The ultimate spiritual revelation is that there is no other. There is only One.
When any individual goes very deep into a meditative state, momentarily transcending the separate self-sense or narcissistic ego, this profound singularity at the level of consciousness itself is what he or she will find. There is an uncontainable thrill in those moments when the nonrelative nature of consciousness actually becomes apparent. It’s as if the water boils over the edge, and the individual suddenly finds himself or herself overwhelmed by the absolute dimension of Being. That is the revelation that enlightens: Consciousness is One without a second, and I Am That.
The ground, or the foundation, of an enlightened perspective is the direct experience of the nonrelative or absolute nature of consciousness itself. Matter, mind, and time are all relative. Consciousness is not. And it is that interplay between the absolute and the relative, between the revelation of One and the appearance of many, that generates the awakened intensity that is the quality of enlightened awareness. An enlightened human life would be one in which the individual is living right on that edge, in the very heart of that paradox.
The most thrilling discovery I have made in my twenty-five years as a teacher of enlightenment is that if a group of individuals chooses to go beyond ego together, it is possible to experience exactly the same overwhelming revelation of the absolute dimension with our eyes open, in a context that is not one of withdrawal and stillness but one of creativity and engagement. We discover a state of consciousness in which we are each aware that there is only One and yet, simultaneously, we are engaging as many; a state in which we are able to experience unqualified communion and powerful autonomy at the very same time. That’s nonduality—incarnational nonduality. It is experienced in the body, in relationship, not only in the stillness of inner revelation.
In the traditional notion of enlightenment, the egoless state is just consciousness or Being. There is no activity involved, no relationship. It is easy to be egoless when there’s no relationship. Anyone can experience egoless consciousness in the stillness of his or her own meditation. But the real challenge of enlightenment is egoless engagement in an intersubjective, creative context. That, to me, is the call of the future. That’s the new enlightenment that I am endeavoring to bring into being. This new enlightenment is not an individual attainment; it is a collective emergence. And it occurs when all individuals involved awaken simultaneously to what I call the Authentic Self, which is the evolutionary impulse itself, the energy and intelligence that created the universe, experienced directly in the human heart and mind. In that awakening, there is no difference between the deepest spiritual revelation of oneness and a fully embodied, conscious engagement with others and with the life process itself. The timeless paradox of enlightenment enters the stream of time in a collective or intersubjective context and becomes the ground for a higher evolutionary or developmental process. The Authentic Self or evolutionary impulse is the urge toward ever-greater complexity and higher integration. So in this intersubjective nondual or enlightened state, there is the living revelation of the fact that there is only One while simultaneously there is the appearance of the many; and the many, in the knowledge of being One, are ceaselessly striving to realize greater complexity and higher integration.
If each of the individuals in such a gathering is deeply committed to the Authentic Self to such a profound degree that it has displaced the separate ego to become the primary locus of identity, something quite miraculous and dramatic starts to occur. The nature of the Authentic Self is ecstatic urgency and unconditional commitment to creating the future. So when two or more individuals come together and awaken to the Authentic Self, a glorious future is created, at the level of consciousness, right now. Heaven comes to earth now. Heaven is a state of being in which the ego is not necessarily transcended altogether but is defeated. Ego is defeated when an individual’s primary locus of identification shifts to the Authentic Self. Then the future at the level of consciousness does emerge in the present moment, and that’s what a truly new world is. It’s not some vague utopian vision a thousand years from now; it’s a new structure in consciousness that emerges at the deepest level, in the most interior dimension of the Kosmos, in real time, right now. At first it is glimpsed as a new potential, and eventually it becomes an actual structure in consciousness that emerges through the many simultaneously. In this intersubjective egoless field, everyone is relating to each other in a completely different way, from a radically different perspective, for very different reasons. And that is how a new world is born.
A new world means a new level or stage of development, and that’s something we have to build together. Throughout history, there have always been rare and extraordinary individuals who were trailblazers, out ahead of everyone else, but new stages of cultural development are not individuals. They are intersubjective structures that are created in consciousness as human beings come together having transcended old value systems and worldviews and created new ones. So if the shared foundation upon which we build new structures is the transcendence of individual and collective ego, we are going to be consciously creating nothing less than an enlightened culture.
Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher and founder of the award-winning EnlightenNext magazine. Click to learn more about his new book Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening.