Do you see O my brothers and sisters?
It is not chaos or death—
it is form, union, plan—

it is eternal life—

it is Happiness.

WALT WHITMAN

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Dr. Michael Damian, send us a note!

Introduction
Wisdom comes from understanding, step by step in your daily life, and not just from clinging to awareness, silence or bliss. Wisdom must flow out from its pure source in consciousness and become fully functional in all aspects of life. 
Michael Damian

This spiritual approach affirms the transcendent dimension of divine consciousness or spirit (God) as well as the reality of the human dimension, our personal psychology and our need to become integral individuals informed by the transcendent. The idea here, is not that our true nature is simply impersonal awareness and that the relative, human dimension is not real. It is rather that we inhabit a divine order of Being, in which every aspect has purpose and intelligence. The awakening of pure consciousness must at all times be joined with, and used in service of, psychological insight, integration and self-actualization. Although the pursuit of psychological well-being 

 

This approach therefore offers an alternative to the common notion of enlightenment as a simple escape from the personal into the impersonal; or from individual existence into oneness. The aim here is enlightened individualism, in which the transcendent consciousness is known directly, and lived in and through the human individual. It may seem as though most spiritual approaches recommend the same kind of integration, but it is not the case. 

When we are desperately seeking escape from personal suffering, it often seems that our only need is to find the impersonal truth and escape the personal view and identity. Although discovering the impersonal truth is absolutely vital, with more mature insight we see that wisdom is not complete without love. The question is, how do we understand the nature of love if reality is described only as empty, inert awareness in which the world of humans is mere illusion? Such a model in fact denies love, and God, any real meaning. 

Love is a divine reality that finds its meaning in relationship -- between God and humanity, and between our own divine awareness and our very conditioned human psychology. In the best of spiritual traditions, there is an insistence that mature wisdom embraces and illumines the personal dimension with compassionate love, cosmic humor and celebration.

 

Yet some enlightenment teachings dismiss both God and the human mind as fictions. They suggest there is no inherent reality to anything at all, except perhaps for an empty, impersonal awareness that has no relation to the world whatsoever, which is regarded as pure illusion. They claim that reality consists merely of ephemeral, meaningless phenomena happening in awareness -- and that "I" the conscious subject, am in fact "nothing and no one." Such a threadbare ontology dismisses the depth of conscious intelligence and offers an extraordinarily shallow vision of enlightenment. 

 

Such ideas are quite seductive to human beings who are in pain, who see no point in existence, who are convinced by postmodern sophistry ("Life is inherently meaningless," etc.), and who desire a philosophy that ruthlessly and totally negates all human concerns and entanglements. For some people, the more cold, dry and abstract such a philosophy is, the more convinced they are that it is the "pure" or "radical" truth. 

Although such approaches may superficially invoke the value of compassion or love, they inherently dismiss love, spirit or God as an ultimate ontological principle. Such nihilism does not accord with various spiritual revelations, especially those we find in the near-death-experience (NDE) literature, which abound with revelations of the unfathomable intelligence, beauty and love of our spiritual source and home, God. Nevertheless, quasi-nihilistic approaches are attractive to people who are skeptical and atheistic; for whom historical religion holds no symbolic, archetypal truths at all; and who nevertheless are seeking some form of spirituality or road to inner peace. 

Ultimately, nihilism and relativism do not work as serious approaches to our existence. They are merely anesthetics against existential pain and intellectual cop-outs. Ultimately, our sincere seeking for love and for truth must affirm God as a transcendent reality in which human beings have intrinsic purpose -- rather than existing as mere delusions.

 

Ultimately, pseudo-spiritual nihilism and moral relativism do not work as serious approaches to our existence, or to spiritual awakening. They are intellectual cop-outs and opiates against our existential pain, but wrapped in a bit of eastern mysticism. Eventually, our sincere seeking for love, truth and meaning must intuit and affirm God as an infinite reality that is both personal and impersonal; and in which human beings have intrinsic purpose rather than being mere illusory shells appearing upon a background of awareness.

In this approach, we aim to start knowing and living from pure observing and clear consciousness, as an immediate, practical remedy for being stuck and identified exclusively with thoughts, feelings and personal history. Meanwhile, as a consequence of this conscious clarity and pure presence, we also bring loving kindness and subtle understanding to our psychological nature and to the nature of our relationships in the world. This attitude thereby brings direct recognition of essential conscious nature, while also integrating and illumining our psychology with conscious intelligence. At no point in this process are we permitted to indulge the seductive idea that the only thing that matters is being aware or recognizing impersonal awareness. Rather we must fully actualize this inner light of our being, and we must understand that we are not, and God is not, merely impersonal awareness. We, and God, are made of limitless conscious intelligence which is in eternal self-communion and relationship with its own creation. Although some will protest that this is a narrative story about existence, we ultimately find that it more fully explains and redeems our existence. Contrary to popular mythology about enlightenment, we cannot in fact live without stories, without archetypes, without soul and without desire, thoughts or feelings. Rather we are called to tell the story, and fulfill the archetypal longing, that more fully accords with our deepest intuition and longings. 

 

What is spiritual awakening or enlightenment?

Awakening is a transcendental recognition of consciousness or immortal spirit, as our nature. This dawning of sublime self-knowledge is accompanied by unprecedented peace, love and release from our former state. To be genuine, awakening must deeply transform the mind patterns and personality, as it removes the core confusion and pain that drove our negative patterns. Therefore, spiritual maturity includes both the experience of direct illumination and its long-term effects. These effects include a profound degree of psychological integration and insight. 

Does enlightenment just mean knowing impersonal awareness?

An enlightened human being is one in whom the essential consciousness or spirit, which is beyond the solely personal individuality, has awoken or shall we say, revealed itself. However, the common idea of enlightenment as being solely the escape from personal, separative individuality, is flawed. Spiritual maturity means the full illumination and actualization of our divinely given individuality and psychology.  

In awakening, do we lose our self or realize our true self?
Our real self is a spiritual reality that absolutely exists. When we outgrow a false, mental and material idea of self, we do not cease to exist as conscious presence or spirit. When we come to deep awakening or enlightenment, we directly understand the meaning of pure consciousness or emptiness of mind. But the idea that we lose our self or have no self to begin with, is false. Conscious spirit is a timeless, divine reality that persists beyond birth and death.   

What is the process for awakening?
The awakening of consciousness arises from a natural process of observing and understanding. As we learn to observe, we recognize our conscious nature with greater clarity while also illumining our psychology with love and insight. Our conscious nature (spirit) is love itself, which brings all that is unconscious in us into the light of its healing presence. 


 

How should we view thoughts and feelings?
There is no need to get rid of thoughts and feelings, only to see them for what they are. Over time, wisdom naturally purifies and integrates the personality, so that our thoughts, feelings and actions reflect conscious intelligence rather than confusion. This creates an authentic, empowered and self-realized human being.    

This process helps us to clearly recognize our conscious nature as pure, free and transcendent of time and space. Consciousness reveals itself to itself, in totality and timelessness. Meanwhile, our focus should be to live in observing, inner listening and examining our character, attitudes and actions. This brings all that is unconscious in us to light. It is only by making the unconscious conscious that we gain wisdom.

Is awakening gradual? 
This breakthrough of illumination is a milestone in the mystic's journey, and this aspect is not gradual or partial. Nor can we say that it is mere chance. Generally speaking, authentic, deep awakening comes from rigorous devotion to love and truth. This transformative shift of spirit should not be equated with glimpses or moments of clarity. It comes about through the process of observing, understanding and opening to our conscious nature.

I teach that being meditative, present and aware is only the beginning. We have to use conscious presence to gain penetrating insight to the nature of mind and existence. As we live in conscious presence and gain insight, we begin to embody a depth of stillness and love that transforms the mind.

Much of our learning is through relationships. We must learn what real love means and to do this we need understanding, or wisdom. The idea that there is nothing to know or learn, in order to find spiritual freedom, is a seductive falsehood. Without wisdom, we lack love and we make a mess of our lives. The knowledge we seek comes from observing and understanding our psychology, especially in relationship with others. 

Contrary to popular mythology, psychology is not separate from spirituality. Your psyche exists in consciousness and will reflect your confusion or your clarity of consciousness. Therefore, the idea that we just need to know awareness and can ignore our psychology is false. Authentic enlightenment means to have largely freed the mind of false beliefs, delusions and distortions of personality. It means to have healed the core wound of separateness and alienation, which may be complicated by trauma. In that freedom, we experience the positive wisdom and love of our spiritual nature. Wisdom comes from understanding, step by step, and not just from clinging to pure awareness, silence or bliss. Wisdom must flow down from its pure source in consciousness and become fully functional in all aspects of life.