Ontology is the theory of being and existence. It consists of a descriptive account of what exists and how it is organized, and how different existents (i.e., things that exist) relate to one another. It also consists of a descriptive account of which existents have continuity or perpetuity (i.e., being) and which are in a state of flux, as well as which existents are essential (having a fixed identity) and which are substantial (having certain distinct, definitive attributes but not a fixed identity).
Precision is difficult, perhaps even impossible, in the field of ontology because it is difficult to find terms to encompass all the things that fall under the categories of being and existence or to find terms that adequately describe things that have no physical form and can only be experienced by faculties other than the physical senses. Nevertheless, I believe a rough outline is possible and, despite these terminological difficulties, will attempt to delineate the ontology I believe accurately describes the world based on my direct experiences, sense-perceptions, inductions, and inferences.
I know I have previously written that awareness cannot be defined except by words that also mean awareness, I will attempt to define it here in order to avoid claiming that the highest existent is ineffable, as that is a cheap and deeply unsatisfying claim even though it is made over and over again in the world’s major gnostic traditions. Awareness is lucid presence to all that arises within one’s consciousness. I realize that the term “lucid presence” is also somewhat ambiguous, but I think most readers will at least have an idea of what it means. Unfortunately, this is the most specific I think I can get in defining awareness.
The supreme or highest existent is the state of pure awareness, that is, the state in which awareness remains but no distinctions of any kind arise. This state always already exists, that is, it is always present and can be realized by ceasing to make distinctions. Of course, if it were easy to cease making distinctions or to abide in a state in which there are no distinctions, all people would realize their own pure awareness upon first hearing this teaching and would continue to have this realization indefinitely. Needless to say, that is not how it works except in very rare cases. Pure awareness is the supreme or highest existent because it is continuous or perpetual and thus has being, and nothing precedes it.
The next highest existent is the state in which awareness or the subject remains but the external world does not arise. There is one distinction in this state, between the subject that is aware and the external, objective world which no longer arises. The subject is continuous or perpetual. The subject abides continuously while the external, objective world rises and falls. Thus, the subject is characterized by being, while the external, objective world is not. The external, objective world is characterized by becoming.
One does not become aware of the subject. One is the subject. Thus, the subject is not attained, but is always already one’s deepest, most abiding nature. The subject can, however, be recognized or realized, first by discriminating between the subject and the external world conceptually, then by actually abiding as the subject while the external world ceases to arise. Nothing can cause this experience to occur, but many techniques and practices can help prepare the mind to enter a state where this experience is more likely to occur.
From within the subject arises a state of awareness characterized by a nonphysical radiance, which sometimes manifests itself as direct, nonphysical experiences of non-radiated light and/or unstruck sound, and feelings of boundless love and boundless peace. There is complete acceptance of all things. In this sense, there is unity with everything that exists. But to say that it is unity in any other sense is to speak in platitudes. The truth is that it is beyond all Natural things, not at one with them. It is distinct from all things in Nature, but it is also distinct from the subject, as it is an object of the awareness that remains when the external world does not arise.
So how then does Nature arise? Was/is Nature created by an intelligent being outside of it? Unfortunately, there is not enough information to say either way. We are not apparently justified in believing that Nature was created, nor are we apparently justified in believing that Nature was not created. Put another way, there are no experiences that can make a person apparently justified in holding either belief. While conjecture is possible, conjecture does not lead to any apparently justified belief.
Based on my own direct experiences and inferences that may be drawn therefrom, I have no basis for believing the previously discussed states of consciousness labeled pure awareness, the awareness that remains when the external world does not arise, and the state of awareness characterized by nonphysical radiance and feelings of boundless love and boundless peace created the world. Nor do I have any reason to believe that they emanated the world or that the world was somehow created or manifested through them. They just are. And while they are prior to the arising of Nature, this does not mean that they created or manifested Nature. The fact that these states of awareness can be recognized or realized by sentient existents that are otherwise Natural also does not necessarily prove that such existents were created, emanated, or manifested by these states of awareness. It may only prove that these sentient existents have “one foot in Nature and one foot in that which is, prior to Nature,” so to speak.