JCS:v23,no1-2,pp14-31, A.H Almaas, in a different key : )


All, or None : )

We can use the following simple model to ground Almaas’s epistemological entry in an ontologically dynamic, rational framework:

1) There is one self, a field of aware energy, but for the purpose of discussion, we will say it has 3 parts. 1) The inner self that looks into the inner dimension of the mind. 2) The ego, the self that is aware of the dear preciseness of the moment 3) Body consciousness, your physical body aware of itself.

2) A field of awareness is a certain pattern of consciousness units, units that can be likened to Leibniz’s monads.

3) Somewhat following Block, phenomenal consciousness is physical experience. Aspect consciousness is the inner reality of mind.

4) Pure consciousness is Consciousness of Self, The One Self, Pure aware-ized energy, and nothing else. In the absence of something else, The One Self is no-self.

5) Individual consciousness of self, contains Consciousness of Self and consciousness of other. Consciousness of Self divides ItSelf (for the purpose of experiencing ItSelf), creating this self and that self.

6) Stream of Consciousness -a by-product of the dynamic imbalance between the action and identity that created consciousness.

7) Consciousness is an imbalanced reflexive relationship, the result of a dynamic imbalance between action and identity, the action of energy’s inherent drive for change, and identity’s constant attempt to maintain stability. Reflexivity refers to a circular relationship  between cause [action] and effect [identity]. Consciousness is not a thing, it is a way of being, being reflexive.

AHA: Are there irreducible elements in the phenomenology of experience? (2)

AHA: Do these imply some kind of self? (5)

AHA :What kind of self is necessary to account for them? (4)

AHA: How do these elements figure in actual lived experience? (3)

AHA: In my view, the discussion of the phenomenology of experience(3) in its relation to self (5) or no-self  (4) cannot be settled without some of the insights that occur in the experience of spiritual illumination. Furthermore, according to my understanding, it cannot be satisfactorily settled by only one kind of spiritual experience…

JR3: There is only one way to learn what consciousness is: by studying and exploring our own awareness, by changing the focus of our attention and using our own consciousness in as many ways as possible.

AHA: The discussion may be usefully reduced to three primary elements of the phenomenology of experience (1) which somehow allude to the possibility of a self.

AHA: First is the fact of first-personal givenness of any experience. (1.2,1.3)

JR3: Your experience represents what you factually know about a thing. (1.2,1.3) Your feelings represent what you intuitively know about that thing (1.1).

AHA: They are never given anonymously but are always ontologically and epistemologically owned by someone, some consciousness of self. (5)

Zahavi: First personal self-given-ness (1.2) is meant to pinpoint the fact [change to “intuition”] that instinctively conscious mental states are given in a distinct manner (1.2), with a distinct subjective presence, to the subject whose mental states they are…

AHA: This property highlights the inherently perspectival character of all experience (5) , in the sense of phenomenologically belonging to someone.

Zahavi:  For a subject to own something in a perspectival sense is simply for the experience, thought, or action in question to present itself in a distinctive manner to the subject whose experience, thought or action it is. (5)

AHA: Zahavi points to the fact that our experiences happen in a stream, we each have our own stream of experience, and we do not confuse ours with others.  (5), (6)

Zahavi: What the careful consideration of phenomenal character can support is a minimal self [identity], the subject whose existence is allegedly disclosed in and through the reflexive nature of consciousness (7).

AHA: The second property is that of the reflexivity that is always present in experience. (7)

AHA: You do not simply see an apple; you are always aware that you are seeing an apple…(This observation holds whether our experience is dual or non-dual, just as first-personal givenness does.) Phenomenology refers to this as the reflexivity of consciousness. I will be discussing later how this property masks two different kinds of reflexivity, one which is characteristic of ordinary experiences and the other which is available only in spiritual realization.* (7)

[*see, ‘radical reflexivity” in “The Dialogical Self”, (Charles Taylor)]

AHA: The third property is unity of experience which is both synchronic and diachronic. (1)

AHA: Synchronic unity is the fact that at any moment all the elements of our experience are known to be our experience. They are unified as belonging to the same consciousness. Your thoughts, feelings, sensations, seeing of all external objects, hearing of sounds, tastes, and smells, are all integrated into one whole, as your experience. (1)

AHA: Diachronic unity is the unity of the stream of experience (6) along the time axis (1)

AHA: We must remark here that spiritual realization of pure consciousness or awareness can be so complete that there is only the sense or impression of now, with no sense of retention or protention. (4)

AHA: However, ordinary experiences all contain the retention and protention components of the present moment. (1)

AHA: Zahavi uses first-personal self-givenness with diachronic unity to posit his sense of self, the minimal self. (1)

AHA Zahavi is not referring to the ordinary sense of self (1.2) of being an individual entity that independently exists and is the center and agent of perception and actions. The idea of the minimal self is that there is a sense of I that does not mean there is an abiding entity [no-self], but simply a sense of subjectivity that is inherent in the experiencing itself. (4)

Zahavi: The self is defined as the very subjectivity of experience (1.2,1.3), and is not taken to be something that exists independently of, or in separation from, the experiential flow.

AHA: But what is this minimal I, (1.2,1.3)

AHA: and how do we account for the flow of experience? (6)

AHA: For Zahavi, the minimal self [ego consciousness + body consciousness] is something that accompanies and characterizes the stream of consciousness (6).

AHA: Such a formulation fits well with some of the Buddhist schools, since for them there is no substantial self-abiding I, only a sense of that I that characterizes the stream. In other words, the stream has a sense of identity and self-recognition. (1)

AHA: In our view, this does not fully account for the phenomenological elements we are discussing. Why is there a stream of experience,and what is it? (6)

AHA: And what is this identity it seems to have? (1)

AHA: Albahari…subscribes to the idea that there is a stream of consciousness (6), but posits that it is fundamentally a witnessing consciousness that is always simply witnessing the flow of experience and that the witnessing consciousness(1.2) should not be confused with the particular experiences(1.3). (3)

Albahari: The heart of the self-illusion will instead, I contend, lie in the personalized identity that SEEMS [emphasis mine] to place a boundary around the real unified perspective, turning it into what I call a personal owner…(1)

Albahari; What remains after the sense of self has dissolved is a unified perspectival witness-consciousness, that insofar as it lacks the illusion of a personal self, is intrinsically ownerless. (4)

Fasching: Witness is not understood as an observing entity standing opposed to what it observes, but as the very taking place of witnessing itself, and witnessing is nothing other that the taking place of the experiential presence of experiences, in which the experiences have their very being-experienced and thereby their existence.  (1)

AHA: Fasching seems to understand the flow of experience as pointing to the witnessing which is continuous throughout the whole stream(6), and takes this witnessing as the self, or his idea of what the self is that the phenomenology of experience points to: (1)

Fasching: [Ego-]Consciousness is the witnessing (experiencing) of the experiences, and while the experiences change, experience itself abides. (5)

AHA: Advaita has a complex and ambiguous view of the perspectival nature of consciousness: ‘on the one hand admitting that it is constitutive of subjectivity, and on the other denying that that implies an individual subject’ (Ram-Prasad) Ram-Prasad identifies consciousness with atman, the higher self of Vedanta: “:What t5he Advaitins call atman is not the self of individuated consciousness [this and that]. For them, atman is simply the consciousness itself (4) that does the taking of itself as the individual.

AHA: For the Advaitin, consciousness of individuality is an illusion (5)

AHA: atman is not one particular entity [no-self] but the consciousness which mistakenly [?] generates individuality.  (5)

AHA: We question the Advaitic idea that consciousness mistakenly generates individuality. (5)

AHA: …we want to continue with our thread of how the phenomenology of self has been understood.

AHA: Advaita Vedanta, unlike Buddhism, adheres to the point of view that there is an underlying unchanging ground of pure conscious ness and that spiritual illumination is awakening to this truth. (4)

AHA: Pure consciousness, whether referred to as atman, satchiananda, or Braham, is the self, and the I always refers to this self, whether we know it or not. (4,5)

AHA: The error is misidentifying the self with the reified separately existing self. (5) [we are One, and we are many]

AHA: One strand of Mahayana Buddhism believes that recognizing the lack of inherent existence of self and all phenomena is the ultimate truth, the apprehension of which constitutes liberation. Emptiness is seen not as a substratum but as the negation of existence that leaves no remainder.  All of reality is then seen as illusory appearance. (5)


Joseph Rouse <josephrouse3@yahoo.com>

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