You are the first born
And the origin of life,
You are the first beat of the heart
Without which everything else
Is only a tumor of clay. (RgVeda 10.5)
I was tempted to join the exchanges between Wendy's Child and Kali's Child and ask the author of Kali's Child to take a nap and save us from his personal projections and absent scholarship.1 I decided instead to use the occasion (nimitta matram) to line up the mystics from East and West and allow them to resolve this present crisis by themselves and with their own voices and practices.
As everyone knows the Rg Veda, the first Indo-European written/chanted book on any human subject, marks two paths for humans, the path of the fathers, based on reproduction and semen, with the consequence of reincarnation and return to the earth, on the one hand, and on the other the path of the gods, based on the power of the heart and the eternal company of the gods. These multiple gods are only speech acts, cognitive-centers of our multiple brains, as modern neurobiology has confirmed and the rishis chanted over six thousand years ago: ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti (RgVeda 1.164.46): "(The poets) speak in many ways of what is only One". Western scholars had to wait until modern neurobiology translated this esoteric doctrines into modern lingo. Yes, the heart is not a pump only. A heart cell not only pulses and mysteriously starts its original journey to form a human heart, but it also produces a strong electro-magnetic field . A human heart is a conglomerate of billions of those little generators all working in unison and producing an electro-magnetic field forty to sixty times more powerful than our human brain. And these and other properties of the heart, as immortality etc., have been from the very beginning of human life recorded history through the language of the mystics themselves from the East and the West. We can ask the scholar about which path is he/she following on his/her interpretation. What text is he/she reading? Can he/she read signs of the spirit? Is he/she trained in spiritual practice? Does he/she know through a written text the difference between a seizure and ecstasy? Does he/she know the difference between following (interpreting) through the path of semen or that of the heart? Is Kali the mother of Ramakrishna, the way Yaweh is the father of Jesus, or is the mystic the occasion for the human heart to open and become immortal by recording in its walls the heroic acts of the mystic?
A recent article in Newsweek states that scientists have long known that epileptics often feel spiritual ecstasy during seizures. (November 17, 1997) It further identifies the region of this ecstasy as the limbic region of the brain, home of emotions, religious feelings and some seizures. We also know that those under the influence of drugs claim similar ecstasy, not to mention the flora and fauna of pathological events that also claim such ecstasy. How can we separate the two, the true religious ecstasy from the induced one? The true mystic's experience from the pathological's? And more to the point, is there any true description of mystical ecstasy we can understand as a human event, namely, capable of being captured by our own experience? Pathologies leave only claims and clinical records. Mystics, on the other hand, leave us epistemologies. The mystic's experience can be retraced and is possibly repeatable by others, and to a certain extent it can be taught. Few mystics have made a career of describing their ecstasies, and orthodox religions have been even less candid in accepting them as the legitimate parcel of their religion, but rather of the idiosyncrasy of the saint in question. In Christianity, for example, there is no comparison in emphasis between the Transfiguration of Christ, His ecstasy, and the Crucifixion. Nor is it in Paul, the so called Apostle, where the ecstasy that converted him from persecuting Jews into a leading Christian as he was felled from the horse is considered less important than his Letters. We find similar examples in Hinduism and Buddhism where experience, mystical experience, is promoted and encouraged. Yet the literature on ecstasy is very skimpy. All we are told is that, yes, there are ecstasies. Even Tantra, at least in written texts, is shy in describing ecstasy, and this is the tradition that focuses on the epistemology of an experience of that, that is not-I, without an agent but only a witness, and eternity is fashioned on the model of the state of the lover just before the point of reaching orgasm.
Individual mystic writers, like those of the Upanishads, or more modern mystics like those of sixteenth Century Christian Europe, or Hindu writers like Ramakrishna in the nineteenth are more explicit and daring. And modern neurobiology is on their side. Through laboratory experimentation we have been able to establish (Pearce, 1992, Pert, 1997) not only the discovery of the structures of emotion in the limbic system, but also their connection to the frontal lobes and the heart, as the mystics already intuitively and experientially established millennia ago.
From the Rg Veda:
"The sages, searching in their own hearts with wisdom
Found in Non-Existence the kin of Existence." (10.129)
"The whole world is set in your substance,
within the cave of the heart, within the ocean,
within your life-span." (4.58).
The Katha Upanishad:
"Realizing, through the exercises of the yoga of the higher
Self, that primal God, difficult to be seen, deeply hidden, set
in the cave of the heart. Hiding in the deep, the wise man
leaves behind both joy and sorrow." (Valli Its., 12)
"When all the desires lodged in one's heart are set free,
Then a mortal becomes immortal"
"When all the knots of the heart are cut off here on earth,
Then a mortal becomes immortal!"
"There are a hundred and one channels in the heart,
One of these passes up to the crown of the head,
Going up by it, one goes to immortality.
The others scatter in various directions!"
"The measure of a thumb is the size of the inner soul,
for ever seated in the heart of creatures." (Valli 6th,12-17)
From the Philokalia:
"Whenever the soul, paying no attention to external things, is concentrated
in contemplation, then a kind of
flame surrounds it, as fire surrounds iron, and makes it
wholly incandescent. The soul remains the same, but can no
longer be touched, just as red-hot iron cannot be touched
by the hand." (Ilias the Presbyter, vol.3, Part II, para. 105)
From the Gathas:
"What you have disclosed through Inner Fire,
What you have promised through Asha,
the Divine Law for the discerning Soul,
O Mazda, to us clearly explain,
let the words come from your mouth
to help us transform all living men." (Yasna 31-3)
From the Bhagavad Gita:
"I am seated in the hearts of all
From me are memory, wisdom and their loss." (15-15)
"Undivided, yet standing as if divided among beings,
as the destroyer and producer of beings,
(I am) Light of lights, beyond darkness,
(I am) knowledge, what is to be known,
and the goal of knowledge...
I am seated in the heart of all." (13-17)
It is in the Bhagavad Gita where we witness the first personal account of an ecstasy by a human, as Arjuna is taken up by the power of ecstasy:
"If in the heavens
the light of a thousand suns
would rise together,
It would be like the light of that Self." (11-12)
"I behold in your body, Oh God, all the gods,
And also crowds of different beings...
And all the sages, and celestial serpents." (11-15)
"I behold you, O Lord and Form of all,
With many arms and stomachs, mouths and eyes,
And see no end, middle or beginning to You, O Lord." (11-16)
"The moon and sun as your eyes,
Your mouth a glowing fire,
Burning this universe with your radiance." (11-19)
"Having seen your great Form, with many mouths
And eyes, O Strong-Armed,
With many arms and thighs and feet,
With many bellies and terrible tusks,
The worlds tremble and so do I." (11-23)
"You lick and devour with flaming mouths
Entire worlds from every side,
Your light-rays scorch with radiance entire universes," (11-30)
"Just as moths with great speed
Enter the flaming fire and perish there,
So also these creatures enter your mouths
To meet destruction." (11-29)
"Tell me who You are ..." (11-31)
A modern Hindu, Ramakrishna in l856, a young priest of only twenty years, outside Calcutta in a Temple of Kali writes his version of this experience in modern terms:
" There was an unbearable pain in my heart because I couldn't get a vision of Mother (Kali)... In my agony I said to myself:
"What's the use of living this life?" Suddenly my eyes fell on the sword that hangs in the Temple. I decided to end my life with it... Like a madman I ran to it and seized it. And then I had a marvelous vision of the Mother, and fell down unconscious...It was as if houses, doors, temples and everything else vanished altogether; as if there was nothing anywhere! And what I saw was an infinite shoreless sea of light; a sea that was consciousness...shining waves, one after another, coming towards me... raging and storming upon me with great speed. Very soon they were upon me; they made me sink down into unknown depths. I panted and struggled and lost consciousness." ( Isherwood, 1965).
With the irruption in the West of Sufi poetry and mysticism through the Sufis in Andalusia, Spain, there is a more personal approach to mystical experience and a closer narrative of its path. Prayer is now accompanied by "illuminism," "dejamiento," (abandonment) "quietism," inner prayer, recollection, practiced, not in churches but "conventicles" that drove the Inquisition crazy and caused it to sharpen its weapons against the new fashions. But the Inquisition left for us, as model of receptacles of divine love, some examples that it canonized and even named doctors of the Church. The most notable are Rumi and ibn 'Arabi in Islam, Ignatius de Loyola, Juan de la Cruz and Teresa of Avila in Christianity, not withstanding the fact that Juan de la Cruz had Moorish roots and Teresa was a first generation Jewish convert, a fact that has come to light only about seventy years ago.
"Take one step
away from yourself
behold! the Path!" ( Abu Sa' id Ibn-l-Khayr).
"The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you
Not knowing how blind I was.
Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They are in each other all along" (Rumi)
"Oh Lord, nourish me
not with love
but with the desire for love." ( Ibn 'Arabi)
"True ecstasy is the conjunction of light
with light, when the soul of man meets the divine Light." ('Abdu'-Qadir Al-Gilani.)
"Love has come and it flows like blood
beneath my skin through my veins.
It has emptied me of my self
and filled me with the Beloved,
The Beloved has penetrated every cell of my body,
Of myself there remains only a name,
everything else is Him." (Rumi)
Ignatius de Loyola, soldier, sinner, founder of the Jesuits, Saint, came to the spiritual life late in life and it all started with an ecstasy by the river Cardoner, as he writes in his Diary of a Pilgrim: " The road ran next to the river. As he went along occupied with his devotions, he sat down for a while with his face towards the river, that there ran deep. As he sat, the eyes of his understanding began to open; not that he saw a vision, but he came to know many things, matters spiritual and those pertaining to faith and learning. This took place with such great clarity that everything appeared to him to be something new. And it happened to enlighten his understanding in such a manner that he thought of himself as if he were another man and that he had an intellect different from the one he had before... He experienced a great clarity in his understanding; so much so that in the whole course of his life, through sixty two years, even if he put together all of the many gifts he had had from God and all of the many things he knew and added them all together, he does not think they would amount to as much as he had received on that one single occasion." (Powers of Imagining, 1986.)
There are no more memorable lines in poetry than those of the most famous poem of San Juan de la Cruz, The Dark Night:
" O Night! O Guide!
O night more loving than the dawn!
O night that joined
Lover with Beloved,
Beloved in the Lover transformed!
"I lose myself and remain,
With my face on the Beloved inclined,
All has come to rest,
I abandon all my cares
There, among the lilies, to die." (San Juan de la Cruz)
East or West, male or female, no other writing on ecstasy is more personal, more didactic than that of Teresa de Avila. For this writer of the sixteenth century prayer of contemplation ends or begins in the fourth degree of prayer, prayer of rapture and union where the whole complex of self-body-world is affected. Joy is of great intensity, the soul and the body are drained of powers (Life, 18, 1) The spirit rises higher than ordinary and joins with love; the detachment from creatures is deeper and more subtle, but these instances last a very short time (Life, 18, 12). The whole body complex ceases to live by itself and lives as if sensitized by someone else (Life, 18, 14). The spiritual raptures of Teresa, as described by herself overcome the body too: " The natural body heat fails the body, the body gradually grows cold, and there is no remedy to avoid this." (Life, 20, 3) " For in the pain that is experienced in these impulses, the body feels it along with the soul, and both seem to have a share in it... The (soul) desires only to die in this solitude." (Life, 9) This suffering and this death, however, bear along with it great happiness, or as Teresa says it: " It is arduous, delightful martyrdom." (Life, 20, 11)
We are left however with the one last question, what is an ecstasy? What happens in it? She will tell us in the most daring and sensuous terms: " I saw close to me an angel in bodily form... not very large, but small; very beautiful, his face a flame, he must have been one of the highest angels...In his hand I saw a golden dart, long, the tip red with fire. This dart entered my heart many times and reached my insides; in drawing out the dart it seemed he was taking my insides with it; he left me all inflamed in great love for God. The pain was so deep that it made me moan; and it was so excessive the sweetness this unbearable pain plunged me into, that there was no way for me to stop, nor was the soul satisfied with any less than God himself. " (Life, 29, 13)
A further testimony of the transformation of the body through the ecstasy of these mystics is the fact that in some of them their bodies did not decompose after death, as in the cases of Teresa de Avila and Juan de la Cruz. But the most universal testimony we are all able to see is the testimony of the communities they left behind, and the testimony of their own body of writing that affects us spiritually and, in more than one case, to the point of ecstasy.
1. From A Brief History of Drugs: From the Stone Age to the Stoned Age, by Antonio Escohotado, Park Street Press, Rochester, Vermont 1999.
"Cocaine was first isolated in 1859 and was soon commercialized on a grand scaleâ€¦ It was presented as "nourishment for the nerves" and as "a harmless way to cure sadness." Young Sigmund Freud initiated a global research project with that compound which included self-testing, a review of all existing literature, and the generation of proposals for use. Parke-Davis paid him with the substance perhaps also with cash-to declare that its cocaine was "preferable" to that of Merck, although Freud also appeared in the Merck cocaine brochure endorsing this product going as far as to attribute to him without any evidence the statement that cocaine would allow " doing away with all asylums for alcoholics." The inventor of psychoanalysis was originally the world authority on this drug, which some state that he used daily for more than a decade."
You can verify the insights above in On Cocaine, by Sigmund Freud at HTML by: David Tennent, made possible by Lycaeum Drug Archives.
How the use of this drug affected the American market, from Coca-Cola to the lacing of tooth paste, may be found in the book by Antonio Escohotado mentioned above, pp. 71.
As you all know Freud based his analysis of neurosis on the personality and character of Oedipus. In the Interpretation of Dreams, Freud writes: " (that the Oedipal complex) is among the essential constituents of the stock of psychical impulses" formed in childhood that retain their power when rivalry with the parent of the same sex is not resolved or when sexual feelings for the parent of the opposite sex are not transferred to a sexual partner outside the family." (See The Heresy of Oedipus and the Mind/Mind Split.by Dr. M. M. Colavito, The Edwin Mellen Press, N.Y. 1995) Oedipus belonged to the house of Cadmus.. His father Laius received the prediction that his son Oedipus, would kill him, and marry his wife, Oedipus's mother. Oedipus did so, then gorged his eyes when he found out what he had done, and lived in misery the rest of his life. It is this house of Cadmus that introduces in history the aberrations Freud noted above, forgetting to add that, Laius, Oedipus' father, is the first pedophile recorded in history and that no one was left alive in the House of Cadmus, and that even the Sphinx committed suicide rather than talk to Oedipus.
Isn't it obvious that the scholarly? Work of Wendy's children is a counter-transference and reductionism of texts from Indic to Freud's?
The epistemological question that remains to be answered is this: Is Freudian methodology a viable instrument for the interpretation of cultures? Or can a Freudian interpreter change his/her mind and interpret a culture by the criteria of its own creation? The answer, in Freud's case is, NO. The reason is simple. Freudian analysis is laced with cocaine, the most addictive drug to reach the reptilian receptors. One shot of cocaine and two seconds later the subject is a junky. Freudian analysis is not an scholarly free approach to cultural studies, but a mandate of the reptilian brain for more and more satisfaction of its instinctual expectations and drives. (cf. Receptors, by Richard M. Restak, M.D. Bantam Books, New York, 1994.)
And by the way, Freud's superimposition of Oedipus on Greek Culture is as alien
as Freud's children's is on Indic texts.
Comfort, Alex I and That: Notes on the Biology of Religion. Crown Publishers. N.Y. 1979.
de Nicolas, Antonio T. Meditations through the Rg Veda. Nicolas-Hays, Maine. 1976.
The Bhagavad Gita. Nicolas-Hays, Maine, 1994.
Powers of Imagining: Ignatius de Loyola. SUNY Press, Albany N.Y. 1986.
St. John of the Cross: Alchemist of the Soul. Samuel Weiser, Maine, 1995.
Isherwood, Christopher Ramakrishna and his Disciples. Simon and Shuster, N.Y. 1965.
Lincoln, Victoria Teresa: A Woman. A Biography of Teresa of Avila. Eds. with Introductions by Elias Rivers and Antonio T. de Nicolas. SUNY, Press, Albany N.Y. 1984.
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee. Ed. Traveling the Path of Love. Sayings of Sufi Masters. The Golden Sufi Center. Inverness, Cal. 1995.
Pearce, Joseph Chilton Evolution's End. Harper Collins. San Francisco 1992.
Pert, Candace B. Molecules of Emotion: Why you feel the way you feel. Scribner, N.Y. 1997.
Henning, M.. Trans. The Hymns of Zarathustra. Charles E. Tuttle Company Inc,Boston,1992.
Nikodimos and Makarios, Compilers. Trans. Palmer, Sherrard, Ware, The Philokalia, Vol. III, Faber and Faber, London, 1986.
Hume, Robert Ernest, trans. The Thirteen Principal Upanishads, Oxford University Press, London, 1877.
Antonio T. de Nicolas was educated in Spain, India and the United States, and received his Ph.D. in philosophy at Fordham University in New York. He is Professor Emeritus of philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Dr. de Nicolas is the author of some twenty- seven books, including Avatara: The Humanization of Philosophy through the Bhagavad Gita,a classic in the field of Indic studies; and Habits of Mind, a criticism of higher education, whose framework has recently been adopted as the educational system for the new Russia. He is also known for his acclaimed translations of the poetry of the Nobel Prize-winning author,Juan Ramon Jimenez, and of the mystical writings of St. Ignatius de Loyola and St. John of the Cross.
A philosopher by profession, Dr. de Nicolas confesses that his most abiding philosophical concern is the act of imagining, which he has pursued in his studies of the Spanish mystics, Eastern classical texts, and most recently, in his own poetry.
His books of poetry: Remembering the God to Come, The Sea Tug Elegies, Of Angels and Women, Mostly, and Moksha Smith: Agni's Warrior-Sage. An Epic of the Immortal Fire, have received wide acclaim. Critical reviewers of these works have offered the following insights:
from, Choice: "...these poems could not have been produced by a mainstream American. They are illuminated from within by a gift, a skill, a mission...unlike the critico-prosaic American norm..."
from The Baltimore Sun: "Steeped as they are in mythology and philosophy these are not easy poems. Nor is de Nicolas an easy poet. He confronts us with the necessity to remake our lives...his poems ...show us that we are not bound by rules. Nor are we bound by mysteries. We are bound by love. And therefore, we are boundless"
from William Packard, editor of the New York Quarterly: " This is the kind of poetry that Plato was describing in his dialogues, and the kind of poetry that Nietzsche was calling for in Zarathustra."
Professor de Nicolas is presently a Director of the Biocultural Research Institute,
located in Florida.