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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Through Suffering to God-Consciousness

"For us, the process of gaining this new
perspective was unbelievably painful."
When we 'humbly' ask the God of our understanding to remove our defects of character we are, in essence, asking for the ideas, emotions and attitudes that separate us from a wholeness of consciousness and conscience to be removed. By this process, we are seeking a higher consciousness (or God-consciousness) as a replacement for our ordinary egoic consciousness. But, we read in the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, at page 72, that, "(f)or us, the process of gaining this new perspective is unbelievably painful."

While, the alcoholic addict's search for a wider, expansive consciousness is not that different from the non-addict - both are painful - the physical, emotional and mental suffering of the alcoholic before he or she sobers up is extreme. Once sober, however, the emotional suffering that is likely to prompt the sufferer to seek a spiritual awakening is much more universal. Ordinary folks, who are fed up with the ego and are looking for a deeper solution to their existential angst face much the same psychological pain.

Fortunately, we are told that we need not be "bludgeoned and beaten" into the necessary state of humility that will allow us to approach this higher state of consciousness, and thus attain relief. Indeed, we have found that "(i)t could come quite as much from our voluntary reaching for it as it could come from unremitting suffering."
[Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 75.]

Paul Brunton (1898-1981)
Paul Brunton, a non-alcoholic acquaintance of Bill W., writes that attaining to this higher state of consciousness - what he call a 'fourth state,' beyond dreamless sleep, the dream state, and ordinary consciousness - is somewhat akin to the way in which one slips effortlessly, without knowing it, from ordinary wakefulness into the dream state.
"The secret of a successful passage into the transcendental state consists in insisting on retaining consciousness but not on retaining self-consciousness," Brunton observes. "For if at the moment when you are about to slip into the fourth state, you suddenly become aware that you are doing so, then you will be hurled back into the ordinary condition. The ego-sense has therefore to subside completely before the pass-over can be effected. So long as the ego knows what is happening to it, so long does the cross-over remain impossible. It must not be allowed to intrude itself at the fateful moment yet neither must consciousness itself be allowed to lapse."
Taking great liberties with the story of Bill's initial awakening at Townes Hospital, Brunton continues:
"What is the magic that hides in sleep? The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, an organization of redeemed inebriates for helping men master the liquor habit, felt he had reached the end of his tether through drink. The habit was beyond his power to overcome, its results proving too dangerous and disgusting even for him to tolerate anymore. Suicide seemed the only way out. He uttered a last prayer to God to help him and fell into a long deep sleep. He awoke cured!"
["The Notebooks of Paul Brunton," Vol. 13, page 53.]
For those at all familiar with the story of Bill's "wind-on-the-mountain" moment, Brunton's account is obviously a forced metaphor. Yet, on reflection, the 'letting go and letting God" process is analogous to the unaware drifting from waking to sleep. One cannot be sure of the instant that it happens, but the experience of God-consciousness is to ordinary consciousness, just as lucid dreaming is to ordinary self-consciousness. And, as in a lucid dream, if one observes that one has slipped the bonds of the ego and entered into what Bill called "the fourth dimension of existence," just as Brunton says, one immediately falls out of it.

Yet, the important point to take out of Brunton's work, above, is the truth of the availability of a state of consciousness that transcends normal egoic consciousness - a "transcendental state" - that is at the heart of recovery, that is the essence of the vital spiritual experience that Jung identified as the operative phenomena that might relieve alcoholism. And, we can reach for that experience with a voluntary humility, rather than being forced into it by the "painful" and "unremitting suffering" that Bill described so often, and so well.

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