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Impersonal Witness

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Impersonal Witness?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Impersonal Witness

Awareness that is Aware of the Personal Consciousness Itself

The Impersonal aspect usually begins to appear in flashes of perception of a new reality. One becomes aware of a strange kind of awareness or perception, which is in some way constant, always there, but is not involved in whatever is happening. One becomes conscious of an awareness which is in complete contrast to one’s ordinary personal awareness, which is always involved in the particulars of one’s experience. At this point an awareness arises of the totality of the life process, sometimes in unexpected flashes, and one sees the complete involvement of the personal consciousness in this life process. The awareness is perceived as separate from the personal consciousness, as if there is a background of constant, unchanging awareness that is always aware of what is happening, even though the personal consciousness is sometimes so involved in events that it is lost in them. For the first time ever, then, there is an awareness that is aware of the personal consciousness itself. This is a peculiar experience; one feels sometimes as if there is someone looking from behind him, encompassing him. This is the beginning of experiencing the Impersonal aspect, but still from the perspective of being a person. One sees for the first time the fact of one’s personal consciousness and the extent of its involvement in the particulars of one’s personal life.

Being Lost, Enmeshed, in Personal Life

It finally dawns on the student that the totality of his personal experience still has the same old flavor, and because of this ego boundaries and self keep being reinstated. This unchanged quality begins to feel undesirable; one feels clearly, without any sense of condemnation, “I am the barrier.” The further exploration of this overall issue takes the student through the process of realization of the Essential Self, a subject we will discuss in detail in a future book. Part of this realization is the capacity to disengage from ego activity, which is now experienced as the activity of the person as a whole. One learns finally, then, that the realization of the Personal Essence is not final until one goes completely beyond the personal life. This is because ego boundaries and sense of self do not stand on their own but are supported by the personal life and personal history. This insight usually appears as a perception that one is lost in one’s personal life. One has the strong impression of being imprisoned by everything in one’s life, desirable and undesirable factors alike. The student is not usually aware that the impersonal aspect is approaching; he is simply experiencing more and more that the fact of being a person is a barrier to freedom and harmony. He perceives that the totality of his person, including his personal life and history, has not changed. This makes him aware that he is lost, enmeshed in his personal life, that he is so involved in his relationships, work interests, house, family, friends, projects, activities, plans, ideas, thoughts, preferences, prejudices, everything that is the content of his life, that he is trapped by it, and hopelessly limited within it

Experience of the Impersonal

As the Impersonal, one experiences oneself as a vast, dark, silent, emptiness. It is a sheer emptiness, boundless, infinite and absolutely silent. One experiences oneself as an emptiness that has no characteristic except that of being a totally silent Impersonal Witness. There is a stupendous vastness, an absolute silence, a complete impersonality, and a singularly clear but absolutely uninvolved awareness of everything. One is merely a witness, a silent and unchanging witness.

Impersonal Witnessing is Not Inquiry

We can’t just be distant observers; we can’t just look at experience as if it were a movie. Many spiritual experiences of transcendence or oneness are similar to watching a movie; but that’s not inquiry yet, that’s impersonal witnessing. For there to be personal inquiry, the witnessing must occur in the middle of experience—in contact with it—not outside it. We continue to witness, but we’re in the middle of it. Our witnessing is embodied. Why would the soul strip herself, expose her beauty and her richness, if we’re not completely and personally interested in her revealing her full truth, if we are inquiring with a prejudice or an aim in mind? Real inquiry coincides with a passionate involvement with one’s process, with one’s realization, with one’s life. That way it becomes the core that goes through our life. All of our life then feeds into it and is an expression of it.

In Absence One is Not the Witness, Not the Witnessing, Not the Witnessed

In Absence one experiences oneself to be a pure subject, that is not an object. One is the source of awareness. One is not the witness, not the witnessing, not the witnessed. One recognizes oneself as an Absence, unknown and unknowable. When one looks inward there is no perception; there is absolute Absence without consciousness of Absence, because Absence is not an object of perception. It is in fact the absence of an object of perception.

Just as the Personal Essence Exposes the Individuality of Ego, the Impersonal Aspect Exposes the Support of Such Individuality

Thus there cannot be freedom from this ego structure as long as one is attached and completely lost in his personal life, and as long as one continues to view himself as an extension of his unique personal history. For complete freedom from this ego individuality, which is the same as completely establishing the Personal Essence, one must be free from the supports of this ego structure, the personal life and personal history. Only when these supports are exposed and then transcended does the true support for the Personal Essence arise, through the action of the Impersonal aspect. In other words, just as the Personal Essence exposes the individuality of ego, the Impersonal aspect exposes the support of such individuality. One could say that the full realization and understanding of the Personal Essence shifts the sense of being a person from ego to Being. This then exposes the deep supports for the individual ego structure, which is seen as inseparable from the personal life and history. This latter perception is possible only from the Impersonal aspect. It is interesting to notice that this transition happens only through the combined influence of the full realization of the true Personal Essence and the transcendent awareness of the Impersonal aspect.

One Individual's Experience of the Impersonal Witness

I am not the body, not the personality, not the mind, not the Essence, not even God. I am nothing that is a content of experience or awareness. But all experience happens within me. Everything, at all levels, from the physical to the spiritual, all happens within me. I see the personal life as a drama that I am not involved in. It is like a movie that has a beginning and an end. But I am untouched and untouchable by any of it. I am beyond anything and everything—the person, and his whole universe. I am the Beyond, absolutely transcendent. I am a silent witness, that contains all there is. I am unchanging. I am the deathless, the unborn, the uncaused. I was never born, will never die. I have no beginning and no end, but all beginnings and all ends are within me. The concepts of life and death do not apply to me. I do not need to be freed or enlightened. I am always free, always have been, and will always be free. I see life and death as nothing but a process of constant transformation happening within me. All existence, from the lowest to the highest, is always in a state of flux, but I am the unchanging witness, where all transformation and change happen. I am the background against which this flux is seen. I am static, unchanging, unreacting, unresponsive, but singularly and purely aware. I am beyond time and space. I am beyond timelessness and spacelessness. All time is a movement within me. I see it as the movement of the timeless within the immensity that is me. This movement creates time, which is the axis of personal history. But all of personal history, all of time, and all of space is a time-space continuum that is a small and insignificant thing within me. I see mind, the totality of it, as a small process, like a little storm, within me. It is always busy with itself, trying to grasp me. But how can it grasp what transcends it absolutely! Time and mind are not contrary to me, are not a disturbance in my silence. They are little happenings within my vastness. I am beyond, but contain, all time, space, and mind.

Seeing How One's Life Has Developed for Some Unique Role or Purpose

This realization brings a new clarity and understanding to one's personal life. It makes it possible to see the role one is identifying with in one's life, and to know one's function, work and unique contribution in one's personal life. One can see how some characteristics or skills are developed in one's life, for some unique role or purpose. Here one understands the role of conditioning, as a tool towards the development of personal characteristics and skills needed to actualize a certain role, to facilitate a particular contribution. One here understands one's personal maturation as a unique development exemplified in the Personal Essence. This development is a unique manifestation in the Impersonal background. One knows one's unique, real function or work, as a specific contribution to the totality of life. One's personal realization, including one's real personal life and work, become seen as a unique manifestation of the Real, which is the same as one's unique contribution to the universe. This is a direct insight, not the result of a thought process.

The Detached Witness State Can Exist on Several Dimensions

This is beyond merging. It is the recognition of nonseparateness, of the universality of Essence. And it is a delight that separateness is eliminated by Love. This aspect of Being is the most effective for transcending ego boundaries. One lets go of his personal boundaries through Love. There is no fear or loss, for one merely becomes a loving presence that transcends and contains all boundaries. One’s identity is now not with the body, so it has no physical boundaries. One is this conscious Love, that pervades and transcends everything. From this place, one can be conscious of one’s body walking or moving, but not be involved in it. One is merely a witnessing consciousness. But it is not like the Impersonal Witness. It does not have an impersonal sense to it. It is also a pervading sense of presence of Love, and not a background emptiness. It is important to notice here that the detached witness state can exist on several dimensions. Most spiritual teachings speak of the detached witness as if there is one such state. The fact is that one can be a witness from different dimensions, for instance as the Impersonal Awareness, or the Cosmic Consciousness. When Cosmic Consciousness arises, it feels familiar. It reminds one of normal personal consciousness, except that it is boundless. This points to the fact that the normal consciousness is really this Cosmic Consciousness, but that it is restricted by identification with the body and its boundaries. One learns that one’s personal consciousness has the same quality as this aspect; it is like daylight. But it is focused, narrowed and made heavy by attaching it to the body.

The Impersonal Aspect Turns Out to be an Impersonal Witness

<p>One resistance to the Impersonal aspect that each student must surmount is the belief that there will be no personal life if there is no involvement in it. It seems that there is a universal belief that one must be attached to the personal life, or it will be lost. Finally one is able to go beyond the inertia supporting everything personal. This happens through the process of personalizing the aspect of Existence. The fear is that there will be no existence for anything personal if one lets go of the supports of ego personality. This fear is transcended when the Personal Essence is experienced in the state of Existence. This is another Platonic form, a pure differentiated aspect of Being, where the sense is just existence. Personalizing this aspect one feels a sense of personal existence that is real, and not based on mental structure or the supports of this structure in past or present. The usual experience of the Personal Essence is of fullness and personalness. But when Existence is personalized it attains a density and an immensity that gives the experience the specific feeling of existence. In other words, existence becomes a more dominant feeling than fullness. Existence is present implicitly in Beingness, but now it is specifically delineated. Experiencing the Personal Essence in this state is the stepping stone towards the complete, clear arising of the Impersonal aspect. ……. So the Impersonal aspect turns out to be an Impersonal Witness. In India this aspect is called the “silent Brahman.” The silence is so complete that it is eerie. One feels one is absolutely this ultimate, but singularly aware, void. Here the perception unfolds of how one is beyond the personal.&nbsp;</p>

The Impersonal Witness and Cosmic Consciousness are Differentiated Aspects of Being

The dimensions of both the Impersonal Witness and the Cosmic Consciousness, although nonpersonal and formless, are still differentiated aspects of Being. All the essential aspects we have discussed so far are differentiated, discernible Platonic forms. Love is definitely love, completely delineated, as are Will, Compassion and so on. The Impersonal Witness is singularly impersonal. The Cosmic Presence is very clearly a consciousness that is boundless love, a loving conscious light. The realization of the various differentiated aspects of Being leaves the door open to the manifestation of pure Being, nondifferentiated presence. Manifestation and realization of this basic and supreme aspect is a long and difficult one, but it is a natural process that spontaneously occurs at some point of personal development.

The Impersonal Witness is an Aware Vastness that Contains and is Beyond the Time-Space Continuum

The Impersonal Witness is an aware vastness that contains, and is beyond, the time-space continuum which is the manifest universe. It is generally not possible to imagine what Einstein meant by saying that the universe is a four dimensional time-space continuum. Mathematicians and physicists have this concept and deal with mathematical equations regarding it, but in the experience of the silent Impersonal Witness, Einstein’s four-dimensional universe is actually, directly perceived. It is as if one is looking from a continuum of more than four dimensions. This realization brings a new clarity and understanding to one’s personal life. It makes it possible to see the role one is identifying with in one’s life, and to know one’s function, work and unique contribution in one’s personal life. One can see how some characteristics or skills are developed in one’s life, for some unique role or purpose. Here one understands the role of conditioning, as a tool towards the development of personal characteristics and skills needed to actualize a certain role, to facilitate a particular contribution. 

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