Who Am I?—A Journey of Self-Awareness


Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 037

HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 37 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon. So, I’m going to talk a bit about consciousness this time, in particular my own consciousness and the way that I feel it’s changed, evolved if you will, over the years.

I guess my first conscious experience was when I was just a few months old. It was at an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Corby, Lincolnshire, in the UK. I think it was at an ice rink. I remember very clearly being in a pram being pushed by my mother down a corridor through several sets of double swing doors—orange doors—with semi-circular windows on each door making a circle when the doors were closed. Then we reached a point along the corridor where there was a single door on the right-hand side. My mum parked up my pram, took me out of the pram, and went through this door which led immediately to a flight of stairs which we went up, and at the top of the stairs, there was a door to the right again which we went through into a small room. It won’t have been much bigger than 8 feet square. In one corner there was one of those medical dividing screens, you know the zigzag type in a pale green colour, and the only other items in the room were a plastic chair, and down by the door where there was a plug socket, there was a kettle and a small jug. I remember my mother boiling the kettle, filling the jug with hot water, and putting my bottle of milk into the jug and then being fed from the bottle. That’s it, that’s all I can remember. 

I used to think it was a dream, maybe. It was certainly a recurring memory for me growing up, and eventually, in my teens, I told my mum I kept having this memory, and she said, “That was Corby assembly.” There you go—my first memory, just a few months old. Now, I wouldn’t say that experience was particularly one of great self-awareness. It was more of an awareness of what was around me at the time.

My next experience of consciousness that I can clearly remember as a child was when my mum was in hospital pregnant with my sister. I would have been a little over 2 years old at the time, and I’d been at home with my Dad—I’m not sure for how long, maybe a week, maybe it was only a few days—but he’d been feeding me cornflakes because he couldn’t cook! I just remember clearly the bowls of cornflakes with milk on them, and I remember my dad taking me to the hospital on the day that my mum brought my little sister home in his car, which was an old vintage black taxi. I remember my new baby sister coming out of the hospital with my mum down the stone steps at the front of the hospital, and me and my new baby sister in the back seat of the taxi, her in a kind of Moses basket. That would have been two and a bit years old, I was, and I can remember that very clearly.

Then, I guess, kind of through the ages of 3 and 4, I remember various events at home. I can recall very vividly being taught to read. I remember baths in a tin bathtub in front of an open fire in our council house living room. I remember receiving as a present my Corgi Batmobile. I just remember various homely experiences of being a small child with a little sister and a mum and a dad. I remember my mum washing and drying the clothes through a mangle, my dad building a treehouse, except it wasn’t really a treehouse. It was just a wooden platform nailed to the side of his shed which me and my sister used to sit on and pass the time of day. 

Then I remember my first day at school, not wanting to be separated from my mum, and when we arrived at school, rather than going to the lessons, I climbed up a drainpipe right to the top, and my mum and a teacher were down below trying to get me to come down from the drainpipe because I didn’t want to go to school, and then, I guess, after that, just the everyday kind of experiences of a 4 or 5-year-old kid at school. 

I think, certainly by the age of 4 or 5, I had a fairly keen sense of who I was, a feeling of “I am Daniel” and a pretty good awareness of what was happening around me. I can still remember many things from the age of 4 or 5-years old, certainly as a Jehovah’s Witness attending meetings and going on field ministry with my mum and dad and my sister.

In terms of consciousness evolving as the years went by, I would say during my years of 7, 8, 9, not much really changed. 10, 11, still not much changed. I started secondary school. Life was fairly straightforward, and I don’t think I was really spending much time thinking about anything particularly deep or spiritual. I was just a kid, so I used to go to school, come home, do my homework, play, sleep, wake up, do my activities as a Jehovah’s Witness, go to meetings, go on the field ministry at weekends.

Now, if you’ve been listening to my podcasts for a while, you’ll know that I had a breakdown at the age of 11 due to abuse I suffered at school, and that was a really strange experience as far as consciousness was concerned. I was put on medication for a period of time, tranquilisers, and for a while I was taken out of school and put into what was known as a “tutorial unit” which was basically just a big old house, where we used to spend time listening to the carer, a teacher, telling us stories or making rugs or painting pictures. It was basically a “no pressure” environment to help me to regain my mental health. That lasted, I believe, from about 12 to about 13, maybe 14, and I actually remember waking up one morning with a sense of coming out of this serious depression and mental breakdown that I’d been in. This particular morning, when I was about 13 and a half—14 maybe—just feeling okay, as though the depression and the mental breakdown had suddenly lifted, and my feeling of consciousness had come back online with more of a sense of who I was rather than this kind of fog that I was just existing through prior to that.

The weird thing was, I felt that two or three years had actually passed without me knowing what had happened. I remember waking up this particular morning and thinking I was still 11 years old, but feeling a bit strange, disoriented, and asking my mum what year it was, and how old was I?—and she told me it was 1984 and I was 14, and I honestly felt very confused as if two or three years had passed and I’d not been conscious for that period of time. It was a most strange experience and I don’t know whether to put that down to the medications I’d been on, or the trauma I’d been through with the abuse, I don’t know. It was like my consciousness had just shut down for a couple of years, and then come back online when my mind had healed, but I would say from about the age of 16 particularly is when I started to have a real sense of myself—who I was—and it was about 16 that I got baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness. 

As I’ve explained in other podcasts, I wouldn’t say my baptism as a Jehovah’s Witness was accompanied by any particularly deep spiritual epiphanies, but when I was 18—that’s the first time I think I ever had a really deep profound spiritual thought. That thought was—and I can still remember—I was away from home at Pioneer Service School for 2 weeks, and we’d been doing a lot of study, Bible reading and so forth, and I remember just being in this room at the accommodation I was staying at, this one night, just thinking very deeply about God, and suddenly I started to think about dimensions, and where heaven was in relation to a 3-dimensional universe, and it was like some profound understanding of the universe just came to me. 

I contemplated the idea that the universe was, of course, 3-dimensional insofar as you could move up, down, left and right, in relation to other objects—and obviously, there’s the 4th dimension of time, but I didn’t really take that into account in these early spiritual meditations. It just struck me that God could not be in a 3-dimensional physical universe. It seems so obvious looking back now, but I just kind of realised that God supposedly created the physical universe and that at one point there was no physical universe, therefore there was no 3-dimensional universe to relate to. So God, heaven, could not be located in the universe. In fact, as a non-temporal being, outside of space and time, existing before time and space— although “before” is a bit nonsensical when speaking about eternity—it just struck me that God initially existed in a non-dimensional state, pure awareness possibly, not even consciousness as we know it in the sense of one thought being sequential to another since that does tend to suppose space, if only conceptually—one thought after another, after another. So God must have been, I conjectured, a kind of pure conscious awareness, without sequential thoughts, or maybe even all thoughts in the same singular moment, I don’t know, but I was beginning to think of God more in this non-dimensional way than as a God sitting on a throne at some specific location beyond our solar system but within physical space.

I remember the first time I proposed this idea to my dad, and he reacting quite negatively. Actually, he told me I was an apostate, or that this was apostate reasoning, and I needed to stop. However we soon had the Insight volumes published, and there was a section there about heaven and Jehovah, and it actually made the point that God had existed outside of our dimension prior to creating the universe. So, I was right. 

I also found an early Watchtower article from the 1960s that referred to the scripture in Romans that speaks of “height nor depth nor any other creation”, alluding to the fact that height and depth are dimensions and were actually created, that at one point they didn’t exist. There was also an article in the 1960s in the Watchtower that referred to heaven not being “up”, so my thoughts on God being non-dimensional were essentially validated. I was vindicated, I guess, and my dad did actually apologise to me and accepted the idea that God was not just some guy sat on a throne floating around in outer space somewhere. 

So, that was when I was 18 years old, and it was the first time really I thought of anything deeply spiritual that kind of got me philosophising on the idea of what God was like, what the universe was like, what creation actually was, and I would say those kind of deep spiritual thoughts continued on through my 20s.

When I was about 25, I read the entire Bible in 49 days. I was in a particularly dead-end job at the time, with no work to do, so I literally just sat at my desk reading the Bible every day for hours and hours on end, and, like I say, I completed the entire Bible in 49 days, and I remember the more mystical, spiritual parts of the Bible really resonating with me and getting me thinking quite deeply in terms of heaven and spirit beings, and even the idea of being an anointed Christian.

I think I was about 25 when the idea first popped into my head that I could actually be, by the Bible’s definition, headed for heaven rather than a paradise earth, or some kind of spiritual afterlife rather than waking up in a paradise full of pandas and large fruit. Obviously, I didn’t run with that idea at 25. At the time it was thought that the heavenly calling had ended in 1935 and it would be very rare that someone young would be selected for life in heaven, and that would only be if one of the old folks had proved unfaithful, and most likely God would not choose a young person who’d not been in “the truth” for very long, but he’d choose someone who’d been around for a long long time, possibly someone who’d been a Witness since 1914. So, I kind of put that idea to one side, but the thought that if I was to die I would somehow wake up, not in an earthly paradise, but in a dimensionless spirit realm, with God and Jesus, really stuck with me and it was what I expected to happen if I did die.

It was in the year 2000 when I was 30 that I almost partook of the bread and wine at the annual memorial of Jesus’ death, but before the memorial, I spoke to my dad about it and he talked me out of it. He got me thinking that I was just imagining things, that this profound sense of spirituality that was developing in me around the age of 30 was probably just because the holy spirit was working on me. At the time, unbeknown to me, the elders were considering appointing me as an elder. Obviously, I didn’t know that, but my dad did, and he put my increased sense of spirituality down to that. I listened to him and I didn’t partake of the emblems that year, and I felt really bad about it afterwards. 

Roll on the next few years, I became an elder and then I moved to serve in a congregation that needed help and being away from my dad I started to find my own feet as a man, as a spiritual man, and it was in 2004 when I was reading the Bible all the way through again that I felt this shift in my consciousness, and particularly my spirituality, where I felt I kind of went up a level. It was almost like not just the Bible opened up to me, but the whole concept of God on a spiritual plane, the idea of an afterlife with God and Jesus as a spirit—also the idea of dying in this life to one’s sins and being “born again” and accepted by God as a child of God—these spiritual matters really came alive to me, and in 2005 I finally found the courage to partake of the bread and wine at the memorial. It felt right when I did, but I did identify more as a “born again” Christian type person than I did the standard Jehovah’s Witness view of an “anointed” person. So there was some cognitive dissonance there, when I read the publications about anointed Christians being the “faithful and discreet slave” as a class, at the time that didn’t seem to fit with me, and everything I read in the Watchtower magazines about being anointed tended to be very dumbed down, and even the most spiritual concepts in the Bible were presented in the publications in a very physical, fleshly way, such that anointed Christians raised to heaven were portrayed in Watchtower artwork as kind of Kenny Rogers clones sitting on thrones judging the world. That just didn’t feel like my destiny, my future, so I used to frequent Christian bookshops. I listened to Christian music, watched Christian shows on TV, and I used to log into Christian chat rooms and discuss with other Christians how I felt about spiritual matters, and I would say that gave me a very Christian oriented faith.

Now, in 2006 I did actually get disfellowshipped from Jehovah’s Witnesses for apostasy, and one of the charges against me was that I sounded like a born again Christian and talked too much about Jesus. I was disfellowshipped for 3 years during which I did very much identify as a born again Christian. As I say, the connections I had were with other Christians, but for the sake of my family, I did continue to go to meetings at the Kingdom Hall and ultimately I did get reinstated as a Jehovah’s Witness, for the sake of my family, and I think also for the sake of my reputation—I didn’t like the idea of my friends thinking of me as an apostate, but I did notice as soon as I went back to Jehovah’s Witnesses that my spirituality took a knock.

During those 3 years where I wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness, I felt very much that I was able to explore my spirituality, and I felt very spiritual. I felt very connected to all that was. I had a lot of mystical and spiritual feelings and experiences, but as soon as I went back to Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religion, a cult, it was like all of that vanished overnight and my spiritual feelings felt very much like they were being suppressed. It was like a spiritual cap had been put on them, and even though I had somewhat divergent thoughts about things, my mind, my consciousness was trying very much to fit into the Jehovah’s Witness way of doing things again, which as I’ve already mentioned seemed a very physical outlook. Even the most spiritual matters were given a kind of physical slant to it, and I just didn’t like it. I didn’t particularly feel very spiritual from 2009 onwards, after going back to Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was like I’d ascended a spiritual level, a conscious level, and then gone back down a level again.

I became a pioneer again. I started reaching out for various privileges in the congregation. Sometimes, when depression kicked in, which it often did, I would withdraw from reaching out. Sometimes I thought I didn’t ever want to serve as an elder again. Other times I felt I did because I enjoyed teaching, and I spent the next 10 years from 2009 to 2019 basically trying to fit in with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and missing this very strong sense of spiritual consciousness that I’d had during that 3-year period while I was disfellowshipped.

During that 3-year period, my sense of self, who I was, the universe, and this feeling that everything was connected, really hit me hard and, like I say, I felt like I’d gone up a level spiritually. I even wrote a book called “I AM God”, in 2007 I think, which put forward this idea that all things are God. It was somewhat of an early pandeistic view, I suppose, although I was still trying to maintain a belief that there was a transcendent, immanent God—so it wasn’t exactly pandeism. I’m not sure what it was, but yeah, in that 3-year window it felt like I really experienced something quite special from a conscious point of view, and then the next 10 years as a Jehovah’s Witness again I felt that was suppressed like I was in a spiritual fog again, but I still had the knowledge of what it was like during those 3 years. So when I explained spiritual things as a Jehovah’s Witness, I felt somewhat disconnected. It was odd, as if I had this knowledge that all things were one, but I no longer had the heart, the connection. 

Effectively, Jehovah’s Witnesses suppressed my spirituality, that’s what I’m trying to say, but then in 2019, that was the year that I met someone very special, and we used to speak a lot about spiritual things, and my spirituality kind of felt like it returned again. I felt very connected to everything. I definitely felt connected to her. I felt connected to the universe as a whole again, to God, to God as I understood God at that time, and ultimately that resulted in my marriage breakdown and being disfellowshipped, and divorced, and also sadly losing the connection I had with that person, and I found myself at that point in a wilderness of nothing.

I was no longer married—well I was separated at the time, heading for divorce. I no longer lived with my family. I had no contact with my kids because as a disfellowshipped person they cut me off. I lost contact with my dad who I used to talk to about spiritual things. I generally found myself in a position where I lost everything physical, including all my relationships with all my friends, my wife, my marriage, my kids, my dad. I lost my home, my religion, and it was just this desolate landscape ahead of me, and I went into therapy wondering what my spiritual future would be.

I’d always liked the idea of belonging to a Christian group of people, where music was Christian music. I did actually attend a Pentecostal meeting one day, after I’d been disfellowshipped, but first of all the music was a bit crap, and second of all I just found it all a bit weird as though they were acting spiritually but not really experiencing the holy spirit. So I kind of shied away from the idea of religion in general, and I just started to listen to Christian music on my own, and think about God, Christ, at home, and I started to feel this spiritual awareness again.

I started to think whether I was still maintaining certain beliefs because of my indoctrination as a Jehovah’s Witness, so I began to wonder, you know, does God actually exist? What about Jesus? What if Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, let alone not God? What if he was just a man, spiritually enlightened, you know? Maybe he understood certain things about the makeup of humans and who God was, and even the universe and so forth—but what if he was just a man? And was the Bible actually the result of supernatural revelation, or was it just like inspirational poetry or music? Was it something that spiritually minded humans or even religious humans, had kind of dragged up from their inner psyche?—and I started to look at the pandeistic model again. 

One of the things that really bothered me was if God still existed, why was he, as it seemed, non-interventional? I could point to things in my life that seemed to indicate that God was very much involved in my life, but then I couldn’t reconcile this with the fact that God would stand by and watch certain atrocities taking place, for example, without doing anything about it. So I started to look at the idea that maybe God had existed, but no longer did, and that let me down the path of pandeism, and a few times I questioned whether I actually believed in pandeism, or maybe pantheism, or panentheism, or even panendeism, or maybe even my own kind of hybrid belief of a pandeistic model on a temporal level with a transcendent God on an eternal plane, but ultimately I came back to the idea of pandeism, with the notion that it wasn’t altogether very much different than atheism, to be honest, on a day-to-day basis. I settled on the idea that there is now no God, that he did exist but no longer does, and that really makes my life, I guess, very much like an atheist, just with the difference God started the universe and had a purpose for creating us, but even then I don’t know—the jury’s still out on that one, but certainly, the loss of so much from my life gave me the opportunity to reevaluate everything, that’s what I’m saying, and in doing so I felt my spirituality, and my conscious awareness of myself and everything started to come alive again. I do think loss gives you a vantage point spiritually. When your life becomes empty there are less distractions for one thing, and your spirituality tends to come into focus—at least that is my experience. 

I do now believe in evolution, that God put the natural laws in place for humans to evolve, and then to be inhabited by consciousness at some point. I’ve considered, looking back, my early conscious experiences, I do wonder whether there is this one consciousness from an original Source that is perhaps a frequency, maybe, that runs through the universe, and whether, when a child is born with a brain and a body, whether there is a, a point in the development of that child, like me when I was a few months old, or two years old, where consciousness kind of comes online, almost this kind of upload or download of consciousness into that brain and body effectively. I think the standard model these days seems to be that consciousness is created by the brain, that it’s a function of the brain, but I’m not sure. I tend to think that consciousness is an external force, that acts upon the brain, and that it uses the brain to control the body—that consciousness can and does exist without the need for a brain and a body. I can already hear the scientists tapping on their keyboards, telling me I’m an idiot, but that’s what I think.

I’ve also wondered whether maybe all of us share one consciousness, whether—if we were to move from body to body—if I was to find myself in your body, or vice versa, whether we would actually feel any different. I suspect probably we wouldn’t. If we were to strip away our own personal, unique, experiences and the obvious way that those affect our thoughts and feelings, I think the pure awareness each of us possesses, particularly in a state of meditation, would essentially feel the same in whatever body we were in, which effectively means there is just one consciousness—one Being—experiencing life through us on a physical, temporal plane. Again, probably a crazy idea, but I know for a fact I’m not the only person that thinks this. Someone actually tweeted to me his own ideas the other day, and it was very much the same thought.

I was also watching a video on Gaia, I think it was, the other day and it was about dimensional consciousness, how most people tend to experience 3-dimensional consciousness, which if I understood correctly is the basic conscious level that most people experience, a feeling of self, and an acknowledgement that others are also conscious, but not really any kind of connection between anyone. They then spoke about 4th-dimensional consciousness, which I really need to look into a bit more, but I think the idea was that of not just realising, but actually experiencing, that everything is one and that we’re all the same consciousness. Now, I believe, that is what I have experienced several times through my life, particularly when I was 18, more so when I was 34, and again now in my 50s. 

The 5th-dimensional consciousness is what really interested me. Apparently, this is where instead of looking out to heaven, “out there”, you start looking within to an extreme level of depth. This is according to this video on Gaia I was watching. I need to do a bit more research on this, but 5th-dimensional consciousness, from what I could make out, is where you start to experience things on an atomic level, looking deep, deep within. I think I’m heading that way in terms of my spiritual beliefs and experiences, coming around to the idea that even the most mystical, spiritual experience probably has some basis in quantum physics.

I also think it wouldn’t take very much for me to slip from pandeism into atheism if I could somehow prove to myself that the existence of the universe doesn’t require the existence of an original Creator being, if I could eliminate that from the process of creation, which would leave me with atheism—but a kind of spiritual atheism, if there is such a thing, where I would still be looking, I think, for a connection to the greater Whole. I don’t even know what that means at this stage, so it’s something I really need to look into more deeply.

Anyway, that’s how I would say my consciousness has evolved over the years, from very early experiences of just what was around me, through to a sense of who I was—that I existed as me, as Daniel—through to the conscious experience that the spiritual plane was not just a God on a throne sitting out there in outer space, but a different dimension of sorts, and then through the whole “born again” experience, which gradually lead to this feeling of oneness with—not just God and Jesus, but with everything, and ultimately the adoption of pandeism, even though, like I say, the jury is still out on that one, but I tend to think at this moment that the answer is to reject everything in terms of the indoctrination I’ve been exposed to as a Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then piece bits back into my worldview as I learn about them, assess them, see whether or not they pass the test of being believable. Who knows? Maybe I will end up as an atheist. The important thing for me now is not just to believe something because it makes me feel good, but to reject anything that I either can’t prove or doesn’t intuitively feel right. I do believe intuition is a valid path to finding truth, although I know some would disagree with me.  

I don’t know where I’m heading. It’s a spiritual journey of sorts, and I really don’t know where I’m going with it. Well, that’s where I am now, which is a very deep profound feeling that we are all one, but ultimately that there is only me. I am God effectively. Now, I don’t mean that to sound presumptuous, because I would say you are God as well, and you are me, and I am you, and we are everybody, and that’s what seems to come to me when I close my eyes at night and think, which I very often do. That seems to fit with what I feel, that there is just me, and I’m becoming very conscious of the fact I am, that I exist, and that every conscious experience that ever has been, and ever will be, is me—is my experiences through different bodies—through you, and other people.

Now, obviously, that opens up some ethical questions, because for me to say I am you, and you are me, I would imagine we think of ourselves to be on a fairly equal footing, regular people. It’s not too hard for me to buy into the idea of being you and you being me, but then what if I was to start making statements like “I am Jesus”—I know I’ve just said “I am God”, but bear with me—what if I was to say that I am Jesus’ consciousness, and Jesus was me, and you are Jesus, and we’re all Jesus—some kind of collective Christ consciousness? That starts to get a little bit more difficult for people to devour, especially Christian people who would perhaps recoil from that idea, and view it almost as blasphemy, even though, remember, Jesus himself spoke of being one with his followers.

But, and this is where it gets tricky, the idea of oneness—that everything is one—opens up a whole can of worms, insofar that if I can be you, or Jesus, then what stops me from also having been Hitler, or Stalin, or Genghis Khan?—and if I was, would I have still felt like Daniel? That’s a tough one!—and if that’s the case, why, as Hitler, did I do the horrendous things which as myself now as Daniel I find repugnant? Then, running with this idea, thinking of my own personal experiences of being abused, for example, as a child—if everyone is the same person, am I both the abused and the abuser? 

Then again, when I think of my children shunning me for religious reasons, I am both the shunned and the shunners. If I was to be in my children’s bodies, I would still be me, but for some reason, I would be shunning me—if that makes sense—which is actually not too hard to envisage because as a Jehovah’s Witness I did actually shun family members. I didn’t 100% believe it was right, but I did it because I was in a cult and there was a self-preservation aspect, I guess, and preservation of the structure around me, not wishing to be disfellowshipped again—a selfish outlook when I look back at it now, which I regret—but yeah, if we are all one, as far as consciousness is concerned, I think we need to not just accept that we are each other thinking it’s just like being nice to yourself, but effectively if we are all one, then yes, we are the Jesus’, the Buddhas, the Mother Teresas, and the Dalai Lamas, but we’re also the Hitlers, the Stalins, the Genghis Khans, and somehow we need to be able to make sense of that. Why, in different bodies, would we be either super good or super evil? What is it that makes a person act in that way? What would it take for me, as Daniel, to be so evil as to kill 6 million Jews in concentration camps? Why do I find that repugnant, but another person—Hitler—had no problem with it? 

Coming back to my own consciousness now, I think as Daniel, as me, I’ve done some good things, I’ve done some bad things, but I haven’t particularly done any amazingly good things or horrendously bad things. I’ve never killed anybody, but at the same time, I also haven’t been a Dali Lama or a Mother Theresa. I don’t think I’ve provided comfort and hope to millions of people around the world or anything like that. I’m just a regular guy, living a fairly regular life made up of desirable and undesirable traits which I’ve learnt by and as time’s gone on I’ve changed my views on certain things. Some things I’ve done, I’ve regretted. Some things I’ve done, I’m proud of. 

So that’s where I am with my consciousness at this time. I have this feeling of being Daniel, but I feel connected to everyone and everything in the world which comes, as I say, with some moral implications that I’m not very comfortable with, and some very deep spiritual implications that I need to think further about, and I shall be doing that.

So, that’s all for me this time. Thank you for dropping by again, and listening in again. Join me again soon.