Finding the Real in Ecstasy: The Metaphysics of Joy

We need only reflect on our own daily experience to see that much of suffering, I mean the unnecessary and avoidable suffering, is the result of attachment to what’s pleasant and aversion to what’s unpleasant. Perhaps if we have a bad day where we don’t feel great, we’ve made it what it is in contrast with a memory of a great day and our attachment to what it felt like.

The whole thing behaves like a pendulum with the amplitude increasing as we grow up and accumulate more pleasant and unpleasant experiences. The more we increase the wealth and intensity of pleasant experiences, whether through material or spiritual attachments, the sharper becomes the contrast between the highs and the lows; therefore, we come to view previously ordinary experiences as unpleasant in contrast with our newly enhanced versions of those experiences. That’s why the pursuit of pleasure or happiness is always an endless pit and gives rise to this modern dis-ease of fetishism, a mindset that has made its way into all fields of human interest, including even modern day religions and spiritualities.

Nothing produces unnecessary suffering at a personal level but our attachment to the idea of when things felt great. We do everything we can to reproduce that feeling or state of mind, but once we reach and surpass it we’ve created a new standard of greatness. And the chase continues.

So, attachment to the pleasant and rejection of the unpleasant doesn’t work, and we know this by experience. At least in this world, we cannot hold on to anything for long. One cannot be anchored in impermanence and then complain about being violently rocked to and fro. One must be anchored in what’s permanent and let go of attachment to what’s inherently transient.

And what’s permanent? Whatever is present in all experiences, present equally in what’s pleasant and what’s unpleasant. We experience both, and all things, as parts of a reality; whenever they are, they are real experiences. Here’s the mystery: we never even question or wonder about what does “being real” mean! Why? Because it’s the most obvious, the most true, and the most present ground of all experiences. So, with all things this obvious, we either consider it pointless to think about or relegate the task to armchair philosophers. But we must wonder and look around, not as philosophers but as spiritual beings, and not with the intention to theorize and babble philosophy but with the intention to see: We’ve confused the reality of things as a property of those things, but reality, i.e. realness, is an altogether different kind of thing: we don’t experience many real things making up our world, as if parts can by themselves and on their own create a whole. We experience one reality, but we experience it manifested as things, or through things.

The outer eye sees things, the sensible forms, and the inner eye sees Reality. So, reality is not something deduced or conceptualized. It’s seen directly. The sight of the outer eye can only catch forms which are phenomena subject to the three-fold conditions of space, time, and causality. But the sight of the inner eye sees without needing meditation; it sees in all directions; it sees not like a subject apprehends an object, which entails a separation between the two, but rather sees what’s ultimately Itself: it’s an all-encompassing self-seeing whereby the seen, the seer, and the seeing are but One.

In truth, we’re seeing nothing but Reality itself, but we don’t see reality as a thing, for it’s not caught like an object is caught. It’s known as self-giving and formless, and it’s only the inner eye that can see the formless, for this eye itself has no form.

Perhaps reflecting on the following analogy will clarify things: In daylight we see objects around us. But we know that visibility is not a property of the object itself; the material object has no power over our sight and can’t manifest itself. It’s rather light that illuminates it. But this light that illuminates is itself invisible; it cannot be seen in the same way that an object, a form, is seen. Look at the empty space between the earth and the moon; it’s always dark if you’re in that space, but we know well that the same space is filled with the light of the sun, but there’s no form in that space to be illuminated, and darkness reigns even though light reigns too! So, light is that which illuminates form but is itself formless and transparent. We know light in and through visible things as that which bestows upon them their visibility.

In the same way, Reality, the Supernal Light, is known to us directly and self-evidently in and through its manifesting the world and its objects, by giving them the sense of real-ness and making us believe that the world is really out there and independent of us without allowing us to even suspect this naive-acceptance.

So, seat back and try to behold this Reality that shines on all forms but is above and beyond them. It’s indivisible and self-sufficient, has neither a cause nor an end; it’s neither here nor there, neither now nor then. Once you see it, your heart will be brimmed with joy, for you’ve found home; you’ve found your true Self.

Pain is in division and separation, joy is in union and oneness.

It is in that Reality that one must be anchored: in the Reality of things and not in the things of reality. It’s only then that one reclaims the lost Reality which was falsely attributed to the other, to external forms, for all forms are the incommensurable other in relation to the Formless essence that the Self truly is.

Put things and forms, including your own limited self, out of focus and behold that Reality which is right in front of you…

Side note: the title “Finding the Real in Ecstasy” is a phrase used by the Sufi and Islamic philosopher Ibn Arabi to refer to Wujud or Being.

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