What is ascension?
What does ascension mean? Since before the millennium the new spirituality has spoken of a coming time, often relating to the Mayan Calendar, when humanity or part of humanity would ascend.
If indeed there is ascension, and if it has been foreseen over hundreds if not thousands of years, then the ancient wisdom will also have a part to play in explaining what will or may happen, as well as the emerging understanding as we move further into 2012.
The Christian story, which contains profound echoes of other earlier traditions, provides clues as does the understanding of the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks and their academies and mystery schools.
If there has been an ascent, has there been a descent?
Questions like this require an ontological map. One of the most profound maps of Reality is the Hermetic (named after the wily Messenger of the Gods, Hermes, and also the remarkable teacher known as Thrice Greatest Hermes or Thoth). Most people are aware of the teaching "As Above, so Below," but not all could differentiate between what is above and what is below, and that can lead to confusion and misunderstanding. A less well known Hermetic Truth is the Division of Reality into three quite distinct aspects. These are The Divine, The Cosmic and The Human, or God, Cosmos and Man. When 'Man' is used in this context it refers to the individual Principle of Humanity embracing both men and women.
The Divine neither ascends not descends in essence. It just IS. For God can be described as Infinite Being; as the Source and End of All; as The ONE; and the UNITY beyond unity. This Supreme Perfection (for the Divine can be nought else) moves no-where for He/She is everywhere.
But stories about the Divine represent the descent as a death. Osiris, the Egyptian Deity is slain by his brother. Krishna is crucified, as of course is Jesus. Adonis, in the Sumerian religion, is slain and resurrected. In these stories or myths, a profound truth is presented, that the Eternal Spirit 'dies' that the world may live.
God does not descend, but 'sends his beloved son' who must die to be within the limitations of time and space. Through the symbolism of these great religious myths, part of the mystery of the entry of the Eternal into the Temporal is shown. God in time and space must be divided, for both time and space can be measured and God is beyond all measure. From our perspective in time and space it is as though the Divine has died.
What of the Cosmos? Has the Cosmos descended? Some teach that the world we dwell in is a fallen world brought down by original sin. Some teach that the world is fallen, brought down by industrial waste. Yet in its natural state, the Universe operates with a perfection that can be barely imagined, but is evident in the beauty of the rose, the subtlety of a sunset and the magnificence of galaxies. Nature always and everywhere operates perfectly. It perfectly reflects the interventions of humanity when these influence it, as they surely do.
The very word 'Cosmos' springs from the Greek, meaning harmonious order. The Greeks believed the visible Cosmos, took its perfection from the Idea of the Cosmos in the mind of God. Where mankind dwells, is in the outworking of that perfect Idea.
The Cosmos has only descended in the sense that it is being gradually revealed across all time and throughout all space. It is for ever (and a day) reflecting the utter perfection of the Divine Archetype of which it is the outermost expression. In the Hermetic System it is sometimes described as the Macrocosm. It is the vastness of all the orders from the highest to the lowest and embraces all that is not purely Divine and is not purely Man. The apparent 'fall' of the Cosmos is only in the lack of understanding and wise stewardship by mankind as a whole. It will always be the infallible mirror revealing to mankind the actions taken by mankind. The beauty to be found in all aspects of the natural world, when seen from a broad enough perspective, speaks of her Divine origins and final destiny.
Has man fallen? Man has to descend if men and women are to incarnate or become involved in bodies. Without a body, man cannot experience the Cosmic Home and would remain for ever ignorant - even if that ignorance proved blissful - of the Macrocosm. The nature of the fall or descent of Man cannot be understood without a grasp of his and her threefold nature.
Man is Spirit, for he embraces a spark of Divinity, which is never lost, no matter how far he travels from his source.
Man is Body, for without a principle of Body, man could not experience the realm in which he finds himself. The Body draws from the part of the Cosmos in which man dwells. So one Principle comes from God and one utilises the Cosmos.
Between these two Principles lies the Soul. She enables Man to become all he and she may be. She is unique, for no two souls are identical and yet she enables everyone to find a right relationship with all else, for even as the Body is in the image of God, so the Soul carries the likeness of God. If this was not so, individual men and women could never return to their Source; to return to their origin, that origin must dwell within them as a potential. It is the Soul that is the principle of that potentiality.
So the question now might be, has the Soul fallen? The wonderful myth of Persephone, taking the flowers from the Plain of Enna and eating the pomegranate seeds, shows how the Soul is captured by Hades (becoming incarnate in this realm of shadow and illusion) but returns to her true Mother Demeter, for half the time. In other words, the Soul dwells both within and beyond time and space. The more deeply she enters into the realm of matter, the more she tends to forget her true homeland. The acts of an individual soul, through an individual body, produce disharmony or a higher harmony within the perfection of the Cosmic Home. Great disharmony (evil acts) require that the soul understands what it has done. A higher harmony, graces the natural beauty of the Cosmos with a transcendent perfection, even as a gardener may, with wisdom and quiet labour, produce a beauty that goes beyond that of a wild moor or desolate mountain.
Thus the state of man arises from the acts of his or her own soul, and no soul need 'fall', though many do.
Has the Body fallen? This is a much more subtle question that may at first appear. Wherever the Soul is active, it needs a principle of body, it needs a vehicle. this will apply from the manifestation in the basest of all worlds to the expression of the highest bliss and greatest being, when the Soul, as is sometimes said, journeys within God. Then, most assuredly, the Soul will be clothed in glory: a glory body.
In Summary ...
The Spirit cannot really descend, but does so analogically and from above this looks like death, from below it is the sacrifice of the saviour. The Cosmos rests ever perfect in God's Mind's Eye and also is spread forth in the manifested realms, infinite in extent and uncountable in number; it is always perfect in expression but may contain within it the potential of higher and higher perfection, as those that dwell upon and within it, namely mankind, learn to act with a wisdom worthy of their celestial home. The Soul must descend if she is to awaken from blissful ignorance. Her acts determine if she dances lightly within the worlds she finds herself, or if she falls to be bound in iron chains until she finds her way of return.