Out of Eden
Man (men and women) incarnates (is born) in a body on earth. Once he passes beyond an entirely natural life, at one with the animal kingdom, a deep yearning may arise, to pass beyond the boundaries of earthly life, and return from whence he came. This happens, even if the memory of that Edenic place is vague. When such an awakening occurs, a flame is ignited within a woman or a man, that can never be extinguished. The things of this world don't fully satisfy any more. The path of return is the only path that provides real peace.
Tales of heaven, sacred gardens, angelic realms, the courts of Jove, the Grail, each speak of a state of being far removed from time and space; beyond a world of scarcity, pain and death. It is natural that the chance to 'ascend' from down here to up there, appeals to many who hear of that possibility, whether within a religious context or without. Mighty Norse warriors would happily die on the field of battle to obtain Valhalla, even as a Buddhist priest might set himself alight to free his country and achieve Nirvana.
The questions arise: what ascends and how does the ascent take place?
In this article, the first of these will be considered.
The Ascent of God?
God neither ascends not descends, being omnipresent. There can be no thing that is not of God and in some way contains the Divine. As suggested in Part 1, the apparent descent of Spirit is like a death, a crucifixion or dismemberment, in which Spirit is sacrificed in order that Cosmic Form may have being and reality.
The descent of the Divine is thus only analogical and the ascent will similarly be symbolic rather than actual. What is being described here is not something that happens within time and space, but is a transcendental reality above time and space and condition. This mystery of the relationship of the Divine to the Creation, is often given expression through myth and within the great religious stories. To call these mysteries 'stories' is to recognise they are not literally true, but through their imagery they convey a far greater truth that goes far beyond the material world. The Christian story can be seen in this way, as being a powerful universal truth. Egyptian or Greek or Indian stories could equally be chosen but may not be so familiar.
The key events in the life of the Master Jesus may be summarised in this way:
The Path to Ascension
There are many other parts to the story but to understand the meaning of ascension, these ones are the most important. They are also found in different ways in other universal narratives about saviours. Each of the stages above could be the subject of much study and discourse but in the context of ascension, the first three are more to do with the descent of the Spirit and the final three, including the crucifixion, to do with the ascent.
The birth marks the entry of spirit into matter (the cave). Baptism is the awakening, the realisation of spiritual purpose. This is followed by the testing by the 'devil' namely the various possibilities and fruits and limitations, of a purely earthly life. Buddha, seated under the Bodhi tree has a similar test before his enlightenment and period of teaching.
The teaching is a major purpose of the Saviour or Master and is delivered within time and space for that time period, and for those people. The more universal aspects of the Teaching are revealed in the birth, life, death and resurrection, and these are so fundamental that no subsequent church councils could play with and distort that narrative.
The story of the crucifixion also could be explored at great length. It echoes the stories of Osiris and Dionysius, in the sense they are also dismembered gods. Just as the seed 'dies', in order to be reborn as the new plant, so the saviour must be dismembered that the spirit (within man) might be renewed. This is part of the return, because without this sacrifice, mankind would be held in the bondage of ignorance and would have no way out of the coffin of time and space and incarnation.
On death, the body of Jesus is laid in (returned to) a cave. At the third day the resurrection occurs but those close to Jesus do not recognise him. Stories in the gospels show how he is frequently unknown at first and can appear and disappear at will. His body is not quite the same as the body prior to crucifixion.
After a further period of teaching, the disciples (only) can see the ascension into heaven. This indicates the fully spiritual nature of the ascension event, that only those initiated are able to see. Prior to the crucifixion, the disciples fall asleep, they have not developed the spiritual capacity to see the things of the Divine Realm at that point.
The ascent in this and other religious narratives is the ascent of the God-Man, the Son of God, the Divine within Man. It is the way of return for all mankind and the path each individual will surely follow.
The Return of Mankind
What ascends? Is it a bodily ascent, an ascent of the mind or an ascent of the soul? Each of these deserve consideration. In the first article on this subject the value of the Hermetic teaching of the Triple Nature of Man was explored. Man has three distinct principles, one of Body, one of Soul and one of Spirit. In this view, the mind of man is not presented as a separate principle; it is sometimes described as the 'companion of the Soul'.
A body is a vehicle that enables the individual soul to be in contact with the world (wherever and whatever that world may be). Without such a vehicle, the soul will be centred everywhere and anchored nowhere. This would make the achieving of consciousness of the world nigh on impossible, because all knowledge would impinge on the soul simultaneously.
It is said that 'bodies are subject to corruption'. A physical body, within the realm of limitation cannot be immutable, and it is evident that it will wax but to wane. The length of the life of any body may be variable but eventually a body needs to fail so that the soul can be freed to extend its experiences elsewhere.
Does this mean that the body does not ascend? The answer is complex. The very utilisation of the matter that constitutes a body (believed now to change entirely, molecule by molecule over seven years) gives dignity to that matter commensurate with the dignity of the individual dwelling within that material shell. In that sense, the matter itself is raised through a spritualisation.
The description above, of the universal template offered by the story of the Master Jesus, indicates two higher bodies. One, a 'resurrection body' or body of light, came and went at will and proved sufficiently different to Jesus' physical body from a few days earlier, that he was not recognised. The other, is the body in which Jesus ascends.
The Celestial Body
The celestial body The literal truth of the narrative of the resurrection, is for the individual to decide, but the philosophical truth is that all men and women have a higher body, that is not subject to the laws of earth in the same way as the physical body. It is suggested that this body does three things.
It is the creative source of the perfection, of the physical time and space body; it sustains the physical body throughout its sojourn on earth; and also it receives the fruit of all the acts undertaken by the soul whilst in the body. In this final aspect it could be called the body-of-truth, and is described as luminous.
This luminous body may be considered to potentially have access to what are known as the natural heavens. The doctrine of 'heaven' in its various forms, across different traditions and teachings, indicates a place far 'above' this world, with all that is good and true and beautiful, present to the consciousness and enjoyed. The soul, through this body, goes to a place it has prepared for itself, for it will ascend according to the degree it is awakened and the degree it is virtuous. In this sense, it is indeed true that the body ascends. But it is not the body actually of the earth but a more subtle vehicle. The ascent of the earthly body will be considered below.
The natural heavens although perpetual in nature are not Eternal as such and there is still a separation from God. In Eden, Adam and Eve are not God, and the return to the Edenic realms is not to become God. Yet, in the story of Jesus given above, there is a final ascension described, into the very heavens, to sit at god's right hand. This relates to what has been called the Glory Body, the Shining Self, and this is the final ascension where the Soul is spiritualised and operates through a vehicle, if such a word can be used in this context, within the Eternal Realms.
What is Mind?
Perhaps the most obvious ascension is one in consciousness. As the mind and soul unfold more and more understanding of the holy universe in which they find themselves, a consciousness grows that has been called Cosmic. As the mind turns inwards in order to know itself and the soul, so there may be a growth in wisdom that is described as Microcosmic consciousness or real self-knowledge. The journey of the mind is from the particular to the universal. Gradually, through experience and reflection, the potentiality of the mind is unfolded so that universal truths become more attractive and understood.
The mind is said, rightly, to touch that of which it thinks. When it can encompass the higher and higher aspects of reality, so it becomes in touch with them, ascending to them. No limit is set on this ascent. The highest aspect of the mind is described as nous in the Ancient Greek system of thought. This is at one with the Mind of God. to reach nous is to be in touch with God consciously and fully.
Will the Earth Ascend?
Will our beautiful Gaia ascend? What of our solar system, galaxy and beyond?
It is enough to recognise that the Soul, as a principle, is set higher than any material world. The acts of mankind, of necessity, must affect the realm in which he dwells, for he is a ruling and regulating principle. As minds expand and deepen in understanding and as souls unfold their latent powers, so must the environment they find themselves in respond in kind. All of this, as with everything else, is under the kind and watchful eye of Providence. It cannot but be anything except for the greatest good of all.
It is the purpose of Mankind to enable the return of the Cosmic Creation back to its Source. On its own the Cosmos will ever tend outwards to fuller and further expression. But through the minds of men and women, gathering it into their consciousness, the Cosmos is returned from whence it came with a greater beauty and perfection. Such is the nature and destiny of Man.
The articles on Ascension, first appeared in delphicoracle.weebly.com