Consciousness may express and experience itself through the sense of individuality and apparent separation just as much as it might through the majestic sense of oneness — it is clinging to or seeking one and avoiding the other which creates the chronic dissatisfaction which plagues most spiritual seekers. What we can recognize, upon inspection, is that both views are just that – views – and as such are essentially fantasies of interpretation on perception, projections of mind.
Moreover, the sense of individuality, as well as that of unity consciousness, are equally natural expressions of the incarnated being, contrary to the claims of some teachers who disparage one and elevate the other. In life, it is only fixation in any state that turns out to be the hindrance, not the state itself, which is, after all, a transient and non-binding modification of consciousness.
Light and shadow alternate. This realm is a platform for the complementary play of opposites, of yin and yang, and in fact it is one that makes the other “meaningful”. On the other hand, there are many so-called spiritual authorities who preach that the sense of separation and individuality is a lesser, or undesirable, state. One popular Western neo-advaita teacher, Adyashanti, wrote: “The state of consciousness that a great majority of humanity is in is not natural. It’s altered. We do not need to go looking for altered states of consciousness; humanity is already in an altered state of consciousness. It’s called separation. Separation is the ultimate altered state of consciousness.”
However, consciousness itself is perpetually changed by experience, so in that sense, it is always “altered”. In that regard, the sense of unity or oneness is also an altered state. Since there is no fixed and permanently established consciousness, it is all flux. Consequently, the effort to cling to some preferred, idealistic state (such as un-separate-ness) inevitable results in stress and suffering. One can verify this through their own experience.
It seems that there are a lot of myths swirling around the experience of “oneness”, perpetuated by our fellow human personas who would like to imagine the victorious acquisition of idealistic and superior states, along with the sense of some finality to the spiritual search. In reality, such an awakening to “oneness” may grant another perspective, a shift in the angle of vision, but does not immediately eradicate the subconscious programs (vasanas) which continue to confuse us in our behaviors and relationships.
It is a good step, however, if properly utilized in one’s inquiry, although it can also become even more of a hindrance, as we have witnessed too many times in teachers who claim some special liberated status and yet are revealed to be all too human in their foibles. The term “Spiritual By-pass” has been employed to describe the use of spiritual blinders that lead one to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.
In fact, ego-mind can co-opt even profound awakenings, wearing the experiences as some sort of badge. This is the “Intermediate Zone” that the 20th century sage Sri Aurobindo wrote about, which can be a serious trap for those without mature and qualified guidance and mentoring. I have discussed this previously, including in the essay “Tests of Mind, Character, and Will”.
In our human adventure, we may experience both separation and oneness, and there is even a level of realization in which we recognize that what we truly are is utterly beyond any definition or temporary experiential state, whether it be one of apparent lonely isolation or exalted oneness with all the universe. Both are equally interesting to our immortal Spirit in its infinite expansion of Self-awareness.
Indeed, it is only the human persona which holds the hierarchical perception that one state is somehow better or of more value than another. In reality, different views, different states of vibration, even the different dimensions are all arising interdependently, and exist within one another, informing and influencing one another and creating new possibilities all of the time. Thus, to quote the Guide Sparrow, one state or vibrational frequency cannot be of greater value than another, for all are “interwoven as one fluid mechanism, one interconnected sentient orchestration, and one infinitely expansive and evolving interactive process — That which some call God.”