Enlightenment and Ascention

by Mike Sententia on August 2, 2012

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I never thought I’d write about ascention. Even now, writing this, I’m not sure if I’ll ever publish it. The topic has been taken over by new-agers, filled with ridiculous models based on wishes and self-important daydreams, without any real observations, techniques or models.

And yet, to properly discuss enlightenment, I have to discuss ascention. So please, bear with me, as this is my first time explaining this in writing.

First, why am I even talking about ascention? It’s not something I ever expected to be in my model, and I’ve always found the idea a bit silly. The standard depictions just never added up for me. But the spirits I work with use the term, and consider it quite important. And so, I’ve started using the term, too.

When I say “ascention,” I worry that I conjure up the image of a person disappearing into a beam of light and becoming some sort of spirit, which sounds entirely too Hollywood-special-effects-ish for me to take seriously. In my experience, magick just doesn’t work like that.

I think of ascention as more of a political designation. Like becoming a senator. You don’t change from human into something else, and you don’t suddenly gain more skills — to get elected, you had to have good oratory skills, a good understanding of human nature and politics and so on, and you keep those skills, but they don’t magically increase the day after the election. What does change, though, is how people respond to you.

It’s the same with ascention: You have to have good technical skills with magick, along with strong progress in enlightenment. The day after you ascend, nothing much changes, except that now you’re treated as an equal by other ascended. You don’t become magickally skilled because you ascended; instead, you ascended because you were magickally skilled. And, after ascending, you still have a human body, and no beam of light wisks you away.

Of all the areas of magick I study, I probably understand ascention the least. My model is based more on training than on personal experience, and there are parts that my trainers won’t explain until I’m further along. If you’re wondering, “Why bother calling this something as grandiose as ‘ascending,’ rather than just talking about collaborations and access,” it’s because I’ve adopted their term, and because it’s quite important to them.

One more item: Many people say that the spirits they work with are ascended. Perhaps some of their spirits even claim to be ascended themselves. In my experience, few are, based on the level of skill that I associated with ascended spirits. It’s not an argument I intend to have with individual mages, because it quickly devolves into a schoolyard “my dad can beat your dad up,” but it’s something I want to mention to you, my readers, as something to be aware of.

So, the enlightenment work I do is in service of this form of ascention. And I had to explain that for the rest of this series to make sense.

Also, a quick note to Ananael and Ona: Thanks for the great comments lately. They keep sparking thoughts that I’m pulling into this series. Will reply to them soon.

Other posts in this series: If you liked this post, consider visiting my current blog at mikesententia.com.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ananael Qaa August 2, 2012 at 6:49 AM

According to the Golden Dawn and Thelemic magical schools there are points in your magical development where big increases in your level of skill with magick occur. I’m not sure if that fits into your model or if you agree with it, but the idea in those schools is that there’s a big jump when transitioning to the state of consciousness represented by the sphere of Tiphareth (the Sun) on the Tree of Life and that represented by the sphere of Binah (Saturn). A magician who has accomplished the former is called an Adept, and one who has accomplished the latter is called a Master of the Temple. Masters of the Temple are sometimes equated with the “Ascended Masters” of Theosophy or the “Secret Chiefs” of the Golden Dawn, though you are correct to point out that such people still have human bodies and don’t just vanish from the material plane when they reach that level of realization.

Since I’m no Master of the Temple I can’t really comment on what happens to one’s abilities at that point, but I will say that the state of consciousness resulting from Adept-level work dramatically increased my ability to shift probabilities and so forth in the material world. Prior to that I probably would have been on the fence in the discussion awhile back of whether manifesting can go beyond affecting the decisions of others, but now I have plenty of evidence of solid probability shifts accumulated over time to be sure that there’s more to it than that.

Also, having done a lot of work with spirits I agree with you 100% that most of them are not “ascended” or even enlightened, really. Most of the ones you can easily contact aren’t much different in terms of their level of realization than people you would meet walking down the street. It takes a lot of work to sift through all of those and find the ones who really have something valuable to contribute in terms of advanced spiritual practice.

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Mike Sententia August 10, 2012 at 2:05 AM
wsa August 2, 2012 at 8:10 AM

You say: “When I say ‘ascention,’ I worry that I conjure up the image of a person disappearing into a beam of light and becoming some sort of spirit, which sounds entirely too Hollywood-special-effects-ish for me to take seriously. In my experience, magick just doesn’t work like that.”

I wonder if you are aware of the tradition of what’s called “The Rainbow Body” in Tibetan Buddhism? If not, start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_body

There’s a lot more information in the canon of Tibetan Buddhist scripture and other writings on the subject than is covered in that Wikipedia entry, but unless something’s changed a lot in Dharma literature in the last 5 years or so, it’s scattered widely throughout the various resources so you’d have to be pretty determined to track it all down. It’s said that there was at least one Westerner, who was studying at a monastery or other formal center somewhere in the India/Nepal area in the last maybe 30 +/- years who unexpectedly obtained the rainbow body. At the moment, I can’t remember where I read or heard about him.

There’s at least one Tibetan Buddhist Center in the USA that is dedicated to, among other things, obtaining the rainbow body: TaraMandala.org. One of the Teachers of the founding Lama (Namkai Norbu, I think it was,) pronounced that the center’s land and location is especially conducive to the practices necessary to that accomplishment.

I am not a scholar but over my decades of reading and study, it is my understanding that the successful practitioner usually does in fact disappear either wholly or mostly, with the most common result being that body of the practitioner disappears from the view of less realized people around them (the rainbow body is a spiritual realization/accomplishment result) but the hair and the finger and toe nails are left behind. I have heard that the body of the practitioner may either disappear in a flash of rainbow light, or that the body of the practitioner may shrink at death… shrink either a little or a lot, clear up to disappearing entirely, either quickly or slowly over time, after death, depending on the level of attainment of the practitioner. Also there’s said to be a spiritual attainment level so high that the practitioner can choose not to have the body disappear, but rather can remain on the level of physical manifestation as a bodhisattva to continue being of benefit to all sentient beings.

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MrBlack August 2, 2012 at 11:08 PM

@Mike:

Well said, I love how you described it.
It follows my line of thinking as well so I can relate.

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Mike Sententia August 7, 2012 at 12:59 AM

Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying it.

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Ona August 3, 2012 at 3:34 AM

I do think the ascension-type beliefs you described are not generally very healthy for modern westerners, as they have a tendency to encourage escapism. Or power trips. Or disdain for “lesser” people. Then again, I can’t think of many spiritual practices, traditions or methods which can’t be put to use supporting a person’s escapist tendencies or desire to feel more special than others. Even sports can serve that function.

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Mike Sententia August 8, 2012 at 3:42 AM

I agree with you on all of this, and it’s part of why I haven’t made enlightenment and ascention central to my blog. I dislike how it leads to elitism, especially since the way you know you’re doing it right comes from subjective changes to thinking or the way spirits respond to you, which don’t really lend themselves to external validation.

I went back and forth on this, and ultimately decided that my goal is to discuss all of direct magick, not a censored version that’s safe and healthy for everyone. This means discussing ascention, even though it could be misinterpreted as elitism, and discussing protection, even though the same techniques could be used to attack, and discussing healing nerve problems, even though the same principles could be used to damage nerves. At the end of the day, I have to trust my readers, because trying to protect them from the dangerous parts of direct magick leads to a conversation that’s not worth having.

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Ananael Qaa August 3, 2012 at 7:11 AM

@wsa: As a member of a Tibetan lineage that does teach practices related to the rainbow body, I have to disagree with your assertion that it is common for successful spiritual practitioners. The last account of it that was witnessed by many people and documented was in 1954, and while my lamas tell me that it has occasionally happened since, the keyword is occasionally. Even lamas such as Tulkus who are considered to be reincarnating enlightened beings don’t usually manifest rainbow body when they die. They often exhibit other remarkable phenomena when they pass, but rainbow body is only one of many such possibilities and also the rarest and most dramatic.

I suppose if you define “success” in spiritual practice as “rainbow body” then your statement becomes axiomatic, but I likewise would not characterize success in such practices according to the presence of a single phenomenon.

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wsa August 3, 2012 at 2:23 PM

Ananael,

Thank you for pointing out the need for me to clarify the intended meaning of my post.

I was specifically addressing that small part of Mike’s post where he indicates that… well, again, in his words: “When I say ‘ascention,’ I worry that I conjure up the image of a person disappearing into a beam of light and becoming some sort of spirit, which sounds entirely too Hollywood-special-effects-ish for me to take seriously. In my experience, magick just doesn’t work like that.” I intended to point out that it’s not just Hollywood FX, that presents the idea of a person actually disappearing into light, but that there are other serious peoples who teach that it is possible. Besides the Tibetans, BTW, I have been taught that others too deem such phenomena possible; Taoists and Australian Aboriginal teachers have told me so and I have read of others.

I love Mike’s writing. I love watching his process. I love how serious he is and how authentically he intends to live his life and pursue his Path. However, occasionally it seems to me his bias in favor of standard science may blind him to certain less obvious possibilities that might be worth his serious investigation. My post was to point out one of those possibilities… in my opinion, at least.

Warning: There may be TMB (too much Buddhism) ahead. ;-) If that does not interest you, bail now!)

I too am a longtime member of a lineage that teaches practices related to the rainbow body, and I would characterize the achievement of the rainbow body as very, VERY uncommon. Frankly, I am personally not even sure it’s possible. I have been told it is possible by teachers I respect, but my own experience does not allow me to feel absolute certainty. And after all, that is the litmus test according to the Buddha himself… our own experience and understanding. I do purposely keep an open mind to the best of my ability, however, as I know myself to be very far from enlightenment; that and I have experienced a lot of phenomena in this lifetime that most ordinary people, especially citizens of the Western so called “first world”, would believe to be impossible.

But back to my use of the word “common.” My use of that word was intended to be within the context of the various manifestations of obtaining the rainbow body per se. My understanding from my teachers and my reading of Dharma literature over the years is that the most common way the very uncommon siddhi of the rainbow body manifests is by the physical body disappearing from the view of less-realized persons present; either in a flash of rainbow colored light or by the physical body shrinking either quickly or slowly after the physical body dies. (*) And when the process of obtaining the rainbow body is over, usually the hair and the fingernails and toenails, and of course the clothes, are left behind in the physical world; although, I have read of instances where the hair and nails were also gone but my understanding is that that is uncommon.

As to my use of the word “success”, my use of that word was intended to be within the context of a practitioner setting the intention of accomplishing of the specific goal of attaining the rainbow body in this very lifetime and then having that manifest at the end of the practitioner’s lifetime or, in fact, precipitate the end of said practitioner’s journey in this the bardo of the natural lifetime. For the purposes of my post, I characterized that as “success.” I suppose that I just assumed that the caveat of the fact that achievement of one intended goal (the siddhi of obtaining the rainbow body) not necessarily characterizing a practitioner as manifestly successful on all levels in all circumstances would be assumed by a reader.

Obviously, I was wrong not to clarify my use of the words “common” and “success” and/or I should have added the caveat that obtaining one siddhi does not necessarily mean that one is entirely realized or enlightened. Here, I am reminded of the story of the Buddha (I am paraphrasing here from memory) encountering a practitioner who had spent much of a lifetime learning to walk on water; upon learning this, the Buddha remarked something like “what good was it to spend so much of a precious lifetime to obtain such a siddhi, when the ferryman could be engaged with one small coin.” It is my understanding that siddhis should be viewed as a natural result of certain practices, but the goal should be spiritual awakening and realization and therefore siddhis should not become a distraction or an attachment, nor should they be goals in and of themselves.

wsa

(*) “Dies” being defined as ceasing to function in an allopathic conventional scientific medicine way, as determined primarily by the outward signs of the cessation of respiration and heartbeat and not taking into consideration some of the more unusual physical and psychic phenomena associated with the relatively long-term death process of highly realized spiritual masters.

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