Archive | December 2012

Secrets of Soul and Nous – Part 1

This article about Soul In its Relation to Nous, will save the seeker much time in deciphering alchemical texts, covering essentially the same ground. If this whets your appetite  more information (although un-formatted) can be found here, which I believe is the appendix to an unpublished work on Plotinus.

[There must be a principle before soul, because soul has an element of potentiality and changeability in it and needs an eternally actual cause to account for its existence; this cause is Nous.’]

 Why must we go higher than soul, instead of considering it as the first principle? First of all, Nous is other and better than soul, and the better comes first by nature. For it is not true, as people think, that ‘soul when it is made perfect produces intelligence’: for what could make soul in potency come to be in act unless there was some cause to bring it to actuality? If it happened by chance, it would be possible for soul not to come to actual existence. So we must consider that the first realities are actual and self-sufficient and perfect: imperfect things are posterior to them and are perfected by their producers who, like fathers, bring to perfection what in the beginning they generated imperfect: the imperfect is matter in relation to the principle which makes it, and is perfected by receiving form. Further, if soul is passible, there must be something impassable (or everything will be destroyed by the passage of time), so there must be something before soul. And if soul is in the universe, there must be something outside the universe, and in this way too there must be something prior to soul. For since what is in the universe is in body and matter, nothing remains the same; so [if that was all that existed] man and all the logoi would not be eternal or continue the same. One can see from these and many other arguments that Nous must exist before soul.

[Souls exist in the world of Nous, in the state of unity proper to that world: but they have the capacity to descend into the material world, where they are divided and separated spatially into different bodies: but even in this lower world they do not entirely lose their higher unity, but keep contact with the world of Nous.]

 In the intelligible world is true being: Nous is the best of it. But there are souls there too; for it is from There that they come here. That world contains souls without bodies; this one, the souls which have come to be in bodies and are divided by their bodies. There all and every Nous is together, not separated or divided, and all souls are together in the one world, without spatial division. Nous then is always without separation and undivided. Soul There is not separated or divided; but it has a natural capacity for division. Its division is departure from the intelligible world and embodiment. So it is reasonably said to be ‘divisible as regards body’, because it is in this way that it departs and is divided. How then is it also ‘undivided’? It does not all depart; there is something of it which does not come to this world, which is not divided. To say, then, that it consists of ‘the undivided and that which is divided in bodies’ is the same as saying that it consists of that which is above and that which depends Thence, and reaches as far as the things of this world, like a radius from a center  When it has come here it sees with the part of itself in which it preserves the nature of the whole. Even here below it is not only divided, but undivided as well: for the divided part of it is divided without division. It gives itself to the whole body and is undivided because it gives itself as a whole to the whole, and it is divided by being present in every part.

[We are not strictly speaking Nous, but soul, which is mid-way between Nous and sense-perception; in our normal life we are more closely connected with sense-perception; but we can become perfectly conformed to Nous by its own power, transcending our merely human nature, and then we do actually become Nous in a way.]

We are not Nous, we are conformed to it by our primary reasoning power which receives it. Still, we perceive through sense-perception, and it is we who perceive; surely we reason in the same way? It is certainly we ourselves who reason, and we ourselves who think the thoughts which are in our discursive understanding, for this is what we are. But the activities of Nous come from above, just as those proceeding from sense-perception come from below. We are the chief part of the soul, in the middle between two powers, a worse and a better, the worse being that of sense-perception and the better that of Nous. But it is generally agreed that sense-perception is continually our own possession; for we perceive continually: there is doubt about Nous, both because we are not always in touch with it and because it is separable. It is separable because it does not incline to us, but rather we to it when we look upwards. Sense-perception is our messenger: Nous is our king. Yet we are kings too when we are conformed to it. We are conformed to it in two ways, either by a sort of inscription, as if its laws were written in us, or by being filled with it and able to see it and be aware of its presence. And we know that we ourselves come to know other things by means of this vision of Nous. We either come to know the power which knows it by that power itself, or we ourselves become that vision. So the man who knows himself is double: there is the one who knows the nature of discursive reasoning, which belongs to soul, and there is the other who transcends the first one and knows himself according to Nous by becoming it: by it he thinks himself, not as man any longer, but as having become something completely different and as having carried himself off to the heights, bringing along with him only the better part of the soul, which alone can take wing to intuitive intellect, so that he can establish There what he saw. Does not the discursive reason know that it is discursive reason, that it gains understanding of things outside, and makes its judgments by the rules in itself which it has from Nous, and that there is something better than itself, which it does not seek but altogether possesses? But is there anything which it does not know when it knows what sort of a thing it is, and what its effects are like? If then discursive reason says that it comes from Nous and is second after Nous and the image of Nous, and has in itself all the characters which Nous has written and continues to write in it, will someone who knows himself like this stop at this point? Is it by using another extra power that we have the vision of Nous which knows itself, or do we share in Nous, since it is ours and we belong to it, and so know Nous and ourselves? This last must be the way if we are to know whatever it is in Nous that knows itself. A man becomes Nous when he puts away all the rest of himself and sees only this by means of this, himself by means of himself. Then he sees himself as Nous sees itself.

[Soul is directed to and is like Nous in its inward part; but even in that part of it which is directed to the outside world, and in its external activities, it keeps a sort of likeness to Nous.]

Once again, then, Nous is a self-contained activity, but soul has what we may call an inward part, which is that of it which is directed to Nous, and a part outside Nous which is directed to the outside world. By the one it is made like that from which it came, by the other, even though it has been made unlike, it becomes like, here below too, both in its action and its production. For even while it is active it contemplates, and when it produces it produces Forms (a kind of completed acts of intellect). So all things are traces of thought and Nous; they proceed according to their original pattern; those which are near imitate Nous better, and the remotest keep an obscure image of it.

[The soul is illuminated by Nous’, and, being so illuminated, is raised to its level and becomes an image of it.]

This light [of Nous} shines in the soul and illumines it: that is, it makes it intelligent: that is, it makes it like itself, the light above. You will come near to the nature of Nous and its content if you think of something like the trace of this light which is present in the soul, but still fairer and greater. For it is this illumination which gives the soul a clearer life, not, however, a generative life; on the contrary, it turns the soul to itself and does not allow it to scatter itself abroad, but makes it love the glory in Nous. It is not the life of sense-perception either, for this looks outwards, to the external world where its particular activity lies. But one who has received that light from true being looks, we may say, not particularly at visible things but just the opposite. It remains, then, that he must have received an intellectual life, a trace of the life of Nous: for true being is there. The life in Nous is also activity, the first light which lightens itself first of all and shines turned towards itself, at once enlightening and enlightened, the truly intelligible, thinking and thought, seen by itself and needing no other to enable it to see, sufficing to itself for seeing; for it is itself what it sees. It is known to us too by its very self; through itself the knowledge of it comes to us. Otherwise, from where should we get the means to speak of it? It is of such a nature that it grasps itself more clearly, and our apprehension is by means of it. By reasoning of this kind our soul is led back to it, by considering itself to be an image of Nous and its life a trace and likeness of Nous, and that whenever it thinks it becomes godlike and Nous-like. If anyone asks it what sort of thing is that perfect and universal Nous, the primary self-knower, the soul first of all enters into Nous or makes room for its activity; then it shows itself to be in possession of the things in Nous of which it holds in itself the memory, and, by means of its own likeness to Nous is able somehow to see it, being brought to a more exact resemblance as far as any part of the soul can come to resemble Nous.

[Nous is fully immanent and transcendent: the (common Hellenistic) idea of ‘presence by powers’ does not really apply to spiritual being: where the ‘power’ is present, the being is present as a whole, but the recipient only receives as much as it is able; the soul is present in the body in the same sort of way.]

Shall we say that it [the All, or Real Being, i.e. Nous] is present, or that it remains by itself, but powers go out from it to all things, and so it is present everywhere? In this way they say that souls are a sort of rays; the all remains established in itself, and the souls are sent out, each to a corresponding living being. Now in things which do not preserve the whole nature of the One Being as it is in itself, only a power of it is present where it is present; yet this certainly does not mean that it is not wholly present, since even in this case it is not cut off from the power which it gave to the other thing: but the recipient was only able to take a certain limited amount, though all was there. Where all its powers are present, it is clearly present itself, though at the same time separate: for if it became the form of a particular thing it would cease to be all and to exist everywhere in itself (though being incidentally the form of something else too).But since it belongs to no one particular thing, when something wants to belong to it, if it wishes it draws near to it, as much as is possible, but does not become the property of that or any other thing but remains the object of its desire. There is nothing surprising in it thus being present in all things, because it is in none of them in such a way as to belong to them. So perhaps it is not unreasonable to say that the soul has the same sort of relationship of accidental sympathy with the body, if we say that it remains by itself and does not become the property of matter or body, but the whole body is illumined by it in every one of its parts.

On the Soul and breaking its relationship to the ouside world…To be continued

Master and Disciple Relationship – Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh

The relationship between master and disciple ts based on three principles:

1. The disciple’s devotion (iradat) to a master,

2. The dhikr that the master inculcates in the disciple, and

3. The master’s attention (nazar) to the disciple.

1. The Disciple’s Devotion to a Master

Every person “wants to find a perfect human being with whom he may become harmonized in action, speech and thought. That is, all human beings, whether they know it or not, have their sights set on human perfection, desiring to find a teacher – who may guide them towards it.

In seeking the way to perfection, a person may encounter a master and accept him with heart and soul as a guide and teacher. When one finds such a master, One devotes oneself to him in order to win his attention.

Devotion to a master can be compared to the crying of a baby for its mother’s milk. When a baby cries out of hunger, its mother’s milk is instinctively produced in the breast, which the mother places in the baby’s mouth to suckle. The situation of the disciple with respect to a master is similar, where in expressing devotion, the disciple naturally attracts the master’s attention, so that the master may feed him the milk of spiritual cognitions and realities and quench his thirst in the quest for Reality.

As Rumi says:

The cloud must weep for the meadow to smile;
The child must cry for the milk to flow.

Deviation to a master also serves to draw the disciple from serf-love to love of another; and self-love is a great obstacle to the perception of Reality. As the poet says:

Do not be like a dog,
content with eating and sleeping;
Direct your love to another, even if only a cat.

Of course, the master here must be perfect to turn this love of another into the love of God, for if he is not perfect, a veil will descend between the disciple and God, and the disciple will fall prey to worship of an individual, which is itself but a farm of self-worship.

2. Dhikr (Remembrance of God)

The following points must be made about the dhikr that a master inculcates in a disciple:

First, through dhikr, the disciple’s attention gradually becomes directed away from consciousness of self to consciousness of God, turning him away from self-worship and attention to self. In the words of the poet:

I envisioned You so much that I became you
Little by little You approached, and bit by bit
I went away.

Second, dhikr helps to establish the spiritual relationship and bond with the master, enabling the disciple to generate and strengthen devotion to the master.

Third, through dhikr, the disciple draws the inward attention of the master and attracts the master’s supportive aspiration (himmat).

Fourth, through the link of dhikr, the disciple eventually becomes one with the master, establishing a unity between them.

3. The Master’s Attention to the Disciple

The master’s spiritual attention (nazar) is the foundation of the Path. As noted above, the disciple’s devotion and persistence in dhikr serves to draw the attention of the master, which, in turn, brings God’s favor to the disciple. As the poet says:

Forty retreats, 0 forty retreats, 0 forty retreats! 
One glance of attention from the master is worth 
a hundred retreats.

If the attention of a perfect master does not accompany the dhikr when it is being inculcated, the dhikr will bear no fruit. The master’s attention in the dhikr is so important that any word accompanied by the master’s attention while being inculcated in the disciple will in fact be effective in purifying the disciple — even if such a word is not a name of God.

The following story illustrates this point:

When Mushtaq ‘Ali Shah Isfahani was staying in Kerman, he was the object of the jealousy of the exoteric clergy, who paid a prostitute to try to seduce him. She went to Mushtaq and began flirting with him in the hope of leading him astray. The more Mushtaq exercised forbearance, the more persistent the woman became, until finally he ordered, “Get out, you whore!” Since Mushtaq accompanied these words with his spiritual attention for the purpose of reforming her state, they affected her heart. As she went home, the words, “Get out, you whore!” became her dhikr. Repeating them over and over, she abandoned prostitution and eventually became a friend of God (wali).


Full article

One of the most astounding alchemical images I have seen!

Ars, Arte et Labore

Some beautiful images here, and lots of helpful links

“While these Discontents continued, severall Letters past between Queene Elizabeth and Doctor Dee, whereby perhaps he might promise to returne; At length it so fell out, that he left Trebona and took his Iourney for England. The ninth of Aprill he came to Breame… Here that famous Hermetique Philosopher, Dr Henricus Khunrath of Hamburgh came to visit him.” – Elias Ashmole, Theatrum Chemicum Brittanicum, (London, 1652), cited in Frances Yates’ The Rosicrucian Enlightenment

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The Essence of Walking – Mary Maddux

Walking meditation can be just as profound as sitting meditation, and has the advantage of bringing the meditative experience into our activity. There are a number of different walking meditations. Our variation is informal and easy. It allows you to be more present in your body and in the present moment. The simple experience of alternating steps with the left and right foot naturally helps create a meditative state.

There is a tremendous richness of experience to become aware of as you walk. The body loves movement, and will reward you with pleasure if you pay attention to how it feels! So much of the time we are caught up in our mental worlds — thinking of the past or future, planning, imagining… Paying attention to the body as you walk will help you to enjoy simply being alive. (Although there are sitting meditations in which you pay attention to the body, it is easier to do so when the body is in motion. This is another advantage of walking meditation.)

Where and when. This meditation is best done outdoors. We recommend setting aside at least 20 minutes for your walking meditation, and not trying to combine it with anything else like going on errands or walking briskly for exercise. Let this be a walk just for meditation so that you can sink into the experience with your undivided attention!

How to start. Before starting to walk, spend a little time while still standing still. Allow your awareness to be with your body. Take some deep breaths, inhaling deep into the belly. Put your full attention on the sensation of breathing. Then allow the breath to return to normal and notice it going on its own for a little while. Now bring your awareness to your body, noticing how your body feels as you are standing, and becoming aware of all the sensations going on in your body.

Now begin walking. Walk at a relaxed, fairly slow but normal pace. Pay attention to the sensations in your body as you walk. It is natural to find your attention drawn to the sights around you as you walk, but keep bringing your attention to what is going on internally.

The idea is to have your attention on the physical experience of walking. If the mind starts getting caught up in thoughts, easily bring your attention back to the experience of walking. Notice how the body feels in great detail as you walk. The entire body is involved in the act of walking — from alternation of the left and right foot to the swinging of your arms and hips.

Notice how the soles of your feet feel — the contact they make with your socks or shoes, the textures of the fabrics touching them, the way they feel as they bear the weight of your body and the sensations in them as your walk along. Feel the entire foot, being aware of how it moves as the heel is placed on the ground, and then the movement rolls to the ball of the foot and toes. Notice how it feels as the foot lifts and moves forward. Allow your awareness to move up through every part of the body, noticing the sensations as you walk. Gradually scan all parts of your body as you bring your attention to the ankles, skins, calves, knees, thighs, hips, pelvis, back, chest, shoulders, arms, neck, head.

When you become aware of tension anywhere in the body, let it go. Allow that part of your body to relax. Allow your ankles, belly, shoulders, arms, neck — all of your body — to relax. Let your hips swing loose. As you do this, the walking will become more enjoyable.

You can scan your body randomly, moving your awareness from place to pace in your body, or you can systematically scan your whole body going from the soles of your feet to the top of your head noticing the sensations of walking. The most important thing is to keep you awareness on the sensations in your body, easily bringing it back when your mind has wandered.

Variation: Keep your attention on the rhythm of the walking — the alternation of left and right foot. Simply notice the experience of left-right-left-right motion. Keep bringing your awareness back to this experience when the mind wanders in thoughts or distractions of the environment.

Original article from:

Why Do We Do Namaste?

Indians greet each other with namaste. The two palms are placed together in front of the chest and the head bows whilst saying the word namaste. This greeting is for all – people younger than us, of our own age, those older than friends, even strangers and us.

There are five forms of formal traditional greeting enjoined in the shaastras of which namaskaram is one. This is understood as prostration but it actually refers to paying homage as we do today when we greet each other with anamaste.

Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act of worship. However there is much more to it than meets the eye. In Sanskrit namah + te = namaste. It means – I bow to you – my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. Namaha can also be literally interpreted as “na ma” (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.

The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet another, we do so withnamaste , which means, “may our minds meet,” indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love and humility.
The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the Lord in me is the same in all.. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with head bowed the Divinity in the person we meet. That is why sometimes, we close our eyes as we do namaste to a revered person or the Lord – as if to look within. The gesture is often accompanied by words like “Ram Ram”, “Jai Shri Krishna”, “Namo Narayana”, “Jai Siya Ram”, “Om Shanti” etc – indicating the recognition of this divinity.
When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and respect.

 Abstracted from here:

The 7 States and Stations of the soul

The 7 alchemical metals of the west, as challenging to interpret as they are, do have equivalants in exoteric litterature. Sufi writings render such mystical  states; maqam and Stations; hal.

In his book (Essence: With The Elixir of Enlightenment) A. H. Almaas points to the important distinction to be made between the volatile and the fixed elements.

A state is contrasted with a station (maqam) when the essential aspect is made one’s own, when it is attained by one’s own efforts and established permanently by such efforts. That an essential aspect has become a station does not mean it is always present. This condition exists after it is just established, but as other aspects emerge they will displace it. In this case, a station means that the aspect is permanently available; it is present whenever the situation requires it. (Essence, pg 156)

So whilst it is possible to expreience higher states with little preparation, (or even by moving between our accidental and default states) these states are not part of us, and are easily lost.

Having said that, merely witnessing these states is often enough to bolster our faith and hope in the existence of a Noumenal world. And at this point, on the mystical come down, the need to find a person of higher status than ones self; the spiritual kings and queens of the world, is our only real shot at lasting success. Such a Soul-Smith can guide the seeker from his Leaden state into the crucible, and there watch, kindle and adjust his furnace from a safe and impartial position.

The Seven States and stations are said to be:

  • Discrimination and Divinity – ‘Gold’ (bright both outside and in and properly fixed)
  • Self and the Imagination  ‘Silver’ (bright both outside and in, but wanting fixity)
  • Flesh and the Senses  ‘Lead’ (bright on the inside, dark on the outside) (the Heart attached to the creation)

The other base metals, tin, iron, copper, mercury etc are variations on the above and the tripartite division of the soul is actually reflected in these 3 metals alone.

This brief article I hope explains a concept that has eluded my understanding for many years, any refinement  offered will be gladly accepted.

And as one cannot hope to experience these states by reading alone, it is possible to get some flavour to anticipate them after the nescasary preparation.

Most popular passages from – The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

Rather than argue the case for or against this popular book, i’d refer to this:

Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter. Milton, “Areopagitica,” 1644

The word ‘truth’ has it’s origins in the word Tree; the notion of “steadfast as an oak, from same root ‘drutas’ “firm,” Welsh drud, or “strong,” Welsh derw “true,” old Irish derb “sure.”
‘When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.’
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one of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.
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The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
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I have found it an amusing strategy, when asked whether I am an atheist, to point out that the questioner is also an atheist when considering Zeus, Apollo, Amon Ra, Mithras, Baal, Thor, Wotan, the Golden Calf and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I just go one god further.
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Seneca the Younger: ‘Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.’
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‘We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.’
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‘The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.’
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Deists differ from theists in that their God does not answer prayers, is not interested in sins or confessions, does not read our thoughts and does not intervene with capricious miracles. Deists differ from pantheists in that the deist God is some kind of cosmic intelligence, rather than the pantheist’s metaphoric or poetic synonym for the laws of the universe. Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism.
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Remember Ambrose Bierce’s witty definition of the verb ‘to pray’: ‘to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy’.
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Carl Sagan put it well:’… if by “God” one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying … it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.’
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