• Awakening Soul

Symbols of Initiation and Counter-Initiation

"Nature has invented death so that she might have abundant life." - Goethe The world of Maya, the 'Matrix' - a world of abstract spatial appearances which veil an underlying world of meaning - has always been depicted by mytho-spiritual tradition as the realms of darkness, shadows, deep seas, frozen ground, and death itself. It is the realm where we are naturally tempted by our subconscious instincts of thirst, hunger, and lust, often committing violence to secure these objects we desire. At the polar opposite, we have a world which thaws the frozen ground in Spring, prepares the soil for crops, stimulates the blooming of flowers, invites the awakening of animals in hibernation, and celebrates the ever-increasing arc of the Sun. These images point to the 'taming' of natural instincts - their renewal and resurrection - by way of our dawning logic, rationality, and reason. Our desires, feelings, thoughts, and actions then begin working in more conscious and peaceful harmony with each other. Within this more ecological context, it is seen clearly why Goethe was correct - the pole of life is not possible without the pole of 'death'. The former naturally comes into abundance by ceaselessly working against the latter.

No one should deny the danger of the descent, but it can be risked. No one need risk it, but it is certain that someone will. And let those who go down the sunset way do so with open eyes, for it is a sacrifice which daunts even the gods.

- Carl Jung, Symbols of Transformation

The overall narrative of human history and the individual's experience of it is more nuanced in its specifics. The rationality which blossomed from our inner thinking capacity can also rigidify and morph into a reckless debasement of Nature and Culture. We discovered this fact throughout the 20th century, in its many machinations within the so-called 'civilized' world, and in the most horrific ways. Entire human populations, and many critical aspects of the Earth's living organism, were decimated in the name of rational science and "progress". The polar pendulum swung rather abruptly from the 'Age of Reason' and 'Enlightenment' to the century of World Wars, totalitarianism, nihilism, and environmental catastrophes. Instead of awakening God from within our souls, we killed God with our entirely lopsided rationality and ideology. It is, without a doubt, difficult to perceive the "abundant life" which could be the fruit of such a deeply rooted, systematic course of death and destruction. A typical and understandable reaction to these horrors is a longing for the 'old days'; a 'simpler' past state, when the complexities of conscious ego-independence were diminished or altogether extinguished. It is a desire to return to the womb of the unconscious Matrix from which our spatial life was born; to annihilate our rational ego-"I" and have all our immediate needs provided for us by an external power, whether that be 'the State', Nature, "God", or some combination of all three. This desire will also manifest as an unquestioning faith in humanity's "progress" towards 'Xanadu', a pleasure-dome of material luxuries; an expectation that the Divine meaning missing from our lives will be bestowed upon us if we wait passively for it to arrive, occasionally venturing into the world to cast our votes in political elections, before retreating back to our leather recliners. This sentiment has manifested itself in the search for Utopia which has undergirded practically all secular and religious world-conceptions for the last 150 years. "And that is not all: even if man really were nothing but a piano-key, even if this were proved to him by natural science and mathematics, even then he would not become reasonable, but would purposely do something perverse out of simple ingratitude, simply to gain his point. And if he does not find means he will contrive destruction and chaos, will contrive sufferings of all sorts, only to gain his point! He will launch a curse upon the world, and as only man can curse (it is his privilege, the primary distinction between him and other animals), maybe by his curse alone he will attain his object--that is, convince himself that he is a man and not a piano-key! If you say that all this, too, can be calculated and tabulated--chaos and darkness and curses, so that the mere possibility of calculating it all beforehand would stop it all, and reason would reassert itself, then man would purposely go mad in order to be rid of reason and gain his point!"

- Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground

An unwarranted faith in the purely rational nature of man is what leads all Utopian movements horribly astray. The rational ego of man is only one of his evolved components and it is the most recently evolved one at that. We also possess the physical components of the mineral kingdom, the life-forces of the plant kingdom, and the soul-forces of the animal kingdom. The latter encompass our inner life of desires and feelings which are rich in meaning, but, to all those who take an honest inventory, also reveal themselves as chaotic, and sometimes even perverse, forces within us. When we venture out into social settings, we generally do a great job of masking these inner demons with our 'personas', but what about when we are all alone with them? That is when some portion reveals itself to our conscious ego and confronts us as a villainous stranger who has trespassed on our thought-life. That is, at least, before we manage to tell ourselves pleasant stories and rationalize this dark passenger away.

"What does it signify, this perpetual, prurient prodding and probing back to the personality behind the idea? It signifies, first and foremost, that we have lost all sense of the reality of ideas. Thought – and indeed anything mixed with thought – we now feel to be no more than a shadow hovering over the surface of something more solid – ‘these thoughts’ (as the author of Trivia once put it) ‘dipped up from that phantasmagoria or phosphorescence which, by some unexplained process of combustion, flickers over the large lump of soft gray matter in the bowl of my skull.’ To-day we are all Marxists, to this extent, that we feel a profound contempt for mere ‘ideology’. Only, unlike Marx, we do not all admit it or realize it. Yet, none the less, in our secret heart of hearts do we no longer believe knowledge of any sort to be possible." - Owen Barfield, Psychology and Reason In reaction to this naive rationalism, there also developed its shadow philosophy - 'postmodern' and 'post-structural' linguistic philosophy. After 20th century philosophy, psychology, and science had clearly demonstrated the irrational aspects of the psyche, this irrationality was then spread over the soul and spirit of man in their entirety. The spatial idolatry, which fixes phenomena in abstract space and linear time, once again reified the most prevalent intellectual capacity of man into the only possible cognitive capacity he could attain. In this way, the shadow-rationalists declared that the light of higher Reason cannot possibly redeem the dark and threatening forces of irrationality within us, and any suggestion that such a thing is possible must be a mere "meta-narrative", or a "language-game", to be viewed with the utmost cynicism and duly discarded. There is no point even thinking about any such suggestions, because we, once again fantasizing ourselves at the pinnacle of human evolution, have already ruled out the possibility that our logically reasoned thinking will lead us to any deeper understanding of our inner being.

"Yet every descent is followed by an ascent; the vanishing shapes are shaped anew, and a truth is valid in the end only if it suffers change and bears new witness in new images, in new tongues, like a new wine that is put into new bottles." - Carl Jung

So now we are still stuck with our mechanized rational thinking and abstract speculation, because any attempt to overcome these faculties in search for higher ones is considered yet another form of "rationalism" and "Utopianism". There was, however, another inner stream of thinking which was flowing right alongside all these other forms mentioned above. Since Plato's Allegory of the Cave, pre-modern Western philosophy and spiritual tradition had spoken plainly and openly of the ascension to the spiritual realm of Light through the physical realm of shadows. Certain esoteric or 'occult' streams of this tradition, especially since the early Middle Ages, had further highlighted how we could begin transfiguring the physical appearances back into their spiritual essence through deepened and devotional contemplation, i.e. our living Reason. To undertake this spiritual evolution, we must first learn to consciously dwell within the spiritual realms of durational meaning, with an aim of bringing back what is learned there into the gradual unfolding of our lives on the physical plane.

"But the way to the Truth and to the Life in the Spirit has to be deliberately sought, and for this it is necessary for modern humanity to plunge down into the dark depths of midnight in order to find the light that kindles itself in man"

- Rudolf Steiner, The Spiritual Communion of Mankind

Seen in this way, the polar relation between the spiritual and the physical, time and space, the light and the shadows, life and death, is no longer a matter of mere metaphor or metaphysics, but also finds its expression in our daily encounters with the world content. Since ancient times, this practical aspect has been reflected through initiations for both the physical and the spiritual realms. The former was a rite for young children who were taking on the hardship of vocations in the physical world, while the latter was for adults as they moved on from various physical vocations in their communities to a more exclusively spiritual one. Physical initiations prepared children for their involution into the rational sense-world - 'the dark depths of midnight' - and spiritual initiations prepared the battle-tested soul for consciously growing and evolving back into the imaginative spiritual realm. The spiritual initiations were traditionally only available to a select few, but, just as the impulse towards political, economic, social, and cultural freedom blossomed in the modern age, so too did the impulse towards spiritual freedom. The individual became the locus of spiritual agency. He was to be the good shepherd of all that was previously revealed and maintained only through the traditions and customs of collectives. "Like the new philosophies, the innovations typical of the Hellenistic religions were directed to the individual’s salvation. The closed organizations, involving eschatological initiation and revelation, multiply. The initiatory tradition of the Eleusinian Mysteries will be taken over and amplified by the various mysteriosophic religions centered around divinities held to have experienced and conquered death (§ 205). Such divinities were closer to man; they took an interest in his spiritual progress and insured his salvation. Side by side with the gods and goddesses of the Hellenistic Mysteries—Dionysus, Isis, Osiris, Cybele, Attis, Mithra—other divinities became popular, and for the same reason: Helios, Heracles, Asclepius protect and help the individual." - Mircea Eliade, History of Religious Ideas: Volume 2 During this process of individuation, the murky shadow of the individual accompanied his 'enlightened' figure in opposite measure. The responsibility for him to undertake his spiritual initiation also came with the temptation of him to indulge a counter-initiation. While the former is intended to prepare his soul for ascension into the spiritual, the latter intends to chain his soul perpetually to the physical. The spiritual initiation seeks to impart him with the knowledge needed to comprehend the long-forgotten realms of durational meaning, while the counter-initiation seeks to bind his knowledge - indeed his core being - to the physical world of fixed spatial appearances. The modern secular counter-initiation finds a clear expression in methods of preserving human bodies for eventual resuscitation, i.e. cryogenic chambers. Consider the following recent headline - "Inside a remote desert facility, hundreds of human bodies lie frozen in capsules, each waiting for their second life to start." This facility, of course, only houses those human bodies who have the financial resources to afford the luxury of longevity.

"Outside the squat concrete Alcor building, the temperatures can rise to more than 40 degrees for eight months of the year. Inside, Bedford and the other humans, with enough ongoing financial support to remain frozen indefinitely, are kept at 200 degrees below zero. ... Bedford is the oldest “de-animated”, or cryogenically frozen human being on earth. Since his original placement in the dewar, hundreds of people have opted to join him in the hope of a second life in the future." The Universal initiation through Christ intended that souls be born again through their own devotional thinking efforts; its counter-initiation seeks a "second life" via greedy impulses, with no inner effort to speak of. Another secular expression of counter-initiation is embedded in "transhumanism" and an approaching 'technological singularity'. It involves the complete merging of man and machine; the 'uploading' of man's conscious inner life - soul and spirit - into the 'cloud' where it can be stored and retrieved at our pleasure, or, perhaps, at someone else's pleasure. We have all seen recent cinematic depictions of this process as well, such as the popular 'Black Mirror' series on Netflix. Consider how much time and attention is already absorbed by digital devices in modern culture; how much young people, who are quickly becoming the new generation of 'adults', rely exclusively on such devices to know anything about the world they encounter. When we walk down the street of any populated area, chances are good that we will encounter most people walking with their heads down and their gaze firmly fixed to whatever manipulative content is manifesting on their digital screens.

"We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares have been set around us, and there is nothing that should frighten or upset us. We have been put into life as into the element we most accord with, and we have, moreover, through thousands of years of adaptation, come to resemble this life so greatly that when we hold still, through a fortunate mimicry we can hardly be differentiated from everything around us. We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience."

- Rainier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

We should make no mistake - these counter-initiatory processes are already occurring in many ways, will continue to occur in more significant ways, and there is no use railing against them now. Protesting with placards outside of Microsoft's headquarters and chanting anti-materialistic slogans will do no good. Instead, we prepare ourselves for this reality - a reality which we are all complicit in manifesting - by coming to deeply understand it. In the process of knowing it, at its very core, we also learn to love it. We seek always to discover what is best for it and for us alike; to harmonize our respective interests, by working through its appearances with our inner Light. That is how our living Reason can begin to raise up our inner shadows into a new life, making a spiritualized Heaven out of a materialized Hell. Our holistic thinking can take what is most frightening and threatening and find ways to make it imminently useful. That is the power of the Universal initiation which occurred 2,000 years ago - everything which is dead-set against it can also be used to ennoble it through our knowing efforts. Keeping that high ideal always in mind, with a grateful attitude for the abundant thoughtful opportunities we are blessed with, we will continue on to explore a spiritualized counter-initiatic manifestation, which emerged several millennia ago from ancient China:

"The ultimate goal of the adepts was to obtain physical immortality. The ideogram for the Immortal (hsien), depicting a man and a mountain, suggests a hermit; but its earliest forms represented a dancing man waving his sleeves like a bird beating its wings.The adept in the process of obtaining immortality was covered with feathers, and wings sprouted from his shoulders. “To ascend to heaven in broad daylight” was the consecrated formula for the Master’s final apotheosis. A second category comprised the adepts who lived for centuries in a sort of earthly paradise: the Wonderful Islands or the Sacred Mountain, K’unlün. They returned to earth from time to time to transmit the formulas for physical immortality to certain neophytes worthy to receive it. Finally, the third category included those who did not attain to the earthly paradises until after death. But this death was only apparent: in the coffin they left a staff, a sword, or a pair of sandals, to which they had given the appearance of their body. This was called the “freeing of the corpse.” The Immortals were sometimes represented with a disproportionately large skull, a sign that their mind had stored up a great deal of yang energy." - Mircea Eliade Eliade writes above about an initiatic tradition which arose from Taoist practitioners, close to the time of Christ incarnate. By all accounts, this time was marked by spiritual upheavals across the globe. A new relationship of humanity to the Divine - a new covenant - was being inked within the human heart. Ancient mythology contains many references to Divine messengers who were tasked with gradually delivering knowledge of this new covenant, such as those depicted in ancient Greek mythology and the Old Testament. The latter conveys images of the prophets and those other beings known only in the text as, "Angels of the Lord". These references are found throughout the canon and speak to the ongoing-and-upcoming reconciliation of God and man; the spiritual and the physical; heaven and earth. The spatial images of such angels are now very familiar to us. They are tall in stature, surrounded by an etheric aura, and possess mighty beating wings. If the initiatory angels are tasked with preparation of man's soul for ascension into luminous spiritual realms, then what are the counter-initiatory angels tasked with? Perhaps they are tasked with adapting the souls of men to a world plunged into darkness.

"By freeing himself from the three inner demons, the adept begins to feed on dew or the cosmic “breaths”; he inhales not only the atmospheric air but also the solar, lunar, and stellar emanations. According to certain recipes, documented in the third century after Christ, the emanation of the sun must be absorbed at noon (when the yang is at its height), that of the moon (containing the yin) at midnight. But above all it is necessary to hold the breath; by an inner vision and by concentrating his thought, the adept is able to visualize his breath and conduct it through the three Fields of Cinnabar. If he holds his breath for the time required, for one thousand respirations, he obtains immortality." - Mircea Eliade A world of darkness requires eyes adapted to perceiving in the dark; a vision which can come to know the world independently of the Sunlight. Man must then strengthen his inner thinking organism, but only in a horizontal direction - only in terms of material relations in the world of shadows. Knowledge emanating from the spiritual realms must be thrust down into the physical plane, abstracted and reduced. Instead of taking what the Spirit gives in its breath of life, transfiguring it, and freely returning it to Nature for the benefit of all living beings, the counter-adept must hoard the breath for 'one thousand respirations'. These images should be mined for their meaning as concretely as possible. The human soul's breathing process is an image of his perceiving and thinking, a process which inhales meanings and exhales perceptions. Consider how breathing informs speech - when we communicate word-forms to others, we do so by way of our outer voice. When we communicate to ourselves in concepts, i.e. when we think, we do so by way of our inner voice. To hoard our breath, then, is to keep whatever insights are gained by our thinking only to ourselves, for the attainment of purely material goals. While the initiatory secrets were being democratized to "make disciples of all nations", the counter-initiatory ones were being further concealed. Just like its secular counterpart, the spiritual counter-initiation intends to bring about physical 'immortality' for its disciples. Instead of relying on only preservative technologies which act on the physical organism, however, it also works to employ psycho-technologies acting on the soul organism. There is no better way to bind the body to its spatial idolatry than to also bind the heart and the mind which enlivens it. Again, it must be restated here that, if we wish to deeply understand these developments, we cannot rush to pass judgment or confront them with our emotions. They will, without a doubt, leave a pungent odor and a sour taste after contemplation, but we should also work hard not to indulge our visceral reactions to them. "Another method for obtaining longevity involves a sexual technique that is at once a ritual and a way of meditation... A text of the fifth century A.D. states that through “perfect meditation . . . men and women can practice the method of Eternal Life.” Through meditation the two partners must “lose consciousness of their body and consciousness of the external world”; then, after uttering prayers, the man must concentrate on the loins and the woman on the heart. 'This is the method for not dying'. ... The Immortal Jung Ch’eng Kung’s knowledge of the method of “repairing and conducting” was perfect. “He drew the essence from the mysterious Female”; his principle was that the vital spirits that reside in the Valley do not die, for by them life is maintained and the breath is nourished. His hair, which was white, became black again; his teeth, which had fallen out, grew once more. His practices were exactly the same as those of Lao Tzŭ. He is also said to have been “Lao Tzŭ’s master.” Some adepts used a method that has been termed “vampirism” and that was condemned as not orthodox."

- Mircea Eliade Vampires are the shadow images of the Lord's Angels who mediate between the Divine and the souls of men. It is no coincidence that these images have become so popular and valorized in our current day, when the reality of soul and spirit can hardly be concealed. These shared memory-images precipitate into the realm where our artistic thinking can reach, but they are tinged with counter-initiatory meanings. Vampiric images portray to us examples of all things prideful, vain, egoistic, and, often, bloody cruel. Instead of inspiring the offering of our blood to others in the self-sacrificial example of the Christ incarnate, who is considered the fulfillment of the initiatic mystery traditions, blood is taken from others to sustain one's own physical existence. Unlike those adopted into the 'body' of Christ, those who are adopted into the body of the vampiric cult, by way of death and resuscitation through the blood of a counter-initiate, become spiritually poorer and weaker for their troubles. They become more and more addicted to mere physical pleasures, chasing ever-receding highs from the healthy soul-life of others. “Once again... welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring... Remember my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker.- Bram Stoker, Dracula Eliade pointed our attention to the counter-initiate's method of conducting his breath through "the three Fields of Cinnabar". Cinnabar is an ore discovered very early in ancient China - a compound of mercury and sulfur - which can be sourced for brilliant red pigments and refined for elemental mercury, also known as quicksilver. In esoteric spiritual tradition, quicksilver is considered a therapeutic which can reintegrate processes separated within the living organism. These include catarrhal processes which arise due to infections, where tissue tracts are torn away from the organism as a whole. There may or may not be a concrete physiological dimension to these traditions, but our purpose here is only to mine the deeper spiritual meaning. It is our Thinking activity which integrates the fragmented aspects of our existence; which quickens our decaying inner experience so that it may ascend to new life within our spiritual organism. When we perceive, desire, and feel, we take what is common and make it particular to our individual being. When we Think, in a qualitative and holistic way, we reach back with our spirit into the layers of shared meaning which permeate All-Being. “How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.- Dracula Instead of developing spiritual freedom in a life of fully conscious and integrating thought - a life of imaginations, inspirations, and intuitions - the counter-initiate is chained to a life of base instincts and worldly knowledge; a world of dreaming and, eventually, of total unconsciousness. These patterns of counter-initiatory methods are therefore quite easy to identify when we know to look for them in the way we have above. Sentient robots, vampires, werewolves, and the like, are only the tip of the iceberg. Counter-initiation focuses its efforts on dampening our qualitative knowing capacity because it is precisely that capacity which is most effective in resisting its counter-attacks. It is that faculty within us which is humble, meek, and gracious; the vision which can boldly encounter what is erroneous, ugly, and bad in the world, and yet still find a way to perceive what is true, beautiful, and good living within it. We only need to dwell on counter-initiations in so far as our knowledge of them is nourishing to our own genuine initiation. And perhaps, one day in the Arc of the Spirit, the two streams will be united through our Knowing once again.

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