The Unitive experience, according to Krishnamurti, is not an experience! After all, if I’m there, experiencing the experience, experiencing this state of unity, then I must be apart from the experience, separate from the state of unity, etc, and so there isn’t any unity. So if I am not separate from the state of Unity (as of course I can’t be) then, as Krishnamurti says, how can this be said to be ‘an experience’?
In the Unitive state there is no ‘experience’ and no ‘experiencer’ because ‘experiencer plus experience’ is duality not unity! Duality – which is where there is ‘me’ on the one hand and ‘what I am experiencing’ on the other, is the normal situation and it doesn’t matter in the slightest what it is that I am experiencing (it doesn’t matter how wonderful or how terrible it is, how exciting or how dull it is) what’s going on here is still only duality, it is still only the same old subject/object split…
I might think that I’d like to have this Unitive experience because it sounds so extraordinarily profound, because on some deep-down level I intuitively know it would be so much more profound and enriching than anything I normally experience. But if I’m not going to be there having the experience, if I’m not going to be the beneficiary of the experience, then this changes everything! What good is the Unitary experience to me if I’m not going to be there experiencing it? This brings to mind the following passage of Jung’s in Mysterium Coniunctionis (para 191) –
You are sterile because, without your knowledge, something like an evil spirit has stopped up the source of your fantasy, the fountain of your soul. The enemy burns you with the hellish fire of desirousness… You would like to make gold because “poverty is the greatest plague, wealth the highest good.” You wish to have results that flatter your pride, you expect something useful, but there can be no question of that as you realize with a shock. Because of this you no longer even want to be fruitful, as it would only be for God’s sake and not your own.
My only option therefore, if I do want to be there to reap the benefit (if I am determined for the result to be for my sake and not God’s), is to give up on this entirely and try something quite different. In this case I have to settle for a surrogate of the Unitive experience instead of the real thing, which is as we have said no good to me at all. So – in practice – this is exactly what I do. I settle for a surrogate version of unity, which isn’t unity at all but its very antithesis – duality. Duality means that on the one hand there’s me, and on the other hand there’s whatever I am either enjoying or suffering from. Problem solved!
But already we can see what the drawback to this scheme might be – in the case where there is me enjoying some experience or other (whatever it might be) we can see that this might – in a loose sense – be considered a type of a substitute for the bliss of the Unitive State. If I am experiencing great enjoyment, then this enjoyment approximates bliss, only in this case it is definitely true that I am an essential part of the experience (I am actually crucial to the experience) and so what this means is that I have successfully wangled myself into the picture! The good feeling (which we might technically refer to as euphoria or rapture) can be very intense indeed, and the more intense it is the more effectively it substitutes for bliss, obviously. We are unlikely to be asking any questions about it, anyway! So there is me, and there is the rapturous experience that I am having, and which I am of course very attached to. But we’ve left out the other half of the story here, which is something that we really can’t afford to do. That would be like signing up for something without reading the small-print…
We can’t have one half without the other – we can’t have an up without a down or a front without a back – and so we can’t have ‘me enjoying a rapturous experience’ without there also being ‘me suffering from an intensely dysphoric or hellish experience’! This just can’t be done. The two things –the rapture and the torment – are the same thing. Pleasure and pain (as Krishnamurti says) are the same thing – we’re just coming at it from two different sides. In one case I’m ‘getting what I want’ and in the other I’m ‘getting what I don’t want’, but these two situations can’t be separated because as long as I definitely want something then there must be something else (the reverse proposition) that I equally definitely don’t want!
If bliss is a perfectly flat table-cloth then the surrogate version of this undisturbed situation is a wrinkle. The wrinkle is nothing like the original undisturbed situation really, but it nevertheless substitutes for it! Pleasure and pain are the same ‘wrinkle’ and they constitute just the one thing not two separate things. Rapture and torment (euphoria and dysphoria) are the every same disturbance – every wrinkle has two sides, one side being the side that I like and the other side being the one that I don’t like. The thing that creates the wrinkle that we’re talking about is me ‘liking’ therefore, since as we have said me liking is the same as me disliking. So the wrinkle (or disturbance) that we’re talking about here is me!
The Unitive State (which as we have said is blissful rather than pleasurable/painful) may be thought of as being essentially undisturbed, like a flat table-cloth or the sea on a perfectly calm day. There is no wrinkle in it, there is no ‘me’ in it, and the tranquility and bliss of this Undivided state is due to this lack of a wrinkle or self.
When the sea is perfectly tranquil, without even the slightest trace of a ripple, then we might say that it demonstrates ‘non-locality’. It demonstrates non-locality because there are no local features or characters to be seen! If there was a local feature to be seen then this would draw our attention to a particular location – we could then point at it and differentiate ‘where it is’ from ‘where it isn’t’. There would be a difference, a divide, an inequality, a dissymmetry, and this divide or dissymmetry is what locality is all about. But when the entire surface area is perfectly flat, perfectly featureless, then anywhere is as good as anywhere else. ‘Everywhere’ is all there is – everywhere is the same as everywhere. There is therefore no here and no there and when there is ‘no here and no there’ then this state of affairs equals non-locality.
To take this analogy one stage further, we could say that non-locality is the same as bliss. Non-locality is the same as bliss since bliss is ‘letting go’, and in non-locality there is nothing further to hold onto!
So bliss (or ananda) is the unconditional release of letting go. When we let go then this is the end of the systematic limitation which is locality, which is where we have to fit into (or belong within) a limiting framework, a framework that divides everything up. Before this letting go everything that takes place has to take place within the terms dictated by the logical continuum, which means that everything that happens (no matter what happens) can never be any more than a reflection of this logical continuum. The logical continuum is ‘made up of locality’ – so to speak – because the whole of it is made up of abstract grid-references. There isn’t anything that isn’t a grid-reference. Anything that hasn’t got a grid-reference (anything that isn’t ‘somewhere as defined by the framework’) isn’t allowed because it isn’t on the allotted list of possibilities. So we can also say that bliss is when we let go of the known and the knowable, and move into the indefinable….
Bliss is the letting go of all definitions – it is the return to who we originally were before we started to get any limiting, divisive (and therefore misrepresentative) ideas of who we are. We return from definition to lack of definition and this letting go is the doorway to the Unitive State in which there is both no experience and no experiencer. The rising hawk or phoenix is a symbol for this return to the Original State of Unbroken Unity; in this connection (Mysterium Coniunctionis. para 483) Jung quotes the inscription in the temple of Hathor at Dendereh:
The sun, who has existed from the beginning, rises up like a falcon out of the middle of his lotus-bud. When the doors of his petals open in sapphire-coloured splendour, he has sundered the night from the day. Thou risest up like the sacred snake as a living spirit, creating the beginnings and shining in thy glorious form in the barge of the sunrise. The divine Lord whose image dwells in secret in the temple at Dendereh is made the creator of the world by his work. Coming as one, he multiplies himself a millionfold when the light goes forth from him in the form of a child.
As soon as I assert that “I am this” or “I am that” however (in an attempt to divisively nail down the experience from the limited viewpoint of the experiencer) then straightaway everything changes – straightaway the infinite freedom from whence we came is lost. As Jung relates in his commentary (in the above mentioned work) on Fra Marcantonio Crasselame’s poem Sopra la composizione della pietra dei Philosophi, the aerial spirit Mercurius is transformed instantly into chthonic worm or serpent that lives only in the dark subterranean depths of the earth, far from the sun’s rays and the balmy breezes of the open air. The leaden doors to the underground cave slam shut and is sealed with the glyph of Saturn. When this happens everything is turned on its head and it is from this point on as if life is working backwards, or ‘working against itself’ – restriction and immobility are glorified and the freedom of flight becomes something we dare not even mention. The fearless flight of the hawk as it rises into the infinite blue sky is now not even a memory, for we dare not let ourselves remember it. We have now become far too petty, far too small-minded, far too obsessed with the banal nonsensicalities of the little picture to remember the glory of this flight and so now crawling laboriously on our bellies in the subterranean depths of the lower worlds has become our daily fare.
The non-local state, in which all there is is everywhere, might be said to have ‘an infinite information content’. This is the untold wealth that we are rushing to spend on the glittering distractions of the mind-created fair-ground. Spending the wealth feels good! We can’t wait to be parted from it. There is a tremendous intoxicating thrill as we hand over the money and receive what we are buying into our sweaty, trembling, outstretched hands! The ‘rapture’ that we have been talking about has to do with the securing of the prize, the celebrating of the prize, the obsessive gloating over the prize. The rapture, the euphoria comes about because what I think I have secured, and how great I think it is.
Ultimately, the treasure (or trinket) that I have paid my money for is the definite identity. The unspent wealth that I started off with before I wandered into the fairground is Undefined Everything, and what I spend it on in my sojourn amongst the tawdry stalls is the conditioned self (the fixed or defined notion of who I am) and all of its objects. So we can say that the euphoria comes about because of the way I am asserting my definite identity. It feels so wonderfully good to be definite in this way – there is immense security in it, but the thing about this is that security is only important if we’re looking for security, if we’re gunning for security, but not at all important if we’re not! This is like saying that lying is only important if we decide to lie in the first place, or that holding on is only important after we commit ourselves to holding on. But when we do decide – however unwittingly – to move in the direction of increasing security, then there can be no better feeling than to be absolutely positive about who I am. From this point on security is the greatest good, and the lack of security the greatest and most terrible evil…
This is all great (or rather we can say that it is all apparently great) and so it seems to fit the bill as regards our search for a ‘more palatable alternative’ to bliss, but the initial satisfaction obtained always leads on to something that is not so enjoyable after all. This is just the way of things – the thrill of securing the prize is worth more than the prize itself, the chase is better than the catch! Asserting a definite identity (or ‘spending the wealth’) brings immense security, immense pleasure, immense satisfaction, but once we have asserted it, once we do have it spent then the plain fact of the matter is that there’s nowhere to go from here! Whilst it is true that what we have just purchased will recompense us for our down-payment in the first instance, in no time at all the shine will have worn off our cherished prize and it will unfailingly reveal itself to be utterly drab and unappealing. It will have turned into a dud, as reluctant as we might be to acknowledge this.
And the pendulum doesn’t stop here – the pendulum doesn’t stop midway on its swing (at the drab stage) but rather it carries on until it reaches a maximum displacement in the other direction, in the dysphoric direction. So the marvellously good feeling that we get from being so definite about ourselves turns into an equal and opposite bad feeling. If there is a possibility of me finding a supremely advantageous (or validating) position on the scale of things then there must also be the possibility of me ending up in a supremely disadvantageous (or de-validating) position. If there is such a thing as a favourable situation then there must also be such a thing as an unfavourable one. If there is good then there must also be bad. If I am pleased by a particular definite assertion of how things are, then this means that I will be displeased (to the same extent that I was earlier pleased) by the equivalent antithetical definite statement.
If we then say that the Unitary state is the undisturbed situation where the pendulum has not been displaced, and has not been pushed into an oscillation, then clearly the Dualistic state is the situation where the pendulum has been displaced, and where it has entered into an ongoing +/- vibration. The vibration or oscillation can be thought of as ‘a systematic loss of tranquillity and bliss’ and this ‘systematic loss of tranquillity and bliss’ is the conditioned self!
When the sea is perfectly calm then we can see right down to the depths (we can see that there are depths) and this awareness – we might say – grants us dignity and calm in our dealings with the world. When however the sea is agitated then all we see are the waves – our attention is entirely captured by the petty +/- oscillations and we don’t know anything else other than the ceaseless up and down of good fortune versus bad fortune, pleasure versus pain, euphoria versus despair. Because we can’t see beneath the surface of the sea we don’t have any perspective as to what’s happening on the surface – we don’t have any perspective with regard to what’s happening on the surface. We are therefore denied any dignity or calm in the sense that we totally (or concretely) believe in whatever it is the constant UP and DOWN oscillation tells us is happening. The trivially repetitive UP / DOWN oscillation is – we might say – a literal (and therefore utterly misleading) representation of ‘the bigger picture’, of ‘the depths’ – which is of course something that can’t in any way be represented in terms of a YES/NO vibration.
Our attention is therefore captured by the literal meaning of the show and so as a result we are forever bobbing up and down, the helpless plaything of every wave, the passive ‘resultant’ of every random mechanical disturbance. I am overjoyed with every upswing of the pendulum and dismayed with every downswing. I am elated, despairing, elated, despairing, elated, despairing, over and over again! That’s all I ever do – I’m always either annoyingly up or annoyingly down, I’m either one way or the other. “A fool loves to get excited on any account”, Heraclitus says.
There is something dismally undignified in this business of getting pointlessly excited one way or the other the whole time. It makes a fool of me. It makes an eejit of me. If I can feel absolutely marvellous one minute and go around telling everyone how great it all is, and yet feel utterly demoralized and downcast the next, and go around telling everyone how terrible it all is, how awful it is, then this is simply me contradicting myself. I am engaged in a fruitlessly self-contradictory process. If I am ‘over the moon’ when there is good fortune and then ‘down in the dumps’ when the situation turns unfavourable, then clearly I am a person of no substance, a person with no depth, a person with no dignity. I am the ‘inane resultant of blind mechanical forces’ and this is the long and the short of it, the beginning and the end of it.
When I am identified with a definite position and am able to assert this position in an unambiguous and unopposed manner then as we have said this feels wonderfully, marvellously, fantastically good. This feeling is for me ‘the highest good’. This feeling is my god – I never look beyond it. This feeling is ‘me winning’. This feeling is ‘me being confirmed’, ‘me being validated’. And yet the inevitable back-lash (or rebound) of this definite assertion (of this winning) is the very thing that I find most painful, most distressing, most unacceptable. I am therefore holding on tightly (with a grip that can’t be broken) to the very thing that is scalding me! As the Buddha says, I am hooked on ‘licking honey from razor blades’.
So we can say that the surrogate for the Unitive state (which I run away from because there is nothing in it for me, because everything I do in that state is ‘only for God’s benefit and not my own’) is the Dualistic state, which is the state that revolves around the false or illusory standpoint of the separate self or ego, but the problem with this surrogate (which is where I personally get to enjoy whatever it is that is to be enjoyed) is that it is fundamentally self-contradicting, fundamentally paradoxical. As a result of identifying with the paradox, identifying with the tortuous knot of self-contradiction, I get to become the leaden man spoken of by Zosimos of Panopolis, the man who suffers ‘unendurable torments’ [Carl Jung, Alchemical Studies, Para 86]. I get to become the Brazen man, the mutilated anthroparion, the grey homunculus, the one who ‘spews forth his own flesh’, the one who bites and tears at himself. I am as a result of this unwise identification the one who has ‘changed into the opposite of himself’….
Image: shiva meditation 2 by nik helbig
Author: Nick Williams
Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.