Three Wheels of Law

>> Tuesday, February 3, 2009

shakyamuni buddha
Lord Buddha appeared in this world with the sole purpose of benefiting all sentient beings of the Triple Realm. His appearance in this world is a very rare phenomena and is the outcome of the collective merits of his disciples and the beings who are to be trained under him. Out of great compassion Buddha Shakyamuni revealed many different means to attain enlightenment and to win liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Buddha Shakyamuni set forth Three Wheels of Law to suit varying degrees of intelligence and receptivity.

At a place called Mrigadavana (Deer Park) near Varanasi, Shakyamuni Buddha turned the First wheel of Law which constituted the doctrines of the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path and it is designated as Shravakayana.

At a place called Gridha-kuta hill (Vulture Peak) near Rajgir, the Buddha turned the Second Wheel of Law which constituted the doctrines of Emptiness and Selflessness of the person and phenomena. These doctrines are vividly preserved in Prajnaparamita literature and Vaipulya sutras. This approach was later known as Mahayana or Path of the Bodhisattva.

At Vaisali, on the other hand, the Buddha turned the Third Wheel of Law which constituted the doctrines of Buddha-nature as described in Tathagatagarbhasutra, Mahaparinirvanasutra and Dharanisvararaja sutra.

At various places such as Dhanyakataka, Sriparvat, Kamakhya, Sirihatta, Purnagiri, Odiyana, etc. the Buddha revealed the path of Mantra to his highly gifted disciples as a shorter path to attain enlightenment. This approach was termed as Vajrayana which integrates all three vehicles.

From: Iconography of Nepalese Buddhism, Min Bahadur Shakya, Buddha Dharma Education Association, 1994.


The White Virgin of Alchemy

>> Saturday, January 24, 2009

egyptian hieroglyph
Once alchemists overcame the issue of dissolving gold, they eliminated troublesome compounds of nitrogen with antimony. The ancients derived antimony from a variety of sources, which they called Prima Materia. Two popular starting points for the Egyptians were the minerals of lead oxide called galena, and tin dioxide called cassiterite.

Antimony was purified with iron or Mars, just as in the modern industrial process of extracting antimony from stibnite ore. When they saw the pure white vapor of antimony rise, the alchemists likened it to a white virgin queen, the moon goddess, and called it the Philosophers' Mercury. This mercury should not be confused with metallic mercury, which is always poisonous if used alchemically.

The white virgin indeed brought relief to the injured. A fragrant cream made from a precipitate of antimony became a universal unguent of the alchemist doctors. Crusaders used this salve or universal medicine to heal wounds and it has been used right up until very recent times. The secret ole of antimony was so intriguing that the metal, although very soft and less bright than silver, was often used for tableware such as salt salvers and gravy boats. Adepts could display these openly in public, with few knowing the real meaning of the white virgin in the metal.

Finally, mercury, white virgin of alchemy, was married to the Sun King. A rainbow of colors appeared in the alchemist's flask. A green dragon battles a Red Man. The blood of the green dragon is the necessary sign that the son of love will be born. Finally, in the faeces of the reaction, a rock appears. It is the green lion tinged with lilac. This royal color signifies Horus rebirth as king.

Research: wrong use of mercury, Crusaders' followers in ME
Add: Egyptian mythology
Source: Stuart Nettleton, The Alchemy Key The Mystical Provenance of the Philosophers' Stone, 2002, pp. 12-13


Elixir of Youth

elixir of youth
Alchemy using dissolved elements is simple and effective. It differs from the Great Work because it starts with water already containing the necessary elements. Traditional alchemists would consider it the lightweight end of the Art. The Great Work focused on the reverse direction, converting metallic gold into the Philosophers’ Stone. For the ancients this involved three major technological hurdles. The first was to make a solvent for gold. No easy achievement. The second hurdle was to eliminate the impure elements, particularly nitrogen, introduced in dissolving the gold. The third major hurdle was to create a gold chloride that could be dissolved in water. When the gold dissolves, we have potable gold, or gold that can ingested to purify the body. It was said that with this Elixir of Youth, the old could become young again; and life could be extended to at least the natural limit of one hundred and twenty years. After all, the Bible said that Melchizedek, the King of Salem, who first possessed the Philosophers’ Stone, would live forever.

Dissolving metallic gold was no easy matter. Alchemists needed a Secret Fire. They created nitric acid by reacting ammonium chloride or sal ammoniac, the Salt of Ammon, with niter or potassium nitrate. Many chemists would be surprised to know that in antiquity priests distilled ammonia from dung, bones and horns at the Temple of Amun in Libya. The name ammonium even derives from the Egyptian deity, Amun. Egyptian Priests used this in their chemical works at their nearby Temple of Amun in the Oasis of Siwa in Egypt. Nitric and hydrochloric acids were combined to form Aqua Regia, that unique combination of oxidizing and non-oxidizing acids that together can dissolve metallic gold.

Nitric acid is amongst the most dangerous of substances to work with. This acid blinded many alchemists, or they met a painful respiratory end from the fumes, splashes and spills. Many inadvertently created poisons or explosives. Fulminating gold and silver are highly unstable explosives, quite probably the deadly Shamir. Many military devices use fulminate of mercury as a detonator.

Check: Sulphuric acid and its use, tombac
Verify: Egyptian gods
Research: The Greek connection, gold and immortality
Add: Great Work
Source: Stuart Nettleton, The Alchemy Key The Mystical Provenance of the Philosophers' Stone, 2002, p. 12


The Elements of Shamanism

>> Sunday, January 18, 2009

a siberian shaman with traditional clothes

Although other societies sometimes have elements of shamanism, we confine our definition to hunter-gatherers and propose ten characteristics of shamanism as it is practised in such societies; elements of shamanism may well appear in other kinds of society, but it is not of them that we speak.

  1. Fundamentally, hunter-gatherer shamanism is posited on a range of altered   states of consciousness, be they induced by ingestion of hallucinogens, rhythmic driving, such as insistent drumming and dancing, hyperventilation, sensory deprivation, pathological conditions, etc. Dreams, too, should be included here. Such states are often termed trance or ecstasy. Of necessity, they are institutionalized, that is, they have social consequences.
  2. Visual, aural and somatic experiences of altered states that are wired into the human nervous system give rise to conceptions of an alternative reality that is frequently tiered. Three tiers are common, but socially complex hunter-gatherers often acknowledge more. It is this sort of cosmology that makes contact with the supernatural realm possible. Cosmology is both enabling and constraining.
  3. People with special powers and skills, shamans, are believed to have access to this alternative reality. In some societies, there is one shaman to a community; in others, there are more. Some shamans are politically powerful; others are not influential outside of their ritual performances. The important point is that shamans are intermediaries between their communities and supernaturals. The mastery of ecstasy therefore has important socio-political implications in shamanistic communities.
  4. The behavior of the human nervous system in certain altered states creates the illusion of dissociation from one's body, sometimes known as spirit loss or extra-corporeal activity. Less commonly in hunter-gatherer societies, this experience is understood as possession by external spirits. Possession and extra-corporeal travel are believers' explanations of trance or ecstasy. Shamans use dissociation and the other experiences of altered states to achieve a variety of ends, such as the following (all four are not universally present):
  5. Contacting spirits and supernatural entities;
  6. Controlling the movements and lives of real animals;
  7. Healing the sick;
  8. Changing the weather.
  9. These functions and entry into an altered state are believed to be facilitated by a variously conceived supernatural power, or energy, that may, in some ways, be likened to electricity.
  10. This power is often associated with spirit-helpers (often in the form of animals) who impart it to shamans and assist them in the performance of their tasks. Commonly, shamans encounter their spirit-helper during a vision quest. Whether some shamans may be said to be possessed by such spirit-helpers is a question to be decided for each community individually, though by no means easily so.
Add: modern practices
Compare: Siberia, Mongolia, pre-classic Anatolia
To do: MIC, extensive; AA?
Source: Jean Clottes and David Lewis-Williams, A Handbook of Ancient Religions, ed. John R. Hinnells, Cambridge Uni. Press, 2007, pp. 32-33


Sufism and Ismaili Gnosis

>> Thursday, January 15, 2009

The most important "mystic" or "occult" symbol Gurdjieff's "Work" has introduced to the West is enneagram, an occult glyph resembling in some respects Rosicrucian geometrical constructs or Kabbalistic Tree of life. As the story goes (1,7,8), it is prominent among Islamic mystics, Sufis. But- there is a little problem. Not one known Sufi order (and there are more than hundred of them, most notable being Naqshbandis, Mevlevis, Chistis, Qadiris at al.) knows of and uses this symbol.

So, probably, enneagram represents a modified remnant of Neopythagorean and Hermetic tradition that has percolated and survived in Islamic "esoteric" circles; most likely candidates being Ismaili Shiites, spiritual descendants of famous Ihwan-al-Safa (men of learning, an encyclopedic group flourishing around 8/9 century C.E.) and dreaded and slandered (French scholar Henry Corbin has done much to rehabilitate them) Assassins, a secret society on its acme at 11/12 century C.E., until their mountain strongholds in the Caucasus had been destroyed during Mongol invasion in the 13th century.

Finally, a word on the glyph: it is an archaic cosmologic-spiritual symbol, originating in Sumero-Chaldean milieu and concisely summarizing their conception of the Universe & descent and ascent of the "soul". Having undergone further modifications in Neopythagorean and Neoplatonist schools, probably in Alexandria, it has been, as some stories indicate, transmitted via the Ismailis's sixth Imam, Jafar-as-Sadiq, to some of their "occult" branches. Essentially, enneagram represents Hermetic, spherical Ptolemaic and geocentric cosmos as preserved in the traditions of Mandeans and Sabeans, later enriched and restructured by the Neoplatonist influences. So, enneagram which makes some sense ( at least when interpreted through scholarly works by S.H.Nasr, Burckhardt, Berthelot ) is a summary of ideas and processes ancient proto-scientists imagined cosmos and psyche ( they didn't make much distinction ) to be governed by. It is the veritable irony of history that a fossil of palaentological spiritual cognition has become a New Age icon.

Gurdjieff's use of the enneagram symbol is most visible in his Russian (post -1915) and European years, when he gathered a cluster of disciplined devotees and made stage appearances with them, both in Europe and the US (mainly in the 1920s). Usually, his disciples danced along enneagram points and lines, self-observing themselves, until under Gurdjieff's command "Stop !" they would freze up in an act of (supposedly) self-remembering, when, at least in theory, Gurdjieff would transmit spiritual (or, more likely, bioenergy equivalent to Taoist ch'i) to their susceptible psyches with the aim to elevate and expand their consciousness and being- an exercise in some points resembling the transfer of Sufi barrakah (blessing, spiritual energy) or Tantric shaktipat. Also, the profile of dances, devised by Gurdjieff himself, betray influences of Sufi and Vajrayana/Tibetan traditions.

Enneagram doesn't play a prominent role in his own writings, and, apart from his early and middle periods (1915- 1920ies, with the significant pause in 1925, when he barely survived a car-crash), it is mainly preserved in Ouspensky's books. Later "enneagrammoratos", from Idries Shah to Arica's Oscar Ichazo and Claudio Naranjo are not part of this essay.

Related books:

Kathleen Riordan Speeth: The Gurdjieff Work, Pocket Books, 1978
Views from the Real World: Early Talks of Gurdjieff
G.Gurdjieff: The Herald of Coming Good
G.I.Gurdjieff: Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson
Gurdjieff: Life is real only then, when "I am"
C.S.Nott: Teachings of Gurdjieff
C.S.Nott: Further Teachings of Gurdjieff
J.G.Bennett: Gurdjieff: Making a New World
L. A. Govinda: Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism
Roberto Assagioli: Psychosynthesis
Roberto Assagioli: The Act of Will
Ouspensky: In Seach of the Miraculous
Ouspensky: The Fourth Way
H.Spencer Lewis: Rosicrucian Manual, AMORC; 1st edition 1918

You can try to find some of them at AbeBooks - New Books section. Failing that your best option is checking the used books section.

Check: Naqshbandi and Mevlevi connection, present affiliates.
Find: Pictures of enneagram and its derivatives, possible changes.

Source: Author needed.

"It is the mark of an educated man to entertain an idea without accepting it." -- Aristotle

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