What follows is my own understanding based on my many years of experiences in meditation, reading 100s of books on metaphysics, and my own inner visions. It is not intended to frighten anyone.
Keep mind that everything is Isness, everything is a temporal illusory hologram and no Loka world is more real than another.
As we move through the Cycles of Time, these invisible-only-to-us beings play their part in holding us in the illusion that becomes more powerful, solid and dense as time moves through out the cycles leading up to the Twilight of the Kali Yuga – now.
It also explains in part the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad quote that has puzzled me for so many years:
And to this day, [those] who...know the self as I am Brahman [IS-ness], become all this universe.
Even the gods [any other dimensional beings] cannot prevent his becoming this, for he has become their Self.
...if a man worships another deity thinking: He is one and I am another, he does not know.
He [who does not know] is like a sacrificial animal to the gods. As many animals serve a man, so does each man serve the gods. Even if one animal is taken away, it causes anguish to the owner; how much more so when many are taken away!
Therefore it is not pleasing to the gods that men should know this [that they are IS-ness].
My understanding is that there are many beings of varying states of consciousness that for literally millions of years have interacted with this planet. Some might call them gods, while others may know them as etheric beings or perhaps extraterrestrials - a word that only means not of this earth, extra-terra.
“The stars in the form of constellations are mentioned along with the planets wherein are situated the residences of the gods who have performed meritorious acts.” [VAYU PURANA 1.93]
There are seven higher worlds and seven lower worlds in Hindu metaphysics. These LOKA worlds reflect a wide spectrum of consciousness, as they are made up of specific frequencies of waveforms. Perhaps the demon worlds of the Sanskrit Puranic texts, the anti-gods, the Asuras and Raksasas, are reptoid or Borg-like extraterrestrials.
The VAYU Purana contains amazingly detailed descriptions of an eighth world, dazzling and bejeweled, inhabited by hybrid beings, meaning for example half-lion and half-human.
VAYA PURANA, Chapter 39
 Beyond Brahmaloka and beneath the upper crust of the Cosmic Egg – in between these two is the PURA (Shiva’s city), his divine abode MANOMAYA (consisting of the mind).
 The city shines much with scattered diamond dust.
These worlds are light from within, meaning their reality does not consist of reflected light, as does our solid five-sense material world.
[239-42] … there are divine lotuses… made of gold… their inner surfaces are very tender. The lotuses covering up the whole place seem to be so many umbrellas.
Are these gold umbrellas some sort of protective technology? Are these beings vulnerable to Cosmic Rays, Gamma and X-Rays as we are?
[260-263] Some [of the inhabitants] are… horse-faced… a few have the faces of the lord of the beasts; other have faces and bellies like those of elephants, others are elephant-faced; a few are lion-faced and tiger-faced… others can assume any form they wish.
If this had been translated before today’s science began to fool around with genetic manipulation, naturally these creatures would have been seen as ‘mythology’. The same images of human bodies with animal heads are sprinkled on the ancient Sumerian and Akkadian cuneiform tablets.
[264-266] Lord Mahesvara [the transcendent Lord Shiva] of ten arms sports therein… He is being respected and diligently worshipped by those people moving about in aerial chariots.
Evidently these gods have their own space ships!
My understanding is this: As the frequencies continued to fall through the Cycles of Time, there emerged beings of both a higher and lower consciousness. The various entities, some who are very compassionate and others tyrannical, began to project astral-world realms out into the hologram.
I have named these worlds the Phantasmal Hierarchies from the word phantasm, which according to the Oxford Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, 1974, means a spectre. A phantasm-agora is a collection of spectres as shown by a magic lantern.
These hierarchies are temporal illusions.
Down though time, the elaborate rituals of the Treta and Dvapara Yuga turned into belief systems. The beings involved projected an assortment of hierarchical worlds related to the specific frequencies generated by their thoughts. Keep in mind that everything is a temporal illusory hologram and no world is any more ‘real’ than another. Only Oneness is REAL.
With the creation of these Phantasmal Hierarchies, certain individual gods came to dominate others - and in a way, utilize their energy. Obviously these are not all beings of the highest consciousness, but they are a part of Oneness nevertheless and we have moved out of the golden era and the collective understanding and memory of our Oneness.
I suggest that many of these entities are the so-called extraterrestrials and are from lower Loka Worlds. By exploiting the use of ritual, the manipulative tyrant beings pass themselves off as gods and trick us humans into worshipping them and giving them our energy. By these occult, a term that simply means hidden, means these entities thus generated an abundant energy source that has been used to build the so-called astral worlds and enhance the splendor of the Phantasmal Hierarchies.
Perhaps you can equate this bow-down-and-worship practice with the act of giving up your own hard earned money. When you worship another you literally give up your power, your energy, your ability to think for yourself to whatever you worship.
God is within us all. The SELF/ATMA dwells in the Heart of everyone. So even though we may respect and love many - why would we worship any other than the God-within?
Now I would suggest that the idea of BHAKTI and the term devotion, as it is used by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, are very different from the concept of worship. To me Bhakti Yoga implies Union, the act of becoming one with that which you already are. Worship might be defined as an act limited to energy focused on external entity – not the SELF/ATMA within - to achieve certain results.
Rituals can be very beautiful and can unite us in feeling, giving us an opportunity to express our Love for the Supreme Being. But rituals are not meant to be a substitute for the experience and knowledge of Oneness. Rituals will tie you into the temporal illusory hologram, but not liberate you from it. To make way for the return of the Golden Age, the Satya/Krita Yuga, we need to remember that God lies within the Heart of every man, woman and child.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna very clearly disdains the practice of making sacrifices to achieve certain worldly results or to spend time in any of the heavenly realms. He says that he cannot be seen with the aid of the Vedas, austerities, gifts, and sacrifices. He can only be seen through the practice of BHAKTI [Bhagavad Gita 33.11.52-55], which to me implies UNION, the act of becoming ONE with that which you already are and have always been. To become One with the Self/ATMA that dwells in your Heart, you do not have to perform ritual sacrifices.
In the Uddhava Gita Krishna says that the wise understand that the rewards of heaven, which are promised by religious rituals are as transient as pleasures on earth. [Dialogue 14.18]
Even the higher heavenly worlds of the gods, rishis, seers, saints and angels are temporal:
…the rewards of those of little wit are ephemeral : God worshippers go to the Gods. [Bhagavad Gita 29.7.23]
As an artist I have loved and studied religious iconography all my life. I love the images of religious faith and passion. And as someone who is naturally drawn to practice BHAKTI yoga, I love the representations of the gods in Hinduism and Buddhism. I myself have many of these, but from my own experience I realize how easy it is to project my feelings into these images and then over time forget that they are only stone, wood & metal. I leave a part of myself there, waiting, and having thus externalized my consciousness, I neglect the SELF/ATMA within my own Heart.
A similar process takes place with the winners of fame, although perhaps on a less perilous level. These days the public worships a wide spectrum of famous people from those who are rich and powerful, to rock stars and athletes. For example with film stars, people tend to see themselves in these wonderful actors and either love or hate them accordingly. But in truth, the public does not know the actor – you only know what the directors and writers have projected into them, along with what you see of yourself in them. This ability to perform a wide spectrum of human nature is the actor’s talent – but it is not who they are. Only their close friends and family ever know them.
While it is lovely and uplifting to have ceremonies, rituals, and prayers to higher beings – it is crucial, especially in this moment in time, to remember the God-within, the SELF/ATMA.
We become as little children, to regain our primordial innocence – we do not wish to remain childish, forever waiting for parental care and handouts.
The nature of the Golden Age is that we all Remember who we are, we know that we are Oneness, and thus there is no reason to worship anything or anyone.
How can we move into a Golden Era when we are still externalizing our own God-SELF?
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