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object:1.08 - The Depths of the Divine
book class:Sex Ecology Spirituality
author:Ken Wilber
Holy breath divinely streams through the luminous form when the feast comes to life, and floods of love are in motion, and, watered by heaven, the living stream roars when it resounds beneath, and the night renders her treasures, and up out of brooks the buried gold gleams.-
And, friendly spirit, just as from your serenely contemplative brow your ray descends, securely blessing, among mortals, so you witness to me, and tell me, that I might repeat it to others, for others too do not believe it. . . .

THE CONTINUING evolutionary process of within-and-beyond brings new withins . . . and new beyonds.

We left off with the emergence of the centaur, which is, so to speak, on the border between the personal and the transpersonal. If the first three general domains were those of matter, life, and mind, the next general domain (that of the psychic and subtle) is the domain of the soul, as I will use the term. And the first rule of the soul is: it is transpersonal.
The word transpersonal is somewhat awkward and confuses many people. But the point is simply, as Emerson put it, "The soul knows no persons." He explains (and note: Emerson throughout these quotes uses the masculine, as was the custom of the time; were he alive today he would use feminine and masculine, for the whole point of his notion of the Over-Soul was that it was neither male nor female, which is why it could anchor a true liberation from any and all restrictive roles: "The soul knows no persons"):
:::Persons are supplementary to the primary teaching of the soul. In youth we are mad for persons. Childhood and youth see all the world in them. But the larger experience of man discovers the identical nature [the same self or soul] appearing through them all. In all conversation between two persons tacit reference is made, as to a third party, to a common nature. That third party or common nature is not social; it is impersonal; is God.1
The soul is without persons, and the soul is grounded in God. "Impersonal," however, is not quite right, because it tends to imply a complete negation of the personal, whereas in higher development the personal is negated and preserved, or transcended and included: hence, "transpersonal." So I think it's very important, in all subsequent discussion, for us to remember that transpersonal means "personal plus," not "personal minus."
But what could an actual "transpersonal" experience really mean? It's not nearly as mysterious as it sounds. Recall that at the centaur, according to the research of Broughton (and many others), the self is already beginning to transcend the empirical ego or the empirical person ("the observer is distinguished from the self-concept as known"). You yourself can, right now, be aware of your objective self, you can observe your individual ego or person, you are aware of yourself generally.
But who, then, is doing the observing? What is it that is observing or witnessing your individual self? That therefore transcends your individual self in some important ways? Who or what is that? The noble Emerson:
:::All goes to show that the soul in man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all the organs; is not a function, like the power of memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses these as hands and feet; is not a faculty, but a light; is not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and the will; is the background of our being, in which they lie,-an immensity not possessed and that cannot be possessed. From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.2
The observer in you, the Witness in you, transcends the isolated person in you and opens instead-from within or from behind, as Emerson said-onto a vast expanse of awareness no longer obsessed with the individual bodymind, no longer a respecter or abuser of persons, no longer fascinated by the passing joys and set-apart sorrows of the lonely self, but standing still in silence as an opening or clearing through which light shines, not from the world but into it-"a light shines through us upon things." That which observes or witnesses the self, the person, is precisely to that degree free of the self, the person, and through that opening comes pouring the light and power of a Self, a Soul, that, as Emerson puts it, "would make our knees bend."
:::A man is the facade of a temple wherein all wisdom and all good abide. What we commonly call man [as an "individual person" or ego], the eating, drinking, counting man, does not, as we know him, represent himself, but misrepresents himself. Him we do not respect, but the soul, whose organ he is, if he would let it appear through his action, would make our knees bend. When it breathes through his intellect, it is genius; when it breathes through his will, it is virtue; when it flows through his affection, it is love. And the blindness of the intellect begins when it would be something of itself [be its "own person"]. The weakness of the will begins when the individual would be something of himself. All reform aims in some one particular to let the soul have its way through us. . . .3
And those persons through whom the soul shines, through whom the "soul has its way," are not therefore weak characters, timid personalities, meek presences among us. They are personal plus, not personal minus. Precisely because they are no longer exclusively identified with the individual personality, and yet because they still preserve the personality, then through that personality flows the force and fire of the soul. They may be soft-spoken and often remain in silence, but it is a thunderous silence that veritably drowns out the egos chattering loudly all around them. Or they may be animated and very outgoing, but their dynamism is magnetic, and people are drawn somehow to the presence, fascinated. Make no mistake: these are strong characters, these souls, sometimes wildly exaggerated characters, sometimes world-historical, precisely because their personalities are plugged into a universal source that rumbles through their veins and rudely rattles those around them.
I believe, for example, that it was precisely this fire and force that allowed Emerson, more than any other person in American history, to actually define the intellectual character of America itself. One of his essays, "The American Scholar," had, as one historian put it, "an influence greater than that of any single work in the nineteenth century."
Oliver Wendell Holmes called it "our intellectual Declaration of Independence." James Russell Lowell explained: "The Puritan revolt had made us ecclesiastically, and the Revolution politically independent, but we were still socially and intellectually moored to English thought, till Emerson cut the cable and gave us a chance at the dangers and the glories of blue water. . . ."
And the message, this ringing Declaration of Independence? The Soul is tied to no individual, no culture, no tradition, but rises fresh in every person, beyond every person, and grounds itself in a truth and glory that bows to nothing in the world of time and place and history. We all must be, and can only be, "a light unto ourselves."4
And then in a phrase that, as Holmes indicated, rattled all of America, Emerson announced: "All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do"-because it is the same Self in each of us. Why bow to past heroes, he asks, when all we are bowing to is our own Soul? "Suppose they were virtuous; did they wear out virtue?" The magnetism of the great heroes is only the call from our own Self, he says. Why this groveling to the past when the same Soul shines now and only now and always now? And then Emerson swiftly and irrevocably cut the cable and set us all-not just Americans-afloat on the dangers and the glories of blue water:
:::Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. . . . The magnetism which all original action exerts is explained when we inquire the reason of self-trust. Who is the Trustee? What is the aboriginal Self, on which a universal reliance may be grounded? . . . The inquiry leads us to that source, at once the essence of genius, of virtue, and of life. . . . In that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin.
:::For the sense of being which in calm hour arises, we know not how, in the Soul, is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed. . . . Here is the fountain of action and of thought. Here are the lungs of that inspiration which giveth man wisdom. . . . We lie in the lap of immense intelligence, which makes us receivers of its truth and organs of its activity. When we discern justice, when we discern truth, we do nothing of ourselves, but allow a passage to its beams. . . .
:::The relations of the Soul to the divine spirit are so pure that it is profane to seek to interpose helps. It must be that when God speaketh he should communicate, not one thing, but all things; should fill the world with his voice; should scatter forth light, nature, time, souls, from the center of the present thought; and new date and new create the whole. Whenever a mind is simple and receives a divine wisdom, old things pass away-means, teachers, texts, temples fall; it lives now and absorbs past and future into the present hour. All things are made sacred by relation to it-one as much as another. All things are dissolved to their center by their cause, and in the universal miracle petty and particular miracles disappear.
:::If therefore a man claims to know and speak of God and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not. Is the acorn better than the oak which is its fullness and completion? Whence then this worship of the past? The centuries are conspirators against the sanity and authority of the Soul. Time and space are but physiological colors which the eye makes, but the Soul is light: where it is, is day; where it was, is night; and history is an impertinence and an injury if it be any thing more than a cheerful apologue or parable of my being and becoming.5
To emphasize that the Soul, the "aboriginal Self," is common in and to all beings, Emerson often refers to it as the "Over-Soul," one and the same in all of us, in all beings as such. The overall number of Souls is but one:
:::The only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-Soul, within which every man's particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that over-powering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character [soul] and not from his tongue [ego], and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand and become wisdom and virtue and power and beauty. . . .
And this because the heart in thee is the heart of all; not a valve, not a wall, not an intersection is there anywhere in nature, but one blood rolls uninterruptedly an endless circulation through all men, as the water of the globe is all one sea, and, truly seen, its tide is one. . . .
It is one light which beams out of a thousand stars. It is one soul which animates all men. . . .
We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the Soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE.6
And so once again we see that a new and deeper within has brought us to a new and wider beyond, a beyond that "is not diverse from things, from space, from light, from time, from man, but one with them and proceeds obviously from the same source whence their life and being also proceed." This new within-and-beyond is not just beyond a sociocentric identity to a worldcentric identity with all human beings (which the rational-ego/centaur assumes in its global or universal postconventional awareness), but to an identity, a conscious union, with all of manifestation itself: not just with all humans, but with all nature, and with the physical cosmos, with all beings "great and small"-a union or identity that Bucke famously called "cosmic consciousness."
We could say: from the worldcentric centaur to direct cosmic consciousness. (When you consider the remarkable achievement that decentered worldcentric awareness is, it's not that far of a jump).7
Thus, the centaur could integrate the physiosphere and the biosphere and the noosphere, but the Over-Soul becomes, or is directly one with, the physiosphere and biosphere and noosphere. It is simple continuation of the deepening and widening of identity, grounded in an awareness very much within, and very much beyond, me.
And Emerson means this literally! According to Emerson, this cosmic consciousness is not poetry (though he often expresses it with unmatched poetic beauty)-rather, it is a direct realization, a direct apprehension, and "in that deep force, the last fact behind which analysis cannot go, all things find their common origin. It is one light which beams out of a thousand stars. It is one soul which animates all."
For the Over-Soul is also experienced as the World Soul, since self and world are here finding a "common fountain, common source."8 The Over-Soul (or World Soul) is an initial apprehension of the pure Witness or aboriginal Self, which starts to emerge, however haltingly, as an experiential reality at this psychic stage.9 (We will see how Emerson treats this Witness in a moment.)
With the Over-Soul, the World Soul, it is not that individuality disappears, but that-once again-it is negated and preserved in a deeper and wider ground, a ground that conspicuously includes all of nature and its glories. This cosmic consciousness is sometimes referred to as "nature mysticism," but that is a somewhat misleading term. For this psychic-level mysticism embraces not just nature but also culture, and calling it "nature mysticism" confuses it with a merely biocentric regression, an ecocentric indissociation, and this is not at all what Emerson has in mind (as we will see).
But since the Over-Soul is an experienced identity with all manifestation, it is an identity that most definitely and exuberantly embraces nature; and, to that degree, it begins to undercut the subject/object dualism.10 Emerson explains:
We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul [the Over-Soul, the World Soul]. . . . And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one.11
In his famous "transparent eyeball" section from the essay Nature, Emerson speaks movingly of the union of the
Soul and nature, and of the capacity of nature, when rightly approached, to elicit this cosmic consciousness. The "transparent eyeball" is, of course, an intimation of the pure Witness in the form of the Over-Soul, wherein "all mean egotism vanishes; I am nothing; I see all":
To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing. . . . Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. . . . Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,-no disgrace, no calamity, which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,-my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,-all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.12
What distinguishes this profound "nature mysticism" from a simple nature indissociation or ecocentric immersion or biospheric regression (which would be egocentric and anthropocentric, as we have seen) is the realization that nature is not Spirit but an expression of Spirit, radiant and glorious and perfect in its own way, but an expression nonetheless. Emerson says nature is not spirit but a symbol of spirit. Emerson is not regressing to fulcrum-2
(biocentric immersion and nondifferentiation)! Emerson is very clear on this distinction between nature regression, on the one hand, and a mysticism that also embraces nature, on the other-and this distinction rather upsets his environmentalist fans, who seem to want to equate a finite and temporal nature with an infinite and eternal Spirit:
Beauty in nature is not ultimate. It is the herald of inward and eternal beauty, and is not alone a solid and satisfactory good. . . .
Nature is a symbol of spirit. . . . Before the revelations of the Soul, time, space and nature shrink away. . . . In the hour of vision there is nothing that can be called gratitude, nor properly joy. The Soul raised over passion beholds identity and eternal causation, perceives the self-existence of Truth and Right, and calms itself with knowing that all things go well. Vast spaces of nature, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Sea; long intervals of time, years, centuries, are of no account. . . .
Let us stun and astonish the intruding rabble of men and books and institutions by a simple declaration of the divine fact. Bid the intruders take the shoes from off their feet, for God is here within. Let our simplicity judge them, and our docility to our own law demonstrate the poverty of Nature beside our native riches.13
It is, in fact, according to Emerson, an allegiance to the senses and nature, in itself, that blinds us to the interior intuition of the Over-Soul and the God within and beyond:
To the senses and the unrenewed understanding, belongs a sort of instinctive belief in the absolute existence of nature. In their view man and nature are indissolubly joined. Things are ultimates, and they never look beyond their sphere [Piaget's egocentric "realism"]. . . . His mind is imbruted, and he is a selfish savage. . . .
The presence of intuition14 mars this faith [in nature]. The first effort of thought tends to relax this despotism of the senses which binds us to nature as if we were a part of it, and shows us nature aloof, and, as it were, afloat. Until this higher agency intervened [intuition], the animal eye sees, with wonderful accuracy, sharp outlines and colored surfaces. When the eye of intuition opens, to outline and surface are at once added grace and expression. These proceed from imagination and affection, and abate somewhat of the angular distinctions of objects. If the intuition be stimulated to more earnest vision, outlines of surfaces become transparent, and are no longer seen; causes and spirits are seen through them. The best moments of life are these delicious awakenings of the higher powers, and the reverential withdrawing of nature before its God.15
At the same time, as Emerson points out, this does not mean that nature is apart from Spirit or divorced from
Spirit or alien to Spirit-that is a common belief in the mythic structure (Campbell called it "mythic dissociation"), but it finds no place in genuine psychic mysticism. All of nature, every nook and cranny, is in Spirit, bathed by Spirit, awash in Spirit; there is no point in nature that is not totally permeated and enveloped by Spirit.
These distinctions are crucial, because they allow us to distinguish carefully and clearly between three quite different worldviews on the relation between nature and spirit:
The first is magical indissociation, where spirit is simply equated with nature (nature = spirit); predifferentiated; very "this-worldly."
The second is mythic dissociation, where nature and spirit are ontologically separate or divorced; very "otherworldly."
The third is psychic mysticism: nature is a perfect expression of spirit (or as Spinoza put it, nature is a subset of spirit);16 "otherworldly" and "this-worldly" are united and conjoined.
With reference to the third: One of the major and defining characteristics of psychic-level mysticism is that it is a conscious identity with physiosphere and biosphere and noosphere-it does not simply privilege the biosphere; it is no mere geocentric/egocentric indissociation and regression. Even though this mysticism often takes its glorious exultation in the wonders of nature, nonetheless, as Emerson constantly emphasizes, this is "the Self of nation and of nature"-that is, the mystical union of matter, life, and culture, not merely a biospheric immersion. Were it only the Self of nature and not also of nation (culture and morality), then it would be a perfectly regressive, dualistic, and amoralist stance, glorifying merely an egocentric joy in finding oneself vitally reflected in the biosphere (and the rain whispers in its ear, I am here for you).
Rather, it is the union of the human moral endeavor with the display of nature as given that so distinguishes "nation-nature" mysticism from the narcissistic "nature worship" of mere sentimentalism (the technical points of this argument are given in note 16). This is most definitely not an ecological self; it is an Eco-Noetic Self, "The Self of nation and of nature," the Over-Soul that is the World Soul.17
Indeed, if nature means the biosphere, and Nature (or Spirit) means the All, means the physiosphere and the biosphere and the noosphere and their Ground, then Emerson's point is very simple: the worshipers of nature are the destroyers of Nature.
Emerson, then, is singing songs to Nature, not nature. And that is why he maintains that nature immersion and nature worship prevent the realization of Nature, or the Spirit within and beyond, which transcends all, embraces all. And this is what he means by "nature-nation" mysticism: the biosphere and the noosphere united in the theosphere, or the Over-Soul that is simultaneously the World Soul.
And so he arrives at the very true conclusion: nature worshipers are the destroyers of Nature, the destroyers of
Spirit; they would, he says, never look within long enough to find the true beyond, the Over-Soul out of which both culture and nature emerge (and which therefore lovingly embraces both); they would never look within for Nature, they only stare without at nature, and thus, as he puts it, their minds are imbruted, they remain a selfish savage-geocentric, egocentric.
Just as all of the lower is in the higher but not all the higher is in the lower (but rather "permeates" the lower), so all of nature is in Spirit but not all of Spirit is to be found in nature. Rather, Spirit permeates nature through and through, itself remaining behind nature, beyond nature, not confined to nature and not identified with nature, but never, at any point, divorced from nature or set apart from nature. Emerson is precise:
But when, following the invisible steps of thought, we come to inquire, Whence is matter? and Whereto? many truths arise to us out of the recesses of consciousness. We learn that the highest is present to the soul of man; that the dread universal essence, which is not wisdom, or love, or beauty, or power, but all in one, and each entirely, is that for which all things exist, and that by which they are; that spirit creates; that behind nature, throughout nature, spirit is present; one and not compound it does not act upon us from without, that is, in space and time, but spiritually, or through ourselves: therefore, that spirit . . . does not build up nature around us, but puts it forth through us, as the life of the tree puts forth new branches and leaves through the pores of the old.18
That Spirit does not build up nature around us, but puts forth nature through us: there is the profound difference between nature/nation mysticism and mere biocentric immersion; there is the telling difference between the EcoNoetic Self and the merely ecological self; there is the difference between transcendence and regression.
Here, then, is a summary of the widely accepted interpretation of Emerson's view: (1) nature is not Spirit but a symbol of Spirit (or a manifestation of Spirit); (2) sensory awareness in itself does not reveal Spirit but obscures it; (3) an ascending or transcendental current is required to disclose Spirit; (4) Spirit is understood only as nature is transcended (i.e., Spirit is immanent in nature, but fully discloses itself only in a transcendence of nature-in short,
Spirit transcends but includes nature). Those points are largely uncontested by Emerson scholars [see the Eye of Spirit, chapter 11, note 2].
In concluding this brief survey of the psychic level and the cosmic consciousness of nature-nation mysticism, there are two points I would like to emphasize. The first is that, as I think is now obvious, this new going within has resulted in a new going beyond: a new and higher interior identity (Over-Soul) accompanied by a new and wider embrace of others (World Soul)-a single Soul embracing the physiosphere, biosphere, and noosphere in one loving caress.19
Once again we go within and fall without to find this time . . . an actual cosmic consciousness. But this movement itself is in no way any different from all the previous stages that we have examined, all of which were "selfdevelopment through self-transcendence," a new going within to a deeper and wider beyond.
And this Over-Soul recognition dawns precisely and only as the separate self, the ego or centaur, is transcended.
Schopenhauer would agree entirely with Emerson (and so many others) on that crucial point. In Schopenhauer's words:
When one is no longer concerned with the Where, the When, the Why and the What-for of things, but only and alone with the What, and lets go even of all abstract thoughts about them, intellectual concepts and consciousness, but instead of all that, gives over the whole force of one's spirit to the act of perceiving, becomes absorbed in it and lets every bit of one's consciousness be filled in the quiet contemplation of the natural object immediately present-be it a landscape, a tree, a rock, a building, or anything else at all; actually and fully losing oneself in the object\: forgetting one's individuality, one's will, and remaining there only as a pure subject, a clear mirror to the object-so that it is as though the object alone were there, without anyone regarding it, and to such a degree that one might no longer distinguish the beholder from the act of beholding, [then] the two have become one. . . .20
Schopenhauer's "clear mirror to the object" is, of course, Emerson's "transparent eyeball," which is perfectly transpersonal, or no longer merely individual. Schopenhauer: "The person absorbed in this mode of seeing is no longer an individual-the individual has lost himself in the perception-but is a pure, will-less, painless, timeless,
Subject of Apprehension." The Over-Soul as intimation of the pure and timeless Witness. . . .
The second thing I would like to emphasize is the relation of the global Self or Over-Soul to the whole notion of morality and moral development itself. This is a connection, it seems to me, overlooked by most of today's moral theorists, but utterly obvious to Emerson and Schopenhauer (and not them alone).
We have seen the development of the moral sense evolve from physiocentric to biocentric to egocentric to sociocentric to worldcentric ("worldcentric" being the global or planetary or universalizing reach of rationality and then vision-logic). And here, at the psychic level, the worldcentric conception gives way to a direct worldcentric experience, a direct experience of the global Self/World, the Eco-Noetic Self, where each individual is seen as an expression of the same Self or Over-Soul.
And what has that to do with morality? Everything, according to Emerson and Schopenhauer, for in seeing that all sentient beings are expressions of one Self, then all beings are treated as one's Self. And that realization-a profound fruition of the decentering thrust of evolution-is the only source of true compassion, a compassion that does not put self first (egocentric) or a particular society first (sociocentric) or humans first (anthropocentric), nor does it try merely in thought to act as if we are all united (worldcentric), but directly and immediately breathes the common air and beats the common blood of a Heart and Body that is one in all beings.
The whole point of the moral sequence, its very ground and its very goal, its omega point, its chaotic Attractor, is the drive toward the Over-Soul, where treating others as one's Self is not a moral imperative that has to be enforced as an ought or a should or a difficult imposition, but comes as easily and as naturally as the rising of the sun or the shining of the moon.21
This moral oneness intensifies in the subtle and causal (as we will see), but it first becomes directly obvious here, in the psychic, and issues naturally in the spontaneous compassion inherent in the Over-Soul, a compassion on which all previous moral endeavors depended, but a compassion of which all previous endeavors were but mere and partial glimmers.
In the light of the Over-Soul, it becomes perfectly obvious: all previous ethics were tried and found wanting, all previous struggles for the life Good and True were too partial and too limited and much too narrow to satisfy-all wanted to taste this, the universal compassion through universal identity with the commonwealth of all beings: that
I would see in an Other my own Self, with love driving the embrace, and compassion issuing in the tenderest of mercies. Schopenhauer:
The sort of act that I am here discussing is . . . compassion, which is to say: immediate participation, released from all other considerations, first, in the pain of another, and then, in the alleviation or termination of that pain, which alone is the true ground of all autonomous righteousness and of all true human love. An act can be said to have genuine moral worth only in so far as it stems from this source [the common Self]; and conversely, an act from any other source has none. The weal and woe of another comes to lie directly in my heart in exactly the same way-though not always to the same degree-as otherwise only my own would lie, as soon as this sentiment of compassion is aroused, and therewith, the difference between him and me is no longer absolute. And this really is amazing-even mysterious.22
The mystery, of course, is the mystery of the Over-Soul allowing us to recognize ourselves in each other, beyond the illusions of separation and duality. Schopenhauer:
For if plurality and distinction ["separate selves"] belong only to this world of appearances, and if one and the same Being is what is beheld in all these living things, well then, the experience that dissolves the distinction between the I and the Not-I cannot be false. On the contrary: its opposite must be false. The former experience underlies the mystery of compassion, and stands, in fact, for the reality of which compassion is the prime expression. That experience, therefore, must be the metaphysical ground of ethics and consist simply in this: that one individual should recognize in another, himself in his own true being.23

At the psychic level, the universalizing and global tendencies of reason and vision-logic come to fruition in a direct experience-initial, preliminary, but unmistakable-of a truly universal Self, common in and to all beings; in a direct experience of the unity of the physiosphere, biosphere, and noosphere, as an expression and embrace of that Self or Soul; so much so that this Self is understood to be prior to, within, and beyond matter, life, and mind, so that, for all the glorious radiance of a Spirit embodied, nonetheless matter and nature and civilization all "withdraw before their God."
At the same time, this is no mere solipsism. It is a higher Self or I, most assuredly, but also a higher Truth (or It) and a wider Community (or We)-the Over-Soul as the World Soul in the commonwealth of all beings as an objective State of Affairs.24 The Big Three in yet deeper unfoldings, higher reaches, wider communities, stronger affirmations. .
At the subtle level, this process of "interiorization" or "within-and-beyond" intensifies-a new transcendence with a new depth, a new embrace, a higher consciousness, a wider identity-and the soul and God enter an even deeper interior marriage, which discloses at its summit a divine union of Soul and Spirit, a union prior to any of its manifestations as matter or life or mind, a union that outshines any conceivable nature, here or anywhere else.
Nature-nation mysticism gives way to Deity mysticism, and the God within announces itself in terms undreamt of in gross manifestation, with a Light that blinds the sun and a Song that thunders nature and culture into stunned and awestruck silence.
Nature lovers here scream "Foul!," as if beyond the glories of nature there should be no other glory, as if the visible and tangible scene exhausted the wonders of the Kosmos, as if in all the worlds and possible worlds through all eternity, their beloved nature alone should be allowed to shine.
But nature, dear sweet nature, is mortal and finite. It was born, it will remain a bit, and it will pass. It was created, it will be undone. And in all cases, it is bounded, and limited, and doomed to the decay that marks all manifest worlds. "I am somehow receptive of the great soul, and thereby I do overlook the sun and the stars and feel them to be the fair accidents and effects which change and pass," as Emerson said.
We are, of course, perfectly free to identify with nature, and to find a geocentric earth-religion that consoles us in our passing miseries. We are free to identify with a finite, limited, mortal Earth; we are not free to call it infinite, unlimited, immortal, eternal.
That Spirit which is within and beyond the Earth, which is prior to the Earth but not other to the Earth, that Spirit which is source and support and goal of all-that Spirit is intuited at the psychic and comes to the fore in the subtle stage of consciousness evolution, utterly including the previous stages, utterly outshining them. Let the Earth and
Cosmos and Worlds dissolve, and see Spirit still shining in the Emptiness, never arising, never dissolving, never blinking once in the worlds of created time. "That joy," says Teresa, "is greater than all the joys of earth, and greater than all its delights, and all its satisfactions; and they are apprehended, too, very differently, as I have learned by experience."25
In the Interior Castle, one of the truly great texts of subtle-level development, Teresa describes very clearly the stages of evolution of the "little butterfly," as she calls her soul, to its union with the very Divine, and she does so in terms of "seven mansions," or seven stages of growth.
The first three stages deal with the ordinary mind or ego, "unregenerate" in the gross, manifest world of thought and sense. In the first Mansion, that of Humility, the ego is still in love with the creatures and comforts outside the Castle, and must begin a long and searching discipline in order to turn within. In the second Mansion (the Practice of Prayer), intellectual study, edification, and good company strengthen the desire and capacity to interiorize and not merely scatter and disperse the self in exterior distractions. In the Mansion of Exemplary Life, the third stage, discipline and ethics are firmly set as a foundation of all that is to follow (very similar to the Buddhist notion that sila, or moral discipline, is the foundation of dhyana, or meditation, and prajna, or spiritual insight). These are all natural (or personal) developments.
In the fourth mansion, a supernatural (or transpersonal) grace enters the scene with the Prayer of Recollection and the Prayer of Quiet (which Teresa differentiates by their bodily effects). In both, there is a calming and slowing of gross-oriented faculties (memory, thoughts, senses) and a consequent opening to deeper, more interior spaces with correlative "graces," which Teresa calls, at this stage, "spiritual consolations" (because they are consoling to the self, not yet transcending of the self). On the other hand, it is also as if the soul itself is actually beginning to emerge at this stage: "The senses and all external things seem gradually to lose their hold, while the soul, on the other hand, regains its lost control." And this carries a glimmer of the truth to come, "namely, that God is within us."26
In the fifth mansion, via the Prayer of Union, a Spiritual Betrothal occurs, where the soul first directly emerges and intuits Spirit residing in the deepest interior of its own heart (the psychic). I say "emerge," because even if the soul was previously present in the depths, it now comes to the fore.
And this occurs in one particularly significant transformation, according to Teresa. The individual experiences, for the first time, a complete cessation27 of all faculties, and in that pure absorption, the self tastes its primordial union with God (or what Teresa also calls Uncreate Spirit). "For as long as such a soul is in this state, it can neither see nor hear nor understand: the period is always short [at this early stage]. God implants Himself in the interior of that soul in such a way that, when it returns to itself, it cannot possibly doubt that God has been in it and it has been in God."28
And here Teresa uses perhaps her most famous metaphor. Prior to this transformative absorption, the unregenerate self (or ego) is, says Teresa, like a silkworm. But one taste of union (literally, just a single experience of this, she says, however brief), and the self is changed forever. One taste of absorption in Uncreate Spirit, and the worm emerges a butterfly. As we might put it, the ego dies and the soul emerges. ("All mean egotism vanishes; the currents of Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.") Teresa:
And now let us see what becomes of this silkworm. When it is in this state of [cessation/absorption], and quite dead to the world, it comes out a little white butterfly. Oh, greatness of God, that a soul should come out like this after being closely united for so short a time-never, I think, for as long as half an hour [in cessation]. For think of the difference between an ugly worm and a white butterfly; it is just the same here. The soul cannot think how it can have merited such a blessing-whence such a blessing could have come to it, I meant to say, for it knows quite well that it has not merited it at all.29
One taste, and the butterfly is born, the soul is born (or emerges from its slumber in ego, its lostness in the exterior cocoon of form; and, of course, the butterfly is the omega point of the silkworm). The rest of Interior Castle describes the extraordinary journey of this little butterfly toward that primordial Flame in which, at last, it will happily die (to be, once again, reborn on yet a deeper level, that of union with Uncreate Spirit).
In the sixth mansion, Lover and Beloved, butterfly and God, soul and Uncreate Spirit, "see each other" for extended periods of time. Whereas the absorption of the Fifth Mansion might last up to a half-hour, various types of absorption here last a day or several days, she says (even if the cessation itself is still shortlived). The soul is "so completely absorbed and the understanding so completely transported-for as long as a day, or even for several days-that the soul seems incapable of grasping anything that does not awaken the will to love; to this it is fully awake, while asleep as regards all attachment. . . ."30
But each new stage of growth, we have seen, introduces new types of possible pathology, and so it is with the little butterfly. Many people think that the famous "Dark Night of the Soul," a phrase introduced by Teresa's friend and collaborator Saint John of the Cross, is that terrible dark period before one finds Uncreate Spirit. But not so; the
Dark Night occurs in that period after one has tasted Universal Being but before one is established in it, for one has now seen Paradise . . . and seen it fade.
The torment is now agonizing. The little butterfly suffers much, much more "torture" (Teresa's term) than anything the ego suffers or even could suffer. "This is a much greater trial," the little butterfly reports, "especially if the pains are severe; in some ways, when they are very acute, I think they are the greatest trial that exists. For they affect the soul both outwardly and inwardly, till it becomes so much oppressed as not to know what to do with itself.
There are many things which assault her soul with an interior oppression so keenly felt and so intolerable that I do not know to what it can be compared. . . ."31
She is conscious of a strange solitude, since there is not a creature on the whole earth who can be a companion to her-in fact, I do not believe she would find any in Heaven, save Him Whom she loves: on the contrary, all earthly companionship is torment to her. She thinks of herself as of a person suspended aloft, unable either to come down and rest anywhere on earth or to ascend into Heaven. She is parched with thirst, yet cannot reach the water; and the thirst is not a tolerable one but a kind that nothing can quench. . . .32
The dialectic of progress, here unleashed in its most subtle yet agonizing form.
On the more positive side, it is here in the Sixth Mansion that all sorts of subtle-level phenomena begin to emerge in consciousness, and Teresa chronicles them with astonishing clarity: the interior illuminations, the raptures, the subtle sounds and visions, the types of tranquillity and recollection, "ecstasy, rapture, or trance (for I think these are all the same)." Most of these visions (late psychic and early subtle) are in themselves transverbal ("the revelations are communicated to it without words," "in a way that involves no clear utterance of speech").33 But the central event remains, in each of them, the possibility of the absorption in Uncreate Spirit. "When the soul is thus cleansed,
God unites it with Himself. The soul becomes one with God."34
All of which culminates in the Seventh Mansion, where actual Spiritual Marriage occurs, and vision gives way to direct apprehension or direct experience-"the union of the whole soul with God."35 Once this union is apprehended, it seems so obvious, says Teresa, that we can't even find a "doorway" through which it occurred (which is very reminiscent of Zen's "gateless gate"), and, in trying to describe this secret yet perfectly obvious union, words, of course, miserably fail her (but only because she cannot assume that we have had the experience):
This secret union takes place in the deepest center of the soul, which is where God dwells, and I do not think there is any need of a door by which to enter it. I say there is no need of a door because all that has so far been described [the earlier six stages or mansions] seems to have come through the medium of the senses and [mental] faculties. But what passes in the union of the Spiritual Marriage, in the center of the soul, is very different. This instantaneous [union] of God to the soul is so great a secret and sublime a favor, and such delight is felt by the soul, that I do not know with what to compare it. . . .36
In the sixth mansion, Teresa says, this divine union is indeed apprehended, but only briefly and sporadically. She likens this preliminary union to two candles joined at the ends: they then give one light, but the two candles can be broken apart again. Not so the true Spiritual Marriage:
But here it is like rain falling from the heavens into a river or spring; there is nothing but water there and it is impossible to divide or separate the water belonging to the river from that which fell from the heavens. Or it is as if a tiny streamlet enters the sea, from which it will find no way of separating itself, or as if in a room there were two large windows through which the light streamed in: it enters in different places but it all becomes one.37
In this brief sketch, I have mentioned, but have not dwelled on the details of, the possible pathologies that beset the transpersonal stages (four different stages, four very different types of possible pathologies). Suffice it to say that they each involve (as always) problems of differentiation and integration at the new level, problems of agency and communion-too much of one or the other, and a failure of balance: problems of inflating the self at that stage or losing the self in the others of that stage (too much agency or too much communion).38
It is crucially important, then, to distinguish these new and higher pathologies-of fulcrums seven (psychic), eight (subtle), and nine (causal)-from the lower and primitive pathologies (particularly fulcrums one, two, and three).
Teresa is positively brilliant in distinguishing the agonies of the soul in its higher mansions or stages from those emotional problems that characterize the lower faculties. She clearly distinguishes, for example, three types of "inner voices"-those of "the fancy" or "imagination," which can be hallucinatory and "diseased," she says; those that are verbal, and may or may not represent true wisdom (for they may also be deceptive and "diseased"); and those that are transverbal altogether, representing direct interior apprehension. She has an exquisite and precise discriminating awareness between "fancies" and "hallucinations" and direct intuitive apprehensions, and she explains the differences at length. She gives clear and classic phenomenological descriptions of so many of the subtle-level apprehensions: interior illumination, sound, bliss, and understanding beyond ordinary time and place; genuine archetypal Form as creative pattern (not mythic motif); and psychic vision giving way to pure nonverbal, transverbal, subtle intuition; all summating in the "union of the whole soul with uncreated Spirit."
As for the use of the term "supernatural" by certain contemplatives (both East and West), care should be taken to differentiate what they mean by that term and what, for example, the mythic or religious literalist means by it.
Literal or mythic Christianity, for example, originating from the magic-mythic and mythic stages of development, and beset by "mythic dissociation," imagines God as a Cosmic Father set above and apart from nature (ontologically divorced), and thus any action on God's part is and must be "supernatural"-a "miraculous" suspension of the laws of nature on behalf of "His children," activities that are all nonetheless variations on turning spinach into potatoes.
This dissociation of "natural" and "supernatural," and a praying, a begging, for the latter to miraculously intervene in the former, Emerson calls "meanness and theft," a vicious craving for commodities:
In what prayers do men allow themselves! Prayer looks abroad and asks for some foreign addition to come through some foreign virtue, and loses itself in endless mazes of natural and supernatural, and mediatorial and miraculous. Prayer that craves a particular commodity is vicious. [True] Prayer is the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view. It is the soliloquy of a beholding and jubilant soul. It is the spirit of God pronouncing his works good. As soon as the man is at one with God, he will not beg. But prayer as a means to effect a private end is meanness and theft. It supposes dualism and not a unity in nature and consciousness.39 God's "supernatural" intervention in "nature": this bears no relation to the contemplative view of the psychic and subtle stages. God or Spirit is not set apart from nature, but rather is the Ground of nature, and indeed of all manifestation-as Teresa puts it, "God is in all things by presence and power and essence." "Supernatural," in this usage, simply means that the natural union of Spirit with all things becomes a conscious realization in some, and that conscious realization is called supernatural, not because the union is present only in them and not in nature, but because they are directly realizing it. Teresa's spiritual friend and collaborator, the extraordinary John of the Cross, explains it thus:
This union between God and creatures always exists. By it He conserves their being so that if the union would end they would cease to exist [Spirit as Ground of Being]. Consequently, in discussing union with God, we are not discussing the substantial union which is always existing, but the union and transformation of the soul in God. This transformation is supernatural, the other natural.40
As for this inner transformation, this interior realization, Teresa speaks movingly to her sister nuns, and to us, from the direct experience of the contemplative heart:
It becomes evident that there is "someone" in the interior of the soul who sends forth these arrows and thus gives life to this life, and that there is a sun whence this great light proceeds, which is transmitted in the interior part of the soul. The soul, as I said, neither moves from that center nor loses its peace; [it] leaves the soul in a state of pure spirituality, so that it might be joined with Uncreated Spirit.
Oh, God help me! What a difference there is between hearing and believing these words and being led in this way to realize how true they are! Each day this soul wonders more, for she feels that they have never left her, and perceives quite clearly, in the way I have described, that They [the "true words"] are in the interior of her heart-in the most interior place of all and in its greatest depths.41
This new depth, this new within, which is a new beyond, utterly transcends nature, utterly embraces nature, and is thus embodied in nature, as perhaps Aurobindo explained most forcefully:
Its first effect has been the liberation of life and mind out of Matter; its last effect has been to assist the emergence of a spiritual consciousness, a spiritual will and spiritual sense of existence in the terrestrial being so that he is no longer solely preoccupied with his outermost life or with mental pursuits and interests, but has learned to look within, to discover his inner being, his spiritual self, to aspire to overpass [negate and preserve] earth and her limitations. As he grows more and more inward, his boundaries mental [noospheric], vital [biospheric], and spiritual begin to broaden, the bonds that held life, mind, soul to their first limitations loosen or snap, and man the mental being begins to have a glimpse of a larger kingdom of self and world closed to the first earth-life.
If he makes the inward movement which his own highest vision has held up before him as his greatest spiritual necessity, then he will find there in his inner being a larger consciousness, a larger life. An action from within and an action from above can overcome the predominance of the material formula, diminish and finally put an end to the power of the Inconscience, substitute Spirit for Matter as his conscious foundation of being and liberate its higher powers to their complete and characteristic expression in the life of the soul embodied in Nature.42
Which is why Teresa sings of embracing all creatures from the center of the love and joy that now overflows from her innermost being: "These are very unskillful comparisons to represent so precious a thing, but I am not clever enough to think out any more: the real truth is that this joy makes the soul so forgetful of itself, and of everything, that it is conscious of nothing, and able to speak of nothing, save of that which proceeds from its joy. . . . Let us join with this soul, my daughters all. Why should we want to be more sensible than she? What can give us greater pleasure than to do as she does? And may all the creatures join with us for ever and ever. Amen, amen, amen."43
And the little butterfly? What has become of her? As the ego (silkworm) died and was reborn as the soul (butterfly), so now the soul, after traversing the psychic and subtle domains and serving its purpose well, enters finally into its Spiritual Marriage, its own omega point, its deeper and greater context, and thus dies to its lesser being, dies as a separate self. "For it is here," she says softly, "that the little butterfly dies, and with the greatest joy, because Christ is now its life."
Which brings us to the causal.

In the subtle level, the Soul and God unite; in the causal level, the Soul and God are both transcended in the prior identity of Godhead, or pure formless awareness, pure consciousness as such, the pure Self as pure Spirit (Atman = Brahman). No longer the "Supreme Union" of God and Soul, but the "Supreme Identity" of Godhead. As Meister Eckhart put it, "I find in this breakthrough that God and I are one and the same."
As we will see, this pure formless Spirit is said to be the Goal and Summit and Source of all manifestation. And that is the causal.
Going within and beyond even this pure Source and pure Spirit-which is totally formless, boundless, unmanifest-the Self/Spirit awakens to an identity with, and as, all Form, all manifestation (gross, subtle, and causal), whether high or low, ascending or descending, sacred or profane, manifest or unmanifest, finite or infinite, temporal or eternal. This is not a particular stage among other stages-not their Goal, not their Source, not their Summit-but rather the Ground or Suchness or Isness of all stages, at all times, in all dimensions: the Being of all beings, the Condition of all conditions, the Nature of all natures. And that is the Nondual.
I have chosen Meister Eckhart and Sri Ramana Maharshi to illustrate both of these "stages" (causal and nondual), since we find in both of them not only a breakthrough to the causal, but also through the causal to the ultimate or Nondual, and as inadequate and misleading as words here invariably are, at least an indication of these two "movements" can be clearly and unmistakably discerned in both of these extraordinary sages.
Sri Ramana Maharshi (echoing Shankara) summarizes the "viewpoint" of the ultimate or Nondual realization:
The world is illusory;
Brahman alone is Real;
Brahman is the world.
The first two lines represent pure causal-level awareness, or unmanifest absorption in pure or formless Spirit; line three represents the ultimate or nondual completion (the union of the Formless with the entire world of Form). The
Godhead completely transcends all worlds and thus completely includes all worlds. It is the final within, leading to a final beyond-a beyond that, confined to absolutely nothing, embraces absolutely everything.
Eckhart begins by pointing to the need, first and foremost, for a transcendence or a "breakthrough" (a word he coined in German) from the finite and created realm to the infinite and uncreated source or origin (the causal), a direct and formless awareness that is without self, without other, and without God.
In the breakthrough, where I stand free of my own will and of the will of God and of all his works and of God himself, there I am above all creatures and am neither God nor creature. Rather, I am what I was and what I shall remain now and forever. Then I receive an impulse [awareness] which shall bring me above all the angels.
In this impulse I receive wealth so vast that God cannot be enough for me in all that makes him God, and with all his divine works. For in this breakthrough I discover that I and God are one. There I am what I was, and I grow neither smaller nor bigger, for I am an immovable cause that moves all things.
Therefore also I am unborn, and following the way of my unborn [unmanifest] being I can never die.
Following the way of my unborn being I have always been, I am now, and shall remain eternally.44
In order for God and the Soul to exist, there must be duality or separation between them, and this duality, says
Eckhart, obscures the primordial Godhead:
When I still stood in my first cause, there I had no God and was cause of myself. There I willed nothing, I desired nothing, for I was a pure Being in delight of the truth. There I stood, free of God and of all things. But when I took leave from this state and received my created being, then I had a God.45
This Godhead (or what Eckhart also calls "God beyond God") is radically free of any finite or created thing, whether of matter or nature or mind or visions or Soul or God. Eckhart refers to this completely transcendental, free, or unmanifest state by words such as "Abyss," "unborn," "formless," "primordial origin," "emptiness," "nothingness."
Empty yourself of everything. That is to say, empty yourself of your ego [or any sort of separate-self sense, soul, or oversoul] and empty yourself of all things and of all that you are in yourself and consider yourself as what you are in God. God is a being beyond being and a nothingness beyond being. Therefore, be still and do not flinch from this emptiness.46
This "emptiness" is not a theory. Even less is it "poetry" (which I have often heard). Nor is it a philosophical suggestion. It is a direct apprehension (direct "experience" is not quite right, since it is free of the duality of subject and object, and since it never enters the stream of time and thus is never "experiential" in any typical sense)-free of thoughts, free of dualities, free of time and temporal succession:
I speak therefore of a Godhead from which as yet nothing emanates and nothing moves or is thought about.
Even if the soul were to see God insofar as he is God or insofar as God can be imagined or insofar as he is a thought, this same insufficiency would be there. But when all images of the soul are taken away and the soul [is] only the single One, then the pure being of the soul finds resting in itself the pure, formless Being of the divine. . . .
Neither space nor time touch this place. Nothing so much hinders the soul's understanding of God as time and space. Time and space are parts of the whole, but God is one. So if the soul is to recognize God, it must do so beyond space and time. For God is neither this nor that ["neti, neti"] in the way of the manifold things of earth, since God is one. If the soul wants to know God, it cannot do so in time. For so long as the soul is conscious of time or space or any other [object], it cannot know God.
Know then that all our perfection and all our bliss depend on the fact that the individual goes through and beyond all creation and all temporality and all being, and enters the foundation that is without foundation.
They must arrive at forgetfulness [of objects] and no-self consciousness-and there must be absolute silence there and stillness.47
In this state of formless and silent awareness, one does not see the Godhead, for one is the Godhead, and knows it from within, self-felt, and not from without, as an object. The pure Witness (which Eckhart calls "the essence of the Subject") cannot be seen, for the simple reason that it is the Seer (and the Seer itself is pure
Emptiness, the pure opening or clearing in which all objects, experiences, things and events arise, but which itself merely abides). Anything seen is just more objects, more finite things, more creatures, more images or concepts or visions, which is exactly what it is not.
It is free of all names and barren of all forms, totally free and void, just as God is void and free in himself. It is totally one and simple, just as God is one and simple, so that we can in no manner gaze upon it [see it as an object; it is the Seer, not anything seen; and the Seer is pure Emptiness, out of which seen objects emerge].
There the "means" is silent, for neither a creature nor an image can enter there. The soul knows in that place neither action nor knowledge. It is not aware in that place of any kind of image, either from itself or from any other creature.
You should love him as he is, a not-God, not-mind, not-person, not-image-even more, as he is a pure, clear One, separate from all twoness. You should love God mindlessly, that is, so that your soul is without mind and free from all mental activities, for as long as your soul is operating like a mind, so long does it have images and representations. But as long as it has images, it has intermediaries, and as long as it has intermediaries, it has neither oneness nor simplicity. And therefore your soul should be bare of all mind and should stay there without mind.48
Following Saint Dionysius, Eckhart refers to this "mindless" or "unknowing presence," or pure formless awareness without mental intermediaries, as "Divine Ignorance."
Whoever does not leave all external aspects of creatures can neither be received into this divine birth nor be born. The more you are able to bring all your powers to a unity and a forgetfulness of all the objects and images you have absorbed, and the more you depart from creatures and their images, the nearer and more receptive you are. If you were able to become completely unaware of all things, attain a forgetfulness of things and of self, the more [there is] the silent darkness where you will come to a recognition of the unknown, transbegotten God. For this ignorance draws you away from all knowledge about things, and beyond this it draws you away from yourself.49
Like Eckhart, Sri Ramana Maharshi, India's greatest modern sage, begins by merely giving us some verbal pointers and information about the Self and its relation to God (and Godhead). But he will soon, we will see, go beyond mere chatter and point directly to the unknown and unknowing Source. So here he speaks in "positive" terms, before drawing us into Divine Ignorance.
The Self is known to everyone but not clearly. The Being is the Self. "I am" is the name of God. Of all the definitions of God, none is indeed so well put as the Biblical statement I AM THAT I AM. The Absolute Being is what is-It is the Self. It is God. Knowing the Self, God is known. In fact, God is none other than the Self.50
And here Ramana clearly means "Godhead," as he himself often pointed out: "Creation is by the entire Godhead breaking into God and Nature."51
As for the pure Self/Spirit or Godhead, Ramana constantly repeats, in words virtually identical to Eckhart's (and to the sages of this level the world over) that the Self is not body, not mind, not thought; it is not feelings, not sensations, not perceptions; it is radically free of all objects, all subjects, all dualities; it cannot be seen, cannot be known, cannot be thought. "In that state there is Being alone. There is no you, nor I, nor he; no present, nor past, nor future. It is beyond time and space, beyond expression. It is ever there."52
The Self is "not this, not that," which in Sanskrit is the "neti, neti" I bracketed in Eckhart's quotation. The Self is not this, not that, precisely because it is the pure Witness of this or that, and thus in all cases transcends any this and any that. The Self cannot even be said to be "One," for that is just another quality, another object that is perceived or witnessed. The Self is not "Spirit"; rather, it is that which, right now, is witnessing that concept. The Self is not the "Witness"-that is just another word or concept, and the Self is that which is witnessing that concept. The Self is not Emptiness, the Self is not a pure Self-and so on.
There are neither good nor bad qualities in the Self. The Self is free from all qualities. Qualities pertain to the mind only. It is beyond quality. If there is unity, there will also be duality. The numerical one gives rise to other numbers. The truth is neither one nor two. It is as it is.
People want to see the Self as something. They desire to see it as a blazing light, etc. But how could that be?
The Self is not light, not darkness, not any observed thing. The Self is ever the Witness. It is eternal and remains the same all along.53
Ramana often refers to the Self by the name "I-I," since the Self is the simple Witness of even the ordinary "I." We are all, says Ramana, perfectly aware of the I-I, for we are all aware of our capacity to witness in the present moment. But we mistake the pure I-I or pure Seer with some sort of object that can be seen and is thus precisely not the Seer or the true Self, but is merely some sort of memory or image or identity or self-concept, all of which are objects, none of which is the Witness of objects. We identify the I-I with this or that I, and thus identified with a mere finite and temporal object, we suffer the slings and arrows of all finite objects, whereas the Self remains ever as it is, timeless, eternal, unborn, unwavering, undying, ever and always present.
The I-I is always there. There is no knowing it [as an object]. It is not a new knowledge acquired. The I-I is always there.
There is no one who even for a trice fails to experience the Self. In deep sleep you exist; awake, you remain.
The same Self is in both states. The difference is only in the awareness and the non-awareness of the world.
The world rises with the mind and sets with the mind. That which rises and sets is not the Self.
The individual is miserable because he confounds the mind and body with the Self. It is the nature of the mind to wander. But you are not the mind. The mind springs up and sinks down. It is impermanent, transitory, whereas you are eternal. There is nothing but the Self. To abide as the Self is the thing. Never mind the mind. If the mind's source is sought, the mind will vanish leaving the Self unaffected.54
The "mind vanished" is, of course, Eckhart's "mindless awareness" (and Zen's "no-mind," etc.). Ramana therefore counsels us to seek the source of the mind, to look for that which is aware of the mental or personal "I," for that is the transpersonal "I-I," unchanged by the fluctuations of any particular states, particular objects, particular circumstances, particular births, particular deaths.
Tracing the source of "I," the primal I-I alone remains over, and it is inexpressible. The seat of Realization is within and the seeker cannot find it as an object outside him. That seat is bliss and is the core [the ultimate depth] of all beings. Hence it is called the Heart. The mind now sees itself diversified as the universe. If the diversity is not manifest it remains in its own essence, its original state, and that is the Heart. Entering the
Heart means remaining without distractions [objects]. The Heart is the only Reality. The mind is only a transient phase. To remain as one's Self is to enter the Heart.
The Self is not born nor does it die. The sages see everything in the Self. There is no diversity in it. If a man thinks that he is born and cannot avoid the fear of death, let him find out if the Self has any birth. He will discover that the Self always exists, that the body which is born resolves itself into thought and that the emergence of thought is the root of all mischief. Find the source of thoughts. Then you will abide in the everpresent inmost Self and be free from the idea of birth and the fear of death.55
As one pursues this "self-inquiry" into the source of thoughts, into the source of "I" and the "world," one enters a state of pure empty awareness, free of all objects whatsoever-precisely Eckhart's "completely unaware of all things"-which in Vedanta is known as nirvikalpa samadhi (nirvikalpa means "without any qualities or objects"). In awareness, there is perfect clarity, perfect consciousness, but the entire manifest world (up to and including the subtle) simply ceases to arise, and one is directly introduced to what Eckhart called "the naked existence of Godhead." Sri Ramana:
If you hold to the Self [remain as Witness in all circumstances], there is no second. When you see the world you have lost hold of the Self. On the contrary, hold the Self and the world will not appear.
By unswerving vigilant constancy in the Self, ceaseless like the unbroken flow of water, is generated the natural or changeless state of nirvikalpa samadhi, which readily and spontaneously yields that direct, immediate, unobstructed and universal perception of Brahman, which transcends all time and space.56
For Ramana and Eckhart (and not them alone), the causal is a type of ultimate omega point (but it is not, as we will see, the end of the story). As the Source of all manifestation, it the Goal of all development. Ramana: "This is SelfRealization; and thereby is cut asunder the Knot of the Heart [the separate-self sense]; this is the limitless bliss of liberation, beyond doubt and duality. To realize this state of freedom from duality is the summum bonum of life: and he alone that has won it is a jivanmukta (the liberated one while yet alive), and not he who has merely a theoretical understanding of the Self or the desired end and aim of all human behavior. The disciple is then enjoined to remain in the beatitude of Aham-Brahman-'I-I' is the Absolute."57

Such is the formless causal. But the causal is not, as Eckhart put it, the "final Word." When one breaks through the causal absorption in pure unmanifest and unborn Spirit, the entire manifest world arises once again, but this time as a perfect expression of Spirit and as Spirit. The Formless and the entire world of manifest Form-pure Emptiness and the whole Kosmos-are seen to be not-two (or nondual). The Witness is seen to be everything that is witnessed, so that, as Ramana puts it, "The object to be witnessed and the Witness finally merge together [and disappear as separate entities] and Absolute consciousness alone reigns supreme." But this nondual consciousness is not other to the world: "Brahman is the World."
This move from causal unmanifest to nondual embrace, Ramana refers to as the development from nirvikalpa to sahaj samadhi, which means "unbroken and spontaneously so," a "state" in which "the whole cosmos [Kosmos] is contained in the Heart, with perfect equality of all, for grace is all-pervading and there is nothing that is not the Self.
All this world is Brahman."58
Meister Eckhart explains both of these movements (utterly transcending the world, utterly embracing it):
First, "Be asleep to all things": that means ignore time, creatures, images [causal]. And then you could perceive what God works in you. That is why the soul says in the Song of Songs, "I sleep but my Heart watches."
Therefore, if all creatures are asleep in you, you can perceive what God works in you [as Godhead].
Second: "Concern yourself with all things." This has three meanings. That means, first, seize God in all things, for God is in all things.
The second meaning is: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you love one human being more than another, that is wrong. If you love your father and mother and yourself more than another human being, that is wrong.
And if you love your own happiness more than another's, that is also wrong.
The third meaning is this: Love God in all things equally. For God is equally near to all creatures. And among all these creatures God does not love any one more than any other. God is all and is one. All things become nothing but God [Nondual].59
When all things are nothing but God, there are then no things, and no God, but only this.
No objects, no subjects, only this. No entering this state, no leaving it; it is absolutely and eternally and always already the case: the simple feeling of being, the basic and simple immediacy of any and all states, prior to the four quadrants, prior to the split between inside and outside, prior to seer and seen, prior to the rise of worlds, everpresent as pure Presence, the simple feeling of being: empty awareness as the opening or clearing in which all worlds arise, ceaselessly: I-I is the box the universe comes in.
Abiding as I-I, the world arises as before, but now there is no one to witness it. I-I is not "in here" looking "out there": there is no in here, no out there, only this. It is the radical end to all egocentrism, all geocentrism, all biocentrism, all sociocentrism, all theocentrism, because it is the radical end of all centrisms, period. It is the final decentering of all manifest realms, in all domains, at all times, in all places. As Dzogchen Buddhism would put it, because all phenomena are primordially empty, all phenomena, just as they are, are self-liberated as they arise.
In that pure empty awareness, I-I am the rise and fall of all worlds, ceaselessly, endlessly. I-I swallow the Kosmos and span the centuries, untouched by time or turmoil, embracing each with primordial purity, fierce compassion. It has never started, this nightmare of evolution, and therefore it will never end.
It is as it is, self-liberated at the moment of its very arising. And it is only this.
The All is I-I. I-I is Emptiness. Emptiness is freely manifesting. Freely manifesting is self-liberating.
Zen, of course, would put it all much more simply, and point directly to just this.
Still pond
A frog jumps in

Does history, then, have a final omega point, the Omega of all previous and lesser omegas? Is there an actual End to History as we know it? Where all beings unite in their conscious realization of Godhead? Are we all being drawn to that "one, far-off Divine Event" that dissolves its own trail?
Many mystically inclined writers have made this assumption; it does make a certain amount of first-blush sense.
From the "Aquarian Conspiracy" to Teilhard's "final Omega-point," from the dawn of a "New Age" to "Timewave Zero"-the millenarian End of History has been exuberantly announced. Such theorists as Terence McKenna and Jos Arguelles have even been good enough to calculate the actual date of this final omega point, and it is December 2012-"Timewave Zero."60
Nor, of course, is this the first time we have seen such "End of History" notions, and in chapter 2 we saw why such notions actually make a certain amount of sense and have some degree of truth to them. To summarize that discussion:
Every senior dimension acts as a transformative omega point for its junior dimension, exerting a palpable pull of the deeper and wider on the shallower and narrower. A holon's regime is the transformative omega-point for its own growth and development, facilitated perhaps by morphic resonance from the sum total of similar forms acting as omega. In self-transcendence, however, the emergent and senior level exerts omega pull on junior dimensions, something that neither they themselves, nor their morphically resonating partners, could do alone.61 And short of reaching its immediately senior omega, that lesser dimension suffers the slings and arrows of an outrageous fortune of partialness, division, alienation. Each deeper and wider context condemns the lesser to suffering (or rather, the narrower suffers from the boundaries of its own lacerating limitations). And evolution, in the broadest sense, is a sensitive flight from the pain of partiality.
Each deeper and wider context in the Kosmos thus exerts an omega pull on the shallower and narrower contexts, and when that particular wider depth is reached, that particular omega pull subsides, with the new depth finding that it now exists in a yet-wider and yet-deeper context of its own, which now exerts an unrelenting omega force to once again transcend, to once again embrace more of the Kosmos with care and consciousness.
In short, no holon rests happy short of finding its own immediately deeper context, its own omega point, which means that each holon rushes to the End of its own History.
In the West, since the time of the Enlightenment, the great omega point or End of History has generally been pictured as some form of rationality (either formop, as in the classical Enlightenment, or vision-logic, as with
Hegel)-and modernity believed this to be the case because that was, indeed, its present state of development, to which all lesser occasions had pointed, and from which rationality had finally and triumphantly emerged.
"Remember the cruelties!"-Voltaire's battle cry of the tortures that magic and mythic had inflicted on history, the tortures of lesser omega points brutally cutting into each other in search of . . . reason.
This omega point of rationality can therefore be seen permeating the theories of virtually all developmentalists in the wake of modernity. We see it in Freud: magical and mythic primary-process cognition gives way, after much reluctance and turmoil, to the secondary (mature) process of rationality. We see it in Marx: rationality, as a worldcentric mode of cognition, will, with its economic developments, overcome egocentric and ethnocentric class divisions and usher in a true communion of equally free subjects. We see it in Piaget: preop to conop to formop, with each previous stage suffering the limitations of its own incapacities. Kohlberg and Gilligan: egocentric to sociocentric to worldcentric reason. Hegel: Self-positing Spirit returns to itself in the form of global Reason, the culmination of
History itself. And Habermas: mutual understanding in unrestrained communicative action unfolded by rationality is the omega point of individual and social evolution itself.
The list is virtually endless. And, as we discussed earlier, they are all, as far as they go, essentially correct in many important ways, and they each can teach us much about expanding the circle and the context of care. (Previously, the mythic structure had said the same thing about itself in relation to archaic and magic: it had claimed that the coming of the mythic God was an end to all tribal history-and that was also true enough.)
Francis Fukuyama recently caused an international sensation with the publication of The End of History, in which he asks "whether, at the end of the twentieth century, it makes sense for us to speak of a coherent and directional
History of humankind? The answer I arrive at is yes, for two separate reasons. One has to do with economics, and the other has to do with what is termed the 'struggle for recognition.'"62
The "struggle for recognition" is simply the theme, developed from Hegel to Habermas to Taylor, that mutual recognition-what we have also been calling the free exchange of mutual self-esteem among all peoples (the emergence of the rational-egoic self-esteem needs)-is an omega point that pulls history and communication forward toward the free emergence of that mutual recognition. Short of that emergence, history is a brutalization of one self or group of selves trying to triumph over, dominate, or subjugate others.
When, on the other hand, human beings universally recognize each other "as beings with a certain worth or dignity," then history in that sense "comes to an end because the longing that had driven the historical process-the struggle for recognition-has been satisfied in a society characterized by universal and reciprocal recognition. No other arrangement of human social institutions is better able to satisfy this longing, and hence no further progressive historical change is possible."63 The End of History.
Echoing Hegel, Fukuyama notes that "this does not mean that the natural cycle of birth, life, and death would end, or that important events would no longer happen, or that newspapers reporting them would cease to be published.
It means, rather, that there would be no further progress in the development of underlying principles and institutions, because all of the really big questions had been settled."64
"The really big questions" would be settled in this sense: once we have arrived at the worldcentric rational structures that both allow and demand (1) free and equal subjects of civil law, (2) morally free subjects, and (3) politically free subjects as world citizens (worldcentric agents in worldcentric communions)-once we have arrived at that, what more, specifically, could there be to do in that domain? In that domain, "the really big questions would have been settled." And I believe that is indeed true.
We would, of course, continue to fine-tune the ways to implement these freedoms, and help ensure their global equity. And we might, indeed, find new freedoms, and new ways to extend the old freedoms. But these three factors would surely form an important platform for any new developments. And to the extent that History up to that point has been the clash of factions that refused those three factors, then this would indeed mark the End of that History.
All of which, as I said, can be true (and is true, I think) and still leave open-and still demand-that further historical changes are indeed possible, however much they will build upon the platform of mutual egoic self-esteem and self-recognition-and for the simple reason that there are indeed structures of consciousness beyond the egoic, structures that, in their own turn, exert new and subtler omega pulls on the already actualized self-esteem needs.
And these new omega pulls will most assuredly destabilize the apparently "secure" structure of universal egoic recognition (which will be preserved, for sure . . . but also painfully negated, in the future paradigm wars set to rock the globe).
In other words, there are indeed some more "really big questions" that would still need to be settled: History would not have ended, only Egoic History.
Which brings us to the topic of the yet deeper or higher structures (beyond the ego), and whether the whole developmental process will ever actually culminate in a genuine and utter End of all possible History. For that is what is implied in the millenarian themes of Timewave Zero: the absolute Omega of all omegas, the End of all ends, the evaporation of disunity, the disappearance of appearance into the utter Abyss, the restaurant at the end of the universe, where the truly Last Supper will finally be served. . . .
Recall that, in figure 5-1, I included the developments in the four quadrants up to visionlogic/centauric/planetary, which is, as it were, the leading edge of the World Soul's evolution at this point in time (or so I would maintain). And thus, at this point, any higher developments, in all four quadrants, have to occur through an individual's own efforts (UL), evidenced in individual bodily transformations (UR), practiced in a micro-community or sangha of the similarly depthed (LL), with its own microsocial structure (LR).
As these higher potentials begin to emerge collectively-in the decades, centuries, millennia ahead65-we can only guess at what the actual surface structures will be like, for none of that is predetermined. These higher structures (psychic, subtle, causal, nondual) are simply potential worldspaces, pre-ontological worldspaces, that are given only as potentials, not as fate.
But we do know that they are structural potentials of the human bodymind, because since its emergence in its present form (around fifty thousand years ago), that bodymind has indeed supported realizations across the spectrum (has supported the realizations of a Buddha, a Gaudapada, a Dame Julian, a Lady Tsogyal). In other words, that bodymind has already supported psychic, subtle, causal, and nondual realizations; and thus, by a reconstructive science, we know those potentials are already available. This is not an a priori Hegelian deduction; it is an a posteriori conclusion.
The structural potentials are therefore available; but how they unfold will depend upon the mutual interaction and interplay between all four quadrants-intentional, behavioral, cultural, and social-as all four continue to evolve in history, and none of that is predetermined in any strong sense. Just as, for example, when the human bodymind with its complex triune brain emerged in its present form (again, around fifty thousand years ago), that brain already possessed the potential (or the hard-wiring) for symbolic logic, but that potential would have to await cultural, social, and intentional developments before it could display its form and function, just so with the higher potentials: how they will unfold remains to be seen. But the fact that they are there is demonstrated by the fact that they have already unfolded in some individuals (Buddha to Krishna), and they are thus already available to any individual, at any time, who chooses to continue his or her own evolution within and beyond.
And so the question remains: given all of that, is there still any sense in which a collective humanity would eventually evolve into an Absolute Omega Point, a pure Christ Consciousness (or some such) for all beings? Are we heading for the Ultimate End of History, the Omega of all omegas? Does It even exist?
And the answer is that It does exist, and we are not heading toward it. Or away from It. Or around It. Uncreate
Spirit, the causal unmanifest, is the nature and condition, the source and support, of this and every moment of evolution. It does not enter the stream of time at a beginning or exit at the end. It upholds all times and supports all places, with no partiality at all, and thus exerts neither push nor pull on history.
As the utterly Formless, it does not enter the stream of form at any point. And yet, as Ramana said, there is a sense in which it is indeed the summum bonum, the ultimate Omega Point, in the sense that no finite thing will rest short of release into this Infinity. The Formless, in other words, is indeed an ultimate Omega, an ultimate End, but an
End that is never reached in the world of form. Forms continue endlessly, ceaselessly, holarchically forever (unless the universe collapses in on itself, retreating back along the path it came-to start anew, one presumes).
Forms continue endlessly, holarchically-holons all the way up, all the way down-the universe as a selfreflexively infinite hall of mirrors. This is why the subtle level, which does indeed act as a manifest omega pull to its lesser and junior dimensions, is said nonetheless to contain literally an infinite number of subtle levels within subtle levels within subtle levels-in billions and billions of other universes!
Thus, in the world of Form, the ultimate Omega appears as an ever-receding horizon of fulfillment (the everreceding horizon of the totality of manifestation),66 forever pulling us forward, forever retreating itself, thus always conferring wholeness and partialness in the same breath: the wholeness of this moment is part of the whole of the next moment: the world is always complete and incomplete in any given moment, and thus condemned to a fulfillment that is never fulfilled: the forms rush and run forward to a reward that retreats with the run itself.
But at any sufficiently developed point in an individual's development, a radical leap (Eckhart's "breakthrough") into the Formless can occur. The higher the development, the easier and more likely the jump will occur. Yet the
Formless itself is not the result of that jump, nor does it then come to be. It is there, from the start, as one's own
Original Face, the Face one had before the Big Bang, the Face that looks out from each and every sentient being in each and every universe, calling out to each and all for mutual Self-, and not just self-, recognition.
Abide as Emptiness, embrace all Form: the liberation is in the Emptiness, never finally in the Form (though never apart from it). And thus even if I realize the summum bonum, even if I cut abruptly off the path of endless form and find myself in the Formless, still, still, and still the world of form goes on-into the psychic, into the subtle, into the billions and billions of universes of form available and available and available, endlessly, ceaselessly, dramatically.
Evolution seeks only this Formless summum bonum-it wants only this ultimate Omega-it rushes forward always and solely in search of this-and it will never find it, because evolution unfolds in the world of form. The
Kosmos is driven forward endlessly, searching in the world of time for that which is altogether timeless. And since it will never find it, it will never cease the search. Samsara circles endlessly, and that is always the brutal nightmare hidden in its heart.
And the twenty tenets are the form and function, the structure and the pattern, of this endless dream.

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