Visitor: You were talking once about the last trump which everybody is holding back, the last card that is held back in the game of Self-realisation, when one is standing face to face with oneself. Could you say something more about that?
Alexander: At first sight everybody seems to have his own trump-card, but in the end it all boils down to one thing: the ‘I-am’-awareness, your subjectivity. The awareness of ‘I am’ is your last trump, it is the ground from which you can form opinions, hold views, have a certain idea about something or somebody, or have a self-image. The foundation of this is the phenomenon that ‘I am’.
V: Is there a link between that phenomenon and the ego?
A: The word ‘ego’ leads to a confusion of speech. The ego was introduced by psychologists to mean the whole personality-structure, the ‘I’-structure. But at the root of it there is an almost formless sense of… ‘I am’. Nobody doubts that. Even in order to be able to doubt it you have to be there in the first place.
V: But how can this ‘I-am-ness’ be employed as a last trump?
A: The big delusion is this very ‘I-am-ness’, though hardly anyone gets down to that point. This ‘I-am-ness’ is what is called ‘mula maya’ in Sanskrit, the ‘root of illusion’. Whichever way you turn it, some form of self-awareness is there. You could also call it a sort of ‘perceivership’. But don’t be mistaken! What you want in the end is to disappear, to dissolve in love.
Just look at what you are eagerly longing for. All the things you eagerly want are solvents, i.e. means to disappear in love, your true nature. Whether it is playing the violin, sex, eating or dancing, meditation or football. These things give a sense of liberation, a sense of relief. That’s why they are so popular, because there the state of self-awareness is dissolved for the time being—please note: for the time being.
As a matter of fact, this ‘perceivership’ is the same as the self-awareness. Man is struck by a curious fate, for he is—and, at the same time, he perceives that he is. At the same time, which is a peculiar phenomenon. Perhaps one could try and explain this phenomenon in a scientific way on the basis of the structure of the brains etc., but even so! It is inevitable that all such suppositions, all such hypotheses, again, are being perceived.
V: I am still not clear about that trump of yours.
A: The difficulty is that you are stuck with what your senses are dangling before your eyes. Through the play of the five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether—a gigantic creation is being conjured up before you. As a result of a misunderstanding you have begun to look upon yourself as a product of that creation. You were getting consciousness mixed up with its contents. It could hardly be otherwise, for until now the only thing you knew was contents. Such is the game.
All you can possibly perceive—from the waking to the dream state up to deep, dreamless sleep—is the ‘I-am-ness’. With deep, dreamless sleep it is perhaps most difficult to perceive it, for you refer to it as, ‘nothing is there’. You bet there is! There is something there, only your search doesn’t go quite that fare! The problem is not that everything is so terribly complex, but that one is not going sufficiently deep.
(8th December, 1978)
For more from Alexander Smit look here.