by Herbie Brennan
New Dawn No. 96
from NewDawnMagazine Website
Madame Alexandra David-Neel
But few readers realize just how literally they mean it.
A friend of mine, engaged
in writing a romantic novel, called me in a panic just a year ago to
complain that two of her characters had just run off and got
married… thus ruining her carefully-crafted plot.
In practice, any attempt
to rein in characters like that will produce an almost unreadable
novel, full of wooden dialogue and contrived situations. The only
viable answer is to let them go their own way, abandon any
preconceived plot notions, and see what 'really' happens.
Martian Chronicles describes
how visitors to the red planet are confronted by characters from
classical fiction who had somehow taken on corporeal existence in
the alien environment.
The man had a particular obsession with one of the many Tibetan gods.
For years he had
meditated daily on the deity and painted its image many times. As he
entered the camp, Madame David-Neel claimed she saw a misty
representation of the god hovering behind him.
After weeks of effort,
the imaginary monk became so vivid that he appeared to her as if he
were physically present - an induced hallucination.
Furthermore, his appearance was changing:
When other members of her
camp asked about the 'strange little lama' she decided the time had
come to destroy her creation… and battled for weeks before finally
managing to do so.
First they dreamed up a fictional character, then invented a background to go with him. The character was named Philip and lived at the time of Cromwell, in a house called Diddington Manor.
He fell in love with a beautiful Gypsy woman named Margo and subsequently had an affair with her. When his wife found out, she took her revenge by accusing Margo of witchcraft. Margo was tried, convicted and burned at the stake.
Philip, mad with grief,
For several months
nothing happened. Then a rap was heard. The group set up a code and
communication was established. Sure enough, the communicating
'spirit' turned out to be Philip, claiming the life history they had
invented for him.
He caused raps and brought through such a richly detailed description of the Cromwellian period that the group actually double checked to make sure they'd not somehow based Philip on a real life character. (They hadn't.)
Later, the Toronto
experiment was duplicated by other groups. One of them dispelled any
lingering doubts about the fictional nature of the spirit by
communicating with a talking dolphin.
But if certain persistent
accounts are to be believed, the techniques used for creating ghosts
went far further in Tibet than they ever did in Canada - and
generated a valuable spiritual lesson in the process.
If they wanted to go further, they would need a far more advanced guide.
To that end, the guru
would advise them to meditate on the Yidam and study pictures of it
in the sacred scriptures. These showed the creature to have a
fearful, almost demonic aspect.
The purpose of the circle
was to encourage the visible appearance of the Yidam.
At this point, the pupil
would be told he was obviously favored by the god. But for his next
step, he would have to persuade it to leave the circle.
He had achieved conversation with and blessing from the Yidam, but it was still confined to the cave. In order to establish the deity as his personal guru, the pupil had to persuade the Yidam to leave its circle and accompany him wherever he went.
Off went the pupil to his
Himalayan cave again.
If the pupil succeeded in
creating a Yidam that would walk and talk with him, his teacher
would tell him his studies were ended since he now had the wisest
and most powerful teacher possible. But the pupil who accepted this
evaluation was deemed to be a failure - and sent off to spend the
rest of his life locked into a comforting hallucination.
They might begin to wonder if the Yidam was the god they believed it to be, or an aberration of their own perceptions. Often the guru would feign anger and send them back to the cave to redouble their efforts.
But if the doubts persisted, then came the crunch.
The pupil agrees that he sees, hears and feels.
He agrees that the Yidam
seems as real and solid as the Himalayas. And yet he doubts...
Not just its politics and values, not just its preconceptions and ideas, but its very structure is something other than what it appears.
The world as we know it - from our friends to ourselves to the mountains above and the valleys below - ismaya, a word imported from India that translates as 'illusion.'
What happens in the
creation of a Yidam proves that absolutely.
efficiency, the machines decided to use captive humans as a power
source (the human body generates a measurable amount of
Although actually stored
neatly in nourishment tanks, the population of our defeated planet
slept on, convinced that the world of offices and jet planes
functioned exactly as it always had.
Among spiritually-enlightened Tibetans, the notion that we all live in a Matrix-style illusion is widespread.
But the illusion is not maintained by rogue machines - it is generated by our own minds. When I first came across the doctrine, I was forcibly reminded of a saying you hear every day in Haiti:
At least one (American) Buddhist attempted to convince me the Tibetan doctrine was purely philosophical.
She believed it to be
essentially a question of emphasis, in the way that a handful of
American deaths might seem more real (to Americans) than a million
famine victims in distant China.
the quantum world of sub-atomic
particles reveals a universe founded on no more than statistical
probabilities and built with little bits of something that appear
out of nowhere, exist momentarily before vanishing again… and are
profoundly influenced by human observation.