As far as I can tell, the essence of awakening is completely compatible with materialism. And that’s a very good thing. It makes it more accessible to more people.
Awakening is to notice what we are in our own first-person experience.
Yes, I am this human self in the world. And more fundamentally, in my own first-person experience, I am capacity for the world as it appears to me. I am what my sense fields – which contains this human self and the wider world – happen within and as.
Here, there is oneness. My sense fields – containing this human self and the wider world – is a seamless whole. Any sense of boundaries comes from my overlay of mental representations. To myself, I am that oneness.
And from there, there is that love that’s independent of states or feelings. There is stillness & silence, all my experiences are that stillness & silence, and I find it’s what I more fundamentally am.
What I am is, if we want to label it that way, consciousness. To me, all my experiences happen within and as consciousness. So all I see and know is consciousness, taking all the different forms of this human self and the wider world.
All of this is the essence of what mystics from all the major traditions, and outside of any tradition, describe. It fits their reports.
I ONLY KNOW THE WORLD THROUGH MYSELF
I only know the world through myself. To me, the world is how it appears to me in my sense fields. To me, it happens within and as this consciousness that is my more fundamental nature. To me, the world has the same nature as myself.
Since I, most fundamentally am capacity for the world, consciousness, and one, it appears to me that the rest of existence is that way as well.
It has to be that way. And it doesn’t mean that this is how the world actually is. It doesn’t mean that the world shares the same nature as I find I have in my own experience.
AWAKENING & PHILOSOPHICAL MATERIALISM
materialism (philosophy) – the theory or belief that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications.
I can find my own more fundamental nature, and that doesn’t help me say what the fundamental nature of all of existence is. It may well be that the materialist view is the correct one.
To myself, I inevitably have to be consciousness, the world to me happens within and as this consciousness, and the world then appears as consciousness.
And, in reality, it may well be that the world is most fundamentally matter, and that this consciousness comes out of matter in this body and only exists locally here in this human self.
If I wish to be intellectually honest, I have to admit all of this. And it’s healthy, in several ways.
Being honest about this means that people with a materialistic view may feel more comfortable in exploring awakening. It doesn’t require any spirituality or religion.
Being honest about this helps me stay close to my own experience. It helps me see what I notice for myself and can say something about, and what’s outside of what I notice and can check for myself.
And it also helps me recognize projections and when I adopt what others say as a belief.
Yes, people say that all of existence is Spirit and consciousness, and it – obviously – appears to me that way since it has to appear to me that way. And yet, I cannot easily check it for myself. For me, it remains what others say. (And it may well be that they are not honest with themselves. Perhaps they assume that their own nature is the nature of all of existence, even if that seems an obvious fallacy.)
Yes, people say we live beyond this life, and to me, it also inevitably has to appear that way if I look at it superficially. To me, time and space happen within and as what I am. My nature is not touched by any of it. And again, that’s how it has to appear to me, and it doesn’t mean that’s how it is in reality. It doesn’t mean that this consciousness will continue after the death of this body.
WHY IS THIS NOT SPOKEN ABOUT MORE?
I am sure many must talk about this and point out some of the obvious things here:
To ourselves, we are consciousness, and our nature is what mystics of all traditions and outside of traditions describe. We are capacity for our world, oneness, love, and so on.
To us, the world has to appear as we are. Since we experience existence through and as ourselves, it has to appear to be like ourselves. It has to appear to have the same nature as we do.
And we cannot really know if that’s how it actually is. We cannot know if our nature is the same as the nature of all of existence. To assume so is to make a big jump, a big leap of faith. It’s OK to do that, but we have to be honest and say that it is a leap of faith.
And if I am honest, I haven’t seen it spoken about very often. I seem to come across a lot of people – spiritual teachers and practitioners – who seem to assume that their nature is the same as the nature of all of existence.
The simple answer for why this is, is that these are spiritual people. They have adopted a spiritual worldview. These are the ones I have sought out and know.
It’s also possible that some haven’t made this differentiation for themselves.
AWAKENING FREE OF SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION
It seems important to be able to talk about awakening, and help people find what they are to themselves, without referring to spirituality and religion.
It makes it available to more people.
It brings it down to its essence.
It highlights some of the common projections and assumptions often found in spirituality and religion.
And some do this, of course, including the Headless Way and the Big Mind process. Some would also say that Zen does this, at least in some variations of that tradition.
SMALL AND BIG INTERPRETATIONS OF AWAKENING
I like to think of this as the small or psychological interpretation of awakening. It’s where we strip down awakening to its essentials and don’t use or need any spiritual or religious language. It tends to be very honest and doesn’t require any leaps of faith.
There is also the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening, where we do assume that our nature is – more or less – the same as the nature of all of existence. We assume that existence is Spirit, the divine, God, and so on. This is, in a sense, a leap of faith. Although there are also many hints suggesting it’s accurate.
HOW DO I SEE IT?
For me, the small interpretation of awakening is important for the reasons I mentioned. It seems more honest. It doesn’t rely on spirituality or religion. It makes it more accessible to more people. And it contrasts with my own projections and assumptions, and shows me when I go beyond what I can easily check for myself.
At the same time, I love the big or spiritual interpretation of awakening. It’s inspiring. It opens things up. It helps me find more trust. And so on.
And there are many hints, from what other report and from my own experience, that suggests it’s likely more accurate.
NOTE: To clarify, what I am referring to here is the general experience reported by most mystics of all as consciousness. All of existence, to us, appears as consciousness. All is Spirit, the divine, God, and so on. I am not talking about what other beings are to themselves. It’s very likely they are to themselves as I am to myself. Read More