by Frank M. Wanderer
“There is something exceptional, unique, about the present event, which the previous, or the coming do not have. There is a livingness about it, an actuality; it stands out as if illuminated. There is the ‘stamp of reality’ on the actual, which the past and the future do not have.” Nisargadatta Maharaj
By Presence, Eckhart Tolle means being free and independent of psychological time (past and future), and it is achieved by focussing our attention fully and completely on the present time, the events of the present. This is inevitable for everyone, as this is the only way of recognizing that we are more than our personal life history. A gate opens up for us to see the world free of forms and shapes beyond the world of forms and shapes.
Maharshi asserts that the presence thus achieved is the first step towards revealing the real PRESENCE that he terms as Self.
In Tolle’s interpretation presence is the Ego itself, Consciousness of the body, which has been cleared of most of the identifications. This is, however, only a pseudo-presence, as it is subject to change. It disappears in the state of deep sleep, when there is no presence. It emerges when one is awake and vanishes when one is asleep.
That pseudo-presence is our subjectivity (I am), which is oriented on some object appearing in the present time (e. g. internal body, respiration). This pseudo-presence is the key to PRESENCE. Maharshi believes that it is only possible to reach PRESENCE through a research of ourselves.
A research of ourselves means that we must divert our attention from the object to our subjectivity and find the source from which it emerges and where it disappears. The source is the PRESENCE itself, the Absolute Consciousness. Seeing that means you recognize: there is only one Subjectivity. One wakes up in Unity and realizes: I AM THAT. I AM EVERYTHING!
Experiencing PRESENCE is not a static thing, but it is an ever evolving process. The presence, emerging in the present moment as described by Eckhart Tolle, is just the first step in the process. During the process, there is a critical moment when the Ego tends to interfere by suggesting that the point concerned is the terminal, the goal has been reached. I am here, I am present, I have elevated myself above the forms and shapes. That presence is, however, only a gate we must go through in order to reach real PRESENCE.
If we recognize this as our real state, it no longer matters whether our PRESENCE is aware of the outside world or turns inward. This conceptual approach only appears unclear if we try to understand it from our current state of Consciousness. In order to fully comprehend this, we first need to wake up in the PRESENCE.
Through the Gate
Eckhart Tolle guides us along our Journey from objective awareness to spatial awareness, to the contemplating PRESENCE. A close observation will reveal that, as the warden of the gate, Tolle only shows us the way, but we need to enter the gate ourselves. The gate is the contemplating PRESENCE, but what is beyond the Beholder? Who is the Beholder, and who is this PRESENCE? This is still the Ego itself!
In order to understand the issue, we need to examine who and what the Ego is. Maharshi recommends the method of self-analysis for that purpose. It will also take us through the gate at which Tolle (among others) is pointing. Where we are heading is the Self, the pure Consciousness. The reflection of that Self in the material world is the Ego, that is, the self-idea. In its pure form it is experienced as “I am,” an impersonal but still very personal Existence. This is the core of the Ego.
When this “I am,” that is the Ego, erroneously identifies itself with forms and shapes (I am the body, I am the emotion), then it will be manifested as “this is mine” (these are my thoughts, these are my emotions, this is my money, this is my power). This is the clothing of the Ego. Self-research begins here, at the clothing of the Ego. First we examine the question “Who am I?” We do not really expect an answer to the question, though. What could provide an answer is the mind, but the answer of the mind would necessarily be false, only pointing back at the clothing of the Ego.
So after asking the question we focus on the present moment, and watch quietly inward. If there are thoughts, emotions emerge in the meanwhile, let us ask ourselves the question: “Whose thougths are these?” The answer can only be: ”Mine.” We then go on asking: “Who believes that these are my thoughts?” “Who am I? “Where is the source of the Self?”
It is important that it should not be a merely intellectual examination, because that is the mind! The emphasis is on the attention, the point is watching silently inward! It is only possible to do that in the Now, and the reaction given to the thoughts described above also keeps the self-researcher in the Now. In the Now, the self-researcher can more and more clearly experience the concept of ”I am.” If the self-researcher is a persistent one, at a certain point the concept of ”I am” will very clearly be experienced. When that happens, that will be the pure space awareness, the Witnessing Presence, the Beholder.
At that moment we are at the gate, but we must also enter. What will take us through the gate is the examination of “Who is this Beholder, who is this Witness?” This quest will take us to the source of the Ego, behind which there is the Pure Consciousness, the Self!