How does something that is infinite take on the appearance of something that is finite? How does Consciousness appear to itself as a multiplicity and diversity of selves and objects?
In an attempt to answer this question I’d like to give you an analogy. Imagine a woman named Mary falling asleep here in Titignano. Mary’s mind is a single indivisible whole, like each of our minds, and Mary dreams that she is Jane walking the streets of New York. So, Mary’s mind has fallen asleep to its own infinite, indivisible nature and imagines instead that it has assumed the limited form of Jane’s mind. Jane is walking the streets of New York, seeing people, cars, buildings, which from Jane’s point of view all seem to be outside her mind.
When Jane closes her eyes the streets of New York disappear, and therefore she legitimately concludes that whatever it is that is seeing the streets of New York lives just behind her eyes. This and similar experiences convince Jane that the knowing with which she knows her experience lives just behind her eyes, or in her chest, in her body. All her thoughts, feelings and subsequent other activities and relationships are consistent with this belief.
One day Jane goes to a café, and sitting at the table next to her is a handsome man called David. David and Jane notice each other, they start having a conversation, and Jane feels a mysterious attraction to him.
Of course, David and Jane, the café and the streets of New York are all appearances in Mary’s infinite mind. Mary’s mind itself has not been divided into a multiplicity and diversity of objects and selves. It is still the same seamless, indivisible whole that it always is, and yet it has taken on the appearances of Jane and David, and the world in which they seem, from their point of view, to be located. Mary could have dreamt that she was David, instead of Jane, on the streets of New York, in which case she would have seemed to see her experience through David’s eyes instead of Jane’s.
When Jane feels this mysterious attraction towards David and they begin dating, she has a strange feeling that if she were to get closer to David, the pain that she feels in her heart, that she has been trying to escape from all her life, would somehow be alleviated. She feels that somehow to merge with David would give her relief from the pain from which she has been running all her life.
Eventually she and David do get together, and when they merge in friendship and sexual intimacy, she does indeed feel temporary relief from the pain of her longing. What is really happening? Why does Jane feel this longing? From where does the intuition come that it is possible to be relieved of her suffering? And what happens to her suffering when she and David merge?
In this moment of merging there is a temporary loss of all the limitations with which Jane defines herself. There is a temporary collapse of Jane’s finite mind, and in that moment she tastes the essence of her mind, which is Mary’s peaceful mind asleep in Titignano.
Now, of course, when Jane and David part, this temporary suspension of suffering comes to an end and she feels everything that defines her again. The suffering bubbles up again and she remembers, ‘Ah, the last time I united with David the suffering went away. Therefore, uniting with a person, an object, a substance or an activity must be the way to get rid of my suffering.’
So Jane goes again and again to the object, the substance, the activity or the relationship, in order to find relief from her suffering. Indeed, each time she unites with the object, activity, substance or relationship she does find temporary relief, and this builds up in her the conviction that the way to be free of her suffering is to continually acquire objects, activities, substances and relationships. She ends up being addicted, like most people are, to some kind of an object.
The subtlest object, of course, is thought, and this is the main addiction. It’s free and not bad for our health, so it’s an addiction that doesn’t normally get labelled as such. Nevertheless, it is an object towards which we give our attention, mainly in order to distract ourselves from the wound of separation that all apparently separate selves carry around within themselves.
This wound of separation, this longing for freedom, peace, happiness and love is, in fact, an echo in Jane of the nature of Mary’s mind. Mary’s mind is at peace, free, asleep in Titignano.
This longing for freedom, for peace, for happiness that each of us feels is the echo in each of our finite minds, the echo of the true freedom of infinite Consciousness. There is no other freedom than the freedom of infinite Consciousness. Infinite Consciousness is freedom, peace and happiness itself, and the desire that each of us feels for that freedom, peace, happiness and love is the pull that infinite Consciousness exerts on the finite mind.
The finite mind feels that pull in the form of suffering: ‘I long for happiness’. The separate self feels that it is doing the longing, but it is not. It is infinite Consciousness that is exerting a force on the finite mind, drawing it back into itself. It is this pull from infinite Consciousness on the finite mind that is what the finite mind calls the desire for happiness.
But in order to experience the streets of New York, Mary has had to fall asleep to her own nature. Mary has fallen asleep in Titignano, and it’s only as a result of falling asleep that she is able to realize one of the infinite possibilities that exist within her. She could have dreamt that she was Claire on the streets of Tokyo. She could have dreamt that she was Annabelle on the streets of London. An infinite number of possibilities exist in Mary’s mind. She chose one of those possibilities: to be Jane on the streets of New York.
But to appear as Jane on the streets of New York, Mary had to fall asleep to the infinite nature of her own mind and rise in the form of Jane’s finite mind. It is only from the limited point of view of Jane’s finite mind that Mary was able to experience the streets of New York.
In the same way, to bring manifestation into apparent existence Consciousness needs to fall asleep to its own infinite nature, because it is not possible for something that is infinite to know something that is finite. There is no room in the infinite for the finite.
Manifestation means form, and form means limit, so in order to experience something limited, such as a universe, Consciousness must overlook the knowing of its own unlimited Being. It must fall asleep to itself and freely assume the form of the finite mind.
In other words, when Consciousness brings manifestation into existence, it comes at a price. Consciousness overlooks the knowing of its own Being, gives birth to the universe from within itself and then finds itself located as a self in that universe. In order to bring the universe into apparent existence, Consciousness has had to forget its innate nature of peace and freedom, and that is why ‘the self in the world’ longs for one thing alone: peace and freedom.
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The only activity the separate self is really engaged in is the discovery of peace, freedom and happiness. It first tries to do this by uniting with objects, substances, states and relationships, but at some point it gets to the end of that adventure. It realizes that it can never be fully satisfied by objective experience, and that is when the real journey back home begins.
That is when Jane on the streets of New York asks herself, ‘What is the nature of my mind?’ Jane notices that nothing in life really satisfies her. She has numerous relationships, she tries all sorts of substances, and they all give her temporary relief, but none of them give her the lasting happiness she truly desires.
At one point she begins to explore the only direction left: the nature of her own mind. That exploration takes her mind on a journey backwards towards its source, the subject of experience, rather than outwards towards the object. On this return journey, the mind is divested, in most cases progressively, of its limitations and at some point stands revealed as infinite Consciousness. Jane’s finite mind is revealed as Mary’s infinite Consciousness. That is the experience of happiness; that is the experience of love.
Happiness or love cannot be experienced by the person, because the person dissolves in that experience. The person who seeks happiness and love is like the moth that seeks the flame. The moth longs for the flame above all else but it is the only thing the moth cannot experience. To experience the flame means to be consumed in it, to die into it. That is the experience for which the moth longs.
The only experience that the apparently separate self longs for is the experience of happiness or love. The experience of love is the dissolution of the limitations of the self. It is not an experience that the separate self can have; it is an experience in which the separate self dies.
Infinite Consciousness overlooks the knowing of its own Being to bring manifestation into apparent existence. It freely assumes the form of the finite mind in order to know the finite world.
That is why we always seem to know the world from the point of view of an inside self. Even in a dream, the world we experience is seen from the point of view of a self in a body. It is infinite Consciousness itself that divides itself into two parts — mind on the inside and matter on the outside — but matter is only matter from the illusory point of view of the finite mind, the self in the body.
From the point of view of infinite Consciousness there is no such substance called matter. There isn’t even any substance called the finite mind; there is only its own infinite, intimate, indivisible Being, which never actually ceases to be itself. It never comes in contact with or knows anything other than itself.
This means that all of this, our current experience — and I’m not talking abstract philosophy here; I mean the very experience that each of us is having now — is only infinite Consciousness itself assuming the form of the finite mind and appearing to itself as a world.
It means that the substance that our current experience is made of itself has no dimensions. It means this ordinary experience of four dimensions of time and space, thoughts, feelings, perceptions, activities, relationships, this very experience that each of us is having now, has no dimensions at all. Don’t try to think of that. It’s not possible to think of something with no dimensions.
Could it be that what is called the Big Bang is not an event that happened millions of years ago, but the event that is continually happening every time infinite Consciousness assumes the form of the finite mind and appears to itself as the world?
Could it be that the Big Bang is happening over and over and over again, always in the same Now? And yet, when Consciousness does assume the form of the finite mind and appear to itself as the world, no real world made out of matter comes into existence.
Existence comes from two Latin words, ex and sistere, meaning ‘to stand out from’. Nothing stands out from Consciousness; nobody has ever found a place outside Consciousness. No thing comes into existence. Objects borrow their apparent existence from God’s infinite Being, the only Being there is.
The very ‘I’ that each us is now feeling as ‘myself’, the ‘I’ that I am, is infinite Consciousness itself, God’s infinite Being. It is the reality, the substance out of which all experience is made.
No object ever comes out of Consciousness; no object ever exists in its own right. The seeming existence of all things belongs to infinite Consciousness, just like the apparent existence of characters in a movie belongs to the screen. There are never any divisions in the screen itself. The divisions are always in the appearances, never in the reality.
This means that this very experience that each of us is experiencing is God’s infinite Being alone. There is nothing being experienced now other than infinite Consciousness, and it is infinite Consciousness itself that is refracting itself into a multiplicity of finite minds and appearing to itself as a multiplicity of finite worlds. But from Consciousness’s point of view it is never experiencing anything other than its own intimate, infinite Self.
When the Sufis say, ‘La ilaha illallah’ they mean, ‘There is no god but God.’ In other words, no thing has an existence of its own, no thing is a thing unto itself. All things borrow their thingness, their isness, their reality, from God’s infinite Being.
God’s infinite Being shines in each of our minds as the knowledge ‘I am’. That is why the ultimate spiritual practice is to give the ‘I’ that I am our attention, to allow the mind to sink back into its subjective source. As it does so it is temporarily, in most cases, occasionally suddenly, divested of its finite limitations and stands revealed as infinite Consciousness, God’s infinite Being, the only Being there is, the heart that we all share, the heart we all are.
I would suggest that the experience of love is simply the knowledge of our shared Being. When we love, we feel one with the other. Love is the experience of our shared Being. Is there any experience the separate self desires more than the experience of love?
What the separate self longs for above all else is simply to be divested of its separateness. So as a concession to the separate self, we can say that all the separate self needs to do to find this love for which it longs is to ask itself, ‘What is the nature of the knowing with which I know my experience?’
All Jane needs to do to be relieved of her suffering on the streets of New York is to ask herself, ‘What is the nature of my mind?’ If Jane enquires deeply enough into the nature of her own mind she will discover that her agitated, finite mind is made of Mary’s peaceful, infinite mind. That’s all there is to Jane’s mind. All there is to each of our minds is the inherently peaceful presence of infinite Consciousness.
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