June 02

SOUL OF A NEW SELF: CHAPTER 5 EXCERPT

I am happy to present to you an excerpt from the fifth chapter of my forthcoming book, The Soul of a New Self:

I recently encountered the fascinating term maze brightness in the writings of a spiritual teacher named EJ Gold. The term refers to a form of ‘enlightenment’ that occurs in some lab rats. Certain experiments conducted on rats involve having them hunt their way through mazes in search of cheese. Presumably by altering the maze and watching numerous trials you can glean some understanding of the level of intelligence the little animals possess. It seems that among a small percentage of rats something interesting happens in the midst of scurrying around in search of food. In a flash of insight they suddenly appear to realize that they are trapped. They instantaneously seem to become aware that there is more to the world than what they experience in the maze.

This leap of insight is called maze brightness and once it occurs the rat is no longer interested in finding its way through the maze to the cheese. Now its only interest is in getting out of the maze altogether.  What an interesting analogy to the situation of the awakening loop of self-referencing. We may realize that we are not really a separate individual, but are in truth a little bit of consciousness that has been cut off from the rest through a maze of self-identification. Once we have that flash of insight that tells us that there is a whole world that exists outside of the box of self-identity that we are trapped in, our interest in life within the box dulls. We can no longer be satisfied with life as it has been presented to us and we begin to search for a way out. For some of us that is how our spiritual search begins.

In my own case I, as many do, seem to have come into this life with some degree of retained connection to the wider world beyond it. As a young child of about four years old I would periodically retreat into my parents bathroom to access the wider reality beyond the world I had found myself in.  The practice was simple. I locked the bathroom door and stared into my own eyes. As I looked into the eyes that were looking back at me from the mirror, my being began to expand. I rose through the roof of the house, into the outer atmosphere of the Earth and eventually to the limits of the universe. Having confirmed my connection to the reality beyond all limitation I would allow myself to return once again to life as the little boy staring into his own eyes in the bathroom.

Perhaps the act of staring into my own eyes served to remind that little boy that he was really just a loop of self-referencing. From that recognition I seemed to gain the freedom to float beyond myself. My spiritual search began on the day, some time during my fifth year, that I lost access to this miraculous practice of expansion. In the years to come I experimented with self-created forms of meditation. At the age of about seven I would lock myself away, this time in my father’s car, and in that cocooned silence search for a way to escape from the relentless stream of thought that I had concluded was separating me from the wider world beyond. I searched in vain for a crack between two successive thoughts that I could slip through and the ways of the world began to consume more of my attention.

From these early beginnings my spiritual life began. I had lost access to the wider life of the universe and I knew that I was in a trap. As I grew toward adulthood I found it difficult to be authentically interested in the world around me. No one was talking about how we were going to get out beyond this sense of being separate and isolated so that we could once again know ourselves to be universal beings. Since there was no one to talk to about what really mattered to me I began to forget about it. And yet I always had a haunting sense of more and in my late twenties I began to engage in focused spiritual practices that gave me access to spiritual awakenings that opened me up once again to the universal nature of true being.

In terms of our present discussion the form the maze takes is our current sense of thinking-thing self. We are trapped within the limitations of separate selfhood and expend much of our energy running around in an ever-shifting maze of limited possibility in search of human equivalents of cheese. For different reasons and at different times some of us attain maze brightness in the form of insight, revelation and illumination.

So here we are reading this book exploring the universal nature of our being and aspiring to create a new self in the universe. The maze brightness that has awakened our passion to live beyond our current sense of self is often attained through some fleeting experience of universal being. As we have discussed, one form of escape from the maze of separate being is to find a way to surrender completely into the universal nature of our being and leave the world behind. This has been the path of many great saints and sages of all ages. Their deep and continual abidance in the universal currents of reality have catalyzed the awakening of millions of others to the True nature of being.

This book is mapping another route of escape. Not the transcendent escape into universal being, but the evolutionary escape into the next form of selfhood. Rather than leaving the process of becoming altogether, I advocate for a participatory process of reconfiguration into a form of self that we cannot yet imagine. It will involve a snake-like shedding of our current self-skin and rebirth into the next. And as we will see, we will need to climb into this new self-together. It is not a new coat of identity that we wear as an individual. It is a new vessel of selfhood that we enter together for a journey into a new future.