To Seek the Self (Part 3)

In this final part of the series, we’ll be looking at the natural experience of our own being.  A few things will come to light in the process.  It’ll be useful if we’ve been through parts I and II sufficiently to be comfortable with the things that are spoken of there, especially the non-identity of ourselves with any of the things that we experience.  If it’s accepted at the most basic level that we simply can’t be any of the “things” that we experience, including our bodies, our mental and emotional states, and any other phenomenal perceptions that might appear to us, then most of the work of understanding our true nature has been done.  That last point – that the eradication of wrong ideas is most of the work – will be explained appropriately throughout the course of this post.

In the Absence of Everything

Last time we looked at the experience of deep sleep, and we understood that the only thing that was experienced in deep sleep was our own selves.  By nature this must be so, for what we call “deep sleep” – our experience of it, nevermind what the scientists might say about what’s happening in other people’s brains and bodies while they sleep – what we call “deep sleep” is a total blank.  It’s so blank that there’s not even a clock: there’s no sense of the passage of time.

Space and time are essentially the same thing, so without time, there’s no space (and vice-versa).  Without time or space, how can there be room for phenomena like sense perceptions, thoughts, emotions and the like?  Clearly, in the absence of space and time, everything is gone from us.  In the absolute absence of phenomena that constitutes our experience of deep sleep, the only thing that can be said to exist is what we really are, at the very bottom of it.

Now, a thorough understanding of the previous paragraph can help us a great deal when it comes to having an intellectual grasp of the nature of the self.  If we can recognise, in our waking state, that everything we think constitutes our waking state – our bodies, minds, senses and other experiences – is essentially “not us,” then we’re well on the track towards working out what we really are.  However, there’s one minor obstacle left from the deep sleep experience, and that’s the problem of nescience.  “Nescience” is the opposite of “science,” which literally means “knowledge.”

Nescience is that curious quality of deep sleep which makes it feel like a bit of a non-entity relative to dreaming and waking.  In the dreaming and waking states, there’s the feeling of consciousness: there’s the sense of being aware, at least to some degree.  This sense of being aware arises naturally through the recognition that we’re aware of things: when phenomena appear to us, we automatically understand that we’re aware of them, and so the sense of awareness is recognised quite clearly.

In the state of deep sleep, however, there’s nothing for us to be aware of.  If we’re not already accustomed to being fully self-aware in the dreaming and waking states, it’s unlikely that we’ll remain self-aware during the sleep state; instead, a very strange kind of veil drops over our self-awareness, such that, even if we can maintain after the fact that we must have been aware of our own existence during deep sleep – otherwise, how could we have known that we were asleep – we must still admit that we didn’t have the experience of being deeply asleep so much as we intuited from our wakefulness that we were at one point asleep.  There’s a big difference between experience and inference from experience, as much as there’s a difference between inference from experience and pure imagination.  Without the experience of ourselves during deep sleep, deep sleep is pretty useless as a means of coming to understand experientially what we really are.  At best it serves as an illustration to point out that our intrinsic nature can’t have anything to do with the presence or absence of phenomena.

Back to Square One

So all of this mental running around, all of these intellectual gymnastics and philosophical explorations, have served one purpose only: to eradicate from us the notion that we can be anything that we experience phenomenally.  Now, I need to be clear at this point: when I say “anything that we experience phenomenally,” I would probably do better to write “any thing that we experience phenomenally.”  There’s a very minor difference in the wording: the latter phrase suggests that we are no collection of phenomena that can be held distinct from others.

What do I mean by this?  Only that we were accustomed to thinking of ourselves as bodies and/or minds, which are, each in their own way, bundles of associated phenomena (physical sensations and senses on the one hand, mental and emotional phenomena on the other).  The truth of the matter is that we could be no such bundle of associated phenomena because this bundle would be an object of our perception: as the deep sleep test proves, we can’t be it, because it leaves us every night.

So when I say that we are not any thing that we experience phenomanlly, I’m leaving the ground open, in a way.  I’d never maintain that what we really are is a mere phenomenon; however, I would equally never maintain that there’s no phenomenon associated with us.  As we’ll come to see, actually all phenomena are deeply related to the truth of what we are, not just what we take to be our own minds and bodies: but for now, we’re dealing with essences, not extras, so we’re taking the hard route of non-phenomenal surety rather than the soft root of semi-phenomenal possibility.  For now, let’s stick to the idea that anything we can point out as being “a phenomenon” is definitely not us, least of all because we pointed it out.

Well, isn’t this a familiar place to be?  Kind of feels like we were just here in the last part of this series.  We definitely know that there’s something that it is to be: we know that we exist.  We definitely know that we’re not anything that we can define: we’re not an object or bunch of objects, since we’re always the subject of objects.  We know that we’re always the same, fundamentally speaking, because it’s the same “us” that wakes, dreams, sleeps and so on, even if the content of our experience changes between and within each of the three states.  We have a very good idea of what we aren’t, and a very loose idea of what we are, and that’s about as far as ideas can take us, to be honest.  What we are is simply not an idea.  We have to go beyond ideas.

Staying Put; Delving Deep

Once we’ve realised that any idea of ourselves is only that – an idea – we’ve opened the doors for something deeper than ideas.  We’ve opened the doors for experience, which is the real ground out of which all of our ideas come in the first place.  Raw experience is the currency we have to work with in this investigation, if we’re looking for the truth of what we are.  We have to get right down to the nitty-gritty of it, as daunting as that might seem.

Needless to say, when we’ve ceased to place a mental overlay on our experience, cutting it up into “this and that” (or, more commonly, “you and I”), then we’re in a state where we can begin to appreciate the natural truth of our being without recourse to preconceived notions and inherited beliefs.  We can begin to experience ourselves as we are, not as we think we are.  This is reality, rather than the imagination we’ve been accustomed to.

It’s not difficult – actually, it’s not even easy.  The difference between “difficult or easy” and “natural” is that “difficult and easy” relate to what you do; “natural” relates to what you are.  We’re now beyond the point where there’s anything that you can “do” to become more what you are (as if that were ever a possibility).  In the space beyond thought, all that’s left is for us to allow a natural unfolding of our fundamental state.  We can’t force ourselves to recognise the truth of our being: we can only allow ourselves to recognise it.

Sometimes this is a process that takes lifetimes; sometimes this isn’t a process at all, but an immediate recognition.  It’s different for different people.  The main point is clear, though: beyond the place of thought is the place where thought arises, and in that place the recognition of our true being happens.  Long or slow doesn’t matter: it is what it is.  All that’s left for us is to go through the paces and make sure we don’t slip back into idea-mode.

Stay light, stay lofty; don’t get dragged back down into thoughts and their endless interpolations.  You’ll be able to do what needs to be done with the bare minimum of thought and effort on your part – but gently, intelligently, through your life make time to delve deeper and deeper into the natural state of pure being that you’ve uncovered.

The Experience of Being Ourselves

Removing from ourselves any limiting ideas, any insistences on what we must be based on thought and interpretation, we’re open to what we really are, which is something uncontainable by thought.  Not even emotion is a true expression of what we are.  In fact, phenomena – such as we can call them – are always limitations of our true being, as much as they can be seen as expressions of our true being.

We are not the forms that appear to us as objects of experience, for these are fleeting and distant from us.  We can’t be any form at all, for every form is a temporary appearance of something “other” than ourselves.  What we really are is the substance out of which these things are made.  What we really are is the raw material of our raw experience.  Rather than any of the things which appear, we are the being that appears as them.  We are nothing that we see, hear, taste or smell, nor any of our thoughts, nor any of our or feelings, but rather the raw existence that appears as all of these.  We are, fundamentally, that-which-is, not that-which-seems-to-be.

Don’t take my word for it: discover it for yourself.  It’s not difficult if you’ve understood that you can’t be a “thing.”  Without holding on to any self-image, without believing yourself to be anything at all, feel, rather than imagine, what constitutes your basic self-experience.  Don’t create any image; don’t look for anything in particular.  Rather, allow the natural self-experience to come to the foreground, as it will if given the time and the space.

It’s natural to know what we are.  In fact, it’s the most natural thing.  The only thing that’s obscured this natural self-knowing is the unnatural belief that we’re anything other than what we are.  In the absence of this belief (in the absence of any belief, hopefully), what we are becomes quite plain of itself.

Going Further

At this point, there’s nothing to strive for.  There’s nothing to grasp.  No new understanding needs to be gained; no fresh insight is even possible here.  We’ve moved beyond the realm of ideas and understanding into the realm of experience and being.  We’ve seen that the realm of ideas and understanding appears within the realm of experience and being: when ideas and understanding cease, experience and being still remain.  When the experience of all dualities and contrasts ends – when even the experience of time, of change, ends – the experience of being will still be left over.  Don’t ever take my word for it – experience it for yourself!

This, actually, is the truth of the deep sleep experience – only, our habitual deep sleep experience is overshadowed by the veil of nescience spoken of earlier.  In our waking state (and in our dream state, eventually), we can have the same experience of simple, natural being while fully awake, fully conscious.  We can taste the peace of deep sleep while fully awake and engaged in our day to day lives.  This is enlightenment.  It’s completely natural.  It’s nothing out of the ordinary, nothing expressly new or different.  All that might seem new or different is the absence of obscuring factors, which in themselves were once innovations.

Truly, if you come to this place of pure, plain, natural seeing/being, with an absence of any obscuring ideas, then you’ve reached the same plane of blessedness that Woden reached after his trials.  If you’ve given up your self-image so as to be able to experience your true self, then you’ve made the ultimate sacrifice on the great tree.  Truly, this is the self to be sacrificed – the false image – and the self to sacrifice unto, the very truth of life and being.

What remains now is for you to hang and hang on this tree, until natural self-experience is etched so indelibly into you – or, as you’ll end up seeing, as the false self-image is erased irrevocably from you – that you come to a state of being fundamentally unable to know yourself as any thing.  Your natural self-experience of pure being will predominate in all states, in all situations, no matter what, with the concomitant expansiveness, freedom, bliss and power that is the mark of this Godly state.

This is true “mastery of the runes”, the patterns that shape our lives.  Actually, to wrench the runes from the root of the world tree as Woden did is to remove them from the root of our life stream – we eradicate the fate that was left over from earlier dreams in the name of true freedom, unbridled by past fears and future desires.  Thence we have total command, but no selfish mind by which to abuse that command.

Afterword

When all self-image is eradicated, all power is freed: and yet the use of that power, uninhibited by the self-image, is totally pure, totally compassionate, restorative, wise, and ingenious.  If you need to use magic, you’ll use magic, and no-one will be able to understand what you’ve done.  If you need to be the humblest, mildest beggar or the most outrageous, bombastic warrior, either will happen, whichever is fitting.  You won’t feel the need to decide on these things, but will be happy to flow in the way that is right for the world – this is the Godly way.

In fact, you’ll no longer be able to accurately denote a “world” distinct from your “self,” for you will know through your direct and continued experience that you aren’t just the body through which you experience, but are also all of the bodies that you experience – in fact, y ou’re the spirit or presence that appears as both your body and all others, as well as all of the hidden mental phenomena on all planes of existence.  You will recognise that what you really are is the truth of every single thing: thus, the happiness of the universe will be your own happiness.  As such, your life will be glorious, filled with blessings both within and without.  The ground you walk on will sprout with verdant life, the birds and beasts you pass will be raised to the level of angels, and there will always be a Sun shining in your presence – from you, if not on you.

Nothing will be able to harm you, nothing will be able to oppress you; nothing will cause you grief, nothing will cause you agony.  You will exhibit pure love for all beings without even having to think about it – even if this means killing them or harming them outwardly.  Whatever you do will be right in the moment, not because you know beforehand what the right thing to do in any situation is, but because the moment itself will be free to draw the right action out of you.  In a word, you’ll be perfect.

Can anything be as wondrous as this?  No state is comparable.  This is truly the God-state, the state of true freedom and ease, the state of ultimate power and wisdom.  All-embracing love, complete and immediate understanding on all levels, freedom from anxiety and fear, eternal, unshakeable peace – these aren’t qualities that you will experience, but are synonyms for what you are.  Find that being out.  Don’t wait, don’t hesitate – plunge into this discovery with full force, and give up everything of falsity to be the truth that you’ve always been.  Make our father proud.  Osbeorn out.

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