The Poetry of T.S. Eliot: Selected Passages

Originally posted on Being & Consciousness:

 T.S. Eliot won the Nobel Peace Prize for his poetry and literature.  His poetic masterpiece, ‘The Wasteland’ (1922), is a long and sometimes difficult poem.  It is widely considered the greatest poem of the 20th Century.  T.S. Eliot was American by birth, but chose to move to England to study and he never left.  I have included the opening verse of ‘The Wasteland’.  These lines are beautiful and intriguing.  Enjoy them.  I hope they inspire you to read the entire poem. Notes regarding the writing of  ‘The Wasteland': T.S. Eliot had been diagnosed with some form of nervous disorder and been recommended to take a rest.  He applied for three months’ leave from the bank where he was employed due to a nervous breakdown.   He and his first wife, Vivienne Eliot, travelled to the coastal resort of Margate for a period of convalescence. While there, Eliot worked on…

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The Poetry of T.S. Eliot: Selected Passages

 T.S. Eliot won the Nobel Peace Prize for his poetry and literature.  His poetic masterpiece, ‘The Wasteland’ (1922), is a long and sometimes difficult poem.  It is widely considered the greatest poem of the 20th Century.  T.S. Eliot was American by birth, but chose to move to England to study and he never left.  I have included the opening verse of ‘The Wasteland’.  These lines are beautiful and intriguing.  Enjoy them.  I hope they inspire you to read the entire poem. Notes regarding the writing of  ‘The Wasteland': T.S. Eliot had been diagnosed with some form of nervous disorder and been recommended to take a rest.  He applied for three months’ leave from the bank where he was employed due to a nervous breakdown.   He and his first wife, Vivienne Eliot, travelled to the coastal resort of Margate for a period of convalescence. While there, Eliot worked on the poem, briefly returned to London, then, with his wife, travelled to Paris in November 1921.  In Paris, he stayed with his friend, the poet Ezra Pound.  After Paris, T.S. Eliot headed for Switzerland for rest at a sanatorium.  His wife, Vivianne, stayed in Paris.  In Lausanne, Eliot produced a 19-page version of the poem then returned to London in early January 1922. T.S. Eliot was also a student of the indigenous Indian language of Sanskrit. His interest in and respect for India’s spiritual tradition is reflected in his poetry. The Waste Land April is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain. Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers. Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade, And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, And drank coffee, and talked for an hour. ——— Unreal City, Under the brown fog of a winter dawn, A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many, I had not thought death had undone so many, Sighs short and infrequent, were exhaled, And each man fixed his eyes before his feet. Flowed up the hill and down King William Street, To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine. ——— ‘On Margate Sands, I can connect Nothing with nothing. The broken fingernails of dirty hands. My people humble people who expect Nothing.’ The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherised upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells : Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an overwhelming question… Preludes The winter evening settles down With smell of steaks in passageways. Six o’clock. The burnt-out ends of smoky days. And now a gusty shower wraps The grimy scraps Of withered leaves about your feet And newspapers from vacant lots; The showers beat On broken blinds and chimney-pots, And at the corner of the street A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps. And then the lighting of the lamps. ——— His soul stretched tight across the skies That fade behind a city block, Or trampled by insistent feet At four and five and six o’clock; And short square fingers stuffing pipes, And evening newspapers, and eyes Assured of certain certainties, The conscience of a blackened street Impatient to assume the world. I am moved by fancies that are curled Around these images, and cling : The notion of some infinitely gentle Infinitely suffering thing. The Hollow Men A penny for the Old Guy We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats’ feet over broken glass In our dry cellar Shape without form, shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion; Those who have crossed With direct eyes, to death’s other Kindgom Remember us — if at all — not as lost violent souls, but only As the hollow men The stuffed men. Eyes I dare not meet in dreams In death’s dream kingdom these do not appear : There, the eyes are Sunlight on a broken column There, is a tree swinging And voices are In the wind’s singing More distant and more solemn Than a fading star. Let me be no nearer In death’s dream kingdom Let me also wear Such deliberate disguises Rat’s coat crowskin, crossed staves In a field Behaving as the wind behaves No nearer — Not that final meeting In the twilight kingdom. This is the dead land This is cactus land Here the stone images Are raised, here they receive The supplication of a dead man’s hand Under the twinkle of a fading star. Is it like this In death’s other kingdom Waking alone At the hour when we are Trembling with tenderness Lips that would kiss Form prayers to broken stone. The eyes are not here There are no eyes here In this valley of dying stars In this hollow valley This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms In this last of meeting places We grope together And avoid speech Gathered on this beach of the tumid river Sightless, unless The eyes reappear As the perpetual star Multifoliate rose Of death’s twilight kingdom The hope only of empty men. Here we go round the prickly pear Prickly pear prickly pear Here we go round the prickly pear At five o’clock in the morning. Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom Between the conception And the creation Between the emotion And the response Falls the Shadow Life is very long Between the desire And the spasm Between the potency And the existence Between the essence And the descent Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom For Thine is Life is For Thine is the This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper. Ash-Wednesday Because I do not hope to turn again Because I do not hope Because I do not hope to turn Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope I no longer strive to strive towards such things (Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?) Why should I mourn The vanished power of the usual reign? ——— Because I know that time is always time And place is always and only place And what is actual is actual only for one time And only for one place I rejoice that things are as they are and I renounce the blessed face And renounce the voice Because I cannot hope to turn again Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something Upon which to rejoice And pray to God to have mercy upon us And I pray that I may forget These matters that with myself I too much discuss Too much explain Because I do not hope to turn again Let these words answer For what is done, not to be done again May the judgement not be too heavy upon us Because these wings are no longer wings to fly But merely vans to beat the air The air which is now thoroughly small and dry Smaller and dryer than the will Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still. ——— If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent If the unheard, unspoken Word is unspoken, unheard; Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard, The Word without a word, the Word within The world and for the world; And the light shone in darkness and Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled About the centre of the silent Word. ——— Although I do not hope to turn again Although I do not hope Although I do not hope to turn Wavering between the profit and the loss In this brief transit where the dreams cross The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying (Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things From the wide window towards the granite shore The with sails still fly seaward, seaward flying Unbroken wings Eyes that last I saw in tears Eyes that last I saw in tears Through division Here in death’s dream kingdom The golden vision reappears I see the eyes but not the tears This is my affliction. This is my affliction Eyes I shall not see again Eyes of decision Eyes I shall not see unless At the door of death’s other kingdom Where, as in this The eyes outlast a little while A little while outlast the tears And hold us in derision. Burnt Norton Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation. What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present. Footfalls echo in the memory Down the passage which we did not take Towards the door we never opened Into the rose-garden. My words echo Thus, in your mind. But to what purpose Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves I do not know. Other echoes Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow? ——— …human kind Cannot bear very much reality, Time past and time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end which is always present. ——— At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. I can only say, there we have been : but I cannot say where. And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time. The inner freedom from the practical desire, The relase from action and suffering, release from the inner And the outer complusion, yet surrounded By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving, Erhebung without motion, concentration Without elimination, both a new world And the old made explicit, understood In the completion of its partial ecstasy, The resolution of its partial horror. Yet the enchainment of past and future Woven in the weakness of the changing body, Protects mankind from heaven and damnation Which flesh cannot endure. Time past and time future Allow but a little consciousness, To be conscious is not to be in time But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden, The moment in the arbour where the rain beat, The moment in the draughty church at smokefall Be remembered ; involved with past and future. Only through time time is conquered. ——— Here is a place of disaffection Time before and time after In a dim light : neither daylight Investing form with lucid stillness Turning shadow into transient beauty With slow rotation suggesting permanence Nor darkness to purify the soul Emptying the sensual with deprivation Cleansing affection from the temporal. Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker Over the strained time-ridden faces Distracted from distraction by distraction Filled with fancies and empty of meaning Tumid apathy with no concentration men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind That blows before and after tinme, Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs Time before and time after. Eructation of unhealthy souls Into the faded air, the torpid Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London, Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney, Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here Not here the darkness, in this twittering world. Descend lower, descend only Into the world of perptual solitude, World not world, but that which is not world, Internal darkness, deprivation And destitution of all property, Desiccation of the world of sense, Evacuation of the world of fancy, Inoperancy of the world of spirit; This is the one way, and the other Is the same, not in movement But abstention from movement; while the world moves In appetency, on its metalled ways Of time past and time future. ——— Words move, music moves Only in time ; but that which is only living Can only die. Words, after speech, reach Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern, Can words or music reach The stillness, as a Chinese jar still Moves perpetually in its stillness. Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts, Not that only, but the co-existence, Or say that the end precedes the beginning, And the end and the beginning were always there Before the beginning and after the end. And all is always now. Words strain, Crack and sometimes break, under the burden, Under the tension, slip, slide, perish, Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place, Will not stay still. Shrieking voices Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering, Always assail them. The Word in the desert Is most attacked by voices of temptation, The crying shadow in the funeral dance, The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera. The detail of the pattern is movement, As in the figure of the ten stairs. Desire itself is movement Not in itself desirable; Love is itself unmoving, Only the cause and end of movement, Timeless, and undesiring Except in the aspect of time Caught in the form of limitation Between un-being and being. Sudden in the shaft of sunlight Even while the dust moves There rises the hidden laughter Of children in the foliage Quick now, here, now, always — Ridiculous the waste sad time Stretching before and after. East Coker In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls Across the open field, leaving the deep lane Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon, Where you lean against a bank while a van passes, And the deep lane insists on the direction Into the village, in the electric heat Hypnotized. In a warm haze the sultry light Is absorbed, not refracted, by grey stone. The dahlias sleep in the empty silence. Wait for the early owl. ——— Dawn points, and another day Prepares for heat and silence. Out at sea the dawn wind Wrinkles and slides. I am here Or there, or elsewhere. In my beginning. ——— I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you Which shall be the darkness of God. As, in a theatre, The lights are extinguished, for the scene to be changed With a hollow rumble of wings, with a movement of dark- ness on darkness, And we know that the hills and the trees, the distant panorama and the bold imposing facade are all being rolled away — Or as, when an underground train, in the tube, stops too long between stations And the conversation rises and slowly fades into silence And you see behind every face the mental emptiness deepen Leaving only the growing terror of nothing to think about; Or when, under ether, the mind is conscious but conscious of nothing — I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing ; wait without love For love would be love of the wrong thing ; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought : So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry, The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony Of death and birth. You say I am repeating Something I have said before. I shall say it again. Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there, To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not, You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy. In order to arrive at what you do not know You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance. In order to possess what you do not possess You must go by the way of dispossession. In order to arrive at what you are not You must go through the way in which you are not. And what you do not know is the only thing you know And what you own is what you do not own And where you are is where you are not. ——— Home is where one starts from. As we grow older The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated Of dead and living. Not the intense moment Isolated, with no before and after, But a lifetime burning in every moment And not the lifetime of one many only But of old stones that cannot be deciphered. There is a time for the evening under starlight, A time for the evening under lamplight (The evening with the photograph album). Love is most nearly itself When here and now cease to matter. Old men ought to be explorers Here or there does not matter We must be still and still moving Into another intensity For a further union, a deeper communion Through the dark cold and the empty desolation, The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning. The Dry Salvages I sometimes wonder if that is what Krishna meant — Among other things — or one way of putting the same thing : That the future is a faded song, a Royal Rose or a lavender spray Of wistful regret for those who are not yet here to regret, Pressed between yellow leaves of a book that has never been opened. And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back. ——— ‘O voyagers, O seamen, You who came to port, and you whose bodies Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea, Or whatever event, this is your real destination.’ So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna On the field of battle. Not fare well, But fare forward, voyagers. ——— Men’s curiosity searches past and future And clings to that dimension. But to apprehend The point of intersection of the timeless With time, is an occupation for the saint — No occupation either, but something given And taken, in a lifetime’s death in love, Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender. For most of us, there is only the unattended Moment, the moment in and out of time, The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight, The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply That it is not heard at all, but you are the music While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses Hints followed by guesses ; and the rest Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action. The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarna- tion. Here the impossible union Of spheres of existence is actual, Here the past and future Are conquered, and reconciled, Where action were otherwise movement Of that which is only moved And has in it no source of movement — Driven by daemonic, chthonic Powers. And right action is freedom From past and future also. Little Gidding If you came this way, Taking the route you would be likely to take From the place you would be likely to come from, If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness. It would be the same at the end of the journey, If you came at night like a broken king, If you came by day not knowing what you came for, It would be the same, when you leave the rough road And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for Is only a shell, a husk of meaning From which the purpose breaks only when it is fufilled If at all. Either you had no purpose Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places Which also are the world’s end, some at the sea jaws, Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city — But this is the nearest, in place and time, Now and in England. If you came this way, Taking any route, starting from anywhere, At any time or at any season, It would always be the same : you would have to put off Sense and notion. You are not here to verify, Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity Or carry report. You are here to kneel Where prayer have been valid. And prayer is more Than an order of words, the conscious occupation Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying. And what the dead had no speech for, when living, They can tell you, being dead : the communication Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living. Here, the intersection of the timeless moment Is England and nowhere. Never and always. ——— What we call the beginning is often the end And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from. And every phrase And sentence that is right (where every word is at home, Taking its place to support the others, The word neither diffident nor ostentatious, An easy commerce of the old and the new, The common word exact without vulgarity, The formal word precise but not pedantic, The complete consort dancing together) Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning, Every poem an epitaph. And any action Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat Or to an illegible stone : and that is where we start. We die with the dying : See, they depart, and we go with them. We are born with the dead : See, they return, and bring us with them. The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree Are of equal duration. A people without history Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel History is now and England. With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. Through the unknown, remembered gate When the last of earth left to discover Is that which was the beginning; At the source of the longest river The voice of the hidden waterfall And the children in the apple-tree Not known, because not looked for But heard, half-heard, in the stillness Between two waves of the sea. Quick now, here, now, always — A condition of complete simplicity (Costing not less than everything) And all shall be well and All manner of things shall be well When the tongues of flames are in-folded Into the crowned know of fire And the fire and the rose are one.

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The Primacy Of Consciousness: An Essay On The Composition Of Experience

“The Self, the true Consciousness of Siva, shines as endless space within my Heart, as my very existence, beyond the reach of objective knowledge.”   – Sri Muruganar (1893 – 1973)

Experience Predicates Existence

The starting point of human understanding is the indisputable fact of experience. Experience is the alpha and omega of our earthly life. The content* of experience, whether truth or illusion, does not alter the fact that experience exists. There is experience, therefore there is existence: experience predicates existence. What exists is experience and its contents: experience is constituted of content.
* In the sense of ‘awareness of _____’

The meaning of the word ‘experience’ is not delimited to ‘my’ experience or even ‘your’ experience, which is what common sense unconsciously assumes. The possessive adjective ‘my’ is a qualification mentally superimposed upon an impersonal substratum of experience. In fact, impersonal experience, where there is neither subject nor object, functions at a more fundamental level than the personal, ‘I-other’ experience with which we are familiar. Rather, it is an awareness of being: a being that is neither a thing nor not a thing, but rather an ‘is-ness’.

Outside of direct experience, any other mode of existence is subject to doubt. We may infer that some thing exists beyond our immediate experience, but we can never prove it beyond all doubt. If you and I were to meet face to face, all we would know indubitably about each other is what we directly experience in that meeting. Upon parting we would each undoubtedly assume the continued existence of the other even though no longer within range of the senses. Such assumptions however, are not indubitable.

Beyond direct experience, there is necessarily an element of doubt about the continued existence of what has been experienced. If we are not experiencing something directly, how can we be certain it exists? Others may testify that it does exist and we may hear it directly from their own lips, but how do we know that their testimony is still valid at the current moment when it is being uttered? And even though we experience the same object or person again and again, we have no guarantee that a further reappearance will occur.

Impersonal Experience Is ‘Something-ness’

It is evident that the starting point for a description of the world — a description which includes the idea of the self — is a ground of indeterminate, unqualified experience most accurately characterized by the word ‘something-ness’. The term ‘something-ness’ does not presuppose the subject-object duality inherent in other terms such as ‘thing-ness’, ‘my-ness’ or ‘other-ness’. The dualistic thought or feeling or conviction that ‘I’ am the experiencer experiencing something other than myself rests upon a non-dualistic foundation of impersonal experience.

Indeterminate Experience Is Composed Of Impressions

While it is evident that experience in its differentiated state is composed of objects and events standing in relation to an experiencing ‘I’-subject, experience in its indeterminate state is present as a mass of unrelated impressions (see definition below*) that precede any sense of an observing or experiencing ego-self. Consider, for example, those occasions between sleeping and waking when there is consciousness of movement, sound, colour, etc, yet all is incomprehensible. There is a sense of ‘am-ness’ but no sense of a personal ‘I’, and nothing is familiar or has relatedness; rather, there is simply an impersonal awareness that something is happening. Similarly, those advanced in the practice of deep meditation note that there is a moment (or moments) between the thinking state of ordinary consciousness and the transcendent state of pure Consciousness in which something indeterminate is appearing, but not to a thinking or apprehending subject. In this state, the subject-as-locus has disappeared while an impersonal, non-local ‘witness’ remains. This witness is actually the unbounded Self (Atman) of Yoga.
* Impressions: indeterminate, unrelated occurrences having no discernible cause

The Notion Of ‘Sense-data’ Is Inferred

In fact, before the universe of subject and objects comes into being as the dominant content, experience in its primal form manifests as undifferentiated raw data which we have termed, ‘impressions’. We utilize the word ‘impressions’ to avoid the presumption of five physical senses feeding sense-data to the mind. The notion of senses feeding data is in actuality an inference which makes up an important part of our description of the world. It also explains to a large degree how we make up this description. Nevertheless, an inference is a conceptual assumption rather than a direct experience and is therefore subject to doubt. Impressions themselves cannot be doubted as they are simply what is being presented in consciousness.

For the present, therefore, we will presuppose nothing and accept only what is immediately present and unformulated. It is this early, undeveloped stage of experience which establishes the fact of existence, for in the absence of these unformulated impressions there can be no experience and ‘ipso facto’, no positing of existence, either ‘a priori’ or ‘a posteriori’.

Experience Predicates Consciousness

Where there is experience, there is necessarily consciousness: experience predicates consciousness. In the absence of consciousness there can be no experience, as in the state of deep sleep when consciousness gives way to unconsciousness and, simultaneously, experience disappears. In fact, we could argue that experience is consciousness undergoing apparent modifications while remaining what it is — i.e., consciousness.

Consciousness Is The Ground Of Experience

Unformulated impressions are not objects, nor is there any self-conscious subject apprehending them. They comprise undifferentiated experience (something-ness) and cannot be distinguished, in any conceptual sense, from consciousness. Furthermore, while experience is consciousness, the converse is not necessarily true — i.e., consciousness is not always experience. Thus the two terms are not tautological since while experience predicates consciousness, consciousness does not predicate experience. In other words, consciousness is the ultimate ground of all experience, not the converse.

Reality Of Pure Consciousness Established By Vedanta

The various systems of Yoga have established that through meditation it is possible to attain a state of pure consciousness — i.e., one void of impressions. The Sanskrit term for this state is ‘nirvikalpa samadhi’, meaning consciousness without qualities or, alternatively, consciousness without any form of appearance. Nirvikalpa samadhi is a state that transcends both the conscious state of experience and the unconscious state of deep sleep. A precise definition of this and related states of consciousness has been has been succinctly worked out in the major texts of advaita Vedanta, as well as in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a treatise predating Christ and the most authoritative work of Yoga philosophy and practice.

Consciousness Is The Ultimate Ground Of All Phenomena

Impressions, which have their being in consciousness, are the foundation of all empirical knowledge. Experience, in the form of indeterminate impressions, is the primal manifestation of consciousness: a manifestation that is prerequisite to consciousness becoming intuitively — i.e., as distinct from conceptually, self-aware. Consciousness is the ground and support of impressions and, in turn, impressions are the ground of a world of objects and events of which to be conscious.


Impressions and consciousness, as the inseparable constituents of experience, together constitute the ground of a determinate world-appearance. Their relationship, within the context of experience, is one of identity. Impressions have no being independent of consciousness, but rather have their being as appearing. As such, they are more accurately referred to as ‘consciousness-impressions’.

The Intuition Of Consciousness Precedes Its Concept

In the primal condition of non-dual, indeterminate experience there is neither an observing subject nor an observed object. Consciousness is not conceptually self-aware — i.e., as the thought, ‘I am conscious’, but subsists as an unbroken unity free of the ‘observer-observed’ duality. As established by Vedanta, consciousness will persist with or without the impressions, but in order for the intuition or awareness of consciousness to arise there must be some alternating between the two states of consciousness-impressions and consciousness-by-itself — i.e., without impressions. How is this? Simply put by analogy, in order to know darkness one must know its opposite, light and order to know light one must know darkness. It is the juxtaposition of the two which creates awareness of the principle of light.

Similarly, it is the appearance and disappearance of impressions, such as occurs at the crossover between waking and sleeping, which produces the intuition of consciousness. Being awake means being conscious, regardless of the constantly changing contents of experience. When the contents of experience disappear with the onset of deep sleep so, apparently, does consciousness. Upon awakening there is a brief moment of consciousness-by-itself or pure consciousness (the nirvikalpa samadhi of deep meditation) followed immediately by consciousness-impressions. It is this juxtapositioning which gives rise to the intuition (as distinct from concept) of consciousness. The concept of consciousness arises with the crossover from consciousness-impressions to consciousness-of-things.

The Notion Of ‘I Am’

Consciousness revealed through impressions is immediate, undefined awareness without an object: it is consciousness-of-somethingness; it is not conceptual. Experience in the form of undifferentiated impressions incorporates the intuition of both consciousness and existence. It is this primal, non-conceptual revelation which serves as the basis for the subsequent birth of the notion of an experiencing ‘I’ or subject.

The twin concepts of existence and consciousness arise as a later development following the birth of conceptual self-awareness in the form of the thought-feeling, ‘I am’. This self-aware ‘I am’ personalizes the awareness of existence and consciousness as ‘I exist’, ‘I am conscious’. Thus, the intuitions of existence and consciousness which were pre-thoughts now take form conceptually as: ‘I am, therefore I exist’ and ‘I am, therefore I am conscious’.

‘I Am’ Is The Locus Of The World-appearance

The thought, ‘I am’ is the primal thought of the phenomenal universe. Without it there is no possibility of formulating a description of the world, for the world-appearance is a complex of objects and events which demand an observer and a locus in order to be known. This observer/locus is ‘I am’. Neither the observer nor the observed can come into being independently. They are mutually dependent, for without a locus there are no observed objects and without an object there is no observing locus. The observer and the observed necessarily arise together as a mutually dependent subject-object dyad, in which the subject is the locus and objects make up its environment.

Existence And Consciousness Are Inferred

Indeterminate, simple impressions are a necessary yet insufficient condition for notions of consciousness and existence to arise. Although consciousness and existence are revealed by the contents of experience they cannot be directly observed. Not being directly observed, they are inferred. Their inference is analogous to the inference of light. No observer actually sees light, only colour. However, in the absence of light, there can be no colour. When there is light, there can be colour and it is though the experience of colour that light is inferred. Similarly, no-one actually sees either consciousness or existence, only objects, whether gross (sensory) or subtle (ideas, memories, etc.). In their absence there can be neither objects nor impressions nor any other form of experience. When they are present there can be objects, and it is through objective experience that both consciousness and existence are not merely intuited, but inferred conceptually. However, any inference requires both a thinking subject and an object of thought, therefore the birth of the ego or empirical self (‘I am’) is the sufficient condition for the notions of consciousness and existence.

The inferences of consciousness and existence are unlike the ordinary inferences of daily life. When we see smoke rising from behind a hill we will infer fire even though we do not see it directly. In all probability, our inference will be confirmed once we take a look behind the hill, but not necessarily. The smoke could turn out to be steam rising from the boilers of a factory. We know that these ordinary inferences are mere probabilities, whereas inferences of consciousness and existence are of a different order — i.e., they cannot be inferred directly from the data of the senses, as in the case of smoke and fire.

Consciousness and existence are not perceivable objects or events and we cannot confirm them empirically. Rather, they are of the nature of principles or ideas. We must assume them as ‘a priori’ truths, in the absence of which knowledge in any form would be impossible. Just as the visual appearance of a tree in the absence of light is inconceivable, equally inconceivable is the appearance of a thought or an object in the absence of either consciousness or existence. Inferences of consciousness and existence are ‘a priori’, whereas ordinary inferences, such as fire from smoke, are ‘a posteriori’. Ordinary inferences presuppose a causal connection (e.g., fire causes smoke) which may prove wrong. However, the ‘a priori’ inferences of consciousness and existence are the indisputable presuppositions of all experience, since in the absence of the former there is no possibility of the latter nor can the question of causality arise.

The thought-feeling of subjectivity (‘I am’) is the sufficient condition for the notions of consciousness and existence to arise, which take explicit form as the cognitions, ‘I am conscious’ and ‘I exist’. These cognitions are implicit in all cognitions of the subject-object form, such as ‘I am touching this chair’. The very statement, ‘I am touching this chair’ asserts existence and consciousness in both a personal, atomic form (‘I exist’, ‘I am conscious’) and an impersonal, universal form (‘there is existence’, ‘there is consciousness’). In fact, it is this act of cognition which upholds and reinforces the thought, ‘I am’, and which affirms the axiomatic notions of consciousness and existence.

No Proof That Impressions Have A Cause

Experience originates as simple consciousness-impressions. What is the cause of these impressions? We cannot say with certainty, since they are the most fundamental level of experience accessible to us. There is nothing in our direct experience which points undeniably to their cause or even proves they have a cause. Any theory we come up with, such as the theory that impressions are caused by a material, external world (which includes the physical senses) either impinging on or creating consciousness, must always remain a possibility since such a world is an inferred world and not one which we can know directly or prove absolutely. Thus, the world that we do know without qualification is the world of experience itself and not any other world.

And so we are left the intriguing question: ‘Does any thing exist beyond experience itself?’ This is one of the oldest and most debated questions of philosophy. For the present, however, we will leave this topic aside and focus instead on how the world-appearance is brought into being.

Subject And Object Are Mutually Dependent

In the absence of impressions, as in deep sleep (unconsciousness) or nirvikalpa samadhi (pure consciousness) there is no experience of somethingness and therefore no possibility of a sense of subjectivity. Furthermore, without a determinate ‘thing’ arising from the indeterminate ground of somethingness there can be no awareness of an experiencing subject. It is not the impressions themselves that give rise to the subjective sense, but rather the objects and events that are formulated from impressions.

With the birth of the object comes, simultaneously, the birth of the subject, and vice versa. Object and subject are not entities separated by time and distance, nor does one cause the other: rather, they are born, coexist and disappear together. An object is any cognition of, for example, a concept, a memory or a physical entity, such as a tree. Any moment or act of cognition points in two directions simultaneously: one at the object, the other at the subject. It is only with the co-arrival of the subjective sense of I-ness and the objective sense of otherness that conceptions of consciousness and existence — i.e., ‘I am conscious’, ‘I exist’, are cognised. These cognitions are themselves subtle objects (ideas) coexisting with the sense of subjectivity (‘I am’). These subtle objects require a subject — i.e., they point to a cogniser. Equally, the cognising subject requires an object — i.e., it points to what is cognised.

Since both subtle and gross objects of cognition are continually appearing and transforming (either by subtle modification or by radical change) it is easy to make the mistake of assuming a stable, discrete subject who is experiencing a stream of unfolding events. This sense of an enduring, atomic subject is illusory, since at the moment in which all objective content disappears (as with the onset of deep sleep or the attainment of nirvikalpa samadhi) all sense of subjectivity disappears as well, thus putting into question the assertion of a persisting, independent locus of experience — i.e., subject, ego or empirical self. The subject must have an object in order to be self-aware. With the disappearance of objectivity, self-awareness vanishes also. Consciousness may remain, resting in its own luminosity, as in the case of nirvikalpa samadhi, but there will be no awareness of a discrete ‘I’ — i.e., observer, experiencer, knower, thinker, etc.

No Proven Cause For The ‘Subject-Object’ Dyad

Since subject and object arise simultaneously, having therefore no causal relationship, we must consider the possibility of an alternative causal factor or impetus which gives rise to this dyad. One such possibility, for example, could be a biologically driven urge in the newborn to survive. Such an innate, biological ‘program’ could trigger a sense of ‘I-ness’ simultaneously with an awareness of the mother’s breast as means of survival. Such a hypothesis, however, presupposes an external, material reality underlying all appearance. Such a supposition is an inference and, admittedly, a very powerful one, but does not have the absolute certainty of direct experience. All such theories legitimately fall into the domain of the empirical sciences, to be alternatively validated, modified or rejected through further research, and all such theories — however credible — remain subject to doubt.

Objects Are Configurations Of Impressions

Having put forward the proposition that consciousness-impressions are the indeterminate ground from which the determinate subject-object dyad emerges, we will examine more closely how impressions are transformed into objects. An impression is any specific data that, when collocated with other specific data produces differentiation in an otherwise indeterminate field of somethingness. Impressions form the raw data that constitute objects. Objects are complexes of impressions: configurations which take form in consciousness and are revealed as phenomena.

The various collocations of impressions constitute, collectively, the complex universe of objects and events which we know. This world-appearance includes, necessarily, both the objective and subjective aspects of experience, since all objects of knowledge exist in relation to a knowing subject. The world-appearance necessarily includes an empirical locus or subject, since it is impossible to even imagine a universe except from the point of view of a subject which is located somewhere and sometime within that same universe.

Impressions Become The ‘Qualities’ Of Objects

With the birth of objects arrives the naming of different categories of impressions: the major categories being the five types of sense-data, specifically colours (seeing), sounds (hearing), tactile sensations (touching), flavors (tasting) and odors (smelling). Terms such as ‘hard’, ‘salty’, ‘blue’, ‘screech’, etc., are names given to specific impressions which are members of these five categories of sense. The names given to impressions are themselves subtle objects (ideas) which serve to distinguish specific impressions from the indeterminate mass of somethingness to which they belong. Once we give a name to an impression we turn it into something it hitherto was not — i.e., a quality (e.g., hot, sweet, blue, etc), and this can occur only after the subject-object duality has arisen. Furthermore, in their indeterminate state, impressions cannot be singled out and named until a number of them have been collocated into an object, such as a chair. These collocated impressions become objectified and named once they are recognized as belonging to a larger, complex whole — i.e., object or event, perceived by a cognizing subject. All the various names we can give to impressions fall into a general category called ‘qualities’, and qualities exist by virtue of belonging to objects and events and their relations. The world of our experience is a composition composed of impressions which have been transformed into the now determinate qualities of objects and events which make up our description of the universe. Each of these qualities is given a name, as are the objects and events which they comprise: what Indian philosophy calls ‘namarupa’ — i.e., the world of name and form.

Objects Infer But Do Not Prove An External World

Once a group of impressions are collocated they are known collectively as an object or event which, generally, is regarded by common sense as having a substantial, independent existence. Through this process the object manifests as an apparent material reality quite distinct from the knowing subject. Common sense also assumes that this material reality exists independently of the knower. In fact, however, these collocations are essentially interpretations drawn from an indeterminate ground of impressions and, as with any interpretation, they are subject to doubt. Thus, the same collocation of impressions that at one moment is interpreted as ‘snake’ may a moment later be reinterpreted as ‘rope’. Once a group of impressions are configured or objectified, these hitherto unnamed, indeterminate, immaterial, simple elements of experience are transformed into the named, differentiated, material qualities of an object. In this way our objects become increasingly reified; that is to say, they solidify as apparently discrete, material entities, quite distinct from and independent of the knowing subject to whom, in truth, they belong.

Time And Space As Contexts For Change And Form

Along with this process of configuration and reification of the various phenomena comes awareness of change and form in their respective contexts of time and space: change occurring in time, and form occurring in space. A chair, for example, is a phenomenon which in the very act of creation is given duration and extension, as well as location, somewhere and sometime within the general contexts of time and space. Time and space, as contexts, are not visible yet are inferred through observation of changing states and relations pertaining to objects and events. So long as the phenomenon ‘chair’ is held in awareness the chair exists; should this interpretation cease, ‘chair’ will dissolve back into the elements from which it was configured. The appearance ‘chair’ is a configuration superimposed upon the underlying, indeterminate ground of consciousness-impressions. Nevertheless, it now appears as a materially solid and independent object laid on the original flux. Thus, all the objective phenomena of the world-appearance, from the furthest galaxies to the minutiae of the organism, from what is exterior to what is interieur to the observer, are configured from and rest upon this indeterminate ground.

Experience And Knowledge Not Different From Consciousness

This conclusion is not to be confused with solipsism, which asserts that nothing exists beyond the contents of the mind. Here we are saying that what exists beyond any doubt is experience, the content of which — including the idea of the self or subject — is not different from consciousness. Beyond experience there may or may not be other independent, existing things, but these will never be known directly and positively for knowledge itself is of the nature of experience and therefore consciousness. Knowledge of an apparently independent, external thing (such as a chair) is not the Kantian ‘thing-in-itself’, and if we try to assert that knowledge of a thing is the ‘thing-in-itself’, then that thing is neither independent nor external to the knowing consciousness.

However compelling the inference that experience reveals the existence of a reality independent of consciousness, such independence must remain forever a mere possibility since it can never be directly verified. Besides hypothesis and inference, there is no bridge between experience and a reality external to experience. Indirect verification through inference at best presents an arguable case for an external, material universe, but never proof.

The notion of external reality has heuristic value with regard to the physical sciences. It is this heuristic principal that allows for the development of technology and continued research at all levels — from the microscopic to the macroscopic. Nevertheless, while science or philosophy may posit a material universe standing outside of consciousness and functioning in some sort of structural and dynamic correspondence to the world of our direct experience, this will never be proven absolutely; and while it is useful for practical purposes to work with this hypothesis, it is invalid to regard it as an unassailable truth.

The Primacy Of Consciousness

In this essay I have endeavoured to show that impressions are the manifest ground of the world-appearance. Due, however, to the fact that our daily experience is dominated by the perception of objects and their relations, this underlying ground of indeterminate impressions is easily overlooked. We assume that what we are seeing, hearing or touching is the thing itself, rather than a collocation of consciousness-impressions appearing as matter –i.e., name and form (namarupa).

We have shown that impressions have no independent existence and that, indeed, they are not different from consciousness. For this reason we have stated that impressions are more accurately termed, ‘consciousness-impressions’. Additionally, we have pointed out that while consciousness is a necessary condition for impressions, impressions are not a necessary condition for consciousness. Consciousness will persist without or with impressions, as has been established through the ancient and well-documented systems of Yoga and Vedanta. Practitioners of these systems have consistently testified to the accessibility of pure consciousness (nirvikalpa samadhi): a state free from impressions, thoughts or any form of appearance.

I have also argued that impressions, as the fundamental constituents of experience, predicate both existence and consciousness. There are impressions, therefore there is existence — i.e., the existence of impressions. Furthermore, since impressions represent the most fundamental level of direct experience apart from consciousness itself, it is impossible to prove beyond any doubt whether their existence has been caused by something external to consciousness. External causes may be inferred, but all such inferential knowledge is unproven.

What can be affirmed, without doubt, is the being of impressions and the being of consciousness. The appearance of impressions predicates both consciousness and existence, not as a duality, but as a unity; that is, consciousness and existence are two terms for the same thing. I have also pointed out that impressions cannot manifest in the absence of consciousness, whereas consciousness exists with or without impressions. And this leads us, finally, to the conclusion that consciousness itself, being indisputable, is the certain ground of all experience, thereby giving it primacy over all other possibilities.

Author:  Duart Maclean

(Supreme Absolute Truth)


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Exerpts from The Undying Self: Vedic Wisdom in the New Millennium


Consciousness And The Self

“Weapons cannot cut It; fire cannot burn It; water cannot wet It; wind cannot dry It.”
— The Bhagavad-Gita, Ch 2, verse 23

We are the Self; we are Consciousness: the Self is pure Consciousness. All we are ever witnessing, hearing or touching is the Power of pure Consciousness. This world, which to our senses appears as an infinite number of objects separated by time and space, is merely a mass of energy. The Universe itself is a mass of energy. Name and form –i.e., ‘material objects’, are creations of our mind; the Reality is quite different. The Indian Sages call this energy Shakti or, alternatively, Prana.

The Self And The Soul

The Self is changeless Consciousness. The Self is everywhere present and ever Here and Now. The Self is not a transmigrating soul. Most religious people have difficulty with this, for nothing of the Self comes down, goes up or flies off to another world in the afterlife. The Self is recognized as what It is only when the veil of Ignorance that covers It is removed. We change; the Self never changes. It is we who carry the veil of ignorance that causes our suffering. Nothing every happens to the Self.

Body And Mind

The real meaning of ‘original sin’ is the thought, “I am this body.” It’s all downhill from there….until we start asking the question, “Who am I?”

Our physical life is very short, all of the elements that make the man are now dissolving, falling apart.

The brain acts as a delivery system, but the ‘moment’ of knowing belongs to Consciousness. The brain itself does not know.


The notions of mind, ego-self and a localized subject are superimposed on the substratum of Consciousness. Their reality is inferred, not proven. No-one actually sees or touches the mind, ego or subjective self. What is easily overlooked is that these ephemeral notions actually shape and structure the very experience from which their existence is inferred. Thus, they become self-fulfilling prophecies that arise in Consciousness. They sprout at the Place where energy begins to manifest in pure Consciousness.

The Watcher And The Witness

Both the watcher and his object are mental creations. The Self is their substratum, yet transcends both.

When the watcher is, in truth, Consciousness Itself, who is left to watch the watcher?

How can you turn to see who you are when who you truly are is the Witness of the watcher?

The watcher is illusory and unreal: he is a thought-form –i.e., the ego-self.


All recognition is based on memory; destroy memory and the world we think we know disappears.

The urge to recreate remembered pleasures in a future yet to come clouds the tranquility and expansiveness of the eternal Present.


The Universe is a fluid, dynamic architecture which is the living Creation of a supreme, yet unfathomable Creator. The intellect can stand in awe of its own Source but will never grasp It.

Sleeping And Dreaming

It is a truism that while a man is dreaming he does not know he is in a dream; he only knows upon awakening. Likewise, our waking state is a dream but we are not aware of this in the waking state. Only when we Awaken from the waking state will we know that we were dreaming.

Deep sleep is a mass of Consciousness covered by a blanket of ignorance. Consciousness is Reality and ignorance is the absence thereof.

Death And Immortality

The moment we are born, we are dying: ‘the body’, that is.

When we consider the many unpleasant ways there are to die, it makes more sense to pierce the illusion of dying rather than waste time planning our funeral.

The subtle body ‘departs’ with the death of the gross body: it does not die. This subtle body is not the Self. ‘Gross body’, ‘subtle body': these are relative things. The Self is Absolute.


What Is Being?

“Being is. Being is in-itself. Being is what it is.”
— Jean-Paul Sartre, philosopher, 1905 – 1980

“Man is the neighbour of Being.”
— Martin Heidegger, philosopher, 1889 – 1976

Being is the primal state of Love in which there is no ‘otherness’ to fear. Ultimately, there is no separateness, no duality. We must erase the dualistic programming that destroys our sanity and equilibrium, and return to our Original State.

The Supreme Being (Brahman)

This entire Cosmos is under the control of a Supreme Intelligence and there is nothing which operates independently of It. From the micro-cosmic to the macro-cosmic, the Universe is clearly a manifestation of Intelligence.


“Shiva is the Being assuming all forms and the Consciousness seeing them. That is to say, Shiva is the background underlying both the subject and the object. Everything has its being in Shiva and because of Shiva.”

The Absolute

“Quantum theory…reveals a basic oneness of the Universe. It shows that we cannot decompose the world into independently existing smallest units. As we penetrate into matter, nature does not show us any isolated ‘basic building blocks’, but rather appears as a complicated web of relations between the various parts of the whole.”
— Fritjof Capra, physicist, born 1939

The Universal flow arising within the Absolute remains within the Absolute. It has no place else to go. Nothing leaves the Absolute; nothing enters It. The Absolute is nowhere except ‘Here’ and at no time except ‘Now’.


The direct Experience of our own Existence shines as the mystic Silence and is the true Self behind the fictitious first person, ‘I’.

– Ramana Maharshi, Sage, 1879 – 1950


That which is finite has no relationship to That which is infinite, yet the measurable, relative finite exists within the immeasurable, absolute infinite.

The Source

Where does evolution lead? All evolution leads back to the Source. You are already That which you seek, so stop seeking. You are already That which you are becoming, so stop becoming. Nothing ever leaves the Source.

The Void

The Void is not a state of non-Being; emptiness is not  nothingness. Void is the extremely subtle space of pure infinite potentiality (akasha).


Self-Enquiry (“Who Am I?”)

“This proposition ‘I am’, ‘I exist’, whenever I utter it or conceive it in my mind is necessarily true.”
— Rene Descartes, philosopher/scientist, 1596 -1650

The true identity of the ‘I am’ is the Absolute: the same Absolute that is the true identity of the ‘I am’ of every person, animal, plant and insect with which we share this planet. Consciousness only ‘appears’ to be localized and individualized as John, Mary, the cat, the dog, etc. In reality It is simply One, reflected through many prisms called organisms. Consciousness Itself is identical with that pure Intelligence which is the ultimate Source of this Universe.


“He knows bliss in the Atman (Self) and wants nothing else. Cravings torment the heart; he renounces cravings. I call him illumined.”
— Krishna, ‘The Bhagavad-Gita’

Attaining Self-realization is primarily a function of intention, inner purity and Grace, not mental or physical capacity.

For the Self-realized, renunciation is not a vow, not a positive act of renouncing but rather the natural cessation of extraneous, misdirected activity arising from ignorance and delusion.


All of the religions and philosophies of the world cannot do for us what we can do for ourselves if we pause, think, reflect and most importantly, meditate.

Intuitive Experience is always present; the only obstacle is the overly conceptual mind. The practice of meditation will remove this obstacle.


Transcendence is neither interior nor exterior, neither below nor above.


The Self cannot be won by head-stands, spinal twists and Salutations to the Sun, although physical and mental health and stamina will improve.

Vedanta (‘The End Of Knowledge’)

The system of Vedanta, which is the culmination of the Vedic knowledge, cannot be reduced to philosophy, but Vedanta and philosophy can be excellent friends. Vedanta and physics are also well suited for each other. The great originators of quantum physics were all influenced by Vedanta.


Knowledge is different in different states of consciousness. Only the Sage truly understands this and knows how to deal with it. Everyone else argues and disagrees.

The Sage

The insights of Sages become the subject matter of theologians and philosophers. The few words spoken by these great beings are carefully preserved and treasured by humanity.

The Sage enters the egoless state by the final and utter extinction of the ego: the fictitious entity which is the primary ignorance.

The Sage affirms that birth is not truly birth, because we are born only to die; that death is not truly death, because we die only to be born. On the other hand, the attaining of the Natural State is true Birth, because then Death is dead once and for all.

For the Sage, Reality is a unified field, without temporal or spacial boundaries, in which He is included.


With regard to the notion of reincarnation, the vicious circle of deaths and rebirths is sustained only by the primary ignorance which is the Ego.


“Turn away from all scriptures; engage in the pure Yoga of Self-realization; being convinced that nothing excels this Supreme Knowledge, hold the mind from straying.”             — from ‘Atma Sakshatkara’, the Agamas

The Sages never seek to establish new religions. They only seek to release humanity from the painful, devastating grip of ignorance and illusion.



In the language of spirituality, Heart does not refer to the lump of flesh called by that name, but to the real Self, the original Consciousness.


Freedom has no roots other than pure Consciousness, that is why it is Freedom.

Give up the search for security, there is no security for the body. Such a desire is itself bondage. Nor is there security in wealth, fame or power.


True vision is not ordinary looking or seeing, nor is it imagination or dreaming; neither is it a product of rationality, logic or common sense. Vision arises from a place within us that is deeper than the intellect, deeper than
emotion, beyond perception.

Vision is natural; it is the absence of Vision that is an abnormal condition.

External World

What we call the ‘external world’ is simply Power (Shakti), and Power is not an object, a thing or ‘things’.

Our belief in an ‘external world’ is what deludes us into taking the world-appearance to be real, just as our belief in a pool of water in the desert deludes us into believing that the mirage is real. This illusion persists so long as we confuse appearance with Reality.


Some say, “This world we see, though constantly changing, must be real.” In truth, however, changelessness is a fundamental attribute of Reality, change itself being merely a flow of appearances similar to the play of light on a stationary movie screen or a flow of currents moving within a body of water. In both instances, neither the screen nor the body of water are altered by the play of images or the moving currents.

Name And Form

Form is activity; activity is form. Form is never static,
although it may appear to be.

Form undergoes constant transformation, and therefore form is not exactly real and not exactly unreal. Form itself is a manifestation of the Power of Consciousness, but it is the Power of Consciousness ‘within’ the form that is the Real.

Illusion (Maya)

We begin life with the belief that happiness can be had in and through what this world has to offer. And most people go on believing this for a very long time. It is the Great Delusion. It’s also true that service, as opposed to acquisition, brings a feeling of beatitude. What this world has to offer is the opportunity to serve.

If the world is real simply because it appears so to our senses, then a blue mirage in a hot, barren desert must be water.



The German physicist, Werner Heisenberg, established that the act of observation or measurement affects the phenomenon being observed or measured. He wrote: “What we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” In other words, the result is always tainted by the enquiry itself. With this insight he formulated his famous ‘indeterminacy principle’ which demolished the cherished notion of the scientist as a detached, objective observer.


“…unlike the self imagined by the logicians, the Self is not to be established by the mere means of the human intellect.”
–Adi Sankara, Sage/Philosopher, circa 8th century

Some materialist philosophers assert: “if there is no ‘consciousness of…’, then there is no consciousness.” But the Sages say: “If there is no Consciousness, then there is no ‘consciousness of…'”.

Matter And Substance

All matter is in a state of continual change, and therefore all matter is always in a state of becoming –i.e., becoming something else, hence transformation. All becoming occurs within Being, which in Itself remains eternally as it is: limitless, borderless, free.


The notion of Consciousness presents a great challenge to the empirical sciences, since It is not directly observable or measurable. Since It is non-sensuous, Its existence is actually beyond the scope of empiricism to either affirm or deny. Paradoxically, even the most hardcore empiricist will admit that in the absence of Consciousness he cannot think about, discuss or investigate anything.

The Finest Particle

Particles are mere appearance; there is no such ‘thing-in-itself’ as a particle. The notion of a finest particle is false: there are only appearances of points becoming waves becoming points becoming waves, ad infinitum. There are no finest, enduring sub-atomic particles, only extremely subtle, sub-atomic events that may briefly appear as points.


Shakti And Prana

Shakti, the Power inherent within the Absolute, manifests as Prana. Prana is the totality of all energy: the bio-energy of all life-forms; the motor power of the mind-stuff; the primal force of the Universe. Whatever exists, whatever manifests, is Prana in one form or another.


What we call an object or event is simply movement, and movement is simply vibration appearing to be solid or actual. What appears actual is, in fact, the flux or vibration arising within Being-Consciousness. There is no solidity or substance to vibration.

Consciousness, while itself neither moving nor unmoving, permeates vibration and appears to be vibrating as subject and object. This is a false superimposition.

Our human consciousness is a pale reflection of pure Consciousness. We have vastly more Power than we know.

There are no real objects, only Power ‘appearing’ as objects. From the microcosmic to the macrocosmic, Power itself is  totally fluid, only seeming to take the form of discrete objects. What appears to be a vast array of objects and events within physical space is really just ‘lumpiness‘ manifesting and unmanifesting within the plenum of Being-Consciousness, the Self.


Pure Consciousness

Consciousness Itself is…    

                     …’The still point of the turning world…’   T.S. Eliot, poet, 1888 – 1965

The one incontrovertible Reality is Awareness Itself, by Itself. Awareness stands alone and unsupported. We are that Awareness.

Consciousness can never become unconscious; It is the unchanging substratum of the waking, dreaming and sleeping states.

All worlds are private to their beholders, however what unites these worlds is not name or form or substance, but the pure Consciousness that underlies all diverse experience.


Consciousness knows Itself as Awareness.

Awareness is a manifestation of the illuminating Power of Consciousness.

Our true nature is called the Self because it is luminously and indivisibly Self-aware. The Self is neither more nor less than pure Consciousness. The Vedas state: “Thou art That.”


The great 20th century Western philosophers, such as Bertrand Russell, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, etc, have demonstrated little desire to learn from India’s Sages. There have been but a few exceptions, notably the 19th century philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788 – 1860. In science, a great exception has been the Nobel Laureate, Erwin Schrodinger (1887 – 1961) who drew many of his insights into quantum physics from India’s ancient Vedic texts, specifically the ‘Upanishads’. Other pioneers in quantum physics who have drawn inspiration from the Vedas include Niels Bohr, Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Robert Oppenheimer and Nikola Tesla. Eurocentrism has been the great weakness of the West and a cause of much suffering and abuse in foreign lands.

Relativity And The Absolute

That which is relative is only ‘apparently’ real. The Real is absolute, transcending all relativity, yet functions as the substratum of the dream of relativity.


The world is our projection. We create our own description of it then believe it to be real, but our description often fails to stand up. As a result, we live with anxiety. All of this is the projection of our own mind. We should call our projection into question, but unfortunately most of us never do. We buy into the story that we ourselves have created. We have the option to abandon it.



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Author David Frawley’s Foreword to ‘The Undying Self: Vedic Wisdom in the New Millennium’


 Notes on 

“The Undying Self”

 by Vedic scholar and author, David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri)

The Primacy of the Self

Our true Self, being, and nature is a state of pure awareness beyond our individualized body and mind, and also beyond all limitations of time, place, person, and action in the outer world.  Though seeming difficult to grasp it ever abides at the core awareness in our own hearts that embraces all existence as its own.

This true Self is largely unknown to us because of our attachment to our outer existence in the physical world.  Yet we all have a sense of it in the beauty, joy, wonder, and truth that flows through special moments in life, and in the intuition of the eternal and the infinite that belongs to each one of us.

One of the greatest mysteries of life is that although all creatures are naturally born and die in the cycle of time, no one wants to die.  We all have a longing for, if not a vision of our own immortality.  But this immortality lies in our own inner awareness, not in our outer identity.  To discover this requires a radical shift in how we perceive both ourselves and the world in which we live.

Vedantic knowledge 

Vedantic knowledge was the true revelation that Swami Vivekananda brought to the West in 1893, from which the modern global Yoga movement began.  Yoga was an offshoot 

of this greater Vedantic knowledge.  Yoga-Vedanta was the theme of such early global gurus as Vivekananda.  Vedantic knowledge is, simply speaking, the knowledge of our immortal Self that is common to all.  In the broader sense it is the knowledge that the Self pervades the entire universe and whatever may be beyond it as well.  Such practical Vedanta is the need of all humanity.

Vedic knowledge

Vedic knowledge is the broader system of integral knowledge of Self and universe of which Vedanta is the summit.  It reflects the pattern of knowledge in the Cosmic Mind in various mantric texts of great vibratory power and depth, which are called the Vedas.  As such, Vedic knowledge can teach us all the secrets of nature relative to the nature of the worlds, their energies and ruling powers, types of creatures, how to live our lives, and how to work with the subtle energies of time and space.

Anthony Duart Maclean

The author of the current book has presented the Vedantic knowledge in a fresh and direct manner that reflects the living experience of a seasoned sadhak who has an inner contact with the great gurus.  It is no mere academic Vedanta that he presents, or a reformulation of the words of others. Through his insight he can draw the reader into the experience of the true Self of all in a simple and immediate way.

Duart has also shown how Vedanta represents the deepest philosophy of humanity, reflected in various degrees and manners through great thinkers throughout the world over the centuries, including in Europe.  His book provides an excellent bridge between classical Vedanta and modern western thought. 

The author’s language is — one must recognize — dense and concentrated, much as is the profound subject and something like the sutra or axiomatic approach of Vedic literature.  His book requires a careful contemplation of every word and cannot simply be perused or quickly read.  Each sentence indicates consciousness transforming knowledge that is crucial to our ultimate well-being.

In addition the author has drawn us through the Vedantic knowledge into a profound examination of Yoga and Vedic knowledge as well.  On such a Vedantic background the true essence of these teachings is revealed.

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, perhaps the most recognized modern exponent of Vedantic knowledge, taught a simple and direct path of “Self-being.”  I would not say simply a way to “Self-realization” because the Self is always realized. Rather Ramana show us how to find our own Self-being that is beyond all dilemmas and dualities of the mind. 

Yet we must also remember that, however simply put into language, our inner Self is the supreme mystery, the ultimate Unknown, that is beyond all terms and ideas.  Our true Self, as the deepest core of our being, is that which is most secret and most sacred.  It requires surrendering the mind and letting go of the known, turning our awareness deep within in order to truly abide in it.

Today, particularly in the West, Ramana’s profound teaching is sometimes reduced by modern followers almost into a kind of pop psychology of instant enlightenment for all.  Yet Ramana’s path was one of deep search within ourselves, which requires the most consummate concentration in order to accomplish.  Duart’s teaching reflects that sheer profundity of Ramana’s true path. 

To discover that Self one must go beyond not only the ego of this birth but all attachment to embodied existence and to all the great karmic cycles of life.  This is the supreme quest of all our souls.  As such, Ramana is one of the great world gurus for this time and for centuries to come.


Classical Yoga in essence is our return from the mind, and its related ego and body-consciousness, to the Self, the Atman or Purusha that is the Self-aware Universe and Self-being of all. The author directs us to the highest Yoga of Self-knowledge, though he also shows the place of all aspects of Yoga as a potentially helpful part of that deeper search.  Those today who find value in any aspect of Yoga should look into this higher Yoga of Self-awareness that he reveals.

Vedic Culture

Vedic culture or Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal way of Truth, reflects a cultural pursuit of Self-realization as the true purpose of human life, which means also embracing the entire universe within ourselves.  Vedic culture leads us to Yoga and Vedanta but also provides a basis for these in a life that honors all aspects of the Divine presence in the universe, from every aspect of nature to the forces and faculties of our own soul.  Recognizing the restoring of such a Vedic culture is perhaps the most important project for all humanity today.


Duart Maclean has produced a most remarkable compendium of insights that weave together the highest spiritual truths and most relevant factors of human life.  The book is not just one book but several and contains more insights in a few pages than many books do in their entirety.

We ask the reader to take time with this important book, to approach it as part of their own inner search that lasts a lifetime.  The book is aimed at a serious student of the higher truth, who will certainly value its many treasures.  One should live with, meditate with, and be one with this book.  It will unfold a greater inner power and insight for all who attempt this. 

 Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley)





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Introduction to my upcoming book, “The Undying Self: Vedic Wisdom in the New Millennium”


The Limits To Thought

Since the ancient Greeks, the West has given absolute pre-eminence to the intellect, which has produced science as its crowning glory.  Through science the intellect has opened vast new vistas and produced an astounding range of technologies.  On the downside, the intellect has attained cult-like status which often blinds us to the other non-logical, non-scientific, yet valid possibilities.  This has produced a dismissive attitude toward our intuitive side, the potential of which may contain the keys to our very survival as a race.  Science has not succeeded in liberating us from our relentless assault on the environment nor reduced our violent tendencies toward our fellow humans, let alone other life forms.

For the ordinary intellect, supra-mental Knowledge is a mystery and thus the intellect tends to dismiss it as either useless speculation or wishful thinking or simply, escapism.  Those, however, who have encountered this Knowledge directly and personally, understand that it is not something that can be simply dismissed as groundless.  Since it is known directly — not in the way a subject knows an object, but as an immediacy which embraces both the subject and the object within itself — and since those who claim to have discovered it are often individuals of great rationality and common sense, it warrants serious consideration from even the most skeptical of thinkers.  Those philosophers given to precise definition of terms, empirical verifiability, rigorous logical analysis, etc, generally avoid even discussing these possibilities, since the syntax and methodologies they use are hopelessly inadequate to either validate or disprove the reality of what these transcendental realizations refer to.

Ramana Maharshi, a modern sage of very clear, pragmatic thinking underscores the problem when he states that ‘philosophy ends where spirituality begins’.  He has commented extensively on the ephemeral nature of the ego-self, describing it as merely a thought or feeling.  He emphasizes that the ‘I-thought’ is a fleeting shadow which seems to have substance when our attention is focussed on an external object or an internal emotion, sensation or idea.  Whenever, however, we attempt to turn our attention upon the ‘I-thought’ itself, the thought simply disappears and we find ourselves, for a moment, in a state of pure being in which there is neither an ‘I’ nor an ‘other’.  He likens this to turning the beam of a flashlight upon a shadow in order to get a better view of it.

According to the Vedic insight of non-duality, the personal self along with its world-view is a projection or superimposition on a screen of Consciousness.  It is this transcendental Self which is our true Nature.  Since this higher Self of Being-Consciousness is not an object, nor susceptible to objective verification, it can be known only immediately and intuitively.  This of course conveniently puts the Self out of the range of scientific proof, which always involves empirical verification.  Scientific materialism cannot disprove the Self, yet neither can an illumined Sage prove the Self — at least according to the rules of scientific method.  As Ramana Maharshi comments, the only way ‘to know the Self, is to be the Self’.

This book establishes that even though we must relate to the world ‘as if’ it is real –i.e.,  as if there actually are real, discrete ‘objects’ such as rocks, trees and animals, in fact there is no discreteness anywhere accept in our limited, conceptual minds.  The truth is, we don’t see the world and Reality as they are, but only our self-created descriptions of them.  Understanding this is the first step to Freedom.

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Transformational Breath: An Ancient Wisdom

‘Totally windless, by itself, the One breathed;
Beyond that, indeed, nothing whatever was.’
‘Hymn of Creation’
Rig Veda X.129.2

‘Conscious’ breathing is as old as yoga, which is at least 5000 years. Near the north-west corner of modern India, the Indus River Valley civilisation traces back to at least the third millenium BC. It is probably much older. Archaeological digs at the sites of the ancient cities of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa reveal a highly evolved civilisation which utilised elaborate drainage systems, dams, centralised storage granaries, three story houses, bathrooms, assembly halls and even colleges. There, soapstone seals used by merchants show the great God Shiva sitting in yoga posture. Shiva is the ‘Lord of yoga’, the Source from which yoga springs. At the heart of yoga practice lies the breath, and for thousands of years yogis have been practising and teaching various forms of breathing exercises known as pranayama or breath control. Prana or ‘vital force’ circulates in the body, influencing mental and physical health, as well as the quality of our consciousness. If the circulation of life force is blocked due to stress or injury, illness may result. If our life force is weak, we lose our ability to concentrate. We feel fatigued and lack energy. If it is disturbed, our minds and emotions become disturbed. Breath is the connecting link between the vital force and the body-mind. If we stop breathing for even a few minutes, the body’s connection with the life force is broken and death results. By using breathing techniques, especially in conjunction with meditation and yoga postures, we gain deep relaxation, inner clarity, emotional stability, better health and greater ability to concentrate.

In modern society, where we spend much of our time sitting hunched over computers, desks or the steering wheels of our cars, most people breathe very poorly. Bad posture, air pollution and constricted, shallow breathing add to the problem. Simply by breathing properly, many of our health problems, including fatigue, nervousness, insomnia, poor circulation, weak concentration, tiredness and depression can be alleviated or even eliminated. Practising even a few minutes of yogic breath two or three times a day will make an enormous difference to our well being.

The beginnings of Rebirthing in the West

The ‘sixties and ‘seventies marked the beginning of the West’s fascination with yoga and its benefits. Many seekers, young and old, travelled to India in search of the inner peace and wisdom offered by the ancient system of yoga. Yogis also came to the West, travelling and sharing their knowledge with millions of people. The Beatles took up the practice of Transcendental Meditation and, almost overnight, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became world famous. Today, in nearly every town and city of North America and Europe, yoga classes are taught in studios, schools, community centres and health clubs. Many have taken up some form of meditation. The popularity of yoga continues to grow. Yoga is clearly not a passing fad but is here to stay, profoundly influencing the very foundations of Western civilisation in a positive way.

During the early ‘seventies Leonard Orr, an American yogi, began experimenting with a form of kriya (active) breathing which he termed ‘rebirthing’. Leonard had spent much time in India studying with a Himalayan yogi known as Babaji. Inspired by Babaji, Leonard and a group of associates, including Sondra Ray – a widely read author of books on healing and transformation in relationships – developed the rebirthing technique, also known as ‘conscious-connected-breathing’. They found the benefits of this form of conscious breathing extraordinary and the practice began to catch on. Thousands of Canadians, Americans and Europeans put themselves through two hour ‘rebirthing’ sessions and noticed remarkable changes in their lives. Problems that had been plaguing them for years would begin to dissolve or simply disappear. Negative patterns of self-sabotage would begin to unravel and new possibilities for a creative and happier life would open up. Relationships would improve. Well being would replace ill health. Feelings of depression, even suicidal thoughts, would give way to a more positive, affirmative view of life. Many found the burden of living transforming into the joy of living. The ‘rebirthing’ method, loosely defined as a form of kriya (action) yoga (to unite), became widely practised in many countries.

How it works

The rebirthing process is easy to learn and can be practised almost anywhere. What is required is a quiet room, a trained breathing ‘coach’ and about two undisturbed hours. The client reclines in a comfortable position, usually on a couch or mat, and covered with a blanket. The breathing coach sits beside the client, providing a ‘safe space’ and guidance when needed. Basically, the client practices about 60 minutes of ‘conscious-connected-breathing’ and surrenders into a process that unfolds naturally from within. The responsibility of the coach is to ensure that the client is breathing correctly and feels safe and secure while going through the rebirthing process. An experienced breath-worker will also be able to provide valuable feedback to the client during and after the session. But, mainly, the coach simply observes the process and allows the client to have his or her own experience.

This ‘transformational breath’ session, when practised correctly, follows a simple pattern. The client is resting comfortably with the eyes closed and begins the ‘conscious-connected-breathing’ cycle. The breath-worker is watching the process and corrects the client’s breathing as needed. If the breathing becomes irregular or forced the coach will remind his client to breathe correctly, to relax, to connect the breaths, etc. If the client forgets to breathe or begins to fall asleep, the coach will encourage him or her to remain conscious, to stay present, to stay with the breath. The rebirther will ask him what he is thinking about in order to identify the underlying belief that is pushing him into unconsciousness. If the client cannot see the background thought, the rebirther will remain aware that some belief is beginning to manifest and track it down during the course of the session. When the breathing cycle is complete, he will give his client an appropriate affirmation in order to clarify and transform this core, unconscious belief. The work or action (kriya) of rebirthing, however, is done entirely by the client, with the rebirther’s active support.

At the beginning of the session, the client will be primarily outwardly focussed, with his attention on the room, the coach, his own body, noises, odours, etc., basically anything within his field of perception. As the conscious breathing cycle progresses, his attention will become progressively inwardly directed, naturally and without effort. His conscious mind will become quieter and he will become increasingly aware of what he is experiencing within his body and mind. Correspondingly, awareness of his external environment will diminish.

As the conscious mind becomes quieter and more surrendered to the present moment, repressed psychic matter (traumas, stresses, buried emotions, old hurts and wounds, etc) will begin to resurface and bubble up to consciousness. The transformational breathing process is the vehicle that delivers these buried experiences to the conscious mind for release. There is nothing mystical about the subconscious and the repressed psychic matter that is stored within it. The subconscious is buried in the nervous system and is a storehouse of memories (both painful and pleasant) not immediately accessible to the conscious mind. The energy of the breathing process begins to drive these memories up to the surface. Concurrently, the suppressed energy associated with those memories gets released from the nervous system and manifests as emotions, sensations and desires. In other words, conscious breathing is purification. Because the mind is quiet and enjoying the heightened sense of peace and security arising from its growing awareness of Being, it is able to ‘be with’ the suppressed material coming to the surface as an observer rather than an active participant. Feelings of fear or anger may come up, but the mind is functioning as a witness to those feelings and so the purification process goes smoothly and easily. The deep relaxation nurtured by the breath shields the client, so that coming into conscious contact with painful memories does not itself become a source of stress. In this context it is important to emphasise the critical role of the breath-worker at this stage of the transformational breath cycle. The presence of a competent coach, who is gently encouraging the process without judgement or fear, enables the client to let go and relax into his unfolding experience.

Most breath-work sessions reach a climax for the client when there is a profound sense of release and of having let go of some old, often forgotten, psychic burden. It is the peak of the session. From this point, the transformational breath cycle continues but becomes less intense. The client’s sense of inner relaxation deepens and his mind will become extremely quiet, often attaining a state of absolute silence while remaining fully alert; in other words, a state of profound restful alertness similar to the silent awareness of deep meditation. This experience is like a reward for work well done. Conscious breathing is not a passive process, but an active one requiring a commitment on the part of both the client and the coach. The client does the work of breathing consciously and continuously, while the coach stays actively and unconditionally present to the client and his process for the duration of the breathing cycle.

Slowly, the client comes back to ordinary consciousness, waking up the body by stretching, opening the eyes, and becoming aware once again of his surroundings. This is a period of ‘positive’ integration for the client. The breath-worker will also provide feedback as required, but the greatest service he has to offer his client is attentive, non-judgmental listening.

Perhaps a résumé of an actual ‘transformational breath’ session will be useful. The following example is more dramatic than usual but clearly demonstrates the potential healing power of the breath.

Duart’s experience:

Monika is a fashion model for a popular woman’s magazine and also features regularly in the catalogues of an upscale clothing chain. She was referred through a mutual friend. When she came to my home for her first session I was impressed by how tall, slender and beautiful she was, while at the same time being simple, straight-forward and down to earth. I liked her immediately.

I explained to Monika how the transformational breath method works and asked her a few questions about her birth, parents, interests and family background. I also asked her what she wanted from her session. Looking me directly in the eyes she calmly said that, although she met many attractive, successful and interesting men who wanted to go out with her, her relationships never lasted for more than one month. She was clear she had a pattern or blockage but could not understand what it was. She said she wanted a genuine, loving, long-term relationship with someone and that is why she had come. Then she reclined on the cot used for breath-work, I covered her with a blanket, and she started her ‘conscious-connected-breathing’ cycle.

Within about fifteen or twenty minutes she was immersed in her inner experience and her breath was flowing deeply, easily and continuously. Up to this point, the process appeared to be going smoothly and uneventfully. Suddenly, however, her whole demeanour changed and the peaceful look on her face altered to one of horror and revulsion. Her body began to contract and turn as if resisting something or someone, and her head was moving from side to side. “No! No! No!” she kept repeating, “What are you doing? Don’t! Leave me alone!” Often, people have a tendency to dramatise their experiences, perhaps out of a need for attention or from a belief that they have to put more into it in order to get a result – a form of ‘struggle pattern’. When this happens, I feel the lack of authenticity and remain unmoved. I encourage them to continue the breathing cycle and allow the experience to unfold, knowing that if they stay with the process something real will begin to occur. Their drama simply delays the letting go, which always follows when the conscious breathing cycle is practised properly. What Monika was experiencing, however, was genuine – very real – and I felt a cold chill run along my spine. Although her eyes were closed and she was totally focussed on her inner process, she could hear my voice. I asked her, ‘How old are you right now?’ ‘Eight’, she replied. ‘Where are you?’ I asked. She answered, ‘In a big room, like a hallway or basement, in a big building…there is an old man with me.’ At this point, her feelings of revulsion and horror intensified even more and it was clear she was re-experiencing some sort of encounter with an older man that she had found horrific. I asked her a few more questions while she was still in her process and, evidently, she was being fondled or worse by someone in the building where she was living. I allowed her to continue to process this incident, whatever it was, without interference on my part. My role at this point was simply to remain there, continuing to create a ‘safe space’ in which she could process and integrate this event. After another ten or fifteen minutes, the intensity of her experience diminished significantly and she gradually settled into a deeply peaceful state, similar to a profound meditation, and remained in that blissful condition for the remainder of her session.

Afterwards, she sat up and we talked about her experience. She told me that she had no conscious memory of any sexual or other form of abuse as a child. But she remembered that as a child of eight she was living with her mother and father in a relatively poor area of Toronto. Both parents were working and she often spent time alone in the apartment building they inhabited. The caretaker of the building was an older man who would be her guardian when her parents were away. So, her experience during her rebirth fit with the facts of her childhood when she was eight. Did the caretaker abuse her? Did it really happen? We have no way of knowing for sure. I told Monika that whether the incident had truly occurred, or happened with that particular man, was not as important as the actual fact of her experience during her rebirth. She had released something major which was not available to her conscious mind prior to her session. What was important is that she was clearing something obviously affecting the quality of her current life in a negative fashion. Monika agreed and was both surprised and pleased by the clarity and intensity of what had been presented to her conscious mind for release through the breath.

Then, I asked her about her history of short-term relationships with men. ‘Who leaves the relationship first, you or your boyfriend?’, I asked. ‘I am always the one who leaves first.’, she responded. Monika had a clear, very precise pattern of leaving. ‘Do you see the connection?’ She nodded her head, ‘Yes!’ ‘Men are dangerous, right?’, I said. She got it immediately. Her trust in men had been shattered and she was totally afraid of real intimacy. She had made an unconscious decision that trusting a man was as dangerous as putting her hand in a fire. Just as a new relationship would begin to open up and become emotionally intimate, she would bolt like a frightened, wild horse. Beliefs are powerful, especially when they are unconscious, and they will literally draw to us experiences that will confirm them as true. Unconscious beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies. Monika’s hidden conviction that men are dangerous became a self-fulfilling prophecy that blocked her from experiencing intimacy with a male, resulting in one break-up after another. Once she became conscious that she had this belief, it lost its power over her. She no longer had to blindly act out her impulse to ‘bolt’ whenever a man got too close. She could breathe and feel whatever feelings were arising as she became intimate with someone. She could now choose to stay and ‘experience her experience’ rather than simply act out the blind impulse to run. She could use affirmations, such as ‘I, Monika, can now trust men’ and ‘Men are safe for me to be with’ to help neutralise her belief that men are dangerous. She could also communicate her fear to the object of her fear, men, and thereby overcome her pattern of escaping. Getting conscious of a problem is half way to resolving it. It is ignorance of our unconscious mechanisms that keep us stuck repeating them endlessly.

Monika came for a few more breathing sessions and continued to integrate her initial experience. About eight months later I happened to bump into her at a shopping mall and we talked. She told me that she had been in a new relationship for several months and it was going well. For the first time she was enjoying a relationship lasting more than a few weeks. She also said that this man was different from the type of men she had been dating before. This relationship was based less on external appearances and symbols of success and more on the inner qualities and character of the person she was with. She told me she was very happy with him. I never saw Monika again but I am sure that, whatever the outcome of that particular relationship, something fundamental had healed within her, something lasting.

Birth trauma

People often assume that breath-work is principally about pregnancy and the birth experience. In fact, among the core group of people working with Leonard Orr, founder of the ‘rebirthing’ movement, memories of their own birth experiences came up so frequently and powerfully that the connected breathing cycle became associated with healing trauma associated with birth itself. While it is true that many people engaged in breath-work have experiences that appear to relate directly to the kind of birth they underwent, these do not represent the majority of memories which arise during their sessions. For this reason, ‘rebirthing’ is more accurately termed ‘conscious-connected- breathing’, ‘transformational breath’ or simply ‘breath-work’, which avoids limiting the practice to any single aspect of the total human experience. But the term ‘rebirthing’ is also appropriate in the sense that this form of kriya (work) allows practitioners to enjoy a profound renewal, a sense of being ‘born again’, in their lives. Thus, the term ‘rebirthing’ is correct, but in a spiritual rather than literal sense. This said, birth memories do resurface as a significant aspect of the overall transformational breath experience. When we consider that a new-born is already a fairly developed ‘little’ person when he or she makes that intense and difficult passage through the birth canal, it is reasonable to presume that aspects of this primal experience will remain buried in the unconscious. The connected breathing cycle often brings up ‘chunks’ of this material during rebirthing sessions. Clearing this repressed matter from the subconscious is valuable, since what is buried there forms an important part of the screen or filter through which we perceive our world. We all have ways of perceiving and being that we can’t account for, but which infl uence our behaviour for good or ill, affecting our health, career, finances and relationships either positively or negatively. For example, if our birth was very painful or a great struggle, then it is entirely likely that we will have entered this world with the unconscious decision that life itself is a struggle or a painful process.

Based on thousands of experiences of the birth process during rebirthing sessions, breath-workers have come up with a summary of basic, unconscious patterns that repeatedly accompany different types of birth, such as caesarean,breech, etc. Some of these patterns have been identified as follows:

Short labour: a pattern of feeling rushed and nervous, impatient, always hurrying.

Long labour: a pattern of feeling ‘held back’ in life, always facing a ‘wall of resistance’.

Premature birth: a pattern of feeling small, insignificant, vulnerable, immature.

Late birth: a pattern of being late, keeping others waiting, resistance to being on time.

Caesarean: a pattern of feeling that ‘I can’t do it myself ’ or ‘I always do it wrong’, difficulty completing things.

Incubator: a pattern of feeling separate and alone, afraid of being touched, looking out at the world from behind glass.

Transverse Lie: a pattern of not knowing ‘which way to go’, of being misdirected, misguided, of having things ‘twisted’.

Induced: a pattern of feeling helpless, of needing to be ‘induced’ to take action, difficulty in starting projects.

Breech: a pattern of ‘fighting to get out’ of situations and relationships, feeling pulled and forced by others, feeling life is a struggle.

Forceps: a pattern of feeling that ‘I can’t make it on my own’, fear of being controlled and manipulated.

Cord around neck: a pattern of feeling ‘strangled’ in relationships, fear of being ‘choked’, feelings of ‘suffocation’ in close situations.

Lyse’s experience:

During my six-month Rebirth Training, which I attended in NewYork City in 1985, I suddenly became aware of my own birth trauma. Up to that point, I had personally completed twelve rebirths: six privates and six in a group. I had had strong feelings of rejection coming up during these sessions, as well as a variety of related emotions. When the trainers talked about the importance of the birth trauma, the birth script, thoughts at birth, in fact, the entire birth scenario, I thought they were exaggerating. During my own first twelve rebirths I had not encountered anything remotely resembling the birth trauma. I had felt physical sensations, pain here and there, shaking in my body (i.e., kinaesthetic experience), but I did not see any memory, any image or anything related to my birth.

As the Rebirth Training progressed I began having terrible headaches. I was staying alone at a Holiday Inn in a run-down part of NewYork, feeling nervous and disturbed because my room was next to an ice machine and a crowd of loud, obnoxious people throwing all night parties. I could hear them talking next to my door, banging on the ice machine. I felt afraid and very vulnerable. I thought, ‘What am I doing here alone in a strange city, surrounded by these aggressive strangers? Maybe they’ll break down my door and attack me.’ All of my major fears were activated. I felt unsafe in New York, unsafe on the planet, unsafe in my own body, and at the same time suffered an excruciating headache. I was dizzy, feeling disoriented like someone on drugs or alcohol. I remember walking in Central Park thinking, ‘Did I take drugs? Did I take alcohol? No, I have not been drunk or high for years, I’ve had nothing at all.’ But I felt so drugged, so disoriented, that I had a hard time finding my way around. It was really unpleasant.

One day midway through a Rebirth Training weekend, one of the trainers, Peter Kane commented, ‘If you are having big headaches or feeling dizzy you might be going through chunks of your birth and your delivery may have included the use of forceps.’ His words stunned me because I had been born with the help of forceps! As he spoke I felt an intense anxiety in my solar plexus, along with anguish and fear, and I was convinced that something terrible was about to happen to me. My headache intensified around my temples and I felt a big pressure in my head. He added that many people have migraine headaches due to the use of forceps during birth. At that moment I felt he was talking directly to me, although there were more than 50 people in the room. Intellectually, I found his comments far fetched, but at the same time I had no other explanation for how I was feeling, which was certainly not my normal state. Finally I let go of my resistance to Peter’s message and opened myself to the possibility that it was true.

During the rebirth session that followed, I became crippled, paralysed and totally terrified. The trainers asked me, ‘What’s going on?’ Hardly able to speak I repeated, ‘I can’t, I can’t, I can’t…’ They asked, ‘You can’t what?’ I said, ‘I can’t move…I feel paralysed… I’m blocked here… I’m stuck…’ Their response was, ‘This is just a thought, it’s a memory you’re going through…only a thought…and of course you can. Since what you are going through is related to your birth, you can!’ They started to laugh, which only intensified my upset because I felt they were laughing at me. However, my paralysis cleared up. It disappeared with the words, ‘Of course you can.’ I also could feel the stress releasing from my body and my headache fading away.

After this experience I realised that I had had similar intense headaches whenever I was trapped in a packed elevator or a crowded room. As a child, sometimes my parents and I would get stuck in heavy traffic driving over Montreal’s Champlain Bridge on our way to the country and I would have terrible headaches to the point of vomiting. This feeling of being trapped and stuck in a small space from which I could not escape could have stemmed from being caught in the birth canal, but I could not be certain that there was a direct connection. I did observe, however, that after this particular rebirth session, tight, crowded spaces or traffic jams would no longer give me headaches or anguish. Gone were the pressure in my temples, the nausea and the pain in my head. I began to have confidence in the words of my trainers.

Through rebirthing, I also learned that people born with forceps want support and at the same time are afraid of it. Forceps are painful for the baby, however they support the infant in staying alive, since getting caught too long in the birth canal can cause death. My own subconscious belief that support hurts has also been an issue in my life. I have always assumed that I want support, but my unconscious pattern has been to push support away.

Often, forceps have been used for convenience and efficiency rather than as a life-saving maneuver of last resort. In the 1950’s, with so many baby boomers arriving, doctors often would have to run from one delivery to another. To speed the process they came to rely increasingly on the use forceps and/or anaesthesia. I have also realised that my inexplicable feeling of being drugged during my weekend in New York was related to my mother’s anaesthesia. Babies are definitely affected by anaesthesia, and residues of the drug will stay in the system for a long time after. A baby’s full ‘aliveness’ is suppressed by anaesthesia and it is this memory which was surfacing during my Rebirth Training.

It is also noteworthy that baby boomers are the ones who got into drugs in a big way in the ’sixties and ’seventies. The attitude has been, ‘When it’s too intense, we take some drugs and anaesthetise ourselves. Whether we feel intense joy or intense pain, we anaesthetise ourselves in order to dull the experience.’ The tendency of my generation has been to suppress our aliveness with some substance, rather than to fully live both our pleasures and our pains. From the perspective of rebirth, this is a repetition of the birth process where the mother, and by extension the baby, are drugged with anaesthesia at the point where the mother’s labour becomes difficult and intensely painful.

from ‘Awakening The Fire Within’  by Lyse LeBeau & Duart Maclean

Trafford Publishing, 2005

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Anxiety and the healing breath

The World Health Organization has declared that by 2020 anxiety will be second only to heart disease as the principal cause of health-related deaths on the planet. Many people turn to alcohol, marijuana or prescription drugs to deal with anxiety, but all of these options carry serious negative side-effects. Surely, there must be a healthy way to deal with anxiety. Yes, there is. And it’s simple, cheap and effective. Nor do we need to leave our home buy it. It’s free, it’s here, it’s now. It’s the breath.

Connected breathing has been around since the 1970’s. It goes under a variety of names, including Rebirthing, Holotrophic Breath and Transformational Breath, to name a few. Connected breathing does not belong to any specific tradition, although some say it is a form of Kriya Yoga. For our purposes we will simply call it, The Healing Breath.

Negative experiences can trigger powerful reactions in our bodies. The birth experience, for instance, can be traumatic. A child’s first day of school can be positively frightening. Being attacked by bullies, being sexually abused, being deserted, being fired, plus accidents, divorces, bankruptcies, civil wars, etc, are all sources of trauma.

Powerful emotions evoked by negative events are often repressed in order to be able to deal with the situation at hand. When we feel threatened we temporarily stop our breath in order to avoid the feeling of fear in our body. This strategy may appear to work in the short term, but there are long term negative consequences. Emotions are energy and when we suppress our feelings, that energy gets stuck in our bodies. The lower belly, the solar plexus, the heart area and the throat are the principle locations of repressed emotions. Generally, the belly houses our fear, the plexus our anger, the chest our sadness and the throat our frustration at our inability to communicate what we truly want and need to express.

When we begin to breathe ‘into’ these primal locations, the emotional energies that are blocked start to discharge. As these energies begin to move, we feel the feelings that we have been repressing. We call this process ‘integration’ because repressed emotions are being felt and accepted, no longer denied. We don’t need to get rid of emotions, because emotions themselves are never the problem. It’s their repression that is the problem. At first The Healing Breath process can be uncomfortable, especially if suppressing our feelings has become a life-long habit. However, after some initial support from someone trained in this form of breath-work we acclimatize naturally and become comfortable with our emotional body. Feelings come, are felt and then disappear. People who are spontaneous, expressive and ‘alive’ are OK with the entire range of their emotions. Their emotions are not ‘stuck’ in the body. Repressed feelings create a toxic environment that can turn into disease, as well as chronic anxiety, burn-out, depression, withdrawal, addictions, anti-social behavior and suicide.

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The Origins of Rebirthing Style Breathwork, by Peter Mark Adams


Rebirthing style breathwork evolved from the independent research of Dr. Frank Lake in the UK, Dr. Stanislav Grof in Czechoslovakia and Leonard Orr in the US during the 1950s and early 1960s. All three had in common the fact that their experimentation with altered states of consciousness persistently uncovered intense emotional affects, and very often detailed memories, around a person’s birth process. Initially these effects were observed in quite separate arenas.

Frank Lake[1] and Stanislav Grof were both conducting laboratory research on the medical effects of a new drug called LSD-25. Quite independently, and outside of the arena of medical or academic research, Leonard Orr was privately exploring altered states of consciousness primarily through lengthy immersion in warm water. It was only much later that all of these researchers, again quite independently of one another, realized that the deeper, faster breathing exhibited by people experiencing altered states of consciousness could also be used to induce those states.

They also recognized that during the deeper states of consciousness buried emotions relating to the birth process and, very often, their attendant ‘memories’ were being retrieved. We need to emphasize that these findings were, so to speak, reluctantly ‘forced’ upon the medical researchers (Lake and Grof) by the evidence that they were uncovering. The evidence ran, and to a certain extent still appears to run, counter to received medical wisdom:

“The idea that a functioning consciousness could exist in a fetus was in conflict with everything he had been taught in medical school…that he could be aware of subtle nuances between himself and his mother … astonished him”[2]

However, the memories certainly seemed real enough and the experience of re-living the traumatic experience of birth was found to be profoundly liberating. Each of these early pioneers – Lake, Grof and Orr – would go on to create their own schools of breathwork. Because of the central importance of activating and releasing the negative affects relating to a person’s birth process these forms of breathwork have been generically termed ‘rebirthing style breathwork’.

The Birth Trauma

“All anxiety goes back originally to the anxiety at birth” Sigmund Freud

As the quote above suggests, the notion of a ‘birth trauma’ has been around for some time. It was Otto Rank[3], one of Freud’s early disciples, who first presented it – in terms of ‘separation anxiety’ – as the single most important factor in the origin of neurosis. Although initially praised by Freud, the theory came to be perceived as challenging the primacy of Freud’s own Oedipal theory concerning the origin of neurosis. Rank’s ideas were ultimately rejected by Freud and his circle as being too much at variance with, and a threat to, the emerging orthodoxy of Freudian theory.

The ‘birth trauma’ is thought to result from the extreme nature of the experiences – which include compression, separation and suffocation – undergone during the normal birth process. This process can be rendered even more traumatic in the event of complications arising. These can include Nuchal Cord (strangulation from the placenta), breech birth, prolonged, forceps and dry delivery all of which can contribute to increased levels of fetal distress.

Lake, Grof and Orr had all observed that a turning point occurred whenever physical, mental and emotional experiences that re-enacted the client’s birth process occurred. This came to be seen as the integration of the primal ‘birth trauma’ and was associated with a phenomena known as the ‘breathing’ or ‘breath’ release,

“The breathing release is the most important aspect of rebirthing. It is a critical release of all of your resistance to life. The breathing release happens when you feel safe enough to re-live the moment of your first breath….This experience breaks the power of the birth trauma over the mind and body”[4]

The ‘breathing release’ describes a process whereby accession is suddenly made to a greatly expanded capacity for breathing and consequently higher levels of vital energy. The ‘breath release’, as it is now more usually called, represents a fundamental opening of the energy channels. It gives rise to increased levels of vital energy. This greatly facilitates gaining access to the transpersonal dimensions of experience. It is for this reason that Grof argued that access to the transpersonal is closely related to the resolution of perinatal issues.

“The area of the unconscious that we associate with these four perinatal matrices represents an interface … to the transpersonal domain … that lies beyond the biographical and perinatal.”[5]

This claim of an association between the perinatal and the transpersonal was based purely on observation. Grof was not confusing the experience of oceanic states of bliss in the womb with peak states of spiritual ecstasy. He was merely stating that as a matter of fact, the two are causally connected. But without the underlying model of subtle energy and the relationship between vital energy, consciousness and blockages in the subtle anatomy, the causal connection between the two could not be made explicit.

Whose Trauma is it?

We think of our consciousness as something that we possess, something that defines us ‘essentially’, forming the boundary of our being. But are the boundaries of the self really as impermeable as we imagine them to be? Or do we, at times, share even this most defining characteristic of ours with others?

“A client complained of an acute snake phobia and displayed extreme reactions to any ‘snakelike’ shapes – such as vines and even winding roads. And yet, he had absolutely no memory of any event concerning a snake that would account for his phobia. It turned out, however, that his mother had experienced a shock from discovering a large snake in her kitchen when she was pregnant.”

Despite her experience, the mother appeared to have no phobia concerning snakes, but her unborn son had! In this case, whose trauma was it? During the perinatal period, what exactly are the boundaries between the mother and her child, who is experiencing what, and with what long term consequences? This question is relevant to the study of consciousness as well as to a deeper understanding of breathwork. The reason, as we have discussed, is that so much of breathwork – all of the ‘released based’ / rebirthing styles – are founded upon the basis of an ‘originating’ trauma connected with the birth process. This led Leonard Orr to formulate the purpose of rebirthing as:

“to remember and re-experience one’s birth, to re-live physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually the moment of one’s first breath and release the trauma of it.”[6]

For almost half a century this belief has formed the core of much traditional breathwork theory and practice. But contrary to the idea that the experience of birth is universally traumatic, it has been suggested that, in fact, the experience of birth is rarely traumatic[7]. The reason given for this is that shortly before birth

“the baby’s body is saturated with endorphins which act as an anesthetic for the actual birth”[8].

If this is true, where do the seemingly universal and well attested ‘memories’ of birth related trauma come from?

“If I accept that the patterns are mother’s emotional-mental patterns then what I am experiencing during some regression therapies are not actually my own experiences – because I am not wholly me yet – but are my mother’s pre-birth and labor feeling patterns”[9].

And this is exactly what a number of our client’s have, in fact, experienced. Perhaps from a practical point of view it does not matter, at the end of the day, whose trauma it is so long as it gets healed!

Copyright © Peter Mark Adams 2010

[1] Lake, Dr. Frank (1969) Birth Trauma, Claustrophobia and LSD Therapy: The re-living of traumatic first year experiences under the influence of LSD-25, and their relation to phobic reactions in adults; with special reference to the association between birth trauma and claustrophobia (online resource)

[2] Grof, Stanislav M.D. (1992) The Holotropic Mind: The Three Levels of Human Consciousness & How They Shape Our Lives p.34

[3] Rank, Otto (1924) The Trauma of Birth

[4] Orr, Leonard & Ray, Sondra (1977) Rebirthing in the New Age p.77

[5] Grof, Stanislav M.D. (1992) The Holotropic Mind: The Three Levels of Human Consciousness & How They Shape Our Lives p.79

[6] Orr, Leonard & Ray, Sondra (1977) Rebirthing in the New Age p.69

[7] Jon, RG & Troya, GN ‘Rebirthing or Rebreathing : A Recapitualation’ The Healing Breath Volume 2 Number 3 September 2000 Page 26

[8] ibid

[9] ibid page 33.


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On The Necessity Of Self-Enquiry

Student:  ‘It is my great desire that I should actually experience your gracious wisdom.  Kindly fulfill my desire.’

Ramana Maharshi:  ‘Is it the body in front of me that desires to obtain my Grace?  Or is it the awareness within it?  If it is the awareness, is it not now looking upon itself as the body and making this request?  If so, let the awareness first of all know its real nature.  It will then automatically know God and my grace.  The truth of this can be realised even here and now.

‘It is not the body that desires to attain the grace.  Therefore, it is clear that it is the awareness that shines here as “you”.  To you who are the nature of awareness there is no connection during sleep with the body, the senses, the life force (prana) and the mind.  On waking up you identify yourself with them, even without your knowledge.  This is your experience.  All that you have to do hereafter is see that you do not identify yourself with them.  In the states of waking and dream try to remain as you were in the state of deep sleep.  As you are by nature unattached, you have to convert the state of ignorant deep sleep, in which you were formless and unattached, into conscious deep sleep.  It is only by doing this that you can remain established in your real nature.  You should never forget that this experience will only come through long practice.  This experience will make it clear that your real nature is not different from the nature of God.’

from The Power Of The Presence, part 1 (page 99 & 100).  Edited by David Godman.

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