Dialectics of Enlightenment

Painting of krishna’s form of vishvarupa, the cosmic Person. Unknown Date, US public Domain via wiki Commons.

In the image above, we see Vishvarupa, as the cosmic Person. The cosmic Person is the body and embodiment of Ultimate Reality (called Brahman in Sanskrit).

In art and in myth, the Cosmic Purusha is often depicted as  being comprised of worlds (called Lokas). The body of Purusha contains lower worlds and upper worlds, places where Devas and Asuras reside. It is said that Enlightenment entails a movement toward the light of the Devas (spiritual truth), and away from the darkness of the Asuras (ignorance). Ultimately, this duality is resolved as we encounter the cosmic light and heart of Purusha.  This inner heart is our own and it is cosmic. It does not find its location in any organ of the body, but is known as the center of existence. It is a symbolic heart: a symbolic light, ours and beyond ours.

It is also said that the Vedas (ancient Sanskrit texts) are the body of Ultimate Reality (Brahman). As we read the Vedas, and work with the symbols and concepts contained therein we inhabit a sacred body.

One hymn in particular is known for presenting the dialectics of Enlightenment. The hymn is called the Isha Upanishad. The dialectics of Enlightenment present two opposing ideas, which are integrated as the spiritual seeker realizes higher and higher levels of synthesis and integration. In the Vedas, the supreme dialectic is found between the Innermost Self (Ātman) and Ultimate Reality (Brahman). Enlightenment is an integration and unification of these two aspects of being.

The Isha Upanishad challenges us to integrate opposing forces within our own psyche so that we might be capable of realizing the supreme unity and of individual Self with Ultimate Reality. This realization is sometimes called non-duality and sometimes Oneness depending on spiritual teaching and historical context. I am going to go into some technical detail on regards to the Isha Upanishad so as to illustrate the dialectics at play.

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Covering, revealing, inhabiting the Self: Isha Upanishad, mantra 1

Isa upanisad.
Sanskrit of the Isha Upanishad. Creative commons.

The heart of the Upanishads is the Self, expressed as both a path of Self-knowledge and a realization of the fullness and potential of an eternal Truth discovered within the innermost Self (Atman).  In the Isha Upanishad, Isha is the eternal Truth of the Self.

The first mantra of the Isha Upanishad expresses, within its compressed form, a profound insight into the nature of the Self. The eternal truth is expressed in a few mantric syllables, as is a complete path to enlightenment. One only need meditate on the words, recite the words, come into a full understanding of the meaning of the mantras. The Self reveals itself within these sacred syllables, inviting us to inhabit the mantra: Om Isha vāsyam idam sarvam…

Mohandas K. Gandhi said, “if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live for ever.”[1] The first verse expresses a fundamental insight not only of Hinduism, but of a universal awareness. The verse offers a religion, a philosophy, a psychology, and a transformation in our very modes of seeing and perceiving, our means and modes of being.

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Agni: archetypal image of the creative force

Agni and his consort, circa 1800
Agni and his consort, circa 1800. US public domain via wikimedia
It is said that Agni is the first-born; that Agni is the God of fire. Agni is an image of the creative force.

In the above image we see the Hindu deity Agni and his consort Svaha.  Agni appears in his dual nature, with two heads he faces both God and man.

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Hiranyagarbha: the golden egg

hiranyagarbha_the_golden_embryo
Hiranyagarbha The Golden Embryo by Artist Vidya Devi and Dhirendra Jha, with permission from Exotic Indian Art

In the image above, we see Hiranyagarbha. Hiraṇyagarbha means the ‘golden womb’ or ‘golden egg’. It is also called the universal germ of creation. Carl Jung likens Hiraṇyagarbha to the “phenomenology of the child’s birth” saying:

“The ‘child’s’ birth always points back to an original psychological state of non-recognition, i.e., of darkness or twilight, of non-differentiation between subject and object, of unconscious identity of man and the universe.” (CW 9i, para 290)

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Alchemical Vessels: mother image

Aurora and dragon. Aurora Consurgens-15th Thomas Aquinas; Marie-Louise von Franz (1966) Aurora Consurgens; A Document Attributed to Thomas Aquinas on the Problem of Opposites in Alchemy, London: Routledge & K. Paul century. Us Public Domain
Aurora and dragon. Aurora Consurgens-15th Us Public Domain

Carl Jung says that “the mother image “can be attached to … various vessels.” [1]

In alchemy, the vessel offers an imaginal space for transformation. The alchemist used vessels to carry out their alchemical operations. It was in such vessels that distillation and transformation occurred, making them a suitable image for the transformation and distillation of spiritual energies.

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