Virtual Development




As we have seen the culmination of the circular level involves the stripping of all ego consciousness so that one can reach the central spiritual point of the personality.

There are remarkable similarities here with the process by which a physical black hole reaches a singularity.

The black hole collapse involves an immense internal gravitational force until ultimately all matter is contained within a singularity or seed of matter. At this point, the laws of physics apparently break down, and the black hole becomes born again in a differing reality (i.e. a parallel universe).

In like manner the dark night involves a corresponding psychological collapse (i.e. of all conscious phenomena) and an intense inner gravitational pull. Not surprisingly, one's mood becomes increasingly grave or serious as the process continues. Eventually with all ego consciousness removed, one reaches a void or transcendent centre of being which can be looked on as a psychological singularity. In a dramatic way as we have just seen, here the laws of psychology break down (e.g. one seems to let go of faith) and the personality becomes born again in a differing reality.

In other words there is the birth of a new kind of psychological world (i.e. a parallel universe) as it were, which has remarkable complementary connections with physics.

Largely following pioneering work by Stephen Hawking it is now accepted that black holes can radiate. This can be regarded as an important phase in the evolution of the black hole, whereby through this outward emission of particles, the hole in a sense becomes more white and less dominated by the gravity force. Eventually this white hole can be completely transformed into pure energy.

The development of the spiritual life can be viewed in a precisely similar fashion. This is what I wish to explain clearly now.

Real and Imaginary Experience

As we have seen, during the dark night, as ego phenomena are eroded, the personality enters an increasingly unconscious level of experience. However as long as any consciousness remains, there is the attempt to translate this experience through the cognitive mode which is qualitatively different, and only directly appropriate for conscious reality. In other words one does not allow the unconscious speak directly, but rather indirectly after careful censorship by the rational mind.

Eventually with the complete erosion of rational structures, one no longer has any means of attempting this indirect translation. Thus, the apparent abandonment of faith at the height of the dark night is really the letting go of the last remnants of rational control. With this surrender, the unconscious is finally free to express itself directly in terms of its related affective mode.

Because our notions of "reality", are based on the rational cognitive mode, this creates a new problem. We now need a more appropriate means for expressing this unconscious affective mode in cognitive terms. There is fortunately a remarkable solution here with enormous consequences.

As I have already outlined the conscious (in relation to the unconscious) is defined in a positive direction. The complementary negative direction is thereby repressed and made unconscious.

Now, the unconscious (again in conscious terms) is essentially a two dimensional process of understanding (with both positive and negative directions). The conscious on the other hand is a one dimensional process (with only a positive direction). Thus translating (repressed) unconscious experience into conscious terms involves reducing a negative (inherently) two dimensional process into one dimensional format. This is similar to obtaining the square root of a negative quantity. So we have here the exact psychological counterpart of what in mathematics is defined as an imaginary quantity.

Thus if cognitive experience is "real" then affective experience - in relative terms - is "imaginary". Both psychologically and physically there are really two complementary orders of reality, relating to modal difference in experience. What we term "reality" perhaps should be better referred to as "ideality" as in stems directly from the idealised approach of the (conscious) cognitive mode. What is termed "imaginary" stems directly from the imaginative approach of the (unconscious) affective mode (translated for scientific communication purposes into rational language). Thus from this perspective "reality" involves the dynamic interaction of the "real" (or rather "ideal") and the "imaginary". This simply means that psychologically, experience involves both cognitive and affective experience in dynamic interaction. Physically it can be interpreted as meaning that all reality involves the dynamic interaction of both control and response patterns. (Indeed reason and emotion themselves simply represent what in psychological terms are control and response patterns respectively). However conventionally, there is considerable reductionism in understanding. Psychologically, both conscious affective and cognitive experience are interpreted as "real". Likewise physically (for the most part), scientists believe that they are studying a "real" world.

When we properly understood the correct dynamic nature of control and response patterns both physically and psychologically, we realise that we are living in - what is mathematically speaking - a "complex" rather than a "real" world.

Fantasy and Projections

This basic nature of the imaginary can be best appreciated with reference to fantasy. Whereas "reality" relates directly to the conscious, fantasy relates directly to the unconscious mind.

The problem is that fantasy to be understood must be embodied to some degree in phenomenal form, whereby it is made conscious.

If we are to accurately express the direct nature of fantasy in rational form, then it is imaginary. In other words, the unconscious (relative to the conscious) is negative and two dimensional. Thus, expressed in reduced one dimensional form as we have seen - fantasy is imaginary (mathematically speaking). Interestingly in ordinary language, we would refer to such experience also as imaginary. Thus there is a fascinating unappreciated correspondence here as between mathematical and psychological notions. Fantasies actually take place in what is in literary and mathematical terms "imaginary" space and time. However it is difficult to directly experience fantasy (i.e. what is purely imaginative) as we need to express it outwardly in conscious form for it to be differentiated and understood.

This leads in practice to projection. Though the root meaning of the projection lies in the two dimensional unconscious, where positive and negative directions of understanding directly coincide, the phenomenal embodiment of the fantasy lies in the one dimensional conscious (where only the positive direction operates). This can lead to very deep psychological confusion, which is only too prevalent in practice. Usually when the unconscious is projected, the phenomenal conscious takes over and the experience is then interpreted to a considerable degree in a "real" rather than "imaginary" manner.

Romantic love illustrates this point well. Both men and women carry with them unconscious images or archetypes of the ideal partner. When for example for a man the "right" woman comes along this image is projected on to her. Now the unconscious desire for love and fulfilment, is infinite and unlimited. However the chosen partner as a conscious being is both finite and limited. Thus the expectation that this chosen person can fulfil one's needs involves a basic confusion of conscious and unconscious experience. One misleadingly sees the "real" person as the answer to ones "imaginary" desire.

This is not to question the need for projection. Indeed it is vitally necessary if the unconscious is to be differentiated. However if this process is to develop effectively, there must be a dynamic dialectic involved involving continual internal assimilation of what is outwardly projected.

Once again, the unconscious involves two complementary poles (i.e. a positive external pole and a negative internal pole) which fully coincide. Now the phenomenal projection, where the positive pole only is experienced, initially causes imbalance in terms of the unconscious. Thus when the man finds the woman of his dreams, the emphasis is on the positive pole in the conscious embodiment of this woman as the realisation of his desires. To restore balance (in terms of the unconscious) there must be a corresponding emphasis on his internal self as being equally the source of fulfilment. In this way the (external) feminine direction is reversed and now seen as part of his own (internal) personality. This fusion of external and internal leads to the realisation of a common shared experience intimately connected to, yet also transcending the finite relationship. In other words the experience becomes more spiritualised, which is the appropriate realisation of the unconscious. When sufficient growth in the spirit, one can project desire on to phenomena without confusion. In other words one can relate to objects without undue attachment.

However, in our culture, because the unconscious is so little understood, experience is greatly distorted and limited through projections that are rarely properly appropriated. Most human prejudice and discrimination is based on this problem.

One perhaps unexpected example relates to the present approach to science and mathematics, where both theory and practice are riddled with projections that are highly questionable. In other words unconscious assumptions are rigidly projected on to phenomena leading to an intellectual straightjacket which greatly reduces creative insight.


The transcendent journey involves seeking union with a God, understood as above phenomenal reality. This Supreme Being understood in increasingly archetypal form is seen initially as separate from one's human ego. However with the ultimate erosion of all ego consciousness, distinctions as between inner and outer spiritual reality break down altogether. This particularly happens at the culmination of the dark night. One arrives at the psychological singularity which is the spiritual point or centre of the personality. It is experienced as a void, but in fact represents union of human and divine personalities. Put another way it represents the decisive shift from an ego based to a cosmic based centre of being. In Christian mystical terms this reality is often referred to as the Source or the (naked) Godhead. In Eastern terminology it is referred to as final-God or point God and represents the beginning of the causal realm. These terms indicate important aspects of the nature of this state. The Godhead as we have seen involves the use of the head (i.e. reason or logos) and a somewhat austere and impersonal experience of God in dark comtemplation. Also the use of the point symbolises the arrival at a spiritual centre where all archetypal projections of God have ceased. It also conveys the notion of the source of all potential spiritual energy being contained in a point or singularity ready to burst forth in radiant splendour. Indeed this exactly complements the widely held physical notion notion of the Big Bang and the emergence of our present universe in a great explosion of energy out of a single seed or point of matter.

Indeed, continuing with my geometrical terminology, I will refer to this overall level as the point level. The point is both the centre of the circle and any straight line diameter of the circle. Thus the point level is itself central in terms of unifying both the earlier circular and linear levels of experience.

A decisive shift in the basic spiritual orientation now takes place. Because of the removal of phenomenal consciousness, one can no longer seeks God exclusively outside oneself in a transcendent fashion. Rather one slowly realises that God has taken up residence inside one's personality as the spiritual centre of one's being. In this sense, mystically one has become God. What this means is that the archetypes of God, formerly in some measure experienced as separate from self have now disappeared (with the erosion of ego consciousness), so that one can finally accept that one's true personality indeed is God.

However, paradoxically this completion of the transcendent phase of the spiritual journey is likely to coincide with a period of deep depression. The great light and spiritual energy generated through the dark night remain trapped and repressed in the unconscious. One - after the trials and tribulations of the night - will feel very much isolated, suffering from physical and emotional exhaustion. Indeed one is likely to be in a deep state of shock.

However a definite turning point has been reached, making gradual recovery possible. One is able to at last relax not punishing oneself with the need for further discipline and effort. Though a pure form of contemplative activity has been reached one is just relieved to have survived and no longer conscious of having any spiritual life. As one senses a slight easing in the darkness of the night one is able to relate better to outer reality. But because of the death of ego consciousness reality is not reborn in the former "real" manner but rather in a new and initially confusing "imaginary" manner

Virtual Reality

Essentially, the circular level involves the erosion of all direct or voluntary conscious activity. In the point level, though consciousness is reborn it is qualitatively different and largely of an indirect or involuntarily nature.

Normally, one thinks of a world out there with which we interact. Indeed this is the basis of conventional notions of reality. In spiritual terms a person may then interpret this reality as the creation or projection of a transcendent Supreme Being (i.e. God). However - as we have seen, with the climax of the dark night and the final erosion of rational conscious reality, this interpretation breaks down. God is now seen as inseparable from the internal self. Thus reality is no longer experienced as a creation from the outside, as it were but rather equally as a creation from the centre of one's being in the projection of the unconscious personality.

This should not be too surprising when we consider that the conventional view is based on a one-sided conscious interpretation of reality. When we admit the equal role of the unconscious, then we are able to accept that we actually participate in creating reality. Finally when development switches to specialisation of the role of the affective unconscious in this dialogue of creativity, reality becomes increasingly a direct projection of one's internal subjective self. However this new experience of reality - as it really is a phenomenal expression of the unconscious - cannot be translated in the same manner as conscious reality. As I have outlined, in mathematical terms it is "imaginary". Perhaps the best term we can use - again mindful of complementary linkages with physics - is virtual reality.

In contrast to conventional reality which is rigid and stable, virtual reality is transient and unstable. As I have stated the unconscious, with its dynamically complementary poles is inherently different from the uni-polar conscious process. Therefore any translation of the unconscious into alternative conscious format is essentially a mis-translation. Therefore the more sensitive and dynamic the unconscious becomes in experience, the more short lived these phenomenal translations become. One's unconscious desire is projected on to phenomenal objects. However one quickly realises that these "real" objects cannot be a true embodiment of "imaginary" desire. Therefore one learns to withdraw from the conscious objects back to their source in the unconscious.

Thus in growing understanding of the ephemeral nature of this projected reality, we now have the birth of a new kind of structure. One slowly appreciates that these unconscious type projections constitute a virtual reality in contrast to former conventional reality. In other words "higher" cognitive (real) and "lower" affective (imaginary) experience are seen to constitute in psychological terms parallel universes which are "real" and "imaginary" with respect to each other..

Once again we have remarkable complementary behaviour in relation to physical reality. The black hole having reached its turning point as a singularity, now starts to slowly radiate in the emission of virtual particles. These particles are extremely short lived and lie extremely close to the potential ground of matter (i.e. the physical equivalent of the unconscious) in what David Bohm refers to as implicate reality. Because this virtual matter lies so close to the implicate ground, they are spontaneously emitted or projected from it in extremely closely related particle and anti-particle pairings. Indeed the very definition of potentiality or implicate reality is the pure coincidence of matter and anti-matter pairings. These virtual particles - therefore in being so near to pure energy - are extremely short lived and unstable, tending to disappear in the moment of creation. However in this moment, it is possible for positive and negative poles to be separated, so that the (positive) matter particles can escape the black hole event horizon, with the corresponding (negative) anti-matter particles becoming once more sucked in. This very process serves a vital dynamic function in helping to reduce the internal gravitational force of the black hole, gradually preparing it for release in a complementary external fashion as pure energy.

All of this can help to clarify the psychological dynamics of this transition to the point level. Phenomenal (psychic) particles - representing short-lived fantasies - are continually emitted from the unconscious in closely associated polar pairings. In other words one is aware that the manifest external phenomena in experience equally reflect internal unconscious desires. This leads to continual fusion in an internally generated energy. However in the conscious recognition of the external phenomenon, the positive phenomenal pole separates and escapes the psychological event horizon with the negative pole being returned to the unconscious. In other words the unconscious can only differentiate itself by momentarily becoming conscious. The dynamic correction process that this mis-translation brings about is the very means by which the unconscious is enabled to develop. Also this splitting off of poles is vitally important psychologically, in that is the means by which repression is reduced. Thus each phenomenal projection while releasing repressed energy externally also brings complementary subjective understanding of the nature of the repression. With the release of the repression there is also the gradual easing of the gravity of one's situation and the preparation for a more externalised life of energy.

So just as the black hole in a sense becomes a white hole, likewise through a complementary spiritual process the dark night slowly becomes a bright night (i.e. the light slowly dawns) during the point level.

Return to Linearity

Between the circular and point levels, there is likely to be a long period which from a spiritual perspective seems to represent a marked regression in development.

Psychologically one slowly recovers from a deep sense of depression. Mindful of the dangers that former extreme commitment to transcendent development involved, there is now an understandable reaction. One is glad to forget about and even disidentify with a religious persona. After so much isolation one is now anxious to become reabsorbed in the mainstream of life in an attempt to rediscover the simple pleasures previously denied one.

In many respects, there is a return to the linear level. One may become more interested in pursuing career objectives, in forming personal relationships and in developing new interests. There is a marked feeling of relief in discovering that one is normal after all with similar desires to the rest of humanity.

This stage is very necessary. It helps one to achieve a sense of balance and redevelop many of the conventional skills of life which had fallen into disuse. With this new outward vision, one may even look back on previous experience as a strange aberration, which now thankfully has passed.

However, the situation is not quite the same as before. Though one recovers sufficiently to take up the usual tasks, one's mind still remains substantially in darkness. Gradually a sense of restlessness grows with only the most superficial satisfaction being derived from conventional activities. Deep down one feels increasingly frustrated, and lonely.

It slowly dawns on one that the whole nature of one's former reality has changed and that one is now inhabiting a "virtual" rather than a "real" world.

This in turn helps to explain why one feels so restless during this time. The phenomena of experience now directly represent projections of unconscious desires which in many regards still remain largely repressed. However, seeing conscious phenomena as "real" and the appropriate embodiment of unconscious desires involves a basic confusion and mis-translation of experience. So as often as one pins one's hopes for fulfilment in these phenomena, one suffers disillusionment and disappointment. Any satisfaction derived from them proves extremely superficial and short-lived, and one is once more increasingly directed inwards to find the true solution to one's problems.

Now, all normal experience is likewise affected by this problem of projection. However what distinguishes this phase is the extreme sensitivity one develops to this type of mis-translation. During the previous stages - as I have detailed - conscious "real" phenomena are considerably eroded from experience. However as the mind is still in darkness one now is given very little conscious light to gain any genuine consolation from such phenomena. Rather one is increasingly reminded than any desire - even temporary - for phenomena is misguided and thereby driven inwardly to eradicate the root of all disordered desire deep in the unconscious itself.

Thus we now have a new period of mirror structure development. However whereas the earlier development related to "real" linear conscious structures - considerably aided by rational control - this now relates to "virtual" linear conscious structures largely dependent on the pure desire of the will. Again these relate to affective sense structures and cognitive rational structures, firstly of a more superficial nature but gradually becoming more intensive in nature. So the very ability to project desire on to linear phenomena itself becomes extremely limited. This all serves as a necessary preparation for the unfolding of the next major level i.e. the point level.


The turning point in terms of the transition from the circular to the point level involves the apparent surrendering of faith in the traumatic experience of total existential failure.

However this really involves letting go of the last remnants of rational control paving the way for a more direct spontaneous experience of the unconscious.

A slow recovery from deep psychological depression follows and the direct emission of phenomenal experience from the unconscious. Such phenomena tend to be very elusive and transient bearing direct comparison with the radiation effects of black holes (through the emission of virtual particles as discovered in physics). Indeed from a correct mathematical perspective, both physically and psychologically, this virtual experience is "imaginary" rather than "real".

Conventional understanding of the world is based on experience which is directly conscious (and only indirectly unconscious) and is termed as "real".

However experience which is directly unconscious and projected spontaneously from the inner self is only indirectly conscious in the temporary phenomenal expression of this experience and conforms to a world which is "imaginary ".

Thus properly speaking we inhabit a world which physically and psychologically is complex (in mathematical terms). Conventionally the view that the world is "real" is only possible because we effectively define reality in reduced conscious terms. Thus unconscious experience of the world is treated as fantasy and by implication as "unreal". Thus we have in the scientific perspective in this splitting off of the conscious from the unconscious the entirely distorted belief that we live in a "real" world whereas correctly speaking - in mathematical terms - it is both "real" and "imaginary" (i.e. complex).

The release of such phenomena affords valuable relief in the unblocking of the unconscious and enables the restoration of more externalised linear activity. However because of the inherently transient nature of this imaginary experience, it is not possible to get rooted in conventional reality. One becomes extremely sensitive to any attachment to phenomenal projections which due to much former repression of unconscious material, one is not able to avoid. This leads to the gradual build up of frustration and restlessness and a new form of mirror structure development depending greatly on the pure intention of the will. In this manner one is led back to the unconscious in an attempt to unravel all unrepressed desire paving the way for the unfolding of the point level.