Authenticity, Transparency and Non-duality
When we begin to do serious inner work on ourselves, and take on the challenging journey of awakening to enlightened awareness, sooner or later the question of what it means to be authentic, transparent and “real” will become an inevitable part of our inquiry. The answer very much depends on your orientation, and specifically what you are really looking for.
In a postmodern cultural context, the huge and growing popularity of shadow work and psychospirituality – and an ever-increasing number of self-help gurus and therapists – encourage us to become more transparent to ourselves, to face our brokenness and vulnerability, and to learn humility and self-forgiveness in the face of our fragile humanity.
In this therapeutic setting, the higher state experience of enlightenment has become reduced, more or less, to a form of psychospiritual medicine. Ego dissolution and self-transcendence are merely peak experiences, something easily accessed through working with powerful psychedelics such as Ayahuasca or Psilocybin.
Meanwhile, being “real” is about profound psychological vulnerability, the admission that we are all emotionally dysfunctional at one level or another – and we are constantly warned of the dangers of spiritual bypassing when venturing too far towards the transcendental.
Within a specific and limited relative framework, of course this is all good. We are works in progress, imperfect beings, and we all have shadows that must be faced and not avoided. But in the context of a real path of awakening to higher consciousness, for the true seeker of enlightenment, what does it mean to be radical and real as a human being?
When we first encounter the rarefied higher context of the enlightened condition, it is a total shock to the system. We discover that the worldspace of the healthy or unhealthy ego and the worldspace of the Authentic Self have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. These two perspectives exist in completely different dimensions.
Enlightenment, when it is the real thing, shatters all of our assumptions about who and what we are, and in turn what it means to be radical and real. We realise with a jolt that up until this point we have been looking down the wrong end of the telescope. From this perspective, our emotional issues and trauma are of absolutely no consequence, because we are always already absolutely free.
Andrew Cohen calls those of us who have had a glimpse of this rarefied condition to stand courageously for the absolute truth of enlightenment – without compromise, yet without ever bypassing the painful relative reality of our fractured and imperfect human body-mind.
He asks us to look again at what it means to be radical and real, and explores the complex question of how we can hold the absolute and relative in a non-dual embrace, while never sacrificing the truth of who we are on the altar of egoic delusion.