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Story Lab

Micro: Acension

1.w Micro: Ascension. One key part of the transformation of the *chosen one* is the process of ascension. That is, it is not enough to experience visions, have powers, etc (as with the Shaman/Witch Doctor/Healer/etc). For the benefit of the followers, the "chosen one" must have experience acension; ie, having hobb-nobbed with the gods. I make (the rather arbitrary) distinction here between the gaining of knowledge (by the Shaman/etc) when taken in by the ancestors and the acension and thus acknowledgment as an equal by the "chosen one". Further, note that except in the case of the calling, the shaman's/etc's journey to *become* a shaman/etc is radically different than that of the chosen one. In the case of the chosen one, there are significant indicators about their background/up-bringing/etc that distinguish them (mark them) for this holy path; eg, Buddah cannot become *teh* buddah without having first been Prince Sadartha, Jesus can not become the saviour without first having been born of a virgin birth, etc. Thus, the path of the shaman/etc is one of service to the community (indeed, almost by definition the shaman/etc *must* be a part of the community). Alternatively, the path of the chosen one is by exclusion, by exception and total demarkation as being separated from the rest. Thus, while the path of the shaman is one of *example*, the path of the chosen one is by *exception*. And, so without further transcendence, intercession, or revelation... (please pay as you exit (er, ah) as you return ;). {Back to Story Lab "stuff"}

The Text

"Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries", by Mircea Eliade (translated by Philip Mairet), (Harper-Row, New York, 1957/1961). Pp.99-122: Symbolisms of Ascension and "Waking Dreams". NOTE: I have chosen to deal with "waking dreams" (and other forms of vision) in the section on 1.v Visions: Past/Present/Future. BEGIN BLOCK QUOTE [P.99] The Magic Flight In conformity with his theories about Sovereignty, A.M. Hocart regarded the ideology of the "magical flight" as inseperable from and, indeed, conttributory to the institution of the god-kings. The kings of South-East Asia and Oceania were carried shoulder-high because, being ranked with the gods, they must never touch the earth; like gods, they "flew through the air". [LOCAL NOTE 1: A. M. Hocard, "Flying through the air", in the Indian Antiquary, London, 1952, Pp. 28-32.] [Note 1] Although expressed with rigidity characteristic of the great English anthropologist, this hypothesis is by no means un-interesting. The royal ideology does imply, in one way or antoher, the ascent to Heaven. In an impressive study, which ought to initiate a whole literature, E. Bickerman has shown that the apoltheosis of the Roman Emperor included and ascension of this nature. [LOCAL NOTE 2: E. Bickerman, "Die romaische Kaiserapotheose", in Archiv. f. ReligonsGeWissenSchaft, 27, 1929, Pp. 1-34, esp 9-13.] The imerial apotheosis has a long history, on emight say pre-history, in the Oriental world. Recently, when studying the ideas of royalty and the ritual pattern of soverereignty in the Middle East of antiquity, G. Widengren brilliantly eluciudated this ascension complex: Despite the inevitabel divergences due to varieties of cutlure and the modifications imposed by history, the symbolism and the scecnario of the Sovereign's ascension remained much the same for thousands of years. What is more, the same *pattern* was maintained in the exemplary images and the mythical biographies of the divine Messenger, of the Elect, and of the Prophet. [LOCAL NOTE 3: Cf: G. Widengren, The Ascension ofthe Apostle of God and the Heavenly Book, Upsala-Leipzig, 1950; and the same author's Muhamma the Postle of God and his Ascension, Upsala-Wisesbaden, 1955; esp. pp. 204ff.] [P. 100] We find an analogous situation in China. The first of the Sovereigns who, according to tradition, succeeded in flying ws the Emperor Shun (2258-2208 in Chinese chronology ??date?? ??bce??); the two daughters of the Emperor Yao, who seem to hav e been redoubtable magicians, revealed to Shu the art of "flying like a bird". There are other exmples of emperors flying through the air. B. Laufer has abundantly proved that, in China, the "magical flight" was an obsession which also found expression in in-numerable legends relating to chariots and other flying apparartus. [LOCAL NOTE 1: B. Laufer, The Pre-history of Aviation, Chicago, 1928.] There were even exmaples of "aptheosis by abduction": The Yellow Emperor Hoang-ti was caught up to Heaven, with his wives and counsellors to the number of 70 persons, by a bearded dragon. But, already, from the circumstances that the Emperor Shun learned the art of flying form two lady magicians, we are entitled to presume that this mythico-ritual complex was not a creation of the ideology of royalty. Indeed, the terms "feathered sage" or "feathered visitor" denoted a Taoist priest. To "mount up to heaven in flight" is exprssed in Chinese as follows: "by means of the feathers of birds he has been transformed and has gone up like an immortal". [LOCAL NOTE, op. cit, P.16] The Taoiss and the alchemists had the power of rising up into the air. [LOCAL NOTE 3: op. cit, P.26. Also in our book Le Chamanisme et les techniques archaiques de l'extase, Pp.369ff. Cf. also A. Waley, Nine Chinese Songs, London, 1954.] As for the plumange of birds, this is one of the symbols of the "shamanic flight" that is most commonly met with, and it is abundantly exemplified in the most ancient Chinese iconography. [LOCAL NOTE 4: Cf. Hentz, Sakralbronzen und ihre Bedeutung in den frŁhchinesischen Kulturen, Antwerp, 1941, Pp.100ff, 115ff.] [ It is not necessary for our purpose in this chapter to show in detail and for each of the cultural areas under consdieration, that this celestial flight is not the monopoly of Sovereigns, but is also a feat performed by magicians, sgaes, and mystics of every kind. We need only prove that th emgical flight transcends the sphere of sovereignty and has chronological prcedence to the formation of the ideology of kingship. I the Sovereigns are able [P.101] to go up to Heaven, it is because they no longer participate in the merely human conditon. Nor are they only, nor the first, human beings to have realised such a change of being. [Note 3]

Distingusih between *intensity* and the *fact* of ascension

[P.104; p2] One fact of outstanding importance for our purpose is that the motifs of flight and ascension to Heavven are attested at every [P.105] level of the archaic cultures, as much in the rituals and mythologies of the shamans and the ecstatics as in the myths and folk-lore of other members of the society who make no pretense to be dinstinguished by the intensity of thier religious experience. In short, the ascension of the "flight" belong to an experience common to all primitive humanity. [
Note 5] [Note 6] That this experience constitutes a profound dimension of spirituality s shown by the subsequent history of the symbolism of ascension. Let us remember the importance assumed by the symbols fo the soul as a bird, of the "wings of the soul", etc., and the images which point to the spiritual life as an "elevation", the mystical experinece as an ascension, etc. The amount of documentation now at the disposal of the historian of religions is such, that any enumeration of these motifs and these symbols would be likely to be incomplete. [Note 7] So, we must resign ourselves gto a few allusions bearing upon the symbolism of the bird. [LOCAL NOTE 1: Cf. Le Chamanisme et les techniques archaiques de l'extase, Pp.415ff] It is probable that the mythico-ritual theme "bird--soul--ecstatic flight" was already extant in the paleo-lithic epoch; one can, indeed, interpret in this sense, some of the deigns at Altamnira (man with the mask of a bird), and the famous relief of Lascaux (man with bird's head), in which Horst Kirchner sees the representation of a shamanistic trance. [LOCAL NOTE 2: Horst Kirchner, "Ein archšologischer Beitrag zur UrGeSchicte des Schamanaismus", in Anthropos, 47, 1952, Pp. 244-286, esp. 271ff; cf. Pp. 258ff, upon th symbolism of birds.] As for the mythical conceptions of the sould as a bird and as a spirit-guide (psycho-pomp), they have been studied enough for us to content ourselves here with mere allusion. A great many symbols and signfications to do with the spiritual life and, above all, with the power of intellegence, are connected with images of "flight" and "wings". The "flight" signifies intellegence, the understanding of secret things and meta-physical truths. "Intellegence" (manas) is the swiftest of birds", says the Rig Veda (VI, 9, 5); and the PaŮcavimÁa Br‚hmana (IV, 1, 13), states "he who understands has wings". We can see how th earchaic and exemplary images of "flight" become charged with new meanings, discovered in the course of new awakenings of consciousness. ... [P.107] ... We have remarked elsewhere that, evven where religious belief is not dominated by the "ouranian" gods (those of the sky), the symbolism of the ascent to heaven still exists, and always expresses the transcendent. [LOCAL NOTE 1: Cf, our Patterns in Comparative Religion, Pp. 110ff] [[note-08] [Finally, as Eliade points out...] [P. 108] ... Let us recall that the "flight" is so characteristic of the Buddhist arhat, that arahant is the basis of the Sinhalese verb rahatve, "to disappear, to pass instanteously from one place to another". In this case, we are evidently dealing with a theme of folk-lore (the flying sage and magician) which has so struck the popular imagination as to find expression in a linguistic creation. But, one must also take into consideration the special meaning of the "flight" of an arhat, a meaning bound up with the spiritual experience which is supposed to transcend the human condition. As a general rule, one can say that the arhat -- like the jŮanin and the yogis -- are kamacarin -- beings who can "transport themselves at will". As Coomaraswamy expresses it, thwat is imporied by is :the condition of one who, being in the SPirit, no longer needs to move at all in order to be any-where." [LOCAL NOTE 2: Ananda Coomaraswamy, Figures of Speech or Figures of Thought, London, 1946k P. 184]. S/He further reminds us that th eusual Sanskrit experssions for "to disappear" is antar-dh‚nam gam" -- literally, "to go into an interior position". In the K‚lingabodhi J‚taka, the flight through the air depends upon one's having "clothed the body with the raiment of contemplation", (j‚taka vethanena). [LOCAL NOTE 3: Coomarswamy, op. cit, Pp 183-184.] What all ths ammounts to is that, at the level of pure metaphysical knowledge, [P. 109] the "flight" and the "ascension" become mere traditional formulae, no longer experssive ofny corporeal locomotion, but of a sort of spatial simultaneity granted to one by the intellegence. [Note 9] END BLOCK QUOTE


(this section only)
[1] Note how this again, goes back to the heaven-dominated view of the gods (again, with the "big three", and of course all of the olympus, etc view. In the case of the mother-earth/goddess-spritess view, the earth is sacred (and thus un-like the "flying kings" view not something to dis-dain. In fact, certain Native American tribes view that all members of the tribe should *always* go barefoot when going about their daily lives as this puts them in direct contact with the very dust of the earth that was once their ancestors. Contrast this to the idea that the holy family/kings/etc are "too good" to touch the lowly dirt/earth. As a further aside (and further out on a rather even-shakier philosophical branch go i, your humbel scribe) is that the the male-dominated religions (the "big three"; ie, Judaism, Christianity, Islam) have us reaching up to god, begging to be accepted. While one of the more common views of the mother-earth/goddess-spiritess religions is that we need not reach "up", indeed we are swathed from birth in the all-loving bosum of the Earth. That is, in the big-three view, we (born sinners) must prove our selves worthy and ask for forgiveness for our worldly ways, but, in the mother-earth view, there is no original sin, we are born of the earth with all of our foibles which are only natural (see below) since we are "only" human. This brings us to how nature is viewed in the two diametrically opposing views. From the big-three, the earth is the imperfect plane, which we are doomed to die upon since we turned away from the god-given garden of eden (paradise/perfection/innocences), prefering to *know* and hence to sin by choosing to use our brain. The mother-earth view, the earth is perfection itself, offering us all that we need to live and that if we seek the way of integration and understanding (our role in the cycles of nature, the wholeness of the earth, etc), then we will live in comfort and pleasure. The big-three views pain/suffering/etc as our "due" since we have turned away from god (chosing our ego and our own selfish, sinning selves in deference to the offered hand of god, etc). The mother-earth view of pain/suffering/death/etc is simply as a part of life. That is, into every life "some rain must fall" [Eclesiastes ??source??] as a natural part of us as a part of nature. {Back to the TEXT} [02] In terms of the Oriental (particularly the Chinese & Tauist) traditions, the concept of "flying" is tied once again back to *balance* of the wise/just rulers, etc. For example, the Chinese dragon does *not* have wings (as do their European counter-parts). They fly because their yin and yang are in perfect balance. [Again, i would like to dismiss almost all (if in fact not ALL) of the yang=male, yin=female interpretaion of the tau -- NOTE to self: write essay on this] Regardless, the sage who denounces the need for power/control is the goal of being a tauist; ie, similar to the Buddhist goal of seeking release from the cycle of life/death. In my oppinion the second half of the tau (which deals with war/princely-matters/etc) was put down as a form of *political correctness*. My argument goes something like this: 1) The Tauist (like the Confucians in China) are driven by the search for truth, knowledge, and the "right-way" (as are all intellectually honest seekers in *any* relgion; ie, as opposed to zealots/"true-believers"/fanatics/etc). As such, they often do not quite *respect* the normal boundaries of "common social practice" (again, the example of Pierre from Tolstoy's "War & Peace"). In this way (from a *pure* philosophical POV), they can in theory call *anything* into question -- even the god-ordained emperor, etc. 2) In order to alievate the fears of not particularly wise (ie, smart/intellegent) rulers, the tau thus gives particular attention to the right path that the princes (leades) should follow. [It has often struck me as interesting the use of the word "prince" rather than "king" or "emperor", this harkens back to the idea that the "young prince" (as heir to the kingdom) has not only the hereditary and titular lineage to draw upon, but the idea that the prince (and princess for that matter) are being *groomed* as sovereigns of the kingdom and as such the goal is to make them even wiser leaders than their fathers/mothers (king/queen; emperor/empress; etc). 3) Thus, as *tutors* the tauists (and hence the tau-book itslef [Note 4]), have part of their goal not just the politically correct couching of terms (by "the tauist is only human" humans looking out for their own intersts), but the idea that if an emperor/empress could be *converted* to the tau, then the world would almost undoubtedly be a better place. Part of this stems from the fact that the tau doesn't recommend harsh or extreme actions. Since the tau view of the universe is one of the cyclical repetition of things, then any harsh/extreme action tends to disturb the system of things by such strident action. I would maintain, that one thing that the tau teaches is the idea of trying to figure out the "flow" of things; ie, not only trends of the time, but the direction of right-action (which may be at odds with the predjudices/sensibities of the time, and then trying to align yourself with that flow. Again, since we (as individuals) will have some sort of agenda then to achieve these goals, we should judge and regulate those actions by attending to tauist ideals; eg, no extreme or harsh actions, avoid actions which harm others/the-world/the-earth/etc. Thus, part of the teaching of the tau (towards this alignment with the tau itself) is to moderate our actions and our goals. These ideals and ways woul be of benfit to the public in general, but as pointed out before, if a wise emperor/empress were to follow the tau they would be guided better. The problem arises when they encounter opposition from other emperors/empresses who are strident in their goals. Inevitably, the tau is abandonded in favor of *direct action*; and hence we find our selves in the world of "today". {Back to the TEXT} [03] I would go further to say that in (some) tribal instances there would be a separation between the role of the leader (cheiftain) and the shaman (healer/witch-doctor). And this would indicate (to me at least) that while the Cheiftain is "tied down" to the material world -- ie, with the concerns of the tribe on a day-to-day basis, the directing of various efforts by the tribe for survival, etc -- and that the role of the shaman is that of bridging the two worlds (the real/material and the imagined/spiritual). It should also be noted that the two world-views of the leader/shaman are (to a certain extent) diametrically opposite. In fact, this difference in world view (especially in the "modern" world) creates a certain tension between the two. This difference in POV was well illustrated in the film "The Fifth Element" where the "President of Earth" and a priest differ in their interpretation of a mysterious planet moving towards the Earth. It is likely that many of the world leaders view priests/spiritualists/healers in the same light: I will *tolerate* what you say, but for the most part I (who hold the *real* power) think that you are a quack or fraud and more or less as useless and a hindrance to society as are artists, poets, and stage actors. That this lack of regard by the powers-that-be should *not* be publicly proclaimed or even acknowledged is apparent with the lip service given by most leaders to matters religious/spiritual and artistic/aesthetic. Also, the emphasis by the leaders is that they are *deeply* religious, etc and yet this "somehow" does not prevent them from committing attrocities against various groups of people -- all in the name of national security and/or public safety. Indeed, in many countries priests and intellectuals are hunted down and imprisoned or at the very least "under surveillance" {Back to the TEXT} [04] I have used the "t" in tau all of my life, and we are now informed that it is "d" as in the "dau". But. In speaking with a number of both native Chinese speakers (as well as other people of the "Oriental persuasion" ;), i am assured that "they have heard it both ways". In the same way that in Korean (with which i am at this "." much familar), there are about 5 or 7 different "d" vs "t" sounds (the same as with "b" vs "p", and "kh" vs "g"), the *fact* that these do not translate directly and *exactly* into the nearly-the-same sounds in English should give the absolutist some pause for thought. Thus, i (try) to refrain from saying "the English equivalent of "x" (in the foreign language) *IS* "z". Finally, in refering to the various "tau things", i have taken up the practice of refering to the "bible" (the tau teh'ching) as the "tau book" -- thus giving the causal listener the idea that a "tau book" is the latest in lap-top, PDA (personal digital assistant), etc. I refer to the "tau" (itself) as "the tau" (ie, no emphasis, italics, etc). And finally, the I-Ching i refer (strangely enough ;) to as "the i-ching". And, still on-topic (at least in this "foot note"), my interpretation of the i-ching is that it is an idea-generator and not a prognositcator. But, others have discussed this for more elloquently than i; eg, ??ref??. {Back to the TEXT} [05] This is an important point: In many primitive cultures this direct experience with the super-natural is not limited to the Shaman. And, rememember that to these poeple there is little that *is* super-natural as westerners might view it -- for them, these *spiritual/extra-sensory/etc* experiences are a *part* of life and not *super* natural ; ie, above/out-side of normal experience. For example, in the case of ??tribe?? in the Amazon, the Shaman helps each person to learn how to "call their spirit out" -- refer to VID with TIME-INDEX "Anthropology: The Art of Being Human" (or what-ever it's called). Thus, we may view the shaman (as opposed to the Witch Doctor) as being in charge of helping the spritual part of each person, where-as the purvey of the Witch Doctor is the *physical* part of each person. And of course these *distincitions* between Healer/Seer/Priest may become blured, and or be carried out by a single individual (or so i assume). In some tribes, the Witch Doctor holds court both as physical healer as well as spiritual healer, and so forth. I would maintain that in such case the Witch Doctor would be the prefered term, giving the distinctions here as follows: Healer -- physical health, herbalist, etc. Shaman -- intercessor between the person and the spirit world (or the hidden aspects of the world around us) Priest -- intercessor to the *remote* gods; eg, Zeus, Jahova, etc. Again, in studying (or in using as b/g) these tribal communities, the distinctions are probably going to be a *lot* more subtle than one would expect in the roles portrayed in the tradional "big three"; ie, Judaism, Christianity, Islam. The view of tribal religions (often without a written language) would be one more of a a communal interaction. Despite the (possible) lack of the written language, the oral tradtion would be known (to a certain extent) by everyone in the village (in the same way that most westerners "know" about Romeo and Juliet, etc. Further, as Eliad comments: See [Shaman as cultural guardian], the shaman is the guardian in charge of perserving these oral traditions/stories. Further the shaman will be of assistance in *choosing* the correct healing/ educationals/cautionary/etc tales to help a person in a given situation. {Back to the TEXT} [06] Another important point is the non-need for the extent of the particulars surrounding the transcendent experience. In the case of the *linear* mind, the tale would have to involve (in the case of ascension) a great bird (that the shaman could ride upon), or a chariot, etc. From the shamanistic point of view, it would be enough to simply grasp a single bird feather or even to simply imagine the journey beginning. Thus, while the material/reductionist world would have to have all of the laws of physics, etc, be met -- for the Shamanistic journey these are irrelevant. For example, the journey might be related as happening in a waking dream, or when one of the ancestors visited and took their hand and they float off through the wall or ceiling of the room, etc. Again it must be emphasised that the actual *fact* or even the *events* of the transcendent experience are not necessarily the *point* or most important aspect of the shamanistic journey. Most important is what is revealed to the shaman in the vision/journey: A new way of looking at things, new facts that had not been previously known or at at least that had been over-looked, or experiences of a revelatory nature. Again going back to the shaman as being able to see things or in ways that the ordinary person (not attuned to those aspects of nature/existance) would not understand, see, or even possibly be aware of. Thus, the shaman continues to experience these transcendental journeys/visions as part of who they are and as part of their role as shaman for the tribe. And the shaman has the responsibility for helping members of the tribe to experience some of these (or at the very least help in the interpretation) events/journeys/visions that they may experience. The most common way that ordinary person experiences these is of course in dreams, or by events that strike them as odd. The shaman is thus not only the ombudsman between the tribal memembers and the spiritual/material world around them, but the "conduit" of understanding of the tribal memmbers and what the world (or their own body) is trying to "tell" them. {Back to the TEXT} [07] ** include at least a partial "dictionary" (or ref to file on this topic) of BIRD / FLIGHT -- Ascension, etc. {Back to the TEXT} [08] This is an important point. For most people the idea of flight is the one un-achievable dream. We see birds flying all around us, and that one gift is denied to us. In a similar way, we might think of the rain and indeed dust storms, etc as "coming from heaven". I would say that this *un-reachable* realm is what came to be assoicated with angels, etc. Note however, that for many tribal religions the bird is also given special powers even above that of flying. For example, the crow/raven is given often times superior intellegence as well as commonly the "trickster" capabilites. In this case, the crow which is clearly not the most powerful nor graceful bird in the sky, is by its observed intellegence and perserverance attributed with more human intellegence than most other animals. Probably part of this is due to its strikingly black appearance and the piercing eye. Oddly enough the traditional view of angels seems to be associated with the colour white ??research on this?? which would be the opposite of the dark, dirty, gritty life that we suffer through on earth. Alternatively, with some tribal beliefs we should continually be connected to the earth (dirt) since the dust of our ancestors is in that dirt, as well ours one day be as well. {Back to the TEXT} [09] This again goes back to the "vision" as "journey". {Back to the TEXT} [10] {Back to the TEXT} [11] {Back to the TEXT} `