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Experience of the subtle realms: Contents page

Chapter 12. Speculative metaphysics

In this chapter I move beyond ambiguous experience, the as if perspective, into pure speculation. What follows is conjecture: I sketch out a pattern of basic concepts to give an intelligible overview of the whole system within which we live.  Such a pattern is entirely relative to the context - personal, cultural and historical - of its utterance. There are innumerable, different forms for  such patterns.  The assertive mode below is to aid clarity, not dogmatism.

The justification for this kind of speculation is found in the doctrine of the continuity of individual consciousness with universal consciousness and its archetypal content.  But each individual view of such content is fraught with the inherent limits of its rela­tivity, thus making for a healthy kind of fallibility.

1. The manifest and the unmanifest

Let us first make a classic distinction between the divine as manifest and the divine as unmanifest.  The manifest divine is this universe, the other universe and all kinds and modes of differentiated being involved in them. The unmanifest divine is prior to any kind of differentiation of any sort. The manifest divine can also be called 'creation'; and this in the two senses of the word - the process of creation, and the product that is cre­ated. 

From a standpoint within creation, the unmanifest divine can be conceived as bipo­lar: as immanent and as transcendent.  As immanent, the unmanifest divine is within all creation: the infinitude within all experience and all phenomena, the indwelling mys­tery, the void, at the heart of everything.  As transcendent, the unmanifest divine is be­yond all creation: the infinitude without, beyond all name and form, all-encom­passing, boundless, ineffable.

In terms of Grof's cartography of transpersonal states, what I call the unmanifest di­vine is what he names the higher causal realm. He reports two basic kinds of experi­ence that fall within this realm. One is 'the experience of the Void' which underlies the phe­nomenal universe: it is an emptiness that is pregnant with all existence  (Grof, 1988: 147). This corresponds to what I call the immanent unmanifest divine.

The other is 'the experience of formless consciousness transcending all dualities', a state of boundless ineffability beyond all differentiation (Grof, 1988: 44, 144). This corre­sponds to what I call the transcendent unmanifest divine. While the two kinds of expe­rience are there in Grof's account, his conceptual map does not bring out fully this po­larity of immanent and transcendent within the unmanifest divine.

2. Eros, Cosmos and Logos

The process of creation can also be conceived as bipolar: there is the emergence of the creative process from the immanent, unmanifest divine; and there is the emanation of the creative process from the transcendent, unmanifest divine. Emergence from the unmanifest within, and emanation from the unmanifest beyond, are the underlying bipolar modes of the process of creation, the basic complementary ways in which the unmanifest becomes manifest. 

I will call these primal modes of creation, respectively, Eros and Logos.  I use these two names to refer to creative principles of different gender: manifest Goddess and manifest God. This echoes, but theologically goes beyond, C.G.Jung's usage. No reference is in­tended to the Greek god Eros, whose name is here given a new meaning.

In terms of Grof's cartography of transpersonal states, what I call Eros and Logos consti­tute what he names the lower causal realm.  Experiences he reports in this realm are of the divine as Demiurge, as Creator of the universe, 'the supreme force of exis­tence'. Again, however, both the accounts he gives and his analysis do not bring out the polar­ity of the Demiurge state, the complementarity of Eros and Logos, of emergence and emanation, of creatrix and creator. Although he does say that some subjects 'reported experiences in which there was a male-female dyad of creators similar to the cosmolo­gies of some non-Western cultures' (Grof, 1988:142-3).

Spanned between Eros and Logos is the whole universal system of which we are a part, and  which I will call Cosmos. In terms of a crude geometrical analogy, Cosmos is the radial system between Eros the centre, and Logos the circumference. Eros, Cosmos and Logos constitute the manifest divine. Eros is within Cosmos;  Logos is beyond Cosmos. And as such Eros and Logos are the first and complementary forms of the process of manifestation.  Cosmos is the fulness of manifestation, the universe, both physical and subtle. It corresponds, in Grof's scheme, to the higher subtle level, the lower subtle level and the gross experiential realm (Grof, 1988: 39).

We have then here a basic triad of being: immanent emergence, actual existence and transcendent emanation; the Womb, the World and the Word.  The World is not less than the Womb or the Word. Manifest fulness is of equal status as the emergent and the emanate.    If we take the Womb, the World, and the Word, that is, Eros, Cosmos and Logos, we may expect to find this triadic interdependence echoed in the more de­tailed structure of experience. So we can organise within it different triadic sets of ideas.  Each set consists of concepts whose interdependence is central to our understanding of the field of dis­course to which they apply.  

Eros                   Cosmos            Logos

Feeling             Willing            Thinking

Persons             Things              Ideas

Presence            Existence         Essence

Qualities           Substances       Relations

Values               Facts                 Norms

Sensation          Percept             Concept

Simultaneity    Seriality           Duration

Synchronicity   Causality         Necessity

Potentiality       Actuality          Possibility

Communion    Encounter       Understanding

Table 12.1  Triadic sets of concepts

I don't propose that we take this kind of thing too seriously, otherwise we become af­flicted with categorial dogmatism and rigidity.  Just occasionally it may illuminate our thinking in some domain. So if I put together a couple of triads from the above list, I find it fruitful to think that I encounter the existence of something, commune with its presence, and understand its essence (its intelligible features).  And that while all these three processes are interde­pendent, they are also nevertheless distinct and cannot be confused or identified with each other.

3. Autonomy, parity and hierarchy

In the great world-system of Cosmos, there are three fundamental values that define the status and influence of any particular being or mode of being. They are autonomy, parity and hierarchy. And they are essential to the proper understanding of the mani­fest system, or any part of it.

To the extent that any entity is autonomous it has a unique status, an idiosyncratic identity and is self-determining, an influence upon itself.  Power is self-generated.  The entity is self-administering and self-organising. Entities in a relation of parity - or, sim­ply, peer entities - have equal status, and have re­ciprocal influence upon each other, neither having the greater sway. Power is shared. Entities in a hierarchical relation have different status - one has less status and one has more - and the one with less is subject to the influence of the one with more. Power is exercised by one being in rela­tion to another.

The word 'hierarchy' derives from two Greek words meaning 'sacred' and 'rule'.  Now in the domain of Cosmos - the physical and subtle worlds - sacred rule operates in two ways, in two directions: up and down.  There is the sacred rule of Eros, upwards, from below as it were: the immanent creatrix, spawning influence from the fundament and ground of being, from within it.  Power is exercised in the direction of ascent, from the roots upwards, from what is under to what is over.  The seed is potent in relation to the impacted soil above it, breaking it up and pushing through it.

This upward direction of sacred rule, of hierarchy, has been repressed and denied in pa­triarchal systems of theology, of knowledge, and of politics and social order. These sys­tems have improperly emphasised the sacred rule of Logos, downwards, from above: the transcendent creator emanating power and influence from the heights, beyond the earthly vale, beyond the subtle mountain peaks.  Power descends from what is over to what is under. Sunlight is potent in relation to the leafy branches below it.

Now I believe that up-hierarchies and down-hierarchies are themselves of equal status, are in a relation of parity.  The sacred rule of Eros and the sacred rule of Logos are equipotent.  They interact with reciprocal influence, neither dominant under or over the other.  They are polar complements equally vital in the ordering of Cosmos. On this view, parity is more fundamental in the scheme of things than hierarchy, for neither an up-hierarchy nor a down-hierarchy is properly exercised or understood save in a re­ciprocal peer relation with its complement. This basic principle is important also for human politics.  For I believe enlightened so­cial systems need to establish parity rela­tions between up- and down-hierarchies.

Parity is a relation that holds not only between up-hierarchies and down-hierarchies, but between entities on the same level in either kind of hierarchy.  In this case, in rela­tion to any one hierarchy, up or down, the peer relation is subordinate to the hierarchi­cal relation.

What of autonomy? In the great system of Cosmos, with its up- and down-hierarchies, any entity has only relative autonomy.  This autonomy is limited by the reciprocal web of relations with peer entities on its own level, and by the influence exerted over it by levels that are more potent in the hierarchy of which it is a part. Thus an entity that is in some respects self-regulating, will in other respects be in relations of reciprocal regu­lation with its peers; and all these respects will be set within limits determined by hier­archical influence from above and below.

So there are four parameters that define the function and status of any entity in the universal system: self-control, mutual peer control, up-control (or control from below), and down-control (or control from above). There are innumerable combinations of these four factors, depending on variations of the degree of each of them. The fluctua­tions and interweavings of these four kinds of power characterise the universal process.

4. The up-hierarchy of Eros

Up-hierarchies are very evident in physical organisms, such as the human body, in which bio-chemical factors have a massive control over human experience and be­haviour. But what about the wider scheme of things?  Here is one conjectural model.  Remember that on this model, the following up-hierarchy has to be considered as dove-tailing with the down-hierarchy of Logos - given later.

'There are many events in the womb of time which will be delivered' (Shakespeare: Othello). Time is the original, creative womb of Eros.  Out of time emerges matter; out of matter emerges life; and out of life emerges soul.

From the minute to the astronomic scale, time is the controlling ground of matter.  Probability waves, vibrating motion, rhythmic patterns: the very dance of time deter­mines what constitutes the dynamic nature of matter at its intimate, submicroscopic heart.  At the macroscopic level, the controlling dance is measured out in the great rhythms and cyclic recurrences of the solar system.  In our new understanding of the universe, there is a shift from concern with  underlying structure to a concern with  underlying rhythmic process. The cosmic process whirls with a multitude of beating steps out of the womb of time.

Matter, once set dancing to time, is the controlling ground of life. The material ecosys­tem of the planet sets the temperature, determines the constitution of atmospheric gases, provides the nutrients - that allow and control the development of living organ­isms.  And this earthly  ecosystem is in turn set in the wider solar ecosystem.  All living things need to bear witness to the dance of the physical ecosystems that sustain them.

Living organisms elaborate the dance of time; and are compounded of a whole range of different and interpenetrating rhythms - metabolic, neural, cardiac, respiratory, sleeping and waking, and all the others. And they provide the controlling ground for the emer­gence and expression of soul.

Now by the human soul I mean an idiosyncratic, individual centre of refer­ence that has the potential to receive and impart information, and to learn­ from experience, by virtue of its distinctive capacities for understanding, feeling and choosing. The soul be­comes a self-aware person in the cosmos when touched by universal conscious­ness.The human soul's capacity for learning is grounded on and controlled by the rhythmic pat­terns of its living body, and below that by the earthly and solar ecosystems.  But the soul also further elaborates the dance of time at its own level: it has its own cy­cles and peri­odic recurrences for learning, change and growth.

So Eros, the womb of time, spins matter out of time, life out of matter and soul out of life, elaborating new forms of temporal dance at each stage. No wonder that shakti, the creatrix in Hindu thought, is symbolised at times by a dancing woman. The soul, emerging at the top of this up-hierarchy, needs to acknowledge not only its own intrin­sic rhythms, but also the controlling potency of the manifold frequencies below it in the hierarchy.

5. The down-hierarchy of Logos

Continuing this speculative theological model, let us suppose that the  first emanation, the first moment of the transcendent manifest, is the great word of consciousness, I AM: the Logos, the Word and universal consciousness are one. From consciousess-as-such proceed the archetypal ideas of creation, the principles of intelligibility and form for Cosmos. From the archetypal ideas of creation emanate manifold kinds of energy, from which in turn proceed the different interpenetrating domains of space.

The first emanation is the Logos itself, the Word, the original declaration that is uni­versal consciousness: the one and everywhere awareness, the crystal mirror in which all things are reflected and contained. The second emanation is the speech of Logos, its dec­laration of intent to create an intelligible Cosmos, its announcement of universal ideas and formal principles - the archetypal blueprint and programme for creation.

Such a view echoes that of Philo of Alexandria (30BC - 40AD), the most thoroughly hel­lenized of all the Jews of the Dispersal. For Philo, the Logos is the instrument by which the transcendent divine makes the world.  And he identifies it too with the Platonic world of forms, or eternal ideas.

The theme is repeated by Plotinus (205 - 270AD), the founder of Neo-Platonism.  Nous, the divine mind, is the first emanation from the One (the transcendent unity-absolute).  And the divine mind is the world of forms because it thinks them. The world of forms contains the archetypes of all things that are.  But these great down-hierarchy mystical philosophers of the Hellenistic age had simply no notion of a correlative up-hierarchy, of sacred rule from below.

The third emanation in the down-hierarchy is the manifold of energies.  It is interest­ing that the early use (1599) of 'energy' in English had the meaning 'force or vigour of expression'. The manifold of cosmic energies is the vigour of expression in the archety­pal speech of the Logos. The divine archetypes are dynamic, sounding forms that create energy.  And out of such energy proceeds the fourth emanation of the down-hierarchy, the diverse dimensions and domains of space.

In a nutshell, space emanates from the energy of the resonating archetypes of the Logos. Of course, this is not a series of emanations in temporal succession, one following after the other. The emanations are grades of  hierarchical potency.  Universal consciousness is potent over archetypal reality; archetypes control different energies; and energies de­termine the lay-out and distribution of spaces. 

This is all much more obvious in out of the body travel in the other world: by adopting specific forms of thought you access the energy frequencies that open up the subtle spaces you wish to visit.

6. Cosmos: the dove-tailing of Eros and Logos

On this speculative model, the up-hierarchy and the down-hierarchy dove-tail and closely interact, generating the existents of Cosmos.  It is all one seamless whole of en­twined processes and modes of being. 


Figure 12.1  Cosmos: the dove-tailing of Eros and Logos

Figure 12.1 sets out the interdependence. It shows, simplistically, the two hierarchies in­teracting laterally to mamnifest twelve basic components of Cosmos.  At each level, there is a marriage of Eros and Logos.  Time and space interact to provide the spa­tiotemporal fields within which the processes of interchange between matter and en­ergy occur.

Life and archetypal ideas are in continuous exchange in the world of organisms.  In bi­ology, questions about the form of living organisms has led to current theories of the morphogenetic field, the chreode, entelechy - all in their different ways models for the influence of the archetypal realm on living things. 

Individual souls interact with universal consciousness and find their identity as self-aware persons thereby. Mystics of diverse schools have pro­pounded, experientially, the view that personal consciousness is but an eddy in a vastly extended  field of awareness.

7.  The illusions of Eros and of Logos

The great illusion in the domain of Eros is that of exclusion,  of separateness.  Thus time seems quite separate from  space, matter from energy, living organisms from any involvement with archetypal forms, and, above all, the experience of an individual from the vast reaches of universal consciousness.  These naturalistic fallacies are very much part and parcel of everyday unreflective experience. They are the product of lack of development.

The counterpartal illusion in the domain of Logos is that of inclusion, of consuming unity. It stems from unbalanced development. When human beings get caught up in this, then universal consciousness seems to devour personal identity. This is the great mystical error: the illusion that the fulness of encounter with divinity  dissolves the individual soul.  In truth what such encounter does, I believe, is to remove the soul's illusion of separateness from the rest of being, while enhancing  its distinctness of in­dividualized and differentiated being.

For another Logos illusion, watch archetypal ideas eat up the phenomenal world, as in theories of absolute idealism - the dominant school of philosophy in Germany in the first half of the nineteenth century and in Britain at the end of that century.  Again, matter may be construed as nothing but energy. And time may be thought of in linear, spatial terms - which devours its independent generative power.

These illusions of Eros and of Logos - the excluding womb and the devouring word - seem to stem from the addiction of the soul to monopolar bias: a tendency to reduce anxiety before the grand complexity of the universal scheme by understanding it in terms of only one of its poles.  But the interdependence of Eros and Logos at every level means that each pole interacts profoundly with its opposite without loss of identity.

8.  The multiple Cosmos

Another way of mapping the twelve components of Cosmos set out in the diagram in section 6 above is in terms of three interlocking trian­gles, like a yantra in the tradition of Tantra. At the end of Chapter 10 I suggested a conjectural model of a three-fold spa­tial uni­verse: a six-dimensional space interpenetrating a five-dimensional space in turn inter­penetrating the four-dimensional matrix of the physical world. These are symbol­ized in Figure 12.2, respectively, by the upward triangle, the higher downward triangle, then the lower downward triangle.

In Chapter 11 I defined three kinds of time, transcendental, matrix and clock time. These too can be mapped on the yantra. The eight outer triangles represent transcen­dental time, the three inner polygons matrix time, and the inmost triangle clock time. The dot in the centre is mahabindu, the Great Point, which stands for the creatrix, the Supreme Shakti in the Tantric tradition. It is the first womb of Eros, the timeless mo­ment whence all forms of time emerge.



 Figure 12.2  Yantra of the mutltiple Cosmos

Each of the twelve cosmic components is allocated one of the twelve areas within the total figure. The terms around the outside apply to the projecting triangular spaces to which they are adjacent. There is no way such two-dimensional mapping of complex and multi-dimensional concepts can be logically immaculate, so while a case can be made for the diagrammatic allocations, there is also an element of the arbitrary about the whole exercise. However, this version does provide a convenient yantra for con­templative meditation, bearing mind the different forms of space and time it also in­cludes. When contemplating it, the higher intuitive mind can compensate for the limi­tations of its graphic form.

9. The divine name

In the Qabalah, the ancient occult tradition of the Hebrews, the sacred four-lettered name of the di­vine, the tetragrammaton, was a matter of revelation. It consists of let­ters from the Hebrew alphabet,Yod, He, Vau, He, and was held by devout Jews to be too sacred to be pronounced or written down for general use.

I give in Fugure 12.3 a purely speculative rendering of this sacred name.  It closes this chapter by restating the contents of its first two sections. Read it clockwise from the bottom.

  Figure 12.3  Metaphysical account of the sacred name


Experience of the subtle realms: 

Contents page

Chapter 13