On Mar 26, 2007, I wrote to Daniel Ingram (aka Dharma Dan), an Arahat of the Buddhist Theravada tradition, to ask his advice regarding fruition. I found that not only was Dan willing to help, but he displayed an insatiable interest in all things ‘enlightenment’…
Please Note: What follows is a full-blown geek-out regarding developmental models. As such, the conversation is littered with technical terms. Please see Dan’s book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha and my essay The Nature of the A.’.A.’. for clarification of some of these terms.
The Timing of Fruition
ALAN: I hope you don't mind me asking you for a little advice Dan, but in light of the fact good teachers are hard to find, I feel you're the only person I know qualified to give that advice. On the 22nd February, I experienced my first fruition. A couple of weeks a go I went through the Dukkha nanas again, in quite a bad way. I actually felt psychotic. However, I went through the whole thing in one night as a result of a HGA ritual. If I'm correct, the Insight Progress cycle is fractal; so I assumed this was a little cycle within a much bigger one leading to Second path at some point in the far future.
However, after reaching equanimity, I didn't experience fruition. I assumed I had made a mistake in locating where I was.
Now this might sound like a pair of pendulous testicles, but I may have experienced second fruition this morning, meditating on the train on the way to work.
Very much like the first fruition, this experience wasn't very shocking. At first, I became detached from the karma (I know that's a cheesy term, but 'inertia' or 'tendency' doesn't quite cut it) that makes me think all will be revealed in the future (especially when I'm dead); then I became detached from the karma that freaks me out when I consider the fact I actually exist (one of my favourites). Something happened next, then I realised form is emptiness (I know this is straight out of the Heart Sutra Model, but I can't think of a better way of expressing it; but if it is that, how does that relate to Second Path?).
DAN: The question about form being emptiness regarding that model is: do you know this as an intuitive feeling or is it just as obvious in real-time as colour or form? For the anagami, it is progressively very obvious in real-time. Second path is sort of an odd one to try to describe. It is something past stream entry, and involves cycles, cycles, and cycles, an appreciation of how progress is made, but explaining exactly how things are different in real-time is not very easy for most.
ALAN: At first, it didn't occur to me that it might be second path; but something's changed. And I have that 'smooth' calm aftermath feeling that occurred after the first one, as well as a repeat performance of being able to sail effortlessly through the jhanas almost despite myself. Is it possible I've gone from stream enterer to once returner in almost exactly a month?
DAN: Yes, it is definitely possible. Everyone is different and people make progress at wildly different rates. I don't think that issues of timing should be a big hang-up, just a small caution. I went from second path to third path in just a few months largely off retreat, and it freaked out my teachers just because of the timing, which was missing the point. I had crossed the A&P and gotten into the Dark Night of second path within a week and a half or so of getting stream entry, but I couldn't land it until about 6 months later.
The Next Day
ALAN: This morning I had a repeat performance of fruition – and my consciousness is currently diffused in the background. I also appear to have sensitive eyes (is that common?).
DAN: The siddhi side-effects of practice can vary widely between people, even more than issues of timing. What exactly do you mean by sensitive eyes?
ALAN: The nerves at the back and top of my eyes feel frazzled. Anyway, if I am indeed correct that repeat fruitions of your current path occur in Review, whereas the next path occurs when you achieve fruition after going through the Dark Night again, I think I’m pretty sure of where I am in terms of the Buddhist developmental model.
DAN: Well, in the end we each are left alone trying to figure these things out for ourselves, though there is something to be said for the external reference points of maps and friends, however inexact.
Dan grills Alan on the Western developmental model
ALAN: Throughout my magical/spiritual development I've employed as many models of development as I could possibly lay my hands on, such as Alchemy, Qabalah, the Fourth Way and the 10 Zen Ox Herding Images. I've found your book, Mastering the Core teachings of the Buddha, indispensable during this period for providing info regarding where I am in the Theravada Insight Progress Model.
It's obvious from your writing that you're aware that all of these models appear to be describing the same process. For instance, when I achieved the Knowledge and Conversation of my Holy Guardian Angel, I began my first Insight cycle.
DAN: It has been interesting to try to line up KCHGA with the insight maps, and the A&P and stream entry are the two obvious choices, though I found the details ambiguous. I think that the A&P is a great fit for Tiphareth, and Stream Entry for Ain. I have a friend who thinks he is somewhere past Adeptus Major, and he was very helpful but not definitive, as the emphases of these maps is so different. What is your favourite source material for the Thelema/Golden Dawn/A.:A.:/Qabala based maps?
ALAN: The model that fits my experience almost to a T is the A.'.A.'.. However, when I set out to achieve the KCHGA I did so simply as a means of improving my magical ability. It was shortly after contact was made that my angel seemed to disappear (I couldn't repeat the success of the first extended working). I chanced upon a text that mentioned the HGA must leave the aspirant to Cross the Abyss alone, and that's when what I'd always considered an antiquated magical order schema revealed itself to be an actual developmental model. For instance, the grade of Magister Templi (someone who has crossed the abyss) is that of one who is a master of the trance of sorrow, which lines up very nicely with the knowledge gained from the Dark Night.
In terms of lining up the progress model with the Qabalistic/A.'.A.'. model, the KCHGA wasn't an A and P Event for me; shortly after my angel buggered off, I went through 12 days of trances involving lights, bliss, vibrating, etc, which I equate with the A and P Event.
I then found myself crossing the abyss, which wasn't terribly bad. When I reached the other side (which was confirmed by a number of distinct events as predicted by the model) I found myself as a Magister Templi. I was confused, because as much bollocks abounds regarding the 'grade' of MT as there does regarding an Arahat. A couple of months later I had Fruition. I always thought that an Arahat would be
the equivalent to the grade of Ipsissimus.
Although I have found the A.'.A.'. model very accurate, it is virtual useless when it comes to detail; I've come to think of Crossing the Abyss as the first time you go through the Dark Night, as it would be improper to say you cross the abyss each time you attain one of the grades above the abyss. It's also true that a specific event occurs that verifies the crossing (the Encounter with Choronzon).
DAN: What practices from the western traditions do you consider to have been the most helpful to you?
ALAN: Without doubt, gaining the KCHGA. When you’ve made contact, all guidance comes from the HGA. By this I mean you suddenly find exactly what you need regarding info/practice at just the right time. The progress made for the amount of work put in is incredible. However, a running theme has been meditation in one form or another – vipassana, Fourth Way, Zhiney, etc.
I also can’t stress enough that you can get the results from meditation through ritual; I experienced my A and P trances from worshipping the sun ‘as the sum of all things’ and then flinging myself into it ‘astrally’.
DAN: What is the core essence of the western traditions that can be distilled to its practical best to add to the body of accessible teachings, in your opinion?
ALAN: Again, the HGA. However, the available material regarding how to go about attaining the K and C is very poor indeed. That could be said for magick in general.
DAN: Do you think that a clear source is written on these things, or does that remain to be done? I have looked around and find it a very mixed, complex bag, but perhaps I am missing something or looking in the wrong place, or just have insufficient initiation or knowledge of that tradition.
ALAN: To be honest with you, most people who have written on the Western Tradition don’t have the actual experience. Texts based on experience (such as Crowley’s) tend to require a good few years of study to fully comprehend. However, I’m attempting to rectify this by re-interpreting material (especially Crowley’s stuff) based on my actual experience.
DAN: I invite you to join the movement towards frank discussion when you feel ready.
ALAN: Thanks Dan. I'm doing my best at the BH to try and clarify exactly what magical attainment is, some of it inspired by your good self (my article on the Magister Templi was a direct result of your essay on Arahats).
It's a shame that a lot of people believe there is no such thing as magical attainment/enlightenment, to the extent they will deem any claim of attainment a joke or a bad case of ego-inflation.
DAN: Thanks for your questions and insights. Let me know if you have any further thoughts and let me know how things go if you wish.
ALAN: Thank you very much indeed, Dan!
What a very nice, unusually hardcore Buddhist
What can I say? Despite the fact Dan works very long and erratic hours as an emergency physician, he took the time out to reply in great depth to an unsolicited e-mail from a lunatic magician half the world away.
I am overwhelmed by Dan’s generosity and his unapologetic, frank and irreverent approach to enlightenment. I found Dan’s interest in the Western Tradition an indication of a genuine interest in the promotion of enlightenment, regardless of what form it comes in.
If you haven’t already, please visit Dan’s site for the most relevant and useful information regarding Buddhism currently available. You can also listen to a three-part interview with Dan over at buddhistgeeks.com.