I am too tired to give a proper update on the house project and bathroom odyssey just yet, so until I can get to it I will just post a few pictures, followed by some email excerpts from emails between Abe and myself (referred to in the last post) on the nature of enlightenment and its relationship to seeking & suffering.
Left-over bits after all the plumbing was done
The sub-floor of bathroom, with vapor barrier
The tub, in place but not yet installed
Abe: I was listening again to some of your interviews from two years ago (Hidden Experience and Diet Soap) and couldn’t help but feel that you are already enlightened.
Jasun: Enlightenment is in the eye of the beholder? Not really; just a curiosity – if there’s one thing I know it’s that the quest isn’t over yet.
Is your view that it’s possible to be enlightened and not know it? It is just absurd enough to be credible (christian credo: I believe it because it is absurd), but what I know is that the splinter of discontentment still drives me, nags away; if the quest is anything it’s to get free of that; and as long as I still feel the desire to get free, then I know that I am not there yet – not “done”
Abe: The Sufis speak about three levels of confusion. The first level is, I don’t know what this is all about (existential angst). This is the confusion of the masses and there are all kinds of coping strategies like for example adhering to a religion. The second level is to become a Truth seeker and despair about the contradictory claims of the various religions and knowledge authorities. The third level of confusion the Sufi calls “the traceless desert”. The seeker, now a knower (sophos, arif, gnostic, jnani), “sees” that the quest is a never ending process of Self-disclosure, Self-discovery, Self-interpretation of Being Itself.
I think you are already there. Let’s take your interviews on the UFO phenomenon, especially the first one with Mike C. You brought him and the audience to a moment of complete silence, because you made them realize that the UFO phenomenon transcends the map, is the proverbial finger poking a hole in the map. Now, if we equate the map with being and the UFO with Being Itself, we have all we need: the UFO is not meant to be sought after as if it was an unknown being. The UFO is meant to make us aware of something other than (known or unknown) beings – Being Itself – which cannot be sought after as if it was another being, without that this search leads into the dead end street of futility, despair, and delusion.
You are already awake to the reality of Being Itself, the finger in the map. Being Itself is “nothing”, but it can reveal itself as something (a being), which at the same time, is its concealment. Not just the UFO phenomenon is trickery, everything is trickery! Meditation can help to realize one’s innate identity with Being Itself, Emptiness, Space, Nothingness, and at the same time come to terms with one’s humanity (being a particular being). You are both: Being Itself (Master, Guru, Lord) and a particular being (slave, disciple, devotee)! While one “is” always already Being Itself, the process of Self-disclosure as and to a particular being never ends and it can be reasoned that the degrees of (angelic) proximity and (demonic) distance are indefinite (but not necessarily linear!).
Jasun: I enjoyed hearing your response, and of course it’s flattering and encouraging. But if there’s one thing I know beyond all doubt it’s that I’m not enlightened.
Even within the context of my own prior experiences, it’s pretty clear to me; but added to those [enlightenment teacher] Dave O’s own accounts, and what I’ve been able to observe of him, is pretty persuasive to me (not that I don’t have doubts). Dave’s version is that he knew he was enlightened because he knew that his quest was over, for him personally. My guess he would allow that “Self-disclosure, Self-discovery, Self-interpretation of Being Itself” continue – it’s not as though he’s not still alive with curiosity and wonder for life; but that his own ceaseless drive to uncover, discover, etc, in order to feel complete, ended, and a different sort of drive took over (to serve that consciousness which had flooded out his old self).
Granted, I only have Dave’s word for that and my own limited understanding of it. But in the three Sufi stages you describe, I fit fairly well with the second (“a Truth seeker despair[ing] about the contradictory claims of the various religions and knowledge authorities”), definitely not the third, “one who knows.”
My days are filled with dissatisfaction, that’s the biggest and most obvious indication. If enlightenment could happen and yet my divine discontent continue, then how would enlightenment be enlightenment? To say it could happen and I wouldn’t know it, isn’t that the same as to say that it doesn’t exist?
What you’re describing, so far as my conveying something like an enlightened understanding, or affecting others with same, may have to do with something (Dave calls it the enlightenment transmission) that is able to communicate through me and at such times I may feel much closer to “it” (when I am able to convey “it” to others) than at other times; so if there’s a spectrum, then I am on it. I carry the virus but that doesn’t mean I am one with it.
My sense remains very clear that there is a final step that, once taken, can never be untaken and that heralds the end of one life and the beginning of another – to be born again, so to speak.
Of course I don’t know what I am talking about; which only proves I am right!
Abe: By the way, from a 3rd level this question doesn’t arise, because it is not so much from where somebody speaks as it is from where somebody receives. There is no harm in de-supposing the knower. I might not know what I am talking about. I might be a liar, or deluded, or whatever. But all this is sort of irrelevant, because there is the text! And the hermeneutical situation is you and the text! Not me and you, but you and the text, the instruction.
In “Initiation and Spiritual Realization”, Guenon in a brief chapter turns our attention to the doctrine of “upaguru”, an influence that triggers or elicits a spiritual or initiatic process, remarking that this function might manifest as another person, or present itself as a situation, circumstance, or even some object (Abe: a book, a text, an instruction). When arising as a person, it matters not if the person fulfilling the role, realizes what it is they are doing because “in reality the true cause is found in the very nature of the one upon whom the action is exercised”.
Jasun: upaguru is interesting, and seems true. However . . .
I should probably explain something: I am really not interested in spiritual ideology or people’s descriptions (unless I know them personally, as in your case); that I am involved with Dave and his group is testimony to how deeply impressed I have been by my experiences with them, because intellectually, rationally, I am increasingly averse to all to such “spiritual” pursuits. Life itself is enough without chasing after rainbows of transcendence.
I am interested in what Dave has to say about enlightenment because my time with him has convinced me that something’s going on there. I’m like someone in a restaurant who sees a really tasty-looking dish at another table and who points and says, “I want what he’s got!” I can see for myself Dave’s panache & aplomb, and I want some for myself, or better yet, to learn the recipe. But until I actually try it, I won’t ever know if it’s as good as it looks. (The Dave retreats are like getting sample bites, never so far the full meal deal.)
I’m really not interested in anything UG Krishnamurti has to say, however (re: your Youtube link), or the people in the other video (which I listened to in part) who sound like the same old spiritualized egos getting high on fantasy descriptions of hierarchical states of expanded consciousness, etc, etc.
One thing I got from Jed McKenna which rings true for me is that enlightenment has nothing at all with mystical states of consciousness. I think there are thousands, maybe millions, of people out there who have attained unusual states of consciousness, had visions and all the rest (with or without drugs); some of them have turned those experiences into something permanent and/or managed to persuade others they have something real to offer and made a career out of doing so.
But I don’t think this has anything to do with getting free of the ego or false self.
I think 999,999 times out of a million, it just means the person has gone from a common delusion to an uncommon, or less common, one.
I don’t know if Dave is an exception (some of the time I doubt it); I do know that he’s the closest I have come to finding an exception, and that meeting him has coincided roughly with the steady cessation of my interest in finding anyone else for a “mentor,” guide, or guru (or upaguru). So you could even say that that particular aspect of my quest, at least, has ended.
Abe: without arguing about definitions we can agree, I think, that you are very far advanced on the 2nd level of confusion. You have done a tremendous work of trying to reconcile contradictions; all it takes now to switch to the 3rd level of confusion – and that would be “a final step” as far as I am concerned – is “a seeing” – by a shift of focus! This is very difficult to explain: what has to happen is to become aware – and it can happen at any moment – of the WHY and HOW it is impossible to have an ultimate understanding about anything, and this is the ultimate understanding! But this is not so much done by thinking as it is done by stopping thought! – The “ceaseless drive to uncover” is doomed to run its course as soon as it becomes more interesting to you to find out how you understand, rather than understand anything in particular! The proof of the ultimate understanding shows in your ability to voluntarily stop these attempts [of understanding something in particular] midway; you just stop thinking and turn blank – from one second to another – and shift focus / awareness to the uncomfortable feelings / emotions driving the thought process. (Devotional music might help.) This burns them out.
I just would like to ask you to consider the possibility that you in fact got it.
As to the concept of upaguru. Everything can be an upaguru. This is how I very much approach things. Like these videos. It’s not about promoting this or that view, or this or that person, rather things can trigger something unexpected from the inside out (something in you becomes activated). This is very subtle. The videos were not meant to inform you about something [that you rightfully reject!], rather my hope was that it would trigger a perception, a seeing. This is the tricky part. This is why seeking [and teaching!] enlightenment can be such a frustrating endeavour. It is not about an information but about a perception, and there is no guaranteed way as to what triggers that perception.
It seems to me that you have all the right information, and made all the right conclusions; all it would take now is a little shift of attention to the attention itself. Even your rejection is spot on, if you could shift your focus away from the rejected objects [these (deluded) people, these (false) teachings], or even the desired objects [like Dave’s state] to the simple fact of you being [non-verbally] aware of yourself – this is the crossing of the threshold!
It is kind of unspectacular, and therefore not really what we want or value, and it seems that we have to suffer a lot before we are willing to do something as simple as letting go our attention from external and internal objects of desire and/or rejection and turning it (the attention) upon itself. Spiritually speaking, this is surrendering.
Jasun: What did I get?
I am still seeking for a state free from suffering and as long as I continue to seek it, I will continue to suffer. All my life I have aspired to some future time when I can be fully and finally in the present moment. Behold the irony (man)!
I relate to the notion that enlightenment is “a journey of zero distance,” that at any time the veil will fall aside, the false-self-illusion dissolve and reality be suddenly & forever, as it always has been, there, with nothing else competing for my attention.
BUT – I am always forced to reject this notion by the certainty that such a moment can only occur after years of self-processing (McKenna’s spiritual autolysis?), of slow and painstaking examination and exposure of the false-self-illusion to the light of (partial awareness) and the anguish it brings. It’s a veritable burning away of conditioning in the soul-fires of consciousness – the honesty to see the truth of one’s lies and the flexibility/stoicism not to flinch from that seeing until every last lie is done with.
I can’t reconcile the paradox of those two opposing perceptions; it seems like I have too much invested in both of them to fully “believe” in either one; yet both I know to be true…. Yet somehow the truth of each makes of the other a lie, and so neither is really much help!
Shift focus away from the rejected and the desired – the past and the future – and onto the non-existent Now which is all there ever is.
The Now that can be spoken of is not the true Now, but only the “treasured” Then.
Abe: Actually, our email exchange has helped me very much to make a reassessment of certain notions I held, but I find it very difficult to express them clearly. I’ll try.
My recommendation to you was BS. It was BS because there is actually nothing wrong with you. You might say, but I am suffering. Yes, but unfortunately there is no way out. This is the human condition. Freedom from suffering has nothing whatsoever to do with enlightenment, rather the opposite, “for in much wisdom is much grief; the more knowledge, the more suffering.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18)
As far as I am concerned, enlightenment is the deconstruction of the social-cultural enterprise. But of course this makes not happy, this breeds despair. There are various coping strategies available. All of them are of limited scope. Staying in the now is only one coping strategy, among many others.
Spiritually (metaphorically / poetically) speaking, despair is the emotion of the homelessness of the Divine essence. The Divine essence despairs within the seeker, the seeker’s despair is the Divine essence’s despair: it is not just that the seeker despairs because he cannot find the Divine essence, rather it is the Divine essence that despair within the seeker that It cannot be found!
Our correspondence reminded me of a secret cabbalistic teaching that is rather (un-) common sense: there is an irremovable veil between us and our happiness (redemption from suffering) and that is the physical nature of our life. Understanding the irremovability of the veil *is* enlightenment as “a journey of zero distance” (= from physical nature to the acknowledgment of physical nature):