Category Archives: vedanda

cutting through

Labels. They are everywhere. We use them to define ourselves, each other, our space, our likes and dislikes, the world around us, our thoughts… In one sense, language is a great label maker for chopping up the vast expanse of raw experience into bite sized pieces that are easily digested.

If you do not “fit” into a label, people may feel funny about you. For the sake of comfort, it seems as though people expect to be able to categorize everything, including themselves, into well organized and defined definitions. If you can not label it, it can can not be categorized and fit in to the correct slot.

With the wide acceptance of social media like Facebook, the motivation to “fit in” and “label” oneself and others has become something of a collective past-time. Favorite music, books, movies, television… “I drink wine and enjoy watching Friends. Oh so do you? My political slant is <fill in the blank> and my religion is <label goes here>. I don’t like this person, they use labels I don’t like. I am in this club and you aren’t.” Subject and object, this and that, inside outside. Perhaps if enough data is collected and the patterns analyzed, we can give up having names and just be categorized under certain labels and numbers.

A case in point, the About page. How many labels do I have to choose in order to try to box myself in to a nice package that others will be able to label according to their own set of rules? Lets see —  I’m Typhonian, and I am big on Tantra and Dzogchen. Other labelled entities (poor humans), such as those calling themselves Thelemites, might not like that I’m Typhonian. Classical Hindu tantriks on the other hand, may dislike that I am into Dzogchen. Labels might get in the way of actual human connection if I don’t pass the initial word filter.

Based on the associations of labels, we limit our experiences and interactions with other living human beings. This person seems nice, but they label themselves as a <blank> – no thank you. That person has so much energy, looks so happy, really enjoys life – oh but wait… it says here they love a book by an author that I hate…. No!  We limit ourselves if the label does not “fit.”

Words imprison us. Sure, they can also liberate us. Language is both a blessing and a curse.

Life is for living. It is alive, dynamic, unpredictable, beautiful and ugly, magnificent and horrible. It is all of these things simultaneously. Try some of those labels on, if you must. The more we try to define ourselves, to live inside of our own well constructed boxes, the more comical the whole game becomes.

Meditation is useful in getting reacquainted with reality. I say reacquainted because we all know it, have experienced it. At the very least, you were an infant at one time, before language was part of your consciousness (I suppose that is arguable, with the sound of the mothers voice being heard in the womb). Go back further then…

Persist long enough and you might get glimpses of consciousness beyond (before?) language. What is experience before it is labeled? What is the raw, unfiltered, unspeakable experience of being?

Who are you, before you had a name?

 

 

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sun salutation illustrated

In my book The Magickal Union of East and Westthere is a description of a practice from ashtanga yoga, the Surya Namascar (“Sun Salutation”). While the description is traditional, without instruction it can be difficult to follow.

My friend Andria Degens is certified instructor of yoga with her own practice in Hastings. She has studied and practiced extensively in India and the UK (see her full bio here). Andria kindly agreed to illustrate the major asanas of the sun salutation in order to augment the description in the text. With these photos and the outline given in the book, it should help to make the practice a bit easier to decode and get into for beginners.

If you are in the Hastings area, by all means sign up for her classes and get first hand practical instruction in this and deeper aspects of yogic disciplines. She also offers private one on one classes for serious students that wish to pursue the work in customized sessions. In addition to her love of yoga, Andria is a musician with many albums out, performing under the name Pantaleimon.

The description is from pages 12 -14  of The Magickal Union of East and WestPhoto credit goes to Dave Reading. The yogini is of course Andria herself.

Sun Salutation

Stand straight, with your feet together. Imagine a brilliant white sphere above your head with a white light streaming into it from above. Place your palms together, touching your chest. Sense the energy pouring into you, filling you with vitality and awakening every cell of your body.

DPP_0006Now breathe in deeply while you raise your arms above your head and bend backward from the waist.

DPP_0030Bending forward from your hips, breathe out slowly. Knees should be slightly bent (you do not want any strain on your lower back). Hands are flat on the floor beside your feet. At this point, your head should be near your shins.
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Breathe in and stretch your right leg behind so that your foot is at a right angle to your leg and resting on its toes. The left leg is vertical to the floor and your head is back.

DPP_0059

While you breathe, place your left foot back to match the right foot. The body is now in a straight line, supported only by your toes and hands, which are in a vertical line.

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Still holding your breath, lower your body and rest your toes, knees, chest, palms, and forehead on the floor. Stomach and pelvis are off the floor, with hands by your shoulders, elbows bent, and arms by your sides.

DPP_0017

Breathing out, lie flat on the ground. Feel the energy coursing through your body.

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Breathe in as you raise your head and then the upper part of your torso. Pelvis is flat on the ground and the head is back.

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Hold your breath and bring your feet flat onto the floor and raise your hips to form an inverted V shape.

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Still holding your breath, bring the right foot forward so that it is vertical and the left leg is back (the reverse of #4).

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Breathe out as you bring the left leg up and place your feet to- gether between your hands. Straighten your legs (with knees slightly bent) and place your head on your shins.

DPP_0061

Breathe in as you straighten up from the hips. Bring your arms up, and stretch them backward as you bend back from the waist. Hold your breath as you look backward.

DPP_0030

Breathe out as your straighten your body. Now raise your arms over your head and back again as you bend your elbows to place your hands together at your chest. See a radiant sphere of golden solar energy in your heart center, its rays penetrating and warming your entire body.

DPP_0006

Typhonian Gnosis

draconis

These are some of the most amazing articles. I have returned to them again and again over the years, and they never cease to inspire me and launch me into new gnostic vistas:

The Heart of Thelema

Going Beyond

The Typhonian Tradition

new arrival today

IMG_2625Received my proof copies of The Magickal Union of East and West today! NAT

The Magickal Union of East & West

The first 50 pages of the Magickal Union of East & West are now available for browsing via the Llewellyn Worldwide website. You are also able to pre-oder both the physical and electronic editions of the book via various sites. Contact your favorite book dealer and let them know you want to reserve your copy today!

Magickal Union East West

 

parampara

From Michael Staley’s essay The Fool:

“Initiation is not a matter of swallowing wholesale what this, that or the other illustrious person has said at some time or another, but of making it real, of arriving at your own understanding. We take influences from diverse sources, whether it be Grant, Crowley, Spare, Blavatsky, Gurdjieff, Ramana Maharshi – to name but a few – and synthesise their work via the catalyst of our own experience, creating thereby an understanding and a body of work that is intrinsic to us. People who come after us will do likewise, again from a diversity of sources. In this way, knowledge and experience is passed down, and this is one meaning of parampara or spiritual lineage. ”

Could not have expressed it better. This sums up my approach to the Mysteries, and explains the diverse range of influences that have gone into my own work.

The Magickal Union of East & West, The Spiritual Path to New Aeon Tantra explores the fruit of some of this work.

Its just this, and nothing else

However puzzling this may be, and however many philosophical problems it may raise, one clear look is enough to show its unavoidable truth. There is only this now. It does not come from anywhere; it is not going anywhere. It is not permanent, but it is not impermanent. Though moving, it is always still. When we try to catch it, it seems to run away, and yet it is always here and there is no escape from it. And when we turn round to find the self which knows this moment, we find that it has vanished like the past.

– The Way of Zen, Alan Watts

devi

some more Alan Watts

I am really enjoying reading Alan Watts, getting a lot out of his distillation of Eastern philosophy. A few more insights from The Book (on the Taboo Against Knowing Yourself)

If you know what you want, and will be content with it, you can be trusted. But if you do not know, your desires are limitless and no one can tell how to deal with you

Peace can be made only by those who are peaceful, and love can be shown only by those who love

No work of love will flourish out of guilt, fear or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.

There is a lot more in this book, far too much to cover in these few quotes that are of interest. A proper review of this book would be in order, but for now the quotes will have to suffice. If these are not enough to entice you, let me be blunt – read this book! You will not regret it, and may get something to take away from it that lasts with you.

sun-moon-northpole

Alan Watts

“Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?”  -Hui Neng, 6th Patriarch of Ch’an Buddhism

With a deep background in Advaida, Buddhism, and Taoism, the writings of Alan Watts are an excellent perspective into Eastern philosophy from the eyes of a Westerner. London born and then transplanted to the States, he had a deep interest in Eastern traditions from an early age. He was also an exceptional writer, with an ability to distill the wisdom he was taking in and express it for western readers in unique ways that are extremely lucid.

I am currently reading The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, and only a few pages in am already enjoying it immensely and finding a lot of good insight in his thoughts. A few gems:

“In the end one is committed to being a Christian or a Buddhist come what may in the form of new knowledge. New and indigestible ideas have to be wrangled into the religious tradition, however inconsistent with its original doctrines, so that the believer can still take his stand and assert, ‘I am first and foremost a follower of Christ/Mohammed/Buddha, or whomever.’ Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world.”

“For the use of words, and thus of a book, is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures is like eating paper currency.”

In discussing what type of book he might want to give to his children, Watt’s describes one that “would slip them into a new domain, not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling. It would be a temporary medicine, not a diet; a point of departure, not a perpetual point of reference. They would read it and be done with it, for if it were well and clearly written they would not have to go back to it again and again and again for hidden meanings or for clarification of obscure doctrines.”

    We do not need a new religion or a new bible. We need a new experience — a new feeling of what it is to be ‘I’. The lowdown (which is, of course, the secret and profound view) on life is that our normal sensation of self is a hoax or, at best, a temporary role that we are playing, or have been conned into playing — with our own tacit consent, just as every hypnotized person is basically willing to be hypnotized. The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind that mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.”

Watt’s ability to elucidate the details of this magnificent and all pervasive con job (or the intoxicating dance  and play of maya) are illuminating, and help to awaken one to a recognition of something that lies beyond our normal conditioned thoughts of self and individuality. His writings are a good companion to Wei Wu Wei (Terrence James Stannus Gray), another British philosopher  of Eastern traditions.

The emphasis that Watt’s places on experience is strongly appealing. Doctrines, traditions, esoteric wisdom, rituals – all of these can be means of playing with the moldable fabric of reality, but it is all too easy to fall back into the Great Sleep, or to simply never wake up in the first place.

I have worked with many esoteric groups over the past 20 years, and have seen first hand how easy it is to fall into complacency, and get caught up in rituals, tradition, dogma, high and mysterious sounding titles and grades,  and yes… books. We kid ourselves while we continue to dream without ever touching upon the single great secret.

Reading Watt’s is a breath of fresh air. As with the ideal book that he describes, after setting it down I find myself not “needing” to read more, but rather to get out into nature, to trek and climb mountains, to experience life.

 

Alan Watts