A PERSONAL STORY OF AWAKENING
A PERSONAL STORY
The Satapatha Brahmana puts a mineral twist on one of its many accounts of the creation of the universe through the self-sacrifice of the cosmic god-man Prajapat: Verily, Prajapat alone was here in the beginning. He desired "May I exist, may I reproduce myself." He toiled, he heated himself with inner heat. From his exhausted and overheated body the waters flowed forth...from those heated waters foam arose; from the heated foam there arose clay; from the heated clay, sand; from the heated sand, grip; from the heated grit, rock; from the heated rock, metallic ore; and from the smelted ore, god arose.
The Vedic ritual in which the exhausted and decomposed body of the creative self-sacrificer Prajapat was restored to wholeness was called the agnicayana, the "piling of (the) Fire (altar)," of which an important moment was the installation of a golden image of a man (hiranya-purusa) beneath a corner of the altar emplacement. With this ritual, the adhvaryu priest intones, "He is Prajapati, he is Agni, he is made of gold for gold is light and fire is light; gold is immortality and fire is immortality. He is a man for Prajapati is the Man."
Let us note here that the thermal energy that transforms the body of Prajapti into gold (and in other myths of this sort, the entire created universe in all its parts) is an inner fire or heat that is kindled through religious austerities. Within a few centuries of the composition of this Brahmana text, a revolution in Indian thought would issue into the notion that humans too could internalize the sacrifice and thereby entirely bypass the mechanism of external sacrifice. This inward turn, which would ground the entire gnostic and nondualist project of the Upanishads, also sowed the seeds for the innovation of a body of techniques for internal bodily transformation, i.e. for the practice of hatha yoga. Here one's bodily fluids, and semen in particular, become identified with oblation, the heat of inner austerities with fire, and breath with the dynamic element of wind."
The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India by David Gordon White (12-13)
Agni is the sacrificial flame, the sacrificer and the sacrificed. Just as Christ left behind his redeeming blood...so Agni is the soma, the holy drink of inspiration, the mead of immortality. Soma and fire are identical in Vedic literature. The ancient Hindus saw fire both as symbol of Agni and as an emanation of the inner libido-fire, and for them the same psychic dynamism was at work in the intoxicating drink ("fire-water, Soma-Agni as rain and fire). The Vedic definition of soma as "seminal fluid" confirms this view. The " somatic" significance of Agni has its parallel in the Christian interpretation of the Eucharistic Blood as the body of Christ.
Soma is also the "nourishing drink." Its mythological characteristics coincide with those of fire, and so both are united in Agni. The drink of immortality, Amrita, was stirred by the Hindu gods like the fire.
Symbols of Transformation by C.G. Jung (167-168)
Chapter 13 - Transmutation
September 11, 2001. Throughout the night I have trouble sleeping. I get up early in the morning and, while watching the news on TV, see a picture of the World Trade Center with smoke coming out from the side of it. I hear something about a plane going into the building, but I imagine, like the woman who is being interviewed on TV, that it is an accident. I turn off the TV and go back to bed.
I have this dream: A man comes into my apartment and we find ourselves very attracted to one another. Before we begin to make love, I notice that there is a round window in my apartment which I hadn't seen before. Someone is peeking into my room. I close the shutters. Then a woman bursts into the room; I tell her that this is not a good time to see her, and I shut the door. When we begin again to hold one another, the man tries to enter me; I say, No, I don't want you to go inside me. He is angry and shoots his semen all over the ceiling, walls, and floor of my small apartment. After this we continue to kiss and when he is ready to leave, I realize it will be my job to clean it all up, and that it will take a long time to do it. I don't seem to mind.
I waken to the phone ringing. It is Peter calling, "Have you heard what has happened?" The first thing I say on hearing of the terrorist attacks is, "We are all being called to wake up."
For the next several weeks my body is on fire. My liver is enlarged and I have such anger I hardly know what to do with it. I speak out on many stewardship issues I am involved with in Stanley Park. I work on a new section of my web site to include peace articles, spiritual teachings, and resources. I worry about the western world's war on Afghanistan and about the refugee crisis. I don't know how to contain my sadness, anger, and fear; I am afraid it will burn me up. My body is so inflamed; I have trouble sleeping. I take pain medication but I don't know if it is poisoning me or if it is healing. I feel caught between right and wrong; good for me, not good for me. I do the tonglen practice of taking in others' suffering and sending them peace. I try to do this for myself as well for I am afraid I will not be able to bear this terrible pain all over my body. I also know I have no choice.
October 25. I waken in the night and sit reading this passage:
Agni (the fire god) has a role to play in the alchemical account of the origin of mercury, as it is he who drops from the mouth the semen that becomes the transmuting element:
In a hidden cave of the Himalayas, Siva and the Goddess were engaged
in love-play when the gods came to plead that they produce Skanda in
order that the demon, Taraka, who was threatening the entire universe, might be destroyed.
The god Agni (Fire), having taken the form of a pigeon, peeked in through
the round window of the apartment within which they had closed themselves
in order to generate a son. Upon seeing Agni, Siva, filled with shame,
shed his seed. That seed, of blinding brilliance, fell into the mouth
of fire. Fire, unable to bear the heat of that seed, spit it into the
waters of the goddess Ganga (the Ganges river). She, too, overcome by
the intensity of the semen, pushed it with her waves to her shores
where a child, Skanda, was born.
October 26. I tell Peter in the night that I can't go on any longer. Every night it is the same: Peter holding me while my body burns and burns. Finally I let go, and I feel as if I will self-combust. I think of the stories of yogis who have such tremendous heat that they sit in the snow to cool themselves down, of Catherine of Sienna who coughed up boiling blood, and of all those suffering terribly in the world. I give in to the fire and allow myself to be burned up if I am meant to be a human sacrifice. I surrender. Later in the night, I read these words of Thomas Kelly's, in his A Testament of Devotion:
It is an overwhelming experience to fall into the hands of the living God, to be invaded to the depths of one's being by his presence, to be, without warning, wholly uprooted from all earth-born securities and assurances and to be blown by a tempest of unbelievable power which leaves one's old proud self utterly, utterly defenseless until one cries, 'All Thy waves and Thy bellows are gone over me!' Then is the soul swept into a Loving Center of ineffable sweetness, where calm and unspeakable peace and ravishing joy steal over one. And one knows now why Pascal wrote in the center of his greatest moment, the single word, 'Fire.'
In the morning I feel renewed in some way. I receive a call to tell me that our home has been sold after three years of it being for sale. Throughout these years, my relationship to money has changed, and I find, now, that I no longer hold on to it so tightly. I am grateful for these changes that seem to be happening almost in spite of me.
November 4. Dream: I am with a friend who is very critical and hard. I have known her since childhood although I haven't seen her in person for many years. I leave the third floor of the apartment block where she is and stand out on the side of it hanging on to a very tall thin air mattress. Very gently, and with great ease, I push off from the side of the building and sail across a huge space to another building across what I think of as ground zero. As I look back, wondering how to go back, I realize I am not meant to go back the way I came, so I carefully fold the mattress bit by bit and sail effortlessly to the ground. I take the mattress back to the place I came from and from there I will be taking a ferry, but I don't know yet where it will be going.
When I waken, I think, with relief, that perhaps I have crossed over the great space between the third and fourth chakras. I remember that air is the symbol of the heart chakra.
November 12. I have been burning up for weeks. The pain in my liver, spleen, and stomach is so intense. I have been spitting up phlegm for weeks. Why don't I read about these cleansings anywhere else? I feel very alone in this process. I can't understand why my process is so difficult, so torturous. Is it that others don't want to talk about it, or is there something very wrong with me? Then again, maybe we all feel very alone while going through these purifications. I am very tired and have spent weeks with the blinds closed. I don't want to go out and, if I do, I need the company of Peter. Carl Jung says:
People whose libido is regressive feel terribly sleepy, they can
hardly open their eyes and they feel generally unwell; the whole functioning
of the body is upset...Very little is known about these things, but we
know positively that in regressive moods, the viscosity of the blood
is measurably decreased, and of course, the alteration in the blood
affects the whole body. He, also, reported that latent diseases
may be released by this condition, such as lingering infections, since
the resistance of the body is reduced.
I have been thinking of Prometheus who flew so close to the sun and who brought fire from the realm of the gods to the earth. He paid a heavy price for this through great suffering. Each day an eagle would scoop his liver out of his body and each evening it would grow back. Stuart tells me that the eagle helps to remove the heat from the liver. He tells me to imagine the heat dissipating from my liver to relieve the pain. Edward Edinger says:
Prometheus' story gives us profound images of the nature of emerging
consciousness. First there is the process of separation, which determines
what belongs to the gods and what belongs to humankind, the ego gaining
increments of meat, or energy, for itself. Then equanimity is provided
with fire, one could say with light and energy: consciousness and the
effective energy of will to carry out conscious intention are created.
However, there was a fearful price for this, because the acquision of
consciousness was a crime....and its consequence was to generate in
Prometheus an unhealing wound.
That which was sacrificed by burning quite literally was 'made sacred.'
That which is burned turns largely to smoke and ascends to the upper
regions..to the gods by a process of sublimation....In India, Agni is
the Hindu fire god, the one to whom sacrifice is offered. In Hindu thought,
it is through fire that man could communicate with higher states of
being, with the gods and the heavenly spheres.
November 14. I grew up in a wealthy area of the city of Vancouver in British Columbia and knew nothing of the First Nations' communities just a few miles from my home. A few weeks ago, I drove into the Musqueam Indian Band Reserve and was very upset to see that one of the main roads leading into the Reserve was filled with pot holes. When I called the city hall office to find out why it was in such deplorable condition, I was told that "no one had asked to have it paved for decades." This is not what I had been told by the Musqueam Band. I began to petition for repairs to be made. Today, when Peter and I drove out of the Reserve, after a meeting with the Band manager, we got caught in dead ends and cul de sacs. Finally, we were forced to take another road out of the Reserve than the one full of holes. When I get home, I am so ill I cannot stand. I lie down all day and I go in and out of what feels like a trance state. Later, I realize that the name of the pot-holed road is Crown Street and I know that I will not be able to drive on it until it is repaired. I think of the people of the First Nations and their close connection to the land and I ask the gods to open my heart to what they knew and revered so long ago.