Vineeto’s Correspondence on the Actual Freedom List
Correspondent No 50
VINEETO: Welcome to the Actual Freedom Mailing list.
RESPONDENT: O.K. people, what was this? One day, thought saw that is was in a closed circuit of thought and was therefore fundamentally limited. I had a mental image of a circle completing itself down in the corner of some space and then (my mind?) was released into VAST EMPTINESS. No feelings or bodily sensations occurred but I was in amazement at the VAST EMPTINESS. That night, asleep, no dreams just VAST EMPTINESS. It was like I had my nose right up against VAST EMPTINESS. Then the next day vast emptiness went away.
I couldn’t understand it until I read Richard saying that the limitation of thought is that it cannot know itself apperceptively. That’s the ‘fundamentally limited’ part of my description. I didn’t have thought divided into ‘reflective, contemplative ‘ and ‘instinctual, emotional’ back then (or am I misunderstanding the way Richard sometimes speaks of thought?) it was just thought in general, all thought.
This wasn’t like a PCE where I am securely in this moment of eternal time. I have had PCEs of short (one minute) durations before and after this vast emptiness thing. I don’t know if affect gets in there and turns it into an ASC or what. I am about three weeks in to using HAIETMOBA? At first I just looked for bodily tensions and relaxed the tense areas, an easy thing to do except that they reinstate so persistently. Now I am also having that inquiry include my ‘heart’ but most of the time I can’t tell if anything is going on! I would appreciate any helpful commentary.
VINEETO: I won’t endeavour to analyse your experience, because that is something only you can do yourself by investigating whether your experience was either affective (ASC) or ‘self’-less (PCE). There are descriptions of PCEs on the website which might be useful to you in making your own assessments.
However I am inspired by Peter’s description of the different ways a PCE can be triggered to say something about the affective altered states of consciousness, which may also be of use to your explorations.
Given that an altered state of consciousness is always an intense feeling experience, they are a wholly ‘self’-centred experience, to some extent varying in character from individual to individual dependant upon the person’s social identity. Nevertheless, from my own experience and from what I have read so far about other people’s altered states I have determined two distinct types of affective altered states.
The first type of ASC I would call the ‘compassion-glory’ type. At the onset of the ASC fear temporarily abates to the extent that intense feelings of love and glory fill one’s chest, expanding the sense of ‘self’ beyond its normal limits. Telltale signs of passion and imagination run amok include all-encompassing feelings of love for all and feelings of Oneness with all of Existence, Divinity or Creation. The expansion of the ‘self’ into a ‘Self’ often results in heightened perceptivity of psychic vibes or currents, which is experienced as a revelation of the ‘Truth’ and the disclosure of ‘my’ specially chosen role in the ‘Greater Reality’. ‘My’ centre of gravity moves from the head to the heart, so to speak, fearful feelings are sublimated by a new-found empowerment and an overproduction of all the ‘good’ feelings, turning feelings such as love, compassion, bliss, oneness, beauty and truth into capital letter experiences. In short, in this type of ASC, a fearful and confused identity is transformed, by way of a passionate imagination run amok, into a powerful and all-knowing Identity.
The second type of ASC I would call the ‘far-out-there’ type because it is typified by a loss of all sense of perspective as well as any remaining sense of earthly reality. In such an experience the ‘Self’ is aggrandized to such an extent that it feels as though there are no boundaries to ‘Me’. ‘I am Everything and Everything is Me’ describes the feeling of far-out-there-ness that occurs in this ASC experience of Cool Nothingness. ‘I’ am so expanded that ‘I’ am the whole universe and this imaginary universe is then coloured by ‘my’ affective flavour, either ‘cool’ or ‘empty’ or ‘beautiful’ or some other affective experience.
I found this type of ASC harder to detect as being a delusion because such an ASC feels as though it is a ‘self’-less experience. When I had such an experience, my ‘self’ was transformed – blown out of all proportion – beyond recognition and the resultant feeling of ‘emptiness’ seemed to be not of ‘my’ making. What helped me to get my head out of the clouds and my feet back on the ground was when I opened my eyes and had to recognize that I was in fact laying on a couch in a room with four walls, that I was surrounded by material things that were anything but Nothingness. Then I knew that Nothingness and Emptiness were but my calenturous thoughts.
While such explorations into the realms of fantasy are fascinatingly alluring and instinctually seductive – once you tasted the genuine article, a ‘self’-less pure consciousness experience, then any affective altered states of consciousness and any imaginary changes of identity are seen for what they are – out-and-out fantasies.
RESPONDENT: Vineeto, thank you for responding in such depth to my query. I see now that the ego can hide in the most bizarre but convincing ways. I’ll be more discerning about it now, having read those two examples you gave, and reading more carefully the distinctions on the site. It looks like what my ‘I’ did was more like the second example you gave with the affect being emptiness – all the more undetectable because it seemed to be a strictly psychological event.
VINEETO: One of the basic understandings of actualism that makes it radically different to spiritual teachings is that it is not the ego that prevents one from being free of the human condition but it is the total package of both ego and soul –
RESPONDENT: Yesterday I was reading (in your selected correspondence on sex) where Richard said that chemicals ‘rise and subside’ but now he experiences them as a (meaningless) sensation, not an instinct or emotion. Is this accurate, that (with him) the sensory input still triggers chemicals but the meaning-association is cut off? Previously I understood him to mean the chemicals were cut off as well.
VINEETO: I don’t know if this is the piece of correspondence you are referring to – it is the only one in my selected correspondence on sex that contains ‘chemicals rising and subsiding’ –
As you can see it was me who observes ‘chemicals rising and subsiding’ when they express themselves as ‘my tender and savage instinctual passions’.
As for Richard – here is a story he recently related to No 32, which might throw some light on the hormone adrenalin in someone actually free from the human condition –
I don’t know for a fact if for Richard ‘the sensory input still triggers chemicals’ or not – apparently in the above story there was a startle response upon seeing the snake that was sufficient to trigger the necessary life-saving response without any emotional reaction or any physical symptoms of an emotional reaction.
As is demonstrated in the diagrams of the The Actual Freedom Trust Library, it is the psychological ‘self’ in the neo-cortex and the instinctual ‘self’, which automatically triggers the Amygdala’s response, that is of concern for an actualist. What ‘I’ need to do is instigate a continuous process of unbiased attentiveness and this process itself will incrementally diminish the overarching influence of my ‘self’ on the sensate and reflective processes in the brain and then the output of chemicals takes care of itself. Some chemicals will still be operating, while others will cease to be produced.
While I am idly curious about the exact procedures that happen in my brain when I think, feel, act or when my mind is in neutral, neuro-science is still in its infancy and furthermore is considering our instinctual programming as an unchangeable given. For me as an actualist it is sufficient to know that ‘the instinctual passions that are the identity’ are the focus of my ongoing observation and investigation. After all it is ‘I’, as an identity, that needs to ‘self’-immolate in order for this body to become actually free from the human condition.
RESPONDENT: I’m very happy to be in the conversation of Actual freedom!
VINEETO: It is a pleasure to have you on the list, and it is good to see that you appear to have understood the essential difference between the spiritual search for immortality and the sensate experience of actuality, which is a major hurdle for anyone becoming interested in Actual Freedom.
VINEETO: Although you wrote to Richard I thought to write to you and describe how I use the method that made me happy and harmless –
RESPONDENT: Hey Richard, it’s No 50 here. I haven’t written for a long time and I want you to know I am still practicing Actualism, reading the website over and over, running HAIETMOBA and reading what’s sent to Topica. My stumbling block is being felicitous, as usual. You’ve already coached me on this, I know it’s up to me to do it. I think also I am fairly detached, too, and what I have taken for a ‘good’ day is really more of a day of ... calmness, but a sort of contrived, finessed calmness. I feel stuck in the mud partly because I’m not having any PCEs, the voice in my head will not shut up (It didn’t used to bother me, maybe I was not aware of it) and also the problem of felicity. Also, inquiring into the root of emotions is tricky to do by yourself (my mind wanders) and I find myself in my head so much it is irritating as hell. I don’t think my self is getting any thinner, it seems to have co-operated up to a point and then put on the brakes. I will not give up, though, because I’ve experienced what is right under my nose four times now. If you have any input, I’m listening. Tally Ho,
VINEETO: Many people have confused the method of actualism with the spiritual method of ‘self’-observation or ‘self’-awareness as it is used in Eastern Mysticism. ‘Self-observation is, in short, ‘self’ observing ‘self’, which can only lead to detachment and dissociation. In ‘self’-observation ‘I’ am making an assessment of how ‘I’ should Really be; one’s normal cultural values are only replaced by so-called higher values and these so-called higher values are by no means sensible as can be determined by observing that enlightenment and ‘self’-realization is anything but sensible.
When one acknowledges that it is the human condition in toto which is the culprit then ‘self’ observing and ‘self’-realization can be recognized as a merely rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic – the intransigent problem, ‘me’ as an instinctive passionate entity, remains the same.
In order to help make a clear distinction between ‘self’-observation and an undivided attentiveness to this moment of being alive, an attentiveness that is non-moral, non-ethical, non-spiritual, I recommend Richard’s article entitled Attentiveness, Sensuousness, Apperceptiveness.
Sitting by a quiet creek the other day, enjoying the play of light and shadow in the ever-moving water I thought about how to describe the method of actualism in different words. It was pleasing to the eye to observe the movement of the water, the colours reflected in the creek, the light twinkling on the ripples and it was very easy to do so without applying any emotional evaluation or indulging in imagination – this is then a purely sensate experience. During this sensate experience I can simultaneously be aware of the input stream of sensual data, and this is the brain’s awareness of the eyes’, ears’, skin’s sensate perception. It’s like saying – I am aware of the eyes seeing, the ears hearing and the skin sensing the warmth of the soft breeze.
The same non-evaluative, non-imagining awareness can also be applied to whatever goes on inside my head (as neurosis), my heart (as feelings) or my guts (as instinctual passions) at all times in daily life although it takes a good deal more practice and determination to get this type of attentiveness up and running.
Normally when a thought or an emotion kicks in there is an immediate reflex evaluation that the thought or feeling is good or bad, wanted or unwanted, right or wrong, suitable or unsuitable, appropriate to be expressed or needed to be repressed and so on. This almost constant evaluation – one’s conscience in action if you like – usually happens so quickly and automatically that one is not aware that it is happening or one only becomes aware after it has already happened or only after the resultant action has already happened. As you said –
In other words, the moment you become aware that you have thoughts and feelings there is an immediate evaluation that all of these thoughts and feelings are ‘irritating’, you don’t like it, this is bad, this is wrong, it should not be so. The result is that one is then either busy expressing, repressing, denying or dissociating from them or one is busy thinking about how to get rid of the thoughts and feelings.
I found that when I paid close attention to the thoughts that were running in my head most of the time, I eventually became aware that it was only the feeling-based thoughts that are causing the problem, as in causing me to feel malicious and feel sorrowful. I had been indoctrinated for many years with Eastern Mysticism and because of this I believed that thinking was the problem and I had to abandon this ‘truth’ in order to discover for myself, experientially, that it is in fact feelings that come first and it is feelings that cause the subsequent onslaught of neurotic, frantic, irritating thoughts.
The next stage was to make sense of my thoughts and feelings as I became aware of them. This meant I had to start to discern what was going on – not in the usual terms of right and wrong, good and bad, wanted and unwanted, but in more pragmatic down-to-earth terms of what exactly was the feeling I was feeling – am I feeling sad, am I feeling angry, am I feeling bored, am I feeling scared and so on. You might find that this is not an easy thing to do at first but persistence combined with intent will eventually enable you to acknowledge and label the feeling you are having while the feeling is running.
You have probably already noticed that whenever you are overwhelmed or consumed by feelings you cannot clearly think about them. Therefore in order to make any sense out of why you are having the feeling, you need to get back to feeling at least reasonably good again. To do that you recognize that what you are feeling or doing is silly for a very simply reason – one realizes that now is the only moment I can experience of being alive – and then it becomes obvious that it is silly to waste this moment of being alive by feeling grumpy, sad, fearful, frustrated, angry, irritated, bored, pining, stuck up and so on.
To reiterate, knowing that what one is doing is silly – wasting this moment – and realizing that at this moment you are being either unhappy or malevolent then helps you to stop indulging in any of those feelings, which in turn enables you to get back to feeling at least reasonably good again as quickly as possible. Sometimes I found that I had to do something physical such as go for a walk or work in the garden in order to break free of being consumed by a particular intensive feeling.
Then when I am back to being able to think clearly, the real job begins, which is finding out what got me into this particular mess in the first place and how I can avoid falling into the same trap next time around.
Here are examples of the type of questions I used to ask myself when I got back to being able to think clearly about what had happened and why it happened –
As I got better and better at this I was then able to do my investigations while the feeling was happening, which is even more revealing as one gets to feel the feeling as it is happening and I can get to know the physical sensations that accompany the feeling which is very useful in recognizing the onset of feelings and emotions the next time they occur.
This attentiveness of becoming aware of what I am feeling and the intent to investigate why I feel what I feel is very similar to the one I applied when watching the movement in the river – neither detached or dissociated (after all this is ‘me’ in action) nor applying one or other moral/ethical judgements. Such a discerning attentiveness is akin to conducting an empirical scientific inquiry into my own psyche in action – I am being attentive as to how ‘I’ tick and by doing so I experientially know what the human condition consists of and how it operates which in turn enables me to incrementally become free from it.
As I find out how ‘I’ tick, I am then able to make any choices I need to make according to what is silly and sensible and by doing so I no longer rely on the judgements of right and wrong according to my social identity, such as a code of honour, racial values, my upbringing as a woman, my belonging to a group or a family, and so on. An assessment of what is silly and what is sensible also bypasses the instinctual passions in that common sense is far better capable of making a decision.
The advantage of making choices on the basis of what is silly and what is sensible is that such an assessment is not based on what ‘I’ want, what ‘I’ need, what ‘I’ have to have happen, what ‘I’ need to do at all costs – it is not ‘self’-centred, ‘self’-oriented, ‘self’-ish. Such an uncommon common sense takes into consideration the benefit of all people involved in each particular situation and genuine harmony only happens when I am harmless.
As for ‘I don’t think my self is getting any thinner, it seems to have co-operated up to a point and then put on the brakes’ – Peter wrote a guide for practicing actualists in which he described the various stages that one can encounter on the way to a virtual freedom. Thinning of the ‘self’ happens only when you notice that you have become less ‘self’-centred, more considerate of others, more harmless, less aggressive and less defensive. Putting ‘on the brakes’ can happen at any time in the process of actualism whenever you encounter a particularly dear belief or a cherished dream, something you hold as an inviolable truth or a sacrosanct moral, or when you suddenly realize the enormity of the enterprise of leaving both your ‘self’ and humanity behind. However, I found I could never leave my foot on the brakes for long when I contemplated the benefit of an actual freedom not only for this body but for the peace on earth that is available to everyone.
Vineeto’s & Richard’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.