There is a lot of people nowadays who embark on the path of self-knowledge but stop one step short of full self-realization. What I’m going to describe is particularly noticeable among so-called neo-advaitins, but it’s certainly not foreign to Buddhists, and, perhaps surprisingly, also Kabbalistic mystics.
The symptom can be easily identified by the famous dictum “there is no one there” of neo-advaitins as well as Buddhist obsession with emptiness touted as final realizations respectively, and also insistence that nature of G-d is infinite nothingness as is the case with followers of Kabbalah.
Even though I pinpointed three paths where this malady is most obvious, it has to be added that it is universal and can manifest no matter one’s particular path.
One can arrive at this state pretty quickly simply by seeing through all concepts and mental constructs. One dissolves one’s image of self, and, indeed, suddenly there is only empty infinite nothingness. Like an eye without a mirror, wherever one looks there is nothing, there is no self to be found.
So far so good, and it’s only natural that one cannot see oneself in this setting and manner. However, the implications when one stops at this point are grave, because such half-assed pseudo-realization inevitably results in a notion that anything goes in terms of behavior.
After all, “there is no one there” and “everything is empty”. Hence for a person assuming that that is, indeed, the true nature of reality there is no one to suffer. Neither pain, nor consequences. Suffice to say, it’s a disaster in the making, even if the person in question does not turn into an outright monster.
One look at all those gurus who fleece their followers or use their position of power to make their subjects submit to the whims of their desires should be enough. And yes, it must be stressed that attachment to desires is at this point still a thing.
Therefore, if you happen to arrive at empty nothingness of formless realm, which is in essence no different than a lucid dreamless sleep, know that there are vistas still to be explored. There is one last step you have to take.
You must include yourself in the whole picture and realize that it is you who sees that there is no one there. After all, awareness of absence is not absence of awareness, and the one missing is just the image of your self. Not the true “you” which you call “I”.
However, and it’s rather unfortunate, no one can give you a foolproof step-by-step guide how to arrive at the final realization, because that “you” which you are can be neither defined, not even perceived. The unknowable can be only known.
I guess, wishing you good luck is all there can be said in this case.