A particular interest that developed in me during my 20s was the desire to compare and understand high states of spirituality, those grouped around ideas of enlightenment or satori. Such a comparison would enable the spiritual seeker to know how near to, or how far from, journey"s end he is. This interest arose from my own transient experience of satori at the age of 22.
This comparison is usually absent within traditional ideas about such states, or else, as in yoga meditational theory, the states are depicted as grades of concentration and contemplation – this is a psychic classification. However, psychic models did not appeal to me.
What interested me was a psychological model.
The difference between the two models is that a psychic orientation attempts the mastery of the mind, whereas a psychological orientation attempts the mastery of the emotions.
This interest in high states had to be put on hold till I had explored my own states of consciousness. High states need an adequate model of consciousness in which they can be set. Once I finalised my model, in my 40s, I could begin to assign particular experiences to the various stages of my model.
Satori may be experienced as a transient occurrence, and perhaps be repeated a few times in the seeker’s lifetime (for example, in the life of Plotinus, a third century sage). This is likely to be the result of grace, as the reward for regular, but not quite sufficient, effort – it acts as a spur to continue the effort. Satori can also be a semi-permanent state, a state that may occur once or more for long periods but is not permanent (my satori was semi-permanent, lasting for three weeks, and only ended because I had neither opportunity nor desire to further my interest in mathematics). Whether satori can ever be permanent is debatable : I do not think so unless the seeker can live in complete isolation.
Stopping the Mind
In order to achieve satori the person has to stop the workings of his mind, for just a fraction of a second. It is not only the conscious mind that has to stop, but the subconscious mind as well. The Eastern technique of meditation enables the person to stop his conscious mind. But meditation has its limits. Meditation cannot stop the subconscious mind. This drawback to technique is the reason that the majority of meditators never attain to enlightenment. However, once the person has intuitively made these two levels of mind momentarily cease, then the unconscious mind can deliver its treasure.
This shift in consciousness requires 100 % effort, and can be done only once (when the person does not consciously know how to make it happen). If I try to repeat my satori, then a part of me will always be monitoring my progress to see how near I am to the finishing tape. The monitoring process will detract from the effort that I can make. No matter how little the effort that I use for monitoring, my effort towards satori will always be less than 100 %. This is not good enough. Hence this shift in consciousness cannot be repeated in the original manner.
What is the reason for stopping the subconscious mind? This domain of mind is responsible for the continuation of a sense of identity. In low-level spiritual experiences, such as visions, the seeker is inspired to upgrade his sense of identity ; this kind of change is a gradual one and is carried out by each seeker over a long period of time. But in high-level spiritual experiences, a radical change is necessary, and this change is beyond the capabilities of the person. So the subconscious mind has to be stopped in order that the personal god can initiate a radical upgrade in identity.
The achievement of satori represents the climax of stepping outside of language. In Zen satori the world can be seen as a flow of feeling. In mathematical satori the impression arose in me that number systems appear to be the base of physical reality. Buddha"s state of enlightenment was different yet again and focused on will. So perhaps the material worlds of creation are only patterns of number systems held together by will (in order to create form) and subjected to a flow of feeling (in order to give them life). Immanent consciousness (the impersonal god) then produces life forms, that is, forms of limited consciousness.
There appear to be three general kinds of enlightenment, corresponding to the three psychological states of consciousness : feeling, mind and will. But they all have limitations. Satori does not produce an overall wisdom because the seeker does not have a pre-existing developed state of understanding. Satori produces only a limited wisdom, which relates to the particular field of personal evolution that the seeker is following. Hence the person only takes from a spiritual experience what he/she can assimilate. This means that spiritual experiences do little more than harmonise the seeker"s existing states of mind into an holistic framework of reality that can be comprehended.
Spiritual visions never carry their own meaning ; the visionary has to read into his vision his own perspective. This qualification applies to all the great teachers as well as to novitiates. Spiritual experiences have to be fitted within the existing frame of knowledge of the seeker ; they do not necessarily add much to the seeker"s knowledge, but they are the empirical grounds for enlarging that seeker"s understanding, for enlarging his perspective.
New experiences are required before a person can broaden his view of the world. A person is unlikely to understand what he has never experienced. Therefore, in order to understand high spiritual states of consciousness, the seeker has first to experience them in some form.
The three general kinds of satori can be looked at from the standpoint of the seeker’s aspirations and expectations. To attain satori, will power is always needed in order to maintain the effort. However, the expectations cast their own radiance on the final goal. The three kinds can be classified in the following manner.
1a) Emotion - based satori.
The expectation is that of emotional reward and the validation of the seeker’s belief system (rather than the acquisition of new knowledge). The seeker may be enraptured with love and bliss. This is what I consider mysticism to be.
Call this level mystical satori.
2a) Mind - based satori.
The expectation is that of intellectual understanding, and the reward is some degree of intellectual development.
Call this level intellectual satori.
3a) Desire - based satori.
The expectation is that of personal achievement over materialism. The reward is that of increased strength of will, together with some intellectual understanding.
Call this level cosmic satori.
In all the kinds of satori, the reward matches the expectation. The reward fits into the frame of knowledge of the seeker.
To conceptualise his understanding of reality after his enlightenment Buddha formulated the Wheel of Life. He must have focused solely on the problem of cause and effect prior to his enlightenment ; this will explain why he cognitively understood formal psychology (which is what the Wheel is) so well. However, problems outside of this particular one were also outside of the range of his cognitive understanding, outside the range of his intellectual understanding of experience.
In my view, the intellectual understanding of reality arrived at by a person who achieves enlightenment is simply a particular perspective that incorporates that person"s life experiences. When enlightenment is achieved through emotion or desire the focus of the perspective can be understood to be a particular view of spiritual justice. For example : Buddhism carries the message of the cessation of all pain and suffering ; Christianity teaches forgiveness of personal failings.
Intellectual satori and satori based on desire are instantaneous achievements : satori is achieved in the blink of an eye (this is not a figure of speech ; the speed of transition really does take less time than it takes to blink an eye). In contrast, mystical satori is governed by emotion, and so the achievement of this state may be a gradual process, extending and intensifying over a time period (perhaps of weeks). Emotion swings up and down. Hence mystical satori may be an intermittent experience : now it is present, then it fades for a time.
Reincarnation and Emanation
Reality has two sides to it, one being dynamic and the other being static. The theory of reincarnation deals only with one side of evolution – it is a dynamic view. It needs to be complemented by the static view of evolution in order to achieve an holistic understanding. The static view is the theory of emanation. Plotinus wrote about emanation in the third century AD and his ideas are still relevant. I give a general outline of his views that I use in my understanding of reality.
There is an absolute reality, the One. This produces creation as a hierarchy of consciousness. From this One, somehow, is evolved divine mind. The latter then evolves a world soul. The sequence is :
the One leads to divine mind,
and then divine mind leads to world soul.
Mind is the realm of Platonic forms (or archetypes) and Being. World soul is the life force. World soul then evolves all individual souls, and they evolve in an hierarchy of creation. Part of such an hierarchy, in descending order, is that of archangels, angels, humans, nature spirits, animals. Consciousness emanates (like rays of light from the sun) from the One down the hierarchy till it finally produces the union of individual souls with matter. Each individual soul then has the task of raising its consciousness back up the hierarchy until it achieves union with the One.
This outline is as much of his views that I need. In this scheme, the union of consciousness with matter (the condition of all life forms on Earth) is at the bottom of the hierarchy.
The process of creation creates an hierarchy of consciousness between the One and matter. Each level of the hierarchy represents a different degree of development and of spiritual ability. For example, archangels are above humans in the hierarchy since archangels have a higher degree of development. Each species of life (angels, humans, animals, etc) has its place. This was the medieval Great Chain of Being, but it was a static structure of emanation. Reincarnation adds a dynamic aspect ; it is through reincarnation that the life form can ascend the levels of consciousness till it unites with its original source.
Evolution applies not only to humans but to all life forms as well. The theory of emanation can be considered to be a synchronic view of reality and reincarnation the diachronic view. Emanation theory gives an overview of the level of any species in the scale of evolution, and reincarnation theory gives an overview of the level of any individual in the context of his species.
A synchronic view is a view of something as it is now, ignoring how it came to be - this is the province of existentialism. A diachronic view is the view of something as it has come to be, taking into account its past history - this is the province of psychology.
Using the ideas above I can express my ideas on the grading of the highest states of consciousness for mankind at its present level of evolution. There are three kinds of enlightenment, or union with god.
In my intellectual satori there was no noticeable zone of feeling attached to it, it appeared to be totally non-emotional. So it had no noticeable effect on my character. Hence the neutral feeling was its foundation. By comparison, mystical satori appears to be governed by the pleasant feeling (the arising of ecstasy and/or pure love), but with little or no expansion of intellect. The illumination achieved by Buddha was different again – this was probably based on the unpleasant feeling. Hate is the foundation of strong will power ; and Buddha focused on the unpleasant aspects of life, on life’s sorrows and pains.
Now I can rank these three kinds of union.
Union of the individual with the world soul.
This is mystical satori.
Emotion is enhanced.
Union of the individual with divine mind.
This is intellectual satori.
Intellect is enhanced.
Union of the individual with the One.
This is cosmic satori.
Will power is enhanced.
Now I need to bring in a note on my use of the term ‘relativity’. Relativity is the relation between objectivity and subjectivity. Anything which is relative has both a subjective and an objective factor. This is my understanding of relativity, and does not accord with the traditional use of the term. (Traditionally, ‘relativity’ means ‘a subjective relation’, more or less. This is inaccurate. Previous theorists have misunderstood the differences between the terms ‘subjectivity’, ‘relativity’, and ‘objectivity’).
In the scenario of emanation, how does divine mind arise from the One ? In my understanding, it all hinges on relativity, and how it links subjectivity to objectivity. Subjectivity precedes objectivity. This can be called the first rule of creation, and is a familiar theme in literature on the psychic aspects of mind. This theme means that a person has first to create a strong mental impression of what he wants to achieve in this world before he can actually achieve it, after a suitable period of time.
I list the steps or links in the process of emanation, using the first rule. The subjectivity of the One is only that aspect of god that is within the world of creation.
|Table . 5a||Emanation Links 1|
The One and the divine mind are a relative union.
The One is subjective and divine mind is objective.
The divine mind and the world soul are a relative union.
Now divine mind is subjective and world soul is objective.
The world soul and the individual soul are a relative union.
Now world soul is subjective and individual soul is objective.
The individual soul and the person are a relative union.
Now individual soul is subjective and the person is objective.
The person is a relative union between subjective ego and objective karma.
Ego is the existential condition of the person and karma is the psychological condition.
In this scenario, all agencies emanating from the One have both subjective and objective components, which can be labelled content and form. This brings in another rule, which gives us two rules of creation, which are closely related.
First rule : subjectivity precedes objectivity.
Second rule : content precedes form.
Form is objective and content is subjective. Form is a generalised abstraction from the content. An objective form derives from the subjective content of a higher agency. Now I list the steps of emanation, using the second rule.
|Table . 5b||Emanation Links 2|
The One is subjective, and divine mind is objective form.
The divine mind is now subjective and world soul is objective form.
The world soul, as form, is the content of divine mind.
The world soul is now subjective and the individual soul is objective form.
Each individual soul, as form, is the content of the world soul.
Each individual soul is now subjective and the person is objective form.
Each person, as form, is the content of each soul.
Each individual ego is now subjective and has to create its own objectivity, its own ‘essence’ - it does this through the management of karma and free will.
‘Essence’ is only objectified form, or the ego"s ‘existence’ (in existentialist terminology).
In mystical satori, (6) and (8) are emphasised together to give world soul as subjectivity and ego as objectivity. The individual soul is an intermediary witness.
In intellectual satori, (5) and (8) are emphasised together to give divine mind as subjectivity and ego as objectivity. World soul and individual soul are intermediary witnesses.
In cosmic satori, (4) and (8) are emphasised together to give the One as subjectivity and ego as objectivity. Mind, world soul and individual soul are intermediary witnesses.
Subjectivity or Becoming precedes objectivity or Being. Objectivity is the manifestation of subjectivity. This relation affects concepts of causality.
Causality results from change. Change in the objective world gives rise to objective causality (the laws of the material world). Yet objective causality is only the product of subjective causality (the laws of the psychic world).
Since the person is a relative entity, it is purely a question of predilection whether the concentration on Being or Becoming is chosen as the seeker’s route of change and development. Neither one is ultimately better than the other. The only difference is that in some eras of life, Being is a more effective path of development than Becoming, and then in other eras the reverse is true. The historical situation always has a governing influence on what is possible.
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Copyright © 2002 Ian Heath, owner of a map of psychological spirituality suitable for modern times.
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