At the End of the Night

At the End of the Night

Every human being awakens at least once a day. The process of awakening in the morning resembles the awakening of the true self.

We are awake when we think and feel, when we are consciously aware of ourselves and are able to act in the world around us.  All this converges in an individual field of consciousness, which can also be represented as four bodies that together create an ‘ego’ consciousness.  Since the time of the Upanishads this concept has been passed on, with only slightly varying points of view. According to it, man possesses not only a material body, but also in addition, three further, more subtle bodies as well – these are the etheric, the astral and the mental body. The etheric body is the energy and life impulse centre; in the astral body dwell the emotions and feelings; and in the mental body resides the mental consciousness. Starting from the material body, the other bodies are in each case finer and more subtle, so that they penetrate and extend beyond the respective coarser ones.

When we sleep, these vehicles are separated from each other, for the astral and mental bodies are then no longer concentrically aligned in the physical body with its etheric double. These finer bodies may even wander far from the material body during sleep. This separation also causes our waking consciousness to fade during sleep, so that, indeed, none of the personality parts thus separated have a full consciousness throughout the night[1]. Only when all four parts of the personality realign again, does the human being gain his full waking consciousness.

There is a microcosmic awakening where a unification with the three higher, eternal vehicles of the human being takes place, that is analogous to the awakening we experience each morning. Here it is a matter of Manas, Buddhi and Atman – the eternal, true self of man – descending into the four lower bodies, until the eternal members lie concentrically in the lower, transient ones. Starting from its higher aspects, awakening permeates the entire human being. Manas, Buddhi and Atman then prove to be a firm basis for establishing an imperishable and universal consciousness. As long as this process has not started, man remains, as it were, a dreamer.

In the awakened human being, Manas conceives the concrete plan of becoming, the process of an ever-unfolding divine creation in one’s own being; thus, he is the interface between the true self and its concrete revelation. Buddhi is the awakened[2] spirit soul that is unified with all and everything. Atman is the primordial base in one’s own being, reaching beyond all that exists and at the same time being the formless source of everything. These seven aspects, the former described transient ones and the three eternal ones, describe the awakened human being. Each person can test for himself or herself to what extent he or she possesses such consciousness.

As we walk a path to awakening, the initially hidden true self within us successively takes over the role of the provisional self, the ego. And the ego allows this to happen, although not without a struggle. It is the struggle for realization (and indeed also for allowing realization), for liberation (from the point of view of the ego, it is more about letting go) and for true life (which, for the ego, feels like dying time and again).

We are inclined to think of spiritual awakening as an expansion of consciousness. This is not wrong but misleading, because in this way we are most likely to think about the expansion of our present consciousness. Because the Awakened One is an Other, Eternal presence within ourselves, the awakened consciousness is also of a very different kind.

Two Gifts

At the beginning of awakening there will be two diametrically opposed processes of consciousness.  Many people undergo peak experiences, overwhelming touches of a state of being that is as intangible as it is real. But after the heightened experience, which offers a new perspective, the person has to descend again into the ‘valley’. And there, after the freedom and perfection one has just tasted, await the imperfection, incompleteness and limitations of the ego – our present reality.

The contrast to the inwardly experienced, which once enlightened the consciousness, forms the basis for a deepening self-knowledge, which will in the long run enable the ego to step aside. Every human being carries within himself fragmented images of the One, which he believes he can subsist on. Love, the ability to help and to heal, power and perfection want to express themselves. But they cannot, or only with unwanted side effects; the ego consciousness, which has seen a glimmer of something else, something greater, must at some point admit this to itself. Thus, the path begins with, among other things, the experience of being impotent, an experience that will accompany man on the path for a long time and will eventually help him to understand the imperative of ‘letting go’, in favor of the true self.

A Path Begins

Most people have an intuitive approach to letting go. Shelves, packed with volumes on life guidance, are available in bookstores, all claiming to explain this subject. Initially, it is relatively easy to grasp the idea that letting go of attachments liberates us. When one is free from possessiveness, fear of loss recedes. Breaking free from unhealthy attachments brings a new freedom to discover oneself and live one’s own life. Ultimately, the whole path is contained in this subject, because whenever we are attached to something or someone, we are attached to impermanence and trapped by it. Everything that is beautiful always carries with it the pain of having to say goodbye. Things wear out, people become ill and die. We are not exempt from this. Nothing in our world remains as it is.

So, when one sets out to break existing ties, it is ultimately dependant on the way one basically positions oneself in the world, perceiving it and engaging with it at every moment, locating oneself in it, creating one’s own space. Our consciousness works in this world-relationship at every moment; it reaffirms itself with it; it is completely filled by it. (Check this out for yourself.) Trying to bring one’s consciousness to rest in this regard does not lead to awakening unless one has already attained the beginning of a conscious connection to the true self. This is the point.

The beginning lies in the heart, and as we move on, in the mind, at the place of the third eye, the brow chakra, a space opens that is no longer fully occupied by the ego, and that stands open for the influx of the true self. Once this beginning is made, all relations with the world transform their character, for they then originate from a point that no longer belongs entirely to the ego and to impermanence. Then the struggle to let go takes on a deeper sense, because the true self then creates a base for itself in consciousness. When the things and relationships of this world no longer dominate and limit consciousness, another stage of this uphill climb is achieved.

The freedom thus attained entails that the position of the ego and of the physical human being no longer appears to be absolute, delineated, and necessarily worth defending. On the contrary, other points of view and other relationships can be perceived more clearly; they come closer to us and successively become our ‘own’ concern, because the true self also shines through in other places, as it were, just as it begins to permeate our own being. Judging becomes less and less important. Attraction and repulsion lose their importance as a working method of the astral body, because inside and outside are no longer experienced as separate realities. The astral body thus unfolds the ability of silent radiance.

Sometimes, the sense of self in one’s own consciousness can dissolve to such an extent that a vast emptiness arises. It can be experienced positively, because it is the pure beginning of a completely new development. It can be experienced negatively because the ego is no longer able to find itself in this emptiness, and wants to reattain its supremacy, its old state of being.

Struggling for the Self

In the face of this emptiness, the struggle takes place to define who we long to be, and who we can be. If we really seek boundlessness, then we have to give up all boundaries. Are we primarily the concrete, transient being with all its joys, pains and fears, or can we liberate ourselves for the true self that doesn’t identify with a concrete form, although it will always create new forms? This is not about that which we desire in a moment of spiritual elevation, but about that which the whole being is already prepared for – or maybe not!  This is not an exercise of choice in the supermarket of identities, but a maturing into a state in which the old ‘self’ is cast off, as it were, like a shell. Catharose de Petri writes about this in Transfiguration: “When the human being has followed the path of return to the new life right to the end, he is perfect, and in that final phase there is not one part of him that is not totally beyond form and change […] the new human being in his absolute state is an entity beyond form. Being unbounded, he exists in the illimitable.”[3]

This true Self, which is ‘the super-form entity’ within us, must come into effect during this process.  This path leads us into a struggle, because for the ego it is a path into nothingness. No more: ‘this is me, this is where I come from, this is where I want to go, this is what I have to prevent, this is mine’, on which we then continue to base ourselves. The story we tell ourselves in our heads without pause, in order to reinforce our ego and project it into the future, gradually fades away. When this compulsive inner narrative ends, the human being is not weaker, but freer than before. In the course of these experiences, it also becomes clear that the ego, in its role as self is an illusion, albeit an illusion that still has a great deal of power and persistence.

The Beauty of the Path

Emptiness has its own beauty, because it becomes a haven of peace in one’s own being, a Weltinnenraum[4], where we can encounter all things from within. This is no mere poetic sensation and no illusion, but the beginning of a real experience of unity. Here the individual awakening merges into the awakening of humanity, because a person who walks this path begins to awaken in everything and everyone.

Once the ego no longer tells its story to itself, the identification of the everyday consciousness with yesterday and tomorrow becomes weaker, and thus, very naturally, an awareness in the present arises that is potentially free of fear.  Behind this development, too, there is the gradual change of the self, for the eternal, true self is free from anxiety, worry and fear. This presence, in which the self has become completely still, opens the gateway to the eternal in one’s being. That is why many spiritual directions put such great emphasis on stillness of thought and mindful presence.

On the path from ‘I-centrality’ to the divine true self, every human being undergoes a great many experiences. Some, usually judged as negative, turn out to be stages of the path, because they help to detach from the ego, to recognize the underlying true self more and more clearly, and to open up to it. However, letting the true self finally become THE self, remains a struggle for most people. In this, everyone fights a personal battle in his or her own way.

For me, the question is time and again: who do I want to be? In my mind, two opposing forces encounter each other. On the one hand, there is the enormous persistence of the subconscious, the power of identification with transience, and centuries of reaffirmation within it. On the other hand, there is a convergence of self-knowledge of the ego with a deep, encompassing, supporting force, which is in me and around me, and which I learn to rely on. The crowning conclusion of the way which the ego has to go can be seen in Rumi’s words:

“With God there is no room for two egos. You say “I”, and He says “I”. In order for this duality to disappear, either you must die for Him or He must die for you.

It is not possible, however, for Him to die – either phenomenally or conceptually, because “He is the Ever-living Who dieth not.” He is so gracious, however, that if it were possible He would die for you in order that the duality might disappear. Since it is not possible for Him to die, you must die so that He may be manifested to you, thus eliminating the duality.[5]

Along the path of awakening, the paradox of our duality as both an eternal, and a transient being, is transformed into crystal clarity when the old consciousness has given up its efforts to be the centre, allowing the true Self to shine forth as a ray of the One. Here, the symbol of the polished diamond fits well. As a concrete being, we then represent a facet of a crystal gem. In its centre shines the all-pervading white light of the Primordial Ground.


[1] This text does not deal with the overcoming of that unconsciousness during sleep as well as with astral journeys. Both do not play a role in the process of awakening described here.

[2] For in Sanskrit, the word stem budh means awakening.

[3] Catharose de Petri: Transfiguration, Rozekruis Pers, second edition, Haarlem 1995. Page 43.

[4] Weltinnenraum: As Rilke wrote in one of his poems, the inner consciousness of man contains the whole world. Man is able to enter this inner space during the process of awakening.

[5] No room for two egos | Mutu qabla anta mutu | Technology of the Heart (, 05/05/2024

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Date: May 23, 2024
Author: Angela Paap (Germany)
Photo: brilliant-Tom auf Pixabay CCO

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