Monday, 25 February 2013

Towards a Foundation of a Universal Esoteric Science

with additional material by Steven Guth and Arvan Harvat

This essay presents the first steps at formulating a universal and unified esoteric science; one which works alongside and with scientific method, rather than belittling or rejecting it. Such a universal system of esotericism would constitute a wider framework into which more specialised aspects of human knowledge, in all its facets, can be placed. It also represents and requires a radical paradigm shift. I have tried to minimise the amount of intellectualising and dogma, keeping it to the minimum, and emphasise instead a diverse range of ideas and suggestions.

Science and Esotericism

Whilst the physical sciences have continued to progress ever since the time of Galileo, the esoteric sciences have not advanced to the same degree; and some haven't advanced at all (e.g. Astrology - with all the advances in so-called Esoteric, Humanistic, etc - still rests on the foundation of Ptolemaic (Geocentric) physics. Hassidic Kabbalah rehashes and reinterprets material written two centuries and more ago. Theosophy draws on the 19th century writings of Balvatsky, including Victorian science.). In fact esoterica in general does not progress the way science does. This is because esoterica is based on experiences, anecdotes, and dogmas, whereas science uses testable and objective experimental methodology. Science works because other scientists can conform or refute the findings of the original author. e.g. external link special relativity can be external link confirmed by measuring the slightly lower speed of atomic clocks in a moving aircraft, and other means. With esotericism this is not possible.
The problem is that there is no "objective" standard in esotericism. How does one for example prove or disprove something like Blavatsky's Seven Root Races? Or the Kabbalistic world of Atzilut? Or purusha and prakrtiti of the Samkhya philosophy?
Because physical science is to be based on the empirical unit of testable experiment (external link Galileo etc) and external link falsification (Popper), it is possible over the years, decades and centuries to create a vast edifice of knowledge. It is not necessary for every physicist to rediscover Newton's laws, and Einstein's relativity, and the quantum physics of Plank, Bohr, Schroedinger, Heisenberg and the rest. These are already assumed to be valid, they have been tested, confirmed through independent experimental results, and so can serve as the foundation for further explorations.
This is the reason science is so powerful, and has achieved such miracles of knowledge and technology.
In contrast to the wonders of the modern scientific understanding of the workings off the universe, poor old Esotericism cannot get beyond the basic foundations. And what is worse, even those foundations are biased; coloured by the religious or personal idiosyncrasies of the author, and not amenable to confirmation or refutation the way physical science is. Each school follows the Founder, without questioning. The 4th Way people follow Gurdjieff and only use his jargon. The Theosophists ditto Blavatsky. Sometimes schisms occur, like the rival schools of Theosophy (Adya, Point Loma, Alice Bailey, etc), and there is no objective test to see which one is correct.
If an esoteric science is to be truly universal, it must be based on fundamental elements of knowledge that can be confirmed or refuted (as much as possible) and can serve as the foundation for further units.
In one respect this is not as easy as with physical science. Physical science - like exoteric religion - doesn't require one to alter their consciousness. It doeshowever ask that one immerse oneself in a specialised body of knowledge, often for years at a time, of little relevance or interest to humanity as a whole, before one can embark on one's own research. Let us say you want to study, oh, say, prehistoric amphibians (external link labyrinthodonts) of the external link Triassic period. You have to spend several years learning basic external link palaeontology and geology. Then spend more years specialising in vertebrate palaeontology, especially labyrinthodont amphibians, and that means you have to find someone who has already studies and researched and written papers on Triassic labyrinthodont amphibians. That person then becomes your supervisor, who helps you with your work and makes sure you are on the right track. Or if astronomy, you may have an interest in external link protoplanetary nebulae, say. Again, the same pattern; general study, then specialised, and finally your own research (Master's thesis, then Phd), all this taking quite a few years. As you can see, it is very like getting initiated into, say, a Sufi or Tantric sect, and following the teacher or guru, who is there to help you find your own way (and never, as in many fake pop-gurus of the West, to take advantage of you).
And after all this, one's own research, when it is published, can be tested by one's peers. This process of peer-review is a fundamental element of western science. Whilst it leads to the danger of becoming hide-bound and stuck in old paradigms, it also ensures that any new discoveries are authentic; they are not something being churned out by any lunatic.
Now, consider esoteric science. You can, if you wish, join a school, according to your inclination and interests and talents. Say a Hermetic School, or a Tibetan Buddhist lineage. You are given material to learn, and when you feel ready you are initiated into the group. As you progress you are given more advanced material, or meditation practices, to learn and master. You are supervised by the elders of the group, who make sure you don't go astray, and help you if you have problems. You can specialise if you wish, perhaps you prefer a particular meditation, or a particular practice. Eventually, after many years, if you feel comfortable in this group, you become an elder or master or teacher too. And here also there is a sort of review by peers, although not in such a formal sense (although sometimes it may be). If you have wildly eccentric interpretations, your views may not be accepted. Sometimes they may be good views, sometimes ridiculous. There may be a schism, or you may be expelled. Paradigms determine belief-systems and behaviour in esotericist groups just as much as in science - if not more so! And most of all in exoteric religions, which at their worst are hidebound to the most literal interpretations of an old book, which, worthy as it may be in its message, becomes twisted and distorted when every word is taken as "gospel truth" (literally!).
So each branch of human endeavour - science or esotericism - follows a broadly similar path. Novice who joins specialised or specialist or even eccentric group, where he/she can pursue ones interests, is encouraged and guided, and eventually becomes a master or teacher or elder in his/her own right. this is just part of the cycle of human existence and interrelationships.
But science and esotericism also differ. Science is about discovering things - pure knowledge - for their own sake. The joy of learning is reward enough. Esotericism, being more pragmatic, is not only about knowledge, it is also about attainment. Of course, this varies too, with some forms of esotericism, like Theosophy, being almost totally theoretical (and hence like science), while others, like various schools of Buddhist or Yogic practice, being almost completely practical, with only minimal theory (just enough to provide a framework for the practice).
The greatest denial of knowledge however is found in some hidebound exoteric Religions and Cults, where learning of anything other than one's own faith or the teachings of the cult leader is actually depreciated or condemned as a distraction, or the work of the devil.
So an esoteric science, as suggested here, is not about the path to enlightenment or self-realisation, which is the true goal of mystical and esotericist practice, but about understanding the "intermediate realities" between the objective physical and the transcendent. In no way do I think this a bad thing. In fact, I consider this a worthy extension of human knowledge, and one that may even be necessary, if we are to broaden our understanding of the universe about us, and our own psyches. For me, the practical and theoretical should go together; each is unbalanced without the other.

Laying the Foundations

How then do we begin to lay the foundations for a Universal Esoteric Science? What methodologies do we use?
This is not an easy question. Perhaps a few propositions to begin with?
Let us begin with the Most Fundamental Empirical Datum of all, The Primacy of consciousness. Cartesian/Husserlian method (I remember this was taught by my old lecturer at La Trobe University, Dr Moshe Kroy, and it influenced me greatly) is that one can doubt anything but one's own consciousness, one's own existence, one's own bare awareness. This of course takes us to Advaita Vedanta, as Moshe perceptively realised. Because Shankara's Advaita, following on the "great sayings' of the Upanishads, says that all there is is the Self, the bare datum of Consciousness/Awareness, the Absolute Reality (Atman = Brahman).
So this is the first proposition - all that exists is my (well, your, because you are the one reading this) Awareness
Now, Moshe Kroy used the Cartesian method, but this is potentially debatable. As someone said, Descartes was wrong with his "Cogito, ergo sum". I perceive, therefore I am. The most honest declaration would be: perception exists.
But one could go further than that (because perception is still perception of something) and say "Bare Awareness Is" (Kashmir Shaivism, also Advaitin Atman (Self) = Brahman)). The ratiocination-based Western philosophical methodology is in this regard more limited than Vedantic/Tantric Bare Awareness methodology. It is important to understand what is being referred to here is not an ego or finite conscious self, but a boundless consciousness. It is proposed here that this is all that is.
This can be proved by a simple thought experiment. Try to imagine another bare awareness. You can't, because to do so would mean you include it in your awareness. Other than Being (which in this thought experiment is your being, your consciousness, although technically speaking the limited "I" is a reflection of the infinite awareness - see below) there is not even nothing. There is only That Being.
It is true that dualists, pluralists, physicalists and the like do assume the duality of subject and object, and say that there is an objective or other subjective reality, or non-being, beyond the All-Encompassing Awareness. But of course, to postulate such a reality, they have to imagine /visualise it. So they have still not gone beyond their awareness
Of course, solipsism is absurd too, but only because solipsism makes the mistake of identifying the Absolute Awareness (Parasamvit, Atman-Brahman ornirguna brahman, etc). with the limited sphere of the individual ego-consciousness and its sphere of awareness. So I emphasise, when referring to Absolute Awareness, I mean the Supreme, of which your subjective awareness is simply a reflection (good analogy here is the external link golden lion metaphor in Hua Yen Buddhism (Fa-tsang). The infinite reflections in the mirror are not the actual golden lion)
So we have proposition number one - all that exists, all that is, is Infinite Non-dual Consciousness.
See this page for a more detailed take on this
This is the basic monistic insight, the mystical experience of Unity (see e.g. external link  Mysticism Defined by W.T. Stace), the premise of most (but not all - there are dualists as well) esoteric teachings, from Plotinus to Shankara to Ibn Arabi to Theon. At the beginning, and in essence now, there is only The One.
This of course has a corollary - everything is nothing else but Transformations of that One. Even inanimate matter is Consciousness, is nothing butConsciousness.
But if there is only the Supreme, why are we limited finite beings. Proposition two, there must be a progression from Infinite Absolute to Finite Relative. And hence, Reality has a structure, a gradient, and can be mapped. This is the field of study of esoteric science, mapping this structure, the "Body of God" as theKabbalists so evocatively say. This also takes us to Emanationism, regarding which I have already provided an overview. See also Professor Huston Smith's book Forgotten Truth : The Common Vision of the World's Religions which presents human knowledge and experience in terms of a gradation of several metaphysical levels, in keeping with the teachings of mystics and spiritual traditions of all times and cultures. (Professor Smith's thesis is that an over-emphasis on experimental science since the time of Galileo has led to the loss of this sacred insight in the Western world)
But the Map of Reality - the Body of God - is not something static. That is where the Theosophists and Kabbalists and others go wrong, in trying to formulate a rigid set of planes, perhaps by analogy with physical characteristics. Rather, it is a dynamic process. Esoteric science is a study of processes, not of "things"
We now have the Ground of Reality, and the Body of the Godhead. But what about the Method to be used?
Since Consciousness is the sole reality, we should not depreciate consciousness in seeking to understand the universe. This gives us a Method, again shown to me by Moshe Kroy almost a quarter of a century ago.
Everything that appears in Consciousness is a valid datum of inquiry
This is the completely opposite approach to physical science, which seeks to screen out the effect of subjectivity (although it cannot deny the reality of the Observer - and hence of Consciousness). This is why science works best with inanimate objects, still adequately with living beings (although there is no conception of ch'i and little of the dynamics of the whole organism), not so good with societies and anthropology, and worst of all with psychology, leading to such absurdities as Behaviourism (which in its extreme form (Watson, Skinner, etc) even denies the existence of subjectivity!!!) and statistics-driven so-called experimental psychology. The more "inward" (the "within" to use Teilhard de Chardin's term) you go, the less that science works.
Science therefore is a methodology that works supremely well on the gross physical plane, when dealing with purely physical; objects, and less well with more subtle things.
Conversely subjectivism becomes absurd when applied to purely physical processes, this is where "magic" becomes "superstition", and the reason that the physically advanced but metaphysically impoverished Western and Western-inspired nations were able to conquer and enslave the technologically more primitive but metaphysically more advanced Asian, Tribal, etc societies (everything from the 16th to 19th century European colonisation of the rest of the world to the 20th century Chinese conquest of and on-going genocide in Tibet)
Therefore Objective Physical Science and Subjective Esoteric Science thus complement each other perfectly. Which brings us to the next proposition.
On matters of physical reality, Esotericism should defer to Science.
Why? Because this way we can avoid absurdities like Steiner's cosmological cycles, in which the whole Solar System comes into and moves out of manifestation within the time of a single Procession of the Equinoxes. Examined in the hard light of scientific analysis, the Anthroposophical science of Steiner and his followers has all the persuasiveness of the Young Earth theory of fundamentalist Christian Creationism
Which brings us to our next point.
If we are to use as a foundation of inquiry the basic framework already established by the various esoteric teachings, we have to be very careful of one thing. Fixed opinions, which freeze the original fleeting inspiration or process into something stultifying. We need to get away from dogmas. Dogmas in esotericism are as bad as dogmas in science. In science, dogmas become old paradigms that obstruct new ideas, and have to be overthrown, and are only with difficulty. In esotericism, dogmas are far worse, they become fundamentalist and literalist fixations, and blind one to other truths and other possibilities, and destroy even the original truth that was in that teaching in the beginning. This is why dogmatism in esotericism, in religion, and everywhere else, should be completely avoided. Even the ideas presented here should only be taken as hypotheses and suggestions, never as dogmas, and only accepted if one feels in one's own heart that they have value.
Finally, we need to ask what teachings and experiences we will use and take as authoritative, in formulating our new Esoteric Science. Let us say (for sake of example) you like Osho and I like Aurobindo. Now, if Osho says the Absolute Reality and the Self (Atman) are the same, and if Aurobindo says that too, well, that is fine, there is no problem. But if Osho says once you attain Enlightenment that is the highest state, but Aurobindo says, no, there is a higher state beyond Enlightenment, you have to draw the Divine Consciousness down and transform your body and matter, there is a problem. (I am mentioning this because I once many years ago had a discussion/argument with a friend who was a devotee of Osho; I took (and still take) the Aurobindoan position, and he did not feel comfortable with that, because it referred to states beyond what Osho taught. One could say the same using Adi Da instead of Osho as an example). So, where there is a conflict, we need to decide which teacher is the most authoritative.
Everyone will have different ways of doing this, but my method regarding this is simple. The most Inclusive Teaching is the one that should be chosen. This is something the Buddha said once, his teaching is like the footprint of the elephant which can hold the other teachings in itself. So the more all encompassing the teaching, the more preferable it is.
Simple real world example (from religion rather than esotericism, but only to make a point): The fundamentalist Christian, or fundamentalist Muslim, who says "all non-believers go to hell", does not seem as persuasive as an ecumenical Muslim or ecumenical Christian who says "to every people God has sent a prophet" (or Teacher, or whatever). This is because the bigot excludes all others, and so their teaching is extremely arbitrary: why should the fundamentalist of sect x be right, but the fundamentalist of sect y wrong? Or vice versa for that matter? The ecumenicist includes all others, seeing them as part of a greater whole, therefore, devotee of sect x has part of the truth, devotee of sect y also has part. Both are partly correct, (but also partly limited) no favouritism. Seems a lot more reasonable to me.
Regarding this, see also the tale of the Blind Men and the Elephant
So we have, so far
  1. All that exists is Infinite Non-dual Consciousness. (The Absolute Reality)
  2. Reality has a gradient and can be mapped (the Body of the Godhead).
  3. Everything that appears in Consciousness is a valid datum of inquiry (Phenomenology)
  4. On matters of physical reality, Esotericism should defer to Science (Critical Thinking)
  5. All dogmatism is to be avoided (receptivity to new Possibilities).
  6. Where there is a conflict between two teachings, the more inclusive Teaching is preferable.
Note that this is still a provisional list; as this essay is a work in progress, not a finished manifesto.

Why have Metaphysics?

A pragmatist may point out that the first two Propositions sound more like dogmas, and imply an unnecessary philosophisation. One can still construct an esoteric science or sciences using modern esoteric philosophies that differ (e.g. evolutionary-Gurdjieffian like that of John Lilly versus the American Zen of Ken Wilber) - or with no underlying "grand philosophy" at all. All that is required, from a pragmatic point of view, is to state that this physical universe is not all that is (as indicated by evidence of phenomena such as precognition, OBEs, NDEs, I Ching,..), and that various fields now subsumed under esoterica umbrella will be investigated according to their respective nature (e.g. the bioplasmatic body "needs" only some kind of energy body or "fluid", but not complete revolution in worldview that will annihilate old space-time 4-dimensional physics).
My reply to the purely pragmatic position is as follows. Without a unified framework, esoteric science becomes just one more version of scientistic agnosticism. Traditionally, aristotlean-medieval knowledge was tied to God/Prime Mover, the whole thing cohered because of that. Is is the foundation of all "sacred cosmologies". In most esoteric cosmologies (with only a few exceptions like Classical Samkhya and Manicahean Dualism) everything goes back to the original One.
What I am interested in is a universal system of knowledge, such as the Unified Science of Edward Haskell and co-workers, the Cosmic Humanism of Oliver Reiser, the Sacred Soviety of William Irwin Thompson, the Primordial Tradition of Professor Huston Smith.

Objective/Hard versus Subjective/Soft, and Levels of Reality

In some cases using terms like "Objective" for Physical Science and "Subjective" for Esoteric Science is too simplistic, abstract, or meaningless. And how do we know that physical reality is more "objective" (if, as the Kashmir Shaivites assert, everything is just a condensation of consciousness, it isn't). So whilst as a methodology these terms are useful, they should not be given any metaphysical authenticity. A better analogy here might be physics and chemistry ("hard" or "objective") versus psychology and sociology ("soft" or "subjective").
Or, "hard sciences" and "soft sciences" and "objective" and "subjective" may simply be some of a number of levels on the gradient of reality
More than that, Esoteric Science itself spans the spectrum from "hard" to "soft", and hence becomes a more inclusive paradigm that includes the hard/physical sciences as special cases within itself, (just as Newtonian Physics is a "special case" of Einsteinian physics), and adds a radical dimension of depth to - or even completely reinterprets, the soft/social sciences. Hence some parts of this research program can be subsumed under (hard/experimental/objective) "science" (acupuncture, etc), others under metaphysics and "art".
Arvan Harvat suggests we might divide human creativity into these areas:
  1. arts (music, painting, imaginative literature,...) (Fine Arts)
  2. philosophy, theology, historiography, criticism (social, literary,..) (Humanities?)
  3. social sciences (sociology, linguistics, psychology, economics ?,..)
  4. exact sciences (math, chemistry, ..)
  5. applied sciences and technology (electrical engineering,..)
Looking at this sequence, which runs from "subjective/soft" to "objective/hard" (or "lunar/yin" to "solar/yang" consciousness; see for example Stan Gooch's map of the mind - Ststem B and System A) traditional esoteric sciences could be considered a hybrid of humanities and arts; its "precision" or "exactitude" measured not by exact sciences standards, but by, say, those of humanities or social sciences. In fact. some of what is defined as esotericism - astrology especially, or Buddhism, or Gurdjieff or even Hermeticism in part - can be interpreted as (alternative) psychology, with psychoanalysis, behaviorism, functionalism, and neuropsychology, say, being the more exact sciences side of the spectrum. Conversely some forms of psychoanalysis, Jung especially, might belong under traditional Estericism. So might Maslow, or Assagioli
Again, ch'i and bioplasmatic body would belong in the exact sciences realm, occult planes in the humanities, and Ching and Tarot divination (as opposed to Tarot psychology) to speculative physical theories that are still emergent (multidimensional universe etc.).
But there can be even more to it than just this. I have already referred to Professor Huston Smith's book Forgotten Truth : The Common Vision of the World's Religions which presents human knowledge in terms of four basic metaphysical levels.  If we apply this here, in terms of exoteric (conventional knowledge, as indicated in Arvan's list) and esoteric fields of inquiry and practice, we have the following (note, this correlation differs from the original table which remains more faithful to Prof Smith):

Realitymy cosmologyHuston Smith (Forgotten Truth)Established fieldsSuggested esoteric areas and possible of research
Unmanifest Godhead or AbsoluteAbsolute RealitySpirit/InfiniteAs revealed ("finger pointing at the moon") through Monistic mysticismEnlightenment experiences of transcendence; Moksha, Kaivalya, Nirvana
Absolute in ManifestationDynamic Absolute--Aurobindoan Supramentalisation and equivalents (Lurianic concepts etc)
Spiritual- DivineNoetic
Soul/CelestialTheistic mysticismTheosophic esotericism and metaphysics (Sufism, Kabbalah, Tantra, etc), higher yogic experiences, Adi Da's 5th and 6th Stages in part
Psychic- IntermediatePsychicMind/IntermediateFine Arts, philosophy, religion, social sciencesPsychology, etc,..)psi, OBE, NDE, various aspects of occultism
EthericPhysical-Psychic Interface(Life)holistic and alternative healing, some elements of biology, emergent evolution, self-organising phenomenamorphogenetic fields (Sheldrake) and holistic physics (Bohm),
chakras, acupuncture medians, Kirlian photography, bioplasma, orgone energy, ley lines, geomancy, feng shui, etc
PhysicalPhysicalBody/Physicalexact sciences
applied sciences and technology
questions on causality/synchronicity, time-travel, superluminal phenomena, multiverse,
The above gives us a foundation, but what about the bricks to build the edifice? We will find there are different approaches and methodologies, depending on the aspect of reality we are inquiring into. For the physical, this is
There are two broad approaches we can take here - experimental/empirical method science, and the experiential/phenomenology of mysticism. Many areas of esotericism however - for example practical occultism, represent an overlap of these two.

The Experimental/Empirical Approach of Science

Arvan Harvat
The Experimental Approach is non-Metaphysical. Newton didn't care for Descartes or any philosophy of that kind. Real scientists (Newton, Huyghens, Euler,..) only needed that there is a world "outside there" with immutable laws and no whimsical divine interventions. For physical-experimental esoteric science all that is required is that this 4-dimensional world described in Einsteinian space-time 4-dim physics and with 4 forces (some are united in Salam-Weinberg Standard model) are not complete reality.
From this perspective the only starting point might be:
  1. contemporary mainstream fundamental (quantum, relativity) physics is only partially true. Therefore I Ching, planes, parallel universus, precognition, NDEs,..
  2. the 4 forces world of fundamental physics are similarly just a part of the larger picture. Therefore ch'i, telepathy, plants, auras,..
(for auras there is probably a conceptual effort that combines a) and b)- which is reality, because the Standard model is a quantum model)
Here we have two stages:
  • experiment, in exact sciences manner, with everything that can be subjected to good, old fashioned ways (bioplasm, plants, dowsing,..) and compile a corpus of verifiable data-without some strong theory. Just incontrovertible facts.
  • other, more metaphysical matters (I Ching, planes, evolution,..) will have to wait for breakthrough in speculative physics etc. For instance, when Relativity goes down and physicists' general concept of universe collapses (no velocity greater than speed of light, causality,...)- then, and only then will be possible to seriously ask questions like this: how can tossing I Ching coins predict something that will happen in next 6 months ? How this works ? What's the "mechanism"?

The Experiential/Phenomenological Approach of Mysticism

M.Alan Kazlev
Science uses experiment and confirmation (or falsification). In esotericism however this is not easily possible. Sri Aurobindo may have experienced theOvermind (Noetic Reality), and Adi Da the Radiant Transcendental Being, and Max and Alma Theon explored the byways of the psychic planes, but it is not easy for the average person to attain such heights (understatement of the month).
Of course, it is not easy to confirm or refute external link the existence of the Higgs Boson either, but assuming a suitably large particle accelerator can be built, it can be done, by physicists with the required training. Whereas the realisation of the Noetic Reality or of Shunyata or psychic planes can be done very cheaply (in terms of material cost) but only with great personal skill and very rare attainment (in terms of individual training and realisation). Once again, Physical Science and Esoteric Science are polar opposites and complementary (like Yin and Yang)
A Universal Esoteric Science deals with experiences as authentic data (phenomenology, proposition 3 in the provisional list). But not all experiences, not all phenomena of consciousness, are accessible, as just explained. Pragmatic Esotericism (Spiritual Practice) takes experiences gained by those who have trailblazed before and above us, and uses them as guideposts on the spiritual path. Applying this to Esoteric Science, and not "just" Esoteric Practice, we should have the option to take these experiences and descriptions and use them to piece together an account of other planes of existence.
There are a number of obviously overlapping sources of experiences (for example a single individual may present both a teaching and an autobiography).
In the accounts of traditional (ancient or recent, include channelling) spiritual literature. This is often highly stylised and mythologised, and hence hard to decipher. e.g. the Vision of Ezekiel in the Bible, which some people like to interpret as a UFO. [e.g. external link linklink link]. Sometimes the symbolism may be so dense as to render the whole thing incomprehensible - e.g. the Sefer Zohar of Kabbalah - or tied in with folklore and myth - e.g. the Mahabarata. Or the narrative may be deliberately stylised or obtuse (Gnosticism, Blavatsky's Stanzas of Dyzan), or seek to conceal or confuse (Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales). Often there is a quality of channelled material, and indeed many of these works are channelled (e.g. the prophets who heard voices etc). For these reasons, even though these accounts were all written by human beings (although the pious may interpret them as literal revelation by God/Deity in which the human author played no part other than to inscribe the words) they are not much, or any, use for formulating a Universal Esoteric Science
Then there are teachers who are presenting their own vision of Reality. They may be intelligent and have read widely, hence they are not likely to be so limited to one tradition, although they may have a preference for a particular tradition. Examples might include Adi DaSri AurobindoMeher BabaRudolph Steiner, and many many others. However, the immediacy of the autobiographical account is lost, and the whole thing has a didactic tone. Sometimes this also moves into the field of channelling, which will often tend to deteriorate the quality of the material (the Alice Bailey material, turgid, verbose, and unreadable, essentially Theosophy with a Christian slant, is a good example here). Even so there are a few rare individuals like Edgar Cayce, Jane Roberts, and David Spangler that retain a sense of purity not found in most channelled material
Of great value are the autobiographical accounts of both historical and recent mystics and psychonauts. Even with those who have drawn upon the traditional literature, which is very often (especially in Medieval material) all they know, and hence their experiences are coloured and biased by it, and the genuine insights have to be extracted, but at least they recorded their experiences faithfully. The Christian Mystical tradition is a good illustration of this. Even better are recent autobiographies like Swami Muktananda's Play of Consciousness; perhaps one of the best works of its kind, and one I found far more inspiring than Yogananda's cloying Autobiography of a Yogi. Hagiographies obviously are less useful, since there is the tendency to worship and hence gloss over things that the author did not like. Even so, in some cases the saint's words may be described and record his or her experiences. Also of use are the accounts of modern educated westerners, such as John Lilly's.
Also of great use are modern individuals who may or may not come from a tradition, but are simply describing their experiences, without pompousness or unnecessary symbolism, and without any agenda other than: well, this is what happened to me. Even though their experience may be colored by the symbolism of their culture, background, or religious upbringing - e.g. a Hindu might have a vision of Krishna, a Christian of Christ, one can still take away the superficial form, and look at the quality of the experience in itself.
In some cases the various descriptions referred to in some or all of the preceding categories may be collated by others, for example Aldous Huxley (The Perennial Philosophy) on mysticism, Masters and Huston's, or Stan Grof's account of psychedelic experiences, Jung's work on the Collective Unconscious, orKen Wilber's mapping of states of consciousness. Such systematic coverage can be extremely useful, because the editor will have noticed certain common themes, and draw the reader's attention to them. Often both traditional and modern accounts are placed side by side, showing that these sort of experiences really are universal.
Of course, you yourself, the reader, may also have experiences, these are just as valid as those in any of the above categories.

"Type Experiences"

In biology, geology, and palaeontology, reference is made to the "type specimen". A type specimen is the specimen - perhaps a new species of insect, that a scientist refers to when describing it in a scientific journal. That way, if someone else finds a similar specimen, they can check and see if it is the same as the original, or warrants its own name and description.
I would suggest here that certain esoteric experiences which are described by mystics, sages, adepts, occultists, psychonauts, and the rest, be taken as Type Experiences, and hence referred to, in the same way that a biological or geological sample might be.
One must however be careful in selecting an experience, so as to avoid unnecessary bias. A contemporary educated person may be preferable to a medieval monastic ascetic, but if the ascetic has progressed further, they would have experienced things the modern person would not. If a person has a modern education, can think and write clearly, is aware of the pitfalls and delusions of the spiritual path, and has progressed to great heights, their experiences will obviously be very useful in the mapping out of the nature of reality.
The worst thing in all this are subjective distortions. e.g. a person may have a pure and profound experience, but straight away distort it into their own mental formulation. A lot of Rudolph Steiner's material reads like this. One senses amazing insight, a great and pure soul, but then reads the most ridiculous medieval nonsense, that would have been fine a thousand years ago, but just seems absurd today.
Also not too good, but not as bad as the above, is egotism and self-delusion. An individual may attain a very elevated state, and then claim to be the only one to have attained it, or to have attained it in its fullness. Now, in some cases, they may very well be the only one! In other cases, they are simply caught up in anIntermediate Zone delusion of grandeur, or overpowered by the great down-rush of light.
The only way to tell if an adept is sincere and has attained the highest state, or is just caught in the intermediate zone, is to compare their experiences with others. If others have had the same experience, then to claim uniqueness is a sign either of simple ignorance (which is forgivable, especially if the individual in question has not read much, perhaps coming from a culture or society where books or learning is limited) or self-delusion (which may or may not be forgivable, depending on how you view these things, and which in itself does not negate the rest of the experience), or seeking to delude others to further his or her career as guru or cult leader (which is a sure sign that this person should be avoided, unless you are an anthropologist or sociologist and want to study the phenomenon of cultish behaviour).

Suggestions for Areas of Research and Study

An incomplete list of suggestions and ideas:
  • Physical Reality
    • Pragmatic experimentation, using the methodology of the exact sciences, on those topics of paranormal, etc that can be subjected to traditional scientific method (morphogenetic fields, kirlian photography, bioplasm, plants, dowsing,..) and compile a corpus of verifiable data.
    • In those cases with poor or no results from hard scientific approach to psi and paranormal, is it because there is no phenomenon, or because the nature of the experimental method adversely affects the subjects consciousness (a sort of esoteric exclusivity law?).
  • Etheric Reality
    • Understanding energy levels in the subtle body (acupuncture, ch'i, microcosmic orbit, reiki, and other phenomena - note, these are close enough to the physical with sufficient "objectivity" to also be amenable to standard scientific methodology (but the paradigm-resistance would be huge)
    • Understanding Homodynamics and other alternative means of treatment that cannot be explained in reductionist terms
    • Mapping out of Chakrasaura, yogic anatomy, etc - understanding the subtle body
    • Application/reinterpretation of transpersonal psychology, meditative states, etc in terms of esoteric map of the nature if reality; alternatives to the standard monistic (usually Zen or Sufi based) or old Wilberian paradigms of TP Psychology
  • Paranormal
    • Sympathetic but non-gullible re-evaluation of psi and similar phenomena, what is the mechanism?
    • Thanatology, Near-Death experiences etc interpreted as authentic psychic bardo states (rather than as "hallucinations of an oxygen-starved brain"); looking at both historical and recent accounts
    • UFOs, bigfoot, nessie, etc as etheric / parallel physical dimensions rather than materialistic explanations of little green men, surviving neanderthals, plesiosaurs, etc
    • Providing plausible theory for crop circles and other anomalous phenomena
  • Psychic Reality
    • What is the influence of esotericism upon social sciences and humanities; e.g. , painters (Boticelli, Mondrian, Kandinsky,..), writers and poets (Goethe, Blake, Balzac, Rimbaud, Yeats, Henry Miller,..) had been attracted to various parts of esotericism: hermeticism, theosophy, kabbalah; how does art relate to esoteric realities, and vice versa?.
    • Magick and Occultism (applied hermetics, shamanism, etc) as valid techniques for interacting with the psychic realities, and manipulating psychic or physical events.
    • Reinterpretation of Jung's archetypessynchronicity, etc as valid phenomena ("gods") on the supra-physical planes, and their expression and qualities as understood in that light (getting away from Jung's sloppy half-heated attempt at Kantean dualism and biological reductionism ("collective unconscious" as inherited or racial memory)
    • Reinterpretation of psychology and study of psyche to take into account experiential, phenomenological, and supra-physical factors as well standard physical elements; Steven Guth's "Theory of the Double" (work in progress)
  • Mystic Reality
    • Empirical and phenomenological study of meditative, enlightenment, and other such states, free of preconceived religious or metaphysical biases. What does the "bare experience" in itself tell?
    • Application/reinterpretation of transpersonal psychology, meditative states, etc in terms of esoteric map of the nature if reality; what sort of map emerges? Look at alternatives to the standard monistic (usually Zen or Sufi based) or old Wilberian paradigms of TP Psychology
  • Causality
    • Consider I Ching as a mathematical/"syncronistic" map of fundamental archetypes (ref DNA codons, other similarities? Particle physics in quantum mechanics perhaps?)
    • Synchronicity/meaningful coincidence - how can tossing I Ching coins predict something that will happen in the next 6 months? What about prophetic dreams? Classic Jungian synchronicity? What is the "mechanism"?
    • Explore thesis of Astrological causation in terms of subtle etheric spheres (Steiner), dumping of old humanistic-materialistic explanations of the "moon's tides" etc (works fine for the moon but what about Pluto?)
  • Evolution
    • Exploration of interactions of "cosmic devic forces" with the terrestrial evolution; hypotheses of planetary and biological evolution, human society, etc [see e.g. Steven Guth and my work on "Astrognosis" Considering IslamCosmogenic Evolution, as well as Eco-Gnosis in general - see also Adendndum A for more (below))
    • What effect will future technologies have upon the body and psyche - cyborgization, nanotechnology, colonization of space, etc?
    • Possibility of new (different? higher?) kingdoms and/or grades of sentience emerging? e.g. AI and Vingean-Transhumanist Posthuman Singularitythrough technological evolution or augmentation, or Aurobindoan "Superman" through spiritual-divine transformation
  • Cosmology
No doubt many more fields of exploration could be added.

Addendum 1 - Old and New Style Esotericism

Steven Guth
The history of modern esotericism really comes out of an attempt to formalise the spiritual medium situation that existed in the 1800's. Groups gathered in the 1840's so that "scientific" evidence about the afterlife could be collected.
People like Theon fit in here.
And later came the attempts by people like Blavaskey, Steiner, etc to present the old esoteric truths and the new discoveries in a scientific frame work, using terms like rounds, and tables and hierarchies. They felt a need to adapt their visions into the social thought patterns (including the science) of the time ... which quickly became dated and so their descriptions have became absurd - e.g. the history of the planet c/o Steiner (he combined astrology with what Science at the time understood).
An example is the chemistry table of elements which unlocked the wonders of alchemy. The discovery of coal tar colours revolutionised the world. So of course attempts were made to classify in this way.
Part of the burden that the modern esoteric movement carries is the concept of evolution. At the time Blavatsky and others were writing Darwin's evolutionary concept let people keep the idea of a prime creator and abandon religion. You see, evolution suggests that everything things has been created to end up somewhere ... the end point of Newton's clock work universe - and we are moving towards the resolution of the creator architects great plan. Alas I suspect that rogue influences play into the world's spiritual ecology at random times creating a situation which is far from clockwork. See my somewhat discomforting meditative insight ... into the energy behind Islam [see Considering Islam] and then Alan's further development of this idea [see Cosmogenic Evolution]...
Before that earlier attempts to make sense of the formlessness of the Spiritual worlds gave us stuff like the Abramelin with its divisions into, Kings, Dukes etc - following the sociological thought patterns of the 14th Century. So it is not surprising that in our current attempts to forge a bit of "scientific" logic into the huge complexity of what surrounds us that we should be using the sociological thought patterns of our time - which come from the benefits that science has placed into our lives.
But, and it's a big but, many of the premises that modern science rests on are weak if not faulty. One of my favourite criticisms is our intrinsic belief that there is a "cause" for everything. I have come to the conclusion that "Causation is just a special case of association". Adopt my idea that association is the rule and "causation" is just a special case and you end up with the involvement of the spiritual world in everything in some form or another. What we do in the physical effects the Spiritual worlds and vice versa - and it is an ongoing interaction slightly out of time and place ... incidentally this is what the Australian Aboriginal concept of the "Dreaming" is all about.
And that's just one of the premises.
Now, the largest revolution in modern science has been the discovery of deep space, deep time and the huge complexity of the out there. As one astronomer said in a lecture I attended as she showed us the image of the radio energy coming out of a galaxy, "It is better not to think about such things". I wonder if Kepler had similar qualms?
And another major revolution in the making is the concept of randomness and variability. All our scientific modelling to date still runs on the concept of averaging - its part of our sociological democratic thought pattern. But it is a very poor premise to work from. So much cannot be usefully explored by averaging ... from the weather to the effectiveness of medicines ... and how do you average spiritual phenomena? (What is the average ghost or crop circle? ... randomness is inherent in the systems around us).
Now, both deep space and variability/randomness have not been added to our thinking patterns. New patterns are necessary to accommodate the new base line insights science has presented to us.
We need to add our new insights to our understandings of esoteric experiences. And that is what astrognosis is trying to do. Which places this developing concept [Cosmogenic Evolution] into a potentially revolutionary position.
It is interesting that in our new formulations about the development of life forms on our planet we end up with Devas as the link between our new ideas and concepts of the past. You see, Devas are just consciousness in a place. Remove the idea of place and leave consciousness and you have a "God or Goddess" ... And of course that is what we are too ... the "prima medica" is consciousness.
As an afterthought ...
I am working on a lecture series on the Doppleganger, the Double, at the moment and am exploring the multiple facets of human consciousness and the very nature of consciousness itself. Interestingly it is leading me to the conclusion that "consciousness" intrusions from deep space play an important part in our need to go to war. Yes, perhaps our leaders and the people that surround them are schizophrenic. Their minds and decisions being influenced by other consciousnesses "out there" which like to playing games with events on this planet ... So if we can stop the games we could have peace and if we don't, or can't, we will never have peace ... this is an interesting thought but only possible if one accepts some of the new premises suggested in this essay. It also makes one wonder if the images presented by Science Fiction and the beliefs of the UFO people are not coming from a consciousness "out there" identical to what is presenting me with these insights!
Material on the Doppleganger and its role in human consciousness will soon be on this web site - stay tuned for further inputs!

Addendum 2 - From Aristotle to Science to Esotericism

Arvan Harvat (slightly edited and first paragraph added by MAK)
The "Traditionalist" School of Fritjof Schuon, Rene Gueneon, and others (reinterpretation/esotericisation of exoteric religions), tradition-bound esotericism in general, and people like Rudolph Steiner and his Anthroposphy (which through application of Goethean and Steiner's own clairvoyant gives it much to contribute to a Universal Esoteric Science) all seek to tie themselves to the past, rather than explore possibilities of the future. Their dependence on the aristotlean-medieval paradigm with its sacred universe and natural philosophy, means they are relying on failed science, in the same way that the Theosophists still are stuck with the Victorian science that Blavatsky new and write about (and that was, by the way, cutting edge in Blavatsky's time (later 19th century).
The problem is that the Aristotlean approach is not a form of science that gives results. Aristotle was abandoned due to inefficacy. It was simplistic because he did not know "the world", he was freely speculating, using the limited data and information available to him in the ancient Greek world.
Putting under a single umbrella concepts such as ch'i, I Ching, planes, evolution, etc is reminiscent of the times of Aristotle when all sciences (biology, psychology, physics, political sciences,..) were parts of philosophy. But this widely multidisciplinary approach is not the same as a holistic esotericism of science. One thing is "sci infancy" (Aristotle), and completely another modern multidisciplinary approach that is "mature science" (say, quantum chemistry tries to explain genetic processes by using thermodynamics, chaos and complexity, computer science, higher algebraic theories, ...and to connect them to the levels of electrochemisty and biochemistry).
In esoteric science you could imagine experiments (Kirlian, high voltage) combined with other high tech photographs (computer analysis of highly sensitive detectors) and explanation, in the beginning, with some kind fields combined with electrophysiology and biochemical processes monitored and theorized upon.
A true holistic paradigm can emerge only after any science has passed thru various stages of disintegration and integration. The following process or sequence could be suggested:
  1. primitive science (Aristotle)
  2. beginnings of empirical and mathematical science in modern sense (Galileo, Kepler)
  3. new paradigm established (Newton, Laplace,...)
  4. other paradigms appearing (Faraday-Maxwell, fields,...)
  5. fundamental redefinition and new paradigmata (Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg,...)
  6. multidisciplinary approach (chaos theory, complexity, Feigenbaum ...)
  7. emergent holistic approach (external link Sarfatti, Bohm's external link hologram universe, quantum geometrodynamics of John Wheeler,.., also external link synchronicity)
Bohm is a true scientist with a holistic approach.
The crux of the matter as far as superluminality is concerned (see e.g. the external link Stardrive web site) is that the universe obeyed the laws of quantum mechanics at its birth subjecting it to Heisenberg's uncertainty principle when it was smaller than an electron. Hoyle and Sarfatti believe that it was at this primordial moment that consciousness from the future created the universe bringing itself into being.
Einstein's work on relativity provided a starting point for intuitive physicists such as Wheeler, Feynman, Josephson and others. The new physics has also given rise to a new cosmology of which Sir Fred Hoyle is a leading proponent. Hoyle compiled a massive body of evidence in his book The Intelligent Universe that seems to strongly suggest that only a living and intelligent (superluminal) God could have created a universe where life (us) exists. The very conditions of the birth of the universe (the big bang) were specifically tailored to produce life. The final anthropic cosmological principle championed by Hoyle, Sarfatti and others was first discovered in weaker form by Brandon Carter 9external link The God Phone], who in 1968 stated:
"Had the numerical values of certain fundamental constants (the speed of light, the mass of an electron etc.) been only slightly different - the universe would not be able to sustain life as we know it." Experimentalist Alain Aspect proved (at the University of Paris in 1982), the reality of faster-than-light action-at-a-distance in an experiment on the quantum connection between pairs of photons. Delayed choice experiments (by Carol Alley of the University of Maryland ) and gamma photon-proton scattering experiments (by Charles Bennett of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory ) showed that future causes do create past effects.
Recent work by such respected physicists as David Deutsch, Kip Thorne, Yakir Aharanov, Alcubierre and Sarfatti, involving time-travel to the past, future-causality and other mind-boggling vistas, is invigorating superluminal physics as never before. For example, Alcubierre has shown that a Star Trek faster-than-light warp drive is possible within the known laws of physics [but see external link this on-line essay by John Cramer for problems with Alcubierre drive - MAK]. Indeed, Sarfatti, interviewed by Kim Burrafato in UFO Magazine (Vol 9, No. 30 1994), speculates that UFO's, if real, would be time-travelling ships from our future explaining the strange phone call(s) he got in 1952. Sarfatti is no true believer here. He is quite willing to admit that the 1952 call(s) may have been some sort of prank, and all the subsequent synchronicities a random coincidence.
Sarfatti's credibility among other physicists, like the superluminal conjecture, seemed for years to lay dormant in the barren soil of a conservative physics establishment. For many years, talk of faster-than-light communication and time travel has been beyond the pale of good science. It was a suitable subject for comic books and science fiction only, 'strictly kid stuff.' "
Crazy, but...?

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