Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mythic Consciousness and the Cultural Contamination of Realism

In line with my previous post of view I wanted to expand my thoughts on that and discuss what I call mythic consciousness.

Every one (well at least maybe some of us) remember what our minds were like as children. We were open in some ways, open to the realm of fairy, open to the realm of magic. The laws of the adult world didn't apply to us so much. Perhaps we even saw and talked to beings that our parents called "imaginary".
Everything was usually "ok", sometimes even quite expanded and great.
Of course some as children did not have this luxury, were thrust into the world of the rational much quicker. They might have a harder time understanding this discussion.

I have been contemplating these things more since visiting the Natural History museum in Albuquerque, looking up the legs of dinosaurs the size of a 3 or 4 story house that lived an unbelievably long time ago.
When you contemplate how long the humanoid ancestors of ours have been around, just a small fraction of that time at 3 to 4 million years and then contemplate that the time of our historical records of only maybe 6 thousand years at the most is just an even tinier fraction of this time, you wonder perhaps at how our minds functioned for most of this period.

I believe that with the coming of the written word, agriculture, the rise of cities, the spread of humanity across the planet, came the development of the rational consciousness, the pushing forward of our minds into more and more fixed constructs. Our view became more rational. We became more stuck in only that realm that we could see and touch. This greater "evolution" of humankind in a way parallels our "development" as human beings over the course of our lifespan.

I have contemplated in the past few years the return to "innocence" or what I would call mythic consciousness. Why mythic consciousness? Because it is here that our minds access the old myths, the stories that we were told as children, the deeper well of consciousness that accesses the much deeper vaster mental lands of our ancestors.

Have we really come so far with the development of "rational consciousness"? Do we truly even see or feel anymore?
I know personally for myself that when I spend time in this rational consciousness, I find myself subject to fear, depression, hopelessness. One only has to open the newspaper. Get too caught up in paying the bills, living the race, moving forward, working for a life that is an utter fabrication, one that is influenced by the vast cultural movement that is sweeping us all forward.

How do we visit the realm of our deep ancestors? How do we "go back to innocence". How do we see more clearly the realms that escape our ordinary eyes?

We have to first see the creation of what is in front of us. That we are responsible for its creation. Seeing it clearly we can then learn to relax this view. As the greater view of "rationalism" disappears, new vistas, much older vistas open before our eyes.

We discover for ourselves lands that have been long untapped. They are still here. Right in front of us. They have been all along. This landscape is even larger, with much more potency for transformation and change than the walls of the rational landscape.

It is here that we can learn many things, much of which is pre-mental. Pre-rational. Much of it is beyond even our vocabulary. If you read between the lines in the old stories you will find descriptions though.

And you have to be careful as it is easy to get lost here. It requires a balancing act. It is vast territory and as I explained in the previous post, vast view requires extra care.

But in my opinion it is vital if we are to move forward as a species. The wisdom to be found in this space predates even the wisdom of the Vedas, the Bible, the great texts and sages. It is a space that sustained us for vast millenia.

And if you look at the "progress" we've made in the last few thousand years you might agree that the "rational view" is perhaps even leading us to extinction.

Spend some time with the Shambhavi mudra. Learn to see. Learn to let go of constructed view. Take a visit to the land of your deep ancestors and see the broad horizons that they visited.

It is a wondrous land.


Hi Folks,

I just wanted to say a few words today about view. View is what I would term the construction of conceptual layers in an ordered (or chaotic) fashion keeping thought contained/constrained in particular ways. It is akin to the walls of a house, whether those walls are close (like a small shack) or elaborate and extensive (like a mansion). Lets say I have a wall on the north side of the room I am presently in. That means I am unable to move north because the wall acts like a barrier. If I am standing in a north/south corridor, I can only move north/south. My view, or the way that I see/interpret/experience this world is similar. There are many things that contribute to this view: upbringing, school, trainings, religion, "spiritual practices", the news, friends and family's influence, etc.
The word that Patanjali uses for this is vrtti. Vrtti in one sense can be cyclical thought, turnings of mind and also just "definitions/boundaries of the mind".
Patanjali says that vrtti (or in our case view) can be either klista or aklista, which means that it can be obstructing or non-obstructing. If we cannot get around or understand the walls of definition that create our view, we are obstructed. This can lead to suffering and contraction.
We have to be cautious especially when we get an "expanded view". We may misinterpret this as freedom, thinking because our view is more expanded perhaps than others or more expanded than it used to be that we have freedom. Our view in fact can be so large that we have trouble seeing the boundaries, and because we have vast freedom of movement we may fall into a sense of comfort or even worse expanded egotism. At this point it is difficult because our mind may be "too smart for its own good". It is very difficult to deal with a mind like this.
There is a concept in the Tibetan practices of Buddhism called Creation and Completion.
Creation involves actually creating a view. Sometimes very elaborate. At the end, the view is utterly relinquished, totally letting it go.
This is an important point to remember with all spiritual practice. Most of the realm of practice for us falls into the realm of creation. We may study or practice along certain ordered guidelines and actually "get somewhere" with these practices. But then what? What happens if we stay stuck in the view? What we've effectively done is to move from point A to point B. But if it is possible for us to then utterly drop the view, point A and point B disappear. There is no "us" that travels from point A to point B. There is no "practice".
Working in this way helps us to unite relative and absolute truths through our practice and discrimination.
I try to spend time with both.
Sometimes I work in a more ordered way, with a created view. Sometimes I let it all go, everything, the yoga/tantra/all the book knowledge/all the knowledge that has come before/everything the teacher says. And just BE.
I do think both are useful. For example if we drive wherever we want to, we run people over. View is good. For certain things. But can we step outside of it? At least once a day?
When we do this we come back with a totally fresh perspective.
We live more in spontaneity and the moment.
Life bubbles with more potential and the ability to create anew.
Enjoy life and wonder at the beauty of it all.