Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
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David Christopher Lane, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College Lecturer in Religious Studies, California State University, Long Beach Author of Exposing Cults: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1994) and The Radhasoami Tradition: A Critical History of Guru Succession (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1992).
An Adventure with the Bhrigu Samhita in India
"The Bhrigu Samhita: An ancient Hindu astrological treatise, said to contain details of millions of lives, with horoscopes drawn for the time of consultation. The original Bhrigu was a Vedic sage and is mentioned in the Mahabharata. As the Bhrigus were a sacred race, it is difficult to identify the compiler of the Bhrigu-Samhita, but according to legend he lived 10,000 years ago and had a divine vision of everyone who was to be born in every country of the world. He compiled this information in his great treatise on astrology, originally written on palm leaves. No complete manuscript is known, but large sections are rumored to exist somewhere in India.
A printed version is said to comprise some 200 volumes, but most Indian astrologers who use the system work with loose manuscript pages. These are supposed to give the name of the client compiled from Sanskrit syllables approximating names in any language, with details of past, present, and future life, as well as previous incarnations.In addition to his fee, the astrologer usually proposes the sponsorship of a special religious rite to propitiate the gods for past sins. Indian astrologers reported using the Bhrigu-Samhita include Pandit Devakinandan Shastri of Swarsati Phatak, in the old city of Benares; and Pandit Biswanath Bannerjee of Sadananda Road (near the Ujjala movie house) in Calcutta.
In Fate magazine (June 1982), David Christopher Lane, a noted scholar of spiritual movements and cults, described a personal consultation with Hindu astrologers in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India, who were custodians of a set of Bhrigu-Samhita leaves. At the time Lane was researching the Radhasoami movement in India, on which he has become a worldfamous authority. On July 22, 1978, Lane was taken by his friend Swami Yogeshwar Ananda Saraswati to a house in a back street of Hoshiarpur, where two astrologers had charge of a large set of Bhrigu-Samhita leaves tied in bundles.The astrologers first compiled a graph, rather like a Western horoscope, but featuring the date of Lane's arrival at the house. According to Hindu tradition, all consultations with the Bhrigu-Samhita are preordained, and the moment of arrival is the key to discovery of the correct leaf, which indicates not only the life pattern and destiny of the inquirer, but also his name in a Sanskrit equivalent of the language of the inquirer.
Lane stated that after inspection of various bundles of leaves, taken down from the shelf and examined, the correct leaf was found in about 15 or 20 minutes. Lane was shown the leaf, and the Sanskrit inscriptions were translated:
A young man has come from a far-off land across the sea. His name is DavidLane and he has come with a pandit [scholar] and a swami.
Lane questioned how his name could be known, and the swami showed him the Sanskrit equivalent of the Bhrigu leaf. The reading continued:
The young man is here to study dharma [religious duty] and meet with holy men and saints.
Other personal details were also given, including a sketch of Lane's past and present lives.He expected to be able to make a copy of the leaf with its reading, but to his surprise he was told that he could keep the original leaf. The astrologer explained:
"The Bhrigu-Samhitareplenishes itself, sometimes with very old leaves and with some less aged. We do nothing; there is no need to. The astral records manifest physically at the appropriate time and place."
It was something of an anticlimax when the last lines of the horoscope stated that in order to expiate a sin in a previous life, Lane was advised to pay 150 rupees (approximately $20). But no pressure whatever was put on Lane to pay this modest sum, and the attitude of the astrologers and Swami Yogeshwar that there had been a divine revelation convinced Lane that this was no vulgar fraud. For such a small sum, the preparation of a fake Bhrigu leaf, and the willingness to allow Lane to take it away with him (and thus verify its antiquity) would have been out of all proportion to the work involved.
Moreover, the specific details of the horoscope could not have been known in advance of Lane's visit.Lane's experience was not unique, since a Canadian named H. G. McKenzie recorded that he used the Bhrigu-Samhita in the early 1970s and also verified its accuracy. He wrote:
"I consulted Bhrigu-Samhita and found my name mentioned there, besides so many otherthings about my life that shows that one has no free will…. The Bhrigu-Samhita states about me that I, Mr. McKenzie from Canada, am here with such and such people. It states some events of my past life and also predicts the future course of my life."
In 1980 Lane met and talked with Anders Johanssen, a professional astrologer from Sweden who was then visiting Los Angeles. Johanssen stated that he had used the BhriguSamhita at least seven times and was convinced that it was an authentic work and the most accurate treatise he had encountered. He believed that the copy in Hoshiarpur was the most complete, although other versions were known in Delhi, Meerut, and Benares. However, it was not clear what the nature of a Bhrigu consultation was on subsequent visits. If the leaf from the first consultation was freely offered (as in the case of David Lane), were other leaves available for each of the later visits? In Lane's case, his Bhrigu horoscope contained the prediction:
This young man will come again several times.
On the first visit, Lane accepted the offered leaf, but left it with Swami Yogeshwar to make an exact English translation, planning to collect the original leaf and translation a few weeks later. However, Lane curtailed his trip due to illness and was later unable to contact the swami. Lane made a second visit to Bhrigu-Samhita at Hoshiarpur three years later, in 1981, in company with Prof. Bhagat Ram Kamal. He gave two days' notice of the intended visit, but no leaf for the visit could be discovered, arguing for the genuineness of the astrologers, since no fee was requested."
Excerpted from: The Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology (Fifth Edition)
A PERSONAL ADVENTURE
The astrologers believe that nobody can consult the Bhrigu Samhita unless it is preordained. Therefore my coming had been expected and arranged for thousands of years ago.
In the summer of 1978 I went to North India with Professor Mark Juergensmeyer of the University of California at Berkeley to study the Radhasoami movement. The Radhasoami movement, founded by Shiv Dayal Singh (1818-1878) in the mid-19th Century in Agra, India, is a religious tradition based upon Sant mat, the "path of the saints." It has many branches, the largest of which is in Beas, Punjab, India. The basic tenets of the movement are:
It is of interest and usually not known in America that the Radhasoami movement has been the basis for several popular religious groups in America including the Divine Light Mission—Guru Maharaji's father was allegedly initiated by Sawan Singh of Radhasoami Beas and later left to start his own sect; Paul Twitchell who was initiated by Kirpal Singh, himself a disciple of Sawan Singh; and MSIA, founded by John-Roger Hinkins who claims to have been given permission to initiate devotees to the inner spiritual planes by Sawan Singh.
I was invited to go on the trip because of my knowledge of obscure yogis and saints in the region. My job was to visit the various gurus and ashrams in the Punjab and compile an exhaustive genealogical tree of the spiritual leaders involved in the tradition.
Later, during my travels alone, I visited with Baba Faqir Chand, a 92-year-old sage who had been doing intensive spiritual practices for over 75 years. He was regarded as one of the three most advanced adepts of surat shabd yoga in the world. It was during my stay with this venerable saint that I learned of the Bhrigu Samhita which is considered to be a physical counterpart to the controversial "Akashic Records"--a complete account of mankind's experiences allegedly existing in the astral and causal planes -- and the oldest astrological treatise in the world. On the last day of my stay at Manavta Mandir I was invited by my friend Swami Yogeshwar Ananda Saraswati and a local scholar to consult the ancient work. Although my time was limited I agreed to go.
On July 22, 1978, in the midst of India's torrential monsoons and intense summer heat, the Swami and I took a bicycle rickshaw from the "Be-Man Temple" and followed our scholar guide through the crowded city streets of Hoshiarpur to our destination. On the way Swami Yogeshwar told me the fascinating legend of the book.
Millenniums ago, during an untraceable time in India's history, the renowned sage Bhrigu reigned as the world's greatest astrologer. His mastery of astrology was so profound that he was able to dictate certain parts of the Akashic Records from the astral worlds onto special scrolls in the sacred language of Sanskrit, often called by Indian mystics "the language of the gods."
This primordial translation was said to contain the record of every human being who ever lived on earth. During each age the work has been transferred onto new leaves in order to preserve it for future generations. The present manuscript is said to be an exact copy of the original and is itself 400 to 500 years old. According to Hindu mythology Bhrigu was a son of the sage Varun. It is said that once Bhrigu visited Lord Vishnu when the latter was sleeping with his consort Lakshami. As Bhrigu was not accorded a proper welcome by Vishnu, the former felt annoyed and he hit Lord Vishnu. The act of Bhrigu was Intolerable to the wife of Lord Vishnu. She became angry with Bhrigu and cursed him, "You and your entire Brahman generation shall ever live a life of pauperism and Lakshami shall remain far away from Brahmans." Bhrigu repented for his deed and pleaded for mercy to Goddess Lakshami. Ultimately, the goddess took mercy upon Bhrigu and told him to write the Bhrigu Samhita (an astrological book) to earn his own livelihood and a livelihood for his generation, since it was not possible for her to withdraw the curse.
Where and when this book was written by Bhrigu has not yet been ascertained by any scholar. Because Braha and Utpal, the great astrologers of ancient India, make no reference to this book in their writings it is believed that it must have been written in the post-Vedic period.
The original Bhrigu Samhita has not yet been traced. It appears some parts of it are owned by Brahman families in Benares, Poona and Meerut but they do not allow anyone to study these chapters. Thus this great astrological book still remains beyond the reach of scholars.
Reference to Bhrigu Samhita is made in JatakSkand, which implies that the horoscope and the forecast of the entire life of every human being born on this planet is given in this book, according to the time, place and date of birth of the individual. Eleven chapters deal with different aspects of human life. These chapters are:
I was told by Yogeshwar and by others also that this work in Hoshiarpur is the only one of its kind now in existence in India. Vague references to the Bhrigu Samhita appear in few books.
Dr. Paul Brunton, one of the first Western seekers to meet Ramana Maharishi and Anand Sarup of Dayal Bagh, knew of its existence in the early 1930's. In his book A Search in Secert India Brunton repeats a revealing conversation he had with the accomplished astrologer Sudhei Babu about the works of Bhrigu: "Do you know if there is any English translation of the Book?" Brunton asked the astrologer. The astrologer shook his head "I have never heard of one. Few even are the Hindus who know of the existence of the book. Hitherto it has been kept secret.""When was it written?" "It was composed thousands of years ago by the sage Bhrigu, who lived so long ago that I cannot give you a date."
Not being much interested in astrology and doubtful of its exactitude as a science, I admit that I took the legend with good doses of skepticism. The only propelling force in its favor was my confidence and trust in the swami and the scholar. Yogeshwar was a Christian monk extremely knowledgeable in Western science; the scholar was an expert in the philosophical systems of India. Their unremitting belief in the book's validity, which they claim resulted from their own experiences with its awesome accuracy, deeply impressed me. I attempted to keep an open mind.
When we finally arrived at the library which was sandwiched between two back streets, I was immediately struck by the large array of Sanskrit leaves tied in huge bundles. I had imagined that there would be one large book.Two librarians, who also were expert astrologers, were on duty. Apparently this valuable treasure had been a family possession for years. I found them intelligent, matter-offact and fluent in English. We enjoyed some chai (Indian tea which tastes like a cross between coffee and hot chocolate) as we discussed some of the implications of the work. The astrologers believe that nobody can consult the Bhrigu Samhita unless it is preordained. Therefore my coming had been expected and arranged for thousands of years ago.
Stories abound concerning individuals who have tried to reach the library but failed. Among the innumerable papers one particular leaf would be found which contains the details of my life, the librarians told me. A picture-graph was made by the astrologers using the date of myarrival at the Bhrigu Samhita as well as my birth date and birthplace. I got the impression that the most vital event was my arrival at the library. This event set all other facts into motion. The chart looked like a reconstruction of certain star, lunar and solar positions. My companions had complete confidence in the librarians' abilities. Using the picture-graph based upon my life, the astrologers were able to riffle through the huge stacks looking for a leaf which had the same chart drawing. This precise matchup, supposedly written by the sage Bhrigu thousands of years ago, gives in Sanskrit a description of me or any other person who has arrived and whose picture-graph has been computed.
I was told that it can take from a few minutes to a few hours to a whole day to find the appropriate matching horoscope. Curious about this unusual system I asked Swami Yogeshwar if the library had any classification system. He told me it does not and added, a little mysteriously, "They don't need it; it is destiny itself which guides them to find it!" Everyone got involved. Several bundles were taken down from the shelf at random and untied. The two astrologers, the swami and the scholar got busy looking for the corresponding chart. I began to feel it was a fruitless task. However, after 15 or 20 minutes the scholar exclaimed that he had found it. This, I was told later, was unusually quick; it added to everyone's sense of anticipation.The two librarians and Swami Yogeshwar examined it closely and all agreed it was an exact replica. This parched Sanskrit scroll would have the information on my life.
Examining the leaf carefully I could not help feeling an odd sense of providence. While the astrologers read through it Swami Yogeshwar and the scholar translated its message into English. When the first sentence was read I was taken aback. I noticed that Swami Yogeshwar and the scholar also were deeply moved. It was obvious, at least to those of us present, that this was real. The first line said,
A young man has come from a far-off land across the sea. His name is David Lane and he has come with a pandit and a swami.
I stopped the reading in mid-sentence and asked for an explanation as to how my name could be mentioned. Swami Yogeshwar showed me the leaf on which my name was written in Sanskrit and pointed out that the pronunciation was almost exactly the same. The scholar, although familiar with the Bhrigu Samhita, was also most impressed by its exactitude. But the astrologers accepted it as a common occurrence and read on,
The young man is here to study dharma (religion) and meet with holy men and saints.
Certain things of a personal nature were related which I found very touching; details of my present life were given and there followed a description of my past. Swami Yogeshwar wrote down the Sanskrit and partially translated it for me on a scrap of paper. But to my surprise, I was told I could keep the original leaf if I wished. It was then I heard this amazing statement about the book from the astrologers' lips, "The Bhrigu Samhita replenishes itself, and with sometimes with very old leaves and with some less aged. We do nothing; there is no need to. The astral records manifest physically at the appropriate time and place."
My doubt doubled when one of the last lines of the horoscope was read aloud. In order to rectify a sin I had committed in a previous life I was advised to pay 150 rupees approximately 20 American dollars) to the Bhrigu Samhita. I smiled, thinking the hour spent had been an interesting diversion--even if it wasn't genuine. But, interestingly enough, no pressure was put on me to pay the amount mentioned in the leaf. Rather, Swami Yogeshwar and the others said there was no hurry. I had no intention of paying the amount but I did find the librarians' attitude the opposite of what one would expect from those engaged in a con game. This, plus the euphoric effect the reading seemed to have on everyone present, prompted me not to dismiss it simply as a fraud. The swami acted as if there had been a revelation. Indeed, his own words to me were, "God has spoken today to us, dear friend, through the agency of the Bhrigu Samhita!" Also I have learned that the legend surrounding the book states that Bhrigu wrote the Bhrigu Samhita "for earning his own livelihood and for the livelihood of his generation." This would partially explain why the work has a built-in request for money.
For two years I have pondered the various explanations for the information found in the Bhrigu Samhita. The possibilities range from outright fraud to elaborate metaphysical theories. The more I doubted it the more my contacts with individuals and books seemed to attest to its authenticity.
A Canadian named H.G. McKenzie, for example, visited the astrological work in the early 1970's and was convinced of its accuracy. McKenzie wrote,
"I consulted Bhrigu Samhita and found my name mentioned there, besides so many other things about my life that shows that one has no free will...The Bhrigu Samhita states about me that I, Mr. McKenzie from Canada, am here with such and such people. It states some events of my past life and also predicts the future course of my life."
Baba Faqir Chand, a sage known throughout the Punjab for his extreme honesty and utmost frankness, also attests to the validity of the book. Faqir states,
"Everybody reaps the fruit of his or her deed. Major Som Nath of Aligarh is one of my associates. He came to me before the Indo-Pak war of 1971-72 and also went ot Bhrigu Samhita to consult his horoscope. They told him that he was a judge in his previous life and that he had accepted a huge bribe from a culprit and subsequently acquitted him and punished an innocent man in his place. As a result of this he would face a great danger to his life in that year. The astrologer suggested to him some Hawan, some atonement. But he did not perform it. However, when he went to his place of posting in the field he was directed to move to the forward post of Shakargarh with two companions. They traveled by jeep. Suddenly a mine burst under the jeep and they all suffered serious injuries. . . Now, had the Bhrigu Samhita astrologer not told him in advance about his forthcoming trouble I would not have commented. He did face a great danger to his life. This shows that our previous deeds dominate our present lives."
In 1980 in Los Angeles I met and talked with Anders Johannsen, a professional astrologer from Sweden. He informed me that after visiting Bhrigu Samhita seven times he is convinced that the work is authentic and the most accurate treatise he has ever come upon. Although I was told the book existed only in Hoshiarpur, Johannsen said that is only the most famous and complete copy, that parts of it also exist in Delhi, Meerut and Benares.
One can imagine a scenario of possibilities to explain the Bhrigu Samhita's existence. The request for money to pay off a previous sin, which appears built into the work, may be a device to provide a livelihood for the librarians or the astrologers who wrote the massive book or who work with it. But this is common in many Indic traditions and does not necessarily invalidate the accuracy of the horoscope. The confidence and respect exhibited by all those connected with the Bhrigu Samhita in Hoshiarpur prompts me to look for a deeper explanation.
Astrology has been criticized severely in the last century by scientists of both the East and the West on the grounds that it is erroneously conceived and pseudo-psychological. And this well may be correct. As Dr. Lyall Watson perceptively observes,
"Even the most ardent devotees of astrology admit that their study lacks a clear philosophic basis, that the laws and principles governing it are still uncoordinated and that the records are scattered and contain many errors."
But the most important point in astrology is often overlooked or sidestepped. All disciplines--philosophic or scientific, from subatomic physics to music theory--have something in common with astrology. They are all communication vectors, information channels. Astrology, although not usually thought of as such, is a highly refined language code almost universal among advanced civilizations. Because of this astrology has survived. Mathematics, chemistry and social sciences are also language models (communication operators) and in this regard are much like astrology. The underlying fundamental in language (and in all science and philosophy) is the notion of intention. Without intention all systems are without meaning.
Astrology may never be vindicated by the disciplines of physics or astronomy, precisely because it is not so much a scientific discipline as a religious system, where intention and myth making hold sway. I say this because astrology today (especially as practiced by most people in India and America) does not subject itself to wholesale criticism; rather, it tends to act dogmatically in relying on so called "revealed" explanations of star and planet positions and their respective interpretations. As such, astrology is not a science, but a religious/psychological method by which the adherent can attempt to "objectively" impute meaning into his/her life.
But what makes astrology so appealing, though, is that it always refers back to an individual person; it is a thoroughly egotistical affair, wherein the individual finds his/her place in the cosmic order of things. No wonder astrology is so popular despite increasing attacks on its credibility--it talks directly to "me." And when the "I" or "me" is at the forefront of any system, it is always going to find hordes of followers. Perhaps the reason astrology "works" so well is because of our amazing psychological ability to find "meaning" in otherwise meaningless sentences and paragraphs.
A clear example of intention and its ability to extract meaning from almost anything is seen in scriptural readings. Devotees of Islam, Christianity and Sikhism often pose their questions or problems to their respective Holy Books hoping to find a solution. Often the open the work at random and place their fingers on a sentence or paragraph unknowingly but with the keen desire to discover something that speaks to them about their life and work. When they read the selected passage they feel that they have found an appropriate response which pertains directly to their query.
Excluding the possibility of divine intervention, the major factor in this "certainty" of having the "right" answer lies not in the Holy Book itself but in the strong conviction or intention of the devotee. With this tool of intentionality (or intended meaning) one can dig jewels from mud, even if there are no actual jewels to be found. I suggest this is astrology's greatest strength and perhaps the reason for its long survival. I realize that in many ways these discussions are inadequate. To put it in simpler terms, how can one explain a book written supposedly thousands of years ago which pinpoints information about individuals in the future? If deceit or fraud does not provide a complete explanation for this, I think we must agree that an open and unbiased inquiry which takes the utter profoundness of human consciousness as its starting point is needed. As I type these sentences the haunting memory of the Bhrigu Samhita's last words to me come to mind,
This young man will come again several times. . . .
I suspect that economics, and not the Akashic records on the astral plane, are the driving imperative behind the astrologers' curious leaves.
Not surprisingly, given the unremitting interest in astrology, my article on the Bhrigu Samhita has proven to be the most popular one I have ever written. I have received queries about it from around the world from interested seekers desperate to know how to locate the ancient library. I must confess, though, that I did not write the article as a believer in the book; in fact, I thought so little of its authenticity that I did not write about it for some three years after my trip to India in 1978.
It now appears to me that the book is a fraud. I say this precisely because the work almost invariably mentions how a previous sin (committed in a previous life) can be corrected if someone donates a specific sum of money to the astrologers. Moreover, the astrologers have never "tested" their records scientifically. My hunch now is that something a bit more earthly is happening in Hoshiarpur; the astrologers, I assume, are writing their own horoscopes (with the guidance perhaps of the Bhrigu records) to chart out the lives of those who come to them.
I realize that I do not have proof that the book is a fraud; it is just that in light of Occam's Razor and my own seasoned understanding of Indian astrology I suspect that economics, and not the Akashic records on the astral plane, are the driving imperative behind the astrologers' curious leaves. At this stage what should be done is that a team of qualified specialists visit Hoshiarpur and determine the veracity of the records. Then, and only then, can we know for sure what the Bhrigu Samhita is all about.
Dr. Kary Mullis, Nobel Laureate, THE ASTROLOGY FILE
"When I published Dancing Naked in the Mindfield there was one eleven page chapter where I mentioned that although astrology had been abandoned by scientific disciplines, it had not been scientifically dispensed with. Meaning, it had not been disproven as a self-consistent set of observations relevant to the human psyche. Not knowing at the time that Gunter Sachs, a Swiss citizen, had published such a study, I offered my own cursory examination from Who's Who in America. When I received a copy of The Astrology File, I was intrigued. Mr. Sachs' book describes a statistical study of a limited but essential part of astrology: where was the sun when you were born, and what do you do for a living. The observation is that something unexplainable, but clearly observable, is going on, to a level of certainty that would be acceptable for a paper in a scientific journal. There is a clear connection, whether you or I like it or not. Gunter Sachs and I became friends as we met together overour mutual interest in astrology, and we decided to undertake an extended study together on this subject."