Friday, 21 October 2011

The Scorpio Path of the Bardo (by Franco Santoro)

When confronted by our worst nightmares the choices are few: fight or flight. We hope to find the strength to stand against our fears, but sometimes, despite ourselves, we run. What if the nightmare gives chase? Where do we hide then?” (Heroes, Season 2. Episode 5)

The seasonal time of Scorpio provide healing opportunities for uncovering hidden secrets, especially on what we truly are beyond the identification with our conscious life. 

Here Scorpio often comes as the Grim Reaper, dissolving the quiet routine of ordinary existence and unleashing shadowy elements in our life. These elements tend to shed light upon the inevitable loss or date of expiry of many things we take for granted in life, including the end of life itself, death.

The awareness of death, which is what Scorpio tenaciously holds, is paradoxically the most pragmatic reality check and the foremost activator of the awareness of life.   

Death is “the central dream from which all illusions stem” (ACIM, M27:1.1), and Scorpio’s full immersion into its mystery, far from being a sinister life-denying development, is certainly a key stride for truly understanding and mastering life itself.

Scorpio possesses the dazzling capacity of amplifying what keeps us in darkness and hides the awareness of who we are at a multidimensional level, so that it can be released, allowing our real self to become transparent and ultimately shine throughout our life. 

Grievances, fears, despair and all kinds of unpleasant thoughts or emotions show what is not there and hide from us what we would see if we acknowledged our authentic luminous identity. In order to see, we need to lay grievances aside, practising release, or forgiveness, as the supreme act of letting go of our separated perception.

Scorpio teaches that just as darkness appears to reach its peak in life, light can shine it all away, if we firmly choose to connect with our multidimensional self and the web of life.  

The escape from darkness involves two stages: First, the recognition that darkness cannot hide. This step usually entails fear. Second, the recognition that there is nothing you want to hide even if you could. This step brings escape from fear. When you have become willing to hide nothing, you will not only be willing to enter into communion but will also understand peace and joy. (ACIM, T11)

Scorpio holds the awareness of this transition zone between light and darkness, darkness and light, life, death and rebirth. This intermediate area is what in Tibetan is called bardo, which literally means “that which lies between”, or “gap”. The bardo, which in Sanskrit is called antarabhava, is not only the interval after death. It encompasses all kinds of suspension in life, big or small such as moments of frustration, uncertainty, crisis, and also dreams, fantasies, etc.

The Bardo Thodol (literally: "liberation through hearing in the intermediate state”), mainly known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, differentiates the intermediate states between lives into three bardos: the chikhai bardo or "bardo of the moment of death", the chonyid bardo or "bardo of the experiencing of reality" and the sidpa bardo or "bardo of rebirth", which correspond astroshamanically to the three Levels.[i]

The chikhai bardo involves the experience of the "clear light of reality", which is the nearest possible approximation to the multidimensional self, or Core Multidimensional Identity (CMI) in astroshamanic terms. The chonyid bardo features visions of various high spirit forms, while the sidpa bardo includes karmically incited hallucinations which may eventually result in rebirth. 

The Bardo Thodol also refers to three other bardos: the kye ne bardo or “bardo of life” or ordinary awareness, the milam bardo, or “bardo of dream” (all mental activities during sleep), and the samtem bardo, or “bardo of meditation” (all types of meditative or expanded consciousness conditions). 

All bardos provide most powerful opportunities for liberation and enlightenment. Bardos are available permanently throughout both life and death. They are transitional state between our ordinary limited identity and our core multidimensional self.

The bona fide aim of shamanism is to provide training for effectively navigating through the bardo labyrinth.

The general way for ordinary human beings to access the bardo and their core multidimensional identity is through unconsciousness, which is what happens regularly as part of their daily routine. This is because the connection with the multidimensional self is essential for the survival of any other possible identity and reality, no matter how bogus it is. 

All individuals, in order to function, necessitate a recurrent rapport with the multidimensional self, just as they are required to breath, even if they are not aware that they are doing so.

Yet, while breathing is surely a scientifically accepted activity, devoid of any opposition or denial in our ordinary reality, this is not the case for the rapport with our multidimensional self. Since our consensus reality is based on the conscious denial of our multidimensional nature, it follows that human beings, although they constantly experience it, do not have any clue about what it is simply because this experience is unconscious.

The ordinary world and all realities ruled by the ego hate death and all situations of deep crisis since they mark the annihilation of all their forlorn dreams. 

Death and illness can be painful, yet, as Alan Watts writes “what makes them problematic is that they are shameful to the ego. This is the same shame that we feel when caught out of role, as when a bishop is discovered picking his nose or a policeman weeping. For the ego is the role, the ‘act’, that one’s inmost self is permanent, that it is in control of the organism, and that while it ‘has’ experiences it is not involved in them. Pain and death expose this pretense, and this is why suffering is almost always attended by a feeling of guilt, a feeling that is all the more difficult to explain when the pretense is unconscious. Hence the obscure but powerful feeling that one ought not to suffer or die…”[ii]

“The shaman in you lives daily with the sense of death, while the rest of you fight the depressing thought that life will soon be over. I think it is as the shamans say: Only the sense of imminent death shakes you loose from your momentary attachments and fears, from your interest in the programs you have set up. And so the sorcerer welcomes death as the end to a lifestyle that has long since run out of steam. The shaman finds transformation and ecstasy - not tragedy or failure - in death”.[iii]

Death challenges us to stop and expand our horizons. This is often brought about by times of adversity, when we are basically forced to break off certain mechanical patterns in life. The major focus in everyday life is on doing. We keep running around doing until we are forced to stop by illness or death. This is why for many people the only chance to stop doing and start being is when they are confronted with life-threatening situations. 

What is paradoxical here is that beyond the tragic and scary ordinary perception of death, there is a space where things get much simpler and more peaceful. If we die or are faced with imminent death all our responsibilities and obligation immediately fade away. We stop and focus on being, while the world continues to be busy doing. 

By taking time to die on purpose, while we are still living, we become more alive in the present. For example, you can try stopping right now, becoming aware of your breath, as if you were drawing your last breaths. If this would be your last day, how would you live it? Don't wait for the last day, experience it now!

Taking regular time to meditate or shamanically journeying allows us learn the healing art of dying, to stop and connect with our multidimensional nature, which is indeed the only bit of us that can go through death, that continues to live while everything else fades away. Hence Death always comes as a tester of our thoughts, emotions and intentions, as AFS Bogus puts it, “only the intention that in the face of death does not sneak away, is a veracious one”.[iv]

[i] see Franco Santoro, Astroshamanism: A Journey Into the Inner Universe, pp.26-28)
[ii] Alan Watts, Psychotherapy East and West, Pantheon Books, 1961
[iii] Arnold Mindell, The Shaman’s Body: A New Shamanism for Transforming Health, Relationships, and the Community, Harper, San Francisco, 1993, p. 157
[iv] AFS Bogus, “Letter to Francesko Saint”, 2 November 1986 in Provordo Etnai Pratinindhe Pradhikara Southern Europe Archives, year 1986.

© Franco Santoro,

Image: Angel of Death by Evelyn De Morgan

Suggested books mentioned in this article:


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