Salka Wind Blog

Posts on the Andean Cosmovision

Thread A: The Guardian at the Threshold

I recommend that you read (or reread) the earlier post (Thread A: The Other Side of Reality) before reading this post.

This post was revised on May 1, 2016.

In our normal state of consciousness we do not experience reality directly, we experience instead a representation, an interpretation, of reality created by our nervous system. There is an irreducible and inevitable difference between reality and our experience of it, similar to the difference between a description of an object and the object itself, the difference between a photo of your loved one and the actual person, the difference between a map and the territory it represents. The essential “suchness” of reality, the “other side of reality”, is beyond all words, all concepts, and all beliefs.

Over millennia, and across the many cultures on the planet, various paths for exploring the other side of reality have emerged. They all involve suspending, usually through meditation or psychoactive drugs, our normal process of giving meaning to our experiences, leading to a more direct experience of reality. When we take these paths, however, an obstacle arises, what Joseph Campbell would refer to in mythological terms as “the guardian at the threshold to the other side of reality”.  The guardian is a fearsome beast, and in myth often takes on the form of a monster.  This “monster” arises from within ourselves, it is our ego.

The ego is a very powerful and important part of our normal, constructed, view of reality. It consists of all of the thoughts, concepts, and beliefs we have about our own existence, our identity, and our self-worth. Just like we mistake our interpretation of reality as being reality itself, we often mistake our thoughts about ourselves as being who we really are. Our being, however, has its roots in the other side of reality. We are more than all of the thoughts and beliefs we have about ourselves. We are the Being who has those thoughts. As reality itself is beyond all of our descriptions, thoughts, and belief, so are we. We are much more mysterious, magical, and unknowable (intellectually) than our culture has led us to believe. Our personality, which is a product of our ego, may be beautiful or ugly, loving or vengeful, smart or stupid, kind or cruel.  In my experience, our Being, however, the essence of who we are in the other side of reality, is beautiful. To walk the Andean path is to become more informed by the essence of who we each uniquely are, and when that happens we blossom.

Taking a path to the other side of reality requires that we suspend our constructed view of reality and this necessarily involves also suspending our constructed view of ourselves. In other words it involves temporarily turning off our ego. Like the computer HAL in the movie 2001, however, the ego usually doesn’t take kindly to the prospect of being turned off.  To the ego the prospect of being turned off seems like impending death.  In Asian traditions the suspension of the ego is called “the little death” (as compared to “the big death” when we die at the end of our lives).  A powerful weapon the ego has to protect itself when it feels threatened is fear. And even when we know that the suspension of the ego is only temporary (we must return from the other side of reality to live our lives)  there can still be the fear of change.  When the ego returns after the experience of touching the essence of reality, and the essence of who you really are, what will you be like?  Are you willing to initiate a process (walk a path) that may change your sense of identity? Here we face our trust, or lack of trust, in our path. I can only share my own experiences with this, they may or may not be relevant to you or your path.

First, I have a basic faith that any changes I go through in my own set of beliefs about myself are voluntary, they are under my control. I can always choose not to change those beliefs, I can choose to remain the same. The great danger of brainwashing is that it involves first ripping apart the ego and then dictating how it is reconstructed (to suit the purposes of the brainwasher). I personally would never trust any individual to make that decision for me. I do, however, trust the Cosmos.

And second, the path I am traveling into the Andean Cosmovision is a path of heart. Deep in my heart and soul, way beyond my thoughts, this path evokes a beautiful melody. It is giving my life more meaning, and my life is becoming more like a work of art. This path is nourishing what I most deeply desire to have nourished in my life. No path works for everyone, however, or even for most people. I recommend that whatever path you explore that  you rely upon yourself to determine whether the path fits your deepest values.

For all of my adult life I have striven to be the James T. Kirk of my exploration into the other side of reality.  I have boldly gone where I have never been before, I have put myself in a situation where I might discover new things about the Cosmos and about my own existence.  And even though I have often gone through a great deal of time, effort, and energy to get to that exact situation, fear sometime still arises as I stand on the threshold.   Then I proceed anyway.  This is a warrior’s path.

While I have framed the ego as being the monster that guards the threshold to the other side of reality, our ego is actually a valuable and cherished part of who we are. We can’t get by in the world without ideas and beliefs about who we are. It does take a special quality of ego to be shaken to its core and then return in a healthy state. There is so much that can be said about this, but there is one point on which I would like to focus. I have found this to be massively useful on my own path, and it ties so beautifully into other aspects of walking the Andean Cosmovision. It is very simple, and it came into my life through the writings of Carlos Castaneda.

Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui spiritual teacher, was talking to Carlos about the type of ego that can survive a walk to the other side of reality. Don Juan recommended that the ego adopt the “humbleness of a warrior”, which he describe as:

“Bow your head to no one, and let no one bow their head to you.”

Simple, but powerful, the ego of a warrior of the heart.  It fits the many paq’os with whom I have worked in the Andes.

The next, and last, part of this thread of thought can be found in the post Thread A: Paths to the Other Side of Reality


© Oakley Gordon at date of posting. Contents licensed under a Creative Commons License — some rights reserved.

You might be interested in my book:  The Andean Cosmovision.

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  1. Doug McWhorter

    May 1, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks so much, Dr. Gordon. Like everything I’ve read by you, in this post poetry and pragmatic guidance are merged seamlessly.
    What you’ve written here brings to mind the chapter “The Mask” in the “Andean Cosmovision”, where you discuss Campbell’s ideas about the dragons, warriors and guardians who bar the door of the temple to both skeptics and literal-minded believers (being indeed bookends on the same continuum of ego-validation. One must convince “thinking” of something’s truth, the other clings to a “feelng” that something is true) The skeptic insists on reducing the Mystery to terms that are comfortable to the ego, believing that anything real must receive a seal of approval from intellect. The Mystery is in this way simplified to vanishing point for the person and the possibility of experiencing the “other side of reality” immensely diminished, to the degree that the “threat” of the incomprehensible can be safely(?) ignored – at least until it comes knocking again at the door, maybe a little louder next time. The dogmatic believer chooses rather to comfort the emotional platform of the ego, with equally poisonous consequences to the more far reaching potentialities of experience. Scepticism’s faith will not doubt itself when faced with evidence of a reality outside the framework of its “knowing”. And faith is also skeptical when – faced with evidence of a reality outside the framework of its “knowing”.
    Your book and these posts have been key to opening the gateway to the “temple” of the Andean way that unfolds beyond these twin dragons that probably lurk within most of us who are new to the Cosmovision.

    • Oakley Gordon

      May 1, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      I was tempted to use a cool photo I have from Campbell’s book showing guardians who stand at the entrance to sacred space. I use the photo when I give slide shows, but I don’t have the copyright for it, or I would use it in this post.

      • Doug McWhorter

        May 1, 2016 at 8:23 pm

        Thanks for noting that! I think there’s a copy of “The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology” at the local library. I’ll see if I can find the picture. Your use of illustrations in “Cosmovision” lent it a pictorial poetry to complement its poetic prose. Looking forward to seeing how this image expands the resonance of your words here even further into the ineffable “other side of reality”.

        • Oakley Gordon

          May 1, 2016 at 9:09 pm

          I just thumbed through my Campbell books looking for the image. It’s actually a pair of images on page 81 of his book “The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: Metaphor as Myth and as Religion.”

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