012. Michael Baxter

Michael & Intesar Baxterbax (or baxishta if he’s feeling uppity) does not consider himself fully awakened, but knows for sure that he’s recognized glimpses of the self.  He says this puts him in an awkward position, and insists on starting off with this apology,

if what i’ve seen is true
then i’m a hypocrite
every time i speak about it

no better than the man who
having awoken briefly from his dream
rushes back to tell his friends what he saw

“you’re all in my mind”
he  informs  them
and they laugh at him twice

once for being obviously wrong
and once for being right
and therefore talking to himself

my only defense is that
even hypochondriacs do get sick
and even hypocrites do awaken briefly

bax’s motto is “self is solid”, and he considers himself a student of Ramana Maharshi, whose favorite description of the self was “a dense mass of self-knowledge”.  he considers himself a post-new age thinker, and feels that most of what is discussed today goes only halfway to Shankara’s great ‘three laws of self-knowledge’.  Specifically, much is said about consciousness but not very much about the self itSelf.

In order to try to put readings and experiences into a context for himself, he developed a graphic model which he calls The Cycle of Self-Knowledge.  The gist of it is that every thought passes through all the stages of finding and losing self-knowledge, and that it’s easy to identify milestone experiences along the cycle, which may make it easier to recognize the frequent glimpses of the self which we’re all having but which usually go by unnoticed.

PDF File: All aboard for a trip around the Cycle of Self-Knowledge.  We’ll pause at stations like ‘The Life-Cycle of a Ghost’ and ‘The Me-Shaped Balloon’ to see how life looks from there.  I hope you enjoy it, and your feedback is always welcome.  bax

Interview recorded 2/17/2010.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

55 thoughts on “012. Michael Baxter

  1. Avram,

    thanks for your comments.

    i agree that Ramana was talking about a hill, but why would he be so devoted to it if that’s all that it was? i believe it was, for him, a sort of ambassador to the self.

    in the modeling i’ve done to help me keep things straight, there are 3 parts.

    model 3 is the regular world, including the application of regular ways of thinking to spiritual topics. model 1 is all about the solidness of self. and model 2 is everything spiritual, mystical and philosophical, all of the subtle arts and sciences which lie between models 1 and 3.

    the crux of model 2 is the idea that the periodic human experience of an empty void is transformed into that of a ‘full void’ (or spiritual heart) when it acquires a solid center as awareness repeatedly passes very close to the self, and naturally attempts to emulate its solidness.

    so in model 2, Arunachala would be an example of a solid center of the spiritual heart for a given person (Ramana) at a given scale (the world). there are many other examples for other people and at other scales.

    in fact, i think that everyone relates to a ‘solid center of the spiritual heart’ in one form or another, and that the experience of refining and being devoted to this localized mass prepares us to eventually recognize the non-localized ‘true mass’ of the self.

    so the question as to whether a hill may be the self, or at least a useful representation of it, is a good one. my opinion is that, within the context of this kind of conscious or unconscious modeling, it certainly may.

    in any case Ramana clearly felt that Arunachala was worthy of his devotion.

    i think of references to the solidness of self as the ‘vedanta of vedanta’. they’re not common, but i keep finding more and more of them.

    for example, in the letter from David Godman, he goes on to say that, “The idea of the self being both an internal and external lingum is a Virasaiva idea. Several of their saints and philosophers have written extensively on this. I mentioned a little of this in the biography of Guhai Namasivaya that appears on my site.”

    when you ask about the particulars of the physicality of the self, i believe there are two ways to view it.

    if we view it as having the same ‘quality of mass’ as objects in the world, then i’d say that the size and weight are infinite, and that it’s non-localized and has its center nowhere and everywhere.

    but i think it’s better to say that the mass of the self is of a different quality entirely than that of objects in the world, just as the mass of a movie screen is of a different quality than that of the images projected upon it.

    i believe that this ‘quality of true mass’ of the self is what we’re remembering when we really think about solidness, a solidness which no false mass may ever possess, one which is not only denser than diamond (a quantitative difference), but denser than any diamond may ever be (a qualitative difference).

    i think it’s useful to start fresh and ask, ‘if true solidness is the criterion for reality, then what does it mean to be truly solid, to have true mass as opposed to false mass?’

    here’s an exercise along these lines,

    – real solidness cannot be physical or else a rock would be more real than i who observe it, therefore i look inside.

    – not finding solidness at first, i continue, rejecting ever-more refined fields of mind and energy until i arrive at the brink of complete abstraction.

    – the last realm i pass through is that of empty consciousness. i take the final step and encounter existence per se, beyond which nothing may be more abstract.

    – to my surprise, it’s not empty and not a field at all, but an actual solid object.

    – it seems that i’ve misunderstood entirely what the commodity of existence is. i see that ‘that which exists’ must be ‘that which is substantial’, and that no process of distillation has made it so, because it’s not merely solid, but solidness itself.

    – i see that existence is a digital property which applies only to that ultimate substance which bears its name. although appearing to the mind as the most abstract, solid existence is, finally and originally, true mass, uniquely full of itself, beyond which nothing ‘else’ has ever existed.

    i invite you to check and see if you don’t have a ‘sixth sense’, a sense that allows you to recognize solidness, first as your small moving feeling of i-ness (model 3), then as the larger stationary center of your spiritual heart (model 2), and finally as the non-local true mass of the self.

    if i can do it, you can too. it’s not hard, just solid.

    your friend,

    brickhead bax

  2. thanks SnowLeopard,

    i agree that physics has a lot to offer here, especially since the question as to what constitutes the best definition of mass is the central issue these days.

    i’m assuming that they’ll find the Higgs boson, like the center of the spiritual heart, at more than one scale, and thereby gain support for the idea of the Higgs (mass) field.

    but they’d still need to be willing to consider an infinite mass in order to be of the same quality of mass as the self.

    so far, the idea of an infinite mass has been the most unacceptable of all ideas in physics, accounting for most of the asymptotes, including the speed of light and the absolute zero of temperature.

    the Higgs boson may be the ‘God particle’ in the relative sense, but for the Higgs field to be the ‘God field’ in the absolute sense, i believe they’d have to take this final (original) step.

    brickhead bax

  3. Bax,

    You remind me of Parmenides of Elea, who was one of the few pre-Socratics Plato revered. He had a simpler system, that of truth and of seeming; no need for a third. I am not a physicist and would not know a boson from Bozo or a bosom. But, I wonder at your insistence on solidity; what makes you attracted to that description rather than many others? For example, why not call it Being or Substance? Spinoza had a philosophy which might be similar to your perception, and I wonder if you have read either him or the former philosopher. Spinoza thought that there was one infinite substance; and by the way, you might be better served studying philosophy rather than physics for that reason, that philosophy speaks of the infinite, whereas, as SnowLeopard said, physics shies from this. Mathematics does have the infinite though, and as I have alluded to, Franklin MW used mathematics to express his realization of the Self. He argued against solidity though, as I have written. I think Peter Kingsley’s works on the pre-Socratics are phenomenally good, and highly under-rated, except his last book that is. Why not resort to the great philosophers, who have expressed what you want to say in a way that has stood the test of time, instead of seeking in physics? I don’t think it serves any purpose to try to force your ideas onto mystics who didn’t express what you want them to say. In sum, I question the notion of solidity, and think that previous great philosophers have articulated the concept you are after as Being and as Substance. Plotinus is another who tried to connect Being with the manifold world. I think you are re-creating the wheel, unless there is something unique and useful about the way you want to do this, i.e., solidity. I just don’t see what solidity adds to the conversation. It seems to solve the problem of the unity of form and existence in space and time for you, I think. And who knows the solidness, or does it self-know itself? You might do well to note that, contrary to what you say, Ramana’s self-avowed favorite expression of the Self is the biblical I AM That I AM, which drew the ire of Vedantists, but which he steadfastly maintained was the expression he most liked.

  4. Bax,

    Franklin Merrell-Wolff’s Realizations
    Franklin Merrell-Wolff grounds his philosophy in his Realizations, and not in mere rational speculation. In his written report of his mystical unfoldment, Dr. Wolff identifies three premonitory recognitions and two fundamental, or transcendental, Recognitions.
    First Premonitory Recognition: “I am Atman”
    Wolff’s first premonitory recognition took place in 1922, approximately 14 years prior to his transcendental breakthroughs. Wolff describes this first recognition as a noetic insight into the truth of “I am Atman”. The term “Atman” is a Sanskrit term that Wolff uses to refer to the transcendental subject to consciousness (see the discussion above of the second fundamental of the philosophy). Just prior to this insight, Wolff had been engaged in the practice of discrimination of subject (Atman) and object (world). This practice of discrimination is fundamental to the teachings of Shankara, the founder of the Advaita Vedanta school of nondual philosophy. The purpose of this practice is to effect a disidentification and detachment from the objects of consciousness, and a realization of identity with pure subjectivity. Although Wolff previously had been intellectually convinced of the truth of the proposition “I am Atman”, this time he suddenly realized its truth at a deeper level than the intellect. Although this was only a veiled Realization, it nevertheless brought a sense of Light and Joy, and had persistent positive effects, such as a certain change in the base of thought, bringing clarity where there had previously been obscurity.
    Second Premonitory Recognition: “I am Nirvana”
    The second premonitory recognition took place in late 1935, approximately 9 months prior to the first fundamental breakthrough. Wolff describes this recognition as the realization that “I am Nirvana”. Prior to this noetic insight, his thought upon the subject of Nirvana had been involved in the confusion that Nirvana is a kind of other-world separate from the relative world of subject-object consciousness. While meditating upon Nirvana, however, it suddenly dawned on him that “I am Nirvana”, where “I” is understood here to mean the inner core of subjectivity. Like the Atman, Nirvana is never an object before consciousness. It is therefore identical with the subject to consciousness, or the true “I”. As with the prior recognition, this insight was accompanied by a sense of Joy and Illumination within the relative consciousness, and had persistent effects. In addition, there was a sense of a Current with profound depth.
    Third Premonitory Recognition: “Substantiality is inversely proportional to ponderability”
    The third premonitory recognition took place in late July, 1936, about two weeks prior to the fundamental breakthrough. Prior to this insight, Wolff experienced certain logical difficulties reconciling Transcendent Being with the physical universe. These difficulties arise from the habit of regarding objects of consciousness, i.e., any appearance in consciousness that we can ponder or experience, as in some sense substantial. Although Wolff had a prior intellectual conviction that the Transcendent Being was more substantial, the intellectual idea alone had failed to have a powerful transformative effect on his consciousness. This third premonitory recognition, however, had a profound effect on his consciousness that served to clear the way for the fundamental breakthrough that would follow in a matter of days. Wolff expressed the insight with the following proposition: “Substantiality is inversely proportional to ponderability”, or “Reality is inversely proportional to appearance”. In other words, the degree of true substance or reality is the inverse or opposite of the degree of ponderability. Thus, concrete objects of experience, which have a high degree of ponderability, are the least substantial. Subtle or abstract objects of experience, on the other hand, which are less ponderable, partake of a higher degree of substantiality and reality. The effect of this insight upon Wolff was an acceptance of substantial reality where the senses reported emptiness, and a greater capacity to realize unreality, or merely dependent or derivative reality, in the material given through the senses. This insight brought about a more profound shift of identification with the transcendent supersensible reality, and a correspondingly profound detachment from the objects of consciousness. This shift was decisive in clearing the way for the fundamental realizations that were to follow, but you take one way and he takes the other on the issue of what he for some reason calls “ponderability” (which I think should be “ponderousness” to distinguish it from the usual meaning of the word, which is to ponder something, unless he is using in a technical sense in mathematics perhaps which I am ignorant of). In sum, I think you have stumbled into the big time, the great questions which have been pondered, if you will, for thousands of yours, up to and including you. Let me know if this is substantial for you.
    Avram, pondering his ponderosity

  5. Avram,

    thanks for your comments. you’ve obviously put a lot of thought into these things, as i have.

    i think the main thing i can say is that i’m not primarily working out a philosophy but trying to describe an experience.

    i realize that saying “self is solid” or “self is solid existence” is a relative description, but it feels like the most immediate and honest way to describe what i’ve noticed.

    as far as emptiness, it always seems to imply ‘empty of what? of something substantial’, but maybe that’s just my perception.

    to me, the self seems to be a dense presence which is full of itself but empty of other content.

    thanks again for your comments,


  6. friends,
    i’m having some trouble posting my play,
    ‘Self-Knowledge for Knuckleheads’.
    is anyone out there interested in seeing it?

  7. Hi Bax
    I think I’ve seen most of it by following the image name logic.
    Is the comment box not accepting URL’s?

    You can bug Rick to delete the comments that flopped.

  8. Here is a thought that arose in me before I heard this interview yet the interview reminded me of this thought that arose in me this morning.

    A Line and a Circle are both 2 symbols of Infinity representing 2 contrasting Realities of Being. This remains the place where Infinity was divided by 2 leaving one part 2 times greater than the other.

    That which is conceived as the ‘Self’ is just that – a concept arising in the undefined that you are.

  9. What is imagined intimate, real, clear… etc., is no more (or less) than an appearance observed as it arises from the observer.

  10. Doubt is no more than the drawing of conclusion into any perceived end. And it does not matter if the conclusions are based upon wind or based upon solid.

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