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The revenant of self

21/09/2013

Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know. – Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu)

I have an embarrassing confession to make.

About a year ago I was hypomanically messing around with my own head and trying to mess with my uncle’s head when I had a little accident.

I broke my moral code.

I don’t just mean I breached it, though I did, I mean I utterly smashed it and was left in no doubt whatsoever that I was a moralising hypocrite and had been for a very long time.

It gets worse.

With my moral code gone I realised that my much cherished self-worship of my own knowledge and intelligence was an utter conceit with no objective justification whatsoever. It was complete wank. The ego I had been relying on for so long to defend me from the contempt of others and of myself just shrivelled and died in my hands.

It was an incredibly traumatic experience and for a few seconds I was sure that the ten year battle I had been fighting against my own suicidality was lost. I could not possibly bear this. I would have to kill myself as soon as I could.

Then something happened that is very difficult to admit to others – much less write in a blog – because I know it will be misinterpreted.

I realised enlightenment.

I say I realised it rather than achieved it because it was not an achievement and because I now know I have always been enlightened. I just couldn’t see it before because my own over-inflated self-image had been in the way.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think being enlightened makes me wiser or better than anyone else. In fact for the first time I really knew I was nothing special. Neither an ascended master nor a condemned sinner. Nothing at all really. Yet everything there is.

I have no idea whether my experience matches that of the Buddha or of holy men who claim to be one with God – though I do find it significant that the words of such people seem to have far more substance and relevance to me now. I’m quite sure though that I lack a lot of the discipline and accomplishment that enable such people to not only realise their enlightenment but to live it and emanate it.

I don’t think I earned it either.

Not by virtue of almost a decade of paralysing grief and despair nor through my study of philosophy nor my bipolar nor my meditation practice. It just happened. I don’t know why but I’m sure glad it did. If I believed in God I would probably call it an act of grace.

It didn’t make me wiser or more loving or less of an arsehole. In one sense it changed nothing at all.

But it does seem to have cured my depression and made me less judgmental and completely changed my perspective of myself and how I fit into the universe.

Because you see, I’m perfect. Everything is. I don’t know how to explain that in a way that would make sense to anyone who doesn’t already know, but it’s true.

I guess the key is that I finally clearly saw what my ego is and how irrelevant it is to what I really am. I didn’t just understand it theoretically from a book or say it to myself out of false modesty – I really saw it. And I still see it.

But just because my ego is down, I don’t think it’s out.

For about a week after my realisation I walked around in a state of utter bliss, completely open and accepting of everything and thoroughly enchanted by the way everything fitted together and balanced in perfect harmony. A lot of the questions I had long asked about myself and reality were either answered or simply evaporated into irrelevancy.

But I couldn’t function like that for long.

I quickly discovered that my mindfulness practice had not been what I had thought it was and I was unable to do anything that required forward planning. And though my blissful state seemed to touch everyone I interacted with I couldn’t hold meaningful conversations about day to day things – I could only respond to what was happening in the moment.

So I put my ego back on. Which is to say I once again ‘inhabited’ the sense of a continuously existing self and all the social masks I needed to interact with my fellow human beings and carry out my daily tasks. I can still see my ego for what it is and can still remove it at will – though ‘will’ is definitely the wrong word. But it’s ‘sticky’. It’s as if by acting through my ego I am becoming re-addicted to it – re-identifying with it – and I need to regularly find the space to let it go and reground in what I found last October.

One result of having such a beautiful and life changing experience is that I would really like to be able to share it. I look around and see lots of people suffering in ways I once did and feel overwhelmed by compassion and the need to help them if I can. But there are two problems.

The first one is that I don’t really know how I attained my own enlightenment. I’m a bit like the 100 year old asked the inevitable question of how she managed to live so long. She might say “Going to church every Sunday” or “Always eating my greens” or “Sex and drugs and rock’n’roll”, but the fact is she doesn’t have a clue. She just knows she’s not dead yet.

I’m in the same boat. I can tell people everything I know about myself until they die of boredom but I still don’t think I’ll have communicated anything important that will help them realise their own enlightenment. They’re probably in a completely different situation to any I have ever been in and if they are ever going to get there they will have to find their path themselves.

The essential experience seems completely incommunicable anyway. There just aren’t words for it and when I do try to express it I feel that I am lying no matter how hard I try to speak the truth.

The second problem is the question of what might happen if people start believing not only that I’m enlightened, but that I might have something relevant to say about it.

Like I said, my ego is kinda ‘sticky’ and it just loves praise. I’m pretty sure I know what would happen to me if people started treating me like a wise man or a guru or something. It’s bad enough when I get complimented for something I do or get a blog post freshly pressed. My ego just laps it up. It makes me feel good. I start to feel more comfortable in my own ego and reluctant to take it off.

I think I’ve run across a few other people who’ve realised the same sort of enlightenment I have. I think I’ve seen even more of them on the self-help bookshelves and in the media being treated as gurus or spiritual teachers. With the exception of a handful of very modest private people and two Buddhist monks (both now deceased) it seems to me all of these people have become enmeshed in their own egos again. What may have started as a sincere desire to help others find what they had found turned into a self-justifying quest for fame, money and power. I would be very foolish to imagine the same thing wouldn’t happen to me.

So I guess it’s lucky that I probably can’t tell anyone anything about realising enlightenment that they don’t already know. If I did I would probably create a monster of myself and lose the very thing I was trying to teach.

Perhaps the only answer is for me to go and live in a cave or a looney bin or somewhere else I don’t have to try to prove anything to anyone. Then I can take off my ego for good and simply bask in perfection. As long as the psychiatrists don’t have some sort of injection to cure enlightenment that is.

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35 Comments
  1. This is the second time in my life this has happened to me in my lifetime..and this time if for ‘good’…I would also fear any real recognition in ‘reality’…I play with IT..is ALl..L

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  2. The more enlightened I become the more people inside of the ‘Matrix’..suspect ‘I AM crazy’..which I suppose IS also protection in many ways 2..as IT is not that easy to even get psychiatric assistance in the US if one needs it..which means no one really cares what i do outside of the ‘matrix’…as long as no real harm comes to anyone i am associated with….

    Not what sure what that is like in Australia..but i understand it may be easier to actually get diagnosed than in the US for conditions like Asperger’s in middle age…

    Asperger’s presents in extremely ‘odd’ ways varying greatly between individuals depending on how they accommodate their environment..or that ‘neuroplasticity thing’..haha!….

    Anyway nice to ‘truly’ come across another enlightened person in this life…they are ‘extremely rare’..the ‘really’ enlightened ones that ‘IS’…

    No doubt this INdigo child thing is real in my mind now…I have no proof…I just nowKnow…that IS ALL…

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  3. Sorry about that I have no idea why my profile switched to twitter…I could not comment at all at first..and was curious why..and I see why now…my first two comments may have gone to your spam folder..I write too…and too randomly…much.. the algorithms are suspicious i might not be human anyway…much..of the time…a spambot i am in disguise…

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  4. Check out these last talks by Nisargadatta Maharaj: http://nisargadatta.org/pages/last_days_teachings_nisargadatta.html

    So much better and more convincing than Tolle.

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    • What do you mean by saying: “The consciousness that I have. . . ..?” Do you realize what nonsense you have uttered? How can ‘you’, or anyone else, have consciousness? Do you realize the unimaginable greatness, the holiness of what you so casually call ‘consciousness’?

      Simply perfect.

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    • Well that link provides proof positive I’m not cut out to be a spiritual teacher.

      Spending the last few days of existence ‘entertaining’ yourself by repeatedly answering the same question in different words from people who’ve been asking that question every day since they came to ‘learn’ from you …

      Perfect I may be, but perfectly patient I ain’t.

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      • Maybe Maharaj was a teacher, and so it suited him to give free lectures until the very end.

        There must be other ways for an enlightened being to participate and contribute to the world than preaching. Who needs another preacher of non-dualism anyway?

        I’d think it would be better, if one were enlightened, to act in accordance with the universe and never claimed to be enlightened. That would remove the whole filter of interpreting ones actions through a certain lens.

        For example, I will remember often for days or weeks people that show me simple kindness. Someone who refuses to overcharge me, or even a motorcyclist who slows down to a stop while I am crossing a cross walk. People who don’t engage in negative behavior or malicious gossip, without being smugly above it. Whereas when people make spiritual claims for themselves they can incur resentment or suspicion.

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        • Maybe Maharaj was a teacher, and so it suited him to give free lectures until the very end.

          Yeah, but all that evidence on your linked page that his years of teaching had taught his listeners nothing … Most folks would find that kinda discouraging I bet.

          Regarding preachers of non-duality to me the problem is all the bogus preachers. When I hear the likes of Tolle and A Course in Miracles holding out enlightenment as something that will give you happiness and magical powers and make you superior and especially representing it almost as a way of annexing the Godhead into the Self it makes me want to grab their followers and jam their faces into something by Maharaj or Sankara instead.

          I think a big problem is the Western tendency to equate ‘God’ with power and authority and the rather unfortunate but frequent translation of the Sankskrit ‘atman’ into the English ‘Self’ (that’s Self with a big ‘S’ to distinguish it from self with a little ‘s’ but I suspect the distinction is lost on most English speakers – especially the ones who write self-help books). The Buddhist doctrine of anatta (no-self) strikes me as a better approach, but not many people can get their head around that one. In fact most Westerners (as well as many Easterners – especially Tibetans) seem to have problems even grasping the distinction between rebirth and reincarnation and why the first does not imply a ‘self’.

          There’s a paradox in that right from the start I’ve felt a strong compulsion to try to spread what I have found to others. Even though it seems that is impossible (indeed, I now think communication itself is almost impossible and when it does occur it is inevitably a form of violation) it is something that always appears to be almost achievable and every now and then I get a little feedback that indicates that something may have arisen in someone else in response to something I’ve said. It seems important to put my cards on the table and let the listeners themselves decide whether I’ve realised enlightenment and whether that’s relevant to what I say. If they think of enlightenment as a means rather than an end they will probably reject my message and it’s probably appropriate that they do.

          I don’t think realising enlightenment has made me any kinder. In fact I doubt there have been any substantial changes in my personality at all. The big difference has been subjective. Now instead of spending an hour or so each day staring at a wall in utter despondency I spend an hour or so a day staring at a wall in complete bliss.

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        • I get the “non self” thing, or no separate self. Also don’t believe in reincarnation. What for? If the ego weren’t reincarnated, why then bother with reincarnation. I don’t believe the ego could survive death. Howe could it if language couldn’t?

          Anyway, I also don’t see how one’s personality or behavior wouldn’t be changed by enlightenment. If you not only don’t believe you inhabit a separate, individual self, but you live that, than how could you not be less selfish that before? If a personality has been honed in a game where the ego is constantly threatened and trying to reassert itself, how could the elimination of the primacy of the ego not alter the personality to be less defensive, or combative?

          If one spent one’s entire life worrying about an illusory self, and then one fine moment became free of the delusion, why wouldn’t that person, thereafter, not cease to behave precisely as it had when it was under the delusion?

          For example, if I believe I’m Eric, a unique individual vulnerable in a hostile universe for decades, and then one day realize I am really an expression of infinite consciousness, that there is nothing separate from me, and that my egoic self-image is a bit of mental fluff, why would I then continue with no change other than being more content to sit and spin?

          Doesn’t make sense to me. It sounds like one could improve one’s personality more – if one’s going to keep it and keep the ego and continue to act as a separate individual in the world anyway – by incorporating an exercise routine, eating a better diet, and getting enough rest.

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        • Hmm, there seems a lot of assumptions built into that comment that don’t work for me.

          Most trivially is the way you seem to be hung up on language as some sort of token of self or self image, which kinda surprises me for such a graphically oriented guy. To me the main materialist argument against reincarnation is that we know we can destroy memories by messing with the brain (Alzheimer’s, ECT, etc) so it’s seems pretty unlikely memory could survive brain death. Without memory exactly what ‘self’ would be reincarnated?

          But hey, I don’t believe in memory or self really.

          Subjective ‘personality’ is part of the ego so with enlightenment it is rendered unimportant. Which isn’t to say it changes or doesn’t change. It just ceases to mean anything.

          Objective ‘personality’ is how others see you so it’s partially your behaviour and partially the preconceived notions people have of you. Obviously the pictures other have of you in their head doesn’t change overnight when you’re enlightened and one of the most problematic things I’ve had to deal with are the expectations other people have had that I will continue to behave the way I’ve always behaved. Often the line of least resistance is simply to do so, usually because there’s no good reason to do otherwise.

          Which brings me to behaviour itself.

          There are several aspects of my behaviour which changed immediately, but that’s mostly attributable to the disappearance of my depression. For example I had been spending upwards of eight hours a day playing the most immersive computer games I could find just to keep my mind off my own mind. I haven’t played a minute of them since it happened. My apathy is gone but it’s been replaced with contentment, so to an outsider there probably hasn’t been much change. I’m still not motivated to restart my IT contracting career or anything like that.

          One odd thing is that I now write and read poetry. Other than song lyrics I never had the slightest interest in it before nor did I imagine I had the capability. I still don’t know that I have. The poems seem to come from outside as thought insertions and as I have never studied or read poetry I have no idea if they’re any good.

          I’ve also become far less judgemental and given up grudges I’d been holding for many years.

          But mostly my behaviour is the same. Why would it change? It’s mostly habit driven.

          Look at it this way.

          Imagine you had severe back pain for decades that had made you grumpy and short tempered. Now imagine it was suddenly cured completely.

          You would probably go through a few days, weeks or even months in a state of immense relief that would effect your behaviour, but pretty soon you would probably settle down into the same grumpy rut simply because it was what you know and how others expect you to behave. Without the pain acting as impetus any more your grumpiness might eventually disperse but if you were middle aged and had been grumpy since you were a child it would take a long time to turn the boat around.

          As far as worrying about an illusory self goes, I’ve been having mystical experiences since I was a child and never really believed my ‘self’ was all that important. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been interested in having a family, mortgage, active social life, investment portfolio, etc. The difference is that now I can not only see through my ego when sick/psychotic/tripping/meditating I can see that it is complete rubbish and can just drop it when it’s convenient to do so and attain a sort of blissful unity without the attendant sensory and cognitive distortion. But its not the same as jhanas, tripping or psychosis and doesn’t result in flashes of insight, etc (though when it first happened it brought a deluge of them).

          I guess the big insight was how narcissistic I have always been, hence the ‘confession’. When acting through/within my ego (as I am doing by composing this comment) I am still pretty fucking narcissistic.

          And yep, ‘incorporating an exercise routine, eating a better diet, and getting enough rest’ could doubtless ‘improve’ my personality more than being enlightened – at least according to mainstream judgement. But I’m perfectly content the way I am in the moment and see no reason to worry about how I might develop in the future. Why should I work on tweaking an ego which I think is a joke anyway?

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        • Hi Cabrogal:

          Been busy for a while and finally have time to address this longer comment in our dialogue.
          You wrote: “Most trivially is the way you seem to be hung up on language as some sort of token of self or self image, which kinda surprises me for such a graphically oriented guy.”
          You may underestimate the role of language in our sense of self and existence. It’s not me who is hung up on it metaphorically; it is all of us who are hung up on it literally, so much so that people can’t even see it. For example, it is almost impossible to stop thinking, in words, for even a moment, but people are largely unaware of this because they’ve never tried to do it. People will say that they think in pictures, or some such thing, because they are oblivious to their own incessant inner dialogue. That dialogue is like a thread running through our lives, or a train track. There is a fear of losing that thread, or of not being able to lay down the next stretch of track. I’ve experienced this inability: the inability to finish a sentence, then to add even a word, then to remember what the beginning of the sentence was, and then to be able to form any new sentence or word. Only after having this experience did I understand our psychological dependence on language, and become acutely aware of the inner dialogue. If you take a few minutes and try to imagine functioning without the ability to use language, which would also mean understanding when others speak or write, it might become clear how indispensible it is to our reality.
          You wrote: “To me the main materialist argument against reincarnation is that we know we can destroy memories by messing with the brain (Alzheimer’s, ECT, etc) so it’s seems pretty unlikely memory could survive brain death. Without memory exactly what ‘self’ would be reincarnated?” Agreed. And why stop there. With brain death not only are the memories going to be lost, but so is the whole of how we process and interpret reality. We reconfigure reality in our minds, and don’t perceive it as other creatures do. Without the living brain, that’s gone. Civilization is gone. One would be adrift in a completely unfamiliar terrain, and exist as a consciousness peeled of its identity.
          You wrote: “But hey, I don’t believe in memory or self really.” I don’t follow you. You just said that memory is stored in the physical brain. Without memory or self I doubt one could function at all.
          You wrote: “Subjective ‘personality’ is part of the ego so with enlightenment it is rendered unimportant. Which isn’t to say it changes or doesn’t change. It just ceases to mean anything.”
          We might need a definition of “personality” here. From Wikipedia: “Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual.” Unless you are saying that all emotions, attitudes, and behavior is the result of the ego, including in enlightened people, then personality is not “a part of the ego”. It is not classically defined as such.

          After cataloguing changes in your behavior, you added: “But mostly my behaviour is the same. Why would it change? It’s mostly habit driven.”
          Even ego-driven personalities can break free of habits. Why should someone who is free of the shackles of the ego be more mired in the habits formulated in the past than someone who believes her or she is bound and defined by them. It’s like saying that if you take dog off of a very short leash, it will still walk in little circles. Then you go on to say how your broke the habit of immersing yourself in computer game worlds.
          You wrote,”I guess the big insight was how narcissistic I have always been, hence the ‘confession’. When acting through/within my ego (as I am doing by composing this comment) I am still pretty fucking narcissistic.”
          I’ve been thinking about the ego a lot because of our discussions, and I realized how necessary it is. One needs to have a sense of self, a backlog of memories, and the use of language (plus a host of other things) just to function in the world. The question is whether one sees oneself as the ego, or as possessing it. The ego is almost like the identity of one of the characters in a video game. You don’t need to believe you are really just that character in that game in order to function, but you do need to have a sense of it as an independent entity with agency in order to take action effectively within the playing field.
          Many people have had episodes or experiences in which the ego has been sidelined or even completely shut down for a while. This first-hand experience is, of course, much more convincing than just understanding the argument rationally with the intellect. However, those episodes wear off and the people usually find themselves harnessed in the seat of the ego once again. They may still be aware that the ego is itself a specter, conjured and held aloft through the mind. They may know that such a phantom lives in fear of the impossible, of its immaterial nature being destroyed. But that just becomes an opinion or conviction lodged in memory. They return to believing they are the player in the virtual world.
          So, are they enlightened, or have they merely had the pedestal of the tyranny of their egos kicked out from under them, only to have successfully clamored back to the top of the hill where it reigns once again as king.
          Is it the ego claiming to be enlightened? This is tricky because the ego would have to be used as a vehicle to make the claim using language anyway. But I’m sure you would agree the ego would love to be the one to accrue enlightenment to itself, and in the phantasmagorical universe of the immaterial mind, the barriers to preventing that are purely imaginary.
          But I am also thinking that the ego, used completely as a tool, would still suffer embarrassment, be narcissistic, become frustrated, etc. As long as one is a player in the game, that may be unavoidable. But if one’s center is no longer the ego, but resides outside of it, or if one is center-less, the performance need not be so dramatic and more like the person were a puppet than everything that one is.
          Let me take another angle. What are the causes of the greatest human-based problems we face as a species and civilization? I would say they are selfishness, greed and corruption, but corruption and greed are consequences of selfishness. Selfishness is the outcome of believing that one is separate from others, and one’s survival is insured the more by the more power and influence one has over others in a competitive universe. Enlightenment would eliminate this belief.
          An enlightened person, however you wanna’ slice it, has no motivation to behave selfishly. The difference between behaving selfishly and unselfishly should be pretty obvious. By your logic we can have a robber baron exploiting thousands into misery and holding that he is enlightened, probably after attending a $1,000 Eckhart Tolle weekend retreat. But I don’t think it’s possible. An enlightened person would cease purely selfish acts which afflicted others and in many instances destroyed their lives.
          If being enlightened is just having an understanding that has no bearing on one’s actions in the world, and is not a fundamental revolution of consciousness, than one might do better for everyone else to skip it and use the rational mind to make the world a better place for themselves and others. However, if enlightenment effectively sidelined the ego as the boss of the person acting in the real world, and selfishness could be largely dissipated, the player or actor in question should be a far more valuable and able participant than those still encased in the crippling tyranny of the selfish ego.

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  5. I can relate a great deal with your last comment.. If my legs did not go numb I could remain in a motionless state of being bliss for hours in a busy store while my shops and laugh a little when people see mannequin or am invisible man on the flesh…

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  6. faeryberry permalink

    Sorry, posted this in the wrong section.

    I notice in there, although I don’t agree with all new age things, but you don’t believe the human can be healed through positive thoughts and energy and without medicine? I think it has more to do with avoiding negative things that can hurt you or another’s future.
    Science has failed in some of those areas where they began using oil and reactors near water where they destroy and effect the climate and nature So science isn’t perfect either.

    I do like in science that theories and concepts can be proved. Like religion, science can have failures too, though.

    It’s what I said before there is good and bad in everything, the good just needs a bigger push.

    As for theology. Explaining science away, well I don’t see theology like that. Theology is observing what has already been observed from science and religion and making sense of it.
    Not everybody agrees with science. Not everybody agrees with religion or theology.

    It’s a pick your liquor sort I thing.

    The idea is that everything has it exploits. Science and religion, even theology, the internet, whatever.

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    • I already replied in the wrong section. I’ll repost here.

      I don’t believe humans can be healed with ‘positive thoughts’. Research shows, for example, that people with ‘positive attitudes’ to their cancers have, if anything, slightly lower survival rates than those who fret about it. You can think nice thoughts at your broken leg as much as you like and it will still take just as long to knit.

      However, as I indicate in the article, the placebo effect is real, as are various neural top down control of physiology effects that can be harnessed to promote healing. There are also somatic disorders rooted in stress and anxiety that can be ‘healed’ by addressing the underlying psychological problem. Stress can also compromise immune response so removing stress can enhance the body’s natural healing capacity.

      What I definitely don’t believe is that all illness is caused by wrong thinking and can be healed instantly by fixing how you think. That is the fundamental tenet of New Thought and underlies much New Age thinking.

      And yeah, the application of science is fraught with many problems that are often glossed over or denied by those with a vested interest. Scientific research itself often gets diverted into theoretical dead ends – such as phlogiston theory – and even the most rigorously tested scientific theories must still be considered tentative or they are not scientific at all. It is through the unrelenting application of skepticism and self-criticism that science advances and sadly that often goes AWOL when there those with an interest in flogging a particular scientific agenda come to dominate a field.

      IMHO genetics and neurology are fields sorely lacking in adequate skepticism right now. And I think much of what has been going on in the mind sciences for over a century is basically ‘phlogiston theory’.

      I think a theology that ignores science would be a pretty impoverished one, but one that made itself entirely subordinate to science would not be a theology at all. Even Scientism goes way beyond the bounds of science, though most of its proponents seem oblivious to that fact.

      I guess the difference between science and religion/theology is that if people stop believing in a religion it ceases to be one. If no-one believes in science it would still exist.

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  7. faeryberry permalink

    Narcissism and ego, I think is over talked about in new age. Everybody has it. That’s been established. It’s something we all got to work with because we can’t expect everybody to get over it all of a sudden as soon as you tell that person to back down or back off of it. It won’t happen in a snap of a finger.

    I’m not familiar with scientism, but an intermediate amount of science I suppose.

    Maybe the positive thinking is suppose to be the placebo effect. It’s suppose to replace medicine placebos.

    If your leg is cut of well its kinda hard to think positively so the positive thinking I think needs a bit more in depth study if you are that dedicated to that idea.

    Definitely need to familiarize on things that you brought here.

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  8. Been busy for a while and finally have time to address this longer comment in our dialogue.

    Me too. The last post I made was a doozy. It ended up more than twice as long as it’s final version and I had to cut it mercilessly to make it vaguely workable as a blog post.

    Restarting the comment strand here because the Titan theme seems to have problems displaying comments nested more than four deep.

    it is almost impossible to stop thinking, in words, for even a moment, but people are largely unaware of this because they’ve never tried to do it

    You may be speaking for the majority of people here, but not all and not for me. While I agree that it’s pretty much impossible to stop thinking I rarely have trouble shutting down the wordstream.

    I think in words when I’m conversing or rehearsing/reviewing conversations, when I’m reading or writing, when I have an ‘earworm’ and that’s about it. Of course it’s conceivable that deep in my subconscious there’s still a little voice yammering away but I doubt it. When I meditate most of the thoughts that arise are in non-verbal symbolic, conceptual or emotional form – not words.

    When I realised in my teens that almost everyone else thought so much in words it was quite an insight to me. It explained, for example, why I could solve novel physics and mathematical problems without being able to explain my ‘working’ and why teachers so often refused to believe I wasn’t cheating in some way – even when I was the only one in the class who had solved it and there was no-one to copy from. Ultimately my lack of ‘word thought’ was one of the factors that led to my diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome in my thirties – apparently it is quite common in those on the autism spectrum.

    But when you think about it, how many of your own thoughts are actually in words? Do you think “time for dinner” every time you break for a meal? Do you think “sweep, sweep, sweep” with every stroke of the broom? Do you run through a whole series of ballistics formulae every time you catch a ball?

    Do you imagine that deaf-mutes from birth either have pictures of hand movements in their heads whenever they think or that they don’t think at all?

    I think most neurotypical people are so caught up in the social concept of themselves they just fail to recognise their own non-verbal thoughts. Perhaps they incessantly have the yammering of virtual socialising going on or perhaps they just fail to recognise and remember all the time it’s switched off because they store and retrieve their memories in words too. I just don’t know.

    You wrote: “But hey, I don’t believe in memory or self really.” I don’t follow you.

    I don’t believe in self because I think the Buddha was right about anatta.

    For an explanation as to why I don’t believe in memory see my post What am I?, about 2/3rds of the way down, next to the picture of Nyanaponika Mahathera.

    Unless you are saying that all emotions, attitudes, and behavior is the result of the ego, including in enlightened people

    Yep, that’s what I’m saying.

    That transcendent grin you see on the face of sitting Buddhas is the Buddha when he is not acting, emoting or having an attitude. The Buddha of the sutras had a distinct ego. Think of his frequent gentle teasing of Ananda for being so slow on the uptake.

    A lot of Zen masters are notorious for their bad tempers. I’m told the Dalai Lama is much more terse with his fellow Tibetans – particularly other Lamas – than he is with the Western media.

    To act socially is to act through your ego.

    The reason JSB is enlightened and you are not is because he knows he is a construct used specifically for communicating in a particular way with no independent existence. He has a distinct personality and ego that is identifiably different to that of Eric Kuns but it’s all an act and he knows it.

    Why should someone who is free of the shackles of the ego be more mired in the habits formulated in the past than someone who believes her or she is bound and defined by them.

    But why should he be any less so mired?

    Habit is just another word for karma. Becoming enlightened did not extinguish the Buddha’s karma it just allowed him to act without volition and therefore cease to generate any more. But that was not a function of his enlightenment alone but of his years of contemplation, renunciation, etc that he codified as the eightfold path.

    I don’t claim to be able to permanently act without volition (and I’m not all that sure the Buddha did either). In Theravadan terms my enlightenment is akin to that of the Sotapanna (stream-enterer), though not an exact match.

    I didn’t ‘break’ the habit of compulsively playing computer games. One of the factors driving it (i.e. my unbearable despair) was eliminated and therefore so was the ‘habit’. It literally disappeared in a flash, as opposed to when I broke my heroin habit by persistently substituting other behaviours until I had worn a different ‘rut’.

    Most of my habitual behaviours still have the pre-requisite factors that formed them (e.g. social interaction) and so have not been broken. Mostly I see no reason to break them.

    I’ve been thinking about the ego a lot because of our discussions, and I realized how necessary it is. One needs to have a sense of self, a backlog of memories, and the use of language (plus a host of other things) just to function in the world.

    Yup.
    Unless you lived as a renunciate (which, BTW, has had a lot of appeal to me since last October even though I don’t believe I would survive for long that way. I may do it yet).

    Your video game analogy is very apt. I wonder if my years of video game playing were part of my path to enlightenment. One day I stopped playing the game thoroughly enough to see it had all been a game.

    Many people have had episodes or experiences in which the ego has been sidelined or even completely shut down for a while.

    Yup again.

    I’ve been having such episodes from childhood but the difference now is that I can ‘shut down’ or ‘step aside from’ the ego pretty much whenever I like without all of the subsidiary stuff that comes with psychotic episodes or taking acid. Nor do I have to sit down and try to attain jhanic meditation. I can just do it because it is always patently obvious to me that when I am acting I am doing so through the irrelevant puppet of my ego. (Egos actually – like everyone else I am a different ‘person’ in different situations).

    It’s actually pretty funny when you realise the joke is on you.

    Is it the ego claiming to be enlightened? This is tricky because the ego would have to be used as a vehicle to make the claim using language anyway. But I’m sure you would agree the ego would love to be the one to accrue enlightenment to itself

    Yeah, that is tricky. ‘Enlightenment’ is actually a word and a function of the self that divides the universe into false dichotomies like enlightened/unenlightened.

    Actually I have always been enlightened and I suspect everyone else is the same. The only difference is that I realised it.

    I reckon that paradox is why Zen masters often insist there is no such thing as enlightenment.

    What I really can’t emphasise enough is that there is nothing special about enlightenment and nothing special about someone who is enlightened. If you can get that one you will see a lot of your false assumptions about it will just evaporate.

    the ego, used completely as a tool, would still suffer embarrassment, be narcissistic, become frustrated, etc.

    Yep again.
    But as long as you realise it’s not you being embarrassed, narcissistic, frustrated etc it’s all hunky dory.

    I’m still incredibly narcissistic. It cracks me up. See the ‘Bullshit warning’ if you want to know how funny my ego is.

    Enlightenment would eliminate this belief.

    I agreed up until this point.
    Enlightenment doesn’t destroy the ego (though the experience of satori does so temporarily and entering into permanent samadhi as Ramakrishna was alleged to have done would do so permanently) it just allows you to see what a load of cobblers it is. You still have to act through some ego or another. But the act of ‘selecting’ say an unselfish ego over a selfish one is itself an egotistic act. And of course to be able to select such an ego you have to build it first. The ‘JSB’ ego may be entirely unselfish (I don’t know) but I doubt he is complete enough for you to be able to abandon the ‘Eric Kuns’ ego in favour of it.

    If it is possible to build a ‘perfect’ ego and inhabit it I suspect you would need to apply some very strict practices for a long time to do so (e.g. the eightfold path).

    If being enlightened is just having an understanding that has no bearing on one’s actions in the world, and is not a fundamental revolution of consciousness, than one might do better for everyone else to skip it and use the rational mind to make the world a better place for themselves and others.

    If saving the world is your bag you are perfectly correct. But understand that the desire to be virtuous or moral or a white knight is also generated by the ego.

    There is nothing intrinsic in the universe that says you need to be less selfish any more than that you should be happy, rich or famous. To see enlightenment as a path to any of these things is exactly the error people who buy Tolle’s books are making.

    Oh, and enlightenment definitely ain’t no boss.
    What but an ego could ever be a boss?

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  9. Apparently the Buddha may have said some things that are more in sync with what I’m saying than what you are, as regards enlightenment and who is or isn’t enlightened. Your definition is an interpretation of Neo-Advaita, as is the definition of every self-proclaimed “enlightened” person I’ve encountered. But what if the Buddha said something else?

    We’ve gone around and around about whether or not being enlightened would change one’s behavior, and I’ve argued that if one were enlightened one would be selfless, and if one were selfless one would obviously behave less selfishly. I’ve argued that selfishness is the cause of the biggest man-made problems humanity faces. You’ve argued that the enlightened person is scarcely different from the unenlightened and continues to behave in nearly the same way as before because of habit. The Buddha appears to have disagreed.

    In the Canki Sutta if the Pali Canon, the Buddha gave advice on how to determine if someone is enlightened or not. The Buddha advised that the true test of someone’s claim to enlightenment was to observe their conduct for any expression of greed, hatred or delusion.

    You can read the Canki Sutta here: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.095x.than.html
    Here’s one person’s interpretation of it, specifically as regards determining in someone is enlightened: http://www.budakoda.ee/en/a-selection-of-articles-by-vaddhaka/how-can-you-tell-if-someone-is-enlightened/

    By the Buddha’s definition, probably neither Osho, nor Tolle, nor you are enlightened. But then again, neither am I, as you recently pointed out.

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    • What the Canki Sutta discusses is the criteria for being a perfected Dhamma teacher. In particular it is a refutation of the notion that teaching authority can be conveyed by tradition alone.
      I do not claim to be a perfected Dhamma teacher.

      What Dharmachari Vaddhaka seems to be discussing is the criteria for bodhi – the state attained by the Buddha and usually translated as enlightenment. Therevada sees it as the fourth stage of enlightenment.
      I have tried to be completely clear that I have not attained Buddhahood.

      What I believe I have realised is panna – also usually translated into English as enlightenment and into Japanese as kensho. Therevada sees it as the first stage of enlightenment.

      But enlightenment is subjective. I do not believe Dharmachari Vaddhaka’s criteria would enable someone to distinguish between someone who has refined their behaviour via the eightfold path (or a similar discipline) and someone who has actually experienced the realisation of enlightenment – unless perhaps they were bodhi themselves.

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      • Right, “kensho” is defined as the lowest stage of enlightenment. Also saw that in Wikipedia. So, you wouldn’t be “enlightened” by the standard of the Buddha, in which case you would have to be completely free of greed, hatred, and delusion.

        Significantly, every person I’ve encountered who claimed to be enlightened used a definition borrowed from Advaita, probably because this is both the easiest one and the most difficult one to prove or disprove. When one starts using definitions like, “we are all already enlightened, we just don’t realize it,” it becomes quite easy to convince ourselves we are already enlightened. This is especially easy for educated people, who can easily understand the rational philosophy. The difference between “understanding” and “realizing” can easily be blurred if the only evidence of reaching enlightenment is a conviction that one has reached it.

        I agree that it would be difficult to tell from one’s behavior if he or she were enlightened, however, it would be easy to tell if he or she were not. If the ego is not in the driver’s seat, than the person should not behave egotistically. If the separate self is not acting in its own self interest, the person should not be outwardly acting selfishly.

        I think it’s very convenient to reduce enlightenment to a realization of one’s inseparability from the totality, that the observer and the observed are one, and that one’s sense of individuality is an illusion. Fine. Give someone who is inclined the right texts, burn a little incense, and put some LSD in their drinking water. Voila! They are enlightened. Thousands upon thousands of people have had these sorts of experiences.

        Do we define “enlightenment” as having had a certain experience/insight/realization? And then once it is over, is one still enlightened? Even if one can temporarily step out of the ego, so to speak, in the quiet of one’s own home, are they still enlightened if they couldn’t do so if they had to work a full-time job and had a daily commute? Can the enlightened person not keep it up if taxed with the everyday demands of the common man?

        I may have mentioned this before, but a friend of mine used to say, “Anyone can be enlightened on a mountain top”. If one’s enlightenment wears off like deodorant once one gets in a crowded subway, are we still sure it’s the real deal?

        The Advaita-reading, self-proclaimed “enlightened” (including Eckhart Tolle and Andrew Cohen) are extremely good at rhetorical slight of hand, and all manner of spurious justifications for selfish, egotistical, and immature behavior.

        I think if one were truly enlightened, one would do better by keeping it a secret. If it is real it doesn’t need a designer label. It’s influence will be felt of its own accord, without any frame around it telling people it has authority. If it has no impact on the enlightened person or on others, then it might be better to just roll a joint. THAT will have a positive effect AND cause people to act a little more like a Buddha and a little less like a Dick Cheney.

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        • Well, I can certainly say that what happened to me last October was of a completely different order to that of my many other psychosis, drug and meditation induced satoris – though it happened during a psychosis induced one.

          I can also say that none of them brought about the profound, long lasting changes I have experienced from that moment. They are just not changes that correspond with your preconceptions about enlightenment.

          I’m not out to change the world in any particular way. And I’m certainly not out to impress. I’m perfectly aware of how most people will view a self-confessed narcissist with a history of mental illness who calls himself enlightened. That’s why I ironically started this post with the fact that it is an ’embarrassing confession’.

          I’m out to explore more of what my experience means to me. So I see no point in keeping it secret.

          And I’m if it’s not enlightenment then there is no English word for what it is.
          “Epiphany”? Sure. But one that radically changes my relationship with my ‘self’ and the universe in a way that makes much of what I had only previously experienced briefly into a permanent state of being.

          A trip that never came down perhaps.

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        • OK. Yeah, I changed my mind a few minutes ago and decided, what the hell, might as well get the concept of “enlightenment” out there. Talking with a friend, I also realize that even the 2nd-hand, hack regurgitations of the likes of Tolle are useful to people for whom these ideas are new. I’m a big fan of Advaita, so, naturally I think the ideas are good ones.

          As you say, if you say that you are enlightened, you’re going to get some flack. Not as bad as if you said you’re Jesus, but it’s in the same ball park, even if it’s not on the pitcher’s mound. People will think you’re a legend in your own lunchbox, or worse. If anyone at my job, for example, were to claim enlightenment, my first reaction would probably be, “Oh, brother!” Imagine the gossip. “Bruce says he’s enlightened” then “Bruce is full of shit.” And so on.

          Meanwhile, are you familiar with what Steve Jobs said about taking LSD? He said, ” “Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”

          So, you have people who were permanently changed by psychedelic experience. This is quite probably because the chemicals can override the ego more easily than more conventional means, and more dramatically. For example, if one were getting a bit over one’s head through meditation, one could easily back out. Not so when passed out in a Salvia trance. One could be swept far, far further than one could or would ever willingly take oneself. People may have had experiences on DMT that you are not aware of at all and don’t fit within your Advaita, enlightenment paradigm.

          So, even if one believes himself to be enlightened, it might be good to not assume others are less evolved or that one’s experience or esoteric knowledge encompasses theirs, or to assert it.

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        • So, even if one believes himself to be enlightened, it might be good to not assume others are less evolved or that one’s experience or esoteric knowledge encompasses theirs, or to assert it.

          Absolutely.

          Like I said, I don’t think being enlightened makes me wiser or better than anyone else.
          However it does give me a better handle on my own enlightenment than anyone else.

          I’m not sure how useful it is to spread neo-Advaitist or Buddhist ideas. There’s plenty of folk doing that.

          I do think it’s kinda important to try to refute the bollocks of Chopra, Tolle et al however because I honestly think that a lot of what they teach leads people away from self-realisation, not towards it. And the single biggest problem I think is the widespread belief that there is something to be gained from enlightenment – like it’s means to an end or something.

          That said, I have gained some amazing stuff. Most clearly and obviously I broke an almost decade long spell of the blackest despair I have ever experienced, because I finally realised I had been inflicting it upon myself via fucked up definitions of my own ego boundaries, particularly as they relate to death.

          There’s a lot of other really depressed people out there and if even a tiny proportion of them are fucked up for similar reasons I was it is extremely worthwhile to try to work out how I can pass on what I found to some of them.

          Problem is, so far I have pretty much no idea how.
          I did not attain bodhi and I don’t expect to ever do so.

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        • That all sounds good to me.

          We’re agreed on dispelling the bollocks of Chopra, Tolle et al.

          You wrote: “I have gained some amazing stuff. Most clearly and obviously I broke an almost decade long spell of the blackest despair I have ever experienced, because I finally realised I had been inflicting it upon myself via fucked up definitions of my own ego boundaries, particularly as they relate to death.”

          That really can’t be understated. I think it’s been proven that meditation fights depression and Buddhist ideas help alleviate it as well, but that’s probably the pseudo-science fuzzy thinking you’re so fond of.

          Thanks for the lengthy examination of these ideas.

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        • I’ve really got to make the following clear:

          I’ve been having ‘satori’ type experiences of non-dualism and temporary loss of ‘self’ since I was four years old. It started with attempts to control my breathing during severe asthma attacks but has included fever induced, drug induced (I used to sell green beaver blotters in the 70s and 80s and took some heavy doses), psychosis induced and those induced by jhanic meditation practices. They have mostly been of very similar qualities with the psychosis induced ones mediated by jhanic meditation the most intense.

          I’ve been studying Buddhist philosophy and vipassana since my early 20s, including under some widely recognised masters in three countries (including Thailand). I had been a member of the Buddhist Publication Society of Kandy since 1989 until my membership lapsed in 2006.

          I have been a daily vipassana practitioner since my thirties (though my practice got pretty patchy during the worst of my depression) and have taught vipassana, sutta studies and Buddhist philosophy in Australia and Sri Lanka.

          While it has almost certainly helped me to control my bipolar and mediate my psychoses none of that stopped me from falling into a horrendous pit of despair from early 2003 to last October. Although it was definitely grief triggered, a very spiritually sharp friend of mine told me all along it was a spiritual crisis. I am now inclined to believe her.

          Last October I was in an intense, though not unprecedentedly so, satori type experience (psychosis + jhanic meditation) when something happened to me that I immediately recognised was completely out of the ball park of all my other mystical experiences. My depression lifted immediately and has not touched me since (though its physiological correlates still come and go).

          The insights I gained at that time, while not entirely inconsistent with what I know of Buddhism (particularly anatta and anicca), were surprisingly similar to those supposedly gained by followers of the Advaita Vedanta Jnani path. They confirmed experientially much of what I had read from people like Nisargadatta Maharaj, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda and – especially – Adi Shankara. I had previously leaned far more towards Therevada and Zen and still find those two disciplines more intellectually and practically satisfying, but the experience was distinctly Advaitist.

          Two weeks later I was in a similar psychotic satori when I had my first experience of a being that I have since discovered is pretty much the spitting image of Mahakali of the Kashmiri Shaivites (I have never met a Kashmiri Shaivite to the best of my knowledge and had never looked at their beliefs until recently). I have had two much briefer experiences of her since, when I was not psychotic (though I was hypomanic during one of them). While I knew a little of the stories around Kali I knew pretty much nothing of Mahakali until after I had experienced something very much like Her. The insights I gained validated the bhakti path to me – one I had previously given little credence to (I had considered it a load of wishy washy self-deluded romanticism and thought all the Indian sages – including Shankara – who promoted it were doing so for local cultural reasons).

          Despite being ‘mentally ill’ for most of my life I have always been a hardheaded rationalist and never gave my hallucinations or psychotic delusions much credence. But this is something beyond anything I’ve experienced before and while I doubt it is objective I am quite satisfied it is completely authentic nonetheless.

          So yes, I agree that meditation and Buddhist ideas are good things.
          But that’s not what has turned my life and belief systems upside down over the past 11 months.

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        • Hi Cabrogal: Didn’t know how extensive your background in Eastern Mysticism was. Thought you were just looking some of it up on Wikipedia off the cuff, as I was. 🙂

          Incidentally, a book you might be interested in is “Rational Mysticism” by John Horgan. I read it and went to one of his lectures years ago. http://www.johnhorgan.org/rational_mysticism__dispatches_from_the_border_between_science_and_spirituality_9029.htm

          Speaking of being extremely rational, it is your rational criticism or editorials or rants, whatever you want to call them, that initially attracted me to your blog. Which reminds me, I’ve been thinking that a combination of Western Enlightenment, such as Kant describes it, with Eastern Enlightenment, might be a great combination. http://www.columbia.edu/acis/ets/CCREAD/etscc/kant.html

          Thought, I think it’s fair to say I’m more sure of your achievement of Kant’s “enlightenment” than Advaita, because it’s easier to gauge in another.

          I still think you’d do better to not go around saying that you’re “enlightened” – call it false modesty, if you will – but instead say you’ve had experiences of “satori”, and one such experience in particular had a profound impact on your life. I just think it’s easier to reach others if one is humble, or being humble isn’t mistaken for the opposite. I’m guessing that you’ve been so immersed in mysticism (as compared to your average Westerner) that you may not realize how nutso and arrogant it sounds to declare yourself enlightened, even if it’s true. Though, I do appreciate the thought that, given the benefit of the doubt that it is true, you may be able to help others overcome depression as well, in which case you’d probably have to use the word “enlightenment”.

          However, as you say, you can’t really proscribe “psychosis” to people. Your path, from everything you said, is inimitable. The Buddha’s path, on the other hand, can be followed by individuals who fall more into the average.

          Tolle, when all is said and done, just offers a milquetoast version of Neo-Advaita that teaches people to stop dwelling on problems for a moment and breath. It’s a helpful little trick that could be summed up in a paragraph. I think that’s about what people take away from him. I read a book on Zen when I was 18 that offered similar insights. Tolle has the business acumen to include the word “Power” in his title, and thus was able to fenagle some of the business-elite, aspirant housewives, and the likes of Oprah Winfrey into hailing him as a guru.

          About your satori type experience curing your depression. If just had a funny way of encapsulated that, which was that mysticism cured an existential crisis.

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        • Didn’t know how extensive your background in Eastern Mysticism was

          I’m even less comfortable about advertising that than saying I’m enlightened. I’m no bhikku, just a dilettante. Wikipedia is more of an expert than I.

          I’ve had several cracks at Kant since I first read his ‘Prolegemena into any Future System of Metaphysics’ when I was in high school, including several stabs at ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ and I think maybe I get about half of what he’s trying to say (at least he’s not totally impenetrable and actually seems to have something to say, unlike Hegel) but it’s pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that Kant’s noumenal ‘thing-in-itself’ is something similar to Shankara’s Brahman. Even more intriguing to me is the way both seemed to suggest that ultimate reality cannot be perceived via the senses but can be approached through the practice of morality. I’m not sure what the relationship between that and the way the destruction of my own moral code created the crisis that led to my own enlightenment may be, but I have some ideas.

          My original version of ‘Aleister and Augustine’ contained a riff on Kant’s ‘What Is Enlightenment?’ essay similar to the one that I did on the Kalama Sutta but in the end I felt it added to the length without contributing to the arguments so I cut it.

          Of course Kant is talking about ‘Enlightenment’ in the sense of the European Age of Enlightenment (i.e. freedom from traditionalist authority).

          My own attempts to understand ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ since primary school have centred on the realisation of unity, truth and freedom, because they were about the only words that seemed to vaguely fit was I was experiencing (naturally I never heard of ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ until much later). Pretty early in the piece I decided that ‘freedom’ actually meant ‘freedom to do what you think is morally right’ – obviously the ‘freedom’ of an alcoholic to drink himself to death is probably no freedom at all. So to understand freedom I had to understand what was moral. I thought that meant developing and refining my moral code but that only led me to become a moralist, not moral. It was only by losing my moral code that I was finally freed to act morally. That’s what I was trying to get to in the ‘Aleister and Augustine’ post.

          The reason I don’t call it satori is because that’s what I always called my transient mystical experiences and this is really something of a different order.

          ‘Unity’ is now with me. I perceive it as a sort of underlying ‘thing’ behind everything and can ‘switch’ to non-dual ‘thinking’ pretty much at ‘will’ (excuse all the scare quotes, all of those are the wrong words but the best I can do).

          ‘Freedom’ is now tantalisingly close. I’m pretty sure I now know how to practice morality but still lack the self-discipline and mindfulness to keep myself always in the moment and always ‘choosing’ to act accordingly (i.e. without volition).

          ‘Truth’? Well that’s the rub. I thought I was a bit of a liar before but it now feels like everything I say is a lie because I just can’t get at what I actually believe with words. I could be a sophist and say that’s because I am now some sort of manifestation of inexpressible truth but that would be a massive whopper. There is definitely something about truth I’m still fundamentally missing. Maybe it can’t be spoken but perhaps it can be lived. I get the feeling that’s something to do with the manifestation of Mahakali. She is somehow the bit of ‘truth’ I don’t have access to. And it’s got something to do with perfect love. The fact I just don’t get it probably reflects pretty poorly on my fundamental humanity.

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  10. Interesting discussion above..

    I also did not think in words very much and was about an 80% visual thinker if I could provide an accurate assessment…

    Vision was all happiness for me and bliss was not hard to find for almost two decades working with the general public in a happy place…as my experience of emotional contagion is heightened through the autism spectrum similar to my tactile and auditory perceptions…

    Losing eyesight or the ability to use one’s eyes for a visual thinker is an incredible challenge..

    When I first experienced the pain of atypical chronic trigeminal neuralgia back in 2007-08 there was already Alexithymia for me as a result of prolonged adrenal gland hyper-vigilence from stress from work…so basically the only thing left for me was adrenaline for happiness and pain for sadness…A stark reality of life without emotion…

    At the bottom of total human exhaustion in March of 2008 i started a steady decline of what I can only call human hell..

    I could not organize my mind at all…with an incredible horrifying experience of a perception that I can even put into words…

    However the experience every second for these two months of March and April 2008..were like if there was a god with a personality…if you think that was bad motherfxxxxxx wait to the next second and you will wish you were still in the last…

    When they talk about hell fire…it was in my body…the burning nerve behind my eye..when to my body and inhabited every cell of my body by the end of a 40 day sleepless stay with no sleep but one hour each with the assistance of a powerful alpha blocker…that provided a hallucinogenic type experience of semi-sleep for about that one hour…with a horrible rebound effect of an experience of nothingness that was the same as if I were a piece of paper..which is the only metaphor I could think of at that time…that my ‘logical mind’ remembers…

    Memories of the perceptions no longer exist…Thank whatever…

    What I do remember vividly though is that burning pain that seared every cell of my body..that was still in a way better than the feeling of nothingness…

    I viewed nothingness as free will at the time…as there was no glue of emotion that connected me to the illusion of reality that drives us to the next second…if you will…

    What I remember to is when it became harder and harder to put the next word in my conscious mind to navigate my next step…

    When I finally gave in for my sister and wife to call 911..as I was terrified as to what would happen to me in the future as I was losing any control over my mind and/or body…the pain was so intense I started lashing out at the air around me..this was part of why I allowed my wife and sister to call 911 as I was afraid I would hurt them if they tried to help me as my body parts were no longer under conscious control…

    My body was cold as ice…and I was completely aware with mind as sharp as ever when I arrived at the hospital but there no words only perceptions and no ability to move any muscle in my body…

    The nurse kept poking my chest and asking me what drugs I was on…even though I was on no drugs..I could not move or even flinch my eye as they peered into my eyes with a light to get a reaction from dilation of my pupils..I had lost complete control but was completely aware…

    Then I lost consciousness yet was still wide awake…that is the only words I can describe as what happened next..

    2MG of intravenously injected Ativan…put me to sleep and saved my life…as the doctor stated I was more than like on the verge of having a life threatening seizure…

    Interestingly the record for going without sleep is 264 hours..they don’t keep record for least amount of sleep in 40 days…but have a feeling i broke it..as i can’t imagine anyone else not finding a way to at least try to commit suicide…as i did not have the strength to do it..but tried to find a bridge in my care at the 39th day…and my sister was waiting at the bottom of the bridge to save me…it was miracle that i could drive that car on that 39th day..I have no idea where that energy came from..i was not even able to walk to the shower without help from my wife the day before…

    Experiencing the worst pain known to mankind for 60 months was not even comparable to one second of the hell of what seemed like a thousand years of hell at the bottom of the pit at that sleepless time of the 40th day…

    Every second of bliss i experience now..which isn’t exactly all the time but at least usually once a day…is like a thousand years of heaven…

    One thing I know for sure without a doubt is there are forces well beyond the physical flesh body of a human being…

    There is an energy that i have now that is beyond muscles and adrenaline…

    I do not experience gravity when i am in this what i can only describe as ‘chi’ type of energy.. state of mind…I seriously have the smallest little finger of anyone in my military gym..which comprises about 40% of the strength of the human hand…and can easily lift 210 pounds on a nautilus curl machine..which is the max amount of weight designed for world class athletes..and military warriors of course..at my military base..

    I can lift the max amount on most of the rest of the 40 plus machines..but the rest of my body does not come close to matching that little finger and hand directly responsible for the curl machine and hand machine at 200LBs. for that machine..

    I am 53 and at 21 I lifted about 60% at 170Lbs and was noted as incredibly strong for my size then..

    This did not happen until after my awakening..

    And during this whole course of time I rarely sleep more than 2 or 3 hours..and almost always look completely refreshed and calm in real life..when I am not talking about something intensely or at the gym growling like a lion..in this ‘chi’ energy that comes naturally now..as an energy that is almost around me instead of inside of me…

    It’s a state of being…it requires no words or knowledge as far as I can see…I think animals commonly experience….this..

    I personally think enlightenment is more of an experience of forgetting the ‘brain washing’ process of cultural illusions..and not at all special as this is what I think is the normal being of an animal not subject to collective intelligence of their species and the brain washing process that goes along with that…enjoys when they are at rest with mother earth…with no dramas spinning around in their head until the next challenge of survival is required…

    It’s the Asperger’s emotional contagion thing…that is so heightened for me that gives me this ‘intuitive’ sense if you will…

    My challenge with my reduced verbal abilities since i was 3 is to put this into words…I keep trying to find different ways to communicate it with others..as there is nothing more in life I could possible want than to share it with others…in fact a drive that is complete unselfish and actually self destructive i guess as they say lack of sleep and to much drive is detrimental…but I keep looking stronger and younger instead of weaker and older and am even documenting that process now in photography which i’m sure comes across as an egotistical activity to some…but it is farther from ego than most people could imagine..i think…as everything i do is a carefully crafted play on words or actions..as i am only a palette to be used for something much more expansive than i think at this point that i could ever put into words…

    Your blog is the next step Cabrogal…to inspire the words to take someone there as you seem to be the only one i know on the internet now that inhabits a place as similar as this…

    It makes me sad to see people in my church..the catholic one where there really is so much unconditional love…as there is this horrible confusion that Jesus is the only son of God…when all that was IS metaphor as we are simply all connected to one…and my ‘god’ he tried to explain it..but maybe there are more creative ways to do it..now with modern technology…as I am still attempting to find a way..that will at least touch one person..and take them there…2

    I suppose making people laugh at times when i play the ‘joker’ or ‘fool’ is enough for now. Or changing one persons view of the world…just a little bit..

    Or even inspiration of the lowest of lows finding hope at one point or another in life…

    My ‘god’ there is only grace and so much to be thankful for in this life…

    I suppose pain is the greatest gift of all…and nothingness..is the ‘true’ way to light…

    But not everyone can survive that nothingness or pain…

    There has to be an easier way..and my goal is to find It..and share IT

    Thanks for letting me use your blog for this my friend…let me know when IT gets to much..please…

    Like

    • Isn’t trigeminal neuralgia what made Aldous Huxley ‘eyeless in Gaza’?

      I get iritis myself. Nothing like the pain you seem to have experienced of course but still pretty much the worst physical pain I get. It’s slowly sending me blind too, though with a bit of luck my ability to function visually will still last as long as I do. Two years since my last attack, touch wood.

      Yeah, I set aside at least an hour a day to ‘ground in the bliss’ again too. That’s on top of my usual vipassana practice, which is a different thing entirely. Eric isn’t the only one who thinks this has the potential to wear off and leave me entangled in my own ego again, though if the Pali canon is to be believed I should have no worries there. Of course I don’t have the support of the Sangha though.

      Despite my ASD diagnosis (which I’m no longer sure I would qualify for since they changed the thresholds a few months back) I’ve always had pretty good verbal skills but I can’t communicate anything important about my experience either, so I wouldn’t worry too much about your own verbal skills in that regards. I suspect we share the radically subjective viewpoint and inability to pick up on social cues that make it hard to communicate though.

      I don’t know if my experience of pain had anything to do with what happened to me. I suspect so, but seriously doubt it was any greater than the pain of billions of others who did not experience such a breakthrough so I’m loathe to say I ‘gained’ it through pain.

      It was just grace or dumb luck or something really.

      One funny thing is that for my whole life I ‘knew’ I was special and something special would happen to me, but when it did I realised that the conviction that it would was nothing but egotistic delusion.

      It’s all a bit of a hoot really.

      Like

  11. I was not at all expecting my awakening to happen either.. at 21 or at 53…

    I am not even sure it is for me..

    Sometimes..

    It’s hard to explain as sometimes I feel as a tool..

    ALthough there is a lovely freedom not being free if you will..

    As a flow of a star with a galaxy instead of a star alone..

    I picked up a book called the 12th insight at a book store..

    Recently at Barnes and Nobles with my wife..

    I knew what the words would be before I opened the page..as my

    same thoughts of communicating with what I call the ‘supraorganism’..of

    human minds as an all existing reality forgotten..by a culture full of instant gratification..

    There was no instant gratification with the pain..so…

    I guess with the love that I received from my immediate family..there was always enough

    hope hidden somewhere for recovery and even more than I could imagine to be possible

    in this fleeting existence that now lasts forever in one second..NOW.

    EVen that White Pearl Blog and that unusual connection that you and I and Saha and White Pearl

    shared for a relatively brief period of discussion and communication that..

    almost immediately to me seemed like I had done this forever..is all part of the

    synchronicities of life patterns that have usually patterned themselves before my..

    conscious eyes…

    But now are almost a continuous perception of reality..

    where I no longer see any events in life as random..

    Similar to what I experienced at 21..but at this point in life the power of logic..

    Strong enough..

    To tame the..

    Beast of synchronicity..

    You wrote that post about Crowley a day after my blog posts started in March..

    on the 11th…

    This is the way it has been on these blogs i encounter…

    Almost everyone started their blog in 2011 or later that I…

    Come in contact with…

    And brings something to inspire me from a time earlier…

    There is something more to this I really know that is…

    Astronomical in Effect…

    The alignments of the planets…

    The positions of the stars and all of that…

    I know to come to play now…

    The date was only waiting the now is always there…

    If you will..,

    NOW.

    We make our missions easier…

    As we ALL work together whether we are fully conscious of it or not..is…

    What I see now…

    Not much different….

    Than when an isolated planet rotates on it’s axis and revolves

    around a star…

    Part of the GAlaxy of one and whole..ALL…

    We all have our bloody roles to play..

    And pleasant ones2…

    In NOW.

    I feel for your pain of Iritis..

    Before my pain I would have likely forgotten to demonstrate..

    That empathy in words to you even though I felt IT when I read IT..in imaginary before…

    Pain teaches many lessons…

    I’m not sure about Huxley..will look that up later..

    But Trigeminal neuralgia takes everything away..particularly the experience of beauty..

    MOre so that anything else to me..

    I see beauty and feel IT once again…

    What a gift the human perception of beauty truly is as far as I see..particularly now..my friend…

    Like

  12. Incidentally, a book you might be interested in is “Rational Mysticism” by John Horgan. I read it and went to one of his lectures years ago. http://www.johnhorgan.org/rational_mysticism__dispatches_from_the_border_between_science_and_spirituality_9029.htm

    I’m about a third of the way through Rational Mysticism so far and have read half a dozen or so of his journalism pieces.

    He’s pretty interesting but there’s one mistake he keeps making over and over, probably due to his science and journalism training. He keeps trying to be objective.

    I don’t mean he tries not to be judgmental, I mean he keeps separating what he’s experiencing into the object – that he writes about – and the subject – him. It’s fine for most science (though it breaks down a bit with relativity and a lot with quantum mechanics) but it just doesn’t work for mysticism.

    For example, he keeps having bad trips because he tries to use his ‘self’ as a platform from which to observe the effect (which may be on himself too). But the thing with mystical experiences is that your self dissolves so if you try to stick with it it feels like you’re dying or something. It’s as scary as fuck if try that with psychosis or strong acid.

    And that’s where he’s messing up with his rejection of the perennial philosophy, IMHO.
    He reckons there’s three kinds of mystical experiences; heaven, hell and visions.

    I reckon ‘visions’ (i.e. hallucinations, sensory distortions, out of body experience, experiencing supernatural beings, belief that you’ve got super powers, paranoia, etc) is a kind of noise that your brain generates trying to make sense of stuff that no longer makes sense. They can still result in important insight – they often give me a strong hint about something wrong with my attitude or assumptions – but I reckon they’re a side-effect, not the mystical experience itself. Mahakali is very important to me and just as real as I am, but I reckon she’s a vision.

    Visions are many and varied.

    Heaven is when your ego dissolves and you just become one with … well, you know.
    Heaven is always the same.

    Hell is when you try to hang onto your ego as it dissolves, so it feels like you’re dissolving. It’s happened to me when my psychosis has caught me flat footed and I’ve tried to fight it or when a trip has come on unexpectedly quickly and intensely. I’ve never had it meditating but I’ve been told some people do and to watch for it during meditation training. Apparently trauma survivors are at particular risk.

    Hell is always the same existential terror but can also trigger hellish visions that can vary.

    You can observe visions ‘objectively’, and though I’m told they can be scary for some people it’s not the same as ‘hell’.
    It’s when you try to be a tourist in ‘heaven’, an observer dividing things up into subject and object that you get ‘hell’.

    Well that’s more or less the range of mystical experiences I have anyway.

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  13. Could you please clarify this, great seer:

    http://www.beezone.com/Ramana/heart_and_mind.html

    Like

    • Beats me. I have no idea what Ramana is trying to say here beyond the obvious. He clearly sees Heart as no more than a metaphorical seat but seems to be making some other point based on aspects of Kundalini that goes way over my head. I know sweet FA about Kundalini.

      One tip I’d offer though is that English ‘Self’ is translated from a range of Sanskrit terms but most often atman or parama-atman. It’s a lousy translation.

      In English the Self almost always implicitly contains the ego or at very least the concept of subjectivity (i.e. the feeling that ‘you’ exist somewhere in your body – or outside it for that matter – and look out onto the universe). Although it’s a bit different in Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita, in Advaita at least neither atman nor parama-atman have those connotations.

      In fact Advaitist parama-atman might be more accurately translated as ‘NonSelf’. Which is why I prefer the Therevadan concept of anatta to the Advaitist concept of atman. The translation is clearer.

      The reason I make the point is because so many pseudo-advaitist New Age religions use the English meaning of ‘Self’ to imply there is something of you personally in the Godhead and something you personally can gain from enlightenment. That’s because to them its all a means to an end – “make yourself healthy, wealthy and wise at McGodhead’s”.

      Like

    • Here’s another quote from Ramana, stripped of the Kundalini stuff, that at least makes it clearer what he means by “Heart”.

      Tracing the source of “I”, the primal I-I alone remains over, and it is inexpressible. The seat of Realisation 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. 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.

      It looks to me that what is translated as ‘Heart’ is close to the same thing as ‘Aham’ in some forms of Shaivism (i.e. the negation of both distinction and non-distinction – the calm ‘eye’ of the cyclone of samsara if you like.)

      Like

  14. I Am Me permalink

    This is one of the most interesting conversations I have stumbled across in some time. I too have had micro-experiences along the course of this life which culminated in an experience that, in common parlance, may be referred to as “enlightenment”.

    As I have set about understanding the byproducts of this change in awareness, I have wrestled with the very same issues being discussed here. I commend all of you for effective communication and respectful consideration.

    Like

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