Dear Francis, I have heard you speak of joy, peace, enthusiasm and other such divine qualities as arising from “awareness percieving itself,” or to use some other words that I hope you would still agree with, Divine experiencing Itself. The statement, “I and my Father are one,” seems to articulate this experience, wherein the sage, knowing his or her true identity, sees that he or she is actually the Divine experiencing itself in its infinite variations. According to my understanding, this stage is described as the unitive stage in the Christian mystical tradition, coming after the purgative and illuminative stages. In the unitive stage the sage is firmly established in his or her true identity, and thus experiences suffering, phenomenal events, and all experiences as the divine itself. I have recently read several teachers who speak very clearly and vehemently of a stage beyond this one, where the divine experiencer—the “I” that proclaims, “I and my Father are one”—falls away, ending all experience of the Divine. This occurs because the “I” that experiences the Divine and its numerous qualities falls away, and thus the two, the experiencer and the experience, are gone. What is left is beyond all human description or comprehension, which are both dependent on experience. There is no longer an “I”—divine or otherwise—remaining to experience the Divine. This final stage is said to occur after the standard periods of enlightenment and stabilization in the unitive stage, and is said to arise NOT through effort, for the unitive stage carries with it absolutely no sense of lack. First let me explain, the reason I write this long and perhaps inappropriate question is that the notion of the sage as I described above—the stage from which the statement “I and my Father are one” originates—still seems to me be fragmentary and incomplete. This is because even though this stage consists of the Divine experiencing the Divine, the sage’s experiences are still just that: experiences. They have a separate experiencer who is there, separate from the experience. This experiencer reports on these experiences, elucidates them for others, etc. And no matter how transcendant, no experience lasts. Whether it’s joy, enthusiasm, inspiration, compassion, infinity, bliss, or other such things that emerge from the Divine experiencing itself, no experience lasts. While the sage may actively experience the core of his being to be the awareness into which any and all experience dissolves, his divine nature is still focalized and limited into something that experiences the Totality, the “Father.” The very statement “I and my Father are one” still contains two: the Father, and the “I” who discerns this oneness. Bernadette Roberts, who speaks of this stage beyond this one as the “experience of no self,” puts it this way: “The illusion is the belief that experience of the divine IS the divine. Although the deepest experience of which self is capable IS experience of the divine, this experience is not the divine. By contrast, self or consciousness’ most authentic experience of the divine is no experience, a non-experience, we might say. This means that in the end our experience of the divine turns out to have been the experience of our own deepest self. So the final unknown illusion to fall away is the revelation that all human experiences of the divine are only the unconscious self. And if we take away all consciousness or self, all its divine experiences go with it. The divine as it exists beyond the unconscious true self can never be experienced by any self or consciousness because, quite simply, self or consciousness is not equal to it, not up to it. The ultimate illusion, then, is mistaking self for the divine or believing our experiences of the divine to BE the divine. Intellectually we know, of course, that the divine cannot fall away or disappear. But in experience the divine can indeed fall away or disappear—this experience is well documented, particularly in the Christian no-ego experience. What disappears, however, is the experience of the divine, not the divine. The experience falls away because it is not divine. As it turns out, the experience of the divine is only self or consciousness. Thus the deepest unconscious true self IS the experience of the divine, or the divine in experience. This experience, however, is NOT the divine. What falls away, then, in the no-self experience is not the divine, but the unconscious true self that all along we thought was the divine! The shocking revelation of the no-self experience is just this: that all our experiences of the divine are only experiences of ourself, and that all along the divine as it existed beyond self or consciousness had been non-experiential. While the divine had been the cause of our experiences, the experiences themselves (the effects, that is) were not the divine.” Another teacher I have heard articulate this stage is U.G. Krishnamurti, defining realization as realizing “for yourself and by yourself that there is no self to realize.” All of this sounds completely distinct from anything standardly described in advaita. I know very well that different teachers use different terminology and that numerous confusions arise as a result. I also know that teachers speak to their students in accordance with the students’ level of understanding. I am writing because I have had an experience in which there was no God, bliss, love, or any such things, and yet I know it to be the final truest reality. It was entirely beyond any description. Words like “bliss” and “infinite” still belong to the realm of experience, and seem almost absurd. Indeed, for me, God, bliss, love, and infinity have only existed as experiences—coming and going—and therefore have never sufficed for me as the final truth. They seem empty, like concepts or memories. I am fully aware that I am “digging shallow holes everywhere, instead of one deep one.” I am not asking for some sort of reconcilliation between standard “advaita” and the statements of Ms. Roberts. I simply felt compelled to write this, for some reason. I feel lured by an undeniable truth that I cannot ignore. I will follow this scent. I know that words can be debated and comptemplated endlessly. I intend to go beyond them, to where there are no concepts or beliefs, or the corresponding debate and doubts. In the end, I suppose, there is only one final Truth and it cannot be doubted. Thank you very much, Francis. I deeply appreciate your time. I hope this message did not seem presumptuous, and wasn’t hard to follow. God bless, now and always, Jay
Joy is peace in motion and peace is joy at rest. They are inseparable. Joy-peace is the experience of the Self knowing itself. Objective joy is the experience of the self knowing itself through the veil of objects, like seeing the light of the sun through the threads of a loose fabric. Absolute joy-peace is like seeing the sun directly. It is a timeless and mindless experience. Ask yourself the question: can anything else than God know God? And, furthermore: Is there anything else than God, really?