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..:: The Void ::..


Alan Schneider


              The manifest world we experience in the senses is most perplexing. Let us take the case of sight. The term given to the central focus of vision in optical neurology is the fovea – the area we most easily focus sight on, located in the immediate foreground of the visual field. If we take a moment to simply observe the fovea as a static condition by holding the eyes still while looking directly forward, a curious phenomenon takes place – the perception of sight does not remain constant as might be expected. Rather, the manifestation of the fovea begins shifting around, as if continuously seeking a refocused condition. This only ceases when general consciousness is relaxed, as it is in meditation, (for example) relaxing the focusing tendency along with it. It appears that the fovea manifestation depends to a great degree on movement in the environment – we most easily perceive a field of shifting objects, as opposed to a static condition. Certain prehistoric reptiles were presumed to be unable to see at all in the absence of movement, and most modern carnivorous reptiles will only eat living prey that is moving, however slight this movement may be. It is important to note that these are the creatures we have evolved from, and we seem to still possess the optical neurological traces of their characteristics, albeit in much more advanced form. Yet, the evolutionary function of vision is to notice and respond to potential threats and gratification, and both functions are linked to physical movement with very few exceptions.  

            Physical motion is merely one form of oscillation present in the environment. All of the remaining senses are subject to various other types of fluctuation that they have evolved to detect, and for most people, there is very little that is more disturbing than the sensory deprivation experiment, where all sensory experience is essentially blocked out by blocking the senses. The punishment most feared by prison inmates is that of solitary confinement – another induced state of relatively prominent sensory deprivation. So we have evolved to be active creatures, surrounded by a web of continuous activity that only perceptually ceases in deep, dreamless sleep. In sleep with dreams, the Psyche is still very active, as it seeks wish fulfillment and psychic stimulation through archetypal visions and other manifestations. It is the brain that requires this level of stimulation, not the senses themselves, which perceive without experiencing perception – that is experienced in the brain alone. And the brain itself achieves a complex combined impression of memory and sensory input, with the bulk of this being memory cross- referenced.  It is quite probable that the instantaneous impression of the senses would have no meaning at all without the brain’s ability to just as instantly reference those impressions to memory, and then draw conclusions, make decisions, and perform behavior as necessary...  

            The void can be described as a state of complete non-manifestation, wherein absolutely nothing occurs. For most observers, this is a hypothetical condition that is never experienced, because it is utterly nonexistent, and therefore presumably unobservable. How can I be aware of, or attend to, nothing? The very notion seems absurd at first glance.  In fact, nothing is all we ever really experience or observe, and this can be realized through the practice of meditation. During meditation, brain activity progresses from the customary waking alpha wave state eventually to the theta wave state, as measured by the EEG process. This progression mirrors a transition from ego-driven processing focused on sensory content in the initial waking state, to essentially ego-free processing focused on relaxation in deep trance, as the awareness becomes more and more diffuse. Clearly, there is a more or less linear relationship between the hidden neural events in the brain, and observable perceptual events in the mind evidenced here – the soothing effect of meditation on the brain results in a perceptible condition of inner peace in the mind.  

            With ongoing practice (customarily spanning some years of involvement), certain definitive shifts in understanding of life conditions frequently take place as a result of meditative experience. Among these is the acceptance of what is actually a very turbulent, disturbed and disturbing, wakeful experience of living as being fundamentally illusory in nature – the illusion of a world created by the senses and held in place by the anxieties of the ego. An accompanying understanding is the perception of experience as being created from inside out, not outside in as is the common human assumption, again based on the influence of the ego. The most valid observation concerning the action of the senses is that they create an instantaneous floating illusion that is fundamentally chaotic in all contexts with the exception of the fact that this chaos can be modified through meditation to serve as a mirror in which the actual condition of existence can be observed – the Soul. Once this observation has occurred and become fixed in awareness, the further significance of the Void can be subsequently understood. 

            The presence of the Soul can be sensed in the stillness of deep meditation as an independent entity existing above and beyond the Freudian elements of the mind. The Soul is the hidden Presence, associated with the body but not of it, which authors our experience of both the internal world of spiritual perception, and the external world of  sensory perception.  The Soul cannot normally be perceived in the waking state because the turbulence of activity on the Physical Plane is very distracting.  The Soul exists in a state of complete peace and stillness – it needs nothing to support its existence, not even our awareness of that existence! For some mysterious reason, the Soul enters into incarnate relationship with the body, possibly to exist in temporary association with the sensory limitations imposed by that relationship. The Soul is an expression of independent sentience that may well be affected by the experiences of the body, senses, and ego, and may learn valuable lessons from those experiences, lessons that can only be known through the limitation involved.  

            Because it is not a part of our logical, linear ego-experience, the Soul cannot be understood in physical, logical terms – it must rather be contacted in the stillness of meditation. And the Soul itself has a counterpart in the meditation experience – the Void.  The two are reflections of each other – aspects of each other pointing to a yet higher Presence that resides at a level beyond even description – the Logos, the ultimate source of all Creation everywhere. This process of interrelatedness of the Logos, the Soul, and the Void cannot be understood from the perspective of the Physical Plane and the ego. The three defy all logic as they move into and through each others manifestations. They are each other, are beyond each other, and also exceed each other in the ongoing process of creation and spiritual evolution.  At the deepest level of meditation, we paradoxically reach the highest level of perception which is itself beyond perception, yet somehow knowable. What this amounts to is that nothing is everything, and everything is nothing, a complete logical impossibility that nonetheless remains the final Truth, the Supreme Absolute Truth Knowable – SAT NAM. To my knowledge, This Truth can only be perceived in meditation. 

            The Void is the Daoist Yang to the Yin of the Soul, the fertile seed ground beyond all experience that contains the possibility of every manifestation, while the Soul is every manifestation. As the two flow into each other, the Ultimate Vibration of the Logos becomes perceptible in the resultant absolute stillness – being and becoming unite in one condition that is everything and nothing, and eclipses both labels and logic. This is the experience of nothingness as knowable in meditation, not a vacant state of oppression and nullity, but the ultimate condition of Bliss beyond description – Ananda.  This is why meditation is so important as a spiritual practice – it makes the Presence of the Soul and the Logos real and attainable for the spiritual aspirant, and affords a method of direct contact and knowledge. When combined with Faith, Trust, and Prayer, Meditation cements the living relationship of the human consciousness to the Divine Consciousness, enabling the full and complete manifestation of the Psyche as SAT NAM while the individual is still incarnate on the Physical Plane. There can be no higher condition, nor any more profound state of Grace, for humanity.


                                                                                - With Love, Alan -

                                                                          (CR2008, Alan Schneider)


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