I ran across an old quote whose source I have unfortunately not been able to track down, but I’m posting it because it expresses a couple of thoughts pertinent to this blog (if any reader can identify it I’ll give the source full credit – I think it may be Larry Dossey).
But what is this “it,” this capacity to observe as an observer? The traditional answer from empirical science is that it is an illusion, for the “stuff of consciousness” is simply an expression of what the brain is doing. When the brain dies, consciousness must also evaporate, along with any “it” – the typically local view.
The Western religions have taken a different view. They claim that the “it” – the soul, the spirit, mind, or consciousness – is such an intimate part of the body that the flesh must die in order for the soul to be liberated. As long as the body survives, the soul cannot really be free to travel homeward to be with the Divine…
But this does not accord with the anthropological record, says van der Leeuw:
“[This] “it” which sees the man rot, which goes on journeys to heaven and hell,… this “it” has neither body nor soul. Though it is in no sense an abstraction, it seems to have nothing to do with the time that governs our entire life. Our psychophysical ego has a history; it goes through a development. But the perceiver… remains outside the temporal process: he does not, at our death, vanish from our view (we no longer have any); it is we who vanish from his view…
Thus the “surviving” onlooker entity, “it,” is really not something that survives the death of the body, for it was present before the body came into existence. From this point of view the neurologists are entirely correct: There is indeed nothing that survives the brain, for the “it” was not contained in nor produced by the brain in the first place.
I find myself thinking aht the ideas in this citation are indicators of mysticism’s injunction to “find/be/ the face you were before you were born,” to be immersed in the “I-amness” of “the eternal Now.”
These affirmations that the “It” has neither body nor soul seem to coincide well with the traditional mystical motto: “Enlightenment is not a state of mind.”