I apologize in advance—this is a long one! For some time, I have entertained the notion of writing an introduction to my ideas on the higher mysteries of life. I say “my” ideas, but really, they are an amalgamation and continuation of wisdom that has come before me. I am simply passing on the little truth I have awakened to, even as greater truths are still yet to come. The task as a whole was quite daunting, and I’ve endured long stretches of procrastination punctuated by brief lurches of inspiration. But after much revision and simplification for the sake of clarity, I am finally hitting the publish button. Consider this a primer to the esoteric philosophy underlying my personal worldview. Don’t be afraid to research unfamiliar terms and concepts. The intent is to start you down your own rabbit hole of truth seeking.
On Higher Mysteries
While at 26 years of age I’m still an amateur when it comes to esoteric studies, I’ve always perceived a perennial tradition underlying and predating modern religions. Investigating this has revealed a common system of metaphysical truths concerning the spiritual hierarchy of the human constitution. I’m interested in what the ancient Neoplatonists refer to as theurgy, or the path toward henosis (unity with the divine), which is ultimately a deductive process of recognizing what is NOT the true Self, i.e. apophaticism, “via negativa,” neti neti, etc. This discipline has parallel teachings in alchemy, hermeticism, and Kabbalah, among other traditions.
More so than other religions, modern Buddhism has been helpful in my life in terms of providing an ethical framework. But I’m also drawn to these deeper, universal truths relating to the “purification” of the Self. Alchemically speaking, a more accurate analogy would be extraction, like that of gold from baser metals, or the “true self” from the “false self.” I have long hoped for the materialization of a teacher willing to provide a kernel of helpful advice to a young aspirant. I have even dreamt of apprenticeship from elusive or perhaps nonexistent adepts, or Mahatmas. But alas, I am so far alone on this journey. As it is probably meant to be.
The search for an original tradition of “divine wisdom” is definitely not new. Those familiar with Theosophy will recognize Helena Petrovna Blavatsky as a modern pioneer of the effort to synthesize science, religion, and philosophy. While her unspoiled teachings are thankfully still extant in the world, their legacy is somewhat muddied by the failings of misguided followers. This is but one example of the inevitable corruption of truth throughout history. Thankfully she was not the first to rediscover lost knowledge, nor will she be the last. The torch is passed on, in perpetuity.
Each modern religion represents an incomplete perspective. As our human perception of oneness declines through the ages, our interpretations and understandings become differentiated. Truth becomes distorted, veiled, and weighed down by excessive dogma. Some obfuscation is purposefully carried out to protect profane ears from being misled. But too often, it is the human Ego that obstructs the pure transmission of the universe’s metaphysical secrets. To navigate through the muck of religious scripture, symbolic representations of truth, and inane idolatry, one must develop their inner compass, which is the faculty of intuition, or the intrinsic truth-recognizer inside of us all.
On Myth & Archetypes
Truth plainly stated is not enduring. As humanity cycles through the ages, knowledge is repeatedly lost and rediscovered. However, it achieves immortality through the legends and tales passed down by our ancestors, which are great vehicles for deeper meaning. The same stories are forever reclothed and reborn. While the names and details may shift with the tides of culture and civilization, the fundamental archetypes remain. Even when the greater truth has been forgotten, it is locked away symbolically in the story being told, and is forever intuitively accessible to those who know how read between the lines.
In the past, where myth has intersected with spirituality (and perhaps a sprinkling of dogma), the great religions of our world were born. But wherever storytelling exists, myth inevitably arises, including in modern media franchises such as Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These epic, multi-installment odysseys have their roots in much older storytelling traditions, mainly the monomyth, better known as The Hero’s Journey. I believe the importance of a modern, relevant, and truly global myth is recognized by the creators of our day. This higher purpose of storytelling is reflected in pop-culture and media, ensconced within the consumerism of our society. Even more organic forms of what I call “emergent mythology” can be found in what certain people would label “conspiracy theories.”
Myths are much broader than allegories, which merely represent very specific ideas through metaphor, parable, or fable. The former signify truth that is more universal, utilizing archetypal motifs that are applicable to numerous ideas and concepts, even those not intended by their creators. A culturally relevant and timely myth is both spiritually ennobling and beneficial in the practical sense. It ties a group of people together around a common truth, informing their history and beliefs. For this reason, there is a great beauty and importance in the simple art of storytelling.
Heroes and ancient gods (Egyptian, Greek, Roman, etc.) are based on timeless archetypes. They arise from the collective subconscious of mankind, the universally shared bedrock of our beliefs. These archetypes ultimately mark the great threshold between the known and the unknown. They point our souls towards that truth which our minds cannot comprehend. And we are admittedly unlikely to realize the full truth of the universe within this individual lifetime. That’s why the belief in the unknown is so important to the human disposition. It gives this otherwise answerless life inherent meaning.
Ultimately, these mythic stories chronicle the psycho-spiritual journey of mankind. In my opinion, they also highlight the importance of believing in a higher force, or power. There is an opportunity of transcendence in striving to cultivate a mythic imagination. When you treat everything, including the trivial, with reverence, as a sacred “thou” rather than an “it,” you begin to feel a change in your psychology. I have made the goal of unraveling the thread of metaphysical truth from the knots of myth and legend paramount in my life.
On “God” and the Absolute
Simply put, my life’s (hidden) interest is to realize how science, religion, and philosophy aren’t mutually exclusive; and to unveil their underlying commonality. This interest has gestated a broader, or more complicated, metaphysical view of reality. There exists a fundamental system of metaphysical truths that I believe can be understood, perhaps not in this single lifetime, but nevertheless remaining a worthy destination for the far more important journey there. Such a journey begins with a superficial understanding of the Absolute.
There is a certain spark within all of us, the germ or seed of a great fiery emanation. It is our connection to Atman, the One, the Absolute, or the universal soul that shines forth through all beings. A ray of light from sun of God. The full potential of this spark lies dormant, awaiting the moment our conscious mind reconnects through a deeper level of awareness. This instigates a quickening of that latent power, eventually manifesting all of its divine potential. If the Absolute is pure potential, it contains infinite possibilities, all realities, material or otherwise. Identification with the Absolute, rather than with the phenomenal universe, is the path toward experiencing the ultimate oneness of everything. Love teaches us how to reach the Absolute.
On a metaphorical level, the universe could be described as a fruit tree. The tree itself represents actualized potential, or all manifested phenomena. The purpose of that tree is to cultivate fruit, which nourishes the seed of potential that will eventually give birth to a new tree. This fruit of the fruit represents a germ of the Absolute, which contains the spiritual code for the physical universe. The cycle of birth, nourishment, death, and reproduction (rebirth) is perpetual, with no “first cause.”
I believe the eastern traditions had it right with their language — The Hindu proclivity for referring to the Absolute as the Self only encourages this identification with higher attributes. Most likely out of fear, and a lack of faith in mankind’s ability to comprehend the truth, western traditions were handicapped by the belief in an external and transcendent God. However, this might be a historical instance in which knowledge was deemed too dangerous, and therefore veiled or obscured.
With this in mind, the “worship” of a god of any name appears utterly misdirected and fruitless. The very act of worship emphasizes the external perspective of such a god, as being separate from the Self. This only reinforces the false belief in duality and separateness that underlies all suffering. An interesting exception to the general error of dualistic beliefs can be found in the two aspects of Brahman in Hinduism (Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman).
As the truth of the Absolute is impossible to discover in literature or language, it is up to the aspirant to embark an an experiential journey of dis-objectification with the false Self. This liberation ontology is the crux of True Occultism, “Atma Vidya,” “knowledge of the Soul,” “true wisdom,” etc.
On False Identification
A common interpretation of many spiritual practices is the transcendence of Self, or rising above one’s identity. This is reflected most prominently in eastern religious traditions, and to a lesser extent, in those of the west. Throughout the ages, much about this subject has been watered down or misinterpreted. The modern pseudo-spiritual approach has taken the concept of No-Self and warped it into a method for simultaneous depersonalization and innocuous egoism. Getting back to the root and original intent of these ancient teachings can help dispel this benign confusion.
The search for light and truth in general mirrors the retroductive process of unfolding or realizing the true Self. It cannot be pointed to objectively. It is a lifelong process of elimination, guided by one’s intuition, which must be developed and trusted. This is wisdom. “How do you find a needle in a haystack?” one may ask. Not by looking for it directly, I might answer, but by setting fire to the hay. Truth is the needle that remains. Wisdom is fire, through which objectivity is burned away. Intuition, which is synonymous with wisdom, grasps the broad nature of a matter before the logical mind dissects its components. This subject can then be distilled into its simplex essence.
Buddha taught that the Self is an aggregate of five skandhas, or the particular mental factors that give rise to one’s cravings and attachments. They include form, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness. Together these factors comprise the foundation of one’s personality. In Theravada Buddhism, suffering is shown to arise when one clings or becomes attached to these aggregates. In Mahayana tradition, the nature of the skandhas is entirely empty of independent existence. A side note: In Blavatskian Theosophy, there are some parallels to this teaching in the “Sevenfold Nature” of Man.
The first skandha pertains to our body or physical form. The second, sensation, is primarily made up of physical and emotional feelings. The third skandha, perception, is what can be most accurately defined as cognition or the ability to think. It’s the part of ourselves that recognizes and identifies. The fourth, mental formations, includes our behavioral patterns, conditioned prejudices, and both negative and positive mental states. It manifests as cyclical karma, or the causes and effects of our actions. The fifth and last skandha, consciousness, is pure awareness without conceptualization. It is the bedrock of the Self that knits together our experience of reality, and our very connection to the Absolute.
Something to keep in mind is that, because they are empty, the skandhas are not characteristics that an individual possesses. Beneath the emergent identity of these aggregates, there is only No-Self, which is the True Self. Simply put, the ego, or the individual and autonomous “you,” is a manifested illusion. This doctrine is referred to as Anatta or Anatman in Buddhism. Stripped of greater context, this teaching can be dangerous and easily misconstrued as nihilistic. While our Self is inherently empty, this does not mean we are “soulless.” In my opinion, it simply necessitates a reinvention of the idea of a soul, or perhaps further elucidation on the meaning of “empty.”
Illumination serves as a useful metaphor for understanding false identity. Light is a principle. The human eye sees illumination, which is the perceptible attribute. Light is the un-manifested principle underlying the physically manifested quality or attribute of illumination, which is but a dancing shadow on the wall. This is the essence of Platonic philosophy. The subjugation of the skandhas or aggregates, i.e. the psycho-physical components of the Self, means Nirvana. From this perspective, it’s more accurate to say that the Self is not emptied, but that the Absolute within us becomes empty of the shadowy components we misidentify with.
False identity necessitates the delusion of embodiment. If the Self could be known objectively, that means there would be something antecedent making recognition of something that you are not. Theurgy is a process of retroduction and dis-objectification of the Self that falls in-between thought-based and emptiness meditation. It is the simple awareness and watchfulness of one’s thoughts and mind, and recognizing the higher or abstract ideas behind phenomena. The subtler principles. This extraction of the “watcher” out of the monkey-mind (or the psycho-physical) is akin to a muscle that must be stretched. Simply put, know what thyself is not. When all of the rest has been pushed away, clarity and truth is manifest. The delusion of embodiment or false identification is the perpetuator of all suffering, for all time, of all people.
On Cultivating Will
Many of us are relatively lost in life, having disconnected from our higher selves. At some point in our early years, we ceased listening to the voice in our heart. We fell victim to the mental programming that inhibits our Will through societal conditioning, or simply the doubts and insecurities generated by our monkey-mind. We effectively let go of our dreams, having talked ourselves out of them long ago.
The way out of this unfulfilled existence lies in following our bliss, as the wise Joseph Campbell taught. There is a part of us that knows what we love most, and it is buried beneath the all too convincing delusion of our programming. Our heart seems to reach the destination of truth before our mind. We must put our faith in our passion, and be skeptical of that doubting, hesitant voice in our head. Through introspection I’ve been able to realize that my personal bliss is simply the quest for ultimate truth, expressed through the medium of writing. Pens are my wands, and words are my spells.
By necessity, there is a Self-oriented aspect to selflessness. Desire must be used to kindle the greater spiritual principles. It is the basis of any action. The fate of suppressing desire is nihilism, or a loss of personal meaning and significance. The alchemical journey of the soul requires the transmutation of baser desires into a higher purpose. We cannot rise to a higher spiritual calling unless we first have the impulse to do so, and further use that to refine and elevate our passions toward truth and that greater purpose.
The journey toward our personal, spiritual calling begins in shifting our Will from a state of reactivity to proactivity, or focusing its power wherever our bliss may be found. But, as many will experience, the mind has a habit of hindering our ability to find our passion. This is due to our internal conditioning, or the thought-patterns and habits that arise over time, carved into our grey matter by negative experiences and trauma. It turns our source of passion into a source of fear, as an overactive protection measure. Therefore we must strive to rescue our Will with our mind, by becoming aware of those subtle thought-patterns and slowly rewiring them from the inside out. This usually means facing our fears and confronting the irrationality of our programming. There are many avenues for this kind of introspection and self-analysis, including psychotherapy and Theurgical meditation.
The ultimate goal is to know thyself, or more importantly, what thyself is not. By reprogramming the mind, our Will becomes purified, balanced, and oriented in a positive direction. Our fears dissipate, and our higher principles blossom with renewed purpose. Acting upon base desires is not free will. Those desires are lower impulses which control your otherwise unfettered spirit. Purification of those desires, by bringing them into the light of the Absolute within you, is “free will.”
Within all of our hearts lies a spark of divinity. It is my goal to kindle this infantile flame, and coax the fires to their fullest potential. I have discovered that writing is my medium for expressing my Will, which must be oriented away from baser desires and towards a self-sacrificial purpose. By actually embracing my bliss and not deliberating, I have the greatest chance of success in assisting the gradual liberation of the world at large.
The truth of our connection to the Absolute is the metaphorical seed within the core of the apple of life. Cultivating that seed on a personal level involves the process of dis-objectification with the false Self and the awakening of our latent spiritual faculties. This realization of our true nature is in fact a reflection of the nature of the universe as a whole. Beyond the individual scale, it is the task of humanity to cultivate the seed of our species’ spiritual potential. This necessitates the progressive work of generations and individual self-sacrifice for the greater whole. To put it succinctly, the purpose of temporal existence is to reawaken our understanding of truth, rediscover our divine responsibility to all life, and actualize the latent potential carried in us all. It is a noble proposition.
Like a Promethean relay race through the ages, the great work entails holding the torch of Divine Truth and passing it forward from one to another. It means protecting it from the forces of ignorance and regression that would see it falter. The real spiritual truth is never fully lost, even when those forces of darkness momentarily succeed. Its reemergence is inevitable at some point in the future. Simply put, the great work is the protection of that sacred truth, oftentimes manifesting as the story of rebellion against the forces of oppression. The more we are awakened to Truth, the greater our responsibility becomes to those still asleep.
Being born in this lifetime is akin to putting boots on the ground in order to serve the awakening of humanity, and in a broader sense, all sentient beings. Waking up to my own personal responsibility is a journey I’m still on. Each day I’m confronted with the doubts and fears that have the potential to hold me back. But I accept them, as I am learning to accept all of my failings. They are signposts pointing toward the areas of my unconscious mind that still need clarity. Lighthouses on the shore of spiritual development.
Our pain is our truth. We can’t control and suppress it forever, as that would mean denying an inherent part of ourselves. We create a false reality to take refuge from our suffering. We play the primary role in this grand act of self-deception. I choose to use my gift of writing in order to universalize my pain and emotions. I choose to sacrifice. I choose the Bodhisattva path. Ultimately, I am searching for meaning within my own suffering, and perhaps my great calling is to share that process with the world — my own hero’s journey, or my “dark night of the soul.” I believe we are all being called to do the same. And thus, the sheep will become the shepherds.
Eyes open. No fear. ☀️