Who said the I-thought is the ego or self?
In part one of this current essay we discovered that the human being is really a collection of many psychological and behavioral functionings and "internal" and invisible psychic structures, which Freud called the Ich, which was translated into English as ego. Later psychoanalysts develop models of the ego further and investigated various mechanisms by which that ego interacts with the world. Later psychoanalysts would call the ego the self, and talk about how that self relates to the world and to others.
In part one of this essay, we saw that it was not even necessary to bother with the I thought, or and I-object in order to allow functioning in the world. Most functioning in the world occurs on an unconscious or preconscious level hardly involving our consciousness itself. For example, driving a car, riding a bicycle, interacting with others in private or in a group, washing dishes, and performing many functions in everyday life and work. The existence of an ‘I’ was never required.
However, when a person "really" discovers that there is no separate I internally, huge psychological changes can take place. At least it was with me. For many others, it is just an intellectual discovery and the read texts written by others as to what this no-self, or no-I discovery means.
For me it was not so much the disappearance of a separate sense of self, or loss of the sense of doership. These are rather minor things in comparison to what happened to me.
For me, when I discovered that there was no internal "object" to which the I word referred, I realized I had been living my life in a fantasy where I was somewhat like soul inside of the body, separate from the world.
When I saw that the I thought pointed to nothing, pointed to an empty set, I also saw that all other thoughts based on this imagined dichotomy of inner and outer, and self and no self, actually pointed to nothing.
I saw directly that language and learning superimposed a network of thoughts upon our perceptions, and these thoughts mediated between the activities of my imagine I object, and the imagined objects of the external world. I saw that all thoughts are merely the map by which we think about reality, and were not the reality itself, which we barely saw. Almost always, always, we saw the world through a network of thought. This network assumed a distinction between me and the outer world. I was a ghost in the machine of the body, operating in the world.
In fact, what I discovered is that there is only an impersonal consciousness operating in the world, and I, the real I of the Absolute, was merely along for the ride.
When I saw that there was no inner object related to the word I, I saw that there also were no external objects related to the nouns and adjectives we use every day. The word chair, for example, is a generic word, and we impose this functioning and recognition on hundreds of objects every day in our life without ever seeing the chair for what it is. We see it in functional terms, or aesthetic terms, but hardly ever just look at a chair to see what is there. Our intent, predispositions and education impose a story to cover everything in the world.
But all of this disappeared for me. There no longer was an inner versus and outer. There was no internal direction versus an external direction. There was no inside the skin versus outside the skin. There is only one experience, and only the mind created distinctions and separations.
The entire intellectual system collapsed. The network of thought disappeared. I could see without thinking, I could see thoughts floating through space like tiny clouds that swirled around my mind. This began to affect all other aspects of my life because I began to see that all concepts were up for questioning. All concepts, including physics, mathematics, economics, politics, morality, conventional daily life, the place of work, faith, trust, the meaning of life, were all up for questioning in the sense that they disappeared, and I began to operate in freedom.
Yet, "I" still existed. I was able to talk to people, go to Starbucks, right psychological reports, take care of my cats, deal with my significant other on a daily basis, and read about the philosophy with a new and deeper understanding from the no mind point of view. This entity called Edward, this body mind complex, continued to function in the world with barely a problem. It seemed as if all auctioning was automatic, but this is to be expected, since in our daily life most functioning is automatic anyway. It's just that the mind was no longer involved in terms of daydreaming or thinking about the world or what was going on. Thoughts did not interfere.
And the world was seen to be illusory, in the sense that the world I had lived in was an artifact of the network of thought, and one belief in that network disappeared, my belief in the permanence of separateness of the world. Also disappeared. There was just functioning without self reference.
I don't mean that the mind disappeared, rather its importance was diminished. It was not the predominant element that ran my life, but my life seemed to flow from emptiness, and the mind played a subservient role.
Now the question is, when the mind drops, what do I become?
I became me, a fully functioning body-mind functioning in a new world with far less thinking and thought. The illusory world of the network of thought disappeared, and I began functioning out of an emptiness, automatically.
But there was still a sense of I, or being the subject, but it was not confined to any location in space-time.
Then one day I had a second awakening experience. I saw that consciousness itself was illusory and not me. By that I mean that I felt I was outside of consciousness, and the states of consciousness came to me without touching or affecting me. Waking consciousness came and went. The dream state came and went. The sleep state came and went, but I was untouched. I had moved to a deeper level inside of "me" that was "deeper" than consciousness. I might say it was really experienced as "other" than consciousness.
I was that which was beyond consciousness. Consciousness itself is an illusion. The oneness state itself was illusory. All thoughts were illusory.
By illusory, I meant that the experience was that ‘I’ had a sense of permanence. Consciousness came and went through time, but I was separate and not affected by the passage of the states or the objects within consciousness, or the totality of manifest consciousness itself. The experience was, I am permanent, all else is fluid, temporary, insubstantial, and thus not real, I was that state that supported all the illusion.
That is, I acquired the knowledge that I existed beyond the universe of manifestation. I had never been born into that universe as a human entity. I was not really a human being. I was something else entirely, what Nisargadatta called the witness, or the absolute, or para-Brahman.
I was the unborn, as are we all. Yet "I" was constantly associated with this body mind entity named Edward, that was perfectly able to function all by itself without thinking, self reference, or a separate sense of self in the world.
So what is functioning in the world if I am beyond that?
This was my discovery:
Consciousness was functioning all by itself as an apparent body mind. Everything that existed in the manifest world was consciousness, from the body, to the functioning of the body, to all the objects in the world. All was consciousness operating in an impersonal way in the sense it did not involve the I that I felt myself to be, which was apart from creation, the manifest world.
‘I’, the witness, the absolute, was just along for the ride as the cognizer, the subject, the witness, and I could choose to identify with Edward Muzika as a human being in relationship in the world, or as the witness, utterly removed from the world, or I could identify with the void which contained all phenomena and from which phenomenal flow, or I could identify with my activities of the moment as a human being.
Then a year ago something happened. Love came to me. A woman came into my life and everything changed. A new life was breathed into me. A new energy permeated my body and being. And this that was strictly personal. That is, this love happened to "me" at the deepest level of identification. I had become alive as love. The other also was alive as a real, as opposed to an imaginary object within my sentience, my conscious world. The world and I were becoming personal.
As Muktanda said, “I have become alive.” That is, I as the absolute had been born into the world as the personal.
I was no longer an impersonal functioning of consciousness, I became love itself, and everything, everything gradually became personal again. Is it I had made a long journey from the personal Edward who began his spiritual journey in the 1960s, culminating in awakening in 1995, then 15 years of lying fallow in this impersonal consciousness, functioning in an impersonal way. Then I awakened yet again. I returned to the world of humanity, even while constantly aware of the great void which contains all of manifestations, and the coming and going of various states of consciousness and objects within consciousness.
But now I was a lover, and the world began to take on a new reality, a reality of spiritual energy and GRACE, with a love for others, and a desire to show them how to break free of their own imprisoning networks of thought, and daily living situations.
I saw that there were other concepts, conditions, and predispositions in each of us, that are far more powerful as a prison, than merely the I thought. There are so many concepts and conditionings caused by society, our educational system, our jobs and our relationships, that create in each of us a private prison that robs us of love and life.
These concepts are deeper into the unconscious, because we were born and raised in these conceptual structures of family and society, as opposed to learning them from teachers and books about karma, rebirth, no self, or Self, consciousness and the absolute, and all the different techniques that are accepted routes for achieving peace and happiness.
These were "local" prisons trapping individuals into lifeless marriages or relationships, boring jobs, depression, feelings of desolation and hopelessness, and endless repetition of relatively meaningless activities. There was no life many people's lives, especially those seeking spirituality. They know something is wrong in the world and with their lives, as well as everyone else's life, but they don't know what that “missing” was. They then began searching, knowing not for what they look.
This is THE major confusion in the spiritual world. What do we want when we seek?
Some seek knowledge. Some seek love. Some seek to disappear, to transcend everything in an ultimate peace as they imagine Ramana Maharshi to live in. Some seek to reexperience life with a new intensity and with feeling. Others see an ultimate security, a knowing of Truth.
But I think what I found is the whole package.
First one discovers that the entity they thought they were is not real, and there is just an impersonal functioning of consciousness that is always screwed up by a hyperactive mind. They discover they are altogether separate from consciousness, a mere witness of the manifestation of consciousness, something outside of this manifest universe altogether.
Abiding there, they find peace and relative happiness. But after time, there arises a feeling of boredom and lifelessness.
Also, despite the peace, happiness and even bliss on occasion, there is a hatred for the world that keeps pulling us out of that peace. Our peace is always disturbed. Even when we are chanting and feeling bliss, somebody comes along and makes a lot of noise in our peace is lost, bliss is lost, and anger arises.
Also, in this world of the absolute, there is no love, there is only witnessing of the activities of consciousness, both of ourselves and the apparent external world, and love is absent. Without love, life becomes lifeless and boring.
Then comes the new movement of love for my beloved, where love is the predominating element operating within consciousness, itself within the Void, which once again makes everything personal. As the Zen master Seung Sahn stated, we have gone full circle, from 0° as an ordinary human being so to speak, to 180° of complete emptiness, the void, and then a return to 360° of ordinary human consciousness once again, but this time transformed and full of life.
This journey of love is so amazing, the experiences are so amazing and dramatic. One feels like a river of love flows through their sense of presence. Others feel constant blissful energies flowing upwards from the heart, gut or sexual organs, through the heart and into the world and the other.
For long periods one may feel bliss which becomes ecstasy. All kinds of states and experiences arise and pass away as our awareness expands in new dimensions.
But the most astounding thing we experience is the descent of grace and humility. We feel like we are touched by God’s sacred breath itself, often in the presence of the other, he or she who exists before us as our beloved: lover, friend, companion, guru, or chela.
Grace permeates everything. We fall to our knees in utter awe of the grace and acceptance we feel. We are humbled, laid low, in a new kind of ecstatic embrace by the infinite. We are then complete, finished in this divine embrace that has arisen from and by one’s love for another human, lover, guru, chela, child.
The whole world is experienced through the heart and the mind plays just a secondary yet integrated role, a supporting role for the heart-sense. I am empty, bereft of self-care or self-concern, only with concern for the other.
Now that I and the world have once again become personal, a great desire for justice arises and a caring for all. I want to function as a support for all of sentience, for all life from that of a butterfly or worm, to all animals and all humans, especially my beloved.