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Songlines OF THE SOUL
Pathways to A New Vision for a New Century
By VERONICA GOODCHILD
NICOLAS-HAYS, INC.Copyright © 2012 Veronica Goodchild
All rights reserved.
The Return of the Mysteries
The dream is over.
God is a Concept, John Lennon
The Age of Aquarius will involve the true discovery of the Divine Guest within us, and with it the need to recognize this in all people and in nature, as well: it will be the dialectic of the individual and the cosmos.... a deep understanding of the interdependence of all life.... the unus mundus of the mystics and the alchemists.... the reemergence of Hagia Sophia, the feminine wisdom hidden in nature and in us.
There is a knowledge that secretly and imperceptibly tries to make its way into our world from time to time over the course of history. This knowledge is subtle, residing in a space that is neither precisely inside nor precisely outside—it is found in the intervals between waking, sleeping, and dreaming. From the earliest philosophers and shamans, to the alchemical mystic philosophers, to the Sufi Gnostics and Western mystics, through to Jung's psychology of the transpersonal unconscious and beyond to his observations about the "transpsychic" landscape of reality, we can glimpse the streams of underground initiates, who through direct experience of this reality, sought to keep this vital knowledge—sometimes called the aurea catena or golden chain—alive.
Today, however, this knowledge is no longer the province of the mystical few. All of us, in our own unique way, are being asked to participate in a new spiritual flowering on our planet Earth, a blossoming that gives as much room to eros (interconnectedness and love) as is has heretofore given to logos (rational thinking and the scientific method). It is often extraordinary experiences of a non-ordinary or rare and wondrous kind that give us glimpses of this golden chain, expand our sense of who we are and set us on a path of personal transformation.
In focusing on these kinds of experiences and the changes in consciousness that arise from them, I am suggesting in this book that we can detect a new vision of life emerging, a new worldview for a new millennium. A new and expanding human being is gradually emerging from the death of outmoded containers of thought and from the ashes of our civilization that is disintegrating all around us. The notion of the unconscious in Freud and Jung's work—the idea of a secret and "unknown" world that informs our feelings and actions—has been incorporated into the life of the mind—both in psychology and in almost every discipline beyond psychology. Now it is time for the imagination, for the soul, for eros and love to help balance and re-orchestrate the energy that is falling out of all the old forms that no longer serve our survival either physically or spiritually.
The new physics and transpersonal psychology are discovering this silent intelligence as a fundamental reality as each discipline explores its separate territory. Though mechanistic Newtonian ideas in science are useful for the world of everyday reality and for technology, they are useless for explorations into the subatomic world in the deeper realms of matter and, in the same way, rational modes of discourse are inadequate for deeply spiritual experiences in non-ordinary states of awareness. Nevertheless, both the quantum physicist and the depth psychologist or mystic rely on empirical observation; the one from his experiments, the other from her experiences of the different levels of consciousness. Both now are compelled to include their own consciousness as part of a reciprocal unfolding of reality: in physics this is called the observer effect; in psychology it is called the predisposition or "personal equation" of the individual. Moreover, both are on the frontiers of exploring a reality way beyond the ordinary senses and both are dealing with multi-dimensional realities that are extremely difficult to describe in ordinary language. Furthermore, it is increasingly acknowledged by both scientists and depth psychologists that intuition, feeling, and the creative imagination are indispensable ingredients for a fuller description of reality. The new human is both scientist and mystic, both rational and visionary! We are experiencing the return of the mysteries.
My Dream of Suhrawardi
To give you an example of how this wisdom tradition is making its reality accessible to a modern 21st century woman, and what it has meant for my life personally, let me share a pivotal dream I had about Suhrawardi, a twelfth-century Sufi mystic, who has become a guide within my inner landscape. At the time of the dream—September 20, 2000—I had begun a very early draft of this book, which, at that time had been initiated by a desire to deepen my understanding of extraordinary events and unusual encounters that seemed to take place in a space that was neither dreaming nor waking.
In the dream, which takes place within the context of some sort of public event, an enlightened holy man who is old but nevertheless seems quite young, is dying, passing over into the beyond. Before he passes, he is trying to tell me something. He has a gentle demeanor, and a smile on his face that contains depths of feeling, pathos, and compassion. He tells me that he is so happy that he has been able to save or liberate a young boy. Although I do not yet know the boy, I understand that the holy man means to place the young boy in my care, and in the dream this has a deeply spiritual significance for me. Then the holy man—he seems to be a Tibetan monk— slowly and calmly dies. The next day I had a strong emotional response to this dream as I wrote it out. In ways that were quite incomprehensible on a rational level, it was very moving to me. In addition, quite unconsciously, I put on a red silk jacket with gray Tibetan tantric symbols woven into it—the double dorge (or visavajra)—signifying the sacred union of the hard, penetrating masculine and the multifaceted, reflecting feminine energies. (At the time, I was completely ignorant of the meaning of these symbols, but some colleagues later pointed them out to me.) While wearing the jacket, I had this curious sense of the enlightened being from my dream being present and surrounding me.
Since I was not familiar with this holy man who had made his appearance in my dream, I decided to engage in an active imagination exercise to find out more about him. I withdrew into a quiet, meditative state. Suddenly, a bird started to sing. The sound was so clear, so ethereal, so otherworldly, that it penetrated into the core of my soul. It felt like a song from another land. Then, all at once, the holy man in the dream and the bird became one. I thought, "So! He's appeared in the form of this bird." Then I asked, "Who are you? What is your name?" Immediately, the name of the twelfth-century Sufi mystic Suhrawardi came to my mind. The dialogue that unfolded led me to do some research on this Persian Gnostic. The only book I had in my own library at that time that mentioned his name was Dan Merkur's Gnosis. I opened to the appropriate section and read that one of Suhrawardi's mystical treatises was entitled, "The Treatise of the Birds." It is a story concerning the journey of the soul into the visionary landscape of the mundus imaginalis, revealed in his book as a beautiful city atop a mountain.
Suhrawardi (1153–1191) was a Persian Sufi visionary martyred at age thirty-eight for his defense of the ontological reality, the "really realness," of visionary states. Though he was also a logician, he developed a theory of visionary knowledge and illuminative wisdom, emphasizing the integrity of altered states of awareness, and valuing the union of gnosis—direct experience of these states—with rational reflection. Suhrawardi felt that the imaginal world was a reality upon which we could utterly rely. The initiates of his mystery school were called the "people of love," and their journey took them in the direction of "opening the heart." Upon reading this, I was overcome by a strong sense of belonging, the belonging of my soul to this mystical, visionary tradition, and a feeling, even deeper, of already knowing this man, this Friend of my heart. The only discrepancy was that the enlightened holy man in the dream was a Tibetan Buddhist, and Suhrawardi was a Persian Gnostic. What, I wondered, might be the link between these two traditions?
Tibet is the preserver and custodian of enlightenment teachings. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition accesses its insights by meditative practices involving the third eye, an organ of visions rather than of sight, that opens to the subtle world of imagination. In this imaginal domain, guides of the soul, spiritual mentors, enlightened historical teachers, masters and mentors from all the great spiritual traditions of the world, such as Suhrawardi, reside. Sufi Gnosticism, which follows a similar process, therefore has direct links with the practices and beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism.
It is both my belief and experience that this channel to the mundus imaginalis is being opened up again in our world today—and we need this knowledge desperately if we are to save ourselves. Once a culture has become too overwhelmed by materialism or destructive practices such as war, and the individual has been buried in a morass of conventional attitudes, often driven by fears that do not resonate with our truest essence, the soul begins to sense its terrible separation from the deeper waters of wisdom and compassion. Slowly, however, many individuals within our culture have begun to awaken, to recall our desire for freedom, our longing for an individually meaningful connection with the depths of existence, the joy of enlightenment, and a sense of unity beyond the self to all creation. The image of the holy man in my dream and his message within the context of a larger collective event—witness the figure of the young boy transferred to my care—strongly suggests that this significant awakening is upon us. So important has this figure become in my life that I strongly suspect that he is the guide, aiding me in my work of writing this book.
But the appearance of Suhrawardi in my dream has a further implication. As recent research into phenomena such as telepathy and remote viewing reveal, the human mind also acts non-locally. In such instances we can see and know things beyond the range of our physical senses. Communication can transcend space-time and therefore does not rely on a signal within our local, cause-effect universe. What this means is that at non-local levels we can access other dimensions of consciousness and reality, other times and places in history including the future coming toward us, other beings in other star systems who can reach us. In short, non-locally we can access the "always-everywhere" Akashic field and are being invited to tune in to the deeper nature of the cosmos.
Similarly, the sacred teachings of the Tibetan tradition were thought to have originally come from another place, sometimes called the Pure or Noble lands. These mystical lands, acknowledged by other spiritual traditions as well, have many names such as Shambhala, Avalon, and Hurqalya. The wisdom, the sacred knowledge, of these subtle imaginal worlds becomes accessible to us only under certain spiritual and emotional conditions. Following the "golden chain" tradition of which Suhrawardi was an initiate, the chapters in this book will share many accounts of direct experiences of the subtle world—historical as well as modern—and reflect upon what these sorts of experiences might mean for our further development not only as individuals, but as citizens of a living, consciously aware and interconnected cosmos. Achieving wholeness and awareness of who we truly are depends upon the inclusion of both experience and reflection.
My dream and its exploration led me to see that unusual events and encounters, such as the crop circle phenomena, near-death experiences, visions of Mary, and ET visitations—reflections upon which were preoccupying me at the time of the dream—are part of this tradition of love. It is once again seeking a way to enter our lives so that the esoteric truths of the past can become relevant once again today, converging toward a fuller description of reality and a more comprehensive worldview. One key to this ancient tradition that is trying to visit us once again is the power of vision and the imagination—true imagination, imaginatio vera, as it was called by the alchemists, as opposed to flights of fancy. In this way we can access the spiritual truths of the subtle imaginal interworld where the sacred knowledge is held, and assist in the evolution of consciousness.
Subtle Worlds and Imagination: The Work of Henri Corbin
Ultimately, the aim of this book is to recover the imaginal world of the soul, enabling readers to experience it as another dimension of being and awareness—not as an esoteric upper world or lower world but, as Suhrawardi claimed, an ever-present Other world that defies logical explanation because, as he writes, it is both within the body spatially and outside it as a separate location in the cosmos. The term imaginal originates with the recovery—from the ancient texts and practices of twelfth century Sufi mysticism—of what philosopher and theologian Henri Corbin calls the mundus imaginalis. This mundus imaginalis is a truly real though subtle landscape located in a "third domain" that is neither precisely spirit nor matter, but lies somewhere in-between the purely intellectual world of angelic intelligences and the sensible world of material things and participates in both.
The imaginal world is a "really real" place where an interiority becomes the threshold to a new "outside," a spiritual landscape where beings have extension and dimension of a subtle or "immaterial" kind. This is a world where space, being the outer aspect of an inner state, is created at will.
This third domain, the mundus imaginalis, is to be distinguished from purely imaginary or idealized ideas such as the notion of a utopia. In fact, Corbin considers utopian ideologies to be a displacement of the imaginal world. The key to experiencing this subtle realm with its own inhabitants, topographies, and mystical cities is through the faculty of imagination, or imaginatio vera as it was called in alchemy, to distinguish it from the fictive or self-aggrandizing fantasies of the ego. This "true imagination" is a spiritually creative force, connected with the feminine figure of Sophia, or Fatima in Persian mysticism, and it is also the subtle organ that enables visions and new creations.
The imaginative faculty is a spiritual power independent of the physical body and therefore surviving it. Many people who have endured near- or after-death experiences also attest to this fact as they record floating above their bodies in another form invisible to other people, yet watching (quite accurately) doctors and nurses trying to resuscitate their physical forms. The imagination is the formative power of the subtle or imaginal body, which, according to Corbin, is forever inseparable from the soul, or the spiritual individual.
Corbin contends that this imaginal realm got lost with the rise of man's "agnostic reflex," when thinking and being became divorced in the West. He dates it back a thousand years to the destruction of the Avicennian cosmology with its angelic hierarchy, and indicates that with it the imaginative power of symbol-making got lost. Once this universe and its souls disappeared, the imaginative function itself was devalued. Corbin suggests that it will not be recovered until we have access to a cosmology structured with a plurality of universes arranged in ascending order, as once before. All the wondrous discoveries of modern science relating to our physical universe alone do not begin to touch the reality of the imaginal realm, because this latter realm exists beyond the purely physical, yet it is present here and now. Until that time, Corbin claims, our will to power will be a never-ending source of horrors.
Corbin allows for the possibility that this loss of the mundus imaginalis was necessary to allow for the horrible, the monstrous, the miserable, and the absurd to surface. Perhaps while science attempts to give us the quantum world, dark matter, worm holes, black holes, and string theory, in a movement toward a renewed multidimensional universe lost in the rise of our secular and all-too-human interests, all the ghastly images, for example, of aliens and abductions are the dark chaotic shadow side that also comes into being as part of our initiation into the new age.
Excerpted from Songlines OF THE SOUL by VERONICA GOODCHILD. Copyright © 2012 Veronica Goodchild. Excerpted by permission of NICOLAS-HAYS, INC..
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