An Insider's Guide to the
Perceptual Revolution
Uncanny Similarities
"A rose by any other name..."

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Ancient Wisdom

    Western Materialism recognizes four essential aspects of subjective “reality” that human beings experience.  There is the five-sensory plane through which we interpret the universe around us; the mental plane that encompasses all our thoughts and beliefs; the emotional plane—impossible to quantify, yet undeniable in its impact on our lives; and lastly, the imagination, the primal force behind all creative endeavors.  This paradigm describes a wide spectrum of ways to experience life, but it falls short of the full scope of human possibilities. 

  Etheric energy fields play an essential, if largely uncharted, role in human awareness.  Etheric energy is not only of the self; it is the self.  On the other hand, knowing this does not mark the end of one’s quest for transmaterial knowledge.  Chi is only one facet of all that we are; we manifest at many levels of being, and all of these aspects are interconnected.  Just as thoughts and emotions cannot produce a cohesive identity without each other’s input, chi works in tandem with many other forces, both physical and metaphysical. 

  There is a definite rhyme and reason to the notion that the human mind/body/spirit system has evolved in an interdependent way.  We see evidence for this in the design of the human body, in which the senses relay information to the conscious identity, enabling us to perceive, observe, and then devise a response.  The metaphysical systems which contribute to our awareness have evolved in the same way, integrating the functions of the corporeal body with those of the etheric energy field.  This synergy could not occur without points of interface between the material world and alternate levels of reality.  

  American society may be gradually expanding its mind-body paradigm to include transmaterial layers of energy, but there are many obstacles in the way of this progression.  Since Materialist thought still defines the American mainstream, those who are interested in psychic ability often seek out theories of reality which are a bit off-center in the societal bell curve.  Some people explore the sacred scriptures of Taoism, Hinduism, or other religions that give credence to a broader human potential.  In addition to the Old Ways, a number of mystical cosmologies have sprung up in the last century or so, somehow taking root in the less-than-fertile soil of Western Civilization. 

 Wicca was originated in the Mid-20th Century, as a modern pagan religion that unites practitioners from a variety of ancient traditions.  Theosophy is another fairly recent mystical philosophy that was founded in the late 1900s but is still quite popular in some metaphysical circles. 

Theosophy is one of the true forerunners of the New Age movement.  Founded by The 19th century mystic Madame Blavatsky, it set out an elaborate cosmology which has been credited with popularizing ideas such as the astral body and the etheric plane.  Blavatsky’s theory, in a nutshell, is that human beings live in the midst of multiple layers of reality (or planes).  Whereas the physical form is our main vehicle for dealing with the mundane world, we also possess subtle “bodies," living energy fields that correspond to the mental, emotional, and extrasensory aspects of our lives.  Theosophy espouses a methodical, almost secular approach to studying psychic abilities firsthand, which has led some followers to regard it as a truly novel metaphysics.  It should be mentioned, however, that Theosophy’s views on the human potential, as well as its overall metaphysics of reality, have many parallels to Hindu cosmology.

Modern theories of the transmaterial often ride on the coattails of existing knowledge systems.  Most New Age literature that appears non-denominational at a glance actually includes some ideas which closely resemble Eastern and/or aboriginal cosmologies.  We must also give credence to the impact of uniquely Western paradigms such as Plato's metaphysics, the Jewish Kaballah, Robert Monroe's work on out-of-body experiences, or Carlos Castaneda's quasi-shamanistic Nagualism.

Inexperienced seekers of mystical wisdom often feel overwhelmed when reading material on psychic abilities.  Theories on the human potential are often geared toward advanced esoteric practices and elaborate metaphysical theories.  I do not mean to fault any authors for tackling the more advanced aspects of transmaterial exploration, but I must caution readers who are new to the game: those who are merely curious may feel that they are in over their heads if they don’t choose reading matter that matches their current level of experience.  If the subject matter is too far from what they already know, they will have trouble discerning truth from fabrication, which makes them easy prey for authors touting bogus theories.  The only way to verify these theories would be to learn highly advanced techniques of mystical exploration, and you can only get this from experience, not from a book. 

Those who come across a new theory of reality and adopt it as a "belief," but lack the underpinnings of personal exploration, proving nothing but their own capacity for blind faith.    I count myself among the Western world’s fledgling mystics: my understanding is too limited to propose a comprehensive system of knowledge such as Taoism or Nagualism, yet there are things that I believe I have learned, and I’d like to share them with others.  In spite of my limited knowledge, I have pieced together some personal observations about how parallel planes intersect, which I will expound on in the following chapter.  My exploration is far from finished, thus I can only offer a finite description of alternate levels of reality.  I have found that you can learn more by trying different perspectives on for size, mindful of your own inexperience, than by falling back on an “ultimate” cosmology which claims to answer all your most pressing questions.

Uncanny similarities

  Cultural belief systems that deal with psychic ability are by no means identical to one another; they draw many different conclusions about what people are capable of. However, there are certain points of consensus that unite a wide range of traditions--truths so essential that they transcend cultural borders. One of these is that each person has a vital essence, a life force, which is directly connected to the body and mind. This vital energy has no material form, yet is just as real as electricity, light, and gravity. The basic theory is as follows:

· Along with the energy of the human body, our consciousness exists because of an animating force which doesn’t follow all the same rules as physical matter.

· Every living being has an energy field, or aura, filled with this life force. The aura is located in a different plane of reality than the nervous system, although the two are closely intertwined.

· We do not usually see vital energy, but everyone senses it. With focused intention, we can learn to perceive and consciously influence this force.

· People exchange vital energy all the time, sharing the essence of their feelings and ideas by connecting their own auras to the auras of other people. In the more intense moments of energy exchange, people experience psychic abilities firsthand, though they may not know it at the time.

"A rose by any other name..."

The notion of vital energy is present in hundreds, possibly even thousands of cultures around the world, and has its roots in antiquity. Vital energy goes by many names, but just to list a few:

· Prana - Hinduism/Yoga

· Chi or qi - Taoism/Chinese medicine

· Ki - Japanese medicine

· Rlung - Tibetan Buddhism

· Mana - Hawaiian shamanism

· Ka - ancient Egyptian cosmology

· Pneuma - Greek philosophy, Christian theology

The idea of an aura or “luminous body” is also common to many mystical traditions. It goes by many names, including “dreaming body,” “spirit body,” and “qi body.” Some mystical traditions take this concept a step further, describing ways to strengthen one’s “energy body” until it becomes a more formidable vessel for generating and directing vital energy. Tibetan Buddhists, for example, believe that human beings can refine their awareness of vital energy until they develop a “diamond vehicle,” which brings one closer to enlightenment and opens the pathway to a wider range of mystical abilities.


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© 1999, 2003 by Lucius R.  Ringwald.  All rights reserved.