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Levels of Awareness in Waking and Dreaming
There is an immense amount of obscure writing in connection with words such as spiritual, consciousness, God, and death. However, most of us come back to the fact that everyday life confronts us with the most observable experience of reality that we have. Fortunately, if we carefully examine what we experience every day, much of the mystery surrounding the words mentioned disappears.
If we start with the word consciousness or awareness, we can begin to open the book of our own life experience. Daily we pass through an extraordinary change that we often take so much for granted we miss the wonder of it. The change occurs between sleeping and waking. For most of us being awake is when we most fully feel ourselves. Compared with this sleeping is a period during which we lose any focused awareness of being an individual, and we sink into what is generally called unconsciousness — the lack of personal awareness.
This swing between waking and sleeping can be seen as the extremes within the possibilities of our experience. Sleeping and waking are the polarities, the North and South Poles of what we can confront. In quite a real sense we can say there is nothing beyond what is included in those polarities.
Obviously that is a very general statement and needs further explanation. So to start with let me give you an example. There is so much of our experience that we do not “listen to carefully” and so do not appreciate its depth or possibilities. There are many aspects of waking life that this applies to, but it is particularly relevant to sleep. This may seem like a strange statement because in sleep we lose awareness, so how can we more fully appreciate it?
Of course, one of the well-known ways of discovering what lies within the obscure depths of sleep is to explore the resources of one’s dreams. When this is done the apparently black depths of sleep begin to reveal an amazing life and energy. Light is taken into the darkness. Things become visible that were hidden. What was unconscious begins to become known. The huge area of our experience that seemed to be a blank gains life and substance. Then the unconscious is recognised as an area as vast and varied as the physical world.
Example: Last night I was dreaming I was making love to Hyone. Then for some reason I had to go to a toilet. It was a public toilet. About ten youths were hanging around in there. They seemed to be from a school or institute for the mentally backwards. They set on me and beat me up.
“When I explored this dream by taking on the roles of the different pats of the dream I arrived at this insight - I feel that the youths are a whole lot of bottled up pain about failure that I struggle with, the lack of opportunity. But mostly I feel the pain of others in a good position giving advice or help to me in a bad position.There is a big knot of agony there which wants to shout and cry and rant at those people.What do they know about being in my situation? No wonder I mentioned Look Back in Anger to my wife. Looking at this dream from a distance it seems obvious it is about beating myself up with crazy feelings.”
However, it has to be remembered in thinking about the levels of consciousness that dreams occur when our conscious self is almost awake. During sleep our conscious self dips deep into what we call unconsciousness or ‘the unconscious’. Several times during sleep we rise from those depths almost to the point of waking. At that point we dream. In a dream, deeper levels of our being express in the imagery and sensations of our waking experience. In fact in the depth of sleep we are in our Core self. This Core, which is beyond the usual forms and time sense that we live in, expresses in the images and experiences we have gathered through our senses while awake, and are largely culturally programmed. It is only when we break through the dream images and touch the forces those images portray that we begin to move into the unconscious, toward the Core. From my experiences and observations it is the Core Self which gives rise to dreams, not the brain. The brain adds images and some level of interpretation to the formless and timeless of the Core. As the Core is in full awareness of who and what we are, you could say it is the wisdom behind the amazing prophetic and insightful dreams we have.
In this way, the organic, cellular and other ‘life’ processes that are usually unknown and unconscious, are met. Focussed consciousness can dive all the way down through the levels of being and know them. This becomes very clear when we see the stages of this emergence from the Core to our waking self. W.V. Caldwell, writing about the way Van Rhijn has defined the levels of consciousness says there are four stages:-
1] The deeply unconscious physiological process, such as cell generation and digestion. This is shown as psychosomatic symptoms. They are problems which cannot move more fully into consciousness and so are held at this level, become psychosomatic pains or illness. This becomes clearer if we consider human life in relationship with other life forms. A plant for instance might have some sort of bacterial illness, but would not be able to bring that to awareness. In a sense many things which occur to us, although they are very real and definite, never become a part of our conscious life, but always remain in the ‘plant’ level. If they are to move from ‘deeply unconscious physiological process’ to becoming known consciously, there are stages such events go through. Therefore to bring such things to consciousness it cannot at first be known as words or even of dream images, but it formless.
2] As the physiological or psychobiological process moves nearer consciousness, its next level of expression is postural or gestural. Thus we may express our deepest hidden feelings in an unconscious body posture or movement. Not only our feelings express in this way, but also our physical tone or health shows in our gestures and movements. Even the plant droops if it needs water. This level may be released by movements, by expressing through the body a pain or feeling.
3] Next, when something moves from the gestural to the next stage of expression it becomes a dream or a symbol, which although it may not be understood, is now entering the arena of awareness. Here we see how things are expressed that were very much out of our normal waking consciousness, which is usually largely based on words and thinking. But even here it is still not known and so is expressed in symbols
4] At this stage, what had been deeply unconscious, then symbolised, now becomes known enough to be verbalised or thought about and analysed. If one had attempted to verbalise something in level two it would have been so far outside of consciousness as to defy description. Also, when looking at these levels or stages, they suggest that the dream process is a means by which deeper stages can be portrayed to awareness in order to make them known. Therefore, by working with the dream process via exploring a dream, we can tap deeper levels of awareness and make them known. It is important to express the symbols of a dream in words that re in fact an insight into the deeper levels of the dream.
An interesting example of these four stages and how someone can work through them is given by Wilhelm Reich. When the abdominal tensions (psychosomatic) of a patient were released the man found his body making spontaneous movements (gestural). These were allowed and the movements gradually led the man to take on the posture of an animal (dream) – he and Reich both felt it to be a fish. This puzzled both of them as to it meaning, but as the movements continued the man first realised he felt like a fish caught on a hook and line, then suddenly, that was how he felt in regard to his mother.
As can be plainly seen, the first level is seen in the example as the man’s unconscious abdominal tensions, built into his physical structure. When these are loosened and considered by the man’s conscious attention, and the spontaneous self-regulatory/dream process is allowed to function, level two manifests as movement and gesture. This moves to level three where the movements are recognised as a symbol – the fish. Then the fourth level, insight and understanding are achieved when the man realises the fish represents previously unconscious feelings he has about his mother. At this point he can verbalise and analyse.
The Polarities of Existence
There are, of course, other ways in which we can explore the polarities of our experience. Meditation, and the use of certain drugs, enables people to explore areas of experience that do not occur “naturally”. For instance, some forms of meditation enable the practitioner to enter the condition of sleep while maintaining a certain amount of critical awareness, as happens in lucid dreaming. This really is a voyage of exploration, and is different to what happens when a person explores a dream. Exploring a dream brings contents of the unconscious into waking experience. Meditation and lucidity enables a personal dive into levels of awareness that are usually cloaked in unconsciousness. Perhaps this can be likened to the first humans who dived under the sea with a submarine and began to personally witness the immense range and variety of life that exists under the surface. But it has to be said that the imagery of dreams and lucid fantasy are still almost at the level of waking.
Almost immediately after Albert Hoffman discovered LSD in 1943, it was used for psychological research and psychotherapy. During that period of intense research and therapeutic use, huge areas of the unconscious became available for exploration and mapping. As with meditation, the person’s conscious sense of self could travel in areas that were usually blanketed by the fog of sleep. The human experience behind such obscure words as spirit and God became available for analysis and study. The depths and heights of what is usually unconscious within us revealed worlds completely different to what we know during waking life. Those worlds are no less real than the world of our conscious personality. They are in fact a balancing polarity to what we know and experience in our daily life. (1) See: The Mind Bomb.
From the research mentioned it was seen that in waking life we generally have a sense of ourselves as distinct from anybody else. Thus your memories and experiences seem completely separated from those of another person. We refer to this personal and unique set of experiences and responses as, “Me” — or “I”. When the researchers examined the experiences of people exploring their deep unconscious, it was seen that this sense of self gradually diminishes. There are levels of this experience that can be likened to what was said about the polarities of experience. At one end of the polarity is focused self-awareness. At the other end is an ocean of awareness without any focused sense of self. This ocean of consciousness that is at the core of our being is what has been called God in other cultures or Nirvana. In India it has been described as Sat-Chit-Ananda – Being-Consciousness-Bliss. When we discover it as the centre of ourselves it is no longer seen as exterior or distant. But in waking life where we lack awareness of it we see it either as non-existent or as separate and distant. See: Realms of the Human Unconscious.
One interesting part of this exploration of the depths of human consciousness, is that if you go deep enough you arrive back at what we call the external or physical world. The formless and the formed are seen to be different ends of the same thing. The ancient symbol of the snake with its tail in its mouth illustrates this closed system. Quantum physics, digging deep into the world of form, is arriving back to what mystics of all ages have discovered in their inner depths.
This leads us to an extremely important point – what we are not capable of being personally aware of does not exist for us. In a very real way nothing exist for us unless we can be aware of it in some way. There is nothing outside of consciousness. Or to put it another way, without personal awareness nothing exists for us. Therefore the polarities of our awareness hold the whole cosmos of experience for us. If most of that lies in darkness in our ‘unconscious’ then much of what we hold as a possibility remains unknown. See: Tao of Physics or The Dancing Wu Li Masters.
The Remarkable Roots of Being
Seen as a circle in which there are polarities of focussed awareness at one end and unfocused sentience at the other, helps us to realise that what occurs when self awareness plumbs the depths of it source – the unconscious – is remarkable. The roots of our being lie in the mysterious depths of subatomic particles. At this very moment you contain in yourself that level of existence. It is also a fact that what you are has emerged from, and is intricately enmeshed in, the universe and its origins. Also, you are what you are because life on this planet emerged and you hold in yourself in your very genes, cells, organs and overall structure, the full history of that emergence. So diving below the level of waking awareness is an entry into the most profoundly amazing discovery of what you are and how you have come into being. There is not space in this short feature to spell that out, but such books as The Holographic Universe and Realms of the Human Unconscious , vastly extend what is being said here.
So, with a little reflection it can be seen that each of us experience these polarities every day. As our sense of self diminishes we become unconscious. In the depths of sleep the self we know in waking does not exist — or at least, it is greatly diminished. But these areas of human experience can be known if we learn to “listen carefully”. This is what some forms of mental and emotional discipline help us to do.
An example of this was experienced by me when I was 16. “I had been using a method relaxation for about 30 minutes every day over three months. Then one day as I used the method I felt my right arm disappear. I had completely lost awareness of it. Then my left arm followed, and then suddenly my whole body sense also disappeared. It felt as if I had fallen through the floor into immense space and my awareness of self was there, without any body awareness but was now like drop of water in an ocean of awareness. I had fallen asleep and yet was conscious, so all body awareness had disappeared.”
Anyone who seriously undertakes this voyage into what was previously unconscious meets phenomena that at first seem strange, or sometimes even frightening. Remember that usually we enter this realm of the unconscious in the form of sleep and dreams, and in most cases dreams use our cultural and everyday imagery and experience. So our focused self-awareness is guarded from a direct confrontation with these phenomena. The nearest most of us get to experiencing life under the surface is when we recall a dream. And in fact a dream illustrates this first level of what 888we meet.
We are probably all acquainted now with looking at the instruments on the dashboard of a car. On such a panel we can see an indication of the speed, of the amount of fuel, and of the temperature of the water cooling system. When we look at any of these gauges we are not of course directly aware of the hot water, of the amount of fuel, or of the engines revolutions. We are only seeing a graphic display of what is taking place in unseen parts of the car.
Our body and mind are far more complex than any car. There is far more that goes on in the hidden places of our being than ever goes on in an engine. But dreams perform the same function as the gauges on the dashboard. They illustrate processes that are going on in the depths of our body and mind — and in fact often in the very deepest places of the unconscious. As with the gauges, we are not directly experiencing the processes displayed in images and drama. What we are witnessing is a process that puts into imagery, into emotions and drama, things that in themselves may be quite formless, that may never previously have come near to verbal definition or conscious conceptualisation. The word imagine has its root in the word image. We literally put into images those things that lie beyond our usual senses in the formless and timeless regions of our being.
An example of this is given in this lucid dream: “In my dream I was watching a fern grow. It was small but opened very rapidly. As I watched I became aware that the fern was an image representing a process occurring within myself, one I grew increasingly aware of as I watched. Then I was fully awake in my dream and realised that my dream, perhaps any dream, was an expression in images of actual events occurring unconsciously in myself. I felt enormous excitement, as if I were witnessing something of great importance.”
So this image making process, this myth forming creative activity of dreaming, forms environments and experiences that seem as convincing as waking life. If we find ourselves in the midst of a dream, or in the midst of this virtual reality without understanding how it works, we may be completely immersed in its apparent reality. I suppose this might be likened to looking at our hand, then looking at it with a microscope, and then with an electron microscope. There are worlds within worlds.
For many people, especially those who have stumbled upon this inner journey without guidance or understanding, or have been “opened” to it through the use of a drug, shock or mental illness, this is as far as they can travel. They become lost in the imagery and the emotions, the conflict and fears, the subtle and enchanting glamour or illusion of this first level. Or they may lose some of their mental balance, haunted by what is revealed or released into consciousness, as often happens to people who frequently take mind expanding drugs without the skills to deal with what they confront. They release these aspects or ‘creatures of the unconscious without having learned the psychotherapeutic tools or personal disciplines and understanding to integrate what they meet. They are then haunted by what emerged. (See Journey Through the Mind).
Many myths throughout the ages have illustrated this part of the journey in various ways. One Arabic myth instructs the traveller to use a sword to cut down whatever appears in front of them, even if it seems to be their mother or father. Perhaps this is a bit harsh, but it does point to the fact that at this level things are not what they may appear. Neither are they complete illusions. They are images and environments portraying something. The aim is to break through the surface level to the source from which they emerge. The point being that if you can destroy or cut through an image you are still not meeting its source. The core self is indestructible.
The Indian sage Ramakrishna says of his own journey beyond forms, “Tota Puri taught me to detach my mind from all objects and to plunge it into the heart of the self. But despite all my efforts, I could not cross the realm of name and form and lead my spirit to the Unconditional state. I had no difficulty in detaching my mind from all objects with the one exception of the too familiar form of the radiant Mother, the essence of pure knowledge, who appeared before me as a living reality. I said to Tota Puri in despair, ‘It is no good, I shall never succeed in lifting my spirit to the “Unconditioned” state and find myself face to face with the Self.’ He replied severely, ‘What! You say you cannot? You must!’ Looking about him, he found a piece of glass. He took it and stuck the point between my eyes, saying, ‘Concentrate your mind on that point.’ Then I began to meditate with all my might, and as soon as the gracious form of the Divine Mother appeared I used my discrimination as a sword, and I clove Her in two. The last barrier fell and my spirit immediately precipitated itself beyond the plane of the ‘conditional’, and I lost myself in Samadhi (unconditioned bliss).
However, for many people there is an enormous amount to be experienced and used at this level, existing as it does amidst the images of the ‘psychic’ realm, and expressing in a sort of more fluid mirroring of the three dimensions, time and space limited experience we meet through our senses and body. This is the world the psychic works in when they extend their perceptions to ‘communicate with the dead’, tell us about our life situation without us giving clues, and having glimpses of the future.
In attempting to understand these experiences, it must be remembered that beyond the images of a person, of a situation, of voices heard, in the way dreams present things, lies a more formless dimension of experience. It is one where the boundaries of personality and distance, time and space break down. So for many people, it is an easier task to look at this formless dimension through the translating instrument of dream image formation, and see people, places, environments, or hear voices talking to them.
The Guardian of the Threshold
This breaking through into other dimensions of experience, that occurs in successful dream insights, mediation and in some facilitated drug use, takes one to the next level of the unconscious.
In one of the old western traditions in which people were guided to make this journey, the illusionary imagery and environments were called the psychic world, as described above. One was warned that at some point you would meet The Dweller or Guardian of the Threshold. Sometimes this was illustrated as a shadowy and perhaps frightening figure, the sort we often meet in scary dreams. If you could face the Dweller without running away, the realm you enter beyond the Guardian was described as the meeting with all the forces you had perhaps unwittingly released or created in the past. They are the factors or experiences out of which the waking experience of your life has been woven. In the past this was called one’s fate, kismet, or karma. Today we tend to think of it as the many influences carried from genes, birth and early childhood, that shape the way we respond in our daily life. In other words, inherited tendencies, cultural programming and psychological traumas. But the Guardian also represented influences from prior to ones present birth.
Not only is it a guardian, but also, if you meet it without fear and pass the tests it presents you with, it is also a guide and companion on the journey. If you meet this by actually facing the ’scary monster’ of a nightmare, a similar thing happens – you meet forces that arise from the past and shape your present personality.
Any deeper exploration of the unconscious shows that it is not simply one’s infancy and its problems that we face. There are influences streaming from the long past through the body that we have inherited. There are the family influences and massive inputs from the culture we were born into, and also other intangible forces playing upon our life. As we cut through the images and drama of the dream creator, we begin to discover and gain insights into this incredible process of creation that forms and guides our life.
The image of Frankenstein’s creation illustrates the Guardian of the Threshold very clearly. The Guardian, like Frankenstein’s creation, are made of many different people or bodies. We face, in the Guardian, what we have created in our long past; the many personalities assumed, and lives lived, by our core self. See: Archetype of the Shadow.
Light of My Life
This world of the formative, of the archetypes, of the physiological and the cosmic processes — even the intelligences — that are the creative matrix out of which we have arisen, is strange and wonderful. Very often the traveller has to lose a great deal before they can safely explore this realm with awareness. The reason for this is quite simple. Identity, the ego, what one calls self, is an extremely new and vulnerable thing in terms of evolution. It might be likened to the fragile filament in an electric light bulb. When the current is switched on the filament glows brightly, and we can liken this to personal awareness. The current passing through us is the air, water and food that flows through in an almost continuous stream to form our energy. Whether we consider the electric light bulb, or our own sense of self, behind the existence of both, immense activities take place making them possible. The light bulb needs a great deal of cable, switching gear, and some sort of generator. Our personal existence needs a great deal more. The whole universe lies behind the ‘light’ of our self awareness. Without the cosmos we do not exist. Without the sun and the earth we do not exist. Without the bacteria and processes of plant and animal life on our planet we do not exist. Without other human beings who have taught us language and perform the constant background and foreground to our life, we do not exist.
However, this fragile thing we call self often builds powerful defences or boundaries to protect it from knowing its dependence upon the forces forming it. These defences often show themselves in rigid beliefs, in a fog of ignorance, in emotional outbursts against anything that might be felt to threaten, and also of course in the many ways in which we use drugs such as alcohol, medications and nicotine to deaden our sense perceptions of what is taking place around and within us. We do this because our ego is fragile and vulnerable. We may also do it because the journey into the unconscious diminishes the sense of self, and this can be threatening. It can be felt as a form of death, or an experience of breaking open. The boundaries that were so necessary at a certain stage of our growth fall away. The journey into that more inclusive polarity of our being is actually a form of growth, of greater maturity, of a meeting with something more permanent than the fragile ego.
Another way of looking at the business of defences against a widening awareness of oneself is to see all of it as a process of growth. Perhaps we cannot let go of our defended relationship with our identity while we still feel vulnerable or insecure. Perhaps the change comes about naturally once we feel confident enough to let down our defences.
If you have managed to enter this level of experience for any length of time you will be confronted by an enormous paradox. This is, in essence, no different to the paradox we face every day in experiencing focused individual identity, and the loss of that identity in sleep. What we meet when we pass beyond the dream stage in which everything is represented as images external to us, is a vast ocean of mind or consciousness in which all that has lived exists. It exists as an unseparated part of the ocean of awareness — yet at the same time it can manifest independently and as a separate identity. This applies to oneself also. You sense yourself as having no real separate existence from what lives and knows itself in all things. Yet at the same time you experience your own separated identity. This is a difficult paradox, and human language tends to express things as either this, or that. Things cannot be both things at once. But in this journey to one’s own centre such separation is transcended. You experience a sense of things that transcend the limitations of time and space. Things can be here and there at the same time.
The old Newtonian physics has never included mind or consciousness in its equations. As the atom was the fundamental particle, and the atom was a physical object, it was seen that there could be nothing beyond the body, its molecules and atoms. Therefore personal awareness was a trick played by the play of chemicals, and organs in the body. As for consciousness surviving death, it was seen as a childish superstition created by weak minds to deal with fear of death.
But the new physics, quantum physics, has since its earliest days included mind and consciousness in its concepts. It has had to because from the earliest days of quantum experiments two unimaginable phenomena were unveiled. Irish physicist John Stewart Bell put forward a quantum theorem that has revolutionised the way reality is considered. In brief, the theorem states that when two sub-microscopic particles are split and moved to a distance from each other, the action on, or of, particle ‘A’, is instantaneously reproduced with particle ‘B’. This interaction does not rely on any known link or communication and is considered to stand above normal physical laws of nature, as it is faster than light.
Faster Than Light
Prior to such findings it was thought nothing could transcend the speed of light. Nick Herbert, in an interview published in High Frontiers writes: ‘THERE ARE LOTS OF THINGS that are being kept from the public as far as the subjects of physics and consciousness are concerned. Bell’s Theorem was proved in 1964, and it is still not taught in physics classes, and you don’t hear it on your science news programs. A theorem is a proof, and no one has found a flaw in this theorem. It’s such a simple proof that a high school kid can understand it. So physicists can understand it. They have various ways of trying to ignore it, but it can’t be refuted because it’s so simple.’
The second finding that transformed our understanding of life and the universe, is that an electron can be either a particle or a wave like energy. The change occurs when a human observes it. If we do not observe it an electron remains as an energy form. If we observe it a transformation occurs and it changes into a particle. This locks human consciousness into the very fundamental workings of the deepest levels of our body and the universe. In fact quantum physicists have said we are co-creators because consciousness alters ‘reality’.
To quote Gary Zukav, ‘Quantum mechanics is the theory. It has explained everything from subatomic particles to transistors to stellar energy. It has never failed. It has no competition.’ The implications of the theorem are enormous. Something can be in two places at once. Apparently distant objects, or people, are intricately linked in an immediate way. There is no separate existence as we previously thought. Our view of the world is not one supported by the facts of physics. Time and space are transcended. David Bohm, an eminent physicist, goes as far as to say that all things in our observable universe are inextricable linked. Nothing has separate existence.
When we personally meet this level of experience, when we transcend our awareness of separateness, the experiences we have gathered through our everyday life are gradually transformed. They shift, wherever possible, into concepts or insights that approach the universal or timeless and unchanging. Just as our physical body is formed by the continuous partaking of food water and air, so a more permanent body or identity is formed by the transformation of sensory experience into a body or identity that has connections with the unchanging and eternal. Buddhism calls this the diamond body, the imperishable self.
We can glimpse the meaning and possibility of this by once more looking into everyday life. At some point in human history an individual must have realised how to count. This realisation could be passed on to other people. They in turn developed it until we have the incredibly subtle knowledge of mathematics available today. This knowledge, the concepts of mathematics, preceded your own personal existence. It will also survive your own demise. In this sense it has a subtle life of its own, transcending the individual lives of those who first realised it, and also those of us who now learn it and perhaps develop it further.
As one meets the deeper levels of the unconscious a similar experience of self emerges. The identity we know is seen to be something that has emerged from countless lives lived in the past, the essence of which have given us shape and form. This is precisely the same as we meet in language. The language we take for granted is the result of thousands of years in which individuals, cultures and groups contributed their concepts, passions and wisdom to form new words. The words we use are living connections with the past, and if we investigate them unfold their history. Similarly, as we meet the deeper levels of self we find our own personal connections with the past. The difference is that the connections we meet in the deeper levels of self are living and profoundly felt.
In confronting this awareness of what contributes to our individual existence we cannot help but be transformed in some measure. The limited viewpoint of life we had drops away. A more inclusive and deeply centred viewpoint arises. In some manner you also meet with the realisation that all that has ever lived, and all and everybody that exists today, is alive at the core of your being. (See Creativity – Doorway to the Wonderful Fire). This incredible background to personal life is so vast and inclusive, and holds so many wonders, that when we meet it, it becomes apparent that this is what many people have called God. It presents another of the paradoxes we find in this experience beyond opposites. It is both impersonal and yet we can have a personal relationship with it, experiencing direct communication. It is this real life beyond the limitations of our sensory experience and limited waking self, that is indicated by the word spiritual or spirit.
However, this is not the fundamental level of being. The causeless cause, the self-existent centre of us, when we find it, is seen to be one and the same as the origin of the physical universe.
In brief, our present theory of the emergence of the cosmos is that there existed what has been called a Singularity. From this emerged what is known as the Big Bang. One commentator describes our understanding of this as follows:
Because scientists cannot look back in time beyond that early epoch, the actual big bang is hidden from them. There is no way at present to detect the origin of the universe. Further, the big bang theory does not explain what existed before the big bang. Time and space began at the big bang, so that it makes no sense to discuss what happened “before” the big bang from a consciousness locked in a sense of time and space. (2)
As is suggested, it is understood that time and space were actually created during the Big Bang. So what existed prior to the big Bang is known to be beyond our concepts of time and space. Because of this we cannot even think about it because our concepts are all formed around our experience of time, space and individual existence. This is exactly what we meet when we touch that indefinable core of our being. It is impossible to reason about this experience or in any way to describe it. One translation of the Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese classic about the foundation of existence, says that ‘The Tao that can be named is not the Tao.’
Who am I?
One of the main constituents of what we call ‘me’ or myself, is identification. Although our sense of self seems so concrete and definite, if we turn attention back on it the creature we call self is a very slippery customer to get hold of. What does seem obvious as we make the journey to our core self, is that the body sensations, the thoughts, the emotions felt, and the image we have of ourself, are identified with so deeply, that most people take them to be who they are. They believe their body is who they are; or their thoughts are what constitutes their real being, or their emotions or sexual experience are what they identify with. However, one can lose limbs, or even even be paralysed and still have a sense of self. And if you gradually ‘undress’ yourself of all these things – imaginatively take away hearing, remove visual impression and body sensations – you still have a sense of self without them. Dreams make this very clear. Without the senses being active, without sight, without body sensations, you still dream and have a sense of existing. Usually though, even in dreams you clothe yourself in the usual trapping of the three dimensional body life of waking awareness.
When we approach our core awareness it is like undressing. We lose body awareness if we do it while asleep. We pass through the realm of thought governed by language – so we lose thoughts. We lose all the things consciousness ‘clothes’ itself in while awake – yet we still exist. It is a very different form of existence, beyond the limitations of the body, and even time and space, but we still exist as an incredible creature alive in a world with almost no boundaries. We are godlike. In fact it seems to many when they experience this, that they are meeting God. At our core we are simply consciousness without any form or shape – this is called the spiritual dimension.
This Core experience is often described as enlightenment. It can also be described as naked awareness. This is because what we usually know of self has become “undressed”. What that means is that what we usually call self has dropped away.
This dropping away of self is what had been called ‘enlightenment’. However, there is enormous confusion about this, as what some people who have touched it say is that you are left with no self. They say this sometimes almost like a threat – “Go there and you will lose everything. You will no longer exist.”
I see this as an incomplete process of meeting and integrating the polarity of the Core. Certainly the self that we believed we were from our sense impressions and our almost total identification with our body, thoughts, emotions and sexual feelings drops away. But what such statements fail to tell is that the Core is EVERYTHING. An unimaginable amount is added, and in the end nothing is taken away. You still have your body sensations, you can still make love with even more wonder, you have your thoughts, your emotions, you can still love and laugh and carry on with life – you simply do not identify with them as fully as you did. The concepts and sense of self arising from them is seen as limiting.
Also, one great fact that is almost never mentioned, is that the formless and the formed are not separate. They co-exist at the same time. To gain one is not to lose the other. It is part of that huge paradox that is life.
Beyond Time and Space
This opening to naked awareness, can, when healthy and adjusted to, be recognised as an expanded awareness, an unconditional love, and a deep understanding and compassion for the human condition. The limitations of time and space have fallen away to some extent.
So the past, present and future are all here and now. In terms of waking awareness, this means the person will often know something of the future, and of the past – the far past. The boundaries between themselves and other people have also to some extent fallen away, so they frequently know very much what is going on in another person’s mind and feelings. (Witness the life of Swedenborg and Edgar Cayce).
When this transcendence of time and space, and its boundaries, are very marked in the person, they express extraordinary genius and great creativity. They often demonstrate a multitude of abilities, as for instance seen in somebody like Rudolph Steiner. Whoever the author of the Shakespeare plays was, the enormous insight into human nature and the wonderful creativity, suggest he had transcended the usual boundaries of self. Wouldn’t you know a great deal more, express a great deal more, if you had transcended the boundaries of time and space, knowing as you would your core self – a self that is at the same time the core of the universe?
Of course there are all stages in between normal waking awareness bounded by the body and sense impressions, and the boundless self of naked awareness. It is a new and emerging possibility for our race, and many people only reach it either in a maladjusted form, or in small degree in a sort of psychism.
To achieve it reasonably fully in waking awareness does not make a mystic or peculiar human of you. Self awareness is fairly new to the human species. Being self awareness has an enormous range of ways it is expressed – from criminal to genius. This is also true of achieving the Core experience. Touching your core does not make of you an all wise guru. The experience is new and unstable in our species as yet. But if you achieve it you are no less human than someone who has achieved self awareness. Maurice Bucke, in his major work Cosmic Consciousness, spelt all this out in 1863.
In meeting this core however, there is something we do know. We know that everything has emerged from that Core, and all will fall back into it. The changing changes and passes away – the changeless remains pouring forth change.
(1) See LSD Psychotherapy by W. D. Caldwell by W. Caldwell: The Tao of Physics, by Fritjof Capra; Myself and I. by Constance Newland; Realms of the Human Unconscious ; and LSD – The Problem Solving Psychedelic by P. G. Stafford and B. H. Golightly.
(2) “Big Bang Theory,” Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.