Seeing the Light
The Eleusinian Mysteries
Of all the mystery cults of ancient times, none were more celebrated than the Eleusinian Mysteries. These were the initiation ceremonies for the cult of Demeter and Persephone, held at Eleisus in ancient Greece. It is thought that these initiation procedures were passed to the Greeks by the Myceneans and originated sometime before 1600 BCE. We can't be sure because the punishment for revealing them was death.
The Eleusinian Mysteries endured for 2000 years because they provided their initiates with a glimpse of the afterlife which sustained them psychologically and spiritually, dramatically changing their lives. What we have learned about this initiation has been leaked by famous personalities in history who dared to write about it.
The highest level of initiation took place in a darkened chamber or cave. What went on inside the chamber hardly seemed significant. Telling about it was certainly not worthy of death. It was such a simple thing -- yet so powerful.
"The claim is also made that men who have taken part in the mysteries become both more pious and more just and better in every respect than they were before. And this is the reason, we are told, why the most famous both of the ancient heroes and of the demi-gods were eagerly desirous of taking part in the initiatory rite; and in fact Jason and the Dioscuri, and Heracles and Orpheus as well, after their initiation attained success in all the campaigns they undertook, because these gods appeared to them." -- (Diodorus Siculus V, 48, 49)
"...He who has succeeded in getting inside, and has seen a great light, as though a shrine were opened, adopts another bearing of silence and amazement, and 'humble and orderly attends upon' reason as upon a god." -- (Plutarch, Progress in Virtue 81e)
"...saw a vision...beholding apparitions innocent, and simple, and calm and happy as in a mystery, shining in pure light, pure ourselves." -- Socrates
Called the "Contemplation of the Ear of Wheat" [above, right], the initiate was made to stare at a flaming torch. After some time, his eyes were covered. In the blackness he was directed to focus on the mental image of the flame and to see it with his mind's eye.
Dr. Lefebure and Phosphenes
Dr. Francis Lefebure is a medical doctor and devout Zoroastrian who has studied the Eleusinian Mysteries. He saw the similarities of this technique in many ancient religions whose aim is enlightenment. According to Dr. Lefebure, this method would have produced an after-image on the retina which would have persisted for a time as the rods and cones regained their neural equilibrium. It would also have persisted in the stimulation of the brain's visual cortex -- a process he identified as "phosphenes".
In his research, he noted that when this method was combined with meditative thought and rhythm there was a dramatic psychological change. Short of achieving enlightenment, Dr. Lefebure went on to develop this discovery to improve concentration, help children study and allow troubled patients to relax. But a review of history shows that this phosphene technique is really capable of much more.
Nostradamus and the reflected flame
The phosphene method was used by Michel de Nostredame, Nostradamus, in the 1500s, to see the future. It is obvious that he did not invent this method himself but it shows that staring at a bright source of light was a legitimate way to connect with the "other side."
"Gathered at night in study deep I sat. Alone, upon the tripod stool of brass, Exiguous flame came out of solitude, Promise of magic that may be believed."
The brass tripod supported a bowl of water into which Nostradamus gazed in order to see the reflection of a candle in his dark room. Being reflected, the light reaching his eyes would have been polarized. It has also been mentioned that Nostradamus would gaze at the Moon's reflection on a silver tray -- again producing polarized light. This type of light seems to have been preferred by many ancient seers. The specific mention of the "tripod" probably echoes the Oracle of Delphi [right], who sat upon a tripod and gazed at a light, reflected in a shallow bowl of water, when she made her prophecies.
The technique is the same as phosphenes -- after staring at the light, the source is extinguished leaving an after-image that, together with meditation, results in the ability to have a vision of "the other side", from which we can "see" the true reality of our being and temporal circumstance. A bowl of water can be used, but a reflective mirror, crystal ball, a puddle of water, a stream or even the ocean can successfully reflect the light of the Sun or Moon and produce the same results with the proper meditation.
Often there is a degree of complicated ritual associated with this simple act. Nostradamus wrote of using a magic want to touch the bowl and the hem of his robe. Sometimes special incantations are said aloud or magical gestures are made. But these are irrelevant.
Zoroastrians: More Fire and Water
Zoroaster (Zarathushtra), the founder of Zoroastrianism, made reference to the mainyu athra - the spiritual fire - as one that illuminates the path of asha. Asha (enlightenment) is only available through individual choice (hence the necessity for proper meditation) and brings order to human thoughts, words and deeds. It does this by showing the initiate the real self. After this happens, a different hierarchy exists -- one which places greater value on compassion and righteousness.
Followers of Zoroaster worship fire, but not as a deity. They see fire as representing the energy of the Creator and as the messenger of truth. Devotees face the sacred flame in their ceremonies and practice the phosphene technique, mixing the light and after-image with "good thoughts". They also utilize water, which reflects the Sun and Moon. The Fire Temple of Yazd (Iran) [above] has a large pool of water for this kind of contemplation. In Mumbai (India) [right], Zoroastrian devotees worship while basking in the reflections of the sea, mixing meditation with the phosphene procedure…
Surprise... a white wall works just as well
Bodhidharma founded Chan Buddhism. Rejected by a local Buddhist monastary, he sat in meditation, staring at Shao Lin's whitewashed monastery walls, every day for years. Bodhidharma eventually became an enlightened master and discovered that the brightness and contrast coming into the field of vision could also produce enlightenment.
Modern psychologists have found that wall-gazing is a great way to induce alpha in both its upper and lower (and even upper theta) frequency ranges. It was the first hint at what was likely going on in the mind of the initiates and what these . phosphenes were actually doing.
In this technique, called 'ganzfeld' -- a German word which means complete field -- alpha waves are generated by staring at a blank, preferably white, bright visual field and holding the eyes steadily upon it. A white-wall fulfills this condition. All that is necessary is that the wall occupy the complete field of vision so that distractions are eliminated. Once the vision of the bright wall has saturated the retina, the eyes are closed, revealing the phosphene. At this moment the appropriate meditation is introduced and the mind's eye becomes full of visions. This technique is so powerful a generator of alpha that it is practiced by monks even today. [right].
So what's going on here?
If you've read the Dan Eden's article on Left Brain : Right Brain, you’ll know that your brain is divided into two sides or hemispheres which are slightly different from each other. Each hemisphere can function independently and processes information in different ways. Our personality depends on which hemisphere is dominant, depending on the activities it is processing.
Here is a list of traits associated with each human brain hemisphere:
LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
words and language
present and past
math and science
knows object name
| RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS |
"big picture" oriented
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
knows object function
When you measure the brain waves generated by both sides of your brain, you'll find that they're slightly out-of-sync or out-of-phase from each other. Scientists know that the more one-sided our brains are, the more erratic and higher the frequency will be.
In the 1970s, psychologists were experimenting with brain waves and discovered that "enlightened" individuals (i.e. Buddhist monks and Gurus) had a remarkable synchronization of their brain waves in both hemispheres. As a result, their overall brain wave patterns were slower.
As brain wave synchronization increases, the two sides of your brain communicate more with each other -- and that's what is important. If your brain waves slow down enough, you'll eventually enter Theta (a bridge to the subconscious and insight and creativity) and maybe even Delta brainwaves (a deep dreamless state or extremely deep meditation).
Further brainwave synchronization will lead to both sides of your brain being so balanced that your brainwaves will merge into a single coherent brain wave pattern. Some people believe that at this point, the normal conscious mind is bypassed and you finally achieve the "it", the "oneness" or enlightenment -- the awakened mind.
The theory makes sense because in order to know (left brain function) our real self, we must experience or feel it (right brain function).
"...it is like Aristotle's view that men being initiated have not a lesson to learn, but an experience to undergo and a condition into which they must be brought, while they are becoming fit (for revelation). -- (Synesius Dio 1133)
Others have described brain waves as like ripples on a pond. Only when the pond is smooth can it reflect the light like a mirror. Only when our brains are quiet can our real self be remembered.
Phosphenes and Enlightenment
As the knowledge about brain wave synchronization became known, an assortment of different apparatus were developed and marketed. Bio-feedback machines allowed the user to experiment with different meditation techniques to lower their brain waves and audio CDs promised to synchronize the hemispheres with subliminal sounds. A few apparatus tried to use blinking lights to do this visually -- but the results have been abysmal.
It makes sense to use visual stimuli to synchronize the hemispheres for a number of reasons. Humans rely primarily on their vision to survive. Our consciousness and attention is primarily in visual language and the brain devotes a significant portion (visual cortex) of its neurons to process the sensory data from our eyes. Just close your eyes for a few seconds and you will experience a dramatic change in your consciousness.
Each retina in our eyes is connected to both the left and right hemispheres of our brain. The left field of vision goes to one hemisphere while the right goes to the other. This division is un-sharp and a narrow strip of the visual field midline is represented in both hemispheres. This overlap of the visual field is important to our discussion.
Because depth perception requires the coordination of both eyes, communication between the two visual centers is usually made through the corpus callosum -- a bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres like a network cable. Recent experiments have shown that this inter-hemisphere communication is not necessary for visual data coming from the midline of our visual field, or macula. This central point in our retina is the focus of our vision and its information is hard-wired to both sides of our brain.
It is well know that our visual system has a high degree of specialization. Neurons in some areas of the visual cortex process information only from a restricted range of features. Things like form, color or motion are analyzed independently by separate processing systems. All of these processing activities require excitation of the brain waves as they try to interpret changes in our field of vision.
So here it is: The phosphene method saturates the midline visual field with intense light. It is almost an overload. Visual data is sent to both hemispheres simultaneously. The visual cortex stimulates the entire hemisphere. The visual data is coherent, with minimal variation in form, color or motion and the involvement of both hemispheres in synchronous. By closing the eyes, attention is shifted from the external world to the inner one and, with pre-requisite meditation and preparation to be receptive of the truth, the real self is experienced as light.
A Warning To All
First, don't look at the Sun for more than a few seconds. In fact, it is better to use an ordinary light bulb in a dark room. The results will be the same. In my research I have read that a 60-watt incandescent bulb placed two meters (about 5 feet) away is sufficient to produce the effect. Then, of course, there is always the white wall... (But the wall must take up the entire field of vision to avoid distractions of form, shape or color.)
Next, there is the matter of the pre-conditioning of the mind. Enlightenment is something you must allow to happen. It cannot be rushed or wished for. It requires a fertile environment brought about by good thinking, good living and good intentions. Some have said that this part of the quest for enlightenment requires the help of an enlightened teacher. Others say that good intentions will allow your own self to show you the way.
No one can tell you about your true self with words. We simply do not have an adequate vocabulary for this. The experience that one has is unique and unlike anything in this mortal experience. It is emotional and enduring. It is felt (right brain) and understood (left brain).
Bright lights and amnesia
In the 1980s, researchers found that even low-level exposure to a beam of electrons caused rats to forget what had just happened to them (an effect known as retrograde amnesia). One theory was that the amnesia was a result of the brilliant flash experienced when the electron beam struck the retina. The flash only caused memory loss about the previous four seconds -- but the effect was very real.
To test the theory, rats were placed in an environment where they would have to learn to avoid a certain behavior or be subjected to an electrical shock delivered through the metal floor of the cage. Since the shock is painful, they generally learn this almost immediately. But when the initial shock was followed by a bright flash of light they didn't learn. Supposedly then, the brains of the rats were somehow rendered inoperative to learning.
Retrograde amnesia was demonstrated for the 80-, 85-, and 100-V foot-shock test trials. At 40 V the voltage may not have been great enough to be felt by the subject. For groups examined at shock levels above 100 V, the foot shock was so potent that a photoflash was ineffective in producing RA. Our conclusion was that the photoflash was an effective amnesiac until the intensity of the foot shock became more potent than the photoflash; this is consistent with the recency theory generated in serial learning and memory tasks. -- Source
It is a well known fact that strobe lights can cause disorientation and even incapacitate a person. This could be more evidence that the hemispheres can be made to synchronize, thus lowering their brain wave frequency -- a prerequisite for experiencing "enlightenment."
Let me know your thoughts on this.
For more information on enlightenment and reincarnation, see REINCARNATION, a new series on viewzone.
From ViewZone @ http://www.viewzone.com/seethelight.html
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