VOLUME X, Number 1
January - June 2020
A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. Genesis 2:10-14.
It was while seated on the bed of a cheap hotel in Ravenna in 1987, that the question came, ‘Should I or should I not follow the path of Kashmir Shaivism?’ tradition developed in India and reaching its apogee around the year 1000 CE. Was I being tempted by some dark diabolic force to abandon the Christianity of my previous 47 years?
It was Dom Thomas Matus osb, a monk of Camaldoli in Italy, who had brought me into close contact with this tradition. I had already come across Tantra at Readings Bookshop in Melbourne and became convinced of its value through reading Jean Varenne’s Le Tantrisme discovered by chance at the bookshop Gibert Jeune on the Boulevard St Michel in Paris, but it was Thomas who brought me into contact with reliable commentaries.
Thus, it was in Ravenna that I was being led to take a huge step forward in the journey begun at the time of my first Holy Communion in October 1947, when I vividly experienced the One Who Is, around the time of the death of my little sister Anne-Marie who had died a few weeks earlier at the age of 2 years. That experience made me want to be free of transience and to be with the One Who Is: not an impersonal It but the personal Who, not passing or temporary but Is. This experience was the solid foundation that gave assurance and peace in the tumult of the years that lay ahead.
This search for the Transcendent did not mean turning away from this world. Some spiritual trajectories in the past had presented the journey to God as a rejection of the ordinary things of life, the joys and limitations of existence, to arrive at some elevated state separate from the world, such as in Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Moses or St Bonaventure’s Journey of the Mind to God or the Ascent of Mount Carmel by St John of the Cross. By contrast, does not the most successful path to God lie in descending from the ‘mountain’? I wanted to experience all that life had to offer, to see and know everything but above all to find the lasting pleasure, the fullness of passion that would never cease and at the same time would allow me to be with the One Who Is.
Tantra seemed to offer this possibility, that is the form of Tantra brilliantly described by Abhinavagupta, who stands at the pinnacle of Kashmir Shaivism.  When I read the texts of Kashmir Shaivism a sound seemed to resonate deep within me, like the pedal point of a Bach fugue. Energy arose from this reading, delight and wonder, pleasure and the sense of infinite possibility.   On the advice of Dr Alexis Sanderson of Oxford and with the support of Prof. Dr. Bettina Bäumer of Varanasi, I translated and explained Abhinavagupta’s chapter on the Kula ritual, the most extreme of the tantric rituals, together with its commentary by Jayaratha. But Kashmir Shaivism is not enough, for it focuses on pure consciousness and the world. I needed to find out how the personalism of the Christian Trinity could be reconciled with the wonder and energy of the Tantra.
This led to a doctorate in 1999. That same year, while living as a hermit in Yarra Junction, I conceived the idea of writing this spiritual autobiography. It has seen the light of day at last, after 20 years.
It forms a counterpart to the set of Tantric reflections on a text from the Gospel for each Sunday of the Church’s three-year cycle, which I had undertaken to write in 1972 whilst on the mission station at Fané-les-Roses, in the highlands of Papua. That set presents a complete coverage of Christian theology, the work of over forty years.
The following pages are written in the form of ‘centuries’, short paragraphs, which is the format of many texts in the Greek Orthodox East. The ‘centuries’ soared spontaneously in the context of meditation, to which I have been assiduously committed since my Jesuit days, one hour each morning, moving from discursive Ignatian meditation to the ascetical eroticism of Tantra. They poured out from the meditation, like Athena fully armed from the head of Zeus.
They describe my journey but also the journey of everyman. Everyone has their own spiritual autobiography which, being spiritual, is available to every other person. We discover our own journey in listening to another’s journey, journey upon journey, each contributing to the other. These are the ‘rivers of paradise’ by which we discover the One Who Is, the supremely personal One, more personal than we can possibly imagine.
The journey is divided into four parts associated with the four major divisions of the second account of creation (Genesis 2:4-24).  The ‘centuries’ are not an academic study of this extraordinary text, but just a connection with it, a linking, a reflection. Again, each set of ‘centuries’ is connected with a term taken from Kashmir Shaivism which had provided the language to describe my experiences. Here too, they do not constitute a learned commentary on the meaning of the term, but just a connection.
PART I           The One Who Is
“In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground – then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2.4-7.
The journey starts with a music, an incantation, leading into the desert, away from all passing things, into the void, the emptiness, the solitude, to be alone with the Alone. The desert: where Adam stood in the empty landscape, where St Anthony of Egypt lived his long life, where the Hebrews, having left the comforts of Egypt, make covenant.
What does it mean to be in the closest possible unity and intimacy with the One? In what way do the Christian faith and the Tantra of Kashmir serve as guides? How do they say in words what I know by experience? How do they explain and reinforce what it means to be in the presence of the Presence, and to bow down in adoration, in silence before the Ineffable, in awe and delight before the Holy, and so come to the very foundation of all? Part I is just one answer to these questions.
I.8      Detachment     tyāga
  1. So long as I asked, “What should I do?” “What shall I establish?” no answer came: there was nothing to be achieved. Indeed – it is a hard lesson – all purpose should be abandoned. God has no purpose. He simply is. “I am” is the highest activity, ‘actus illimitatus’. So, all plans are set aside. It is detachment.
  2. I will be free of all that hide that radiance. I will go where light is unhindered, where light simply bursts out of darkness.
  3. I will enter into the silence and abandon all things. I can do this only because there is in me a deep faith, a trust. With peacefulness of heart I enter into the unknown. This is not some search for an ideal or an imagined goal, but a plunging into the abyss. This would not be possible if there were not already a trust. There must be something, someone, however the reference is made, who is trustworthy, who is no less personal than me but more so, though I cannot, must not, try to guess how.
  4. But this plunging into the abyss is not a plunging elsewhere than into my very depths. This trust in someone is not in someone ‘out there’ but in Someone who is the very basis of my being.
I.9       Expanse                      vyoman
  1. There is no clutter in the desert, no house, no fence, no direction, no trees. There is no need to speak, no clock, no concerns, but only limitless expanse and the swelling dome of the sky, blue, unbounded, where the gleaming eye of the sun pours down its brilliant rays. Such power and energy, intense and single‑minded, unabating!
  2. The sun is too bright to be seen, invisible because too visible. It suggests another light. So, I walk in the sun and stand in its glare and rejoice in the clarity of truth.
  3. But I cannot stay. I am driven back to the town and to food. Therefore, I will create my own space, bare walls, the expanse of floor, the desert of my room, and there dwell in silence as daylight comes and daylight ends, and so arrive at knowledge.
  1. 28    Journey                        adhvan
  1. It is safe. It is a good journey, to leave all and enter into the silence. The Void is not hostile but welcoming, the true homeland and origin. So, all melts away and there is a great stillness. A music, a Word has called me away into sweetness. This is possible because there is one greater than I into whom I enter.
  2. From the peace, the quiet, an energy arises, an authority. There is a wish for a power and an authority in no small measure. Not one which is directed to the generation of children or the company of the wife. The power to create and recreate, to hold all things and to bless them, bringing all to the highest bliss, that moment of exhilaration where all constructs collapse and time ends, that endless vibration that grows exponentially, grace upon grace upon grace, something adequate to the Void from which all comes, leading into the Void which is Fullness: this is possible because flesh becomes spirit.
PART II         The Word
“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.” Genesis 2.8-9, 15-20    
It was on a splendid spring morning, at the Cistercian Abbey at Tarrawarra, while in the paddocks clothed with gold, that I decided not to enter the enticing reclusion of monastic life but to be a public figure. As a priest I could be at the centre of the community, and indeed at the centre of time, and hold all things together in one embrace.  All would be given to me
II.16    Tradition                    saṁpradāya
  1. It is beautiful to form one tradition together, to be of one mind and spirit, one attitude and ambition; mutually supportive and encouraging, one revealing the other, the whole revealing each, each manifesting the totality, like schools of fish that move together in the sea. It is stimulating and liberating to be a fellowship, and to be accepted, welcomed as one of them, of one substance.
  2. For me it was to be a tāntrika among the tāntrikas, committed to the eternal maithuna.
II.17     Mantra                      mantra
  1. The mantra is given from without. The mantra arises spontaneouslyfrom within.  The mantra from without and the mantra from within are the same, the one mantra. The outer and the inner must coincide.
  2. The disciple chooses the guru and the guru chooses the disciple. Already the disciple has perceived that he and the guru have the same mind, the same power. Similarly, the guru chooses the disciple because he recognises that he and the disciple have the one heart. He cannot refuse his own self. He perceives the disciple’s capacity for his mantra. Indeed, he gives the mantra because he knows the disciple already has it.
  3. The initiate accepts to become the mantra, to belong to the tradition and its guru, because he recognises it to be himself. He accepts himself as he has been accepted, and he is justified. The mantra heals and warms, enlivens and empowers. It is his very being. It is the guru. It is the tradition. It is his truth, his salvation, for now he can be who he actually is.
  4. He proceeds to recite the mantra and so to express what he is. By practice he fully becomes the mantra. He is the word, he is the Word. He enjoys it and finds therein his rest.
  5. I recite the word I have received, its blessing and I become what I recite. This is my word, this is myself and I say it again and again. I say what I am and I am what I say. It is all one.      
  6. The mantra is a tool in the reciter’shand, a sword jutting from the mouth (Heb 4:12). With it he makes and remakes, curses and blesses (Jr 1:10).
II.20     Initiation                   dīkṣā
  1. The guru says to the disciple and the disciples say to each other:
‘I freely want you to be like God, so that I can worship you and stand amazed at you, exulting in you. I want to see you entirely aware, harmonious, true to your word. Indeed, I want to see you as the Word and to see whole new worlds come from you. I want to see you authoring a new heaven and a new earth from your freedom, for you stand elsewhere than I and see differently. With all the power of my freedom I want you to be free.
I want you to want the same for me. I want and wait. I place my hope in you and give you space, fields of opportunity. I shall become nothing so that you may be all unrivalled. I wait for you to be inspired, for this is a work not of my doing but from Above. And when it comes, I am there to second the work of the One who has primacy in all, the ultimate Initiator.’
There is a pact between us: to take and to hold, to empower and to enjoy; to make fruitful and to reap benefit upon benefit.
  1. So, we relate to each other. You reveal me in yourself. You are what I am and wish to be. May it be also that I reveal you in myself? And so, we affirm each other and establish each other. It is the mutual initiation. Your speech in my speech, your faculty in my faculty and mine in yours, so that we know each other from within, and out of two form one. We rest in each other and stand before each other without shame or threat, without shyness or trouble, simply one to another, not competing, not dominating or undermining but simply acknowledging that we are of the same stock and destined to be with each other, for each other, on the one journey.
  2. And so, we encourage each other, giving way to each other till we reach the state of the “perfect Man” (Eph 4:13).
II.27    The energy of the mantra    mantravīryam
  1. The Word contains in itself a dynamism that cannot be held back; that can do all things and will do some. This energy wells up from deep within, an endless fountainhead. It is the energy of the mantra.
  2. The expressions of the Word conceal the Word for nothing can fully express the Word. Remaining one and unique, simply itself, the Word forgets itself, stammering and incoherent. Nevertheless, deep down, beneath the muteness and the opacity, beneath all its contradictions, the Word is present, sustaining all.
  3. The Word will fragment into words and become dumb; the light will conceal itself so as to burst in the radiance of truth, displaying itself and showing what it already knew. The energy of the Word leads to its silencing; the energy leads the Word to burst as revelation. Thus, deafness shall hear the Word and darkness be pierced with light. That which is not will be worshipped as the God who is. The Word delights in its energy and takes pleasure in its acts. It is the play of Wisdom concealing and revealing itself.
  4. Even lies and wilful darkness are but grist to the mill, occasions for even greater revelation, for the Word delights in the impossible. Only the impossible can be challenge enough to this boundless dynamism.
  5. Thus, the Word will truly manifest you, the Void, wonderfully Void and Full at once, and, in the paradox of doing what cannot be done, you will be known at last, Source of all.
II.28     Image            mūrti
  1. The meditator is the image of the Unimaginable, the ‘coagulation’ of the All-pervading, the manifestation of the Unmanifest, touching from end to end, incorporating every level and every state and condition. Nothing is separate; nothing is foreign. We will experience all, and so be all, their summation, even as we sit still and single‑pointed.
  2. Reaching out in every direction, we walk without hesitation, possessing nothing and having everything; claiming all, desiring nothing; averse to nothing, relating to everything; free. We hold and heal and bring into harmony, creating peace and order, rejoicing in the growth, enjoying the fruits. The whole is apparent in us and we are evident in the whole.
  3. The meditator takes on pain and wrong‑doing on order to bring healing and joy, for nothing is concealed. What can anyone do to remove the pain of the world? So little! Except to be their body, at their disposal, to be their food, with compassion and prayer.
  4. Meditators are the solid rock from which the water flows, to which all are invited to come and drink. They are the transfigured flesh; the fire of the Spirit enlivens all the faculties and makes them radiate the blissful power.
II.49    Powerful                    śaktiman
  1. Something, someone has led me to seek the lowest depths, the loss of power and reputation, the loss of achievement and pleasure. I have become nothing because all these other things have lost their savour.
  2. Now I being to understand, for the Spirit, so quietly, so forcefully has succeeded in destroying me, the outer me. Like Kālī, the Spirit has yielded her hatchet and reduced me to nothing. I have sought her and she has exacted her drink of blood.
  3. Therefore, I feel at one with the insignificant. I am one with them, not through the misfortunes of fate but by the impulse of the Spirit who has led me to this spot. My life seems wasted and I join the great mass of those who have been given sorrow as their lot.
  4. But having had her sport, the Spirit now gives to me the power she possesses. She is mine. I am powerful with her power. In her I find my delight and I find you, Father of all.
  5. In the darkness, in the collapse, in letting go of all, in abandoning the hidden cravings, dark tunnel opens through which a delicious, cool breeze comes to me.
  6. As I stand before them, without achievement or success I have the mind of Śiva.
PART III               Spirit
 “So, the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and clothed it with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ ”  Genesis 2.21-23.
But this was not enough. Indeed, the sacred texts says “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Gn 2:18), and despite all God’s efforts, “no suitable helpmate was found’ (Gn 2:20). It was not enough to be alone with the Alone and to be one with the Word incarnate. Something more was needed. But what? The spiritual journey also mean abandoning all knowledge, giving up all control and mastery, abandoning all possessiveness and all self-will. It meant going into the ‘deep sleep’, the state of ignorance and readiness.
In this emptiness and availability, the Spirit arose: She sprang from me and was given to me. The ‘centuries’ describe this. It was such pleasure to experience the inexplicable, the gracious, the beautiful, the Spirit so different, spontaneous, disconcerting and surprising, She who is feminine. 
Indeed, I needed to see the Spirit in terms of woman and woman in terms of the Spirit. I needed to see the Spirit not as a negligeable element
III.31   Power             siddhi
  1. I want that power that springs spontaneously, that blessing of the good and the elimination of the evil. I want, without craving, the universal radiance of “I am”. So, the power wells up in me and I am one with that power. I want to have that endless power and to do works of power, touching the deepest level of things.
  2. From the spin of the divine relationships, from the mutuality of the Three in One, all the worlds proceed, and to it all return, in a great vibration.
Transition sentence
Where is the One for whom I left all, going into the desert and the silence, the One whose Word I delight to be? There is no mention of him now. Have I apostatised, turned my back? No, I had not rejected him whilst my attention was directed to you, O Lovely One. But unless I enter into this new world of yourself with its radiant darkness, its uncontrol and dissolution, O Amazing One, I will not come to Him. I am poised to discover in you the One who first is.
PART IV                God, all in all
“Therefore, a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2.24  
Part IV describes the entry into the closest union with the feminine, with the Spirit, forming one body, as Adam to Eve, as Word to Spirit, as male to female. And so, my prayer has increasingly taken on the form of sexual intercourse.
I had bought a bronze statue of the Buddha in sexual union with his consort for about AU$600 at Dharmsala, the headquarters of H. H. the Dalai Lama. The expression on the face of the Deity is exquisite: what a smile, as he looks into the eyes of his consort who returns his look. This represented what I had wished from the days of my youth when I noticed the insects flying through air still coupled, everlastingly it seemed. Here was pleasure that knew no end, and yet was entirely physical.
I submitted to her and she to me; we addressed each other, related to each other. And in her I was united with all women, as I had been united with all the men in being the Word. The unity was complete on every level.  It was in this union of male and female, both destined to each other, that I could at last most truly come into union with the One I had sought from my earliest days. I was one with the One, identified with the Word, united with the Spirit. Here occurred at last the conviction that all ….
IV.16   Love                prema
  1. Love speaks the loving Word of love to Love. Love who has the open ear hears full well the message, and endlessly draws forth the song.
The Word is Love’s messenger.
The Word is indeed Love and speaks his love to Love. 
Love speaks Love to Love, for God is Love.
Again, Love hears the loving Word of Love so that all is Love.
  1. Love is itself. Love loves Love, and Love receives itself.
Love gives itself to itself.
Love is dynamic, like a burning furnace.
Love is not static but infinitely active, like the spinning top that seems quite still.
There is the revelation of love to itself and the communication of Love to itself, for Love is neither ignorant nor ungenerous.
  1. The Word loves to express the Speaker's love and the Spirit loves the Word for so faithfully communicating the Speaker's message.
The Speaker loves the Word for being the Word of love.
He loves to be loving.
He loves to find that his Loving Word is a lover.
And the Spirit loves to draw forth this Love, loves to be lovable, loves to inspire Love, so that at the beginning and at the end there is Love.
  1. Who is loved if not the Father, who loves himself for his loving?
Who is loved if not the Father for his loving of the Son who speaks of love?
Who is loved if not the Father who is loved by the Spirit to whom the Father speaks his love?
Who is loved if not the Son who is loved by the Father for being his Word of love?
Who is loved if not the Son who is loved by the Spirit for being that captivating Word of love?
Who is loved if not the Spirit who is loved by the Father and the Son?
  1. The Father who is love loves to see love and, Matchmaker, joins the Word and Spirit in love. He engenders the Word to whom he gives the Spirit of love. He projects the Spirit of love to whom he speaks the Word of love, for he loves his loving.
  2. Thus, all love, all are loved and all are love. All is all, all in all.
  3. Which word of command will I say: “Let there be love”, “Let there be one whom I can love”, “Let there be one who is love”?
This is the word I will say to you, “He is Love”. Here is the word I shall say of you, “You are love”. This is the Word I shall be to you. “Love”.

John Dupuche is author and editor of the following books:

Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantrāloka. Delhi: MotiLal BanarsiDass, 2003.       

Jesus, the Mantra of God. Melbourne: David Lovell Publications, 2005.

Bäumer, B. and Dupuche J. (eds.) Void and Fullness in the Buddhist, Hindu and Christian Traditions. Delhi: D.K. Printworld, 2005.   

Vers un tantra chrétien ; la rencontre du Christianisme et du Shivaïsme du Cachemire. Melbourne: David Lovell Publishing, 2009.

Towards a Christian Tantra; The interplay of Christianity and Kashmir Shaivism. Melbourne: David Lovell Publishing, 2009.

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