Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
We first met him in California in 1980. We went to a lecture he was giving. Physically, he was a small dark Hindu with expressive eyes and a black dot over them. One certainly got the impression that he projected a powerful aura. He was both gentle yet sharp as a tack! As the custom was to bring a gift, or prasad, which was cast into a large woven basket, Walter brought him the last rose from our garden in La Habra, and Muktananda held it the entire time. Each of us came up to greet him, and I was introduced as a Jungian astrologer. His words were translated by his niece, who later headed the American ashram, I believe. I do not remember what he said all of thirty years ago, but I certainly remember the impact of his presence! A year later, I was invited by my friend from Esalen, Stanislav Grof, to speak at the International Transpersonal Association Conference in Bombay, and after the conference a few of us accompanied Grof to the guru’s ashram in Ganeshpuri.
It was the festival of Shivaratri, and hundreds, if not thousands, of people were attending and celebrating. We lined up to meet him, and when it came to my turn, he pulled me down and bent over and whispered to me, “Will you do my chart?” I was astonished by his memory, and so I decided to stay. I had had a dream about him several months before, in which he was seated in a marble room on a throne and had drawn me onto his lap and asked me if he could use my body to speak through. I replied that I would have to think about it. (I was in training analysis with the Jungian Dr. Christopher Whitmont at the time, and when he heard the story he chuckled and said I was making progress: “A few months ago, you would have said. ‘Sure, any time!’”) Imagine my surprise, when I found that room and throne just as I had dreamt it.
Needless to say, I had no materials to do his horoscope, but among the many Western disciples these were found, so I drew up the chart, and waited to be summoned. During the several days of waiting, I had the opportunity of absorbing the remarkable flavor of the ashram, which was beautiful in every respect. There were many disciples from the States and Europe as well as Indians. Every evening, there was kirtan, and the men and women separated into groups and sang and danced in ecstasy. The whole ashram was spotless and well-ordered, and one sensed a strong positive collective energy. I eagerly attended Muktananda’s daily teachings.
Finally, I was summoned. By then, I had the impression that he was considered a divine being, so how was I to do God’s chart! When I entered his room, he was eager but looked exhausted, so I decided just to give him practical advice. I counseled him to seek the company of children and animals, who would not project divinity upon him. Little did I realize that as a Taurus, he had a stable with pet cows! The interpreter was Noni, a Persian, I think, with a sparkling sense of humor. We connected immediately. I asked Muktananda if he had thought of acting out parts of the epic Mahabharata in the ashram. His face lit up. “Yes,” he explained, “and I always played the part of God!” to which, I responded, “Think what fun God had playing Muktananda!” Noni’s translation was perfect, and he burst out laughing. We were off to a good start.
I decided to tell him an adapted version of a Mullah Nasruddin story that had formed itself in my mind a few years previous, back on Long Island. Mullah was an eleventh-century Sufi “Idiot Sage.” So I told him the following story:
Mullah was recently in Istanbul telling his famous funny teaching stories when his friends accosted him and rebuked him. “Mullah,” they said, “you have to stop all this. Don’t you realize this is a New Age? You have to be serious now, you need to find yourself!”
“I do? How can I do that?” “Well,” they answered, “we hear that the quickest way is to go to America and attend this guru Muktananda’s ashram in South Fallsburg, New York” “Oh well,” agreed Mullah, shaking his head ,”if you say so.” Then he sold his donkeys and bought a ticket to the USA. But a month later, he was back in Istanbul, telling his funny stories worse than before. “Mullah, what on earth happened?” asked his amazed friends.
“Well,” grinned Mullah, “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to all of you. I went there, and did all the meditations and yoga exercises to get to the center of my self, and guess what? I discovered that God is the biggest jokester of all. “How come?” asked his friends.
“Well,” grinned Mullah, “you won’t believe this, but after all that searching, when I got to the very center of my Self, guess what? I wasn’t there!”
I was rewarded by Muktananda bursting out laughing! He got up and instead of giving me shaktipat, a tap on the head leading to instant enlightenment, he folded me in his arms and gave me a warm hug and a kiss, and an invitation on the spot, to ride with him in his golf cart to visit his cows. With a wink to Noni, I asked for a Sanskrit name and suggested ‘cowpatti’(!). “No, no,” he exclaimed, “Gomati!” which means Mother Cow. With that, we drove off to see my namesake at his stable and to receive the gift of a picture of him and her, and a lovely scarf. What a privilege!
I owed a lot to Noni, who it seemed had, despite his yearning for enlightenment, a problem with “wine, women, and song.” So, to teach him a lesson, when he was with a woman and at the very climax, he went instead into samadhi, the bliss of which renders one unconscious! He looked appropriately sheepish, when he told me the story, revealing Muktananda’s powers.
Years later, before Muktananda died, his reputation was sullied by, what I believe, a misunderstanding. He was reputed to have slept with young women on occasion. What Westerners do not understand is that old men in India sometimes lie chastely with young women to recharge their astral energy. If you are smirking as you read this, it is true. Perhaps, he did not explain this because he might have wanted his disciples to withdraw their projection onto him and thus find their own Light within. Who knows?
All I can say is that to encounter him was a true blessing. I am especially grateful to him for explaining to me that one of our physical goals is to unite the essences of the pituitary and the pineal glands in the brain, thus producing the Blue Pearl of samadhi or ultimate spiritual bliss, also known perhaps as the ultimate result of uniting the subtle spinal nerve currents of ida and pingala in kundalini.
I highly recommend his books; his center is ongoing in South Fallsburg, New York, though I have never been there except with Mullah Nasruddin.
Monday, May 3, 2010
I cross the rivers of Hades
Cocytus, Phlegethon, Acheron, and Styx,
by-passing the blisses of Letho.
Pluto is waiting
black-eyed and curious.
Few people come down this far, he comments.
He is dark and powerful, as I expected,
but he looks wan of skin and somewhat strained.
Why have you come? The plumbing is very bad here.
It is. The cavern walls are streaming
with tears and flashing with slime
and the usual assortment
of creeping red-eyed monsters are
mewling about, obviously not housebroken.
but I am no longer afraid. This is urgent.
I come to learn of evil, I tell him.
I might be called evil because I looked down here before.
So, replies Pluto. Then you have come to the right place.
I sit on a block of stone and he begins.
Everyone at birth has his own share of Hades,
furnished to taste and prevailing custom, of course,
yet caves are most popular and suitable
as symbols of depth, dark, and unknown terrors.
You are all united by a threading river of fire.
Each of you receives a packing case
shipped down to order.
Charon has quite a sideline,
another Greek shipping magnate!
and in the case: -"
He counts on his fingers.
Rituals, murders, fears of the race.
tortures. screams, tabus of the tribe.
repressions, distortions, guilts of the family,
and, of course, your personal residue.
Quite a Pandora's Box!
Share and share alike, a human debt
to the generations.
These are released, my friend, by degrees.
Some run about the dreams of childhood,
Some sit and whine in the dark corners of the mind.
Did you not tremble as a child
alone with howls and bears and gropings?
Did you not throw shames down here yourself
for your children's children?
Here is your collection. Here.
All to be faced sooner or later.
You would not believe
the stuff that gets thrown down here
century after century!
Here it festers nicely and seethes and makes power.
But how you use this - ah, that is your affair.
He leans toward me, glowing with emphasis.
What you call evil is primeval energy misunderstood.
He lets the flames of his words sink in.
Why, I ask softly, why you?
Pluto gives a twisted smile as if the question pleases him.
I was the proudest. I wanted the impossible work.
Few know that I exist or care to redeem me.
Persephone never remembers messages!
Would you not want to come up to the sun?.I ask.
At times I do but it saddens me
I grieve for months.
Pluto, I ask, must we have this dark kingdom?
A three-headed dog with phosphorescent fangs
appears. I hold out my hand
and it lays its hideous heads piteously
Without my dark, Pluto continues,
you would have no desires.
No strengths in your urges, ambitions, or achievements.
Even spirit needs my sinews for earthly matters.
When you use me, I am called good. I become
almost natural. But when I use you
I am called horrible, insulting names
which vary with religions.
Remember all virtues carried to excess become vices.
That can be tricky!
Either way, I am admired, feared, or damned
but love --?
He gives a short laugh and comes close to me.
Cerberus, for such is his name, slinks away
his tail beneath his tattered legs.
Pluto undresses me;
I moan in my sleep.
He put his dark hands on my breasts
but playfully I put my arms around him
and gave him a hug and a kiss
which he needs more.
He hasn't been hugged in eons!
His voice shakes.
Orpheus came down here once.
Let me tell you that
his lyre sang sweeter songs
because he sang of the Oracles of Night
and lost Eurydice.
He sang for beauty forever denied him
trusting not that it followed behind.
The trees, the grass, the flowers, the springs,
even we held our breath and our tears,
but it was not to be!
Sing of me upon your return, I beg you,
for I am redeemed by art.
I dress again
And Pluto even buttons me up the back.
I give him a chocolate bar, which is all I have
I pity you with all my heart, I tell him.
I will try to understand and to love you.
He rises then majestically and opens his cape.
A swirl of black stars of onyx
falls around me, and I am mortally afraid.
Faintly I hear him singing:
For I am redeemed in you by art, and
I am also fond of pomegranates.
I cannot bid him farewell
for I am gasping up the stairs of my night
Strangely, I feel cleansed when I awake
and so I reach for paper
and set this down.
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light but by making the darkness conscious. – C. G. Jung
Pluto’s Greek name is Hades, and both names mean wealth, which may come as surprise! The archetypal process of Pluto is transformation. I am going to reprint a most powerful poem by the little-known English Victorian Edward Carpenter, because it describes what we have to do individually and collectively with the “evil” we seem to have to deal with as one of the reasons for our privilege of incarnation. Here it is:
And at last I saw Satan appear before me – magnificent, fully formed.
Feet first, with shining limbs, he glanced down from among the bushes,
And stood there erect, dark-skinned, with nostrils dilated with passion;
(In the burning, intolerable sunlight, he stood, and I in the shade of the bushes);
Fierce and scathing the effluence of his eyes, and scornful of dreams and dreamers (he touched a rock hard by and it split with a sound like thunder);
Fierce the magnetic influence of his dusky flesh; his great foot, well-formed, was planted firm in the sand—with spreading toes;
“Come on,” he said, with a taunt, “art thou afraid to meet me?”
And I answered not, but sprang upon him and smote him.
And he smote me a thousand times, and brashed and scorched and slew me as with hands of flame;
And I was glad, for my body lay there dead; and I sprang upon him again with another body;
And he turned upon me, and smote me a thousand times and slew that body;
And I was glad and sprang upon him again with another body –
And with another and another and again another;
And the bodies which I took on yielded before him, and were like cinctures of flame upon me, but I flung them aside:
And the pains which I endured in one body were powers which I wielded in the next; and I grew in strength till at last I stood before him complete, with a body like his own and equal in might – exultant in pride and joy.
Then he ceased and said, “I love thee.”
And lo! his form changed and he leaned backwards and drew me upon him,
And bore me into the air, and floated me over the topmost trees and the ocean, and round the curve of the earth under the moon –
till we stood again in Paradise.
– From Edward Carpenter, The Secret of Time and Satan
Goethe expresses the same idea in his Faust when he has Mephistopheles complain, I am a part of the Spirit that always contrives evil and always ends up doing good! and I am the Spirit that always denies. Which reminds me of the epiphany I had on the fire escape in Greenwich Village in 1944: A Yes has to come before a No can sound!
My intuition about Pluto’s process is that it rules our Collective Shadow! – all the karma of the millennia, the cruelty, murder, rape, torture, meanness, greed etc. etc. – and that the myth of the Herculean “Cleansing of the Augean Stables” applies. Jung, bless him, suggests that as we work upon our individual Shadow, we withdraw that much darkness from the collective one, so there is one of the purposes of human incarnation. This is where the true meaning of transformation comes in.
Alchemy calls it the nigredo and maintains that this blackness hides the gold, non auream vulgarum, not physical gold, which explains the irony of the names Pluto and Hades meaning wealth!
Whenever we see those black curling clouds like the ones issuing recently from the Icelandic volcano or burning oil or rubber, we are reminded symbolically of the destructive power of this archetype.
The planet Pluto has just entered the earth sign of Capricorn. It is at present the furthest out, and it was discovered in 1930 by Percival Lowell. Its orbit is 248 years, so we really don’t know completely what this process entails. So far, the trans-Saturnian planets have shown their negative processes quite clearly at first, and no sooner was Pluto discovered when the Plutonian Holocaust unfolded, the massacres of WWII, and the atom bomb based on the use of plutonium! The threat of nuclear warfare seems symptomatic, does it not?
As I write, our whole country seems under nature’s siege, but the oil spill is manmade. It is hard for me to see a positive side to any of this, but the only cure is the change in the collective consciousness of humanity. Every atom of creation contains a point of light. I challenge anyone reading this to take a moment to examine your seven highest priorities or values. Write them down, and, oh, may Love be one of them!
lovingly, (what else!)