I - Self Realisation, Non-Duality and Enlightenment
Most people are suffering from mistaken identity – taking ourselves to be someone we are not. The goal of psycho-spiritual development is to correct this mistaken identity; not to strengthen or improve our false identity. The self that we think we are does not exist; it is a figment of our imagination. The self that we think we are cannot awaken – we have to awaken from that false-self in order to realise our true-Self. When this occurs, we realise that we have been our true-Self all along, but had simply forgotten.
Our inner journey takes us through the labyrinth of our ego structures to discover our true-Self (at the core of our being). A labyrinth differs from a maze in that it only has one path which leads to the centre, so the path is already mapped out for us – all we have to do is walk it. If we stop resisting and controlling, the flow of life will naturally carry us to our destination. Some parts of the journey will be tough and others will be wonderful, but they will all be experiential opportunities for the reintegration, development and liberation of our consciousness.
Figure 24: The Labyrinth – Symbolic Depictions of the Ego Super-Structure
The most effective way of journeying through the labyrinth of our ego structures is to do so with conscious awareness and presence, because then we can process the psychological material (i.e. dissolve the ego structures and reintegrate our consciousness) as we encounter it. Then, when we finally reach the core of our being and realise our true-Self, we can be confident that we will not relapse back into ego-identification because the ego will have largely been dissolved.
Seeking Self-realisation before we are ready is unwise because we are seeking freedom from something (i.e. the false-self) that we still require for our development. However, our conditioning can cause us to remain misidentified with the ego-self longer than is necessary. So here are a few simple things that we can do to loosen our identification with our ego-self:
The Path to Self-Realisation
In early childhood, if something authentic (e.g. an essential quality or our true-Self) is not acknowledged and mirrored back to us by our parents, we presume it is unimportant so we repress it and develop ego structures that will help us cope without it. Psycho-spiritual development is about reversing that process – removing the blockages, bringing things into the light and turning the repression into expression. Self-realisation only becomes possible when sufficient psychological "undoing" has been completed – when our conditioning has been neutralised and our awareness has been purified (i.e. dis-identified from ego).
Even though Self-realisation is an instant event, there are several stages leading up to it that can be used to gauge our progress and guide us onto the next stage of our journey:
In a meditation or self-inquiry we might be able to reach stage 3 or 4, but in our everyday lives we may only be at stage 1 or 2. This is quite normal, but we can bring these higher states of consciousness into our everyday lives through Conscious Living (see Chapter 4) and Living Presence (see Chapter 6). When we reach stage 3 or 4 in our meditation practice we can start practicing spiritual Self-inquiry (see Chapter 6); prior to that it is more beneficial to practice personal self-inquiry (see Chapter 4).
Self-realisation results in non-dualistic perception – a direct and intimate unity with everything we encounter. But what does it really mean and how does it work?
Figure 25: Dualistic Perception
Figure 26: Non-Dualistic Perception
Separation and duality are learning experiments. The Self becomes identified with the false ego-self in order to experience duality – to experience life from a different, separate, non-unified perspective. When we have learnt all we can from separation and duality we will naturally return to unity and non-duality (i.e. Self-realisation).
The Mechanics of Self-Realisation
Figure 27 shows the relationships between the authentic personality, the true-Self, the false-self and the ego-personality. The numbered blocks at the bottom of the diagram correspond to the following numbered points:
1. Collectively, the mind, heart and body constitute the authentic personality.
2. The true-Self is the core of the authentic personality (prior to enlightenment).
3. But the true-Self has lost sight of its true nature and believes it is the false-self.
4. The false-self is the core of the ego personality.
Figure 27: Self-Realisation
The more ego structures we dissolve, the more authentic consciousness is liberated. This gradually shifts the balance of power from the false-self and the ego-personality to the true-Self and the authentic personality. Self-realisation becomes possible when the balance of power has shifted in favour of the true-Self and authentic personality.
Enlightenment occurs when the Self transcends the personality to centre itself in the soul, at which time the Self instantly and fully realises itself (whether it was partially realised before or not). Enlightenment is full and permanent Self-realisation. It is waking up to a new and higher level of reality which allows us to see things from a completely different perspective. This new perspective is difficult to describe because it transcends (yet includes) the conceptual mind. At enlightenment we realise that pretty much everything we ever believed was true; isn’t. And pretty much everything we ever thought was important; isn’t. Consequently, it can take weeks, months or years to become fully accustomed to this new state of being..
Immediately prior to enlightenment, the Self is centred in the mind (the highest aspect of the personality triad – mind, heart and body). At the moment of enlightenment, the Self transcends the personality and centres itself in the soul. In transcending the personality our consciousness becomes more transpersonal (i.e. not limited to the personal). The Self must transcend the personality to complete the final stage of human evolution, namely to dissolve the remaining ego structures and perfect the personality. Just as we cannot demolish a building while we are still inside it, the last of our ego structures cannot be dissolved while our Self is centred in the personality. After enlightenment, the personality remains an important aspect of our being but we are no longer identified with it. The mind, emotions and body are simply tools that we can utilise in our daily lives. Tools that we can continue to utilise for the development of our consciousness, but in a different way now.
Life After Enlightenment
Many of the things that I am about to describe are often experienced for short periods of time prior to enlightenment, as we are given glimpses of what our lives could be like:
Common Misconceptions After Enlightenment
Henry T Laurency wrote, in The Knowledge of Life Part 5, "The evolutionary way of man consists of a series of 'awakenings' and at these he is seized with the desire to throw 'overboard' all that he has acquired so far... This only shows how far he has still to go before he becomes one with all." This section explains a couple of the common misconceptions:
Common Difficulties After Enlightenment
The profound shift in our identity that accompanies enlightenment can give rise to some difficulties:
Generally, the more ego structures (false qualities) that remain at the time of enlightenment the more difficulties will be encountered. So it is advisable to do the inner work first and allow enlightenment to occur naturally, when we are truly ready.
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Spiritual Self Inquiry
Self inquiry is a relaxing and sinking of awareness through deeper and deeper layers of ourself until we arrive at our essential being or true nature. It takes us beyond what we already know, to discover new aspects of ourself and reality that are beyond our imagination. Read more...