The Story of B by Daniel Quinn
The Chalice & The Blade (Our History, Our Future) by Riane Eisler
Adventures Beyond the Body by William Buhlman
The Eagle's Gift by Carlos Castaneda
Expeditions are often undertaken to find something. It might be something (or someone) that has been lost. Or something known only vaguely or that has only a suspected value that needs to be discovered. The expedition to find this thing is likely part of a larger journey.
In this particular expedition, we've discovered a compelling narrative of the origins of humanity's present condition. Based on anthropology, archeology, art, and history, it tells us that world culture was hijacked, millennia ago, by a very prolific, but destructive, ideology. It is one that is very materialistic and that rewards the brute. But there are contrasts to this ideology and the views it supplanted were not extinguished. People who are not among our wealthy rulers still believe that life is spiritual at its core and that it has value rather than profit. We have even found evidence for that higher level of life in the tales and techniques of out-of-body travel.
The last book in this literary expedition is The Eagle's Gift by Carlos Castaneda. It is essentially a tale about learning to live in the awareness of the greater spiritual dimension. Mr. Castaneda relates his experience of discovering that dimension and learning about it from Mexican Indian teachers. In my review of Mr. Castaneda's book, I talk about what he learned, and how it relates to what others have written about such spiritual matters. Let me give another summary here:
* People (and all living creatures, actually) are multidimensional beings that can be broadly considered to be a fusion of spiritual and physical natures. Another description of the same thing is that we are spiritual beings expressing themselves in this physical dimension through physical bodies. Reaching the spiritual part is accomplished through meditation and other techniques that are basically developing intense levels of concentration. It may be that sheer concentration is the most important key to self-development, especially of your spiritual aspects. Mr. Castaneda refers to a person's spiritual body as their luminous body.
* There are levels of spiritual development and consciousness, all the way from the physical to the numinous. Mr. Castaneda's teachers referred to these levels as the first attention, the second attention, and the third attention. They correspond roughly to normal consciousness, awareness of the luminous body (the spiritual), and a level of such heightened awareness (i.e, "vibration") that the person exits (or can exit) the physical world. This progression is famously illustrated in the Nine Insights of James Redfield's spiritually brilliant (and literarily dubious) book, The Celestine Prophecy. And G. I. Gurdjieff's idea about this progression was one of varying levels of being asleep.
* It is best not to attach too strongly to material things (designated as "shields" by Castaneda's teachers).
* There is far more to the world (i.e., universe) than normally perceived by people. Nonhuman entities are at large on the earth, in this physical plane.
* Stay positive, or at least, not negative.
* It is possible, even natural, for people (and likely, animals) to move through the numinous world outside of their bodies. This can occur spontaneously in sleep (remembered as lucid dreams) or deliberately induced. This state, and the control of it, is referred to by Castaneda's teachers as dreaming (though more is implied in their use of this term).
* Physical success and comfort in the world can impede spiritual development.
There's much food for thought here for the serious spiritual seeker. In these literary works I've mentioned (and many others), guidelines and practices can be gleaned to help us, but it takes an open-minded effort at discovering them. And then, it takes a great effort at absorbing the knowledge and putting the techniques (meditation, self-remembering, exercise, etc) into practice.
So we've used the books of this literary expedition to take us from prehistory, through myth and history, to the edge of the numinous to discover truths and clues that tell us where we have come from, why we have such problems, reveal some mitigating comforts, and suggest a strategy for living to help us through.
I think the most important part of this strategy is the idea of awareness or concentration that becomes evidenced in a person's level of consciousness. If we wish to transcend the Taker, Dominator culture that has all but doomed the earth and oppressed all life, then we need to shed our delusions and rise above the physical by recognizing and developing our spiritual sides. Greater awareness (of everything!) is the key.
Mr. Castaneda's teachers described the "power that governs the destiny of all living beings" as the Eagle. They said:
The Eagle is devouring the awareness of all the creatures that, alive on earth a moment before and now dead, have floated to the Eagle's beak, like a ceaseless swarm of fireflies, to meet their owner, their reason for having had life...awareness is the Eagle's food.
G.I. Gurdjieff painted a similar picture but his devouring image was "the Moon." It is the idea of people going through life never aware of any more than the physical, and so never developing that part of themselves that is the most real. What's left of them beyond death then is, not much. Hopefully, it's enough to reincarnate and take another shot at development, until they escape that wheel, which is the Eagle or the Moon--the devourer of awareness.
This should be a motivation to try to develop as much as we can in this life; to be the best that we can in all respects. It takes much work and courage. Losing delusions and seeing the world as it is, is not easy. But the effort can reward us with true personhood, aware of our connection to all other life. As Mr. Castaneda says:
To die and be eaten by the Eagle is no challenge. On the other hand, to sneak around the Eagle and be free is the ultimate audacity.