Bardo, in the In- Between State

An opening statement: This essay is written to all those who see their lives as a journey of evolvement, from a point of departure to a point of destination.

Part I: Bardo and Limbo

In some schools of Buddhism, bardo (Tibetan བར་དོ་ Wylie: bar do) or antarabhāva (Sanskrit) is an intermediate, transitional, or liminal state between death and rebirth.

Bardo is also known as an: ”Intermediate state”.

In the theology of the Catholic Church it is the border between heaven and hell, in which there are souls that although did not sin, still were not cleansed from the ancient sin and so they are in between heaven and hell. 

In the more secular meaning Limbo is living in a state of uncertainty.

In Trinidad, the Limbo is a unique dance and is also known as the “Under Stick Dance”. The dancer is in a state in which he is not touching the ground and not the stick, and he needs to pass between them both. 

Part II: On Liminal State

It is also an anthropological terminology and it is an unstable state in which a previous regime is about to fall down and a new regime has not yet stabilized.  

Individuals trapped in a liminal state cannot operate in a rational way. 

Jungian psychologists see in the individual the process of self-consciousness as happening in a liminal space, the individualism begins with distancing from the regular social state, this distancing characterizes the breaking of the Persona. 

Carl Rogers coined the term: “out of this world”. This state characterizes some of the therapists, they can cause the clients a kind of a trance feeling and what is interesting is that both are going out of the treatment as from a deep well or a tunnel. 

Liminal time is the time of dusk, between day and night. 

Part III: High States of Conciousness

One of the more existing theories is that psychedelic drugs can influence states of consciousness. One of the better-known books on the subject is: “Doors of perception” by Aldose Huxley.

The Armenian mystic Gurdjieff talked of 4 levels of consciousness, from low to high:

  1. The lowest is physical sleep. 
  2. Waking up from physical sleep.
  3. With the aid of meditations and similar, one can reach self-consciousness.
  4. Objective consciousness, here one is awake not only physically but also consciously.

Numbers two and three are in a Bardo, or limbo state.  

Part IV: Between Ego and an Adult Self

The term Bardo could also be understood as a concept in the realms of human life; a person can find himself in a situation in which what is in him does not prepare him to function and have orientation in a new situation. This could happen in very different situations; these times are not easy.

Although Bardo is meant originally to be the time between death and a new life, it could also be understood as a transitory state of consciousness that is between two states of consciousness; the one which was and that which could be.

Practically and existentially it means: living one day up, one day down. One day it works, one day it doesn’t, one day you feel you are advancing, on the other you feel you regress back.   

It is like living a bit like a migratory, for you have left your old known and secure home but did not arrive yet to your new, visualized, and longed-for home. You are no longer here but not yet there.

In consciousness development literature the term Bardo is connected to consciousness states and it is referred to as a state of ambiguity or disorientation of rituals (in general: a shamanic ritual), in which the participants are no longer in the consciousness of before the ritual but they are not yet in the consciousness state that they will be in when the ritual is over.

For the trained and ready person – the Bardo is a great opportunity for release, for a transcendental experience, whereas for the one who did not go through a preparatory process of consciousness training – this state of transition could be perceived as a dangerous or place of dilution. 

In fact, this is the real existential situation of the human, living between past and future, but the rational and material approach does not allow him to experience it as a transitory state for then it is being perceived as unsafe, and therefore the existing approach to the present ‘wants’ to solidify it. The solidification is done by action, any action, and the more – the better, only not to experience the original void of the raw state of the present, before it went through the technological dominant conditioning. 

There are writings about higher levels of consciousness, but what is much less available, are writings about the in-between state between lower and higher states of consciousness. 

On the whole – this state is known in various names in different contexts:

Bardo, Liminal state, transitory state, no-man’s land, limbo, ‘a time out of time’. Some will be elaborated and some could be studied further. 

When we refer to Bardo states of consciousness, we can liken this consciousness state of a person that did some inner work but did not yet reach completion – to a seed that is no longer in a raw, static, frozen state but it did not grow roots and a stem – this is an intermediate state in which inner changes are happening but without external changes yet.  

If we take the seed as an analogy to the ego, then the seed could be understood as the refabricated condition when the ego is beginning to lose its grip before the creation of a permanent self. 

In order for the seed to stop being static and that life process will start to happen in him – he needs to pass from being hard to be soft, to go through a process of melting, and this happens to it when put in an environment of humidity and various minerals. 

If the seed could feel and have self-consciousness, he would experience this humidity as an attack on his life, an attack which comes to destroy him, but if his consciousness was not enough to grasp that in him there is a blueprint of a plant, he would feel that his sure and solid world is falling apart. 

Without the dissolution of the old self (the seed) the change in the state of consciousness would not happen.

The Bardo st in this is the dismembering of the ego without being yet in the safe worlds of higher consciousness. This could be frightening and bring about a wish to go back. 

If he ‘succeeds’ in returning to the known and secure ego he indeed will be ‘saved’, but with it, his ability to be born to the next level – will be blocked. 

The problem in this is the identification with the ego as the only self. People experience this ‘bottle neck’, this birth channel, of what is called in the relevant literature, a Spiritual crisis.

It is known in the literature about the kundalini experience that practitioners experience this liminal state as a great crisis it is known as, Kundalini crisis, they experience the most difficult physical and psychological symptoms. 

A person who wrote about this Kundalini crisis is Gopi Krishna in his book: “Kundalini The Evolutionary Energy in man“.

So, the Bardo state is the way from an underdeveloped state of consciousness towards a developed or an awakened one. It is difficult, unstable, and very uncomfortable, (for much of what was repressed so far – is being met with now). But it is the only way.

Blessed is he who hath a soul,
Blessed is he who hath none,
Woe and sorrow to him who hath it in conception
.

Gurdjieff

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