Saturday, June 21, 2008
As we move along on our spiritual journey we encounter various spiritual systems and, as we do so, we realize that many have in common a certain relationship with Eastern thought. Emerson and Thoreau were heavily indebted to Eastern philosophy, Emerson's Oversoul strongly reminiscent of the Brahma-Atman connection. (Brahma, the Infinite, is also Atman, the limited being which is ourselves.) And, of course, Thoreau considered Walden Pond as sacred as the waters of the holy Ganges, as if it were fed by an underground stream from the other side of the world.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded what we know as "Christian Science," was in turn strongly influenced by the thought of Emerson and other transcendentalists of the time, those who felt that the material world is illusion, and that reality can be found only in those realms which go beyond that of sense perception. She held that there was no truth in matter, for "all is infinite mind and its infinite manifestation." Christian Science is most known for its non-medical approaches to healing, but its thought system extends to many other areas of life and experience.
Madam Blavatsky in turn originated the school of Theosophy (knowledge of God) which went even deeper into the realms of the invisible. She was well known for her ability to commune with disembodied spirits. She spent much time in India, where she continued to meld the ideas of Theosophy with those of ancient Yogic tradition.
Rudolph Steiner went ahead to found Anthroposophy (knowledge of man), an extensive system which offered direction for virtually all activities of society, including education, healing, agriculture, and many others. Again, his perspective included many resonances with Eastern thought.
And--an even more recent formulation is found the the famous "Course in Miracles," where, as some have noted, Christian terminology is used to present notions closely connected with certain Eastern systems. The Eastern traditions taught that all was "maya," mere illusion, a veil for the reality beyond, and this idea is also fundamental to the "Course." And there are many other similarities.
And--there are other parallels as well between Eastern and Western thought. The Mother Goddess was worshiped both East and West, and is even now for some the central image of core yoga teachings as the source of all life . Dionysos in the ancient West (the god of ecstasy) has much in common with Krishna, the god who makes love with many maids at once (a god is not bounded, but can enter as holy spirit into many devotees at the same time, and so lead them to states of bliss.) Interestingly, both Dionysos and Krishna are androgynous gods, combining both male and female attributes in their nature, and thus illustrate the notion that opposites must unite for initiation to take place.
All of these perspectives seem to tap into a fundamental human belief--that there is a reality beyond the seen, that who we are is not defined by name or category, that we are all seeking return to our original home, which is limitless Love, no matter what name we call it or how we approach the throne.
As for me, I am drawn to the fundamentals of the ancient yogic tantric traditions, especially Kashmiri Shaivism. I do not delve into them as a scholar wishing to accumulate knowledge, but rather as one who literally resonates in their presence. For me, the sound of sanskrit, the names and pictures of the Hindu gods, the simple kirtans or sacred poems out of the early eras are enough to awaken deep response, often as flowing bliss within.
Kundalini is the goddess, the goddess is Kundalini, bringer of infinite bliss.
(image of the goddess Paravati from source)