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The Origins of Man and the Universe, Barry Long ~ Review
on 13 May 2015
I first read Edition 1 of this book in the mid 80s, and although I've only read the whole thing twice since, I've read and re-read many sections over and over again - including earlier this year - which were specifically relevant to me. That 1st Edition was the first of Barry's books I ever read, and through it I soon got to meet him and attend some of his seminars. My own gnostic quest began some 16 or 17 years earlier, and through that I was already fairly well read spiritually, plus I'd had numerous inner world experiences, including some very powerful 'Night of Power' experiences. Meeting Barry and also reading a number of his other books and listening to his then audio tapes helped me understand and put into perspective many of my own experiences - particularly his work on the Seven Levels of Terrestrial Mind which for me as a 'pneumanaut' is a very practical map - and although I've probably disagreed with more minor statements of his than I have any other spiritual teacher's, I still rate him as the most important Western spiritual master of the modern age as I've never come across anyone else whose subject range was so vast, or who taught how to apply spiritual principles to pretty much all practical areas of daily living. I never took him (or anyone) on as "my guru" as I was already familiar with many other true sages and the "perennial wisdom" which has been handed down to us through all world mystical and gnostic traditions, plus I was already very aware more than a decade earlier that there is no such thing as a "perfect master" while still in human form. Even the "I Ching" states that even the sage can err. (Though this important issue requires qualification which I can't give in this review). That said, I have enormous respect for Barry Long as the 'real deal', particularly as there are so many 'half teachers' around these days; ie: spiritual teachers who are clearly not at the 'enlightened' level.
I found Edition 1 of this book as impressive as many reviewers here found this new 2nd Edition, though I always found the second half about the primary Consciousness perspective of the 'creation of all' heavy reading, despite that the very basics of it already complied with my own gnosis. I've now also purchased and read this amended 2nd Edition, and while I found the newly edited 'creation myth' much easier to follow, I also found myself almost in numb shock as there were quite a few aspects of the model which I found myself completely disagreeing with! IE: some aspects just didn't click with my own gnosis (either my own inner world experiences, or my gnosis of certain key spiritual principles), while some parts of his model I found 'troublesome' in that there were seeming contradictions or 'what came first, chicken or egg?' type anomalies, plus I also felt that elements of his theory were products of some of his own subconscious prejudices. Perhaps the most stark example of the latter is his notion that organic, sensory life on Earth is probably the only actual organic, sensory life in the entire universe. I just find this unexpected idea to be what might be called 'human (or Man) chauvinism', 'Earth chauvinism', or 'Earth-Moon' chauvinism as he assumes extremely limited parameters for any life-form to develop when what we're finding on the Beautiful Earth Herself is that life-forms adapt to staggering extremes in variations of environment which scientists themselves previously couldn't have imagined anything surviving in, never mind thriving in. My own gnosis and understanding of key inner world principles tells me that we're likely to discover organic life-forms almost everywhere. I feel that Barry's model is prejudiced towards the absolute aspect of Cosmic Consciousness, and thus overbalances away from the experiential perspective (when all deep gnostic traditions emphasise that the two are ultimately the same), and as a result what is not clearly explained to my satisfaction is that crucial point when Cosmic Consciousness downgrades through various octaves to finally end up as matter. This is one key question I've been unable to 100% answer myself (when I've also written on the same subject at much lesser length), and thus I was really hoping for something concrete from Barry on this, but I didn't find it.
Barry isn't the first world sage to deal with the creation myth. Gurdjieff writes in various places about very early human development (he also refers to an inner world "Protocosmos"), and as it covers areas not addressed in this "Origins" book, I've even cunningly combined the two in an epic gnostic science fiction quest novel I published a couple of years ago ["Quest of the Solar Flower"]. Then Meher Baba also wrote about the process of creation in "God Speaks", and with his emphasis being on the evolution of consciousness through matter, then vegetable forms to animal and then self-reflective human form, he deals in detail with aspects which Barry's book completely omits, thus here I find another missing link in Barry's model. But I want to mention four more aspects of Barry's model which don't ring right for me, which I feel are related to his own views based on his limited and/or selective reading, both scientific and mythic.
The first point is that Barry explains the evolving Idea of the Sun (long before there's a physical sun), then the Earth and Moon are Ideas emanating from this inner world 'proto-sun'. This reflects my own perception except for one key thing: Barry didn't seem to be aware that the Moon had once been a part of the Earth. Gurdjieff was probably the first person to mention this: he states "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson" that the early Earth was struck by a comet and that the material that is now the Moon was cleaved off. IE: the Moon didn't form in the same way other planets did - thus a 'Solar Idea' of an independent Moon doesn't ring right. Then when moon-rock was first brought back to Earth it was found that it was chemically similar to earth-rock, though it was probably only in the 1980s that the current theory that another planet (called Theia by some) collided with the Earth, shearing off the Moon, became generally accepted by scientists. But taking that it's now generally scientifically accepted, then Barry's separate 'Solar Idea' of the Moon seems flawed as it would require the Moon to have always been a unique and independent body.
My second point is also to do with science in that Barry, although critical of Big Bang theory and not accepting it as a true model (me too) takes this premise to 'offshoot' his own 'inner world big bang' model. What he almost certainly wasn't aware of when amending his text for the 2nd Edition is that there are now other theories - the Electronic Universe theory, the Photonic Universe theory, and Konstantin Meyl's vortex/neutrino model, all of which deny Big Bang - and I deeply feel that had he been aware of those (though I doubt any were public in the late 90s) then his model would have changed to accommodate whichever he favoured. IE: I feel that his own model was subconsciously conditioned by what he was aware of scientifically at the time and thus that it has limited objectivity.
Thirdly, on to something in myth which I don't think Barry was aware of. According to many world mythologies from all over the globe, Saturn was once referred to as the 'exemplary sun', the 'best sun', etc (eg: Helios, Sol, Atum-Ra and other names now associated with the sun were all originally names for Saturn). IE: at one point in our history when humans had already evolved to self-reflective consciousness, Saturn's position was very different to where it is now, and this is currently taken to be the case by the proponents of the Electric Universe theory. Further, I've no idea whether or not Barry was aware that Venus spins in the opposite direction to all other planets in the Solar System - though I'm amazed at how many people aren't aware of this - but various people have theorised that Venus can't have evolved in the same way our other planets did and may not even be a native of this solar system. Now if either or both of the latter theories are correct (and had Barry been aware of the Saturn anomaly in mythology I'm sure he would have stated it as true, just as he states that the old gods were more than fictional) then Barry's model is missing another vital part.
Fourthly, the idea that scientists create the particles they discover was something I took seriously from my mid 80s reading of the 1st Edition of Barry's opus, but I now feel that it doesn't test against reality. Barry is basically taking the old adage "with our thoughts we create the world" to an extreme (and I go along with that, even to a great degree), but if Barry is correct re particles, then not only will scientists be creating postulated dark matter and dark energy, but surely then other scientists who have opposing theories must also be creating the elements or phenomena necessary to make their theories work. IE: if Big Bang theory is essentially incorrect (as I've always been certain, plus it can't be true if Barry's model is true) yet theorists are still creating the particles they require to support that model, then by definition other scientists with opposing theories must also be creating the necessary components which are required for their theories. Further, then why shouldn't the same apply to the models created by science fiction writers (many of which are actually prophetic)? In my own novel I utilise the actual Seven Heavens model (which Barry calls the Seven Levels of Terrestrial Mind) as I've directly experienced higher levels, even up to Cosmic Consciousness, but for the sake of the theme of quaternities in my book, I have a system of four universes (my deliberate fiction), yet I doubt that I was actually creating them as I wrote!
Although the greater part of The Origins of Man and the Universe either tests against my own experiences and gnosis, or contains that intuitive ring of truth, the above aren't my only disagreements with or doubts about Barry's 'creation myth'. However, I still award the book a 5 Star rating as the content of the book ventures into territories that one day a future evolved gnostic-science must also boldly venture into. Despite my various disagreements, I still rate Barry Long as a mostly unsung genius, and the most important Western sage of the modern era. And I'm so glad I got to meet him.