What Possesses You?

We are told, across all the eastern traditions that I know of, that we are possessed by Delusion, Maya, Ignorance etc. and by the evil brood that hatches under the cover of that darkness. What they don’t often admit to is that what they offer as an antidote is another form of possession, only these forms of possession are by Divine forces. That’s our choice: to be possessed by the forces of darkness or to be possessed by the forces of light. You never have and never will belong to yourself. You were made to serve.

“…you’re gonna serve somebody, you’re gonna serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna serve somebody.”

Those who have experienced a well-developed sankhar-upekkha ñana, will understand what I mean. One feels as if taken over by a tremendous power of wisdom energy, functioning at tremendous speeds and guiding the meditation process by an alien intelligence. This form of possession is entirely beautiful and benign, and you are almost free to step out of it any time you like. I say almost, because all control is surrendered the moment before the arising of path consciousness. Once the mind begins to tip over into Emptiness the process cannot be stopped.

The same is true for deep jhanas, past the first. The mass of concentration becomes so great that its power crystalizes the field of perception while merging the mind both into the object and into itself. The jhana holds the yogi until its power is spent or is broken by a greater force. 

We find the same dynamic in all true mystical traditions. Descriptions of the experience of the Holy Spirit in the Jewish and Christian scriptures are often described in terms of a power possessing the individual in some needed or helpful way. The Breath of God in these ancient texts is described as standing you up, filling you, and demonstrating power in various ways such as giving voice to the will of the Divine, sweeping the devotee up into visions or healing the sick.

The experience of possession is not confined to the yogic or the devotional. The Orisha of the Yoruba are a real experience, as are the spirit possession experiences of Candomblé, Santeria and Vodun. Many Hindu traditions describe states of grace or divine power such as kundalini in ways that leave the meditator helpless in its grip. I have heard people describe Ayahuasca experiences in similar ways, though not always benign.

On reflection, only a state of consciousness that is able to override one’s default mental conditioning could have the power to effect an enduring or significant transformation in our being. All the mystical systems I know of describe paths of gradual development that lead to sudden breakthroughs. The mistake many students of contemplative traditions hold is in believing that they will be the ones making the breakthrough. In truth it is a deeper and subtler reality that breaks through into them.

I am not saying that all these different possession experiences are the same. They most definitely are not. Nor would I put them on an equal level. I definitely recognize a hierarchy of these. But they are all real, all beyond-the-human, and seem to exploit the capacity of the human brain and mind to be “ridden” to use the Vodun term. And please remember that there are inimical spiritual forces that exploit this mechanism, even more malign than the Ayahuasca experiences I mentioned. Sadly, the more degraded the ethical status of the spiritual intelligence involved, the easier it is to be “taken” by them. Perhaps this is because a less developed moral condition results in a coarser state of being with a smaller gap dividing it from our human condition.

Whether you realize it or not, whether your belief system allows you to admit it or not, when you engage in intensive or sustained spiritual practices, you are invoking and offering yourself up to some grade or variety of beyond-the-human intelligence and power. Therefore, please choose with great care that to which you offer yourself, as well as the exercises by which you do so, because that spiritual power will someday walk in through the door you have learned to open in your nervous system, and will leave its mark on your psyche for life. Even after the possession experience has ended, even if you stop cultivating the practice that brought it about, an intuitive and energetic connection remains that will only fade after years. And if the experience has proved to be harmful, it might require reparative work over months or even years.

This is serious business. Meditation practices, mantras, breathing exercises, tantric rituals etc. can be dangerous. These forces are not to be trifled with. If you don’t believe me, speak to someone suffering from kundalini syndrome, or from what the Tibetan’s call lung, or talk to those who have had psychotic breaks precipitated by meditation, or yogis who remain haunted by unhappy visions or entities. All these reasons are why every contemplative tradition has some ceremony or meditation by which their practitioners place themselves under the protection of that lineage. This is yet one more reason why consecration of one’s life and person to a sacred paradigm is so important, and why following the teacher’s instructions is also essential.