Every tradition I'd practiced previously had an endpoint: emptiness, clarity, illumination, compassion, enlightenment, nondualism, unconditional love, and so on. Yet I was feeling "endpoint" within dualism, form, individuality, and events.
Because this experience of multiple perspectives is not really taught in the major traditions (but it is hinted at, and if one has had the experience, it can be inferred), I felt a little guilty, like I had gone rogue.
The major traditions all pick one endpoint, and beyond that endpoint, presumably one has been "saved" and lives "happily ever after."
But I wasn't finding this in my own experience. Instead, every time I attained certain experiences and skills, another door opened into an even vaster reality. I could see the light shining through whatever; there was always a something through which it was shining. Even in emptiness, to know emptiness, the nondual, there was ... well, if I were to put it into words, they might be misleading.
All the major traditions, East and West, have a progression that culminates in a grand finale. They may say that learning is endless, but basically there is a stopping point of upward growth. There are no side trips or paths through the garden.
Well, yes, there are, of course, but one is not supposed to wander off on them. They consist of "lower" states.
Yet here I was, finding an abundance of side paths through all the many manifestations of reality and even experiencing them all as reality, pure reality, regardless of appearance.
Also, they didn't talk about degrees of intensity, or that people on different paths actually experienced different "grand finales," yet I suspected they did. There was not one true fnale for everyone.
And then, I had to let go of the cherished idea that anything is actually an illusion. I decided to call any and everything a "creation," instead. The question to me had become not whether something was "real" or "not real," but rather, "What kind of manifestation is it?" For example, a mental image is a real mental image whether or not it has a physical counterpart.
Through tai chi qi gong, I had learned that imagination was a tool that can move energy. And the ego, like the sense of touch or sight, was an essential tool through which awareness could focus consciousness to create a unique perspective.
Yet, to be clear, my realizations in no way invalidated schools of thought calling the ego an impediment or an illusion. The thing is that these concepts can help free a person in a fixed perspective, and a fixed perspective is, indeed, an impediment when we want to experience a bigger reality. So it can help, at least temporarily, to call the ego "bad."
Nor is it wrong to call something an illusion. Using a construct that contains ideas of the "real" and the "illusory" can help us get unstuck from frozen experience. There are all sorts of constructs that are no more true or false than the rules of baseball that can help us gain footing to unfurl our wings. We can use them to free ourselves and then create a new construct for our new state of being.
When we fall asleep in one of a manifestation of reality, we forget that it is only one of the ways reality can be. We either think it is reality with a capital R, or we think it is a prison or illusion or just a temporary reality we must suffer before going "home." We don't remember or perceive that the light is everywhere and everywhen, and that we are always home no matter where we are, no matter what we know, no matter our degree or intensity of knowledge.
A week ago I was fortunate enough to come across the work of A. H. Almass, and am currently reading his latest book, Runaway Realization: Leading a Life of Ceaseless Discovery, and taking an audio course, Endless Enlightenment from Sounds True (www.soundstrue.com). As always, when I reach a certain point and get out of my depth, the teacher appears! Almass talks about what I have been experiencing, which he calls "the view of totality," in which one experiences that there are infinite ways in which reality can manifest, and they are all real, and they can be experienced to varying intensities and depths. In addition, there is no endpoint. There is always "something beneath" whatever we discover.
From his website (http://www.ahalmaas.com/):
"A. H. Almaas is the pen name of A. Hameed Ali, creator of the Diamond Approach to Self-Realization. The Diamond Approach is a contemporary teaching that developed within the context of both ancient spiritual teachings and modern depth psychology theories.
"Almaas has authored eighteen books about spiritual realization, including the Diamond Heart series, The Pearl Beyond Price, The Void, The Unfolding Now, and The Point of Existence. He founded the Ridhwan School, an inner work school devoted to the realization of True Nature. The orientation of the school is directed toward helping students become aware of and embody their “essence” or essential nature."
In addition, most importantly: “The Diamond Approach is a path of wisdom, an approach to the investigation of Reality and work on oneself that leads to human maturity and liberation. Because of our particular vision of Reality it is not completely accurate to think of this approach as spiritual work, for this work does not separate the spiritual from the psychological, neither does it see these two as separate from the physical everyday life and scientific investigation of the content of perception. However, because we live in a society where the prevailing thought is that of the separated facets of Reality, the closest category recognized in this mentality, to our approach, is that of a spiritual path or exploration.”