Ultimate lessons

Mikhail Rogov
8 min readDec 19, 2019

“Mysticism has been called “the great spiritual current which goes through all religions.” In its widest sense it may be defined as the consciousness of the One Reality — be it called Wisdom, Light, Love, or Nothing. … [T]he reality that is the goal of the mystic, and is ineffable, cannot be understood or explained by any normal mode of perception; neither philosophy nor reason can reveal it. Only the wisdom of the heart, gnosis, may give insight into some of its aspects. A spiritual experience that depends upon neither sensual nor rational methods is needed. Once the seeker has set forth upon the way to this Last Reality, he will be led by an inner light. This light becomes stronger as he frees himself from the attachments of this world or — as the Sufis would say — polishes the mirror of his heart. Only after a long period of purification — the via purgativa of Christian mysticism — will he be able to reach the via illuminativa, where he becomes endowed with love and gnosis. From there he may reach the last goal of all mystical quest, the unio mystica. This may be experienced and expressed as loving union, or as the visio beatifica, in which the spirit sees what is beyond all vision, surrounded by the primordial light of God; it may also be described as the “lifting of the veil of ignorance,” the veil that covers the essential identity of God and His creatures. … [O]nly the elect few will reach the farthest mountain on which the mythical bird, Sīmurgh, lives — to understand that they have reached only what was already in themselves.” — Annemarie Schimmel

“At a distance you only see my Light. Come closer and know that I am You.” — Rumi

The only truly mystical experience — the transpersonal experience of unio mystica (mystical union) with the ontological basis of all existence — is the experience of the nondual/nondichotomic Light in which all aspects of one’s individual existence — space, time, freewill, causality and the dichotomies of transcendental and phenomenal, transcendent and immanent dimensions of consciousness — are dissolved into the ineffable and unimaginable Absolute Oneness of consciousness-in-itself.

We can learn a number of philosophical lessons from such experiences.

Dichotomies

The nondual/nondichotomic experience of the unity of transcendental subjectivity and phenomenal objectivity teaches us that all phenomenal objects of our subjective and intersubjective experience are constituted/projected by our transcendental (inter)subjectivity, they are our own phenomenal self-representations. The dream is the dreamer — transcendental subject. The world is us — transcendental intersubjectivity.

“The difference between empirical and transcendental subjectivity remained unavoidable; yet just as unavoidable, but also incomprehensible, was their identity. I myself, as transcendental ego, “constitute” the world, and at the same time, as soul, I am a human ego in the world.” — Edmund Husserl

“[W]hat is the world, for me? — Constituted phenomena, merely something produced within me… [F]or the ego of the transcendental reduction, all that exists is and must be a constituted product.”— Edmund Husserl

[Transcendental consciousness (ālayavijñāna)] is the consciousness that, based on the latent tendencies of all … phenomena, has the special capacity to [eventually] give rise to these [phenomena].”— Vasubandhu

“The waves of [phenomena] arise from the river-like [transcendental] consciousness (ālayavijñāna).” — Laṅkāvatārasūtra

The nondual/nondichotomic experience of the unity of transcendence and immanence in the Light teaches us that the Light is that which we call Transcendence, Absolute, God, Brahman, Nirvāṇa, etc. The Light is Being of which our individual existence is an emanation. Tat tvam asi.

Creation

Since our dichotomic individual existence can temporarily or even permanently, as Buddhists believe, fold into the nondichotomic Light (aka nirvāṇa, śūnyatā, tathātā, dharmadhātu, tathāgatagarbha, etc.), is it possible that it initially unfolded out of it? In other words, was there the absolute Beginning of our individual existence, or can we regard our individual existence (saṃsāra) as the beginningless and potentially endless — eternal — emanation of nontemporal Transcendence (nirvāṇa), capable of self-transcending?

The problem with the idea of the absolute Beginning is causality: nothing happens without a cause, and for every cause there must be a cause, and so on into the infinity of time; causality and temporality are inseparable; the absolute Beginning seems impossible. However, causality and temporality do not exclude the possibility of supracausality and supratemporality of Transcendence, which we, constrained by causality and temporality, cannot in principle imagine. Thus, the eternal and infinite universe of transcendental intersubjectivity and intersubjectively constituted phenomenal worlds could be created in an incomprehensible way: instead of philosophically struggling with the unthinkable absolute Beginning of our individual existence (the stream of successive states of consciousness), we can think of all discrete states of consciousness — all “moments of time” — as of the eternal act of Creation. So if there is the absolute Beginning at all, it is Now. Right Now. Forever Now.

Conscience

The Light is experienced as absolute truth, freedom, love and beauty — as absolute Perfection whose glimpse is the guiding beacon we call “conscience”: conscience is the glimpse of divine Perfection. Unfortunately, the natural link between conscience and freewill is being eroded in our infernal world, so that instead of freedom being self-constrained by conscience, it is the demonic arbitrariness of the “do what you please” principle that has become the dominant volitional tendency and manipulating egregor in most subjects of our nexus of transcendental intersubjectivity. To see clearly this fundamental existential problem is the first step towards its solution.

Meaning of life

As for self-transcendence, i.e. the hypothetical complete dissolution (parinirvāṇa) of one’s individual existence (saṃsāra) in the Light (Nirvāṇa), all mystical experiences of transcendent Being show that it is impossible to completely transcend our individual existence, for it is always re-created even after its complete surrender to the Light. Therefore, Nirvāṇa is not the goal, but the skyline of Perfection, while the goal is as follows:

Freedom is thus: not being liberated from saṃsāra and yet not being afflicted in it. … [L]iberated [bodhisattvas] are free to act according to their will. Their liberation is not like the liberation of śrāvakas, which resembles a beheading because of their final peaceful stay in parinirvāṇa.” — Vasubandhu

The meaning of life is the eternal ascent of individual existence (saṃsāra) to Perfection. Those who wish to completely abandon their individual existence and attain Perfection as their actuality (parinirvāṇa), instead of the potentiality of an unreachable transcendent Skyline, are completely missing the meaning of their existence, which is not an “illusion/obscuration”, as many believe, but a real and yet relative perspective of divine Consciousness.

Everything is real in its own way, and at the same time everything is only a [relative] perspective. — Karl Jaspers

It is impossible to attain Perfection in time and other limiting aspects of our individual existence, for Perfection transcends these aspects, but on the eternal path to Perfection there are infinite experiential possibilities. This particular intersubjective phenomenal world of triumphing evil and perpetual suffering is only one of them, and obviously not the best one.

Freewill and karma

“The subject of the categories cannot by thinking the categories [i.e. applying them to objects] acquire a concept of itself as an object of the categories. For in order to think them, its pure self-consciousness, which is what was to be explained, must itself be presupposed.” — Immanuel Kant

“Through this I or he or it (the thing) which thinks, nothing further is represented than a transcendental subject of the thoughts = X. It is known only through the thoughts which are its predicates, and of it, apart from them, we cannot have any concept whatsoever, but can only revolve in a perpetual circle, since any judgment upon it has always already made use of its representation.” — Immanuel Kant

“[Transcendental consciousness (ālayavijñāna) which] contains all [karmic] seeds is taught as [being equivalent to] the term “matrix of all phenomena.” — Vinītadeva

“[Transcendental] consciousness (ālayavijñāna) is the matrix of [karmic] seeds of [phenomena].” — Vinayakathikanāmasūtra

Transcendental (inter)subjectivity cannot be experienced in the way we experience phenomenal objectivity (hence the absurd no-self concept in Buddhism, which throws out the “baby” of transcendental subject/self along with the water of empirical/phenomenal subject/self), because it is the emanational boundary between Transcendence (transcendent consciousness-in-itself) and phenomenal consciousness. Transcendental (inter)subjectivity is the “reducing valve” (or the “wavefunction-collapsing membrane”) that mediates between the transcendent and the phenomenal dimensions of Consciousness; it has two forever mutually conditioning aspects: freewill and causal structures (aka “karmic seeds” in Yogācāra, “elementary particles” in modern science).

“When I say: I think, I act, etc., then either the word I is applied falsely, or I am free. Were I not free, then I could not say: I do it, but rather I would have to say: I feel in me a desire to do, which someone has aroused in me. But when I say: I do it, that means spontaneity in the transcendental sense. But now I am conscious to myself that I can say: I do; therefore I am conscious of no determination in me, and thus I act absolutely freely.” — Immanuel Kant

“By freedom in the cosmological sense … I understand the power of beginning a state from itself, the causality of which does not in turn stand under another cause determining it in time in accordance with the law of nature. It is especially noteworthy that it is this transcendental idea of freedom on which the practical concept of freedom is grounded, and the former constitutes the real moment of the difficulties in the latter, which have long surrounded the question of its possibility.” — Immanuel Kant

Freedom is emanation, becoming. Through freedom and causal structures of transcendental (inter)subjectivity, the transcendent Light becomes all that we know as our empirical subjects and the empirical world of intersubjective phenomena.

“Freedom is a self-bestowal by Transcendence. This freedom is not expedience, not obedience to a calculated duty, not forced activity, but a will detached from all compulsion, and this will is transcendent necessity.” — Karl Jaspers

Within the framework of our individual existence there is no freedom without causal structures, for absolute freedom terminates the individual existence of transcendental subjectivity in the absolute dimension of Consciousness — in the Light. Freewill is never absolutely free. Absolute freedom is not freedom, it is the Absolute.

“Since there is [transcendental] consciousness (ālayavijñāna) which contains all [karmic] seeds, there are the transformations of consciousness; these transformations proceed depending upon mutual influences.” — Vasubandhu

Freewill and causal structures (“karmic seeds” in Yogācāra) are in the beginningless cycle of mutual conditioning: volitional states condition causal structures, causal structures condition volitional states. Hence, we as empirical subjects are what we are, and our intersubjective phenomenal world is what it is, because we have volitionally, yet evolutionarily, led ourselves into what we are and what our world is. Therefore, only we ourselves can lead us out of this infernal prison of our minds.

The only project worth working on is karma.

“Long is the way and hard, that out of hell leads up to Light.” — John Milton

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Mikhail Rogov

“Pure immanence without Transcendence remains nothing but deaf existence.” — Karl Jaspers