Is there such a thing as an end game of arrival at something called enlightenment or Unity Consciousness? How the Ageless Wisdom and Integral teachings may hold two very different points of view.
In the Integral world they speak about reaching Unity Consciousness, which is often equated with Nirvana or reaching Enlightenment. Now, the latest vernacular is about getting into the Non-dual. Yes, something occurs when people enter the “void” that results in an awareness of emptiness, no-thing-ness, and paradoxically “fullness” and every-thing-ness of everything and everyone. As the experience of this void occurs, it is known for a fact that this “dependent arising,” or inter-connectedness of all that is, exists. But, in realizing a level of inter-connectedness, is there really such a thing as an end game called Unity Consciousness, non-dualism, enlightenment and so forth? According to the Ageless Wisdom teachings there is actually much more.
Why then do people think there is an experience of Unity Consciousness and then that’s it? Take the famous Ox-herding pictures from Zen Buddhism. These Ox represent the quest for enlightenment. After a period of finding the ox and trying to catch, tame, and ride it, you forget about it. Then you even forget about yourself, leading away from duality into non-duality, where both the man (the one seeking enlightenment) and the end goal (enlightenment), are all dissolved and nothing remains. (Or no-thing remains, only emptiness itself). Following this stage you go back into the world (the realm of duality), all enlightened and happily swinging your arms on the way to town.
Looked at more closely is this really how the process goes? Well, yes and no. According to the Ageless Wisdom teachings there is no such thing as an end game of “enlightenment.” There is no final goal of “unity consciousness.” Rather there is a gradual process of unification that is ongoing. Understanding this constant process helps students of the Ageless Wisdom understand statements from the Ageless Wisdom teachings that even our planet (or the planetary logos) doesn’t have “cosmic consciousness” or “unity consciousness,” so for a human being to claim such a thing is nonsensical. And, merely claiming we are all One, that everything is a void, or that all is non-dual, says very little about what level of realization is actually achieved here. So, here we have it, two seemingly opposing approaches (Ageless Wisdom and Integral) of the end game of Unity Consciousness set side by side with a statement that there is no end game at all! Putting these two approaches side by side, how do we make sense of it all?
Well, obviously humans experience something! (Or, as they often refer to it, nothing!). And, I am not just speaking from theory here. In 1989, after years of intense meditation practice, I experienced something that I called the “Void” myself. (The fact that as I came out of the experience I used the word “void” is even more peculiar because at the time I had no exposure to Buddhist and Hindu literature regarding the concept of Void at all). At the time I had this experience I was just getting exposed to the Ageless Wisdom teachings, so I turned to those first to understand my experience. Because of what I read there, I interpreted my mystical episodes in a way that did not lead me to conclude that I had reached some end point of an enlightenment state. Rather, I put my experiences in the context of the word found within the Ageless Wisdom teachings, initiation. In the Ageless Wisdom teachings, an initiation is an expansion of consciousness that allows one to take a quantum leap by breaking through into a new realm of understanding. Yes, I had gone through an enlightenment like experience. But, the key for understanding where any expansion (or initiation) has led you to, according to the Ageless Wisdom teachings, has always been to examine the contents your of consciousness when you return.
Interestingly enough, Integral is now catching up to what Ageless Wisdom teachings have asserted for some time now. In recent years the Integral movement is talking about “states vs stages.” They say that you can experience states of expanded consciousness, and even go through a number of “enlightenments.” But, just because you experience certain “states”(even non-dual ones) it doesn’t necessarily mean you have moved into a new stage of spiritual development. And, they are saying that when anyone comes out of an expanded state of consciousness they will interpret that state at whatever stage they predominantly reside at (Infrared, Red, Amber, Orange, Green, Teal and so forth).
Replace the word “stages” with the word “initiations” as used in the Ageless Wisdom teachings, and we see that Integral is finally catching up to the Ageless Wisdom teachings. For eighty years, the Ageless Wisdom teachings have been very specific about how certain “states” don’t necessarily lead to new stages (of initiation or levels of development). In fact, the Ageless Wisdom teachings have said that it is very easy to distort “enlightenment” or “state” experiences. That is why they talk about the “diseases of occultists and mystics.”The word dis-ease here implies that there is a disruption in the normal state of perceiving reality that has not been understood or integrated properly when someone comes out of a “state” experience. Disintegration instead of integration is the end result, causing gaps in development (interestingly enough called “cleavages” back in the 1930’s). These “cleavages” or gaps, are said to cause difficulty in reaching further stages of development (initiations) in the future. The role of the “esoteric psychologist” is often one of helping people understand the many distortions (also called glamours) that result in undergoing state experiences that typically cause people to think they are much farther down the spiritual path than they are at all.
The Ageless Wisdom teachings further state that how you integrate or dis-integrate any state experience will frequently depend on your type. The occultist is the more head centered, scientific, masculine type. The mystic is the more heart centered, emotional, feminine type. Other type systems in the Ageless Wisdom teachings that influence how state experiences are perceived include the seven types known as the “seven rays.” In short, in the Ageless Wisdom teachings enlightenment experiences are not all they are cracked up to be and involve complicated processes to really be clear about what is going on when one claims to be “enlightened” some how.
So far then we see how Integral’s “states vs stages” idea lines up with what has long been taught in the Ageless Wisdom teachings. But, this still doesn’t explain why there are teachings out there (like the Ox-herding pictures) that seem to imply one final realization of enlightenment, unity consciousness, or reaching the “void.” And, it doesn’t reconcile how we can go into the “void,”and then as they come out again and still be at a variety of levels in our understanding of it all. Perhaps it helps if we equate the “void” and the experience of unity (or “singularity”), with the “black whole.” (I am referring to the word black whole, instead of black hole, as used by Nassim Harriman in his documentary of the same name). Harriman sees a black whole as similar to a torus (pictured below). Perhaps states represent being sucked from the periphery of your consciousness, into the center, down into a “point” or “singularity.” There you are emptied out of all form moving into a “no-thing-ness.” Here old, limited states of consciousness are compressed and emptied out. They become “null and void.” But, then as you re-enter the manifest world, your consciousness is “spit out” so to speak. After you come out of the void depending upon the level of compression at the “point” you are likewise expanded and re-created in such a way that your consciousness in the manifest world stabilizes at a new level of consciousness from that point onward. (Note: for those of you familiar with the Ageless Wisdom teachings we are told that before any initiation, expansion of consciousness, the “rod of initiation” is applied. I don’t know about you, but as I look at the picture below I see a sort of “rod” in the center of the torus. Perhaps the two concepts are related somehow).
Though the image above is useful the problem with it (just like with the ox-herding pictures), it is seems like a static process. The image above again makes it seem like there is one singularity, one point, one enlightenment, one realization of “unity consciousness” and that is it. Well perhaps yes, and perhaps no. I have struggled to find a way to represent what might be going on here that is different from the above according to what the Ageless Wisdom teachings propose. Here is what I have come up with so far. First, the “dot”, the “singularity”, the “point” all represent black holes (wholes) that take us into the void. But, what comprises the dot at the center? Consider this animation where the dot is seen as the planet earth.
Then consider this picture where there is not just one torus, but a torus within a torus within a torus (showing us three torus fields below).
Now look at this picture again, where I have defined each torus as a ring-pass-not (a sphere of consciousness) that defines where that consciousness resides. These spheres are like “levels” is you like, only they are illustrated here more as holons (wholes) witihin holons, within ever more larger holons (wholes).
Whenever we go into the “void” we go into the point, the singularity, of a holon, or whole. That whole is one with all wholes and always will be one with all wholes! But, our waking experience or interpretation of that whole, will depend upon our “contents of consciousness” or where our thoughts primarily reside in our waking (or even altered) states. Perhaps, our thoughts remain within the whole of ourselves as a human being, mostly concerned with our own needs and perhaps the needs of a few key people (family and friends) around us. Or, during our waking state we may be concerned with the overall good of humanity and orient our every day concerns and actions to the improvement of all human kind. That is very different from being able to enter into another “holon” where our waking thoughts are now plantery in nature, spending most of our thought-life concerned with all kingdoms that exist on our planet (mineral, plant, animal, human, and even higher) to determine what is best for all.
What I have attempted to do here is show how states and stages come together. The image I use may also help us understand why Ken Wilber acknowledges that every human being, no matter what their level of consciousness, every night goes though all states of consciousness no matter what “level” he or she is on. (States in the Integral model include waking consciousness, dreaming consciousness, deep dreamless sleep, and non-dual consciousness). Like the picture below we can imagine ourselves going from waking (the green zones) to sleeping (the blue zones) to deep dreamless sleep (the red zones) to non-dual (the white dot). Because we all go through this, no matter what “level” of consciousness we are at, we all experience Oneness or Unity Consciousness every night. When we wake up, we are just not conscious of levels of “unity” in quite the same way.
Perhaps part of the problem is the use of the word “Unity consciousness” to begin with. Yes, we are all ONE, and will always be ONE, and have “always already” been one. But, is that such an advanced realization? Plenty of people can spout the word “unity” and “oneness” and not act from a place of true unity or oneness at all. That is why I prefer the word “at-one-ment,”used by the Ageless Wisdom teachings instead. In Initiation, Human and Solar we are told on p. 18, “As evolution proceeds successive at-one-ments occur.” Which leads us back to the picture below and an important question regarding what “unity consciousness” really is in the first place?
If we view Unity consciousness as reaching the singularity, the dot, the point, then all we are doing is realizing the unity that always is and always shall be throughout infinity. And, according to Integral, we all realize this every night as we go to sleep regardless of our stage of development. But, do we all really get to the same “point” or place of unity when we go to sleep? Perhaps not! Perhaps depending on our rate of vibration, we all go to different “points.” The “point” (or center) for the consciousness of a human being may be different from the “point” of humanity as a whole. And, it may be even more different from the center point o a planet, a solar system, a cosmos and more!
Could it be that certain states of states of consciousness keep us within the same torus, magnetic field, or ring-pass-not of consciousness regardless of the expanded state we are reaching? Yes, we all go down the rabbit hole into the void night after night, but we come back out that same in our waking (vs altered) state. We remain in a certain stage of development regardless of any kind of state.
And, could it be that when we go through an initiation, we actually disrupt the status quo of the torus field, shattering us into a whole new magnetic field and realm of awareness? Is this why “states” of experience are so different from radical transformations (initiations) that catapult us into whole new arenas of new wholes? If so, something is going on at the “point” as we go through the void that is quite different than what we normally experience night after night. It is as if we go through a kind of nuclear explosion where enough has been condensed at the center point to expand us into entirely new territory.
This notion of a kind of nuclear explosion fits with how the Ageless Wisdom teachings describe initiations, or true enlightenment experiences. Altered and expanded states of consciousness are sure to exist during any initiation process, and though interesting these “states” are not really that significant. ” In fact, as mentioned before the Ageless Wisdom teachings talk about how some of these “states” can leave you really distorted and messed up, so be careful. Also, how do you know whether you have just had a nice “state” experience or gone through an initiation according to the Ageless Wisdom tradition? That is determined primarily by the “contents of your consciousness” when you return. What matters is that the contents of your consciousness in everyday life prove that you have truly shifted levels (broken through into a new ring-pass-not instead of just swimming around having state experiences in the same terrain you were in before).
In conclusion, there is a lot more to “unity consciousness”, or at-one-ment (as it is called in the Ageless Wisdom teachings), than what is typically talked about in Integral teachings. I hope this attempt to show the difference encourages more discussion and dialogue.
Have comments, questions, suggestions? They will be posted so long as they are civil and expand the discussion.
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