The last two weeks have been absolutely insane.
In order to fully understand what has happened, here’s a brief recap of my magical career:
Although I’ve been a practicing magician for just over a decade, I only began the Great Work when I attained the Knowledge and Conversation of my Holy Guardian Angel in 2005.
Since then, I’ve been led through vision and synchronicity to the right teachings and methods at the right time, and I put the brevity of my progress solely down to working with the Holy Guardian Angel, although the mainstay of my practice has largely been various meditation techniques.
As predicted by a number of magical models, most notably the Theravada Four Path model, the A.’.A.’. grading system, and the Ten Zen Ox Herding images, I went through a cyclical process with recognisable stages as a result of daily meditative practice. The simplest way of describing this is to say I went through the cycle once (known as ‘Crossing the Abyss’ in magick) and experienced emptiness as a peak experience, which occurred on the 22nd February 2007. (It should be noted that emptiness is not a trance state, and cannot be achieved through concentration practice; rather, emptiness as a peak experience is a fundamental insight into the nature of reality, achieved through techniques such as vipassana and centred prayer, to name but two). I then went through the cycle a few more times, with their attendant peak experiences, until emptiness occurred as a plateau experience on the 14th July 2007. At this point the cycle became less important as emptiness became progressively more apparent during everyday consciousness, fading in and out of the ‘background’ of reality regardless of the stage of the cycle I found myself in.
The next step in the process, as predicted by the models, is for emptiness to become a permanent adaptation. This event is referred to by many names, such as the accomplishment of the Great Work, Awakening, Satori or Gnosis, but the most popular term for this accomplishment is enlightenment.
The Next Step
On the 19th October 2007, I attended a talk with the supposedly enlightened spiritual guru Andrew Cohen. You can find details of the talk in the Cohen Dialogue.
After the talk, I felt something had changed. Before, emptiness was phasing in and out of reality, which could be quite intense at times and would often gave me the impression that I could reach out and put my hand through it. Afterwards, emptiness had become stable and was no longer in the ‘background’ of reality – it had taken centre stage. I felt very calm and focussed.
The next day I felt exactly the same, although I had experienced unpleasant dreams in the night. Normally, when considering myself, there would be a definite sense of a person. Although every single sensation that makes up my self was still present, including the sensations that I am an individual, my identity was no longer found in the grasping of those sensations. I was emptiness, which is simultaneously the same thing as being Alan.
Rather strangely, I became depressed (in hindsight, I think the cause of this depression was also that of my bad dreams). It was almost as if I needed to see someone or be somewhere, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Of course, by this time I was considering the fact that emptiness had become a permanent adaptation. Needless to say, if I was enlightened, it was not at all what I expected. Where were the fireworks? Where were the answers to life and death?
As far as I could tell, the only thing that had changed was my centre of gravity. Instead of identifying with an unknown, I now recognised the centre of my self as emptiness. Strangely, I couldn’t quite remember how I was before, just like when I experienced emptiness as a plateau experience for the first time.
For a few months I had been using an adapted version of centred prayer for working with my Holy Guardian Angel, and during my daily practice it became obvious something wasn’t right. The idea of my Holy Guardian Angel now seemed meaningless, and yet I could sense what my Holy Guardian Angel used to embody being ‘somewhere’ else.
The events of the Andrew Cohen talk kept going through my mind, and when I considered Cohen, the feeling of needing to see someone or be somewhere lifted. This could have been quite disturbing, were it not for the sudden realisation that it wasn’t Andrew Cohen I needed to recognise, but who he really is.
The moment emptiness had become a permanent adaptation was now obvious: during the talk, Cohen’s ‘magnetism’ had suddenly disappeared, and I couldn’t understand why there were so many people looking to him for something when they need only look to themselves. It was at that moment that I became identified with who I really am, who we all really are. I had become the Truth, but I had failed to consciously acknowledge it.
So during my meditative practice, instead of trying to surrender to my angel as per usual, I surrendered to the memory of Cohen.
What I describe next all happened in an instant, and may seem quite confused; however, no event has made as much sense as this in all my life.
I recognised that my self and Cohen are one. By this, I do not mean Alan is the same as Andrew, but that we are both what I can only call the Absolute Self. It was then that I also recognised the Absolute Self as my Holy Guardian Angel, and that this whole event was His doing!
Bliss, peace and certainty overwhelmed me, and I found myself rather curiously exclaiming ‘What an excellent, excellent game!’ The bliss was akin to that of being in love, both emotionally and physically, and the depression I had felt was very much like being love-sick.
I had lost myself in order to find myself, simply for the sheer joy of it.
Over the next week or so, I felt like I was dreaming. Everything that had happened was just too good to be true. How ridiculous that I was enlightened!
And not only was I enlightened, but it seemed as if the same thing was happening to Duncan too.
Due to the fact both Duncan and I appear to have completed the process after attending the Andrew Cohen talk, it might be tempting to think that Cohen enlightened us both by his presence. I couldn't disagree more.
As far as I can tell, none of the audience members we spoke to before or after the talk were enlightened, neither were a number of the students I met (although I’m pretty sure the same thing happened to Chris Parish, after hearing him talk about his first meeting with Cohen). Of course, I can’t 'prove' they're not enlightened, but I think it speaks volumes that I failed to meet a single person with something of their own to say about enlightenment. Can you really be enlightened and not have your own opinion of it? Can you really recognise the Absolute Self and still need to seek it in someone else?
If I had met Cohen two years ago, I seriously doubt anything would have happened. Due to the fact many of the original students who became enlightened in his presence were previously practising Theravada Buddhists, I’m willing to bet that only someone advanced in the process can become enlightened in such a fashion (it is worth noting that Daniel Ingram became an arahat in the presence of another, whilst an anagami – see the details of his enlightenment).
I therefore didn’t feel the need to claim direct lineage from Ramana Maharshi (who enlightened Poonjaji, who in turn enlightened Cohen).
The Absolute Self in me recognised itself in Cohen, after leading me to that moment through a two year process of progressive enlightenment.
I enlightened myself, in the most absolute sense. Who else could?
What does it mean?
Enlightenment is a loaded word. Over the centuries it has accrued all kinds of fantastic descriptions, such as the idea of a constant state of bliss or love, the knowledge of everything that has ever existed, the acquisition of God like powers, the inability to think, feel or act in a ‘negative’ fashion, or a process of biology-defying physical transformation.
From my own experience, I can tell you that the simplest way of describing enlightenment is to say that everything is exactly the same as it was before, except identity is now found with emptiness instead of phenomena (it is therefore not an identity at all).
The effects of this are quite profound. Bliss is abundant. Normality becomes much more intense, and so although suffering as an individual is gone, that which is painful actually hurts more. This might sound bad, but enlightenment brings with it an incredible mental strength. The fears and delusions of the ego are illuminated, and although they are still experienced, the ability to overcome them is greatly enhanced. Enlightenment brings with it an incredible courage.
Over time it became apparent that the effects of enlightenment were fading. The bliss was lessening, and emptiness seemed to disappear at times. Needless to say, this was very disappointing.
I adopted a philosophical approach. Of course the effects would fade – they are relative and subjective, and so impermanent. This didn’t mean we were ‘losing’ enlightenment – how can you lose the Absolute? Surely the novelty was just wearing off.
Over the last week or so I’ve learnt an incredible amount about my relative self, or ego, and its attitude towards enlightenment. It was grasping at enlightenment; it wanted to keep the experience for itself. But surely it was over? And how could enlightenment be a state that could be held on to? It was obvious that my lifetime habit of grasping or avoiding every phenomenon I’ve ever come across needed serious work, and I wholeheartedly flung myself into various techniques for changing this attitude.
But there is no getting away from it: emptiness has gone. Completely. It doesn’t even fade in and out of the background as a plateau experience.
Cohen has often referred to students of his that have had an awakening only to revert to their old selves further down the line. He puts this down to those people not wanting to change enough.
I can tell you from personal experience that this is bullshit. Enlightenment has nothing to do with the ego.
In his essay on Arahats, Daniel Ingram states:
There is a phenomenon in which the Wisdom Eye may open, which qualifies one as an arahat, but then close again. These people are arahats, but they are a lesser subcategory of arahats. Full arahats have had the Wisdom Eye open and stay open, meaning that they have obtained the understandings listed below (see essay) and those have not faded.
(Note: ‘arahat’ is the Theravada Buddhist term for someone who has achieved enlightenment).
I think 'phenomenon' is the best way to describe what has happened – it occurred all by itself. But to say it has just faded away is to dismiss my current state – which is very different from when this first happened. The luminous emptiness has gone, but it seems impossible for me to fully identify with those sensations at the centre of my being that I used to think were me. I've also retained the ability to experience my Absolute Self.
It does appear as if both Duncan and I are now arahats, albeit of a lesser sub-category.
I don’t mind telling you that this is simply not good enough.
Duncan and I have discussed the possible repercussions of posting what has happened; with serious consideration given to the effect that claiming enlightenment might have on our audience (as small as it is). However, this doesn’t seem to be too much of a concern anymore.
But this site is a record. We try out the techniques, we report the experience, and we offer what we have found useful. And I’ll be damned if we don’t post the achievement of the actual god-damn aim of magick, the result of many years of blood, sweat and tears, on the basis of the fear of being called a liar, a cheat, and an ego-maniac, even if it was only a partial success.
I urge you not to believe a single word on this site. What you have in front of you is a record of two regular magicians who have tested out the techniques claimed by many traditions to lead to the experience of the truth. The techniques, models and results obtained are all on here.
This record appears to demonstrate that two people have accomplished the Great Work – if only for a short period of time – right here, right now and in your lifetime, with techniques available to all for free on the internet.
Whether you decide to corroborate any of this for yourself is up to you; but if you don’t perform the experiment, on what basis can you form an opinion?
Of course, this isn’t the end for us – predictably, this whole thing appears to have been a necessary step in terms of my development, especially in light of my experience with the god Horus this morning (a story for another time I feel).
Despite the fact I’ve advocated disbelief when it comes to everything on this site, I don’t think I could end this article without letting you know that the accomplishment of the Great Work is more fucking glorious than can possibly be imagined!