Center for Exploring Spiritual Awareness


Presenation Abstract

Background for Proposal

Simple Definition of Paranous

World Congress on Psychology and Spirituality, 2008


        Where do you experience God? What triggers (evokes) this experience for you? For me, I experience God out in nature. Nature can be, though it is not always, the trigger for my experiences of God. For me there is something grounding about these experiences. Again, where is it that you experience God? How do these experiences ground you?


        A. We love a story (mythos). We tell stories about where we come from and where we are going. As one scientist has put it, stories grab us at a bodily level, one that is deep and visceral. What is presented below is both story (mythos) and the principles that I have extracted from such stories. Both the principles and the source stories have to be grasped at a visceral level. As one line of pre-Socratic philosophy has put it, the words of a visceral story are like seeds that have to be planted within, that is, taken in, nourished, and allowed to grow at that deep level of our being. In so doing, such words are able to change us.

        Where did we come from and where are we going? That is, what is our matrix? Or still deeper, what is our Ground? As some scientists are willing to ask, “is there some deep level of reality out of which the components of sub-atomic particles, “strings,” arise?” Or are these basic components “virtual photons,” those components that arise from a deep grounding reality? Stated differently, what was “there” at the “moment” prior to the “Big Bang?” Returning to strings and virtual photons, another question: “do consciousness and our experience of the divine co-arise with these virtual photons or strings?” Or, philosophically, “is this Ground Form?” Or is this Ground something else, like Function, since function (process) anticipates form? Is this Ground what we speak of as God? Or is It the Ground of God and, at the same time, the Ground of creation?

        B. I first came across the concept of “ground” while sitting at a bus stop in Hyderabad, India. I was reading the second chapter of Aldous Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy. This second chapter is about what the mystics of the world (West as well as East) have had to say about that psychological and metaphysical “divine Ground of all existence.” I still remember this event and how deeply moved I felt by what I was reading. At that moment I was being grasped at a deep visceral level, in the core of my very being, by these mystics’ stories.

        C. Here in the West, from ancient Greece to the European Middle Ages and onward, there has been the tradition that the Ground of or the support for this cosmos (creation) – accessed by the senses and by the intuitive intellect – is a “sheer” or an “absolute” nothingness; not some thing, as in some Greek traditions, nor creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo), as in the 2nd century Christian tradition, but sheer nothingness.

        For that pre-Socratic philosophy of the 5th and into the 4th centuries B.C.E. – in the line of philosophers which runs from Parmenides through Zeno and Empedocles to Gorgias – that which is beyond all phenomena is first presented as a “fullness” and then as a “nothingness” which can only be described as “sheer.” This “sheer nothingness” lies beyond the limits of the cosmos. Staying with Greek philosophy, in the 2nd century C.E. and with Plotinus, the One that transforms into the All without Itself being depleted, that One is “null” (zero).

        For the Jewish tradition, between the 3rd and the 6th centuries C.E., creation took place from what was symbolized by “ayin” (the Hebrew letter ע). In the Kabbalah of the high and into the late Middle Ages (the transition being the year 1300 C.E.), the Hebrew letter “ayin” (ע), now turned into a noun, was the symbol for nothingness, that is, for the “complete” or absolute nothingness of God from which all phenomena emerge. Even so, there were efforts to bring this concept back in line with creatio ex nihilo (creation out of a “relative” nothingness, that nothingness which is distinct from the Creator or is not a part of God). In later Kabbalism (16th century), this nothingness, in the sense of creatio ex nihilo, was to be found in the Jewish concept of “tsimtsum.” This concept held that since God was everywhere, for there to be a place for creation, God had to withdraw, so as to make room for the creation (creation as distinct from God). Then in that place where God was not, God created the cosmos.

        Likewise, during the 13th and 14th centuries C.E. and on forward – in the Romantic period (the late 18th to the middle of the 19th centuries C.E.) – the German Christian mystic Meister Eckhart and then later the German philosopher F. W. J. Schelling both held that the Ground – for Eckhart, this ground of God, this “groundless ground,” is an “absolute nothingness” – is that point in God where God is not God. It is at this point that both creation (the cosmos) and the personal God come into being and have their existence.

        The contemporary contemplative Bernadette Roberts maintains that with the loss of the ego and then the self, what is encountered is an “absolute void.” This encounter takes place – in another “dimension of existence – through an “absolute knowing.” But, for Roberts this absolute or sheer void or nothingness is not the last word. Beyond what is for her an absolute “nothingness,” there is the divine, ultimate dimension that is not manifest nor does it have form. Situated there (on this divine dimension) is an eternal substance or form from which creation arises (kind of like Eckhart’s God as ground).

        D. Putting Roberts’ order aside, then, this Absolute or this Ground (void) as an “absolute,” a “complete,” or a “sheer” nothingness is the foundation for the items which make up the following position statement.


1) a. The co-arising Matter-Spirit-as-one, this eternally transforms into both spiritual matter and corporeal matter. b. Matter-Spirit as spiritual matter transforms into Nous (Intellect/Spirit) and then into Psyche (Soul). c. Matter-Spirit as corporeal matter transforms into the phenomena of this cosmos.

2) a. The transformation of GROUND into Matter-Spirit and then into both spiritual matter and corporeal matter are contemplative reflexive actions of the GROUND as the GROUND moves "outside" itself. b. These transformations of the GROUND leave ITs indistinctness and simplicity unchanged.

3) a. GROUND is both the ground of God and the ground of creation as cosmos. b. GROUND is that which is in God but is not (the personal) God, as it is, in turn, the Ground of creation. c. As indicated in (2), the cosmos is a transformation of the GROUND. d. Human beings – as body, soul, and spirit (intellect) – are a variation of this transformation that is creation or the cosmos.

4) As encountered on the return to the GROUND: a. GROUND is not the “relative” nothingness of the Church's doctrine of creation-out-of-nothing; the Church's doctrine has, in part, given rise to nihilism. b. GROUND is groundlessness or the absolute nothingness of the contemplative tradition.

5) Through a contemplative return to the GROUND: a. A contemplative, re-situated on this GROUND, has no-ego, no-self, no-God Consciousness or no-pure consciousness; there is no-consciousness and no (personal) God at all. b. On this GROUND there is only pure perception. c. On this GROUND there is only identity with GROUND as that point within God that is not (the personal) God.


        You and I are transformations – reflexive contemplative acts – of the divine GROUND. First, the GROUND eternally transforms into the “unus mundus” or the “one-world.” This one-world is basically a unity of Matter-Spirit. Next, Matter-Spirit transforms both into spiritual matter and into corporeal matter. Thus, Matter and Spirit are distinguished from one another. Finally, we humans are transformations of these two forms of matter.

        Therefore, as humans, our physical-spiritual being is composed of a corporeal body, a subtle body, and a spiritual body. Our spiritual body (nous) and our subtle body (psyche) are transformations of spiritual matter. Our physical body is a transformation of corporeal matter. This is our coming into being.

        In our return to our Source: In a contemplative return to the GROUND, the process is reversed. We return – via the psyche and then the nous – to an awareness of the “unus mundus.” Or prior to the move from psyche to nous, on the interface between nous and psyche, as this interface touches upon the coalescence of matter and spirit, symbolic/visionary/imaginal experiences takes place. With the move to the nous proper, then awareness is often spoken of as the experience of unity with the divine or the experience of pure consciousness. Achieving this unitive experience involves ego loss, but with the loss of the ego there is the gaining of a sense of our true self. Then, as we move beyond this self, consciousness itself is lost; but in place of consciousness and self, sensory knowing is purified and absolute knowing appears. Here, with a knowing which is part of another dimension of our existence, there is only oneness with the GROUND: The GROUND ITSELF knowing through us.

        In rare cases, a full return to the GROUND can take place in this life. In other cases, this return will only take place on the other side of the grave.