Initially I did not know I was interested in self-realization.
Although there is no definitive time when one can say it all began, I was a teenager when I had my first encounter with explicit spirituality and spiritual issues. Around that time, I was discovering that in many ways the traits that defined my character were also somewhat deviant from social norms. At the time, I was sexually attracted to other men when most boys my age were attacted to women. That alone was enough to relegate me to the fringes of what was considered 'normal'. Though I was also physically very thin (to the point where my parents were wrongly accused of neglect), and I was reputed to be of significantly above-average intelligence. There were a myriad of other idiosyncrasies, but those were perhaps the most significant.
As a result of my feelings of alienation and confusion, my mental health suffered. At one time I felt suicidal, and had considered various ways to end my life.
Around that time I happened across a book by the then exiled Tibetan spiritual leader (the Dalai Lama). The book was about happiness, and it was my first introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, psychology and meditation. As a result of that encounter and many hours of meditation my mood improved significantly. Though I soon lost interest in Buddhism, the encounter obviously left an indelible mark on my character.
My next encounter with spirituality was during my early career. Again, my mental health had been compromised. Though the cause on that occasion was the significant mismatch between my character and the workplace culture. Moreover, my naiveté with regard to office politics just added to my woes – by the time I understood the circumstances I was already spiralling toward an undignified end.
It was towards the end of my early years of paid employment that I found cause to revisit the Buddhism and meditation that I remembered having been so helpful during my school years. Although the renewed interest did not save my career, it did spark a passion which would ultimately result in nothing short of a complete revolution in my person.
Over the course of over a decade, I worked odd jobs intermittently, stayed with my folks for some of the time and began a rather ad-hoc informal study of spiritual philosophy, following my nose as it were.
Initially, my motivation was to find a way out of my suffering – at times significant depression and I would recognise very late into this period, significant anxiety. During this ten-year period, I studied Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, meditation, Mindfulness, and Advaita Vedanta. My study consisted of a lot of reading, a modest amount of meditation and contemplation, and the trials and tribulations of daily life. I watched quite a bit of audio-visual material – including interviews, lectures and question and answer sessions too.
Eventually, slowly, some facets began to crystalize. Though it was not until some twelve years later that I understood what the search had been about.
I have made something of a habit of writing my truth on this subject for many years. Having already begun to hone my writing skills at work, and having discovered something of a personal flair for words, I found writing during this often testing time to be a wonderful way to clarify my own understanding (or misunderstanding). Also, I wanted to share, both out of empathy for others who had suffered as I had, and in the early days, an unconscious ego-driven desire to become 'someone' better!
My early writing was a superficial synthesis of what I had read or heard – often a conceptual framework I had cobbled together from ideas I encountered. Really I was just a parrot at the time for the words of others.
Later, as many facets of the truth began to crystalize and I had been able to reliably relate what I was reading and hearing to my own first-hand experiences, my writing became more personal. Though because I was unable to see critical elements of the picture I was still assembling, it was also still quite green. This phase came to something of a climax only a day before most of the pieces finally 'clicked' for the first time. It had not gone unnoticed to me or anyone else unlucky enough to read my work, that my writing had become quite dense and was often impentrable to most persons! I began to joke that I was writing my equivalent of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit – a masterpiece which is renowned for impenetrability and that I suspect few have had the patience to digest.
The writing itself is my truth – it comes from my direct, first-hand experience. Indeed, I am the truth. Moreover, though I make use of the English language and certain spiritual and philosophical terms, the work is now foremost a unique personal synthesis of present realization, such as it is.
Self-realization is a peculiar subject of inquiry because unlike almost all other subjects of human endevour, the subject is directly relevant to understanding your own humanity. It is also a subject where wrote-learning and memorisation will get you nowhere. Any accumulation of intellectual knowledge is entirely an aside to the main game.
The main game of self-realization is always a direct, first-person experience of the true nature of Self and of reality. By the nature of what is achieved, it is the most intimate study that can be performed.
Through study and practice, one comes to a far more comprehensive understanding of humanity than is ordinarily possible (particularly in so-called Western culture), and a mastery of the person that is otherwise all but impossible. Another important side effect of this process is stable inner peace, and the cultivation of greater selflessness, humour, compassion and joy.
That is difficult to answer, because there are so many. Formally, by reliance upon written and audio-visual materials, I have come to appreciate many authors. Informally, life itself is my teacher. In the end, your teacher is always the inner guru – the Self that is the subject of realization in fact.
If you're simply curious as to what I have had on my bookshelf at one time or another, you can find a partial bibliography here.
Keep in mind that the writing is a synthesis primarily based in language, reason and direct experience. As I hope to make clear, to anyone so inclined, the material and insight gained through this process are universal to the human experience and yet also integral to your person. There is no idle speculation herein – everything is backed by rigorous thought and experimentation.
As an aside, I know people who take issue with the very involvement of subjectivity in serious study or research. Unfortunately this habit is conditioned by our culture and these people do not themselves apply adequate rigour to their own bias in this regard. As with all encounters with psychology and consciousness, subjectivity is an unavoidable part of the mix. Moreover, it can be rigorously demonstrated that any such attitude toward subjectivity within this domain of endeavour is seriously misgiven.
All agencies are fictitious: The World is like a videogame (which is Self, for the entertainment of the Self.) The person (mind-body-soul, also Self), with whom you are at present most intimately familiar, is a character within that game. All the characters are run by the game itself – nobody is playing.
Self-realization – the knowing of the true nature of reality – is a knowledge unlike any other. It is the smallest kernel of understanding, of the deepest and most profound truth of reality. Though unlike the appearance of ignorance, self-realization is a bit like a dangling arrow pointing to nowhere in particular, because the referant can never be represented. God cannot be described, since it is God in which all descriptions appear manifest.
The manifestation of self-realization is divine love.
Knowledge of the true nature of reality is the kernel of truth at the heart of all spiritual traditions, religions and systems of spiritual or esoteric thought. Importantly, that it is so, neither affirms nor negates these systems.
Belief systems and 'spiritual knowledge' are an intrinsic part of the contour of the landscape of duality, and the geology of the space. They reflect and form the various natural structures and social features of the infinity of myriad territories.
The core truth of self-realisation is immutable and beyond all dualistic representation(s), including those of the truth of self-realization itself. It is in fact, the root of both the experiential and philosophical realms.
Far from bringing an egoic finale to the personal engagement with such topics, mature self-realization may herald the opening of a doorway into previously unseen and unimagined realms (or it may not.) It really does not matter, either way.
The true nature of the World is the true nature of the Self, and of reality. The true nature of the World is You.
The World itself is illusion.
When one discusses models of conscious reality, one should not loose sight of the fact that this is all they are. Models may be useful, to communicate this or that, or for technology of various kinds – including the psychological. Nevertheless, the model is never the Reality.
In so far as models seem inescapable, one should select the model that is at once simple, consistent within itself and with all other models, consistent with all observation, and favourable to the greatest well-being. Thus the ultimate model is no model. A fair approximation of this is Nonduality and/or the Buddhist doctrine of Emptiness.
The question, "Is there an objective World, outside of consciousness?" need not arise. Though if it does, it may be easily dismissed. One, it is entirely irrelevant. Two, it is forever off limits to the mind that would raise the question. Nothing occurring within such a hypothetical World would ever have any effect whatsoever upon the nature of truth, in so far as it may be known. Further, no such World can ever be encountered. (The only 'thing' that knows is consciousness.)
Importantly, science is not at odds with the truth of self-realization. Science is a technology, both as a mechanism for discovery and as an accumulated body of worldly knowledge. Technology is relevant in so far as it finds utility. The utility of a technology is determined by pragmatism with respect to everyday affairs, for most people. Though ultimately the person is only an idea, a proxy, and so in that regard utility must and is effectively always determined by the Heart, on a case-by-case basis.
As an aside, it could be noted that science has a long way to go to find accord with the truth of human existence. When and if it embraces this challenge, humanity will almost certainly be better for it.
Self-realization could perhaps be described as a philosophy of transcendental pragmatism.
Though the purpose of doing so is not immediately apparent. Perhaps to explore the interface between human knowledge, human society and the truth? Perhaps to synthesise alternative teaching methods (for the truth)?
The truth of self-realization is beyond knowledge. In this way, it is beyond the reach of philosophy, ideology and religion.
Whilst the effects and expression of self-realization may seem innately anthropocentric, the truth at which the language and culture of self-realization point, is not. If this seems a little hard to swallow, I can only suggest you engage the most clear and concise materials on this subject at some length (my contemplation exercise is a good place to start.) It is the true and intimate nature of you that is under scrutiny, and in that regard, there is little point in the author trying to belabor the point.
© Copyright 2020 Joshua W. Hawcroft