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Non-Duality and the Soul - Part 4

by Peter Holleran

   "The spiritual evolution which requires him to abandon his ego runs parallel to the mental evolution that requires him to perfect it." - Paul Brunton (PB)

   Here we deal a bit further concerning the nature of the ego and the soul. To begin, a wholistic consideration lends itself to counterposing two very different quotations from PB, giving us both a narrow and an expanded view of what the ego actually is. On the one hand, advaita-or-buddhist-like, he writes:

   “The personal ‘I’ is but a bundle of impermanent hopes and transient fears, a little sheaf of cravings that change with the changing years (he also writes “the ego is a collection of thoughts circulating around a fixed but empty center”- Notebooks, Vol. 6, 8:2.37). Nothing that we know among them is immortal even during this present earth life; how then can they be immortal through all eternity? To cultivate a belief in a personal ego that will permanently survive in a state of fixation is to prolong the illusion that even now blinds our eyes to truth? Unless of course we choose to regard the series of continuous reincarnations as a kind of immortality which, in one sense, it certainly is. But this conception will not satisfy those who demand conscious unbroken continuity as a characteristic of their immortality. We shall certainly exist after death, whether in the dream-like stage with which it begins, the sleep-like stage with which it ends or the new reincarnation which completes the whole circle of personality. Yet in none of these shall we have done more than achieve a mere survival. Let this satisfy those who want it but it is not the same as true deathlessness, which can be achieved only by transcending the transient personality.” (The Wisdom of the Overself)

   But also:

   “The entity which lives in the spirit world after death is the same ego that dwelt on earth, emanating from and sustained by the same Overself. In this relationship, they are still distinct and separate entities, even though as intimately connected as parent and offspring.” (Notebooks, Vol. 6, 8:1.236)


   "[Experiences like] sickness may come to advanced students for a variety of causes, some of which arise from outside the individual. Karma is the commonest, but one such cause might be the application of a test or ordeal from the divine soul to the human ego that aspires to evolve more rapidly." (Ibid, citation misplaced)

   He also says that 'we' must make the ego seek the Overself' (v12.18.5.95). In that case, one asks, "what is 'we' that makes the ego seek the Overself?" Apparently not the ego or the Overself! PB writes that the Overself 'emanates a part of itself that eventually evolves to be the complex human ego.' Thus our often denigrated individuality itself is quite a paradox. Most teachers and writers talk about it either positively or negatively without defining what it is that they are talking about, and no consensus is reached. This is important. PB offers two distinct views. On the one hand, he says the ego is just 'a collection of thoughts around a fixed but empty center'; in other words, a fictitious entity. The Buddhists agree and say this center is nothing but clinging to a non-existent self, which is what upholds the 'six worlds'. One might ask, "what 'fixes' the center in the first place?, for PB then says that this center, this ego, 'unites' with the Overself, that it is the 'child of its parent' the Overself, which 'lovingly swallows it' (v6.8.4.417) - which certainly implies an intelligent process going on.

   In my opinion, an illusory collection of thoughts doesn't qualify as a 'child of a parent', nor can such a random unintelligent 'collection of thoughts' unite with anything! So this 'we' must be more than just a few thoughts. But what is it? An additional problem in talking about it is that we are only giving answers from within Relativity; the more whatever 'we' are dissolves into the mystery, the less the answers will make sense - but it is said we won't so much care then.

   As for the soul, that must be a paradox, too; purely for the sake of communication we say 'the soul is learning or evolving', to distinguish it from the ego. And generally, the 'virtues' (patience, endurance, compassion, discernment, etc) are considered to be 'soul qualities' - not ego qualities. Kind of like an intermediate (and, imho, a necessary) position between gross dualism and non-duality. Although, it gets confusing in theory, because we are taught that the ego will happily masquerade as a spiritualized ego, thinking it is the eternal Soul. But deep down if we are honest (another soul quality) we can, or we grow to be able to tell through experience, when this is happening. Some teachers may say also that these virtues concern only human development, but this is to miscategorize what human development means and entails, and also the fact that we never really achieve much success in garnering them without a simultaneous increase in the sense of presence and intuition (the awakening intuition and presence of the Soul), which is the basis of really embodying the virtues. We do not just muscle our way into them, although self-effort is necessary, even required by the World-Idea - self-effort and grace being two of its laws according to PB's way of looking at it. It is not as some teach, that the virtues are merely a 'byproduct' of awakening and nothing more; sometimes awakening leaves a person as it finds him. Often it does enhance and incline towards virtue. But before and often even after awakening a man must still do his part in schooling the ego or manifest person in righteous ways, if such qualities are to, so to speak, be 'in his blood'. Of course grace is an essential need in bringing this process to fruition.

   On the 'Short Path', PB talks of identifying with the Overself by simply letting go and not thinking or conceptualizing. But he also talks of drawing into the body the Higher Power, being absorbed or swallowed by the Soul or Overself, and even says that the ego and the Overself are 'reciprocally attracted to each other.' (v.2.9.67) It seems almost obvious that a collection of thoughts does not get absorbed or attracted by, nor is the child of anything! So, a question might be, is there a 'real' emanation, or is there just beginningless, inexplicable ignorance? These two themes are found in different traditions, and also PB. He seemed to side with there being an Intelligent Mind behind it all, affirming that its World-Idea guides evolution. Buddhism (certain forms of it anyway) seem to say there is just an impersonal, beginningless, 'empty' karmic process. Both views have validity, but also have different implications, as far as practice and outlook is concerned. We need not chose one from the other, but only understand.

   Here then we have two decidedly non-Buddhist concepts: one, that of karma not being the cause of everything, and two, a divine Soul and Guiding Intelligence. But we need not limit ourselves to Buddhism. So, with this second depiction of the ego PB is basically describing the ego as an ‘I’ evolving qualities like wisdom, character, virtue, and so on, as well as made up of various incarnational bodies - the sum total of the human personality - speaking more like he has elsewhere when explaining reincarnation as the continuing cycle of experience for an ‘emanant’ of the Overself. This emanent might be thought of as the ‘Psychic Being’ of Aurobindo, the ‘Ego’ of theosophy, or the ‘Permanent Personality’ of mystic Daskalos, which in all three cases can be viewed at as a relatively permanent ‘I’ or individual center, a projection of the spirit or soul (where soul is defined not as a subtle or causal body, as it sometimes is in theosophy, but as the consciousness principle, i.e., individual Overself), and which emanent is (in man) further cloaked in three bodies or sheaths (physical, emptional, mental) during its incarnational sojourns in the lower worlds. But the ‘I’ , while it may be described as ‘empty’, is yet existing. That is, to say it is empty is not to say it is not there, only that it may not fundamentally be there as we imagine it to be. Nevertheless it is there within relativity and is not to be equated with the contraction of egoism per se. This emanent ‘accretes’ or distills the wisdom gained in its incarnations, passing it upwards via ‘seed-atoms’ to the Permanent Personality from life to life. After death, when the three lower bodies are progressively and gradually shed (in the ‘first’, ‘second, ‘ and ‘third’ deaths - see “In the Bosom of the Lord” on this website) the being ‘reposes ‘ in blissful rest (sleep-like state for most people, more awakened for others), while awaiting a new incarnation. This is not the great Unmanifest Absolute dissolution, but an intermediate, formless, blissful state.

   The Permanent Personality is still in the realm of dualism, but also is in close relationship with the Soul, and lasts throughout the evolutionary cycle. Thus it is somewhat 'permanent'. When one is enlightened, having completed one’s evolutionary journey in time and space, this Permanent Personality or ‘Ego’ lapses, being no longer needed for the liberated soul, which is said then to be able to consciously create, but usually deferring to the help of the Natural forces, archangels of the elements, etc., new vehicles for manifestation in the lower worlds if he so wills. Such a being in some instances is said also to be able to make multiple simultaneous incarnations if he so chooses. Of course, it is all a mysterious process at these level, which can only be understood by those who are so liberated.

   As per the first quote above, to recap, one might ask, how can one speak of ‘a bundle of impermanent hopes and transient fears, a little sheaf of cravings that change with the changing years’, or ‘ a collection of thoughts circulating around a fixed but empty center’ - yet ‘needing ‘half a hundred or more lives’ - to evolve to the point it may be enlightened, as PB also wrote?" How can such a bunch of thoughts around a fixed but empty center be the ‘child’ of its parent, the Overself? Moreover, what ‘fixes’ the center, around which there is a collection of thoughts? - The center? That explains little. What then ‘creates’ this center, this apparent individuality? Saying there is a parent-child relationship, or an emanation from the Overself, which PB also called a ‘unit of life’, suggests an intelligence there; certainly the transient hopes and fears of a jiva are not that ‘child’. So what is it? We say, the ‘I’ or Ego, more or less defined in the second manner.

   This is important because there is a tendency among teachers to give an exclusive and extremely marginal definition of ego, as well as the soul. It is interesting, and encouraging, however, to see that many formerly more radical non-dual teachers, such as Jeff Foster, Adyashanti, and others, are coming around to a change of heart, or frame of reference, in which they are essentially acknowledging the need for the cultivation of what are basic soul qualities, such as persistence, sincerity, courage, endurance, and so on. Adyashanti said, "sincerity, one-pointedness [one-pointedness? Most non-dualists don't like this word, preferring to jump directly to 'no-pointedness', or 'life without a center'], and courage are essential for awakening." One asks, 'Who' is sincere and courageous? - Impersonal consciousness? No, We are. Adyashanti in fact writes, in The Way of Liberation - a book for which he has taken a little criticism as being too 'dualistic' - that:

   "In a manner of speaking we have lost (or at the very least forgotten) our souls...We remain lost to ourselves, so cut off from what nourishes the soul...The underlying drives of the ego are to feel better and to survive. But inquiry belongs entirely to the realm of the soul, that dimension of being born of stillness and light that seeks Truth for its own sake." (p. xii, 30, 26)

   Anadi affirms this when he argues that traditional inquiry indeed takes us beyond ego, but not beyond the soul, and that the real answer to "Who am I?" is not 'no one' - although that is sometimes the expected answer - but the soul.

   The emphasis above of Adyashanti reflects, in our opinion, a maturing of understanding of the non-dual approach. Similarly, Sri Nisargadatta often said, "endurance and the willingness to try are most needed," and that “sadhana is most essential for one’s survival as a spiritual entity.” What survival?! What entity? - there is supposed to be nothing! Further, ‘who’ endures, and ‘who' tries? Not something impersonal. That would be meaningless, it seems. Even Fred Davis admits in his book, Beyond Recovery, that he had already done "all of the necessary (personal, practical) work before coming to non-duality", and that "he is actually in favor of practices, as, after all, sages have been doing them for thousands of years, and they were no fools." But he issues what has become a necessary disclaimer among non-dual circles that such practices are only if you want them, or are already doing them (since that is part of 'what is'), but that they do not directly lead to awakening, and they better serve the stabilizing and clearing process after awakening and not before. Well, so what? All right, the various practices are supportive, they indirectly lead to awakening, and guide one afterwards. But we feel it is all not so cut and dried. There are may vicissitudes and oscillations in life, and from life to life. One of the main differences we have with such teachers is where they appear to distinguish the 'preparation' from the 'real, direct path'. From our perspective, this is an artificial distinction: life is the path, all is the path, and everything is important. PB for instance wrote of a period of time for the 'Long Path', a time of the 'Long and Short Paths' practiced concurrently, then a graduation to a 'Short Path', and then a 'real Short Path'. He was offering suggestions, but some like to say only the 'Short Path' is real, and all the rest just a bunch of business. We do not see it so. There is a progressive and also non-linear process of life completing itself. It asks for completion in the inner and outer realms. And it is essentially the soul which is doing so. Anadi writes:

   "The foundation of the spiritual seeker is sincerity. The lack of capacity can be understood and it is nobody's fault, but the lack of pure and sincere intention in the Heart is a law characteristic of the Soul. If the Heart is sincere the spiritual Light reaches the Soul in this way or another. If one is not able to succeed using one's own effort, Grace brings Transformation. In this case, the Divine does all the work and the Soul is pulled into the Light." [note: by 'spiritual Light' anadi does not mean the visionary light of mystic experience per se but the true subjective Light of divine reality and mystery].

   Further, on the notion of the Soul reaching a 'relative' completion he says:

   "The Soul which dwells in the Heart has to be fulfilled [this is contrary to popular spiritual theory, which only envisions the process as a negative one of the ego being unfulfilled]. That is her blueprint, the goal of evolution. She must reach her fulfillment. When the Soul is fulfilled, she simply transcends this particular dimension evolving further, no longer in the human dimension. The Soul, in order to be fulfilled, has to reach completion inside and completion outside. The Soul reaches completion inside by expanding into the I Am and by growing roots in the inner dimension. The Soul becomes fulfilled outside by realising herself in her emotional body and by having some important experiences in life [another more positive vision than traditional advaita or Buddhism]. She needs to express her creativity and complete all latent karmic desires [a very wholistic vision]." (Transmission of Awakening, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999, p. 142, 222)

   For a deeper look at these ideas, please see The Soul: Our Sacred Calling and Freeing the Mind From the Prison of Non-Duality on anadi's website.

   The first deals with the tendency in advaita to posit either the egoic consciousness or the Absolute, and nothing in between. PB felt there was a need for a mediating principle which he called the Overself; anadi seems to agree. And the second relates to the placing of only a negative spin on the ego. An example might be seen in a quotation from a very fine teacher, Mooji, in which he says, paraphrased from memory, "the ego can't be seen but it has a smell; only he who is free of egoic concern can tell what is useful for spiritual awakening and what is not." Now, there is nothing wrong with the statement, but we feel it is somewhat incomplete. First, one needn't be 'free of egoic concern to be able to 'smell the ego' - one only needs to be reasonably sick and tired of one's game in order to recognize it when it arises. For if one is really 'free of egoic concern' then one must already must be enlightened! Second, and more importantly, this reflects a common advaitic tendency to, perhaps unknowingly, negate manifestation, or all that is not seen or felt as the State of Presence. It paints a picture of ego that does not recognize it as a tool of the Soul, which in fact is a dynamic center of intelligence that guides our path to enlightenment, and helps us check on our state before and after enlightenment as well. Advaita would have the State of Presence, or attention aware of attention, consciousness, as the only thing of worth. This is understandable as this view sees this as the only thing that exists. Subsequently, however, the active persona, the intelligence that can think consciously and intently, as contrasted with only being a passive witness to thoughts coming in from the subconscious, is essentially dismissed as either unimportant, unreal, or nonexistent ("the ego is a myth" - Colin Drake). But this is not a wholistic position. The self-reflexive movement of consciousness that is ego is an evolutionary advance, says anadi, and while we can certainly get stuck in it, it is necessary for our growth. Let him explain:

   "Who we are, in the mind, is composed of two centers. One, is the static centre of the State of Presence which does not change. Second, is the dynamic centre of our intelligence. This dynamic centre is always in movement, and it relates to both: to the State of Presence and to the gross level of spontaneous thinking coming from the subconscious mind. This intuitive intelligence is very important for it allows us to grow and to understand the process of awakening...A longtime ago, in India, a concept was created that one is not a doer, that one is purely a Witness. This concept is coming from the awakening to the centre of Consciousness. When the State of Presence is awakened, the mind becomes witnessed from behind and moves to the periphery. The movement of thoughts is no longer in the centre. In the centre is this non-dual Awareness which is,so to speak, witnessing the mind. This concept, however, is not completely correct. This concept implies that one identifies oneself fully with the State of Presence and refuses to see the self-conscious movement of intelligence as being an integral part of Me. In this what we perceive the mind and its intelligence a something just happening on the screen of Consciousness, and not being Me. However, much more accurate is to say that they both constitute the reality of Me. You are the witness and you are the intuitive intelligence as well...and, in truth, it is only because you are this intelligence that you can discover the State of Presence and are able to relate to it. You, as the intelligence, relate to the State of Presence...The traditional teachings, which have been created a few thousand years ago, did not discover how the Inner State and the movement of intelligence relate to each other." (Ibid, p. 156-158)

   So what he is saying is that the State of Presence and the active intelligence are both parts of the I Am, the whole Me, or Soul. This relates to what PB wrote above that "the spiritual evolution which requires him to abandon his ego runs parallel to the mental evolution that requires him to perfect it." This allows a realistic, dynamic non-duality to unfold.

   The advaita tendency for reduction, in our view, is also quite subtly illustrated in the following excerpt from a recent article by Francis Lucille:

   “Simply put, non-dualism is the hypothesis that reality is non-dual, that there is only one single reality which is the substance of all things, of all phenomena, of both mind and matter. If that is true, it follows that the reality of our ordinary consciousness, meaning whatever it is that is really perceiving these words in this moment, must be this non-dual, single, and universal reality. Therefore non-duality implies the universality of consciousness. Concomitantly, it implies that consciousness is the "stuff" everything is made of. This is the fundamental equation of Eastern philosophy: Atman=Brahman, Consciousness=Reality." (from “THE HYPOTHESIS OF THE UNIVERSALITY OF CONSCIOUSNESS INSPIRES NEW DIRECTIONS IN PHYSICS” by Francis Lucille and Catherine Pépin, in an ebook by Deepak Chopra, May 2013)

   It is a truism and accepted definition of nonduality that reality is ‘not-two’ . Yet teachers still procede to reduce this ‘not-two’ to ‘one’! Rather than stay in the mystery of a non-conceptual ‘not-two’, it is maintained that reality is ‘one’ thing, be it one ‘stuff’, one ‘space’, or one ‘consciousness’ - but one already within it implies ‘two’! So non-duality does not mean one. Can we say reality is ‘one’ [or even a ‘naught’] ? Our finite logical minds may say we can, but maybe then we need a more sophisticated teaching to better articulate truth. Of course we will not succeed in reaching it, but we might be better served in the attempt than by making simple assumptions of what it is, endlessly repeated as fixed and proven truth. Some teachers, faced with this conundrum, speak of reality as being 'beyond duality and non-duality'. But this only leads us farther afield. 'Non-duality' is good enough as it is, when it is not made synonymous with one, or oneness. Non-separation is fine. It is 'beyond' one or many, sameness or difference. In fact, it has been said that here sameness or 'suchness' IS difference or distinction, and vice versa. We must remember that, as it is depicted in Zen, form first becomes no-form, or sameness, but then one is reborn in true satori 'taking the form which is no-form as form' - this is said to be the Real Person. It is a positive and inconceivable reality; therefore, why call it 'one'? [Here, moreover, we can barely speak of a relationship between individual and universal as being identity, difference - or even relatedness! Such words no longer apply]. This is not only theory, but has potential practical consequences. At best saying the non-dual is all one stuff works well for a ripe few; at second-best it can lead to a half-way attainment as a 'One-Eyed Monster' [see forthcoming article], stuck in a hard-to-escape-from sameness; and at worst it may lead to a bypass of nearly the entire path, due to a disregard for the laws of relativity, as well as philosophical preconceptions that prevent the heart being open to various sources of grace.

   Very well, this is one depiction of the path, from our perspective. Obviously, there are infinite perspectives because the I AM is infinite with infinite angles of perspective and no one being can lay claim to them all, nor should he. When followed to completion, however, one achieves nondual realization and the state of presence and the environment collapse into a state of radical nondual transcendence, in which we are reborn into a new octave of spiritual development in which we re-emerge in a state of permanent sahaja, but with a new pattern of phenomena arising which reflects not a story of coming to our own liberation or nondual realization, but our integration of that state of nondual presence with planetary karma/story/evolution. The realization in our state of presence continues to grow in richness, never to lose again the perfect balance in sahaja of seeing it all arising in the state of nondual presence. Are we then Soul, Oversoul, the One, Consciousness only? It is a mystery. Even the Sants express as much. Kirpal Singh said:

   “The more you progress, the deeper you go...the ultimate...simply your intellect baffles...We can look into ourselves. That is why it is said: Self-knowledge preceds God-knowledge, or, Self-knowledge is God-knowledge. The more the Self expands, the more it expands into Him: one loses oneself. These are delicate questions, I tell you. People are baffled by them. It appears now a sort of mystery...To know one’s self is the first thing, and the foremost thing. Unless you know yourself you are not in a position to know the Overself. Even then you do not know fully - you are absorbed. It cannot be expressed in words. There are no words to explain it...Our self finds refuge in the Overself. What other refuge can there be? But is is hard to gain. This Overself is God.” (Heart to Heart Talks, Vol. I)


   "The difference between knowledge and love is that knowledge always tries to banish duality but love retains it as a precious treasure and itself remains without duality...The heart is given away and it makes its center in the Beloved and remains fixed there. This is true knowledge. Knowledge does not mean merely to understand or to know. It actually means to become that which we really are, i.e., to know ourselves." (The Philosophy of the Masters, Series Two)

   PB affirms the limitation for calling for a final realization or attainment:

   "It is the shortest step in humility that we can take to admit that we are all en route, and leave it to others to talk of final attainments. In an infinite realm of nature, the possibilities are also infinite." (Vol. 3, Part 1, 5:40)

   [One is reminded of Sri Nisargadatta's remark to the effect, "the final understanding is that there is no final understanding"].

   Moreover, PB also is in alignment with anadi's depiction of the soul when he writes:

   "Spiritual growth entails meditation practices kept up as regularly as possible, metaphysical study, cultivation of intuition, and a kindling of an ever increasing love for the divine soul, the true "I." It is this soul which is the ray of God reflected in him and it is as near to God as anyone can ever get. God is too great, too infinite, ever to be comprehended; but the Overself, which is God's representative here, can be comprehended...So he must cultivate this heartfelt love towards what is his innermost "me" and must not hesitate to pray for its Grace or even to weep for it. He must surrender inwardly and secretly all the ego's desires to it." (Ibid, 5:61)

   Individuality then continues to exist, but not as the experience of a separate selfhood (which never existed anyway), but as a self that is an integral part of a total Presence. “The Soul,” said anadi, “knows herself in a new, transcendental way, through her own absence in the divine Presence.” Or, as Anthony Damiani wrote regarding the primal hypotases of Plotinus, “the contemplation of the Nous is the source of the Soul’s knowing itself, and is source of the World-Idea it will manifest.” (Astronoesis) Thus all flows from a Higher Principle, but awakening to the Soul is paramount to know this (as discussed in much detail in the previous article to this one). And this deeper knowing is not merely that which is ‘left over when all is negated’, but an inconceivable, new, positive existence: a rebirth in Nirvana. It does not ‘favor’ universality or individuality, but, so to speak, realizes them as interdependent parts of a global Realization/Beingness which each individuality is an aspect of. There is therefore no need to negate individuality to enter this state of realization.

   But knowing that this is what we all realize in liberation (whether our relative wisdom understands it exactly this way or not), does also not mean that we should strive to experience that right now. That realization comes quite naturally when it is ripe. We just need to be present with what is right in front of us in our experience now, surrender to that ‘curriculum’, and have beginner's mind, letting the insights that arise be the learning of the moment. If it doesn't seem like insight is happening, then it is suggested we look back over a period of greater time like a month or a year and ask ourselves - have I grown in understanding? But we must not set up an idea of what that understanding must be - like do I 'get' nondual awakening, have I realized there is 'no person', or have I gone to Sat Lok? If we set up that kind of preconceived idea of what learning looks like, we will usually decide nothing has happened, and will feel disappointed, discouraged, and despairing - which is its own form of learning. But if we learn to appreciate the subtle, gradual expressions of wisdom and intuition as they unfold day by day, week by week, then we gradually come to realize that growth is happening all the time in ways we never noticed.

   Well, we have drifted a bit from our original discussion, and beg the reader’s indulgence. An obvious question arises, “is the intimacy of connection as parent and offspring between Overself and ‘Ego’, an eternal relationship”?  Does the same embodied "I" that died having dwelt on earth return to earth as a different, again embodied, "I" which is a "same" continuing offspring?  Karma would seem to make more sense if this is so. And our answer, as per the discussion above regarding the ‘Permanent Personality’, is a qualified ‘yes’. The only caveat is that even now this “I” is said to be pulsating on and off perpetually, as is everything in relativity, but aside from that, it is permanent until the cycle of evolution is complete.

   This then is one way of looking at things. One can see, however, that at higher levels, one cannot ultimately ask ‘how’ or ‘when’ or ‘why’ this happened, or is happening, whether one sees incarnation as a process of evolution, or simply an appearance of a beginningless and inexplicable maya or illusion and nothing else. We cannot get to a ‘beginning’. We cannot really ask and get a solid answer to the question of whether or not, or why, there are infinite ‘Holy Monads’ in a Father-God, which send forth a Pneuma or Spirit, that passes through the ‘Human Idea’ or ‘Archtype’, to become a human soul, which then enters an incarnational cycle with three bodies - nor, alternatively, can we ask why or how there is an inexplicable maya to account for all that is appearing. As human beings we can step back a few levels, but are eventually stymied into humble reverance for a Mystery. But yet, such a framework as above-described may have more explanatory power than merely positting ‘maya’ and forgetting all about relativity and its laws and processes.

   For the inquisitive, the questions may arise:  Is "the same ego" continuous from incarnation to incarnation?  If it's the same ego that eventually becomes enlightened, must it not be so, and if that's the case, the ego necessarily is, in some sense, immortal?  How might this integrate with the doctrine of transience or impermanence? 

   Plato asserts (Timaeus) the "forced" mixture of the genera of Being, viz, essence, same and different in Nous (Intellectual-Principle) which "plays" or "splays" out via the ratios in Soul (Overself) and Nature.  Is the intimacy of connection as parent and offspring an eternal relationship?  Does the same embodied "I" that died having dwelt on earth return to earth as a different, again embodied, "I" which is a "same" continuing offspring?  Karma would seem to make more sense if this is so. 

   So we must ask, ‘who’ or ‘what’ and ‘how’ does the ego get created? As the ego is as mysterious and paradoxical as the soul, this is not easily answered. The soul is a paradox because it does not exist apart from its source-condition, the divine beloved or God. Based on the second, expanded view of the ego posed above, ego is also a paradox because the body and mind do not exist without the light within them; therefore there is a relatonship between the ego and the soul. Further, in Hindu philosophy the mind is broken down to four aspects: chit, buddhi, manas, and ahamkara - only the last being technically the ego, or sense of separate self. All are ‘draped’ around the conscious soul, and in the phenomenal worlds inseparable from it.

   [Note: There have been some yogis who say that the frontal cortex is the evolutionary development responsible for the arisal or possibility of a sense of a separate person self, and even for the arisal of the faculty of buddhi. This is a variant of the ‘emergent’ theory of consciousness. While a developed cortex does allow for a self-referrance in the mind, and ‘ego’ in that practical sense (which is anadi’s definition), it cannot be said to be responsble for the mind, and/or consciousness, itself. The latter must be primary or prior to the phenomenal display].

   For an example of the problem we face when totally denying a continuity of identity - even if we are not conscous of it - who is trying to get better, or to do good?’ One may say, ‘there may not be a fixed ego but there is a karmic continuity and I want to be responsible for its development along higher lines’. But why, if the same one is not there to claim it, or reap the fruits thereof? It is pushing the can down the proverbial road to say we are doing it so someone else will not suffer. If we do not exist then neither do they. Why do the Tibetans make such a big deal about accruing ‘wisdom and merit’? ‘Who’ is accruing it? Something must be, or we ask too much of human altruism. 

   This brings us around to ‘who or what gets enlightened?’ We have discussed this many times elsewhere, so we will only recap a few views here - very briefly. PB says it is, paradoxically, ‘the ego’, and, alternatively, ‘the void-mind’. Adyashanti says, ‘enlightenment gets enlightened’. Anadi says it is ‘the soul’. And there are some who say all of the above.

   Finally, last but not least, there is one more consideration to make. The more ‘theological’ traditions speak of an emptiness in the sense of kenosis. It is all well and good to study Buddhist emptiness doctrines and contemplate them, whether it be: the emptiness of phenomenal objects as per the doctrine of interdependent origination, in which individual things have no fixed existence on their own but only in relationship to all other things; emptiness as an experiential void prior to manifestation, as is the nature of the soul when it retracts its emanation and ceases to experience the ‘World-Idea’ manifest through it; as well as Emptiness considered as absolute reality which is not a negative void but a positive existence beyond all conceptualization - including even that of ‘consciousness’. However, the important question is, how to get there, in a way that can account not only for karma, but for every gut-wrenching transformation or bitter vicissitude of experience?

   The mystics of the Church speak of the emptiness or emptying of self, as something which is most required, but that one can only very partially do under ones own power. For this we must call on something higher. PB called this the Overself. Christian saints call it the Holy Spirit. In some quotes PB even equates the two. Other traditions slice the Ineffable into three, making a Trinity. It doesn't matter too much for us right now. The Holy Spirit, the Overself, the Divine, has been said to fill the soul, when the latter has been emptied of self. Now, the advaitin might argue, “ ‘what’ fills ‘what’? There is nothing to fill or be filled. God does not fill what is empty and unreal!”

   Aah...yet somehow it does. With all due respect, what is true from human logic is not necessarily true from transcendental logic. We are speaking, from within relativity, of working our way out of delusion or samsara. We need serious help. Here then is straight talk from a master of a two thousand year-old tradition which may not be easily discounted; that is, we feel it deserves at least serious consideration before any summary dismissal:

   “You are convinced that you do nothing, that you merit nothing; and thus you are sunk in your nothingness. Oh! How well off you are! Because the moment you are convinced of your own nothingness you become united to God Who is all in all. Oh! What a treasure you have found in your nothingness! It is a state you must necessarily pass through before God can fill your soul; for our souls must be emptied of all created things before they can be filled with the Holy Spirit of God.”

   “Know, daughter, that the heart is so full that it cannot be emptied all at once. it is a work of time,and as the space is enlarged God fills it gradually; but we shall not experience what St. Paul calls the plenitude of God until we are completely empty of all else. This will take a long time, and will require many trials to accomplish the work. Be patient and faithful. Have confidence and you will see the gift of God, and will experience His mercy.”
(Jean-Pierre deCaussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence, Spiritual Counsels, Book Six)

   PB has used almost the same words in his Notebooks:

   "It is the Holy Spirit that saves by its Grace...It is a process whereby this space in the heart is being increased, a crushing of self into dust, to make room for Grace...Into the void thus created, Grace can flow...Eventually we reach a point, a very advanced point, where the ego sees its own limitations, perceives its helplessness and dependence, realizes that it cannot lift itself up into the final illuminations. It should then surrender itself wholly to the Overself and cast its further development on the mercy and Grace of the power behind it." (v12.18.5.69, v15.23.3.57, v16.25.2.55)

   It is not the ego that gets filled, deCaussade is saying, but the soul. We are not getting into metaphysically where the Holy Spirit 'comes from' or originates (be it the Nous, God, or the One), but there must be something in it which is in relation to the Soul. We might then just say they are closely intertwined. “But how can this be,” says the nondualist, “all is only and already an ocean of consciousness,” and “you are that.” Further, “nothing has ever happened.”

   Well, here we are in the realm of the practical, and not abstruse theory. Suffice to say that the Holy Spirit - albeit also a non-Buddhist, non-advaitic concept - is a living flame of love that helps to melt the ice of egoic-identification. Without such melting, water can not flow into water; this is a practical matter. As such the Holy Spirit is real and not mere maya, but rather, might be called the Universal, Eternal Guru.

   What have some of the great ones said about this 'illusory' process? :

   “No one has been united to his beloved through mirth. Whoever has attained communion with Him has done so after shedding many tears. If it were possible to meet the Beloved while laughing and ina state of comfort, why should one suffer the anguish of separation? The people of the world are happy. They eat and sleep. Kabir alone is unhappy. He is awake and crying.”

   PB writes:

   "It is the paradoxical irony of this situation that the joys of the beginner make him believe that he is very near to God whereas the desolations of the proficient make him despise himself."

    "Beware what you pray for. Do not ask for the truth unless you know what it means and all that it implies and nevertheless are still willing to accept it. For if it is granted to you, it will not only purge the evil out of you but later purify the egoism from your mind. Will you be able to endure this loss, which is unlikely to be a painless one?"

   "Whoever invokes the Overself's Grace ought to be informed that he is also invoking a long period of self-improving toil and self-purifying affliction necessary to fit him to receive that Grace....If he offers himself to the divine, the divine will take him at his word, provided the word is sincerely meant. The response to this offer when it comes is what is called Grace...Many who ask for Grace would be shocked to hear that the troubles which may have followed their request were actually the very form in which the higher power granted the Grace to them."

   A lot of talk for an illusion.

   But for more, as we must close this little piece, please see, Kenosis and Metanoia - Straight Talk on Emptiness on this website. Thank you.