The Impersonal

Copyright © 1995 A-Hameed Ali ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

To slough off the universe
To be utterly naked
God is alone.

A few days later…

I wake up in the morning with a slight tension at the left shoulder. There is discomfort with the tension. Simply being aware of the tension seems to influence it by making it expand. It becomes a line of tension along the left side of the chest, enfolded by a soft cushiony sensation.

This line is a manifestation of the ego-self that I call the “ego-line.” It usually accompanies a specific psychic contraction that corresponds to the presence of the individuality of ego. In other words, the ego-line is the physical manifestation of the ego structure that gives the personality or ego-self the sense of being a separate individual, an autonomous person. The line of tension is a direct indication that the sense of being an individual on the ego level is a contraction of consciousness. This separate individuality of ego is formed or defined mostly by the separating boundaries, both bodily and psychological.

The soft cushiony sensation around the line of tension turns out to be a manifestation of consciousness that relates to a false sense of being a person. This makes sense, for the ego-line represents the person of ego, which is not an essential form, but imitates the essential form of the personal essence. As I recognize its falseness, it begins slowly to flake off, falling off the line of tension like dead skin falling off a mummy. This process goes on for most of the day.

Later in the day, the line of tension becomes a tube of a plastic-like substance, an empty plastic tube, which extends all the way to the top of the head. As I go about the business of the day, I do not lose touch with this contraction, but remain continuously aware of it as part of my conscious experience. At some point, this contemplation opens the way for a very subtle insight: my concern about the contraction is inseparable from the contraction. The concern involves a desire for the contraction not to be there, which I now recognize as my hope to go beyond it. The plastic tube contraction is the presence of the individual of ego in the posture of hoping to go beyond itself. The hope is inseparable from the contraction, because it is the future-oriented attitude of the personality, which is the contraction. As I see this, the contraction begins to dissolve. The tube of contraction first dissolves in the head, which eliminates the mental concern. A beautiful sky blue quality of consciousness appears in the head, bringing a sense of mental rest and relaxation. Poignant settledness of all agitation in the head. The head feels filled by a delicious sensation that seems to smoothly dissolve any form in this part of the body.

As this happens, and as the totality of the tube of contraction disappears, I lose the sense of being a person, and become an awareness that recedes indefinitely, as if backward, from the familiar sense of being a person, until I recognize myself as a new kind of witnessing. I become an immaterial witness, not located within a personal consciousness. I find myself to be a witnessing of all phenomena.

A new obstacle arises at this point, a belief that constitutes a resistance against this new manifestation. This belief interferes with the sense of witnessing, without totally eliminating it. The belief is that there will be no personal life, no personal living, if there is no enmeshment in life. This exposes the belief as part of the inertia of being the separate individual of ego.
Being responds to this concern by manifesting the aspect of the personal essence, the pearl beyond price, the person of Being. The experience transforms into knowing myself as a full presence, rounded as a pearl, but transparent and sweet. I feel personal, even though I am a pure presence of transparent consciousness. This transparent fullness has a subtle sweetness, making it feel slightly sticky, or gummy. There is pure presence, with clarity and spaciousness all around. The cognitive aspect of the experience is that I am a person with no qualities, only a personal presence, devoid of images or psychological boundaries. Since I can be a person without being the product of memory, I can live a personal life without getting lost in it.

That night, during dinner, the leaden heaviness appears again, scattering the attention and presence for about an hour. The leaden heaviness becomes so dense that it disintegrates most of my capacity for attention and presence. Strong resistances arise, feelings of rubbery thickness, wooden dryness, amorphous states of consciousness, and many other confused and chaotic sensations. I feel the leaden rounded heaviness pushing from inside, scattering whatever consciousness it meets in its way. At this point I realize that the power of this heaviness arises from the transformation of the leaden consciousness into something much more substantial and powerful. The lead pearl has transformed into the shiny gray existence pearl, like a large pearl of hematite.

I feel personal but immense, a person of Being so dense that my substantiality eclipses the physical substantiality of the body. The most definite feeling is a sense of personal existence. I feel intensely real, existing so fundamentally that the mind cannot conceive of this reality. I experience myself as a person, and this person is composed of pure existence. Existence of Being, essential and fundamental, and independent of the mind, forms the very atoms of what I am. I am existence, beyond all thought of existence. The sense of truth and reality is immensely profound; it feels deeper than the universe itself. And this unimaginably real sense of existence has a very subtle sense of being a person—a person not defined by history or mind, not confined by character traits or relationships, but a person who exists, and that is all. The sense of existence has an unquestionable sense of certainty, independent of any content of mind or experience. I recognize at this point that there is no basis for the concern that there will be no personal life if I am not enmeshed in it.

This experience of being so real and certain as a person continues throughout dinner. I continue to converse with my dinner companions, while I am spontaneously attending to the inner transformation. The unusually substantial sense of presence affects the atmosphere at dinner in a subtle way not recognized by my companions. The conversation merely turns towards basic things in life, less abstract and more personal. My body feels as if all of its atoms are pulled downward, as if gravity has increased, but there is no physical discomfort. In fact, the body relaxes; the muscles let go and condense downward.

I realize that there is no real basis for believing that in order to have a personal life I need to be enmeshed in it. This is true for the person of ego, who is formed by images and psychological patterns. Now, however, I have the certainty that my personal existence is beyond any of that. My personal existence is beyond mind and history, for it is an essential manifestation of the fundamental existence of Being. I can be a person, and live a personal life in a truly involved way, without being enmeshed in any of its particulars. This is certain.
I have experienced my presence in the essential form of the pearl innumerable times. This essential form manifests mostly as a luminous white pearl, but can manifest in the color of any essential aspect, like the deep sky blue of direct knowing, the emerald green of loving kindness, or the shiny gold of truth. In each of these manifestations, the particular aspect, with all its alchemical characteristics, is experienced along with the characteristic of personalness. The presence of the pearl signifies authentic personalness, which reveals the possibility of living a personal life from the view of Being.

The existence pearl is the new development of the personal aspect of Being. It is quite amazing to see how Being resolves a particular issue, or answers a real question, not by an insight or idea, but by the presentation of an essential form of its own truth. The resolution is an experience of Being, in one of its pure and universal forms, and not merely the dissolution of an obstacle or the end of a conflict. The beautiful thing about such a resolution is how exact and precise it is. Being responds with the precise state needed for the resolution, a state not anticipated by the mind, arising as an unexpected discovery. Such experiences demonstrate the awesome intelligence that Being possesses, which can only fill us with awe, and heart-felt gratitude and trust.

The concern that I started with involved the belief that there would be no personal life if there were no enmeshment in it. I believed I would not exist as a person if I were not enmeshed in the particulars of my life. Being revealed, through its messenger, the nous, that my personal existence is an essential manifestation of Being, independent of mind and situations, and hence stands on its own, independent of mental reactions. In other words, I can live a personal life by merely being, for my personal existence is a part of Being. There is no real threat to my personal existence. Before this point, I had not experienced existence of Being, itself, as a personal presence. The response of Being to my concern is exquisitely precise, beyond all expectations.

By the time dinner is over, the density and substantiality suddenly evaporate, revealing a vastness beyond comprehension. I do not perceive this vastness, but I recognize it as my very identity. I experience myself as the vast silent dark emptiness. As I experience this new identity, I learn a great deal of what I truly am when I am not trapped in the particulars of personal life and history. I can be present as personal existence, or I can transcend all personal experience. I am then the unchanging background witnessing, which has been revealing itself in the midst of personal experience, in glimpses and intimations, flashes and intuitions. Now this awareness reveals itself fully, as the universal witness.

I experience myself as beyond everything, literally everything, and not just everything in my personal life. I am a silent witness, vast and unchanging, beyond time and all space. I am absolutely still, totally uninvolved, but completely aware. This demonstrates directly that I do not need to be freed or enlightened. I am always free, always have been and always will be. Also, I cannot be trapped, for my very identity is totally detached awareness. I can see my personal life as a drama that I do not have to be involved in. It is like a movie that has a beginning and an end, but it is not me. I feel distant from everything, but acutely aware of everything.

I am a silent space, totally empty but containing everything. The recognition, which is a direct perception, is that everything is in me. The body, the universe, essence, personality, everything that can become an object of perception, is not me, but is in me. I am pure awareness, mere witnessing, where everything arises and passes away.

Four days later…

I wake up with the black space of intimacy, feeling pervaded by and enfolded in a sweet deliciousness. At the center of this deep intimacy, I sense the solid and dense presence of a diamond-like inner support. This brings a sense of grounded solid reality. At the same time there is spaciousness and depth. The body-mind is functioning mostly as a location for the consciousness. The spacious depth continues during the day, expanding gradually into the vastness of the silent witness. The experience of the universal witness unfolds more than it did few days ago, revealing further implications of recognizing my identity as this unchanging background of awareness. The insights, which arise as perceptions, roll effortlessly, the more I am this witnessing:

“I am not the body, not the personality, not the essence, not the mind, not god. I am nothing that is a content of experience. Yet, all experience happens within me. Everything, at all levels, from the spiritual to the physical, happens within me. I am not touched by any of it. I am untouched and untouchable. I am unchanging. I am deathless. I am unborn. I am uncaused, unoriginated. I was never born, will never die. The concepts of life and death do not apply to me. Life and death are nothing but a process of constant transformation within me. All existence, from the lowest to the highest, is always in a state of flux, but I am the background against which this flux is seen. I am static, unchanging, nonreactive and nonresponsive. I am beyond space and time; both space and time are within me. All of time is a movement within me. Personality, or more accurately, the personal consciousness or soul, is time. Time is the flux of this personal consciousness. Essence is timelessness. I see time as the movement of the timeless in me. All of time, the time of the body and of all of physical existence, is a small process within me. I am beyond time and timelessness. I am the beyond, beyond all and everything. Mind is within me, small and always trying to grasp me.”

The silence is vast and eerie. There is a sense of ultimacy, of end. It seems that there is nothing beyond it. It is not that the universal witness is the highest. It is beyond high and low. From this silence, the revelation of all essential manifestations of Being arises in a hierarchy within the background of this the vast witnessing awareness. It contains all the levels of Being, so it exists at all the levels. Experiencing the universal witness is not a matter of ascending grades; it is rather an exit, getting out of the whole thing. It is truly the beyond, the unchanging silent background.

Its main characteristic is that it is aware. In this way it is similar to the personal witness, where the personal witness seems now to have been a limited and personal manifestation of it. The personal witness is aware of the immediate environment of the location of consciousness, while the universal witness is aware, in addition, of the totality of the universe, as if from above or from afar. This perception does not include all of the details of manifestation, but rather a general perception, as if awareness has receded backward until all that exists is in front of it. Phenomenologically, the perception is of being an endless emptiness, so vast that the whole of existence is a small manifestation within it, seen in general outline as a river of images in constant flux. The awareness is aware of itself as a witnessing of everything without being involved in anything. A dark awareness, but not exactly black. It is more dark gray, the color of the aspect of existence, but it is sheer voidness. It is not no-mind space, for although it is beyond thought and mind, mind can exist within it.

The strangest thing about this awareness is its relation to time. It is beyond time. This is different from the sense of timelessness that arises when the essential manifestation of Being outshines everything else, where it seems that time has stopped. It is beyond time. It seems to be what is there before time begins, and after time ends, and at all times.
It clearly is a space with more than five dimensions, for it includes the three dimensions of space, the dimension of time, and the dimension of essence that is the presence of Being. It also feels undefinable, in the sense that no concept can contain it. The more one perceives that it is undefinable, the more there is insight about it. The knowing of it arises by being it, as if it is known only by itself. Looking at it from outside it, or more accurately, when it looks at itself, it simply looks like space. Its relation to time, change and awareness is not seen except through its self-knowledge.

The state of the universal witness continues for a few days. I see everything, the house, friends, family, students and situations all existing and happening within my vastness. There is a sense of utter impersonality, totally transcendent impersonalness.

Understanding and realizing the universal witness allows me to see and understand the totality of the personal life. At this point the activity at the forehead intensifies, and insights start pouring out about the connection between the personal and impersonal. This begins as curiosity about the relation between the intimacy space, which feels very personal, and the witness space, which feels utterly impersonal.

Here the diamond-like presence of support reappears as a big lead diamond in the belly. The understanding radiates out from a lead diamond between the eyes. A flow of insights pours out of this awareness, completing itself as the objective understanding of lead, of inertia, of the conditioning of the personal, and of the ego line.

Lead is the will that supports the conditioning of consciousness. But further, the lead pearl is the unconscious will, the support and determination that has always been supporting the ego-line, the ego sense of being a person. Nevertheless, the ego line contraction, even though it is the personality, is also a role. The role is the personal function or work, developed throughout one’s personal history, as the individual capacity to function in a particular way. In other words, one is born with a work to develop and do on earth. It is the personal consciousness—which, for most individuals, is the ego-structured personality—that develops it. The witnessing space cannot do it, because it does not do. This means that one has a particular personal role, which develops mostly through the personality developing along certain lines. The personality is conditioned to be a certain way, which in time will manifest the role and its work. An unchanging and inflexible will supports this conditioned personality. The will is inertia, lead itself.

Usually one gets trapped in the personality, in the role, and takes it to be oneself. In fact, one takes the line of contraction to be oneself. However, the conditioning of the personal consciousness is a program that can develop in such a manner that it will self-destruct when the role, its attendant capacities and its work, have developed. It seems this will inevitably happen if the program leads to the impersonal, the silent witness.

Developing one’s personal role and work is the same thing as the maturation and individuation of the personal consciousness. This development coincides with the realization of the personal essence, the pearl that Being develops through the friction of the life process.

Few days later…

An insight reveals a further relationship between the personal development and the unchanging and undeveloping universal witness. The personal needs to realize the universal impersonal in order to be free. Otherwise life becomes enmeshment in the particulars of daily life. The realization of the impersonal is not only for its own sake, it is also for the personal to complete its development in freedom. Life is then the personal consciousness experiencing itself as the flow of the realization of Being.

Chapter 4 -Objective Sorrow>>

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