Severed Rose (1)
Legacy of a Free-Lance Terton
1945 - 1976 Mystic Illuminations
Recapitulation is a routine exercise in the Neo-Toltec sorcery of Carlos Castaneda. Whether or not Castaneda invented his serial account of shamanic initiation with don Juan Matus, the exercise is doable. And done correctly, it works. In recapitulation, you make a meticulous review of past events with the intent of freeing yourself from residual imprinting by those events. This is an effective way of peeling off layers of emotional residue. These layers are multiple, so the exercise has to be done more than once. Recapitulations are necessarily selective: you cannot recall everything in one session. So you select a theme or category of experience: people you've known intimately, for example. Castaneda's exercise, advised by Don Juan, was to recall in detail each and every person he had met in his life.
The following inventory is selective, not of people I have known through my life, but of "accomplishments" in this life. By which I mean, creative productions (such as my books), realizations (such as the Ronda Moment), and discoveries (such as the fifth axis of the Dendera Zodiac). These "accomplishments" carry immense value for me biographically, although I cannot determine or even guess the value they might hold for anyone else. The entries below do not present a record of mundane success or matters of professional attainment, though some entries (i.e., published books) do shade into that area. Rather, this is an inventory of "treasures," consistent with my claim—my leading pretension, if you prefer—to be a terton, a treasure-finder. Tertons are widely known today by association with the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, the most famous example being the other JL, Jingme Lingpa. I do not care to, nor do I have to, authenticate my "discoveries" as a terton by reference to this lineage, but comparison may be instructive.
Other terton lineages derive from the past, but mine derives from the future. I may indeed enjoy some kind of slantways association with the Nyingmpa terma tradition, but I continue to regard myself as a free-lance terton, independent of any tradition.
The inventory uses a chronological timeline with "treasures" indicated in bold. The timeline is indented, with commentary below, at full left margin.The commentaries are not elaborate. They touch on events and situations in my so-called personal life that have framed the tertonic discoveries. The symbol § indicates a particular fact or condition that applies to the achievement noted.
Lucid Dreaming 1945 - 1964
How to interpet the image of the severed rose in this dream? Or in any dream? I consider this childhood nightmare to be my first terma, coming in the form of dakini instruction a few months before I turned five years old. This dream was not an "achievement" that I produced, but something produced in me by the impact of a supernatural presence. It then remained for me to achieve the dream throughout my lifetime. Sixty years, on, I can offer with some confidence an interpretation of the dream, for whatever that's worth, but only after having lived it out in flesh-and-blood terms.
If there is any veracity in the flattering notion that I am heir to renowned comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell, it might consist in this: he set out the principles of creative mythology, but left it to others to apply them. I am surely not the only one to do so, but apparently the first self-designated among those others. It is one thing to interpret myths, or to interpret human experience (both individual and collective) in terms of myth, and it is quite another to apply myth to life. The first is an intellectual adventure well worth the price of the ticket, but the second is an adventure san pareil that verges on the divine potential of human experience, and fosters its emergence.
The application of myth to life runs deeper than life itself, and once it has you, it has you totally. The spell of creative mythology is retroactive through generations—not through blood-ties but through the cumulative reach of imagination, in phylogenetic memory. The achievement of a terton conjugates in future perfect tense: no matter how it might look now, in time it will have been so.
As a terton, I claim no lineage from the past or any Buddhist/Tantric authentication, but as the modern counterpart of an Arthurian knight errant, I have provenance from the 13th Century—that unique "mythogenetic moment" extensively explored and esplained by Campbell in Creative Mythology. As a scholar and mystic, I am a product of the "Arthurian matter." Many legends of the Grail describe in an almost mock-pathetic manner how the Knights of the Round Table pined for adventures, challenges equal to their valor and honor. Such adventures were of two kinds, often intertwined: encounters with the Supernatural, and serial sexual exploits. Knights of the Round Table often went on vision quests, the ultimate goal being to "attain the Grail." There is my lineage, if ever I need one.
The witch on the roof set me on a vision quest that was to last a lifetime.
The house where the witch on the roof appeared was located in Friendship, Maine, a small lobster-fishing village where I lived from the age of four. Seeking a change of life that would distance her from the trauma of my father's death three months before I was born, my mother ended up there. It was and probably still is a small clannish place dominated by the Lash family and the ambience of the Advent Christian Church, outpost of a small fundamentalist cult. The chances that a boy of ten would come across some reference to the arcane subject of alchemy in that time and setting were extremely remote. Nevertheless....
In Friendship our neighbors situated just up the hill were Maurice and Ellen H. Ellen was the local librarian, an elegant woman of physical beauty unknown by local standards. Her husband, oddly named Maurice (pronounced in the French manner), was a travelling salesman, also an exotic item in Friendship life. He was often gone for weeks at a time, selling paint wholesale to various companies, negotiating contracts, and so forth. One of the companies he served was General Dynamics, the well-known defense industry contractor for shipbuilding and marine systems. He signed contracts for massive allotments of paint for submarines, for example.
I never talked much to Maurice H., who was a reserved man with no children of his own, but I was always welcome at their home where Ellen lavished milk and cookies on me. I used to sit on the floor beside the huge leather armchair where the man of the house reposed to read newspapers and smoke a pipe. Beside the armchair was a magazine table that got replenished each time he returned from a business trip. The magazines stacked there were not mainstream items such as Look and Life, however. They were glossy promotional brochures and manuals for the various companies and corporations Maurice H. picked up from his customers, out of obligation or mere curiosity. Some of these publictions were lavish productions with striking color photography and futuristic motifs, state of the art advertising at the time.
It was the oversized General Dynamics brochure that caught my eye. Between the glossy covers were stunning photos of the lastest atomic submarines, teams of jubilant engineers in group poses, and, strangely enough, a kind of cartoon story about the discovery of atomic energy. The entire middle section of the magazine consisted of panels of realistic cartoon images of Einstein, Fermi, and Robert Oppenheimer, mastermind of the Manhattan Project. The style of illustrations caught my attention because it resembles the more mature renderings of "Classic Comics," which I read avidly at the time. I was totally fascinated by this way of recounting the events leading to the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, the year I was born. Until then, I had only the vague notion that I and the Bomb had come into this world in the same year. No great coincidence, perhaps, but it stuck in my mind. And there was a fair amount of post-WW III atomic energy propaganda on the TV at that time, in the early days of the box.
The General Dynamics cartoon history offered a detailed account of how the Bomb was made. It depicted the experiments of Fermi under the sports coliseum in Chicago, the first attempt at atomic fission. I sat quietly at Maurice's feet and read with deep absorption, like someone buried in a riveting thriller. Then it hit me. In comment on the Fermi experiment, there was a line of blocked text declaring something to this effect: "With Fermi's work, science in the modern age finally achieved the age-old goal of the alchemy: transmutation of the elements, turning lead into gold." In the midst of munching a chocolate chip cookie, I froze. A kind of shudder went through me, a wave of revulsion or protest, almost a panic reaction. My ten-year-old mind balked and stammered, then formed this thought: "No, it is not true. That is not the goal. It is a total lie." My mind just formed that thought all by itself. I had no way to construct that thought, nor did I have any background or context for thinking it. It happened to me to think in that exact way at that moment.
I quietly got up and asked if I could take the magazine home to read. Maurice nodded and I beat it back to my room. For a long time afterwards, I was stunned by my reaction. I must have reread that cartoon history account dozens of times. And each time, I shuddered again at the claim it made. My body said a visceral "no". From that moment I began to look for anything I could find on alchemy, starting with the encyclopedia in the town library. I was madly intent on refuting the claim in the cartoon history.
The clues were a while in coming, but not too long. Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung, a leading revivalist of interest in medieval alchemy, died in 1961. In accord with his wishes, his memoire Memories, Dreams, Reflections would only be published upon his decease. An extract appeared in the Atlantic Monthly around '62 or '63, referring to his deep interest in alchemy. I got intently on the trail from that point. Entries below for 2000 and later show how I came to realize the nature and behavior of the Organic Light from the background of alchemy. This is how the recognition of the phenomenon was enhanced so that eventually I gained conscious access to the Organic Light that I enjoy today.
It took me a good ten years to recover from the kundalini. I went from being a popular, outgoing kid to a sullen, brooding outsider. The high tension voltage of the Serpent Power partially burned off the myelin sheath of my nervous system, leaving me as raw as fresh-ground hamburger and as defenseless as a newborn chick. I took massive amounts of lecithin to regenerate the sheath. Even today I am inordinately sensitive to the slightest physical sensations.
Amazing, in my lucid dream encounter, Castaneda mischievously brought up Frazer to taunt me. No, I could not get away with being an armchair mythologist like Frazer, I would have to test the materia mythica all along the way.
During my travels in Asia, I read Autobiography of a Yogi where I came across Yogananda's description of his samadhi, cosmic consciousness due to the awakening of kundalini. He explains the structure of subtle anatomy, the seven chakras, the dormant and awakened states of kundalini. It was the first time I had ever found verification of my traumatic experience with the Serpent Power. I knew then what had happened to me. I did not yet know why.
Mystic Illumination 1965 - 1972
Described in an interview on futureprimitive.org (unfortunately recorded with bad audio on a cell phone in Spain), the Angkor event would have fallen exactly 16 years after the lucid dream of the hag on the roof. I actually stood in the Light, watching it erupt in an opulent stream from the forehead of a twelve-year-old Cambodian girl, and pool around my feet like molten ivory. I was breathless with awe, my first taste of immersion in full-body rapture in the presence of the living luminosity of the earth.
One of the fifty or so four-faced towers of the Bayon, the
Note that nothing I learned at that time, or for a long time afterwards, indicated a connection between kundalini and the Organic Light. For instance, Yogananda describes spectacular effects of samadhi with no reference to a phenomenon of soft white palpable luminosity interactive with the witness. I found no such allusion in any Tantric or Buddhist material that I pursued in the following years. But then, eventually, I did score the evidence. As indicated in Not in His Image (n 151):
Note that it took about forty years, from 1965 when I got the first clue on kundalini, to 2005 when I was writing that book, to evince and articulate the connection of the Serpent Power with the Organic Light. During that time, I myself was a living experiment in progress, an experiment aimed to test that connection and transmit the results. I am certain that I could not have been the only "guinea pig" involved in that experiment.
Described on this site: Honeycomb Light of the Christos. This experience occurred in Madras, India. It put me out of my mind with manic excitement for several days. Little did I know what was coming around the bend.
Thus the second encounter with DMD my dakini guardian, following the lucid dream of 1949. You could say that the Devi manifested holographically but in full corporeal stature: I was unable to discern that the presence of the girl differed in any way from other normal people around me in the street, and no one took special note of her presence. Initiation with a crystal dagger is standard procedure for Kalikas. To make you her own, Kali stabs you right in the heart. According to my inceptive understanding of this mystical adventure, the same experience will apply for all those who enter her infernal retinue. Only the angle of the blade varies.
Putting Jan's name in bold suggests that I consider her a wisdom treasure conferred upon me, and I do. Supremely for what she was, a dakini of pristine innocence, but also for what she knew, what she brought to me and taught me. Within a few weeks of our first meeting, Jan told me about chirality or the left-right handedness of natural forms, which she had experienced in a vivid way on LSD. She described navigating the corridor of the "chiral lock," the perspective of duality that defines natural processes at all levels in the cosmos (making it, according to Louis Pasteur, the secret of life). She related visions of Anubis, the jackal god of the necropolis, and how she read hieroglyphics in an altered state. Jan Kerouac had the manner and mystery of an Egyptian princess transported to the slum tenements of the Lower East Side.
I later rediscovered chirality which I incorporated into my book Twins and the Double. Jan also introduced me to the notion that one can access the molecular level of nature in altered states, including the LSD trance. She herself had done so, going right into immediate perception of the double helix. All this before she met me at the ripe age of 14. I proposed shamanic access to molecular biology in Twins and the Double, shortly before it was elaborated by Jeremy Narby (The Cosmic Serpent), and subsequently many others. Twins was published in 1993, three years before Jan died at the age of 44.
Christos and Starwork 1972 - 1976
1972 February, Kittitas, Washington, USA : Honeycomb Light, third experience of the Organic Light, this time with presence of Christos-Mesotes
My third experience of the Organic Light came with some special effects that I was unprepared to handle at the time. Bear in mind that I did not yet know that I was seeing the OL as I would describe it today, with its specific behavior and properties, its Pleromic origin (in the center of the galaxy), and its unique Gaian morphology, described in the sacred story of the Aeon Sophia. I was just hit frontally with a blast of illumination, a soft nacreous blast. The first encounter involved a flesh-and-blood human person, a Cambodian girl of about twelve. She—more precisely, her forehead—was the detectable source of the soft pearly luminosity that exuded over me and pooled around my feet. Then, in the Madras hotel, special effects emerged: the golden flushing, the hierarchy of chiming tones. I was alone with the sublime luminosity, at risk of sinking away into it, ecstatically dissolved. At no point in these moments, nor for many years afterward, did I acquire clear cognitive apprehension of the divine physics demonstrating itself in this supernatural phenomenon.
At the third encounter in 1972, the golden flush again appeared, but mysteriously associated with the honeycomb faceting (Bénard cells). The aural effects also recurred, but modified to one steady chime, like an integral ring-tone, rather than a massive chorale of chimes. In retrospect, it seems fair to say that the Organic Light behaved deliberately, revealing different actions and attributes each time. As if it were signalling to me.
With the third encounter there came that human-like figure robed in flowing currents, "milk and honey." How was I to identify that figure at that moment in time? From my previous conditioning, of course. I had a Christian background with a strong emphasis on the Messiah and the Second Coming. I had rejected the way the program of salvationist mythology was forced on me, but I had not rejected the mythology itself. The archetype of the savior or messiah or avatar is deeply rooted in the collective subconscious. Indeed, it is the prevalent archetype of the Piscean Age, dominating the spiritual perspective of our species from the inception of the Age, around 120 BCE. Impacted by the vision of the luminous phantom, I necessarily reverted to my conditioning and assumed it to be Christ, the Resurrected Lord. As many people who have encountered it do. Those who continue to encounter it are likely to do the same unless provided with a way to interpret and test the vision.
From the start of my occult studies I underwent a shift that I have seen occur in many other people over the years: rejecting exoteric Christianity and its dogmas, they swerve deeply into the realm of "esoteric Christianity." In my early studies of the occult, I encountered Max Heindel, Manley Palmer Hall, and others who promoted an alternative form of Christianity. Often associated with Rosicrucianism and obscure alchemical traditions in the West, this "underground stream" of Christianity is highly appealing because it allow defectors from orthodoxy to retain the savior archetype and make it over to their liking, embellished with mystical attributes. More importantly, perhaps, it allows them to trump the people who conditioned them to salvationism and blind faith in the divine messiah by claiming to know "the real truth behind Christianity." They believe they can "change the system from within" (Leonard Cohen lyric, below). In reality, the defectors are themselves trumped: they end up preserving the toxic messiah archetype, they cannot decontaminate their minds from the salvationist message, and they remain enmeshed in the victim-perpetrator bond.
My venture into esoteric Christianity began in 1972 when I came upon the works of Rudolf Steiner, founder of Anthroposophy. It took about twenty-two years of sleuthing and slugging in that system before I broke through to the Sophianic vision. Writing Not in His Image in 2005-06, I could finally refute the Christocentric vision of redemption, both historically and mystically. In the Steiner years, I considered that the luminous phantom of my third encounter with the light must be the "Etheric Christ," to borrow Steiner's term. In one respect, that is not wrong, not entirely an inaccurate tag: it all depends on what you attribute to the Etheric Christ, what role you give that entity in mystical terms, in history, in the story of our species. It depends most of all on how you situate that entity in the story of Sophia, the goddess who morphs into the earth... But this anticipates realizations that came much later in the terton's life.
In 1974 I went to Los Angeles with the specific intention to delve into the teachings of Anthroposophy, especially Steiner's final work on karmic relationships in which he traces the reincarnations of famous people through many centuries. "Reading past lives" was to become my speciality in astrological practice—although I cautioned that such lives ought to be regarded as imaginary and metaphorical rather than literal. Having said that, I nevertheless did an enormous amount is historical research to back up my astrological readings. In LA I met Willi Sucher (Sue-kurr, 1902 - 1985), the originator of "astrosophy," an elaborate form of astrology based on Steiner's work. I became in effect Sucher's main apprentice, although I never joined the ranks of the Anthroposophical Society and always remained suspect, an outsider, a spy, and perhaps a traitor to the cause.
Through Will Sucher I got into the works of Elizabeth Vreede (esoteric astronomy), George Adams (non-euclidean geometry), and Olive Whicher (projective geometry), making significant advances in astrological method. He imparted to me a battery of techniques and tools unknown to most astrologers, then and even today. Sucher had developed special methods of working with astronomical and real-sky data, using both heliocentric and geocentric ephemerides, osculating elements of planetary orbits, coincidences of nodes and apsides, rotations of the jupiter-saturn trigon, prenatal and birth positions, He had worked out a way to use these arcane astronomical factors to track the serial incarnations recounted by Steiner in the seven volumes of Karmic Relationships. I meticulously worked through the case-histories Steiner presented on the claim that his clairvoyant investigations of these life-sequences could be verified by historical and astronomical evidence. I took up what Sucher was doing and then took off with it, going well beyond the bounds of Anthrosophical propriety. He tacitly gave me his approval, though our relationship remained private and intimate, largely unknown to the members of the movement.
Sucher's perspective was entirely Christocentric, but he recognized the Sophianic element: hence the coined term, astrosophy, "wisdom of the stars." From the first days of infiltrating the LA Anthroposophy cells, I worked maniacally to bring gender balance into this situation. I peddled Mary Magdalene from a portable soapbox. I insisted that the Christocentric view was incomplete without the inclusion of the sacred prostitute. This is of course a Gnostic viewpoint, supported by texts in the Nag Hammadi Codices and elsewhere. I championed Magdalene in those days, before I had a clear and complete view of the Sophianic vision of the Mysteries, because I had a soft spot for that woman, and often identified with the harlot. When female astrological clients announced to me that they believed they were the reincarnation of MM (as several did), I said that could not be so, because I was. Just joking, naturally. But it put the conversation on the right course: finding woman in man and man in woman is what it's all about.
With the exception of a sojourn in Los Angeles between 1976 and 1979, I lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, from July 1972 to October 1991, the longest period I ever resided in one place. Jan Kerouac and I were often together there, and it's where I saw her for the last time. We talked a lot about people's charts and I taught her how to calculate horoscopes, which she did with diligence and accuracy.
I began to practice astrology professionally in Santa Fe, always keeping my astrological work close to real-sky observations. Under crystalline skies at 7000 feet in the Rockies, I was able to investigate the constellations through all seasons, track planetary cycles, lay out the solstices and equinoxes on the llano above my house at La Vereda, 707 Palace Avenue. I occasionally gave starwalking tours to small groups, explaining how to find the constellations, relating stellar mythology and indigenous star lore. The night skies over Santa Fe were the provenance of many wisdom treasures.
My astrology practice into the 1980s was larely improvisational, as I did not accept the standard paradigm of "planetary causation" (assuming that the planets influence or direct human behavior), and I did not go along with most of the psychological jargon then in use. It was fantastic time for astrology with a huge renaissance of interest and hundreds of books being published annually. Inspired mainly by Dane Rudhyar, father of humanistic astrology, I kept to my own trail. I relied strongly on Wilhelm Reich and Buddhist psychology for the intrepretive norms and syntax of astrological diagnosis. Gradually I worked out my own idiom for psychological profiling with the horoscope. Using projective geometry, I invented a new house system (space location format) called the terrascope. I also redesigned the glyphs for the twelve tropical signs and some of the planets. My main innovation was to put the earth into the horoscope with the other planets, giving it the signification of "aim, purpose, the truth you stand on." This was well before I came to discover the notion of telos, "aim, sacred purpose," in the ancient Mysteries.
The practice I undertook in astrology was gruelling because I did not just interpret charts, I continually ungraded the tools and techniques, working out dozens of innovations that eventually came together in "The Course" under the rubric of terrastrology. More on this development in part 2 of Severed Rose.
All in all, I do not consider my innovations in sun sign astrology, worked out between 1972 and 1992, to belong to the category of terma, wisdom treasure. That undertaking was simply a vocational challenge I set for myself, in effect, to reinvent the (astrological) wheel. My innovations were confined to the realm of houses, signs, planets, the tools and techniques of sun-sign astrology. As these developments unfolded, however, I was put on the track of the other zodiac, the panorama of real-sky constellations. And what I discovered in that realm I would indeed include in this inventory of treasures.
jll ; 24 September 2010 Flanders
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2018 by John L. Lash.