Eastern philosophy has opened important doors, but doesn’t have all the answers. In fact, in-depth knowledge of individual psychological development may provide the key to opening the prison of the self. This intriguing conclusion will unfold when we look at the impact of psychological birth and development on spiritual consciousness.
Toward my goal of synthesizing East and West I have selected the term OMNI CONSCIOUSNESS, to name the pure higher consciousness of Eastern thought. It may seem gratuitous to add yet another name to so many others that capture the essence of Eastern thinking—Krishna consciousness, Buddha mind, egolessness, etc.—but each of these has so many jarring or alienating associations to the Western ear that discussions get confusing and bogged down in semantics. A new term that starts out fresh and is clearly defined jettisons all that previous contaminating cultural baggage. Omni consciousness as the ground of all consciousness transcends culture. At the same time I want to honor its origin.
THE WEST AND “ME”
How does the Eastern concept of omni consciousness really touch our Western sensibilities? What can it possibly tell us? The rest of this book is devoted to answering those questions as completely as possible. For the moment though, let’s look at the most basic way we have been accustomed to thinking about ourselves.
Most of us know human existence only through the entity called the self (I/Me/Ego). Because this self is our sole conduit for knowing the world, we take great care to defend it, expand it, develop it, and procure all kinds of things for it. Fact is, most of our waking energy is spent on servicing this self. For us, self-absorption appears to be not only correct but the only meaningful basis for navigating in the world. After all, everyone else is doing the same thing. “What else is there?”
Unaware of another firmer ground of being, any efforts to question or challenge the primacy of what we call I/ME are met with fierce resistance. It's like the ferocious response we find in an abused child who defends and clings to the very parents who are his torturers. Knowing no other source of self-validation, the child feels even an abuser is better than the void of the black hole of non-existence. And non-existence is exactly what we imagine lies outside this I/ME identity.
Omni psychology, on the other hand, considers the self we know, cherish, believe in, and defend as our ally in our struggles through life to be a prison that confines, limits, and imposes punishments on our existence. This may be the hardest concept to grasp in this book because it threatens everything we hold most dear—mainly, our sense of self. Like the clinging of the abused child, we insist on embracing this self, blinding ourselves to any message of a vast and limitless universe beyond the confines of our prison. The self and the prison are one. Any assault on the prison or attempt at liberation will be construed an attack on our very self. Thus, potential liberators appear to us as the most threatening of enemies.
SPIRITUALITY AND OMNI CONSCIOUSNESS
Is omni consciousness a form of spirituality? It is in the sense that spirituality is a term used loosely to refer to conceptions beyond our familiar ones. But "spirituality" has so many varied usages that it is more likely to confuse than clarify. It frequently suggests something "other worldly," perhaps magic, spirits, or vague indefinable and unknowable forces. Some people use spirituality to mean related to God or devotional religion. Others invoke spirituality in opposition to scientific understanding or knowledge. On a more popular level, spirituality can mean eating vegetarian food, practicing yoga postures, not wearing animal furs, believing in the power of crystals, or recycling wastes and being mindful of the environment. These diverse usages render the term spirituality unclear, if not meaningless. Even if you explicitly define spirituality, it still carries the taint of varied personal meanings and associations. That’s why I find it useful to call spirituality a state of consciousness—the pure awareness of omni consciousness.
If there is state of consciousness (omni consciousness) beyond our usual or more familiar conscious state that is untainted by personal experience and is conflict free then it should be demonstrably real and potentially verifiable. You can experience omni consciousness directly (later exercises will guide you), which may be the most convincing proof. Although it may pose problems for our familiar ways of knowing, there is nothing mystical or other- worldly about omni consciousness. It is just a state of consciousness that is difficult to recapture and hold on to because ordinary experience points us away from it. There are other obstacles, too, as we shall see when we continue to track the emergence of the limited self.
MYSTICAL OR DIFFERENT?
For the person who thinks only concretely, abstract thinking may appear mystical or otherworldly. For those who readily engage in abstract thinking, the process is quite natural and obvious. In Chapter 4, Psychological Birth, I will show that young children have limited mental processes and, therefore, are unable to see certain relationships that are obvious to older children and adults. For example, when one of two equally sized balls of clay is rolled into a sausage shape, a four-year old will typically say there is more clay in the sausage shape than in the ball shape, even though he or she has seen it made from an identical lump of clay. For those who cannot see that the amount of clay is the same in both instances, it may appear mystical that others know this with great assurance—and can prove it.
Similarly, we assume that our adult level of perception is the highest possible. Therefore, when a group of people "know" something that we sense is true but beyond our ability, we call it mystical or spiritual. Likewise, if you were able to perceive only two dimensions—length and width but not height-- a person who could perceive three dimensions would seem mystical, and in possession of strange, magical powers. As a two dimensional person you would constantly bump into things since everything would appear flat. You would have to navigate the environment cautiously with guidance, or even a navigational map. Three-dimensional viewers on the other hand would move seamlessly and effortlessly. That might seem baffling, if not mystical, to those who never experienced three-dimensional perception Yet these "powers" would be quite natural, commonplace, and easily subject to scientific explanation for a person living in a three dimensional world.
Also, the term spiritual has become associated with people who supposedly have mystical or supernatural powers. These gurus, priests, channels, what have you, then become intermediaries to the "other world." This leads to cultism, which is usually inimical to individual development. There are, of course, true teachers who will point the way for you to reach within yourself to connect with dimensions of yourself that are outside your present awareness or ability to fully grasp them. Finding them, however, may prove difficult. In any case, it’s best to be cautious of the term "spiritual." It carries so much excess baggage that it cannot help to clarify and may only serve to obfuscate an already complex set of understandings. We need these understandings if we are to take back our minds, rid ourselves of our dependence on the ego-self object, and return to the reality of subjective consciousness--omni consciousness. Yet the term spiritual is so widely used that it is at times unavoidable. But let's be clear that in this book spiritual means the realm of omni consciousness. If omni consciousness is the gateway to a divine or other dimension, you will know when you get there! Therefore, for the moment, we will put that question on hold.
ON THE ROAD TO REALITY
The road back to omni consciousness involves five understandings. The remainder of this book is to show you more specifically how to get on the path of these understandings. Each one has its hazards because each challenges and defies your usual way of looking at yourself and the world. Each nudges you to loosen your grip on an illusory reality that you firmly embrace. In effect each understanding moves you away from the dream state of ordinary consciousness.
1. Omni consciousness is the ground of consciousness, the genuine self. It is a state of consciousness beyond the limited projection that translates personal experiences into a personal identity called I, me, self or ego; it is the subjective state that generates the me object. Both omni consciousness and the me object are the same consciousness, only omni consciousness is the totality and me is a particular limited projection and contraction of omni consciousness. Projected object states can only change in very limited ways. But the subjective state -omni consciousness can generate change by creating new and varied objects. The self that we know is a limited object that we want to act like a subject. It can't. That's why we feel stuck, frustrated, unhappy and unfulfilled. To achieve liberation, we must change the locus of the self from the object that we think we are to the subject that is our true nature.
2. All is one. Everything that you experience in mind is part of the same consciousness. There are no separate independent fragments. All contents of mind are reflections and projections of one source--omni consciousness. It is through the illusion of experiencing the contents of mind as separate entities that consciousness gets fragmented. Treating these fragments as real separate entities that can meaningfully interact is what locks us into ego consciousness.
3. The character “me” does not exist as a concrete entity. It is a network of concepts in your mind and exists for only as long as you are willing to maintain it. The problem is that you believe your mind and its contents comprise all of consciousness so all of your energy is invested in supporting, protecting, and defending your own creation. Mind is a contraction of consciousness. Its contents are interpretations from a particular set of experiences that become rigidly encapsulated. To escape from the prison of the self you must go out of mind. As I will explain in greater detail in Chapter 5, going out of mind is not losing control or going crazy. On the contrary only when you are outside of mind can you control and direct mind. Outside of mind there is no little self, only consciousness--omni consciousness.
4. It is your mind. You do not have to accept delivery of experiences. This is a fascinating and simple principle that seems almost too good to be true. What makes it difficult and seemingly out of reach is the refusal to believe: "But I had a terrible childhood that made me who I am." How many times have you heard or said things like, "She rejected me. I can't let her do that to me." We fight tooth and nail to cling to our pains and negative emotions. But the fact is you don't have to lock in to your experiences--- if you dare to let go of your identification with experiences and lodge yourself in omni consciousness.
When you cease to react to, interpret, or embrace experiences, you are free from their control. In our usual state of mind, stored experiences and interpretations create a fixed setting that yields conditioned reactions. Conditioned reactions are robotized; they do not respond to what is happening here and now but rather to the past. Once mind based on past experience is your reality, the present is forever lost. Yet the present is the only true reality. In that sense, the world of the mind is unreal.
When you are in charge you can see that consciousness and experiences are separate. Become aware of the space between and you will be liberated from a limited definition of self that is dictated by personal experiences.
5. You will gain great flexibility psychologically when you know who you really are--omni consciousness. Then you can move seamlessly among different roles and identities without fearing the loss of self. When you are no longer imprisoned by personal experience, you will discover the vast energy and possibilities of consciousness.
These understandings, however, like the affirmations in Chapter Seven, are only useful if there is a place in consciousness that can receive and act on them. Otherwise, they will remain limp sentiments. You will read them, nod your head in agreement, say them over and over to yourself, reach for them in moments of tension or despair, and firmly believe you have embraced them, even recommending them to others. But you will not live them. The problem is that the self that hears the principles and affirmations is the same self that is imprisoned and identified with its imprisonment. Only by locating another place in consciousness that is outside the encapsulation or imprisonment can genuine change take place. The first step is to get a firm grasp on who you really are.