The Window of the
an essay on the heart
Wim van den Dungen
"The heart of man is a gift of the god,
beware of neglecting it."
Amen-em-apt : The Instruction of Amen-em-apt,
"Lo, every word of the god came into
being through the thoughts in the heart & the command by the tongue."
"Smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest, this Âtman forever
dwells within the hearts of all. When a man is free from desire, his mind
and senses purified, he beholds the glory of the Âtman and is without
"In the space within the heart lies the Ruler of All, the Lord of All, the
King of All. He does not become greater by good action nor inferior by bad
action. He is the Lord of All, the Overlord of Beings, the Protector of
"For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Gospel of Matthew, 5:8.
"Through constraint on the heart, understanding of consciousness."
Patañjali : Yoga-sûtra, 3.34.
"Allah does not call you to account for what is vain in your oaths, but He
will call you to account for what your hearts have earned, and Allah is
The Cow, 2.225.
"The Wheel of the Heart corresponds to the Body of Truth. The Wheel of the
Throat to the Body of Enjoyment. The Wheel of the Head to the Body of
Tantra of Kâlachakra,
"So when the Bridegroom/the Word,
came to me, he never made known his coming by any signs, not by sight, not by
sound, not by touch. It was not by any movement of his that I recognized
his coming ; it was not by any of my senses that I perceived he had
penetrated to the depth of my being. Only by the movement of my heart,
as I have told, did I perceive his presence ..."
Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 74,
II.6, my italics.
"Let those who are versed in the
mystery revel in it ; let all others burn with desire rather to attain to
this experience than merely to learn about it. For it is a melody that
resounds abroad by the very music of the heart, not a trilling on
the lips but an inward pulsing of delight, a harmony not of voices but of
Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 1, VI.2,
"It happens that love is sweetly been awakened in the soul and happily raises, and that
she moves in the heart, without any help of human effort.
And so the heart is been tenderly touched by love, and so full of strong desire been
pulled inside love, and so hearty seized by love, and so strongly dominated by love, and
so lovely contained by love, that she is completely conquered by love."
Beatrice of Nazareth, Seven Ways of Holy
Love, Fourth Way, § 1.
"He who meditates on this Heart Lotus becomes (like) the Lord of Speech,
and (like) Îśvara he is able to protect and destroy the worlds. This
Lotus, is like the celestial wishing-three, the abode and seat of Śiva. It
is beautified by the Jîvâtmâ, which is like unto the steady tapering flame
of a lamp in a windless place. The filaments which surround and adorn its
pericarp, illumined by the solar region, charm."
Pûrnânanda : Sat-Cakra-Nirûpana,
"Two excesses : exclude reason, accept but reason. (...)
The heart has its reasons which reason knows not."
Blaise Pascal : Pensées, 177 &
"The heart of Heaven and Earth, the universal mind, is what has been
previously referred to as the natural, innocent true mind. This mind is
subtle and recondite, and is not easily manifested ; it only shows a
glimpse when 'light appears in the empty room' and 'within darkness,
suddenly there is illumination'".
Liu I-ming : Commentary on The Inner Teachings of
Taoism by Chang Po-tuan, part 2,7.
"'Goodbye,' said the fox. 'And
now here is my secret, a very simple secret : It is only with the heart
that one can see rightly ; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'"
Antoine de Saint-Exupery : Le Petit
1943, chapter 21.
"These days people need to feel their heart and spirit more, to bring them
peace, intuitive guidance, love and happiness."
: The Heart in the Spiritual Traditions.
The Heart as Awareness & Shrine in Ancient Egypt.
1.1 Maat : the Order of
1.2 Balancing the Heart
1.3 Entering the Shrine
of the Heart.
The Organ of
2.1 Beauty in Qabalah.
2.2 The Pure in Heart &
Poor in Spirit.
2.3 The Heart as the
Tent of Allah.
The Indestructible Drop in
3.1 Identifying the Three Minds.
3.2 Entering the Heart
3.3 The Clear Light.
4. The Tao and the Harmony of
Heaven & Earth.
4.1 The Three Elixir
4.2 Inner Alchemy :
Transforming Body to Tao.
4.3 The Heart-Mind :
Harmonizing Earth &
: The Heart in Science.
5.1 A Few Facts.
6. Biofeedback and the
6.1 The Biofeedback Principle.
6.2 HeartMath & Cardiac Coherence.
Wellbeing to the End of Suffering.
7. Opening the Heart by Way of Buddhist Meditation.
7.1 Mindfulness of
7.2 Cutting Through.
Integrating the Three Brains.
8.1 The Three Cortices
of the Triune Brain.
8.2 Head, Heart & Gut
: the Three Brains.
8.3 The Integrating
Torus of the Heart.
III : The Good Heart of
Direct Spiritual Experience.
9. Understanding Cognitive
9.1 The Seven Modes of
9.2 The Three Stages of
9.3 Finding a
Hippopotamus in the House.
Great Compassion at the Heart of Wisdom.
10.1 The Pursuit of Happiness.
10.2 Great Compassion.
10.3 Resting in the Union of
Emptiness & Great Compassion.
Epilogue : Wholehearted Love as the Window
of the Heart.
Seeking to calmly unveil or actively generate the
Divine in consciousness, the creativity of the human spirit is
perennial. Starting in the
Upper Paleolithic cave mysteries, if not earlier, the religious
reflex of humanity never died out. Giving rise to a manifold of spiritual traditions, each
introduced various concepts of
Godhead, leading up to complex systems of theology, featuring soteriological views and
related practices. But this elaborated intellectual
activity tends to replace "my Lord" with "our Lord",
exchanging the radical personal experience of the "totaliter aliter"
for a common communal form of worship. Building their efforts around
this "magister fidei", the traditional theologies eclipse the essential and bar the way
to those seeking to direct experience the Divine in their own
"Jesus said : 'The Pharisees and the scribes have
taken the keys of knowledge and hidden them. They have not entered, nor
have they allowed those who wish so to enter. You, however, be as shrewd
as serpents and innocent as doves.'"
The Gospel of Thomas, 39.
Despite these multiple approaches, the various spiritual traditions
the heart as the main organ of spiritual experience.
Hermeneutically, this identification has been deemed merely symbolical,
related to the powerful pulsating force of the physical heart, providing
blood to all living tissues in the body. Interestingly though, current medical
science evidences how the physical heart is more than just a pump,
indeed, has a little brain of its own. The neurological, hormonal &
electromagnetic influence of the heart extends to all tissues, whereas
its torus affects the direct environment of the organism. A new
spiritual science of the heart is possible.
supernatural, radical otherness
general, the word "Divine" refers to "supernatural", meta-nominal
phenomena. In non-Dharmic contexts, these are deemed as either part of
nature (pantheism), as transcending nature (theism), as encompassing both nature and its
beyond (pan-en-theism), or as the basis of reason without revelation
Dharmic contexts, the Divine refers to unbounded wholeness
(as in Buddhism & Taoism), touching pan-sacralism.
involves the direct experience of the Divine, i.e. the non-conceptual,
non-dual, ineffable apprehension of the Divine. Derived from the Greek "mustikos"
it refers to something hidden, not available to the nominal
organs of cognition given to everyone, namely conceptual
objects based on sensate objects. Although the mystical traditions provide two ways to this
direct, un-saying experience, namely the way of the mind and
the way of the heart, it may become clear the heart is the central
organ enabling us to experience the Divine. The association of the
superconscious mind with the heart and not with the brain refers to
While the brain, as "sensus exterior", deals with manifesting
superconsciousness, the heart, as "sensus interior", is the
actual seat of the "Imago Dei", manifesting the Bridegroom. While
in Hindu Kundalinî Yoga, the brain is associated with the Crown Lotus,
the abode of the Deity, the "âtman" (one with Brahman) is found in the
Heart Lotus. Only in "the space of the heart" can the path leading to
transcendence be found ... It is the house of the very subtle mind of
Clear Light (Buddhadharma).
The heart, as the organ of the spiritual potential of human
consciousness, acts as receptor (storing what has been acquired) and as
the motoric focus of the activity of the higher, very subtle mind. This is achieved by
way of Holy Love, the yearning of consciousness for the Absolute,
rooted in a variety of powerful feelings like joy, love, compassion & equanimity. The direct experience of
this Divine Presence occurs in the heart, making it the temple, tent,
synagoge, church, mosk and lodge of the indwelling of the Nameless. In this sense, the Divine is Love, and the human heart
foundational centre of mystical perception.
"My heart has become capable of every form :
It is a pasture for gazelles and a cloister for Christian monks,
A temple for idols, and the pilgrim's Ka'ba,
The tables of the Tora and the holy Book of the Koran.
I follow the religion of Love,
Whatever path Love's camels take.
That is my religion and my faith."
Ibn al-'Arabî : Ode.
In the first part of this
essay, the role of the heart in a few major spiritual traditions will be
Ancient Egyptian religion &
The second part
summarizes some of the finding of neurocardiology, in particular the
importance of coherence and the electromagnetic influence of the heart
on all bodily tissues as well as on the direct environment. In the
third part, the heart
as the seat of the direct experience of the Divine is at hand. Finally,
in the epilogue, a
few personal musings on the foregoing brings closure.
I : The
Heart in the Spiritual Traditions.
The variety of spiritual traditions are so many paths
to the same experience of unknowing. They do not exclude one another,
but form a caleidoscope or mandala of the hidden, implicate unity behind
all things. They are so many wild & cultivated flowers in the vast,
grand garden of the Divine and present themselves to celebrate the
luring Vision of Beauty and Unity.
The Heart as Awareness & Shrine in Ancient Egypt.
The use of capitals in words as "God", "Deity", "Deities" or "Divine", points to a rational context, i.e.
how these appear in a theology conducted in the
rational mode of thought. Hence, when these words are used in the context of
Egyptian ante-rational thought (which, as a cultural
form, was mythical, pre-rational & proto-rational), this restriction is lifted.
Hence, words such as "god", "the god", "gods", "goddesses", "pantheon" or
"divine" are not capitalized.
1.1 Maat : the Order of
Numerous are the Egyptian texts, in particular the
wisdom literature, explaining how the heart is the organ receiving &
In Middle Egyptian, the word "maat" ("mAat") is used for "truth" and
"justice" (in Arabic, "al-haq", is both "truth" and "real").
Through the heart, the human being participates in maintaining the
balance of the cosmic and the human order and this by allowing the
free flow of life. Pictured as a vase (),
but representing the heart of an animal (F34), the heart can receive and
pour out Maat.
the goddess Maat
Maat is both a concept and a goddess, the daughter of
the Sun-god Atum-Re. As a concept, she represents truth, justice, social
order and ethical values based on the cosmic order. Maat turns out to be the
fundamental idea constituting ancient Egyptian religion, for the various fields of
nature and culture form a unity thanks to her. Indeed, state policy, the
cults, science, art, sapience, ethics and even the private life of the
individual are all rooted in the cosmic order represented by Maat, the
ideal of cosmic & social solidarity. As the Egyptian religion was not
based on revealed texts but on nature, all rituals and cults were aimed
at energy renewal. Taking into account the immaterial side of things
the Egyptians offered this invisible part of all living things to their deities.
Thus pleasing the gods, they received their ongoing blessings. This
cycle lasted for three millennia !
"Speak Maat, do Maat,
For it is mighty ;
It is great, it endures,
Its worth is tried,
It leads one to reveredness."
The Eloquent Peasant, Eighth
Daily, in every temple of Egypt, the supreme offering was executed by
the divine king (and his representatives, the high priests) : offering
Maat to Re. By doing so, the divine king guaranteed the continuity of
life and a "good Nile", i.e. an inundation neither too violent
Seti I offering Maat to Re
Many text state one has to "hear Maat" through the
heart. By doing so, one receives the energy of Re, the life force. To
fill the heart with Maat is deemed essential, both in this life as in
the afterlife. To receive Maat in the heart, is to participate in the
eternal recurrent ("neheh") communication through continuous exchanges,
participating in the immaterial world of life energy.
So the aim of "doing
Maat" was to allow the just flow of the rich Solar energy of Atum-Re,
creating abundance, prosperity & heath for all. Just as the divine king
was a reflection of his divine father Re, the justice of the material
world was a reflection of the divine exchange, one dealing with sharing
a limited amount of goods.
Goddess Maat, Daughter of Re.
The duality of the balance represented by Maat can also be seen at work in the
two-tiered edifice of Egyptian soteriology :
• STARTING WITH THE
MOON : the (lower) sky of Osiris (the Eye of Horus) : the ultimate state of human
blessedness is to live the life of an "Osiris NN", with a court,
humbling servants and a kingdom situated in the vast darkness of the
Duat (like creation is a bubble of moist air suspended in chaos). Even
the smallest offer made with a sincere heart during earthly life might
be enough to be helped by Isis or Osiris, and so the commoners made sure
the holy family noticed them. This economy is inclusive of
everyman, but conditional. The only exception to it was Pharaoh ;
• ENDING IN THE SUN : the (upper)
sky of Re (the Eye of Re) : the sky of Osiris and the sky of Re are proximate,
and after the highest spirituality of servitude has been fulfilled, the
"Ba" or soul of the deceased is transformed, in the horizon, into an "Akh"
or spirit of
Re, sailing, among the other pure beings of light, on the Bark of Re,
illuminating the beings of day and night, including the deities and the
justified blessed dead of Osiris (who otherwise sleep). The sacred
knowledge regarding this spiritual evolution was for the very few and,
when first written down, portrayed in the tomb of kings
only. This economy is exclusive of everyman, reserved to the deities (as
the king and his high priests) and unconditional.
1.2 Balancing the Heart
The heart, or "ib", was deemed lodged in the
"net" of the
"khat", the physical body. The word "ib", written
as , or with a single hieroglyph
representing a mammal heart + the determinative for "one" (a
stroke) : It means : middle,
interior, intelligence, thought, attentions, intentions,
disposition, will, wish, mind, ego. It occurs in
heart-expressions like : "heart of the soul", "the dictates
of the heart", "heart's desire", "heart of my heart", "to eat
the heart" (to be sorry), etc (cf. infra).
"O my heart which I had from my mother ! O
my heart which I had upon Earth ..."
The Papyrus of
The heart is the state, quality or "mental"
condition which the Egyptians associated with the physical heart
or "hâti". This "ib" is a product of maternal education. The
word "hât" means a member, the flesh of the physical body, the
person in bodily form, a product of Earth. See also the
expressions : "hâ", to rejoice, to be glad, glad ; "hââ", to
rejoice, exult, to be glad ; "hââut", rejoicing, gladness ;
"hâiu", those who rejoice and "hâa-t ha-t", the joy of heart,
The heart is more a
self-identical state of consciousness than a vehicle or
component of man. Its conservation is deemed necessary for the
general mastery & steering (of the bark of life) seated in the
heart. During mummification, the heart was not removed and often
the amulet of a beetle, symbolic of rebirth, was placed upon it, to facilitate its weighing
against the feather of Maat.
The "ib" covers the main characteristics of what today
is called "consciousness", namely intention, mind, free
will & ego, associated with cognitive capacity, speech and the power of
the word directed towards "body & belly".
"Le coeur-conscience conçoit, pense, donne
des ordres aux nerfs, aux muscles, aux membres. C'est lui qui
permet aux sens de fonctionner correctement. Tout part du coeur
et tout lui revient, il émet et il reçoit."
The heart is the place of awareness, coordination and
mental control. The heart is the mind. This cognitive feature is
explicit, as in : "thought of the heart", "kat", meaning
"thought" (cf. "kai", to think, to think out, to
The heart is also the seat of free will and hence responsible for a
person's evil deeds or acts against Maat. These cause the heart to become heavy and
dull (for everything said & done is recorded). In a good heart,
the will steers the concert of physical, vital and emotional
(imaginal) forces at work in the common human being well, and
remains ever as light as a feather : flexible, strong but of
nearly no weight.
The Feather of Maat
In a sick, evil heart, coordination &
communication is lost and so
consciousness has no strong focal point, is diffuse and isolated. The will is weak and
one's expectations are spoiled by fear.
The Egyptian language of the
Good Discourse of Ptahhotep, the foundational text of Egyptian
literature, captures the essence of the "state of heart" in a
pictorial, metaphorical and poetical way, leaving room for many readings
and an alternative "coupure" of the text. Instead of trying to give a
my translations mostly try to remain near the
phraseology of the extant original. To understand an Egyptian concept
one is advised to seek context before content. The latter may be
isolated within a given set of connotative meanings, but can never
be defined beforehand as in the linear and geometrical methods developed by the
The use of "heart" in the Maxims of Good Discourse (ca.2200
BCE). The numbers refer to the
heart is weary : to be tired in body
(013) the heart, ended : the
cognitive faculties being absent, finished
(032) the exactness of (every) heart
: correct, precise information given
(043) heart get big (or great) : an
inflated sense of personhood
(050) directs the heart : to be able
to conduct & control oneself, a powerful man
(052) seize your heart (against) : to
act aggressively against someone
(057) control of heart :
self-control, restraint of one's personal drives
(066) aggressive of heart : the
attitude of attacking another person
(068) relieve your heart : to undo
oneself of a psychological burden
(069) wash the heart : to relieve
oneself of feelings, whether they be anger or joy
(070) little heart : a man of weak
cognitive abilities, an incompetent person
(071) your heart desires : what you
like or wish
(080) the heart that robs : the
greedy person, the thief
(106) evil on his heart : evil
intentions, feelings and/or thoughts
(108) please the heart : to satisfy
oneself or another person
(150) follow your heart : enjoy your
life, be happy, make a good life for yourself
(152) the time of 'follow-the-heart'
: sum of all happy, joyful, unmixed moments of life
(164) withdraw the heart : to
separate oneself from a situation or a person
(186) reaches the heart : to enter
consciousness, to become aware
(192) heart obeys his belly : the
mind follows the instincts and the lower affects
(194) heart is denuded : sorrowful
state of mind, degeneration of the sense of ego
(195) great of heart : great-hearted
(197) swallowing the heart : to loose
sight of reality, to falter, to forget
(220) calms the heart : to eliminate
the harsh, unpolished sides of one's character
(232) the heart rejects it : a person
does not accept a thought, feeling or action
(237) greed of the heart : the vice
of always wanting more material things
(261) gladden the heart : to make a
person happy, joyful and serene
(292) whole heart together : to
concentrate exclusively on something
(302) a high heart : to be haughty
(306) the hot of heart : a hot-heart
or a hot-tempered, uncontrolled person
(308) sad of heart : a depressed,
(309) frivolous of heart : to be
constantly light-hearted, gay and without concerns
(313) obeys his heart : to follow the
rules one made one's own
(315) vex the heart : to make
(352) the trust of your heart : the
faculty of trusting something or someone
(367) lacks in heart : to be
mindless, inconsiderate, disrespectful towards others
(372) water upon the heart :
effeminate, unmanly thoughts, feelings & actions
(381) test his heart : to probe the
authenticity of oneself or another
(411) unbound of heart : to be gay
and joyful as a result of being without obligations
(415) joyful of heart : a positive,
constructive attitude and a good sense of humor
(436) the heart twines his tongue :
thought & speech match, are equal
(452) heart ... a listener or a non-listener
: a person decides to listen or not
(453) life ... are a man's heart :
the core of a person is alive, healthy & prospering
(467) valued by the heart : taken
into consideration, given attention, be aware of
(511) immerge your heart : to be
discreet, to hide one's thoughts, to keep to oneself
(517) be patient of heart : to be
deliberate, to take the time to collect one's thoughts
(528) his heart matches his steps :
he lives & acts as he thinks and says, is straight
The Weighing of the Heart
Judgment of the Dead in the Papyrus of Ani
In the Book of the Dead, the heart appears in the context
of being without blame, in harmony with Maat. When the physical body dies, the heart
is left in the mummy, for in the afterlife, immediately after the mummy
has been reactivated by the Ritual of Opening the Mouth, it was weighed against
the Feather of Maat. The above vignette from the famous Papyrus
of Ani has the heart on the left scale and the Feather of Maat on
the right. We see how the psychopomp Anubis checks the plummet while Thoth records
the outcome. Behind Thoth, the hybrid monster Ammut waits to hear the verdict,
ready to eat the heart as
soon as it is found to be heavier than the Feather of Maat.
When this happens, the afterlife has been lost, for only the "justified"
may enter the
Kingdom of Osiris. So for a good afterlife, the trial of the balance was decisive.
Various Weighing Scenes
does not wish to loose his or her heart after judgment, for the
"ib" was the seat of the "Ba". As
a heart found to
be heavier than the Feather of Maat was recycled, various
were written in the tomb, on the coffin or inscribed on amulets placed
in the mummy's wrappings. Often a Scarab Beetle, representing Kheper,
the resurrected Sun-god, was placed on the heart itself.
And what caused the heart to be "too heavy" ?
"Vile is he whose belly is voracious ;
time passes and he forgets
in whose house the belly strides."
of Kagemni, I.
texts are very consistent : the fire in the belly causes one to
forget Maat ! Unbridled
emotions, harsh speech, violence, hatred, greed, pride etc. block the
flow of vital energy, abhorred by the "ka", and so bring down the work
of Maat, the free flow of Solar energy. This only puts oil upon the fire,
making one follow the belly (the afflicted affects, emotions & feelings) instead
of the heart in tune with Maat (the balanced mind).
"The trustful of heart does not vent his belly's
Maxims of Good
Afflictive emotionality kindles the fire and makes one loose control
over oneself, causing harm to others. In return, this causes harm to
oneself, for the communicational loop between the two scales of the
balance must not be broken, each human being part of a society, be it
national, provincial or local.
"His lips are sweet, his tongue is bitter.
A fire burns in his belly.
Do not leap up to join such a one,
lest a terror carry You away."
One speaking and acting against Maat will eventually no longer be in
touch with the life force of Re and will as it were be disconnected from the
universal energy circulation, lacking exchange with it and hence
blocking the heart. This leads to a "heavy" heart, for due to the
absence of exchange, the negative (blocked, non-circulatory) energy
builds up, making the heart sluggish and solid. This is like tightening
the knots, stopping further interaction with the larger whole, with the
environment and with the gods.
As this condition of the heart determines a person's "last thought" when
leaving this plane of existence, turning the mind towards the belly
instead of the sky, towards egoistic & afflictive emotionality instead
of the lightness of the Feather of Maat, the heart is a crucial organ,
both physically as metaphysically.
"Earths rightness lies in Maat !
Speak not falsely - You are great,
Act not lightly - You are weighty ;
Speak not falsely - You are the balance,
Do not swerve - You are the norm !
You are one with the balance,
If it tilts, You may tilt."
The Eloquent Peasant,
This whole procedure of weighing refers to the exchange between the
divine and human. The pair of scales involves the natural and automatic
functioning of a natural, divine law.
"Said he (Anubis) that is in the tomb :
'Pay attention to the decision of
and the plummet of the balance, according to its stance !'"
Papyrus of Ani, Plate 3
(note how the plummet hangs as a heart on the Feather of Maat)
In this short exhortation, a practical
method of truth springs to the fore : concentration,
observation, quantification (analysis, spatiotemporal flow, measurements)
& recording (fixating). This with the purpose of rebalancing,
reequilibrating & correcting concrete states of affairs, using the
plumb-line of the various equilibria in which these actual aggregates of
events are dynamically -scale-wise- involved, causing Maat to be done for
them and their environments and the proper Ka, at peace with itself, to flow
between all parts of creation. The "logic" behind this
operation involves four rules :
inversion : when a concept is introduced, its opposite is also invoked (the
two scale of the balance) ;
asymmetry : flow is the outcome of inequality (the feather-scale of the
balance is a priori correct) ;
: the two sides of everything interact and are interdependent (the
beam of the balance) ;
: the possibilities between every pair are measured by one standard
Entering the Shrine of the Heart.
"Whosoever puts Thee in his heart, O Amun !
Lo, his Sun dawns."
Prayer to Amun, Ostracon (BM 5656a).
The spiritual role of the heart was not limited to the afterlife, nor to
the mere psychology of a person. In Ancient Egyptian thought, morality,
psychology and bringing in an awareness of the divine order
(spirituality) were not disconnected. Hence, besides its psychological & moral role, "to let
his heart enter its shrine" (Instruction
of Amen-em-apt, 9) was deemed necessary to lead a spiritual,
religious life. This "shrine" of the heart was the sacred place of
the "inner god", a concept developed in the Late New Kingdom, when personal
piety became fully part of Egypt's cultural form (cf.
to Amun). This "inner god" was the presence of the divine within each
individual, i.e. the potential of each and everyone to be in direct
touch with the god. Although the priesthood remained crucial to maintain
the stability of the unity of Egypt by way of a "good Nile" (cf. the
Daily Offering of Maat in the temples), a direct, personal and intimate
experience of the divine was not excluded. Their religion accommodated
Egyptians to communicate with their deities without mediation !
This would persist in Greco-Roman times.
By entering its "shrine", the heart (mind, desire, will)
brought before the god, enabling the latter to dwell in the person. The spiritual and religious dimensions
"Amun-Re, I love You
My heart has been filled by You.
I have placed You in my heart,
for I know Your Name."
Prayer to Amun, Ostracon (BM 5656a).
What have we learned ?
According to the Ancient Egyptians, the heart is more than a physical
organ generating a pulse. Circulating life force between the physical and
vital parts of the body, it is also the seat of our psychological, moral
and spiritual functions. During life on Earth, it records what we have heard and said
and is the seat of our intentions, will-power and thoughts. Moreover, it
acts as the foundation for our this-life experience of the "inner god".
Next, it plays a crucial part in what happens to our consciousness in the
afterlife. It we care about its lightness, it being constantly in touch
with the Solar force and the ability to circulate this, then nothing
bad accumulates and the heart remains light.
During weighing, it will have little intensity, power or force to keep
us from moving to the next level of existence.
The heart is our mind, our morality and our "shrine". Without
it, we would not be aware, act properly, experience the divine and
guarantee our own afterlife. It is directly linked with the order of the
cosmos, the eternal circulation of life power. The heart is the
receptive and motoric organ par excellence.
The Organ of Abrahamic Mysticism.
The three "religions of the book", namely
Islam, form a
single monotheist tradition rooted in the revelations of Abraham, their
arch-patriarch. The obvious differences between them do not eclipse their overarching
substantialist concept of God. This superstructure was inspired -in various meandering courses- by
and the Ancient Egyptian heritage,
and evolved into an onto-theology, i.e. an
ontology of an objective, self-subsisting, substantial Supreme Being. The
conceptualized (a) in terms of the (neo)Platonic tradition, i.e. as a
"summum bonum" (cf. Philo of Alexandria, Al-Kindi, Augustine) or
(b) in tune with the Peripatetic emphasis on empirical reality (cf.
Maimonides, Averroes, Thomas Aquinas). Epistemologically & apologetically,
these theologies uncritically accepted
This ultimate God-as-substance
created the world "ex nihilo", and is believed to be the
ontological "imperial" root of all possible existence. Only in the more
mystical traditions of these faiths do we find another, less positive
affirmation of this substance-God's necessary supremacy : the negative
veils "Ain", "Ain Soph" and "Ain Soph Aur" in
Qabalah (Luria), the ineffable hyper-existence of God in
negative theology (ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite, Marguerite Porete)
and the unknowability of the Divine essence in
Sufism (Ibn al-'Arabî). But these refined mystical "apophatic"
speculations were muted by the overall "katapathic" noise produced by the
theologians, as always preoccupied by apologetic concerns and
their manipulative, power-based mass-indoctrination.
By identifying the mind of God with Plato's world of ideas, the Platonists
had to exchange Divine grace for intuitive reason. The Peripatetics
introduced perception as a valid source of knowledge and so prepared the
end of theology, the rational explanation of the "facts" of
revelation. There seemed to be little or no facts after all !
When Peripatetic metaphysics got integrated in monotheist theology, the
end of fundamental theology could not be far off. Indeed, how to
assimilate the more empirical approach of Aristotle without harming the
God of revelation ? As soon as the natural world became focus of
attention, the "facts" of revelation could no longer be believed at their
face value. The most clear example of this is geocentrism. All three
faiths claimed the Earth to be at the center of the universe. Embracing
Copernicanism threw humanity off its self-proclaimed pedestal and paved
the way to prove most "facts" of scripture were manmade literary fictions.
Not only were the so-called "scientific miracles" found in the holy books
explained in a secular way, but literary criticism proved how these texts
themselves are merely historical compositions adapted to the circumstances
of their time. Moreover, only few authentic (original) texts could be
identified ! How to erect a strong conviction or faith on nothing more
than stories and remain a sane, rational human being ?
Moreover, Aristotle's concept of the "Unmoved Mover"
reaffirmed the general Greek prejudice against relationality, identifying
objects entertaining relationships with other objects as of "lower rank"
compared to objects removed from empirical actuality, looking down at the
world from their unmoved Olympic heights.
Indeed, for Thomas Aquinas
(1225 - 1274), like Averroes (1226 - 1198) influenced by Aristotle, the relation between God and the world is a "relatio
rationis", not a real or mutual bond. This scholastic notion can be
explained by taking the example of a subject apprehending an object. From
the side of the object only a logical, rational relationship persists. The
object is not affected by the subject apprehending it. From the
side of the subject however, a real relationship is at hand, for the
subject is really affected by the perception of the object.
According to Thomism, God is not affected by the world, and so God is like
an object, not a subject ! The world however is affected by this
object-God, clearly not "Emmanuel", God-with-us. Hence, the
relationship between God and the world cannot be reciprocal. If
so, the world only contributes to the glory of God ("gloria externa Dei").
The finite is nothing more than a necessary "explicatio Dei". This
is the seen as the only way the world can contribute to God.
In this line of reasoning, the monotheist God, like a Caesar of sorts,
is omnipotent and omniscient. This means God knows what is possible as
possible, what is presently real as real and also the future of what is
real (predestination). Moreover, God can do what He likes and so is directly responsible
for all events (cf. "insh'Allah"). These views make it impossible
not to attribute
all possible evil, like the slaying of the innocent, to God ! Such a
theology turns the good God into a brutal monster or proves the point He
cannot exist (cf. Sartre). Finally, free will cannot be combined with this
view of God as the sufficient condition of all things, for freedom only
harmonizes with a view of God as merely the necessary condition.
The mystics of these faiths tell another story. Their direct experience
of God "in their heart", unhindered by the dry bones of Greek logic,
proved to them an interaction (and thus relation) with the Absolute is
indeed possible. Mostly leading to savage reactions from the religious
populace enraged by angry theologians, these fine flowers of faith were
rare. To listen to their silent song and often paradoxal enunciations is
therefore the more challenging.
2.1 Beauty in Qabalah.
“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole
heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind."
"... the voice of the living God speaks from
within the fire, and it dwells within the heart, and thus is the speech
Abulafia, A. : Ozar 'Eden Ganuz, MS Oxford, 1580,
"Bear in mind that before the emanations were
emanated and the creatures were created, the upper simple light had
filled entire existence, and there was no empty space whatsoever."
Luria, I. : The Ten Luminous Emanations, 1-4.
In the Old Testament, the "heart" also plays a moral,
psychological and spiritual role. To love the Lord with one's heart,
soul and mind is designating three functions :
• Psychological as in :
"Pharaoh hardened his heart ..."
(Exodus, 8:32), "I
know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart ..."
(1 Samuel, 17:28), and
"I kept the matter in my heart."
• Moral as in : "And
these words, which I command You this day, shall be in your heart ... "
• Spiritual as in :
"... in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart
stirred him up to come unto the work to do it." (Exodus,
36:2) and "Now therefore, put away the
foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the
Lord, the God of Israel." (Joshua, 24:23).
In Judaism and Qabalah, both in its
Jewish and Christian form, the heart plays a pivotal role.
"What is the Heart ? It is the 32 hidden paths of
wisdom that are hidden in it. In each of their paths there is also a
Form watching over it. It is thus written (Genesis 3:24), 'To
watch the way of the Tree of Life.'".
Sepher Bahir, part one, 98.
The Tree of Life
The Ten Sephiroth
Tiphareth (6) in yellow
Yesod (9) in purple
The Solar Tiphareth is located
central on the Middle Pillar of Balance, and the pivotal sphere of the
arrangement of the Four Sephiroth (or Divine Spheres) symbolizing the
"ruach", referring to
the whole range of a person’s emotional, intellectual, and volitional
The "ruach" contrasts with the so-called "nefesh", the "animal
spirit", designating the instincts, the desires and the lower mental
life of the ego (at the Lunar "Yesod").
The former involves higher
consciousness ("gatlut"), the latter the lower states ("katnut").
The spiritual anthropology of
the Qabalah has five parts : "nefesh", "ruach", "neshamah", "chayah" and
"yechidah". The first three refer to the mind, whereas the last two are
"envelopments" ("makifin") not entering the mind. Neshamah
(Binah-consciousness) is the highest possible conceptual mind. Higher
states (Chockmah-consciousness) are nondual and non-conceptual and can
only be grasped when reflected and clothed in Binah-consciousness. In
this context, "heart" designates Binah-consciousness. To enter
Chockmah-consciousness, the higher conceptual mind has to be stopped.
"Ten Sephiroth of Nothingness : Bridle your mouth
from speaking, bridle your heart from thinking. And if your heart runs,
return to the place, for it is written, 'running and returning'".
"... serve Him with a whole heart and a willing
mind ; for the Lord searches all hearts,
and understands every intent of the thoughts."
1 Chronicles, 28:9.
the Jewish Qabalah, the heart ("Lev"), is also taken as a metaphor for
the Tree of Life as a whole, representing the totality of Divine
wisdom available to (re)connect the human world with God.
Directly linked with our spiritual nature, the wisdom of the Tree of
Life feeds our supraconscious awareness and a direct experience of the
Divine Presence ("Shechinah"). The heart is the connecting point between
the first and the last Divine Enumeration or Sephiroth (the Ten Divine
Mathematical Spheres constituting the Tree of Life).
"... the Heart is actually the primary point of
the spiritual dimension that connects Kether-Crown to Malkuth-Kingship."
Sepher Bahir, part two, 106.
As the tenth Sephiroth situated underneath the lower Abyss, Malkuth is
the pinnacle of the World of Manifestation (Assiah), the potential
"Kingdom" of the Divine on Earth. This is the "Fallen Daughter" which
the qabalists needs to "raise" upon the Throne of Understanding
("Binah", at the top of the Left Pillar of Form), entering, via the act
of Divine Love ("Daleth" the 14th Path) Wisdom ("Chockmah", at the top
of the Right Pillar of Force) and thus Divine Presence ("Kether", the
crown of the Tree of Life).
This act of restoration ("tikun") is done by acquiring living knowledge
("Da'at"), processing negative (black) but passive (-) energy (the black
pseudo-Sephirah in the Lower Abyss) by way of the "code of life", and
transforming it into active (white), positive (+) energy (the white
pseudo-Sephirah in the Upper Abyss). Retrieving the "sparks of the
Divine" being the fundamental operation aimed at by Jewish mysticism. In
this participation of the human spirit in the Jubilee of Jubilees (the
Eschatological End when God sees God), the Tree of Life, the "heart of
heaven" plays a fundamental role. For a sanctuary has to be build in the
heart, a place of Divine indwelling and communion ...
"... the Shechinah that is called 'heart' ..."
Sepher ha Zohar, Tezawa,
volume IV, 179b.
Associated in the Christian Qabalah with Tiphareth, the heart represents
the Beauty of the dynamical harmony between form (the intellectual side)
and force (the intuitive side). Tiphareth, the seat of the "higher
Self", is linked with all Sephiroth except Malkuth, showing its central
and fundamental role in the work of the Christian qabalists, the
establishment of the Kingdom of God, again able to receive the Light of
"... God sees
not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord
looks at the heart."
1 Samuel, 16:7.
The active equilibrium between the extremes represented by the Left and
Right Pillars of form & force respectively, constitutes the Golden
Middle Way trod by the sages, who does not reject understanding & wisdom,
but know how to integrate both in the heart, creating a powerful
intuition of past, present & future.
"And You shall speak to all that are wise-hearted,
whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom ..."
Representing the indwelling of Divine intuition ("gatlut"), the
Sephiroth of Beauty holds the key to the whole edifice of the Tree of
Life. In this Divine Enumeration, all Divine powers - except
materialization- enter, circulate and exit. Just as the Lunar Yesod is
the foundation of egoic life, the Solar Tiphareth is the seat of the
life of the soul ("ruach" or "wind") rebirthing life after life to
continue her task of reuniting the material world of Assiah with the
Divine worlds of Yetzirah, Briah and Atziluth.
"Since I know,
O my God, that You try the heart and delight in uprightness, I, in the
integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things
1 Chronicles, 29:17.
To realize this, both Lunar and Solar Operations are necessary. Together
they constitute the Great Work ("Magnum Opus") :
• Firstly, without a strong foundation
("Yesod"), rooted in the various realities of material life ("Malkuth")
and the living knowledge gathered by confronting the demons of personal
existence (Lower "Da'at"), the Tree of Life cannot be climbed and the
restoration remains ineffective. This Lunar Operation involves
building a genuine, living spiritual foundation. It calls for
four major steps : (1) purifying the four elements of our material
existence, the Four Cardinal Quarters of Malkuth, namely "Air" -thought-,
"Fire" -intention/volition- ; "Water" -affectivity- & "Earth"
-actionality/sensation-, (2) accepting, naming, confronting and
transforming the personal demons (the empty shells -"qlipoth"- exiting
from the Lower Abyss, triggering authentic, living knowledge concerning
one's own personal life), (3) establishing an objective, practical
intellectual basis ("Hod") & (4) intuitively realizing genuine love and
compassion for others ("Netzach").
• Secondly, after a genuine spiritual
foundation has been erected ("Yesod"), the higher levels of the Tree of Life
(beyond Tiphareth) cannot be touched without having first fastened the
"button" of the heart-centre, for if they are, the psyche may split,
with as possible results sudden death, the denial of all things
spiritual or insanity (permanent possession by the demon of the Upper
Abyss). So the Solar Operation calls for an integration of one's
personal spiritual foundation ("Yesod") at soul level
("Tiphareth"). To achieve this,
a "Watchtower experience" is needed.
"I was asleep
but my heart was awake."
The ego has to be transcended and a
panoramic perspective established. Not only does the Higher Self (on the
Throne of Beauty) overlook the Lunar ego, but it also becomes aware of
the history of the soul of the individual, i.e. the crucial experiences
gathered by numerous rebirths in various lower vehicles (Assiah and
Yetzirah). When "Paroketh", the "veil of the temple" (between Yetzirah and Briah)
has thus been lifted, consciousness is no longer unifocal (with Yesod as
its sole centre), but bifocal, circumambulating both the Lunar ego (at
Yesod) and the Solar Higher Self (at Tiphareth). A constant
pendulum-movement between both foci is now possible.
"Let the heart
of those who seek the Lord be glad."
With the birth of Adepthood, the higher journey towards Godhead can be
commenced. The Adept communicates with and has experience of his or her
"Holy Guardian Angel". The latter is a bridging spiritual entity
symbolical of the "Divine spark" within (the "Imago Dei").
Guiding (like Dante's Beatrice) consciousness on the higher, heavenly
planes, it protect it from any possible relapse into spiritual
"I, the Lord,
search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to
his ways, according to the results of his deeds."
Indeed, especially when the work of Adepthood (in the
Briatic World of Creation) has been ended and the "Adeptus Exemptus"
(by composing a "Book of the World") is free to finally cross the Upper
Abyss, he or she will have to void the throne of the Higher Self
Indeed, not "my" will (i.e. the intent of the Higher Self) but "His"
Will (i.e. the Will of God) must be done ! In this final consummate
phase, the Higher Self itself is experienced as empty of inherent
existence, i.e. impermanent, and only if the Adept sheds this last
fetter, namely that of his own spiritual Self, can his (her)
consciousness enter the "Holy of Holies", witnessing God "face to Face".
"They that are
of a fraudulent heart are abomination to the Lord, but such as are
upright in their way are his delight."
Even the tiniest rest of Self-preservation will bar the Adept from
realizing this Chockmah-consciousness beyond the Neshamah. Hence, the
Holy Guardian Angel, first encountered in Tiphareth, leads the way and
assists the Adept in Self-denudation, irreversible annihilating any
vestige of permanency below the Upper Abyss. The demon of the Upper
Abyss (the archetype of evil itself) is precisely this self-powered (not
other-powered) sense of inherent existence as a Higher Self. At this
level, Adepthood itself becomes a danger.
In this complex "scala perfectionis" sketched by the
involving the alchemical process of "purificatio" (negrido), "illuminatio"
(albedo) and "Deificatio" (rubedo), being nothing less than
the Solar throne of spiritualization, the heart-centre plays a central
role. After first having erected a firm foundation, it is necessary to
then establish a comprehensive picture of the soul and the world.
as the establishment of an authentic spiritual Self or soul, is however
not the ultimate target. Deep within this Temple of Beauty, the "voice of the silence" may be heard, a "spirit", holy angel or "Imago
Dei" guiding one beyond the heart itself, transcending it to realize
the highest and ultimate aim : doing the Loving Will of God on Earth,
i.e. realizing the Kingdom (Malkuth) of the Divine Presence of Love
(Aziluth), precipitating the Perfect Man, the Messiah. He saves creation
as a whole, restores it to the point of perfection and allows the
Creator to witness Himself in His Kingdom.
2.2 The Pure in Heart &
Poor in Spirit.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God."
Gospel of Matthew,
"The beatitude does not consist in knowing God (Matthew, 5:8),
but in having God in oneself."
Gregorius of Nyssa : De Beatitudo, 6.
In the New Testament, the tradition of attributing
psychological, moral and spiritual functions to the heart is continued.
• Psychological as in :
"... grieved at their hardness of heart ..."
(Mark, 3:5), "Be on
guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation
and drunkenness and the worries of life ..." (Luke,
21:34), and "For out of much affliction and
anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears ..."
(2 Corinthians, 2:4).
• Moral as in : "But
the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in
an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with
perseverance." (Luke, 8:15).
• Spiritual as in :
"Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your
heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."
"That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith ; that You, being rooted
and grounded in love ..." (Ephesians, 3:17)
and "So we have the prophetic word made more sure,
to which You do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark
place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts."
(2 Peter, 1:19).
The "pure of heart" able to "see God" do not witness God outside
themselves as a kind of Supreme Being, but experience the inner Lord
residing in the heart. Insofar as the mystic moves out to find the
Divine, his or her ipseity is a hindrance. But when the eyes are turned
inwardly, the spiritual search is rewarding.
"Out of myself a stumbling block, into myself as
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 1957.
This experience is a gift of God by way of His grace, made possible
because the bride of God, the soul, prepared the nuptial bed properly by
works of virtue, accumulating merit. So in this spiritual communion, a
reciprocity is at work, for both the soul and God are at work. Insofar
as the heart is pure, what is found is Divine. But as long as the heart
is burdened by attachments to outward objects of mind & sensation, what
is found will turn the soul away from its Beloved (Satan, identifying
his ego with God, being the extreme example of this).
"He who wills sacrifice will be sacrificed -
according to the measure of his purity of heart."
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 1950.
This mystical view contrasts with the concepts of theologians, who,
driven by an exaggerated perspective on the Fall and inherited, original
sin, exalt the exclusive nature of Divine grace hand in hand with man's
wretchedness. By thus complementing God, they nurture a radical
difference between God and man. Such radicality harms the humanity of
the Bridegroom of the soul, the fact the Word was born in a stable. The
Nativity of Christ confirms He did not intent to be a Caesar or a feudal
Lord towering above groveling servants & slaves. The Incarnation had
not a "top-down" intent, but works "bottom-up" !
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
Gospel of Matthew,
Interpreting this verse in terms of a traditional urban and
theology, the phrase "poor in spirit" is necessarily viewed in negative
terms, depreciating our humanity. Then it refers to a realizing sense of our fallen spiritual
state, seeing in a true light the tendency in us to do evil, a
conviction of being shut up to the grace of God, being shut up to God
for faith, bound to an abiding sense of our absolute need, given our
wickedness, for a Savior, or worse, a setting aside of ourselves, a
self-loathing and self renunciation in all respects, casting away our hope
in and dependence upon ourselves ... In this view on spiritual poverty we
realize we cannot save ourselves and we have a keen sense of our own
If this interpretation, turning spiritual poverty into a
poverty-mentality, is correct, then how to understand that in such a
depraved, spiritually bankrupt condition the Kingdom of Heaven belongs
to us !? Moreover, in this view, the ego has not vanished out of view,
but is depreciated, humbled, abased and rejected. Turned into a slave,
it can only look up, fear the Master and totally submit to Him as the
Supreme Hierarch. Such a Pharaonic divide does not create
space and openness, but the crampness felt in the narrow cave of
repression. The ego is abased to exalt Christ, brought down to value an
extreme contrast. Such a
poverty-mentality brings down the soul's work of virtue & merit, leaving
everything to Divine grace. Clearly, a reasonable exegesis is then
replaced by blind fideism, and Christ's humility becomes the omnipotence
of a Caesar or a feudal Lord.
"Never has a man been made to fall by one thing or
another ; it always came to be because he did not give any attention to
the ground of his soul and had allowed himself to be deceived by the
Eckhart : Predigten, Von der ewigen Geburt.
Being "poor in spirit" is indeed the foundation of the Beatitudes
because authentic spiritual poverty is not a poverty-mentality
but the prerequisite for
eternal life. True, nobody who thinks they have cause to be there, other than
Christ, gets into heaven. Our hands have indeed to be empty before they can be
filled by God. There must be nothing there, except the space for God
to fill. True, this is not something we do alone in and of ourselves. It
is evidence of God’s work in us we may see ourselves for who we are
and therefore, truly humble, are willing to turn to Him because He has
turned our hearts toward Him. But it is the bride who whitens the
nuptial bed. True, we have nothing to lay claim to Him. But
genuine humility is not only rejecting more than what we are, but also
accepting nothing less than what we are ! It is an awareness of
what we truly are, nothing more and nothing less.
"Humility by itself is nothing else than a true
knowledge and a true consciousness of oneself as one truly is."
The Cloud of Unknowing,
"So God created man in His own image, in the image
of God created He him ..."
"I have said, You are gods ; and all
of You are children of the Most High."
"This first way is a desire that most certainly
originates from love, for the good soul that wants to follow faithfully
and wants to love durably is being drawn on by the craving for this
desire -to be loved and to be guarded most strongly- in order to exist
in purity and freedom and nobility in which she is made by her creator,
after His image and to His resemblance."
Beatrice of Nazareth :
Seven Ways of Holy Love,
First Way, § 1.
The Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel of Matthew belongs to those
who denude themselves completely.
Those who become empty of themselves. Genuine love of God eliminates the
strongholds of the ego and its mental & sensate constructions. The "poor in
spirit" are those who end the conceptual activity of the mind,
voiding the tyranny of the domination of the fortified, solid and
permanent sense of ego and of all
thoughts, feelings and actions associated with this narcissistic egology.
They create openness for the Bridegroom to enter. They stop this being
satisfied by oneself alone, this seeking happiness by making oneself happy.
Without destroying the ego, the "poor in spirit" empty its fixations.
Indulging in the esthetic appeal the static ego has of itself, it looks
into the mirror to be gratified, horrified by any sign of decay and loss
of permanent self-satisfaction. Confirming its own ethical stance, this
petty ruler forgives itself, charmed by its own fictions. Puffed-up, the
hallucinating ego is a sinner uttering his own absolution, taking no
risks, seeking control & domination. Thus masturbating itself to the
manipulated & unspontaneous heights of a surrogate orgasm, this false
ego sows the seeds of unrelenting anxiety and fear. Burdening the heart,
this poison makes it turn hard, dark, bitter & spiteful.
"... without risk, no faith, the more risk, the more
faith ; the less objective credibility, the more deeper possible inwardness
Kierkegaard, S. : Concluding Unscientific
Postscript, chapter 2, 1846.
The poor in
spirit are wholly turned towards otherness. By making others happy, they
invite the radical other,
opening up their heart for Divine love and making room for the Bridegroom to enter.
"For the incomprehensible marvel which resides in
this love eternally transcends the understanding of all creatures. But
where one understands and savors this marvel without astonishment,
there the spirit is above itself and is one with the Spirit of God, and
it tastes and sees, without measure, even as God, the richness which
itself is in the unity of the living ground where it possesses itself
according to the way of its uncreatedness."
Van Ruusbroec, J. :
Spiritual Espousals, Book III.
In the heart of these humble souls, no negative passions can linger for
the very ground upon which these feed has been voided. Empty of
afflictive emotions, total openness towards all beings is made possible.
"Never have I suffered to remain in my heart a
thought that angered me."
Verba Seniorum, Book
By emptying the hands, they become vessels in which Divine grace may
pour the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As these gifts find nothing fixed to
adhere to, they can be fully engaged in the work of charity, the
activity of effectively ending the suffering of others, actualizing the
potential of Divine love in others, assisting all human beings in the
work of acquiring spiritual nakedness.
"Not I, but God in me."
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 1953.
"For we men have one book in common which points
to God. Each has it within himself, which is the priceless Name of God.
Its letters are the flames of His love, which He out of His heart in the
priceless Name of Jesus has revealed in us. Read these letters in your
hearts and spirits and You have books enough. All the writings of the
children of God direct You unto that one book, for therein lie all the
treasures of wisdom. This book is Christ in You."
Boehme, J. : Libri Apologetici, Book 1.
This emptying of the hands is a simile of stopping the conceptual mind,
ending its "monkey talk" and endless chatter. It is daring to be without
the securities offered by social conditioning and intellectual prowess.
Jumping into the abyss or falling without knowing who is catching us.
"The boy in the forest,
Throws off his best Sunday suit
And plays naked."
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 8.9.1959.
But there is more. The "poor in spirit" are "pure in heart",
encountering the Bridegroom directly within, in the "shrine of the
heart". They embrace Him and exist for,
with and in Him.
"In this embrace, in the essential unity of God,
are all inner spirits one with God in loving transport, and they are the
selfsame one that the essence itself is in itself. And in this sublime
unity of the Divine nature, the heavenly Father is the origin and the
beginning of every work that is done in heaven and on Earth. And He says
in the immersed hiddenness of the spirit : 'See : the Bridegroom cometh,
go out, to meet Him.'"
Van Ruusbroec, J. :
Espousals, Book III.
The Divine transport strengthens the soul beyond any possible measure,
giving it élan and confidence. Such
assured vigor and liveliness makes the pure soul, in the wild storm of
the self-powered afflictive emotionality of others, a protecting beacon.
Due to the activity of the Holy Spirit, living in the depths of the
heart, and the total denudation of the soul by the work of virtue, a
fire with the name of Love is able to move about unseen,
transforming the soul.
"Gain or loss, honor or shame,
Consolation at being with God in heaven
Or in the torture of hell :
This Fire makes no distinction.
It burns to death everything it ever touches :
Damnation or blessing no longer matter."
Hadewijch : Poems, 16:95-100.
And in this fire is heard : "O dulcis Jesu, o amor cordis mei !"
"Where perfection of the soul is,
there also is the habitation of God."
Richard of St.-Victor : Mystical Ark,
So the "poor in spirit" vacate space in their souls and open the inner
recesses of its organ, the heart, to the quickening powers of the Divine
spirit. Of course they are aware of their own initial sinfulness, but
this too they lay at the feet of their Lord. They do so not to humiliate
themselves as footstools, but because their absolution comes from Him.
Moreover, they cannot uplift themselves without Him. But He is already
in them, and when they go out they are confident to meet Him. Denudation
is a necessary step in this process.
"And the truth of His rich open Heart says to their spirit that He shall
be totally theirs. With this confidence they fly through all the heights
of Love. These soul consume without being satisfied."
Hadewijch : Letters, 22:201.
Besides a naked ego, i.e. a humble personal focus of consciousness
truly in tune with its own true ipseity, the soul needs to constantly
remember the Divine presence. This heart-based living is another
necessity. Not forgetting the omnipresence of my Lord, I walk with Him
and He with me. Denuded I stay naked. Clothing is always loose and cast
off as soon as its purpose is fulfilled. Ideas, volitions & thoughts
come and go, indeed talking about the outer world and its ways. Charity
listens, but nothing cleaves unto it. It does not resist
separation from remembering the Lord is an Eternal Witness.
"You should bear God in your heart with constant remembrance, and
embrace Him lovingly with an open and expectant heart ; and always long
for the sweetness coming from His Heart, and the inner affection of His
inner sweet Nature."
Hadewijch : Letters, 24:64.
Although Christian mystics focus on the heart, and consider the
Divine Love harbored there to be the primary motor of the Divine
transport, they nevertheless point to a secondary organ, namely the
mind. Heart and mind are both addressed.
Influenced by the Greek apophatic tradition, and its mysticism of the
unknown God ("Deus absconditus") the envisaged denudation not
only affects a person's existential, wholehearted wholeness, but also
the emptying of all thoughts of their potential hold on the Divine. All
concepts of God fail, and even the name "God" fails.
"God is so great that she cannot comprehend. And
through such nothing, she is fallen in to the certainty of knowing
nothing and into the certainty of willing nothing. And this nothing, of
which we speak, says Love, gives her all."
Porette, M. : The Mirror of the Simple Souls,
Nameless, the Absolute can only be given "hyper" names, pointing to a
transcendence beyond polarity, opposition and the tyranny of affirmation
and denial, of nearness and farness. The "Loingprés" cannot be grasped.
"There is no speaking of it, nor name nor
knowledge of it. Darkness and light, error and truth - it is none of
these. It is beyond assertion and denial. We make assertions and denials
of what is next to it, but never of it, for it is both beyond every
assertion, being the perfect and unique cause of all things, and, by
virtue of its preeminently simple and absolute nature, free of every
limitation, beyond every limitation ; it is also beyond every denial."
ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite : The Mystical Theology,
chapter 5, 1048B.
Through Divine Love, heart and mind are fused and their functions
mingle. Where normally the mind is lucid and the heart is loving, the
mystical Fire transforms both to the point of mutual, reciprocal
reflection. The mind apprehending the beauty of God's creation is a
loving mind ("amor intellectualis Dei") and the heart living the
perfection of Love is lucid !
"He had no need for the divided responsibility in which others seek to
be safe from ridicule, because he had been granted a faith which
required no confirmation - a contact with reality, light and intense
like the touch of a loving hand : a union in self-surrender without
self-destruction, where his heart was lucid and his mind loving. In Sun
and wind, how near and how remote - How different from what the knowing
ones call Mysticism."
Hammarskjöld, D. : Markings, 1955.
The work of Divine Love in the soul, changing heart and mind, bringing
both to closeness, is the work of perfection, and its three stages :
purification, illumination and Deification. In the last phase, the soul
is totally adopted by its Lord, and the Divine Presence never leaves.
Total confidence and reliance is established between both, and the soul
is transported by the Divine embrace again and again like a child jumps
into the lap of its mother. Total recognition and similitude are
realized. The soul constantly remembering its Lord and the Lord
permanently taking His seat in the heart. What a life as a "son of God" !
"Forgetting the created,
reminding the one who created,
attentive to what is in You,
giving love to the Beloved."
St.John of the Cross : Short Summary of
Perfection, Poems, XIV.
2.3 The Heart as the
Tent of Allah.
"He it is Who sent down tranquility into the
hearts of the believers that they might have more of faith added to
The Victory, 48:4.
"If the characteristic of Allah is explicit for
Allah, why would the place where it manifests among men (=
yourself), remain hidden to them ?"
Hallâj, Husayn Mansûr : Dîwân, Maqatta'a, 63.4.
"He is my Friend,
and through Him am I,
for my heart has embraced Him,
so I am His tent."
Ibn al-'Arabî : The Meccan Openings
Again in the Koran, the heart has psychological, moral and
spiritual functions :
• Psychological as in :
"There is a disease in their hearts ...
(The Cow, 2:10),
"Then your hearts hardened after that, so that they were like rocks,
rather worse in hardness ..." (The Cow,
2:74), "... their hearts shrinking from
fighting you or fighting their own people ..." (The
Woman, 4:90), and "Your God is one God
; so (as for) those who do not believe in the hereafter, their hearts
are ignorant and they are proud." (The Bee,
• Moral as in : " If
Allah knows anything good in your hearts, He will give to You better
than that which has been taken away from You and will forgive You, and
Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (The Accessions,
• Spiritual as in :
"Say : Have You considered that if Allah takes away your hearing and
your sight and sets a seal on your hearts, who is the god besides Allah
that can bring it to You ?" (The Cattle,
6:46), and "Those who
believe and whose hearts are set at rest by the remembrance of Allah ;
now surely by Allah's remembrance are the hearts set at rest."
(The Thunder, 13:28).
Islam's mystic tradition is known as "Sufism". The Arabic term "sûfî" or "mystic" derives from
or "wool", probably in reference to the
woolen clothing worn by the first ascetics of
Sufism (appearing in
the ninth century CE - the third Islamic century) is the totality of mystical practices
rooted in Islam. These enable Muslims to attain Divine knowledge (cf.
Hermetical "gnosis") & love through the direct experience of "Allah", The
God ("al-ilâh"). Hence they were called "followers of the
Real" ("ahl al-haqq").
Sufism consists of a variety of
mystical paths. The most prominent of these being "remembrance"
("dhikr"), or the continuous awareness of the all-comprehensive
Name of The God : Allah.
In the textbooks, Sufism is divided
into three dimensions : knowledge ("'ilm"), works
("'amal") and reality ("haqîqah"). First comes the
Law in its widest sense, embracing all theoretical teachings of
Islam. Then comes "the Way", the method of putting the Law into
practice. Finally, the spiritual realization of the ascending
stages of human perfection results in proximity to The God. Sûfîs
take their orientation from the third dimension and maintain a balance
between all dimensions, taking Prophet Muhammad, peace with him, as their spiritual example.
More than one Western scholar claimed Sufism to be an organized movement arising among pious Muslims
as a reaction
against the worldliness of the early Umayyad period (661 - 750).
Yearning for individual union with The God on the basis of the
Koran (Qur'ân), the Sunnah of the Prophet and the example of the great
saints, these mystics found the
externalities of the law, divorced from a genuine living spirituality, unsatisfactory and
so increasingly asserted a
Way ("tarîqah" or "path")
and Realities ("haqîqah") other than those proposed by the Sharî'ah,
the traditional law. Sufism
its intuitionism ("ma'rifah" or "interior
knowledge", "gnosis") to the rational deductions of philosophers, formal
theologians & legalists ("'ilm").
These three approaches of Islam, namely law,
philosophy & mysticism are discernable in the Koran itself. Islam and
Sufism can be distinguished by the fact the latter takes it
orientation from the third aspect : spiritual emancipation (liberation)
and mystical annihilation (realization through survival & sobriety). Sufism is the
Living Water of Islam, the proof unveiling is unending.
Based on the Hâdîth of Gabriel, Sufism is therefore the
"spirit" of Islam, for archangel Gabriel came to teach
the Arabs their religion ("din").
The three foundations of Islam are "submission" ("islam"), "faith"
("iman") and "doing the beautiful"
("ihsan"). The last was not mentioned by the jurists
("fuquha'"), nor by the theologians ("mutakallimun"), the
lawmakers, but became the object of the mystics.
jurists focus on the Five Pillars, voicing the testimony of faith
("iman"), meaning "to
acknowledge with the heart, to voice with the tongue, and to act with the
limbs". This constitutes the "body" of Islam, telling
people what to do and what not to do, namely voicing the testimony of
faith ("shahadah"), five daily prayers, paying alms tax, fasting
during Ramadan & making -if possible- the pilgrimage to Mecca ;
theologians, or experts in dogmatic theology ("kalam")
articulate & defend creedal teachings ("sharia"). Together
with the philosophers they help understand the world and can be seen as
the "mind" of Islam ;
Jurists & theologians show
little interest or
competence regarding "doing the beautiful", defined by the
Prophet as to "worship Allah as if you see Him, for even if you
do not see Him, He sees You." This is the object of Sufism
which teaches people how to transform themselves and become what they
fundamentally are. It is the "spirit" of Islam.
Law, philosophy &
mysticism are the
spirito-social embodiments of the life of the servants of God, namely as work/law (body),
thought/philosophy (mind) & imagination/mysticism (emotion, intuition).
Only if the specialists of each expression (i.e. the lawyer-theologians,
the scientist-philosophers and the mystics) solidify their positions in
dogmatic extremes and subsequently attack each other, may divisions occur
justifying the distinction between "orthodox" &
"heterodox". And unfortunately for Islam, this happened. According to some later historians because of the
so-called "heretical" teachings of the champion of speculative
mysticism, the Greatest Master of Sufism,
"To become what one was before one became."
Abû Bakr Muhammad ibn al-'Arabî (1165 - 1240) was a celebrated Muslim mystic-philosopher who gave the esoteric, mystical
dimension of Islamic thought its first full-fledged philosophic expression. His major
works are the monumental al-Futuhat al-Makkiyah ("The Meccan
Revelations") and Fûsus al-hikam ("The Bezels of Wisdom").
The literary career of Ibn al-'Arabî, also called : "The Greatest Master",
"The Animator of the Religion", "Doctor Maximus", "The Son of
Plato", "the Seal of the Saints" or "The Platonist" is enormous. Yahia (1964) in his two-volume
history & classification of his works, estimates he wrote 700 books, treatises
& collections of poetry of which 400 are extant. Some works are impressive. The Futûhât
al-makkiyya, a vast encyclopedia of the Islamic sciences within the context of unity
(cf. "tawhîd"), includes 560 chapters and ca.17.000 pages in the critical
edition. The texts of this major mystic philosopher are all of an extreme high
level of sophistication.
It is impossible to identify the Absolute in its absoluteness with the
Unity of the 99 Divine Names or "Allah". Within the "worlds of absolute
mystery" (or the worlds of "potentiality"), two Presences ("hadrah") or
ontological dimensions of the Self-manifestation of the Absolute
("tajallî") emerge :
(1) the Absolute in its absoluteness : the
One (or unity of essence), the Unique, the Real, ineffable, inconceivable,
(2) the Absolute as Divine Consciousness :
the permanent, nonexistent fixed entities and their relationships : the
archetypes of all possible things in Allah's Knowledge, the Divine Names &
their Oneness (or unity of multiplicity) called "Allah".
"The God who is in a faith is the God whose form the
heart contains, who discloses Himself to the heart in such a way that the
heart recognizes Him. Thus the eye sees only the God of the faith."
Ibn-al'Arabî : Bezels of Wisdom (Fûsus al-hikam), I,
121, II, 146-147.
The heart of the gnostic ("ârif") is colored in every instant by the color
or modality of the form in which the Divine Being is epiphanized to him
(her). So to each believer, the Absolute is He who is disclosed to him
in the form of his faith. If He would manifest in a different form,
the believer would reject Him, and that is why the dogmatic faiths (those
who impose a common spiritual denominator) combat one another. So one's
faith reveals the measure of the capacity of one's heart,
explaining why there are many different faiths. The gnostic possesses a
true "science of religions", and his "ecumenism" reveals to him the form
in which he himself is known to Him who evoked his being (cf. the Divine
Names and their traces, the possible things). The heart is the "tent"
or form in which Allah appears to the soul.
"When the heart shines with the remembrance of God
as a result of sincere contemplation, meditation and worship, Divine truth
is reflected in it on the surface of that spot, for that spot belongs to
the Kingdom of your Lord. Then an intense light is generated from it, a
light which reaches to the deepest corners of the whole being, and the
whole being is conscious and in awe. Then not a single member of the human
being will move on its own, for none has it own will any longer."
Ibn-al'Arabî : Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom,
To know one's eternal Divine Name is to know one's individuality as it
results from the revelation of the Divine Being revealing Himself to
Himself before Creation. When a human "returns to his Lord", he returns to
the Absolute in the form of one of His Names. This form abides in his
heart. To deny every individual his or her Lord is nothing less than to
deny one's "Angel". When this happens a man confounds his Lord with the
infinite number of Divine Names, and so one particular Self-manifestation
of the Absolute is imposed upon all other Divine Names (each having its
faith & Lord). He confuses what can appear in his own heart with
everything unable to appear in that specific form. Allah appears to him in
a form his heart can bear, not in forms alien to how He knows the soul for
"The diurnal Sun sets at night,
But the Sun of the heart never disappears."
'Abd al-Kader : The Book of Stops, I.14.
Having lost this bond with a specific Divine Name (and hence having lost
his knowledge of himself) one may come under the sway of a spiritual
imperialism which imposed a universal, i.e. the "same" Lord instead of
each man his Lord. This is the God created in the faiths. Not our
Lord, but my Lord revealed in my heart is what matters.
"He who knows his soul knows his Lord."
Hâdîth attributed to the Prophet.
"... in one's state of closeness or farness one
must realize that there is nothing but Allah. Yet You do not know
yourself, because You do not know that You are naught but Him. You are
He without yourself."
Ibn al-'Arabî : The One Alone (Kitab al-ahadiyyah).
When one reaches what the waymarks of oneself allow one to reach, then He
is seen in one's own form, in one's own heart He then appears. He
discloses Himself to the soul only in the form of His knowledge of the
soul. And these waymarks are the godwariness of the heart, the tent of
"Surely Allah is the Knower of what is unseen
the heavens and the Earth ; surely He is Cognizant of what is in the
The Originator, 35:38.
Allah knows the heart. Filling it with remembrance of its Lord, unites
the soul with the specific "form" or Divine Name by which Allah knows it.
This form is the tent in which He may appear and in which I can see him
"as my own". Just as water takes on the color of the glass, His
infinite Names manifest as the one Name in which He knows me.
"Each of us looks at Him as other,
and He is independent of us, the Great -
Except for me, for I see Him
as my own entity, and I am the
Ibn al-'Arabî : The Meccan Openings
The spiritual process can be reduced to
"Allah", the All-Comprehensiveness Name of the 99 Divine Names and the
Oneness of Being.
Complete remembrance implies :
: or the total annihilation of the sense of ego-identity within
consciousness except for the Self-disclosure of the Absolute as my Self, His
specific form in my heart as
"my Lord". Then the phenomenal demarcations of objects disappear and
an absolute stillness of mind & heart occurs ;
: after radical annihilation, "the passing-away of passing-away"
("fanâ-al-fanâ"), a new conscious identity observing multiplicity
-except in the absence of Divine Self-disclosures- survives ! All forms are
seen as so many Self-determinations of the Absolute Unity, the One Alone Itself. Before
"fanâ", object & subject were definitely separated in ordinary
consciousness, each object observed
seemingly as a self-subsistent reality with an inherently existing essence of its own, independent of
anything. But this was an illusion. Those with their two eyes open (the eye of
reason & the eye of direct seeing) realize a consciousness transcending ordinary
conceptual cognition, no longer based on duality (shaping multiplicity). They
witness how each element within this variety is an expression of an
implicate, underlying order or unity ... how the many waves are but Self-expressions of the
"What ! Is he whose heart Allah has opened for
Islam -so that he is in a light from his Lord- like the hard-hearted ?
Nay, woe to those whose hearts are hard against the remembrance of Allah
; those are in clear error."
The Companions, 39:22.
Without remembrance, the mind will identify with its empirical ego and
with outer objects seemingly fixed, independent and essential (identical and
own-powered). This is the cause of ignorance. The only way out is to allow
Allah to guide one's heart. Then and only then the fundamental insight of
the unity of all things may rise, eliminating the fixed boundaries between
subject & object and taking away the illusion of separate existence.
"... whoever believes in Allah, He guides aright his heart ;
and Allah is Cognizant of all things."
The Mutual Deceit, 64:11.
The ultimate mystical experience does not touch the essence of Allah,
for only He, the One Alone, has a unique "Face to Face" experience of
Himself. We experience only that aspect of Allah by which He know our
hearts. He is "my Lord" and I am His servant, but I become Him when I am
no longer myself, but united with the Divine Name He placed in my heart.
In the ultimate experience of unity, Lord and servant have therefore
reciprocal and interchangeable roles. Insofar as the Moon only reflects
the light of the Sun, the Moon is a "little Sun". Insofar as the Sun can
only be seen without causing blindness as the light of the Moon, the Sun
is a "little Moon". But without the Moon, the light of the Sun would, by
lack of any other body, never reflect. Without the Sun, all would be
"Had I to You a path,
I would have nothing to signify You.
So You are an exalted Lord
and I the abased slave.
I marvel at a God and a servant,
in a high waystation that terrifies.
This is a correlation, for my words imply
that He and we are equal.
God said it -no engendered thing said it.
I said it because He said it."
Ibn al-'Arabî : The Meccan Openings
When Sun and Moon form this ultimate conjunction, the whole of creation is
seen as subsisting thanks to God, and in this sense He is far. But
simultaneously, God is experienced as manifesting in every part of His
creation, and so He is also near. As the FarNear, Allah is the greatest
deliverance and bliss, filling the tent of my heart with an incomparable
"The Sun symbolizes the Lord -may He be exalted !- just as the Moon
symbolizes the servant. Their 'conjunction' symbolizes the degree of the
'union of the union', which is the ultimate degree, the greatest
deliverance and the supreme felicity ; it consists in seeing at the same
time the creation subsisting by God, and God manifesting Himself by His
'Abd al-Kader : The Book of Stops, I.9.
The Indestructible Drop in Buddhist Tantra.
"Do not discriminate, do not reflect,
Do not alter, but let the mind be relaxed.
For the unmodulated mind
is the natural treasure of the unborn emptiness.
The nondual path of wisdom-gone-beyond."
Nâgârjuna (quoted in : Namgyal, T. : Mahâmudrâ,
Wisdom Publications - Boston, 2006, p.275).
Historically, Buddhist Tantra was introduced by
Mahâyâna Buddhism by the 2nd
century CE. Some insist the Tantras are not actual teachings of the
Buddha. Others, for good reasons, assert they originate from the Hindu tradition. Traditionally,
the origin of Buddhist Tantra is supposed to be rooted in the Fourth
Turning of the Wheel by
Buddha Śâkyamuni and meant for
superior practitioners. These teachings are said to have been given on the
inner planes, during deep meditative equipoise.
Buddhist Tantra became a systematic body of teachings starting from the 8th century and, with the rise of the Pâla dynasty of Bihar &
Bengal (760 - 1142 CE), entered Buddhist universities. At that point, Buddhist Tantra was "purged"
from explicit sexual acts
(internalized) and formalized. Antinomian elements were deemed part of a
"logic of reversal" -steeped in doublespeak & a "twilight language"-
necessary for speeding up spiritual evolution, while explicit sexual acts
were replaced by a symbolism expounding the unity of compassion (the
method to accumulate vast
3.1 Identifying the Three Minds.
According to Buddhist Tantra, working to transform the deluded body,
speech and mind of humans into the enlightened body, enlightened speech &
enlightened mind of a Buddha, the mind encompasses the whole range of
psychological, moral and spiritual functions : sensations, feelings, volitions and
thoughts all project into consciousness and find their final reflective
form therein. The
Five Aggregates are the functional basis of designation of all
possible activity done by a human being, and all impermanent, driven by
the unending process of arising, abiding and ceasing. Moment to moment
they change and the continuity attributed to these phenomena is an
untruth, i.e. merely a conventional projection concealing the ultimate
nature of all phenomena :
The root cause of delusion is identified as ignorance, the ultimate
"poison" hindering the mind of observing itself and the world as they
truly are, namely other-powered, dependent, interactive and
non-substantial. Further conceptual analysis of ignorance, seeking
the proper object to negate to eliminate it, identifies the innate and
acquired sense of inherent existence as the culprit (cf. Tsongkhapa). The
mind grasps at a selfhood or own-nature ("svabhâva") which, ultimately, is
never the case. This illusionary observed ipseity of things, although conventionally
(logically, functionally) valid, is mistaken, for making things appear
otherwise as they truly are. In this illusion, phenomena seem solid,
independent, self-powered and thus inherently existing, while they truly
are evanescent, dependent-arisings, other-powered and empty of selfhood.
The non-conceptual, direct experience of the mind by advanced
yogis points to its luminous, cognizing activity, the presence of the
"nature of mind", said to be knowing, spacious Clear Light ... This is the "great
seal" (Mâhamudrâ), evidencing the ultimate nature of all phenomena, the
"Body of Truth" ("Dharmakâya") of a Buddha. It was advanced by Saraha,
Nâgârjuna, Maitrîpa, Tilopa, Naropa and their Tibetan disciples Marpa,
Milarepa and Gampopa.
As the mechanisms of Tantra have been explained
elsewhere, we focus on the Three Minds : the coarse, subtle and very
subtle layer of the mind. These three levels have been established on the
basis of the direct experience of the dissolution of the mind during
meditation and the meditative observation of the stages of the process of
death, intermediate stage and
rebirth. For dying forces the coarse & subtle levels of mind to
vanish, unveiling its deepest level, the Clear Light.
Three levels :
• the coarse mind :
this mind is our conventional, everyday waking sentient mind, fed by sensations
(Earth), affects (Water), volitions (Fire) and thoughts (Air). Each of
these inputs have their own logic & function and bring about co-relative
(a) sensations : the coded data received from
the five senses (perceptions) is processed in the thalamus and then
projected upon the association-areas of the neo-cortex, forming visual,
tactile, auditive, olfactory and gustatory sensate objects ;
(b) affects : processed by the limbic system
and the non-linguistic hemisphere of the neo-cortex, lust, unlust and
indifference are attributed to sensations, volitions, thoughts and states
of consciousness, bringing about attracting, repulsing or neutral
reactions (or affects, the emotions & feelings) ;
(c) volitions : processed by the motoric
association-areas, action, non-action and absence of action are responses
to various functional states ;
(d) thoughts : processed by the higher
cortical systems, sensate objects are given names.
To identify the coarse mind, we have to understand its location, nature
and function. Taking into account the vital body ("prânamâyâkośa"), the
mind is not situated in the head (the brain), but in the region of the
heart wheel ("chakra"), situated near the physical heart. Its nature is
clarity, a formless continuum lacking shape & color, but possessing the
cognitive power to perceive, understand and remember mental & sensate
objects. Mental objects are objects of affects, volitions, thoughts &
awareness (consciousness), whereas sensate objects are those given by
perception & sensation. Clarity means the mind is clear enough to
perceive, apprehend or cognize these objects. The simplest definition
(given by Dharmakîrti) says the mind is "that which is clarity and
The coarse mind is a conceptual, discursive mind, designating mental &
sensate objects using a basis of designation upon which a concept is
superimposed. For sensate objects this base of designation is perception,
and for mental objects affects, acts of volition, thoughts and states of
consciousness are used. Giving these a name, the coarse mind cognizes as
if these objects are external to it, existing independently from it, cause
of their own nature (self-powered) and self-subsisting. The most powerful
of these various designations is the empirical ego, sense of personal
identity, First Person Perspective or the "I". As the solitary focus of
consciousness, the "I" sits on the throne of imputation, sensing ("I
smell, see, hear, touch & taste."), feeling ("I feel good, bad,
indifferent."), wanting ("I want this, not that, none of both."), thinking
("I think the affirmation or denial of this-or-that.") and being conscious
of itself ("I am aware that I sense, feel, want, think and am conscious of
There is not a single phenomenon perceived by the mind which is not
imputed by the mind. This does not mean the extra-mental is non-existent.
In fact, we cannot consistently think knowledge without accepting this is
not the case (cf.
Clearings, 2006). It merely points to the fact we cannot pull
ourselves out of our own conceptual minds to witness the extra-mental
directly. Not a single sensation is naked (or identical with perception).
Not a single affect is unidentified or unnamed by the ego. Not a single
thing wanted escapes the I. Not a single concept is without a subject.
Self-reflection merely doubles the sense of personal selfhood.
Our own mind is directly identified when we attain meditative equipoise
(complete concentration) observing it.
• the subtle mind :
The waking mind of Homo normalis is a gross mind. This because this
mind is "mounded" upon gross inner "prâna" or winds, flowing through the
left and right subtle channels of the Vajra body, running parallel with
the spine. Nominally, subtle and very subtle minds are mounted upon subtle
& very subtle winds and these manifest only during deep sleep or during
the death process (the "bardos" or "intervals" of dying, intermediate
stage and rebirth). These winds flow through the central channel, a
flexible, soft & transparant subtle tube, exactly midway between the left
and right halves of the body, closer to the back than the front. It begins
at the point between the eyebrows, ascending in an arch to the crown of
the head, and descending in a straight line to the tip of the sex organ.
The subtle mind manifests when the gross mind dissolves. Identifying the
emptiness of the latter will naturally cause the gross winds to enter the
central channel and so cease. We first cease Earth, then Water, next Fire
and finally Air. This is seeking the subtle mind. With each cessation,
specific mental processes manifest. When finally the emptiness of our
thoughts is apprehended, an empty space is perceived and concentrated
upon. This is holding the subtle mind. When seeking & holding are
repeated, we train in remaining, accomplishing the identification of the
The subtle mind is identified as consciousness itself, the most subtle of
the aggregates. As normal consciousness is poisoned by hatred, craving &
ignorance, the subtle mind is characterized by the 33 conceptions of
hatred (aversion) of the Form Realm (White Appearance), the 40 conceptions
of craving (desire) of the Desire Realm (Red Increase) and the 7
conceptions of delusions (ignorance) of the Formless Realm (Black
Near-Attainment). These 80 modes of conceptualization have to stop.
• the very subtle mind :
The "nature of mind" is the original stream-consciousness and so also
called "ordinary mind". This deepest layer of the mind is unaltered and
manifests upon the complete elimination of the self-delusion of the coarse
and subtle mind, simultaneous with the blossoming of the Four
Immeasurables (Joy, Love, Compassion & Equanimity) to their fullest
extend. These Buddha-qualities are spontaneously generated when the
emptiness of the coarse & subtle mind has been fully realized. Our
Buddha-nature is merely the potential, by applying diligent enthusiasm, to
do so. Without shadowy distortions, the light of the Sun of wisdom appears
through the dark patches of clouds. Full awakening is then a clear blue
sky, a mind empty of all sense of anything existing by the grace of its
own power, ability, nature, essence ... The surface of the mirror itself,
upon which all possible conditions (from pigs up to Buddhas) may appear
... A white crystal reflecting the color of the cloth upon which it has
been posed ... Water taking on the color of the glass.
"The emptiness explained in Buddha's Sûtra
And the great bliss explained in Buddha's Tantra teachings,
The union of these two is the very essence of Buddha's
eighty-four thousand teachings.
May the doctrine of Conqueror Losang Dragpa (Tsongkhapa) flourish for
Guntang : Prayer for the Flourishing of the Doctrine of
3.2 Entering the Heart
"Those meditating on the drop
Always abiding in the heart,
Single-pointedly and without change,
Will definitely attain realizations."
The very subtle mind is mounded upon the very subtle wind. The latter is
the very subtle body. Both very subtle mind and very subtle body are
always together and both may become manifest during meditation. At the
heart wheel, the left and right channels coil around the central channel
forming six knots constricting it. At the very center of this knot, inside
a small vacuole, is the "indestructible drop". Its two halves only
separate until death and inside this very subtle drop is the union of
indestructible very subtle wind (body) and indestructible very subtle
mind. It is visualized as a tiny, reddish-white flame, symbolizing the
Clear Light. The indestructible drop is like a house for this union of
very subtle mind and very subtle wind.
Although the inner winds may enter the central channel through ten doors,
of which the navel wheel, as explained in the Hevajra Root Tantra, is the most common (in the lineage of the Six
Yogas of Naropa), in the school of Je Tsongkhapa, the heart wheel is used
among the ten doors. In this way, the indestructible drop is aimed. In
this uncommon Mahâmudrâ, the three yogas of the "isolated body"
(practices to transform the impure body into the pure body of a Buddha)
are : (1) penetrating the central channel via the heart wheel, (2)
concentrating on the indestructible drop and concentrating on the union
of the very subtle (indestructible) wind and the very subtle mind. These
practices lead to meditations on "isolated speech", "isolated mind",
giving birth to the "illusionary body", meaning Clear Light and union.
Using this method,
Buddhahood may be attained in three years.
3.3 The Clear Light.
In Hindu Kundalinî yoga, the heart wheel is the domain of the "âtman",
the Divine within. This soul or self is identified with Brahman, the
Absolute. Clearly Buddhism, discovering the
emptiness, has to reject this notion as a wrong view, i.e. one
allowing inherently existing entities to condition the mind. It is of
course not a coincidence for Buddhist yoga to locate the ultimate nature
of mind in the heart wheel ! Lacking the notion of soul or selfhood,
i.e. an independent self-powered entity, Buddhist Tantra did not find
the "âtma", but the Clear
Light, the luminous & empty ground of all mental activity.
"... for what the natural light
shows to be true can be in no degree doubtful ..."
Descartes : Meditations,
III.9, my italics.
The very subtle Clear Light mind, constantly in union with the very subtle
wind abiding in the deepest recesses of the heart wheel, is a union of
bliss and emptiness, of wisdom-mind and the ultimate nature of
phenomena. Bliss arises when the method of melting of "drops" inside the central channel
is perfected though
Bodhicitta (cf. infra), its
function is the direct perception of empty like space and its location is
at the very centre of our heart wheel. When qualified, i.e. resulting
from the nearly complete end of the subtle mind, the mind experiencing great
bliss with a generic image is called "ultimate example" Clear Light.
This is merely an approximation of the final aim. Experiencing emptiness directly in a fully qualified sense, completely
ending conceptualization, it is called "meaning" Clear Light.
Then the mind finally rests in the union of emptiness and Great
This Clear Light is the natural, ultimate and perfected nature of our
mind. This deepest level of the mind can only be brought to the surface of
consciousness when all adventitious contents are eliminated. Ending
self-cherishing, gross (learned) self-grasping and subtle (innate)
self-grasping, the mind recognizes its own nature and the Clear Light
spontaneously dawns. While it is possible to experience this Clear Light
while using a very subtle concept or generic image, directly seeing it
only results when all gross and subtle conceptualizations have totally
ended. This naturally happens at the end of the "bardo of dying", but
can also be realized by advanced yogis.
4. The Tao and the Harmony of
Heaven & Earth.
"In meditation, go deep in the heart."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, 8.
"With an open mind, You will be openhearted.
Being openhearted, You will act royally.
Being royal, You will attain the Divine.
Being Divine, You will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, 16.
"... the sage wears rough clothing and holds the
jewel in his heart."
Lao-tzŭ : Tao-te ching, 70.
A summary of Taoism can be found
According to Taoism, the whole of the cosmos is infused with a subtle,
pervasive yet invisible resource called "ch'i" or "qi". This
fundamental, omnipresent Force, present as a seamless pool of
pre-existent, infinite potential, is the universal, primordial Ch'i.
Before emanating the cosmos, it is called "Wu Ch'i", the Great
Limitless. In this dark potential, a "red" impulse stirred, exciting
this active nothingness ("wu"), differentiating into "something".
Suddenly light emerged, contrasting darkness, and bringing about cosmic
Ch'i, or "Tai Ch'i", the macrocosmic Great Ultimate. Out of this cosmic
Ch'i, on the basis of a fivefold process, gases, stars and planets were formed. Eventually, helped by Earth
Ch'i, living beings were generated on this planet. So both emptiness
(potentiality) and actuality are permeated with this ever-present
"Ch'i", the Force running both the pre-cosmic, universal potential and
the actual cosmos in all its parts. When Ch'i flows in a human being,
health and longevity are a fact, but when it is stagnant or deficient,
disease and a short life ensue. This flow of Ch'i is determined by
practice and intention, i.e. by working with Ch'i ("Ch'i Kung").
4.1 The Three Elixir
The Chinese worldview associates the body with Earth (Yin) and the
spirit with Heaven (Yang). From the universe, Ch'i of Heaven ("Tian
Ch'i") enters into the human system. From the Earth, Ch'i of Earth ("Ti
Ch'i"), an equally potent force, enters the body. The resources of
the Yang Heaven gather in the head, and those of the Yin Earth in the belly. Both
reservoirs are linked by the Central Tai Ch'i Channel, and this
connection parallels the vertebral column (note the correspondence with
Hindu & Buddhist teachings). It is linked with the flow of blood,
lymph, cerebrospinal fluid & neurological activity.
The traditional way to investigate Ch'i in the human system, is to
explain the difference between Body Ch'i, Mind Ch'i and Spirit Ch'i, the
Three Treasures (Jing, Ch'i & Shen).
• Body Ch'i is "jing", productive
energy. It is the most subtle aspect of the physical system,
equivalent to neurotransmitters, hormones, DNA, sperm and egg. The body
is local, material and operates through physiological interactions.
Mind Ch'i is simply called "ch'i" or lifeforce and
refers to the psychological system. Mind Ch'i is somewhat local,
immaterial and works through memory, emotions, thoughts, intuition &
• Spirit Ch'i is "shen", spiritual energy, is
transcendent, non-local & boundless. Being perfect, it is completely
healthy, now and forever. It is used to help heal the mind and the body.
It merges with the Tao.
In Chinese, "Tan T'ien" means "Elixir Field". It is a place where the
energies of our own body, of the Earth, nature & the universe come
together. Three Elixir Fields ensue :
• the Lower Elixir Field (Earth
Treasure) : situated between the navel, the "kidney center point" or
"gate of life" (in the spine between the second and third
the prostate gland (top of cervix between the ovaries), this Elixir
Field is the center of the physical body and its strength. It is also
called "medicine field", "ocean of Ch'i", "sea of energy", "cauldron" or
"navel center". Associated with the "jing", the productive energy of the
physical system, and the Body Ch'i, it serves as the source of the
lifeforce or "ch'i", related to the Mind Ch'i. Here this productive
energy, healing the body, is collected, stored, calmed & purified
(refined), ready to be transformed into this lifeforce. The rising of
this subtle Body Ch'i or vital damp ("jing") to the Middle Elixir Field,
where it is transformed into Mind Ch'i, is called "the blossoming of the
lead flower" (Caterpillar).
• the Middle Elixir Field (Life
Treasure) : situated around the heart area and the Plexus Solaris,
this field has as main task to collect, store, calm and refine the lifeforce
("ch'i") mainly resulting from the transformation of refined productive
energy ("jing"), but also from food & air. This heart Elixir Field is
the residence of the mind. In Chinese, the concepts "mind" and "heart"
are not differentiated. The concept "xin" (pronounced "shin") embraces
both and so we may say it is the mind of the heart or
"Heart-Mind". The Chinese characters for "thinking",
"thought", "intent", "virtue", "listen" and "love" include the character
for "heart". The Life Treasure Elixir heals affective and mental
disorders. To work with this Elixir Field may well be the central key of
spiritual growth, for when the Mind Ch'i is clear, the spirit
("shen") is revealed and a total integration happens, creating balance
and radiation ("Jing Shen"). The rising of the refined Mind Ch'i to
the Higher Elixir Field, to be transformed there into Spirit Ch'i
("shen"), is called "the blossoming of the silver flower" (Cocoon).
• the Higher Elixir Field (Heaven
Treasure) : situated between the brows, this "Tan T'ien" collects,
stores, calms and refines the Mind Ch'i or "ch'i" rising from the Middle
Elixir Field. Here Mind Ch'i is transformed into spiritual energy
("shen") and then integrated in the primordial, universal Ch'i of the
Tao itself. The mind is emptied of concepts, and the duality of subject
& object is gone. This is called "the blossoming of the golden flower"
(Butterfly). The three energies (Jing, Ch'i and Shen) now move upwards
to the top of the head and become one single undifferentiated energy.
This collection of the three flowers is called "the arising of the seed
of the Tao". This goes down to the belly and forms the immortal embryo,
the "golden pill", "golden elixir" or "great medicine".
4.2 Inner Alchemy :
Transforming Body into Tao.
Chinese alchemy understands the process whereby the lowest lifeforce is
transformed as the spiritualization of matter.
The process of
inner alchemy is divided into four stages :
Jing > Ch'i > Shen > Hsu > Tao
• stage 1 : Jing > Ch'i ("lien-ching-hua-chi'") :
Here the productive energy ("jing"), concentrated in the Earth Elixir
Field is collected, stored & refined. To accomplish this, sexual
activity and craving need to be regulated, for this allows to collect,
store and refine the Body Ch'i. Good health, both internal and external,
accommodates this. Productive energy can be quickly generated in the
young & strong, but slower in the old & weak. Sexual Yoga is a good way
to cultivate Body Ch'i. As sexual stimulation feeds on Body Ch'i, it has
to be bridled. When enough has been collected, appeased and stored, it
can be refined by igniting the "cauldron", the Lower "Tan T'ien",
producing heat. This is known as "the birth of yang". This vital damp
rises to the Middle Elixir Field and is transformed there into Mind
• stage 2 : Ch'i > Shen ("lien-ch'i-hua-shen") :
At this point, Body Ch'i is transformed into Mind Ch'i and the latter is
collected, stored, calmed & refined in the Middle Elixir Field. The fire
of the "cauldron" is pumped up by way of specific Breath Yoga. To seal
Mind Ch'i in the Middle Elixir field, the Taoist must be free from
emotional extremes and mental unbalances. Especially negative emotions
like hate, worry, depression, grief, fear and anger have a very negative
effect on the cultivation of Mind Ch'i. When refined Mind Ch'i rises up
to the Higher Elixir Field, the pathways of Ch'i (meridians) between the
upper part and the lower part of the body are linked and the free flow
of Ch'i is at hand.
• stage 3 : Shen > Hsu ("lien-shen-huan-hsu") :
When refined Mind Ch'i rises up to the Higher Elixir Field, it is
transformed there into spiritual energy or Spirit Ch'i ("shen"). The
Three Treasures unite at the top of the head, forming a single energy.
This undifferentiated vapor descends to the belly to form the immortal
embryo, turning, moving and growing in the alchemist. In this phase, the
practitioner retires to a solitary place. Undisturbed, the embryo
gestates and grows. A wrong move, and it is lost.
• stage 4 : Hsu > Tao ("lien-hsü-ho-tao") :
When the embryo appears, it is called the original spirit ("yüan-shen").
Just as a small child becomes an adolescent, this spirit needs to ripen.
Eventually this spirit rises to the head and escapes the body at the
crown aperture. First it makes small trips, but eventually longer ones,
seeking a way home to the Tao. The original spirit prepares for the
moment it will irreversibly leave the physical body. When, at a very old
age, the latter dies, this original spirit leaves the body and merges
with the undifferentiated energy of the Tao. This ends the process :
returning to the place we were before we became.
4.3 The Heart-Mind :
Harmonizing Earth &
The radiant Heart-Mind ("Jing Shen") is the integration of Yin Earth Ch'i
and Yang Heaven Ch'i in the Middle Elixir Field, generating refined Mind Ch'i
rising up to the Higher Elixir Field, producing spiritual energy
To clear the Earth Elixir Field ("ti tan t'ien"), dietary change
and relaxation are called for. As a function of the Element Type (Metal,
Water, Wood, Fire or Earth), certain foodstuffs are appropriate to
cultivate Body Ch'i. Too much sexual activity and a life without
sufficient moments of rest are also to be avoided. To clear the
Heart-Mind Elixir Field ("xin tan t'ien"), emotional conflicts need to
be solved. This may require forgiveness, absence of grudges, releasing
negative emotions like hate, anger, fear and worry. The elimination of
stress and the cultivation of a tranquil mind are crucial. Without peace
of mind, the tensions stored by the Heart-Mind Elixir Field will block
the free flow of "ch'i", causing physical and psychological disorders.
Finally, the Heaven Elixir Field ("shen tan t'ien"), by nature clear and
luminous, needs not to be balanced. Clearing Earth and Heart-Mind will
spontaneously allow the light of spirit to shine through.
The Yin of the Earth Field naturally descends (water), while the Yang of
the Heaven Field naturally ascends (fire). The work of Taoist alchemy,
by deep and focused intention, reverses this natural direction of
these two fundamental states of energy. Then the Yin of Earth
ascends to the Heart-Mind and the Yang of Heaven descends to the
Heart-Mind. They penetrate each other, reinforcing life, vitality,
creativity and eventually spirituality. When both forces meet in the
Middle Elixir Field of the heart, the harmony of the primary forces or
"Tai Ch'i" is experienced within the human. This is the harmony of the
microcosmos reflecting the primordial harmony of the macrocosmos.
In Ancient Egyptian spirituality,
the Abrahamic faiths, Alchemy, Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism, the heart
is pivotal :
These different spiritual traditions make it clear the word "God" is not
straightforward. What is meant by this concept is not fixed at all, but
varies with respect to semantics, syntax & pragmatics.
these differences have been given due attention, and in what follows the
word "God" is not used in the usual theist context prevailing in the
West, stressing substantiality, but in a process-like view, grasping God
insubstantially. In the West, such an approach is found in Process
Philosophy. The integration of this remarkable philosophy, in tune with
relativity & quantum mechanics, with Dharmic teachings, in particular
Buddhism and Taoism, has been carried through
To clarify the position implied simply this : God is not a Platonic
substance of substances, but a supreme process. Although this
movements-of-movements has stable architecture, namely the structure of
the differential equation characterizing this grand process, God is also
near us and affected by us. He is not isolated, indifferent, closed and
independent. If a genuine moral interaction takes place, which is the
case, then He cannot be omnipotent. To be a God in harmony with reason,
even His omniscience must be limited : God knows what happened and knows
what might happen, but not what will happen. Throwing reason out, God
becomes ambivalent and thus, as history shows, the final excuse for all
In the West, certainly on the basis of Plato, but even when giving
credence to the Peripatetics, such a view is anathema.
Indeed, as explained earlier, for Thomas Aquinas
(1225 - 1274), the relation between the monotheist God and the world is a "relatio
rationis", not a real or mutual bond. According to Thomism, God is not
affected by the world, and so God is like an object, not a subject ! The
relationship between God and the world cannot be reciprocal. If
so, the world only contributes to the glory of God ("gloria externa Dei").
The finite is nothing more than a necessary "explicatio Dei". This
is the only way the world can contribute to God. This view is completely
rejected. The God deemed to be like that, does not exist ! He is merely
a human fabrication.
The view of God as a closed and isolated super-substance, as a One
Alone, can do not more than allow us to worship an indifferent, cruel Caesar
sternly looking down upon us. But our Visio Dei must be an embrace of the two
aspects of God, of His remoteness hand in hand with His nearness. Of His
being-Himself and His being-with-us. What a contrast with the Hellenic
God adhered to in the monotheist theologies !
: The Heart in Science.
In the Ebers Medical Papyrus (chapter 6, 854a), the Ancient
Egyptians left us a quotation pointing to the fact the peripheral pulses
reflect the beating of the heart. The whole concept of circulatory
system, discovered by Harvey in the XVIIth century, was however unknown
to them, for they believed the arteries contained air, a view prevailing
until the work of Galen of Pergamum (130 - 200 CE) in the second half of
the second century CE. Paragraph 855 of the Ebers Medical Papyrus
deals with pathological states of the heart. We find expressions as
"weakness on the heart", "weakness of the heart", "constricted, small &
heated heart", "heart does not speak", "heart is covered up", etc. But
none of the available medical papyri (Smith, Ebers, Kahun, Hearst,
Chester Beatty VI, Berlin, London, Carlsberg VIII, Ramesseum III, IV &
V, Leiden, Crocodilopolis and Brooklyn) shed light on the pathologies at
5.1 A Few Facts.
In 1991, after years of extensive research, dr.J.Andrew Amour of
Dalhouse University in Halifax, Canada, evidenced the existence of a
functional "heart brain". This is an intricate network of neurons,
neurotransmitters, proteins and support cells allowing activity
independent from the "head brain". Many of the signals flowing out of
the heart to the brain regulate signals flowing out of the
brain to the heart, the blood vessels, glands and organs. The work of
the Laceys (1970) and others made clear neural messages from the heart
affect cortical activity, including the amygdala and the higher brain
There are at least forty thousand neurons in the heart. This is as many
as in the various subcortical areas of the brain. The heart is not
merely pumping blood, but demonstrating a complex set of interactions
between these neurons and those in the brain. The idea peripheral
autonomic ganglia function as "little brains" dates from the XVIIIth
century, and was formulated by Benigne Winslow, a Swedish anatomist
working in Paris. These neuronal networks were considered to perform
routine tasks required to maintain organ function, ensuring afferent
data arising from each organ did not flood the spinal cord and the
Armour, J. & Ardell, J. : Neurocardiology, Oxford
University Press - New York, 1984.
Wiggers, C.J. : "The autonomic nervous system.", in : Physiology in
Health and Disease, Lea & Febiger - Philadelphia, 1949, pp.286-303.
At first, scientists assumed the brain was the primary source of
neuronal input controlling the rhythmic activity of the heart, but in
the 1970s, physiologists John and Beatrice Lacey (Fels Research
Institute) evidenced afferent neuronal signals arising from the heart
are equally important, affecting the neurons of the central nervous
system (CNS, encased in bone : brain and
spinal cord) but also the
ganglia of the thorax and in the heart itself. They also found the heart
did not automatically obey when the brain sent orders to the heart, but
had its own distinctive logic. At time arousal signals did speed up the
heartbeat, but at times it also slowed down while other organs responded
with arousal ! This selectivity was not mechanical, but depended on the
nature of the task at hand and the type of mental processing required.
Moreover, the heart could also send messages back to the brain, making
the latter obey. Hence, these messages could influence behavior, for
under certain circumstances, the heart "thought for itself" ...
Lacey, J. & Lacey, B. : "Some autonomic-central nervous system
interrelationships", in : Black, P. : Physiological Correlates of
Emotion, Academic Press - New York, 1970, pp.205-227.
The heart has a "little brain", with a two-way communication between the
heart and the brain, influencing each other. The same seems to be true
between the immune system and the gut, pointing to three "brains" : one
located in the head, one in the heart area (heart & Plexus Solaris)
and one in the gut (navel area).
Ader, R., Felten D.L. & Cohen, N. (eds) :
Psychoneuro-immunology, Academic Press - Sand Diego, 1991.
Gershon, M. : The Second Brain, HarperCollins - San Francisco,
Cooke, H.J. : "Rold of the 'little brain' in the gut in water and
electrolyte homeostasis.", in : FASEB Journal, n°3, 1989, pp.127-138.
Armour, J.A. : "Anatomy and function of the intrathoracic neurons
regulating the mammalian heart.", in : Zucker, I.H. & Gilmore, J.P (eds)
: Reflex Control of the Circulation, CRC Press - Boca Raton,
This division is in harmony with the anatomical features of the
Autonomous Nervous System (ANS), functioning outside the control of
conscious will. Three distinct clusterings of neurons can be identified
: cranial (upper), thoracolumbar (middle) and sacral (lower or caudal).
The middle component makes up the bulk of the sympathetic nervous
system, whereas the cranial and sacral component is parasympathetic,
with axons projecting in nerves arising from either extreme of the
CNS. The tenth cranial nerve, the vagus,
contains the largest parasympathetic efferent neuronal outflow from the
brain, as well as a sizeable number of afferent neurons, connected to the
sensors of the internal organs. This "great wanderer" courses through
the thorax into the abdomen, innervating many tissues throughout the
Langley, G.N. : The Autonomic
Nervous System, Cambridge University Press - Cambridge, 1921.
Gaskell, W.H. : The Involuntary Nervous System, Longmans, Green
and C° - London, 1916.
The functions of the ANS involves six postulates :
1. The unstable functional state of mammals, constantly subjected to
disturbances, is counteracted by bodily acts aiming to maintain the
stability of the organism : homeostasis ;
2. the tendency changing this homeostasis is counteracted by
neurohumoral factors maintaining stability ;
3. homeostatic agents (such as a hormone) exerts consistent actions on
its different targets, i.e. displays uniformity of function ;
4. agents opposing each other to regulate one organ may act
synergistically to regulate another ;
5. the overall system regulating the internal state of the body is
defined by a number of cooperative factors (chemicals, innervation) ;
6. one chemical altering the homeostatic state in one direction makes
other factors become operational exerting opposing effects, maintaining
Cannon, W.B. : Body Changes in
Pain, Hunger, Fear and Rage, Appleton & C° - New York, 1929.
Scientists have altered their views on the relationship between the
effects of stress (both physical and mental) on the cardiovascular
system. Stress-induced breakdown of the human organism is acknowledged.
Stress arises from changing external milieus, including emotional stress
based on afflictive emotions and difficult interpersonal relationships.
causes the rise of internal organ disease, like gastroduodenal ulcers,
high blood pressure and sudden cardiac death.
External stressors can overwhelm the ANS, compromising organ function
through overloaded central input. Excessive high input, associated with
a diseased organ, may also stress the CNS. When overwhelmed, the ANS
becomes maladaptive and so one organ may become the target of repeated
exposure to stress, leading to patterns of neural behavior promoting
instability within the ANS. Especially repeated exposure to seemingly
innocuous daily events are strong stressors.
L'Abatte, A. (ed) : "Acute effect
of psychological stress on the cardiovascular system : Models and
clinical assessment", in : Cullen, J., Siegrist, J., Wegmann, H.M.,
Ballieux, R.E., Fielding, J.F. & L'Abatte, A. (eds) : Breakdown in
Human Adaptation to 'Stress' : Towards a Multidisciplinary Approach,
Martinus Nijhoff - Boston, 1984, pp.843-1061.
First described as "the little brain on the heart" (Armour, 1991), the
nervous system of the heart is intrinsic to the heart, and because this
population of neurons is capable of processing information independent
from extracardiac neurons (those of the CNS included), it may well be
called the "heart brain". This system integrates information arising
extrinsic to the heart (via sympathetic and parasympathetic neurons) and
responds to input arising from sensory neurites in the tissues of the
body. It also responds rapidly to changes in the local environment of
the heart and displays short-term memory.
The "brake and accelerator" model has been superseded. There is more
happening than merely sympathetic efferent neurons enhancing and
parasympathetic efferent neurons suppressing cardiac function. On the
contrary, the complex interactions occurring among the various neurons
located in the intrathoracic ganglia happen with relatively little input
from CNS neurons. Minor changes in the input from the latter to this
heart brain can exert a strong influence on its interactions, while
minor changes in a relatively small population of cardiac neurons can
also have devastating effects on the overall cardiac electrical
behavior. This may lead to cardiac diseases like coronary artery
arteriosclerosis or arrhythmias.
Armour, J.A. : "Instant-to-instant
reflex cardiac regulation.", in : Cardiology, n°61, 1976,
Armour, J.A. : "Physiological behavior of thoracic cardiovascular
receptors.", in : American Journal of Physiology, n° 225(1),
Williams, R.B., Haney, T.L., Lee, K.L., Kong, Y.H., Blumenthal, J.A. &
Whalen, R.E. : Type A behavior, hostility and coronary
arteriosclerosis.", in : Psychosomatic Medicine, n°42(6), 1980,
Armour, J.A. : Neurocardiology :
Anatomical and Functional Principles, Institute of HeartMath -
The complex communication between the heart and extracardiac processes
neurological communication : the transmission of nerve
impulses allow the heart to act as an independent unit influencing
cortical activity and therefore, by way of the sensory neurites, act on
organs & tissues ;
biochemical communication : through hormones and
neurotransmitters. With each contraction, the heart secretes a number
of hormones correlating with its rhythms, thereby encoding information ;
biophysical communication : through pressure waves caused
by the powerful blood pressure wave travelling throughout the arteries
much faster than the actual flow of blood, creating a pulse. Important
rhythms exist in the oscillations of blood pressure waves, indicative of
the health of the individual (cf. the importance of pulse-reading in
Traditional Chinese Medicine). This rhythmic activity of the heart is a
code allowing the heart to communicate with the rest of the body. These
waves also influence the brain's electrical activity ;
energetic communication : through the quality & pattern of
the electromagnetic field emitted by the heart and transmitted
throughout the body. This field (measured in an ECG) is the most
powerful field produced by the body, five thousand times greater in
strength than the field produced by the brain and sixty times greater in
amplitude than brain waves recorded with an EEG. This field permeates
every cell in the body but also radiates outside of us into the space
around us, measurable with magnetometers (like SQUID) up to 2.4m to 3m
away. There is also evidence of a direct energetic interaction between
this field and the field produced by the brain. Information is probably
also encoded in the interbeat intervals of the pressure &
electromagnetic waves produced. Indeed, the time interval between each
beat varies and these pulses create fields within fields, giving rise to
interference patterns influencing magnetically polarized tissues &
Besides this bioelectromagnetic communication within the body, there is
evidence the interaction between human beings involves energetic
communication below the conscious threshold, leading to physiological
synchronization or entrainment between individuals. Given the
strength of the field of the heart, researchers call this information
exchange "cardioelectro-magnetic communication". Not only is the heart
the prime generator, organize and integrator of energy in the human
body, but its field has a dramatic effect on its milieu. The signals
radiated by the heart can therefore influence the brain activity of
another person, even at conversational distances (smaller than 1.5m).
Song, L., Schwartz, G. & Russek, L. :
"Heart-focused attention and heart-brain synchronization : Energetic and
physiological mechanisms.", in : Alternative Therapies in Health and
Medicine, n°4(5), 1998, pp.44-62.
McCarty, R. : Science of the Heart : Exploring the Role of the Heart
in Human Performance, Institute of HeartMath - Boulder, 2001.
McCarty, R. : The Energetic Heart : Bioelectromagnetic Interactions
Within and Between People, Institute of HeartMath - Boulder, 2003.
6. Biofeedback and the
6.1 The Biofeedback Principle.
The Biofeedback Principle involves a training loop. If, using a device,
a subject becomes conscious of an internal event of which he or she is
usually unconscious (like heartbeat, skin temperature, skin resistance,
brainwaves, etc.), and receives reinforcements each time a target
condition is met, then one can learn to control some aspect of that
event. So biofeedback modalities, based on the mechanism of operant
conditioning, involve three steps :
(1) the recording of a biological activity of interest ;
(2) a trainee reinforced each time a desired activity occurs ;
(3) voluntary control of this biological activity.
The first investigator studying operant conditioning of EEG Alpha waves
and the associated changes in mental activity was Joseph Kamiya. In
1963, he trained a volunteer to recognize bursts of Alpha (8 - 12 Hz)
brain wave activity, giving him verbal reinforcement each time he
entered an Alpha state. His successful experiment showed humans are, via
instrumentation, able to control brain wave activity. In 1968, Barry
Sterman published a landmark experiment in which cats were trained to
increase sensorimotoric rhythm (SMR : 12 - 15 Hz). This frequency band
shows increased activity when motor activity decreases. The cats were
rewarded each time SMR increased, which accompanied decrease in their
physical movements. In the same year a number of scientists gathered at
a convention, including Elmer Green, Barry Sterman, Thomas Budzynski,
Joe Kamiya, Barabara Brown and many others. They adopted a descriptive
name for this new science of changing biological signals with equipment
Kamiya, J. : "Operant Control of the EEG Alpha Rhythm.",
in : Tart, C. (ed) : Altered States of Consciousness, Wiley
- New York, 1969, pp.507-517.
Wyricka, W. & Sterman, M.B. : "Instrumental conditioning of sensorimotor
cortex EEG spindles in the waking cat.", in : Physiology & Behavior,
n°3, 1968, pp.703-707.
Sterman, M.B. : "Basic Concepts and Clinical Findings in the Treatment
of Seizure Disorders and EEG Operant Conditioning.", in : Clinical
Electroencephalography, n°31, 2000, pp. 45-54.
Green, E. & Green, A. : Beyond Biofeedback, Knoll - Fort Wayne,
Budzynski, T.H. : "Bain brightening : Can neurofeedback improve
cognitive process ?", in : Biofeedback, n°24, 1996, pp.14-17.
Budzynski, T.H. : "From EEG to neurofeedback.", in : Evans, J.R. &
Arbarbanel, A. (eds) : Introduction to Quantitative EEG and
Neurofeedback, Academic Press - San Diego, 1999, pp.65-79.
The Biofeedback Principle, the operant conditioning of biological
signals, evidences the functions of the organism can be altered and thus
improved. Rewarding certain target events (output signals, thresholds,
ratios etc.) will give rise to permanent changes. These involve
of certain functions, generating a more profound state of general
well-being, enhancing creativity, lucidity, learning capacity, memory,
visualization, peak-performance, accommodating meditative & trance states, etc.. Biofeedback
training also heals certain malfunctions such as heart arrhythmia, blood
pressure, migraine, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma, neuromuscular
disorders, tension, anxiety states, depression, stress, ADHD,
post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, insomnia etc. This adaptability of the
organism points to neuroplasticity, the ability of neurons to reorganize
(by growing new connections or by reconfiguring their modular
interactions and interdependences). It also suggests the mind to be more
than merely an emergent property of the brain, for by conscious effort
the fundamental mechanisms of the brain (and other extracranial ganglia)
can be affected (cf. mind over matter).
The ontology attuned to this points to three operators instead of one.
Scientific materialism (a monism) needs to be replaced by scientific
pragmatism or matter
(hardware) : the executive material aggregate, composed of
matter, obeying the laws governing particles and forces ;
or information (software) : by virtue of the laws of symmetry &
describing well-formed (coherent) code and non-redundant information,
there is an ordered architecture ;
consciousness (userware) : a source of meaning develops a
unique perspective or conscious outlook on matter, information &
itself, suggestive of the ability to
auto-redefine, auto-regulate and auto-reorganize as a function of the
degree of intelligence (or freedom). Consciousness is a meaning-giver
involved in percipient participation.
Cade, C.M. : Self-awareness and E.S.R., Audio - London, 1980.
Cade, C.M. : Measurement by Temperature Meter, Audio - London, 1980.
Cade, M. & Blundell, G. : The Meaning of EEG,
Audio Ltd - London, n.d.
Cade, C.M. & Coxhead, N. : The Awakened Mind : Biofeedback and the
Development of Higher States of Awareness, Element - Dorset, 1989.
Hutchinson, M.: Mega Brain Power, Hyperion - New York, 1994.
Wise, A. : The High-Performance Mind, Penguin Putnam - New York,
Wise, A. : Awakening the Mind, Penguin Putnam - New York, 2002.
Evans, J.R. & Arbarbanel, A. (eds) : Introduction to Quantitative EEG
and Neurofeedback, Academic Press - San Diego, 1999.
Robins, J. : A Symphony in the Brain, Grove Press - New York,
Crane, A. & Soutar, R. : Mindfitness Training : Neurofeedback and the
Process, Writers Club Press - New York, 2000.
Churchland, P.S. : Brain-Wise, MIT Press - London, 2002.
Demos, J.N. : Getting Started with Neurofeedback, W.W.Norton & C°
- London, 2005.
Larsen, S. : The Healing Power of Neurofeedback, Healing Arts
Press - Rochester, 2006.
Evans, J.R. : Handbook of Neurofeedback, The Haworth Medical
Press - New York, 2007.
Beauregard, M. & O'Leary, D. : The Spiritual Brain, Harper One -
New York, 2007.
Fehmi, L. & Robbins, J. : The Open-Focus Brain, Trumpeter -
Swingle, P.G. : Biofeedback for the Brain, Rutgers University
Press - London, 2008.
Nataraja, Sh. : The Blissful Brain, Octopus Publishing Group -
6.2 HeartMath & Cardiac Coherence.
The HeartMath system was invented by Doc Childre, who spent most of his
adult life researching and developing an innovative view of psychology,
physiology and the human potential. His aim is to help people to be more
caring, compassionate, poised and resilient. In 1991, together with a
team of professionals, he founded the Institute of HeartMath (www.heartmath.org).
The reader is invited to take heed of the available online material.
The HeartMath system has been scientifically validated and researched
over three decades. It is taught on four continents by corporations,
government agencies, educational systems and healthcare institutions.
The core of their training involves increasing "heart intelligence".
"Heart intelligence is the intelligent flow of
awareness and insight that we experience once the mind and emotions are
brought into balance and coherence through a self-initiated process.
This form of intelligence is experienced as direct, intuitive knowing
that manifests in thoughts and emotions that are beneficial for
ourselves and others. The HeartMath Solution provides a systematic way
to consciously activate and develop this heart intelligence. With that
solution, we can learn to expand our awareness and bring new coherence to
our lives. In short, we can go beyond the brain."
Childre, D. & Martin, H. : The HeartMath Solution,
HarperCollins Publishers - New York, 1999, p.6.
The HeartMath system calls for three basic techniques : "Freeze-Frame®",
"Cut-Thru®" and "Heart Lock-In®". Although the
specific protocols of these procedures are unique and part of the
specifics of the HeartMath Solution developed at the Institute of
HeartMath, parallel methods can be found in the Buddhist tradition. For
example, "Freeze-Frame®" resembles the practice of
mindfulness of the heart-wheel found in
Tantra, in particular the Mahâmudrâ of Tsongkhapa. "Cut-Thru®"
reminds me of "cutting-through" (Tib. "trekchö"), a fundamental
method used in
Dzogchen, whereas "Heart Lock-In®" can be found in
meditations on the Four Immeasurables (Joy, Love, Compassion,
Equanimity), the practice of generating
Bodhicitta and meditations on Great Compassion (mahâkarunâ) in the
cycle of Avalokiteśvara, the Buddha of Compassion.
Technically, at the heart of the HeartMath Solution we find the concept
of "coherence". This term is used in physics to describe the ordered
distribution of power within a waveform, and so the more stable the
frequency and shape of the waveform, the higher the coherence. Coherence
also refers to the fact two or more oscillatory systems are either
phase- or frequency-locked, becoming entrained and oscillating together.
This is called "cross-coherence".
In the human body, entrainment can be found between heart rhythms,
respiratory rhythms, blood pressure oscillations, low frequency brain
rhythms, craniosacral rhythms, electrical potentials across the skin and
rhythms in the digestive system.
Another phenomenon is "resonance", whereby a large vibration is produced
in a system in response to a stimulus with a frequency identical or
nearly identical to the natural vibratory frequency of the system. When
the human system is in a coherent mode, increased synchronization
happens between the two branches of the ANS, and entrainment between
heart rhythms, blood pressure oscillations and respiration is evidenced.
These oscillatory subsystems all vibrate at the resonant frequency,
which, in humans and many animals, is approximately 0.1 Hz or
oscillations in a ten-second cycle.
In the HeartMath system, "coherence" is used as an umbrella term for
entrainment, resonance and synchronization. A coherent mode is a smooth,
sine-like pattern in the heart rhythms and a narrow-band, high-amplitude
peak in the low frequency range of the HRV (heart rate variability)
power spectrum, at a frequency of about 0.1 Hz. A coherent mode reduces
the activity of the sympathetic branch of the ANS. This branch speeds
heart rate, constricts blood vessels and releases stress hormones like
adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol. The production of cortisol
reduces DHEA production, an essential "vitality" hormone produced by the
adrenal glands, reducing aging, stimulating the immune system, lowering
the cholesterol levels and promoting bone and muscle deposition. But
when the heart is operating in a disordered mode (low coherence), an
incoherent electromagnetic signal is broadcasted throughout the body and
out into our milieu.
"Coherence confers a number of benefits to the
system in terms of both physiological and psychological functioning. At
the physiological level, there is increased efficiency in fluid
exchange, filtration and absorption between the capillaries and tissues
; increased ability of the cardiovascular system to adapt to circulatory
demands ; and increased temporal synchronization of cells throughout the
body. This results in increased system-wide energy efficiency and
conservation of metabolic energy. These observations support the link
between positive emotions and increased physiological efficiency that
may partially explain the growing number of documented correlations
between positive emotions, improved health and increased longevity."
McCarty, R. : The Energetic Heart : Bioelectromagnetic Interactions
Within and Between People, Institute of HeartMath - Boulder, 2003,
To actually measure coherence and train it, the Institute of HeartMath
developed "emwave PC", a software package processing, via
spectral analysis, data gathered via a
finger or ear sensor connected to the USB port.
"A healthy reserve of assets results in vitality,
adaptability, resiliency, creativity, and a steady improvement in a
healthy quality of life - psychologically and physically. (...) It is
not hard to see (...) that people who are typically angry, hostile, and
aggressive tend to have increased rates of heart disease and premature
death later in life."
Childre, D. & Martin, H. : The HeartMath Solution,
HarperCollins Publishers - New York, 1999, pp.94-95.
Here are two typical
screens, and the results for a short 4.5 minutes session showing optimal
coherence (at normal challenge level or L = 2).
Heart Rate in Beats per Minute (top) - Accumulated
Coherence Scores (left)
Average Heart Rate - Coherence Ratio (4.5 minutes)
Heart Rate in Beats per Minute (top) - Power Spectrum
Combining AVE (Audio Visual Stimulus) machine (like the Proteus or the
www.mindplace.com) at Alpha frequencies, providing Alpha stimuli
and Alpha-pulsating tone-feedback linked with high coherence (using Mind
WorkStation software from
www.transparentcorp.com), gives a much better outcome in HRV than HRV
training alone (a soundtrack may be added as "atmospheric conditioner").
Here is a typical screen after a 30 minutes session (L = 2) showing a combined
coherence pattern with a coherence score staying with "the Zone" of
"peak performance". Note how the coherence score line nearly drops out
of "the Zone" and then picks up to stay in a comfortable range away from
Mixed Coherence Result Screen with AVS combined (30
minutes) - Low Coherence (red) makes the Coherence Score Line drop
Wellbeing to the End of Suffering.
state of being happy & healthy (and on the basis of this prosperous) is
within the reach of all human beings. Afflictive emotions and the
unbalanced mental states co-relative to them are the main functional
cause of unhappiness. According to the
Buddhadharma, the root cause of these exaggerated cravings and the
hatred of rejecting, negating and denial is ignorance defined as
adhering to objective and subjective states as permanent while
phenomena are impermanent. Considering ourselves and outer events as
self-powered, i.e. existing from their own side, independent and
substantial, is the sole fundamental cause of all our troubles. Root
that out, and the whole superstructure erected on top of this comes
down, irreversibly ending suffering. So although one may focus on the
First Noble Truth of Arising affirming all compounded states are
suffering, the Third Noble Truth of Cessation is the actual remedy,
eliminating the cause of our afflictions.
The Truth of Cessation is revolutionary. It confirms we have it within
our power to end our own suffering. We no longer have to depend on outer
forces to save us, for all we need to dare is to address our ignorance.
Likewise, the HeartMath Solutions makes it clear we can train ourselves
into happiness. The heart's coherent power helps balance our
emotional states, aligning brain and heart to facilitate higher
brain function and its higher-order intelligence or
intuition. This provides the necessary fuel to attack ignorance head-on,
and enter the
emptiness, the ultimate nature of all events. Higher-order
intelligence by-passes mere mental analysis, accommodating a direct
experience independent of the "spirit of geometry", introducing the
"spirit of finesse" (Blaise Pascal). As long as this higher-order
intelligence is blocked by afflictive emotionality, the understanding of
the ultimate nature of phenomena is only analytical and rational. No
direct seeing of this absolute nature is possible. Cultivating heart
coherence is a necessary step to open up the window of the good heart,
allowing the Divine light to enter directly.
Emotions are very strong and move us. They generate complex reactions
and create sediments (emotional history). This memory defines how we
appreciate ourselves and the world, and if the stored data is negative, our
future experiences will be tainted and reduced. An honest assessment of
how things truly are is then a priori impossible. In his Second
Turning of the Wheel of Dharma, the
compassion and emptiness together. One cannot understand things as
they are when the heart is closed and undermined by negative, afflictive
emotions such as hatred, greed, ignorance, exaggerated attachment,
arrogance and pride. As long as our organs are filled with hatred,
worry, grief, fear and anger, our system cannot process what is
necessary to see things as they are. Hence, the first task ahead is to
generate positive feelings & mental states, such as patience,
generosity, wisdom, enthusiasm, honesty and concentration (cf. the Six
Pâramitâs). Transforming our stored negative energy into joy, love,
fairness, righteousness, serenity, wisdom, compassion & forgiveness
brings the necessary peace of mind to approach ultimate truth
A coherent physical heart is required to set the tone of an inquiry
leading to the final & irreversible eradication of one's personal
liberation. This excellent state is then enhanced by generating the
mind of awakening for all sentient beings (Bodhicitta), leading up to
7. Opening the Heart by Way of Buddhist
"As the wise test gold by
burning, cutting and rubbing it (on a piece of touchstone), so are You to
accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regard for me."
The three fundamental techniques of the HeartMath Solution
"Cut-Thru®" and "Heart Lock-In®")
can be studied at the
Institute of HeartMath and will not be described here. However, the
practices described below, based on Buddhist teachings, are consistent
with these techniques. The setting of the HeartMath Solution is rather
laic, based on physiology, psychology and spiritual techniques
applicable without reference to any organized religion or spirituality.
Here, I would like to place these discoveries in
the context of comparative mysticism in general, and Buddhism in
The reason why Buddhism has been singled out is the author's
contention the Buddhadharma is more of a science, philosophy and art of
mind than an organized religious creeds. It seamlessly locks in with biofeedback and works with an
ontology consistent with the nonsubstantialist (strictly nominalist)
view on matter, information & consciousness advanced by quantummechanics, relativity and
chaos theory. More than any other world religion, the tenets of Buddhism
foster personal experimentation, adaptation to contexts and the
critical study of phenomena.
7.1 Mindfulness of
Mindfulness, staying focused, aware and
paying close attention to an outer or inner object of
concentration, is one of the most fundamental technique of Buddhist
meditation. In the Satipatthâna Sûtra, the Four Foundations
of Mindfulness are defined as : contemplation of the body, feelings, the
mind and mind-objects. The first practice of the First Foundation is
breathing in four steps. In one of its many variations, it consists of :
(1) concentration on the out-breath, (2) on the in-breath, (3) on
breathing through the whole body and (4) tranquilizing the body by
concentration on the breath passing through the nostrils. These practices
are meant to calm the mind, leading to meditative equipoise, the flower
of Calm Abiding.
When the meditator has achieved meditative equipoise and generated the
mind of enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings (Bodhicitta),
the path of Tantra can be entered. Mindfulness of heart is a technique
specific to the uncommon Mahâmudrâ practice of Tsongkhapa (cf. supra -
making the winds enter the central channel via the heart wheel instead
of the navel), but it can also be found in the Lower Tantras, in the
"concentration of abiding in fire", part of the "yoga with signs"
dealing with "exalted speech". In this practice, we imagine the union of
our very subtle mind and emptiness to appear as a tiny flame burning
steadily on a Moon disk at our heart.
The heart wheel contains the indestructible drop, the house of the union
of very subtle mind and very subtle body (wind). This immortal union has been
present since beginningless time and is the ground of the
consciousness-continuum of every sentient being. It is the potential of
the natural state of mind, devoid of any impurities rising from coarse
(gross) or subtle minds. To concentrate on the heart will allow this
very subtle mind to spontaneously manifest and when this happens nothing
more needs to be done than attend to it and stabilize it.
As a practice, mindfulness of heart can be summarized in the following
steps (compare with the Freeze-Frame® technique) :
• recognize the work of the coarse and
subtle minds, dragging our attention to sensate states, the coloration
of affective states, stimulating positive & negative volition,
generating conceptual thoughts and judgments, causing attractions,
rejections & delusions ;
• moving away from these minds by concentrating on the heart
• generating a positive, uplifting state of mind (cf. infra, the
Four Immeasurables) ;
• asking one's meditative deity ("iśta-deva",
"chosen Deity" or Tib. "Yidam" of
visualized at the heart wheel for support, council and assistance ;
• being open to the "voice of the silence", the council
of the small voice reflecting
the natural state of mind.
7.2 Cutting Through.
"A direct introduction into the nature of
mind is the first imperative.
Absolute conviction in the practice is the second imperative.
Gain confidence in release is the third imperative."
Garab Dorje :
The Three Incisive Precepts.
Dzogchen (Tib. "rdzogs-chen") or "Great Perfection", preserved in Tibet in
the "Old Translation School" (Nyingma) and Bön, has a historical lineage
beginning with Prahevajra (Tib. "Garab Dorje") in the first century CE. He summarized the 6.4
million verses of "Dzogpa Chenpo" in "The Three Incisive Precepts"
("Tsiksum Nedek") above. But according to tradition, these teachings began
thousands of years earlier, if not in another world-system or were taught
by the Buddha to the deities only ... Then they were brought to Tibet by Padmasambhava & Vimilamitra in the 8th
century, unified into a "system" by Longchenpa in the 14th century and
condensed by Jigme Lingpa (1730 - 1798).
"Cutting-through" (Tib. "trekchö") is the constant return to the
recognition of the natural state, cutting
through whatever obscures it and this beyond conceptual elaboration. The
coarse and subtle mind constantly produce adventitious contents covering
the natural state, like clouds moving before the Sun. In the open,
luminous mirror-surface of the natural state, all kinds of energies
manifest. Although seemingly dislike (at time pure, at other time
impure), these are like so many waves of the same ocean, of the same
water. To constantly realize this and to see the surface of the mirror and not
the appearances reflected is "cutting through" the
images and identifying the natural state. By
constantly returning to the heart wheel, one stabilizes one's
placement-meditation on its indestructible drop.
When, in Dzogchen practice, this
re-initiation or rebooting has been mastered, "leaping-over"
(Tib. "tögal") is trained. Every possible event of which one is
conscious is treated as a display from the natural state, as an expression of
energy, irrespective whether is it "samsaric" or "nirvanic", impure or
pure, good or bad. Everything which happens is but one of the "colors" emanated by the
white prism of "rigpa", the natural state abiding in the heart
wheel. To directly experience this unbounded
wholeness, all judgments are postponed. This is "lhundrup" or "spontaneous
As a practice, cutting through can be summarized in the following steps
(compare with the Cut-Thru® technique) :
• being aware of the actual state of mind ;
• identifying the kind of mind at work (4
coarse minds, 3 subtle minds with 80 conceptual activities) ;
• moving away from these minds by
concentrating on the heart wheel ;
• recognize all minds are but
manifestations of the natural state of mind, i.e. having no objective
significance without this fundamental very subtle mind ;
• focus on this empty, luminous, natural
state of mind ;
• appreciate the spontaneous emergence of
one's meditative deity out of this natural state.
The fundamental quality of heart-based living is caring for other
sentient beings. In the
this is the ideal of the
Bodhisattva, the enlightenment being. The core heart qualities
associated with the heart wheel are intimately related to this. To open
the heart wheel, one must generate
Bodhicitta. This is done by focusing on
the Four Immeasurables ("brahmavihâras"), also used in the
meditations of the
Lesser Vehicle and later incorporated in
Yoga-sûtra, the canon of the Hindu
• joy ("muditâ) : "may all
mother-sentient beings enjoy happiness and the causes of happiness" : this
is the act of rejoicing in the happiness of others. Taking joy in the
merits visible in this world opens the mind to the truth, the beauty & the
goodness present around us in every moment, but often we are taken by
unawareness. Seeing these virtues, opens & feeds the mind with positive,
constructive thoughts and to focus on these thoughts opens the heart wheel
"may all mother-sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of
: this is wishing every other not to be afflicted with suffering. If we
can love our enemies, our friends and the strangers we encounter, we have
conquered our own self-cherishing, the coarse mind seeking to satisfy the
needs of the empirical ego. Wishing all living beings happiness
broadens the mind even further, for not only do we rejoice in their virtues
but we also wish to increase them ;
• compassion ("karunâ")
"may all mother-sentient beings realize the greatest happiness : freedom of
suffering" : this moves beyond merely wishing, but refers to actually
realizing or contributing to the happiness of every other being. Here we
actually do something and afterwards we check whether
sustainable improvement has been generated. This is charity, the action of
making others happy, even -seemingly- at one's own expense ;
• equanimity ("upeksâ") :
"may all mother-sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from attachments
to loved ones, free from hatred of foes" : this is dealing with every other
in an impartial way. While acting, and contributing to the happiness of
other sentient beings, they are not considered to be inherently different
from one another, while their functional, dynamical distinctions are
As the effects of these core heart qualities cannot be measured, they
are called "immeasurable". Maintaining these states will lead to
As a practice, cutting through can be summarized in the following steps
(compare with the Heart Lock-In® technique) :
• abide in meditative equipoise on the
• move away from coarse minds by
concentrating on the heart wheel ;
• remember the positive intentions on one's
meditative deity and concentrate on the positive states of mind thus
• send joy, love, compassion and equanimity
to yourself and/or to others ;
• as soon as the conceptual mind starts to
produce thoughts, watch them and bring attention back to the heart wheel
• be aware of all arising intuitions and
put them to memory.
Integrating the Three Brains.
1978, 1990) advanced the concept of the triune
brain. In the brain as a whole, he identified a three-tiered structure, called
"reptilian", "mammalian" and "neocortical". This
division has been used by neurotheologians to explore the meeting between
religion and neuroscience (Albright & Ashbrook, 2001).
MacLean and other
researchers observed animals whose activities depend on each of these
"brains". In this way, various functions have been attributed to each
of these three parts of the brain, characterized by a different structure and
chemistry, yet extensively interconnected.
reptilian brain : brain stem (midbrain, pons, medulla), midbrain,
mammalian brain : thalamus, hippocampus, amygdala ;
human brain : neocortex of cerebral hemispheres of cerebrum, angular
Recently, neurocardiology and neurogastroenterology discovered two other
neuronal ganglia, respectively situated in the heart (and Solar
Plexus) and in the gut area.
"Only one or two thousand nerve fibers connect the
brain to the hundred million nerve cells in the small intestine. Those
hundred million nerve cells are quite capable of carrying on nicely,
even when every one of their connections with the brain is severed ..."
Gershon, M. : The Second Brain, HarperCollins - San Francisco,
These findings suggest the presence of three brains in the human body
and a triune brain in the skull.
It goes without saying the correspondences with the Elixir Fields in
Taoism and the Pranic Wheels in Yoga are unmistaken :
MacLean, P. : The Triune Brain in Evolution,
Plenum Press - New York, 1990.
Childre, D. & Martin, H. : The HeartMath Solution,
HarperCollins Publishers - New York, 1999
Gershon, M. : The Second Brain, HarperCollins - San Francisco,
8.1 The Three Cortices
of the Triune Brain.
Compare the triune brain with the anatomical
division of the brain in fore-, mid-, and hindbrain (for more information click
+ midbrain + hypothalamus (the "oldest" master controller)
thalamic diencephalon + basal telencephalon (hippocampus and amygdala, the "old" senior
executive) + cingulate
cortex (relay to cortex)
neocortex (the "new" senior executive, in particular the prefrontal
cognitive, affective and motoric processes
analytical (left) and synthetical (right) higher order approaches
executive of all
higher order functions
between cortical & subcortical structures
and emotional equilibration
integration & projection
of the ANS
THE REPTILIAN BRAIN
The behaviors of reptiles are ritualistic, conservative and
"programmed", with no playfulness, joy or sadness. There are four main
types of reptile display, defining their rudimentary communication :
signature display : reptiles share signals to help identifying members of
the same species ;
courtship : signals to attract the attention of the opposite sex ;
territorial challenge : instinctual attempt at deception to fend off invaders or
submissive/dominance : strict hierarchy & ritual submission allows the group to survive.
In the reptilian brain of
territorial imperative (cause of war) is still at work, in geosentimentality, life support and self-protection. In reptiles, the latter is often
realized through deception, imitation & secrecy (cf. the treacherous
serpent, the violent crocodile, the cowardly chameleon, the slow tortoise). The
responsive (not reactive) nature of this brain, makes it suitable for guarding,
patrolling and vigilance, which are bound to routine, precedent and ritual. The
conservatism of this brain is stabilizing, and routinizing saves energy.
However, a failure to adapt, is characteristic of it. In the brain stem,
addiction & deep memory storage through dreams are processed. The reptilian
brain houses the more violent, aggressive -even murderous- expressions of
impersonal sexuality, expressing a vertical, hierarchical, dominance
The reptilian brain has two
major neurological structures : the ARAS and the hypothalamus.
This earliest brain and its "automatic pilot" are anchored in the
embodied, the concrete. It has no emotions and no language, except signals.
To keep one "pure", traditional religious, philosophical and cultural systems (computed in the
prefrontal cortex) devise rituals to exorcize (banish, cast out or at best tame)
the troublesome and unwholesome urges & drives of the reptilian brain. The whole strategy is dualistic. By
dividing and ruling, theologies do not assist in the integration of the
triune brain, which, on the lowest level, implies a rhythmical ride "on the
back of the crocodile", knowing the precise momentum to co-opt "the
Beast" and to create a win-win situation instead of making us captive of
the division between the "law of God" and "the law of sin that
dwells in my members" (cf. Paul, Letter to the Romans, 7:21-24).
THE MAMMALIAN BRAIN
Reptiles fight without
excitement, show no panic at being prey and display no hot-blooded couplings,
just ritualized (at time violent) behavior. Mammals, to a greater or lesser
degree, exhibit anger in competition, cravings for food and lustful drives to
mates. They are also capable of expressing a wide range of emotions.
Emotion is the motivating & mobilizing source of sympathy and memory and
unites relatedness and nurturance. In reptiles, the limbic structures around the
brain stem are present in abbreviated form only. They are found in all mammals and specialize in attaching emotional labels to the incoming and outgoing
streams of information. This brain is able to trigger emotions related to
eating, mating, fighting (food, mates), the care of the young, play &
community. Relating and nurturing are the essential feature of this brain (Albright &
The mammalian brain has
three major neurological structures : the thalamus, the hippocampus and the amygdala.
Emotion labels this-or-that as something which matters to us.
Emotion adds color & affect to mental states. Emotion
enables permanent storage (in the brain stem), suggestive of the ongoing
processes between the three levels of the living brain, computing the activity
of the mind. While emotional memory is formed
and its individual, emotional aspects stored in the amygdala, cognitive, visual
and contextual variables are stored (recalled) by the hippocampus (Gloor,
THE HUMAN BRAIN
To be able to compute all higher order operations is the "nominal"
mode of working of the cerebrum and its specific, bi-modal approach : two
hemispheres processing one integrated cerebral activity from two different
angles. Abstract thoughts can be thoroughly computed after the axonal bridge between
both, the corpus callosum is completed (cf. Piaget's
"formal-operatoric phase" after the age of 10).
Contrary to the reptilian, mammalian and all other cortical brains on Earth, the neocortex of
Homo sapiens sapiens is exceptional in size, wiring & function. Of all mammals,
humans have the most "uncommitted cortex" at birth (Penfield, 1975),
i.e. fewer neurons with, in their hardware, instinctual patterns
built-in. This implies
the human brain is made for organic neuroplasticity (the more difficult a task, the
more cells process it) and has the ability to learn and
The human brain has one major neurological
The bi-modality of the human
brain is horizontal & vertical.
On the horizontal horizon, there is the joint project of the two cerebral
hemispheres : cerebral activity is called to be an integration of a duality.
This is accepting the difference while opening up as many neuronal alleys
between the hemispheres (cf. the "concordia discors" of thought in
Vertically, the neocortex (or upper telencephalon) and the basal
telencephalon perform different tasks. The basal telencephalon is part of the limbic
system. It is essential in the relay of information down from and up to the
neocortex and adds "emotional color" to what comes in and goes out.
Especially the amygdala play a crucial role in this, while the
association of memory & emotion is noteworthy.
: higher order
verbal operations ;
hemisphere/basal telencephalon : emotion/word associations, digital
hemisphere/neocortex : higher order visuospatial operations ;
hemisphere/basal telencephalon : emotion/imaginal sensations,
8.2 Head, Heart & Gut
: the Three Brains.
|number of neurons
|surface of neocortex
|connections per neuron
|| 1 bit (1/8
(*) Koch, C : Biophysics of
Computation, Oxford University Press - New York, 1999, p.87.
The specific task of the head-brain consists in computing conceptual thought,
designating labels to inner and outer phenomena. By doing so the fundamental
impermanence of events is halted and concealed by the illusion of ipseity,
own-power or selfhood, attributing inherent, independent existence to sensate
and mental objects. The root cause of ignorance and of all our afflictive
states is therefore to be found in this head-brain and the co-relative states
of mind computed (processed) by it. The pivotal construction computed by the
head-brain is the First Person Perspective, the sense to possess an empirical
ego, an "I" identifying with sensate states (I see, I hear, I touch, I smell,
I taste), volitional states (I do, I don't do, I remain indifferent),
affective states (I feel good, bad, neutral) & mental states (I think
The head-brain makes up this ipseity and brings about the hallucination of its
permanence. This in turn activate self-cherishing, the tendency to first
consider "number one" and invent the notion a single individual is more
important than all the others, while clearly the opposite is true. The sense
of independent selfhood is also totally delusional, for there is no selfhood
without otherhood and nothing permanent among the five aggregates (of
sensating, willing, feeling, thinking & apprehending) can be found. Although
we maintain a certain architecture and consider this to be stable, in truth
the highest mountains crumble and eventually not a single atom remains the
same. Everything moves and changes, constantly transforming from one state to
another, arising again, remaining for a while and they ceasing. For
the conceptualizing head-brain, fixing its objects & subject into rigid,
eternalized and eternalizing distinctions, this
fundamental law of cyclic existence is very difficult to process. This then is ignorance, not
witnessing the impermanent nature of all compounded things.
Clearly the neocortex, responsible for designating labels and
attributing own-powered selfhood to objective and subjective events,
works -to root its
computations in an emotional
soil- together with the limbic system. Efferent & afferent neuronal pathways pass through this old
mammalian brain, adding feelings of attachment or hatred to anything moving
about in the head-brain. So the ignorance processed at the level of the
neocortex gives way to desire and hatred at the level of the limbic system.
These are the Three Poisons (ignorance, craving and hatred) causing all our
Let us recall the problems commonly facing our fellow human beings
focused on the head-brain, with their hearts enslaved by their brains.
Once the ego is conceived as inherently existing, it solidifies and becomes a
static center, creating a "real" separation or schism between the subject and
its objects, in particular other humans. This gulf between "me" and "the
other" conveys to me a sense of specialness, and its distinguishing mark is
the erroneous conception of me being split off from my own experience, somehow
suspended above all events, much like a distant witness, not a participator.
This allows the conventional, empirical ego to claim : "I am a thinker,
possessing a mind and a body". This I-ness, although in reality only
functionally imputed on the five aggregates, is turned into a static
substance, causing the ego to consider itself as permanent and endowed by
enduring properties making up its "essence" or "core being". The latter is of
course unique, special and not shared by others !
Likewise, other egos are
usually considered to be permanent too, possessing different combinations of
properties than myself. These people cannot inherently be like "me", for "I
am" this unique, self-powered individual, one of a kind. Although it is
conventionally true for the aggregates to form a unique combination of
functional characteristics, it eludes the self-cherishing ego these aggregates
of body & mind are constantly changing. Hence, the ego cannot ever
remain the same. The sense of enduring selfhood is not what it seems, but this
conventional truth is not witnessed by our deluded, self-cherishing egos,
neither is it the natural way for the head-brain to process the data received
from post-thalamic projection. Moreover, in the case of Homo normalis,
only few connections exist between the neo-cortex and the subcortex ! Once the
nerve impulse leaves the human brain, it encounters mammalian and reptilian
structures more or less independently adding contents ...
Identifying with the fiction or hallucination of this false solid sense of
"me", conceptual elaboration then brings conceptually
reified categories to life in which the solid "I" plays the
Substantialist thinking makes the illusionary self stand stronger, causing
self-affirmation & self-aggrandizement. Attachment to worldly concerns
(material things, praise, fame, sensual pleasure) increases. However, these
projections and the cravings they engender, being false, cause the ego not
to be adequate to them, eventually (after much play & folly) generating a
sense of insufficiency.
Emotionally and intellectually, the static ego aches
due to being confronted with its own fundamental incompleteness. To soothe the
pain of this inner lack and given the need to regularly boost the power of the
hallucination, requires constant fulfillment. But when, to compensate for the
ever-returning insufficiency, no new toys or
playmates can be found, the
lurking suspicion of an ultimate lack of authenticity and genuineness
dawns. Accommodating this realization, not willing to give up, turns the
static ego to cynicism & loneliness, or worse, to self-willed degeneration and
virulent self-destruction. Too much & too long attached to this false reified
vision of oneself, makes one turn away from possible cures, fearing to go cold turkey, refusing to quit the addiction.
The substance-ego, being a fake, must deceive all it associates with. The end
result of this is chronic disquietude and anxiety. These close the circle, for
both are expressed in a compulsion to build and fortify the illusionary ego
getting rid of
everything and everybody endangering the illusion with the sobriety of the
ultimate truth : the ego does not exist as it appears.
Fortification of the fictional ego gives birth to a relentless craving for
worldly things. In vain these are considered valid means to satisfy the need
for self-security. Nothing less is true. Their pursuit causes hatred,
selfishness and violence, and these, creating "the war of all against all"
undermine the ego even more. In this way, the agent becomes the victim of its
own fundamental ignorance and misconception about itself ! Once a victim, the
majority of one's waking hours are spend in brooding, in mental chatter, in
being negative, depressed, unhappy and unhealthy, causing others to feel
likewise, polluting young minds with one's garbage-mentality.
Is it not extraordinary and extremely profound the Buddha found the single
root-cause to all of this ? What he uncovered is true peace because it
is how things ultimately exist, namely lacking substance while being
process-bound. The moment we accept a single phenomenon, be it the
ego or anything else, to inherently exist as a self-powered entity on its own,
we rekindle the fire of ignorant craving & hatred. Eliminate the slightest
tendency towards reification, and the fuel is gone in the face of awakening.
8.3 The Integrating
Torus of the Heart.
The electromagnetic field produced by the heart permeates all cells of our
body and influences the electromagnetic fields of those around us. The more
coherent this field is, the more the "pulse" of the heart aligns our
physiological state and builds our homeostasis. The more incoherent this
field, the less cells work together and the more stressors are produced to
keep up homeostasis. The longer these are at work, the less healthy, happy and
good looking the body becomes. Eventually, disease ensues and one's natural
life-span is shortened. Incoherence also blocks the integration of the three
brains, allowing the head to dominate the heart, closing the door of empathy
and genuine care & fairness.
By allowing the heart-brain to work properly, i.e. as the place of balance
between the gut (and its instincts) and the head (and its conceptualizations),
we accommodate a new sense of well-being. Coherence makes head-brain, heart-brain
& gut-brain harmonize at a higher
level, calling in an overarching higher-order intuition, a superior
intelligent prehension constantly working at the integration-point of these
three. Hence, self-discovery & self-realization primarily involve working
with the heart-brain and establishing a heart-based living. Once this is
done, notwithstanding severe mental disorders, all the rest naturally &
spontaneously follows. And this is not the "voice of faith" speaking, but the
evidence of science.
Then, when these brains integrate, the prefrontal cortex of the human brain,
now highly integrated and working together with subcortical structures like
the limbic system and the reptilian brain, is able to process the
compassionate vision of unity and beauty, one in which the
process-nature of all phenomena (the antidote to ignorance) goes hand in
hand with a fair care extending over the borders of one's own selfhood,
breaking down the barriers of self-cherishing, operating the Four
Immeasurables : Joy, Love, Compassion and Equanimity (the antidotes to craving
& hatred). When these root-poisons are eliminated, the afflictive states
depending on them just vanishes, for when the cause is gone the effect dies out.
The resulting higher-order intelligence, "gnosis" or sapience is then expressed
by the Six Perfections : Patience, Generosity, Morality, Enthusiasm (devoted
energy), Concentration & Wisdom. These bring about spontaneous
the mind of enlightenment for the sake of all sentient being.
So the truly balanced ones "follow" their heart and by doing so "are" their
III : The
Good Heart of
Direct Spiritual Experience.
As the physical heart has two chambers, so the moral heart has also two faces
: a good inclination and an evil one. The latter is a heart dominated by the
head, following the rule of reason only. Too much reason blinds the heart,
closing its window to the higher-order intelligence necessary to lead a
fulfilling life, caring for others and safeguarding a good afterlife. The evil
tendency of the heart cannot be negated, repressed, rooted out or destroyed.
It needs to be accepted, named, experienced and then integrated. If not face
to face, the Shadow needs to be experienced for it to actually add shade &
depth to the colors of the picture of life. If not, the colors of the whole
thing are dead, run over by a recurrent grayness. The Shadow needs to be
actualized, not cultivated.
To do so constructively belongs to the "black box" of our hidden life. Then, darkness leaves our colors, making them bright and shining. Working in
this box, we empower our bright space. But if our Shadow is clothed with
guilt, shame and fear, then our field is cramped and mean. Moreover, if the
experience of the Shadow leaves the confines, privacy, intimacy and secrecy of
this black box, this spill-over creates havoc in one's life to the point of
ruining it. The work of darkness must be hidden from the eyes of the world. Those
who bring it out, become slaves of their negativity, anchoring their
afflictions in others, and by doing so generating a powerful "choc-en-retour",
returning the negative effects brought about amplified.
Following the head is emphasizing the power of one's cognitive activity.
Altogether rejecting cognition to open the path to the heart (as some
devotional paths suggest) is not helpful, for if too much reason spells
disaster, so does too little. To only way left is to understand cognition
in such a way as to not exceed its own limitations, the work of
critical thought (cf.
2008). This means one studies concepts to find ways to eliminate concepts. By
truly understanding the mind, one is able to clear it and by thus opening
space one brings in calmness, serenity, lucidity and openness. These qualities
bring about a strong, razor-sharp and acute mind, drawing the fine
distinctions characterizing the "spirit of finesse". In such a mind, no mental
babel chatters, and the monkey mind stops jumping from branch to branch,
finally truly enjoying its long sought endless banana. Then discursive
activity only occurs when it is needed, and if not, a vast sea of tranquility
fills the mind. This peace of mind ends wasting mental energy and generating
futile thoughts exhausting our ability to think clearly, calmly and lucidly.
When these conditions prevail, the heart can be made coherent and a
higher-order integration may occur. Then the heart's greatest secret is
unveiled : truly seeing what is at hand.
9. Understanding Cognitive
In various Dutch and English texts written over the last sixteen years, the
cognitive possibilities of the human mind have been extensively studied. It
what follows, a short summary will therefore suffice. Readers who wish to
acquire an in-depth view are invited to read the following :
1993, Dutch, 113p - 183KB
Prolegomena or the
Rules of the Game of 'True' Knowledge,
1994, Dutch, 216p - 403KB
1994, Dutch, 416p - 1.012KB
1995, Dutch, 456p - 807KB
The Rules of the
Game of True Knowing,
1999, Dutch & English, 57KB
Clearings : On Critical Epistemology,
2006, English, 398KB
Behaviours : On Critical Ethics,
2006, English, 179KB
Intelligent Wisdom : from Myth to
2007, English, 443KB
Neurophilosophy of Sensation,
2007, English, 125KB
Sensations : On Critical Esthetics,
2007, English 204KB
Theory & Practice of Philosophy,
2007, English, 180KB
2008, English, 1852KB
2008, English, 567KB.
The mind is cognizing and luminous. "Cognizing" means the mind, as a subject
of experience, apprehends an object. The cognizing subject is therefore an
object-possessor. "Luminous" points to the clarity & awareness factor present
in this activity, for when the subject knows an object, it is simultaneously
aware of this object and this awareness involves a distinct clarity or open
reflection of this object on the surface of the mind. This "prise de
conscience" is intentional, i.e. there is an active tension between the
object-possessor and the object possessed. This tension allows for the
reflection on the mind and is more than merely cognizing or knowing. So these
two features are necessary. Without awareness, there is only the establishment
of a passive relationship between a subject and an object, much like when a
computer adds a bit to a previous bit. With awareness, there is the presence
of a self-reflective act characterizing subjectivity.
The mind knows two and only two kinds of objects. On the one hand, sensate
objects appear to it. These are processed perceptions of smell, touch,
light, sound and taste projected by the thalamus on the various association
areas of the neo-cortex, and synthesized by the latter to actually designate
the object through labeling and naming. On the other hand, mental objects
appear to the mind. These are conceptual designations (imputations) on the
basis of sensations, feelings, volitions, thought and conscious awareness (the
bases of imputation). While the mind shapes the illusion of permanent, fixed
entities, turning the objects possessed into substances, all of these sources
of possession are impermanent and constantly changing. Hence, the objects
known by the mind appear as substances but are actually processes. To
"realize" this distinction means to
four mental processes
are clearly and sharply present :
to fathom : applying the correct observational and/or mental procedures to grasp
the object possessed ;
2. to understand : gathering all necessary, valid
knowledge about it ;
3. to eliminate uncertainty : sustaining a clear,
certain view concerning it ;
4. to intensely experience : living it directly,
in a sharp & saturated way.
concerning one's intense &
sustained reflection on the nature of the cognitive process itself, these four processes are present, one truly realizes
the distinction between how cognitive objects appear (namely as independent,
substantial and self-powered from their own side) and how they are on the
basis of the nature of their causes (namely as dependent, process-like,
other-powered and thus not existing from their own side). In other words,
realizing the nature of the cognitive process is discovering the difference
between "das Ding für uns" and "das Ding an Sich" (Kant), between appearance
"... there exists in our reason (considered subjectively
as a faculty of human knowledge) principles and maxims of its use, which have
the appearance of objective principles, and lead us to mistake the
subjective necessity of a certain connection of our concepts in favour of the
understanding for an objective necessity in the determination of things by
themselves. This illusion is as impossible to avoid as it is to prevent
the sea from appearing to us higher at a distance than on the shore, because
we see it by higher rays of light ; or to prevent the Moon from appearing,
even to an astronomer, larger at its rising, although he is not deceived by
Kant, I. : Critique of Pure Reason, B:350-354, my
The "Copernican Revolution" is precisely this : although the Sun seems to rise
and set, we know this not to be the case (for it is actually the Earth
turning). But while we know the appearance is false, we nevertheless continue
to see it. According to Kant, conceptual reason is unable to end this
illusion. And he was right. But because Kant mistakenly thought there was no
higher-order intelligence above conceptual reason, he could not realize
conceptualization needs to be terminated in order to arrive at a "seeing" of
the ultimate nature of phenomena.
When the realization of this crucial epistemic difference is repeated and
repeated, as in
Critical Mâdhyamika, particularly with emptiness as defined by the
brilliant mind of Je Tsongkhapa (1357 - 1419),
namely as absence of inherent existence, then this
cognitive activity finally generates a generic image of the nature of the
cognitive process itself. This conveys the clear difference between seemingly
self-powered appearances (independent substances) and truly other-powered
realities (interdependent processes). This image acts as a meta-concept
ending the substantializing streak of conceptualization and when this
happens, the mind self-empties ! With the head, more cannot be done.
"Kaśyapa, it is like this. For example, two trees are
dragged against each other by wind and from that a fire starts, burning the
two trees. In the same way, Kaśyapa, if You have correct analytical
discrimination, the power of a noble being's wisdom will emerge. With its
emergence, correct analytical discrimination will itself be burned up."
Kaśyapa Chapter Sûtra.
9.1 The Seven Modes of
Jean Piaget's (1896 - 1980)
theory on cognitive development, two general functional principles, rooted in
postulated, namely organization & adaptation.
The former implies the tendency common to all forms of life to integrate
structures (physical & psychological) into systems of a higher order. The latter (to be
divided in assimilation & accommodation) shows how the individual not only modifies
cognitive structures in reaction to demands (external) but also uses his own structures to
incorporate elements of the environment (internal).
Organisms tend toward equilibrium with
their environments. Centration, decentration (crisis) & re-equilibration are the
fundamental processes forcing the cognitive texture of humans to complexify.
Mental operators are the result of the interiorization of this
cognitive evolution. An original, archaic sense of identity is shaped.
After prolonged exposure to new types of action -challenging the established original
centration and its equilibrium- a crisis ensues and decentration is the outcome.
Eventually, a re-equilibration occurs because a higher-order equilibrium
was found through auto-regulation (re-equilibration, autopoiesis).
Over time, various different strands, levels, layers or planes
of cognitive texture unfold. The process is as follows :
l coordinations of
repeated confrontation with a
novel action involving motor functions (original, initia
2) action-reflection or the interiorization of this
novel action by means of semiotic
factors : the first level of permanency or pre-concepts
having no decontextualized
3) anticipation & retro-action using these pre-concepts,
valid insofar as they symbolize the
original action, but always with reference to the initial context ;
4) final level of permanency : formal concepts, valid independent of
the context of the original action & the formation of permanent
cognitive (abstract) operators.
In this way, Piaget defined four
layers of cognitive growth :
• sensori-motoric cognition, between birth
& 2 years of age ;
• pre-operational cognition, between 2 and 6 ;
• concrete operatoric cognition, between 7 and 10 ;
• formal-operatoric cognition,
between 10 & 13.
In his Le Structuralisme (1970), Piaget defines "structure" as a system of transformations
abiding by certain laws and sustaining or enriching itself by a play of these
transformations. These occur without the use of external factors. This
auto-structuration of a complete whole is defined as
"auto-regulation". In the individual, the latter is established by
biological rhythms, biological & mental regulations and mental operations.
These are theoretically formalized.
Piaget refuses to accept "real" dialectical tensions
between physical objects are the "true" foundations of thought and cognition (its possibility, genesis & progressive development),
as in most other types of psychology and pedagogy attuned to materialism. Piaget never
what reality is like. He maintains no ontological view on reality-as-such, considered
to be the
borderline of both the developing subject and its objective world, stage after
This psychogenesis (based on the worldwide observation of children) shows how
knowledge develops a relationship between a thinking subject and the
objects around it. This relationship grows and becomes more complex. Stages of
cognitive development are defined by means of their typical cognitive events
and acquired mental forms. This development is not a priori (pre-conditions),
posteriori (empirical) but constructivist, in other words, the construction eventuates in its
own process, and so the system has been, is and will always be (re)adapting
and (re)creating new cognitive structures, causing novel behavior &
different environmental responses. These may be interiorized, forming new
internal cognitive forms, etc. The foundation
of this process is action itself, the fact its movements are not
random but coordinated. The form of this coordination, the
order, logic or symbolization of the pattern of the movements
eventually stabilizes as a permanent mental operator.
Two main actions are distinguished :
sensori-motoric actions existing before
language or any form of representational conceptualization ;
• operational actions ensuing as soon as
the actor is conscious of the results & goals of actions and the mechanisms of actions,
i.e. the translation of action into forms of conceptualized
thought. These operations are either concrete (contextual) or formal
(decontextualized). The latter are identified with rational, conceptual,
The last decades have
seen the many applications of these crucial insights in the functional,
efficient (educative) side of the process of cognition. An example is schema theory,
at work across the
fields of linguistics, anthropology, psychology and artificial
intelligence. Human cognition utilizes structures even more complex
than prototypes called "frame", "scene",
"scenario", "script" or "schema". In
cognitive sciences and in ethnoscience they are used as a model for
classification and generative grammar (syntax as evolutionary process).
The schema is primarily a set of relationships, some of which amounts to
a structure, generating pictorial, verbal and behavioral outputs. The
schemata are also called mental structures and abstract representations
of environmental regularities. Events activate schemata allowing us
to comprehend ourselves & the world around us.
The term is thus used to
define a structured set of generalizable characteristics of an
Repetition, crisis & reformation yield strands of co-relative
actions or stages of cognitive development. Knowledge begins in the
coordination of movement.
Ergo, in genetical sequence, consensual types of schemata emerge,
each corresponding to one of the seven modes of cognitive activity :
mythical thought : aduality implies only one relationship, namely
with immediate physicality ; object & subject reflect perfectly ;
earliest schemata are restricted to the internal structure of the actions
(the coordination) as they exist in the actual moment and in the differentiation
between the actions connecting the subjects and the actions connecting the
objects. The action-scheme can not be manipulated by thought and is
triggered when it practically materializes ;
pre-rational thought : object and subject are differentiated and
interiorized ; the subject is liberated from its entanglement in the actual
situation of the actions ; early psychomorph causality. The subjective is
projected upon the objective and the objective is viewed as the mirror of
the subjective. The emergence of pre-concepts and pre-conceptual schemata
does not allow for permanency and logical control. The beginning of
decentration occurs and eventually objectification ensues ... ;
proto-rational thought : conceptual structures emerge providing
insight in the essential moments of the operational mental construction :
(a) constructive generalization ;
(b) the ability to understand each step
and hence the total system (1 to 2 to 3 ...) and
(c) autoregulation enabling one
to run through the system in two ways, causing conservation. The conceptual
schemata are "concrete" because they only function in contexts
and not yet in formal, abstract mental spaces ;
conceptual thought : abstract conceptual structures positioned in
mental spaces independent of the concrete, local environment. This mode of
cogitation is liberated from the contextualizing approach, but roots the
conditions of knowledge outside the cognitive apparatus itself ;
5) formal-operatoric, transcendental
thought : abstract concepts explaining how knowledge and its growth
are possible ;
6) formal-operatoric, creative thought
: the hypothesis of a possible (arguable), conceptual immanent
7) non-conceptual, nondual thought
: pointing to a possible, meta-rational and
The Architecture of Thought
THE 7 MODES OF COGNITIVE ACTIVITY &
3 STAGES OF COGNITION
instinct and reason
barrier between rationality and intuition
9.2 The Three Stages of
Considering cognition genetically, i.e. its complexification from
non-reflective myth to highly reflexive nondual awareness, three stages
can be observed. These stages are separated by barriers, demanding a
"jump" to cross them. The epistemological features of each of
these has been studied
Focusing on the sense of wonder, the first is the stage of natural
wonderment. For a child, the world constantly arouses
the feeling of
something strange and surprising. Its mind is daily thrilled by new and
unexpected events. Because semiotic factors are absent, scents, sounds,
images, taste and kinesthetic sensations dominate. Objects are not
conceptually designated and no First Person Perspective is at work. The
environment is oceanic. The first decentration occurs when the
coordination of movement is identified as belonging to a subject.
Manipulating outer objects then returns to the subject, reinforcing its
libidinal awareness of itself.
Living against the background of myths, the mind grows slowly, forming
signals, icons and pre-concepts lacking stability and constantly
entertaining psychomorph projections. Irrational associations are ample.
The "participation mystique" (Lévy-Bruhl) in which the mind baths is
strong & spontaneous, i.e. unconditional and so sustainable
without effort. In this stage, the fundamental ante-rational constructs
are determined and instinctual patterns are brought into play.
The resulting openness of the child is remarkable. In the libidinal and
imitative modes, the direct environment is affectively explored and
assimilated. Satisfying lust and soothing unlust bring about an
affective patterning influencing future emotional life. Then, an
adequate formation of the tribal ego (consolidating a niche of
belongingness) ensues. Everything disrupting the fluid integration of
this mode of cognition will have severe repercussions later. It may
affect sexual and affective development as well as impair cognitive
growth. This shows how important it is for parents to try to communicate
their own sense of wonder and serendipity. It is the stage of basic
images and instincts ; the gut-brain and the gut-mind.
When contextualization stops, the stage of natural wonderment ends. This
heralds a kind of death, for the child becomes an adolescent and begins
the path towards adulthood. Formal reason takes over, psychomorphism
ends and the background of myth is covered by the world of sensate &
mental objects, designated as independent, self-powered and existing
from their own side. Facts and abstract conceptualization enter stage.
These are no longer determined by context, but merely by
generalizations, inferences & discursive processes. Instrumental,
strategic and communicative reason manifest.
This is the stage of subliminal wonderment, for although the
direct sense of awe is no longer immediately present to consciousness,
it is not lost but merely becomes unconscious. It is retrieved by
surrogates, and no longer directly confronted. These are the icons of
affective attraction and repulsion. Falling in love, sexuality,
eroticism, competition and luring images, fantasies and fictions about
one's personal future play an increasing important role. The natural, spontaneous
and therefore unaware sense of "living in the now" of the previous stage
is replaced by "living in the future", hoping to individualize into
successful adults who achieve a place among their peers and in society.
Icons are replaced by symbols. And while in the previous stage, the
logical hemisphere of the neo-cortex, namely that part of the human
brain involved in speech, did not yet dominate the affective hemisphere,
now the predominance of speech-acts based on abstract conceptualizations
prevails. This is the stage of the head-brain and the head-mind.
How long does the stage of subliminal or surrogate wonderment last ?
Highly individual, the stage of subliminal wonderment may endure for
several decades, at which point it is shattered by crisis (cf. the
mid-life demon). As self-realization does not come by automatically, the
second barrier (between rationality and intuition) is not crossed
without a decisive personal choice.
Although there are good reasons for deciding to individualize and so to
fully emancipate -the activity is not capricious-
the core, as Pascal argued, is intent
and not reason. The choice is made with the heart, not with the
"Two excesses : exclude reason, accept but reason. (...)
The heart has its reasons which reason knows not."
Blaise Pascal : Pensées, 253 & 277.
has not yet decided for or against the Divine has to wager, but the Divine is the best bargain.
A genuine existence commits and gives
direction to life. One chooses this and rejects that. To be authentic, a
human being seeks to become what he or she really is : individual before
Hence the fundamental choice called for implies wanting an
"authentic existence". This is Pascal's argument in a nutshell.
To make this pivotal choice is crucial. It does not matter in what
walk of life the individual was conditioned into adulthood. If
wonderment is not made conscious again, continued personal suffering
will always be the outcome ; anxiety and fear without end. So if, due to
wrong conditioning by wrong learned views, one is unaware of this
possibility to retrieve the direct experience of wonderment and awe,
decades of horrible adult grayness result. And yes, before the poetical
world of colors is again regained, even this grayness can become
habitual and its momentary pleasures seemingly beneficial and exclusive.
By the false ways of sex, money & power an unsettling security is gained
... In its Great Compassion, Nature accommodates the dull minded by
the would-be grace of ignorant oblivion.
It is important to make this very clear. It is possible and even
desirable to make, in
early adulthood, a decisive choice in favour of the power of
intuition. All what is needed is the stable
background of reason. If so, one's quality of life is truly enhanced.
Putting into place a higher-order intelligence -after formal reason has
been firmly established- will allow the individual to fully
individualize and enter the third stage without severe disruptive
crisis. Integration into society will then become part of this ongoing
intuitive heart-based approach of life, and no walls have to be build
which will have to be demolished later in life. Moreover, because the
body is still young, and so vital, vibrant & not recalcitrant, the
highest peaks of intuitive development are within reach ... So a good
education allows adolescents to make choices for themselves. It does not
pamper them into adulthood, nor stuff them up with the illusions of the
parents. If parents cannot give this fundamental freedom to their
children, then they themselves are slaves of societal, conventional
reason and lost to their own hearts.
When, after having made this decisive, existential choice, attention is
given to the heart to better it, its window opens and the Divine
light of a higher-order intelligence enters. Then the stage of
luminous wonderment begins. The lost but immature direct experience
of wonderment & awe of childhood is found again and the sense of existing in
immediacy, lacking the intervention of the silenced head, brings in a
new, clear, lucid and luminous quality to consciousness. Reason's abuse
is immediately detected and the antidote administered. Often silence is
gold. Caring, honest communication silver. Because the background of
this experience of the heart is no longer myth but reason, directly
seeing the wonders of life matured. By silencing the conceptual mind, a
direct, immediate experience of the Clear Light comes within reach. This
transforming intuition of the omnipresent, unbounded wholeness conveys
the vision of unity & beauty, inviting one to participate in the
constant remaking of the wholeness of the universe out of all
possibilities. When this final stage culminates, the process of
this-life ends. As the good heart is not weighed down by incoherence,
but in balance with the Divine principles of life, light and love,
physical death, no longer a fatality but a conscious choice, announces
one's rebirth in the afterlife. This is the stage of the heart-brain and
9.3 Finding a
Hippopotamus in the House.
The conceptual mind substantializes its sensate and mental objects.
Although this mind has no direct access to perceptions, the whole
spectrum of sensuous data being a mere projection of thalamic
information already processed by pre-thalamic structures (cf.
Neurophilosophy of Sensation,
2007), the neo-cortex processes this information in such a way that
its objects appear to mind as independent substances existing from their own
side. For sensate objects this means they are deemed to operate outside
the mind, i.e. extra-mentally. This fixating streak makes
mental objects circumambulate a seemingly static centre : the empirical
ego or First Person Perspective.
The wrong view consolidating these objects and the rational process
producing them, denying the possibility of a higher-order intelligence,
can do no more than generate the "monsters" of reason : a world filled
to the brim with substances.
substances indeed exist, then they must be as easily identifiable as any large object,
say a hippopotamus. This is a very large, solid object, one about which there
can be no doubt when it appears. If self-powered, inherently existing
sensations and mental constructions are effectively there, then their
detection must pose no problem. If not, the view sustaining their
existence is in doubt. This ultimate, impeccable logical analysis has
been carried in detail
and so will not be repeated here.
When the fine points of this logic are realized, there is only one
conclusion left : no inherent existent, substantial object can be found. One does not conclude : "An inherent object does not exist !",
for this is positing one has found an path to deduce such a final,
complete conclusion. Using the reductio ad absurdum,
one merely shows the absurd conclusions resulting from accepting substances
hypothetically, the only outcome possible confirming no substances have as yet
been found ! This is an "open end" kind of logic. So to his critics,
asks : "Show me a static object !", "Posit a substance !", etc. As soon as the
challenge is taken up, the absurdities can be deduced, dislodging the
opponent. When asked to positively prove no substances are to be found
anywhere, one answers : What is a mere absence cannot be affirmed.
Conveying this conclusion with an image, we suppose the number of
possibilities to find a substance is ten (it could be more, but the
reasoning stays the same).
Suppose a house has ten rooms and someone says there is a
hippopotamus in the house. If, after having closed all exits, a healthy,
reasonable person is placed in each room and asked to search everywhere for
the hippopotamus, and if, after having searched thoroughly, all ten willing
observers agree on the fact no hippopotamus was found, then the conclusion
there is no hippopotamus in the house must be considered as a
Suppose the claim is made again, and the search is repeated a
number of times with identical results, then at some point the absurdity of
the claim must become obvious to all reasonable persons and no more searches
are made or need to be made to ascertain whether there is a hippopotamus in
the house. Perhaps if a reasonable doubt arises again, one may search again,
to find the supposed hippopotamus nowhere. Likewise, if after thinking over all possible arguments positing
inherent existence honestly, repeatedly & profoundly, no such object is found,
then one may reasonably assume such an object cannot be found.
Not wanting to
posit unfindability, one merely asks : "Show me a single static object !".
"Where is the hippopotamus ?" Up till now, the answer is : there is
no hippopotamus in the house ! To fully realize this is the case, is
realizing the ultimate truth of phenomena (absence of inherent
existence) nominally. A conceptual, generic image of emptiness has been
established, and the view of emptiness is solely
based on a so-called "nonaffirming negation", i.e. merely negating the
substance-nature of all phenomena without positing (affirming) anything
else. This is an absolute negation, for the negative is posited without
considering anything else (the nonaffirming negation of a flower is the
absence of a flower and nothing more). This concept merely points to
nonduality. But because a concept is used to void inherent existence,
this view is contrived and mixed with conceptualization. This has to be
abandoned. Then actual (and not nominal) ultimate truth is experienced.
No longer involving concepts, it is a direct seeing of the absence of
substance in all phenomena, going hand in hand with the experience of
their interdependent, process-like nature.
Great Compassion at the Heart of Wisdom.
The Pursuit of Happiness.
"We hold these
truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are
endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
US Declaration of Independence, the 4th of July 1776.
What is happiness ? The best way to be unhappy is to try to make
ourselves happy, while to make others happy is a safe path to one's own
happiness. This points to the fact happiness is not a simple or
self-evident phenomenon. Neither are life and liberty. But the Founding
Fathers of the United States of America were not considering the
ontology of happiness, but the legal right of every citizen to live, to
be free and to seek happiness.
To grasp the fundamental nature of happiness, four degrees will be
• fortune : the moment of luck ;
felicity : momentary well-being, contentment & joy ;
beatitude : the supreme happiness in sorrow and intense joy ;
coherence : an overarching sense of connection with all things.
"O Fortuna, velut Luna, statu variabilis ..."
As the Moon, the faces of fortune constantly change. A friend of today
may become the enemy of tomorrow. Wealth suddenly acquired may be lost
again. An orgasm, an excellent dish, superb wine exist only for a short
while. Although, due to training, these impulses may be extended, they
arise, abide and inevitably cease. Their entropy makes them move towards
the greatest homogeneity, disorder and lack of difference. Their energy
Of course, those devoid of basic human needs, struggling to survive,
cannot really understand the futility of seeking fortune. Haunted by bad
luck, they seek to possess the sensate objects they lack. They may
discover the relative happiness provided by them only when they actually
have savored them for a while. Without these stimuli, hungry, thirsty,
cold and without shelter, they identify happiness with material
fulfillment and as a function of the duration of their lack, they
continue to seek and, if found, amass material goods to compensate for
their previous destitute and poverty "without end". They have been
conditioned by their material poverty, and idealize the presence of
goods and signs of opulence.
"An ape is an ape, though clad in scarlet."
Erasmus : In Praise of Folly,
Oration : Look down on Earth.
Fortune is primarily related to sensate objects. As material goods are
scarce, an organization of needs is necessary. Without an economy, no
fortune can be amassed, for no surplus can be produced. To identify
happiness with fortune is to guarantee the return of crisis and poverty.
The "war of all against all" only makes everybody poorer. And although
utilitarianism is valid, it is not universal.
Its happiness principle holds that actions are good, right or just when
they promote pleasure. Classical utilitarism concludes : as some kinds
of pleasures are more desirable and valuable than others, a scale of
goodness is possible, with the greatest good to the greatest number on
top. But is there a universal scale ? Preference utilitarism tries to
bring about the fulfillment of preferences and is called
consequentialism. It comes closer. But how can impermanent and momentary
pleasures give lasting happiness ?
When we are fortunate enough to
have our sensate needs fulfilled, we discover our cup of happiness not be
full at all. No longer hungry, needing shelter and warmth, and able to
work to sustain these conditions, the human being remains an unhappy
animal. When certain needs are met, other needs arise and this cycle of
craving has the capacity to loop and become unending. More, more, more
... However, by
each addition of sensate stimuli, across the ranges relevant to decision-making,
marginal utility diminishes (Gossen's First Law). Moreover, when the physical magnitude of
stimuli increases logarithmically, their perceived intensity-increase is
linear (Law of Weber-Fechner). Combine these two laws and realize
sensate satisfactions have their limitation. So we need more to be happy
"Primum vivere, deinde philosophari."
Aristotle or Hobbes.
Felicity, momentary well-being, contentment and joy, relate to mental
objects. We like certain signals, enjoy certain images and contemplate
certain feelings, volitions, thoughts and states of consciousness,
turning them into conceptual objects deemed stable and existing from
their own side. With enough wealth to create a surplus, we generate and
enjoy culture. Art & science bring in a subtle pleasure, one sustainable
over a longer period of time, indeed, even over a lifetime. Cultural
objects may lure us into believing lasting happiness has been found. In
our minds we travel into the marvelous and imaginal and contemplate more
complex thoughts. We study other cultures and ways of life, we
communicate with an endless variety of fellow human beings and other
creatures on this planet. We contemplate the extended cosmos and plunge
into the riddles of the very very small. These adventures excite us and
But how long do we play with our new toys ? In fact, we
fool ourselves into thinking these toys will last. They too are
momentary and have a very short impact. But because of our imagination
and conceptualization of them, superstructuring the experience of a work
of art with concepts of artistic value, erecting theories on sensate
data, we mummify these experiences, merely worshipping dead bones. Here,
a poverty-mentality is at work. Considering our mind, devoid of possessing
mental objects, to be intrinsically poor, we amass cultural goods. Thus
covering the luminous nature of mind with an acquired, learned mentality, we
conceal the very subtle level of mind and never realize a treasure is hidden
underneath our own house.
Eventually, also felicity will not give us this lasting Happiness, this
nirvanic state beyond happiness and unhappiness !
Arrived at this stage, we are aware of the ephemeral
nature of both fortunes and felicity. While we still enjoy sensate and
mental objects, and our science and experience teach us to reject any
hope for these objects to bring something lasting, we have not given up
the pursuit of happiness, neither the quest to find lasting bliss. We
are possessed by a good spirit ! In Greek, we have this wonderful word :
"eudaimonia", from "eu-" or "good" + "daimon" or
"spirit, fate, fortune". This good spirit is very powerful and does not
seem to be linked with our empirical ego, too
shackled to sensate and mental objects to be able to give us this
kind of trust in the face of the tragicomedy of life.
"And then she is like a housewife who has well
taken care of her house. Who has furnished it in a clever way and who
has put it in order nicely. Who protects it wisely, who guards it
cleverly, and who works according to plan. She brings inside and
outside. She does and leaves everything according to her will. With the
soul it is likewise : love rules enormously in her, works powerfully and
rests in her, does and leaves, internally and externally, and all that
according to her will. Just like a fish swims in the wideness of the
sea, and rests in the depth, or a bird that flies in the space of the
height of the air, so she feels her mind go about unrestrained in the
depth, space and height of love.
This superior power of love has drawn the soul and has accompanied,
guarded and protected it. She has given her the intellect and the
wisdom, the sweetness and the strength of love. Yet she has hidden her
violence for the soul until she has climbed up to a greater highness
and has become completely free of herself, and until love rules with
more strength in her. Then love makes her so strong and so free that she
does not consider human or devil, no angel or saint, not God Himself in
her doings, in her work or her rest."
Beatrice of Nazareth :
Seven Ways of Holy
Love, Sixth Way, §§ 2- 3.
Beatitude is part of the mystic's life. Possessed by this "good spirit",
he or she is able to witness the higher-order Beauty and Unity of the
whole, integrating all possible lower-order polarities (beauty versus
ugliness, truth versus falsehood, evil versus good) into a
grand Vision of Perfection, one accepting the perfection of
imperfection. The discordant truce or "concordia discors" of
conceptuality is replaced by a "coincidentio oppositorum".
This is truly a blessed state of mind, for the momentary nature of
life's objects is replaced by an epochal view on reality, on in
which the totality is placed before the parts and deemed greater than
these, one overarching singular moments to put into evidence one's own
lifespan. Movement itself has a pattern, an order
or "strange attractor" ruling the wildest turbulence. Although the
swimmer constantly moves, he or she does so by using a certain swimming
style, for if these movements were random, drowning would be inevitable.
Those who merely paddle in the water soon find the deep. So seeing
process, change and impermanence does not make it patternless.
The blessed soul is immersed in a superhuman strength enabling her to
accept the presence of impermanence and witness the continuity within
change. This is "Sein-zum-Tode" (Heidegger), a way of being here and
now. Clearly death is determinate in its inevitability, but this
"Being-toward-Death" understands the indeterminate nature of one's own
inevitable physical demise -one never knows when or how it is going to
come about- without putting death in some distant "not-yet". Instead,
one's individual death is always already deemed part of one
hic et nunc. Likewise, beatitude brings all past and future into
this vision of the eternal now in which all possibilities are
fully present and integrated. This implies a form of ecstasy.
Unfortunately, ecstasy does not last. The soul placed outside herself
returns to herself. The beatic vision is also impermanent. For the cycle
to begin again, the highest state of consciousness is followed by lower
states of consciousness. Although beatitude can last far longer than
fortune & felicity, it is inevitably followed by a return of the mind
experiencing the world as a strange place. The empirical ego is not
eradicated by ecstasy, but merely temporarily bracketed. The "natural
condition" (Husserl) returns and one finds oneself again facing the
fears and anxieties given by sensate and mental objects one so dearly
needs to possess. Again the infernal dualities are confronted and the
loss of the beatic vision becomes in itself a kind of hell. Although in
the vision itself, the epoch of its activity was one's own lifespan and
thus seemingly "secure", its end proves the epoch to be less extended,
in fact, as long as the beatic vision lasted. As this may be hours,
days, weeks and years, it remains far more rewarding than sudden luck
and momentary felicity. But precisely because of this its end generates
a deeper sorrow, a metaphysical grief touching the very foundation of
one's existential situation.
Recovering from this memory of beatitude is hard. Often we try to return
to this altered state of consciousness, unaware it can only be entered
spontaneously. Every Promethean way to force one's way eventually turns
into disaster. We are so chained to this fierce craving for this heaven
of ecstasy, that surrogate means, like the warm tiger skin of
sensuality, or psychedelic drugs are welcomed. We have to accept the
solution to our craving cannot be found by a higher level of
satisfaction. After beatitude, after the top of our mountain of
pleasure, the path can only go down. The transcendence offered was an
illusion. This heaven only leads to hell and so cannot be the permanent,
irreversible hyper-happiness sought. Gods exist there, and while their
lifespan, pride and power are so extremely long & strong, their death or
exhaustion of pleasurable conditions is inevitable. How painful to loose
everything after having it all ! Deities move away from those who are
thus dying, with utter bitter loneliness joining the moment of their supreme
agony of death.
Distracted by the highest pleasure, it is hard to realize even the heaven
of ecstasy is impermanent. This cosmic consciousness, this highest
possible experience of union or "asamprajñâta samâdhi", this supreme
formless "jhana", or "Peak of
characterized by letting go the sense of existence of nothingness, with
neither perception or non-perception, indeed has a residue of subtle
discrimination. And the latter causes an extremely powerful
all-pervasive, subtle attachment. Gods feeds themselves with it and lack
the concentration to see the end of it. But ending it will.
"The union of those who have merged with Nature &
those who are bodiless is due to their focus on the notion of becoming."
Patañjali : Yoga-sûtra, 1.19.
The mind has to stop grasping at becoming ; becoming enlightened,
becoming happy, becoming happier, etc. Culminating happiness and sustaining
the culmination are all vain pursuits. In this way, after lots of
sensate & mental pleasures, massive pain ensues. The process of change
itself has to be accepted, not manipulated as it were from its outside.
Its profundity must be penetrated. Although all phenomena change, they
are not random or without dynamic patterning. An interconnection is
present. To let go of becoming and its conception of growth, we may
finally decide to actually enter the stream and merge with it by
learning how to swim instead of staying merely afloat (like a piece
of wood carried away by uncertain waves) or drowning by wild, turbulent
movements without grace and architecture. We learn to be sportive,
introducing change while moving, watching the game while part of it.
Thus swimming, we will get somewhere, but not because we focus on the
goal, but because we have become the path.
What do we mean when we say things "make sense" ? A
text is a well-ordered sequence of sentences. A sentence is a
well-ordered sequence of words. A word is a well-ordered sequence of
letters. A letter is a well-ordered sequence of dots. A dot is a
well-ordered sequence of paint-molecules contrasting with the medium
(white paper, a screen). Each molecule is a well-ordered sequence of
atoms, etc. Connectivity is the key. Phenomena interconnect to
make larger wholes and this organization between events is at work at
every level of the scale of existence, starting with the universal
quantum field, with its emerging subatomic particles, up to living
creatures, planets, solar systems, galaxies and the universe as a whole.
"Part of me is now in your heart and part of You
is now in my heart. No longer will we fight !"
Paule of the Trinity
As long as the pursuit of happiness involves adding pleasure upon
pleasure, self-gratification and self-cherishing are not eliminated. By
making our own happiness, from filling our bellies to filling our minds,
we only sow the seeds of our own unhappiness. This is an inevitable fact
each and every human being will soon or later realize. We are able to
fool ourselves for a very long time, and may even die as fools. But our
continuing stream of consciousness will be reborn with the same cravings
and the whole cycle will start again.
"Seeking but not finding the house-builder,
I travelled through life after life.
How painful is repeated birth !
House-builder ! You have now been seen.
You will not build the house again !"
Dhammapada, verses 153 & 154.
Entering coherence is not easy. It results from an extremely deep
realization of the futility of fortune, felicity & beatitude and an
ability to stop following afflictive e-motions, but instead truly move.
This calls for an uncontrived view.
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any
mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again
gathers ; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."
Heraclitus : Fragments, n°53.
Because coherence implies connectivity, it comes down to making sense
and giving sense to phenomena. This is entering their creative advance
and adding to this reality. Consciousness is a percipient participator,
and the degree in which things make sense depends on the extend we
prehend our ability to become involved in a spectrum of interconnected
events and widen it to the full of our potential.
This means a variety of fields of such interconnected activities ensue :
personal life, health, family, property, society, the Natural world, the
world as a whole, the cosmos, the Divine etc. spring to the fore. The
extend to which we are able to integrate these various domains into our
lives, will make it possible for us to participate in way generating
meaning, sense and relation.
Let us avoid limiting ourselves to the cocoon of our personal
relationships and self-cherishing pursuits. Let us avoid fixating this
interconnectivity, considering the interactions as stable and
unchanging. The very idea of connection calls for a fluid and dynamical
approach. Although some bonds are surely more stable than others, all
form of stability is relative and so other-powered, i.e. determined by
conditions outside the bond itself. To be open to this crucial insight,
is to allow change when necessary and cherish interactions when
functional, but not out of principle. For the principle of cyclic
existence, of conventional reality of "thoughts, words and images"
(Mipham) is dependent arising ("pratîtya-samutpâda"), and the root cause
of ignorance is isolating process and turning it into stable natures
("svabhâva"). Wisdom-mind sees insubstantiality.
"My son, mere appearances do not bind.
Naropa, cut through all grasping."
As the core of all possible relationality is the First Person
Perspective, we need to realize the empirical ego is not a substance, or
an independent fixed entity, but merely a function designated on the
basis of mental and sensate processes. As some of these are relatively
stable, the ego portrays relatively stable features, none of which are
however absolutely self-identical. Understanding self-cherishing is
not the bringer of coherence is the safe path avoiding incoherence. The
latter is the
breaking down of our ability to integrate a wide variety of phenomena, impoverishing ourselves and all others with whom we come into
virtual or actual contact.
Likewise, projecting stable connections outwards will also conceal the
experience of unbounded wholeness. Phenomena are not self-powered, but
other-powered. They are not independent but dependent, not isolated but
always in the process of making relationships. They do not exist from
their own side, but find their ipseity in logical & functional
instantiations. It is the conceptual mind, attributing substance to
process, who makes the fundamental mistake. Silencing this mind is ending
this designation, emptying its need to populate the world and itself
with static, eternalizing objects, not eliminating reason. To stop this, by critically investigating what
the mind merely seems to
possess, is not ridiculing rationality, but uplifting it, freeing it from
the chains it chose for itself. Then and only then can reason be married
with intuition and may a higher-order intelligence start its work by
unveiling the luminosity of all things and making us actually constantly
see the marvel of Divine Presence.
Not happiness will bring us home, but the end of ignorance. Then and
only then wisdom dawns.
Building a house on a block of ice, fortune, felicity and beatitude do
not succeed in making us permanently happy, i.e. generate true
peace, or a state of mind beyond every possible conceptuality.
Uncontrived, this state does not posit something, nor does it deny
something. It does not focus on something beyond polarity (as does beatitude),
nor on something which is neither this or that. Beyond all extremes, in
particular beyond the ideas of permanence (eternalism) and nothingness
(nihilism), this state is open to all possible phenomena. Because of
this spaciousness, it accommodates all and rests in this open, luminous
space. This is Great Compassion
When the Four Immeasurables and the Six Perfections have been practiced,
spontaneous Bodhicitta, the mind of awakening for the sake of all
sentient beings arises. This is an exceptional mind, for encompassing
all beings without exception. This is the mind of the
Bodhisattva, the enlightenment-being.
In order to help sentient beings to the full of his or her capacity, the
Bodhisattva wishes to attain full enlightenment as soon as possible.
Without Buddhahood, no omniscience and so no best possible help ! The
popular idea dictates the Bodhisattva vows to
postpone his own enlightenment until all sentient beings attain theirs.
is a misrepresentation based on two admirable but unrealistic devotional
forms of the Bodhisattva intent, called "shepherd-like" & "boatman-like"
Bodhicitta. The good shepherd seeks to save all sheep. The boatman wishes
to cross all those who seek the other shore. They place themselves
before those they wish to save and this is an admirable attitude.
However, as they are not fully awakened, they cannot succeed. Only an
omniscient mind is able to assist all possible beings, and Bodhisattvas,
although very powerful, are not omniscient yet. For example, First Stage
Bodhisattvas are able to actually take on the negativity of others
upon themselves, but this does not mean they have all the knowledge
needed to guide all to enlightenment. Only a Buddha knows what is
necessary to awake each and every sentient being.
So these two forms of Bodhicitta are inspirational.
Actual, true Bodhicitta is called
"king-like". The Bodhisattva first becomes enlightened, a
Buddha, and then uses
his or her resources to help others. The Bodhisattva vows to generate
"mind of enlightenment for all" and to complete the Ten Stages
of the Bodhisattva training, involving deeper probing into the real,
ultimate nature of phenomena, eliminating innate self-grasping.
When this has been realized, the Bodhisattva is no longer a sentient
being, but a Buddha. As such, he or she has all what it takes to save
everybody seeking to cross the sea of "samsâra"
in order to reach the other shore of "nirvâna".
Because the Bodhisattva vowed to help others, as a Buddha he or she does
not remain in his or her "Truth Body", but generates Form Bodies to be
able to communicate with sentient beings.
It goes without saying aspirational and actual Bodhicitta may be combined
and usually are. While training to become a Buddha, the Bodhisattva
engages in "shepherd-like" and/or "boatman-like" activities. But as a
Bodhisattva, he cannot avoid some sheep are lost or certain sentient
beings cannot enter his boat. Only as a Buddha, all seeking salvation
can be given the means to do so. Let this be very clear : a Buddha,
although possessing vast miracle powers, is not omnipotent. If this were
the case, cyclic existence would already have ended long ago. Those who
do not seek liberation and/or awakening, those -like Devadatta- fighting
the Superior Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, cannot be helped to the point of
saving them. To cure us, a Buddha does not take our medicine, he or she
offers it to us for us to swallow. Those who do not wish to be
saved are beyond the reach of even a Buddha ...
But while it is true some sentient beings do not know salvation is
possible and others know it but do not seek it, Superior Bodhisattvas &
Buddhas continually bless all sentient beings with the power of their
wisdom-mind. Sowing seeds on (as yet) barren ground prepares it and
invites a change of heart. So even those who do not wish to cross the
river or do not know this is possible benefit from their enlightened
activities. This is also Great Compassion. Those who seek to cross are
taught how to do so, while the others are prepared to do so, even
without them knowing it or being able, in the present moment, to
this. In this way, it is true to say the Buddhas benefit, actually or
potentially, all sentient beings.
The cycle of Avalokiteśvara, the Buddha of Compassion, is linked with
Great Compassion and the heart chakra. In Tibetan Buddhism, complex
visualizations train the mind to mimic the enlightened activity of this
Buddha. To make clear how this is done, here is a simple version of
these spiritual exercises (leaving out Refuge and Dedication practices).
Each step is taken only after the previous one is firmly established :
1. with erect spine, assume a comfortable
posture, relax and concentrate on the out-breath, the in-breath and
finally on the breath as it touches one's nostrils ;
2. concentrate on the breath as if
breathing through the heart-wheel ;
3. imagine a drop inside the heart-wheel
and visualize it as pulsating five kinds of lights : yellow, red, blue,
green and white light ;
4. visualize how multiple rays of these
colors leave the heart-wheel and touch all Bodhisattvas and Buddhas in
the ten directions (four cardinal directions, four directions between
the cardinal directions, top and bottom) ;
5. visualize how the light-offerings to
these superior beings is pleasing to them ;
6. visualize how these lights return to the
heart-wheel and then penetrate all the other wheels and the whole of
one's body, energy and mind, purifying these thoroughly ;
7. visualize these lights leaving the
heart-wheel again, this time touching all sentient beings (in the world of gods,
demi-gods, humans, nature, hungry ghosts and hell-beings), cleaning away
their obscurations and impurities, liberating & awakening them ;
8. visualize these rays returning to the
heart-wheel and again radiating around the indestructible drop ;
9. let all these visualizations slowly
dissipate and concentrate again on the breath as it were entering and
leaving the heart-wheel ;
10. concentrate on the breath as it touches
the nostrils, on the in-breath and finally on the out-breath.
Resting in the Union of Emptiness
& Great Compassion.
The four schools of Tibetan Buddhism define the method of realizing the
nature of mind or ultimate truth in various ways. In the old school of
the Nyingmapas, it is called "Dzogchen", the Great Perfection.
In Tibetan, "dzogpa" means (a) something completed, finished, exhausted,
and (b) everything is full, perfect & complete.
or "mahâsandhi" in Sanskrit, affirms the natural state of the mind, of
the nature of clarity, to be "from the very beginning"
inseparable from ultimate truth, the emptiness of the "Truth Body"
("Dharmakâya"). The Kagyupas call the nature of mind "mahâmudrâ",
the Great Seal, implying all phenomena, the mind included, are
fundamentally empty. Recognizing this is like placing a "seal",
certifying all events are devoid of substance
(not eternal and not nothing). For the Sakyapas, the union of "samsâra"
is the method to realize the nature of mind, seeing the difference
between both as non-existent, or merely the result of the obscuring
activities of the mind. The Gelugpas will focus on the Great Middle Way,
generating the qualities of a Buddha by concentrating on
absence of inherent existence of both persons & phenomena.
Despite these differences, the four views rely on resting in the union of emptiness
(the ultimate nature of all things) and Bodhicitta, or Great Compassion.
This means the
of compassion and the wisdom of emptiness walk hand in hand. They are
the two wings of the bird of awakening, for wisdom leads to the Truth
Body of a Buddha, while method brings about the Form Bodies. The latter
are used to aid sentient beings, and they have no other purpose.
merit is done by practicing the Four Immeasurables and the Six
Perfections. This leads to the Form Bodies. Accumulating wisdom is
realizing the emptiness of all phenomena.
In the Sûtras these two
"baskets" are filled one after another, never simultaneously. Only the
Tantras have a special method, namely Deity Yoga, to generate bliss
(method) and wisdom (emptiness) simultaneously. Bliss without wisdom
leads one into the trap of beatitude and the higher states of
consciousness. Wisdom without bliss does not allow one to generate
Bodhicitta, and so only personal
liberation can be attained.
Epilogue : Wholehearted Love as the Window
of the Heart.
To open the window of the heart, is to invite the light of Divine
Presence to shine in and invite its luminous grace to descend, embracing our whole being
and cascading down to touch all phenomena, placing the Great Seal on all. The ladder of light extends from our material
root to our spiritual crown, but without our decisive, existential choice to
raise ourselves up, we cannot spiritualize matter nor materialize
spirit. To turn away from this necessary process of finesse, identifying
with the Earth at the expense of Heaven, hurts the heart so much ...
The good heart is not a moralist, one following standards out of fear
for punishment or because morality makes itself its own standard, but an
of gratitude choosing a bright clarity to enlighten the dark recesses of
our lower being. It knows how to descend into hell to assist hell-beings,
is generous to hungry ghosts, teaches interconnectivity
and is a good slave to those who need one. Naked, it ascends into heaven and
converses with angels. It empowers to uplift all sentient beings. The
good heart is an enthusiast, engaged with others for the benefit of
others. Suffering without hurting itself, it sympathizes with the
suffering and enjoys without overacting, it dances with all creatures
moving up and down the ladder of lights.
Serene, wise and caring, it can take on all forms ; strong as a square on the
inside, but supple and tender as a circle outside.
To not cultivate the good heart blocks the flow of life and causes stern
stagnation. Weighed down by burdensome stress, the heart stops
communicating comprehensively and turns sour. The bitter heart does
nothing more than become more bitter, polluting its environment. Too
heavy, it cannot hold the balance and breaks down. It is devoured by its
own demons. To give way to afflictive emotions
and mental obscurations, focusing one's awareness exclusively on the
material pole of our being-in-the-world hurts the heart so much ...
Although the existential choice needed is not spontaneous and so does
not come about in a natural way, free
of encumbrance, it is nevertheless vital, both in this life and the
afterlife. Staying fixed on the material root, and its afflictive
emotions and power-driven egology, will deplete the lifeforce of the
body and by absence of any transformation into more subtle thoughts,
feelings, volitions and states of consciousness, will lead to the gross
and vulgar expressions of humanity. This is then the birth of the Beast,
not an animal and no longer fully human ! And what happens to this Beast
? It dies a horrible death ! All this denial and stupidity hurts the
heart so much ...
We eat and eat and eat the cause of our own misery, covering the planet with
unused mountains of our own filth, an ocean of floating waste material
suffocating life. The cult of materialism is a religion of excrements.
product of blind liberalism, capitalism and consumerism make us all
stink. And this stench is so putrid, it clogs the nose and kills off its
capacity to inform us that too much is too much. We are degenerated. As surgically
conditioned mammals, we continue to push our pleasure buttons until our
stomachs explode and the botox we injected inflames our hypocrite faces,
breasts and asses. The bad heart is as destructive as the good is
loving. But only the good heart survives, and so only the fool says in
his heart : "I have no heart !" To smile at this mountain of shit is the
first step in confronting it. Without a smile, we will never start to
Making a choice for the good, is to stop generating unused waste. To
start the process of transformation, we have to stop the process of
polluting. Accepting, naming, actualizing and integrating our Shadow is
the first step. Without this, nothing can be done, for our climb up the
mountain is made impossible by the heavy stones we want to take along.
Just drop them ! Let go of the dross ! Nearly no force pushes the feather
of truth upwards. It seems to move on its own accord. Finding a new
foundation to reach the heaven of the heart, one leaving the serpent of
hatred and craving encased in the transparant cube of insubstantiality,
is the practical task preparing the road to our salvation, the direct
experience of Divine Presence, the end of loneliness, the ongoing
embrace of the Beloved.
Having stopped defecating too much, we must attend the nonsense daily
produced by the conceptual mind. The endless chatter and useless noise
must stop. Mindful of our breath and the thoughts riding on it, we bring
about peace of mind. Empty when not needed, clear, strong, limpid &
crisp when at work. The good mind invites the good heart. The clogged
mind and its
thick lumps of
balooney concepts drain our vital energy, making further ascend
impossible. The mind must be a slave, not a Master. The monkey has to be
bridled, for without restrains it jumps, steals and makes havoc in the
grandest temple. This ape has no respect and, by retrieving dark
memories and projecting futures like mirages, it tricks the ego into
believing it will make its dear wishes come true. In fact, it drains the
lifeforce, gathering it to itself, taking a few bites from the fruits it
plucks, and dropping them as soon as something more luring is seen. In
this way, the conceptual mind is like a field of rotten corpses left
behind on the battle-field of our useless thoughts about past and future
states of mind. Attend to what happens here and now. Attend to this, and
stop shitting so much !
In this sense, theology is impossible, for we must stop the ambition of
the brain to grasp the Divine conceptually. How to pour an ocean in a
glass ? But to open the heart even more, God can be just experienced and
embraced. This is taking a risk, allowing our minds to move beyond the
frontiers of reason, but never without the background of reason. The
higher-order intelligence aimed at does not, in a romantic frenzy of
sorts, reject logic. It is not a protest philosophy. It does not return
to the primitive irrationalism which is the root of cognitive growth.
Aware of the head is abides by its natural laws. Aware of the heart it
opens up to the immeasurable Love concealed therein. Integrating both,
it makes it possible to lift both affects and conceptual thought to a
higher level, to a more sophisticated coordination. It takes a risk, but
not one leading to ambivalence but to a calculated, intelligent jump
across the precipice of our existential loneliness.
With a good heart, the gap between our frail human nature and the
Presence of the Divine is bridged. To move from the side of our
precarious material existence to the side of this spiritual overflowing
and boundless grace, is to cherish the organ of the soul ; the heart.
Here, both sides come together to integrate, allowing a higher-order
intelligence or "special" knowledge to rise and be our guide. Conscience
is the memory of the soul, and a burdening memory conceals the "puer
aeternus", the "little prince" for ever abiding in the heart. The
good heart remembers this eternal child it endlessly embraces and is
therefore aware of every impurity. These are manifold, hurting our vital
energies, our emotional life and our mental ruminations. We cannot
expect to evolve if we identify with our lower nature. Indulging in its
excesses while seeking heaven is like taking a shower with mud. This is
like piling waste upon waste. And yes, unfortunately so, youth is wasted
on the young.
Open and aware, the good heart is like unobstructed space. Living in
this "gnosis" is all it takes to keep the "temple of God", the
nuptial bed spotless clean. Such breathless whiteness reflects the
truth, beauty and goodness of our Divine origin and brings this Edenic
state into proximity. Our conscience is a guard, a witness at the door
of our heart, watching the ingoing and the outgoing of our intentions.
Not weighed down by sullied emotions, volitions & thoughts, our
consciousness can relate to all things, grasping & rejecting none. Then
it finally happens, the Beloved comes.
"... I will tell You the help that is fitting to
You : Follow the demand of your heart, to live in God alone. No stranger
lives in God."
Hadewijch : Letters, Serve Nobly (n°2).
Basically, in his natural state, the human, born and dying alone, cannot
stand loneliness. Seeking company to avoid being confronted with this
piercing absence, waving away the awareness of this great void around
and in us, we fill it up with impermanent nonsense, disconnecting us
from our true source. We forget time & space and behave as if eternity &
infinity are already ours. Thus we train ourselves into becoming
lonely, unhappy Beasts. Shackled, we are strangers to ourselves and to
others. Even when falling in love, only the image we project returns to
us. An yet, the moment we feel this strong urge of selfish love for a
loved one, we have received, without realizing it, the golden
opportunity to go out and meet the Beloved. But this is not this
physical, emotional and/or mental experience, but the spiritual
encounter with the totaliter aliter. These are the ways of Holy
Love. Only this radical otherness mends the brokenness of our soul. This
is truly fitting help to us. No human being, no selfish love can fulfill
our heart, for as long as we do not find ourselves breathing in Divine
Presence, we remain strangers to each other. Only as we find the
Beloved, can we truly love others. How sad so few dare to take the risk
... How joyful this path remains open, always !
Mystical experience, the direct encounter of Divine Presence, is more
sensation than mentation. Its field is the feeling heart more than the
conceptualizing head. Of all senses, touch, the way of our largest
organ, the skin, rocks us. When the Divine Process-God touches us, He does so as wind and
fire. Unseen and anywhere the wind blows around us, embracing us gently
and completely. Fire burns us, piercing us and wounding us. Both
sensations are kinesthetic. Here, we are moved and cannot stand still.
Wind blows us away or shakes us, fire makes us run and scream. We cannot
remain indifferent when we are touched. Unlike what we see or hear,
being touched moves the heart, entering its intimacy.
Being touched brings immediate proximity. When this happens, there is
this smell of roses. Does reading R.O.S.E.S. yield any fragrance (cf.
Rumi) ? It does not. As soon as the Divine touches us, our nose inhales the
sweet perfume of His breath, unmistaken and pervasive. We immediately
recognize it and its deep sweetness sticks to us. Its residue remains,
but bathing in scented water does not bring back its intensity. It is
unique, elusive and challenging. More than touch it pulls us into
ecstasy. Smell leads to taste, and with this sense, the spiritual
process of closeness culminates. To taste Divine Presence is to become
intimately aware of its omnipresence. Touching suddenly thrills us,
smell embraces us, but taste penetrates. Communion cannot be more
secret, powerful and intimate than when this holy presence melts on our
tongue. No words exit the mouth when His body is united with ours.
"A soul would be only too foolish
If, for the sake of a poor pleasure,
It made itself so miserable
That it did not know in the slightest degree
What high Love means.
But he who sailed the sea of Love
Dwelt in her uttermost depths,
And she made herself wholly known to him,
So that in a short time
She healed all the wounds of his desires."
Hadewijch : Poems in
And what about our eyes and ears ? In their natural state, these organs
feed the ego and the head. When the God of process is actually seen, He is best killed !
Experiencing Him "face to Face" is impossible. Such hallucinations are
dangerous constructions. When the Divine is heard, it is the "voice of
the silence", not demonic whisperings. The Holy Spirit talks with
silence, serenity, discretion and tact. The tricky spirit speaks the
sweet words of poison. Without being touched by the heart, both eyes and ears create distance, not
proximity. They need to be transformed in such a way to allow the heart
to see and hear through them, for then the secret truth can be seen and heard.
"He who knows, feeds his Ba (soul) with what
so that it is happy with him on earth.
He who knows is known by his wisdom,
(and) the great by his good actions.
(That) his heart twines his tongue,
(and) his lips (be) precise when he speaks.
That his eyes see !
That his ears be pleased to hear what profits his son.
(For) acting with Maat, he is free of falsehood.
Useful is listening to a son who hears !
If hearing enters the hearer, the hearer becomes a listener.
To listen well is to speak well.
He who listens is a master of what is good.
Splendid is listening to one who hears !
Listening is better than all else.
It manifests perfect love."
Maxims of Good Discourse, 95 - 96.
When the heart transforms the eyes, they become the "mirrors of the
soul". The orbifontal area of the prefrontal cortex directly behind the
eyes is then integrated with the higher areas of the limbic system, with
the presence-sensing amygdala in particular, part of the mammal brain of
belongingness intimately connected with the heart and its rhythms.
When thus feelings and thoughts are processed simultaneously, empathy,
the sublime form of sympathy, is
generated. Eye-consciousness changes from a concept-filling mentality to
one directly and immediately seeing the connection between the thinking
brain and the feeling heart.
When the heart transforms the ear, the "voice of the silence" is heard.
This soundless voice whispers when concentrating on the space in
which air waves travel. Ear-consciousness then listens with the heart
too. Not the sounds themselves but the space in which they move becomes
meaningful. When speaking, we are mindful of the sounds as if they were
produced by a flame flickering in the heart, not by our own voice. When
another speaks we listen to his or her heart, not only minding the
conceptual patterns of the sounds. This allows us to hear minute
variations in the vibrations and these inform us far better than the
actual sounds produced by the source. Exercising our ears to hear sounds
fading away before new ones are produced, makes us listen more sharply &
crisply. We then tend to become more silent, with a more penetrating
capacity of speech.
"Through constraint on the relation between ear
and ether, the Divine ear."
Transformed in the light of this special knowledge ("gnosis") of
the heart, eventually all five senses become united at the service of this
higher-order intelligence. Then the heart touches, smells, tastes, sees and hears and the
truth of perfect love matures.
"'Goodbye,' said the fox. 'And
now here is my secret, a very simple secret : It is only with the heart
that one can see rightly ; what is essential is invisible to the eye.'"
Antoine de Saint-Exupery : Le Petit
1943, chapter 21.
This is the opening of the window of the heart, and the indwelling of
the Holy Spirit, of the Divine as Holy Love. For this kind of Love is
all-encompassing. It can touch every being, smell the sweet breath of
God everywhere, taste Divine Presence, see the incredible, omnipresent
power of light all around us and hear the little voice of the very
subtle mind of Clear Light guiding our ways. This awe-inspiring arrival
of this seemingly complex experience but simple essence is giving entrance into our heart to all the
sublime Intimacy, Words and Visions, to all the Divine forms the heart can take.
But what is experienced as an arrival is actually a recognition of a
Presence never coming to us or leaving us, a continuous lipless kiss
always already there from beginningless time to the unbounded wholeness
of eternity & infinity.
When touched, the experience of the Divine is initiated. This shakes our
whole being. Thus opening up, we smell Divine fragrance and feel this
Presence enter us for the first time. Then we taste, we melt and fuse.
This union makes the heart burn, and this heat ignites the fire burning
concepts with concepts, forcing the monkey-ego to finally sit still.
Then the great transformation makes us feel Holy Love as an ever-new
death. This passion resurrects our eyes and ears, teaching us how to
Envision and Listen !
"Where are You hiding,
Beloved, leaving me in sighs ?
As a deer You escape me,
After You wounded me ;
I ran and called after You, but You left without a trace."
St.John of the Cross : Song of
"And like a devouring fire that draws everything
towards itself and consumes what it can destroy, thus she feels that
love ardently rages in her, without saving her and without measure, and
that she takes and consumes everything. By this she is being hurt
heavily and her heart is weakened very much and all her strenght is
Beatrice of Nazareth :
Seven Ways of Holy
Love, Fifth Way, § 3.
Let us not be naive. Divine Love has its violence too. It manifests in a
most subtle way in the life of the mystics, but is also revealed as the
blazing, bizarre & grotesque terror operating nature. From the death of
stars to the ongoing destruction & regeneration of life, the harmony and
unity of all possible phenomena apparently demands horror and
annihilation too. Here our inability to conceptually comprehend the
Divine is at its most intense, for reason equates harmony with absence
of death, pain, suffering and virulent annihilation. A "good" God à la
Plato cannot exist. Reason's thirst for linearity cannot cope with
turbulence and chaos that well. It seeks equations with solvable
unknowns and opts for an all-comprehensive view. Inevitable
unpredictability & ambivalence are shunned. We pretend our reason
may avoid them, and seek vain comfort in limiting ourselves. Poor reason
Were we not clearly told the incompleteness of logical systems is
inevitable (cf. Gödel) ? Simple mathematical operations are per
definition incomplete, so more the complexities of existence. We cannot
even calculate precise values of place & momentum of a single atom (cf.
Heisenberg). Pardoxically, minute changes effect humongous changes (cf.
Butterfly-effect). The amygdala sense Divine Presence, but also process
extreme sexual violence ! Evil & death are abhorred by reason, but the Divine
is able to encompass both and so to be near all possible events. Only
fear of death and fear of life will foster limitations one cannot
maintain. Eventually, the impermanence of all is understood, and
although we hate evil is brought into this world, we finally intuitively
acknowledge evil has its place.
Finally, the good heart keeps another promise ; not only a good death,
one well prepared and fully lived, but a resplendent afterlife ! What
can we say ? As we have died numerous times before, we may retrieve the
memories ourselves. Indeed, in this body we live only once, but we have
travelled countless times before in other vehicles. This is the wisdom of the wise heart. So
should we listen to what others have to say about death ? As birth
itself, death is an intimate and extremely personal entry. People who
fear death as the unknown have an inflated ego ; it shields them from
their inner wisdom. People who
do not fear death because they forgot about it, have not yet opened the
window of the heart, for it opens to life and death likewise. The heart
remembers the many times it went in and came out ... The good heart
knows in a special way.
"How do I know that the dead do not wonder why
they ever longed for life ?"
Chuang-tzŭ : Chuang-tzŭ, section 2.
Those who have been near those lucidly dying and so have witnessed
these last moments of this-life know. We have died numerous times. We have been born
numerous times. This moment of consciousness is followed by another
moment of consciousness and this stream has no beginning and no end.
Opening the window of our heart brings back all memories and this gives
us the power to stand firm in life and prepare well for death, the
rebirth into another level of existence.
In Ancient Egypt, the heart was not taken out of the body to be mummified separately. For
this organ of the soul is the boat, the raft, the vehicle bringing us
safely to the other shore. With it, all fares are paid and we arrive
with dignity, lightness of being and wisdom. The heart guarantees our
rebirth and ends our rebirth. As Enlightened Immortals, we gracefully
smile upon all sentient beings, assisting those who wish to be assisted
and blessing all others without distinction. We prepare their lightpaths
and beckon them. They may look and just pass-by for now, but eventually
they too will jump across the abyss and join us in the eternal &
infinite embrace of Love with Love.
General Bibliography (2005 - 2007) l
Egyptology (2004 - 2007) l
Neurotheology (2003) l
Epistemology (2006) l
Ethics (2006) l