Egology IV

This article is the fourth and the last post of the 4 part series Egology.

In Egology I and Egology II we expressed in detail the nature of ego as such and introduced the two types of ego operative, in a hierarchical order, in the constitution of the world and experience: The Transcendental Ego who constitutes/creates the world and its experience, and the Empirical Ego who lives these world experiences and identifies with various roles in it through the narratives it tells itself. While the empirical ego is human, manifold, and exposed to consciousness, the transcendental ego is non-human, the one in the many, and concealed from consciousness. In Egology III we introduced in detail the principal modalities of the empirical ego, the human subject: Empirical ego has two principal modes of vibration or behavior, the Proactive mode and the Reactive mode, which are associated with the types of narratives the empirical ego tells itself and with which it identifies. We also added that the empirical ego can vibrate in the proactive and the reactive modes simultaneously which is really a superposition of the two principal modes. This superposition state of the empirical ego has an important spiritual function to which we have devoted our present post.

In the previous post, Egology III, we stated that the empirical ego can also vibrate in the proactive and the reactive modes simultaneously which makes it somewhat neutral or indifferent to circumstances, for when the reactive mode and the proactive mode superimpose they tend to cancel one another into a relatively flat line which constitutes a kind of passivity or detachment from the ups and downs of a narrative. We call this mode of the empirical ego the superposition state, its detached mode, or the passive mode which is far from a passive personality truly belonging to the reactive mode.

The passive mode, thus, is not really another principal mode of vibration of the empirical ego but rather the result of the two principal modes, proactive and reactive, superimposing on one another. The empirical ego in its passive mode tends to be more objective in the sense that it identifies itself with circumstances with much less intensity than the ego in either of the two principal modes separately; its narrative is more like the life of a monk. Note that the passive mode of the ego does not necessarily imply a passive personality which is a modality of the reactive mode; ego in passive mode may even be a very active person but it doesn’t identify too much with these activities; it is more detached from and less identified with its narrative compared to the other two modes of the ego. A natural consequence of this detachment is that the ego in passive mode is not too much affected by favorable or unfavorable circumstances, by loss or gain. While the ego in proactive mode uses obstacles to its own advantage and in reactive mode laments over them, nonetheless they are both always entangled in the world and its ups and downs, and hence they are naturally always affected by world events and phenomena. The proactive mode tends toward worldly success while the reactive mode tends toward worldly failure, but the passive mode which is neutral and detached from the worldliness tends more toward liberation from the world as such.

Here is a summary of what we said: The empirical ego which is the constitution/creation of the transcendental ego and also the object of knowledge of the Witness has two principal modes of vibration/behavior which are associated with the nature of the narratives the empirical ego tells itself about itself and its surrounding world. The empirical ego can vibrate in the proactive mode in which it situates (narrates) itself in an epic story and welcoming environment. The empirical ego can also vibrate in the reactive mode in which it situates (narrates) itself in a tragic story and a hostile environment. The empirical ego throughout its world-life usually switches back and forth between the two principal modes; however, in each empirical ego one or another mode of vibration is more dominant.

The empirical ego can also vibrate in a mix of the two principal modes. This vibration of the empirical ego, the human person, is called the passive or detached mode, or the superposition state, of the ego whose narrative is more neutral than either of the two principal modes separately. While the detached ego may be a very active ego in the world, it does not identify itself with those actions and the fruits of those actions. The proactive mode tends toward worldly success; the reactive mode tends toward worldly failure; and the detached ego tends toward liberation from the world as such.

It is important to note that in all these cases, the success, the failure, and the liberation are only narratives and not concrete realities: They are only narratives created by the transcendental ego and told by the empirical ego which is itself a narrative constituted by the transcendental ego and experienced in light of the Witness Consciousness, or what in Hindu metaphysics is called Saksin and in Phenomenology The Disinterested Onlooker.

The true essence of everyone and everything is the Witness, and hence the empirical ego, itself illusory in its existence since it is nothing but a narrative, is a fundamentally free agent that can choose to vibrate in the proactive, reactive, or the mixed passive mode. Liberation or Deliverance consists in liberation from the empirical ego as such and hence from all narratives associated with it. Thus, one who is liberated no more perceives itself as an empirical ego in a world of phenomena, and hence it doesn’t vibrate in any of the modes of the empirical ego: As long as we are empirical egos, perceiving ourselves as human beings in a world, we can’t but vibrate in either of its modes or the mix state. Narrative is essential to the life of the empirical ego which is itself only a vibration; there is always a narrative attached to the empirical ego even in its passive and detached mode who tends toward liberation but not yet truly liberated; its narrative in this mode is the narrative of detachment and liberation from the world.

However, the truly liberated one is in fact liberated from the bonds of all narratives, and hence of worldliness and humanity; it is no more identified with an empirical ego and hence is free from all its vibrations each of which is really a narrative mode. The phenomenal world too, which is itself a mega-narrative against which all other narratives of the empirical ego play, vanishes for the liberated one. This is a very logical meaning of liberation or Deliverance: Since liberation is in fact liberation from all narratives, and since the phenomenal world itself is nothing but a narrative constituted by the transcendental ego, naturally the liberated one becomes free of the world-narrative also, and hence the world ceases to exist for the liberated one.

Change, decay, and, mortality which are the essential features of the world narrative and all its constituents do not apply to the liberated one who has already transcended the world. The liberated one achieves immortality, for it is now identified with nothing but the Witness which is its true nature and essence. We said earlier in Egology II that the Witness which lies entirely outside the world-narrative, space and time, and hence unaffected by it is not subject to any change or decay; It is immortal and immutable. Therefore, the liberated one who directly perceives and realizes its essential identity with the Witness, known as The Supreme Identity, becomes truly immortal and immutable.

We always start things from the human state, from the empirical ego. To ascend the hierarchy of states and stations, that is, egos and vibrations, moving up toward the Witness and Supreme Identity we must first move from the proactive or reactive mode to the passive mode of the empirical ego. This horizontal movement from the two extremes to the middle point takes place in the plane of human existence. Once in the passive or detached mode of the empirical ego we begin our vertical ascent toward the Principle, an ascent which requires leaving behind the human state and moving up through all conditioned states and finally merging in the The Unconditioned, The Witness, The Absolute and The Infinite Principle.

Egology III

In our two previous posts, Egology I and Egology II, we expressed in detail the nature of ego and introduced the two types of ego, Transcendental  Ego and Empirical Ego, which are constantly at play in our everyday experience of the world. The former is concealed while the latter, itself created by the former, is exposed to natural consciousness. In this post we introduce the modalities of the empirical ego.

The empirical ego has two fundamental modes and it can, and actually does, switch back and forth between these modes. We can view these modes as the two principal modes of vibration of the empirical ego. The same way that a string of specific length and tension can vibrate only in certain frequencies, the empirical ego too can vibrate only in either of the two principal modes or sometimes in a mix of the two. These principal modes of the empirical ego are its Proactive mode and Reactive mode. We refrain from using the terms proactive ego and reactive ego because proactivity and reactivity are not the nature of any ego but only the two possible modes of behavior, and hence only attributes, for the empirical ego. We remember that the main function of the empirical ego, and any ego for that matter, is constitution of a narrative, context-creation, or meaning-bestowal. Thus, the essential difference between the proactive mode and the reactive mode comes from the essential difference between the structure of the narratives associated with each. We can naturally associate the proactive mode and the reactive mode of the empirical ego with epic and tragic literary genres respectively.

The empirical ego in its proactive mode tells a narrative in which it is a proactive character in the story. In the proactive mode the ego perceives itself and the surrounding world, which is in fact the underlying narrative it tells itself, as a place of opportunities that can elevate him/her; it situates itself in a context in which it is the hero, dominating circumstances and using the obstacles to its own advantage. In other words, this mode of ego is optimistic and not fearful; it doesn’t find the world a hostile and tragic environment. Thus, ego in its proactive mode tells the narrative of goals and achievements rather than failures and negativity or others’ judgments about it. As a result, the ego in proactive mode is less inclined to feel insecure compared to its reactive mode and only because it doesn’t spend time focusing on them. Thus, the proactive mode is more generous; he/she tends toward nobility and courage; his/her life is an epic story.

The empirical ego in its reactive mode tells a narrative in which it is a reactive character in the story. In the reactive mode the ego is always engaged in self-defense, and hence naturally offensive at times because offense is only the outward mode of defense. The reason for this behavior of ego in its reactive mode is that it perceives itself and the world, which is in fact only a story it tells itself, as a hostile and tragic environment. Ego in the reactive mode cannot rise above situations and instead always perceives itself in a losing battle, and as a natural consequence it manifests itself as a defensive type of person. Ego in this mode is focused not on goals and achievements but on flaws and failures only, on the obstacles that keep him from achieving a goal rather than on strategies to overcome them, and on how others perceive and think of him/her.

The ego in its reactive mode tends to feel more insecure, not so much because it fundamentally lacks something but simply because it focuses only on the negative aspects of every phenomenon which are equally present also for the ego in its proactive mode though this ego chooses to respond differently. feeling more insecure, the ego in reactive mode becomes more timid and often offensive and dangerous in unfavorable circumstances. These are the typical characteristics of passive, cynical, or sarcastic personalities who are always either on defense or in the attack mode. An ego in the reactive mode doesn’t tend toward courage, nobility, and generosity which are the main characteristics of ego in its proactive mode. You can imagine how destructive the ego in reactive mode can become when it gains power over others, be it as a husband or wife, or as a leader of a nation. The life of an ego always in reactive mode is a tragic story of loss and failure, not so much because it fails but simply because the narrative it tells itself is focused only on losses and failures, and in general on the negative aspects of the narrative. From an objective point of view, the world is almost equally favorable/unfavorable to the empirical ego, the human person; it is the reaction of the empirical ego to these circumstances that constitutes its proactive or reactive mode. Which mode is adopted is always only a matter of perspective and not of a fixed and rigid reality as if out there.

We must note some important points: As mentioned above the proactive and reactive modes of the ego are only the modes of behavior or vibrations of the empirical ego and not its nature. Thus, any empirical ego usually switches back and forth between these modes and not always in one or another mode: An empirical ego, a particular human person, may adopt the proactive mode or attitude in one circumstance and the reactive attitude in another. However, sometimes and for some people one mode is more dominant than the other, the cause of this domination being the intensity of a person’s identification with the proactive or reactive roles in his/her narrative.

It is not that certain people are losers by nature and certain people are winners by nature; in their essence all are the same thing, an empirical ego, the rest being only the narratives it chooses to tell itself, whether of triumph or of failure. All empirical egos are constitutions/creations of the transcendental ego which is one in all; the empirical ego which tells our narrative is itself a narrative being told by the transcendental ego, our life being a narrative within a larger narrative. It is as a result of identification with this mode or the other mode of the empirical ego that our narratives appear to be either epic or tragic. It is always a fundamental choice of the empirical ego to move from the reactive mode to the proactive mode or vice versa. In fact, it is this fundamental independence from these modes, our primordial freedom, that makes change and radical transformations possible.

The empirical ego can also vibrate in the proactive and the reactive modes simultaneously which makes it somewhat neutral or indifferent to circumstances, for when the reactive mode and the proactive mode superimpose they tend to cancel one another into a relatively flat line which constitutes a kind of passivity or detachment from the ups and downs of a narrative. This mixed, or superimposed, mode of the empirical ego has a spiritual function which deserves attention in separation post. In Egology IV, the last of these series, I go into the details of this neutral mode of the empirical ego and its spiritual functions and aims.

Egology II

In a previous post, Egology I, we discussed the nature of the ego as such and the different types of egos at play in our natural, everyday experience of the world. I emphasize that by ego we didn’t mean selfishness or any of its negative connotations, which are only a few possibilities for the ego along with its other possibilities such as kindness and generosity, etc. By ego we mean in general “I” at the center of all our experiences, the center of the acts of consciousness, namely the subject of experience as such. We mentioned that the primary function of any ego is to create a situation around itself, to provide a narrative in which it is also the main character: Ego tells the story, and as in every story there is a set and setting in which the story unfolds. The largest setting in which the ego defines itself and narrates its story is the experienced world. World is the background of ego’s narrative, and hence it is also part of that narrative since every narrative is essentially tied to the setting in which it unfolds. World is the largest context, and ego is the story teller that gives meaning to this context and makes it dynamic. We note that by world here is meant the largest context, that is, the horizon of all actual and possible experiences. So, this world-horizon is not the physical universe of sciences; instead, science and its world-picture, along with religions and philosophies and their stories, are themselves narratives within this larger world-horizon which is always in the background of all experiences and which the ego can choose to accept to reject. Gods, angles and demons, creation and destruction, heaven and hell, etc. are all narratives played against this indefinite world-horizon. Thus, we use the sense of the world similar to its sense when we say “a baby was born into this world.”

We also saw that there are different types of egos at play against the world-background: The Empirical Ego and the Transcendental Ego. The empirical ego is the ego that we experience and are constantly aware of; it is our human self which for us has a character and a personality, an identity which is tied to a definite past and a possible future; it is the ego that lives our everyday life. The transcendental ego is the ego, or act-center, that constitutes (creates) and supports the empirical ego but is itself a concealed agent; it is the ego that provides the existence and experiences of the empirical ego. As empirical egos immersed in world-experience we are not aware of the transcendental ego which is constantly operative in the background and hence constituting us and the world of our experiences. The same way that the empirical ego constitutes a narrative for itself as a person-in-the-world attached to an identity, the transcendental ego constitutes the empirical ego and its world-experiences with which the empirical ego identifies itself.

While the empirical ego experiences itself as an object in the world, the transcendental ego is not a part of the world and instead stands outside it; the world is itself a narrative constituted, or created, by the transcendental ego. Here is an analogy: When you are telling a story, say to your child, your voice is that which keeps the story together and hence meaningful; it is the support of that narrative. Your voice itself is not part of the story, nor is it something entirely detached from the story: The story in its every moment depends on your voice; its existence is derived from the existence of your voice. The moment you stop reading the story it collapses into oblivion. In other words, your voice is something outside the story and yet tied to it, imparting existence and reality to the story. In a similar fashion, the transcendental ego is not part of the phenomenal world, and is not something human, and yet the existence of this world and the empirical ego depends on the continuous operation of the transcendental ego who is the agent constituting the phenomenon of world-horizon and the empirical ego itself as another phenomenon within it.

It is the transcendental ego that is constantly constituting the empirical ego and its experiences of the world, while the empirical ego takes this world for granted and situates itself in various roles and identities within this world-horizon, roles like a male or female, a lawyer or a beggar, successful or failed, etc. Transcendental ego constitutes all our experiences as phenomena within world-horizon while the empirical ego identifies itself with these phenomena and creates narratives that strengthen this identification. Thus, the world we experience is a mere phenomenon constituted by the transcendental ego and has no independent existence; like a narrative that borrows its existence and reality from the existence and reality of the narrator, our world too owns its existence and apparent reality to the transcendental ego which within the religious context is known as God or Ishvara.

There is a another level without which the constitutions of the transcendental ego, which are the experiences of the empirical ego, would not be known at all, without which there would not be an awareness of any experience whatsoever. This deeper level is called the Witness: it is associated with pure light; it is the light that shines on the constitutions of the transcendental ego, and hence makes the experiences of the empirical ego possible. It is in virtue of the light of the Witness that we know anything at all. Thus, the source of all knowledge is the Witness which itself is not involved in any constitution or creation at all; it is pure and perfect, and though it shines its light on the constitutions of the transcendental ego, it itself is unaffected by all things and also cannot become the object of experience, for it is itself that which makes all experience possible and thus must always lie behind all experiences which are by nature objectifications of the transcendental ego. To be more precise, the Witness cannot be objectified. Therefore, we can interpret the empirical ego and its world-experiences as the creation, and the transcendental ego as God the creator, and the Witness as the Godhead and the Ground of Being the first and the highest manifestation of which is the God the creator, that is, the transcendental ego.

If we happen to be religious and believers in God, the above descriptions must help us to understand the true nature of our relationship with God: God is not an agent that created the world at some point in time and then sat back entirely outside and detached from the world, watching and judging us as if we had our own wills and choices. In reality, God is at the center of our Being, and we are in our essence one with Him. Every moment of existence, and every state of the world, is actively held together by God. Thus, God is constantly sustaining the world, creating it each moment anew and afresh and according to the fundamental orientation of our empirical egos; He does so from within and not from without. Every moment of our being depends on Him and His light. In truth, there is no moment that God is not within us and not aware of everything inside and outside us; all our knowings are in fact His. It is His knowing that runs through all acts of consciousness, a knowing by which we know the contents of the world and of our minds, even the most private thoughts and feelings. Our true relation to God is that of a character in a narrated story to the voice of the story teller.

In another post, Egology III, I will continue this discussion with focus on the fundamental orientations, or fundamental vibrational modes, of the empirical ego.

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.

Time & Consciousness

The object that I see in front of me I see as something in space, but my seeing of it is not something in space. What is seen is seen to be an spatial entity; however, seeing itself is not something spatial. We tend to treat objects of the world as independently existing entities as if our consciousness could stumble upon them by chance!

Consciousness cannot make as its object something that is not already prefigured in it. I see the world through my perceptions but I do not see my perception through any intermediary mechanism. It is due to the self-evident and immediate givenness of perception that I come to know the world and know that I know it. That I perceive an object is because the object is something constituted within the temporal flow of perception. Even the spatiality of an object is something itself first perceived and only later spoken of. In this sense, the world and its objects are essentially temporal extensions before they are spatial.

To put it more precisely, world and its object are made of time, for it is in and through time that they appear within the field of perception. To exist means to be, to keep being in time, to endure in time. From here we can see more clearly how world is constituted in consciousness and not outside it. Time and being in time have no meaning and existence apart from consciousness, for the passage of time is something meaningful only in and through experience. Time is what we experience and not something we perceive out there in the world. Only a consciousness that subsists the flow of time can experience the passage of time.

Time is nothing but the ecstasy of consciousness, that is consciousness experiencing itself as conditioned and partitioned. It is this partitioned and fragmented consciousness that appears to us as diverse experiencing subjects. In reality there is only one subject, but this subject cannot experience itself unless it objectifies itself into the manifold of its own infinite possibilities. Each person is one possibility for the being of one and the same consciousness.

Consciousness undergoes the same self-objectification into multitudes in the case of dream experience: In a dream one and the same consciousness, that of the dreaming subject, projects itself into a world of diverse objects and experiencing subjects. All the conscious agents that appear in our dreams are the possibilities inherent within the dreaming consciousness. It belongs to the nature of consciousness to project itself outwardly in such a way that it appears to itself as something fragmented and embedded inside a world as if it were only a part of that world. In our dream we appear as a person among others inside an infinitely extended world of objects, but all persons and objects are one and the same consciousness, only appearing to itself as if it were outside itself. Consciousness inside itself is the dreamless sleep, but consciousness outside itself is the world. It is in this sense that I see the world as the ecstasy of consciousness.

We Are That

Everyone is afraid of the waterfall except water itself. What is there to be afraid of when it is into water that water falls. If we fear it is because we are that very fear itself. Fear is made of us. How can something that is not made of consciousness become an object of consciousness!? The hand can touch and know that it is touching only because it is in contact with its own kind, with matter. A hand cannot touch a sound or a smell because neither the sound nor the smell are material; neither is accessible to tactile apprehension. The known must be made of the knower. If we are conscious of the world, conscious of the various modes of cognition, it is because this whole world is of the nature of consciousness.

If a rose is an object of seeing, then seeing is itself an object of pure consciousness. We know objects through seeing, hearing, touching, imagining and remembering. But we know seeing, hearing, touching, imagining and remembering directly and not through anything else. The world is not really made of objects; it is made of knowing. Knowing is that blanket in and through which we see the world. But in reality there is no world; there is only the invisible blanket, and we are that.