Click on image to see larger sunrise over central tower at Angkor Wat.
Photographs by Willard Van De Bogart
Barring a full description of what it may mean to begin our ascent into the realm of the Gods it is important for us as terrestrial occupants of this planet to recognize our larger divine self or cosmic self. To make a pilgrimage to those centers where sacred ritual took place honoring our place in the universe is in my mind an act of determination that we all must give to ourselves to escape from the clutches of a capitalistic environment. We have to recognize we are more than just a race of consumers on a planet of limited resources. Every facet of life on earth that reflects the diversity of heaven is a part of our own consciousness. As we destroy and deplete our earth we likewise destroy our ability to see the mirror of the divine reflection on earth.
The sacred temples remaining on earth are here for us to re-kindle our sacred roots before all paths to our Buddhahood are eliminated. Now as the final years of the Kali Yuga play themselves out it will become increasingly more difficult to join with our sacred roots. But, the time is dawning ever so closely when these last days of the hell cycle will end, and a new turning is about to become fully manifest when the direct alignment with our source of creation will directly impact upon us all. Now is the time to assert ourselves as reflections of a much higher sensibility than only acquiring wealth. Now is our time to participate in the most magnificent era of human history, as we know it. The ancients told us about this time, and have left monuments all over the earth that are only now being deciphered and uncovered. The message is clear, that there is a direct link to our human evolution, conscious transformation, and the cycles of time.
Angkor Wat has become for me the clarion call to wake up to this time and make another personal pilgrimage to those sacred environs where homage to this cycle of transformation takes place. Now when I enter the Western entrance to Angkor Wat I will know more about the significance of this ancient temple. The mysterious spell which was cast over me when I entered the central tower on my first visit is still with me. As the Spring Equinox approaches I also know that my own pilgrimage will allow me to experience the most sacred of times at Angkor Wat when the sun rises directly over the central tower.
Slowly the literary works of Mannikker and Higham are nearing their completion. The ancient Khmer civilization is coming to life and no longer are thestones dead without meaning but vibrant with symbolic understanding of how the God-Kings honored their Gods and ancestors. Now it is possible tocombine the historical works of several authors thus opening up an entirely new perspective on how to perceive these ancient temples. In review, here arethose texts which have allowed me to open my understanding and appreciation for interpreting the cosmologies of the ancients.
With the knowledge gained from these texts I have a much better appreciation for how we can honor ourselves if only we allow ourselves to follow ourown divine instincts. Once the path has been opened and there is more clarity to the forces that guide our instincts can we receive ever more insights intowho we may become in this time of spiritual and deep personal transformation. Angkor Wat is, as Eleanor Mannikker states,
..."a mandala of time and divinity, and its center or creator, was built into the periphery and heart of the temple making it an image of the universe and its source".
It has been 147 years since 1856 when Henri Mouhot, the French Naturalist, first visited Angkor Wat and brought it out of darkness and into the world with his writings.Unfortunately the last quarter of the 20th century saw Cambodia embroiled in war and genocide, and only during the last six years of the 20th century was it safe to go back into this once sacred land of Khmer Kings. But as with ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica the Khmer civilization is clearly emerging as a civilization where the priest class, in support of the Kings, saw the divine nature of man's existence in the universe. There can be no better place to visit to experience this devotion to the celestial movements than at Angkor Wat.
And now, my pilgrimage begins again as the train pulls out from the Makkasan train station in Bangkok heading for Aranya Prathet on the border with Cambodia. I know thatwithin our own psyche there has to be a re-awakening to the design of the cosmos. Developing a personal cosmology that has meaning as well as mystery is the beginning to finding our calling to explore new realms on earth. It has only been in the last century that archaeologist have been able to piece together the cosmologies of our ancient ancestors. Now we know that all over the world whether on mountain tops, in the deepest of jungles or deserts the ancients were in touch with a much more grandiose comprehension of the universe than any of our contemporary cultures of today. Therefore, it takes focus and determination as well as an unprecedented effort to make a spiritual pilgrimage today. This is especially true if the pilgrimage is very far away or there are involvements and responsibilities that are a part of one's personal life. The more obligations that come with attachments to a culture, the more it becomes increasingly difficult to break out of those cultural dependencies and honor the calling of the higher mind. The higher mind is universal and reaches beyond the confines of limited points of view, which are spawned by ideologies and popular philosophical approaches to existence. Angkor Wat in some miraculous way still sits silently in the mist of the diminishing forest of Central Cambodia.
Now I sit quietly looking out the train window watching the high-rise apartment buildings, office buildings and scores of mindless excuses in buildings used for human habitation slip into the morning shadows of the Bangkok sykline. The open rice fields that stretch endlessly across the countryside are once again looming into the distance. It will be many hours before I will see the central tower pointing up into the heavens at Angkor Wat. However, when I do see the central tower I will know that I have reached my destination where once the Khmer Kings and priests conducted sacred rituals honoring their place in the universe.
The eventful morning had finally arrived, and before I knew it I was on a motor bike winding around the roads to Angkor Wat. The sun had not yet come up and the air in the morning was very cool with the smell of all the foliage pressing against my nostrils. Finally the moat surrounding Angkor Wat appeared. The water was still and many other people on motor bikes were also on their way to see the sunrise. I felt a new sense of exhilaration as I approached the first step at the Western entrance. All of Eleanor's Mannikker's descriptions were swirling in my head, and I knew that the first step onto the great causeway was the step over the sacred threshold symbolized by my entering the symbolic Kali Yuga section before I passed through the Western entrance. I was about to align my body with the larger cosmos and I was about to follow the path of divinity as did the ancient Khmer Kings. I was creating my own mythology and felt the larger cosmology of the Khmer civilization begin to surge through my veins.
As I approach the main causeway I am not alone. Behind me and in front of me there are dozens of people walking in silence. Here in the middle of the Cambodian jungle are people at the early hours of the morning all on one mission to witness the sunrise over Angkor Wat. Once I pass through the main entrance I am astonished as I see hundreds of people silently sitting against the walls waiting for the sunrise. The air is filled with a new kind of expectancy as hundreds watch expecting to see a wondrous spectacle to appear. All around it is quiet. The insects are alive with a continuous buzzing sound coming from the trees. In the distance horses can be seen grazing quietly on the meadows. The sky becomes pink, the clouds begin to glow and the roosters announce the coming of the sun. Here, in front of Angkor Wat, there are no other words to describe that moment other than it was a magical atmosphere with everyone posturing in some unified respect to a greater event than anyone had ever experienced before. Truly the Gods were awakening for the new dawn of a new day.
The anticipation to see the sun come up behind the central tower was capturing everybody's attention. Digital cameras were being held like so many alms bowls used by the monks when waiting for their morning food. The waiting and the capturing of the sun was a unique drama that everybody had a role in. The world could have disappeared, and only the central tower silhouetted against the slow rising of the sun was for a moment the only reality in existence. As the sun began to rise the central tower looked as if it had caught on fire. The tower glowed in my telephoto lens like a penetrating beam of light from some other dimension. My entire being was concentrated on the ability of my mind to bring back alive all those thoughts of a culture that had fallen asleep over the last 800 centuries. But now, the ancient Khmer culture was awakening once again only this time my own existence was there to witness this magnificent marvel of the wedding of architecture and cosmos. Awakening within me was a new sense of consciousness on obtaining a higher sense of being or perhaps a closer relationship to the Gods in the universe.
The crescendo of all crescendos was now occurring before my eyes. The sun was raising closer to the top of the central tower and the glow was a brilliant red and for a moment there was a great in rush of air into my lungs as I gasped at the sheer magnificence composed of a man-made and natural wonder. The sun was sitting on top of the central tower announcing to the world that here in the middle of this steamy heat filled jungle there arose a feeling of awe and respect for the potential of spiritual attainment that can be achieved. My second pilgrimage was consumed in a flurry of motorized camera shots as I tried to capture the essence of a kingdom that was still here after all these centuries soaked in the intense heat of the morning Cambodian sun. As the sun continued to rise high into the morning sky Angkor Wat became illuminated and strange shadows were cast about as the tourists began to find their own special place to ponder the ignition that just began the day. Once again the land was perfectly still and time to reflect on this moment again consumed my attention.
I too began to find my way through the galleries of Angkor Wat. I remembered how Eleanor Mannikker explained the significance of the geometric layout and the ancient religions of India with their cosmological mandalas, which were all, utilized in the construction of Angkor Wat. But again, I became entranced the higher I climbed toward the central tower. Once at the very top I began to photograph the Buddhas that were placed on sealed walls blocking an entrance into the central tower. All but the south wall was open and it was here I climbed behind the statue of the Buddha and peered into the darkness of the central tower. The bats were startled as I poked my head through the protective wooden bars and used my flash on the camera to briefly capture the walls of the depth and height of this place of the holy of holies. It was here that the constellation Draco came to mind from Graham Hancocks work as I pondered the terrestrail placement of Angkor Wat in relation to the heavens. Once again I had returned to the very spot that instilled in me a profound sense of awe. Leaving this sacred spot I walked over to the eastern wall of the central tower and paid my respects to the Buddha.
The day was becoming extremely hot, and again the Apsaras began to dance on the frozen walls of time. After descending the central tower and returning to the first step of the western entrance to Angkor Wat I knew once again that I had just came from one of the most sacred experiences on earth. The remainder of the day was traveling among the ruins and temple restorations experiencing the symmetry and wonder of the Khmer civilization. Many of the Apsaras were buried among the fallen temple stones, some were hidden behind stones, but all of them were still smiling and casting their beauty into the temple grounds for all to see. The Apsaras were the female divinities carved in stone to endure over a 1000 years of erosion and abandonment. Surely today their subtle smiles and graceful bodies are attracting the world to return and see how they have endured, and with their grace and beckoning calls have enabled Angkor Wat to receive once again the attention it deserves. Stone by stone is slowly being put back in place in countless temples preserving a heritage the world had almost lost.
The heritage that would have been lost to the world would have been an expression of how spiritual forces, when guided by a higher purpose, can produce unbelievable human expressions portraying the divine purpose in the universe. Today, in the beginning of the 21st century, men toil with heavy mechanical equipment to hoist stones, cut stones, and slowly try to re-assemble and restore temples, which were once built only with human hands toiling in the heat of the entire Cambodian countryside. Slowly the Khmer civilization is being resurrected from oblivion. The dedication to the God's is slowly being preserved before the ravages of time would once again slowly erode what is left and return the temples back into the Cambodian soil. The Conservation d'Angkor is now trying to preserve all existing statuary by housing it in a protective enclosure. I am happy to say I was given the opportunity to see this effort, and was deeply saddened to see the vandalism which has desecrated so many of the temple carvings. When I saw hundreds of Apsaras lying flat on the ground removed from their celestial guardianship duties on the temples a vast wave of remorse came over me. But what does exist today at Angkor Wat is evidence enough of what this kingdom was like when it was flourishing, when Vishnu and Brahma were the venerated Gods. Likewise, the priests were walking around the many corridors and galleries guiding the royalty and those fortunate enough to have earned merit to pay homage to the divine forces of this universe. The devotion to those celestial forces by the Khmer Kings is in the distant past, but Angkor Wat still is capable of eliciting feelings of awe for a kingdom that has vanished into the Cambodian jungle.
Then as now, wars were always being fought. The battle scenes depicted on the bas-reliefs are testimony to the struggles that the Khmer Kings had in defending their kingdom. How difficult it must have been to defend such a vast kingdom. The Apsaras surely were saddened to see the forces of destruction come to their most sacred corridors where looting, and the killing of a civilization that truly was God like in its quest for immortality. Nearly 800 years would pass before the re-discovery of this civilization would emerge from the jungles of the Mekong Delta. Now, the hoards of investors that have achieved wealth in the new money societies of the world are flocking to Angkor Wat with their souls empty, and their inner calling for a higher purpose crying out above the need to make more profits. As the hotels are being built and the airline companies are scheduling flights to Cambodia the world is descending on Angkor Wat to sit in fascination and wonder at who could of built these temples. Digital cameras by the millions are recording the magic sunrise over the central tower so the homage to Vishnu and Brahma can be seen in living rooms across the planet.
Perhaps the spirit of Angkor Wat has once again come to life and the intentions of the Khmer Kings, along with all the Apsaras, will once again bring back the mystery of the universe. This is the alignment era, when the passage of the sun aligns itself with the center of the galaxy. The "Churning of the Milky Ocean" is coming alive once again when the elixir of the Gods can be drunk and a New World Age of divine inspiration can come to this planet at the end of the Kali Yuga.
Again, the world is embroiled in a war, but this time in the cradle of civilization where the Summerian civilization once reigned over 6000 years ago. I can only wish that the sacred expressions which were experienced from the illumination of Angkor Wat by the rising sun would spread peace over the earth. Angkor Wat has the spiritual power in the 21st century to offer the necessary divine inspiration and respect for the grand universe which we all live in.
Only with peace attained and devotion to the honoring of our higher principles can we as humans achieve our destiny on this earth.
Other stories related to the Khmer Empire.
Part I- Stones in the Sky - Before the Journey to Angkor Wat
Part II - Stones in the Sky - Journey to Angkor Wat - July 2002.
Part IV - Stones in the Sky - Journey to Preah Vihear - May 2004.
Part V - Stones in the Sky - Journey to Beng Mealea - October 2004.
Apsaras and Devatas - Photo documentation of female divinities at Angkor Wat.
Center for Archaeoastronomy and ISAAC, the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture.
History of Science, Vedic Studies, Astronomy - By Subhash Kak