The Dark Side of Meditation

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We’ve all heard about the benefits of meditation ad nauseam. Those disciplined enough to practice regularly are rewarded with increased control over the brainwaves known as alpha rhythms, which leads to better focus and may help ease pain. In addition to calming the mind and body, meditation can also reduce the markers of stress in people with anxiety disorders. Rigorous studies have backed health claims such as these to convince therapists, physicians, and corporate gurus to embrace meditation’s potential.

What contemporary and ancient meditators have always known, however, is that while the hype may be warranted, the practice is not all peace, love, and blissful glimpses of unreality. Sitting zazen, gazing at their third eye, a person can encounter extremely unpleasant emotions and physical or mental disturbances.

Zen Buddhism has a word for the warped perceptions that can arise during meditation: makyo, which combines the Japanese words for “devil” and “objective world.” Philip Kapleau, the late American Zen master, once described confronting makyo as “a dredging and cleansing process that releases stressful experiences in deep layers of the mind.”


I read this article with kind of a "Well, yeah....", BUT its true, in any discipline, like meditation, or theraphy, where you give the Mind some time to open up, you have the possibility of encountering some of your own demons. Its what you do when you confront them that matters. 

Yucca Glauca
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some extra complexity

This article kinda suggests that it's just a matter of "necessary working through" of things, but I think that's probably just a part of the story, and not necessarily is every case. There's a lot of difference between different kinds of meditation, and they don't all do the same thing.


A lot of traditional meditative techniques come with warnings that they should only be done in certain contexts, and those contexts don't generally include corporate training seminars. A lot of them come with warnings that without the proper context, they can be harmful or even deadly. Not "a difficult but rewarding path" but "a path off a cliff because you ignored the big signpost." 


Not to say that all kinds of meditation are dangerous or that the positive experiences aren't sometimes challenging, just that traditional context should be considered, and that sometimes problems are a sign that you've made a mistake, not a sign that you're onto something great. 


This comes up a lot of the more magic-focused areas of JMG's sphere. He teaches and advocates discursive meditation, which is less well known in a lot of circles because the particular kinds of Buddhism that advocate non-discursive meditation--which is NOT all forms of Buddhism. Many of them use discursive meditation and some prefer it to silent meditation--became popular in the United States. 


For what it's worth, I've picked up JMG's discursive meditation and mostly stopped doing silent meditation because I got more out of my discursive practice. I've had great results and I think he's right when he talks about it being particularly appropriate for the kinds of thinking Green Wizards ought to be doing, and that it's a good bit safer to do on your own that many other kinds. 

Sophie Gale
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Scrying and Discursive Meditation

In Atlantis: Ancient Legacy, Hidden Prophecy, JMG says that the legend of Atlantis changed in the late nineteenth and early twentith centuries. That was when Atlantis fell victim to its own technology, and that part of the story came not from classical references but from 19th century occultists and 20th century seers like Edgar Cayce.  And that's when the "seedbearers" became part of the legend: learned priests who were sent to the four corners of the earth to preserve the wisdom of Atlantis.  And I thought he might be a bit harsh? condescending? toward the New-Agers and their "past-life readings" and all that--but he didn't so much as smile at Shirley MacLaine.  Instead, he suggested that Cayce, MacLaine,, were not reading the past but the future!  Hey!

At any rate the Appendix of the book covers both scrying and discursive meditation--discursive meditation to make sense of your scrying and the other types of intuitive information that creeps up on us.

--And I just realize that once again I spent time over lunch today wondering who the heck Cernunnos is--because we really have next to nothing about him.  The Romans seemed to associate him with Mercury or Dis Pater, who ruled over underground treasure.  The Cernunnos Camp website has an assortment of images  considered to be the Celtic Horned God:

"Perhaps the most impressive depiction comes from Reims. This relief shows a balding and bearded cross-legged man, sitting in front of what appears to be a Roman-style temple. On his head are the broken stubs of antlers. On the bottom of the pediment above his head are the remains of the tips of their tines, four to each antler; on the pediment itself is a rat. Cernunnos wears a torc around his neck and an arm ring on his right arm. Over his left arm is a bag from which he is pouring out what are most likely coins, which stream down to pass between a bull and a stag. To his right is Apollo and to his left is Mercury. (See MacCana, 1970, p. 43.)"

Now this does not look anthing like the Neo-Pagan Cernunnos.  Certainly didn't look like the God I was calling on!  Money bags and a rat? (Which symbolizes his protection over graineries, I gather.) But when Bast joined my pantheon, she became BFFs with my Horned God.  So I keep asking who the heck is this guy???  And maybe discursive meditation is the way to find an answer...


Cernunnos in Reims