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Ontology and Pranayama

Ontology is philosophy of being. It is necessarily phenomenological, and usually feels deconstructive. While the East is replete in theories of being, the West was historically more interested in what Plato called "becoming." In the centuries between Aristotle and Heidegger, no new ontology emerged. Instead, we got the Roman Catholic Church.

According to one ancient Eastern theory of being, which I call the theory of self, there are four divisional misperceptions in otherwise unified being. Maya, the Indian word for this cosmos of illusions, means "divider," meaning infinite being appears to our minds chopped up. These divisions, at bottom, cause divisions in and between minds. The word "man" comes from the Indian word "manas," meaning mind, implying that humans are inherently divisive. The ancients thus felt the need for spiritual ontology - discovering what is real - to help humanity realize unity.

The theory's four divisional misperceptions are space, time, causation, and individuation. Each one of these gives the human mind a chance to mystify itself and divinize its particular distinctiveness in the fabric of maya's illusion. For example, space divides into length, breadth, and depth, allowing the opportunity for the divinization of places. Nationalism, provincialism, promised lands, and holy lands are examples of the divinization of space. A space feels more comfortable when we mystify it into a sacred spot blessed by our god.

The division of time yields past, present, and future. We mystify our pasts and called it history in an attempt to give our lives - blips in incomprehensible eons of time - a sense of eternality. We mystify history, presuming to have chronicled the creation of the very world from which we have emerged, and then force this mystification on other minds. We divinize the history of our people, often at the expense of other peoples, in the hope that the mythic history sticks not only in our minds, but contrary minds. Once the past is sufficiently divinized, the present and future fall into place, which is why the ontologist realizes that present and future are often no more than a past projected by the mind in accordance with a particular sense of self. To expand the sense of self, the illusory division of time must be obliterated.

The division of phenomenal causation yields action and reaction, cause and effect, i.e. change. In India, the word for change is mrt, which is cognate with mortis, or mortality. Death is the great change we all face, and it is generally mystified by every mind. A common form of death-divinization is in the belief in eternal heavens and hells, and other forms of paradises and pure lands. Again, mystifying death is exceedingly divisive because it's always the other guy that is going to a rotten place after death. We can be on death row for committing murder, be "found" by a mystified Jesus that saves our souls, and feel we are bound for eternal heaven while all nonmurderous nonbelievers are bound for eternal hell.

The last division, individuation, is ultimately the root of the other three, and so harder to penetrate. An individuated mind might mystify one gender and demean the other even though every human being is a mix of male and female qualities, one's vocation or illusion of independence, one's tastes, one's struggles, or one's talents. In this way, we create mythic images of ourselves, which then create parallel mythic images to worship. We say we worship Allah or Yahweh or Brahma, but deep down we worship our senses of self that are identified with our own mythic images of gods. No two Jesuses found in countless individuated minds, for instance, are ever quite alike.

Divisional misperceptions are as compelling as ever, and the time for ontological reflection is more urgent than ever if the human race is to deconstruct some of the divisive divinization that has been pumped into human minds for centuries. Religious and political leaders are spiritually useless to the human race if they cannot foster unity, and actively dangerous when fostering divisiveness - as they commonly do. Instead of reflecting inherent human divisiveness, they must rise above both the mob mentality and divisional misperceptions and guide their constituents past self-mystification. Yet relying on institutions of centralized power to foster unity is like relying on the fox to guard the hens.

Mysticism - the procedure to expand the sense of self by first ceasing to rely on sense data to determine the parameters of the self and second developing a nonfinite avenue to knowledge - ultimately begins in superconsciousness. Superconsciousness begins with the introversion of the senses or intuition, looking within. Pranayama, or directing sense perceptions inward, is mastered and the mystic switches off the senses at will by relaxing the heart and stilling the breath. To arrive at this ability, the mystic practices pranayama in the context of an ascetic lifestyle, which frees nervous energy for intuitive purposes.

The narrow sense of self divides and manifests as the intellect, the emotive heart, and the will. Divided and vulnerable, it places these powers in the service of a centralizing social power. Mystically inclined, it directs these powers inward toward the root of the primordial division.

Ultimately, it is the infinite substance of self that is individualized into divided selves. The restriction of the evolution of division leads to infinitude, but its fluctuations in intuition-limiting patterns of nervous energy impel the awareness to identify with finitude. Sense-introversion is the beginning of the restriction. The farther the mystic advances in the control of the nervous energy responsible for the fluctuations, the more the narrow sense of self’s divisional misperception is restricted. Instead of keeping the attention tied to thoughts, feelings, and the senses, nervous energy is restricted and directed inward toward its source in the spine and brain. Therefore, the depth of superconsciousness ultimately represents greater and greater mastery over the narrow sense of self.

Pranayama means to reduce the intellect, feeling, and will back into waves of prana and then back to the individualized sense of self-awareness. The sense of self is then realized to be the superconsciousness of an expanding self intuitively unifying intellect, feeling, and will, though it may yet be under the divisive illusion of separateness from the infinite substance of self. Once the narrow sense of self is also resolved back into infinite substance through superconsciousness, the mystic overcome the divisional misperceptions of space, time, phenomenal causation, and individuation that conditioned the narrow sense of self with the idea of divided existence.

These misperceptions do not exist from the vantage point of infinite substance, but the intellectual understanding of their illusoriness is not itself a viewpoint sufficient to undermine the illusion. The idea of individuation must be actually resolved by melting the divided patterns of phenomenal selfhood into their constituent waves of aware energy. The procedure of melting is called superconsciousness - the one and only technique of intuitive mysticism.

The practical application for the aspiring mystic is to make sincere efforts to master pranayama, or intuitive sense introversion, and be dedicated to conserving energy via ascetic disciplines. Once pranayama is mastered, intuitive concentration is effortless. The heart relaxes; the breath exhales forcefully and will not inhale for hours during sense-introversion; the senses switch off; and the nervous energy and awareness that once fed all of that activity rises up the spine in more and more expansive states of superconsciousness. When it reaches the medulla oblongata, the narrow beam of awareness called the narrow self expands back into the wider beam of the infinite self. The narrow sense of self is then wholly restricted and the real work of mysticism in superconsciousness can commence.

In superconsciousness, the expanding self is not identified with the fluctuations of the narrow sense of self but instead increasingly identifies with a cosmos of unified forces, materials - empty of divisional misperceptions - through intuitive self-knowledge. The restriction of the narrow sense of self therefore means the expansion of awareness from the fluctuating intellect, feelings, and will to the nonfinite self identified as the one that played with the ideas of these faculties. Practically speaking, instead of distributing awareness throughout the body and diffusing the intuitive capacity, awareness is restricted and centralized in the spine and brain.

The infinite self is unaffected and unchanged though it may seemingly divide itself into desires, appetites, emotions, sensory identification, or spines and brains, trunks and stones. However, when the narrow sense of self manifests along with the sense organs and faculties, establishing an identity with the phenomenal world, the sense of self does not identify with its own source but rather with causal ideas of division.

Liberation from the causal ideas of divisive finitude is accomplished through repeated entry into superconsciousness. The narrow sense of self slowly realizes its own eternal origin in infinite substance, free of division. Eventually, the identity of the narrow self is deposed and the infinite self reigns over the kingdom of the body without returning to the illusion that sensory data is final in its determination of what is real. The awareness is locked in the spine and brain.

It is imperative that the mystic cease to identify with the fluctuations of finite awareness and identify instead with infinite awareness intuited by the enlivened spine and brain. Narrow identification with the body, giving rise to narrow identifications with religion, political party, caste, and skin color is the source of much spiritual confusion. This narrow identity distances its powers toward make-believe centralized institutions, creating rifts in the human race and the natural world.

A key principle in ascetic and intuitive mysticism is that an unlimited self is localized by an intuitive capacity narrowed because it is divided into five senses and faculties. Intuition, the single nonfinite avenue to self-knowledge, divides into the five senses conveying limited material knowledge. The narrow sense of self is not unreal, since it is awareness itself, but it is not of an undivided reality. It is of a very narrow bandwidth of reality, and hence will be found to be untrue or nonexistent in a wider bandwidth. In a very terrestrial example of this, Christian divisiveness and arbitrary belief systems make no sense, hold no water, have no ground to stand on, and are completely without any context in physics course that views the cosmos only in terms of elemental particles.

Returning to the procedure, awareness expands as nervous energy is centralized in the spine and brain through inward concentration. An expanding intuitive awareness means an expanding sense of self. When the energy and awareness reaches the medulla oblongata at the base of the brain, the mystic no longer intuits the divided self. However, this realization is not permanent; the limiting awareness returns over and over when energy and awareness move back down the spine and out to the senses. Although awareness may be fully established in the spine and brain, a slightly divided self will always return so long as there is a body.

The infinite self never has fluctuations. It is ever the infinite self regardless of where awareness expands or contracts. The connection between the infinite self and narrow identities is established by the play of the idea of division. The infinite self does not know narrow identities. As an analogy, imagine that each ice cube floating in a tank of water is an identity condensed from the water of awareness. The ice cubes float to the surface, and so are easily visible, but they are still made of water. Through pranayama and asceticism the bodily tank of water is heated and the ice cubes of limiting identities melt.

It is as impossible to separate the infinite self from the narrow sense of self as it would be to detach water from ice. An expanding sense of self only means that infinite self no longer freezes awareness into intellect, feeling, and will.

The narrow sense of self is the idea of individuation. The withdrawal of the narrow sense of self ultimately means the withdrawal of the causal idea of division into the infinite self. This is the conclusion of mystical superconsciousness and the realization of kaivalya, or isolation. The infinite self is isolated because nothing is outside of itself.

The fluctuations of the narrow sense of self keep the awareness limited; they form through experiences interpreted as desirable, undesirable, important, unimportant, etc. These form memory. Memories form artifacts that are broken down into convenient facts concerning the finite identity. These then form a habit of self that interprets incoming data accordingly. The result is patterns of energy and awareness that limit the intuitive capacity. These fluctuations breed after their own kind. If the fluctuation supports sense-introversion, the result is a habit that opposes the activities of narrowness. If the fluctuation affirms sensory conditioning, the intuitive capacity is limited and the narrow sense of self is further unrestricted.

Differentiating between which fluctuations are sense-bound and which are spine-bound is not easy. What may be an intuitive tendency may yet harbor a sense-based habit, and vice versa. Not only may there be a mix of the two types of fluctuations, but there is always a mixture. A fluctuation, even a mystically helpful one, is still a fluctuation. We can never have one action without to some degree having its opposite reaction. It is in this way that maya, the divider, maintains innumerable divisions in the spirit of its four primordial divisions.

Fluctuations produce innumerable patterns of energy and awareness; these, in turn, produce more fluctuations. This cycle erects and maintains the external levels of the mind. The subtle divisional misperceptions of the mind are not unraveled until sense-introversion is performed and the nervous energy normally feeding the fluctuations moves up the spine. At that point, the mind resolves into a more primordial wave of energy and is reverted back into the awareness of the sense of self.

The practical application is to start applying the methods of pranayama immediately and regularly. The longer we wait, more patterns lodged in the, body, spine, and brain will have to be resolved. Numerous fluctuations and patterns already need to be addressed. The intellect is unable to perform this task effectively; and the subtle divisional misperceptions of the mind are part of the problem. Pranayama must be so perfected that the mystic is able to resolve the various bodily functions, cognitive faculties, and fluctuations of the body into the currents of energy and awareness that feed them, direct all of those currents back into the spine and brain, and lock them there for longer and longer periods until the infinite self is free of the fluctuations of the narrow sense of self.

Superconsciousness overcomes the divisional misperceptions. It is impossible to resolve the mind into a wave of energy while at the same time having no control over the energy that manifests as mind. Effortless inward concentration commences the moment the energy retires back into the spine - placing the body in suspended animation - and disconnects the awareness from the phenomenal world. The mind intuited will no longer be limited by thought, and eventually not by divisional misperceptions.

Until then, we remain divided within ourselves, and so division is apparent between us. Scattered energies produce scattered results. If the human world is a mess, it is merely because human beings have refrained from implementing the science of self-knowledge, consciously focusing and directing their divided and distributed energies back into the energies that feed them. Humans must look within and centralize these energies.

After a lifetime of investigation, I can safely conclude that there is absolutely nothing more to spirituality, religions, gods, truth seeking, mysticism, yoga, shamanism, and metaphysics than this.