The Castle Frankenstein poem I posted as a blog records an experience that set me on a Gnostic path. It think it must be significant that I recovered my memory of it during a strange, dark prelude—maybe calling it “existential despair”is not too inaccurate—to my 1963 Awakening experience, of which I have not yet posted a full description, although my long History poem was one attempt to describe it.
My experience in 1954 had been an Awakening also. Afterward I knew many things; in that sense I had become a Gnostic. The once-born atheistic materialist psychologists—the poor ignorant things—always want to argue that such an experience must be a symptom of mental illness. I’d had a manic episode in about October of 1952; I knew it was nothing like that. A good rule of thumb is that a mental illness makes one less able to deal with reality or learn anything knew, and increases antisocial behavior. An experience that has exactly the opposite effect thus does NOT look like a mental illness. The experience in December 1963 was perhaps a more advanced Awakening, since afterward I knew more about other matters. It is a fact that I know that I know.
Now, about terminology. I have settled on the term Awakening as the best label so far for this sort of experience, which has been variously called Mystic, Conversion, Cosmic Consciousness, Enlightenment, etc., all of which are misleading. Of course, no label can explain what happens during the experience to persons who had never had anything like it, even if they are willing to believe that it does happen, since it is utterly unlike any ordinary experience. It does always shatter our necessarily shallow concept of what sort of critters we are and of the nature of reality in general. Awakening is a neutral term; the experience does feel like waking from sleep; and, more importantly, that is the term used for it in both the New Testament and the Gnostic writings. I am seriously proposing that all those writings have been misinterpreted from their roots by the Unawakened. That is, how could a person who has never Awakened, who does not even know that Awakening is possible, understand what an Awakened person is talking about? I propose that is exactly what happened with the teachings of Rabbi Yeshua ha-Notsri—conventially known as Jesus Christ—and with those of many other Awakened prophets.
After my 1963 experience, being enlightened about it by reading Alan Watts, my “Notes toward the Possibility of Founding a New Religion” (which I have also posted) was a manifesto/first draft aimed toward a religion focused on Awakening. I’ve been diverted from that many times. For the most part, all of my work on the Craft was exoteric. The knowledge lectures I began writing about 1991 returned to the concern with Awakening; I have not yet posted much about them; I am working on that. They are strange; being both Gnostic and manic may be an unusual combination, though I think that may be what happened with Joseph Smith.
I don’t think there can be a single organized religion that aims toward Awakening. Whatever the percentage of the Awakened may be in the general population, I think they are probably distributed evenly throughout all religions and cultures, often as the unacknowledged and underapprecisted leaven in the lump. My feeling that I can find spiritual sustenance in almost any church is apparently typical of the Awakened. They can and often do function within a church of ordinary, unawakened folks, but at the cost of not being able to share what they know, while knowing that the knowledge demands to be shared. I suppose it might be possible to have a church of seekers and Gnostics that recognizes the possibility of Awakening and the need to work toward it, but that operates for the benefit of the unawakened members. (Some might argue that that is how any real church operates. Yes, ideally.) It would have to be structured in a way that prevents the possibility of exploitation by persons who claim to be Awakened but in fact are not. (Perhaps this is cynical, but I have the impression that a great deal of that has gone on in the New Age movement.)
How could teaching serve as a pathway or stimulus toward Awakening? The experience and the knowledge it gives cannot be shared by means of words or exoteric explanations. It could be shared only by inducing Awakening in the other person. As far as I know, there is no sure-fire way to do that. Awakening is an unconditional gift from the Gods and cannot be demanded. All a teacher can do is make it more probable, but without promising that it ever will happen. A teacher can explain how an Awakened person behaves, but must also emphasize that imitating that behavior, following all of what appear to be rules, will almost never result in Awakening, because that sort of obedience is simply the wrong mental set. As Mark Twain said of Ben Franklin, his eccentricities were the symptoms of his genius, not its causes. The admirable behavior of the saintly is the result of their Awakening, not its cause.
The eclectic psychic development system developed for the NROOGD by my second wife, Alta Picchi, could do much to prepare a person for enlightenment, but without promising it. As I’ve already written and experienced, sexual ecstasy, experienced by a totally committed and psychically open (or maybe simply lucky) couple may be a more reliable path toward Awakening than any other. That is, the loss of the bubble of isolation, the shattering of the illusion that we are separate from the Divine, by such a couple is the best way I know to achieve that first stage of Awakening. (The Tantrics of India deal with that pathway far better than us Westerners, given how different the assumptions of their culture are.) Also, that fact cannot ethically be used as an excuse for claiming that a strictly monogamous heterosexual marriage is the only type allowed. The misery of the constitutionally nonmonogamous in a Puritanical society is almost never conducive to Awakening.
Why worry about Awakening at all, if it is so unlikely to occur? Because I am sure that if a majority of humans were to Awaken, the nature of human society would be transformed. I think it possible that physical reality itself might be changed if the way that a majority of people perceive it were to change. (Justifying that guess involves a discussion of the Schroedinger cat paradox, quantum mechanics, and so on. Not today.) As Blake said, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, the world would appear as it is: infinite.” I suspect that is what the prophets meant when they spoke about restoring the Garden of Eden, what Augustine meant about building the City of God, what Marx meant about achieving “pure communism, where the State shall wither away.” An ideal, of course. Maybe we will never get there, but we may hope, and we should certainly never forget it.