Copyright © 1995 A-Hameed Ali ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Oneness is dead
God is gone
Everything is as it is.
It has been a few years since the discovery of the absolute. The discovery and continuing realization of this mysterious depth of Being has impacted the soul profoundly; subtle areas of experience are deeply touched. For many years the soul had already been going through an intense transformation, under the impact of the continuous unfolding manifestation of aspects of Essence and dimensions of Being. The discovery of the absolute accelerated this already rapid process, and made it possible more clearly to identify the boundaries of that process. The complete transcendence of ego experience in the realization of the absolute illuminates the barriers in the personality that oppose this realization.
This transformation of the soul has been proceeding along two related tracks. The first is the clarification and purification of the very substance and consciousness of the soul, that has gradually led to a maturation and ripening of personal human experience. The other is an increasing integration of the soul into the absolute, in various stages of assimilation and embodiment. This has taken the form of realizing that the absolute is the true beloved of the soul, its home and source. It lead to recognizing the absolute as the inner and absolute nature of the soul, its deepest identity and center. This initiated a particular subtle process of transformation that involved the contemplation of life and death, and confrontation with various attachments and forces which tend to mold the soul’s experience.
I begin to see that the processes of clarification, integration and confrontation with death are the direct effect of the absolute on the soul, as the mysterious emptiness penetrates the soul’s substance, and the invisible light reveals its various hidden corners. The influence of the absolute on the soul exposes ego structures, refines the soul’s substance, and metamorphoses its consciousness toward the nature of the absolute. In this process of clarification and purification the soul loses her identification with the historical person and identifies more with the absolute. With this decreasing self-identification based on mind and memory, experience becomes the natural, spontaneous realization of true nature, as nonconceptual abiding.
The more I contemplate my experience of the absolute the more I appreciate how mysterious it is. At first I saw it as absolute being, as the immensity that underlies everything. Yet this immense presence reveals itself as total emptiness, a complete absence of any substance. It is both a presence and an absence, but recently my experience has been focusing mostly on the sense of emptiness. This focus was strengthened by my attending a talk by the Dalai Lama. My consciousness was strongly impacted by his embodiment of both absolute emptiness and loving kindness.
Continuing to experience the emptiness facet of the absolute has exposed new ego structures, which initially become conscious as contractions in certain areas of the body. Inquiring into these contractions reveals contracted manifestations of the soul, related to questions of identity and support for identity.
Tonight, however, I am aware of the intimate emptiness of the absolute, and not of the contraction. But there is something new and curious about the experience. As I feel myself as the emptiness of the absolute, I also feel it as the soul. I cannot separate the absolute emptiness from the presence of the soul. I am riveted to this manifestation of consciousness, inquiring into and contemplating it.
I begin to discriminate more clearly what I am experiencing. I experience myself as the soul, in a very soft, relaxed, ripened condition. The presence is so soft and malleable it is almost nothing, so empty of occlusions and opaqueness it is transparent. I feel transparent to and pervaded by the absolute. I recognize that I am being the soul and experiencing the absolute in a new way. What is new is the relationship between the soul and the absolute.
There is the presence of the soul, the individual consciousness, but she feels herself as the absolute. Even though the soul feels herself as the absolute, which is a mysterious nothingness, she is not completely gone.
Before this experience, when the soul unites with the absolute she annihilates into it. Only the absolute remains, as self and identity. The only way I had experienced the soul present simultaneously with the absolute has been as an extension of it, in some form of dual unity. The greatest of these conditions of integration has been that of mystical marriage, where the soul becomes an inseparable part of the absolute, almost like its face. So the present experience is a surprise.
I realize that this is a new level of integration between the soul and the absolute. I am the mysterious vastness of the absolute, and this vastness manifests a delicate, contented quality of the soul in the location of the body. This delicate manifestation is still the absolute, but with an added quality of presence at a particular location. There is much less differentiation between the indeterminate emptiness of the absolute and the consciousness of the soul than I have experienced before.
This development seems to be a level of resolution of the identity issues related to the soul contraction I saw a few days ago. I have been seeing the identity issue as relating to authenticity, being true to my true nature. Can I experience myself and act from a place where there is very little or no distance from my true nature? The contraction indicated a remaining identification with the historical person of history, which identification functions as a veil distancing the soul from identity with the absolute. The soul contraction I was inquiring into is gone, replaced by this new state. The arising of this new level of integration between the soul and the absolute clarifies how one can be the soul and act from the absolute. This makes it possible to take personal action, without departing from my identity as the mysterious absolute.
The next morning, this realization initiates a new contemplation. In the morning meditation there arises in consciousness the contemplation of the essential personal as an important part of realized human experience. To realize the absolute with its emptiness and mysterious light is not the only possibility. The next step is to be a human person, without losing the realization of the absolute. It is a realization of a particular state of unity. This unity of existence does not blot out personal consciousness. Most traditional spiritual teachings do not have this understanding, or do not give it much attention. I recognize the possibility and value of this integration, especially for living a human life on earth.
As I wave to Marie, my wife, “see you later,” on her way out the door to work, I am aware of myself as the vastness of the absolute. The mysterious vastness of the absolute is waving the hand, and feeling personally affectionate.
A few days later…
For several mornings I have been waking up feeling happy, but experiencing myself as an individual. I have been thinking of the experience as that of the ego individuality, but I am seeing that is not so. The understanding fills the soul that even though I experience myself as an individual, it is still the experience of the soul inseparable from the absolute. I am an individual, a human person, but I am still the absolute. Individuation can be a real experience, not only on the level of the essential development of the soul, but even on the absolute level.
I experience myself as a soft, relaxed and ripened soul. I am an individual consciousness which I experience as presence. I am a living presence, free from contractions, identifications or mental elaborations. I am clear and transparent presence, but feel alive and dynamic. As this presence I experience myself as delicate and exquisitely fine.
The sense of I or identity springs from within, as an innate self-recognition. It originates from the center of the presence, which I see now as a brilliant point of light. The point of light is alive and scintillating, beautiful and precious. Yet, as both the living delicate presence of the soul and the brilliant point of light, I am inseparable from the nothingness of the absolute, an expression of it that is it. I am the absolute mystery, a vastness that has manifested itself within itself as a transparent sphere of conscious presence, whose center is a radiant point of light. The felt experience is lightness and intimacy, preciousness and exquisiteness, and total personal vulnerability.
This is the quintessence of being a real human person.
A couple of weeks later…
Driving to see my friend Karen, I become aware of my presence evolving to a new state. Again the soul and absolute are integrated as one presence. I am aware of the winding road, and contemplating my sense of presence, awareness reveals the integration of soul and absolute to be complete; it is a total synthesis. Contemplation beholds complete coemergence of soul and absolute. The union is much more complete than I have experienced before. This total coemergence transforms the felt qualities of the presence. The lightness is extreme now; it is as if there is no gravity at all. It is the emptiness of the absolute in its total lightness and transparency. And there is an amazing translucence, a clarity that is itself the lightness.
I am aware of soul, aware that I am not experiencing only the purity of the absolute, because there is a subtle perception of a completely clear and translucent bubble of awareness. Along with the indescribable lightness and spaciousness, and inseparable from it, I experience a presence that looks almost like a mirage, an illusory body.
I arrive at Karen’s house; and we sip tea as I tell her about my present experience. After a while, she begins to perceive and participate in this coemergent presence. As we inquire into and discuss our perception, the presence expands and includes all of our environment.
All appearances now, all objects in the room, seem to be transparent and empty bubbles. The furniture, the cups, the windows, our bodies, all appear as translucent bubbles of various shapes, sizes and colors. All the bubbles are connected together, like a cluster of soap bubbles. I see Karen as one of the bubbles.
I perceive myself as a bubble connected with the other bubbles. But the bubble is clear and translucent, transparent. It is also completely coextensive and coemergent with the spaceless emptiness of the absolute.
The essence of the bubble is the absolute emptiness, which is more of an absence, or nonexistence. Yet the bubble is presence. This presence is indicated by the barest minimum of clarity or awareness, just enough clarity so as not to disappear into the fathomless blackness. In other words, the bubble is only a glimmer of clarity within the deep darkness of the absolute, but not dual with the absolute.
The soul is a bubble of awareness, and all of the environment is composed of the same translucent clarity, a mere patterned radiance within the blackness, and inseparable from it. There is perception because there is awareness, which is the same as the translucence of the absolute. This awareness of the absolute is the clear bubble-like transparent presence. In this experience there is emptiness, which is more like nonexistence or nonbeing. It is absence. There is clarity, which is transparent and colorless. There is awareness, totally unobscured and translucent. There is lightness, no weight at all, no density.
Within this experience I begin to feel a gentle throbbing at the area of the forehead, a forehead that seems like a mirage. I begin to be aware of the glittering radiance of the essential nous at the area of the forehead. It feels as if a portion of the bubble has transformed into a faceted, variegated diamond-like presence. It feels like a faceted liquid luminosity, glittering and shining. This glittering manifests in cognition as insights related to this new development.
I recall a concern, which occasionally becomes a fear, that complete absorption into and unification with the absolute means cessation of all experience and loss of everything. I thought that total merging with the absolute might mean total and permanent cessation of consciousness, and hence all perception. I could not anticipate what total integration with the absolute might be like. This experience of soul coemergent with the absolute answers this concern and resolves the fear. Everything remains, is not lost, does not disappear. But it is seen not to exist; nonbeing is its ultimate condition.
There is no disappearance, there is only the understanding that no appearance actually exists in the way we usually assume.
The fear of loss is resolved in another interesting way. As I contemplate the experiential qualities of this coemergence, the insight arises that it is actually never possible to hold onto anything in any case. It is not possible to hold onto anything because nothing exists the way it appears. The true reality and condition of phenomena includes nothing one can actually grasp. One cannot grasp a mirage, or a hologram. Furthermore, there is no one there to hold onto anything. It is not only the object of experience that is emptied, that is seen to be fundamentally nonexistent, even though it is experienced. The subject itself is emptied as well. Both experiencer and experienced are characterized by the fundamental absence of the absolute. There cannot be loss because there is nothing that can be lost.
The essential nous luminates now mostly with red and gold radiance, and perception becomes more precise and faceted. The insight that flashes out is that this coemergence of appearance and absolute resolves rapprochement.
This issue of rapprochement surfaces each time a new dimension of being is disclosed. It appears as a conflict between the presence of Being and the appearance of the world, between Being and the world. The conflict is the position that it is not possible to have both, not imaginable to experience both simultaneously, because of an apparent polarity. This polarity stems from the early relationship with one’s mother, where one’s sense of self was seen as antithetical to merging with her. So the individual soul grows up firmly believing that one can be either separate and independent, or merged and absorbed. In time, as the process of inner unfoldment deepens, the mother becomes the world and the sense of self is the presence of Being. At the level of the absolute the dichotomy appears as between the world as appearance and the emptiness of the absolute.
In the condition of coemergent presence, appearance and the absolute are totally coemergent, completely mixed and coextensive. Everything is absolutely inseparable from spaceless emptiness. The source of all manifestation is indistinguishable from all manifestation, including the individual soul.
Karen and I continue our discussion, laughing in delight, as we experience ourselves as translucent nonexistent souls sipping nonexistent hot tea from solid but totally transparent and weightless cups.