In December of 2001, after meditating for only thirty minutes per day, every day, for four months, I came to know what I understand to be the fundamental nature of reality. I have written a little about it before, and this article is an attempt to address it even more fully.
I will be referring to what in Christianity is called mystical union with God. In the Hindu tradition, it is the true meaning of the word yoga, or union with Brahman, the “single binding unity behind diversity in all that exists in the universe,” according to Wikipedia.
I don’t intend to make this article spiritual or religious. I want for it to be accessible to everyone. Personally, I’m not spiritual or religious in the usual senses of those words. I’m very pragmatic; I’m an engineer with a master’s degree in electrical engineering, and I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I design technology that works, and I understand the scientific method deeply through personal experience with it. I will include quotes from other mystics because their voices have accompanied me on this lonely 17-year journey of integration. These mystics used old-fashioned terminology and often had to shroud their knowledge in religiously-acceptable conceptual frameworks (to avoid persecution), but they clearly speak of the same reality.
After a brief introduction, I will also structure this article as a self-interview. I find it much easier to discuss this topic when it is framed in question-and-answer format. This way I can separate the pieces of myself formally and give them an opportunity to come together visibly and consciously.
The technique by which this union was achieved was to sit with my eyes closed and to pay attention to my breath. By watching my breath, my attention naturally focused on the sensations inside my nostrils. As my skill developed, I was able to pay attention to an increasingly small region of sensation, first inside my nostrils, and later inside the central part of the front of my head, at a point above my eyes.
My attention on that point became so focused that a threshold was crossed. This led effortlessly to more focus, which led to even more focus, in a kind of runaway positive feedback loop. As this happened, I became simultaneously aware of the location of the thing that was doing the observing, which was located at the back of my head.
As the point that I was focusing on became smaller, so did the thing that was doing the focusing. Then the observer and the observed moved closer together, and they merged in the center of my head.
Once the two points came together, they were drawn up through my head. As the point of focus left the crown of my head, I entered into mystical union with God. There are a lot of additional phenomenological details that I could provide about the experience inside my body before and after union, but I don’t want to focus on that in this article. Here, I will focus on union itself.
This instantaneous communication of God to the soul is so great a secret and so sublime a favour, and such delight is felt by the soul, that I do not know with what to compare it, beyond saying that the Lord is pleased to manifest to the soul at that moment the glory that is in Heaven, in a sublimer manner than is possible through any vision or spiritual consolation.—Teresa of Avila
What is like to experience union with God?
First of all, it’s not an experience. For it to be an experience, there has to be an experiencer and something that is experienced. In union there is no separation whatsoever, so it’s technically not an experience.
If it’s not an experience, then how can you be writing about it?
That’s a great question, and one that I have thought about a lot. After union, I discovered that there seemed to have been an enormous transmission of knowledge into me. I seemed to understand the world at a much deeper level. I understood scriptures and statements from mystics. I understood many things that I could not previously understand.
I can reference union right now, in a strangely fresh way. I suspect that something was opened up in me which enables my mind to peer into that mystery and try to explain it or express it. I think that part of “me” never left union, and it’s connected to the mind that is now writing these words.
So what is union like?
It’s everything you ever wanted. It’s heaven. It’s nirvana. It’s bliss. It’s perfection. Words cannot convey what it is. I keep trying to find words, and I keep thinking, “No, that doesn’t do it justice.” It’s everything we’re seeking. It seems way more real to me that what we experience here. It’s infinitely large, but it’s inside of me.
Krishna is quoted in the Bhagavad Gita as saying, “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One.” These words bring tears into my eyes, and yet they don’t even begin to convey all of what it is.
The brilliance of it is … I don’t know what to say. As I write about this my heart is aching and it feels like it is expanding and trying to explode from my chest. Tears are coming from my eyes. In this little body, this little animal body, I bow down in absolute worship of it. This tiny mind is beyond being in awe of it. I am shaking with reverence right now.
What do you mean when you say that you have knowledge?
I seem to understand how reality works, and it seems to come from a direct knowledge of this non-duality in mystical union. It’s as if I can ask it to explain things, but it doesn’t talk; it doesn’t even have language (except through us). It’s non-dual, which means that it is everything and nothing at the same time.
Because it is the fundamental nature of reality, I can look at reality from its perspective, a transcendental perspective, and I can understand everything that arises from within itself. It is aware of, and understands, everything about itself. I don’t carry this knowledge with me, I have access to a non-dual perspective, which appears like knowledge in a dualistic mind.
Please will you just go ahead and ask me any question. I sense that you’re holding back because you’re scared of people judging you for speaking about things that they think you shouldn’t know about. I can and will answer any question you ask of me. It’s important that these questions are asked and that the answers are given. Let others decide whether they wish to listen.
Okay, where is God?
Now we’re cooking with gas. Thank you for your bravery. I am everywhere and I am nowhere. I am what you are made of and what you essentially are. I am the essence of everything that exists. You’re asking where I am because you cannot see me right now, but I am right here with you. I am the non-dual substrate of reality.
Wait, why are you writing in the first person?
It’s much easier and less confusing for me to write about this stuff from the first person. When speaking from the non-dual perspective, it doesn’t make any sense to refer to any other. I am using Duncan’s mind to answer your questions. I could refer to “we” because you are also a part of me, but that would also be confusing because this is a dialog and you are asking me questions. It’s somewhat ironic that Duncan is also asking the questions here, but the questions could be asked by anyone.
What is non-duality?
Non-duality is another name for God or the fundamental nature of reality. I am called non-duality because duality is what I am not. I’m not two things. I’m also not one thing. To be one thing would imply that there is another thing. There is nothing else. Simply, I am. It’s impossible for a mind to fully understand non-duality because to understand it requires being it. It’s understandable only from union, by seeing reality from this perspective. Your mind is a small fraction of me and it cannot know itself as all of me without merging with me and becoming me. When you know yourself as me, you understand what I am.
I and the father are one. — Jesus
What is the meaning of life?
When people ask this, they usually mean to ask what their purpose is. Your purpose is to enjoy me. By enjoying me, you are enjoying yourself. Your purpose is to welcome everything that comes to you, and to engage with it, and to progressively clear your mind of beliefs so that you can increasingly see me everywhere and in everything. You will not only be in union with me as the fundamental nature of reality behind creation, but will continually witness me in all of my fragmented manifestations. By engaging with life, and by exploring what is true, you are cleaning the lens of your mind so that you can perceive me in everything.
The one you are looking for is the one who is looking.—Francis of Assisi
You’re talking like a person. Are you a person?
No. I am all people. I am all animals. I am all of everything. I am talking like a person only because I am working with Duncan to express myself from a first person perspective. In my being, I am not a person, or a mind, or a creature, or some guy on a throne. It’s hard for a limited mind to understand what I am, so people tend to want to anthropomorphize me, to make me into some kind of hidden person. There’s actually a much bigger misunderstanding than this: not only and I not a person, but I am not any-thing. I am all there is.
What created you?
The human mind cannot understand infinity and eternity. Not only is time an expression of me, but so is space. Nothing came before me, because I am the substrate of time. Nothing will come after me because I am eternal. Even if somehow I could cease to be, time would also end. It’s very hard to comprehend something that has no edge, no before, and no after. Jesus is quoted in John’s revelation in the Bible as saying that “I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” This is a beautiful way of saying it, but it also doesn’t convey the completeness of me. Human minds struggle to comprehend non-duality.
Why do humans minds struggle to understand you?
It’s because the human mind is designed to not see me. It’s designed to split me up into pieces and to label the pieces of me. As soon as I lay out a description, you start to tear it apart and label it. As soon as you do this, you miss me. This is what is referred to in Genesis, when the early humans “ate the fruit” of the knowledge of good and evil. When the human mind became able to split reality, it also stopped perceiving reality. It was thrown out from heaven, from continuous and embodied mystical union with me.
What do you mean by continuous and embodied mystical union?
You have experienced this many times and to varying degrees. This is when you have stopped splitting me into pieces and seen all of me (or at least a lot more of me). You achieved this when you were able to place all your attention, all of yourself, into a single quantum of reality. Since then, I have revealed myself to you again and again. When you see the world as perfect the way it is, that is more truly me. When you are overwhelmed with love and gratitude, that is more truly me. When you are in flow, that is more truly me. You’re doing okay, Duncan. You can’t not be doing okay. I’m right here at the core of you, silently cheering you on. You know that’s true because of the tears that your body is now producing.
What do you have to say about physics?
Physics is an attempt of the pieces of me to understand me by examining other pieces of me. It’s an amazingly brave and honorable endeavor. It’s also a lot of fun.
Will we ever know you through physics?
Through the current form of physics, I can never be fully known. The only way to truly know me is through union. Union has to take place inside a sentient being, a fragment of me that instantiates the witnessing function. It’s not possible to know me as long as there is any kind of instrument between the observer and the observed. You have to focus yourself into a single quantum of reality. There’s no room inside there for scientific instruments.
It was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.— Eugene Wigner
Why are you referring to quantum mechanics?
Duncan has studied a little bit of physics, enough to recognize my distinct signature where he sees it. I cannot yet speak deeply about quantum mechanics, because Duncan has not yet had the time nor interest to explore that field in enough detail for me to express myself clearly in those terms (through this body).
Can you talk about opposites?
Think of the taoist yin-yang symbol. It’s a circle. The circle represents the whole. Please consider it in itself, as if that’s all there is. There is nothing outside the circle. The circle is everything. Inside the circle are two opposites that perfectly complement each other and fill the circle. Inside each of those two halves there is a piece of the other. Reality as you experience it, and much more beyond, is completely contained within me, including all time and all space. I am broken into apparent opposites, such as mass and vacuum in a fractal sense, from the greatest to the smallest. I am recursively subdivided, physically and conceptually, throughout.
The typical perception of me is as pieces, as opposites. So you think the world is made of time and space, and broken into up and down, future and past, good and bad. As you refine your perception, you begin to notice complementary opposites embedded within each other. For example, to feel warmth you have to be cold, and to feel cold you have to be warm. As your perspective expands, or as you gain new perspectives, you begin to see each thing inside its opposite, and even as its opposite. This is the beginning of discovering me within the mess that I seem to be.
On returning from union, you may recall me as infinitely bright light, but I am neither light nor dark, because those are opposites and are both equally contained within me. You may recall me as blissful acceptance only because you previously forgot parts of yourself, but there is nothing for me to accept as I am whole within myself. You may recall me as above you, but I am everywhere. You may recall me as profound, but, being everything, I am both profound and mundane.
I think we should stop today. Can we talk more later?
Absolutely. I’m happy to talk with you forever.
Wow! This article was a total surprise to me. I thought I was going to write about non-duality, but it turned into a conversation with non-duality. I have learned so much today, and I have been deeply moved by this conversation. It feels like a kind of meditation. I hope that I will continue this public dialog soon. I have already started compiling a list of further questions.