Many prophets whose wisdom I acknowledge have said that the self is an illusion, that I am not a separate consciousness but part of a Universal Consciousness. In fact, this tenet seems to be at the core of every mystical tradition. But it is not my experience. My experience is dominated by conditions of this body, its physical needs, its habits, its aches and its yearnings. Even my thoughts and reveries I experience as my own—no one else is thinking these thoughts when I am thinking them. I can experience empathy, but it is less immediate and compelling. I sometimes know a resonance or a consanguinuity of experience with another; but rarely, it is an intellectual experience, less palpably immediate than empathy.
I want to know what they are talking about. I want to have the experience of Universal Consciousness. I crave the palpable sensation of what these sages say is my deep nature.
If I didn’t have a lifelong antipathy to drugs, maybe what to do would be obvious. Maybe ayahuasca is the answer to my prayers.
What other paths present themselves? Moments of mutual orgasm? The marriage bond? The all-embracing commitment of parenthood? I have known all these, and they have transformed me. But can I say that they broke through my sense of being a separate self? Have they softened the boundaries of my ego so that I could say, even momentarily, “Thou and I are one”?
My instinct is to look to meditation or dreams to find this experience, but isn’t it more likely to be found in a community or an ecosystem? A oneness with nature, or maybe a culture that takes nature as a point of departure?
Sign me up.
But wait. What sense does it make to say “I want this experience”? There are some things you can obtain by trying, and often wanting something enough is a big boost toward achieving it. But this direct experience which “I” seek can never be the experience of an “I”. It is the dissolution of the “I”. It is the feeling of what it’s like to not be an I. It is what it is like to not be. It is death.
Don’t sign me up quite yet.
If you find yourself feeling utterly separate, you are not alone.