The Dead Chrysalis





1] Man's necessity and longing for myths

Just look at the behavior of a child: his world is a world extremely apart, he is full of visions. He might look at a corner of the house and, terrified, he will start crying and that experience may last for quite a long time, even years: what does he see that we cannot perceive? He starts speaking to someone amidst the flowers of a garden, apparently completely unconscious of the real world surrounding him - taking notice of nothing whatsoever - but of his mind's friend. Who is his vision's friend?

As the years pass experiences of this type slowly subside and sink deep in the child's unconscious, yet they become a strong force within which most probably will shape the rest of his life. However, they don't get lost - they are still there, in his mind, hidden deep within and unreachable and, to a large extent undetected and unsuspected, they still influence his whole life.

Beyond the most archaic historical records that we possess we do have, however, some evidence that man's mind cannot exist without a pedestal made of visions, visions which in the course of evolution have become myths, myths without which the mind has no support, a lack of support which becomes a lack of creativity, a dimming of his intellectual capabilities or propensities - and possibly a tool of extinction or de-evolution. These myths, as well attested in anthropological researches, are the fulcrum and shape of the planet's diverse societies as well: their religion, their taboos, their mythical historical records made of fabulous beings able to reach the heavens and converse with the gods and their travels to hell or in the lands of the dead, encounters with daemons, spiritual beings, ghosts and strange monsters - all of this becoming a hidden doctrine within the course of time, accessible only to a restricted circle of people who most likely became the religious leaders of the society, or their witch-doctors, healers and shamans and no one could have access to the truth behind this knowledge but by heredity of some sort of initiation in an esoteric circle or secret society.

All this points clearly to a simple fact: the mind cannot exist - it cannot be creative as such - without the support of these images and symbols generated by electrical discharges within our cerebral cortex and other areas of the brain or we sink back to the level of the pure instinctual life of the animal.

Incidentally, the child’s world spoken of above ends when with growth the child becomes aware of the fact that life is something temporary that cannot last forever, that there is an end to it which cannot be done away with, that nothing is given us to perceive of that which will follow that end which is shrouded in total darkness and in the terror of the unknown.

To this end the mind has however, we might say instinctually - as it appears very likely - through a genetically encoded mechanism provided a protective shield which it has subsequently hidden deep within its meanders, deep and hardly reachable within the psyche, a shield that will be the protective bulwark, not to be tampered with – as well as the guide - for the days which will follow.

All this, the immense collection of tens of thousands of years of symbolic display, a collection bequeathed to us from prehistoric times, is what lies within and feeds our minds throughout life, whether or not we are aware of it, what has been aptly named by C. G. Jung archetypes[1] and has, to a large extent, been widely and fruitfully used in depth and analytical psychology in trying to understand the human psyche in an effort to unravel its secrets.

There is a point, the summit, or apex, of the pyramid, where this symbolism after having served its purpose should be discarded on the path to spiritual progress or self knowledge and, incidentally, that might be the real symbolism expressed by those pyramids (a symbolism akin to that of the shaman’s ladder or to that in Jacob’s dream, "And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and that the top of it reached to heaven; … and behold, the LORD stood above it … "[Gen.28.12]) whose mysteries are still hidden to us because that symbolism is so evident under the scorching desert’s sun that it is hardly detectable.

We marvel at the pyramid’s outward form and impressing appearance, we dig within its vaults trying to decipher the mysteries crystallized in the mummies in the sarcophaguses unaware that, step by step, on our pedestal, a point should be reached – the pyramid’s apex – where we either meet with complete freedom or we are forced to step down, the mythical "fall", back in our bounds; no static state is allowed. Else we are just like the crystallized mysteries expressed by the mummy in the sarcophagus, a dead chrysalis in its stillness hopelessly awaiting for eternity the manifestation of "I am the falcon within the shrine; I open to him who is upon my wall" [2], or Rumi’s mystical vision "It is the white falcon of the Emperor; it has taken flight, and departed to the Emperor." [3] that is, the moment when the pyramid’s apex – the contact with transcendence is transcended.

And this, "transcendence", is a key word the meaning of which is baffling and misleading, as it indicates a state which cannot be described in words and which lies outside ourselves - "… designating knowledge that is beyond the limits of experience" [4] or "Above and independent of the material universe" [4] - while in truth transcendence cannot be experienced save and only deep within ourselves, in genuine contact with the reality underlying our being – free from untoward knowledge wrapped in atavic fancies.

That transcendence which is experienced on the pedestal of spiritual or yogic disciplines based, as a rule, on the heritage of the knowledge of the past and the mysteries and symbols enshrouded within such knowledge is, yes, transcendence and mystical or ecstatic experience but it is "artificial transcendence", by this meaning to say that is is a creation of the mind brought about with the help and efforts of the mind within a certain lapse of time, the liberation thus obtained - be it the Buddha's Nirvana, the Prophet's converse with God, the Friend's union with the Lover - these are all creations of the mind and as such, possibly within the reach of everyone's mind. There is no question concerning the futility to try to state what lies beyond these experiences - herewith labeled artificial - as the realm sustaining the mind lies beyond the mind itself - in an undisclosed and unreachable dimension - and we have good reasons to believe that we cannot get beyond that, our mind appears to be the ultimate tool at our disposal, a tool which cannot describe the artist or the Michelangelo who sculptured it. However, an origin of mind can be visualized or experienced - much less so described - there must be an origin to it and at times it may even happen that someone declares that he has discovered it if not, plainly, that "he is it " or the Hindu' realization "thou art that" or the mystic's "I am God", the utterance which usually sent him in beatitude to the stake.

Now, the reality underlying our being is mainly expressed in religious belief and elsewhere religion is defined as "In a way religion may appear as a genetically encoded ordering factor in humans since as far back as our historical records and paleo-anthropological findings reach we find traces of one sort or another socially ordered society depending on some kind of religion, however crude or primitive that might have been. Also, we cannot deny that religion is a socially inherited cultural trait and that as such it is an experience common to all of us, no matter to which creed we belong ..."

Religion has undoubtedly been the greatest moving force in history and notwithstanding its widespread actual decadence it still is a primary shaping factor of the human mind and, although now it is modern science that is starting to have a relevant historical force, it will never displace religion - most probably an alliance between science and religion will play the historical role in the future of humanity.

But why religion? Why this compulsive need to believe in a greater ordering entity to whom we ascribe creation and the ethical laws which must regulate our life?

The answers can be two: the first is that the word religion means "tie together" (from the Latin religare, gather together) and that this is a social must to prevent man to annihilate one another or social disintegration; in a way it serves the need for self-preservation and continuation of the species, it is a regulating or balancing factor which promotes standards that allow men to interact and evolve as a society in a given environment. Speaking of religion as "... a genetically encoded ordering factor in humans..." and as a social must to prevent men to annihilate one another or social disintegration, brings to my mind Richard Dawkin’s words: "We are survival machines, vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known to us as genes." [5]

It is then evident, with no shadow of doubt, that the pedestal of every religious belief, with no exception whatsoever, is the symbolism - hidden or overt - incorporated within the mythological themes hidden deep into our minds. And these themes, spread all over the globe, are - but with few exceptions matured in later times and adapted to diverse environments - tied to a common, a unique theme: the return to the age of innocence - when man was not yet subjected to death - and to the ascent to the abode of the gods, free from the anguishes of the world.

The point with religion is that this binding force, within which we seek spiritual freedom and love, paradoxically has shown itself as one of humanity’s most destructive drives in writing its own history in rivers of blood and suffering, because

"They all err – Moslem, Christian, Jew and Magian:
To make Humanity’s universal sect;
One man intelligent without religion,
And one religious without intellect." [7]

And, so admirably expressed in the Quran

"1. Say. O disbelievers!
2. I worship not that which ye worship;
3. Nor worship ye that which I worship.
4. And I shall not worship that which ye worship.
5. Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
6. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion." [8]

where, within the context of the above quotation, no doubt is left as to the diversity of religious experience and to the disunity and deadly enmity which is one far-too-evident end-result of religion.

From what has been written in this introductory remarks this appears evident:

Each of us is a vast repository of valuable gems and each of these gems is but a small part of a vast mosaic wherefrom the truth is mirrored. Which means that each of us can be a wayfarer in the path of self discovery greatly aided by our present stand in knowledge, which can easily dispense with fancies and superstitions, discarding the heritage of all these irrational concepts which have invaded our existence due to tradition, ignorance and inept teachings with which we have been, in someway or another, fostered.

We get signals from within which hint to this repository of gems but these signals are in a symbolic form, hence hard to decipher and usually either they are discarded or, in the realms of imagination, they are adorned with more or less wild fancies - few care to investigate deeply these signals, their origin and their meaning.

The social strata of humanity is based on myths which are at the base of the symbols that cross our minds - symbols that are distributed through humanity in a more or less similar pattern insofar as their perception, referring to the "picture" which crosses the mind, is concerned: to name just a few examples we have the egg, the dragon, the lake or the sea, the bird of paradise, the tree of life,the cross, the ladder and the steps, the rope, the tunnel and the cave, the demoniac being or monster and a plethora of them to which a rich and extensive literature has been dedicated.

Religious experience - and religions themselves - are nourished and sustained by mythology and by these symbols which the class of those proselytizing sycophants who promulgate the religious teachings dresses in a different garb more suited to its own needs than to the real needs of the people who adhere to the religious teaching. As such religion - however useful and constructive - has become a weapon of disunity rather than the opposite, which is what the name "religion" - a binding together - implies. This is due to exact historical and geographical factors which now, in the era of real time global communications can and should be done away with if this wonderful planet is meant to sustain an evolving creature gifted with intellectual endowments. In other words, a common ground should be set and adhered to - yes, utopia - a unique religion freed from mythical fancies and with a sound rational base in harmony with our present stand in knowledge because the plain truth is that an archaic system is still the pedestal of global societies. And the emanations of this archaic system are the building blocks of our intellectual life.

Little more needs to be added in this context about religion, mention of which has been made because in one way or another each one of us is religious and religion is a driving force even if it is not what it is, ideally, meant to be and what is said above concerning religion may not suit the way you think about it. Far from being against or showing lack of respect toward any religious creed or system this however reflects the truth of the matter. And, furthermore, much of the material which is enclosed in this writing obviously has its origin in religious backgrounds, even if these myths and symbols have, within the framework of increased knowledge, been transferred to the field of mind-sciences concerned with our psychical makeup.


1 ] 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"[9] 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." [10]

2] Edited by Thomas George Allen. The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Documents in the Oriental Institute Museum at the University of Chicago. p. 145. The University of Chicago. Oriental Institute Publications. Volume LXXXII. 1960.

3] Mystical Poems of Rumi. Translated from the Persian by A. F. Arberry. UNESCO Collection of Representative Works, Persian Heritage Series # 3. The University of Chicago Press. 1968.

4] The American College Dictionary

5] Quoted in The Mind’s I -Douglas R. Hofstader and Daniel C. Dewnnet - Penguin Books -Middlesex -1982.

7] H. A. R. Gibb "Arabic Literature – an Introduction" Oxford University Press. 1963.

8] Mohamed Marmaduke Pickthall. The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. Surah CIX, "The Disbelievers". London. A Mentor Book. George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

9] P. W. Martin. Experiment in Depth - A Study of the Work of Jung, Eliot and Toynbee. p. 54. London. Routlege and Kegan Paul. 1967.

10] Mircea Eliade. Myths, Dreams and Mysteries. p. 181. London. Collins, the Fontana Library of Theology and Philosophy. 1974.