Reflections on Encountering the Mesotes
The phenomenon described here is called the Rayleigh-Bénard
instability, or, more simply, Bénard convection. The individual
facets in the honeycomb arrangement of hexagons are called Bénard
cells. They are named after French chemist Henri Bénard
who first recorded this phenomenon in 1900. Because the phenomenon
was investigated by the British physicist Lord Rayleigh, the
conditions that produce it came to be called the Rayleigh-Bénard
Madras, India, April 1966
On that occasion I was in a shabby hotel room in Madras, India.
The room was small and rectangular, about eight feet wide by
ten long. The single bed was placed along the righthand wall
as you entered the room by a hallway door. It was around four
in the afternoon and I was laying on the bed with my head propped
on a meager pillow. Looking down the length of my body and past
my feet, with my gaze lifted slightly upward, I could see the
sole window of the room. It was a paneless rectangle with iron
bars. The bars made a black cross that stood out in vivid contrast
to the natural light outside. It was a bright but hazy day and
the light in the window was somewhat muted, so that I could gaze
into it without difficulty.
These glimpses, which came all by themselves, had given rise to my obession: to see the world movie dissolve entirely, leaving only the screen on which it was projected. I had seen the film of life flicker and jump at moments, as happens when the film roll is old or faulty. This convinced me that it was possible for the movie to disappear entirely, as if the film broke or became transparent, leaving only the screen.
Such was my obsession, but I had no idea how to act on it. Perhaps
by the practice of some form of meditation, but I was too lazy
and intransigent for that. As it turned out, on that particular
day in that shabby hotel room, I got the notion to stare at the
center of the crossed bars in the window frame. The idea came
to me at a certain moment when I glanced randomly at the window,
and the film jumped. It seemed as if the contrast between the
background light and the sharp image formed by the crossing bars
shifted my visual perception into another mode, a non-ordinary
mode of perception. Quite suddenly, I became convinced that if
I stared at the point where the bars crossed and kept my gaze
open to the background light, something would happen. So that´s
what I did.
In itself, this visual event was quite fascinating, but then some other pretty strange effects came into play. In the first place I got dizzy, but then I realized that I was not really dizzy: I was spinning, yet without moving my body in any way. I remained still and prone on the bed. As the sensation intensified, I felt as if I were being unscrewed from my body from the head downward. The screw motion was surprizing and delightful, but not in an overwhelming way. It was gentle and lively, but also steady, as if intentional, controlled. Something was carefully, deliberately unscrewing me.
I continued to be "unscrewed," but I did not feel at any moment that I was leaving my body. I felt peacefully installed in my body, and not in it at the same time. As the minutes passed, I sensed that everything was going to dissolve into the backlighting. The sense of anticipation was extremely intense, yet, at the same time, something kept me calm. Each time the room flickered and dissolved into the backlighting, taking me with it, there was a gentle increase in the surge of the unscrewing motion.
Then, at a certain moment, there was a tremendous surge.
I was still immobile when this surge erupted. It caught me by surprize because in the flick of an eye it changed the quality of the backlighting. Instead a dull, soft whiteness, there was a honey-gold radiance and I was totally immersed in it. It was like a penetrating solution that went right into the depth of every cell of my body. At the very moment I became absorbed into the soft golden light, a felt an electrical surge at the base of my spine, a current that jolted upward into my head where it exploded into the exquisite pealing and chiming of bells, golden chimes that made audible the sound within the softly throbbing light.
In the excitement that now seized me, I shifted my gaze from the image of the crossed bars, but remained prone on the bed. Everywhere I looked in the room, there was no room. Down the length of my body, I saw no body. I was invisible, having disappeared into the immense luminosity that replaced the world. Everything had dissolved into the soft but intensely brilliant, pulsating, honey-textured light. I went into total and irresistable ecstasy.
I cannot say how long this rapture lasted, but quite quickly (so it seemed) I jumped to me feet. I had to move because the golden chiming sound was too beautiful to believe, yet I felt compelled to show by some gesture that I was indeed hearing it. So I jumped up and shouted, "I believe in it." I don't know why I said this but it seemed that I was responding to the ecstatic rush that came over me due to the exquisite chiming sound of the light, and I was compelled to respond to the sound in that way. I stood there, barely conscious of having a body, yet totally present, physically aware, embodied, intact, calm and mindful. The magnitude of the golden pealing sound was boundless. The sound consisted of a granular eruption of perfect tones, like individual beads of sound all exploding in a soft, syncopated unison. I could hear every single tone perfectly and, at the same time, I heard the immense totality of all the tones together.
I was alive and aware, resonating in Golden Infinity.
At some point I rushed out the door, down the stairs, and into the street. I ran through the streets of Madras, teeming with people and cows, like a madman off on a sublime mission no one else in the world could understand. Or just back from one.
The Lapis-Christ Parallel
Much later I learned that Jung's interest in alchemy was inspired by his first mistress, Sabina Spielrein, a Russian Jew who was brought to him as a patient when she was eighteen. Over a period of many years I delved into the later works of Jung, such as Mysterium Coniunctionis and Alchemical Studies, absorbing the rich material and fantastic imagery they contained. Alchemy became one of my most deep and enduring obsessions.
Since alchemy was regarded as heresy by the Church, practitioners
of the Art had to pretend they were Christians to avoid persecution.
Masters of the Art such as the German mystic Gerhard Dorn produced
a wierdly disguised form of alchemy in which Christ was identified
with the Philosopher's Stone. Jung called this the Lapis-Christ
parallel. Lapis is Latin for stone. Christ is Greek for anointed.
Hence, the anointed stone.
This insight led to my second encounter with the honeycomb light.
February 17, 1972, 3:11 AM
It was a rather cold but clear pre-equinoctial day, with bright azure light over the wideopen fields of central Washington State. During the course of the day I had been contemplating an astrological problem, as I often did back in those times. Astrology was always a conundrum for me, a real brainteaser, because I didn't like any existing system and did not accept the usual premises (planetary causation, for instance) and psychological jargon. I was pondering a new system of my own based on the planetary polarities by Dane Rudhyar, but modified. My aim was to format the system by arranging the twelve signs on seven levels, correlating the entire gestalt to the six Shaktis of Hindu Tantra.
The content is perhaps extraneous—the "Polar Arrangement" that I devised from this exercise was completely spurious, yet another astrological mind-game, though it occupied me for another six or eight years—but the effort of concentration I put into the exercise definitely had something to do with what happened next. Sometime early in the evening, I found myself musing on a phrase that came into my head, all by itself: "Connected to the soul by a vibratory pole." I kept repeating this phrase sub-vocally, like a mantra. I did this just because it felt oddly good to do so.
The Crown Extrusion
Now it was well past midnight, but I was far too exhilarated to sleep. I sat in the small bedroom facing the bookshelf behind my writing desk, its surface illumined by an old gooseneck lamp. To my left was a low window looking out on the garden, now shrouded in total darkenss. Along the same wall was a small chest of drawers with an old-fashioned mirror attached to it by a ornate arch. Next to the bureau, mounted on the wall, was a single lamp with a tulip-shaped lampshade. Along the opposite wall was a single bed. The room was well-lit but not with glaring light. I gazed at the bindings of the books, noticing how content I felt just to look at things, to observe every detail of what I saw.
Gradually, I began
to feel physically light-headed, and I noticed that my thoughts
were not arising as they usually do. For some years I had practiced
Ch'an method of hua t'ou: "observing the head
of the thought." Hua t'ou means a thought's head,
the ante-thought that arises in the mind the moment
thought is detected. This is "a technique devised by enlightened
masters who taught their disciples to concentrate their attention
on the mind for the purpose of stopping all thoughts to attain
singleness of mind and thereby realize if for the perception
of their self-nature" (Luy Kuan Yu, Ch'an and Zen
Vol. 1, p. 234). Actually, I was not practicing the technique
at that moment. But I found myself approaching the singleness
of mind that comes from that practice, without having to do
anything at all. It is as if the practice were being done for
me, and I was being drawn into perfect singleness of mind.
What supreme good fortune!
Listening keenly to the pitch, I observed that my field of vision was becoming crystal clear, as if everything I saw were floating in pure, transparent rainwater. I don't know why, but rainwater is the image that came to mind (it also occurs in Gnostic texts describing the light of the Pleroma). At the moment I saw the rainwater, I observed the honeycomb effect, familiar to me from the Madras experience. The entire room it all its details was composed of infinitely small images of the entire room captured in facets arranged in a honeycomb lattice. When I allowed my gaze to focus on a single facet, the entire array of facets became more clear, more exquisitely defined. Then, all by itself, my gaze would return to the whole picture, everything right in front of me and in my field of peripheral vision, together. Then I would refocus on a single facet, and the process would repeat itself. It was deeply fascinating to observe the room in both ways, in a single facet, and in the full array of facets, the honeycomb lattice. To do so was totally effortless.
The Self-Perfecting Clear Light
I had the impression that I could repeat this iteration from facet to lattice and lattice to facet endlessly, and everything I beheld would become endlessly more clear, more vivid, more exquisitely precise. Without thinking a single thought, or making any effort to rationalize or even understand, I realized that the rainwater light was the absolute perfection of clearness, and it was also the process of self-perfecting. The more steadily I beheld it, the more clear and luminous it became. Its perfection consisted, not in having stablized in a state of perfect clarity, but in its becoming infinitely, inexhaustibly more and more clear. I also understood, without having to think about it, that my beholding of the light was somehow intrinsic to its self-perfecting process. Contemplating the light, I was filled with a surge of boundless delight, rapture beyond all description.
I wanted to do nothing else but sit there forever and play with the light.
At some point—the experience went on for about 20 minutes— I registered the odd physical sensation that my head was infinitely extended, taking the form of a column. This was apparently due to extrusion from the ushnisha, but the above image does not convey this sensation too well, because the structure atop the buddha's head is wide and pyramidal. That is not exactly how the "vibratory pole" felt to me. Rather, I sensed that the pole or column extruding from my head was woven like the bark of a palm tree, but woven from sound, from that high, rich, modulating chime. As this impression became more distinct, the acoustic and visual components of the experience began to merge. Everything intensified.
This Buddhist tangka on the left corresponds more closely to my experience: the sensation of having something like a tall, lithe palm tree sprouting from the crown of my head. When I shifted my head, however slightly, the trunk moved with a slow elastic delay, so that the movement was translated up the axis, bottom to top. As the lithe, elegantly woven trunk swayed over me, all the images in the countless facets of the honeycomb rearranged themselves in unisoin with its movement. When I turned my head, the change in my peripheral field was not static, as normally occurs: you look around from one angle, then from another, at a stable environment. Rather, the entire ambient field of vision reorganized itself, facet by facet, each time I moved my head. There was a soft fluidic flow through the hexagonal facets, the Bénard cells, rearranging each image to give me a different composite view, seen from another angle.
When I did not move my head but just my eyes, another effect came into play. (I was inclined to play with the light in this way due to experiences in lucid dreaming where I had noted how turning the head makes the dream scenario shift abruptly, but shifting the gaze without moving the head keeps the scenario stable.) Holding totally still and letting my gaze play over the facets produced the most exquisite sensation, as if the honeycomb became excited. I would compare it to the way an animal, or a herd of animals, reacts to the presence of an unidentified creature. The excitation was delicious, charged with anticipation, even suspense. With the play of my gaze across the Bénard cells, I detected by a subliminal glimpse how a gold effect flushed the faceting of the lattice. No single facet appeared to be filled with golden light, but the entire lattice itself seemed to be flushed with gold. With this subtle effect immediately came another: the baffling impression that the clear rainwater light was really opaque, like luminous skim milk. Delightfully absorbed in its self-perfecting clarity, I had not observed this quality of the light, but now, suddenly and inexplicably, its opacity was obvious.
That is when I glimped the stately human figure, a body of translucent honey-gold gelatine clad in robes of flowing milk. It moved with subliminal stealth, swirling past me as if dancing through the lattice.
Needless to say, this was a sensational sight. Those who have seen it are inclined to identify it as Christ, and I was no exception. I remember thinking, "Holy shit, I'm in the big time now." I came out of the experience laughing to myself like the village fool savouring a private joke.
At the time of my second encounter with the honeycomb light, I still did not know what the Mesotes was. I assumed that I had seen the Etheric Christ, the Inner Christ, the Resurrection Body, or something like that. It took a good many years before I was able to assess and conceptualize this experience in a different way. To be precise, it took about 22 years for me to work through the Christocentric framework in which I placed this experience. In the end, I totally dismantled the framework.
I had to blow the Christ Myth apart at the seams to get to the heart of the most intimate moments of my own mystical experience.
Readers of these pages will know that Lash takes an uncompromising anti-Christian view of Gnosis and the Mysteries, insisting on the deconstruction of the salvationist program and its central figure, Jesus Christ, the Savior. Once my new book, Not in His Image, comes out, the world at large will have a chance to know this, as well.
But readers may also benefit from knowing that I came to my adamantly anti-Christian stance on Gnosticism by going through Gnostic Christianity. During a good part of the twenty-two years between 1971 and 1993, I lived and taught as a Gnostic Christian—that is to say, someone who embraced the Christianized version of Gnosis to be found, for example, in the writings of Valentinus. In talks and seminars that I gave over the years, often with the sponsorship of friends in the Anthroposophical Society, I presented a Christocentric version of the Mysteries. My ideas were consistent in many points with Rudolf Steiner's views, although I expanded them (in ways unacceptable to Steinerites) toward a version of "Erotic Christianity" in which Christ and Magdalene figure together as cosmic lovers and representives of the Divine. (I was a passionate advocate of MM long before I discovered her in Gnostic writings. This orientation had precious little to do with religion and a lot to do with sex.)
All this transpired, however, before I really got into the textual depths of the Nag Hammadi material. I read the NHL consistently from about 1974 onward, but I did not really penetrate that material until twenty years later when I made a total commitment to Gnostic studies, including a plunge into the Coptic originals, with parallel studies of the Dead Sea Scrolls. When I found the term Mesotes in the Nag Hammadi texts, and learned about the Christic intercession described in the polemics written against the Gnostics, I began to develop a different view of my two encounters with the honeycomb light of the Christos. Also, by deepening my experience of Sophia and the Organic Light, the instrument of instruction in the Mysteries, I came to understand those sublime experiences in a new way, freed of the Christocentric orientation.
So, I got to the anti-Christian view of Gnosis by total immersion in Gnostic Christianity—which makes me, I guess, I pretty lucky boy. I now maintain that many people have had the Mesotes encounter, but most of them tend to interpret it through their religious conditioning. Consequently, they equate the luminous phantom with Jesus Christ of Roman Catholicism, or Protestantism, or Greek Orthodoxy, or Southern Baptism, or Episcopalianism, etc., and they do not recognize the cosmic provenance of the Pleromic Aeon. They do not see the "Inner Christ" in the Sophianic perspective of the Mysteries, but that is how I see it, now. But I could be wrong. I am reporting what I know on the basis of my first-hand mystical experiences, my training in paranormal states, and my studies, not only of Gnosticism, but of comparative mythology, Buddhism, shamanism, Zen and Tantra, alchemy, astronomy, sacred biology, and Goddess knows what else. I am not blowing my horn here (the crooked pennywhistle of the self-educated bumpkin), but I want to point out that it took all that for me to break through the redeemer myth. The version of Gnosis presented on this site is Sethian, i.e., radical, Pagan, non-Christian and anti-Christian, not Valentinian.
Metahistory.org is a teaching site. In the milky-white pages that float before your eyes I do not merely share what I know, or what I think I know. I share the best of what I have learned, with the intention that the benefit of my experience may be available to others.
Stay tuned for a new and expanded article, Mesotes: Matrix of Animal Powers, which contains the argument for my non-Christian interpretation of the Christos-Mesotes in its relation to the Manitou, the indigenous vision quest, and animistic religion.
jll: Andalucia NOV 22, 2005 - Flanders April 12, 2006
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2013 by John Lash.