Perhaps the most dangerous illusion of modern times is the idea of safety. I remember clearly the concerns of safety voiced by individuals on my journey to the sacred Mount Kailas, concerns held by individuals undertaking the arduous excursion with me and concerns held by individuals simply hearing of my journey. “Is this safe?” was the most common concern, “what happens if….” the next. On this journey cell phones were of no use and resources were limited. It was an expedition which some had waited their entire lives to undertake, a pilgrimage which some would die before finishing, a journey into the abode of Shiva, the God of Destruction. The journey was defined and colored by danger and uncertainty, reminiscent of the inner pathway to the Soul.
In modern times, the mere discussion of the unknown and the dangerous elicits fear and dread. In many ways, fear and the unknown define the modern era. It does not take a difficult and dangerous mountaineering event to awaken this existential fear rather the daily stream of endless media pablum and conservative religious-political rants easily act as snake charming magicians to the serpent of fear. It is not uncommon to hear individuals adopt apocalyptic rhetoric using the virus of fear to penetrate into each and every corner of the audience’s mind.
The image of the Kali Yuga has such power. Often invoked as a calling card for the “dark times”, the Kali Yuga has been debated and discussed ad nauseum. The shibboleth of the Kali Yuga is the perfect vehicle for conservative doom mongers posturing as divine guides during ominous days allowing them to pose as a pseudo-savior figures leading the masses to some transcendent nebulous “golden age” of happiness. However when one looks closer at this message, more often than not, anything or anyone deemed dangerous or an outsider is left outside of the modern savior’s escape plan. Their plan must be “safe” and “predictable” and often labeled as “dharma.”
I view any system which seeks to outlaw or sterilize the unknown or the “dangerous” as perhaps the true expression of the Kali Yuga. This fear of the unknown is the ultimate cause of the commodification and homogenization of humanity and nature, perhaps the ultimate true danger as it disguises itself as the true salvation while in reality embodies the dark seed of ignorance. We do not need an esoteric astrology or an eastern guru to tell us when the Kali Yuga begins or ends. The true darkness is the inner darkness, the cult of fear which is perpetuated and fed by conservative fear of the unknown and the unpredictable.
This inner struggle is adumbrated by the sacred text Bhagavad Gita and is always raging inside of us regardless of the age of “light” or the age of “darkness.” We must accept and face this battle and not seek to numb or anesthetize the reality of the stake of this inner war which rages inside each and every person. This courage is alien to enemies of the unknown and dangerous. The modern mind seeks security at all costs encouraging a naïve blind optimism which is clear sign of cowardice. Blind faith and blind optimism in dark times is the surest route to a needless death on the frontlines of the inner battle of the Soul.
Regardless of the “age of light” or the “age of darkness” we all have to face ourselves and the inner battle which rages inside the Soul. To avoid this by creating false transcendent hopes for a mythical “golden age” is to be a coward. To quote Oswald Spengler:
“Faced with this destiny, there is only one worldview that is worthy of us, the aforementioned on of Achilles: better a short life, full of deeds and glory, than a long and empty one. The danger is so great, for every individual, every class, every people, that it is pathetic to delude oneself. Time cannot be stopped; there is absolutely no way back, no wise renunciation to be made. Only dreamers believe in ways out. Optimism is cowardice.
We are born in this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue. To hold on like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who died because they forgot to relieve him when Vesuvius erupted. That is greatness; that is to have race. This honourable end is the one thing that cannot be taken from Man.”
Some would view this passionate statement as dark and bleak however on deeper study it is actually quite the opposite! The unique societal strains occurring in the times of Spengler color his message no doubt but nevertheless we can glean a unique vision of courage in the face of uncertainty from his words. We will always struggle with danger and uncertainty, this is the systole and diastole of life! Our inner state of consciousness determines what “age” we truly live within. What is the perigee and apogee of our connection to the true Kosmic Sun, the Soul? This and this alone determines the true date of the nebulous “Kali Yuga.” And to connect to this inner Sun, we must walk alone; no teacher can do this for us. This is the Forest Path described in detail by Ernst Junger, the pathway away from institutional intimidation, the mechanization of life, transcendental propaganda and illusions of safety and comfort. As stated by Junger in “The Forest Passage”:
“The forest passage—it is no jaunt that is concealed in this title. Rather, the reader should be prepared for a dangerous expedition, leading not merely beyond the blazed trails but also beyond the limits of his considerations.”
This puissant description by Junger eloquently expresses the ultimate timbre of the inner battle. There is no true safety and security in the world and the only way we can escape from the manipulations and machinations of the Leviathan of the conservative paradigm or the shibboleth of the idea of the Kali Yuga is by taking the interior road, the Forest Passage. And regardless of what a modern pseudo-savior may say, this passage way is not guaranteed or always sunlit. Once we enter the terrain of the Soul, we are all Forest Rebels. And although a pathway to the inner sun, the Forest Path is no guarantee of blissful transcendent salvation.
As I mentioned earlier, the inner state of our consciousness will determine whether we live in an “age of light” or an “age of darkness.” Therefore we must cultivate an inner sobriety which can calmly and dispassionately evaluate the inner state; we must be ready to leave the predictable and move beyond even our own perceptions and expectations. This is the true warrior mentality. Bruce Lee discussed this often in his writings, how one’s inner state of mind was foundational for withstanding and surviving confrontations and attacks of any kind. Many of Lee’s ideas of the warrior’s mentality are directly connected to the idea of diving within, taking the Forest Passage into the uncertain inner realms of the Soul and connecting to the true light of the inner Sun.
“The state of the athlete’s mind as he faces his event determines the degree of excess tension he will carry into the event. The athlete free from excess tension as he awaits his performance is typically self-confident…fed by previous successes and having completely rationalized previous failure, he feels himself a Triton among minnows.”
“If emotional control is not well-learned, critical moments in the fight when the emotional tension is highest will result in loss of skill by the fighter. His muscles suddenly work against his own over-tense antagonistic muscles. He becomes stiff and clumsy in his movements. Expose yourself to various conditions and learn!”
“A practitioner must learn to perform at top speed all the time, not to coast with the idea that he can ‘open up’ when the time comes. The real competitor is the one who gives all he has, all the time. The result is that he works close to his capacity at all times and in so doing, forms an attitude of giving all he has. In order to create such an attitude, the practitioner must be driven longer, harder and faster than normally would be required.”
These words and ideas of Lee are rife with metaphors for the Forest Passage and the inner battle of the perpetual Kali Yuga which exists within the Ego. There is no external guru or savior who can fight this battle for us, we all must enter this battlefield alone. Yet this is not cause for existential angst or depression! The ideas of Spengler, Junger and Lee are echoes of the eternal human symphony of the Soul , always vibrating regardless of the our distance from the inner or external Sun. All we have to do is adjust our vison and our ears and learn to pull away from the cacophony of the ersatz assurances of safety– at– all costs and the dangers of the unknown mentality. The more we venture into the unknown, the less frightening it becomes.
It is not surprising that the literal forests of the world are in danger of destruction as this clearly reflects the fear of the dark pathway to the inner Forest Passage, the pathway to individual freedom from control, manipulation and homogenization. This pathway must be searched for in a constant daily battle, a constant inner exploration of the ego and it’s hold on our mind and body. There is no “golden age” when this battle will stop, no matter how much we strive for external safety and peace. Yet we can be assured that it is a battle which is noble and great and a battle which gives our lives meaning in a world which seeks to desacralize and dehumanize.
We can’t afford to wait for a mythical golden age of safety and security devoid of danger and outsiders. Rather we must soberly face the reality of the age into which we are born and walk our destiny with courage and spontaneity rather than seek the drug of blind new age optimism. When we can courageously face our own daily struggles and battles with a calm mind rooted in a passion for the experience itself and not seek the reward of a “golden age” luxurious bliss, then we can truly lead a life worth living. We must, as echoed by the words of Lee, expose ourselves to various conditions and learn! We may not experience a life of safety and bliss but we will find something even more precious: the guiding light of the Soul. Perhaps we should end with the words of Hagakure:
“The climate of an age is unalterable. That conditions are worsening is proof that we have entered the last stage of the Law. However, the season cannot always be spring or summer, nor can we have daylight forever. Therefore it is useless to try to make the present age like the good old days a hundred years ago. What is important is to make each era as good as it can be according to its nature. The error of the people who are always nostalgic for the old ways lies in their failure to grasp this point. On the other hand, people who value only what is up to date and detest anything old fashioned are superficial.”
Craig Williams is the author of Tantric Physics Vol I: Cave of the Numinous. He has been a practitioner of Yoga, Ayurveda, Tantra, Jyotish and Vedanta for more than 25 years and has undergraduate degrees in Religious Studies, Philosophy and English Literature and a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine. He is also an ordained gnostic Bishop and an adept of Esoteric Voudon.
Craig lives in Austin, Texas where he operates a busy private medical practice specializing in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Ayurveda (www.AyurvedaAustin.com). He is a licensed Acupuncturist and a Professional member of the American Herbalist Guild and the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.