In a previous piece I explored the topic of how to bring somatic regulation practices, that is trauma healing practices, to the art of spiritual realization, specifically the mysterious activity known as the self-contraction. For more on the historical roots of the recognition of the self as the activity of curving in on itself and contracting, see this piece on its initial realizer St. Augustine.
The basic premise of the piece was that a different relationship to the self-contraction could transpire through bringing a set of somatic regulation practices—namely the self-contraction would not ever be fully healed or disappear but that it could become a strange place of both blessing and wound—the wound that heals, like that of The Fisher King from the Grail Lore.
Towards the end of the last piece I mentioned the work of contemporary spiritual teacher Saniel Bonder, who along with his co-teacher and wife Linda Bonder, have explored very similar terrain, with what he terms the core wellness/core wound paradox. The same place being both core wellness and core wound permanently.
Bonder’s work is another in a series of realizers exploring the possibility of a more evolutionary and incarnational model of awakening. I’ve previously explored the work of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother within the same context.
Bonder came to call his teaching Waking Down to emphasize the full embrace of the material world, including even the human ego, identity, personality, shadow, and finite existence. Waking Down also includes a strong emphasis on relationship (Waking Down in Mutuality is its technical, full name). Rather than an isolated, individualistic path of living remotely in a cave as a hermit, something of significance transpires in the space of relationship.
In what follows I’ll be exploring the terms transcendence, immanence, and incandescence as representing three distinct forms, types, or phases of spiritual realization. This piece will focus primarily on immanence with a nod to incandescence (which will be covered more extensively in a subsequent piece).
Immanence, as I’ll argue, really only comes online as one chooses to “wake down” and therefore embrace the self-contraction from a place of loving curiosity.
Transcendence is the (supra)conscious realization of spiritual freedom through unity with The Absolute—whether described as Consciousness, The Natural State/Buddha Nature, The Godhead, Spirit, The Tao, or The Divine.
Bonder’s term, following in the lineage of the great Indian realizer Ramana Maharshi, is The Heart (Capital H). The Heart, like The Sacred Heart of Christ, is the Heart of all matter. It is the Heart of all Being and Becoming. The Heart is (Supra) Conscious Light. It is Radiant, Loving, Self-Generating Conscious Life. The Heart mixes Eastern realization of Nonduality with a more “Western” (or rather Middle Eastern) teaching that God is Love. The Heart is a deeply warm-feelingful Conscious Radiant Blissful Light at the core of all material reality. The Heart is the source of both salvific liberation (transcendence) but also the radical inclusive embrace of all reality (immanence).
Realizing Consciousness is what frees an individual from identification with the time-bound mortal finite self. This point is where most traditional nonduality stops (see my piece on Neoplatonism for an example). When, however, matter becomes equal to Spirit, where the finite becomes as meaningful as the infinite, then immanence takes over (“waking down” vs. “waking up”).
In immanence one brings awakening down into and through the body. This full bodied descent brings the freedom of transcendence into visceral, creaturely expression. In so doing one embraces paradoxical opposition. One becomes actually more free by embracing limitation. The path becomes one of being freed from Freedom, being freed into emotion, tenderness, pain, finitude, mortality, and death.
To borrow some Buddhist language for a second, in an unawakened samsaric state death, pain, finitude, limitation, bodily change become chains that bind us in suffering. In nirvanic transcendental release, one is freed from those chains but tends to “free float”, as it were. Only in immanence do we return into embodiment, finitude, limitation, third-dimensional space-time, from a place of freedom. This fullest embrace leads to a state of Fullness (in addition to the Freedom of transcendence).
Traditional transcendental teaching is one of non-separation or seamlessness. In the path of immanence one even embraces separation as (paradoxically) even a part of non-separation. In immanence, one is both infinite and finite while the latter is not a mere throwaway or add to The Real of the spiritual.
In immanence, for example, the realizer may practice shadow work from the position of awakening Consciousness. In shadow work, the practitioner turns towards an aspect of their being which they had disowned: e.g. rage.
First they must acknowledge and own the rage as their own and not project it onto someone or something else. They must turn towards and welcome rage. Affirm rage’s existence. It helps to know what the purpose of rage, what the meaning of rage is. Rage occurs when there’s been deep violation or betrayal for a person: e.g. in abusive dynamics.
Then the person must “get closer” with their rage, as if Rage were a character in a story and they could dialogue with their rage. They need to listen to Rage’s experience, story, needs, wants, There’s a sense of back and forth, give and take, and exchange at this point. The rage might still be “other” in a sense at this point but it’s a closer, familiar other, perhaps even an intimate one.
Eventually the person may come to fully own and embody their rage—moving it from an “other” to one’s self. Perhaps the person does breathing work to feel and sense and move with their rage in the body (safely). The somatic regulation practices of resourcing, pendulating, and titrating (described in the previous piece) could come into play here, as the person grows their ability to stay with the intensity of the experience until it begins to transmute.
From the perspective of a person prior to awakening, shadow work with rage would be about healing their trauma, re-integrating their power (transmuted rage) and regaining their boundaries after having them violated. I talked about this path of initiation in a previous set of pieces exploring the men’s rights and #metoo movements.
From the perspective of awakened Consciousness, shadow work becomes a way to transmute energies of a collective nature through one’s individual being (what is called in Lurianic Kabbalah, tikkun olam). As one is already transcendentally free, then one is free to become full. By bringing the Light of Consciousness into contact with Rage the Rage becomes transmuted into a unique highly embodied form of The Light. The One Light does not override the uniqueness of an emotional state (in this example Rage) but rather Rage becomes precisely the vehicle for the embodiment and expression of The One Light. The result is a purified Wrathful Light that could power a person to participate in dismantling forms of oppression or ignorance for example.
The same basic structure could apply, though in a different tenor, to another emotion, e.g. Grief. When Grief contacts Conscious Light the result is true faith and hope in the entirety of the organic process of existence (both life and death and rebirth). The same basic rhythm applies to all the other emotional states—Shame, Fear, Jealousy, etc—each with their own unique variation of a common theme.
In addition to emotional shadow work, other practices that can cultivate the process of immanence (“waking down”) would be ancestral/multigenerational healing, trauma work, somatic regulation, energetic sovereignty, and sexual/erotic mastery. All of these various practices could be placed under the broad umbrella terms of tantra as known in the East and alchemy in the West (also Kabbalah in the Middle Eastern tradition).
Many of these practices are typically undertaken by a separative and separating self-sense (i.e. the self-contraction). The difference in what we are outlining here is that these practices are taken up from the perspective of Conscious Awakening: hence immanence or “waking down”.
In Christian theology, Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnation of The Logos/Wisdom of God, died and was buried and descended into hell before being raised from the dead. Liturgically Holy Saturday commemorates the burial and descent into the realm of the dead. Holy Saturday is between Good Friday (death/crucifixion) and Resurrection Sunday with the raising from the dead.
The 20th century Roman Catholic theologian Hans von Balthasar wrote a moving text on the meaning of this oft-forgotten memorial of Holy Saturday. Balthasar describes hell as a state of incoherence. Think being stuck in a hospital waiting room for hours or the soul-crushing experience of prisons and psychiatric wards. These are places of incoherence and oppressive energetics. Or consider the feeling of “non-places” with endless rows of big box stores, total disorientation, and a perverse sense of meaningless dread. They are hellish.
For Balthasar, that period of the Descent into Hell represents God (in the Second Person of the Trinity) taking on bodily the experience of atheism, the loss of God, meaninglessness, disorientation, and dread that is hell. In hell there are no connecting patterns. Everything is disorganized and disconnected. In trauma-based mind control techniques like those of MK-Ultra and other related grotesque human experimentation, a huge emphasis is placed on sleep deprivation as well as dissonant, chaotic, and disturbing acoustics. Precisely as Balthasar argued, such experiences are hellish due to their incoherent, chaotic nature.
By bringing separation and hell into The Divine Life, God was said to redeem (transmute) and incorporate separation, incoherence, and hell into Divinity itself. There becomes no space for non-God as it were since God has taken on God’s opposite/“non-God” (hell) into the very Divine Life.
Similarly, in the path of immanence, “un-enlightenment” becomes part of enlightenment. The ego, the self-contraction, the spaces of seeming separation from non-separateness (shunyata) become themselves paradoxically conditions of embodied realization. Added to that list are death, time, and finitude. Immanence is the antidote to the poison of spiritual bypassing.
As with the template of The Christ, the path of immanence brings a much greater degree of flesh and blood love to the path of realization. There is a stronger fire, an emanating warmth as one descends, with love, mercy, passion and compassion, into the heart of material existence. The individual on the path of immanence dies away from “spiritual safety” of transcendent realization and while diving into the heart of existence. While the path of transcendence can lead to an identity of a spiritual master, the only marker left for one on the path of immanence is that of a devotee, a devotee of spirit-infused, radiantly loving, material Life.
In the path of immanence one embraces even the very self-contraction (core wound) itself, as it's own strange, enigmatic form of divine expression. The core wound becomes a place of healing (The Fisher King).
In traditional nondual awakening the realizer is said to be free from ego. In the path of immanence the ego will remain, both in it's Core Wound as well as in various traumas or energetic entanglements. Here Bonder makes a key distinction in his teaching between The Core Wound and what he calls Core Issues. (For those interested, this distinction is fleshed out excellently in CC Leigh's book Becoming Divinely Human).
The Core Wound (which is also the Core Wellness) is thought to be universal. It is both radically intimate and the most personal and yet not really personal simultaneously. Core Issues, on the other hand, are common perhaps but not universal. Not everyone has the same set of core issues. Each person, by dint of their incarnation, share in the Core Wound, even if they register the Core Wound in their unique way.
Examples of core issues would be abandonment, neglect, abuse, and betrayal. Tragically far too many humans know those experiences but not everyone does. One might go through life raised in a very supportive, nurturing loving family and not experience the sting of neglect or abandonment. Such a person would be mercifully free of those specific traumas but would nevertheless, as an incarnate human spirit, suffer the Core Wound.
As one follows the desending path of immanence they must wrestle with both the Core Wound and their Core Issues (and be wise enough to discern the difference). Core Issues can be healed. A person can heal from betrayal, even though that cut runs deeply. The Core Wound, conversely, is never healed or "fixed". It is simply made consicous and becomes, as mentioned, paradoxically both core wound and core wellness forever and always. As I argued in my last piece, helpfully the same practices of titration, pendulation, and resourcing will be supportive both to making the core wound conscious, as well as for transforming and healing core issues.
This key distinction helps explain why trauma and shadow work do not stop after awakening in the path of immanence--in point of fact trauma and shadow work only dive that much deeper in this path.
In the view of traditional transcendental teachings, awakening is the end point. In immanence awakening is really the beginning. "The game is afoot" at this point, as Holmes would say.
I mentioned a few moments ago the title of CC Leigh's book, Becoming Divinely Human. Divinely Human is another one of Bonder's phrases. Note the emphasis on divinely human rather than humanely divine. The divine is brought "down" into the humanity, as the humanity is brought "up" into the divinity. The Core Wound (Core Wellness) is the registration in the human body of being both fully infinite and fully finite simultaneously and choosing both equally and profoundly.
The heat that is generated through embracing and penetrating matter with spirit can become so hot that it leads to a third stage: incandescence. If Bonder’s work Waking Down connects strongly with immanence, his work on The White Hot Yoga of The Heart (or white heat for short) explores incandescence.
In Incandescence the interpenetration of matter and spirit becomes so intense that it generates a heat as if it’s gone “white” or “blue”. It’s not a subtle white light one might see in a vision or dream—just as waking down isn’t literally just cultivating energy in a downward channel in the body. The heat is “white” because it’s gone ultra-searing. The friction between matter and spirit rubbing up against one another, like two sticks, causes a fire to arise—a fire that is a light (incandescent).
In the next piece in this series I will investigate the path of incandescence.