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Alchemy of the soul

The uninvited guest

Dr. Arya Maloney

Editor's note

This is the next article of Dr. Arya's series that depicts what happens to a person whose boundaries suddenly, inexplicably expand beyond his 'normal' self. In a dialogue, the various facets are explored.

I first met Bob at a gathering of friends. He appeared quiet, introspective and somewhat shy. However, we quickly cut through the small-talk and anxiety of first meetings to a deep discussion of awareness and self-observation. As I listened, I thought, ‘He must practice Buddhist mindfulness’. But no, he neither followed a spiritual path, nor was he engaged in psychotherapy. He was a musician. Later that evening I heard him play the trombone and recognized a seasoned jazzman.

Subsequent to this meeting, I learned of Bob’s recent retirement from teaching music, as well as his history of recording and performing with several jazz ensembles. He intended to devote himself to his music, teach in a literacy program and play more tennis. He intended to enjoy life.

Several years later, Bob consulted me about a radical change in consciousness — a change that disrupted his life-plan and left him grasping for sanity. This alteration of consciousness opened the door to an ongoing challenge of living in two worlds — one, his familiar, personal consciousness, the other, a vast field of awareness where his little self disappeared. The impetus for discovering this field, this uninvited guest, was neither a spiritual nor a psychological quest. It was music.

Early in his musical education, Bob studied with a teacher who had discovered a method of understanding and classifying music emerging from the unconscious. His approach demanded great discipline and concentration wherein the student had to go slowly, and understand every step of the way in order to perceive the whole creative picture. Bob followed this practice for three or four years, but found it too demanding. Regretting, however, his earlier abandonment of a study designed to access greater understanding, he returned to this method after retiring. He believes that this intense concentration created an opening to transpersonal realms.

Recurring dreams often present a blueprint of our life. Bob had this recurring dream:
‘Again and again, I dream I am playing a B-flat to get the purest note possible. I know if I can play a pure note, it will carry me through.’

He explained that each note has a center, which emits a particular vibration. Striking the center of the note conveys a sense of balance; playing off center produces the opposite. This attempt to discover the pure note symbolizes Bob’s passage from the fragile center of personal consciousness to the stillpoint of transcendent consciousness.

Six years into his journey, we had the following conversation:

A: Six years ago you underwent a very dramatic experience — the influx of a very different consciousness. How did that happen?

B: I began studying the piano, using the demanding method I had learned in my twenties. (I don’t mean just rapping away with my hands). I had been putting off playing this way for a long time. As I was playing, I began thinking I was not really in it; no longer in contact with the small part of me. Rather, I was watching myself play it! I asked myself, ‘Why am I so detached? I’m playing Beethoven and I might as well be playing Chopsticks.’ I got very depressed. My strongest feeling was that of being off balance. Then I began to experience physical symptoms. An intense energy and heat filled my head creating a huge pressure, demanding my attention and a retreat from normal activities. I discovered I could release this pressure by sitting and focusing on the area of pressure and disorientation. There was an urge for my eyes to roll up. When I allowed this movement and concentrated on the upper part of my head, I could get some relief.

A: Is this a psychological release as well as physical?

B: It’s physical. So at first, I thought this would be resolved by a physical explanation.

A: Surgery or a pill would have been preferable to your ordeal?

B: I was hoping it would be a brain tumor so they could chop it out. Then I wouldn’t have been so puzzled. I thought I was going insane!

A: What were your main fears of going insane?

B: That I wouldn’t be able to keep it together. I might not know what road I was on. I did not wish for spirituality. I already thought I was a spiritual person. I was not aspiring to be a yogi. Call it what you want — personal or impersonal. This is a physical phenomenon of energy. I should go to a yoga camp and forget about everything, including trying to balance this shit out. Sometime I think I should simply be sitting on a bench, staring.

A: Some place where you are protected and don’t have many duties?

B: Yes, where I don’t have to show up some place at a certain time. Where I don’t have to worry about crossing the street against the light and getting smacked by a car. It’s become such an effort to keep it together!

A: It sounds like trying to live in two worlds at the same time, each pulling in a different direction.

B: I can think I am keeping it together, and in an instant I’m not.

A: In our previous conversations you spoke of a magnet pulling you out.

B: I follow my vision and the path of the energy leading from my forehead. If I go to the wall, I go through it. It feels like electricity.

A: You are touching your forehead when you say that.

B: The top part of my forehead is usually heated. When I wake up in the morning, it is intense. I have this sound in my ears, like cicadas. Sometimes I can disregard it. If I meditate, I can release it. However, if I have demands made on me it is very difficult. Kate is understanding. She has become very sensitive to my experience. But she has to deal with her own energy. If I am in this state and she is talking to me, it becomes hogwash — like a fly buzzing around.

A: Do you allow yourself to be pulled out into that other space?

B: I have no choice. It can happen even when I’m walking down the street or playing tennis. I seem to go where my eyes are going — to my real psyche. When I do that I can become the chair or the table. There is very little of my self left.

A: You are referring to your ego or personality?

B: Yes.

A: When you follow your vision, you get to the real part of your psyche. How do you know it’s the real part?

B: I feel it in my body. There is a flow of energy and my body is lighter. There’s a removal of tension.

A: When you go into this space do you have a different awareness?

B: Yes.

A: Can you describe it?

B: If I wanted to be pompous I could say it’s resignation... of the little emotional stuff in life.

A: In your ordinary consciousness?

B: In my ordinary life! All the emotional crap! We’re all still going through the same crap we went through when we were three, two, one-year-old — it’s just a repetition. We’re locked in a prison of darkness. It’s a fucking prison!

A: When you step out into this other space — is it different?

B: It wouldn’t be different if someone punched me in the nose. I’m not trying to diminish the human struggle and what we have accomplished. My body hasn’t yet gone completely into the other consciousness. But I have actually stepped into it. I am only participating in this ego because I have this little personal life. It’s pretty confusing! A detachment like no other detachment. I’m on this side, but I think I’m on the other side. (laughter) I’m here but I’m not here.

A: How are these two selves connected?

B: It’s like two wires touching, allowing me to pass back and forth. These wires only truly separate when we die, then it becomes very peaceful. I know this sounds like crap — it’s the electricity of the universe or the environment — whatever! I’m connected somehow, but I don’t know that it’s permanent.

A: We were talking last time about this magnet that pulls you out into a different consciousness. What do you experience there?

B: I experience a real divorce from the everyday stuff — from my self, my persona, all the familiar emotions, the ego crap that gets you through the day. This everyday consciousness is no match for the other consciousness. I guess people meditate to get out of themselves and into it. But I am in it — in an energy field, similar to the energy field reportedly surrounding advanced yogis and saints. I can be a long way from my head — in the trees, in the sky, many places. I don’t take off from the ground with my body, but with my psyche. It’s in an altered... sea of consciousness is a term that Gopi Krishna uses that I like. All of a sudden I’m transported out of myself. I’m getting good at this. I can do it in many places, anytime.

A: Even when you are moving?

B: Yes. Walking down the street. I know that I have a body that is walking; but I have to remember that, because I am in a place of heat, energy. If you sat down and concentrated on all the places on earth where it is night and day — on the stars, the moon... it’s like that. You think your little self is the center of what you are doing, but it isn’t. We are fortunate enough to have this glue that holds us together in our small worlds, but there is a hole in the bottle. If the hole gets bigger and you go through it into this larger space you will have a difficult time staying glued to your little self.

A: You mentioned this sea of consciousness. Is this a wider consciousness? Are you aware of a lot more things?

B: Solid awareness. Awareness is the only word I’ve found that describes this. Someone will say, ‘Awareness of what?’ I can’t answer that. For me it’s awareness of something I really don’t understand. But the feeling is an awareness of everything. It is what moves this human blob. It’s a center point. All of a sudden, there it is in one wordless place. My abiding question is: If I’m there, am I also here? Of course I’m still here, but what is the ‘I ’ I am talking about? Is it the part that’s keeping me from lifting off the planet? What is keeping me here? This is not clear to me. The spiritual books refer to self as witness, observer. I think there is a self that’s just a light connection — personal or impersonal — it keeps us moving even when we have no experience of a center. Insane people move even though their psyche is off-track. They dress themselves; they walk down the street. There is some force that keeps them going, but the upstairs part is gone. My upstairs part is gone too!... but not really.

A: Do you mean your ego?

B: No.

A: What do you mean by ‘upstairs part’?

B: The upstairs part is the part that has no ego. It’s energy or electricity, a magnet. It comes from outside. It connects to me, but it belongs to this vast space.

A: Outside?

B: Not really outside, but outside my skin. For example, I can project this energy onto the wall. I sit in my apartment where there are cracks on the ceiling. I concentrate on one spot and eventually the spot divides into two. They move apart and finally disappear.

A: Where is your consciousness when they disappear?

B: I leap into another dimension. My head is always in more than one place. Although we may not be aware of it, this is true for all of us. We are always seeing a lot more than we think we see. We only absorb a small part. This is an impersonal observation.

A: Who is making the observation?

B: Who the hell knows? I don’t even know what the observation is! I saw a movie called What the Bleep Do We Know? The subject matter is seeing in more than one dimension. They draw on theories of modern physics. I don’t know anything about physics. I only know my experience. I can be sitting on a bench and I see a passing parade of the city’s entire existence. A man walks past and I see him parading thirty years later. It is both the same person and not the same person.

A: When you are in this larger space of consciousness what happens to your normal thought-process? Normally, thought-forms are always passing through.

B: It depends on the intensity of the consciousness, and the presence of other people. When others are present, I am in two places at once. I’m way-out, but they think I’m with them. I can’t be! Well, sometimes I can be emotionally with them... sometimes. But I don’t have the normal response mechanisms to the flow of life.

A: You don’t have the common emotional responses to life?

B: Not to the small personal things that make life important to everyone. This creates problems.

A: It depends on the person.

B: Yes. I can respond. I’m not totally dead. But sometimes I’m not able to respond.

A: How does the wider consciousness affect your emotions?

B: I don’t have any emotions when I’m in that field.

A: The emotional being quietens down?

B: It disappears. It could come back in a minute if someone threatened me with a gun. But if there is a natural flow, my emotional life disappears.

A: Are you more detached in that state?

B: They talk about cosmic consciousness — I’m not detached from that, but I am from the ordinary life.

A: What is your experience of cosmic consciousness?

B: I am in a non-personal, out-of-my-body place. I am out of my personal history. I can come back in an instant, but mostly I return by degrees. I haven’t been the same for years. I have never come back to who I once was. I probably never will.

A: Is that beneficial for you?

B: It’s more honest.

A: In the beginning of your experience, your biggest fear was not coming back to your ordinary consciousness.

B: I tell you, I think I was in extra-ordinary consciousness before I went out there. Whatever forced it, I went where I really am. I never was a regular fellow. I’m not responsive, emotional, ego-centered. I can be but... I have all the compartments that human beings have from the lowest to the most self-aggrandizing, but its all history now. Still, I’ve tried to live in the ordinary consciousness; but it has been wiped away.

A: Can you see your personality — all the compartments — more clearly from the new consciousness?

B: Of course. Here’s what happens when I’m by myself: if I don’t filter my thoughts in dialogues — imaginary dialogues, I have no thoughts! I have observations, I have awareness, but I don’t have inner dialogue. My brain wants a dialogue — it wants to see me, small me, Bobby, in a dialogue taking care of business one way or the other. Often my thoughts are filtered — some are filtered through my dialogue with you; my attempt to make my relationship work with Kate is a dialogue. It’s difficult to realize that the insights I sometimes have in these dialogues are probably not going to affect any relationship. If I could have the courage to present them directly and honestly, perhaps, some small under-standing could result. Mostly, I think the inner dialogues are self-serving.... These dialogues are bad habits!

A: Generally, the dialogues you have are with your self?

B: Yes. They are preparation and survival dialogues. Basically, a thinking-process to prepare myself to meet some challenging situation. I read about an autistic child who, at the age of thirteen, was able to tell someone about his thought-processes. He described dialoguing with himself to prepare for what he imagined was going to occur. When I prepare for a task I think it through, so when my body is there doing it I won’t be totally lost. I do that when I’m going to be with Kate; I prepare myself to go on duty — I program the meeting so it will work out.... When I don’t dialogue with anyone I become a different person — someone who is not afraid. This other consciousness does not allow dialogues — I’m way beyond the dialogue.

A: You can’t make plans?

B: Nothing is going on! Sometimes there are musical patterns unfolding in my head, but if I really concentrate I can eliminate them.

A: No thought-forms in your consciousness?

B: Nothing but heavy energy.

A: How do you experience this heavy energy?

B: My brain and my forehead feel stimulated.

A: A flow of energy?

B: Flow is another way of putting it. It’s a special kind of concentration where I gather forces from all over. It feels like a life’s work or the kind of concentration a yogi possesses to raise a ball from the floor to the ceiling.

A: What is the focus of your concentration?

B: I concentrate on a certain spot. When all the scattered forces come to this spot, I integrate them into a whole. We are all together in that point. This can last for two, five, ten minutes. Once I’m there, I go into trance (I don’t like that word). Remember the stories you told me about the Mother going into trance with her teacup poised in midair. Well, I do that. I’m actually gone and my body is frozen in one position. This is beyond a concentrated place — intense heat and energy is present. If you put your hand on my forehead, it’s hot. I’ve looked at pictures of yogis and they have this particular look in their eyes: It’s like the energy of another consciousness has got them by the balls. I see these guys looking just like I feel. They are transfixed. They are trapped. I’m not totally trapped because...

A: So you think they’re trapped?

B: Call it free — if you want! They are in another place either by choice or.... They are not fighting it! There! Maybe I would be ‘free’, too, if I lived in another culture. If I had been raised in a different way, I would be that kind of person.

A: So maybe you are becoming that without living in another country?

B: But I’ve got everything — pleasures, comforts, a companion, machines. I’m trying to keep everything — keep the whole thing together. For me, the very best situations exist when I don’t have to figure anything out and I know that Kate is at peace with what I’m doing. If I didn’t have to pretend or fight or be anything other than who I am... this would help me! I’ve thought about taking the extreme action of isolating myself. But do I have to isolate? Sometimes, I think it is the only thing I can do to keep from offending people. Am I short-changing Kate if I cannot respond to her needs? I can’t fulfill the needs of others. I don’t feel capable! I work hard at it, though: for public appearances, I feel obliged to be dishonest. If I am honest I seem to offend people.

A: What is the relationship between the heat in your head and the other consciousness? When you go out does the heat increase or decrease? Is the heat a signal that the other consciousness is coming?

B: If I don’t focus on this other place, my head becomes overwhelmed with heat and pressure. If I don’t go there during the day, then in sleep it awakens me, my head buzzing with the loud sound of cicadas.

A: Are these the signals for needing to go into the other consciousness?

B: Yes. I need to follow the process of going there, not paying attention to any other matter. If I ignore this need, I pay a high price. I want to describe the episodes of projection — I believe they’re electrical — in my dream/waking state. I’ve experienced them four times. If I was a yogi who had studied for ten years, this experience would have been his first lesson. You know I’ve been through a lot....
(Bob becomes very emotional)

A: When you cry now, what are you experiencing?

B: The memory of the day when the projection first occurred. Some of these experiences are tough (crying)... I’m pretty confident that I am going to come through, but they are horrible... very bad!

A: Are these experiences from the distant past?

B: I experience dark places on this journey. I’ve been there, gone through them and I know when it is going to happen ahead of time. But it’s still a helpless feeling — not knowing if you’re going to be strong enough to get through it. Sometimes I put off dealing with it until I can be alone.

A: What do you see in the dark places?

B: I see monsters. It’s like having a nightmare. It’s so real that when I waken I am amazed!

A: Is it personal or impersonal?

B: It’s personal in the sense that it is a part of my psyche. It is the experience of the dark monsters in Joseph Campbell’s mythology books. They are really out there and I am out there without a rope to pull myself back. Having been through this does not make it easier when I have to pass through again. I buried this part for my entire life. Now, I am not able to bury it! (crying)

A: All the yogic traditions speak about the necessity of a purification in order to receive the higher consciousness. The recipient is aware of the darkness as well as the light.

B: It’s working in its own time! I’m only a vehicle! I’m not a yogi — I haven’t sought this! I don’t have a big enough persona to have any control! (crying)

A: This is way beyond the persona. Thank you for sharing so much!

B: You’ve asked, ‘If you had a choice would you tread this path?’ No! I wouldn’t!

A: Many people following a spiritual path expect a ‘bed of roses’.

B: I don’t know if this is a spiritual path. I don’t have a fixed language to describe it. But nobody would choose the dark part! Everybody thinks about the ‘white light’ — that’s what they think meditation is about. It might be for some people, but it hasn’t worked out that way for me. I’ve read enough to know, however, that the dark part is a part of this passage... it’s real for me. (crying)

Anyway... back to the dreams. I’m not sure they are dreams. I know I was present whether I was awake or dreaming. The first dream was pleasant. I saw the following projection on the ceiling of our bedroom: it was shaped like a mandala and in it leaves were flowing, as if I was looking into a stream with vegetation. I thought I was asleep. It was an unusual dream because it was projected onto the ceiling. Was I awake? The second dream was also in the shape of a mandala projected onto the ceiling in shades of grey, but not so pleasant. It was more organic with little worm-like shapes wriggling around — a bit disgusting. The third dream was like the second and my confusion persisted about being asleep or awake. The fourth dream was the experience of an electrical phenomenon. This projection was a large area of moving patterns of varying shades of gray with moving filaments and strands of light, some in the shape of resistors which were intermittently bright, glowing white, occurring in random spots. I could see and feel the electrical flow emerging from my forehead to create the pattern on the ceiling.

A: As if something in you was creating this?

B: I was a projector. I felt I was awake doing this. Well, could I turn it off without going back to sleep? I did.

A: How?

B: I don’t know — I willed it. I guess it faded. When it disappeared, I was awake.

A: Did you experience this energy in other parts of your body ?

B: No. It was amazing. There I was, a rod for this current! The final dream started like the previous one — an electrical projection. I knew I was awake. As it unfolded, I thought, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m calling this back!’

A: Did it scare you?

B: I had enough of it. I withdrew the projection. However, since these experiences, I have given this place in my head much more attention. I have surrendered to this consciousness: it takes the ball and runs with it. I just follow the magnet!

A: When you say ‘your head’ do you mean your whole forehead?

B: My forehead on up to the crown of my head. It feels like having a cap on my head, similar to people who are being electrocuted! The real hot spot is in the middle of my brow.

A: So when you follow the trajectory of the magnet, you go out from your forehead ?

B: It’s similar to the projection onto the ceiling, only it goes further. This energy flow goes into a larger field of consciousness. Generally, I’m in a ball of this energy, but if I’m totally involved in a grounding activity, like cutting wood or playing tennis, I’m identified with my personal consciousness. However, when I play music I can’t use my mind to concentrate. I can’t ask myself, ‘What are these four bars made up of?’... and then recall it. I can’t do that. Music triggers a yoga kind of thing.

A: What is this yoga thing?

B: I have immediate access into the higher consciousness through the sound. If you are in a cathedral and the bells are ringing, eventually you will surrender to the sound. Music itself — not the composition — is a wordless place. When you are in the flow, it’s a wordless place.

A: Does the sound activate the energy?

B: Participating in the sound does it. Although, with the piano, playing is on automatic and as I play, I can be in a million other places.

A: What you are playing is not intentional?

B: It’s improvisational. It’s James Joyce in sound. It’s flow of consciousness without words.

A: Is there some conscious intention to improvise? Or is someone else playing the music?

B: There is a history of improvising in my head. But music has a center and when you go there the music directs itself. Certain vibrations seem to go together. You can create dissonance. It you are beyond the repetitive patterns you have learned — beyond consonance — then the music can take you to many different places. You can control it. But I don’t try to do that anymore. I’ve given music the place of a yoga stimulus. This is the one place I am solitary and I don’t have to get permission to go there. Whatever it does for me or I for it, it’s okay.

A: Does it ground you?

B: Yes, it’s my life center. Early in my life I had this recurring dream. I had to learn to play a really pure B-flat. If I could learn to play this one, pure note, it would carry me through.

A: Is it a center?

B: That’s right! Striking the center of the note gives a different vibration than striking off center. You get the sense you are in balance.

A: When you go out into this larger field of consciousness do you discover a center?

B: Bernadette Roberts, the author of The Experience of No-Self, described it as a still-point. I call it a balance-point — when everything vibrates in balance. It’s an all-inclusive point.

A: No separation?

B: It’s all-inclusive. I can be a tree or a stepladder, as much as I can be a person. There is no me — there is a life-force. I can be a leaf floating in the wind. I have no ego strength. I’m helpless!

A: I know you have read a number of books on consciousness and spirituality since your own experience has unfolded. Have these books helped? Do they give you a sense that you’re not...?

B: That I’m not nuts?... But I’m out there! And these people are too — very far out! They describe similar experiences, each in his own way. Ken Wilbur is a brilliant genius, a mind who also describes his personal experiences. And Sri Aurobindo has got twenty years alone in a room. If you don’t come up with something after twenty years, what the hell are you doing in there? You’d get goddam bored. (laughter) Obviously, he chose to be there and wanted to go as far as he could. Fortunately for us, he described it. He went as deep as anyone can go. I never forget that I am a beginner. My experiences are both strong and convincing now; but still, by habit, I short-circuit or stop them. I’m still trying to manage the balance/imbalance problem, and I understand that this doesn’t allow the experience to evolve into a whole. I never wanted to be a person who was totally eaten up by something. That’s the reason I abandoned doing music in the way that could have brought the greatest results. The real performers are consumed by the music. This leaves them helpless in other areas. I didn’t want to be trapped. Horowitz practiced ten hours a day. He drove himself nuts. It’s physically demanding and the highest kind of mental concentration. I feel the same about the experience I am going through now.

A: You could be consumed by it?

B: That’s my fear. When it comes so strongly, I feel, ‘O God, I’m finished, I’m gone!’

A: Is it stronger now? You have worked at bridging the personal consciousness with the transpersonal. Does this change the experience?

B: The energy in my head is stronger. In the beginning it used to come and go. It was struggling to push through my resistance. That was bad!

A: It still scares you?

B: No. I’m not afraid. It’s more like having to run six miles when you know you will be exhausted after four. You have to travel the remaining two miles. It’s the only way home. This is hard to face! God! Do I have to do this again and again? But I know I have to. I know what I have to face and try to use good judgment by not putting myself into situations (mainly social) that are too much to handle. I know the process now. If I give it space, it levels off.

A: So it’s easier than in the beginning?

B: It’s more familiar.

A: You know the terrain better?

B: It doesn’t seem like that when it begins. Knowing doesn’t do any good. It’s like being out in a storm. You wait for it to subside so the water will be peaceful.

A: What are the major signals that you are moving into the other consciousness?

B: I can’t concentrate, and my head is full of energy. The magnet starts pulling and I’m gone. I am drawn away from others and my surroundings. I’m in a wide place, and too much is happening at once for me to have any control.

A: You have to give in?

B: I give in. I’m getting good at it. I can be with others and they don’t notice that I’m out.

A: They don’t notice?

B: Even Kate forgets this is happening.

A: Does she understand that it goes on all the time?

B: She forgets. When it’s extreme, she notices. I don’t have normal human responses. She has responses that are over the top. It’s amazing we’re still together! But there is a reason two opposites attract. Kate has been a catalyst for involving me in life. She has exposed me to people and events. Left to my own desires, I would always choose solitude. I see myself sitting on a toadstool with a finger up my nose!

A: How does your personality appear from the vantage point of the other consciousness?

B: I don’t just see my personality — I see everybody’s. I see what we are all doing here!

A: You see more collectively?

B: I see everything. I’ve spent a lot of time self-examining, looking into this mirror.

A: How do you self-examine?

B: I sit down in a chair and the rattling begins. I just watch the rattling and I see all the shit I have carried around from day one to the present.

A: When you go out into the wider consciousness does the rattling follow?

B: When I’m in the other consciousness my personality is non-existent. I’m on automatic pilot. I don’t have an identity. I’m a nothing.

A: You have no personal power?

B: Well, I don’t walk in front of a car. If this other consciousness does what I think it does, you evolve out of your personality. I’m not the same personality I was, although I carry that personality. That’s me in a former life. I’m still carrying its history. It gets me through and I’m emotionally tied to it. I enjoy the small things in life with that identity. It’s the basis for pleasure and pain, but much of the time now I can’t find either because I am gone.

A: No personality?

B: It’s just sitting there. You leave your motorcycle at the curb and take the bus. The bus is taking me on a trip and I’m along for the ride. There is no itinerary. It’s not a personal trip.

A: This consciousness is impersonal?

B: It’s impersonal in the sense that it’s beyond persona. Everything is impersonal to me. (laughter) Still, I love people. I love you. I love Kate. I was on a bus the other day with many Mexican laborers and I felt close to them. My conditioning, my life history, the life-long personality that got me through in no way prepared me for this explosion of consciousness. My personality is not big enough to include this other consciousness; but it does not connect with the mainstream flow either. I cannot get with it. I can’t imagine listening to what other people listen to; do what they do, think what they think.

A: Especially after being in the other consciousness.

B: Yes, it intensifies this feeling.

A: Doing self-examination and going out beyond personality are different levels.

B: Yes, I don’t know the identity of the observer; but whatever it is, that is what I use in self-examination. The other consciousness takes me away. Sometimes it feels like samaadhi. I swoon, but I’m not afraid that I will faint. It’s beyond all the other experiences — beyond focus, concentration. It just is and I am gone.

A: The yogis distinguish between the quiet mind and the silent mind. In the former there are thoughts, but you are not identified with them. In the latter there is no thought.

B: My experience is more like the silent mind.

A: When you go there what is your experience?

B: It’s a relief. All the other shit is gone.

A: People who have near-death experiences describe going into another consciousness that’s so calm and peaceful they don’t want to return. Do you ever want to stay in the other consciousness?

B: I don’t have thoughts about coming back or staying. I never fully come back anyway. I’m here on borrowed time.

A: You are in both places at the same time?

B: Yes. At some point all the mind stuff, analysis... disappears. These operations of the mind occur even in the dream state, but in this other consciousness they completely disappear or are suspended.

A: You are at peace there?

B: I would say so. It’s submission.

A: Is there a sense of time?

B: None. Simply, when I come back I know where I’ve been. I come back relatively, but never totally. I think I’ve known this space since I was a small child. I probably went there to escape. That consciousness is the purest, most uncluttered state of being. All the other parts of me are there somewhere, but for the moment I have been given a reprieve.

A: Are you aware of your physical symptoms in that space?

B: They disappear. All discomfort is gone.

A: Are you aware of anything in particular in that space? You mentioned a sea of consciousness?

B: Not in that space. The sea of consciousness is associated with the magnet that pulls me out of my personal consciousness. This other space is effortless. These two levels are distinct.

A: Both Eastern and Western mystics distinguish between cosmic consciousness — awareness of the unity between all name and form — and transcendent consciousness — no form.

B: When I read books about the transcendent state, I wonder, ‘Are they talking about my experiences?’ If I never read a book it wouldn’t matter. You told me I wasn’t nuts! (laughter) I am cautious about comparing others’ experiences with mine. I don’t want to pretend. But it doesn’t matter anymore. For me, what is important is knowing I am not nuts and being able to get up and put my pants on in the morning.

A: And have a bagel! (laughter)

B: A bagel and coffee.

A: When you are out in the field of consciousness with no awareness is there a lot of energy?

B: No. It’s not about energy: It’s a release. It’s wonderful.... But, I still wish I had a mind. I wish I could concentrate.

A: Feels like you ‘lost’ your mind?

B: I have been overly occupied trying to figure out this experience with my mind. I’ve always felt that I don’t know anything. Everybody else knows! When I was working at music, I only felt justified if I was explaining what I was discovering. I couldn’t just follow the discovery.... I still have this habit. Now, much of my inner dialogue is explaining my experience to you, to Kate, to Arasi. This dialogue is filtering my experience through someone who intellectually understands more than I do about it — who has a critical understanding of what I am trying to understand. Instead of following my own course, and feeling validated by the experience itself, I go to an ‘authority’. I didn’t really want to read these books on transcendence because I didn’t want to filter my experience through a superior experience. I have to protect myself from being overwhelmed by my lack of judgment, experience and knowledge. I’m such a sucker; I could fall into anything!

A: You’ve been trying to verify your experience with something outside yourself.

B: Or, somebody! Somebody who already knows it. I’m filling in both the questions and the answers. Why do I have to do this?

A: It’s all internal anyway.

B: Yes! It’s my thinking process.

A:Now, what is your biggest fear?

B: That I’m going to be too far out to keep my life together. I’m afraid I will become totally unresponsive and will not be able to function if demands are made on me.

A: Despite the difficulty of this journey do you feel gratitude for this experience? Has it been beneficial?

B: I know I should feel gratitude. Sometimes I wonder what might have happened without the physical difficulties (pressure, heat). Maybe I would have evolved more naturally as I got older. I had a good plan for the remainder of my life, but this experience has disrupted everything. I had a very open mind about people’s differences and possibilities. I would go out into the field and talk to God, ‘If you’re up there, I’m ready! Fuck you God! Do something about it!’ But nothing happened and there I stood.... This experience is forcing me to take advantage of my deeper side; that part of myself that was always floating out there. Each day I felt good — sometimes exhilarated or ecstatic, whether it was music, looking at the sky or running. I had wonderful feelings; but when this other consciousness broke through it wiped me out. I have very mixed feelings about being grateful. I had no choice. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t looking for it. I couldn’t understand it. My partner was frantic about me all the time. I was in hell! Still I know the experiences are a big deal. I don’t doubt that.

A: Are they beneficial?

B: Yes, I appreciate the insight and the awareness.

A: I know that language can distort and inflate experience, but how do you see this other consciousness?

B: My experience is one of the goals of meditation. You can call it nirvana or super-awareness. I am amazed by the power of the energy coming from my head. I always thought about the electrical energy in the air around us. If there is electricity coming through the outlets and through the sky; if there are electrical impulses in the brain, what is so unusual about human beings being connected to this energy? Everybody but you would think I’m a whacko for saying a magnetic force draws me out into a wider consciousness. That experience is quite remarkable — a real experience. It’s an experience not of my mind, my thinking or analysis, not my projection — it’s a real, physical, psychological experience. Kundalinii is a good term to use. It’s the description used in the books that makes the most sense. The results of that kind of energy take me to places to which many people aspire. I appreciate that! Usually, I sit for two or three hours in the morning. Sometimes, I can’t do anything else. I am besieged and I can’t go out into this world.

A: When you wake up are you already ‘out’?

B: Yes, from sleep. For me the difference between sleep and waking is the presence of the personal self in waking — a self that can observe the activity. Sometimes, I waken and feel like a regular person, but then I become aware of the buzzing sound. I think it is the kundalinii.

A: Kundalinii does have a physical component.

B: Yes, the sound is like cicadas.

A: Does it go on all day?

B: Pretty much. It subsides when I am distracted, but if I sit quietly it’s as strong as the external sounds. It is a familiar sound now, except in the morning.

A: When you sit and get yourself together do you become more identified with your personal consciousness?

B: No, I try to balance them. I try not to interfere with the activity in the upper part of my head. If I do, there is a battle all day.

A: Are you accepting the wider consciousness?

B: Yes.

A: Do you accept it as part of your self — part of your reality?

B: Yes. I don’t think others will want it. I doubt whether it is something I can sell.

A: For six years I have watched you go through a passage that often brought you to the edge of sanity. Many others might have lost it.

B: Yes, this is true.

A: You have found the strength to accommodate a monumental change of consciousness.

B: I have a lot of endurance. I go along as if that is what I’m supposed to do because I don’t know any better. I am strong.

A: Do you have permanent access to the new consciousness?

B: I don’t know about permanent, but I do have ready access. I’m there — I can’t go back from there. I can temporarily distract myself, and I do. I enjoy not being on the mountain. I enjoy getting rid of my change, my pennies, cutting wood, getting the right amount of peanut butter off the knife.

A: Simple pleasures!

A: Are you in your personal consciousness and the other consciousness at the same time?

B: Yes, but there are degrees. The new consciousness is there all the time. How-ever, I would be happy to let it go! My internal system has been altered; it will never be the same.

A: What if the new consciousness disappeared?

B: I am troubled mostly by the physical symptoms — pressure, heat — what I perceive as energy. If that ceased and I woke like most people and sat down to meditate, what would I experience? I believe that where I go is not a product of my imagination. I did not make it up. It is a permanent experience. However, I would be happy to let go! If this intensity would leave my head and it was a more peaceful path... that would be okay. The energy is too distracting, sometimes distressing. Although I am better at dealing with it now, it wipes out my concentration and my personality.

A: Does the new consciousness ever enhance your activities?

B: Yes, when I play music I draw on the best stuff that is in there. There is no interference from the mind. Using the mind does not work. I have to get out of the way and let it roll.... When I am playing tennis, as soon as the competitive ego steps forward, I’m finished. Then I say, ‘Let’s go back to how you were playing a minute ago — just chase the ball and don’t care about the score.’

A: So if you can keep your ego out of it...

B: I don’t keep anything out of anything anymore. I just recognize it for what it is. I just play the game for the rhythm and the feel and the dance!

A: How does the new consciousness effect your involvement in music?

B: I was always trying to analyze what I heard so I could use it. Now, I can’t analyze it, so I hear more dimensions. The really great performers go beyond the thinking part. They do their work of thinking, analyzing, but then they let it go and allow the power of the music use them. Others have the training, the skill, but they cannot access the magic.

A: But you have to prepare the instrument in order to receive something?

B: Yes, it’s like a track star. He trains and trains, but on the day of the race he lets go. I trained my psyche through music.

A: This amazing journey began with music.

B: Music blew it open. The piano study blew it open. I got stretched too far by this other consciousness. It popped a button!

A: You said, ‘If this consciousness does what I think it does, you evolve out of your personality.’ After living with this consciousness for six years, what, in your personality, needs the most work to facilitate this evolution?

B: My personality is like everybody else’s. I want to be Mr. Wonderful; to be satisfied, to be fulfilled, to be able to perform perfectly. Also, there are good feelings — like finishing a carpentry job. And bad feelings — like when I was young, I had this fantasy of machine-gunning people I didn’t like! (laughter) The fear in us wants all these attachments as support.... One of the major obstacles, however, in facilitating this evolution is my belief that no one has the capacity to know any answer. People say the divine this, the divine that, the Him God, the Her God. This is all human concoction. Maybe it derived from an experience of higher consciousness, but the interpretation is human! I don’t get the God feeling. I get powerful feelings, but I don’t know the real story. I’ve given up on knowing, on trying to figure out who did the Big Bang.

A: Are you saying you don’t have absolute knowledge?

B: I feel I can get to the center of my psyche which I feel is the center of everything, but this may also be a mental concoction. You see, I’m a sceptic. I envy people who have religion. I never had it. And this leads me to the other major obstacle interfering with this consciousness — my bad attitude.

A: What do you mean?

B: I don’t have God-consciousness. I read a book about the visions of Ramakrishna. He speaks of these visions in religious terms. I believe in his experience, but cannot bring myself to call it ‘God’. I believe in the force of nature and electricity. I believe in the story you told me about Saint Theresa being thrown out of bed by the kundalinii and balancing on the top of her head. I believe in universal power, but I don’t have an interpretation of these experiences. That leaves me loose and vague. The most I can say is: I am touched by an awareness of a much deeper part of myself than I can understand. But I don’t have an interpretation.

A: In the beginning you were afraid of losing parts of your personality. Good feelings, things you enjoyed. Is that fear still present?

B: I found a way to still access little pleasures. I tickle myself, laugh at little things. This happens when I am alone. Mainly, I don’t want to be a fraud. The warnings are in all the books: don’t become self-satisfied with your special qualities. They are nothing! Besides, I have a mirror and I see all the shit that comes up. I say, ‘You fool!’

A: This happens when you practice self-examination?

B: I don’t have to be sitting. It’s constant! But I can’t immediately cleanse myself. I can’t take a knife and cut out the bad parts. I have to endure them. I’ve spent so much time sitting by myself — my self-awareness is very strong. But, I’m a beginner.

* * * *

After our conversation, I kept returning to Bob’s story of going out in a field to call and challenge God. “If you are up there, I’m ready!” and “Fuck you, God! Do something about it!” Mystical literature is filled with accounts of the aspirant’s desperate or angry cry for revelation — the call. And then the response coming in a time, a space, a form, unpredictable and unimaginable.

Bob would be loath to call this invasion of a new consciousness ‘God’. Yet the total disruption of his life, and near-annihilation of his personal consciousness are classic initiatory marks of the passage through the portals of mystical experience. Without knowledge and awareness of this initiation, these marks might be mistaken for insanity.

Bob grappled with terror of insanity for the first two years of his journey. Trapped in a mind unable to concentrate and perform its usual analytical operations, he suspected the worst. He was walking on a razor’s edge: on the one hand, testing for organic dysfunction and making decisions about medication, on the other, slowly embracing the process of this strange, new consciousness.

Bob was in the midst of a spiritual emergency. Had he sought the help of someone unfamiliar with the signs of an evolving consciousness, this process might have been aborted by medication/hospitalization. Although frequently overwhelmed by the foreign terrain of his passage, he clung to a sense of meaning and direction. Despite external pressure to seek temporary respite, Bob chose to allow a consciousness that threatened to obliterate his familiar identity.

The evolution from an ego-centered identity (personal consciousness) to a universal identity (cosmic consciousness) to an identity beyond name and form (transcendent consciousness) is the journey of the mystic and the yogn. Not only has Bob experienced the dissolution of boundaries between these three poises of consciousness, but a frightening confusion regarding his own identity. Who is this shifting ‘I’ — chair, tree, star; this human form called ‘Bob’? Early on, he found solace in the following:

“We have identified ourselves with our body, mind and personality, imagining these objects to constellate our real ‘self’, and we then spend our entire lives trying to defend, protect, and prolong what is just an illusion. We are the victims of an epidemic case of mistaken identity, with our Supreme identity quietly but surely awaiting discovery. And the mystic wants nothing more than to have us awaken to who, or what, we really and eternally are beneath or under or prior to our pseudo-self. Thus he asks us to cease identifying with this false self.... My mind, my thoughts, my desires — these are no more my real Self than the trees, the stars, the clouds, and the mountains.... What I am goes much, much beyond this isolated, skin-bounded organism (1).”

Bob has been propelled beyond his ordinary consciousness by an energy that creates heat and pressure in his head. In the early stages of his passage, these physical symptoms triggered intense headaches and depression. It was the force that opened his inner vision (projection of mandalas) and transported him into the sea of consciousness, and beyond. Many of its manifestations bear strong resemblance to kundalinii energy, long experienced by mystics of East and West. The recipients of this evolutionary energy bear testimony to its power to break any resistance (in personal consciousness) that prevents movement towards the universal and transcendent. Insistence on clinging to these formations can create intense physical and psychological suffering. This force of kundalinii demands nothing less than total surrender.

Bob has recounted many instances of facing the dark parts of his personality. Despite his suffering, however, he recognized them as obstructions. Equally difficult has been his reluctance to let go of his retirement plans — innocent plans to enjoy life. His early attempts to ignore the manifestation of this new consciousness led to great pain and suffering.

He has experienced many signs germane to an arousal of kundalinii — the energy of consciousness. The initial symptoms were intense energy, heat and pressure in his head (covering his forehead to the crown). These physical phenomena were accompanied by great detachment, as well as fear, anxiety and depression. Bob discovered single seeing to relieve the extreme pressure in his head. This aspect of kundalinii is achieved by gradually rolling the eyes upward and centering on the crown of the head. Eventually, this special concentration allowed him to go from personal to universal to transcendent consciousness. He also entered deep trance states wherein his body was locked into particular postures. For several years Bob has experienced the abiding sound of cicadas — a classical phenomenon of kundalinii. Finally, his electrical projections of mandalas correspond to the inner lights and visions of kundalinii (2).

Often, the awakening of kundalinii is transitory, ultimately leaving one’s con-sciousness unchanged. Often, it can be aborted by an external force such as medication. For the last six years, Bob has never been free of this mysterious energy. It has exerted a constant pressure to enter a wider consciousness. Not only does he have ready access to the latter, but it is present, simultaneously, with his personal consciousness. Bob’s ongoing battle to find a balance between a limited personal consciousness and a limitless, impersonal one is a work in progress.

He is drawn from his personal consciousness by a magnetic force (kundalinii) and transported to his ‘real psyche’. His description of this state corresponds to what mystics call cosmic consciousness. Here the tension in his body disappears as well as the pulls of his personality. In this sea of consciousness — a place of solid awareness — Bob can become the chair, the table, the star: “There is very little of my self left.” Here the awareness is... of something you really don’t understand. But the feeling is an awareness of everything.... It’s a center point for all the complicated things in the mess. All of a sudden, there it is in one wordless place.

This cosmic perspective allows Bob to witness all the compartments of his personality. Here he stops filtering his thought through imaginary dialogues.

“This other consciousness does not allow dialogues. I’m way beyond dialogue.”

Beyond the transience of ego-centricity, Bob discovered another center:
“I call it a balance-point. There everything vibrates in balance. It’s an all-inclusive point.”

From this center he can assume many forms.

“It’s an all-inclusive form. I can be a tree or a stepladder as much as I can be a person. There is no me — there is a life-force that can create anything.”

This fluidity of form reflects the mystic’s cosmic consciousness wherein...
“One begins to feel others too as part of oneself or varied repetitions of oneself, the same self modified by Nature in other bodies (3).”

Bob also entered another field of consciousness where name, form and awareness were absent. “It just is and I am gone.”

No personality, no thought, no emotions, no identity. All discomfort disappears and he is at peace. This state resembles yogic trance (nirvikalpa samaadhi):

“... a complete trance in which there is no thought or movement of consciousness or awareness of either inward or outward things — all is drawn up into a supracosmic Beyond. But here it cannot mean that — it probably means a trance in a consciousness beyond the Mind (4).”

These parallels between mystic/yogic and Bob’s experience have not moved him towards interpretation. While they have alleviated his fear of insanity, he is adamant about not using terms such as ‘spiritual’ or ‘God’ to describe his experience. His family belonged to an evangelical, Christian church known for its emotional healing rituals. At eight or nine years he was called up to the front of the church to be healed. Kneeling and closing his eyes, he waited and waited for God to come. Eventually, someone tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Everyone has gone.”

While this event did not endear Bob to organized religion, it revealed his perseverance and willingness to explore new experiences. At a very early age, he may have unwittingly opened himself to a mystical experience.

Bob did not invite his new consciousness to establish residency in his being. However, he now recognizes it as a familiar guest.

“When I come back, I know where I’ve been. I come back relatively, but never totally. I think I’ve known this space since I was a small child. I probably went there to escape. That consciousness is the purest, most uncluttered state of being... I tell you I think I was there before I went there. Whatever forced it — I went where I really am.”

Bob continues to journey in uncharted territory. What lies ahead is veiled in mystery. One thing is clear: His consciousness has been radically and permanently altered. The uninvited guest has become a resident.


1. Wilber K. No Boundary. Boston; Shambhala, 1985, p. 57.

2. Sannella L. The Kundalini Experience. CA; Integral Publishing, 1992.

3. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 22. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1970, p. 316.

4. Op.cit. SABCL, Volume 23. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1970, p. 741.

Dr. Arya Maloney is the co-founder of the Mindbody Centre in Kingston, New York and holds three graduate degrees in chemistry, theology and psychology. He has been teaching in colleges and universities.

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