Transparency is the Only Shield against Disaster (Parts 6–7)
Editor’s note: This is the third of three installments. The complete essay has seven parts. See installment 1 (parts 1–2) and installment 2 (parts 3–5).
As above, so below: there is one thread that somehow turns into a labyrinth, within which we get lost. Though the words might be identical, the two faces of the Guide do not speak with one mouth, nor does either ear seem hear the same thing as the other. Humans and their overseers can appear to be irreconcilably opposed. In the Nag Hammadi text “On the Origin of the World,” for example, we read about a conflict between the Archons and the newly lobotomized Adam, whom years of recombinant trauma had transformed into a pet.
And when they had finished Adam, he abandoned him as an inanimate vessel, since he had taken form “like an abortion,” in that no spirit was in him. Regarding this thing, when the chief ruler remembered the saying of Pistis, he was afraid lest the True Man enter his modeled form and become its lord. For this reason he left his modeled form 40 days without soul, and he withdrew and abandoned it. Now on the 40th day Sophia sent her breath into Adam, who had no soul. He began to move upon the ground. And he could not stand up.
Some might see this passage as a description of an early stage in human psycho-cultural evolution, whose imperatives were governed by the iron hand of biology. I, on the contrary, see the aftermath of a holocaust, the fallout from a war between the worlds. A catastrophe of the first magnitude has occurred. This is not the fall of humans through original sin; rather, it is the fall of a world order through some defect in the cosmos, a defect that is magnified by the black arts of the Archons. If the defect is necessary, the Archons add a layer of misdirection. There is nothing natural about the creature we observe, the man/beast grazing like a cow. Shocked silent, he is the afterbirth of Chaos, a survivor condemned to wander, inch by inch, across the landscape left by the Deluge, an orphan powerless to decipher the few symbols that he finds. Petrified hands and feet and heads thrust here and there from the mud. What was formerly Omphalos looks just like any crater on the moon. You would never guess that there the eight worlds intersected, or that the man/beast, scratching lice out of his armpit, was its oracle.
Somehow, this creature has forgotten how to “stand,” that is, to fulfill his role as intermediary between the vertical and the horizontal axes. Standing, in this sense, is an esoteric concept. His failure is not due to any physical disability, nor is it a sign pointing to some evolutionary wrong turn. In our natural state, as this has been commonly understood for the past 12,000 years, few human beings have the capacity to stand. Earlier, we were less natural and more open. We were the simultaneous inhabitants of a multitude of cities. Such standing is not really something that it is possible to learn; rather, it is something that we are required to remember, most often by means of the intervention of a Guide.
Upon receiving Shaktipat from Anandi Ma in 1990, many esoteric concepts suddenly broke open, and I had flashes of insight into what it meant to stand. As waves of energy moved upward from the feet to the base of the spine to the head, then down again through the front channel of the body, I felt that I was witnessing the reverse birth of each world from a previous world, and so on back before any worlds existed. As from a great height, I saw the gods projecting worlds out of their bodies, those gods who were the earlier and stronger versions of ourselves, just as humans were both the later and the earlier versions of the gods.
These terms pose a conundrum. They are as difficult to disentangle as two strands of DNA. There were actors, and some went first. Originally, they had come to observe their images in the ocean, reflected back from the surface of black water, only to find that they were inside instead of outside of their bodies. These were the Avant-Garde, the true romantics of their day, the shock troops for the joyous self-destruction of omnipotence. Billions more would follow. Few victims of alien bioengineering would remember that it was they who had launched the first tests in the experiment. It was they who had impregnated the first dream. It was they who had set up the first cages.
The space where all of this happened, or still happens, should more properly be called “hyperspace”; divisions into Self and Other were irrelevant to the process. Any wounding of the Other was experienced by the Self. What the One knew was immediately transparent to the Other. But that was then, in a world that few believe could ever have existed. Again, as from a height, I can reenact the sacrifices, both made and demanded, by the out-of-the-box creators who destroy. My perception of such things is subtler now, less visual and apocalyptic, but the experiences of that period remain with me as a memory. I brood on how efficiently explosive energies can be contained. I wonder at how energy can move and jump beyond itself, without impediment, in a continuous a-causal feedback loop.
Great energy is needed to gain access to the Self. In our normal state, we do not have nearly enough; so where is the rest of the energy supposed to come from? If we look at “E=Mc squared” as a metaphor, we could assume that it does not have to come from anywhere, since no energy can be either created or destroyed. The sum-total remains constant; it inheres in space. The challenge is to get from a contracted to an expanded state of energy.
In the physical world, we could free the energy that is trapped inside the atom, and, in the world of the collective psyche, we could free the energy that is encoded in each archetype. The price of freedom, in both of these cases, would be death. In the world of the psyche, however, death is only the first in a long series of ordeals. The majority of these, according to the Egyptian Book of the Dead and other ancient sources, are scheduled to unfold beyond the threshold of Orion. We die, and some form of trapped energy is released. What we want to do with this energy can take ages to discover. Step by step, we approach the boundary of the time-cycle, where its gears interlock with those of an even greater cycle. Without the Self, there would be no way through or out of the beyond. Without the Shadow, there would be no way for the Guide to illuminate its agenda.
A key has been left at the depths of the unconscious. We can use it to open the door marked “EXIT,” which we had earlier misread as “ENTRANCE,” a whole age ago, before we wandered into the dream.
“Unas, take the Eye of Horus that was rescued for you, which will not separate itself from you.”—from the Pyramid of Unas Text
Henry Corbin, in The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, writes
For the totality of man’s being, the transcendent personal dimension he discerns in the northern light, in the “midnight sun,” is not merely the sum total of orient and Occident, of left and right, of conscious and unconscious. The man of light’s ascent causes the shades of the well where he was held captive to fall back into themselves. Hermes does not carry his shadow with him; he discards it; for he rises up, and correspondingly the “cities of the oppressors” sink down into the abyss. And it is difficult, we must confess, to read with equanimity certain interpretations of the coincidentia oppositorum where complementaries and contradictories are apparently indiscriminately lumped together under the head of opposita.
According to Corbin, the darkness of the Shadow is contradictory to the darkness of the Deus Absconditus, the hidden god, the midnight sun, the luminous darkness of the Pole. He asserts that we must strip away the one to experience the other, that Ormazd and Ahriman are brothers in name only, that the Opponent and the Friend are not in any way connected. I would not argue that all forms of darkness are equivalent. I would not deny that that a world of light exists. I would not argue that the path of direct ascent is wrong, only that this path is one path out of many.
The Arabic “Alef” is a vertical slash. The Hebrew “Alef” is closer to a figure-eight. I would say that to ascend is to be willing to descend, that all lines meet within the context of a sphere. In Kabbalah, the Sephirot—the active powers of creation—can be imagined as a series of ten concentric rings or as a tree with ten interconnected centers. The vertical path of Horus and the cyclical path of Osiris both point to the three Belt Stars of Orion. If the world of light is not static but dynamic, then our Guide should be no less so. I would argue, based not on theory but on my own experience, that the Shadow, the Double, the Inner Teacher, and the Preexistent Guide are all aspects of one single presence. Its energy is explosive, and it has the power to obliterate or to transform what it touches.
There is a stone that the builders rejected. It is a fragment from a comet. It is the keystone without which the arch of heaven cannot stand. Neither bright nor dark, not limited by any role, there is a presence that delights in tying complex knots in our psyches. He does not hesitate to contradict himself. Contracted, this presence appears to be one’s enemy; expanded, it appears to be one’s friend. Quite strangely, it is neither of the above. If its agenda overlaps, in many ways and at certain times, with our own, it would nonetheless be a mistake, on this side of the experience of death, to jump to any conclusions about how our motives will be viewed, about which side of the light/dark opposition we are on, about whether our heads are truly open at the top. Luck overtakes us, but perhaps we are being set up for the kill.
In the Nag Hammadi text called “Allogenes,” we read, of this figure “Allogenes,” “The Stranger,” that
He is superior to the Universals in his privation and unknowability, that is, the non-being existence, since he is endowed with silence and stillness lest he be diminished by those who are not diminished…For he is not perfect but he is another thing that is superior. He is neither boundless, nor is he bounded by another…He is not corporeal. He is not incorporeal. He is not a number. He is not a creature. Nor is he something that exists, that one can know. But he is something else of himself that is superior, which one cannot know…He neither participates in age nor does he participate in time…And he is much higher in beauty than all those that are good, and he is thus unknowable to all of them in every respect. And through them all he is in them all, not only as the unknowable knowledge that is proper to him. And he is united with the ignorance that sees him.
Has the Shadow become more user-friendly? No. Whether now or 2,000 or 10,000 years ago, the shared identity of the Shadow and the Guide has always presented itself in the form of an ultimatum, which we must torture our minds and bodies to interpret. When a question is posed, we must be aware of trickery, yes, but we must keep our ultimate goal in mind. “Without a companion,” says a figure in the Pyramid of Unas Text, “there is no god who has become a star.” The recipient of the question answers, “Will you be my companion?” The wrong choice may destroy us, for a time, but on a figure eight there is no fixed point of opposition. Can our choice of guide go badly? Of course; it is already far too late.
True ecstasy necessitates the removal of one’s skin. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge have never been two different trees. Our Guardians lie; it is the Serpent who instructs us. What we hear, however, will determine the breadth and depth of our transport, as well as the effect of the fruit that we have eaten. To misinterpret a metaphor will be to contemplate mass murder.
If and when he chooses, the Two-Faced Guide must lead us through the dead ends of our memory, through all of our mechanical slights-of-hand, through all of the roosts for unclean birds that we have built in our solar plexuses, though all of our derelict attachment to ideals. We have experienced traumas that were meant to serve as doorways, but did not. We have experienced wounds that were meant to be simultaneously their own cure. We have experienced amputations that continue to cause pain. Against all evidence, we know that these limbs have not ever disappeared. In the labyrinth that leads from Earth to the theatre beyond Time, it is possible that any wrong turn is correct.
Cast down from the sphere that gave him birth, there is a Shadow who conducts obscure experiments on our fears. He is the Guardian of Nonduality. Through the integration of his lower energies we gain access to his higher functions. Bit by bit, the Shadow reveals his shared identity with the Guide. Ascending through the worlds, a lightning flash joins each part to the All. The web is infinite, and our vision correspondingly grows. At the same time, the key players in the drama can be counted on two hands. With each leap of energy, we are given a chance to reinterpret our partial view of the Apocalypse, to test how destruction is bound up with disclosure. The present to which we return is both simpler and much stranger than the one from which we had so long ago departed. Already, the Apocalypse has happened, even as, at each moment, it is just about to occur.
Fresh from the ocean, the ghosts of Antarctica grow dangerously real. They cry for a drop of blood. They cry for the death of the world order that withholds it. By Stealth, Aeonic speech will reconstitute the genome, as it has in previous ages. Defrosted mammoths will once more trumpet from the tundra. Magnetic north will once again relocate. With their bird-staffs, with their bodies the only evidence of the cultures they preserved, half-crazed teachers will once more crawl from their subterranean tubes.
At the end, all of space must become more intimate than a sex act. There are not many actors on the stage of the one-inch city. Our future ancestors had found it necessary to cut the zeros from large numbers. Each actor plays several, and quite contradictory, roles. Each man may have played the parts of several billion women; each woman, in turn, may have played the parts of several billion men. It is certainly possible that the Shadow is not different from the Guide, however much one transmits and the other withholds his luminosity, however much this complicity might seem to be a battle. When no worlds were, it is possible that all knowledge was inherent in the black light of Ayn Soph, in the pregnant darkness of the Deus Absconditus. To attempt to see at one moment the two faces of the Guide is to pursue a path that is almost endlessly recursive. There is no drama that has not ceased to exist. We are the fossils that our perfect avatars collect for their amusement.