The concept of conviction has recently been a popular topic among the circle of beings who orbit around Fred Davis. After a recent Satsang, the following sentence came to mind and is one I will explore in this post.
“Liberation (or enlightenment) involves having the conviction of knowing who you are not as well as the conviction of not knowing who you are.”
What does this mean? What does it mean to have the conviction of knowing who you are not? What does it mean to have the conviction of not know who you are?
Well, first, we need to define how conviction is being used in this context.
According to several online dictionaries, conviction (in addition to referring to a formal declaration of guilt for having committed a criminal offense) refers to a firmly or strongly held belief or opinion.
A belief or opinion, however, is nothing more than an acceptance that a statement or idea is true. I like this definition even better: a belief is just a thought you keep thinking. Beliefs develop from interaction with others. Beliefs are learned.
Thus, conviction, as defined colloquially, refers to a deeply held belief, one that does not require validation of truth, only the belief that it is true. And the source of beliefs is the social environment in which individuals operate.
However, the manner that the word conviction is used in spiritual circles differs from the above definition.
Conviction in this context does not refer to an opinion or belief that develops based on social conditioning, education, or communication with others.
Instead, the word conviction might best be referred to as ‘knowing.’ For example, you know that you are alive and reading this. You do not have to be told this to know it for yourself. It is not a belief based on social conditioning or the social environment. The truth is self-evident. You have the conviction of being alive. (Don’t you?)
So, what do I mean when I write that liberation is the conviction of knowing who you are not as well as not knowing who you are?
This type of conviction requires, first, that there has been an awakening to or the realization of one’s true nature. Second, it requires a degree of stabilization.
Realizing one’s true nature, waking up, or having an enlightenment experience differs for different people and it is beyond this post to begin to describe the varied form in which this occurs.
However, there are often two aspects to the experience. The first is that there often is dropping of identification with the self, the ‘me,’ or the “I.” The second is a sense of unity with the divine; that is, of having an experience that there is just one thing going on and you are it. Call it God; call it universal consciousness; or call it emptiness or nothingness.
The name doesn’t matter. What does matter is that there is the realization of having experienced your true nature. That you, your true nature, is simultaneous all things and nothing at all.
And this is the paradox! One the one hand, there is the realization that we are not who we think we are and that the self is an illusion. We experience directly that there is no self; and thus begin to develop the sense of knowing who we are not. (Note that seeing through the illusion of the self might not occur clearly at first; however, over time, if one continues to investigate and inquire into the nature self, they will see the directly experience the truth of this statement themselves).
On the other hand, there is also the realization that although there is just one thing going on, we cannot find ourselves. So simultaneously, we are the absolute; we are the divine, but we cannot actually find it! And this is the beginning of developing the conviction of not knowing who or what we are!
But, for many people, myself included, this paradox of being everything and nothing at the same time; of knowing that you are not who you think you are, but of still having the experience of being a character living in a world of space and time, often leads to a sense of oscillation and extreme doubt: “Did I really have an awakening? Did I really see my true nature? How can I be everything and simultaneously nothing? That doesn’t make any sense at all. After all, here I am, still, experiencing the world, experiencing pain and suffering, having thoughts, emotions, reacting to circumstances, etc. Arrrgghhh!”
The problem is that reidentification with one’s ‘me,’ with one’s “I,” has occurred. The realization of having no self has been lost.
However, over time, with consistent inquiry and meditation, and often with the assistance of a good teacher, the illusory nature of the self, of the ‘me,’ is once again seen through. This might take a while for some individuals; but over time, with persistence, identification with the self, with the ‘me’ begins to dissipate completely.
Thus, what started out as an awakening and subsequently turned into oscillation, now becomes stabilization. But that doesn’t mean that there is a solidification of anything; rather what it really means is that identification with the self diminishes to the point of disappearing altogether. And what remains? [Shoulder shrug!] I do not know!
That is because the “I” cannot know. It cannot because the “I” doesn’t exist.
I have a quote on my wall from Robert Wolfe that says this: So, the ‘me’ does not have an “experience” of knowing the absolute. It is only when the ‘me’ is realized to be the Absolute that the Absolute be known.”
So, back to the point of this post: Liberation or enlightenment involves having the conviction of knowing who you are not as well as the conviction of not knowing who you are.
Awakening happens. This is often followed by oscillation. Over time, oscillation diminishes and stabilization as awakeness itself happens. And as this stabilization becomes more and more grounded, the sense of conviction arises. What was originally realized—that the ‘me’ is an illusion and that the Absolute is your true nature—is no longer questioned. Because it is directly experienced each moment; it is ‘known.’ With conviction.