Although it was far from obvious at the time, Thursday 22nd February 2007 was the most important day of my life.
Towards the end of last year, as a result of crossing the abyss, my meditation practice evolved into what I called ‘Wu Wei’, or ‘Not-doing’.
After a number of sessions of adopting this incredibly hard to describe ‘attitude’, I began the Gurdjieff Experiment through the guidance of my Holy Guardian Angel. As varied as Gurdjieff’s exercises are, the central tenet to all of his techniques is the cultivation of ‘being aware of being aware’.
As such, I altered my meditation practice accordingly, switching to a Vipassana/Insight based approach; the basis of which is simply maintaining awareness of everything experienced at any given moment, without attempting to control any thoughts or exclude any sensations.
This practice revealed many sensations I’m normally not aware of, such as the simple but very subtle sensation of ‘being someone’. Eventually, I reached a curious point where everything I experienced seemed to be ‘in front of me’, even the awareness of my back. It was at this point, as outlined in Daniel Ingram’s superb Mastering the Core teachings of the Buddha, that I found myself experiencing formations, which is a good indicator that I was close to Fruition, or what Gurdjieff calls an experience of Endlessness.
Fruition is the aim of the game; it’s what makes the years of meditation and magical practice all worthwhile. In Buddhism it is also referred to as ‘Emptiness’, and is not to be confused with the Formless Realms; the former results from Insight, the latter from Concentration practice.
The experience of Fruition or ‘Emptiness’ cannot be described; indeed, it is very misleading to talk of it as something experienced. Ingram says:
In this non-state, there is absolutely no time, no space, no reference point, no experience, no mind, no consciousness, no nothingness, no somethingness, no body, no this, no that, no unity, no duality, and no anything else. Reality stops cold and then reappears. Thus, this is impossible to comprehend, as it goes completely and utterly beyond the rational mind and the universe.
It should go without saying that it takes years of practice in Insight to reach Fruition; how can I claim to be on the verge of ‘enlightenment’, when I only started Insight practice a couple of months ago?
First of all, Fruition or ‘Emptiness’ is simply the term used in Buddhism that is the aim of all magical traditions. I’ve been practicing magick in one form or another for over 11 years, meditating every day for two years, and enjoying the Knowledge and Conversation of my Holy Guardian Angel for one year; secondly, through investigating many models of magical development, I’ve come to the conclusion they all describe the same process.
For instance, in the Qabalistic or A.’.A.’. model, once you’ve crossed the abyss and ‘obtained’ the grade of a Magister Templi, you are considered a master of the trance of sorrow, with your main task being the renunciation of your enjoyment of enlightenment in order to help those lower than you in the order (i.e. everyone else who hasn’t achieved enlightenment).
In the Buddhist Insight Progress model, immediately preceding the first experience of Fruition are the Dukkha (sorrow or suffering) nanas, a series of experiences that Ingram equates with the Christian ‘Dark Night of the Soul’. Once you have obtained Fruition, you may become a Bodhisattva.
In the alchemical model, the first experience of enlightenment is known as the completion of the ‘White Work’, which is preceded by the ‘Black Work’, where the ‘Gold’ is extracted from ‘the base material’ through a process of putrefaction.
All of these maps predict a difficult period, often attended by a degree of sorrow, suffering or confusion, before the aim of the magical process is first realised.
You are here
After the experience of crossing the abyss, and many other things predicted by the grade of Magister Templi, I had no reason to doubt that I would surely be encountering ‘enlightenment’ soon enough, as a result of my daily magical practice. However, I found the Qabalistic model falling short in helping me understand what to expect in terms of this ‘enlightenment’; and this is where I’ve found the Buddhist Insight Model invaluable.
In The Aim of the Game: Revelatory Magical Results, I relate a number of trance states I was fortunate enough to enjoy prior to my experience of crossing the abyss. At the time, these states were mind blowing; I experienced nothingness, bliss, even what I thought was the Tao. I may have been a little over excited.
The idea that ‘Emptiness’ is completely beyond these states was both exciting and terrifying; how could I avoid building an expectation of Fruition, when I was apparently on the verge of an experience so stupendous it’s not even an experience?
The end of the experiment
In part 3 of my Gurdjieff Experiment, I found myself encountering absolute terror during meditation, and a very strange ‘spheroid’ effect. After my initial encounter with the terror, further meditation sessions led me to believe it wouldn’t occur again. However, after returning from holiday, where I neglected to meditate for four whole days, I discovered the weird spheroid and the terror back in full swing.
When I say spheroid, what I mean is that the ‘darkness’ observed with closed eyes would appear to expand into a sphere, being both immense and minute at the same time. As the spheroid grew, so too would my terror; I couldn’t shake the feeling that the spheroid would reach a point where it would ‘pop’ or suddenly collapse in on itself, taking me and the universe with it.
On the 22nd February, I had undergone two half hour sessions of Insight, both with the spheroid and terror in attendance. I was distraught; so close to the goal, yet too afraid to take the final step. What was I supposed to do? What was I doing wrong?
I began my third meditation session in a state of frustration, feeling impotent, disappointed with my failure. I began with a few deep breaths, and then gradually relaxed into simply being aware of my body, letting the sensations arise of their own accord. After including my other senses in my awareness, I moved on to including my emotions and thoughts. By this stage I was halfway between normal consciousness and the experience of the sphere; I knew it was coming. Intent on just letting it happen, I made a concerted effort at just being aware. Nevertheless, I felt the terror slowly building. Feeling the inevitability of failure, I redoubled my efforts at just being aware.
Suddenly, I heard a voice say ‘you think awareness is a thing?’
I cannot tell you what happened next.
Then I felt very weird. It was
like the universe was inside out; what I mean is, I could no longer ‘be aware’ of sensations, because I fully realised that awareness doesn’t exist. I was no longer a point of consciousness, because consciousness had nothing to do with me.
Strangely, the spheroid thing was bigger than ever before, the fear was still there, but it wasn’t me that was scared. I stayed like this for a while, but it didn’t go anywhere.
I felt very bizarre for the rest of the day. Mulling over this strange experience, I wondered if my HGA had provided me with a means of overcoming the terror, so I could ‘get through’ the spheroid and experience Fruition.
The next day, I found my meditation had radically changed. I couldn’t ‘do’ anything; how could I practice ‘being aware’, when awareness doesn’t exist? I had come full circle and was back with ‘Wu Wei’. So I simply sat and waited.
I sailed effortlessly through a number of Formless Realms, each one more refined than the next. I’ve experienced some of the Formless Realms before, so I recognized the state, but this time there was ‘something’ in the background that was different. It was the most peacefully still meditation I’ve ever experienced.
Shortly after this meditation, I entered a blissed out state that was almost overwhelming in its subtlety. Afterwards, I felt exceedingly ordinary, and yet I felt incredibly grateful.
It slowly dawned on me what had occurred the day before.
On Duncan’s recommendation, I’d recently started reading Coming Home by Lex Hixon. Within its pages I discovered that what I had been calling ‘Wu Wei’ was in fact Contemplation practice.
More importantly, I found my experience described in great detail within the works of Heidegger, Krishnamurti, Ramakrishna, Plotinus, and Hixon's description of the Zen Ox herding images.
On ‘Wu Wei’, or what I experienced before Fruition:
(Addressed to a seeker who has been practicing meditation) You have practiced self-control, mastered thought, and concentrated on the furthering of experience. This is a self-centered occupation, it is not meditation: and to perceive that it is not meditation is the beginning of meditation.
Freedom from the false does not come about through the desire to achieve it; it comes when the mind is no longer concerned with success, with the attainment of an end. There must be the cessation of all search, and only then is there a possibility of the coming into being of that which is nameless.
Commentaries on Living, Third Series, Krishnamurti
You want a non-willing in the sense of a renouncing of willing, so that through this we may release…ourselves to the sought-for essence of a thinking that is not a willing.
-On our own we do not awaken releasement in ourselves.
-Thus releasement is affected from somewhere else.
-Not affected, but let in. Releasement awakens when our nature is let in so as to have dealings with that which is not a willing.
Discourse on Thinking, Heidegger
The Ten Zen Ox herding pictures are a map or model of spiritual progress, with the Ox representing the experience of enlightenment. Picture 1, Seeking the Ox, is when we:
…imagine the mystery of our true nature to be an object of search.
In Picture 2, Finding the Tracks:
The seeker now becomes the finder…Signs of the Ox’s presence are noticed everywhere.
The tracks of the Ox are none other than the seeker’s own tracks through his own consciousness.
First Glimpse of the Ox, or Picture 3, occurs when enlightenment is realised through the cessation of the search.
On the actual experience of Fruition:
The One is present even to those asleep and does not astonish those who at anytime see It, because It is always there.
On what comes after Fruition, explains Hixon:
For those who meditate in the mood of impersonal wisdom, there is thankfulness simply for its own sake.
Indeed, Heidegger wrote simply: denken ist danken. To think is to thank.
I’ve waited all my life for Fruition. In Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, when discussing Fruition, Ingram states:
There are times when it is fun to show off, and this is one of those times.
The amount of work that it has taken to get here, as far as I’m concerned, gives me the right.
But I've recently run out of money, and so I need to look for a job.