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..:: Enlightenment XII / The Void ::..


- Alan Schneider -


            The relationship between the Self and the Void – i.e. all that lies beyond the possibility of human observation of any kind, occurring in any context – is a focal one in the discussion of Enlightenment.   The Self does not simply occur out of nowhere; it manifests in a relational context to the balance of Creation that lies beyond the threshold of Chaos in the Void.   If we do not at least attempt to probe this region of expression, our understanding of existence will be incomplete, as will our understanding of the Self.  

            A good place to begin this investigation, from the scientific perspective, is with the discussion of Dark Matter and Dark Energy – so-called because these two phenomena have no electromagnetic signatures of any kind, rendering them functionally non-detectable.   The scientific supposition that they exist is based upon the gravimetric anomalies present in the motion of large interstellar objects like galaxies and nebular clouds that can only be accounted for by the presence of some invisible gravitational force acting on the universe as a whole – the Dark Continuum.   Estimates of the total “mass” of this continuum vary, but range from twenty to eighty(!) percent of the presumed material in existence, making the Dark Continuum possibly the most prevalent condition in the universe.   

            Since what lies absolutely beyond even instrumental observation and verification is outside of the Psyche – the total possibility of the mind in its most expansive mode – we must consider that these things also lie beyond the Self, an apparent paradox, since, by definition, nothing lies beyond the Self.    Now, Hinduism has a very interesting approach to the resolution of this paradox.    This philosophical tradition equates what we have referred to here as “the Self” with Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer aspects of God, respectively.   Taken together, these three form the Godhead, or total Action and Presence of God in the universe.    Our discussion of the Self in these essays has equated these three Hindu entities with their most salient qualitative features – Presence (Brahma), Love (Vishnu), and Light (Shiva).   The essence of Presence is ongoing creation, of Love is compassionate preservation, and of Light is knowledge, which both creates and ultimately destroys through its manifestation in consciousness, thus bringing us back to Presence and Creation in the infinite cycle of existence.   But the ancient Hindu Seers knew that there had to be an additional quality of existence lying beyond all of the functional roles of even the Godhead – an ultimate essence of Being that transcended all possibility of classification, but one that could still be experienced in deep meditation.   They called this essence the Brahman, and characterized it as being beyond knowledge, but not quite beyond experience, and as permeating all of Creation through universal Presence in everything, but simultaneously having no specific manifestation in any particular object or process.   

            The Brahman is a Chaotic Threshold phenomenon – existing almost beyond the possibility of observation but subject to detection through repeated experience with deep states of meditation.   In a word, a sufficiently sensitive observer who has learned how to absolutely still the mind can feel the universal Presence of the Brahman as a very subtle vibration existing at the foundation of all existence, one that does indeed flow through everything – including the observer – as universal Being.   I have heard this vibration referred to as the Inner Sound, the Inner Light, and the I AM presence, among other descriptions, and experienced all of these, existing and not existing at the same time in a state beyond egoic description and understanding, but still present.  

            The Brahman is essentially the equivalent condition to the Void beyond the Self – there is so little “data” there that almost nothing can be said about it, but it is from this Void that everything emerges into manifest form, exists in manifest terms, and eventually disintegrates and returns to.    The germ states of these manifest forms present in the Void are the Strange Attractors of Chaos Theory, and it is very important to understand that what we have here is a fertile Void, not a sterile one.   Just as is the case with the Dark Continuum, there is evidently much present there – enough to skew entire galaxies from their paths – but nothing subject to cognitive observation per se.  

            What, then, is to be said of the relationship between the Void, the defined absence of all manifestation, and the Self, the understood presence of all manifestation?   It would seem that there could be no mutual involvement here, but let’s not be too hasty.   There is an old saying in Zen Buddhism “Everything is nothing, and nothing is everything”.    What can this mean?   How can it be understood?   

            The senses show us a world of seeming objects in a multitude of shapes, forms, and enumeration.  If this is where we permit our perception to remain, then the suggestion made above will always appear to be purely fantastic and ridiculous.   If, however, we scratch a bit beneath the surface of things, the world of sense objects assumes more and more of its true character – a complex vibration of consciousness existing in Einsteinian spacetime, without the clearly delineated boundaries imparted to it by the human ego.    Hence, the limits become more indistinct as the anxiety of the observation involved lessons – the ego is above all an anxiety-driven and anxiety-producing factor in awareness.   As this anxiety is released through meditation (for example), the felt need to have the security of clearly defined entities in a static world is replaced by perceptual freedom and the mental experimentation.  

            If this process of release is carried far enough, the world of objects becomes psychologically irrelevant and meaningless in the absence of the ego and its social referents, to be replaced by immersion in the Self as the sole remaining condition of perception that possesses meaning.   We essentially talk – i.e. dialog – the world into existence, and when the underlying psychological factors motivating that dialog are removed, the world is also “removed”, to be revealed as the single source of all Being – the Self – the primary, in fact only, real vibration in existence.   

            The consideration remains to be made: is the Self Brahma, the Creator, or the Brahman, the raw material – the seed bed – of Creation itself?    As any experienced meditator can attest, it is possible with considerable practice to attain a state of absolute stasis of perception and experience that is certainly at the very least tantamount to nonexistence.   In the case of a reasonably mentally healthy individual, the residual metabolic activity of the body, our working anchor in 3D reality, will eventually exert sufficient force on what is our latent consciousness in deep meditation and reactivate the ego to resume normal waking functioning, accompanied by the renewed perception of  existence and purpose.    The really fascinating aspect of this is that the return to normal perception is almost always accompanied by germs of creativity that were not experientially present before entering the meditation trance – the creative impulse received an implant, or series of implants, from some location while the subject was “under”, and the further under, the more effective and impacting this phenomenon becomes.    In consideration of this argument, it would seem that the ocean of Brahman and the island of Brahma are two phases of the Creation mechanism – the Brahman “needs” an outlet through which to flow into manifest form, and first generates Brahma – the Self – for that purpose.    But, the quality of “need” is itself a manifest condition – is it really Brahma that has this need?    Or is the Creation process so omnipresent in the universal totality that it even presupposes the Creator?    Is this the process that, like gravity, is self-sustaining and has no precursor – the foundation even of nonexistence?    Perhaps gravity just is, and Creation just is, as both its cause and effect.   In a non-linear, non-ego-based condition, cause and effect lose their relevancy, to be replaced by the flow of experience in the stream of universal consciousness – again simultaneously the primary and only vibration present.  

            In all probability, the anchor of the body, even in the deepest trance of meditation, will prevent the full realization of the Truth of Consciousness – the fertile Void – a  source of great consternation for the Seers throughout history who have recognized the physical for the barrier to Enlightenment that it is, and have practiced all manner of austerity and mortification in the attempt to subdue it.  This is seen in the doctrine of Maha Samadhi – the physical death of the organism – as the only real release from the lingering illusion of existence – even the state of Sahaja Samadhi – the full Enlightenment of a Living Master – is still fettered by physicality, whether acknowledged or not.    The Buddha seemed to have the best advice for the human condition with his admonition “Chop wood, carry water” – i.e. live as fully in the now as possible, while deemphasizing the ego through simple living, hard work, and charitable service.   We will all tend to fall back into the twin traps of desire and desire action as the price of incarnation, but we can at least know them for what they are (deceptive obstacles to genuine, lasting inner peace and Enlightenment) and seek and practice a higher, better way of being.  

            Thus it would seem in the final analysis that we are only capable of attaining a fleeting glimpse of the Truth of Consciousness, even though we practice right living in the present as awake, aware beings – all that we are is still so primitive, and so biologically grounded in the flesh.   So much is obviously present in the endless Void that lies so tantalizingly beyond our reach, and so little remains in lasting form of what we can reach in the life that we perceive through whatever means, that the hope of Enlightenment may be our only hope as the partially aware, limitedly sentient creatures that we are.    The enormous work and sacrifices required to reach the Self ultimately only point to the Void lying yet further beyond, filled with mysterious and inscrutable potential that is released by the largely unknown forces present there according to their unfathomable wishes – if “wishes” are even what exists there at all. 

            The creative process,  culminating in Creation itself, remains the ultimate human mystery.   Where do new ideas and inspirations come from?   Certainly, they appear in our human awareness, but from where have they issued, and what is their final outcome in human affairs once instituted?   Discovering these is the final challenge of the Self.

                                          - With Love, Alan -

                         (Copyright 2010, by Alan Schneider)


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