Who am I? What am I? What is going on here? All human beings have been asking these three questions since the day we first gained the capacity to ask questions. Ultimately, these three are the only questions that matter. All others derive from these three.
Everything we do, everything that we think and imagine are really just attempts to find answers for these three questions. Our personal and our communal lives as social beings depend entirely upon the answers we arrive at. How we see ourselves and the world around us depends upon our answers.
Our inner experience of ourselves as human beings - our feelings, our expectations, our dreams, our fears, our disappointments, our successes, in short everything - derives from the answers we discover for these three questions. Our interactions and our activities with one another and the impact these have on the planet and other living species derive from the way we answer these questions.
Dance of Ecstasy presents strong and compelling evidence for new and quite exciting answers to these perennial questions that have vexed every human generation. These new answers will challenge popular understanding of the nature of life, human experience, existence, consciousness, and sexuality. In the process of discovering these new answers, what heretofore has been called the "supernatural and the divine" assumes a revolutionary and startlingly fresh perspective.
The radical reappraisal of these matters may shock some and anger others. What you are about to read touches upon every facet of human experience and understanding. Yet, you will find the evidence offered in Dance of Ecstasy as thoroughly convincing as it may be controversial.
The theory of consciousness outlined in this essay charts a course towards ultimate personal meaning and fulfilment. This theory points the way towards a new resolution of the global dilemma of fear, hatred and anxiety faced by humanity. For the problems of the world are in the end problems of the individual human psyche. They will only be solved in the world at large when they are resolved within each of us.
As startling and unexpected as its findings may be, Dance of Ecstasy culminates a century of detailed and tedious scholarship on the secret metaphysical theories hidden within the doctrines formulated by early Christianity. This scholarship commenced with the work of James Morgan Pryse. Later and independently, Alan Watts further contributed. My own contribution results directly from more than fifteen years of research and investigation, instigated by a need to understand personal experiences which seemed inexplicable by anything I knew at the time. This investigation led to conclusions I could never have imagined when I first began my research. I invite you to share with me the excitement that I felt making these discoveries!
Many hellenistic gnostic sects of the first and second centuries claimed to possess secret meanings and esoteric teachings. While few scholars have seriously thought that the sect which came to be called Christianity did so, even a cursory reading reveals a hidden level of teaching hinted at more or less openly throughout the Christian New Testament. Despite this, those who have attempted to pursue the hints have generally met with hostility from the academic community and their work relegated to obscurity. This is more than unfortunate since it has discouraged many who could have made a significant and accepted contribution to this investigation unwilling to do so. Understandibly, most scholars are unwilling to risk their reputations and careers exploring a subject that promises no return for their efforts. Consequently, the work has been left by default to those with little or nothing to risk professionally.
The cryptic comments scattered throughout the New Testament may allude to an oral body of orthodox doctrines reserved for a select few, in the same manner of contemporary gnostics. They may represent a ruse inserted by the Christian orthodox to give the impression that they, like their gnostic competitors, had secrets to reveal to those worthy of them. Finally, they may refer to doctrines that their gnostic, or other nonorthodox, competitors managed to infiltrate into the Christian corpus during an age when few books existed and those that did were copied by hand by scribes whose ideological allegiance might be in doubt.
I make no claim that the metaphysical theories discovered hidden within their own sacred writings represent the efforts of orthodox Christians. Indeed, since winning the gnostic wars and becoming the official religion of the fading Roman Empire, Christians have claimed they possess no secrets, that their catholicity leaves no room for elite and secret teaching. So the best I can claim is that the orthodox became the custodians of a body of knowledge that may not be of their own making, and if not their own than the making of gnostic and/or nonorthodox Christians with whom the orthodox were in active contention for more than three hundred years.
The precise "how" and "who" of the hidden theories may never be fully understood. Indeed, the orthodox have taken great pains to liquidate the evidence of their early competitors and to give the impression of doctrinal uniformity. Despite their efforts, the fact of the knowledge can not be denied. In the Apocalypse Unsealed (1910) James Morgan Pryse took the initial steps in bringing to light the secret doctrines hidden within the literal meaning of the words of the New Testament. Pryse decoded the gnostic message concealed very skilfully within the fanciful imagery and symbolism of the Apocalypse. He demonstrated beyond doubt striking parallels with Indian Vedic metaphysics and the hidden gnostic doctrine.
With The Restored New Testament (1914) Pryse extended his painstaking work to include the three Synoptic Gospels. His work on these Gospels is as thorough and consistent as his work on the Apocalypse. The badly mutilated condition of the Gospels, however, renders all interpretation questionable. In fact, most modern biblical authorities concur on the terrible condition of the Gospels as a whole, and write them off as nearly hopeless. That Pryse was able to make sense of them at all is truly remarkable in itself, whether or not one accepts completely his interpretation.
Fortunately, the Apocalypse has not suffered corruption to the same extent as the Gospels. Furthermore, the relatively pristine condition of the Apocalypse can be demonstrated from the text itself without recourse to any other New Testament material. In fact, the Apocalypse provides the key to understanding and properly interpreting the fragments of hidden doctrines within the remainder of the New Testament. Consequently, Dance of Ecstasy relies upon the Apocalypse for its conclusions and only draws upon the Gospels secondarily.
As detailed by James Pryse, the key to understanding the secret teachings hidden within the Christian scriptures is really quite simple yet ingenious. That key lies in the numerical values of certain Greek words. With a turn of that numerical key, the esoteric contents of the Apocalypse specifically, and also those of the Christian Gospels, emerge.
According to Pryse's work, what is revealed hidden within the literal meaning of the words of the Apocalypse is a gnostic doctrine of self emancipation that is identical to the doctrines of the Indian Yoga School, epitomized by Raja Yoga as elucidated by Patanjali. To my astonishment, it was left to me to discover that the hidden gnostic document is itself the rewriting of an earlier source, either written or oral, which turns out to be a comprehensive theory of consciousness. This source, I was to discover, the gnostic authors took great pains to disguise and distort to their own purposes. Yet as successful as they were hiding their own secret doctrines, they were less successful eradicating the evidence of their source.
The detailed theory of consciousness which the gnostics corrupted to their own ends is as totally alien to their secret doctrine of personal emancipation as it is to the many orthodox sects that came bear the name Christian. But it is essentially identical to the tantric path to what in that metaphysical system is termed "self realization." Compared to the psychological and metaphysical description of human consciousness hidden and preserved within the Apocalypse, inadvertantly by its gnostics authors, the convoluted theology of popular Christianity is puerile. The childishly anthropomorphic deity and simple dualistic conception of existence pale in the comparison. Indeed, the gnostic theory itself can be seen to be only slightly more sophisticated than that of the orthodox.
In The Supreme Identity (Pantheon, 1950) Alan Watts detailed the many corresponding metaphysical concepts underlying Vedic, Buddhist and Christian terminologies. Watts detailed the inner congruities of these superficially dissimilar doctrines. The work of Watts complemented and extended the work of Pryse in the Apocalypse Unsealed and The Restored New Testament and formed a necessary second step in unlocking the occult doctrines hidden within the Christian documents. The Supreme Identity introduced a more subtle level of understanding. Although Watts gives no indication that he was aware of the work of Pryse, his own contribution built very consistently upon the foundation provided by Pryse.
My own investigations centered around kabala, tantra and Taoism, and culminated in the writing of Dance of Ecstasy. My work led to the next and third step to unlocking the secret teaching hidden within the Christian writings. Dance of Ecstasy reveals clearly the complete complementarity of the Apocalypse, Indian metaphysics in general and that specific branch of it called tantra. As I hope to demonstrate, the correspondences and the parallels are beyond doubt.
Dance of Ecstasy concludes that the miscontrued "God" of Christian orthodoxy corresponds to the "self," as defined in tantric theory, of every individual man and woman. The conscious realization of that self is the "kingdom within" to which we are summoned. Dance of Ecstasy concludes further that the path to self realization is based firmly and ultimately upon an ancient, nondual and life-affirming theory of consciousness that predates "Christianity" by many centuries and upon its methodology of the male/female love/sex relationship. I have dubbed this theory of consciousness the Metaphysic of Ecstasy.
This ancient theory was clearly both holistic and humanist. It underlay the venerable goddess religion of antiquity in its various forms. Although it has been nearly exterminated by the dualistic and materialistic metaphysic which forcefully overthrew it, vestiges of its remarkable insight and methodologies survive to this day, most notably in Indian tantra and Taoist yoga, and in the west in kabala and alchemy.
To my knowledge, Dance of Ecstasy presents the most detailed, rigorous and concise comparison between the Apocalypse and Indian metaphysics ever attempted, explaining the differences between the ideas espoused by the gnostics and the theory of consciousness of the Metaphysic of Ecstasy. Dance of Ecstasy demonstrates that the Metaphysic of Ecstasy is profoundly psychological and shares the broad pathway of tantric methodologies and metaphysical speculation. Dance of Ecstasy examines in detail the correlations between Indian tantra and the theory of consciousness of the Metaphysic of Ecstasy, and enumerates how the latter remains free of the medieval corruptions suffered by the former.
Dance of Ecstasy details that subtle, complex yet simple and comprehensive humanist theory of consciousness of antiquity. The theory of consciousness of the Metaphysic of Ecstasy predates the violent institution of the dualistic, materialistic and life-denying metaphysic that currently underlies western civilization. This same metaphysical system also underlies all forms of Christian orthodoxy and much of oriental, and particularly Vedic, spirituality.
Dance of Ecstasy proposes a return to that humanist theory of consciousness. A return to humanity's holistic spiritual source, wherein the male and female aspects of consciousness again complement rather than oppose one another, is presented as the only way to heal permanently the wounds of the human psyche. The unbalanced and cruelly self destructive materialistic metaphysic is the source of the psychic malaise that the human race suffers. This metaphysic subverts all efforts to integrate the psyche and sets humanity's psychic powers warring against one another. Truly no house could be further divided against itself than the human soul under the sway of this metaphysic. Clearly, it must be abandoned in favour of a more complete theory of consciousness if humanity is to heal itself and evolve further.
As you may now appreciate, the material considered here is both subtle and complex. I have attempted to present it in a simple and relatively straight forward manner. None the less many technical ideas and terms must appear.
As a consequence, throughout this essay, I utilize whatever Sanskrit and Greek terms I feel are helpful to understand the theory of consciousness of the Metaphysic of Ecstasy. As I do not espouse any particular school of Greek or Indian philosophy or tantra, the many definitions, understandings, connotations and extrapolations I present do not necessarily represent those of any established system.
My use of these terms and my English renderings of them are entirely my own. My usage, however, is based upon the generally accepted meanings and understanding of Greek and Indian philosophy and metaphysics in their various formulations. With but few exceptions, scholars of Greek philosophy and Sanskrit metaphysics will find that Dance of Ecstasy is not based upon the peculiar interpretation of terms. Nowhere are terms interpreted in a devious or mysterious manner. In fact, my intention has been to remove the mysterious and the mystical as much as possible. And I think I have succeeded remarkably well in doing so.
I have attempted to use Greek and Sanskrit terms with as much precision as possible without being pedantic. I intend the use of Sanskrit terms to make possible direct comparisons between western and Indian doctrines. If the thesis presented here is correct, the New Testament Apocalypse serves as a key to unlocking a hitherto concealed metaphysical understanding and theory hidden within the teachings of Christianity. This concealed perspective forms a bridge between east and west far more extensive than any proponent of religious ecumenism could imagine.
The Apocalypse is undeniably one of the canonical scriptures of the Christian tradition. Admittedly, there was considerable debate about the "orthodoxy" of all the writings attributed to John into the third century due primarily to their "mystical" style and apparent lack of agreement with the supposedly "historical" narratives of the synoptic gospels. But this merely indicates that literal minded fundamentalists have always found it difficult to understand anything other than the superficial and the simple.
Following apparent second and third century editing to render his gospel more palatable to the growing ecclesiastical powers in Rome, all the writings attributed to John, including the Apocalypse, have been accepted by Christians as canonical. In spite of disagreements interpreting it and even some last minute attempts to prevent its inclusion in the official canon of sacred scriptures, the Apocalypse has been revered and accepted by the majority of Christians. Thus, what can be demonstrated as valid regarding the Apocalypse must be equally valid regarding the inclusion of hidden secrets within the Christian teaching as a whole.
It may be argued that the majority of Christians have never really understood the Apocalypse, an argument with which I completely concur. Someone, however, at some time understood and took great pains to ensure that this enigmatic book was enshrined in the canon of Christian sacred books in order to preserve it for posterity, misunderstanding Christians included. Its connection to other Christian writings cannot be denied. It uses the same terms, the same allusions, the same symbols throughout. And that the remainder of the important Christian scriptures, mutiliated as they may be from their original wording, must also at some level of understanding speak to the same issues as those addressed by the Apocalypse is an inevitable conclusion.
That the Apocalypse, even superficially, shows gnostic influences is no argument against its validity. Much of orthodox Christianity shows gnostic influence, despite its official opposition to the main themes of gnostic thought. Indeed, there is little evidence to suggest that Christianity was not, at least in part, a product of what we now call gnosticism, whose metaphysical and religious speculations flowered during the the three hundred years from the middle of the first century BC to the mid-third century AD. And well into the Middle Ages in the case of Manichaeism and its most famous proponent, "Saint" Augustine.
I point this out here, since the temptation may arise for some to dismiss the Apocalypse as an aberration. To dismiss it out of hand on the grounds that what it presents is too farfetched to orthodox understanding would be a grave error. In its ingenious composition and subtlety the Apocalypse remains one of the most remarkable literary works ever written. The Apocalypse, more than any other Christian scripture, deserves its place of respect. The time has come finally to perceive its meaning clearly.
Interestingly enough, the Apocalypse itself was composed as a concise statement of the gnostic doctrine of the dualistic metaphysic, subversive only in its methods for attaining personal salvation from this supposed vale of tears. Fortunately, however, as I was to discover, its author or authors simply rewrote what was apparently one of the most profound documents of the earlier humanist theory of consciousness, altering its symbols and skewing its meaning to suit their purposes.
The rewriting resulted in a remarkable piece of literature that encoded a secret doctrine of personal emancipation within the facade of a religious diatribe and cryptic chronicle of the religious and political intrigues of first century Palestine. The author or authors achieved their purpose, which was apparently to enshrine this secret gnostic doctrine in the canon of Christian orthodoxy, with its real meaning safely hidden away from the profane gaze of the churchmen who would so faithfully preserve it through the centuries!
Their effort also preserved the secrets of the earlier theory of consciousness of the Metaphysic of Ecstasy, albeit inadvertently. The author or authors sought to obliterate this primordial meaning and replace it with their own. But here they met with only partial success. In the rewriting they followed their prototype too closely, left too many clues to its existence and left one character in the drama whose identity would lead ultimately to the solution of the literary puzzle of the millennia!
I think that Dance of Ecstasy does full justice to the remarkable achievement of the author or author's of the Apocalypse in committing their gnostic doctrine to posterity. Further, I think it does justice to that even more secret doctrine from which those authors plagiarized their work and which exposes the pretense of their dualistic and life-denying metaphysic. For that most wonderful and life-affirming theory of consciousness, the Metaphysic of Ecstasy, is the real subject matter of this essay and my work.
In deference to those readers with little or no background knowledge, I do not elaborate Indian metaphysics or tantra beyond the basics. I feel strongly that a basic understanding of tantra and its concepts can be helpful to a more thorough understanding of the Apocalypse. Beyond that, however, no one need proceed unless interested in Indian philosophies and methodologies for their own sake. The literature available to do so is enormous.
I encourage those who may be so inclined and qualified to pursue the comparisons with Indian ideas and metaphysics examined here in outline in a more detailed and technical manner. Certainly, this will prove a fruitful area of research.
Those readers with little or no background in the Sanskrit language or Indian metaphysics may find themselves feeling a bit overwhelmed at times. On the other hand, more knowledgeable readers are apt to be disappointed in my somewhat brief and superficial discussion of Indian concepts. I apologize for this. My primary focus here is the Metaphysic of Ecstasy.
In composing this essay I had the choice of dealing with the subject matter in a strictly critical fashion by supporting every assertion and every conclusion with appropriate references. I decided not to do so, and have written primarily for the general reader. Supporting my several arguments with the necessary barrage of academic references and continual qualifications that such a strictly critical approach requires would have proven needlessly tedious. So I have decided to defer most such critical support and qualification to another volume.
Conventional biblical criticism has undoubtedly contributed much to tracing the literary and linguistic heritage of the Apocalypse. Its methods, however, have proven totally useless in understanding anything more than the literal meaning of the text. This results primarily from the religious bias of most of the scholars involved in biblical work. They look only at the literal meaning and ignore anything that leads in directions contrary to their religious orthodoxy. Only lately, due primarily to the controversial theories about the Dead Sea Scrolls published by J. L. Teicher, Robert Eisenman and, most recently, Barbara Thiering, Jesus & the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Doubleday Canada, 1992), have conventional scholars been compelled to accept that deeper meanings may underlay the literal.
I offer the work and theories presented here freely and openly so that others may examine them critically. I ask only that the evidence presented be judged on its own merits and not by whether or not it conforms precisely to something that has already been expounded elsewhere. The material presented here warrants unbiased study.
Some general readers may wish more background information and/or a more critical argument. In lieu of such supporting references throughout the text I offer those general readers the following reading and reference suggestions.
For conventional criticism: The Interpreter's Bible, George A. Buttrick, ed, Abingdon Press, 1957; Peake's Commentary on the Bible, Black and Rowley, Nelson and Son Ltd, 1963; Jerome Bible Commentary,Brown, Fitzmyer and Murphy, eds, Prentiss Hall, 1968; and, Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, Hershel Shanks, ed, Random House, 1992.
For some serious problems regarding orthodox interpretation in the light of the CODEX SINIATICUS: Secrets of Mount Sinai, James Bentley, Doubleday, 1986. Alternative interpretations in the light of the NAG HAMADI texts: The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels, Random House, 1979. Insight into the politics of religious doctrine: Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, Elaine Pagels, Random House, 1988. Alternative interpretations in light of the QUMRAN texts: Jesus & the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Barbara Thiering, Doubleday Canada, 1992.
For a more detailed elucidation of the metaphysic of nonduality and its relevance to Christian doctrines: The Supreme Identity, Alan Watts, Pantheon, 1950. For an introduction to the inner meanings of Christianity and its symbols: The Masks of God: Creative Mythology, Joseph Campbell, Viking, 1968; and, The Kingdom Within, John Sanford, Paulist Press, 1970.
For an elaboration of Indian terminology and various systems of thought: Self-Knowledge (Atmabodha): An English Translation of Sankaracharya's Atmabodha with Notes, Comments and Introduction, Swami Nikhilananda, Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center, 1946; and, Yoga and Psychotherapy: The Evolution of Consciousness, Rama, Ballentine, Ajaya, Himalayan International Institute, 1976.
For specifically tantric terminology and concepts: Tantra: The Yoga of Sex, Omar Garrison, Julian, 1964; and, Tantras: Their Philosophy and Occult Secrets, D. N. Bose and Hiralal Haldar, Firma KLM Private, Ltd., 1981.
Finally, for recent scientific knowledge and speculation on reality and the nature and process of consciousness: Order out of Chaos, Prigogine and Stengers, Bantam, 1984; Beyond the Quantum, Michael Talbot, Bantam, 1986; The Matter Myth, Davies and Gribbin, Simon and Schuster, 1992; and, The Physics of Immortality, Frank J. Tippler, Doubleday, 1994.
The common meanings of all Greek and Sanskrit terms appear in the glossary. For the Sanskrit, they are derived primarily from the following sources: Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita, Swami Rama, Himalayan International Institute, 1985; Tantras: Their Philosophy and Occult Secrets; and The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, Swami Vishnudevananda, Bell Publishing Co., 1960.
The common meanings of Greek terms are derived from: The Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell, Scott, Jones and McKenzie, Oxford, 1953; Strong's Exhaustive Concordance and Dictionary of Greek Words, Strong, Riverside, n.d.; and, The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament with Lexicon and Synonyms, George Ricker Berry, Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.
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