infinite consciousness and the finite mind

Excerpts from a talk by Rupert Spira, titled “What is Reality?”

As a person, you have emerged from the universe, your body has been born from the earth so whatever you are as a person essentially must be the same as the universe from which you emerged. For the same reason… what a wave essentially is must be the same as what the ocean essentially is, because it is an emergence of that ocean. The reality of yourself and the reality of the world must be the same, the question then is what is that reality?

That reality is that which truly is. An illusion is not something that does not exist, it is something that does exist, but is not what it appears to be. Unlike, or instance, a square circle – not only does a square circle not exist, it doesn’t even appear as an illusion. What, then is an illusion? A landscape in a movie is an illusion, it does exist as something that is obviously there, but it is obviously not a real landscape. All illusions have a realty to them, and there must be something about the landscape in the movie that is real.

ln order to find out what is real we need to somehow penetrate through the illusion and touch its reality. We go up to the landscape in the movie, touch its reality, and we find the screen. We do exactly the same with this experience we are having, sitting together in this room. It is undoubtedly real, all experience is real, there is no such thing as an unreal experience. So, what is real about our current experience of the world? It could be an illusion, which doesn’t mean to say it’s not real, and doesn’t mean to say it doesn’t exist. It just means it may not be what it appears to be.

The way the world appears to be is directly correlated with our sense perceptions, our minds have the capacity of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling and reality appears to us in the form of sights, sounds, tastes, textures and smells. There is a direct correlation between the perceiving apparatus and the world as it appears to be in accordance with the limitations of the apparatus through which it is perceived. So, do these sights, sounds, etc., we see out there, do they have their own standalone reality or do our minds confer upon them their appearance? For instance, what would the thing in itself be if we were to remove everything from it that our minds project on to it; the sights, sounds, tastes, textures, smells and concepts, perceiving and thinking, what would be left of reality? There would be no forms because these forms are what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. What would remain would be undoubtedly present, without any form it would be being itself – some would say, God’s being. When you go directly to that being in yourself you find the awareness that shines in each of us, the knowledge that ‘I am.’

The experience that I am is not mediated through thought or perception; I know that I am, I am not imagining it. So, is the ‘I’ that knows that I am, the same ‘I’ that knows I am, or is your being known by something other than itself? Are there two ‘I’s in you, one that is and the other that knows you are? It’s the same ‘I’, there is only one ‘I’ in you. Your being knows itself; it is self-aware. Here you could say that the Ultimate Reality of the universe is aware being, which is consciousness, and what we perceive as the world is the activity of reality, called Reality Consciousness, that moves or vibrates within itself, and that movement or vibration of consciousness, appears when viewed through our sense faculties as the physical world. When you fall asleep at night the activity of your own mind appears as a physical world from the perspective of a separate subject of experience in that world. So, what appears to us as a physical world is the activity of a universal mind or consciousness, whose nature is consciousness, not matter. It only appears as physical matter when perceived through the sense perceptions of a separate subject of experience within that world. There’s a beautiful line from Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,” dated July 13, 1798

“ [from line 106]…all that we behold from this green earth; of all the mighty world of eye, and ear,—both what they half create, and what perceive; well pleased to recognise in nature and the language of the sense, the anchor of my purest thoughts…”

This stunning realisation that, of this green earth, what we perceive is half created by us, half perceived by us. What he’s saying is that the reality of the world precedes the finite mind and is independent of it., and the mind creates its appearance but perceives its reality.  Our sense faculties, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling create the way the word appears, the way reality appears to us. We perceive the reality of the world, we don’t create it, it’s already there.

To put it into more contemporary language, the world as we experience it is very close to quantum physics and I don’t want to go too far in this direction because I’m not a scientist. The world as we perceive it results from an interaction of infinite consciousness and a finite mind – a finite mind being a localization of infinite consciousness.

When we conceptualize independently existing selves and things, there is a separating-out… but it’s not what it seems. There’s something about this in Ian McGilchrist’s book “The Matter with Things.” He says: “Relationship precedes relata.” By this, he means relationship precedes things. What it means is that normally we think there are things – things come first, and then there are relationships between things. He’s suggesting it’s the other way round, there is relationship between the whole infinite consciousness and the finite mind and it is the interaction between these two that creates the appearance of things. So, things come about as a result of this interaction, rather than the relationship being created by the things. But don’t think Reality is just a dead, inert being or consciousness, it moves, it is moved but the whole cannot see itself … let me try to demonstrate first why the whole cannot see itself.

Look at this glass I’m holding, you see this glass from a single point of view and therefore see it as a single glass. If you were to take a snapshot of your view of the glass, then change your seat and go to the other side of the room, take another snapshot of the glass and superimpose the two images, like transparencies, one on top of the other, you’d now have two glasses looking roughly the same but it would begin to look blurred. Now, say you did that four times, eight times, 16 times, 32 times and you superimposed all the images on top of each other, it would begin to look like a Cubist painting, the integrity of the glass would begin to disintegrate, you’d see all different angles of the glass. Now keep on doing that, 64 times, 128 times, 200, 400, and so on from different points of view in space. The image would get darker and darker until it would be utter darkness and that’s why the whole cannot perceive reality, it cannot perceive the world directly – there’s no form.

From the point of view of the whole, consciousness has no view of the world directly, it cannot perceive itself directly, it just knows its own being but that being doesn’t appear in any form. In order for its movement to be perceived or known, it must be perceived or known through a localised perspective. That’s what each of our minds are; a localized point of view within consciousness, from which it is able to perceive its own movement, its own activity as an apparently physical world. The activity of consciousness is there prior to the finite mind but the finite mind lends the world its appearance. Hence the world that we experience is an interaction between these two segments of reality. It’s the same realty; infinite consciousness and the finite mind but they have to seem to separate in order to bring something into existence.

Image: Rupert Spira’s Open Bowl, 2007, a stoneware piece with embossed text under white titanium glaze. Acquired by Friends of the V&A in 2013.

Link to the Rupert Spira talk:

About Rupert Spira, Wikipedia:

9 thoughts on “infinite consciousness and the finite mind

  1. This was really interesting, Tiramit. I had no idea Wordsworth was so enlightened. I love his poetry but didn’t appreciate why. Whole post is looking at things very simply and clearly. Thank you for posting!🙏🏽

    • Thanks Ellen, I too didn’t expect to find the Wordsworth quote in a discussion like this. An ancient Eastern spirituality brought into a Western context, simply and clearly expressed – maybe because it is a transcribed version of a talk given to a group of people who may be looking at non-duality for the first time. You could click on the link and listen to the original talk.

    • Hi Val
      Yes, I noticed this kind of structure in the above talk as I was transcribing it; close study over about 4 hours because of eyesight issues when typing the draft. So, I’ve now got a familiarity with the way the speaker presents the subject, quite wonderful.

  2. I did listen to him. And will listen to some of his other stuff. I can’t identify his views as English because I don’t know the English views but his message reminded me of Mooji’s, if you have heard of him. Anyhow thanks for suggesting I listen to the YouTube.

    • Hi Ellen, I’m very glad you found it interesting because he is one of my favourites. It means we can exchange views on a common interest. Yes, I know Mooji, mostly by watching videos you recommended to me a few years ago? Yes, there is a similarity.

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