©Copyright 1995, by Phil Servedio
It has become clearer to me over time that the process of Awakening involves more about loss than of gain. Of course, the ultimate form of loss for an individual is death itself, and our primary struggle in life is to avoid death, or postpone its inevitable arrival.
But, as many have pointed out, this process of Awakening is often equated with death. Some people who claim Awakening say that they have "died" - so what do they mean by death? Those people who claim this "death of the self" are still "there", aren't they? And over time, while it may become clear that some kind of profound transformation has occurred in an Awakened individual, many personality traits still function more or less the same as before. So what really occurs in Awakening? Is something lost? Something gained? Seen through?
What is clear to me over time is that there is an almost continual mechanism of "objectization" going on in all individuals. Perhaps the only break in this binding mechanism is when a person is in their deep sleep, the dreamless NREM state (Non Rapid Eye Movement). Objectizaton is simply the creation of objects, which is a fundamental process in this universe. Objects are made, they are sustained for awhile and then they fall back into the "pool of potentiality". Our very body-minds are co-conspirators in this mechanism of objectization (which ultimately is only a function of Consciousness, since there are no individual selves!), creating the ego-structure, self-images, ideas, emotions, thoughts, and the whole range of human experience, all sitting on top of this fundamantal knot of mis-understanding as to our true nature, hidden in the causal body. When New Agers say "You create your own reality", it is only partially true: Consciousness creates the objects that make up perceived "reality", and there is no separate, particular "you" doing this.
For most people, they believe that they "are" the personal objects that are created from this nearly-unstoppable mechanism of objectization. We think we are "this" or "that", based on whatever image or idea that is manifested in Consciousness at any particular time. We "identify" with some kind of self-image in the very healthy process of ego building and boundary creation, in order to succeed in our survival in the world. The very process of identification is really the mistaken assumption that a subject is exclusively some object in Consciousness. But our real nature can never be any object, anything that has a birth and death, anything that can be seen, witnessed or perceived, or any "thing" in particular. Identification and particularization (or differentation), while being necessary functions for ego creation, are a resultant trap or cage that the "fundamental mis-understanding" generates over time. Desire is the the glue, energy, or transport mechanism that binds subject to object. (However, it can be argued, from a "7th" stage point of view that we are also the "apparent" objects witnessed, but never exclusively any object in particular).
It is almost as if we live in this 80, 90, or 100 year old play in the theatre of life, acting out the roles, believing we are those characters that we play, grabbing and identifiying with the objects of Consciousness that pop up within our perceptual fields (be it sensual, intellectual, or ideational objects). It's totally absurd!!
It also must be stated that we are not a particular subject, simply because the act of thinking about subjectivity makes it an object. Even the idea of Transcendental Noumenality, Consciousness or Godhead is still some object generated by Consciousness.
The Awakening process unravels the knot of mis-understanding so first it can be seen that there is no particular "self" anywhere to be found. And it is not merely some mental insight that may state "oh, I am Noumenality, or pure Consciousness or Awareness". It occurs at a level deeper than mere conscious, subconscious or unconscious mind, and the event of Awakening will inform the mind in the form of a complete and summary insight into one's real Nature. And part of that insight is the undeniable fact that you have always been Who You Are, and that you can only Be Who You Are, and can never objectize your real Nature.
Even before Awakening, the mind may suddenly stop and one may reach a level of stillness that is indescribable. It is indescribable because nothing is arising! The process of objectization takes a temporary vacation in these times of stillness, and thus the object called "you" is not there, resulting in pristine, unqualified Awareness, even if the process has yet to produce fundamental Awakening.
When the knot of mis-understanding in the causal body is penetrated, one is able to stand as one's Nature. In the earlier stages of Awakening, when one is seated in the background consciousness, in the heart on the right, the objects that were once thought of as oneself are seen through, as they truly are, simply appearances in Consciousness. Awakening may be described as the resolution of identification, and that which was previously identified as oneself becomes "transparent". Transparency may be defined as the capacity to recognize objects as appearances in Consciousness, be they hard-core 3 dimensional objects, thoughts, emotion or ideas.
Thus, the Awakening process results in a revolution of identification. "Who Am I" is not really answered or fulfilled, but rather is undermined in the obviousness of Self-Recognition. In one sense, a clean slate is now in front of one who has gone through this doorway - the objects of self-image and mis-understood identity are no longer binding - they may still be there, but no longer are they seen as oneself. This restructuring of identification may be so dramatic that it may feel like a "death". The traditional notion of "ego death" is not really the destruction of the ego, but the destruction of identification with any object.
This may create a sense of spaciousness or may be felt sometimes as a loss. The "preciousness" of objective self-imagery is burned in the fire of the Awakening process, replaced by a fundamental insight into one's nature. But since that Self-Nature, being not a point, or locality based, cannot be grabbed onto and held, like a self-image, there seems to be a process of re-orientation to a radical new sense of identity that occurs over time. This is where the "ego-death" can be felt: one's precious old "friends", the images of self-identification, are seen for what they are, essentially a falsehood of real identity. This death may be seen as the end of a certain momentum in life, being cut loose from a mechanism that binds one to objects. Seeking, which can be defined as desire in action, is the activity whose momentum finally gives out, resulting in the happy-rest of Self Abidance.
The capacity of seeing through the " lie" of object-based identity is another aspect of the freedom of Awakening. One is not bound to a falsehood of selfhood. The viewing of objects, though still noticed by functional attention as residing in particular locations, is undermined by the " shout" or "obviousness" of Being, generated from a more fundamental position than the sensual/perceptual field. This "shout" is an extension of one's Self-Recognition to apparent objects, which results in the capacity for "transparent viewing" and the sense that there is no separation between Consciousness and any apparent object. What's more, in this natural recognition of non-separation, it can be seen that all apparent objects are appearing from or as one's Self, in the dreamlike nature of sense based reality.
No longer suspended or bouyed by particulars, one can feel like they are in "free-fall", with nothing to hold onto in the sense of objective identity. Additionally, sometimes a perception of non-centeredness may arise, so that it is felt that there is no center, totally obviating the point of functional attention.
Personally speaking, this quality of free-fall leads me to ask,"Now, what Am I" - not in the sense of summary identity, but in the sense of the personal destiny of the body-mind. What do I do with this extraordinay yet ordinary revelation?