All symbols empty
We join spokes together in a wheel
But it is the center hole
That makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot,
But it is the emptiness inside
That holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
But it is the inner space
That makes it livable.
We work with being,
But non-being is what we use.
~Tao Te Ching
With the exception of the Tao-Te-Ching, reaching through the mires of layered symbolism and occult blinds in attempt extract functional techniques for deconditioning and reprogramming requires herculean effort. There is some good reason for this in older texts, a good example being the use of alchemical symbolism to describe ‘deviant’ sexual practices in the middle ages that would have engendered executions. Crowley’s blinds when writing about homosexuality and sex magick carried this common thread into the new millennium where the thread will hopefully reach an ignominious end. Crowley also blinded some techniques with poetry in order to prevent the uninitiated from attempting what he called ‘dangerous practices’, more likely, however, it was to foster an elitism and exclusionism.
Authors like Peter Carroll stripped everything down to bare technique and simple language to describe not only the skeleton of technique (just add your own beliefs!) but also to describe the effects of the technique and their usefulness and practicality.
Once one steps out of the magickal world and into the mystical or (God forbid!) religious world, this cutting away of the fat to get to the meat becomes more and more difficult. “A Shaivite pilgrim walks around mount Kailash and sees Shiva at the summit, a Buddhist sees Buddha, a Shaktist sees the goddess, a yogi sees all those things and maybe also his or her mother”(1). Yoga has long borrowed gods from both the vedic religion and Hinduism to describe complicated experiences and techniques for achieving them. The play of Shiva and Shakti (form/inertia, emptiness/energy) represent the creation/dissolution and the universe itself. This is remarkably similar to the Yin and Yang of Daoism or Caroll and Spare’s Kia and Chaos.
In the womb, as embryos, the structure that serves a precursor to the spinal cord and brain is called the neural tube. If you want to think about it as the site where intelligence and sentience first form as well it shores up reasonably well with preconceptions about the CNS. Our spinal cords form first. In yoga the chakras although not being part of the body, are lined up with the spine. These ‘energy centers’ are fundamental symbols involved in most yogic schools and none of them can decide on exactly how many of them we have in our bodies. There are sounds associated with them, gods, animals, colors, soon it becomes as complicated as the Golden Dawn model for anything in particular.
To cut the fat away: the chakras represent places where, during intensive concentration on either nothing in particular or stillness, awareness accretes naturally and can be moved from one to the other. Maybe doing this will help heal you or grant you secret powers of love (if enough awareness accretes in the heart) or speech (the throat), but maybe its just a good exercise in controlling your concentration and focusing awareness. The more you pay attention to something the greater is your capacity to change it. When seeking these experiences, cancel dogma, find your own way.
Next time you are concentrating and still, try to focus all of your awareness on your right big toe, once you have a breakthrough experience where you feel your awareness accreting there, see how long you can keep it there.
Instead of interpreting the symbols you encounter in an experience, try to think in terms of what the experience symbolizes. What does your body symbolize?
(1) Rolf Sovik said this during a slideshow of a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash that he and several other chelas undertook.