"Man is ignorant of the nature of his own being and powers, even his idea of his limitations is based on past experience. There is therefore no reason to assign theoretical limits to what he may be, or what he may do." - Aleister Crowley
"Even such geniuses as Da Vinci, Beethoven
and Einstein are partial foreshadowings of what we may become." - Robert Anton Wilson
Is Mankind finished or still in process? Are we humans, such as we are now, the pinnacle of evolution here on Earth? Are we really already all that we're ever going to be, as individuals and as a species? What about that large portion of the brain that scientists say we never use? One has to wonder what might be locked away in those hidden recesses, or what wonderous transformations might be locked away in those large portions of DNA that are just lying there dormant, which many scientists laughingly call "junk-DNA."
What if there were ways to tap these unknown resources and activate sleeping potentials? What if we were to become the "gods" that we imagine?
The vast, unique and utterly incomprehensible intelligence that informs and animates DNA has achieved, it seems, an ideal and potentially very fruitful physical and mental expression of ItSelf through the "domesticated primate" called the human being. Science says the process of evolution is blind, random and accidental. Science also says the process of human evolution is over, and has been for quite some time. Sages and mystics the world over say otherwise.
Our wisest elders, throughout all of recorded history, from all parts of the globe, have tried to tell us that we are (or can be) so much more than just flesh-and-blood robots, more than just the accidental result of random, mechanical processes, and inconceivably more than our puny little minds could possibly ever imagine. Only a few have listened.
For those who have listened, and for those who have studied and contemplated such things, it appears, from all the available evidence, that the human being is, indeed, "a work still in progress", that we are still evolving, and that there are, indeed, "ways" and "techniques of activation" to assist this evolution.
Into what are we evolving? That is the question, and that is what we shall here explore. Let us take a little trip through the world's great spiritual traditions and see what they have to say on the subject.
First, from Tibetan Buddhism and the Dzogchen tradition, we have something which they call the Rainbow Body, or Jalus in Tibetan. The Rainbow body is an immaterial, but conscious "energy-body" that is created as a result of years (usually a lifetime) of dedicated spiritual Work; it is considered the highest attainment.
"The realiser of Jalus resides in the timeless, eternal space that is a mystery." - Wiki -
After the Rainbow Body is manifested, it further transforms into the Sambhogakaya, the Bliss Body, or Glorious Body, which then further transforms into the Dharmakaya, the Truth Body, or Reality Body, which is considered "the most sublime or truest reality in the Universe", "the Buddha-Body of Reality."
"According to Dzogchen lore, the attainment of the Rainbow Body is the sign of complete realisation of the Dzogchen view. As Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche states: 'The realised Dzogchen practitioner, no longer deluded by apparent substatiality or dualism such as mind and matter, releases the energy of the elements that compose the physical body at the time of death.
More specifically, the Rainbow Body is constituted by the Five Pure Lights. When the view of Dzogchen and the integrity of the mindstream which links the Trikaya is realised prior to the death-Bardo, the body-mind of the Nirmanakaya Dzogchenpa enters samadhi and commenses Phowa or the 'transferral of consciousness' into the constituent Five Pure Lights of the Sambhogakaya to the Dharmakaya, sometimes leaving the non-living faecal elements of the body-mind such as hair and nails." - Wiki -
David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, has joined efforts with The Institute of Noetic Sciences and The Esalen Institute in order to study the Rainbow Body and its possible correpsondence with the Christian 'Resurrection'. He says:
"If we can establish as an anthropological fact that what is described in the resurrection of Jesus has not only happened to others, but is happening today, it would put our view of human potential in a completely different light."
While in Tibet, H.H. Khenpo Achuck Rinpoche, also known as Lama Achuck, emphasized to Steindl-Rast and his travelling/research companion, Father Tiso, that it was possible to manifest the Rainbow Body while still alive, not just at the time of death. I think this is an important point to keep in mind while reading this post.
"Both Tiso and Steindl-Rast emphasize that these experiences are said to occur only in highly evolved individuals who are the embodiment of compassion and love. They speculate these qualities - conscience and consciousness - are a driving force of evolution. 'It is my great hope that the rainbow body research will make us more aware of this fact', he says."
- from the article, 'Christian/Buddhist Explorations: The Rainbow Body', by Gail Holland
Before leaving the world of Buddhism, we also have this on which to contemplate from the 'Mahayana Secret Sublime Sutra':
"They had therefore achieved the Wisdom Concentration, and acquired Mind-created Bodies, which are adorned with mighty supernatural powers. Such bodies are free of any interspaces, bones, or substances, they are like the sun and moon, like rainbows, electricity, the finest gold, luminous pearls...Pavonine Flowers and Moons, and the images from mirrors."
The Buddhists also use the term 'Diamond Body' when referring to this higher, non-material, "mind-created body."
From Taoism we have all sorts of stories about Immortal beings and "Cloud-Walkers" with supernatural powers. The following is just one example:
"In Taoism, a high level Xian can transmute his flesh body into light (photons), can transform himself into anything, and can have many dividing bodies, so that he can appear as various forms synchronously at many different places, or be invisible to the human eye. When his body disperses, he is the diffuse uncreated (pre-cosmic) energy; when the energy converges, he can appear as a living being. Such an Immortal is also called Zhenren, the 'Real Person' in Taoist scriptures." - Wiki -
There is also something in Taoism called "Creating the Immortal Foetus." The late Taoist Master, Lu K'uan Yu (Charles Luk), in his book, 'Taoist Yoga: Alchemy and Immortality', has this to say about the formation of the "foetus":
"After having gathered the macrocosmic alchemical agent and circulated it through the three gates of the back-bone, all psychic centers (and channels) are cleared of obstructions so that the two vitalities (of nature and life) which have now developed fully, can move freely by themselves, ascending and descending endlessly; this is how the two vitalities help spirit produce the (immortal) foetus....
An ancient immortal said, 'Shape is formed by Tao (immortality) and life is made eternal through alchemy, which consists of borrowing boundless pre-natal vitality to continue (the existence of) limited bodily form; in other words, this boundless pre-natal vitality which is the true essence of the positive and negative principles between heaven and earth, is used to create the immortal foetus which now has shape. This is the union of (positive) and (negative) spirits which produces the immortal foetus."
After giving birth to the "immortal foetus" in the lower Dan-Tian (the area around the navel), the "foetus" is nurtured and developed and raised up through the energy centers, and at the time of full maturity, is released through the top of the head (crown chakra?), as in the picture above.
The Taoists, as well as the Buddhists, use the term 'Diamond Body' (among others) when referring to this finer, non-material, but indestuctible "body." The practices of Chi-Kung (Taoist Yoga), which the Chinese call an "internal martial art", and which work with the subtle energy known as Chi (Qi), are supposed to enable one to evolve to this higher level of existence.
From Hinduism we have the concept of the Ativahika-deha, the Superconductive Body, which at some point thereafter, transforms into the Boga-deha, the Enjoyment Body, very similar to the Rainbow and Bliss bodies in Tibetan Buddhism. And of course, here, too, we have a plethora of legends about immortal Yogis with miraculous powers.
In the sacred Hindu text, the Yoga-Vasishtha, the Superconductive Body "is equated with the universal, omni-present 'body' of the singular Reality. This is glorified as the true body of human beings, the physical body being considered a mere illusion." - Wiki -
The text itself says:
"The ativahika body is but a subtle void...Yet, in the field known as infinite consciousness, countless universes will continue to appear. The cosmic subtle body....becomes a solid substance by being thought of as such, even as a dream may appear to be real when it is prolonged. Thus even materiality and substantiality arises of its own accord from the subtle ativahika body."
And from the book, 'Yoga in Modern India: The Body Between Science and Philosophy', by Joseph A. Alter, we have the following on the "superconductive body":
"It is not suprising that Dr. Karandikar frames his theory of cellular health in terms of biochemistry, since he is a biomedical physician. It is noteworty, nevertheless, that in the context of his nationalist sentiments he does not make reference to the concept of functional metabolism known as dhatu transubstantiation in the Ayurvedic corpus, since dhatu transubstantiation is homologous to the process whereby the body 'cooks' itself into shape and becomes ativahika-deha, or "superconductive."
*Note the use of the word transubstantiation.
Hinduism also gives us the concepts of Kundalini and Prana, the energies (in Hindu terminology) that are involved in the transformation of which we have been speaking; and of course, the Chakras, the energy centers in the body through which all of this supposedly takes place. The practices of Yoga, like those of Chi-Kung, are ultimately meant to fascilitate this transformation.
Entering the world of mystical Judaism and Kabbalah, we have what is known as the Merkaba, a Hebrew word meaning 'chariot', from the consonantal root r-k-b with the general meaning 'to ride.' The Merkaba is an immaterial vehicle of conscious-light-energy, in other words, a "mind-chariot." This "vehicle", it seems, must be created, as it is in all other traditions, through certain physical, mental and spiritual exercises.
The description and imagery of the Merkaba in the book of Ezekiel and other Hebrew texts is, of course, not meant to be taken literally. It is not a material, "nuts-and-bolts" space-craft of any kind, like the "new age" types would like to believe, nor is it the "throne-chariot" of some bearded old man called "God." It is best considered a "vehicle of consciousness", a "chariot of ascension."
Traditional Talmudic and Torah scholars prohibited Merkaba study and speculation, limiting discussion of the subject to "worthy sages", "exemplary scholars", and as the 12th century Kabbalist and Sufi, Abraham Mamonides, said, to "those who have minds of their own."
The African Zulu spiritual leader, Credo Mutwa, says that the word 'Merkaba' is also a Zulu word meaning a "space-time-dimension vehicle". According to Zulu legend his entire tribe had come to Earth from another dimension using the Merkaba.
Proclus, the Neo-platonist philosopher, also used the term "vehicle", as in the 'augoeides ochema', the Radiant Vehicle.
In the Qabalistic system of The Golden Dawn, the term "augoeides" is also used. As part of their curriculum, students are expected to learn, and perform daily, 'The Qabalistic Cross' and 'The Middle Pillar' rituals, both of which work with "visualized" light-energy and energy-centers in the body, much like the practices of Chi-Kung and Chakra meditations. These are two additional ways of possibly helping to create this "immortal vehicle."
And speaking of The Golden Dawn, I think I would be remiss here if I did not briefly mention what Crowley had to say on the subject.
He speaks of "the Adept" whose "Mind be perfectly knit together in itself, and conjoined with the Star" ('Star' being Crowley's word for the "True Self"), and that, unlike the majority of the masses after death, this Mind-conjoined-with-the-Star "resisteth the Ministers of Disruption for a Season, according to its Strength", and that "it seeketh a new Vehicle in the Appointed Way." - Liber Aleph, pgs.192-193 -
Thus, Crowley, like Gurdjieff below, seems to be saying that not everyone reincarnates or continues, in some way, to exist after death; only those who have created this Merkaba, this "Mind-Chariot."
When one first encounters the teachings of Gurdjieff one is immediately confronted by his notion that human beings are not born with a "soul", but that it has to be created, or developed, through certain types of physical, mental and spiritual Work. (Beginning to sound familiar?)
Gurdjieff doesn't actually use the word "soul" all that much, but speaks of it in terms of "higher-being-bodies", with the highest "body" being what most people would call a "soul." This is what he has to say:
"The 'man-machine' with whom everything depends on external influences, with whom everything 'happens', who is now one, the next moment another, and the next moment a third, has no future of any kind; he is buried and that is all. Dust returns to dust.... In order to be able to speak of any kind of possible future life there must be a certain crystalization, a certain fusion of man's inner qualities, a certain independence of external influences.... In certain cases of fuller crystalization, what people call 'reincarnation' may be possible after death, and, in other cases, what people call 'existence on the other side'.....
In both cases it is the continuation of life in the 'astral body', or with the help of the 'astral body.' You know what the expression 'astral body' means. But the systems with which you are acquainted and which use this expression state that all men have an 'astral body.' This is quite wrong. What may be called the 'astal body' is obtained by means of fusion, that is, by means of terribly hard inner work and struggle. Man is not born with it."
- 'In Search of the Miraculous', pgs. 31-32, by P.D. Ouspensky -
Gurdjieff does say elsewhere, that we humans are born with something which he calls essence, which, like the 'prima materia', the 'first matter' of Alchemy, is the substance that is "worked on" and transmuted into something higher.
Reminiscent of "the Immortal Foetus" in Taoist Alchemy, the Wikipedia entry on 'Prima Materia' has this to say:
"The alchemical operation consists essentially in separating the prima materia, the so-called chaos, into the active priciple, the soul, and the passive principle, the body. They are then reunited in personified form in the coniunctio, the ritual combination of Sol and Luna, which yields the magical child (filius sapientiae or filius philosophorum), the reborn self, known as the ultima materia."
After the "astral body" (which G. calls the 'Body Kesdjan') is formed, there are two higher bodies still to be created and/or developed, because (according to G.) after a certain amount of time, the "astral body" itself can die just like the physical body. In the Gurdjieff tradition, the Body Kesdjan is looked at as an incubator for the "soul", with the third "body" being the 'Mental', or 'Spiritual Body', and the fourth being the 'Divine', or 'Causal Body' (the "soul" itself).
He also speaks of developing a Real "I", as opposed to the false "I", or the ego (the 'man machine' in the above quote), which is in reality a legion of "I's", or as Dr. Robert Ornstein calls them, "a squadron of simpletons." The process of creating a Real "I" leads to the creation and/or development of a "soul" through the "alchemical" crystalization of finer energies.
So whether we are born with "souls" or not, I do not know. But if it's not "creating a soul", then it's probably just a matter of waking it up and educating and maturing it. Either way, one thing is clear: We have Work to do.
This naturally brings us to the Sufis, the mystical representatives of Islam, who were speaking of evolution at least 600 years before Darwin, and they too have a multitude of stories about highly evolved bilocating adepts with supernatural powers.
As Shaykh Laurence Galian writes:
"Scientists have known for some time that in the quantum world, a single object can exist in a multiplicity of forms and places. Of great fascination is that not only can a single object exist in more than one place, but also these two manifestations of a single object can respond instantly to each other's expreriences.
For many centuries, one possible sign of a Sufi saint is that he or she has the gift of bilocation, or being able to appear in two places simultaneously. There are many stories of Sufi Sheikhs performing this wonder. Yet we can go still further in our extrapolations, and posit that if there is ONE ULTIMATE REALITY, then this new science is showing that ONE THING can manifest into an assortment of shapes and locations."
In Irina Tweedie's book, 'Daughter of Fire', a record of her 5 years in India training with a Sufi Master, we have this intriguing little tidbit:
"Last night, while I was looking at the sky, I noticed an object lit brightly... It was passing at a terrific speed in complete silence; no engines could be heard, nor a motor noise, and the speed was far greater than that of any airplane. It passed right across the sky, coming from the west, and disappeared behind the roof-tops to the east. I was wondering if it was one of those things people call a flying saucer... Later, I saw another object passing, also very swiftly, but slower than the first."
The next day she mentioned this to her Sufi Master:
"Talked to him for a while. Don't remember one word.... only remember saying that I saw one object in the sky.
'There were two of them,' he said quietly, interrupting his prayers for a moment to change the position of his legs.
'Yes,' I said, 'two,' and I described them. 'Do you know what they were?' He nodded. 'Will you tell me what they are?' He shook his head.... When later, I asked him again, as politely as possible, to tell me what they were, he said sternly that one should avoid useless talk. And that was all."
Obviously, the Master felt that she was not yet ready to know of such things.
Considering the above, I can't help but think of all the "magic carpets" and "flying carpets" in Arabic/Islamic/Sufi lore.....and the Shaykh kneeling on his prayer rug, deep in meditation.....
It also reminds me of the last lines of one of Rumi's poems:
"Love comes and gags me: 'Scribbler!
Forget mere verse. The star-ship departs!'"
Maybe now we a starting to get a glimpse of what Rumi meant by "star-ship."
In Sufism, this higher "body" we have been speaking about is called, 'Wujud al-Aqdas', the Most Sacred Body, and 'Jism Asli Haqiqi', the Supracelestial Body.
The Sufis also have a concept which they call, Al-Insan al-Kamil (Insan-i-Kamil), the Completed or Perfected Human. They teach that humans, as we are now, have not yet fully evolved into what we potentially could become, what we are meant to be. According to the Sufis, the purpose of the human being is to be a pure vessel receiving and transmiting the energy of God. As Shaykh Kabir Helminski writes:
"It has become an accepted spiritual idea that each part of the universe in some way reflects the whole. Contemporary spirituality has borrowed the holographic model from contemporary science. This notion has always existed within Sufism and is expressed, for instance, in the idea that the human being is not merely a drop that can merge with the Ocean, but a drop that contains the Ocean. Every divine attribute is latent within the human heart, and by the cooperation of human will with divine grace these attributes can be awakened and manifested. We human beings contain within ourselves the potential to experience completion, to know our intimate relationship to the whole of Being in such a way that we reflect this completion through ourselves. The highest spiritual attainment has been expressed by the phrase insan-i-kamil, The Completed Human Being....
The attributes of the Complete Human Being are the attributes of God appropriately reflected in human nature."
Of all the spiritual traditions I've studied, the Sufis seem to be the only ones really concerned with evolution, both individually and collectively. The following poem by the already mentioned Master, Jalaluddin Rumi (peace be upon him), is a good representative of their views:
"I died as mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and became animal,
I died as animal and became Man,
Why should I fear? When was I any less by dying?
Once again, I shall die as Man
To soar with Angels blest;
But even from Angel-hood I must pass on:
All except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my Angel-soul
I shall become what no mind ever conceived."
Moving on to esoteric Christianity, we have the concepts of being "born-again" and "rebirth", along with the Resurrection Body, the Glorified Body, the Wedding Garment, the Seamless Robe of Glory, Joseph's "Coat of Many Colors" (which is a direct reference to the Rainbow Body), and even ol' Paul called it the 'Soma Pneumatikon', the Celestial Body, or Spiritual Body.
According to John White, the Rosicrucians called it "The Diamond Body of the Temple of God", reminicent of the Diamond Body in Taoism and Buddhism.
It should also be noted that Gurdjieff called his system "Esoteric Christianity", and it does share many similarities with Gnostic and esoteric Eastern Orthodox teachings, aside from his Sufi connections.
And of course, we can't forget our old friend J.C.:
"And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringing them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light."
- Matthew 17: 1-2 -
Did he not have "mighty supernatural powers" like it says in the Mahayana Secret Sublime Sutra? Did he not transmute his flesh body into light like a Chi-Kung Master? Did he not have the ability to manifest in different places at the same time like a Sufi Shaykh? The mistake, it seems, is to think that only Jesus, "the one and only Son of God", had that ability, or that potential.
Did he not say that we are all "sons of The Most High"? Did he not say the Kingdom of God is within us? Did he not say, "Have I not said, 'Ye are gods?'" And did he not also say, "All that I have done, ye shall do, and more?" ----- Maybe we should listen with new ears.
This brings us to that infernal land of Hollywood, and a Star Trek: TNG episode appropriately titled, 'Transfigurations'. Here the crew of the Enterprise comes across an injured, runaway fugitive, a mystic, from a nearby star-system. The "authorities" of his home planet are chasing him and trying to capture (and possibly kill) him because they consider he and all his kind to be a threat to society. (Isn't that the way it always is?)
Captain Picard gives him asylum aboard the Enterprise, and during the duration of the episode he experiences all sorts of bodily symptoms, reminicent of "kundalini symptoms", and light briefly coursing through different parts of his body. He also exhibits the power to heal people with a touch of his hand.
At the end of the episode, his physical body transforms completely into a 'Body of Light', still in humanoid form, and he gives this little speech:
"Captain, my species is on the verge of a wonderous evolutionary change, a transmutation beyond our physical being. I am the first of my kind to approach this metamorphosis. They tried to convince us that it was a sickness we would never survive, that the pain and energy pulses would kill us. They claimed we were dangerous, so they destroyed anyone who exhibited signs of the transformation.....Some of us suspected that what was happening to us was not evil. Four of us decided to flee Zalcon and let the metamorphosis take its course."
Then he says his thank-you's and goodbye's to the crew, and then proceeds to turn into a ball, or bundle, of golden light-energy about the size of a basketball, or a little larger, and shoots through the ceiling/roof of the Enterprise and off into space.
And last, but not least, we have this from Carlos Castaneda, Don Juan, and the native shamanic tradition of ancient Mexico. It's from his book, 'Tales of Power', and speaking of his shaman teacher Don Juan, he relates the following:
"His body kept twirling a few feet above the ground. The circles were very rapid at first, then they slowed down.... Then he began to ascend; he gained altitude until he reached the top of the cliff. Don Juan was actually floating as if he had no weight. His turns were slow and evoked the image of an astronaut in space whirling around in a state of weightlessness.... He moved away from the cliff and as he gained speed I became utterly sick.... I felt that the speed which his floating body had gained was blurring his shape; he looked like a rotating disk and then a light that was spinning."
Commenting on this passage in his article, 'Through the Looking Glass', Jason Wynd writes:
"Such a concept blows the whole UFO mystery to bits and rearranges it into a delirious new image. Squinting at the mystery thus, the paranoid begins to imagine that some UFO's spinning about the Earth's stratosphere are neither space-ships nor time-machines, angels nor dragons, but simply men of prodigious talent! In a sense they would be men of the future, beings who have evolved to such a degree beyond us as to be no longer bound by space or time as we are, having become what they always were, luminous balls of energy, 'stars', spinning their way through the labyrinth of matter, signalling to us the way to follow."
I think all of the above paints a very interesting picture of our potential and future possibilities. There seem to be no limits.
At the moment, I can think of no better way to end this piece than by quoting the last two paragraphs of John White's article, 'Enlightenment and The Body of Light':
"The traditions speak of the process in different ways. Is the immortal body created or released, attained or manifested? Is it pre-existent within the individual and the gross matter of the body simply 'burned' away? Or is the gross matter of the body altered through a process not yet recognized by physical science, which changes the atoms of flesh into something unnamed on the Periodic Table of Elements? Is there more than one route to the final, perfected form of the human body-mind? Is it necessary to actually die biologically, or is there an alternate path to the light-body that bypasses physical death?
These are provocative questions which remain to be explored. However this state is achieved, the perfected individual is then capable of operating within ordinary space-time through that altered vehicle of consciousness which is immortal. That vehicle of consciousness is no longer carbon-based as is biological flesh. Rather, it is composed of a finer, more ethereal form of energy substance unknown to conventional physics, but long known to metaphysics and higher mysticism. That condition is, for the individual, the most exalted stage of higher human development; for humanity in general, it is the final stage of evolution."