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"The Opening Gambits"


  By Peter Holleran

"Some seek non-duality, others duality. They do not know the Truth, which is the
same at all times and everywhere, which is devoid of both duality and non-duality."

  - Dattatreya, The Avadhuta Gita

I: What I appreciate so much about the work of Anthony Damiani and Paul Brunton (PB) is its balanced approach. Whatever difficulty I am having, more often than not it offers me some insight and practical understanding. I also find their teaching useful in reconciling the seeming oppositions between ideas of "seeking" and "no-seeking", "evolution" and "realization", and "growth" versus "enlightenment". They acknowledge the mysteries and paradoxes of the path, but also its profundity, and the value of the traditions. So I don't quite understand what the excitement and hullabaloo is about all the so-called "non-dualists" who have appeared on the scene in recent years.

ND: The excitement is in finding out that much in the traditional approaches has been an unnecessary detour from simply recognizing who we are, and that enlightenment is available for all of us here and now. It is time for man to awaken.

I: I have read many such teachings and find them very refreshing and direct, although I don't think they are really new. I am a little sceptical in how they are often presented, however, almost as if practice, sadhana, discipline, or human maturing are somehow secondary or even unnecessary for realizing the great Truth. Maybe it would be good if we discuss this in more philosophical detail. Shall we start with Plotinus? [Those desiring a short refresher course may refer to The System of Plotinus on the WG website. Those for whom Plotinus remains obscure, bear with us a little while; the bulk of this debate should become understandable for you].

ND: Yes. Good. My argument is that when you talk of effort, levels, degrees, perfections and cosmologization of self you are in the realm of soul.  The Non-Dual realization is really the Intellectual Principle. It is just knowing/being, not experiencing. It is what we already are in essence. Nous or Intellectual Principle, according to Plotinus, and the Parmenides/Thomas Taylor/Proclus commentary, is a one-in-many, the same one in all (Intellectual Principle in the Absolute Soul, Intellectual Principle in the Individual Soul, Intellectual Principle in the All-Soul, etc.), while soul is a one and many (Absolute Soul and Individual Souls). So if you realize the I-am in the Nous it's the same I-am as everybody else, a universal particular. This is what the non-dualists are pointing to. Practice or sadhana as such implies an attainment, whereas all that is required is to simply look or inquire. See for yourself if there really is a separate entity, and you will find there is none. What remains is the "I am", the Nous, which is the same in everyone. But with soul as the aeonic wanderer, there is a long drawn-out development of digesting and expanding around the World Idea, with much effort and the pursuit of many necessary experiences, based on the unexamined assumption of a separate self..

I: It seems then that you might not agree with Anthony when he said:

"The sage unites with his soul and he's permanently soul. He can get a glimpse of the Intellectual Principle but he cannot become the Intellectual Principle. He must return and be soul. He will always be soul. You, I, and everyone else." (1)

ND: I don't think so, no.

I: My understanding of PB was that he first introduced the idea of the Overself as the Soul in itself, that is, the higher aspect of Soul, as neither the expanse of light, or feeling of oneness, but the realization beyond that of subjective source or the experience of "no-self". Later he expanded on that in The Wisdom of the Overself and said that carrying that realization into the world and stabilizing it as sahaj was actually the true or complete realization of Soul or Overself. He even used the term "lightning flash" to characterize this realization. One realizes he is a point in the WorldMind. In other words, this realization of soul, and not a content of the soul, such as the ultimate cosmic vision of an infinite expanse of light, and not an emanate of the soul "wandering", as you say, through the layers of the cosmos, is, again,  itself void and a realization of "no-self". Its inherent self-cognition would automatically include the recognition of its prior, the Intellectual Principle, but it is not the Intellectual Principle itself. The "Self" spoken of by Maharshi [and I would say whether realized in jnana nirvikalpa samadhi or as sahaj] was also spoken of as an experience of "no-self" by non-dualist Adyashanti. In other words, it is beyond ego. That much is understood. Further, according to Plotinus, the Soul encompasses the cosmos and transcends it simultaneously. From this position, Anthony said that the sage in permanent union with his divine Soul can then catch "emanations of its priors", such as the Intellectual Principle.

"When PB speaks about what a philosopher sage is, he points out that the philosopher sage is a person who has achieved permanent union with his soul. He doesn't say that the philosopher sage is one who has achieved permanent union with the Intellectual Principle or with the Absolute Soul, but one who has achieved permanent identity with his soul. This soul that he speaks about, that is what he refers to as made in the image of God - in other words, the image of Intellectual Principle. And this is what the philosopher or the jnani is, he's that soul. He knows that his essence comes from the Intellectual Principle. He knows it, not intellectually, he knows it because his soul is a direct emanation from that, and the soul's self-cognition automatically includes the recognition of its principle - where it came from....When the philosopher sage says to you, "God is," he's not saying that my soul, even though it is cosmic and infinite, is God. He's speaking about the Intellectual Principle..." (2)

So Anthony is agreeing with you that a higher glimpse or vision is that of the Intellectual Principle or Nous, only that one needs to go through the Soul to get to it, and one does so only in glimpses, not permanently. Even Ramana, who said that the state of the jnani was mysterious and “invisible even to God”, didn't shine all day long.

ND: Whether Ramana appeared to shine or not is irrelevant to realization. “Emanations of its priors”, moreover, is a somewhat elusive and confusing concept. It almost suggests something only realized in an inverted state. Why not just simple realization, without union, merger, or cutting away of anything? Attaining union with the soul implies effort and achievement, which are unnecessary from the point of view of the Nous. Ibn 'al 'Arabi, the great Sufi master, spoke thus about the non-dual understanding, which I will call "the waking paradox of the Nous" :

"You cannot know your Lord by making yourself nothing. Many a wise man claims that in order to know one's Lord one must denude oneself of the signs of one's existence, efface one's identity, finally rid oneself of one's self. This is a mistake. How could a thing that is not, become nothing? A thing can only become nothing after it has been something. Therefore, if you know yourself without being, not trying to become nothing, you will know your Lord. If you think that to know Allah depends on your ridding yourself of yourself, then you are guilty of attributing partners to Him - the only unforgivable sin - because you are claiming that there is another existence besides Him, the All-Existent: that there is a you and a He....Therefore, do not think anymore that you need to become nothing, that you need to annihilate yourself in Him. If you thought so, then you would be His veil, while a veil over Allah is other than He. How could you be a veil that hides Him? What hides Him is His being the One Alone." (3)

I: I agree with 'al 'Arabi, and I am a little jealous of him, too - he had four wives. However, what he actually said was don't think you need to become nothing or that you need to annihilate yourself - he didn't say you wouldn't become nothing or be annihilated in some sense. Have you read descriptions of those who have had the "cosmic vision", or, a true dark night of the soul? They are pretty crushing to the ego. Fortunately most don't have to go through that. But in any case we're talking here about how to realize the Nous, not whether or not it is a higher insight. Anthony felt that very few  sages or seekers have had glimpses of the Intellectual Principle (he believed some of the highest of the Zen masters did, but even then certainly not 24 hours a day), but comparatively more have had glimpses of the Soul. Even here, though it is beyond the mind, he still makes these distinctions. I'm not saying I understand them, it is clear they are concepts expressing the inconceivable and unimaginable. But a glimpse even of the Soul (and not of some content of the soul, like an expansive feeling of oneness) is considered quite an achievement.

ND: Achievement, schmievement. There has never been an "entity" in control who could achieve anything, and, according to sages, the "good news" is that there is no attaining the realization of Emptiness, Mind, or your own nature. It is always already the case.

I: That is probably so, but please don't go there, at least not yet. Let’s discuss one thing at a time, even though I sympathize with your position. And it would make things a whole lot easier. My differences are on how to "get there" (pardon the language) and whether it is necessary to go through the Soul, at least over "the long haul", which you will probably also reject, as it brings in the concept of time. Still, I think such paradox is inevitable. So, to continue, in PB's view the Soul is cosmic and infinite, individual but not personal, and not separate from other souls in anything like the way we normally perceive separation. I.K.Taimni, and 'al 'Arabi in another passage, have given very much the same description:

"..the separate individuality of each Purusa means merely that He is a separate center of consciousness in the Supreme Reality and not that his consciousness is separated from that of other Purusas and pursues its separate individual ends as in the case of ordinary individuals blinded by the illusion of a separate life." (4)

"A final spiritual intuition will show you our forms manifest in Him, so that some of us are manifest to others in the reality, know each other, and distinguish each other in Him. There are those of us who have spiritual knowledge of this mutual recognition in the reality, while others have not experienced the plane on which this occurs. I seek refuge in God lest I be of the ignorant." (5)

ND: PB appeared to waffle a bit on whether there was one soul [an Absolute or Universal Soul] or many souls [the Overself] in the experience of insight. His position in regards to the Intellectual Principle was not entirely clear. That was mostly worked out by Anthony. It may be that what PB called the mysterious Godhead was the equivalent of the One of Plotinus, with "God" being the Nous or Intellectual Principle. "No human being ever becomes the Godhead," he said, "his highest possible achievement is to stand in the light of the Godhead. Thereby the whole universe becomes revealed to him as a divine thought. This is insight." (6) In my opinion, he seems to be saying that insight is of the Intellectual Principle. And he didn't say it couldn't become permanent. In that realization (which the non-dualists will say is in truth not even a "realization"), there is only one Self. (I realize that PB uses the word "achievement" here, but that, as you admitted, is just a limitation of our language, in case you were going to point it out to me).

I: Anthony basically said that since the Soul is both one-and-many, that one can say that there is both one Soul (the Absolute Soul) and many souls. "If my "I" is the self of the sun, and your "I" is the self of the sun, and this is so for each of us (PB, v16, 25.1.1) - then we can say that these many souls are also one Soul." (7) Nisargadatta referred to them as "points in consciousness". Plotinus said:

"Individual Souls exist in the universal (world) Soul, not potentially but each in actuality. The unity of the universal Soul does not hinder the multitude of the individual Souls contained within it. Neither does the multitude of individual Souls hinder the unity of the universal Soul They are distinct without being separated by any interval. They are present to each other instead of being foreign to each other, for they are not separated from each other by any limits any more than different sciences are within a single Soul " (vi. 4, 4).

"The World Soul is not divided, nor does it split itself up in order to give life to each individual thing. All things live by the Soul in its entirety; it is all present everywhere like the Father Who begot it, both in its unity and in its universality.....First then let every Soul consider that it is the World Soul which created all things, breathing into them the breath of life, into all living things which are on earth, in the air, and in the sea, and the stars in heaven, the sun and the great heaven itself. The Creative World Soul sets them in their order and directs their motions, keeping Itself apart from the things which it orders and moves and causes to live. The Divine Creative World Soul must be more honourable than they, since they are born and persist as the Over Soul grants them life...but the Over Soul lives for ever and never ceases to be Itself." (v. I, 3).

So there is really no waffling, only, again, an inherent paradox, even at the level of Soul. How do you know the non-dualists actually are realizing, as you say, the "I-am in the Nous", and not the "I-am" of the Overself, or the "I-am in the Absolute Soul"? All of these levels of distinction within the "Void-Mind" are mysterious and akin to the realization of no-self. There is no pychology here. Here is what Anthony said:

"Now, to deep philosophers - I'm referring to people who have had experience of this - their higher Self, the Overself, is not distinguished or separated from or spoken of as different from what Plotinus refers to as the three primal hypostases. I make that distinction to help us in our understanding.

In other words, consider the three primal hypostases: One, Intellectual Being, Soul. They're going to call this the Absolute, they're going to call this the Void, they're going to call this Mind. And then they say that from the Absolute Soul there emanates an individual soul which we can call our Overself. For that Overself and for that mysterious Void, they're going to use the same word: Mind. That's how exalted that notion of the soul, the individual Overself, is.....

PB speaks about three initiations once a person has reached the Overself: three levels of inwardness or degrees of penetration....And this corresponds with Plotinus' description: the first degree of penetration is at the level of Absolute Soul, then Intellectual Principle, then the One. Now, how could you ever know of these except through your own higher self, the Overself?

Further, they both speak of insight as having these three different degrees that one can penetrate to actually get to know about the mysterious Void - something about it besides that it is."

It might be possible to fully experience all three of these degrees both "psychologically", as it were, in meditation, and "metaphysically", in the ordinary waking state, although in regards to the latter I do not know...But these passages convey something of the mysterious and paradoxical divinity we are talking about and should set to rest any notion of minimizing or trivializing the realization of the Soul.

ND: Realization should not be trivialized, but it ought not to be complicated either. Later in life PB came to prefer the far eastern version of sahaj, as in Zen or Ch’an, more than the Indian one, where it is an easy, natural awareness of reality rather than a long drawn out process of achieving salvikalpa samadhi, then nirvikalpa, followed by sahaj. Even Ramana came around to saying it was not necessary to wander in such a maze. PB recommended 'hanging loosely in life and not creating artificial conceptions of enlightenment'.

I: That is certainly good advice, and I remember Ramana simply saying, to one who had come from the ashram of Sri Aurobindo filled with conceptions of the Supramental Yoga, "Be what you are. There is nothing to come down or become manifest..That which is, is always there...Be yourself, and nothing more." Not only that, but this ultimate view was stated long before Ramana. In the 11th century, Abhinavagupta in his Anuttarasthika said:

"There is no need of spiritual progress nor of contemplation, disputation or discussion, nor meditatation, concentration or even the effort of prayer —
Please tell me clearly: What is supreme Truth?
Listen: Neither renounce nor possess anything, share in the joy of the total Reality and be as you are."

It has been argued, however, that this is a stage-specific realization, easier to say after years of sadhana and lots of experience. Most non-dual realizers end up talking like that. Some are fooling themselves, some are not. Adyashanti and Michael Hall meditated for 15 years or more, Bankei for 30, PB and many others even longer. Ramana said realization was for the fit, on the other hand that it was easy, but, also, that a "great power took him over" - sounds almost emanationist, doesn't it? Anyway, returning to my previous point, PB’s description of realization of the Soul as described above, wherein it is infinite yet individual but not personal and not really separate from other souls in a perceivable sense, sounds very similar to the  "universal particular" with which you equate the Intellectual Principle, and although conceptually I can see why you feel there is a distinction, in a practical sense I do not. In any case it seems very clear that anything from Soul and “above” is beyond any idea or tattva of self. I think PB’s idea of a "higher individuality" or Overself may have been just an intermediate concept he used to get people not to fear the voidness of realization of the Soul. That doesn't mean he meant the Nous. Many saints and sages have described the sense of individuality as paradoxical at this level. The Absolute Soul/ individual Soul idea is itself a huge paradox..

ND: In the final analysis these are all just concepts. And why bring in ideas like the "tattvas"? Ramana said why go examining such things only to throw them away in the end. Just wake up, that’s it.

I: Well, in order to do that I think we must have some understanding of the ego and its many ramifications. So far we have been talking mostly abstract philosophy. Let’s get more practical. As Anthony said in Standing In Your Own Way:

"Don't kid yourself. Don't come to me from the point of view that the ego doesn't exist, because it's been around as long as the Overself [Soul] has been projecting itself, manifesting itself through some kind of life. The residue of all that living becomes a tendency which you're going to find is perhaps not a permanent entity, but good enough to drive you up the wall for the next indefinite number of incarnations....As soon as you say the ego is "empty" then you're in for it. I don't think you understand why I regard any talk like that as utterly futile and even esoterically stupid. I don't care who says it. Anyone who thinks he's going to outwit his ego is in for a real rough time. That's why I don't like to call it empty. I like to think of it as a real fire-breathing dragon.....That's why I sometimes tease you by saying that anyone who tells me the ego is illusory is out of his mind. He hasn't even encountered it yet." (9)

ND: Anthony saying that made me free to ‘go my own way’.

I: All right, but do you think, except in rare cases such as Ramana Maharshi, that one can wake up without any sadhana or discipline? Our very false identity is built into the way we live, isn’t it? Even Adyashanti has said that, paradoxical as it may seem, even when one has seen that the “I” is illusory (i.e., just a thought), it still must surrender itself:

“In a very simplistic way, the difference between those people who have had deep and profound spiritual awakenings to their true nature and those who are actually liberated and free is this very simple matter: those who are liberated and free have totally and absolutely let go of control...In its most elementary form, the desire for control feels as if there is a clenched hand in your gut...And when you get close to this closed fist, you will find it has a protector. The protector of our elemental sense of control is rage. Usually this rage is more destructive than any feeling you ever wanted to admit could possibly exist within you...Many people never get to their rage because right above it is fear. Most people who are terribly afraid will run away. But the few people who go through their fear will come out of it feeling like there is something seemingly tremendously destructive underneath. And if you can keep going through that tornado, you will find there is an existential grip, usually in the pit of the gut, which can survive even very profound spiritual awakenings. The fear may or may not survive, and the rage may or may not survive. Often they don’t. But the grip sometimes does survive in its most elemental form.....You’ re awake, but you haven’t totally agreed to be awake. You haven’t given up your control....When you come to the core of control, most likely you will feel like you are going to die. Most people do, because in a certain sense, you are going to die....This is really a fundamental transformation. That’s why I say that we can have a very deep and profound realization of the truth and, in the end, the final real freedom doesn’t necessarily come about through a realization. It comes about through a deep surrender at the deepest seat of our being.” (10)

Isn’t this what most great spiritual teachers have said? So the surrender and purification is totally illusory and paradoxical, but also necessary! PB further writes:

"He may think that eradication of personal faults has little to do with finding the true self, but this is not correct. These very faults arise out of the false conception of the 'I'. Moreover the eradication is suggested not only to help him to overcome such false conceptions but also to help him become a better servant of humanity." (11)

This also suggests something of the bodhisattva ideal.

Another question I have pondered is this: does the average non-dual realization last beyond death, or does it require the flowering of the soul (as in Sufism and Sant Mat) to be lasting and full? For my money the sahaj of PB and Ramana, and some of the Sants, as evidenced by their deep meditative capacities, luminous eyes, radiance, etc., seems much more stable and full than that of many pop non-dualists. Of course, I could be wrong.

ND: That may just be your impression from the point of view of unenlightenment. Appearances are no gauge of realization. Moreover, there is in truth no one who is born or dies. As Shawn Nevins said,

"You are actually already dead. How will you know the moment of your death, if you are dead? Who will be left to watch?" (TAT, 2002).

Our apparent fear of death or rebirth therefore also implies a sense of imperfection and limitation. Why, therefore, should we fear either of them?

I: Ramana said that very thing, and it is a beautiful and profound statement. But I still ask, does your realization that there is no birth and no death necessarily last any longer than your death? Does it persist in the bardos? If not, why not? And if not, what good is it? I know most non-dualists will say this type of question is kind of crazy, in that one who no longer believes in or cares about a self and its death is worrying about whether "he" will forget or lose that understanding. As Hubert Benoit wrote:

"..if my understanding is right, I am not afraid that death may come, today or tomorrow, to interrupt my efforts before their attainment. Since the problem of my suffering ends with me why should I worry myself because I am unable to resolve it?" (12)

Still, I wonder about it and would like to consider it further. Sogyal Rinpoche gives what appears to be an answer:

"In death all the components of our body and mind are stripped away and disintegrate...Finally nothing remains to obscure our true nature, as everything that in life has clouded the enlightened mind has fallen away. And what is revealed is the primordial ground of our absolute nature, which is like a pure and cloudless sky...Even though the Ground Luminosity presents itself naturally to us all, most of us are totally unprepared for its sheer immensity, the vast and subtle depth of its naked simplicity, because we have not made ourselves familiar with ways of recognizing it in life." (13)

ND: I have no argument with that. We have to see it in the ordinary waking state.

I: Yes, but he has more to say:

"Though the negative emotions may have died for the luminosity to appear, the habits of lifetimes still remain, hidden in the background of our ordinary mind. Though all our confusion dies in death, instead of surrendering and opening to the luminosity, in our fear and ignorance we withdraw and instinctively hold onto our grasping." (14)

ND: Yes, as Ramana has said, all these vasanas must be checked as they arise until realization is stabilized while alive.

I: I don't know about you, but I am a little troubled with, or, perhaps better stated, unclear on the idea of the 'habits of lifetimes remaining hidden in the background'. It suggests there may be more work to be done. The Sants speak of this as the Sanchit storehouse of karmas from innumerable past lifes, too many to be eradicated or neutralized in just one incarnation. A very deep enlightenment or grace would be required to do so . Rinpoche summarizes his argument as follows:

"When the Ground Luminosity dawns, the crucial issue will be how much we have been able to rest in the nature of mind, how much we have been able to unite our absolute nature and our everyday life, and how much we have been able to purify our ordinary condition into the state of primordial purity." (15)

This issue of purification seems to be the dividing line of all debate, yet perhaps it need not be so. I feel there can be awakening first, followed by the purification of embodiment, whereby the unlived parts of the soul, to whatever degree the remainder of ones life allows, are forced to align themselves with the awakening. This seems to have become the modern non-dual way, and could be easy or severe. Or there could be an old-fashioned period of trial and purification first, following by an awakening. This was the more ancient way. But in either case the value and depth of a non-dual realization, it seems reasonable to me, may vary from soul to soul. The Buddhists used to talk of the thrice-returner, the twice-returner, the once-returner, and so on, as if a process of evolution was going on. PB said truth was in the "very blood" of the sage, with another saying, "it is born into the flesh of the adept.”

ND: Another fairy tale I am afraid. The sage Ashtavakra had eight humps. And there are no differences in realization. Further, from the point of view of the Nous, the ideas of "returning", as well as birth and death, are not admissible, as there is simply no entity to do so.

I: On the other hand we both probably agree that when a sage reincarnates to fulfill a bodhisattva vow he will forget who he is for a while, that is, temporarily relinquish or lose 'his' enlightenment or understanding, as the living animate gets built up again? That was Anthony's view. This was his response to a question put to him about how even a sage like PB returns:

   "Anyone who is born into a physical body has to go through the search of finding himself all over again. Remember, the first link of the nidana chain is avidya [ignorance]. He has got to go into a physical body, he's got to get acquainted with the brain, he has to go through the whole mess like everybody else. He may be perfectly aware of who he is and what he is until that moment when he is in the body. As far as I know, there is no awareness in the sense of an unbroken thread of continuity of Soul awareness. It's broken when you are born. Then you have to institute the search for self-discovery. In the case of a sage, of course, it's more immediate, and the prevalence is something that is obvious to those that are spiritually oriented. But everyone has to go through that. I might make the exception of the avatar, but I don't understand anything about avatars." (Anthony Damiani, Standing In Your Own Way, p. 139)

   ND: Yes, some in the Buddhism tradition say that Gautama was enlightened many lifetimes previously to the one in which he sat under the Bodhi tree. But so? Everything remains as it is. Some awaken, or appear to awaken, some do not. There is no "one" to awaken anyway. As Papaji said, "nothing ever happened".

I: %k#x&*@!!! Even "Sailor" Bob Adamson said during a phone consultation to a guy who wondered what he would do with himself now that he was realized, knew that nothing ever happened, and also that everything just happened automatically, "try staying in that phone booth for the next thirty years." I guess then coming from the point of view of the Nous you don't think too much about PB's notion of the "philosophic ideal of a fully developed, mastered, and richly rounded ego acting as a channel for the inspiration and guidance of the Higher Self" ? Have you been to one of your high school reunions lately? It is a valuable learning experience - a form of pilgrimage, in fact.

ND: The non-dual realization is available to all, no high, no low.

I: O.K., maybe we should talk about sex. Let's get down to earth. A lot of non-dual realizers have bitten the dust over that one. Their realization didn’t seem to last long enough for a nude to walk across the room. Even if it did, or, more likely, even if they felt it did, their bodhicitta wasn't strong enough to transcend their karmic impulses, which they erroneously felt were no longer important. I could name names, but I won't. You know who they are - and after them there is a long list of roshis and lamas. I'll leave out the yogis because most of them didn’t profess to be non-dualists, otherwise we’d be here all night. Perhaps they bypassed a more or less classic alchemical process of purification and integration of the psyche, and union of the lower aspect of the Soul with the higher. PB, speaking from a progressive mystical point of view, has this to say about mastering the sex impulse. I am not saying this is a necessary order of development for everyone, but there is alot of writing on this in the traditions:

"The man who struggles with the passion of sex within his nature and conquers it, not merely physically but also mentally, finds that his very nature becomes bi-sexual. For he finds within himself the woman whom he had formerly sought outside himself. She who was to complement his mind and companion his body, and whom he could only find in an imperfect form or not find at all, is then discovered within his own spirit, in that which is deeper than body and mind. The mysterious duality which thus develops corresponds to the last stage but one of his mystical progress, for in the last stage there is absolute unity, absolute identity between his own ego and his Overself; but in the penultimate stage there is a loving communion between the two, and hence, a duality. Such a man is in need of no fleshly woman, and if he does marry it will be for reasons other than the merely conventional ones. In achieving this wonderful liberation from the drawbacks which accompany the delights of sex and from the shortcomings which modify its promises, he achieves something else; he enters into love in its purest, noblest, most divine, and most exalted state. Thus his nature is not starved of love as shallow observers may think or as the sensual-minded may believe, but only he, rather than the others, knows what it means. Seemingly he stands alone, but actually he does not. He is conscious of a loving presence ever in him and around him, but it is love which has shed all turmoils and troubles, all excitements and illusions, all shortcomings and imperfections. " (16)

ND: PB is only describing some arbitrary and possible appearances within the dream. Having a glimpse and stabilizing it takes time, with changes in the psyche following naturally and as appropriate. Desires will continue to arise, but be less and less binding. They needn't disappear through some great soul achievement. PB was too old-fashioned and ascetic and didn't integrate into his philosophy the conscious joy of non-dual sex.

I: (laughter) But what is that process of stabilizing the glimpse? You say it is simply "seeing", but might it not have something to do with purification of the psyche, transcendance of the ensouled cosmos, and realization of the divine immanence as well, thus making one's realization as PB said, "uncontradictable"? Anthony says man is gradually being "pressed into the World-Idea". That would require the cooperation of the cosmos. Might not something like that be necessary so the "machine" or body-mind mechanism ceases to bind attention so mightily with its demands, thus freeing up attention for the more conscious process of "seeing" what is?

ND: Not really. Many people have the expansive realization of soul, but not so many "the waking paradox of the Nous". As Bob Adamson and John Wheeler would say, there is no purification, deepening, transcendance, or realization of anything. It just is. However, I will grant you provisionally that though this understanding is outside of time, it may appear to become stabilized over time.

I: I’ll agree that those who might glimpse “the waking paradox of the Nous” are rare (and maybe non-existent), but I don’t see those with the waking realization of the Soul popping up like flies either. Moreover, the realization of the Soul, not in its penultimate stages, but the final one, as I understand it, is not “expansive”, but the reducing of man to the feeblest creature, to a cipher, in fact, with a realization of the void or emptiness within and also paradoxically detachment AND interdependency in the waking state.

ND: You are correct, I exaggerated a bit there about the number of those who glimpse the soul, but ultimately it doesn't matter. The lightening flash of the Nous makes all talk of the soul irrelevant.

I: You feel the lightening flash is of the Nous, whereas PB used the term in describing the first glimpse of the Soul, the stable realization of which he calls sahaja. V.S. Iyer, in Lights on Advaita - selected writings (on the WG website) likewise describes the lightning flash as a glimpse of sahaja:

“Sleep is .. used as an illustration of non-duality. Even in the waking state if mind were sharp we can get the lightning-flashes of sleep; it is then called sahaja samadhi; only we do not notice them. Philosophy will not end if you confine it to the waking state: it will always produce endless ideas amd hence endless schools of thought. But only in the non-duality of sleep do all ideas die, when this is brought into the waking state as sahaja samadhi.” (15.32)

“The moment you give up ego you will get the “lightning flash” and know that you are everywhere (not that you are acting everywhere) and that everywhere is in you. Like that other flash between two thoughts it is something extremely subtle hence hard to detect, demanding extreme concentration.” (14.45)

   Ramana likewise spoke of the realization of the Self being “like sleep in the waking state”. I guess it may to an extent depend on how we define these terms, but I really don't think we can pidgeon-hole the non-dual realization to one of the Primals. In any case, I will ask, how can one stably intuit the Intellectual Principle when 99% of the time he is trying to overcome the limitations of a fallen soul or unregenerate ego? Have you felt how deeply we have planted our roots here, whether understood in a spatial sense or not?

ND: If you don’t beat yourself over the head trying to overcome your imagined limitations, the non-dualists maintain there will be no problem.

I: I suspect you haven't suffered very much.

ND: On the contrary, I have, which is why I don't want to pursue unnecessary sadhanas to overcome illusory problems anymore. I am too old for that, and I see its fruitlessness. Truth is easy.

I: Yes, we are getting old. I think I can see, however, that perhaps your earlier efforts have born fruit. As PB might say, the "Long Path" has been useful in leading you to the "Short Path", and also making you capable of it. But can we go back to defining exactly what kind of glimpse we are talking about, whether it is of Soul or Intellectual Principle, and how to realize it. Here is what Plotinus said:

"If the Soul is questioned as to the nature of that Intellectual Principle - the perfect and all-embracing, the primal self-knower - it has but to enter into that Principle, or to sink all its activity into that, and at once it shows itself to be in effective possession of those priors whose memory it has never lost; thus, as an image of the Intellectual Principle, it can make itself the medium, by which to attain some vision of it; it draws upon that within itself which is most closely resemblant, as far as resemblance is possible between Divine Intellect and any phase of the Soul...In order, then, to know what the Divine Mind is we must observe Soul and especially its most God-like phase....Those divinely possessed and inspired have at least the knowledge that they hold some greater thing within them though they cannot tell what it is." (17)

He seems to be very clear here that one must realize the “God-like" phase of the Soul in order to glimpse the Intellectual Principle or the Nous. And if one has the insight of the Intellectual Principle, does it not then imply the embodiment of some moral qualities? Must not one have already acquired “the Virtues”, as PB affirmed and Sufism insists is essential? That would mean one must have already become united with ones Soul, stabilized and integrated as that, before the grandeur of the Intellectual Principle will reveal itself, does it not?

ND: er....no. Maybe according to your interpretation of Plotinus, but the non-dualists say that isn't necessary, although such a transformation might happen later.

I: Anthony sometimes would mentally put his hands around people’s throats and shout, “there’s more than Vedanta!” Take Samkhya, for example. There the exfoliated soul wings its way to enlightenment after a profound and painful process of viveka has occurred, Buddhi finally lapses, and a new Bodhisattva is born.

ND: An elegant schemata, but basically a stress-based and tortuous form of intellectual hogwash. If you can just grasp the primal error of self-reference, you are free of all such labor. The Truth is pure simplicity. As Buddha said, a "tacit insight, nothing more".

I: I have had many glimpses, but still often consider myself, in the vernacular of the commoner, an "asshole". I am also inclined to think there is a high likelihood that enlightenment without illumination may be incomplete.

ND: In my opinion, and I mean this sincerely, even your humourous self-assessment is an obstruction to enlightenment. Never think that way for a moment. It is also only my opinion, but I think enlightenment without illumination is simply enlightenment without illumination. Enlightenment is enlightenment.

I: Hmmm..... I wonder what the Dalai Lama would say about that? Or the Dzogchen masters? Let’s take another tradition, Sufism, and consider the opinion of Seyyed Hossein Nasr:

"[If we] return to the traditional conception of man as being comprised of body, soul, and Spirit (the corpus, anima, and spiritus of Hermeticism and other sapiental doctrines) the relevance of the spiritual states becomes more clear. The Spirit is like the sky, shining and immutable above the horizen of the soul. It is a world, which, although not yet God, is inseparable from Him so that to reach it is already to be in the front courtyard of paradise and the proximity of the Divine...What remains of man, namely the soul [which I take to be the downword-looking part or lower phase of the soul according to Plotinus] or anima, is precisely the subject of the spiritual work. This is the lead that must be transformed into gold, the moon that must become wed to the Sun, and at the same time the dragon that must be slain in order that the hero may reach the treasure. Man in his unregenerated and ‘fallen’ state, to use the Christian terminology, is the subject addressed by treatises on spiritual discipline..” (18)

Nasr here sounds alot like Plotinus as quoted above on the prerequisite conditions for getting the higher glimpse. Do you think this transformation can be bypassed just by, as you say, “waking up”? PB said that from a glimpse to full enlightenment IS genrally a long drawn out affair. Bankei said it was ‘the difference between heaven and earth.’ Kirpal Singh wrote:

“ 'Know thyself‘ is the most ancient aphorism. All that these words connote is the actually realized experience within, the Life-Impulse apart from mere theoretical knowledge, whereby we live and all other creatures live and the whole universe is being sustained; for it is by knowing this that all else becomes known and nothing else remains to be known. Self- realization is a stepping-stone to God-Realization. He who has found himself can never again lose anything in this world." (19)

ND: Bankei said to his followers that it wasn't at all necessary for them to struggle as he did, that they could attain enlightenment, what he called the "Unborn," quite easily. And for that view he was considered a rogue by the Zen establishment. Adyashanti, I think, would say that such a process of struggle is necessary only if you want it to be, and that spiritual seekers and teachers, even Anthony and PB, have created the illusion that enlightenment is rare and only for the few, that a battle must take place, and so on, which is nothing but unnecessary drama within a dream. Moreover, there is no "self" to be found. That is what is understood.

I: Adya also said that ones ego had to be ground down to ash. I agree that we need not imagine a battle and then create an elaborate or artificial sadhana to deal with it; rather, I think all we have to do is "show up" in our daily lives and try to be human in order to find out that our capacity to do so is pretty limited. That in itself will reveal the battle. You don't need to look for it. Anthony described the needed quality as more one of endurance than anything else. Kind of like the saying that 90% of success is in just showing up. But unnecessary drama within a dream?! Do the heavens display their glory only if you want them to, and are the divine archtypes meaningless?! Are they not visible reflections and agencies of a higher power? Are not, for instance, the astrological symbols that are imbedded directly into the cosmos a product of and a guide to an ontological reality "ordered both in relation to Being and according to a hierarchy which is more real than the individual?" (20). Are you not shaken to your very foundations, for instance, by the passage of the trans-Saturnian planets? Nasr continues:

“He identifies himself with the soul that has not as yet experienced the liberating contact with the Spirit and he lives imprisoned in a world of sense impressions deriving from the body, along with the logical inferences drawn from that world, and in an unilluminated subjective labyrinth that is filled with passionate impulses. The spiritual path is none other than the process of disentangling the roots of the soul from the psycho-physical world to which they are attached...until the soul becomes worthy of becoming the bride of the Spirit and entering into union with it. To reach God, the soul must become God-like. Hence the significance of the spiritual stations and states that the soul must experience and the spiritual virtues which it must acquire and which mark the degrees of ascent of the soul toward God. In fact each virtue is a station through which the soul must pass and which it must experience in a permanent way...since man is not just an intelligence that can discern the truth and know the Absolute but also a will, the virtues are a necessary concomitant to the total attachment of man to the Truth... the virtues are nor just moral acts but inner states that are never separated from the intellectual and spiritual significance attaching to the world of the Spirit...In Sufism a virtue is seen not as an act or external attribute but as a manner of being. It has a definite ontological aspect...to reach the transcendant beyond the virtues, man must first possess the virtues; to reach the state of annihilation (fana) and subsistence (baqa) in God, man must have already passed through the states and the stations....Because of the intimate relation that the soul possesses with the cosmos, this journey is at once a penetration to the centre of the soul and a migration to the abode beyond the cosmos. In both places, which are in reality but a single locus, resides the Divine presence, the presence which is at once completely our-Self and totally other than ourselves.” (21)

ND: I'm listening. I am just a student like you.

I: Yes, Anthony said that is all we will ever be. Nasr continues on by saying that according to Abu Sa’id, “baqa” , which is usually considered to be the highest station, or “Union with God”, is actually only the 22nd of 40 stations. The last 18 stations are about the "journey in God", the final one being what he calls that of "the Sufi". He continues:

"Between the station of the Sufi and the man who is spiritually asleep but who considers this death or state of negligence as normal there stand all the spiritual stations and states, the experience of any one of which would cause the most intense worldly experience of the soul to pale into insignificance...These states and stations [are not] ends in themselves but steps that lead to the One who is above and beyond all states and stations of the soul and who resides at the same time at the centre of man’s being at the origin of the axis which unites all the states of man’s being, the corporeal, the psychic and the spiritual, with their common Principle.”

Sufi Nasr also concurs with the Sants that for such a process of realization to fulfill itself requires baraka, or grace, mediated through a shaik or Murshid i Kamil, the completed one, the peerless Master or Realized Soul. Rumi in his Mathnavi stated:

"Choose a Pir, for without a Pir this journey is exceedingly full of woe and affright and danger. Without an escort you are bewildered (even) on a road you have travelled many times (before). Do not then travel alone on a Way that you have not seen at all, do not turn your head away from the Guide...In the spiritual journey, whoever travels without a guide, needs two hundred years for a two-day journey." (23)

ND: Having or needing a master or not depends on your karma.

I: Your what?! I think now we are getting closer. Here is what Avadhutipa, Atisha's guru, had to say on this:

"As long as you do not properly modify your actions according to the law of cause and effect [i.e., karma], you could still go to hell, despite being a great adept and yogi. Until you abandon grasping at a self, and while you still place little value on the law of cause and effect, always remember that yogi so-and-so was reborn in hell." (24)

And Sogyal Rinpoche:

"All the Buddhist teachings are explained in terms of "Ground, Path, and Fruition." The ground of Dzogchen is this fundamental, primordial state, our absolute nature, which is already perfect and always present....Yet, we have to understand that the Buddhas took one path and we took another. The buddhas recognize their original nature and become enlightened; we do not recognize that nature and so become confused....The Dzogchen masters are acutely aware of confusing the absolute with the relative. People who fail to understand this relationship can overlook and even disdain the relative aspects of spiritual practice and the karmic law of cause and effect. However, those who truly seize the meaning of Dzogchen will have only a deeper respect for karma, as well as a keener and more urgent appreciation of the need for purification and for spiritual practice. This is because they will understand the vastness of what it is in them that has been obscured, and so endeavor all the more fervently and with an always fresh, natural discipline, to remove whatever stands between them and their true nature." (25)

ND: The non-dual realization in itself changes nothing, not even karma, it only reveals the truth, which was always and already the case. As Ramana said:

"There is no greater deception than [believing that] liberation, which is ever present as one's own nature, will be attained at some later stage. Even the desire for liberation is the work of delusion. Therefore, remain still." (26)


"There is no attainment of liberation from bondage in the ultimate state of supreme truth, except in one's imagination." (27)

So not only is there no self that is born or dies or gets liberated, but there is no self to go to hell.

I: There was no self to come here either, but we're still having this conversation.

ND: Our conversation is only apparent.

I: Well then, what is the method to achieve this realization? I'll humor your saying we are “already realized” if you'll pardon my use of the word “achieve”.

ND: There is really no method, but they say that the most effective means to realization is the company of sages.

I: But that depends on your karma, right? Sorry, just couldn't resist that one. Seriously, however, I assume there might be different degrees of sages? To quote Nasr once more:

"Only he whose soul has become integrated and illumined has the right and the wherewithal to cure the souls of others."

ND: You're stuck on the concept of the soul again. There is nothing to cure. I'll admit the truth may sometimes appear cold or unfeeling, being beyond human emotion and sentimentality, but still, truth is truth. There are no degrees. As I suggested before, if you have the non-dual realization of the Intellectual Principle, the long drawn-out development of the soul as the the aeonic wanderer, digesting and expanding around the World Idea, is unnecessary.

I: I still can't help feeling that something’s missing here. Might not that be a version of what the Zen masters call “the stink of enlightenment”? or what the Tibetan Buddhists mean when they say “don’t confuse realization with liberation?” Garma C.C. Chang points out the distinction made in both Zen and Ch’an Buddhism between the awakening to prajna-truth (or the immediate awakening to transcendental wisdom or emptiness) and Cheng-teng-cheuh (sabyaksambodhi), which is the final, perfect, complete enlightenment of Buddhahood:

“A great deal of work is needed to cultivate this vast and bottomless Prajna-mind before it will blossom fully. It takes a long time, before perfection is reached, to remove the dualistic, selfish, and deeply rooted habitual thoughts arising from the passions. This is very clearly shown in many Zen stories, and in the following Zen proverb, for example: “The truth should be understood through sudden Enlightenment, but the fact (the complete realization) must be cultivated step by step.” ( 29)

Michael Hall, in an email to the Wisdom's Goldenrod Yahoo discussion board, wrote:

"To concentrate on Mind is the same as to concentrate on the classic koans of Zen Buddhism.  Ask yourself:  Whose mind is it?  Where does this mind come from?  Where  is it right now?  Where does it go when you die?  When was it born?  Who  is doing this questioning?  For what purpose?!?  To penetrate to the heart of any koan, you must become consumed by it.  Casual wondering will never work.  Think of Ahab in his pursuit of the white whale.  If a single doubt had entered his mind, he would never have found "it".  Don't accept any answer you come up with.  Total transformation is the only 'goal'.  You must start by using your intellect, reasoning, and thinking.  They will never get you there, it's just how we have to start.  Questioning at the deepest level of your being is required.  It is said that truly solving one koan solves them all.  This is only partially true, as the conditioned beliefs of who and what we are continue relentlessly, requiring persistent work after the deepest awakenings, just of a different sort."

The key words there for me are "total transformation is the only goal", and "conditioned beliefs continue relentlessly requiring persistent work after the deepest awakenings." This is what I feel is a balanced presentation, quite different than some of the more radical non-dualists. (Remember what PB once said about the teaching of J. Krishnamurti? - "absolutely correct, but totally useless for most of his students.")

The Lankavatara Sutra speaks of a fundamental "turnabout in the deep seat of understanding", but also of the "inconceivable transformation death of the Bodhisattva's individualized will-control". Very few, in my experience, show evidence of that degree of depth.

ND: Very true, but the difference between realization and liberation is stabilizing and deepening the non-dual insight of the Intellectual Principle, not integrating and illumining the Soul.

I: So it seems like some non-dualists (Adyadhanti, Michael Hall) think that there is a "deepening", while others (John Wheeler, Sailor Bob) do not.

My understanding of PB is that he suggested that it is the psyche that gets integrated, after which the Soul, perhaps via a path of illumination, finally reveals itself (as no-self), after which the Intellectual Principle can then be glimpsed. But I am curious. How exactly do you stabilize that insight you speak of, if it be that of the Nous? What is the process? Does one just wait around for it to happen more and more? How does it deepen? I'll let you think about that before answering, as I feel it is a real and serious question, but, anyway, I am glad you finally capitalized the word "Soul".

ND: I didn't really mean anything by that. There is no need to ask questions, all one must do is look for the questioner, and see that he doesn’t exist. Habits present themselves, and one simply observes them or returns to the inquiry. But in any case, for you, in your essence, nothing ever happened and nothing ever changes. If I could categorize any sort of "practice", it is not a doing of anything as a separate self, but rather of letting that self, as it were, be "done" by reality. It is a matter of seeing, of letting go. Even that is paradoxical, as the basic understanding is that there is "no one" to let go. And by the way, there are no "serious" questions, or, as J. Krishnamurti said, "there is no profound thinking." Philosophy is nothing but a stress-based activity.

I: PB said that truly getting to that point of letting go could in fact take a lifetime. Is the pursuit of understanding, moreover, always nothing more than a "stress-based" activity? I know some have said that, and I agree that it can be, but is that all it is? If so then I guess the center should probably shut down, or greatly modify its scope of operation. Perhaps it might be renamed “Wisdom’s Goldenrod Center for the Undermining of Philosophical Studies”! But Plotinus, according to Anthony, said we must teach our souls, or we will not understand the experiences we have. So I feel that considering the study of philosophy to be solely a stress-based activity is an oversimplification, and not productive for a majority of seekers - although it might be useful as an inquiry or as an introduction to meditation. Anthony once said that to formulate an intelligent question is already quite an feat of knowledge.

ND: Stephen Harrison points us in a different direction. He says:

"We have misunderstood our confusion when we think there is an answer to it. The confusion is not a result of questions that are too hard, but rather a questioner who is disintegrating. Confusion is the introduction to true intelligence." (30)

I: I don't think those are mutually exclusive viewpoints, but I would like to return for the moment to the idea of "the soul as an aeonic wanderer". In Astronoesis Anthony reiterates that the inviolable integrity of the One does not annul or cancel out the fact that the Intellectual Principle and the Soul are both eternal principles themselves, a result of the active and passive perfection of the One itself. Remember in the sixties they said, “the revolution will not be televized”? Well, similarly, “the Primals may not be psychologized”. From the point of view of manifestation, he says, we may at some point in our intuitive practice consider all three together as God or the Absolute, yet their individual distinctness is important for understanding non-duality in the truest sense. To make it simpler may appeal to the intellect, but is less than accurate, and may result in a doctrine where everything becomes simply an illusory modification of the One, such as in certain forms of Vedanta, or in which sudden enlightenment implies no practice is necessary, or that equates non-dual realization with the Nous.

ND: All of which are essentially true.

I: But by doing so, the Divine theophany, as well as the independent eternal principle of the Soul, gets left out, and talking schools of non-duality become substitutes for the real thing.

Let's face it. You know you are probably going to incarnate for countless lives in the future, here or someplace else. As long as that is the case, it would be nicer to incarnate into something a little better, wouldn't it? Of course it would, that's part of the game. So the ego will continue to evolve, and the Soul will spiral, as PB said, into ever-higher forms of "spiritual" evolution - even while the enjoyment of non-dual realization continues or re-asserts itself. I say re-assert itself because it is apparently temporarily lost upon rebirth and the taking on of a new body. Do you honestly think a few disciples of Sailor Bob Adamson or any other of the Nisargadatta or Papaji non-dual descendants are going to make of no import thousands of years of high dharmic teachings? Do you think the Dalai Lama is a fool? Don't you think he understands non-dualism, including the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, for instance? Of course he does. He also understands samadhi, the bardos, and karma (although maybe not Plotinus!). I would love to see him comment on the current non-dual "scene" as he sees it. Anthony further states:

"..if the Absolute can grant the eternal gift of Being to the Soul, Soul in turn will manifest eternally. As authentic essence the Soul includes a principle of manifestation, and to claim that Soul is reabsorbed when it achieves recognition of its true Being is to deny its status as an authentic essence capable of engendering perpetually a reflex of itself. Consequently, self-realization does not necessarily entail the cessation of its manifestation. The Buddha or a sage will continue to reappear periodically, for it is in the very nature of Soul to be represented by an ego. It is the very nature of Soul as an authentic essence to be a metaphysical wanderer in the infinitude of God's Being." (31)

So right here he is actually putting a positive spin on the notion of soul being a "wanderer". Let’s also go back to PB. In his writing he said that it was not the soul that has evolved and incarnated over a long period of time, but an emanant of the soul, which he called the ego. To be honest, I have always felt that a bit confusing. But if we consider that emanant the lower part of the soul, as per Plotinus, which through getting involved with a body and ignorance of its origin creates the mysterious thing we call ego, then we can say that the Soul in itself does not evolve or incarnate, but this emanate does. Let's look at Plotinus again:

"All things live by the Soul in its entirety. It is all present everywhere like the Spirit (Nous) which begat it, both in its unity and in its universality. The heaven, vast and various as it is, is one by the power of the Soul, and by it is this universe of ours Divine. The Sun too is Divine, being the abode of Soul, and so are the stars: and we ourselves, if we are worth anything, are so on account of the Soul." . . . " Now our Soul is of one form with the World Soul, and if we remove from it all that is adventitious, and consider it in its state of purity, we will see how precious the essence of the Soul is; far more precious than anything bodily.....Since then the Soul is so precious and Divine a thing; by It we can attain to union with the Spirit, and with It raise ourselves to the Supreme." (Ennead v. I. 3.)

Here he says we must remove "all that is adventitious" from the soul to be able to attain union through it with the Spirit, that is, to glimpse the Intellectual Principle. He briefly describes the process of how to do that as a "cutting away of everything", similar to the Hindu "neti neti". The mystics of the Sant Mat tradition consider the attention as the outer expression of the soul (Anthony called it one of the Soul's powers), which has been projected through the cosmos, and which through wrong identification is the cause of repeated incarnations in the worlds. When this is withdrawn at the time of death, unless ones realization is very deep, it is quite probable that the lightning flash of realization of the Soul or the Nous you may feel you have experienced while alive will become obscured. The ensouled cosmos is also not so easily dismissed, both they and the Sufis would likely say. According to Nasr:

"The intermediate planes of existence are precisely those which relate the physical world to the purely transcendental archtypes and enable man to escape the puerile debate between idealism and realism." (32).

I realize that the doctrine of mentalism is more encompassing than mere idealism, but again, are the divine archtypes nothing of consequence? Is the evolution and perfection of the Idea of Man of no import? If Soul itself comes from Intellectual Principle, and the ensouled cosmos is a product, as it were, of the two, doesn’t that imply a great love of the cosmos by the mysterious Godhead or whatever you want to call it? Nasr says that Sufism restores the cosmos to its true spiritual meaning by examining these very intermediate planes and states, even while asserting the reality of the One as the most fundamental goal. So my feeling is that the idea of intuiting the Intellectual Principle without such depth of realization may be wishful thinking. And, as Anthony would say, talk of becoming spiritual before becoming human is nonsense. Kirpal Singh used similar language in a conversation with a disciple:

"It is easier to meet God but it is harder to make a man. So it should be: man first, and then Him. [Well, I should think if you see God you would automatically have all these karmas wiped out and become a perfect man] You're right, but what I mean is, to have an ideal man is very difficult. To find God is not. That takes time - to make a man takes time. The time factor is a necessity. It is not done in one day. [But if you see God, what do you care about becoming a perfect man? Why do you care?] You [may] get a glimpse of It; to get a glimpse of It is something else. You see the sun for a while, but if you are absorbed in the sun, then? [But only the perfect man can continue to see God?] Only the perfect man continually sees God, right." (33)

ND: I don't like the word "perfect".

I: I agree, such terms should probably be updated. Eckhart Tolle said that the word "perfect" used in the New Testament, as in "be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect", was actually a mistranslation from the original Greek meaning "whole". Perhaps, then, "whole", "complete", "fully human" or "fully self-forgetting" would be better. However, I must remind you that even Papaji, believe it or not, said much the same thing:

"It is very true. I haven't given the final teaching to anyone yet, because the truth exalts a holy person. Therefore the truth will go to a holy person. It will itself choose such a person and reveal itself to such a person. It is a very sacred and secret teaching. I cannot give it to everyone. So far, I have not done it. Some people run away from the teaching because they are rejected by truth. Only when one is very holy in all respects, then the truth will unfold its own glory to oneself...The one who is absolutely holy and most beautiful will attract the truth." (34)

ND: Papaji said WHAT? I'll have to chew on that a bit. Most of those who teach in his name say that one can seek and suffer and evolve and try to forget oneself as long as he wants, but why not just wake up?

I: Try it if you can do it. We can always try. Anthony says we must try, even though it is kind of like trying to do the impossible. Yes, we can and should do the inquiry, along with our moral efforts. Even Adyashanti, however, said that at one point his practice was reduced to begging and praying to God to help him - a God he didn’t even believe in! So I say, inquire when you can, and beg when you must! But remember, PB gave us this warning:

"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.” (35)

Farid al-Din ‘Attar said:

“When God recognized my sincerity, the first grace that He accorded me was that he removed the chaff of the self from before me.” (36)

And once again, from the peerless Rumi:

"First he pampered me with a hundred favors.
Then he melted me with the fires of sorrows.
After he sealed me with the seal of Love.
I became Him. Then, he threw my self out of me."

"God turns the heart into blood and desperate tears, then He writes the spiritual mysteries on it." (38)

Even Shawn Nevins, whom you quoted earlier, said:

"You do not let go of anything. That is another trick of the ego's designed to keep it (seemingly) in charge of the show. Everything is taken from you." (TAT, 2002)

ND: Are you trying to make me depressed? It is again just my opinion, but I still think everything is unnecessary except the direct seeing into Reality.

I: Douglas Harding felt that way, too, until he had a dark night of the soul after many years of teaching people about "direct seeing into reality" and "seeing who you are". I actually feel the experience he had was a rather mild case of the dark night, compared to the profound account described by St. John of the Cross. Harding concluded, nevertheless, that the seeing was the easy part, but surrender of the personal will much more difficult, and it is that which led to the state the mystics call union. So he, definitely in the non-dualist camp, seemed to recognize the necessity of both components. As stated before, even Adyashanti agreed that complete freedom doesn’t come about through just a realization, but through a complete surrender of the will or self-control, illusory as that act may be. Here is how St. Teresa of Avila described this death-in-life, using as an analogue for the soul the silkworm which dies in its own cocoon:

"The silkworm has of necessity to die; and this will cost you the most; for death comes more easily when one can see oneself living a new life, whereas our duty here is to continue living this present life, and yet to die of our own free will." (39)

PB felt likewise:

"By freeing himself largely of attachments- -and especially the subtlest yet largest of all, attachment to the ego--his heart is emptied. Into the void thus created, Grace can flow. Mystics who complain of the soul's dark night are led to know that it is a process whereby this space in the heart is being increased, a crushing of self into dust, to make room for Grace. If they are thus led to nothingness, let them remember that the Overself is no-thing." (40)

"The Overself is no-thing." This, once again, brings up the question: how does one know what level of apparent egolessness he is experiencing? Bear with me for a moment, I know the idea of levels, particularly of egolessness, is probably unacceptable to you. And none of these levels or degrees are knowable by the mind. Yet when a sage like Plotinus speaks of them, I feel we should listen. Now, Adyashanti, for instance, in one of his talks mentioned that the experience of union was "a very nice experience for a separate self to have", but that it was not the realization of no-self. PB and Anthony made it clear, similarly, that the union spoken of in the traditions is that of the ego with the Soul or higher self, not with the Nous or the One. But, even so, does the separate self actually experience the union, or does it only know there was union when it is back in separation? Granted, that in itself might not be the same as the conscious experience of no-self, but it would not be something to cavalierly dismiss either. My understanding of this "union", whether described in classic mystical terms, or as that of the union of the ego with the Soul or Overself, is that as a process it is not necessarily pleasant, but the fruit of a rare and painful death, inasmuch as it requires an extreme form of sacrifice of the personal will, and not at all a consolation to the ego or separate self. Christian mystic deCaussade spoke extensively on this, and makes it fairly clear that the state of union is not actually an experience of union:

"This complete deprivation, which reduces us to acts of bare faith and of pure love alone, is the final disposition necessary for perfect union. It is a true death to self; a death very inward, very crucifying, very difficult to bear, but it is soon rewarded by a resurrection, after which one lives only for God and of God...After the soul has mounted the first steps in the ladder of perfection, it can scarcely make any progress except by the way of privation and nudity of spirit, of annihilation and death of all created things, even of those which are spiritual. Only on this condition can it be perfectly united to God Who can be neither felt, known, or seen." [the usual forms of experience; that leaves only direct spiritual insight, reality, suchness, being, etc.]   (Abandonment to Divine Providence, Book Six, Letter VII)

The self-will is a central issue for Plotinus as well:

"What can be the cause that has led Souls to forget God, their Father, and Members of Him though they are, and wholly His, to cease to know both themselves and Him? - The evil that has befallen them is due to a 'rebellious-audacity' (or self-will) in the manner of their entry into birth, to the primal differentiation and to the desire of Souls to have a life of their own " (v.3, 9).

Here is what Anthony said:

Question: “Is it possible that true surrender takes place without your really knowing it?” - “Don’t worry. It will be the most agonizing thing you’ve ever gone through.” (41)

Adyashanti says that true surrender IS the failure of all our efforts to achieve enlightenment, and that for most of us this is a hard-won realization by a process that simply wears us down (see his audio talk, “Achieving Total Failure”). In the end, he calls final liberation not a realization per se, but “a fundamental mutation in the way that we exist”. This is much like the quote from the Lankavatara Sutra. I like Adya, he is one of the more balanced of the emerging non-dualist teachers. He says that even though the surrender required is that of an illusory “I” surrendering itself, it is still necessary, otherwise the erroneous identification of thought as oneself will continue to assert itself. The tendency towards self-control will remain, if only potentially, in the background, and our realizations will not last, unless this surrender takes place. He even admits that this is the irrational way that reality is constructed, which may not fit nicely with much non-dualistic philosophy! The illusion must surrender itself, or be led to surrender itself, otherwise it will continue to assert itself into reality, despite our deep realizations!!! He said in his talk, “The Essence of Spirituality” (June 21, 2006), that the body-mind is a vehicle for the expression of ones spiritual realization, ones realization of emptiness, and if that vehicle is distorted, physically, emotionally, or mentally, it will not allow the full expression of nor can it hold the spiritual realization. This is not unlike PB’s description of the need to develop the ego and its faculties of feeling, thinking, and willing in order to allow a genuine enlightenment. Not so much to get a fleeting glimpse of truth, but to be able to live the thing. So here even Adya is asserting that paradoxically there IS a battle, there is practice, despite the limitations in the forms of language that have been traditionally employed.

deCaussade several hundred years ago stated specifically that the way to union is not through illumination:

“Do not forget, my dear Sister, that after having passed through the first degrees of the spiritual life our further progress is affected entirely by the way of losses, destruction, and annihilation....You cannot follow the path of perfection in reality except through losses, abnegation, despoilment, death to all things, complete annihilation, and unreserved abandonment. We need not be astonished when we experience afflictions, when even our reason totters, that poor reason so blind in the ways of faith; for it is a strange blindness which leads us to aspire after perfection by the way of illumination, of spiritual joy and consolation, the infallible result of which would be to revive ever more and more our self-love and to enable it to spoil everything...Therefore He would not be satisfied with the exterior crosses and pains which detach from creatures but desires to detach them from themselves, and to destroy in them to the last fibre that self-love which is rooted in feelings of devotion, is supported and nourished by them, and finds its satisfaction in them.”

  (Book Seven, Letters XI, XII, XIV)

And further:

"I know how much suffering this operation entails. The poor soul feels as if it would become utterly annihilated, but for all that, it is only nearer the true life. In fact, the more we realize our nothingness the nearer we are to truth...You must not then be surprised at the violent resistance it offers, especially when the soul experiences mortal anguish in receiving the death-blow to this self-love. The suffering one feels then is like that of a person in agony, and it is only through this painful agony and by the spiritual death which follows it that one can arrive at the fulness of divine life and an intimate union with God....For the time that these crucifying operations continue, the understanding, the memory, and the will are in a fearful void, in nothingness. Love this immense void since God deigns to fill it [with what? - insight: reality, truth, being, Sat-Chit-Ananda!]; love this nothingness since the infinitude of God is there."   (Book Seven, Letter IX)

Do you have any idea or experience of what he means by "painful agony", "crucifying operations", and "the spiritual death that follows it"? You may simply choose to call it psychological purgation, but please hold off until after it happens to you. So I think we must agree that in discussing such matters that the ideas we have about "union", "God", and even "no-self" are just that - ideas, or concepts that must be clarified, as much as possible, and the truth of which are to be experienced.

According to PB as well as deCaussade, then, illuminations are for beginners and proficients, that is, spiritual novices who need them to stay faithful, and adepts who have attained union and no longer need them but may make use of them to serve others and also enjoy them without contamination by ego. The conclusion seems to be, that without the illuminations, realization is likely not full, but that they are not the way itself. Either way, the quest is not a matter of a moment or a weekend of "insight". As the Urdu poet, Muhammed Iqbal, wrote:

   "There are worlds beyond the stars
     and there is many a test of love
     which has yet to be undergone."

When engaging in metaphysical discussions about these states, then, I feel we must examine the words of Adyashanti and others like him with discrimination. For instance, Adya said that the enlightenment experience (or non-experience) will blow your head off. [I like "clean off". Clint Eastwood, remember?] Yet this is exactly how Anthony described a jnana samadhi experience that he had. I remember him saying years ago "it will take your head off", and when asked further what it was like, replied, "peace, peace, peace." Yet in his understanding this was only an experience of the Witness self, or subjective source of the ego-I, and not the Overself, and certainly not the Nous. He said, however, that it was "no small thing, and "could take you fifty years". (At the time I thought he was exaggerating, I figured five years at the most!). He also said that until you have a true experience of the Overself or Soul you might not realize that the Witness experience was not that pure. So it basically seems to me likely that only relatively long acclimation to one such level or state prepares one to recognize or achieve stability at the next higher one. And various supportive means such as the disciplines and metaphysical study and contemplation are needed to achieve that. Anthony felt that you needed to go through the Witness Self to realize the Soul, and through the Soul to glimpse or "receive emanations" from the Intellectual Principle. I realize there are arguments on both sides of that debate. And I am willing to bet that Adyashanti, John Sherman, and others would say that all this PB-Plotinus stuff is just meaningless hair-splitting. Perhaps it is. Nevertheless, if we are going to talk about it, I feel the nature of these proclaimed non-dual realizations should be studied with discrimination, and I further agree with the saying, "by their fruits ye shall know them."

ND: The truth is one-without-a-second. Look for the seer in every moment, and see there is none. The "Sun" alone exists, and is self-luminous. It doesn't know either darkness or light, being itself the "light". All experiences of illumination by a something are therefore unnecessary. And there is no one to receive emanations from anything. As far as there being evidence of 'fruit", the truth is you are being lived. When you know this, life will simply express itself appropriately in each case.

I: I agree with that, but feel it could be describing the experience of either Soul or Nous.

Changing the subject a little, I tend to be of the opinion that one will sooner or later need grace, that grace is more than a concept, and has a hand to play in this affair. Most teachers, even non-dualists, admit this. Michael Hall said so, although he confessed that he never thought he would end up using the word. Ramana said that if the longing was there, realization would be forced on you whether you wanted it or not. And what did PB say grace was? - a "beneficent emanation from the Overself". Moreover, he added:

"It is not within the power of man to finish either the purificatory work or its illumination sequel: his Overself, by its action within his psyche, must bring that about. This activating power is grace." (42)

ND: That Overself is a troubling concept.

I: Yes, I agree with you. Even Anthony threw in the towel in one class discussion and basically said “the Overself is God”.

ND: He just said that because people were having a hard time understanding him that night, and he wanted to give them a feeling of devotion.

I: Perhaps, but he did say that this side of manifestation all three of the Primary Principles could be considered as God, the Absolute, the Void, or Mind. Bottom line, the emanating grace is real, there is a power greater than man, to which we must pray. Of course, grace itself has also been spoken of in paradoxical ways. Ramana said that grace is always there, being the same as the Self, while Kirpal Singh said grace is always there, but added that sometimes it gushes forth.

ND: I am uncomfortable with the phrase "gushes forth". It doesn't sound very philosophical.

I: Yes, I know, but PB seemed to believe in something like that. Personally, I was never too keen on the idea that "grace is always there" either! I want tangible help in feeling it. Ramana seemed to nicely reconcile the two positions in the following quote:

"Here it is impossible for you to be without effort. When you go deeper, it is impossible for you to make any effort...The very fact that you are possessed of the quest of the Self is a manifestation of the divine grace. It is effulgent in the Heart, the inner being, the real Self. It draws you from within. You have to attempt to get in from without. Your attempt is vichara [inquiry], the deep inner movement is grace. That is why I say there is no real vichara without grace, nor is there grace active for him who is without vichara. Both are necessary." (43)

ND: The non-dualists say there is no need to attempt to go within, and that even the heart-on-the-right business Ramana spoke about is unnecessary. Even he occasionally said it wasn't necessary.

I: Yes, that may be true for some, perhaps many, but I don't think we can get around the fact that we need grace - even if there is no "we". John Wheeler says that it is just an unnecessary and illusory concept, but I have a hard time buying that. I think some of the radical non-dualists can get a bit dogmatic in their delivery. They are quick to fall back on the strict advaita insistence on atma-jnana as the direct and only means of liberation, but neglect to mention that in his commentaries on the Brahma Sutras Sankara himself also mentions grace:

"With respect to Shankara's attitude toward yoga, there are two passages in the Brahma Sutra Bhashya that stand out as anomalies. In his comments on Brahma Sutra 3.2.24, Shankara says that in perfect concentration (pranidhana), certain yogins see (pashyanti) the Self, free from all plurality (prapancha) and they do so by means of absorption (dhyana) and devotion (bhakti). He then goes on to refer to those passages from the Katha Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad and Mahabharata that speak of "seeing" the self while in meditation or through the purification of the mind. His commentary here parallels comments made at Brahma Sutra 3.2.5. There, Shankara says that occasionally, the supreme Lord (parameshvara) dispels the ignorance of those who meditate devotedly (abhidhyayate) on Him and through his grace (prasada) these yogins are given extraordinary powers of "sight [i.e, "seeing the Self"]." (The Neo-Vedanta of Swami Vivekananda: Part One, from http://kelamuni.blogspot.com)

It is also interesting that one of the keystones of non-dualism, The Heart Sutra ("form is emptiness, emptiness is form"), is attributed, unlike other Mahayana scriptures, not to the Buddha, but to Avalokitesvara, or, in its feminine manifestation, Kuan Yin. In Pure Land Buddhism, Kuan Yin is described as the "Bark of Salvation". Along with Amitabha Buddha and the bodhisattva Mahastamaprata, She temporarily liberates beings out of the Wheel of Samsara into the Pure Land, where they will have the chance to accrue the necessary merit so as to be a Buddha in one lifetime. One can believe this or not, but maybe grace and devotion are not illusory concepts after all.

Returning to my point, a number of these current teachers argue that enlightenment is just the simple reversal of a cognitive error, that is, an error in thought (as opposed to a problem of feeling), which began around the age of two when we developed language and bought into and began to elaborate a personal story centered on a personal "I". John Wheeler, Sailor Bob, and Stephen Wingate, Wayne Liquorman, Ramesh Balsekar, and others in the unofficial Papaji and Nisargadatta lineages, to name a few, have said that all psychological suffering derives from this. They allow for pain, but deny the possibility of suffering if one can simply see that there is no personal "I", or that one in his inmost or truest essence is not that "I". Everything in their teachings tends to revolve around exposing this erroneous thinking.

I have a tentative disagreement with this on several points, and you may accuse me of getting into psychology here, instead of philosophy, but bear with me for a while. I am not sure, but feel what I am thinking may have some merit.

First, there seems to be too absolute a dividing line placed between psychological suffering and physical pain, and too great a power placed on simple inquiry to dissolve all forms of such suffering. Their approach just may not work for a great many people without other supportive means. Of course, they get around that by saying that their way is only for the ripe or desparate person, who has tried everything else. But my hesitancy in endorsing it as the only way, and a complete and sufficient way, which many of them sometimes appear to do (with a certainty, I feel, bordering on dogmatism), is that it does not consider enough the depths of suffering that can exist. I am not talking strictly about physical pain. There are many forms of suffering that could be considered psychological or psychic, that border on physical pain, in that they appear to be deeply imbedded in the history of the nervous system, even at pre-verbal levels. Even PB wrote that the journey from the surface personality to the depths of the psyche cannot be traversed quickly without intense anguish. Modern pre and peri-natal research, for instance, reveals that pain is experienced and encoded and contracted from, and is highly determinate of the personality, even before birth in some cases, and certainly before the development of language - which the non-dualists say is when the identity as a separate personality is created. What they say may be true in the head, or cortex, but not in the body and lower levels of the brain. For instance, we know now that early pain (along with later very painful traumas) is stored in parts of the brain such as the hypothalamus and amygdala, and we can't remember those things as easily as we can remember later things. But in certain forms of deep therapy, such as primal, we now know, from people's experiences, they can be relived, and that there does seems to be cellular memory, and also consciousness and memory beginning as early as conception. Arthur Janov states:

   “As long as we equate thinking and verbal activity with the mind, we will go astray. Verbal activity is the product of a recent mind, the mind which was last to evolve in the human species, something that has come long after the most primitive mind....There are, in fact, three principle minds. The survival mind is the mind which keeps us breathing and our blood pressure constant [the brain stem and reticular activating system]. There is also a feeling mind which generates and processes emotions or feelings [the limbic system]. And finally, there is the verbal, logical, thinking mind - the mind which uses language and solves problems [the cortex]. Each of these, although interconnected in the brain, is a separate entity with different functions....The importance of the relationship between the limbic system and the cortex in the thinking brain is that it is possible to understand oneself and one’s behavior solely on the cortical level, even to remember one’s childhood in great detail, while the being is cut off from the feelings which constitute the guts of that memory [due to the process known as “gating” between different levels of the brain]. Cortical memory can be detailed and complex, and at the same time remain detached from the suffering factor. The suffering I am describing is almost beyond description and has nothing to do with a few sobs or tears. That is why it is disconnected.....We have learned that the process of integration cannot be hurried; one must be ready to accept painful truths. These truths are not the kind that can be “confessed.” there are stronger truths - confessions by the body, if you will - that have a pain valence far beyond what can be dregged up voluntarily.” (44)

One needn’t understand or believe in primal therapy to grasp that what Janov is pointing to here resonates quite strongly with the deep purgation described by many of the great mystics. The vasanas of egoity, or wounded egoity, if you will, are very strong. I seriously doubt that at the deepest level of the psyche they can be easily dismissed with a few affirmations, a bit of inquiry, or even energy techniques such as EFT, although that has been quite successful for many things. But producing a new quality of consciousness by unlocking the repression that hides painful truths in oneself may be another matter entirely.

ND: Eckhardt Tolle would say, whether due to present or past karmas, different beings appear in this life with lesser or greater density of their "pain body", which would be similar to what Janov describes as "primal pain". In either case the only "practice" is to bring Presence to this unconscious reactivity, rather than directly trying to do anything as an ego to make it better or have it go away.

I: All right, sure. For the sake of argument,however, let's say that the story of "I" does begin at the age of two. If one has been severely traumatized at or before birth, and here we must for the sake of argument in a broader context accept that such an experience is karmically destined for that individual, then that being will develop a "story of I" around a primitive nervous system and body-mind already awash in and encoded for significant inner pain, neurosis and separation. Tolle admits this can and does happen. In such a case he says the person arrives with "unconscious assumptions that are pre-verbal" (a somewhat odd statement itself that allows one to still maintain to that all suffering is due to a cognitive error) around which their "story of I" later gets constructed. Such a person, even when engaging deep feeling processes or therapy, for instance - usually only at a later age when he or she finally realizes that something deep inside is wrong - may still have psychic pain that is rather intransigent. So it would certainly seem reasonable to assume that some form of conscious sadhana may be needed to either bring this to the surface for release, that is, bring it to awareness, or to establish new modes of appropriate action that will not continually reactivate the old patterning, and that the lack thereof may make inquiry even when done for years still appear rather fruitless, in my opinion. One may have a hard time recognizing that everything is O.K., or, as Nisargadatta said, "nothing is wrong anymore," when he finds after years and years of looking and inquiring he still feels in pain. It is too easy to say one is just not serious yet, or that he is doing inquiry the wrong way. Some of the non-dualists will simply say, "yes, therapy can be useful if you have problems, but non-dualism is not therapy nor is it a cure for your problems". What I am saying is that the issue of such pre-verbal pain and suffering may itself actually be an issue of karma that gets to the heart of the need for practice of some sort, and which many traditions recognize a need for, even after various awakenings. I believe this may also be related to the Tibetan saying, previously noted, "do not confuse realization with liberation." To put it another way, the feeling or activity of the self-contraction has many unconscious roots or tentacles which may require actual life practice (even disciplines?) to bring it to awareness so it can be undone enough for prior consciousness or whatever you want to call it to be stably recognized. The resistance to grace may be so hard that its intervention in the personal form of a master may be necessary, something that the non-dualists also generally deny. Everyone is different, of course, but I think it is too easy to dismiss these arguments by writing things like, "it doesn't matter if you recognize it or not, everything is just as it is anyway," or "it shouldn't take you more than a week to recognize who you are," and things like that. As the saying goes, get real.

A similar argument regarding the non-existence of a conscious will, or "doer", has also been put forth in an interesting, little book by Gary Crowley called From Here To Here: Turning Toward Enlightenment. Like many of the newer non-dual writings it has a direct appeal, if you are not in too much pain and your mind is relatively sattvic, but I still feel something is missing, and that it is not by any means the last word on the subject of spirituality, nor immune to the questions and criticisms offered so far in this discussion. Here is a characteristic excerpt:

"By investigating the illusion of conscious will, the following becomes clear:

-No conscious will was involved in choosing the body's inherited neurology. No conscious will was involved in how that inherited neurology fired and wired itself together as it encountered life situations.

-Interpretations and perceptions of life occur due to the pre-conscious funneling, filtering, and tunneling of neurological input over which there is not conscious control.

-Based on the limited options determined by our pre-conscious neurological mechanisms, certain thoughts, feelings, and reactions are selected to be consciously experienced. The conscious mind then takes ownership for the experiences it subsequently becomes conscious of, yet which are not consciously chosen.

-Whatever the consequences of these pre-conscious interpretations and reactions to a situation may be, these new effects further condition your neurology (outside of your conscious control), and the game continues.

When viewed from this perspective, can one honestly believe any actions taken are based on conscious will? In the end, conscious will never was -- it was all an illusion. It's now time for you to discover how this illusion causes suffering and to experience the freedom found in what is."

Again, these points all apply largely to awareness linked to the verbal brain (neo-cortex). To say that because no conscious will chose our inherited neurology [an unproven assumption, and possibly irrelevant, in my opinion], and that therefore there can be no suffering, is confusing if not flat out wrong. Don't misunderstand, I enjoyed Gary's book, and resonate with it very much. He is right on the money, as many non-dualists are, when quoting people like Wei Wu Wei: "Free, we are not the number One, the first of all our objects, but Zero - their universal and Absolute Subject." This acknowledges non-dualism rather than a conceptualized Unity by a separate self. So far, so good. I remind you, however, that the great Kabir was quoted by Kirpal Singh in the same manner:"If I say He is One, the question of Two arises". Both of these two Sants pointed towards nonconceptual reality but were also exponents of Surat Shabd Yoga, and would no doubt argue that a true non-dualism requires going through the Soul for Liberation to be final and not just a glimpse or prolonged earth-plane glimpse of enlightenment or emptiness.

ND: Do you remember what Huang Po said?

"Our original Buddha-Nature is, in highest truth, devoid of any trace of objectivity.... Even if you go through all the stages of a Bodhisattva's progress toward Buddhahood, one by one, when at last, in a single flash, you attain to full realization, you will only be realizing the Buddha-Nature that has been with you all the time; and by all the foregoing stages you will have added to it nothing at all. You will come to look upon those aeons of work and achievement as no better than unreal actions performed in a dream. That is why the Tathagata [the Buddha] said: I truly attained nothing from complete, unexcelled Enlightenment." (45)

I: Yes, but that is in the end, not the beginning.

ND: We have to start "at the end", because that is where the truth lies. If we start at the beginning we may never get to the end. So what you say is just another empty concept.

I: Apparently it can't be helped.

ND: PB had this to say about non-duality. It makes it clear that it is not the death or destruction of the ego or any such thing, much as Ibn "Arabi earlier said:

"The knowledge of Allah follows upon the dissolving of the ego, fana, says Sufism. But some Sufi masters go even farther and assert that it follows only on the dissolving of this dissolving (fana-el-fana) . What does this strange statement mean? The answer is nonduality. What nonduality itself means is to be gleaned from another Sufi declaration: "The outer path: I and Thou. The inner path: I am Thou and Thou are I. The final insight: neither I nor Thou." (46)

I: The final insight, yes. But rather than offering hope for an easy path, the passage suggests one cannot achieve fana-el-fana without first going through fana! -annihilation! The Sufi-Sants talk of fana-fil-sheik, followed by fana-fil-Allah. Maybe then real fana-el-fana.

ND: Sounds a little like the "The Name Game" song, remember? "Fana fana fo fana fanana fana fo fana......" - just more words.

I: I think you brought it up. A second tentative disagreement I have is that the argument that unenlightenment is due to accepting a personal story beginning at the age of two suggests that before the age of two one is consciously in an enlightened condition or the "Unborn Mind". This is certainly debateable. One needn't accept Ken Wilber's "pre-trans fallacy" argument to disagree with it. Some of the primal and pre-natal experiental literature, such as the extremely interesting Falls From Grace, a free on-line book by Mickel Adzema, suggests, for example, that the soul in the process of incarnation, in most instances, experiences four primary "shutdowns". This is quite interesting. The first shutdown he proposes is at conception, when the separate entity is felt to subtly emerge from the primal Radiance; the second is the shock of birth, which begins the egoic adventure of bodily recoil, primarily out of fear, with a sense of separation and being cast out of Eden, albeit still at a pre-cognitive level. On these first two shutdowns, Frank Lake wrote:

   "We have always known, whether taught by St. Augustine, Søren Kierkegaard or Sigmund Freud, that infants suffered abysmally, and that human beings crawling out of their abysses into life have damaged perceptions, distorted goals and a lifetime bondage of primal fears.

   What we had not known, and even now are somewhat terrified to know as clearly and rigorously as we in fact do, is the contribution to this soul-destroying pain and heart-breaking suffering that comes from the distress in the womb when the mother herself is distressed. The focus for psychopathology Is now, for us, the first trimester of intra-uterine life. These first three months after conception hold more ups and downs, more ecstasies and devastations than we had ever imagined."

The third shutdown, according to Adzema, is at the so-called "primal scene", which usually occurs at the age of five or six, when the developing ego first realizes that "they don't love me as I am, and I must change"; thus, neurosis begins to develops, often on a preexisting template layed down even earlier at birth. A fourth shutdown is sometimes suggested at puberty, when the coping ego finally realizes that even his good-hearted attempts to get "them" to love him will not work, and he more fully adapts to a collective social role and has pretty much totally forgotten who he is. I would add, per the non-dualists, that a fifth shutdown, which would be third in this sequence, might be that of their idea of the acceptance and beginning of a personal story at the age of two when language developed. However, the best that can be said, and as has been suggested by one spiritual teacher, is that the infant before this stage is consciously in a "relatively radiant" condition, that is, without the body-mind split and the later development of subjective egoity (with a sense of personality interior to the body and the concomitant sense of a body separate from other bodies, as Norman E. Brown pointed out in Love's Body), but not what would generally be considered as being fully enlightened. As one other writer put it:

   "Children are not born enlightened. Children are born connected to their spirits, which is the precursor to enlightenment – and a necessity for enlightenment to happen. But children are born unconscious. To become enlightened they have to be both connected to their true selves and conscious. And to be fully enlightened they have to be both fully connected to their true selves…and fully conscious. This requires a huge amount of time – and energy." (David Mackler, LCSW - http://iraresoul.com/fundamentals.html)

ND: He is just a therapist, not a jnani.

I: Yes, but the point is that one may also certainly already suffer before the age of two in many ways other than just the physical. A primitive recoil from touch, globalized to the world itself, or a physiology geared for depression, for instance, may have been deeply imbedded at or before birth by noxious and otherwise traumatic influences in the womb or delivery room, and have nothing to do with the later acceptance of a personal story, except in that the story tends to mirror these bodily roots that subconsciously help generate it. Some of the radical non-dualists say that recoil from pain - even emotional pain - is compatible with realization, that it is still more or less just a natural phenomenon, but from the present point of view it would be considered an impediment.

The karmic implications of this may be profound and far-reaching.

ND: You were right about pain having nothing to do with it. Ramana said the jnani could be dying, writhing on the floor with pain and groaning and so on, but he couldn't care less, nor does it affect his freedom. Therefore, it is irrelavent to your arguments.

I: (Gulp...)

Other questions arise. Even if the erasing of a personal story creates a state of realization while in the physical plane, will that endure when consciousness is no longer associated with the physical brain, such as on the astral plane, the causal plane, or the divine planes? How deep does this easy-to-acquire non-dualistic realization go on its own? And, perhaps more immediately practical, will it stand up to a severe period of trial, when a batch of unfavorable karma is released, and a sattvic body-mind is difficult to maintain? In cases like this, the grace of a true saint or sage may be more than helpful. So said PB, and the masters of Sant Mat as well. Only hip seminar leaders seem to think otherwise.

Thirdly, mustn't we allow for diversity of approach to realization? As suggested in Elvis Was Not a Mentalist - Thoughts on the "I" Thought, for some the way may be through practices more related with either the functions of thinking, feeling, or willing, or the cognitive, emotional, or volitional. The usual non-dual approach seems more slanted towards the cognitive, as John Wheeler emphasizes. In doing so I feel there is some justification to criticisms that such an approach relies too heavily on the power of insight into ones thinking, as opposed to (deep) insight into and experience of ones feeling, in resolving one's suffering.

More objective thinking and appropriate action, by generating a "heat" of sadhana, as it were, can itself lead to deeper feeling, and hopefully, eventually, spiritual insight. An emotive therapeutic approach, therefore, has obvious limitations when engaged in isolation from such supportive efforts. The natural "feeling" self, moreover, is not equivalent to the "real" self. Also true, life is short, and such purifications may never reach a satisfactory end. The body-mind may not change enough in our lifetimes to suit our wishes. This may be why the more mystical paths generally attempt to bypass these worldly karmas, and even the feeling bodily domain entirely, through the pursuit of various ascended samadhis, and the non-dual paths dismiss the necessity of doing anything with it at all. On the philosophic path, however, these options are not quite as satisfactory or compelling. A more comprehensive transformation is called for.

Some of the non-dualists say that both physical and emotional suffering may remain even while the non-dual insight is enjoyed. [The idea of emotional suffering remaining, however, is difficult to understand. What good is the insight then?]. Others make a radical distinction between physical pain and ALL other forms of suffering, saying that the existence of the latter is impossible in the presence of insight. PB and Tony, however, used the words, "even the sage suffers". I certainly think this issue is not so easily dismissed and is worth considering in depth. Much of the preceding certainly raises questions in my mind about the unassailability of the more radical non-dual positions. I am not saying they are wrong, but I do have as yet unresolved questions. It is those questions that also led me to research and write the articles PB and Plotinus: The Fallacy of Divine Identity as well as The Dark Night of the Soul. Many people these days seem to 'have searched for ten or fifteen years and finally found the truth of non-dualism' - and immediately feel compelled to go out and teach, without having spent much time engaging the 'practice after enlightenment' as the old Zen masters used to advise, or achieving unity as the Saints advocate. Simply because one sees the truth of not-knowing, doesn't mean there is nothing more to know! How's that for a koan?

Before moving on from this topic, here is a link to an excellent article, by Paul Vereshack, that attempts to differentiate between the deepest experiences available in feeling therapies and spiritual or metaphysical realizations such as satori.

Leaving psychological issues, when "we" reach the end of our tether, as Ramana said, jnana and bhakti become one. Sooner or later we come to surrender.

-There is bhakti, isn't there? Let's forget strict non-dualism or Zen for a moment. Maybe I only want some consolation, but I just couldn't resist offering this quote:

"Bhakti is our mother. She does not expect her infant child, embroiled in mud, to first clean itself and then climb into her lap. Rather, she picks up the child, bathes and wipes him clean, beautifies him and then offers him to the father’s (god’s) lap."

“Though I willingly grant salvation, I hesitate to give Pure Love. Whoever wins it surpasses all, is adored by all, and rules the world.” - Narada Bhakti Sutras
  (also see James Schwarz’ commentary, The Gospel of Love, and this commentary by Swami Abhedananda).

Sweet, so sweet. Kirpal Singh said "the game of love is God’s game: if you win, you get Him, if you lose, He gets you.” Ramana considered surrender to the Lord equal to self inquiry as a spiritual path. Schwarz, essentially an advaitist, notably remarked:

"'The squeaky wheel gets the grease.’  If you don’t invoke the Self by making the right efforts how will it know that you are dissatisfied?  From the Self’s point of view you are just fine in your Self ignorance.  Why should ‘grace’ happen unless you make a fuss?"

And the late Robert Adams:

Questioner: From what I’m reading about Ramana, the people around him were not practicing Self-Inquiry as much as devotion...

Robert: You are right! You are right. That is why I tell you the story of the student who used to pull his fan. He used to stand by him and pull his fan for 40 years! Then one day he ‘dropped dead.’ Ramana looked at him and told them, “He is not coming back." That is why it is a combination of devotion and Knowledge-’Jnana’.....

O.K., but how else can it be explained how we come to know what grace is, that it is always there, and feel its presence, besides recommending doing the inquiry and surrendering to the higher power, jnana and/or bhakti, the two methods Ramana advised? I think for the answer to this we might return for the moment to consider the important and intimate role of the cosmos in revealing the ontological reality we are searching for. Back to philosophy. PB and Anthony looked at it this way:

"The need of predetermining at the beginning of the path whether to be a philosopher (ie., sage) or a mystic arises only for the particular reincarnation where attainment is made. Thereafter, whether on this earth or another, the need of fulfilling the philosophic evolution will be impressed upon him by Nature." (48)

In my opinion, "Nature" here is the cosmos, or the "womb of the buddhas."

"Without the fullness of the understanding that comes from penetrating into the World-Idea - in other words, the full development of the faculty of understanding which comes to a soul through the World-Idea - in the trance state one would be utterly unprepared to understand the mysterious Void...Or we can put it this way: It will take all the teaching that the World-Mind can bring to bear upon the soul, in order for the soul to understand its origins, its own priors...that's what is necessary to become the sort of philosopher that not only understands the nature of the soul but also something about the prior principles that are, let's say, eternally generating it." (49)

To me that means the Soul cannot come to self-cognition without the help of the cosmos which it itself ensouls, and without coming to such self-cognition it cannot know God. In "Outline of the System of Plotinus" from The Shrine of Wisdom,on the WG website, it is summarized:

"But in order to realize that eternal life and become a conscious and active participant in It, it is requisite for the Immortal Soul to be associated first with that which is mortal, finite and transient ere it can learn to recognize Eternity, the Infinite and the Spirit which will unite it to the Supreme."

ND: There are different ways to look at the problem of Consciousness or Awareness and its apparent allowing the ego to exist. To quote Melvyn Wartella:

   "First, there is no ego. It was uncaused by anything, it is a reflection of the conditioned consciousness that creates the sense of a 'me' within a body. Awareness had nothing to do with it. Yet, without Awareness we would not even feel there was this dream image. However...even the evolution of that dream image had a purpose. Without it's development, we would not be able to be conscious of Awareness, Mind, etc. By becoming aware of our real nature we are changing the relationship with life in such a way as to become more creative participants in the action of Life." (50)

So I agree with you on that point.

I: The operative word in all this is still "Soul". And the end result may be as expressed in the Lankavatara Sutra, where, after the "turning-about in the deepest seat of consciousness",

"in the perfect self-realisation of Noble Wisdom that follows the inconceivable transformation death of the Bodhisattva's individualised will-control, he no longer lives unto himself, but the life that he lives thereafter is the Tathagata's universalised life as manifested in its transformations." (excerpted from The Buddhist Bible, ed. Dwight Goddard)

This sounds quite like Anthony's interpretation of PB where he says that eventually the sage gets "pressed into the World Idea," and henceforth lives a universal life. This also would grant importance to the Soul, due to its intimate relationship with the World-Idea. That isn't so bad is it? I mean, the Soul IS a divine existent, according to Plotinus, and is also always aware of its prior, the Intellectual Principle or Nous, it's just that we can't simply jump right past it in pursuit of a more simple and direct enlightenment, whether we think we can or not.

ND: Anthony and PB didn't have the benefit of the large database of non-dual realizers that we have now and may have made things too complicated.

I: Or maybe they tried to make things as simple as possible - but no simpler. (By the way, about that database? I think the FBI and the IRS are interested in it, too).

ND: Funny.

I: If we really want to throw a monkey wrench into our discussion we might consider the following quotes from Zen Master Hakuin, "The path of non-duality and non-trinity runs straight ahead", and the Saddharmapundarika-sutra, "There is only the Dharma of One vehicle; no duality, no trinity." Considering all that has been said about Plotinus and the three Primal Hypostases, maybe non-duality doesn't cover it all. What about this "non-trinity" idea?

ND: That might take us all night, but in the end I am sure it is just more talk, and, uh, I think the game is about to start.

I: Right. Let's get much more basic and wrap this up. How are you doing with Goo-Goo Eyes? - heh, heh.

ND: You know, that kind of experience can be very valuable. In fact, I recommend it. There's nothing better than the ultimate heartache achieved by risking everything, and then seeing a girl or guy you have a tremendous crush on not wanting you and making it with someone else. You might consider it a direct path to enlightenment - even better than meditation!

I: I think we're beginning to find some common ground. Well, gotta go now. I guess I’ll see you..... next life.

ND: Yeah, see ya.


Debates like this have been going on for over a thousand years. This one concluded peacefully, thank God, but it has not always been so:

"During the years 792-794, a debate was held between the Ch’an Buddhists and the Buddhists from Nalanda who represented the so-called “gradual enlightenment” school. The “gradual enlightenment” school led by Kamalasila won the debate, and the Nalanda-taught form of Buddhism gained ascendancy in Tibet, but Kamalasila may have paid for it with his life. In 795 he was murdered, according to some accounts by a Chinese assassin dispatched by his debate opponent." (51)

Part 2

1. Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1990), p. 201
2. Ibid, p. 206-207
3. Ibn ‘al ‘Arabi, Divine Governance of the Human Kingdom (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1977)
4. I.K. Taimni, The Science of Yoga (Wheaton, Illinois: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1981), p. 435
5. Ibn ‘al ‘Arabi, The Bezels of Wisdom, trans. by R.W.J. Austin (Mahwah, New Jersey: The Paulist Press, 1980), p. 93
6. Paul Brunton, Essays on the Quest (York Beach, Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1985), p. 130
7. Anthony Damiani, Living Wisdom (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1996), p. 189
8. Ibid, 182-183
9. Anthony Damiani, Standing in Your Own Way (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1993), p. 12-13, 34
10. Adyashanti, Emptiness Dancing, Los Gatos, California: Open Gate Publishing, 2004), p. 150-155
11. Brunton, op. cit., p. 183
12. Hubert Benoit, (from "The Idolatry of Salvation," in Zen and the Psychology of Transformation - The Supreme Doctrine, p. 17) (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1990), p. 17
13. Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (San Francisco: Harper, 1992), p. 263, 265
14. Ibid, p. 265
15. Ibid, p. 267
16. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1986), Vol. 4, Part 2, 7.8
17. Stephen Mackenna, Plotinus: The Enneads (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1992), p. 447, 454 (V.3.8, V.3.9, V.3.14)
18. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Sufi Essays (Chicago, Illinois: KAZI Publications, 1999), p. 68-69)
19. Kirpal Singh, Spiritual Elixer, Part I, Chapter 10, p.
20. F. Schuon, Gnosis, Divine Wisdom, p. 110
21. Nasr, op. cit., p. 29
22. Ibid, p. 82-83
23. source unknown
24. source unknown
25. Sogyal Rinpoche, op. cit., p. 155-156
26. Venkatasubramamam, T.V.; Butler, Roberts; and Godman, David, trans. Padamalai (Boulder Colorado: Avadhuta Foundation, 2004), p. 191
27. Ibid, p. 187
28. Nasr, op. cit., p. 46-47
29. Garma C.C. Chang, The Practise of Zen (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1959 (1970), p. 162-163
30. Stephen Harrison, Doing Nothing: Coming to the End of the Spiritual Search (New York, N.Y.: Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam, 1997), p. 29
31. Anthony Damiani, Astronoesis (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 2000), p. 43-45
32. Ibid, p. 46
33. Kirpal Singh, Heart to Heart Talks (Delhi, India: Ruhani Satsang, 1975), p. 62
34. Berthold Madhukar Thompson, The Odyssey of Enlightenment (San Rafael, CA: Wisdom Editions, 2003), p. 61-62
35. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1988) Vol. 12, Part 2, 2.143, 5.189
36. Muslim Saints and Mystics, trans. by A.J. Arberry (London, 1966, p. 122
37. source unknown.
38. Kabir Helminski, ed.The Pocket Rumi (Boston: Shambhala, 2001), p. 100
39. St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, trans. & ed. E. Allison Peers (New York: Image Books, 1961), p. 113
40. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 15, Part I, 3.57
41. Anthony Damiani, Standing in Your Own Way (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1993), p. 216
42. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., 5.110
43. Sastri, Kapila, Sat Darsana Bhashya (Tiruvannamalai, India: Sri Ramanasramamam, 1975), pp. iii-v
44. Arthur Janov, The New Primal Scream - Primal Therapy Twenty Years On (Wilimington, DE: Enterprise Publishing, 1991),
p. 57, 111, 69
45. John Blofeld, trans., The Zen Teachings of Huang Po, New York: Grove Press, 1958, p131
46. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part I, 2.117
47. Frank Lake, Tight Corners in Pastoral Counseling
48. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 13, Part 2, 4.191
49. Anthony Damiani, Looking Into Mind (Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1996), p. 69
50. Melvyn Wartella (www.friendsofreality.org - Q&A)
51. http://www.doncroner.com (Dan Croner’s Worldwide Wonders Part 2)