The Evolving I

The Evolving I

NGC 6302 by Judy Schmidt
NGC 6302 by Judy Schmidt

First, let’s define some terms and their source.

Atman: the cosmic Self, pure consciousness. Awareness of our impersonal existence (Isness). When consciousness becomes self-aware, it does so both globally and at every point. Generally, atman refers to that global sense of universal consciousness.

Consciousness itself arises from the subtle Divine qualities of alertness, liveliness, and intelligence. More here.

Jiva: a point expresses forward into an experiencer. This is the jiva, also known as the witness or observer when that’s local. (A deeper witness falls back into an unbounded global witness, atman.) Jiva is similar to the Western idea of a soul.

Ahamkara: The I-sense or ego. The intellect creates this, distinguishing self from other. This is a necessary part of separating from mother and learning to walk, etc. What is my foot and what is the floor?

However, we become identified with the I-sense as who I am when we’re not aware of our nature as consciousness (above). Superficial details become our self-story; our name, occupation, home, car, etc.

The identification of the I-sense has several levels that become apparent in higher stages of enlightenment. Adyashanti described them as head, heart, gut. I’ve called them the 3 am-egos. I’ll come back to them shortly.

Note that ahamkara remains post awakening. It’s part of our ability to walk and pick up objects. What ends is the identification with that local self-sense. It’s no longer the centre. It exists as a function for being in the world but is no longer our sense of I.

Asmita: the my-sense or possessive self. After ahamkara develops and we become identified with that, the ego becomes possessive. We see this begin around age 2 when children claim things as “mine!”

While the I-sense develops naturally, if we’re not exposed to our deeper nature, it also leads to a deep, possessive identification. Life is commonly experienced as hard and less than fulfilling as we’re trying to resist and control it.

However, if we’re exposed to our deeper nature, the identification is softened and we become familiar with our deeper Self. Rather than becoming entrenched, we eventually wake up.

Depending on our style of awakening, a few things happen.

a) the identification with a me and mine ends. The possessive Asmita dies.

b) The I-sense shifts from our individuality to:
– our cosmic I, atman, or
– a sense of no-self or no I, or
– to the witnessing jiva

In the latter case, this isn’t a true awakening. Jiva has become aware, but not yet aware of its nature as Atman. Yet even then, part of the me-sense can end. The shift to the cosmic I happens later.

This shift of I-Sense breaks the head or personal concept of a me. We tend to have a lot of stories about ourselves that branch out from that foundational concept. When the centre falls out, the rest can shatter, leaving various shrapnel to be seen and cleared during a period after awakening.

Even seen, some of those stories can continue to come up as long as the energetic drivers (vasanas) behind them remain. As the awake consciousness descends further into the physiology, it awakens a higher resolution of the heart known as hridaya. This roasts many of the old emotional drivers of our self-construct.

This release corresponds to a heart opening and an upgrade in refined perception. This heralds the start of God Consciousness, although it may not happen until later in the stages.

The descent moves further down to the gut or solar plexus chakra, where the core or existential identity remains. Once this becomes conscious, it can be seen and released. It’s sometimes described as like a barbecue as this is the fire chakra. For some, this is like any other release. For others, it can be a major process.

Ideally, it shows up with the Unity shift, but Susanne Marie experienced it with the Brahman shift and it hasn’t arisen yet for others I know in Unity plus. We can expect to see the heart process first.

And then, our sense of cosmic Self or Atman falls away with the Brahman stage shift. This is like waking up from our prior enlightenment. Where once we shed the me-self, now we transcend the cosmic Self.

And yet, just as some value of ahamkara remains post-awakening, so too does Atman remain as it is the foundation of the field of experience. We need that to be in the created world.

In that sense, we add greater and greater aspects of ourselves, overwhelming the prior box of self.

Whatever stage we may reach, we remain human, experiencing through the laws of nature of this body-mind. The known body can become cosmic, then Divine. But there is still a default point through these senses here, still a physical human body.

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  1. Eira

    Thank you for yet another gem of knowledge.
    I wonder, would it be correct to say that Ahamkara represents the function of the individual in the relative world, while then Asmita indicates ego attachment to that sense of individuality and its stories?

    1. Hi Eira
      I can see why some might define it that way but I’ve found attachment is distinct from ahamkara and asmita. We might say asmita is an effect of attachment but attachment comes first.

      I-sense develops from available experience. Lacking a deeper sense of self, we become attached (the Sanskrit word is avirati) to that I-sense. In building up and defending that I-sense, the possessive self develops and the attachment spills into our possessions. My body, my home, my car.

      All of these play a role in our becoming functioning humans. But they’re stepping stones that we fail to outgrow if we don’t add the experience of our deeper nature. For example, it’s helpful to have an attachment to our family and body. But if that attachment gets in the way of our sense of self and cooperation with life, it’s out of balance.

  2. Guru

    Thanks for this post. you give map which is exhaustive including all possible stages and what is the highest potential for human being. Without such map or Guru it is easy to get caught at stage and feel spiritually superior and unable to connect with our people who have no such knowledge or spiritual inclination. If we can accept them as they are without having desire to change them and live in society without getting disturbed by it and not disturbing it with our spiritual knowledge, then that is the highest potential we can actualize. spiritual world is crowded with conflicting truths and personalized truths which are stages where they are stuck and preaching from that level to the ignorant. I appreciate your blogs as i keep on checking with your Map, where I am stuck. Lot of work has to be done to live truth at all levels of manifestation. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Guru
      To be clear, I map common experiences of stages but not all possible. Also, “spiritual knowledge” is just concepts. What we know doesn’t make us better than anyone – that’s just ego. Collecting concepts is not actualization not living our potential. It’s stories for the ego to feel special.

      What I try to point to is lived reality from which true knowing springs, not debating which are better concepts. The map is not the road. Sounds like where you’re stuck is thinking you know something. That’s the worst use of this writing.

  3. Guru

    I have not used your writing for building concepts! I am not debating which concept is better .on the contrary your writing dissolved my concepts showing where I am stuck. I appreciate you saying your Map does not include all possible stages. I wanted to thank you. No intention to debate.

    1. Great. Just wanted to be clear. I have charted sub-stages for some of the stages. These are more variable. Some traditions chart them in more detail but I’ve not seen them show up consistently enough. Like saying the core identity is seen through before Unity.
      We’ll see how it evolves.

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