Seeing God

God, i.e. that ineffable Ground of all things to which the word alludes, can surely be seen and realized. This ground is not found as long as one is seeking it in the form of an object of consciousness, for It is Itself the source of that objectifying subjectivity that animates all things from behind the veil that is the seeking subject.

God is not found by seeking, for It is the finding itself: It is the will by which one seeks and the light in which one finds. The revealer of all things Itself remains forever concealed.

However, God, the Ground, can be seen and realized though in a manner incomparable to ordinary cognition subject to the trifold differentiation of the knower, the known, and the knowing. Compared to the seeing that sees God, our everyday seeing is sheer blindness.

Knowledge, whether discursive or unitive, has a form proportioned to its content. As knowledge of the relative world is itself relative, knowledge of God, the absolute and the infinite ground of reality, is absolute and infinite knowledge. Since the supreme principle of all things transcends the conditions of time and place, the consciousness that apprehends it is also unconditional; it is an eternal and universal knowledge that brings instantaneous and infallible liberation.

In seeing God, one does not acquire new knowledge but rather realizes the Ground, in the form of a shocking recognition or perhaps a transcendental and permanent déjà vu, as one’s true Self, an essential self stripped of all relative content, of individuality and personality, and in general of conditional existence.

The seer of truth is truly immortalized which by no means implies a prolongation of individual existence but rather freedom from individual existence as such, for he/she has realized within himself the identity of immanent time with transcendent eternity. In light of this supreme realization he comes to know that what is real in him has never stepped into the river of finitude and temporality but that he has been all along but witnessing all this from the throne of infinitude and eternity.

Seeing God is the self-realization of the Unmoved Mover.

In the words of our Sufi master Bayazid Bastami, “I went from God to God, until they cried from me in me, ‘O thou I!’”

Fanaa: From Time to Eternity

We approached the Giver of States in awe and reverence seeking a glimpse of that burning and annihilating ecstasy. Hearing our footsteps a voice came from the Throne of the Void, infinitely near and infinitely far from our ears, “In my perfect justice no state is dispensed in vain.”

“Tell us our Lord, what constitutes your perfect justice?”

From behind Its psychedelic veil our Shaykh spoke thus: “In my perfect justice that which persists in existence subsists in non-existence and that which persists in non-existence subsists in existence.”

“Seek annihilation by not seeking at all, for I am not found by seeking but by seeing, a seeing stripped of all looking, by pure witnessing. The seeing that finds my face annihilates the seeing that finds my trace.”

“Who art thou who dwells in the heart of the Void?”

“My essence is my face and my names are my trace. On whosoever I cast my piercing glance, whosoever has witnessed my Jamaal and blinding brilliance, is at once annihilated in its temporality and reintegrated in my eternity. That is Fanaa, the state I bestow upon my dearest folks.”

The Face of Truth

“The face of Truth is concealed by a golden vessel. Do thou, O Sun, open it so as to be seen by me who am by nature truthful.

O thou who art the nourisher, the solitary traveler, the controller, the acquirer, the son of Prajapati, do remove thy rays, do gather up thy dazzle. I shall behold by thy grace that form of thine which is most benign. I am that very Person that is yonder in the Sun.”

Isha Upanishad, 15-16

Transcendental Consciousness & Supreme Identity

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.

Egology I

To better understand the ego we must understand the various levels of ego, or various egos at play. Here we do not refer to the ego as it is commonly referred to, as a purely negative and selfish aspect of the I. From a phenomenological standpoint we can distinguish between two kinds of egos that are constantly operative in the manifold of experiences:

1) The Empirical Ego

2) The Transcendental Ego

The Empirical Ego, or the psychological ego, is your human “I.” It is the I-center that we know of (hence the empirical) throughout all our world-experiences, experiences that are of objects of the world. This ego is the locus of personality; it is the empirical ego that we perceive as the human “I” and as the bearer of personality. All our hopes and desires, fears and joys, are hopes and desires and fears and joys of this ego. We may also equate it with the mind.

The Transcendental Ego, or the constitutive ego, or pure ego, is the pole that constitutes experience as such; it is constantly constituting the empirical ego and its surrounding world. This ego itself is not human or otherwise. It has no personality. It is the pure I-center that is constantly constituting the empirical ego and its personality and making them the object of knowledge of the witness (I soon get to witness.) We may view this ego as a screen on which the empirical ego and its life and personality are played out like a film. Transcendental ego has no hopes and desires, no fears and joys, because it is the very agent that constitutes hope, desire, fear and joy, and plays them before us. Transcendental ego is not something in or of the world, for world and mind are its end products. The transcendental ego also constitutes time and temporality, life and death, etc; it constitutes time in such a way that it appears to us as if there is a flow from the future to the past, but it is in fact the transcendental ego that is creating the very appearance of the passage of time. It makes the empirical ego appear to itself with a determined past and a possible future.

There is a deeper layer without which the creations of the transcendental ego would not be known or experienced, but this deeper layer is not an ego; it has no I-character or ego-pole. It is the witness, the transcendental consciousness whose sole function is pure seeing, a pure, disinterested looking at the constitutions of the transcendental ego. The witness itself doesn’t constitute anything, nor does it participate in any of the constitutions of the pure ego except lending its awareness to them; it is the light by which the creations of the constitutive ego, which include the empirical ego and its phenomenal world, are known in experience.

Neither the witness nor the transcendental ego are personal; not only they do not have a personality and do not belong to the world, also there is only one transcendental ego and one witness that we empirical egos share. The knowing that runs through all acts of our personal consciousness is the knowing of the one and the same witness. It is the one sun lighting up all objects around it. Transcendental ego too is one and the same in all of us; we may view it as a cosmic mind or a cosmic person. In other words, in reality there is only one mind and one experience; we all only participate in that experience through different perspectives. The situation is similar to how we experience our dreams: There is really only the mind of the dreamer that is present; however, it constitutes a whole world around the dream subject including both insentient and sentient beings each appearing to have their own minds; but in fact not only they are all only participating in the one experience of one dreamer, they are also made of that same mind; they do not exist apart from the mind of the dreamer.

*Note: Constitution is a more appropriate term than creation when referring to the function of the transcendental ego. In creation there is a sense in which the creator makes something that becomes separate from it and can continue existing while spatially or temporally isolated from the creator. But constitution implies a creation that is constantly happening and renewed and hence essentially dependent on the constituting agent. For example, we may say your mind constitutes your dream because your dream is really nothing apart from the dreaming mind and cannot go on without it. The moment the dreaming mind wakes up, instantly the constitution, the dream, too is gone. The transcendental ego, too, is constantly constituting the empirical ego and its surrounding world together, constantly creating and renewing them in the now, though it may appear to us that the world is something out there with a history and is sustained by the laws of nature! Then who has to sustain those laws themselves!?  

It is important, and very important, to emphasize that the constitutive ego does not constitute material objects around us; rather, it constitutes the experience of matter and physical reality. After all, the world and its objects are things of our experience. When I look at this apple or that orange I am really looking at my perception of this apple or perception of that orange. The transcendental ego needs not constitute a physical reality; it fulfills the same end by constituting an experience of physical reality, and an experience of physical reality is what we have. We often simply refer to world and it objects without noticing that we are referring to our consciousness-of objects and our consciousness-of the world, the referring too being itself an act of consciousness. In reality, what we see before us is not a world but the consciousness of a world. This consciousness may be natural like our everyday perceptions; it may be practical; it may be theoretical and analytical like in science. Nonetheless, objects, whether this tree or the abstract models of modern sciences like atoms or genes, are all meant in and through consciousness. Even to speak or think of objects existing independently of consciousness is really our consciousness of “objects existing independently of consciousness.”

The constitutive ego’s job, and only job, is to create an experience of a real world and to constitute an empirical ego that experiences itself as something surrounded by that world. The constitutive ego does the same job in our dreams, and that is why both the dream and the waking states are experiences of an embodied I inside a world that is always experienced as real. The sense of reality in experience has nothing to do with the objects of experience; it has to do with the logical structure of experience which is put together by the constitutive ego; this ego constitutes both the world and its sense of reality together. This sense of reality is derived from the witness, which is the only reality, and projected onto world-experience. That is why no amount of search by physical sciences for the sources of reality in the constituents of nature leads anywhere. They thought matter was the real basis of the world but when probed deep into it they found nothing, no material particles, no concrete basis except the mathematical fancies of scientists which exist only in the mind and as correlates of consciousness: World is void filled with the light of consciousness.

The ego’s job, whether transcendental or empirical, is to create a situation around itself. The transcendental ego constitutes the most general and the largest possible situation, the world and an empirical ego embedded in that world. The empirical ego, on the other hand, creates situations within the world; it sets out values and interests and pushes us to work for them using the fuel of hope and desire; but since the transcendental ego constitutes the world as an essentially unstable, impermanent structure, the hoping and desiring empirical ego makes a drama out of this impermanence, and hence the pain and the suffering. The empirical ego is the drama queen. In fact, world which is itself a situation, a superstructure, held in place by the transcendental ego is nothing but the empirical ego’s situation room.

However, pain and suffering being both constitutions of the transcendental ego and hence parts of the world have no effect on either the transcendental ego or the witness which are not not parts of the world or in it; they are wholly unworldly. Pain and suffering become personal only when the witness identifies with the empirical ego, forgetting that this ego is only as good as dream character.

We do not have direct access to the transcendental ego, and in fact it can never become an object of experience, for whenever and wherever there is experience the transcendental ego is behind it creating that experience. However, the empirical ego which is attached to the world, the world being like its organ, can be annihilated; this annihilation of the empirical ego also annihilates the world simply because the two are the two sides of the same coin. The empirical ego and world always come together like the opposite poles of a magnet.

What the mystic experiences as awakening, namely the death of the ego, is precisely the annihilation of the empirical ego and the world with it. This annihilation is an essential possibility because neither the empirical ego nor the world are really there; they’re both meaning-structures held in place by the focus of the witness on, and its identification with, the end products of the constitutive/transcendental ego. Being-in-the-world-as-human is the end product of transcendental ego’s constitutive acts.

Once the witness, which is one in all of us, lets go of this focus, once it ceases to believe in and identify with an empirical-ego-in-the-world, it is released from its captivation-in-acceptedness. Then, both empirical ego and its surrounding world disappear into thin air, for they are nothing but projection in the void. What remains is the self-experience of the witness while the transcendental ego is still constituting experience though the world and empirical ego are both reduced to the ideas of the world and the ego. The witness’s experience of itself is not an experience in the ordinary sense of the word in which there is an object and a subject of experience separated from one another; this distinctive experience belongs only in the world; once the empirical ego and the world are annihilated natural experience ceases to be; instead there is unitive experience, namely Transcendental Experience, in which no subject–object polarity exists. This transcendental experience cannot be known or understood unless the world disappears and the face of the witness appears. It is a mode of experience unknown to us insofar as we perceive the world and ourselves as humans in it.

The distinctive mark of transcendental experience is the way time is experienced in it. In our natural world-experience we experience time as a flow from the future to the past; we cannot conceive of a now-moment that has no before and no after. But this is precisely the way the transcendental ego constitutes the world and its time; it constitutes the now-moment with the sense of the past and future attached to it. In natural experience the moment always appears to be slipping away, but it is the slipping away that is appearing in the moment. The world always appears to be coming and to be going, but it is the becoming and the begetting that are appearing in the moment as the world. The world appears to us with the sense of facticity and historicity constantly meant through but not caused by appearances. Past and future are themselves appearances within the ceaseless stream of transcendental constitutions; it is this appearance that provokes in us questions of “where are we coming from?” and “whereto are we going?” But all these are arisen simply because we have taken our natural experience of time for granted. In reality, our coming and our going are themselves appearances that are themselves not coming nor going but constantly constituted from above. It only appears that the world and we in it have a history, a past and a future. The truth is that in each moment you are witnessing the birth of the world anew.

In transcendental experience our natural experience of time is annihilated with the world. We then have a transcendental experience of time in which we cannot conceive of a before or an after. There time has no before or after; it is an eternal now. It is then that we realize our immortality, the immortality of the witness, because the witness stands outside time. Thus, in transcendental experience which is a unitive experience without subject-object polarization you are no more a human person, there is no mind or personality or even existence in the ordinary sense, and hence this experience is the same for all; you are nothing whatsoever; it is the witness witnessing itself in a way that the witness and the witnessed are not two separate things. Transcendental experience is nondual experience pure and simple. That is why it is called the Inexpressible Reality, or truth itself. Transcendental experience is standing in the face of the truth, and this standing is possible only when all things but truth itself, the witness, are annihilated out of the way; and then, who is there to express and who to impress!

In natural experiencing the appearance that we come from a place and a time and are going to another place and time is nothing but the constitution of the transcendental ego. The witness is always outside the appearance, watching it from above: It has not come from anywhere and is going nowhere, for there is nowhere else but here and no other time but now; the witness is transcendent to all place and time; and yet it is all that there is. Thus, awakening is never a human awakening, for humanity is itself the dream from which the witness must wake up, or more precisely release itself.

The empirical ego too has two principal modes, the proactive ego and the reactive ego. In another post I will write about these two aspects of the empirical ego. We will see that egotism or selfishness is a possibility within the empirical ego and not the transcendental ego nor the witness.