‘What I am’ vs. ‘Who I am’
Peter: Your conversations with Richard set me thinking about this business of self-immolation and the difference between what we are talking of and the spiritual ‘ego-death’. In my reading of the Enlightened Ones’ ‘ego death’ experiences the drama and trauma involved sounds so convincing that one would indeed give credence to a wondrous transformation such that one had found something genuine – one’s Real Self, one’s original face, the Source, Divine Love, the Truth or whatever. There is no doubt that a transformation of their identity has taken place, that they have suffered a death of their personal self – ego – and as a reward have become a universal, all encompassing, glorious Self – God by whatever name. This I have understood and have personally experienced in an hour long Altered State of Consciousness, or Satori, whereby I was Love personified, and all was Glorious and Golden. Also as the result of many Pure Consciousness Experiences and some 18 months of Virtual Freedom I well know the difference between a ‘self’-less state of Actual Freedom and the ‘ego-less/glorified soul’ state of Enlightenment.
But I still had a nag, and the nag was how to explain it schematically. It must be my architectural training, but often processes can be schematically represented in a way that aids clarity. There are about 2 million words on The Actual Freedom Trust website and many are devoted to this very difference between Actual Freedom and the traditional Pseudo Freedom, so we have come up with two schematics that set out the difference.
There are two schematics – the first refers to Actual Freedom, the second to the spiritual path.
As you can see on the first schematic, the title is ‘What I am vs. Who I am’, and the diagram essentially addresses the issue of the process of the extinction of ‘who’ I am – the psychological and psychic entity and the emergence of ‘what I am’ – this flesh and blood body only, actually free of ‘who I think and feel I am’. The diagram quite deliberately separates out the active diminishing and eventual extinction of ‘who I am’ – and the emergence and eventual freedom of ‘what I am’. ‘What I am’ has always been here, it is just that it has been obscured and totally dominated by ‘who I am’ – and it is only by systematically and methodically daring to peel back the layers of social conditioning, beliefs, morals, ethics, psittacisms and instinctual passions that ‘what I am’ is more and more able to become apparent. ‘What I am’ thus becomes incrementally freed, strengthened, gaining confidence from the surety of facts, the increasingly unfettered intelligence and the heightened senses – all actual, down to earth, sensible and verifiable experiences. ‘What I am’ is not a new creation, a new identity – it is simply what remains when the ‘who I am’ disappears in total. To put it another way, the ‘who I was’ when I first met Richard will never meet the ‘what I am’ that will emerge when ‘I’ become extinct.
Of course, one has glimpses of this ‘self’-less state in the PCE, when for a period ‘who I am’ exits the stage, or is temporarily absent, but ‘what I am’ can only be totally free when ‘who I am’ ceases to exist permanently. ‘Who I am’ is capable of resurrection or fighting back at any stage – indeed it is passionately driven to do anything possible to survive – including selling off Grandmother if need be – which is where the middle line of the diagram comes into play. This is a simple representation of the wide and wondrous path to Actual Freedom – from naiveté to Actual Freedom. We have started the line with naiveté, for it surely requires naiveté to not only consider that an actual freedom from the Human Condition is possible, but that you, personally, are the one who can do it. To fly in the face of the Wisdom of the Ancients – ‘to go where no man has gone before’ in Star Trek terms, as I put it in my Journal. I conveniently ignored Richard in my dramatization as I figured that the next pioneers were plotting a brand new course – avoiding the instinctual seduction of the Rock of Enlightenment that had dashed the efforts of all before. The other point about naiveté is that the spiritually cynical and the worldly cunning, by their very attitude, exclude themselves from the adventure, and this has been evidenced by the many who have met Richard, or read a bit about Actual Freedom, and turned away.
For those willing to consider the possibility of an actual freedom, the next step is to garnish a pure intent – an intent to make it something one is willing to dedicate one’s life to and a purity such that one will settle for nothing less than the purity and perfection so obviously experienced in a Pure Consciousness Experience. If it is possible for a brief time it must be possible as a permanent state – purity and perfection is possible as a flesh and blood human being, it requires one’s sincere intent to become a ‘self’ consuming passion in life.
As an ongoing experience one moves into a state of Virtual Freedom whereby one goes to sleep at night time knowing one has had a perfect day and that tomorrow will also be a perfect day. This perfection is not the perfection of Actual Freedom but a 99.9% perfection and the hic-ups or stumbles are so minor and brief, that they fail to daunt one on the journey. Serendipity abounds and a fascination with life activates delight and sensuousness as one does all one can to mimic the perfection and purity that becomes increasingly apparent all around in the physical world. One’s mind, more and more freed of imagination and the chemical influence of instinctual passions, is capable of great clarity, and as apperceptive awareness replaces self-centred neurosis one knows one’s days are numbered. By this total and sincere dedication to what is actual, pure and perfect, one abandons control, so to speak, whereby the very process of self-immolation is set in motion – then it is not a process that one has any control over, it is happening by itself.
The ending of ‘me’, when seen dispassionately, is the amygdala doing its survival thing – one encounters surges of chemicals from an obsolete program playing out its death throes – fighting for its very survival as it is programmed to do. This last stages of the ending of ‘me’ is both a psychic and psychological affair, thus accompanying the chemical rushes (fear) one also experiences the psychological equivalent (angst), but one is committed by now – there is no ‘back door’, no turning back, no phoenix to rise from the ashes. ‘My’ end is nigh.
However, to even get to the point where one abandons control requires a pure intent, lest one settles for second-best. Pure intent is one’s sure companion on the journey from beginning to end.
In order to make the differences between Actual Freedom and the spiritual ‘ego-death’ clear we produced a second schematic that indicates the famed so called self-less state of the Buddhas and Enlightened Ones is but the result of a process of self-aggrandizement.
It’s a very glitzy diagram for a very glitzy transformation. I think it’s clear what happens – a shift in identity from mere mortal to Divine Immortal that is well documented in all the spiritual texts – it’s just that people are so seduced by the fantasy that they will live on ‘after their body dies’, that they are blinded to facts. An interesting and rarely acknowledged facet of the idea of God is that to have the Good one must still have Evil lurking somewhere, to have the Divine one needs the Diabolical, to have God one needs the Devil, by whatever name. The spiritual merely sublimates personal fear and aggression (the bad) for one becomes God (the good) and therefore protected by one’s own imaginary aura or cocoon of Divine Love. Again this is well documented in all the spiritual fables, in all the religious fairy stories – it is only passionate belief and the resulting blindness to facts that prevents the whole silly nonsense becoming apparent.
Ah, give me a fact any day. It is getting a bit long but it’s a great piece from Richard that is a useful touchstone in the journey from ‘who I am’ to ‘what I am’. Give me a fact any day.
Well Alan, that’s about it. A couple of more schematics courtesy of the wonders of computer graphics and Vineeto’s skill. I do like it that this process is clearly describable in words, is able to be schematically represented, is substantiated by current experiences, is verifiable by scientific records and research, is repeatable in different people, from different cultures, backgrounds and gender, it has nothing to do with faith, trust, hope or belief … and it works! And all of that is what makes it a fact.
An Actual Freedom from the Human Condition is now possible for anyone who wants it.
And peace on earth is the reward for one’s efforts.
Vineeto: Thank you for you feedback and your recommendations regarding the latest schematics. We have discussed every single idea of yours with Richard back and forth and decided in the end to leave it as it is. No description seemed short enough for the arrow of ‘What I am’ in Actual Freedom and the little thundercloud seems more impressive without its description of self-immolation.
Our recent discussions and the schematics has inspired me to talk a bit more about the double approach to Actual Freedom.
Among the many other topics, we have talked about – ‘Why is it that one seems to have less PCEs in Virtual Freedom than at the beginning of the discovery journey?’ I remember an earlier correspondence with you on that issue – what is this change in the experience of a PCE when one settles in the daily delights of Virtual Freedom? But I will start at the beginning –
This schematic diagram depicts the dynamic between
‘who I think and feel I am’, ‘me’ as a selfish, self-centred, lost, lonely, frightened and very, very cunning entity inside this body, afflicted with the Human Condition of malice and sorrow, thereafter called ‘the grey arrows’
‘what I am, this flesh and blood body only, living in the actual world, the universe experiencing itself as a sensate and reflective human being’, thereafter called ‘the green arrows’.
The green arrows: During Pure Consciousness Experiences one is taking short excursions into the actual world, for minutes or hours, experiencing life as a kind of holiday stripped of the restricting, burdening, agonizing selfish and self-centred worldview of everyday life. In the beginning those PCEs open one’s eyes to a world never experienced before, never considered possible. On the path to freedom those PCEs are vital, absolutely necessary to determine the direction, to kindle one’s naiveté, to fuel one’s connection to pure intent. The actual world is seen for what it is, and everything is self-evidently clear and obvious, and one recognizes that ‘what I am’ has always been here, I just never got a word in edgeways.
Nevertheless, once the PCE is over and the ‘self’ takes control again, there is only a faint memory left. The world of ‘grey arrows’ and the world of ‘green arrows’ never meet. Given that during a PCE one is without beliefs, feelings and emotions, there is consequently no emotional memory to draw from when one comes back to the ‘real’ world, and the experience can vanish without a trace unless one is very aware. Likewise, back in the world of beliefs, feelings and emotions, the faint memory of the purity and perfection can only be vaguely remembered but not relived or imagined. That’s where naiveté and pure intent are absolutely essential if one wants to experience an actual freedom state for 24 hours a day.
One other important point – spiritually inclined people, and that is almost everyone who is on a search for freedom, peace and happiness, usually confuse the ‘green arrows’ with some sort of spiritual higher ‘self’, Satori, god-experience, beauty, love, bliss or enlightenment. The ‘green arrows’ have clearly nothing to do with any emotion- or feeling-based experience, any Altered State of Consciousness or anything happening in the head or in the heart. ‘Green arrows’ is the sensate-only, sensuous and pure experience of the actual physical universe in its pure, magical, delightful and sparkling perfection.
The grey arrows: Due to the intrinsic quality genetically built into the physical fabric of the universe to be the best it can be, every human being has the potential to evoke naiveté and intent – the innate drive to look for a way out of the grim everyday experience of life. Given that Richard has discovered that one can totally eliminate one’s identity, conditioning and instinctual passions, and has also devised a practical and effective method to do so, it is now possible to use the experience of a PCE to reach to a permanent actual freedom from the Human Condition.
It is no longer necessary to interpret one’s glimpses of the perfection and purity of the actual world as some kind of ‘god-given Grace’, thus degrading and distorting the experience of pure magnificence into a feeling-based self-centred interpretation of beauty, love or ‘the divine’. Out of those moments of a pure consciousness experience one can dare to acknowledge ‘what I am’, a living and apperceptive organism, lived by this splendid and perfect universe, without any sense of ‘being’ whatsoever – and take the first step in direction of an actual freedom.
In order to get closer to one’s avowed aim, the living of a PCE for 24 hours a day, one then has to get off one’s bum and dismantle the ‘grey arrows’ – who one thinks and feels one is. The change that needs to happen can only happen in the ‘grey arrows’. The only thing ‘I’ can do is actively diminish ‘me’ – examining and investigating my social and spiritual conditioning and my set of survival instincts – all my passionate beliefs and my affective imaginations. So when I get confused, or impatient, or fearful, or greedy for more PCEs or discouraged, or, or, or … this is where I have to look, this is where I can change something. This is where ‘I’ can speed up ‘my’ demise. When I am emotional, slightly off-track or very disturbed, I am the ‘grey arrows’ – and I can only do something about the ‘grey arrows’. That means, ‘I who I think and feel I am’ is the thing that needs to be taken apart, the thing that needs my full attention, pure intent and concentration. The ‘grey arrows’ is the only thing I can do something about, because that is ‘me’, obstructing and preventing the perfection that is already here from becoming apparent. In that sense the ‘green arrows’ don’t really get bigger, ‘what I am’ becomes more and more apparent.
There is no point in waiting for the ‘Grace of Existence’ to descend and deliver a PCE. When all is said and done, waiting for a PCE derives from a grim-world view where one doesn’t want to be here but wants to go somewhere else – into a PCE. There is nothing I can do about the ‘green arrows’ – ‘what I am’ is already perfect, it is already as it should be. But I can actively do something about the obstacles that prevent me from experiencing the actual world; I can remove, slowly and meticulously, the stuff that the identity consists of. I can investigate into each belief, each hope, faith and ‘truth’, examine experientially each feeling and emotion that is triggered by people or situations, until I finally uncover the bare animal instincts. By that time the ‘grey arrows’ have become rather thin and transparent so that the ‘green arrows’ of ‘what I am’ can be more and more clearly experienced.
During the first year on the path to Actual Freedom I could clearly distinguish when a PCE started and when it ended. It was like a chandelier had been switched on in a very dim room, and suddenly everything was stunningly clear and obvious, the emotional problems from minutes before suddenly disappeared and – if I wanted to – I could also determine which problem and belief to tackle next.
In Virtual Freedom the situation is a bit different. The size of the ‘grey arrows’ diminished and the ‘green arrows’ – ‘what I am’ – becomes more and more prevalent and apparent. The days are filled with delight, hardly any emotions interfere with my happiness and life itself becomes more and more obvious, there are neither problems to solve nor insights to achieve. I simply know that every belief is wrong just because it is a belief – it is only a question of ‘where’ or ‘how’ this belief is false. At this stage, the instincts can be clearly seen for what they are – chemical surges of the dying entity. When the ‘who I think and feel I am’ becomes so weak and transparent, a pure consciousness experience is not as outstanding and not as sought after as in the beginning.
But PCEs are not my main concern now. My main concern is the ending of ‘me’. My main concern is sitting it out and enjoying the final jerks of the dying identity as much as possible, with as little emotional worry or fear as possible. Life is fantastic as it is, I know my direction as clearly as I can see the moon in a cloudless sky. Now there is no question of going off-track, which had been one of my biggest worries, and now there is no question about the inevitability of success. All the ‘grey arrows’ only point in one direction and that is towards the ‘pop’.
And so everything is perfectly perfect, and utterly normal, deliciously excellent and thrillingly delightful – with sometimes the curious experience that I want to stop being here because it gets all too much – but that seems to have become impossible. So I go for a walk, jump up and down and then ‘give in’ to enjoying the thrill of it all. Vineeto, Actual Freedom Mailing List, Alan(d) 26.9.1999
Peter: After our conversation the other day, I have been musing a bit about the word freedom and what it means to most people.
The dictionary provides a reasonably straightforward definition and for an actualist the pertinent section is freedom ‘from’, as in –
Thus a freedom from the human condition is ‘The state of not being affected by (a defect, disavantage, etc.), exemption’ , from the human condition. Given that the salient attributes of the human condition are malice and sorrow, a more pragmatic definition is an actual freedom from malice and sorrow.
Much confusion arises for the seeker of freedom, peace and happiness for the word freedom traditionally means something quite different. In spiritual terms, freedom means an escape from, or release from, something undesirable – life as-it-is, in the world as-it-is, right here and right now – and the discovery of, or realization of, a more desirable somewhere else – being ‘present’ in the spiritual world, anyplace but here and anytime but now. I am having a correspondence with an awakened spiritual teacher at the moment that well illustrates this difference –
There seems to be a very deep-set misunderstanding that arises even from the running of the question ‘ How am I experiencing this moment of being alive ?’ for the traditional approach would be – am ‘I’ feeling safe and comfortable ‘inside’ this body despite what is happening in the rock-solid world ‘out there’? This approach to the question merely perpetuates the self as an entity that is separate from the actual world, it does nothing to actively demolish and break down the barriers that prevents one as a mortal flesh and blood body being fully immersed in and engaged in the business of doing what is happening, right here and now in the physical, rock-solid actual world. This actual freedom is 180 degrees opposite to the spiritual freedom which is the escape from being here, right now in this the only moment one can experience being alive.
An exchange I recently had with another correspondent illustrates a further aspect of spiritual belief about the actual physical world where we flesh and blood humans actually live –
Again this exchange illustrates that actualism lies 180 degrees in the opposite direction to spiritualism. I don’t seek an escape from being here, now in the actual world – I seek to break free from all that prevents me from being here. In the case above, to do this means breaking free of the spiritual belief that material comfort is the cause of our misery – a deeply cynical and perverse view of life on earth that merely perpetuates human suffering.
We were chatting the other day about the marked difference between being here, doing what is happening and the feeling of not being here that can cause a frustration with life as-it-is. The frustration with life as-it-is, right here and now, most often causes a passionate desire to be somewhere else which serves only to prevent one from being here. For an actualist, any period of time spent not being here is clearly a waste of time. Any time spent being bored, angry, pissed off, feeling sad, lack luster, annoyed, etc. is time wasted time lost from fully living this the only moment one can experience being alive. All of these ‘time-offs’ have to be explored and investigated and understood so as to prevent the same old ‘time-outs’ occurring in the future. It takes a bit of practice and a lot of effort and attention as to ‘how’ am I experiencing this moment of being alive, but pretty soon one gets the hang of it.
Soon one finds that a switch has been made from being resentful at having to be here to resenting and wanting to eliminate whatever it is that prevents one from being here.
Being a bit lazy, I’ll post another bit from a recent correspondence that illustrates this point –
There is a world of difference from the spiritual freedom of feeling that one is here, and actually being here. It does take a bloody-mindedness to continually break from the habit of lazing back into commonly held beliefs and resentments about the impossibility of life being easy in this actual world. The only way to do this is to actively investigate and understand all of the beliefs, morals, ethics, psittacisms, feelings and passions that actively conspire to prevent one’s freedom. Of course, given that these dearly-held attributes are all that ‘I’ am made of, this process is actually a process of ‘self’-immolation which is why it lacks popular appeal and is stubbornly refuted and objected to by spiritual escapists.
Just a post-script to add some clarity about being here as it applies during the process to becoming actually free from the human condition. At the beginning of the process the difference between the pure consciousness experience and normal life is so extreme that the PCE clearly is experienced as being another world. Given that ‘who one is’ is a fully developed psychological and psychic entity living in a psychological and psychic construct of real-world and spiritual world beliefs, the self-less experience of the actual world has to appear other-worldly when one returns to normal. The marked similarity between the actual world and the real world is the physicality of both, whereas the vast difference between the actual world and the spiritual world is the physicality of the actual world and the ethereality of the spiritual world.
This difference gives one the clue to where purity and perfection really lie – in the self-less state, and not in the self-realized state. With this knowledge as one’s touchstone one then sets about the business of actively demolishing one’s self, and this process, if undertaken with pure intent, means that each time one experiences a PCE the marked and startling difference between the experience and normal is reduced in proportion to the work done in the mean time. This can initially be quite disconcerting for what one sets out to do was to go ‘there’ – to the world experienced in the PCE whereas what one in fact is experiencing is the diminishing of one’s self to the point where one is coming here to the actual world and to this actual moment. It’s cute stuff and absolutely fascinating to experience. I experienced it as a half-way point – a sort of turning around 180 degrees from wanting to escape from here to there to wanting to be here. This is a literal tearing away from humanity, from both grim reality and escapist Reality. Then, as I said to No. 8 –
Vineeto: I followed up a few thoughts the other day, which might be useful to you or others.
I started my investigation about the feeling of impatience. Impatience has always been one of the driving forces in my life and kept me going, counteracting the innate inertia to get me back on the track of what I wanted to achieve. But the more I am actually here and enjoying life, the more the feeling of impatience becomes a nuisance and is, in fact, preventing me from enjoying what is happening here in this moment.
Of course, for most of the process on the path to an actual freedom I need a lot of impatience, a burning discontent and dissatisfaction with life as it is and with the second rate compromise of living that both real-world and spiritual-world solutions have on offer. But with the incremental dismantling of all the emotions that constitute my self I come to understand the role that impatience is playing now – preventing ‘me’ from disappearing.
The main fuel for this feeling of impatience comes from the notion that there is something better ‘out there’, in the future – that magic ingredient that will then make life as perfect as the ending of children’s fairytale – and then they lived happily ever after. And yet it is this very feeling of impatience, that particular bit of my ‘self’, that prevents me from the sensate-only experiencing the perfection of this moment.
Impatience is the ‘self’ telling the ‘self’ to go away in order for life to be perfect thereafter. What a furphy! Who am I trying to fool? This is what cunningness in action looks like. It is fascinating to see the self splitting itself into two yet again in order to pretend that there is change happening without really having to change anything. Seeing through the charade, I experience the thrill that accompanies the shift from a furphy to an actual experience, from ‘feeling impatient’ to actively dismantling the ‘self’, from stepping out of the ‘real’ world to arriving here. I understand that the only way to approach self-immolation is by welcoming the death of ‘me’ with free will, open arms and a full YES. It is a magic formula, that turning around 180 degrees again, a yes to immolation rather than a no to life as it is.
When death is welcome with the same thrilling anticipation as a sexual playmate then I know I am on the right track.
So impatience gets replaced by an understanding of redundancy – the more I experientially understand about the human condition the more ‘I’ become redundant because life in the actual world is utterly safe and already perfect. ‘I’ am not needed to stay alive. The more I understand the chemical, psychological and psychic programming of the brain, the more I can see that this programming is outdated, faulty and redundant in every single aspect – ‘I’ am not needed at all. Virtual Freedom is the ongoing increasing experience of ‘my’ redundancy, kind of getting used to not interfering with perfection. The way I see it now is that death is simply an extension of this continuing discovery of ‘me’, the spoiler, being redundant, turning 98% redundancy to 99% and 99% to 100% … … pop.
The only way I can reach this 100% redundancy is by being here all the time, doing what is happening without emotionally interfering – and if there is an emotion, then investigating it, nutting it out, sitting it out, thinking it through, understanding its follies and furphies. In the end, every emotion is understood as nothing but an objection to and fear of being here – and an objection to being redundant as an entity.
I am reminded of Richard’s writing:
To begin to experience embracing death is exquisitely delicious like an orgasm.
A death sought after, because of frustration with being here, can only lead to an Altered State of Consciousness because a strong negative feeling can only produce a strong good feeling as a chemical balancing act. A similar balancing act happened when my frustration with real life had lead me to fall in love with a spiritual master twenty years ago – I was desperate to escape the ‘real’ world, eager to seek a feel-good recipe to get out of ‘real’ life.
Self-immolation is different in quality, a more and more dispassionate, yet utterly sensate and thrilling experience. In the process of experientially understanding my tender and savage instinctual passions in operation they lose their grip, fire and reality … and finally their credibility, until I simply observe a process of chemicals rising and subsiding.
A Down-to-Earth Freedom from the Human Condition – Happy and Harmless in this Lifetime
Diagrams & Richard’s & Peter’s & Vineeto’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.