What does a weird naturalist, ontologically flooded lens have to say about the spiritual process known as The Ascension? This piece will explore that question (along with a companion looking at ascension symptoms in light of traumatology).
When discussing The Ascension in its contemporary usage (especially in New Age traditions) we first need to understand the roots of the term. In order to do that we first need to look at The Ascension in Christianity. In so doing, there’s a strong, often unconscious, “overhang” or influence from orthodox Christianity into New Age traditions, not unlike that in transhumanism which I’ve covered previously.
The link with transhumanism is very relevant in that much of Ascensionist literature takes a more spiritual or metaphysical approach but ends in much the same place as most transhumanist discourse: Singularity-type events, divinization of matter, and immortality. The only difference being that transhumanists largely imagine this goal being reached through technological evolution whereas Ascensionists believe it will come through conscious spiritual evolution.
While much of transhumanism is currently rooted in secularism (even various militant secularist forms), over time I believe these two streams of New Age Ascensionist thought and transhumanism will merge more and more, as both are contemporary forms of a strange admixture of unconscious orthodox Christianity and alchemy.
To begin with let’s examine the Ascension of Jesus. Here is the relevant section from the first chapter of The Acts of the Apostles:
So when the disciples had come together, they asked Jesus, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ (Acts, Chapter 1, verses 6-11)
The context here is post-resurrection. In the story, Jesus undergoes crucifixion and death. His disciples then claim to have experiences of him being raised from the dead. Right after The Resurrection follows this story of the Ascension.
Notice that there is a strong connection between The Ascension and the apocalypse: “Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” The restoration of the kingdom to Israel is code within the text of the cosmic restoration at the end times, a key core of Jesus’ teaching and message (“The kingdom of God on earth”).
The original mood concerning Ascension is therefore one of apocalyptic fervor and this apocalyptic quality is definitely the case in contemporary New Age Ascension teachings with strong emotional beliefs around “mass awakening of humanity” as well as a New Earth.
The New Earth is itself a completely Christian (i.e. Jewish apocalyptic) theme. The Christian Bible in fact ends with a vision of a “New Heaven and New Earth”: see Chapter 21 of The Book of The Apocalypse or Revelation of John (Revelation by the way, means apocalypse). The Christian tradition in fact calls the world initiated by the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ as “The New Age” (New Aeon). The term New Age itself is an old Christian term.
According to Biblical theology in the apocalypse the cosmos is put into right alignment with the original designs of The Creator. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God that “your kingdom come, your will be done on Earth as it (already) is in heaven.” The rest of the prayer includes petitions to forgive debts/sins, to provide bread for all, and to deliver the world from evil. Those are all code words for the apocalypse, for the consummation of all things in Divine Order.
This apocalyptic vision has it’s roots in Zoroastrianism and is core, in one form or another, to all the Abrahamic religions: the Mahdi in Islam, the Messiah in Judaism, the 2nd Coming of Christ in Christianity. It’s core to the Western imaginary and collective unconscious which is why New Age spirituality replicates so many deep elements of its mythos. The New Age is after all, a very Western phenomenon.
So point #1: Ascension is about apocalyptic revelation.
Back to the text:
Jesus replied [to the disiciples], ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
Jesus says that he will not answer the disciples’ question about whether the apocalypse was going to happen right then (“not for you to know the times or periods…”), but what Jesus does promise is that the disciples will receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Divine Energy (Shakti in India), an energy guided by and formed by the Divine Consciousness, known in the Christian tradition as The Logos/Eternal Word of God, manifest according to the story in the Resurrected Christ Jesus.
The Holy Spirit then comes from above and descends upon the disciples…a “download” as it were. When the Holy Spirit comes down on the disciples—in an event called Pentecost—the disciples begin “speaking in tongues”. New Age Ascensionst discourse refers to speaking in tongues as “light languages”. Light languages are a form of glossolalia (“speaking in tongues”), and therefore a signs of the descent of the Spirit, just as in Pentecost.
Other texts in the New Testament indicate that the Holy Spirit manifests through a number of gifts or capacities in human beings. These capacities are known in the yogic tradition as siddhis, aka “powers”: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”
These gifts of the Holy Spirit include things like extraordinary healing capacities, modes of higher intuitive perception (psi), discernment of spirits, prophetic insight, etc. These are capacities born of the psychic and subtle states, which as the FREE research has shown accompany any number of encounters with high strange phenomenon.
Point #2: Ascensionist spirituality is a contemporary variation of a (Holy) Spirit enacted set of super normal phenomena, phenomena that stretch back thousands of years.
Returning once more to the Biblical text:
When Jesus had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Acts 1:10
The cloud here is an important image. Throughout the Bible, The Cloud is a symbol of the immanent presence of The Divine upon earth. In the story of The Transfiguration, a cloud surrounds Jesus and the voice of God declares, “This is my Son, my Beloved, listen to him (Luke 9: 35).” In the Book of Exodus when the Presence of the Lord traveled with the Israelites through the desert it did so as a Cloud of Pillar by day and a Cloud of Fire by night.
The Cloud then represents God’s Wisdom (Logos) incarnate on earth. The Logos is the Divine Mind/Consciousness which is intimately tied to the Divine Energy (The Holy Spirit). The early Christian Church Fathers called The Logos-Word The Right Hand of God (the Father) and The Holy Spirit The Left Hand of God (the Father).
In the Book of Exodus when Moses encounters God through the burning bush, Moses asks God what God’s name is. God responds, “I AM who I AM.” I AM is The Name of God—or rather a way of saying that which can’t be fully named.
In Ascensionist discourse interestingly enough there is the notion of “The Mighty I AM Presence.” The term is typically attributed to the Ascended Masters traditions associated with Guy Ballard, though the term is originally Biblical in nature. Ballard merged Theosophical vision with many elements and aspects of The New Thought tradition, aka “The Science of Mind”, e.g. affirmative prayer, decrees, positive thinking, etc. Helena Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, had merged 19th century Spiritualist discourse with that of comparative religion. So in a tradition like the Mighty I AM a number of streams have joined together: Theosophical (enlightenment/Ascension), Science of Mind (emphasis on healing, manifestation, decrees, affirmations, etc.), as well as Spiritualism (channeling).
In this visual depiction, the Mighty I AM is understood to be the individualized expression of the Divine in each person. The image depicts this I AM presence as a Higher Self—literally above the person in the visual field. Recall that The Holy Spirit descends down upon the disciples from above. So there’s a strong vertical element with a lower and Higher Self and the Higher Self is meant to stream downward into the physical (lower) self until the Higher Self “uplevels” the being such that the two aspects of themselves more and more merge.
In the tradition of The Mighty I AM this process of calling down light until it raises the human being up until they merge with their Higher Self, is the process of Ascension. According to this tradition, a human who completes that spiritual process during their life will, upon their death, rise up to the level of an Ascended Master.
Which brings us back yet again to the story of The Ascension of Jesus:
When Jesus had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Acts 1:10
In the Mighty I AM tradition the point of Ascension is to transcend material creation. It’s about exiting the earth and not having to reincarnate. Later Ascensionist work began to speak, however, of an Ascension for Earth—that is, The New Earth. It this latter tradition whose thread is of most interest in this piece because, as previously mentioned, it too has its roots in Christianity.
Madame Blavatsky saw her work as a revival of the ancient Hermetic-Neoplatonic teaching. (For further exploration of those topics see previous pieces I’ve written on Neoplatonism, as well as alchemy-hermeticism in science). Hermeticism already included a strong astrological element, along with various theories of aeons or world cycles. Blavatsky however seems to have seen all of life ultimately returning to The One in a transcendentalist fashion—just as Ballard saw each individual soul seeing to escape karmic rebirth.
If we instead we follow the thread of a New Heaven and a New Earth we come to see the way in which the Earth is a cosmic entity. Therefore any evolutionary change in the Earth is automatically a change in the solar system, the galaxy, and so on (“New Heaven”).
The eventual rise of a more specifically astrological and cosmic evolutionary model of Ascension comes primarily from Alice Bailey. Bailey wrote extensively on esoteric astrological matters, including the (in)famous Age of Aquarius. Bailey’s Great Invocation is an explicitly apocalyptic prayer, calling for the messianic age (The 2nd Coming of Christ/Maitreya) which will bring all of material reality back into alignment with Divine Providence. Rudolf Steiner’s astrological and cosmological reflections are very influential and relevant here as well, (see my earlier piece on a Steinerian investigation of the Ghostbusters reboot).
In addition, Carl Jung was very crucial in this transitional period as well, since Jung argued that the UFO was an archetypal manifestation of the Aquarian Age (see my piece for further detail on that rather intriguing point).
I should also mention Edgar Cayce’s influence here as well. Cayce (like Jung) serves as a bridge from the early 20th century figures like Blavatsky, Ballard, and Bailey to the post war period. Cayce’s speculations on hyper dimensional beings (“aliens”/ETs), Atlantis, and the like became strongly influential in the further explosion and development of the New Age through the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st.
In the immediate postwar context, as the UFO phenomenon grew and the contactee movement in particular gained steamed (1950s), some overlap (“hybridization”, if you will) took place between the contactee movement and the Ascended Masters movement. Along these lines Ascended Masters teacher Elizabeth Clare Prophet designated various Ascended Masters to various cosmic bodies—Suns, stars, planets, etc. These beings were said to the guardians of their various celestial bodies.
We can start to see the merging of these various lineaments into a synthesis. Eventually by the 1960/70s/80s this line of thought leads to the rise of channeled ET texts with various higher dimensional forms of cosmic intelligence—Pleiadians, Arcturians, Sirians, etc.—sending information “down to earth.” These higher dimensional cosmic entities function as a type of an Ascended Master, though not human originally in nature. See my earlier piece on this genre of literature.
By now we seem a long way perhaps from the Ascension of Christ but again not so far as one might think. What all these astrological, cosmological, and metaphysical views lead towards—especially again in an Alice Bailey—is a messianic cosmism, which as I’ve detailed elsewhere on the site, strangely has it’s roots in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic thought.
We come once more back then to the text of the Ascension of Jesus:
While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ (Acts 1:10-11)
In the Christian telling the Ascension of Christ is the first embodiment of The New Age (new aeon). Ultimately however Christ will come back in a “Descension” to bring about the fulfillment of the age in a transformed earthly reality (New Heaven/New Earth.)
This emphasis on Ascension as a kind of Descension really gained traction in more recent developments of New Age Ascension discourse. In the Harmonic Convergence event of 1986 and the apocalyptic groundswell around 2012, Ascenionist teaching fully moves into the notion of an Ascension for Earth. Sometimes this takes the form of the idea that the Ascended earth will “split off”—like a branched quantum timeline—from the main Earth. That version of Ascension, it should be noted has it’s roots in American Protestant fundamentalist evangelical Millenarian Christianity, where it is known as the Rapture. This worldview is very strong within Pentecostal Christianity, which brings us once more all the way back to the Ascension of Jesus—which recall is followed by the Pentecost, i.e. the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles.
It is strange to see Pentecostal Christians as the long lost and erstwhile cousins of Ascended Masters and Channeled ET practitioners of the New Age but the link is deep, ancient, and thoroughgoing as this piece has tried to show. Also, as I mentioned at the beginning there’s a very eerie parallel between Ascension/Ascended Masters teachings and transhumanism, in that both are strange unconscious combinations of Christian apocalyptic and alchemical traditions.
So having gone through this genealogy of Ascensionist teaching, I want to return to the question that began this piece: how to understand Ascension in light of weird naturalism and ontological flooding?
The core elements of this tradition of spirituality are:
1: The ending of one world and the birthing of a new one (the apocalypse)
2: Personal spiritual experience of a Divine Energy, leading to the development of unusual/extraordinary human perceptual and sensory capacities
3: The connection between this Spirit-immersion on a human level with a larger Cosmic process, including but not limited to, the “cosmic nature” of Earth.
If consciousness and energy are two sides of one coin—The Right and Left Hands of God respectively—then changes in energy indicate a change in consciousness (and vice versa). Ascension then, from a weird naturalist perspective, shorn of much of the metaphysical hype and ungrounded language, is an attempt to make sense of the experience of changes in cosmic energies (and hence consciousness).
While they may not officially state this, Ascensionist traditions have a strongly animistic quality, particularly insofar as they are exploring astrological and cosmological evolution. In an earlier piece on star beings, I discussed how the causal formless source first “deposits” itself into the subtle realm of Platonic forms/archetypes, which then moves “downward” on the chain of causation from the subtle into the psychic, i.e. the nonordinary, highly strange, mystical dimension of materiality. I discussed how stars (and by extension planetary bodies) are the perfect conduit from the subtle to the psychic/gross realm.
If indeed there is some evolutionary movement afoot in consciousness and energy, then it will begin in the causal formative ground, move through the subtle archetypal realm, and then have first “contact” (pun intended) with gross materiality via stars, plasmas, the crystalline state (as in water), suns, and planets. (Stars and suns are plasmoids).
From an unconventional scientific view, this is why anti-gravity, “free energy” technologies have their roots in plasmas. UFOs would seem to do this in some fashion. Tapping the energy that moves through those plasmas is tapping into the higher order energy/conscious of the subtle and causal. As Jacques Vallee has argued the subtle may be thought of, from as a physics view, as a higher order of informational architecture, with an all-at-once simultaneous temporal reality (which is precisely what mystics have said for millennia). Being able to tap directly into that “physics of information”—as Vallee calls it—would again tap directly into a higher order consciousness and energy that would transcend the typical limitations of the ordinary waking state and gross realm—like traditional notions of gravity or entropy, and so on.
What Vallee and others are describing from an unorthodox physics viewpoint, Ascensionsts (in their best moments) are, I believe, describing from an inner experiential perspective. The alternative physicists are coming at it from the energy side of the street, while the Ascensionists are coming at it more from the consciousness side of the street. Consciousness and energy are two aspects of one integrated continuum.
The vast majority of Ascensionist thought is overburdened with unnecessary metaphysics, cultish tendencies, and lots of sloppy thinking (unfortunately), but I maintain there is a core experiential ground in this tradition. In particular certain individuals seem peculiarly sensitive to the subtle changes in the cosmic energies, leading even to the point of physical, mental, and emotional upheaval as a result. In the companion piece to this one I’ll explore how we can understand those experiences—known as ascension symptoms—in light of weird naturalism, as well as trauma studies. The intention of these twin pieces is to incorporate and integrate these cosmic spiritual experiences without the unnecessary metaphysical baggage (the argument of this piece) nor the dysregulating, overwhelming traumatic aspects of ascension symptoms (the followup piece).