We are giving away a copy of Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening by Andrew Cohen. Read this excerpt and comment for your chance to win the book!
The Self: Relative and Absolute
Spiritual Awakening is and always has been about self-discovery. Spiritual practice, to a large degree, is about learning to master the challenging art of differentiating between the many dimensions of your own self. This is no easy task. For all but the rarest among us, our sense of self, our experience of subjectivity, is so close to the eye of awareness that we find it difficult to gain enough distance to make these all-important and liberating distinctions. Indeed, although we experience our sense of self changing from one moment to another, we rarely understand what is actually happening.
When we experience deep states of meditation, for example, we may taste the primordial freedom of the timeless ground of Being, and find our sense of self engulfed in fathomless peace and bliss. In the same way, in moments of powerful spiritual inspiration, we may become so overwhelmed by the ecstatic urgency of the evolutionary impulse that we unselfconsciously experience that passion and energy as our own self. But sooner or later we may fall back into a more familiar, unenlightened, personal sense of identity. And throughout all of this, we are just aware of the rise and fall of different emotional, psychological, and spiritual states. What we do not realize is that we are actually shifting between different dimensions of our own self.
If we aspire to consciously evolve, it is essential that we cultivate an objective interest in who we are and how we are, and this kind of discrimination and self-inquiry requires spiritual inspiration and enormous effort. Without it, no matter what higher potentials we may awaken to, we will likely remain lost in the existential confusion and subjective drama of our ever-changing inner experience. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to know how to discriminate between the different dimensions of who we are. Even though we may be familiar conceptually with the internal universe, it is a rare individual who is spiritually developed enough to actually possess direct experiential knowledge of its multidimensional nature. And it is an even rarer individual who can navigate this challenging territory with the maturity of evolutionarily enlightened awareness.
Teachings of enlightenment, whether traditional or evolutionary, present us with a unique way of thinking about and understanding who we are. What makes an enlightened perspective different from any other perspective is that is emphasizes the significance of those dimensions of self that are non-relative, or “absolute.”
What does “absolute” really mean, for human beings like you and me? For most of us who have grown up in a secular culture, almost every way we are accustomed to thinking about ourselves could be called relative. For example, we tend to think of ourselves as individuals with a unique personality based upon some combination of our psychological experience, our ethnic identity, our cultural background, our gender, and our personal strengths and talents. Some of us even base our fundamental sense of self on our shortcomings, weaknesses, or misfortunes. While these are real and valid aspects of ourselves, they are all relative because they are only partial. There is, however, another dimension altogether upon which we can base our sense of identity, a dimension that is radically different from all others because its very nature is non-relative or absolute. Absolute is a metaphor for that which is infinite, that which has no boundaries.
If the spiritual impulse has awakened within you, and you find yourself compelled to become an enlightened person, then it is the non-relative dimension of your self that you are most interested in. But if you are not deeply committed to your own enlightenment, then knowingly or unknowingly, you are going to be invested in a relative or partial definition of self. And most importantly, you are going to be convinced that that is the whole of who you are. Just imagine for a moment: Who would you be and how would you be if each and every relative expression of your self was recognized to be only a small part of an infinitely bigger picture?
Excerpted from Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening by Andrew Cohen. Published by SelectBooks, Inc.
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