[Carl Jung on The Tibetan Book of the Dead and “Dharma Kaya,” “Perfect Enlightenment,” “Godhead,” “Gnostics,” “Sacrifice,” “Redemption.”]

O nobly born (so and so), listen. Now thou art experiencing the Radiance of the Clear Light of Pure Reality. Recognize it. O nobly born, thy present intellect, in real nature void, not formed into anything as regards characteristics or color, naturally void, is the very Reality, the All-Good.

Thine own intellect, which is now voidness, yet not to be regarded as of the voidness of nothingness, but as being the intellect itself, unobstructed, shining, thrilling, and blissful, is the very consciousness, the All-good Buddha.

This realization is the Dharma kaya state of perfect enlightenment; or, as we should express it in our own language, the creative ground of all metaphysical assertion is consciousness, as the invisible, intangible manifestation of the soul. The “Voidness” is the state transcendent over all assertion and all predication. The fullness of its discriminative manifestations still lies latent in the soul.

The text continues:

Thine own consciousness, shining, void, and inseparable from the Great Body of Radiance, hath no birth, nor death, and is the Immutable Light Buddha Amitabha.

The soul is assuredly not small, but the radiant Godhead itself. The West finds this statement either very dangerous, if not downright blasphemous, or else accepts it unthinkingly and then suffers from a theosophical inflation. Somehow we always have a wrong attitude to these things.

But if we can master ourselves far enough to refrain from our chief error of always wanting to do something with things and put them to practical use, we may perhaps succeed in learning an important lesson from these teachings, or at least in appreciating the greatness of the Bardo Thodol which vouchsafes to the dead man the ultimate and highest truth, that even the gods are the radiance and reflection of our own souls.

No sun is thereby eclipsed for the Oriental as it would be for the Christian, who would feel robbed of his God; on the contrary, his soul is the light of the Godhead, and the Godhead is the soul. The East can sustain this paradox better than the unfortunate Angelus Silesius, who even today would be psychologically far in advance of his time.

It is highly sensible of the Bardo Thodol to make clear to the dead man the primacy of the psyche, for that is the one thing which life does not make clear to us. We are so hemmed in by things which jostle and oppress that we never get a chance, in the midst of all these “given” things, to wonder by whom they are “given.” It is from this world of “given” things that the dead man liberates himself; and the purpose of the instruction is to help him towards this liberation.

We, if we put ourselves in his place, shall derive no lesser reward from it, since we learn from the very first paragraphs that the “giver” of all “given” things dwells within us. This is a truth which in the face of all evidence, in the greatest things as in the smallest, is never known, although it is often so very necessary, indeed vital, for us to know it.

Such knowledge, to be sure, is suitable only for contemplatives who are minded to understand the purpose of existence, for those who are Gnostics by temperament and therefore believe in a savior who, like the savior of the Mandaeans, is called “knowledge of life” (Manda d’Hayye). Perhaps it is not granted to many of us to see the world as something “given.”

A great reversal of standpoint, calling for much sacrifice, is needed before we can see the world as “given” by the very nature of the psyche. It is so much more straightforward, more dramatic, impressive, and therefore more convincing, to see
all the things that happen to me than to observe how I make them happen. Indeed, the animal nature of man makes him resist seeing himself as the maker of his circumstances.

That is why attempts of this kind were always the object of secret initiations, culminating as a rule in a figurative death which symbolized the total character of this reversal. And, in point of fact, the instruction given in the Bardo Thodol serves to recall to the dead man the experiences of his initiation and the teachings of his guru, for the instruction is, at bottom, nothing less than an initiation of the dead into the Bardo life, just as the initiation of the living was a preparation for the Beyond.

Such was the case, at least, with all the mystery cults in ancient civilizations from the time of the Egyptian and Eleusinian mysteries. In the initiation of the living, however, this “Beyond” is not a world beyond death, but a reversal of the mind’s intentions and outlook, a psychological “Beyond” or, in Christian terms, a “redemption” from the trammels of the world and of sin.

Redemption is a separation and deliverance from an earlier condition of darkness and unconsciousness, and leads to a condition of illumination and releasedness, to victory and transcendence over everything “given.” ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Psychological Commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Pages 513-514, Paragraphs 839-842.

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