The Direct Experience of Our Ontological Sense of Being as Self
Rudolph Bauer, Ph. D. Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, A.B.P.P.
This paper describes the self- liberating power of a person being in the
transitional space of awareness. By being in the transitional space of
awareness, we are able to directly experience the field of Being and to
experience our embodied sense of the field of Being. We are directly able
to experience our sense of self as the ongoing continuity of embodied
Being. This paper explores the sources and dimensions of our lack of
Being and the natural resource that brings forth our simultaneous
experience of the duality of beings and our direct sense of the non-duality
of Being within the duality of beings. The paper illuminates the drama of our
direct knowing of Being and our knowing of the indivisible experience of the
Being of phenomena.
The Felt Sense of the Lack of Being
The experience of the lack of the foundational sense of Being is
experienced by most people at the different phases of their life. This felt
sense of the lack of Being is experienced throughout their life. This lack of
Being is not simply some form of clinical psychopathology but this vast
existential sense of lack reflects our human limitations in our knowing of our
own embodiment of Being. The felt sense of the lack of Being is a powerful
motivator throughout our life. Philosophy, theology, psychology, arts and
literature have arisen from our profound felt sense of the fullness of Being
and our profound sense of the lack of Being. The problem of the
experiential sense of the lack of Being is not simply intellectual but is
deeply experiential and existential.
Our Sense of Being is Our Sense of Self
What is amazing is that the unfolding of our felt sense of ongoing continuity
of Being and the felt sense of the continuity of our sense of self is a
convergent experience. Our very sense of self and our very sense of Being
are intimately and ultimately the same experience.
The existential psychoanalyst Donald WInnicott understood and articulated
the ineffable mystery of the intertwining of Being and our ongoing continuity
of our sense of self. The experience of our experience of Being is
phenomenologically the same as our experience of our sense of embodied
self. The experience of this sameness of our experience of Being and the
sameness of our experience of our sense of self is of central focus in many
of the forms of existential phenomenology and existential psychology.
Maurice Merleau Ponty’s phenomenological work ‘The Visible and the
Invisible’ can be read in this light. The existential psychological work of
Rollo May, Erving and Miriam Polster, Eugene Gendlin, Menard Boss,
Michael Eigen are some of the existential psychologists who understood
and wrote about this convergence of the sense of Being and the sense of
Awareness as Transitional Space
Donald Winnicott once described the unfolding sense of self of the child as
the unfolding sense of ongoing continuity of Being. Donald Winnicott also
elaborated his understanding of awareness as transitional spaciousness,
which is a form of knowing that directly knows our experience of ongoing
continuity of Being. The sameness of our experience of self and the
sameness of our experience of Being is known directly and experientially
through the doorway of our transitional field of awareness.
The phenomenological action of our becoming aware of our own
awareness brings us immediately into the field of transitional awareness,
which is an experiential opening to know directly, to experience directly the
sense of self and to know directly and experience directly the Being of our
own embodied Being.
Gnosis, Jnana, Dasein: Language of Direct Knowing of Being
The experience of transitional awareness is not unlike the experience of
Dasein that Heidegger spoke of and used to express the openness of
human beings to Being itself. The language of awareness as direct
knowing is very similar to the language of gnosis of the early Gnostics or
Jnana of the Tantric Buddhist and Tantric Hindu Lineages. This knowing of
Being in immediacy and in directness is symbolized in the Nyingma Tibetan
Dzogchen Traditions as semde. In the language of the Dzogchen tradition
the word sems is used for knowingness of mind which knows forms and
semde for the direct knowingness of awareness which knows Being. This
distinction between mind and awareness is a most important distinction in
the Nyingma Dzogchen tradition of the direct experience of Being. Our
human direct knowingness of Being is an embodying event. Through our
experience of our becoming aware of our own awareness we learn the
embodiment of Being. Being is the experience of spaciousness, vital
energy, and radiant luminosity as spontaneous presence.
Being in its most foundational manifestation is the experience of timeless
awareness in time. Being is the experience of oneness and Being is the
experience of non-duality. Being is ultimately always Pure. To live in the
luminous felt sense of the embodiment of Being is self -liberation in the
tradition of Dzogchen and Kashmir Shavism. Existential Dzogchen uses the
word Rigpa to describe the experience of our awareness as the direct
experience of Being.
The Foreclosure of the Direct Knowing of Awareness
When transitional awareness or the experience of becoming aware of
awareness itself is foreclosed by our mind, we may no longer experience
the felt sense of Being. This sense of Being is the sense of Being in and of
itself, but also there is the sense of Being of phenomena. When our
knowing as awareness is foreclosed, we can no longer experience the
indivisibleness of Being and Phenomena. When we are in our mind alone,
we can experience phenomena but not phenomenological being and not
the Being of phenomena.
To experience the Being of Phenomena and the indivisibleness of Being
and Phenomena it is necessary to integrate the knowing of our mind as the
knower of form within our field of knowing as awareness. Our awareness
knows Being. Without the knowing of our mind, our awareness will know
Being but not the form of beings. Without our knowing of Being through the
direct knowing of awareness, our mind will only know phenomena as form.
To know the experience of the Being of phenomena and the indivisibleness
of phenomena and Being, there is the need for the union of our mind
knowing form and our awareness knowing Being. We are one knower with
two ways of knowing.
Many philosophical traditions, psychological traditions and theological
traditions do not know or have this understanding about the distinction
between the knowing of mind and the knowing of awareness. These
traditions will find themselves often limited to knowing the duality of
phenomena but not knowing the non-duality of the Being of the
phenomena. Or these traditions may be limited by knowing the non-duality
of Being but not knowing the duality of phenomena. There are mind alone
traditions that are concretely mechanistically realistic and will only know the
duality of phenomena. These traditions will only know the duality of
phenomena and forms by dismissing the actuality of Being. There are
transcendental traditions that are idealistic and will only know and
experience the non-duality of Being. They will only come to know non-
duality of transcendental knowing by dismissing the actuality of
phenomena. Both these polarized forms of knowing are experientially
Knowing of Mind and Knowing of Awareness: Our Two Ways of Knowing
When we can no longer enter into the field of awareness (our field of direct
knowing of Being) then we will only know through our mind alone. Through
our mind alone we can know forms of beings and forms of things, but not
the Being of beings and the Being of things. Through our mind alone, we
will not experience the Being of our own being. Through knowing through
our mind alone, we will not know the Being of all the beings. We will not
experience directly the Being of Being itself. Through knowing of our mind
alone we will know difference and we will only know duality. We will not
know the oneness of Being within phenomena. We will not experience the
Relational Being of phenomena.
Our Awareness Knows Being
When our direct knowing of Being is foreclosed, our Direct Knowing of self
is foreclosed. Our felt sense of our own being-ness and the felt sense of
our own self converge. This foreclosure of our direct knowing of the being-
ness of our own being can foreclose the Direct Knowing of the field of
Being itself. This foreclosure of the direct knowing of Being through our
awareness and the corresponding foreclosure of our knowing the field of
Being, informs our sense of character and informs our sense of humanness
and informs our sense of ethos. We become more ‘thing’ like and the world
becomes more ‘thing’ like when our knowing of awareness is foreclosed.
When Awareness is foreclosed our felt sense of Being diminishes. We can
begin to feel empty, hopeless and lifeless.
The Cultural Mythology of Knowing Only Through Mind Alone
How does it happen that the direct knowingness of our awareness is
foreclosed by the knowing of our mind? Our mind and the cultural prejudice
about our mind can foreclose our knowingness of awareness. Our mind
can become personally and culturally contextualized and our mind can
think there is only one way to know and that way is through mind alone.
Our mind can foreclose our experience of knowing directly through our
awareness. Our mind can think that direct knowing is impossible and that
there is only one form of knowing which is knowing through mind alone and
the forms and functions of our mind. This knowing of mind is knowing
through thinking, knowing through feeling, knowing through memory,
knowing through sensation and knowing through imagination. We think we
can only know the world through our representational conceptual mind.
This knowing of mind alone is conceptual and representational knowing.
Conceptual knowing is knowing about something! The knowing of mind is
mediated knowing. Mediated knowing through thought, through sensations,
through feelings, through memory and through imagination.
The mind of some people believe that the word awareness means simply
the focusing of attention by the mind. This is a conventional understanding.
The mind focusing of attention by the mind, is not the vast open
spaciousness of direct knowing of and within transitional awareness. The
direct knowing of awareness is unmediated by mind and the functions of
the mind. This awareness is a field of knowing that is vast and
multidimensional. This awareness is the base of our being, as our Being.
The innermost field of awareness is the openness of our being to Being as
Being. The innermost field of awareness is actually the innermost field of
Being in its knowing-ness.
The mind of some people think that Being is not an experience but a
speculative concept about experience. The mind of some people think we
do not know the Being-ness of beings and the Being-ness of our own
being. The mind of some think that the self is not a direct experience but
rather is simply a conceptualization about the experience of the mind. This
prejudicial way of thinking in our mind can actually foreclose our experience
of our awareness of Being.
The Religious and Cultural Mythology of Direct Knowing of Our Felt Sense
Our mind can be contextualized by culture and by religious cultures. Some
religious cultures mythologize that our direct knowing of our awareness of
Being is a kind of knowing that is very rare and is an aspiration that
ordinary people cannot experience. The cultural understanding as
contextualized by some western and eastern religious and spiritual cultures
believe that only the great spiritual masters or the great saints of the culture
can know directly the sense of Being. Moreover, some of these cultures
believe a person who embodies the felt sense of Being has to be a great
lama or great swami or great saint. This is of course not the truth of natural
experience. This is not the bliss of the ordinary. Yes, the Bliss of Being is
the Bliss of the ordinary. Just as it is. This bliss of knowing our being as
Being is a foundational given-ness.
Many of the religious cultures both of the west and of the east believe that
the beatific experience of Being has to be earned and merited and
ritualized. Many of these religious cultures have this grandiose elitist
understanding that the direct knowing of Being is the knowing only of a
superior person; is only the knowing of an exceptionally trained person and
only the knowing of a totally pure person. This understanding is simply the
hype of religious status and spiritual caste. This in today’s language is a
marketing method. This hierarchal framing more often than not, reflect
transcendental prejudice, patriarchal prejudice, and the prejudice of
theocentric caste both in eastern and western forms of hierarchal culture.
These cultures combine spirituality and royalty often in some form of
Patriarchal traditions institutionalize this Prejudice. Of course this
patriarchal prejudice is often a hierarchal and theocentric distortion of our
natural innate human experience of experiencing the Being-ness of beings
and the Being-ness of Being itself. Being is luminous. Being is Beatific.
Being as Beatific experience is completely natural and is possible for
everyone just as they are. Just as you are, naturally so.
This cultural limiting view of the direct knowing of Being and the Being of
phenomena is expressed by both western and eastern hierarchical
patriarchal traditions. These traditions take complete ownership of our most
natural immanent innate human capacity of knowing the Being-ness of our
own being and the being-ness of other human beings, and knowing the
being-ness of phenomena and the knowing of Being in and of itself.
Religious cultural traditions of both the east and the west “brand” their own
idiomatic expression of this natural capacity of knowing directly Being
within our own being and within the being of all beings. It is true that our
direct immediate experience of the Being-ness of our own being is the
experience of Being itself. Moreover, our experience of the Being of our
own being is also our experience of our embodied self as embodied Being.
Many religious and spiritual cultural traditions of both east and west,
ancient and contemporary pretend complete ownership over our human
knowing which is our direct knowing of awareness, which is our natural
capacity to know Being itself. These patriarchal, transcendental and
theocentric traditions not only take ownership but pretend authorship and
authority as if they are the ones who know, who alone know, and who
alone manifest this capacity of direct knowing of Being and the Being of
phenomena. Each religious and spiritual tradition considers its lineage and
idiom as the source. Their language is theocentric and their context
hierarchal. Their philosophical frame will often be relentlessly
transcendental and they will dismiss the reality of immanence and the
natural equality of Being as all beings. The natural univocity of Being and
beatific-ness of Being destroys the patriarchal illusion of hierarchal knowing
and hierarchal authority.
The Natural Developmental Unfolding of the Two Ways of Knowing
Of course our direct knowing of awareness which is our human nature
knowing Being happens developmentally. We are born with and within this
direct experience of knowing relational Being as babies, knowing relational
Being as children, knowing relational Being as youth, knowing relational
Being as families, knowing relational Being as friends and as companions,
knowing relational Being as lovers, knowing relational Being as mothers,
knowing relational Being as fathers, knowing relational Being as persons,
and knowing relational Being as dying, knowing relational Being through
our death event, our knowing relational Being beyond our death event,
knowing relational Being life after life, and knowing relational Being death
after death. Our knowing of Being is a Relational Event. Birth is a relational
event and death is a relational event.
Knowing Being as a Relational Event means knowing the duality of beings
within the non-duality of Being and knowing of the non-duality of Being
within the duality of beings. This is the Existential experience of Oneness
Traditions such as existential Dzogchen and existential Kashmir Shavism
understand that the ongoing continuity of Being is the very nature of
awareness and the very nature of Being. In the unfolding of contemporary
existential phenomenology, our experience of the ongoing continuity of
Being is the essential nature of the Being of awareness and the awareness
of Being. Awareness is our very Being knowing Being. Being is in essence
indestructible. Being is in essence unborn and undying. Being is forever
self-manifesting us as us. Being is self-manifesting as our own subjectivity,
as our own Being as knowingness, as our own knowing as awareness as
our own self as Being.
The Prejudice of Thinking Our Mind Alone is the Self and the Consequent
Foreclosure of our Experiencing Our Self as Being
So it is true, really true that our mind can focus on our mind and think our
mind is the self. Our mind thinks itself is the self. Many person’s experience
their mind as their sense of self. This sense of self as mind is a conceptual
or representational event. Our mind as self is a judgmental event. Our mind
as self is a mind event. Our mind as self is a schematic mentalis-tic self.
The mind as self is often as series of mental cognitions and corresponding
affects. Much of contemporary clinical cognitive psychology is focused on
the mental mind self as self. Our mental mind self becomes a series of
cognitive events. Our mind as self is not our true self. Our true self is our
inner-self, our innermost awareness, our self as ongoing continuity of
awareness as Being, our self as our subjectivity as the very manifestation
of field of Being in us as I am. Yes, our subjectivity is the Field of Being
manifesting us as our Subjectivity, as our awareness, a knowing Being.
Endless Ontological Terror
Believing that our mind alone is our self, opens us for everlasting
ontological terror, the terror of annihilation of our mind self as life and the
existence of everything we know and love and take refuge within. There is
often no refuge other than the religious fantasies or the mythologies of what
happens or does not happen at death and thereafter. Many of these
mythologies are mythologies of eternal judgement since the mind self is
itself a function of mental judgement and belief. Of course the patriarchal
and theocentric traditions have authoritative opinions about what will
happen to you and yours!
Belief Is Not Knowing
As the English Theologian Cardinal John Henry Newman describes in his
great text The Grammar of Assent, Belief is not knowing but a mere
intellectual assent. To directly know the Being-ness of our own awareness
as Being is the experience of self-liberation. The ontological qualities of our
awareness as Being, naturally arise within all of us experientially including
the unfolding experience of the ongoing continuity of self as singular Being-
ness that we are. There is the natural arising of the sense of Being as
being unborn and undying. This arising of the experience of our awareness
as Being itself opens the door to experience timeless awareness both
beyond time and simultaneously in time. We are both in timeless
awareness beyond time and we are timeless awareness in time through the
power of the union of the knowing of our mind and the knowing of our
awareness. Our mind awareness union is the Mysterious Conjunctio that
Carl Jung so seriously pursued, described and studied.
Timeless Awareness in Time
The experience of timeless awareness in time is described within the
phenomenological tradition as expressed by Heidegger as the four times.
The time of the past, the time of the present, the time of the future and the
time of timeless awareness. Existential Dzogchen also describes the four
times. There is the time of the present moment, the time of the past, and
the time of the future. And there is the time of timeless awareness. Great
compassion can arise out of timeless awareness into time. The great
Dzogchen master Yang Thang Rinpoche describes how we can extend
compassion which is the power of awareness and the light of awareness
and the vital energy of timeless awareness into time. We can extend the
radiance of timeless awareness into the past of a person, into the present
moment of a person and into the future time events of the person. The
power of timeless awareness is the power of the field of Being manifesting
through our awareness into time. We all have the power to be in timeless
awareness and time simultaneously.
In the Dzogchen tradition the very essence of awareness is indestructible.
This experience of being unborn and undying arises naturally not as a
belief or hope but as a profound sense of Being. Timeless awareness is
experienced both beyond time and being in time. To experience timeless
awareness in time is to experience the union of our mind within the field of
awareness. Within this union of mind and awareness there is the
manifestation of the felt sense of timeless awareness in time. This ongoing
experience of being in timeless awareness in time frees us from
annihilation anxiety and the fear of death. Being in timeless awareness
brings forth in us the abiding sense of potential space and the power of
potential space. In the language of Dzogchen this potential space is the
dimension of the Dharmakaya or ground of Being.
The Sublime Integration of the Knowing of Mind within the Knowing of
The integration of the knowingness of our mind within the knowingness of
our awareness opens for us the experience of the field of Being. The
experience of the field of Being is spaciousness, luminosity, vital energy,
and direct knowing. To experience the knowingness of beings within our
own awareness allows us to know Being within our own being. The
integration of mind within our awareness allows us to experience the field
of Being through and within other beings. The person can experience
through the duality of beings the non-duality of Being. And within, the non-
duality of Being a person is able to experience dualistic beings. Moreover,
the person experiences their own field of awareness as the field of Being.
This experience is self-liberating. This experience is completely natural and
arises naturally out of the union of our mind and our awareness field. A
person experiences the field Being within phenomena and the field of
Being as phenomena. By sustaining and maintain this integration of mind
within awareness, a person can live within the non-duality of Being within
the duality of appearance, the duality of phenomena, the duality of beings.
This experience gives a person an intimacy within the world and a possible
freedom from annihilation anxiety. The freedom from annihilation anxiety
arises since our field of personal awareness has the range of Being in
timeless awareness and in time simultaneously. Moreover, by experiencing
the union of mind within awareness a person is able to experience and
know directly inter-subjectively, meaning self to self. The direct knowing-
ness into phenomena increases our capacity to know the character of
phenomena in a more essential manner.
The union of our mind that knows difference and our awareness that knows
Being, greatly facilitates our direct knowing of Being and our knowing the
indivisible experience of the Being of phenomena. The ongoing union of
mind and awareness brings forth the deepening of our sense of the
embodiment of Being within the corresponding convergent sense of being
as our sense of self. As we experience our sense of self as our sense of
Being, we can live in the presence of Being as our own self. We can live in
the ongoing continuity of Being, whatever the phenomenological events. By
living within the union of mind and awareness we can deepen the
embodiment of our sense of Being. We can live within Being as Being. We
can live beyond hope and hopelessness. We can live within timeless
awareness within time. And wonderfully as Yang Thang Rinpoche suggests
we can transmit this experience of the Being of awareness to others. This
is the great compassion. Of course this all happens just as we are!
Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D.
Washington Center for Consciousness Studies and the Washington
Center for Phenomenological and Existential Psychotherapy Studies