement with archetypal forms, and, above all, the experience of an individual from the vast reaches of universal consciousness. These naturalistic fallacies are very much part and parcel of everyday unreflective experience. They are the product of lack of development.
The counterpartal illusion in the domain of Logos is that of inclusion, of consuming unity. It stems from unbalanced development. When human beings get caught up in this, then universal consciousness seems to devour personal identity. This is the great mystical error: the illusion that the fulness of encounter with divinity dissolves the individual soul. In truth what such encounter does, I believe, is to remove the soul’s illusion of separateness from the rest of being, while enhancing its distinctness of individualized and differentiated being.
For another Logos illusion, watch archetypal ideas eat up the phenomenal world, as in theories of absolute idealism – the dominant school of philosophy in Germany in the first half of the nineteenth century and in Britain at the end of that century. Again, matter may be construed as nothing but energy. And time may be thought of in linear, spatial terms – which devours its independent generative power.
These illusions of Eros and of Logos – the excluding womb and the devouring word – seem to stem from the addiction of the soul to monopolar bias: a tendency to reduce anxiety before the grand complexity of the universal scheme by understanding it in terms of only one of its poles. But the interdependence of Eros and Logos at every level means that each pole interacts profoundly with its opposite without loss of identity.
Another way of mapping the twelve components of Cosmos set out in the diagram in section 6 above is in terms of three interlocking triangles, like a yantra in the tradition of Tantra. At the end of Chapter 10 I suggested a conjectural model of a three-fold spatial universe: a six-dimensional space interpenetrating a five-dimensional space in turn interpenetrating the four-dimensional matrix of the physical world. These are symbolized in Figure 12.2, respectively, by the upward triangle, the higher downward triangle, then the lower downward triangle.
In Chapter 11 I defined three kinds of time, transcendental, matrix and clock time. These too can be mapped on the yantra. The eight outer triangles represent transcendental time, the three inner polygons matrix time, and the inmost triangle clock time. The dot in the centre is mahabindu, the Great Point, which stands for the creatrix, the Supreme Shakti in the Tantric tradition. It is the first womb of Eros, the timeless moment whence all forms of time emerge.
Figure 12.2 Yantra of the mutltiple Cosmos
Each of the twelve cosmic components is allocated one of the twelve areas within the total figure. The terms around the outside apply to the projecting triangular spaces to which they are adjacent. There is no way such two-dimensional mapping of complex and multi-dimensional concepts can be logically immaculate, so while a case can be made for the diagrammatic allocations, there is also an element of the arbitrary about the whole exercise. However, this version does provide a convenient yantra for contemplative meditation, bearing mind the different forms of space and time it also includes. When contemplating it, the higher intuitive mind can compensate for the limitations of its graphic form.
In the Qabalah, the ancient occult tradition of the Hebrews, the sacred four-lettered name of the divine, the tetragrammaton, was a matter of revelation. It consists of letters from the Hebrew alphabet,Yod, He, Vau, He, and was held by devout Jews to be too sacred to be pronounced or written down for general use.
I give in Fugure 12.3 a purely speculative rendering of this sacred name. It closes this chapter by restating the contents of its first two sections. Read it clockwise from the bottom.
Figure 12.3 Metaphysical account of the sacred name
Experience of the subtle realms: