A friend of mine raised a series of reasons why he felt someone who considers themselves a “nondualist” in modern thinking might object to the Guides and Awakening video done by Kristin Kirk that I posted on this blog. He raised some valid points. I thought my response may be useful to share. Edited some for this context.
Actually this is part of what I’ll be talking about at SAND. As traditions the world over speak of, there are the masculine and feminine aspects of life. Shiva and Shakti, Yin and Yang, Ida and Pingala. The awakening process is the same. There is the Shiva of the stages of consciousness awakening to itself. And the Shakti of creation waking to itself. You can’t know without Shiva but there is nothing to experience without Shakti.
The west is a mind-dominated culture that likes the clean, simple, dry Shiva side of the equation. But it leaves out so much of it. All the refined perception, awakening heart, all the richness of life, love and bliss. And without expression, there is nothing for consciousness to know and no point for it to be conscious. Consciousness cannot even arise without the quality of liveliness that leads alertness into expression as consciousness. No Shiva without Shakti, no Shakti without Shiva.
1 – Yes, there are those who have read the books and built the concepts and say things like “there is no one to be enlightened” and “the world is an illusion”. And while true, they are not true as concepts in themselves. If it’s not the experience, it’s just a story. They become true only as the lived experience of a specific stage of development. Fundamentalist facts without direct experience are just mind. Such people need better concepts and a recognition that concepts have no value in and of themselves. The map is not the road.
2 – And yes, there is a massive volume of woo-woo drivel about the subtle levels of creation. This includes a complete lack of understanding of the personal – the effect of our expectations and background on how we experience the subtle. Why would an angel need wings? They’re only there if we expect them to be. There’s nothing wrong with that except the misunderstanding that appearances are truth. Subtle beings are literal thought-forms that are entirely pliable to intention. Appearances are just that. Just as you are not the clothing you’re wearing, they are not their appearance. The more important aspect is what principles the being embodies and what they can teach us. But much of that is lost in the appearances and flash. Not to mention all the energetic pollution being passed around in the arena.
3 – yes, there are people who have had an awakening to “non-dual consciousness”. For some, this can be accompanied by a sense that the world is an illusion. If perception has not yet refined, they may well regard all the talk of refined perception as an illusion that holds no interest. Even if it has refined some, that too may be seen as illusory. But again, this is partly an issue of understanding. The very fact that they’re framing it as “non-dual” indicates poor context and the association of the initial awakening with a Oneness that is not yet actually known.
I would argue that many who frame their awakening as non-dual are mistaken. It seems non-dual – an inner oneness and an outer illusion. But the Vedas actually call that Dwaita – duality. 2 things, even if one seems illusory.
And ironically, that perception of the world as illusory is an effect of Rajas being dominant. As Adi Shankara explained, that’s what transforms Tamas (world as covering and the only reality) to Sattva, world as Lila, divine play. In other words, world-as-illusion is an effect of beginning to wake up the divine feminine. It’s not a reality in itself.
Non-duality comes later, when inner and outer become one. And it isn’t fully known until Brahman when we move beyond consciousness and existence. Even Being is a very subtle duality – it requires non-being.
Which of course means the vast majority of “non-dualists” are nothing of the sort. But because they don’t have this larger picture, they don’t realize it and dismiss the “relative” feminine as illusory. But in fact their conception is the real illusion.
Some teachers not only say its illusory but go further. Ken Wilber, for example, refers to refined perception as a “mythical throwback to a bygone era”. But all that tells me is that he hasn’t got there yet. If it’s all only an illusion, why are we experiencing it? What’s the point? Do you really think the world is a purposeless accident? And how did the illusion come to be? You can’t know that without refined perception and that inherently reveals the divine.
4 – And finally, yes there are those who have awoken to Oneness or non-duality but without refined perception. And that brings up a really important point. There are 2 primary modes we can use for experiencing the world. We might say through the mind and through the heart. But its another masculine and feminine. Maharishi called it impersonal and personal.
In the impersonal mode, we see the world as laws of nature and the mechanics thereof. Perception can be quite refined here, seeing how the vibrations become geometry, become fields, become form.
In the personal mode, we see the same as personified. Everything that happens is being done. In this mode we see light beings of all kinds, far greater in number than life forms in the physical.
Some people favour one mode, some the other. Some are not comfortable with the second. But they still can have refined perception. And the profound intelligence of creation still becomes apparent. The marker for refined perception is not the devas but that they know how it is, not just that it is.
Each mode has its strengths and weakness. The personal gives us vastly more information. Having a conversion with the wind can be much more useful that just observing it if your plane is being jostled. But that vastly more information also creates overload. It’s much easier to live routine life in the impersonal, paying attention to what needs to be done in the physical. Neither is wrong or better. But the ideal is both so you have that choice as required.
In our mind-oriented western culture, we’re much more likely to be comfortable with masculine-style practices and the impersonal approach. It took me awhile to be comfortable with the personal. It took some months before I recognized that the arms-length relationship with the divine I was experiencing was coming from my side.
In the parallel Atman and Sattva processes I talk about above, Unity is not dependent on God Consciousness. The progression is Self Realization, Unity, and Brahman. The parallel refinement process may start long before awakening. Or it may become apparent long after. The ideal is both together for a full and rich process. Not the woo-woo without being established in consciousness but nor consciousness staying just flat and empty.
I’ve seen several people go through to Unity or Brahman with little refined perception. Some value of heart awakening seems required but the quality and degree of that varies widely. I also know people who have had decades of beyond celestial experiences (myself included) long before awakening. And who witnessed sleep for decades before awakening. I understand the mechanics of all this much better now. But it’s simply not a tidy process. I sometimes use the example of puberty. Same basic process for everyone but a massive range in how it’s experienced.
I’d also note that if there is that subtle wish to not have subtle perception, it can be like an energetic switch left off. Also, if we don’t give it attention, it’s not going to flower. The cautionary here is if it’s being resisted. If that’s happening, it can cause energy problems and roughness.
The variation in experiences is not so much that the sequence is different for different people, its just that there are 2 sequences that are parallel and intertwined but don’t time the same way for everyone. We also all process and relate to it differently.
The two sequences have a different style of process. In the consciousness sequence, the stages change with a new realization or change in Being. On the refinement side, the process builds to a peak realization, like God Realization. That’s not possible without Self Realization and the timing seems typically late in Unity but otherwise, it varies.
It’s also worth noting that different people are wired with different dominant senses. “Refined perception” doesn’t necessarily mean refined sight. It might open up as sound or feel, for example. Eventually it trends towards full sensory but is often developed through one first.
In some ways it’s unfortunate that this empty minimalism has become the dominant meme around enlightenment. But that’s basically an effect of the time we’re in. As consciousness softens further, it will become easier and more common to have more refined perception and get past all the astral fluff. Then a new more diverse wave of teachers will arise. That has already begun.
When I think back to the quality of the spiritual literature and translations when I started out in the 70’s and compare it to now, we’ve come a loooong way. But the journey has just begun. 😉