Friday, October 21, 2011

The Pyr Sacra Empowerment, Holy Fire, and Kundalini-Shaktipat Experience

In the Sorcerer’s and Magi mystical fantasy fiction series, the Pyr Sacra is an important empowerment that is transferred between high-ranking sorcerers and magi and their would-be apprentices. The Pyr Sacra, which is garbled Latin for “Holy Fire,” is depicted as a profound transformation of consciousness that results in a certain level of “enlightenment.”

Energy of the Depths  16 x 32 inch digital
image by Dee Rapposelli
Many people in the West now look to Eastern paradigms and jargon to explain enlightenment experiences and dabble in practices to achieve these experiences. The terms shaktipat and Kundalini are bandied about. People receive shaktipat—a transformational empowerment—from spiritual adepts—and engage in yogic practices to “awaken” Kundalini.  These esoteric Eastern ideas filtered into Western consciousness during the New Thought movement and occult revival that occurred at the turn of the 20th century. They especially gained notoriety during the 60s counterculture era.  Now, the web and bookshelves are overflowing with rhetoric about them. As it happens, Soror ZSD23 herself spent several years—more than a decade, in fact—engaged in study of literature (scriptural, academic, and “pop”) and yogic practice related to the Kundalini phenomenon.

In her view, shaktipat and the so-called Kundalini experience is a sudden reformatting of consciousness; indeed, a reformatting of neurochemical pathways that, ideally, undo the conditioned robot that you became shortly after you popped out of your mother’s uterus. The experience is described in this way in the Kashmir Shaivite classic the Spanda Karikas:

He sees the totality of objects appearing and disappearing in the ether of his consciousness like a series of reflections in a mirror. Instantly, all of his thought-constructs are split asunder by the recognition, after a thousand lives, of his true, essential nature, surpassing common experience and full of unprecedented bliss. He is struck with awe, with mouth agape. As he experiences vast expansion, his proper, essential nature suddenly manifests.
            --translation adapted from Jaideva Singh. Spanda-Karikas The Divine Pulsation. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. 1980. 

It is a profound paradigm shift that can be caused, not only as a result of dogged spiritual practice but a wide variety of means, including person-to-person transmission.  Variants of shaktipat/Kundalini awakening exist in many other esoteric cultures and are explained using different names and descriptors. In classical Greek mysticism, it may have been referred to as the speirema (“serpent power,” which is what Kundalini [literally, “she who is coiled”] is said to mean). In medieval Western Hermetic esotericism, it was dubbed Holy Fire. In more pedestrian ecstatic forms of Christianity, it called the Holy Spirit. And these examples are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

In the extreme, the shaktipat/Holy Fire experience is a full-blown transformation. Otherwise, many people involved in spiritual practices experience self-limited enlightenment experiences. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I will quote myself from an article published in the January 2001 issue of Yoga International magazine:

In the kundalini-rising episode, the pathways become clear; a subjective sensation of heat and energy ascending through the body often occurs and culminates in an exalted meditative experience. It is typically self-limited—the energy seems to filter back down and you go back to ordinary life.  After each episode, however, you may be left with the impression that a change has taken place or some insight or initiation has spontaneously arisen. More interesting, the quality of life and encounters in the days, weeks, and even months following more intensive episodes may be marked by a peculiar graciousness. This suggests that the kundalini-rising experience itself, though coveted, is not the end-goal of the process but its epiphenomenon. It is the effect of a quantum leap in mind and body that can occur again and again and evolve in quality.
            --Excerpt  from Kundalini Rising by Dee Rapposelli. Yoga International. January 2001:70-75.

What might a shaktipat-Holy Fire experience feel like?  In Chapter VI of La Maga A Story About Sorcerers and Magi, Leonard de Lux Junior  has the life-changing experience:

Excerpt from Chapter VI The Pyr Sacra Empowerment

He was pretty sure that Professor La Maga had forgotten about him. He was poised to conclude that she was jerking him off with her glamour—the girly cuteness, the familiarity, the sappy, stumbling false vulnerability. It was a complex ruse to undo Leonard and his father. Leonard had fallen into the trap. Stupidity.

He was in the kind of mood in which a person questions why he was born and whether staying alive was worth it. He pricked his finger on a splinter of wood gouged from the floor. He wanted to feel the sting and watch a bead of blood well up.

A black hole, a dark night. Leonard felt a tingly sensation fizzle over the left side of his body that became especially strong when it reached his cheek and then his ear. A heat, as if he had taken a shot of hard liquor and ignited his insides swelled in his stomach and leeched up.
This heat and a tingling pressure pent up at his neck. It forced Leonard’s spine to elongate as if he were a marionette tugged on a string. As the sensation burst into his head, he was enveloped in a scintillating flood of light, fluttering, and profound depth. Thunder roared inside his ears like the sound of a furious tide. His heart beat hard, and his breath rhythmically billowed in a way beyond conscious control.

Arrested in terror and elation, his eyes fluttered and teared to the vision of vast light and stroboscopic effects. He uttered an amazed sound as if gazing upon something magnificent—an entity of breathtaking beauty and hospitality, a communication of utter reassurance. He could neither see nor hear it, but he witnessed it nonetheless.

Everything about his life and circumstances—and everything about everyone else’s life—suddenly seemed incidental and pathetic. Reality, on the other hand, seemed to be pure happiness, and it was in his grip.

The seizure subsided. The thunder resolved into sheer calm and the strobing into radiance. The episode was probably much briefer than it seemed. It left Leonard refreshed and full of breath like he might have been at the moment he was born.

The room seemed illuminated. Leonard himself seemed illuminated. He could only laugh however disoriented, because it was as if he didn’t know himself. He pressed his thumbnails into his fingertips and examined his hands. They seemed to be glowing. He had to find a mirror and look into it. He hardly recognized himself.

His eyes ran with tears. Tears of laughter, tears of awe. It seemed all the same, and then of gratitude when he pulled together enough to realize what had happened.

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  1. Love the snippet from chapter 6. What a tease! Now I want to know the rest of the story.

  2. Thanks Angela. Your feedback means a lot to me. For anyone reading this, I'll add that Angela is a *real* maga operating among us in the world of Commons, just like my great grandma was. --ZSD23