For Eckhart Tolle, “I cannot live with myself any longer.” was the thought that kept repeating itself in his mind. Suddenly he became aware that if he could not live with himself, there had to be two – he and the “self” he could not live with. He was stunned by the realization.
Something simliar is expressed in the conversation of Paul Brunton with Raman Maharshi, where the Maharshi says “If you meditate on this question, Who am I? – if you begin to perceive that neither the body nor the brain nor the desires are really you, then the very attitude of enquiry will eventually draw the answer to you out of the depths of your own being; it will come to you out of its own accord as a deep realization.”.. When Paul Brunton asks “What exactly is this self of which you speak? If what you say is true, then there must be another self in man.”, the reply of the Maharshi is “Can a man be possessed of two identifies, two selves?” he makes answer. “To understand this matter it is first necessary for a man to analyse himself. Because it has long been his habit to think as others think, he has never faced his ‘I’ in the true manner. He has not a correct picture of himself; he has too long identified himself with the body and the brain. Therefore, I tell you to pursue this enquiry. Who am I?”
When the Maharshi speaks of discovering the real “you,” we face a difficulty in understanding how there could be a difference between “I” (I) and the real “I,” (RI). The mind has an administrative system, which developed over millions of years. Early reptilian and mammalian administrative offices (E), managed the system. E used smell and emotions such as anger, or fear to interpret and manage the system. Subsequent human development brought RI, a powerful analytical intelligence, which generates common sense views, in the prefrontal regions.
I is only a pure awareness. Occupying the mail room of RI, I is aware of only the daily mail, the real time perception of the system. Intuition shifts the awareness of I between the anger or despair of E and the common sense views of RI. But, RI recognizes inputs and does not interpret it with emotions. It is not very difficult to identify RI, if you watch you mind in silent darkness. When you discount any physical sensation, you will realize that there is an entity, which merely watches and recognizes. That is RI. It can identify a tension in your forehead as a physical sensation. The systems, which process that information further to trigger sadness, or a motor drive to shift your head can gradually be seen to be different.
RI is a pure and powerful recognition machine, which knows that you exist and identifies the difference between right and wrong. RI exists independent of the subsystems, which process information further to generate fear, or sadness. RI is a machine, which merely recognizes. You can destroy a computer, but you cannot terrify it. So, RI, that essential “you” is unconquerable. But, unlike a computer, RI can choose to feel pain and sorrow, or joy and happiness.
RI processes information and “I” merely perceives
The difference between processing and perceiving has to be clarified. Whatever you do, or experience, implies the firing of a nerve cell somewhere. Each functional group of those cells processes data as a “banyan tree.” Typically, the banyan tree of the olfactory intelligence collects information through the receptors in the branches of the tree and sends patterns indicating the recognition of a smell through its roots (Nobel Prize awarded for that discovery). Learned or inherited combinatorial codes in each tree convert the data received by the branches into recognition messages dispatched through the roots. Each emotion triggered by an organ in the limbic system comes from an independent tree, which is a functionally separate and (Kezwer) recognizable intelligence.
RI is the tallest tree in the network, in the prefrontal regions and is logically the fabled “deep wisdom within.” RI branches are known to receive relayed sensory, recognition and emotional images – perception, interpretation and emotions. RI processes that data to deliver will from the roots – the patterns which control attention and movements. RI delivers the will of the spirit. E delivers the fears and desires of the flesh, produced by the organs of the limbic system. The will of RI competes with E in the ring of the limbic system. Like the combinatorial codes, which deliver decisions to contract or relax muscle groups in the spinal cord, codes of the limbic system permit a single group of linked emotions, or RI’s will to control the system. Will, or an emotion then controls attention, conscious thoughts and movements. Consciousness is the awareness of “I.” The presence of RI is best indicated by your conscience.
Benjamin Libet’s experiments are clear evidence that the awareness of “I” comes after a 350 millisecond processing delay. Awareness “I” is merely the current perception, and not a process. So, “I” is not a banyan tree, but only perceives the processed information. “I” can independently perceive E, when RI chooses to look inside. “I” can not be an output at the roots of RI, because those output patterns are motor instructions, directing attention, or movements, quite different from the miraculous awareness of “I.” So, “I” existed at the barrels in the branches of RI, which medical text books suggested received relayed sensory, recognition and emotional data. The information known to be currently received at those barrels alone coincide with real “I” awareness. If the anger of E dominated, “I” then felt anger to the exclusion of other emotions.
Obviously, if “I” perceived only the current emotion, RI could also have access only to the current emotion. With the ability to express its will, RI is an independent intelligence. Since conscience is one of the highest intellectual activities of the system, RI processes it. If you asked yourself if something is right, RI would send a true or false message into your working memory. But, E would also send a pleading message “But, I need it!” The judgment of RI could also trigger guilt – an E output.
In the book “Siddhartha,” Hess says the process of enlightenment can never be taught by a teacher. The real problem is that it is not easy for RI to take charge. It is essentially a limbic system problem. RI is merely one among many intelligences seeking to take control of the system. A ringing phone can take control more easily than RI. The decision to permit RI to look inwards has to be permitted by the limbic system as the most worth while among a host of possibilities.
All the great teachers recommend various practices, which can enable RI to take control. RI can silence the rise of emotions by observing them. When emotions were stilled, the perception of “I” becomes the neutral perception achieved by Matthieu Ricard. Since emotions are stilled when observed, RI can enable “I” to feel joy, or love only by not restricting the rise of those emotions. Those emotions would freely rise, only when negative emotions were stilled by RI. The Buddhists practiced the achievement of a feeling of compassion by focusing on patterns, which triggered compassion. Advait philosophy talks of practicing chanting of “Neti, Neti” meaning “This is not me, this is not me”.
It is a mystery that while nerve impulses course through the whole system, only a particular group of those impulses generate awareness. Could those RI barrels have a “quantum link” to a spiritual world? Since all information culminates in the barrels of RI, it could logically be the point of reception for any transcendental messages – the mysterious interface between the nervous system and consciousness.