Wasting my Time


Recently I’ve grown tired of the whole spiritual enterprise.  The seeking seems like only the subtlest and most ‘noble’ of addictions. At least the alcoholic knows he is deluded. The spiritual seeker thinks he is doing something worthwhile.

Last year I did a 5-day silent Chan retreat and the only insight I had while trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to stay awake, was that everyone there was completely wasting their time. Of course, they wouldn’t have seen it that way. True, all of them ( by their own admission) had long-since given up the quest for satori, or liberation. These old hands had smiled indulgently at me when I stated during the introduction that my reason for being there was to attain enlightenment. This was seen as somehow naïve and childish.

But why else would I be putting myself through this self-imposed torture, if not to rid myself of suffering for once and for all?

Of course I don’t know what was going through these veterans’ minds as they settled down for 5 days of turbo self-abuse. Perhaps they were expecting to get into the ‘zone’ for a while. Maybe they just like that sort of thing, or use it to get away from their spouses for a few days, without running the risks of an affair, or the 19th hole of the golf club.

Either way, satori wasn’t on their agenda, by all accounts. Of course they were right. Satori is no more or less likely to fall upon one in the zendo than the boozer.

But I didn’t know that at the time. They were right. I was naïve. But the advantage I had was that I wasn’t signed up to some tribal behaviour of the Buddhist kind, obediently going through the prescribed rituals like some well-trained monkey.

I suspect that if any of those people had attained liberation they wouldn’t be wasting their time with this nonsense. If I was totally liberated I would probably spend my time more productively, or at the very least enjoyably. You see, I suspect that at the heart of it, these people secretly still believed that if they did this sort of thing long enough or often enough it would lead to the end of suffering; to the end of the agitation, restlessness, and discontent that is the lot of the unawakened.

So what now? It seems to me that Joe Bray is an imaginary person, that this show is just happening, that I have no real influence over what turns up next, and that my true nature is just this ‘on-ness’, which seems to be there all the time. Whether I am asleep, drunk, happy, sad, seeking or absorbed in some task, ‘on-ness’ is just there making it so.

It is faithfully registering everything that arises, constantly changing in this ceaseless eternal moment. So I am already dead, already eternally fucked, eternally redeemed. No need for Jesus or the Buddha, or Mohammed to intercede for me.

Of course I don’t get this, don’t understand this, don’t practise this, don’t realise this, don’t comprehend this.

But it is definitely the way it is.

As Wei Wu Wei said, 99.9% of what you say and think and do is for yourself, and there isn’t one.

All else is bondage…


22 thoughts on “Wasting my Time

  1. Joe,

    It is great to read someone being so honest, most spiritual people feel like you, enlightened, awakened or otherwise. All I can say is that your time may not be wasted, however you approach this. What may come may come but it is not always delivered in a manner of ones own choosing as you will see below from my own account….

    A few months ago I had a terrible experience in China which I partly shared on this blog- the details are not important. The terror of this experience fully exposed to me my own motivations/ ego and the motivations of others in an instant spiritual experience which was an illuminated nightmare- if the paradox makes sense. My whole lifes endeavour seemed a shallow waste of time as did the lives of those around me, the truth of this was horrific, an ego car crash of epic proportions. Myself and the whole human race appeared as self important deluded captains of our own imagined universe whether that be our business, office, professional practice, desk, or supermarket checkout, charity work, hobby or whatever- we are all nothing, enlightened or not. But I did feel LOVE in the same instant.

    The only bit of comfort that came to mind was ‘dark night of the soul’ I had no idea where this had come from other than knowing it was somewhere in the bible- I was in China with no access to google as it was sensored, and the 1000 page+ bible in the hotel bedside cabinet seemed impossible. I got a Christian friend to email the text to me so I could see it, and it was very helpful to me- and still is. Thomas Merton (suggested by you) has probably been the most helpful of all, promises nothing but is very comforting when you feel like the world you inhabit is a selfish place opperating from consciousness so dim that the light will burn out at any minute.

    Something that has occurred to me is that people think of enlightenment as something that relieves anxiety, depression, dissatisfaction with life or whatever. It is my belief that this is not true, Knowing what I now believe to be true, I sincerely wish that the self help industry would stop peddling this lie which is surely based on the desire for financial/ ego gain. There is not one individual on this earth who can make this promise. Not that people who seek relief from material compensations remove their anxiety either in my experience. All we have is to try and contribute as best we can, that is the path.

    All of teachings contain profound truth but the idea of this bringing about the end of suffering is an illusion although this may occur later- I cannot offer any experience here. What I can say is that in the midst of this suffering is a sense of love, and it can be overwhelming spiritually. We have no rights spiritually and we are in no bargaining position but this sense of ‘Love’ has made everything else bearable and understandable and also given me the belief that everything is going to be OK,this is a day by day experience.

    The below comes from a very helpful website- the link to the full text is worth reading

    William of St. Thierry, a monastic writer during the 12th. Century said that love is the eye in which we see God. Love itself is the understanding. St. John of the Cross said that he felt closer to God during his passing through the dark night. We each can know the deepest joy by embracing the greatest sadness consciously with love. The dark night of the soul is offered as a gift of illumination to every One of us. read more: http://www.drpokea.com/darknightsoul.html

    That is all I can say for the moment….

    • Fiona,
      You say that enlightenment is not something which relieves anxiety, depression and dissatisfaction. If that is true then enlightenment is of no interest to me. All I am looking for is to be comfortable in my own skin. To have an ease and comfort, to be free of the agitation, restlessness and discontent which is the lot of most people. That’s the goal. Any enlightenment which does not have that at its core is of no interest to me. I have not been seeking for some lofty ideal of reaching the spiritual summit for its own sake, but simply to have some lasting relief from the gnawing sense of dis-ease. I’m not interested in finding my ‘true self’ or true nature, or God or anything of that nature, if it does not deliver the goods. If ‘enlightenment’ or satori or liberation or awakening, or whatever else you might call it, does not lead to this relief, it is a waste of time.

      I don’t know this from my own experience, but from dispatches from a few souls who have have awakened, the news is that realising ones own true self yields precisely this relief.

      I have no interest in being compassionate or loving or in having any other any other noble virtues to compensate for still feeling shit.

      I want to feel good, and to have the peace that passeth understanding. Anything less is a cop-out, a sell-out, or a compromise. No compromise, all or nothing.

      • Joe,

        99.9% of the Human population exist adequately without ‘enlightenment’, so perhaps being part of the 0.1% means something? Why does one persue this path in the first place? Plenty materialists persue happiness via non spiritual means and some appear happy enough. Plenty with a ‘faith’ never persue enlightenment- so this is a question…

        I can only comment based on my own experience I cannot, with any honesty say for sure if enlightenment/ self realisation relieves anxiety in the long term, I don’t think a few months is an adequate length of time to proclaim anything. I also have the odd short period of anxiety pop up, so I think of it as day by day thing. I believe myself (at this point) to be enlightened as I understand it. What I can say with more certainty is that I feel ‘complete’ as a person, this feeling has existed for a lot longer, and now appears constant.

        In answer to Benoits question: Do I feel enlightened/ at ease with myself and the world today?- YES, do I feel anxious today? NO, I feel fine….Am I coping with all my ongoing life issues- YES (But only over the past few months)- I realize this day by day approach may seem rather simplistic.

        A useful marker in all this occured last week, over a family issue involving someone in my care, and a large sum of money. A few months ago the unjustness and unfairness of this type of situation would have tortured me for years, if not forever. (as has been the case previously) This has had no emotional impact on me, other than questioning why there has been no impact?

        On enlightenment, are lofty ideals are nessasary, or any particular faith?? Not sure they are unless these are important to the individual in answering thier own call. Perhaps a business person could be as enlightened as a monk, musician or artist as long as they answer themselves in full. In my own case I have accepted that spirituality in some form or another is part of me. I will never be complete without it. Benoit, Thomas Merton etc have all been useful path lighters, as has Shamanism.

        I believe the ongoing work of facing up to who I am and my ‘real’ values has been an important part of this. The difficulty in accepting this is probably what has been behind my spiritual/ ego crisis a few months ago although a life threatening experience also acted as a catalyst. With material things seemingly taken from me my ego has understandably screamed at the unfairness, with all the questions of why me, what did I do to deserve this and all the usual blah blah that comes up when things don’t go ones own way.

        On the subject of ‘Wasting my time’ What I can also say with certainty is that my ‘spiritual self’ was a constant and reliable companion through my childhood which was not plain sailing as you know. However in my leate teens/ early 20s I shut the door on it very deliberately. Carlos Castaneda, Fritjof Capra and friends all went into a box which remained closed for 23 years, and moved unopened from home to home. This was the right thing to do at the time.

        That box, I now realise was never intended to remain shut…

  2. Also the acceptance of things which came about because of this experience may not have been possible If it had not been for Benoit, Douglas Harding etc. So although that was not my intention, all that I had read and tried to understand made sense at the moment when I needed it most, I was on my own, a long way from home and these teachings along with support via this blog and a hotel bible were what I had- and thank God, they were enough.

      • The reason that i have found thomas merton so helpful is his frailty. I am frail myself. These people enlightened or not speak to me in a way that Ken Wilber can’t. Kens work is sound, it is just not the right voice for me.

        • I agree, and that’s what I like about James Finley too. But as a map maker (which appeals to my masculine left-brain), Ken is out on his own. They serve different functions.

  3. Thomas Jefferson once said ” We hold these truths to be selfevident that all men are created equal”
    and though this is hardly true in reality (Jefferson kept slaves) it is wholly true of the subjective nature of man. In my mind all beings have an equal shot at redemption, satori, enlightenment, whatever you may wish to call it. There are an infinite number of paths one may choose to arrive there and none is better than another in itself. The path that is right for you will likely speak to you through the metaphors you have learned from the experience of living, those special ones that hold the key to your heart, those coincidences that you suspect may not be coincidences, the ones that beckon your mind away to another dimension.
    So, if all paths are equal when pursued with a pure desire, how then do we know if we are moving forward toward this goal we crave and when will we attain it.? Well, all I can offer is that attainment is not guarnteed while we are still in our bodies, nor is it entirely necessary other than as a lure. The only thing I feel certain about is that any spiritual path pursued with a pure heart will cause compassion to grow in that heart.

  4. The search, path, journey is the concious attraction to a frequency that evokes depth and spiritual connectedness in an otherwise isolated and fleeting material life. To be attuned to a frequency of peace both inner and outer is as good a radio show there is – it is natural that some dj’s will suck and some tunes grate our sensibilities but it is a “good” show to tune into – the intent is key – that’s me tuppence worth ha

  5. Joe and Pearce.

    I randomly opened a page in the bible this morning (in the Abbey where I meditate) Apoligies to the knowledgable (which probably includes both of you!) I have no idea who Esdras is, I don’t own a personal copy of the bible, so the below is quoted in complete ignorance…But I personally found this very insightful

    Section 4 is a convo between Esdras and an Angel named Uriel. Esdras wants to attain the knowledge of ‘the most high’ The Angel suggest that If Esdras does not understand the truth of what he sees around everyday him how can he undersatnd the ‘most high’ The Angel shows him that the world is worn out with corruption and tells Esdras that in time man will reap what he has sewn and that that relief from suffering for the righteous is delayed on account of the corruption on earth. However seeing this for what it is (as shown to Esdras by Uriel) appears to show that it is difficult but possible for an ordinary man (Esdras) to understand ‘Enlightenment’ and that the righteous have made a difference to (delayed) the harvest of the fruit of the evil on earth.

    2 of the paths for the spiritual- one is to say ‘sod it’ the world is a hopeless case, so if you can’t beat ’em join ’em, and who gives a f*uck. Perhaps this causes inner conflict which creates more personal anxiety because deep down one does give a f*uck (this is the problem) The other is to personally opperate in the way that feels right, whatever that may be, and whatever rights/ wrongs others may be doing and at whatever personal cost….

    Whole section 4 is here http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/r/rsv/rsv-idx?type=DIV2&byte=3669597 – a selection is pasted below…

    [1] Then the angel that had been sent to me, whose name was Uriel, answered
    [2] and said to me, “Your understanding has utterly failed regarding this world, and do you think you can comprehend the way of the Most High?”
    [3] Then I said, “Yes, my lord.” And he replied to me, “I have been sent to show you three ways, and to put before you three problems.
    [4] If you can solve one of them for me, I also will show you the way you desire to see, and will teach you why the heart is evil.”
    [5] I said, “Speak on, my lord.” And he said to me, “Go, weigh for me the weight of fire, or measure for me a measure of wind, or call back for me the day that is past.”
    [9] But now I have asked you only about fire and wind and the day, things through which you have passed and without which you cannot exist, and you have given me no answer about them!”
    [10] And he said to me, “You cannot understand the things with which you have grown up;
    [11] how then can your mind comprehend the way of the Most High? And how can one who is already worn out by the corrupt world understand incorruption?” When I heard this, I fell on my face
    [22] Then I answered and said, “I beseech you, my lord, why have I been endowed with the power of understanding?
    [27] For it will not be able to bring the things that have been promised to the righteous in their appointed times, because this age is full of sadness and infirmities.
    [28] For the evil about which you ask me has been sown, but the harvest of it has not yet come.
    [31] Consider now for yourself how much fruit of ungodliness a grain of evil seed has produced.
    [39]And it is perhaps on account of us that the time of threshing is delayed for the righteous — on account of the sins of those who dwell on earth.”
    [43] Then the things that you desire to see will be disclosed to you.”

  6. Very honest and interesting post. Thank you for your insight. I think it is best to meditate on ‘faith’ in these situations. Does your heart know what you seek truly exists but can not prove this to your brain? I don’t know. Keep staying honest!

  7. As Wei Wu Wei said, 99.9% of what you say and think and do is for yourself, and there isn’t one.

    I have been irritated by this Wei Wu Wei quote for much longer than Joseph Bray has been irritated by time-wasting practices like using his bum to crush cushions. There are three books on a shelf at my elbow by the author of the above quotation. I also have a picture of the author himself Terence Gray sitting with Douglas Harding and Robert Powell. So, I think he did exist as I think Joseph Bray exists. The first three are there for all to see, sitting chatting in someone’s garden (link below). I know at least one of them was sane. I heard Harding say, in between spoon fulls of Creme Brule, to someone who had just said he realised he had to rid himself of himself, “Oh do you think that’s really necessary, I’m rather fond of little Douglas”. So to say that you don’t exist, or that there is no self, without explaining at what level it might be true is a lie. Terence Gray attempts to get himself out of jail by denying his objective existence–but a virtual self is, after all, a self.

    • Alan, when I wrote that piece it came from some space where there are no words. It probably got lost in translation. Your clever words have no effect on it. I am also rather fond of Joe, even if he is a fiction.

      • OK Joe, I accept the rebuke. No more smart remarks.
        However, I am seriously interested in the question raised. If you find that particular quotation meaningful how do you reconcile it with your fondness for Joe.? That is for that aspect of being which the quotation seems to rule out.
        This is a topical question for me as we are currently engaged in an enquiry into Bernadette Roberts’ notion of No-self. Having written a book entitled The Experience of No-self she is now saying in her later publication, What is Self , that what she calls No-self is a condition beyond consciousness and experience. She acknowledges the levels prior to this No-self state as 1) ego-centred which is transcended by 2) unitive consciousness. From that point it‘s over to Grace, there is nothing the individual can do about it.
        Presumably, that is what Terence Gray is pointing to as well. However, at the level from which he points there clearly must be a pointer. That’s how it strikes me. In other words the No-self state might well transcend the ‘lower’ levels but I think more likely to include them. How do you see it?

        • Alan, thanks for your humility; I appreciate it very much. Honestly, I don’t have a clue. I had stopped writing on the blog as I really feel I have nothing to say. I looked over some of my earlier posts, and I saw that I was trying to be clever and erudite, and that I was acting in bad faith. The recent post to which you replied, however, came from a space where I saw that I wasn’t actually ‘Joe’ but the space in which he appears. Now that may sound like the usual guff you hear in these spiritual writings, but at the time I actually saw it that way. The reason I knew it was real was because I couldn’t actually put it into words, and the nearest I could get to it ended up looking like the same old tripe – which is probably what you responded to. At the time I saw that it is my natural state, unhidden, just this here in present awareness (there I go again, sounds corny, doesn’t it?). But the mind doesn’t want to acknowledge this, I reckon. Probably because it likes some sort of certainty. In the old days that certainty was provided for by the great mythologies, God created the world in six days etc. Now the modern myth makers are the scientists (ironically, since they say they deal only with the evidence-based ‘truth’.) I’ve seen Eric Idle (ex Monty Python) answer a teenager’s question about ‘life, death, the universe and everything’ with a short synopsis of current cosmology and Darwinian evolution. So there you have it the mysterium tremendum nailed down in a few sentences.

          But if what I really, really am is this ever-present on-ness (sic, as in ‘Switched On’, like a light bulb), then the whole thing is an unbelievable mystery that I have no capacity to grasp. And I suspect the mind (or Joe, if you like) prefers the comfort of some myth to this ineffableness (!).

          So even though I’ve slipped back to living through Joe, there is a little sideways glance I can take to reveal the ground of my being right here and now, always and forever, which I’ve actually always known- nothing special, and yet the pearl beyond price (I’m starting to wax again!).

          I’m digressing, and not answering your question. We all have our favourite saints and as well as Douglas Harding the person I like the best is Paul Hedderman, an uncouth (by his own description) foul-mouthed ex-alcoholic, ex-junky, whose belly-laughter and humour, as well as the clarity of his vision is so refreshing. He talks not about a noun, ‘self’, but of ‘selfing’, an activity, a verb. ‘Selfing’ is something this brain apparatus does, and seeking of any kind is part of its activity, an attempt to become a ‘self’. And you are not a ‘self’, so there’s no need to get out of what you were never in. But your brain does its incessant ‘selfing’. of which spiritual searching is the most subtle and insidious kind. He (half) jokingly advocates 12 Step Programmes for seekers, where they are not allowed to read spiritual books, or attend workshops! I suppose we’d have to give up these correspondences too!

          The selfing will continue till the day we die (just like our digestion, circulation), and that’s not a problem. But thinking we are a self is playing God. It is better to be God (I’m in , God’s out, as Meister Eckhart said, as Douglas was fond of quoting.) And if I am to be God, I am no-thing.

          Most importantly for me, Hedderman states categorically that since he came upon this, he travels lighter over the terrain of life. The evidence for that is the depth and breath of his laughter. Listen to his talks on zenbitchslap.com. I don’t know if that’s of any use to you. Let me know. Very fond regards

          • Good morning Joe. Very good of you to provide such a generous and comprehensive response to my probing. As it turns out, your outline of how the world turns up for you could be a an eloquent summary of my perspective, or close to it. You are right to assume that my initial reaction was an objection to what I saw as Wei Wu Wei leaving out half of the story. I was very interested in your comments on certainty. We recently attended the annual headless gathering at Salisbury in which the group was kind enough to allocate time for me to raise a number of objections to what I see as the ‘party line’. One of these was the claim by some, but not all, of absolute certainty as a consequence of the experiments. My view is that certainty is a third person quality or state and irrelevant to the first person perspective. That seems to be what you are saying.
            I hadn’t heard of Paul Hedderman so I’ll follow that lead. Not that I need any leads at present as I still haven’t caught up with Fiona’s recommendation to check out Thomas Campbell, a scientist who seems to be trying to deal with the question you raise about the marriage of science and the spiritual. Maybe we are seeing them merging or perhaps beginning to see the separation as false.
            I can understand your reservations about your blog. It is a quality product but keeping it going must be a challenge. Getting people to stick their necks out is another. One of the undoubted benefits is that you meet some interesting people and, as I think we are moving into an era of what someone at the Salisbury gathering described as the era of the collective approach, (of the Sangha as opposed to sitting at the feet of our preferred guru) I think you’ll have to press on.
            Anyway, I’m glad we have met and thanks again.

            • Alan,
              You are absolutely right, certainty is a mind thing. Again to paraphrase Hedderman, with this perspective ‘you will never know, but you will find out’, which I like. I have had trouble with Douglas Harding’s followers or disciples, and I think we have here the infancy of another religion (which probably won’t amount to much). Very soon the great man’s words will form some sort of dogma, interpreted as always by people who don’t have his vision, which is what has happened to Christianity, Islam and to a lesser extent Buddhism. One particular thing bothered me. Fiona kindly let me hear some instructions which Richard Lang has produced about Douglas’experiments. In the introduction Richard gave a short bio of Douglas’ enlightenment, but not his own! This seemed strange to me. Why would anyone describe someone else’s awakening, but not their own? Already there is evidence of the worship of an individual, which is usually the sign of a cult. I met Douglas and he was the real deal. That’s enough for me. As Sting said in one of his songs ‘Men go crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one.’

              I like the idea of the mystic cell ( a bit like the cellular structure of the IRA and other militant groups) which Andrew Harvey has proposed: a small group of like minded people working to share their experience. The larger group thing all clustered around an individual or his/her teaching (especially if he is dead!) is spiritual suicide for me. He travels fastest who travels alone. The most poignant part of Siddhartha by Herman Hesse is where he leaves Govinda, who has decided to follow the Buddha, and to go it alone. No teacher, no guru, no method…

              The strange thing is that what I ‘saw’ or ‘realised’ (or see, afresh, right now) is not an experience, nor a feeling, nor an idea, nor a thought, nor a concept. It is just…me, for want of a better word.

        • Alan,

          I can really sympathise with Joe here, conveying any kind of ‘moment of clarity’ is near impossible, and the word ‘enlightenment’ sounds like self aggrandisment. Yet everything arises from that ‘no-self’ feeling where everything collapses into a single ongoing present moment. And the feeling is delicious in its simplicity, it is not religious, nor possible to promise which is why the self help industry bothers me with its selling of enlightenment. I have not yet read one word by any mystic that does the job in describing this profoundity- and I certainly can’t. Some of Rumi’s Poetry is the nearest it gets. Patrick Kavanagh the Irish poet is really helpful as well. Joe is the expert on Kavanagh. Yet with the ‘clarity’ I enjoy reading how mystics express themselves, and the intellectual aspect of discussion, without clarity they are confusing which is why Douglas has done such a good job. The inner attention is the place where clarity begins.

          Alan, my persepective does not come from any gurus or learned knowledge at all. It comes from having out of body experiences, through accident and not intent and from a young age. I can also see Auras and other forms of light. this has given me a view on consciousness for which I am greatful. It is with this experience that I write, I am not putting myself forward as any kind of spiritual expert here- nor does this mean my life is problem free, although the understanding is there.

          If it is of any use here are my further thoughts on Bernadette Roberts based on the text pasted below, further to the original piece I wrote. I only hope this attempt makes some sense!

          On a simple level- If we think about (and try and really feel) the inner attention that Douglas describes that represents our consciousness (inward pointing) if we then add in outward pointing and do the one eye experiment at the same time while expanding our awarness into the concept of Douglas’s hierarchy of heaven and earth http://www.headless.org/hierarchy-intro.htm this represents unitive consciousness in my mind. With this some people will get as far as connecting with thier on-ness, no self etc. From this point consciousness can expand out, and out, and out from that point and can keep going. This is an undescribable sensation.

          As for the 3rd stage: I do not wish to call it Divine in the religious sense, However, Divine is as good a word as any so I will use it. I have had experiences myself that are possibly similar to what Bernadette means about consciousness being superceeded by divine light (not divine in my case) illumination beyond the light of consciousness itself has always been what has ignited consciousness in my thinking, (sorry for the rambling) this is not what we think of as light in the objective sense. Our own or collective consciousness is what stands between us and divinity in this respect, just as our ego stands between our self and our own consciousness although I think of your level 2 as including the ego, however this is viewed from our consciousness (brought into view from above the no-self, and seen objectively, rather than transcended) this is beyond being viewed from the self as the ego self (I hope this makes some sort of sense). Ref OBEs, In my (very fortunate case) it is possible for the point to also move, and then expand from there. from this arises a feeling of absolute no-self and protection, because there is nothing to protect- I am nothing, although I do also think of this nothing as an endless ‘point’ which can go on forever

          I also believe that the no-self that Bernadette describes includes all levels including the ego which diminishes to a ‘point’ or potential, as the ego manifests itself from ourself. Douglas refers to this as the little one. In ref to the quote below, as divine light begins to out shine consciousness all levels of our little self get smaller, this includes our own consciousness and the ego which could diminish to a single point against all divinity A reverse of the ego self in my mind.


          “One possible way of envisioning the human passage is the following. We think of ourselves as originally emerging from the unknown, from darkness, nothingness or non-existence into the light of consciousness. But as consciousness develops we discover the increasing ability to see in the dark, see into the nothingness or mystery within ourselves and eventually realize that this darkness and nothingness is the divine from which we emerged and with which we are one.

          Thus we discover that our original darkness IS true light. Midway in this passage, divine light (darkness or unknowing) and the light of consciousness are in balance, with neither outshining the other. But as we move beyond this mid-point, divine light begins to outshine the light of consciousness until, in the end, the light of consciousness goes out and only divine light remains. From this vantage point we look back on the passage and see that although consciousness was the veil that dimmed the light, this dimming was necessary in order to make the human dimension possible. But if consciousness makes human existence possible, it is also not separate from the divine, nor does it completely hide it; on the contrary, consciousness or self is man’s faculty or medium for experiencing the divine — so long as it remains, that is [this is key]. Our passage through consciousness is the gradual return to the divine; we leave the divine unknowingly and in darkness, but we return knowingly and in light.” website:http://www.spiritualteachers.org/bernadette_roberts.htm

          anyone interested can also see an earlier post on Bernadette Roberts: https://josephbray.wordpress.com/?s=bernadette+roberts

  8. Fiona, There is much in what you describe that lies outside my experiencing but there is enough correspondence with my own being to sense its truth. I have been exploring the issue prompted by Bernadette’s no-self claims by tackling it from the angle of ‘absence’ which coincidentally is what Terence Gray concludes the extract I linked to an earlier post. Too much of a sidetrack for here.
    I have a reflex grump whenever I’m told I don’t exist , that it is all a dream, you are not here nor, for that matter, is anybody or anything else. This grumpiness gets me into quite a lot of trouble. The Buddhists pat me on the head and say calm down Alan what we are talking about is that everything is transitory , the neo-Advaitists tell me I’ll agree with them when I see they are right. Joe’s Wei Wu Wei quotation activated this response . I’m sure Wei Wu Wei understood what he was on about but I don’t find the no-thing without its content. The no-thing minus content, for me, is a concept only, a denial of creation.
    So my grumpiness in this instance wasn’t about what Joe said but Terence Gray’s half finished aphorism. The other unspoken half being the manifestation that makes the saying of it possible, as demonstrated in the Bernadette extract you included in your last message.
    “But if consciousness makes human existence possible, it is also not separate from the divine, nor does it completely hide it; on the contrary, consciousness or self is man’s faculty or medium for experiencing the divine — so long as it remains, that is [this is key]. Our passage through consciousness is the gradual return to the divine; we leave the divine unknowingly and in darkness, but we return knowingly and in light.”
    A picture to save yet more words. Sam Blight’s latest version of Douglas’ onion diagram demonstrates the no-thing and the every-thing, the individual and the undivided which, in my view, do not turn up separately. Most of the differences that arise in this field of enquiry seem to be about the explanations we chose rather than the whateveritis in itself.

    • Alan,

      Worry not…we like a good discussion here, especially an intelligent one! Things should never be taken at face value. We both know instinctively how simple the whole thing is, but lets be honest we were given decent brains and enjoy using them when we have like minded people to get into discussion with- a rare treat in life I find…

      My current thoughts: While ever we as consciousness are having our 80 years of human experience we have an ego and a self, being more in touch with our consciousness/ the Divine gives us more and more of a detached view. We are not so ‘in it’ However the no self concept I believe (and know) to be 100% possible in meditation and altered states of consciousness or inner attentiveness. I have never taken drugs by the way so I am really talking about meditation here. During these times of single point consciousness experience, or even inner awareness, the consciousness experiencing it does not have a perception of existing physically or of time. I have experienced this myself. If I were in a religious institution I am sure I could achieve this state much of the time- even during tasks if they were silent and monotonous. Zen etc is right here…

      But…..this afternoon in the supermarket was a different story. My ‘self’ was definately there avoiding my fellow shoppers while remaining reasonably (but not completely) detatched from the whole circus. While this ‘reality’ may one day be proved by science to be a projection of conciousness or similar, Zen parctionioners will say they were right and that our perceeved reality and personality is an illusionary formation. However proven or not…While I am having my 80 years of Human experience the supermarket shop has to be done, real or not….unless we as humans choose to starve to death, and therefore return to the divine I can’t see any way around this….so it is a philosophical but interesting debate…

      I do believe however that the picture looks like this:
      Divine Consciousness> Personal consciousness > ego self or objective self

      Perhaps it is represented in Christianity by the Holy Trinity…

      The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons hypostases:the Holy Spirit (Divine Consciousness?) the Father (personal consciousness?) Jesus Christ, the son (ego self- although an evolved one in this case!?) The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial. (wikipedia)

      My current thoughts: Whether the human being concerned is aware of it or not all elements exist as one, the ego or objective self is nessasary for the human experience. Most people are only aware of the ego self because they do not choose to/ or are not ‘given’ the opportunity to explore the other levels. Once they do, the power of the ego self reduces significantly

      For another angle on No-Self, this is a psycological issue and not a spiritual one but have you thought of looking up dissociation/ Depersonalisation disorder – this is a rational explaination for both OBEs and the concept of no self.
      Definition: Depersonalisation disorder is characterised by feeling detached from one’s life, thoughts and feelings. People with this type of disorder say they feel distant and emotionally unconnected to themselves, as if they are watching a character in a boring movie.

      Another big ramble which I hope helps….

      • Thanks for that Fiona. I don’t have anything to add at this stage. I had a preliminary look at the Paul Hedderman website following Joe’s comments and the quote of the day (yesterday) was Nisargadatta saying something about the inaccessibility of the eternal to consciousness. Very appropriate to our present enquiry but I can’t repeat it as it has been replaced by today’s quote of the day. I have found Nisargadatta gems particularly to the point, for example this one: “Love says ‘I am everything.’ Wisdom says ‘I am nothing.’ Between the two, my life flows.” As for consciousness’ inability to grasp the eternal, the reverse is not the case as we have discussed from time to time in the past and, as it seems to me, to be what you are saying now. Alan

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