consciousness and non-duality

Excerpts from a talk by Rupert Spira, titled, “Non-duality and the Nature of Consciousness.” [YouTube: starts at 28.32]

When we dream at night, our mind imagines a whole world within itself. However, it cannot perceive the dream world directly – in order to do this, the dreamer’s mind must localise itself within its own dream as a separate subject of experience. From the perspective of the character in the dream, the dreamed world is outside of her own mind. The name that she gives to the stuff out of which this world outside of herself is made, is ‘matter’. Everything inside herself, her thoughts, images, feelings, perceptions and so on, she refers to as ‘mind’. Everything in her experience seems to corroborate this view. When she closes her eyes the world she sees, that is, the dreamed world – although, she doesn’t know that it is a dreamed world – disappears and when she opens them again, it reappears. She reasonably concludes from this that whatever it is that is seeing or knowing the world, is located behind her eyes, in her brain. From this basic assumption she builds a model of consciousness located in, limited to, and derived from the brain.

The dreamed character would never question her model of reality, but for two experiences; suffering on the inside and conflict on the outside. Little does she realise that both experiences, the suffering and the conflict, are the inevitable consequence of her belief that the consciousness she essentially is, is limited by the body contained within it. Of course, when the dreamer wakes up, she realises that the dreamed world was simply how the content of her own mind appeared to itself from the localised perspective of the dreamed character that she seemed to be within her own dream.

Now, consider the possibility that what appears to us as our environment in the waking state is in fact a dream state for universal consciousness – it is how universal consciousness appears to us from our limited and localised perspectives. You could say, the same pattern we observe in dreams is taking place in the waking state one level up, so to speak, where universal consciousness is dreaming or imagining the universe within itself and simultaneously localising itself in the form of each of our minds. From this perspective it perceives its own activity as the universe as we know it. In other words, the universe as we know it results from the interaction of two segments of reality; the universal and the individual, just as the dreamed world comes into apparent existence when the dreamer’s mind interacts with a part of itself, namely the dreamed character.

Why is it necessary for the universal consciousness to overlook or forget, or ignore itself in order to bring forth manifestation within it? Why cannot universal consciousness simply perceive the world directly? Because to do so would require viewing the world, indeed viewing the universe from every possible point of view within it, which would result in innumerable images superimposed one on top of the other. To see an object, it is necessary to do so from the localised perspective of a single subject. As such, consciousness localises itself in order to actualise what lies in potential within it, in form. It gives birth to existence within itself in the form of the subject-object relationship. However, this comes at a price, consciousness brings forth manifestation within itself by overlooking or forgetting itself by collapsing or contracting into an apparently separate subject of experience and in doing so it loses touch with its innate peace and joy. It sacrifices itself for the sake of its creation.

Just as a mother sacrifices herself to bring forth her child, consciousness pays for itself with its own innate peace and happiness. It is for this reason the longing for happiness, peace and love, burns in the heart of all people. What we really seek is not an experience to be added to us, what we really seek is to be divested of all that makes us feel we are temporary, finite selves, separate from one another, separate from nature, separate from God and returned to our natural condition.

Does a tree in the forest exist if no-one is perceiving it? This question cannot be satisfactorily answered because it is founded on a false premise, namely that the tree exists as such when it is being perceived. Suspend the idea that the tree has its own stand-alone existence and consider the possibility that what we perceive as a tree is simply the way a particular segment of the activity of universal consciousness appears when it interacts with another segment of itself, namely the finite mind. In other words, the world as we see it is the result of an interaction between infinite consciousness and the finite mind.

We half-create the world in the sense that we impose the limitations of perception on its reality. We half-perceive it in the sense that its reality exists independently of each of our minds and precedes its being perceived by us. So, what we see when we look at the world is its pre-existing reality, infinite consciousness modulated by our finite mind. The world as such owes its reality to infinite consciousness. It borrows its appearance from the finite mind.

It is what William Blake, in the 19th Century meant when he said: “… ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way, is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses five…” (71) Every object is an immense world of delight that is of the nature of pure consciousness, which is peace and joy itself, filtered through, or enclosed by our faculties of perception. It is perception that reduces the infinite to the finite, or more accurately, makes what is truly infinite from the localised perspective of each of our minds appear as the finite.

William Blake, on another occasion said: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” The narrow chinks of our cavern are the limited faculties of our senses. Our senses as such, are not a clear window on to reality, they mediate reality through their own limitations, conferring on to reality the limitations that properly belong to the human mind, rendering reality in a way that is consistent with the limitations of that mind, divested of the limits that sense perception confers on reality. Reality shines as it is, infinite and in human experience the infinite shines in the form of peace, joy, love and beauty.
[YouTube: ends at 40:00]

“… And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.”

:[Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, William Wordsworth, July 13, 1798]

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5 thoughts on “consciousness and non-duality

  1. Thanks for posting this and thank you to Rupert Spira for quote from William Blake and to you for the quote from Wordsworth. Blake I remember being inspired by him so much that I wrote a paper on his mystical artwork. Have you seen it? I didn’t know art history then and thought Blake’s artwork surreal. The teacher it wasn’t surreal but rather mystical or romantic artwork and told me to take an art history class. Have you seen Blake’s art work. I’ll see if I can send you some. This approach is more accessible for me because it is Western. I wish I could understand the Eastern way better but I am very limited in my understanding of the terms, etc.

    • Interesting, you went on to study art history through Blake. I first got to intrigued by Blake in India and from the Eastern spiritual perspective – more about that later. But although there are these similarities with Eastern thought there’s nothing recorded to say he was aware of Eastern spirituality so he was referring to a universal truth. God is “The Human Form Divine”, all the world is part of one Divine Form—similar to the Buddhist Dharmakaya. I haven’t seen your paper on Blake’s mystical artwork btw, can I find it on your site, are can you send it by email?

    • Thanks for the video, I remember now, very powerfully drawn human figures like sculptures in white marble surrounded by fire, black skies and that dark sense of suffering. Then, in 1991 I met Jyoti Sahi in South India, an Indian painter and he had a lot to say about Blake, a Christian mystical view of the world like Blake but set in the Indian environment. If you want to see Jyoti’s paintings and his writings, just key in his name in Google and click on Images. Shortly after that I discovered the Buddha’s First Noble Truth: There is Suffering and my life took another Path.

      • Tiramit, thank you for the referral to Jyoti. I found a few paintings by him that are very interesting. Interesting that you found Blake, too. Unfortunately I do not have that paper on Blake right now.

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