We mean by transcendental consciousness a fundamental mode of consciousness as opposed to mundane or natural consciousness. Natural consciousness is our everyday consciousness; it is the consciousness by which we perceive ourselves as human beings in a world, a world that has religion, science, philosophy, art, etc. as phenomena inside it. In other words, natural consciousness is consciousness of a world; it is a mode of consciousness that perceives itself as a finite part inside a whole that it perceives as the world. We must note that this world, which includes me and my attributes, science and its findings, etc. is primarily something phenomenal before it is something material, a fact also discovered by Quantum Physics; this world is first and foremost something known through experience, in and through consciousness, and it is only later that I attribute to it the idea of materiality and independent existence, this attribution itself being something done by and within consciousness. Thus, this world which is essentially phenomenal than material is subject to the laws of phenomena before it is subject to the laws of matter, laws of physics and other modern sciences. The laws of phenomena, and the method of moving from natural consciousness to transcendental consciousness, are derived within the science of Phenomenology and also hinted at in Advaita Vedanta Metaphysics whose final aim is the direct realization of transcendental consciousness which is the same as Deliverance or Supreme Identity in which the individual self realizes that it is essentially identical with the Universal Self, Atman, and that it is in fact our ignorance about this Universal Self that gives the individual self, and the world, the illusory appearance of existence.
It is in natural consciousness that we perceive ourselves as individuals with personalities, thoughts and emotions, hopes and aspirations, etc. This natural consciousness is the consciousness of a phenomenal world. It is important to note that my individuality, my humanity, my thoughts and emotions, etc. are all parts of this world phenomenon, they are all phenomena embedded within the world phenomena; they are all objects of knowledge of consciousness, for after all I am constantly aware of myself as a human being aware of a world and also aware of himself being something inside this world.
Therefore, everything that is, in the broadest sense, is a phenomenon of consciousness, and hence this consciousness cannot itself be a phenomenon or anything inside the world, for if we claim that consciousness is a phenomenon inside the world, then who is it that knows and says this?! An object, or a person, that has always been inside something else and has never been outside it cannot possibly know that it is inside something else. Therefore, the claim that consciousness is a phenomenon inside the world entails that there be a consciousness that is, or at least has been, somehow outside the world, for otherwise it cannot make the above assertion.
This natural consciousness, or the natural attitude of consciousness, which has the same essence as transcendental consciousness is not anyone’s personal possession; it is not the human consciousness, simply because our humanity is itself something experienced in light of this consciousness, itself being an object of consciousness. Thus, by consciousness we do not imply a production of individual brain or something personal, since brain, personality, science, etc. are all things always already experienced as objects of the ever-present consciousness; they are phenomena within an impersonal consciousness that we falsely attribute to our own individual existences.
Transcendental consciousness, which is the nondual state of consciousness, is opposed to natural, or dual, consciousness in that it is no more a consciousness of a phenomenal world. This transcendental consciousness is not a state of my individual consciousness; it is not a higher state of human consciousness as such; rather, my individuality, my personality and all the things I attribute to myself, are only ideas within transcendental consciousness. More precisely, transcendental experience is not a human possibility; rather, it is humanity that is a transcendental possibility; humanity is itself a possibility within transcendental consciousness. As a natural consequence, the transition from natural consciousness to transcendental consciousness is the transition from human state of consciousness to the unconditioned, supra-human and supra-individual, state of consciousness which leaves no trace of humanity or individuality as such. To put it differently, transition into transcendental consciousness amounts to dehumanizing our consciousness, that is, to release it from the bondage of world and individuality.
My human individuality and the world are the two poles of natural consciousness and hence depend on one another. When I enter into transcendental consciousness I lose the individuality, the ego sense and everything superimposed on it; losing this I-pole I also lose the world-pole, the whole of the phenomenal world. Thus, it is natural that upon transition into transcendental consciousness, which is a sudden and discontinuous transition very similar to a quantum jump, not only my individuality disappears but also with it the totality of phenomenal world vanishes instantly, all this being a very sudden and instantaneous change rather than a gradual transformation. The instantaneous and discontinuous nature of this transition stands in sharp contrast with human spiritual or mystical experiences which are gradual transformations and never go beyond the individual order, and hence are essentially natural experiences marked with subjectivity and sentimentality. The mystic even in his/her loftiest states of ecstasy and divine union is still bound to the individual order and far from realizing the Supreme Identity or Deliverance which amounts to the annihilation of his individuality and along with it of all his/her religious, spiritual, and mystical notions including God and union with Him. Transcendental experience, however, by the mere fact that it belongs to the supra-individual order is beyond all subjectivity and is not followed by any human sentiment and spiritual/mystical notions, for in transcendental experience our humanity is already transcended; thus, no human notion or idea, or any individual possibility whatsoever, survives the transition into the transcendental state: Everything has to die for Atman to arise.
When we enter into transcendental consciousness we lose the world; the phenomenal world is no more there. Since our human individuality and all its attributes were parts of world phenomena, they too disappear in transcendental consciousness. In other words, when I enter the transcendental mode of consciousness, which we can also designate as transcendental experience or nondual consciousness, I no more am a human individual in a world, nor am a thing in any sense of the word; I am no more embodied nor do I perceive a world or space-time. Upon entrance into transcendental consciousness everything disappears instantaneously. The only thing that remains is the self-consciousness of Atman, the universal Spirit. It is not that Atman becomes the object of my consciousness, me being something separate from it; instead, in transcendental, nondual, state I am aware of myself as Atman and I am directly perceiving myself as one with it, though this direct perception is not in the natural sense of the word which derives from natural, or dual, consciousness in which perception and its object are perceives as separate things. The direct perception, or Self-perception, in the transcendental state is nondual; there is no separation, nor is Atman perceived like a spatial or temporal object but as the Absolute and Infinite Self of all things. This direct perception is totally veiled in our natural consciousness and hence we cannot think of it or grasp it, even in our loftiest thoughts and speculations, as long as we are in the natural, human state which must be entirely overcome before the veil is dropped.
The world phenomenon and its phenomenal objects only appear to us as a result of a particular point of view, or orientation, of consciousness. It is from a particular angle that world appears to consciousness, and this world, including we in it, will immediately disappear the moment consciousness tilts itself into a different, transcendental, angle. Upon changing this orientation or direction of glance of consciousness the whole world with its objects and my individuality in it disappears all at once.
Time, space, embodiment, worldliness, and all phenomena in general appear to consciousness in virtue of its particular orientation which is not an orientation in space and time but rather a transcendental orientation, entirely outside space and time, which has to do with the way Spirit, or pure consciousness, projects itself. As a result of changing the orientation of consciousness from natural attitude to transcendental attitude the phenomena of time and space too disappear; hence, the “I” becomes naked; it loses its individuality and personality and self-hood; it is no more embodied in space, nor is it something extended in time as if it had a past and a possible future. The transcendental experience of time is wholly different from our natural experience of time in which we apprehend each moment to have a before and an after. In transcendental experience time too is naked; it is not embodied, that is, it is a now that has no before and no after. Time is experienced as an eternal now, a now totally outside the natural time of our natural, everyday consciousness.
As we said earlier, in transcendental consciousness I have already lost my humanity and individuality, thoughts and emotions, ideas of past and future, and in general all world phenomena that I attributed either to myself or to world objects. The “I” that survives, the “I” that is left after entering into transcendental consciousness, is a universal I; it no more has the character of mine or thine; it is not anyone’s “I” but rather it is the “I” that shines through all of us. Since this survived “I” lies outside space and time it no more has such a thing as history, no past or future; therefore, upon entrance into transcendental consciousness it instantly becomes evident, with absolute certainty, that this “I” is never really born and never dies, not because it lives forever but simply because it is no more something in time; it is entirely free from and outside the reach of time; it is no more partitioned and conditioned by time.
The transcendental “I” which is my true “I” or essence lies outside space and time and hence not subject to temporality or duration of any kind. It has no before or after, and hence from the point of view of transcendental consciousness the questions “where did I come from?” or “where am I going” become completely meaningless and don’t even arise in consciousness anymore since they are not applicable to this “I.” In the transcendental mode I am no more perceiving myself as a thing that has a before or after; even the ideas of before and after become inconceivable in transcendental consciousness since it is by its nature a consciousness transcendent to space and time, hence free from being conditioned by space, time, and causality. As a result, the idea of creation too collapses since in that state one realizes that the phenomenal world never truly existed; there has never been a creation; time and space and causality which are the ideas presupposed in the idea of world and creation are themselves only illusory phenomena and not real, since in the absence of time the notions of beginning and duration become meaningless. Thus, our belief in the world and creation is a result of ignorance, something like an optical illusion.
A brilliant analogy is given by Adi Shankara, the 7th century AD Indian monk and metaphysicist. He says that the appearance of the phenomenal world is a result of a false superimposition of names and forms, Nāmarūpa, upon the unconditioned Brahman. The situation is like when we see a coiled rope and mistake it for a snake, of course because we have in our memory the idea of a snake that can curl itself into the form of a coiled rope. This phenomenal world plays the role of the appearance of snake in Shankara’s analogy: It is in fact Supreme Reality or Brahman that we are conscious of, and directly perceiving in front of us, but we mistakenly, and as a result of superimposing forms and names on it, perceive Brahman to be the phenomenal world. From this analogy, transition to transcendental consciousness amounts to realizing that the object is not a snake but rather a coiled rope. I add that Brahman itself is not something perceptible by sense organs; when I say we are directly perceiving Brahman I mean the direct perception by Pure Intuition, namely the nondual glance of transcendental consciousness which is realized only when we suspend our natural, human consciousness. Thus, Brahman is always before us and we are, as the transcendental “I,” always staring at it; however, we are instead perceiving our sense perceptions as a result of constant recourse to memory which is the depository of names and forms. We fail to perceive Brahman because we are trapped in, in the bondage of, natural, human consciousness. Only the transition to transcendental consciousness by which the whole world disappears can tear the veil, and then the face of Brahman, the face of Truth Itself, appears before us, a face that the transcendental “I” immediately recognizes as its own. This instant is the moment of waking up from the world dream and to the Supreme Reality; it is none but the attainment of the Supreme Identity; it is the instant of Deliverance, namely it is The Liberation Par Excellence.
I emphasize that the manner of Being of the survived “I,” the impersonal, universal “I,” is entirely different from the way I experience existence in natural consciousness. Transcendental consciousness and the transcendental “I” is beyond Being and Non-Being: It is not Ontic; it is Meontic, that is, beyond being and non-being. This “I” and its Self-experience cannot be spoken of, nor can it be understood at all, in terms of our natural consciousness. The natural mind which is the human mind is essentially incapable of conceiving of transcendental experience in which there is no more a subject or an object, no duality whatsoever. Our natural consciousness cannot conceive of an experience in which the subject-object duality does not exist. Therefore, any attempt at understanding or imagining the transcendental consciousness is futile; the only way of knowing it is to actually enter into transcendental consciousness which entails the sudden disappearance of the natural consciousness and the whole of the phenomenal world with it.
From the point of view of transcendental consciousness I have not come from anywhere, nor am I going anywhere, since there is nowhere to have come from and nowhere to go. Since transcendental consciousness is transcendent to all spatiality and temporality, the ideas of here and there, now and then, are entirely meaningless and non-existent. Up there there is nowhere else except the universal Here and no other time except the eternal Now and no one else except the universal “I.” Duality has altogether vanished upon my transition into transcendental state, or the ground state, of consciousness. I have always been there will always be there, for “I” am the only thing that is, however in my absolute, infinite, and unconditioned state: I am Supreme Reality itself.