March 8, 2012

Yoga Unveiled: The Impersonal Witness. ~ Godfrey Devereux

The following is an extract from the book Yoga Unveiledby Godfrey Devereux.

The Source is the essence of the Self [1]

untouched by the dynamics of identification

 and traces of action

it is the origin of transcendental omniscience


When consciousness embodies itself within the sophistication of the human organism it undergoes a subtle and layered process of identification.

Its inherent power of reflective intelligence ‘recognises’ itself as blissful awareness of being, or satcitananda. This is the deep, impersonal root of the reflective intelligence of human consciousness. Yet at the same time consciousness also becomes aware of its localisation in and as a unique bodimind. It identifies itself with its localisation, expressed in the sense of  “I am”. This “I” is the impersonal witness, or Self, not yet limited by any specific local attribute or condition. Its essence is the impersonal awareness of being that exists prior to and within the dynamics of identification, which are rooted in the impersonal recognition of its localisation. This initial identification generates the tendency of consciousness to identify itself as an organism with attributes of its localised field. This causes the sense of individual, personal self that expresses itself as “I am this, that and the other”. This process of identification rests on the flow of seeing being divided and defined by cause, effect and action into the cognitive split of subject and object.

Neither identification, nor the apparent actions and objects that it depends upon, affect the inherently unconditional and nonlocal nature of consciousness. In order to truly realise this we need to actually experience it. Deep enquiry into the nature of mental activity spontaneously elicits this realisation as it naturally dismantles the conceptual and perceptual structure that normally keeps us away from it. In doing so all the elements of separate identity are removed and we experience and can recognise the inherent and absolute identity of all phenomena with the indivisible wholeness of totality, and that distinction is an attribute of location and not of nature. What we usually take ourselves to be, our separate, personal identity turns out to be nothing more than a dot on the surface of what we actually are, which is nothing other than the indivisible wholeness of totality consciously localising in and as a specific bodimind.

The eclipse of the personal self into Self-realisation is much more than simply understanding all this intellectually.

It also dissolves the burden of knowledge, wherein we continuously strive and struggle to know things that we can’t or don’t need to. All that needs to be known in life is actually always known, and all that is actually known is all that needs to be known for that which is actually happening to actually be happening: which it is. Our understanding of knowledge is as limited as our understanding of perception and cognition with which it is inextricably linked. Seduced as we are by the power of cognitive intelligence and its remarkable tools of differentiation and analysis, we ignore not only our perceptual intelligence, but that of consciousness itself also.

We act and think, with a remarkable degree of effectiveness, as if our perceptions are real. Yet when we become intimate enough with the dynamics of perception we discover their completely symbolic and representative nature.

We are never seeing what actually is, only how it appears to us. This appearance is constructed through many layers of filtering generated as much by our personal experience as our biological design. Yet, within all of this active intelligence a deeper, very different form of intelligence is always functioning: the intelligence of consciousness itself.  The nonlocal, impersonal nature of consciousness gives its intelligence a radically different nature and qualities. Unlimited by experience, design or locality, it is equally unlimited in its knowing. Yet that knowing is never fully reflected in localised, cognitive intelligence. Yet, whatever is known by our cognitive intelligence, is actually revealed by and within the intelligence of consciousness which is both unconditioned and unconditional, and actually always fully available in potential.

One of the effects of Self-realisation is the softening of the limits of our knowing.

Things that we could never know by virtue of our limited, local experience become available, as the barriers between our conditioned, local intelligence and unconditioned, nonlocal consciousness dissolve. The transcendental omniscience that consciousness actually is becomes more accessible. Our perceptions and understanding become more acute, accurate and insubstantiable. Usually the availability of transcendental omnisicience is restricted by the narrowing of our cognitive and perceptual field by the sense of self and its needs to maintain itself. When this is no longer a priority we become open with no restricting agenda, and so naturally see much more deeply and clearly.

devoid of any significance the Self

dissolves into Otherlessness

as consciousness-energy


Consciousness no longer able to identify itself with its instrument lets go of the illusion of “I am” and settles into the impersonal delight of its own presence within which there is no other or self of any kind. The impersonal witness, or Self has become as redundant as the personal seer, doer, or self.

This is the final revelation of that which actually is: consciousness in self-expression to itself. The being state in which there is neither self nor other is not one in which there are neither body nor universe, mind nor manifestation. Body still has and expresses its organic needs, mind its ability to discriminate and know. Gravity still exerts its power and water is still wet. Nevertheless, robbed of even its most subtle roots the existence of otherness is no longer possible. This does not mean than we can no longer recognise organic boundaries, external objects or the flow of actions in time. It simply means that they all happen in and as the flow of consciousness onto which no self or other is imposed.

Being as this is a final and irrevocable return to the deep ground of being it is not an obviously special or spectacular state with any overt sign or signals. Yet relieved of the illusions of independence, autonomy and volition we are no longer vulnerable to pride, shame, guilt, blame, anxiety, regret, resentment, contempt, disdain, hostility and all the vain and troublesome accumulations of the self. Nor does kaivalya depend on abandoning or denying the needs and obligations of the mundane world of human relationship. It a simple and irresistible return to our natural state as consciousness knowing itself freely and fully in and as the conditioned particularities of a transient human organism, without any identification at all.

Nevertheless, even when being lived from this perspective, elements of human experience usually and mistakenly associated with the personal self remain, but without causing any confusion. The biological, even if not physical [1], independence of the body, its endless needs, demands and unique personal history all continue to be present. So too does the verbal signifier whereby that body is differentiated from others. Even in the nonduality of kaivalya we are still able to recognise pressure in the bladder and the calling of our name. Yet the sense of being able to control events has been totally eradicated along with any need to do what we are not doing, to feel what we are not feeling, to know what we do not know or to be what we actually are not.

Consciousness as impersonal awareness of being is finally able to enjoy its infinite capacity for creative self expression within another bodimind: the one that bears your name, perhaps.

Read Part I: Yoga Unveiled: The Self as Seer.

Read Part II: Yoga Unveiled: Non-dual Patanjali. 

[1] Electrons, which are the physical ‘building blocks’ of matter, are continually leaving their outer orbits around the nuclei of atoms and being replaced by others from adjacent atoms. By the time you go to bed at night your underwear has become part of your body tissues. So much for separateness.

[1] something different from the self


Editor: Tanya L. Markul

Godfrey Devereux has been teaching and practicing yoga for over 40 years and his contribution to the art and science of yoga is unique and remarkable. Unintimidated by the ideologies and hierarchies of tradition he has been able to cast clear light on the subtleties of yoga practice, developing a systematic exploration of the relationship between body, mind and consciousness as expressions of a single spectrum of intelligence. Relying as it does on the inherent intelligence of the body, rather than flexibility, skill or strength, his training method allows anyone to enjoy a seamless transition from separateness to integration, without losing touch with what makes each one of us distinct and unique.

Godfrey’s pioneering journey into the roots of human experience is grounded in a lifetime of yoga practice on mat and cushion that began when he was 16 years old. Fertilised by professional training in Child Development and Education, Oriental Medicine, and dedicated study with masters of Zen, Advaita and Tantra as well as Indian Yoga Gurus, Godfrey’s practice has brought him to a deep, lucid intimacy with the subtleties of being human, within which its apparent paradoxes are all heart‐warmingly resolved. At the heart of his teaching is a presentation of yoga as unity, rather than union. To find out one way that Posture Practice can be Yoga, please visit here or here. To enjoy a cogent and relevant intepretation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, please visit here or here.

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