The Mold of Man, or What is “Enlightenment”?
There is a magazine called What is Enlightenment? I glanced through it one day while at a friend’s place. It might be called the organ of Western Buddhism, for it seems to agonise over reconciling the Western meaning of “enlightenment” and liberation with the Eastern meaning of “Enlightenment” and emancipation, the “tabula rasa” with the “empty mirror”, the liberal principle of “self-realisation” with the Buddhist doctrine of “no-self” or “no-mind” (anatman). This understandable perplexity even informs the inquisitive title of the magazine.
So, let’s take a stab at helping to formulate an answer to the question “what is Enlightenment”? What is the real meaning of “self-realisation” if there is no self to realise?
It’s actually pretty simple to understand, even intellectually, if you begin with the realisation that All-Is-One. Of course, most people don’t know this explicitly (although they do know this implicitly), so we’ll have to begin by assuming it as a valid premise — as being the premise of all existence. So, when people speak of what they call “God” as “Supreme Being”, this really means All Being, not just as a superior being amongst a myriad of other beings and entities. It’s not that what we call “God” is the One. Rather, it’s this implicit Oneness that is called “God”, so human beings have come to invert the actual relation between the name and the meaning or essence. They say “God is One” so that the latter seems to follow from the former (this is the working of the second attention of the left-hemisphere of the brain, which understands by “reflection” or mirroring). Oneness then seems to be simply an attribute of a real entity called “God”. But, in reality, it’s the reverse: “the One is God” is more like it. That All-In-One which has been described as omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence precedes any name, designation, predication, definition or conceptualisation. What is, is One.
So, this is why Buddhism is often called an “atheistic religion” that apparently denies the existence of what we call “God”, or even “soul” (or “mind” or “self”). But actually, it’s far more subtle and nuanced than that and for good reason. The Buddha told the atheist and materialist that God is, while to the theistic and religious he said God is not. And for similar reasons, Nietzsche had to announce “the death of God” so that the primordial Oneness that had been eclipsed by “Jehovah” could be liberated from all forms of predication. All That Is, or the unity of all being, is antecedent to any name or concept.
The Wisdom Tradition has zealously guarded against the predication of the One. At one time, it was even impermissible to speak the name of God, and around this all sorts of popular superstitions developed that had nothing to do with the reason why the name of God was proscribed. In some cases, there was a compromise inasmuch as all names were deemed the name of God. Gnostic Christianity also makes a distinction between the godhead and “God”, which has also been misunderstood, for what is called “godhead” or the unity of being — the essential Oneness — always precedes the name “God” who is otherwise deemed the demiurgos. What is called “godhead” is for realisation, and not for talking about, this talking “about” being predication.
Ironically, then, an atheist may well be right, but only inasfar as they do not deny the fundamental unity of being and existence. Carlos Castaneda’s don Juan mocked his belief in “God” as something that belonged to the “island of the tonal” (the ego-nature or left-hemisphere understanding of the brain), but showed Castaneda nonetheless the reality of the “sea of awareness,” and that the cosmos was governed by a force of intent as the expression of a “Supreme Intelligence”. But he refused to concede that you could confine it in the name “God”. There was only energy as it flowed in the universe and that energy was supremely intelligent.
To put this another way, the godhead and God are different in the same way Iain McGilchrist’s “Master” and “Emissary” are different. The godhead precedes “God” and corresponds to what Jean Gebser calls “the ever-present origin”. This ever-present origin is the meaning of All-That-Is or All-in-One, and is what the Buddhists call “the unoriginated” and unconditioned, but which is itself origin. They just decline to call it “God” but it corresponds to what the gnostics call “the godhead” or Gebser calls “the ever-present origin”. Equally, to say that Nietzsche was an atheist is correct. To say that Nietzsche was no atheist is also correct. And this is really the root paradox of Buddhism, too, which is reflected in all the other paradoxes of Buddhism.
If we want to put this in neurological terms, “God” is an interpretation — a symbol — of the second attention of the brain’s left hemisphere for a reality the truth of which is already known directly and immediately by the first attention — the mode of attention of the brain’s right-hemisphere. Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor, in her TED talk describing the stroke that paralysed the left-hemisphere functions of her brain didn’t speak about “seeing God”, but of how we all are “the life force power of the universe endowed with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds” and that we were, as such, all connected, all members of a “family”. Realising that you are an individual manifestation of this singular life-force power of the universe is what is called “Buddha Nature” or “Christ Consciousness” or “god consciousness” and is also called “the godhead”, of which you are an individualised expression and manifestation.
So, to say that what we call “God” is “the Holy/Wholly Other” is true only for the second attention, or what we call the “ego nature” and which is for that reason of segregation and apartness therefore called “Satan”. But this is not at all true for the first attention, which does not know this “God” at all except as being itself, but which aspect of ourselves we call “the unconscious” simply because we remain ignorant of it in our perverted sense of “Selfhood”. That’s our human narcissism speaking. The Selfhood doesn’t like to admit it, but it is what is called “Satan” or “Prince of Lies” because it is itself the lie that it conceals from itself. But it is the de facto divider and the dichotomiser, the diabolical principle, and the more it insists on what the Buddha calls “the I am conceit” the more Satanic if becomes.
So that when it is said that “Satan is but the ape of God”, this is a statement about the relationship of the false self to the “true self”; correspondingly, the relationship of the second attention now alienated and estranged from the first attention and which, by the process of “reflection” or mirroring, inverts (and thereby perverts) the truths already known directly and immediately to the first attention that has been repressed as “the unconscious” or even as “the collective unconscious”. And it is repressed because of a faulty understanding of “human nature” that has been reproduced and reiterated generation after generation in the course of which “God” does, indeed, become the “Holy/Wholly Other”, and in those terms is not “God” at all but Satan.
If you understand this, then you will know why Nietzsche’s God had to die, for that God is Satan, and is moreover the demon “Mara” in Buddhism, who is the Architect and ruler of the ego-nature, for the more “wholly other” this God becomes, the more Satanic he becomes also in his very “Otherness” and remoteness. The world is in a mess largely because its “God” is actually Satan, which is what William Blake is saying in his art.
That brings us to the meaning of “The Christ”, which has been so badly mauled and disfigured by generations of misunderstanding that Christ has practically become indistinguishable from the demon Mara or Lucifer. The Gnostic tradition made a distinction between Christic Light and Luciferic Light, and this distinction not only draws the distinction between “enlightenment” as Buddhism knows it and “enlightenment” as the West knows it, but also between the two “modes of attention” of McGilchrist’s divided brain. What, then is “the Christ” as being “Son of God”?
In one of his books called The Fire from Within, Castaneda recounts how his teacher, don Juan, introduced him to “the mold of man” while in a state of “non-ordinary consciousness”. This mold of man is an actual morphic or energy field, identical with what is called “the human archetype”. In the Wisdom Literature (for example in the Sufi ibn Arabi, too) this human archetype is called “the Perfect Man”, and is otherwise known as the “Universal Adam” or, in kabbalistic literature, as the Adam Kadmon. In Blake’s writings this human archetype is called “the Universal Humanity”, and is for Blake identical with “The Christ”. It is this Perfect Man, that is the human archetype, that is properly called “the Son of God”, and not “the Son of Man”. The “Son of God” is the same as “the mold of man”.
Castaneda, given his Catholic upbringing, when he was shown the mold of man fell down at its feet and worshipped it as God, for he perceived it as being all goodness, all love, and pledged his devotion and service to it. Castaneda perceived it as a male. A woman would perceive it as female, and in those terms as a vision of the Virgin Mary or as the Great Mother. This is represented in alchemy as the divine androgyne, or in Plato as the Original Man, who is the Platonic hermaphrodite,
What is called “the Christ” is this mold of man, the human archetype. There is even some scientific evidence for it as a morphic field in the work of Harold Saxton Burr (The Fields of Life) which morphic field he called “the L-Field”, and it is probably this that is called “the Universal Humanity” and which some mystics experience as being “God”, but which is the “Perfect Man”. Blake’s Albion is the realisation of this “Perfect Man” as the reborn Original Man or Universal Adam. Albion is Christ Consciousness, the reintegrated fourfold self which is prefigured in the human archetype as “Son of God”. Some call this, rather, “the soul of man”.
Because the Christ is the Perfect Man, and the Perfect Man is the Universal Humanity, and the Universal Humanity is the human archetype, Christ is pictured as “the vine”, and individuated human beings as the grapes. Alternatively, the Christ is conceived as the Church (or the Tree of Life) and the members of the Church as members of the body of Christ, or branches. Today, we might say rather that everyone is like a cell in the body of the Universal Humanity, but which Jill Bolte-Taylor realised in saying that we are all members of one family — grapes of the vine, individualised portions of the Universal Humanity.
Even when Castaneda was made aware of the truth of the human archetype, he could never resist the temptation to devotedly fall to his knees and pray to it, for it is a thing of overwhelming majesty. But it is called “the original man” because it is the human archetype.
As The Christ is the Universal Humanity and archetype, so is the Buddha. The Buddha is not the man Siddhartha, but also the realised Universal Humanity, which is called “the true self”. I recall the story, significant in this respect, of a Japanese Buddhist monk who had achieved satori. He saw innumerable numbers of people approaching him as he sat in meditation, all different, but all himself. There was no separation between himself and others. This is true self-realisation isn’t it? Yet, it’s not what most people understand by “self-realisation”. What that Buddhist monk experienced is also called “Christ consciousness”. “As you do unto others, so ye do unto me” was self-evidently so because everyone was an individualised portion of the singular Universal Humanity.
And this is very likely what Jean Gebser was referring to in speaking of human evolution unfolding according to a “pre-existing pattern”. What else could he be referring to but this “mold of man” or human archetype?