Like the rest of us, I don’t know who I am.
I know what I like, whom I Iove, whom I don’t. I know what my thoughts are about certain things, I recognize the body that carries the mind that thinks those thoughts, I know its name, what it looks like, many others do.
They say, hey Kuber, how are you. Some know the family into which I was born, how old I am, what I’ve done with my life (they’ll have different opinions about that, haha).
So, am I the aggregate of the body and all these attributes, histories and events attached to my name? Am I the collection of all that, plus my thoughts or my feelings? Initially, as a child, certainly I was just that. I was being defined from outside.
But if I’m just a collection of stuff, why do I call these things mine?
If they are mine, whether inside or outside my mind, they are different from ME!
There is some sense of I-ness beneath all that. But if I try to pinpoint it, it seems elusive, a sense of being beyond any thought.
Doesn´t the same happen to you?
What would happen if the “I” could turn its attention on itself for a moment, instead of always being busy completing sentences like I…am an academic, or a carpenter, I…see a beautiful sunset, I…want this or that, I…love my spouse (hopefully). I…think…about a million things.
What if one could remain awake within, to glimpse this I-ness by itself, when thoughts and perception have subsided, instead of collapsing into sleep or unconsciousness.
The sense of I-ness seems to be linked to the body, but it seems to also be kind of ethereal. It doesn’t seem to have defined boundaries, to begin and end somewhere, to have borders, the way one’s body does.
Maybe I-ness is similar to what a screen is for a movie. I have been going to the movies for many years, I know a lot about movies, I am used to seeing exactly where Meryl Streep (my favorite actress) begins and ends—but the screen underneath her is not bound by the same kind of limits that she appears to have.
We can even imagine, for the sake of this analogy, the screen going indefinitely in all directions. The screen provides an unbounded basis for the boundaries of which the movie is made.
The movie begins and ends on schedule, but ultimately the screen is more real (i.e. more permanent) than the movie projected on it. It does not partake in the dimensions of time and space where its narrative, images, words and music come and go. The screen is both transcendental and immanent to the movie I saw today; as to the movie that will play tomorrow.
But whenever a movie I go to see is over, the screen goes dark, I never experience the screen.
And yet, without the experience of the transcendent basis of experience, what am I really?
I wish I had the answer—but what I know is that what actually makes me human is the desire for transcendence, for going beyond the mind or the body, or even the feelings, which without transcendence might seem to pertain to the animal realm.
I may transcend through love of family or community, through my service to them or to a cause, through art, philosophy, through knowledge, even through business I want to transcend my limitations. All these are things the raccoons in my garden seem incapable of doing–or not quite like me anyway.
But can the projector be left on without a movie, even for a moment? Can we get to experience the transcendent consciousness directly?
That might set us apart, not only from the animals, but from artificial intelligence as well. To actually be able to know our essence. Pure consciousness.
Not pure in an ethical sense, but as a technical description. Like distilled water is different from water mixed with other things.
Is it difficult to attain? Maybe not with proper instruments—trying to cut vegetables with a blunt knife doesn’t do the trick. Might we be able to avail of the right technology needed in this technological age?
But the main question we want to ask may be a different one: what would be the point of glimpsing or attaining this state of “pure” consciousness? Just to be different from a robot or a raccoon? It would seems utterly pointless, negating the very specialness I am trying to ascribe to the human race here.
We can glorify our life with all the other forms of transcendence, so why pursue this direct transcendence. Without denying the tremendous and wondrous capacity of the human spirit to soar through almost any means, let’s give its rightful place to research.
It is probably natural to object to anything that interferes with a sense of knowing already pretty much everything we need to know, especially as we get older. Otherwise have we been wasting our time? Yes, more anecdotal knowledge about anything is welcome, we may read many books, but not something that truly challenges our sense of control.
But if that is taken too far, we may be calling a new virus simply a flu—for example—beyond the point we should be; and we could be doing so at our own peril.
Truly going beyond our knowledge goes in the opposite direction of the feeling of having things under control. Nevertheless, we can admit that we don’t know little things—such as how this universe was created and what happens when we die—let alone the answer to the big questions–like why are there so many boxes of cereal in the supermarket if they all taste the same?
We may outsource difficult questions to a religion, to atheism, agnosticism, philosophy (of science, or otherwise), etc. .
But let’s be humble and admit that that the symbols or words that philosophy and religion use to convey their ideas of permanence are provided to us from outside ourselves. Language too is an object in our consciousness, put there by mom and dad and education, and is also different from the transcendental sense of I-ness.
I’m prepared to accept that the faith that may emanate from these ideas goes beyond words or even emotion, that faith feels like a cognition rather than acquired knowledge, it is something that you know for certain, even if you cannot prove it to anyone else. In this case words seem to confirm something that precedes them. Faith is like a presence or Is-ness that approximates and elevates the I-ness to it. Perhaps that’s why faith makes us feel so alive. Any faith, even faith in the absence of God.
I myself have faith in the power of Nature, call it that for lack of a better name. I can sense it. I can even say I have experienced the miraculous sometimes. But sensing or occasional proof is different from truly knowing, the kind of knowing that requires the subject of knowing and the object of knowledge to become one and the same. That may require bringing consciousness to a level that transcends distance and difference.
Perhaps research into consciousness can teach us something. Research that is not mediated by a microscope or telescope or even words, research into the direct self-referral experience. What the ancients called meditation, not what that word has come to mean in the West (to think about something). Or maybe what the West would call psychotherapy, if it were capable of removing obstacles to transcending–not just reveal why you should hate your mother!
Maybe such research would allow the projector to stay on and the curtain open, without an intervening film. The ancient peoples from the East called this the experience of the Self. They vested in the word huge symbolism by simply capitalizing it.
In English we also capitalize the ”I,” but I have a feeling that the ego is something different from the Self.
If I find out, I will be sure to let you know. I would love to brag about it!
But if the ego wants to appropriate this attainment of the Self, as if it was money, or beauty, or a degree, will it become elusive again, like a mirage, something that one can never really grasp–because its not a thing? Will it become hidden again like all other objects under the screen—only this time by a movie about the Self?
Aghh, it seems ”I” cannot win.
Maybe the Self can?
And if it really does, the transcendent might become the immanent. Once a scientist isolates a field of study, say the electromagnetic field, or the gravitational field, it is easier to realize it everywhere spontaneously, even if it is hidden to the untrained eye.
Under those circumstances art may become more significant, love richer, knowledge more profound, philosophy more meaningful, and every little act or perception or relationship could take a more luminous quality.
And if consciousness is thus cultivated, maybe society can even come out from the problems created by it in a less cultivated state?
Maybe what civilization needs now, after mastering the electronic and the atomic levels of nature, after quantum theory has produced such wonders as the GPS and the semiconductor in the device you’re probably reading this on, is a technology that utilizes the brain itself. If it can produce a world of wondrous images and experiences, can it reveal and provide access to an un-manifest level of consciousness, vibrant with infinite underlying potentiality?
Wouldn’t that be something! The ground of technology for a new era? Oh well, dream on…and manifest the dream?!