Matters of Identity

“We hold ourselves in place so as to not be all over.” I awoke with those words still on my lips. Holding our self in place is an energy consuming matter. It’s a discipline, a concentration, and only if we hold still for a while can we study ourselves. Or so it seems. The old Greek admonition, “Know thyself,” comes with an explicit method it seems, the method of holding myself in place. You may not think so but in the modern world where science rules, everything we want to study, everything we want to know every aspect of, must hold still. It needs to be steadied, fixated, put into a prison of repeatable circumstance. Only then is the knowledge we derive from what-we-hold-still valid. And what we do with that knowledge is… build cogs, wheels, fixtures, machines. Imprisoned matter. All is “held in place.”

Maybe what we call ego is nothing but mental and emotional intelligence held in place. Maybe ego is what we can hold in place by identifying with it. It is the way we become some one. But what if, like for me, you’re losing your grip on that idea of self? What if you’re quite naturally “all over the place?” You can, like I’ve learnt the hard way, and then automated so as to not be aware of it all the time, pretend to be this or that with a passion for one and the other and a philosophy to match. You can, at least for a while. But if you can’t pretend anymore because you’ve seen through your pretense, things get tuffer. There are, then, a couple of ways to ignore what you have seen through, but eventually that will make you feel depressed and kick your ass until you’ve met the challenge: “What is identity and identifying good for?” At least that looks like the challenge I faced in this regard. Well, obviously, having an identity makes you knowable and more predictable to the advertisement industry and the police, the modern guardians of civilized society. It also holds you still enough that scientists can dissect you and your psyche and determine if you’re fit for society or belong on the reject pile with all the hippies, punks, and other no-goods. It also makes you eligible for a traveling document allowing you to cross the lines between the different nations, which you’re also supposed to be identified with[i].

Know-ThyselfYou and me, we built an identity in compliance with our culture, and we compliantly hold ourselves in place. All of this is strengthened through some real hard questions, like “Who are you really?”, or to finally become your Unique and Enlightened Self or some variation of that. People like me, who are actually all over the place, or others suffering from the emptiness that yawns beneath the ego – there’s nothing there – go on long journeys and through tremendous hardships to come up with a satisfactory answer or way of being. And, stumbling on mind-blowing experiences, may stay with an enlightened identity for a while or even until they die. I couldn’t.

When we are born we can do without identity and even identifying. Mama is all… is all. Kids, for quite some time, speak in the third person of themselves. They haven’t learnt yet that they are their name and they are a self. And usually during some period of hardship or a disease a transformation happens, your child gets it and starts to speak as the first person singular. Child now identifies as “I” and the doer of things, most of all the wanter of things!

Identification is an extreme form of participation, which is what we do all the time: participate, as I never tire of saying these days. We hardly if ever see what we’ve identified with, we participate so strongly in the game of identification that all distance disappears. We actually become “I.” And within the Indo-European language families and cultures, which are the only tools at our disposal to work with or through all matters, we become “I”-dentified so much that we have a very hard time to understand and live with “being all over the place.”[ii]

I’ve noticed in the last couple of months that a basic re-orientation within the psyche is on, a reconfiguration following my “participatory transformation” and it’s consequences that were not foreseeable by me at the time. Understanding thoroughly that our psyche is already a participatory phenomenon, and that we can participate so strongly that we actually feel like, think like and act like what we’ve identified with, things loosen up. Which doesn’t, at times, feel good at all. But knowing that some ancient cramps are relaxing, and that that is the cause of the pain, and sharing all of this with you… makes it all good to me.

By Sarah Lee: Alison Teal Underwater
By Sarah Lee: Alison Teal Underwater


[i] Just one identity-card or passport, even though some lenient nations allow you two identities.

[ii] In this day and age most likely 90% of the languages touched by the world-economy and globalization of the European culture (which started in 1492, not just a hundred years ago or so) require you to identify,  and have a hard or even impossible time integrating aboriginal populations that do not participate in the I-dentfying game.


Participatory Lucidity – Silver In The Air

By Cory Ench
By Cory Ench

Sometimes, when you’re talking with a friend or even stranger, it feels like “there is silver in the air.” A conversation where time seems to fly; you look on your watch and cannot believe what it shows. You may not even remember, later, what the conversation was about, although you do know it was significant. What makes it stand out is this particular feeling of really being with someone else, of contributing, receiving with open heart-mind what the other said. I’m sure you’ve experienced this.

So imagine this is happening and you’re aware of this. But rather than become self-conscious about it you simply take joyful note, and think or say, “Silver is in the air.” And it keeps on flowing because you both, or maybe you’re even more than two, like to play and are capable to tread lightly and authentically. It’s clear and lucid – let’s call this participatory lucidity, a lucidity in which everyone present participates more or less deeply.[i]

Akin to having a lucid dream, where you know you are dreaming without that knowing stopping the dream from unfolding, participatory lucidity doesn’t interfere or interrupt the game of life – nay, now it can be played with an utterly new and beautiful expansion. The lucidity is adding a whole new level to the game, a level where you say, “Silver is in the air!”

By Cory Ench
By Cory Ench

And again, very like lucid dreaming, this probably happens spontaneously at first. And you’ll probably get so excited that you wake up. Or are scared. Or have any number of strong feelings. To stay in lucid dreaming states you need to learn to neither weigh into the waking-up side of lucidity too much nor let yourself slip back into non-lucidity. If you’re not too impatient, and can humorously accept failure, this is easier to do; embracing your and everyone’s imperfection helps. Taking your time and being patient, you can learn to set yourself up to be “lucid-dream-prone,” a person that can lucidly participate in her dreams.

There is something very similar about participatory lucidity. You’ll have to, at first, experience it spontaneously: you never saw it coming but now it’s here, wow! Maybe this happens guided by a facilitator that went through the chaos and confusion with you, the 2-dimensionality[ii]  of our usual interpersonal experience. Someone you trusted to know how participatory lucidity looks like; someone you trusted to tell you the truth when she said, “No. We ain’t there yet.” Because going through the chaos and confusion takes time. It takes coming to your wit’s end. Agency won’t help you. Letting go won’t do it. It takes an authentic ending of yourself.  And then it emerges, as if of its own volition – you’re lucid!

Participatory lucidity lets you enjoy life in a much deeper sense. You’ll be experiencing your interbeing in 3-D and duality won’t play much of a role for you, if any. Not that you’re now beyond duality or have non-dual consciousness[iii] or some such, rather what formerly had just two sides,  basic aspects, ying and yang, yes and no, subject and object, now has a whole new dimension to it. There now is a depth that formerly wasn’t there. Or it may have been, but you didn’t know. And it’s not a new state of consciousness either, although it may appear as such; it’s the participatory nature of reality shining through: you’re lucid.

But what can you do?

By Cory Ench
By Cory Ench

Gratefulness makes you lucidity-prone. It will remind you of all the contributions you received, all the good, beautiful and true you’ve participated in. Even though at former times you may have felt it to be bad, ugly and confusing.
Grateful for your body, the “chief gate of the senses in this era,” as William Blake put it.
Grateful for your psyche and energy-body or the Mundus Imaginalis and its many ways and “terrains”, both in consciousness and unconsciousness, both individual and collective, both personality-typical and archetypal.
Grateful for your culture, high and low, as it has become part of your individual character and person, and as it surrounds you in the endless forms culture dresses up as, explicitly and implicitly. The external culture of where you live, how you are housed or tented, dressed and undressed, how you move and in what vehicles, the languages you speak and read and write, and so endlessly on: more and more complex through the ages, and therefore also more and more unique.
And grateful for the concepts you and I can play with, the abstractions and essences you derive or arrive at, the constellations of concepts and how you play with them, and how serious they are and the measure of their gravity, the rhythm of the conceptual interplay and how you play and reflect them, and how they participate in your life.

Exercising your gratefulness, knowing, feeling, expressing your thanks to all who play a role in bringing the reality about that you participate in, will train you in simply being with what may otherwise hit you as a ton of bricks when “the walls come tumbling down” and you find yourself woven into the very fabric of life, naked.

What else can you do to prepare for the experience of participatory lucidity in a diverse collective?[iv] You can dance with someone with an open experimental soul. At first slow and one following the other, taking turns, until you’ve gained enough trust to follow and lead spontaneously… and failed often enough so you’re well versed in the humor of not knowing who’s in charge .

And you can play with regarding yourself to be a dancer with all people, things and circumstances in your life. You can be someone who’s participation with life turns it all into a dance, including your gratitude for the dance and all those who join it.


[i] The capacity to enter such a sacred space, for sacred it is in the best possible and heathen meaning of the word, may depend on a person’s developmental level to some extent; therefore more or less deeply.

[ii] I call it 2-D because it is dualistic or dialectic.

[iii] Non-Duality is the goal of the neo-hindu spirituality called Advaita; most of the modern „enlightened ones“ would probably situate themselves in that stream of spirituality.

[iv] At the Alderlore Insight Center you can certainly get a good taste of this. [Disclosure: I’m am involved in that branch of Alderlore, and it’s further development]

The Movement of Participation

woman-holding-mirror-on-grass-reflection by LAURA WILLIAMS

Reality is participatory in nature… just look at breathing: you take a breath – receive the air, you transform the air in your body, and you give back what you have transformed. Receive > transform > give, that seems to be the general dynamics of a humanimal’s participation in reality.

The same goes for our mind: Take in a concept, transform it into an understanding, and give that back in any form you like. And with every participatory transformation cycle our reality grows more diverse: out of one concept a never ending number of other, and very different concepts can and do arise. Our nature is participatory: no wonder that many of us feel such elation when we have authentic conversations in which we creatively play with our mutual concepts.

Participation is most intense when it is in the mode of transformation. This is why detachment via the cognitive self, the mind, by saying for instance, “I am not this body, not these feelings, not this mind” etc., feels so at odds with our nature. It is a process of singling yourself out until there is nothing left but the Self. And the Self is an emptiness, a void in which all in all plays. Yet, the Self is neither in it nor of it. For sure, this method will, if followed radically enough, land you in some non-duality that reveals the interdependence of all beings and becomings – or so I’m told – but there is a basic bias towards self and awareness that is almost imperialist; it claims “Tat Tvam Asi”, thou art that, meaning that the Self is supreme and that you are aware of that, and this very awareness enlightens you.

Maybe you think I’m picking on that path; if so then because while on that path it causes an amazing amount of suffering, even though I’m told that the result, finally, is utterly supreme. But maybe that’s a justification, and I’m so picky because this path has disappointed me in every way possible. It first dawned on me when it became clear that the “Witness”, the detached neutral observer of reality is a construction that puts a distance between witness-me and everything else, a distance that aggravates the dreadful consumerist, media-guided situation we find ourselves in. Exercising witness-consciousness turns us into a spectator of life making it harder and harder to just be the feeling, breathing, engaged and involved participator of reality that we always also are. It blinds us to what we always do, even in death.

Exercising ourselves in this or similar transcending ways will surely confuse us enough to actually think that we are an independent agent, an essentially disembodied awareness that is not of this endless and boundlessly deep world. And also, and paradoxically, whatever detaches us or moves us into avoidant and evasive spaces, what numbs us…  is still a way to participate in it all, only very confusedly and chaotically so.

We’re one in the beginning, and ever since we differentiate, diversify and become more and more unique. And the primordial unity is not broken; it just manifests as participation of everything/one with everyone/thing. Our differences are real, are authentic. Glossing it over in a civilized manner won’t help. Pretending that we’re one won’t help. Trying to make it go away won’t help. Trying to transcend it won’t help. Actually there is nothing that can be done about it: the chaos we live in is authentic, it’s real and it is the ground out of which we weave the story of life and civilizations. But maybe for the first time in history actually being able to radically accept this chaos, opens up the possibility for something new to emerge. May it help us through the next phase of our development.