Intervention: Path of the Goddess

•7 December 2011 • Leave a Comment

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Dear One, Tripura is the ultimate, primordial Shakti, the light of Manifestation.
She, the pile of letters of the alphabet, gave birth to the three worlds.
At dissolution, She is the abode of the tattvas, still remaining Herself.
– Vamakeshvara Tantra

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Stupor

One of the most difficult tasks for any addict is finding a way out of the stupor experienced as heaven and hell: one’s drug of choice – whether it be a substance, an activity, or even a person or memory – provides escape from a world of pain and the promise of the beyond. The prospect of giving this up is daunting, for it plunges the addict back into the depths, forced to confront a fate that one had so desperately tried to flee.

This probably explains the isolation of addicts by treatment facilities, away from drugs but also from familiar surroundings and friends. The tactic is favored precisely because of the immensity of the task at hand. If a change is to be made, there has to be a radical break – establishing a different relation to the world and, more fundamental than this, a different relationship with oneself, especially if a new beginning is to be found.

While usually couched in terms of relinquishment ("giving up" one’s addiction), the process is actually closer to self-transformation, one that begins with an inventory of the subterranean forces (and decisions) that maintained one’s marriage to the addiction. This is a subtle shift, in more ways than one, and a radical one, as well. For it requires a commitment to self-understanding more courageous than most people are willing to undertake as their own.

Sri Chakra Yantra

It’s precisely this kind of commitment that’s depicted in the well-known Sri Chakra Yantra, perhaps the most elegant portrayal of what it means to lead a life free of addiction. As a representation of the universe’s creation, as well as its dissolution, it depicts the body of the Divine Goddess: Her descent into the material world and her return to Her original home.

The outer perimeter takes the form of a fortress shaped like a square. This stands for the reality in which She finds Herself, the element of Earth. The fortress also represents the imperative of boundaries for the task at hand, establishing a border between oneself and the external world.

Around its edges are four gateways associated with different Gods, but even these are closed, suggesting that access to their divinity must be cut off. They had once provided access to the Ocean of Nectar within the fortress walls, but that job has now been completed. Attention must turn, instead, to the Island of Gems that’s contained within (and raised like a mountain). For at its summit is the place She wants to be.

The Sri Chakra Yantra describes Her path towards that goal. For those uninitiated in its secrets, it provides a tutorial on what to look for during the journey, and how to mark one’s progress during the work of Her ascent.

Continue reading ‘Intervention: Path of the Goddess’

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Legend of the Seeker: The Red Goddess

•3 December 2011 • 1 Comment

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Sri-Yantra

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Intervention

•14 January 2011 • Leave a Comment

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Opening Title

A&E’s Emmy-Award winning series Intervention routinely warns its viewers about the disturbing content of its program, and it’s good thing that they do so. For the show provides viewers with a disturbing look at the depths to which addicts descend when doing battle against the demons that haunt them, not only in terms of the harm they do to their bodies or even the kind of degradation that becomes their own, but the misery and loneliness in which they suffer their quiet torment. It’s not a pretty picture. But these viewer advisories serve as much to titillate the audience as much as to warn them, for it’s the "drama" of this hidden side of addiction that sustains the program’s popularity, precisely because it promises to provide us with a portrait of lives that have fallen completely out of control.

If the producers were truly committed to the principle of disclosure, they’d include another warning at the beginning of each episode, as well. For the method of intervention employed by this series is but one among many, one that’s come under increasingly attack, and for good reasons, too: for its reliance upon unabashed methods of coercion and the mounting evidence that it may be less effective than we are so often lead to believe. There is another reason even more compelling to suspect the portrait of addiction provided by this program, and that has to do with the unspoken assumptions that frame the very idea of intervention itself: the idea that addiction is the disease rather than seeing it as a symptom of something else. Something much more insidious, precisely because it goes back further than our eyes can see.

Advocates have long worked to overcome the historical stigmas that have come to be attached to addicts and their addictions, stigmas that have undermined efforts to help addicts too frequently condemned for the cravings and compulsions that lay well beyond their control. And coming to an understanding of addiction-as-a-disease was crucial in that fight, for only then could the public come to understand that the addict cannot and should not be blamed. For blame interferes with efforts to treat the addict and the addiction; to shame an addict only avoids dealing with – much less seeking to understand – the compulsion that lies at the root of their afflictions.

But it may well be time to give up this notion, for in clinging to the idea of disease, advocates are in danger of losing sight of the contexts within which addictions are born, the environments within which those compulsions come to be. Which is where A&E’s series comes into the picture. For it says nothing about the well-established fact that the majority of addicts suffered some sort of abuse while they were young, with some studies putting the figures as high as ninety per cent. If this had truly become part of our public consciousness, the interventions that form the climax of each episode would take on a very different flavor: less convinced about an addict’s "denial" or "refusal" to seek treatment, and more humbled by the ways in which a hidden torment comes to eat at one’s very soul.

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Dollhouse (Season Two)

•1 July 2010 • Leave a Comment

Sages gave the soul a feminine name.
In nature, she is also feminine. She even has a womb …
When she fell down into a body and entered this life,
then she fell into the hands of thieves.
Wanton men passed her from one to the other,
used her, some by force, others by seducing her with a gift.

– The Exegesis of the Soul

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The experience is like holding a flashlight in the dark, groping for evidence of what is cloaked beneath the cover of night. At any moment, only fragments are illuminated, pieces of a larger puzzle that has yet to be fully recognized much less understood. With each shift in perspective, new elements are brought to light, even as others are lost, returned to the secret place from whence they came … unless they can be retained in the mind’s eye. Until that time, however, like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, comprehension is doomed to the confusion brought on by the immediacy of experience in which one remains beholden to a (partial) picture of what stands before us. A mystery, precisely because the “whole” has yet to be grasped.

This is the experience of watching Dollhouse during its second season, particularly as we are introduced to an increasingly complex web of stories – and lies – about the nature of the Dolls’ existence both within the confines of the House itself and beyond. We learn, for example, that there are many other Dollhouses scattered across the globe, part of a vast network whose ultimate purpose is much larger than the mere satisfaction of the kind of fantasies for which the Dolls are groomed. We also learn of power struggles within and between these subterranean structures, as well as efforts that seek to expose them and shut them down. Given this web of deception and intrigue, it’s quite appropriate that the opening episode of this second season would close with the music of The World, by Earlimart:

The world is all around us, it’s much too big to see.
And the words are seldom honest, so we never disagree.
The world is all around us, so tell me what you see.
Yeah, the world is all around us, there’s little room to breathe.

Oh, the world is all around us, but have you noticed me?
Yeah, the world is all around us, now it’s plain to see
That the world has overshadowed me.

Significantly, this is the experience of the program’s main protagonist, Echo. Not unlike Sophia’s fall into matter. It reflects the nature of her struggle to piece together the different elements of her life, a confusion that is heightened, particularly since special care has been taken to erase all memory of the life that brought her to the present. It is also about her struggle to find meaning, to wrench some sense of coherence from the confusion of tongues with which she is surrounded. This is, in fact, the major storyline of this second season, right up to its conclusion: Echo’s growing awareness of her life as a Doll and her efforts to disentangle herself and others from the stranglehold of that eviscerated existence. Against all odds, she will develop a mind of her own – supplanting the emotions that have been placed into her – and in the process, makes the shift from a Sleeping Beauty to an independent agent working toward her own liberation. Her own White Knight.

As witnesses to this transformation, no longer will we be relegated to the status of passive observers empathizing with her plight. Instead, she becomes a leader and teacher, showing us the way to do battle with – and overcome – the brutal constraints of an artificial existence. Demonstrating the kind of insight and wisdom such an extraction requires.

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Past Life

•2 June 2010 • 1 Comment

While unfortunate, it’s not surprising that Past Life was canceled after only three episodes had aired. After all, executives had decided to run it on Thursday nights against the juggernaut of Grey’s Anatomy. A measure of over-confidence in their product perhaps or, more likely, its reverse: lacking the conviction that this series about reincarnation could find a home. Which is a shame. For Past Life is much more ambitious – and way more insightful – than the suits seem to have admitted, even to themselves. For in the making of Past Life, there is a subtle sleight of hand, one that tells a certain kind of story in order to reveal the truth of another. A truth that’s less outrageous than we are so frequently led to believe, particularly when it comes to thinking or talking about the lives that preceded our own.

The very first episode alerts us to the nature of this kind of double-vision, citing Albert Einstein to make a rather unscientific point: “The greater the doubt, the greater the awakening.” Should it come as any surprise to discover that this quote is itself nothing other than a minor deceit, the words coming not from the preeminent scientist but from another continent in another time? A kind of puzzle that has come to be known as a koan.

The greater the doubt, the greater the awakening.
The smaller the doubt, the smaller the awakening.
No doubt, no awakening.

Thankfully, Fox has decided to allow the remaining episodes to air to completion (Friday nights at 8 p.m.). So, for those of us willing to grant leeway to an unorthodox exploration of lives both past and present – and the effect of one upon the other – we have the chance to discover what its makers would have us learn. About ourselves and the nature of cycled existence.
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Legend of the Seeker

•23 November 2009 • 2 Comments


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Wizard’s First Rule:
People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs,
and most of it is false, yet they think it all true …
Because of [this], the old wizards created Confessors, and Seekers,
as a means to finding the truth.

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Jungians must be having a field day with this one. Or they should be. For Legend of the Seeker provides a mythic portrayal of the voyage of discovery that some call the process of individuation and others identify as the search for the divine. An archetypal journey if ever there was one. Perhaps this is why we are never really told what it is the Seeker is actually seeking. But this apparent omission is of little consequence since, according to Jung at least, "The goal is important only as an idea; the essential thing is the opus which leads to the goal: that is the goal of a lifetime." In other words, the actual purpose of the quest lies elsewhere, unrecognized until it has already been accomplished: the steps along the way that, surprising as it may seem, lead back to the very origin of life.

Accordingly, Legend of the Seeker should not be seen as just another cheesy television offering of fantasy-adventure but, instead, as a wondrously intricate depiction of such an opus: with each character representing different aspects of the (disavowed) personality, the purpose of this "adventure" is to confront – and ultimately assimilate – disavowed aspects of the Self. Whether they be deemed the epitome of Evil or the personification of Perfection, the ultimate task is to recognize how these are but fractured elements of a whole, projected onto and embodied by others.

The distinct advantage of a television series – over film – is particularly evident here, as it provides the show’s creators with ample time to explore the different aspects of this journey, what Teresa of Avila called the different "dwelling places" of the Interior Castle, and what might hold the significance of the Mandala, itself.

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Defying Gravity

•16 November 2009 • 2 Comments



Perhaps it was inevitable that Defying Gravity would not find an audience since it sought to blend genres in ways that have yet to be properly recognized, much less appreciated. Understandably then, even as the program promoted itself as “Grey’s Anatomy in Space,” viewers did not take the bait. Since the program was less about matters of science than human relationships, the tagline was not entirely inappropriate. But it ultimately undersold the ambitions of the show’s creators and, as a consequence, underestimated our ability to embrace it. For the characters in its story were grappling with the very mystery of living, and the questions humanity has pondered in the face of the unknown.

As is revealed quite late in the season (Episode 9: Eve Ate the Apple), the astronauts at the center of this story were kept in the dark about the actual purpose of their mission. When that secret is finally revealed, the crew – and we – discover an object sublime beyond what’s possible to apprehend through the senses alone. And in light of this revelation, they discover that their trek is no simple adventure across the solar system but, rather, is designed to trace the hidden link that connects the planets, tracing the line of a divine blueprint of which they – along with the rest of humanity – had been blissfully unaware. Now, with the benefit of this newfound knowledge, the familiar orbs circling the sky acquire a different significance, a microcosm reflecting the glory of the cosmos itself. What in previous eras us mortals had come to call Heaven. Continue reading ‘Defying Gravity’