March 15, 2015
A bank of storm clouds, dark with their burden, came into view at the bay windows of my apartment. Even as I watched them, their black deepened, until they resembled more a cosmic nebula than a bank of clouds in our local atmosphere. Then, in the midst of this dark, a crack of light formed, like a mouth opening; like a string of stars merging into one stream of white light. I watched this crack working its way through the clouds, as if it were writing a message into that darkness. It spread across the cloudbank, deepening as it went, back into the seemingly endless interior. Suddenly, as if this scene had been given voice, I heard the cry of crows; I opened my eyes further to see them. And I awoke.
Anything taken by force is not worth having. This principle, I feel fairly sure, is the key to what many call success; what I refer to as blessing. A personal quest involving the maturation of the self via the destruction and dispersion of ego can be truly led by such a guide. At any rate, it has become the theme of my inner and outer life these days. Different moments require different measures.
This is one personal meaning I’ve taken from a recent dream (above). But I can’t honestly tell you if that was a dream or a vision, and that doesn’t matter anyway, does it? Was I asleep or awake; sitting or lying down, when it appeared? I don’t remember; and I’m sure you’ve also noticed how, even in a single moment, consciousness can rise and ebb like a wave, until you are no longer aware of what is “real” according to our conventional understanding of that term. It happens to me virtually all the time now, and I like that; I think it’s fun.
My awakening at the end of that dream may have been the ordinary shift of awareness from sleep to the so-called normal state of attention. Or it may have been somewhere along that continuum between somnolence and alertness, whose wave-states have been scientifically classified with letters from the Greek alphabet.
Now the effort of consciousness to objectify itself — to treat its own energy as an experimental and external object of analysis — seems intractably surreal, maybe even impossible (Watts used to compare it with the teeth biting themselves or touching the tip of a finger with that same fingertip). So we are drawn to a point where the meaning of such moments must be revealed rather than grasped.
This is the spirit in which I wish to explore the message of my dream-vision above. That is to say, I offer it with no claim of truth, veracity, or universal insight: my world is not the same as yours. Yet if you find some grain or suggestion of personal meaning in it, then you are of course welcome to draw it into your world.
I have been working on my personal variant of the old yogic practice known as kundalini meditation; and I found or sensed something in my dream that is evocative to this context. Now traditional kundalini imagines a snake coiled at the base of the spinal column; a kind of genital energy, which leaps snake-like up the spinal column into the brain. That is a potent symbol that is common to many cultures (think of the caduceus symbol of Western medicine). But as I am a child of the 20th century, and have a certain predilection for science, I have adopted the image of the Tesla coil over the snake — a bursting spread of resonant energy between the magnetic fields of two circuits, which share the same or similar frequency.
So there you have the light spreading across and within the cloud bank of my little vision. The dark principle that is the cloud’s mass is distinct, yet not separate from, the photonic energy of sex. They are in fact in a union that you may be justified in calling sacred. In my dream, I felt the cloud-mass as “burdened” — not by its physical presence, nor by some Original Sin or inherent Evil — but by all the beliefs, fears, guilt, and alienation that are common to the acculturated and self-conscious mind. That Tesla-light of sexuality contains the capacity for expelling the distortions of the dark without losing its essence; for cleansing the misshapen stains trained into the individual’s body, thus celebrating the design which Nature originally gave it.
This practice, then, is not about repressing the dark or demonizing the body. It is about arousing the dark to the extent that light may be given room to play. This, after all, is what great sex is all about: bidirectional excitement. Lao Tzu tells us that in Nature, “the light and the dark mingle like the breaths of lovers.”* After all, without the dark, the photon would be a solipsistic cipher — an energy with no background to live in nor eye to distinguish it; no mind to understand it; no heart to love it. Thus, a true kundalini practice celebrates the field of the dark equally with the light that penetrates its mass.
Since sexuality is the primordial creative force of our animal being, and as its source is within the pelvic floor, where the connection between the spine and the lower body is felt — it makes sense to call upon its unique energy to inspire the work of maturation. I would go even further than that and say that if such a practice were taught to priests and ministers both during and after seminary, the horrors of clerical pedophilia and other perversions would diminish toward non-existence.
Now the Tesla coil features an alternating current, meaning that the charge runs in both directions, rather than uni-directionally (direct current). This is another area where I tend to revise traditional kundalini practice, which focuses on the direct-current model — that is, the movement of energy from the genitals to the brain, across the various intervening spinal points or chakras. I prefer the sensation of bidirectional movement of the electromagnetic charge: the brain’s activity here is characterized by release — a letting-go of thought, belief, and twisted emotion — think of Lao Tzu’s metaphor of “settling the dust.”* The light force of sex meets and reinforces that energy of release, so that the effect is of a cooperative cleansing of the self rather than a forced displacement of a “bad” element with a “good” element. Remember, the light of my dream appeared as a natural formation rather than a projection.
I’m hoping that this isn’t coming across as esoteric, because that’s utterly contrary to my intent here. We have developed such complex and distorted patterns of language in our spiritual traditions, that more than half the battle of communication in this realm seems to involve penetrating the various prejudices and myopia that are built into our common languages of spirituality. Consider, for instance, the presumption ingrained in a simple expression such as “I have a body.” Who is the “I” who owns this body, and in what way are I and body separate? That separation, I would argue, is the very foundation of the entire architecture of belief and prejudice that is institutional religion. Undermine that foundation within yourself and the whole tower of lies collapses on itself.
So the light of sexuality writes its design, its beautiful message, throughout the dark of body; cleansing the whole of the burdensome, iron shroud of derived belief. The call of the crows (which, as it were, brought me out of the dream) seems to reinforce this purifying energy of Nature: the dark, soaring creatures of the sky, whose language is so stark and strong; so free and clear. That sexuality should become the focal energy of meditation would seem to them obvious.
This, of course, is not an insular practice: it is not navel-gazing (or, in my case now, penis-gazing) as a respite from “real life.” The whole point of meditation is that the spirit of its practice spreads through our lives as the energy of digested food spreads through bodies. When I walk or do Chi Kung, or lift weights, the action of body serves the same intent as does kundalini. I let meditation happen at my desk at work; during elevator rides (I work on the 35th Floor); and while standing in the checkout line at the market.
Returning to my original theme: the effort to take growth and blessing within life by force is to in fact banish them. As Watts used to say, “there is nothing more egotistical than ego’s attempt to get rid of ego.” When you contrive to take things by force, you in fact repel the energy of blessing. Meditation is not a pilgrimage of conquest; it is a way of life, of ordinary, everyday life. When we destroy the wall of separation between who we are and whence we arose; between Self and Nature; between body and spirit — we grow, inwardly and outwardly — until there is no longer any space between inner and outer.
*My translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. The “breaths of lovers” quote comes from Chapter 2; the “settling of dust” metaphor comes from Chapter 15 (where I opted for an equally potent metaphor of “settling the mud”).