What has been recorded in this series is an effort to carry the seeker into a zone normally closed to researchers – that is, certain deeper levels of the universal manifestation that have been relegated to the category of myth in its acquired sense of fanciful imagination. The practitioner of certain advanced Yogas can access the areas of human consciousness-being where the core of what we know as ancient mythologies can be experienced; but this requires recognition and acceptance of the role the Soul plays for the species in evolution. Time and again I have stated that myth is the language of the soul. I have also stated that periodically an updating of that perennial knowledge is required. This series has been an exercise in the act of updating – i.e., the present observed on the backdrop of certain timeless keys of knowledge. The great good fortune of India is that a method was in-built in her tradition from very ancient times that provides an orderly, organic system of updating, respectful of everything that is of value for the future evolution as we move higher and higher up the ladder toward an apotheosis of unimaginable depth and beauty. There are, however, difficulties on the way to this culmination.
First and foremost is the current state of civilisation, often referred to as a global society. We are aware how it comes to pass that civilisation is almost a universal phenomenon, to the point that the oft-quoted phrase from the ancient scripture vasudhaiva kuṭumbakam (the world is but one family) seems so very contemporary. But to really abide in that consciousness of Oneness, as the Sanskrit words suggest, great effort must be made to shed the baggage we carry that impedes this attainment – a condition that plagues the spiritual realiser as much as the scientist and the layman.
The Time-Spirit of the Age of Aquarius demands a universalised consciousness – not only on the individual level but more especially on the level of the societies we create. We are burdened with the baggage of fragmentation and divisiveness – so aptly reflected in the 4.5 Orbit of our solar system when we view the Gnostic Circle as a blueprint of the human consciousness-being, as indeed it is. For centuries the human being has been cajoled into believing that this particular passage through the System can be avoided. Sri Aurobindo has described this ‘error’ for his disciples:
‘According to both Buddha and Shankara liberation means laya of the individual in some transcendent Permanence that is not individualised – so logically a belief in the individual soul must prevent liberation while the sense of misery in the world leads to the attempt to escape.’ (Letters on Yoga, Sri Aurobindo, CE, p.66)
In another letter his perception of the human condition has been captured in the Gnostic Circle when he refers to a ‘Higher Path’ after the experience of the Buddhist Nirvana. This would be the path the seeker embarks upon when escape is rejected. The ‘higher path’ is known as the ‘higher hemisphere’ in astrology, where we find Uttarayana; it begins at the 4.5 Orbit (Libra) and culminates in the highest Cardinal Pole, Capricorn/Makar.
‘Nirvana cannot be at once the ending of the Path with nothing beyond to explore and yet only a rest house or rather the beginning of the Higher Path with everything still to explore…. The reconciliation would be that it is the end of the lower path through the lower Nature and the beginning of the Higher Evolution. In that case it would accord exactly with the teaching of our yoga.’ (Ibid, p.67)
Of all contemporary realisers, Sri Aurobindo is the only one who has emphatically stated that what has been sought in a Beyond, in a timeless, spaceless realm can and must be brought down here on Earth – what he has often referred to as ‘a life divine’. The issue is, how do we effectively reach the point where we can participate consciously in the establishment of a far better world than has ever been known on this blessed but beleaguered planet we have the good fortune to inhabit?
Baggage has to be shed.
The next question to ask is, how can we distinguish between the Eternal and the temporal, between the Infinite and the finite – for hasn’t spirituality been hammering into our consciousness that only the Eternal and the Infinite are worthy of our efforts; the rest is simply an illusion, a ‘play’ of some remote God whose mysterious ways we can never understand, at least while in this third orbit. From here, we have been told, we must shed whatever pins us down to this material abode. We must destroy that network of time in space we have woven since our first individual breath at birth. Only then, we have been assured, can we be released from repeated births until the ultimate liberation whereby we disappear forever from the face of a planet that knows only the way of war and destruction of every sort – from physical to psychological in an unending display of all that opposes the good, the true, the real.
The truth of the matter is that this very promise of a better Beyond, however we call it – for we do project our prejudices and biases to that Beyond as well – is responsible for the lamentable condition of our now-global society.
In this series I have attempted to present a means to re-position ourselves on the planet so that we can live the experience of the Eternal and the Infinite right here, and nowhere better than here. The purpose of evolution, poised on our soul-vahana, is to know those divine Principles in material creation, those very same properties, transcribed for us here on Earth via the harmonies of our solar system, as simply the densification or the materialisation of that which not only transcends but which evolves, using time and space as its sacred instruments. A science that can inculcate this experience of Oneness in our youth is the only science worth teaching.
To date this science has not been in the forefront. It is covered in veils that must now be lifted. This series, as all my publications, seeks to reveal just how those Divine Principles fare in this material dimension as seen and experienced from Earth. Above all how our planet contributes her part in enhancing the experience by the splendid diversity she exhibits in all aspects of the evolution she houses: change, movement do not diminish but rather they increase the delight – which we may consider to be the heart and soul of material creation, its purpose of being. For if there is one truth none can deny it is the truth of diversity, of multiplicity, of exuberant displays by the greatest artist of them all – Mother Nature.
Mother indeed. This principle or mode of being lies deeply beneath those heavy-laden veils now in need of lifting. For sure civilisation needs to be feminised; we all know it, we all aspire for a softening of our culture, divesting it of what has come to be associated with a masculine, heavily-testosteroned societal aberration. But how do we carry out this transformation? How do we carry at least a collective representative grouping to that realisation of Oneness?
All we need for now is to observe the trends displayed in this very society we judge to be in serious decline, and which we intend to remould into whatever ‘image’ we cherish the most. As things now stand, given the hardening of barriers across the globe, we can be certain that that ‘image’ will be in conflict with another’s. We see that there is a breakdown of traditional structures which until now have sustained certain patterns very effectively during the early stages of the process, particularly the stark male/female divide. In Hinduism we find support for this biological stage of evolution in the Shiva/Shakti tradition, or more specifically, the divine couple, Parvati and Shiva, and in the coupling of all the Gods. The result is that given our rapid pace of development, a divide of this nature, so efficient during the less mature stages of evolution, has become an encumbrance and is impeding progress to something beyond these divides that are now a burden. Try as we might to maintain or impose them, time moves on, we cannot reverse its inexorable march. But what we can do is to assess the signals projected before the collective eye of contemporary societies the world over with a re-focused lens, as it were, widened to include what had hitherto been hidden beneath veils, awaiting the time when they could be removed as a part of an organic process.
We have reached the point where our perceptions of the division between the male and female contributions to society are pressing for change. We have reached the point where the way we express our love for one another is pressing for change – same-sex marriage issues are one example. It would be naive to believe that such expressions are a contemporary aberration and indicate the decline of our civilisation and had never occurred in the past. What we must admit is that for some reason this state of affairs seeks to be legitimised as perhaps a sign of things to come, a Love liberated from atavistic constraints alone. This and many other demands troubling democratic societies simply reflect what the human consciousness knows instinctively: Oneness and not sameness, not uniformity but the oft-repeated but seldom attained diversity in unity.
There is a place on the globe that bears the responsibility of shedding the baggage of dogmas – both spiritual and scientific – that are now impediments to attaining true diversity in unity in this 9th Manifestation. It is the Indian subcontinent, for the simple reason that it is in India where we find an unbroken thread in the web of Time that joins the present to the past regardless of the distortions that have crept in along the way but are easily removed. For instance, the realisation of Oneness that seeks universal expression now is a state depicted in Hindu iconography carried over from a distant past. It is the image of Siva Ardhanarishvara, half male, half female. The same condition is echoed time and again in the Rig Veda where we find hymns to the ‘twins’ that seek to join the One. It is the foundation of zodiacal tradition with its feminine and masculine signs, all part of the ONE CIRCLE extolled in the Veda. In other words, if we can trust the Hermetic aphorism, As above, so below, the journey through the 12 signs/stages of the tropical zodiac, unveils what each human being on planet Earth embodies: an essential oneness of being. This condition is just in its initial stages of manifestation.
We need to go a step further and understand more pointedly where that eternal Vedic journey is headed. Is it intended to fortify the baggage we carry that divides us more and more – part of which is the dogma of exclusivism, resulting in a constricting stagnation the Earth had never known until we crossed the threshold of Cosmic Dawn in 234 BCE? We then plunged into the deep cosmic sea of the Piscean era, whose dark purpose has been the consolidation of certain obscure trends inherent in a consciousness in evolution. These consolidations carried humanity far away from a more enlightened condition as we find in the hymns of the Rig Veda, or the iconography of the Hindu Gods and Goddesses. The upshot was the complete denial of that former condition – and of Form in general; more specifically, of the Mother in all her exuberant manifestations. At that point the only recourse was to seek escape in one form or another, to abandon this hapless planet to her own devices – and at this we have proven ourselves to be masters.
This mastery is, of course, an illusion. Nature knows best how to tame this wayward species: Ganga’s responses are an example of the way the Mother makes her will known when a certain threshold has been crossed and humanity can no longer be left to its own devices. Interventions are then required, ruthless as they may appear; we witness their increase across the globe.
A mature civilisation does not consider these reprimands by Nature as mere superstition; we have done this for far too long in the effort to justify our greed, insensitivity and ego-centricity. On the other hand, the pragmatists throw the baby out with the bath water and turn to Science for the answers. Can there be a higher synthesis that accommodates both positions by accepting the laws of Nature that have been transgressed, individually and collectively, not as punishments of a wrathful Power but rather an awareness of the consciousness-being of the Earth herself? We do seek to transform those tendencies common to all human beings; the question is, how do we go about the task? If we continue to ignore the hidden in favour of only that which can be measured by our contemporary scientific yardsticks, we will never reach that synthesis.
Those who do not shy away from the ‘deep thought’, as Sri Aurobindo had described it in the early part of the last century, or the supreme Vision as presented to Arjun of the Bhagavad Gita, fearlessly observe the trends society unequivocally offers for scrutiny. Feminisation, yes of course – but is this the preserve of only half of the human creation? Is this what Siva Ardhanarishvara conveys?
I have always sustained that women are responsible for their own unfortunate plight because they themselves have not realised Shiva Ardhanarishvara. They have found a way to accommodate themselves to an increasing darkness by leaning on the male and forfeiting their responsibility to stand at the forefront of Time’s forward march. But this too is fast changing, much to the chagrin of the chauvinist.
In this grand transitional phase we live in, the obvious challenge is to acquire a finer discrimination whereby we recognise what needs to be shed to lighten our burden in order to be able to reach those lofty heights that stand before the human race as a realisable goal. The past is preserved only insofar as we can discriminate in the prescribed manner – that is, when we are able to carry into the present the residue of former ‘churnings’, shorn of the accoutrements that were required in former times but which are now encumbrances that slow down our march. However, the process of universalisation presents difficulties as intuitive historians recognise if they are to shed their ideological baggage or prisms through which they observe the past. Our world today, given our transitional stage, presents us with a One World perspective thanks to the thoroughness of past geographical exploits on land, on sea, leading up to the present and the stunningly beautiful photographs of the globe from outer space, borderless and whole. This is the new icon: the Earth as an integral Whole. This is what can inspire children across the planet in a new way.
But the pace of evolution as experienced in different parts of the globe varies – some are more materially advanced than others; therefore less mature societies are confronted with impositions of material advancements shorn of the tempering wisdom known to the Ancients. This situation is confined to a certain ‘swathe of time’ during which those imbalances will surface through negative displays until the globe is cleansed of the useless and obstructionist.
Indian news channels, for the most part, are displays of just what society needs to shed by the biases their conditioning constraints foist on the public. Presently [late July-early August] what occupies the news space is the fact that in Gujarat there is sought to be an imposition of a fast-receding culture. This appears outrageous to a section of contemporary Indian society, particularly because the books in question extol the attainments of the Ancients which these intellectuals have neatly closeted away as mere fiction – imaginative but misleading myth.
I do not seek to add fuel to the fire raging for the moment, but I do wish to call attention to the true, the real, the eternally abiding Dharma that India holds as her most cherished foundation but which requires updating from age to age. This methodology has been carefully nurtured across the ages in the Epics and sacred literature preserved from those former times. However, to seek to interpret the verses and myths today proves an almost impossible task, given the distance in time and circumstance from the civilisation we seek to analyse. We are burdened with countless disciplines or specialisations answering to whichever of the numerous ideologies that burden the human consciousness as it stands today. I will provide just one example of the difficulty in interpreting the mystifying verses of the Rig Veda. This is the work of Dr. B.G. Sidharth, director general of the Birla Science Centre. He has sought for a specific ‘code’ in the Veda that can enlighten researchers today not only about the civilisational moorings of India but of the factual (not mythical) content of the verses. According to his study they are explicitly astronomical, provided their symbolism is understood.
I just came across Dr Sidharth’s book, The Celestial Key to the Vedas (Inner Traditions, 1999), and his more recent publications on the theme via his website. Sidharth’s deductions prove what the Rig Veda itself very clearly explains: there is an exoteric layer as well as a more hidden, secret dimension to the hymns. Being a trained scientist Dr Sidharth has quite naturally analysed the symbolism from his perspective. To provide one example by which the seeker can judge whether or not the verse in question is understood properly, on page 42 of his book, Sidharth quotes from the Veda the following:
What pathway leadeth to the Gods? Who knoweth this of a truth, and who will now declare it? Seen are their lowest dwelling places only, but they are in remote and secret regions. (RV 3.54.5)
When I read this verse I nodded in approval; it seemed clear beyond dispute. But I understood the hidden regions not to be a part of the advances in astronomy of the Rishis but of the way in which they bridged the subtle and the material by following the path (of the year) as prescribed in the Scripture. For Sidharth the enigma is solved once we accept that the Rishi was simply revealing that in the Vedic Age the distances between the stars that shine brightly in our night sky was well known, an astronomical fact that eluded the early Greco-European astronomers. (For Sidharth the Gods are the code for ‘stars’.)
I have no doubt that the Vedic Rishis had material as well as supramental knowledge, and on that basis the chants flowed from their lips displaying the fact of Oneness in verse after verse. Having stated that, to one who has taken the same ‘journey’, the Rig Veda encourages the seeker to embark upon it consciously. Therefore the Ancients, while not judging which is right or which is wrong, highlight the fact that there is a ‘hidden’ aspect that is made known only to those who embark upon that journey into those secret recesses, into the esoteric dimension.
There is another verse that amounts to the same exhortation but which is even more interesting in this regard. On page 41 Sidharth quotes the following line from the Veda: ‘Who hath beheld him as he sprang into being, seen how the boneless one supports the bony?’ And his comment follows: ‘Rendered less literally, the boneless and the bony are understood to indicate the insubstantial, or feminine, and the substantial, or masculine. That is, Nature supports the manifested or material world. On the other hand, the respected German scholar Hillebrandt surmises that “the boneless” is the Sun, and “the bony”, the Moon. Reason suggests that “the boneless” would indeed imply the Sun, because it is gaseous, but that “the bony” would mean the Earth, because it is, in contrast, solid and rocky. The hymn says in other words, “The Sun supports the Earth.” Now, apart from being meaningful, interpretations should also be consistent. Can the heliocentric theory in the Rg [sic] Veda be deduced from other straightforward statements?’
Sidharth goes on to quote the verse I have noted above regarding the hidden and secret regions. It does seem obvious that this verse refers to the Unmanifest and the Manifest. According to the new cosmology the Unmanifest (‘unsubstantial’ of Sidharth’s reading) is the masculine Transcendent, while the Manifest (‘substantial’) is feminine – the opposite of his interpretation.
The point to note is that astronomy was not the central concern of the composers of the hymns. Furthermore, Sidharth has an aversion to astrology and he makes no ‘bones’ about it (pun intended!). In my view it is only astrology that can give the right interpretation of bony and boneless, especially in view of the fact that a separate discipline, which we have to contend with today, did not exist in the Vedic Age and well into the Piscean era. There was only astrology, considered by many as the mother of all sciences – the point being that what most interested the Ancients was the logic of the spheres, much the same as I am stating in these pages. And this is what we find lacking in contemporary science that seeks only the how of material creation and not the why and wherefore. The Vedic Journey shorn of that sense and purpose is meaningless. Let me use bony and boneless as an example of how astrology even today can explain the verse, though admittedly it is a knowledge that, as Sri Aurobindo wrote early in the last century, ‘has fled from its coverings’. We are left with a science, an astronomy that seeks to penetrate those ‘secret regions’ without having taken the same Journey! It is as if to say that we can criticise quantum and relativity without the knowledge of contemporary physics.
Taking the words within the context of the astrology of the day – to appearances a system of 6 planets plus the Sun – we need to interpret the verse on the basis of the knowledge of those early times, and not foist upon them a ‘science’ entirely alien to the consciousness of the Rishi from where the hymns were emitted. Therefore, the zodiacal lore that is still intact across the globe (lost in post-independent India’s astrology but preserved in her temples and myths), understands that the 6th and last planet of the old order, Saturn, rules the bones – that is, the most material element of the human structure, the part of our constitution that never dies or that is, for all practical purposes, immortal. Organic flesh withers and is ‘insubstantial’. Not the skeleton of the human being. Saturn would have represented the final stage, the goal of the journey which was immortality.
The point made is that only an intimate knowledge of what supports the manifest, material dimensions can lead to an immortal state of being. The rest of the verse encourages the initiate to understand that even this most material part of his being is supported by that which sustains it beyond this materiality of the external regions, or the ‘lowest dwelling places’.
Another example of the multi-dimensional approach is the usage of hieroglyphs in astrology inherited from a very distant past – the same today as then. For instance, the glyph for the 5th sign Leo (the Lion) is .The exoteric interpretation is simply that it is a stylised image of the lion’s tail. But deeper reflection sees the symbol as more precisely what astrology has handed down across the ages as the characteristics of the 5th sign – paternity, the masculine principle, and so forth. In that light the glyph is clearly a representation of the male sperm, wiggling tail and all. There will be predictive howling from the historian’s quarter: The sperm was only ‘seen’ with the modern invention of the microscope! And thus the deeper levels will be passed off as either coincidence or fiction. As always, the choice is the observer’s to make.
The problem is that in seeking to uncover the value of the tradition inherited from ancient times, we run the risk of doing so without the proper preparation. I can confidently state along with Sri Aurobindo that there is no one who can understand the Veda in India today; but the fault does not lie with Science; it lies in a spirituality that sought only those ‘hidden regions’ and abandoned the Earth to those who focus only on the material disconnected from the true foundational support ‘on the other side’.1 Astrologers in the subcontinent have followed suit.
Youth today cannot be satisfied simply with what is seen as an imposition of a tradition that is meaningless in today’s context. But, I repeat, the Vedic Tradition is fortunate to have an in-built system of renewal, the potential of an updating from age to age, just as the Bhagavad Gita proclaims. This is not mere rhetoric; it is factual; provided the effort is made to understand that from time to time there is a need to update, to re-evaluate the scripture within today’s context. If we accept that Time’s becoming is as meaningful as its being, that what is involved in the Seed is as precious and relevant as the growth that proceeds from that compactness, then we have found the path to an unveiling that can satisfy the scientist as well as those inclined to the less apparent. The only demand is sincerity in the quest, and an acceptance of the fact that destiny has provided India with a connection to the ancient tradition that is unbroken though ‘hidden’. The many temples that preserve this Tradition stand all around us. It is unfortunate to state that contemporary science itself is responsible for that ‘lost knowledge’, that soul which, in Sri Aurobindo’s words, has fled from its coverings.
1 See Beyond Contemporary Scientific Paradigms, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, for a presentation of the manner in which the two dimensions can be unified in a seamless operation that does not negate the material or the ‘insubstantial’.