Copyright © 1995 A-Hameed Ali ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The crystal night,
Crispness in the air,
A shooting star.
A realization as deep as the universal witness has implications that take years to appreciate. Even the ones I see readily take me a long time to integrate into everyday life. The shift of perspective is so profound and total that one might expect it to immediately eradicate all the mental beliefs and habits which remain in ignorance of this perspective. But as one goes about life this perspective reveals that many unconscious beliefs related to it remain, as the new state of being puts pressure on ways of experiencing oneself which are barriers to its more complete realization.
Therefore, a few weeks after the discovery of my identity as the silent universal witness, I find myself in a difficult dilemma. I begin to be aware of some lax in responsibility. I recognize a certain moral irresponsibility, in the form of not being true to who I am as I have been experiencing myself for a few weeks now.
I gradually come to recognize that even though I have been experiencing myself as the impersonal vastness of the universal witness, punctuated by the arising of various manifestations of presence, I continue to operate as if I am the personality. I continue to live mostly as a person of time and memory, in spite of the certain fact and perception that I am the beyond. There is a feeling that I am being insincere, pretending that I am the personality when I know for certain I am the beyond.
My recognition of this insincerity pierces it, and I become aware of a particular familiar state. I experience myself as a kind of structure, a specific contraction all around the body, as if my skin has grown at least an inch thick, but somewhat soft and pliable. I feel empty inside this thick surface, with a sense of being fake, unreal. I recognize this state as the familiar ego-identity, the soul structure underlying the feeling of self, which the personality uses to identify itself. I see the ego state clearly now: an empty shell, which usually indicates the falseness of taking myself to be an image, instead of merely being.
I have encountered this shell every time my identity has been challenged by a new manifestation of Being. It indicates the identity of the ego-self, formed by memory and history. In this state I feel phony, not authentically myself. At these junctures the process usually begins with the recognition of being identified with an ego structure, with the attendant shame and deep hurt. This understanding gradually dissolves the shell, and fully reveals the emptiness. The emptiness feels like a state of not knowing myself, of not having a sense of self or identity. Holding this deficient emptiness with motiveless global awareness, allows it to transform to a peaceful black spaciousness. This space, which has no sense of self, and no concern for its absence, allows the new identity to arise. The new identity is usually a certain dimension of Being, which now takes the center of experience.
Something different occurs in the experience I am relating, again reminding me never to become smug about what I know, even when it arises from authentic experience. I have learned not to anticipate what will arise, for there is no way to second-guess the action of Being.
A part of the shell at the left side of the body transforms, becoming shiny black obsidian. This transformation is breathtaking but brief. The hardness of the obsidian is quickly covered over with a soft sheath, and there appears a physical contraction at the familiar place of the ego line and around the left shoulder.
As the experience develops a solid hardness appears over the heart area, like a large pebble. It seems separate from everything else in my awareness. I can see that the separateness is connected with the physical tension, which makes the pebble feel like a blockage. It strikes me that the pebble is a protective shield over the heart.
For a few mornings, upon waking up, I begin the day with no awareness of the pebble. There is only a slightly soft and cushiony sensation at the ego-line, sometimes at the spleen. I recognize it as a mild manifestation of the falsehood of the personality, giving me the sense of being a person who can interact with other persons. The dominant state, however, is openness and spaciousness. At some point during the day, the pebble makes its appearance at the left side of the chest. By the end of the day it moves to the center of the body, finally situating itself at the subtle center of the mobius, and a certain emotional state manifests.
The arising emotional state is still obscure and vague, difficult to pin down. This process repeats itself for a few days, regardless of the events in my life. I am usually working during the day, and come back home by evening. The vague emotional state is most present and intense at night, when I have time to be alone in my contemplation.
One night I dream of being some kind of thief. I am caught, and am about to be killed. I wake up feeling strongly: “I do not want to be known as bad.” I am intrigued: I am certain this strong feeling is somehow connected to the vague emotion I have been experiencing for a few nights. There is something about badness in this current experience, but I do not understand it.
What about being a thief? How am I bad?
The dream does not reveal its meaning for another day. The following night, I am back from work, and have just finished dinner with Marie. I have been aware of the hardness moving slowly towards the mobius, and now, as it arrives at this center, the emotion arises again. There is a difference this time: the emotion reveals itself as a feeling of a strong sadness, depression, or loneliness. As I recognize the sadness and aloneness I become aware of a concern about being rejected and abandoned for being bad. It is difficult to understand the feeling of badness, for there is nothing going on in my life or in my inner experience that can account for it. After dinner I watch television with Marie, continuing to be present with the feelings and the concern. The surface mind is engaged and busy with the show on the tube, leaving the deeper awareness free to contemplate and inquire into the inner process. I begin to see that to the arising part of my mind, being good means being what others want; it means controlling myself to act in ways that will be accepted by others. Here, the nous glimmers slightly, as the realization arrives that I believe that being bad means being spontaneously myself, without control or guardedness.
I remember recent social situations, where I was more myself and not hiding it, and I recognize that in those situations I had been feeling a sense of badness. Realizing this, I see also that the feeling of badness somehow leads to a sense of phoniness. The falseness, resulting from pretending to be the acceptable personality when I know who I really am, is due to believing that I am bad if I am completely myself. I pretend to be something other than myself so that I won’t be bad.
This is an unexpected development—the reverse of the shame of being inauthentic. I feel bad for being authentic, for it is not what others want me to be. Seeing this reveals an obscure identification from early childhood, in which my parents and school teachers inculcated in me that being good is a matter of being what they wanted me to be. So to be myself authentically, which happens every time Being manifests as my identity, always challenges this identification. And to be the universal witness is not only to be something that others do not accept, it is being something they cannot even imagine.
The emotional state deepens, transforming to something more complex. Now I feel a slight sadness, a strange gloom and a depressed quality. I am aware of the soft cushiony sensation of the false personality, and a painful feeling of frustration, right at the left side, under the pebble. These feelings reveal themselves to be a consequence of a deep inner conflict. I do not want to displease anyone. I do not want to be a cause of pain to the people I care for. At the same time, I deeply value and want to be myself, whatever this happens to be. I love to simply be, with the freedom, profundity and exquisiteness of the state of simply being. So there is sadness and hurt both ways, for myself and for the others. No wonder there is frustration in the experience. The sadness becomes mixed with the warmth of loving kindness, but some frustration remains.
The next day…
The awareness is mostly lightness, space and lack of concern. When curiosity arises about what happened to the hardness, I become aware of the left side of the chest feeling like a big hard pebble, covered with a soft film. The pebble is bigger and moves quickly to the center of the body, with a deeper sadness that now pervades the consciousness. By evening the sadness transforms to a much more intense state, which is not exactly an emotion. It is an unconditioned state of consciousness, an aspect of Essence I am not very familiar with. It is not exactly sadness, not exactly heaviness, not exactly compassion, not exactly pity, but something similar to these more familiar feeling states. The state seems to be more of an intense and deep sorrow. I do not feel sorrowful, exactly; I am rather aware of the presence of sorrow. As the consciousness opens up, it manifests a deeply golden brown liquid presence, characterized by a profound depth and an intense warmth. Yet, the affect is unmistakably a real, objective sorrow, consuming in some new way.
The inevitable question fills my consciousness: Sorrow about what? Concerning what?
This night, it happens that my friend Karen is visiting me, and as usual on these occasions, we discuss the latest in our discoveries. I describe to her my observations in the last few days. When I describe my present state of poignant sorrow, which has by now been eclipsed by awareness of the pebble, she sees that the pebble looks like a black diamond-like presence, with a layer of brilliant radiance covering it. I cannot at this point see the blackness of the presence, but I can feel that the hardness has a sense of lightness mixed with the sorrow.
The nous begins to radiate brilliantly, with a deep golden hue. The insight emerges: the sorrow is about the feeling of badness, and the conflict of being myself and how it causes pain, for others and for myself, even though it is a selfless movement towards truth. The sorrow is about human suffering, mine and others’, and about leaving it behind. It is also about leaving the human personal sphere, as I move deeper into the mysteries of Being. I do not feel that those I am leaving are strangers, for the human sphere represents in a deep unconscious manner my mother, the first human I had known and loved. I see that the sorrow is about the unavoidable suffering, real and imaginary, that results from the process of realization. There is sorrow whenever the movement towards the truth causes unavoidable difficulty for myself or others.
The sorrow is also about the conflict, and most fundamentally for the insincerity that I have been experiencing when I pretend I am the personality. It is also more universal: it is sorrow about the insincerity towards which ignorance so mercilessly drives most people.
As I am fully present in the contemplation of this universal sorrow, I notice that something changes in the state. The conscious presence now attains a different quality, still golden brown, but more golden and more transparent. It feels more like an austere love, sweet but not soft. As I become aware of the subtle taste of this transparent bronze manifestation of Being, which flows like a nonsticky honey, I become filled by a sober sense of sincerity. The sorrow and the sincerity turn out to be phenomenologically very similar. The sincerity has a lightness, sweetness and luminosity that distinguishes it from the sorrow.
The sincerity intensifies the sorrow, and the sorrow becomes a denser fluid and more dark brown in color as the feeling deepens. As the feeling intensifies it almost becomes black. The state of sorrow seems sometimes to intensify so much that it devastates the mind, disintegrating it. It becomes difficult to focus attention on the feeling in the presence.
The next day…
Upon waking up this morning, I sense that the whole body is pervaded with the hardness. The consciousness now has become the pebble, indicating the cessation of resistance against it. As I realize this my vision opens up, and a flash of seeing brings me into the depths of the pebble. I see a dazzling blackness, beautiful beyond description. I behold my presence as so deep it is black. It is so black, so pure in its blackness, that it is beautifully dazzling. It is not like the black aspect of essence, which is dazzling because it is luminous from within. This is not luminous from within. It is black through and through. It is so sable black it is brilliant. However, its brilliance is not white or golden, as usual with the luminosity of other manifestations of Being. Its brilliance itself is black. It is so absolutely black it radiates black luminosity.
The presence continues to be hard, and sometimes feels harder than anything else I have experienced. It has the form of a faceted jewel, like an obsidian diamond. This gives the hard presence a texture of sharpness and precision. Yet it is deep and totally empty, not only perceptually, but also in terms of its feeling. This manifestation of Being makes no sense to the ordinary mind; it is like a faceted voidness, which feels within it as an endless still depth of black transparency. I remember what Karen said she saw the night before, and as I feel my deep valuing of her, the obsidian diamond acquires a softness, a pliancy at its faceted surface. I perceive the softness as the pearlescent substance that indicates personalness.
The obscured softness of the false personality is gone, and in its place the pliable, authentic fullness of the personal essence has appeared. I am the total blackness of the depths of Being, beyond all existence, and yet I can be personal.
Being possesses such perfect intelligence that it eclipses what we ordinarily know as intelligence. It responds to the needs of the soul in such complete and unexpected ways, with an aesthetically beautiful precision. In the process I have just described, Being manifested in such a way as to exactly resolve and heal the conflicts and the ignorance. It revealed the need to be good, in the sense of not causing pain, and resolved this situation and healed it, by manifesting essential sorrow, when I realized my helplessness in preventing such pain. It resolved the question of feeling phony and insincere, by manifesting essential sincerity. It replaced the empty shell, the identity of ego, with the radiant faceted blackness, as the depth of identity with Being. And then, it completed the healing by manifesting the pearlescent quality, the personalness of Being, which replaced the fake personalness of the ego.
Clearly, it was the absence of personalness in the universal witness, which is the specifically impersonal dimension of Being, which brought up the conflict around leaving the world, others, or mother. The radiant blackness with a pearlescent sheen is a particular resolution of the issue, for in it I am beyond the world but can relate to it in a personal way.
I could never have imagined such a resolution on my own, using my personal mind. Without the loving intelligence of Being the mind is hopelessly lost. It is also significant to see that Being resolves and heals not only through conceptual understanding, but also, and mainly, through manifesting the necessary states and qualities. This is intelligent grace.
The next day…
The obsidian arises in the morning meditation, but it is partially obscured. I experience it as a shiny black rock over the heart area. Awareness continues, a global holding of all content of experience. The presence of the nous feels like a gentle tingling filling the forehead. At some point, awareness discerns anxiety under the black rock, and some concern about my motivation being misunderstood. I recognize the concern is in anticipation of a public lecture I am scheduled to deliver at night. I am not used to giving public lectures, or holding public events. The anxiety and concern create a physical contraction that turns the blackness into a rock. It is like an obsidian diamond in the rough.
Curiosity arises about the concern regarding motivation. However, investigating my intentions in giving the lecture, I realize I have no motivation. The spontaneous inquiry, which is an expression of the presence of the nous, reveals that my mind does not accept that I have no motivation regarding this event. So it projects some misunderstanding onto others.
By afternoon I find my awareness inside the state of the black rock. It is a rock no more, but a radiant black crystalline nothingness, that feels like the very essence of the state of peace. Contemplating the mysterious peaceful emptiness I feel a complete aloneness, a total disengagement from everybody and everything. As the black faceted presence I experience no concern in relation to anyone or any idea. I am a truth-consciousness, a presence totally independent from and transcendent to any relation to anything. I am the presence of total freedom from having to respond to anyone. Inner object relations are entirely absent, bringing a sense of complete freedom from all external relationships.
There is no motivation for doing anything, even helping. Nevertheless, there is selfless helping, because the truth is the source of love and compassion. I cannot help being helpful, because it is my nature to be a source of generosity and giving. The crystalline voidness is complete absence of self-centeredness, and this is the essence of selfless generosity. I recognize that this is not my station (a state that is permanently available), but is only the state arising today. I am sure that at some point a manifestation of the personality will arise that will limit the selfless generosity. What is certain, however, is that this state is arising today because I truly have no motivation when I give a public lecture.