Today I want to elaborate on the traditional practice known as the Dhuni and how this transformative ritual is related to much of what we have previously discussed (see The Shadow part one and part two, and the talk on Grandiosity & Spiritual Progress).
For those who are new, or unfamiliar to the Dhuni, allow me to offer a brief explanation. The Dhuni comes to us from a lineage of yogis and Tantrikas whose main goal was to establish an authentic connection to the Supreme Reality for healing, magickal, and transformative purposes. The practice itself leverages the use of sacred geometry (yantra), the sound current (mantra), prayer (sankalpa) and posture (asana) to produce alchemical affects on consciousness to move from limitation & separation to one of alignment & harmony with the Supreme Reality. It is a fundamentally yogic or Tantric ritual which invites the cosmic powers or forces of nature to come through us and be embodied in a specified time & space. The result is healing, transformation, growth, and ultimately the highest of all goals — freedom from Earthly bondage (aka the trappings of the mind and karma).
Invocation and worship of the element of Fire is central to the rite of the Dhuni. It would be wise to examine the history of fire worship to understand and expand the context of the ritual, however this is not the time or place for that discussion. More relevant to this essay is the connection to the Vedic and Tantric methodology out of which the Dhuni emerges. Therefore we direct our attention to these particular wisdom traditions and what they have to say about the fire, about ritual process, about Yoga, and about the mythological and cosmological framework that is underlying to the Dhuni. We also examine an interdisciplinary and contemporary intersection between what our ancestral wisdom sciences theorized and what modern psycho-analytic research suggests. This essay will be an attempt to bridge all of these perspectives into the inclusive worldview of Tantra & Yoga.
We must begin by making the assumption that any person who is interested in spiritual growth or transformation has embarked upon the age-old quest for Self-Realization. The concept of "Self-Realization", whilst being a Yogic "idea" that was popularized mostly through the work and lineage of Paramahamsa Yogananda, is central to all forms of spirituality; it is the idea that there is a Being within us all, we could call it "The God Within", that is paying attention to our every move. While this may seem to some like religious ideal, the scientific research and empirical evidence contributed through the life of Carl Jung and his associates has, I believe, sufficiently affirmed to us the reality of what Jung would call "The Great Self Within", or "The Great Other". His life's work was to provide us with a unifying framework to the psychology of Man. Over the decades of his clinical analysis what he found about the structures and architecture of the soul or psyche is astounding, as Jung perhaps more than any other person to date was able to give to us a coherent understanding to the seeming chaos of the human mind, in particular to what he called the Collective Unconscious. Another word for the Collective Unconscious is "the Objective Psyche", which holds incredible importance for anyone who is seeking to understand who they are, or why they are the way the are. The process of "Self-Realization" in yogic understanding is the process of "realizing" & thereby experiencing the true nature of the Soul beyond the conditioning of the mind. In Jung's words he called this process "individuation". The two terms could be seen as synonymous, but we need to look at how, or why.
In the world of Carl Jung, through his many years of studying Eastern mysticism, world mythology, and the transformative process of the human psyche, he discovered that all humans share the same common genetic blueprint. He believed and demonstrated through the masses of behavioral analysis that, whilst humans vary greatly across culture, society, and time, there are fundamental expressions -- "Archetypes" he called them -- which drove ALL behavior and activity. Just as a leaf possesses within itself the "blueprint" of what a "Whole Leaf" looks like, and thereby can mobilize the resources of life to grow into its fullest expression, a human being in its genome possesses the same sort of inner "symbol". This idea about "archetypes" gave rise to a whole new category of psycho-analysis and human psychology known as "Archetypal Psychology", whereby a sufficiently trained analyst could examine a person's behavior and understand which archetypes were functioning effectively and which were not. If a person is lacking in one or more departments in their own psychic potential, the result is a life that feels incomplete, or worse.
These studies of the human psyche were not new to the 19th century with Carl Jung. The Tantrikas of more than 1000 years ago understood the journey of the soul to wholeness and wrote extensive mythological narratives to convey the challenge that we face as humans to reach spiritual maturity. The Hindu epics of the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita are two classic pieces outlining this process, and whilst they disseminated timeless spiritual wisdom, we need to translate these high levels of spiritual insight for the modern today. It is no surprise that regardless of where you go or where you look, humans across culture have been hard at work on the same fundamental mission. However, due to our cultural and societal conditioning, developing an expanded vocabulary and extending our careful analysis to this topic can aid us in integrating all of this different pieces of the puzzle, so that we may finally learn what the sages have been saying all along.
The esoteric literature emerging from the enormous spiritual canons of Tantra and Yoga is rife with symbolism, myth, story, allegory, hidden meanings, and more. A practitioner or scholar may have to read and re-read these ancient texts a number of times to get the true meaning hidden within the pages. The same can be said about any religious text. Through translation and time, the essence gets diluted, and people begin to take things literally. Unfortunately, this can lead to a decline in the potency of what is being proffered. As mystics, we must learn to "read between the lines" and draw out the spiritual nourishment that we require for our journey. Thus, we enter the stream of Self-Realization from wherever we are and, depending on our constitution and how available we are to "see" the next step on our journey, we receive exactly what we need, when we need it. As we plod along, we are developing our sense of Self, we are integrating what has been denied or repressed, and we are working towards the ultimate goal of human life -- Wholeness.
Jung saw that the human psyche was broken down into four constituent parts. In other words, he showed us that the psyche was quadrated. Prior to his contributions to the psychological scene many prominent researchers of the time believed that the unconscious part of the human psyche was a realm of chaos and potentiality. Many of them were right on one aspect -- that the unconscious and subconscious was filled with potential. But where they were wrong, Jung was right. Jung disagreed that the deeper layers of the human mind were filled with chaos. He believed and subsequently demonstrated through careful analysis that the human psyche was incredibly structured and filled with intelligence. Just as the leaf possessed the blueprint for Wholeness, so too did the underlying dimensions of the human mind contain the "key-codes" and programs for psychological and spiritual maturity. To access these dormant parts of the human mind and retrieve the codes necessary for evolution was an essential part of what Jung contributed to the scientific scene; his work was and is carried on by many influential figures, including brilliant analysts like Edward Edinger, Robert Moore, and more.
Where all of this comes together with the Dhuni is a subject of great interest for the yogis out there. As a yogi, the classical goal is to attain unity with the Divine. From this unity experience, all renewal and regeneration can occur. The remembrance of our true nature provides rapid changes to every level of the psyche, coming down from the subtlest and into the densest, ultimately into the very bones of our body and, even further than this (if you can accept it), into the soil beneath our feet. The studies on trauma illuminate what I am talking about, that healing work done by an individual is not only passed forward in time to future generation, but is also passed "backward in time" down the lineage, back to the very origin of life. The same is said on the opposite side, for wounds or trauma in the lineage. The Bible has a mystical reference to this when it says that the "sins of our fathers will be passed to their children for 7 generations". Native American and indigenous traditions understood this as well. The Dhuni, as it is a fire ceremony, opens up a portal for this work to be done. The fire itself connects us to something that is real and accurate. Beyond projections and assumptions in the mind, our engagement with a living element reflects to us a piece of Reality. From here, depending on our approach and understanding, we can start to work with these subtler realms, and in particular, the Archetypal Energies put forth by Carl Jung and his colleagues.
Tribal cultures around the world understood the importance of regulating their contact to the Sacred. The "Sacred", in this context, refers to that which is beyond the human mind. It is the realm of divine forces which go by many names, but "the Sacred" encapsulates them all. Most humans intuit the importance of the Sacred in their lives but few are working to enter into real communion with It. This is related to the "Great Other" or the "Great Self Within" that we have previously mentioned. Why might this be? Well, for one, when we enter into communion with the Sacred (or the Supreme Reality as the Yogis might call it), we are no longer in control. The ego and persona must submit itself completely in order to even enter the Divine Temple. If there is indeed something we can call the "Supreme Reality", it is something far beyond the perspectives of our mind. The Native Americans called it Wakantanka, "The Great Mystery" for a reason. Not only is It something that cannot know, it is by its very definition unknowable. The sense organs, of which the mind is the command center, have evolved to perceive only limited slices of a far greater Reality. Our organism has been built in a specific way to pick out specific packets of energy that are immediately relevant to us and our species. We do not have the equipment to perceive what is Beyond... or do we?
This was the main idea of Tantric cosmology. The sages that passed forward this knowledge to us, the knowledge of Tantra, attempted to outline the descent of the Great Beyond into the form that is recognizable by us. They proposed a basic cosmogonic framework which has been refined for more than 2000 years. Similar to Carl Jung, the Tantrika saw that each human being, regardless of their background, was made of the same fundamental parts. Of interest to us in the maha bhutas, which refer to the "great elements". There are five: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space. Each of these elements serves a different purpose for the completion of the human being, and each is tied to a specific organ of perception. Earth to Smell, Water to Taste, Fire to Sight, Air to Touch, and Space to Hearing. If you put them all together you get the human being. And, also similar to Jung, the Tantrika believed that a person who was sufficiently plugged into their "building blocks" would experience life in a completely different way than someone who was missing one or more of their constituent parts.
The purpose of Tantric practice, of which yoga holds a central position, is to "unify" a person with their so-called Divine blueprint. Complete with an elaborate & precise methodology, a practitioner moves through various processes and rituals of purification and alignment between themselves and the cosmos. Practically, the Tantrika develops a sustainable and regulated flow of energy from the subtlest to the densest parts of them and life. What this means is that the energy can circulate efficiently between the human organism and the cosmic organism. Where and when energy is obstructed in its ambulatory process, dis-ease will occur. This is because all of life is a circulation of this energy. The Shakti, or supreme life-force which is giving everything life, is on a mission of evolution. This same life-force is pulsing through each and every one of our cells, and this is precisely why, whether we are "aware" of it or not, there is "something watching us". Life is watching our every move and attempting to help to move us into alignment with the greater current. Many tribal people understood this intuitively and they created a variety of ritual and initiatory processes and practices to assist themselves and their communities to move towards this supreme alignment. Their understanding was radically holistic -- if the individual failed to enter into alignment with the Supreme, the entire world would suffer. I don't think that they were wrong...
Enter the Dhuni. For thousands of years -- who really knows how many -- humans have gathered around fire. We are fascinated by it. Messages and insight come direct to us through the flames when we just sit and concentrate for a short period of time. Entire lineages and spiritual traditions have been formulated with the Fire as a central deity. Zorastrianism is one example, but lest we not forget that the whole of the Vedas is based on fire sacrifice. In fact, the first ever written & recorded line of human language (that we know of), is the line from the Rig Veda that mystically states: om agnimile purohitam which translates to: "we invoke you Agni [fire god], as the priest [or intermediary] between the material world and the Supreme". Agni is a real world representation of our infinite consciousness, the intermediary between material beings and the unknowable divinity. To acknowledge that this is the first ever recorded verse of human history is important. Obviously these early humans saw the fire as very important, central in fact, to their entire spirituality and worldview.
If we can assume that all humans are bound by the same age-old quest of Self-Realization, and that over many thousands of years have created elaborate systems of philosophy, methodology, and ritual to help them receive the resources needed to actually do it, then our study of these ancient and ancestral ways can give us clues as to how we might approach this monumental mission. With Carl Jung's contributions to modern thought, we can expand our vocabulary to include even more dimensions of the human psyche and create a bridge between the contemporary world and the ancient world. We are not far removed, and I believe it is wise to look at the issue from all angles.
The practice of the Dhuni engages all of these topics and themes in one place. Around the fire. Using mantra, which is a geometric vibration sequenced into a pattern. Leveraging community engagement (we are all attempting to do the same thing). And by doing so, we start to pluck the universal strings which are happening just beneath the surface. We start to "tune" our instruments to the Divine Orchestra. Energy begins to flow and circulate more optimally. Not just in our own organism but between us, and between life. The reality of the mahabhutas or the Archetypes is no longer simply conceptual, but becomes experiential. As we integrate these things into ourselves we become more complete, more Whole, and more.... Real.
This is the purpose of the Dhuni; I would even go so far as to say this is the purpose of all spiritual practice. To bring us into contact with the Real, to help us remove our conditions that prevent us from perceiving the Real, and to enter into a living relationship with the Real.
Concepts are easy. It's the process that takes the real work, but I believe it's worth it.