by Peter Holleran
"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you you."
“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings
“If a man is to remain forever the mere appendage of another man, if his mind is to echo back only that other man's idea, the question arises: When will he come to himself, his Atma? For is this not the final purpose or our life here?"
“Suffused with pious feeling as a man might be, uplifted in heart and bettered in character as this may leave him, it is still not enough to fulfil the higher purpose of his existence. He needs also to understand what is the Idea behind his particular life, and all other lives... If he has started thinking in a philosophic manner about his own life, he will have done enough. But if he seeks also to wrest the universe’s own secret from it, he will have done more.”
"The Overself takes over his identity not by obliterating it but by including it through its surrender."
(1) - Paul Brunton
“Individuality means the impersonal principle, standing as the background of the changing body, senses and mind and also lighting them up. But the word is grossly misunderstood and misapplied. It cannot he denied that individuality is changeless. A changing personality can never be the changeless individuality. The urge for individuality comes from deep below. It comes from the changeless Atma behind. Atma is the only changeless; and individuality, if you want to use the term, is Atma itself.”
(Shri Atmananda Krishnamenon, Notes on Spiritual Discourses
“In fact, why should one be so engrossed in oneself? The true self is God, since He is more completely the life of the soul than the soul is the life of the body.”
- deCaussade (Spiritual Counsels, Eighth Book, Letter XVIII)
“In the Absolute, every I AM is preserved and glorified.”
- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (I Am That
"Nature never repeats herself exactly. Still less is man, a reasonable being, standardized. All the sons of men have a heart 'fashioned' by God 'alike' [cf. Ps. 33:15]. It is the heart given to the person-hypostasis, and as such - unique. At the last trump every man will receive a new name for ever, known only to God and to him that receives it [cf. Rev. 2:17]. Thus, although the life of all who are saved will be one like the One Kingdom of the Holy Trinity [cf. John 17:11, 21-22], the personal principle of each of us will never be transferable to anyone else."
- Fr. Sophrony (1a)
“Sing not the song the others have sung; sing what you yourself have realized in your heart.”
- Bhai Sahib (guru of Irena Tweedie)
“Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.”
- Barbara Kingsolver
“You must not let your life run in the ordinary way; do something that nobody else has done, something that will dazzle the world. Show that God's creative principle works in you.”
- Paramhansa Yogananda
The gist of this essay summarized
The One, the Real, is unique
- the Great Uniqueness - indivisible, sole and unalterable, never becoming less than it is. Its many and infinite expressions are also unique, and never repeated. Truly becoming and expressing the individual uniqueness that one is, rather than negating or dismissing it, is an important factor in coming to realization of the Great Uniqueness behind all. With this comes a sense of ones role in life. Paul Brunton (PB) states:
“You are part of the World-Mind’s World-Idea. Therefore, you are a part of its purpose, too. Seek to be shown what that is, and how you may realize it, rather than mope in misery, frustration, or fear. Look upon your situation - personal, domestic, career, mental, emotional, spiritual - as having significance within that purpose, as teaching you some specific lesson or telling you what to do or not to do.”
“What are we to say of the many whose lives evince no purpose, whose years show no progress? This judgement is a surface one. All people respond to the power of God, and perform their role in the idea of God, however slight be the measure of their response or however hidden be their role.”
"To feel the divine presence is much more common an experience than to perceive the divine purpose."
- Paul Brunton (1b)
[Note: this essay starts rather technically and gradually gets easier as you go along. The following section on views in Hindu scriptures is in need of re-writing, and hopefully will be someday as time and energy permits. For now please bear with us as the bulk of this article lies beyond].
. You. The word for so long has been the bug-bear, the dreaded taboo of spirituality. Ever since primitive man first learned to think, to create a self-referral, an ego, he has been afraid of his aloneness and separation from the dangerous world outside. Spirituality has evolved in a heroic effort to get out of this perceived predicament. All of the worlds scriptures reflect this dilemma. Its signs are everywhere apparent in strife and unhappiness. All because the highest of teachings have ignored the self. Not the BIG ‘Self’, but the deeply personal self, you. And every teaching has an implied goal or solution, that has been hypnotically repeated so many times that the outcome of every spiritual practice is assumed in advance, thus coloring the results of what could be a free inquiry into what is really the case. There is the ‘Self.’ There is ‘no-self’. There is the ‘Absolute’. There is the annihilation of the ‘ego.’ There is the spirit and there is ‘matter’. There is ignorance’ and enlightenment’. Yet not one in a million knows what those words mean, or how they came to be so meaningful. What we intend to show here is a different, more fruitful and real way of conceiving of and relating to both the ego and the so-called 'absolute', through reference to ancient and modern sources.
There has been a battle waging in each person, a battle over ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ For centuries the ‘No’ has been winning. But its time has come. A day of reckoning is emerging, a new space where only ‘Yes’ is appropriate. For ‘who’ wants to escape this earth? ‘Who’ wants to dissolve his ‘ego’? ‘Who’ wants to become ‘spiritual’? “Who’ feels uncomfortable in the body? ‘Who’ feels like he doesn’t belong here? ‘Who’ wants to evolve? ‘Who’ wants to wake up? ‘Who’ wants to ‘dissolve in God? ‘Who’ experiences ‘emptiness’? ‘Who’ experiences merging in the divine? ‘Who’ wants to love? ‘Who’ wants to understand? ‘Who’ thinks reality is a paradox? ‘Who’ ? You do
. You. This very you is the greatest mystery the world has ever known. Did the ancient teachings get it, or did they tred lightly around it or ignore it altogether? The Katha Upanishad is an example of a mixed message in a classic teaching of old. Bear with me here for a moment, this is difficult material to dissect. I may be wrong in my conclusions but will try my best. Afterwards things will get easier.
After essentially differentiating between the Atman (the self behind the mind and intellect, infinite but individual) and Brahman (the Supreme Purusha, the ultimate subject, beyond Atman and the primal Undifferentiated Matter/Intelligence, which separates the two), Yama, the angel of Death, the author then speaks of the Atman or Purusha in the Heart, the size of a thumb, where the Supreme dwells. So far, so good. Actually, not so good; there is a back and forth confusion, in some places saying that the Atman is
identical with the Supreme, the Purusha, and other places saying the Atman and the Purusha are not
the same, but are separated by the Unmanifested primal energy; this is in fact doubly confusing because what did he actually mean by the Unmanifest? There are several levels of what might be called the Unmanifest: the 'Prakriti' of Samkhya, the 'Unborn' of Buddhism, or what Sri Nisargadatta referred to as the Absolute State 'beyond consciousness'. The inference here of course, traditionally, is that it is Prakriti, or perhaps maya, but then what is the great 'Atman' if it is 'this side of that'? Something 'phenomenal?' Then it is not so great and would not fit the requirements of classic vedanta, which generally considers Atman basically interchangeable with Brahman.
“Beyond the senses are the objects, beyond the objects is the mind, beyond the mind is the intellect, beyond the intellect is the great Atman...Beyond the great Atman is the Unmanifested; beyond the Unmanifested is the Purusha (the Cosmic Soul); beyond the Purusha there is nothing. That is the end, that is the final goal.”
“The Purusha (Self), of the size of a thumb, resides in the middle of the body as the lord of the past and the future, [he who knows Him] fears no more. This verily is That. The seat of the Purusha is said to be the heart, hence It “resides in the middle of the body.” Although It is limitless and all-pervading, yet in relation to Its abiding-place It is represented as limited in extension, “the size of a thumb.” This refers really to the heart, which in shape may be likened to a thumb. Its light is everywhere, yet we see it focused in a lamp and believe it to be there only; similarly, although the life-current flows everywhere in the body, the heart is regarded as peculiarly its seat.”
“That Purusha, of the size of a thumb, is like a light without smoke, lord of the past and the future. He is the same today and tomorrow. This verily is That. In this verse the teacher defines the effulgent nature of the Soul, whose light is pure like a flame without smoke. He also answers the question put by Nachiketas as to what happens after death, by declaring that no real change takes place, because the Soul is ever the same.”
“The inner Self, although unlimited, is described as “the size of a thumb” because of its abiding–place in the heart, often likened to a lotus - bud which is similar to a thumb in size and shape. Through the process of steadfast discrimination, one should learn to differentiate the Soul from the body, just as one separates the pith from a reed.”
See the confusion? The Purusha, and/or, Atman are both equated with either the Self, or the Soul. Other Upanishads use Brahman instead of the Purusha or Mahapurusha. The terminology is not precise. The various Upanishads are not all internally consistent, apparently varying with the inspiration of their authors, the level of understanding of the people they were addressing, and so on. Essentially, however, the ancient view was to relegate the personal self of little or no importance, even that of not existing, something to be eradicated,and to try to achieve the Unmanifest, bodiless, impersonal absolute that never changes, whether it be called Nirguna Brahman, Emptiness, Nirvana, etc. It is our contention that this a misleading way of looking at things and has continued to confuse the spiritual world to this day. We will offer examples of this and offer a solution more appropriate for our time. Continuing, the Katha Upanishad states
“The wise who know the Self, bodiless, seated within perishable bodies, great and all-pervading, grieve not. Then a wise man through the practice of discrimination has seen clearly the distinction between body and Soul, he knows that his true Self is not the body, though It dwells in the body. Thus realizing the indestructible, all-pervading nature of his real Self, he surmounts all fear of death or loss, and is not moved even by the greatest sorrow.”
“Knowledge only comes through direct perception, and direct perception of God is possible for those alone who are pure in heart and spiritually awakened. Although He is alike to all beings and His mercy is on all, yet the impure and worldy–minded do not get the blessing, because they do not know how to open their hearts to it. He who longs for God, him the Lord chooses; because to him alone can He reveal His true nature.”
Here again, while there is much good teaching, about the center in the Heart as the seat of the Soul, and that the Soul or Self is both in the body and without the body, one also finds the Self or Purusha, used interchangeably with Atman and Soul. Brahman and Atman, as mentioned, are also sometimes considered equivalent, and other times not. This confusion haunts Advaita to this day. The most useful information in the Katha, it seems, boils down to this section:
“A rise! Awake! Having reached the Great Ones (Illumined Teachers), gain understanding. The path is as sharp as a razor, impassable and difficult to travel, so the wise declare. This is the eternal call of the wise: Awake from the slumber of ignorance! Arise and seek out those who know the Truth, because only those who have direct vision of Truth are capable of teaching It. Invoke their blessing with a humble spirit and seek to be instructed by them. The path is very difficult to tread. No thoughtless or lethargic person can safely travel on it. One must be strong, wakeful and persevering.”
In other words, find a living teacher to correctly separate the wheat from the chaff in even this revered ancient scripture!
Yama also speaks in yoga and not strict Vedanta terms of one hundred and one nerves in the body, only one of which goes to the top of the head, and advises the yogi to make sure he exits the body through that opening to attain liberation, that the rest of the nerves are other exits 'from' the body leading to lower realms. it should be noted that this view, while realistic, is not typical of the Upanishads, whose viewpoint is more on the transcendant:
“There are a hundred and one nerves of the heart. One of them penetrates the centre of the head. Going upward through it, one attains immortality. The other (hundred nerve - courses) lead, in departing, to different worlds. The nervous system of the body provides the channels through which the mind travels; the direction in which it moves is determined by its desires and tendencies. When the mind becomes pure and desireless, it takes the upward course and at the time of departing passes out through the imperceptible opening at the crown of the head; but as long as it remains full of desires, its course is downward towards the realms where those desires can be satisfied.”
This view is also behind the idea of the need for the ‘powa transference’ spoken of in Tibetan Buddhism, that if you don’t leave the body through the crown center you can’t get enlightened. Herein are two assumptions: one, that you must leave the body to get enlightened, and, two, that there is only one way to do it. Talk of creating fear as a motivator! This is not an isolated example. All of the traditions until the latter part of the twentieth century, excepting perhaps pure Zen and isolated examples within Sufism, Taoism, and (some of) Advaita, for the most part, argue either for the need to permanently ascend to a spiritual realm apart from this world, or the need to realise only an impersonal Self or Consciousness, which represents all of Reality.
Newer teachings, however, are beginning to taste it, to catch the flavor of this very you we have been mentioning.
: having said that, it is to be pointed out that with the writers of the Upanishads and others on up to Sankara and Vedanta teachers after him, it was not a top priority to be exacting in their 'creation stories' because their main position was that of 'no-creation' , or ajata
. Therefore, where some Upanishads speak of Isvara creating Maya, while others say Maya creates Isvara, or that Saguna Brahman is the Creator, using Prakritti or undifferentiated matter (thereby borrowing a Samkyha term for use in a Vedantic explanation!), it is not so important. The very methodology of Vedanta is 'superimposition and recission,' or offering a view suited to the intelligence of the listener, to be retracted when the intelligence matures, until the aspirant can accept the truth of 'no-creation'. Sankara’s neti neti' method of analysis of the five koshas was of this type: eliminate all that is not the Self, then, when one has found his unchanging essence, he is then taught to go back and reclaim all that he has negated and see that as also the Self, or Brahman. This should be kept in mind as we continue. Ramana Maharshi used this method also. He would take one of three views on creation depending on the level of development of the person he was talking to. If they could understand the deepest truth, he would teach ajata vada or no-creation. If they could not understand this, he would teach drishti-srristi vada
, or the theory that the I-thought and the world arise and cease together (i.e., 'the world is there because I see it'), which is his variant of vivarta
or 'apparent' creation. Ramana justified this by saying that, "if one can consistently regard the world as an unreal creation of the mind then it loses its attraction and it becomes easier to maintain an undistracted awareness of the 'I'-thought."
(Ramana'a favorite method of self-inquiry, which he felt led to realization of the Self or Atman) (3). According to David Godman, Ramana would even go so far sometimes to tell people that this viewpoint was not the ultimate view, but that it would serve for now as a working understanding. If the person could understand neither of these, he would teach sristi-drishti vada
(i.e., 'I see the world because it is there'), the gradual creation of the world, such as in typical Creation Deity myths and such. And, although his conclusion was invariably that of 'no-creation', and the one 'Self', Ramana was actually not absolutely firm in the latter regard. In other words, some of his remarks were non-comittal on the subject of Soul versus Self. In commenting on the Maha Vakya
"I Am Brahman," Ramana said that this wasn't the correct way of looking at it: "That is not how the text is to be understood. It simply means, "Brahman exists as 'I' and not 'I Am Brahman.'"
(1c) This could be read as "I am not God; rather, God is me." The difference can be significant, in that it leaves us open to explore some of the other ancient teachings like those of Sufism, Plato and Plotinus, where mention is made of eternal principles of Soul, Nous, and the One, and not just non-dual impersonal consciousness of the Self. The Self realized in Vedanta may in fact be Soul in these other teachings, and not the ultimate Reality Itself].
Continuing, in the Katha although the author speaks of the Soul or Self as indwelling the body while also existing apart from it, he does not precisely state the non-dual vision of the Self or Soul being in the body at the same time that the body (and world) are within the Self or Soul. This imprecision has also followed advaita to this day, in spite of the methodology outlined above. The confusion of Soul and Self is again found in the following excerpt from In Woods of God-Realisation by Swami Rama Tirtha (1873-1906). While preaching I AM THAT
, he also wrote:
“Your real Self can never die. The body which is to die, which is dying every moment - by death let us understand here change - which is undergoing a change every second, and is dying out, is not your real Self. There is something in you which can never die. In conjunction with the body there is the Soul, the real Spirit which can never die...This thought of freedom in you, this universal thought tells us that there is something in you; and that something in you is your true Self, the real Me, because this freedom you want to have for Me, for the I, the real Self, and for nobody else. There is something in you which is really free, unlimited, unbound. The universality of this idea preaches in unmistakable language that the real Self, the real Atman, is something which is absolutely free.”
Rama Tirtha was a god-intoxicated saint who preached vedanta far and wide throughout India and America during his brief thirty-three years. Like the Siddhas of old, he traveled bare-foot in the snowy Himalayas and slept in caves with wild animals like tigers and snakes. Much influenced by Swami Vivekananda, he enthralled audiences worldwide, carrying only a paise in his pocket. Yet he died as predicted by drowning in a tributary of the Ganges, after an ordeal of melancholia that lasted for two years.
In his writings he used the traditional image of the Self as Atman being the "rider" of the chariot, a disinterested witness, distinct from mind and senses. For a more complete non-duality and also a clearer doctrine of the Soul, restored to its classic greatness, and not in its medieval and otherwise traditional mystical sense as more or less a form of the subtle body or antakharana, or as a 'spark' of the divine that needs to return to its source (above), rather than the ground of Consciousness-Being, we have had to wait until the last seventy-five years or so when there have been pioneers narrowing in on this secret and trying to make it explicit. For here, in my tentative opinion, is the heart of the confusion. It is really quite simple
: the Upanishadic writers sometimes spoke of the jiva-Atma
as being the same as or non-separate from Atman/Brahman, and at other times said that Atman was the equivalent of Brahman. To disentangle this, let us imagine that man as a tri-part being: a personal ego, including the inner psyche or 'soul'-nature (which is sometimes thought of as the reincarnating entity), and impersonal Consciousness itself, the source or ground of the other two aspects. The ancient seers recognized the latter as the most senior aspect of the total person, and so spoke of the jiva-Atman as resolving itself into formless, unbounded Consciousness, or being non-separate from it. In modern times, Ramana Maharshi basically kick-started this understanding anew with his classification between the Heart and the sahasrar (or, in simpler terms, the jiva or 'head-centered' individual consciousness, with the light of the jiva only being the reflected light of the Heart or absolute Consciousness. He tended to dissociate that Consciousness from the world to a degree, in practice, as did many if not most of the ancient writers, even while paying lip service to the non-dual formula of Sankara: "the world is unreal, Brahman is real, Brahman is the world." But be that as it may, the Vedantic realization is not that of an individual identity, but one of infinite Consciousness. So, those who said that upon realization "the jiva-Atma is identical with Brahman" were right, leaving us with only the question of whether there is such a thing as Atman as distinct from Brahman. Using Soul in its classic Greek sense (as in the philosophy of Plato and Plotinus) as an eternal verity, impersonal Consciousness, distinct yet not-separable from the absolute or the One, the question remains whether that Soul should be equated with the vedantic Atman or 'the Self'. Certainly it isn't Brahman, yet it also is not, according to these other ancient teachings, a separate personal consciousness either. it is a Soul or Pneuma at one with the Absolute, but not the Absolute itself. So we still face an interesting problem, if you want to call it that, of the nature of ultimate realization, as far as it is possible for man. It is granted that the realization of Soul is infinite Consciousness, but is there yet a distinction between Soul or Self, and God or Brahman? That is one way of putting it. And we don't intend to answer that here, if such even be possible. For we are deep into the heart of the mystery of one and many and other imponderables.
"Atman and Brahman are One" - a suggested but admittedly perhaps inadequate clarification
The claim that “Atman and Brahman are One” is, we have seen, a stumbling block in the debate between advaitic schools and those that posit the reality of a Soul. It is even imbedded in some of the Upanishads, where the two in fact are often confused. Many advaitists claim that through inquiry one realizes the truth of Atman or Brahman, the terms seemingly used interchangeably as if it really didnt matter. Yet we suggest that this can have a large impact on how one visualizes and actualizes the nature of both the path and reality. Why, one may rightly ask, have two words if there is not a distinction?
While it is in one sense true to say that Atman is not the same
as Brahman, in yet another sense, of course, nothing is different
from Brahman. The way we would like to articulate it, however, begins by asserting that Atman is the essence of, and beyond, the five koshas, and is the first level of self-nature that has as its foundation a direct realization of its identity with Brahman
. On a path of inversion or ‘ascension’, Atman might be on the fifth plane (i.e., Sach Khand in Sant Mat). Yet as all planes intepenetrate, it can said to be the reality of the subjective essence of all planes or modes of the individuated being. Atman is still ‘individualized’ - PB calls it Overself (‘individual but impersonal’) while anadi calls it Soul (‘individual impersonality’) - but it is a type of individuality that realizes
all is Brahman (that which includes both
individual and universal impersonality and its manifestation, and is ‘techincally’ beyond even this classification). Brahman is the totality, and 'an Atman' is an individual locus of Nondual/Brahman realization. So looked at from one point of view, they are the same, and from another, they are different. Thus those schools that speak of Self-realization and God-realization are not incorrect. Yet, the God-Realization part has many depths - as far as we dare even talk about it. [This theme is gone into in much more detail in the article, Non-Duality and the Soul- Some Knotty Problems
on this website].
Perhaps the greatest exponent of a new extrapolation of the ancient non-dual teachings has been Paul Brunton (PB). He took the other-worldly philosophies of oriental mysticism, which had infected the Middle Eastern religions many centuries ago when man thought he was at the center of the universe and the heavens were far away in the skies, and brought it back to earth with a comprehensive outlook and new way of conceiving the notions of soul, world, and God. A brief summary can be had here
, as well as in the following excerpt:
[usual] mystical path culminates in the experience of nirvikalpa samadhi, a state of mind characterized by the total absence of all thoughts and appearances. The philosophic realization is a stage beyond this mystical peak because it involves next assimilating the experience of the world and ego as ideas into the experience of oneself as real
[sahaj samadhi]. This assimilation discovers the World-Idea in a different relation to the soul than that described in mystical schools as the relation of embodying soul to adventitious vehicles.”
“The realization that the World-Mind as source of the unit soul is parallel to the realization that the World-Mind is the source and ultimate ground of the World-Idea. Soul/Overself is not the ultimate reality or source of the universe, and must realize its relation to the World-Mind in order to shift its relation to the world. Plotinus says that the Nous (World-Mind) is the higher knower in us: either soul knowing itself by means of the World-Mind, or the World-Mind knowing itself in the soul. Ultimately, the deeper realization completely annihilates the attachment to the ego, and turns the relation to the World-Idea inside out.”
“At an earlier stage of the journey to spiritual maturity, the freedom of the soul may be felt as a possibility of detachment from the ongoing World-Idea. This freedom inheres in the inviolable nature of consciousness, which is imagined to have put itself in association with the system of nature, the ongoing karmic continuity of the universe
[i.e., 'the fall']. A deeper exploration of this consciousness in relation to Divine Mind reveals the same Mind to be the source of the World-Idea. An entirely different order of freedom results from the realization that the whole world is a manifestation of one’s own being, not something imposed from or by an alien source. Freedom is not only detachment from the ongoing circuit of life’s evolution, but the cosmic circuit seen as the free expression or emanation of one’s own essence. Therefore, there is no longer a dualism of purpose. One consents to and expresses the World-Idea because it is inseparable from the law of one’s own self.”
Summarizing these quotes, the Overself is the 'great Uniqueness.' It is a combination or singularity of the individual (yet impersonal) Soul with the unique perspective of the World-Idea projected through that Soul, and through which that Soul comes to know itself. This view of Soul is also equivalent to what has been referred to as the Void-Mind, or pure Consciousness, yet PB and Damiani are saying that it is not
the ultimate source of the world. Thus, it is either not the Vedantic Self, or the Vedantic Self is a static metaphor for a more mysterious reality, that only experience at these rarified levels may disclose something about it. Anthony Damiani states:
“You find out that underlying the World-idea is the World-Mind. The World-Mind is what projects the World-idea. Also, your mind, your I AM principle, is a particle of that World-Mind. You come to non-dualism.”
“Now listen. Your mind, your Soul
[note: not your ego], is what projects forth the universe for you as an individual. Then your Soul, getting involved in the fabrication of the World-Idea, wants to know something about the World-Idea. It must penetrate into the World-Idea.”
Breaking this down a bit for those unfamiliar with the teachings of PB, in the neo-Platonic language of Plotinus, the Nous or Intellectual Principle, otherwise known as “God” (World-Mind for PB), projects the World-Idea through
the Soul, and then the Soul projects an emanant of itself (not a detached fragment) into that World or World-Idea so that it can experience it sensibly. The purpose of this incarnation is so that the Soul can come to self-knowledge, and recognition of the God within it: the Intellectual Principle or Nous of which the Soul is an image. This is the meaning of “man is made in the image of God.”
[This is explained further in “The Grandeur of a Sage” on this website. The basic gist is that it is not enough to reach the essence of the Soul in trance, but one must also contemplate the world and absorb it in ones understanding to come to non-dualism. One will not be able to understand the mysterious void without the full understanding that the World-Mind can bring to bear upon the Soul in the waking state. Thus, life becomes meaningful. PB explains this in perhaps a simpler way in the following quote:
“Although the Infinite Spirit exists everywhere and anywhere, the paradox is that It cannot be found in that way before It has first been found in one’s own heart. Yet it is also true that to find It in its fullness in the self inside, we have to understand the nature of the world outside.”
Once again, without penetrating into the World-Idea (i.e., incarnating), according to Damiani, the Soul can not come to consciously know herself. Moreover, without understanding, or 'taking into oneself' the wisdom inherent behind the World-Idea, which comes from universal intelligence, one can not understand the void-mind inside. That is why just going to sleep or dying or attaining nirvikalpa samadhi does not fully enlighten the individual. There is a purpose to manifestation - for us. Whether or not it has an ultimate purpose is unanswerable..
According to PB, then, once the sage is identified with his Overself (soul), itself an eternal Principle, he has acomplished the first stage of enlightenment. From this station he can know his relationship with the World-Mind (God) and his essential nature as a 'point' in Mind itself (the One, or Godhead). He knows that, 'in Him we live, move, and have our being.'
World-Mind is the true substratum of the world, and projects the master-image or World-Idea through each Overself, which is itself an emanation from that same World-Mind, inseparable from Mind (or the “One”]. In fact, while distinct Principles it is virtually impossible to separate these in practice. PB at one point admitted that they were epistemological devices to be sublated on the way to knowing the One. Both World-Mind and Soul or Overself are of the nature of Being and Consciousness, the source of all creation. Thus, the sage knows the world as essentially an emanation from his own essential being, and is not moved to separate himself from it in an exclusive mystical inversion. In this view he knows his Soul in a different relationship to the creation than the conventional dualistic mystic does. He sees the Soul not only in the body, but the body as a manifestation of and in the Soul, and the World-Idea as producing a vehicle through which the Soul can experience a world and come to conscious recognition of itself by intuitive reflection and philosophical reasoning.
The essential theme here is that the true 'I', the Soul or Overself, is both in
the body as well as the source or ground of
the body. The I am, the Overself - one's ‘God’ from the point of view of the ego - is both in the body, and the body is in the I Am. Some of the ancients spoke of this as the principle of Consciousness, but it is really more than that. Consciousness-Being is closer to the actuality, for being is sometimes considered to be also the absence, or the unmanifest ground, upon which consciousness inseparably abides. Consciousness is the source of all creation as the non-dual teachers affirm, inasmuch as the World-idea is projected through it, but whether it is the source of itself is an open question. Some say it is, while others say that it isn't, like Nisargadatta Maharaj, who said that it rests on the 'absolute state prior to consciousness'. [These issues are discussed in greater detail in The Primordial Ground
and Dual Non-Dualism
on this website]. In any case, the Soul or Overself, whether or not it is the 'Self', is a fundamental aspect of reality, which is undefinable but has been spoken of as universal or infinite awareness, being, intelligence and love, and yet most intimate to each person, who does not just 'vanish into the soup'. Even the subtle being, inner psyche, or 'soul'-nature, is an aspect of the total being and, while not eternal, is also real in its paradoxical non-separateness from the Soul or Self. What the above quotations explain is that the person who has realised identification with his true self as Soul, and understanding both Soul and world as emanations from the World-Mind, inseparable from Mind or the One, no longer has a relationship with his body as an 'adventitious vehicle,’ a limiting adjunct or upadhi, or something that one has ‘fallen’ into and must escape. Thus we arrive at a form of wholeness, without the need to assume that a radical flight from incarnation is its very purpose! But, another mysterious result is that we begin to get an understanding of our individual purpose, that is, our Soul’s purpose in this life, which is the basic subject of this essay. If you have gotten this far, I assure you, the rest of this essay should be a relative breeze.
Anthony Damiani explains that a sage who has answered both the questions, 'Who am I?' and
'What am I', or 'What is the world?,' thereby becomes identified with the true non-dual Soul, as well as phenomenally ‘merged’, so to speak, into the World-Idea [Note: less frequently asked questions might be 'Where
am I?' and also 'When
What is merger into the World-Idea? It is to universalize the mind, to expand spiritually into a global vision. It is, in a sense, to ‘become the world,’ but in an individual
way. Again, Anthony and PB call this the 'great Uniqueness.'
“You are that which is getting metamorphosed into the world that you experience. And in that process you imbibe the wisdom that’s inherent in the World-Idea. There’s no “me,” no “I”, nothing. You. The only you that’s there. The only you that I’m speaking to. If there is another, let me know, by letter.”
Here one can see that Anthony was trying to find words to convey something new. No ingrained concept of what it is to be ‘me’ or ‘I’ or ‘the Self,’ but you
Humanity is coming closer on so many levels. It feels that human evolution is heating up, doesn’t it? It is said by some that what could be achieved spiritually in a hundred years can now be accomplished in months or a few years. A number of teachers are now in fact using the word 'emergence' in place of 'evolution,' signifying the influx of some kind of conscious transmission into this very realm that is speeding things up in a radical way. While it is intelligent to be wary, it is hard to deny something is happening, especially to those who have been spiritual students for many years. And what does evolution, in any case, tell us? That everything in nature is approximating closer and closer to more variety, more individuality, not less
. Not to oblivion or a mass impersonal awareness, but to an individual, unique, awakened condition. In spiritual circles, this message is coming through. Powerful transmissions of energy (an inadequate word, but perhaps the best one can come up with for now; ‘consciousness’ and 'intelligence' are other ones, but perhaps even they fall short) are coming into our sphere seemingly from beyond ourselves, awakening our minds and transforming our bodies.
Science and religion are changing. No longer is matter always considered evil or in opposition to spirit. Nor are we satisfied with the prospect of merely ‘dissolving into the walls’ in an impersonal enlightenment. The personal has been overlooked for so long. The very me, the you. Not only in a cosmic sense, and not merely phenomenally, but in almost organic terms. We can no longer live with the ancient concept of being robots propelled along a cosmic wheel by some super-Self. We are dying to know our very hearts. We, you and me, are the ones who care about our own awakening. It is not an illusion, or a thing in the mind or consciousness only. We are not, something is not, ‘bringing consciousness into the world’, per se. No, we
are emerging, are yearning to emerge. This is the uniqueness, the great Uniqueness that each and every one of us represents. Not the ‘little uniqueness’ of an ego, a phantom collection of thoughts and concepts, but the real you, inclusive of the ego. You have been hiding like an etheral presence within a mass of spiritual and material endeavors, blind to your own presence, buried under a host of concepts about how you should look, be, or even disappear into the greater whole.
“The higher self keeps the same kind of individuality without being separate that each facet of a diamond keeps. The light which shines through it shines equally through all facets alike, remaining one and the same. The individuality is beyond the personality - its level is higher. The one must prompt while the other must watch the pitiless destruction of its wishes and hopes, its values and desires, until only the pure being of individuality is left. It is a kind of impersonal being but it is not entirely devoid of all individuality. As a wave sinks back into the sea, so the consciousness which means passes out of the personal self sinks back into its higher individuality.”
Teacher anadi explains our uniqueness in this way:
“It is a paradox that in order to go beyond the me you have to find your real me. Your real me is the soul. By finding yourself, a certain merging happens, certain transcendance takes place. The moment you merge with yourself, you become part of the bigger me, bigger whole. So you cannot go beyond your me just by negating it. You can go beyond your me only by realising it fully, this is a law. Accept your me as it is and go deep into its reality. In this way, suddenly you will see that it is no longer this little separate me, it is the Great ME, me which is experiencing unity with Creation, with the Creator.”
Commenting on notes of Paul Brunton, Anthony Damiani writes:
“The ego is an aspect of the Divine order of existence. It must emerge, grow, enslave, and finally be enslaved. (V6, 2.165). It’s part of the Divine Idea of the world. It’s going to have to grow, it’s going to have to develop, refine itself, dominate the soul, and then in turn be dominated by the soul.”
(Standing in Your Own Way
, p. 15)
“He who has attained to this inner calm of the Overself, or come near enough to feel it everyday, individualizes himself out of the crowd and finds his soul.”
(Vol. 13, Part 2, 5.89)
New Age pioneer David Spangler describes in Apprenticed To Spirit
how his first inner-guide, 'John', decades ago explained these things to him:
"The personality is not your "lower self." You have no "lower self" as such. What you have is a part of your soul adapted to function in engagement and connection with the particular nature of the incarnate realm. Nor do you have a "higher self." These are constructs you form in your mind, and by the power of your belief, you can bring them into being and divide yourself. What you have is a single self with different functions and attributes that you are seeking to express in wholeness."
And what exactly is 'wholeness' ?
"Wholeness is not the same as unity or oneness. Wholeness comes from differentiation and maintains that differentiation to generate a flow of energy that supports interconnectedness and organization. Its purpose is to enhance and promote emergence. Wholeness is created and maintained by the power to hold oneself in being and simultaneously to give oneself away. Wholeness emerges from a creative tension and engagement between the part and the whole. The universe unfolds from such tension. Oneness, on the other hand, the unity of all that is, is the mystery on which all things rest. It is the rest state that complements the drive to create wholes."
Oneness is the pre-existing state or generative mystery of the Sacred, that which allows all things to be. Attunement with that lets us see the interconnectedness between everything, and is good when it enhances one's capacity to participate in life. But just to see isn't enough. The intentionality
to participate in creating wholeness is important for what Spangler was one of the first to call 'incarnational spirituality.' His guide adds:
"Oneness is, but wholeness isn't. Wholeness must be intended and brought about...Don't just be aware of connections, but heighten those connections. Send your energy and love through them to bless and enhance others. And where possible and appropriate, build new connections through which emergence and creativity may take place. Then you are aligning with the intelligence that moves within and through all things. Then you are a participant in sacredness."
"God is in you and around you as fully as in and around us. How can you think that you do not participate in that creative and living Spirit? The truth is that what emerges from the incarnate realms may have the power to shape and affect what you customarily call the higher realms. Creativity moves "up" as well as "down."
Spangler describes how there is both a 'horizontal' as well as 'vertical' relationship between the 'inner' worlds and the physical, and that one is not necessarily better or more spiritual than the other. Further, what one may take from experiences in such dimensions depends to a great degree on one's basic intelligence, and that it is an active and not a passive process. In addition, mere contact with the inner worlds does not automatically fill one's heart with love and may even be a distraction from that process. "The problem with humanity is not that you are too incarnated. The problem is that you are not incarnated enough."
(8b) In summary, an awakened personality, alive to the interconnectedness of the whole, with active intentionality towards increased wholeness, 'at home' in whatever realm in which he finds himself, is another way of saying 'the great Uniqueness'.
A special way Anthony Damiani explains this idea is through the use of the astrological chart. The natal horoscope gives a picture of the particular psycho-physical structures the Soul is operating through in any given life. In essence, it is a map of the ego or personality. Certain tendencies are inherent in how we find ourself existing in the world. The ordinary individual is more or less a creature of habit, and his actions, insofar as he has not grown beyond the confines of the chart, are fairly predictable. Now, the chart has a total of 360 degrees. Much of it appears unoccupied. However, the sage who has become one with the World-Idea, that is, whose will and identity have been aligned to the whole, rather than exclusively with the part, has a broadened access to the wisdom all of the 360 degrees. In other words, he is not bound to the personality like the ordinary man, although he will work with it. He has a large latitude in adapting himself to all circumstances, not only those he personally prefers, although of course he has preferences, too, like anybody else.
In the course of a lifetime, however, we are not left in a static state, but are faced with a dynamic ever-changing cosmic rhythm, symbolized by the ongoing transits of the planets in the heavens which aspect points in our own fixed natal chart. These are initiatory moments when our being is getting informed by the intelligence inherent in the World-Idea, and in which we can grow beyond the limitations of our born personality, which, however, is not simply to be negated but rather subsumed within a greater whole. Nothing is negated, for all serves a purpose. The “outer” planets, such as Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, in particular, also known as the transcendental planets, work towards the dissolution of the ego, or perhaps better said, usurpation of it from its seat of authority, and alignment of its will with the Universal Will. The inner or Chaldean planets, Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, to the contrary, work towards the building up of the ego, which in itself is a positive thing. Damiani said:
"Whereas the spiritual evolution would be implemented through the
[transits of the] outer three planets - which require abandoning the ego - the rational souls from Saturn inward are demanding that the ego gets fulfilled."
The ego is not destroyed as we evolve, but it becomes more and more complete or, if one dares to use the word, perfected. That is, it conforms more and more to the World-Idea. Not in a robotic fashion, but in a natural and organic way. Here is where the traditional concepts of enlightenment and spirituality fall short or are misleading. In essence, we are co-creators of our reality, and the spiritual is not divorced from the material. Consciousnesss and being are seamlessly interwoven with our very bodily existence. We are alive!
The difference between the ordinary man and the sage is that the sage has access
to the wisdom inherent in all of the 360 degrees of the zodiac, not only those degrees activated in his natal chart. [Each “degree” represents a different archtypal “idea”, meaning a particular quality or mode of functioning]. He lives from a unique perspective of the universal existence, and is not bound by the personality, although he has one and may even choose to work on it as he deems necessary, for instance, to be of better service to others. He remains human, but truly human
[df: 'hu' - 'man' (~manas)
, or spirit-mind, complete]. The personality, once the man is awakened, however, gradually gets united with his identity as soul. The transcendant becomes awakened into the very pores of ones body, so to speak, for we are not talking about a mere mental shift. PB terms the direct seeing into the heart of reality a special faculty he calls 'insight,' but he did not mean a mere intellectual intuition. There is a power behind the seeing. He, in fact, spoke of the Overself, or soul, as 'overshadowing the personality' and creating a 'mystical union with ones own body.' Perhaps, the word 'mystical' was not the best choice of terms, as it implies, again, something mental, psychic, and 'inner,' instead of organic and alive, neither within or without. PB was evolving in his own realisation as well as his manner of languaging it. The term 'embodiment' is coming more and more into the lexicon of spiritual teachers as each day passes. The feeling is that there is a secret that the ancient paths have missed.
One may have noticed I have left out the planet Saturn. That is because Saturn represents the very function of egoity, its individuation as well as crystalization, and, in theory, its maturation. It is, in the ancient schools, considered the 'ring pass not,' the great initiator. It rules discipline, as well as entry into its fruits, which are the grace of further, deeper and more profound initiations symbolized by Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Saturn’s transits, like the others, occur to everyone in cyclic fashion, such as at age 29, 58, 87, during its great returns, signifying 'built-in' phases of life and the wisdom of the World-Idea 'hounding us', as it were, towards spiritual freedom, as well as, like all other transitting planets, functioning in a unique manner when it directly aspects planets in our natal chart. To put it another way, the great Lord has fashioned what I call the 'Divine Path of Growing Old,' the same for everyone, whereby the cyclic transitting of the planets Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto symbolise esoteric forces propelling us onwards to maturity, whether we accept the invitation or not. In a previous version of an article of the same name, I outlined these fixed stages as follows:
Astrological Basic Life Pattern
7        Youth                    1st Saturn Square
14-15    Puberty                 1st Saturn Opposition
21        Independence         1st Uranus Square, 2nd Saturn Square
28-30   Adulthood               1st Saturn Return
42        Mid-Life Crisis        1st Uranus Opposition, 2nd Saturn Opposition, 1st Neptune Square
58-59   Serious Adulthood    2nd Saturn Return
63-64   Sanyas/ Retirement 2nd Uranus Square
72-73   2nd Retirement!       3rd Saturn Opposition
84-87   Transition                3rd Saturn Return
Blessed Hope          1st Uranus return
Dissolution              1st Neptune opposition
Within this general framework, there is the individual intervention of grace, primarily through the direct transits of the outer planets to those in our personal natal chart. Loosely speaking, one might say that Uranus, the higher octave of Mercury (the mental nature), represents awakening of consciousness and stimulation of the higher mind; Neptune, the higher octave of Venus (the feeling nature), rules dissolution or the awakening of the heart; while Pluto, the higher octave of Mars (personal energy nature), represents the surrender of the personal will, expansion into being, as well as bodily transformation and transmutation of subconscious desires and habit tendencies. PB spoke on a different level of the highest development of the human faculties of thinking, feeling, and willing, which, when matured, enable the awakening of the unique transcendental faculty of 'insight.' All three of these transitting outer planets I consider the reality of grace acting on the total person, through the aspects of awareness, heart, and being, respectively. Of course, many feel crushed when these are in play, but they are always a friend to those consciously on the path - even though it may seem to be at the temporary cost of ones sanity.
These personalised agents of destiny, the transitting planets directly aspecting a planet in ones natal chart, will usually have a much greater impact than the common, cyclical transits, as some of these may occur but once in a lifetime or even once in many lifetimes. If we are not consciously surrendered, available, disposed, or welcome to their influence, we miss great opportunities that are essential for our development. The essential thing to keep in mind is, as Damiani explains:
“The World-idea is what’s teaching the soul; it’s educating the soul. And it does it in a very precise and exact way, by the kinds of experiences that are going to come to you and by the way you’re going to respond to those experiences, whether you’re going to apply what you’ve learned or whether you’re going to revert to an atavistic procedure...And the instructions that come are very specific. Each person’s natal astrological chart shows the specificity and the chronological arrangement of the experiences that that person is going to go through. What you get out of your experiences shows to what extent you are a philosophic student. To the extent that you grasp the meanings that are inherent in the experiences that you are going through and don’t have to repeat them, to that extent, you’re a student...It’s a very specific kind of education that each and every one who is aiming to be a philosopher is going to go through. The teachers you will meet, those people who will influence you - all these things are very carefully arranged. Sometimes when you think back on some of the things that may have happened to you, you see that in a split second in timing would have prevented an important meeting...So it’s not a mass education. These are very highly selected, specific kinds of experiences that each and every one who’s on the quest goes through.”
“There are even times when the World-Mind will bring in experiences that are not even destined for you in terms of your karma, but are just brought in ad hoc! Just out of curiosity, you know: “Let’s see what you’re going to do with this one!”
“Ultimately, you’ll see that the World-Mind is teaching you..You’ll learn to think correctly, whether you like it or not. Sooner or later, usually later, you’ll learn to feel properly. You’ll learn all these things. But it’s the World-Mind that’s always teaching you, imposing...You get the greatest education that can be conceived of, and you’re not even grateful for it.”
One additional value to an understanding of astrology and the World-Idea is that , as Anthony said,
“The recognition that the ego is part of the world’s being comes upon you and you stop saying that it doesn’t exist.”
PB similarly wrote:
“Let them not waste so many words about or against this little ego of ours, decrying its character or denying its existence, but try to understand what is really happening in its short life. Let them find out what is actually being wrought out within and around it. Let them recognise that the Governor of the World is related to it and that we are steeped in the Divinity whether we are aware of it or not.”
Anthony expands on this:
“That’s what we try to see in astrology. If we say that the Governor of the World, the Lord of the World, has organized the World-Image and all the creatures within it, then of course there’s a very intimate association between the Lord of the World, the structure of your ego, and what the Lord of the World is trying to accomplish.
[Note: that each individual’s mental and spiritual development is part of the cosmos’ own evolution is an essential part of PB’s writings on the ego]. By combining certain ideas, the Lord of the World is trying to show you something about yourself. You are supposed to try to understand what is going on within you and around you. So if you look at an aspect, you can see something of the way this idea is manifesting you. Otherwise, how could you cooperate with the World-Idea, without a knowledge of these things?”
“Maybe you could also see that insofar as the Lord of the World - or let’s say the lords of karma - brings about this fabrication, your ego, for whatever number of years, it must love that very much. In other words, the Governor of the World, who creates what we look upon as the natal chart, must love that very much. It loves it completely, but the ego mistakenly understands that as love for itself.”
True, it loves it for the sake of the Intelligible world within the soul, i.e., the great Uniqueness, when in its fulfillment the soul transcends and no longer owns herself but is in unity with the Supreme
. As anadi writes:
"In our ignorance, we unconsciously assume that our longing for spiritual transformation is based on an essential need to reach personal well-being and release, when in truth it is existence using our self-centeredness as fuel for its own expansion. We do not evolve for our own sake, but for the sake of the eternal whole. It is the will of the divine that all beings and forms of intelligence expand into the sacred heart of creation."
Anthony warns us to be discerning, however, for:
“The ego is very slippery - the profoundest depths of pleasure and pain are there. It goes all the way to the top with us. Anyone who doesn’t know about the ego is on a TV journey...You have to understand what the nature of this individual existence is, because it is the cause of all our misery, and yet strangely enough, it is dearer to us than anything we can think of. So, evidently, there must be a lot of value in our suffering. ”
Anthony joked that those who say that the ego is 'empty' haven't even seen it yet.' Yet he spoke more often than not in terms of a great battle with the negative aspect of the ego when not viewed as an aspect of the complete Soul. He also recognized, nevertheless, as did PB, the important and positive role that the ego plays in our evolution. anadi agrees, and points out how ancient traditions misconstrued the nature of the ego itself, as well as the mind. They taught within relative polarities of good and evil, absolute and relative, Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman, true Self and ego, spiritual and unspiritual, where one side of the polarity was considered the more 'absolute' one, where, in fact, that was often not true, but only choosing a 'relative' polarity that appeared to be ultimate reality. Collective expectations have grown and contributed to this phenomenon. Besides emphasizing that the ego was actually a great evolutionary advance, creating for the first time a self-referral in the mind, which, when matured, becomes the very engine of the spiritual quest itself, anadi writes:
"Many seekers are confused and not able to comprehend the apparent paradox of transcending the ego without annihilating it. In Buddhist psychology, there is a concept of so called five skandhas. This concept is missing the elemental understanding that our body-mind operates as an alive and coherent organism of intelligence in a purposeful and meaningful way. The ego cannot be found anywhere as such, for the one looking for it - is the ego. it is too close to be found, but certainly it is always there."
This is why people who engage self-enquiry and finding no ego assume that there is no ego and 'no self' either - because they can't find it, not seeing the limitations of such inquiry itself. He continues:
"The ego-personality not only participates and promotes the shift of our being into the deeper dimensions of reality, from the state of presence to resting in the Absolute, but it also allows us to comprehend our post-Enlightenment situation. Enlightenment is not the end of our growth. The understanding of the Enlightened state and its relation to the ego as well as to the manifested reality is constantly evolving. The ego and Enlightened state co-exist in a very interesting way - they relate to each other...Even after realization, the ego and our essence are in a very rich and dynamic relationship - they are simultaneously present."
"Those masters who claim that they have no ego, prove to have a certain psychological ignorance; or they're using the term in an improper way. They are most likely victims of certain idealistic, linear and simplistic logic. The transcendental logic embracing the apparent paradox (the co-existence of the ego and the egoless state), goes beyond this simple logic in the apperception of the truth which is not conceptual but alive. The goal of Enlightenment is not to eliminate the ego, but to enlighten it. How could we possibly enlighten it if we deny its very existence? To enlighten the ego is to create within the personal intelligence a clear understanding that our personality, with all its limitations, and our timeless essence, is an indivisible, dynamic whole. It is here that the humility, intelligence and the highest spiritual realization meet. Ego, the operative center of our personality, even after melting with the Source, must face this never-ending challenge of fulfilling the dynamic balance between its participation in the manifested reality and of resting in the Absolute. The absolute dimension and human perspective are truly one. But although they are one, they give birth to one another in the continuous process at arriving at wholeness."
Sri Atmananda also spoke positively about the role of the ego and its continuity with the real 'I', or what he called the 'I-Principle' (which he considered a more fundamental and less confusing word than 'Consciousness'):
"Even the much despised ego is a great help to the realization of the Truth. The presence of the ego in man, though in a distorted form, is infinitely better than the absence of it, as for example in a tree. Through the ego, you perceive only objects at first. But the objects ultimately point to Consciousness. Therefore the first perception, though wrong, subsequently leads you on to the Reality; and the perception is made possible only by the presence of the ego. Hence the ego is, in a sense, primarily responsible for the realization of the ultimate Truth.”
“It is the whole ego that seeks liberation and strives for it. When it is directed to the ultimate Reality, the material part automatically drops away and the Consciousness part alone remains over as the real ‘I-Principle’. This is liberation.”
The key then is to become a whole ego - one that has emerged from the herd of the collective consciousness. The movement of evolution is towards more and more individuality, not less. PB states:
“It is a prime purpose of the Quest to create a true individuality where, at present, there is only a pseudo one. For those who are at the mercy of their automatic responses of attraction or repulsion by environment, whose minds are molded by external influences and educational suggestions, are not individuals in any real sense.”
Even mystic Madame Guyon wrote on the destiny of our individuality:
“As one dies to his old ways he does not lose all the uniqueness that makes him who he is. Actually it is quite the opposite. Only through this death process will you be truly set free to be who you really are.”
(The SeedSowers, 1990), p. 77)
Brunton wrote that the Overself does not so much obliterate the ego but rather includes it through its surrender:
“He loses his ego in the calm serenity of the Overself, yet at the same time it is, mysteriously, still with him.”
, Vol. 14, 6.267)
New-Age luminary David Spangler, champion of an emerging spirituality founded on personhood and incarnation, quotes the words of one of his spirit-guides named 'John':
"What you call soul and personality are both parts of a larger wholeness of identity. In the incarnational context, they are intended to work together a partners. To set them in opposition to each other or to privilege one over the other is to deny and break that wholeness, making the enterprise of incarnation that much more difficult...You see the personality as an object, but we see it as a process and a function. There is a condition of awareness that flows out of that process, but it is not a separate thing unto itself...If you turn the condition of awareness into a thing - the "personality" - and then try to get rid of it, you may in fact do so, but you have not dealt with the deeper issue of lack of skill in the incarnational process. You may triumph over something, but you do not learn. The personality is part of your talent or skill of incarnation; getting rid of it or fighting it doesn't make you any more talented or skillful."
PB similarly writes:
"How can man fully express himself unless he fully develops himself? The spiritual evolution which requires him to abandon the ego runs parallel to the mental evolution which requires him to perfect it...The ego is a part of the divine order of existence."
"A mysticism which does not take into account all the chief functions which make a human being - will, feeling, reason, and intuition - leaves some of his evolutionary possibilities undeveloped and cannot give a finished result but only a partly finished one. It fails to do justice to the glorious ideal set before him by the World-idea."
Then he speaks of the uniqueness aspect and the purpose of one's dharma
“The uniqueness of each person, his difference from each other person, may be metaphysically explained as due to the effort of Infinite Mind to express itself infinitely within the finite limitation of time and space, form and appearance.”
“Each human being has a specific work to do - to express the uniqueness that is himself. It can be delegated to no one else. In doing it, if he uses the opportunity aright, he may be led to the great Uniqueness which is superpersonal, beyond his ego and beyond all egos.”
"To a certain individual it may be said: "I have faith in you - but the real You has yet to make an appearance. When it does you will then find your real work in life."
To which Anthony comments:
“Each and every person is a very special and unique interpretation or manifestation of his or her own higher self. So there are no two egos that are alike. Then he points out that there’s a special work delegated to that person. The Hindus would call that your dharma. Whatever it is - whether it’s to be a warrior or an insurance salesman or whatever - that’s your particular dharma. And if you do that faithfuly and correctly, it could lead you to the reality which is behind your ego as well as to the reality which is behind every ego.”
“Uniqueness here doesn’t refer to the fact that you have to be a certain kind of trademan or merchant. It refers to something that has to be worked out in you. We try to understand that in terms of the
[astrological] chart, the particular ideas that you’re working out. That’s your special uniqueness. You must express it and that means working in the world, and doing whatever it is you have to do. And generally you’ll have to do it.”
[Student: Is it possible not
to express them?]
“Yes, it’s possible. A person can deviate, yes...But generally the tendency is for us to follow through what our uniqueness is because there’s a compelling reason that’s operating, through which we feel that this is the way we best are. That’s usually your destiny: the living out of the ideas that you embody, the special uniqueness that you are.”
In terms of what Anthony emphasized about ones uniqueness being most fundamentally “something being worked out in you” - although not entirely divorced from a particular line of work - Fenelon wrote;
“Everyone has his own work but not everyone is doing the work which God has given him to do. Everything that you do from pride, or to move up in the eyes of the world, or merely because it pleases your old nature is not the work that God gives you...What God wants you to do is work on those things that are out of line with His nature within you. He wants to replace your old nature with His very own nature. This will mean new thoughts and desires. Here is the work of God.”
The following was attributed to the Buddha:
"Your work is to discover your work and with all of your heart give yourself to it."
At the very least we may come to realize:
“You may be an insignificant creature in the vastness of the cosmos, but the divine life - of which that cosmos is but a channel - is in you, too. Have enough faith in your divine heritage, take it into your common everyday life and thought, and in some way, to some people, you will become very significant and important.”
“The great Uniqueness is the Intelligible World in each and every soul.
[Here he is basically saying that the entirety of God - not just a part - is in each soul; which is to say that, rather than there being a ‘drop merging in the ocean,’ ‘the ocean is merged in the drop.’
] There is a special uniqueness that an individual lives, and the closer it conforms to the World-Idea
[the expression or expressed cosmos of God], the closer it conforms to the great Uniqueness. Your ego is part of the World-idea. As it evolves it will conform more and not less to the World-Idea. Eventually you’ll be pushed right into the World-Idea and be like part and parcel of the World-Idea. Then you would be the great Uniqueness.”
Thus, the great Uniqueness is to realise oneself as Soul and have the heart, mind, and will of ones personality conform to the World-Idea, the Universal Intelligence projected through the soul. Not like a robot, in a mechanical manner, but in a living, dynamic, sentient way. This is more than just quiet contemplation within oneself. Again,
"To feel the divine presence is much more common an experience than to perceive the divine purpose."
"When one is allowed a glimpse of the World-Idea, he feels that he understands at last why he came here, what he has to do, and where his place is. He will begin to see an intelligence moving in and through the universe that he had not seen before...When a man or woman comes into fuller awareness of the True Self he arrives at the same time at the discovery of his true work, together with the capacity to perform it. Such an individual usually has innate ability - but the development of this ability depends upon his struggles to achieve it. Also, its sphere of activity may not necessarily be what he at first believes. In this case, disappointments and frustrations will arise to serve as indications that he has yet to find the right road. The appearance of talent and capacities can be hastened if one acquires better balance."
In order to have a real chance at becoming/realizing the great Uniqueness, we have to first become or grow into our special uniqueness as human beings. To suppress that is, in a sense, to commit spiritual suicide to varying degrees. For in non-dual truth the personality is not separate from the great Atman. Yet that is to a great extent what traditional spiritual teachings have often condoned in spite of themselves.
As an example, for myself it has become clear that I have a modest knack or passion for writing, as long as the ideas keep coming, which they seem to do.
To expand on this example, let's consider this question: "did I write this article?" The answer is, "yes and no." Damiani says:
"....when you're working out the meaning of the doctrine in all its implications, and you're trying to make it explicit, youll find that you can’t do it under your own power. Its only when this higher power within you, the Overself, starts taking a hand in the game, that you start finding the material you need to answer certain questions, and you find other material to provoke you into asking certain questions, and so this mysterious process keeps going on. When a person is under that kind of surveillance by the higher Power, you can almost say the Logos is working its meaning out in that person, and the person will become conscious of that."
This entire website was created during a period when Uranus was transitting conjunct my natal Mercury. The ideas flew out of me almost without effort. Of course, there were some experiences to draw upon, and years of study with a lot of concepts in the tank, but this "I" needed the cosmic energy to "package" them into something creative and hopefully useful. In addition, natal Sun-Mercury-Venus-Mars in Pisces are in the third house, which was being activated by an exact square from Pluto, as well as the conjunction from Uranus, and a crop of articles, to unsuspecting eyes seemingly being created at a furious rate, were themselves a product of this vulcanic pressure and electric stimulus. This "I" receives ideas and essentially HAD to write them down before it could get any rest. As the goddess Athena said, “some things you will think of for yourself, and others a god will put in your heart” - the “gods” essentially being the divine functioning of the transpersonal outer planets.
I have also learned, as Mario Puzo once said, "the secret of writing is re-writing,"
and I have also learned that you write about, and teach, that which you want to learn
. Like all writers, however, I continually harbor doubts whether what I have to say is worthwhile or not. Yet I find myself returning again and again to my keyboard. If I don't, I suffer a little inside [Sun-Mars-Venus-Mercury in Pisces in the third house of communication compels the expression]. I am also learning, that "it is only when everyone agrees with you that you are in trouble."
As Christian mystic Thomas Merton expressed it:
"If a writer is so cautious that he never writes anything that cannot be criticized, he will never write anything that can be read. If you want to help other people you have got to make up your mind to write things that some people will condemn."
Further, without taking the chance to say something, the universe will not be able to provide feed-back to sharpen our understanding. For others need to be brought into the conversation and that is how our knowledge grows.
Author Alan Cohen has gone one step further in expressing my feelings almost perfectly:
"When I first began writing..I was very fortunate not to know what I was doing
[in fact, I said this very thing to a spiritual master years ago, who replied to me, "join the club!"]. I didn't think of myself as an author, and my goal was not to break into the book business and become famous. I was simply recording my ideas for the joy of self expression
[and, for me, understanding], with the hope that those who read my words would
[one day] be able to relate to them and find value in them...Now I know Spirit's secret of success: While my subject matter is similar to that of other authors, I have a unique way of saying it. And so do other authors and teachers...But no one has ever said them exactly like I do. No one has my fingerprint and no one will ever write exactly like me. I have a corner on the market of me! And you have the same for yourself."
"Writer's block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows ."
- Joseph Campbell
But there is one thing more: "carpe diem!" As Will Rogers said, "if you wait until you're ready, you'll wait forever"
[with a North Node in Aries, that, as well as the need to be true to myself rather than follow the easy way of pleasing others, has been a constant challenge in this life. Standing alone is not something that comes naturally for me]. Cohen again reminds us of a secret of this process:
"The best way to learn something is to start doing it. You will master the challenge far more quickly and deftly if you throw yourself into the task at hand than if you sit around and analyze how it might be if you tried doing it. You may be a lot more ready to take your next step than you realize. Take advantage of the opportunity at hand...God is not looking for stars; He is looking for players. If you are willing to show up and play, God will turn you into a star."
Similarly, PB adapts the ancient text, the Tripura Rahasya
, into a modern idiom to reveal the profound benefits derived from communicating spiritual teachings no matter what apparent stage of preparation one may find himself in:
"An intense student may be endowed with the slenderest of good qualities, but if he can readily understand the truth - however theoretically - and expound it to others, this act of exposition will help him to become himself imbued with these ideas and his own mind will soak in their truth. This in the end will lead him to actualize the Divinity within himself."
While the special uniqueness is clearly evident in the birth chart, the non-dual soul, an eternal existent, the great Uniqueness, which is not revealed in the basic natal chart per se but as the Witness Self has access to all 360 degrees of the chart - inasmuch as they are within it, or projected through it” - is also not incompatible with a practical use of astrology. For, rightly understood, astrology is a map showing some of the workings of the World-Mind or World-Idea (God as Nature) educating the soul to its completeness. That is why, although everyone is free to do what they choose to do, I find it bewildering when someone like James Braha, student of Sailor Bob Adamson and an excellent astrologer, after getting a glimpse of the state of presence-awareness, tossed his astrology career out of the window, assuming it of no value in light of the non-dual insight. But, living in a dual universe, in the right hands it has significant value. At the very least it can help objectify the ego, objectify vasanas
(inherited fixed binding tendencies), and lead one towards his true individuality, as well as purpose. For the living Soul is not negated by the teachings of non-duality; in fact, it is their truth. Anthony writes:
"..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."
To round out this part of this part of our discussion, anadi has this to say about the chart and its relationship to ones total process:
"You live within the limitations which existence has drawn around you. Within these limitations, you perform your creativity and exercise your freedom of choice. The soul’s intelligence is unpredictable on some level. Even though intelligence operates within the limits of human consciousness, it is divine and can break through the limitations in which it functions. I Am is beyond the chart. I Am cannot be found in the chart...It is the part of you which is unconditional and not determined by the movement of the planets. However, the movement of the planets may help you to awaken I Am. Often, spiritual shifts and experiences of awakening are co-related to some powerful constellation of stars
[This is illustrated in The Lost Years of Ramana Maharshi: Two Deaths, Two Hearts, Two Teachings
, in the third section entitled, "Ramana's Realisations: Astrology and the World-Mind"
]. How is it possible that the unconditional I Am, in order to awaken, requires help from the relative reality? For the very simple reason, that you are awakening to that which is unconditional, from the viewpoint of the conditional. It is from the realm of your personality that you are awakening to that which is beyond the personal self."
Hopefully at this point the reader is beginning to get an intuitive feel for what these great seers have been trying to communicate to us. Now let us get more practical in narrowing down the choices of relating to both the ego and the 'absolute.' For up to now, we have been talking about realization of the Soul as not distinct from the world, an improvement from the past but there is yet more. We still have not gotten down to the nitty-gritty of the everyday world of separation and humanness and a more positive way of relating to that. I am indebted to teacher Krishna Gauci, from his essays, "Be All That You Can Be" and "Central Place of the Ego" for some of the following ideas. (30)
There have been traditionally two ways of dealing with ego: either do battle with it in order to totally eradicate it, or to deny it exists and say that there is only the Self or the Absolute, and in either case this impersonal essence is all that is to be realized. Seekers have been so conditioned that with any hit of 'emptiness' or 'pure consciousness' they are convinced that is what they are and must have as a permanent attainment. This absolute aloneness is generally considered to be the eternal reality. The personal, by contrast, sticks out like a thorn. It is traditionally, in fact, been spoken of as a 'thorn' or 'spoke' to be re-moved by intense practice. But is this really a complete picture? Are not the mind and ego part of the Atman, and thereby real in that right? Modern teachings have recognized that what is resisted only causes more resistance, so what Gauci calls a 'kindler, gentler' approach to the ego is currently in vogue with many nondual teachers. He calls this, 'transcend, and include'. That is, one 'transcends it', usually by seeing through one's 'personal story', thus seeing there is 'no-ego' or 'no-self' (which one is told is the case beforehand), and then 'accepts' the ego and allows it to exist as a relative function, but still rather unimportant. Now, Gauci makes the same point as anadi, that it is actually this very ego that recognizes or asserts that there is no ego. A very real danger is that the assertion 'there is no person self or story' becomes another personal story! Whereas, it is the ego in its positive function as the free flow of intelligence and a reflective mechanism, in part, that is necessary even to recognize that there is 'no-self', what to speak of 'no ego'! It never goes away entirely, as a part of reality, whether one wants to call it 'relative' reality or otherwise. Therefore, he proposes, a fourth way, which he calls, 'include and transcend,' rather than the kindler, gentler way of 'transcend, and include'. In other words, while having it be guided by the light of the soul, also embrace this me, this ego, welcome it into the world, which most of us have never experienced, let it expand and share its gifts, and in that way, along
with recognition of one's dimension as unlimited consciousness - one other aspect of the totality of oneself - eventually one may realize a shift in his identity to that of the 'Divine Ego' or 'Divine Person'.
The word Ego here is obviously used in a different context than its traditional one; it is capitalized in order to direct emphasis towards a sense of a divine individuality, and away from a strict negation of the personal. The Greek master Daskalos also used the term 'Spirit-Ego' interchangably with 'Spirit-Being', or that from which even the eternal Soul emanates, so it is meant in a high sense here. There is, of course, danger in this approach in adding fuel to the fire of self-possession, which the traditional schools unfailingly point out. What is suggested, however, is that the metaphor of a great battle with the ego is one side of an argument that should also include the positive element it also represents. There is no way one will ever get to the 'Divine Ego' if he completely suppresses his little ego. Part of the way is to paradoxically let it live and expand, and become even better. This is counterintuitive and perhaps not useful for those who are totally new to the quest. But fewer and fewer souls coming into incarnation today are completely new to the quest. So, this is also a way to transcend, to become part of the 'World-Idea.' This does not preclude trying to imporve oneself by eliminating negative tendencies where the ego is focussed exclusively on itself, of course not. Nothing is negated. But everything is given the O.K. As Gauci concludes, "Be as You Are,"
and, "Be All That You Can Be."
This is a "living paradox" and saying a big "Yes" to the body and ego and world [note: it is important to recognize that this is spoken to the personality from the position of consciousness, not just from the personality] rather than merely trying to negate or bypass them. Such acceptance actually goes beyond just seeing the Unmanifest and the Manifest as One, as in some traditional conceptions of sahaj samadhi. It means to accept, in consciousness, the actual dimension of separation and being human as a dynamic part of the Whole. This is a non-separate 'enlightened duality' in which basic awakening is significant, but considered an entry-level stage of spirituality, where traits like reliability and integrity become of equal importance, where even suffering based on misperception is accepted as suffering, and it is allowed that certain limitations and pain, etc., may never go away but are inherent in the human condition itself. In this more inclusive way (embracing the ego, not dismissing one's 'stories', expressing ones dreams and talents, along with
the awakening of unlimited Consciousness) one can transcend while still living within the realm of limitations. This is beyond idealism and realism. It is divine practicality. There is no shizophrenic spiritual split. One awakens, yes, certainly, but one also consciously embodies that awakening, in a real, functional way. This feeling-concept is being seen more and more today. It is an idea whose time has come. It is not really new as a realization, just not culturally available. The essence is that exclusive impersonality and negativity must be left behind. Truth is beyond all polarities; it is total Being to be lived. This leads to true sahaj.
Similar to this way of viewing the ego, one can look at traditional concepts of the relationship of the ego or ego-soul and the absolute. The example of Vedanta will suffice, of which there are three main schools: advaita (associated with Sankara), vashistadvaita (Ramanuja), and dvaita (Madhva). Advaita says only the absolute Self exists, all else is illusion. The world is relatively real, but still illusion because it is not permanent. There is no Soul. Vashistadvaita says, in general - and this is an oversimplification - that there are some ways we are separate from God and someways we are not; the soul is real and is in eternal union/relationship with God. Dvaita believes in dualism where, while God reigns supreme, the Soul eternally worships God and enjoys his bliss and glory. Sages have been arguing with logic for thousands of years over which of these is true. Advaita currently seems to have the edge in logic. But what if we accept that all
of them are true, simultaneously, and that truth is a mysterious and paradoxical Reality in which we live? We have an essence that is emptiness, or impersonal Consciousness; we are an energetic expression of Spirit inseparable from but in relationship with others, and we are a unique incarnation of the Soul of the Universe, with a personal, human self, living in imitations. We may no doubt at some point go beyond this human self, but it is a reality, no matter what we think, say, or do, and one ignores it at his peril. [Please, however, hold this suggestion lightly, and do not try to pin it down too rigorously, as it is but a 'working hypothesis'].
Let's hear from some other voices on this general theme. They all may not be saying precisely the same thing, but it shows how the teachings are changing to reflect a new perspective on this strange thing called enlightenment. Gangaji writes:
“Many of us live our lives very superficially. We suffer for the superficiality, because within each one of us lives a depth of being that wants itself known, wants itself felt, wants itself expressed and met. As long as we settle for the superficial truths, we tragically miss the deeper revelation.”
“Fear is often a part of
[the] essential shift away from the identification with concepts toward identification with the silent ground of being, because the shift threatens the known structure of life...This existential terror is like the gargoyle at the gate to the sanctuary. Unless it is met and exposed as just another strategy of the mind, it can keep you away from the revelation of the silent, aware peace at the core of your being. The great masters who have realised their essential nature encourage us to meet this terror of the dissolution of our individuality. The result of this meeting is paradoxical: the individual is dissolved and yet becomes more individually distinct.”
Stephen Levine said:
“We presume that an ego death is the end of our hard-won bigness, but actually it is the end of our smallness.”
"The goal of self-elimination which is held up before us refers only to the animal and lower human selves. It certainly does not refer to the annihilation of all self-consciousness. The higher individuality always remains. But it is so different from the lower one that it does not make much sense to discuss it in human language. Hence, those who have adequately understood it write or talk little about its higher mysteries. If the end of all existence were only a merger at best or annihilation at worst, it would be a senseless and sorry scheme of things. It would be unworthy of the divine intelligence and discreditable to the divine goodness. The consciousness stripped of thought, which looks less attractive to you than the hazards of life down here, is really a tremendous enlargement of what thought itself tries to do. Spiritual advance is really from a Less to a More. There is nothing to fear in it and nothing to lose by it - except by the standards and values of the ignorant."
"A fuller life will recognize not only the spirituality of man but the individuality of man."
"He will unite with the Divine first by completely disappearing into it, then by discovering his higher individuality in it."
Through a gradual process of disillusionment with limited, false identification, either through the slowly grinding of the wheels of life itself, or the loving relationship with a master, the passage beyond fear may be a graceful one, even an anti-climax, after which the imagined fear will also be seen to have been illusory.
Sant Rajinder Singh, a master of Sant Mat, while teaching 'dying while living' in which the ego must step aside in order for the soul to be born, nevertheless says:
"Merger in God is not the annihilation of ones identity, but rather the positive immersion in all the love, joy, and wisdom of God."
Ultimately, not utter annihilation, but the pleroma is our destiny, in which the soul's uniqueness is maintained, even while her sovereignty is not.
Peter Dziuban argues in a book of the same name, that "consciousness (or awareness) is all." While the existence of the soul is denied (rather than restored to its ancient greatness such as Plotinus conceived it), he does not deny that one is Unique, and one can therefore still get a feel for one's unique and real - and not merely ghostly - existence, through the following passages:
“WHILE THE PERFECTION OF THE SELF IS ALL, do not assume It is too absolute, too infinite, to be practical in what still appears as daily affairs. Nothing is more valuable than Consciousness under any circumstances!”
“One never takes on an attitude of, “Oh, what’s the use? The human, finite world is all a dream anyway, so why care about anything?” One never says, “I’m not here.”
“One most definitely is here. One is present as Perfect Being, Pure Infinity. Your Intelligent Being never will pass away, for it does not co-exist with time in which it could pass away. Your Life is present eternally, which means “forever and ever and beyond,” and yet it always is Now.”
"The fact that there is One Self never means a loss of being individual...The fact that the Awareness now reading these words is One, means I Am completely unique and original, forever unduplicated. The fact that I Am One, All, means I never could be imitated by another, for there is no other. If that's not individual, what else could be?"
"There never has been another Awareness besides this All-Present One. The Original One is what I Am. That does not mean original or unique in the human sense, as being different compared to others. The Awareness I Am has no others to which I can be compared. As Awareness, I Am the Incomparable One."
One definitely feels the impact of these words. They are very powerful. As the Dalai Lama said, “he who denies his existence is a fool.”
They seem to affirm what PB referred to as the 'great Uniqueness'.
Yet, as argued earlier, PB affirmed that there is a Soul, not just the one "Self,' and which is not merely a falsely assumed separate 'thing', an illusion within Consciousness, as so many teachers propose, but rather a distinct, eternal existent, infinite in its own right, inasmuch as it exists directly by and is rooted in the Light of the One. The Sants would certainly agree. It is a mystery, but then, life is full of mysteries, why be eager to reduce them? Many things are inexplainable by the 'Consciousness-is-all-there-is-only-one-Self' theory. But the neo-advaitins say, 'why try to explain or understand? There is nothing and 'no one' to understand.' Further, 'I know that there is only one Self, and I Am That, because I have experienced something, an awareness, that is formless and all-pervading.' The problem is that the Soul, it has been suggested, is in a sense distinct, impersonal but not entirely devoid of any individuality, and also formless and all-pervading, cosmic and infinite, an impersonal subjectivity - but it is not God, the universal I AM, the universal impersonal Subjectivity
. The Soul is cosmic, universal and infinite, with both unindividuated and individuated aspects of modes, but it is not the source of all, although many mystics can be led to assume that it is, and go no further. They are entitled to their attainment. The Soul, in this view ( imperfect as all views must be), is not a concept, not the ego, and is not related to the Supreme in an subject-object relationship, but has rather been said to be intimately, transcendentally and paradoxically subjectively
, related to the Oversoul or God, the ultimate Subjectivity. This concept, or metaphor, and it’s validity or not, of subjectivity-Subjectivity ‘relatedness,’. is discussed further in the series “Dual Non-Dualism” on the teachings of anadi on this website. Meanwhile, this quote by Pere La Combe speaks in similar fashion:
“It is a rare gift to discover an indescribable something, which is above grace and nature; which is not God, but which suffers no intermediate between God and us. It is a pure and unmixed emanation of a created being who is immediately connected with the Uncreated Original, from whom he proceeds. It is a union of essence with essence, in which nothing that is neither can act the part of an intermediate.”
One view is that the ray of the creature is derived from the Sun of the Divinity; it cannot, however, be separated from it; and if its dependence upon its divine principle is essential; its union is not less so.”
In truth, the term subjectivity is likely misleading, being based on the constraints of our language, and used only to counter the naive view of 'objectivity.’ A ray of the Sun, emanated from or rooted in the Sun, or a ray of mind emanated from or rooted in Mind - what kind of relation could there be? One could say it is subject-Subject, or, conversely, the only true Objectivity there Is! A mystery, certainly.BR>
The word 'God', one might notice, is slowly making a come-back, as, while it no doubt suffers from traditional assumptions, it has a somewhat wider scope than 'the Self,' although, some might answer the exact opposite, and not without some justification! God is also the more ancient word used to express the Supreme. The inherently pure Soul, in unity with God, then, is the great Uniqueness, expressing the divine presence in this world. We do not say this is the only way of looking at this thing, but it is one, unique way.
Most non-dualist teachers are adamant that to say Consciousness is in
the body is wrong. They are right if this is taken in an exclusive sense. But it is the paradoxical nature of - not merely Consciousness - but the Soul, to be within the body, while the body is simultaneously within the Soul. Plotinus and PB attest to this, and the Amritbindu Upanishad states:
"That in whom resides all beings and who resides in all beings, who is the giver of grace to all, the Supreme Soul of the universe, the limitless being - I am That."
The first part of this sentence is justified, 'that in whom resides all beings and who resides in all beings,'
but the conclusion is not, for 'I am That'
is merely an ancient assumption. And depends on what ‘I’one is referring to. Maybe it is better to say 'That
is Me.' Hhmm?
Notice how it does speak, however, of 'the giver of grace to all.' According to many non-dualists, and some Buddhists, such transmission of grace is impossible, since there is 'no one' to receive such grace and no 'other' to give it. How simplistic and silly!
Ramana Maharshi, premier non-dualist of the twentieth century, spoke about his death experience as his having been 'taken over by a great power' which drew him into the depths of the spiritual Heart. Not kundalini, prana, or chi energy, but what he called 'hridaya shakti', or the power of the Heart, which is not, in truth, inside or outside, but omnipresent. A 'power', not just a static 'awareness.' Nor did he merely lay down and pursue an intellectual exercise of analysing himself from the body. He said he was 'taken over.' Through the intervention of a similar power it appears he moved beyond this initial exclusive realisation of the inner being at the age of thirty-two, after much sadhana and contemplation. What he actually realised when he was sixteen was the Soul, the 'I' behind the personal me or 'I.' (35) We have been led to assume that he thought at the time it was the Supreme. It was not. He had yet to understand the Soul's relationship with the Universal Soul, and, in PB's terms, the nature of the World-Idea, namely, that both are emanations from the same source, what PB called World-Mind. Which could possibly be equated with the advaitic Self. He didn't know this at sixteen. There are further mysteries of God - no doubt - that perhaps we cannot know. Ramana always remained a devotee. This must be understood. But he, too, may have been limited by tradition in his interpretation
of his experiences. Just a thought.
A few more illustrations on our theme of 'uniqueness.'
"The 'I' casts off the illusion of 'I' and yet remains as 'I'. Such is the paradox of Self-Realization. The realized do not see any contradiction in it."
- Ramana Maharshi (36)
"The person merges into the witness, the witness into awareness, awareness into pure being, yet identity is not lost, only its limitations are lost. It is transfigured, and becomes the real Self, the sadguru, the eternal friend and guide."
- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (37)
"A wandering cur who begs food and pity, pitilessly chase away by the street urchins, is transformed into a lion with a golden mane, whose roar strikes terror in the hearts of all feeble spirits."
- Zen saying, after Satori (38)
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
- Howard Thurman
"Be Yourself. The world worships the original."
- Ingrid Bergman
"Do what you love...Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still."
- Henry David Thoreau
"We never become truly spiritual by sitting down and wishing to become so. You must undertake something so great that you cannot accomplish it unaided. Begin doing something for your fellow-men, and if you do it with all your power, it will almost immediately bring you face to face with problems you cannot solve; you need God, and you go to God."
"The best advisers, helpers and friends, always are not those who tell us how to act in special cases, but who give us, out of themselves, the ardent spirit and desire to act right, and leave us then, even through many blunders, to find out what our own form of right action is.”
- Phillips Brookes
"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it...It is not yours to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open...No artist is ever pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
- Martha Graham
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."
"When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.' It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been ‘No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle."
- Steve Jobs
"If you think your path in life must be logical, then you are path-o-logical."
- Bernie Siegel
“Consciousness can be hypnotized into committing suicide by running the "I don't exist and I don't have free will" program. Someone is going to benefit from you believing this and it isn't going to be you. Avoid zombification at all costs. Take it from a former zombie: the whole intention is to destroy what is beautiful and free about being one-of-a-kind. Recommended reading: You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier.”
- Benjamin Smythe, on Facebook
"Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."
- Oscar Wilde
"Our distinction and glory as well as our sorrow will have lain in being something particular."
- George Santayana
“Remain yourself. This man, Gautama Buddha, has found because he has remained himself. And all these beautiful names - Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu, Bodhidharma, Nagarjuna, Pythagoras, Socrates, Heraclitus, Epicurus - all these beautiful names which have been a great inspiration to many people were themselves never inspired by anybody. That’s how they protected their originality; that’s how they remained themselves. I have been with masters, and I have loved them. But to me the very desire to be like them is ugly. One man is enough; a second like him will not enrich existence, it will only burden it. To me, uniqueness of individuals is the greatest truth. Love people when you find in them a true and authentic, blossoming dimension. But remember, they are blossoming because of their authenticity and originality; so remember, be mindful not to fall in the trap of following them. Be yourself.”
- Osho (39)
"For in fact each man is unique and irreplaceable; there cannot be any other I; each one of us - our soul, that is, not our life - is worth the whole Universe."
- Miguel de Unamuno
"You must find your own way. Unless you find it yourself, it will not be your own way and will take you nowhere."
- Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (40)
Ram Alexander gives a description of the spontaneous spiritual transformation that he felt occurring in relationship with his master, Shree Anandamayee Ma:
"As this process deepened I soon became aware that Her spiritual presence activated an inner awareness of what could be called my own uniquely individual spiritual archtype - some fundamental inner ideal hidden deep within the primal personality structure that is uniquely and divinely one's own - one's own unique way to apotheosis which is a divinely transformed mirror image of the imperfect human ego-mind personality structure. In this sense each individual is his or her own unique spiritual path. It became clear with Ma that authentic spirituality is not the repression of individuality but the complete fulfilment of it in which the ego abandons its limiting sense of separateness and becomes fully merged in its true identity: the one undifferentiated whole."
anadi sheds more light on the important notion of individual 'uniqueness':
"Although we speak that, from a certain point of view, the purpose of the spiritual path is to transcend the personal and to reach the impersonal, the other way is also true. The human being, a a product of collective unconsciousness and one's own subconscious mind, is in truth impersonal. There is no one there, just a movement of unconsciousness. All thoughts, emotions and reactions can be easily predicted and the clear me cannot be found. There is nothing personal here, only an illusion of a person. In the process of spiritual awakening we are going beyond the impersonal unconscious way of existing. We are awakening that which is truly personal, which is truly intimate to us. We are approaching the sacred shrine within which, for the first time, we can say I Am. Not the mind is, not the psychological flow is, not this form is - I Am!"
"The I Am is not given to you by birth. It is not necessarily your birth right to experience your I Am. It is not that you don't see it or you have forgotten it - it is not born yet. You have to give birth to it! You are giving birth to your I Am. That is the responsibility of individual and conscious evolution."
"From one side, you are discovering yourself, you are discovering the depth of the now. From the other side, you are creating yourself, you are giving birth to yourself. You are coming out of the cocoon. And what is the cocoon? It is the collective unconsciousness of which you are a part. By encountering yourself you become an individual, a free spirit which lives in its own light, which does not need the borrowed light from others."
Adyashanti said one must have "the courage to question." Damiani said that "the ability to formulate the right question is already quite a feat of knowledge."
The attitude, "Jesus (Mohammed, Buddha, etc.,) said it, I believe it, that settles it,"
is not the attitude of the sincere seeker! And sincerity is the key, say all masters:
"The foundation of a spiritual seeker is sincerity. The lack of capacity can be understood and it is nobody's fault, but the lack of pure and sincere intention in the heart is a law characteristic of a soul. If the heart is sincere the spiritual light reaches the soul in this way or another. If one is not able to succeed using one's own efforts, grace brings transformation. In this case, the divine does all the work and the soul is pulled into the light. But there has to be openness in the heart, the true longing, honesty to one's own soul. That is the code of honour in the world of the spiritual search."
To conclude, individuality is not just the 'self-contraction,' nor is it just ego, as much traditional spirituality such as advaita maintain. It is those, yes, but that is only the negative side. And even that is only half-truth. Ego is an important tool for our enlightenment, from the bare beginnings of the unconscious quest to the finishing touches of the conscious quest and even beyond. Egoism may die, but ego, in a sense , also gets 'enlightened.' Yes, egoism does, and “the void-mind paradoxically awakens to itself when the ego is withdrawn into it,” as awakening or enlightenment has been described, but back out of that state, the little ego is now enlightened more and more. Eventually, the third of the stations spoken of in Sufism is attained, when the soul has permanently taken charge of the ego.
Talk of 'individuality' leaves many traditionalists, schooled in advaita or buddhism, cringing. Isn't the truth, they say, the elimination or transcendence of the individual 'self' or 'me'? Isn't 'me' the problem? That's what we have been historically taught. But the answer is, no, unless we see me as small me, the 'unripe' ego, and not me as the expression of the Soul and, in truth, the Soul itself, as well as a multidimensional whole. Objective uniqueness is the ego, true. And even that is inherently all right. The great Uniqueness, however, is a matter of the unity of the human personality, the impersonal subjectivity of the yet
individual Soul, and the ultimate subjectivity of the universal I AM. anadi states:
"It is very interesting to see that the soul who is the experiencer of all, can negate herself. That's why, the concept of the no-soul or no-self has been created in Buddhism. The soul, who has reached the original state, the Unborn, the emptiness, and who has become completely one with the universal I AM, can negate her own existence! She can say, "I am not." The soul can assume that there is only the universal impersonal existence. For that reason, the awakening to the soul is the most subtle for she is closest to us, she is our nearest identity. From the point of view of the soul, even emptiness, even awareness, even the inner state and inner peace are external, so to speak."
"The soul is unique because she is herself, not because she tries to become someone or something else. She has the inimitable flavor of pure subjectivity and a distinct place within the totality of existence...The realm of absence is absent only from the viewpoint of personal presence...That which witnesses our absence is the impersonal intelligence of the soul. In the realization of absence, the soul does not disappear, but transcends the illusion that she owns her personal existence."
This is almost a perfect description of PB's Overself. So anadi agrees with PB and Damiani that one needs to go through the Soul before knowing the ‘Self’, unless one misunderstands one’s experience through having the wrong doctrine and thus simply negates it. Which is why Plotinus said “we must teach our souls.”
The concept of uniqueness of the soul and its purpose has been introduced long ago. Baird T. Spalding wrote:
"You are an especially designed creation, you have a particular mission, you have a light to give, a work to do that no other can give or accomplish; and if you will open your heart, mind, and soul wide to spirit, you will learn of it in your own heart. There you find that your very own Father speaks to you."
"Each must learn to lay hold of his life and begin to express, from his own life center, with purposeful, definite action, the gifts that God has given him. Each must unfold his life. It is not possible for one to live for another. No one can express your life for you, and none can say how you must express your own life. 'As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given unto the Son to have life in Himself.' A soul cannot realize this and just drift, for the whole purpose of life reveals itself in the privilege and opportunity of expressing the God self within. That man is, and shall be the divine image and likeness of Himself is God's purpose for man."
"Need or desire, in the unfoldment of life, is misunderstood. That it must be crushed out of the heart is taught by some great teachers. Jesus said, 'Woe unto you who are satisfied.' If you are satisfied, you are at a standstill. In order to contact life fully, we must seek each moment to express life fully. Desire for this is the urge toward it."
"If at first he fails, he must be determined and press on. This is the exercise of the will, the cry of self-confidence, the expression of faith directing the power toward the ideal. This ideal could never be attained without this conscious direction of power, this exercise of the will; and yet it would be fatal to the ideal if the will, too, were not ideal. The will must possess the same quality as the ideal to serve. If the will does not possess the desire to serve, the power the will wishes to direct cannot be released from the soul...To serve gives purpose to vision; it releases love in life. How can love be expressed unless it flows through one expressing life?...The I AM is expressed through the me, and the me is no longer allowed to suppress the I AM."
PB summarizes for our consideration:
“If men would, or could believe that with every breathe they are acting in concert with the cosmic rhythm, that in clinging to the self they are actually sharing the divine presence!”
And again, in one of his more famous quotes, writes:
“The ego to which he is so attached turns out on enquiry to be none other than the presence of the World-Mind
[i.e., God] within his own heart. If identification is then shifted by constant practise from one to the other, he has achieved the purpose of life.”
Sant Kirpal Singh echoed this when he said:
“The time will come when you will say, “Who is living in this body? Am I?” You will forget yourself; you will see the Master in there. When you fold your hands, they will be the Master’s hands, not yours.”
In other words, by one means of another, one comes to non-duality.
In response to the question "What is the soul?", the Prophet Muhammad was inspired to say: "It is an activity of God" [Amr-i Allah]
. We are each a unique “activity of God” - and further, as PB would say, “rooted in God” - intended to be instruments of the Divine Presence in this world, fulfilling the soul's longing to experience love, harmony and beauty in every situation.
“He created them to enable them to enjoy existence, to free them from the constraint of the void.”
- Ibn 'Arabi
For Meher Baba, Hafiz, and Sufism, “God-Realization is complete merging of the individual soul with the limitless existence of God, as infinite love, while the individuality of the merged soul is maintained.
[This is also, imo, compatible with the teachings of the Masters of Sant Mat]. The state of eternal unique individuality. At journey’s end the illusion of the limited self is removed and God comes face to face with Himself in a new eternal form
This is definitely an elegant, purposeful, and unique view. Right or wrong, it puts a feeling in the heart. And quite a different vision than most forms of advaita. There is not thus radical annihilation, but fullness. The goal is not mere liberation but completion (purna
). This is the great Uniqueness, which is also not separated from one's human nature.
Michael Molinos in The Spiritual Guide
- an immensely popular book written in 1675 but which led to his excommunication and lifetime imprisonment - wrote about wholeness as an attribute of realization of God:
“The man who has laid hold of a portion of Divine Wisdom understands very clearly what his place in life is. He understands material things and even those things that belong to him. This is what makes this believer simple. He is not only enlightened, but balanced, whole...internally.”
“‘Inside' and 'outside,' 'part of' and 'separate from,' are terms of reference that have no meaning when considering the reality that is the Sacred."
- David Spangler (50)
“A bell is no bell til you ring it,
A song is no song til you sing it;
And love in your heart wasn't put there to stay,
Love isn't love til you give it away."
- Mary Martin
Note: the reader is directed to a very useful section of The Notebooks of Paul Brunton entitled Unique person: Unique path
, which discusses a necessity
for one ultimately to find and follow his very individual line of development, creativity, and realization.
“Within is mystery, within is colossal power - but you have not touched it. However little you have so far accomplished, you can still do big things...Have enough faith in your divine heritage, take it into your common everyday life and thought, and in some way, to some people, you will become very significant and important.”
One further pair of uniquenesses:
“There is intimacy in the fellowship between teacher and disciple which is unique. There is an impersonally in this most personal of human relationships which is equally unique.”
1. Paul Brunton, The Notebooks of Paul Brunton
(Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1986), Volume 2, 3.104; Vol. 13, Part 2, 4.97, 4.101; Vol. 14, 6.30
1a. Archimandrite Sophrony, We Shall See Him As He Is
(Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2006), p. 84-85
1b. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part Two, 4.101, 104, 133
2. Katha Upanishad, trans., Swami Paramananda
3. David Godman, ed., Be As You Are: The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi
(ARKANA, 1985), p.
4. A. Devaraja Mudaliar, Day by Day With Bhagavan
(Sri Ramanashramamam, 2003), p.
6. Anthony Damiani, Living Wisdom
(Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1996, p. 264, 261
6a. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 2, 5.63
7. Damiani, op. cit., p. 193
7a. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 14, 3.399-3.402
8. Aziz Kristof, (anadi) Transmission of Awakening
(Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass, 1999)., p. 277-281
8a. David Spangler, Apprenticed To Spirit
(New York: River Head Books, 2011), p. 140, 257, 259
8b. Ibid, p. 288
9. Damiani, op. cit., Ibid, p. 62
10. Ibid, p.
11. Ibid, p. 49-50
12. Brunton, op. cit., Volume 6, 8:1.130
13. Anthony Damiani, Standing in Your Own Way
(Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1993), p. 158
14. anadi, book of enlightenment
(www.anaditeaching.com, 2011), p. 295
15. Damiani, op. cit., p. 166-167
16. Aziz Kristof (anadi), Enlightenment Beyond Traditions
(Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidas, 1999), p. 77-80
16a. Nitya Tripta, trans., Notes on Spiritual Discourses of Sri Atmananda
, Vol. II, (1953-1959) (Trivandrum, India: The Reddiar Press, 1963), #512, # . He further says:
“When you begin to emphasize the subjective part, which has been proved to be pure Consciousness, the objects
[including the ego] thenceforward become means or helps to direct your attention to the Truth. For example, if any of these so-called obstacles were not there, how could you conceive of the witness and rise to the Ultimate? When there is an object, Consciousness is there to light it up. This important part played by consciousness is very often not noticed at all. Emphasize also that vital part of Consciousness in all your activities, and you will be surprised to find them all turned into means or helps pointing you to your real Self, the ‘I’-principle.
Thereafter, even the worst pain shows the real ‘I’. When you tell a doctor that you have a particular pain anywhere in your body, it is not as the sufferer that you say so; because the sufferer can only suffer and cannot say. It is the knower alone that can say anything about the pain suffered. Thus the pain shows you that you are ultimately the knower, who is the real subject.
Therefore the world only helps you to know yourself. Evidently, the world was created to prove you.”
16b. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 2, 5.99
17. David Spangler, Apprentice To Spirit
(New York: Riverhead Books, 2011), p. 132-133
18. Paul Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, 25:1.157
19. Ibid, Vol. 13, Part 2, 4.48
20. Ibid, Vol. 6, 1,157, 1.165
21. Ibid, Vol. 2, 1:5.19
21a. Ibid, Vol. 8, 4.218
22. Damiani, op. cit., p. 168-169
22a. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 14, 3.33
23. Damiani, op. cit., p. 170
23a. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 16, Part Two, 4.133, 121
23b. Anthony Damiani, Living Wisdom
(Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 1996), p. 64-65
24. Alan Cohen, Dare To Be Yourself
(New York: Ballantine Books, 1991), p. 256-257
25. Ibid, p. 200-201
26. Ibid, p. 245-247
27. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 13, Part 2, 4.292
28. Anthony Damiani, Astronoesis
(Burdett, New York: Larson Publications, 2000), p. 43-45
29. Kristof, op. cit., p. 454-455
31. Gangaji, (Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True, Inc., 2005, 2007), p. 66, 74, 60
32. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 13, Part 2, 5.5-8
33. Peter Dziuban, Consciousness Is All (Nevada City, California: Blue Dolphin Publishing, Inc., 2006), p. 248-249, 102
33a. Francois Fenelon, Madame Guyon & Pere La Combe, Spiritual Progress (Gideon House Books, 216), p. 204
34. Amritbindu Upanishad, as quoted I AM THAT
35. It is not clear that Ramana realized his identity as the Self or what might be considered the complete Soul-on-the-Nous during his initial death experience; he knew himself as spirit separate from the body, but without true knowledge of the situation, which came later. According to PB the true Soul is more than just inner consciousness or awareness, but a full non-dual realization in which the inner consciousness is known under all conditions, including the world as non-separate from consciousness. More likely that Ramama greatly deepened his realisation during the many years he spent in the caves. See The Lost Years of Ramana Maharshi on this website.
36. Talks with Ramana Maharshi, p.
37. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, op. cit., p. 447
38. Hubert Benoit, Zen and the Psychology of Transformation (formerly “The Supreme Doctrine”) (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1990), p. 116
39. Osho, Bodhidharma The Greatest Zen Master (Commentaries on The Teachings of the Messenger of Zen From India to China)(Osho Media International, 2011), preface
40. Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, op. cit., p. 499
41. Ram Alexander, Death Must Die: A Western Woman's Life-Long Spiritual Quest in India with Shree Anandamayee Ma (Varanasi, India: Indica Books, 2006 (2002), p. 550
42. Kristof, op. cit., p. 141-142
43. Ibid, p. 142-143
44. Kristof, op. cit., p. 160-161
45. anadi, op. cit., p. 164, 257. [for much more on the thought of anadi on individuality, the uniqueness of the soul and related matters, please see “Dual-Non-Dualism” on this website-]
46. Baird T. Spalding, Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East, Vol. II (Marina Del Rey, California: Devorss & Co., 1927, 1972), p. 47
47. Ibid, Vol I, p. 141-146
47a. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 14, 3.91
47b. Ibid, Vol. 6, Part One, 1.137
47c. Kirpal Singh, Morning Talks (Bowling Green, VA: Sawan Kirpal Publications, 1981), p. 207
48. The Illuminated Hafiz, (Boulder, Colorado: Sounds True, 2019), p. 133, 136
49. Michael Molinos, The Spiritual Guide (Auburn, Maine: The SeedSowers, 1982), p. 94
50. Spangler, op. cit., p. 253
51. Brunton, op. cit., Vol. 2, 5.23; Vol. 14, 3.33
52. Ibid, 6.558
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