Thirteen years ago, a woman with a long history of paranormal consciousness and kundalini awakenings watched a TV show on The Learning Channel in which I described my NDE. She wrote about her reaction, “Awakening to the Self,” for a small newsletter about Kundalini risings.

The woman’s name was El Collie, and anyone familiar with Kundalini phenomena may know of her. I didn’t until very recently, when a new reader of this blog sent me a link to her article (and Steve, I’m forever in your debt for this).

Despite some variations in our circumstances and interpretations, this is the only commentary I have ever encountered about the Void which truly “gets it.” Here is a substantial excerpt from the first section of her article. Another segment will appear in my next post. A link to the full source is at the end.

The One
by El Collie

I caught a very interesting program on TLC the other night called “Life After Death.” During a segment on rare, hellish NDEs, there was a depiction of the God/Self/Source experience I had 32 years ago. The narrator began this portion by intoning: “Darkness, Void, Vacuum, Loneliness, Absence, Nothingness, Nonexistence. . .”

Nancy Evans Bush described a near-death-experience that happened to her 35 years ago. A voice or awareness informed her: “You never existed, you will never exist. You’re not real. Nothing you ever knew existed. Nor does anyone you think you ever knew, nor your life, nor where you live. You made it all up.” She goes on to say, “This meant that not only did I not exist, but the baby and her year old sister [her children] didn’t exist. Your mother, your husband, nobody you know exists. You’re not real, and nothing you know is real.”

She concludes: “I found it instant holocaust.” Yet she was compelled to deal with this awakening for the rest of her life, and slowly came to terms with it: “There is a gift in these experiences. Now, it’s not a gift we want to get, but if we’re stubborn and hang in there, we work through a lot of issues. We come to discover our religious faith in incredibly deep ways that we couldn’t if we just dazzled around on the happy level. So what I’m trying to do is go beyond the idea that pain = bad = punishment = hell = eternity = despair. Because the alternative to despair I think is joy, which is different than happiness. But the paradoxical nature of this is that in order to get to real joy, we have to be able to accept suffering as part of us. And I know that sounds bizarre. But I didn’t make up the rules. . . and it just seems to work that way.”

The spiritual journey can veer into various levels of ego-loss in which our sense of self-identity is momentarily or permanently altered. The Eastern religions in particular extol the dissolution of ego — the release of our sense of “me” as a separate and rigid “somebody” in the world. These traditions regard ego-transcendence as essential to spiritual liberation and enlightenment. Most of us have experienced some degree of ego-loss, often as a self-expansion or self-eclipsing in the presence of something awesomely vast or beautiful: the spectacular wonders of nature, the encompassing joy of love, or through powerful inner experiences of sublime, mystical states of consciousness. I’ve had episodes of grace when, as if something suddenly changed the channel on my perception, I’ve been shifted into states of euphoric bliss. Everything became a sweetly flowing effortlessness in which I felt carried along as ephemerally as a summer breeze.

This, and other more common ego-suspension experiences mentioned above, are very different in their psychological impact than the stark confrontation with the illusory nature of existence which Nancy Bush and I encountered. The positive experiences have a melting-quality whereby ego-boundaries are blurred and we feel ourselves to be One with life. By contrast, being divested of all previous notions of self is a great shock to the psyche. At this deepest level, not only one’s sense of individuality but one’s total sense of reality implodes. One’s entire perceptual orientation is turned upside down and inside out…

The problem was that what remained was a single Consciousness which existed in absolute aloneness.

Awakening to the “eternally complete consciousness” isn’t about being in the presence of the One or feeling union with God, both of which assume the existence of two entities, self and Divine. In this experience, one’s personal identity is obliterated. Nothing exists but self-aware Consciousness that knows itself to be the single and whole reality subsuming all space and time. The collapse of the phenomenal world (which doesn’t instantly vanish from view, but is seen to be a stupendous “trick” of the One Mind) is disemboweling to the psyche. This was the most harrowing, soul-shattering, and simultaneously the most illuminating and transcendent experience of my life. For me, the unbearable thing was not that El Collie had vanished; my self-deletion was akin to removing a costume. The problem was that what remained was a single Consciousness which existed in absolute aloneness.

The “eternally complete consciousness,” a. k. a. God/Goddess/Self is the Infinite One proclaimed by mystics from every tradition. Direct knowing of the One Consciousness dissolves the self who would be the “knower.” There is no one standing apart from the One to bear it witness when awakening occurs. Rather, the individual self is understood to be an illusion of a separate identity. All duality ceases to have meaning; there is no opposition or division anywhere. In the deepest sense, no one can awaken to this truth. Becoming Self-Realized is the experience of knowing there never was and never will be anyone to become enlightened, and that nothing but Consciousness IT-Self is eternally real. Mystics throughout the ages have struggled to convey this apparently logic-defying Reality which seems to be saying that nobody is there when satori/samadhi occurs. But that is just it—there is no body, there is only the One Eternal Self, the true Self who we all are. In this highest sense, we do not each have a distinct and separate Atman/Self. Rather, we are individuations, creative expressions of a Single Being. Throughout my life this knowledge has followed me as a reminder that nothing in this world is entirely as it seems, particularly not my own ego-self.

Whoever wrote the script for the TV program obviously found it inconceivable that Nancy Bush had a genuine revelation of Self/Source, so the narrator inserted the explanation that Nancy’s story exemplified one of the hell experiences that Stanislav Grof says is the product of a terrible childhood. Wrong on every count. Grof actually discusses the type of awakening Nancy experienced on a tape called “The Cosmic Game.” On this tape, Grof distinguishes between experiencing deities and divine personages (Buddha, Jesus, Shiva, Kuan Yin, Divine Light, etc. ) and experiencing the core God/Self –the I-AM of pure consciousness. Many of the people who have this core experience (which a friend of mine calls “God-in-the-Void”) seem to be exhilarated by the absolute freedom of realizing that everything and everyone is an illusion. But some—like Nancy, me, and others I’ve met who are more love-and-relationship oriented—are devastated by the eternal aloneness of Self/God. And I’ve run across a number of people who have had this experience but buried it in rationalizations afterwards because they couldn’t bear to carry the knowledge of eternal emptiness in which nothing/nobody really exists.

The few people I’ve personally met who awakened to the “you don’t exist, nothing is real, nobody you love is real” Source/Self have been mentally and emotionally eviscerated by the experience. Yet for me, while still in the egoless God/Self state, there was also a spontaneous shift into the joy that Nancy later discovered was the second half of the equation. So I didn’t spend years working through “issues” to get to that completion. My joy came during the experience of God/Self’s ecstatic love for all creation—even while acutely aware that all creation is maya, dreamstuff, nothingness.

So I came “back” from it both reverberating with love and shattered by the knowledge of God/Self’s solitary predicament. Reconciling God/Self knowledge with just about any other facet of existence was a humongous challenge. For a very long time, although I continued to function normally on the surface, I was in a twilight world where nothing, including myself, seemed to have any substance. I pretended not to know what I knew, and I was ever in search of an illumined soul who might somehow help me bear the weight of my secret knowledge.

There was always an element of absurdity in the attempt to find someone who understood. I was ever aware that “I” in the encapsulated form of a human El Collie was a hollow shell, a clever pretense that Consciousness used to deliberately disguise itself. I knew why the disguise was necessary, while at the same time, I knew there was nothing which could be hidden and no one to hide from. I had the acute sense that I was a transparent vessel through which God plaintively sought relief from being God. I found myself filled with tender envy for those who believed in a God who was “other”—a deity they could adore from a distance, sweetly enfolded in a relationship of child to Father or lover to Beloved. The God that had exposed IT-Self to me could neither be approached nor escaped from.

Trying to come to terms with my lasting sense that nothing was real, I went on a rampage of reading all the religious and occult literature of every sect and creed I could find in hopes that I might come across some piece of wisdom that would rescue me from the immensity of what I knew. I found what I had experienced being described over and over again, couched in myriad symbols and semantics.

Most of the authors of the spiritual texts who described the God/Self realization were exultant and bubbling with promises of eternal bliss. Almost nowhere was there acknowledgment of the devastating part of the experience. I did, here and there, come across a poignant admonition that the spiritual path was a voyage into ego-annihilation, and anyone who could should run from it. Yet the irony was clear: the only ones able to understand what was being warned against were those who were already too far into the journey to turn back.

I had repeated episodes of going fully into God/Self consciousness over several years. After the initial shock, it was never again so harrowing. Even so, having this realization so early in life, before I had come across all the hoopla in the religions about it, seemed for a long time like a strange kind of cheat: I was finished before I had in earnestness begun. I knew too much but I didn’t know what to do about it except to play dumb and carry on with my mundane life.

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More here next time. Full article, titled “All One,” begins on page 15: