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Kashmir Shaivism and Psychedelic Cosmology

Present-day Consciousness-researcher Stan Grof, on the basis  of reports by LSD subjects, presents a very similar cosmology to the Shaivite one, using the metaphor of water

Originally there is the ocean, representing the Universal Mind

On the surface of the ocean waves form.  Although on the one hand the waves can be seen as distinct entities, they are also an integral part of the ocean; their differentiation is playful, illusory, and incomplete

The foam of the wave breaks into droplets which have a brief separate identity from wave and ocean as they fly through the air

The metaphor of a pool of tidal water which has a longer temporary separation from the ocean represents the beginning of partitioning, of the "cosmic screenwork", and the forgetting of the unity with the Source

The next stage is water that had evaporated and formed a cloud, which has its own shape and transformations apart from the ocean.  The original unity has been obscured and concealed, but is not yet completely lost

Finally the snowflake which has crystallised in the cloud has a specific individual form and structure.  The form is distinctly different from the source; complex and solidified.  The transformation is now radical and total, the original identity lost.  [Stan Grof, "LSD and the Cosmic Game: Outline of Psychedelic Cosmology and Ontology" pp.7-8 (unpublished essay; revised and expanded version of a paper published in the Journal for the Study of Consciousness, 5:165, 1972-3]

What is being referred to here - in both the Kashmir Shaivite and the Psychedelic cosmologies - is the emanation a nd self-transformation of the Absolute through a series of successive stages; each stage constituting one more step towards separation, self-limitation, and physical existence

And this is the essential difference between Monistic Emanationism (e.g. Panentheism) and Acosmic Monism.  In the latter, only the Absolute is real, the universe being ultimately illusory or un-real.  In the former, the universe is also real, because it is a real transformation of the Absolute

Central to this whole cosmology is the idea of a thickening or congealing of Consciousness.  Thus Shakti, which was originally mere "thatness", quickens, longs to create, becomes massive or dense (Ghana) and appears as Bindu (which is the im-mediate cause of the cosmos).  An analogy is given with milk which condenses into cream or curd.  The implication is of solidifying, coagulating, becoming massive [Arthur Avalon (John Woodroffe) Shakti and Shakta, p.400]


Kashmir Shaivism and Lurianic Kabbalah

A very similar theme is also to be found in Lurianic Kabbalah, which speaks of the "thickening of the Light" (i.e. the Light of the Absolute), which produces a "difference of form", in other words a vessel or sefirah [e.g. Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, An Entrance to the Tree of Life (Research Centre of Kabbalah, 1977) p.132].  And the Hermetic Qabalistic occultist Dion Fortune gives the analogy of the the first Sefirot (Divine  archetype) Keter emerging out of the Limitless Light of the Primordial Unmanifest in the same way that sugar crystals solidify out of a saturated solution [The Mystical Qabalah, pp.38-9].  Stan Grof's metaphor of the water which forms waves, droplets, a cloud, and finally freezes into ice is also obviously relevant here.


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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 1 March 1999, last modified 4 June 2004