David Welch: Buddha became enlightened. Jesus obtained Christ Consciousness. Is there some, you know…what might be called, “a more permanent state of being awake” that is obtainable? Or is it always a process that’s ongoing?
Rabbi Rami Shapiro: I think it’s both, in this sense that there…
DAVID: Levels, then maybe?
RABBI RAMI: Yeah, I think right now, we are already, you and I, everybody, is already plugged into that awakened state. But, it’s not where I’m operating at the moment. You know, I’ve got to drive a car. If I’m in that awakened state, you know…spiritual practice should have little warnings on it: DO NOT MEDITATE WHILE DRIVING LARGE MACHINERY. That kind of thing. So, I think that that state is always operative. I’m always plugged into it. But, I’m not always operating on that level. So, in Judaism, we talk about the “Five Levels of Consciousness:” Body, Heart, Mind, Soul and Spirit.
So, you know, Body is the physical; my body is way smarter than I am and knows what it’s doing. If I had to beat my own heart, or grow my own hair, I wouldn’t know how to do that.
DAVID: Nobody has ever committed suicide by stopping their breath. Like, consciously, “I’m not going to breathe anymore.” Your body will just breathe you anyway, even if it is after you pass out.
RABBI RAMI: Yeah. Then the Heart level is fundamental emotions: love and fear, that kind of thing. And I don’t have a lot of control over those, either. Then the third level of Mind: that’s where I operate. That’s the egoic level. That’s where I take those raw emotions and the body sensations and I assign stories to them. Oh, I love this person, I’m afraid of that person, you know? I hate this person…whatever the story is that I’ve been told or bought into.
The fourth level of consciousness is called Kayah. It’s life consciousness. It’s the awareness of the interdependence of everything. So, when Martin Buber would talk about two ways of being in the world, I-It and I-Thou, and the I-It is when my ego looks at everything around it and says, “oh, those things are all there for my benefit! They’re all means to my own ends!” That is an I-It way of being in the world. So, I exploit and use whatever I find, whether it’s people or nature or whatever.
The I-Thou consciousness, level four, is the awareness that we are each, like we said in the very beginning, we’re all manifestations of this reality. Call it “God” if you like…this divine reality. And, therefore, everyone is an end in their own self. And, I can’t use you as an “it” for my own end. I have to engage with you as a unique manifestation of God, equal to myself. But, there’s still, at that level of consciousness, there’s a still a level of you and I. So, while I can see you as a manifestation of God, if you like, I am still seeing you. There’s still a differentiation.
Level five consciousness is called Yekhida, which means non-dual. And, that’s where you and I disappear. And, that’s where that Toltec unknowable would be.
RABBI RAMI: So most of the time, all five of those are operating all the time. Most the time, I’m not aware of my physical one. I mean, if someone steps on my toe, suddenly I’m all body consciousness. Most of the time, I’m not aware of my emotional dimension. Unless someone either arouses strong feelings, positively or negatively, in me, I just float along. I mostly operate, and this is maybe just me, but mostly I operate in a level three, egoic level: living out my stories. But through my—and this is where practice does lift you up—through contemplative practices of one kind or another, you can continually shift from level three to level four. And then you fall back to level three…you go back to level four. So Buber says, any I-Thou experience can become an, I-It and any I-It can become an I-Thou. So, you’re constantly practicing moving from three to four, I-It to I-Thou.
And then there are those moments…I would say, those moments of grace, where the fourth level simply opens up to the fifth, and we’re all gone, there’s just X, whatever that is. And when we come back, we’re more filled again with love and compassion and justice. And those things filter down through level four, which is always really open to them and into level three which is more resistant. So, I would say that all beings are always connected to that awakened consciousness, but most of the time are not paying any attention, or most of the time, operating on a much lower level.
DAVID: I love moving from I-it to I-thou. So simple so clean. Do you feel there needs to be some kind of balance between my individual awakening and then my social responsibilities? Right now, one could be of the opinion that climate change and the challenges that Mother Earth is facing are basically caused by the masculine running amok. In short, the planet is too patriarchal. How do we get society to acknowledge and embrace the divine feminine and bring the planet into balance?
RABBI RAMI: Yeah, so let me not answer that question. Let me back it up a little bit because I have a real passion around this. Before we can talk about how to make the shift—because I’m not sure we know how to do that. But bringing in the divine feminine, talking about that is absolutely crucial because I agree with you that the problem is masculinity run amok. Not necessarily just man, but the whole archetypal energy of the masculine which I…we…always have to be careful how we use these terms because they’re loaded with cultural baggage. So, but, with that said, I see masculine consciousness more as that level three I-It and feminine consciousness more as the level four I-Thou and level five is beyond gender; it’s beyond these terms.
But, my personal experience…let me just stick with that…for the past couple of decades or more, has been of the Divine Mother. I’ve had visions, I’ve had dreams, and I’ve had encounters with her in one way or another in my meditations. And having talked to lots of people like Andrew Harvey and Sister Jose Hobday, who is now deceased…I’ve been told by people I really respect, teachers who I think are really plugged in to that level four, who live out of level four…not like me who lives out of level three…people who are really plugged in, tell me that this is the transformation, that the Mother is coming back into the consciousness of humanity through our dreams, through you know, whatever. But it’s the Kali Yuga, its Kali that’s coming, not my mother, you know? My mother said, “oh you can do no wrong.” Kali is going, “you’ve got all this wrong, and you’ve got to fix it.”
I see the coming of the Divine Mother. I see it happening now and I see it happening in the destruction of, partly the destruction of the planet. Sort of this…letting the habit just unfold, but also, in the destruction of our patriarchal models. I mean, these things are clinging on for dear life and I think a lot of the violence we see in the world…you see it driven by patriarchy, I think. You don’t see it in cultures that are egalitarians the way you see it in the ones that are not. But a lot of that violence is last-ditch, and I’m hoping that’s true, but a last-ditch effort to resist the Divine Mother’s return.
DAVID: To keep in control.
RABBI RAMI: Yes, the idea is to keep the patriarchy intact at any cost because that’s where their power is, but I don’t think you can win. But the question is: How does the transformation happen? Does it happen in a…it’s not going to happen in a gentle way, it’s going to be a disaster. So the question is: Does the old order collapse compassionately or does it collapse apocalyptically? Maybe it’s going to be a…can there be a compassionate apocalypse? I don’t know, maybe that’s what it’s going to be. But that, to me, is the big question. That, I mean…I’ve had neighbors say to me here in Tennessee, that I need to get guns; my family and I need to get guns. And I said, “look, I can’t…if the government is coming after me, there’s no way I can defend myself with a, you know, a rifle, a .45 or something!” And they said, “no…no…not for the government: for us!…because when the collapse happens, you have a big garden and we’re coming for your food!” And I said, “why don’t we just expand the garden and make it a community thing?…and you guys can have it because you don’t have to kill me to get it!”
DAVID: You can help work the ground and everything!
RABBI RAMI: No, no, no, you do the work…I’ll just come and shoot you later! So you know, it can go either way. Either we discover that we can collaborate and there still has to be a collapse but it’ll be a collapse that’s done lovingly if possible or it’s going to be…it’ll make the holocaust look like a blip in the human horror scale. And I tend to think, only because I read today’s newspaper…I tend to think it’s going the bad way.
DAVID: That’s why I avoid reading newspapers or watching regular news.
Rabbi: Yeah, I shouldn’t do it, I’m sort of like a news junky. But I look at what’s going on in Syria and Iraq and all of those places and even though we’re all focused in the news on the politics of these places or the military aspects of it, it may all be driven by climate change.
RABBI RAMI: Syria happened after a four-year drought.
Continued in Part III…
David Welch: is the founder and CEO of Awaken Global Media and Chief Editor of AWAKEN.com. He is the Producer of the award-winning movie “Peaceful Warrior” and a member of the Directors Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild. David is a master practitioner of Neuro-linguistic programming, a certified Kundalini Yoga instructor and has a continuous, committed and daily yoga, meditation and Qi gong practice.