make to ourselves pictures of facts.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein).
" ... for the nonreligious men of the modern age, the cosmos has become opaque, inert, mute; it transmits no message, it holds no cipher." 1
We have seen previously that, according to modern psychiatric theories concerning the bicamerality of the mind, to a certain extent our ancestors were all schizophrenics; they heard voices and had revelations and visions and all this supposedly was none other than one brain’s hemisphere talking to the other brain’s hemisphere which unable to differently interpret such visions and messages convinced itself - and as a result tried to convince others too - that it had access to communication with the godhead.
In all epochs and in all cultures up to contemporary times, hallucinogen substances like hemp, peyote and several others have been widely used to reach certain states of mind "… the pre-eminently shamanic mushroom Agaricus muscarious (which is used as a means of intoxication before and during the seance) … the hymn to the divinity refer to ecstasy induced by intoxication by mushrooms …" 2. In the introduction to his "Greek Myths" 3 Robert Graves suggests that "a raw mushroom, amanita muscaria, which induces hallucinations, senseless rioting, prophetic sight, erotic energy and remarkable muscular strength ... perhaps others too, especially a small slender dung-mushroom named panaeolus papilionaceus, which induces harmless and most enjoyable hallucinations " were the source of the divine nectar, the Ambrosia of the Gods - the Sanskrit’s amrita - which confers upon men the boon of long or immortal life and which in no way is confined to Greek myths as we find the corresponding term, equally translated, in other Eastern and Far-Eastern cultures.
This now introduces a sphere of doubt into the theory of the bicameral mind and we might as well say that our ancestors were not schizophrenics but simply drug addicts - however, if we travel deep into the mysteries of the Far East we can see that men could - and still can - given proper training, hallucinate at will without of necessity being schizophrenics or addicts and the ambrosia of the gods, the amrita, is a most used symbol to explain the state of final deliverance from the torments of the physical world, the state of moksha, nirvana, samadhi , tharpa, fana or in terms more agreeable to our common usage, enlightenment or liberation.
While I am not utterly refusing nor completely accepting any of the two above mentioned theories not having any means of verification, I am positively sure that mental experiences of the type we are here concerned with, to a large extent, will not necessarily have to be related to pathological states of mind or to ingestion of certain substances - symbols are indeed an archetypal part of our mental constitution and they are undoubtedly dependent on our mental predisposition, that predisposition so well exemplified in the opening sentence of this chapter, that I will quote it again to stress its importance: " ... for the nonreligious men of the modern age, the cosmos has become opaque, inert, mute; it transmits no message, it holds no cipher."
The meaning of this sentence is very clear indeed: we have lost the means to get in touch with our higher self, with the domain. We know that the tantric practices of visualizations of very complex mandalas or yantras 4 can create extreme experiences and at times very frightening ones: "Visualizing mental formations, either voluntarily or not, is a most mysterious process. What becomes of these creations? May it not be that like children born of our flesh, these children of the mind separate their lives from ours, escape our control, and play parts of their own? ..." 5 But visualizations need not be exclusively related to tantric yoga as we do have examples of them in every age, in every culture, in every religion, in mysticism as well as in sorcery and shamanism and in every part of the world and more often than not they are related to and dependent on simple, sincere religious devotion.
The mechanism that sets them in motion must be strictly tied with our emotional balance to the effect that as yet unspecified areas of the brain are activated, probably by specific biochemical changes or still unidentified neurotransmitters, which switch on (and here it is very interesting to note it: often at will) the monitor of our mind so that we can have access to displays of a symbolical character which are very hard to analyze or to explain on a rational basis.
The symbols which appear to the percipient are encoded in such a way that we cannot, as a rule, explain them rationally due to a difficulty of linguistic expression - so far there exists no adequate interpreter who can properly translate the meaning of a symbol into readily understandable language and possibly this is so because presumably the speech area of the brain is far removed from the monitor area and no adequate decoding means - or link - is available between the two brain areas.
"I know - and here I am expressing what countless other people know - that the present time is the time of God’s disappearance and death"; 6 I assume that the fact that "we have killed god" is of the utmost importance insofar as symbolical experience is concerned - with this dreadful action we have, to use an analogy, cut off the supply line to that mechanism which actuates the monitor of our mind, that mechanism of conscious discernment of the unconscious.
Symbols need not be necessarily pictorial, at times they may be perceived as very clear voices or music - yet the meaning behind remains always baffling.
But what is a symbol? Why do we get symbolic messages from our mind? Can it really be of any usefulness trying to get - possibly at will - in touch with the monitor of our mind and be branded as schizophrenics or addicts, or more simply as visionaries?
Let us answer the first question: first, by saying that most of what we know of peoples of old came historically to us through mythology in symbolical form - old truths and archetypal shadows still undecoded - and this possibly because the ancients wished both to communicate certain truths only to the initiated and possibly because they had few means of analogies in order to state certain undescribable truths in plain words. Secondly, the symbol itself is a means of psychical integration of the personality, integration taking place when a rational meaning can be given to the symbol so that it can be commonly accepted in a given culture; diversely the symbol may act as a mean for the disintegration of the personality, that is to say that the person under the influence of a symbol accepts it in a way uncongenial to the culture to which he belongs and then he finds himself at odds with his fellow beings or with his own self and therefore is considered as mentally sick - "The criteria for folk diagnosis and insanity are not clear-cut ... the general criteria for the diagnosis of insanity include essentially aggressiveness (whether directed toward oneself or others), instability, and nonconformity (as opposed to the passivity, stability, and changelessness of the constricted self)" 7 - and treated as such or, in those cases where a taboo is emplaced on a symbol for the safeguard of communitarian or social interests the individual not respecting it may even be subjected to the most harsh punishments - and from our "opaque, inert and mute state" perhaps we in a way are doing the same with our forefathers branding then as schizophrenics or addicts. But we ought to keep present that that is our inheritance! and at the same time we must also keep present that the unhappy ones, from the standpoint of the man who lives in symbolic and symbiotic communion with his higher self, are the veiled ones, those who live in a cosmos opaque, mute and inert "for a symbol speaks to the whole human being and not only to the intelligence ... it is through symbols that the world becomes transparent, is able to show the transcendent". 8
On a different level, symbols appear and act upon us through our oneiric life, symbols or images appearing in our dream states are supposedly the contents of the unconscious and the science of psychoanalysis draws broadly on the dream-state symbols to bring about the reintegration of the personality in certain types of psychosis or neurosis; however, faith and belief of the patient in these psychoanalytical practices are essential - indeed collaboration with the psychoanalyst - so that such symbols may be beneficial to the extent that the oneiric symbols are taken for granted to be what the psychoanalyst assumes them to be, which surely is not always the case as symbols are in most cases strictly related to our experience and as such strictly subjective, that is, the same symbol assumes different meanings in different percipents and as such the conditioning effect of the oneiric symbol can just be a by-product of being conditioned by a third person, the psychanalist. The simple fact that oneiric symbols are used for therapeutic purposes by third parties acting on the person under treatment will tell us that oneiric symbols are not at complete variance, even if diversely masked, from the mythical symbols which have been labeled and recognized as the common symbolic heritage of man, the collective unconscious. And the different garment, or mask, of a basic atavic symbol may lead to differences and errors in its interpretation.
Symbols - though not strictly of the archetypal type - appearing in the oneiric life of the individual are employed in preventive medical diagnosis in some clinics it the Soviet Union as it seems quite reasonable to say, according to the accumulated evidence, that the kind, recurrence and psychic pattern of certain symbols or scenes appearing in the dream state antedate certain pathological conditions of the organism not yet evident or discernible on a physical or symptomatic plane.
"We in this country have already saved many lives by using this method of dream interpretation. It can result in the diagnosis and treatment of serious illnesses long before they would be diagnosed in any other manner ... such dream ‘early warning’ signals can occur as early as two weeks before a heart attack, up to a year or more before mental illness ... most ‘repeat dreams’ start a month or more before the patient begins to feel symptoms". 9
Diagnosis of incipient illness based on dream interpretations include illnesses such as malignant tumours (brain, spinal, lung, stomach or intestinal cancer); tuberculosis; eyes; liver, kidney, heart, stomach and other numerous ailments including serious psychic disturbances - all this well in advance of the actual manifestation of the physical symptoms or related pathology.
Other symbolic displays may manifest to us in different ways - visual, auditory, or even tactile, in moments far removed from the dream state or the contemplative mood - they may manifest themselves without premonition and in instances far removed from any state which would better favor their manifestation - and these symbols are still much more difficult to interpret and usually are labeled as hallucinations.
And interesting symbolic displays are also recorded from those mysterious experiences reported from the after-death state, that is, from individuals revived thanks to our astounding medical technology after their physical death had been ascertained. What presumably happens in these cases, is that when the brain is completely relieved of its burden (the task of controlling all the physiological functions of the body) it finds itself in a state not very different from those states achieved in deep meditation exercises, a state of utter freedom where it can travel wide expanses until, if not revived before it starves off for lack of nutrients, it shuts down for good and returns to the dust.
While at death's threshold, my mother in law last word was, repeatedly and warm with love, her dead husband’s name just like if he were right there in front of her, flesh and bones, but to my knowledge just the two of us were in the room. I did read reports of people meeting relatives or friends welcoming them in the other world, people traveling through multicolored tunnels, and other very interesting symbolic displays - but no reports of Saint Peter opening the gates of paradise for them or of the devil pushing them deep into hell fire or boiling oil with his trident.
As a contribute to psychological statistics so far as symbols are concerned, I will relate some of my personal experiences:
Hallucinatory, in the dream state: one night, feverish and ill after tonsillectomy, I rose up and walked through the corridor out to the balcony; the sky was transparent and a very bright full moon was shining. In between crossing the balcony, about twelve feet wide, something must have happened which I could never recall but at a certain moment I saw the edge of the balcony crumbling to pieces and I fell off and down to the cement pavement some fifteen feet underneath. The edge of the balcony of course did not collapse, the image created itself in my mind to tell me that I was falling off the balcony, to justify the incident. In this instance, something breaking down presented itself to my mind to indicate the proximity of a dangerous event.
Hallucinatory, in the wake state: I was laying on the bed resting for a while waiting to go back to the office in the afternoon; the room was in full daylight and surely I was thinking about something which was in no way connected with was suddenly to appear, extremely real and vivid, in my mind’s monitor. Suddenly I saw - most real than anything we can perceive while wide awake - Abbai, the more often than not drunk gardener working for our family, who close to a fence covered by evergreen plants in front of the house was beheading with an hand ax my younger daughter - and there the vision ended leaving me stunned and amazed. All I could think of was that it might have been a prophetic vision and that perhaps I should rid myself from Abbai, just in case ... but Abbai remained in his working place until he died in the fumes of alcohol and my younger daughter has grown up with her head well stuck on her neck. To this moment I have not had the slighted idea of how to interpret such a vision of a clear hallucinatory character nor why the brain can play such sort of tricks on itself while apparently not under stress or pathological conditions.
Symbolic, while asleep: an extremely luminous cross of a bluish-white light presents itself to my mind and I wake up. Obviously this vision reminds me of the appearance of the cross to Constantine, it clearly is of the archetypal type and I can give to it a very precise meaning in accordance with my style of life of those times.
Symbolic, in the wake state: I wake up at about three in the morning, and while I lay in bed completely awake and apparently thoughtless staring in the darkness toward the ceiling, I realize that I am fully enclosed - right within - a magnificent golden egg. There I feel extremely well and serene but soon I realize that I will have to choose whether to remain within the golden egg or get out of it so that indeed a period of rational thought is brought about while confronting that situation which in itself has no taste of strangeness at all, it all appears absolutely normal and real. How much time elapsed I cannot say - but is must not have been more than a few seconds - but at last I decided that I should get out of the egg although the wonderful feeling of being within it would have called for a different decision. As soon as I decided to get out of the egg, the golden shell disappeared and I found myself just like before the experience, wide awake and serene staring at the darkness above me - but no more thoughtless. Such an experience cannot leave anyone thoughtless and indeed for years I have been thinking about it trying to give it a precise meaning. The egg of course is a primary symbol for life and it appears in mythology as the Cosmic Egg, as The Egg of Brahma in Hinduism, as the cosmic principle of differentiation between heaven and earth - male and female: "In the beginning Heaven and Earth, Izanagi and Izamani, were not separate; together they constituted a chaos, which was like an egg in the midst of which was a germ. When Heaven and Earth were thus intermingled, the two principles, male and female, did not yet exist". 10 These being known facts to me I labeled the experience mostly like some sort of unconscious autosuggestion but later I discovered that as an archetypal pattern it exists in the Hindu tradition of the symbolism of the Spiritual Sun and the Embryo of Gold (Hyranyagarbha) which hence made me apt to give to the experience a much more definite meaning than simple unconscious autosuggestion.
As to why I walked out of it: probably fear due to ignorance - was I to remain within that magnificent golden world? What would have happened had I chosen to remain there? Instinctually I knew for sure that walking out of it would bring me safely to a world known to me and as such I rejected the uncertainty of the unknown, however beautiful and promising that appeared to be.
A dream with typical archetypal contents, about twenty years after the golden egg: it is a very large cave with a seemingly spherical vault. Inside it is all very luminous but it is not a light belonging to this world, it is like unto the light shining within the heart of a diamond - although elsewhere I stated that I do not know what the light of the hearth of a diamond looks like. The vault up above is pitch dark, below it is only water, a large and wonderful silvery lake apparently vanishing into its own horizons (maybe there is a bank on the left side - I cannot clearly recall). The water appears slightly crispy with shades of crystal-like white, light bleu and light green blending delicately into one another and I am immersed into it. A small bat swiftly crosses in between the vault and the lake and disappears far away apparently on my left side while I deeply enjoy being into these waters - it all seems very real. Some time passes by and therewith a huge bat, or more like a pterodactylus - a huge flying reptile of the late mesozoic era - appears in the sky and starts to fly in circles above me. I am sure that it wants to eat me and I see myself as a tiny black speck into that marvelous lake, helplessly at the mercy of that flying monster - there is nothing at all I can do and I wake up ... it is 2.30 in the morning of September 22, 1992: this dream appeared very meaningful to me at that time.
Blended altogether in a single dream, the symbols of the mentioned dream are very common: the cave (womb), the lake (primordial life) and the pcterodactylus (dragon, danger), and they appear in all cultures at all times.
From the most archaic times we have evidence of symbols of a very definite pattern which act on the human mind, those symbols making up that which Dr. C. J. Jung labeled as the collective unconscious, "the outcome of countless generations of man and his forebears, in which life still moves" 11 and which are a common heritage as well as part and parcel of our psychic life. "The world of the archetypes of Jung is like a Platonic world of ideas, in that the archetypes are impersonal and do not participate in the historical Time of the individual life, but in the Time of the species - even of organic Life itself." 12 Symbols appear in the same garment and are described approximately with the same words in cultures well apart both physically and in time and that is the reason which prompted my questions, are we using our mind or is MIND using us?, and is mind (both mind and MIND) something that we are empowered to use the more, the more we use it?
There should be no doubt that there is a common mental - or better, psychical - substratum which so far we have not yet been able to fathom, something that is encoded at the very root of our being and that appears to be an unconditional necessity for the psychical evolution of what we label as Homo Sapiens Sapiens. We have discovered, with little reason for doubt, the existence of this common substratum which puts all men whatever their culture or ethnic group on the same level; how this common substratum is encoded into the human being and its mode of action are two questions which perhaps we will never solve completely thus forcing man to rely on the transcendental question. The only difference is that this transcendental question is deep within us while a good lot of people are searching it - and its answer - in the world without, in worlds often utterly alien to the base and core of their real being.
While myths have always being a driving power for man, we have now reached a maturity that has empowered us to rely on our own symbolic emergence - and more often than not a symbol is the irrational pedestal supporting the rational - if we only take the trouble to bring it to the surface and confront it. The means for such a task are to be found everywhere in art, religion, literature and science - this is a truly great evolutionary feat but the state of the industrialized societies appears to be the greatest hindrance for this evolutionary step, "the high development of rational intelligence in Homo Sapiens has led to a serious and regrettable impoverishment of his powers of intuition, a lost treasure which we today must strive to recover" 13 as well as the greatest menace, a menace brought about by the very refusal to pursue and understand these symbolic manifestations of the mind - the refusal of a humanistic evolution sacrificed in a frenetic pursue of materialism, sacrificed in the wild, egoistic pursue of the utmost material well-being and commodities - the satisfaction of the ego to the exclusion of everything else. This means a refusal as well as a corruption of our symbolic life and understanding, a refusal of spiritual evolution and as such a corruption of our understanding of the primordial and primal shaping forces within the temple of our being.
And I have a tendency to believe, insofar as I can hardly do without a Necessary Existent, that deeply engraved within the temple of the human being there is a Root-Symbol around which the psyche revolves but which none the less it cannot grasp or understand - as of yet. This incapacity of the psyche for the understanding of this Root Symbol and the psyche’s need for exteriorization is the basis of the primordial symbolism common to humanity, the symbolism of a higher being on whom we are dependent and that we commonly call God. While I am not venturing so far as to state that this is the Cosmic Creator I cannot refrain from stating that this is the god within, part and parcel of our life to the point that even the most ungodly of unbelievers cannot do without it even if he strives in one way or another to reject it.
we return to the Root we gain the meaning;
This root symbol is the heritage of being human - in other words it is something which could not exist unless evolutionarily the brain be so developed as to be the basis for intellectual faculties such as reasoning power and analytical discernment and if the Root Symbol is so hard to describe or to get in touch with so much so that even the profoundest mystic experience cannot rationally bring it to the surface, still more difficult for comprehension must be the seed from which the root originated. Incidentally it must not be casual that in every age and culture, in one form or another, a tree of life is met with, it being one of the profoundest symbols in the spiritual quest of man.
In the Hindu tradition, the tree of life is laden with fruits which contain the ambrosia of the gods, the amrita: " ... and from the excreta which, thus being purified, fell into the Ocean, there at once rose a precious sandal tree, which was a wish granting tree. This tree stuck its roots in the nether world of the Serpent-Spirits, spread its foliage in the Asuralokas, and brought its fruits in the Deva-lokas. And the fruits were named Amrta (the essence of elixir and life)."
And, if by some sort of unexplainable miracle we were born in a deserted planet, a primordial Eden, we could not refrain from grabbing this fruit and eat it, thus falling in the realm of gnosis and that is the most important fall which befell man and which can be experienced as the search for the origins has been the major driving power in the quest of knowledge and as such the basis of the unfoldment of our mental and spiritual evolution: "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. Him to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wander and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness." 16
It is important to notice that to get once more in touch with our real self, to get the experience of the root, the complete self effacement is deemed to be necessary by all religious and mystic traditions; that only, self effacement - will allow us to again taste the amrita and give us the essence of the Root Symbol but not of the seed beyond, "Thus far and no farther".17
The seed probably belongs to the Kingdom of Revelation, to the rare beings who in different epochs arise to proclaim the Laws of the Lord to humankind labeling themselves as Prophet, Son, or Messenger of God and proclaiming "A Revelation Whose Revealer will be He Who revealed Thee".18
Notes to chapter 6
- Mircea Eliade. The Sacred & the Profane - The Nature of Religion.
p. 178. New York and London. A Harvest HBJ Book. 1959.