The Missing Piece Part 5: The politically-incorrect truth about transmission we are just not ready for

Transmission:

The idea that through simple physical proximity, sight, sound or contact a person can share in the awakening of another.

This idea causes bouts of explosive denial in many.

The endless historical records of transmission are written off as self-serving fantasies or simple parables never meant to describe a real event.

The countless reports of transmission from students of 20th century gurus and teachers are brushed aside as ‘lies’, ’hallucination’, ‘confirmation-bias’ or ‘placebo’.

After all, there is undeniable evidence these gurus were self-aggrandising con-men and women, often responsible for abuse on a large scale.

If we admit these people really did participate in transmission, it would mean everything else they claimed - the miracle cures, the superstitious advice about HIV, their abusive behaviour being ‘crazy wisdom’ for the benefit of the abused, their divine infallibility - would also have to be true as well, right?

No 

Half of all Isaac Newton’s literary output was concerned with Biblical prophecy.

We would make a grand error if we concluded physics is bullshit too.

Seeing the awesome truth of physics in action for ourselves is not evidence we must prepare for Judgement Day.

Participating in transmission with a guru is not evidence the guru is omniscient, omnipotent or omnipresent.

It’s not even evidence the guru is sane, intelligent or trustworthy.

Transmission is not a reason to give him your trust fund.

Or your body.

Blowing minds

Imagine you are a seeker, and one day you begin to go through a series of awakenings. Suddenly, other seekers under certain circumstances spontaneously begin to experience the same awakening in your presence.

‘Wow’, you think, ‘this is an awesome power! I’m not sure how it works, but it seems to be coming from me, so it must be mine, right?’

People flock to you, all gooey-eyed and ecstatic. You can’t believe it! They tell you special things are happening to them, things they can’t believe either. It’s miraculous! And it’s all down to you.

Master.

‘Well of course’, you think to yourself, ‘I must be special to have such a presence: I’m literally blowing minds! It’s a mystery for sure; but then maybe everything I do is miraculous and a mystery too…’

You see where this leads.

Imagine if your awakening happens in the presence of an already established guru, who then confirms you are the most important spiritual teacher since the Buddha or Jesus?

Adult conversation

Culturally, we are simply not ready for an adult conversation about the reality of transmission, which is why the above scenario is doomed to repeat itself. 

Of course people can lie about transmission, of course people can be mistaken about transmission, and of course the very idea seems too implausible to be true.

But then so is reality.

Those that claim reports of transmission are only evidence of ‘hallucination’, ‘confirmation-bias’ or ‘placebo’ should really learn what those words mean and, even better, take the time to familiarise themselves with the studies that describe and demonstrate what these psychological effects are.

For someone who’s never experienced transmission, it’s unbelievable, yes; but it’s equally unknown too.

Of course, to have the right opinion about transmission doesn’t require first-hand experience; we need simply use a way of knowing to make sense of first-hand transmission events as part of a scientifically-rigorous study program.

Once we have a few decades worth of scientific evidence, it’s possible transmission will be normalised. Structure + Purpose is one such program.

It’s also possible our culture will respond so badly to the evidence it will refuse to accept it for a long time, as prone to confirmation-bias, the placebo effect and hallucination as it apparently is.

Bad parenting

Currently the truth of transmission is politically-incorrect because it implies a hierarchy, with these appropriately detested, abusive gurus at the top.

But as we know from The #1 secret to understanding awakening (no one has heard of), this isn’t just a hierarchy, but a generative hierarchy of equal participation

Just like the relationship between a parent and child.

It should be obvious there are extraordinarily bad and abusive parents in the world; but this doesn’t prevent their children from becoming parents themselves, and often, much better parents too.

But these bad parents are always the greater in the hierarchy; our parents don’t cease to be our parents simply because we wish otherwise, or have children ourselves, or even become better parents than they ever were.

As with the farming analogy introduced in How to wake up without being confused, the parent isn’t responsible for the actual growth of the child, but they have an equal share in the quality of that growth. In other words, cultivation; because the child is going to grow regardless through the sheer fact of participation. 

As parents, the question we ask ourselves is, ‘How am I sharing in the growth of my children? In the best way possible, to the best of my ability?’

Analogically, the abusive guru is the worst kind of parent. 

Ignorant of participation, these gurus take credit for growth happening at all with their students, as if this were enough to make them a good teacher (and as teachers, this growth is taken as evidence for the power of the teacher as 'someone who knows'.)

Transmission - a shared growth in awakening through proximity - happens through the sheer fact of participation, as result of the greater (reality) literally growing within the lesser (the psyche of the awakened human being); and the lesser (the psyche of the student) growing within the greater (the reality within the psyche of the awakened human being).

No credit can be taken for the fact of transmission. 

But excellence in cultivation is the responsibility of both student and awakened human being alike. 

Pimp my transmission

In How to spot the fatal flaw in any teaching, we revisited the lover and beloved analogy and discovered it’s practical equivalent: pimp and prostitute.

There is nothing like transmission to bring out the pimp and prostitute in people.

‘Alan, I want to come on retreat, I’m looking for the transmission effect!’ read a recent email.

And he didn’t even offer to buy me a drink first.

The assumption that someone could come on a Cascade retreat to wake up through effortless transmission, without having to concern themselves with excellence in cultivation as an ongoing practice, is a detrimental delusion, and a set-up for crop failure. (This is why it's only possible to attend a retreat once you're a student on the site, so you have a solid grounding in the basics of practice first.) 

After all, transmission means you've entered the ideal conditions for a confrontation with challenging false images of both yourself and reality.

To go beyond these images requires cultivation: esoteric and dialectic contemplation, and a shared commitment to excellence with a group of like-minded people who think it’s time we did things differently. 

People who have come together to be a source of modern wisdom.

If this sounds like you, then maybe I can buy you a drink on retreat.

The Missing Piece Part 4: How to spot the fatal flaw in any teaching

It’s an absurd image: a farmer wandering his fields wondering how to get rid of an absence of crops.

Or sneaking about suspecting the crops are already there, he just hasn’t seen them yet.

In our last instalment (How to wake up without being confused) we used an agricultural analogy to help us relate to the process of waking up.

By using the analogy we can see the correct way to relate to our subject; but the greatest virtue of using the analogy is in the images that result from seeing how not to relate to awakening.

An illustration of the absurdity of ignorance or false beliefs is far more instructive and compelling than simply seeing what one should do, which naturally follows anyway once the absurdity is obvious.

If we want to know if a teaching is an accurate understanding of reality and, more importantly, whether or not the instruction is detrimental to our progress, we can revisit one analogy in particular to bring the nature of the teaching into sharp relief.

Dealing with an absence 

If what we care about is seen to be absent, then we don’t want our present condition to stick around, and our goal - achieving what we care about - lies somewhere in the future.

It makes sense that if what we care about is absent, we literally don’t care about what is present.

What is present is simply a means to an end.

What is present is something we must use to get to where we are going.

And if the goal is all we care about, then it doesn’t matter how we get there, just so long as we do.

This is what it means to be practical.

At all costs

In an earlier instalment we introduced the analogy of the lover and beloved as a way to understand the relationship between the psyche and reality. 

Each shares in love with the other, and the love grows effortlessly (again, a generative hierarchy of equal participation). This is what it means to be ideal.

There can be milestones that are both celebrated and anticipated in falling in love: the first time you tell each other how you feel, the first kiss, the first time you have sex, building a home together, getting married, maybe even having children.

But all of these milestones or big events are simply a way of taking this growth in love to the next level, not the other way round.

Imagine going on a date with someone who announces they want to get married at all costs, because that’s how you fall in love.

Like someone announcing they want to wake up at all costs, because that’s how you get to know reality.

You can’t buy love, but you can rent it for 3 minutes

Consider a customer with a prostitute. 

It looks like love, but he is prostituting himself by using her for sex, and she is prostituting herself by using him for cash. 

It’s a practical appearance of love, and a reciprocal relationship.

They will never even tell each other they are in love, let alone get married, because neither is possible.

They are both using each other, and being used, as a means to an end.

The goal is all that matters, and the other person is just someone who must be used to get there.

Pimp and Prostitute

If our reality is seen to be unsatisfactory - what we care about is absent - then we cannot help but relate to our reality as a means to an end.

We don’t want our reality to stick around; we want this unsatisfactory reality to give way to the future reality we imagine. 

Our current reality is a means to an end, to be used up in the pursuit of awakening.

Now if lover and beloved is a perfect analogy for the relationship between psyche and reality, we can see that any practical strategy for achieving awakening is by its very nature an instruction to treat reality as a means to an end.

This means prostituting your beloved.

You’re a pimp.

Of course, being reciprocal, to follow a practical instruction you must also prostitute yourself for awakening.

And so reality is now your pimp, treating you as a prostitute as well.

It goes both ways, and explains a lot about the experience of ‘dryness’ or ‘the dark night of the soul’ or the ‘stages of suffering’ recognised by practical traditions as a necessary part of the process of waking up.

If you treat reality as whore, reality treats you the same.

It should be obvious you cannot fall in love by prostituting yourself or your beloved, and you will never even kiss let alone have children.

Pimping out your beloved is not a necessary stage in falling in love. If the process of awakening is a struggle, it’s a result of being practical - and therefore a failure in understanding the nature of the process of awakening - which is the opposite of the ideal nature of the growth you share in.

Prostitution is a practical appearance of love, meaning it is the opposite of love itself.

Practical instructions are a practical appearance of awakening, meaning they are the opposite of awakening itself.

Practicality is then based on false belief.

Ideal instructions

If we are being practical, we are using a strategy of false belief to escape the absence of what we care about.

If we are being ideal, we are using a way of knowing to participate in the presence of what we care about.

Opposites.

Esoteric contemplation is ideal practice, and we can even use the beloved analogy itself for our contemplation. Instructions for this are given in the Master Class video series available to students.

How to spot the fatal flaw in any teaching

Because a strategy of false belief is not a way of knowing, there is an extraordinarily simple way to identify one from the other.

Here’s an example:

‘Practice [insert meditation technique] for 2 hours a day for 10 years and you can expect to go through various stages - some good, some bad - with [insert number of] awakenings. If you have a bad period, don’t make any big decisions and take lots of walks. If you suspect you have had an awakening, don’t rush to any conclusions and leave it for a year or two.’

You will agree this is a great appearance of knowing all about awakening. Lots of descriptions and advice.

Here’s another appearance of knowing with advice:

‘There are no stages and awakening is sudden. You must give up seeking, and then you will discover there is no awakening and no one to wake up.’

However, these appearances fall apart when we ask a simple question:

Why?

Why is reality such that awakening is this way?

Why does awakening even exist in the first place?!

Why are we even here at all?!!

The best a pimp can offer in response: ‘Dunno’, ‘Who cares as long as it works?’, ‘It’s a mystery,’ or ‘[insert pop-psychology/quantum physics/nondual fudge].’

Remember, practicality only gives the appearance of the real thing; if the teaching is ideal, it provides a way of knowing for you to make sense of reality in its totality, that you can share in together with the person offering instruction.

No guessing, no believing, no faith required, no doubting; just the certainty of seeing for yourself.

See for yourself

Don’t be a pimp.

Or a whore.

Master contemplation, and come on the Cascade retreat.

The Missing Piece Part 3: How to wake up without being confused

‘It’s sooooooo easy!’

Trying to figure out how to wake up can be extraordinarily frustrating, and my usual response on retreat to this frustration usually engenders laughter, but only in that it makes the frustration worse.

I know what the student is thinking, because I’ve been there: Well if awakening is so easy, or not dependent on how much effort we make, or how much practice we do, or is so ordinary and always the case it’s never not available, how come everyone isn’t awake then? Or more importantly (screw everyone else) why am I not awake now?!

So then I go on to explain not just why it so easy, but how it is so easy.

But first of all I have to admit my claim that it’s easy isn’t quite right; awakening is sooo easy it’s not even easy! To even talk about easy and hard is to imply effort is somehow involved, when it isn’t. 

(Of course, to make sense of how to wake up, we must first understand participation. Nothing else will do it. If you haven’t already, you should read The #1 secret to making sense of awakening (no one has heard of) at least once. Don’t worry if you haven’t full grasped participation yet; what I’m about to say will only help in understanding what I’ve said before.)

The fact that reality is a generative hierarchy of equal participation means that through the sheer fact of how reality is, growth just happens all by itself.

Two key words to keep in mind: effortless growth.

This effortless growth happens through participation in the greater reality that is already complete or total. The lesser shares in the greater, the greater shares in the lesser.

It’s a given.

This greater universal reality is always present and something you already participate in, at all times.

Effortless growth inside a universal reality.

Like a baby in a womb; or a seed in the earth.

Compare this with the assumption behind the frustration:

This universal reality is absent, and you want to know how to make it present.

Oh dear

It’s a nonstarter: a radically incorrect assumption about your relationship with reality, and the nature of awakening.

It makes sense then that if you are trying to get rid of an absence, you will always struggle and fail, because you can’t get rid of something that isn’t there. 

We could call this a contraction in ignorance. It leads nowhere. 

It’s the opposite of a growth in awakening.

Frustration and failure is not a part of the progress of the psyche in the wisdom.

It sounds silly to spell it out like this, but failure is not a part of success.

Failure is failure. Success is success.

If you are feeling frustrated, you might think it has something to do with awakening, but you are in fact doing something else entirely.

You’ve made a case of mistaken identity.

Farming

Farming is an archaic analogy for understanding awakening.

A farmer does not wander about desperate to know how to get rid of an absence of crops. 

Or sneaking about his fields suspecting the crops are there all along, he just hasn’t seen them yet.

This is not farming.

Farming is the tending of plants that grow all by themselves. The growth is effortless. The farmer does not have to physically stretch the plants. No sweat is required for growth.

The necessary growth essential to farming is sooo easy! It’s actually beyond effortless, it’s a given.

However, the farmer must tend the growing plants to ensure a good yield; the farmer must cultivate what is effortlessly growing with a degree of excellence to ensure the crops don’t fail due to disease or for lack of the right growing conditions.

And this is where we find the effort of farming: cultivation.

Cultivation means to tend a growing seed by removing any pests or disease and by providing the best growing conditions.

The farmer never asks, ‘How am I going to make growth happen in my crops?’; rather, he asks, ‘What is the best way of growing my crops?’

Let’s translate the analogy:

You have a seed that is growing: the beholding of a greater reality that participates in the psyche, and vice versa.

This is awakening, and it is always happening, effortlessly.

But is it a seed, a seedling, a shoot, or a mature crop?

It takes time to grow a crop, but the amount of time can vary depending upon the quality of the cultivation. Crops will always pass through the same stages of growth, but how fast is down to the care of the farmer, how problems such as disease and pests are dealt with (if at all) and the quality of the growing conditions.

Awakening is a process of effortless growth that takes time and goes through predictable stages, but what kind of a growth is it?

And in terms of how long it takes, what would be the equivalent of disease and the ideal growing conditions?

This is your crop

The growth of awakening is a movement from a false beholding of an appearance of reality to a true beholding of the reality of appearance.

This movement has four stages: 

Ignorance: this is mistaking the appearance of reality to be reality, without even being aware there is a problem. The darkness of the seed.

Belief: this is having both right and wrong opinions about the appearance, but with no understanding as to why those opinions might be right or wrong. The reaching towards the light of the seedling, whilst still remaining in the dark.

Understanding: this is making sense of why your opinions about the appearance are right or wrong, but without knowing why it makes sense. The shoot breaking into the light.

Wisdom: this is beholding the nature of the appearance for the first time - actual knowledge of the appearance as an appearance - and the culmination of the process of awakening to the reality of the appearance in question. The mature plant producing seed - which is the benefit of growing the crop (food) and the beginning of the next growth cycle. (Remember what we said about the generative hierarchy? Here it is again.)

Wisdom takes time and a stage can’t be skipped; no use expecting a seed to magically produce another seed. 

You can’t grow by desperately trying to avoid growing.

But the time it takes to grow wisdom isn’t about a quantity of time, but the quality, because the growth is literally moving through the four stages.

And this is how you tend awakening

If growth is seeing an appearance for what it really is, then we must tend to seeing appearance for what is: the reality of appearance.

It’s that simple.

This is daily esoteric contemplation.

Problems in growth must then be wrong beliefs that keep us from progressing through the stages. We can remove these diseases or pests by seeing them for what they are.

This is regular dialectic contemplation.

The frustration of trying to deal with the absence of reality - the assumption behind asking ‘how do I wake up?!’ - is an example of a problem in growth. 

You may notice that knowing this isn’t enough to prevent you from continuing to make the same error. And that’s because all you’ve learnt is a right opinion. This is stage 2 in seeing the appearance for what it is. 

In order to resolve the problem for good, we need to see directly why this opinion makes sense, before finally seeing the truth of the appearance (or attaining wisdom in regards to this problem).

And this is why we need a way of knowing and a discipline such as dialectic contemplation to resolve these kinds of problem for good.

And the optimum conditions for growth?

A tradition of farming; the transmitted or shared knowledge of a master farmer; fertile soil; an abundant water source. 

In other words: a Cascade Retreat.

The right question

So the question isn’t ‘How do I wake up?’, but ‘How am I waking up?’

Knowing the right question to ask means we are now able to appreciate excellence in cultivation when it comes to awakening.

And we can see the fields are full of failing crops.

However, the right question also allows us to understand why these crops are poor and how we can do a better job of cultivation. 

Many crops suffer slow growth for lack of attention. The basics of gardening can be mastered with esoteric contemplation.

Some are failing to flourish due to pests and disease; easily resolved with a good dose of dialectic contemplation.

Learn both here.

Some shoots have broken the surface but are yet to produce a yield without the ideal growing conditions. 

Well, reaping what you have sown is so easy on a Cascade Retreat, it’s not even easy.

The Missing Piece Part 2: The #1 secret to making sense of awakening (no one has heard of)

Think ‘not-thinking’. Meditate without trying to meditate. Seeking is the problem. The problem is not wanting it badly enough. Let go. Practice harder. You’re already awake. There’s no one to wake up. It’s a paradox that doesn’t make sense. Don’t you get it?

Anyone interested in awakening will soon find themselves drowning in a deluge of nondual nonsense. It doesn’t take any serious thought to spot the contradiction in every alternate sentence coming out of the mouths of nonduality teachers. The audiences seem rapt, so it’s often assumed that this isn’t a mistake: reality must be nonsensical in nature. Or perhaps it’s the attempt to be rational that’s the problem, and the nonsense is a strategy for exhausting discernment. Wink wink!

There is of course an uncomfortable, yet simpler explanation: these nonduality teachers have simply failed to make sense of reality.

‘Not knowing the great principle, you talk at random’ - Kukai

You can’t blame these teachers for talking nonsense as most nonduality traditions and popular spiritual heroes haven’t done much better, and where we have eastern esoteric teachings that offer a profound language and culture for making sense of wisdom, we always find degeneration and misrepresentation in the translation process, reducing the esoteric teachings to nonsensical mush. (Pick up any popular book on Dogen to see what I mean.)

Peculiarly, at the heart of the western tradition we have an extraordinary idea for making sense of reality that is not merely the most easily accessible way to understand wisdom, but is arguably the best way to make sense of reality to be found in any wisdom tradition. That’s a big claim.

Once understood, this idea makes it possible to talk about reality and awakening without once suffering contradiction or mentioning not-self, nonduality, or any of the other spiritual buzzwords that obfuscate more than they illuminate.

And with it, all of the apparent mysteries and paradoxes that result from entertaining these bad descriptions - including the knots so many tie themselves in over ‘non-self’ and rebirth, a pre-existing awake state and the need for practice, and the ‘two truths’ - are seen to be so irrelevant as statements about reality as to be not even wrong.

The Missing Piece

Participation is the greatest and most dangerous idea in the history of ideas. 

‘Greatest’ because it is an ancient inheritance - much older than any written philosophy - that allows us to make sense of reality.

‘Dangerous’ because it engenders fear of the mind and overturns everything held to be true by institutional religion and academia since Aristotle did his best to bury the idea two thousand years ago, and with it the real nature of the archaic philosopher.

And no one has heard of participation, despite the fact it is the main thesis, both plainly stated and described in numerous ways, of the most famous philosopher of all time whose work is apparently taught in every major university.

Here we go

A particular example of participation may be a good introduction:

Consider the parent and child. 

The parent is older, wiser, and the source of the child; in these respects, the parent is the greater. 

The child is younger, more naive and the product of the parent; such that in these respects, the child can be considered the lesser.

We have a hierarchy.

But the nature of the parent is both found in and shared by the child, and the nature of the child is both found in and shared by the parent. (Physical similarities being the most obvious illustration). 

We now have a hierarchy of equal participation.

This means the child (the lesser) can grow through its participation in the nature of the parent (the greater) to become a parent itself, as a result of the parent’s nature (the greater) growing within the child (the lesser).

And yet the parent will always remain the parent of the child, and the child will always remain the child of the parent, even when that child is a parent itself.

Parent remains parent; child remains child; but each is equally found in and shared by the other - a hierarchy of equal participation - and this participation is how growth occurs. (Indeed, growth couldn’t happen any other way.)

We now have a generative hierarchy of equal participation.

The parent and child is a very old analogy for making sense of reality, because reality is a generative hierarchy of equal participation too. (In Hellenic culture it was presented as Father and Son, which explains a lot about the Abrahamic religions.)

To restate in universal terms, we can understand participation to mean the lesser is found in and shared by the greater, and the greater is found in and shared by the lesser. Yet the lesser remains the lesser, the greater remains the greater, and a process of growth is possible through this generative hierarchy of equal participation.

Once you understand participation, it suddenly begins to make sense of everything.

Analogical structure 

This is because through participating in each other’s nature, and yet remaining in a hierarchy, the lesser is analogical to the greater.

The particulars or details of the lesser and the greater are different and many; but the relationships between those particulars or details are the same and one.

A parent is still a parent, and a child a child, each remaining unique in their own way. These are the particulars. But how they relate one to the other is the same because they share in each other’s nature.

This is why we can use analogies to make sense of reality - such as the parent and child, lover and beloved, and maker and made - not based on poetic preference or mere utility, but through competence and skill in appreciating analogy as a subject. If analogies are not perfect, they are not merely wrong, but detrimental to our own personal participation in reality.

(It’s fashionable to believe our analogies are a a product of evolution, and therefore our experience and way of understanding awakening to be nothing more than a by-product of our biological environment. This is misleading in being only half-right by not going far enough, as evolution in turn is a product of the analogical structure of reality. Psychophobia (fear of the mind, which in practice is looking to anything but the mind itself in order to understand the mind) will no doubt produce a new fashion in due course.)

An intelligible awakening

We can make sense of awakening using the parent and child analogy if we consider the parent to be the greater or universal reality, and the child to be the lesser or particular psyche.

The parent (reality) is older (prior), wiser (total or universal), and the source of the child (psyche); in these respects, the parent (reality) is the greater. 

The child (psyche) is younger (subsequent), more naive (partial or particular) and the product of the parent (reality); such that in these respects, the child (psyche) can be considered the lesser.

But the nature of the parent (reality) is both found in and shared by the child (psyche), and the nature of the child (psyche) is both found in and shared by the parent (reality). 

This means the psyche can grow through its participation in the nature of reality, to literally grow into reality, but only as a result of reality growing within the psyche.

We find the particular in the universal and the universal in the particular as a generative process, with both particular and universal remaining particular and universal.

Reality gets to be the only reality - ‘always already the case’ - and yet reproduce itself in the psyche - ‘never the same again’.

This reproduction is the process of awakening, and it couldn’t happen any other way.

(Remember there are two more classical analogies we could use to make sense of the relationship between psyche and reality: lover and beloved and maker and made, each offering a unique window on something - being the greater - that is beyond any of the analogies themselves.)

When it comes to personal accounts of awakenings, participation makes sense of the event in a way nothing else can.

The individual psyche retains all of its individuality; the details or particulars remain. The awakened human remains a human with all that entails, the reality of appearance remains a universal reality, but one is now found in the other to the extent of their shared growth. 

Esoteric contemplation is a way of sharing in this growth. 

The psyche is analogical to reality to the degree of its participation in that greater reality - or what we might call the progress of the psyche in wisdom, which in experience is a series of awakenings - and therefore anything that arises within the psyche, such as dramas, dreams, daydreams and even distractions, can be explored as analogies for our current level of progress.

Dialectic contemplation is how we understand what we have experienced and where we may be blocked in our shared growth.

Again, you can learn both of these practices here.

You may have noticed

Participation is profound and requires time and thought to appreciate. It’s sophisticated and beautiful. What else should we expect when it comes to an actual understanding of reality?

But when I gave the basic description of awakening in terms of participation, you may have noticed I didn’t once have recourse to mention not-self, nonduality, relative and absolute (‘two truths’) or any other spiritual buzzwords.  

With participation we have no need to tie ourselves up in contradictions and absurd speculations only to climax with an excuse about the mystery of reality.

There is no contradiction in reality, no paradox at the heart of awakening.

The reality of appearance is intelligibly ineffable.

Both reality and psyche are inseparable, not because they are ‘one’, or ‘not-two’ (which is not an explanation, but just another way of saying ‘inseparable’), but because of participation: each is found in and shared by the other as a generative hierarchy of equal participation.

This begs the question then: how do we go about waking up in plain english?

The answer to this question is so simple you likely missed it when I gave it above; so let’s revisit it in more depth in Part 3

The Missing Piece Part 1: The real truth about awakening no one wants to hear

It’s cliche these days for a nonduality teacher to tell you that awakening is not how it’s portrayed in the myths and legends; far from being the fulfilment of everything one has ever wanted, the real truth no one wants to hear is that awakening is ‘the end of your world’, a white-knuckled encounter with annihilation from which no-one returns.

Aaaarrrggh! 

But wait: who is there to report this vanishing? 

At this point, these nonduality teachers have no recourse but to try to convince us to doubt the obvious fact that they are a person telling us this, in favour of the indemonstrable belief that they've been annihilated. Isn't this presenting confusion as wisdom, which is the opposite of what awakening promises?

This is because a classic error is at play: to believe experiencing something is the same thing as knowing it. 

‘Classic’, first because it is a universal tendency, and second because this tendency is well articulated in our archaic literature.

We commit this classic error when we lack a corrective to our natural tendency to fall for appearances; to really know something, we require a genuine way of knowing that exposes our false beliefs, despite ourselves. Dialectic contemplation is an example of this, and it's a practice you can learn here by becoming a student.

We should celebrate the fact that honest reports of awakening experiences are becoming common thanks to these teachers; but we should see this as a requisite first step in preparing to understand awakening, as opposed to the terminus of knowing awakening for what it is.

Reality is not terrifying

Although it is well recognised that awakening is a process of liberation from mistaking appearances for reality, it speaks to our natural tendency to commit this error that as soon as we achieve freedom from one case of mistaking an appearance for reality (such as the appearance of existence), we immediately fall for the next, much larger image our liberation has created for us (such as the annihilation of the self).

The good news then is that no matter how sweaty our palms may get - and they will should we make any progress - our impending disappearance is one more appearance of reality that, once explored with a way of knowing such as the dialectic, is seen to be what it really is: in reality, an appearance.

The reality of appearance is that appearance is not anything.

Well if reality is not really hell-bent on my personal destruction, what is it about?

Our tendency to fall in love with an appearance of reality by mistaking it for reality itself is inescapable, because - due to its very structure - the psyche loves reality.

The psyche loves reality so much it will obsess over its false image even when that image is the opposite of what the psyche wants and how reality actually is. 

(Just think about it: a reality whose sole purpose is the never-once-observed annihilation of a self that is apparently not there anyway. These are the ravings of delusion.)

The psyche will pursue a false image of reality through sheer naivety (this is a process of growth in wisdom after all), usually stopping the psyche’s progress in its tracks or, given enough time, will eventually lead to a disappointment with the image so great it becomes critical.

However, with dialectic contemplation, we have an alternative: a conversation with reality that leads to moving beyond the image in favour of the real thing.

And each time we behold reality through this process, the resulting mutual participation generates a new, larger false image of reality that the psyche can fall in love with all over again.

It seems that awakening is the opposite of what the terrifying visions of annihilation promise: a process of participating in creation, not a vain struggle with escaping destruction.

Bondage

Yes, the liberation of awakening is well recognised; but no one pursues awakening for freedom from appearances. On the contrary, the psyche pursues awakening because it is bound to reality as a lover to a beloved, and no other substitute will do. 

Consider: the problem for the student is precisely freedom from awakening, and the all consuming task is how to bind oneself to reality and nothing else.

This process of binding oneself to reality - expressed analogically in esoteric contemplation, another practice you can learn here - is the process of awakening, and this love produces children in the form of greater and more profound appearances that share the nature of both lover and beloved. 

(Here we have used two of the three classical analogies for understanding the psyche and it’s relationship to reality: Parent and Child, and Lover and Beloved. Furthermore, understanding the growth of the psyche as described above must then be synonymous with describing the structure of reality, or what was classically known as a cosmology, something covered in-depth in the Master Class video series available to students.)

Liberation from particular false conclusions and appearances is the work of dialectic contemplation; but esoteric contemplation, or awakening to the universal structure of reality, is to bind oneself to the reality of appearance and recreate that structure in the psyche itself.

Lovers becoming parents. Participating in the creation of reality. That’s a pretty big truth contrary to nondual beliefs. 

(But it ain’t new; before the axial age, this was always understood as the point of wisdom, before it became about ‘salvation’ and escaping existence. How do we know which view is correct? Through a way of knowing that demonstrates our ignorance. Yes, dialectic contemplation, and ultimately cosmological contemplation.)

Some people will prefer their religious or spiritual beliefs to participating in creation, but this truth isn’t the truth about awakening no one wants to hear. 

We must first consider how ideal the situation is before we get to that.

Serving up nothing

The fact that any appearance of reality - a misleading falsehood that costs us the very thing it promises - must always give way to the reality of appearance - a truth that benefits us with effortless success - means that reality is in fact ideal. (Yes, despite appearances. Which speaks to my point.)

Because reality always wins over any appearance, it is providential in action, inescapably leading us to what we by nature find most good: liberation from the limiting and false (and a false image is always detrimental), and fulfilment through participation in what is both complete - and therefore generative or creative - and true.

To love the reality of appearance and participate in its nature, to the extent we are capable, is to share in its providential action. Inescapably, we recapitulate this beneficial or providential action to the same degree for any and all who wish to participate in their love for reality too.

Not by choice, but by structure (meaning ‘how the psyche actually is’) and purpose (meaning ‘what the psyche actually does’). Reality is reality regardless of our preferences and beliefs.

The idea that one can participate in awakening and then choose whether or not to benefit others through its sharing is a delusion that in turn costs the believer further participation in the nature of reality.

Ironically, those that indulge the appearance of the ‘annihilation of the self’ are happier with the drama of ‘nothingness’ (mistaking reality to be more than it is, or something else than it is, or less than it is, when it is in fact not anything) than with this uncomfortable truth of service, because at least the red-herring of ‘no-self’ is still about them.

The question then is not ‘should I serve the awakening of others?’, but ‘how am I serving the awakening of others?’

To heal, not to teach; to create, not escape

Often, the idea of serving the awakening of others is confused with playing the role of the knower, which is when we put on a show of knowing something for an audience, irrespective of the audience actually sharing in any understanding we might offer. We are playing this role of the knower whenever we struggle with the apparent dilemma of whether we should become a teacher or not, even when we decide not to.

Classically, it was understood that those whose awakening is deep enough to become a vocation had come ‘to heal, not to teach’. In other words, to serve their community, not play the role of being the knower. 

We can complete the sentiment by adding we are here ‘to create, not escape’. To build something together in reality, not ignore our participation in what is going on - which is often heartbreaking - by hiding behind lazy and ludicrous beliefs about not being here.

The service of sharing a growth beyond appearances to benefit others has nothing to do with giving the appearance of knowing (or equally, not knowing). 

If one is already giving a good show of knowing all the answers (including the stupidity that there is no truth in the end or nothing to be known), of which the audience may be wholly impressed by, how is it possible to share in a growth that by its very nature starts with a mutual ignorance that leads to knowing?

We must begin by realising we are already sharing in reality together, meaning we are already sharing in its providential action, and so the question is one of degree and excellence in shared appreciation of this reality - which means starting with and honouring how things actually are - not the absence or acquisition of relevant opinions or guesses about its nature.

Attempting to escape reality by pretending to know (or not know) is the same thing as ignoring it.

Naming names

To honour the shared reality of participation with excellence in human relationship, organisation and practice is the yardstick of culture. To describe the structure and purpose of awakening as a wisdom service, to name its maturation as a vocation in the wisdom counsellor, is to both heighten and deepen our relationship with this reality, thereby facilitating a more refined and profound participation we would otherwise find impossible.

The real truth about awakening no one wants to hear is that service is not a choice for the awakened to consider, but a name for the structure and purpose of awakening itself; and if you think you have a choice to serve, you are already serving, but you couldn’t be doing it worse.