Monday, December 5, 2011

Toward a Druidic Mysticism Part 4 final

The rest... I should probably redo the bibliography, but it still isn't bad. Thanks for reading...

Hints Toward Druidic Mysticism
So we have taken a quick look at some of the patterns of mysticism in the Indo-European world. Most of these were originally systems functioning inside a fully developed Pagan world-view, but by examining the scraps of IE Paleopagan lore we can hope to find some paths and markers for our journey.

A: Expanded Awareness
One place that we can begin is with a modern, definition of ‘expanded awareness’ or ‘mind expansion’, based on personal and psychological models. This leads us to start in a place that addresses a core problem of mysticism. We must address what the ‘common mind’ the ‘ego’ or the mask-self might be, and how we can address it in our efforts.

Common awareness, day to day mind, is limited by the habits and requirements of social existence. Our upbringing and inborn inclinations assemble a sort of random persona, which we deal with as we find it. We experience ourselves as ‘me’, a drifting point-of-perception which moves between states of mind, occasionally getting stuck in favorite or unavoidable ones. The processes of our minds and bodies often go unobserved, and we often dwell in a bubble of memory and imagination, with a less than clear awareness of our own perceptions.

One goal of mystical work could be seen as freeing this apparent ‘me’ from its unconscious rut. When we say we ‘center’ ourselves, we might mean that we take our seat in our own center, from which we can look out in all directions. We begin applying conscious will to our persona/ego, teaching it to do as we will in the way one teaches the body to dance or fight.

So when we say we ‘expand our awareness’, we might mean, at the simplest level, that we bring more of the content of our own mind and will into our conscious awareness, to become aware of the ‘higher’ and even lower portions of ourselves. We seek to know more about ourselves, and seek to manage it all more skillfully and from a better vantage point. There are many traditional and basic means by which to begin this process, including formal introspection, journaling, meditation and relaxation.

Many world systems that focus on this sort of self-awareness and self-control understand the psychological forces that are encountered to be spirits. This contains the possibility of various fun ‘angels’ of wisdom and insight and ‘demons’ of obstacles and ignorance, with which we might make mythic engagement, if we like that sort of thing…

B: Transpersonal Awareness
As we gain skill in the expansion of awareness, tradition suggests that at the outside edges of our own minds and spirits we may find an interface with that which isn’t exactly, ‘us’. Mystical and occult training has often involved the creation of and work with complex imagined inner landscapes and temples. A great deal of valuable work can be done within such a self-created structure alone. More interesting, perhaps is the notion at at the edges, across the boundaries of such landscapes may lie the greater, transpersonal mind of nature itself. Within that transpersonal mind are the individual fires of humans and spirits and gods and all, but all might be thought to subsist within this impersonal ‘soul of nature’.

Conversely, we may consider that our own minds are in fact mirrors – or holograms – of the whole spiritual cosmos. When we construct our inner systems, or even merely examine the contents of our own minds, our own spirits can become become mirrors, containing all the cosmos in ourselves. So we can, at least, approach the reflections of the Gods and spirits in ourselves, and perhaps invoke those beings to be consciously present in our inward reflections.

A universal characteristic of ‘enlightenment’ is the identification of the personal awareness with some greater or higher spiritual reality. This may be as simple as the greater awareness that we talked about, but is more commonly the awareness of some spiritual being or continuum. The dhyana (meditative union) of Raja Yoga is often applied to a deity – one can ‘make dhyana upon’ a deity, so that the subject-object distinction between you and the God dissolves. In this way the local and apparent self is left behind within the greater self of a deity.

We can observe the ‘bhakti’ practices of Hindu polytheism for examples of how that process might work, and those can be applied easily to European deities and spirits. However tradition also presents the idea that mystical union might be made not with a specific divine mind, but with the impersonal divine mind of the cosmos. Hinduism calls this the Brahman and classically it was called the anima mundi – the soul of the world. The Northern European languages don’t have much vocabulary for ‘cosmos’, or even for ‘nature’ as an abstract concept. Modern Gaelic reconstructions have sometimes used the term An Bith – That Which Is. One might conceive of making dhyana, or Samadhi, upon An Bith.

C: Power and Wisdom, Peril and Madness
These great trances, contacts with Higher Awareness, and trances are expected to produce understanding of real methods and means of real accomplishments. Most traditions make it clear that they also carry certain risks. Knowledge is power, and power offers opportunity and danger, and wisdom is the check upon power.

These experiences are often powerful, mind-changing events. They shine in the mind like a sun, draw attention and make more common experiences pale in comparison. This has led various sects to develop various doctrines based on the mystical experiences of their initiates. A mystic or group of mystics has a powerful inner realization, and decides that he must ‘proclaim the truth’. This is a natural process, but has lead to various conflicts inside of the monotheistic mysticisms. Perhaps a polytheistic mysticism can allow various seers to express their mystery without the rancor that comes from desiring a single comprehensive ‘Truth’. I hope we can avoid the tendency to cast experience into doctrine in favor of open experimentation for some years to come. We cannot, I think, settle questions of whether the Atman is real, or whether it can truly be equivalent to the Brahman, by discussing them, but only by years of practice, if at all.

Those who had undergone mystical initiation might be expected to have ‘magical’ ability, depending on the type of sect. Some of those might have served in towns and temples, but others became stranger than that. Often those who sought unusual status as mystics traded their normal lives for their status. They might become hermits, or attach themselves to a temple, or take to the road as beggar-teacher-priests. There is an authentic strain of world-denial and renunciation in Indo-European lore, and the most ‘powerful’ magicians are often well outside of the common social order. Plainly this is not a denial of the natural or material world, but of the human social world, in which the common persona must dwell. The implication in the lore is that the very nature of the spiritual states may drive an individual away from those who dwell in more ordinary awareness.

The insular Celts, especially, remember a poetic madness of inspiration which seems, perhaps, more a symptom than a goal. They saw some inspired poets being transformed by deep, powerful emotional experiences, leading to a transpersonal awareness that demolished their social personas. The experiences of terrible battles great loves, human tragedies or contact with the Otherworld was described as making people ‘mad’ in relation to the common patterns of culture. These victims of the poet’s muse sometimes returned to the company of humans, to live as ‘wizards’ or ‘seers’, never quite fitting the social patterns of common people.

D: The Holy Goal
In a polytheistic system we are faced with vast numbers of choices in symbols and powers of enlightenment. In ADF’s usual habit, we might look for a deity or type of symbol that occurs in multiple IE systems. Specific cultures offer specific mythic complexes that can be initiatory mysteries – Demeter and Persephone, for instance. However there don’t seem, to me, to be deity-complexes that reach across cultures. IE lore does offer several models of quests, adventures and exploits that may provide hints of Pagan mystical patterns. It might be valuable to seek mythic symbols of the soul’s interaction with the divine which are not, themselves, deities, but which express a goal of a core divine power and presence.

The Holy Grail and its Gaelic antecedents in the Magic Cauldron, the later Hermetic symbol of the Philosopher’s Stone, the archaic Hellenic Golden Fleece and the related symbol of the Apple Garden, the Vedic Soma; many Indo-European cultures offer us non-anthropomorphic, even non-biological symbols of a form of the divine that can be within the grasp of mortals if we are strong and wise. The tales surrounding these symbols are of quests, visions and journeys and seem to resonate with models of mystical growth when viewed in an allegorical way.

Your Humble Author’s favorite such symbol, for broad Indo-European purposes, is the Triple Cauldron. The Cauldron of Feasting in the Hall, the Cauldron of Inspiration in the Temple, the Cauldron of Rebirth that holds our ashes in the Mound – the symbol is so wrapped with mythic context that it is like the never-empty source for us to discover. The Cauldron can be seen as bearing the Mead of Inspiration in a Celto-Germanic context, the Soma of the Vedas, the Ambrosia of the Olympians – all symbols of the power and wisdom of the divine that can be shared by Gods and mortals alike.

Indo-European lore offers other hero-quest tales that might be employed as models. The Rhinegold, the Golden Fleece, and other hero tales might catch the imagination of some mystics. Still, the image of the Sacred Drink Which Brings Inspiration/Enlightenment seems reliably pan-Indo-European.

Gaelic lore offers us another vision of a Pagan mystical experience. The Taliesin material, and other ‘I Am’ poems of Gaelic tradition offer a window into a transpersonal awareness among Irish poets, mythically induced by drinking from the Cauldron of the Gods. The speaker transcends their common history to be a part of all the world.

VI: Conclusion
Most fully-grown religions contain multiple schools of practice seeking the sort of mystical goals that we have discussed. ADF has reached a stage in our development at which we can begin to create them, and choices we make now will influence the coherence and direction of our systems for the future. I hope we will approach the matter with curiosity and experimentation, and do our best to avoid the development of doctrine for as long as we can.

There are some obvious places for first steps. We could begin by thinking about the mystery and illuminative content of the High Days. Each seasonal rite allows us a moment in which the folk ‘drunk the waters of life’ in which we might seek to induce experience of the divine in the deities and symbols of the rite. The turning of the year presents a spectrum of flavors of experience that we might clarify and focus as part of our blessings.

From there we can think about creating special, non-seasonal rites, for festivals and intimate gatherings, in which we expose ourselves to powerful symbol sets in a condition of high focus and deep entrancement. The classic model for this are the rites at Eleusis, in which a long series of rites and actions build up entrancement and expectation for the final mysterious moment. Such rites could be run by a small group for an individual or group, or could perhaps be mutually performed.

We can also begin immediately to consider how we can find the mystical content in our basic ceremonies. What does it mean to our souls to approach the Center of the Worlds, to work the Open Gate? How can we use the presence of the Three Kindreds to expand the mind and exalt the spirit?

As we enter our next 25 years, we have new and exciting depths and heights before us…

Druidic Mysticism BibliographyDefining Mysticism and Enlightenment
• The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts by Marvin W. Meyer (Editor)
• Mysticism (Paperback) by Evelyn Underhill
• The Way of Mystery by Nema
A Digression into the Modern
The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell by Aldous Huxley
Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson
• Liber O Vel Manus et Sagittae sub figur VI – Aleister Crowley
Western Models
• Paganism in the Roman Empire – Ramsay MacMullen
• Greek Religion – Walter Burkert
• Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions by Richard Smoley and Jay Kinney.
• Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus by Gregory Shaw
• The Enneads: Abridged Edition (Penguin Classics) by Plotinus , John Dillon (Editor, Introduction), Stephen MacKenna (Translator)
The Book of Abramelin: A New Translation by Abraham Von Worms, Lon Milo Duquette, Georg Dehn, and Steven Guth
• Liber VIII – Aleister Crowley
• Secrets of the Magical Grimoires – Aaron Leitch
•Self-Initiation Into the Golden Dawn Tradition: A Complete Curriculum of Study for Both the Solitary Magician and the Working Magical Group - by Chic Cicero, Sandra Tabatha Cicero
Eastern Models
• The Four Yogas : a guide to the spiritual paths of action, devotion, meditation and knowledge / Swami Adiswarananda.
• Integral Yoga-The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda
• The Yoga of Spiritual Devotion: a modern translation of the Narada bhakti sutras / Prem Prakash.
• Yoga of Truth; Jnana : The Ancient Path of Silent Knowledge by Peter Marchand,
A Druidic Evaluation of Some Classical Models
Teutonic Magic by Kveldulf Gundarsson
• Hermetic Magic by Stephen Flowers
• The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies / Robert Kirk; introduction by Marina Warner.
• The Artful Universe: an introduction to the Vedic religious imagination / William K. Mahony.
Hints toward a Druidic Mysticism
Magical Use of Thought Forms: A Proven System of Mental & Spiritual Empowerment by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and J. H. Brennan
• Advanced Magical Arts by R.J. Stewart
Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman by John Matthews, Caitlín Matthews, and Caitlin Matthews
Neopagan Rites: A Guide to Creating Public Rituals that Work by Isaac Bonewits
• Ploughing the Clouds : the search for Irish Soma / Peter Lamborn Wilson.


Gwynt-Siarad said...

I may have missed something, but it seems to me that you have almost completely left out the shamanic model. Is there a reason? I am sure your well aware of many of the IE tails that fit nicely into a shamanic model.

IanC said...

In general I don't think of shamanic methods or systems as having much to do with mysticism. Shamanism doesn't seem to be concerned with 'spiritual growth' or 'enlightenment' to me. It's more about healing disease, gaining prosperity and increasing personal power.

Gwynt-Siarad said...

Having a fair bit of experience with shamanism, I understand where your coming from when you say it doesn't seem to be focused on spiritual growth ect. However, I would argue that in the process of seeking out prosperity, health, power, the shaman is forced into spiritual growth and enlightenment. Mr. Fuller made similar argument on his blog year or more back that practical magical workings can and do lead to enlightenment just as "high" magick workings do. I also feel that shamanic technologies are solid and depending on how used can be a powerful tool for mystic experiences.

Raven said...

Ian, classically the "wounded healer" type of shaman has come to that point by falling so ill from injury or disease, so far from help, that he/she must in effect become his/her own miracle worker while still crumpled at death's door -- a case of "grow [spiritually] or die [physically]".

And this tale is told around the world -- Siberia, South America, Alaska, Tibet, Europe (Odin hung self-wounded upon Yggdrasil for nine long nights to learn the runes at last) -- because people everywhere do get injured or ill.

The Bön of Tibet practice both shamanism for healing and meditation to achieve the "body of light" -- apparently seeing no conflict in doing both -- and they were there long before the Buddhists arrived... though the current Dalai Lama has recognized them as "a branch of Buddhism" to end the long persecution of the Bonpo minority.

IanC said...

I would tend to see the death/rebirth initiation of that sort of shamanism as more about personal power than about "spiritual growth" or enlightenment. To get the crystals installed, or be given the Iron Bones is to be made more than mortal, but it doesn't require any increase in self-awareness in the psycho-spiritual sense. Surely big initiations like that can transform a person, but I don't see much from the literature that suggests that shamans become more peaceable, or less egocentric, or more compassionate. Now, is that what we mean by 'enlightenment'? I find that many ancient descriptions of enlightenment are more about gaining power and status than about becoming more psychologically whole.
A topic worth considering, really... What forms of shamanism or sorcery require 'work on the self' in the modern, self-improvement sort of way?

Raven said...

"I don't see much from the literature that suggests that shamans become more peaceable, or less egocentric, or more compassionate."

Why, no, nothing at all peaceable, other-centered, or compassionate about becoming a healer -- a role defined by taking care of other people in their times of need.

That is the purpose of powers granted by the Powers, in a tribal society: to benefit the tribe, not just the individual. Hunters feed the whole tribe, not just themselves. Shamans likewise use whatever skills they gain for the whole tribe and not themselves alone.

Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Lords and Ladies explains this integrated role for the village witches -- and I am reminded of Janet Farrar's open letter to other Wiccans after she and Stewart had been resettled in rural Ireland for awhile: don't worry about persecution, she said, you'll be welcome as a healer and herbalist since doctors are distant and dear [expensive]... but you'd better know where the hemorrhoid-wort grows!

"I find that many ancient descriptions of enlightenment are more about gaining power and status than about becoming more psychologically whole."

Like the bard trained by being helplessly wrapped in the bull's hide, or made to lie down with his eyes covered at least, until the awen flows? And who thereafter may find that the awen takes him unawares, without warning, in the middle of a feast or gathering, so that those who hear him must remember his words, for he himself will have no recollection of them? That's not power, that's becoming an instrument of the Powers.

And then there's very literal self-sacrifice:

     I know that I hung on a windy tree
     nine long nights,
     wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
     myself to myself,
     on that tree of which no man knows
     from where its roots run.

     No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn,
     downwards I peered;
     I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
     then I fell back from there.

          — Hávamál

Igjugarjuk, the shaman of a Caribou Eskimo tribe in northern Canada, once said, "The only true wisdom lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and can be reached only through suffering. Privation and suffering alone open the mind to all that is hidden to others."

As a child, Igjugarjuk was disturbed by visions and dreams of strange beings. The dreams were quite vivid, and he could remember every aspect of them. His family was very concerned for him, and the shaman Perqanaoq was consulted. The shaman met with their son and determined that he was destined to become a shaman, and so the parents gave him over to Perqanaoq for training.

So began his initiation. In the depth of winter, when the temperature can drop to –40 degrees Fahrenheit, Perqanaoq put Igjugarjuk on a sled and took him far out into the Arctic wilderness. There he built a small igloo for the boy, just big enough for him to sit cross-legged in. He took Igjugarjuk off the sledge and deposited him in the hut on a small piece of animal skin. He was left there alone and told to think only of the Great Spirit.

After five days, Perqanaoq returned and gave the boy a drink of warm water and left. After fifteen more days, he returned and gave Igjugarjuk another drink of water and a small piece of meat. This was to last him another ten days. At the end of his ordeal, which lasted thirty days, he was brought back to the village, where he fasted and continued his training.

Raven said...

I'd said, "That's not power, that's becoming an instrument of the Powers."

Or to use the contemporary Afro-Caribbean (and Floridian and Louisianan and NYCer and Chicagoan and Angelino) phrase, that's becoming a horse ridden by the Loa.

You don't go to a houngan or mambo to seek his/her powerful intervention. The person you see there can turn you away, but is only the boss's secretary/receptionist, part-time chauffeur, and full-time limousine, so to speak. The actual Power sometimes takes over the wheel.

Yah, King Suleiman gave orders to the djinn and ifrits, so it is said, and Western Ceremonial Magicians of the sort A. E. Waite wrote about aspired to the same power over demons and perhaps even angels. (The popular old American cure-book POW-WOWS or the Long-Lost Friend got its commanding spells from the author's German background, where hexerei still thrived. But note how often Christ or the cross is cited as the source of authority!)

However, most pagan god-worshipers, like most of their Judeo-Christian-Islamic counterparts, do or did not intend to "control" or have "power-over" their gods. Quite the contrary, in fact the reverse. And that includes the shamans.

Look closely at the Tibetan phurba, often wrongly called a three-sided "dagger"(point and edges are never sharpened like that, it's sometimes made of wood!), actually descended from the three-sided tent stake which was the basis of civilization for tent-dwellers in a windy mountainous region. At the top is a protective god's head, watchful three-faced Vajrakila bringing his wrath against demons. May no wind-demons ever blow your tent away!

Wind-demons are also blamed for bringing disease and all misfortune to people. How do Bön shamans fight such demons near a sickbed? By pegging them down to the Earth with a (frequently wooden, metal-tipped) phurba-stake -- to which they are bound by cords so they can't get away. And the other word for a phurba is kila (note the god's name), while the verb kil means "to bind, fasten, stake, pin."

Oh, and in the middle, between the head and the stake? That's a dorje, also seen as a separate ritual tool; it symbolizes a lighting bolt, the wrath of Mighty Heaven.* Poor wind-demons don't have a chance against a combined tool like that!

But the take-away from all this is that the shaman is not acting to gain power and status for himself or herself. The shaman is acting as an agent of the gods, as an agent of Mighty Heaven, and for the benefit of the sick or others afflicted among the people of the region. This was why these skills were laboriously taught in the first place, not for his or her benefit alone.

The "lonely" parts... such as meditating to achieve the "body of light"... you might accuse of such selfishness. But by the same token, exactly what they are not accomplishing is any social "power and status" -- as few hermits surpass the gregarious and extroverted in these matters.

* In Mongolian, Möngke Tengri, the one deity called upon by Temujin the Chinggis-Khan. His Mongol Empire's troops wore the metal dorje atop their helmets. A cloth knot of the same shape atop hats is still the identifying national mark of modern Mongolia.

Raven said...

... dedicated to Odin, myself to myself, ...

     — Hávamál

Lift up the self by the Self
and do not let the self droop down;
for the Self is the self's only friend
and the self is the Self's only foe.

     — Bhagavad Gita, ch 6 v 5

An Initiate, therefore, is one whose Higher Self it is that looks out at us through his eyes.

     — Dion Fortune, The Training and Work of an Initiate, ch III

... Let myself become myself, and reached my mastery at last.

     — C. M. Joserlin, "Initiate" (1984), last line

Raven said...

This time as 1st-person quotation. Again, compare Odin's rune-quest.

Igjugarjuk's Training:

When I was to be a shaman, I chose suffering through the two things that are most dangerous to us humans, suffering through hunger and suffering through cold....

My instructor was my wife's father, Perqanaq. When I was to be exhibited to Pinga and Hila, he dragged me on a little sledge that was no bigger than I just could sit on it; he dragged me far over on the other side of Hikoligjuaq. ... It was in wintertime and took place at night with the new moon; one could just see the very first streak of the moon; it had just appeared in the sky. I was not fetched again until the next moon was of the same size. Perqanaq built a small snow hut being no bigger than that I could just get under cover and sit down. I was given no sleeping skin to protect me against the cold, only a little piece of caribou skin to sit upon. There I was shut in. The entrance was closed with a block, but no soft snow was thrown over the hut to make it warm. When I sat there five days, Perqanaq came with water, tepid, wrapped in caribou skin, a watertight caribou-skin bag. Not until fifteen days afterwards did he come again and hand me the same, just giving himself time to hand it to me, and then he was gone again, for even the old shaman must not interrupt my solitude. ... As soon as I had become alone, Perqanaq enjoined me to think of only one thing all the time I was to be there, to want only one single thing, and that was to draw Pinga's attention to the fact that there I sat and wished to be a shaman: Pinga should own me. My novitiate took place in the coldest winter, and I, who never got anything to warm me, and must not move, was very cold, and it was so tiring having to sit without daring to lie down, that sometimes it was as if I died a little. Only towards the end of the thirty days did a helping spirit come to me, a lovely and beautiful helping spirit, whom I had never thought of; it was a white woman; she came to me while I had collapsed, exhausted, and was sleeping. But still I saw her lifelike, hovering over me, and from that day I could not close my eyes or dream without seeing her. There is this remarkable thing about my helping spirit, that I have never seen her while awake, but only in dreams. She came to me from Pinga and was a sign that Pinga had now noticed me and would give me powers that would make me a shaman.

When a new moon was lighted and had the same size as the one that had shone for us when we left the village, Perqanaq came again with his little sledge and ... dragged me home in the same manner....

Later, when I had quite become myself again, I understood that I had become the shaman of my village, and it did happen that my neighbors or people from a long distance away called me to heal a sick person, or to inspect a course if they were going to travel. ... Then I left tent or snow house and went out into solitude: away from the dwellings of man, but those who remained behind had to sing continuously, just to keep themselves happy and lively. If anything difficult had to be found out, my solitude had to extend over three days and two nights, or three nights and two days. In all that time I had to wander about without rest, and only sit down once in a while on a stone or a snowdrift. ...

True wisdom is only to be found far away from people, out in the great solitude, and... only through suffering. Solitude and suffering open the human mind, and therefore a shaman must seek his wisdom there.

— excerpted from Knud Rasmussen, Observations on the Intellectual Culture of the Caribou Eskimos (1929).