“You are that vast thing that you see far, far off with great telescopes.” — Alan Watts, philosopher
I will admit this: I’m rather partial to monkeys. I suppose it is because I am born in the Year of the Monkey, according to the Chinese zodiac. One of the most famous Chinese legends is that of the Monkey King, one of the main characters of the Chinese story Journey to the West. The Hindus have Hanuman, their version of the archetypal monkey sovereign — a brave, clever warrior who was utterly devoted to the virtuous Lord Rama, as told in the Indian epic the Ramayana.
In India, the Hanuman Chalisa is a devotional hymn (stotra) sung by millions of Hindus everyday. I first heard it sung in New York City, during one of the kirtan (call-and-response devotional singing) gatherings at the yoga studio of Dharma Mittra, a well-known local yoga teacher. I also remember hearing it being chanted upon entering the famous hilltop temple of Hanuman located near Hampi, India. To my pleasant surprise, it was not the priest, but an American chanting it at Hanuman’s altar — by heart. It was one of the many magical moments in those bouldered hills, supposedly the birthplace of this great hero.
The Hanuman Chalisa consists of 40 main verses, praising the monkey king’s courage, strength, intelligence and complete devotion to the Divine, as embodied by Rama. Here in North America, one might be familiar with the Hanuman Chalisa as sung by American kirtan singer Krishna Das, whose album was recently nominated for a Grammy. But I came across this lovely rendition of the Chalisa sung by Nina Rao, who is Krishna Das’ business manager and tours and sings with him as well. She has a short explanation of the song’s significance at the beginning, but singing starts at 8:12. Via Yogaville Livestream:
More on Hanuman’s remarkable feats, via Kashgar:
Hanuman’s tale as told in the epic Ramayana is renowned for its ability to inspire its readers to face ordeals and conquer obstructions in their own lives. At the time of the Ramayana, Hanuman is sent as an advance spy to Lanka, the capital of the mighty demon Ravana’s empire. Ravana has provoked Lord Rama by carrying away his beloved wife Sita in order to start a war. During the epic times that follow, Hanuman brings hope and secret messages to the captive Sita, leads Rama’s monkey army in the Battle of Lanka and single-handedly kills many demons including Lankini, Champion of the demons. During this time Hanuman is captured by the enemy, only to outwit them with the cunning use of his powers. He returns to find Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana themselves captured by the enemy and about to be sacrificed to the goddess Kali by the sorcerer Mahiravana. In a tale of great daring, Hanuman outsmarts the evil lord into becoming the sacrifice himself, thereby earning the eternal respect of Kali. She appoints Hanuman as her doorkeeper and today many of her temples are seen to have a monkey guarding their doorways.
After the defeat of Ravana, Rama and Sita are crowned King and Queen of Ayodhya. Hanuman is offered a reward for his bravery and asks only to continue in service to him and to live for as long as men speak of Rama’s deeds. He remains as Rama’s favorite general to this day.
Because of his bravery, perseverance, strength and devoted service, Hanuman is regarded as a perfect symbol of selflessness and loyalty. Worship of Hanuman helps the individual to counter the bad karma borne out of selfish action, and grants the believer fortitude and strength in his or her own trials during the journey of life. Hanuman is also invoked in fights against sorcery and protective amulets depicting him are extremely popular among his devotees.
Here are the lyrics and translation of the Hanuman Chalisa, via Nina Rao’s website:
Shree Hanuman Chalisa
Mangala moorati maaruta nandana
You are the embodiment of blessings, Son of the Wind
Sakala amangala moola nikandana
You destroy the root of everything that is inauspicious and harmful
Shree Guru charana saroja raja nijamanu mukuru sudhaari
Taking the dust of my Guru’s lotus feet to polish the mirror of my heart
Baranaun Raghubara bimala jasu jo daayaku phala chaari
I sing the pure fame of the best of Raghus, which bestows the four fruits of life.
Buddhi heenatanu jaanike sumiraun pawana kumaara
I don’t know anything, so I remember you, Son of the Wind
Bala budhividyaa dehu mohin harahu kalesa bikaara
Grant me strength, intelligence and wisdom and remove my impurities and sorrows
Seeyavara Ramchandra pada jai sharanam
Refuge at the feet of Sita’s lord, Ram
1. Jaya Hanumaan gyaanaguna saagara, Jaya Kapeesha tihun loka ujaagara
Hail Hanuman, ocean of wisdom/Hail Monkey Lord! You light up the three worlds.
2. Raama doota atulita bala dhaamaa, Anjani putra Pawanasuta naamaa
You are Ram’s messenger,the abode of matchless power/ Anjani’s son, “Son of the Wind.”
3. Mahaabeera bikrama bajarangee, Kumatiniwaara sumati ke sangee
Great hero, you area mighty thunderbolt/Remover of evil thoughts and companion of the good.
4. Kanchana barana biraaja subesaa, Kaanana kundala kunchita kesa
Golden hued andsplendidly adorned/with heavy earrings and curly locks
5. Haata bajra au dwajaa biraajai, Kaandhemoonja janeu saajai
In your hands shine mace and abanner/ a sacred thread adorns your shoulder.
6. Shankara suwana Kesaree nandana, Tejaprataapa mahaa jaga bandana
You are an incarnationof Shiva and Kesari’s son/Your glory is revered throughout the world.
7. Vidyaawaana gunee ati chaatura, Raamakaaja karibe ko aatura
You are the wisest of the wise, virtuous and very clever/ ever eager to do Ram’s work
8. Prabhu charitra sunibe ko rasiyaa, Raama Lakhana Seetaa mana basiyaa
You delight in hearing of the Lord’s deeds/ Ram, Lakshman and Sita dwell in your heart.
9. Sookshma roopa dhari Siyahin dikhaawaa, Bikata roopa dhari Lankaa jaraawaa
Assuming a tiny form you appeared to Sita/ in an awesome form you burned Lanka.
10. Bheema roopa dhari asura sanghaare, Raamachandra ke kaajasanvaare
Takinga dreadful form you slaughtered the demons/completing Lord Ram’s work.
11. Laayasajeevana Lakhana jiyaaye, Shree Raghubeera harashi ura laaye
Bringing the magic herbyou revived Lakshman/ Shri Ram embraced you with delight.
12. Raghupatikeenhee bahuta baraaee, tuma mama priya Bharatahi sama bhaaee
The Lord of the Raghus praised you greatly/ “You are as dear to me as my brotherBharat!”
13. Sahasabadana tumharo jasa gaawain, asa kahi Shreepati kanta lagaawain
Thousands of mouths will sing your fame!”/ So saying Lakshmi’s Lord drew you to Himself.
14.Sanakaadika Brahmaadi muneesaa, Naarada Saarada sahita Aheesaa
Sanak and the sages, Brahma, and the munis/ Narada, Saraswati and the King of serpents,
15. Yama Kubera digapaala jahaante, kabi kobida kahi sake kahaante
Yama, Kubera, the guardians of the four quarters/poets and scholars-none can express your glory.
16. Tumaupakaara Sugreevahin keenhaa, Raama milaaya raaja pada deenhaa
You did great service for Sugriva/ bringing him to Ram, you gave him kingship.
17. Tumharomantra Vibheeshana maanaa, Lankeshwara bhaye saba jaga jaanaa
Vibhishana heeded your counsel/He became the Lord of Lanka, as the whole world knows.
18. Yugasahasra yojana para bhaanu, leelyo taahi madhura phala jaanu
Though the sun is millions of miles away/ you swallowed it thinking it to be a sweet fruit.
19. Prabhumudrikaa meli mukha maaheen, jaladhi laanghi gaye acharaja naaheen
Holding the Lord’s ring in your mouth/ it’s no surprise that you leapt over the ocean.
20. Durgamakaaja jagata ke jete, sugama anugraha tumhare tete
Every difficult task in this world becomes easy by your grace.
21. Raamaduaare tuma rakhawaare, hota na aagyaa binu paisaare
You are the guardian at Ram’s door/ no one enters without your permission.
22. Saba sukhalahai tumhaaree sharanaa, tuma rakshaka kaahu ko dara naa
Those who take refuge in you find all happiness/ those who you protect know no fear.
23. Aapanateja samhaaro aapai, teenon loka haanka ten kaanpai
You alone can withstand your own splendor/ the three worlds tremble at your roar.
24. Bhootapisaacha nikata nahin aawai, Mahaabeera jaba naama sunaawai
Ghosts and goblins cannot come near/ Great Hero, when your name is uttered.
25. Naasairoga hare saba peeraa, japata nirantara Hanumata beeraa
All disease and pain is eradicated/ by constantly repeating of your name, brave Hanuman.
26. Sankata ten Hanumaana churaawai, mana krama bachana dhyaana jolaawai
Hanuman, you release from affliction all those/ who remember you in thought word and deed.
27. Saba paraRaama tapaswee raajaa, tina ke kaaja sakala tuma saajaa
Ram, the ascetic king, reigns over all/ but you carry out all his work.
28. Auramanorata jo koee laawai, soee amita jeewana phala paawai
One who comes to you with any yearning/ obtains the abundance of the Four Fruits of Life.
29. Chaaronjuga parataapa tumhaaraa, hai parasidha jagata ujiyaaraa
Your splendor fills the four ages/ your glory is renowned throughout the world.
30. Saadhusanta ke tuma rakhawaare, asura nikandana Raama dulaare
You are the guardian of saints and sages/ the destroyer of demons and the darling of Ram.
31. Ashtasiddhi nau nidhi ke daataa, asa bara deena Jaanakee Maataa
You grant the eight powers and nine treasures/ by the boon you received from Mother Janaki.
32. Raamarasaayana tumhare paasaa, sadaa raho Raghupati ke daasaa
You hold the elixir of Ram’s name/ and remain eternally his servant.
33. Tumharebhajana Raama ko paawai, janama janama ke dukha bisaraawai
Singing your praise, one finds Ram/ and the sorrows of countless lives are destroyed.
34. Anta kaala Raghubara pura jaaee, jahaan janama Hari bhakta kahaaee
At death one goes to Ram’s own abode/ born there as God’s devotee.
35. Auradevataa chitta na daraee, Hanumata se-ee sarva sukha karaee
Why worship any other deities/ from Hanuman you’ll get all happiness.
36. Sankatakatai mite saba peeraa, jo sumire Hanumata bala beeraa
All affliction ceases and all pain is removed/ for those who remember the mighty hero, Hanuman.
37. Jai jaijai Hanumaana Gosaaee, kripaa karahu gurudeva kee naaee
Victory, Victory, Victory Lord Hanuman/ bestow your grace on me, as my Guru!
38. Jo satabaara paata kara koee, chootahi bandi mahaa sukha hoee
Whoever recites this a hundred times/ is released from bondage and gains bliss.
39. Jo yahaparai Hanumaana chaaleesaa, hoya siddhi saakhee Gaureesaa
One who reads this Hanuman Chalisa/ gains success, as Gauri’s Lord (Shiva) is witness.
40. TulaseeDaasa sadaa Hari cheraa, keejai naata hridaya mahaan deraa
Says Tulsi Das, who always remains Hari’s servant’/ “Lord, make your home in my heart.”
Pawanatanayasankata harana mangala moorati roopa
Son of the Wind, destroyer of sorrow,embodiment of blessings
Raama Lakhana Seetaa sahita hridayabasahu sura bhoopa
With Ram, Lakshman and Sita, LIVE IN MY HEART, King of Gods!
Seeyavara Ramchandra pada jai sharanam
Refuge at the feet of Sita’s lord, Ram
Mangala moorati maaruta nandana
You are the embodiment of blessings, Son of the Wind
Sakala amangala moola nikandana
You destroy the root of everything that is inauspicious and harmful
Additional couplet from Ramacharitmanasa sung in “Nina Chalisa”:
Pavana tanaya bal, pavana samaana
budhi viveka vigyana nidhana
kavan so kaaj katin jaga mahin
jo nahin hoya tat tumha pahi
Son of the Wind, you are as strong as the Wind himself. You are
the embodiment of intelligence, discrimination, and true wisdom.
What undertaking in this world is too difficult for you to accomplish?
The beginning of yet another year, yet another present moment in this holographic emanation of time. How we come back again and again to the infinite Here Now. What is revealed…?
Ancient and medieval Indian scholars have referred to Brihadaranyaka Upanishad as a foundation to discuss psychological theories, the nature of psyche, and how body, mind and soul interact. For example, Adi Shankara in his commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad explains the relation between consciousness, the mind and the body.
Verse 1.3.28 acknowledges that metaphysical statements in Upanishads are meant to guide the reader from unreality to reality. The metaphysics of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is non-dualism (Advaita). For instance, in verse 2.4.13 Yajnavalkya asserts that everything in the universe is the Self. The nature of reality or Self is described as consciousness-bliss in verse 3.9.28. Neti-neti or (not this—not this) is a method of emphasizing the discovery of the right, by excluding the wrong. The verse 5.1 states that the Universe, Reality and Consciousness is infinite.
- पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते ।
- पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
- pūrṇam adaḥ, pūrṇam idaṃ, pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate
- pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate.
- “That (Brahman) is infinite, and this (universe) is infinite. the infinite proceeds from the infinite.
(Then) taking the infinitude of the infinite (universe), it remains as the infinite (Brahman) alone.”
“From infinite or fullness, we can get only fullness or infinite”. The above verse describes the nature of the Absolute or Brahman which is infinite or full, i.e., it contains everything. Upanishadic metaphysics is further elucidated in the Madhu-vidya (honey doctrine), where the essence of every object is described to be same to the essence of every other object. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad looks at reality as being indescribable and its nature to be infinite and consciousness-bliss. The cosmic energy is thought to integrate in the microcosm and in the macrocosm integrate the individual to the universe.
We carry a bit of the Absolute in all of us, and this Absolute-ness pervades everything experientially. What is heard is felt and “Seen” and Known.
Music from Solar Fields.
Indigenous activist, poet and writer John Trudell passed away last week on December 8, 2015. His voice will be missed around the world. I previously wrote about his courageous activism, encouraging us to act in non-cooperation with a capitalist system that is slowly killing the planet — and our humanity.
Once again, in my daily life practices I’m reminded of the truth that “we are energy” and where we put our energy really matters. If we want a better world, we have to put our energy behind that belief, whatever form it may take.
We may not want to believe it, but modern society as it stands today wants to disempower us as human beings, resplendent as it is with technological bread and circuses, and other forms of subtle and not-so-subtle social conditioning, expressed through our unsustainable, sprawling cities and the echo-chamber of our media. Our apparent disempowerment is reflected in the global epidemic of addiction — to drugs, alcohol, shopping, gambling, technology — anything to fill the void left by the disintegration of self-knowledge, community and meaning.
But there is hope, I think. We must look closely — not just around us, but within ourselves. There are everyday miracles, and sometimes they are closer than we think. We must never forget that power lies not in the system, but in us, ourselves. We built this structure, these modern myths and falsehoods, and we can take it apart. “We are power.”
The ancients of India believed that all existence arises from sound vibrations. There is a lot of fascinating literature on this, and the bija mantra (seed sound) of AUM is a well-known one. It may seem like some esoteric tidbit, but there is science underlying this ages-old tenet.
A relatively new field in modern science, cymatics (from kyma, Greek for wave) is a term used to describe the study of modal phenomena, visible sound and vibration, which seems to have roots in a very old realization. Cymatics asks: is there a connection between sound, vibrations and physical reality? Do sound and vibrations have the potential to influence matter, or even create it? This is a fascinating question, with profound implications for transforming our way of relating with the world — that the world is not made of separate entities, but in fact consists of a flow of interdependent, interwoven, rippling modularities. It is an engrossing thing to watch complexity increase, as the frequency goes higher and higher:
Beyond YouTube, cymatics has a long history. Its proponents assert that there is a connection between sound and physical reality. From Wikipedia:
In 1787, Ernst Chladni repeated the work of Robert Hooke and published “Entdeckungen über die Theorie des Klanges” (“Discoveries in the Theory of Sound”). In this book, Chladni describes the patterns seen by placing sand on metal plates which are made to vibrate by stroking the edge of the plate with a bow.
Throughout the 1960s, up until his death in 1972, Swiss medical doctor and Anthroposophist, Hans Jenny took a methodological and exhaustive approach to documenting Cymatic phenomena. He coined the term “Cymatics” in his 1967 book, Kymatik (translated Cymatics). Inspired by systems theory and the work of Ernst Chladni, Jenny delved deeply into the many types of periodic phenomena but especially thevisual display of sound. He pioneered the use of laboratory grown piezoelectric crystals, which were quite costly at that time. Hooking them up to amplifiers and frequency generators, the crystals functioned as transducers, converting the frequencies into vibrations that were strong enough to set the steel plates into resonance. He made the resultant nodal fields visible by spreading a fine powder lycopodium spores of a club moss, as well as many other methods and materials.
From his experiments, Jenny theorized that there is a threefold play of forces at work: periodicity, figure and dynamic movement, says Dr. John Beaulieu:
Dr. Jenny observed three fundamental principles at work in the vibratory field on the plate. He wrote, “Since the various aspects of these phenomena are due to vibration, we are confronted with a spectrum which reveals a patterned, figurative formation at one pole and kinetic-dynamic processes at the other, the whole being generated and sustained by its essential periodicity.”
What Dr. Jenny is saying is that one can hear the sound as a wave; he calls this the pole of kinetic-dynamic process. One can see the pattern the sound creates in the plate; he calls this the pole of “patterned-figurative formation”. And if Dr. Jenny were to touch the plate and feel it’s vibration, he would call this the generating pole of ”essential periodicicity”.
Making the jump in connecting sound with matter may seem too much, but Jenny was unequivocal that sound vibration is inextricable from the rest:
Since the various aspects of these phenomena are due to vibration, we are confronted with a spectrum which reveals patterned, figurate formation sat one pole and kinetic-dynamic processes at the other, the whole being generated and sustained by its essential periodicity. These aspects however, are not separate entities but are derived from the vibrational phenomenon in which they appear in their “unitariness”. Even though one or the other may predominate in this or that phenomenon, we invariably find these three elements present.
In other words, the series we have formulated is in reality confluent in homogeneous activity. It is not that we have configuration here and organized pattern there, but that every effect of vibration bears the signature of configuration, movement and a play of forces. We can, so to speak, melt down our spectrum and observe the action of its various categories as a continuous play in one and the same entity.
If we wish to describe this single entity, we can say this: there are always figurate and patterned elements in a vibrational process and a vibrational effect, but there are also kinetic and dynamic elements; the whole is of a periodic nature and it is this periodicity which generates and sustains everything. The three fields — the periodic as the fundamental field with the two poles of figure and dynamics — invariably appear as one. They are inconceivable without each other. It is quite out of the question to take away the one or the other; nothing can be abstracted without the whole ceasing to exist.
It would be interesting to discover the intersection between the modern cymatics and the ancient teachings of the Rig Veda about sound, in particular mantra (the root “man-” means “to think” or “mind,” and “-tra” meaning “instrument of thought”).
It’s been said that mantras, which are traditionally sounded in the ancient language of Sanskrit, are designed to create sounds that literally vibrate in the body. According to Dr. David Frawley, author of “Wisdom of the Ancient Seers,” mantra is not like our ordinary, artificial and rigid language, but is an organic “language in which sound and meaning correspond”:
[Mantric language] is a science of sound wherin the meaning and force of all sounds is known and developed toward mergence in the Divine Word. [..]
[Words in mantric language] are not names in our ordinary sense at all. They are the essential sound-idea behind the object that evokes its being, which becomes the tool whereby its essence is grasped. They are the mantric names of objects which arise within the mind in meditative perception, as the mark of entry of the being of the object into the fabric of the mind. [..] They are the vibration of the mind uniting with the being of the object in the unity of seeing. [..] In the mantric sense, therefore, to name is to know the nature of the thing, to touch its essence.
Essentially for the ancients, sound, vibration and matter were one and the same. Language for them was a way to tap into the cosmic unity of all creation, unlike our use of language(s), which often serves to fracture us into different nations, religions and identifications. It does seem that primal sound — without modern, separatist, linguistic leanings — could be our ultimate salvation. Frawley notes that during the Satya Yuga, or Golden Age of prehistory, it is said that humans spoke only one language and were spiritually more developed and united. He continues on about how this mantric language differs from our languages today:
Such mantric names do not reflect an arbitrary cultural usage. They reflect the archetypal vibrations behind all phenomenal objects, the vibrations of the Divine Word itself. This is not a religious belief, but the vibratory energy of cosmic intelligence that informs all things. [..]
Such language really has only one word, which is the cosmic word of truth and harmony. It has only one message: that all is Divine, all a formation of the Divine Word. It has no practical message… or bias. Its purpose is to break all the barriers of the mind and merge it into the unity of cosmic intelligence — to break all our limiting constructs and dissolve the mind into the direct seeing of unconditioned being.
Is sound a vibrational thought-form, made manifest in physical reality by the periodic modulation of space-time? No wonder the study and practice of mantra is a whole discipline unto itself, with numerous benefits. It appears that sound is a tool, one that can be used intentionally, whether for uniting us all, or keeping ourselves in ignorance. Read more over at Soulwise.
Most of us don’t think much about advertising. Granted, we find most ads annoying, but on a certain level, they get under our skin and seem to colonize our awareness in the strangest of ways, unbidden and unwelcome. like that jingle we can’t get out of our heads.
I became most aware of this after spending six months in a South Indian eco-village, where it was positively free of advertising compared to here. No billboards, corporate posters, commercials, etc. My mind and spirit felt peaceful.
Author Jerry Mander is one of my favourite thinkers on the impact of technology and advertising. In his book In the Absence of the Sacred, published years before the Internet took off, he correctly foresees the “failures of technology,” which he predicted could be used to surveil, control and collect data on ordinary citizens on an unprecedented scale. We see these hypotheses now played out by the Edward Snowden story and the recent revelations of widespread NSA surveillance.
In his article “Privatization of Consciousness,” he outlines the history of advertising, which developed massively after the end of the second world war, as a way to boost the mass consumption of goods now made in factories that once made war weapons. To keep the economy going, people had to be convinced to buy things, and television was a major vehicle of this new consumerism, and still is, writes Mander:
Over the last half century, the combination of television and astronomical advertising spending has effectively reshaped the consciousness of the United States and the entire planet: our self-image, the way we aspire to live, our habits, our thoughts, our references, desires, memories. [..]
Ours is the first generation in history to have essentially moved its consciousness inside media, to have increasingly replaced direct contact with other people, other communities, other sources of knowledge, and the natural world —which is anyway getting harder and harder to find —with simulated, re-created, or edited versions of events and experiences.
This is something that Mander has also alluded to in Absence of the Sacred, and which he attributes to the deliberate creation of a global monoculture of the mind, perfect for unquestioning, mass consumption at all costs, including that of our own sanity and health, and that of our planet:
It’s a primary drive of corporate globalization that every place on Earth should become like every other place on Earth. This creates new investment opportunity for global capital and promotes efficiency in resource management, production planning, marketing, and distribution for millions of commodities and their producers. But the external homogenization process also requires an internal homogenization process —a remake of human beings themselves —our minds, our ideas, our values. The ultimate goal is a global monoculture of human beings that fits nicely with the redesigned external landscape, like so many compatible computers. In the end, corporations seek a mental landscape that nicely matches the physical landscape of freeways, suburbs, franchises, high-rises, clear-cuts, and the sped-up physical life of the commodified world.
Mander also pinpoints that the uninspired, concrete monotony of our built environment plays a huge part. Yes, architecture influences our consciousness, and it’s no accident that big box stores all look the same, suburbias and condo developments all over are interchangeable, nondescript and soul-destroying:
Most of our lives are contained within physically reconstructed, human-created environments—cities, buildings, streets—where nature is no longer visible. It’s as if we have moved inside the minds of the people who imagined these constructs and realities. In this way, generation to generation, we go more deeply into human thought and creation: mediated reality.
From our mediated, physical environments, it’s a seamless step to mediate, spin and distort the information that comes out of the media, and ultimately the truth:
With most of our information mediated —that is, processed and edited and changed by human beings who have specific purposes for the image —and without any direct contact with the true circumstances of an issue, how can anyone possibly know what is right and what is wrong? And yet we are asked to make our country’s major decisions based on the knowledge we receive from the machine. So, it’s Murdoch or Eisner, or Shell Oil and GM, or Democratic media consultants, or Republican media consultants, who enter our brains, leave their viewpoints, and firmly implant their images. Then they each spend millions of dollars’ worth of political ads, most of which are wildly distorted. We can only guess what to finally believe.
Mander suggests that to fight this ubiquitous intrusion of advertising, we have to see it as a kind of “mental pollution.” He proposes some radical but rational steps to curb this corruption, such as banning advertising in public spaces, controlling Internet advertising, taxing advertising and introducing statutory regulation of the ad industry.
Mander’s ideas are compelling, and he isn’t the only one calling to protect our mental landscape and our collective consciousness as a precious resource. If we don’t protect it from unwanted corporate colonization, we risk being alienated from our true nature — and being replaced by a cookie-cutter consumer addicted to buying and keeping up appearances. Perhaps this is why some are pointing to a rapid globalization of addiction, as addiction can be seen as a psychologically based symptom manifesting out of spiritual emptiness and dis-ease, a kind of separation of our true selves. This separation is what prompts us toward a kind of existential death wish, to annihilate what we mistakenly believe to be empty, and is what drives the decline of this civilization. While it looks dire, the good news paradox is, that according to the ancient sages, we can never be truly separated from our true nature, it was and is always there, waiting to be revealed. Easier said than done, but at least it’s said.
Read more over at “Privatization of Consciousness,”
Image: Oscar Keys
Our built environment is a kind of manifestation of our consciousness, our awareness of our place in the world, and a statement of our relationship with others, the world at large, and our selves. The ancients understood this, hence the mystic forms of the Egyptians, Mayans, Druids, as well as other old civilizations like India, where the practice of vastu shastra (“science of architecture”) prevailed, and still resonates today. Much like Chinese geomancy, the principles of vastu shastra governed the design, layouts, proportions, ground preparation, spatial orientation and siting to balance the beneficial flows of energy between nature and the dwelling’s inhabitants.
Most modern-minded skeptics probably dismiss these geomantic practices as backward superstition. Perhaps younghorn architects today are more drawn to the parametrically designed, computationally generated curiosities of our technological age, rather than the seemingly esoteric architectural texts of yore. Yet, perhaps the ancients knew something more about the very essence of architecture, and its effect on the consciousness, than we do today. They understood that architecture is a microcosm of the greater Universe, and is not exempt from the laws of Nature. Take, for example, the Hindu temple, conceived and built as a model of an infinitely fractal cosmology. Via Data Is Nature:
It’s not just that these temples appear to be algorithmically generated, the ancient Vastu Sustra texts provide procedural rules or recipes for their design, layout and build (including the positions of ornaments). The texts transmit recursive programs, by verbal instruction, to masons so that according to Kirti Trivedi, the Hindu Temple becomes a model of a fractal Universe. A model which represents ‘views of the cosmos to be holonomic and self-similar in nature’. The idea of fractal cosmology is no stranger to western academia. In 1987 the Italian physicist Luciano Pietronero argued, in his paper, that the Universe shows ‘a definite fractal aspect over a fairly wide range of scale’ based on correlations of galaxies and clusters, their spatial distribution and average mass density.
‘According to Hindu philosophy the cosmos can be visualised to be contained in a microscopic capsule, with the help of the concept of subtle element called ‘tammatras’. The whole cosmic principle replicates itself again and again in ever smaller scales’ – Kirti Trivedi
These mind-blowing temples, built by hand before the advent of any computer-aided whatnot, seem to embody something beyond what our modern, Newtonian, mechanistic minds can fathom. But perhaps our technological tools, something that the modern world excels at developing, are helping us get to the forms that the ancients once prescribed. Data Is Nature:
The initial temple plan is based on a grid form known as the Vastu-Purusha Mandala. Tellingly Trivedi remarks in his paper that the Vastu-Purusha Mandala is ‘not a blueprint for a temple, but a ‘forecast’, a marking of the potential within which a wide range of possibilities are implied’. The significance here, should not be underestimated. A ‘potential for possibilities’ within a predefined rule-set predisposes architecture to be governed by a degree of emergence. While emergence in parametric architecture arrived, recently, with computers and algorithms, India has been enacting emergent masonry for thousands of years thanks to the open rules of the Vastus Sustra.
But form must have some kind of context, which informs it and those within. In this fascinating talk linking modern research into vastu shastra and architect Jonathan Lipman, AIA (educated at Cornell) describes how the “superstitions” of geomancy may have a foundation in science. For example, vastu shastra suggests that east one of the better directions for sleeping, recuperating and “brain coherence.” Lipman cites studies that proves these principles may hold scientific water, and convincingly makes a case why a modern science of architecture — like the one that vastu shastra has upheld for centuries — should be developed. Correctly made architecture would be a way to “hack consciousness,” says Lipman, and not only would a house be made like Corbusier’s “machine for living,” it would be a machine that would actually work and be a healthy, nurturing place to dwell.
Image: Vijayanagar, Hampi, by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Addiction is a hotly debated issue; is it a brain disease as some contend, or is it a collection of compulsive behaviours that arises from a psychological process, a forging of maladaptations to deal with emotional or psychological trauma. Others, like Canadian psychology professor Bruce K. Alexander, posit that the rise in addictions of all kinds (to drugs, alcohol, shopping, overeating, television, internet, gaming) are a response to the gradual erosion of belonging, of communal identity, brought out by modern society’s insistence on consumption, competition and individualism:
Global society is drowning in addiction to drug use and a thousand other habits. This is because people around the world, rich and poor alike, are being torn from the close ties to family, culture, and traditional spirituality that constituted the normal fabric of life in pre-modern times. This kind of global society subjects people to unrelenting pressures towards individualism and competition, dislocating them from social life.
People adapt to this dislocation by concocting the best substitutes that they can for a sustaining social, cultural and spiritual wholeness, and addiction provides this substitute for more and more of us.
History shows that addiction can be rare in a society for many centuries, but can become nearly universal when circumstances change – for example, when a cohesive tribal culture is crushed or an advanced civilization collapses. Of course, this historical perspective does not deny that differences in vulnerability are built into each individual’s genes, individual experience, and personal character, but it removes individual differences from the foreground of attention, because societal determinants are so much more powerful. Addiction is much more a social problem than an individual disorder.
This perspective reminds me of Oberlin professor David Orr’s assertion that the current age’s rampant environmental degradation and disconnection from nature stems from our “dis-placement” — the loss of our ties to a particular place, or genus loci. Violence, destruction, the self-destruction of addictive behaviour, fill this emptiness and dislocative disconnection. Our collective dislocations allow for atrocities to occur: addictions to substances, harmful behaviours, addictions to oil and greed for money, a bottomless greed for more and more. It will never be enough, even as we annihilate ourselves. As eco-psychologists hypothesize, the way we treat our external environment is analogous to how we treat our inner landscapes, a reflection of our individual and collective psyches. Is there some kind of profound emptiness we are afraid to confront?
The “globalization of addiction” a fascinating hypothesis, speaking to the possible larger picture of what addiction — as an existential problem, a spiritual emptiness — could truly represent. More over at The Globalization of Addiction, and The Agenda with Steve Paikin.
Distilled to its basic terms, European faith—including the new faith in science—equals a belief that man is God. Europe has always sought a Messiah, whether that be the man Jesus Christ or the man Karl Marx or the man Albert Einstein. American Indians know this to be totally absurd. Humans are the weakest of all creatures, so weak that other creatures are willing to give sip their flesh that we may live. Humans are able to survive only through the exercise of rationality since they lack the abilities of other creatures to gain food through the use of fang and claw. But rationality is a curse since it can cause humans to forget the natural order of things in ways other creatures do not. A wolf never forgets his or her place in the natural order. American Indians can. Europeans almost always do. We pray our thanks to the deer, our relations, for allowing us their flesh to eat; Europeans simply take the flesh for granted and consider the deer inferior. After all, Europeans consider themselves godlike in their rationalism and science. God is the Supreme Being; all else must be inferior.
All European tradition. Marxism included, has conspired to defy the natural order of all things. Continue reading
Several playthroughs of “Here Comes the Sun” in anticipation of spring got me down this Beatles road again.
Yesterday marked the day that John Lennon and Yoko Ono‘s honeymoon began in 1969, a week after their marriage in Gibraltar, near Spain (Lennon’s “Ballad of John and Yoko” gives a pretty concise rundown). Instead of indulging in a private getaway, the couple embarked on two highly publicized week-long “bed-in‘s” for peace, where they stayed in bed and talked about world peace to reporters and various visitors (remember, the Vietnam War was in full swing at this time).
How do we sacrifice?
This is an interesting question to ponder, as I wager many of us don’t do much sacrificing on a daily basis. We are too caught up perhaps in the daily grind, virtual worlds, a “me” mentality. But maybe sacrifice happens more often if you’re a parent, or a community volunteer, or someone working on a crisis hotline. But the act of sacrifice can have great impact; history is littered with heroic stories of personal and collective sacrifice that changed the course of events.
What forms can sacrifice take in our lives? Some years ago, a friend of mine (who’d also introduced me to hatha yoga) had the habit of fasting as part of her spiritual practice. She would sometimes go for days drinking only liquids, and I once even saw her passing out trays of food during a gathering — when it had been her twentieth day fasting. She did not fast as part of any religious observance, nor was it an eating disorder (she ate normally when not fasting), but dedicated this practice of fasting as an offering to others in suffering, to a higher purpose of empathetic oneness with other sentient beings. (In addition to this, she was a caring mother and peace activist.) It was inspiring to see, but a little more difficult for others to understand; I once overheard someone commenting bewilderedly on “why would anyone do something as extreme as this.”
Someone could mention Gandhi’s world-changing fasts and salt marches here — for “fasting was a weapon used by Gandhi as part of his philosophy of Ahimsa or Non Violence” during the fight for India’s independence (I think Gandhi’s title “Mahatma” or “Great Soul” is certainly not misplaced). But perhaps then, fasting is not so extreme in the context of will, especially when there is a clear intention behind one’s will and action (and mind you, not in the name of someone else’s ideology). Continue reading
A couple of years ago, I came across the ideas and writings of archaeologist and former professor emeritus of archaeology at UCLA Marija Gimbutas in a heavy tome that I chanced upon in one of my used bookstore haunts (The Language of the Goddess). Filled with diagrams of artifacts and patterns found in Neolithic sites all over Europe, Gimbutas asserts that these clues point to a matrifocal society that worshipped a great mother goddess, and which initially developed the arts of pottery, weaving and agriculture — an Old Europe that believed in earth deities. “Archaeo-mythology” indeed; yet, culture is the set of stories we tell ourselves.
Gimbutas gained fame — and notoriety — with her last three books: The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974); The Language of the Goddess(1989), which inspired an exhibition in Wiesbaden, 1993/94; and her final book, The Civilization of the Goddess (1991), which based on her documented archeological findings presented an overview of her conclusions about Neolithic cultures across Europe: housing patterns, social structure, art, religion, and the nature of literacy.
The Civilization of the Goddess articulated what Gimbutas saw as the differences between the Old European system, which she considered goddess– and woman-centered (gynocentric), and the Bronze Age Indo-European patriarchal (“androcratic”) culture which supplanted it.Via: Wikipedia
Gimbutas wrote in the Goddess books that
The primordial deity for our Paleolithic and Neolithic ancestors was female, reflecting the sovereignty of motherhood. In fact, there are no images that have been found of a Father God throughout the prehistoric record. Paleolithic and Neolithic symbols and images cluster around a self-generating Goddess and her basic functions as Giver-of-Life, Wielder-of-Death, and as Regeneratrix.
The multiple categories, functions, and symbols used by prehistoric peoples to express the Great Mystery are all aspects of the unbroken unity of one deity, a Goddess who is ultimately Nature herself.
We Are The Dreamed
Young Girl Playing Paper Game: Dream is destiny.
– “Waking Life,” directed by Richard Linklater, 2001
A change of consciousness is the major fact of the next evolutionary transformation, and the consciousness itself, by its own mutation, will impose and effect any necessary mutation of the body… If a spiritual unfolding on earth is the hidden truth of our birth into Matter, if it is fundamentally an evolution of consciousness that has been taking place in Nature, then man as he is cannot be the last term of that evolution: he is too imperfect an expression of the spirit, mind itself a too limited form and instrumentation; mind is only a middle term of consciousness, the mental being can only be a transitional being.
– “The Future Evolution of Man,” Sri Aurobindo
As emerging science and the Indian poet-philosopher Sri Aurobindo posits: if it is true that we are undergoing what is fundamentally an evolution not of biology – but of consciousness – then it is unmistakable that dreams and the unexplored depths of the collective conscious will have a decisive role in it. Already, our human-made constructs of duality between subject-object, human-nature, modern-primitive, real-unreal and waking-dreaming are trembling under the forces of pervasive change and new social dreamings, both inside and outside of what we naïvely and narrowly conceive as our “self.” As Aurobindo implies, this transformation is inevitable, regardless of our self-conscious efforts to know what is unfolding. In the same vein, a universal ethic is in the making, whether we know it or not, it is inevitable. The darkest hours are yet to come, but if current times are of any indication, there is the faint heartbeat of a new collective dream of unity, surfacing. As David Orr states with positive conviction, the planet needs more “peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of every kind” (Orr 12), but ultimately as well, we need more dreamers to dream this emerging story into reality.
Memetics, Culture Jamming and Waking Up To Our Own Collective Lucid Dream
Man on the Train: Hey, are you a dreamer?
Man on the Train: I haven’t seen too many around lately. Things have been tough lately for dreamers. They say dreaming is dead, no one does it anymore. It’s not dead, it’s just that it’s been forgotten, removed from our language. Nobody teaches it so nobody knows it exists. The dreamer is banished to obscurity. Well, I’m trying to change all that, and I hope you are too. By dreaming, every day. Dreaming with our hands and dreaming with our minds. Our planet is facing the greatest problems it’s ever faced, ever. So whatever you do, don’t be bored, this is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive. And things are just starting.
– “Waking Life,” directed by Richard Linklater, 2001
As Marshall McLuhan correctly predicted, the next world war will be a “guerilla information war” – and most likely, it is happening now as mainstream media outlets jostle for ratings instead of journalistic integrity, advertisers for multimillion-dollar primetime spots and Hollywood for the most believable (if manufactured) spectacle. We are, as Situationist writer Guy Debord wryly notes, living in a society of spectacle, empty of meaning and immediacy. In its place, we have the indoctrinated, overwhelming drive to consume, consume, consume and “mediacy” – life as mediated through other instruments and completely structured by our media (Lasn 101).
Like the ecological conception of a collective unconscious, our waking consciousness also entails an ecology of mind, and like air or water, is a “common-property resource” that must be protected from what anti-consumerist campaigner Kalle Lasn describes as “mental pollution” (Lasn 13). Lasn cites a number of compelling examples of this mental contamination: the unending noise of modern life; the scripted jolt and shock effects of television; proliferation of advertising hype; the comfortable and dissociative “unreality” of the Internet; information overload; infotoxins and a general loss of infodiversity (Lasn 13-27). Essentially, our collective conscious has been hijacked, our autonomy eroded. Science may not dare to insinuate yet, but with technology speeding ahead under the auspices of “progress,” it is probably a matter of time before the most private parts of the unconscious can be hacked into, colonized and sold off piece by piece as advertising real estate, just as it has happened on the Internet.
Risk-free Social Mapping: Dreams In Hominid Evolution of Consciousness
Jung’s work is not without detractors – for some, his constant search for metaphor in clinical situations and attempting to make literal structures out of them have been called “unscientific” and “malpractice at its finest” (McGowan 187). Though this may have an element of truth in it, it should not be forgotten that even science at its most exact and empirical has the barest grasp on the nature of consciousness, and like God-fearing religion two hundred years ago, has dominated modern thought to the point of self-righteous defensiveness. Biotechnology, geoengineering – all “scientific” disciplines that are plowing ahead without the slightest understanding of the totality of the consequences – prove that science for the sake of science can only go so far.
Nevertheless, in the interest of painting a broader picture, it is important to also focus on recent scientific studies that suggest that the unconscious and dreams do have an evolutionary function and may be as integral to life’s development as the process of gene mutation.
We are our stories, our collective dreamings — nor are we alone, as our modernist, isolationist culture of self-destructive madness would like us to believe. Our imaginings, the thought forms we send out as a species, do matter — on a level that may not be physically perceivable, but it nonetheless exists. Thought is power, we are power, we are what we dream. We dream-create social structures, ways of living, interacting, expressing.
Structure, not content, determines how energy will flow, where it will be directed, what new forms and structures it will create. Hierarchical structures, no matter what principles they espouse, will breed new hierarchical structures that embody ‘power-over’ not ‘power-from-within’. [..]
Culture is a set of stories we tell each other again and again. These stories have shapes. The shapes of the stories — not the characters, the setting, the details — shape our expectations and our actions.
— Starhawk, Dreaming the Dark
From Jung To an Ecology of The Collective Unconscious
The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego consciousness, and which will remain psyche no matter how far our ego-consciousness extends… All consciousness separates; but in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare of all egohood. It is from these all-uniting depths that the dream arises…
– Carl G. Jung, “The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man” (Civilization in Transition 304)
With its emphasis on the individual, scientism and desacralization, modernity today has not been kind to some of the most basic human instincts for communality, for communion with nature, with ourselves and with each other. Neither dreams nor collective mythologies escaped the self-important modern consideration that they were either random hallucinations or primitive expressions, until Sigmund Freud appeared on the scene (only to assert that dreams arose from the unconscious as wish-fulfillments of the dreamer’s infantile sexual needs) (Cox & Hiller 14). It is becoming clear now that the popular conceptions of “modernity” could now be called a tradition, binding the human species to a set of self-destructive, aethical, “modern” values and hindering it from taking the next step in evolutionary complexity and collectivity.
Video: This incredible example of storytelling comes from the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony showing the unity of Australia’s 250 aboriginal tribes.
The Dreaming, Dream Law and Ecological Ethics
But how do dreams connect with waking, material reality? What influence can dreams, myths and collective ritual have on the physical environment and how can these elements contribute to a universal environmental ethic? No culture proposes a more profound answer to this question than the aboriginals of Australia, whose complex conception of life sees creation as a transient, continuous ‘bringing forth,’ flowing from what they call Alcheringa or Dreamings.
As the world’s oldest, still-living culture at 40,000 years old, the aboriginal sense of ecological relationship stems from their understanding of creation as a reciprocal act. For them, the creation of the world began in a mythic time called the Dreamtime through the actions of the Sky Heroes, but it is only through the active participation of humans in Dreamings and ritual does the integrity of the earth remain intact.
One of the first things that struck me about Montréal when I first moved here were the spiral staircases. Winding, weaving, twisting upon themselves, these iron or wood stairways are treacherous in winter and yet add an element of elegance and fantasy to the city’s streets, while allowing for a greater density of residential occupation. In her bilingual book, Québec, I love you/Je t’aime, illustrator Miyuki Tanobe recounts her delight at seeing a wedding party with a young bride and groom joyfully ascending the graceful curve of a staircase.
This local architectural creature is superimposed on another spiral formation — that of DNA, often called the “blueprint for life;” in reality, it is the only fundamental ‘species’ that exists. More over, DNA’s incredible ability to store information has recently been noted by science (700 terabytes in a single gram at last count).
In this piece, the city’s celebrated spiral staircases are re-imagined as strands of transforming, intertwined DNA, marching into some evolutionary event horizon, accentuated by the intelligent gaze of the eyes lining the railing, floating like a jellyfish manifold churning in the vast ocean of time.
I’m not totally sure how I stumbled upon John Trudell but I’ve been reading up the last few days on this fiery, eloquent spoken word poet-activist of Santee Sioux descent who cut his teeth back in the 1970s as chairman of the American Indian Movement, among other things. Surveilled by the FBI, he lost his pregnant wife Tina Manning (also a prominent activist) and three children to a suspicious house fire, barely twelve hours after he’d publicly burned an American flag at a protest in Washington D.C.
Six months after their deaths a deeply-affected Trudell began writing, saying that: “They’re called poems but in reality they’re lines given to me to hang on to” by his lost wife, “to stay connected with this reality.” He’s since had a successful career in writing, film and music.
His words are fascinating, re-framing things that should be probably pretty damn obvious to us as a collective species of “human being” — yet we are too tied to our imaginary, socially conditioned allegiances to really see this basic fact. In this speech called “We Are Power,” given on July 18, 1980 at the intercultural Survival Gathering, Trudell speaks:
The past few years have been a bit of an undocumented period for me. I used to write pretty prolifically on the personal level and now it’s dwindled to not even a trickle, except for the odd journalling jaunt. Recovering the process will probably take some time, but in the meanwhile, I’m going to post bits of the trail from along the way.
Here’s a paper I did back in 2007 — barely six months out of Auroville — on a subject that’s near and dear to me, and details some of the inspiration behind my fascination with ecology and the collectivity of human consciousness.
The seeds of the topic were planted some years ago when a coworker of mine had enthusiastically recommended Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines — an excellent book that describes a primordial aboriginal Dreamtime from which all creation is sung into existence. I’ll be posting the first part below.
V. That is the state of deep sleep wherein one asleep neither desires any object nor sees any dream. The third quarter is Prajna, whose sphere is deep sleep, in whom all experiences become unified, who is, verily, a mass of consciousness, who is full of bliss and experiences bliss and who is the door leading to the knowledge of dreaming and waking.
– excerpt from the Mandukya Upanishad, translated by Nikhilananda
Humans spend approximately one third of lives asleep – and dreaming. From ancient peoples to modern-day, technological societies, dreams have always been accorded a unique place of mystery in the collective histories of the human species. Since earliest times, dreams were seen as communicative catalysts, as creative, naturally connective forces offering access to other worlds perceived to be as real as this reality.
I’ve been doing a bit of research into thought forms (for fun), and it may sound farfetched, but I think that it’s not unreasonable that our mental projections can and do take on a “life” of their own. Fascinating stuff. From Wikipedia:
Tulpa (Wylie: sprul-pa; Sanskrit: निर्मित nirmita and निर्माणnirmāṇa; “to build” or “to construct”) is a concept in mysticism of a being or object which is created through sheer discipline alone. It is a materialized thought that has taken physical form and is usually regarded as synonymous to a thoughtform.
It all first started with a chance stumbling upon this post from Data is Nature featuring an image plate from the 1901 book Thought Forms, written by Annie Besant and Charles Webster Leadbeater, both of the Theosophical Society (an interesting read in itself).
But how does this idea operate on the collective level — something that I’ve been grappling with lately? From Esoteric Philosophy:
The hummingbird is seen as a symbol of resurrection, beauty and magic. Set against a mandala or wheel design of bursting colours, a bird-creature dressed in white has her feet immersed in a pool of water (a symbol for the subconscious), while geometric lines of energy seem to emanate from its depths.
A drawing with pencil crayon, inspired by the Shipibo of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. The patterns in the background — nurturing by the waters of the unconscious — are adapted by Shipibo designs, which are inextricably linked to sound.
What if we could paint music?
One of the challenges for the Western mind is to acknowledge the relationship between the Shipibo designs and music. For the Shipibo can “listen” to a song or chant by looking at the designs, and inversely paint a pattern by listening to a song or music.