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Thursday, 23 July 2015

Liberation border lands.

W Y Evans Wentz.
Twenty years before W Y Evans Wentz published his Book of the Dead, he had tramped around 'the Celtic countries'  seeking information about 'the fairy faith'.

His mission was to map this other-world as he would eventually map the Bardo Thodol...

The Bardos are commonly described as places between worlds
Between belief systems
Between states of mind...
The place where a rope is mistaken in the half light, as a snake..

The place where the psychic compass spins, a place without pathways, maps or secure meanings.

Its surface safe and predictable as thin ice.

W Y Evans Wentz was the man who worked with Tibetan Lamas to publish 'The Bardo Thodol - The Tibetan Book of the Dead' so named to recall 'The Egyptian Book of The Dead' in 1927.

It appeared to be the best road-map for the after-death experience.

I don't suppose I was alone in my disappointment when I first read it..

It is not like Dante's trip through hell, purgatory and heaven..

The pictures repeat, as do the verses...

But on the other hand it treats death as a process that can be managed without fear and despair...

Evans Wentz left an indelible mark on Western Tibetan Buddhism, his translations sprinkled in Theosophist concepts, gave us a Gnostic Buddhism that isn't the Vajrayana...

In 1954, Aldous Huxley took the word Bardo from Evans Wentz's translation into science and Hippydom, via 'Gates of Perception'  to Timothy Leary ( Leary, Metzer and Alpert) who described the use of drugs as keys to the Bardo states, rather as the Egyptians used 'Books of the Dead' to record the secret signs and passwords required to traverse the twelve gates of night:

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Published 1964.




Leary, Metzer and Alpert described the Bardo Thodol as:
... a key to the innermost recesses of the human mind, and a guide for initiates, and for those who are seeking the spiritual path of liberation.
All versions of the Bardo Thodol: the Tibetan, the translation by Evans Wentz and the 1969 drug version, explain the process of Bardo as Plato's cave.



Plato described the experience of reality as a projection; shadows cast by the light of consciousness.

We mistake the shadows as important..
We believe in them..
...we are content to experience only the film show.

But the Bardo isn't the experience.
It is the space before belief.

And it is understood to be a state of mind that facilitates liberation...
The meaning of which, depends on who you ask.

The Theosophist Gnostic version explains that we need to turn around to obtain knowing, Gnosis...so that we become Higher beings..




Whilst the Tibetan view is that projections should be treated as projections. Then union with the light of consciousness occurs, when the mind is allowed to become still..

Avoiding rejection
Avoiding acceptance.
The mind rests in-between...

After death, the process of decay produces specific projections.
And the Bardo Thodol is there to help you avoid becoming engrossed...by reminding you 'Oh child of a good family' that you are now dead.

Without the body disrupting meditation in its usual way, a well practiced mind (practiced in meditation) could  treat all mental projections, beliefs and images as ephemeral and with equanimity... and so avoid  belief in the projections.

It is as if the dead are in a deep, breathless, coma, consciousness dissolving through the Alexandrian, four elements, over a period of forty two days...

Liberation, in the Buddhist sense, means avoiding coming back, clothed in meat.

But there is something about this bardo experience re-occurring (in all times and all cultures...) that places it within the domain of religion.

Indicating that this vision is trans-formative; it changes behavior in individuals, it changes societies...A code is created of images and signs to help people deal with out-of-the-body weirdness...

The origin of the images in the Bardo Thodol are experiences of those who come back from the dead. Those who came so close to death that they saw over the wall...But it must be understood that any description of the Tibetan attitude, avoiding the importance of religion in the task of casting a cold eye on phantasms is incomplete, giving a false impression of 'scientific rationality'.

The Tibetan Buddhist meditative state of mind is an attitude transmitted via religious images and sentiments...it is an attitude impossible to achieve without faith and devotion. It is impossible without trust...

Shame about Eleusis...
What do we have now?