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Learning From Direct Mystical Consciousness

In graduate school, I was particularly amazed by Jean Piaget, the French psychologist, who created an entire theory of child development simply by carefully watching his own children. Carl Jung, too, developed a profound depth psychology much of it from his own inner work. Later I was equally amazed at Buddha's insights about the construction of personality and the nature of enlightenment achieved by carefully watching his own mind. These men did not perform large-scale human studies, sophisticated statistical analyses, etc., they just looked. Not that studies are wrong or inadequate, they are indeed the backbone of science, but I personally learn more by direct observation of my own interior. I suspect this is true for most seekers: you don't experience divinity in belief systems or books. This distinction between the nomothetic - large scale studies, and the idographic - the study of the unique individual, was described by the American psychology Gordon Allport back in the 1930's. It made so much sense to me then; I see now that my whole life has been a pursuit of the personal mystical idiographic.

Now this takes me into aging. What I am writing about here is the internal experience of aging, which can be described from nomothetic studies and idiographic psychological, spiritual and/or mystical observation. As a idiographic psychologist, I am drawn to the interplay (or inner play?) of thoughts, feelings, images, inner conflicts, and dreams. As a doctor of interfaith studies (and ordained interfaith minister), I am pulled into the spiritual dimension, and even more powerfully, into mystical consciousness. I am discovering that this enterprise is my "work" at this time in life.

Through what I call "experiments in consciousness," I am watching myself steadily transform the experience of aging through. These are not unlike thought experiments but focused instead on the direct experience of consciousness. You will find a variety of these experiments in my books, Ordinary Enlightenment, Finding Heaven Here, and The Three Secrets of Aging. So in this time of aging, I find myself discovering how the direct experience of consciousness changes my aging, particularly as I explore and experience equations like these: consciousness without thought = God's Consciousness → joy/love/gratitude; Consciousness + Being → Conscious Being/Bliss; Presence → Inner Divine Being; "I don't exist/I am not this" → joyous detachment from drama; I am = what God is. Each element in these kinds of experiments must be directly experienced and felt/experienced deeply for the next element to arise. If you think about all this, it won't happen, because you'll just fall back into the conceptual labyrinth of mind.

You don't need a guru to do these experiments (or your own) in consciousness. Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, and countless others across traditions pursued this path. In fact, Hinduism has long described four paths to enlightenment, one of which involves this kind direct inner observation (Jnana-yoga). The ancient Hindu rishis plunged deep within themselves to find and experience the divine first hand. You just need to be fully present, awake and focused on each experience, observing what happens in the state you have entered. At the center of this process, of course, is the experience of God, which is not what you think. It's an experience of pure consciousness recognized as divinity itself.

The structure of the psyche has all this built-in - the path is already inside. I believe we need to engage and enlarge these personal experiences of enlightenment to transform aging, for ourselves and, through the fact of unity and sharing of satchitananda (existence = consciousness = bliss - the ultimate equation) for the world. Mystical consciousness, the source of every religion and enlightened teacher, is waiting to be found in your own self experience.

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