How to develop the presence of the conscious “I”
(See also the compilation of quotes by Assagioli about presence at the end of my text KS)
By Kenneth Sørensen
The conscious ”I” is not only the observer of our inner world, but also a willer and a lover, and therein lies the deepest significance of its presence.
In today’s world, with all the noise and constant clamour for our attention via advertising, entertainment and social media, there is a deep need for a counter-culture of silence, peace and presence. Roberto Assagioli was well aware of this situation in his day, and the situation is much worse today, so where and how do we find such a centre of silence, peace and presence?
Psychosynthesis has the answer to this question. Within each of us lies a stable, unchangeable and permanent centre of peace and presence: we call it the centre of pure self-awareness and will, the conscious “I”, the observer. In my book The Soul of Psychosynthesis I dedicate a full chapter to the self and how we work with presence in a counselling setting (1), but let me share a couple of perspectives in this brief article.
The development of presence – and its associated qualities of silence and peace – emerges by itself when we are identified with the conscious “I” and observer, which is the innermost subject of our experience.
Many people know the benefits of concentration and attention – and, indeed, letting go of distractions and focusing our attention on the present moment can be the first step towards presence. However, concentration and attention are tools of the mind only, and cannot lead to presence because we can find ourselves concentrating on things that have a stressful effect on our psyche – this is something that is hard to avoid and often happens in an unconscious way.
In contrast, being present in the purest way possible involves being self-aware in the here and now, being a silent detached-loving observer of the contents of our awareness in the present situation. To find the eye of the hurricane – to be fully present – we have to step out of the mental-emotional storms of our inner psychological world. We have to disidentify from all the competing inner voices and turn our attention to the centre of our inner world, where we find the loving and willing observer. We do this through the technique of disidentification and self-identification (2).
Presence requires being present with the dual awareness of oneself as the detached-loving observer, together with an awareness of the inner or outer situation we are observing. We hold both perspectives in our awareness. In this way, we can keep remembering who we are (the observer and consciousness itself) while remaining present to our current situation.
Presence emerges out of what has been called the void in consciousness. This void is the still, unchangeable, silent awareness of the conscious “I”. The void has to be developed – it is not something that emerges by itself. Assagioli speaks about it this way: ”In order to strengthen and make stable the pure self-awareness of the observer, it is necessary to have periods of inner silence, gradually longer, to make what is called the void in the field of consciousness.” (3)
The practice of silent meditation on the contentless awareness of the conscious “I” will gradually develop the silent inner void in the head – a permanent still space that we can retreat to at any time when we need to centre and be present to what is. When we rest in this centre, we can be quiet with ourselves or with others, there is no need to talk or think, it is just pure being. When we first start to notice the void, it seems like nothing, it is just a quiet place, and people might think we are behaving a little oddly because we are able to be in social situations without feeling the need to say much, just being present, relaxed in the here and now.
However, in this silent void, important inner developments are occurring, in the words of Assagioli: “In the silence power is generated, problems are solved and important recognitions are registered. In the silence, sensitivity can be developed and the ability to respond to subjective impressions.” (4)
One of the key ways for developing the void is meditation – and if you are inclined to take up this practice by yourself or with a client, I have created seven meditations, four of which are highly relevant with respect to the development of silence and presence, namely the meditations on silence, presence, power and the loving observer. They are available for free on my website. (5)
Let us now dig a little deeper to understand more fully what presence means. In the context of psychosynthesis, presence relates to the transcendence-immanence of the observer and the conscious “I”. The conscious “I” has the potential to be fully present with any content of awareness on any level, from the subconscious to the superconscious. What we can be present to within ourselves, we can bear witness to in another. Let us investigate that.
When we are centred in our awareness as the observer there is the potential for us to be in a state of both transcendence and immanence with respect to the content of our awareness. Transcendence is a state in which we observe something from above, or from a distance, and this occurs when we stand as the observer, detached from what is being observed. (In this particular use of the word, transcendence does not refer to a lofty spiritual experience – a frequent connotation – but rather to see something from a distance.) To be in a state of immanence with what we observe means to have a living and loving relationship with the observed; in this situation, immanence places us inside the observed through empathic identification.
Let me offer an example. As the observer, we can transcend emotions that arise from the lower unconscious, such as anger, jealousy or envy, by observing them from a distance. This gives us an opportunity to influence, direct or transform the emotions because we are disidentified from them – we know we are not the emotions we observe. At the same time, through immanence, the observer can make a deep empathetic identification with the observed, as an act of love, and in this way we can temporarily become one with and truly present to the innermost situation of the loved object.
We must emphasise that transcendence and immanence are only potentials. To realise these potentials the observer’s presence (depth, height and breadth) must be developed.
The observer’s relationship to the lower unconscious – as depicted in Assagioli’s egg-diagram (6) – is initially neither transcendent nor immanent with regards to the states in the depths. There are barriers of past conditioning, pain and fear that must first be weakened with love and made conscious before they can open up to the observer. But when this happens, the observer can integrate the lower unconscious energies – sexual or aggressive – and express them constructively, freely and spontaneously.
So, too, with the “heights” of the superconscious. The observer cannot be present to, observe and be in relationship with the energies of the superconscious unless the inner worlds of love and light are also conquered.
The ability to be present in “breadth” refers to our relationship to our political, social and cultural context, and this depends on empathy (immanence) and the span of the conscious “I”s perspectives (transcendence). Breadth of perspective also includes our ability to identify psychological and spiritual influences that arise in the collective unconscious, from biological to spiritual levels.
In conclusion, let me add that the capacity for presence is a synthesis of awareness, love and will.
We must know as fact that we are the observer (awareness): this is the light with which we see. We must be able to love and accept whatever we observe or else we will never be present with the essence of what we engage with. We must develop a will that enables us to let go of identifications (transcendence and detachment) and identify with the observer so we always remember who we are.
Finally, let me offer a quote from Assagioli about the synthesis of love and will and how to accomplish it: “It will be apparent that the successful endeavour to achieve a synthesis between love and will demands much skill in action. It calls for persistent vigilance, for constant awareness from moment to moment. Various current spiritual movements and approaches rightly emphasise it and it has been widely practised in the East. But this awareness, this attitude of maintaining a conscious inner ‘presence’, does not stop with the observation of what ‘happens’ within oneself and in the external world. It makes possible the active intervention and commitment on the part of the self, who is not only an observer but also a willer, a directing agent of the play of the various functions and energies. This can be done by utilising the principle of self-identification. From the vantage point of the self, it is not a compromise between love and will which is being attempted, but a synthesis.” (7)
- The Soul of Psychosynthesis can be bought here: https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Psychosynthesis-Seven-Core-Concepts/dp/8792252176/
- See Assagioli’s disidentification and self-identification exercise here: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/glossary/disidentification/
- Assagioli interviewed for an article Height-psychology by Beverly Besmer: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/height-psychology-interview-with-assagioli/
- Assagioli in his Meditation Group for the New Age: https://meditationmount.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/3y1-WEB.pdf
- Download the seven meditations here: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/get-my-seven-meditations-4/
- See a definition of Assagioli’s egg-diagram and the different levels of the unconscious here: https://kennethsorensen.dk/en/the-psychosynthesis-model-of-the-personality/
- Assagioli in The Act of Will, 1974, p. 100.
Assagioli about presence
Here comes a compilation of quotes about presence all derived from the books and articles of Assagioli.
“Just as there is a personal will—the one we have been considering up to now—so there is a Transpersonal Will, which is an expression of the Transpersonal Self and operates from the superconscious levels of the psyche. It is its action which is felt by the personal self, or “I,” as a “pull” or “call.”
The existence and the “presence” of this transcendent Reality or Self has been interestingly asserted by Jung in the inscription over the door of his house at Kussnacht:
“Vocatus, sive non vocatus, Deus aderit” (“God will be present whether called in or not”). And this experience has been reported by many, often interpreted as a call from God or some higher being. I shall not discuss the interpretation here, but the reality and the nature of this process should be recognized.” (The Act of Will, 1974, p. 112-113)
“The soul that has been thus enlightened sees every fact and every event as being connected with other facts and events, justified by a higher logic; it sees the universe upheld and permeated by a perfect justice and an infinite goodness.
In many cases this manifestation of the divine nature of all things is supplemented, or even replaced, by a more definite, more intimate manifestation. There is a real sense of the presence of some other being, a great being – invisible but intensely real – a Being who is more certain and real than visible things.” (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 140)
“…the personal self tries, all the time, to escape. But now you are no more fooled by it. Well, it shows that you are aware.”
“And I fight that awareness.”
“Of course,” he laughed, “of course that’s part of the game. But the important thing is to not be deluded. That you know better, even if you are involved for a short time in one of these things, you are aware of it. That’s the important thing, awareness. Not success and triumph, that will come, but the presence, the observer, the knower.” (Conversation with Roberto Assagioli)
“Know yourself. Become aware of who you really are, what hides your being and reason to live. The light that can enlighten you is inside, yourself seek it in your heart, in the most intimate and deep core of your life, then you will know that an eternal and immortal God lives there, a God which is yourself and at the same time is infinitely more wise and powerful than you are today. You are a Son, a manifestation of this Principle of Life that you can find in your heart and you give him your favorite name, sharing his Omnipresence, Omniscience and Omnipotence. The goal of your present existence is to express the infinite possibilities that are latent in your deepest being.” (The Decalogue of Wisdom)
Along with the practice of silence, what gradually develops has been called “the double life of the disciple,” meaning the ability to maintain a “zone of silence” during daily life amid noise and turmoil: “The silence of the center preserved within the worldly noise.” Here too there is an encouraging example, that of Brother Laurence of the Resurrection, who was able to keep a sense of the presence of God while he was busy in a noisy kitchen. (The Art and Technique of Silence)
“The “Self” is “Love”, for the individual Self feels one with all the other “Selves” – as well as with the Supreme Self; so that his love radiates on all the Creation of this Supreme Self. The “Self” acts by his only presence, by “direct evocation”.” (Brief Address on the Self, Assagioli Archive Florence)
Assagioli quoting an unknown source: “The perfect quietness of the night was imbued with an even more solemn silence. The darkness held a presence which was felt rather than seen. I was just as certain that He was there as I was of my own presence. Indeed I felt that if anything I was the less real of the two.
It was then that my faith in God and my deep awareness of Him was born. Since then I have been up the Mountain of Visions on other occasions and have felt the Lord all around me, but never again have I felt the
same deep emotion in my heart. If I have only once been in God’s presence and been renewed by His Spirit, I believe it was on that occasion. There was no immediate change in my thoughts or beliefs, except that my former rudimentary understanding blossomed. There was no destruction of the old, but a rapid, wonderful development.” (Transpersonal Development, 2007, p. 142)
“Let us take note once and for all that having been so enslaved, particularly to ourselves, we can now exercise this sovereign power, a power that is impersonal and super-personal. After this nothing will be impossible. It is a case of awakening the ‘atmosphere’ of power and always remaining in it, creating and maintaining a ‘magnetic field’ . We then do nothing through personal effort: we merely arouse the power so that it can begin to operate spontaneously, easily and irresistibly in us. For the power of the spirit is a source of spontaneous irradiation which by its very presence opens doors and takes control of circumstances. It has no need to do anything – it simply is, and in being it transforms everything.” (Transpersonal Development, 2007 p. 268)
“We are careful not to make the mistake of thinking of our ordinary self and our true self as if they were two separate entities. Basically, the Self is one. The ordinary self includes as much of the deeper Self that waking consciousness is able to receive, assimilate and activate. It is a reflection that becomes more and more clear and vivid, until finally it meets with its source.
It could be said that our entire inner development consists of an enlargement and elevation of consciousness, until it reaches complete union with the true Self. It is this higher center that constitutes the connecting element, the point of contact between the soul and the Supersoul, with the Spirit, with God. Indeed, religious philosophy states that the state of grace consists in having God present and living in us; but this presence is not directly perceived by the ordinary consciousness of the faithful soul. On this point Cardinal Mercier expressed himself as follows: “It is true that God lives in us … but many ignore this mystery and remain strangers to it for their entire life”.
And therefore, he gives this warning: “Make frequent, explicit and voluntary acts of faith towards this real and continuous Presence of God in you”. (See Plus – God in us – page 5). The spiritual value and the practical importance of recognizing the existence and the true nature of the higher Self or “I” are immense. This recognition is a true revelation: it is the beginning of a new life, the key that solves so many problems, which allows us to understand so many facts in our inner life. It is the foundation of all efforts towards self-actualization, liberation and synthesis. Archimedes said: “Give me a point of support and I will raise the world”. Now, in order to lift the world that exists within us, the point of support is the Self, the fixed and dynamic center of our being.” (The Self, Assagioli, archive, Florence, Translated by Gordon Symons)
“So, how should we conceive the relationship between nature, the soul and God?
I will answer briefly: “In a way that takes into account the elements of truth that exist both in the transcendentalist and in the immanentist conception, avoiding the one-sidedness and exaggerations of both.
This is not an external eclecticism, or a deliberate and artificial conception, but a real completion and a true synthesis. Transcendence and immanence, far from being excluded, harmonize admirably in an integral conception of the universe.
Thus the existence of a supreme and transcendent Being, of an absolute, eternal and pre-existing Principle to any limited and concrete manifestation of beings and things, does not at all exclude the living presence and continuous action of His Spirit in the bosom of nature and the Soul of man. The origin of things and beings from God can be conceived in a more satisfactory way if a continuous influx of Divine life is admitted, which through multiple transformations gives rise to all things and all creatures that exist in the cosmos. Thus God is transcendent and immanent at the same time: he is transcendent because he pre-exists in manifestation and does not end in it; it is immanent, because nothing exists outside of Him and He is present in every movement of life, and in every glimmer of consciousness.
Thus the soul of man, while it must recognize that it is only a minimum and particular manifestation of the Infinite and the Eternal, and therefore feel deeply humble before It, can also know and feel that its essence is the essence of God and therefore wonderful possibilities of development and glorious conquests of wisdom, love and power are open to him.
Finally man, recognizing the presence of the Divine in every thing and in every creature, learns to respect every aspect of matter, even the most rude and gross, and every manifestation of it, even the most fearful and apparently hostile to nature, and to feel an intimate sense of brotherhood for all living beings.” (The Manifestation of the divine in nature and the soul)
Essential Divinity has been variously called:
l . God Transcendent.
2 . God Immanent.
3 . The Word or Sound.
4. The Breath.
5 . The All-pervading Life.
6 . The spark of God in the human heart.
7 . The macrocosmic reflection in the microcosm.
8. The self-determining consciousness in form.
9. The Universal Mind.
10. The Presence. (Meditation Group for the New Age)
Mantram or Affirmation
“The Presence of the Soul abides with me. I walk with God by night and day. I stand with God upon the ways of men; the shadow of His Presence, which is the Presence of my soul, reveals the God on every hand, in every man. I see divinity on every hand in every form . “(Meditation Group for the New Age)
Later on, and particularly in the Middle Ages, the dualistic theological conception became prevalent, and its greatest exponent, St. Thomas Aquinas, emphasised God’s omnipresence:
“Since God is the universal cause of all Being, in whatever region Being can be found, there must be the
Divine Presence.” (Summa contra Gentiles, I, Ill, cap. 68) (Meditation Group for the New Age)
Techniques for the Recognition of Reality
mention some of them, but they will be dealt with more extensively later.
The most direct way of recognising Reality is through the use of the Technique of the Presence. All know in
general terms what is meant by ” the practice of the Presence” the constant recollection and recognition of the immanence of God or Reality – and what we should strive to attain in some measure, and for increasing spans of time, is identification with that Presence.
The inner faculties which enable us to contact and recognise reality are:
l. The intuition, or spiritual perception, which enables us to have a synthetic grasp of the Whole;
2. The illumined mind. The purpose and primary function of this is discrimination between the Real and the unreal. Its second function is the right interpretation and subsequent formulation of the realities perceived by means of the intuition and the light of the soul.
The condition, or requirement, for the conscious functioning of both is, first of all, an inner silence, achieved in and maintained by receptive meditation. As one teacher has said: ” . . . the cultivation of a technique of silence is of incalculable value . . . In the silence power is generated, problems are solved and important recognitions are registered. In the silence sensitivity can be developed and the ability to respond to subjective impressions.” Then follows the activity of the mind in reflective meditation or brooding.
But there are many obstacles to such recognitions. Basically, there is the usual lack of control of the mind.
Consequently, the steady practice of concentration and the various stages of meditation-reflective, receptive and creative-which are included in our group work is much needed. Through these the mind not only becomes controlled, but it is also developed and trained.
The illusions which distort the mental apprehension of truth form a main class of obstacles, and in another category are all the glamours which obscure our perceptive power and they are legion! It is these glamours which primarily bar our way towards Reality and which we have first of all to grapple with. Therefore they will be dealt with at some length in this and the following chapters. But before tackling them one by one, we can begin by using a general and most effective technique, which will help to develop discrimination. It is the Technique of Dis-identification which was given in both the previous courses, and it is strongly recommended as a preliminary exercise.
Before mentioning the results of recognition of Reality, a warning has to be given. The recognition itself can be a source of various glamours. This may sound surprising and paradoxical, but careful consideration will reveal this to be true. The chief among such glamours are:
1 . The glamour of the persistence of the recognitions.
We may have had glimpses of realisation, glimpses so vivid that we believed them to be a permanent acquisition. But it is not so. The mists of glamour hide again the beauty or truth we have perceived; we ” forget ” it or it becomes so pale and blurred that it fails to ” take roots ” in our consciousness.
2. The illusion of a purely mental recognition. It may remain clear in our minds, but if we stop at that, it does not have the transforming effects on our personalities which it should produce. This may be called the illusion of mere intellectual perception. Recognition must be followed by action: it must arouse the will and have creative effects within us and around us.
3. The glamour or illusion of ” totality “. This can be described as the mistake of regarding a part as the whole, and believing that the recognition of a special aspect or kind of reality reveals the whole of it This is a widespread glamour and difficult to eliminate.
One can easily become ” possessed ” by a partial truth and be so fanatical about it that it gets out of proportion to the wider, inclusive Reality.
We can see many instances of this around us and should be wary of succumbing to it ourselves!
To encourage us to proceed on the Way toward Reality, it is good to realise what precious gifts this recognition bestows. In its progressive stages it has profound and far-reaching effects. The immediate one is an expansion of consciousness, an increased awareness, the perception of a new light (” enlightenment “), a deeper understanding.
The consequence is ascent and growth. As it is said: ” We grow through the medium of our recognitions “.
All these things are accompanied by a sense of joy a wonder. There is a close connection between light and joy.
When recognition is full, it produces a sense of union, of merging; we feel ourselves to be a part of the Reality, we become identified with it. This has transforming effects on our personalities; they are changed and undergo a process of ” transfiguration “.
The final effects become apparent in the influence which we increasingly have on others, both through our radiation and through our outer life of service. The Reality which we have recognised and which has pervaded us, shines through us. (Meditation Group for the New Age)
The Technique of the Presence is the highest method of all, and here, too, a precise outline must be left to later in the Course. At this point it can only be said that it means the sensing, feeling or, at a higher level, the intuitive awareness of the Divine Presence – the immanence of the Divine which is in all manifestation.
Many are familiar with the phrase “practice of the Presence “, but the Technique of the Presence is not simply a form of mystical entry into a certain state of awareness. It is a precise and definite-one could say ” scientific “method of achieving a subtler, more subjective kind of recognition.
Its preliminary steps involve a certain amount of control of the personal self so that contact with the “Real” is possible ; also a degree of focussed orientation must be reached to make higher or subtler inner perception possible.
Added to this, the ability to lead what is called the “dual life” must be cultivated, that is, the power to maintain an inner, spiritual orientation while at the same time leading the outer life and carrying out the practical tasks with which so much of our time is occupied. Beyond this comes definite and formulated effort to contact the Presence and intuit Reality. This is a high stage of achievement and one
of the great goals of the practice of meditation. (Meditation Group for the New Age)
In the first chapter of this Third Course we said that Recognition of Reality, which is its central subject, requires both the dispelling of illusion and the dissipation of glamour. Up to now we have dealt chiefly with the latter, because glamours are more widespread than illusions, owing to the prevalent emotional polarisation of humanity, and because, without having in some measure dissipated the glamours besetting us, it is hardly possible to dispel illusion effectively.
The dispelling of illusion is a large subject, and we cannot deal with it at length in this Course, but the Technique of the Presence, which we are going to describe, is an effective means of liberating us from both illusion and glamour, being, as we have said, the most direct procedure for recognising Reality (see p. 14). Let us also remember that, while illusion, which has a mental character, is distinct from glamour, which pertains to the realm of emotion, yet in the living human being they are not separated, since there exist a close relationship and constant interaction between mind and emotions. Illusion, when it arouses feelings or emotions, as it often does, is itself a source of glamours. Likewise, glamours intercept, so to speak, colour and distort the insights of the mind.
Recognition of the “Presence” can be reached in various ways and in different degrees, or stages. Essentially, it is realisation of the Universal Life, or Reality, pervading both the external world and every human being. In philosophical terms this permeation can be called the immanence or manifestation of the Reality, which in its essence is transcendent; in religious terms it has been known as the omnipresence of God.
A key to reaching the first stage of this realisation is provided by scientific evidence of the close interdependence and interaction of all parts of the universe, showing it to be an organic Unity, or “Whole.” Within it, recent astronomical discoveries reveal, countless galaxies exist, forming gigantic groups and rotating at enormous speeds. The fact that radiations emanating from sources of immeasurable intensity situated at vast distances impinge on this our planet gives a vivid, even a dramatic, sense of this Wholeness.
But the unity of the visible universe may be, and indeed is, only the outer manifestation, or reflection, of a unity subsisting in the inner space of the subjective worlds. The key needed here is another faculty, the intuition. As its etymology indicates, the intuition is a direct inner sight, a “seeing into,” a direct apprehension of reality. It enables its possessor to “see” the “Presence” of the universal Reality in all manifested forms and in all differentiated, individual beings or entities. This act of “seeing” is a wonderful experience, which, though ineffable in its essence, has been described by some of those who have undergone it in terms that give a vivid picture of the wonder they have sensed.
One of the most impressive of these descriptions is to be found in the Eleventh Book of the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna, the symbol and incarnation of the Supreme, accedes to Arjuna’s entreaty. Having opened Arjuna’s “inner eye,” He reveals to him His divine appearance in countless forms. “Behold, O Partha (Arjuna), My forms, a hundred-fold, a thousand-fold, various in kind, divine, of various colours and shapes” (v. 5). “Here today behold the whole universe, moving and unmoving … all unified in My Body” (v. 7). Having thus spoken … the great Lord of Yoga then reveals to Partha His Supreme and Divine Form (v. 9). “If the light of one thousand suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, that might resemble the splendour of that exalted Being” (v. 12).
But the Divine Presence in the whole universe is only one aspect of the Supreme, Who remains, in His essential Being, transcendent, free and uninvolved in His manifestation within time and space. In the Ninth Book (of the Gita), Radhakrishnan says in his illuminating commentary,
“The Gita does not deny the world, which exists through God and has God behind, above and before it. It exists through Him who, without the world, would yet be in Himself no less what He is. Unlike God, the world does not possess its specific existence in itself. It has therefore only limited and not absolute being. The teacher inclines not to pantheism which asserts that everything is God but to panentheism that denotes that everything subsists in God. The cosmic process is not a complete manifestation of the Absolute. No finite process can ever finally and fully express the Absolute, though this world is a living manifestation of God.” (The Bhagavad Gita, by Radhakrishnan, Allen and Unwin, London, 1970, p. 239.)
The synthesis of transcendence and immanence is called the “Supreme Secret” by Aurobindo, and he expresses it in the following way:
“This mystery of our being implies necessarily a similar supreme mystery of the being of the Puru- shottama, rahasyan uttaman. It is not an exclusive impersonality of the Absolute that is the highest secret. This highest secret is the miracle of a supreme Person and apparent vast Impersonal that are one, an immutable transcendent Self of all things and a Spirit that manifests itself here at the very foundation of cosmos as an infinite and multiple personality acting everywhere—a Self and Spirit revealed to our last, closest, profoundest experience as an illimitable Being who accepts us and takes us to him, not into a blank of featureless existence, but most positively, deeply, wonderfully into all Himself and in all the ways of his and our conscious existence. This highest experience and this largest way of seeing open a profound, moving and endless significance to our parts of nature; our knowledge, will, heart’s love and adoration. It is not the austerity of knowledge alone that can help us; there is room and infinite room for the heart’s love and aspiration illumined and uplifted by knowledge, a more mystically clear, a greater calmly passionate knowledge. It is by the perpetual unified closeness of our heart-consciousness, mind-consciousness, all-consciousness, satatam maccittah, that we get the widest, deepest, the most integral experience of our oneness with the Eternal. A nearest oneness in all the being, profoundly individual in a divine passion even in the midst of universality, even at the top of transcendence is here enjoined on the human soul as its way to reach the Highest and its way to possess the perfection and the divine consciousness to which it is called by its nature as a spirit.”
(Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Dutton, New York.
While in the West the Presence has been for the most part defined in terms of the relationship and close communion between God and the soul, there is no lack of descriptions of the omnipresence in a universal sense. Plotinus affirms: “God is not external to anyone, but is present with all things though they are ignorant that He is so” (Enneads, VI, 9). Then in a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus we find the following: “Lift the stone and you will find Me, cleave the wood and I am there.” The most concise and at the same time inclusive expression of the inner union between God and man is St. Paul’s statement: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts of the Apostles, XVII, 28).
Evelyn Underhill has dealt with this subject at length in a very lucid and understanding way in her classic Mysticism (first published in 1911 by Methuen). She gives a wealth of quotations from the Christian mystics, some of them poets including Dante. We recommend its careful study, particularly the chapter on the “Illuminative Way” and the “Unitive Life,” in which the author draws a fine distinction between the various levels of the realisation of the Presence. There are six stages, or degrees, of this realisation:
Temporary partial merging
Within certain limits these stages are represented by the different positions of the star in the diagram originally in Chapter III of the Second Course and given again here:
The relationship of the individual transpersonal, or spiritual, Self with the Universal Reality existing outside the “oval” of the individual is there depicted. In the first stage the star is placed almost wholly within the oval, thus indicating the prevalence of the individual aspect in consciousness. The second stage shows the position in which the subject is almost equally aware of the individual and universal aspects. In the third stage (which represents an exalted and universal level of experience termed ecstasy, samadhi, etc.) realisation of the universal aspect is overwhelming. Illuminating descriptions of this state by St. Theresa and others are quoted by the author of Mysticism (pp. 291-295). Naturally these stages do not remain fixed and static; they can change rapidly.
The realisation of the Presence is both the objective and the ultimate achievement of all the inner action which is meditation in its widest sense. This is especially true of its phases of receptive silence and contemplation. Revelation of the Presence can also come to us through a heightened awareness of the beauty of nature and of the purposiveness and wonderful intelligence evidenced by the processes of creation, growth and maintenance of all living forms.
The Presence within man, the realisation that he is a living soul (“The Christ in you”), is affirmed and kept vivid in consciousness by the beautiful Indian salutation, Namaskara (“I do homage to the divinity in you”).
The effects of the awareness of the Presence of God can vary greatly, according to the degree of the realisation, the psychological constitution of the individual and the cultural milieu in which he is placed. On the cognitive side they take the form of insight, revelations, meaning and purpose; in the domain of feeling, a sense of intense joy, wonder, gratitude, love and dedication. In the field of activity they induce surrender of the personal will, its unification with what is sensed as the Will of God and with its culmination in the expression, “Thy Will be Done.”
The Principle of Essential Divinity and Glamour
The Principle of Essential Divinity has been dealt with from various angles in both the First and Second Meditation Courses. The different approaches to it and techniques for putting it into operation are described there.
We recommend that you re-read these sections once again, carefully, and that you practise the techniques and use the Meditation on the Principle of Essential Divinity outlined at the end of the First Course.
In this chapter we call attention to another technique, termed The Technique of the Presence (see previous pages), which can prove to be very effective for awakening us to more vivid awareness of our essential divinity, and for assisting us to achieve that Recognition of Reality in both its aspects, transcendent and immanent, which is the subject and aim of this Course.
It is also important to realise the close connection between essential divinity and the will, because, as it has been said, “the distinctive quality of Divinity is will.” At the personality level also, the will is the psychological function which is more directly related to the “I,” or self. The respective “positions” of the various psychological functions and their relationship with the “I,” or self, are clearly pictured in the following diagram.
Moreover, for the purpose of spiritual realisation, the use of the will is required for controlling the other psychological functions and keeping them temporarily quiescent while the centre of consciousness reaches up to and is one-pointedly fixed in the spiritual or transpersonal Self. This is clearly and concisely stated in Charles Johnston’s translation of the thirteenth verse of the First Book of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: “The right use of the Will is the steady effort to stand in Spiritual Being.”
Man’s essential divinity is one of the central tenets of Aurobindo’s view of life, and he has expressed it in these words:
“This supreme Godhead is the one unchanging imperishable Self in all that is; therefore to the spiritual sense of this unchanging imperishable Self man has to awake and to unify with it his inner impersonal being. He is the Godhead in man who originates and directs all his workings; therefore man has to awake to the Godhead within himself, to know the divinity he houses, to rise out of all that veils and obscures it, and to become united with this inmost Self of his self, this greater consciousness of his consciousness, this hidden Master of all his will and works, this Being within him who is the fount and object of all his various becoming.” (Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Dutton, New York.)
Finally, may we also suggest that you continue or resume the constant use (spoken or silent) of the powerful affirmation of essential divinity: “Namaskara” (“I salute the divinity in you”). As indicated in Chapter VI of the Second Course (pp. 138/9), it is not only a reminder of the divinity in all of us, but also an effective means of blessing in a definite and dynamic way. It can also help us constantly, as previously mentioned, to Practise the Presence.
Outline of Meditation
Link with those following this practice of meditation all over the world and dedicate yourself to the building of a better and more spiritual era.
Endeavour to focus yourself in the light of the Soul and realise that:
The Soul is light.
Light is reflected in the mind.
Then automatically you become a Light bearer.
The light shineth in a dark place.
Hold the mind steady in the Light and give five minutes to:
Dedication of the personality to the service of the Light.
Assuming the responsibility of a Light bearer.
Seeing the Great Ones with whom you are in this way affiliated as a powerhouse of Light.
Now direct the searchlight of the soul-infused mind towards a particular glamour. Try to see it clearly, illumined so that its causes, characteristics and disguises are “shown up”. Then lift it up into the omniscience of the Soul through which it can be dissipated and dispelled.
Say the following invocation:
May the energy of the divine Self inspire me and the light of the Soul direct.
May I be led from darkness to Light, from the unreal to the Real, from death to Immortality.
Spend a few minutes in recognition of and invocation of the Principle of Essential Divinity. Affirm that it can manifest, can triumph, and radiate it in all directions along lines of visualised light.