When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see, For all the day they view things unrespected; But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee, And, darkly bright, are bright in dark directed. Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright, How would thy shadow’s form form happy show To the clear day with thy much clearer light, When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so? How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made By looking on thee in the living day, When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay! All days are nights to see till I see thee, And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
This is an interesting sonnet for me, because it appears that Shakespeare is contemplating the nature of reality as it pertains to one’s state of consciousness. On the surface, he is praising the beauty of his beloved as it appears to him while dreaming and compares that to his beloved’s appearance in waking reality. But what strikes me about this sonnet is the repeated mention of words like “shadow” and “form.” I get the sense that Shakespeare is alluding to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, that what we perceive as real is more like a shadow of the divine form cast upon the wall of a cave. Was Shakespeare likening the fair youth to an archetypal form of supreme beauty that we cannot fully comprehend in our normal state of consciousness? I don’t know, but it is definitely something worth considering when reading this text.
That’s all I wanted to say about this poem. Comments will be open for two weeks after post date, so if you have any thoughts you would like to share about this poem, feel free to do so.
This is the first in a series of books published by Taschen exploring metaphysics through art. I picked it up while perusing the shelves in a local indie bookstore. I only needed to skim a few pages to know I had to have this on my shelves.
This is, first and foremost, an art book. It is lavishly illustrated with stunning images of tarot cards from a myriad of decks, as well as images of artwork inspired by tarot and photographs of individuals who played prominent roles in the development of modern tarot. Additionally, there is some great information in the book, providing a history of tarot as well as explanations of the symbolism associated with the cards.
What I personally find fascinating about the tarot are the archetypes and how they can be used as a method of self-discovery. Penny Slinger, an artist who wrote the foreword section of the book, describes this nicely.
We all have archetypes within us, once we expand our limited sense of self. In this way, Tarot is transformational, allowing us to see the alchemy of ourselves. Tarot allows us to get past the barriers we put up that prevent us from seeing the path of least resistance. That is what the cards are meant to do. They are signposts along the way. The whole process of divination, in fact, is one that allows us to access the energy of who we are, without having ourselves get in the way. Tarot enables a direct connection to the spirit, to the divine, to whatever we want to call those forces that work both within and along with us. It is a practice that lets us listen to our inner voice, the intuitive self.
If you are even slightly interested in tarot, then I highly recommend this book. The information and artwork are both inspiring and educational. And it is just a beautiful book that will look nice on any shelf.
There are two more volumes so far in the series, and yes, I have already bought them too. I look forward to exploring those in the not-too-distant future. Cheers!
In “Chapter IX: The Sun, A Universal Deity,” Manly P. Hall states:
The purpose of alchemy was not to make something out of nothing but rather to fertilize and nurture the seed which was already present. Its processes did not actually create gold but rather made the ever-present seed of gold grow and flourish. Everything which exists has a spirit—the seed of Divinity within itself—and regeneration is not the process of attempting to place something where it previously had not existed. Regeneration actually means the unfolding of the omnipresent Divinity in man, that this Divinity may shine forth as a sun and illumine all with whom it comes in contact.
For me, this sums up perfectly the practice of alchemy. It is essentially a symbolic system designed to teach individuals how to accomplish inner transformation, so that the divine light within shines forth like the purest of gold. Everything that exists has the spark of Divine energy within. The goal of alchemical transformation is to allow the alchemist to see the pure aspect of God within everything. Therefore, the secret of the philosopher’s stone is not that it grants the alchemist life everlasting, instead it reveals that the alchemist’s essence is a part of the Divine, and therefore, eternal.
There is an important lesson in the last line of the aforementioned quote. Once you have tapped into the Divine within you, you begin to shine in a way that others notice. In art, this is depicted as the aura or halo surrounding saints and sages. Additionally, with this enlightenment comes responsibility. The successful alchemist must, after inner transformation, work toward the transformation of all humanity, helping lift the collective consciousness closer to God consciousness.
Thanks for stopping by and reading. Have a transformative day.
When I read this story, it was evening, and I was looking for something short to read in bed before sleep. I scanned the table of contents in my copy of Poe’s Complete Tales and Poems and decided on this one, since I had never read it and it seemed short enough. I have to say that I was very impressed with the story, the premise of which I found fascinating.
The basic plot of the tale centers around an experiment on mesmerism. The protagonist, who is relating the story, decides to see what would happen if an individual was mesmerized just before death.
My attention, for the last three years, had been repeatedly drawn to the subject of Mesmerism; and, about nine months ago, it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that in the series of experiments made hitherto, there had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis. It remained to be seen, first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the patient any susceptibility to the magnetic influence; secondly, whether, if any existed, it was impaired or increased by the condition; thirdly, to what extent, or for how long a period, the encroachments of Death might be arrested by the process. There were other points to be ascertained, but these most excited my curiosity—the last in especial, from the immensely important character of its consequences.
An acquaintance, M. Valdemar, who is terminally ill, agrees to participate in the experiment. He is mesmerized just before the moment of death. After he passes, he is asked a question, and responds.
I have spoken both of “sound” and of “voice.” I mean to say that the sound was one of distinct — of even wonderfully, thrillingly distinct—syllabification. M. Valdemar spoke—obviously in reply to the question I had propounded to him a few minutes before. I had asked him, it will be remembered, if he still slept. He now said:
“Yes; —no; —I have been sleeping—and now—now—I am dead.”
The implication here is that physical death does not mean the end of consciousness, that consciousness continues after the body ceases to function. And this begs the question: What is life, the functioning of the physical body, or the cohesive awareness of an individual’s consciousness?
It was evident that, so far, death (or what is usually termed death) had been arrested by the mesmeric process. It seemed clear to us all that to awaken M. Valdemar would be merely to insure his instant, or at least his speedy dissolution.
While this tale does have a touch of eeriness for which Poe is renowned, it is the exploration of consciousness that I found most fascinating about this short story. I highly recommend giving it a read. You can find the full text online if you are interested (since it is part of the public domain).
Thanks for stopping by, and keep reading interesting stuff.
Comments Off on Thoughts on “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” by Edgar Allan Poe
This novella is one of Lovecraft’s most famous works. It is the story of a group of explorers in the Antarctic who discover the existence of an alien race that forged the evolution of humanity. But the real power of this tale is in the symbolism. Lovecraft uses the story as a vehicle for probing into humanity’s collective subconscious.
The mountains themselves are symbolic of the border, or threshold, between the two states of consciousness.
Little by little, however, they rose grimly into the western sky; allowing us to distinguish various bare, bleak, blackish summits, and to catch the curious sense of phantasy which they inspired as seen in the reddish antarctic light against the provocative background of iridescent ice-dust clouds. In the whole spectacle there was a persistent, pervasive hint of stupendous secrecy and potential revelation; as if these stark, nightmare spires marked the pylons of a frightful gateway into forbidden spheres of dream, and complex gulfs of remote time, space, and ultra-dimensionality. I could not help feeling that they were evil things—mountains of madness whose farther slopes looked out over some accursed ultimate abyss. That seething, half-luminous cloud-background held ineffable suggestions of a vague, ethereal beyondness far more than terrestrially spatial; and gave appalling reminders of the utter remoteness, separateness, desolation, and aeon-long death of this untrodden and unfathomed austral world.
Once an individual has crossed the boundary and entered to dark caverns of primordial consciousness, that person begins to lose his or her grasp on what we deem sanity in our state of normal awareness. Our mythology is full of tales warning about this. It is the metaphor of “looking back,” of shining a light on the dark past of human consciousness which should remain buried. Lovecraft alludes to these metaphors as the protagonists desperately attempt to escape the nether-regions and return to the world of sanity and normal consciousness.
So we glanced back—simultaneously, it would appear; though no doubt the incipient motion of one prompted the imitation of the other. As we did so we flashed both torches full strength at the momentarily thinned mist; either from sheer primitive anxiety to see all we could, or in a less primitive but equally unconscious effort to dazzle the entity before we dimmed our light and dodged among the penguins of the labyrinth-centre ahead. Unhappy act! Not Orpheus himself, or Lot’s wife, paid much more dearly for a backward glance. And again came that shocking, wide-ranged piping—“Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li!”
Lovecraft concludes his tale with a stark warning: there are some things that should remain buried in the subconscious. That probing too far into the darkened and obscure recesses of the mind is dangerous, both for the individual and for humanity as a collective whole.
It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.
If you have not read this story, I highly recommend it. It is well-written, thrilling, and deeply thought-provoking. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great day.
Comments Off on “At the Mountains of Madness” by H. P. Lovecraft: Exploring the Subconscious Mind
Enlightenment (or awakening) means to emerge from a state of unconsciousness—a state of ignorance. The world isn’t anything like what most people think it is, and nearly everything we perceive on this side of the abyss is an illusion—or, more accurately, layers upon layers of illusion. Some of that perception is due to the limitations of our physical senses, but much of it is based on lies and misdirection crafted by people with vested interest in keeping humanity unaware or even unconscious. When we cross the abyss, we see through all of this and look upon reality with the clear sight of our infinite, true nature. It’s not an intellectual process. It’s not something we can get by reading or thinking about it. We experience enlightenment directly, and only because we have completely refined our consciousness.
I originally read The Upanishads when I was in college. In fact, the old paperback copy I still have was my old college text, complete with highlighting and marginalia. Sadly, the binding is coming undone so I think this may be my last reading of this particular book. But it has served me well. Anyway, it had been many years since I read this, and considering all the material I have read in between, I suspected that this reading would be on a different level than my prior readings.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the text:
The Upanishads are late Vedic Sanskrit texts of religious teachings which form the foundations of Hinduism. They are the most recent part of the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, the Vedas, that deal with meditation, philosophy, and ontological knowledge; other parts of the Vedas deal with mantras, benedictions, rituals, ceremonies, and sacrifices. Among the most important literature in the history of Indian religions and culture, the Upanishads played an important role in the development of spiritual ideas in ancient India, marking a transition from Vedic ritualism to new ideas and institutions. Of all Vedic literature, the Upanishads alone are widely known, and their central ideas are at the spiritual core of Hinduism.
Much of the text discusses the Self, which is essentially that spark of the Divine that exists within each being.
The Self, whose symbol is OM, is the omniscient Lord. He is not born. He does not die. He is neither cause nor effect. This Ancient One is unborn, imperishable, eternal: though the body be destroyed, he is not killed.
There is a belief held by many on the spiritual path that the goal is to renounce the world and focus only on the spiritual. The Upanishads teach that not only is this incorrect, it is actually detrimental to one’s spiritual growth. Balance is needed, and polarity of any sort leads to darkness.
To darkness are they doomed who devote themselves only to life in the world, and to a greater darkness they who devote themselves only to meditation.
Life in the world alone leads to one result, meditation alone leads to another. So have we heard from the wise.
They who devote themselves both to life in the world and to meditation, by life in the world overcome death and by meditation achieve immortality.
(pp. 27 – 28)
For me, one of the most intriguing passages from this reading was a description of how to realize, or “see,” the Divine presence, God, the Self.
To realize God, first control the outgoing senses and harness the mind. Then meditate upon the light in the heart of the fire—meditate, that is, upon pure consciousness as distinct from the ordinary consciousness of the intellect. Thus the Self, the Inner Reality, may be seen behind physical appearance.
Control your mind so that the Ultimate Reality, the self-luminous Lord, may be revealed. Strive earnestly for eternal bliss.
With the help of the mind and the intellect, keep the senses from attaching themselves to objects of pleasure. They will be purified by the light of the Inner Reality, and that light will be revealed.
I have not even scratched the surface of this book. The wealth of wisdom and insight in this short text is staggering. I highly recommend that any of you who are on the spiritual path read and reread this text.
Thanks for stopping by. May you have a blessed journey.
This is the first book that Susanna Clarke has published since Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which was published in 2004. I loved Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, so I was eager to read Ms. Clarke’s latest, which although not as great as her first novel, it is still very good.
Piranesi is the story about a person living in an alternate reality, and the text is structured as journal entries. There are some interesting and creative aspects to the book, structurally, but I should say up front that my wife listened to the text as an audiobook and did not enjoy it. I can see how this text would not translate well to spoken word. So, if you are planning to read this book, you should read it and not listen to it.
That said, I figure we can look at a couple passages.
These are the Drowned Halls.
On the Periphery of this Region the Waters are shallow, tranquil, and covered with water lilies, but in the centre they are deep and treacherous, full of broken Masonry and drowned Statues. The majority of the Drowned Halls are inaccessible, but some can be entered from the Upper Level.
(pp. 34 – 35)
The dimension where Piranesi exists is a kind of labyrinthine house, which contains animals and water and statues. What is interesting about this passage is the implication that the house, with its rooms of water, represents the subconscious, the aspects of the psyche which grant individuals glimpses of other dimensions. The deeper you go into the waters of the subconscious mind, the more treacherous it becomes. One runs the risk of “drowning” in this other realm. And the line “The majority of the Drowned Halls are inaccessible, but some can be entered from the Upper Level” implies that most areas of the subconscious mind are not accessible to us, but some may be entered by exiting our normal state of awareness, or the Upper Level. Interestingly, certain words are capitalized, giving them a sense of being proper nouns, or names. Most intriguing is Masonry. While this might be coincidental, I could not help wondering whether it is an allusion to the secret rites of the Masonic order. Ritual is often used to evoke non-ordinary states of consciousness in individuals.
At one point in the story, Piranesi meets a “Prophet” who offers to tell Piranesi how his world came into existence.
He looked gratified by my interest. ‘Then I will tell you. It began when I was young, you see. I was always so much more brilliant than my peers. My first great insight happened when I realised how much humankind had lost. Once, men and women were able to turn themselves into eagles and fly immense distances. They communed with rivers and mountains and received wisdom from them. They felt the turning of the stars inside their own minds. My contemporaries did not understand this. They were all enamoured with the idea of progress and believed that whatever was new must be superior to what was old. As if merit was a function of chronology! But it seemed to me that the wisdom of the ancients could not have simply vanished. Nothing simply vanishes. It’s not actually possible. I pictured it as a sort of energy flowing out of the world and I thought that this energy must be going somewhere. That was when I realised that there must be other places, other worlds. And so I set myself to find them.’
(pp. 88 – 89)
This is an interesting concept, and it is one which I have pondered. If everything is energy, and the First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only changed from one form to another, and if thoughts and consciousness are forms of energy, then what happens to our collective consciousness? Does it take on new forms, or does it flow somewhere else? What is the effect of conscious energy on other forms of energy? If the energy patterns still exist, can the be “re-collected”? These are deep questions about the very fabric of our reality. I don’t claim to have any answers, but this is one of those cases where the answers are not as important as the questions.
Anyway, to close, I will say I enjoyed this book. I would recommend both of Susanna Clarke’s books.
When I received an email from Sounds True announcing the publication of this book, I knew I would be reading it. I loved Be Here Now and could not pass up the opportunity to read a first-hand account of Ram Dass’s life, which ended on December 22, 2019.
Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert in 1932. The book covers his long and interesting life, from his childhood to his early days as an explorer of psychedelics with Timothy Leary, then his journey to India where he met Maharaj-ji and became a devotee, and finally, his later years following his debilitating stroke.
There are so many wonderful and insightful seeds of wisdom in this book, it seriously warrants reading by anyone who has even a sliver of interest in spirituality and service. I will share a couple quotes that stood out for me.
Service as a spiritual path lacks glamour. I liked moving in and out of planes of reality, esoteric teachings, secret mantras, meditation in caves, experiences of bliss. Those experiences of different planes originated in my use of psychedelics, and I’d grown attached to those experiences. It was another trap that I created for myself, another kind of spiritual ego.
I had romanticized and idealized my spiritual path—so much so that I distanced myself from the nitty-gritty of life. I wanted to transcend this earthly plane, with its imperfect humans caught in their greed and ambition and selfishness, including me. Serving God was an ideal. Serving God in the form of other people, with all their vagaries and flaws, politics and personality quirks, was a whole other kettle of fish.
I confess, I am guilty of what Ram Dass describes. I know I have “spiritual ego.” In addition, I find myself constantly vexed by the attitudes and behaviors of my fellow humans. I make a conscious effort to practice empathy and acceptance, but it does not come easy for me. It is so much easier to “love and serve” those who I like, but those who anger me? That is hard. I suppose I should take comfort in the fact that I realize I still have a way to go along my path. There is hope for me yet.
This segues nicely into the next passage.
Gandhi said, “When you surrender completely to God as the only Truth worth having, you find yourself in the service of all that exists. It becomes your joy and recreation. You never tire of serving others.” Billions of acts create suffering in the world—acts of ignorance, greed, violence. But in the same way, each act of caring—the billion tiny ways that we offer compassion, wisdom, and joy to one another—serves to preserve and heal our world. When I help someone change their perspective on their individual problems, I also change society.
I must confess, I have been seriously considering ending this blog. But it is the possibility that maybe something I share might help one person, the chance that I might help spread some small crumb of wisdom or insight or inspiration to another person, that brings me back to the keyboard to write yet another post.
If you are reading this, I hope you will consider the wise words of Ram Dass, and maybe pick up a copy of his book and read it. Thanks for stopping by, and may we all contribute to spreading some happiness in the world. The world desperately needs more happiness right now.
Psychonaut is the second text in this book (click here to read my thoughts on Liber Null, the first text). While Liber Null primarily focuses on individual uses of Chaos Magic, Psychonaut focuses on group practices, or what Carroll calls shamanistic work.
Rather than examining the ritualistic practices described in this text, I decided to instead write about the connections and contrasts between the mystical arts and conventional science, as addressed by Carroll in his book. Carroll begins by asserting that science is returning to magic, in a sense.
After some centuries of neglect, advanced minds are turning their attention to magic once more. It used to be said that magic was what we had before science was properly organized. It now seems that magic is where science is actually heading. Enlightened anthropology has grudgingly admitted that beneath all the ritual and mumbo-jumbo of so-called primitive cultures there exists a very real and awesome power that cannot be explained away. Higher psychics now suggest that the universe runs on something more akin to sorcery than clockwork.
Carroll follows up by positing that the next leap forward in human evolution and understanding will be in the realm of the psyche, an idea that I agree with. The new frontier for humanity is that of consciousness.
Science has brought us power and ideas but not the wisdom or responsibility to handle them. The next great advance that humanity will make will be into the psychic domain. There are many encouraging signs that this is beginning to occur. In this new field of endeavor we shall rediscover much of the magical knowledge that the ancient shamans once possessed. Of course, we shall know it under different guises and will eventually expand on their knowledge immensely.
When exploring consciousness, the scientific method essentially fails, since consciousness is linked to perception and therefore cannot be observed in the traditional manner in which scientific observations are made.
Many scientific disciplines begin by not observing any sort of vital spark or consciousness in material events and proceed to deny that these things exist in living beings, including themselves. Because consciousness does not fit into their mechanistic schemes they declare it illusory. Magicians make exactly the reverse argument. Observing consciousness in themselves and animals, they are magnanimous enough to extend it to all things to some degree – trees, amulets, planetary bodies, and all. This is a far more respectful and generous attitude than that of religions, most of whom won’t even give animals a soul.
Since the time of Carroll’s writing of this book in 1987, science has made many advances in the exploration of consciousness. Researchers using MRI imaging of the brains of people who meditate shows that meditation affects brain function. There has also been discovery in quantum physics that perception and consciousness have a direct effect on subatomic particles. Where will all this lead? Not sure, but it is certainly food for thought.