Personal experience of the topics I study has been part of this project’s methodology. This experiential element has been included to more deeply verify and understand the phenomena under investigation. Yet, this very necessary element needs a methodology of its own since its operation presents its own problems—usually verification problems. For example, a miracle story in Christian scripture is told, so that Jesus is proved to have supernatural powers. (John 20: 19-31) Unbelievers say the power is from the devil. Believers say it is from God, as does Jesus himself. The verification of witnesses is disputed. Yet, such a lived context is what I have come to rely upon, or trust, as I investigate the shift between temporal and non-temporal states of consciousness. This is the case in the story soon to be told, as I continue to address the increasingly urgent human predicament.
Another format is similar and refers to Panikkar’s perspective. Consciousness itself is the appearance of divine power. Analysis of consciousness is somehow subsequent and comparatively linear to the ineffably original, yet constant, experience of consciousness.
This state of consciousness is somehow left untouched by the temporal. One might deduce from this that everything in perception is subsequent to that, or reflecting upon that original moment of consciousness. Everything subsequent is literature or graven image, myth or fiction, theology, history or science. All of these might have equal veracity, be equally mythic, all being once removed from the reality of the original experience. Even scientific veracity is not absolute beyond its self-defined boundaries. There is no evidence that there is either a timeline or physics after death. The intuitive wisdom of old states that even death is part of something larger. Verification remains the problem. How does one verify wisdom, or spiritual experience, which by its very nature is free, especially from methodology?
That an experience of the “real thing” needs no verification is commonly heard. Certainly, color and clarity, light, freedom, creativity, energy and freedom are qualities associated with the highest recorded experiences. One might examine the quality of color in Mahayana mandalas or traditional (before 14th century AD) Christian icons to be reminded of the integrated goodness, truth and beauty associated with the classical experience. The quality of these experiences is verified sometimes as one judges the quality of fine gems, according to their water. That is, the inner quality of color and clarity as well as the quality of the well constructed moral or philosophical presentation.
The revelation of this future transfigured corporeality is shown to us in the Transfiguration of our Lord on Mount Tabor. “And he was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). In other words the whole body of the Lord was transfigured, becoming as it were a radiant raiment of the Deity. “As regards the character of the Transfiguration,” say the Fathers of the II Ecumenical Council, referring to St. Athanasius the Great, “it was not that the Word laid aside His human form, but rather that the latter was illumined by His glory.” …St. Simeon the New Theologian describes his personal experience of this inner illumination as follows “In other words, beauty is holiness, and its radiance the participation of the creature in Divine Beauty.”
We have had at least 40,000 years to consider religion. Something can be said for experience. Further consideration of such tradition(s) in light of modern rational inquiry has been unavoidable. But religion has not gone away, as some had hoped. The more it is promoted or repressed, it constantly seems to revive itself and follow its own course. One need not divorce scientific method from artistic or mystical intuition to maintain validity. In fact, one has to deny one’s full experience of reality to separate the two. By that, I don’t mean only such extraordinary experience of reality as in the history that soon follows these comments, but also the common universal experience of consciousness, as indicated above. Before consciousness divides itself into intuitive or scientific perception; truth and lies, (lies that tell the truth = art), consciousness is singular and self justifying. It has no precedent. It has no ground of verification other than itself. But undeniably, all other perception, all other experience depends upon it. So, one still might profitably discuss religious experiences, and the various techniques used in the past for engaging the sacred, or original, non-temporal moment—the Holy. The critical category for the study of the order of the universe, Ved in Sanskrit, or Being itself, is ontonomy or the order of being.
The issues of pilgrimage and erring, as technique, as means of intentionally connecting with the sacred, are an important part of this research. Twenty five years of nearly annual pilgrimage provides the ground from which I might comprehend Panikkar’s thesis regarding the non-temporal foundation of consciousness. It is also this erring activity that has contributed to a certain perspective about the nature of creativity and knowledge. Panikkar indicates that creativity is the product of healthy intercourse between the void of the non-temporal and the manifestation of a material, temporal world. This is consistent with the Church’s tradition. Most of the great “heresies” condemned by the Church’s institutional authority in the past have been considered heretical because they are very negative about matter, the body, nature in general—spirit is all good, flesh and the world is all bad. The orthodox tradition is more positive in this regard. I, at one point, felt that everything subsequent to the original, timeless moment is a fictive reference back to that fecund void of glory from which all things come. However, this statement by itself is too simplistic and already perhaps too dualistic, since there is an immediacy about temporal experience, even critical processes, that each has a presence somehow non-temporal. This is a realization that takes us back to Panikkar’s point about “everything.” For Panikkar “everything” would include scientific knowledge as well as literature and art, myth and ritual; the full spectrum of human experience—and the ineffable.
An essential characteristic about human perception, even scientific or critical perception, seems to lie within the field described by both sacramental vision or symbolic agency operating within a “tensile polarity” between the temporal and non-temporal. According to Panikkar, this polarity evokes a trinitarian element that is itself the resolution of opposites. If that concept seems impenetrable, what is needed perhaps is that distilled illumination provided by just such an agent of resolution. The following anecdote illustrates the point:
More than fifteen years ago, a friend and I were researching the phenomenon of “holy places” that occurs and reoccurs in the annals of sacred literature. These are places on the earth reputed to have some particular “energy” or “spiritual presence.” Lourdes or Fatima or Kailash would be famous examples of such places, but there are many others mentioned in the sacred texts, or that simply exist without mention. My friend and I located such a place in the Great Basin region of Nevada, through an erring process. We wandered aimlessly for several days in the wastelands of Nevada and California until we spotted it. Rather, it seemed to present itself. Over the years, and in many subsequent visits, this place displayed various natural and supernatural characteristics. However, it is the last two visits that make the point about art and perception that I intend to clarify here.
It is not important that one believe any supra-rational elements in this story for the sake of understanding the critical points. But, the accomplishment of this genre of sacred literature is meant to open the doors of perception to the non-temporal along certain paths. For full accomplishment, one should believe fully. Such belief includes doubt and confusion that leads to clarity. The pitfalls of blind faith are famous. But willful materialism also has its dangers. One, at least, must “suspend disbelief” long enough to benefit from this approach. Historical accuracy is not so important as truth according to a priori, perceptive constructs; Gospel values, Vedantic attitudes, Buddhist vision, Zuni intuition, for example, about the nature and construct of the world. Though, nothing in this story is historically inaccurate.
My mother and I visited this place of energies, shortly after the summer solstice, 1996. We arrived at night. This place, we call it Eagle Rock, can be approached by car to within 500 yards. I drove slowly, looking for a place off the dirt road to stop. In the summer, this place is all dust and scrubby sage. But, the twilight moments of dawn and dusk are precious and the place radiates a peculiarly pure, psychic energy. As I rolled to a stop, a bright light flashed from the outcrop of rocks that is the center of these energies. The brief flash of light in the night was as tall as a house. I stopped the car pointed towards the rocks. We were anxious about who might be at this forsaken place this time of night to make such a light. Local Indian shamans? There is a reservation nearby. Skin walkers? The Holy Ones? Serial killer deadbeats? As I considered this, my companion said, “The car is moving.” “No, it’s not,” I replied. Moments passed. “The car is moving.” “No, it’s not,” somewhat impatiently.
Then, I noticed that the car was moving. Sliding back and forth. Front to back. Without the benefit of gravity! The overwhelming sensation was that of the other world. This was as clear as any other sensation might be; fear, love, joy, who can calculate its measure or prove the experience except by the consensus of witness. This time, someone was with me and shared a significant paranormal event. This had not been the case in the past.
Though, the sensation of the moment was powerful indeed, there was no sense of hostility. Just power and otherness. We decided that perhaps we did not need to be there. In fact, should not be there. We were intruding somehow. So, we backed out and drove slowly away. We became very anxious to be away from there. Very… Away from that power that seemed so strong and unfamiliar. About ten miles back on that dirt road, there is a farmstead. We both felt that if we could get past that point, back in human surroundings, we would be okay. But, then, as we drove along, I heard a strong hissing noise. It became louder and louder. I stopped the car to investigate. I had a flat. I had to stop to fix it. As I did so, it began to rain. We were in the Nevada desert in July. Rain is not impossible there, but not likely. Now it poured down. And at the anxious moment! The tire fixed, we continued our escape. We focused on looking for the farm, after which it is another ten miles to the paved road.
Then, all of a sudden, we were at the intersection with the paved highway. We did not pass the farm. We arrived at the pavement much too soon. And as soon as we got there, the rain stopped. Both of us had been looking for the farm. You can’t miss it, since the road goes right through the barnyard. It has the only light in the area. Trans-temporal-spatial-relocation? Both of us would not have missed such an obvious landmark as the farmyard. Install one gate and it becomes an impassable obstacle.
It seemed as if some local spirit or deity laughed in the night. On another, earlier occasion, I perceived in my mind’s eye, that the “spirit” of Eagle Rock looked like a series of vertical serpentine rods of golden white light. Like the Seraphim. But on that occasion, they simply hovered above the rocky crag, approving the one I brought there for initiation into these “mysteries.” At the conclusion of that initiation, I clapped my hands above his chthonic chakras as he lay across those rocks. Simultaneously, lightening ignited the mountainous horizon in the distance, followed by thunder. Perfect timing, if unexpected.
Now, it was as if the seraphs hovered majestically for hundreds of square miles above the valley. Easily filling that vast emptiness, they “sing the glory of God in creation.”
I returned to that vicinity a year later. But this time alone. And this time, I had two blow outs. I was driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle with big, heavy-duty, tires. I never have trouble with this car any other time or place. I was stranded 30 miles from the nearest town. It was sunset. I imagined walking through the night and the next day, thinking that if I survived the desert on foot, I would be in great shape physically and spiritually.
Fortunately, I did not have the chance to be put to the test. Because, before I had walked 100 yards, a car appeared on the horizon. This road was seldom traveled. This traveler and his wife with him in the car, turned out to be the local Bureau of Land Management agent working after hours putting up direction signs around the local salt flats. So, instead of walking through the night, I was soon traveling 60 miles per hour across the dry lake bed—a short cut to the nearest village—beneath the glory of an immense copper, gold, salmon, yellow gold and twilight blue desert sunset. We spent the evening together. I met many of the local people for the first time and ended up having a great time.
For years I have been visiting Eagle Rock as a place of pilgrimage. It has been a holy place that I went to, even took other seekers to visit, for the fineness of the energies there. I never talked to any of the locals out there, seldom even saw anyone to talk to about the place. My feelings and stories about the place took on a mythic, heroic sense that evoked even more sensations and experiences of the “other world” for myself and others. On this trip, I seemed to meet most the local folks. Heard many of the histories and descriptions, including Eagle Rock. They were all ordinary histories about people and places with nothing of the paranormal about them.
With this visit, the inner sense was that “it’s time to move on.” I don’t believe that it was only a primitive, personal, immature or even neurotic need for private symbols or actions used to maintain a private and secure inner world that was a problem to be outgrown. For instance, the 5 or 6-foot column of stones on top of the outcrop that we call Eagle Rock is such a symbol. I suspected that this special place was perhaps marked thus by a local shaman from a nearby reservation. My recent encounter with the locals tells me that such markings are placed by Basque shepherds as landmarks to guide their pastoral migrations over hundreds of miles of nearly trackless desert. Such a pillar of stone was not, as I had rather romantically assumed, placed to mark a holy place. Hawks or eagles perch on that outcrop of rocks because it is a great lookout over the plains and raptor’s prey below. Not because it is a place of especially noble or vigilant spiritual insight and energy. Maybe not. My memories about the place are now even fuller, of a softer, more humane glow; but still clear, and sharp as diamonds. Somehow this remembered vision seems to describe an appropriate proportion for human activities in nature, in the presence of the holy.
The lore created about this place in my circle fellow travelers over the years has produced much energy, enthusiasm, joy, refreshment, and when used fully, satisfaction. If, as we have maintained, such satisfaction is the healthy intercourse between the temporal and non-temporal worlds—religion, i.e. that which resolves the polar ice of split perception, the Fall—are such places, and erring actions necessary for human satisfaction? Or, is this just another place to be developed, tracted with “ticky-tacky” and cul de sacs, not holy or sacred or personal at all? Is “ticky-tacky” also sacred? Like an avalanche, or a meteorite that wipes out the dinosaur as dominant species? Is that part of Jackson Pollock’s “nature” as well? “Business is America’s business.” What is the option? Along with the sense that it was “time to move on” intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, the visual intuition was that “moving on” was also populated by seraphs. The angelic presence of deity. This was a sense of the whole body, the full community of a consciously peopled world; quietly, thunderously luminous in golden, white light. Is such a sensibility verifiable? Is consideration of such an experience, simply a personal option? Or is such thinking categorically necessary to the validity of perception?
One other time did the energies of Eagle Rock display themselves with the power that moved my car around, as on that night when I was accompanied by my mother. That was on one subsequent trip, again when my mother was present. The spirit of that place seems especially fond of her. But, sentimentality is a corruption of real sentiment. The real sentiment here is that something extraordinary happened and there is something about close relationship between mother and son—reviled as that is by posturing, macho cultures—that is the seed of extraordinary light, creativity, insight and perhaps spiritual power. Possibly, it is the celibate relationship between masculine and feminine elements, the taboos of which re-channel this powerful dualism beneath the valence of the Spirit. On another subsequent visit to Eagle Rock, my mother once again had the extraordinary sensation of being moved with the benefit of gravity. I however felt nothing of that. She however was obviously experiencing something extraordinary. The fact that somehow, without any other catalyst except being in that place, she experienced a significant alteration of perception. I experienced a sense of soaring beauty, galactic in its largess, intimate in its warmth. This lasted long after. Perhaps, this class of experience is a source of human evolution… Something about the Earth itself, that has inherent in it heaven itself.
The question is resolved to some degree in the study of the nude, recorded elsewhere, that has become for me a metaphor of essential knowledge. In reference to our topic here, consider this aspect of that study: An Aborigine in Australia might claim the ability to communicate over long distances by physical sensations, a kind of pricking sensation that one can feel in the skin. This is especially active when one is on pilgrimage, a walkabout along the song lines, or to mythic holy places on the skin of parent earth. That requires a different, not more primitive, world view—a different attitude about body and world. One becomes addicted to the constraints and compensations of one’s culture, the rearrangement of which are characteristic to every culture in a usually unconscious attempt to reproduce satisfaction. The process of detoxification from addiction is aided by detachment—scientific or religious, from the blinding bias of the self at the expense of the whole. But does this fountainhead of self also serve the larger body? Which is more mythic, the individual or whole? Both might be a valid projection from an ineffable quarter. What a clever machination, though, that the world is left open to the most selfish exploitation by the denial of its personal or sacred character. Slavery was thus justified.
What is a person, after all, rooted as it is in mystery? Creation can’t be fanatically confined to a six day work week and Evolution has never produced the “missing link.” Does not this ineffable quality of personhood rest within the “motherly womb of god the father” as early church fathers would have it? Nothing must be left out of one’s consideration: Dark and light, good and evil, full and empty, matter and not, time and spirit… this is the intuition of religion and a proper body for scientific investigation.