Energy and Consciousness
Through the findings of modern physics, such as the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, we now understand the duality of matter-energy, time-space, and particle-wave: that matter and energy are interchangeable; that time and space are relative and connected; and that quantum events have the attributes of both particles and waves.
One important relationship science has not yet resolved is between energy and consciousness. We do know that consciousness, which used to be considered a property or product of the individual brain of a sentient being, is involved in the manifestation of physical reality in the universe. Even though we don’t know how consciousness exists or how it is woven into the fabric of the universe, it seems we cannot avoid consciousness if we are to explain physical reality in an integrative way.
The two primary aspects or components of reality that the universe reveals to us through these discoveries are energy and consciousness. All other things that are found in the universe can be understood as manifestations of these two fundamentals.
There are historical views that see these two as one. In the Eastern tradition, energy and consciousness are viewed as different aspects of the same thing. In this tradition, energy is understood to be the origin and reality of the universe. As seen in the ancient Taoist principle that mind creates energy and energy creates mind, energy and mind are viewed as one inseparable entity. Energy and mind, while changing to each other and producing limitlessly diverse phenomena, are ultimately one.
The Vedic tradition of India teaches the same principle, using different terminology: silence and dynamism are together forever. Shiva (silence, unbounded pure consciousness) and Shakti (dynamism, creativity) are always united in a cosmic embrace of wholeness that creates and sustains the world.
The unity of energy-consciousness is also what I realized to be the true reality through my own contemplative investigation. From the time I was a young boy, “Who am I?” was the biggest enigma for me, and the desire to know the answer was my greatest desire. That I don’t know the answer to this question made me suspicious of all others that I perceived and experienced. How can a being who doesn’t know who he/she/ it is know about anything else? It is really a case of “What the bleep do I know?” Because the desire for the answer to this question was compelling, I found it extremely difficult to get used to the norm of life in school and in society.
When I was not able to escape from this question any longer, I went to a sacred mountain in Korea, after making minimal arrangements for my wife and two sons’ living, for a meditation without eating or sleeping for 21 days. Even though I didn’t tell my wife and sons, I knew I would not come back if I didn’t get the answer — or perhaps I should say, until I got the answer. I was that desperate and determined.
When I thought I had done everything that I could do, and with an extreme pain in my head, I finally let go of all my remaining desire to live. At that moment, I experienced an explosion in my brain that was so intense I had to touch my head to determine whether it was still there: my awareness felt so open that I thought my head had been blown away.
With the explosion, all pain was gone, and everything became clear. In the absolute quietude and clarity, I could see what I really am. At the moment of awakening, the answer I had been seeking and longing for was obvious, compelling, and indisputable: “The cosmic energy is my energy and my energy is the cosmic energy. The cosmic mind is my mind, and my mind is the cosmic mind.”
I realized that the reality of the universe is energy-consciousness, and it is also what I am. It was a direct seeing or knowing, not learning. It just is, and that is what I truly am. This unity doesn’t have any shape or borders, and is not bound by time and space. Paradoxically, the closest word that we can find in our language to describe this enormously great, infinitely powerful, all-knowing reality that creates, sustains, and regulates the cosmos is: Nothing. It is not a thing nor an object. It has no qualities or characteristics. It is the unmanifested source of all, pure Being, One-without-a-second.
Nothing, and Something From Nothing
Nothing, as the ultimate reality and the source of the unity of energy and consciousness, is not only my personal realization of what I really am, but also the essential teaching of the Korean tradition of Tao, to which I am culturally indebted. To give proper credit to this great body of knowledge, I would like to explain its core principles briefly.
The most ancient scripture of Korean Taoism is ChunBuKyung. The title can be translated as “Scripture of Heavenly Code.” It consists of 81 characters that start from Il (One) and end with the same character Il (One), forming a perfect symmetric balance of nine by nine, and a complete cycle of one to one.
The first characters are Il-Shi-Mu-Shi. In letter-to-letter translation, that is “one-begin-no-begin.” This can be interpreted as “One begins that has no beginning.” The scripture ends with Il-Jong-Mu-Jong-Il, which is translated to “one-end-no-end-one,” meaning “One ends, but there’s no end to One.”