Let’s get real about Subtle Body energies, love and Self-Realization.
I use the term “Subtle Body” as do Nisargadatta and Siddharameshwar to indicate that part of Consciousness that lies between our experience of the physical body and the phenomena revealed by the 6 senses including intuition, and the more subtle level of Consciousness known as the Causal Body, where nothing is known; there is in it a complete absence of knowing or even self-refection. One consciously goes unconscious, and one is aware of nothing, including being aware. In its depths is complete forgetfulness.
I use this model not because it is “truth,” for there is no truth in words or concepts, but as a model, a hypothesis, used to contain and explain a wide range of spiritual experience. For example, this model contains 1, the world we see, and our experience of our body, the 2. Subtle Body phenomena of thought, emotions, energies, bliss, fantasy, visions, etc., as well as 3. the realm of non-knowing, or forgetfulness, of non-existence of the Causal body as experienced in deep sleep and various meditations, and lastly, 4. the Fourth state, AKA the stateless state, Turiya, Self, or the lovebliss body, as love and bliss are the key characteristic of this state.
The essence of Turiya is also defined by Advaita as Satchitananda, or existence, knowledge and bliss. Knowledge here does not mean concepts, but awareness of objects and of awareness, or self-awareness.
Such models are often needed at the beginning of se;f-study because a lot of people require such structure in order to let the mind rest and just practice a spiritual method, such as self-inquiry or self-abiding. You need to remember this, for some day you may be a teacher yourself, and you will need to be able to answer students’ questions either from a model or without it. This is a good model if they need one.
Even beyond Consciousness, this model talks about Parabrahman, which is the witness of Consciousness, lying beyond Consciousness, not part of it. This Parabrahman, is not touched by Consciousness, is not born into Consciousness, and is only aware of itself when it witnesses Consciousness as passing states, including Turiya, and realizes even That is not part of It as the Witness, Parabrahman.
Parabrahman stands apart from Consciousness, and witnesses its play. You would say that the witness is not part of existence, for it is never known as an object, but only as “me,” the subject or an absolute self witnessing Consciousness from a “distance.” That is, I become aware of myself as witness only when I no longer identify with Consciousness, either as “beingness,” or “here and now,” or of the totality of Consciousness as a oneness state where I become an impersonal One, and I Am even separate from lovebliss.
Now Siddharameshwar and Nisargadatta as well as Ramana, provide a method for exploring the various “levels” of Consciousness, which is the use of a mantra, such as “Who am I?” or better, locating the “I Am” sense, and following it, abiding in it, and hopefully playing with that sensation by loving it, welcoming it, wondering how it would feel if it flowered.
According to the model, following the mantra or I am sense “deeper” and deeper and deeper leads to an experience of Self, of Turiya, (the blissbody), the root level of Consciousness which is experienced as light, love and bliss/ecstasy/power.
From there one realizes that despite identifications with various levels of Consciousness, as Parabrahman, you are the “deepest” level, apart even from Consciousness and even love/bliss.
However, at this point Siddharameshwar warns the practitioner to continue to be devoted to the Self as found as Turiya, as well as all the rest of manifestation of Self and the individual found in Consciousness, presumably to prevent becoming dead to one’s own Self and the world. If one habitually identifies with that which witnesses Consciousness, the meditator will die to the world and Consciousness, as Nisargadatta said was happening to him at the end of his life.
Both he and Robert Adams, my teachers, were dead to the world. They were “finished” with it; they had tasted all it had to offer and found the world wanting in terms of drawing their attention.
You need to understand that these 4 levels of Consciousness and the Absolute coexist, and once you are aware of each, they are all always equally accessible. That is, the Causal body of forgetfulness, nothingness is always there, always existing even when in the ordinary waking state, the dream state, the sleep state, and in Turiya. One can always be aware of it existing in and around your Consciousness once you have tasted each level it in its separate purity.
All four levels of Consciousness and the Absolute Witness all simultaneously exist. One just has to tease each out of the totality matrix. The Subtle Body phenomena, the Causal Body, Turiya are all simultaneously available to itself and to the Absolute.
Now, as to the Subtle Body, one might say it is both the container of subjective phenomena, or inner special awareness, and all of the subjective experiences available to a human that include thought, imaging, images, memories, emotions, the I Am sensation, chakras, and also inner sounds, like tinnitus and other spiritual sounds, visions, astral projections, love, bliss and inner energies, whether of the Kundalini-described sort, the generic term Shakti, Chi, meridian energies, and orgasms. Included are the various visions of lights, whether of oneself, or the Self, as a blinding white light, or enormous spectrums of colored lights found associated with various inner flows of emotions or energies, love, devotion, etc., or seen externally as auras, or energy fields of a flowing and not solid world.
Now, the love, bliss, ecstasies, and much of the light phenomena are really “leakages” of the Turiya root source Consciousness into the Subtle Body area of Consciousness, felt at the Subtle body level as either I Am, or as a withdrawn and distant Witness according to the Siddharameshwar model. That is, practice of the mantra of abiding in the I Am, leads one’s awareness to ever more subtle and more invisible states including the blissful “knowing nothing” of the Causal Body, and experiencing total ecstatic bliss and light of Turiya.
Of course there are many other models of the entire awakening process, some of which totally ignore the Causal Body, ignore the experience of no-experience, or the experience of vast emptiness and the Voids. Other models totally ignore the ecstasy bliss states and go only for emptiness, beingness, Void or the Absolute.
In fact, even within the Subtle body you have a choice of what to look for: The sense of I Am, which will take you to Turiya, the love/bliss area, or to attend to the “looker,” the “searcher,” which leads to the Absolute beyond Consciousness.
I chose the Siddharameswar model as it can be used to explain almost any type of spiritual experience and awakening, does not use terms like God, goddess, the feminine or masculine, Shiva or Shakti, Mother, etc., which is a model valuable for worshiping abstract elements like Kali or Shakti, love and devotion, but also adds a whole pantheon of Hindu beliefs and concepts that can bind you.
The Siddharameshwar model seems more clean, yet preserves love and devotion, and is broader in explaining a wider range of experiences. Also, eventually all models are shunned and the student learns to address experiences as they arise without interpretation, assigning meaning, or judging it as a lesson to be learned.
Also, the standard progression as assigned by Siddharameshwar is a progressive “deepening” or better, becoming more subtle in one’s discriminating awareness, able to grasp ever more refined emotional and energetic experiences, meaning ideally, the student becomes a Bhakta when exploring the Turiya level of Consciousness, then a Jnani when he/she realizes and identifies as the witness separate from Consciousness. Of course the opposite is true if instead of concentrating on I Am, one concentrates on finding the looker, the subject, the witness.
I chose the latter approach from the beginning of my practice over 40 years ago and entirely missed Turiya, the existence/knowledge/bliss body, but found it in explosive upheaval when I fell in love. It was as if my internal emptiness exploded in love. The love exploded into the Voids and filled them with a nectar of sweet and ecstatic love.
Because my own experience of realizing Self was as a result of a personal love that grew and grew until it became explosively “divine,” and felt like the arising of God in me, from my “innards,” attended by huge and explosive energies, a total white-light absorption of all visual phenomena, an explosive ecstasy that wiped away mind and small self, along with feeling enormous gratitude, a total surrender to God and grace. When the experiences cleared a few hours later, I was aware of myself as Self, and also as Ed Muzika, a mind/body/energetic field entity intimately tied to my divine Self as a union. This experience was repeated many times leaving a residual bonding between God and I, my Self and self.
From this position I now see that the driving force was not lovebliss, not Shakti, but love, devotion and surrender to the other, whether lover or God, or cat or idol, or mother. The driving force is not the energies, but sheer love, devotion, surrender, becoming nothing oneself, and the other becomes everything. In losing myself in the Other, whether the divine Self within, or another human, I am powering my own transformation through surrender to ever more subtle nothingness. I am nothing, only the other and God is great.
Transformation does not come from the energies, from Shakti, from Chi, these are all set alight by love.
In fact, concentration on just the Subtle body energies is a distraction. Though the body and mind can get increasingly electrified and occupied with these internal energies, it is the love that transforms. The blisses and ecstasies are not the goal, but are the icing on the cake so to speak, or as David Spiro says, are the body’s reward for practice.
Those who concentrate solely on energies, bliss, ecstasies, can become trapped in the Subtle body according to the Siddharameshwar model.
Also, it is a mistake to say the principle of identification disappears upon awakening or enlightenment, after which one no longer identifies with the body/mind. The identification with body/mind must disappear way before Self-Realization, it is a pre-condition.
What happens in Self-Realization is that identification is freed so that it is free flowing, sometimes identified with love/bliss, sometimes identified with the body/mind, sometimes identified with a vision, sometimes identified with inner lights, sometimes identified with the Other, whether self, or a cat, or a lover, sometimes identified with one’s own energy body which I call my (little) self or presence, sometimes identified with the energies or Shakti, sometimes identified with the Voids.
Then sometimes one identifies with the divine body one feels,the Self, and which permeates everything.
That is, I can identify with whatever I want, or I can let the identification process choose itself by free-flowing to be what I am at any moment. Sometimes I am Self, sometimes God, sometimes Ed Muzika, with emotional experiences ranging from great love to rage and jealousy, sometimes with other powerful emotions, sometimes with a summer sunset, sometimes with ecstasy, sometimes nothingness, and often with another, whether lover, a student, a teacher, a stranger. I am open and flowing everywhere and also nowhere in particular. This is true freedom: witnessing oneself and the world as free flowing, not fixed, objectless except the object may be permeated by the divine essence. It all mixes together in a flowing whole.